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Losing in Table Tennis

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I have received this particular question from over 50 of my followers.  I decided that it was time to answer it.  This week, Luis Sergio Chavez wrote, “It would be great if you could cover also the mental strength aspects or techniques to mentally recover from 0-4 where you are the one who made 4 mistakes in a row.  I would love to learn from your experience and knowledge on how to get back on track.”

This is an interesting question.  As I said, many table tennis players are asking this.  It is similar to saying, “I don’t know the answer to the first 4 questions on my math exam, can you please tell me the answer?”  Of course, I would say, “Please tell me the problems, and I’ll give you the answers.”  You see, without me being there and knowing HOW you lost those 4 consecutive points, it is absolutely impossible for me to give you a solution.  Furthermore, do you even remember how you lost them?

Many table tennis players say, I was winning 10-6 in the 5th game and lost six in a row, what did I do wrong?  I always respond with, what happened?  They don’t know.  They don’t remember what they served, how they received, what shots they used, or where they hit.  Here is the key…  If you want to stop a momentum swing in the score, you need to realize what is going on.

Did you change your placement and start feeding his forehand?

Did he suddenly start lobbing?

Did he change his serve?

Did you lose confidence in your attack and begin full table backhand pushing?

Once you can understand the problem, you are then on the right track for finding a solution.  Consider reading a previous article that I wrote last year called “The Think Circle.”  Check it out below…

The Think Circle

Between pitches in baseball, the batter steps out of the batter’s box to re-focus.

The same thing is true in table tennis; the pros often call this the “think circle.”

Between points, step back about 4-6 feet away from the table and draw an imaginary circle around yourself and collect your thoughts in your think circle.  Every professional athlete has a different method of processing the points, relaxing, and gearing up for the next point, but I’m going to give you the method that I personally use.

#1 Ask yourself the question, “What just happened?”

While the point is fresh in your mind, you should replay the details of each hit.  If you can’t remember how you messed up, you will likely make the same mistake again.  If you can’t remember how you scored, then you won’t likely be able to capitalize on your opponent’s weak points.

#2 Remind yourself of your primary tactics.

From the first few points of the table tennis match, you should be forming some specific tactics based on your strengths and the opponent’s weaknesses.  Point by point, you should be willing to adjust your primary tactics, especially if you are losing.

#3 Breath deeply.

Deep breathing has a calming effect allowing you to forget about that missed smash, calm your anger, and come back focused for the next point. 

#4 Ask yourself the question, “What’s next?”

If you are serving, first determine exactly what you plan to serve and what the possible returns will be.  If you are receiving, then ask yourself how you plan to deal with fast serve, how you plan to deal with short backspin serves, how you plan to deal with no-spin serves.  Remember, you must stay fairly neutral when receiving and be ready for anything while at the same time, having general tactics against various serves.

This method that I briefly explained is the method that I use to analyze the point, remind myself of the plan, calm myself down, and get to the specifics.  I would encourage you to develop your own method and be consistent at using it during drills, club play, leagues, and tournaments.  As with any skill, it takes time to develop, but it is definitely worth the effort!

Samson Dubina

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