Archive for the 'Sports Psychology' Category

Page 3 of 7

From breaking rackets to breaking strings

Today’s discussion is one of those topics that appears self-evident but really isn’t – to most people.

That is, the transition from one performance level to the next.

As a squash player, I’ve transitioned from breaking rackets to breaking strings. With the level of intensity and high frequency of play, I used to break more rackets than strings. As I was acquiring my skills, I would often hit and scrape the wall as I got to more balls and played increasingly better players.

Without the consistency in my racket skills, the contact point with the ball would vary widely on the racket strings. Eventually, the racket frame would give way and a replacement racket had to be purchased.

In 2010, that changed. With increased focus and attention on my racket skills, I stopped hitting/scraping the wall and the contact point with the ball narrowed to become the center of the racket (sweet spot). You can see it in the centre of the blue racket.

Squash Racket, Sweet Spot

That meant I started to break more strings than rackets. At one point, I was re-stringing rackets every week! (Averaging 10-15 hours of play with brand new strings!)

That’s when I raised my game to the next level – hitting with 60-80% pace instead of “bashing the ball” at 80-90-100%. It’s a widely held (false) belief that hitting hard and faster is better…

There are multiple lessons to be learned – the sports lesson is that if you are a competitive athlete, you need to assess where you’re at. I discussed this with my squash coach. We purposefully focused on improving my racket skills and strokes – primarily with direction to the ball and foot placement.

Many (most?) athletes are not aware of the distinctions involved here and therefore have no clue where they are nor where they should be.

The most important lesson to become a champion in sport or business is to…

Establish what I call Management By Metrics. Specific targets and milestones and focus on improvement. In today’s blog post, it’s about breaking fewer rackets and more strings, not to save money because it’s a trade off and about the same price when it all works itself out.

Management By Metrics requires that:

  • You determine WHAT you’re measuring and
  • WHY you’re monitoring that specific characteristic.

Once the measurement takes place, then you can gauge, assess and analyse progress or development.

Without measurement, you’re blind and hoping for the best. You won’t be a champion in sport with that approach and you certainly won’t have an optimally profitable business without systems and procedures in place to create SPECIFIC OUTCOMES.

Too many people still believe that champions are born rather than made. Champions are made – manufactured with metrics.

Every single Champion’s biography reveals (at least some of) the secrets that made the SUPERIOR at what they did.

The key is for you to identify where you are to close the gap between that and where you want to be.

Share

Exercise, ANY exercise is good…

I know this blog focuses primarily on elite athletic strategies and techniques, but the video below is a MUST WATCH to remind us all of the benefits of exercise.

If you have a family member or friend who is not exercising at all, make sure you send them a link to this blog post…

Thank you to Ray Keefe of Successful Endeavours who forwarded this to me.

When you come across anything like this, “pay it forward” and send it to me so I can share it with others.

Share

There is no such thing as talent

Many business people want “success” to be more ‘cerebral and complex’… When it’s not.

Just keep thinking about how you achieved at a sport and developed mastery – without clarity and concentration of focus, it’s IMPOSSIBLE.

Everyone wants to think champions are “born” and that talent is a god-given gift. It’s not. It’s pure hard work and execution of the basics. “Pure talent” like Michelangelo and Da Vinci are so rare that over the CENTURIES there are only a handful of such examples.

All the other “great masters” spent the same 10,000+ hours learning their craft – MOST of them dying destitute BECAUSE they acquired mastery too late…

On one hand it’s sobering and on the other it means greatness is within us all – IF WE WANT IT.

I see this manifest itself all the time, on the squash court and in business.

People want to win in squash and get more leads, projects, contracts in business, but most are not willing to do what it takes to achieve “game excellence”.

Everyone can have an “excellent game” when everything flows and the stars in the universe line up, but “game excellence” is the ability to do it consistently, over and over again.

Game excellence is acquired with deliberate practice.

If only more people would just give up on the self-perpetuating myth and realise the reality… You need to INVEST in yourself to get the PAYOFF.

Share

Explicit Vs Implicit Systems

Tennis Coach Sydney, Tennis Coaching, Girls Tennis CoachIf you’ve ever wondered how really great athletes perform their magic, it’s because they have acquired a wide range of skills and abilities that are now part of their IMPLICIT Mental System. Matthew Syed explains in it outstanding detail with amazing clarity in his bestselling book “Bounce“.

Rather than try to summarise Syed’s explanation, I thought I would share with you a real case study from Sydney Tennis Coach, Alison Scott.

Hi Marc,

Today I was teaching a 12 yr old girl the forehand. She had come to get some lessons after having a break from playing for a couple of years and wanted to get back into it again. She was a medium beginner – where she had 2 years of lessons before she stopped playing.

15 minutes into the tennis lesson I noticed a pattern where she would miss hit balls that she had to run out wide to hit.

I was aware she looked awkward and not feeling natural moving out to her right. I stopped and asked her to come to the net.

I asked her what she was focusing on when she was running wide for the forehand. She thought about it and then said she was focusing on her feet/footwork.

I suggested that we work on tracking the ball visually and working on her timing. I explained in more detail the exercise and we continued.

After another 15 minutes she was hitting the ball cleanly and was more balanced.  She came to the net smiling and said it felt so easy and she felt more control with the ball. I explained a couple of things, one was getting her to understand that movement is as natural as walking down the street or around the house. You don’t think about it [because it's in your IMPLICIT Mental System]. By putting her attention on the ball as the main focus made everything else fall into place naturally.

When she put her attention back on the ball and followed it from the bounce up to her racket she was able to apply her intelligence to that taks and consequently it improved. [This is the EXPLICIT Mental System at work, learning and applying new knowledge, skills and abilities with concentration and deliberate effort.]

I often see tennis players who are distracted away from the cause of the problem by looking at the effect instead. This often becomes bigger and harder to fix the more attention they put on it. [Matthew Syed explains this as the primary source of choking.]

It’s important to realise where you’re getting distracted or diverted and then get back on track quickly. Having a good tennis coach is a must to help you overcome the obstacles that prevent you from becoming a much better tennis player – usually with a lot less effort, stress and anxiety.


Kind regards,

Alison Scott
Modern Tennis Australia Pty Ltd

Share

Choking In Sport

Choking is one of those taboo words athletes shun at any cost.

There are a lot of theories and suppositions about the source or cause of choking.

I recently came across this video used by a US squash coach to explain to his team that choking is NOT in your genes – UNLESS you’re a goat.

What I liked about this is that it’s a visual cue you can use to prevent choking whenever you’re feeling stressed or under pressure – just remember… YOU’RE NOT A GOAT!

Share

Lessons from a champion

Mindset Of A Champion, Jahangir Khan, Squash Book, Rahmat Khan, Squash CoachingI recently visited a bookstore in Broadbeach on the Gold Coast (Australia), which has a great collection of used books, and found the ultimate squash classic by World Champion Jahangir Khan aptly named Winning Squash.

Once you’ve mastered the basic strokes and court movement principles, as an elite squash player, you need to get into “A Champion Mindset” as often as you can.

What I picked up from Winning Squash was Jahangir’s reliance on his cousin Rahmat Khan’s coaching skills and abilities. As a top squash player, reaching world #12 and a Khan, he understood and appreciated what it takes to be a champion.

Without a mentor, coach, friend and advisor, there is no doubt in my mind (or Jahangir’s) that his achievements would have been much less prolific than they were.

The key for any aspiring athlete is to get multiple points of view and then choose ONE that works. Listen, obey and respect that ONE voice. That ONE direction. That one FORCE.

Otherwise what happens is you get splintered into multiple, divergent directions and lose momentum and confidence. Confidence makes a big difference in a quick-response sport like squash. With mere fractions of a second to choose a shot (or return), the brain needs to feel it’s capable of pushing the envelope to select the best shot to make, instantly calculating the risk/reward ratios involved.

The second and almost as important revelation was Jahangir’s training regimen and mental focus. I expected this from the all-time-best squash player, but what I found interesting was how much of it was ‘trusting the coaching process’.

Even back then (the book was published in 1985), Jahangir noticed that young players had difficulty succumbing to authority (elders, teachers and coaches). I can attest to that with adults of all ages. There is something inherently arrogant with athletes who think “they know it all” even though they continue to languish in the “B” leagues.

Being coachable is a trait all champions possess. They recognise the need to have an outside perspective that focuses on them from a much more objective viewpoint with a set of skills designed and developed to extract the best from them.

You can’t be ON the court AND watch the game at the same time. Each has a role and responsibility to the process of creating and sustaining excellence. Today’s elite athlete has to invest in the best technology and training which now includes psychological training well beyond the traditional visualisation and pre-match preparation techniques.

Winning Squash is a classic – it captured the essence of the Champion Of All Champions – Jahangir Khan – at his apex of achievement.

Share

Lauren Burns – Fighting Spirit

Lauren Burns’ Fighting Spirit is a great autobiographical recount of a champion’s challenges and as the book’s title extolls, her fighting spirit.

Even though I am not a martial artist, the play-by-play analysis was beyond my interest, the self-analysis and honesty revealed was quite remarkable and refreshing to read as she let us into a champion’s mindset – especially when she failed or came up short.

She is a true champion with laser-focused concentration on the ultimate goal – the Olympic Gold Medal.

Thus is a must-read for anyone who wants to know the inner workings of the Mindset Of A Champion.

I highly recommend it.

Share

Intensity: How Much is Enough? Too Much?

In peak training phases, Michael Phelps will swim at least 80,000 meters a week, nearly 50 miles. That includes two practices a day, sometimes three when he was training at altitude.

All elite athletes face the dilemma: How much is enough versus too much?

Most athletes however it’s a case of too little and too infrequently.

Too often, there is a reluctance to going full-on with training when it’s the fastest and usually the safest way to create breakthroughs.

Intensity, Focus, Drive, Determination, Sports Psychology, Champion Mindset, Mindset Of A Champion

The challenge is knowing WHAT to do to push yourself beyond your current limits into a new realm of possibility. Unless you “up” the intensity, you’re simply not going to get those all-important quantum leaps you want.

Depending on your sport and level of proficiency, intensity can means doubling your on-court time, doubling or tripling your running or swimming distance, increasing your gym visits, yoga or aerobics classes to 2/day instead of 3/week…

You are the best judge of what ‘intensity’ means to you – one thing is for sure, you need to go beyond your comfort zone – ideally to total exhaustion (without injury or pain) or as close to it as you can.

What you’ll quickly realise is that you’re capable of much more than you’re currently doing.

What set Michael Phelps apart from all other swimmers is that he aimed to become the best swimmer HE could become.

Michael Phelps and his coach NEVER set any limits. His autobiographical book’s title reveals his and his coach’s mindset “No Limits“.

My message to you today is simple and straightforward – what limits have you placed on your training or playing?

What time limits?

What frequency limits?

What intensity limits?

Share

Get to it somehow and hammer it somewhere

Every once in a while someone comes up with a saying that encapsulates what you need to be doing – succinctly and elegantly.

Today’s blog post is short and sweet – for racket sport athletes as Chester Barnes, a table tennis champion said “get to it somehow and hammer it somewhere!

Champion Mindset, Mindset Of A Champion, Sports Psychology

There are two parts to this – Doing whatever it takes to get to the ball and then doing something with it.

Easier said than done!

Share

Lessons from a champion

Mindset Of A Champion, Jahangir Khan, Squash Book, Rahmat Khan, Squash CoachingI recently visited a bookstore in Broadbeach on the Gold Coast (Australia), which has a great collection of used books, and found the ultimate squash classic by World Champion Jahangir Khan aptly named Winning Squash.

Once you’ve mastered the basic strokes and court movement principles, as an elite squash player, you need to get into “A Champion Mindset” as often as you can.

What I picked up from Winning Squash was Jahangir’s reliance on his cousin Rahmat Khan’s coaching skills and abilities. As a top squash player, reaching world #12 and a Khan, he understood and appreciated what it takes to be a champion.

Without a mentor, coach, friend and advisor, there is no doubt in my mind (or Jahangir’s) that his achievements would have been much less prolific than they were.

The key for any aspiring athlete is to get multiple points of view and then choose ONE that works. Listen, obey and respect that ONE voice. That ONE direction. That one FORCE.

Otherwise what happens is you get splintered into multiple, divergent directions and lose momentum and confidence. Confidence makes a big difference in a quick-response sport like squash. With mere fractions of a second to choose a shot (or return), the brain needs to feel it’s capable of pushing the envelope to select the best shot to make, instantly calculating the risk/reward ratios involved.

The second and almost as important revelation was Jahangir’s training regimen and mental focus. I expected this from the all-time-best squash player, but what I found interesting was how much of it was ‘trusting the coaching process’.

Even back then (the book was published in 1985), Jahangir noticed that young players had difficulty succumbing to authority (elders, teachers and coaches). I can attest to that with adults of all ages. There is something inherently arrogant with athletes who think “they know it all” even though they continue to languish in the “B” leagues.

Being coachable is a trait all champions possess. They recognise the need to have an outside perspective that focuses on them from a much more objective viewpoint with a set of skills designed and developed to extract the best from them.

You can’t be ON the court AND watch the game at the same time. Each has a role and responsibility to the process of creating and sustaining excellence. Today’s elite athlete has to invest in the best technology and training which now includes psychological training well beyond the traditional visualisation and pre-match preparation techniques.

Winning Squash is a classic – it captured the essence of the Champion Of All Champions – Jahangir Khan – at his apex of achievement.

For more outstanding books on the Champion’s Mindset and sport psychology books, click on the hyperlinks.

Share