Table Tennis - Focus, Focus, Focus

Paul Butters By Paul Butters, 12th Apr 2015 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>Sports>Coaching

Like any sport, table tennis is all in the mind. Some tips...

All In The Mind

In all sports, success depends of course on skill, fitness and other “physical” qualities. Okay, so you’ve trained hard and developed those skills. You are good to go. Yet there remains one more crucial thing to get right in order to succeed: your mind.

This is true of all sports and particularly table tennis. When you play to win at table tennis you simply must Concentrate with a capital ‘C’. The game can be played at a very high speed whilst you are constantly aiming to hit a relatively small table. I often smile to myself when I see a footballer blaze a shot way over the bar, scuff it, slice it or whatever: that’s a point lost in table tennis. You must concentrate and try to play each stroke correctly.

All this assumes you aren’t playing table tennis against a more “limited” opponent and just “giving him or her a game”. I’m talking about competing against players roughly as good as or better than yourself.

My first table tennis mantra is, “Focus, focus, focus.” That may be cliché, cliché, cliché but I don’t care. The importance of focus cannot be over-stated or repeated too often.

To begin with, right at the start of a table tennis match you must be Ready. Think about where you are going to serve from and to: backhand wing to the opposing F\H, short or long, spun left or right, top or chop… If you are receiving, be ready for anything and watch your opponent’s bat like a hawk (to read the spin). Be composed but vigilant and “on your toes” (ready to pounce).

Once you have started, play for each and every point in turn. Try to ignore the score. Just play each point on its own merits. Play what’s “in front of you” – Not what you Expect to happen from previous encounters etc. Keep watching your opponent and most importantly, that ball.

Every time you make a mistake or otherwise lose a bad point, forget it. If like me you cannot stop yourself from letting out a shout, that’s okay, but then you must put it right out of your mind. (They say you shouldn’t let your opponent see your frustration but personally I’ll have to keep working on that). By all means replay a point in your mind just after it’s over, but then leave it.

Remember, no daydreaming about celebrating your win, being criticised for losing or whatever. Focus on every point. In a game up to 11 you cannot afford any lapse in concentration. In a cup handicap up to 21 you must win as many points as you can (unless you’ve already crossed the winning line).

You must, of course, Believe. Even against vastly superior opposition you have to “mean business”. You must keep those serves tight and always compete. Don’t be afraid of punching yourself out: if you do tire you can still dig in and make your opponent work for his or her win. Again it is all about playing for each point in turn. I cannot over-emphasise that.

Nervous? Ignore it! Just focus on your opponent, the ball and the table. How you feel is irrelevant. You are there to work for every point, nothing else. You must stay “in the zone”: virtually in a trance. As I say, it’s all in the mind, and your mind must be fully on the game.

If you win, do celebrate your success: but that comes after the match.

Paul Butters


Focus, Sport, Success, Tennis Psychology

Meet the author

author avatar Paul Butters
I am a Writer. Freelance in that I am not employed any more, being retired. I can write more than ever now. Academically I have a B.Ed. Honours Degree in English Literature from Leeds (Huddersfield) University. Taught Secondary (13-18) English in the...(more)

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