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Another Side of the PSA World Tour: Commentating

I meant to send this email last week while I was in El Gouna, but I ended up staying away from my computer for a few days. Rarely do I switch off from work, because I feel bad about 'getting behind', but I thoroughly enjoyed my time in the sun.

Anyway- the real purpose of this email is to fill you in on my week at the Black Ball Open (April 10th-16th), where I was commentating only.

I was asked quite a bit why I was not playing this event. In hindsight, I should have opted to play it instead of the London Classic, but at the time of tournament closing, I didn't think I would want to be in Egypt for 2 weeks.

Also, I already have a lot of tournaments on my calendar, and since the divisor has been changed (the average number of tournaments that calculates our ranking points), I need to be more careful about how many events I play in a calendar year.

So, I decided to sit this one out on the playing side.

Being part of the Black Ball SquashTV team as a commentator only did have several benefits:

  • I got my flight paid for (including my return from El Gouna)

  • I had my own hotel room, got per diem $$ for food, and my commentating fee

  • I had time to slowly adjust to the time zone

  • I had the luxury to slowly get back into training and let my body recover after the flight (and a few niggles that were lingering)

  • it gave me a different perspective & appreciation for tournaments (with no competition stresses)

I also really enjoy the change in pace and environment from a social perspective. Players are always so focused on performance and training, and it often takes up much of the conversation. It's nice to be around the SquashTV crew who have an appreciation for the sport but are removed from the direct competition.

If you read any of my emails from last fall, you know how much I struggled with the pressure that I put on myself at tournaments. The commentating was actually a massive breath of fresh air for me, as it gave me somewhere positive to direct my energy after my losses.

Oftentimes in the past, I haven't enjoyed being at tournaments. I've found it stressful, and would spend a lot of mental energy micro-managing my training, sleep, and daily activities.

It's natural to get nervous before matches, but I would just be worried at tournaments. I felt like it was a test, rather than just playing a squash match (key word: play) and an opportunity to show what I could do. Some of this was because of my recovery from my hip injury. I hadn't rebuilt the necessary match confidence needed after rehabbing from my hip. Consequently, there was rarely a time I could go into a match feeling free and prepared.

Being at Black Ball, and for once- not having the pressure of competition weighing on me helped me to really appreciate the squash on another level. I felt calmer overall, I enjoyed being at the club more, and I looked forward to training/squeezing in practice matches before commentating (even if it meant I was on tv with wet hair! eek!). I was able to take the pressure off my performance in training and look at the overall picture, rather than being hyper critical of my own practice (whether it was good or bad).

It's so easy to get caught up in the metrics of performance- your ranking, your win % rate, the game scores against so-and-so, how many years you've been on tour, your age, etc.

But at a certain point, these metrics will only change if you work on the right things, and remove the obstacles that are hindering you from moving forwards.

Sometimes I will compensate by simply trying harder, rather than smarter.

...For instance, out of stubbornness- hitting the ball hard when I am not moving well that day, which means I am hitting inaccurate length and can't cover the court well and get exposed.

...Or cramming in a tired solo when I should do a short strength and mobility circuit to help my body feel better (which means I'll get into better positions on court).

...Or hammering out a treadmill session because it's harder than the bike, only to feel flat and stiff on court later on and unable to maximize my squash session.

These are just a few examples of trying to do the "right" or "hardest" thing which seems like the right method on the day, but actually detracts from the overall process.

I'm also remembering to appreciate how important it is to be excited to play. Wanting to hit the ball. Enjoying being proactive and hungry to play.

At this stage in the season, I've played a good amount of squash. I still need to train hard, but I also need to train smart so I can fine tune my performance. The time for grinding through is the off-season, and we are certainly not in that period.

This email was a little rambly, so thanks for bearing with me. I suppose the overall theme is that having a change in perspective, or allowing yourself to relax can help you enjoy the overall experience and therefore help you get more out of yourself.

Once you've put in the hard work, how can you best "activate" it? Not by doing more, but by doing the right things.

I'll be back soon with an El Gouna match recap!


PS. A new program is coming to the Squashletic Training App on Monday, May 6th! It's all about sticking to a daily routine and building some discipline. The program will involve one non-negotiable 15-minute session per day (strength, cardio intervals, or mobility/flexibility), 50 ghosts every time you step on court (sessions will be provided), and an aim to sleep 7-9 hours a night.

It kicks off on Monday, May 6th. You can join by signing up for the Squashletic Training Academy here for less than $1/day!

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