We often get asked whether squash can be played alone or at home. The obvious understanding is squash is a sport played by two players (or four in case of doubles) but if you want to improve your squash skills and do not have a partner or a coach to do that with, you could do that on your own even at home.
First things first, can squash be played alone? If you are looking to work on a particular squash skill, either a strength or weakness, you could look to take some time out from your regular playing hours to do that alone, on your own. However, you obviously cannot play a squash match alone.
In this piece, we look at how squash can be played alone in order to sharpen your play.
The most straightforward way to improve one’s game at squash is to practice and practice hard.
I mean this is the case with most things in life and in sports in particular. You play, you note down your weaknesses, you work on them and you play again.
The cycle continues.
It’s important, therefore, to keep honing those strengths and working on those weaknesses on a regular basis.
What do you, however, if there are days you are left alone without a working squash partner? It cannot be an excuse to throw in the towel now, can it? That’s where playing squash solo makes for a lot of sense even if it might sound a tad boring at first.
Let’s begin with why is it necessary to find a regular opponent to practice squash with.
Issues with Playing Squash on One’s Own
Playing squash without an opponent becomes a necessity at times but it comes with its own cons.
If you are going to be hitting the ball on to the wall and keep playing against yourself, i.e. hitting the ball every time it bounces back from the wall, you would be left with no real thinking time. And if you aren’t thinking, you aren’t strategizing either.
Working out your movement, placement, shot speed and the various other things which go into making a good player need match tactics and those can only be sharpened while playing against someone.
Understanding match situation is a big factor too. Understanding an opponent’s psyche plays a part in pressure situations during matches as well.
Technique is another thing which can only be developed fully while playing other, different players.
Different opponents will have their own strengths and weaknesses; some might be excellent with their movement, others have the stamina to last better than the others while there could be a few opponents with excellent service or a great forehand or an impeccable backhand.
All of these elements of play would test your game and in the long run, improve them. Which is also why it is necessary to play against an opponent.
However, at times, it’s difficult to find a quality opponent or even book a court. For example, during the coronavirus pandemic, athletes from most disciplines even at the highest level found it tough to get them any space or people or coaches they could practice with.
So what does a squash player do in order to practice alone?
Why to Play Squash Alone?
Despite the aforementioned issues with playing squash alone, it is also one of the few sports one can do a lot more practicing alone. In fact, one can train alone for most racket sports like badminton, table tennis and tennis – check our post on how to practice badminton alone at home to get an idea about the same.
There is one small difference though.
In most of these other sports, athletes need to make tweaks to their playing arena or set it up differently while in squash, you could practice on your own without making any changes to the court.
Which brings us to the question, why should one practice squash alone? Here’s a list of reasons why players should take time out to spend some time practicing squash on one’s own.
- Lack of Distraction
- Weakness Analysis
- Improving Those Weaknesses
- Fine-Tuning Your Shot-Hitting Skills
- Improving Fitness
Here’s an in-depth analysis of the reasons why one should take some time out of one’s squash practice to do that on one’s own.
Lack of Distraction
While it is good to practice squash with someone, there are times you need to work on a particular pain-point in your game. The best thing to do, in that case, is to find a quiet corner somewhere, think through the issue and then get down on the court to work on it.
You could do without any kind of distraction. I mean, what if you want to work on your backhand, you have a match opponent and he/she makes doesn’t hit too many shots to your backhand and you end up wasting your time. At other times, players prefer working on their Achilles Heel on their own before playing against an opponent because it helps them filter out the noise.
Do you think squash players at the highest level spend all their time playing or practicing? Not quite. A chunky bit of their non-match time is spent in trying to recognize their own weaknesses on a match by match basis.
For instance, a backhand weakness against player A might not be a big deal against player B but against this second player, it might need one to look at one’s fitness. Each of these aspects of the game need to be analyzed with a coach or on one’s own and that’s something that can be done without actually playing the sport.
Improving on Those Weaknesses
Most players, whether at the beginner level or intermediate or even professionals, need to work on their weakness. In early days, it could be about picking up a new skill while at the intermediate level, it could be working on a weaker aspect of your technique.
For instance, a backhand serve from the forehand side of the court is a vital component of improving one’s squash but it isn’t something that typically comes naturally to most.
Once you have had your time sitting down and analyzing your weaknesses or any technical flaws which might have crept into your game, some time away from the glare could help improve upon those issues.
Fine-Tuning One’s Overall Game
The previous couple of points make a mention of assessing one’s own weakness and then working on it.
At times, however, it makes sense to fine-tune one’s overall game as well, even if there’s no perceptible weakness. In fact, it makes a lot of sense to keep working on one’s strengths as well given that’s what has helped a player get to where he/she has reached.
In order to take that step up, therefore, using the time away from others is a good one to keep practicing on the strengths as well.
In this day and age of professionalism in most sports, fitness, or lack thereof, is a big no-no. You might be the most technically gifted squash player around in your club or university but as you take that step up, there are fine margins which decide winners.
One of the most important but underrated factors is one’s fitness and it makes a lot of sense to keep working on squash-specific drills to improve that too.
How to Practice Squash Alone?
There are multiple ways in which one can practice squash on one’s own self. The most ideal way to go about it is to perform all of these squash drills regularly but you can also pick and choose and alternate between them every other day depending on the time availability.
Straight, Forehand Drives
This is a good place to begin and should help tune your muscle memory for the precision with respect to your forehand.
Stand on one side of the court, close to the side wall and hit a forehand to the front wall, aiming to ensure the ball lands in a previously demarcated area in front of you.
Continue allowing the ball to bounce and hitting the forehand for a pre-decided number of times, anywhere between 50 and 100. If the ball lands in an area outside what you have marked out, re-start at 0 again.
With regularity, this squash drill will help improve your forehand and its accuracy.
There are multiple other, beginner squash exercises you can look at as well – if you are just starting out, get yourself acquainted with the feel of hitting forehands by gently lobbing them on to the front wall.
Variations to that could be to bend your front knee while playing those and at times your back knee and get used to the court.
Side to Side Practice
Many squash beginners get their real hang of the sport with this simple practice drill. Stand at the centre of the court facing one side wall and hit the ball with your forehand towards it at a sufficient height that it comes back at on the volley.
Then in the same continuous motion hit the ball towards the other side wall using the backhand and continue doing that 50-100 times. It will take some time to get used to as a beginner but with daily practice you should get there.
Those who have been playing squash for a while might not gain a lot from this exercise but even then, you could warm up with some of this and even change your hands to perform this drill – i.e. if you are a right-hander, try using your left hand to complete the drill.
Hit Them Short
Get into position in front of the T and hit the ball between the tin and the service line, alternating between your forehand and backhand. Attempt to avoid any volley and hit all of them on the bounce for a pre-decided number of times – say about 100 – before you move to the next one which is an extension of this drill.
Hit the Short Volley
Much like in the previous drill, you need to stand in the middle of the court ahead of the T and hit the ball alternating between forehand and backhand. However, what’s different in this is you need to hit the ball higher and ensure you don’t let it bounce, hitting them on a volley.
Figure of Eight Practice
This is a common but interesting squash drill which can be done in stages. At the core, you need to hit a forehand or backhand to one of the corners (left or right) of the court such that it hits the front and side wall and comes back to you.
For starters, as a right-hander, stand at the T, lob the ball and hit a forehand to the left side of the court, hitting both, the front and the side wall there. Keep repeating this a few times.
Change this around to now lob the ball and hit a backhand to the right side of the wall and repeat the exercise multiple times.
In the third set, combine the aforementioned first two sets; i.e. hit a forehand to the left side and then, without catching the ball, hit a backhand to the right side.
Again, repeat this in the fourth set but this time start off with the backhand and end it with a forehand.
Once you have gotten a hang of how to do this, mix and match this and do it continuously without catching the ball. Hit one ball on the bounce and then on a volley, alternating between the two.
This is probably the easiest thing to do when alone. You need to have a few boxes of squash balls for this alright but that aside, you can work on the accuracy, pace and other variations of serve.
As mentioned earlier, the backhand serve from the forehand side, isn’t the most straightforward things to master. Similarly, the ability to change the pace or to get the ball to drop disconcertingly at will are all aspects of the service which can be mastered with consistent practice.
Final Words on Practicing Squash at Home
It’s always good to find the right balance between practicing solo or with a squash partner or a coach involved. However if you are just starting out and wanting to improve your game to get to a decent level, it makes sense to understand, learn and execute the basics of the game of squash on your own for starters.
Once you have gotten yourself a hang of it, mix and match by playing against some opponents or having a partner help you out.