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Coach's Corner

Week 8: Learning to play the big points!!!
Mar 24, 2016, 9:47 am

Watching the Canary Wharf Championships last week was another opener of how these top players play the big points well. The Frenchman and new sensation Mathew Castagnet could be trailing but gives one big push, one big rally and comes through. I consider a big point near the end of games and at the end of matches. Don’t misunderstand me. All points are important but if you worked hard to get to 10-9 or 14-13, that last push is extremely important. At 6–6 or at 9-7, winning the next point by playing a point a rally scoring method makes a single rally at the late stage of a game very important. Gregory Gaultier is so good at losing concentration when he is well up. He starts to interact with the crowd or starts to joke with his opponent or argue unnecessarily with  the ref. Taking your mind away from the job at hand gives the opponent the advantage.  I played my club champs match last week and when I was 11-13 down in the fifth, all I was thinking of was how bad I wanted this and how much training I put in to win it. See the following points that may help you get through the big points:-

  • Have you put enough fitness to carry you through while your opponent is breathing heavy?
  • Never get nervous at the end of a game or while you are ahead. Stay in the Zone
  • Never think the game is over by seeing the trophy too soon.
  • Never rush to finish the game or match. You are not under pressure, your opponent is.
  • Close off all communication with spectators
  • Stay calm and fight, fight, fight and always believe you are the Nr 1 so stay there.

Happy fighting

Coach Nick

Week 7: ‘Shot combinations’
Mar 5, 2016, 11:47 am

What is a shot combination? These are an arrangement of two or more shots that would put your opponent out of position so that you could use that opening to play a winning shot. Combinations are practiced by playing conditioned or routine games.

Examples of combinations are:- (Visualize these one at a time. They may happen on f/h or b/h) You are A and opponent is B:-

  1. Player A plays straight or cross court deep in the back and if B plays it short, A may boast, straight drop or cross court drop.
  2. Player A plays a good straight length forcing B to boast from back, A may drop or drive straight hard and low on the opposite side

Following on example 1. If B manages to get to one of the 3 shots and plays cross court, A may volley lob cross court or volley drive straight.  

Week 6: ‘The importance of Strategies and Tactics’
Mar 5, 2016, 11:45 am

Many players confuse strategies with tactics. In short, although one cannot work without the other, strategies happen outside of the court. It is an organized plan designed to achieve a goal. A simple example is planning your training session by warming up first and then following your planned program. This will help you speed up your development of your perception and increase your knowledge base to help you make better decisions under match conditions.

A tactic on the other hand is where the action happens, on the court. One example of a tactic is to play a shot that would force your opponent to play another shot that would give you an opening to attack. To do this you will need good shot combinations. (see below) A tactical person is a patient and a thinking person with a short term focus with the thought of what happens next. It is enjoyable to watch a squash player that plays shots that draw the opponent and set the opponent up to make  a mistake. Tactics happen just before a result whether it is a two shot rally or a 10 shot rally. Good tactics provide good results. Here are some good tactics to think about when playing your game:-

  • Use different types of serves. If one works stay with it. If not, change it.
  • Return of serve is a defensive shot. If you volley the serve you may put your opponent on the defence
  • Always play wide and long away from your opponent
  • Don’t be a Wally (silly), always volley to put pressure and take control
  • Get in front of your opponent by playing into the back corners
  • Hit good lengths to get to the T ready for the next shot. Why? Because the next shot is the most important shot.
  • Get on top of the ball quickly if the opponent is out of position
  • Slow or speed up the ball to upset your opponents rhythm and predictability

Remember that tactics are a function of technique.

Week 7 will be on shot combinations and my favourite routine!

Good luck and happy squashing.

Week 5
Feb 17, 2016, 11:12 am

Week 5:

Learn to move well from a young age. Since my hip replacement two years ago, I needed to practice my movement more than ever. “It’s no use knowing how to hit the ball if you do not know how to move to where the ball is going, hit and recover to challenge the next shot”.

Time and time again during the 5min warm up of the ball before the spin, I used to get intimidated by the way my opponent hit the ball. Once the match began, I realised that he only hit the ball well when I placed the ball within hitting range. Once I started moving him around, I realised that if his movement skills were not good, I would take control of the rally. Movement needs to be planned well. I take popped balls, cut them in half and use them as pointers. Place the half balls on six different points on the floor. Two in front, i.e. for a f/h and for a b/h, two in the middle and two at the back. The nice thing about movement is that you can do it alone. Remember the point I made last week. Do not do movement just to move. While moving, visualize the shot you wish to play as if you are hitting a ball. The movement sequence is called ‘GHOSTING’. If you ever get the chance to read the book, ‘A shot and a GHOST’ by James Willstrop, you will understand why he is such a good mover at 1m95cm tall. Here are 10 tips for you to use when doing the movement routines:-

  1. Visualize hitting different shots while ghosting.
  2. Watch the ball (even if there is no ball) into the corner and swing like you are actually playing a shot. Muscle memory is important so do it correctly. Groove the swing.
  3. Racket preparation is part of movement so prepare well while moving.
  4. Always move to where you will hit the ball from.
  5. The reason I use the 6 different points is to get you to practice the different paths to where you will hit the ball from.
  6. Also play different shots not just drives. The path to the ball for a drive is different to the path for a cross court or boast.
  7. Remember that you must move through the T at all times, but... do not just move through the T as that is not the normal pattern of movement. Learn to slow down as you get to the T and prepare for the next shot, imitate the split step. The split step will get you to move to a different direction quicker and get to the ball faster with good balance.
  8. Do not push off the dominant leg all the time but rather practice pushing off your right foot to go left and pushing off your left foot to go right.
  9. Practice different patterns of movement. This you can do well if you have a partner so that  while he stands in front of the court he can plan the path you should take. He can point and make you move from side wall to side wall or front right to middle left, etc. Remember that your quads will burn a little as those are the muscles you use for forward movement.
  10. Visualize playing a perfect drive from the back, get to the T and cut the next shot with a volley.

Week 6 will cover tactics and shot combinations. This is a cat and mouse and not a dash and bash game.

Good luck

Week 4
Feb 12, 2016, 9:12 am

Week 4:

In the last few weeks you probably practiced to get length and playing the ball away from your opponent. You probably have 15 weeks to IPT. This is not the time to learn new skills but applying the skills that you have by playing matches regularly on a weekly basis will improve your match temperament. I also practice to improve my game. The u14 to u19 should be able to perform these exercises. I begin my training session by playing a back court game with my partner. Depending on the skills we wish to practice, we select the 3 routines that we need to do and set a time for each routine. We practice the routine on our f/h and on our b/h. In between each routine we play a game. We finish off by either doing 20 court sprints in 58sec or we do movement sequences to improve our movement. Do not do movement just to move. While moving, visualize the shot you wish to play as if you are hitting a ball.

More on movement next week.

Happy squashing!

Week 2 and Week 3
Feb 1, 2016, 12:22 pm

Week 2:

You have probably played your first tournament of the season. Did you win or did you lose? If you took part then you are definitely a winner. My article this week focuses on, “Winning is not everything, but, making an effort to win is!”. Sit down with your coach and discuss the matches that you played in the tournament. Your coach may not be there to watch all your matches but your parents definitely watched. Getting information from you will help your coach identify weaknesses and change them into strengths. An analysis is not just about weaknesses but an analysis is also about identifying your strengths and using them more often.

Good Luck!



We are on our way. Week 3 already. Have you identified your strengths and weaknesses? The two weakness I find that the majority of players have are:

  1. Playing the ball back to their opponent and
  2. Not getting to the T.

One of the fundamentals of tactics is that you must hit the ball away from your opponent. How do you know where your opponent is? Two ways you can do that:

  1. The use of peripheral vision – This means that if you cannot see your opponent in front of you then surely your opponent is behind you
  2. Remember where your opponent was the last time your opponent hit the ball from and instinctively place ball away whichever shot selection you use.


If you are not getting to the T or not getting in front of your opponent, then it means that you need to practice disciplined routines to get good length. The definition of good length is placing the ball to the farthest point from your opponent. An example of a disciplined routine with a partner is play a back court game into back corners with the condition that the ball bounces past the short line and the ball must NOT bounce directly off the back wall.

Good luck!