Progressive practicing

28th August 2013

When I was a professional, and especially at the beginning/middle of my career, my morning weekday sessions would always follow a simple progression. As the focus later in my career was more specifically on my technique and learning to play in a different style my sessions were sometimes just a random collection of routines and conditioned games that fit with what I wanted to practice.

I definitely lost the discipline of progressive practice and think I suffered occasionally for that as my sessions became more haphazard and tended to follow either what I or my playing partners wanted to practice. However, that flowing type of session also allowed me more freedom to adapt and learn new and exciting ways to play which then helped me keep up with the changes in the game during the last few years of my career.

Relating the above to amateur players, I would encourage a lot more structured progressive practices to improve your squash. From my experience I would say the vast majority of amateur players never create sessions to incrementally learn correct technique for shots and then introduce into their games and rely instead on their natural game. Unfortunately, for all players, our natural or go to game will have been created over a long time whilst picking up bad habits along the way.

What I love about progressive practice is that we can all start to create a solid basic structure of play through repetitively working on simple shots and slowly increasing the difficulty of practice to make it more like a traditional game. My favourite progression right now is the simple and much under practiced serve and return of serve that is featured this week on the video wall.

Order of practice:

– Serve/return of serve straight and deep, then end rally

– Serve/return of serve straight and deep/volley

– Serve/return of serve straight and deep/play out full half court game on returner’s side

– Serve/return of serve straight and deep/play out point with 11 shot total rally (6 server/5 returner) – server has to win rally in that time

Serve/return of serve straight and deep/full normal rally to conclusion

You can score all of the practices above depending on standard, ie Serve/return – server gets a point if return does not make it into the back corner between service box and back wall hitting within 8 floorboards from the side wall. This can help focus and make the practice competitive, if that helps you.

I recommend moving up and down the practice depending on how well you are doing, being honest with yourself along the way. When you feel you’ve got one of the practices at an acceptable level then move forward. If you struggle with one, move back to the one before as it will almost certainly help you refocus on the area you are struggling with.

I hope this is useful and helps bring practice into your match play much quicker and effectively.

Good luck!

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