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.


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 World Squash Champion: A Cultural Approach

December 8, 2008

Shona Kerr and I were sitting outside the four-glass-walled court in the stifling Cairo heat watching an on-court presentation by one of the Egyptian coaches on “Deception”.  We were in Egypt to give our own presentation, Optimal Coaching of Female Athletes,   at the 2003 World Squash Federation Coaching Conference, being held in conjunction with the 2003 World Junior Women’s Squash Championships.

The Egyptian coach (and I apologize for not remembering his name), generously and very cordially invited England’s Chris Walker to come out and present with him on an impromptu basis.  The Egyptian explained that he would divide his presentation into three parts, front, mid, and back-court; and that he would start with the topic of “deception in the back-court”.  Chris Walker immediately blurted out “There is no deception in the back-court”.  Shona and I looked at each other in amazement (her because she had been trained from an early age by Pakistan’s Hiddy Jahan, whose use of wrist for power and deception was legendary), and herein lies the reason for Egypt’s recent dominance of the world squash scene, in particular their recent win over England at the 2008 Women’s World Squash Championships.

kaw

Historically, over the last 30-40 years, the squash world has been divided in two:  the grinding, attritional, fitness based tactical style of the English and Australians; versus the skillful, touch-oriented play of the Pakistanis and Egyptians.  Obviously there have been exceptions – Australia’s Martin brothers (and Chris Dittmar) both made excellent use of deception and shot-making, and both Jahangir and Jansher had legendary fitness (as well as Egypt’s Gamal Awad).  What a squash culture values, is what squash coaches end up teaching and coaching to their players.  On the women’s side, Nicol David the current world #1, has been highly influenced by the Australian volleying, attritional style of play through her Australian coach, Liz Irving.  (Canada’s Jonathon Power is another story for another day).

Egyptian Women's Team

2008 Champions of the World: Egyptian Women's Team

Egypt

2003 World junior Champions: Egypt

Returning to 2003, all four spots at the semi-finals of the Jr. Women’s World’s were filled with young Egyptian women.  Five years later Egypt is the holder of the Women’s World Team Championship, highlighting the relatively longterm nature of development in squash – things do not happen overnight.

How is it possible that that a “poor” third world country like Egypt can overcome a great financial squash power like Great Britain, and is it possible for others to do the same?  What are the key factors involved in this “Cultural” World Championship?  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 »


Developing “Thinking” Squash Players

June 18, 2007

Squash is one of the most “open” sports, a sport in which players must effectively read, react, and make decisions in a constantly changing environment.

Why then do most coaches run “closed” training sessions where no decisions are necessary?

This question is not devoid of cultural influence where British and Australian players historically have tried to grind their opponents down in a war of attrition, while Egyptian and Pakistani players value skillful touch shots, trickery and deception.

There is a pedagogy designed to develop smart, thinking squash players. It involves the simple principle of starting every training session with a tactical problem or context, and ensuring that players must make decisions during practice and play. This does not mean that players should not work on developing excellent technique – only that technical work must be couched in a tactical framework.

I have been using this approach in my squash coaching since being introduced to this pedagogy in a tennis coaching workshop run by Louis Cayer in 1987 – the most user-friendly version of this approach can be found at a tennis coaching site run by Wayne Elderton. The rest of the world has recently been made aware of this approach under the name of Teaching Games for Understanding (TGfU), Games Approach or Decision-Training (DT). Bob Callahan, Gail Ramsay and I developed “System 3” and used it to run Princeton Squash Camps in the 1990’s.

.Jonathon Power & John White