Today I'm going to talk about the pre game speeches you give to a team. Yesterday I talked about the individual coaching I'll give to my athletes, but when you're with a group there are some things that are best said to all of them. We've all seen the ra ra ra football speeches to fire up and inspire their team. We've also seen many famous speeches in sport movies. Who's seen Any Given Sunday? This is a popular football movie speech https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oSDhhZtRwFU. I wonder how a professional squash player would react to a speech like this? Maybe I need to hire myself a professional write for my speeches..
I'm working with kids from grade 7-12. Many of the younger ones are relatively inexperienced to competition. So my pre game speech today will be about playing hard every point, calling their own shots down or out, and having fun. For this particular tournament they did not enter a category, they were sorted into divisions by ranking points. So some of the kids may be upset with which draw they are in. So before encountering this, I will also mention that this doesn't matter. This tournament is about getting back into competition and seeing where you are. We will use this to reassess our goals and make new ones.
No doubt that most kids will be a bit nervous playing the first tournament of the year. It's also important to reassure them of the hard work they put in over the summer. A lot of people have expectations and put pressure on themselves going into an event. This is why a good consistent warmup routine is used by most athletes. It gets their head in the right mindset for competition. It gives them a chance to change their thoughts and focus from stuff like homework, chatting with friends, and into squash mode.
Other types of pre game team talks will vary depending on the tournament. As I coach a team, I will often emphasize the team aspect and how much it helps having us all pulling for one another. In squash this doesn't happen very often until you go to college or if you make a provincial or national team. But our kids train and travel together, they just compete individually (except for 1 team event per year).
With teenage squash players, I don't think they will ever need a ra ra ra motivational speech. Although I remember our team at college getting one once from the coaches wife. So I should never say never. Pre game speeches can set the tone for your team and can be an important lesson for your athletes. It's a chance to share some of your thoughts and feelings about competition and the team. The team gets to learn what you value at competition, your coaching philosophy. Are you going to focus and discuss winning? And doing anything it takes to win? If you're focus is result oriented I think you need to be working with a very experienced group of athletes. Otherwise if they are less experienced I feel they will think and try to win, instead of just playing and having fun. If this happens, I believe this reduces their chances of being successful and adds pressure to their matches. It's great if they win, but I want to see how they handle defeat, what they learn from it and how they respond to it. That's what shows character and is what translates to life outside the squash court.
I think it's important to know what you want to discuss ahead of time and keep it short and sweet. I'm lucky the kids will all be on the bus travelling up to the event together, so just before we get to the event I will have all of their attention. Otherwise it can be hard to track down everyone in a large group. In conclusion, use these opportunities to enhance your group. Some teams will have a team chant, song or ritual before games. Chant or not, it's a good time for your team to learn and to direct their focus for their tournament.