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