4 years ago
In the last week I found myself talking to a family who were going to enter the realm of tournaments. When I say family, the children are playing but the family have to be prepared for the long day that is a tournament. With plenty of both food and patience.
Tournaments are great because they expose you to a larger group of players than you would normally be exposed to. It will often show better players and therefore broaden your horizons of what is possible in table tennis.
Try to enter a few events for the day. You will often find that whether you enter 1 or 6 you will usually be there for the same amount of time as you will be waiting for other players. So if you can afford the expense enter plenty of events.
The most important thing is that you feel comfortable. However there are a couple of rules with clothing that you should know. Make sure that the shirt you wear doesn't have too much of the colour of the ball that they are using. So if they are using a white ball makes sure that your clothes, in particular your shirt doesn't have too much white.
Wear sports shoes, runners or joggers. Try to make sure they don't have a marking sole that will leaves marks on the floor. However, you don't have to have any special shoes.
Some tournaments won't allow you to play in long pants so try to have a pair of shorts. You can wear tracksuits for warming up in but then when the match starts, you should wear shorts.
When you arrive report to someone there to let them know you have arrived and ask if there is anything that you need to know. Most tournament officials are used to explaining things to new players.
Most tournaments in Australia will run for most of the day so be prepared. You will find yourself sitting around for long periods without a match to play. This is a big fault of the system but is one tradition that seems hard to break. However, you can think of that time as free practice time. Find someone else and grab a table and have a hit. Watch as many of the better players as you can. The value of seeing good images of good strokes is highly under rated.
You will probably find that there are a lot of better players than you on your first outing. Again, use this as a way of broadening yourself and your game. Watch the best players, their styles and how they manage themselves during the day. You can learn an awful lot by just doing that.
Eating at tournaments is a major hassle. Most tournaments are run by someone calling you up to play on P.A. This unfortunately can happen at any time. The trick is to eat often and eat well. Take a good supply of food. You will need some high energy food. I find things like fruit buns are ideal. They have a good mix to keep you going during the day.
If at all possible see if you will have a reasonable break where you know you will not be called up to play. Take this time to eat something a little more substantial. This opportunity though may not always present itself. Eat fruit regularly. Drink water regularly. This means you should never feel thirsty. If you wait until you feel thirsty before you drink, you are too late!
Again, because you never know when you will be called up, you need to stay reasonably alert during the day. If you haven't had a match for 30 minutes or more, find someone and have a quick hit up. This could only be for 5 minutes or so but it will keep your mind on the job a little better. It is easy to be distracted during the day and use your energy up by running around or stressing about other minor things. This hit up period keeps you more focused. It doesn't need to be too physical but just keeping in touch. You could even just practice your serving or receiving or short pushing. This will not sap your energy. It will also keep your body moving. You know how hard it is to get going after you have been sitting around for an hour.
When you do get called up to play, make sure you are ready to go. Take those few minutes from the time you hear your name called until you play the first point to really get yourself ready to play. For the more experienced players try to establish a routine that you employ in this time. This will help you settle into the match a lot easier. You won't find yourself playing badly in the first game and finding yourself behind the eight ball from the start.
The routine could be as simple as getting the score card, doing a few stretches or dynamic exercises and spending a minute just thinking about the opponent you are about to play. This thinking can be done during the stretching as well.
During the 2 minute hit up, get your mind really focused on the task ahead. To play some good table tennis.
Most of all try to enjoy the experience and learn as much as you can. Watch the best players, try to hit up with new players. Perhaps see some new strokes that you haven't seen before. Watch how they do them. Watch their serves and try to learn a new one.
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