As 2019 winds down and thoughts turn to Christmas and New Year celebrations for most, it’s a good opportunity to take a step back and turn a critical eye to your squash performance over the past year. In this two-part article we’re going to take a look at how you can go through and evaluate all the key areas of your game, and then consider how you can start building a plan to tackle your weaknesses head-on in 2020!
In part 1 of this article, we looked at how you could begin to review your 2019 of squash, and give yourself the information to build a visual representation of your strengths and weaknesses on the squash court. If you haven’t already done that we suggest you go back and check that out first, as the next steps covered in this article are focused on how to build a training plan to allow you to start addressing some of those issues that you’ve identified.
Reviewing your performance is a job best done alongside someone else who knows you well – ideally your coach, but a regular training partner or opponent would also suffice. Having an external eye cast upon your self-reflection, is a good way to ensure that your evaluation of yourself is well balanced (and neither overly negative OR positive!). The simplest way to do get your coach/partner to complete a spider chart with their thoughts on your game as you did for yourself in part 1 of this article. Once you have the two respective spider charts, you can then discuss and compare them to come up with a final agreed upon copy that best represents a balanced external and internal evaluation of your strengths and weaknesses.
From there, the next step is to then set realistic targets for improvement. Map out target scores on the chart in a different colour, indicating where you would like to be by this time next year. Improving by 2 or 3 points is probably the upper limit of realistic likely improvement over the course of 12 months, particularly if you’re including a lot of different attributes to focus on. Try and really isolate a couple of key areas that you feel would really take your game to the next level, as opposed to just targeting ‘general improvement’.
Once you’ve settled upon a solid target improvement for the attributes you are going to aim at, the next stage is to really drill down and consider exactly how you’re going to address them. Depending on what exactly it is you’re aiming to improve, and where you are currently on the scale of competency, this could be through a whole range of different interventions. Is it through more time on court drilling? More lessons with your coach? More solo sessions? More matches? Joining the gym? Changing your diet?
Consider exactly what it is you’ll need to do to make the improvements you desire – again, discussing this through with a coach or training partner can really help clarify this and create a clearer picture in your mind of what you need to do to achieve your targets.
This is where a properly implemented process of goal-setting becomes crucial – the goals you set aren’t the actual improvement ‘scores’ however, the goals are the steps and routines that you need to go through and adhere to to get there!
When setting goals, the acronym SMART is often used – goals that are set need to be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timed. Check out our goal setting article here, where we took a look at exactly what these criteria mean, and how to set these kinds of goal targets – this will help you understand why ‘improve my backhand’ or ‘get fitter’ aren’t SMART goals, whereas ‘undertake 20mins focused backhand solo hitting twice a week’ or ‘add in a 5-10min court sprint bolt-on session after every match that I play’ are.
While constructing your goals, take a look back also at the 3 biggest achievements and 3 biggest disappointments that you wrote down while completing your spider chart. For each of the disappointments, write down what you could possibly have done for these to be avoided. If it was a loss in a big match for example, did you do everything you could have in terms of preparation for that match – early night the night before, good nutritious breakfast, full and thorough warm-up? If it was something regarding reaching a particular club ranking or box league level, did you spend enough diligent training time on court to boost your skills and drive your improvements? Did you map out the appropriate steps in-between each level to give yourself a clearly defined pathway?
For each of the big achievements, follow the same process but this time noting what you did that you think allowed you to hit those heights. Were you particularly disciplined with your warm-up regime for example, or did you perhaps work on improving your diet and fluid intake in the period leading up? Did you get extra lessons in, or spend more time playing better players beforehand?
Whatever the answers are to these questions, incorporate these things into your goal setting. In respect to your positives/achievements, your goals can include working to actually maintain doing those things that helped you attain those heights.
Finally, make sure to write all of these goals down and keep a hard copy along with your spider chart with your improvement targets, don’t just have them floating in your head. A good place to write them is in your training diary, so they’re quick and easily available for review. Keep looking at them periodically, to make sure you’re staying on the right track to make sure that 2020 is your best year yet!
B.Sc.(Hons), CSCS, NSCA-CPT, Dip. FTST
SquashSkills Fitness & Performance Director
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