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Squash Match Preparation: You Are Not A Robot

The mental aspect of sport is often neglected by amateurs, but that’s slowly changing. In today’s article, I want to highlight the importance of mentally preparing for a match.

30 October 2022 / 3-Min Read

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This article was inspired by a private chat I had with a reddit user. I currently can’t do any on-court coaching, so I really enjoy chatting with club players about squash as it keeps me in-touch with their point of view. The chat started when the user, who shall remain anonymous, told me their one and only adjective from my What 3 Adjectives Describe Your Squash? article would be “inconsistent“.

Squash Match Preparation: You Are Not A Robot

A little mindset preparation before the match can make a huge difference

Inconsistent

It’s a common theme club players have; some days they play well, other days terrible. I mean, pros suffer from that too, but to a lesser degree. The problem non-pros have is that squash is just a small part of their life. So many other things are more important. So let’s look at what they said. He is brown text and I am green text.

My main squash adjective would be ‘inconsistent’ lol. It’s much more of a mental game for me. How I play always depends on my mood when I get on court. Focussing just seems impossible sometimes!

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The key here is the “mood” phrase. It’s hard to suddenly switch off from work, family, school or any multitude of non-squash issues. As I said in the title; you are not a robot. You can’t just switch on “Squash Gameplan” and switch off “Electricity Bill”. Concentration doesn’t work that way, at least not for most people. So I replied:

yeah, I hear ya. Being able to switch over from “non-squash you” to “squash you” is hard for many. Not enough people realise that that is why a proper Heat Up is so important. it allows you to switch for, for example father/worker/student etc to squash player.

No different from the “slow down” time for a child before bed or an actor psyching themselves up before going on stage. We wouldn’t expect them to just get changed and suddenly be ready, yet squash players do.

I’ve talked about Heating Up properly lots of times and part of that is using the time to begin to focus only on squash. I can’t believe people think they can rock up to the club, change into their kit, walk on court and play great squash. For any performance, there needs to be a period beforehand where you begin to reduce the distractions and focus on the match.

That is such a good point. Never really thought about it like that! I should start arriving earlier and having a squash psyching-up session when getting ready. (Maybe not singing eye of the tiger in the changing room mirror) lol.

We then joked about how singing Eye Of The Tiger might be a fun way to “psych out” opponents. But even changing slower than normal and having a few minutes just sitting there thinking about your gameplan or elements you want to work on etc, can make a huge difference.

I know exactly what you mean! Might start doing some pre-squash meditation 🧘🏻‍♂️

I then told them about a wonderful piece of advice I read somewhere.

there’s this wonderful little ritual. Just before you enter the court, place your hand on the wall or door and mentally say something like “all my worries and thoughts will still be here when I finish. They stay outside on the wall and will be waiting for me when I finish the match”. Once you walk onto court, it’s all about the squash”. It may take a few tries until it helps, but it most cases, when done seriously, it really does help.

To which they replied:

Yeah I can believe that! I would certainly give it a go. A guy I played with a while ago does similar when he’s putting his kit on. Says he leaves his problems in his squash bag!

Which is another nice way of thinking about the idea of “leaving your worries behind”. Never underestimate the power of routine and habit. The first few times you try something like this, it might not work, but don’t give up too soon. The mind works in strange ways.

And then, a few days later, I received this message:

Had a good game last night! Really tried to get into ‘the zone’ mentally before I got on the court and i think it worked well! Found I was much more focused. So thanks for the advice!

Final Thoughts

We accept that our body’s need to heat up before physical exertion, why not our minds? I guarantee you that no professional squash player, or any sport for that matter, would expect to walk out of a business meeting, just in the car, get to the club, change into their kit and play great squash.

Preparation is needed. Even 5 minutes sitting quietly in your kit can help. I’ve mentioned the technique of touching the wall to “leave your worries behind” and there are other ways to block out the distractions, but the first step is getting to the club in plenty of time to allow yourself the opportunity to do them.

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