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Liz Irving Part 3
"For a coach, Nicol is a dream come true..." Liz Irving

Part ONE  |  Part TWO  |  Part THREE  |  Part FOUR



Well, basically, Nicol wouldn’t be where she is – and here – without the support of Malaysia.

She had opportunities, she’s been really lucky with getting those opportunities from a very young age, she’s been groomed to be destined to have greatness in sport.

I mean, she's had mental skills sports psychology since the age of 12, come on!

She’s had Ronald Fauvel [Canadian Physio working for the Malaysian Federation] who really taught her a lot about her body and how to work with it. She is very aware of that, and that’s from a young age.

And of course the funding, that’s from junior days, she’s been funded and been given opportunities, and that makes such a difference. It’s just one pressure less to deal with. And really, Malaysians are the best funded players in the world I believe: she is the result of fantastic funding a2013posters/Ronald.pdfnd support.

Because with that, you can get the best people in and do it properly, and travel, and not be worried about how you are going to pay for your dinner or having to coach part time. And also, having great recovery work done with massage, physios, all of that is just… so important.

Ronald, Nicol, Liz and Nicol's Parents


Sean Sturgess is an Australian who runs the Sport Science Division in KL, and it’s part of Nicol’s funding as well, and what he supplies is a periodising schedule and works very closely with us. Everything Nicol does is periodised.

Every session is measured. What he does is that he breaks it into three cycles: so when it’s getting closer to the tournament, we know which cycle it’s going to be in, and then he puts the quality of the session in.

Basically, he tells you what the session is, like for example, endurance, track work, each exercise is registered, court sprints, how to do it. This is how a week is set up, and that’s working around the squash program.

So there is no overtraining, everything is monitored, actually, it’s fully monitored. So for example, this morning we had a light technical session, a bit of movement, then she had to do her court sprints, then some extra stuff at the end of the training, hard stuff.

This afternoon, she is doing squash technical work, some light drills with Sarah [Cardwell], she’s just done a pretty hard session this morning.

Tomorrow morning, she’s doing a hard drill session tomorrow morning, then she’s got some gym. Then on Wednesday, she’s got a match, then a bit of athletic work, then full rest on Thursday, only some light technical work, so she is recovering, etc.

Each week is changing as a result of the periodisation of it. And that works in with my program, which means that I can monitor everything as well.

So I can see if all of a sudden she is looking a little bit tired, I can see what’s she’s done in the morning, or a heavy session, I can always say, listen, I think you’d better have a rest, or we’ll do half a session.

Chris Walker, Nicol, Asling Blake, Liz, Lauren Briggs, Vicky Cardwell

"For a coach,
Nicol is a dream come true..."

Liz Irving

Describe Nicol
in 3 words:

Relentless in everything she does.
Very loyal


When Nicol joined my Academy training group, you could see she just wanting to learn… It was all about her wanting information, wanting to learn, wanting to excel and pushing herself. She was so quick when she was younger on the court, so quick, and as a junior, she could get by on that, but if she wanted to make her mark on senior squash, there was no way she could have lasted and played like that, it’s impossible.

So I worked a lot on her movement believe it or not, to make it efficient. So we went right back to the drawing board, a lot of footwork, people don’t know those things because I don’t tell anyone normally! People always say oh but she’s always been quick! Yes, she was quick, but she did too much running around. So that was one thing, getting the movement and the footwork right.

The other part was technically, she had a lot of inadequacies with her technique, so we really had to break that down, this was a three four year process to be honest in the beginning, to really get her to the point where it was good enough and then she always has to work at it.

And then the tactical side had to be completely broken down, to change her way of thinking on the court, how to structure rallies, shot selection, timing.

There, if you think about footwork, technique, changing the way of thinking, it really was back to basics, it was about getting the basics so solid and it was before we even worked on a proper drop shot! That’s how crazy it was.

I wasn’t too worried about her short game that much in the beginning, because I thought, there is no point having a short game if you can’t do all the other important basics effectively, you need to get that solid, learning to volley, how to set that up, how to think. The short game was there when she needed it, she knew how to bring it in, of course we worked on it, but I had other priorities. To summarise, I can say that Nicol is a work in progress, still.

Now you are only dealing with trying to bring a little something different to her play, which makes a difference. We tap away different things which you don’t see in her game yet, but they’ll be coming. Because she can still improve, absolutely.

Her best qualities

Physically, it’s her speed, her off the mark speed, that’s genetic, that’s something that’s just there. However she does train hard and continues to keep all those elements strong.

Mentally, her ability to stick to a game plan. It's tremendous how she can do that. She will always get back to her game plan and she knows her strategy going into a match. Not a lot of players can do that, going straight off and try something different, but she’ll stick to the plan, and there is always a plan.

For a coach, Nicol is a dream come true...

Part ONE  |  Part TWO  |  Part THREE  |  Part FOUR

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