So What Kind of a Head Do you Have on Your Shoulders?
Are you playing the kind of squash that you’re capable of? Do you regularly play better in practice matches than at tournaments? Are there particular opponents who you consistently lose to who have no business beating you? Do you consistently have trouble closing out your games or matches? Are you the kind of player who regularly steals defeat from the closing jaws of victory?
If some of these questions bother you, then you probably already know how critically important the mental part of this game is. If you want to take your game to the next level you have to be willing to take your training far beyond where most squash players stop. Most serious athletes in this sport religiously work on the physical part of their game. They’ll work on their strength, fitness and quickness. They’ll work on their stroke production and executing shot sequences to set up certain points. Is this stuff important? You betcha! You can’t become successful without “paying your physical dues” in this way. Hard work is definitely one of the main keys to your success on the court. Without it, you’ll be lost.
Unfortunately, this is where most good squash players stop. When they go into their matches, they hope they’ll play well, they hope that they have their “A” game with them today, they hope that they’ll win. You would never leave your conditioning or stroke production to chance. i.e. “I hope I’m in good shape today.” So why would you leave the most important part of your game, the mental side to chance?
Think about this: Getting good in squash in practice is 95% physical and 5% mental. Translation: You have to work hard on your conditioning and physical game to make it happen. However, once you step into that court for a match, the percentages flip flop. Being successful is 95% mental and 5% physical. You have the conditioning, strokes and game strategy, now you have to make sure that you stay calm under pressure and keep yourself focused on the right things. For example, your concentration needs to stay on this point and this point only. If you let your mind jump ahead to the future, (i.e. thinking about winning or losing this game or closing out the match) or slip back to the past (i.e. the last point or game) you’ll end up getting yourself too uptight and distracted to play well. This means that you have to be able to rebound quickly from your mistakes and not carry them into the next point or game.
You have to believe in yourself and have the self-confidence to play your own game, rather than your opponent’s when you’re under pressure. You have to be able to handle last minute negativity and self-doubts.
With a little work, these mental skills as well as a few important others can be systematically trained to the point where you develop the reputation as a mentally tough player. My CD program, The Best Mental Toughness Training Program for Squash Players (ON SALE NOW!) will take you to the next level!
Are you struggling with performance anxiety or a slump? Do you consistently perform better in practice than when it counts?
Dr. Alan Goldberg is the former #1 singles player for the Umass Minute Men and twice Conference Champion. He has taught tennis professionally for 22 years. As a Sports Performance Consultant he has worked extensively with junior level, high shool and collegiate squasg players from around the country helping them overcome performance fears and blocks and play to their potential. He is the author of the revolutionary new book, "This Is Your Brain On Sports," along with over 30 other books and CD programs. Dr. G has presented at numberous squash camps across the country. Check out his most popular program- Mental Toughness Training Package for Squash Players-Special Savings.