Basics of Ubersense Video Technique Analysis Workshop

January 31, 2014

Ubersense Logo

What would make this workshop a success from your point of view?

What – specifically – do you want to get out of this workshop?

How have you used video? How would you like to use video?

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I  Conceptual Background: Performance Analysis (using video)

The Coaching Process

  • Notational Analysis (Tactical Analysis/Analytics)
  • Technical (Biomechanical Analysis) – we are here today (Ubsersense)

Performance Analysis:  Future Directions

II Ubersense Basics (simple to complex)

  • Download the app
  • Open App and record an athlete’s technique
  • Show the athlete their performance (also in slow motion or frame by frame)
  • Email the video to the athlete
  • Compare the athlete’s technique to an “expert’s” (side-by-side)
  • Use Drawing Tools

Let’s Try it!  in pairs film a squat from the side and go through the workflow above (do each of the “bullet” steps above) – 15 minutes!

III Practical Use of Ubersense

  • immediate video feedback in a practice or game
  • save time – video and email same day – analyze next day
  • save time – no asst. athletes can film selves
  • enhance athlete learning – if they have the app…self-analyze
  • compare to ideal/expert
  • track athlete progress (last year-this year?)
  • other uses?

III  Ubersense Advanced Skills

  • import video from other sources
  • make written notes
  • use voice over
  • create a “video report” for the athlete

IV What’s Next?

  • Keep up to date with Ubersense advances: subscribe to their YouTube Channel or Blog; follow them on Twitter
  • Come to the Advanced Ubersense Workshop
  • Improve your analysis – take a Sport Biomechanics or Kinesiology course to become a better analyzer.
  • Learn and use a Tactical (Notational Analysis) Smartphone App:

– Touchstat Highlight (now Singulus) (limited file size)

– Dartfish EasyTag (need to video separately)

– Focus X2i (for iPad)


30% Discount Code for Squash Anatomy Book for Squash Coaches!

July 14, 2011

Ok – if you have been following out Squash Science blog for the last few years you will be aware that there are very few (if any) published sport science resources for squash coaches – the cost of doing business in a tiny, elitist sport (of course all that may change if we get into the Olympics).

The good news is that with the changes that have taken place in tennis over the last 30 years, an intelligent squash coach can adapt the numerous tennis sport science publications for their use in squash coaching.  The two major changes that have taken place that allow this adaptation are: a) the now  multi-segmented tennis forehand  – a “hitting” action similar to the full squash drive, versus the “stroking” action of the 70’s tennis forehand; and b) the physiological profile of elite tennis – especially on clay now approximates the duration and explosiveness (especially on the men’s side) of the average squash rally (with squash moving to PAR scoring and a lower tin, at least on the men’s side).

I just finished purchasing my first E-Book, Tennis Anatomy by Paul Roetert and Mark Kovacs a few minutes ago – I used a Human Kinetics 30% off discount code, so the total cost of my purchase was $15.36 – the code is B770.  I met Paul back in the late 1980’s when the USTA head office was in Princeton – coach Bob Callahan took me out to say “hello” – and I ran into Mark Kovacs in a hotel elevator at the ITF coaching conference in Valencia two years ago – he said to get in touch about doing some work with the USTA (but I prefer to specialize in squash:).  You can download the Adobe Digital Edition reader (to read the E-Book) here.

Although I haven’t read the book yet – here are a few adaptations that the squash coach should note in order to apply the information:

  • the squash forehand is biomechanically similar to the flat tennis serve (it just takes place in a different plane – overhead versus at the side of the body);
  • most of the volley information will apply to squash, as the tennis continental grip, similar to the squash grip, is used for most (but not all tennis volleys);
  • the tennis slice approach shots are similar to the squash mid-court squash drop shot (both feature a stroking action primarily from the shoulder).

Here is Roetert discussing the book:

In conclusion, this is a great resource for squash coaches willing to do a little bit of “mental work”:)


Squash Coach Uses Tape to Change Grip!

January 12, 2011

I had my doubts, but after (during a discussion of John White’s technique while watching a match video) I told my team that Geoff Hunt had tried to get John to cock his wrist with the correct grip with tape – my #3 Helen Queenan asked me to do it for her.

It is really difficult to change that floppy, uncocked wrist (cause by a “tennisy” forehand-like grip) on the backhand side, once it is ingrained.  At Princeton Squash camps we had tried molded grips and taping hands – with mixed success.  What did seem to work was identifying all of the “bad grip/bad wrist” kids on the first evening – then giving them a special “progressive grip education morning” while the rest of the camp trained according to our zone tactical model (“System 3”).  Two things to note:  often half of the camp had bad grips/wrists (shame on their first coach!), and except for our top coaches, our average “young coach” was not that adept at picking out grips that needed work (I always had 7-8 more on my list than they had on theirs).

BTW, Geoff gave up on John, hence his “loose” backhand drives and frequent use of angle in backhand front instead of straight drop (sorry John:) – I will back this up with a notational analysis of one of his matches in the coming weeks!

It is Helen’s first year on our team and she has played some in high school.  I did not work with her on her grip in the fall, but we decided to give it a shot during our Smith College 3-week Interterm (no classes and two a day practices).  Here is what we are doing with her:

  1. Supination/pronation forearm exercises (squash grip, holding a hammer) mostly to develop kinaesthetic awareness (versus strengthening).  Reverse wrist curls – again to get her to be able to recognize her wrist position in space (since we rarely supinate with a cocked wrist during our daily activities). 
  2. Two 20-minute private lessons – the first on the basic mid-court drive; for the second I had her hit 10-20 shots for each possible type of backhand: volleys, mid-court drops, front-court drops, defensive boast, mid-court working boast, etc.
  3. Solo work where she alternates hitting forehand and backhands since it is the grip “slippage” when she flattens the face by changing her grip slightly on the forehand which has created the problem (i.e., she will always show the the correct grip when asked, but it slips when she plays).
  4. Shadow swinging with correct form.
  5. Explanation that  four things need to change when making a grip modification:

a) grip (and wrist of course)

b) distance from ball

c) impact point (front-back)

d) swing path

Hence my doubts about simply taping her hand to her grip.  The tape of course could simply work as an “attentional device”, maintaining her attention on her technique. Anyway here she is trying it out – I will report back in a week or so with video of her playing in a match without the tape!

And here is a great simple explanation (with which I totally agree for the drives) from Ray from SquashGame.info!


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

November 17, 2010

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:

http://www.youtube.com/v/9BuMbnBT2jw?fs=1&hl=en_US


Teaching Squash Beginner’s (and other raquet sports too)!

August 27, 2010

As September rolls around most of us squash coaches, whether club or college, are going to be put in the position of introducing groups of new players to squash (and perhaps other racquet sports).  To make a long story short, most of the mainstream coaching world has finally caught up with a pedagogy that has been around for 30 years – unfortunately it takes several generations for new knowledge to filter down to the average coach whose primary choice of pedagogy (teaching methods) is to “teach the way that they were taught”.

In this series of videos from my Squash Science YouTube Channel I explain the rationale behind a progressive approach to teaching beginning racquet sports.  The “old” method of demonstrating and explaining the whole, complete final skill – and then working by “correction” (instead of progression) only works with “talented” learners (and demotivates and discourages untalented learners).  Obviously the costly (and inefficient in terms of developing a nation of players) private lesson coach has more latitude to use old-style methods.  These principles of learning apply to all racquet sports, something I learned as Head Instructor of the Toronto JCC Racquet Sports Camps in the summers of 1978 & 1979 – and as a recent racketlon player. I have embedded the first video, and provide links to the others.

Introduction to Teaching Racquet Sports to Large Groups of Beginners – Part 1

Teaching Racquet Sports to Large Groups of Beginners – Part 2

Teaching Racquet Sports to Large Groups of Beginners – Part 3

Teaching Racquet Sports to Large Groups of Beginners – Part 4

Teaching Racquet Sports to Large Groups of Beginners – Part 5

Finally, here is the recent ITF rationale for a progressive approach to teaching racquet sports:


Coaching Squash Deception: A Practical Example with Karim Darwish

June 30, 2010

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):

  1. Campers play conditioned game – A serves with higher defensive boast – B returns with drop or cross-court flick from short backswing position.
  2. 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.
  3. Demonstration of skills involved by an expert – in this case Egyptian Karim Darwish – last year’s #1 and currently ranked 4th in the world.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.


Karim Darwish’ Backhand: Squash Biomechanical Analysis

July 22, 2009

In an earlier post we wrote about the general method for doing a biomechanical analysis of  a squash stroke by breaking the stroke down into five phases and using seven biomechanical principles to analyze it.  I also posted an example of an analysis of a squash forehand drive, and a video of a tennis forehand drive biomechanical analysis (similar but not identical ideas for analyzing a squash forehand).

Premier Performance Coaching Team 2009

Premier Performance Coaching Team 2009

I recently had the chance to video the strokes of the current world #1 Karim Darwish at the Premier Performance Squash training held July 10-19 at Mercersburg Academy in Pennsylvania.  Along with Engy Kheirallah and Miguel Rodriguez we coached 20 adults and juniors using the Games Approach framework to introduce the players to Egyptian style attacking squash.  In addition to on-court coaching we spent quite a bit of time reviewing video of both game play tactics and forehand and backhand basic strokes.

For the biomechanical video analysis, since we were using a Mac and not Dartfish on a PC, we made a Quicktime video clip of Karim’s and each campers strokes, and opened both clips at the same time side-by-side for easy comparison.  Although I used the seven biomechanical principles to anlalyze the players strokes, it was very useful to be able to refer to Karim’s technique in each of the five key positions:  ready position, backswing, force production, impact, and follow through.

Betsy & Karim's Forehand Preparation

Betsy & Karim's Forehand Preparation

In this video I walk slowly though an analysis of Karim’s basic backhand straight drive off an easy ball in the mid-court (note that you need to specify the exact shot being analyzed since technique differs depending on the situation) using the seven biomechanical principles.  The most notable aspect of his backhand stroke is the extreme “blocking” action of the left arm during the follow through, compared to most of his peers.  The purpose of the blocking action is to slow rotation of the body (as in a figure skater opening out of a spin), which will help keep his hitting zone longer and shoulders turned for a fraction of a second longer.  Most players will do this on precision shots such as the straight drop or straight volley drop, but Karim does it while hitting with power as obviously his racquet speed is sufficient – he does it much less on his cross-court drives.  Stay tuned for an analysis of his forehand stroke.


Do Squash Players Need Big Biceps? Part II

January 24, 2009

This post is a bit tongue-in-cheek since I have already blogged on this topic during last year’s Wimbledon where the British press was all in a tizzy about Andy Murray’s new training regime – a key part being building his biceps by doing chin-ups with a weights attached to a belt around his waist.  I pointed out the irony of the press reporting on his newly powerful 127 m.p.h. serves, while on the same page reporting on skinny Venus William’s setting a tournament record with a 128 m.p.h. serve.

One of the major points for squash coaches is that a player’s success can often be in spite of and not because of a given training activity – and that often there are unseen or unspoken factors involved that contribute to a player’s success.  The same of course would apply to squash coaches – if our players are being successful it does not mean that everything we are doing with them is contributing to their success.  For example the type of drills we do with them may have a negligible effect on their game, but our charismatic leadership style may be propelling them upward to unseen heights!  Without a careful and critical dissection of all training activities by coaching experts it would be difficult to determine.

In the case of Andy Murray, the use of intensive, upper body strength training methods was coincident with a new determination and focus to improve and achieve, this resultant attitude being mostly responsible for his rise in the tennis rankings (will he win the Australian Open?).

In the case of squash, it is even more clear that the size of the biceps (i.e., upper body strength) is irrelevant to both hitting the ball hard and a player’s squash ranking.  A prime example of this would be a casual inspection of John White’s upper body – John holds the official world record of 172 m.p.h. for a squash drive.  The average weight of the squash racquet is now about 140 grams unstrung, while the average tennis pro’s racquets are over 300 grams.

John White's Left Tricep/Bicep

John White's Left Tricep/Bicep

Rafael Nadal's left Tricep/Bicep

Rafael Nadal's left Tricep/Bicep

Certainly in the men’s game muscularity is not a significant factor, considering that the men usually hit harder than their female counterparts who often appear more cut with respect to this aspect of fitness.  Hitting the ball hard in squash is mostly a result of biomechanical factors such a lever length (e.g. John White), pre-impact prestretch, swing length, good technique (especially the kinetic chain) and of course timing, which is a result of movement and positioning, which is related to aerobic fitness and speed/agility. Hopefully the recent promotion of functional training has sounded the death knell on emphasizing traditional weight-training methods such a biceps curls, triceps extensions, squat with heavy weights and the bench press.

nicoldavidfp2

Here are two solid examples of hard-hitting:

Application for Squash Coaches:

  1. Use sport science and common sense to examine the world’s top player and coach training programs – not everything they do should be copied.
  2. Move towards functional versus body-building types of strength training.
  3. Focus on technique and timing – not strength to improve your player’s power.

Biomechanical Analysis of the Squash Forehand Drive

December 4, 2008

In a previous post we discussed the importance of analyzing squash technique according to generally accepted principles of biomechanics, in addition to utilizing our experience as squash players and coaches.  We posted the Coaching Association of Canada’s Seven Biomechanical Principles, and thanks to Google, I found this document a few minutes ago, that presents the seven principles in a bit more detail:  biomechanical_principles_and_applications

In addition to teaching biomechanics to hundreds of Canadian Coaches (of all sports) as part of Level 2 and 3 Coaching Theory courses, I also teach biomechanics to undergraduate Smith College students in my Introduction to Exercise & Sport Studies course.  Here is a squash example of the assignment for the biomechanics part of the course:  biomechanicssquashforehand .

In the example, the squash forehand drive is 1) broken down in to five phases; 2) key elements are identified for each of the five phases; 3) biomechanical principles associated with the key elements are identified.

Theoretically, each coach should complete this exercise for each stroke that they teach, so that their analysis and corrections have a solid scientific foundation.

Here is a great video of a coach (tennis) using biomechanical principles to analyze a forehand drive (tennis) – totally applicable to squash!  The coach discusses three sources of power for the forehand drive, including open and closed stance in the discussion (just as we do in squash).  Two of the three are less relevant sources of power for the squash drive, although they do make a contribution – can you guess which is the most important for squash? (Hint: a) we do not stand up after hitting the squash ball, we stay low, push back and recover; b) our light racquet and ball contribute less to linear momentum (i.e., weight moving forward), and in squash we usually do not have sufficient time to move our weight completely forward through a shot as they do in tennis (as we would never get back to the “T” in time).


Biomechanics for Squash Coaches

December 3, 2008

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.

biomech_

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.

heebthrow

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.

Seven General Biomechanical Principles for Sport

Seven General Biomechanical Principles for Sport

Application for Squash Coaches

  1. Go beyond the “this is what I do” rationale for stroke analysis and correction.
  2. Learn and use basic biomechanical principles in your technical coaching.
  3. Find and use a good tennis or general biomechanics reference.