When we watch a game of squash there are many ways the game can be played, but for me there is a category of players that captivate an audience more than the rest.
In an era of professionalism across sport you can see teams and sports people that aim to get to the top by not putting a foot wrong, leaving no stone unturned in trying to prevent failure, ultimately to achieve success. These can be successful, I think, for a short period of time but are rarely remembered amongst the greats.
The ones that really fascinate an audience are the ones that try to transcend their sport, transform it, turn it into more of an art form. They are a rare breed. They see things in their own way, a creative way, a way that see success and how it can be achieved. They have a skill set that makes it effortless, smooth, and repeatable. They create the big moments more than the rest, the moments that get us watching it back time and time again and makes an amazing highlight reel at the end of the days play.
Looking to some of sports great teams, Pep has done this with both Barcelona and Man City, Wayne Smith with the All Blacks, and Roger Federer in Tennis all immediately come to my mind.
In squash arguably Raneem El Weleily, Nour El Sherbini, Ramy Ashour, Amr Shabana have all fallen into this category in recent eras.
They all have some similarities, for a starter they weren’t just great once, they did it for several years.
Secondly, but more importantly, they have tried to uncover every facet of the games they play and let the skills come to the forefront in that. The skills that underpin the tactical ability really show prominent.
They all share a desire to utilise all the court in our sport, or of the pitch in my other examples.
They are prepared to take what most of us would see as risky shots, knowing they aren’t risks as they have a refined skill set. They have a clarity of thought that allows this, and clearness that appears to make the world move in slow motion for them when everyone else is in fast forward.
How can we embrace this mindset at our levels then?
Here a few key things that can help:
- The basics. Hone the shots that underpin brilliance. Spend time refining your skills that give you space and time in a game.
- Movement. Aim to be smooth and efficient. Refine this to ensure you can arrive and make everything take as little energy as possible.
- Practice open. We need to be able to deliver in a game. Make sure to practice in open skilled exercises and condition games as much as possible to make sure you see space and use it when it counts.
- Positive mindset. Have a clear mind in game settings. Clear the head so you have as much capacity to take on and see the space and the winning shots when they present themself.