Dartmouth assistant coach Theo Woodward, who hails from the UK, shares his thoughts on underutilized squash technique in the CSA.
In January 2012 I first witnessed college squash. Not only was I immediately impressed by the collegiate support and passion for the game, but also the first college squash match I witnessed was a historic occasion: the January 18th 2012 Yale versus Trinity match in which Yale dethroned Trinity breaking its much-publicized 252 match winning streak! Beyond the players’ passion and support, I was surprised by the US college players’ homegrown style. This style of play was not only displayed at the Yale versus Trinity match but can be observed to varying degrees in all of college squash.
The style of college squash is characterized by super fit players hitting hard straight, crosscourt and volley rails in an attempt to outpace and outlast their opponents. While college squash typically involves long drawn-out rallies stemming from great athleticism and will power, players often fail to vary the pace and change direction of rallies (with the notable exception of the growing number of top ranked teams with an international base). This lack of variation of pace and change in direction inspired me to write this article regarding the underutilization of the two wall or “attacking” boast. Therefore, in this article I investigate the possible reasons why the two wall boast isn’t used often in college squash and the benefits of this shot. In addition, I would like to look at the situations in which to play the shot and not to play this shot. Finally, I provide a video to instruct and demonstrate how to play the two wall boast using a live example of the shot in action from a recent college match.
So why is the two wall boast under utilized in college squash?
- Fear of failure – Because the two wall boast is a high skill level shot, coaches may not be able to demonstrate the shot effectively or their players may not initially be able to play the shot well enough to use it effectively. Coaches and players may not be willing to invest the required time and practice for the players to implement the shot effectively.
- Overemphasis on fitness and consistency – College squash has traditionally focused on these aspects of the sport. This is particularly evident in US junior squash and college squash because it is straightforward to improve these areas. Due to the challenges of learning a new shot, the technique for playing it correctly takes up time that otherwise could be used to work on fitness and/or hitting drops and deep shots.
- Overlooked – Some coaches and players genuinely don’t see the benefit of the shot or see the shot being played so infrequently that they disregard it.
- Australian and UK coaching influence – There has been a huge influx of coaches from Australia and the UK into the US in the last twenty years. Coaching styles in these countries are focused on the basics of the game: playing deep squash with the occasional drop shot thrown in. As mentioned above, these schools of coaching place a huge emphasis on fitness, consistency, and mental toughness.
Why should the two wall boast be used more in college squash?
- Better attacking shot than the three wall boast except in the rare case when a three wall boast hits the nick and is unreturnable.
- Draws the opponent deep into the front corner and, if played well, often forces a weak cross court return opening the court up.
- Challenges the opponent’s movement and ability to change direction.
- Often catches the opponent off guard.
- Adds variety to your game and hence deception as your opponent will have more shots to anticipate and cover.
- Not all juniors have the athleticism, fitness and discipline to play relentless “deep squash.” Some players may be better at varying their game and attacking the front of the court.
- Based on my experience, the majority of players play a deep game and a minority of players use angles to attack the front of the court, making the strategy of an attacking game even more effective.
When to play the two wall boast:
- In the early stages of a match when you might benefit from breaking the rhythm of a rally and/or from working and tiring the opponent.
- When the opponent is hanging back in expectation of a deep shot.
- When positioned in front of the opponent near the center of the court. The opponent may be expecting a straight drop shot but if you decide to play a two wall boast your opponent may be caught off guard.
- When behind an opponent who isn’t watching the ball.
- When you can send the opponent back from where they came from. If you play a two wall boast and your opponent plays a cross court rail, a great option would be to play another two wall boast because physically this is one of the hardest combinations of shots to get.
- When playing someone who moves less efficiently to the front – the two wall boast exposes weaknesses in movement to the front.
- When the drop shot is not your best shot or your drop shot is “not working.”
- When you have the opponent pinned to the side wall or behind you.
- When the opponent is tired or off balance.
- On a slow court as the ball will stay closer to the front wall and hence make the opponent work harder to retrieve the shot.
When not to play the two wall boast
- In a match, if you are not yet comfortable playing it.
- When deep in the back corners or in a defensive position.
- When the opponent is in front of you and they are poised for the next shot watching the ball.
- When playing someone who moves well to the front.
- On a hot court where you find it difficult to control the ball.
How to play the two wall boast
- Use an open or closed stance.
- Prepare racquet early, which will help with shot execution and also add deception as a full back swing shows a number of shot options.
- Wait for the ball to bounce at a low point just above the height of the tin, as it is easier to hit a flat two wall boast as opposed to judging the angle of hitting the ball from a higher position.
- Ideally, play the ball between the leading leg and eye. However, you can play the ball in front of you to rush the opponent. Or, you can hit later in the stance, for a deceptive shot, showing the drive and delaying to play the two wall boast.
- Aim to hit the ball from its position at a 45-degree angle onto the closest sidewall. Use your follow through to aim to this 45-degree angle.
- Try to keep the pace of the shot low, to help with the fading nature of the shot and to avoid turning the shot into a three wall boast.
- Move to the “floating T” (the position of the T changes slightly each shot depending on the location of the ball and opponent) as the ball is struck.
The ball should hit the center of the front wall, bouncing twice before it hits the opposite sidewall. If the ball hits the nick on the second bounce this is deemed a perfect two wall boast.
Next time you watch college squash, look to see how frequently players use the two wall as opposed to the three wall boast. If you are practicing using the two wall boast, impose a penalty for hitting a three wall boast as opposed to the two wall version. If playing a match, look to avoid a battle of rails by being the first to change the dynamic of the rally by playing the two wall boast and looking for the weak cross court return.
Remember the sidewalls are there to be used to attack as well as defend.
Good luck practicing!