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The Making of Champions

Published: 29 Jan 2009 - 19:21 by raystrach

Updated: 03 Feb 2009 - 22:24

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It is the same in all sports - some athletes have the knack of doing the right things at the right time. And it usually doesn't happen just once.

In our sport, the player with the reputation of doing just that is David Palmer. Whether he is just metally strong or Joe Shaw's psychological training program really does work, no one could be sure.

David has a habit of winning the big ones, the British Open and the World Championship. And while he has been ranked number one at times, he seems to save his best for the big time. 

His two most recent majors, the last British and a recent World title were won from what would have been impossible positions for others. The fact the he won them had a lot to do with his confidence in coming back from these situations to prevail.

But these things don't just happen by accident. Where as many athletes (and mugs like you and me) might either tighten up, panic or just give up, he focusses his attention very strongly to the task at hand. He plays "in the moment" not thinking of consequences "if" something might happen, but controlling the things he can control and not worrying about anything else.

To some, this extreme focus comes naturally and it comes to all levels of athletes from C to A to elite. Fortunately, it is an attitude which can be trained, although it does take work.

As you are reaching your physical and skill potential, it is the mental potential which will usually be the one which can make the most difference to your game. Improving you mental abilities can result in a huge improvement in your playing ability.

I am quite mentally strong, but if I do not keep exercising my mental strength with hard competition, my mental game goes to jelly. For me, living out of the Squash mainstream in a provincial area, it is difficult to get regular hard games so I have to keep on working on the mental side of my game.

I have a set of processes which, if I can implement them well, enable me to play with plenty of mental strength. However, If i can't quite get it right, or if I get lazy in going through those processes in a match, I play like a woose.

There are plenty of library and forum articles on the mental side of Squash. If you put in the effort, you will be rewarded.

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From raystrach - 03 Feb 2009 - 22:24

wathcing these tennis matches gives you a really good idea on what is going on mentally with the players. Federer surprised me when he played in fear for virtually the whole match.

only in the fourth set did he do anything to break out of the chains that this fear had put him in - i know the feeling only too well! at the moment nadal simply has it over federer.

when federer forgets about losing matches and just plays in the moment as he does with andy roddick, he will beat nadal easily.

but whether that will happen any time soon or not is another matter.

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From rippa rit - 02 Feb 2009 - 15:10

Well, Adz you must feel a lot better now to know even Federer can run scared.  Haven't I played matches like that, and also had students in the same situation, but at least in squash the coach can go down to the student in-between games, and often get them through this "brain explosion". In that tennis match there was no time to settle down into the match, as the service balls started flying from the first game. We understand the words, overaroused, underaroused, scared, frozen and the more the opponent gets your good shots back the worse it gets. That helicopter type forehand from outwide from Nadal was a screamer, when Fed had him well out of the court, and to add salt to the injury, he hit a clean winner. What does that do to your confidence!! Full credit to Nadal, he never let up.

So we saw a shift in game plan in the fourth to some short surprise drops and that probably won Fed that game, and then what, the brain was not observing what we saw, and bingo Fed goes back to the same old same old slogging match in the fifth, forgetting to try the short balls when Nadal was so far behind the base line. Sure, Nadal was more on the ready too for the short shot (that never came) in that next game.  Even losing the point, would at least have taken some sting out of Nadal.  So, Fed was dejected, and he let that show, and then the serve went off, then the net shots started to happen.

Don't you hate that - I bet Federer wanted to replay the match when he awoke, knowing he could do heaps better next time. 

The main thing now is, what is Fed going to do about it to be ready for the next meet. Good stuff.

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From Adz - 01 Feb 2009 - 19:29

I'm writing this whilst actually watching the OZ Open.

You have to say that even though these guys are tennis players and squash and tennis has never got on "that" well in my area, Federer is an absolute inspiration.

The Guy is about a month older than me, and I have to say I feel extremely priviliged to have been alive to see him play. I really hope he shows his true champion side today and takes this match!!

 

I've seen some amazing mental composure in both Squash and Tennis and both are as much about mental skills as physical ones. Just remember, if you can still out play an opponent tactically, and hit some good shots, you can skill win when you lungs are burning and your legs are like jelly.

To quote Zohan.......

"I have seen dis, I have done dis!"

 

Ha ha!!

 

Come on the Fed!!!!

 

Adz

 

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From rippa rit - 31 Jan 2009 - 11:29   -   Updated: 31 Jan 2009 - 11:31

Well, your article is very timely with the Grand Slam in Tennis happening right at this time.  The performance last night between Verdasco and Nadal had the apectators on the edge of their seats.  The guts and determination displayed as mental and physical fatigue started to set in, hitting the ball as fast as John White, 185klph plus (World Ranked squash player), with some rallies going to 28 exchanges of the ball.  What a battle, and they both deserved to win after fighting more than 5 hours for a result.  Tremendous determination and concentration; or should I say controlled aggression. One thing squash lacks is Hawk Eye, and the ability to replay the point at critical times. Taking the arguments, with the Ref, out of the match has really taken away a lot of the ugly that spoils matches as frustration creeps in. Some appeals are often called, more out of desperation, and anxiety, and that interruption to the flow of the game can work against players as they come out of the "zone" with their fingers crossed for a free point.

Even the most mediocre player must not neglect their mental training, as that can lose matches just as easily as the technical skills of the drive. or running out of puff.

When you can play your shots at match ball, with the same fluidity as the first game/set you know you are on the way to overcoming your nerves.

Love it. 

 

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