Cameron Pilley can hit a squash ball harder and faster than anyone in the world, 176 mph to be exact. That’s 71 mph faster than New York Yankee flamethrower Aroldis Chapman hurls a relief pitch, and 13 miles per hour faster than Australian Sam Groth can hit his record-setting tennis serve. Pilley, a lanky 34-year-old from Yamba, Australia, is ranked 12th in the world on the professional squash circuit. He set the record in 2014, extending his own previous record from 2011 by a single mile per hour (it happens about one minute in below).
Pilley says he was always a big hitter growing up, but that a growth spurt at age 17 — he’s six-foot-three — gave him the “long levers” he needed to break records. We asked him how he hits the ball so damn hard (and how you can, too).
All About the Base
Much of the power of Pilley’s shot comes from the legs and the proper transfer of body weight, which help increase the speed of the arm swing. To begin, Pilley says, “Take a fairly wide stance, just wider than shoulder width,” and do a slight sideways hop, then another slightly larger hop to give yourself the necessary forward momentum.
Like a Pendulum
To maximize your power, you want to complete a full arc with the racket. Pilley likens the motion to a pendulum swinging. Start your backswing high, almost to the point of exaggeration, while simultaneously throwing the ball up and letting it drop. “You want to hit the ball as you’re coming down, right at the bottom of your swing,” he says. “Let gravity do its work.” Don’t forget to swing hard: “You’re just giving it everything you’ve got.”
According to Pilley, letting go is vital, and similar to another sport where players hit a small ball at the bottom of a long swing. “Think about a golfer when they hit their drivers as hard as they can,” he says. “On impact, they just release everything: hips, arms, hands, legs. It’s the same with squash.” The swing should be smooth and organic, not tight and overly controlled.
The Follow Through
The point of contact isn’t the end of the powerful swing. “Don’t snap back or hold back after you’ve hit the ball,” Pilley says. “Release through it and have a nice, full follow-through.” Follow these simple steps, he says, and while you might not reach 176 mph, triple digits will be in your future.