Deceleration

When solo-practicing and/or playing the game of squash, one of the things your junior squash-player needs to do is learn how to slow down, e.g. decelerate

They should take time to watch the top squash-players in the world in action - and observe how well they're able to control their speed and movement onto the ball, even when the initial approach has been quick. Their skill in making this look relatively easy is linked to their physical ability to decelerate and control their speed, combined with an excellent understanding of spacing and positioning in relation to the ball.

So how does this benefit their performance? The pros are well-balanced on the shot and, as a result, much more likely to control the ball with the accuracy and consistency required; they are in an excellent position to facilitate their recovery away from the ball and be ready for the next phase of the rally; and the composure in their movement creates a sense of time and mental composure on the ball typically leading to a higher level of thought and understanding in every ball they hit. All this generally creates a much better awareness of the court and both their own and their opponent’s positioning.

To understand this a little further, let’s talk about speed around the squash court. Given the very short distances they're moving on the court (a few yards at most), they will never be anywhere near close to maximal running speed. Indeed, over-running on the squash court is generally a reflection of a player out of position and out of control!

The essence of speed on the squash court is based around developing speed (acceleration) and controlling speed (deceleration). Both are essentially related to their ability to develop and control force quickly. Typical conditioning programs in many sports have a strong emphasis on the ‘Going’ phase (acceleration) but often lack any real focus or understanding of the ‘Slowing’ phase (deceleration).

The next time your junior squash-player is involved in a match, (even when solo-practicing) try having them be aware of their approach and positioning onto the ball: are they generally in a balanced and composed positions when they're hitting the ball...or do they feel more a sense of falling through or away from the shot? Do they feel like they're controlling their speed onto the ball or approaching it with too much speed, resulting in falling through their shots, crowding the ball and compromising both technique and shot choices?

Often (in the heat of a match) it is difficult to feel exactly how they're moving. This is where a video of one of their matches (or practice sessions) can be a really powerful tool. Video is also a great resource for coaches who can sit with their players and really analyze how the player is moving on and off their shots...and the positive or potentially negative impact this has on the player’s performance.