Table Tennis by Lily Yip
1992 & 1996 US Olympian

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TOURNAMENT BLUES and GAME PLAYING FEARS
April 15, 1999

by in-house philosopher Joyce Miller

We all have insecurities; when playing a sport, and when dealing with life. This is part of being human. The causes of trouble whether in life or playing table tennis are about the same.

The first problem is:

l. LOOKING AT OUTCOME

  • I can beat her easily.
  • I wonder if he is better or worse than me?
  • 1 know she is much better than me. Look at her rating. I don't have a chance!!
  • What will people say if this old lady or little kid beats me?
  • I must win this one or else?
  • Everyone thinks I can win, I better win OR everyone thinks I can't win so I better win. I' ll show them all., etc. etc.

2. TEACHING YOURSELF WHILE PLAYING A GAME

  • No, not the backhand, use the forehand.
  • No, not that stroke, the other one, this way.
  • I should do this, not that.. etc. etc.

3. THINKING ABOUT YOURSELF ALL THE TIME, NEGATIVE SELF-TALK.

  • My God, how dumb can you be?
  • Jesus, what are you doing?!
  • Idiot!!
  • Stupid!!
  • Jerk!! etc. etc.

4. THINKING THAT WINNING IS YOUR SALVATION.

(I'm nothing if I lose)

All or nothing thinking (we all do it).

It's never the end of the world, but that's how we feel at that moment.

5. HITTING THE SAME SHOT OVER AND OVER AFTER IT DOES NOT WORK.

The definition of insanity: "Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results." It comes to you as a shock, when you put the ball right where your opponent wants it, and he kills it every time. You push your heavy push long to a great looper, and guess what? Murder, fast.

6. THINKING TABLE TENNIS IS NOTHING BUT REACTING TO THE BALL WHEN IT COMES TO YOUR SIDE, YOU'RE QUICK, BUT WILL YOU DO FINE?

If one player has a plan and works his plan, and the other just reacts, who do you think will win?

7. NOT PAYING CLOSE ATTENTION TO THE OPPONENTS' SERVES AND FAULTS.

8 HOLDING YOUR BREATH.

. . . while you tell how your loop is off today. You couldn't sleep last night. For some reason you can't do anything right. Serve are not as good as usual. One excuse after another.

9 THINKING EVERYTHING IN THE ROOM IS THE PROBLEM.

Now is always the time to realize, There's No Gain in BLAME.

  • Too much noise
  • Too many people
  • People are watching
  • he\she pisses me off
  • The opponent knows how to bother you, because you let it happen.

10 TRYING TO CALM YOURSELF DOWN, DENIAL OF HOW YOU REALLY FEEL.

  • I'm fine, not nervous, it's just a game.
  • I'm not anxious, it's the noisy kids.
  • I don't have a problem with fear, it's just that my opponent is too good.
  • If I tell myself I'm nervous, I'll really get bad and start to shake.

The best ways to understand how to treat ourselves when playing any game, is to think about a hypothetical doubles match. The team is made up of a tournament experienced 2000 player and a 1200 player who has never played doubles in a tournament before, and is a little nervous, maybe even scared, also wants to do his/her very best, of course.

They start.. .

1200's first serve goes off the table. 2000 whispers 'no problem' and suggests 1200 serves the next one, no spin, really short. 1200 is now thinking about what to do next, instead of how bad it was to miss the first serve. As the game goes on, 2000 reassures and advises 1200 on strategy, on play and shots and movement, showing 1200 how to set things up for 2000's kills, never noticing bad shots, only praising good shots, no judgement at all, not in actions or words. 1200 plays better and better and so does 2000. We know what it would be like if 2000 bitched and complained every time 1200 got in the way or missed the shot. 1200 would get worse and worse, and 2000 get madder and madder. We have all seen that happen. We probably think 2000 is a horrible person, but 2000 is not a bad person, just someone who does not understand how to get the best out of the less experienced player. When playing be aware of how to get the best from ourselves, so here is a list of WAYS TO THINK WHILE YOU PLAY.

Remember, you might not be what you eat but "You Surely Are What You Think".

The most important thing of all is WHAT IS YOUR PURPOSE".

A direct quote from The Course In Miracles.

1. You set your goal to serve your purpose and your goal must always be "Peace and Happiness".

You must constantly remind yourself of your goal. You will almost naturally try to tell yourself 'If I win I will feel happy' or 'If I lose I will not be peaceful. Don't fall in that self-made trap, remember your true goal. PEACE and HAPPINESS, otherwise called the zone.

Remember this.

If you play a great game, the best you have ever played, fabulous shots, great serves, great gets, wonderful volleys, you will feel good, no matter what the score.

If you play a game horribly, do everything poorly, sloppy serves, you don't make one decent play or volley, generally a rotten game (you might win), but not feel good about yourself Peacefulness and happiness are not in the win. The win is the side effect of joy. Great if you do, great if you don't.

2. Try to make use of A.C.T.

Awareness

Choice

Take Action. (from 'Rapid Relief from Emotional Distress' by Gary Emery, Ph.D.)

Awareness and Acceptance

Now is the time to face those fearful feelings

  • While you play tell yourself the truth.
  • I feel fear.
  • I'm nervous.
  • I can't focus.

No need for reasons why, just accept it.

THEN...

Choose your goal, which always is Peace and Happiness.

THEN...

Take action to give yourself Peace and Happiness.

  • Slow yourself down.
  • Take in a deep breath often.
  • Watch your opponent's serve.
    • Where does it hit the table?
    • How does it sound?
    • Does the paddle move sideways? Up? Down?
  • Plan your game and play your plan. Adjust often.
  • Think, serve, attack!!
  • Think of attacking any long serves or flipping any short serves.

3 Breathe deeply and often, just for the joy of it. It's really fun to play and breathe, makes you feel great.

4 Never explain yourself, not to others or in your own head, true or false. Just don't do it.

These are excuses for bad outcomes you are already planning while you are playing, makes no sense does it?

  • I'm tired.
  • I didn't have enough time to warm up.
  • My loop is crazy today...
  • Tournaments turn me off, I don't know why I'm here.
  • I didn't get any sleep last night.
  • Looks like it's not a good day for me and my game..etc., etc.' watch out for what you ask for you might get it.

5. The best way to learn is have a coach or helper. Read some books, watch some tapes, find someone to volley with. Practice. Know your own game, your good points and your bad. Work on them. The Buddhists say 'To study the self is to know the self, and to know the self is to forget the self, and to forget the self is to be enlightened by all things." This is where to be when playing in a tournament.

That place feels wonderful.

6. Think of adjustments rather than mistakes.

As you play, make slight adjustments often. If the ball goes into the net, make an adjustment so the next one will go over. If the ball goes off the table, make a slight adjustment so it will go on the table. Don't worry about loss, concern yourself with making fast adjustments. Keep your mind busy with the right thoughts, ones that will help you. Don't scold yourself when you don't adjust, just keep trying to adjust.

7. Play to your opponent's weaknesses keep it up until he corrects them (he is learning too).

8. Try to move your opponents around, keep them off balance as much as possible. Keep your focus on this kind of thing. YOU HAVE CONTROL OVER YOUR ATTENTION.

9. We have all heard 'It's not the destination, it's the trip.' Well, winning or losing is the 'destination', and the game is the trip. The better you focus, the better the game, the more fun for everyone.

FINALLY--

Don't think any thought that does not serve your PURPOSE.

Your goal ALWAYS is Peace and Happiness.


Joyce Miller is the 66-year-old owner of the Westfield Club Mascot,

and a grateful student of Lily Yip.