A tactical game plan to play better squash

July 10 2022

In order for your shots to have any benefit &/or impact to your game, it is important to know how to apply them. Having good shots is not enough. A player also needs to possess the tactical, physical, & mental skills in order for the technique to have impact on their game. Every shot production should have a general tactic & the proper shot choice (height, pace, line) for it to be affective.

The player has to be fit, strong, flexible & fast enough in order to keep up with the tempo of play. And the player has to be mentally tough & stay competitive in order to deal with the ever-changing situations, especially when things are not always going your way in a match.

Many of the methods & progressions with technical subjects also apply in learning tactical applications. These basics progressions form the foundation for strategy & tactics in the squash game. In order for players to get a proper understanding of how to combat their opponents they should be taught in the following sequence:

Consistency shot tolerance
Depth pressure
Direction or change of direction
Spin or angles of the racket face
Power speed of the ball
Tempo speed of play

Consistency of play is one of the most important tools in applying pressure on the opponent. Many juniors, & even advanced players, bypass this progression in strategy & you can often find them only using the last two on this list; power & tempo. This means they often try to hit too hard &/or play too fast.

Shot tolerance is the number of balls a player will usually play in a rally before they make a mistake. This number is very much related to the technical, tactical, physical & mental skills of the player. In looking at each age group, or gender, you will see differences in the shot tolerance, also taking into account the style of play they have in those groups. Knowing these trends will assist you in preparing yourself for competition & a strategy of play.

Shot selection can improve the shot tolerance & tactical situation of a player. As play improves with depth, direction, spin, power, & tempo, judgments need to be made on how much pressure can be applied before unforced errors are made. A risk-reward balance needs to be maintained to ensure consistency in the rally. Some players read the situations better than others, but coaching players in this area will increase their success in competition.

Having a game plan (strategy) & a tactic of how to execute will often create consistency merely through the process. But besides this, the physical & mental factors play a contributing role in executing the technical & tactical skills in an efficient & effective way.

Tactical routines are automated & repetitive actions with a tactical purpose. The best players in the world follow a routine to start matches that follows the list above, but far lesser players play a much riskier game. An example to this would be to watch top professionals playing the first shots of each rally & the first game of the match. You will find that they all have a certain routine to start points & games. It cuts down the amount of unforced errors & increases the shot tolerance & confidence. These routines can only be established if there is a plan or strategy. It is very important to give players a basic strategy to work from so they can start building a way to play through automated routines. As they progress in their routines, you can introduce more complicated strategies with patterns, different shot choices, & weapon development

The Basic Strategy
All good players follow a basic plan to play points. This basic plan is founded on very simple principles to construct a point & apply pressure on the weakness of the opponent. Especially when players don’t have so much power yet, this basic strategy is an important game plan for their tactical development. The basic strategy is as follows:

Know the strengths & weaknesses of your opponent
Win the length battle with good lines & weight of shot on their weakest side
Dominate the T area by hunting the volley
Play to the open court & then attack the weakness again

Exploiting the strengths & weaknesses of players & opponents requires reading these well & recognising them. Watching your opponent in other matches will give you valuable information on their strengths & weaknesses & style of play. It takes focus & experience to learn these skills in order to make a plan for a strategy & tactic, the ultimate goal to combat your opponent!

Players should be looking to position themselves quickly after the serve or return to hit their best strokes on their second shot. Ideally this should target an opponent’s weakness to keep applying pressure. Many times less experienced players are not ready after the first shot & end up playing a defensive shot on their second exchange. Maintaining controlled pressure is the ultimate goal to keep the opponent in a neutral or defensive position with less opportunity to strike back. It is important to practice this second ball situation in order to read the trajectory & establish a routine for the different options.

However, as soon as the player is more comfortable, & pressure is established, the open court should be used to make the opponent run & then apply pressure.  This method will keep the opponent in a neutral or defensive style of play & not allow them to attack you as often. Pay attention next time you see the top players start matches & how they construct a point with the targets they use & shot selections in the rally.

These simple rules in competition are used on a daily basis by the best players in the world & it would serve you well to follow these first, before trying more complicated methods. Having a method & a game plan will always increase your chances of success.

By following these rules many a student in the past have dramatically increased their consistency & results. After learning the basic strategy, you can make the next step by learning the patterns of play, improving & applying different shot choices, learning to master different styles of play to enhance your skills, & work on weapon development of your shots. The possibilities in learning new strategies & tactics is limitless but learning the basics & a method to apply them will always help you to improve your confidence in your game & have fun in competition.