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Mentality

These articles have something related to sports mentality in them. This could include sports psychology, visualization, and other mental training.

Every month, I receive about 2 or 3 messages from juniors asking me if they could become a professional squash players.

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 Brutal Reality 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. A Thought Experiment 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…

This article is for ambitious, competitive players who are looking for the slightest edge. Visualisation, also called mental rehearsal is the process of seeing yourself perform actions in your mind’s eye.

Heart Rate Monitors

I’ve previously discussed visualisation in my Tips For Maximising Your Ghosting, and even made a video (see below), but today I want to extend the idea to all parts of your squash training. Visualisation can be used almost any time, any where, and just like fitness training used to be something only “crazy people did” but has become mainstream now, I am sure that visualisation will become the same. There was a time when you only played your sport to prepare for it. It was considered enough. Not now. Oh no. even juniors regularly perform lots of fitness training outside of the court. It would be fascinating to see the difference between athletes who perform all the modern training techniques compared to athletes who only play their sport. The difference would be huge. So, how can you use visualisation for non-squash training? Well, at its core, visualisation is a person sitting down and imagining themselves playing or perform som other activity, for example remaining calm when receiving a really bad call at game ball. So if you can do it sitting down, why not do it when actually training. Which is why I talk about if during ghosting in the link above. Some Other Specific Examples At the time of writing this article, I haven’t been on court for over 9 months due to pain, but I am considering a return within the next two weeks or so. As part of that return I have been doing daily Shadow Swings. As I am doing them, I imagine myself hitting the ball. I imagine the feeling as the ball hits my strings and the sound it makes against the strings and against the wall. Before I do those swings, I also spend 35 minutes on the spinning bike at the gym. I don’t listen to music, podcasts or watch TV (fortunately there are no TVs in this part of the gym).…

This article is aimed at competitive players. Players who regularly encounter players they have never played against before.

How Many Squash Shots Are You?

The first time on court against new players creates a lot of emotions; nerves, excitement, curiosity, confidence, doubt, and hope, to name but a few. For some players those emotions, plus the challenge and hopefully the win is what makes squash fun for them. A few players thrive in that sort of environment and others fade. Assuming that team matches and graded tournaments pit players against each other who are very similar standards, those matches can really test your mindset and mental strength. I knew a guy who won 90% of his first matches against new opponents, but them lost 90% of the follow up matches. It was fascinating. Let’s call him Jack for the sake of this article. What skill set did he have that made him so successful the first time he played anybody? BTW, those 90% figures are just estimates. But he really did win an overwhelming number of first encounters and then lost most of the rest. He was the perfect team player for either the first or second have of the season, but not the whole season! I wish I had paid more attention to him in the years I knew him. I might have learnt a lot about squash in a short space of time. Anyway, here are some thoughts about what I think happened. No, not this Jack. Set The Tone – Part 1 The first thing he did was “set the tone”. In this context it means he decided what happened in the knock up and first game. For example, he always got on court first and was the first to hit the ball, and always three or four shots to himself. Next, when asked if he were ready to swap sides he would say “no, just a couple of hits more”. Then switch sides when he was ready. He spun the racket to decide serve – obviously he didn’t win the…

One of my objectives for this site and channel is to encourage potential players from all backgrounds and situations to try squash. In the past, squash was seen as an elitist sport, but thankfully, that’s changing.

Many years ago, I was chatting with somebody in the bar of the Wembley Squash Centre, where I was coach, and they said that they would love to try squash but were “too big”. “Nobody is too big unless they couldn’t fit through the door” I replied (partly joking, but looking back, quite true too), and the next week he was on the court with me. Admittedly, he really didn’t do very well, but that wasn’t due to his size. Being “big” and you know what other word is associated with big, but I’m not going to use it, has always been a stumbling block for many who want to exercise. And let’s be clear, being big does cause some problems with regard to exercise, but unless there is a medical reason then I personally don’t see a problem in trying different sports. Another time, I had an inter-club team match (my club versus another club) and the person who I was sharing the trip with warned me that “Mr. Smith” (yes, that really was his name) was a rather large fellow and I should not pre-judge him. On seeing him, I pre-judged him (silly 20 year-old me!) and thought it would be an easy night for me, but I was wrong, very wrong. I managed to beat him in 5 hard games, and he was one of the quietest players I had ever played. He seemed to glide around the court rather than the expected thump. The Lesson: Big players can move surprisingly well sometimes. If You Are Big And Reading This, Yes You Can Try Squash I am lucky. I recognise that until recently (I am getting old), my body never stopped me from doing any activity I wanted to. Or more importantly my and society’s attitude never limited my options. Not everybody has that luxury. There should be nothing stopping people of all shapes or sizes from…

Most times this is because one player believes that the ball feels dead. That is, the ball doesn’t bounce with the same responsiveness as it did at the beginning. But there might be other reasons too.

Before we look at the first reason properly and talk about the other two (visibility and mind games) let’s check the actual rules. Now remember, this is for PSA and official tournaments. If you are playing with your friends, then these rules don’t apply and you can do pretty much what you want. The Official Rules Regarding Changing The Ball. Section 11 relates to the ball and I want to highlight two points: 11.5 and 11.10, although i do recommend you look through the rules if you have tike, it’s quite fun to see them try to cover all possibilities! If both players agree, then a ball must be changed, with or without the referee’s approval, or if one player wants it and the ref agrees. I don’t watch enough pro squash anymore but I have only once seen a player say that they didn’t want the ball changed. I don’t remember the details, and can’t even remember the outcome of the request, but nowadays it seems that there’s little problem. Let me know if I am wrong. THE BALL11.5. The ball must be changed if both players agree or if the Referee agrees with oneplayer’s request.11.10. No let is allowed for any unusual bounce. The Dead Ball This is the reason I gave in the introduction and in my experience it was the reasons for nearly every request I have seen. A dead ball is basically a ball that has lost its bounce. When you have hit as many squash balls as pros have, you get a gut-feeling about the ball and some balls just don’t feel right. They might even have a slightly inconsistent bounce, although you nor I might notice it, well I might but only because of my coaching, not because of my skill! At the same time, a split might have appeared in the ball and it’s clear that the ball will break soon. Rule…

No, I don’t believe you can. You can improve your fitness, swing technique, movement, mental strength, and tactical awareness alone, but ultimately, to bring all those improvements together you need coach.

Vary Your Speed And Height

Who doesn’t love the idea of fighting to become the best player they can without any help? Proving to the world that you, and you alone, have the intelligence, ability and spirit to conquer your chosen sport. From nobody to hero is a theme in literature going back centuries. But it is just that; fiction. It’s hard enough to become a professional squash player with all the help available, but to do it alone? Impossible? No, not impossible, but almost. If you follow sports, and I don’t, you can probably give me examples of great players who said they didn’t have a coach. I think I remember it being said that Ramy Ashour didn’t have a coach, and that may be true for part of his career, but I don’t believe for a second that at no time did he have coaching. So that leads us to two questions: what is the role of the coach? What is the difference between having a coach and having coaching? What other help can a player get that isn’t coaching? Two great squash reap the success with the help of their coaches The Role Of A Coach A lot depends on the age and standard of the player when a coach becomes involved. This article would become more like a book if I were to discuss “coaching”, so let’s keep it focused on a player who wants to become a professional. Most professionals start playing squash before they are ten and in many cases before they are 8. Does that means that anybody older can’t become a pro? No, it just means that as each year goes by it becomes increasingly more difficult. Nowadays, if you have reached a certain standard by 13 or 14, the chances are almost zero. A coach must guide the player’s development. Specifically ensuring that their technique doesn’t have any serious issues – it’s NOT to make them…

This article is for newer players who are quite ambitious. It’s easy to improve very quickly and think that in a few months you will be club number 1. I am sorry to be the one to tell you, but you won’t be. Squash has many levels that are not apparent when you first start playing.

About a year ago, I did a video analysis for a player. I talked about the areas where he can improve and gave him some general advice. Everything seemed great until in the follow-up email, he asked me how long it would take to reach the level of the player who he was playing against in the video. I told him two or three years. “Oh!”, he said, “I thought it would be just a couple of months.” The problem was that he was unable to see how little effort his opponent was playing with. Yes, he won a few points and had some good rallies, but his opponent never tried to hit the ball too hard or very deep. I could have easily believed that the player who asked for the analysis was the boss of the opponent, and he was trying to make the boss look good. I felt terrible after telling the player my opinion. Even by text, he seemed deflated. I’ve asked myself many times whether I was wrong to be so direct and honest. I have to balance that honesty with saying things just because the pupil wants to hear them. It’s a very delicate balance. I am a little embarrassed to say, but I can’t remember the person’s name and I looked through my previous analysis videos and searched through my email, but can’t find him. I almost want to be wrong and for him to tell me that he now regularly beats that opponent, but I highly doubt it. If you had a video analysis with me and I told you it would take a few years to beat your opponent and you thought it would only take a few months, please contact me so we can chat! They Only Play As Well As They Need To For some new players, squash is easy and they seem to make such rapid progress that…