Preparation for every shot you play is driven by 4 principles which drive your squash basics.
The difference between drilling the right kind of preparation into your auto-pilot play rather than just treating them as general ideas, is like night and day.
It’s the difference between controlling a rally and making unforced errors.
The 4 basic principles are:
- Getting Into Position
- Getting Your Racquet Up
- Bending Your Knees
- Watching The Ball
While they are simple enough they are often neglected to some degree by most squash players, so let’s explore them a bit more.
Squash Basics #1: Getting Into Position
Watching your opponent is vital.
One thing people miss who don’t play squash is how late professional players hit the ball. It’s all about trying to create indecision in the mind of their opponent. The longer they have to wait, the more difficult it will be to get into a position to play an effective shot.
What you can take from this is to always watch your opponent play the ball. Look for minute changes in their body position or backswing, just to name a couple, that might hint what shot they are going to play.
This will give you more time to move to where you think the ball is going. And once the ball starts to move there, follow its flight through the air the whole way so you can detect how it’s going to land and where exactly.
Taking a direct line to this (guesstimated) point will help you maintain fast footwork so you can play the best shot for the moment at hand.
Squash Basics #2: Getting Your Racquet Up
If you see any junior player who is just starting out with a decent coach, they are holding their racquet up in somewhat of an exaggerated fashion when waiting to return a serve.
But it’s not just for juniors.
You can see an example of this exaggeration in the current World #9 from Spain, Borja Golan – namely, when he returns serve on the backhand.
There are 2 points about this kind of racquet preparation:
- Don’t place your racquet at the imagined contact point as if lining up the shot, as many beginners do – keep the racquet head roughly at head height then bring it straight back;
- Getting your racquet up should happen as you are moving to the ball, rather than before you even start to move, like two separate movements.
While standing at the “T” you should be keeping your racquet in front of you, ready to move to either side. Your whole game will feel less rushed.
Squash Basics #3: Bending Your Knees
No squash shot is ever played with straight legs. It might seem obvious but, more often than not, players fail to get down to the level of the ball.
They might as well be keeping their legs straight because they’re essentially ignoring the repercussions of what it means to fully bend your knees when hitting more difficult shots, like up the front of the court or off the back wall.
If you don’t get ‘down to the ball’, the result is often that you’ll hit the tin.
To start to train this more, take a warm-up style situation.
Instead of just standing in the same place after you hit the ball, step back a little closer to the centerline so that when the ball comes to you again, you give yourself enough space to step in and bend your knees while striking the ball.
Tell yourself after you’ve hit the ball: “Back to center.”
It’s the same thing with your solo-training. The beauty of having someone else feed you the ball, like a decent coach, is it just gives you that little extra bit of time to get into position and actually laser-focus on your squash basics.
The other side of the challenge is the lack of physical stability in putting your body in a low position, resting most or all of your weight on one leg… and still having control. This is just an inability to hinge at the hip that can be improved upon quite simply.
Squash Basics #4: Watching The Ball Like Forrest Gump
If you’ve seen the film, Forrest Gump, you might remember when Forrest is in the military hospital after taking the ‘million-dollar shot’ in the butt.
One of the other soldiers recuperating in the ward is playing table tennis. Eventually Forrest is invited to give it a try. The soldier’s first and only instruction is:
“The most important thing, Gump, is to..
always… keep your… eye… on… the ball.”
He says it kind of slowly, as if talking to a small child, probably because Forrest was a bit of a simpleton. Forrest’s eyes become glued to the ball, as this soldier moves it back and forth in front of his face.
Forrest is a natural and goes on to represent the United States, not to mention capturing peoples’ attention away from watching the first moon landing live on television, as he hits multiple balls to himself at the same time!
Table tennis, squash – it’s exactly the same.
The point is that the instruction to always keep your eye on the ball, more often than not, has to be repeated over and over to become ingrained into a player’s game because it’s so easy to become complacent.
Any player can overcome this complacency with the secret tip from “The Doctor”.
Wrapping Your Squash Basics Up…
The more you consciously train these squash basics the more they are being ingrained into your sub-conscious so you don’t have to think about the minute details that make up your shots, while you’re playing those shots in a match situation.
Squash is such a fast game, you want to be able to react to where your opponent is on the court, identifying his/her weaknesses and be able to adjust your shots, mid-rally, rather than the basic stuff that avoids unforced errors.
And it starts with preparation.
Yet, most casual players gloss over these 4 principles as not being that much of a big deal. Even some professionals get caught out sometimes.
If you’ve been playing for quite a while, maybe you can’t get a particular shot right, or maybe a shed of doubt has crept into your swing – remind yourself of these 4 basic principles, go back to squash basics, and you’ll see positive results.
Have fun & play your own game!
Mick enjoys showing squash players simple, effective exercises to feel stronger, faster and more durable on court to help them play better & win more matches.
He was ranked #2 in Australian juniors and has spent over 20 years training in various martial arts so his background provides a fresh, unique perspective.
You can find his core programs at…