Thursday, September 28, 2023

What Tetris game has reminded me about squash

All fingers and thumbs? How a Gameboy can help your game on court
By PHILLIP MARLOWE – Squash Mad Guest Correspondent

GAME BOY: Phillip Marlowe gets his fingers working
GAME BOY: Phillip Marlowe gets his fingers working

Life lessons are all around us, we just need to look. The problem is that once you start looking, you see patterns where perhaps they don’t really exist. The most profound lessons are the ones that jump out at you when you least expect them.

That’s exactly what happened to me recently after playing Tetris. Yes, I know this sounds a little silly, but please bear with me.

I found my GAMEBOY Pocket in a box in the basement when I had all but given it up as “lost in the move”. Being a bit of a fanatic, I dove straight back into Game B with the same gusto I had in my squash (perhaps there is a deeper lesson here too!).

I have been playing now for about a month for around 10 minutes a day. If you are one of those people that think video games are just for children, then you should probably stop reading now. Video games have been shown to have many beneficial effects on the brain.

As I played, I came to realize that a lot of tactical aspects from Tetris and squash (and probably a lot of other activities) can be equated. Here are the ones I have found so far.

Most players play Teris on game A, which is the standard game where you have to get as many lines/points as possible, with ever increasing speeds. Game B is very different.

Basically, you start with a lot of random blocks displayed on the screen and your objective is to simply get 25 lines completed. It requires a different mentality and can help you accept that some things are not how you want them.

Accept that life may give you lemons. So, instead of complaining, take those lemons and shove them up the proverbial back passage of life and fight for what you want.

It’s good to plan ahead, in life, in Tetris and in a squash match. But if need be, adapt and adapt quickly. There comes a point when you have to abandon your plan and just manage the current situation as best you can.

Don’t keep waiting for that perfect piece to your puzzle, because it may never come. Sometimes you have to take the short-term gain to ensure you are still in it for the chance to play the long game.

I’ve learnt the hard way that it’s nearly always better to stick with a wrong decision, choice or shot than try and change it at the last minute. You should decide early and commit one hundred percent to that choice.

Even if it’s not the best shot, it will probably be better than the poorly executed alternative you try to play. Of course, if you are constantly choosing the wrong shot, then you need to take time to analyse your game with your coach or friends.

I’m terrible at this, well, with Tetris anyway. I believe I have another line completed and take a mental break (Tetris pauses a moment when you complete lines) only to find I was wrong, and then panic and rush and lose.

The same happens in squash, not often but it does happen. People either think they have won the rally and relax or give up too early and find that if they had stayed focused they could have got the ball – that’s really annoying!

It may sound strange but I am always trying to learn new tactics and techniques when playing Tetris and obviously the same should be true of squash.tetris2

No matter what your age or standard, make a commitment to improve and have a proper plan. I have four specific game-play goals that I am working towards – I am talking about Tetris now!

I’m going through a rough patch at the moment. I can’t seem to finish a game very often and I am making silly mistakes and missing opportunities.

It’s frustrating but I know that this will pass. It’s the same with squash. We all go through times when we don’t seem to be improving or even getting worse.

But then suddenly, we make a jump in either fitness or ability. This is the “plateau” and as long as you know you will spend some time on it, it’s not so frustrating.

For my final lesson, I want to talk attitude and approach. By having the correct attitude you can completely change what you get out of something.

The reason we do something is important and if you play squash for “a bit of fun and to relive stress”, then that’s great.

Others enjoy the competitive aspects and the desire to improve. Every time I turn on the game I want to perform to my maximum and it should be the same with squash.

Either play every point as if it were your last or just play for fun – there’s no in between.

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