In the first instalment of the “Watch the Ball” series, some signs were identified when players typically do not watch the ball. Pointing out when these errors in judgement occur are necessary for both a coach and player to evoke change. In this second instalment, we identify some reasons WHY this occurs. Identifying the WHY is as crucial as the WHAT in error detection and correction. This allows for ANCHORS and TRIGGERS to be implemented. ANCHORS and TRIGGERS provoke a specific thought or mental process that cues changes.
Below are some general reasons as to why people do not watch the ball.
This will mostly affect those that are new to the sport. If the new player notices their opponent going to hit the ball hard, the new player will typically look away. This is a natural reaction that the body does to protect itself. Only when the ball strikes the front wall and a loud noise is made, will the player’s attention be drawn to the ball. By then, it is too late. This is known as an enduring disposition. As stated earlier, this is a trait of a new player. With anything, this resolves in time, as the player will get used to the stimulus. To put this into context it is similar to having your first ever coffee. Initially, it will have a large effect on your body, though as you get used to drinking coffee you will need a larger stimulus albeit more coffee to get a effect. The same can be said for someone who fears getting hit by the ball or when someone hits the ball hard.
This is by far the most common. As mentioned earlier in the piece, most people are simply unaware that they do not watch the ball. For those that are oblivious check out Part 1 of the series to see if any the points made are relatable. If so, you should consult a coach.
A perceptual error is an error that occurs when people select the wrong information to go off, rather than failing to pick up the information at all. In squash, a person may know that the ball was hit to length, but may lose where the ball was hit exactly as they were focusing too much on the other persons body and swing mechanics. It is true that the body position/swing mechanics can tell a player a great deal on what is going on, but focusing on that for too long will make you miss critical information. This is known as perceptual narrowing. The opposite could be said, where having such a broad focus i.e. trying to take in too much, could also have a negative effect. The best way to improve on this is to work with a coach so they can assist to direct your attention to the important information. This can be done through cues that act as TRIGGERS.
This one is pretty straightforward… THE PERSON DID NOT HAVE ANY INTENT TO WATCH THE BALL. Generally, this occurs when someone is tired, totally out of position or has given up mentally.