Monday, 22 October 2012
The 'Rule of Three'
The Rule of Three
Squash is both simple and complex.
The simplicity is in the sport's basic premise, getting the ball back to the front wall before it bounces twice. If you do this more often than your opponent, you'll walk out of the court as the winner.
The complexity is in how to accomplish this. The variety of options from the four corners, and the mid court area are vast. And when you add in the position of your opponent on the court at any given moment, and the likely responses your opponent will have to the shot you choose to hit, all conspire in creating this complexity.
At the beginning levels, players are limited by their:
1. racket proficiency (consistent swing technique, with accuracy)
2. court awareness (relative experience of the ball's bounce and trajectories off the walls)
3. and tactical understanding (recognition of how shot selection affects the control of the rally, and maintaining a Position of Advantage)
As players improve their proficiency in each of these areas their overall game develops.
Because of squash's unique environment, the four walls, it has the highest level of cognitive difficulty of any of the racket sports. Hence the oft spoken moniker of 'Playing chess at the speed of sound', or something to that effect.
For beginning players, as they try to improve their game, it can be helpful to start with a basic approach to tactics. Which can be called the 'Rule of Three'.
In any four quadrants of the court, a player should focus on three options.
1. Have a defensive shot (ie. from either front corner a good defensive shot is - the high, slow cross court lob; from the back court usually a straight high lob is a good option)
2. Have two attacking shots. Generally the best combination is to have two shots that can be directed to different quadrants of the court. (and most preferably these two target quadrants are opposite each other. (ie from the front corner these two shots could be a cross court drop, and a straight drive; or a cross court drive and a straight drop)
Why is it the 'Rule of Three' ? Well first of all, for beginners, this keeps the tactical issues to a minimum, so is less complicated when in the heat and speed of the rally. Second, for a beginner it means having specific shots to focus on during practice sessions. Which makes practice more productive and stroke development will actually be faster.
As the novice starts getting comfortable with their game, then they can begin to add more options to their repertoire (more shots that can be hit proficiently from each quadrant of the court). At this point the player has moved beyond the Rule of Three. However........
As players move up in rankings, they often struggle mightily with the next higher level of competition, where players have more accuracy, maybe more power, better positioning, more fitness, more court awareness.
When this happens, it's often a good idea to return to the Rule of Three, and get the foundation of your game up to this higher standard of play. Once you're playing the Rule of Three on an equal footing with your new opponents, then it's time to start expanding your options again.