What's the most important (but under used) muscle used in squash?
Apart from physical conditioning there is an aspect of sport that is almost completely overlooked – the mind. When an athlete is physically conditioned he may perform well but he is performing well with little awareness. An athlete that is mentally conditioned performs with much more awareness, hence I value this aspect of sport so much. Just like an athlete needs physical conditioning for better performance, mental conditioning helps athletes stay in the present moment, and rise up to challenges ahead of them.
When a player is on court for a match there are so many thoughts going through their head. There are also very real emotions such as stress, anxiety, aggression, happiness, excitement etc. Negative thinking can impact sport performance drastically, and causes athletes to play below their potential. Positive thinking too can, at times, be detrimental, as the mind takes the athlete in a futuristic scenario which doesn’t yet exist, away from the present moment.
When an athlete is mentally conditioned, he or she can choose their thoughts consciously and identify trends and patterns in the mind. They learn to intuitively sense and watch negative thoughts entering their head, and learn to discard them away as they realize negative thinking is clearly blocking them from their desired goal. What does negative thinking really do? It happens unconsciously, but we can choose. So why not choose your thoughts?!! Choose thoughts that will help you reach your goal and discard the rest!
Mental conditioning teaches us through experience that thoughts are not just thoughts, they are so real! Today science is catching up with ancient traditions in Hinduism, Buddhism, and the original teachings of Christianity and coming up with the same conclusion. Neuroplasticity realizes the plastic/flexible nature of the brain and proves the brain can constantly reshape its very own nature in a relatively short period of time.
With mental conditioning for a sustained period of time, athletes can easily overcome their ‘worst mental habits’ and use their mind to succeed both on and off the court.
So how is the mind conditioned? – Through meditation, visualization, affirmations, identifying our thoughts, studying our very own mind – how fascinating!! It’s essentially studying our self – now what can be more important than you?