How To Help Players Deal with Frustration During Practice

A squash coach works with a player who gets easily frustrated when his practice session does not go well. The player loses his temper and becomes defiant. The coach dedicates a good portion of the practice session dealing with the player’s behavior resulting in a non-productive practice session.

Q. Coach: Are there any techniques I can use to help my player focus on his game, enjoy his successes, and deal with his frustration in a productive way?

A. Dr. Diaz: One of the main reasons players get frustrated is that they focus on the end- result. They think that a good practice session is based on either winning or not making any mistakes. Consequently, the pressure mounts and the frustration escalates. Practice sessions are done for the purpose of instilling proper technique and confidence.

Just like our body becomes what we eat, our brain becomes what it’s “fed.” We need to feed our brains with positive “food.” Positive food is essentially positive reinforcement when a player exhibits proper technique, control and focus. A consistent use of positive food enhances the development of muscle memory. In other words, the body captures the movement and stores it into memory.

It is very common that changes in technique do not instantaneously lead to great shots. Why? The mind and body are in the process of learning new movements, which challenge old habits. When the technique is properly used, and the end result is not the ideal one, praise the player’s efforts. That way, good technique muscle memory will be enhanced.

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