Research on the perceptive nature of the mind and the effect it has upon fatigue has been moving to the forefront of sports science recently.
In short, emerging evidence supports that the perception of the effort is a key determinant on fatigue. If we believe that the effort required to win or finish a task is beyond our capabilities then we will fail to complete the task or simply opt out when we reach our preconceived “limit’. It stands to reason that everything has a limit but maybe it is human tendency to set our expectations too low and place our attention in the wrong area.
This is why most squash matches are decided before they begin.
When I was on the PSA tour I occasionally shared a room with Peter Nicol, I was always a little surprised how many players in the early rounds of tournaments would lie down and offer little resistance when playing him. Good competitors who seemingly didn’t compete. This was interesting and obvious that his former achievements and reputation convinced his opponents that to win was out of reach. Clearly the obstacle of him being a brilliant player and athlete didn’t help but at least part of the work was already done before the knock up had begun.
Players who plan their flights home half way through the tournament, players who bring their bags to the court before their match in preparation for going home after they have lost. It happens every event and while it is understandable it reveals much.
It seems obvious that each player must find a method to change their perception of certain situations to get ahead. Not an easy undertaking.
First, you need awareness of yourself and your thought patterns. Only then can the work start in earnest. To strategise how you may improve. Maybe by adjusting a bias or perception a player can bolster confidence through additional physical or technical training. Perhaps, a different mental approach to training such as evaluating your training from a purely psychological stance rather than whether you hit the ball well or moved fluidly. Upon investigation the mind and body appear to be the same thing.
A more honest appraisal of yourself will harness improved mental strength but everyone knows how elusive the truth can be especially when looking inwards.
No matter which way, if improvement is to come adaptation must be evident. I believe honesty and understanding of how you operate as a person can unlock this area of potential but it comes at the cost of changing your ways.
One final thought, I have often wondered how Ramy Ashour never appears to get tired, he is regularly embroiled in hugely physical matches but still he can find energy when other players diminish. Could it be that through his preoccupation with ensuring the vision in his head becomes a reality on the court that he is unconcerned or “forgets” that the game has a physical element? If so, the work concerning perception of effort will become the next frontier of improving performance in sport….and the most difficult.