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What's in your Squash Bag?
from Squash Skills.com

Working on a coaching camp with a group of high-level juniors recently, one of the things we were discussing with the youngsters in respect to how they could set themselves apart as players, was the crucial importance of proper preparation – be it for training, competitive league matches, or as part of a tournament. Something that we looked at as part of this was what should be considered the most important and essential contents of a player’s squash bag. It’s amazing how many players of all levels simply cram a selection of hastily chosen kit into their bag moments before they leave through the front door, without really taking the time to consider exactly what items they might need, or that might prove useful in the event of different circumstances they may encounter.

To get some professional insight, we spoke to top young English PSA pro Adrian Waller to get a list of his typical bag contents, and his rationale for including them. Adrian is undoubtedly one of the most dedicated and consummate professionals I’ve worked with, so unsurprisingly his bag was pretty comprehensively packed. Amongst all of the more obvious items such as rackets, shoes, grips, balls, and sweatbands, there were a couple of things that stood out as being of potentially critical importance, yet that were actually some of the most frequently overlooked by so many of our young players.

Here are what we found to be the top 5 most often omitted items, that should really be considered staple contents of every diligent squash player’s bag:

Water Bottle

Although most squash clubs have water fountains in them, consider the frustration of just how often you get there to find there are no disposable cups available. Indeed, at our recent September Squashskills Camp we were confronted by this very problem, with a solitary water cooler stood in the far corner behind the courts with a very empty cup holder attached, leaving a lot of very thirsty campers! We were fortunate enough to be able to source a supply of plastic cups from the café upstairs, but staggering off of a swelteringly hot court at the end of a tough first game tie-break in desperate need of hydration isn’t going to be a great time to have to start running around the club looking for water receptacles!
Other potential problems including fountains located inconveniently 50m up the corridor, queues from other thirsty club users, and the dreaded ‘Out of Order’ sign, means that always remembering to carry your own refillable water bottle in your bag for quick and easy hydration between games should be somewhere near the very top of your list of kitbag priorities.

Skipping Rope

We’ve discussed the benefits of skipping on the site before, but a skipping rope remains one of the simplest and most effective multi-purpose training tools out there. Simple to pack and cheap to buy, all dedicated squash players should have one stored somewhere in their bag.
Incorporating some skipping into your warm-up is a great way to help elevate the heart rate and increase blood flow around the lower body, whilst requiring minimal surrounding space to work in. Skipping is also a great workout in and of itself, and can be a great addition to any conditioning session you’re planning – try working 30secs fast pace to 15secs slow and steady pace repeated 10-15 times, for a great short and sharp squash-specific skipping workout.

First Aid Kit

There are a wide range of general benefits to keeping a multi-purpose first aid kit in your bag, with things like plasters, blister remedies, and anti-inflammatories all very handy to have at your side for games/training. Having your own supplies of course, also helps avoid having to scrabble around looking for your club’s first aid kit to patch up a minor injury, which if experience is anything to go by will all too often only bear a couple of safety pins, a pair of rubber gloves, and a tube of out of date antiseptic cream anyway.
An even more important consideration for those who play in any structured or competitive tournaments however, is the risk of actually having to concede a match due to minor injury – most specifically, blood injuries. There’s a good slide presentation here that goes through some of the WSF rules relating to injury, and highlights the regulation relating to a cut/bleed that the player must be able to cover/stem the bleeding before they can play on. If they can’t, this may lead them to having to concede the match – having a basic first aid kit with plasters, tape, and some small dressings stored in your bag is a simple way to avoid this happening to you.

Diary

We’ve highlighted some of the main benefits and advantages to keeping a training diary here on the blog before, and it’s a great way to track your progress and evaluate your performances in your games/training. Unfortunately however, while some players may have the best of intentions to start logging and recording their matches and workouts, all too often they get home after their session and get side-tracked by other things, leading to brief half-remembered notes about their performance completed later in the evening or the next day. Without any real structure to record keeping, it’s easy to eventually just end up falling out of the habit completely.
One of the best ways to make keeping a journal a regular and automatic part of your training, is to actually keep your diary in your bag and make filling it in a part of your standard post-match routine. Taking 2mins at the end of your cool-down/recovery after sessions to jot down some notes about your performance while it’s still fresh in your mind soon becomes a habit, and getting into such a routine then allows you the ability to go back and revisit your thoughts and feelings about a session later on, and further reflect on what you did well and not so well in your performance in a little more detail. From there you can then begin drawing some conclusions and identifying patterns, to thus allow you to start making some practical interventions.

Bananas

Bananas have long been a staple part of the athlete’s diet, and they’re perfect for the squash player thanks to the range of nutritional benefits they contain all tied up in one quick and easy snack. Keeping a banana or two in stored in your bag ready for consumption before/during/after your match is a great way for the squash player to keep energy stores topped up, in the most healthy and natural way possible.
Bananas contain a number of useful nutrients, including fibre (useful for digestion), Vitamin B6 (used as part of the process of releasing energy from food), Vitamin C (vital for many functions of the musculoskeletal system), and the mineral potassium (essential for the body and which may potentially play a part in helping to prevent cramps). Allowing for taste, there are few better snacks available for the sportsperson.
Bananas also contain a healthier blend of sugars as compared to the average sports drink, while actually potentially being equally as effective in replenishing energy stores in longer duration activity - and certainly a lot cheaper!

with thanks to Gary Nisbet and Squashskills.com

Derek Thorpe says "There is always something new you may need. Whenever this happens, maybe your feet blister more than others, keep a small remedy/plasters or tapes in your bag. Everyone who plays often MUST keep at least one spare racket with them".