Dimitri Steinmann, one of the world’s top squash players at only 22 years old, is the official ambassador for the ghosting app “Go to the T” from Trivadis. We spoke with him about mental toughness, creativity in the game and his fascination with Muhammad Ali – and about what executives can learn from him.
How often do you train and for how long?
I train three times a day Monday through Friday, twice on Saturdays and once on Sundays. One training session lasts between 75 and 90 minutes on average. But there are also longer units. For example, if I go out on my racing bike on a Saturday morning, I might be out three or four hours.
That’s a lot. How do you stay motivated?
I have a long-term goal, and that always motivates me. I want to do the best that I can.
What’s your goal in squash?
My dream is to be number 1 in the world one day. I work hard for that – I’ve completely focused my life on this sport. Everything else comes after. First, though, I want to make it to the top 30 in the world as quickly as I can. [Editor’s note: Dimitri is currently ranked 61]
You started your sports career in fencing. Why did you switch to squash?
Squash is a very “complete” sport that combines all of the strengths of the human body: the reaction time of a race car driver, the speed of a sprinter, the endurance of a marathon runner and the tactical intelligence of a chess player. That fascinates me.
How do you handle defeat?
A defeat is never pleasant; no one likes to lose. But you also have to see defeats as opportunities and learn from them.
Can you be more specific?
Well, when you lose, you can either say, ‘Okay, I’m going to change something,’ or you can hang your head. That shows you who is truly a champion – and who is not.
As a professional athlete, there are probably a lot of things you have to do without, like sleeping in, alcohol, going out partying ...
I don’t really see it as doing without these things; that’s just my way of life. I’m not really a fan of sleeping in anyway, I don’t really see the point in alcohol and I do go out from time to time – even without drinking alcohol.
Top athletes have incredible mental toughness. How can “normal” people achieve mental toughness?
It’s crucial to focus on the small things. To take things step by step and concentrate on intermediate goals. I try to constantly refocus myself, in squash as well.
What can executives learn from you?
Not to toot my own horn too much, but perseverance and discipline are two strengths of mine. Even if you might not feel like doing something, you should still do it. That’s incredibly important.
How do you find solutions in tough games?
I try to analyse the situation and then find a solution approach based on my options. There’s a nice term for that: situational variable availability. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I don’t. (laughs)
What role does creativity play in squash?
A huge role. You could say that’s the crux of the game. Every player is very individual with this. There are many different ways to bring your own personality to the court.
Can you give us an example?
If someone is a quiet person, they’ll be quiet and serene on the court as well, playing things safe. Whereas if someone is more extroverted, they’ll probably even play a bit “flamboyantly.” That looks really cool, even artistic.
Which of these two are you?
A healthy mix. (laughs)
Do you have an idol? If so, who is it and why?
Yes, Muhammad Ali and Michael Jordan. Both are exceptional athletes and have also become cultural icons outside of sports. I’m really impressed by people who have made a difference beyond their sport.
Thanks for the chat, Dimitri!