30 November 2022 / 3-Min Read
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We all like to dream, especially when we are young. I remember being around 14 years old and wanting to become a professional tennis player and it’s probably rare that children of that age don’t have some similar dream with their chosen sport. Becoming a professional athlete is very difficult, and I have seen plenty of very talented, hard-working and intelligent juniors go on to become very, very good squash players, but not professionals.
If you are an aspiring junior and dream of becoming a squash professional, please read the following letter, and read it all.
The harsh reality is that 99.9% of juniors who write to me will not become pros. That’s 1 out of every 1000 juniors. That’s a guess, but it seems about right. In fact, it might be 99.99%, so 1 in 10,000, or even more. Of course a lot depends on many factors, some of them out of your control. For example, do you have easy access to squash courts? Are there coaches near you that work with juniors? But even having your own court (one person who wrote to me has) and having a few coaches available, don’t automatically mean it’s going to be easy.
“But I could be that 1 out of 10,000, right?” Yes, you could be, but the other 9,999 say exactly the same thing! That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try though.
Imagine that you could see the future, and you saw that you spend thousands of hours on-court and off-court training, you saw yourself smiling when you win and crying when you lost. You saw yourself getting injured and recovering, your saw yourself travelling to tournaments and waiting in train stations and hotels cold, tired and bored. You saw yourself play some fantastic shots and some absolute clangers. You saw yourself shouting at the ref for what you thought was a bad call and you saw yourself accepting a bad calling and going on to win the match.
And finally you saw yourself NOT become a professional. A great player, though, but not a pro. Would you still try? Would you only do something if you knew you would succeed? The reality is that nobody knows what the future holds. It could be success or it could be something else.
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Think back to that thought experiment above. During those hours of training you saw yourself doing, you learnt so much, not just about squash, but about yourself. You allowed yourself to grow as a person. You learnt that hard-work brings rewards, you learnt that planning is incredibly important and success DOES NOT come without it. You learnt to listen to others and take their advice. You learnt that improvement is not just a straight line; there will be ups and downs along the way.
You learnt that all that training, travelling and competing have made you a different person, a person who can use their experience, knowledge and focus in other areas of their life. You will realise that the journey of trying to become a professional squash player was a valuable experience.
No matter how talented you are, how hard you work and how fortunate your circumstances are, you must never neglect your studies. You could get injured at any point in your training or squash career and be unable to play. What are you going to do then? Not every ex-pro becomes a coach or stays in squash. You will have a much longer life AFTER squash than during.
Having a plan B is not a lack of commitment to squash, but a mature and sensible course of action. We are not talking about some Hollywood movie, we are talking about your life.
All the juniors who write to me are different ages and different levels. Some have played their national junior championships and others are only just starting their squash journey. Some live in countries where squash is popular and others were it is becoming popular. Some have coaches, others not.
One thing they all ask for is a training plan. They want me to give them something that they can follow to help them jump 10 places in the national ranking, for example. I wish it were that simple. Each person needs to work on different things. Some technique, some tactics, some fitness and movement, but all need to improve their skill. So my advice to EVERYBODY is spend lots of time improving your racket and ball control.
As long as what you are doing is not dangerous then it is probably helping. Although, having a coach to guide you is the best, keep working hard until you find one.
Working hard to become a professional athlete is a wonderful objective, but it comes at a cost. Less time having fun with your friends, being more tired than others , which reminds me: GET LOTS OF SLEEP! Focus on what you can control, not on the future. if you have any questions, feel free to email me, although know that I won’t supply you with a training plan. Good Luck!
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