Thursday, April 27, 2017

Stay Unrealistic and Prove The Doubters Wrong

When I was a kid I had very supportive parents. They would bring me to squash tournaments all over North America and even over the Scottish and British Opens one year. I had a lot of success as a young squash nut winning the Canadian nationals and U.S. Open with some other high finishes along the way. As a young boy I beat some players that went on to play professionally and make it inside the top 50. Unfortunately I quit playing squash when I was 14 for about 5 years so I never really got to make a go at becoming the best I could be. I also dreamed of becoming a world champion and was convinced I would, but why do some kids stop chasing their goals and others don't?

When you're a kid you think anything is possible (at least I did) and if you worked hard enough you could do whatever you want. Teachers ask kids what they want to be when they grow up and they often say something pretty unrealistic like an astronaut; but someone has to be an astronaut. Just because something is a long shot doesn't mean it's not going to happen. How and why do kids stop believing in themselves and chasing their dreams? There's probably a few reason why this occurs.

Kids are stereotyped because of their physique or where they come from so some don't get as much attention and don't get selected to higher level teams. Parents also feel like kids should grow up at a certain age and think and act more like an adult; which basically means focus on making money and doing less of what you like. There's also a definite lack of unrelenting belief within some people. People are too quick to think they just don't have that fire or willpower, but it is something anyone can have in the right environment and upbringing. I believe this is a learned habit and having a taste of success can go a long way to fuelling your dream.

When I was a kid of course (yes I'm the small 1 in the below pic) I would always say I wanted to be a pro squash player and not just that but world #1. Even after having quite a bit of success not everyone was thinking my dreams were very realistic or sustainable and I'd always be told to focus more on my studies. I remember 1 time my parents asking me what would happen if I for example have knee problems and could no longer play professionally? I remember stating that, 'if I get injured and can't compete anymore I'll be a coach.' So it wasn't my first choice, but it's funny that's what happened.

See parents are always worrying about what could go wrong and worry a lot about their children. Parents want their kids to be able to take care of themselves and becoming a professional squash player means more than likely they'll be disappointed, possibly uneducated enough to get a good job if squash doesn't work out and also have financial problems (because we all know there's not much money in pro squash). If parents are pushing kids into squash normally it's to help get them into a good school, not to make a living doing it. It's this sensible and protective nature which eventually kills the dreams of kids. Just because your parents didn't achieve their childhood dreams don't let this affect your passion. I believe this is why the kids of successful athletes are more likely to make it to the pro level; not only are the kids seeing the work ethic and lifestyle it takes, but they see what daddy or mommy did and of course they think if they did it we can to and the parents also think this way. If you're surrounded by people that believe in your dreams you'll be far more likely to achieve them.

I've heard many other parents over the years who also told their kids what they should be striving for and to set realistic expectations so they don't get let down when they fail to achieve their unrealistic goals. How would anyone in the world every achieve anything great if we all erred on the side of caution and realism? You only live once and I don't understand trying to take the safest route just to avoid disappointment. Wanting to play professional squash is a long shot let alone making a living playing it, but it is certainly possible. It can also open up doors to other avenues, so my big point today is to support the dreams and goals of those around you no matter how absurd and unrealistic they may seem. As soon as we start putting walls up and telling them to grow up and think about their future we kill their hope and without hope there is no more dreaming or passion. You may just be amazed by how far motivation and belief can take someone.

Some parents may have unrealistically high expectations for their kids, so let's not confuse these with intrinsic desires and goals. So if you have a kid that wants to be the best in the world at something don't tell them it isn't going to happen. Even though I didn't become #1 in the world or play professional squash I know from my experience and success as a young kid that I can do anything in the world if I put my mind to it, am passionate about it and stick with it. Just because you think it's a silly dream it's wrong to tell someone they can't do something so if you care about that individual you should support them and believe in them. And if you're the 1 having doubts yourself hopefully this post will give you some extra courage to keep fighting for your dreams.

Even if you don't achieve what you originally set out to do you'll likely realize 1 day that it was the journey which mattered most, not the destination; this is why process goals and making the most out of what you have is so critical. I think this is why many of the former world #1's over the past few years have let their standards slip. They reach their life long dream and the drive to chase the top of the podium is gone. It's also much tougher to play trying to maintain something and to not lose than it is if you're hungry and gunning for the top and your childhood dream.

I read in a book how LeBron James has set a goal to become the best player of all time, not just the best player in the league each season. So if you are so fortunate to reach your dream goal you better think even bigger and come up with some goals that other people would think are impossible. It's also key to focus on the process of becoming the absolute best you can be. If you can do this you will still find ways and areas to improve upon regardless of whether you've achieved your outcome dream goal or not.

I remember about 5 years ago running a provincial camp for the top kids here in British Columbia. I handed out a questionnaire to them and 1 of the questions asked what their dream goal was for squash. Only 1 of them put to play professionally. Many of the goals were extremely modest or not challenging whatsoever; it basically showed me that these kids were not going to go as far as they were capable of simply from the response of a single question. I believe these low standards are learned behaviours from their environment and as a coach they drive me nuts. I know a kid can never be that good if they don't think they can. I would much rather work with a less talented child who goes to bed dreaming of becoming the next world champion and has the work ethic to back it up.

I really hope I reach at least 1 person with this article and if I make a difference in their belief and goals I will be extremely happy. Whether it's you as a supporting role or as the athlete him/herself. I know when we lose to many matches or have a poor season we get down on our game and our expectations about what we can do can quickly diminish. But squash is not a sprint, it's a long race and it takes a commitment to your long term development and the mind is the key to achieving greatness.

Learning to cope with poor performances and disappointment is something your team can help you with, but ultimately has to come from within. If you need that extra incentive to fuel you along, try and prove any doubters wrong. Someone doesn't select you for a team, work harder and prove you belonged. Many low draft picks in major league sports carry this chip on their shoulder each and every day at practice even well after they have been successful. Don't play and practice angry, just play with determination and complete confidence that you have something to prove. Just because you haven't or somebody hasn't done something before it doesn't mean it can never be done. The main obstacle is also what can be your greatest asset, the mind.

Ramy Ashour will have doubts about his health and his hamstring for the rest of his career and for good reason, yet he continues to fight. Why? Because he still believes and has hope while others are all to quick to write him off and wonder why he won't hang up his racquet. He wouldn't have gotten to the incredible level that he has without having to deal with plenty of criticism and adversity over the years; when you handle these instances well it makes you tougher and you gain more confidence in your ability to do anything you put your mind to. Even though it's his body letting him down, it's the battle in between the ears which are the toughest to overcome.

Don't let others tell you what you can or can't do. As a former top junior and coach I know how important belief, intrinsic motivation and will power can be. Prove the naysayers wrong and become the next world champion and be sure to thank me in your acceptance speech in 10 years time :)

If you are trying to become the best possible squash player you can be make the most out of all of your practice time. If you're looking to improve your solo practice, or even simply begin solo hitting check out the new Serious Squash full length advanced instructional film The Secrets Of Solo Hitting. It contains over 30 of the best solo drills with tips on how each drill will help you improve. Pick up your copy today at Here's an in depth preview from my Youtube channel:

Sunday, April 23, 2017

2017 Canadian Junior Nationals

I always enjoy not only coaching my only athletes at the nationals each season, but also watching the top kids and how they're developing. I wrote a review from a previous nationals and I mentioned that kids were not shooting enough. That has certainly changed and today I'm going to go over a few other things I noticed from the top kids. Here's a link to the draws if you want to take a peak:

The nationals this year was held in Vancouver, British Columbia. Although we weren't at altitude 4 of the 6 courts were quite bouncy while the 2 back courts were quite cold. Kids definitely had to be able to make major adjustments to their targets, T positioning and tactics depending on which court they were on. The 4 bouncy courts tended to lead to a lot of overhitting by the older kids. I was quite surprised how the top kids rarely hit a medium paced drive; they either chipped the ball with no pace whatsoever or they hit the ball as hard as possible, which would land way too short or bounce way off the back wall. So for me 1 of the biggest problems was the lack of dying attacking drives from the back of the court. Because of this lack of well weighed drives there was an obvious lack of volleying from the midcourt as well. Here's a short clip on how to easily practice some attacking drives.

Another challenge on the bouncy courts was bringing the ball short. The kids still went short, but they were still trying to hit winners. The top kids are all excellent athletes and very fast so trying to hit outright winners with a bouncy ball certainly cost them more mistakes. I really think they should be aiming for the angle of their drops and to get them tight and focus on them being a working shot, not an outright winner. Their so fast there's no need to try and hit a drop with no margin when they can cover the next shot anyways. It's the mindset that really needs to adjust here. They should focus on working their opponent and making them do hard movements and pop out lose balls by being accurate with their weight of drives and keeping their drops tight. And here again is a short clip on volley drops. Hit it with slice and get it finishing tight off the volley. If you aim for the nick it will likely bounce back away from the wall with such a hot ball.

An area I see some of the kids developing nicely is deception. A few of them have some nice holds from the front of the court. This holds true for even a few of the younger kids. It's enjoyable to see different styles and a more attacking brand of squash being played by the top kids. Even though they often play the attacking shot incorrectly and force the ball short when out of position it's a better to be a little overly aggressive than passive for their long term development in my opinion.

There's something that was blatantly poor from almost all of the kids at the event. This was their serves. I can't recall how many times many of the kids would simply put the ball in play and hit it right to their opponents racquet without breaking it off the sidewall. There was also very little creativity in serve variation. This is something I remember hearing a lot about when I was young and I guess kids still overlook the serve and the importance of how it can set up the rally.

I can't wrap up this summary without a quick mention of the refs. Oh boy. I hate picking on people that spend 4 full days doing a thankless job, but there were some pretty brutal decisions. I witnessed foot faults and no lets when strokes should have been awarded. I heard that the refs were told to make the players play the ball and to award no lets if they didn't make every effort, but clearly when it's an obvious stroke this shouldn't apply. I also think a foot fault warning would suffice. It's also disappointing that a few matches ended on blatantly incorrect decisions. This did demonstrate how well behaved almost every single kid is at this event. I was pleasantly surprised with how well the kids handled the refs calls, even when they were match decisive.

Lastly, I'm more than a bit concerned about the future of our top kids. They've clearly dedicated their lives to getting to the level their at, but where to they go after juniors? I'm sure some will go to a school and play squash, but what happens after that or if they want to pursue a pro squash career instead? There is zero system in place that helps with this process and there is no funding for them as well. There's also not enough small PSA events throughout Canada that these kids would be able to compete in to gain some affordable experience. As of now there's only 2 options in my book. The first one is to build up the resources themselves around them. It takes a big support team around an athlete to help someone play successfully at the pro level. This option may indeed be best set up at a top post secondary squash team at the moment.

The second option would be to go to another country and try and get in a training group with some other pros. There's many pro leagues in Europe which you can play in and make some extra money in. It's really a shame there isn't a better system to help our top kids get from juniors to the pro level. Instead of Squash Canada worrying about if they should have a under 11 divisions and specializing an athlete too young, they should focus on helping those that have dedicated their lives to squash and have no system to help them take the next step. We all have ups and downs in our squash career and it's so important to have a team to help keep you in line and on track during those dips in confidence or motivation.

Did you play in or watch any of the Junior Nationals? Please share your thoughts and stories. And if you were 1 of the kids that had some troubles with the areas I mentioned above, checkout the new film I recently released. The Secrets of Solo Hitting is a 64 minute advanced instructional film which contains 30 of the best solo drills. The drills are sectioned into 3 categories: Straight Drives, Midcourt/Volleys and The Short Game. There is also a Technical Testing section which would be extremely useful to use over the summer months to set some goals as you develop your technical skills and consistency. Over 70 copies have been sold so far to people from all over the world. Check out the preview video below and order your copy today at

Monday, April 17, 2017

Let The Coaches Coach and The Trainers Train

A couple of years ago I wrote a post about what I would do if I could go back and coach myself now knowing all that I know. I mentioned a number of things, but there is something I would add to that list. One are I would definitely like to go back and do is work with a personal trainer and even take some group fitness classes. When I was young I had a treadmill, stationary bike and a weight machine in my basement. Even though it was great to be able to do some cross training and certainly something is better than nothing, I really I had no idea what I was doing or how much to do of everything.

Even as I got to university I generally ran our team practices along with the off court training.  I would often take the team to run hills and do wind sprints by the squash club. On court we would do random drills and often finish with some court sprints. When I was a kid I just don't think any junior worked with personal trainers. Parents already invest enough money into lessons, camps and tournaments so what's the point of a personal trainer, especially on a weekly basis? At the university level we all knew the importance of off court training, but again we weren't specialist so we just did what we thought we should do. The idea of working with a personal trainer never even crossed my mind. At university I was on a very tight budget on I couldn't afford such luxuries. I always worked hard, but to get the most out of it that effort needs to be guided into the right direction.

Now that I'm 35 and have had 1 knee surgery and many years of coaching under my belt, I've finally come to a realization that I have to regularly work with a trainer, see a physiotherapist and get a massage. It helps now that I can write off a portion of these expenses through my work medical coverage, but still it is a difficult concept spending a few hundred dollars per month of these luxuries. The difference now is that they are all essential, especially trying to deal with the decades of playing and coaching.

If I could go back to a child and coach myself I would very much like to work with a personal trainer and have someone help set up a training program for me. As a squash player you're never quite sure how much of what to do and parents are always cautious about their kids lifting weights. Squash is such a 1 sided sport so it's an essential part of self care and not only will it help your squash game it also will help you avoid long term overuse injuries which I have been dealing with the past few years.

I know from taking the level 3 coaching courses in Canada that squash coaches are expected to be able to plan out an athletes physical training. To me this is absolutely ridiculous because this is not our area of expertise. I never had an annual training plan when I played and I've worked with some pros that don't use one. I think they can help some people, but are not necessary. And what good is an annual training plan if we don't know when to mark up which type of training? I mean sure I know we need lots of cardio and agility and I can help improve your court movement. I know strength training is important, but not too frequently during the season. But how am I supposed to tell a pupil how often to do which exercises and which types of training are best at certain times of the year? They have people who are specifically trained to do this so why in the world would someone expect me to know how to do this as well as a trained expert on the subject? Surely I should I only be expected to know how to coach?

Most squash coaches can get you fitter. We can run you through some ghosting an court sprints and circuits. But knowing the specifics of the technique for each movement, duration, intensity and frequency is something personal trainers should handle. Learning how to lunge and squat properly is critical in training and for squash training. I don't know any professional sport in the world where the coach runs the conditioning part of an athletes training. I heard awhile back that the fitness and conditioning coaches in football are the most important parts of the coaching staff.

I believe that our kids would be better off with a personal trainer working on this part of their game and the coaches focusing on the squash side of it. This is the beginning of building a team around an athlete. Being a well rounded athlete is essential to playing at a high level of squash and avoiding injury. The only way we will optimize the hours we spend off court training is learning how to do it properly, so I am all for personal trainers/strength and conditioning coaches.

How young should kids begin working with a trainer? My trainer says around grade 8-9 is when a kid is most trainable and is a great age to start working with a trainer. Kids bodies adapt so quickly if they are working on the right areas with proper technique. I wish I had this opportunity when I was a kid, because I had the shots and racquet skill, but was quite small compared to the other kids so would get overpowered. I also dealt with some knee problems on and off. These are things no squash coach I had could have fixed. These are areas I believe that a quality personal trainer could have helped me with though.

It's so hard maintaining a high level of every type of fitness trait throughout an entire season. We shouldn't worry about slightly lapses in 1 area if we are concentrating on another area. I know I often stopped strength training during the season because I was on court so much, but this is another area i wish I had stuck with even just to maintain my strength and off season training gains. Being young and not having the money to fund proper training was a real issue for me. So how could I have changed this? I could have tried to get a group of 3 or 4 of my peers together and work in a group setting with a trainer. I could have also signed up for some group classes like a spin class or yoga. Sometimes in squash we think we can do it all by ourselves because it's an individual sport, but the sooner you realize you can't and shouldn't the better off you'll be.

If you fortunate enough to have a great trainer in your corner you'll know how much they're helping you for your game. Even now when I play a strong player, I normally have the shots to contend with someone, but it's the physicality of the squash at this level which I have trouble with. I know it's not genetics, it's simply a matter of proper training. Look no further than Paul Coll or Fares Dessouky to see how important off court training is. The way they can move on court and for how long is because of the off court training. As you get better in squash you should be spending more and more of your time training off court. Not only are you trying to get fitter, stronger and faster, but also avoid injuries. You've got to be healthy to compete and handle the physical demands to play at the highest level.

Looking back at the old sign posted up in my squash club as a child, 'Get Fit To Play Squash, Don't Play Squash To Get Fit' holds more and more truth to me now. Back when I was a kid it was more about the endurance, Jonah Barrington insane level of endurance. I don't know how many of the top players lose these days because of aerobic endurance, it's more the intensity and pressure of the rallies, or even injuries. In hindsight it's easy now to say that Ramy is probably dealing with his injuries from major overuse, which is also a necessity to becoming a top squash player. How would things have been different for him if he had a top personal trainer working with him as a child? We rarely do proper training to prevent injuries until they begin to occur, but that doesn't have to be the case with squash.

How much of what you need to do off court to train for your level of squash depends a lot on your body type, genetics, your style of squash and your training history. I feel it takes an extremely experienced personal trainer to know exactly what is best for each person. There's simply too many individual differences one must take into account that it's unrealistic to expect a squash coach to have this wealth of knowledge. Training people in large groups as a squash coach can offer some overall strength or fitness benefits, but if you have lofty goals for playing at the highest levels you must seek beyond your coach for the strength and conditioning compartment.  It takes a team of special individuals to allow 1 person to succeed. They likely charge as much or more than you squash coach will and unless you understand just how important they can be to your success I doubt you will invest in one. Hopefully I've given you a few reasons to reconsider this.

Let the coaches coach and the trainers train. Coaches should be able to help you with your technical, tactical, mental and squash specific movement patterns, but the off court training does not fall under our realm of expertise. Squash Canada, like most other countries should change their coaching curriculum accordingly. I believe they should include more mental skills training and discuss about how to build a team and program to allow kids to succeed from the grassroots to pro level. I think they should also want coaches about doing too much physical training with their athletes when they are unqualified and their students could get injured. The challenge here is that if many of our athletes aren't already doing some fitness training outside of squash we feel we must include some in our practices. It's simple to include fitness training into a group session, but if it is exercises are done without the knowledge or ability to correct form there is not much good coming from these sessions.

Check out the new full length solo hitting film available for purchase at The Secrets of Solo Hitting is a 64 minute instructional video on what I know best, coaching/solo hitting. This includes 30 of the best solo drills with tips on how to best perform each drill. The sections are divided into 1) Straight Drives 2) Midcourt and 3) The Short Game. There is also a Technical Testing section and a Bonus Tips one. Stream or download your copy today. To date there are over 60 copies sold to keen squashers from all over the planet. Here's an in depth preview video about it from my youtube channel:

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The Importance of Solo Hitting

How did I get good at squash? If I had to credit 1 thing over my entire life it would be all of the time I've spent solo hitting. Of course there were a few coaches along the way and the support of my family which helped, but I've spent thousands upon thousands of hours on court by myself solo hitting. Why? I wanted to get better, a lot better and the more time I spent on court hitting balls the more I improved. I loved that I could practice squash whenever I wanted and I always enjoyed hitting the ball and trying to learn new shots.

As a coach I've always told my pupils that solo practice is a MUST for any player that wants to be good. You can't make someone want to solo hit or be great. This is a quality that has to come from within the player. If you coach someone with this quality coaching is simple and really enjoyable.

As I got to a men's open level I felt I couldn't play matches everyday or I would get injured so I always tried to mix in lots of solo practice within these hard training or match sessions so I could still improve without overdoing it physically. My theory was that if I could control the better I would also have to do less work in my matches. There's also no better feeling than learning a new shot and executing it in your matches.

If you want to be able to confidently play the tactically most correct shot at any time during a match you've go to practice each of the shots over and over. You need to rehearse each shot until you've gotten extremely consistent and you no longer have to think about the technique of your swing while you hit it. If you're thinking about how to swing for a certain shot during a game you're in big trouble.   So if there are certain shots you have to think of you probably just haven't rehearsed these swings enough to become automated. Even once a skill becomes automated the level of precision for each shot must improve as you move up in levels. When you start playing just getting a drive to the back or hitting a drop a foot above the tin are well executed shots and will be pretty effective. As you improve these targets become more specified and vital to your success.

Last year Eye Rackets contacted me because of all the skill challenge videos I was posting. They started in good fun and slowly but surely people in squash took notice. In October I signed a 3 year contract with Eye Rackets and they are supporting my new venture in solo drills and skill challenges. I'm always looking for new cool and difficult drills to complete and I have a few on the to film list at the moment.

A couple of months ago I thought it would be fun to make a longer video and sell it online. I knew instantly that my 1st video should be about solo hitting because that's my most knowledgeable area and I believe it's so essential to a squash players development. I didn't realize how much work it was going to be, but after a couple of months of writing, filming, editing and marketing it is finally complete and for sale in the Serious Squash Shop. So far I've sold about 55 copies to people from all over the world. It's so neat that with the internet I can reach a small number of dedicated squash enthusiasts who are as passionate about squash, improving and solo hitting as I am. Feel free to share this with info your friends, unless of course they're also your competitors ;)

I've just put together a fun little promo video. Here it is if you'd like to have a peak.

If you'd like to order a copy of the film it's available at and for $25 you can stream it and download it for safe keeping. There is a lot of information on this film so I'm sure the keenest will refer back to it as they work on their game and improve their solo skills.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Build Winning Habits

Just recently I ran a camp for some of the top kids in the province and we discussed routines and the importance of them in squash. I tried to emphasize the importance of prematch, post match and between rally routines. Similar to explaining the importance of warming up or stretching after a match, it's difficult to get across the value of such activities until they're required. When kids are starting out playing squash they simply play and a routine isn't really all that relevant. For those of us that have played a lot of squash we know how vital our routines are to our success.

Today we're going to take a look at why routines are important in different areas of your game and how you can use them to play more consistent squash and get the most out of each session. I believe that the mental game is the most important trait in becoming the best you can be. The moment you become satisfied with your level is when you become complacent. Using habits in a variety of ways is how the best athletes stay on track and perform at their best each and every day. Let's go through some of the ways that positive habits can help take your game to new heights.

Building Mental Muscle 
Building winning habits is both about about how you prepare for practice along with how you practice. When it's time to put in the maximum physical effort you do while equally crucial is your focus and attention to detail. I always think about the famous quote about how 'training starts when you want to stop.' This is how some people are better at pushing themselves further and closer to their actual physical threshold. I also like to use an analogy I read in a boo about walking on hot coals to explain this concept. At the beginning we jump off quickly because it's hot and painful, but with practice you're able to push further and further along the hot goals and withstand more pain. We not only need to be able to push ourselves along those hot coals further and further, but we also need to build a habit to do this. If we only push ourselves when we're having a good day and feeling up to it we will never build a true champion habit. I always look at how people do when things are going well. When you're tired, a bit sore or not playing your best do you still manage to give absolutely everything you have on the day? Very few of us actually are able to do this so if you want to start building a winning habit this is an excellent place to start and a great platform to build off of. You don't need talent to give your best effort every single time you practice or play.

Having a weekly or monthly plan is another method for building a winning habit. As humans we tend to gravitate towards routines and we adapt to them quickly. Although I'm not a big fan of a full year training plan (especially for kids) I believe that having that weekly routine is another critical way to steadily improve. If we just wait to see what the day brings or how we feel we will likely have days where we are less motivated to go out and train. I think a week or monthly routine keeps you in check, accountable and gives your body time to adapt to whatever it is you're doing. I suggest slightly altering the routine week after week and consider it a working/live document. This is a tough balance to have with the above paragraph where we want to have a hardhat and be mentally tough and alway give it our best. But when we're overtraining or a bit injured or stressed we need to listen to our bodies and know when to ease up a bit. This is something your coach or trainer can assist you with, but is really something you have the best perspective of. As a coach many of us would aide on the side of caution because of liability and worrying about the safety of our athletes so you can see if we are too soft here we will never toughen up and we'll always be looking to cut corners.

Prematch Routines
Do you have a prematch routine? Many people simply show up and get their shoes on and step on court and begin hitting the ball. Clearly if we want to play well from the start of our match this isn't a very successful method. If you ever get a chance to watch a professional athlete prepare for a training session or competition you will see that most have a very specific structure that they follow. This is something they have developed over a number of years and is what they have found works best to allow them to prepare for what is to follow both physically and mentally. To be a high level consistent performer the prematch routine is essential. We all feel different on a day to day basis and it's by going through our prematch or pre-training routines that help us get to a more similar starting point. Any athlete knows that being in the zone is the key to optimal performance and getting into this zone is completely psychological. Although any level of athlete can experience the zone, the consistency of getting into this is what top athletes have learned how to do repeatedly. Being able to play in the zone requires that our self talk is positive and simple. Negative self talk and over analysis are definitely 2 effective methods for playing poor squash.

Most people tend to think of a prematch routine simply to warm up the body and avoid injuries, which is indeed part of it, but it is also much much more. As already discussed the variations in performance from 1 day to the next is much more mental than any sudden drop in technical skill. If we're missing shots we normally make it's more than likely the mental side as to why we are making these mistakes and we either stop going for these shots or get tentative with them (which again are both mental issues). Meanwhile someone in the zone still makes mistakes they simply don't let these mistakes register and interfere with the flow of their game and thought process.

Between Rally Routines
What about routines during a match? Routines between rallies are also equally important to staying or getting into the zone. We are constantly analyzing our performance and there are swings in momentum for and against us we have to deal with. When things are going well we don't need to think much so we tend to have a shorter routine here. If things are going well we are generally trying to just keep doing what we're doing and avoid thinking too much and judging what we are doing. This is the whole self 1 and self 2 thing discussed in classic book, The Inner Game Of Tennis. If we lose our focus because  either we have won a number of points too easily or we begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel we learn how to catch these lapses before they cause any real danger. This is all done with between rally routines which allow us to focus on right now (versus the past or future).

If things aren't going well in your match the between rally refocusing routine can help you get back on track. You can use this to slow down the onslaught and break up the momentum. Again because momentum is so psychological what we do and what we think during these between rally routines is so vital to their effectiveness. Sometimes it's about getting back to our game plan or letting mistakes go before playing the next point. What I like to do between rallies is use a cue (wiping my hand on the sidewall). Prior to this cue I allow myself to digest the previous rally and think about what I've learned from it. Once I've wiped my hand on the sidewall I've moved my focus back to the now and whatever happened from the previous rally is now out of my mind, digested and my focus is shifted back into this moment. After all, all we can control is what we are doing right now so don't over analyze what's happened up until now. If you find your focus is on the past or future try using a focused breath to recenter yourself. I always see pitchers doing this in their pre-pitch routines. Not only does a focused breath bring our attention into this moment, but the oxygen is also our fuel and this helps release some tension we may be holding onto. If you have read any sport psychology books you'll know that they all discuss the importance of conscious breathing.

Post Match Routines
Let's discuss post-match routines. If we lose maybe people like to dismiss any routine because they are too upset and don't care. We know that we can recover faster and improve our flexibility if we stretch after our matches, yet still some don't. I believe it's even more vital to stick to your post match routine after a loss so you have time to reflect and again don't carry that loss personally into the rest of your life. You may feel depressed after a tough loss and be upset, which is quite normal. I believe an effective post match routine gives you that time (say 30 minutes) to reflect on what you learned from the experience. After your routine is complete you have to let it all go.

Every single squash player ever has lost and will lose or else they aren't actually competing. This is why we love squash. We want to challenge ourselves and become the best we can be and this requires playing people that will be able to beat us. Losing to any caliber of player is simply a time to learn from it and make changes in your own game. Just don't take this loss to hard or personally. If you can let go of your ego and the fear of failure you'll have your best chance of playing to your potential. This is where I feel Fares Dessouky is struggling. He's no doubt the most technically and physically skilled player on the tour, but mentally is quite fragile. This is a shame because you want to root for him because he is so amazing with what he can do on court you just wish he would let his playing do the speaking for him. If he doesn't learn how to use his mind as an asset he will never reach his true potential which would be a real shame for all of us including Dessouky. Perhaps he is just preparing to be the villain and has something to prove to all of us. I'm guessing he grew up in an environment which fostered this trait, but this is also something that has to come from him and nobody else. This is the result oriented world we live in, but he has yet to figure out that playing his best squash is only possible when he stops trying to control the outcome and just focuses on the process of playing his best possible squash each and every rally. I really can't stand all of the discussions, blocking and reactions to the decisions.

Sport psychology is such an interesting topic to me and although all the top athletes in the world can vouch for the importance of their mental skills it's still an area under appreciated and under coached. It's tough to understand that you'll win more by not focusing on winning, but the process. You'll play better squash and enjoy it more if you can find your zone and play up to your potential. Take a serious look at your game and see how it measures up to what you would like it to be. It takes time to get to where you will want and need it to be so don't be too hard on yourself if you're not perfect. Try and use routines to improve how you self-regulate and respond to different situations. Also try setting up a weekly or monthly training routine and give your absolute best during each part of each session. I believe the championship attitude and behaviour has to come prior to becoming a champion. Focus on the process, on staying focused, on refocusing when you lose your way and you'll get into the zone more frequently and become more consistent with you performance. Don't wait to become a champion before you act like one. We may not know if the chicken came before the egg, but it's pretty clear that the winning habits must be in place before you can become a champion on the court.

Serious Squash has just produced a 64 minute instructional video titled The Secrets Of Solo Hitting. This contains 30 of the best solo drills along with a variety of tips. There is also a technical testing and bonus tips section. Learn how to get more out of your practices with this 1 of a kind film. Stream or download you copy today at

Thursday, April 6, 2017

The Making Of The Secrets Of Solo Hitting

It's been an interesting process to produce a film all by yourself. I've received a lot of positive feedback so far and a lot of requests for a 2nd film, but I'm still catching my breath from the 1st one. I decided to do my 1st movie on solo hitting because I felt this was the area I was most knowledgable about and where I had the most to offer the squash world. I thought it would be much simpler of a project than it turned out to be. Here's a little overview of my experience making this film and some of the challenges I faced while making this project.

I originally was hoping to talk on court and explain a drill before I demonstrated it. The trouble here was pretty obvious quite quickly. There was an echo on the court and the sound with the camera was not a high quality. After this I decided to record the video and borrow a friends audio equipment and talk over the videos of the drills. Problem solved, right?

The next issue was constantly running out of space on my laptop and unable to add new footage. I'm still not sure if I figured this out permanently, but I deleted a lot of stuff I don't use and hooked up a portable hard drive. This seems simple enough, but it was an ongoing issue. I also learned that iMovie has some limitations and I may use something else in my next project.

The next problem was how to record the audio. This was the first time I've used a proper boom and recording equipment. I only had a quick how to lesson from my friend and I learned quickly that my apartment is not as quiet as I had thought. Another issue was I discovered how often I say things like 'umm' and 'so' and I now have a new appreciation for live tv and radio broadcasters.

After recording all of the audio and believing that I had everything completed I found out that audio was recorded in mono (instead of stereo) which meant if you listened to the movie in headphones my speaking only came through in 1 earphone. I spent a lot of time trying to fix this and I couldn't figure it out so eventually I had to hire someone to do this for me. They also helped adjust the volume of all the audio since some was recored at various volumes (another lesson learned!).

Okay, so the film was all ready to go. Now I had to figure out how to get it online a get people to purchase a streaming or download of the movie. After all it was well over 100 hours I spent on this project and I felt it was squash a unique and helpful product that it had a lot of value. After a lot of research online I found an app on Shopify (Skypilot) that allowed me to sell a streaming of the movie through Vimeo. There was a small monthly fee here, but what doesn't have 1 these days? The tricky part was offering a download of the movie. This file couldn't be downloaded through Vimeo so I had to expand the monthly package I had with Skypilot to host the video on their site and allow customers to download.

I've made a few small revisions to the film since its release and each time I've had to upload a new copy to both Vimeo and Skypiot (which takes quite a awhile for such large video). So finally after more time spent on my laptop than filming the video or recording the audio everything was ready. The real challenge now was marketing. How do you market something like this? Luckily I have a small following of customers and fans on various social media outlets. I've also tried to advertise on some squash sites in Canada (Squash BC and Squash Ontario have posted info on the video so far). I'm yet to get something posted on Squash Canada as per usual they are generally non-responsive and unhelpful, but I'm still holding out hope. I'm also trying to get something posted on Squash Site, but they charge a small fortune for posting on their site and they haven't been very prompt or eager to do so for some reason either. I've also tried to email a few other national squash organizations, but they don't like having commercial ads on their sites especially from an outsider. For some reason I was silly to believe that the squash community would help one another out, because we are all trying to grow the game we love. I guess when people haven't done what I'm trying to do before there is no laid out pathway for what to do and how to do it.

So marketing is proving to be a major challenge. But before the internet marketing would have been almost impossible! If I could get a top pro player to help advertise the film I'm sure that would help a lot, but I can't afford to do that. For now it's just word of mouth and the Serious Squash social media outlets as my main sources of marketing. I've spent a bit of money promoting a couple of posts on Facebook and on Redditt to reach more of the squash community. So far I've sold almost 50 copies to people from all over the world which is really exciting. But I do feel there are a lot of keen squash players (especially juniors) who would be inspired and learn a lot from this video. I know I would have when I was a junior, so I hope it finds its way to those that will appreciate it most.

This is a brief overview of my journey with The Secrets Of Solo Hitting. I enjoyed making it, but at times it was a major headache. I'm proud of what I produced and I am going to make a 2nd film sometime in the next year. I already know the topic this 2nd film will be about, but for now it's about marketing this 1st film, coaching and preparing to play in nationals this spring.

Below is the preview for The Secrets Of Solo Hitting. Please share it with your peers at your squash club.  I've also decided to offer a full refund if someone does not enjoy the video. Hopefully this will provide more incentive for people to purchase the film and give it a chance.
Here's the link to where you can purchase the film:

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Knowing When To Stick With Plan A

One of the most difficult things I have found as a player and also as a coach is deciding after losing a game to not change a thing. We all think that because we lose a game we must change something so we do better in the next one. This is a really difficult concept to understand in the heat of battle as a player and as a coach. We want to play our best and if we lose we don't like to admit that our opponents executed really well or that there is a thing called statistics that balance themselves out over the long haul and that sometimes a single game isn't long enough to know if our tactics will prevail. In squash there is also a major fitness and mental component to a match which we must be taken into account. Often times all we need to change is our focus and other times it's simply maintaining that concentration and effort after a disappointing result. Plus if all we ever think about and hear after a game is what could have been better, how are we ever going to be confident in what we did well and what was working? Focusing too much on areas that need improvement doesn't always mean you will play better after acquiring such knowledge. Ahh, the art of coaching.

If we are playing someone stronger than our level we shouldn't look only at the score to determine how well we are playing. Here I prefer to focus on playing the right shot and simple things, such as getting your opponent behind you or extending the rallies or making them work harder. This all makes sense, but what happens when we lose a game to a person that we believe to be at or even below our level? This happens to all of us and when it does our ego takes a real shot in the gut. We get twisted up because we can't understand how we are playing so poorly, again forgetting that we are up against an opponent who has come out for a real fight.

The first thing here is just to let go of the worry about the outcome (outcome focused does not give you desired outcome results). Worry leads to tension, overthinking, anger and potentially freezing up. The key isn't always making a change, it's normally just focusing on the process; keeping things simple and staying positive. Keeping things simple and doing the basics well can take you a long ways on the court; the challenge is that this becomes all the more difficult to do when our back is up against the wall. And remember that if your basics are superior to your opponents, over the course of a match most of the time things will go in your favour.

If we use excuses like the refs or our opponents lucky bounces, or how it's not our day or some stoppages in play we are never giving ourselves a real shot of playing our best squash. These are all obstacles that are created more psychologically than physically. If you can learn how to enjoy the challenge of the challenges you face you will have the best chance of overcoming them in a positive manner. This is what handling adversity is all about. It's easy to be a good sport when we're winning and playing well, but when things are going against us it's when it reveals our true character. Learn to change your reactions to these situations if you aren't handling them well. But let's get back to the topic at hand.

Let's once again discuss the situation where you are playing someone of a similar standard and lose a game. I often see people lose a game by 2 or 3 points and they think they need to do something drastically different the following game and they come out and they end up following this up with a worse result. Normally when this happens the most important thing you can do is go out and play the exact same game. You almost won the last game, why make a drastic change? When we are in these situations it is so difficult to just stick with a game plan, but remember it's first to win 3 games not best of 1 or 3! At a high level squash is very physical and mental and if you can play a similar standard game later in the match often your opponent will drop, either their focus or fitness (which in turns results in unforced errors).  When we try and change our game too much we begin to overanalyze and possibly try playing out of our comfort zone and this is when we may actually perform worse. So don't go changing things simply because you lose a game; change things because you feel like your strategy was incorrect or could be slightly smarter.

I believe that we try and drastically change game plans far too frequently when we lose a game. Often it is simply about slightly better execution so just being given some reassurance that they are on the right track can be quite helpful. As a coach we also feel like we know better than the athletes and that we should give them some amazing pointers that will turn the game around! Once in awhile this does happen, but a great coach will know when to reaffirm what the athlete is doing and keep them positive and upbeat returning to court. I know this goes against the famous Albert Einstein quote about insanity, 'doing the same thing over and over and expecting to get a different result' which is possibly why we feel such an urge to change something.

This is an area I'm still working on because it is different from person to person. This is also why I believe you should always focus on playing the right shot. After a rally (not during) is your time to quickly process your previous point. You may learn 1 thing from it about improving your shot selection in a future similar situation; good players can make adjustments in game like this. If you are focusing on poor execution that's where we get in trouble. If we begin to think about our swing it is incredibly difficult to change our mechanics during a match so those types of self-analysis are best left for after the match. We might know we need to hit it deeper so we can change our target, but we don't need to get into specifics regarding our swing and how to do this unless you are quite advanced and if you are this advanced you probably don't need to think about your swing mechanics whatsoever to change your targets.

So if Plan A didn't quite work, don't be so quick to jump to Plan B or C! Sometimes our best chance of winning is by sticking with what we just did. Knowing when to jump ship and went stay onboard is something you should think about and consider experimenting with. If you got away from your style too much and you think if you got back to your regular game it would help things then go for it! If you don't have a coach with you it can be quite helpful to make a few notes on an index card. You could have 2 or 3 styles or keys that can helps you play well.

For example: Plan A) Straight, deep and tight perhaps the pace is what needs to change so for example you can go to Plan B) pick up the pace and take the ball early! or maybe we are being too impatient so we look at Plan C) set up golden mid-court attacking opportunities by creating more pressure with your length

You could also try something a little different like this if your focus is on level of discipline/attacking. Plan A) Just play your game! Plan B) Be More AGGRESSIVE! Plan C) set it up before your fire it in!

Here's another simple card you could have if you want to focus on volleying or movement. Plan A) VOLLEY VOLLEY VOLLEY! Plan B) Get back to the T before they hit! Plan C) Be explosive off the T

Don't use too many at once. When we think too much we can get paralysis by over-analysis. Often a simple, gentle reminder works best. If you have a tendency to overhit the ball, maybe your notes should say Plan A) easy big guy, smarter not harder! Plan B) You're blowing them off the court! Plan C) Bring the heat!!!!

So just a simple cheat sheet can be quite useful and you'll notice I kept an option of doing what I was already doing; but sticking with this after losing a game is what today's topic is all about. If you feel the movement, pace or aggressiveness of play is your key to success design your card around that and maybe you'll stick with your Plan A's a little longer. All of today's article has to do with focusing on the process of your squash and not the outcome. I want to win as much as the next person, but our improvement and even the current result is often jeopardized by short term and result oriented thinking. If we jump ship maybe we aren't giving our opponents the opportunity to have a mental or physical lapse in their match. It isn't all about us on the court. Sometimes it's just about being so gritty and determined that it eventually breaks our opponent. I'm sure we can all think of someone who resembles these characteristics.

If you haven't heard yet, Serious Squash has just released a 64 minute instructional squash video titled, The Secrets Of Solo Hitting. This video contains 30 of the best solo drills aimed to improve your squash game with tips on how to best execute these drills and why they're so critical to your development. Stream or download a copy of the film at and if you're not 100% satisfied with your purchase I will give you a full refund. Here's an in depth preview of the film: