Friday, October 10, 2014


Today I'm going to talk about refocusing. Everyone will lose their focus every so often. But it's about recognizing this and getting it back before you give away some free points. You may get angry at yourself for some mistakes, at the ref, or at your opponent for bumping into you. Whatever the reason is, your focus has drifted away from the present and the next rally to the past and things that cannot be undone.

The more squash I play the easier I find it to refocus. I have a routine between points, when I'm serving and returning. I have a rule that I don't start the next point until I've let the last point go. I know that this takes a long time for some people. If I get a really bad call at a crucial part of the match I may get rattled for a moment, but then I have to start thinking that this is a challenge and an obstacle I can overcome. So I may clean my glasses or wipe my hand on the side wall before starting the next point. I'll also take a breath and say something positive to myself.

Many people are quite hard on themselves while they're playing. I always ask people to imagine if they were coaching themselves, would what they're saying help or make things worse? Normally we are way too hard on ourselves and this negatively impacts our performance going forwards. I'm not sure why we do this, but we do. This is why I think recognizing that this is happening is the most important part. Many people are unaware of their self-destructive behaviour and thinking. Once you become aware of it you can begin to change the way you behave and think. Let's take a look how.

The first thing you can do is film yourself in competition. Often things go unnoticed when you're in the heat of battle. The other thing I've done is a little trick I picked up from the Zen Golf book. You can only do this in practice matches though. Whenever you get angry though or have a self-destructive though you simply use an erasable marker and put a check on the back glass wall. You don't have to pay any attention to this, just put the check. And what they found in Zen Golf was that players didn't realize just how often they were losing their cool. If you continue doing this for a number of matches the number of checks should go down. When you get into a tournament you can always draw a imaginary checkmark with your finger. This allows you to say, 'okay, I lost my cool there, put a checkmark on the wall and time to move one.'

Another method I've use before is having the people watching keep track of whenever the players appear to lose focus, get angry or down on themselves. In the chart below I have a column for if the player appeared refocused before the next point and what the result of the next rally was. We may not be aware of our negative body language, but again this method of tracking it happening can help bring it to our attention.

Losing Focus and Composure
  • charting lapses of focus and concentration during a match and how it effects the next rally
  • check a mark every time each player appears angry or frustrated. This may show up as negative self-talk, arguing with a ref, hitting their racquet, hitting the ball in anger after a rally, etc.

Game 1
Player A: Player B:
Checkmark for lapse of focus
Appear refocused before next point (yes/no?)
Result of next rally (win/loss?)
Checkmark for lapse of focus
Appear refocused before next point (yes/no?)
Result of next rally (win/loss?)

Total up all the columns.

A lapse of focus may not just be that you're angry. You may just get distracted and start thinking about something not to do with squash at all. This is why I don't like seeing players looking out the back of the court between points. Keep your attention and focus on the court. Get your mind in the right place, 'in the zone,' and you'll play better and more consistent squash. 

The main parts are 1) recognizing your actions and any self-destructive thoughts and behaviours. Do this by having someone chart your behaviour or watching yourself on video. 2) don't get upset when this happens, just recognize that it happened and 3) have a refocusing tool. Wipe your hand on the wall, take a breath, and use positive self talk. The last point is over, time to move on. Be a good positive self-coach and play better and smarter the next rally. The more often you do this the better you will get at it and the faster you will be able to refocus. 

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