Technical & tactical development of a kid degrades with adult equipment!
Recommendations are ordered. Start at the top and move down the list according to the kid’s level and size. Racquets, balls and eyewear should be kids appropriate!
3 & 4 year olds:
Hand Racquets: The closer the racquet head is to the hand, the easier it is to make contact with the ball. Hand racquets are the best way to get started and superior over conventional junior racquets. In addition, with hand racquets, there is no grip to worry about, so the wrist is more stable, so the shots are more accurate. Best to use with foam balls.
Junior Paddle Racquet: The closer the racquet head is to the hand, the easier it is to make contact with the ball.
-Beach Balls: Use the smallest ones you can find, because they are very light, they are very slow and ideal for hitting the ball along the floor.
-Foam Balls: We would start with the largest foam balls as they are heavier than small ones which let’s kids control the ball better, important at this very young age.
-Dunlop Mini Squash Ball: The smaller squash foam ball is lighter than tennis foam balls. Due to its lightness, it is easier to keep a rally going on the second or third bounce as the ball doesn’t travel very far.
5 & 6 year olds:
-Racquetball Racquets: The large racquet head that is close to the hand plus the lightness are ideal to start rallying.
-Speedminton Racquets: The racquet head is close to the hand and the racquet is light. The racquet head is smaller though than the racquetball racquet, contact is more difficult.
-Dunlop Junior Squash Racquet: Racquet head is close to hand and the racquet is light. The racquet head is smaller though than the racquetball racquet, contact is more difficult.
-Dunlop Mini Squash Ball. Due to its lightness it is easier to keep a rally going on the second or third bounce as the ball doesn’t travel very far. The lightness of the ball also teaches kids to use a very relaxed swing as the ball doesn’t travel very far without a fast swing. Low Compression Tennis Balls have an ideal rebound height of the floor for hits to learn a relaxed swing.
-Blue Dot Squash Balls: Only use real squash balls if kids are able to rally with them for at least 5 shots in a row.
7 & 8 year olds:
-Junior Squash Racquets: Almost all junior squash racquets have about the same length (except the Black Knight junior racquet). We recommend junior squash racquets for 7 year olds. Don’t be in a hurry to get too big a racquet.
-Black Knight junior squash racquet: This is the longest junior squash racquet and the ideal step up after using a regular size Junior Racquet like the Dunlop junior squash.
-Dunlop mini squash ball: great for newbies to squash, the slow bounce lets kids have long rallies and time enough to place the ball.
-Blue Dot Squash Balls: Ideal for kids who already played. I would discourage you from using the yellow dot squash ball as kids don’t learn a well-rounded game with a double yellow dot squash ball that barely bounces.
9 & 10 year olds:
Black Knight junior squash racquet: Keep using this one until the kid is tall enough to use a regular, light, adult size racquet. Don’t be in a hurry to get an adult size racquet. The kids using the Black Knight junior racquet at this age have superior stroke mechanics compared to kids using adult size racquets. Or you can use any other junior racquet that has the same length as the Black Knight junior squash racquet.
-Blue Dot Squash Balls: Don’t be in a hurry to switch to the yellow dot squash balls. If the kids are not swinging at the ball with the yellow dot squash ball but merely lifting the ball to keep it in play, stay with the blue dot ball.
-Dunlop Progress Squash Ball: The Progress ball is 6% larger, heavier and most important, has 20% longer hang-time than the Pro Squash Ball (ball drops 20% later). This gives kids more time to hit and get to the ball. I am not a big fan of the Dunlop Max beginners squash ball as it is too heavy.
11 & 12 year olds:
Have kids use light (no more than ~ 135g) and head light adult racquets
13 & older:
Any adult racquets, however we would stay away from very heavy, head weighted racquets. Good swing speed is better learned with light racquets.
Important for coaching is to teach the kids in a way that let’s them reach their full potential long-term if they choose to do so. Using inappropriate equipment and focusing on short-term results will only limit your kids. The kids appropriate equipment makes it easier to develop the technique of an advanced adult game. Tactics can be learned and implemented faster because of the modified kid’s rules. Keep your kids play with the recommended equipment (& rules) for the mentioned 1-2 years and discourage them from using regular adult size equipment (& rules) until they’re ready. It is important to use all appropriate equipment depending on ages together. Only using kid’s squash racquets with regular double yellow dot squash balls and adult squash rules has minimal benefit and will impede their development. The kids need to use the appropriate racquet and ball and play with the appropriate rules for their age! The kids tactics change dramatically if they play with an adult racquet and low bouncing balls at a young age. The kids squash stroke mechanics would also evolve into something quite different than the proper squash stroke mechanics needed for adult squash game. They would play a different game more like super size squash. Kid’s equipment needs to be scaled to their growth and maturity stages. If kids play squash with kids appropriate equipment and rules, they are way more likely to develop a squash game that is much closer to an adult game. A kid who can barely lift the racquet in time will not develop great volley skills and tactics that come with it. Kids need to develop footwork patterns that top players use. They should be taught the tactical strategies and shots that top players use as early as possible. With regular equipment and rules this is impossible. Kids learn very quickly and very naturally and are capable of a high level of proficiency at a very young age. Don’t ignore quality and only improve quantity. Kids are not better players because they can keep a rally going 10x longer. Pushing the ball against the front wall with poor technique will limit a player’s future potential dramatically. Using kids appropriate equipment and rules speeds up the development of everything, technique, movement around the court, tactics and even mental skills.
- Swing acceleration: Kids appropriate equipment allows kids to accelerate the racquet through the impact zone. The “whipping” action is a critical skill to learn in today’s game where the strokes get shorter and flatter (if the racquet is too heavy, especially if head-weighted, kids don’t have enough strength to accelerate => the swing will decelerate and becomes more like blocking => no attacking action possible).
- Swing path: Kids will develop a larger variety of swing path as well as better control for various trajectories (up, down,level). With a heavy(especially head heavy) racquet, kids mostly only swing from low to high with a pulling action rather than acceleration.
- Swing rhythm: Better swing rhythm. Squash balls don’t bounce much, even the blue dot squash ball has a low bounce and can be a difficult ball to hit and maintain a rally(swing is rushed). The appropriate balls depending on age will increase the time available to hit the ball and learn a rhythm. Adults playing squash will heat up the ball and make it bouncier while playing, kids are not strong enough. E.g. the junior ball allows them to make contact with the ball at a kids appropriate, more comfortable height.
- Swing power source: Appropriate use of good body rotation from the ground up. With heavy racquets, kids will use too much body rotation (which also limits their technical development).
- Swing control: The grip is the most important aspect to control the racquet through the swing. It is easier to hold the racquet with a cocked wrist and maintain a firm enough wrist on impact that the racquet doesn’t turn around. Maintaining stability is a critical skill for advanced technique. With an adult racquet kids have a harder time to keep the racquet face open as a closed grip requires less strength. The lighter junior squash balls further help at a younger age to maintain a firm enough wrist as the impact shock of the ball is minimized. The use of the very low-compression ball or foam ball make it is easier for children to hit the ball at the right height and increases the likelihood that they will hold the racquet with a comfortable grip. Encourage children to hit the ball around waist height and to the side of the body. Use a variety of ball composition, compression, and size, conducive to the physical size and visual development stage of the kid. This not only makes it easier for kids to rally but also improve faster by adapting to different balls all the time, adaptation being an ever more critical part in outperforming and theme in developing young athletes.
- Time: With kids’ appropriate racquets and balls, the ball speed is slower and give kids more time to keep a rally going and think about where to place shots. Kids should learn as early as possible to place the ball at an advantageous place rather than just retrieving it. More time available also allows them to develop a larger variety of shots.
- Court size: Kids on a squash court have far more ground to cover than an adult. As a result, they tend to hit high shots which allows them to recover back to the T and chase shots down. The style of play becomes very defensive and it is difficult to develop a rhythm. With adjusted rules and appropriate equipment, kids can play a more appropriate game concerning court-size to be covered and speed to be played at. This will allow them to incorporate a varied game and develop their own style.
- Shot selection: Good volley development using adult equipment and courts is also unlikely. Adult racquets are too heavy to left in time to do much with the ball and the volley becomes just a block only. An unrealistic development with the coach basically feeding a slow ball to the kid doesn’t transfer to actual net play. Varying the ball is extremely difficult with a heavy racquet, barely bouncing squash balls and full court rules. If kids can barely hold the racquet with a firm enough wrist, spins, drops, angles and last minute changes of direction are difficult to say the least. Kids appropriate equipment allows the kids to develop both an attacking and defensive game full of variety, rather than just a defensive “keep the ball in play” style of play. Playing just consistent is not good enough in today’s game. Kids need to learn to take advantage of an opening and attack in a myriad of ways.
Rally ability advantages
Typically, with adult equipment and rules, coaches need to feed kids since they can’t do these things with each other. There is a poor transfer from doing the skill in a feeding situation to a game-play situation. Just like the new holistic, game-based coaching used in the ASB rainbow games, kids will be able to rally sooner by themselves by using kids racquets, balls and rules. If they rally together, each kid will hit the ball more times in a shared lesson than they do during an individual lesson. The majority of the hitting is between the two kids, not between the kids and coach. The extra repetition speeds up the learning process. By pairing kids together, the coach gets to tackle some of the mental issues that arise, such as losing temper, giving up, and choking. The pressures that cause these negative behavior traits hardly ever happen when a coach plays with a kid – they only come up when kids play against each other. If kids are able to rally among themselves, it allows the coach to watch the kids action in more detail (because he doesn’t have to pay any attention to hitting the ball), giving the coach a better chance of identifying the true cause of a technical or tactical error. Because of this, the coach can get to the route of a problem far quicker. Once the problem has been identified, it also allows the coach to jump in with one of the kids while the other one watches – to demonstrate what to look for.
The final technical advantage is injury reduction. The physical demands of the game on junior players has increased over the last decade. The speed of the game and the technique required to hit the ball harder with a shorter and shorter swing are being utilized by younger and younger players. This can be very hard on a developing body. The constant swinging of adult squash racquets especially if playing with double yellow dot balls, which barely bounces, over the greater distances of the adult sized court, creates unnecessary wear and tear on young bodies.
Ensure children have the best development path possible by using kid’s appropriate equipment. The improper equipment may result in younger players learning motor patterns that need to be overhauled later, causing a plateau in development that they may not recover from.
Super size Squash
Imagine being half your size with half your strength and age 7, playing super-size squash on a regular squash court with regular squash rules. Your squash racquet touches the ground when you hold it down at your side and you can only comfortably lift it with 2 hands. The regular double yellow dot squash ball most commonly sold barely bouncing. How difficult and motivating would it be to play “super size squash”? It would be challenging to say the least. Good coaches wouldn’t teach “Super size squash”. Success would be limited, transfer skills to an adult game would be poor, tactics and technique developed would be inappropriate. Consider the size and strength of the kids! All major sports adjust kid’s equipment. So should you for kids learning squash.