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Mental Skills Training and Techniques

  • It is now accepted that the point of difference between top athletes is their mental abilities.
  • The good thing is that this applies to athletes of all abilities, not just the pros.
  • You can improve your level of play with just a little consistent effort, by improving your mental approach to the game of Squash
  • This page explains mental skills and techniques whilst the Mental Practise page shows practical ways of implementing them.
  • It is important to train these skills so they happen automatically in a game situation

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  • These are repeated positive statements that you make to yourself (usually aloud) and/or write down about any aspect of yourself or your skills.
  • They are always made in the present tense and should be short statements (made when not competing or training). eg I always get to the T quickly.

Squashgame Gold: Advanced Text and Video Content

Affirmations need to be positive

Looking at how players create a positive and/or negative environment

Positive Negative
Good shot Idiot
Aim higher next time Not another mistake
Open the racket face, bend the knees That's hopeless
I am moving well -keep getting to the T Fat toad
It is easy to see from the above comments that are heard around the squash courts which player has the best attitude, and the best chance of adjusting their game.  This could be you!

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  • This is the state of anxiety or nervousness one feels before and during a match.
  • To be over aroused means that you are too hyped up and on edge.
  •  To be under aroused means that you are too relaxed and laid back.
  • The ideal is optimum arousal which strikes a balance between the two extremes.

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Cue words

  • Simple words or short phrases, that promote a train of  thought.
  • All cues need to be transformed into positive thought/action.
  • Usually used in conjunction with mental imagery, which, when spoken or thought about, automatically represent an action, strategy or process which has been practiced.

Squashgame Gold: Advanced Text and Video Content

The use of cue words

Acting positively on our thoughts

Cue word Action
Who is my opponent Try to watch your opponent play; note their weaknesses and strengths; develop a strategy to suit.
I need to volley more Move forward.  Use boasts to move the opponent forward.
Keep the drives tight Prepare for the stroke early; control the racket head;focus on thefront wall target; maybe slow down a little.
A course of positive action will help concentration, as well as keep your mind on the game, and within the 4 walls of the court, cutting out distractions.

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Focus/Concentrate on the task

  • The ability to keep thinking about the game plan.
  • To concentrate, without distraction, for an entire match including:
    • The ability to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the opponent
    • Keep reviewing the basics of the game plan for its effectiveness.
    • Stay positive right to the end of the match.
    • Keep our mind within the court and focus on the task at hand.
    • Minimise distractions from outside the court, including the Referee
This article talks about distractions that can happen at all levels of play  preventing our best performance.

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Goal Setting

See the Goal Setting page Link:

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Mental Imagery

  • This is the imagination of all the senses, ie images, sounds, smells, feelings and emotions which assist in developing skills and modifying behaviour.
  • Practising this technique will assist focussing on the task, and give a deep sense of concentration.

Link: See the Mental Imagery page for more.

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Mental toughness

  • The ability to carry out tactical and technical skills to the best of your ability when under pressure from intrinsic and extrinsic factors.

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Performance Factors

  • Extrinsic Factors are factors which are outside your own thoughts or actions - usually not under your direct control.
  •  Intrinsic Factors are your own thoughts or actions.

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Positive Self Talk

  • Positive statements made to yourself either aloud or silently, during practice or competition, especially when under pressure.
  • Positive self talk can work very effectively with cue words

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  • Relaxation is the technique to reduce mental stress and anxiety levels and to reduce muscle tension.

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  • In the mental sense routines are actions which automatically trigger practiced points of concentration either mental or physical during a quiet time in competition.
  • Often done in conjunction with imagery and cue words, eg pre serve routines establish the things that must be done in the coming rally.

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Self Coaching

  • The ability to correct, change or adjust tactical and/or technical skills during competition.
  • Can be done with the help of cue words and routines.

Link to Gold "what a few words can mean"

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  • The physical action(s) or skill(s) or segment of a skill which has to be performed,. eg hit the ball, swing the racket.
  • process based performance is one in which there has been a concentration on the tasks involved in the performance, not the result or outcome.

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