As mentioned in an earlier entry Mike McCue who blogs for us is playing in this year’s PSA 5K National Squash Academy Open. Mike played his first match last night which I was lucky enough to see and he won convincingly! Mike played Tyler Hamilton who is also from Canada. Tyler is the higher ranked player ranked #170 in the world to Mike’s #197 ranking so this was a bit of an upset.
From the outset Mike was very focused on the task at hand. This was evident in his demeanor even during the warm-up. Once the match started Mike got off to a very quick start and never really looked back. He put Tyler under a lot of pressure with some exceptional length. There were several points won on straight length balls that Tyler looked to play early, decided not to because they were just too tight to the side wall and let them pass only to watch them die in the back court nick. Tyler was clearly not having one his better days on court but part of that was due to the quality of Mike’s shots.
When Mike was put under some pressure by Tyler he was able to play some good defensive squash. He covered the court very well. Tyler was able to play some nice tight drop shots in to the front but Mike covered them well and was able to get the ball behind Tyler even from this difficult position consistently. When Mike was given a good chance to attack he was able to either put Tyler under a great deal of pressure or hit some great outright winners.
Mike won the first two games convincingly but winning the match is not always as easy. I know Mike well enough to know how much he wanted the result. He wanted the win. He is at the beginning of his PSA career and training extremely hard. Playing in these challenger tournaments is tough. They are hard to get in to and with a bad result it is one match and out. Knowing how much Mike wanted to win the match I was really hoping he could close it out. Mike managed to maintain is focus brilliantly in the last game. Even when there was some discussion with the ref by Tyler about a call you could still see the focus on Mike’s face the same as you could early in the match. It is very important in situations like these to maintain that focus. It is easy to let up a bit when you are up two games and your opponent is struggling. Letting up though can result in your opponent getting back in to the game and finding some form. This can lead to a momentum switch and really put the pressure back on the guy who controlling play early. Tyler pressed back a bit late in the third game but Mike was having none of it. He closed out the match and moved on to the second round match where he will play Colin West.
Mike McCue who blogs for us is entered in the National Squash Academy Open 2012 that starts next week and we would like to wish him the best of luck. Mike trains out of the National Squash Academy (NSA) so this is a tournament on his home court. Many of the entrants in this tournament train out of the NSA. Mike’s first match is against Tyler Hamilton a fellow Canadian. It should be a very tough match.
I will be going to watch the first day of the tournament at least next Wednesday and expect to see Mike’s first match. I definitely hope to be watching a win for Mike but I know for certain I will be watching some very high quality squash. If you are in the Toronto, Ontario area this is definitely an event worth seeing. Will this years top seed, Dane Sharp repeat as champion or will someone else take the title?
Some of the most frequent questions people ask about life as a squash player (other than “How much money do you make?”) have to do with day-to-day training routines. After all, the main reason top pros are so good is the years of dedicated, methodical training they have done. Most squash fans know that the average pro is doing two or three sessions a day five days a week, so without discussing the obvious I will try to give some insight into what myself and my training partners do in a given week.
Since the National Squash Academy opened last year, training for players based in Toronto has become centralized. Obviously this is a big step forward for Canadian squash. Any day of the week, you can find 6-10 of the best players in Canada and the odd international guest on court at the NSA. There are two sessions per day most days. One of them is either match play (three times a week) or drills involving lots of movement and options. The other one is usually a “closed” session, with the purpose of improving technique, accuracy and consistency. The more intense sessions are a great time to implement new skills being perfected in the closed sessions. Total time on court each day is usually around four hours, and there is always work to be done in the gym afterwards. Due to each player having different tournament schedules, it is rare to have everyone on the exact same program for a day. The core values of each session remain the same, and it is up to the players to tailor their training around tournaments as they see fit. This is a whole science of its own and often takes years to master.
Training full-time is a huge mental battle and there are ups and downs within each month, week and day. On the one hand, you have to put 100% effort mentally and physically into every session in order to see results. On the other, showing up to the courts every morning with weary legs and doing boast-drive for the thousandth time can leave anyone struggling for motivation. In my few months of being dedicate full-time I have started to understand two major points: 1) you absolutely cannot get caught-up in micro-frustrations. On a given day you might be a bit tired, a bit slow, or a bit inaccurate. This obviously happens to everyone, but letting bad days undermine your confidence and limit your enjoyment will only turn squash into a chore rather than a passion. 2) you can’t train with an insane intensity every day without burning out at some point. It can be tempting to exhaust yourself to satisfaction on a Monday or Tuesday, but the rest of the week will be compromised. Five days at 85% are better than one day all out. I’m always looking to derive new lessons from my training experiences. Hopefully they will pay off some day!
Received a Tweet from @NationalSquash about the status of the National Squash Academy. The North American Junior Squash Championship just completed there and the video footage below is from the morning of the first day of the tournament. This great new facility is a fair ways from finished but it is well under way. It is great to see this progress from an announcement I read on www.squashtm.com to now having finished courts!