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.
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.