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Sports Psychology

Mind Game & How to Win

Your game can be divided into four areas, each of which needs to be worked on if you want to improve your performance: physical, technical, tactical and psychological. This last area is the subject of the first in a new series of articles, written specially for The Squash Player Magazine by England International, WISPA no. 8 player and sports psychologist Jenny Tranfield

Almost all of us reach a point where we feel that our game has gone stale. We reach a plateau, bang our rackets against the wall and scream, “What more can I do?” Train harder? Put in more time with my squash coach? Seek advice on my tactics or techniques? We go over and over the physical, tactical, and technical aspects of our game. What we forget is that there is a fourth element to sports performance – the psychological element.

There are many examples in squash of top players attributing success to ‘getting it right mentally’….Lisa Opie was ranked top two in the world yet had not won a major title - she would get so frustrated at refereeing decisions that she would lose games and even matches as a result. After intensive work with a sport psychologist, Lisa learned to relax at the critical moment rather than to ‘blow up’ mentally. Shortly afterwards she won the 1991 British Open.

Think back to a time when you played really good squash – when you felt you were in the zone and your game was impeccable. How did you feel? What sort of things do remember seeing? Do any particular sounds stand out?

Now think of a game in which you felt unable to perform well and your game was mediocre and predictable. Again, how did you feel? What sort of things do remember seeing? Do any particular sounds stand out? What was different in the two games? The chances are that your physical, technical, and tactical play hadn’t changed that much between one and the other. What is more likely is that you couldn’t concentrate or focus because your mind was somewhere else besides the court.

A classic example of this is the current England captain David Beckham. After his move to Real Madrid and high profile scandal involving Rebecca Loos, he suffered a severe lack of form. He didn’t suddenly become a worse player overnight, what is more likely is that he was no longer focused solely on the task on the pitch. His mind was distracted with task irrelevant information.

In my experience, few players pay enough attention to their psychological preparation. They spend hours in the gym or on the court making sure they are in top physical condition. They spend hours with their coach discussing tactics and techniques. But when it comes to mental fitness, they barely give a thought to how they can develop and maintain this all-important element of performance.

Read on... from

How to Win

Tip 1 - Accept, enjoy & play your ‘average’ squash well
Of 20 Matches played
- You might play your best squash in only 2 matches
- you might play your worst squash in 2 matches
- What determines your level of success is how you play in the other 16 matches
Keep that in mind for 80% of matches you play.

Remember
Playing 100% won’t guarantee winning.
Playing your worst squash doesn’t mean you will loose.
Accept that you can do well even when playing below your best

Tip 2 - Prepare excellently.
There is absolutely no excuse to not be the best prepared player.
Confidence comes from preparation
A lack of confidence comes from
- Not being sure you’re ready
- Being uncertain about how you will play
- Not knowing how you will respond to adversity and problems

Be Prepared
Technically, Tactically, Physically, Mentally.
This will give you the best chance to succeed.

Tip 3 - Never give up the fight
It may sound obvious but it’s not always adhered to.

Consider you might play the same person again soon; think about the message you leave them with.
Create the mindset:
a) If I’m going to loose, I’m going to loose trying to win
b) You might beat me today but you’re never going to want to play me again!

Never give up the fight

with thanks to R Forzoni LTA