May 2015

Bill Ho’s Office has Bare Space

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Just when you thought things were maybe getting a little weird working in the squash world, along comes a member that erases that last little bit of doubt.  Worldgate’s Bill Ho sent me an email with this picture of his office. No Bill isn’t moonlighting selling racquets, he just can’t bear to part with his dead ones…. I will let Bill explain.

Office

It’s my office. I came to collect broken racquets when I couldn’t part with favorite racquets that I broke. Then as I had an office with empty walls, I put these racquets up. Of course it spurred conversation in the workplace. Then as my squash colleagues broke their racquets I asked for them to add to cover the other bare walls. The long and short of it, I started in 2003 and I think I have over 20. I have not been actively seeking them lately though.

I think we need to help him out..send your broken racquet to AussieNick and we will make sure that nasty bare space is covered! When it is we will post again!

AussieNick 15-January-2007

 

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Your Physical Attributes and how you should Play/Train

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By its very nature squash puts demands on your body that you cannot meet. This is true at all levels of play and usually in every rally of a match.  Generally this will manifest itself as your either being too slow with feet, legs or hands and/or inaccurate with motor control over feet, legs, body, arms or hands. Of course the interaction with the brain, nervous system performance, choices we make in shot selection and movement, whether we watch out opponent etc make this a highly simplified perspective on why we lose or win any particular rally.  However, without pursuing the philosophy of this too much I have mused a little over the impact of physical attributes in this somewhat simplified paradigm, and from this can we determine what is the best way to approach playing and training given our particular physical strengths and weaknesses.

In some ways it is not necessary to think about this too deeply as players will to some extent optimize their style automatically to best suit their physical specifications, although this is not always the case. Also if someone is conscious about what is best for them then they may approach training with a more specific technique and training regime in mind and this may lead to more rapid improvement.

In thinking about this I have observed many players that are successful and many that aren’t and compared their different physical attributes and tried to categorize this in a way where you might learn from it. These are innate physical attributes that I am assuming you can’t change or could only change very slowly at which time you would just alter your physical description and go through this process again. These physical attributes are assigned a range from -2 to 2, where 2 means a great degree of the attribute compared to players of the same “skill range” and -2 means greatly opposite to the attribute as written in the table compared to cohorts. Zero would mean neutral in this aspect etc. The attributes are:

  • Height
  • Leg Power to Weight ratio
  • Wrist strength
  • Maximum swing speed
  • Innate Skill and Coordination
  • Age

Now let me introduce another concept called playing attributes and assign them a range from -2 to -2, where a 2 would mean you would follow the approach to playing and training strongly as written below and -2 would mean you would strongly follow the opposite of the approach as worded below and 0 would mean neutral on this attribute and so on.  The playing attributes are:

  • Strong Grip Strength
  • Long Swing length
  • Long Stride/Lunge length
  • High Power/Finesse play ratio
  • Highly attacking posture
  • High Winner/rally ratio
  • High Fitness/Finesse ratio approach

There is obviously more attributes to the game, for example do I play my forehands off the orthodox or unorthodox foot, do I play mostly rails or cross-courts, but aspects like this are less linked to the physical attributes of the player. Here I am trying to look at the more significant aspects of play that are affected by physical attributes.

A way of interweaving these considerations is to place then in a table and look at a ‘pseudo-correlation index’ between the factors. What this means is how each attribute of the game (Grip strength, swing, stride, power etc) best suits and hence is an important consideration for a player with particular physical attributes (height, power, wrist strength, speed, coordination etc). In the table below, a positive number means that in my opinion this game attribute goes in sympathy (correlates) with this personal attribute, and the more positive that number the more strongly correlated  they are (note that correlation is being used in a loose sense here). A zero means that the attribute of the game and the physical attribute are unconnected. A negative number means that they are negatively correlated, which means the importance of the game attribute goes with the inverse of the physical attribute.

Grip Strength Swing length Lunge Length Power v Finesse Attack Posture Winners v Rally Fitness v Finesse
Height 0 -1 1 -1 1 1 -1
Leg Power-to-weight 0 0 2 1 2 -1 1
Wrist Strength 2 -1 0 0 1 2 0
Swing Speed -1 2 0 1 2 0 0
Coordination -1 1 0 -2 2 1 -1
Age 0 -1 -1 -1 0 2 -1

To further illustrate this let’s look at a few examples. The correlation between height and Lunge is 1. This means that the taller the player the more suited to a long stride/lunge. Conversely a shorter player should not be trying to cover the court with large strides. This particular correlation comes about from body mechanics. A tall player that tries to take a lot of little steps around the court is generally doing themselves a disservice, they are much more naturally adept at lengthening their stride to cover the court. Note the correlation even stronger between Power-to-weight and Lunge. This is because a person with high power-to-weight can more easily cope with recovering from large stretches. Conversely a lower power to weight (often symptomatic of the older player) has very little chance of recovering from a deep lunge (this is why a lot of older players have to run through a tough  ball rather than stretch to retrieve).

Now look at ‘Coordination’ and ‘Power versus finesse’. These are negatively correlated, which means that Finesse should be much more of a concern than power for a player with naturally gifted coordination The third category is the uncorrelated, for example  Swing speed and lunge. This says that their is no relation between the importance of the length of your stride and how fast you can naturally swing the racquet. The numbers are my estimates from my study of the game and each number has similar arguments behind it. Some are undoubtedly more controversial than others and more systematic study might change the estimates.

OK so let’s accept what we have so far, but now we have to ask what use is all this? Let me use myself as an example. When deciding how to grade your own physical attributes it is important to think of this within your normal competitive sphere, rather than on an absolute basis. So for myself in contemporary range (e.g. players around the 5.8 level) I consider myself to be tall, average leg power to weight, high wrist strength, lower hand speed, average hand-eye, and most unfortunately on the older side. Thus again using the -2 to 2 scale I might write that my physical attribute vector is:

Height  = 2, leg P-t-W = 0, wrist strength = 1, Hand Speed = -1, Hand eye = 0, Age = 1

We then multiply the column vector of each of the game attributes by the physical attribute vector you gave yourself. So for game attribute Grip, I get 0 + 0+ 2 + 1 + 0 + 0 = 3. A positive number means the positive side of this attribute, in other words a strong grip would suit my physical attributes. For me I know this works, so, so far so good. Similarly I get for the other game attributes:

Swing = -6. (Strongly suggests to use a shorter swing length)
Lunge = 1  (Mildly suggests a long lunge is best for me)
Power = -4 (Strongly suggests I should concentrate more on finesse than power)
Attacking Posture = 1 (Mildly suggest I should take the ball relatively early)
Winners v rally = 6 (Strongly suggests I am suited to playing a lot of winners)
Fitness v Finnese = -3 (I should approach winning my games from a finesse perspective rather than fitness)

Another example would be my imaginary friend Jack who is a 6′ tall older player (65 yo) who has excellent innate skills but is slowing down a lot with age. For Jack he might then score himself, given his 4.5 player cohorts, say:

Height = 0, Leg P-t-W = -2, Wrist strength = -1, Hand Speed = -1, Hand Eye = 1, Age = 2

This leads to:

Grip = -2 (Jack should use a softer grip)
Swing = -2. (Jack should use a relatively short swing length)
Lunge = -6 (Strongly suggests Jack should take small steps/lunges)
Power = -7 (Strongly suggests Jack should use finesse rather than power)
Attacking = -5 (Strongly suggests Jack should not attempt to take the ball too early)
Winners = 5 (Strongly suggests Jack should shoot for a lot of winners)
Fitness = -5 (Strongly suggests Jack should concentrate on winning with finesse rather than fitness)

One aspect not covered is that of injury. If you are carrying an injury but still playing, just incorporate that injury on the effect it has on your physical attributes e.g. lower leg power-to-weight ratio than you would be capable with full fitness.

So,  estimate your physical attribute data and plug itin and see how you go. Would love feedback on the concept and whether it makes sense for you or not.

Rod Barnes 8-April-2007

Site AdminYour Physical Attributes and how you should Play/Train
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Connie’s No-Partner Workout

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  • Warm up (exercise bike/ light jogging etc)
  • 20 crt sprints (timed – refer base time)
  • Forehand side of court – 20 drives each from first line, 2nd line, third line
  • Backhand – ditto
  • Forehand side of court – 20 volleys each from first line, 2nd line, third line
  • Backhand – ditto
  • Lunges – backwards and forwards across the crt (keep low – knees bent) 40
  • Serves – from right box 10 to defined area on wall, ditto left box.
  • Repeat – try to get more in the defined area the 2nd time.
  • 20 crt sprints (timed – refer base time)
  • Moving to and from T by going to each of the 6 ‘corners’ – 1 minute, pause, repeat

Have fun!

Connie Barnes 2-May-2007

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The Off Season

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It’s undoubtedly a little ironic but  the off-season is one of my favorite times in the squash calendar, especially the first few weeks of it in April/May. I am sure many of you can relate, it is akin to ceasing to bash your head against a wall,  like a long time-base endorphic experience. This year especially I needed a break. After leaving the Embassy and  starting in the US private sector it has been especially busy. With juggling an engrossing job,  running the first PSA event in the region,  a young family and its demands, running Premier league, writing journal papers, buying a house, working through the US security and other bureaucratic processes for my job and maintaining multiple web sites, I felt a little down on horsepower and there was not a lot left for the court.

With many of these tasks now in the rear view mirror and with many weeks almost squash free, it is good to feel the energy levels, well dare I say it, on the surge. I have always advocated 2-4 weeks off every 6 months. Squash is such a demanding sport and it wears down your mental and physical resilience over time. Having a substantial break every 6 months lets the body repair the niggling injuries and, even those aching joints can rebound a little. It also allows the mental resolve to accumulate and that dwindling or missing desire might be rediscovered.  I would go so far to say that without these breaks your longevity in the sport is very likely to be diminished.

On a cerebral level, having a break also permits a time of reflection and a different vantage point on your own game. Both good and bad habits that engrained over the last season will fade in muscle memory, giving the chance for a fresh start and a renewal. I always come back after a break with a clean slate view of what is not quite right with my game.  Some would say this is fertile ground, and should not be that hard with or without  a break, but when you have been playing continuously for a long time you lose perspective and sometimes even the obvious goes unnoticed.

My final point on having a break, is really relating to the fact that improving in squash for most of us, often comes down to improving physical prowess. The three S’s, strength, speed and stamina. Squash in the end is so much about them. Many people who have asked me for advice, especially those getting on in years, just don’t want to seem to hear this but there is no denying it. I can understand their selective deafness, after all, ‘tweaking that drop shot’ sounds a lot more appealing than ‘5 sets of 20 court sprints every other day’! Improving the three S’s is like running up a hill. It hurts and it is hard and there is no short cuts. To never give up on improving the three S’s to whatever our natural limits are at the age we find ourselves takes fortitude, and to attack it for a life time is somewhat cruel and unusual,  taking advantage of a break now and then allows the body’s batteries to recharge for the next push.

Some people I have discussed this with disagree, and have expressed concern about losing their edge over the time they have off, others appear too addicted to the sport to consider a sustained break. All wrong, in my opinion. Any longer term strategy for everyone, except those few players trying to achieve elite status, should be based around one to two lengthy breaks through a yearly cycle. On that note, please be upstanding, raise your glass and toast the off season. To the off season.

Rod Barnes 18-May-2007

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Ben’s Brisbane Blog

It’s me from Australia just checking in. My first few days have been great and really fun if you exclude all the muscle pain. I arrived safely and without hassles following the fiasco in L.A Saturday around noon. On this day, I found myself included in some games with some of the local players. This gave me a chance to meet some of the people I would be seeing around.
Sunday brought some difficult training, including pressure drills. These drills tired me out quickly, and I rested soundly that night. On Monday, It started with some sets of court sprints to test my fitness followed by some technical work. In the afternoon I was able to play some games with Jacob, ranked 200 something in the world. Tuesday started with a grueling weight workout in the gym. Let me tell you, I am extremely weak. Afterwards I worked with another junior in some two man drills. In the afternoon, I worked on more length game by playing many deep games. The night saw me participate in the local league. I was beaten soundly by my opponent but not because he was better than me. I’m just an idiot. Today, i woke up and couldn’t lift my arms at first. The gym workout had taken its toll. But i got over it and trained with the same junior player from yesterday until i had to do my 120. The 120 is a simulation ghost exercise of an 120 strike rally. IT’s TIRING. Afterwards I rested for some time and later played some games with Jacob and Steve, 72 in the world. 1

I have meet a lot of nice people here, but I am started to get sick of them complaining how cold it is here. It’s no colder than 45 degrees ever. There is no need for heavy coats and no chance of snow, yet everyone acts as if it were freezing. Still everyone is friendly and I have meet some really neat people. Until next time, Cheers.

Ben Rind 18-June-2007

Anyway, everything here is going great. It was a fun first week and all the people are really nice. Last Thursday, I started the day off with some 300 meter sprints and after almost a week of training I was feeling it in the legs. After the running, I joined up with Stuart, the junior I mentioned in the last email, and we did some two man drills for about an hour. In the afternoon, Stuart and I played some various restricted games focusing on deep play. Friday was a cool down day before the tournament started on Saturday. I hit around in the morning with Stuart, and then met up with Steve’s Canadian buddy who is staying with us as well. We spent the afternoon messing around. Saturday was the first day of the tournament. I was crushed by a highly ranked player. The second day of the tournament also did not go well. I lost in four to a player who I could of beaten. (on a side note I broke a racket after snapping it in two pieces at the shaft, it was not out of anger I swear, I went for a tight boast and the racket snapped at the shaft). Monday, I played an easy match, winning in three. Tuesday I had a bye, so I watched Stuart play his final. Unfortunately he lost, but being 2nd in the state isn’t bad. Later I worked out with Sacchi, a Japanese player who stays with us, and Nick, Steve’s Canadian friend. Well that’s been everything so far. Later.

2 3

Ben Rind 28-June-2007

Okay, so I have been up many fun things and some not so fun. On Sunday, I started the day with a round of pressure sessions, high intensity drilling. That afternoon I played alternating games with Nick, the Canadian staying at the house, and Brenden, an Aussie who has pent some time in the D.C. area teaching at Georgetown and playing at Results. Monday started with a gym workout. In the afternoon, I did some length based drills with Marc and Nick. Tuesday was a day off. We traveled to where James, a friend of Rod and Connie’s, lives and went on a hike up a mountain. The climb became to steep for us to reach the top, but the scenery was great. Wednesday it was back to the oval for some more 300 meter fitness work, and the afternoon was filled with length games with Nick and Harry, a U-19 player. Afterwards, Marc was off the the State of Origin rugby match between Queensland, the good guys, and New South Wales. Marc likes to think the State of Origin rivals the Super Bowl, but it isn’t even close. Thursday we got up early and traveled to the Gold Coast. There we did some fitness work on the beach which wasn’t as fun as it would seem. Then we had breakfast, perused a mall, and relaxed on the beach. That evening Nick, Julius, the Aussie U-17 number 2, and I played some more length games for a couple hours. Today started with Gym work, and the afternoon involved some pressure sessions and deep drills.

Ben Rind 6-July-2007

4Run up this! (Ben Rind and friends doing ‘Dune Sprints’ at Moreton Island off Brisbane, Australia)    

On Monday morning, Marc, Nick, Julius, and I traveled to the banks of the Brisbane river. There we ran a flight of very steep steps for about an hour. Afterwards we got breakfast at Garden City Mall and wandered around a bit. Afterwards we were given the night off to rest. Sachi and Steve also returned to the house that night so now there are six of us living here. On Tuesday, we started off with a gym workout and then some drills. The afternoon session included length drills with Sachi and Steve. That night I played pro-league and won my first pro-league match 10-8 in the fifth. On Wednesday, Nick, Sachi, Julius, and I did a hard 32 minute session of pressure drills. Later we traveled to the Gold Coast and relaxed on the beach and went to the shops. Thursday, Marc, Sachi, Nick and I got up early and caught a ferry and went to Moreton Island. There we ran up an 80 meter sand dune. (It was like running the Cavalier hill but instead of grass there was sand). We came back had dinner and I went off to play a Super-8 league match and won in 4. This morning, Friday, we watched Steve play a friendly match with Stuart Boswell, the world number 10 (he’s good). Afterwards I did some really routine drills with Nick. This afternoon, we are planning to play some restricted games.7

Ben Rind 13-July-2007

It is time for another weekly update from your man across the world. Everything is great here, gearing up for the tournament everyone is playing in this weekend. The week has been fun, on Monday I did speed training with ghosting with Sachi. Monday afternoon Nick and I played some restricted games. Tuesday morning started in the Gym followed by some drills with Nick. Tuesday afternoon I had a solo session playing drives, lots of drives. 11Tuesday night I had a pro-league match against Sachi. She beat me pretty badly in the first two games, but the third game was more closely matched even though I still lost 10-8 after being up 8-5. Wednesday morning was another exciting session of drills with Julius and Nick and a few games with Brendan. In the afternoon, we did a set of 660 meter runs followed by dinner. On Thursday, Julius, Nick, and I were put through a set of pressure sessions by Marc. we were given the afternoon off and I enjoyed some well-deserved relaxation. Today we again went to the gym followed by some solo work. Today is more of a relaxed day due to the upcoming tournament. I’ll let you know how the tournament goes. 9

Ben Rind 20-July-2007

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Prolotherapy and my remediation journey.

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As most of my friends and acquaintances know I have been unable to play squash for well over a year due to knee issues, degeneration of the cartilage being the main culprit. I have been working with the wonderful Dr Steven Bernstein (Summit Orthopedics and AussieNick) during this time, however an arthroscopy in January 2007 showed that little could be done barring a knee replacement. ‘Fine’ I said ‘ let’s do it.’
‘Not fine,’ said Steven, at least not for several years.

I have played squash for 30 years on average 3- 4 times per week and coached up to 7 hours per day – no wonder my joints were starting to complain. What do you do when your doctor tells you that you can’t participate in something that has made up a major part of your life – socially, physically, psychologically – determining who you are – your job, sense of self and place in the community. There are two ways to go – one was to yell, scream, rant and shout about how unfair life is the other is to take it philosophically ‘well 30 years is a pretty good innings, I can go and explore other activities etc’. Ok so I went the latter route much to the amazement of my close friends. The process was aided by my job which now sees me in more of managerial capacity overseeing programming for Sport & Health squash and racquetball at a dozen clubs.

So I hit the elliptical and swam and aren’t those two activities a hoot! OK so they aren’t that bad, they are just not for me – the main reason being that I can’t socialize while doing them. I asked Steven again about the knee replacement, however he wouldn’t budge.

Patricia, a friend and fellow squash player mentioned that her knee had greatly improved since a few sessions with prolotherapy…..prolo what? I found out that it is an injection (well lots actually) of fluid (with sugar or other substances) into the problem area seewww.prolotherapy.com At the same time, David who spends his life on the net, sent me the same link, ‘why not try this’ he said.

I met with Dr Gheen and asked for a referral. The referral was to a Racquetball pro who had similar issues to me. She had played for 3 decades, experienced success in National and International tourneys then experienced knee issues. She stated that her knee had improved 75% over the 4 or so sessions she had received. ‘No way,’ I thought, I’d be delighted if I could get 30% better meaning I would not have to wear my brace when coaching after this amount of sessions. I checked with Steven who said ‘It won’t hurt you.’

Off I went to Rockville for my first session, the first 21 injections (tiny nip like things) didn’t hurt (they were the numbing injections) however the real 21 injections that followed were ‘interesting’ – an unusual sort of pain that goes right through the bone (a little like the pain I experienced with a cortisone shot). ‘Yes,’ agreed Dr Gheen, it is a funny pain.’ Actually funny was not the word that came to mind and it was a little painful but all over in a couple of minutes and then painkillers (Tylenol) needed for the next 36 hrs.

So did it work?

I’m surprised to say that it did, I have improved 30% after the first session. I was able to get on the elliptical for 30 minutes without my brace and also to walk 1 mile without my knee feeling substantial pain. (I have not been able to do this since last year). My goal for the series of 3 or 4 sessions was to have been able to coach without a brace, well I’ve already done that. Time to refine this to a fairly ambitious goal – to play Div 3 standard.

Aug 20 – 2nd session.  Much less painful injections. More to follow later in the week

Connie Barnes 20-August-2007

Site AdminProlotherapy and my remediation journey.
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Greg Berson in Australia

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Preamble – Greg Berson attended AussieNicks Australian summer camp in July 2009 for 2.5 weeks. He was coached by one of the finest Australian squash coaches AussieNicks own Marc Forster and lived and trained with these outstanding players –trio

Steve Finitsis PSA player world ranking #98

Luke Forster – PSA player world ranking #231

Courtney West – PSA player world ranking #308

Bethany Brazier – #2 Aust  Girls u/15

Greg says –

kangorroBefore this summer I was told by Connie and Rod Barnes that I could go to Australia if I really wanted to improve my squash game. I did more than that. I was able to not only in my opinion boost my squash to a new level but I also was able to tour a foreign country and learn many life skills. I was put an environment where everyone was much much better than me at squash. But, by the end I was comfortable playing with the top coach in Australia or hitting the ball with the let alone the top players in Australia but the top players in the world.

I was in a house where no one was close to my age but through time I was able to adapt and become as they call themselves in Australia a  true “squashie.” Also through my experience I was able to learn how lucky I was to get the experience to play with other squash players that were at such a high level. By the end I was taking advantage of every opportunity to grow not only a squash player but a person. When I  wasn’t playing squash I was either sleeping, at the beach or doing something to make my experience worthwhile. I can say without a doubt that my experience this summer in Australia was life-changing on and off the court. I would recommend it to anyone that loves squash and wants to be better.koala

Greg Berson

Site AdminGreg Berson in Australia
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