What is the quickest and simplest way to get your athletes to be mentally tougher? The answer lies in helping them track and then compare their best and worst squash performances on a regular basis – and learning from this comparison.
After every game have your athletes answer, in writing, 3-4 simple questions:
- What was your level of activation before the match.
- What was your level of anxiety before the match.
- What were you saying to yourself shortly before the match.
- When you were playing your best, what were you focussing on or paying attention to.
After every tournament, or every 4-5 matches have them sit down and spread the evaluation sheets out and try an pick out patterns and similarities for good versus bad performances.
What they are likely to find is that best matches occur with:
- High levels of activation prior to the match.
- Medium levels of anxiety.
- Self-talk before the match focussing on strategy, effort, or having fun.
- Focussing on the task during – meaning tactics or strategy, or effort, or something simple like watching the ball which allows an automatic focus.
But instead of telling them this – let them discover it for themselves – much more efective!
Note: This approach forms the basis for the Canandian approach to mental training initiated by Brent Rushall and Terry Orlick in a number of their publications – and refined by later generations of mental training consultants like myself.