One of the challenging things about coaching squash is that it is a sport that involves many different athletic abilities – easy way to remember is to think about the “S’s”: speed, strength, stamina, suppleness.
The average length of a squash rally is about 10 seconds – however 20% of rallies fall into the 20 second plus range – and some of these may occur at crucial times in a match – so as squash coaches we need to assess our player’s ability to perform well in this time range.
The USTA has been using the Spider Test to assess anaerobic power (the technical name for anaerobic efforts in the 15-30 second range – for example a 200m race – longer than 30 seconds – for example a 400m race – is often referred to as anaerobic endurance). The advantage of standardized (used by many people in many locations) tests that are easy to implement (all you need is a court and balls) is that it makes comparison to a standard and between groups easy – if knowledge of others tests scores are readily available.
Results of physical tests are probably best used to monitor player progress as opposed to comparing to a standard or norm. The reason being is that the research support for relating performance on single physical tests to overall ability are mixed:
- Here is an example of a study that supports the use of tests: “The results yielded an accurate prediction of 95.5, 91.3, and 85.7% for National Team, DC, and ATC players, respectively, based on personal fitness variables, without including either gender or age.
- And here is one that found a low correlation between the Spider Test and tennis ability: “The correlation between rank from the results of the USTA Fitness Test and tennis ability was low (rs=.039)”.
For this reason, a squash coach does not want to waste a lot of time on complicated, involved tests. In this video I take my team through both the tennis Spider Test and a similar six-point test on a squash court in order to assess anaerobic power (ability to perform physically in a long tough rally lasting about 20 seconds).
Results from the two test showed that while they were not exactly equivalent, the squash test was close enough to the Spider Test to be used for the same purpose. My #1 player (Shanita) got a time of 16.38 seconds on the squash 6-point, and 16.45 seconds on the Spider Test. Squash balls were placed 1m out from the side walls, and 1 m out diagonally from the corners. Note that I would change the protocol to use tennis or racketballs to take finger dexterity (dropping or fumbling with the small squash balls) out of the equation. I would recommend giving a player three attempts to get their best time, with a rest of about three minutes between efforts (eliminate lactic acid).