“I’ve been lucky because I have been in the right place in the right time.”
“My greatest challenge today, is maintaining my speed on court.”
“Players should be clear about the way they train, because it is the way they compete.”
“You train the way you want to play and therefore its possible top lay like you have trained.”
“The key to playing in altitude is not to panic.”
“Fast courts don’t allow a proper technical development.”
“You have to cheer up, and leave home to achieve success in sports.”
The 32 year old Australian David Palmer is a true legend of modern squash with 5 British Open titles, two world titles and 50 PSA final followed by 24 professional titles, No.1 player in the world and nothing less than one hundred months in the top ten players in the world, successes that are very difficult to achieve by any player in the following years. Palmer is not only a successful player, but he has an enormous conceptual clarity of the sport, discipline, dedication and perseverance due to his clear objectives that allow him to be known as a professional in its maximum degree. This clarity and seriousness of his ideas and concepts are showed in the same effectiveness off the court. He is direct, sincere, open and reserved with his personal life.
Characterized by his firm convictions, Palmer lives in Boston with his wife and two daughters that are his biggest motivation. His young daughters Kayla, 3, and Miley who is only a month old are his inspiration. His face remembers them and sustains that it’s difficult for him to be away from his three women for a long time, but nonetheless he is aware that the time he spends with them is more valuable than that of a persona that goes to the office every day. “The quality time I dedicate to them is the most important thing,” he says, but emphasizes that he wishes he had more time for this family.
He assures that Kayla and Miley will play squash, and although he doesn’t see them as professional players in the future, if they wish to he will support them unconditionally because he says, “sports are a way of becoming a better person.”
Palmer’s debute as a professional was in 1994 and in the year 200 he entered the most exclusive group of the best top ten players in the world, since then he has always maintained his place in this group, being the only player in the world with the most enviable record, more than 100 months in the top ten. He has been a professional for 15 years, maintaining himself in parallel to the young promises of the future. Therefore it is impossible not to ask when he plans to retire. Palmer is categorical when he ensures that his retirement will only come when he has completely lost his passion to win and today remains intact. “That’s the only time to stop” he sustains and affirms that his aspiration is to at least continue to be a professional until 2010, but if he continues in the top ten he can think about it one more time.
Palmer began to play squash in his country Australia at the age of 5. His parents introduced him to the sport because they too practiced it. Australia has been a squash power since the late 1960’s. He turned pro at the age of 17 and by 1995 he conquered his first junior title in the category U-19. By this time, he was already No.69 in the PSA ranking and his outstanding career began and he reached the top places due to his professionalism, and he has become one of the most important symbols of the decade.
ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS
What is the secret to becoming one of the best players in the world?
Hard work, good trainers and luck, to be in the right place at the right time.
How to maintain a top level through the years?
Consistency and training. It’s no easy, but you have to be smart. It’s not about long hours of training, but the quality of specific programs. I have discovered with my age that you don’t have to train too much, not like before. It’s important to adjust times strategically and have quality routines. I have sustained my level after 30 years due to my training and preparation; I have had few injuries and I have obtained a lot of experience. I keep myself strong and focused and today my greatest challenge is to keep my speed on court. Those are the key elements for success.
How do you train?
I have managed to learn how to train with quality. That is the key. It’s better to dedicate 30 minutes of 100% effort, than 2 hours with 70% effort. I have seen many players that don’t train adequately and then want to play correctly. Players should be clear about the way they train, because it is the way they compete.
How do you train correctly?
You have to establish goals for every training session. Squash is based on repetitions and muscular memory. You have to repeat every single shot one thousand times to make it more precise. You train the way you want to play and therefore it’s possible to play like you have trained. In a 9-9 score in a fifth game you can only respond to a serve with a cross court nick shot if you have the confidence. If you trained it, you will do it with no hesitation.
Why did you decide to come to Bogota?
My objective is to try to win the US Open in Chicago the first week of September and after, conquer another British Open title in Manchester in the second week of September. When I was checking the calendar I thought the altitude of Bogota would benefit my endurance for the following tournaments.
Altitude seems to be a great risk for the best players. Many can’t manage to assimilate it. What do you think about altitude and the way to play with it?
An athlete should be prepared for any kind of conditions and challenges. Nonetheless it would have been ideal to reach Bogota one week earlier. Yet, it all depends on the way you confront it mentally.
Everybody is affected in different ways, but it’s inevitable that you lose your breath once in a while. The only way to open a path to success is the way in which you handle his moments in your head.
The moment you are out of breath, have a headache, tension in your chest and your stomach hurts you shouldn’t panic. When you feel tired, you instinctively start to kill the ball, but it’s not the best exit. You have to understand that the sensation is temporal and it’s better to lower the pace, metalize and seek for energy to continue. It you are well prepared you will get through it.
What do you think of South American players? Do they have a chance of entering the exclusive group of the top ten?
South America has great players, but very few. This is because of the courts in which they play in; they are not the same courts as in the biggest tournaments in the world. The courts are very fast; the ball bounces too much and even slides. These characteristics are an impediment to develop a proper technique. You can’t truly appreciate a good shot in these courts. Here you play low shots rather than long and precise shots. This is why good fast- court players have great difficulty to show their potential on cold courts that are slower and they can feel frustrated when they play in them.
What type of courts should we have?
The characteristics should be different. Floors should be soft and not hard like most courts. They should be colder with the use of air conditioners and the walls shouldn’t be shinny, like the courts we are looking at. If the courts had these conditions, the players that train in these courts shouldn’t have a rough time in other courts around the world. I’m convinced that this scenario would allow Latin American squash to become more competitive. For example look at Borja Golan. He has been able to enter the privileged group of the best players in the world because he has trained the technical abilities that he lacked before. But additionally to training in cold and slow courts, players that have professional aspirations should leave home and train in Europe. You have to cheer up and leave home. This truly guarantees success.
Do you consider yourself a rich man after 15 years of playing at top level?
Honestly, I have managed t olive comfortably but I have always paid things by myself. I have never received any support from any institution or government organization. I have paid everything by myself and have obtained everything I have thanks to my dedication and effort. I admire those players who have support from their countries. They should take advantage of it, I never had it.
What will you do after you retire?
I have two options. Stay in the USA as a coach or return to Australia and start up an academy of squash. I will have to analyze each option when the time comes
This conversation is reaching its end and we wish we had more time. His words are overwhelming as well as his presence and conceptual clarity. He says goodbye with signature kindness and raises the athletic figure that identifies him thanks to his stature and tapping the tips of his shoes when he walks, just like he does on court before serving. His size and muscle structure are intimidating on court. Everyone, from his rivals or the people around him, think how to surpass him. On court, he plays with admiring easiness, flexibility and surprising speed. All his shots look easy because he makes that which is evidently hard look simple. This is the greatest asset of champions.