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Why You Boast Too Much

March 19, 2013 in Squash Tips

Much to the dismay of squash coaches everywhere, a lot of beginner and intermediate players live and die by the attacking boast. Sometimes boasts can work, but more often than not, they simply don’t, which is something my game will attest to. Simply, the less I boast, the better I do. I hit less tins, leave less balls loose at the front court, and when I finally do boast, my opponent isn’t expecting it.

Boasting is really only effective if your opponent isn’t expecting it. Your goal should be to catch your opponent off guard with deception, and in order to do this, you have to train your opponent into thinking that you are going to hit a certain shot, such as a length, but instead hit a different one, such as a boast or drop.

Think of the analogy of playing fetch with a dog. If in your first throw, you try to fake the dog out, the dog will probably not fall for it because you haven’t trained it to react to what would happen in a proper throw. The dog has not seen you throw a proper throw, so it does not know how to react to a regular situation. Now, imagine throwing 10 throws in a row the exact same way, and on the eleventh throw, you make a fake. The dog will run to where the ball would have landed. You have trained the dog to react to your movements, and after the dog has become comfortable with the fact that you are going to throw the ball properly, the dog will anticipate the throw early and be caught completely off guard.

Unfortunately, your opponents in squash will be smarter than a dog, but in the heat of a high intensity squash match, similar rules do apply. In order to create effective deception, you have to train your opponent to take for granted that you are going to hit a certain shot.

There are plenty of squash videos on YouTube showcasing brilliant deception, and it is easy to get wrapped up in these amazing shots, such as the ones in this video, but it is important to recognize the context of the shot to see why it was effective. 0:16 seconds into this gruelling rally, James Willstrop (Blue) plays a boast that catches Ramy Ashour (White) completely off guard, causing Ramy to dive to stay in the rally. Ramy eventually recovers, but James plays another boast at 0:35 seconds that again catches Ramy off guard, leading to an eventual winner.

While this in an incredibly entertaining rally, it’s important to notice the score of the match. James is down game ball in the third, which means that the match has been going on for a long time, and Ramy has undoubtedly already seen James hit tonnes of straight length shots from that same position. James has trained Ramy to expect a straight length shot from that position, so when a boast is shot from the same spot with the same preparation, it becomes much more effective than it otherwise would be.

So essentially, the boast becomes more effective the less you hit it.