Squash is a bit of a funny game when it comes to where you are trying to hit the ball. Most of the time you are trying to hit the ball off of the front wall so that it goes past you in to one of the back corners. Hitting the ball in to the back corner so that it does not come out is your objective but should it be your target? Continue reading
The title of this post isn’t an open invitation to vent your frustrations of the day, rather an important question about your thought process on court. This is an exercise in metacognition; thinking about your thinking.
I’ve discussed the concepts of deliberate practice and “10000 hours” in earlier posts, and those themes tie in well here. To review, several sports science/psychology studies have shown that it takes a minimum of 10000 hours of deliberate practice to truly master a sport (for reference, I am at about 8000 hours…and nowhere near a master). Continue reading
Movement in squash is critical. It is imperative to move well to and from the ball. Often though when we arrive at where we expect to hit the ball we might not be in the best possible position. This can happen for a couple of reasons. It can happen if we simply misjudge the ball or if the ball comes off of the wall unexpectedly. When this happens the ball will most often be in a poor position for us to hit. One of the most common errors that players make is not adjusting and hitting the ball when they are now out of position. Of course as we play and practice more this will happen less but when it does happen it is imperative, if you have the time to move your feet and get to the best position you can to hit a good shot. Continue reading
As squash players the lunge is something we are all familiar with. I was practicing movement in to the front court with the help of my coach and one thing that we were working on specifically was how far forward the leading knee can go. If your leading knee goes too far you can lose balance on the shot you are playing. Also if you go too far you will also not have the same strength to push back out of the corner.
Photo credit to SquashSite
I had a chance to discuss racquet preparation with the pro at my squash club today and we went over some things that I knew but were definitely good to have reinforced. Early racquet preparation has some real benefits. It gives you more options as to what shot to hit. It also improves deception making it harder for your opponent to figure out what shot you are playing. Another benefit is it allows you to adjust quicker to a ball that takes an unexpected bounce.
Having learned the sport in a relatively “rural” squash area, and now living in the biggest hotbed for junior squash in Canada, the topic of junior development is very interesting to me. I often think about the best ways to groom young players into stars, and try to figure out what key elements make or break a junior’s development. Hopefully there are some juniors or parents of juniors reading this!
My favourite shot in squash is a high soft cross court lob that catches the side wall and then dies in the opponents back hand corner. I prefer this over a flat nick in the front court, over a clinging drop and over a dying hard straight length. I find it extremely satisfying to win a point this way. I also like this shot because as long as it is hit relatively well I get time to get back to the ‘T’ and get in position to attack my opponents next shot. It is said that golf is a sport of misses and you need to minimize the trouble you get yourself in to and I believe this is true of squash as well.
I recently read a book entitled “Talent is Overrated” by Geoff Colvin. Clearly this is an attention-grabbing headline, and flies in the face of many people’s beliefs about world-class performers in all fields. The notion of the book is that natural talent/gifts don’t necessarily exist. Rather, greatness is a product of many factors conspiring to provide an opportunity for someone who is willing to dedicate almost their whole life to this task. The book goes to great lengths to dispel the myth that greats such as Mozart and Tiger Woods were simply gifted in music and golf respectively. The author explains that to become world-class, a person needs to complete a minimum of 10 000 hours of deliberate practice at their chosen activity (more on this number later). Even “child prodigies” like the two mentioned above had put in far more than 10 000 hours of study and practice before the age of 16; they weren’t simply better than the rest by nature.
I have definitely talked about mental confidence before but wanted to discuss from a little different perspective this time. I am sure we have all played against someone that is young, new to the game and really fit and can seemingly chase down any ball. Even when they can’t quite get it they often exclaim how close they were to getting the ball. They run all over the court and have a smile on their face while doing it. They look like they are actually having fun chasing the ball around the court. Why do they look this way? The obvious answer is more often than not the right one. They are having fun!
Mental confidence is critical in a squash match. Confidence can be fickle. It can come and go if you let it. What do you do if you are losing confidence?
The most important thing I believe to start is to be aware of your loss of confidence and the negativity that is associated with it. There will be days that you are not hitting the ball as well as you expect. That can definitely lead to a loss of confidence. Be aware of it and take mental action once you start to feel negative about your squash game. What mental action should you take though? There are a number of options and some will work better for some than others.
Focusing on something positive is one method that can often work. Thinking of a match or even a good practice session where you were hitting the ball really purely can help regain confidence. Think about what you were doing right at that time and have that positive memory replace the negative one can help a great deal.
Another method that I have seen work for people is having something in particular to focus on. The two yellow dots on the squash ball can work. A logo on your racquet can work as well. It doesn’t even have to be something physical it can be just a thought. Between each point stop and focus for a few seconds on your object or thought. It can really help keep you calm focused and also help to get rid of negative thoughts.
One of my favourite ways to try and keep mental focus positive is to not focus on what has already transpired in the match it is to focus on what is coming next. Focus on making your next shot be the best it can possibly be. It doesn’t matter if you are in a defensive position or an offensive position focus on hitting the shot you are about to play and make it the best you can. Once you have hit it, that shot is done and you have to focus on preparing for next shot and make that one the best it can be.
What do you find works helping maintain a positive mental outlook during a match? We would love your comments!