Adopting the correct grip is essential to a new squash player’s development. There is almost no other element that is as singularly important during the first few months of coaching as the grip. Starting out with an incorrect grip can cause problems for the player when learning more advanced shots and skills so reinforcing the correct grip in the early stages of their squash development is important.
Unlike in tennis, the same grip is used for all shots in squash, on both forehand and backhand sides.
Players that fail to adopt the correct grip early on – which could mean a period of uncomfortable adaptation if the player naturally grips the racket differently – will struggle to progress beyond the beginner level which can cause a lack of progress and, ultimately, demotivation for the sport as their peers improve at a faster rate around them.
How to form the correct grip
- Start by holding up your playing hand and forming a “V” shape between the base of the thumb and forefinger
- Hold the racket out in front of you parallel to the floor so you are looking down the shaft of the racket, with the racket head pointing up and down at 12 ‘o clock and 6 ‘o clock.
- Place the V so that the top left hand corner of the shaft runs into the V you created in step 1. Looking down the racket shaft, if the butt of the racket was a clockface, the V should be lined up somewhere between the 10 ‘o clock and 11 ‘o clock position. (12 ‘o clock is too closed, and 9 ‘o clock is too open.)
- Spread the fingers out when gripping the racket, especially the spacing between the forefinger and middle finger. The forefinger is like a “trigger finger” and is used to control the racket head and should grip the handle further up than the other fingers
- The grip should create an open racket face (strings should face the ceiling)
- The grip should be held firmly but not too tightly (e.g. coach should be able to pull the racket out of the player’s hand with a small amount of force)
- Most importantly, the position of the “V”, at all times should be between 10 and 11 ‘o clock – whether playing a forehand or backhand shot. While the position of the wrist will change for these shots, the grip remains the same.
Common issues to watch out for
- Holding the racket like a hammer – fingers too close together.
- Closing the racket face with the grip by gripping the racket past 11 o’ clock.
- Holding the racket too tightly – white knuckles!
- Changing the grip when switching from the forehand (right side of the court for right-handers) to the backhand side (left hand side of the court for right-handers)
A note about “shaking hands”
We have often heard coaches using the term “shaking hands” as a way to describe how to form the grip. However, we don’t care much for this term. If you naturally shake hands with the racket when held out in front of you as described, you will actually grip the racket in a closed position, which is more similar to a tennis grip than a squash grip. It is better to think about the alignment of the “V” shape between your thumb and forefinger being at 10 to 11 ‘o clock than “shaking hands.”
Why the correct grip can often feel “uncomfortable” or “awkward” for beginners
Athletes in many sports must go through periods of adapting their technique away from something which they find naturally comfortable to a technique that is proven to be correct. This may involve working exclusively on breaking old habits in order to improve.
In squash, the most common problem area for beginners is with the grip. This is typically because, with a limited skill level, some students find it is possible to hit the ball harder with a closed racket face, which is naturally created with a closed grip. This brings about a sense of immediate gratification and satisfaction early on (and let’s face it – who doesn’t enjoy hitting the ball hard?!)
However, the closed grip has a major knock-on effect which drastically limits the player’s ability to improve, which is this:
The closed grip forces the player to adopt an incorrect swing – either a flat swing, or (worse!) a top-spin swing like that found in tennis (starts low and finishes high). The correct swing in squash for almost every shot is one which creates a downward angle on the ball (“hitting down” or “cutting” the ball). This type of swing typically starts with a middle-to-high backswing, and cuts in a downward motion onto the back of the ball. This creates the control and precision necessary to play shots into all areas of the court. It is only possible to create this swing shape if the player is already gripping the racket correctly.
Therefore, re-learning the grip unfortunately will almost certainly mean re-learning how to prepare and swing the racket – that’s a lot of skills to re-learn! This is the reason why we place such an emphasis on the grip early on, and also why using the correct grip can be “awkward” or “uncomfortable” to begin with. It typically takes beginners anywhere from a few weeks to a few months to fully adapt to the correct grip if they started out on the wrong track.
The key message is: be disciplined with yourself, and don’t give up!