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.

IMG_6323

– 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

IMG_6322

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).


College & High School Squash Periodization: The Transition Phase starts now!

March 24, 2015

Periodization Chart

Periodization for a college or high school squash coach involves dividing the training and competitive year into four periods (hence the name periodization or periodisation in the Commonwealth and French-speaking countries) in order to make planning easier easier to understand and implement. The short official seasons – about 18 weeks from mid-October to March 1st – of U.S. colleges and high school present some unique challenges in seeking to optimize athlete performance.  The basics of periodization are outlined in some of my previous posts – if you want an overview of what the content of an annual squash periodized plan would look like you can check out this link..  The purpose of this article is to focus on the final period of the annual plan – the transition phase. Before North American squash coaches learned about periodization, this time of year was called the off-season – it started after the National Championships and ended in the fall a few weeks before the start of the next season’s squash tournaments.  In the U.S., many squash players would play tennis in the summer. The disadvantage of this old fashioned approach was that a player would lose nearly all of their squash-specific conditioning, and recommence the next season back at the same level as the prior season.  I have adapted current periodization theory (e.g., Bompa, 2009) and have developed several key recommendations for squash coaches for the Transition Period – the new functional term for “off-season”. Focus X2i iPad My first recommendations center around doing a thorough analysis of athlete performance:

  • Do a thorough evaluation of your players technical, tactical, physical and mental performance at the end of the season – preferably during key matches and final practices leading up to the final competition of the year.
  • A comprehensive technical-tactical analysis of your players is perhaps the most important thing you can do, as this evaluation will form the foundation of their goal-setting for the next season.  This is best done by analyzing match video using a good game analysis software such as FocusX2i for iPad and a logical tactical framework such as the Zone or Egg Model that I use for my analyses.  If you have not done this before, I offer a consulting service where you can send me your player’s video file and I will do the analysis for you – including improvement recommendations and player goals based on the statistics from the analysis.  Alternatively I can train coaches in the use of the software and show you or your assistants how to do your own analysis.
  • An analysis of your player’s mental performance can be done by examining their post-match evaluation forms (if you have used them) for the last few crucial matches of the season, or via paper and pencil tests such as the TOPS (I can provide questionnaires and scoring instructions).
  • An evaluation of your players’ fitness can be done by using their last few fitness test results (ideally one test for each of the three energy systems) and also by simply asking the players to assess each of the physical qualities essential for squash.  The other way is simply to note their performance level during the last few workouts of the season (before the peaking or unloading phase).

Egg Model for Squash Tactics My second set of recommendations concern general advice for the Transition Phase (adapted from Bompa, 2012):

  • Have your players take 4-6 weeks where they do not play squash, but instead do fun and cross-training activities (ultimate frisbee, swimming, etc.) about three times a week, that allow them to maintain their aerobic fitness and slow down the loss of speed and strength gains.
  • This is the period where they should try and rehab any injuries acquired during the season.
  • There should be limited, formal strength training sessions – and if there are any they should be of lower intensity (think strength-endurance: lighter weights 12-15 reps) and feature a high proportion of complementary exercises.  For example the types of exercises found in Exos’ prehabilitation and movement preparation.  One to two sessions a week should be sufficient to serious significant detraining.
  • Especially in the two weeks following the major competition, 15-20 minutes on an exercise bike followed by foam rolling, tennis ball myofascial release and use of a stretching rope 3-4 times a week will aid in regeneration.
  • If athletes set their goals for the next season in the week after the major competition, there is no need to do any formal technical, tactical, or mental training during the transition phase – they can just chill and relax.
  • After 4-6 weeks of the above, players can start their preparation for the next season by starting on their Preparatory Period training activities – a topic I will address in the coming weeks.

 Application for Squash Coaches

  1. Make sure to plan and schedule a 4-6 week “transition” period following your major squash championship in order to allow your players to fully regenerate for the next season.
  2. Do a thorough evaluation, including match video analysis, in order to set effective and meaningful goals with your players at the end of the season.

Squash Scientist Resumes Consulting as of March 1, 2015

February 23, 2015

The 2014-15 U.S. College Squash season is over, and my academic teaching load is very light this semester – no classes Thursday to Sunday – so four days to dedicate to sport science consulting:) And then totally free from May 1 to September 1. Here is a reminder of what I can help you with – it is a long list based on my 28 years of high performance consulting and my teaching in both the undergraduate and graduate coaching programs (#1 ranked in U.S.) at Smith College:

  • Custom, branded physical (Fitness Builder) and mental training MANUALS for your college team or national sport association;  (I have been a nationally registered specialist for both:)
  • Custom video analysis of your players – technical using Ubersense or Tactical using Focus X2 – send me a video file and I will send you back a complete and thorough scientific analysis of your player;
  • Custom workshops, group and individual training sessions for your out-of-season athletes and or coaching staff and assistant coaches.  (I am a Squash Canada Level 4 former National Jr. Coach, NSCA Strength Training Specialist, and Registered Mental Training Consultant).

If you want to chat about the possibilities email me at squashscience@gmail.com or call or text me at 1-413-330-8222. Exos Logotrxbanner1NSCA CSCS 2012ubersensefitness-builder-top-10The_Leadership_Challenge_5_editionnsca-banner-2


Squash Coach Educates Coaches!

May 21, 2014

I have been designing, writing and delivering coaching education materials for National Sport Governing Bodies, and more recently the Smith College M.Sc. Coaching program since 1987. I have developed coaching materials for the Coaching Association of Canada, but I have also developed coaching content for other organizations including Squash Canada, Tennis Canada and Racquetball Canada.

During this time of sport science teaching I have always been an active coach and competitor, enabling my practical experience to inform my classroom and on-court teaching. I coached the Canadian Jr. Men’s team (featuring a very young Jonathon Power and Graham Ryding) at the 1990 World Championships, and have been the Head coach of Squash at Smith College since 1994.  I have also won the MA 45+ Squash Championships and held a top 10 US Squash 45+ ranking on two occasions, winning the MA Softball Doubles Championships once (with a female partner) and been ranked 23rd in the World Racketlon Doubles Rankings (2007; table tennis, badminton, squash, tennis).

Currently I am a member of the USSRA Coaching Committee and an ASEP Coaching Principles Instructor. I also teach in the Smith College Graduate Program in Coaching, one of only  a handful of NCASE Level 4 Approved Coaching Programs in the U.S.A.

I graduated from the Master’s in Coaching Program at the University of Western Ontario (Coaching/Sport Psychology double), and am the only college coach in the U.S.A. with full-time Head Coach responsibilities and a simultaneous Faculty appointment teaching the equivalent of three, four-credit academic courses.  Recently (at Smith College) I have taught:

  • ESS 110 Introduction to Sports Coaching (undergraduate)
  • ESS 220  Psychology of Sport (undergraduate)
  • ESS 500 Foundations of College Coaching (graduate)
  • ESS 507 Critical Thinking & Coaching Research (graduate)
  • ESS 565  Seminar in Sport Pedagogy & Motor Learning (graduate)
  • ESS 520 Sport Leadership for Sport Coaches (graduate)

Other Smith College courses taught in the past include:

  • ESS 100 Introduction to Exercise & Sport Studies (undergraduate)
  • ESS 130 Stress Management (undergraduate)
  • ESS 505-506 Practicum  (graduate supervisor)

Non-Smith Coaching Education Courses taught:

  • ASEP’s “Coaching Principles” course
  • Coaching Association of Canada’s NCCP Level 1, 2, 3 Theory courses
  • Master Course Conductor for the NCCP, training Facilitators to deliver the above courses, and evaluating their teaching of these courses
  • NCCP Level 4 Courses taught:  Task 7 – Mental Training for Athletes, Task 8 – Mental Training for Coaches, Task 13  – Performance Analysis.

Coaching/Consulting Certification’s Include:

  • NSCA Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS)
  • Member, Canadian Mental Training Registry (equivalent to AASP Certified Consultant)
  • Squash Canada Level 4 Coach (targets national team athletes)
  • Tennis Canada Level 3 Technical Coach (targets U18 jr. national players)
  • Racquetball Canada Level 1 Instructor
  • U.S. Squash Level 3 Certification (highest level)
  • World Professional Squash Association Pro 1 Certification (hardball squash – highest level)

Specific examples of coaching education projects include:

  1. Sport Psychology section of the Racquetball Canada Level 3 Coaching manual.
  2. Contributor to the Sport Psychology chapters of the NCCP (French) Level 1 & 2 Theory Manuals.
  3. Sport Psychology chapter of the NCCP (French) Level 3 Theory Manual.
  4. Sport Psychology material in Tennis Canada’s Coach 2 Manual.
  5. Sport Psychology chapter of Squash Canada’s Level 3 Coaching Manual.
  6. Developed the Sport Psychology competencies for the USSRA Coaching Program.
  7. Course Conductor for Sport Quebec delivering more than 50 Level 1, 2 and 3 Theory courses in both English and French between 1992 and 2000.
  8. Analysed and compared NCCP Level 1-3 French and English Theory learning objectives for the Coaching Association of Canada as a first step in revising their coaching program.
  9. As a Master Course Conductor for the NCCP, trained course conductors to deliver Theory and Integrated Courses.
  10. Helped develop and deliver content at the Princeton Squash Coaches Academy.
  11. Presenter/evaluator for the NCCP Level 4 Sport Psychology Tasks.
  12. Presenter/Evaluator for Squash Canada’s Level 4 Performance Analysis task.
  13. Co-Presenter on Squash Canada’s Level 4 Advanced Tactics task.
  14. Co-Organized and presented at the Squash Coaching Conference at the 1998 Jr, Men’s World Squash Championships.
  15. Facilitated the 2002 USSRA Coaching Conference and the 2006 CSA Coaching Conference.
  16. I have also made presentations at National Coaching Conferences in Canada and overseas, including the U.S.A., Barbados, Trinidad, Egypt, Iran and Spain; and made presentations for the World Professional Squash Association, the College Squash Association, the USSRA, Squash Canada and the World Squash Federation.

I stay up to date via Twitter and by reading scientific journals every month, as well as checking out coaching related new books.  Preparing to teach my courses every year also keeps me sharp!

 

 

Keep an eye out for my summer and fall 2014 Squash Coaching Education opportunities!


Basics of Ubersense Video Technique Analysis Workshop

January 31, 2014

Ubersense Logo

What would make this workshop a success from your point of view?

What – specifically – do you want to get out of this workshop?

How have you used video? How would you like to use video?

—————————————————————————————

I  Conceptual Background: Performance Analysis (using video)

The Coaching Process

  • Notational Analysis (Tactical Analysis/Analytics)
  • Technical (Biomechanical Analysis) – we are here today (Ubsersense)

Performance Analysis:  Future Directions

II Ubersense Basics (simple to complex)

  • Download the app
  • Open App and record an athlete’s technique
  • Show the athlete their performance (also in slow motion or frame by frame)
  • Email the video to the athlete
  • Compare the athlete’s technique to an “expert’s” (side-by-side)
  • Use Drawing Tools

Let’s Try it!  in pairs film a squat from the side and go through the workflow above (do each of the “bullet” steps above) – 15 minutes!

III Practical Use of Ubersense

  • immediate video feedback in a practice or game
  • save time – video and email same day – analyze next day
  • save time – no asst. athletes can film selves
  • enhance athlete learning – if they have the app…self-analyze
  • compare to ideal/expert
  • track athlete progress (last year-this year?)
  • other uses?

III  Ubersense Advanced Skills

  • import video from other sources
  • make written notes
  • use voice over
  • create a “video report” for the athlete

IV What’s Next?

  • Keep up to date with Ubersense advances: subscribe to their YouTube Channel or Blog; follow them on Twitter
  • Come to the Advanced Ubersense Workshop
  • Improve your analysis – take a Sport Biomechanics or Kinesiology course to become a better analyzer.
  • Learn and use a Tactical (Notational Analysis) Smartphone App:

– Touchstat Highlight (now Singulus) (limited file size)

– Dartfish EasyTag (need to video separately)

– Focus X2i (for iPad)