Squash Coaching: Routines and Drills

February 14, 2020

In this series I’d like to talk to you
about routines and the benefits of routines and how they can be applied to
all levels of players from top end, top pros in the world right into a beginner
club player and how the benefits of the routine will really develop your skills,
learn certain areas of the court how to apply pressure and consistently
understand where you are on the squash court. For this series I’ve picked three
what I’ve called pretty simple routines. The first one is two players one at the
back one at the front. The player at the back drives the ball to themselves and they
then drop the ball from the back of the court to the front. The person at the
front of will drops the ball to themselves and then they drive the ball
to the back and that continues. Sounds simple, not as easy as it sounds. Being
able to drop that ball from the back of the courts at the front is a real skill,
lots of club players really struggle with that stroke drop from the back. Most
players have no problem driving to pull from the front to the back and I think
if we think about coaching, most coaches anchor themselves at the back of the
court.The first things you do when you get on the squash court is bludgeon the ball
to the back of court. I like this practice because it brings in the softer skill,
it allows the player at the front of the court to fill the ball and then lift the
ball to the back, and it allows the player at the back of the court really to start
to develop that that softer skill being able to take the ball to the front of
the court with a soft drop shot. So what we see is we see Joe getting nice and low
in the hips playing the lovely straight drop with a
little bit of gentle movement out Tom doesn’t actually feed the ball to
himself he actually puts the ball in, pushes the ball to the back. Again, Joe
getting nice and low in the hips pushing the ball to the front and obviously you
switch this and do this on the other side. As you can see from the routine
that Tom and Joe are doing that they’re obviously executing the practice really
well. There is movement, Joe is actually getting, you know, towards the
back of the service box after his drive and tom is actually recovering
towards the tee after his drive from the front. General problems
you find with the club has they tend to be very static,
they don’t tend to be moving with the ball, there tends to be this not
being able to drop the knees and bend at the waist they tend to just bend over
so then impacting on what actually happens with the racket face. It looks
real when Tom and Joe do it, looks like it could almost be a rally. They are really
working on precision, weight of shot, height on the front wall, accuracy. You’re
gonna make mistakes, it is a safe environment. I think routines are a safe
environment, and I don’t mean safe as in not getting hit, I mean safe is and you
should be allowed to explore and express yourself with routine. Try different
racket angles try different racket preparations try different
follow-throughs. One of the key things I’ve mentioned
before in previous videos is actually this ability to actually hit
through the line of the ball and I think Joe does that extremely well, the racket
head follows the line of the ball. He wants to be able to guide the ball to
the front I thought he wants to take the ball in with weight and purpose. The
second routine that I looked at, that I think is a really good one, again, a
little bit more complex but still very achievable is the boast or stroke drop
from the back option, straight drive from the front. And you’ll see in the video
that actually Tom is moving again nicely off of his drop and off of
his boast, but the most important thing is he’s got a decision to be made now, he
has the option he’s partnering up two shots, he’s partnering up the straight
drop or the boast. You’re going to be moving with the ball really focusing on
the impact point, making sure that you have an option of the boast or the
stroke drop, and what I mean by impact point would light that ball to be
somewhere in line with your front hip. Doesn’t matter whether you take off the
right foot, off the left foot but it’s making sure that impact point is
consistent which will give you, which will give you the option of the boast or
the drop. If you can partner two shots up I think you’re doing really well. I would
suggest that you actually start to put some targets down, looking for where you
want that ball bounce, and I simply use an old squash
ball. When it’s burst I rip it open and place half a ball at the back of the
court I want the ball to land and a ball at the front of court where I want that
ball to land. I think targets will really help you, it
gives you that instant reward, that instant feedback. If the coach is off on
another court or you’re practicing together without a coach you can see the
quality of your shot by where the ball has landed. The next practice or routine
that I’ve chosen here is the boast, cross-court drive, volley to length,
switch positions. It adds that movement element to the
routine, albeit it’s still in a pattern, players still know where
the ball’s going but they’re actually having to increase their intensity of
movement to recover the shot. The option also from the front, you don’t always
have to drive you can look for that lob, I know that’s one of Jethro’s favorite
practices getting that lift out high and wide over the volley. My one issue with
routines down the player pathway is that because you know where the ball is going
as a player you tend to move to those positions before the balls actually got
there and you’re not actually tracking the ball. So really think about following
the ball so you actually arrive at the right point of impact to allow you to
play the shot near ones in play, don’t just run headlessly into that corner
or that corner or that corner that corner and hope the balls gonna arrive
there because your shot quality is gonna break down. Track the ball, watch the ball.
If we look at somebody like James Willstrop when he’s playing, you know
his eyes, they’re alive they come out on stalks he tracks the ball, he’s watching the ball all the time because
it might just kick off the wall, it might just have an unusual bounce, then you’re
gonna have to change your shot. Watch the ball, move with the ball give yourself
time. Condition games, the clue’s in the title, it’s match play with conditions. It
can be as open or as closed as need be. Argument’s sake, we could have one player
that plays every ball to the front of the court we can have one player playing
every ball to the back, that’s a fairly open condition game. We could have the situation where players are just playing in this
front little quarter here, fairly closed condition game. Why do we do condition games?
I believe we do them to develop the skill under a little bit more pressure
from the routine itself as I’ve said, they can be open they can be closed but
it actually starts to put a little bit more pressure, probably more on movement
as well now. So you’re thinking about the whole match situation in a confined area
of the court, really highlighting and illuminating certain aspects of the
technical and tactical and movement issues that the player might have. So one
of the most simple condition games on the website that I’ve used
often is actually a pair of shoes, simply place one shoe two racket lengths on the front wall, one shoe two rackets lengths from the front all on the other side. Normal
squash, players get rewarded for hitting the shoe or the gap between the shoe
and the front wall. This could really emphasize and illuminate the fact of
actually looking for that volley, taking the ball into the front of the court
pushing players up, recovering the tee. The flip of that is actually to pick the
shoes up and place them in the back part of the court. Again, a racket and a half
probably length from the back wall. If it hits a shoe, again, rewards extra points
if it hits the space between the shoe and the back wall, extra points. A great
game for emphasizing winning the length battle, getting the ball to the back part
of the court.

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