Turning the game upside-down and back to-front: a new look at priorities in the game

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In the sequence above (L-R), notice not only Nick Matthew’s selection of shot (which you can figure out by looking at where James Willstrop plays the ball at far right), but also how Matthew moves off the shot back into a strong position on the court.

By Richard Millman, Owner- The Squash Doctor Corporation

Over the past few years that I have been writing this column I have had the honor and privilege of meeting many of you who read it and who make the dubious claim that they both enjoy and find the thoughts herein both stimulating and useful.

At the risk of pushing the boundaries of your kind words of support, this month I am going to ask you to really pause and think carefully about your understanding of the game of Squash (the international version of the game). I want you to think about the pair of statements I am about to make and all of their ramifications. Here they are:

Squash is a game of movement for position, facilitated by shots.

Squash is not a game of shots, facilitated by movement.

I don’t know whether you personally find these statements shocking, obvious, confusing or not of any great consequence. Whatever your response, I feel that they are monumentally important and I am going to ask you to consider them again:

Squash is a game of movement for position, facilitated by shots.

Squash is not a game of shots, facilitated by movement.

What then does this mean to Squash players? Well it means many things.

First and foremost it means that your first priority shouldn’t be how you hit the ball but rather how you are going to move.

How are you going make sure that you can be in position, waiting for your opponent to play the next shot in the rally, a long time before they actually strike the ball?

As you consider that, you will discover that the logical sequence of events will dictate the mechanics of your behavior.

How are you going to use your choice of shot to facilitate your position?

If movement/position is your first priority— which muscle systems do you use for movement (hint: it’s not your arms!)

If movement is your first priority and the purpose of a shot is to facilitate your position, how can you take position faster/ earlier and more offensively?

If you use your legs first and your arms secondarily, how does this facilitate the transference of weight and energy into the ball, while at the same time facilitating your movement/position?

Is this all a little too much to consider? If not then you should start using this thought process in your drill sessions. When you and your partner do drop/drive, really work on moving back from the ball as you strike your drive. Make sure that the rhythm/speed of your swing and the rhythm/speed of your movement are in harmony. If you swing your racquet at a faster rhythm than your body movement, the racquet will leave your body behind and the energy wave from your legs, up through your body, along your arm, through the racquet head and into the ball will be broken and no power/weight will be transferred. Surprisingly a slower swing speed will deliver more weight and power than a faster one that is not united with body movement.

Still confused? Imagine you are in the locker room after a game of soccer as a kid. One of your buddies approaches you with a slightly damp towel. Dancing away from you with his/ her legs almost in the same motion, your buddy flicks the end of the towel towards your lower leg/calf. You remember that pain? That was weight transference produced by an energy wave that started in his or her legs and rapidly flowed through their upper body, along their arm into the towel and then, sharply into your lower leg! As you will remember, even though the coward was dancing away from you, his or her head was still lowered in your direction as they moved away so that their balance and weight was toward you—focusing the whiplash pain in your direction. If they had leaned away the energy wave would have been directed in reverse—away from you, and the end of the towel would have been relatively weak.

So back to Squash. Next time you see Nick Matthew or Ramy Ashour move off of a shot as they hit it, don’t think: ‘Wow! He hit a great shot and (as an afterthought ) he also moved off into position.’ No think to yourself, ‘Wow! Look how he used that shot to get into position.’

A Squash player’s first priority is to get into position. Shots are important. But they are secondary.

Movement (into position) is a Squash player’s primary focus and should dictate all other thoughts and behaviors.

So get moving! Remember it’s first move then hit—not the other way round.