If you are similar to most coaches, you have limited time during squash practice to work on multiple objectives – often with a fairly large group of athletes. Here is an example of a ghosting (movement without hitting the ball) exercise I developed for my Smith College team this morning that integrates aerobic training (physical), with “tactical” court movement (technique).
Ghosting = Aerobic + Tactical Movement + Technique
We use a “zone” tactical model of squash to guide our team’s training (System 3), so today I divided our court into three zones (front, mid, back) for our aerobic training, and related the movement in each zone to the tactics often found in each zone:
front: defence or attack;
mid: attack/pressure except if ball is tight on wall;
I am doing this since I want the players to “think” about what they are doing, so that even their physical training encourages them to be smart players. There are three players per court since we had 12 at practice today. Four courts of three, are easier to supervise than five courts and the athletes can feed off each other’s energy.
Physical (Aerobic) Aspect of Ghosting
Depending on the author, there are at least five aerobic “zones” we need to train in squash, ranging in intensity from a low 60-65% effort, up to a high 85-90% (dependent on anaerobic threshold). Each zone features a particular physiological adaptation, so the intensity of work should be planned and communicated to the athletes. The intended intensity of today’s exercise was about 75%, so we asked the players to check their heart rate for ten seconds every five minutes to make sure they were in the correct training zone. Fifteen minutes is a good amount of time for this type of interval training (where other aerobic training is also being done on the same day). A timer on each court was set for 20 seconds, at which point each player would switch zones, so the work:rest ration was about 3:1, with 15 seconds work and 5 seconds rest (as the player moves to the next zone).
Tactical-Technical Aspects of Ghosting
The movement required is related to the tactical objective of the shot practiced (defensive shot – move straight to ball; rallying or offensive shot – “curved” path to ball to create space when the difficulty of the ball received allows for this).
- Backcourt – players move to back to ghost a straight drive with arced movement, so “rallying”.
- Mid-Court – players ghost two volleys (pressuring/attacking), and two lunging “gets” of low, tight, drives from opponents (defending) – both movement straight to ball.
- Front-court – player ghosts two drives using “banana” movement to ball (attack), and then two “defensive” counter-drops with movement straight to ball (defence or counter=attack depending on how you interpret this shot)
By explaining the tactical context of the physical movement and ghosting, it is hoped the players will better integrate this training into their game.
You can see in each of the two clips (shot and uploaded to YouTube via my iPhone 3Gs) that there was at least one player who was not doing the movement correctly because they did not understand my verbal description and demonstration of the drill. This will happen frequently with your players who “learn by doing” rather than seeing or hearing. Rather than waste time seeking total comprehension from all of my players, I chose to move them into action quickly and correct where necessary once the training was underway.
Application for Squash Coaches:
- Use exercises with multiple objectives to save time.
- Where possible, relate all training to tactics or a tactical model so your players can develop into “smart” players.
- Provide explanations and feedback that match the learning style of your squash players(auditory, visual, kinaesthetic).