Squash Training in the Time of a Pandemic

The past 9 months has been an incredible challenge for our society and a monumental test of our collective mettle. High performance athletes have been no exception to the struggle with limited access to facilities, no competitions to keep them motivated and their training communities compromised. However, with the light starting to form at the end of the tunnel, it’s a good time to take stock of where you are at with the your squash and what you can do in the next three all important months before hopefully we are back on the courts.

Here are 5 quick tips to get you thinking about hitting the ground running in the spring of 2021:

  1. Mini Goal Setting. The days can easily turn into weeks and weeks into month during the pandemic.  It’s important to set daily/weekly goals of things you CAN control without focusing on what you can’t.  Write down 5 mini goals at the beginning of the week and check them off as you go. Goals could be anything relevant to you – 10 minutes of skipping, read 50 pages of a book, learn to cook a new recipe, watch 3 full squash matches, do 50 push-ups a day, zoom with your grandparents, etc. The purpose is to keep your training mind sharp and to stay motivated despite the circumstances.
  2. Add More Tools to Your Toolbox.  Top professionals in any sport must develop a wide array of skills aside from the big 3 of technical, tactical and fitness.  With so much to do and so little time to do it during a normal training season, this is the perfect opportunity to acquire the secondary tools needed to compete at an international level.  These include (but not limited to) flexibility, functional movement, mental training/sports psychology, nutrition, recovery, injury prevention.  These skills are used differently by individual personalities and some will resonate with you more then others – now is the time to experiment with as many methods as possible and start find the best fits for your future arsenal of weapons. You will often hear retiring players say they wished they spent more time doing yoga or working on their mental games when they were younger – now is your chance to look ahead and be proactive.
  3. Visualization. This is a very powerful tool that can be developed during the time away from the courts.  See the link here for an interesting study done with a group of basketball players and consider the outcomes – https://www.breakthroughbasketball.com/mental/visualization.html. Visualization for squash does not need to be strictly match play – picture yourself hitting 20 straight drives with perfect technique for 5 minutes per day and start to build up to patterns, ghosting routines, condition games and match play. The longer you can concentrate and the sharper your sessions become the better off you will be.
  4. Solo, Solo and Solo.  Every heard this from your coach?  There is no question for a variety of reasons Canadian squash players put in less court time then other top squash nations.  The first activities allowed during COVID return to play will be solo-hitting and the courts will be wide open for you once restrictions lift.  Solo hitting to build your overall skill level is invaluable and likely the single most important time a young player can spend training. Watch a PSA match featuring any of the Top 20 players and attempt to understand how much time they have spent developing technique, accuracy, spin, deception, short games, racquet head speed, weight of shot, as well as basic movement patterns. Double the time you spend solo hitting and do it with intention – perfect practice makes perfect.
  5. Stay Connected with your Community. Canadian (and world) squash players are all going through the same frustrating period.  Your coaches have been deeply affected and so have your teammates and friendly rivals across the country.  It’s important to know that an army of others are going through this and by sticking together we will come out stronger.  Send a player from another province a message, organize a zoom session for your teammates and/or put a Christmas card in the mail for your coach! Spring is COMING and we will all hopefully be back together then. In the meantime, stay safe, stay smart and dig in for this final pandemic push.