Sunday, 18 August 2013

Old Guys Break the Rules

Old Guys Break the 'Rules'

And that's why they win. Most, if not all players are taught that the long straight drive is the fundamental shot in squash. And this is still mostly true, although I would argue that all the shots that are hit deep into the back corners make up a more complete foundation of the game. 

Players need to have multiple strokes that they can utilize to get the ball into the back corners. From any position on the court, if a player only hits one type of stroke into the deep, then that means this player becomes predictable. So even if their shot is well placed, the opponent may easily anticipate this shot, and thus not be overly bothered, or pressured by it. Thus, the aspiring player, aren't we all, does need to spend significant time in developing options to get the ball deep. 

About the only shot that can be predictable, and still be very effective in reversing pressure in a rally, is the high soft crosscourt lob.

But I've wandered off topic, and so quickly too. I suppose that's part of the lure of squash, discussing one aspect of the game naturally brings up so many other facets of importance, that it is hard to stay on course.

Old Guys Rule! And that's because they break the 'rules' we've been taught from day one. Generally speaking, everyone is taught two basic principles of the game: 

1) Hit the ball straight and deep.
2) Move back to the T after every shot.

Old Guys, and we've all seen them, these are the players that so often make juniors and up and coming players look so foolish. The young players with their powerful strokes, their abundant speed, and terrific fitness, consistently tortured by the older player who is obviously slower, significantly less fit, and often with bandage wraps around various body joints, such as the knee, elbow, ankles, etc. 

What's happening, why are the Old Guys winning so often? 

Because they are using the rules you've been taught, against you.

First, the Old Guys know that virtually all of younger and relatively inexperienced players will hit most of their shots long and straight, with the occasional long cross court thrown in. Why do they know this? Because most of us have been taught that way: 'Hit long, mostly straight, get back to the T, and look for the weak shot'. So the Old Guys are already anticipating what shots the young whipper snappers are likely to hit.

Okay, so one then asks, even if they do anticipate, if the ball is relatively tight along the wall, and is hit deep, then how is it that the Old Guys can still control the rallies? Heck, well hit long balls should trouble the Old Guys who are slow, not fit, and restricted by injuries, right?

What most of us don't see, because when on the court and focused on the ball (as we should be of course), is that the Old Guys break rule number two. 

See, Old Guys quite often do not return to the T.... Knowing that their opponent is highly likely to start the rallies by hitting long, the Old Guys simply hang back in the court, often near the back of the service boxes. 

Since the opponent is focused on the ball, they do not see that the Old Guys are well positioned for a long ball. So instead of possibly four steps into the corner, the Old Guy is likely only needing two or three steps. 

That certainly makes it easier for the Old Guy to hit whatever they want, and then they start ignoring rule #1. Since the Old Guys know we hit long to get a rally started, and we hit long when pressured, they are free to take a deep position, and then hit the ball to all the corners, knowing that the majority of our returns will be still be deep. 

As so it goes, often the Old Guys take a win, relatively comfortable in the process, making the younger and newer players do all the running and stretching. By breaking rule #2.

So what is the lesson here?

Yes, we could say that when playing the Old Guys, it is a good idea to play short sometimes. Doing that would force the Old Guys to adjust a bit forward, closer to the T, and then you'd start getting them doing more actual running, and the control of the rallies would no longer be only in their hands, because now, by forcing them to move their base closer to the T, the Old Guys will have more difficulties in the deep corners, and thus not be able to leisurely pressure the opponent.

But, more importantly, what aspiring players need to understand is that even as their long game is improving, if the opponent is never flustered by the deep shots, then a change in tactics is in order. Instead of hitting two, three, four shots long, or more, and waiting for a loose shot, it might be better to hit short early, then no matter what the opponent hits, going long again. Get the opponent running back, to the front, then to the back again.

So remember, the Old Guys, really are old, slower, less fit, and the bandages are usually for real, but these guys break the rules, in particular #2. Hence, their seemingly unflustered control of nearly every rally. So if you don't change the pattern, the odds are stacked against you.  


  1. Very true observations. I play in Hong Kong where the leagues are riddled with wily old dudes who match this description. Sometimes if you try this on them, they move a little bit to further dispirit you by getting to shots.

  2. You just broke the first rule of Old Guy Squash Club !


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