Hi Squash Fans,
Chet Blitzer, fourteen-time world champion, back to answer more of your questions about squash, sportsmanship and how to live your life aspiring to my example. We’ve received a few questions about player development. Open your hearing holes and get ready.
Dear Chet, I would love to see my kid become an elite junior player. Do you have any advice for me? She is currently nine years old and has been taking lessons for two years. How many tournaments should she be playing?
Time to pump the breaks a bit here. Remember, an eaglet doesn’t become a beacon of freedom and strength by flopping out of its nest on day one. Now is the time to make sure she is enjoying herself on court and is being exposed to a bunch of different sports and activities. She’ll build mental and physical skills along the way, and if she decides to go heavy on squash down the line, she’ll be ready.
Young athletes should focus on the Chet F’s:
F U N
F U N D A M E N T A L S
F R I E N D S
Pay attention to these, and she’ll thrive in whatever she ends up doing. Squash wasn’t my only focus growing up; I would have been a track & field world champion, if not for an unfortunate 1981 incident that left me short one javelin and the Prince of Liechtenstein in the hospital.
Best of luck to your daughter. I hope she continues to have fun playing squash and other sports. Don’t let me turn on YouTube and find you’ve posted an Eye of the Tiger training montage of her thumping a side of beef with her squash racquet with you yelling “harder” in the background.
Dear Chet, I’ve seen other players, after an accomplished junior career, either stop improving or even drop the game all together. How can this be avoided?
It always makes me sad to see great players not enjoying themselves anymore or succumbing to overuse injuries that could have been avoided. Burnout isn’t always bad—it’s pretty sweet in my ’85 IROC-Z Camaro (no spoiler)—but it’s certainly not cool in squash.
At the end of the day, a player must want to be great to be great. Pushing an athlete to become Chet-like against their desires will end in burnout and unpleasant family holidays.
Emphasizing basic fundamentals before jumping directly into lots of tournaments can help build a base of skills. When playing tournaments, athletes should focus on playing with sportsmanship (which is more fun), competing their best and enjoying the camaraderie of the squash community. Personal goals should be about improvement, not beating a higher seed or attaining a particular finishing position.
Being a multi-sport athlete can help improve athletic skill and also avoid later overuse injuries. Players will benefit from different social interaction and avoid the psychological effects of focusing solely on one activity. For instance, it served the Karate Kid well to participate in car washing as well as karate. Interesting Chet sidenote: Karate Kid is my ninth favorite movie. The top four: Top Gun, Die Hard, Rambo, and of course, Dirty Dancing.
Keep the questions coming: firstname.lastname@example.org