Put it into practice: How to defend effectively with James Willstrop

17th October 2020

We’re delighted to have James Willstrop back on the site this week, with the former world number 1 and multiple time British champion joining us for a brand new playlist based around learning to defend effectively.

Known as ‘The Marksman’ for his amazing ball control and accuracy, James is one of the most skilful players to ever come through the English system. He had a fantastic record as a junior, becoming the first player to win 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 as a senior player, with 18 PSA titles to his name (so far), helping him to a peak of world number 1 in 2012. He’s represented England numerous times over the past 15 years, helping his country to a number of World and European team championship wins. James has also seen great success on the prestigious stage of the Commonwealth Games, winning several doubles bronzes and silvers, before perhaps his greatest triumph of all – winning the singles gold medal in Melbourne in the 2018 edition of the championships.

Although known more for his attacking game, James is also very effective at getting himself out of trouble when under pressure. Not as naturally athletic as some of the other top players (by his own admission), he’s developed a fantastic ability to not only play superbly accurate defensive shots, but – equally crucial – know when best to use them.

In this great new series then, James is offering us a glimpse into his extensive knowledge bank to demonstrate optimal technique, movement, and decision making, to help you better deal with pressure when you’re on the wrong end of a rally.

James is also joined on court by SquashSkills founder Jethro Binns to bring a discursive element to the series, probing him to gain insight into his experience playing at the very highest level.

The purpose of this blog is to give you some suggestions on how you can start better thinking about the defensive side of the game, and to give you some drills and practices you can use to really refine your command of this essential element of the sport.


Put it into practice

defendSolo session

This solo session is designed to help get you started off with some of the fundamentals of good defence, thinking about control and accuracy.


defendPairs session

This pairs session works through a series of drill progressions to allow you to practice defending within the more natural context of a rally, and to allow you to start thinking about how to use these skills in a conditioned game environment.

Fitness session

Being quick around the court is a massive advantage when it comes to being an effective defender, and this speed/agility circuit is a great way to help you develop that rapid on-court movement.


Related content

defendEffective defending

Jesse Engelbrecht takes an in-depth look into the art of defending from all areas of the court.


defendHow to defend against attacking play

Laura Massaro explores how to defend against an attacking player and discusses how she adapted her game to compete against Egyptians.


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

Haven't seen the full series yet?

Check out the full series where James Willstrop breaks down how to defend effectively in all areas on the court.

Watch now