Who said that you can’t teach an old gal new tricks?
Hi, I’m Jules Multamaki, a 58-year-old master’s athlete, and part-time coach, from Edmonton Alberta Canada and I just finished Jesse’s 6-week Return-To-Court (RTC) program.
I have been playing squash for 41 years and I have also been coaching for over 30 years, and many of my club members and friends think that I know “everything” about squash, but that’s completely untrue. The game has changed a lot since I started playing and coaching, and even though I try to keep up with the changes and variations, thanks to SquashSkills I will be learning and improving until the day I die!
I’m so used to giving people advice on their squash game and keeping them motivated that it has been easy to forget about the key things that need improvement in my own game. Don’t get me wrong, I love to train, and I train a lot for a masters athlete, but sometimes I get caught in a rut and just do the same old things that I think I need to be doing to improve without actually figuring out what are the real deficiencies in my game. So, when our courts finally re-opened mid-June I was excited to be back on court again, but after a few weeks, I found myself doing the same old drills and conditioned games that I did pre COVID.
Then on July 8, my whole on-court training world changed.
I received an offer from SquashSkills that I couldn’t refuse. For around $85 (CAD) I was going to receive a 6-week program from Jesse Engelbrecht (who is a god when it comes to squash technique!) that was to focus on solo hitting, pairs hitting and some in-home fitness. SOLD! I thought that this would be a great opportunity to get back to some basics, improve technically, work on my fitness (which needs a lot of work), and hopefully learn a few more things along the way that I could pass along during my own coaching sessions.
Boy, was I wrong? “Learning a few more things along the way” was a massive understatement!
What I learned each week for my own game and for my coaching was extremely valuable, not to mention making me a tougher opponent and mentally stronger with every tough sprint challenge that Jesse presented to us! Each technical session was a blast, and overall every session was purposeful training. I have never been so engaged doing solo technical and fitness sessions before. Every activity had a time limit and once I had programmed everything into the exercise timer app that SquashSkills suggested we use, then all I had to do was get on court and complete each activity to the best I could do within the allotted time.
By the end of the very first session I was sweating profusely, and happy that I accomplished so many different things in one training session. I knew that this was going to be a great program. By session 2, I was starting to sing its praises to other members of my club.
The RTC group also communicated regularly on WhatsApp.
Those who know me know that I am not a fan of social media, and so originally, I didn’t think that I would take part in the WhatsApp group, but I quickly warmed up to it. This was a group of fun, like-minded squash players of varying ability, from England, Ireland, India, Australia, Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand, and USA coming together to support, encourage and lend advice to one another as needed. Not to mention receiving expert advice through Zoom calls and the app from Jesse.
Every week had a focus, and every week Jesse added a few more activities that challenged everyone in the group.
The activities mostly focused on driving to length, volleying, ghosting and speed work – but the focus of the drives, volleys, ghosting and speed changed each session, and there were different variations and intensities each week, so that you weren’t doing the same old skills at the same old pace (like I used to do).
Week 2 was the testing week,
and during the last session of Week 6, we retested so that everyone could gauge their individual improvement. One noteworthy achievement for me were my forehand volley drops (which I used to think were quite decent but found out otherwise). During the initial test, I rarely hit the target, I got somewhat close but 6 inches past the target definitely wasn’t good enough for me. After a brief discussion with Jesse on WhatsApp about contact point and types of spin needed, I started nailing this drop in the ensuing weeks. Four weeks later, just this one technical change has opened a huge attacking option for me on the forehand side, and I now realise the glorious effect of side spin on my midcourt volleys. This improvement alone was worth money for the program.
Thanks to the testing and retesting options I also quickly realised that while I was good at some skills, I wasn’t as good as what I thought once a variation was added to others. Now that I have a better understanding of what my technical deficiencies are, and in what situations they tend to breakdown, I can get back on the court and put more time into improving those skills, so that they are not seen as a weakness by others.
On to pairs sessions..
At my club, we have been extremely fortunate to have pods (or cohorts) since the first week of July and so I was able to complete the bonus pairs sessions each week, which I found very intense and enlightening. Every week there were numerous conditioned games that made us think about a variety of things like shot making, creativity, strategy, accuracy, and focus. Every game had a purpose and every game was engaging to play. These sessions were another great opportunity to assess where my skills broke down under pressure, and where my skills held up under pressure. These games also challenged me to vary the shots that I played from certain parts of the court, so that I wouldn’t be as predictable with players that knew my style of play. It was amazing how much I learned in these sessions too. I suppose you really can teach an old gal new tricks!
And lastly, there was a weekly fitness session that could be completed at home or at the club!
A little taste of core, strength, power, speed, agility, and endurance over the course of 6 weeks. I needed work on my fitness, I got it a taste of it here, and I know my fitness improved a little. (It’s worthwhile to note that since finishing the Return-to-Court program with Jesse a few weeks ago, I realised that I really do need some serious fitness work to be a better squash player. I’m very pleased to say that I’m currently in week 4 of the SquashSkills All-Round Fitness Program with Gary and enjoying every tough moment of it).
I have always dreamt that if I won the lottery, I would have enough money to build a squash court in my house, to hire a personal squash coach and also a personal fitness trainer so that I can be the best squash player I can possibly be. Thanks to SquashSkills I can get the coaching and fitness training without winning the lottery and at the same time, I can be motivated and inspired by many passionate squash players from around the globe. I hope to meet more of you someday.
Now I just dream about winning the lottery so that I can build that squash court in my house!
STC Return To Court participant
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