Use Physical Targets
I love using physical targets on court and I want you to consider using them too. For this article, I will not be going into details, just introducing the topic.
The first thing to talk about is the two types of target.
1. Those that allow you to continue the rally.
2. Those that stop the rally.
Let me give you some examples.
For the first type I often use a thin, narrow strip of plastic roll. The red and white “safety” one is my favourite. There are others but that fits the squash court colour scheme. I’ve tried to get hold of the “POLICE – DO NOT CROSS” version but it’s too expensive.
By laying this on the floor or in some cases sticking it on the wall, the rally can continue if the player hits it. For me, this is really important, especially at higher levels of ability. If players begin to think that a rally will end, just because they hit a target is bad. They will relax slightly and possibly not get the return.
This type of target also means that points can be awarded and that can add to the fun, especially if they are kept of a season of training.
The other type of target is the one that stops a rally. Essentially, this is a 3 dimensional target; a shoe, a racket, a ball, a box etc. If the ball hits this then it is normally impossible to continue. My two favourite versions of these are thin plastic pipes with insulating foam around them and a squash ball.
For my clinics, I often start the conditioned games with the thin pipes ALL along the side walls, from the tin right to the back wall. This gives players a very clear goal and even if you are a good club player it’s actually harder than you think to hit it and also confidence boosting when you do.
As the clinic day goes one, parts of the pipe are removed until these are only two short strips on each side, one for the dropshot zone and one for a great length.
The squash ball target is used for solo practice as hitting drives along the wall and being accurate is not too difficult for better club players.
To finish, I want to address potential drawbacks of targets.
Firstly, some coaches feel that by using targets you focus on the wrong aspect of the action: the consequences rather than the process.
I generally don’t use targets until I feel the student has a consistent technique. I don’t want them changing the technique early on,simply to be able to hit the targets. I prefer to work long-term.
Secondly, it is felt that by recording target hits you create unrealistic objectives. It is true that you will not be able to consistently improve the number of hits and you will have days when you can’t seem to hit anything. My counter argument is that as long as not too much pressure or importance is put on the records, there is no harm done.
Use targets to focus your attention on the location of your shots.
Start big and work your way to smaller.
A physical target is better than just a bit of coloured tape on the floor, but tape is better than nothing.
Be inventive. Try small balloons for serve targets!