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WP Squash

Contact PersonGlenda Erasmus

Tel:  021 674 6717
Fax: 021 674 6717
Email: administrator@wpsquash.co.za

WP Masters:
President: Andre Naude
Cel: 076-370-5436
Email: andrefnaude@yahoo.com
 

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90 SECONDS OF PINK ELEPHANT MAYHEM

Pete is playing well – hitting a tight length, controlling the tee, taking the ball early and varying his pace. He is leading comfortably, and parents/team mates/coach sit back, quietly confident, chatting away, slukking their beers or sipping their coffee or cooldrinks. “This one’s in the bag”, they think. But then, the unthinkable happens. Something changes. And suddenly, Pete is struggling. From 8-3 up, he is now 9-12 down as he crashes a drive into the tin, tries a reverse angle that does not reach the front wall, and cross court volleys the return-of-serve right out of the court. From a position of power, he now dribbles around the court, dejected. He loses the game. The match is turning on its head.

Panic pervades the supporter group. As Pete emerges from the court, he is swarmed by people as advice, admonition, ideas and a detailed list of “Don’ts” are machine-gunned at the sweaty, tired and miserable target. “Don’t hit crossscourts”, “Don’t play his game”, “Don’t let the ball go to the back”. As one completes his presentation, another pounces, with a whole new set of ideas, while a third waits to offer their own little pearl of negative wisdom which will send poor Pete back onto the court, all pumped up, but probably more confused than when he left the court.

While the Team Members and Support Group have the best of intentions, and desperately want Pete to come out tops, one has to wonder if their methods are achieving their perceived outcomes?

The famous fallacy of this type of advice is best explained through the Pink Elephant example. If someone says to you, “Don’t think of a Pink Elephant”, my guess is, the first thing that floats through your brain, is A PINK ELEPHANT! Somehow, the brain dissolves all the “Don’ts”, and Pete will return to the court, with ideas of crosscourts and letting the ball go to the back firmly stuck in his psyche.

So Rule Number 1 in assisting players between games, is “Don’t say Don’t”.

Tell him things that he can do, that he is doing well; that he is comfortable with achieving.

And while we are talking about Pink Elephants, let’s also talk about some other Don’ts:                                  

  • Don’t talk technically – i.e. get your racquet ready/get back to the tee/play off your correct foot. Those are things that must be corrected at practice. Now he must be thinking tactically.
  • Don’t bombard him with too much advice. How much can one remember in 90 seconds – effectively 75 seconds – as Pete must be back on court in 90 seconds, and ready to play? Choose 1 or 2 tactical things, and speak in a positive manner.  Get your length back; Slow down the pace; Be patient; Play down the walls. Then ask him what he should do so that the idea is entrenched in his mind.
  • Don’t tell him to do something that he is not capable of doing. While your advice might be correct and he should be slowing the game down or playing more drop shots. If he is not confident with playing that kind of game, it will be tough for him to implement.
  • Don’t deliver a fire-and-brimstone tongue-lashing sermon.  Encourage, support, and build. I promise you Pete is more desperate to win than you think he is. Nobody likes to lose. If he loses, you will move on but he will feel gut-wrenched for a good while after he has showered and made himself beautiful, despite feeling ragged inside.

So, how else can we help our team-mate/child/protégé get back on court and back on winning track with a calm, goal-directed mind?

Get to know Pete, the Squash Player. He is probably very different to Pete, the cricketer or Pete, the colleague, or Pete the businessman. All players are different. Some like having a bit of support in between games, some respond well to hard, forceful, “pump-up-the-jam” head-butting stuff and others prefer to be on their own to gather their thoughts. But get it wrong, and Pete returns to the court more confused than when he came off.

If nothing else, make sure that Pete re-hydrates and takes in sufficient water or suitable fluid. Dehydration is a major cause for concentration loss, and concentration loss is one of the major causes of Lost Matches. When he thinks he has had enough, get him to have another sip.

Ideally, let one person be the communicator and coach. Assimilating information from a beehive of swarming people is not easy. Encourage Pete to relax, BREATHE, and calm himself.

Ask him how he is feeling. Get his mind off the loss of the past game, and start thinking forward. The last game has gone. You and he can do nothing about it now.

Give him a little time on his own to gather his thoughts and think, before he blasts back into battle.

If Pete is 0-2 down, and losing, get him to try something different. Pick up the pace/slow down the pace …whatever, but change something, because what he is doing, isn’t working. A little white lie is also not a bad call occasionally. Tell Pete that you can see his opponent is looking really tired.

If it is the break between the 4th and 5th game, or if it is particularly hot or a really tough match, it is not a bad idea to put on a clean shirt/sweatlet between games. You sometimes feel like a new person and feel so much lighter having lost that hot, wet, sticky, smelly shirt.

Finally, how prepared are YOU to give advice in that 90 second window period?

How carefully have you been watching the match, and how analytical have you been? In my experience, most people are vaguely watching proceedings, chatting away, filling up on last week’s skinner, and at the end of the game, they rush off without much thought, and give some vague advice based around what THEY would do, to beat his opponent.

Should you not actually be focusing on Pete’s opponent? Should you not be identifying the opponent’s weaknesses which Pete can then focus on? Is he stronger on his forehand or his backhand? How good is he in the air? Does he volley much or does he allow the ball to go to the back of the court? How does he handle pace, and how does he respond to No Pace? Is there a shot he plays repeatedly from the same position?

A little tip that I have found useful is to use a pad; any piece of paper will do, and draw a rectangular court on it with squash court markings. Focus your attention on Pete’s opponent. Whenever he makes a mistake, note where he is standing on the court, and write a cross. Invariably a pattern will start developing and without having had any squash coaching background, you will be able to identify players’ weaknesses, and later, strengths.

As you get better at this, you can start doing the same for Pete, and you can work with mistakes and winners where you use ticks, instead of crosses. And then you can do Pete and his opponent so you can monitor and analyse both players. Another benefit of this little method is that it can also be useful as a “visual aid”, as you can show Pete where his opponent is actually making lots of mistakes. And then it can also become a coaching aid as it can be used for practice sessions in the next week.

Do yourselves a favour. When next you are spectating, especially when it’s a close, hard-fought match, sidle up close to one of the players during the 90 second break between games, and listen to what advice they are given, and by how many people! You’ll often note how confusing all this advice is!

Let’s make sure we use those 90 second breaks effectively as they do play a major role in the Squash Player’s psyche, and let’s exorcise those Pink Elephants, and send them off to their secretive friends in the Knysna forests.

 
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