Mentality in a Match

December 9, 2013

Tip of the Week

Learn Tactics by Coaching Others.

Recap of Past Week

It's been a wild week. Let's recap the last five days:

  • Wednesday: I reinjured my arm (or at least aggravated previous injury) and had to cancel four hours of coaching that night and the following night.
  • Thursday: $458 in car repairs. (Car was vibrating and needed new tires.)
  • Friday: Saw doctor, got a cortisone shot, no more playing for rest of month (i.e. no private coaching). Also spent an hour going over videos of Zhang Jike, Ma Long, and Ma Lin and their footwork, and one of our top juniors, and then sent him a selection to view and compare. Later we discussed it, going over what he needs to do to improve.
  • Saturday: Ran a group junior session for 90 minutes, but then sent out emails to cancel the rest of my private coaching for the weekend and the rest of the month.
  • Sunday: All my group sessions today (3.5 hours) were cancelled due to snow and sleet. So I sat in a lounge chair all day and night reading and watching TV. It was great!!!

Mentality in a Match and in Practice - Revisited

Someone doubted part of my Tip of the Week for Nov. 25 at the MyTabletennis.net forum, writing that he thought that "…the zone was still something people enter on occasion and that Larry was wrong when he said one could practice entering it." I think this is a common way of thinking for those who don't have the experience that top players and coaches have in sports psychology. Here is my response:

Why do you think you can't practice entering it? Of course you can; you use the same mental techniques in practice that allow you to get into the zone as you would in a tournament. The more you practice doing it, the easier it is to do so in tournaments. Or do you think it's a completely random thing that just sort of happens? That may be true of those who don't understand sports psychology, but the whole point of sports psychology is to allow one to get into the zone on a consistent basis. And you learn to do this with practice; there's no other way. That's why top players meet with sports psychologists so they can learn these mental techniques, and then they practice these techniques in practice sessions (including practice matches) - and then they can do it in serious competition. The idea that it just sort of happens is not how top players do it, which is why the top players can get into the zone and play their best nearly every major tournament. It comes from practice. I know I can get into the zone pretty much at will within a game of any match because I've practiced it for many years and know what mental rituals to go through to attain it. Read "The Inner Game of Tennis," or "Get Your Game Face On!" or "Finding Your Zone."

Here was the response to that: "Usually, it's easier to enter the zone when you aren't being frustrated by your opponent - the level of challenge usually matches the focus you bring.  Most players get frustrated in TT when they are missing the ball.  The question is whether you can be in the zone and not playing that well." Here's my response:

Half the point of sports psychology is so that things in a match do not frustrate you. If the opponent is frustrating you, then you need to apply the sports psychology techniques used by top players to overcome this. Once in the zone, you will play well, relative to how you would play if not in it. If the opponent does something that really messes you up, it'll mess you up less if you are in the zone.

I'm often in demand as a coach in tournaments. Those who believe coaching at tournaments is all about tactics are only doing half their job. At least half of it is psychological as you use various techniques to get your player into the zone. You can't always do this - a frustrated kid can be hard to get into the zone - but I've been doing this for many years, along with the tactical aspect. The two go together - once someone is thinking about the tactical aspects (which means 2-3 tactics out of zillions of possibilities), then they aren't thinking about losing or other distracting thoughts, and is a quick way to get into the zone.

World Junior Championships

They were held in Rabat, Morocco, Dec. 1-8, finishing yesterday. The big upset was a South Korean won Under 18 Boys over the Chinese juggernaut. Here is the ITTF home page for the event, which includes results, write-ups, pictures, and videos. You can also check how the U.S. team did. (There should be a write-up of that soon by someone else; I'll link to it when it's up.)

Shonie Aki, RIP

Hall of Famer Shonie Aki died last Monday. Here's his Hall of Fame profile. Strangely, while I've sort of known him for many years (mostly through USATT matters), he was always so quiet that I never really knew him except through his Hall of Fame profile.

Ma Long's Instructional

Here's a video (55:30) where world #1 Ma Long of China teaches table tennis, covering nearly all the major aspects. This is a "must watch" for coaches and players.

Chinese Footwork

Here are two videos of Coach Matt Hetherington feeding multiball to Yang Song Wei.

Table Tennis Player Oldest Olympic Torchbearer

Here's the article. "A 101-year-old table tennis player became the oldest torchbearer in Olympic history Saturday, carrying the flame for the Sochi 2014 Games through the Siberian city of Novosibirsk."

Great Rally at World Junior Championships

Here's video (1:02, parts in slow motion) of a rally between Morizono Masataka (Japan, near side) and Zhou Kai (China) at 2013 ITTF World Junior Table Tennis Championships. See how fast Zhou moves to cover his wide forehand!

Ma Long - Zhang Jike Show

Here's a video (6:06) of the two doing a hilarious exhibition!

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