New Year – New Squash LTAD for Squash Coaches!

January 17, 2011

Melanie Jans posted a comment in December:

“Thanks Tim for all of the information you post. I read your site all the time for inspiration in my coaching.  I’m not sure if you are aware but Squash Canada now has an LTAD model called Beyond the Nick. It can be downloaded on the Squash Canada website at squash.ca. Here’s the link.

Melanie, now coaching at the Vancouver Lawn Tennis & Badminton Club, is one of my favorite squash coaches and players – she got her Bachelor’s of Physical & Health Education at my Alma Mater – the University of Toronto (one of the best P.E. programs in Canada).  Back in the late 80’s and early 90’s, Squash Canada actually had three mental training consultants working with their National Team Programs:  Stan Gendron did the senior men; Peter Bender did the junior and senior women; and I did the junior boys (e.g., Jonathon Power, Graham Ryding). So I only actually officially worked with Melanie once, replacing Peter at a training camp – but we have run into each other at tournaments over the years – and she always has thoughtful and insightful comments.

I had actually already downloaded a copy of the Squash Canada LTAD, but Melanie was the first (and only) squash coach I know that has mentioned it.  So you can download a copy at the link above – but here are a few key pages from the document.  The first, an overview of the FUNdamentals stage, is important as it reassures parents and coaches they do NOT have to pressure kids into squash at an early age (proper grip and cocked wrist are essential however as this is extremely difficult to change at a later age).

This second page is a good overview illustrating the necessity of adapting training at each stage of a child’s progression, in other words “kids are not simply miniature adults“, and so you cannot use the same training methods (a lesson for untrained volunteer parent coaches).

While the document is a good start, it is short on detailed specifics, so most squash coaches will still be asking the question “So what do I actually need to do today?”.  Squash Canada (and/or other organizations) need to take the next step, which is to produce annual, periodized example programs or templates, as Tennis Canada did back in 1992 – and of course to link Squash Coach Certification programs to each stage of the LTAD as I have explained in a previous post on the topic.

And of course, as usual with planning documents (since sport psychologists do not author them), the Squash Canada LTAD is a bit light on mental training content:)

If you are new to the LTAD-squash discussion here is a list of previous posts from Science of Coaching Squash:

LTAD Coaching Program Alignment

When to Start Kids in Squash

Keys to Developing Top Juniors

Rethinking Squash Coaching Education

An LTAD Squash Training Example

High School Coaches Need to Know about LTADs


Developing a Squash World Champion: Align Your LTAD & Coaching Programs

April 8, 2009

Although squash is played in 153 countries around the world, it is not as well developed as some of  the world’s more popular or richer sports like soccer or tennis.  A small, well organized group of dedicated squash coaches (e.g. currently the Egyptians) can develop world class players, and even a world champion. If we look at the recent history of the squash world rankings, we can see that there is quite a bit of movement near the top of the rankings on both the men’s and women’s side in terms of the players’ nationality.  We also see a lot of successful solo efforts that cross national boundaries such as Liz Irving’s (Australia) coaching of Nicol David (Malaysia).

In terms of sheer numbers in the top 100, the English dominate simply because of greater numbers and government related money that is put into player development (more than any other country).  You can read this post to explore the economics of developing champions.

In order to achieve sustainable results, squash nations need to take advantage of the advances in sport science. This means using a system where the coaching certification program and actual coaching programs used in squash clubs are in perfect alignment with  a nation’s comprehensive Long Term Athlete Development (LTAD) system:

An LTAD Aligned Coaching & Club Training System

An LTAD Aligned Coaching & Club Training System

Read the rest of this entry »


An LTAD Example for Junior Squash Coaches

January 20, 2009

A major criticism of U.S. Squash (and tennis), that also applies to North American sport in general, is that training activities are too squash-specific, too early in an athlete’s development, and feature too much technical work at the expense of developing a wider range of athletic abilities.

Here is a concrete example of what is meant by too squash-specific and too technical.  Imagine a typical junior private lesson for a 9-year old at the “X” Cricket & Tennis Club in City X.  After a short warm-up, the well-meaning squash professional spends 20 minutes on the forehand drive and 20 minutes on the backhand drive, correcting grip, backswing, follow through, and improving the students ability to hit the squash ball down the wall to land behind the back of the service box – finishing the lesson with a short, coach controlled game.

Contrast that with a second scenario, in which after 30-minutes of on-court instructions our 9-year old takes part in 30 minutes of the type of training activities that take place in this video:

Can you imagine the difference in the development of athletic potential?  Faced with the constraints of a beginner’s racquet skills, the nature of the bounce of the squash ball, and the confines of a squash court, it is not possible for our well-meaning squash professional to develop the type of athletic skills necessary for success at the elite level in squash – as depicted in this video (focus on White’s retrieving in the second rally):

  Read the rest of this entry »


High School & Junior Squash Coaches: You Need to Know about LTADs!

August 5, 2008

One of the most challenging problems for U.S. Squash (and all of U.S. sport for that matter) is that the training and competition schedules of younger athletes are based on inappropriate Professional Sport Models (little preparation and too much competition) or chance factors such as availability of courts or how many private lessons parents want or are willing to pay for for their child. High school (and college) seasons are too short, and too competition-focussed for any significant athletic development to occur.

Complicating matters is the fact that the dominant model for hiring squash coaches (and in fact most Division I college coaches) is still the “Ex-top-player” model – if they were a good player, then they must be a good coach! Even a casual glance at any list of coaching standards will reveal the necessity of the extensive training and education needed to coach competently in any context other that an adult club recreational setting.  Read the rest of this entry »


Pre-Season Lessons for H.S. Students – Fall 2018

March 22, 2017

The U.S. High School Squash season is very short – November to March – about 12 weeks of actual squash – not enough coaching to develop into a complete, skillful player.

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Former Canadian Junior National Coach Tim Bacon is an expert on the science of developing junior players.  In addition to coaching top Canadians including Jonathon Power and Graham Ryding, who went on the become World #1 and #9 respectively, he has worked as a Sport Scientist with most of the top U.S. juniors at the Princeton Squash Camps since 1987.

Tim coaches using the latest LTAD models and Sports Pedagogy  systems such as Decision Training and the Games Approach to make lessons fun and ensure a player’s optimal development.

 

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Individual or small group (3-4 players) lessons and training are available in both Connecticut and Western Massachusetts:

  • Wesleyan University or  within a 30-minute radius ($25 travel fee)
  • At your school squash facility within a 30-minute radius of Northampton, MA

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To ensure the safety and satisfaction of clients, Tim uses the CoachUp booking app to arrange all lessons:

  • $1,000,000 liability insurance
  • 100% Money-Back lesson satisfaction guarantee
  • Sex offender screening by CoachUp (also Princeton Squash Camps do an annual CORY check on Tim – copy of report available on request)

Lesson Rates per Hour*

1 student $50

2 student $65

3 student  $75

4 student  $85

*There is a $25 travel fee for lessons requiring 30 min. of travel from Wesleyan university or Northampton, MA.

In addition to regular on-court lessons and training, Tim also offers specialized sessions in the following areas:

  • video analysis of match play and tactics
  • video analysis of technique (biomechanics)
  • mental skills assessment and training
  • age-appropriate physical training

Email Tim at tbacon@wesleyan.edu or phone/text him at 413-330-8222 for more information.


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).

You can follow Tim on Twitter by clicking on this link.

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Squash Anticipation & Deception: 2 Sides of the Same Coin

April 8, 2015

Many squash spectators, players and even coaches misunderstand squash “quickness and speed”, attributing a “fast” player’s ability to physical factors rather than their ability to anticipate what the opponent is likely to do – or not do (partial anticipation).  One of the ways to “slow down” a fast player is to use deception to hold your opponent stationary for a longer time or even misdirect them. I have blogged on both (Deception link and Anticipation link) of these topics before  but now want to combine them since it is the same, identical motor learning theory behind both notions.

The theoretical idea (e.g., Hick’s Law) behind both anticipation and deception is very simple – the greater the number of options or choices – the slower the reaction time – as illustrated in the graph below.

Hick's Law

Practical Squash Examples of the above law:

  1. When you have glued a straight length to the side wall your opponent has only one choice – to hit straight – so you can cheat over to cut off their shot.
  2. When you have hit a loose, slow easy ball into the middle of the court, your opponent has so many choices (drive straight or cross, drop straight or cross) that you cannot anticipate and you have to stay put until they actually hit the shot.

As I have blogged before, the best way to develop deceptive players who anticipate well is to have young children (8-12?) be introduced to squash in an environment where deception is valued and they are exposed to a wide variety of practice partners and opponents – then these perceptual-motor skills develop “automatically”.  If you are a junior in America this is probably not going to happen since your British squash coach is having you hit endless straight lengths down the wall and working on your fitness through hours of mindless boast and drive.  I feel free to joke and make this outlandishly exaggerated comment as I am in fact British:)  But although I am joking about “only hit straight lengths a la Jonah Barrington, there is far too much closed drilling going on in our junior programs – and not enough tactical teaching.  Here is an example of “tactical teaching” using the Games Approach (ASEP, 2012).

Since in many places great anticipation and deception will not be developed automatically, a systematic approach is needed.  What do we mean by systematic?

  • Make a list of all situations to be trained in priority order, and make sure to teach anticipation cues and deception options when you introduce and train the situation.  Note that “priority order” could mean start with the a) most common situations; b) “easiest” situations (to help athlete gain confidence); c) most difficult situations (since these take longer to learn); d) most important (the situations that cause you to lose the most points in your current match play).
  • Theoretically, these lists should be tailored to the developmental level of your player, and integrated into annual, four-year and “lifetime” (e.g., LTAD plans).

Here is an example of a list of prioritized situations.

Squash Front Court Tactics: 3-Wall Boast

Application for Squash Coaches

  1. Do not leave the development of anticipation and deception to chance – train these qualities systematically.
  2. Train situations not strokes – include the teaching of anticipation and deception every time you train a particular situation.
  3. Plan your teaching of anticipation and deception by including these in your written annual, four-year, and LTAD plans.

Squash Coaches Can Produce Great Strength Programs with FitnessBuilder!

April 5, 2015

FitnessBuilder App

It is the start of the new 2015-16 for most U.S. College and High School squash coaches, and to help them plan for the upcoming year, I have just published two blog articles on squash periodization:  one on the Transition Phase and the other on Periodization of Technique and Tactics in the General Preparation Phase (GPP).  My next periodization article in the series will be on the planning of strength training in the GPP.

Before I get to that I want to introduce squash coaches to a fantastic tool that can be used to produce your team’s own custom-designed strength training program:  PumpOne’s Fitness Builder.  I have been using it for the past three years to plan and design my own college team’s strength programs – result:  two complete seasons without a single squash-related injury (you can check with the Smith trainers:)

Coaches can design programs with Fitness builder on their computer or smart device like an iPad or iPhone.  The custom programs can be sent to athletes via emailed PDF or directly to their phone/tablet, and since there are linked video descriptions for every exercise, athletes can take their own “personal trainer” or strength coach to the gym with them – great for the off-season when many squash players are away from the campus gym.  The interface is intuitive and extremely easy to use, with hundreds of exercises to choose from, as well as a variety of fitness programs.  My advice to squash coaches using the wise periodization approach is design your own programs following periodization principles (e.g., Bompa, 2009).  Check out this video overview of the Fitness Builder system:

Now here is the catch – are you qualified to design a periodized squash-specific strength program – or are you just going to “wing it” or copy somebody else’s program – or worse – use the program that got you a hip replacement?

Tennis Training (Kovacs et al.)

The USTA (tennis) has produced a number of books (e.g., Kovacs et al., 2007 above image) which can be used as a reference, as the strength demands of tennis and squash are similar enough.  The drawback of using a strength coach – the NSCA CSCS is the gold standard of certification (I got certified in 2006) – is that many of them come from a football background and still rely heavily on “traditional” strength lifts and exercises.  The major problem with this is that there are much better, more squash-specific and functional exercises available – so what is really needed is someone like myself with both the squash coaching and national level playing background AND a reputable strength training certification. Here is a short video I made on this topic:

If you do not have access to a CSCS with extensive squash experience, a smart alternative is to subscribe to the Exos (formerly Core Performance website) and either a) use their squash or tennis programs; or b) follow their template and select from amongst their bank of exercises when you use fitness builder.  Eighty per cent of the exercises I use with my team are the same or highly similar to Exos exercises (I like to think my programs are a little better than theirs due to my 40 years of experience designing squash-specific strength programs:).  This is what I did four years ago – every week in the fall (I started my Smith Squash Team on September 15th) I would upload the appropriate EXOS training program for both the Smith Tennis and Squash Teams to follow.

Core Performance for Tennis

As a minimum, I would design one program per phase of the annual plan.  If you have an assistant or enjoy this type of coaching you could change the plan up every two weeks, but the law of diminishing returns applies and you would probably be better off spending your time recruiting.

Here is an example program I have used with my team (remember that the version sent to your athletes iPhones has clickable video descriptions for each exercise!):

Fitness builder Example

Last couple of words on this topic.  If you are a squash coach working with not yet fully mature juniors, make sure you follow LTAD guidelines for squash or tennis.  If you need help in this area please give me a call – my rates are reasonable to develop custom branded programs for you and your team.


Periodization of Squash Technique & Tactics: General Preparation Phase

April 2, 2015

Periodization Chart

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.

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– 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.


Squash Science Junior Summer 2017 Programs

March 29, 2015

Stages and Ages of an LTAD

Do you want to make sure your child is training & playing the right way?

I am asking this question with all due respect to a lot of great squash coaches and pros teaching children all around the world – I have worked very well with hundreds of them over the last 25 years – and learned a lot from them – and hope to learn a lot more from working with them!

The advantage I had over most squash coaches is that I was able to take coaching certification courses at the same time I was learning how to play the sport – and at the same time was studying for my Bachelor’s in Physical & Health Education.  So right from the start I had the opportunity to be very concerned and be critically reflective about “how to do things right” as I was introduced to different sport science topics.  I was basically self-taught so never really ever went though a “this is how my coach taught this” – since I never had racquet sport coaches:)

This early advantage was solidified with my M.A. in Coaching and Sport Psychology, and then 10 years of Doctoral study in Sport Psychology while coaching squash at the Jr. national Team level and university – while consulting with 20+ world racquet sport champions and their coaches for what has now turned into 25 years.

I will be scheduling some camps this summer, but am also offering individual consultation in person or by phone and email:

  • Send video for expert technical & tactical analysis – 24 hr. turnaround
  • Custom age-appropriate fitness programs with video for iPhone & iPad
  • Long Term (LTAD) planning help: 1-, 4-, and 8-year plans
  • Skype or Facetime sport psychology consulting
  • On-court or in the gym coaching TBA

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If you child has a coach I will would definitely love to work with them! My rates are similar to what you would pay for an on-court lesson with your local squash pro – hopefully I can make sure they are on the right track.

Tim Bacon, BPHE, M.A., CSCS   1-413-330-8222 squashscience@gmail.com


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).


“Science of Coaching Squash” E-Book is published!

March 27, 2012

Ummmm…well not really. I would publish a “Science of Coaching Squash” book – if there was a market.  Unfortunately, the tennis market is absolutely huge, but the current squash market, especially the squash coaching part of it is tiny – I probably personally know 80% of certified squash coaches in Canada and the U.S. 🙂

The title for this blog came from a 1989 book published by Human Kinetics: The Science of Coaching Tennis.  The mental training section of the book was excellent – written by Jim Loehr, so practical.  The other sections were not bad, but the book lacked an overall unifying framework – for example periodization, to really assist coaches in implementing the information.  Here is a link to some of the other tennis books I think are worth a read.

One of my goals in writing this blog is for it to act as a resource for squash coaches – so almost like an e-book.  I am going to have a crack at outlining a very rough version of a Science of Coaching Squash E-Book that uses LTADs and Periodization as a framework by using links to “Categories” and search results – organizing them by “chapter”.  This will be imperfect but a fun exercise (for me) and might give squash coaches another way to access the information on this blog.  So here we go:

Chapter 1:  Planning a Squash Athletes Development:  The Framework – LTADs & Periodization

Chapter 2:  Establishing a Positive Learning Environment – Part 1: Understanding Squash Motivation.

Chapter 3: Establishing a Positive Learning & Training Environment – Part 2: Leadership for Squash Coaches.

Chapter 4: Tactics First – The Key to developing Great Players

Chapter 5: Periodization of Technical-Tactical Training (for each phase of the LTAD)

Chapter 6:  Periodization of Physical Training (for each phase of the LTAD)

Chapter 7:  Periodization of Mental Training (for each phase of the LTAD)

Chapter 8:  Evaluating Your Program and Coaching

Appendix

Science of Coaching Squash YouTube Channel

Twitter Squash Science

Smith College Squash Team (more training videos)