If you are a U.S. College or High School squash coach, your team’s season probably ended about the end of February. If you use a periodization scientific approach (e.g., Bompa, 2009) to planning your team’s training, most of your athlete’s will have either completed or be near completing their 4-6 week transition period – so it is time for you to start guiding them for the start of their 2015-2016 season. This means you will have already completed the chart above with the year’s major training tasks and calendar of competitions – unfortunately there are no published guides for squash – only what you can find here on my blog. You can use the “search” function and enter the keyword “periodization”.
The biggest mistake coaches and parents make is to invite a world champion or their coach as a guest speaker – the needs of a mature, already developed professional are very different from those of junior or even college players. The planning of training has to be appropriate to the developmental level of the athlete – you can refer to articles on LTADs for some guidance on this.
To make a long story short, here are some key General Preparation phase points for the older high school or college squash player with respect to the development of technique and tactics:
– If squash courts or good squash coaching is unavailable, do not do any technical/tactical development – save that for the start of the Specific Preparation phase which normally starts in September when players return to their school. Most college players will not have access to their coaches until mid-October or November 1 – a ridiculous situation that accounts for the general low improvement levels of American college squash players compared to the rest of the world.
– Make use of summer squash camps to improve technique and learn more about good tactics. It is important to emphasize improvement and not performance and match play at these camps.
– If you do have access to a good squash coach, the General Preparation phase is the time to work on difficult and important technical corrections and improvements. Ideally a player’s technical goals should be set with the use of an objective video analysis – there are now plenty of apps to help with that. These are best achieved in a low pressure setting, that is when there are not a lot of competitive squash matches. Note that although technical improvement should be favored in this phase, a Tactics First approach dictates that you should always make sure the player is clear on the tactical context in which the technical skills will be used – don’t just do mindless, repetitive drills.
– If you are in a city where there is a summer squash league, making the technical changes during match play should be emphasized over winning – otherwise most will be unable to make the required technical changes – they will just go back to their old, incorrect ways in order to try and win the match.
– Although techniques is the priority, the Games Approach pedagogy (starting a training session with a conditioned game where the targeted technique will be used frequently) can still be used.
– If you are coaching squash layers with solid technique, the the General Preparation periodization can be somewhat different. Preferably using the results of an objective video analysis, the tactical situations a player needs to develop should be organized and put into a priority order, and worked on systematically during this phase (and the following Specific Preparation phase) using a Tactics First, Decision Training or Games Approach – versus the traditional “let’s work on your backhand” approach. Here is an example of how to structure such a technical-tactical training session using the topic of “drop or lob in the front court”. This is also a great time to develop complex skills such as deception. In the video below I guide Karim Darwish through a session of teaching deception at a junior summer camp.
So you can see that the planning of technical and tactical improvement in the General Preparation is partly an art (based on coaching or consulting experience) as well as a science, the major factors being the availability of courts, opponents, and good coaching and the developmental level of the athlete. I would be happy to help any coach, parent of athlete plan out this important phase of the annual plan.