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LJ’s Tips : Worst Case Scenario Visualization

By L-J Anjema © Jan 3, 2007
Laurens-Jan Anjema and SquashTalk LLC

Everything’s a BONUS! (photo ©Debra
Tessier )

I’d like to delve into a somewhat different subject this time:
preparing mentally for a match. We already discussed how we can minimize
the effects of nerves and pressure on how you want to feel and play.
Visualization is another important tool for mental preparation. In Michael
Jordan’s autobiography he says that, without him knowing that “normal
people” actually actively have to learn how to do it, he VISUALISED
exactly how he was going to play before a game.

The type of visualization I’ve had good experiences with is called:
worst-case visualization: in your head you go through your match in the
worst-case scenario. You might think this is not a positive way to prepare
but let me explain: if you imagine all the things you can’t control
to be very bad and against your liking, you’re gonna be very well
prepared! The reason is that things never turn out as bad as you visualized
which results in a: “Is this all? Is this all you got?” mentality.
Note Mohammed Ali’s words against George Foreman during his fight
in Zaire while he was getting pounded!

Let’s go through the following

You’re playing the final of a big important tournament. The truth
is that you’re playing a difficult opponent: someone you’ve
never beaten, someone you maybe don’t like. The truth is that the
conditions are not in your favor: playing at altitude, playing on a hot
and bouncy court, playing with bias referees, playing for an ‘away
crowd’ for example.

One hour before your match you’re in your hotel room and in your
mind you should go through these ‘truths’ in a very exaggerating
way (!).

So here we go: your opponent starts
a brutal pace, plays super tight, makes no mistakes whatsoever and
is super fast and gets your best shots back easily. The hot and bouncy
court makes your best drops bounce up to shoulder height!!! The altitude
makes you feel very out of breath on the 3rd point already… The referees take EVERY decision against
you. You visualize a crowd of 2000 all cheering for the other guy. Not
only cheering after his winners, but after your mistakes!! They’re
even banging with their hands on the back wall after you lose a long
rally… Come on, visualize!! See it happening. This is your nightmare.
This is chaos!

This visualization period takes
20 minutes to half an hour where you’re
living and experiencing everything IN DETAIL in your mind.

Now this is the wonderful part:
when you finally go on court and get down to business you’ll see that your opponent’s start is
not as brutally fast paced as you imagined, he’s not as fast as
you imagined and he even makes a mistake! Bonus!! The court is not as
bouncy as you thought, your drops are actually pretty low!! Bonus! The
altitude isn’t getting to you as you visualized it would, you’re
actually feeling pretty fit!! Bonus! The referees even give some calls
in your favor and the crowd is only a mere 500… BONUS!! They’re
not even screaming and shouting when you lose a point. They’re
OK. Everything is OK. Nothing is as bad, man! This is easy!! COME ON!!

(L.J, like a sardine in a tin, above some ocean, 4th of December 4:01)







Jan Anjema:
PSA Ranking 11-1-2008: #14

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