There are several reasons why you might want to try squash drills in large groups. The two most common reasons are that you are trying drills with a group of total beginners to the game, or alternatively you are running a session with some kids. It would be unusual for intermediate or advanced players to conduct these drills.
However, the benefits for children and beginners can be huge. They develop enthusiasm, they create a fun environment and team ethos. They also get everyone watching each other, and learning together.
What sort of squash drills are there for large groups? Squash drills for large groups can include fun warm ups, like learning to side-step in between cones. You can practise simple rotation drills, like forehands in a line. For younger players, skills like dribbling round cones help hand-eye coordination.
Group sessions tend to serve various objectives. Sometimes they do not even require a racket or a ball. It has more to do with participation and fuelling enthusiasm. Read on to find out the best drills for large groups.
Fun Warm Ups – Sidesteps
In every sport, warming up your muscles is critical. It is important that the message of warming up be ‘drummed into’ a player from a young age.
For the first warm-up, you can have probably somewhere between four and eight players on court.
The number of players you have will determine the number of markers you need. So, if we operate under the assumption that you have five players, you will need five markers of one color, and five markers of another. If you have eight players, you will need sixteen (8 of one color, and 8 of another).
Set those markers – cones work well – in two lines.
You have one line of colored cones about 2m from the centre line, and that run from the front wall to the back wall.
Put the other color of cones in a line spread out on the other side of the center line, once again 2m from the middle.
Get the players to all face in the same direction towards the front wall, and stand in a line in the middle of the court. Each player will have one cone to one side, and one cone to the other.
Following the lead of a coach, or a designated player, they should take side-steps to the first cone. Then they side step back to the center, and continue to the other cone on the other side. Repeat.
As a progression from this drill, the player leading the group can now mix the routine up. The goal with the change up is teach simple footwork, and get players used to adjusting with speed.
The lead player will shout a cone color – e.g. ‘green’. Everyone side-steps to the green cone. Then they shout ‘red’. They start to side-step towards the other cone. However, before they get there they could shout ‘green’ again. This gets everyone thinking, moving, and learning.
Warm-Ups – Relay
This is really simple, but a great way to particularly get children pumped up and ready for action.
Everybody in the group should line up against the back wall. Three players can station themselves in the left half of the court and three players can station themselves on the right side of the court.
This will effectively be a relay activity, as we have two teams of three.
Player one runs to the front wall, reaches down and touches the tin before returning back. This should be repeated three times before handing over to the next runner on the team.
It is essentially a warm-up but also contributes to fitness and endurance on the squash court.
This gets the players used to the basic lunge exercise, a key part of squash movement.
Use groups of four cones to create a square on the court. You could potentially have two squares if you had eight players (or more).
PLAYER ONE and PLAYER TWO will “enter the square”. From the centre of the square, the expectation is to lunge forward to the cone on the front right and then move back to the centre.
Follow that up by lunging forward to the cone on the front left and then moving back to the centre. The same movements will be required for the remaining two cones. Once the first set of rotations are done, PLAYER THREE AND FOUR enter the gauntlet and so it should continue until every player in the group is done.
To make the exercise more interesting and more meaningful, turn the cones upside down. Using a sponge ball, lunge forward to your first cone and place the ball inside, before moving back to the centre.
Lunge forward again and pick the ball up before moving back the centre. Then move across to your next cone and repeat the rotation.
As an additional progression to this drill, place three of those sponge balls into the upside down cones. Leave the fourth cone empty. As you move along, take the ball out of the first cone and put it into the empty cone.
Then go to the next cone and fill the cone that you have just emptied. And so the rotation continues until you have emptied and filled every one of the cones in the square. This helps delvelop leg strength and balance.
You will probably find that young children will thrive doing this drill, harnessing their natural flexibility.
Now we’re going to move on to drills involving rackets and balls.
I would recommend using a bouncy ball, either a blue dot, or an even bouncier squash ball for children.
Put a cone on the T. The group should line up along the sidewall near the back, facing that marker.
Given that these will mostly be new players, a simple feed either thrown or with a gentle strike with a racket would work well.
So the leading player (or coach) stands near the left hand sidewall, and near the front wall. They throw or hit a gentle feed towards the cone on the T.
The first player in the group will then run towards the marker and try to hit the ball, with the view to hitting the front wall. The goal here will be to make contact with the ball.
If the ball finds the front wall, then fantastic. That player will run round to the back of the line. The next player will run to the T, and the feeder will feed another ball. Repeat the process. A large pile of balls is good for this drill. Just leave the balls wherever they are after the shots, and gather them up at the end.
If a shot goes wrong, and the ball can’t be retrieved by the next player in the line, then simply start the drill again, with the leader feeding.
To make this interesting, a competitive element could be added to the routine. Failure to make contact with the ball can been seen as a points deduction. Three strikes and you are out.
Straight Drive Rotation
This is the next step to the last drill.
Line the players up on the right hand side of the court, where they will be required to return the ball straight back at the front wall.
The first player goes. They come forward to level with the T. Give the first player a simple feed to start the drill off. They try to hit the ball straight back at the front wall, and then run to the back of the line.
The next player in line tries to return their shot back at the wall, and so on.
The more players who can make the stroke without a mistake, the better. Turn this into somewhat of a team competition and not just an individual competition. Keep their score!
Once the novelty of teamwork wears off, we can then explore the idea of losing lives for every mistake made. Three mistakes and you are out.
Cross Court Rotation
This is another quite simple hitting drill. The idea is to start playing cross courts.
One player (or the coach) should stand in the back left corner of the court. Their role is to feed, like a ball machine. The other players in the group will stand in a line on the right hand side of the court near the back.
The feeder plays a gentle cross court towards the center of the front wall, that will bounce back towards the first player in the line.
The first player will come forward to about level with the T line and try to cross court it back to the feeder.
They will then move to the back of the line and the next player in line will go. And so the rotation continues.
Squash Skills – Dribbling
Let’s now cover some simple drills for developing racket coordination and contorl.
Line four cones up midway through the squash court. Have a large bucket placed near the front wall in the center. Using your squash racket dribble the squash ball between the cones…like a hockey player. Once you are done with the last cone, approach the bucket.
Stand about 1m away from the bucket and with your racket, flick the ball into the bucket.
Squash Drills – Solo Strikes
For the next drill get the players in a line near the back wall. Using a soft ball, one at a time the players work their way from the middle of the court, bouncing the ball up with the racket. For new players, this is the kind of drill that assists with confidence and control.
Each player in the group will try to wiggle around the four cones, still hitting the ball upwards with gentle strikes. The key is to keep the racket face straight up to the ceiling.
When they get to the bucket, the idea is they try to gently hit the ball into the bucket. Each player is allowed a few goes to try to get it in!
Bucket Drop Shots
Earlier in this segment, we explored bouncing the ball into the bucket. Now we focus on taking the ball off the bounce and landing it in the bucket. You will be learning to play drop shots at an early stage in your squash development with this drill.
Line up again near the back of the court. One at a time the players try to walk forward, bouncing the ball once on the floor, then gently tapping it up, leaving it to bounce again, and repeating this action. When they get to the bucket, they try to bounce the ball then dink it into the bucket.
Other Bucket Games
There are progressions from the last drill. Split the players into groups each with a bucket each.
They place their bucket near a wall, about 1m from any wall. The idea is to stand about 1 or 2 metres from the bucket. Gently dink the ball to the wall, so that it bounces off back towards you. Then try to tap the ball into the bucket. A great introduction to drop shots.
Another really simple game, is get a bucket lying open on its side next to the front wall.
Players dribble the ball round the four cones with their racket, and then try to ‘score’ by hitting the ball into the open bucket.
Drill – Drives From The Front
This is a great introduction to running forward to play shots at the front of the court.
The players will line up on the T.
The coach or leading player provides a gentle feed that is meant so the players have to run to the right corner and hit a drive.
After they have played their shot towards the back of the court, the player runs after the ball, retrieves it, and brings it back to the feeder.
In the meantime the second player has had their go, and the third, and just keep going like that.
Once again, this drill can be effectively pulled off by players from various age groups.
Balance Drill – Cone Balance
Balance is a key element in squash, and this drill really works well on developing this. The value that this drill can have for intermediate and even advanced players cannot not be understated either. It is designed to help you understand at which point during your swing you lose your balance.
Get a cone and place it on your head. The players can line up just behind the T-line, all with cones on their head. One player or coach can then stand in the front corner of the court and provide a gentle feed. The player at the front of the line then moves forward and plays a straight drive to the back of the court.
If that cone falls off during your stroke, there is probably a problem. More important than anything else is spotting when that cone falls off your head.
The drill can be performed on both the backhand and forehand sides of the court.
Squash Training In Egypt
There is a lot of evidence that large group sessions take place a lot in Egypt. Egypt is of course the dominant force in world squash, and their players have grown up on a diet of multiple player drills.
Six of the TOP TEN players on the PSA Men’s World Rankings are Egyptian. Two of them are brothers.
Four of the TOP TEN women in the world are also Egyptian. Two of them are married to TOP TEN men.
Many, if not all of them, would have taken part in large group training during their early development. The cream, in such a competitive environment, tends to rise to the top.
Good luck if you try out any of these fun squash drills for lots of players. If you run junior sessions, or social squash training, then these will hopefully be the perfect formula for you.