27/06/12

The Story of Squashskills

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Most problems in life have a simple solution.

When you have a problem with your car your best bet is the garage. When you have a problem with your health your best bet is the doctor. And, from July 2, when you have a problem with your swing your best bet is to click on Squashskills.

The new site is being launched by professional squash coach Jethro Binns and former world number one Peter Nicol, with one overarching aim. They hope Squashskills will become a one-stop-shop for every player intent on looking for ways to improve their game.

Jethro and Peter describe their site as “an online coaching library resource and swing analysis service brought to you by some of the best players and coaches in the world”. And after two years in development Squashskills has come a long way from the first video Jethro posted of himself doing the commonplace squash drill of hitting figure of 8s while balancing on a Swiss ball.swissball1
Jethro and his former business partner initially set out to emulate a US website called FuzzyYellowBalls which featured a collegiate tennis player delivering lessons and was gaining a strong following on YouTube.

They wanted to do something similar for the squash world and spent weeks working on the concept before setting up a Facebook page which quickly drew followers. After the success with the Swiss ball they uploaded more and more videos as they tried to build the Squashskills brand using free content.

But the pair began to have different ideas about how the site would work and the direction they should take before parting ways. By this point Peter had a stake in the company after recording a number of videos for Squashskills, and it became clear to Jethro how good the former World Open champion was at delivering lessons.

From January 2012, Peter committed fully to the project with Jethro, who decided to invest his inheritance into the project which was starting to take over his life. Jethro was juggling his roles as head coach at Bristol University, coaching at Elite Squash with Hadrian Stiff while also running a house music night in Bristol called Just Jack.

But it was a call in January to US-based video analysis software company V1 that saw Squashskills head in a new and exciting direction. Used principally by golfers, V1 allows players’ swings to be analysed by filming them before using computer software to slow down, annotate and comment on the videos before sending them back to the individual user.

Tiger Woods recently commented that V1 video analysis is the primary reason young golfers are getting good so quickly as it was creating perfect techniques. And Jethro and Peter are hopeful of achieving a similar effect in squash utilising another recent technological advance, the iPad.ipad
V1 can be used on any computer but an iPad allows a player to be filmed hitting a shot and seconds later have their swing analysed before making instant adjustments. From beginners to professionals, anyone in the world who subscribe to the service will be able to send their videos to Squashskills and receive detailed lessons from some of the world’s greatest players and coaches.

Jethro and Peter want the site to be a melting pot of ideas that
everyone can give to and take from, with as many different ideas and
philosophies featured as possible. But they think it can help coaches
as much as it can players and the technology is not intended to
replace the court coach but enhance what they are already doing.

Both of them were overwhelmed by the response they received from coaches who visited their stall at the British Open at the O2 Arena recently. And thanks to the internet Squashskills hope their remote service will help players from across the globe who live in countries lacking access to a coach.

Jethro and Peter want their site to be the definitive squash resource and are excited to see where the technology takes them. If it works they would love to transfer the idea to other sports but whatever the future holds squash players of the world have just been given the opportunity to be coached by their heroes.

Sounds tempting.