Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Team Canada @ The 2018 World Junior Squash Championships

If you've been following Serious Squash on Facebook or Instagram you'll already know that I was just in India at the manager of Junior Boys National Team. The team consisted of Julien Gosset (our team captain and #1 player), James Flynn (our #2), George Crowne (our  3) and Ryan Picken was our #4. We also had 3 players from Canada participate in the individual event. Here's the link to the tournament website: https://www.wsfworldjuniors.com




Photo on a local coffee shop in Chennai


Our preliminary team seeding was 9th. Canada hasn't done too well on the international stage for a number of years so not many people expected much from our squad. Julien was the only seeded player in the individuals event seeded 13/16.

The team did almost a week of pre tournament training in Mumbai before heading to Chennai for the big event. I was also supposed to be with the team, but had some major setbacks getting my visa. Let's just say if you have to get a visa to go to India don't use the courier service and avoid the Surrey BLS office by all means necessary.






I had to get my flights changed because of the visa difficulties, so I didn't end up leaving Victoria until July 12th. I took a red eye to Toronto, had a 10 hour layover before taking a 9 hour flight to Frankfurt, a 6 hour layover there and finally a 9.5 hour flight to Chennai. Yes, I was wiped, but at least I made it.

The team arrived the day after I checked into the hotel. This was my first time in India and it was quite a culture shock. I've traveled abroad before so I wasn't too taken aback by the traffic, pollution and lack of clean drinking water. The first tuk tun ride was quite the experience where our head coach, Jonathan Hill ordered an 'Uber' which to our surprise turned out to be a yellow tuk tuk (pictured below). They were a cheap and quick reliable source of transportation, if the driver knew where you wanted to go.


When we first arrived at the courts to practice the outside temperature was almost 40 degree celsius. And there was no air conditioning in the club! Wow that was a tough first day on court. The Indian Squash Academy was really a beautiful facility though. They had 3 courts at the front of the club, a 4 wall glass show court around the back with another 4 newer glass back courts. I wish we had something like this in Canada.

After a few days of practice and getting adjusted to the hot and bouncy courts the tournament was about to begin. Luckily for our guys the air conditioning did kick in and the temperature was not much of a factor the rest of the way. The morning of our first matches in invidious we had a player wake up ill and was quite sick, Somehow he went on to win 2 matches that day and must have hid it just well enough from his opponents. Even more surprisingly was that this was some of the best squash he would play all event.


The individual draw was 128 for the boys. All of our 4 boys won their first 2 matches on day 1. Having 4 Canadians into the round of 32 was a big deal. The next day Julien, George and James all won again while Ryan lost to a 3/4 seed form Egypt in a close 3; with a weak ref and some fishing and blocking by his opponent. On to day 3 of the event and we had 3 Canadians into the final 16. This was big news in Canada and throughout the event.


In the round of 16 Julien lost 11-9 in the fifth on his first match on the glass court to another top Egyptian seed while James lost to the Mexican #1 and top 90 PSA player in a tight 4 games. George I feel played the match of the tournament against the top seed and defending champion Marwan Tarek (pictured below) and lost in 4 on the glass court and for a moment in the fourth game I thought he looked the fresher of the 2 and had a real shot of pulling off the major upset. But Tarek showed his class and experience and pulled away in the fourth to close it out.


After such a strong showing by our boys the seeding committee took notice and it was now between Canada and England for the #2 seed heading into the team event. The vote was unanimous and we secured the second seed and were poised to have the highest ever finish for our team in history; that is if our boys could recap the performances they displayed in their individual event.

After a little break between the individual and team event we got our pool draw. We had Scotland (seeded 17) and Argentina (seeded 15) in our pool. We rested James for our first match and won dropping just a single game to Scotland. It was evident though that our boys were a bit edgy as many of them were playing on a team for the first time and representing their country and the World Championships.

On day 2 we played Argentina and George came out a bit flat and nervous and went down 0 - 2 to the Argentina #3. Obviously we were all surprised after displaying worldclass squash against Tarek. It just goes to show how pressure and focusing on the result can negatively impact your performance. Luckily though George got it together and can back to win the next 3 games quite convincingly O next was Julien who had a tough match against their #1 losing in 5. So here we are down to the final match, if we lost this match we would play Egypt in the round of 16; no pressure James! Luckily James is a big time player and played at a top 5 level of all the juniors at the event. He sealed the deal and our team all had a big sigh of relief.

The cool glass court setup in the Express Avenue Mall

I thought we were playing not too lose as opposed to playing to win. The mental game is so intriguing and really was a difference maker in many fo the closely encountered team matchups. After getting through our pool we were drawn against Australia in the round of 16, a one time powerhouse of the squash world. All the boys played much better and we won all 3 matches. Next up was the quarterfinals against the US. James had beaten their #1 in the individual event in 3 straight games and Ryan had beaten their #3 while being sick in straight games too. So even though the boys were a bit nervous because of the occasion they were confident.

This match started out with some major jitters. James who had been playing unbelievable so far went down 0 - 2 playing at the 2 position. All of the team members and coaches were a wreck with the ups and downs and mixed emotions from this match. I normally don't get nervous watching and coaching my kids play, but I most certainly was in this instance. After James won I started to relax a bit. We were up a match. Julien went on to play at the #1 position and was controlling the pace and most of the rallies. He was up 2 - 1 in games and 10-6 when he stretched for a ball int he back left corner only to slip and in that moment our whole team went into shock. After a delay of 2 or 3 sends Julien was down clutching his right hamstring in tears and we all looked at ourselves in complete shock. 'Did this really just happen?' We were all getting ready to celebrate, George was untying his shoes and Ryan about to text his friends to celebrate the occasion of a guaranteed medal and a matchup with England in the semis.

Julien came off limping and it was clear immediately that it was serious. He only had 3 minutes to recover and go back and resume play. He got his leg bandaged but could not put any weight on his leg. The plan was to go back out up 10 - 7 and just go for a nick on the 3 return of serves and if he didn't get one default the match. He did actually hit one put it popped up just enough for his opponent to retrieve it while Julien was stuck watching from where he struck the ball from.

As Julien hobbled off court George was now having to prepare to play a must win match. Meanwhile I was dealing with the physiotherapist and an in shock Julien. I had to take him to the tournament hospital for an examination. When I left it was 1 - 1 in the deciding match. I was in shock at the tournament thinking about what had just happened. I've never seen something like this take place and now here it is happening in the biggest match of our teams young squash careers.

While waiting for Julien to finish his examination at the hospital I got the message that George has lost 12 - 10 in the fourth. He obviously felt terrible about letting the team down, but none of us blamed him because the pressure and the shock of that moment likely would have gotten the better of most players in that same position.

We all got back to the tournament hotel around 10pm that night and had a team meeting and dinner. It started somber and we aired out some of our frustrations and disbeliefs. This is when Julien I think stepped up the most, he was the injured one and felt bad not only about being potentially seriously injured, but also for letting his teammates down when he was so close and sure of victory. He stepped up and said the right things to get the team refocused as we still had to compete and we were scheduled to play the reigning World Champions, Pakistan at 11am the next day on the show court at the mall.

That night most of us didn't sleep and when I did I dreamt of the nightmare that we'd just experienced. The next morning we were still in shock and now very tired. Luckily James was up first and he played pretty well, but lost a tight match to the #1 from Pakistan. Three of the games went to extra points so it really could have gone either way. We were in a hole here. One point away form a medal and now we must win the next 2 matches without our #1 player in the lineup. George was on next and did not come out sharp. It took a lot of encouraging to get him going as his confidence was fragile as he also felt like he let the team down the night prior. Thankfully Julien and Jonathan were able to get though to him between games and after dropping the first game came back to win in a scrappy 4. Now it was up to Ryan. His opponent was playing great squash and we ended up in a fifth and deciding game. Ryan got down 8 - 10 in the fifth and miraculously pulled it out 12 - 10. What a turn of events the team had gone through in such a short period of time.

Somehow we sneaked that match out and now had a chance to finish off the tournament on a high note if we could beat the tough Malaysian team. On the final day of the event James was again on first playing as our #1 now and played amazing to win in 3. Ryan was a little off this day and lost in 3. Now it was up to George. Could this be his moment to pick the team back up in a big match? His opponent was skilled and it wasn't easy but George came through with a gutsy win in 4 to give Canada a fifth place finish.


Fifth may not have been what we were expecting, but after what this team encountered in the quarterfinals it's pretty amazing that they were able to regroup and come back with 2 big victories. I think we all learned something from this event and that it really is never over until it's over and that pressure and adversity are sometimes our biggest opponents.

 
 I missed the team photo at the final banquet because I was sick :(

It was a long 3 weeks for the coaching staff! 

During the entire last week of the event I was struggling wth some sort of illness, so I cannot wait to get home, drink some tap water and sleep in my own bed. It was overall a terrific, life changing experience for the whole team and I am very proud to have been a part of something so special. A big thank you to Jonathan for choosing me to be the team manager and for all of the boys for playing so hard and representing Canada so well. Will I go back to India anytime soon? Hmm I enjoyed everything besides the sickness so probably not. I did meet a lot of great people and someone even stole 1 of my Serious Squash shirts lol. So if you happen to see someone wearing a purple Serious Squash shirt (pictured below) at your club ask if it's a medium and where they go it lol. And if there are more spelling and grammar errors in here than normal it probably has something to do with the lack of sleep I'm running on at the moment.



Wednesday, May 30, 2018

A Heartfelt Thank You From Stuart Dixon For #SavingTheVictoriaSquashClub

The campaign to #SaveTheVictoriaSquashClub started off as a last ditch effort to save the Victoria Squash Club. The club has managed to just get by for quite some time now, but there were 2 large bills upcoming that the club simply couldn't afford to pay. Stuart and his wife Sandy have put plenty of their own money into the club over the years, but that can only go on for so long. Unfortunately this year it seemed like bankruptcy was the only option.

Last week I ran a few ideas by Stuart on how I could help him drum up some money for the club so it could stay open. At first I thought about hosting a club golf tournament, but there was only a month to plan it and we had to raise $27,000. Later on I thought about this crowdfunding idea and began working on the site (GoFundMe.com/SaveTheVictoriaSquashClub).

Stuart is such a well respected and iconic coach in Canada and all around the world, so it would have been horrible to see his club close. But within 3 days of launching this campaign we had already raised more than what we had hoped for. Social media is amazing for things like this and it wasn't a tough ask for anyone who's ever met Stu.

This time last week it was looking like the club might be closing for good and now just a week later the club and the community have come together like never before. Not only have we raised over $40,000, but more importantly the spotlight has been placed on the struggles of running a privately owned squash club, even if it is led by a hall of fame coach and wonderful human being.

What's next for the club? Well we have a club survey coming out soon to try to get some feedback on how the members would like the club to operate moving forward, knowing full well that changes are imminent and necessary. We are also looking to assemble a management team/committee of devoted volunteers to help the club become a more successful business and ensure that it's a long standing staple here in Victoria. It's unbelievable how many people have reached out and offered their support above and beyond making a donation. It's because of this outpour that we are now confident that things are going to turn around for the better. How quickly things can change...

Here is a heartfelt video of Stuart thanking everyone who helped save his club. If you'd like to follow along the progress and updates to the club bookmark VictoriaSquashClub.com and follow Serious Squash on Facebook and Instagram. I'll be posting updates as we go. There's plenty of great ideas and lots of motivated people with 1 common goal, and that's to make the Victoria Squash Club thrive!


Sunday, May 27, 2018

48 Hour Update On The #SaveTheVictoriaSquashClub Crowdfunding Campaign

48 hours into our campaign of #Save|TheVictoriaSquashClub we have raised $19,635 from 90 people which means we are well on our way to the target goal of $27,000. It's amazing how quickly things can get around these days with social media and it also shows how many people have been impacted by the club and longtime coach and owner, Stuart Dixon and his wife Sandy. A campaign like this seems to bring out the good in so many people and lifts everyones spirit.


Over the weekend I've received dozens of emails and phone calls from concerned current and past members asking how they could make a difference on top of making a donation. So many people have expressed gratitude for what the club and Stuart means/meant to them and they want to ensure it's successful for the long haul. So we know reaching our goal and raising $27,000 is the first step and crucial for the club being able to keep its doors open, but we all understand that there must be some changes in the club to ensure we don't encounter a similar problem down the road.

As we continue to raise funds to pay off these 2 upcoming large bills, we will also be looking into ways of changing the club. Now that the spotlight is on the club and it's struggles people appear extremely willing and eager to help. I believe this campaign has done more than just raise some money for a business and a great man in need, but it has brought together a community that is going to make some real positive long standing changes. I believe these changes are going to begin to unfold shortly.

We are going to have a club meeting soon and I am going to propose a board of directors forms. There are quite a few options as to how the club should move forward from here so we will see where it goes from here. I will keep you posted on the process of the club as I believe the Victoria Squash Club is going to transform from the brink of bankruptcy to successful. The love and support is there and I think it's only a matter of time if we use the momentum this campaign has built up.

If you want to be a part of this unbelievable story and make a contribution it's not too late. You can make a monetary donation (donations will be taken until the end of June) and we will also be having a silent auction in a couple of weeks so if you have an item you'd like to donate please let me know. Here's the link to the club's crowdfunding page:  https://www.gofundme.com/SaveTheVictoriaSquashClub

Thanks again so much to all of you who have donated, shared this campaign and reached out to me to show your love and support for Stuart and the Victoria Squash Club! Let's not just #SaveTheVictoriaSquashClub but help it thrive!



Friday, May 25, 2018

#Help Save The Victoria Squash Club

The Victoria Squash Club on Vancouver Island in Western Canada has been around for decades and is a staple here in Victoria. I've taught lessons here part time for the past 7 years. The owner, club manager and head coach of the club is Hall Of Famer (2010) Stuart Dixon who got me my current job at St. Michaels University School when I first moved to Victoria. He is one of the best coaches and person I have ever met so I am taking it upon myself to try and help him out of this difficult situation.


The club is in a bad position right now and has 2 large bills coming up in July totalling $27,000 which it is unable to pay. If you've played at the club or know Stuart you will know why we have to do whatever we can to help him and the club stay open. Please have a look at the crowdfunding campaign I've created. There are some great rewards for those of you who donate.

Even if you are unable to donate any money it would be greatly appreciated if you could share this link or post with your fellow squash friends. Stuart is a legend in squash and has worked unselfishly with countless people over the years. If you have any items to donate for our upcoming silent auction please contact me at info@SeriousSquash.com

#SaveTheVictoriaSquashClub Crowdfunding Page:

Victoria Squash Club website: VictoriaSquashClub.com

Squash Canada's Hall Of Fame Inductees: http://www.squash.ca/en/wall-of-fame

Thank you for anything you are able to do to help us out. Stuart is a very proud person who would never ask for help, but desperately needs it at this time.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

The Tenaciousness Of Miguel Rodriguez

At the Canadian Junior Nationals recently I was talking with another about the future of Canadian squash. He said he wanted the Canadian flag to represent a specific trait at international competitions just like Egypt, England and France does. Canada is such a large, spread out country and quite diverse in ethnicity and the style of squash we play and our taught. My comment was that we had to be know for giving it absolutely everything we have. Not all of our national team members are going to have the shots and fluidity of the Egyptians or move as powerful as the French do, but we can always, and I believe must be willing to outwork our opponent.

See effort and sheer tenaciousness is something that I believe Canadians would stand behind and something that is needed to be successful at the highest level in squash. This is the exact trait I would say that Rodrigues displays each and every time he steps on court. Rodriguez also hails from a country which lacks depth of professional squash players, yet he has managed to find his way right to the very top of the heap and it was his passion and effort that brought him to where he is this day and allowed him to capture his first British Open championship.

When I watched the final of the men's British Open this past weekend I couldn't help but admire Rodriguez's tenaciousness. He dived at least 9 or 10 times and not once in the entire match did he ever give up on a ball, or appear down on himself. This is why he's always a crowd favourite and so fun to watch. You think all pro squash players would have these attributes, but it's not true. When many players get way down in a game or a match, the often believe that they are too far out of position or behind on the scoreboard. When this happens they will go down without too much of a fight because they either have lost hope or are being sensible and saving energy and focus for later in the match (or if the match is almost they may have given up belief that they could come back so why continue to give it all). I don't believe you can turn on and off your ability to be tenacious when it's most critical and when you have the highest odds of winning a point or match.

Rodriguez, as per usual didn't give an inch the entire final and that might have been the difference when they got to the end of the 5th game. When a game or match is only decided by a point or two and your opponent is being worn down, that extra effort you made to stay in a rally might just be what makes the difference and when it happens on the grandest of stages it shows us all just how important this vital quality is to winning squash at the highest level.


Sure Rodriguez has excellent ball control and has become smarter with his shot selection over the years and these traits no doubt helped him win this prestigious title, but I felt it was deserved because he absolutely never gives up, ever, ever, ever! That doesn't mean he's the best player, or doesn't lose, but it does always make him a pest and an extremely tough defeat. As a coach this is what we always look for most and admire in our students. There are many highly technically skilled players who have never had such great success as Rodriguez and I think that's why we all were cheering for him to pull it off on Sunday.


Also being one of the smaller guys on tour it's motivating for all the kids (and adults too!) out there who are shorter than their peers. It shows that heart really can be more of a weapon than skill, genes or any other trait which we don't always have control over. ElShorbagy gave a tremendous effort too and appeared to be running on fumes for half of the match so I feel like it's appropriate to commend him on his effort. But he's #1 in the world and has won so many titles and he's also a big strong guy, so I was very happy to see the underdog, Rodriguez capture his first World Series Title and such a historic one at that.


Over the past few years we've had very few shocking champions in the mens' game besides when Ashour disappears with injuries and comes back months later to win a title. But we know that the major events are mostly contested and won by the guys at the top of the ranks. When Rosner won the Tournament of Champions we were all shocked, but he is still a top ranked guy and has pushed and defeated most of the top guys at some point in time. Rodriguez was unseeded and although he was ranked as high as #4 a couple of years ago, he had a super tough draw including Ashour in the first round and Farag in the quarters. I don't know what his career records were against those two, but I imagine they were not too good. So it was really great to see him and Kandra both have phenomenal and unexpected results. I love watching the best players play, but I also don't want the head to head results to always be the same.


This is why they play the game; because anything can happen if you give it a shot, give it your all and have faith in your ability. It doesn't mean you are going to win every time you step out on court, but you will give yourself your best shot, regardless of where you're from, your stature, your draw and your previous results against certain players. If there's one thing I'd like to point out to the kids I work with from Rodriguez it's definitely the tenaciousness and passion he has for the game. Goliath doesn't always win, even when he's won countless times before so step into the ring swinging and play to win. And finally, remember that being fancies is a trait that we can all possess, it's a mindset and something that you have to look at yourself hard in the mirror and ask yourself the hard questions. If you don't know if you posses it just ask some of your opponents, they most definitely will know.


Thursday, May 10, 2018

Is Squash The Best Or Worst Sport For Your Health?

All squash players and coaches know that squash burns the most calories per hour compared to any other sport. We also know that there is nothing more gruelling and also rewarding than a tough squash match. The media and squash players alike are aways trying to promote squash as the best sport because it involves strategy, is good for your health and can be played in almost any city in the world in a short window of time. Some players squeeze in a match at lunchtime and generally squash players have to be relatively fit to play points of 10+ shots and matches lasting over 30 minutes. But is it possible that too much squash can actually be bad for your health?

I'm just 36 years old, but I've had to deal with a lot of overuse injuries the past few years. I had my first knee surgery which was due to wear and tare. The surgeon also seemed assured that I'd be a repeat customer. Most of my injuries the past few years have revolved around my back and ribs. I'm not a tall person, just 5 foot 7 and maybe 150lbs and perhaps my stature and the amount of torque I put on my body has a lot to do for the decades of overuse injuries.

Squash involves a lot of sprinting, starting-stopping, twisting, lunging and on top of that rotational swings while in these difficult positions and heavily fatigued. Too much of anything is not good for the body, but how do you get really good at something without putting in a lot of practice? I played a lot from the age of 10-14 and then didn't tough a racquet for about 5 years (or I'm sure I'd be in worse shape now). I played a lot of sports when I was young, but when I was 12-14 and from 19-36 most of my active life and sport has revolved around squash. Back in university I would get knee pain jogging just a few kms, but playing squash didn't bother my body. Somehow my body had slightly adjusted to squash, but the imbalance caused by the years of repletion would not allow me to do a repetitive non-squash exercise like biking or running.

Chiropractors and physiotherapists have always noticed right away that my body is off balanced and overdeveloped on one side of my body. But even for those who don't pay sport we use one half of our body more than others. We have a dominant arm, leg and even eye, yes that's right eye. If you want to know which eye is dominant you simply place yours index fingers and thumbs together to make a diamond shape and raise it to the ceiling. Place some dot or making within this area and then close one eye at a time. The marking will only show up in this area in your dominant eye. I recall a chiropractor once using a machine he was using with Olympic athletes to help reset my eyes. I had to wear this fancy pair of glasses and some lights blinked in a specified order which would help reset your eyes so you would use both again. This is just an example of something that overtime with overuse we naturally develop. You can imagine how much more things can become imbalanced when it involves hitting a shot with our same arm and playing 80-90%+ of our shots on our dominant leg.

The past two years I've been working with a personal trainer once or twice per week and I've been doing some spin classes and doing lots of physio and massages. I'm basically trying to work on my imbalances so I can not only be healthy enough to compete again, but also so I can coach and not continue this trend of over developing one side of my body. I've done a lot of floating and recently starting doing some acupuncture plus I stretch and roll almost daily. Basically I'm at the point where if I'm not proactively working on rebalancing and strengthening my body I will get injured pretty quickly and the longer I continue trying to coach and play competitively while I'm a bit injured the more likely it is that this will become a chronic and more serious injury which again could lead to another surgery.

While I was back in Toronto for the junior nationals I was talking with an old trainer of mine form when I was a junior. After telling him some of the issues I've been having the past few years he recommended I begin taking eldoa classes. I've just started taking classes this week so time will tell how this will help my body longterm. I would try to explain what it is, but it's probably simpler if you just google it. I've heard many Olympians are starting to do it and it can be helpful for people like me who have imbalances and some spine/hip imbalances. I just got back from a physio session this morning and basically my body is still pretty twisted and this is why my back has been bugging me the past month. I started playing more the past month to prepare for nationals, but this in turn hurts my body more. So the more I play, the more I have to do off court to prevent injuries and balance my body from the strain and overuse and pounding it takes from competing. Now I know why many coaches don't compete anymore; it takes a LOT of off court maintenance and training to be able to play at all, let alone play regularly and be able to prepare properly for a tournament.

So I ask you once again? After reading all of this is squash good for me or slowly crippling me? I never wanted a desk job because I wanted to stay active and healthy, but little did I know that too much of squash can be just as bad on my body. From my experience I definitely feel like squash players, even young juniors need to do more cross training and off court maintenance. What exactly you do off court is not so simple though. Certainly some mobility work (both strength, motor control and flexibility) can really help, but you will also likely need to find some other exercises which can help you become a more well rounded better athlete. Exercises like yoga, cycling, running (unless you're already too imbalanced), rowing machines, skipping or just playing other sports can all help.

As juniors are continually trying to beat one another and are pushed to become the best they can possibly be, you have to be careful not to jeopardize someone long term health and well being just for some short term success. Practice hitting shots of both legs, stretch/roll, do strength work and play other sports. Sometimes an assessment from a good trainer or physio can help you be proactive. It's much better to plan ahead and prevent injuries from happening as opposed to waiting for problems to build up.

All this being said, I'll keep playing squash as much as my body all allow. I need to make sure I eat healthy, get a good nights sleep, rest when my body needs it and spread out my tough on court sessions. I also need to stay on top of my stretches, physio and hopefully doing eldoa regularly will improve my general mobility and back health. I also regularly use a swiss ball to sit on.

If I had to go back in time and talk to myself as a junior I would tell myself to make sure I did off court training year round and if they had physios and personal trainers back then I would have told myself to invest in them, because it's one thing to be active off court and another to do it properly and to best offset the imbalance caused by so much squash. I still haven't completely figured out the right method for me, but it's improving and I certainly believe this is information that should be made available to all keen squash players, especially the kids. I'll leave you with a quote from my club as a junior, 'get fit to play squash, don't play squash to get fit.' I finally get it! Squash is great for your healthy enough if you are healthy enough to play it, but the more you play the more prone you are to the accumulation of overuse injuries.

Check out the SeriousSquashShop.com for merch and instructional films. There's plenty of gear and 3 films available for download. Below if the trailer for the most recent video, The Advanced Secrets Of Solo Hitting (& Movement).


Sunday, May 6, 2018

2018 Canadian Senior Nationals Recap

Well I just finished the Canadian Senior Nationals and finished 2nd in the 35+ division, again. It was pretty sweet this year that they brought in a glass court for the event. It's too rare that anyone get to play on a 4 wall glass court now that the NSA has shut down. Although having this court was great (and you can see below that it looked awesome) it takes some time to adjust to it and was not all it was cracked up to be. Imagine a tennis player going to the French Open having only have ever played on hardcourts? And further yet and was unable to even hit on the courts prior to the tournament?

Not all squash courts are created equal! 

The tournament started with the open event qualifying matches on Tuesday which were played on the traditional panel courts and in Calgary there's an altitude factor so the ball is noticeably quicker and more difficult to put away. Not too long ago they used to use a green dot in Calgary, which was called the altitude ball. I guess these balls didn't bounce true so they aren't used anymore. This tactically and physically really changes the matches and is a big reason why Calgarians seem to always fair well when they play at home and don't do quite as well when they play at sea level. And for the record, yes the person that beat me in the finals was from Calgary. His game clearly suited the elements better than mine. But this post is not about my squash, nor is it too complain for losing my match. The masters events are just for fun for me, but my experience of playing some matches on the regular courts and the finals on the glass court give me a unique perspective for the open events.

One big problem with putting up a temporary show court is that it takes a lot of time to plan and set up. The court was not put together until Tuesday night and the open matches were starting at 10am on Wednesday. Some of the pros I know requested to get practice time on the glass court in the morning before their matches and were unable to. There were only 4 or 5 time lots and they were full. This meant that this small select group of athletes got to practice on the glass court while their opponents did not. You could see the result of this in the quality of the first round matches. At altitude on a glass court, with large white sponsors writing on the front wall made it very difficult to pick up the ball and volley. There were also lots of crazy, lucky bounces in the back corners. I've never seen so many top players aced in my life!

I like to think I have pretty good racquet skill and it was pretty frustrating to not be able to control the ball like Im accustomed to and feeling like the only style that was effective was to try and bash the ball and hit everything deep which also happened to be my opponents style of play. So basically my only shot of wining is to outplay my opponent at his own game; I don't like my odds and I too would have needed some practice time on the court if I was going to have a shot at wining. But if the pros can't get on to practice I know I have absolutely no chance of doing so. I can only imagine for pro players that are training full time how frustrating this must be to feel kind of incompetent. The better player should win and I don't think this was always true. The player who suited this style of play won. The style that suited the glass at altitude was fast and low drives. You could get away with more crosccourts than normal because it was very tough to see the ball early enough to volley.

I know that a club only hosts nationals every so often, but I thought it was completely unfair to allow only some of the pro players to practice on the glass. Either all or none of them should have been allowed practice time. When I walked into the glass court to warmup for my finals I was worried when I could barely see my first volley drive I hit. It took almost 2 full games to adapt to the court and by then it was too late. I think my game fits a glass court as I have deception, volley a lot and have a good attacking game. For the masters finals they rated the tin on the glass too which made it even harder to use the front of the court. At least for the pros they got to use the 17" tin. But I thought only the top few players seemed comfortable on the court and I heard many complaining. I played on this same court 6 years ago, but at seas level and with a low tin and without the white logos on the front wall and I don't remember having any trouble seeing the ball or using the front of the court. This time was much difference.

At altitude I think they should lower the tin to 15" to make the game more like a proper squash game. In squash you should get rewarded for creating an opening and taking the ball in short well, but with the bounce of the ball (and on the glass court the difficulty of seeing the ball), most of the time players were punished for going short if it wasn't absolutely spot on. Since it was tough to track the ball and it was moving quicker than normal most peoples short games were definitely far from spot on and confidence is such a hug factor for people short game, so once they miss a few or hit a couple of lollipops they tend to become tentative.

It's true both players have to deal with the conditions, but I still like the way squashes become more attacking and fun to watch. If you saw any of the live stream you'll know that this wasn't Canada's best version of squash nor is it the style being played at the pro level. I think all tins should actually be lowered even for recreational players and in time I'm sure that will happen. When you change the elements like the altitude and court it certainly evens the playing field and gives certain players an edge. Is all this complaining based on my biased result or a true fact from the event? Oh and I haven't even mentioned how silly it was having to wear all whites in the Glencoe too! I got away with my off-white Serious Squash tees so I'm happy I didn't have to go clothes shopping for sports gear. I know there was a guy who played 7 matches all in the same shirt and pair of shorts! lol

For all of my complaining it was a fun week and a well run event. I lost to a nice guy who played better than me on the day. It's hard to win when you can't hit a tight drive to save your life. If the glass court practice times were sorted out better I wouldn't have much to complain about besides not being able to adapt well enough to the conditions. Next year nationals is in Toronto so we'll see how many Calgary players repeat their title defence and how the style of squash changes. If they bring in a glass court let's hope they sort out practice times and avoid large white logos on the front wall. Oh and by the way I won a buckle and a medal, yes that's right a buckle for a belt :/ I really don't like complaining and making excuses, but I suppose that's exactly what I've done..

Here's a link to the draws if you want to se all the results: http://squashcanada.tournamentsoftware.com/sport/draws.aspx?id=D1BF2F57-1EB0-4183-A2A0-8CAB9AE232C2 If you want to see my match from the final you can check it out. Go to the 1:24 mark https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sksdpBIlNg0




Sunday, April 22, 2018

What To Do When You Lose Confidence In Your Short Game

We miss an easy drop shot and then another. Next thing we know we tense up and push our drops and hit them without any confidence and as they get worse we just abandon our short game altogether. We've all been in a situation like this. Do you try and grind out the win without your drop or do you continue going for it and if so how long do you stick with it if it's not working?

This past weekend at the Canadian Junior Nationals I coached some kids who made some simple errors and began to lose confidence in their short game. Nationals is more important than a regular practice or league game so what can we do to get back on track when this happens?

When I think back to a similar situation in 1 of my matches the advice that helped me most came from a coach who insisted I play the shot when the opportunity was presented. The insistence helped me hit the ball short with some conviction, rather than doubt and my short game actually was meh sharper the next game and I ended up winning the match.

When I make a mistake now because my arm or hand is a bit too tense I simply shake out my hand afterwards to remind myself to stay lose. I always found it difficult to stay relaxed on the forehand side and play the drop when a smash was much less risky when you're not feeling too sure of your drop shots.

Another way I've helped myself get back on track in the past is to attack the 2nd good opening I got in a rally. Sometimes when we get an early and unexpected opening we aren't prepared to take the ball in short and don't get set properly. If we build the rally a little more and have the confidence to create a second opening later in the point I always found there was a better chance that I would be expecting this opportunity and I'd hit a higher quality shot.

Know what your go to short shot is. Even if you haven't given it much thought you probably have a certain attacking shot which is so engrained in your game that you don't have to think about how to play it and you can execute it quite consistently. If you can create an opportunity to use this shot it can get your short game going and your confidence along with it.

Another method I began using later on in my career is to focus purely on shot selection. Whenever I made an error on the execution I would never get upset at myself, because at least I was playing the right shot and in time the accuracy of these shots will eventually improve. If I simply had go even up on the right shot because of lack of confidence, sure I might have won a rally, game or match that I may not have, but I also may tarnish my long term growth if this becomes a go to habit because I believe every game, match and tournament must be won.

What I tried doing with some of my kids this past week was getting them to completely move on and forget about their errors. I tried reinstating how good their short game was and install some confidence in it. If you make a few mistakes in a row our confidence, anger and lack of focus are all vulnerable and it's really the mind that we need to be weary of and in control of when we face these bad patches. Even the best players in the world have lapses in focus, execution and shot selection, but they learn how to get their game and mind back on track quicker before they defeat themselves.  Like I mentioned above, learning to have a positive outlook on a mistake can be quite a rewarding perspective. In stead of looking at the obvious mistake we made, perhaps we should commend ourselves for creating such a good opening. And if the opening wasn't there, that's a whole other story.

I know another coach who told me the most important drop shot in a match is the first one you play. if you hit a good one you feel confident to take another one in, but if you miss and miss badly doubt can creep in. We are all vulnerable to doubt and the fear of making mistakes. If you are nervous or settling into the match it can be a good idea to build your openings and wait to settle your nerves or for a A+ opening were you can properly set up the space and your body for the well struck short ball.

Remember if you create a really good opening and your opponent is way out of position you don't need to hit the ball half an inch above the tin. Aim for tightness and think of your drops and boasts as working/pressure shots and look to follow up on the next ball if it's returned. There's also other ways to apply pressure than just drops. Try a kill shot, working boast, an attacking drive, picking the pace up or simply stepping up on the T and volleying more.

Another way I like to get my short game going is to play some heavier drops or kill shots. These shots are struck with more force so there is less chance of you pushing your drop or decelerating.

Really you need to commit to every shot you hit, especially short shots. Hitting a shot with confidence makes all the difference in the world. If you're thinking don't hit tin you're probably going to hit tin. Yes, just like don't hit your golf drive into that pond to the right.

If you really want to have the best possible short game you have to work on it every time you step out on court. Learn how to take the ball in short different ways, from different nights, angles, spin and speed. There's 10 short game drills in The Secrets Of Solo Hitting which can help too. Here's a link to the film if you want to purchase it. You can steam it, download a copy and it comes with a money back guarantee. SeriousSquashShop.com/collections/coaching-videos

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

2018 Japan & Hong Kong Junior Opens

Is your child going to play in the 2018 Japan Junior Open or Hong Kong Junior Open this summer? I'm officially coming and representing St. Michales University School on a 2 week tour. We have a few kids participating and some others who are interested in the school playing. If you are interested to learn more about St. Michaels and our squash program I would be happy to set up a meeting with you or simply have a chat during 1 of the events and of course I'd love to watch your kid play. 

St. Michaels is a boarding and day school in Victoria, British Columbia on the west coast of Canada. I'm finishing up my 7thyear of coaching at the school. We have 3 coaches, 4 courts, 1 middle school competitive team and 3 senior school competitive teams. Each team has between 8-12 kids with a total of 30-35 on the 4 competitive teams and another hundred or so that play recreationally. 

The competitive teams train 3 x 1.5 hours as a team per week and run a weekly junior league and offer private lessons. We take a group to a number of tournaments each year across British Columbia as well as the Canadian Junior Open and the Canadian Junior Nationals. Our season runs from September to March and until Nationals in April for those participating in it that season. This year we have 8 kids playing. We have 2 kids seeded 3/4 and a number of kids ranked in Canada. On top of the school
squash programs I also run spring break camps and 4 x 2 hour training sessions weekly for all of July and August. We have a number of alumni who are and have played on a number of different collegiate squash teams in the Canada and the United States.


For more information on SMUS website is www.Smus.caand you can email me at Chris.Hanebury@smus.ca if you would like to set up a meeting during my trip. 

Japan Junior Open July 25 – 28
Hong Kong Junior Open July 31 – August 4

Monday, April 2, 2018

The Advanced Secrets Of Solo Hitting (& Movement) - An Advanced Training Session

Serious Squash is proud to present the newest instructional film to the collection. This is a short 15 minute mini film on an a specific advanced training session which can be tailored to players of all levels, right up to the very best in the world.

Movement is so critical in squash and is as if not more important than our technical skill set. The Advanced Secrets Of Solo Hitting (& Movement) discusses some of these common problem areas and with a fun and challenging game called 'Around The World' you can get much more out of your time on court. With this session you will find greater focus on each and every shot plus you will improve your movement. Quality practice > quantity of practice.

Here's the trailer for the film. If you like what you see pick up your copy of the film for just $5 at SeriousSquashShop.com/collections/coaching-videos It also comes with a $5 discount code for either Mastering Deception or The original Serious Squash film, The Secrets Of Solo Hitting.


Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Pace

We all know that pace is an important part of squash. If you hit the ball consistently hard it will move faster and get by your opponent faster. It's also just fun when you crush a ball and the sound it makes off the front wall. When you're in the back of the court hitting with pace can help  ensure your opponent cannot volley your length. When you're in the front, hitting with pace can again keep your opponent from cutting off your shot. Not only can pace make it harder for your opponent to volley, it can also make the ball bouncier which many people struggle with. As the ball heats up many of us have more difficulty controlling the ball and can't bring the ball short well.

Back at university I played a boy who later went on to win the CSA Individuals and he hit the ball so hard and the ball got so warm that I struggled to hit a regular serve. It was to this day the bounciest ball I've ever had to use in match and it felt like I was playing a game of racquetball. He of course was used to this pace of the ball and the bounce and was much better equipped of controlling it. If you've ever experienced something like this you know that nothing else really matters if the pace 1 player is playing at is much higher than the other person can handle or is used to.

The big question here is do you need to be able to play pace or simply handle pace? Handling pace is perhaps more important than being able to apply pace yourself. I've seen many times where someone plays at such a high pace they eventually tire themselves out as their opponent just continues to chip the ball and waits for the right time to deliver the knockout blow. See it can be quite tiring to constantly be hitting the ball hard. Just hitting the ball hard in itself is not enough of a weapon if you are playing someone who moves well and can handle/control the pace you are hitting with.

If you however play a very slow pace you will find it difficult to apply consistent pressure on someone. When you get your opponent out of position you will have trouble hitting say a low hard attacking drive before your opponent can catch up to the ball. So yes, even if your opponent can play at a higher pace than you, you still have to be able to inject pace at the right times.

Again, back at university I remember hitting with an alumni who was still quite a strong player. Back at this time I didn't get a lot of feedback on my game so I was happy to receive some from him. He told me I could do everything well, but I needed to be able to play with more pace. I'm not a big guy, about 150lbs and 5 '7. So before I did lots of solo hitting I had trouble playing against bigger and stronger men. I also remember a good drill I was told to practice to improve my pace. I was told at the end of every practice to play a game or 5 minutes of rallies where I just try to hit every ball as hard as I can. Obviously there are times where I'd be late to a shot and I couldn't' hit it very hard, but the idea is to learn how much physical and mental energy and effort it takes to play a high pace. If you are going to try this I recommend you don't swing hard when the ball is tight to the sidewall and you also need to have reasonably sound biomechanics or you could injure yourself.

So what other tricks are there for learning to generate more pace? I don't have a long lever (arm) or a lot of mass to put into my shot, but I can hit the ball with a good amount of pace pretty consistently these days. A lot of solo drills helped me a lot. I really liked midcourt short hitting drills which helped strengthen my forearm and groove my swing. Hitting with pace also has a lot to do with timing. You can have a great swing, but if your footwork is off or you can't lunge properly you are going to have trouble playing at pace within a rally.

Pace really starts from the ground up. You need to have a solid base of support and if possible being able to transfer your weight from your back hip to front hip is really key. Also learning to rotate your shoulders to connect your core makes a big difference too. When you do this it makes your backswing bigger and it engages your larger muscles. When most people try and hit the ball with more pace they use their arm to swing harder and their arm gets straighter or further from their body. But really it's about weight transfer and rotational core strength. When you link these things together into the swing it becomes part of a biomechanical link which allows small people to hit the ball hard.

Here's a clip from the Serious Squash Youtube channel demonstrating the weight transfer from back to front hip. Notice the solid foundation/base of support. 


If you are simply trying to get adjusted to handling pace and less interested in hitting with more pace you could also try and practice with a bouncer ball (red or blue dot). Doing this will allow you to learn how to control a bouncier ball. You will need to cut your drop shots more and the ball will be higher when you strike it.

Some other tips for increasing your pace: try looser strings. Some strings also are more springy and produce more natural power. Improving your rotational core strength and range of motion. Footwork to get behind the ball. Working on your lunging and squatting will help you get lower and stay balanced when you hit the ball hard even if it's low or you're slightly late to the ball. If you're not athletic and you haven't been doing any strength training you won't be able to play pace under any bit of pressure in a match. Play around weight and balance of the racquet and find which gives you more pace. Hitting a LOT of balls/solo: the more you hit the more you will improve your timing. Do some feeding drills or finish with a condition game like I mentioned above where injecting pace is the priority. Rotate your shoulders, but your racquet shoulder should lower under your chin (your shoulders don't rotate parallel to the floor). You can also play around with the angle of the racquet face; slightly closing it will allow you to hit it harder as spin from an open racquet face takes pace off of the ball.

If you want more information on solo drills to improve both your accuracy and pace, check out The Secrets Of Solo Hitting. This was the 1st Serious Squash instructional film which was released almost a year ago and has already sold close to 300 copies. It comes with a no questions asked money back guarantee. Here is the trailer and you can purchase a digital copy here: SeriousSquashShop.com/collections/coaching-videos


Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Learning To Fall

When people first start learning to ski they are taught how to fall so they are not scared of this happening and injuring themselves. When I thought about this I started comparing it to squash and learning how to fail, or lose. See for some reasons we've come to think of losing a competition as a form of failure. Almost all of us have stepped out on the court often and played trying to lose than playing to win. We worry abut who we are playing and what the result should be. It's no wonder we normally play our best squash when we are up against a stronger opponent where we don't have any pressure and they do.



 I know a loss in a big tournament has bugged me for a year or more. I now try and give a short window(5 minutes) after to learn from the match and then completely move on. Unless you've filmed the match or are going to discuss it later with your coach it's best to let a loss or win go as soon as possible.

A squash match isn't like a test in school or any other test for that matter. If you prepare properly you generally know you are going to be successful, but in a squash match only 1 player is going to be the winner on that given day. Failure isn't something anyone enjoys and generally makes us want to train harder so we can succeed next time. But once again this doesn't mean that success is a given. If you prepare to the best of your ability I believe it can take off a lot of pressure and improve your confidence heading into a match, which are both very important to improving your likely of being successful, but it doesn't guarantee success. In fact, nothing guarantees success in sport, that's why we play the game.

One of the hardest things to teach a kid is to give everything they have to try and win, and even a little bit more, but that it is still okay if they do not. This is why as coaches we talk about process goals so often. When we set goals based solely on outcomes they are in many ways out of our control. This again makes me wonder if it's possible to redefine success from your matches so that you are always successful? Obviously if we break success down into some controllable categories it can be. I like to focus on the preparation leading up to the event/match, the effort and competitive level and if the athlete was able to experience the zone. Experiencing flow show a level of focus and being able to calm ones nerves, shake off bad moments which is essential to playing at a high consistent level of squash.

We could also talk about tactics, but nobody gets tactics completely right all the time. But if we focus on playing the right shot we will help our long term development most. Many people think that playing the shot that they are most comfortable with and will mess up less is smartest, especially in the big points, but this is also going to limit your growth and development in the long run. If you continue messing up on the right shot over and over in a match, at some point you need to put it on the back burner and work on it more in practice, but to never play the shots you're working on until they're perfected shows you are again focusing solely on the result and not the better picture. So when we look at measuring success on this level, someone could win a match, but not be successful. It's really all a matter of how we define success.

We care about winning and losing. We care about our ranking and doing our best, but these are all factors that will take of themselves if you focus on the things within your control. It's extremely difficult to let go of the fear of losing or being defined by your level of accomplishments, but it can also free you up to play better squash, with less pressure and ensure that you will enjoy playing for a longer span of time because it's more about the journey of becoming the best you can possibly be than it is about focusing on only winning each match you play. This means you won't be one of those old men are your club who still throws a temper tantrum in the C consolation draw. So yes, basically try your very hardest to win each and every time you step out on court, but don't focus on winning or let the outcome define if you were successful :)

There's some new Serious Squash products coming to the store soon. There will be a very limited number of custom designed yoga mats an another new product coming out in a couple of months. There are still lots of tees and 2 instructional films for sale. Check it all out at SeriousSquashShop.com

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Where And When To Shoot

I recently worked with a student on her shooting. She's a young junior and has great hands, but at times would shoot from anywhere at anytime. I have no problem with people making mistakes in their progress of becoming great squash players, in fact it's absolutely necessary. I grew up as a very attacking player and lacked discipline so I know there is an optimal balance in here somewhere it's just about understanding it that is so tricky. As I've gotten older and played at a higher level I have a deeper understanding of the pros, cons and risks of shooting and playing aggressive squash. Squash is definitely becoming more and more attacking so I normally promote this and let players choose which style of play they want to play. I might prod with a few questions if I sense poor selections are a reoccurring theme, but I also enjoy seeing people taking the initiative and making things happen on court.

What I did with this junior was I had her draw up a diagram of when she should, shouldn't shoot and where it might be ok to shoot. Below is a version that I did on the 'maybe area to shoot from' which I chose as the back of the court. We are taught to focus on hitting length from the back of the court and to get our opponent behind us before applying pressure from the midcourt area, but as our skill set improves we can take the ball in short from the back if the time is right. I thought about the different scores in a match where shooting from the back is ok and when it is not; area like when I'm having a lapse of focus, I'm tired, lacking confidence, angry or other specific scenarios I know the odds are against me while in other more positive situations I can attacking with a higher degree of success. I first started with a basic list of 3 categories titled 'Shoot', 'Don't Shoot' and 'Maybe Shoot' before moving onto the following diagram.


Squash can be pretty dull to play and watch if we are too patient and the rallies drag on without the use of the full court and moving our opponents around. This weekend I've been watching some of the Men's College Team Championships live feed and I noticed how much the general tactics have evolved, some for the better some not. In my last year of playing varsity squash we were still playing to 9 where you had to serve to win a point. Now everyone can bring the ball in short half decently and thinks they can hit nicks in a pressure situation. Greenly the kids are faster too and can often make up for their poor shot selections, that is until they come up against a real top class player.

When I was playing at university most kids were very patient, basic and fit. Now it looked like most kids were using the front of the court for a third or more of their shots and quite often at the wrong times. I saw kids going for nicks when they were behind their opponents and fatigued at the end of a long gruelling rally, off return of serves when they were down gameball and I saw many losing their focus and basic structure in their games. I also felt like their basic length was not very accurate, which is understandable if they don't play it all that often. That being said, I did also notice some kids who just can't apply pressure against fast opponents. So finding the balance between structure and playing aggressively is a real key point for me when I'm watching people play, coaching or when I'm competing as well.

I don't like telling someone not to play certain shots, because I like people to think for themselves and to be creative and engaged in their match, but there are clearly ways we can all be smarter about where and when we use the front of the court. Do you go short when you're off balanced, tired, under pressure, upset or simply because you think you can make the shot event though it isn't the best option? Your opponent's skill set pays a big part in when to use the front too. Do they hang too far back on the T or are they super quick? Is the ball really hot and bouncy? The amount you 'shoot' or use the front of the court will also vary as the match go on. As people fatigue and the ball slows down there will be more openings to use the front of the court, so just because you're an attacking playing it doesn't mean you have to come out guns blazing form the first point. It also doesn't mean you have to hit 33 nicks to win a match.

After watching these college matches I thought shooting would be a helpful topic for all of us. Find the balance and learn where and when you want to go for your shots. And if you want to improve your short game work on it all the time. The Secrets Of Solo Hitting has 10 of the best solo drills for working on your short game and Mastering Deception will teach you some great drills to improve your shot selection, anticipation, disguise and deception. Both films come with a money back guarantee. Pick up your copy today at SeriousSquashShop.com/collections/coaching-videos

Check out Serious Squash on Youtube, Facebook and Instagram for the most regular posts. Also, be on the look out for some new items coming to the Serious Squash Shop!



Monday, January 29, 2018

The Squash Cannon

When I was competing as a player and working on my game I did a LOT of solo hitting. I didn't take a lot of lessons and have very much guidance. I would spend multiple hours each week trying to improve my swing and consistency of each one. There are certain shots that are more challenging to practice without someone feeding for you. We can't practice the return of serve without a partner and getting into the flow of consistent feeding to groove certain swings is difficult to accomplish by yourself. 

From time to time I would gain access to a ball machine and I found them extremely useful. As a coach I now use one all the time. It's a fantastic learning tool and allows me to watch a swing and even film it in slow motion while someone is hitting multiple swings. I coach at St. Michaels University School in Victoria, BC and we are fortunate to have the Squash Cannon at our disposal. The Squash Cannon allows you to change the velocity and height of a shot as well as the interval time between shots. There is a built in heater which you can adjust which keep the balls warm. You can also use to alternate between 2 shots and we ordered ours with a remote. I often use the machine as 1 feeder and I use a ball and feed for another shot which makes it great to work on movement patterns too. 

Today I am excited to announce that Serious Squash is now an official endorser of the Canadian made Squash Cannon and I will be helping to promote their great product. Please email SeriousSquash@SquashCannon.com if would like more information on the Squash Cannon. Below are a few clips I recently posted to the Serious Squash Youtube channel where I'm using the Squash Cannon to work on some backhand volley drops. Stay tuned for more videos and tips on how to best operate the Squash Cannon if you are fortunate enough to have access to one! 





Friday, January 12, 2018

2018 Serious Squash Spring Break Junior Squash Camps

I am once again running 2 weeks of Spring Break Junior Camps here in Victoria, BC at the Victoria Squash Club. The camps will run from 9:00-3:30, Monday - Friday. There are 2 weeks to choose from and I will be helped out by Giselle Delgado, #1 Chilean player, finished 5th in Canada in the Women's Open last year and she also plays professional on the PSA World Tour. The camp is limited to 12 kids and at this moment there are still 10 spots available.

These camps are just a few weeks before Canadian Nationals so we will be focusing on matchplay/tactics/condition games, sport psych, on and off court training and you will also receive a 1 of a kind Serious Squash camp souvenir.  Simply select the Monday for the week your chid would like to attend here on the Mindbody site/app: Camp Registration

If you have any questions please email me at info@SeriousSquash.com


Monday, January 8, 2018

10 Ways To Get Your Opponent Out Of Their Comfort Zone

What is the point of a squash rally? What are you trying to do? Hit the ball away from your opponent? Hit the ball to the back? Many players have no strategy or just a very basic one and when we play someone like this you can have a certain amount of comfort in this. We know what shots we should go for and when we should play defence. Most people play pretty predictable, whether it's the right shot or not they hit shot x from position y without fault. I love playing people like this because often they are making predictable, yet poor decisions. If someone was predictable, but hit very good shots and with good choices that's a completely different beast, but we are talking about 99% of all us amateur squash players out there.

Okay, time to get to the good stuff. Making good choices and being more accurate, hitting harder, being faster and fitter are all areas which we can improve and will help our squash game immensely. But some of us don't have perfect techniques or the time to do these types of things. Some of us are also just not genetically gifted athletes, and although we can always get faster and fitter we know we will never outslug or outrun some teenager who has endless amounts of energy and never tires. So what else can we do? Well I like to think about making life miserable for my opponent and you an do this in a number of different ways. Let's take a look at some of these.


Getting your opponent out of their rhythm can not only help you win more points, it can also help you tire out and frustrate an opponent. Let's g through a number of ways which you can do this.


1) Don't be afraid to open up the court. Are you just playing straight dives until you get a loose ball? Is your opponent cheating with their movement because you never take any risks like playing the odd boast, drop or kill shot from the back. Even from the back of the court, if you have time and space and you pick the right time you can apply a lot of pressure by mixing things up with a short attacking ball.

2) Be super patient/disciplined. It's amazing what can happen when you get into a few 30+ shot rallies. All of the sudden your opponent could start to slow down and force mistakes. Simply extending the length of the rallies could take your opponent out of their rhythm if they enjoy the short quick fire types of points.

3) Pick up the pace. If you have the ability to do this you can really change the game. The ball gets bouncer, your opponent has less time to react to your shot. Changing the pace can definitely take an opponent out of their rhythm, especially if they like a controlled, medium or slow paced style of squash.

4) Aggressively hunt the volley. If you can volley a lot and not let the ball get to the back wall very often your opponent will tire quickly. You can hit volleys to all 4 corners and really work a player around and they will be unaccustomed to having such little time between shots and how fast they need to move. If you can do this you are most definitely controlling the points and going to win the war.

5) Use angles. Many people have difficulty covering boasts and crosscourt. It's also much harder to hit tight off of an angle than it is a straight shot. Some people also do not turn well and get caught leaning expecting the straight ball. I also love playing a few intentional shots down the middle. Even good players struggle with shots hit right at them. It's just not something practiced or expected. If you can hit a few good middle shots. disguise a boast and/or trickle boast your opponent is sure to never ask you for a rematch!

6) Slow the pace down. Some people just love a fast style of squash, so why play into their hands? If your opponent can do this better than you try and take pace away from them. This is what is known as the old lob, drop game. But if you want to play this way you have to practice it, because it takes a lot of ball control and focus to be able to play this way successfully at a high standard. It's also a style you can try for patches within a match perhaps to extend a few points or even just to keep your opponent off balanced with a blend of height and paces.

7) Vary your pace. Many players tend to get into a 1 pace hitting. Even when they go short they hit heavy. Your opponent will eventually get more comfortable with your pace of play if you never change it up. There are also times when lifting or hitting down on a ball can be more effective. Just be cautious about getting stuck playing at 1 pace for an entire match unless that's your intention.

8) Get on the ball early/hold the ball. Getting on the ball early isn't simply about volleying. It's also taking a length before the back wall when you can and jumping on short balls earlier then you normally would. If you get on the ball early you force your opponent to recover to the T quicker and this will tire them out faster. If you have the skill you can also now decide if you would like to hold the ball (as example of this to the right where I've set up nice and square for a straight drive and late in the swing I rapidly accelerate my wrist/forearm to change the angle of the shot). Messing with the timing that you hit the ball is not only fun for you, but incredibly frustrating and exhausting for your opponent. I've done a lot of short hitting over the years, so this is something I do which makes the court play quite big and can make it easy to control rallies against most amateurs.

9) Contain your opponent. This is a style you would hear all the commentators say guys should try and play like against Ramy Ashour. Hit it straight so we can't use his amazing attacking skills. Anytime you play a boast or crosscourt and it isn't hit in the perfect spot it's asking for trouble. I also find this strategy can test someones focus and fitness. If you can get an attacking player into a rotating straight drive type of rally you are taking them out of their comfort zone. Maybe they are not very fit or they try forcing the ball in short. So you see, sometimes doing nothing is a strategy and it can be highly effective.

10) Change your serves and return of serves. People get into habits at how they start a rally. Most people only play 1 type of serve to start a rally and the same 1 or 2 return of serves. Even if struck well our opponents will do better against these shots as the match rolls on simply from the repletion and practice. If you can add in alternate serve or return once in a while it can lead to a different type of rally and you might even catch your opponent asleep at the wheel.

I also suggest taking your time between points if your opponent is rolling off the points. I don't mean intentionally long stalling tactics, but you do get some time between points. Don't let them rush you if they're winning. Likewise for when your'e rolling. Get up to the service box and hit your serve and keep the momentum going when you've got it. A lot of this has to do with your opponent still mulling over their last mistake and starting the next point without refocusing. It's also highly effective when someone is upset, angry or tired. I call this fair gamesmanship, just don't be a jerk about it.

People want to feel skillful when they play and they want to look and feel good about their game. We all want consistency and we tend to play people we like competing against and whom play the styles of squash we enjoy. We basically don't like change and this is what makes us become more predictable ourselves. If you really want to expand your repertoire try and play different styles and levels of players and pick 1 of the above methods and see if it works. Try a new 1 the next time and eventually you'll find the right combination, that is if and until they adapt and you have to again make adjustments to their adjustments. This is now a chess match about adaptations. Just have fun with it and don't be afraid to experiment.

Even simply adding a condition to yourself in a match (without your opponent knowing) can be highly effective. You can even switch it up game from game. This could make it quite tough for your opponent to continually attempt to adapt to your adjustments, which also means you are the one dictating the game, not your opponent and this is what today's post is all about.

Check out all the mech at SeriousSquashShop.com I've reduced some prices on what is left while I consider what to add to the shop next. There are also 2 instructional films which can be purchased digitally. The Secrets Of Solo Hitting and Mastering Deception both come with money back guarantees and can be streamed and downloaded here: SeriousSquashShop.com/collections/coaching-videos


Other Serious Squash updates: deciding between a sponsorship proposal or producing a Serious Squash signature limited edition frame. I'm also starting to brainstorm ideas for the 3rd instructional film. The last 2 weeks of March I'll be running full day advanced junior spring break camps. Registration is limited to 12 kid per week. If you have a child interested in attending please email me at info@SeriousSquash.com for more information. In June I'm still sorting out details about a trip to Brazil to run some clinics for a bunch of clubs. If you'd like me to do this in your country please contact me as the summer is filling up quickly. I'm hoping to play the world masters in July and I run a lot of local junior training sessions here during July and August too.

Lastly, I'm always looking for more connections with Serious Squash. If you have a company that you feel would work well with Serious Squash please feel free to contact me. If you'd like to advertise on my page, discuss endorsements or if you have a project or project that you would like to team up with me on don't hesitate to ask.