Like most sports professionals, young or senior your thought process throughout a match is going to be key in winning – in the context of Squash, it is equally as important given the health benefits of the sport, notably reducing any form of anxiety.
The root of negative thoughts is based on fear; whether it is fear of failing, fear of mistakes, fear of criticism, fear of losing playing time, and many more, etc.
For any junior Squash player, fear is sometimes a factor in whether they continue to play beyond a particular age. Compared to an adult Squash player, he or she is more likely to lose it and possibly curse on the Squash court.
Dealing with negative thoughts in play
When dealing with any sort of negative thoughts the first issue is to recognize that there is some talk actually happening!
This may sound crazy but so often Squash players (pro or recreational) do not want to admit that there is anything that is deemed, as negative thoughts going on at all. They do not, even in your own eyes want to appear to be bad and so denial is the first tool to use.
Secondly once admitted it cannot be cured straight away by squashing or pressing it down. These thoughts have to be given airtime. Needless to say, you have to listen as you repeated each negative suggestion repeatedly. No one has to buy in or believe.
Simply put all you have to do is acknowledge these thoughts and comments ONCE and then let them go. This of course is much easier said than done. The sentence thank you for sharing might be useful to you. You need not yell at your thoughts and tell them they have no rights because for sure they will come back and bite you when you least expect it.
Thirdly, once you have listened to all this unfriendly and critical chatter it is vital to let it go and not give it an ounce of credibility.
Building up positive thoughts
Let us not forget Squash is a funny game and physically the harder you try the worse it gets. On the mental front, you need to be trying very hard to stay relaxed. When negative thoughts come into your head as they so often do, they tend to cause tension in your body through fear, anger doubt, or another emotion. This tension is not conducive to a relaxed easy swing and accurate shot-making.
What is needed is a player who is focused, grounded in their senses, and playing their opponent not themselves. When you are listening to negative thoughts, you create a situation where you start to play yourself.
When you are in your senses, you now start to play with your opponent, exploiting their weaknesses and hitting the ball into the spaces on the court to maximize your opponent’s discomfort and pressurize them. You look for their patterns and try to always keep them guessing.
Should they like the rhythm of the game slow you make it quick, even if that is not your preference, doing anything to keep them off-balance. Your job is to play to your strengths and their weaknesses and you cannot do this if the voice in your head says to you constantly that you are not worthy!
That means you must practice flexibility and have a number of games in your arsenal. Again, you always practice and implement these tactics in matches that have no significance to you until switching becomes second nature.
Play well; smash away your negative thoughts
Remember squash players are rebels and must always DO what their opponent wants them NOT to do.
If you still having trouble dealing with negative thoughts, perhaps consider some form of mediation before a match – in the context of a junior Squash player, Yoga is an excellent exercise to do and also mindfulness too.
Anytime you do not, leave your opponent comfortable and potentially able to pressure you into a weak shot or too much energy expenditure.