By Samson Dubina
Distractions are all around us.
Some are preventable, others are not.
When competing in table tennis, you must do everything possible to avoid the avoidable.
You also must do everything possible to everything possible to block out the unavoidable.
One avoidable distraction during a tournament would be hunger. If you had done some basic meal planning prior to the tournament, you could have brought a small cooler of food and eaten between meals so that your stomach growl and low blood sugar in the u2000 finals wouldn’t cause that 11-9 in the fifth loss.
Distractions can literally be anything from bad playing conditions to loud opponents, to cheering from the audience, to equipment failure, to time schedule, to needing to use the bathroom, I could go on and on and on and on listing hundreds of distractions. Most distractions that you can probably think about right now are external distractions. However, there are also internal distractions. Internal distractions are just random thoughts that pop into your mind between points in a match. With a bit of investigating, I have found that most people think about ridiculous things ABSOLUTELY RIDICULOUS things while competing in tournaments. Thoughts include things like….
“I need to remember to get an oil change tomorrow”
“I wonder why daylight savings time happens in March instead of April”
“I sure wish that it wasn’t raining, I need to do some yard work after this tournament”
“I wonder why my son chose to go to Ohio State”
“I wonder what my wife is doing right now”
“I really should try that new Nittaku blade that they advertised in the Paddle Palace catalog”
“I wish they would supply more toilet paper in the restroom stalls”
“I wonder what time the movie starts tonight”
These random thoughts have absolutely no bearing on the match at hand right now that you are playing. To avoid these thoughts, you need to actively fill your mind with something. You need to be so consumed with these active thoughts that you are 100% focused on these thoughts between points. To illustrate this, I often give my students a math problem. I ask them to solve the math problem in 7 seconds (7 seconds is the average time between points in a tt game). Here is the problem…
What is 45,000 x 400?????????????????
It is tough. But if you really concentrated hard, you probably figured it out in about 7 seconds. When doing that problem, were you thinking about the weather? Were you thinking about the oil change on your car? Were you thinking about that movie? No, your mind was consumed with trying to add up that problem.
The same is true for your focus in table tennis. When your mind was consumed with remembering what your opponent just served, how you received, how you blocked too high, and how you weren’t able to cover that powerful loop to your wide forehand. Then you will be focused on how to fix the problem instead of having wondering thoughts about the weather.
After each point in table tennis, you need to have a quick recap of what went right and what went wrong while giving yourself the proper encouragement and reminders for the next point. By actively filling your mind with a routine analysis, you will learn to be totally focused on the task at hand.