Welcome to Part Two of a special series of blog posts on warming-up or knocking-up before a squash match. A thorough warm-up should not only touch upon your hitting but it should also get you warming-up mentally, get your movement up to scratch and also sharpen your racket speed and skills. Today we will be focusing on warming-up mentally.
You can re-visit Part 1: Warming-up the body here.
If there is no enemy within, the enemy without can do you no harm.
What we are going to discuss today though is how you can use the knock-up and warm-up to prepare mentally for the match so that you start brightly. Getting mentally ready for squash is probably the warm-up step that is skipped most often. This is a heinous crime as the mental warm-up is probably the most important. There’s nothing you can’t do if you are in a good place mentally and there is very little you can do if you’re not.
Always do your best to get to your game a little bit early so you have time to mentally prepare. If you have to rush in from the car or anywhere else, you’ll find yourself underprepared. Make sure you have at least a few minutes before you need to go on court in which you can start getting yourself mentally warmed-up.
One of the things I most like to do is to find somewhere private or dark and sit, close my eyes and breathe slowly and deeply. It helps to centre you and bring you into the moment, helping to release thoughts and everyday life which are racing through your mind. Relax your muscles while you do this to further help you leave normal life behind. Keep this breathing going for as long as it takes to start to feel in the moment.
At this point, visualisation is also an option and something that can bring a lot of benefit. Picture yourself playing shots from inside your body like you were playing a first person shooter game and then imagine yourself playing shots whilst you watch as if watching on television.
On court knock-up
One thing you can do as we discuss in ‘Getting in the Zone’ is to select your shots as you knock-up. Don’t just leather the ball up and down. Have a go at playing a series of different shots e.g. lob, drive, kill or even have a bit of a game with yourself. Play your best drives and see if you have to return them with a lob. If you play a weak or loose shot, look to put it away with a kill or drop.
You should also have a target you’re aiming for with your shots. With your drives, you could aim for the serve line or below it. Small things like this cause you to really focus and forget the world around you. They mean that you won’t have to spend the first part of the match battling for concentration as you are already building towards it.
Please do have a go at some of the suggestions above and do your own research and try different things and see what works for you. Try things that help you relax, things that get you fired up and see how it affects your performance. Some people play better relaxed, others play better when really fired-up.
You can also read more in-depth analysis of ways to get in the zone and get mentally ready in the knock-up on our page ‘Getting in the Zone’.
Look out for the next instalment of our special series of posts on the warm-up in squash, where we will discuss getting your racket head speed and racket skills firing.