Bridging the Gap

This is the fifth in a series of articles written by the top-ranked U.S Squash Professionals about their lives on tour. These articles will cover some of the players’ training routines, travel experiences, and thoughts about the tournaments they com- pete in around the world. Welcome to the life of a US professional touring pro.

By Olivia Blatchford

Once I had decided to take ‘the Road Less Traveled,’ and begin life on the WISPA squash tour immediately after my high school graduation, it was clear that a series of adaptations would have to take place. Although there is a gulf difference between the junior and senior player in on court skill and strength, it is easily recognizable that one of the most essential and pivotal differences takes place within the mind. As you make your way upwards, the changes in skill become smaller and yet bridging the gap mentally becomes steeper and steeper.

Screen Shot 2014-10-10 at 1.36.44 PMHaving been relatively successful in juniors, I have been given the opportunity to experience this maturity and discipline in the places I’ve been able to visit, players I’ve been able to watch and the privilege of representing the United States on multiple occasions. Just recently I’ve come back from the Women’s World Team Championships in New Zealand where I was able to watch, learn and play. What was so apparent in all the women present was the obvious strength of skill but also fortitude, tenacity and toughness. Being able to bounce back after a difficult decision or fighting through two-love deficits, each woman is fighting for their life. Instead of playing purely for enjoyment and love, the WISPA player plays for their livelihood; food on the table and the ability to play the next tournament. There is a heightened sense of commitment.

Admittedly, I rely on my father to help me dot my I’s and cross my T’s. To a top professional, dotting their I’s and crossing their T’s is a responsibility assumed in solitude. Making the transition from a junior to a top-level touring pro requires every fiber in the mind to be utilized. It is that strength and that commitment to learn and take responsibility that makes the forerunners so dominant, and fortify the ability to fight.

So as I start this journey, I realize more and more each day how pertinent it will be to bridge the gap in the mental arena. To learn to understand true commitment and responsibility will be what manifests in my game as improvement. Imitating the top players’ mental liquidity and their mind state’s which are conducive to learning will, hopefully, help my own transition into the professional game. Obviously all things take time, but I’m eagerly hoping that I’ve caught on correctly as I begin my sojourn to bridge the gap.