The difference between amateur and professional players’ training schedules are of course substantial. Your lives are filled with heavy work obligations each day while the professional player’s daily work obligation is towards the game, including training, playing, rehabilitating and/or recovery.
You can, however, learn some tips and tricks from the best of the game in order to vastly improve your own game. These tips focus on improving your fitness habits, which as you may know by now, are the EASIEST way to become a better player. Technical and Tactical are far harder to develop and grasp. So please take these tips to heart and let’s get you on the fast track to improvement.
The 3 major discrepancies that I have witnessed between Amateur and Professional players are:
1. Training Quality (do not confuse this with quantity)
These sound, and perhaps are, very obvious. However, more often than not and regardless of time devotion and resources, the amateur player is far behind the professional due to:
1. Motivation, lack of postural awareness, and/or determination in Training
2. Time budgeting and perseverance in Recovery
3. Impatience and lack of long-term care for the body in Rehabilitation
Let’s just take Point 2 for today, Recovery. Recovery includes several factors, however this topic shall cover only post-session stretching/rolling.
I go to several professional tournaments throughout the year and am behind the scenes at a few (please note these are men’s, this article is not in comparison to women’s professional tournaments). This gives me insight to a player’s morning practice routine day before and of their match, and their routine before and after their tournament match. I also attend some junior and amateur tournaments throughout the year, where things are less private and one can easily view a player’s general routines and habits. I have noticed a strong correlation between the professional player and the highly-ranked junior player’s habits both pre and post play. Interestingly, I have rarely witnessed a strong correlation between the professional and the adult amateur player, and most likely, I am talking to you this very moment.
Things have gotten far more professional in the past period of professional squash. 15-20 years ago, it was not uncommon to find a player at the hotel bar despite having won his match that day. Today is quite the opposite. Post-match, the top players are re-fuelling with a water-based, high-quality sports drink and spending an extraordinary amount of time stretching. I have talked to several about their opinions on stretching, especially with so much information out there regarding the support or lack of support of this post-session recovery method. The following two are the most common answers of professional players in strong support of stretching after playing/training:
1. They have experienced more ‘niggles’ and/or injury during a period of reduced/no stretching after exercise
2. They experience greater suppleness on court – specifically rotation and reach. Ever seen a professional player reach forward in almost full splits and get a near-perfect drop shot?
So why should we, the amateur player, take on the more time-dedicated and arguably more boring approach of the modern player? Players 15 years ago were amazing at their craft so why bother postponing a post-match beer or an obligation with a stretching session? Well, I’m sorry to say that players who retired 15 years ago are generally in a different physical state than players who retired closer to 5 years ago. The average professional player from 15+ years ago had too many past and current injuries to have continued playing competitively upon retirement and beyond. The average professional players from 5-10 years ago continue to play competitively upon retirement. Take the Squash Legends Tour, for example – the players on the tour have retired anywhere between 1-10 years ago. They continue to compete competitively, albeit in a more relaxed and entertaining atmosphere than their professional days! The reason for this start contrast? The original 3 topics: Training Quality, Recovery and Rehabilitation. Their generation was far more informed than the previous generation.
Today, we are equally informed via general and/or researched knowledge, ideally personal experience, and outlets such as this website. We really have no excuse, however we understandably battle daily with motivation, time commitment and patience. As time budgeting seems to be the predominant excuse for skipping post-session stretching, let’s dissect this a little further. You CAN budget for 10 minutes at any point in your day. If you really can’t move a meeting 10 minutes later after a match, then you can still generally find 10-15 minutes before you go to bed. You simply need to budget this in. If you consistently have to rush off after practice, get off court 10 minutes early and use your foam roller diligently for that time.
There are many skeptics, which is understandable considering the research out there, of post-session stretching. My suggestion is to put your skepticism aside and budget at least 10 minutes of stretching and/or rollering (or tennis balling your glutes!) ideally post-session, if not at the end of your day. Do this every day – simply budget this time into your schedule, like the ritual of brushing your teeth a certain time each day. Stay focused and dedicated to this ritual. After 4 weeks, if you do not feel any improvement whatsoever in how your body feels on and off court, then I vow to do 50 court sprints!