Having an open mind is a critical thing.
Learning and taking in new experiences. Constantly learning and relearning. It’s exhausting just thinking about all that learning! It’s not only new places and people but the approach to having a new coach. An entirely different way of thinking, communicating and executing tasks is a whole new approach to the game. After playing for 12 years now I still don’t know everything and I’m not great at everything and perfected nothing. I’m ok with this, because that’s why we train, to improve, getting closer each day. One of the best ways can be to spice up your mentor.
I have experienced this a few times now and with age it becomes easier. I think this can also be related to the fact I’ve become more serious about squash as a career not just playing a sport.
It can be difficult changing when something is engrained and bred into you for such a long time to then have another person’s view completely contradict it. Even harder when you did something, changed it and now you’re considering changing back to your original approach. It can be difficult at times as everyone has their own interpretation of what works best and is most effective. How do you decide who to listen to?
I guess in the end it all comes down to you. What you believe is not just the best way but the best way for you. It’s very easy to close down and block out what someone is explaining especially if it doesn’t match your own opinions, but in sport every view point is valid. There is no clear exact one thing that will make you the best at what you do, it’s all the little things coming together and how well you do them that adds up to being the best. Everyone would be a world champion if there was an exact recipe.
Be open, absorb, and try! Before rejecting something I find it beneficial to try it to the fullest before tossing it out. You never know it could be the thing that takes you to the next level. For me, it’s about understanding something, like footwork for example, some say front foot, some say back, both or even racquet arm leg. All can be good – but greatest when able to do all of them as a ball rarely bounces in the same spot in a match.
If I were to be narrow-minded about the situation then I would be stuck on my back foot all the time, literally! Once I understand something and the reasoning behind it, I’m then able to do work on what’s required and make my decision of what to believe.
What about food? Yes, having an open mind applies to all things including trying the local delicacies of a destination you find yourself in. Philadelphia cheese steak, New York pizza, Belgium waffles (yum!) they are the easy ones but the real tricky ones like French frog legs, Scottish hummus or even Chinese bugs can take your breath away!
I have this one vivid memory of trying food and it occurred in India during a World Junior Championship. We were invited to the Australian Consulates hotel for a dinner. The hotel was beautiful and the banquette spread delicious however, our coach Sarah Fitzgerald, multiple world champion and an inspiration to us all made a suggestion to try Sushi. I politely declined as I hated most fish let alone raw fish! She said ‘no, no, it’s fine, it’s Smoked Salmon so it’s been cooked’. Easily persuaded, I took a great bite and instantly the texture made me realise I’d been tricked. The salmon was basically still alive! It wasn’t a pleasant finale in front of the Australian Consulate and my whole team. Embarrassing to say the least, but the power of the mind is fascinating when it comes to food. Not knowing what something is can often be the best way to go! Never again have I tried or even consider eating sushi. So much so, my pet Siamese fighting fish is called Sushi.
In any case having an open mind is the best way forward and only way to push yourself to succeed and experience life.
& That’s My Athletes Mind…