“This is the exclusive property of BTB Squash Coaching Academy. BTB cannot guarantee that the information, techniques and approaches suggested in these articles will work for you. BTB hopes however that the ideas presented will assist you in achieving your goals and ultimately your dreams. This is better than spending hours upon hours sifting through the junk online”. 

  1. Aha!! Is that what it is?
  2. The chains of habit…
  3. Raising your level of expectancy.
  4. Visualize, Crystallize, Verbalize and Actualize “The secret”
  5. What Now?
  6. Coaching tips.
  7. What is Coaching?
  8. How to select a racket.
  9. How to choose squash shoes.
  10. How to select a coach.
  11. Why Salming Shoes?

Aha! Is that what it is?

                   “The aha! moment is known to be a leadership quality”.
This is the moment of realization of what one needs to do to achieve ones goals.

My purpose is to on a weekly basis place tips on my web site to give all players some good information of how to improve their squash in all areas of development. I sincerely hope that you take the time to use this information. This first article will be a little long due to its importance but I challenge you to put this information into practice and see your game improve. This article I have named this, “The Secret”.

Why do some players achieve their goal and other players do not? Successful players know what they are doing. They know “The Secret”. They identify weaknesses and change them into strengths. You see practice makes perfect, right? Wrong. They practice but they practice correctly. You see, there are six basic shots in squash. Learning to play those six shots correctly, a player can put together another twenty two shots which makes twenty eight all together. Now successful players know how to play all those shots but they first learned to play the six shots correctly. They are the; Straight Drive, Cross court, Lob, Volley, Drop, and Boast. The straight drive is very important. To learn to play it well and depending on your level of play, (notice I said level of play and not age because some 11 year olds can do this really well) spend time on the court hitting the ball solo continuously down the line. Stand about half a meter away and next to the back of the service box. Drive the ball and attempt to get the ball bouncing just past the service box. If the ball hits the side wall first it means that you are taking it too late. If it goes slightly cross court it means you are taking it too early or you are following through too soon while the ball is still on the racket. There are requirements necessary to get the ball straight. (1) Prepare your racket well (2) face the side wall (3) connect the ball from the front of your body (4) Use the full range of the swing from shoulder to shoulder.  Always practice both the forehand and the back hand drives. Attempt to beat the target you set for yourself and increase your target as you achieve it. You may not succeed in the beginning but the “Secret” is to persist till you get it right. Quitting is permanent but failure is temporary.

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The chains of habit…

                           “The chains of habit are lightly felt until they become hard to break”.
How true this statement is that was quoted by
Warren Buffet in a speech he made on the importance of creating good habits and the affects that bad habit forming has on
our lives and on the lives of the people close to us. I am not in the least interested in discussing how bad a habit smoking is as most people know that. Even the ones that smoke know that smoking is the No 1 worst habit. How did this habit come about? This came about by having one extra cigarette a day. That is habit forming. The day will come when one will have to stop smoking, but, by then the habit has become so strong that it will become hard to break. If this daily activity works well with smoking, can you imagine what it would do for ones squash if one applies the same principles to squash training. Habit forming works slowly and silently. Before one realizes it, one has created a good habit by often playing the different shots at practice and applying the shots at the right time in a match. Correct repetition is the mother of skill. Try it and see how it will work for you. 

What happens to training after IPT, over Christmas or when injured? 
Once IPT or a major tournament is over, the tendency by the majority of players is to go into hibernation and pick the racket up again at the beginning of the next season. I sincerely hope that as you are reading this article it is because you are not that person.

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Raising your level of expectancy

Why does the world No 1 eventually become the world No 1? Through my life I have realized one thing, and that is, I got what I expected to get. There is no make belief here. When I expected defeat, failure or mediocrity, my subconscious mind would make sure that I lose, fail or sabotage every attempt I made to  push above average. That is why I learned to raise my level of expectancy. I began my training session with faith and expectancy and then anticipated a fantastic training session. Why does our system not rehabilitate prisoners? Why send them to jail if the system tells them that they have no income, that their family is embarrassed of them and that nothing will change in their life. Do I have those self imposed bars too? Am I in my own self imposed prison? Is this the best I can expect? Obviously NOT!  That is why I have adopted the attitude that, “THE BEST IS YET TO COME.”  What if I have this positive attitude and nothing works? Am I kidding myself? Absolutely NOT!  What if it does work? What do I have to lose keeping my hopes alive?  Sure, things that we want don’t happen as quickly as we want because of the learning process but during that process we need to set our mind on the target.  Stay confident, stay positive and always mix with positive enthusiastic people that use positive affirmations. Lastly, to mix with positive people you need to be positive too.

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Visualize, Crystallize, Verbalize and Actualize

The success story of Monty Roberts, formerly known as the ‘The Horse Whisperer’, was dramatically described by his friend Jack Canfield at one of his field trips. The true story went like this:-
‘I have a friend named Monty Roberts who owns a horse ranch in San Ysidro. He has let me use his house to put on fund-raising events to raise money for youth at risk programs. The last time I was there he introduced me by saying’; “I want to tell you why I let Jack use my house. It all goes back to a story about a young man who was the son of a travelling horse trainer who would go from stable to stable, race track to race track, farm to farm and ranch to ranch, training horses. As a result, the boy’s high school career was continually interrupted. When he was a senior, he was asked to write a paper about what he wanted to be and do when he grew up. That night he wrote a seven-page paper describing his goal of someday owning a horse ranch. He wrote about his dream in great detail and he even drew a diagram of a 200- acre ranch, showing the location of all the buildings, the stables and the track. Then he drew a detailed floor plan for a 1200-square metre  house that would sit on a 200-acre dream ranch. He put a great deal of his heart into the project and the next day he handed it in to his teacher. Two days later he received his paper back. On the front page was a large red F with a note that read, ‘See me after class.’ The boy with the dream went to see the teacher after class and asked, ‘Why did I receive an F?’  The teacher said, “This is an unrealistic dream for a young boy like you. You have no money. You come from an travelling family. You have no resources. Owning a horse ranch requires a lot of money. You have to buy the land. You have to pay for the original breeding stock and later you’ll have to pay large stud fees. There’s no way you could ever do it.” Then the teacher added; “If you will rewrite this paper with a more realistic goal, I will reconsider your grade.”  The boy went home and thought about it long and hard. He asked his father what he should do. His father said, “Look, son, you have to make up your own mind on this. However, I think it is a very important decision for you”. Finally, after sitting with it for a week, the boy turned in the same paper, making no changes at all. He stated, “You can keep the F and I’ll keep my dream”.

Monty then turned to the assembled group and said, “I tell you this story because you are sitting in my 1200 square metre house in the middle of my 200-acre horse ranch. I still have that school paper framed over the fireplace.” He added; “The best part of the story is that two summers ago that same schoolteacher brought 30 kids to camp out on my ranch for a week.” When the teacher was leaving, he turned to Monty and said, “Look, Monty, I can tell you this now. When I was your teacher, I was something of a dream stealer. During those years I stole a lot of kids’ dreams. Fortunately you had enough guts not to give up on yours.”

Don’t let anyone steal your dreams. Lead your heart, no matter what. There is not one human that I have met that does not want to be successful. To do that you need to win the war between your ears, to gain control of  your little voice, I can, I shall, I will or I can’t. Which one is going to win? If you say I can, you are right and if you say I can’t, you are also right. Everything you will achieve will begin with a thought. You have to conceive it on the inside and believe it before you achieve it on the outside. If you believe it, all things are possible despite what critics say. The fact that you are reading this article says that you are ready to go to a higher level, reach your full potential, but are you willing to get rid of your old negative procrastinating attitudes and start thinking bigger? Are you willing to enlarge your vision and get rid of the old negative mind sets that hold you back? By the time my next article, Raise Your Level Of Expectancy is out, you will be ready to “Raise Your Level Of Expectancy”.

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What Now?

The season is over and you have taken stock of your achievements during the past season. One thing you never do, is worry about the past… but without the past you will never get good concrete information of whether what you did was right or wrong. Taking a rest is important as it eliminates stress from the competitive season to identify and compensate for its negative elements. If you do not do that you may experience the negative elements of stress throughout and following the preparatory phase of your training. The rest phase should not take long for one important reason. The abrupt interruption of training and complete inactivity will lead to detraining, dissipating or wasting most gains from the hard work of the previous months. In addition, the sudden shift from intense work to complete passive rest may be harmful to the body and possibly causing restlessness and loss of apetite and eventually agitaing the digestive system. The first symptom of detraining is the loss of speed. The symptoms are not irrational and can be reversed if training resumes within a short time. When training resumes as planned, the body uses protein to build and repair damagedd tissues. In training nothing happens by accident, but by design. You should by now have realised that the annual training schedule consists of three very important phases. The competiitve phase, the transition phase and the preparatory phase. The preparatory phase should last five months and is extremely important to the entire training year. In thses five months you should develop the general framework of physical, technical, tactical and psychological preparation for the competitive phase. Inadequate preparation will have detrimental effects during the competition. From here on your coach needs to formulate a training program specific to your needs. The training should be based on increased volume that will, in the long run, result in a low fatigue level after training and enhance recovery.
“Now that everything is said and done, here is a news flash. Everything is a package and there is a give and take.  All that is left now is that there is a price to pay for the prize. You have to decide which prize is worth paying the price and what price are you prepared to pay for the PRIZE?”

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Coaching Tips

When you begin coaching sessions there has to be a purpose with an end in mind called a DREAM. “THE DREAM IS EVERYTHING”. What is a dream and what is your dream? Once you have identified that, the rest is easier. I say this for one reason and one reason only. Things do get tough as there will be more losses than wins. Do not misunderstand losses because losses are part and parcel of the journey. As this subject is delicate, I will be posting much more information regarding how you can manage a loss and get one more loss out of the way.
Many give up and quit when the going gets tough but ‘WHEN THE GOING GETS TOUGH THE TOUGH GO TO THEIR DREAMS’.

What is a DREAM?
DISCIPLINE to do what you have to do but you don’t feel like or don’t like doing
RELATIONSHIP with your parents, mentors and squash colleagues
ENERGY to work at your areas of development
ATTITUDE to manage your emotions and keep a winning posture at times when things  don’t go your way
MENTAL is the ability to stay focused when others are losing it even though you may be down or behind on points

“I sit in a Boat, on a stagnant sea, going neither here nor there. I have come to the realization that I’m going nowhere, for I have no goals”. Goal setting is a process of determining what you want to achieve, by when and how you are going to make your goals happen. Robert browning made it rather clear when he said, “A man‟s reach should always exceed his grasp, else what is heaven for”.

What do you really want? 
Visualize and define exactly what you want. If you go to training without a definite written down plan of what you really want to do, you give yourself no chance of ever achieving your goal. Find a quiet and relaxing place where you can let your mind wander. Give your mind the freedom to dream of all the success you have always wanted no matter how unlikely it may seem to you right now. You must have this crystallized picture in your mind of playing the perfect drop or lob or drive or even visualizing yourself on the podium with your arms thrown up in victory as if you have just won a major tournament. Take your time and feel the excitement mounting at the thought of what you want.

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What is coaching?

What is coaching? 

Coaching is not psychology; we do not spend time delving into your past. It is not psychiatry where medication is administered. It is the occasion for client and coach, together in a partnership, to facilitate the unlocking of potential so as to maximize performance.

Coaching provides a mentor who believes in you and helps you set big goals for yourself. It is like having a manager to break the goals down into practical and logical steps. Coaching also has the added benefit of a “personal trainer” to keep you on track as well as providing the “sports coach” to give you feedback that will help you improve your game!

Coaching is the space in which conversations as to the realms of possibility, are nurtured and given wings. Are you aware of the various conversations that you have with yourself and with others? These conversations are the thoughts or words that we use when having an internal or external conversation. In any one day we experience a number of conversations, ranging from conversations of complaint, to resentment, to the conversation of resignation as well as conversations of possibility and action.
Nick believes that a coaching process assists in not only the traditional goal setting, but primarily assists the client through the insights that are reached during the process. These insights often assist the pupil in overcoming “roadblocks” and moving toward the “goal”.
Coaching is an exploratory tool that challenges us; it brings focus and it gives us the permission to think big and act big!

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How to select a squash racket:

Regarding the type of racket, I think that it is important that you play with the racquet on court, to get a feel for the swing and balance. Try several different racquets to establish the differences in how they feel. The combinations of weight, balance, and stiffness are endless, and the choice must come down to personal preference. I sincerely hope that the following points will help you make your decision.
The key variables in squash racquets:
The first thing you need to understand in selecting a squash racquet is how they differ. Here are some of the main characteristics of squash racquets; and my view on how those characteristics affect how the racquet will play. Understand, though, that there is no agreement on these playing parameters.

“A contest where you can will on the underdog because he can try his best to catch-up, not give-up”

1. Weight of the racquet:
The weight of the racquet is its most obvious characteristic, and the weights are quite variable. The lightest racquets weigh in at about 120 grams, and heavy ones can be 210 grams or more. Most typically, racquets in the 140 to 170 gram range are used. As an oversimplification, less expensive racquets are the heaviest, and lighter racquets will cost you more. Stronger materials must be used to allow a racquet to be fabricated at a lighter weight.

2. Who needs a light racquet?
Players selecting lighter racquets tend to be skilled control and touch players, juniors, and women. A lighter racquet lets the player “feel” the ball as he hits it. This gives the beginner an impression of control. However, it is the experienced player who can best use a light racquet. The beginner will have a lot of difficulty with the necessary accuracy required to use a light racquet.
Put another way, a lighter racquet requires the player to add her own strength to put power into a shot — because the lighter racquet generates less momentum. Therefore, though often juniors and women select very light racquets, this is sometimes a mistake on their part, since it can make it more difficult to impart speed and direction on the ball. Skill and technique is required to make use of a light racquet.
In summary, a lighter racquet is easier to swing and give better “feel” of the ball, but also will be harder to control and will be more expensive.

3. Balance of the racquet:
Racquets vary substantially in where their center of balance lies. Here is a factor that can best be established by trying out the racquet on court. It is usually fairly easy to feel when the racquet has “bad balance” — that is if it is head heavy or head light. Try out the racquets and reject ones that don’t feel right:

  • A racquet that feels really heavy is usually head heavy. The balance varies from one racquet to another within a model line, so you need to insist on trying out the specific racquet you propose to use.

4. Stiffness of the racquet:
Racquets vary totally with regard to their “whippiness.” Try out for yourself racquets that are very stiff and then racquets with different degrees of give and test out how your shots perform with these different racquets. The best racquet for you will be dependent on your style of play and your level of expertise. If you can control it, a stiffer racquet is usually superior for both shot making and the power game. Racquet stiffness, though, in the final analysis is totally a question of personal style. Be aware of the stiffness of racquets you play well with, and try to be consistent in the racquets you use. The only racquets to really steer clear of, in this respect, are the very cheapest ones that tend to vibrate as they are hit.

5. Shape of the racquet head: 
Racquet manufacturers experiment with different racquet heads and market the results of their experimentation. In general, larger racquet heads give you a greater margin for error and also additional power. Be aware of the design and shape of the throat of your proposed racquet. Certain racquet throat designs make for decreased racquet durability.

6. The grip:
Don’t worry about the grip in selecting your racquet. You can easily modify the grip later by replacing the grip, “building-up” thickness in the grip, or reshaping the grip. Try it out, try it out, try it out! Always test-drive your proposed new racquet first for several games and established whether the feel of it works for you. Racquet preferences are very individual.

7. Your Grip:
The grip is a part of the racquet you should consider customizing. Many players arrive at a preferred grip shape, and build up the grip on each new racquet to feel the same. This helps you to keep your shot making consistency as you change racquets. It can be as simple as always replacing the manufactured grip with the specific brand or type of grip that you are used to. Or it can be as complicated as building up the thickness or changing the shape of the handle before wrapping on the new grip.

8. Restringing your racquet:
The strings on your squash racquet will wear out. The strings loosen up in use, and each time you strike the ball the strings abrade and weaken. At a minimum, restring your racquet every two months to maintain good tension for striking the ball.
You have selected a racquet and you love it. Now, how many of them do you own? You have taken the time and effort to find the right racquet for you — now you will need two spares. Yes that’s right — two spares! The racquet manufacturers frequently change their models, so by having three now you do two things:

  • You have the extra racquet on-hand for that critical moment when you break your racquet and
  • You can continue to enjoy the feel and familiarity of the exact racquet you have selected and practiced with.

9. Taking care of your racquet:
Here are some suggestions to take good care of your racquets:

  • Don’t leave the racquet in your car. Squash racquets are not designed to take the extremes of heat, sunlight, and cold that they encounter by being left outside in your car seat or trunk.
  • ​Let your racquets breathe. Burying your racquet in your bag or in its cover prevents the racquet and especially the grip, from drying out after you play. Use your racquet cover. The cover helps protect the racquet and strings from deterioration and the like.
  • Put your name on it! This will help keep your racquet from “walking away” at the club.

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How to Choose Squash Shoes:

All squash players occasionally suffer with sore feet. If you will insist on picking up every ball, what can you expect? However there are a few tips that may prevent problems. If in doubt seek medical attention from your GP, a chiropodist or podiatrist. Warm up before you begin playing flat out. Use SQUASH SHOES rather than general purpose trainers.
Make sure the squash shoes fit comfortably. If they are too tight, graze your toes, or just don’t support your arch or ankles, then get some new shoes. If you develop blisters easily, as some squash players do, you should try wearing 2 pairs of socks. Wear the thin pair next to your skin, with the thicker pair on top to reduce friction. You may need larger shoes to accommodate this. Cut your toenails regularly. Not too short or too long. (To promote rapid healing, I pierce blisters with a sterilised needle, to relieve the pressure but this is NOT recommended by health experts. Clean dressings are essential to avoid infection)
Wear comfortable shoes of the right size that give good support to your ankle, to prevent twisting, and to your arch if you have a tendency to flat feet. Your toes should not be squeezed into the pointed toe area but should fit snugly. Experiment with different brands and models until you find the right ones for you. Then buy 2 pairs. Break in the 2nd pair right away and switch between them, so that they have a chance to dry out properly.
Manufacturers have a habit of changing the shape of squash shoes each year. If you have found that perfect squash shoe buy a couple of extra pairs. Replace your shoes regularly. Worn-out and battered shoes are cheap but your feet will pay the price. I replace my shoes every 6 months but the frequency depends on how often and how hard you play.
It takes about two weeks to break-in a new pair of shoes, slowly, by wearing them indoors at home, until they stretch to your own unique foot shape UNLESS you get a pair of Salmings that do not need breaking in. I have yet to get blisters wearing the Salming squash shoes

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How to select a coach

Perhaps the most obvious question to ask first is, ‘Why is coaching important?’ Surely people will improve just by playing their chosen sport and by copying the squash expert. Why pay to learn? As a professional coach these are questions I ask myself as the answers are fundamental to the coach’s responsibilities.
The desire to improve is general enough to be regarded as human nature. We enjoy success, are frustrated by failure and there are few people who can honestly say they would not prefer to win. Improvement can be done through trial and error, but it takes time. A beginner usually tries to find a short cut to becoming a good player but he invariably finds it difficult to mimic correct technique and relate to basic tactics.
Therefore, “The role of the coach is to provide an insight into the essential skills of the game so as to replace the player’s frustration of failure with the satisfaction of success”. This is an involved process requiring the harnessing of various skills to cope with the diversity of the pupil. Whatever the pupil’s natural aptitude or degree of commitment, the coach will have to cope with them.
To do this, consider the coach’s role:
  • A motivator,
  • ​A squash expert,
  • ​A teacher,
  • A communicator,
  • An entertainer,
  • An organizer,
  • A disciplinarian,
  • A trainer,
  • An educator and most of all
  • ‘A roll model’ 

His responsibility as a coach does not stop there. If he is to aim for perfection he needs to be many other things too.
Once you, as the parent / pupil, decided that coaching is necessary, how do you select a coach?

  1. Watch the coach you are planning to use give lessons to other pupils.
  2. Ask the coach for a lesson, you may have to pay for it, and ask him what his approach is to helping you improve your game or your child’s game.
  3. You are looking for these characteristics that will make up the ideal coach for you. In addition the coach must:
    1. Have a strong knowledge of the fundamentals: How can you tell? Look at the way his / her students play.
    2. Be enthusiastic: Is he /she interested in you as a player who can improve, can he / she see what you see and vice versa?
    3. Be energetic and enthusiastic on court
    4. Be reliable and regular: has he / she a regular schedule of training and has the time available to give you a regular series of lessons.
    5. Offers individually tailored sessions and extra sessions if necessary with records of performance.
    6. Brings experience: He / she plays with an approved style and has reached a reasonably high level in his / her own playing.
    7. Has a track record: you can speak to other players that he / she has coached on a regular basis, and get a recommendation from them.
    8. Find out what level of success has he / she had with other players such as school level, provincial level, club level, national level and professional level.
    9. Does he / she coach for a living or for extra money or is he / she involved merely because his / her kids are involved?
    10. Does he / she specialize or has he / she interests in other businesses or other sports?
    11. Is the coach present at tournaments irrespective where the tournament is?
    12. Is he / she sponsored?

Whatever your standard and whatever your experience, whether you’ve just started playing or you’ve been playing for years ‐ there’s always room for improvement!!

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