Coaching Squash with “Feeling”: Using Kinaesthetic Cues to Convert Tennis Players

One of the things I enjoy the most about my half-time coaching position (the other half is academic teaching in the ESS Department) at Smith College is the fact that I have to teach nearly all of my players from scratch, as most have never picked up a squash racquet before coming to college.  From time-to-time I am lucky enough to get some players who have played tennis – three of them this year!  I am actually pretty good at this type of coaching – we got to 12th place in the CSA rankings in both 1998 & 1999 with a team that had only one player with high school or junior squash – and our team has had three (we got “cheated” one year – should be four – but that’s another story:) Ann Wetzel Award (best player who started in college) winners – all converted tennis players:

  • 1999: Kanta Murali (Smith College)
  • 2000: Emily Soisson (Bates College)
  • 2001: Kate Lytle (Cornell University)
  • 2002: Selma Kikic (Williams College)
  • 2003: Susanna Burke (Amherst College)
  • 2004: Lila Lee (Wellesley College)
  • 2005: Ashley Kilgore (Smith College)
  • 2006: Jennifer Recht (Smith College)

But enough about me – here are the key points of today’s post:

  1. Kinaesthetic or “feeling” cues are the most effective in teaching racquet skills – showing and explaining work with some – but “feeling” cues work with everyone (hence the hundreds of dollars that the average golfer spends on golf teaching aids – they are all designed to help them “feel” the stroke);
  2. Tennis technique has become much more squash-like in the last 15-20 years – tennis “power” strokes are now “multi-segmented” the way that squash drives are – in “feeling” terms, much more a feeling of “hitting” versus “stroking”.

Unfortunately, the new tennis technique has not filtered down to the majority of tennis players who have joined my team – they exhibit too much “shoulder stroking” and not enough “loose hitting, leading with the elbow”.  And even the best modern multi-segmented tennis forehands tend to straighten the elbow joint much earlier in the swing than occurs in squash – with a resultant loss of power.

Here are the links to two video demonstrations that I am going to use at practice today to get this idea across to my tennis converts entering their third week of squash:  backhand “hitting”/throwing action; forehand “hitting”throwing action.  These videos are from  tennis coach Wayne Elderton (I have blogged on his stuff before) who uses Tennis Canada’s advanced coaching techniques, which I have adapted into my own squash coaching for the last 23 years.  You should definitely check out his site for great examples on tactics first coaching, teaching perception, and use of kinaesthetic cues.

In a future post I will get up some video of my players using three different “feelings” for the three types of drop shot we use in the front (the pros use a fourth feeling for their little topspin drops):  touch, push, stroke – my converted tennis players are quite good at these feelings.

Here is a good example of a “touch” (with a tiny bit of push since the player is not right up against the front wall) forehand drop in the front court:

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