Mastering New Table Tennis Shots: Overcoming Match Anxiety

Table Tennis Player Struggles to Implement New Shots in Matches

Published: June 10, 2023 | Source:

As a table tennis coach, I’ve witnessed many amateur players face a common challenge – the difficulty of effectively utilizing newly developed shots in competitive matches. The disconnect between performance in training drills and real match situations is a hurdle that even skilled players often struggle to overcome.

Take, for instance, the case of my player Brian. He has been working tirelessly on improving his forehand loop, and during our coaching sessions, he demonstrates impressive consistency with the technique. However, when faced with a defensive chopping opponent in a recent match, Brian reverted to a conservative pushing strategy, despite having numerous opportunities to deploy his potent forehand loop. The result was a frustrating loss.

Another player I train with, Jarek, has made significant progress with his backhand attack. In the relaxed environment of our training sessions, Jarek boasts an impressive 75% success rate with this powerful stroke. Yet, when it comes to tournament matches, he often retreats to a more defensive backhand stroke, unwilling to take the risk of unleashing his newfound weapon.

I myself have experienced a similar struggle with my backhand topspin against backspin. While I can execute this shot with 90% consistency against a robot or a drilling partner, when the pressure of a close match mounts, I find myself reverting to a safer push rather than confidently deploying my topspin.

The reasons behind this phenomenon are multifaceted. Developing a new shot requires extensive practice, from mastering the fundamental technique to applying it in increasingly match-like scenarios. Even after reaching a high level of consistency in a controlled setting, the mental barrier of using the shot in a competitive match can be daunting.

The key to overcoming this challenge lies in building unwavering confidence in the new shot. This comes through a combination of:

  • Targeted drills
  • Progressively more challenging practice matches
  • A resolute commitment to implementing the shot in real matches, even at the risk of short-term setbacks

As a coach, I’ve encouraged players like Brian and Jarek to approach this process with a focus on the long-term development of their overall game, rather than the immediate outcome of a single match. By setting specific goals, such as executing the new shot a certain number of times, and celebrating small victories along the way, players can gradually overcome their mental hesitation and incorporate the shot into their competitive arsenal.

The journey of adding a new shot to one’s table tennis repertoire is undoubtedly challenging, but the rewards can be substantial. With perseverance, adaptability, and a steadfast belief in the process, amateur players can unlock the next level of their game and elevate their performance on the competitive stage.

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