Obviously, for squash campers whether young or old, the squash coach’s priority is to ensure they 1) have fun; and 2) learn something – and we all know “there is more than one way to skin a cat” (apologies to cat lovers).
Having said that, due to the usual compressed time frame of a one-week squash camp it is easy to throw established sport science principles out the window – in a desire to teach the campers “everything possible”. In this post we will discuss a few guidelines based on the latest sport science research to ensure that your camper benefit optimally from your coaching program.
Volume, Intensity and Organization of the Week’s Training. Since one of the primary purposes of a summer camp (versus national camp prior to World’s for example) is to teach new squash skills, care must be taken to not overfatigue the campers as this will hurt learning. A L-M-H-L-H (L=low, M=medium, H=high) distribution of the daily training load over the week will help accomplish this. This will produce more and better quality work that a L-H-L-H-L periodization for example. Obviously, most of us will be violating the rule of thumb not to increase training volume more than 10% from week to week – as most summer campers will not be playing much sqaush or training very hard.
Planning the Daily Training Sessions. There is actually a theoretically optimal order in which to train the different components needed to play better squash (which I have adapted for squash from Tudor Bompa – the North America Father of Periodization):
- Train new technical skills first while the athlete is fresh.
- Train speed and agility second, as improving these qualities require a fresh and unfatigued CNS. If you save your sprinting to the end of the day you will be training your athlete to move at sub-maximal speeds in a fatigued state (actually not that unimportant in squash – but not speed work).
- Practice well-learned technical drills or do match play or conditioned games third as they can be accomplished well with some fatigue (may even be desirable).
- Train strength-endurance fourth, after most of the on-court work has been done as this does not require a fresh CNS to benefit the athlete. A camp is a great time to focus on functional or core training (e.g., CorePerformance.com to avoid making the prime squash movers (e.g. quads) overly sore. Another focus would be to avoid heavy loads and focus on the athlete executing good technique – i.e., the actual training is symbolic, and secondary to learning about training. There probably is no place for plyometrics or maximum strength training at a summer camp – although demonstrations are fine.
- Lactic work (intense court sprints with efforts of 15+ seconds) should be training second last, since quality work is very difficult to do after a workout of this type, due to the long recovery period required to eliminate lactic acid from the muscles (at least an hour for partial clearance of LA).
- Aerobic endurance training should be performed last, since little coordination is required, and if the intensity is around 60-70% it will in fact aid regeneration for the next day.
- Mental and flexibility training and video analysis/tactical discussions can be interspersed with other training factors to help aid recovery and help provide adequate rest.
- If you really want to help your squash campers learn how to train properly you can model your physical training sessions after an actual periodized training year: Day 1 do General Prep training, Day 2 to Specific Prep training, etc.). With handouts, this will provide them with a template to help them plan their own year.
Pedagogical Approach to Coaching Technical-Tactical Skills. Doing our basic length and boast and drive drills, followed by match play will definitely improve our players, although to a much lesser extent that than a Tactics First Approach using Games Approach and Decision Training methodology and tools. This involves choosing a tactical model (e.g., Zone or Egg) to organize the week’s sessions, and then starting each session with a conditioned game related to the sessions theme (e.g., 2 pts. for a winning volley if the session topic is volleying) game (not lecture and drills) in order to evaluate the players and motivate them to change in a fun way – everyone loves to play games! Players trained with the traditional methods will definitely perform better in practice – but those training with a Tactics First approach will perform better later (weeks or months) in match situations – basically because their training has been more game-like – which is just common sense.
I will be working at several camps this summer of 2017 at Wesleyan University and Princeton University, and of course I offer individual and small group 1-4 day mini-camps for those unable to attend one of the many camp offerings here in the U.S. – just drop me a line at email@example.com for more information.
Application for Squash Coaches:
- Take advantage of recent advances in sport science to enhance the learning at your squash camps.
- Where possible use a Tactics First Approach (versus traditional drilling) to introduce and coach new squash skills.
- Be careful not to over fatigue your squash campers if you really want to improve learning.
Tim Bacon, M.A., CSCS is the world’s leading expert on racquet sport science and coaching development having taught all areas of sport science as both a Lecturer at Smith College and as a Coach Developer for the Coaching Association of Canada while actively coaching (Squash Canada Level 4 Coach) and sport psychology consulting (25+ World Champions). He currently runs his consulting practice out of Northampton, MA and maintains his active coaching as the Assistant Squash Coach at Wesleyan University during the CSA squash season (Nov. 1 – Mar. 1).