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Lower your temper. Raise your game.

Published: 16 May 2006 - 20:13 by BizarreCo

Updated: 24 Sep 2008 - 12:33

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I guess this is more of a cry for help and searching for advice than starting a new post.


I have the smallest of small problems when it comes to concentration and keeping my temper on court. I genuinely do know a lot about tactics and matchplay, and consider myself to be a fantastic coach between games (I'm ignoring the modesty bit for the sake of this post!). I understand people's games down to the smallest details (like how some club players hold their racket can interfere with their swing in different stages etc). With all the understanding and analysis that I can do off court, when I step on court it's like a different world. Someone recently described my game as a cross between genius and insanity - when I get it right it's damn near unbeatable, but when I get it wrong (which I usually do!) I struggle to beat the most basic of club players.


Mentally I prepare well for matches and I'm always focused on what I need to do against a player to win. A few years back my coach used to come to games with me and we used to talk through tactics before, during and after games which really did have a good effect on my match. But now I've moved away and it seems that no-one in my new club has a "coaching mentality" to give me the advice that I really do need between games.


Ultimately it comes down to not being able to do what I know I need to on court. Frustration builds and the temper begins to go. It becomes so difficult to keep control when your game doesn't do what your brain is telling it to!! I come across players who I know I have the skills to beat, but I just can't seem to string them together. On good days I'm challenging the higher ranked county players in 5 set thrillers and on bad days I'm losing 3-0 to low ranked club players. It's got to the point a few times when I have been on the verge of hanging up my racket in despair and becoming the team mascot/coach!!


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From rippa rit - 18 May 2006 - 15:06

Bizzare&Co - See I have incorporated a reply to your questions within your post as it was too difficult to do otherwise - I trust I have not mucked up your masterpiece.

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From BizarreCo - 18 May 2006 - 02:59   -   Updated: 18 May 2006 - 15:03

I think I've identified different levels of play at different speeds. Allow me to explain further:

1) Slow game - I love this one! I can chose whatever shots I want and I don't have to rush to play them. Generally if the game stays at a very slow pace then I can handle it really well as I can drop into the nick if someone gives me the chances!
Rippa's reply  - what i meant from "slow game" which is a cue  - that must not only promote thoughts, but actions - the play, the shots - the process. Thoughts alone are not enough, as it is a skill to be able to flex from one speed to the other, and knowing which shots do this. So focus on the shots, eg touch, lobs, get into position quickly,and change the direction of the ball with speed unexpectedly, asthis throws people off balance and out of rhythm.

2) Very fast pace - This is where everything is so quick you hardly get a chance to think before playing the ball. You begin to rely on instincts as opposed to tactics. Once again here I'm quite comfortable. When I'm stretched to my limits I can still play good shots and so I try to up the pace even further to put my opponents off. A great tactic, but my stamina isn;t good enough to keep up with fitness machines in this type of game.
Rippa's reply - same as above.  The increase in speed can take away the touch shots, so boasts instead of drops have to be used to run the player forward, then the volley is imperative. Patience, easier to get out of breath, make mistakes, panic, go too fine, play drops in desparation as want to finish off the point.  Now, the critical thing I believe is to recognise why it is happening and instead of throwing a spaz attack, take control of it - so either try to slow things down, even for a bit, get more composed, and flex between slow and very fast, change service boxes, change the pattern of driving, and keep thinking.

3) The middle ground - Not fast, not slow. Here's when I begin to struggle. I know the shots I need to play as I've had time to think about them. When I try to play them it all goes wrong. Am I still moving? Am I changing my mind too much? I just don't know why this pace is causing me so many problems.
Rippa's reply - that is steady, no errors, get into the swing of things, work out the opponent, don't try to win too quickly,  especially at the beginning of a match, try out fast, and slow, short and long, high and hard serves, change boxes, and this can often unsettle the opponent in itself especially if they are a bit slow to start, and struggling to settle down.

 I have an example from last night!! I was playing someone who used to be ranked above me in my squash club, and now I've moved up and he's dropped below me. I was all set after reading the advice on here. Mentally I was focused. Physically I felt fine. First game I picked up the pace way beyond anything that he could cope with and when he was rushed into playing loose shots I killed them off with short volleys or nick shots. 9-4 (after being 3-0 down!). Second game I was even quicker onto the ball and he was really struggling to do anything. 9-1!! Third game he slowed the pace. Now I was struggling. I was second guessing myself and going for a lenght - or should it be a crosscourt - a lob - a drop? I had too much time but too many options. At 4-8 down I had to speed up or slow down further, so I chose the latter. I began to lob the ball high and drop shorter but at a far slower pace. I won 5 straight points to take the match 9-8 (he called set 1!).
Rippa's reply - this is really the ebb and flow of a match.  By you slowing down you probably hit the ball tighter too - he probably was relying on your pace as you would be doing more work, and in the latter stages of a match fitness then comes into play too.  Slowing down is ok so long as you yourself, and your feet, and shots do not slow down and go sloppy, so that is also a skill. 'Cos you still need to crunch the lose ones even though the game pace has changed - does not mean you hit slow winners!!!

 Why was I struggling so much with the middle pace? I was reaching the ball easily. I had time to play. I know that I was consciously thinking that I had to play a tight shot, high or wide so he couldn't reach it at this pace. The only thing I can think of is:
Rippa's reply - in mid pace there is probably a mixture of slow and attacking shots, and it is desirable to know when to be playing touch and when to attack.  That is a skill not easy to do unless you practice tight drives returned steady and controlled, attack loose with volley/volley boast, volley, reply to a boast is lob, smash loose lobs - sort of flex things around a bit....but keep your feet moving, and your racket ready, and be alert just the same.

Slow Pace - My opponents are moving slowly hense they aren't reaching shots that make them move any distance
Rippa's reply - slow opponent  so important to up the pace, play  fast  controlled shots, use the boast to move the player, look out for drops, be ready for change of direction, move a little closer to the T, volley as much as possible, expect all shots to come back, chase every ball. Players often not so fit so might keep flexing between slow and fast pace, might even change rackets in between games for better effect.  If your hard play is not accurate slow down and do not rush - change to softer play for a while and monitor how it is handled.  Keep thinking what you are doing but do not try to do too much at once.

Fast Pace - My opponents don't have time to reach a ball before it goes dead or out of reach. Width and change of direction causes them to struggle to react to the ball in time to play a good return.
Rippa's reply - yes, length drives, and speed makes movement more physical, the play tends to be continuous so not too much stop and start and change of direction (which is good and bad). heart rate increases, touch shots can get a bit shaky, opponent running onto the ball hardly staying at the T but striding from corner to corner, can give a feeling of rushing. Not much time to think.

Mid pace - Now they are moving quick enough to reach the short / wide shots from my slow pace, but also have enough time to react to the fast pace.
Rippa rit - as described above.  A mixture of controlled and attacking, patience, no rush, waiting for the mistakes, put away anything near the middle of the court.

 Something is definitely lacking in this mid range game and I don't quite know what it is. Some help please?
Rippa's reply - squash i like a game of chess.  Counter the moves. 


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From rippa rit - 17 May 2006 - 07:31

Biz - what you  say reminds me so much of what Ray Strach has said in his blogs.

If you were a student of mine I would be trying out a few techniques, eg using key phrases, and not so much a string of shots.  Yeah what am I talking about?
  • Say, the cue word is, cannot get in front of the opponent.  So you should have already  been practising games/routines which answer the problem "How do I get to the T", and there are various strategies. Yes?
  • Another one, cue word is I am rushing.  So same as before.  What strategy have you got in place to prevent that or counteract that to bring you back to a controlled game?  e.g. take your time between points, breath deeply, be patient, attack when opponent is under pressure, etc.
Remember, if you are playing an experienced and confident player, every thing that happens in his head, eg cue words, he will also have an answer. 
  • If he likes fast, he will try to rush you.  If he likes slow he will use shots to give him more time.
  • If he is tired he will not hit so hard but more controlled, till his heart rate settles down, and then fire away again.
  • If he does not like the drops, he will keep the ball out of the front corners for a while.
Playing games to beat the hell out of the ball does not develop strategies.
More training of the strategies, let the shots take care of themselves, as you reckon they are good, so, get onto the weaknesses....go look at our tactical section in the library for more training ideas.

Too hard?  Don not know how to do it?  Do not enjoy it?  Hate getting beaten?  What?

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From vitty - 17 May 2006 - 04:59

"Concentration is a tough one to figure out."

Definitely. Let me introduce my personal experience: I played with my old friend last week. Generally I beat him in two sets (9-3, 9-4 or something like this). But nearly always I lose next two games. Concetration has gone away. I don´t know why it is - I want to play just like in the previous sets but as you said - drops are high, lobs low...In the fifth game I usually recover but I hate this. I want to beat him in three of course !

I´ve tried: to focus on each ball, to not to think about it at all and just play, "come on´s !" etc. Nothing seems to be working. But I´ve noticed that I play much better if there´s the audience. Girl´s audience, ehm

Seriously - I think that the concentration and the mental skills in general are the hardest skills to achieve. Maybe this the line between pros and amateurs, A players and B players.
Off topic: I need to buy new shoes and I´m considering the Prince NFS III - does anybody know anything about them ? (I assume that they are pretty common all over the world, so I hope so)

Thanks, Vitty

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From BizarreCo - 17 May 2006 - 03:41

Thanks for the tips Rippa.


Concentration is a tough one to figure out. I know that I focus very deeply on my matches. I take time to clear my head before hand of anything bothering me. I get myself warmed up and imagine shots and senarios in my head. Then it kind of gets a bit fuzzy. I can be angry and play really well - attacking everything and never giving my opponent chance to focus on their game. The intensity is great and in 3 or 5 shots the rallies are over and done with. Then the next match I can feel exactly the same. Focused, controlled and then BOOM!! My game goes haywire, I can't hit a length, my lobs are too low, drops are too high, my game becomes an open book for my opponent to read. In a really funny way I know that my biggest weakness is all in my head. In some twisted way I'm beating myself but almost on a subconscious level that I can't quite grasp. #


What should I be thinking about when playing? Each point? The end goal? 27-0'ing my opponent?


I liked the quote about the "smart player will not really concentrate so much on his own shots". That kind of strikes home. But in matches it's a viscious circle for me. I start by seeing the target. Playing through the shot in my head before I hit it. Positiioning, power, direction: I can play it through like a movie. Then as one or two start to go wrong I begin to concentrate more on getting that length. I become so focused that I must be telegraphing my shots to my opponents as all of a sudden my opponents are everywhere - it's like I'm playing 4 players at once! I become tranfixed on making sure that everything is perfect for my shots and focus on every little imperfection - a rushed swing, out of place footwork, second guessing my opponent etc. It all seems to fall apart.


Tonight I have a match against an old friend who used to playu above me in my club team. He conceeded his place to me about 12 months ago, and tonight I get to see how far I'm progressed in the last year. Focus will be on trying to break up his rythmn and pace, as suggested!

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From rippa rit - 16 May 2006 - 21:11   -   Updated: 16 May 2006 - 21:14

BizarreCo - think you better go and have a lesson or two with Chris Robertson.

Yes, I can visualise the player you are, and I had a student just like that.  He did become the coach at a Club in Germany.  He was a coaches nightmare to some extent.

To train yourself to stay on task and concentrate, try reading a book while the TV is blurting out, 'cos that is the depth of mental state you need to be in to focus on the task on the court, and it has to keep happening for 40 minutes - so, now tell me how many pages you had to re-read to understand what you just read?

Train on court, either playing, or doing routines, with the Radio blurting out in the back of the court, and see if you can focus and recall what is happening.

Now, it may not all be concentration - some of it could be trying to enforce the plan when the opponent is resisting what you are doing in which case you need to have Plan A & B (what if?).
You must not make mistakes whatever you are trying to do.
If it is risky do not do it, but be patient till the shot is ON.
The better the player the less opportunities.
Deep breath in between points, settle your heart rate down, and recall what is actually going on, so then you do not need the coach to tell you, but you can change the game accordingly.
Try a few different things and monitor how it went, eg try a few boasts, and then think about the result, eg did he work hard, did he make an error, etc.. Then decide if that is a good idea or not.

A smart player will not really concentrate so much on his own shots, as he knows what he can do, but he puts a lot of time into trying to break up his opponent's rhythm by change of pace, angle, direction.

Make a mental note of your errors to eliminate them. As well as your winners.
Make a mental note of your opponent's winners be ready for them, or take that shot away from him.

Biz - go back to the drawing board.  Why do you think our top players have started extensive competition at 12 years old, and are still trying to get their mind in order at 28 years......

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