So, I am playing with Joey Newgarden. He is the son of that man who created Robo-Pong (I mentioned him in my last entry blog from November, 2010). In order for me to play with him I have to get to my highest level of concentration, OR ELSE…
Joey is a busy businessman, and does not give himself much time to play, but when he plays, it’s as if the world does not exist. He is extremely focused, solid in his game, and does not waste a second on the “past.” I, on the other hand, with every bad or even with a great shot of mine start the inner process of either self-criticism, or self-wonder: “Wow, I can’t believe I got that shot…” I would think, and WHAM the ball hits me back out of nowhere. Or: “Gosh, how can I be so stupid? I know better, I should hit the ball up and forward! What’s that definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over, and expecting different results? Liliana, you’ve got to start practicing more!” And of course I pay the price, especially with Joey. I asked him once:
“Joey, you don’t seem to be affected by any of your bad shots. Do you ACT as if you are not affected, or you are really not affected?”
“I don’t even go there,” he said. “I just think of my next ball.”
That answer really made me think. I started working on it. Every time I miss the ball, and the bad feeling takes me to this process of self-analysis, I try to say to myself quickly and loudly: What can I do with this next ball!
I started noticing great improvements. When I stay concentrated like this, I actually win more games. I do admit that I can’t do it all the time, but I am working on it. Table tennis is the absolute best tool to improve my ability to concentrate. There is just simply no time to waste, the balls keep coming at me fast. Sometimes before I start playing games, I practice on my Robo-Pong at the high speed, changing the direction of the balls, not giving myself a second to think, and that keeps me going.
Joey just hit another great serve and I returned it perfectly for the first time. I wanted to throw my racket and jump out of joy, but no, I didn’t. “What are you going to do with your next ball?” is the only thought allowed, at least for now.