What’s Your Squash Style – Player or Athlete?

What’s Your Squash Style – Player or Athlete?
A Blog by Squash Canada National Squad Member Nicole Bunyan

Learn how to diagnose your own personal strengths and weaknesses to suit your natural style of game.

I will admit, this post title is a little misleading, but I hope it challenges you to reflect on your style of game and natural strengths and weaknesses.

I am not suggesting that you must either be a squash player OR an athlete and cannot be a mixture of both. Most avid, high level squash players will likely see themselves as a mixture of both (as you would expect!). However, some may identify primarily as a squash player, and others may think of themselves as an athlete who plays squash.

I must also point out that just because you identify as a squash player, it does not mean that you are not an equally good athlete!

Personally, I have always felt more like an athlete who plays squash. I grew up playing other sports as well as squash and have often relied on athletic ability to retrieve and outlast my opponents on court. I have taken skills and fitness from other sports (soccer, cycling, running), and transferred them as best I could to the squash court.
This has worked pretty well, but I have realized that to reach the higher levels in squash, I have to dedicate the same intensity and attention to detail to the craft of squash. In other words, become a better “squash player”.

For some squash players, this part of the game, mainly tactics and technique, is more appealing to work on. No court sprints in sight! I am inclined to classify those people as the “squash players”. They will not necessarily shy away from the physical aspects of the sport, but they naturally enjoy working on the technical and tactical intricacies of squash.

On the other hand, for some of us squash players who have had success playing a more physical and “attritional” style of squash, we tend to rely more on the fitness aspect of squash. A player could develop this style of game for a number of reasons- perhaps they had success wearing opponents down, were taught to be mainly length hitters or simply enjoy this type of game.

Can you change your style? SHOULD you?!

My favourite thing about sports is that there is ALWAYS something to work on- no matter how good you get. With squash, you can focus on so many different things: movement, tactics, racquet technique, deception, fitness. You will likely gravitate towards working on the aspects of the game you enjoy the most and are best at.

For instance, my style of game relies on my physicality and dominating the middle of the court. I like to get in front of my opponent and (usually) play a faster, more aggressive pace than them. Therefore, I like drills where I can hit the ball hard and volley. I also derive satisfaction from working on fitness because I know how much it helps my confidence on court. (I also just hate feeling gassed!).

Am I going to keep working on these strength areas? Absolutely. Am I going to try and “round out” my style of play and start working on opening the court up? No, I do not think so. I will continue to improve my short game, but more so that I can be more clinical when I produce opportunities, not so I can shoot more. Just because an open style of play is a “weakness” (or something I just do not do), doesn’t mean that I need to become that type of player.

So, how do you figure out weaknesses to fix?

I obviously want to fix weaknesses, BUT I just said I do not want to change my “style” of game! What does that mean? Shouldn’t I be trying to fix ALL weaknesses? In my opinion, not necessarily!

I think you should prioritize your “weaknesses”. Either fix “kinks” that are hindering your strengths (ie. you are fast, but have inefficient movement), or working on aspects of the game that you have been overlooking but are essential (ie. Being unaware that your length is not actually getting to the back wall).

For example, I could work on moving more efficiently so that my fitness and strength is being put to better use. Or I could work on hitting the ball tighter & deeper more consistently rather than just hitting it hard, so I can produce more opportunities around the middle. Another technical improvement could be hitting the ball further in front of me, to use my reach and take time away from my opponent.

I just described 3 areas of improvement that will complement my style of game- my “athletic” style of play. These improvements would help me become a better squash player, but that does not necessarily mean that I have to change my entire game.

Same goes for squash players who want to improve. Perhaps their strength or speed is lacking, so they are missing out on opportunities, or unable to defend well enough. Maybe your stamina is not up to par, so you cannot hang in the long rallies and you shoot too early or at the wrong time. Or, maybe you try to do too much and open up the court even when your skills aren’t quite on that day, or you’re under more pressure than usual.

These are combinations of technical, tactical, and physical areas of improvement that you would work on to improve your natural style and strengths.

What is your style? What should YOU work on?

As you read through this blog post, you probably resonated with one of the “styles” more than the other. Personally, I have always found it more difficult to come up with a list of strengths as opposed to weaknesses. If the same goes for you, try to think about what style resonates with you, what you enjoy about squash, and what you enjoy working on. Seek out the help of a coach to see if he/she can help you strategically improve areas that will most help your game.

Working on weaknesses, especially physical ones, becomes much more interesting and motivating when you can understand just how and why it is going to improve your game. Especially when it comes to physical training, getting fit just for the sake of getting fitter is not really a long-term source of motivation!

I hope this post was helpful and thought provoking. Unfortunately, Covid-19 has presented us squash fanatics with some barriers to practicing and competing. However, I guarantee if you take a deep dive into analyzing your strengths and weaknesses as a squash player, you can re-frame the way in which you look at weaknesses and get much better quality and greater satisfaction out of your training.