This month I want to talk a little about court movement for the game of squash in the hope that we can get your game up to the next level.
I have just finished a series of squash camps in Santa Barbara, CA, with Robert Graham, and one of the fundamental things we worked on with everyone was their approach to the ball for each shot. Without setting off to the ball in the correct manner you can't expect to arrive in the best position to hit a great shot.
The most common error I see at club level is when a player will just start running towards the ball and the corner it is heading for. Once they are there to hit the ball it is a practical impossibility to play an easy swing and make a good shot because they are too close to the ball or too close to the wall or both. So this will generally produce a poor shot where the ball travels toward the front wall offering the opponent an easy shot to put them into another corner under the same discomfort until the inevitable outcome of the rally.
Hold that thought… Ever seen that on the court? Is that you? And after the 150th time you've done it have you realized how exhausted you are?
I believe that with a little practice by yourself you can improve your game, raise your level, and still get a great workout. Work on that movement and you will start controlling the game more and then you can get tremendous satisfaction from watching your opponents racing toward the corners in that ball of confusion.
I have included a diagram to illustrate the key areas where improving your movement will help a great deal. The four corners of the court are where you want to put the ball, but not yourself. Simply put, if you find yourself running right into the corner then it means that you have a longer way to run to get the next shot back if your opponent is smart.
Enter Jonah Barrington, six-time British Open winner. One of the great pioneers of squash, he introduced a level of fitness to the game that had never been seen before but he also avidly studied and analyzed the game for his betterment as a player. Thus “ghosting” was invented.
Ghosting is the art of moving around the court without the ball, training your muscles and legs to move in the correct and most efficient manner to get to the ball during match play and it also allows you to practice good preparation for each shot because you don't have to worry about a ball to hit when you swing!
Look at the diagram and study the blue lines first. They indicate the ideal movement toward the ball in each of the front corners of the court. Notice the arc goes forward of the 'T' and then toward to corner. The black lines indicate your ideal movement to the back corners. Notice that if you follow this arc you will never actually be in the back corner. It will just be your racquet that reaches across as you swing your shot. The sky blue lines to the side walls indicate the movement toward the side—generally for a volleying position.
It's a great exercise because you can practice this by yourself on the court without the ball.
To get the most out of a 'ghosting session' think about really getting the racquet back and turning the shoulders in readiness for the shot while moving in the arcs shown.
Professional players, without exception, will work on this movement pattern. I work on my footwork pattern religiously and have been for the last 20 years. I am still working on it today!
Once the approach and swing are perfected you can use ghosting as a great form of training too, you can do intervals of any duration you choose. I do a lot of 30-seconds ghosting, with 30-seconds rest intervals, repeating this maybe 14 times. Each repetition would be of a slightly different movement pattern. (For example: Front left corner, back left corner—you can create your own in many ways).
There is no doubt it is also one of the hardest exercises to get right! So, work on doing it properly first and then introduce the speed and interval timing.
Good luck and happy squashing.