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  1. TableTennisTom is offline
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    #1

    How do you deal with nerves in matches?

    Hi all

    I just published my new table tennis blog post How to deal with nerves in table tennis matches.

    In the blog post I talk about my own problems dealing with nerves and how I have tried to overcome them.

    I'd be interested to know how other people deal with their nerves too. What methods do you use?

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    Last edited by TableTennisTom; 09-18-2017 at 03:14 PM.

  2. Baal is offline
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    #2
    Whoever comes up with an infallible solution to this will be the greatest sports scientist/psychologist in history.

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    #3
    Link doesn't seem to be working on the blog post.

    This might seem overly simple but take it from someone who has made it their mission to play more singles matches at club when previously would just hit or play doubles (which is popular at our club)... The best way for me to get over nerves in singles matches is to play them more often. Play them a lot. This way you get use to them and if you lose? No big deal. You play enough matches and you'll win some & lose some.

    If you rarely play a singles matches, yeah you'll probably be really nervous going through something that you're simply not use to.

    I get the impression that the players at club to play singles a ton and go to several tournaments rarely get nervous in matches anymore.

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    Last edited by suds79; 09-18-2017 at 05:03 PM.

  4. TableTennisTom is offline
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    #4
    Quote Originally Posted by suds79
    Link doesn't seem to be working on the blog post.
    Oops, I did it wrong! Link is working now.

  5. tropical is offline
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    #5
    No matter how strong you are mentally, in a tight match you will be nervous. I've seen it happened to FZD, LCY, ML, XX, Jun M, top US players, etc., you name it.
    I think what we can do is to slow down the game a little bit. Especially when you serve, take your time to think about what the 3rd ball should be and its variation in case opponent doesn't return the serve the way you like. I find out doing it this way calm me down a bit and I've won many close matches with 2000+ rating players in big tournaments.

    It seems kids are fearless so maybe we could learn something from them! Easier said than done though.

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    Last edited by tropical; 09-18-2017 at 04:08 PM.

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    #6
    I don't count points and don't care about the score. I care about the play. In fact I never get nervous, but sumtimes my oponent gets nervous even when he is winning.

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    #7
    Nice blog post. Got an opportunity to read it now.

    It kinda reminded me of something I've thought about, but often forget, when evaluating my play. Sometimes I find I play best when I'm in a match, feel very relaxed and am just playing. Sure you have to say the score before each point but it's almost like you forget the score somehow.

    Somewhat related or more in line with the blog's theme of not worrying about the final result and more on your quality of play, I went into some doubles matches treating them completely as practice sessions (yeah sorry to my partner). I thought, I'm going to work on this BH over the table flip on short serves every single time I get an opportunity. No questions asked. It's something I want to get better at to improve my overall play so I'm going to just do it. Sure enough I played pretty darn good and that helped me in some singles matches later that night feeding off of that confidence.
    Last edited by suds79; 09-18-2017 at 05:16 PM.

  8. Takkyu_wa_inochi is offline
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    #8
    I'm the same than everyone else, my nerves plays me tricks especially when it gets tense, like from 8-8 ... or a decider
    what do I do ?

    first i focus only on my play, and am ALWAYS thinking positively now. Also I believe in myself and that i can beat anybody (even MA Long ... lol) .

    If I start to become nervous on serving, then i try to relax and focus on the 3rd ball instead of the serve. if I have problems receiving, i focus on being ready for the next ball after the receive (=assuming that i will make no receive miss). Basically if i start to worry on something and focus on it, its fatal that i will make even more mistakes.

    it helps to be pumped up already before a match. some shadow training, jumping rope, squats , may help. RedBull also is good doping.

    I'm practising a lot and play more tournaments than before and it helps for confidence as well

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  9. Baal is offline
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    #9
    Many books have been written on this. Countless. Some I thought were interesting reading are Winning Ugly by Brad Gilbert, the Zen of Tennis by Nancy Koran but there are gazillions of others. And I can't help suspecting that it is all bullshit because everybody chokes from time to time. Everybody. Some people do it all the time and some people rarely but it happens to everyone, or at least to anyone that plays matches that "matter".

    I used to think that a big part of it is just getting better in your skills and fitness, so that in the end even if you are nervous you don't have to worry maybe because you just know you are better than the other guy. But is that really true? Ma Long used to choke and now he doesn't. How did he get to where he is? I would love to know. Is it that just that he got a little bit better? How did he get over the top?

    Nobody has figured this out. There is no shortage of advice on what to try and no sure way of knowing if it will work.
    Last edited by Baal; 09-18-2017 at 06:26 PM.

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    #10
    It's said that Waldner believed so much in his own strength that the nerves couldn't affect him much
    I really don't know if it's true....

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    #11
    What is helping me with match nerves is similar to your first suggestion. I judge myself on how successful I am at getting the first attack, not on the outcome. This is in practice and also tournament matches that "count." So instead of thinking about the score or the outcome, I think about serving and receiving short, and looping (not to kill but for spin and placement) long serves and 3rd balls. If I miss too many loops and lose, that's okay, I'll get better. If the other guy has a better short game than me and gets the attacks and I lose, that's okay, I lost to a better player.

    The only thing that is not okay is to give up all the attacks and hope my opponent misses or I can block him down. That's bad even if I win.

    I also think focusing on in-match factors helps me track what is working or not, if I need to step around more, or serve more no-spin. I'm still far too late making adjustments, but it's a skill I'm starting to develop, now that I can think sometimes while I play instead of panic so much.

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    #12
    I discussed this with someone in my local club one day, he told me when you notice that you're getting nervous, hum your favorite song or think about the lyrics of a song. I think this helps keep your brain in control of your body and to not overreact or to tense up that much. I don't know if this has been scientifically studied regarding nerves or nerves in sports, but it has somewhat kept me from worrying too much. I agree with the fact that participation in tournaments helps a lot with dealing with this issue. I was very nervous in my first tournament and could not pass onto the second group. My second tournament, I managed to get to quarterfinals but I got too nervous and lost 3-2. Recently, I went to my third tournament and won! I never expected such quick results, but really it depends on what methods you use to deal with nerves and how often you practice dealing with it. Breathing techniques, more participation, and music has helped me. I guess yoga, meditation, or other relaxation practices help with the breaking down of nerves too.

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  13. tropical is offline
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    #13
    Do you guys notice in the beginning of the game (or match) we are not as nervous as much as by the end of the game?

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  14. Baal is offline
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    #14
    Actually I used to start slow. Nevous. Then I would settle down and be ok. Then bad at the end.

    I can tell you about several of my own epic chokes at various times in life.

    Never truly solved it . i needed to just beat people from the middle of the match on and not let it get close.

    Not good. What helped me a lot was improving my serve a lot. Puts a lot of pressure on the other guy.

    If you choke or get nervous work hard on serve and return of serve.

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    Last edited by Baal; 09-18-2017 at 08:53 PM.

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    #15
    I often feel nervous a the start a tournament, especially in first matches. For me it is similar to jumping into a pool or a river: I know that the water is cool, that I will feel uncomfortable once I get in, but sooner or later my body will acclimatize and I will be fine. The same happens in a tournament, or speaking in public: I know that I will be uncomfortable at first, but I will be fine once I start and get into the groove, just make a step and let it happen.

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    #16
    Well, feeling like that its ok, and that means you focus on how you will entertain yourself, and you need to win by showing the best you can.
    But the ball doesn't care about what you need, and to win you need to meet what the ball needs. And there is the play and the joy of it.

    /very p.s. - are you nervous playing sex, or you're just happy playing it? /

  17. UpSideDownCarl is online now
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    #17
    Quote Originally Posted by langel
    /very p.s. - are you nervous playing sex, or you're just happy playing it? /
    I have no idea what this means. But I am laughing anyway.


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    #18
    I think you've got the sense very well

    Anyway - if you try to control the play with your mind, most probably you'll fail. Mind controls checkers.
    In TT you play with what your body is trained to. If you try to mind control reactions, you'll fail. Nervousness is a state of mind and it will do nothing but disturb the play. So just relax and let your body play the game the way it feels and focus not on what you need, but on the needs of the object you play with - in TT its the ball.

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  19. UpSideDownCarl is online now
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    #19
    I actually think this subject is a complicated one. And things that work for one person may not for others.

    Everyone has a level of nervous energy and stress that allows them to perform at their optimum level.
    No stress doesn't work either. Without some level of nervous tension you won't even swing your racket.

    For some the level of stress that allows them to perform well is lower. For others it is higher.

    So the subject isn't about not having nervous tension and stress. But how to manage it so you are playing at an optimum level and that your nerves don't cause you to give away free points at critical moments.

    Baal has a few posts that, to me, seem to get at the subject much more usefully and honestly than most.

    I have a friend who is pretty high level. Solidly 2400-2500 USATT level. He was homeless when he was a teen. He plays best when he is raving mad. So, he does these antics that are pretty ugly. He curses himself out. He says the other player sucks in a whole host of really lousy ways. He throws his racket. He gets himself worked up into a frenzy. A level of anger and stress that would make most of us play terribly. And when he hits that level of anger, he plays way better.

    Some of what he does is unconscious. Some of it he is conscious of. But by the time he is mad enough, it is no longer a joke. He is flaming mad. And he is not in control of the anger. And his level of play is much higher when he gets there. And he is much less likely to choke if he is in that psycho headspace.

    Anyway, the point I am making, the actual point, is that, if anyone really tries to oversimplify the subject....or says it is easy to deal with nerves....always....maybe they have found some magic that works for them....or maybe they are not being fully honest with themselves.

    And what works for them really may not work for someone else. And nothing works all the time. Everyone has times when they choke. Especially in a sport like TT where deception is so much a part of the game.


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  20. tropical is offline
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    #20
    When you are mad at someone and want to show them that you want to beat them badly, that will have a psychological impact on them. I did it twice already to someone I hate to lose to in tournaments.

    But I don't think it is fun to be mad in sport. It is not sportsmanship. I want to be able to play and win and still be happy even if I lose.

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