SquashMatch interviewed Susan Woodhouse, a Level 4 squash coach. Here's her story....
I first began coaching after I had played squash for only a short while and as I was a teacher and we had courts at my school the natural progression was to become a qualified coach. I then took my Part 1 with the WSRA. I was never a full time coach being a teacher but I would coach in the evenings. The clubs I coached at employed an excellent system of giving all new members a free coaching lesson. This proved very successful and helped my client base. I ran many holiday camps for youngsters which would involve technical help, tactical help, fun sessions, competitive sessions and ran both morning and afternoon.
A 'coach of coaches' is better known as a tutor. I began Tutoring Squash for the WSRA (Women's Squash Rackets Association) in 1976. Since then I have been responsible for teaching people to coach at Levels 1 to 3 and have seen a huge change in the course content. Courses have continued to develop over this period and have now reached a high standard and successful candidates are now better qualified and more confident due to the course content.
The levels of coaching are from 1 to 4: Level 1 teaches candidates to work with young children through the Mini Squash Cards and to be able to coach improvers though the Pro Cards. The course is carried out over one weekend with an assessment at the end.
Level 2 teaches candidates to coach both a group and an individual lesson working through the six strokes of the game of squash and the tactics. They also study basic anatomy, fitness and goal setting. Much more emphasis is placed on stroke production. This course is over two weekends with eight weeks in between showing evidence of coaching both an individual and a group and completion of a study pack. There is an assessment on the final weekend.
Level 3 teaches candidates to work with squads through themes, the mental and physical preparation for matches and the ability to develop players to be able to reach their full fitness for a tournament through short and long term planning. They have to produce evidence of coaching two individuals who play at a high level and show that they have improved these players and in what area in particular. The course is completed over six months with a final assessment.
Level 4 Coaches are the highest level and as such work with the elite players and work with the National Coaches.
The most rewarding aspect of tutoring is being able to help people gain knowledge and develop their potential. I enjoy working with different groups of people and find that on each course I always learn something new from my candidates.
I believe that to improve a player you need to find out their end goal and what level they are hoping to reach. You need to work with what they already have, however 'the correct grip' is the vital ingredient to improvement and is imperative. The 'perfect swing pattern' can be coached taking into consideration their own 'style' and how they can adapt. I do not believe that we should be turning out replicas of each other as we do not begin as a replica! You can adapt and help a player to improve by allowing their individuality within the 'most efficient' way to produce a stroke. In the end we should be trying to help them to 'groove' their swing path so it remains efficient and the same throughout the game.
There is more emphasis on diet and psychology in coaching nowadays as much more in known in these areas. Top players use physical and mental guidance to help them in their careers. Recently squash coaching has developed more emphasis on 'open skill' coaching and routines in order to replicate the 'game' as the ball is never predictable.
My interests outside squash have been playing lacrosse in my earlier years, my work as a head of year at school and latterly golf and the theatre.