Spoiler alert! There is no single correct way to hit the ball. Before you belt some obscenities and close this screen, please read on. You’re likely thinking: “I’ve always been taught to set up with a cocked wrist and racquet up. You’re telling me that’s wrong?” Rest assured; you have not been practicing in vain. Here are some important distinctions to always keep in mind:
- Learning must begin with easily understood concepts. “Racquet back, wrist up” and the like, are essential, fantastic places to begin.
- As your standard advances, the game becomes increasingly more nuanced. Basic tactics like “hit into the open space” must be complemented by more advanced skills such as timing on and off the ball, variation in the pace of play, pattern creation, and lots more, with the ultimate objective of disruption. Cultivating the skill of multiple swings adds layers of deception to your game.
Admittedly, this is a contentious topic because squash is taught in a very orthodox manner in certain parts of the world, while others take a more unconventional approach. No matter where you hail from, I hope that this elucidates a new perspective, and expands your mental blueprint.
The good: The primary advantage of multiple swings is the ability to disrupt one’s opponent. Imagine that your opponent hits a straight drop or a drive using the same swing, and a moment later, hits the same shots, using a different swing. How challenging would it be to anticipate their shots? How unsettled would you feel on the ‘T’? How confident and fluid would you feel on court?
The challenge: Developing consistency while leveraging dynamic adjustments. A simple swing creates consistency. Fewer things can go wrong, thus we’re more likely to hit clean shots. But, there is a limitation as well. As soon as we get out of position – e.g., we arrive late on the ball, or the ball is too far in front of us, (both of which happen almost all of the time in squash), the traditional swing and grip limit our choices.
So, what should I do?
Step 1: Develop sound foundations through low-pressure pattern drills. Drop-drive, boast-drive and other such drills remove randomness to a very large degree, thereby making it easier to get into good positions, and practice traditionally sound technique.
Step 2: Extend your comfort zone gradually by experimenting with different swings in low-pressure situations like solo practice.
Step 3: Extend your newfound skills and creativity in pattern drills (similar to those in step 1).
Step 4: Expand your abilities to condition games (i.e., games that are not as predictable as pattern drills, but in which the whole court is not in play – e.g., a length game).
Step 5: Over time, extend your newfound skills and creativity into regular full-court game play.
Setting Appropriate Expectations
The journey you are about to embark on will have its ups and downs. I want to share a practical model of learning that was once shared with me. You will know how close you are to mastery based on the following steps:
Step 1: Unconscious incompetence – this is the idea that you don’t know what you don’t know. For instance, before reading this blog post, you may not have been aware of the possibility of hitting the ball in different ways, so you were incompetent with this skill and didn’t even know it.
Step 2: Conscious incompetence – this is the idea that you now know what you aren’t able to do. If the idea of different swings was new to you a few minutes ago, you’re currently at this step 😊
Step 3: Conscious competence – this is the idea that through conscious effort you are able to practice and execute the skill you’re developing. When you begin practicing the suggestions I’ve noted above, and have success while thinking about what you’re doing, you’ll be at this step.
Step 4: Unconscious competence – this is the idea that you have completed enough practice to execute the skill dynamically, in real time, without having to consciously think about it. That is, you’ve created new neural connections in your brain for a particular skill. Achieving this step requires a lot of progressive, deliberate practice.
Enjoy the journey. Maintain a beginner’s mind by approaching each training day with a sense of curiosity and creativity. Once you’ve mastered the art of enjoying the process, everything else will naturally follow.
Founder of ARProformance,
M.A., CPT, Peak Performance Teacher.
Watch: How To Develop Different Swings & Spins - With Jonathon Power
By understanding and implementing Jonathon’s insights he shares in his latest coaching series, you can make your game unpredictable, keep your opponents on their toes, and elevate your overall performance.Watch now