You may feel you are not playing at the level you expect to be when it comes to competitive games and tournaments and have concluded that it may not come down to your physical and technical skills but rather your mentality and overall mindset. In training, you may find that your head is in the right space, but not when competing, so how do we develop mental strength.
Maintaining focus and concentration during a squash game is paramount to your success and learning how to control your emotions. You also need to ensure that you do proper preparation before the game, whether that be visualization or meditation or just warming up in a quiet space.
The problem is many squash players stop their training on a physical level and expect that to be enough to enable them to win. However, there is more to this strategic game than physical prowess. To walk onto the court with your total “A” game, you need to realize there is another component at play: your mind. So to learn more about developing mental strength, read on.
Breaking Down The Importance Of Mental Strength For Squash
You have likely already concluded that mentally you are not prepared enough to step onto the court and own it from the start. And this can occur for various reasons, such as self-doubt. But thankfully, there are remedies, and if you want to escalate your squash game to the next level and better your opponents, you are in the right space.
We can agree that strength, agility, fitness, and flexibility are all critical aspects that a squash player needs to focus on. Being proficient in these areas will aid you in being a better squash player. Hard work and putting in the time on and off the court to train is vital to your overall success, but your mental strength may be holding you back; but what exactly is mental strength?
Many people, including coaches and athletes of various sports, utilize this phrase, but there are some disputes about what this means precisely, and therefore we need to dig deeper and try to siphon out its true meaning. This will allow you to understand what we are talking about and how best to improve this aspect of your game.
One key point many can agree on is that concentration is at the heart of mental strength and toughness. It will lead you on your journey to becoming a better player and enable you to reach your true potential in squash, and it will also spill over into other areas of your life. This is because mental strength is not limited to sport alone, but is an aspect that affects all facets of life.
Key Pointers On What To Focus On To Foster A Stronger Mind
- Develop a pre-match or game routine so that you are never thrown off by not having a strategized means of preparation.
- Maintain your goals in mind, but do not allow them to cause you to become anxious or nervous. Sometimes our expectations of ourselves lead to our downfall.
- Maintain your focus on the present; do not think about winning or losing and if you make mistakes, leave them in the past and concentrate on each point, rally, and shot.
- Do not allow your mind to stray to anything other than the current game; you may have had a bad start to the day, and your mind keeps wandering back to it – fight off this urge.
- Make it your game – even if you are down in points, do not concern yourself with what those watching may think. Instead, remain composed and believe that you are in control of your next move.
- When the pressure is put on you, remain calm and do not let your opponent rattle you.
The Keys To Developing Mental Strength For Squash
One of the biggest downfalls for any athlete is emotion and, more specifically, anger. You need to avoid this at all costs; do not allow your feelings to get the better of you. This is difficult to master, but you will learn to master them with time and practice. Your emotions might well get in the way of everything from concentration and focus to overall play quality.
If you find that you tend to lose your temper even during practice sessions and perhaps smack your racket against the wall from time to time, you need to realize that this needs to be addressed. During training, you can show your emotion, but do not allow it to consume you or leach into your competition play.
You need to take a pragmatic and analytical approach to how you will play squash. It is all about keeping your head down and sticking to the grindstone without allowing yourself to crack under pressure. Because once this happens, your opponent already has the upper hand, and you are wasting your time on the court.
You want to approach the competition with a calm and relaxed demeanor as this will not only enable you to think with clarity, but it may actually just annoy your opponent. They will throw everything they have at you, and when they see that you are undeterred, it will frustrate them. Doing this will also increase your overall awareness of what is going on at all times.
Setting Goals For Yourself
Have goals in place when you enter the court, as they will offer you direction, and afterward, you will have something to reflect on. It may be that you have been practicing specific techniques in training and want to test them out.
Or perhaps your game plan is to expose your opponent’s weaknesses and capitalize on those. Have a game plan before the match starts and stick to it regardless and reflect on it later. Additionally, do not be afraid to aim high; visualize your success and try to obtain that. If you do not win, it’s okay, but then look at the loss as a learning curve and see what can be taken away from it.
Do Not Allow Yourself To Be Over Stimulated Or Distracted
When you are prepping for a match and are going through your pre-game routine, do not allow things to distract you. If need be, find a nice quiet place to stretch, put on your headphones and listen to music you enjoy, and try to relax before you step onto the court.
One of the biggest things that will cause detriment to your game is if you are anxious and flustered, which often comes in the form of people trying to talk to you and trying to psyche you up. As good as their intentions are, you need to be left alone to take time to breathe and prepare yourself for the on-court battle.
Visualization And Mental Rehearsals Pregame
This may sound silly, but trust us, visualizing the types of shots you intend to play, what your strategy will look like on the court, and thinking of how the game will play out in your favor does work. If you get angry quickly, this is an excellent time to imagine yourself in that state and how you will diffuse your metaphorical bomb.
Consider the things that throw you off during play and concentrate on the solutions to these problems. Encourage yourself and make mental notes on all the elements of the game you are good at and remind yourself to utilize the tools in your squash toolbox. This is something you can do during practice as well; it can thus help lead you up to match day when crunch time arrives.
Spending time meditating before a game is another excellent idea; this does not refer to the trance like states people sometimes get into, but rather carefully focusing on what is approaching you and how you will tackle it. It also helps to center your and aids in keeping you calm and collected.
Engage your mind to concentrate and focus solely on the match at hand, and live in the moment without letting your opponent rattle you, and then you are on the road to developing greater mental strength. Set goals for yourself and learn from all your experiences on the court. Control your emotions and ensure that they never get the better of you.