Khan Tips #10: Self-Preparation

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Time to hone your game in the quiet Summer period with a series of tips from Khan Squash … unashamedly repeated from our archives !

#10 – Self-preparation:

Get in the Zone

The best athletes know that the fine line between good and great is self-preparation. Self-preparation is preparing your mental state as well as your physical state for peak performance.

To be the best player you can be at whatever level you’re currently competing at, you need to focus on what makes you play at your best. You need to experiment with foods to see what gives you a boost. You need to discover how many hours of sleep help your performance. In short, you need to know what things to do and not to do before a match. Everyone is different, but I’ll give you some suggestions.

I won’t go into practicing and training techniques. I will take for granted that you play at least three times a week, swimming or jog twice a week and have a stretching routine. In this tip I’d like to focus on getting ready to play a big match.

Start the day before

Preparing for a match should start the day before. This is the ideal time to carbo load at dinner. I like pasta and Gatorade, but speak with a nutritionist to see what best fits your diet. Also, make sure you get plenty of sleep. Sleep with the thoughts of playing great the next day.

Have a light breakfast and/or lunch. Start thinking about your match two hours before game time. Any earlier can get you mentally exhausted. Stay away from any physical activity. Try not to watch TV. Stay focused and confident.

Before the Match

One hour before the match, drink a glass of Gatorade. Get to the courts at the bare minimum of forty minutes before playing. Once at the courts, change into your squash clothes. Acknowledge the fact that the change into your squash gear is a mental shift in direction.

Start to think you mean business. Remember we constantly need to work on things that get you to the correct state of mind. Always wear a tracksuit while waiting to play.

Make sure you pay attention to details. How tight do you lace your shoes? Do you prefer a headband or wristband? Do you have a favourite pair of socks? How about a favourite shirt or shorts? If you don’t, start finding them. After winning a tough match save the shirt. This is just an example. Always re-enforce a positive environment. The mental state goes from the inside out.

Getting closer

Thirty minutes before playing is very critical. Start stretching and use visualization to pretend to stretch for shots. After stretching for ten to fifteen minutes, start swinging your racquet and visualize hitting perfect winners. Your mind cannot differentiate visualizing and actually performing a task. So if you visualize yourself making great gets and hitting winners, in your mind you really are. The visualization of playing great can transfer into your squash game.

If there’s a court available, hit by yourself. Try to get your length in order. Practice some volleys and drops and angles. Hit at a good pace until you break a slight sweat. Don’t overdo it.

The knock-up

SH_1134At match time take off your tracksuit. During the warm-up watch your opponent hit the ball. See if you can spot any tell-tail signs to anticipate a shot. See how he or she hits a drive and crosscourt. Make sure you hit to good length. Aim for the back corners. Good length can win a match. Step up for some volleys. Try a drop now and then. Practice changing your pace. Don’t hit the tin!

Remember how much preparation you had made starting from the night before and throughout the day to this moment. A great technique is to lead everything to a final moment. This will get you in the habit of focusing all efforts to a starting gun. This transforms into an internal clock where you set the time for liftoff.

Find the Zone

Feel your anxiety and know the stored energy you’ve accumulated is at hand. Realize that your mental state and physical energy is at its height. Memorize this feeling because this is the ZONE the best athletes refer to. Feel the pressure and emotions. This will get that adrenaline flowing. This is good, but try to stay calm so you can think clearly. Win or lose always keep your cool.

Keep practising match preparation until you master the art of getting yourself to the ZONE.

Now it’s up to you! Good Luck!

Sakhi Khan


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