You’ve probably heard about athlete’s pre-game routines, methods they use to get themselves ‘pumped-up’ to compete. When it’s time to perform, and we need to win, it kind of makes sense that we want to get ourselves ready to explode onto the table, swinging from the first point and focused on getting the win.
But does this “game face” we put on before playing a match actually help us play any better, or could it actually be a hindrance to our performance? In this post, we’ll be looking at the benefits of relaxing before an important game.
Before we start, we should thank Daniel Coyle, author of ‘The Talent Code’ for the inspiration for this post. We can recommend his article ‘Why Putting on Your “Game Face” is a Bad Idea’ and everything else on his blog.
Why to Relax
In the moments leading up to a big game, we really have one of two options;
- We can relax, chat to friends, listen to music, play video games etc.
- Or, we can visualize, focus on table tennis and hype ourselves up.
Daniel Coyle explains that practice is the time for intensity and focus, whereas competition is the time to relax and be at ease. He believes that practice is the place where we should push ourselves, fail, get frustrated, but keep fighting. It’s this kind of frustrated effort that will see us improve in the long run.
Competition, on the other hand, is not the place to be creating and improving but employing and reacting. In these situations, we don’t want tunnel vision – focussed on one part of the game. We also don’t want to be getting frustrated as we make mistakes. Instead, our mindset needs to be light, clear, broad and attentive. We need to be able to take in information from a number of sources and quickly make decisions. The last thing we need are emotions, such as frustration, distracting us.
In table tennis especially, this is really important. How often do you see players treating games as if they are practice? Trying to be perfect, getting upset and annoyed at their mistakes, and ultimately not performing to their best.
How to Relax
We imagine that in the dressing room before a big event the players are all performing secret rituals; chanting, dancing, praying etc. It might be true that some athletes like to do a certain routine and some may even have some weird and wacky superstitions but the vast majority are probably just relaxing.
We can relax in a number of different ways;
- Listening to music is an obvious one. And I don’t mean ‘Eye of the Tiger’ or other such songs, simply listening to some music that you like and chilling out.
- Chatting to friends. We could be doing this in person, on the phone, or even by text but this can be enough to take your mind off things and relax.
- Smiling instead of scowling. It’s been proven that smiling, even when we don’t feel like smiling, makes us feel happier. Try it out.
- Having a nap. Perhaps not advisable if you’re worried you might be scratched from the competition but the 10-minute nap is set to take over the business world and increase productivity. Why not before a table tennis match?
The key really is trying to take the pressure out of the situation. Most of us will admit that we perform worse under pressure. A small number of us may actually perform better under pressure, or at least have the confidence to say we do! However, I doubt many of us actually need pressure to play well. We could probably all play just as well, and in many case better, without the pressure.
Our #1 Table Tennis Relaxation Tip
So, after looking into all of this, here is our #1 tip…
How about watching your favourite table tennis player in a match on your phone before you play?
And, we don’t mean watching it, analysing it, visualizing yourself playing the strokes, and trying to pick up tips before you start. No. Instead, simply watch it.
Enjoy it as a spectator. Let the game wash over you and enjoy the atmosphere. Follow the score instead of the technique/tactics. You get what we mean. Perhaps even watch it with the sound off and chill out with some of your favourite music over the top.
Why not give that a try before your next competition and see if relaxing helps you to perform better than pumping yourself up.
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