TECHNIQUE -  That’s magic






Watching champions or great sportsmen at what they do best, is always a great pleasure for most of us, even if we are not greatly interested in their sport. This may be due to their ability to win or break records, but a great deal of the attraction is in seeing near perfection. It is interesting and marvellous to see how they make what is almost impossible, look so easy and seemingly effortless. We can only appreciate their speed and skills when we try it out ourselves.




It is true that years of hard work and practice lead to such performances, but not all reach the top. Unfortunately not all of us posses the mental and physical talents that make the difference. Plus, it is not always possible to find the best of trainers or coaches who have the knowledge and ability to make an athlete produce quality work instead of just hard work.




Therefore, the art of  performing almost perfectly is what distinguishes between sportsmen. Apart from the state of mind, which will be discussed later, the most important factor related to the above-mentioned quality work is technique. To me, technique in sport is the art of movement, and as the laws of physics govern movement, the technique adopted in sport must give logical and measurable benefits, rather than just an aesthetically pleasing appearance.




The first time each one of  us saw a good squash player on court, one of the most impressive aspects was how hard he or she could hit the ball without making much effort. How was that possible? And how come beginners always complain about not being able to hit the ball hard enough?




The answer doesn’t come down to strength- even though that could help- but rather to the ability to accelerate the tip of the racket head, and make “clean” contact between the racket strings and the ball. Yes, the tip, because according to the laws of physics that is the fastest moving part of the racket. In the section that follows, a detailed description of both the forehand and backhand swing and follow-through will be presented. For simplicity, we will assume that the player is hitting a medium pace shot down the wall.










The forehand is the more awkward side for a squash player despite the fact that most beginners complain more about their backhand. Most beginners feel comfortable with the forehand because the ball is easier to see on that side, and they are usually able to hit the ball quite hard. The relatively powerful muscles utilised (shoulders, pectorals, upper arm, and forearm) are responsible. However, when it comes to executing delicate shots such as a slow boast or drops hot, or looking for maximum accuracy, these same players start having problems. This is because the instinctive style adopted for the forehand, is not compatible with the various racket speeds utilised for fast and slow shots.




When talking of shot power or ball speed, it is most important that the effort put into the swing is proportional to the speed of the resulting shot. Less talented players or beginners will always make a huge effort to hit the ball hard. This results in dangerous excessive swings, lack of accuracy, wasted precious energy, and lack of ability in difficult situations, i.e. when the opponent’s shot is difficult.




In the following section, a detailed explanation of the technique used, and a breakdown of the shot will further explain and clarify what has been discussed above. The understanding of proper technique, will also take us to other phases in developing our game.








let us start from the


Let us start from the feet upwards. This would be logical because any player must first establish a sense of balance before attempting the swing. Without good balance, the swing will lack power and control.






The photo (right) illustrates a player facing the sidewall with the left foot forward and back-swing completed. We will momentarily start from this position for simplicity and later view the more complete and realistic position adopted when starting off from the T, as during play. Note that the heel of the right foot is off the ground and the left foot is not excessively far. That is, the step taken by the left foot is quite short to render the position comfortable and effortless. It is also important to note that the feet are not perfectly in line, but rather on parallel lines in order to ensure balance and freedom of  rotation at the waist. The heel of the right foot is raised for the same reason. It is of vital importance to bend both knees and not just that of the leading leg. This allows the player to maintain the trunk upright and the head steady while allowing maximal effortless rotation.





The player is now perfectly ready for the swing. Before going on to the next image, observe the position of the player’s head and shoulders. The right shoulder is higher than the left at this stage. Also note the position of the racket head, the inclination of the racket, and the position of the player’s elbow. It is this position of the elbow and its successive movement, which is difficult and unnatural to most beginners, but is of extreme importance to enable the player to hit the ball hard, and for example, get the ball out of the back corners.




The position of the left arm is also important. The left arm must facilitate the rotation of the trunk and must not get in the way of the follow-through. The left arm must also help counter balance the rest of the body.




Moving onto the next photo, it is clear that the elbow, while still bent, starts to move forward while the right shoulder goes lower as the trunk rotates. The players head must remain perfectly still while this happens. As the elbow moves forward, the player’s hand and racket handle get dragged along while the racket head lags behind.



The next photo (near right) consequently shows how the arm begins to straighten out and the wrist brings in the racket head to start catching up with the position of the racket handle. The photo (far right) illustrates what the player is trying to achieve, and reminds us that eventually the racket must be brought in line with the arm.




We now come to this photo. The phase just before impact. Here, the shoulders have come further round, the arm is stretched with the elbow no longer bent, and the wrist has finished its job, allowing the racket head to catch up perfectly with the player’s hand and arm. Now the racket is perfectly in line with the arm. Note that the movement has been executed around the waist and not at shoulder height. Also the head remained perfectly still throughout and the racket face always maintained open. The heel of the right foot has also moved slightly outwards to assist the rotation of the shoulders.





Impact, as demonstrate in the photo (right), position wise is very similar to the previous photo. A most important considerations is that at impact, the ball must be just beyond* the left foot and knee, while in line with the arm and racket. The racket must be perpendicular to the sidewall in order to send the ball parallel to the latter. During all phases of the swing, the racket grip (handle) must remain lower than the racket head.


*The photo below illustrates the position of the ball on impact. Note how the ball remains on an imaginary parallel line lying between those formed by the feet.




The shot definitely does not finish on impact. An accurate follow through is the way to perfection. During this phase, (photo above right) the rotation of the shoulders is very important to allow the right arm to continue its acceleration for the longest possible duration before gradually decelerate. It is important to guide the racket in the direction of the shot executed while the racket head circles around the body. While discussing shots such as the drop shot,  the importance of the follow-through will become more evident, to enhance accuracy.




The photos are arranged together below to demonstrate the key stages of the swing.




This last image illustrates the firmness of the head and how balance is maintained till the very end. To see an action video clip of the swing explained above, click here.










THE BACK-SWING    bkswng frhnd






At this moment, it is easier to describe and understand the back-swing.  The photo series above shows a simplified back-swing (for simplicity, while the player is already facing the side wall). The back-swing must be the exact inverse of the swing discussed above. The same relationship has to be maintained between the racket head, grip (racket handle), elbow, and shoulders. In fact, if you look at the photos from left to right, you will see the back-swing while if you look from right to left, it seems the player is swinging at the ball.


During the swing, the racket head lagged behind and was last to catch up. During the back-swing, the tip of the racket must be first to move, by using the wrist, then the elbow and then the shoulders begin to move. For accuracy purposes, the tip of the racket must trace the same line during the swing and the back-swing. A good suggestion would be to hold the racket still for a second or two at the peak of the back-swing and try to feel the exact position of the racket and all parts of the body before going ahead and hitting the ball. The following video clip clearly demonstrates the movement.



So far, the technique for the forehand has been demonstrated and explained, starting from a static position and presuming that the player is already turned towards the sidewall. In the section to follow shortly, where the straight drive is explained, the player starts off from a more practical position. Hence, the following clip shows the execution of the back-swing from a frontal position. play video   Again, note how the wrist is used and the feet move only after the racket has been taken back.








Wrist action is most important in squash. This is evident from what has been explained above, in the section on technique. Wrist movement is a reoccurring theme in this book, and a lot will be said further on. Here, it is important to recognise that the wrist movement is a controlled action, which is incorporated in the swing, to develop the necessary racket acceleration. For a player to understand how to use the wrist, it is important to first consider these two video clips and try out the action, preferably with a racket at hand. The first clip illustrates a subtle short-range movement, which requires a lot of sensitivity. This movement constitutes the first part of the wrist action.  play video




However, the main wrist movement can be seen here.  play video  As can be seen from the video, in reality, the movement stems from the elbow, but the wrist is the centre of control. To achieve the correct wrist movement, the player must combine the two parts illustrated, to produce an action, which looks like this.  play video