It is said that table tennis matches can be won and lost in the mind. Having expert physical skills is not enough if you cannot focus, perform on the day and have confidence in yourself. So how can you ensure you’re mental ready to perform to your best?
Mental preparation, in sport, is the act of becoming ready to perform at your highest level. It is made up of many different factors and you’ll naturally be better at some than others. Perhaps you have plenty of self confidence but are easily distracted or you are famously ‘slow-to-start’ but are excellent at sticking to a predetermined game plan.
Here are a few tips to help you improve your mental preparation prior to a table tennis match or tournament;
Don’t be put off by the word ‘visualisation’, there’s nothing funny going on here. Visualisation is simply a way to build confidence in your own abilities by imagining yourself being successful. And I don’t mean imagining yourself with the trophy at the end of the tournament (although I’m sure doing that wont hurt), I mean visualising a successful shot or a successful feeling as you play a series of shots.
Think back to a time when you’ve been playing really well. A game where you were ‘in the zone’ and all your shots were going on and you were seeing the ball really well and reacting instantly. Thinking back to this ‘successful’ performance will help you recreate a positive performance now.
2. Pre-game Routine
Have you ever seen professional athletes performing silly rituals before they play a match? Some always touch the roof of the player’s tunnel or grab a bit of grass from the ground before making their way onto the pitch. Others recite things, do that cross on their chest and head or do some kind of dance. It might all seem a bit ridiculous but the research says otherwise.
While in themselves a pre-game routine does nothing magical to help an athlete win it is likely to help them focus on the task in hand, set aside life’s problems or hassles and in that moment become 100% athlete. If you don’t already have one I would recommend starting a pre-game routine. What you do is up to you and don’t worry about looking silly. This is sport and sport is serious business if you want to win. You’ll have the last laugh anyway!
3. Have a Game Plan
When you’re playing well and feeling good the game plan might seem like the last thing on your mind. You’re in the moment and are able to make good decisions in split seconds. When you’re struggling though it can be a different story and having a pre-determined game plan can help you to refocus, avoid distractions and be decisive.
When you are playing a table tennis game there are many things trying to distract you. Your opponent might be doing something that irritates you, the umpire might be useless, your opponents team mates might be clapping excessively, your own team mates(/family) may have wondered off leaving you thinking “do they even care?”. A game plan will help you to get back on track.
You’ll need to know a little about your opponent before coming up with a game plan. It’s a good idea to try to watch them in an earlier round or ask a friend if they have played them before. Knowing your opponents strengths and weaknesses and creating a basic game plan around them should give you a good start or something to fall back on if things aren’t going your way.
So there we have it. Three tips to help you mentally prepare to play table tennis, regardless of your level.
- Visualise yourself performing well – to build confidence
- Go through a pre-game routine – to focus completely on the game
- Develop a game plan – to be more decisive and avoid distractions
Thank you for reading and stay tuned for loads more quality table tennis articles from me in 2013!