A Progressive Approach to Teaching Racquet Sports – Part 2

August 27, 2009

Part one of this three part series covered the rationale behind using a Progressive Approach when introducing players, young or old, to squash and the other racquet sports.  In this second video, we  make a recommendation  to use a racquetball racquet as the starting “implement” no matter what racquet sport you coach.  It has the largest hitting surface, closest to the hand, making it the easiest weapon of choice.  The only easier implement would be Ken Watson’s Big Hand – a sport “glove” to really make contact with a ball easier – a great product.

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A Progressive Approach to Teaching Racquet Sports to Large Groups: Part I

August 26, 2009

Most physical educators and squash coaches are not lucky enough to be able to solely coach talented, young athletes in a private lesson setting.  Most of are usually involved in teaching larger groups of untalented (and often unmotivated) youth or adults.  Traditional racquet sport pedagogy methods usually involved teaching using lines of students trying to hit full swings off an unrealistically perfect feed from a coach – with little time for individual correction in group teaching.  My first tennis teaching assignment (1975) was to teach 75 kids on three courts with two assistant instructors.

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Squash Science Resource Update – August ’09

August 12, 2009

Many of the sport science resources that squash coaches use continue to evolve.  Here are three updates from trusted sources:

I   Thera-Band Academy Adds Web 2.0 Tools for Coaches

August 11, 2009

Dear Thera-Band Academy Subscriber

I trust you’ve found the Thera-Band Academy to be a useful tool for you. This is the 10th Anniversary of the Academy… and much has changed since then. I wanted to let you know about some new tools and websites that will help us improve our communication with you. Using the latest social media and networking sites, we hope to enhance your experience within the Academy. Please take a brief moment to check out these new tools…

I hope these new tools are useful! Thanks for your continued loyalty and support!

Phil Page, PT, ATC, MS, CSCS
Director of Education & Research
1245 Home Ave
Akron, OH 44310  Read the rest of this entry »

Wimbledon 2009: Psychological & Tactical Lessons for Squash Coaches

July 5, 2009

My prediction for the Gentlemen’s Singles was wrong – I was sure Andy Murray (with his big biceps) was ready to take Wimbledon and Federer with Nadal out of the way.  With Federer appearing to suffer some doubts and lack of confidence recently (obviously alleviated somewhat by his French Open win), I thought Murray’s increasing confidence would carry him through the pressure of the British press – apparently not.

The ability to keep pressure off in both squash and tennis is key.  I just finished two weeks of squash camp with Mike Johnson (former coach of Fitzgerald, Eyles and Ricketts amongst others) and he reckons this ability is the most important for players to acquire.  According to Johnson,  the inability to keep pressure off  (“I must win this match”) is the number one reason players underperform.

It was very clear in the Wimbledon women’s final that the William’s sisters are the dominant force in women’s tennis today (check the video!).  Their father played the key role in keeping the pressure off them in their formative years – forbidding them to play in junior tennis tournaments from the age of 12-14.  My hypothesis is that this allowed them to develop that “go for it” attitude which obviously has become a habit.  The lack of tournament pressure also allowed them to develop a variety of skills unhindered by the need to “win that match today”.  My two weeks with 70 of the U.S.’ top junior squash players has reconfirmed my belief that the “need to win” is the number one barrier to making necessary changes in one’s squash technique and tactics.  Many junior squash players are unwilling to accept the temporary drop in performance that would come with a grip change for example.  Since accepting a temporary performance decrement in exchange for future gains is logical, there must be external forces (parents, coach, tournament environment) acting on the junior.

Squash is much more tactical than singles tennis, especially tennis played on grass (with an average of less than three shots per rally).  Doubles tennis on the other hand, is at least as tactical and perhaps more so: the addition of the net game, poaching and faking, variety in positioning (both up, both back, Australian), use of the lob (rarely seen in singles), etc.  It was great to see the Canadian Nestor come through for the second year in a row.  I never worked with Nestor but did work with Canadian Sebastien Lareau (Olympic Doubles Medalist), and last week at Princeton ran into Canadian and former world number 1 doubles Glenn Michibata (with Grant Connell) – now coaching the men’s tennis team at Princeton.  Why has Canada produced so many top-ranked doubles players over the last 10-15 years?  It has to do with Tennis Canada’s Tactics First Approach to training their tennis coaches.  Their tactics first approach has been the official coaching method in Canada since at least 1985.  Although the Canadian tennis players are too few and not talented enough to regularly break into the top 100 in singles – in a sport which prioritizes tactics, they have dominated (per capita) the top ranking spots over the last 15 years. Smart play can overcome a lack of physical talent – a great lesson for sqush coaches.  in order to develop this “squash intelligence” coaches need to use a Tactics First Approach.

Application for Squash Coaches:

  1. Help keep the pressure off your junior squash players through proper goal setting (task not win goals) and an emphasis on longterm development.
  2. Use a Tactics First Approach to develop squash intelligence in your players

Squash Science Supports British Racketball!

June 19, 2009

From pedagogical, tactical, fitness, social and developmental perspectives, there are good sport science reasons for squash coaches to integrate British Racketball into their coaching activities.

Pedagogical: As the easiest-to-learn racquet sport, due to the slow, relatively high-bouncing nature of the ball and the relatively large racquet face, British Racketball should be the first step for both young and new learners.  The tennis world is currently swamped with progressive learning methods for introductory tennis – and of course in squash we have our Mini-Squash – I think British Racketball is just as good.

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Mental Training for Beginning Squash Players

May 17, 2009

Most of the attention in the sport psychology domain is given to advanced and elite adult players.  In an ideal world, squash coaches would start to guide their proteges towards mental toughness at the very start of their squash lives.

In the early 1990’s I helped Tennis Canada develop mental training and sport psychology priorities for every age group in their junior tennis programs:  periodized annual mental training programs to be implemented in Canadian indoor clubs for each of their junior age groups:  U11, U14, U18.

At each stage of development, different psychological qualities were prioritized – for example tennis intelligence, courage, leadership, etc.  In effect what we did was  develop psychological specifics what we would now describe as stages of a Long Term Athlete Development Plan (LTAD).

While many of the technical and physical aspects of published LTADs are very concrete and specific, the psychological aspects tend to be general and vague – reason being that the sport scientists developing the LTADs work primarily in the areas of physiology and motor learning – not sport psychology!

Here is a link to great example of mental training for beginning tennis players – which will apply 100% to beginning squash players – thanks International Tennis Federation (ITF)!

ITF Mental Training for Tennis Beginners

ITF Mental Training for Tennis Beginners

Rethinking Squash Coaching Education

March 9, 2009

Currently, most Squash Coaching Education programs are organized based on a hierarchy of technique:

Level 1 Coaching Course – coaches learn how to teach the basic shots.
Level 2 Coaching Course – coaches learn how to teach the intermediate shots.
Level 3 Coaching Course – coaches learn how to teach advanced shots.

The problem with this approach is that there is so much more to good squash coaching than simply “teaching shots”.  Depending on the actual function the squash coach is fufilling (e.g., Assistant Pro in a club responsible for junior clinics or Part-time National Coach for a World Championship 2-year cycle) the skill set that the coach needs to acquire and demonstrate are very different.  The “clients” (i.e., athletes) of these two different types of coaches also have very different expectations about the person guiding their efforts to improve.

Stages and Ages of an LTAD

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