Monday, August 8, 2016

Is Your Self-Perceived Weakness The Source Of Your Greatest Strength?

We've all heard the tale of David and Goliath. I even wrote a post awhile back about  common misperceptions we have about strengths and weaknesses. I'm going to pick up on these prior discusses about how your weakness could actually be your greatest asset. 

I'm only 5 7" and I was always one of the shortest kids in school. I've had many thoughts about how much better I would be if I was a few inches taller; I'd be able to cover more court and volley more shots. What I experienced sounds like a fair assessment. But we are unable to change our physical traits and genetic makeup. 

Many of us have asked the questions if its environment or genetics that allow the greatest to be successful. If only I was 6 foot maybe I too could have played professional squash. I know I've got you wondering now how can my height be an advantage? Let me explain. 

Squash is a sport that anyone can play. There are all different sized players on the tour. Rodriquez, Gaultier and Au all demonstrate that a shorter man can be a great squash pro. Nicol David has done the same on the women's side. But how exactly does my size give me an advantage on the squash court? Let's find out. 

First of all I have to be faster, quicker to react and more efficient with my movement. If I was a few inches taller perhaps I would reach for balls more and not be as fast off the mark. So yes I may have to work harder to get more balls back, but this makes me faster and fitter. Rodriguez must be one of if not the fastest and he's one of the shortest. He is almost too fast for his own good though and often hits shots that must make David Palmer cringe. 

Being shorter in stature means that my shot selection is even more critical. I can't get away with floating shots to the front of the court. I have to send my opponent up there under pressure or I'm in trouble. A lot of taller juniors I see get away with lots of terrible shot because they can dig a lot back. If they played against more polished opponents they would also learn quickly that you can't just float a ball with no purpose to the front of the court. I still want to play an attacking style of squash so I just know I need to set up better openings and be more exact with my attack. Can you see where I'm going with this? Because I don't have a go-go gadget reach I am forced to make better shot selections and execute more precisely. I know this so I've spent hours and hours working on my short game. Annie Au must be the best example of this on tour. She is not very quick, but because of this she has worked on other areas which become much stronger. I doubt Au's style of played would have been as it is if not for her size and speed. 

There are also a number of things that are advantageous to shorter people in squash. Because of my size it is harder for me to get jammed by a shot. If a ball is hit right at me I have less area to get my feet out of the way to get set. I am also lower and have to lunge less deep compared to taller players. When I play a tall person I always hit shots low and right at them. 

Also, because of my height I have a more compact swing than taller players. I can get my swing set quicker and when I contact the ball at proper spacing I am slightly closer to the ball which means means more control and balance. I have more control just like when you move your hand up higher on your grip. As you do this you are closer to your projectile (the ball) and you will generally be slightly more accurate. My balance is better than a taller person because my centre of gravity is lower and the radius of my swing is slightly smaller. 

There really are lots of advantages to being short in squash and it's helped me become the player I am. I can say honesty now that my height is not the reason I didn't become a top psa player. It has a lot more to do with quitting squash at the age of 14 for 5 years. 

A couple of months ago I had knee surgery. I also believe that this will make me a better player when I come back. I will enjoy being on court more and will try and think less about the outcomes. It also gives my mind and body a bit of a break, which is probably long overdo. On top of this having this injury has made me more aware of taking proper care of my body and I plan on doing more preventative training to stay stronger and healthier. The same could very well happen to Ramy. I believe that there is a positive side to these injuries if we stay open minded and driven to succeed. But just like our self-perceived weakness, if we only look at it as an awful thing with no positive side to it we are missing out on a lot of opportunities to learn and grow from our experience. Nobody ever wants to think that an injury can be a positive experience, but I believe they can have lots of positive consequences and when we come back from them we will have learned a lot that we just never would have if we never went through it. Guess this is where the saying, 'what doesn't kills us makes us stronger' comes from. 

Another example of the more we're challenged the more we gain is in sport psychology. The bigger the challenge you face the more you have to gain and improve from. This is the approach you must have when things seem to be going against you. Imagine if everything was easy in your matches, the ref made all the calls in your favour and you never got down in any of the games. This is a level of comfort we would all enjoy, but this situation does not present us with the best chances to improve our mental game. 

I hope I've given you lots of reasons to rethink how you perceive your so-called weaknesses. The only detrimental part of a perceived weakness is the lack of confidence you have because of your destructive interpretation of it. Perhaps looking at your perceived weakness in a new shade of light will let you see that it actually helps to make you stronger and develops other strengths you would not have otherwise. If we don't get pushed and have things too easy we won't become tougher and will never reach our potential. 

I'm a big Toronto Blue Jays and Marcus Stroman fan. Stroman's famous line is 'HDMH' which stands for 'height doesn't measure heart.' He's only 5 8" and asked the Jays to lower his height listed on their program to his proper height. He embraced his perceived weakness because he realizes that it's his greatest asset and is what gives him an advantage over his competitors. He uses his stature as motivation to work harder and has become such a positive individual and more mentally tough because of it. Surely this wouldn't have happened if he was an average height for a major league pitcher. He wants to prove all of his naysayers wrong and is one of the most motivated athletes in all of baseball. 

There's nothing quite like demolishing stereotypes and proving not only to yourself, but to others just like yourself how often we misjudge people. If you need some help believing that your perceived weakness is an asset use vicarious learning by looking at someone who has a similar perceived weakness and is successful. And if someone hasn't done it yet, remember that doesn't mean it can't be done. If you're confident and keep working at it you can do more than you ever thought was possible. Be the next David, Rodriguez or Stroman or better yet be the first of you and become someone else's example and motivation! 

The sooner you change your attitude towards your perceived weakness the more you will benefit from it. Not being good at something or being titled 'genetically inferior' for your sport means you will make up for it in another way and will be stronger because of it. This is the reason anybody can play the most physically gruelling sport in the world at the highest level.

Lastly, be sure to check out my new online squash store at I have men's and women's shirts, tank tops, sport psych wristbands, hats and bandanas! Enter the code 'SERIOUSSQUASHROCKS' to receive 15% off your order! Thanks for reading and supporting Serious Squash! 

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