or what to say between games, by Phillip Marlowe

Monday morning 9:00AM.

You're standing in the lift, planning your day when in walks a senior colleague. Now would be a good time to explain that new project you want to start. You have 45 seconds to explain it and get them to agree.

Trouble is your colleague has just been running and is out of breath and tired.

Can you do it?

Doesn't sound familiar? Well it should, because that essentially is what happens in between squash games…

Many years ago, I was sitting behind some young professionals at the British Open in Wembley Conference Centre. Their friend was playing on the all-glass court and they were deciding who was going to go down and talk to him and what they were going to say. It was a disaster! You've heard the phrase "Too many chefs spoil the broth"? Well, "Too many players spoil the gameplan!". They were almost contradicting themselves.

Goodness knows what they said, but he eventually lost. I'm sure what they told him would have been confusing.

I think we could take lessons from boxing trainers. They have a very strict time limit and a boxer who is very tired and maybe more importantly in pain. They manage to communicate effectively under very difficult situations.

You don't have to be a great coach or player to help another player. The best help I ever received in between games was from somebody who I could beat for the loss of a few points. When I came off court and sat down, he just stared at me for a moment and said "Why are you hitting the ball in the middle of the court?". It wasn't a sarcastic question either. He was genuinely curious!

One simple question had made me realize what I was doing wrong. Much better than telling me to stop hitting it in the middle.

The point here? Sometimes it's the questions that have the most effect rather than the instructions. But be careful, you don't want the player to have to jump through hoops to understand your point.

Knowing what to say and how to say it, is definitely a skill that you develop over time, but there are some simple guidelines that should help.

1. Affirm something positive the player has been doing.
2. Correct one, maybe two, aspects of their weaknesses.
3. Finish with something inspiring or motivating.

I'd love to hear your strategies for in-between games talks…