Written by Martin Shippey. Martin has been playing squash for more years than he cares to remember. He is an ESR Level 1 coach and currently assisting in a programme to introduce inner city schoolchildren to squash.
Following on from the previous articles, in which the subject has been on drills which focus on hitting the ball to length without the ball touching the sidewall either on the way to or back from the front wall, this edition’s subject is – “how do good players hit the ball absolutely straight, consistently and accurately?” – and for reasons which will become clear, this is a subject particularly close to my heart.
At a recent session, while coaching a group of mixed abilities, we were covering the backhand drive. The method of coaching goes roughly along the lines of: coach demonstration, player solo activity, coach ball-fed activity, coach random ball-fed activity, ‘corridor’ game (coach and player playing rallies along one side of the court), and so on, building up to proper games among the players, who use the shot they have just been coached in.
On this occasion, one of the pupils, an ex-tennis player, significantly, had been hitting the backhand feeds very well, but I had more than occasionally to remind her that, unlike a tennis backhand, in squash, it is very important not to spin around to face the front wall while playing the shot.
Of course we all know that in squash the straight drive, both backhand and forehand, are correctly played while facing the sidewall, before, through and after the shot. This is very important if you want to achieve accuracy and consistency, especially under pressure. The movement off the shot and back to the ‘T’ zone occurs after the ball has left the racket and the swing is more or less complete.
Getting back to the session, we had reached the corridor game stage, and the player and I were rotating nicely, playing on the left side of the court – her backhand, to length, until at a crucial stage, I played an easy backhand drive with plenty of space around it, not quite to a good length; an irresistible invitation for my opponent to play a sizzling attacking straight backhand drive.
As intended, my opponent stepped in and obliged with enthusiasm. Unfortunately, she was so taken up with enthusiasm that her tennis backhand instinct kicked in, and forgetting all of the foregoing drills and exhortations to face the sidewall throughout the shot, she span around to face the front wall while playing the shot, resulting in a backswing which left her racket out at arm’s length into the centre of the court.
Even though I was standing on the ‘T’, I was rewarded with said racket in the mouth for my trouble, resulting in a lot of pain and a fat lip which lasted a week. Luckily, my teeth are completely intact, but a quarter of an inch lower and I would have needed some very expensive dental work.
So, there are two things to take away from this article: firstly, if you want to play an accurate and consistent forehand or backhand drive in squash, face the sidewall before the shot, through the shot and after the shot – it works, I can assure you.
Secondly, if you do that, and if your opponent does it too, you will be much safer and less likely to strike each other while playing.
As to whether squash improves your sex life, I have no idea, but you wouldn’t have read this if it had been entitled “How to play squash safely”, would you?