Put it into practice: Ball Skill Development with James Willstrop

21st December 2020

We’re delighted to have current British National Champion James Willstrop back with us on SquashSkills this week, introducing his brand new series on ball skill development.

The man known as ‘The Marksman’ is undoubtedly one of the most talented English players to ever pick up a racket. His remarkable record began as a junior, becoming the first player to win British National titles at all age groups – under-12, under-14, under-17 and under-19. Along with this, James also won the prestigious British Junior Open title multiple times at under-14, under-17 and under-19 level. In his final junior year, he established himself as the world’s top junior player in claiming both the European and World titles.

This fantastic winning record continued into his senior career, with 18 PSA titles to his name, and a peak ranking of world number 1 back in 2012. He’s been pretty much an ever-present in the England squad for the past 15 years, helping his country to a number of World and European team championship wins. James has also had great success in the Commonwealth Games, winning several doubles bronzes and silvers, before perhaps his greatest triumph of all: winning the singles gold medal in Melbourne 2018.

Watching James play, one of the standout elements of his game is his accuracy and the control he has over his ball placement. One of the most skilful athletes to ever play the game, he was the obvious choice to present this brand new ball skill development playlist for us.

In this series, James takes us through what ‘skill’ really means to him, and how it’s as much about subtlety and feel, as it is about out and out technique. For James, the understanding of angles, the ability to react to your opponent’s shots, and being able to make good decisions all go into distinguishing a truly skilful player.

This exciting playlist also contains lots of great clips of some of the most skilful players of recent years, including not only James himself, but stars such as Ramy Ashour, Amr Shabana, and Raneem El Welily.

The purpose of this blog is to give you some suggestions on how to best develop your ball skill, including the types of drills you should be employing in your training for maximum benefit. We’ve included some sample sessions below for you to try, to help you start on your journey towards ball control mastery. You may not quite develop the effortless mastery of The Marksman, but you will be able to learn how to hone the key skills that go into making you a much more accurate and effective player!


Put it into practice

Solo Session

This solo session is designed to get you started off with some of the fundamentals of ball skill development.


learning journeyPairs Session

This pairs session works through a series of drills to allow you to practice your skills within the more natural context of a rally, and to begin leading toward being better able to control the ball in a more realistic matchplay environment.

Fitness Session

Having a good base of strength and stability will help you when you’re working on your skill and ball control, as it’ll allow you to hit from a steadier and more balanced position. Give this strength/stability session a try, working a variety of lunge variants and bodyweight exercises.


Related content

Ball skill development at home – Part 1

In this brand new style content catered to these uncertain times, Jesse takes us through a set of exercises to do at home or in a confined space which will help keep everyone’s racket and ball skills fine-tuned.


ball skillBall skill development at home – Part 2

In Part 2, Jesse gives many more fun and challenging exercises to sharpen your technique with a ball, racket and wall.


Skill development and ball control with Lee Drew

Lee shares some simple tricks and tips to help you become more creative on court, find space on court and thrive in challenging situations.


Let us know how you get on with the sessions, we’d love to hear your feedback!

Haven't seen the full series yet?

In this series, James Willstrop dives into Ball Skill Development, he explains how he became such a skilful player and the benefits it can have to your game.

Watch now