How I Screwed Up My Squash Game
I am still hurting from playing my former Cambridge teammate and fellow Venture Capitalist, Guy a few weeks ago (I think he holds the title for being the 2nd best VC squash player, after my colleague Jack). Guy absolutely destroyed me on court. I could barely walk after playing him.
I took a 2 year hiatus from squash after graduating from university (80–100 hour weeks in investment banking + niggling injuries got in the way). My new year’s resolution is to get back into squash which seems like a tall order as I can hardly last on the court for more than 30 minutes. I have basically done everything wrong when it came to squash over the years. So I can’t write about how to be awesome at squash. However, I can write about how to avoid completely screwing up your game as I have certainly managed to completely screw up my game.
- Quality vs. quantity: I played a LOT of squash wherever I was – whether it was Bangladesh, Williamstown, New York Sports Club on 86th and Lex (played there for the shortest time, but perhaps my favorite place – miss Eric, Jamaal and the gang there), Oxford, and Cambridge. However, I almost never had a goal before hitting the court – just spent hours and hours performing solo practice and playing others of varying levels of skills. I noticed that everyone who gradually became a lot better than me at squash trained a lot less, but had a goal to focus on for each practice – whether it was movement, racquet skills, or general strength.
- Supplement with off-court strength work: I never paid much attention to strength training outside the court. At the very least, it is important to balance out your body – I am right handed thus I swing with my right arm and mostly lunge with my right leg. I look like a freak – my right arm and leg are substantially larger than my left arm and leg. I have also developed niggling injuries on my left side, just because it is so much weaker.
- Practice good warm up and cool down habits: I have always neglected this, partly because I grew up in a very warm part of the world where your muscles don’t get as tight. Too many times I have walked into the court from freezing temperatures outside without proper warm up, and worse, did not properly cool down and stretch after playing. I have paid the price – now I feel like a 90 year old everytime I get out of bed.
- Don’t only focus on racquet technique: I obsessed about perfecting my racquet technique and almost never focused on movement. Should have done more ghosting and less solo butterfly drills.
- Don’t over complicate shit: Around 6 years ago, I took a lesson from Hisham Ashour who was a former top 10 professional player. His advice to me was – “listen, a non-pro guy like you need to only hit 4 shots – drives, volleys, drops and boasts. Don’t even dare try to hit cross court nicks and complex hold and flicks – you are just not good enough to do that.” Wish I listened to him back then.
- Don’t be a jack of all trades: When I was playing squash, I also dabbled in water polo. While I enjoyed water polo quite a lot — I was pretty terrible at it. After every practice, I ended up with my torso covered in bruises and lungs full of water — yet I kept playing — never got tired of being beaten up in the pool by 6'6" 250lb monsters that were my team-mates (I don’t play anymore and that’s because I am overweight and it will be a crime against humanity to wear those speedos…). Playing water polo greatly messed with my squash game — the two sports had almost no synergies. I wish I did not spend so much time trying to become good at water polo. The result was that I sucked at both squash and water polo.
Hopefully, if you are serious about squash and want to play at a relatively high level for years and years you will avoid some of the mistakes I have made. If not, ah well, you can always pawn off the squash racquets and get into croquet or something…