Despite an upswing in recent years thanks to the efforts of the PSA and SquashTV, it’s still notable the relatively small number of amateur squash players who actually watch elite level squash – compared to many other popular sports, the difference in the number of regular players as compared to regular spectators is stark. Particularly for juniors still learning the game or adult players who are looking to improve their abilities however, so much can be gained from watching the very best in action.
When learning or developing any physical skill, it is always going to be advantageous to watch experts in that field perform. Within sport in particular, it can be a great benefit to watch an elite ‘model’ displaying all of the different techniques and tactics, to help really clarify what best practice should look like.
Taking football as the obvious example, you can almost guarantee that all 22 players on the local Sunday league pitch in the morning (junior or senior) will have watched the previous night’s ‘Match of the Day’, or will be sitting down to enjoy that afternoon’s ‘Super Sunday’ Premier League match. In comparison, relatively few recreational squash players at a weekend Club Night for example, will actually watch much (if any) top-level professional matchplay over the course of a typical week.
Working within football as well as squash, it is always much easier for me to illustrate a concept when coaching the former by making reference to a top football player to provide a ‘real world’ example. Whether it be discussing the technique of controlling and dribbling a ball and referring to Lionel Messi, or discussing the incredible all-around athleticism advantages possessed by Cristiano Ronaldo, the mental strength and focus of a top goalkeeper such as Thibaut Courtois, or the superb tactical structure of a team like Barcelona, giving a specific example which 99% of players will be familiar with makes it much easier to reinforce a teaching point.
Taking a squash coaching session on the other hand, it’s far less likely the majority of the players will be able to identify with the example of say Tarek Momen’s clinical backhand drop, or the mental strength of Mohamed El Shorbagy in closing out a close game, or anything similar. Any coaching/learning or self-development process is generally going to be made easier with specific best-practice examples to follow, whatever the sport.
Of course, when attempting to develop any technically challenging physical skill, a good coach is always the best starting point. Having close personal tuition and direct feedback from an appropriately qualified expert is going to be extremely valuable in raising proficiency in a sport such as squash. Videos and articles from expert performers such as those we run here on Squashskills will also go hand-in-hand with direct coaching to provide a great advantage in learning and development. It is my opinion that seeing elite level players perform can only enhance this overall development though, and it’s unfortunate that more recreational and club level players in particular don’t do this – especially so younger players.
We’re in a fantastic age to watch top-level squash right now, thanks to the accessibility of resources such as SquashTV, YouTube, and now BT Sport (in the UK), and the massive strength in depth at the top of both the men’s and the women’s game at the moment means there are a lot of great matches out there to view. As a player looking to learn the game, watching more top-level squash and becoming a student of the sport can really help in your development process. Similarly, as a coach, encouraging your players to watch more top-level squash can be a great aid in the learning of the game, particularly so in the development of young players – really encouraging them to focus in on things like the footwork, racket preparation, and rally structure of the top players.
So whether you’re a player aiming to improve and develop your game, or a coach guiding players through the learning process of cultivating their skills and technique, watching more top-level squash and/or encouraging your pupils to do the same, can be a great aid to furthering knowledge and understanding.
B.Sc.(Hons), CSCS, NSCA-CPT, Dip. FTST
SquashSkills Fitness & Performance Director
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