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.

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