Do you suffer from a kind of “choke effect” when competing in an official table tennis tournament or match? This article offers five tips to help you succeed in competitions.

Many table tennis players worry too much about winning or performing their best, especially after a long period of practice for an upcoming tournament. Even worse, there are certain occasions where, in addition, players are nervous about proving themselves to their teammates/spectators.

In order to change this mental state, you must simulate official match situations as often as possible and apply the following five simple tips that every skilled and experienced player bears in mind.

1. Adopt a relaxed but firm grip

All of the shots in table tennis (except stiff blocking) require a relaxed wrist for maximum acceleration and accuracy. You don’t want your hand to be too relaxed though, as this could lead to your racket slipping out of your hand. So, you also need firmness at a certain degree.

Remember, the paddle should work as an extension of your hand and must feel comfortable. There is no perfect blade and perfect rubbers. The combination that fits you is the best!

2. Move your feet

Fast footwork (if your physique allows it, of course) must become your second nature if you want to improve vastly in table tennis. During a match, many beginner players forget to relax and float in the court. Instead, they stand there just watching the ball after they hit it - waiting for the outcome of their strategy.

We should all watch and learn from the professionals. They even move when the point is over because of their high momentum! Remember, first you get into position and then you strike the ball. Move and hit.

A very useful exercise combining forehand and backhand is the Falkenberg drill. You can practice it aiming to get into position as your primary goal. When you achieve that you can start combining footwork and correct hitting technique.

3. Focus on the point

When the game is on, it’s absolutely useless to worry about the final outcome or if your technique/strategies are correct. Just focus! Stay in the present. Enjoy playing and you can reconsider your false tactics/technique after the game.

4. Think, relax, and pump yourself up

In between points, especially the crucial ones, you need to take some deep breaths to relax from the previous point and focus on the next one. Rush yourself up (by serving immediately after the previous point is over or giving the ball at once when you are receiving) only when you are "on fire" or when you notice your opponent suffering from a psychological breakdown.

Take your time, think about your tactics for the next point, and then right before the point starts... pump yourself up by imagining you are winning it!

5. Use your timeout effectively

  • When your opponent is on a winning streak, it’s time for a timeout.
  • When you feel nervous and choked, it’s time for a timeout.
  • When you are giving away points easily and need an awakening, it’s time for a timeout.
  • When you don’t know what to do (guess what), it’s time for a timeout!

Talk to your coach about your feelings. Relax and listen carefully to his instructions, and then just go in for the kill. Keep it simple people!

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by George Dounas