Think Tactics

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Think Tactics

Think Tactics is contributed by Mike Way, Director of Coaching at Canada's National Squash Training Centre at the Toronto Racquet Club. Mike competed in the UK from 1974 to 1981 and then moved to Toronto. He played professional squash on the North American tour until 1991 and played for Canada in 1988. With Jonathon Power and Graham Ryding he has produced a set of three Power Squash videos – The Basics, Defending and Attacking. He has coached for over 20 years and runs clinics in Canada and the States.
He is coach to Jonathon Power and Graham Ryding.







Jonathon Power celebrates with coach Mike Way after winning the1998 World Open.

Mike Way and Jonathon Power videos are available in three parts: Basics, Attacking, Defending. Click Here  

LET’S consider seven key factors in the game and look at how, by understanding your game better, you can go about practising, playing and watching squash to improve your game.
1. The vast majority of attacking shots are not outright winners – they are returned. You may have to hit, for example, five or more attacking shots‚ before you win a rally. Therefore...
2. The mileage factor is a key component in most matches.
3. Club players think that attacking shots to the front wall are point opportunities and therefore...
4. Most unforced errors come from drops and attacking boasts.
5. The frustration level goes up because of 1 and 4.
6. Most players try to hit the ball too hard on their length shots which costs accuracy and consequently gives them less time to get back to the T. This then leads to...
7. The rush factor.

Attack and the Mileage Factor
Let’s examine 1 and 2 more closely. All players have a limited number of squash miles in their legs. This factor becomes more important as you go up the ladder. Good 'A' players and pros accept the fact that most of their attacking shots will be returned. If the mileage factor is tipped in their favour, the rallies will eventually shorten and they will hit winners sooner, but not every good drop or hard drive will win the rally.

Rasping lungs
If we can accept this statement, we can change our concept of 3. We will therefore reduce our unforced errors and our frustration level. Moving to 4: attempting winning shots to the front can be risky unless your opponent is out of position, very tired and/or is slow to the front. So allow for a margin of error and listen for the sweet sound of rasping lungs – just so long as the noise is from your opponent and not from you.

Bash and Dash
Trying to hit the ball too hard, too often, is very common in squash. At the entry level of the game the 100 mph shot down the middle often wins a rally. Thus was born the bash and dash mentality witnessed and cherished by your local pro. As they improve, most players with brains learn that accuracy is more important than power. However, overhitting, aiming too low on the front wall and sacrificing good length is still the norm. By not forcing our drives – try hitting at say 75–85% of maximum power – we will hit better length, conserve energy and help to prevent the 'rush factor'. Moving quickly and effectively, but without rushing, can be learned by anybody – but expert help from your local pro is a must for this ailment.

Understanding Court Tactics
The front of the court can be an attacking or a defensive area depending upon how the rally is going. The mid-court area is usually the attacking area. Good length shots to the back corners move your opponent well away from the T, help you to set up attacking shots, and buy you time and oxygen.

So how do we improve as from today?
Start by hitting your basic length drives at 75 to 85% power. You will have to hit the ball higher on the front wall to maintain good length. The extra time which this gives will help you to reduce the rush factor. Only attack when the ball is 'on' – which means that you are in an attacking zone and that you are well balanced to play the shot with good control. Think mileage first. Assume that most of your shots will be returned, especially in the early games.

Take a fresh look at your friendly or practice games. When you play against stronger players, measure your success by the length of the match and not just by the score. If Fred beats you 3/0 every time in 20 minutes, then focus on cancelling his mid-court attacking zone by hitting the ball higher and wider. If you can reduce the percentage of shots which he hits from the mid-court attacking zone then the rallies will get longer and the match will extend. You will increase his mileage and you may win more points.

When you play against weaker players, practise attacking shots which you would not usually use. For example, if you always beat Fred with your favourite crosscourt drive from the front, try playing a drop, a straight drive or an angle instead. When you play against players of your own standard, put your full game plan to the test. Establish a good length, play your attacking shots only when they really are 'on' and mix up your attacking shots to keep him/her guessing. Don't keep thinking winner and focus on mileage. These evenly matched games are important and they often create the most mental pressure. The fact that you have a game plan will occupy your mind and will help to ease the nerves.

Be a good watcher
Learning to watch squash matches intelligently and with a critical eye – especially on court tactics – will help your understanding of the game. So the next time you are watching a match, study the way in which shots are played from the different zones and work out how the losing player might change his tactics to turn the game around. The more you do this the better you will become at analysing your own game – and the quicker you will improve.