Mental Strategies in Table Tennis – Part IV

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Distractions might seem trivial, but they can take your focus on the table tennis match and off your game-plan.  Common distractions include - bad playing conditions, illegal serves, illegal coaching from your opponent’s coach, a loud competitor on the next ping-pong® table, stalling, and many other things. 

Poor playing conditions can be one of my biggest distractions.  I have had major problems with this in the past and now I’m resolved to deal with them prior to the match.  At one recent tournament, there was a spotlight coming in the side window, I kindly asked the tournament director to block the light, he agreed.  At another tournament, it was extremely humid.  Before the open finals, I asked for the air conditioner to be turned up.  At another tournament, there was a vent blowing air on the table.  I asked for the air to be turned off; the tournament director did not grant this request.  Going into the match, I kept my focus realizing that this was a problem that I couldn’t control.  Had I not requested it to be turned off, I might have been more distracted.  On the other hand, my opponent was extremely distracted, which caused him to lose the match.

Illegal serves and illegal coaching are some of the toughest problems to deal with during a table tennis match.  I usually ask my opponent to correct the problem before it gets out of hand.  If he doesn’t correct the problem, I will ask for an umpire before I get too distracted.  Proverbs says, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but grievous words stir up anger.”  I do my best to apply this to controversy in table tennis.  If I command in a mean way, the problem will escalate.  If I ask nicely, I can keep my cool and the problem will generally dissipate.

A loud competitor on the next table can also be a difficult distraction.  There are no rules against loud yelling; this might be one that you can’t correct.  If you anticipate this prior to the match, you could possibly delay start of the match until the other match finishes.

If your opponent is stalling between matches, you need to use this time to focus on your game-plan.  Step back from the table, regain your focus, and think about how you can use your strengths against your opponent’s weaknesses.  The rule says that play must be continuous.  What does continuous mean?  I would guess that stalling more than 20 seconds between points would be considered excessive.  If you opponent is taking excessive timeouts, I would recommend getting an umpire.

In table tennis, there are numerous distractions that occur at every tournament.  Blocking out distractions is one of the major keys to success.  Keep your focus on your strategy and execute how you have practiced, have fun, and do your best!

Samson Dubina

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