What a game of squash taught me of the power of purposeful practice

I had my first game of squash in about 7 years yesterday and wow do I know about it today!

‘Squash arse’, I believe it’s called.

All that darting side to side, backwards and forwards… I feel like I’ve done a million squats and suspect that it’s only going to get worse!

I was playing with a friend of mine who knows his way around the court.

We spent the hour with Andy feeding me different shots and giving me pointers for how to move and position myself.

It’s all in the feet apparently.

I was pegging it around all over the place, and consequently by the end I was dripping with sweat whilst he was fresh as a daisy!

It was great fun though, and after the session I reflected on how it had gone.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not the most co-ordinated person in the world but I can hit a ball, and I learn fast when I know what I’m supposed to be doing.

As Andy fed me different shots, whenever I completely spooned it into the roof or whacked it onto the wrong side of the court he asked a question:

‘What did you do there?’

I’d run back through my movements, replaying the shot in my mind and figure out for myself what I had done.

Feet pointing the wrong way, shoulders twisting too much, racquet not in the right position, not following through properly, too close to the ball…

Sometimes I’d need Andy to explain what had happened and how to correct it.

But the process meant I was feeding more and more information into my learning loop.

I didn’t mash up every shot, and actually managed to hit quite a few decent returns.

Every time I nailed one Andy stopped me once again and asked the same question:

‘What did you do there?’

More self-analysis…

I’d changed my wrist angle, or got my feet into a better position, or kept my eye on the ball to the end…

More information back into the learning loop, locking in a mental image of what the goal looks and feels like.

Purposeful Practice

We don’t get better through practice alone; it’s the analysis and feedback that fuels growth.

This holds true whether it’s playing squash, changing your diet, or being a better parent.

Some days you’ll nail it and others you’ll fall short.

Just ask yourself the question ‘what did you do there?’ and look for the lessons.