Why do I get so nervous when playing a match?

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Whenever I play a match, I freeze up and get so nervous. Sometimes it manifests by playing too many pushes and being afraid to play freely. Sometimes my block is stiff and nervous, and results in more errors. And a lot of times it manifests as doing safer and less effective serves.

How can I play without getting so nervous?
 
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In my experience, we need to be okay playing with nerves. There is no magic trick to just remove them, but by learning to be more ok with them and with enough exposure they should affect your play less and probably lessen a bit. You can also think about what's driving your nerves and maybe reframe some of your beliefs.

Nerves aren't that bad in some situations, they can give a bit of an energy boost. If they linger too long they can be pretty draining and cause some erratic play. Been there plenty before. So it's all about managing them better.

Are you nervous in practice matches as well or is it more during competition?
 
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I think ever player has been there and like Richie said, we can learn or adapt on how deal with them. When I was a kid sometimes I performed bad in tournaments because of my nerves.
I started reading last year a few books about mindset and techniques to control the stress and focus. Some players learn stuff from podcast and breathing techniques.

Finally, Training Hard will give you the Confidence you need 🙌 🥳
 
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I don’t think you can, the important thing is how you react to the nervousness. My coach as a child was very keen that we always played and practiced positively, this is not smashing everything it is doing something constructive towards winning the point which might be pushing, but not just to middle of the table. His claim was that when we are under pressure or nervous we would revert to our most basic training.
 
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Ultimately, we want to come to the match with inner peace. Some sort of balance, or inner fixed point, to which you can always come back. Both Richie and Victor are describing it, that is the approach from the "positive" side, and it is the more important one.

I want to give the approach from the other side, which was also helpful for me. Give it some time, eventually, after some matches where you froze and didn't go for the shots, you'll be so disgusted with yourself, that it will be much more important for you, to play fully, always, in every situation, than to actually win. Because losing is not as bad as being disappointed by yourself.
 
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There are a LOT of ways to face and overcome fear. Ultimately, you have to figure it out for yourself. it will take some awareness, learning and experience (failing).

Some of it is expectations... you are expecting to compete in a certain way... you could lower your expectations to something more practical... like I want to see the ball and make a good choice on the shot selection... I want to be in position with a good crouch... and similar things you tell yourself and check.
 
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Ultimately, we want to come to the match with inner peace. Some sort of balance, or inner fixed point, to which you can always come back. Both Richie and Victor are describing it, that is the approach from the "positive" side, and it is the more important one.

I want to give the approach from the other side, which was also helpful for me. Give it some time, eventually, after some matches where you froze and didn't go for the shots, you'll be so disgusted with yourself, that it will be much more important for you, to play fully, always, in every situation, than to actually win. Because losing is not as bad as being disappointed by yourself.
Yeah this hits me hard as well lol. So many times I've been nervous - gone on to play erratically or stupidly, get more frustrated and throw away point after point. It really feels awful and worse than having actually lost the match. The more difficult but better approach is to learn to just be ok with whatever is going on and not let frustration and nerves take over. But it's easier said than done, especially for some players. There will always be situations that make it more likely for these things to happen.
 
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In all things in life, process over results. People who get nervous are too focused on the results. People who focus on the process tend to not get nervous. Since the results sometimes matter, and framing can help you focus, you need to find balance, but you will never find it by focusing on the results.
 
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Very interesting topic. I too really suffer from tightness in my league matches - it used to be the same in friendly club matches but is less so now as I’m less worried about winning.

NL‘s point re results is very relevant for me as I am very focused on winning, particularly vs players I feel I should beat - but I often lose as a result because I don’t play freely and get drawn into safe and defensive play. I’m also tight physically and see this in my service game a lot with little wrist movement and lack of commitment to spin.

It’s a real burden for me and I really want to overcome it - focusing less on results is really hard as I hate to lose, but that may be the answer.
 
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Very interesting topic. I too really suffer from tightness in my league matches - it used to be the same in friendly club matches but is less so now as I’m less worried about winning.

NL‘s point re results is very relevant for me as I am very focused on winning, particularly vs players I feel I should beat - but I often lose as a result because I don’t play freely and get drawn into safe and defensive play. I’m also tight physically and see this in my service game a lot with little wrist movement and lack of commitment to spin.

It’s a real burden for me and I really want to overcome it - focusing less on results is really hard as I hate to lose, but that may be the answer.
The "winning against players I should beat" seems to be common at all levels. I've really tried to reframe this as it has happened to me many times. The truth is imo that those players often have some good qualities, it's just that they don't fit the model of what we imagine a "good" player to be. And if you can't read their game well and haven't trained against those particular balls much, which are often a bit unorthodox, then it's not too surprising that there will be a struggle and it's not just down to nerves though they may play some part.

I've probably been that type of player against others at times, particularly some juniors when I played in the UK early on.
 
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Whenever I play a match, I freeze up and get so nervous. Sometimes it manifests by playing too many pushes and being afraid to play freely. Sometimes my block is stiff and nervous, and results in more errors. And a lot of times it manifests as doing safer and less effective serves.

How can I play without getting so nervous?
It helps if your main goal is not to win, but to develop your technique. Ironically you'll actually win more eventually, and it won't take that long either, not at our levels anyway.
 
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Has anyone got any strategies that have worked in practical terms for relaxing into a match and focusing on process over results?

it can be hard to focus or re-focus on process when tightness is leading to many missed shots and poor footwork ( I can become a bit rooted to one spot)
 
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Has anyone got any strategies that have worked in practical terms for relaxing into a match and focusing on process over results?

it can be hard to focus or re-focus on process when tightness is leading to many missed shots and poor footwork ( I can become a bit rooted to one spot)
Thats where your brain comes in.

As i came back into playing way more and more serious in 2 teams, i got really nervous in the first season. Always scared of failing, losing points and letting my teammates down.

What helped me the most is completely focussing on myself, my game and my tactics. Where are the opponents weaknesses? How can i get myself to play my game, how is he holding me off of it.
Is my opponent good at receiving all of my serves? Backhand long/short or should i stick to his forehand with my serves. Should i serve top-/side- or underspin? How can i receive better? Can i attack the serves myself or should i lay short, push long or whatever...

Tabletennis played propperly forces you to constantly think about what happened and what will happen and how to maybe change that. If i am busy with these thoughts i usually cant become too nervous.
Up to a certain extent i still get a bit nervous, but it doesnt hold me back to perform propperly as it does in my earlier days.
 
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I remember the time when I can feel my knees knocking and hand shaking due to nervousness. My mind was totally blank and I didn't know what to do. My shoulders were too tight and made simple unforced errors. Well, as my friend NextLevel says above - "Journey before destination". We humans are very poor when we focus too much on a very big picture too long too much. Try instead playing one point at a time and learn from it. Try observing. Keep in mind that training is all about you observing and working on your weaknesses, but match is about your opponent. So try to focus on the tactics and strategy. Think how your opponent is playing starting from the serve, his recovery, and his next move.
Slowly, you will find a zone where you can just focus on the process rather than worrying about the results.
 
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Very interesting topic. I too really suffer from tightness in my league matches - it used to be the same in friendly club matches but is less so now as I’m less worried about winning.

NL‘s point re results is very relevant for me as I am very focused on winning, particularly vs players I feel I should beat - but I often lose as a result because I don’t play freely and get drawn into safe and defensive play. I’m also tight physically and see this in my service game a lot with little wrist movement and lack of commitment to spin.

It’s a real burden for me and I really want to overcome it - focusing less on results is really hard as I hate to lose, but that may be the answer.
Focusing on process is no guarantee you will. But nothing really is. Your opponent has a right to play well too.

That's why I try to put some language around the TT learning so that people can go in with a process. But in the end, until you have incredibly mature technique, your control and definition of control is largely an illusion.
Very interesting topic. I too really suffer from tightness in my league matches - it used to be the same in friendly club matches but is less so now as I’m less worried about winning.

NL‘s point re results is very relevant for me as I am very focused on winning, particularly vs players I feel I should beat - but I often lose as a result because I don’t play freely and get drawn into safe and defensive play. I’m also tight physically and see this in my service game a lot with little wrist movement and lack of commitment to spin.

It’s a real burden for me and I really want to overcome it - focusing less on results is really hard as I hate to lose, but that may be the answer.
Table tennis is a hobby for you. Imagine what your attitude does for professional players who have much more on the line. That's why sports psychology is a real thing.

One of the great things my high level coach friend did for me was that he helped me see that aspects of PMA(positive mental attitude) were not just fluff. The main point is figure out what kinds of things you can do to make sure you are relaxed enough to give a reasonable performance. Having comfortable expectations around how your serve quality might influence the point is good if it makes you serve better.

IMHO, if negative emotions/stress are required to get you to perform, it isn't necessarily a bad thing as long as it is within a certain range and it doesn't reach an anxiety level. Positive emotions can also be too excessive and keep you calm and unengaged. But having expectations that then lead to unrealistic assessments of what is happening don't do anything if you can't use them to get to a process that makes you focus on the things that you can do to make things better.

In the end, the opponent has the right to play a good game. You have the right to learn from what happened. And since table tennis isn't your source of income, the only results are a bruised ego and a chance to learn how to adjust for next time. Or an understanding of your strategic limitations which you have to plug on training with your coach or practice partner.

Framing is a huge power in all things in life. Knowing how to breathe to help manage it is also incredibly powerful. Those pre-serve routines that top players do are not there for nothing - they are habits to get them into the best state of mind to produce reasonable TT. TT can be a good ground for some self exploration. The rewards from it can be pretty large.
 
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Just play more games, slowly you will starting getting used to this stress. Our nervous system could adapt to almost everything. There are always players that doing very good in training but in matches they starting to tense up and ending up almost tilting. It depends on the type of your temperament too. But more you practice those matches, you will became less worried about the result and more stable in performance. Some players just need more time than others to adapt
 
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This stuff happens to top players too by the way. One of the great things recently on mytt and ttd (thanks to zeio, apacible and pongfugrasshopper) is that we get translations from a lot of Asian players.

In the recent Japanese Championships, Hina Hayata was going for the triple crown (mixed doubles, women's doubles and women's singles). And she then went down 0-2 to Miyuu Kihara while not playing bad table tennis (you can watch the match on youtube, she loses the first two games by the minimal 2 point margin). And she says in a later press conference that she told herself "It is okay to lose. Everyone loses." She did win the title.

 
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