I have just got back from the PPS Squash camp at Mercersburg Academy in Pennsylvania – I designed the camp based on a Tactics First approach – every session started with a conditioned game so that we could assess the campers in a “live” and meaningful game situation. After observing the squash campers, we bring them together to ask questions and demonstrate the key skills involved. We work for about 20 minutes to improve their skills – always at least two skills since tactics involves decision-making – therefore a choice amongst at least two alternatives. Here is a brief example of this approach featuring deception in the front court with last year’s world #1 Karim Darwish.
Tactical Situation: Attacking a weak defensive boast in the front court with deception – showing a drop and then either dropping or flicking cross-court.
Technical Skills: Straight drop or cross-court flick from a “short backswing position”.
Progression (there are five steps):
- Campers play conditioned game – A serves with higher defensive boast – B returns with drop or cross-court flick from short backswing position.
- Campers brought together and questioned on “how the game went”: “Did you win more points with drops or cross-courts?” “What were better – your forehand or backhand drops? Flicks?” The questioning approach is designed to get the campers to critically reflect on their game, instead of boring them with a lecture.
- Demonstration of skills involved by an expert – in this case Egyptian Karim Darwish – last year’s #1 and currently ranked 4th in the world.
- About 15-20 minutes of drilling – first the drops, then the flicks, then alternating them to make sure racquet preparation is similar, then some time where the camper mixes up the shots in a random pattern – again to test deception.
- Return to the conditioned game to assess the squash campers improvement – we often did this with a court rotation tournament to inject some competitive pressure and fun.
It takes a many year’s to learn effective deception – it is important to start early in a squash player’s development, as evidenced by the style of the top Egyptians.