Tag Archive | Coaching

Press release: The Millman Experience and Richard and Pat Millman are joining Scenic City Squash in Chattanooga!!

We are excited to announce that the Millman Experience will be moving to a new home as of February 27th 2017.

Richard Millman will be joining Scenic City Squash in Chattanooga Tenessee as Director of Squash and Pat Millman will be joining him as Assistant Director. The Millman Experience will have its new base of operations at Scenic City Squash.

” I am absolutely delighted to be able to join Scenic City Squash and Mike and Taylor Monen. The Monens are squash crazy and are highly motivated to help grow the game – not just at Scenic City Squash but everywhere. Their passion for our game exactly mirrors the passion that Pat and I have for the people of Squash and for the sport itself,” said Millman, the owner of The Squash Doctor Corp and the originator of The Millman Experience.

Millman’s first priority will be to develop Scenic City Squash’s programs at all levels, whilst simultaneously developing the Chattanooga club as a ‘go-to’ destination for the development of the game both in terms of coaching and tournament play.

Mike Monen, the owner of Scenic City Squash said,

” We are so excited to bring Richard and Pat Millman into our Scenic City Squash Family. It’s seriously a dream come true and I look forward to working with them to make Scenic City Squash the absolute best it can be. I look forward to what the future brings and making a life long friendship with the Millman squash family. ”

Millman will offer The Millman Experience at Scenic City Squash and will welcome students of the game from all over the world to study with him at the Tennessee club. He will also continue to attend major masters events and will take players from Scenic City Squash with him both to tournaments and on tour to the UK and elsewhere.

(Below: photos of Scenic City Squash, Richard Millman, Richard and Pat Millman, The Millman Experience.

Philosophy, Analysis, Practicality, Strategy and Execution in Squash. A five part series by Richard Millman. Part 2: Analysis

Phlilosophy, analysis, practicality, strategy and execution in Squash.
A five part series, by Richard Millman.

Part 2. Analysis

As I said in the first of this series of five articles, the central pillar and most important priority in the game of Squash, and indeed in the struggle for life itself, is survival.

This powerful and apparently simple principle, is much less than simple to adhere to, however. In the complex application of behaviors that we see in Squash, the essential principle of life and death is often forgotten and is eclipsed by behaviors that should be being used to survive but, for various reasons, are given such focus and attention, that they improperly take on a life of their own and receive undue or misplaced attention – ultimately to the detriment of their original essential purpose.

In order to develop as a Squash player it is essential to clearly analyze and clearly understand the capacities required to survive, without becoming sidetracked.

In the battle for life, ultimate survival is a punishing razor’s edge where complacency or mis-judgement, over-confidence or loss of focus, have only one outcome:
Death.

Since time immemorial, human beings have been engaged in the battle for survival against other species and against our own species.

Whichever it was against, two key traits were and are required in order to succeed, overcome and survive. These two traits are as true today as they were a million years ago or however long ago it was that our ancestors first fought to survive.

These two traits work in combination, are as important as each other, are interdependent, but must never be confused or used as substitutes for one another.

The first can be termed ‘Primary focus.’

Primary focus is used to ‘attend’ to a human being’s most immediate and urgent matters at hand (more on the much mistaken concept of attention in a later part of this series).

In primeval times it may have been used to follow the spoor or trail of prey, or to attend to a Grizzly bear that suddenly confronted you, or a hostile member of our own species who was attacking.

On the Squash court Primary Focus is concerned with the ball.
Only the ball.

The second of these essential traits that work in concert for our survival can be termed ‘Peripheral Awareness.’

Peripheral Awareness is used to continuously scan your surroundings and the environment around which a human being’s most immediate and urgent matter at hand is transpiring.

In primeval times it may have been the forest around the trail you were tracking to ensure that you didn’t step on a dry twig and give your presence away or break your ankle stepping into a gopher hole, it may have been detailed awareness of the immediate area in order to escape or trap the Grizzly bear confronting you, it may have been knowledge of the obstacles around you and your attacker as you fought for survival – to ensure that you didn’t lose your footing or have your ability to maneuver thwarted.

On the Squash court Peripheral Awareness is concerned with everything except the ball.
It is what we use to continuously be intimately familiar with the entire court and our place within it.
It is what we use to continuously be aware of our opponent’s position, their options,the angles of possibility of those options and the best location from which to equilaterally defend the court against the specific options of that moment.
It is what we use to continuously be aware of imminent happenings such as the opponent imminently hitting the ball or the ball imminently hitting the nick or ourselves imminently running into a wall or our opponent or their racquet.
It is what we use in the process known as Hand/Eye coordination – a vastly useful tool that humans use in the survival process, not just to strike a moving object, but to judge the intersection of any moving objects – and that with a level of accuracy that is as extraordinary as it is microscopic.

It is what we use in an inextricable partnership with our Primary Focus to attempt to avoid death.

These two then, are the tools of human survival and success.

We use them to manage the commodity of survival.

But what is the commodity of survival?

That which a surfeit of means life and a lack thereof turns us into slaves and even leads to death?

It is non other than Time itself.
That monstrous, slippery, never-ending, fickle, resource.

The dance of life and death wherein human beings have used the two vital perception systems that I have described, Primary Focus and Peripheral Awareness, in order to lethally manage Time, is as old as mankind and as paramount today as it was then and all the days between.

It was and is still the difference between you and the Tiger’s jaws, between you releasing your arrow and the Antelope escaping, between your swerving body and your opponent’s sword tip or your sword tip and their body, and in Squash between you and the ball being struck by your opponent and then bouncing twice and between your opponent and you striking the ball and it bouncing twice.

It is a minuscule amount of time that when marginally increased by stealing it from your opponent or expanding it through management of your actions, can make you feel enormously powerful; conversely that minuscule amount of time can be rapidly lost by loss of focus or poor decisions or by incapacity and suddenly you are the most miserable pauper in the world.

Survival is determined by your capacity to balance time in your favor. But that balancing act is performed on a razors edge and unless you have analyzed just precisely what is required to survive and prepared yourself to be able to practically do so, disaster awaits you.

The tools at your disposal: Primary Focus and Peripheral Awareness.

The task you must perform with those tools: The management of the time between you and the ball being struck and bouncing twice.

The prize: Survival – in the face of the opponent’s efforts to do so.

But how do we practically manage time? What are the necessary assets and skills required to effectively manage these tools that we have carefully analyzed? And what are the pitfalls?

In my next article I will discuss the Practicality of Survival.

Richard Millman
1/13/16

The Millman Experience weekend club program

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The Millman Experience

The Millman Experience
  I’m here at the US Junior Open coaching several of my up and coming students.

Between coaching assignations, I have been watching the other games and today I hit on something that may be of interest to you.

It was certainly interesting to me.
The quality of play here continues to escalate; technically, strategically, physically – although understandably the emotional state of young athletes, fighting for their place in the pecking order of life, continues to be a bit wobbly – as does some of the behavior of coaches and parents who are also desperate for them to succeed – although even that seems less animated this year.
But within the confines of that superior play, I have noticed some interesting trends.
Depending on how experienced you are, you may or may not know that most players start off playing squash with much more confidence in their forehand strokes than in their backhands.
However if and when they become experienced and advanced players their backhands become their better sides. 
This has to do with the fact that the natural forehand stroke is a pulling and throwing action that, if overdone, tends to lead to the ball being pulled away from the sidewall, whereas the backhand action is more of a directed, uncoiling action, that is easier to push along the wall away from the body as opposed to the ball being pulled across the body.
However, I believe the degree to which the backhand becomes unduly focused upon has a number of other contributory factors.
For one, few dynamic young players can resist the opportunity of ripping a hard forehand when the opportunity arises. As a consequence, attention to forehand length directional control and pace variation is a rare attribute in young squash players. 
Here at the US Junior Open, players that set up and float tight balls down the forehand side are in a small minority – whereas they almost all do that exceptionally well on their backhands.
There are other reasons too, for this strong desire to rip the forehand toward the opponent’s backhand. 
Most players and coaches when working at beginner/intermediate level focus on playing the ball to the opponent’s weaker backhand.
Hence Mark Allen’s email handle ‘ Lobtohisbackhand.’
But once players reach a level of proficiency in returning deep backhands, I wonder if this love affair with attacking the deep backhand actually becomes a hangover that is much less productive and is actually destructive, in so far as it discourages the development of quality, controlled, forehand play?
I had the pleasure of chatting about this today, with that great doyen of French and World Squash, Thierry Lincou – now the Head Coach at MIT.
I posited the following theory to him:
Left handed players develop in a different environment to right hand players ( there being less of them) and necessarily learn to rally on their forehand sides against the consistency of the right handed backhand.
In my experience, lefties don’t rip their forehands anywhere near as much as righties ( they get less opportunity and it is much riskier against the tight righty backhand).
However they do have similar backhand development for the same mechanical reasons I mentioned earlier.
On the other hand lefties don’t get as much exposure to patient careful backhand rallies as righties do – because the righties can’t resist ripping their forehands most of the time. Perhaps the lefty’s backhand makes the righty a little more disciplined, but to be honest, I think most righties – unless they have really trained on this specifically – can’t free themselves from the rush of adrenaline they feel when they get the chance to crack the ball, from half or three-quarter length. This usually means the righty doesn’t get forward to intercept on the volley as often on the forehand as they do on the backhand, because they don’t consider/manufacture the time they need to get forward when they rip a forehand.
So here’s a thought from this old coach:
What if we made sure that our righty players regularly trained with either lefties of their own level or above, or with a lefty pro?
Would this increase the quality of control and pace that righty players developed and discourage the desire to just whack the ball on the forehand?
Thierry thought about it for a moment and then relayed his strategy when he was a player, when playing lefties.
He told me that he would always build a backhand game plan against Peter Nicol or Amr Shabana based on hitting to the backhand deep.
He said that the reason for this was that he knew that they were confident on the forehand side but less so on the backhand and that he could usually get an opening.
I find this very interesting.
At first blush, one could be forgiven for thinking that Thierry was positing the old ‘Lobtohisbackhand’ strategy – until you stop and remember that in Nicol and Shabana we are talking about two of the greats of out game. They didn’t have technical flaws like some Under 13 boy or girl.
No.

 

What I believe Thierry had struck upon was how much practice Nicol and Shabana had in competition, playing deep on their backhand sides.
Clearly it was more than in junior competition, because James Wilstrop and Nick Matthew don’t just rip it when it comes to their forehands, but even so, I suspect that the time that they spent deep on their backhand sides was appreciably less that deep on their forehand sides.
So, as a result of this discussion and my continuing observations, I have to conclude that if we wish to see the continuing development of quality in junior squash, planning regular training with lefties is a must if righties are to bring the quality of their forehand organization, execution and pace control up to or close to the level of their backhands.
Of course if we do that, Thierry won’t be able to get so much mileage out of playing deep to the lefty backhand – because the lefties will improve too.
Which is of course good for us all, because everyone and Squash as a community, will step up another notch in this ever evolving game.
Oh and by the way, could all the lefty coaches that find their business increasing after this article please forward my 10% commission check via Pay Pal?
Thanks.
Richard Millman

December 20th 2015

At the US Junior Open at Trinity College, Hartford, CT. 

Announcing the next installment of ‘The Millman Experience’ : Intensive training weekends for competitive Squash enthusiasts of all levels. October 17. 18.19, 2014 at Meadow Mill Athletic Club in Baltimore.

image

Photo Courtesy of Will Carlin

PLEASE NOTE DATE CHANGE: NEW DATE OCTOBER 17,18,19 – 2014

Hi folks,

I am writing to invite you to another edition of ‘The Millman experience’, my intensive training program for competitive Squash enthusiasts of all ages at Meadow Mill Athletic Club, in Baltimore on the weekend of October 17th, 18th and 19th, 2014.

The schedule will be as follows:

Friday October 17 – 5pm-8.30pm

Saturday October 18 – 10am-4pm ( break for lunch at 12.30pm)

Sunday October 19 – 9am-1pm.

Once again I will have videographer Franklin Sayers at this session all day Saturday and will supply a DVD to those that have completed the full program.

The cost of the weekend will be $400 ( including the CD)

Those wishing to do less than the full weekend are welcome to apply.
The cost per daily session will be as follows:

Friday 5-9pm $135
Saturday Full day 10am-4pm $200.
Sunday $135.

People coming for the full program and those that have attended in the past will be given priority although I hope to fit everyone in. There will be a limit of 16 places.

This will be an exciting and intense training and learning weekend and participants should be ready to work hard throughout.

There are several nice bed and breakfast locations near the club and also the Radisson Cross Keys on Falls road where you can receive a discount by mentioning ‘Meadow Mill.’

Please email me to reserve your participation at: millmansquash@gmail.com

thanks and I look forward to working with you on your game.

best

Richard

Sent from my iPad

Mind/Body – How does your Competitive philosophy affect your mechanical and strategic performance?

As I approach my thirty-eighth year as a professional Sports coach, I find myself increasingly intrigued by the philosophical aspect of competitive development and coaching itself as a field of study.
Many wise coaches over the history of our profession – even back to the days of our true ancestors – the fencing masters and the sergeants at arms and gladiatorial instructors – have routinely declared that 95% of what we do is mental and that the skills that must be learned in order to participate – no matter what the level of excellence achieved – are merely tools and are in reality the entry fee that must be paid to get in to the party. What you do once you have gained entry – that is the crucial part.
This being the case, I cannot help but feel that importance attached to certain areas in the development process are not only given disproportionate quantities of attention but, in point of fact, whilst well meant, do a great deal of damage.

Let me explain.

I have a pet saying that when I look at a competitor performing, what I am seeing is a physical representation of the ideas in that competitor’s head.

Therefore if the philosophy is flawed, no matter how hard the competitor works on mechanics and skills, ultimately the competitor is doomed.

You may work as hard as you like on running a race, but you can only win if you are on the right course.

In my field of competition, the Sport of  Squash, competitors become distracted by the huge volume of attention given to winning and losing, rankings and rivalries, outcomes rather than performance.

This in turn manifests itself in mistaken philosophies and assumptions that misdirect competitive development.

Not only this, but because philosophy directly contributes to mechanics, the physical execution of skills are compromised through a failure to understand ultimate priorities.

Language, as we know both to our benefit and to our cost, is a very powerful tool and so before we speak – and that includes self-talk – we must make sure that we understand the consequences of the words/advice we offer or hear.

For instance a simple example of a philosophy that has disastrous consequences in Squash, is the concept of trying to hit ‘a winner’ – ( a finishing shot).

To the unthinking or the uninitiated this may seem a harmless expression.

But let’s follow through the philosophy:

If a player is attempting to play ‘ a winner’ they are attempting to end the game.

If they are committing to ending the game, how much will they focus/work on the continuation of the game beyond the shot that they are attempting to win with?

None is the answer, because in their minds they are hoping/intending to finish.

Should the opponent retrieve or worse still counter attack against the attempted ‘winner’, the player is unprepared for the next phase of the game – having committed to the end and having made no plan for the future.

But this is not the end of the story.

When a player attempts to play ‘a winner’ it seriously affects the physical and mechanical technique employed.

When attempting to bring play to a halt, the player becomes static – focused as they are on stopping rather than continuing the play. As a result they only employ their upper body strength as in focusing on stopping – they don’t employ their legs to move into position (as they execute their shot) in order to be prepared for the opponent’s possible reply. Why should they? In their mind there isn’t going to be a reply so why move to cover?
As a consequence of not dynamically recruiting the powerful muscles of the legs and thereby creating an energy wave that will flow smoothly and uninterrupted up through their bodies, through their arms and into the ball and at the same time alleviating all stress in the arms to enable the arms , hands and fingers to precisely control the ball – the opposite occurs and the upper body becomes stiff, prevents smooth and precisely controlled weight transference and produces a tight inaccurate, emotionally charged attempt – which frequently results in an error.

I am sure that there are exactly equivalent behaviors in the competitive business world.

All this from a seemingly innocuous expression – ‘ a winner.’

The expression ‘winner’ of course is a description of an outcome that has occurred in the past, not something that should be attempted in the future.
Competitors  should ‘attack’ with gusto, always remembering that highly talented opponents will almost always retrieve those ‘attacks’ and that one should therefore always assume a need have a plan in place for the continuation of the play.
If by some chance the opponent doesn’t retrieve the attack even though you expected them to, then you are in the happy position of having covered every eventuality. And of course because your philosophy was to ‘attack’ without making any prediction as to how successful your ‘attack’ would be, your body has been employed dynamically and thus has produce mechanics which have resulted in the best possible combination of power/weight transference originating in your active legs which in turn was funneled through the precision oriented, relaxed and sensitive, unstressed arms, hands and finger – all in a seamless and natural progression which facilitated both protection for your self ( the primary focus) and pain for your opponent ( an important but secondary focus).

To summarize: Competitive skills must not be developed in isolation from the philosophy of the competition.
Over concentration on ‘how’ to perform a skill rather than on ‘why’ to perform a skill will lead not only to poor strategy but poor execution.

Competitors  must firmly understand their purpose in all of their behaviors otherwise they will emphasize physical and mechanical movements that are counter productive.

In general we in the Competitive world need to direct all of our activities toward putting us ahead on the timeline.

Much is spoken of staying in the moment – but this refers to the physical and mechanical execution of skills being well delivered and not distracted by concerns about possible final outcomes.

In point of fact Competitive people need to focus on remaining physically up to date ( in the present) but mentally slightly ahead ( in the future) to be successful.

Forgive me for misquoting the great Wayne Gretsky, but he is credited for ‘ not wanting to go to where the puck is, but where the puck is going to be.’

That, in a nutshell, is what Competition is about. Keeping your mind being prepared for what could happen next and making sure that whatever you are doing now puts you in the best position to strengthen your situation.
This may mean attacking, defending or both in various ratios.

Always prepare for the worst. Attack like a demon when you can, but never over commit, never become complacent. Hurt your opponent over and over again, but make no assumptions as to how effective your attack will be. A wounded opponent can be a lethal enemy, so keep your guard and your position up until nothing comes back.

Here is the sequence that I believe produces the best player development:

1. Study and understand the philosophy of the game understanding that in order to survive one must always think ahead.
2. Develop movements and skills that adhere to that philosophy.
3. Condition the mind, emotions and body to be able to execute the movements and skills that are in line with the philosophy of the game.
4. Continually review, reappraise and re-rehearse all of the above with an open mind.

With this formula I believe that both competitors and coaches can achieve their maximum potentials.

Richard Millman
Dec 9th 2013.

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