Squash Focus Plan: Adjust for Opponents?

December 2, 2011

The final product (concise practical tool) of an organized and effective season long mental training program for squash players is the Squash Focus Plan.  New visitors to this site (still the #1 squash coaching site in the world according to Google:) can check out this link for an overview of focus plans, and here for an overview of  annual mental training programs for squash.

At the start of the Pre-Competition Phase of the year (which is where I am now with my Smith College Squash Team), squash players should have a “workable” focus plan that they are using and evaluating in match play.  One of the reasons that my team improves more than “similar” teams, is that using and evaluating focus plans forces a critical reflection and self-analysis – something which most players at any level do not do.  Our first opponent in the Wesleyan Invitational this weekend beat us 5-4 two weekends ago – with the same line-ups we are going to reverse that decision and beat them 6-3 – due in large part to my players’ use of focus plans (obviously if we don’t I am going to return to this post and edit this part out;).  You can download the current squash focus plan form we are using here:  Squash Focus Plan Form.

In the video below, I explain the relationship between a player’s Squash Focus Plan and the three levels of familiarity with an opponent:

  1. Know opponent and have played them before;
  2. Know opponent but have not played them before;
  3. Do not know opponent.

Basically, I suggest that in the first two situations where the opponent is known, additional specific goals (tactics) may be set as part of the game plan.  I note however that for some players, the best performances come when they follow a set focus plan (e.g., they get anxious and confused if they think too much, or they are “feel”/intuitive style players). Hopefully, this situation would be a short term, intermediate step to being able to make tactical adjustments based on knowledge of the opponent so some mental training or tactical education may be required for this player).


Periodization of Squash Training: College Squash Team

November 11, 2011

I have been developing and teaching coaches (in all sports – not just squash) about periodized annual training plans since 1987.  Back in the 1990s, there was a very small group of  us, Master Course Conductors (give courses and train others to give coaching education courses) for the Coaching Association of Canada’s National Coaching Certification Program (NCCP), who taught thousands of coaches how do develop a periodized plan for a “season” (Level 2 Theory) and an entire year (Level 3 Theory).  Our teaching according to periodization principles (every coach had to submit a periodized plan with supporting documentation as part of their course evaluation) went well beyond any periodization books (e.g.,. Bompa) published at the time. Current conceptions of periodization are very limited in scope.  Most current authors restrict their view of periodization to the “periodization of strength” or physical training – we went well beyond that.  My article on the Periodization of Mental Training provides a short, concise overview for those who have not read Bompa’s book:  Bacon (1989). Periodization of Mental Training.

The annual plan is one of the few ways to integrate all the different aspects of squash training – squash is one of the most difficult sports to plan since we need to train all of the training factors to a high level (as opposed to sprinters or long distance runners who emphasize only one aspect).

Here are a few “up to date – 2012” comments on the annual periodized plan for a college squash team I have posted above:

  • I have changed the traditional periodization of technique and tactics to reflect the recent research on the superiority of a “tactics first” approach over traditional methods;
  • Planning for academic stress is an essential component of a college plan – ignore this aspect at your peril:)
  • I need to modify the “physical” lines of the plan to reflect what I have changed in my approach the last three years:  the Core Performance approach to longer term training is quite different than the traditional approach – plyometrics and power exercises are introduced much earlier in the season (still progressively) – I will publish a post in which I “reverse engineer” their periodization and contrast it with the traditional approach.
  • With the change in squash scoring, matches, especially at the college level are much shorter, so much less emphasis on lower intensity aerobic conditioning and much more on interval type squash-specific training.

That’s it for now.  Keep in mind that a squash coach needs to prepare or obtain two other longer term planning documents – and LTAD and a Quadrenniel Plan (4 Years) similar to the one I have posted below for my team at Smith College (dates back to 1995 – so could do with an update): 


2011 Nutrition Update for Squash Coaches

August 7, 2011

I taught my first nutrition course, “Fitness & Foodstuff” for Toronto’s West end YWCA way back in 1979, and 15 years later started teaching sports nutrition as part of the Coaching Association of Canada’s Level 1, 2 and 3 Theory Certification program.  Although there have been numerous attempts since then to “revolutionize” sport nutrition, the basic principles have stayed the same – there is no magical panacea that will propel your squash athletes to excellence without effort!

To make a long story short, the principles of basic healthy eating, are the same principles that govern sport nutrition.  A useful recent innovation is the USDA decision to move away from the “Food Pyramid” to the “Food Plate”.  The new approach is summarized on a very user-friendly website:  ChooseMyPlate.gov., and you can find my previous post on nutrition for squash coaches here.

The site has downloadable printable resources, some great interactive tools for your players, and a section for professionals (that is you squash coach), to help them shift from teaching the Pyramid to the plate.

If you do not already, follow @MyPlate on Twitter – an effortless way to stay current on nutrition that can help your squash players.

If you want an online resource that is a little more sport specific, I recommend the Coaching Association of Canada’s “Sport Nutrition Tips page (subscribing to their email newsletter is an effortless way to keep up).


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.


Well Designed Squash Instruction Videos – Free!

July 19, 2011

I was perusing some squash sites and came across one that I am going to add to my links section of our Science of Coaching Squash Blog: TotalSquash.  I try and list only “high quality” links on this blog. There is a paid section (which I did not investigate) but there is also an “open” section which is free:  Total Squash.

They have an interesting take on a number of topics (“Return of Serve Chess”, “Traffic Light “T””, etc. and so I think the site is worth a visit!

 

 

 


30% Discount Code for Squash Anatomy Book for Squash Coaches!

July 14, 2011

Ok – if you have been following out Squash Science blog for the last few years you will be aware that there are very few (if any) published sport science resources for squash coaches – the cost of doing business in a tiny, elitist sport (of course all that may change if we get into the Olympics).

The good news is that with the changes that have taken place in tennis over the last 30 years, an intelligent squash coach can adapt the numerous tennis sport science publications for their use in squash coaching.  The two major changes that have taken place that allow this adaptation are: a) the now  multi-segmented tennis forehand  – a “hitting” action similar to the full squash drive, versus the “stroking” action of the 70’s tennis forehand; and b) the physiological profile of elite tennis – especially on clay now approximates the duration and explosiveness (especially on the men’s side) of the average squash rally (with squash moving to PAR scoring and a lower tin, at least on the men’s side).

I just finished purchasing my first E-Book, Tennis Anatomy by Paul Roetert and Mark Kovacs a few minutes ago – I used a Human Kinetics 30% off discount code, so the total cost of my purchase was $15.36 – the code is B770.  I met Paul back in the late 1980’s when the USTA head office was in Princeton – coach Bob Callahan took me out to say “hello” – and I ran into Mark Kovacs in a hotel elevator at the ITF coaching conference in Valencia two years ago – he said to get in touch about doing some work with the USTA (but I prefer to specialize in squash:).  You can download the Adobe Digital Edition reader (to read the E-Book) here.

Although I haven’t read the book yet – here are a few adaptations that the squash coach should note in order to apply the information:

  • the squash forehand is biomechanically similar to the flat tennis serve (it just takes place in a different plane – overhead versus at the side of the body);
  • most of the volley information will apply to squash, as the tennis continental grip, similar to the squash grip, is used for most (but not all tennis volleys);
  • the tennis slice approach shots are similar to the squash mid-court squash drop shot (both feature a stroking action primarily from the shoulder).

Here is Roetert discussing the book:

In conclusion, this is a great resource for squash coaches willing to do a little bit of “mental work”:)


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”!