What should a squash player visualize?

The good thing about many self-help books on sport psychology is that they often have visualization scripts that a squash coach could read aloud to his or her athletes, or many general suggestions (e.g., “imagine yourself playing well”) for what to visualize.

The bad thing is that these set scripts and general suggestions are too vague to be of real help to our squash athletes.  Imagine the similar situation of coaching our players on court with the feedback: “get your racquet back earlier” or “bend your knees” or “follow-through”.  Unlikely to be of help to the serious, thoughtful player who already has the basics.  As squash coaches, we are also hampered by the fact that there are no “Mental Training for Squash” books out there that directly address our needs.

So what should we tell our players to visualize?  Based on my 22 years of sport psychology consulting there are three practical sources of visualization content that squash coaches can use.  I have outlined them in the chart below.

Sources of visualization content for squash players.

Sources of visualization content for squash players.

Player’s Goals

If your squash player’s three main goals are to:  1) Improve quickness; 2) Be tougher on key points; and 3) Play tighter length court of the back-court – then these scenarios are exactly what they should be visualizing.  The more specific the squash coach can be with visualization instructions, the more benefit the player will get from doing the mental training.  For each goal the coach could develop three visualization scenarios to reinforce the accomplishment of the player’s goals – in the example here scenes that support goal #2.

2.a.  Visualize playing from 8-8 in the 5th.

2.b.  Visualize playing from 0-0 in the 5th.

2.c. Visualize coming back from down 7-2.

Training Phase

For those squash coaches who use periodized (periodised for you non-North American Commonwealth natives:) annual training plans, visualization content will change as you move through the year to support the main training goals of each phase.  The main directives for each phase are contained in the above chart.  You can read about periodized mental training programs in my article here.

Focus Plan

A Squash Focus Plan is a written plan with three parts that a player uses to stay totally focussed during a squash match:

1) Pre-match:  The list of activities, physical (jogging, stretching, etc.) and mental (breathing, visualization, etc.), that a player does to get warmed up and into the “zone” in the 60 minutes prior to a match.

2) Match Focus: List of reminders (technical, tactical, mental) that a player needs to focus optimally during a match.

3) Distraction Control or Focus Plan:  list of problematic situations or distractors that might cause a player to lose focus – and a specific solution for each (e.g., cue words, breathing, etc.).

An important part of using a Focus Plans is to have your athlete visualize each part of the plan being carried out under different conditions (different tournaments, opponents, styles of play, etc.).  A highly recommended resource for Focus Plans is Terry Orlick’s Coaches Training Manual to Psyching for Sport – out of print but still available used on the internet.

Application for Squash Coaches

  1. Provide individualized, squash-specific visualization workouts for your players.
  2. Help your players develop a written Squash Focus Plan.

3 Responses to What should a squash player visualize?

  1. William Davis says:

    I’d like to suggest a part/whole training method or a mnemonic like chunking. The training scripts can be simple and specific, but the game script is still a simple message, but one that the athlete has been trained to recognize as all the training scripts together.

    I would suggest chunking in 5’s for squash simply because the mnemonic becomes easier having 5 fingers to count them on.

    Or, acronyms.

    Using 5 specific pieces of information to chunk, a simple exercise, Grasping, is mental and physical emphasis of each (1-5) specific piece of information while pressing on a specific finger tip (1-5). Each set of repetition on 5 fingers is then followed with a squeeze of the fist and the chunked idea is repeated.

    1. Sleep
    2. Water
    3. Activity
    4. Meal
    5. Intention

    In the case of my SWAMI chunk, it is even easier to “grasp” because it’s also an acronym. Tie in the sanskrit meaning of the word, “owner of oneself” or “husband”, and there’s a whole idea that is very meaningful for an athlete wishing to focus on some general performance priorities.

    Aliteration is also helpful.

    Plot, Position, Prepare, Plant, Perceive, Punch…or something like that. Coaches can do their own thing and they can be athlete specific or group specific.

    On court…to execute “Grasping” with 5 points, the thumb can go to each finger, small to index, and on the 5th, the hand is opened wide, then closed to grasp and reset and repeat designated sequence.

  2. […] What should a squash player visualize? […]

  3. […] visualization – imagine playing well in challenging conditions […]

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