College Squash: Smith College is First Out of the Blocks!

The Smith College Squash Team is the first U.S. College Squash team to start the 2011-12 season!  The Smith College team started practice on Monday, September 12 at 4:30 p.m.

What was the topic of the first practice?  Smith Coach Tim Bacon, the only Level 4 Certified Coach with a Master’s Degree in Coaching in the world (and he is a Registered Mental Training Consultant and a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) introduced his team to the two tactical models the team will use to base their improvement plan on:  “The Egg Model” and the “System 3” zone model of tactics.  These models guide players in the shot selection based on the tactical context a player finds themselves in when about to play the ball (e.g., on defence in back of court with difficult ball).  The latest motor learning research has shown that a “tactics first” approach accelerates learning and improves match performance.

How and why was Smith able to start so early, and why are none of the other teams practicing?  According to Bacon “the NCAA rules concerning season length are the single most important factor in the extremely high America College athlete injury rate“. “Although well-meaning, no one in the NCAA has the sport science background to understand proper training planning and methodology – they are only administrators – the result being rules that restrict season to very short lengths – almost ensuring inadequate athlete preparation and high injury rates prior to very intense competitive seasons”. 

Many universities and colleges further contribute to high injury rates by further reducing the period in which athletes can train and play under coach supervision – for example the Ivy’s start their season on October 15, and the NESCAC schools on November 1.

A former coach, sport scientist and coach educator in the world-reknowned Canadian National Coaching Certification Program, Bacon has personally helped train more than 30 world champions, including an Olympic Gold Medalist in a number of sports. He took advantage of the NCAA Division III rules which allow every team (except those in conference that impose more restrictive restraints) to have a 19-week season.  Recognizing the need for periods of regeneration and the need to take into account academic stress (since it contributes to overall training stress), Bacon did not include the weeks of Fall Break and Thanksgiving Break in his official season.  He also uses a progressive start to scheduling practices – starting with twice a week and moving to five times a week, allowing his athletes time to adjust to both academics and squash – a very smart approach to College Squash!

Here is the team relaxing at the end of last season – Ben & Jerry’s at the coaches house!

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