Unorthodoxy is a necessary part of natural technique

The more I teach the more I see the same theme keep showing up and then repeat itself everywhere else movement is performed at its most natural and effective: Imperfection. Also often referred to as unorthodoxy in squash conversations or unconventional and sometimes incorrect. A coach’s job is to correct faulty technique in the swing and/or movement. Or is it?

The majority of lessons I deliver will involve helping players improve a specific area of their game, a particular detail that could be a strength or weakness. Often the more advanced players the areas of focus are very small and need careful attention and understanding, a change in a movement pattern or swing shape that will bring that crucial 5% improvement. With a beginner player the weaknesses are normally much easier to recognise and changes are bigger and have a more dramatic impact. For example a shift in where someone stands could completely change their ability to return the serve.

Working mainly with professional players my job is helping find and then fine-tune those small areas, to help the technical parts of the player become even more effective and easy for them. But there is a point, at which I find myself having to stop technical input, and just wait and see what is actually happening for fear of having a negative impact.

Lets take an example: Marwan El Shorbagy’s forehand side. We have spent many hours improving movement patterns, techniques and particular shots to help improve weak areas and build on strengths. But there have been many occasions where my mind is saying – this doesn’t look quite right – but the shot is working really well. But If I allow the feed to continue and just watch the whole movement globally from start to finish the reason for the success of the shot becomes much clearer; it simply works as a whole, it is natural, rhythmical and dynamic. It is Marwan’s body doing what it knows best, to go where it needs to go to make the ball go where he wants it to go. But occasionally its far from perfect according the to the text book, those who have watched Marwan think about his forehand boast where his body spins open while the swing flattens the ball into the side wall making it very difficult to read, one of his best shots. The lesson this teaches me is that there are many ways for a body to move and these will vary enormously from person to person. And at the highest level these movements are incredibly natural and effective, they are flowing through the nervous system of the player and its felt right for them for many years. A coach has the power to enhance this with delicate adjustments but, if an adjustment does not compliment what is natural it can be dangerous and sometimes have a negative impact, therefore removing the one thing that can make the player who they are; their natural pattern.

So for all of you squash players out there working hard to improve your game and any coaches who are helping with this I would encourage you to communicate closely, share what you both see and feel in the process. Discuss what works and feels good and balance technical input with natural instinctual movements. Because what may not seem correct at first glance and look unorthodox could actually be the ultimate weapon if fine-tuned effectively. Certainly in my experience it is the imperfect, unorthodox moments within the movement flow that provide that vital small percentage that can separate one player from the next.

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