It didn’t surprise me when an experienced player at Haslemere requested judging the ball as a theme to work on. It also reminded me of a blog I have been intending to write for some time.
My response was It starts with watching the ball. Just one of the small – but vital - details that often get lost in the big picture of all game sports.
In game-sports one of the most repeated coaching instructions is Watch the ball or Keep your eye on the ball. A simple request that seems difficult to put into practice.
The difference with squash is that the ball is often struck from behind the receiver.
Players I’ve known for years still complain about not watching the ball. I’ve also had numerous discussions with students who claim they were watching the ball despite having the back of their head to it.
Many players catch sight of the ball in their peripheral vision and here are some of the reasons why:
- for a start they are looking at the front wall
- their head is turned slightly, but insufficiently to locate the ball when it is behind them
- slow reaction, moving only as the ball passes in front of them
- still standing on the T when the ball strikes the front wall
- completely misreading a shot
- poor judgement of the ball’s trajectory and destination.
There is a possible cause-effect relationship between the first two points and the rest, although any of these faults will place the retriever under pressure.
Sometimes a player may be looking at the ball, but not seeing what is relevant simply because he isn’t really watching the ball.
Beginners need to watch the ball carefully to learn how it moves through the air and bounces. Their judgement will improve as they gain an increased understanding of how the ball behaves.
Watching the ball connects all the elements of the game. That’s why this simple concept was the topic of an elite coaches’ Pan-American conference I attended.
Elite players are able to judge with pin-point accuracy the destination of the ball as it leaves their opponent’s racket. They don’t track the ball around the four walls but watch it at crucial moments and have an innate understanding of where it is the rest of the time.
There is more to watching the ball than you realise.
How well do you watch the ball?