Tag Archive for 'Choking'

Negative Self Talk: Stop It!

I recently presented mental toughness strategies at the East Coast Squash Academy‘s Adult Squash camp organised by squash professional Aaron Frankcomb at Willoughby Squash Club in Sydney. Attended by a wide range of squash players, it became quite obvious that squash is a very demanding sport physically and technically where attention to stroke execution, shot selection and court movement can provide beneficial results.

While focusing on technical improvement can yield incremental results over time, today’s lesson can produce INSTANT results and in some extreme cases, a quantum leap forward!

Please watch this video and then scroll down.

The next time you are on the squash court and hear yourself talking negatively about something you just did or that just happened…

STOP IT!

Think back to this video as your pattern interrupt.

The first step is to Stop it – then you will need to replace the negative self-talk with something positive.

Sports psychologists have known for decades that the mind can (1) only have one thought at a time and (2) it cannot focus on the REVERSE of an idea or thought. What that means is that if you say “don’t tin the ball, or don’t choke or don’t boast“, the brain only hears “tin the ball, or choke or boast.”

First things first – Stop It and come back to this blog for more on how to replace negative self talk with positive self affirmations. There are a few “tricks” to getting this right…

Just like today’s distinction – most players don’t know this stuff!

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Games are won or lost mentally or technically

I recently presented mental toughness strategies at the East Coast Squash Academy‘s Adult Squash camp organised by squash professional Aaron Frankcomb at Willoughby Squash Club in Sydney. Attended by a wide range of squash players, it became quite obvious that squash is a very demanding sport physically and technically where attention to stroke execution, shot selection and court movement can provide beneficial results.

Many players readily admit the mental side of the game is something they struggle with, in large part because they don’t know much about it and also because once they do learn about it, implementation is a very personal thing.

The first step in adopting what I call the Mindset Of A Champion is the admission that games are won or lost either technically or mentally.

Once that has been realised, then a player can start to self-assess him/herself on both dimensions.

Determining which one will yield the quickest result is simple.

Think back to your most recent match. How many points did you lose because of mental lapses (choking, nervousness, poor shot selection, going for a winner when under pressure, missing a shot you can easily make, tinning ‘easy’ shots, etc.) versus technical errors (poor racket preparation, no follow through, incorrect contact point, improper racket head speed, hitting the ball off-centre ball on the strings, etc.)

Chances are, quantum leaps are available to you with mental toughness training.

The benefit of mental toughness training is that it is often EASIER and QUICKER to improve mentally than it is physically. Technical improvements can take weeks and months to become natural within your “muscle memory” whereas mental strategies can have an IMMEDIATE impact as of your next game, match or tournament.

The first step is for you to determine how many mental mistakes you are making, as a percentage of the points you are losing…

Do that and stay tuned for future blog posts that will start to lay the groundwork for mental toughness within the context of the Mindset Of A Champion.

Not sure how to determine if a point was lost mentally or technically? Here is an example from this year’s 2014 Australian Open Tennis Championship. The last 2 points played by Novak Djokovic… that cost him the match in the fifth set.

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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

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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!

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