How to snap out of it.

Table Tennis Mental Preparation

Last updated 11 years ago

Ji-Soo Woo

Ji-Soo Woo Asked 14 years ago

Sometimes, during a game, I go into a deep funk.  I play badly...my confidence suffers...I play more tentatively...I play worse...

I was just wondering if you had any suggestions for the best way to snap out of it and break the vicious cycle as soon as possible to minimise the damage and to give yourself a chance to salvage the match.

Any ways to calm yourself, help refocus, help play strokes confidently again...


Jeff Plumb

Jeff Plumb Answered 14 years ago

Hi Ji-Soo,

Very broadly speaking, there are 2 reasons why you might not be mentally at your best when playing Table Tennis.

  1. You are feeling flat and your heart rate is low 
  2. You are nervous and your heart is racing

Here are some suggestions for each scenario.

You are feeling flat and your heart rate is low

The most likely cause of this is a lack of motivation. Rarely will you hear anyone talk about this aspect of Sports Psychology but it is a common problem. If you have been playing Table Tennis for many years you may have become tired of the game. There are 2 ways to overcome this problem.

  1. Take a break from the game. You might find that a few months off will re-ignite your passion for Table Tennis or
  2. Set some goals. People with realistic goals are always motivated to keep achieving.

Of course I love Table Tennis so I would encourage anyone who is feeling like this to take option 2 and set some goals. You'll be amazed at what a difference some goals can make.

You are nervous and your heart is racing

From your question above Ji-Soo, it seems like your problem is most likely that you are nervous. Or not even nervous but just unable to focus on the match. Generally if you are playing well, everything is in focus and you see the ball early and you react quickly to all of your opponents shots. However if your mind is distracted with negative thoughts, it all starts to come unstuck. It may be that you get off to a bad start and then it spirals out of control. The trick is to bring some focus back quickly.

There are a number of ways to try and bring your mind back to simply concentrating on the current point. As they say you need to take it one point at a time. The most common method is to in between points, focus on your breathing. If you focus completely on your breathing then you can't be worrying about the result or any bad shots you've played. It gives you a chance to forget everything that has happened and start again. However this technique requires a lot of practice. You only really have a short time between points to get your mind ready to play.

A favourite technique of mine to clear my mind, is to clean my bat. The idea is similar to that of the breathing. By cleaning your bat you can take your mind off worrying about the result of the match. Clean your bat and clear your mind.

The main point to remember is that you need a technique that works for you that allows you to re-focus. You must practice this technique and use it regularly during matches.

The last tip after you have cleared your mind, is to quickly picture yourself playing some good Table Tennis before you step up to play the next point.

So in summary, to snap out of it and re-focus, you need a routine that you've used many times before that allows you to clear your mind.

And remember that if things are going really bad you can call a timeout to give yourself a bit longer to re-gather your thoughts.

If you are reading this and have any of your own techniques for settling down then please leave a comment to share your thoughts.


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Thoughts on this question

Jeremy Unknown

Jeremy Unknown Posted 13 years ago

Yeah that often happens to me also.  Usually i lose my focus.  I just take like a 2-3 minute break and spend the time to relax and focus up.  Then I play well again. 

Aurel Drejta

Aurel Drejta Posted 12 years ago

When im usualy dont feel like im playing good i just think myself train and then i say to myself "You can do this you did it in training you can do it now" And then take a deep breath and relax and i picture myself like im wining the pint the best way i love to win.I love to win a point at the 3rd ball and with a fast topspin and then i feel like myself again

Douglas Hill

Douglas Hill Posted 11 years ago

I find it helpful to glance at the other person and ask myself, "What does he not want to see coming at him?"  And then try to make that happen.  After all, if I'm going to suffer, why not spread it around? ;-)  It helps get my attention outside of myself where it can do some good.


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