Learning With Purpose and the World’s Tryouts. In Squash.

  “The obvious shot is the obvious shot for a reason” Yvonn Provencal, 2017

I had some tough results here in Montreal, but difficult situations usually mean a lot of learning if you let it. I lost my first match 3 – 0 to Graeme Schnell, a man who’s intensity never ceases on the court. I played well in the first and was up, but he continued to grind and we ended up in extra points. I was hitting shots I had never hit in a match. The extensive practice on my short game was working, but after a while he caught on and the shots which I thought were so tricky became quite mediocre. I lost the second 3 – 11. I was down 5 – 10 and a strange phenomenon happened as it usually does when I am down match ball. It seems that if I am down match ball I let everything else go and focus only on what I need to accomplish. I don’t even know what that focus is! It just happens. I have come back from drastic deficits more than a few times, but I was still unable to pull it out, after winning four points in a row I lost the 3rd 9 – 11. The next match Thomas King came out of the gates flying while I had a slow start, but I managed to pull it out in 4. The match after was vs Cameron Seth, I lost 3 – 0, but I was up in 2 of the 3 games in the later stages, losing in those situation can be mentally taxing. My last match was against the fluid mover Jason Delierre. Playing well in the first and applying all the things I had been learning throughout the tournament I took the first games. The following games followed a similar pattern, I felt I was dominating a lot of points and making him run but, the errors crept in again and again. I lost that match 3 – 1.

View from the top of Mount Royal in Montreal

Something I have always struggled with is having a good attitude when I lose. It is very easy to say “I’m just not good enough. I keep losing. Why am I doing this?”. How easy it is to focus on the problem instead of the solution. This time I decided not to think that way. Instead I thought, as Mr. Dent from Batman proclaimed “The night is darkest just before the dawn, and the dawn is coming”. I can feel it. My win loss ratio has been in the tank for a long time, but I have finally started to get on the path of learning with purpose. It is easy to let yourself push, and push, and push, and push, and lose, and lose, and lose, and lose. Turns out, that pushing won’t do you a whole lot of good without a purpose behind it. This summer I’ve learned the importance of clearing my mind completely before going on court. When I get on court I am on court to get better at squash, that is it. Anything else is not important. Sure enough, I will be successful. Brick by brick, skill by skill, I am determined to build my game into an impenetrable fortress.

During my experience in Montreal I have learned a few essential things I need to introduce into my game. The first lesson is to start every game with basic squash. Hit the obvious shot. This conclusion I came to after a conversation with Yvonne Provencal, a man who’s presence I always recognized but have rarely took advantage of. The man seems to contain a myriad of information about the game, a mind that any Canadian squash player should draw from. He made me realize the obvious shot is the obvious shot for a reason, it works. Something I often worried about while I played was getting hurt on my short shots, so I would never hit them. I finally realized this was a section of my game which was drastically worse than the others. So I set out this summer to fix it, I have almost exclusively been working on my short game this summer. Soloing for hours on end, straight drops off the bounce, then volley, then from the back, then from the front. Crosscourt nicks, off the bounce, off the volley, all over the court. Boasts, on the volley with a slight delay, from the back, even reverse boasts. I can certainly say I have seen this work paying off, but only in moments. Although those moments are rare, they are thoroughly enjoyable. Who doesn’t like to watch their opponents run corner to corner for six shots in a row and then keel over in the corner after the rally in attempt to recover. I hope these moments will turn into rallies, and these rallies into games, and games into matches. What a sight it would be.

These shots are satisfying, putting immense pressure on your opponent is great, but all these shots I have been practicing, the nicks, the drops, the holds and boasts, I found I was hitting them without a purpose, at the wrong time. This comes back to the fact that basic squash is where I must begin. The obvious shot is the obvious shot for a reason, it works. Keep it tight, take in the loose ball with a straight drop, set up the dying length with a boast etc. Then when they start to hurt you from your basic game, then it’s time for the holds, and the nicks, and the reverse boasts. They are hurting you because you have become predictable, and unpredictability is key in any sport. Your ability to adapt to any circumstance, to recognize that this is not working anymore and to make a change, is so key in squash and life. I need to get better at recognizing these circumstances and adapting. One of the curses of being a junior is that we are often told exactly what to do every time forever and ever, or at least it feels like it. This kind of coaching makes for a very rigid player, but this rigidity is a necessary step towards playing great squash. It’s the basic game, the game that works, until it doesn’t. Then the ability to think fast becomes so important. That’s when your mind is applied and creativity becomes essential. This I feel is where I stand now. Still transitioning from rigid, basic squash to creative mastery. It’s a big step, but it gets me fired up.

In terms of learning with purpose, this is something everyone can use. I have come to realize that learning things is very similar to what we all do when learning a new word. One does not simply see it and learn the word. That’s just silly. We sound it out, syllable by syllable, looking at our friends for assuring looks and nods. The same thing happens with learning, you break it down, skill by skill, getting reassurance and guidance along the way and voila! You’ve got it. Becoming really good at something is simply a matter of learning a multitude of skills and eventually they all “click” together. Learning is a stream of simplicity and complexity. Things seem complex at first, then we break it down, we get it, and then it seems simple. That now simple skill, or collection of skills, is applied to learning the next complex concept which than leads to a revolution of simpleness. And on and on and on. 🙂

Brick by brick, skill by skill, what are you fired up to learn?

 Ice cream from Kem CoBa in Montreal. The best ice cream I’ve ever had if anyone is interested!



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