The most important junior table tennis tournament of the year is quickly approaching. Try these top 10 tips to get the results that you’re aiming for.
Some table tennis tournaments are long and grueling, which requires you to play at your best day after day. You must get enough sleep to keep performing for your team and yourself throughout the whole week.
It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement and social scene and end up yawning non-stop the next day. It’s essential that you still hang out with your friends, but know when it’s time to say goodnight and get the right amount of sleep you need.
9. Food and Drink
It’s pretty simple; if you want to be an athlete, you have to eat like one. I think the most important meal when you’re competing is breakfast, even if it is the hardest to eat. I know it can feel like you’re trying to eat cardboard when your stomach is full of butterflies and nerves before an important match. It would help if you tried to force it down. If you don’t eat breakfast, then you will soon regret it when you run out of energy on the court.
I always try to eat a big breakfast to give me enough energy to last throughout the morning. Generally, a “big” breakfast for me is just a bowl of cereal and two pieces of toast, and then throughout the morning, you can snack on muesli bars and fruit. Make sure you always have some snacks in your bag, to avoid getting hungry.
It will be really hot at some places during the week of the competition, so you must replenish all the sweat you’re losing. Try to keep sipping on your water bottle throughout the time you’re competing, and if you’re sweating a lot, then it’s a good idea to drink a sports drink as well, such as Gatorade.
The warm-up is an essential part of how you perform. I recommend that maybe the night before, or on the bus ride to the playing hall, you decide which routines you will do in the warm-up. This way, you don’t waste time trying to decide what to do, and you can think about which routines will suit you best to give you the best chance of performing well. Think about who you’re playing against and what their strengths and weaknesses are. Maybe one of the players has a perfect serve that you struggle to return. You can plan and ask your warm-up partner to copy that person’s serve so you can practice returning it.
An inadequate warm-up can lead to you feeling stressed and lacking confidence about how you’re playing. My advice is not to stress. Just because you weren’t playing well in the warm-up doesn’t mean you will not play well in the match. The important part is not to keep telling yourself that you’re “playing like crap,” because if you continue to tell yourself that, then that’s what will happen. Just because you missed your forehand in the warm-up doesn’t mean you have forgotten how to play a forehand.
7. Arousal Level
Before a match, it’s essential to know whether you need psyching up or calming down. If you know that you play your best when you’re on your toes and attacking, then make a playlist on your iPod with “pump up” songs. If you get too nervous or psyched up before a match to the point where you’re jumping around the court and can’t concentrate, then maybe slower music is for you. My advice is to have both a “pump up” and “calm down” playlist on your iPod, so you can listen to either, depending on how you’re feeling.
To assist with making sure that you’re ready and focused before a match, make sure you’re not just sitting getting cold on the bench. When it looks like the match before you finish, stand up and do some stretches to get your feet moving. If you find you keep losing the first game or it takes you a while to get into the match, then you should try warming up before you go out.
6. Tactics from Coach
Before you take to the court to verse your opponent, make sure you have a quick chat with your coach about what tactics you will use. It’s good to have the tactics fresh in your mind so you can focus on that and forget about your nerves.
5. Keep Fighting
Everyone has a bad loss now and then, but the important thing is not to get down on yourself and keep fighting. It’s a long week, and if you keep trying, then you’ll be surprised at how quickly things can turn around.
Make sure you never give up during a match. If you’re getting frustrated and your body language suggests that you’ve given up, then you might as well stop playing because your opponent has already won. If your opponent can see that you won’t give up and fighting hard, they will be nervous. Trust yourself and keep fighting no matter what because you can always turn things around in table tennis.
4. Support Your Team
You would be surprised at how much of a difference some good clapping and cheering from the sideline can make. Working together as a team and supporting your mates is an integral part of a team’s (and states) success. Ensure you support your fellow teammates because if you support them, they will be more likely to support you.
3. Focus on the task at hand
Where possible, try to avoid getting caught up in the inevitable social dramas that occur at the tournament. Remember that you’re there to play your best table tennis, and when people start fighting over who said what, then try not to get involved in the drama. It’s essential to hang out with your friends, but if people start fighting and getting upset, my advice is to be supportive but not to take sides.
2. Know Yourself
Above all, the key to good preparation and performance is to know yourself. For example, it’s essential to know what type of food suits you best when you’re playing, how many hours of sleep you need per night, how long you need to warm up before you play, what kind of music gets you “in the zone,” etc.
Getting to know yourself is primarily a trial and error process, but you must find out what is best for you. In the next couple of weeks leading into the tournament, try out a few different things (e.g., different types of food or music) before training to see what suits you best.
1. Have Fun
Although it’s essential to prepare well and take your table tennis seriously, most of the tournaments only held one time of the year when you get to see all your closest friends from your own and other states. Make sure you have fun, make some new friends, and enjoy your time at the tournament.