Team Squash and Team Selections

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A lot of us play in squash leagues all around the country, or possibly all over the world. These can be internal club leagues / ladders, online leagues, or as part of a team. Most clubs have several teams in several different divisions. I’ve seen clubs with as many as 12 teams spread between 6 divisions or some clubs with just 2 teams entered in their local / regional leagues.

As the squash season fast approaches I think it’s worth looking at possible selection processes.

It is most certainly not an easy job. As a professional player and coach who has been the leading pro at several clubs, I’ve had to select teams on a weekly basis utilizing up to 100 players, and it is not an easy task at all. For example in the North West Leagues where the majority of team matches are played on a Thursday evening, the team selections on a Monday are always pretty different to what they look like on a Thursday morning before the matches in the evening due to illness, injury or work related withdrawals. As players withdraw there is an inevitable knock-on effect as the teams trickle down the order, due to players having to move up a few positions or into a higher team in order to fill the gaps.

There are several suggestions to help combat this problem which every club faces, and more so the more teams a club has. A club with 10 teams, who has withdrawals from teams 1, 2 and 3, feels the effect all the way down to team 10, and they are left scraping the club changing rooms for players to fill in for the 10th team! Sound familiar?

 

The Ladder:

The most important thing to successfully run happy and competitive club teams. The ladder is the base of team selection. I urge every club to keep a regularly updated and competitive ladder with a clear path of progression up the ladder. This can either be done by allowing challenge matches or by having internal club leagues.

I think intra-club competition is a great thing. The more accurate your ladder, the happier your players will be, and the more successful your teams will be. I actually used to force all players interested in playing team squash into a compulsory internal monthly league system, with results being monitored for ladder position and therefore league and team positions. Nobody likes those people who hide away from internal challenges to protect their ladder/team position.

Certainly make sure improving juniors are given opportunity to regularly monitor their progress and ladder position. They are the future of your club and the future of our sport. Do not hold them back.

Team Squads:

This is an effective way, so each team of 5 players has a squad of 7 or 8. These 7 or 8 players only play for their particular team. A superb system for team bonding.

This method is great in theory but obviously all players need to know that if all players are available a squad rotation needs to be utilized, meaning players will sometimes have to sit out even when they are available. After a few match night of a particular player missing out when available they will inevitably ask to play for the lower or higher team so they get a game. Also, if one team has their full squad available but another team has only 3 available from their squad, players will have to change around teams even if the original intention was they would only play for one team. So before you know it, (especially after 6 or 7 weeks and a few injuries creep in or some peoples commitment wanes) people are moving around different teams from week to week and the squad system seems to be out the window.

Reserves:

Slightly different to team squads. I used to put one reserve in teams 4 downwards, assuming the team lists would change from a Monday to a Thursday. I found it would be extremely rare that these reserves wouldn’t get used in either the team they are listed for, or the team above or below. I only did it for teams 4 down because each team down the list has more chance of needing a reserve due to the knock on effect, whereas putting a reserve in teams one or two, would often lead to the reserve not getting a game.

The two types of ‘Holy Grail’ team players:

These are, the player who is available every single week, without fail. They never have any last minute work commitments, or wimp out because they sneezed once on Wednesday. They are totally reliable. A banker for team selection. They would literally need to break their leg to not play.

The other is the more chilled out player, who is generally available but happy to play or not play, and most importantly happy to be called upon on the morning of the match day. These a rare and wonderful people, but fantastic as a team organizer. They are a decent standard so can slot into several teams, eg, if needed they could be good enough to fill a gap in your 4th team but also not too good that they can also fill a void in the 6th team without the opposition shouting “ringer” every time he serves and then complaining to the league!

Parallel Teams:

This is slightly different as it is a selection process which you can suggest is allowed by your local league. It is when you have two teams from your club in the same division. For example, if your 4th and 5th teams are both in the 3rd division, and the league stipulates you must play in rank order, so 1,2,3,4, and 5 on your 3rd division ladder play in the higher team, then the 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th standard players play in the lower team. The poor number 6 guy is going to have a tough season playing at no.1 in the division whereas if he was one place higher on your ladder he would play at no.5 in the same division. Obviously it will be a difficult season for the lower team and they are likely to get relegated and the confidence of the players shot!

If your league allows parallel teams for clubs with two teams in the same division, then you can spread out your players evenly throughout the two teams. This gives both teams a chance and players more even games. This has a positive impact for the team selector. Players will be happier throughout the season as they are getting even competitive games each week so they will make themselves more reliably available, leading to less drop outs. If certain players are getting thrashed each week then they will lose interest causing mayhem for the team selector.

 

I personally think the most important thing is consistency. However it is achieved, it is hugely beneficial if personnel for each team is kept more or less the same from week to week. Players who play together each week will be more settled, become closer friends and want to perform and commit to one another, leading to less drop outs. Teams which chop and change greatly from week to week have more commitment issues, and performances also worsen.

I generally think the Reserves method is the best, and definitely if the league can allow parallel teams, or at least some lee-way for clubs with more than one team in a division, that can only help.

Good luck and I welcome your thoughts or suggestions. Definitely be patient, show the team selector some respect and acknowledge their difficult job, and above all – try to be that reliable player who is happy to turn up to play week in week out, even if you have a slight cold or your team has that far away match at the grottiest club in the league that no one wants to travel to!

Also – have fun. At the end of the day, that is why we all play, because we enjoy it.