Everybody needs to be physically fit especially athletes whose sports are so physically demanding, including table tennis. Unfortunately, physical fitness is not enough to guarantee success in your chosen field of sports.
No matter how physically fit you think you are for the competition; you are still at risk of losing if your head is not in the game. Therefore, mental fitness is just as necessary as physical fitness. Your mind and body are ONE.
Your mind and body need to work in sync to achieve your goals.
The following are some suggestions on how you can improve your mental fitness.
Staying focused is a must for every athlete. It is why athletes must learn to focus even when they are still on the training stage.
It would be best if you found ways to improve your ability to focus and prevent your mind from wandering mostly during the game. You can indulge in Yoga and other meditational exercises that teach techniques on how to stay focused amidst the chaos, tension, and pressure.
Focus on your present goals and prevent your mind from dwelling on your past mistakes. Let your past mistakes serve as your lessons and then move on. Focus on the here and now.
Learn to deal with the tension
Several studies conducted prove that too much tension is counter-productive. Therefore, every athlete must learn to deal with pressure. It is because, during the game, tension, stress, and anxiety are inevitable.
Tension even becomes more prevalent when the competition is on. It is why athletes must practice relaxation and visualization techniques to cope with too much pressure.
You may want to read more about the technique to tap your anxiety.
Think of your opponents as friends. Gone are those days when athletes were told to think of their opponents as enemies for them to wipe out. This line of thinking only increases tension on the part of the athlete. Not to mention that it can have adverse effects on his mental fitness.
They should see their opponents as friends who will help them climb up the ladder of victory. Moreover, when you think of your opponents as friends, you become inspired to do your best.
It may sound like a cliché already, but it is one of the essential mental fitness factors. An athlete can master the art of positive thinking that he will push himself beyond the limits.
Positive thinking allows every athlete to look at the positive side of defeat and difficulties. Positive thinking is so powerful that it can convince all the other senses to move and strive towards achieving one’s goal. But, negative thinking will lead you nowhere.
Remember to become physically fit; you need to be mentally fit. Once you possess the right level of mental fitness, it will become easier for your entire body to synchronize and achieve the same level of fitness.
The Mental Side
For me, I have a difficult time getting ready for a tournament or match. Sometimes I need to calm myself down, and sometimes I needed to get “pumped up”.
Table Tennis is tough, maybe one of the toughest, sports to get ready mentally. For one, at a tournament, you may not know who you are playing. It is until you arrive at a game up to 20 minutes or so before the match!
Also, there are different styles, and you need to know how to counterattack against the style of play your opponent chooses to use in the match against you.
The challenging part for me is keeping my mind in the game. After each rally, there’s a break, and you need to think about the next rally, it doesn’t matter if you have won or lost the previous rally. You also have to keep your mind straight in between each game. I have often told myself that I’ve already lost the match only after the first game. Or even worse, I said to myself that I’d won the match and pretty well gave up. I may end up losing a game 3-2 in which I was winning 2-0.
You really can’t be taught how to think or deal with the pressure, but there are classes and people who can advise and guide you about sports’ mental side. I recently had a great lesson on the mental aspect of sports, and it helped considerably with getting comfortable and moving on.
The lady told me to “park the car of discouragement and move on without it”. My doubles partner and I always use this. In a recent tournament, we were down in a game when he told me to “park the car”. I did so to make a comeback and win the match 3-0 with no further problems.
Everyone needs to and has different rituals or routines before each match, and it just helps to relax them. What habit do you have before a big match?
Reflecting on Performance
Reflecting on every tournament performance is vital for learning. The real wisdom comes not from experience, but from reflecting on the incident.
Teaching and learning literature provides us with evidence that our learning is enhanced by reflecting on our experience. It is said that reflecting on our experience is more important than the experience itself. By analyzing our performance, we gain insight and skill.
What Does It Mean to Reflect?
An image of what it means to reflect might be the famous bronze sculpture by Rodin depicting a sitting man with his elbow on his knee; head bowed and chin resting on his hand.
Thinking is the first step in reflection. The core of this thinking is asking and answering some basic questions. What worked well? What didn’t work? Where are my strengths? How can I capitalize on these? What are my weaknesses? What do I need to do to improve the weak skills? There is nothing magical about any specific question.
Step one is to formulate a few questions and think about possible answers. When your practice segment is finished, don’t just get a drink and a snack and let your mind wander. Instead, get a drink and snack and THINK. Begin reflecting on your performance.
Most of us have learned that talking about our thoughts usually leads us to clearer thinking. If the person we talk with listens and asks us a few questions, then all the better. Our reflection is enhanced by dialogue. Our thinking becomes more apparent when we hear what we say.
Our reflection partner does not need to be our coach, does not need to know anything about table tennis and doesn’t even need to have seen our practice segment. They need to ask the right questions, listen to our response and maybe “probe” with a follow-up question or two to stimulate us to think deeper and verbalize our thoughts.
Most people find writing thoughts more difficult than talking. To put our ideas into writing takes careful thinking. To choose the right words to represent our thoughts usually means we need to refine our thinking to pick just the right words or phrases. If we are going to “put it on paper” we want it to be “right.” Start a journal today.
Reflecting on our performance is a vital but often missing link in our road to improvement. Quality reflection is more than just thinking. Quality reflection also includes talking and writing. Thinking, speaking, and writing is the essential components of quality reflection.
I wonder what the impact on my skill might be if I regularly reflected on my performance? If I didn’t just do it, but thought, talked and wrote about what I did?
Who is Your Biggest Fan?
You should be your biggest fan!
All too often, especially with young players, they not only have to beat their opponent, but they have to conquer themselves as well. If you watch a team sport, I don’t think they play any better if the crowd is against them.
In table tennis, spectators watch the game. The player will have a coach and maybe their parent in their corner supporting their efforts, but most of the time they are on their own.
I think it very important that players move on to the next point and don’t dwell on the past. The energy they use to criticize themselves is wasted, and I feel this negative energy affects their play and their psychological state of mind.
Secondly, letting your opponent see your emotional weakness leads to increased confidence, which often leads to better play. These emotion patterns often develop early on and are difficult to change when established. Keeping a positive state of mind needs to be introduced as early as possible.
I encourage my players to smile at their opponent after a net or an edge giving them a conditioned response that helps them focus on what needs to be done. Some players respond to having a music theme in their head using it as a refocusing technique, whatever method you choose to keep positive and leave your negative criticism for the training hall.