Attitude: the Way Forward

Rowden Fullen (1990’s)

In almost all tournaments we see girls with attitude problems — crying as they play, irritated, angry, in a bad mood, shouting at parents. One gets the impression when watching that it is certainly not much fun to play and that it would perhaps be better to try another sport.

Yet when you sit down and talk calmly and logically to these girls, they in fact fully understand in many cases that they play worse when they allow emotion to take over. Certainly in no way does it allow them or help them to perform better. In most cases it is not mother or father who stresses them and the girls are even prepared to admit this, but parents are unfortunately often the only ones readily available to attack when things go wrong! In the vast majority of cases it’s the player who stresses herself or who allows the pressure to build too high.

Usually when emotion gets too high the level of play goes down and the player makes even more mistakes. Many girls fail to realise three important facts. Stress and concentration levels are closely connected, if you are stressed it’s that much harder to concentrate. Secondly to achieve a high level in table tennis is a slow process and takes time, girls should allow themselves the time to learn and develop, they don’t achieve perfection overnight! Thirdly they do not understand that to win it is often not necessary to play 100%, or even to play at one’s very best. Top players will tell you quite regularly that they played badly, perhaps only at about 60% level and yet actually won the tournament!

Many girls also allow themselves to be very negative when competing, they tell themselves they can’t play, they have no chance, they are playing badly, even that they are going to lose. The brain is very like a computer, if you feed in negative thoughts, it will do its very best to help you lose! If on the other hand you think positively and believe that if you work and fight you have a good chance to succeed, it will indeed be ‘on your side’ and help you do just this.

Girls should first understand that self-control will give them the opportunity to think — the mind is that much more clear and able to consider tactics, which serve to use, whether to use spin more, also the body is more relaxed and able to respond more effectively to different situations. Girls should try to work on the things they can control, trying to train hard and in the right way, having a good work-rate and attitude at all times, a strong fighting spirit, being calm and in control and above all being stubborn and never giving up.

Finally they should endeavour to think positively. Even defeats should be seen as part of the learning process, which indeed they are. Development is a process of change — if you just make excuses when you lose and look for someone or something else to blame then you have learned nothing and you don’t progress, there is no forward movement! If you look for the real reasons for your defeat and face facts — perhaps the other player was best on the day or you played the wrong tactics, or you have weaknesses in your own game that you must work on in training — then you have learned something and you move forward a little step in your development. It is only when you admit you have problems that you can set about solving them.