Is a Bad Gameplan Better Than No Gameplan?

Is a Bad Gameplan Better Than No Gameplan?

I believe so.

Knowing what you are going to hit a long time before you hit it, can keep your mind clear and that process of avoiding distraction can make that shot better.

Deciding what to hit moments before hitting a ball leaves you open to making crazy decisions.

Having a gameplan allows you to focus on that. It might not be the best gameplan against that particular player but that’s not the important part.

Having or developing self-control can be the difference between winning and losing.

Every now and again, pick a gameplan and use it in a match. Keep with it until the end of the match.

That last part is important. It builds mental strength.

I remember a student of mine playing a club match, she was the number 1 string and hers was the last match. She lost the first two games and we changed the gameplan to something that we thought would work.

She won the next two game, making it 2-2.

In the final break, she said she was going back to playing her way because she thought she could win. I tried to convince to stick to the gameplan.

She changed the gameplan and lost.

Maybe she would have lost even if she hadn’t changed the gameplan but I don’t believe so.

Once you have decided on a gameplan KEEP USING IT.

You might not win each match with a particular gameplan but by trying to plan each point as it happens will be worse.

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Let’s All Do The T Jump

Let’s All Do The T Jump

Let me get straight to the point.

The moment before your opponent hits the ball, you should do a little jump, with your feet slightly wider than your shoulders. This movement, gives you the “bounce” effect that means you can move faster to the ball.

In fact, it is a form of plyometrics, which is the idea of compressing the muscles in one movement to allow them to release at greater power than from a static position. That’s why plyometrics is so good for you and what is the most common plyometrics training? Yes, that’s right, skipping. Perfect for boxers and squash players.

Once your heels touch the ground, it takes more time to get moving than if you were bouncing.

The timing of the jump is crucial because if you do it too early all benefit is lost and you will probably be slower.

If you do it too late, you will be in the air when the ball is moving and by the time you land, you will be a little late.

The key is to start to jump JUST before you think the ball is about to be hit BUT don’t jump too high. You are just doing a little bounce to make sure you are ready to pounce once you know where the ball is going.

Like everything worth working for, you will need to practice until it feels comfortable.

If you can, watch some professionals matches on YouTube and focus on this aspect of their movement. Especially, Nicole David, who moves so beautifully.

Lastly, notice what happens when a player hits the ball off the back wall and the opponent at the front. He or she often waits….and waits….and waits before hitting the ball.

This waiting make it hard for you to guess the moment to jump and you often see players become static, making that much harder to get moving.

Learn To Adapt To Different Court Conditions ASAP

Learn To Adapt To Different Court Conditions ASAP

One of the great things about playing club team matches or tournaments is having to adapt to new circumstances and situations.

Obviously, the biggest of those is the opponent but also the court and surroundings are very important too.

The more often you have to adapt, the better your chances of learning to do it faster.

I’ve often heard players complain that by the time they felt comfortable on court, it was too late.

This can even more important when both players are new to a venue as in a tournament.

Getting to a new venue as early as possible helps reduce the feeling of strangeness but that’s only part of the story.

Some players are less affected by different courts than others.

I believe that one of the reasons is that they have put themselves in those sorts of situations as often as possible.

There is also the idea of actively adapting.

When you get on court, feel the walls. Do they feel hot, cold or even damp? Is there a difference between the each sidewall or parts of the frontwall? Looks for these differences during the warm up. Play a few boasts and move forward to hit a straight drive back to your opponent.

Not only will this help you physically warm up but it will also allow you to test the walls and floor.

Don’t forget the height of the court. Play a few lobs to get a feel for the lights and any obstructions.

Lastly, don’t forget the back wall. Make sure you play a few longer drives to see the bounce on the backwall.

What I am trying to explain is that every time you go on court you should be learning about your opponent AND the court.

Of course, if you are playing on courts you know very well, then this is not so important but playing on courts new to you can change the course of matches.

Again, obviously, the opponent is the biggest challenge, but do not neglect to consider the court too.

Mental Imagery Exercise 3: Warm Up

Mental Imagery Exercise 3: Warm Up

This is the third mental imagery exercise I have published.

Ideally, you would have completed the previous exercises. Not because you need to know anything from them but because it is a gradual process. Just the same as you wouldn’t start by trying to run a marathon on your first day of training. You would increase the distance slowly. It’s the same here but with a focus on details rather than distance.

Allow me to review.

Firstly, let’s quickly define what Mental Imagery is.

Mental Imagery is the action of visualizing events in your mind. The benefits include greater confidence, ability to deal with adverse situations, better control of emotions and commitment to sticking to your gameplan.

A guided exercise is where somebody, perhaps your coach, sits down with you and talks you through the event and you, the player, imagines it happening.

This is a semi-guided exercise because you will read it first and then do it on your own.

For this exercise I want you to imagine everything from the first person – that is through your own eyes.

It may sound like the science-fiction idea of learning in your sleep but it really works.

The objectives of this exercise are:
1. To encourage you to warm up properly.
2. To begin the process of becoming more aware of your physical movements and contact with the physical world.

This article is part of a series that will ultimately allow you to visualize yourself playing a tough match.

You should do this exercise at least 5 times before moving onto the next in the series.

Let’s get started. Please read the whole exercise slowly and carefully and when you are ready start begin.

———-

Find somewhere comfortable to sit or relax. Somewhere with as few distractions as possible. Somewhere not too hot or cold.

Close your eyes and take 5 deep breaths.

Image you are looking through your own eyes, not watching yourself do everything.

Now imagine yourself entering the club or centre where you play squash.

You are already changed into your playing kit and you go towards the courts.

Find an area where you can warm up. I am going to assume that you can’t use a court. If you can, use it, if not use whatever area you can.

Put your bag down and remove any excess clothing; coats, gloves etc.

Take a ball from your bag and hold it in the hand you do not use to hold the racket.

Start to jog on the spot. Begin to feel your feet touching the floor, your knees rising almost to your hips. Do this for a minute or so. Feel the ball in your hand.

Now stand with your back against a wall and take a small step forward. Bend your knees a little and twist your upper body to the left so that you left hand touches the wall behind you. Now turn to the right so that your right hand touches the wall behind you. Do this 24 times. Each time feeling your body twist and the hands touching the wall. Feel the ball in your hand.

Stand in the middle of the area. Feet hip width apart. Make a small jump and put you right leg forward and your left leg back. Almost like you were stretching for a ball. Not too much of a stretch though. Jump and switch legs; left leg forward and right leg back. Do this 12 times. Feel your feet land on the ground and the ball in your hand.

Pick up your racket. Hold it by the throat and stand facing a wall with your arm at right angles to the floor and wall. Spin your racket to the left and right. The racket should be parallel to the wall and when you are spinning it, it should not touch the wall. Do 50 spins – 25 either side. Feel the muscles in your forearm do all the work. Keep your wrist firm. Feel the ball in your other hand.

Stand in the middle of the area and do a little ghosting. If you have enough space and height, swing properly. Move from side to side, forwards and backwards.

When you finish all these exercises, stop and try to notice the sweat on your forehead. If you are not sweating, do them again. Feel it running down the side of your head.

You are now ready to get on court and stat hitting the ball.

Close your eyes in your imagination and open your real eyes.

Traffic Light System of Shot Selection

Traffic Light System of Shot Selection

I like my students to have a shot selection system that they easily understand and can be used in matches.

It’s called the traffic light system.

You have probably guessed how it works already. Each moment has three potential states: Attack (green), Choose (amber/yellow) and Defend (red).

Over various coaching and training sessions, the student begins to clearly identify the Attack and Defend situations.

The Choose situations are by far the most difficult to get right because they often depend on more elements and minor elements than the other two.

For example, if your opponent plays a weak shot and you are in good position, then that is a potential Attack shot.

Whether you decide to attack or not is another matter but identifying the Attack position is easy.

Same goes for the Defend shot. If you are under pressure and need time then it is clearly a Defend shot.

Now imagine that the ball is a couple of ball widths away from the wall, it’s not moving too quickly and you are on the T. What is this? Different levels of players call it different things.

In fact, the less-able players often call it Attack more than the better players, which is incredibly interesting.

The use of the exact words of Attack, Choose and Defend is also open to a lot of interpretation.

There is also the point that the majority of drives down the wall are actually Attack shots disguised as Defend. You have little chance of losing the point directly from these shots but you might also be fortunate and get a weak return.

In essence, the higher the level the more polarized the shots come: they are either Attack or Defend.

No Matter What Your Starting Age or Level, Always Get Coaching.

No Matter What Your starting Age or Level Always Get Coaching.

I was never a great player. I could explain that I didn’t start until I was 17 years old and it was too late by then but the reality was I didn’t have a coach.

For the year or so I did have one, I made huge gains, in fitness, technical proficiency and tactical awareness.

The mistake is to think that you are too old or have too many bad habits to be able to benefit from having a coach.

It’s not true.

Yes, the younger you start getting coaching, the better, but just because you can’t become world champion doesn’t mean you should try to improve or try new sports. You play sport because it is good for your mind and body.

I recognize that receiving coaching is not cheap but if you find the right coach for you, the money you do invest will be worth it.

“Invest” is exactly the word to use here because the benefit comes in the future.

Also, don’t think that your coach will want to change everything about your game and make you go back to basics. Everybody can improve by making small changes.

Tell the coach exactly what you are hoping for out of the sessions and assess whether you have achieved your objectives after a few sessions.

If you have, great, keep going, if not, then look elsewhere.

Don’t expect immediate success, although it is possible to immediately improve, it depends on what you are working on.

Realize that finding the right coach for YOU is much more important than who the coach is.

Just because a coach used to be a great player, doesn’t mean he or she is the best coach for you.

Just because a coach has been coaching for many years, doesn’t mean he or she is the best coach for you.

The best coach is the one that listens to you and works WITH you. You might need to try a few coaches until you find the right one.

Good luck.

Is a Bad Gameplan Better Than No Gameplan?

Is a Bad Gameplan Better Than No Gameplan?

I believe so.

Knowing what you are going to hit a long time before you hit it, can keep your mind clear and that process of avoiding distraction can make that shot better.

Deciding what to hit moments before hitting a ball leaves you open to making crazy decisions.

Having a gameplan allows you to focus on that. It might not be the best gameplan against that particular player but that’s not the important part.

Having or developing self-control can be the difference between winning and losing.

Every now and again, pick a gameplan and use it in a match. Keep with it until the end of the match.

That last part is important.

I remember a student of mine playing a club match, she was the number 1 string and hers was the last match. She lost the first two games and we changed the gameplan to something that we thought would work.

She won the next two game, making it 2-2.

In the final break, she said she was going back to playing her way because she thought she could win. I tried to convince to stick to the gameplan.

She changed the gameplan and lost.

Maybe she would have lost even if she hadn’t changed the gameplan but I don’t believe so.

Once you have decided on a gameplan KEEP USING IT.

You might not win each match with a particular gameplan but by trying to plan each point as it happens will be worse.