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What video games can teach squash

Many popular video games are challenging. If this is the case then why do so many people play these games that cause so much frustration? Sound like your squash playing experience?

Psychologists call it intrinsic motivation – doing something regardless of expecting a reward or acknowledgement. Video games have become a useful tool for helping to understand this. Designers of video games have also picked up on the principles of motivation and have found a way to apply them – which is evident from the number of people who play their games.

According to self-determination theory (a framework for understanding motivation), it all comes down to fulfilling three basic needs:

  • Autonomy – to have a choice and control over your own actions
  • Relatedness – to connect with others and identify with a group
  • Competence – to possess adequate skill

Video Games

The interactions in most video games gives players a choice (autonomy) and the ability to play others (in person or online) satisfies relatedness. Teaching competence is the tricky one. If you hold the player’s hand too much they disengage from being bored. If you ask too much of them too soon they will quit in frustration. Finding a balance by easing players up the learning curve requires you helping them to master the basic moves and progressing them into more challenging situations.

Some ways you can use self-determination theory in squash:


  • Give your members a range of activities to choose from.
  • Ask questions during sessions that provoke problem solving and decision making.
  • Allow players to have their say and give feedback.
  • Explain why you are doing a certain activity and / or skill.
  • Provide ownership of learning to the players / teams.
  • Allow players to input into tactics during games.


  • Facilitate friendships and connections between members (use group activities).
  • Create a team culture and the sense of belonging to it.
  • Use social media as a platform to promote connections.
  • Have shared goals for the club and / or team.


  • Encourage players to ‘be better today than they were yesterday’.
  • Highlight progress in skill development (show results are being made).
  • Give praise and feedback on performance.
  • Use technology as a tool to show player improvement (people like to see themselves).
  • Provide age and stage appropriate activities for participants.

The most important thing to remember is to coach the people in front of you. Do you need to progress them on further to keep them interested, or do you need to dial it back so they can experience success?

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