While the challenge presented by the Coronavirus and its associated lockdown in many countries has impacted every level of the squash world, leading squash coach Rob Owen believes that the enforced suspension of the PSA World Tour has provided his star players with an unforeseen opportunity to improve their games.
Speaking on the latest edition of SquashXtra - the official publication of the PSA World Tour – Former World No.19 Owen, whose charges include Paul Coll, Charlie Lee, Josh Masters, Sarah Jane Perry, Nele Gilis and more, is bullish that his players can emerge from their enforced squash hibernation as more complete performers despite the season ending prematurely due to the virus’s impact.
Owen believes that the suspension can be seen as an unexpected plus, offering his players the opportunity to study video archives in order to undertake in-depth analysis of technical and tactical aspects, while also recovering from niggling injuries picked up through the campaign.
“I’ve got around 10 professionals that I work with on a full-time basis plus a couple I speak to and help out when I can,” said the 54-year-old, who is maintaining regular telephone contact with his charges as he looks to bolster his stable both mentally and physically through the dark months of the suspension.
“We closed my (Rob Owen) Academy two weeks before the official government directive lockdown as I felt this was the correct thing to do both socially and morally – it was
obvious that Covid-19 was about to become a far bigger issue than sport itself.
“Obviously, the lockdown is affecting everyone in different ways because every human being, and so by definition every squash player, is different and so it is important to treat every player on their own individual basis.
“But from speaking to all of my stable they are all in a good place and for me as their coach I intend to do everything I can to keep them there until we are good to go again.
Paul Coll (left) reached the Windy City Open final before lockdown, beating Karim Abdel Gawad (right) en route.
“Probably you are talking August or September, so in effect it is all about season 20/21 and I think that is a realistic start point. The big problem would be if things do not progress the way we hope and then you struggle for light at the end of the tunnel but right now it’s important to stay focused.
“I think there are three basic parts to squash. Physical, mental and the squash side itself encompassing technical and tactical aspects. I believe it is possible, even during the suspension of the tour, to use that and come back an improved player.
“One thing I am stressing to my players is that they use this opportunity to watch as much squash as possible – we are lucky in that we have fantastic archives now and you can learn so much technical detail from the great players of the past and present.
“Even the pros have bad habits and I have observed this plenty of times in solo practises but you take into account swing fluidity, racket head positioning, stance, impact points, footwork and there is so much you can be working on in a solo environment that can bring you back better.
“Tactically a player can also use this period to ask if he or she needs to change or develop their game. Do you need to be better defensively or have more variety in attack, are you tight enough down the walls and really hitting your impact points on the front wall? It’s a great opportunity to self – analyse.
“In physical terms most squash players have one leg that is stronger than the other and there is plenty that can be done to sort that along with a multitude of conditioning exercises. So, for me again there is plenty that can be carried out to improve in this regard.”