Game planning is your roadmap, it’s as if you are going on a journey and want to get to the end destination in the most efficient way and by a set time. Not having a game plan can be thought of like you are standing in the middle of a jungle and you need to find your way to a specific clearing where a helicopter can land and rescue you. Without game planning you have no map, no compass, and no watch, think of how random this will be? And how much trial and error you will have to do. And think of the multiple variables that then this will take? One wrong step in a certain direction will lead you further away from your destination and deeper into trouble.
You need to also be mindful to be adaptable along the way. With all the fore-planing, once you start the journey, bridges may be broken, roads may be impassable, and you will encounter thieves and dangers along the way. How can you best cope with this? One way is by referring back to your plan and being clear and certain of it. Persistence and clarity. Another way is to be smarter and outwit the obstacle and flex and pivot in what you are doing. This only comes with experience as well as reflecting on previous strategies.
You need to look at and break down each match you play into 3 parts:
Part 1 – the mental warm up
Part 2 – the actual match
Part 3 – the match review
If you are able to work on getting in the habit of employing this idea and bringing it into each match you play you will improve your intelligence, your strategies, your alternative plans, your clarity and your adaptability.
A match is not over after the final point. It is only fully over once you have reflected on it and submitted a report. This is where most of the beneficial learning occurs.
Why game planning is so important and powerful
1. Helps you play under pressure
Do you get nervous during crucial points in your matches? That’s because your mind isn’t focused on strategy, but instead on winning and losing. You need a game plan to fall back on to prevent this from happening. If you know what you need to do to win points, and you focus on executing your strategy, you will block the results-oriented thinking that causes you to get nervous. Focussing on the process is the key to optimal performance, especially in high-pressure situations.
2. Helps you stay focussed
Having a game plan keeps you mentally engaged in matches. If you formulate a game plan with strategies and patterns that you can use during a match, then it will be a lot easier to stay focused. It doesn’t matter whether you are down 0-5 or up 5-0. Concentrate on sticking to the strategy that got you to 5-0 and keep using it until the game is over. If you are down 0-5, keep fighting and consider whether you are losing because you aren’t executing your strategy, or if you need to adjust your strategy based on what has happened in the match.
3. Helps you start the match off strong
If you know the patterns, strategies, and tendencies that you can take advantage of during the match, you can start using them immediately. This is the direct opposite of how most players start off “feeling out the match.” Playing without a game plan will often result in a slow start. Making a comeback from way down is difficult. Why not have a game plan in place and use it to dismantle your opponent from the beginning? Getting off to a good start can set the tone for the entirety of the match. 10 minutes of planning is much easier than spending 30 minutes grinding your way back down from a game or two down. The warmup begins with your brain, all too often the mind is the last body part to get engaged.
4. Helps you feel in control of the match
If you play a match with no game plan, you might feel lost or uncertain on what to do. This will negatively affect your performance. It is like running through a forest with a blindfold. All you are doing is reacting to the play of your opponent. If you have a plan of attack in place that you can execute, you will be comfortable and in control of your play because you know that you need to do X, Y, and Z to be successful. A game plan will make you feel confident about your game and provide you with a direction to follow during the match.
5. Helps you become a smarter player
As you practice analysing your game, your opponents’ games, and formulating successful strategies, you will become a more intelligent player. And you will become better at dealing with all sorts of different styles and players. Your mind will be engaged, your problem-solving skills will improve, and you’ll keep adding strategies and patterns to your repertoire. Who wouldn’t want this to happen to themselves? Keep formulating game plans and you WILL become a smarter squash player.
For a detailed and comprehensive Game Planning tool, the SquashMind app has its own built-in journal for this which is broken down into 3 distinct sections:
Section 1 – Game plan
Section 2 – Opponent
Section 3 – Match review
When we surrender our right to choose (i.e. our lack of game planning), we give others not just the power but also the explicit permission to choose for us (i.e. us being dictated to by our opponents game). Make it a priority not just to recognise the power of choice, but to celebrate it.
In summary, a match doesn’t begin when it starts and ends when it stops. It begins off the court, continues through your pre-match regimen and into the match, and goes on after you’ve won or lost the final point. By giving yourself a good chance to start right you’re giving yourself a good chance to finish right. That’s worth the extra attention!