In general, the principles of sport psychology apply to all sports. However, in the same way that a squash-specific physical training program (e.g., lunges, twisting core exercises, med ball side throws) will improve your athletes more than a general one (e.g., squats, bench press, biceps curl), a program designed specifically to meet the needs of squash is better than a general one.
Although there are a quite a few books on mental training for tennis, I know of none for squash. Having designed psychology programs for world champions in both tennis and squash I can say that there are important differences. Due to the lack of published resources for squash we need to rely on knowledge from three areas to guide our interventions.
Examples of subjective and professional practice experience can be found in squash books published by top players in the 1970’s and 1980’s heyday of squash.
Another example of using professional practice knowledge involves summarizing the opinions of knowledgeable coaches. I asked national squash coaches from around the world attending the 2007 WSF Coaching Conference in Calgary the question: “What is the most important thing you know about mental training for squash”. Their answers are contained in this document: wsf-coaches-answer-the-question-1.
The importance of being positive, confident and having a game plan are elements of their answers that are common to many sports. Many coaches however, emphasized the importance of the use by their players of on-court mental skills, a squash-specific component. In order to be robust, and sustainable in a match pressure situations, these on-court skills need to be developed in three steps. If you are coaching a athlete on the pro tour you try and fit these steps in as best you can between competitions. In a team or organized junior development setting, you fit in the steps as periods in an annual periodized plan, each period ideally being at least 4-6 weeks.
Application for Squash Coaches
- Appreciate squash-specific mental training priorities versus general sport psychology knowledge.
- On-court mental skills are recognized as important by top coaches.
- Plan three steps in the coaching of on-court mental skills.