Thursday, 30 September 2010

Summer Hiatus

Too much other sport and holiday means this summer has been a fairly dry period in my fledgeling squash career. With the focus of my efforts, a brotherly squash duel, closing in rapidly it's time to start stepping up my game. I am in the process of starting up some kind of league or ladder between my friends. This should not only help push me into playing more games but also add another level of pressure to these games hopefully simulating the feel of the big game. The only stumbling blocks I have so far are, finding enough similar level active players nearby and working out a suitable format for competition.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Doing things properly

After several months of learning from what I've read on the internet and trying to watch good players I've finally done the decent thing and signed up for some lessons. Having wisely chosen the improver's group not beginners I was pleased to find I was by no means the worst out of the three guys and two girls in the class. Especially as I'd signed up a week late so was starting on the back foot as it were. Initial impressions from the lesson were a bit strange as the last time I'd had any real basic instruction in any sport other than sailing was quite early on in school. Also my view of coaching in sailing has always been from a higher level of competence so the school mistress style of learning was a bit of a surprise. In hindsight the few one to one tips I received on my stroke and the general insight gained from the whole lesson were way more useful than ten games with a slightly better player.

The two or three good tips I have taken from the first lesson have given me plenty to go and practice by myself and lead to a better line of questioning planned for the next lesson in order to get the most out of the coach. I am also planning to look for some one to one coaching after the course is over.

Thursday, 7 January 2010


Being snowed in has its advantages as I got to play for two hours at a nearby school who's pupils were enjoying the same weather perks as me yesterday. During this relative marathon on the court I became aware of an annoying habit of my opponent of deliberately hitting shots to a place where I'd be obstructed in getting to the ball by his rather large frame. Every time I called for a let he'd say I could have chosen another route to the ball and should shut up. As well as this he also hit quite a few shots where I didn't see the ball at all between leaving his racket and going out of play.

I thought about this during a break from the game and realised that I was purposefully moving after each shot when I thought I was obstructing my opponent's route to the ball. As an experiment for one game I made a point of either holding my ground or moving to the T with a wide low stance and hitting the ball so as to be in the way as much as possible without actually impeding a shot. This aggressive tactic quickly became annoying and probably would have ended in a fight if taken to extremes but I didn't think I was doing much different that what was being done to me.

Obviously there is some compromise to be found here as there isn't enough room on the court to avoid the odd bit of argey-bargey but is using your body as a blocking device to the next shot a fair tactic? The rule in question here, rule 12, says that a player is entitled to "unobstructed direct access to the ball" on his shot. Does this include moving around the court or is it just on the shot? Also is the player who just hit the ball obliged to move in order to give his opponent "clear view of the ball"? I don't like petty squabbles over let calls every other point in what should be friendly games but I'd like to know where I stand, so to speak.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Seven Days of Squash

Well not quite as I didn't play on Thursday but with two separate games on Sunday that does add up to seven games in seven days. This is the sort of regime that I need to make common place if I'm going to see any kind of rapid improvement in my game although I suspect that a higher proportion of the week needs to be set aside for solo practice drills etc. Match play at this stage of the program does have some benefits though. Playing against a range of opponents has given me a better indication of the level I'm at, taught me more about the rules and practice of interference and given me a massive buzz for the game. Last night I must have played several hundred wall hugging forehand drives in my mind trying to sleep.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Dancing with myself

Last night I was forced to do something I had been secretly keen to do ever since I have started my quest for squash mastery, play by myself. A solo training session appeals to me because it gives you the chance to practice the same shots over and over again effectively making twice as many strokes as you would with an opponent. The only thing that had been holding me back is my local sports centre's insistence on have two membership ID's in order to make a booking and the feeling of looking a twat for playing squash with no mates. My hand was forced when having booked a court quite early in the evening none of my usual partners were able to make it. I only found this out once I was already changed and psyched for squash.

With my mind set on endless rail shots and not much else I turned up at the court to see wise looking old man on the court before me with exactly the same idea although slightly more imagination. His single handed drill varied from the repetitive down the wall shots on as he did what is probably very basic to most players but a revelation to me, playing alternately of the front wall then side wall. He could stand on the T and play forehand then back hand one after another without moving his feet. Once he had refused the offer of a two player knock around I had the court to myself and tried to emulate this mighty sage. Funnily enough at first I found this simple pattern almost impossible to keep up for more than two shots. My ineptitude served to give me a great run around but once off the T it was hard to get back into the rhythm. By the end of the session I was able to stand almost still and play about ten shots that all came neatly back to me with the key being accurate placement on the front wall.

Whilst I haven't quite beaten my fear of looking a billy-no-mates during these solo sessions it's certainly something I'm going to try and fit in more often. if anyone has any suggestions for other good one player exercises I'd be interested to hear?

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Getting Started

So my initial to-do list might be somewhat incomplete as I haven't managed to tick off the first item yet by shelling out for a new racket (still borrowing my brother's). Points two and three have been taken care of a lot better as I've done quite a lot of surreptitious squash research by copying interesting pages into a draft email to give the impression that I'm working. Time on the court has been achieved managed three sessions with two different partners.

Internet squash study has been quite fruitful with plenty of descriptions and videos talking about the basics such as proper grip and understanding the rules etc. I get the feeling I have only really scratched the surface of the vast knowledge bank that lies scattered on servers around the world waiting to be unearthed but so far the few pages I have looked at have given me way more pointers than I can keep in my head during any one session on the court.

For example after my second session having been run ragged by a slightly better and much fitter player (who I'm sure miscounted the score in his own favour several times) I cam up with list of three things I should work on next time.

1) Pay more early volleys and win the front of the T.

2) Make drop shots more aggressive i.e. better.

3) Improve down the wall shots especially movement in a wall based rally.
All good intentions to follow a structured list that I can research

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Mission Statement

This blog has come about through a drunken bet with my brother in a bar whereby we shook hands over a decent sum of money based on the result of one game of squash a year from that date. So I have until 11/11/10 to learn to play squash to quite a high level or shell out £110 which is nearly a tenth of my monthly income). My brother is by no means a top player and has never played in an organised league but I'm judging his level based on the fact that he can beat everyone I know and has played a lot for nearly ten years.

My theory is that with dedicated and intelligent training any reasonably capable person should be able to reach a high standard in sport. The law of diminishing returns means that it would take an early start and many years to reach the top but I should be able to dash up the steepest part of the learning curve quite quickly. Writing a blog about my progress will help me to document my training and also hopefully draw advice from squash enthusiasts. So any comments are more than welcome.

More on my progress in this challenge of pride in the following weeks.

First steps:

1) Buy squash racket

2) Read squash websites
3) Play lots of squash