Simplify the game. So much easier said than done. I admire most those squash minds who have the ability to take the complexity of the squash game and simplify it to a pure and simple explanation. I sort of stumbled across this great little article by Barb Cooper entitled, "10 Winning Tips for Improving Your Squash Game”. She sells it for $7.00 USD dollars online. It is money well spent. There are so many “tips” in here that are such a great tenfold return on your $7.00 investment. Many of the tips we’ve heard before, but she writes about them in such a way that is just simple and direct.
As I’ve become an older player, I recognize the need to work on my mental part of the game. I only wish I had done this twenty years ago! But better late than never. I was drawn her article because if is written by a squash professional who has devoted her life to improving the game of others, with special emphasis on the “mental” aspects of them game. Barb Cooper’s squash resume along with 40 years coaching experience at the highest level might be impressive enough, but most of us have seen a lot of pompous, inflated, albeit well-intentioned professionals come onto to the US scene in recent years, that really lack the simple, straightforward approach to the game. Because you were a professional player from overseas doesn’t mean you are now “slumming” in the US and bringing squash religion to infidels. I can name a few very arrogant examples of this but will not open this up to that. I’d prefer to champion those less self-serving but who want to improve the game of others at any level.
Barb Cooper starts off her article with top 5 mental tips, okay, we’ve heard this before: “learn to relax”, if only I could. But what makes this so interesting is she offers up this observation, which I’ve never thought about. You are who you are on court as well as off court….how true is that? She sites some personality examples. And then proceeds to provide an exercise on how to relax off court first (this is so intelligent, do what you need to do off court first) and then work it into on the court. Breathing, how to breathe and relax between points. Start off by at night when you lay down for a night’s sleep to breathe and relax, I am trying that, since it takes forever for myself to unwind – but that is funny, because on court it takes me quite a bit to unwind and relax. Breathe deeply in through your nose and exhale out through your mouth. Practical and simple…yet this technique works and she doesn’t simply say breathe deeply, she tells you how to breathe. This I love as well. She sites an example or case in point of how critical it is between points to breathe, relax and clear your mind. She will tell you the most critical time is after you’ve lost a point and are returning your opponent’s serve.
Another really important piece of advise is she seems to clear up this annoying controversy. She will tell you to play players worse than yourself. I’ve most often heard you get better playing better players, but what she states is that with players worse than yourself you can practice breathing and relaxing techniques, shots in your game and strategy while not under the pressure of playing someone better than yourself. But she will add in that doesn’t mean lose the game of match, and when you have to win, win whatever way you know how. The other tip I really liked and one which I’ve followed for years (but have trouble getting my students to follow this) is really study the game, be a student of this game, “read and learn from others.” Of course there is always my favorite tip, when you practice leave your world behind. I am the worst offender of this, but I’m learning. Keep relationship, financial, world news out of the court. Again, this only creates stress, which leads to tightness and mistakes on the court.
Finally, the other tip I really like is her tip of building your game on quadrants. This is something Jim Masland my former coach and squash confidante, has told be for years; break the court down in quadrants, but it took her to explain what to do. Develop the shot you want to make within a single quadrant first before moving on to another shot and quadrant. This is great advise, breaking it down simple. One quadrant at a time – the easiest way to gauge your improvement. And finally, she cleared this up which often puzzled me, volley everything you can. This goes along way for me especially since I let balls go I should cut off, but -- you get a bit comfortable retrieving.
I have read so many squash books and seen so many instructional videos, I like this tip sheet a lot. There’s enough for a book here, especially if Ms. Cooper goes into all the ghastly details of actually implementing these improvements. I strongly encourage anyone wanting to improve their squash game to spend the money and download it…it’s well worth the read.
See her website: http:/www.racketdrills.com for how to purchase this guide.