Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Squash Professional

It's important to distinguish the different kinds of squash professionals in the field in order to make the right decision about the type of coaching needed.

Squash Professional versus Teaching Professional

I've always made this distinction simply by knowing whether the squash coach was on the professional squash tour. This is what a "Squash Pro" is, someone who played on the tour for a period of time. Because this coach may have been on the tour and a great player, it doesn't always mean they will be a great coach. Some Pros aren't particularly good with teaching squash but are excellent to play for higher level play and fitness. For a serious player and for especially juniors who aspire to higher level play or professional playing, a squash professional is key to their development. Only a squash professional knows the nuances of the game played at a higher level. I have taken extensive coaching from a number of squash professionals and some have really taught me a lot, mostly about play at a higher level. It's not to say I will ever attain that higher level, but I see what they talk about when I watch the pros play. I'm a real student of the game so I like to talk and ask questions about the intricacies of the game and especially about technique.
The teaching professional may have been a college player or a serious player who went through coaching certification. These kinds of coaches are ideal for adults and junior players who aspire to the 5.0 level of play. They understand the game, they have played it, they love the game and want to teach it to others. It's important that you chose a teaching professional who has some qualifications, such as played on his college team; or is USSRA certified; or was a tournament B or A level amateur player. It's also important that you pick a teaching professional that understands the modern game, it has changed since the early 90's, new techniques, new technologies, like any good teacher they are always up-to-date on the latest and greatest training and coaching methods. There are teaching pros who still play the game and teach it the way it was 20 years ago. Okay for the recreational player, but not good for the serious player. Once a player reaches a certain level, he or she might want to consider a squash pro for more rigorous training and game elevation.
Then you have the hitters. Usually junior level players with an A game who are strictly available for B or A level players to play hard matches with. They might provide some coaching instruction, but the hitter really will play the player at a slightly higher level. The hitter should usually win and the player should come off the court relishing a hard fought game. Pay the hitter, it's well worth it to prepare for a tournament or to play someone who will get to everything and extend the rallies with you. Hitters are also fun to drill with, they return everything, they're not on court to coach necessarily an advanced player but to provide a tough match or practice session.
There are a lot of hackers out there, just like in anything else. Squash Professionals and Teaching Professionals do this usually for a living, so it's about money, but it shouldn't be solely about money. Don't be afraid to switch and compare coaches and pros, and if you are a squash player and parent of a junior player get on the court with the pro together with your child or take some lessons yourself. Always evaluate and reevaluate the person teaching you or your child. There are certain methods or schools of teaching. I happen to be a huge proponent of Mike Way. But there are others out there of comparable stature. Ask the pro does he or she have a particular method, etc. Also, your son (if a serious player) should not be coached by a woman, the women's game is very different than the men's, especially in the front of the court. You don't see a serious male tennis player ever coached by a woman. Woman should be coached if possible by women, but that is difficult at times because there's a dearth of women coaches around. So women are often coached by men in the early going, but if possible, if you are a woman player, switch to a woman squash pro. High level women players and coaches are great to get on the court with and train with if you are a guy. They have played at a really high level and have usually a lot of match experience. Great for low A or B level men players.
If you want to play at a high level, you will go through many coaches and pros during your rise from beginner to advance player. You should never be afraid to switch if the coach or pro just isn't working out. Whatever the reason, don't maintain a teaching or squash professional relationship simply because the coach is a great guy. Ultimately, it's about squash and what the coach can do for your or your junior's game.

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