Why – in the “world’s fittest sport” (except for Nordic Skiing) are the athletes so old? Or put another way – how can these “old” athletes beat younger fitter athletes in their late teens and early 20’s? The answer lies in the older players’ “tactical expertise”, in other words their better decision-making and choice of shots – average shots per squash game is 200 – so up to 1000 tactical decisions where to play the ball per match.
Let’s look at the example of an 18-22 year old college player who does not want to wait another 7-8 years to play their best – how can they accelerate their “tactical expertise”?
- limit closed mindless “blocked practice” drills like boast/drive to less than 20% of practice; these drills let an athlete “get in a groove” and “feel good” but research shows this type of drilling has fewer benefits in actual match play.
- use a high proportion of conditioned games (Games Approach), and variable (at least two different skills) and random drills that force a player to make match like choices.
- play and practice with a variety of opponents/partners – court rotations (winner up and loser down) are a great way to do this.
- encourage players to critically reflect on each match (Squash Match Evaluation Form) and allow them access to video of their matches to help them assess their performance.
- develop or adopt a model of tactics which can serve as a reference point to speed up acquisition of tactical expertise. Here are two models I have developed and used to plan (and periodize) tactical training:
Here are other links to using a smart “tactics first” approach to developing smarter players: