Squash ball tactics made simple
An introduction to the skills required to be a great squash ball player and five basic tactics that can form an awesome combination if used together.
Simple!? Well, hmm, yes the tactics are very simple if you have the skills to make use of them. This is a sport that requires much more than the ability to hit the ball accurate and hard. It requires the ability to move like a superhero around the court. I also believe in focus switching as used in training high level soccer and hockey players. This is watching the ball intensely at two key instances and loosely following it at other times, so as to observe your opponent with your peripheral vision.
I usually ask my students to memorize the following two sayings:
"My opponent's swing is aimed to deceive me but the balls flight will always tell me the truth".
"As my racket hand tightens it's grip to strike, then so should my eyes tighten their grip on the ball".
Squash perfection simply comes from developing four basic skills:
Most important skill is the ability to watch the ball from your opponent's racket. Next in importance is the ability to move quickly and efficiently around the court. Thirdly is the ability to sense and observe the movement and position of your opponent. Lastly is racket skills, built from lots of practice and watching the ball onto your own racket. Just like a golfer must watch the ball as his club strikes it.
To explain this concept to new students who often enter my coaching with the false impression that hitting the ball is the most important skill.
I attack the skills in the reverse order by making the following points:
1. You will never control the ball well if you don't see how you actually hit it.
2. It is useless to be able to hit the ball well if you always hit it near your opponent!
3. You will not be in position to hit the ball well, if you cannot beat the ball there!
4. You cannot follow the ball well if you don't know which way your opponent has hit it.
Court Movement Skills: Do Not Sprint! Stride, Sidestep and Lunge instead!
People that run or move forward in the conventional way will never be great squash players. Many of them cannot understand why they seem to reach a mediocre plateau and progress no further. From my own experience, for many years I was frustrated by my inability to advance my club ranking. Later I started coaching and observing the differences between my students and players at world championship level. Then it hit me like a sledgehammer to the forehead. I couldn't believe I had been blind for so long.
The reason for conventional forward movement (sprinting) and shuffling being so bad is simple.
Firstly, running forward like a sprinter requires too many steps, wasting valuable energy. Secondly on reaching the ball, the body is too upright to hit the ball effectively. Thirdly, being too upright makes it harder to move very quickly back to the center.
Hopping, sidestepping, striding and deep lunges are effective because they are very quick with very few steps. These movements keep the body low on reaching the ball which allows a better stroke. The quadriceps on the front leg act like huge springs that can throw the players body back to the center of the court quickly. Thus making for much more effective court coverage. A good player will reach any part of the court three steps or less from the center of the court and return just as quick as soon as the ball leaves their racket. This requires months of continual training in movement routines which resemble kata movements in Karate. In fact martial arts training is extremely beneficial to squash.
Five Simple Tactics for Squash Rackets:
The following simple tactics are applications of the above skills and once these skills are mastered, these tactics become extremely effective!
Tactic 1. Make your opponent spend most of the game in the back corners of the court, while you occupy a point as near to the center of the court as possible. In this position you hold all the aces.
In theory: If you are in front of center and watching the ball from your opponent's racket, then there is no possible winning shot that your opponent can play. Thus your opponent is at your mercy.
Tactic 2. Aim your shots to keep the ball as close to the walls as possible. Best shot is straight down the wall.
The world's best do this amicably, with barely any air between the ball and the wall as it travels to the back of the court.
This tactic is very effective if your opponent has just bought an expensive new racket. They would often choose losing a point over breaking their racket.
Tactic 3. Use the 'Lob' (high soft shot) as an attacking shot. e.g. If you are fetching a ball from the front corner and your opponent is moving in behind you, play a high lob, (diagonal is safer) into the rear corners. This is very effective shot and extremely hard for your opponent to get back to if played well enough.
It is my favorite winning shot. I smile when I hear my opponents mutter and curse when I use this tactic against them.
Tactic 4. Is the opposite of tactic 3, in that if you are in the middle of the court and your opponent is behind you,then aim a drop so that it finishes in the front corner near the wall opposite to your opponent's position.
Tip: Don't aim your shots so low that it is likely to hit the tin (or board) line. Always allow yourself a safety margin of about a soft drink can height above this line.
Your aim is not to lose by playing risky, but to win by forcing your opponent to stretch to their limit so they cannot play the ball very well and thus make mistakes.
Tactic 5: Take every opportunity to play the ball in the air (volleying) and play these into the opposite corners to
your opponent's position as in tactics 3 and 4. By volleying you are not letting the ball go past you and not allowing your opponent to get a lucky shot into a rear wall nick or corner. This also gives your opponent less time to regain their footing after their own shot and increases their chances of stuffing up their next shot.
There are many other tactics in squash, but I believe they are all variations of these basic five and you will soon learn them and develop many of your own from practicing those above and being creative.
Happy squashing, mates!!