By Peter Nicol, former World No. 1
As a professional player I worked hard on the mental aspect of my game. This does not mean I didn’t have issues throughout my career with focus, confidence or struggle to overcome problems in my game from a mental standpoint. I suffered like all other players with these issues, but I worked hard to understand and improve this aspect of my game, as I would (and did) with any shot. The brain is a muscle after all!
This is a tough time of the year to keep in shape and also maintain focus on your game. There is so much activity around the holidays, it is virtually impossible to play and train as hard as during normal life. This goes for nearly all levels of players, but I feel it can be turned into a positive if handled correctly and honestly.
I always allowed myself some slack over this period, understanding that I would not be in complete control of my time. On many occasions I took more rest over this period to fully allow my body to recover from the first half of the season, other times I used my time smartly to really push, managing shorter but more intense sessions to make up for less time actually working.
If you are feeling flat, the first half of the season has been disappointing and your confidence is low, use this period to get refocused and reenergized. Make a list of issues and, once written down and absorbed, create a plan to improve these areas and achieve new goals for the second half of the season. It’s great to make a change mid-season and this will also, hopefully, put you in a positive mental position leading into the New Year. January can be a notoriously tough time and going into that period with positivity is vital.
Although I’d always recommend trying to improve your game on a continual basis, sometimes it takes a big mental effort to make a positive shift. Be brave and use this period to clear out the negative thoughts and poorer aspects of your game and move into the New Year with confidence and a plan of how you are going to improve. Good luck!