Start them early! Classes at McArthur Squash Center start for children as young as 6 years old. At this age hand-eye co-ordination skills are ripe for development, and the athletic movements needed to be successful in most sports can all be incorporated into squash classes; running, jumping, stopping, and turning movements are all a usual part of a weekly squash class.
Classes with the very young are typically 40 minutes long with at leasat half the time dedicated to squash specific activities - and the other half dedicated to the development of gross motor skills. Almost all of the skills learned are transferable across other sports.
As the age goes up, then so must the specificity of sports coaching; though most pre-teenage kids do not have muscle memory so ingrained that it can't be changed and/or adapted between sports. With good coaching, those coming to squash from a tennis background can switch backward and forward between the different swings and footwork patterns required to play both well. In the early years of learning the games have far more in common than they do apart.
With correct visual demonstration, junior squash players can soon learn to rally down the side wall with the same swing and footwork patterns that the top squash players in the world use. The only real limitation is size and strength so consideration must be given to what can be expected physically.
Too early on, many squash coaches make the mistake of over emphasizing the importance of hitting every ball hard to the back of the court. It's not that this isn't important as of course it is the basis of good squash, but if the strength is not there then the only way a young child can do this is with a lot of wrist, excessive hip rotation and a looped swing; and these are bad habits. A young players desire to produce power before they have the strength to do so is the number one impediment to their long term technical proficiency.
It's important that any coach working with young players takes a long term approach to development and place the emphasis on the process of hitting rather than the outcome of winning - which is most easily achieved in young age group competition by pounding the ball into the back two corners of the court.
Coach Allen is a firm believer in junior sized rackets, as well as the Dunlop Progress and Competition ball. He only wants to see a junior squash player transfer to a full sized racket, and double yellow squash ball when the correct stroke is well established.
Mark Allen E-mail: Mallen@boarsheadresort.com Tel:434-972-7424