How to Finish Stronger - Whether on the court, field, at home, or work

Jun 19, 2023

How to Finish Strong  by Todd Corbin


Can you play every point like your life depended on it?  Paul Annacone, coach to Roger Federer and Pete Sampras says this is one of the keys to consistently closing out matches and competing at a high level.


Part of playing every point in this way is to have a mindset that each point, no matter whether it is the first or the very last, all hold the same relative importance and value in our mind. Yes, some points that are won or lost will end a game or match, but they are all still just “One point.”


If you’ve ever had thoughts like…


“Why do I sometimes struggle in close games”

“I have a hard time winning five-setters.”

“I can’t seem to close out a game or match especially against a particular opponent.”

“How can I stop choking in important moments?”

Then you have probably valued some points much more than others. There’s nothing wrong with this. It’s just that this perspective causes us to feel extra pressure and stress more on some points and not others. A match ball for or against is still just “one point.”  If you can get your mind to understand this, it starts to unlock your game and mindset and ability to play more freely.

Last article we talked about ways to start a game or match off in a strong way which helps build confidence, so now we’ll focus on the other end, enhancing your ability to close games and matches.

What will it take for you to get and be better at closing out rallies, games and matches?

Being More Consistent Throughout the Match, especially towards the end of rallies and games and presentations. And it’s not just being more consistent in your shots and movement. It‘s being more consistent with our mindset, our focus, and our emotions too.


Legendary Coach Paul Assaiante of Trinity College said one of the keys to being a more consistent and successful squash player is to be able to Manage Emotions well on and off the court.  Do you get too emotional on court, distracted by being upset or frustrated? Could you be better at keeping your emotions in check, balanced, in neutral more often than not? This will help you finish stronger.


It’s also about having a mindset of not being too attached to the winning or losing or any particular point. We get upset or frustrated much more easily when we are attached to outcomes, getting or losing a specific point or game.

Former world #1 squash player Laura Massaro said, “If you are worried about winning or losing (the match, the game, or even the point), you probably aren’t going to play very well. So by default the best way to win is to focus on each shot one at a time. Just keep hitting your shots, focus on playing your next shots, and the winning will take care of itself.”

Creating a “One Shot” philosophy or mindset

 One of my colleagues teaches mental skills to top NBA players and talks about the “One Shot” philosophy.”  How can we create this mindset? He says it’s all about learning to anchor ourself more to the present moment more of the time. Playing present.

Understand though it’s not about being 100% present, 100% of the time. That’s not realistic even for the top players and high-performers in the world.  Actually, the most important thing we can do is to notice when we are not focused and present.


This is the process of mindful awareness and being more present. It’s a simple process, just not always easy to do. We choose a focus or attention point and notice if our mind has wandered away from that focus or not.  If it has, we then redirect/refocus it back to our target.  That’s it and it is an ongoing process, like learning any new new squash skill or strategy. 


So can we be just a little more aware and present while we are playing and performing…  2%, 3%, 5%, 10% or more?

Being a little more present allows us to turn down the volume on the past worries or upsets or future anxious thoughts about winning or losing. This will then put us in a better position to hit the next shot well, move well and play our best, most consistent squash, throughout a match, especially towards the end of a game, match, presentation or communicatio .

Here are three suggestions for playing more present more of the time to finish games, matches, competitions, and communications stronger:


1) Be Where Your Feet Are:  Our minds are built in wandering machines and often start dwelling on past mistakes or upsets in critical situations.  One way to turn down the volume on that overactive mind is to feel more into the physical sensations of our body.  Feel your feet as you are standing ready to receive a serve or deliver a presentation, scrunch your toes in your shoes, or feel the bounce in your feet/legs.


2) Use a Visual Anchor Point:  Have something that you can see, preferably something that rarely if ever changes, like the lettering on your racquet on the yellow dots on the ball that you can see and squeeze as you get ready to serve or deliver your key points in a conversation or presentation. This is a signpost of something that is always present, even when you lose a point or your thoughts for a moment. When you focus on the visual anchor for even a moment, it’s a signal to your brain to bring your focus to the here and now. It’s like allowing your eyes to take a breath to reset your mind.


3) Synch your Breathing with your Grip:   As you breath in, gently squeeze the grip of your racquet, bat, ball, club, stick, writing instrument, clicker, or whatever you are holding. As you breathe out, slowly release the tension of your grip on the racquet or whatever you are holding. Feeling the physical sensations of your grip and your breath as you do will bring you back into the here and now no matter what just happened on the court.


If you learn to be a little more present, more of the time, you’ll have better focus and consistency in more rallies, more points, more shots, more presentations, more projects, more conversations or sales calls.  And this will allow you to close out games and matches and presentations and communications with more impact and success more of the time.  In this way you can start playing as if your life depended on every point, without much of the stress that comes with thinking this way.


Practice with and use these suggestions so you can start to finish your games, matches, competitions and communications in a stronger way.

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