I returned from playing a professional squash tour over in New Zealand this June and among having an incredible time playing the sport I love, drinking endlessly brilliant flat whites and enjoying some of the most breath taking views and landscapes the world has to offer, I feel I have learnt a lot about my sport as well as myself. In this blog I am looking to talk about how exposure to different players has opened up new ideas for me about my game. So I thought I would try get some of my views down on my blog and share my thoughts, even if I am a couple months late posting it. Busy life of a squash player you see… ha!
Firstly, I decided that I wanted to go over to that side of the world, one, because its New Zealand one of the most beautiful countries in the world, and secondly to get a chance to play some different players in unfamiliar environments outside of my comfort zone. I think it was one of the best trips I have done to date, another step round the snakes and ladders board of growing up! Long lonely flights, lots of reading and more importantly lots of time to ponder and think about what possesses me to do all this travelling for the game I love.
During my seemingly short 4 weeks in New Zealand I played many top players: a South Korean, a Pakistani, a Malaysian, 3 Australians and many top club players. Every player I played out there was completely different: whether it be there tactics, shot choice, temperament or simply just how they played the game! But every time I played, there was an opportunity present for me to learn and gain exposure to top level squash, but not as I am used to. From a different angle if you’d like. For example the Aussie boys I played were solid deep hitters with fast movement and pretty random shots and styles. Whereas, the Malaysian I played was so talented; not only in his movements, but in his technique and style, he chopped and changed the pace brilliantly, whilst playing with a straight emotionless face throughout. The week after playing the Malaysian I found myself in tough battle with one the Aussie’s who was repeatedly trying to get under my skin to say the least, but recalling my match from the week previous I remembered how the Malaysian had kept ice cool and managed to despatch me so calmly, I kept my head and said nothing and ended up winning fairly comfortably. I don’t believe a few months ago and without the experience I gained the week prior to this, I may not of been able to keep such a steady, mature head in the moment (by mature I only mean for that one performance! Not always my strongest point… yet!) and get the business done out on the court. That was just one of the examples of how I believe my learnings during my trip have helped me realise these little extra things that are there to be gained. Money, lessons, coaches can only provide you with so much, the experiences on the court especially on the tour can’t be bought, they’re priceless and have to be found and felt by the individual. The more painful the better I think. You might also say there are plenty of different styles in England or Europe etc… but if you don’t get to play them on the PSA where money, points and pride is on the line, I don’t believe you learn all that much aster is no real consequence.
All of the guys who I was lucky enough to mix with were so diverse from players I have played before and thats where I feel there is so much knowledge/experience to be gained from them. I guess what I’m getting at is the more exposure to diversity and different evolving situations the faster we can improve, learn and become adaptable to the ever changing game we play; squash. It’s refreshing! The best players in the world are the players that deal best under pressure and are adaptable and can easily change what they are doing to suit the situation. Nick, Greg, Ramy, Shorbagy they can all play in so many different ways to such a high level and thats why they have all been unbelievably dominant within their own right. I think its very easy to train and compete within a bubble in the UK especially, as there are so many solid players and so many top events. We can settle into playing or training with the same guys week after week, playing the same game getting the same results and forming superficial pecking orders which is dangerous because it puts a limit on your rate of improvement. I think its imperative you strive to constantly keep getting on with as many different quality people as possible.
It was a real eye opener playing over there in the southern hemisphere only a mere 20,000km from home! With some pretty interesting squash clubs and very cold courts! How differently the game can be played and is being played. I definitely think I have stolen a few good tricks and shots after my short time over there. I feel the mixing of styles, cultures and people to help not only our squash but to maybe help round ourselves as people is important. The more different environments we expose ourselves to, the more opportunities we give ourselves to learn, improve and grow. I am fortunate that my sport squash provides me with that platform to compete and train within so many different cultures and meet so many amazing people in every corner of the globe and for that I feel blessed. I am a strong believer that an open mind to change and reinventing the wheel regularly is a massive part to continual improvement. I maybe wrong but it is what feels right to me and thats why I chose ‘leave’ in the EU referendum… please don’t hate me!