Thursday, April 07, 2011

Concepts On Coaching Juniors (Part 2)

Coaching Juniors

With then general concepts in mind, coaching junior now is quite simple as to follow the phases of development for a squash player.

The phases are:

  • Introduction                                           Ages 6 to 12
  • Fundamentals                                        Ages 8 to 14
  • Training to Train (TT)                             Ages 10 to 18   
  • Training to Compete (TC)                       Ages 16 to 24

In Malaysia and Asia, we tend to do very well in the first 2 phases of coaching juniors as most coaches are very good at what they do. They tend to skip the Training to Train phase and move on to the Training to Compete phase. The parents and coaches focus on the results and winning tournaments more rather than achieving the objectives and performances of the phases. The Training to Train phase is so important in the development of a squash player and the work done here is repetitious and tedious. As such, the tendency to skip the phase is very high when a precocious talent has been found to bring some success and glory to the coaches program. Thus, the sacrificial of the Training to Train stage is done to accommodate that. And as the player progresses, the ability to perform becomes harder and harder due to the fact that the important training elements have been skipped. This in turn frustrates the player and will slowly turn their interest and focus back to studies or other things in life.

The Training to Train phase focuses on the basic blocks of squash, meaning if we were to make a movie, the plot starts here. The earlier 2 phases are like introducing the characters involved in the movie. As such, the coach needs to have an idea or picture of what the end product would be like before he starts this phase. That too will depend on the natural physical abilities of the kid. The work for the coach in this phase is likening to shaping and cutting a rough diamond to attain its new shape as to enable it to shine when polished.

As it is very clear that most players in Malaysia and Asia go through as squash juniors but only a handful of them move on to the senior stage due to the fact that most of them will focus on their education at the ages of 17-19, and this period usually is the Training to Compete phase. This usually means totally leaving squash instead of trying to balance both. The other side to the focus on studies is that the funding is only available to those who are willing to focus full time on their squash because they need the result to justify the amount of money spent. Also the skipping of the Training to Train phase contributes to players going back to studies.

Because the Training to Compete phase is focusing on the tactical aspects of the game and learning, the need for tournaments within the country is so important. This would enable especially those in the 17 to 21 years of age who wish to balance their squash and studies the opportunity to still improve their squash. Also the financial impact on each player is so much less and it can also teach them how to make and stick to a training schedule, budget and all sorts of life decision making skills. The need to progress at their own pace is often seen as not important compared to a person who decides to do full time training at the same age. If both sets of players are allowed to continue developing their game at their respective paces, the difference in standard can be closed within a span of 2 to 3 years after the completion of thee player’s studies.

This is due to the fact that if the phase is planned properly, the focus of training should be on preparing the body’s physical components more to cope with the rigours of high level squash and combined with regular tournaments. Training frequency off court here is higher than on court. A 3 times a week on court session for about an hour is sufficient to enable the player to continually progress but not as fast as those training full time. Hence, the responsibility for progress will very much depend on the player. The coach helps facilitate the progress.


The understanding and acceptance of the above concepts by coaches will help Malaysia and Asia progress and take a step closer to realizing the dream of becoming a squash powerhouse. It will also show that the coaches are open minded, willing to move with the times and are flexible to new ideas. The need to incorporate concepts into our understanding of planning and writing of training programs will help us better in understanding the steps in producing world class squash players.