Balls to the Wall: A Coaching Fruit Salad
Well-known EP Golfer, Doc De Kock, guru of cricketing technique, Richard Stretch and I, have quaffed many a Castle, and burned many a tjop, discussing , debating and generally disagreeing on the similarities and dissimilarities between the squash swing and the golf swing. It is probably my obstinate pig-headedness to continue with my gentle squash swing that has earned me the title of the worst golfer ever to have played at some of the best courses in South Africa . If a jury were to be listening to our arguments, their decision would be very simple. And I would be found guilty of the gruesome murder of the Golfer’s Swing and banished from all golf courses, to spend my days in solitary confinement in a sweaty Squash Cell far away from sane, normal people.
In my coaching, I have always tried to use other sporting examples to illustrate aspects of the squash game as most of my pupils have either played these other sports or are well aware of them. The most obvious is that all ball-sports are sideways-on activities. You face one way, and hit the ball in the direction that your shoulders are pointing. Play the ball “chest-on” and you open yourself up to all sorts of technical problems that will haunt you under pressure.
There is so much we can learn from other sports. I have often confessed to my addiction to squash, and secretly, to my addiction to beer, but I am also addicted to magazines … sport magazines. But squash publications are few and far between, so I seek solace in other sports’ specialists. I devour them in search of new ideas. And while I have learned little, or not listened to De Kock and co, I have picked up many ideas from their magazines .Some examples:
David Leadbetter : Keep your left wrist firm
The floppy wrist is a nightmare for beginners , particularly on the backhand
Tiger Woods: Chin up for better posture. Look like an athlete ready for action –
A touch ambiguous and the mind boggles, but once you have straightened yourself back to the real sports arena, ….while Woods is talking about posture and the swing, it is also so important to keep your chin up and exude a positive image, no matter how tired, or how far behind you may have fallen in the match
Hank Haney: To improve your hybrid , make a full shoulder turn
Oh, if I could get my beginners to swing their shoulders into their shots and not merely swing their arms. We have to get the Big Muscles into the swing. Ok , let’s keep focus now…
Jack Nicklaus: Find your routine. Quick or slow – only you know what really works
Thanks Jack. But how many squash players really know their game. How many get mindlessly sucked into their opponents style of play.
James Gough talks about “Quiet eyes” when putting – the same can be said for drop shots which are so often tinned because we are looking at our target
The oft debated discussion between Tennis and Squash is another case in point. Tennis coaches cringe at the thought of their protégés dabbling in the evils and wizardry of squash. Squash technique is a cancerous growth and never to be considered by tennis players. But have a look at this excerpt from a tennis magazine
“ Nadal has started playing it more . Federer has just been getting better and better. The champion, though, may well be Fabrice Santoro, of France, who was knocked out in the first round by Andy Murray, another decent-looking squash player, three days ago.
We are talking here about the use of the wrist. Any beginner given the traditional start to tennis will be taught to lock the wrist, to hit groundstrokes as if the hand is an extension of the forearm. Yes, roll the wrist, but not do not break it, do not use it as a hinge. Do not play squash. “
“If you're dragged out wide and you've got no chance to get a racket on it properly, you can either throw up a lob , or you can alter your grip and play a squash shot,” Andrew Castle, BBC presenter and former British No1, said. Castle should know about squash because, 16 years after retiring from professional tennis, he is still playing squash for Surrey. It was Castle who taught Stefan Edberg to play squash when Edberg was living in London; and now hasTim Henman as a playing partner”
The squash lobby has noticed this, too, notably Peter Nicol, the former world No1. “Yes, they are clearly adopting squash techniques, the use of the wrist shots, especially on grass,” he said. “Both squash and tennis have got quicker and you have to adapt and mix it up. You can't just use the old techniques any more. Federer once said that a lot of his different shots were from his days playing squash.”
So watch for the wide-out squash flick. “Obviously Federer and Nadal do it,” Castle said. “Juan Carlos Ferrero is brilliant at it. Andy Roddick can flip a squash shot, too. But Santoro - virtually every shot he plays is squash. If he did play squash, what a nightmare he would be.”
Switching from tennis to squash is a doddle, I love nothing more than to find a tennis convert coming to me. Their inherent desire to volley immediately spring boards them and our biggest challenge is to teach them not to run into the walls
… which they learn, quicker than rugby players who thrive on that contact. EP rugby legend, Barry Pinnock is a new convert to squash, and while quite handy, competing with him is not for the feint-hearted. And Tennis books and magazines are a mine of useful information for squash players as the tactics and strategies are so similar
At the end of last year, I was fortunate to be invited to attend a multi-sport Coaches Conference hosted by SASCOC in Johannesburg where a hidden dream of mine came hurtling back to me – to set up a Coaches Workshop where coaches from various disciplines share ideas on common aspects of all sports. Yes, techniques are different, but training, skill practices, movement, and most importantly, mental toughness can surely be translated across the various sports.
Wouldn’t it be awesome to think that a little Squash Coach in PE had helped Corrie Van Zyl to strangle that Chokers label of our Proteas in India and that Peter de V, had been inspired to use some more attacking, speed-based squash tactics to do the double at the RWC in October. And I am sure that the moustachioed one could add some value to our EP squash players’ lives.
Now to work on the golf swing.
Qualifying as a Squash Coach has been a long laborious process involving a weekend course, completing a massive workbook, some practicals , a Markers and Refs Exam and an assessment. Consequently many people complete the course, but seldom complete the process which has resulted in a host of “rogue coaches” who are all probably doing a fine job in growing the sport, but there is very little control and synchronisation of methods.
In an attempt to “gather all coaches” Squash SA has introduced 2011 as an Amnesty Year, and coaches can gain qualification through putting together a “CV/Portfolio “of your coaching background/history, writing a short open book exam and doing a practical assessment.
Coaches who are interested are requested to contact me on 082 4170712 to set up these assessments. Alternately, an “Assessment Day” will be run on Saturday 26 March at Crusaders. A New Coaches Course has been provisionally pencilled in for the weekend of 2 and 3 April.
And while on Coaching, the innovative committee at Old Grey, have acquired the services of Scottish Coach, Doug Moffatt to fast track the fitness levels and skills of their members, particularly those of the their “Adopted Development” team who will be making a leap from 7th League champions to the 4th League this year.
With Rudi Van Niekerk and Lizelle Goosen claiming sibling victories in the Houdini Westview Tournament, the squash season has kicked off at a rate of knots and the Super and Goffer Leagues will be concluded early in March.
The below rankings, take all 2011 results into account, but , it must be emphasised, are provisional and merely a guide towards EP Selection
- Rudi Van Niekerk Lizelle Goosen
- Zane Schwarz Jacqui Ryder
- Jason Le Roux Elani Landman
- Sean Bailey Lume Landman
- Quinton Masters Anlen Murray
- Thami Mngcete Dianne Van Eyk
- Dane Bigara Karen Schepers
- Keith Stewart Keirryn Keeton
- Peter Ryder Sarah O Grady
- Sean Viljoen Allison Doe
- Garth Plaaitjies Dione Johnson
- Bonakele Nomkala Nicki Hurr
- Jarryd Terblanche Lisa O Grady
- Dan Schultz Joanna Dodd
- Jacques Laas Kate Pearson
- Anton Van Niekerk Aimee Brenner
- Andrew Reekie Caroline Rose
- Lonwabo Sigele Angela Fraser
- Travis La Mude Michelle Roos
- Rian Raubenheimer Hayley Russell
- Alton Senekal Kathy Hoy