Friday, January 27, 2023

Sarah Fitzgerald shows why she is still a true champion

Sarah Fitzgerald wins another Masters title in South Africa
Sarah Fitzgerald wins another Masters title in South Africa

How Fitz mastered injury to win Masters title
By STEVE WALTON – Squash Mad Editor At Large in Australia


Many of you probably saw this picture (above) and said “yep, Sarah is a champion, of course she won the Masters World Championships”.

However, a lot that went on behind the scenes for this to happen, and I think there is a powerful lesson here for many of our juniors (and every other Squash Mad reader).

So 10 days before Sarah Fitzgerald was due to be in South Africa playing her first match, she tore her calf muscle………so that’s not great.

In fact, for some people, that would be the end of their event right there. But Sarah has played at the highest level for a long time for a reason…………she knows how to react to situations.
So this is what she did.

1: Immediately acknowledge that there is a problem. This means you don’t play through it or give it a few days to see how it is.

2: Sarah rang her specialist who she trusts 100% to advise her. This person has been part of Sarahs medical team for a long time. He knows that she plays squash at the highest level and that the number one priority is to get on court. Everyone needs to have a medical person on their team who knows their body and knows squash.

3: Sarah goes to the specialist and he tells her she is a chance to play. He prescribes exactly what she has to do to have a chance to get on court.

So, within 24 hours of doing the injury, Sarah has a plan to follow from an expert that she trusts.
Now this is where it gets interesting and it is where other players can learn.

Firstly, Sarah has to make sure as few people as possible hear that she is injured. She definitely does not want other players to become confident!

But the next bit is what makes Sarah a World Champion. Remember that Sarah was the first person to win the World Junior Championships and the World Open Championships. Everything about her mental make-up is centred around achieving success.

So now Sarah starts thinking how she will have to play and be able to win with a calf that is dodgy.

This means she has to know which parts of the court and which movements will place stress on the calf.
– How does she keep the ball out of these spots?
– What shot does she play if the ball is in one of those spots?
– Where should she attack?
– How will she run when she cannot stop fast or change direction fast?
– How does she stop her opponent from noticing that she is a little wounded?

Remember that one wrong step, one wrong twist and the calf may tear and her event is over.

So, she has 10 days to think of this, visualise it, come up with game plans and strategies and make sure that she is 100% mentally ready if she gets the opportunity to play.

She follows her medical advice.
She plays
She wins every match 3-0.

So, my question or challenge to Australian Juniors is this:
Do you train on how to deal with adversity on court?
Do you know how to play with an injury or fatigue?
Does your coach ever simulate a lesson like this?
Do you know which muscles are under load in which areas of the court?

It could be pretty handy information for all players, on court and off court. It might even win you a world title one day!

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