How to Improve the Most Common Problems in Squash
Squash can be a very frustrating sport, and trust me, I’ve experienced the whole lot of issues! Through many years of trial and error, I’ve compiled this list of the most common problems you can experience on the squash court, and their solutions.
A lot of these problems can stem from bad habits though, meaning that fixing the issue can involve many hours of practice 🙂 However, some of these have quick fixes that can bring you out of that mini squash depression that comes on when things aren’t going well!
Hitting the Back Wall with your Racket
Things can get tight in the back corners of the squash court, especially if your opponent hits good, tight length. Sometimes it’s inevitable to have some contact with the back wall, but if you’re smacking it with some hard hits more than 2-3 times in a match, you’ve got an issue.
Why it’s happening: Your swing isn’t compact enough, and you either have a big swing wind-up, or a big follow-through. I see these big swings with prior tennis players that have carried their tennis swing over to squash.
How to fix it: Cock your wrist and use your forearm to generate power, especially in tight situations in the back court. This can take some serious practice time, and is one of the most common bad habits that needs breaking. If you’ve been relying on a big, loopy swing, your forearm muscle needs some building up.
Hitting the Side Walls with your Racket
Just like in the back corners, things can get tight along the side walls of the squash court. It’s inevitable to have some scraping of your racket along the side walls, but you shouldn’t end up with your racket slamming the side walls dead-on. This can cause quite a few racket breaks.
Why it’s happening: Your racket preparation is not far back enough, or you’re late to the ball. When you’re preparing to hit the squash ball, you need enough space and time to perform a full swing through the ball, and follow through in the direction you want the ball to go. If you’re late to the ball, or your racket preparation is too close to the ball, your racket head can travel directly into the side wall. Ideally, you want your racket traveling along the side wall, scraping it at worst.
How to fix it: Give yourself enough space to hit through the ball, by turning your shoulders more, and/or getting your racket further back. You may also need to watch your opponent more, to anticipate their shots and be quicker onto the ball.
Lack of Power on the Backhand
Getting good power on the backhand requires much more skill than on the forehand. This is because the forehand power can be generated solely from the arm, whereas the backhand needs the arm, shoulder, and shoulder rotation to work in harmony.
Why it’s happening: There can be many reasons, but most likely it’s not allowing your body to rotate through the shot. With the backhand, your preparation needs to be more exact than on the forehand. You need to give yourself enough space to rotate through the ball with your swing. Position yourself too close or too far away, and you’ll lack power.
How to fix it: As mentioned, give yourself enough room behind the ball to rotate through your shot, using mostly your forearm and shoulder for power. Stay steady on your hitting foot, and don’t swing your whole body through the shot. My best advice would be to watch some slow motion videos like the one below. Study the pros and how they position themselves, film yourself, and compare!
Getting Caught Flat-Footed
That horrible feeling when your opponent completely sends you the wrong way. There’s times when this is understandable, like a very deceptive trickle boast or flick. However, if this happens regularly to you, when your opponent hits straight drives, crosscourts, or boasts, then you have an issue.
Why it’s happening: You’re not watching your opponent while you’re on the T. You should never be staring at the front wall while your opponent hits the ball, otherwise you’re clueless as to where they’re hitting their next shot
How to fix it: When you’re on the T, you should have your head turned, watching to read your opponent’s body position. As you do this more and more, you’ll be able to anticipate each shot, even if your opponent has an odd style of hitting the squash ball. You’ll be able to volley and attack much more, along with not being caught flat-footed
Miss-Hitting the Ball / Breaking Strings
Why it’s happening: There are 2 main reasons why this happens.
- Your racket face is too open, which cuts the ball too much, resulting in a weaker miss-hit on the ball
- You’re hitting the ball too far in front of yourself, or too far in back. This will cause the ball the contact your racket outside of the string sweet spot, causing a miss-hit and sometimes a broken string. Usually a premature string break will be on the outside of the racket, where the strings are weaker
How to fix it: There is a specific fix to each of these issues.
- Practice your swing off-court and see how open your racket face is, at the point that you’d expect to contact the ball. If it’s too open, you can fix this by rotating your forearm and/or wrist until the racket face closes to approximately a 30-45 degree angle
- Shot timing is more difficult to correct, and requires a lot of solo practice, or training with a friend. The only way to fix it is to repeatedly practice hitting, and to replicate your good shots when you hit the ball crisply.
Squash Ball that Skids on the Floor
We’ve all been there. The only squash ball available is shiny like a mirror, and skids along the floor with every low hard shot. It’s a sure way to ruin a match full of solid rallies.
Why it’s happening: As a squash ball gets used, the tacky rubber coating on the outside wears out, exposing a more slippery surface underneath. Dirt from the court also contributes to the skidding. Some squash ball brands, like Black Knight (the worst), and more recently Dunlop, tend to wear out faster than others.
How to fix it: You can extend the life of a squash ball by wetting it and rubbing it dry in a towel. This shouldn’t take more than a few seconds, and brings back some of the tackiness. However, this will only work 3-4 times per ball, so eventually you’ll need to replace it. Recently, I’ve found Head balls to perform the best, with the longest durability. You can read more about this in my post on squash ball dots and brands.
Keep at It & Focus on Solo Practice
I’ve been through all of these problems myself in squash, and it can be downright depressing sometimes, especially when issues come up in important matches.
My best advice is to keep improving your weaknesses when you’re doing solo or training with friends. It’s tempting to just slam your forehand if it’s your strongest shot, but if you want to improve a weak backhand, focus on it 100% during your training.
Solo practice is my #1 go-to for improving weaknesses. You can film yourself, focus on a handful of shots, and not get distracted by other players who just want to play practice matches. In my experience, repeatedly hitting a shot during solo is the best way to build up the muscle memory needed to get rid of bad habits. Play practice matches after you’ve developed a new shot you want to try.
Keep at it, don’t get depressed (or get out of it as quickly as possible 🙂 ), and good things will happen!