How we move on the squash court is probably the most important factor contributing to our standard. If we are fast but cannot control our movement, we will not control our shots and our squash will be ‘loose’ and reckless. If we move slow but smoothly, we will hit quality shots but then not be able to get certain shots back. Obviously if we can be fast and controlled then that’s the goal we’re all striving to achieve.
I personally feel movement is more important than technique. If we get into a good, balanced position to play our shot, the shot is reasonably easy irrelevant if we have a good technique or not. (however I am not saying technique is not important!)
This all leads us to conclude that movement patterns are of vital importance to our quality of squash. Patterns to and from our shot can be perfected with hours and hours of ghosting. There are a few different movement patterns and the right one for us can be down to preference, for example Thierry Lincou moved very differently to Peter Nicol, as does Mohamed ElShorbagy to Ali Farag, but they were/are both super fast and super controlled; so there is not a single definitive correct answer here, apart from repetition of our chosen ghosting pattern must lead to improvement.
Let’s look at speed of movement. Squash movements should not be the same speed every time. This is obvious when we look at retrieving different qualities of shot. An easy shot to retrieve doesn’t require the same injection of speed as a difficult shot to retrieve. Retrieving a low, fizzed-in boast needs considerably more haste than moving to a medium paced drive which will sit up nicely off the back wall.
But, movements to and from every shot also need to be broken down into 5 small sections. Assuming we are starting from the ‘T’, we have the:
1: Start – initial movement from the ‘T’. This is usually 2 steps.
2: Middle – the middle step(s) after our first step(s).
3: Shot – our last step or lunge as we are about to play our shot.
4: Recoil – our step back from our shot.
5: Recovery – the next steps after the ‘Recoil’ as we return to the ‘T’ (or begin movement to retrieve the next shot if our opponent has played their shot quickly).
Each one of these 5 stages can be performed at a different speed, for example; if our opponent has volleyed the ball to the back our reaction may be: Step 1 (Start) – our first two steps are very fast as there is the initial panic that our opponent has aggressively hit a volley shot. Step 2 (Middle) – we soon judge that their shot is not as good in terms of quality as it could have been. We realise the ball will bounce and come back off the back wall to a reasonable distance that we can hit a comfortable, unhurried drive, so we begin to slow down our movement. Step 3 (Shot) – we have begun to slow down with ‘The Middle’ step, and our final step to the shot is slower once again, and even had a slight pause beforehand so we are in a position of complete control for our shot. Step 4 (The Recoil) – this is quick in order to get out of the way to give our opponent a path to the ball. We have taken a slow and controlled lunge toward the ball to play our shot, now we use that bent knee to powerfully lunge back toward the centre of the court. Step 5 (Recovery) – our drive shot is good enough that our opponent cannot volley it, so they begin their movement to the back of the court. We can then slow our movement down as we approach the ‘T’, aiming to time our arrival at the ‘T’ with when they hit their shot, so we can split-step and move off. Ideally we do not want to get to the ‘T’ so quickly that we are waiting flat-footed because our push off (Step 1 (Start)) will be slower.
So, as we can see, movement speeds are very rarely all one speed. The ultimate aim every time we move to play a shot is that we are balanced as we hit the ball, so usually our aim is to put ourselves in a position which will enable us to slow down before the last step we take to hit our shot. This is definitely a massive rule for moving well in squash and hitting quality shots – slow down as we hit our shot. However this is not the 1 rule to apply every time, because sometimes we have to move as fast as we can, even on the last step just to reach the ball before it bounces twice (which can even make our last lunge the fastest if we’re really stretching).
So slowing down as we hit our shot applies to almost every situation, but not every one. The one rule which applies to every situation, which we must all do is to:
Recoil at maximum speed.
The first movement away from our shot always needs to be fast. This will get us away from the ball (preventing a ‘Stroke’ against us) and out of the way of our opponent (allowing them a path to the ball). If we hit a good shot then we can slow down as we approach the ‘T’, but if we do not we can continue to move quickly to retrieve our opponents next shot.
One word of warning: do not try to ‘cut corners’ and move away from your shot so quickly that you start to move back as you are still playing your shot. This will only result in compromising your quality of shot. Always play your shot in a balanced manner, then as soon as you have made contact, then and only then can you start to lunge away quickly.
I know this blog may sound complicated at times, but it all boils down to 1 rule which applies every time you hit the ball – recoil at maximum speed.