And tennis is good for your squash.
I’m always interested in the way people learn sport. Coaching is a pursuit for the perfect formula which you could use to make anyone a master player. It’s all well and good knowing what somebody needs to do, but actually getting them to do it and do it well and then also do it well under pressure is a real challenge.
One thing I have noticed though is that the players who have played multiple racket sports (and multiple other sports) are always far faster learners, more creative and capable of a far wider range of skills. This may seem obvious but sometimes there’s a lot said about playing one sport being bad for another.
At the end of the last junior season, our top six junior players were all players who had played at least two of Squash, Tennis, Badminton and Table Tennis on a regular basis for sustained periods of their life. One is even involved in the County set-up for Squash, Badminton and Tennis. The next group of players below them stood out because they didn’t play more than one racket sport, or squash was their only sport entirely.
I don’t buy into natural talent at all. All of these players had just played so many different sports and several different racket sports throughout their life and it has given them so many advantages.
The Badminton players have such a knack for volleying and drop shots. The Tennis players are very good at creating space for themselves and had a particularly vicious ability with the ball overhead – they weren’t at all concerned by lob shots. They also tend to be capable of a wider variety of spins.
Encouraging people to play multiple sports
The bottom line is we should be encouraging people – particularly children – to participate in multiple racket sports. It’s of course also better socially and for life experience to have a go at a wide range of activities.
It’s not just about fun though, it’s performance too. The more able players have played a huge array of sports growing up and it has given them an edge over those who are just used to squash. They’re often lambasted for playing a ‘tennis shot’ or ‘badminton shot’ or for not playing ‘proper squash’, but that’s only by people who can’t find a way to deal with the challenge they are facing. This extra edge is what separates them from the rest of the pack.
At a level approaching professional, it probably won’t be good practice. Not least because physically and time wise it would be demanding. Up until that point though, there is no doubt for me that all young children, including those who aspire to be professional, should play multiple sports when possible and definitely try to do different racket sports.