While most of the squash world soldiers on towards season-ending championships in May, the U.S. college and high school squash scene has ground slowly to a halt – which means it is time for squash coaches to evaluate the success of their squash coaching interventions.
A coach’s win-loss record is one indicator of success, although since the best academic schools in the U.S. tend to attract the best players, they should have the best win-loss records, so there is not much information to be gained from this statistic. The same could be said of those schools that recruit “enthusiastically” – if they start the season off with the best players and end up winning, it is difficult to parse out the benefit of coaching.
Evaluating your season or program does not have to be a complicated process. Squash coaches can glean useful information from five simple questions developed by sport psychologist Terry Orlick. Orlick was one of the first sport researchers to use qualitative (i.e., interviews) research methods to examine the psychological behaviors or world class athletes, and has written a number of very useful easy to read books on sport psychology for athletes and coaches. You can download a number of his articles as .pdf files for free at his website the Zone of Excellence . His 1988 article, Mental Links to Exclellence is a must read for squash coaches who want to really understand psychological performance.
The Coaching Association of Canada adapted the ideas from this article when developing the Level 4/5 psychology coaching tasks. As a Level 4 psychology presenter for Squash Canada, I had to adopt some of his tools for use in squash, as much of his consultation had been done with closed sport athletes (figure skaters, skiers, kayakers, etc.) and squash is an open sport. One of the basic differences is that closed sport athletes use their mental skills prior to and at the start of their event (e.g. visualization and relaxation), while during event use of skills is more critical to open sport athletes (e.g., between-point routines and on-court mental skills).
Here is a copy of the form we use as part of our program evaluation, and here is a link to some of the answers you might be likely to get. The questions are simple and encourage a constructive approach to improving the a team or program. These questions can also be used to monitor team progress at various points throughout the season, either though open team discussion or through written forms.
Orlick will be the keynote speaker at Squash Ontario’s Coaching Conference, March 20-22, 2009, about an hour away from Toronto.
Application for Squash Coaches
- Evaluate your team or program at the end of the season.
- Keep the evaluation simple.
- Encourage regular evaluation by your athletes throughout the season.