01 January 2024 / 4-Min Read / Translate↗
Having a ritual that you follow before performing an important action can help reduce anxiety, focus your mind, and allow you to feel in control of a situation. Choosing the right custom or ritual is key.
Possible one of the most obvious rituals in racket sports is Rafa Nadal's pre-serve ritual, and squash players have their equivalent pre-service rituals too. The most obvious being when squash players touch the side wall before each point .
However, since the COVID pandemic the professional squash tour seems to have banned touching the wall. At amateur level, I suppose many people still do it. Do you?
So in this article, I discuss and explain some other rituals squash players perform. Feel free to let me know the ones I have missed.
One thing I want to say is that as much as having a ritual can be really useful, you also need to be flexible in your mindset. Perhaps something you like to do is not suitable or acceptable in some situations. If you can't perform that ritual, you need to be able to focus your mind and still play well. Don't have a tantrum and assume you are going to lose. These are performance rituals NOT Good Luck Charms!
This has got to be the most popular ritual on a court. Tennis players do, some table tennis players do it, racketball players do it, Esku Pelota (Basque Handball) players do it, in fact can you think of ANY racket sport that sues a ball that doesn't do it?
This has got to be the most popular ritual on a court. Tennis players do, some table tennis players do it, racketball players do it, Esku Pelota (Basque Handball) players do it, in fact can you think of ANY racket sport that uses a ball that doesn't do it?
Clearly the ball is either already hot enough or doesn't need heating up, so the whole action is a ritual. It allows you to reset your mind and give you a moment to compose yourself. Receivers have less rituals because they don't control the situation, but as mentioned earlier, wiping the hand on the wall has a similar effect to the bounce.
It's not just bouncing the ball that's important though, it's how you get the ball, and where you walk and stand. Those moments between points can really have an important effect on the coming rally, game and even match. use the time well. Find a ritual that works for you when you are winning and losing and stick to it.
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This article is NOT specifically about Competitive Match Preparation, but what happens before the match can have a significant impact your your play. Getting to a venue early, a pre-check of your kit bag before you leave your house, a walk around a new venue to desensitise yourself to the surroundings, getting dressed in particular order or way, through to your exact Heat Up routine, are just the ones I can think of.
And let's not forget the food and drink you consume, before, during and after important matches. So much will depend on the exact situation, but one thing I can say is that you should NEVER try a new "thing" for the very first time at a tournament if you can help it. Found a new sports drink that looks cool? USe it in training a few weeks before or wait until after the tournament. The ritual here is ticking to what worked before.
One ritual I advise players to try right before important matches is to touch the outside of the court or door before they enter. As you touch the door or wall, mentally release all your worries and thoughts into the door or wall. Tell yourself they will be there when you finished and can't help you during the match, so leave them behind.
Another thing people can do is wipe their squash googles between points. In case you didn't know, I highly recommend everybody wear squash googles and wish the WSF and PSA would promote their usage more. Not only do they protect your eyes, they can allow you to refocus between points.
I suppose I have covered it already, but it's important to let go of your racket between points. Holding onto the racket all the time is not good and using a towel, wiping your hand on the wall, cleaning your googles all provide that opportunity, but if you don't do any of those things, at least change hands, or spin the racket in your hand between points.
Adjusting headbands or bandanas can also be useful, although personally when I wear a headband I don't touch it as it just releases sweat onto my face.
Rituals after the match are more about recovery and processing. Obviously, there are physical aspect to consider, cooling down and rehydrating for example. But depending on whether you won or lost, or whether you have more matches or not, you may feel you need to perform other tasks.
I plan to write a detailed article about this but writing in a Squash Notebook can be incredibly useful. Possible uses include, noting your emotions after winning or losing or notes about your opponent and their play. It's important to note that for some doing this immediately after playing is NOT the right time and how long you wait needs to be adjusted based on your character.
I've worked with some players where I wouldn't talk to them for an hour after a match if they lost. There's no clear guide for everybody but generally if you have lost you just need to sit quietly alone. However, I DO recommend some sort of post-match analysis at some point, even if it's just you making notes in a notebook. Players feel that even in a loss, they are working towards improvement.
If you were hoping to read a simple set of 5 rituals that will make your squash better then you are probably disappointed. I don't blame you. As a player, I would love to read that, but the reality is that each player has to try, experiment and develop their own rituals. Effective rituals only come from experience and playing plenty of tournament matches.
They should be too restrictive, and you should see them as helpful NOT necessary. You must be able to still perform well if you can't do them. If you go into a panic when you can't perform your rituals they have then become mental crutches.
I'd love to hear about your squash rituals and how they developed, so please send me an email and who knows, perhaps I'll steal all the ideas and write a part 2 of Squash Rituals!