By RJ Mitchell
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Simon Rösner has revealed that a revolutionary brain-training technique used by Champions League winners Bayern Munich will underpin his bid to reclaim his status in the PSA World Tour top four rankings.
Life Kinetik has been utilised by many German clubs and has also been pioneered at Liverpool and Southampton in the English Premier League, but it is at Munich, where Germany and Bayern goalkeeper, Manuel Neuer is a devoted exponent, that the technique has borne greatest success.
The training method combines coordinated exercises with training of visual perception focussing on making an athlete’s eyes work perfectly in pressure situations within a competitive environment to sharpen reactions when it really matters most.
The World No.8 has revealed that he has been so impressed with the technique that he has now enlisted a ‘mental coach’ to enhance his focus on it.
While with a brutal four-day training camp with New Zealand’s Paul Coll under his belt at his Paderborn club, Rosner says he has never been more hungry for the resumption of squash which is scheduled to restart at the Manchester Open, on September 16.
“During the suspension the one area I have really looked to improve is the mental aspect of my game,” said the German No.1.
“In Germany we have something called ‘Life Kinetik’ and I believe this has also been used by Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool and also in more depth by Bayern Munich.
“It is a very interesting and very cool thing and I have been working with a mental coach in this respect and it will be fascinating to see how it works when I use it for the first time in a competitive environment, hopefully in Manchester.
“I have real belief that it can be a positive development for me. The general idea is to enable athletes to react more quickly, making the brain sharper and it uses exercises to test physical, cognitive, and perceptual skills in a number of different ways.
“Life Kinetik encapsulates coordinative exercises with training of visual perception and the positive effect on your focus is tremendous. The general idea is to make athletes react more quickly to movement, making the brain sharper and improving motor skills.
“I know that Jurgen Klopp employed Life Kinetik methods once a week at Dortmund and believes that changing small details around communication can have a big impact on a team’s performances and you would have to say that the success he has had have proved him correct.
“So, I am crossing my fingers for similar results.”
Although Rösner’s World Ranking may have dropped to No.8 from a high watermark of World No.3, he says his appetite for squash remains strong: “I am as hungry as ever for squash and really looking forward to the resumption in Manchester later this month.
“Obviously, my son Liam was born at the end of 2018 and with a wife and a child you have different commitments but over the period of the suspension I have taken stock of my game and where I am at and I have been trying to work smarter.
Rösner with his son at the Windy City Open
“So, the changes I have made have not been so much technical but tactical. I have to also play a bit smarter and adapt to the players I am facing taking each one on his own merits. In New York at ToC, back in January, I used the lob to get out of trouble, reset and get back into a point more than I have and I found that effective.
“My playing style has always been aggressive, high tempo and power based but now I realise I have to think about variation of pace and tempo. Clearly I am 33 in November and although I am lucky in that I have had no major injuries, in fact none really at all, I must look to make sure I can stay at my best for the next three or four years to remain a force at the top of the PSA World Tour.”
Yet while the World Championship semi-finalist’s determination to climb back up the top 10 rankings is almost palpable, Rösner is way too experienced to place pressure on himself by divulging his targets for the resumption.
“I am not going to say I have this target or that because then you are putting pressure on yourself and that is self-defeating but I wake up every morning wanting to get better and determined still to improve.
“In this respect I have used my victory at ToC back in 2018 as an inspiration for getting back on tour. In New York [in 2018] I took it match by match and just enjoyed my squash. I think I beat Daryl Selby in four in the opening round, had a real tough five-setter, saving a match-ball against Marwan (ElShorbagy) and having another toughie against Tarek Momen in another five-setter.
“So, tapping into how I felt back then, visualising it and putting myself back in that mental position will be important for me in terms of being in the best place I can be when the tour resumes.
“There have been some matches in which I didn’t enjoy being on court and for me it is very important that mentally I am happy to be in there competing and just like every professional player I have missed squash and am looking forward to coming back fresh and competing.”
Reflecting on last season, the German admits that the pain of his World Championship semi-final loss to Tarek Momen took some time to dissipate, but admits he learned valuable lessons: “Of course, losing the semi-final at the worlds to Tarek was tough. I watched the final between him and Paul and sat there in the second or third row and of course you are thinking I could have been in the final competing for the World title.
“But I have to be honest and say that Tarek was just the better man and he deserved the win. Also, I look at it that I lost to the eventual winner and it would have been worse if I’d lost to Paul and he had then lost in the final.
“Obviously, losses hurt but even with a defeat in World Championship semi-final I tried not to dwell on it and after a couple of days I had moved on. Like I say I lost to a pretty good guy in Tarek and I lost to the World Champion, there is no shame in that.
“But you know you must always find a positive out of a loss and I can look back and say I have been in that world open semi and if I make it there again then there are things I know I can improve on.”
Of one thing Rösner is in no doubt: a brutal training camp with Coll last week has taken his pre-season preparations to a level that have heightened his hunger for a return to battle: “Paul Coll is one tough boy both on the competitive match court and on the training court. But we are just three hours apart with Paul in Holland and me in Paderborn and last week we hooked up and Paul came over for two- or three-days training and I think it was incredibly good for both of us.
Paul Coll (left) and Simon Rosner (right) training together
“Paul has done really well with how he has progressed and that run he had in Chicago was impressive. To beat [Mohamed] ElShorbagy in the quarters, come back and back it up by beating [Karim Abdel] Gawad in the semis and then just losing in five games with Ali Farag in the final was a great run.
“There are not many guys who can beat one of the Egyptians and then come back and beat another the next day and when he is looking forward to the new season Paul will take a lot of confidence from what he did in Chicago.
“But I think for us we got on well in the training environment and I hope this is something Paul and I will do again as it makes a lot of sense, when geographically we are not far away from each other.
“I am lucky in that Rafa Kandra is also based at Paderborn ad I have had Nicky Mueller, the Swiss player here training and my coach Oliver Pettke, who is also the German national coach, is also based just over an hour’s drive away.
“But to get that few days with Paul was something that definitely sharpened my preparations for Manchester.”