Improve Your Game with the Khans
Squash Tips from
THE TIPS SO FAR
15 rituals for Squash Fanatics
All of us know that squash is a unique sport. And this uniqueness
can warrant a different level of interest for each squash player
attracted to the sport. Usually, the more a player plays squash, the
more he or she likes it.
Nevertheless, all squash players vary in the way they pursue their
squash activities. Some play once a week, while others canít help to
get on the court every day. A select few will play twice a day. This
interest can evolve into something more. Squash can evolve into an
obsession. And Iíve discovered age makes no difference when it comes
to the birth of a squash addict.
If youíre the player thatís driven to play as much squash as
possible, and it may seem at times that everyone just plays squash
while youíre engrossed in it. Donít worry. I know how you feel. What
youíre doing is great! Because I can think of worse things to do.
Keep in mind that youíre the player that energizes all squash
activities. Wherever you are in the world, youíre a welcomed
inspiration to the sport. The pros know this and love to hear youíre
just as addicted to squash as they are. It will ignite both your
fires for the game when you tell them. So tell them whenever you get
I can also assure you that youíre not alone. There is a select group
of players covering all the far corners of the squash world. This
message is for you - the squash fanatic who loves this game, and has
made it a permanent part of his or her schedule.
Here are fifteen rituals for my fellow squash fanatic to follow.
Start running more. If you can find a hill, run up and jog
down. This is the best type of running for squash because it keeps
you in the tuck position, and mimics stop and go action. This is
great for leg endurance and power.
Bike more. Ride a bike for 20 miles twice a week to build up
the legs. If you donít like to bike then do the row machine. Itís
the best machine for squash. This will get your legs stronger while
saving your joints.
Start swimming twice a week. Swim in the morning. This means
spending an hour in the pool doing as many laps as possible.
Distances should be according to your ability. This will build
breathing control and develop better lung capacity as well as save
your joints from overuse.
Get as many professional squash videos as you can and watch a
championship match on video two times a week. Watching the best will
only motivate you to improve.
Plan on playing at least six tournaments over the course of
the year. Playing in tournaments will help you in match preparation
and get you mentally tough.
Camps are beneficial during the off-season only if a good
crop of players attend your session.
Make sure to read about proper nutrition so that youíre
eating correctly. Only the right fuel will give you the red line
performance youíll need.
Read some books on squash and sports psychology. Remember
squash is the ultimate mind/body game. Keep your mind as well as
your body up to date with the latest and the best techniques.
Play in your local squash league. This will involve challenge
matches from teammates to defend your position as well as playing
against other club players. This is the best way to gauge your level
of play and to set goals.
Make sure you get enough rest to avoid injuries. This means
playing and training hard for three weeks and almost nothing but
practicing alone and stretching after each session on the fourth
week. If you donít listen to your body especially when it needs
rest, squash will be a one way ticket to one of your worst injuries.
Play at least four matches per week and practice for a
minimum of thirty minutes three times during your hard weeks. Try
practicing alone in the morning and play in the evening. Practicing
alone works great before a swim or long bike ride. If you donít
practice, youíll never develop great shots.
Do star drills
every time youíre at the courts, especially after matches. As you
run through the drill visualize hitting the ball at each point of
the star. Four sets of four stars should work. Star drills will
mimic the movements in a match. Therefore, itís the best training
you could possibly do.
Find a good coach and take some lessons. A good coach has won
tournaments in the past; has taught squash for at least five years;
and has an eye for seeing your talents.
Pay especial attention to your equipment. Choose your racquet
and sneakers carefully. These are the two most important things for
Learn to focus your mind by meditating or doing yoga. The
best mediation for squash is hitting alone without distraction and
using plenty of visualization.
Remember everyone else says itís just a game! But we know better!
See you on the court!
Pay attention to the Serve
Squash players know that building both a sound offensive and
defensive game takes time. The type of player you are is directly
related in how one of these styles will eventually dominate your
of this can be complicated. But, there is a certainty whether to
play offensive or defensive immediately upon entering the court even
for the very first time. The answer is obvious - it depends on who
has the serve.
Every match begins with a serve. All should recognize the importance
of being the server as well as the receiver. The serve in itself
determines who is in the position of scoring a point and who must
defend to prevent a point from happening [assuming you're playing
'standard scoring', of course].
Understanding this makes the serve the greatest psychological
element in the game of squash. Before serving an important point,
take the time to briefly make eye contact with your opponent. It
helps to make things sink in.
The deadliest shot of
Iíve seen many professional players hit the squash ball harder than
ever believed possible. Iíve witnessed and endured a string of hard
shots that astonished me.
Although power is critical to championship squash, it is not the
deciding factor, especially in the front court. The front court is
the claimed territory of the touch player. This player masters the
most difficult and most elegant of all shots. The touch player is
known to crush an opponentís spirit with a single shot. His or her
deadliest weapon is called the drop. And the secret is in the
Accuracy is needed to hit the most delicate of shots on the squash
court. The most delicate of all shots is the drop, and it demands
pinpoint accuracy to be effective. Every player knows that a bad
attempt at the drop is an instant opening for an opponent. This is
why a touch player tries to extend fully, and holds the racquet
almost parallel to the floor, to create that needed pinpoint
accuracy. The only way to perform this kind of extension and racquet
control is to have great anticipation and flexibility. Moreover, the
touch player likes getting as close as possible to the front wall.
The closer he or she can get to the target area, the more precise
the shot. This is a great rule of thumb for anyone trying to improve
his or her drop. But, this is just one part of the puzzle. Correct
movement is also important.
To perform the touch drop a player needs to get very low by keeping
the legs apart. Running to the ball is transformed into a series of
long stretches, ending in a near split at the point of intercepting
the ball for the drop. He or she stretches to the fullest in the
exact moment the ball is about to hit the floor. As he or she
stretches to the front court, the ball is then lifted, ever so
slightly, to just above the tin. The ball then brushes the front
wall so delicately that it barely seems to make it over the lip
extension of the tin.
Hold it ...
The touch player is a master of moving with blinding speed and then
suddenly stopping. When the forward momentum and stopping action
perfectly counteract one another, the result is an intensely focused
point of balance. This creates the stillness and accuracy needed to
execute the best drops. The bad thing about this manoeuvre is that a
player instinctively holds his or her breath at the focused point of
This instinctive breathing control is automatically activated
whenever we demand accuracy. Think of it as a sniper before he pulls
the trigger. Steadiness for accuracy becomes directly related to how
still and focused the shooter can be. Sometimes the best way for the
mind and body to get still and gain better focus is to stop
breathing. It is usually the final procedure before initiating a
This type of breathing control also attributes to the fact that the
great touch players throughout history have not been the fittest.
They rely mostly on the front court touch shots, which need many
focused points of balance that restrict their breathing.
The body and mind have a unique relationship in squash. There is a
continuous struggle in the body to oxygenate the blood with the help
of the lungs. If the breathing is smooth, the oxygen intake is
uniform. Once a player interrupts his or her breathing pattern, two
things seem to happen.
The first is that the lungs work harder. The lungs strain to
compensate for the sudden loss. It may take several hard breaths to
get your lungs back on track. As your lungs make the necessary
adjustment, you mind gets distracted. As this innate survival
instinct kicks in, strategy to win deviates.
The second is that the player may also need to slow down. The
combination of breathing harder and slowing down can get a player
back in the point in the least amount of time. However, when a pro
senses this happening to his or her opponent, it is a signal to
attack. This is why smooth breathing is essential for concentration
on the squash court and to keep an opponent from attacking. This
testifies to the fact that professionals try to move, breath and
concentrate as smoothly as possible throughout the duration of a
But, all of us get tired at some point of the match. Professionals
know this so they also try to master the art of camouflaging
fatigue. Professionals will try to appear relaxed and calm as long
as possible. If a bout of hard breathing is necessary, he or she
will take deeper breaths when turned away from his or her opponent.
Although, this doesnít seem to work in the new all glass courts
where reflections hide nothing.
Itís obvious that the best kill shot in the front court is the drop.
When a touch player develops his or her deadly drop, it can be one
of the most gracefully executed shots seen on the court. Itís as if
the rest of the game must yield to the domination of the drop.
Not only does the touch player have a passion for the drop but also
he or she enjoys inflicting the torture a drop can deliver. I say
this because the touch player knows that although most drops may be
retrieved by a fit and agile player that retrieving this shot
continuously is attributed to tiring an opponent more than any other
shot in squash. In short, the touch player gracefully tortures his
or her opponent to submission. But, I must admit that this notion
holds second place for me. I cherish the moment when the gods
imprinted the first idea of the drop in this playerís heart and
mind. The end product is then directly related to his or her desire.
Keep in mind that the best touch players are also designed a bit
differently. Their limbs are longer. If youíre a tall player, you
could be an ideal candidate to develop the touch game.
But, whether youíre an ideal candidate or not, remember it takes
practice and flexibility to master the front court. If you start
now, you may at the very least develop a strong front court game.
And who knows? If you ever become a great touch player, youíll have
what all players fear the most. And thatís the torture you can
inflict with a deadly drop in your arsenal.
The unforced Error
At the core of a squash player's best performance there is a single
flaw. It will remain hidden until the most unlikely time. It can
occur at the beginning as well as at the end of matches. It can ruin
a winning sequence of shots. It can give any opponent the confidence
to challenge. It is considered the first sign of mental breakdown.
It is the one thing that you should avoid at all costs. What I am
referring to is called the unforced error.
The unforced error is defeat defined in a single episode. The
unforced error is the single flaw that eliminates the chance of
becoming a champion. It is not the error that determines this fact.
It is the type of error that has occurred.
unforced error is the inability to execute. The inability to
complete an action must be accompanied by some sort of resistance to
validate it on the squash court. If there is no resistance or
pressure to force you into the error, then you're not mentally tough
enough to attain the top levels of squash. Hitting an unforced error
is allowing your mind to lapse. This is why it is a sign of mental
weakness. No one is immune to unforced errors. What is important is
to keep the frequency at your absolute minimum.
There is one aspect of the unforced error that is shared in common
with all players. And that is no coach can help you get rid of it.
No matter what your level, all players must realize that avoiding
the unforced error must be remedied in a uniquely personal way.
Finding your remedy could be all that you need to get on the path of
becoming a championship player.
Some have suggested that the unforced error is associated with fear
or nervousness. Others have mentioned that it is caused by lack of
attention or no desire to win. Still more state that it can be
linked with fatigue. All are legitimate causes.
Nevertheless, the unforced error must have your full attention, in
that you must vanquish it from your mind and game. If it occurs,
never dwell on it. Accept it as part of a test to keep you on track.
Just remember if it occurs too often, you'll boost your opponent's
confidence and diminish your own. It is the single event that can
initiate a downward spiral ending up as one of your worst defeats.
All of us know that the worst of defeats is when a player is
distracted and can't get his or her head into a match. The biggest
distraction of all is the unforced error.
The best remedy for the unforced error is taking the time to
practice alone. Making this critical step will be one of the best
things you can do to improve faster and build that needed confidence
in shot execution. With this new and improved confidence you'll have
fewer unforced errors and more winning shots.
One of the worst feelings on the court is hearing the sigh of a
packed gallery of spectators as they witness one of your unforced
errors in the heat of a great point. Don't wait for that moment to
decide to eliminate unforced errors from your game.
In squash playing offensively means taking the initiative to win a
rally by applying more pressure. Applying more pressure means making
it more difficult for your opponent to return shots. The determining
factor in the way you can apply pressure will depend on your level
and your opponent's capability to defend. These factors can vary,
but the ways you can apply pressure don't.
There are three ways to apply pressure in squash.
- Making an opponent retrieve a
- Shortening the actual time
between exchanges forcing an opponent to rush.
- Combining both tactics by making
an opponent retrieve a difficult shot with the least amount of
time to prepare.
Difficult Shots, No Time ...
The first method can be described as a shot-maker's strategy. A
shot-maker goes for winners given any opportunity. This type of
strategy keeps an opponent under constant pressure. In essence, the
shot-maker makes his or her opponent do most of the running. Yet,
this type of pressure is ineffective against an agile and fitter
The second method of adding pressure is attacking the ball not so
much to hit the winner but to return the ball in the shortest amount
of time. Here the attacker uses the half volley (striking the ball
close to the floor after its first bounce) and volley (striking the
ball in the air before hitting the floor) to intercept his or her
opponent's shots as quickly as possible. The aim is to keep the
other player under constant pressure by eliminating time to think
about the next shot.
A player who likes being in front can easily incorporate this
strategy. By intercepting shots off the front wall as quickly as
possible, a player can maintain pressure by stepping up the pace and
eliminating the lag time between exchanges. This type of player is
determined to keep you off balance as he or she dominates the T.
The best counter in both of these strategies is slowing the pace
down with lobs, high drives and high crosscourts into the back
corners. Slowing the pace will make it easier to get back in
position and will lengthen the time between exchanges. This can
destroy an attacker's game plan.
However, attempting this manoeuvre against a player who likes to
volley and stay in front can be difficult. Furthermore, a player who
prefers the second type of adding pressure is usually in good shape
and can go the distance. Nevertheless, the Achilles heel in this
type of player is that he or she lacks patience at a slower pace.
Applying the Pressure
The third type of pressure
assimilates both methods described above. Here the player will
recover to the T in the least amount of time; will try to hit
winners given the slightest opening; and will intercept every shot
as quickly as possible. This is easier said than done. But it is
possible to attain this level of play. Unfortunately, you may have
run into this type of player. He or she is usually the top seed in
Perfecting offensive strategy is one of the most important goals for
all squash professionals. Professionals realize that positioning,
shot-making and fast exchanges need to be synchronized so that
optimal performance can be achieved. Therefore, make it a priority
in your game.
Regardless of level, a player must take the initiative to add
pressure and win critical points during a match. Since everyone has
a unique style in squash, learning to apply pressure is as unique as
the way you play. Eventually, you will grasp this concept. Once this
happens, you will have discovered the key element in creating your
Keep in mind it only takes a few good wins to get seeded in the next
tournament. My advice is to make those wins and get seeded. Then
you'll feel pressure without being on the court. If you discover how
to control this type of pressure, please let me know. But don't
worry. This type of pressure is worth it. It comes with being the
Understand the 'T'
decided to get serious about squash then you'd better understand the
T. The T is located in the middle of the court where the serve boxes
meet. The T is characterized as the best offensive and the best
defensive position between shots. With all this said, there's one
aspect of being on the T that's often over-looked. The key is how to
use the T to set-up traps and create a tactical advantage.
But before we start addressing the T, we need to understand a bit
more about squash.
Squash is a game of tactics. These tactics incorporate
hitting the ball, moving correctly and watching. In squash
terminology, it's your stroke execution, footwork and anticipation.
All of these areas need a staging point. The best staging point is
the T. Once a player realizes the importance of this fact and the
T's relevance in squash, something seems to happen at the higher
levels where the rallies are longer and more intense.
At the higher levels of squash it's easier to get a feel for your
opponent. What I mean, is that, you start to observe patterns in
your opponent's game and you inadvertently learn to decipher his or
her weaknesses. You start thinking like your opponent. You even feel
like you can get inside your opponent's head and start to sense what
he or she will do next. In this realm the match is won not on the
court but in the minds of the players. In essence, you get to know
the person you're playing and can decode his or her game. This
bonding isolates the players where the universe is limited to the
court and the ensuing battle is the all-important event at hand.
At the higher levels squash players use their instincts. Once this
happens, players discover how to read their opponent's instincts and
only then will a player's game transform from technique and fitness
to the mental sphere. Once there, a player realizes that only with
instincts and wits is he or she capable of outsmarting his or her
opponent. One way to use your instincts is by setting traps. The
best place to set traps is from the T. Only with this understanding
of the mental game in squash can the T be fully exploited for a
winning strategy. And this is when squash gets really interesting.
But because squash is a game of technique, one cannot overlook the
fact that squash requires hours of practice and training so that a
player's instincts can be activated and fully mature. I encourage
every player to get to this place. It's not easy, but with the right
training and focus, it's within sight. Now let's talk about how the
T is used by the pros.
How the Pros use the T
Let's say you're in a tight match with a player of equal level. The
rallies are long and intense. The player who better uses the T to
his or her advantage will win the match. That's right. I said, "uses
the T", not "recovers to the T" faster or more efficiently.
If an experienced player sees his or her opponent not recovering to
the T correctly, it calls for an offensive shot. Usually at the
start of a match both players are fresh and recovery to the T is
unwavering. But, once either player shows the first signs of
fatigue, then recovery to the T is less efficient and room for error
occurs. Therefore the best exploitation of the T can only be
accomplished once a softening up period has elapsed. This is when
the pros use the T to influence his or her tiring opponent's shots.
How can one use the T to manipulate his or her opponent's shots? The
simple rule regarding the T is that, any player who stands directly
on top of the T before his or her opponent hits the ball is likely
to get a defensive shot from his or her opponent. This is the key.
What if you stand more a bit to the right of the T? Your opponent is
likely to try to pass you down the line on your backhand (for a
right-handed player). If you stand a bit to the left, your opponent
is likely to go down the line to your forehand or crosscourt,
driving you to a back corner. These are typical scenarios. Now let's
do these types of manoeuvres on purpose making your opponent think
you've recovered to the T late and out of position. This type of
hoax is used by the pros at times to make his or her opponent
believe he or she is set up to hit a good shot when in actuality the
opponent is being set up for a trap.
Setting the Trap
I know it sounds a bit sneaky, but all of us know winning and losing
in squash is personal and when you can set up a trap, you'll do
anything to see it through. After all, this kind of thinking is an
important part of building your mental game and should to used to
weaken your opponent's mental game.
Think about it. Once you've executed a successful hoax from the T
and your opponent realizes he or she has fallen into a trap, your
opponent will begin to doubt the way he or she is anticipating your
actions. Once that enters the mind of any squash player, especially
in a tense battle, then focusing on game strategy takes a turn for
the worse. This could be the edge needed to win an otherwise equally
Another example is making your opponent feel you've committed to his
or her shot in a certain way. This is different from standing
incorrectly on the T to force a certain shot. Committing means
moving to a shot in advance. Usually this type of hoax works best
when your opponent is behind you in a corner while you're on the T.
As your opponent winds up to hit a shot, make he or she think you
see a rail shot coming and drop back a bit as if to retrieve the
shot off the back wall. Your opponent should have ample warning of
your commitment. He or she will respond by hitting something like a
boast to the front court. As your opponent steps into the shot, use
the blind spot opportunity to change directions and shift forward.
Keep in mind this works best after you've become familiar with your
opponent's game and he or she is beginning to tire. If things go as
planned, you should be at the front court hitting a drop winner
while your opponent thinks you've committed and moved back for a
An additional example is when your opponent is in the backhand
corner and you initiate a move to the right creating the impression
that you think your opponent is going crosscourt with the ball. Your
opponent will respond not by going for the typical rail to wrong
foot you, but he or she will try to hit the shot harder to pass you.
You will have given your opponent the false impression of committing
to his or her shot incorrectly. With the ball now travelling back to
you at a faster pace, you will have created an opening by moving
correctly to intercept the rail and cut off the ball sooner than
expected, trapping your opponent behind you. Your commitment hoax in
this case caused a tempo change in your favour.
Keep in mind that manipulating your opponent like this takes
practice and split second timing, which means it can back fire if
done incorrectly. The bottom line is to make sure you're good enough
before ever making an attempt. You'll know when it's time.
Use the T to your
Winning in squash will need a variety of tactics depending on the
type of player you are and the types of players you come across.
But, one thing is certain - your opponent will hit shots that you're
least prepared to return. Learn not only to disguise your shots but
also learn to disguise your movements. The way you commit to a shot
and the way you position yourself on the T can both be manipulated
to lure an unsuspecting opponent into a trap.
Knowing this early in your squash development could be critical. The
pros use these types of hoaxes because it's one of the best ways to
win the mental battle. So start using the T not just as the best
point of recovery, but also as the most likely place to manipulate
your opponent's next shot.
Going for the Nick
There is a single shot in squash that stops your opponent in his
tracks. It creates astonishment even from otherwise unbiased
referees. It can make a silent gallery of spectators leap with
applause. It can boost your energy and dissipate your opponentís. It
is the shot to strive for as far as winners are concerned. Iím
talking about the spectacular nick.
nick can be described as a shot that deflects off the front wall
where the ballís trajectory is so severely angled that the ball
strikes close to where the sidewall and floor meet. Keep in mind
that if the objective is to get the ball as close as possible to
where the sidewall and floor meet that the angle must be calculated
not only how far horizontally the ball must travel but also
vertically. The combination of the two should create a downward
angle. There is a hint of a slice in the shot to help steer the ball
into this downward angle.
The nick by definition is the meeting point of the standing walls
and the floor throughout the perimeter of the court. This fact
attests to the wide variation in the types of nicks a player can
attempt. This is also the reason why the nick is one of the most
creative shots in squash. It can appear as a delicate drop nick or
as a crushing slice volley into the nick. If executed correctly, a
nick is the finest way to end a long rally.
Setting up for it
Hitting the nick on command borders a higher plateau in the touch
game. A player capable of regularly hitting the nick denotes the
precision of a craftsman.
all craftsmen the tools, the materials and the environment are in
direct relation to the end product. This is no less the case for
nicks. With ample practice, a good racquet, and a nice court with
uniform walls much like the new ASB courts, the potential for the
nick is greater. Yet, the most crucial factor is the set-up. A
squash player capable of hitting nicks must have that certain set-up
for successful completion of the shot. Spotting a potential nick is
half the battle. Once thatís done, actually hitting the nick is
In some nicks the ball has a trickling bounce with some sort of hope
for the other guy. Other nicks are hit so well that thereís not even
a hint of a bounce and the ball literally rolls off the sidewall.
These are rare.
hitting a nick is all about the angle or trajectory of the ball off
the front wall Ė not your racquet. The easiest nicks are located in
the two front corners. Designate these areas as your initial target
Unlike all other shots, the nick comes from the heart. You must feel
the nick a split second before hitting it. Visualizing perfect nicks
can help a great deal. Letís take it a step further. Create a vivid
scenario in your mind.
Envision yourself as a hunter stalking the court for the chance to
kill a nick. You must look for it at all times. It must become an
You must experiment by hitting nicks from all angles of the court
and find your personal target zones. Start with the two front
corners but then expand to the rest of the court. Remember the nick
first begins by spotting an opportunity. The best opportunities are
when you force your opponent to hit the ball in the middle of the
court. Keep in mind that the angle into the nick is the key.
Internal alarms should alert you when nick opportunities reveal
themselves. Be on the lookout and be ready to fire! In short, you
must chisel the nick concept into your mind and keep it with you
during every rally of a match.
Courageous ... or
a nick is regarded as either courageous or foolish. This depends on
whether the nick attempt is hit well or not. If hit well, you feel
like a champion. When it misses, your opponent is usually set-up for
a winner. This is the foremost reason why players avoid trying the
nick shot. The fear of setting up your adversary and looking like
the fool who took the gamble can eliminate any kind of nick attempt
from your mind.
My advice is to get rid the fear and keep trying! But, itís a fact
that when you miss a nick attempt, youíll pay. This fact should not
instil fear, but should make your attempt that much better. However,
one thing does happen after your first nick attempt - your opponent
realizes he or she is playing a unique kind of shooter. With this
realization he or she will make every effort to prevent your next
Every pro knows that a successful nick can be a displacing moment
for your opponent. It is characterized as a temporary elevation for
the player who hits the nick. This elevation, although temporary,
can breakdown the mentally toughest competitors.
The pros hold the nick shot in esteem. Although, all pros practice
the nick shot, some hit it well while others seem to struggle. In
the Khyber Pass area, which is my familyís place of origin, the high
attitude keeps the ball in play forever. The squash players there
discovered early that the nick was the fastest way to kill the ball,
especially against some of the fittest players in the world.
best ... and the hardest
Although itís the best shot in
the sport, no one has found an effective way of teaching it. This is
primarily due to the lack of importance given to the shot, and the
desire lacked by most squash players to add it into his or her
repertoire. It can be one of the hardest shots to learn, but itís
not out of reach. The secret is to make it one of your personal
missions in squash.
Once the nick becomes part of your game, it will make all your other
shots seem ordinary. You will have scratched the realm of the squash
wizards like Qamar Zaman, one of the finest nick masters ever. Yet,
Zaman and other nick masters will admit that the nick, while being
the deadliest weapon in their arsenal, can betray you. Nevertheless,
the nick became one of their legendary strokes. Make it one of
As we speak, the squash courts
in the Khyber Pass are being riddled with nicks by some of the best
up-and-coming professionals in the sport. Whatís good for them is
good for you! Make it a habit of going for the nick! Or else all
your shots will just be ordinary!
Attack or Defend ?
There are two types of squash strategies. One is the offensive
attacking game, and the other is the patient defensive game.
The offensive game is primarily all imaginable squash shots close to
the floor of the court. The defensive game is primarily all
imaginable squash shots that linger up high on the court walls. One
strategy uses the lower court area while the other focuses on
the upper court area. The lower court encompasses 75% of all
squash shots, while the upper court utilizes only 25% of all squash
shots. To build a strong overall squash game, we need to focus on
the often-neglected upper court.
The Upper Court
Two things need to be kept in mind when concerning the upper court.
The first is learning to utilize the upper area by hitting shots
that have high contact points on the frontwall. The second is
returning a shot that lingers in the upper area of the court. One is
execution - the other is retrieving.
Perfect the Lob
The best upper court shot is the lob. Therefore, the lob must be
perfected! This shot is best executed from the front of the court.
Usually when retrieving a high drop or boast.
When hitting a lob, make sure it makes contact with the front wall
approximately one meter above the service line. Also, try to hit
crosscourt lobs at first. A good lob has a significant arc. Since
the purpose of upper court shots is to extend the time between an
exchange, the ball should linger in the air as long as possible. The
lobbed ball should deflect off the sidewall one meter from the
Because the lob can die in the backcorner, the lob can become one of
the most devastating shot in your arsenal. If executed correctly,
the lob will get you back to the T. The lob can also break you out
of any fast paced rally by abruptly changing the tempo.
The difficulty regarding the lob is that it canít be practiced
alone. Of course, one can try, but it should be combined in a
sequence of shots using a drive, a boast and then a lob. Itís
important to keep the ball warm or else your touch will be off. But,
practicing with two players is easy. One player boasts while the
other lobs. The ball remains warm, and the rapid succession of
attempts only improves your accuracy.
Use the Sidewall
The next shot is the crosscourt that deflects high off the sidewall
into your opponent. This shot should only be attempted when your
opponent is in the backcourt and close to the sidewall. If this type
of crosscourt is hit when your opponent is in front, he or she can
volley it before the ball reaches the deflection point. Also, if
your opponent is not next to the sidewall and more in the middle, he
or she can let the ball go to the backwall. If this happens, you
become trapped as the path of the ball revolves into the middle of
These are just two examples of the types of shots you can use in the
upper area of the court. In short, any high shot that lingers out of
your opponentís reach, namely his or her sweet spot, will have the
The main points are that upper court shots change the pace, get you
back in position, and use less energy. In the long run, youíll
confuse your opponent, add pressure by getting back to the T more
efficiently, and have more stamina for the rest of the match.
Although this sounds easy, upper court shots require a great deal of
accuracy and timing. Practicing is the first step. The next is to
make a conscious effort to use upper court shots during a match.
Remember to stay cool and maintain good concentration at all times.
Championship squash starts in your head. Only then can you
effectively incorporate tactics.
When attempting upper court shots, notice the lag time between
exchanges. Observe how the rhythm is interrupted. Also, become aware
of your opponentís reaction. Discover how the soft arc of a lob can
add tremendous pressure during a point.
Letís change scenarios. If your opponent attempts to use this
strategy against you, remember that upper court shots are your
opponentís way of getting back in position. You need to keep
yourself out of the danger by reciprocating with an upper court shot
yourself. As your opponent tries to buy time and gets you out of
position, you need to buy time with a lingering upper court shot to
neutralize his or her attempt for control of the rally.
Although, lower court shots like a drop and a boast can slow the
pace, upper court shots like the lob and high crosscourts are better
ways of getting back to the T after a blistering exchange of fast
Winning a point using devastating power and fast exchanges can feel
great. But, keep in mind that the best players can not only hit with
sustained fast pace but also can lob and use the upper court to
retain position. Besides, Pace falls drastically behind Position by
comparison in a squash professionalís rulebook. Furthermore, winning
a single rally is not the goal Ė itís winning the match!
So, donít sacrifice 25% of your squash game by neglecting the upper
court area. Believe me, it will eventually come back to haunt you.
My advice is to build a stronger squash game by using high upper
court shots as part of your strategy starting today.
the Blind Spots
We are repeatedly told to watch the ball to the point of contact
and to watch our opponent as he or she hits the ball.
This method of watching is told to further improve our anticipation.
Better anticipation is said to gives us a jump on the next shot. All
is true. But, there are times when you canít see the ball or your
opponent. These are called the "blind spots".
Hereís a typical squash scenario.
Blind at the Back ...
An opponent serves deep into a backhand corner. A blind spot will
occur when the receiver twists to hit a standard drive length
return. There are two things to keep in mind during this episode.
The first is how the receiver will interpret the last peripheral
sight of the server before executing the shot, and the second is
what the opponent will do during the blind spot.
First, as the receiver focuses on the ball to hit the backhand
drive, the server has the advantage because he or she can move
undetected. As receiver focuses on the ball and watches it drop into
the corner, his peripheral vision will see the server in the corner
of his eye. If I were the server, I would move toward the receiverís
backhand side as he began to twist into the backhand corner. Once I
realize the receiver has stepped into the shot and the blind spot is
initiated, I will silently move back to the forehand side. Why?
From the receiverís perspective the last image of me is moving over
to the backhand to cover the drive length return. Realizing that
Iíll be on top of the next shot, the receiver will try to outsmart
me by hitting a different shot. Letís say he hits a boast believing
that if Iím hovering for a backhand return that the boast off the
side wall will land furthest from me in the front forehand court.
However, during the blind spot Iíve moved to the forehand side of
the court. The boast return will feed into my racquet for a drop
winner. Iíve exploited the blind spot to my advantage. This may not
happen all the time, but the point is to attempt to do something
unexpected during a blind spot situation. Timing is critical. If
done correctly, this will put added pressure on your opponent.
Blind on the Side ...
Using the same squash scenario, letís say instead of having my
opponent peripherally observe me moving over to the backhand, I
deliberately stay in the service box area. My opponent, using his
last images of me as a reference point, will undoubtedly try to hit
a drive so that not to feed me. I, on the other hand, will wait
until he starts his shot execution. Once out of sight, I will speed
over to the backhand side of the court for quick cut off.
Here I have changed my opponentís game plan by exploiting his
peripheral vision and blind spot to my advantage.
Blind at the Front ...
Another example is when a player hits a great boast to fully stretch
his or her opponent. As the opponent moves up to get the boast, the
other player can move up behind his or her opponent until the blind
spot occurs. The opponentís last peripheral sight was that the other
player was coming up from behind for a drop. The opponent is forced
to lob or crosscourt since a drop is what is expected. If the other
player has exploited the blind spot correctly, he or she will not be
on their opponentís heels but will fade back at the last second to
hit a quick volley as his or her opponent feeds the ball. The
opponent is taken completely by surprise.
Using this scenario again. Letís make the player not appear to
follow his or her opponent up. Letís deliberately stay back and have
the last peripheral view showing the player on the T. As the
opponent focuses in on the boast retrieval, the blind spot is
initiated and the last image of the other player was back on the T.
The opponent will drop the ball thinking the other player is too far
back to make a good get. The other player, meanwhile, will stay on
the T until his or her opponent is in the midst of the blind spot to
start silently forward. When the opponent hits the drop, the other
player will pounce on it driving it deep to the back of the court.
Again, the opponent is taken completely by surprise.
Keep them Guessing ...
Peripheral vision will undoubtedly eliminate most blind
spots. Nevertheless, the fact remains that whenever your opponent is
turned away from you in the corners, during crosscourts, and when
theyíre in front that blind spots occur. As you become a better
observer of what your opponent sees, you will discover the realistic
use of blind spot attacks.
The top pros use blind spots as the best time to catch his or her
opponent off guard. Usually, when you begin to exploit this type of
strategy, youíll find your opponent less at ease when youíre not in
his or her peripheral sight. His or her concentration becomes
unstable and you start to control the rally. Once you gain momentum,
you become less concerned with hitting great shots, but rather start
to hit more shots that get you out of your opponentís peripheral
As you move up in rank, youíll need to create blind spots. Once you
realize that a blind spot episode is about to occur, you must plan
your movements accordingly to fully exploit and fool your opponent
during such events. On the other hand, when you become victim to a
blind spot, use every sense of awareness to track your opponentís
During blind spots I have been astonished to discover opponents
silently crouched next to me. Or even three feet from the front wall
volleying my shot into the nick. Pros wait for such blind spots to
initiate an attack. It can prove to be mentally devastating.
When you become invisible for that split second during the blind
spot, you become a formidable attacker at any level of squash. Start
to use blind spots as a weapon in your game because I can guarantee
theyíll be used against you.
A proper squash stroke
The most important element of your squash game is your stroke. There
are several areas we need to discuss regarding a proper squash
The Sweet Spot
First, you need to find your particular sweet spot. This has nothing
to do with the racquet. It is the specific area of contact in the
motion of the swing that produces your maximum punch. Depending on
your height, weight and athleticism, this point can vary.
No one has the same favourite point of contact. Discovering this
point will be the best thing you'll ever do for your overall squash
game. But, keep in mind that it may take years to fine-tune your
swing so that this point actually reveals itself. The best method in
discovering your particular sweet spot is practicing alone.
Shorten your Swing
Second, once you discover your sweet spot, you must shorten your
swing. The shortest swing that can get the same job done will
undoubtedly use less time and energy for shot execution.
Furthermore, this means you'll have a better attacking game when you
need it. So compact your stroke by remembering to keep your elbow in
and to use your wrist as much as possible. Raise your shoulders,
making your head position lower between them. Keep your knees bent
and stay in the crouch position. A good practice technique is to
crouch and have your elbow and knee meet at the point of contact
with the ball. Not all players can do this. But, with time and with
good footwork, it can be done. Practicing volleys can also help
shorten your swing. But, the wrist is the best mechanism in getting
your swing and power to potential.
third element of the squash stroke is your grip. Your hand can
squeeze tightly and loosen on command. In squash, the control you
have over your grip is crucial when making contact with the ball.
A tight grip at the exact point of contact and then a looser grip in
the follow-through are the desired goal. You must be aware of your
sense of touch to attain this kind of grip coordination. Your
racquet control will be at its best if you can sense when to tighten
and loosen your grip during a stroke.
Some players like a relatively tight grip throughout the stroke.
Most pros will recommend this in the front of the court when time is
restricted and when optimum control is needed or in a full power
shot. But overall, a constant tight grip will weaken your arm as the
match progresses. Learning to tighten your grip at the point of
impact takes practice and conscious effort.
The secret in practicing alone is to isolate a specific aspect of
your swing. For example, practice grip control in one session, and
in another try to focus on a more compact swing.
Forehand and Backhand
Finally, keep in mind that all squash players have two types of
strokes that need an equal amount of attention. You must incorporate
and develop all three elements of the squash swing to both your
backhand and forehand!
sweet spots, compactness and grip may vary considerably for both the
backhand and forehand. Therefore, developing each side evenly over
the course of your squash progression will undoubtedly be a
challenge. Your test is to keep both sides balanced as you chart
your course through the higher levels of play. Not an easy test!
So keep in mind, a great forehand means more backhand practice to
balance the sides and visa versa. Both sides must be equal in
strength and shot control not only today but also a year from now.
My advice is to keep everything evenly balanced at all times by
practicing each of the six areas - one at a time.
If an uneven backhand or forehand develops, as it most likely will,
your overall squash strategy will be affected. For example, a strong
forehand and weak backhand will affect the way you concentrate.
Meaning that the weaker backhand will subconsciously make you look
more attentively for backhand protection. Once this happens, you're
immediately in the defensive by defending your backhand more so than
When both strokes are equal in strength, only then can you focus on
building an effective squash strategy. The pros know this is the
only way to play squash at its best!
Controlling the Tempo:
attack and regroup ...
As a youth I discovered that top squash professionals rallied unlike
the typical club player. They were steady at one point and attacked
at another. I noticed a pattern I call "attacking and regrouping".
Once I tried this tactic on some of my opponents, I found my game
less predictable. I also noticed my opponents waiting for my next
wave of attacking shots. This meant I began to control the tempo of
the match. This also meant that my opponents were making a critical
error Ė they were playing my game. When I had them in the grips of
playing my game, I discovered that I didnít need to hit winners. I
could control the match by setting the tempo. This led to mentally
breaking down my opponents.
Pick your moments
this sort of "attacking and regrouping" worked, other times I got
too tired or frustrated that I couldnít end the rally. With
experience I realized that I didnít need to win the rally in the
attacking phase. I realized I needed to attack a certain number of
shots and then needed to fall back into a length game. I also
realized that picking a certain number of shots kept me from
exhausting my stamina. If you donít pace yourself correctly, this
strategy will never become effective.
Remember when I refer to attacking, I suggest a quicker exchange
of shots making your opponent stretch a little harder for each
get. Just add pressure with tempo rather than great shooting. Making
your opponent rush and unable to think about the next shot is
attacking with tempo.
Again, you must develop an attacking game for no more than three
to four shots and then try to regroup by hitting tight drives.
Incorporating a three or four shot attacking assault and learning to
pull yourself out of this self-imposed barrage into a slower and
steadier style takes practice. This can only be done when a player
is in control and finds an opportunity to implement such a strategy.
Finding the right opportunity comes with the experience of trial and
error. It all starts when you attack your opponentís initial weak
Attack weak returns
is certain that the "attack and regrouping" tactics can be part of
your game no matter what your level. The medium between attacks is
hitting good length, which should be perfected first. But, you
should avoid excessive length.
Excessive length shots are those steady drives and/or crosscourts to
good length for a succession without changing your pace. It can feel
like being in cruise control. This can be a good strategy to a
point. The danger lies in playing this safe game to the extreme.
Length should only be maintained until your opponent hits a weak
return. This is the ideal moment to apply pressure not to end the
rally, but to suck your opponent into your attacking game.
Keep them guessing
But, keeping your opponent guessing is crucial. Keep in mind that
you want to make your opponent realize that whenever he or she hits
a loose shot, you will attack with intensity and not really go for a
winner. There is a unique difference.
Hitting a great shot puts pressure on you even if you have a great
set-up. Picking up the tempo adds pressure only to your opponent
both physically and mentally. You must adjust your focus not on a
single shot but the tempo to add pressure. One outlook is
concentrated on a single event while the other seems to change the
The mental pressure of applying such a game plan will weaken your
opponentís resolve to challenge your attacks. When you break down
your opponentís defences to the point of conceding the match, the
match will be in your control and declared mentally over for your
Shot selection is critical to good squash. Shot selection is
not hitting winners; it's making your opponent cover the farthest
distances around the court.
If we divide the squash court into zones, we can better understand
Let's divide the court into front court and back court.
Keep in mind that the player who stays in front during most of a
match is likely to win; and the T is the best place to be between
shots. This is a cardinal rule. The next cardinal rule is to keep
your opponent in the corners.
four corners are where a rally will most likely come to its end.
The front court comprises two corners, as does the back court. You
should always aim for the corners when going for a winner.
Keeping your opponent in the corners while you're hovering on
the T is the best squash scenario. Once you get your opponent into a
corner and gain control of the rally, the next best shot is the
corner farthest from your opponent. For example, if your opponent
were near the front left corner, the best place to send the ball
would be the back right corner.
Once you develop the art of manoeuvring your opponent, you'll
discover that your opponent may retrieve a certain shot in game one
but will not be able to get to the same shot in game three. Keeping
your opponent on the run will weaken his or her ability to maintain
the fight. Your perimeter of possible winners will widen due to this
constant attack and weakening of your opponent. Patience is the key.
Keeping them on the run
If you find that you're controlling a rally, realize that there are
three ways of keeping your opponent on the run. You can send him or
her horizontally across the court from one service box to the
next using crosscourt drives; you can send him or her vertically
forward and back with straight drops and hard rails or lobs; and
you can send him or her diagonally using boasts, drops and
In each case your opponent is doing all the running and you have a
clear advantage. This doesn't comprise all shot selections, but it
does suggest what to keep in mind as a starting reference point for
manoeuvring an opponent. Look for all possibilities, but try to
In the third instance I describe trapping your opponent in
the diagonal corner manoeuvre, you'll notice that in this situation
your opponent will have covered the most distance possible and you
will have relative ease hitting to each diagonal corner. Relative
ease suggests confidence in executing the correct shot with the
highest probability of hitting the kill zone. Therefore set your
goal to make your opponent run diagonally as much as possible.
Furthermore, diagonal pressure keeps your opponent stretched and off
balance while opening the court for you.
Some pros can trap a competitor in this sequence and instead of
putting the ball away will hit slightly higher so that the
retrieving player will further exhaust more reserves. Younger
players with less experience and high energy get trapped in this
diagonal sequence becoming frustrated that a less fit player has
overcome them. Whenever you find that you're running from shot to
shot without gaining control, break off the pursuit immediately.
Master the Drive
Between corners and the T is the inevitable drive that needs to be
mastered to perfection. The great Geoff Hunt states in his book that
when he started playing squash, his father wouldn't allow any shot
making other than hitting drives for a period of a year. Geoff Hunt
later became eight-time British Open Champion. Take his advice!
Let's examine the role of the tight drive. Good length is the best
neutral shot in the game. Players exchange drives until one gets an
opportunity to gain control. Good length can help you gain
the upper hand, but keeping the ball as close to the wall as
possible is by far much more effective.
Get your ball tight to the wall rather than deep into the court. Of
course, the best drive sticks to the wall as it dies in the back
corner. But, this can take too much effort when off balance. A shot
hit short but glued to the wall is just as good without the physical
exertion of the deep drive. Thus, hitting shorter drives closer to
the wall with consistency will develop the openings you need without
depleting your stamina in the process.
Exploit their mistakes
One final note regarding shot selection is exploiting a poorly
executed shot by your opponent. For example, if your opponent
hits a bad shot in the middle of the court, is it wise to select a
shot that will give your opponent a clear path for retrieval?
The answer is no! You should hit the shot that puts you directly in
your opponent's way. The reasoning is that if your opponent sets you
up for a winner, you are entitled to go for the best possible winner
and your opponent must be penalized by retrieving the next shot even
if it means running around you. If you find yourself in this
situation and your opponent runs directly at you and asks for a let,
state that he or she set you up for a winner. Add that it's their
responsibility to make every effort to get the next shot even if
this means running around you. In short, whenever you have the
advantage, hit shots that make your opponent run around you as a
Using shot selection ...
Use shot selection to weaken your opponent.
- Weaken your opponent by making
him or her do all the running while you control the T.
- Make your opponent run diagonally
as much as possible.
- Use the hidden rule of squash to
penalize your opponent by making him or her run around you when
you have the advantage.
- Remember to try to hit shorter
drives that stick to the wall rather than deep length to help save
Both shot-makers and retrievers can
gain a valuable insight if they focus on proper shot selection as
part of their game.
Hit and Run ... Run and Hit
Squash is a game of footwork and racquet control. In simple
terms squash is running and striking. If both aspects of the game
are perfected, you will achieve the height of your game. In the
process of perfecting the two, a player can forget to unite the two
and develops a bad habit.
The bad habit of focusing on each separately will make running and
hitting uncoordinated. Disjointed running and hitting creates
segmented squash. This can carry over into concentration and
To coordinate your running and hitting game you must develop a
better way of swinging at the ball on your last step. There is a
fine line as far as timing is concerned. You must strike the ball on
your last step and then use the momentum of your swing to prepare
for the next shot.
example, in a backhand shot, you should anticipate the shot and get
your feet moving first. Wind up keeping the racquet close to your
body. This is the inner circle and is ideal for balance. As you
approach the strike zone, mentally focus on your steps and try to
calculate the distance it will take to get to the ball. On your
final step shift your weight onto your correct right leg then strike
the ball before all your body weight has been shifted to that leg.
Getting Back ...
As the ball exits the strike zone off your racquet, continue to
watch the ball, but focus on your backhand follow-through. At the
end of the follow-through bring the racquet back into the inner
circle close to your body. Notice how on all follow-throughs the
racquet naturally gravitates to the middle of the court. Donít fight
the weight of the racquet. Go with it and begin to shift your weight
and turn to the middle of the court with the swing in synchronized
motion. This is coordinated running and hitting.
trick is never applying your full body weight at any particular
instance during a shot and keeping your racquet close to you in the
wind up. Remember not to step through the shot. Your feet on the
last step are fixed, it's just the weight distribution that's in
continuous motion. You should feel your weight centered only when on
This type of playing will keep your balance and racquet control
smooth. Again, smooth running and hitting develops better
concentration. Better concentration makes for better strategy. Once
you segment your running and hitting, your game and concentration
will always lack that something youíll never be able to pinpoint.
My advice is whenever you focus on improving your drop or
crosscourt, do it in such a way that youíre incorporating motion
with the shot. Effective body weight distribution going into and out
of the strike zone can only be created while moving.
Develop a hitting style that is synchronized with not only the point
of impact but also the follow-through. Use momentum to your
Never just stand and hit. If you do, then trying to improve your
game will seem elusive.
The Battle for the the T
Executing shots and clearing are unique aspects in the game of
squash. While many players focus on developing better winners, I
suggest a concentrated effort in proper clearing. I state
this because I have seen many players hit great shots when not
distracted, but whenever a rally gets tight, their shots seem to
lose their punch. This is usually caused by a fear of close contact
with their opponent. Therefore, proper clearing must take precedence
over improving shots.
I have seen many players neglect proper clearing. Some players donít
clear at all; while others use more energy getting out of their
opponentís way rather than hitting a well-executed shot. The players
that over clear have an untapped potential that can be developed.
Over clearing = predictable
Since players that over clear are afraid of getting close to their
opponents, they tend to hit shots away from themselves. This player
hits mostly crosscourt and boasts. Usually, these shots become very
accurate over time and should be formidable weapons except that the
shot selection has become so predictable their opponent has relative
ease in anticipating each shot. This makes it easier for your
opponent to beat you. Therefore, over clearing hurts your strategy.
Over clearing also depletes stamina a lot faster. This fear must be
overcome to become an effective squash player.
Hitting the ball so that contact is avoided with your opponent is
easy; but your opponent may not have the fear of close contact. He
or she may deliberately welcome a closer exchange of shots. In this
scenario the over clearing player is distracted. He or she canít
settle into the game. There is a slight hesitation when retrieving
shots. Shots are hit into the tin. Lets are called more frequently
and your opponent becomes too much to handle. The best remedy for
this is to practice the drive drill with a partner.
The Drive Drill
In this drill you and your partner mimic a rally that is strictly a
deep drive hit along the wall. The objective is to get your partner
behind you. As the both of you fight for position to stay in front,
youíll discover a circular pattern you and your partner will be
engaged in. Focusing on this movement during the drive exchange is
vital. Try to move quickly and smoothly around each other. Donít be
nervous about the occasional brush or bump youíll experience. Get
used to it. Sometimes a slight bump or brush gives the both of you a
better reference point when striking the ball. Once you start
feeling comfortable doing this on one side, change to the other side
of the court and repeat the drill. Remember not to hit hard at
In no time will the fear of being close to your opponent disappear.
Furthermore, your drive and length will get better -- pulling you
away from a crosscourt and boasting game. Just be careful not to get
so over-confident and get struck by your partnerís swing. If this
happens, your past fears become justified and return. Start slow and
work on intensity only after you start feeling more comfortable.
The excitement of squash is best experienced in close combat. Every
player should make an effort to play closer to his or her opponent.
If you can hear them breathe, youíre in a good tactical position.
This will undoubtedly lead to better concentration, confidence and
balance. My advice is to dive into the thick of things and learn to
keep your cool in close quarter battles for the T, youíll be glad
It's in the Equipment
Letís say youíre at the peak of your game. Youíre ready for any
challenge match. You think youíve covered everything. The match
starts and your string breaks. Youíre forced to use another racquet.
Suddenly, your game is off. The shots are not as precise. You go
down fighting and knowing you left out one crucial element of your
game. You forgot about the importance of having good equipment.
The best preparation is only good if you have the best equipment to
utilize your maximum potential.
The worst mistake is to sacrifice your game to save a bit of money.
I donít recommend buying the best racquet, but I do suggest getting
something of high standard. The lowest racquets are practically
given away because no one will buy them. Get something a pro is
using because the most important piece of equipment is your racquet.
Test that Racket
I have found the current selection of racquets overwhelming. Most
look and feel the same at the store. I usually ask the salesperson
about the best sellers. Whatever racquets they suggest, ask if you
can demo the racquets. This means bringing them home for a trial.
All good stores have this service. Take advantage of it. Letís say
you get three racquets to try. Hereís what to check.
Hold the racquet firmly and swing it around as hard as possible.
Do this for each of the racquets. Notice the sound of the air as the
racquet passes through it. The racquet that makes the least amount
of sound will be the most aerodynamic. The most aerodynamic means
better engineering quality and less work for a faster swing.
Now examine the weight distribution. Is it head heavy? If it
is, it will hit with more power. But, this is not ideal because grip
adjustments can offset this. You need to have a well-balanced
racquet. A well-balanced racquet gives the player a better feel in
the grip. The grip is at the heart of your touch game. Hold the
racquet at a 45-degree angle as if hitting a forehand shot. Instead
of swinging through like a typical forehand just perform a chopping
action. Notice how much the weight of the racquet shifts from the
grip to the top of the head and back to the grip. In a good racquet
you will hardly notice a change.
The next test is to strike the strings of the racquet against
the palm of your hand. Move your palm from the bottom of the head to
the top. Notice the vibration. The top of the head is where most of
the vibration occurs. Especially notice this area when doing this
test. The less the vibration the better. I have found the new
generation of titanium racquets of excellent quality and best ever
for vibration control.
Now, look at the frame. The shape of the head is important.
The larger the head, the easier it can break. The racquet head
should have a good bumper guard. Some chip away with time while
others thin like a pencil eraser. The thinning type is better.
The throat of the racquet is important. This is the sensitive
area of feedback down the shaft to the grip. This area should be
strongest compared to anywhere else in the head. Find the thinnest
spot on the rim of the racquet head. If it's in the throat area,
itíll break in no time.
The strings and the grip are the direct feedback points of
the racquet. Ironically, even the highest quality racquets come with
poor grips and strings. Smooth grips are not good. Both should be
replaced immediately. When you choose the grip, get one that is has
raised ribs and dotted with holes. I have found these grips lasting
the longest and having the best feel. Wilson and Pointfore make this
type of grip. Furthermore, restring your racquet with the Ashaway XL
synthetic 17-gauge gut. Itís the best performer Iíve ever played
Once youíve tested all the racquets using the above guidelines
during your demo period, keep in mind that the best racquet is
the one that feels most comfortable when hitting the ball.
On your feet
Now letís examine squash shoes.
You should select a squash shoe that feels comfortable. It should
have very little heel support and lots of cornering support. It
should not elevate you or have a forward lean because of a higher
heel as compared to the toes. The ideal squash shoe makes you feel
as if running bare-foot. It should have gum rubber for the best
court traction. Adidas, Ektelon, Asic Gels and Prince have very good
Just a word of advice, donít use your tennis shoes in the squash
court. Iíve seen it many times, and those are the players that twist
an ankle. Tennis shoes donít have the cornering support squash
... and body
Athletic clothing for squash should be relatively tight, but
comfortable to move in. Loose fitting athletic wear will weigh you
down when wet. Get use to wearing a wrist band. If you wear eye
guards wear them with a head band. The head band will help prevent
the fogging of the eye guards.
In conclusion, select your equipment carefully. Get a
titanium racquet that has a great grip and has been restrung with
synthetic gut; have good quality squash shoes with low heels and
supported for cornering; and wear tight athletic clothing.
Itís always reassuring to know your equipment is top-notch. Donít
get yourself in the position of losing a big match because of a
broken string or slippery grip.
To win sometimes the slightest edge can matter. Champions know that
an edge can be in the equipment. Donít take a chance! The pros
From Retriever to Shooter
and back ... it's a running game
The first time I picked up a racquet and started to play I can
remember always running after shots. As I got better, I ran less and
hit more winners. I realized that every squash player fell into the
Moving up, in stages
As a low D player I started out as a retriever. As I learned to
control the ball, I started to control the rally. At first it was
one rally, then a series of rallies until I could control a game and
then the entire match. My improvement reflected where I stood in the
D category. I was a retriever at the low end; a mixture of a
retriever and shooter in the middle; and primarily a shooter at the
top of the class.
This circle repeated itself in the C class and the B class and
finally in the A class. With each class the retrieving and shooting
had to be a degree better. This is obvious. But, due to lack of
experience, I always felt discouraged when I became a renewed
retriever entering the next level.
The T is key - get back to it
For example, I worked my way up through the C class and became a
decent shot-maker. I made my opponents do all the running as I
hovered on the T. This was great and who would want to change
things. Some players didn't. Others couldn't. I, on the other hand,
had a desire to keep getting better. Like most players I didn't stop
to think what was really needed to get to the next level. I
discovered, the hard way, that it wasn't hitting better shots. That
came later. It was making better gets and retrieving the ball
throughout the rally until there was time to get back to the T.
Every time I entered a new level, I ran from shot to shot without
ever finding time to get back to the T. The first goal for you as
you enter a new level is to get to the T during the rally. Sometimes
this is more easily said than done. But, this is the first hurdle.
After this, keep yourself on the T as long as possible. Once you're
able to get back to the T comfortably and continuously, then go for
winners. The resulting conclusion - efficient mobility around the
court had to come first.
Learn the best stretching techniques you can. Use weight training
for added strength in getting in and out of deep corners faster.
Cross training always helps. But, most of all learn how to run
efficiently on a squash court. If you run at full speed, you'll
never make it to the end of the match. Pace yourself. This is
something I also learned the hard way.
The Star Drill - finding the T
The best court mobility training I know is to perform star drills.
This is when you position yourself in the middle of the court on the
T. You'll notice the six points of the court being the two front
corners, the service boxes, and the two back corners.
Run from the T to the left front corner. Run in such a way as
to count the number of steps it takes you to get to the front
corner. You should be able to get there in three to four long steps.
Once in front, take a swing as if hitting the ball then back pedal
back to the T. Then run to the right front corner; take
another swing and back pedal to the T. Twist and run to the left
service box and then back to the T. Twist and run to the back
left corner and then back to the T. Then go to the right
service box and then back to the T. Finally, go to the back
right corner and then back to the T.
This is one star. Remember that the running style should mimic the
way you run in the court during an actual rally. If you're running
correctly, you won't be able to hear your steps. So place each step;
don't stomp. Concentrate on your braking ability. Do you brake with
a single step or several smaller steps? Take my word for it; brake
with several small steps. It'll save your knees.
Work your way to four stars. Once you accomplish this, do
two sets of four stars. The desired goal is doing four sets
of four star drills.
As you run the star, imagine hitting the ball as you enter each of
the six points. Visualize making great gets at each instance.
Designate each of the six points as hot spots. Memorize how well you
move to each of the points and then recover to the T. Make your
movement graceful. Try to feel the air pass your face as you start
breaking into a sweat. Between each set take a minute break and walk
around the parameter of the court. Even during this break period
notice each of the points as you pass them. When you feel your heart
start to slow, dive into the next set.
Get the ball first ... it's a running game
Squash is a running game. Learn to move around the court smoothly
and try to cover as much distance with each step as possible. Have a
strong stride and good leg strength. Stretch to stay limber. Keep in
mind if you want to get to the next level; be ready to run the ball
down. Great gets will give you the confidence you need to hit those
great winners. Remember you're playing squash - the ultimate
build it in ...
The top squash players in the world seem to know where the ball is
going before it's actually hit. This is called anticipation.
Anticipation can be developed by watching countless shots executed
by a variety of players with different styles of play.
A power-hitter will snap his or her wrist differently from a
shot-maker. A retriever plays at a slower pace as compared to a
constant volleyer. Tall players stretch to shots while short players
scramble. By playing different types of players, you will
develop a better way of anticipating. Before top professionals ever
get ranked on the circuit, you can bet they played every type of
player out there. This is what you need to do.
next step to better anticipating is watching your opponent hit
the ball. This means following the ball from your racquet to
your opponent's. Never lose track of the ball or where your opponent
is. If you ever get the chance to watch the top players in your area
play, notice how well they seem to track the ball during the
The third step is narrowing down possibilities. Realize where
you are in comparison to your opponent's position. If you're in the
front court, chances are your opponent will drive the ball deep.
Knowing this you've eliminated all the front court shots. Trying to
anticipate any shot is too much work. Make it easier by narrowing
down to what may be the most likely shot your opponent will hit.
Narrowing down shots is the best way I know to increase anyone's
critical factor you must keep in mind is how well you're able to
keep the ball tight. For example, if your opponent is on the "T"
and you hit a weak shot in the middle, guess how many shots he or
she can go for? This is a great place to give your opponent control
over the whole court and every shot in the book. Remember, the
tighter you keep the ball on the walls and in the corners, the
easier it is to anticipate your opponent's next shot. Narrow down
your opponent's choices by hitting tight shots as well.
One other thing to keep in mind is that you can only anticipate
shots you have. If you have a good straight drop, you'll
anticipate your opponent's drop. If you have a great crosscourt,
you'll anticipate your opponent's crosscourt. This means that you
need to develop as many shots in your game as possible.
Lastly, buy yourself time. If your opponent intercepts your
shot in the front court, you have less time to anticipate his or her
return. This is obvious. By shortening the contact time and distance
it takes for the ball to come off the front wall to his or her
racquet, your opponent has, in effect, added pressure by eliminating
response time for you to figure out the next shot. This means
trouble. This is what great players try to do to one another. So
keep the ball deep and try to lengthen the time it takes for your
opponent to return your shots. The longer it takes for your opponent
to return your shot, the easier it is for you to anticipate where
it'll go. The lob is a great way to buy time.
Building great anticipation takes time and experience.
Get in the Zone ...
best athletes know that the fine line between good and great is
self-preparation. Self-preparation is preparing your mental
state as well as your physical state for peak performance.
To be the best player you can be at whatever level you're currently
competing at, you need to focus on what makes you play at your best.
You need to experiment with foods to see what gives you a boost. You
need to discover how many hours of sleep help your performance. In
short, you need to know what things to do and not to do before a
match. Everyone is different, but I'll give you some suggestions.
I won't go into practicing and training techniques. I will take for
granted that you play at least three times a week, swimming or jog
twice a week and have a stretching routine. In this tip I'd like to
focus on getting ready to play a big match.
Start the day before
Preparing for a match should
start the day before. This is the ideal time to carbo load at
dinner. I like pasta and Gatorade, but speak with a nutritionist to
see what best fits your diet. Also, make sure you get plenty of
sleep. Sleep with the thoughts of playing great the next day.
Have a light breakfast and/or lunch. Start thinking about your match
two hours before game time. Any earlier can get you mentally
exhausted. Stay away from any physical activity. Try not to watch
TV. Stay focused and confident.
Before the Match
One hour before the match, drink a glass of Gatorade. Get to the
courts at the bare minimum of forty minutes before playing. Once at
the courts, change into your squash clothes. Acknowledge the fact
that the change into your squash gear is a mental shift in
Start to think you mean business. Remember we constantly need to
work on things that get you to the correct state of mind. Always
wear a tracksuit while waiting to play.
Make sure you pay attention to details. How tight do you lace your
shoes? Do you prefer a headband or wristband? Do you have a
favourite pair of socks? How about a favourite shirt or shorts? If
you don't, start finding them. After winning a tough match save the
shirt. This is just an example. Always re-enforce a positive
environment. The mental state goes from the inside out.
minutes before playing is very critical. Start stretching and use
visualization to pretend to stretch for shots. After stretching for
ten to fifteen minutes, start swinging your racquet and visualize
hitting perfect winners. Your mind cannot differentiate visualizing
and actually performing a task. So if you visualize yourself making
great gets and hitting winners, in your mind you really are. The
visualization of playing great can transfer into your squash game.
If there's a court available, hit by yourself. Try to get your
length in order. Practice some volleys and drops and angles. Hit at
a good pace until you break a slight sweat. Don't overdo it.
match time take off your tracksuit. During the warm-up watch your
opponent hit the ball. See if you can spot any tell-tail signs to
anticipate a shot. See how he or she hits a drive and crosscourt.
Make sure you hit to good length. Aim for the back corners. Good
length can win a match. Step up for some volleys. Try a drop now and
then. Practice changing your pace. Don't hit the tin!
Remember how much preparation you had made starting from the night
before and throughout the day to this moment. A great technique is
to lead everything to a final moment. This will get you in the habit
of focusing all efforts to a starting gun. This transforms into an
internal clock where you set the time for liftoff.
Find the Zone
Feel your anxiety and know the stored energy you've accumulated is
at hand. Realize that your mental state and physical energy is at
its height. Memorize this feeling because this is the ZONE the best
athletes refer to. Feel the pressure and emotions. This will get
that adrenaline flowing. This is good, but try to stay calm so you
can think clearly. Win or lose always keep your cool.
Keep practicing match preparation until you master the art of
getting yourself to the ZONE. Now it's up to you! Good Luck!
Get a Grip
Holding the racquet correctly is very important in squash.
But, did you know that the speed of your wrist and power can be
enhanced with a slight adjustment to your grip.
standard grip says to hold the racquet at an angle as if
shaking someoneís hand. It also says to hold the middle of the grip.
Combining both keeps your swing steady.
But, sometimes a fast wrist is needed for a quick kill or a
quick reflex shot; and sometimes a players needs that extra power
to drive the ball deep into the corners. If youíve ever fallen into
this sort of a situation, which Iím sure all of you have, then a
little grip adjustment could give you an edge.
If you hold the grip up high or choke up, youíll notice a
faster wrist immediately. Practice hitting the ball while adjusting
your grip. Hit a few shots in the middle grip position, then hold
the grip higher. Youíll notice a faster and lighter racquet head.
This is ideal for a quick volley and digging out those hard to get
deep backwall shots.
The higher grip shortens your swing radius helping to make your
wrist roll through a shot more comfortably. The more comfortable
your wrist, the faster youíll snap it. Use the high grip for all
tight shots from the back corners to delicate drops. For drops a
quick wrist isnít needed, but the higher grip helps your racquet
handling to hit the winner.
Keep practicing alone and now hit the ball while holding the end
of the grip. Youíll notice a shift in weight to the head of the
racquet. This will increase power. I always slide my hand down to
the end of the racquet for that crushing power sometimes needed.
But, since the racquet feels heavier, I use it when I have time to
take a full swing at the ball.
If you practice adjusting your grip, itíll become subconscious
during match play. The best titanium or graphite racquets will never
improve your wrist or power game unless you know how to do it
To Keep on Improving ...
change that routine
One of the main reasons why squash players stop improving is when
they start getting into the same routine.
Letís assume you have two or three regular games with the same
players every week. Letís also assume you play at the same times and
on the same courts. This adds up to the same routine.
Hereís a new regime to consider:
your regular games in your schedule. Just cut down on the frequency.
Play the same players youíve been accustomed to every other week
instead of every week. Use your regulars as reference points to gage
your improvement. But, letís start making room for new players.
The best way to meet new players is through tournaments and club
leagues in your area. Get involved in these types of squash
competitions. The club league matches will expose you to new players
that have different tactics. These new tactical strategies to beat
you on courts you never played on can be quite a challenge.
Anticipating shots and adapting to new styles of play help you focus
on your game. If you ever have a great match with a new player,
exchange phone numbers for more games at his or her club in the
In essence, pulling yourself out of your comfort zone will restart
your improvement curve.
to have matches on different courts. Every court is
different. Your once killer crosscourt may not be as effective on a
slower less predictable court. This will resort you to use other
shots and probably force you to use a different game plan. This is
what you need to stay on top of your game.
Also, plan a morning match once a week. Playing squash at the
same time tends to make you play your best game at that time.
Sometime tournament matches are early in the morning, so play a 6am
match once a week.
Consider this new regime.
Start looking for new players and different courts to play squash.
Use your regular games as reference points and start playing once a
week in the morning.
This is a great way to kick-start your squash game.
More Power to the Arm
Squash is a sport requiring
stamina. Every squash player realizes this fact as soon as
rallies get a bit longer. Many top players train outside the court.
Some of them run. Others swim.
But, did you know that the top players realize one thing before
starting to train outside the squash court. They realize that there
are two types of stamina in squash.
fitness is described above. But, striking the ball with
consistency is by far much more crucial. And the pros know this.
What I mean is that your arm needs the strength and endurance
to hit the ball continuously for an hour with good control. If this
is unattainable as of yet, donít waste your time training outside
the court until your arm can endure an hour of hard hitting. The
pros know that without ball control Ė youíre dead on the tour
no matter how fit you are!
Have you noticed how much work your arm does as compared to your
legs? If your arm goes, your legs can help you retrieve a bit longer
before losing. If your legs go, your arm can still hit winners
because you donít need to run for every single shot. But you do need
to hit every single shot with your arm.
So practice hitting the ball as hard as possible without
injuring yourself and see how long you can do it. Keep in mind that
youíre not just blindly hitting the ball hard. Try to control a
twenty shot drive drill and then crosscourt to the other side for
another twenty shot drive drill. Keep the ball moving at a high
rate. Hit boasts, crosscourts and drives and go for the nick. Watch
Have you ever really watched the ball for an hour without
interruption. Itís not easy until you try it. Feel the lactic acid
build up in your arm.
Before you know it, youíll sense an improvement in your endurance
and in your ability to concentrate on watching the ball. Time
yourself! Lengthen every practice session by five minutes until
youíre able to hit relatively hard for a solid hour without let up.
After youíve achieved this, do what the pros do. Start
training outside the court.
Keep your BALANCE ...
What will make you faster and increase your winners instantly?
What is the one thing that keeps your concentration focused and
keeps your opponent from attacking? What do the best squash players
all in one unique way of playing.
Start playing squash by keeping your BALANCE at all times.
Run balanced! Never run into walls! Try to feel your weight balanced
under each step and when you slow to strike, keep your balance!
Strike the ball from the beginning of your stroke to the end of your
stroke without losing your balance!
Hover on the T in a crouched
balanced position. From here on in focus on how well you're able to
stay balanced throughout rallies.
where and when your balance is lost. Is it on drops? Is it on serve
returns? Or is it in the back corners? When you twist do you lose
Note every spot on the court you seem to lose your balance and start
remedying each one. Before you know it, you'll increase your speed
and shooting ability just because you paid attention to how well
you're able to stay BALANCED.
Phases of Improvement
where do you stand ...
improves at different rates, and everyone ends up at different
levels. Furthermore, a high standard player today will undoubtedly
become a lower standard player tomorrow.
No matter where you are in squash, either on the rise or on the fall
of your game, you will develop one thing - and that's "experience".
An experienced squash player passes through three phases.
The first phase of an experienced squash player is learning to
keep the ball in play. Retrieving is good. Stroking is good.
Even movement is good. But, everything is done at one standard pace
youíve chosen that best suits your game plan. This is fine. Everyone
usually says youíre steady and that you're consistent.
The second phase of an experienced squash player is learning to stay
consistent with all the qualities above yet also having the
ability to mix the pace. A player can now speed the rally up and
slow it down with the effective use of drops and lobs and boasts.
This is great. Everyone usually says youíre tough to beat.
The third phase of an experienced squash player is a zone only a few
can really enter. In this phase the squash player has all the
characteristics above with an uncanny intuitive ability to fake.
This player draws you in for a drive and hits a boast. He or she can
wind up and appear to crush a shot then at the last second changes
it into a crosscourt drop.
Where do you stand?
Time to Power Up ...
time to power up. The key to hitting harder is efficient use of the
wrist. Keep the grip on your racquet as thin as possible to
give your wrist the flexibility it needs in hard shots.
Keep your elbow in and snap your wrist when the ball is rising.
If you start striking the ball on the rise rather than the peak of
the bounce, you will snap your wrist faster.
Remember to tighten your grip at the point of impact and not
A hard shot has a uniquely solid feel to it.
It's called the sweet spot. Find it.
Watch the Ball
but how ...
All professionals say "watch the ball". But, did you know
that there is a certain way of watching the ball.
During a rally your opponent will be either in front, behind, or
parallel to you. There is only one way to watch in each of these
your opponent is in front of you, it is easy to see where and
when your opponent is going to hit the ball.
The secret is to stay as close to your opponent as possible, without
crowding, as he or she is striking the ball. This adds mental
pressure to your opponent because by doing this your opponent knows
you're ready, especially for a drop.
If your opponent is in front, remember the drop is the most likely
shot to be executed. And this means trouble. So get close to your
opponent when he or she is in front of you.
your opponent is next to you or behind you, try not to look
directly at the ball. Use your peripheral vision.
The reason to do this is that it may be physically impossible to
follow a fast crosscourt and turn your head at the same time. Use
your eyeballs instead of your head and neck.
A good reference point is the serve line that runs across the court.
Follow the ball with your eye to this line and then lock your eye at
the serve line area and let your peripheral vision track the ball to
your opponent's racquet.
The only exception is if you've hit a high length shot that comes
off high on the backwall. In this instance you need to watch your
opponent closely. Just make sure you're watching from the front
while on the "T".
Concentrate on the return ...
The point starts with a serve;
it continues into a rally for position; and then either you or your
opponent finishes the point with a winner or a mistake.
Let's discuss how you should start a point.
point starts with a serve. This makes the serve important, but many
squash players focus on the wrong aspect of the serve. I have seen
players try to get their serves tighter and tighter.
But, you should know that developing an ace serve is a waste of
time. A good serve should be hit close to the walls to restrict
your opponent's swing. That is all.
Nowhere will you find that you need to develop a service ace.
You should concentrate more on your opponent's return. You
need to differentiate a straight return from a crosscourt or a drop.
What I'm getting at, is that in squash serves don't count as much as
reading your opponent's return of serve and the way you prepare for
best way to prepare for a service return is to get in the crouch
position. Get ready to pounce on the ball.
Make sure your opponent sees this. It'll add mental pressure to his
or her return.
Mental pressure works best when your opponent sees you hovering
on the "T" in the crouch position right after a tight serve.
Smooth Movement ...
where are your feet ?
movement in a squash court in essential for winning squash. Keep
in mind that not only is the correct foot needed, but how you take
that crucial step.
Everyone should know a forehand shot is played off the left foot and
a backhand shot off the right foot. But, did you know that most
players place their feet incorrectly.
What does that mean?
Let's say your opponent hits a crosscourt from the right-hand serve
box area to the left-hand serve box area. You anticipate the shot
and move towards the ball, striking a backhand off your right foot.
Perfect! Is this all that's needed?
answer is no. This is because for most of us anticipation and
correct footwork is not enough to speed us up. There is an
When you twist to step towards a shot, never let your knee rise too
high off the ground. Learn to skim the surface, without
touching it, with the bottom of your shoes.
Many shots have passed me until I discovered that I didn't need to
raise my knee, but that I needed to keep my feet as close to the
ground as possible as I ran. This eliminated the 'hang time' created
by 'high stepping' to balls.
With your feet closer to the ground as you move, you'll discover
that running this way will get you less fatigued and get you to the
ball faster, especially for those hard passing shots.
Lee Beachill v David Palmer
Canary Wharf 2005