Need Advice on Dealing with Nervous Tension During Crucial Table Tennis Matches

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I think you have to learn to have the goal of playing your best in every point no matter what the result. If for instance your best effort was foiled by a net or an edge of your opponent or one of his winners. Responding with a smile should be your standard response, and just as much part of your match technique as your footwork. I used to. find applauding my opponents good shots a good way of allowing myself to put the event into the past and concentrate on the next point.
I think the breathing suggestions are worth taking on board. Also when the ball is out of play, make a point of picking it up and walking to the back of the hall with your back to the table and deliberately take a few seconds to control before resuming play. Don't delay your opponent unfairly, but try to be in control of the pace of the match
good luck
 
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Learn to laugh at yourself, and do so before any key moments arrive in a game.

I used to tense up hugely whenever I was approaching key points in a match (eg: 10-all in the fifth and final game). This invariably led to me making silly mistakes.

Then this one time during a match I right royally screwed up an attempted fast serve halfway through (it was nowhere near the table!! 😂) ...and the arc on the thing as it left the playing area was so bloody ridiculous I just had to laugh at it. 😂😂😂

And bingo... there was instant release of all the pent-up stress that had been building up in the match to that point. I then cracked some stupid joke about really aiming for my home table a few post codes over, and that made my opponent laugh.

Double bingo -- his focus was broken as well, and the whole mood of the match got a bit lighter right away.

That meant I could relax. I was calmer and more mellow in the final set, and I won the game.

Moral of the story: it's impossible to stay tense if you're laughing at yourself, and it's a lot harder to become over tense in the final game if you break the tension and reset your tension meter during the earlier games.

Final takeaway:

Table tennis is supposed to be fun. So have fun with it. Don't take it so seriously, especially when the result really counts.

TT is just a couple of folks taking turns to whack away at a shiny ball with funny shaped sticks, while the umpire watches on doing some wierd-arse slow motion hand jive on the sidelines... If you can't crack a decent testicle / BDSM / maturbation joke out of that scenario (and end up sharing an laugh with all in earshot) then either you're not trying very hard, or you need to find yourself a far more jovial and jocular club to whack someone's balls in. 😂😜
My fellow aussie, this response right here is incredible. I struggled with tension and pressure and reading this completely changed my mindset. Thanks again
 
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My fellow aussie, this response right here is incredible. I struggled with tension and pressure and reading this completely changed my mindset. Thanks again
So true, here is another little help : Constantly repeat the sacred mantra:
" It's only a ping pong game "
" It's only a ping pong game "
" It's only a ping pong game " etc etc etc
 
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So true, here is another little help : Constantly repeat the sacred mantra:
" It's only a ping pong game "
" It's only a ping pong game "
" It's only a ping pong game " etc etc etc
You are living the easy life if that is your only worry.
What if you had a high stress job like being a surgeon, operating a nuclear or landing a jet on an aircraft carrier. That is stress. Mistakes are not allowed.
 

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Hey @Oras

There have already been many fantastic contributions to improving your nerves and tension during big matches.

I have this exact same problem especially when we have 8 cameras on the main table during a TTD Team episode 😅 The captain of our team, says... they might be a good player but can they handle the pressure under the lights. And it's not easy. I have played matches many times where I am just shaking throughout the whole game and cannot shift it. The ultimate goal is to get into the zone so you're brain doesn't have the resources to think about the pressure except what you need to do to play a good performance. The key is to focus on what gets you to playing well and having a good performance not the result. I have got much better and not getting nervous now, this is what I found helped:

  • Get a really good warmup before your match, this can be via a decent jog/run getting the heart rate going followed by stretching. If you can, try and get a light TT session in earlier in the day this helps me get into the zone quickly.
  • Focus on your tactics and what you can do to win points. It's really important to not worry about the result and focus on what you can do to win points. The more you get into this habit the more you're bringing a gameplay that finds a way to win points and ultimately winning sets/matches.
  • Similar to the above, when focussing on your strategies for the opponent you need to take your time. A lot of players rush into the next rally and this forces you into making silly mistakes.
  • I also think self talk is an important one. It's very easy to say negative things to yourself. As soon as you feel a negative thought creep in, replace it with a positive thought. This will help you on focusing on the present.

The above are kind of what you can do on match day and during the match. I think also try to practice 3 times a week practice in and work on areas you think you're struggling with in a match. This will give you more confidence when going into matches. In practice try to recreate stressful situations. An example could be, play a best of 5 from 9 all with your practice partner. The loser does 10 press ups.

Try to enjoy the game as much as possible, especially these close games :) The results will turn around 🏓
 
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Take a moment to realize what your goal is...

Is your goal to win matches? Then prepare to be disappointed from time to time.
Is your goal to play a fun and exciting game? You'll likely reach that one each and every matchup.

As a youth player, I used to get worked up *all* the time. I was hyper critical and did not allow for any mistakes (plot twist: I made plenty). This kind of play was sort of manageable until I hit senior age and started playing against the oddest of playstyles in the lower divisions. INCREDIBLY frustrating.

So now, after a long hiatus, I make a point of complimenting the opponent on edge hits, net balls, weird shots that are really unexpected etc. I just make a point of appreciating the opponent's efforts. And you know what? I get it back. It creates a supportive, friendly, nice environment in which we just play a game and test our skills against each other, rather than an imaginative brutal deathmatch.
 
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You are living the easy life if that is your only worry.
What if you had a high stress job like being a surgeon, operating a nuclear or landing a jet on an aircraft carrier. That is stress. Mistakes are not allowed.
Where did he say that was his only worry?

We're on a table tennis forum where the thread is about playing table tennis. Why don't you try to stay on topic?
 
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I can share what works for me as this has been a common theme for me, I play a lot of tennis too and tbh it happens more in tennis as I play at a higher level and put more pressure on myself. But a few things for me:

- Warm up for longer than you usually do, if time allows hit for 20-30mins before a match to start to feel looser
- If you're feeling tight in the warm up, hit some stupidly fast, loose shots with no intention of getting them in, the feeling of doing it can just help you relax
- get into mindfulness/yoga at home, it has great methods both for relaxing but also to cast sudden thoughts aside. Like mid-game and you start to analyse the what-ifs, you need to cast that aside and focus on the point
- I have the mantra in tennis (which I occasionally bring in to TT as well) of "calm intensity" . Saying that to yourself, quietly can reaffirm how you want to act
- shake your arms/wrist between points so you can remind yourself to keep them relaxed
- don't overthink any opponents/matches ahead of time
-practice match environment games as much as poss

I'll also share this video of a tennis blog I follow. I asked a similar question to a tennis youtuber and he did a whole video around it. Whilst he missed the mark a bit in terms of what I actually meant (it was less about wanting advice on starting strong but how to play more relaxed), some points are useful and also apply to table tennis:

Good luck.
 
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I am a urologist that specializes in performing vasectomies.
I have also had a vasectomy (not performed by myself, of course).
A slip up in that environment can be life changing
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I have never seen as much stress in that environment as I have on a table tennis table ;)
Some good advice being given in this discussion :)
 

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May I recommend the book "The Pressure Principle" by Dr Dave Aldred. This explains how to "Handle Stress, harness energy, and perform when it counts. It is dedicated to "those who think they can't".
He worked with a rugby player, Jonny Wilkinson, who kicked England's penalties and conversions when they beat most top countries. Also he works with top golfers and other sportsman where nerves play a part so we can learn from this.
He explains how nerves affect the mind and body such as your vision narrowing and your hearing reducing. Several posters have mentioned stressful jobs and he talks about fighter pilots who face real stress. They know how this will effect them and, for example, will talk to each other constantly and view each instrument panel directly as their vision narrows.
Dave Aldred gives good methods for accepting the brain and body effects of stress and how to manage it. He explains the simple ways of kicking a rugby ball or driving a golf ball in front of thousands or just your mates. I am sure it would help all table tennis players (like me) who play well when practicing but struggle in matches and tournaments.
 
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