How can a squash coach best help their player to play well and get into their Ideal Performance State? One of the best ways is to coach their players to write down a plan that includes three parts:
- Pre-match plan – to help them get focused and warmed up before play;
- Match Plan – reminders about their tactical game plan, perhaps a few key technical points, and some general reminders (psychological or motivational).
- Refocus or Distraction Control Plan – a list of potential distractions and solutions.
The idea for a Focus Plan was initiated by Canadian Sport Psychologist Terry Orlick based on his work and research with Olympic athletes. Since 1986, I have continued to adapt the idea to make plans for squash, tennis and racquetball players – with pretty good success since many went on to become world champions and successful professional players. This idea of preparing written plans formed the basis for the Coaching Association of Canada’s Level 4 Coaching Certification – the steps are outlined in detail in two of Orlick’s books – Psyching for Sport and Coach’s Guide to Psyching for Sport – now out of print but available on Amazon.
I have used many different forms for the plan with the thousands of athletes I have worked with since then – here is the latest version for you to download – Focus Plan 2010 – I have added two new sections in the last few years:
- Competition Philosophy Statement: A brief statement by the athlete about why they compete – it can help keep the pressure off (e.g., I always go and give my best – win or lose”)
- Communication Preferences: What the athlete likes to hear from teammates and coaches before, during and after competition.
This will help your squash players to avoid the “fainting goat” syndrome when faced with competitive pressure:
Application for Squash Coaches:
- Help your squash players perform consistently by getting them to develop and use a written down game plan.
- Discuss communication preferences with your athletes to improve your on site coaching.
- Help your athletes develop and use a competition philosophy that fires them up, but also helps keeps the nervousness away.