Getting the best out of juniors

9th July 2014

Juniors crave instant gratification for success.

In reality, we know it’s not always that easy. Unfortunately, for all athletes who work hard to achieve their goals, there are obstacles that must be overcome.

One of the most difficult aspects of coaching is the mentality of junior players. Coaches must look for several fundamental factors in juniors, these include current and potential ability, physical ability and of course, attitude.

Once evaluated, it will be evident which areas need most work.

However, there is one characteristic that outweighs all others: Confidence.

In order to reach an elite level, sports men and women must have talent, dedication and a desire to continually improve their game. Whilst ability and work ethic are important, the overriding attribute to a player’s success is confidence. Watching a junior player who has all the squash playing ability, has put in the hard work but is unable to win, due to lack of confidence can put an early end to a promising career.

Encouraging self-confidence should be practised both mentally and physically.

Visualisation is a powerful tool and builds on incredible feelings of success, this approach can instantly create positive vibes, especially before a big match.

Confidence comes down to the thought of success overriding the thought of failure.

The best professional players also feel pre-match nerves but they have confidence in their ability to succeed and therefore don’t let this become an overwhelming factor.

Back in 2011 at the Pan American games my Paraguayan doubles team were tied 1-1, they were just one game away from a place on the podium.

Pressure situations don’t come much greater, but as the coach, I was able to remind the players of the time they have spent working on their tactics and teamwork.

I created positive feelings and boosted confidence heading back onto the court. Instilling belief and confidence, that will override any thoughts of failure, is paramount to success.

Hours of court time unquestionably builds self-belief, having the knowledge that you have done the hard yards in training will stand you in good stead for your match play. If you know you’ve worked harder than your opponent you know you’ve given yourself the best opportunity to improve and ultimately, succeed.

With squash an individual sport, it is vitally important that you build ways to create self-confidence.

The ability to tag in Ramy Ashour when you need a winning shot or to pass the ball to Nick Matthew when you need a new set of lungs, unfortunately, isn’t an option.

If your junior player can work on the two sides to confidence then it can only bode them well to improve all sides of their squash. The ability to keep pushing and striving for success against the odds will separate an average player from an elite player.

 

Luke Butterworth
SquashSkills contributor

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