By Richard Millman
The summer is upon us, and now is the time to really get ahead of the competition. Solo practice is one of the least utilized and most valuable training regimes. It is also one of those forms of improvement that often leads to negative attitudes as players lose their way after just a few minutes.
What is the purpose of solo? All squash practice needs to be conducted with a holistic approach. One of the greatest dangers is to focus on a drill to the exclusion of the overarching philosophy of the game. This leads to the drill becoming more important than its purpose. Squash is about competitive survival, and we survive by staying connected to the ball using our mental, physical and emotional attention capacities. Solo is no different. It must involve continuous connection to the ball—mentally, physically and emotionally—and simultaneously requires peripheral awareness of our environment.
Even the simplest deep length solo drill must reflect these principles and include movement, racquet preparation and pace control, which allow the player to get into a “grooved” rhythm that can be consistently maintained and that will develop a deep subconscious automation of good behaviors. Even the best players make errors during solo—but when they do—they fight to get back into the game just as they would in a tournament rally.
Once you understand that solo should reflect a real game mentality, be purposefully planned and relevant to your personal areas of improvement, and then you are ready to sit down and write yourself a program.
If you are a serious player, I would recommend you try to develop a regular two-hour practice regime. If you don’t have time for that, then one hour will do, but remember the two-hour session will implant information more deeply into your subconscious and will therefore form longer-lasting automatic behaviors. Solo work is key to the success of any serious squash player. To do solo work successfully, you must plan your solo practices. You will find you gain a strong sense of achievement and a great deal of confidence and control.
Simple movement and shot drills:
Deep, straight length, 150 shots
Mid-court straight and tight (stand on short line) 100 shots
Short straight and tight (stand 6ft back from front wall) 100 shots.
Deep straight volleys (behind service box) 50 shots
Mid-court straight volleys (in front of service box) 50 shots
Boast/cross court drill:
Perhaps the most important solo drill that I know. Continuously boast and cross-court back and forth across the court, ensuring the ball comes back to exactly the same place each time. Try and build up to sets of ninety seconds continuously. Do five sets on each side. If you become really proficient you can add a drop shot (boast, drop, cross-court), or try solo boast and drive followed by solo boast, drop, drive.
Colombian drills (named in honor of the first Colombian team I saw on the international tour back in the 1980s):
Boast, drop, self retrieve. Standing behind the service box, move with your own boast and then play a drop off of your own boast as you recover and then retrieve your own drop before the second bounce. 50 sets
Boast, drive, self retrieve. As above but play the straight length from the boast and retrieve in the back corner before it bounces twice. 50 sets
Serve, straight volley return, retrieve. Serve and return your own serve, making sure your push off of your return of serve just like you would in a game and then retrieve the return of serve before it bounces twice. 35 sets
Control drills. A combination of movement and touch.
Round the walls ball control. Facing the back corner, move backwards tapping the ball up against the side wall keeping the rhythm of the movement and the shot the same. Go around the court ten times without losing control. Do both sides. Now try the same, but on the volley.
Two ball drills—use two balls at once.
Start by trying to do simple tap-ups on the front wall above the service line. Make sure both balls are warm before you start. See how many consecutive balls you can hit. Keep on your toes all the time.