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The thing we find most difficult to master about squash, apart from actually winning, is concentration. Yes Concentration.

The top professionals swear by it. Good players really work at it. They do, in fact, spend a large part of their lives thinking of nothing but a tiny black ball. In a world so full of opportunities for fit young men, isn't that a silly thing to do?

It seems that life is a trifle short to spend more time than absolutely necessary contemplating a lump of rubber which costs Rupees 90 is likely to burst at any moment and has an unpleasant tendency to clout its owner behind the knee just when he least expects it. "But That," says Peter Nicol & Jonathan Power "is the only way to win."

Right players, you have got the message? From now on, we concentrate on CONCENTRATION. We have been studying some of the more common mannerisms practiced by grass roots players. We will list them, so you can avoid them at all costs.

THE OVER-CONFIDENT SERVER: This is a bad technique for anyone who seriously intends to win. The player picks up the ball and walks to the service box. As his foot enters the box he casually swings his racket at the ball, with no idea of where he intends it to finish up, and sets the new rally in progress. The serve is usually accompanied by a reference to the fact that his opponent will never return the ball -- not that this matters very much because five times out of ten the ball sails happily out of court.

THE OVER-CONFIDENT RECEIVER: He prides himself in being able to kill any service dead and his constant failure does nothing to dull his optimism. He looks up at the gallery before the rally starts and treat anyone watching to a touch of the raised eyebrows and smile. We have already mentioned that the service only has a 50% chance of going in. If it does, the over-confident receiver probably has a 50% chance of getting it back. Rallies between two such players tend to be on the short side.

THE MASOCHIST: There are many squash players at given time and they often end up losing. The masochist blames himself for every mistake made on court -- his own, his opponent's, even errors of discretion committed in the gallery. When he's not blaming himself he is hitting his legs with the racket handle, or kicking the wall or the tin. Any concentration he has is channeled into making life as uncomfortable for him as possible.

THE SYCOPHANT: Most of these type of squash players are easily identified by his recurrent cry of: "My fault, your point, too good for me." When the point is clearly his because the other player has charged into him, handled the ball AND talked in the middle of a rally, he will plead for a let to be played. His concentration is devoted entirely to the other man's welfare. Occasionally he wins and is depressed for weeks, hardly knowing where to show his face.

THE CUSSER: These type of squash players want to win by hook of crook, but is heavily handicapped by the fact that most of his energies are wasted on cursing the side-walls, front-walls, tin, door, gallery, spectators, racket, ball, or anything that appears to be an excuse for his mediocre play. He is unable to concentrate on the game at all. Often he will swear at the ball before it has reached him. Many cussers have just finished a hard day at the office and feel much better after they have won.

THE DREAMER: It is a very pleasant category but it rarely produces winners. The dreamer hypnotises himself into a neutral state in which he allows a multitude of lovely thoughts to float through his mind. In advanced cases, dreamers have been known to congratulate their opponent on the match when he has merely won the first game. Dreamers don't lose concentration. They never have it.

SPITFIRES: The essence of the spitfire's game is speed. He never stops running, particularly between points. If the ball has rolled to the front of the court he will sprint to pick it up, even if he is not serving. Hurried, nervous, frenetic ... the spitfire does not give himself enough time to think.

THE COCKY: He pretends it's all very easy. He will not go off court or between the games to towel down because he wants to show he is not tired. The worst part of such squash players are they always loose.

By Hardy-Clarke (My team Captain at Luton & Dunstable Squash Club many years ago)