February sees Squash Players return to the courts, fattened from their Festive feasting and desperate to fight the flab and flourish the racquet. For most, New Year’s Resolutions will have already dissolved with memories of the mistloe, but the committed few will be willing themselves forward to stick to those committed plans. Diaries with dates, deadlines and tournaments will be neatly ear-marked, providing yard-sticks for their squash year.
To keep you on track, some alphabetically-ordered tips to make 2012, the squash year of your dreams.
A : is for Attack. While patience, and keeping things tight are always safe options, squash is becoming far more attacking and we need to develop our skills in the front of the court – the drop shot from the tee, the counter-drop, boasts and hitting the nick. More importantly, we need to understand WHEN to attack, and when to defend.
B: is for balance. In lifestyle, but also, while playing your shot. This year, you are not going to rush. In life , or on the court. You are going to glide to the ball, position yourself and play that shot you decided on as you left the tee. No mind-changing and rash decisions. And B, is also for Beer, that beautiful beverage that analyses, dissolves the memory of loss and bonds squash buddies in camaraderie.
C: is for control . This year, we are not going to just bliksem the ball, and hope that pace will conquer all. Shots played at 80% power but tighter, and dying in the corners are far more rewarding. How good is it to see your opponent dissolving in a dribble of sweat as he curses his tinned shot from the far corner. And control, in terms of behavior. No self-cursing, no referee-cussing.
D: is Doubles. Great for a sweat, great for meeting new people and mixing players of different ability, great for the slowing and slightly injured and a great tool to develop skills .
E: is Eastern Province. Our provincial sides had tournaments to forget in 2011. But there is a new vibe, and under Richard Driscoll’s guidance, 2012 will see the province back where it belongs – dominating amongst the Juniors, competing fiercely at Jarvis and Kaplan, and over-whelming with our numbers at Masters events
F: is for Fitness. If you haven’t started, yet, there is still time. But be clever. You will be amazed at how quickly you will be back-on-track, playing 2 or 3 matches a week. For those with higher ambitions, separate training sessions are imperative. Now is the time to be doing your work on court, with ghosting, and speed-related exercises. Are sit-ups and skipping part of your daily routine ?
And F is also for FUN - if you lose this aspect of squash, you have lost everything
G: is for Goals. If you don’t know where you are going, you’re probably there already. Push yourself a little . Write your goals down, both long-term, and performance goals, tell people about them –otherwise they are just wishes, which will get washed away in the hurly-burly of day-to-day activities.
H is for Hosting and Hansa. . Hosting is creeping back into our League ethos, and makes for a much more pleasant league experience and opportunity to meet new squash friends over some bitterly cold Hansa’s.
I is for Injuries – the bane of squash players’ lives. Let 2012 be injury free by doing gentle but dynamic stretching before your game, and controlled post-match stretching …. And before you have that much needed beer, make sure you re-hydrate with some of the more healthy liquids.
J: is for Joining a Club, and getting into the League structures. There are so many talented players hitting around socially. Clubs broaden your circle of playing partners and Leagues, are the best way to improve your game. And the camaraderie and friendship of a league side is special
K: is for Killer Instinct. This year those 13-7 leads against your nemesis are not going to happen. You will be calm and focused and play those last few rallies as if the score was 0-0. The game plan that took you to 13-7 will provide with some famous victories
L is for Length. The foundation of any player’s game. Without it, you will lose. Be clear in your mind what a good length is and if you are losing, this should be your first point-of-reference. And don’t forget the Lob - the most under-utilised shot in squash
M is for matches. Hunt for matches. Break the habit of playing the same folk week in and week out. Play people who are better than you. Don’t worry about losing. See how many points you can score, how long you can make each game last. Play with weaker players as well, but restrict yourself to only using certain shots.
N is for a New Shot to bring into your artillery. A Reverse angle, a trickle boast, a corkscrew service, a drop from the back of the court, a hard service, aimed directly at your opponent’s chest, a high, floaty soft service, a “plop” service, a backwall boast,….
O – is for an Open Court strategy. Much of our squash is mindless, and we moer the ball straight back to our opponent. This year, hit the ball away from your opponent, into the corners
P – Planning, Preparation and Practice. Plan your year and plan for matches. Know who you are playing, and think out a game plan. Get to the courts early. Pack properly. Practise. On your own. Properly, and perfectly. And if there is one thing to improve on, it is early racquet preparation
Q – Your practice and training sessions must drip with Quality sweat . Know what you want to practice, set yourself targets and mix skills with movement and fitness. 30 minutes of regular quality practice will take you to places you have not been before.
R – Recovery to the Tee. This year, your movement to the tee is going to be ‘blitzig”, and the benefits will be beautiful. And R is also for Referees. They, like you, probably don’t really want to be in that chair. Treat them with respect, and buy them a beer.
S is for Sex and Strokes . Never let Squash interfere with that important aspect of your life !! Just thought that I would slip that one in. Strokes and Lets. Read Rule 17, the Interference Rule. Just a reminder – strokes and lets are the decisions made by the referee, and, as the referee, he can’t change his decision.
T – Tournaments and trials – places where you can rocket up the rankings, or slide. Use them as a yardstick of where you are, and where you need to go. And if you don’t normally do tournaments, try them. Lots of concentrated squash, different people and lots of fun. And the EP calendar is FULL of events for all levels of play. And T is also for the TEE. Be there. And win
U –Understanding. Hopefully your wife and family will develop an understanding of your need to release those happy little squashed endorphins, which will in turn make you a far more pleasant person at home.
V – if ever a shot can change your game, it is the volley . Keeps you on the tee, reduces your opponent’s recovery time, and speeds up the game. And Visualisation – such a powerful tool but like your technique and skills, needs constant, regular ,perfect practice
W . Play to Win without Whining , and the Wine-ing will be wonderful, but spare some thought for our Squash widow wives who wonder where you are wandering and who wash those sweaty whites. And Clubs – when your women numbers start waning – watch out.
X is for the X –Factor. That unknown quantity that makes you so difficult to beat. Your uniqueness. Playing to your plan, aware of your strengths, point-for-point. Not thinking backward, or too far forward. Just this rally.
Y s for Yawning !! Yes, do you yawn before a big match ? Chances are you are not tired or bored. More likely, you are nervous. Learn to identify when you are nervous as this can be so debilitating. Running on the spot, breathing, smiling are all good antidotes
Z is for the Zone. That wonderfully mysterious place where you go when your mind and body are in synch. And you can take yourself there if you develop the abilities to relax and concentrate and control your emotions.
So as we head into 2012, remember that on the night, The Best Man Won. This year, Win and Lose, quietly. You will have tried your best, you will have exercised, sweated and competed, and for that you are a better person. Appreciate the fact that you can still be on the court, and experience Squash and all the good things it brings into your life