The Mental Benefits of Squash – contributed by Khaled Ghoniem
While squash is popularly known for its phenomenal physical benefits, not many discuss its mental advantages. Yes, playing squash is a great way for all to boost cardiovascular health, improve dexterity and overall strength; but, it is also an effective method to reduce anxiety and strengthen mental focus. The struggle with the ability to focus is a problem prevalent within our youth today, and have a pattern of extending into adulthood. In my 11 years as a squash coach, I have encountered a multitude of player personalities, and working to identify and improve each character’s potential through squash is a daily challenge that I derive satisfaction from. Recalling my experiences, I realize that I find the greatest joy witnessing the journeys of players who start out struggling especially with concentration, but gradually discover a source of calm and persistent motivation within the game.
Because of this, I am convinced that playing squash is one of the best activities that someone who struggles with focus should take up. For one, unlike sports where teammates and surrounding visual triggers may be distracting, a squash player sees only the two elements of his or her game: the ball and the opponent, enclosed in the four walls of the court. Moreover, squash is the game where mental agility trumps physical ability. The highly tactical and fast-paced nature of squash demands from its players quick-thinking and deep focus. The ability to persistently follow the moving ball, track and anticipate an opponent’s next move, and quickly respond is the most important skill in squash; and so, I ensure to develop it within all my players and can attest that every player is capable of achieving so.
For players who struggle precisely with focus, an increased emphasis on active gameplay during lessons have largely succeeded in improving this ability, as I have found that the triumph and confidence boost from winning points is the best motivation for improvement. I have followed the journey of such players who have come far; I know that they now embrace squash with a sense of pride, and persist to play hard and get better.