Ask the Squash Sport Scientist a Question #1

With almost 30,000 hits in little over a year, our Science of Coaching Squash blog does get the occasional question. Since in general, we squash coaches are an isolated bunch, I will post any questions with my short initial response. Others are more than welcome to chime in as obviously there is no one correct answer!

Question #1 received from Dr. Shawkat Gaber (shawkat435@hotmail.com) yesterday, August 13, 2009:

“What is the correct order to teach the skills of squash?”

Thank goodness the first question was such a simple one!


The Short Answer: Pick up any squash book and use the same order contained in the book – so usually, grip, forehand, backhand, etc.

The Long Answer: The long answer really depends on your philosophy of teaching squash, which depends on your own background and knowledge of sports pedagogy. Are you teaching adults who have no aspirations of top play, or a group of talented youths who might have national level potential (in which case you can let your nation’s squash LTAD guide you – except none of them have been fleshed out and therefore contain no specific to answer your question)? Are you a technique-oriented squash coach who teaches “strokes”, or have you embraced the Tactics-First Games Approach?

Mini-Squash Balls
Teaching Squash Balls

Teaching Squash Balls

Mini-Squash Balls

My recommendation is to use a mini-squash or mini-tennis like “Rally Program” which involves using bouncier teaching balls a short distance from the front wall, moving progressively further back in the court, training all strokes (forehand, backhand mini-drives and volleys, serves, returns) and playing short court games (marked off with tape) at each step of the way. The key element of the Rally Program is that there is no coach feeding, with the students hitting solo or in pairs, so that the training is open and not closed (always a perception and a decision versus always an easy , perfect feed from the coach). Tennis is much more involved compared to squash in this respect.

So for example, with fairly coordinated 10-year olds, week #1 might feature three 45-minute sessions at about 6′ from the front wall with very short swings (touch & push the ball), week #2 the same at 12′ (longer pushes & short swings) and week #3 at the level of the service line (small swings & medium strokes). At this point, the better students would have hit several thousand balls with short swings and correct grips, and would be ready to be introduced to a more tactical, full-court program.

So depending on your pedagogical approach you need to develop a hierarchy of squash skills – so actually not an easy question to answer!

In the sport pedagogy module of my Introduction to Exercise & Sport Studies class at Smith College I have the students experience both traditional and rally program methods, as depicted in the videos below (used British Racquetball for this relatively unathletic student population). Note that in the first “traditional” example, it is not until 4:35 of the video that the first student hits a ball, while everyone is hitting a ball in the Rally Program video at 1:02 – student activity is a function of the pedagogical method chosen.


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