If you are like me, and most other vegetable-loving Americans, the word “squash” probably conjures up an image of succulent green zucchinis, yellow squash, or butternut squash. The last thing that would come to my mind is a highly competitive sport, which, to those of us uneducated in the world of this particular athletic endeavor, looks remarkably like racquetball. However, squash is a very popular sport around the world and is in contention to be a future Olympic program.
The Trinity College (Hartford, CT) Women’s squash team is ranked #3 in the nation and is home to some to the top players from around the world.
Trinity assistant coach Dr. Randy Lee wanted to do something to help his players cope with the mounting stress and pressures that come with success—while giving them something to improve overall performance.
Trinity head coach Wendy Bartlett wanted the team to feel that the court was a place where they could be relaxed and stay in control.
So, in October 2009, Coach Bartlett and Coach Lee decided to introduce the Transcendental Meditation technique as part of the team’s training program.
Now, seven months later, Coach Bartlett says the team has changed, describing the players as calmer and more focused than in the past. “We’ve had just as many challenges this year as we’ve had any other year, but this year we’ve been able to handle them a lot better,” she says.
Nour Bahgat from Egypt was the #1 Women’s U.S. collegiate player in 2009. She says that the Transcendental Meditation technique helps her get into ‘the zone’. “Being in the zone is very important for an athlete because that’s the point where you can perform at your best level,” she says.
Emily Lindon, a graduate student at Trinity College, conducted a research study for her senior thesis on the impact of the TM program on the squash team. In particular, she investigated the area of “perceived self-efficacy,” which is a person’s belief in his or her ability to accomplish a certain task. “Research has shown that if people think higher of their abilities, they tend to perform at a higher level,” Ms. Lindon says. The study showed a significant increase in self-efficacy among the meditating athletes after meditating for just five months.
“With TM, we now have a new technique to improve performance,” says Coach Lee, who adds that the technique would be valuable for any sport. “I can’t think of a sport I would exclude; it seems to me TM can only bring positive outcomes.”