Earlier today I did a search of the world’s largest database of sport research and did not turn up a single accessible scientific article on the biomechanics of squash. There were a few non-scientific articles in Sports Coach, an Australian coaching magazine, and some links to Conference Proceedings (i.e., someone presented on a topic at a conference so we might have access to a one-page abstract).
Furthermore, there are no published guides for squash coaches similar to Duane Knudson’s 2006 “Biomechanical Principles of Tennis Technique: Using Science to Improve Your Strokes”. Ideally there should be a dynamic interaction between Biomechanics research and squash coaching and playing: a player or coach develops a new way of hitting the squash ball or moving on the court that is “verified” by a research study – or a new research study exposes a better way of executing squash technique.
The actual paradigm that has been used in squash, and that is still in use today, is that a top player, or the coach of a top player, puts out a video or a book, or presents at a coaching conference and gives their subjective opinion (versus scientifically backed reasoning) on how to hit a squash ball. One of the great things about working at the Princeton Summer Squash Camps for 18 years is that you get to see literally hundreds of coaches present and teach their version of squash technique – and this includes many coaches of world champions. Obviously there are many contradictions, omissions, and obvious errors in the technique recommendations since they are based on “how I hit the ball” or “how I was taught to hit the ball”.
So although a teaching of technique based on squash-specific biomechanical research is not possible at this time, what is possible is a teaching of squash technique based on an empirical approach grounded in research into similar technical actions for which there is solid scientific evidence – the most classic example being a comparison of throwing a ball (for which there is a lot of research and practical coaching guides) with hitting a squash forehand drive.
The advent of easy video (filming, editing software and distribution) provides another way of empirically backing up our reasoning on squash technique. If 95% of the top 20 use a shortened swing and lots of wrist flick (as seen in video examples) to hit a difficult ball out of the back-court, we can be much more confident in receiving advice than if we are told “this is what I do”.
Lastly, there are a set of universally accepted biomechanical principles which a coach can use to inform their technical interventions – analyzing, teaching or correcting. The diagram below contains the Coaching Association of Canada’s conception of biomechanical principles important in the analysis of skills. Ideally a coach should analyze and correct technique using both their experience as a player and a coach and a solid rationale based on biomechanical principles. In future posts we will give some examples of how these basic principles relate to squash technique.
Application for Squash Coaches
- Go beyond the “this is what I do” rationale for stroke analysis and correction.
- Learn and use basic biomechanical principles in your technical coaching.
- Find and use a good tennis or general biomechanics reference.