It sounds so simple
But why what wasn’t I taught this on my first Coach Education course?
It was 25 years ago that I found myself in the new hall at Wimbledon Squash & Badminton Club watching my mentor coach working with a young junior England player.
The information I heard, observed and considered gave me an insight into Coaching and coaching backhands, especially with young players.
I never realised that saying so little could cause such big changes
Standing behind the court I could hear that he was encouraging her to place her thumb on the side of the grip before she even started to move towards the shuttle. Oh, and he also asked her to start to in a “part preparation” with her elbow close to her stomach and the racket head upwards, just like picture no. 2 above
I moved closer to the back of the court to listen
- “can you look into the strings now?… Good”
- “I want you to hit your normal backhand long drop hard and fast”
- “But this time it will go crosscourt so look out of the corner of your eye as it travels over there”
- “Ok, let’s go!”
The feed was much flatter than I expected and flicked behind the player.
She moved and lunged backwards. The shuttle travelled crosscourt and she turned their head as suggested.
There was no big swing or rush with either the stroke or her movements.
This result was then repeated several times with varying degrees of success. All attempts travelled cross court and flatfish. Some shots flew faster than others and some landed just before or after the opponent’s service line.
I was mesmerised at how easily the crosscourt was developed from her straight long drop that I’d seen earlier in the lesson. Hardly any new advice had been given, or so I thought.
I later realised that the coaching (instructions) about the racket part preparation and the initial thumb position meant that it was a good chance that the shuttle would fly fast and flat back over the net.
The request to “look out of the corner of your eye”, would encourage a head turn and therefore a slight shoulder turn. Crucially without the player being instructed any further.
As a watched the rest of the session I observed more and more shuttles travelling crosscourt. Some with a slice causing the shuttle to “die or stall”, landing before or just after the service line 🙂
Of course, not every effort was perfect or successful but they all travelled cross court
It happened again but years later
I was on court with a new coaching friend and he emphasised the turn or pull of the shoulder that I’d seen years before. His instructions were clear and simple. Crucially his demonstration started with the same racket head “up” in preparation, them he emphasised a string motion.
His method placed more emphasis on the “pull” or “turn” of the shoulder
The feeding was a critical element
Both Coachers fed in a similar way. The shuttle was struck quick and flat’ish. At times I felt it was almost unfair and that the player would not be able to move fast enough.
Certainly, there was no chance of them moving to play a forehand ‘Round The Head’. The flick was the type an opponent would play in a match when trying to expose your deep backhand.
Then I realised that I’d missed a crucial feeding change
The coach working with the very athletic England junior (13 yrs old) suddenly gave her the shuttle to start the practices. They only used one shuttle. The player stood in racket foot forward position, striking a sort of backhand long serve from midcourt.
He then mostly flicked fast and upwards into her deep backhand. However, if she moved too early he ‘held’ the feed and played to the net: straight and sometimes even crosscourt!
To my surprise she didn’t stop or complain, instead, she moved quickly to play a great net drop or even a quicker net kill.
I realised that this type of player start “feed” allowed for the coach to flick or net depending on what he thought the situation required. The number of decisions, variations, and therefore anticipations increased far beyond the coach single shuttle (multi feeding) skills.
I couldn’t work out if it was a game or practice, I sat there smiling and loving every uncertain moment 🙂
My Advice to you
- Coach the crosscourt “long drop” as soon as the straight one is part mastered, don’t wait
- Talk to the players as if it just a simple grip change so that the racket strings will now hit the shuttle “over there”
- Ask them to “look out of the corner of their (right) eye”
- If needed, ask then to “turn or pull” the shoulder around
- Work in full court. There are hidden dangers of using too much 1/2 court practice work
- Introduce ‘player starts’ into the practice to allow for decision making by both the feeder and player …. Very Important
- Ask for the feeder to return all the shots! 🙂
For more advice on coaching & playing backhand follow this link