I’m still asked about whether I miss playing professionally and most people who ask, have a preconceived idea that I do. To their disappointment, I usually explain how happy I am and how fortunate I’ve been to play the sport I love but am also completely content never to play competitively again. I feel this satisfaction stems from the fact I’ve made mistakes throughout my career but always managed to work through them and learn more from the struggle – I have no regrets.
I’ve been very successful and have no real ambition that wasn’t fulfilled but I could always have won more! Along the way some mistakes were simple and easily rectified but other were tougher to overcome.
An obvious one for me was my inability to win a match at the British Open, losing in pre qualifying, qualifying (twice) and then the first round 2 years in a row – a total of 5 years without a single win. My issue was that I pretended to be confident and relaxed but underneath I was crumbling anxious mess who couldn’t deal with my feelings. This led to my understanding that being nervous was ok and to let my feeling show then allowed me to overcome those negative issues. It took five years and a (very) lucky win against Paul Johnson to make a breakthrough but I got there.
When I was younger I often trained way too hard, pushing myself to the point of physical and mental exhaustion. This made me capable of pushing through the hardest situation on court with relative ease but I was always treading a fine line and sometimes made me disillusioned with being a professional squash player. I needed to adapt my work ethic and decided that shorter more focussed sessions were needed – this prolonged my career and also gave me the opportunity to express myself more on court due to having the time and energy to try new techniques.
Near the end of my career, I desperately wanted to play a more open and attacking game – I needed to! There were occasions when I made the mistake and overplayed the front of the court and suffered through losing but gradually I learnt the balance of managing a more attacking game. Whilst integrating the new style into my game I had to not be deterred by setbacks and also understand what I was capable of – we’re not all Shabanas!!
I feel I could write down so many mistakes that were made throughout my career but for most of them I can also write down a solution and something I learnt. This is the key to continually improving and being the best you can be.
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