Squash Deception: Knowledge into Reality!

December 9, 2010

Knowing something about squash does not necessarily translate into being able to do it – squash deception is a good example of this.  A good squash coach is able to turn knowledge into reality with a solid pedagogical approach.

Knowledge + Appropriate Pedagogy = Action

I have always been interested (being an attritional grinder myself) in the topic of how to teach squash deception, since most people consider it to be an innate talent (which it definitely is not!). Back in the early 1990’s, I hired a young, low-ranked,  18-year old Jonathon Power (one of the most deceptive male players ever) to come to my club in Montreal to give a workshop (I think we paid him $300?) on “Deception” to my “C” and “B” teams (only 4-5 of them signed up!?!).

Last summer I had a chance to coach alongside Karim Darwish – another former world #1 and and very deceptive player.  At our PPS Squash Camp I got Karim to demonstrate the use of a “deceptive wrist” to our campers and videotaped him doing it:

A year earlier, I had videotaped an example of the Games Approach pedagogical method of teaching deception – through the use of conditioned games.  One of the “models” in this video example is Wesleyan University’s Head Men’s and Women’s Coach Shona Kerr – she benefited from early coaching by Hiddy Jahan in the use of the “Pakistani” wrist.  I trained and competed alongside Shona during a period (2006-08) where she went undefeated through six straight women’s national championships (Howe Cup Teams, U.S. Nationals, etc.), defeating several members of the U.S. National Squad along the way – she has a great wrist – a rare attribute in the women’s game.

The main point here is that a squash coach needs to use a systematic approach in order to get his or her player to implement deception effectively in a game situation.  It is the rare athlete that can simply be told or shown what to do, and put it into practice immediately.  And deception is not just for the best players, as you can see in this video taken at the PPS Camp (that is Engy Kheirallah coaching).


Squash Coaches: Train “Situations” not “Strokes”

July 7, 2009

We have published quite a few posts on the current Tactics First approach to developing thinking, smart squash players.  The key concept is that teaching technique alone (e.g., backhand lesson, forehand lesson) and leaving the match play and tactics to the student (laissez-faire approach) in their formative years does not encourage squash intelligence.  Squash is much more than striking the ball well. It is one of the most tactical individual sports and involves considerable perception, anticipation (reading the opponent) and decision-making (attacking weaknesses not strengths) on every point.  I would wager that squash is the most tactical of the individual sports – with more individual player decisions per minute of play than any other sport (in team sports like football it is the coach making most of the tactical decisions).  Our coaching needs to reflect this priority and we need to start training situations not strokes right from the very beginning of a player’s career.

How does a squash coach go about actually planning a Tactics First lesson or training session?  Here is a template that  coaches can use to plan a lesson around a particular tactical situation:

Tactics First Squash Lesson Template

Look for some video examples of Tactics First training in the coming weeks (maybe even days:).  In the meantime, here is some brief background reading from the ACE Coaching site – the leading proponent of a tactics first approach for tennis:

Game Based Approach for Tennis