We've discussed on the site before the importance of a strong mental game for maximising squash performance. Especially in matches with very closely matched participants, any small advantage gained can potentially provide that crucial edge that is the difference between winning and losing. One of the most popular and oft-utilised sport psychology techniques is Imagery.
With imagery, the aim is essentially to mentally simulate a peak level of performance – thinking about all of the movements, feelings, and sensations that go into such a performance, and vividly imagining them and rehearsing them in the mind. When utilised correctly, imagery has been demonstrated to help enhance focus, boost self-esteem, reinforce confidence, and improve general psychological state. Some practitioners of imagery even incorporate elements from elite performers into their routine for added specificity – for squash this might be visualising yourself moving with the smooth efficiency of Greg Gaultier, or slotting the ball in with the calm precision of Ramy Ashour.
Athletes and sportspeople of all standards have successfully employed imagery in their pre-competition routine the world over – whatever the level of squash you play at, incorporating some properly constructed mental skills training can really go a long way to helping provide all of the aforementioned benefits.
One of the great things about imagery and mental rehearsal is its simplicity and the fact that you don't need any space or special equipment – you can even do it in the comfort of your armchair or bed! Indeed, one of the most commonly recommended times for imagery rehearsal is as the practitioner lays in bed at night before sleep – concentrating on visualising your perfect performance through imagery techniques can serve the dual benefit of training your mental skills, while also relaxing you and distracting you from the stresses and strains of the day.
The excellent sports psychology website BelievePerform have a great summary of the technique where they introduce the PETTLEP model of imagery, that breaks the practice down into 7 key elements to consider in your mental rehearsal:
Check out the article here, and try integrating some imagery practice into your daily routine – you may just be pleasantly surprised at the results, for a relatively modest outlay of effort!
Gary Nisbet - B.Sc.(Hons), CSCS, NSCA-CPT, Dip. FTST
Squashskills Fitness & Performance Director
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