By Richard Millman
When it comes to strategic positioning on the court, the key factor is to develop your confidence at the same time as keeping your guard up.
This much-misunderstood subject is very accessible once you understand the primary goals.
First, you must maintain your relationship with the ball as your paramount concern. This means, mentally, physically and emotionally you stay connected and allow nothing and nobody to interfere with that relationship.
Second, you must simultaneously maintain your peripheral sensitivity at the same intensity as your relationship with the ball, such that you are constantly aware of your environment—the walls, the lines, your opponent, the spaces on the court and your proximity to all of these.
When you defend the squash court, you adopt the same attitudes as a world-class soccer goalkeeper.
The goalkeeper, by countless hours of practice, has become intimately familiar with where his/her goal posts are.
As the opposition striker approaches with the ball, the goalie has his/her primary focus on the ball while simultaneously maintaining an exact awareness of the goal posts. Thus the goalie can narrow down the striker’s angles of possibility.
This is precisely what we do in squash. We maintain our primary attention on the ball while, at the same time, maintaining an absolute picture of the court around us and of all of the opponent’s possible shots. We physically position ourselves to bisect the angles of possibility and to be equilaterally ready for all possibilities.
This is not the ‘T’, and not only is it not the ‘T’, but the ‘T’ is nothing other than a distraction when players are directed to think about it, as it interferes with the player’s primary focus on the ball.
Can you imagine a soccer goalie focusing on a white cross painted in the middle of his/her goal without losing focus on the ball? Of course not.
Probably the finest exponent of the art of bisecting the angle of possibilities that I ever saw was the English player, Simon Parke.
At age eleven, I saw his coach, my friend, David Pearson, mercilessly driving Simon to every part of the court in a drill where Simon was only allowed to play a straight drop from wherever David fed the ball.
As a result of many repetitions of this drill, Simon became so confident that he could cover the court, that he developed an offensive attitude when he was waiting for his opponent to hit the ball, rather than a defensive one.
As you may or may not know, Simon went on to become one of the finest squash players of his generation and one of the greatest retrievers the game has ever known.
For this reason I call this drill the Simon Parke drill. I guarantee that anyone who I put through this drill will never again seek the ‘T’ and will, henceforth, confidently know by ‘feel’ where to position themselves, daring their opponent to try and beat them with the ball.
Cheers Simon (and David of course)—insofar as the defense of the squash court was concerned—you owned it.