How to Evaluate Squash Coaches ‘Scientifically”

April 26, 2017

It’s a funny position to be in – having yourself evaluated by someone who knows very little beyond their own minimal life experience about the subject that you are teaching.  College squash coaches, just like University and College Faculty are evaluated at the end of their annual teaching/coaching cycle.

To muddy the “evaluation” waters even further, those who design and administer the forms used to evaluate coaches have themselves received little if any training in the area, and it is extremely doubtful that they have kept abreast of research in the area – yes – “how to evaluate a coach” is an actual research area usually falling within sport psychology, coaching science, or sport pedagogy.

My recommendation is to use the Coaching Behavior Scale for Sport (CBS-S) an evaluation form that has been validated in several studies and found to be an “effective” tool.  You can download a copy of the questionnaire and scoring instructions here:

http://the-coach-athlete-relationship.wikispaces.com/file/view/CBS-S+Sample.pdf.  Here is a link to a PDF of the original article on the development of the CBS-S (Mallett & Cote, 2006) and a screenshot of several of the questions:

CBS Screenshot

 

There are a few obvious “items that need discussing” ” that only an expert coach/sport scientist would be able to spot, but this instrument has the advantage of directing the athletes attention to key components as opposed to a less structured questionnaire.  My observations on items #8, #13, and #15:

#8 – one could argue a coach should NOT be talking during skill execution as might distract and athlete;

#13 – verbal feedback would have minimal effect on visual and kinaesthetic learning styles;  Better would be “coach gives feedback appropriate to my learning style”:)

#15 – recent research (e.g., Vickers – Decision Training) has found that the most effective feedback is that provided when a coach waits for an athlete to ask for feedback.

In addition to using a satisfactory questionnaire, there is no doubt that an actual observation by an expert in coaching and sport science is the best way to provide feedback about coaching.  I would have to say that I have rarely heard of this being done in the U.S. sports world let alone the squash coaching world.

The assessor would have to be somebody like me and that does not really exist (except for me:):

  • terminal degree in coaching (which is a Master’s for the discipline of sports coaching);
  • experience teaching relevant sport science courses where you regularly assess coaching knowledge and skill – I have taught Sport Pedagogy, Coaching, Sport Psychology, and Sport Leadership at the college level, and have held certifications in sport psychology, strength training (CSCS), and am a Level 4 Squash Coach (and Tutor/Learning Facilitator);
  • experience conducting coach evaluations – these were an integral part of our students’ experience in Graduate Program in Coaching at Smith College – as part of our Coaching Practicum I would be charged with observing and assessing 7-8 graduate students three times every year.

There are other ways of evaluating coaching we haven’t really discussed which might prove useful:  peer coach observation, video self-observation; ongoing professional development taking coaching certification courses where coach evaluation is part of the process (e.g., Coaching Association of Canada).  Whatever the evaluation process – hopefully a fair one for the coach – a very useful outcome would be for a coach to produce a “Personal Improvement Plan” and set goals for the next season of coaching.


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).


Psychological Skills for Squash Coaches???

May 21, 2012

(This is a reprint from my Sports Leadership graduate class that I teach in Smith College’s Department of Exercise & Sport Studies – I think is applies pretty well to the squash environment and summer is a great time for squash coaches to do some professional development:)

This topic could also be entitled:

  • stress management for coaches
  • self-management for coaches
  • mental training for coaches.

The rationale for the necessity of “peak performance” or stress management strategies will be evident after reading the references.  The Canadian National Coaching Certification Program (NCCP) Level 4/5 (i.e., Elite/National Coach) program featured two courses in this area: Task 8: Mental Training for Coaches (which I taught several times at the NCCP National Coaching Conferences – in both English and Francais:) and Task: 16: Enhanced Coaching Performance.

A reminder that this self-paced segment of the course is ungraded, so you may post your “assignment” whenever you wish.  Your assignment is to post a brief summary of:

a) Your current level of “coaching stress” (as opposed to academic or relationship stress).

b) Identify three “mental training” strategies (either ones you use now or from the reference material) that you could use to either improve your “game day” coaching performance or reduce your short term or long term coaching stress.

References (you should read at least two)

Bestsellers in “Success” Self-Help Books

Bradford, S.H., Keshock, C.M.  (2009). Female coaches and job stress:  A review of the literature. College Student Journal, 43, 196-200. (Click here or find on Smith Library’s Sport Discus)

Loehr, J., & Schwartz, T. (2001).  The making of a corporate athlete. Harvard Business Review (January).  Loehr & Schwartz, 2001

Taylor, J. (1992). Coaches are people too:  An applied model of stress management for coaches.  Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 4, 27-50.  Taylor (1992)

Thelwell, R. C., Weston, N. V., Greenlees, I. A., & Hutchings, N. V. (2008). A qualitative exploration of psychological skills use in coaches. Sport Psychologist, 22, 38-53.  PST For Coaches

Other Resources

Stress Map – this was the “text” in my Level 4 Enhanced Coaching Performance course given by Peter

Seven Habits of Highly Effective People – point form summary could be useful – and here is a useful downloadable weekly planner based on the book.


Squash Scientist Recertifies NSCA Strength & Conditioning Specialist Credential!

March 21, 2012

As the clock struck 12 midnight on December 31, 2011, I completed the last of the six CEUs (Continuing Education Unit) that I needed to keep my NSCA Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist certification current – updating me until December 31, 2014. A few weeks later I got my certificate in the mail – it’s only my iPhone that makes it look pink – it’s actually a nice blue-tinged parchment color.

Here is a description of the educational activities one needs to complete to stay current.  Recertification is a bit of a money maker for the NSCA, although it is a non-profit institution.  Although one can accumulate a lot of credits by attending NSCA conferences, I used a number of self-directed activities (this blog for example) and online quizzes based on scientific readings.  Here is a link to one of the NSCA Hot Topic readings that could qualify you for the next recertification period – .3 CEU for answering a quiz based on this reading – the topic this month is “minimalist footwear”.  Other quizzes I took were on the topics of:

  • Agility Training for Experienced Athletes
  • Skill Based Conditioning
  • Core Stability
  • The Science & Practice of Periodization
  • Medicine Ball Training Implications for Rotational Power Sports (we could include squash in here).

I think the idea of recertifying or being obliged to stay current is a good one – although it is a bit of a hassle.  Although I have, and have had, a number of certifications (Squash Canada, U.S. Squash, WPSA, Racquetball Canada, Tennis Canada, Canadian Mental Training Registry) except for the NSCA, only Tennis Canada has a recertification policy in place.  One of the difficulties of being a multi-talented coaching consultant is that keeping up with all the professional memberships and professional development can be quite onerous – I finally had to let my Tennis Canada Coach 3 Certification lapse, as I do not actually coach tennis that much any more.  In addition to the racquet sport coaching and strength certifications, I am also a member, and so pay dues to the Association of Applied Sport Psychology  (a charter member since 1987) and FEPSAC (European Federation of Sport Psychology).

One very useful aspect of the CSCS certification is that it means, unlike other U.S. College Squash Coaches (since I am the only coach who has their CSCS), I can strength train my players when they are out of season – a pretty big advantage. Here is a summary of the current NCAA Division III rule changes that describe this advantage.

The odd thing is of course, is that in the squash world, the public, coaches, Athletic Director’s, and employers pay very little attention to educational credentials and tend to prioritize current playing ability and or in the case of coaches, the ability of their athletes.  I am sure John White would not like his coaching to be rated on the ranking of his Drexel University Women’s squash team (his new job), nor would Geoff Hunt appreciate a rating of his coaching based on his current playing ability (let’s be generous and say a “B” level – pretty good for a 65-year old) or the world ranking of his Qatar athletes?  Coaches should actually be rated based on logical, scientifically based criteria – which would usually mean a combination of items including observation by trained observers, and some sort of oral or written exams, as well of course as some sort of athlete input – as well as concrete results.  One of the purposes of this blog is to encourage people to think a little more deeply about coaching – certainly to look a little beyond the current player rankings.

My two favorite videos related to strength training and squash:) :


Modern Squash Coaching – What does it involve?

February 17, 2012

Notwithstanding the fact that I have a lot of respect for my peer coaches, only a few coaches have advanced degrees in sport science.  My assistant coach Erin Robson at Smith College is one of them – former Head Squash and Tennis Coach at Williams College, she competed her M.Sc. in Coaching here at Smith College in our Graduate program – designed to prepare coaches of college teams.  Pam Saunders,  Associate Head coach at Yale University is another graduate of our program.

An equally small number of coaches have completed the other path that combines squash and sport science – a Level 4 Squash Coaching Certification. Aside from myself, Harvard’s Mike Way is the only other active coach in the U.S.A. (we did out Squash Canada Level 3 together back in Toronto in 1980).

Once a squash coach completes these “squash science” education opportunities, the next step is to stay current with recent developments.  In my current position at Smith College (.5 Athletics/.5 faculty) I am lucky enough to be able to stay up to date though my lecturing activities in sport science and coaching-related courses:

  • ESS 110 Introduction to Sport Coaching
  • ESS 220  Psychology of Sport
  • ESS 130 Stress Management
  • ESS 520 Leadership for Sport Coaches (graduate program).

One of my favorite coaching websites is actually a tennis coaching website – Wayne Elderton’s AceCoach.  I subscribe to his site (and you should to) and today received his February newsletter in my email which contained the article ” Modern Tennis Coaching”.  The short article nicely summarizes my approach to squash coaching – the similarity is not surprising as we have both been trained in the Canadian Sport System’s Theory and Tennis Certification Program.  If you are interested in learning more about how these four pillars apply to squash – just use the “search” function on this site!


Developing a Squash World Champion: Part 3

July 26, 2011

If you are just joining us for part three, you may want to check out my first 2008 post on this topic – and last week’s post.  To make a long story short (read the previous posts:), if all squash coaches (and squash countries) have access to the same information why do some countries (in this case the Egyptians) outperform others (in some cases with much greater resources?

In the interest of brevity, since this topic could consume an entire weekend coaching conference, I am going to make my points, some of them hypothetical of course, in bullet form.  Please feel free to leave a comment below!

I will just add that my comments are based not just on my personal observation of the Egyptian’s (and their opponents), but on my entire consulting and coaching experience which include not only a Men’s Squash World Champion (Jonathon Power), but an Olympic Gold Medalist (tennis’ Sebastien Lareau), and several other World Champions (Jr. tennis, Canadian National Racquetball Team, etc.).

  • As Jahangir Khan pointed out in his book, and I paraphrase, “It’s not what you know – it’s what you do” – so we have to look beyond what people are saying (in books, at conferences, etc.) and see what is happening on the ground level;
  • In the U.S., top juniors are getting trained primarily through daily private lessons, often on their own family’s private squash court.  then they are packed off to prep school for an important four years of their life, with very little exposure to a wide variety of styles and competition – and perhaps too much emphasis on winning: “don’t play those beautiful risky shots – just hit the ball to the back”.  There are two main repercussions of his situations.
  •  The private lessons given to U.S. juniors, are often given by English and Australian pros who favor an attritional, conservative style of play – not only do players developed like this not develop the very difficult hand-eye coordination to play difficult, deceptive shots – they have little chance to counter or react against these shots.  The attritional style favours early success – but severely limits the ceiling of future potential as an adult – I have seen this first hand over several generations of Canadians – very fit players who find it difficult to stay in the top 20, because at the top everyone is fit: Dale Styner, Jamie Crombie, Sabir Butt, Gary Waite (to some extent), Shahir Razik (very un-Egyptian:), and Graham Ryding (to some extent).
  • The numbers of junior players in England has dropped dramatically (reducing the number of clubs that hacve a great variety of players) and getting players together has always been problematic in Canada due to the geography (although we did have two Toronto National Training Centers up and running in the late 1980’s which supported a slew of players who went on to decent pro careers) – this has led to “isolation”, whereas the Egyptians have set up a centralized system where all the players congregate in one of two places:  Cairo or Alexandria:  a great variety of players and styles and opponents with young and old and boys and girls training together facilitates the development of great anticipation, reaction time, and a high level of tactical awareness – not available when playing the same opponents week in and week out, and not developed in private lessons.
  • Status Quo:  In the last 10 years I don’t believe I have seen a squash coaching conference in the U.S. with an Egyptian Coach as the headliner – nor have I seen a coaching conference where Liz Irving was the keynote speaker/coach????  It is difficult to pick up on current trends – but in all honesty we had four Egyptian girls as semi-finalists at the 2003 Jr. Worlds in Cairo – how long has Nicol David been #1?  It is nice to see that there are now quite a few Egyptian associated summer squash camps (including the PPS Squash camps I directed in 2009 & 2010). If you keep doing what you have always done….

I do believe that it is possible for other countries to catch the Egyptians, but it will not be with the current crop of adult players – it will have to be with those who are now 8-12 years old (a “golden” age of learning) with a revamped squash coaching philosophy – which probably means 2020:)

ps.  I do not think this is incongruous with the LTADs – on the contrary – an LTAD that integrates these notions will be very effective.

Application for Squash Coaches:

  1. Pay attention to “trends’ in international squash – often it is the juniors (and their squash coaches), not the current world number 1’s who will provide the path.
  2. Teach and reinforce risky shot-making (since these skills take a long time to develop and to learn how to play against) while players are young (8-12) – this often means putting winning aside as a main focus.
  3. Related to the above – stop the over-coaching! Playing games and matches against a wide variety of opponents and styles is just as important as developing good strokes and perfect length.
  4. Stop prioritizing winning and rankings with junior that are under 18 – if you want them to succeed at the world level (no college player is suddenly going to turn on the skills required to get into the top 10 (adults) so forget it!).
  5. It is difficult, but you must expose juniors to the widest possible variety of opponents.



Developing a World Squash Champion: Part II

July 21, 2011

I have already written on the “cultural” aspects of developing a world squash champion in a previous post, and the recent results from the Men’s Junior World Championships and the Spanish Davis Cup victory over the U.S.A. are motivating me to update my thoughts on the topic.

I see the recent success of both Egyptian Squash and Spanish Tennis as highly similar – countries outperforming their peers who have the same or greater resources.  My interest in the topic was first piqued when I attended and presented (with co-Presenter Shona Kerr from Wesleyan University) at the 2003 WSF Coaching Conference in Cairo that was being held alongside the Jr. Women’s World Squash Championships – all semifinalists were Egyptian girls.  Here are the observations I made at the time which contributed to my curiosity:

  • Egyptian coaching information was “outdated” – for example their sport psychologist was presenting information from the Coaching Association of Canada that I have developed 15 years earlier (if their available information is the same or older than the rest of the squash world – why are they more successful? The only conclusion is that the key factor must be something other than the information itself!) 
  • The England Squash presenters seemed more interested in “taking the piss” and making inside jokes during their presentation than actually communicating with their audience (most non-native English language speakers).  In other words, they did not seem to be “reading the situation” very well or appreciating its seriousness – they were being thumped by a much poorer country with relatively limited resources. (Absolute resources such as money, number of coaches, number of courts and players do not appear to be the determining factor in world success – what are the key factors then?);
  • In an Egyptian presentation on Deception, an English coach interrupted (after having been invited out on court to join the presenters) to say:  “there is no deception in the back-court” – apparently not true according to a recent video of an English player competing against an Egyptian:

As coaching director of the PPS Squash Camps, I had the opportunity to coach alongside two top Egyptian players, Karim Darwish and Engy Kheirollah for two weeks the last two summers.  I subtly bombarded them with questions, concluding that the type of drills they do, and the technical information they know is not different from the rest of the coaching world – what are the key factors then in developing a squash world champion (Karim was world #1 at the time)?

I also follow tennis very closely, and have been intrigued with the success of the Spanish players, particularly the men.  The head of the ITF Sport Science and Coaching is Miguel Crespo, a Spaniard, and all of their publications are published simultaneously in Spanish and English – I subscribe to all of their sport science and coaching publications.  In addition, I attended and presented at the ITF 2008 World Coaching Conference in Valencia, Spain and had ample opportunity to hear a variety of Spanish tennis coaches and sport scientists attempt to explain the key factors in their success.  Here is an interview with the players themselves:

Since it appears all of the content of the Spanish coaching and sport science programs have been readily and publicly available (i.e., any country is free to use the information), then the information alone cannot be the primary reason for their success – what are the key factors then?

In Part III of this series I will hypothesize about what these key factors are.


Squash Science Related Job Opening: Performance Director for Squash Canada!

July 12, 2011

Danny Dacosta, Executive Director for Squash Canada, has asked me to post a newly opened position for Performance Director for Squash Canada.  Here is the link to the announcement on their website and you can download a PDF of the job description here:  Performance Director Job Posting – Squash Canada – Final June 23, 2011.  Obviously, if squash becomes an Olympic sport, this position would be even more exciting!

This position is a great opportunity for an experienced coach to use the sport science knowledge and applications that we post on this blog.  If you are going to apply for the job, here are some of our best posts which target the key areas identified by the job description:

  • Following up on the above point, the Performance Director will need to assist in re-orienting the Coaching Certification system around LTADs.  Key post to read:  Rethinking Squash Coaching Education.
  • One of the keys in Tennis Canada’s success was implementing an effective “tactics first” approach for their both their coaching certification program and the actual programs used in National Training Centers.  Squash Canada has a “tactics first” approach to certification, but is short on specifics and direction to coaches on what exactly to implement.  Tennis Canada had a detailed training manual for U11, U14 and U18 – which spelled out the program week by week.  Key post to read:  Tactics First.
  • Understanding trends in International Squash and being able to swiftly implement changes in coaching education and athlete training:  Developing Deceptive Players.

The most effective National Sport Governing Body (NSO) that I have been involved with (consulting work) was Tennis Canada.  Backed by a supportive Executive Board – and this is the key part – a small team of three people each with strong expertise in a particular area, were able to implement continual dramatic change over a twenty-year period – with great current results.  Pierre Lamarche provided the initial strong drive and energy, Ari Novick the administrative excellence and communication between all stakeholders and Louis Cayer the coaching expertise. They also did a great job integrating ex-players into their coaching and administration. Canadian tennis players are now over-excelling at all levels – male and female, junior and adult!  Often with NSOs it’s a case of “too many cooks spoil the broth”!