Ron Beck, WPSA Certified Coach
Boston December 1999 © 2004
an adult beginner? A junior? A parent looking for a coach for your
child? Or a long time player looking to improve? This article is
for all of you!
of squash benefits from the strong cadre of squash coaches, or the
"teaching professional." Relative to the size of the sport,
there are a large group of well-trained, motivated, hard working
teaching professionals. As a group, squash coaches know the game
well, know the fundamentals, and are dedicated and motivated to
|Find a good coach, and make
the best possible use of your coaching sessions.
Photo © 2004 Ron Beck
As a group,
squash coaches are MISUSED by the typical squash player, who is
getting far from the most that he or she can or should from a squash
coach. This article provides a set of guidelines that will help
you seek out a pro, work with a pro to design a program for improvement,
and then work further on your own.
on a squash coach
you select a coach? It comes down to common sense: Ask other players,
ask other pros, and watch the coach you are planning to use give
other lessons. Then ask the coach for a lesson, and ask him what
his approach is to helping you improve your game. You are looking
for these characteristics that will make up the ideal coach for
a strong knowledge of the fundamentals: How can you tell? Look
at the way his students play.
enthusiastistic: she in interested in you as a player who can
improve, and you observe that she is energetic and enthusiastic
reliable and regular: he has a regular schedule of training and
has the time available to give you a regular series of lessons.
experience: she plays with an orthodox style and has reached a
reasonably high level in her own playing.
a track record: you can speak to other players that he has coached
on a regular basis, and get a recommendation from them.
these common-sense basic, you want to seek out a coach particularly
suited to help you with the weak points in your game. Some coaches
will be terrific at the basics, footwork, how to move the racquet,
and shot selection. Some will be ideal to teach deception and touch.
Yet another will be able to help you with the mental aspects of
competing at squash.
|Have a game plan for your lesson.
Photo © 2004 Ron Beck
first mistake the vast majority of squash players taking lessons
make, is to walk into his or her lesson unprepared. How should you
prepare for your lesson or training session? (1) arrive with time
to spare before your lesson -- ideally 1/2 hour or more. (2) stretch
and loosen up your muscles before your lesson. While you are stretching
is an ideal time to also mentally prepare for your lesson. Think
about what you want to accomplish on court with your coach. Focus
yourself. (3) have a game plan for your lesson -- don't depend on
the coach to manage the entire lesson for you. Be prepared to discuss
with your coach what area(s) of your game you want to work on. Be
prepared to put out your best effort for the entire training period.
The second mistake is to use your training session as a simple exercise
period or your daily game. Your goal should be to use the lesson
to learn what you are doing wrong, and get instruction in how to
improve your playing. For exercise or a competitive game, get an
opponent to play with regularly. You will frustrate your coach if
you expect him to come on court and be your sparring partner.
get the most out of your session, be in a listening mode.
to make mistakes. You are going to make them and your coach is going
to correct them.
Some of the things he/she is going to ask you to do may seem unnatural.
But you are going to have to trust the coach in order to unlearn
your bad habits and learn better ones.
end of your lesson,get a homework assignment
from your coach. Ask him to give you some things to work on during
the next week to two weeks. This can be drills to do on your own
on the court. Or they can be aspects of your game to concentrate
on in your squash games over the next few weeks.
|Get a homework assignment.
Photo © 2004 Ron Beck
to get an organized set of actions to concentrate on that build
on the lesson you have just completed. The lessons should be used
as a springboard for you to work on your game independently. Don't
expect to go from lesson to lesson and steadily improve, without
working on your skills, your movement, and your tactics in the meantime.
on what you have learned, on your own
you have completed a lesson and learned something, and gotten homework
from the coach, you need to work on your own to reinforce these
learnings. Only you can do the work to improve your game! Your coach
can't do it for you. The coach can instruct you -- but it is you
who need to implement it. How can you best do that? There are three
simple ways to best do that:
15 to 30 minutes alone on the court. The minute you get on the
court with an opponent, you are preventing yourself from implementing
the ideas the coach has given you. You need uninterrupted time
along to practice the strokes, footwork, and patterns that the
coach has taught you. Wean yourself from your bad habits without
any distractions. Alone on court, you can work on grooving your
shots, learning the footwork patterns. Read Hashim Khan's book!
He learned to play by playing, "Hashim against Hashim."
playing your daily practice game, discipline yourself to work
on one or two patterns or tactics you want to improve at. Yes,
your competitive juices are flowing and you just want to win the
next game! All the more reason to get some mental discipline.
Stop trying to simply win every practice game. Start trying to
achieve tactical or shotmaking objectives in pratice - win or
feedback from your sparring partner. You can't see yourself play.
When you are finished for the day, ask your opponent about your
game. Get him or her to give you some advice and analysis about
your play that day --- give the same feedback back in return.
You will learn a lot by asking!
between training sessions
too many lessons (or too few). To get the best benefit from a coach,
you should be scheduling lessons approximately once a week. In betweeen
lessons, you should play four to five times, and spend an equal number
of sessions on court alone, working on the things you learned in your
you stick with one coach?
all your lessons come from one coach? There are two schools of thoughts
on this. In general, you are best off sticking with one coach for
most of your instruction and training. Each coach has a different
style and approach. If you mix styles, both in terms of the fundamentals
as well as with regard to tactics, you will simply confuse yourself.
|An occasional session with a
great player, such as Sarah Fitz-Gerald can have a great aspirational
impact on your game.
Photo © 2004 Fritz Borchert
If you are a junior,
there is another consideration. A coach is investing a lot of his
time and energy to help you improve your game. He may be investing
extra time to give you good advice and coaching when you play in
matches and tournaments. You need to invest the same trust in your
coach that he is investing in you: Stick with him to provide you
with a consistent coaching program and if you feel that you need
supplemental coaching for some aspects of your squash game, discuss
it with your main coach and agree on a program.
On the other hand,
as I described earlier, different coaches offer different areas
of strength. If you really need help with your touch game or your
mental toughness, you may need to seek out the right coach to train
you in those skills.
really all up to you
It's great to get
good coaching. Most squash coaches are highly qualified and motivated
to help you improve. In the final analysis, its all up to you, though.
Your coach can give you ideas and show you what you need to do. It
is YOU, though, who needs to invest the time, effort, motivation,
and determination, to improve your game.
It takes courage to improve your game! You have inevitably gotten
yourself into patterns of bad habits. You must have the inner strength
to decide to break down your game --- to remove your bad patterns
--- and to then rebuild those parts of your game with better techniques
and better habits.
The reward will be there for you though! You will start to play
better, to feel more confident, and to win games that only a few
months earlier you had been losing.