Sports Psychology for Table Tennis

Richard McAfee (2007)

So you want to become a table tennis champion? Besides the necessary technical and physical training, successful athletes must also learn to master their own emotions and thoughts. Many talented players have found this to be their major hurdle in achieving elite status.

News stories are full of top athletes working with sports psychologists to achieve a breakthrough in their performance. Coaches now routinely include psychological elements in their training sessions, even for beginner players. So just what is sports psychology all about?

Sports Psychology Includes:

  • Developing short and long-term goals for your journey though sport. Your coach cannot help you reach your goals until those goals are clearly understood.
  • Changing your negative thought patterns and perceptions into positive ones (re-scripting). Everyone has thought patterns that continuously run through his/her mind. Often these patterns/scripts are formed when we are young and are not based on reality. When they interfere with performance, the athlete must learn how to change the thought pattern (re-scripting). He/she must recognize when these thought patterns are occurring and practise stopping the pattern and inserting a rehearsed position pattern in its place.
  • Using positive and eliminating negative self-statements about your abilities and athletic performance. Self-statements are self-fulfilling. “YOU ARE WHAT YOU THINK YOU ARE!”
  • Learning to use progressive relaxation techniques to help your performance. There is a strong mental and physical connection. Learning to relax physically leads to top mental performance.
  • Learning to use visualization techniques to enhance both learning new skills and competition performance. The stronger your mental image of a skill becomes, the easier it becomes to learn or correct a physical skill.
  • Learning how to better concentrate and focus during practice and competition. This is the ultimate goal of sport psychology. You will play like you practise.
  • Learning how to mentally cope with adverse situations as well as injury and pain. These situations occur in the life of every athlete. The ability to mentally stay strong through adversity is often the difference between the good player and the real champion.

If these skills sound a lot like the same skills you need to achieve in life and the work place, they are. That is what makes this area of training so important to all athletes. It is this area that most translates over to our everyday life. Sports psychology will not only help you achieve your goals within the sporting world, it will help you achieve a better life.