The Mental Game Of Table Tennis
Confidence, Concentration and Composure
Bill Cole, MS, MA
I've been the mental game coach to top national
and international table tennis players, and have played table
tennis myself for over 30 plus years. I've really enjoyed
helping these boys and girls develop mental toughness, focus
and desire, and they've had excellent results:
- ITTF North America Cup, Hopes Challenge Champion
- US Open Finalist
- U.S. National Championships Bronze Boys Medalist
- U.S. National Championships Cadet Boys Gold Medalist
- Butterfly Canadian Junior & Cadet Open, Cadet Single
- Butterfly Canadian Cadet Team Gold Medalist
- U.S. National Championships, 21 & Under Women's Singles
- U.S. National Championships, Junior Girls Singles Finalist
- ITTF North American Championships, Junior Girls Team
- USA Junior & Cadet Open, Cadet Girls Singles Champion
- USA Junior & Cadet Open Junior Girls Doubles Bronze Medalist
They have been named to such teams as the
U.S. National Cadet Boys Team, the U.S. National Mini Cadet
Boys Team, the U.S. National Junior Girls & Cadet Girls Team
and the ITTF World Hopes Team.
How is your mental game? Do you have the level of confidence
you want? Are you able to concentrate at an intense level
for the entire match, and over the course of the tournament?
Can you relax and remain composed, even in the face of relentless
Here are three powerful mental game strategies you can use
to improve your table tennis.
- Confidence Is An Inside Job: It is amazing how
often we see a table tennis player deflecting a well-earned
compliment on their game from their coach, a parent or a
teammate. With a verbal wave of the hand they push away
this sincere, potentially confidence-inducing energy and
tell everyone that what they did "was not so good". Then
you see the people around the athlete kicking into overdrive,
attempting to convince them that they indeed did well. Again
the athlete adeptly tosses these observations aside. What
happens as a result of this verbal dance? The athlete does
not become confident. It seems as though no one can get
through to some athletes, and they think that nothing they
do is really ever good enough. Well, I have a saying I use
about confidence. "No one becomes confident from what
they are going to do, or from what they did badly. People
only become confident from what they did well." This
proof of success concept is what gives us confidence. The
athlete thinks, "Well, I did it before, I guess I can
do it again". What does this have to do with you and
the compliments people try to give you? Believe them. Let
those good wishes come in. Allow them to wash over you so
you feel happy and proud about your accomplishments. This
is what is meant by "confidence is an inside job". The only
person who can give you confidence is yourself. People cannot
"give you confidence" if you don't let them. If you are
continually rejecting the good wishes from others, you block
this positive energy from infusing your confidence.
- Composure Is Accepting What Is Happening: Many
table tennis players fight not only the opponent--they fight
themselves. They fight themselves by being self-critical,
judgmental and by tearing themselves down when they make
mistakes or lose points. They act like their own worst enemy.
It's almost as if they don't like themselves. They don't
like this and they don't like that. They whine about how
they wish things were different. They complain about bad
luck. They complain about what is distracting them. They
certainly don't approve of what is happening. But composure
is different. Composure is about calming down, stopping
the internal fight with yourself, and accepting what is
happening. Acceptance does not mean you approve of or like
what is happening. It simply means you accept the reality
of the situation. Once you do this, your mental and emotional
strife falls away and you gain a new clarity about the match.
You start seeing the ball well and moving well. You are
more relaxed and able to withstand the pressure and stress.
Perhaps you could even take this acceptance to the next
level and actually become grateful for the situation. This
"gratitude attitude" would help you enjoy the situation,
embrace it further and play better.
- To Concentrate, Tune In, Not Out: Everyone thinks
that in order to concentrate well, they need to "block out"
distractions. Rather than doing battle with distractions,
and attempting to ward them off, it's better to simply "tune
in" to the proper cue. There are two types of distractions,
internal and external. Either type takes our attention away
from the correct cues we should be focusing on. To tune
in, focus on various aspects of the ball. First, clear your
mind by taking some deep breaths as part of your pre-point
ritual. Then relax your muscles. Now complete your ritual.
As part of your ritual, focus on the ball as you hold it,
or as the server holds it. Take a very sharp look at it.
Can you see the lettering on the ball? Is there a slight
blemish you can see? If you are serving feel the weight
of the ball. Feel the ball touching your hand. Using your
vision and sense of feel puts you into "sensate mode" where
you begin to enter the moment, the now. The now is where
you concentrate, and your object of concentration is the
ball. Anything else you think about is a distraction. Don't
even think "about the ball". Just watch the ball. As you
feel and watch the ball, you are automatically concentrating.
You don't have to force it, or block out any distractions.
You are simply in the now, focusing.
How does it feel to know some key elements of the mental
game of table tennis? Now you have more insight about how
to concentrate, remain relaxed and composed and how to become
confident. Work diligently on your mental approach and it
will pay handsome dividends.
Copyright © 2014 Bill Cole, MS, MA. All rights reserved.
This article covers only one small part of the mental game.
A complete mental training program includes motivation and
goal-setting, pre-event mental preparation, post-event review
and analysis, mental strengthening, self-regulation training,
breath control training, motor skill training, mental rehearsal,
concentration training, pressure-proofing, communication training,
confidence-building, breaking through mental barriers, slump
prevention, mental toughness training, flow training, relaxation
training, momentum training, psych-out proofing and media
For a comprehensive overview of your mental abilities you
need an assessment instrument that identifies your complete
mental strengths and weaknesses. For a free, easy-to-take
65-item sport psychology assessment tool you can score right
on the spot, visit https://www.mentalgamecoach.com/Assessments/MentalGameOfSports.html.
This assessment gives you a quick snapshot of your strengths
and weaknesses in your mental game. You can use this as a
guide in creating your own mental training program, or as
the basis for a program you undertake with Bill Cole, MS,
MA to improve your mental game. This assessment would be an
excellent first step to help you get the big picture about
your mental game.
Bill Cole, MS, MA, a leading authority on peak performance, mental toughness
and coaching, is founder and President of the International Mental Game Coaching
Bill is also founder and CEO of William B. Cole Consultants, a consulting firm that helps
organizations and professionals achieve more success in business, life and sports.
He is a multiple Hall of Fame honoree, an award-winning scholar-athlete, published
book author and articles author, and has coached at the highest levels of major-league
pro sports, big-time college athletics and corporate America. For a free, extensive
article archive, or for questions and comments visit him at www.MentalGameCoach.com.
Article Source: SportsPsychologyCoaching.com
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