Jesse Engelbrecht

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The High Performance Coach continues his series on how visualisation can improve your game

Studies have shown that our brains cannot tell the difference between an actual, physical event and the vivid visualisation of that same event. When we experience something and when we visualise the same thing, we activate similar brain circuits. Learning to visualise effectively creates powerful habits that can be transferred into performance.

Visualisation is like a form of meditation. Where it differs is that meditation is about being aware and paying attention to thoughts, feelings and sounds. Visualisation is a more active practice, bringing in images, scenarios and situations.

Effective visualisation has been compared to watching a movie in high definition on a massive screen. Everything should be vivid with a lot of attention to detail including noise, smells and emotions. Even visualising your muscles being activated is recommended when performing a task or skill.

During healthy periods, we strengthen ourselves and our bodies so that during the difficult times we can depend on it. Itís our armour plating. It doesnít make us invincible, but it helps prepare us for when fortune shifts (and it always does!). The same is true of our minds. The brain is a live tissue that can be built up and toned through the right exercises.
Nick Matthew was known to use the tool of visualisation throughout his career and his results and mental toughens perhaps owed something to this.

A very good practice to start your journey to better squash performance through visualisation would be to bring to mind one of your best ever performances. Take time to really pinpoint what made this match stand out.

Once you have done this, go through all the details of it; the arrival at the venue, the warm-up, the court you played on, the way the match went, your emotions and how it felt to play so well. The associations your brain makes with this powerful visualisation will, in time, have positive effects on your on-court performance.

  • Practical tips for visualisation
  • Set aside five minutes each morning for the next 14 days at least to
    practise visualisation
  • Make it a habit to practise at a similar time each day (ideally first thing
    after you wake up or last thing before you go to sleep)
  • Limit distractions, so turn your phone to ĎDo Not Disturbí and let the
    people you live with know about your practices
  • Sit comfortably, be upright and donít slouch, put hands on your knees,
    feet flat on the floor or legs crossed
  • Keep your breathing natural and controlled