Players frequently limit their opponents to those of similar skill. However, conditioned games are a great way to level the playing field between competitors of varying levels of experience. Conditioned games place restrictions on what each player can do on court—a classic example is three-quarter court.
Each example provided below applies to players with a particular skill level difference.
3.0 v. 5.5: Double Bounce
3.0 – Under normal play, a top-level player would have no problem dispatching a 3.0 player in three quick games. In this conditioned game, the 3.0 is allowed to let the ball bounce twice, allowing significantly more time to prepare for each shot. The 3.0 player will no longer be rushed and has more time to focus on making a good swing at the ball.
5.5 – This player is not allowed to volley the ball; it must always bounce. This achieves two things: (1) the weaker player has more time to recover, and (2) a well-hit length by the weaker player can’t be cut off and may cause trouble for the opponent in the backcourt.
3.0 v. 4.5: No Back Wall
3.0 – With a smaller gap between levels of play, the restrictions become less stringent. In this conditioned game, the 3.0 player wins the point any time he gets the ball to the hit the back wall after one bounce. This encourages proper length, and places the movement of the better player under quite a bit of pressure.
4.5 – The 4.5 player also has a back wall restriction, but the inverse of the 3.0 player. The 4.5 player loses the point if she hits a ball that hits the back wall prior to bouncing twice. This prevents the better player from overpowering her opponent, and makes it harder to trap the opponent in the back corners.
3.0 v. 3.5: Straight Only
3.0 – For this conditioned game, there is only a marginal gap between each player. The 3.0 player plays without restriction, able to hit the ball anywhere on the court.
3.5 – The 3.5 player may only hit the ball straight. Both the front and backcourt can be used, but no cross-courts or boasts may be played. While this seems to be a challenging restriction with only a small level difference between the players, it is surprising how effective this straight-only tactic can be. To level the playing field further, add a variation where the 3.5 player can hit a crosscourt—but only off the volley.
There are hundreds of variations of conditioned games; have fun coming up with your own at home to get the great workout—at any skill level—only squash can provide!