This weekend I was watching my daughter play football and I was thinking about how children learn football. Most kids want to be a midfielder or striker, to get on the ball and score goals, mainly because it’s fun to score and the attacking players usually get all the attention. But is that the best starting point for a footballer? There can be a lot said for starting out as a defender. This way you can watch everything that is happening in front of you. You can quickly develop a much deeper understanding for the game from this position, compared to the kids with their head down, trying to dribble around every opponent they see. When you understand the game, you can notice what is effective and what is not, in terms of skills, movements, patterns of play etc etc. You can then apply this understanding to your own skill development, making you a far better player, quicker. Starting out as a defender doesn’t mean you will always be stuck playing in defence.
How can we relate this to squash? What is the best way to learn squash when you are a beginner? What should we be doing as parents to best enhance our child’s learning and skill acquisition?
Obviously, squash is an individual sport, so you can’t play the sport while also stepping back and observing and learning when others have the ball. When you’re playing squash, you are involved every second. So, observing is tough because you are concentrating on hitting the ball. Observing squash has to happen outside the court in order to really focus on what is happening inside the walls of the court.
The best way to learn any new skill is to enjoy it. If a kid enjoys what they’re playing, then they will want to play more and more and they will naturally improve. But if the child also develops an in-depth understanding of the sport and its tactics, surely that can set them apart from the other beginners who are just improving their skills, whether that be through fun play or through actual coaching.
So, once our beginner child has played squash a few times and they enjoy it, surely we should encourage them to watch some matches and explain what they are watching tactically? These matches can be viewed online, or in person. Lightly highlighting different styles and why they are effective and possible risks could be a great thing, without going too deep, because you want the child to watch and learn for themselves. Conversation can only help promote a thoughtful brain, which increases skill uptake.
Anyway, this is something to consider when developing a beginner at squash. Understanding definitely leads to accelerated improvement.