As a table tennis athlete, pre-competition nervousness can come from many different sources but most of the time the real cause of your out-of-control nerves is you. Many players in our sport tend to focus on the wrong things before major competitions. In many cases, these can be a variety of uncontrollable factors such as: how good the opponent is, how important the competition is, the size of the audience that's watching, the conditions of the playing area, the paddle or the opponent's paddle. The list can go on and on and in truth the secret to you playing your best when it counts the most is learning how to keep yourself calm and composed, blocking out the factors you can not change while focusing only on the ones you can.
Here are 5 quick tips that will help you stay calm and focused before or during big competitions:
- Keep your focus on you, your planned strategy and the task at hand - Sometimes athletes will start thinking about teammates or other players results' compared to their own. This can cause more pressure and ultimately affect you in a negative manner.
- Enjoy the moment - Your muscles perform better when you are relaxed, tense muscles can result in stiffness and poor movement. The body is never tense when you're having fun so try to enjoy your match. Staying loose under pressure is an acquired skill that takes much practice but for many champions, it's the way to compete.
- Focus on each point in the now, forget about past mistakes - Focusing on your match and each point is the best way stay in the now...try not to dwell on the points lost, instead learn from them and use this information to play a better point at the next given opportunity. This will help to keep you calm and confident.
- Find ways to stay calm before and during the event - For many players, this can be accomplished by doing different things and its' usually a personal choice. For some its music before or during the events, for others, its exercises or stretching. You will have to try different things to discover what works best for you.
- Never think about things you can not control - There are many things at an event you may not be accustomed to, such as the lighting, the tables, the floor or even your opponents' playing style. You have absolutely no control over these. Instead try to think about the things you can control: your serves, your game strategy, your ball placement and your mental state.
Many of the above points are easier said than done and this is why tournament play is so important in developing a great player. It really takes practice and determination to master these skills. We asked a few professional table tennis athletes how they dealt with their nerves at big competitions... check out their answers in the video above! Let us know what how you curb pre-competition nervousness in the comments below!