Essay on Table Tennis
At the age of 14, I was preparing for the National Table Tennis Championships in England. A working class background meant that finances and equipment for training were scarce. I did not have a table tennis table in the house or the funds to hire a table at the local hall. There was a weekly club practice session on a Sunday night. This was my only opportunity for physical practice. My father, a sports teacher of 20 years suggested that I buy a book and video on stroke play and table tennis in general. The research article I have found highlights some of the benefits of mental practice both in conjunction with or in the absence of physical training.
As my physical training could only by performed on a weekly basis, I needed to make the most of the short time I had. I set up a programme by which I would spend at least one hour per day with my bat in hand and mentally engaging the games I would face in the tournament. I went through the many options within the 3,5 & 7 ball attack and the possible returns from these combinations; the returns from each different type of serve; which serve would produce the best options for a winning shot; how to speed up the game; how to slow down the game; how I could beat my opponent before I had played a shot. The book I purchased had a flick book section at the edge of each page. As you read through each section, there was a 150 flick, flick book sequence of the shot/serve/return depending on the section. Going through the shots in the flick book and then visualising myself in the picture allowed me to practice the shots without being at the table or having an opponent.
As my "coach" was not able to be with me during this practise time, I had to be very strict with myself. I had the desire to compete to the best of my abilities at the Nationals and the only way that I saw I could achieve this, with my limited resources, was to be very meticulous in my mental training. I was prepared for anything that might arise at the Nationals. The research article shows that "Mental practice is effective". As my mental practice was complimenting my weekly physical practice I was receiving the optimum benefits. As I had been playing table tennis for a year by this stage, I felt I was beyond the novice stage. The research shows that the fact that I had reached a minimum standard of proficiency, I was able to gain greater benefits from this mental practice. The fact that I was able to actually see myself in the flick book images was a huge advantage to me. The research shows that by using internal perspective, I was able to gain greater benefits from my time. The time spent rehearsing mentally not only helped me to develop my motor skill acquisition and decision making but the research shows that this practice also helped to reduce my pre-competition anxiety. Looking back I would agree that I had very little anxiety when it came to the competitions. I truly believe that this was due to my mental practice.
Although I had dedicated significantly less time to physical practice in comparison to my opponents, I feel that my time spent during these practices was more productive as I had greater time on task due to my mental practice. The Nationals went well that year, I received a letter in the mail two days later requesting my presence on a National training camp for an under 16 International game with the Home Nations of Scotland, Wales and Ireland and a match with Yugoslavia at the end of the year.
I believe that this training technique emphasises the adage that "knowledge is power". I went into the table tennis Nationals with every possible combination of possibilities that may arise. Some of these did arise and I was able to overcome them to win the tournament. By transferring this technique into my other sports I feel that I have been able to achieve success at a greater level than my competitors. As long as my mental training is complimenting my physical training I will continue to use it.
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