19 November 2023 / 3-Min Read / Translate↗
Here is a Sarah Anderson comic: Scene: Elderly lady (EL) talking to a young girl (YG) drawing at a table. EL: “How do you draw so well?” YG: “Practice” EL: It must be a gift. A gift from God!” YG: “It’s practice” EL:”I’ll never understand how some people are so talented. It’s a mystery…” YG: “Practice”.
I first saw it years ago and it stuck with me. You don’t need to be a coach with years of experience to give great advice for sport. There is a LOT of crossover between sports performers and artists of all kinds; drawing, painting, music, film making, sculpture, dance etc etc.
One difference between sports performers and artists though is that not everything a sports performer does is practice. Can you imagine a pro who has never performed solo, pairs or squad drills? No, it’s impossible. Playing a sport does not provide enough opportunity to define, refine and hone the skills required to control the racket and ball or how to move around the court.
Let me give you another graphic example. Look at the progress this person made in the space of 4 years. It’s incredible. That elderly lady would have been amazed. I can’t imagine how many hours that person spent. BTW, I have permission to use this image, which I found via Reddit, but unfortunately, I can’t find the original link to the post.
Seeing the progress is clear when it is on paper
So there are two points I want to make here.
Firstly, practice makes you better. Forget the “Practice makes perfect” because that’s not true. No “Practice makes permanent” because that’s not true either. They are nice sound bites but they don’t really help. I prefer a mishmash of “Purposeful Practice Makes You Better”. It doesn’t matter what level you are at now, but you WILL improve with the right practice.
“Right” in this case is “Purposeful”. If you have a great forehand and a terrible backhand, work on your backhand. Too often people practise what they are already good at because they enjoy doing that and hate doing the things they are bad at.
Secondly, track your progress. Artists like drawers and painters can easily see their improvement - it’s on the paper in front of them. Squash players can have a harder time seeing that improvement. As they get better, they play better players and a great straight drive against advanced opponents has the result as an ordinary straight drive against lower level opponents.
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Your opponent should always be challenging you in some way. If they are not, then perhaps you should be looking for new opponents. Which brings us to another difference between sports performers and artists: competition.
Simply playing matches is never enough to reach our potential. Yes, we will improve by playing, but not as much as if we perform purposeful practice.
So how can a squash player track their progress? The obvious answer is the scores and results, but that’s not what I mean. I mean a visual record of your improved ability to control the ball. See it now? Yes, that’s right: video. But not just of matches. But yourself doing some drills, both alone and in pairs. In fact, I’ll explore this idea a little more in a future video/article. For now, just record yourself doing some straight drives, volleys, and kills.
Seeing our progress can be a huge motivating factor and one that 99.99% of squash players don’t do. Be one of the 0.01% who make the effort to record themselves every 4 months or so. Perform regular solo and pair drills, then look back at the videos and see how much you have improved.