Rowden Fullen (1990’s)
As a champion you only have one true friend, only one person you can always rely on — yourself. So you feed your body well, look after it, train it, work on it. Where you lack skill you practise, where you lack knowledge you study. But above all you must believe. You must believe in your strength of will, of purpose, of heart and soul. Whatever you want to achieve, you can, if only you want it enough. Never doubt openly or speak badly of yourself for the champion that is inside you hears your words and is diminished, lessened by them. You are strong and you are brave, there is a nobility of spirit within you, let it grow and you will do well enough.
It is all too easy to drift, to procrastinate and to accept lesser levels of achievement. It’s very human to take the easy road. Many players don’t seem to question where they are going — they just drift. After a while the mind becomes frozen and they don’t even think any more. It’s also all too easy to be limited by those around you, both coaches and players. How often do I hear the phrase — ‘But you must face up to reality!’ But what is reality? Ten players in your club will tell you it’s impossible to become a world champion. But if you talk to one or two world champions, they won’t laugh at you for thinking and aiming big, because they have already done it! It’s all a matter of perception — if you set limits in your own mind on what you expect to achieve, then you will indeed never exceed these limits.
To be skilful requires hard work and dedication, to be unbeatable requires a little more. There is a magic in sport that few master. Forget the strokes or the footwork — the battle is won in the mind. Never let anger, outrage, irritation or fear affect you — that is easy advice to give but hard to follow. Whatever others do, laugh or jeer or bait you - it’s just noise! The only way to make them stop is to win and to win with the right attitude. To beat them is not important, it never was and never will be. To beat yourself is all that matters. To be a real champion you must try and rise above the world around you.
One of the hardest things for young people is to combat the negativity that is all around and to cope with those who wish to interfere with the direction of their life, in many cases those near and dear to them. Often young people realize that the direction in which they are being pushed is not where they want to go. This is why there is so much rebellion and so many problems between the generations. It is one thing to understand that something is good for you, quite another thing to realize that the person recommending this ‘good thing’ is not altogether doing it for your sake, but also for his/her own. This is what he/she would have done but it’s not his/her life. Youth naturally resents being controlled.
When a young person has the opportunity to be really successful, many people seem to resent this and they are surrounded by such an aura of negativity that it’s almost tangible. We hear the well-worn phrases — ‘You’ve got a big talent but you’re never going to be world champion or make a living from sport. Face up to reality and get a job like normal people!’ What you must always remember is that the more you have, the more you will be subject to the envy of those who are patently inferior to you. The more of an ‘individual’ you are too (the kind of person who thinks for himself and refuses to be manipulated by others) the more you will be the target for negative emotions. People generally dislike individualists. They upset the smooth running of things and make others unsure of themselves. If you in fact talk to the ‘big’ people, the ones who have done it all, they will not laugh at you or mock you because they know it can be done. What is and is not achievable is always a matter of perception and of just who is doing the looking! Don’t let others make your reality. Each of us achieves our own reality. What is yours!
Fear is another emotion which causes incredible problems to the smooth operation of the nerves and muscles. Suddenly the body doesn’t seem to work very well anymore. The legs are made of wood, the breathing is laboured, there is a sick feeling in the pit of the stomach, how can you hope to perform under such handicaps? Even normal everyday activities suddenly become next to impossible to carry out. If you allow fear to take over and dominate then it’s very difficult to compete at any level. What you must do is to control the fear, not allow it to control you. As people who have been in life-threatening situations for several days or weeks have found out, you can only live with fear for so long, then you absorb it and it starts to lose its power! What you must do is face your fear and conquer it. Imagine the very worst that could happen, see it happening to you, face it, absorb it. To conquer fear you must first realize that there is no escape from what you fear most. You must take it inside yourself, live with it, taste it, understand it and overcome it. Does the world end, does the sun stop shining, does everyone you know walk away and leave you alone, does life itself end? Or is it after all not quite as bad as you thought it would be?
Will Emotion Consciousness (problem solving) Subconsciousness.
Emotions one area to control, to minimize pressure. Through breathing, diverting mind’s attention, focusing. Only concern yourself with the things you have control over and can change. Where you have no control over events change your attitude towards them. Those things you can’t change should never cause pressure. Don’t let emotions take over, it’s easier to look for excuses when you lose and many people are very negative in attitude. Be logical and positive, evaluate the reasons for losses. How you behave when you lose determines how long it is before you win again.
Appearances — What the opponent sees matters to you and him and can give him an advantage and cause you a disadvantage.
MEET AN IMPORTANT, A REALLY IMPORTANT PERSON. YOU ARE THE BEST, YOU ARE A BIG THINKER, SO THINK BIG, THINK BIG ABOUT EVERYTHING. YOU HAVE ALL THE TALENT AND ABILITY YOU NEED TO BECOME THE BEST, THE VERY BEST. SO GO FOR IT, WHATEVER YOU WANT TO ACHIEVE, YOU CAN ACHIEVE. YOU BELIEVE IN HAPPINESS, PROGRESS AND SUCCESS. SO - TALK AND THINK ONLY HAPPINESS. TALK AND THINK ONLY PROGRESS. TALK AND THINK ONLY SUCCESS. INSIDE YOU HAVE INCREDIBLE ENERGY AND WILL INCREDIBLE ENERGY AND WILL. JUST PUT THESE QUALITIES TO WORK AND NOTHING CAN STOP YOU, NOTHING. YOU ARE ALWAYS ENTHUSIASTIC LET YOUR ENTHUSIASM SHOW, SO THAT ALL CAN SEE. YOU LOOK GOOD AND YOU FEEL GOOD — STAY THAT WAY. YESTERDAY YOU WERE A GREAT PERSON AND TODAY AND TOMORROW YOU ARE GOING FORWARD TO EVEN GREATER SUCCESSES. NOW GO FOR IT WITH YOUR WILL AND VITALITY NOTHING CAN STOP YOU. YOU ALWAYS TRAIN WELL AND GET GOOD RESULTS AND YOUR RESULTS ARE GOING TO GET EVEN BETTER AND BETTER. ONLY TRUST IN YOURSELF AND NOTHING WILL BE IMPOSSIBLE!
BRAIN WAVE CYCLES.
People dancing or listening to disco music often have brainwaves that reach 70 cycles per second. The mind cannot produce coherent thoughts at such a level. Let us look at what normal brainwaves should be and what you can do to reach a super thinking brainwave level.
Beta has a frequency of more than 14 cycles per second. As you read this you are more than likely at a level of about 18 cycles per second. If you reduce this down to around 14 you will stimulate your powers of comprehension and concentration.
Alpha vibrates from 8 – 13 cycles per second. This state will give you a sense of relaxation and peace and dramatically heighten your suggestibility.
Theta has a frequency of 4 – 7 cycles per second. In this state you can get unusually creative insights and ideas. Psychic healers usually operate around this level.
Delta vibrates from ½ — 6 cycles per second and usually occurs during sound sleep. However it is quite possible to be awake in the upper cycles of delta and to tune into more creative sources of both knowledge and energy.
Concentrate on the ‘third eye’ and use a repetitive, self-hypnotic count-down from level 14. Or visualize the blank screen technique and flash up on the mind’s screen the level 14 and slowly count down, not going to the lower level until you are comfortable with and relaxed at your present level. Once you have counted down to and feel comfortable at level 7 relax completely and let your thoughts float across the blank screen of your mind. After between 10 – 20 minutes place a mental image of yourself on the screen, happy and smiling, without a care in the world, all your problems solved. Count back up to the level you wish to remain at for the rest of the day and leave your subconscious mind to find solutions to your problems.
CONTACT THE SUBCONSCIOUS MIND
It is enough to tell the sub-conscious mind to do something and it will do it. You do not have to waste time giving instructions on what to do or how to do it! If you call a mechanic to fix your car you don’t tell him what to do, you tell him what you think is wrong and let him get on with it. You should treat the sub-conscious mind in the same way.
Decide what you want to achieve and write down a list of ‘commands’ to your subconscious. Dictate these into a tape recorder using your own voice, softly, slowly and firmly (the subconscious responds better to commands from its owner). Give the right commands and be both positive clear and specific. Be relaxed and comfortable when you listen to the playback (the subconscious is most receptive when the body is in a relaxed state), there should in fact be no conscious attempt to ‘listen’ to the tape, rather switch off and let it wash over you or even concentrate on something else. Regard the subconscious as a separate entity and always address it as ‘you’. Repetition is the key, repeat everything at least ten times. Should you fall asleep while listening to your cassette no matter, the conscious mind may be asleep but not the subconscious. If possible try to find one master command or even word which summarizes what you want to achieve, as we said at the start the subconscious doesn’t need detailed instructions on what to do.
Another method can be to have prime instructions (no more than three) pinned up beside your bed so that you see them when going to sleep and on waking. Even more effective keep a torch by the bedside and every time you wake in the night look, read, then drop off to sleep again.
Bring the right attitude to training. How you think and feel determines how you will train or play. Think of a good match you have played, there is more behind thoughts than mere winning figures, good thoughts can influence how you feel now. Think positively and you will tend to be positive, in the mind there is a combination of thoughts and feelings churning round, each affects the other and without some measure of control it is difficult to achieve the higher levels of success.
If you on the other hand think badly, things will tend to go badly. Also you should try not to stress yourself. Not, I must, this brings in the element of pressure directly, but I can, it is possible. In this way you keep your options more open, you don’t impose limitations and you lessen the stress element. If you miss a couple of backhands don’t immediately say — ‘I can’t play backhand …’ Try to rely on your training, you know you can play backhands in training, you have done so many thousands of times before so in competition it shouldn’t be that much different. It’s all in the mind, give yourself a fair chance. Even if you’ve missed one or two it’s going to start getting better and also bear in mind that the opponent also suffers stress too. Look at and study his/her face and body language.
Do not be too results-oriented, especially at a young age. If you get too stressed because you are not winning and moving up the ranking ladder, you put more pressure on your own game and the more your main rivals forge ahead of you the bigger the risk you will stress yourself to the point of having real difficulties in keeping up your level of performance. Try to focus on your development, on bringing new things into your game, a little here and a little there, one small step at a time. Progress is much more important than winning.
Don’t let outer motivation be a factor (winning, achieving good tournament results, getting in the district or national team, being ranked in the top five), concentrate on harnessing the inner motivation. What can you influence? What factors can you bring to table tennis, stubbornness, fighting spirit, the right attitude, calmness and concentration? Can you even decide how the opponent plays? Yes, you can have a big influence here too. What you show to your opponent in terms of your feelings and attitude to the match will often determine how he /she reacts and plays. Don’t help the opponent to win!
You can be positive or negative in your approach to our sport, but bear one thing in mind. Negative people are rarely champions! You can be sour, irritated, angry, sad and always complaining, hanging your head. You can say how bad you are, how you can’t play, how much luck the opponent has, how bad the umpiring and the conditions. But just what does any of this achieve, other than give the opponent confidence and destroy your own? You lessen your chances of success and you lose the opportunity to learn anything constructive from defeat. On the other hand you can be positive, enthusiastic, urging yourself on as you play and psyching yourself up. Your whole body language says you are a winner, everything is under control and if the opponent is going to beat you then he/she has a real fight on their hands.
Be a fighter, always be ready. Face doubt and beat it. You don’t win by worrying about others, respect them yes, but don’t worry. Always remember training is physical but competing is emotional.
S. M. METHOD.
Improve your mental toughness.
Most people reading this have spent years working on their game. Practising to improve their shots, training on their footwork or to become fitter, only to lose in the next tournament or important match because they are nervous on a vital point. How many have made a decision to become fitter or to work on their backhand, only to let their good intentions slip after two to three weeks for no apparent reason?
The point here is that the difference between a good player, an excellent player and an outstanding player is often the ‘mental toughness’, yet most of us spend very little time working on this side of our game! There is no such thing as positive thinking. This is when you believe that something will happen without the need to take any action. We must believe in intelligence, in seeing things as they are, not as worse than they are, as many people do. They say they are sceptical or pessimistic about success, which you can interpret as meaning they are afraid.
Change fear into action.
There are three essentials to change and to improve.
- If you want to improve your game it is very simple — you must raise your standards. You have to take the shoulds and make them into musts. Ivan Llendl was one of the most successful tennis players ever, yet not the most talented. How did he become world number one and stay there longer than anyone else had done? In his own words – ‘No-one has a higher demand on themselves than me. I don’t compete with other players, I compete with the best I could become. Since I was eight years old I have demanded more from myself than anyone else could possibly imagine.’
- If you want to change your game you must first change your limiting beliefs. The only thing stopping you from achieving what you want is your limiting beliefs. Your belief deep down inside. Not your ‘I can do it belief on the outside’ but the ‘who are you kidding?’ belief deep down inside. Have you ever been in the situation where you have been playing out of this world? Every shot seems to hit the table. What are you thinking about at this time? Is it ‘Am I hitting my backhand correctly?’ or perhaps ‘What happens if I lose?’ You know the answer — usually you are not thinking about anything. You are so focused and conditioned to playing the game that you are just letting it happen.
- You must change your thinking through having the right strategy. If you have not improved your game over the last year there is only one reason. You do not have the right strategy to improve! It’s as simple as that. Do you have the right mental strategy to enable you to train every day and to enjoy it? Do you have the right mental strategy to get the best possible results out of your training? Do you have the mental conviction that your game is developing in the right manner and proceeding in the right direction? Do you have the right strategy to win when the chips are down, or to win 80% of your deuce games? You can easily train your nervous system to achieve the above but without training it will not happen automatically. Do you know people who are better than others when it ‘gets tight’? Do you know people who are fitter than others? It all comes down to having the right mental strategy and training your nervous system to work for you and not against you. How much time and effort do you put into training yourself to be mentally tough?
To create peak performance.
- Put yourself in a peak state. Focus your mind and body in a pro-active way on what you are going to do.
- Find your passion. What do you love? Why do you want to improve? How important is it to you? What do you hate? What drives you in life?
- Decide, commit and resolve. Decide on the action you are going to take, commit yourself to it and resolve to carry it through.
- Take immediate, intelligent, consistent and massive action. Get a proven model or create one. Get a plan and do something now, immediately.
- Check it. Change it. Re-engineer it. Reinforce it. Strengthen it.
- Measure it on a regular basis to see if it is working.
- Is it working as effectively as possible?
- Reinforce what works in your mind.
- Take new action to continue beneficial change. Always ready to innovate.
In order to achieve your own personal best you have to get the best possible result out of everything you do. Becoming mentally stronger is not a should it’s a must.