Monday, December 22, 2014

Don't Think, Do!

The title today may be a bit misleading. 'Don't think, do' can imply the subconscious mindset you need to play your best squash. This is the zone that we all want to play squash in. You don't want to overthink things and think about technique while you're playing a match. But today I'm going to talk about how after playing squash for a number of years you don't want to think about you think about technique at all. Most people never get to a stage where their technique is efficient enough that they don't need any technical work.

Practice after practice, for many years I always thought about how I was hitting the ball. Especially in  drills or when I was solo hitting I always worked on my swing. Even when I had playing at a men's open level for a number of years I was still working on my technique. I would film myself and tinker with it continuously. A few years ago after talking with another coach he told me that after how many balls I've hit and how long I've play that I shouldn't be thinking about my technique at all. I don't know if that was what I was waiting to hear, but since I was told that I really haven't thought about my technique at all. Sure, if I wanted to learn a new shot I would need to learn how to play it and this would involve some technical attention, but besides this I just hit the ball. This may not have seen like a bit thing, but this short discussion really changed my mindset for when I play.

Now when I play squash I focus more on feel. I also focus more on if the shot was on or not. I like to play pretty aggressive so if I tend to force a few shots now and again. But it really does free your mind not thinking about your swing. If I do a drill it's more just timing and refining a shot to become more and more consistent.

So how do you know if you get to this stage of development? Some people may never get here while other amateurs have a wild swing and don't think about their technique at all. If you're an elite player or on your way to being one, you will eventually have a moment like the one I did. Where your swing is what it is and you shouldn't tinker with it anymore. Although Nick Matthew was a top junior, he spent 2 years reworking his backhand swing. He knew it would limit him down the road and he probably wouldn't have had the success he did if he didn't spend the time refining it. So even a very elite player can benefit from some technical work.

So still the question remains, how do you know if you should continue working on your technique? Does your swing break down under a bit of pressure? Is your swing compact and consistent? Are you confident in all your shots? A swing doesn't always have to look pretty to get the job done. Even on the pro tour there are a number of variations of swings. Because there isn't 1 ideal swing, many people will have different ideas about what their swing should look like. We'll get feedback from different people, our friends or coaches about what we should work on. But at some point you're swing is set and you shouldn't focus on it anymore.

Getting some encouragement from a coach like I did can be really helpful. How else do you know your swing isn't the problem and you can begin to trust it completely? I don't have any real answers for you today. I just found that this instance really changed my game and made me a better player. We are so set on our technique for so many years that it's tough to change that mindset completely. When it happens to you you'll know and you'll understand how vital this is to playing at a high level. When this does happen squash becomes more psychological and tactical. Like I've already said, the shots I hit now are all about feel and shot selection. You'll be able to play unconsciously; you'll be able to just play and keep your head out of the way.

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