Have you just started squash? Congratulations, you´ve made an excellent choice! Squash is brilliant exercise and a lot of fun. However, it´s also a very demanding sport both physically and technically, and at the beginning it can be difficult to know what´s the best way to get started. Here´s what I´d recommend you to do at the beginning to make sure you´ll make the most of your time on the court:
Choose the right ball
Sometimes beginners go on the court all enthusiastic but come off disappointed and discouraged, saying: “The ball didn´t bounce at all. We couldn´t play more than one or two shots in a row. Squash is too difficult!” This happens because nobody told them to choose the right type of ball and they picked the one with two yellow dots (Dunlop Pro Squash Ball), sold at every equipment shop. There´s only one but. That ball is aimed at professional or high standard play and requires the players hit it hard in order it to bounce. I´d advise you to start with a ball which has a blue dot on it. It´s called Dunlop Intro Squash Ball, and it makes playing easier as it´s slower and bigger than balls used by players with higher level. Also, it doesn´t require you to hit it hard in order to bounce. The rallies will be longer which makes playing more motivating and physically more efficient. If after a while you notice that it is becoming easier to play the ball, you can switch to the Dunlop Progress and Competition Squash Ball.
Find a coach
According to studies on learning a sport-specific movement, for example a squash shot, it has to be repeated between 1,000 and 2,000 times to become automatized, and between 10,000 and 20,000 times in order to become efficient and relaxed. Now, imagine if you learn the movement wrong. You´ll need again thousands and thousands of repetitions to correct it. I can tell you from experience it´s not too much fun (there was a time my coach made me have my wrist taped to keep it in the correct position, it was so difficult to get rid of a “bad habit” I had learnt). Why is it a big deal if there´s something essentially wrong in your technique? Simply because sometimes it prevents you from playing good shots. Don´t get me wrong, there are different techniques and styles, but good players have the basic technical elements right. So, don´t just go on court, grab the racket and start hitting the ball blindly. Getting at least a few private or group lessons by a good coach is highly recommendable. Your coach will teach you all the essential things, such as how to hold the racket, how to place your feet, how to prepare, perform and follow-through a swing. I know, there´s a lot to think about, and that´s the beauty of racket sports. When all the pieces start coming together and you suddenly feel good and relaxed when you hit the ball, and see the ball land where you want, you know that all that hard work you´re doing is worth it!
Use your time on court efficiently
You might be tempted to spend the whole hour-or-so just playing. But if you dedicate at least part of the time to training, you´ll notice how you improve much faster. This is because you need, again, hundreds and hundreds of repetitions on every shot. In a match this is impossible. I´d advice beginners to plan their session for example like this: 1. Warm up (5-10 minutes, before the session); 2. Simple hitting exercises (15-20 minutes); 3. Conditioned games (20 minutes); 4. Normal game (20 minutes); 5. Ghosting/cool down (5-10 minutes).
Next time I'll write more about how to plan a good training session for beginners. So stay tuned!