Basic training tips and strategies for D players
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Basic training tips and strategies for D players

Court time is most valuable at the D Level. It is imperative, that the bad habits are dropped, and the focus goes on 2 things ONLY. Movement and technique. More and you may confuse who you are teaching. They need to learn to keep the wrist movement minimal, to step instead of run, to raise the racket early, and STOP hitting the ball as hard as they can. Also, what D players tend to do an awful lot of is stress. They go crazy on court. Easy, easy, easy, should be words at that level, because they tend to think push, push, push.

Please use the single-yellow dot or Max Progress ball for all these drills. Some purists will insist that you should learn the hard way by using the same ball the pros use. Learning the hard way is exactly that, i.e the HARD WAY. By using a livelier ball you will learn faster and easier. You can get there either way, but why make it a long and difficult journey for no reason?

1. Stroke. Getting this right is easier than people think. It is one thing having someone feed you a ball, and for you to have the time to lift the racket to a good, high position, and then stroke the ball with a good follow-though, minimal wrist movement.. etc. It is however another thing, to be put under incredible pressure, and hit the same ball. Right now, I would suggest some solo practice for you. So, that means the following check list:

a. Check your grip. Grip the racket as if you were shaking hands with the racket. Not too high up the handle, not too low. Try to keep the racket "cocked" so that it is at a 90 degree angle to your forearm. So, what you do is grip the racket, then cock your wrist towards yourself, so that racket is pointing towards the ceiling. The reason for doing this, is that you are better prepared to get the correct racket position to take the ball properly. If the racket points towards the floor, on the other hand, then it has to travel a greater distance for you to be ready to take the ball. Remember here, the key is to cock the wrist and keep it cocked, and prepare the racket early for shots. When you play the shot, you release your 'cocked' wrist as you swing the racquet.

Let me know here what happens, and in particular, what goes wrong. Like you hit the tin too much, or you take the ball to close too yourself.

b. Relax, relax, relax.

Don't worry when you are training alone too much about letting the ball bounce twice or even 3 times. Concentrate on relaxing to take the ball. Remember, you are not wielding an axe. Stroke the ball, don't bash the ball. At D/C level, there are lots of male players, who hit the ball as hard as they can. Right ? WRONG! They never feel the ball, and adapt according to its energy. They don't know how to vary the pace in a match, which is for them, and more often than not, fatal against the intelligent player.

So stroke the ball, and keep that wrist rigid. IE DO NOT, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, snap the wrist. The reason for this is you are trying to develop your basic swing mechanics by focusing on only the forearm swing. If you try and practice the way the pros swing, there are just too many variables to control at once. Simplify the drill by eliminating the "wrist snapping" and focus on the basic swing mechanics. Later on you can add the wrist in.

Keep the wrist as stiff as a board, and use your back swing, early racket prep, and follow through to get the power in the shot. Another tip, hit the ball high off the front wall with less power to watch it die in the back corner.

One routine to relax yourself is as follows:

Play straight drives to yourself. Start at 50, and count down. With each shot you play, say to yourself in your mind a word like: "easy", or "relax". As you are counting down from 10 to 1, say the word relax more quietly to yourself with each shot. So effectively, you are hypnotizing yourself. When you get to 1, your swing should be very relaxed and fluid; and you too of course !! Careful not to let you grip become too relaxed, otherwise you will see the racket flying out of your hand, and towards the front wall !!

The focus is to relax and get rid of any forced and ungraceful movement. To keep the ball warm, hit a few hard drives in between, but remember to try and breathe while you hit, so a gentle breathe in as you prepare the racket, and then a gentle exhalation as you swing. Breathing is essential in keeping you moving during squash, particularly during a difficult game.

1 or 2 points to remember.

  • The exercise to to get you relaxed and stroking the ball smoothly.
  • It is good for your focus on your swing, enabling you to prepare the racket earlier, keep your eye on the ball, position your feet correctly.

    What C/D players think is the more winners I hit, the more points I score. Which is absolutely true when playing another D/C player. However, if they play a good C or B, then these 'winners' are retrieved, and a build up where the goal is wearing your opponent down becomes more important. Think about trying to hit winners against Peter Nicol. Chances are, he will retrieve all of them !!!

    c. Practice makes perfect. When you are a D/C player, you usefully prefer to hit forehands more than backhands. When you get past C level to B and then A, your backhand becomes you favorite side to hit on. Why? Because it is a much simpler movement than the forehand, and with repetition, i.e. hitting backhands over and over and over again, you eventually can hit them more or less where you want. The only thing that you have to do after that is practice under match conditions, so you can do it under pressure. SOLO practice, I find here is the best way to start.

    Exercise 2 :-

    Start with 45 minutes training on your own. Nothing exists outside of the court. There is just you, your racket and the ball. Hit only straight backhand drives over and over again, and punish yourself by saying, until you hit 40 consecutive backhands behind the service box, no more than a meter from the side wall, then you are not allowed to move to the next exercise. Warm up first by maybe some ghosting (moving back and forth from T to the four corners of the court without ball) , and warm the ball, and you up, by hitting the ball, then begin.

    What you are doing here is, exercising discipline over yourself, and at your level right now, you will probably be hitting backhands for at least 20 minutes until you reach the 40 (nothing personal intended). 20 minutes of repetition, means that you get used to lifting the racket early and you start hitting backhands that you cannot retrieve. Then moving on to your forehand side.

    To see the value of this, don't cock your wrist, and don't lift the racket early. You will notice you end up snapping your wrist, taking the ball too close to you etc.

    So, to summarize, warm up, start the session with straight backhand drives, aim about 1 1/2 foot above the service line, and hit 40 consecutive backhands behind the service box, no more than 1 meter from the side wall. If you miss one, then you start counting again. When and only when you can do this, then we can start talking about a partner. To make things harder in this exercise, hit different pace balls, some slow, some hard, and allow the ball to only bounce once. To make it easier, hit 20 instead of 40, and allow for them to fall in the left side of the court behind the short line, instead of behind the service box.

    With this exercise, you will not realize how quickly the time will go.

    Next article -> Squash FAQ

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