The TDWSA is excited to release the 2nd in a 3-part series of interactive tips from DOUBLEHIT– professional coaches Tara Mullins and Marci Sier.
Each installment will include 5 questions and answers followed by a Pro Tip from DOUBLEHIT.
This is an interactive series in which YOU ask questions, so if there is a specific item or concern that you want to ask for advice about please email [email protected].
Part 2 – WHAT DO I NEED TO DO TO GET BETTER?
1. How many times a week should I play for improvement?
M&T: We’d love to say that there is a magic formula but unfortunately there is not! One thing we would recommend though is to track yourself. Create a baseline of start points and then reassess yourself over a set period of time. That way you can see your success and feel good about it. The other thing we would recommend is not to compare yourself to others. Everyone improves at a different rate and your competitors will have access to different resources or may simply choose different items to work on. These choices will affect outcome.
As a guide, we have seen the most improvement in players that practice 3-4 times a week with a combination of drills, matches, solo practicing, and lessons. This may not be feasible for some people, but if you can organize this even for a short period of time then we would be surprised if you didn’t see any improvement in your game. If time is a scare resource then try rejigging your choices to include some hitting alone.
T: “The biggest jump I saw for myself was when I went from a D to an A level player using solo practicing (jumping to an ‘Open level’ took some further tweaking in my choices). I feel that soloing is one component that people neglect. If you put this as a priority then compared to opponents that don’t solo practice, you should see a jump!”
2. Quality over Quantity?
M&T: Quality. Less sessions that are better quality are always better than quantity. And be mindful of what you are trying to accomplish. One of the things that we’ve noticed is that players tend to always want to play people that are better than them. It is hard in these high pressure games to make any changes or even to keep an awareness of the change/improvement that you are trying to make. Things just go way too fast!
So a good rule of thumb to follow that has helped many players improve is to practice/play with someone below your level, at the same level and one above your level in a given week. Playing a slower game gives you time and will allow you to feel (in your body) the change that you would like to make. This is when that solo practicing can become that great friend of yours! Playing someone your exact level gives you a great bench mark to compare. And playing someone above you gives you the opportunity to try and sustain that change under pressure.
M: “The mental aspect for improvement is to ensure that you are getting quality sessions where you are focused for as much of the time as possible.”
3. What type of practice should I incorporate into my weekly schedule?
M&T: This depends on time of year and what your current goals are. So be flexible as your plan will change throughout your squash season. Leading up to a tournament (or TDWSA playoffs!) we recommend short focussed sessions and a taper period so that you don’t tax yourself before a big match or event. Beginning to mid-season, when you have weeks with more time to train, we recommend (as previously mentioned) a combination of solo hitting, drills specific to what improvement(s) you are trying to make, condition games (to put specific skill(s) into play) and match play. Each session can either have a mix of all of the components or they can be practiced individually. Your current level or wants from squash will tweak the plan either specific or broad. And checking in with a coach and/or having a lesson when it works for you will always help to keep you on track!
4. Solo prep: Add these simple drills to your routine and see your game improve!
- Targeted straight shots to dying length — put a target on the floor and see how many times you can hit it. Don’t forget to track your success!
- Short hitting (meaning straight drives close to the front wall) and figure 8’s…these will help tweak your timing and keep your swing compact. When doing the figure 8 drill throw in some high feeds and go for volley drops and kills
- A series of straights drops from the “T” area. You can’t practice hitting drop shots enough!
- Hitting the top third of the front wall: most people practice shots that hit the front wall below the cut line or just above it. Rarely do we see players soloing or doing drills where the ball consistently hits the front wall in the top third section. Challenge yourself and see how many you can get in a row!
5. Do I need a coach?
A coach can help for sure but you do not need one continuously. A good coach will help you identify your area(s) to improve, what you should be practicing, and how. Then it is up to you to put the effort in and practice. If you are working on something specific like a technical change then it is good to have consistent lessons until this is set. After it is set we recommend taking it away and practicing under higher pressure situations. If on the other hand though you feel like your game is in a good spot, you may just want to coast with this. We have found though that it is always a good idea to have a check in with your coach before a big tournament(s). A simple short hit with your coach just to make sure that your key shots are on point and your confidence is high.
Practice the stuff that makes you feel uncomfortable! Use the 80/20 rule and choose the items that you are not good at 80% of the time. It’s always fun to practice the stuff that you are good at! But we wonder what would happen if you could make your weaker components just as good as your good ones?!! Remember, choose quality over quantity. And be mindful of the procedure and feeling that you are trying to accomplish in your wanted change.
PART 3 – OFF COURT TRAINING
Send your questions for DOUBLEHIT to [email protected].