Focus on each point, shot by shot, and only think about winning when the match is over
By TONY GRIFFIN – Squash Mad Coaching Columnist and Author of G-Spot Squash
How many times do you hear the phrase ‘It’s all about winning’? Parents, coaches, spectators and players themselves can often cause major distractions when talking about winning. Winning a squash match is a by-product of playing well, shot by shot, and collecting more points than your opponent.
I am certainly not qualified to talk about sports psychology. I have, however, always been fascinated by how a player’s brain can interfere with their natural or instinctive body movements. Also, how a player’s performance can change from one moment to the next for no apparent reason. The following observations are based on my personal experiences from playing and coaching.
Most players go on to the court hoping to win the match. That’s normal, but sometimes the desire or need to win becomes a distraction. If you are thinking too much about winning, you are not focused on the many details that you need to put together to play well. You win by hitting the ball to the right areas of the court.
I have seen that if you are focusing constantly on the small details, such as, your movement to the ball, your racket preparation and swing, hitting the ball at the G-Spot, where you are going to hit the ball to etc., can help to improve your concentration.
Working your mind on a shot-by-shot and then on a point-by-point basis helps to keep other possible distractions out of your mind.
Thoughts about winning during games can also complicate things. In evenly balanced games where you have managed to gain a slight advantage, having thoughts like “I’m winning!”, “I could win this game” or “only two points to go” occasionally can cause a player to relax subconsciously.
Add to this minimum relaxation the fact that your opponent, who has fallen behind on the score board, reacts and tends to fight a little more is a contributing factor as to the reason why players sometimes lose games they perhaps should have won.
If you manage to get ahead and have these kind of thoughts, recognise immediately that they are dangerous and make an effort to return your focus to the details that have helped you gain the advantage.
If possible, avoid thinking about winning points or games until you have finished the match.
I have also seen players complicate games that they should have won comfortably because they have started the match believing that they would win easily.
Thinking that you should win easily sometimes causes a subconscious relaxation.
This minimum relaxation can cause you to start the match less than 100% focused, so your general play is not at its usual level, which allows your opponent to feel more comfortable.
Susan Devoy almost never had this problem. I remember that even when she was clearly the best player in New Zealand she would sometimes comment before her first round match in a worried tone “I have heard that (whoever her who first round opponent was) is playing really well”.
This type of respect for your opponent, whoever they may be, or even a fear of losing unexpectedly, can help you to play at your best level so that you avoid ‘surprise’ results.
You should only think about winning easily after you have finished the match.
Sometimes after winning comfortably people comment that you had an “easy win”. Often the reality is that you are both physically and mentally tired. It requires a huge amount of energy to maintain focus on all the details that make up playing well.
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