Focus

All else equal, e.g. talent, fitness, work-ethic, etc. when your junior squash-player is playing a squash-match, it's the mental game (focus) that conquers!

*Question: "I don't understand how I can hit backhands in practice easily,  but when I go to play a match, I can't hit one backhand. I freeze and the tension won't let me hit the backhand well."

*Here's the answer:

If their strokes feel tight in matches compared to practice, that's a sign that their mind is getting in the way, not allowing them to just let go. They must find the real culprit to the tension. 

They probably think that the tension is the real problem. Having worked with junior athletes now for nearly 60 years, I know better. The "tension" they feel does not happen on its own. Something else is the root of the problem, which most players and/or coaches don't see on the surface.

Here's what I mean: Most likely, when they play matches, the outcome is more important tor them (for many reasons which I won't go into here). For most players, they want to play well or win so badly, they can't handle failure. This mindset causes them to worry about failing, or not playing to their potential or potential, which is the root cause of their fear of failure.

Take note, here is a real culprit to the tension – the fear of making errors cause them to lose trust in their strokes. This lack of trust causes the tension, but it starts with the fear of messing up or wanting to play well so badly.

Okay...this is short version of their negative self talk: "I want this badly," Don't screw up,” (avoidance mindset, lack of trust, tension, etc.) instead of saying: "My backhand feels tight and controlled."

So, if your junior squash-player wants to get to the root-cause of tension...with relaxation training and focus, avoid having them look for quick fixes to rid themselves of that tension.