Did you know that with any sport at a high level, results are 90% dependent on your mental state and only 10% is a consequence of your physical efforts?
And yet, when it comes to squash, it’s difficult to find any specific and practical guidance on what mental fitness is… let alone how to train it.
When most squash players hear of or talk about fitness, they automatically think of physical fitness. For most, training mental fitness to improve their mental state remains just an abstract idea.
It seems odd, right?
If a squash player’s mental state is so influential to their match results then it would make sense that there’d be more information available that’s put to use.
So, What Is Mental Fitness?
Mental fitness is the guiding of your thoughts and attention with conscious control directed toward a specific outcome, as opposed to letting every whimsical thought unconsciously pass by your attention with no real aim.
While training squash a specific outcome might mean improving your backhand, serve, retrieval off the back wall, volleying, footwork, match-tactics, maintaining concentration in a match, winning a tournament, or any number of things.
The actual outcome of the particular moment is not important. What is important is the process of how you direct your attention toward the task at hand, whatever it is.
Let me give you an example that comes from outside of squash. Remember, the principle is what matters…
The Blueprint For Mental Fitness
Imagination is powerful. To prove just how powerful, a group of researchers conducted an experiment on the effects of mental practice on improving skill in sinking basketball free-throws.
One group of students actually practiced throwing the ball every day for 20 days, being scored on the first and last days.
A second group was scored on the first and last days, and engaged in no sort of practice in between.
A third group was scored on the first day, then spent 20 minutes a day, imagining that they were throwing the ball at the basket. When they missed they would imagine that they corrected their aim accordingly.
The first group, which actually practiced 20 minutes every day, improved in scoring 24%.
The second group, which had no sort of practice, showed no improvement.
The third group, which practiced in their imagination, improved in scoring 23%.
(Experiment quoted from, “Psycho-Cybernetics” by Dr. Maxwell Maltz.)
Similar experiments have been done with darts, chess, piano, you name it. And results like this are possible because…
…our nervous system cannot tell the difference between an
actual experience and one that is vividly imagined with emotion.
Whatever level of squash you are at, training mental fitness can help you to improve any aspect of your game, which will lead to you having more fun and winning more matches.
What stops most people is the lack of belief it will actually make a difference.
In Part 2 of Mental Fitness, we look at a squash-specific example to get your juices flowing.
Have fun & play your own game!