Friday, October 19, 2018

Flow

Last night at practice we talked about the state of flow, also referred to as being in the zone. In this state is where we will play our best squash where our shots seem to be spot on and we seem to thoughtlessly make smart decisions. But sometimes no matter what we do we just don't find our best squash and this zone where we play our best squash in. I notice that a lot of players play below their standard when they perceive themselves to be in a big and meaningful match. Even at the pro level many of the top players preform below their standard level of play when it finally counts. I believe the cause of this is players getting out of their ideal state of play often because they try too hard and so badly want to perform well. So how exactly can you increase your chances of finding this flow state regardless of who and where you're playing? Here are some of the ideas we talked about last night plus a few others.

Prematch Routine - often when we walk on court we already have a mindset which will foster or inhibit the odds of playing within this zone. If we are having destructive poisonous thoughts like 'this person is too good' or 'this will be easy' or if we are simply not feeling like playing a tough match we are inbox trouble. Having a routine to prepare yourself mentally before you even step out on court can prepare your mind as much as your body for playing it's best possible game of squash. Our physical skills don't deteriorate from day to day, it's our mindset, our emotions, our motivation and our energy levels which fluctuate.

Between Rally Routines - what we do and say to ourselves to get back on track to help regulate our thoughts and emotions between rallies is so important. Often we will have thoughts about what we could have done better or how upset we are for a call or missing a shot. We can easily get caught in the past and play a poor next point. If we're doing this we will not be playing in the present or the zone. Saying something positive and simple like 'focus' or 'win this point' can help you play the next point at your highest standard.

Simple Tactics - either before a match, between rallies or between games we may need a reminder of a simple tactic that enables us to play our best, most effective style of squash. If we are playing 'mindless squash' and not how we want, a little reminder can go a long ways to bringing you back into your best squash which can also enable you to get into a state of flow. For some reason it's easier to get into a state of flow when we are winning more points than we are losing.

Play More Of The Shots That Are Working That Day (tactics part 2): I don't know why we constantly like to point out what we or others are doing wrong, but that doesn't normally help people play in the zone. Your opponent, the court, ball and various other conditions vary from day to day and some days certain shots are going to work better than others. On those special days everything is working and that's when squash is the most fun. But if something is off, instead of getting upset and continually making the same mistake perhaps abandoning that shot for awhile and playing more of the shots that are on that day will help you find this zone. Once you establish this zone there is a better chance that some of your other shots will begin to fall into place.


Our notes from discussing the zone at the start of practice

Focus on the Process - this is something I am a big believer of. There is theoretically no reason you cannot experience the zone if you are losing. That being said most people get so caught up in winning that they lose the zone as soon as they lose a few points in a row. This is where a routine between rallies, maybe a longer more pronounced one can help get you mentally back on track, or simply stay on track. You may be doing everything right, but this doesn't always mean instant short term gratification. When I'm playing I only give feedback to myself on shot selection and not execution because if I lose playing the right shots I simply need to improve my shots, but if I am losing playing the wrong shots I'm holding myself back. The acronym I refer to with the kids I coach is KISS, keep it simple stupid. 

Self Regulation - part of routines are being able to recognize when you're outside of your zone. Thinking of your zone as a range can be helpful. I also like to think of this as a plant. When destructive, poisonous thoughts enter our minds it is easiest to get rid of them when they are new, before they have rooted. Once we have focused on these for a longer period of time they will have take root and become too big to simply remove with a cue word/power phrase. 

The Bigger The Challenge the Greater The Opportunity - when are backs are up against the wall we often reveal our true character. When we are winning and everything is going according to plan it's easy to be a good sport and play well. When things aren't going our way we can either cave and not give our best effort or we can look at this as a chance to show what we are made of; a great challenge that we are up for. With this type of mindset we can still play the next point focused and with great effort regardless of what's happened previously. 

Superstitions - this is an odd one, but I really believe that superstitions can be helpful in sport. At the World Juniors this summer we had a boy on our team who would change his preserve routine every time he lost a ray, but if he won the point he would stick with it. Sometimes something so simple can help keep the mind out of the way from over thinking.

Pretend to Play Like A Top Player -  whenever I step out on court after watching one of my favourite pro players I always play better. Someone without knowing exactly what I'm mimicking, I normally play better, with more confidence when I pretend to hit the ball, move and play like a top player. I think a lot of this has to do with the confidence top players display with the way they play and strike the ball. If you play pretending to be Paul Coll it's amazing how much harder you try to get every single ball back! When I play and pretend to be like Greg Gaultier I start playing much more patient and my spacing between the ball always improves. 



Match Preparation/Confidence - If you are playing a tournament and you didn't train properly for it you're going to suffer physically at some point and this in of itself can keep you from being in the zone. If we go into an event prepared and feeling good about our game there is a far greater chance of playing our best squash and experiencing this state of flow. 

Do you have any other ways that have helped you enter the zone when you weren't at first feeling it? I love this side of squash. It's really fascinating to me and when I play it isn't always the same thing that gets me into the zone. Sometimes it's about shaking off mistakes quickly, other times it's about playing a simple game, while others it's about just playing whatever shots feel right and another time it may be singing a tune in my head. There A routine can definitely assist you with this process as this is what most pro players have developed over the years. Many will include some imagery in their prematch routine to see themselves playing well and being successful prior to event stepping on court. 

Most of us will also play better squash when we are having fun as opposed to being too serious or hard on ourselves. Learning how to laugh off mistakes and not take the so personally can help you be more relaxed and enjoy your squash which can assist with the state of flow. Get your mind and ego out of the way and just play!

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Friday, October 5, 2018

Coaching Certification Maintenance

The great thing about having a blog is you can share your views and opinions on a variety of things. There's no filter or boss I have to be cautious about saying something I should not. I always try and be very open about my opinions, whether they are correct or not is sometimes open for debate.

Today is an opportunity to do a bit of complaining, so if that's not what you are interested in hearing you're welcome to read no further. This particular topic is about the point system that the Coaching Association of Canada has put into place to maintain your certification.

I don't know about other coaches, but having to show that we are continually committing to do coursework to maintain our certification is not going to make us better coaches, plain and simple. I did a 4 year bachelors in Kinesiology, a 2 years master degree in coaching studies and I've trained as a provincial (level 3) coach. I also coach year round a large number of kids, some of whom are quite strong. I also am always posting tips and videos for Serious Squash on social media. Planning practices, doing my own training and trying to develop the best possible junior program and for some reason that isn't sufficient to show that i'm worthy of maintaining my coaching certification?

You can accumulate points for maintaining your certification by doing a variety of things like first aid courses (which I've taken at least half a dozen times) and by doing various online courses and attending clinics that have something to do with sport. I constantly read books about coaching and sport yet that doesn't collect points. So really this system is actually interfering with my already successful system of learning and work. This system will make me register for courses that I have no interest in. They will also cost money and take the away from my job.

I feel a bit better after getting some of this out. Clearly this certification maintenance program wasn't developed by a coach. If you want to be a good coach you will be, not because of some system that forces you to do extra things. If I want to know something I do research or think about it and figure it out. Simply coaching and working with your athletes makes you a better coach too.

Even from squash specific technical coaching courses (1, 2 and 3) I learned just about nothing and spent a lot of time and money to complete these courses. I understand that there are people trying to justify the professionalism of coaching, but I think the Coaching Association of Canada is way off track here. Some great coaches will lose their certification while others who simply jump through the hoops which shows they do as they are told (but it doesn't meant they are actually committed coaches) will follow along because they have no other option.

That's enough of a vent. If you read this far thanks for taking the time to listen. Feel free to comment and let me know if you agree or think I'm off track.

Don't forget to follow Serious Squash on IG, FB and Youtube for lots of tips! Also check out the merch store at SeriousSquashShop.com where you can find loads of cool stuff plus 3 instructional films which can be downloaded and also come with a money back guarantee.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Monitoring Off Court Training For Groups

When you work with a wide range or age groups it's difficult to have them all on the same training plan and to evenly track all of their progress and offer motivation for both on and off the court. So what I've created was a document where I can track each of their off court training improvements through a variety of exercises which I feel are most appropriate towards their development as an athlete and in particular a squash player. Ideally this chart will also provide motivation and goal setting for the kids too.

How the chart works is they simply get a checkmark when they've completed a certain physical skill task. The idea is to have levels that are challenging for each player so they can continually aim for incremental improvements, which over a long time can lead to a big change in an individual. It's just begun, so only time will be the judge to see how well it works. This is also the first season where the kids are expected to complete 2 off court gym sessions on their own outside of our on court training which is 4x per week.

Beep Test
8.1
9.1
10.1
10.6
11.1
11.6
12.1
12.6
13.1
13.6
14.1
14.6
15.1














Consecutive Pushups
10
20
25
30
35
40
45
50
55
60
70
80
90
100















Consecutive Skipping
50 FW
100 FW
150 FW
200 FW
250 FW
50 BW
100 BW
150 BW
200 BW










Bear Crawl with golf T on back
Width of court
Length of court
Length X2
Around entire court
Total distance with ball on top of T






Plank
1 min.
2 min.
3 min.
4 min.
5 min.
1 min. side
2 min. side
3 min side









Lunges (per leg)
30 sec. hold
60 sec. hold
90 sec. hold
2 min. hold
50 lunge forwards and back
20 lunge jumps (40 total)
30 lunge jumps (60 total)
40 lunge jumps (80 total)









Squats
10 proper squats
30 squats
50 squats
20 squat jumps
30 squats jumps
40 squat jumps
50 squat jumps
20 burpees with PU
30 burpees with PU
40 burpees with PU











Flexibility/Stretching 
Hamstring
Quads
Hips/Glutes
Calves
Shoulders
Trouble Areas?
Sufficient ROM







Nutrition? 
Proper Sleep?
Hydration?
Warm up routine?
Cool down routine?







Anything you feel I'm missing? For the record these kids are between 12 and 18 years old. The coaches have demonstrated and shown that the exercises are all done with proper techniques before adding reps and/or weight. 

Legend: PU = pushups FW = forwards BW = backwards. The golf tee is a plastic driving range one that has a round bottom. You can also use a plastic cup or empty yogurt container.

When I was a kid we had some equipment in our basement, but I didn't know what I was doing or how much to do of something. I had no program or guidance on technique for exercises. It's impossible to play squash at a top level without strong glutes, calves, quads, hamstrings and of course core. The past 3 years since a minor knee surgery I've been steadily going to the gym and working with some great trainers and I feel more stable on court than I did when I was competing.  Here are a few of the pics from some of the various exercises we've done. It's always tailored to squash. You can find a lot more of them on the Serious Squash Instagram page.















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