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!

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).