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Being a Table Tennis Player

Starting a new sport can be daunting but being a table tennis player is a whole new ball game.

Where do I begin?

The innocence, when you begin playing or take your child to the local TTC it feels amazing. Unfortunately, the fairy-tale diminishes as you incorporate yourself into the sport. Table tennis is often seen as; a game, recreational sport, an office pass-time and a home family game/activity.

Forehand Topspin Eli Baraty
Forehand Topspin Eli Baraty

Table Tennis is so much more!


Firstly it’s an Olympic sport and to all those who see it as something else, it couldn’t be further from the truth.
Today table tennis is such a lucrative sport in Asia, and many start training from as young as one year old. Parents take full advantage of a sport that can be developed before you can even walk.

Before you can walk!

What sport can you begin playing before you can walk? I believe there isn’t one. Furthermore what sport can you play aged 100 years old and you can beat 95% of the world’s population? Again, only Table Tennis!
Our sport is so dynamic, so versatile and yet it fails to be a mainstream sport in most countries.

Being a table tennis player

It’s possible to make a good living out of table tennis, you must be in or around the top 100 ranked players in the world. Having this level can generate you an income of up to £1000000 per year. This includes prize money, endorsements, sponsorship, club representation and other sources of income.

The sport of table tennis is so tough:

Even though table tennis is not a mainstream sport, it’s the second most played sport in the world. Making the competition so high. Years of training is required and even though you may have the best shots you could still be beaten by players far less skilled. Table tennis has so many elements required in order to master it which is why some will train over 8 hours a day to perfect their game.

Nothing easy is special which is why table tennis is so special…

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Written by Eli Baraty

eBaTT (Eli Baraty Academy of Table Tennis)
Coach Me Table Tennis
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Twitter: @elibaraty
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Don’t be Blind to the Importance of Vision in Table Tennis

Don’t be Blind to the Importance of Vision in Table Tennis
See, Respond, React.

Steve Brunskill
Steve Brunskill, is one of England’s best and most respected coaches. Stevie has spotted one element of table tennis often untrained.

Sports eye training

I am personally a stickler for marginal gains and often research into elements where it may give my players the edge over others. I must admit visual training is one that slipped through my net. Luckily for me, Steve caught it and has produced a course and package for all to benefit from.

How important are your eyes?

I was coaching one of my players a few years back and one parent sat next to me. The parent watching my player, said a few words that unleashed the ‘Marvel’ superhero mindset, I’ve always had. They said, “your player is like a fly, his reflexes are amazing and he seems to have more time than anyone else” From that moment on I started to study increased reaction time.
This included:
– Using a reaction ball
– Non-visual cues with on coming table tennis ball/balls
-Strengthening and conditioning muscle speed and reflex
The results were great but I always felt there was something more…

Visual Fascination 

I’ve been blessed with perfect vision and its something I’ve acknowledged but at the same time neglected. My eyes were one of my childhood superpowers, seeing further than anyone. I’m blessed with good vision but due to my gift I took it for granted, not training the eyes to even greater abilities.

I’m an observer and often look at my surroundings for gains inside my coaching structure. Seeing how peoples eyes flicker from side to side when looking at moving objects I find/found it fascinating.
Due to my fascination I wanted to know how fast can something travel and at what speed do our eyes lose track of the moving object. I watched and read about some extraordinary people who are able to seemingly do inhuman capabilities through vision. For example, hit a baseball oncoming at them over 100 miles an hour through a machine at less than 15 meters, in distance. A man who can catch an arrow being shot at him. To this day I’m unsure as to how they did or are doing it, but its clear to me that the eyes have the secret ingredient I’ve been searching for.

Vladimir Samsonov

As a young player, I didn’t enjoy watching Vladimir until I saw him in front of my eyes live. I remember being in awe of his canning ability to block and retrieve balls coming at him at super speeds. The players on the other side were faster more explosive and dynamic compared to Vladamir! So how was Samsonov able to make most world class players look amateur?

The Answer

Does Stevie Brunskill have the answer?  Samsonov (I believed used his eyes to assess your body language which gave him clues as to where you were/are going). Despite your level, age or ability you can benefit from visual eye training. Below is Steve’s story into how he stumbled onto his new mastermind and you have the opportunity to develop your game or players using his vision training programme.

Written by Steve Brunskill
Table Tennis Vision Training 

This programme is an eye-opening project that seeks to not only improve the skills and competencies of table tennis players but ultimately seeks to offer a modern and fresh outlook upon the importance of vision training and how it is perhaps neglected within the sporting culture and training of table tennis. Current traditional coaching techniques appear to consequentially ignore the unlimited possibilities that the implementation of visual training as a fundamental practice could bring to not only table tennis but sport in general. I believe that this new but exciting project for table tennis is an opportunity that should not be missed.

How it all began

My fascination and obsession with vision training originated upon the fortunate meeting of Mark Holmes, one of Briton’s top shotgun shooters, who had called into Swerve table tennis club to speak to me after reading an article I had written in regards to fitness. He was interested in receiving  1-to-1 coaching in table tennis as he had been researching vision training and had been training his eyes for the past year. He believed this training was the reason he had progressed from just an average shooter to become the English Open Champion in a record time of two and half years.

Mark also completed this feat with the best-recorded score in the past forty years. I asked, “why table tennis?” He said his research had brought him to table tennis as the eyes needed to track a very fast object in a split second. He believed that playing table tennis would give him an edge over his shooting competitors. Mark achieved this success in less than three years from picking up a shotgun for the first time and he endorses his vision training regime as an essential factor that contributed heavily to his remarkably quick success.

How Important is your Sports Vision?

Sportsmen and women in all sports are often unaware of how much their performance depends upon their sight.
This is none more so than in table tennis.
Table tennis players have to be able to distinguish objects from a distance and from a variety of backgrounds, judge distance, height, bounce, flight, spin and speed.

So I thought I would look to reverse the process and therefore ask Mark what training he did to help his vision and shooting. My reasoning being that if table tennis training can help Mark shoot, then, in theory, the training a shooter undergoes should help a table tennis player.

After conducting research into visual training I discovered that there are vast amounts of research for other sports such as Archery, Shooting, Baseball etc.. but very little in the way of table tennis, yet a table tennis player needs to have incredible visual ability to be able to pick an opponent’s positioning, posture, movement and even expression as well as watch the contact of the ball, watch the balls rotation, speed, flight and bounce and still have time to make a split second decision to choose a correct response move and implement the correct stroke/technique. My research found that studies have shown table tennis players naturally develop very high visual skills over years of training without realising. Other studies showed that people with well-developed visual skills progress fast when taking up sports similar to table tennis (food for thought with ways to train beginners). 

Knowledge without practice is useless!

Knowledge is of no value unless you put it into practice and therefore this is a huge opportunity for the sport of table tennis to not only modernise itself with its sporting competitors but to adapt and overtake them.
Table tennis players train for hours working on techniques, movement and drill patterns looking to add that extra point, all of which are totally reliant on their vision but how many players ever think about training or strengthening their vision? The eye is made up of several muscles and just like any other muscle it will strengthen and it will fatigue depending on the demands placed on our site.

Specific table tennis visual training 

This got me thinking about using specific eye training methods with skilled and unskilled table tennis players. Using specific visual training methods may give players that extra edge as it did with Mark the shooter whom I had spoken to. Over the past two years, I have invested time studying, reading books, attending lectures and seminars, and I have researched a variety of sports and their use of visual training. I have chosen the methods I believe fit best to table tennis players. The more I have studied and learned about vision training the more excited I am at the prospect of the effect vision training can have on players and how easy this training can be implemented into regular table tennis sessions.


I have designed a visual training programme which starts with a basic introduction to vision training exercises that progress into dynamic vision training exercises which are specific to table tennis.
I have been trialling this training method with a small group of players at Swerve over the past year. The player’s feedback has been encouragingly very positive which has only added fuel to the fire in terms of my belief that this project has an overwhelming possibility to change the trajectory of fundamental training within table tennis as this possibility offers boundless opportunities.

Would you like to get the edge over your competition?

This programme is offered to clubs, coaches and players.
I am offering to run a 1-day course to clubs, coaches and players, where I will explain and demonstrate each exercise, its benefits and how it relates to table tennis.
I will also show how easily the exercises can be delivered and how the equipment needed can easily and cheaply be purchased or obtained and how the exercises can be advanced and adapted.

The Visual Training Course

The course will demonstrate how the method of training can be implemented by the coach. The Programme can be implemented as a one-off specific training session or as part of a regular training session. It can also be used by a player as part of the player’s pre-match preparation. The exercises learned on the course can be used singularly or collectively and can be done in a few minutes as a warm up or used as a full training session. The programme can benefit complete beginners to elite level players.

“You can’t HIT what you can’t SEE”

A quick video to demonstrate this Click HERE

The first Vision Training course is being held at Swerve on 21st July 2018 for further info contact
Steve Brunskill (Head coach at Swerve table tennis centre) Email=

Written by Eli Baraty and Steve Brunskill

eBaTT (Eli Baraty Academy of Table Tennis)                          
Coach Me Table Tennis 
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Instagram: _elibaraty 
Twitter: @elibaraty
FB: Coach Me Table Tennis 

Learn from the Best Table Tennis Coaches

This Weekend, I was privileged to work with some of the best table tennis coaches in Europe! how makes these coaches some of the best table tennis coaches in Europe?

Mario Genovese –

From Malta, Mario’s record as a coach and player is extraordinary producing top-class players with very limited resources and facilities in Malta. Mario is a current world record holder with 22 Men’s singles National titles and is still capable of increasing that record. He was an international player for many years and a professional player based in Sweden. Currently, Mario is an ITTF level two coach and he knows and has worked with many world class players and coaches. Today Mario has produced Malta’s no.1 Table Tennis club and all the nations best players have come from his base over the past 10 years. For more information click here

Afonso Vilela –

From Portugal, started Coaching in a little place called (Madeira) famous for players such as Marcos Freitas. Afonso worked closely with Joao Monteiro, in a successful attempt to qualify for 2012 London Olympic Games. They were very proud to achieve it and Afonso was Joao’s personal coach at the Olympic Games. Afonso, went on to work with many clubs across Europe gaining vast experience in the sport. Recently he took a head coach role in India, where he coached a group of young players including world no.1 ranked Junior (Manav Vikash Thakkar). Afonso aims to have his own table tennis centre soon with plans in place to develop a full-time table tennis centre catering for all players.  Alongside side a future vision of creating and developing a new batch of Portuguese Table Tennis Superstars.

Julien Girard –

From France, A former top junior and senior player himself decided he would shake the French system by producing top players outside of the national governing table tennis system. Julien believes in results, not accreditation and he wanted to prove it by investing in personal and physical investment. In France, you need to pay thousands towards a coaching diploma (to be a qualified table tennis coach). Julien redirected the money and invested it by taking himself to as many top clubs and coaches across Europe and Asia for 5 years. This was in pursuit of learning his current craft hands on, from the best in the world. Today Julien has taken a small club in a small town south of France to the top division (Pro A) with French players only. He has produced and developed 4 men’s singles titles in the past 5 years, with his players including; Alexandre Robinot, Adrien Mattenet, Jeremy Petiot and Stephane Oauiche. For more information click here

So, what have I learnt from the best tabe tenis coaches?
1. Attention to detail:

Often I go around England looking at table tennis clubs and coaches and they are content with basic play. The saying in England is “practice makes perfect” nothing could be further from the truth! It’s ‘perfect practice that makes perfect’, therefore we must look at perfecting our clubs and players not just allowing them to take part.

2. Secrets:

Each coach has one or two secrets by this guys have plenty because they are open-minded, willing and want to learn. They openly ask what do you do? and how do you do it? I often feel coaches in England don’t share knowledge and we don’t learn from one another. We need to have; open workshops, coaching collaborations and clubs competing against each other in a competitive way but with open arms when it comes to growth for our players and sport.

3. Experience: 

You may have all the qualifications in the world but if you have not been on the job experimenting and trying out the theory’s you don’t know what works best. Each coach has their particular way but with experience, you can find ways that work better than others and that takes time to implement. You must go to other clubs and coach many players. Try to visit other countries to see different systems and philosophies. This will provide you with vital experience to truly succeed.

I have been blessed to work with these amazing coaches (some of Europes best table tennis coaches) and today we are called UNITED TABLE TENNIS COACHING (Team) We have a Facebook page and soon to have a website. Our aim is to grow and develop table tennis in Europe to compete with Asia but also find ways to beat them.

We want you to be a part of our journey, so please keep an eye out for our coaching seminars, videos, developments and coaching days across Europe which will be published soon.

Please excuse any spelling or grammatical errors

Written by Eli Baraty
eBaTT (Eli Baraty Academy of Table Tennis)
Coach Me Table Tennis
Instagram: _elibaraty
Twitter: @elibaraty
FB: Eli Baraty
M:  07900401144

3 tips to make you more successful as a table tennis player.

Table tennis success
World School Games

Achievement is subjective but  I am going to provide you with three key elements for table tennis success, regardless of your level.

 Often players think just playing table tennis is enough to become more successful in table tennis. Unfortunately, table tennis is a super complex sport which requires many elements to achieve greatness. Today table tennis requires you to be a player and an athlete and if you’re are one but not the other you’ll never compete with the elite.

3x requirements to become a successful player

1. Perseverance/Grit: If you don’t possess these key attributes you will never be a true winner! The reason most people on this planet walk is because they fell over many times and eventually they learnt to balance and coordinate themselves. The end result led to them to what seems normal to most, walking and then running. If we fell, when we where babies and stopped getting back up, we would never walk. This principle applies to your (table tennis) game. If you are willing to fail and learn from your failures/mistakes (Grit characteristics) you will reap the rewards in good time.
2. Forget Goal setting: when setting big goals, we often set ourselves up for constant failure up until we have reached the goal. You can aim for the sky but plan small achievable targets. And give yourself specific targets to self-develop, rather than a long-term goal which is extremely hard to achieve. This will shift your mindset from constant failure to constant self-fulfilment and the journey itself will become a lot greater. Who knows the ultimate dream may also be achieved with small incremental targets in place.
How to implement? have a goal for each training session not for next month, next year or ten years. The key principle is enjoying the moment not what may or may not happen in the future. But don’t forget to keep in the back of your mind that ultimate goal/dream, we must aim high to reach the top. 

3. Joy & love: We all forget why we play and set our focus on competition, goals and keeping others happy. When you decide to play a sport, in this case, (table tennis) it should be because you either enjoy or love playing. Joy will come and go and you will need to know whether the fun/love has gone or been misplaced. Try to make a change; coach, club, location, or different training methods and this will quickly provide you with the answer as to whether you still have joy playing. You will also know whether you still love playing or that inner joy has gone or not. 
Focusing on keeping things simple but specific and everything else will fall into place.
Written by
Eli Baraty 

eBaTT – (Eli Baraty Academy of Table Tennis)                          
Coach me Table Tennis
Instagram: _elibaraty 
Twitter: @elibaraty
FB: Eli Baraty 
M:  07900401144 


Click here to see a fun trick shot

Table Tennis is not just about backhands, forehands and serves!! There is an infinite amount of shots and table tennis trick shots that can be implemented.


Regardless of your playing level you can achieve and do lots of table tennis trick shots, all you must do is explore and experiment. We often focus on systematic training and forget to experiment and fear coming out of our comfort zones. If we explore beyond our current capabilities we give ourselves the opportunity to progress in ways we never knew possible.

Jan-Ove Waldner:

My TT hero Jan Ove-Waldner (widely regarded as the greatest player of all time) was so innovative and ahead of the game. Coming out with what looked like table tennis tricks, it allowed him to compete with the best, for over 3 decades. Waldner demonstrated shots that people had never seen or thought physically possible, not only in practice but he managed to pull them off at crucial times including the Olympic and World championship finals.

As a player, if you wish to progress you must try things and do not fall into the trap of  “I can’t do that” structure learning will only limit you.

Breaking barriers

As humans we break barriers by doing something out of the norm and by doing so we develop and progress. 
Limitations are in your mind so don’t allow your mind to say its not possible until you have tried it, don’t be scared to be different… 

We are all unique so why mould yourself like everyone else?

Table Tennis Communication!

World Ping Pong Championships
Chris Doran and Eli Baraty

As coaches and players, we thrive to achieve our potential and table tennis communication is often something both parties lack. Coach’s, in particular, portray their thoughts and feelings and player’s, in general, absorb the information. In most cases, the coaches provide wonderful information (on few occasion it’s poor information). Either way, the ignorant student takes on board the information and does not have his/her say. Potentially, damaging their future potential and current progress. Furthermore the possibility of causing future friction between both player and coach. 

What is table tennis communication?

1. It’s a two-way thing: Both parties talk to one another giving and taking information and working together towards a greater cause.

2. No matter your position you need to express your feelings and thoughts (no one but you) knows what you’re thinking and feeling, so ‘EXPRESS IT’.

3. Table Tennis Communication can be delivered using your 5 senses (hearing, listening, seeing, smelling and feeling) try to use what you feel is best to get your point across.

Notice how both coach and player communicate with one another next time you are a club or tournament.

Communication builds trust and when we know how someone is thinking and feeling, we can trust them to take us to our desired destination.

What Makes a Top Table Tennis Players?

Senior British League Filip Szymanksi
Filip Szymanski playing for eBaTT


Everyone has a different view of what is a top player but what makes top table tennis players, is my fascination. When I first started playing table tennis the local league players were the top player in my eyes! Today I’m seen as a top player (locally, nationally and occasionally internationally). I personally don’t consider my self as a top player because (as a teen I dreamed of becoming “A World Champion”). I did not achieve this dream for many reasons but I personally consider a top player someone who is ranked inside the worlds top 150 or around that level. You may view a top player as; top 10 in your county or no.1 in your local club or possibly top 10 in the world. No matter what your view is of a top player, you can become a top player yourself. This depends on many factors of course but it can be achieved. 

You need to do 3 things:

1. You need to have a vision. Every top table tennis player will tell you they envisioned themselves becoming great. There is a huge difference between having goals and a vision. When you have goals you’re aiming to hit that goal. Unfortunately, most don’t pursue when it gets tough or if they fail to reach certain goals. But having a vision on the other hand means you see yourself achieving and doing whatever it takes in achieving your dreams. Having a vision does not mean you will always achieve (due to age, personal capabilities, local/national structure, resources etc.). But having a vision gives you a far greater opportunity of achieving your dreams because you will do your utmost to break through the obstacles. 

2. Sacrifice, no athlete has achieved without sacrificing many things in their lives, to achieve their dreams. This may mean moving to another country (e.g. Andy Murray) or giving up your weekends etc. 

3. Plan, the saying goes “fail to prepare… prepare to fail”, that quote says it all. Nothing is produced without some sort of plan, yes you can go and train and improve without a specific plan but by turning up to a training session you have subconsciously planed. You planned to turn up for training at e.g. 8:00pm and practice your FH’s and BH’s etc. Then you play games and plan how to beat your opponent but the better you plan the chances of achieving and progressing is far greater.

A video of how precise top players are when training click here

Top players are not born they are made, so what are you waiting for? Go and make yourself a top player…

Written by Eli Baraty

How to Handle Your Table Tennis Nerves

No matter who you are, you will or have experienced the ‘butterfly effect’ in your stomach. How you handle table tennis your nerves will differ from person to person but we all experience nerves either before or during an event.


Pre-Tournament Nerves:

As a junior, I rarely felt nervous during a match but I did get pre-competition adrenalin. I struggled to sleep the night before due to excitement and anxiety.


Match Nerves

Entering the senior circuit, I naturally developed a ‘thought process’ using tactical know how to win matches as opposed to playing on autopilot as a junior. This changed my whole nervous system, I could sleep the night before but during the match… I found myself extremely nervous. This included; sweaty hands, my heart beating furiously and my hand shaking prior to my no.1 weapon, my serve.

I was affected so badly that I ended up quitting competitions and resorted to a club or local league play only. Every couple of years I would attempt a competition ‘come back’ but the nerves remained strong.

One person or one thing can change everything

At 27 years of age, a world-class coaches/players crossed my path and began working with me at my table tennis club/academy. We trained one or two hours per week and after 3 months my level went up. I started to compete with him. FYI, his standard at the time was top 5 England men and he said, “Eli it’s time to make a real comeback”. 

The comeback

I did just that… Beating top 10 England players and jumping up the rankings to around 20 England Men. So what did I do differently on this occasion?

How to handle your pre-competition nerves

1. Work on your strengths, preferably a day or two before any competition and this will naturally increase your inner confidence. 

2. Avoid match play meaning, you can play but don’t keep an official score. I suggest either one or two days prior to any competition. Why? Because in a match there is a winner and a loser and if you’re the loser… Well, we all know how we feel after losing. So instead, play as if it is a real match with 2 serves each but do not play games. If you love keeping score, then you can do a 10-10 or 5-9 down challenge but not a full game.

3.Routine: Do your best not to change your routine, often people change a routine when they prepare for a tournament. In effect, competition is just another game but one that has been given a ‘Name and Value’ e.g. Local league finals, London open, National Championships, Olympics etc. all have a name and value. 

Local level –  In general, you’re competing for the sheer enjoyment and social factor. You may be playing to keeping fit and get out of the house?! therefore routine is not necessary.

National level: You are committed to the sport so you need to find what preparation works best for you and stick to it. A mistake many national level players make, is changing their routines for different events e.g. National championships they will put in more hours in the training hall (when in fact they should prepare physically more rather than table time), hence the lack of consistency in performance.

International: Depending on your level you will train for personal and specific targets. The higher ranked you are the more focused you are on specific competition targets e.g. World championships, Europeans, Olympics etc. Again the same principle applies, find a specific preparation that suits you. Remember we are all individuals, so don’t copy another top players preparation methods. Once you have a suitable preparation, stick to it religiously even at times of poor confidence.

How to avoid match nerves:

1. Play under pressurised situations: I use betting (‘personal method’ and not recommended), I also ask my friends or students to watch me play. I may add a video recording and this automatically puts me into a state of ‘competition mode and the match has “value”. I would add pressure by either telling myself or the crowd how important this match is. The importance of the match is irrelevant, its an exercise towards facing pressure by increasing regular tension.

When playing under these circumstances I would consciously analyse and be aware of my state of mind. At certain stages/situations, I would focus on the (scary nervous, pressurised moments) and then I would use various methods to calm myself. For example, I would tell myself “relax and enjoy”, or I would wiggle my body to loosen the tension. There is an infinite amount of things you can do to reduce your personal anxiety but you must find what helps you. The key is finding out the cause, often the cause is external and not internal which causes matchplay anxiety.

2. Positive body language: hold your body upright, use only positive feedback such as “come on” “yes” good serve” “play positive” again use what suits you but it must always be positive! Some players like to release negativity by showing poor body language and expressing their disappointment after losing a point (e.g. Liam Pitchford) that’s fine as long as you can switch into a positive mindset, straight away.

3. Lastly, I would move and self-talk by bouncing up and down, releasing negative tension and keeping my body in a positive state. The self-talk would be an override of any negative talk which creeps in at crucial moments.

What has changed?

I remember training with a friend most Friday nights for many years. He would beat me 9 out of 10 times in practice at the club. We had our annual club championship and I faced my sparring partner at the same venue. The hall was the same, the tables were the same and obviously, I was the same person! The only difference was the just the layout and the title ‘Competition and Value’ “ The club closed championship”.

I won 3-1 even though I was expected to lose and the same happened with many other players in the club. 

Nothing really changed!! except for the mindset of each play

In reality, nothing has ever changed (from club to competition) but everything in your mind has changed. Once a title and value have been added you placed personal pressure. So change your mindset – Its just another table tennis match/game.

Remember no matter where you play or who you play, in reality we are all playing the same game and your opponent “is just another person with a bat in their hand” regardless of their TT achievements.

Written by Eli Baraty

Table Tennis Fear Maybe a Players Worst Enemy, “Once Bitten Twice Shy”


Many TT players fail because of one thing Table Tennis Fear. We all face that restricted feeling to perform in pressurised situations. I constantly hear players saying I did not perform or I beat him/her always in practice, but lost or lose in tournaments?!

First Bike Ride

I took my son out on his bicycle, he has been riding for about 3 weeks now but today he fell off (properly). He, unfortunately, cut his hand slightly and to be fair to him he did not cry and got back on his bike. I saw an instant change in body language and FEAR kicked in with signs of confidence loss. He was much more cautious and his stability and speed dramatically decreased which was followed by continuous falls. I believe the other falls were due to fear and on the last fall, he burst into tears. I did my best to encourage him by explaining that falling was a good thing and the more you fall the better you will be. Today he won’t fully understand me but in time as long as he continues he will ride his bike effortlessly. 

Table Tennis Match Fear

Time can develop a fear

When we first start playing table tennis (beginner stage) we are fearless; learning by watching others and experimenting with our shots. Nine times out of ten we progress quickly and once we reach a certain level we are told we have the potential to compete and once again we learn by playing, watching and unleashing shots without fear. We progress rapidly and our level and rankings increase alongside some local and possibly national titles. We enjoy our development up until boom FEAR kicks in! 

Table Tennis Fear kicks in

Fear kicks in, generally when we rich a higher level and obtain a club or personal coach alongside a supporting family. The coach tells us how we should play instead of guiding and nurturing our natural ability and our family have expectations.

Initially, we played because we enjoyed the game and saw progress due to fearlessness but now we think ahead! Once a player has been told not to do something or that’s wrong and his/her family expect them to achieve certain things, that player develops internal fear. The fear is caused because the player thinks, “if I make a mistake or don’t fulfil my internal and externals expectation I have failed”.

Everyone handles their table tennis fear differently 

A small number of players know how to handle fear and thrive under pressure for example (Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Rodger Federer, Mohamed Ali, to name but a few). I have worked with many players ranked top 5 and a few no.1’s. I found those who were top five were, in general, the ones who struggled the most under pressure and ultimately did not pursue their careers to its fullest potential. Working with no.1’s I found that they possessed the same fear but faced it differently. 

Mr No.1, loved the challenge and was fearless, he did not have family support but I was considered as family and coach. I spoke to my former student a few weeks back about how he handled fear and he said, I was fearless because you supported me regardless of whether I won or lost. He felt that no matter the result I would be proud of him and this gave my player the confidence to perform under pressure, as long as he gave it 100%. When he suffered unexpected losses it was not due to fear, it was lack of preparation, tiredness, or in a process of transition but never due to fear!

How to handle your table tennis fear

1. Remember why you play TT for the love and joy! you and your surroundings have developed those fears mainly due external factors and self success. Make sure your coach works with you and not against you, meaning he guides you and supports you regardless. Guiding means showing you how to improve and never saying a shot is wrong and “you must do it like this”. There is no wrong shot! ‘I often say to my players why did you not open up that half long ball? They reply what does it matter I won the point!! I explain yes you did and well done! but try to look at the bigger picture you may have won it on this occasion but if you faced world no.1 you most likely would have lost that point using that shot. That does not mean your shot was wrong I just want you to think about the shot selection you made. If you chose to push that’s fine just think about the consequences and who your facing (That’s guiding a player.) So try to guide yourself into executing the right shot and producing a positive shot rather than thinking or being told something is wrong and it must be done in a certain way!!!

2. Fear is in general thinking ahead, “if I play a wrong shot, or if I lose this point or match” those thoughts create automatic fear and we often produce those negative thoughts in reality. Try to stay tuned in the ‘NOW’ meaning what is currently happening and forget about the future because it has not happened yet! 

3. Face your fear: I like to put money or a drink when I play in the practice hall not because I’m a betting man (I don’t know what a betting shop looks like) but I like to bet on myself because I want to face my fears and learn to perform under pressure. When I competed I would challenge myself to open up on my backhand (my weaker wing at the time) at pressurised situations. Today I have no fear, opening up on my backhand side at any point of a match. I have created reassurance within myself and you can do the same if your willing. I challenge you to open up with your weaker wing under a pressurised situation, e.g your coach says ten pound right now 1 chance, you serve I push to your backhand, if you miss you pay me £10 if you get it on I give you £1.  

Facing your fear at crucial times

I will never forget coaching at the national championship, one of my players (was in the final). I called a timeout 9-10 down in the fifth. I said, he is serving half long backspin to your backhand, your pushing and he opens up and in general wins the point. I said, it’s your choice push and risk losing the match or open up and risk winning the match (pay attention to the words I used) both are a risk but one is positive the other negative. My player (Mr fearless, mentioned above) opened up and won the point, he won the next point on his serve and the next point again by opening up with the backhand. He became national champion U12 and U13 that year. I provided fear by asking him to do something he felt uncomfortable but I gave him the choice to face the fear or not. 

Taking a positive stance can make you or break you

He went on to become England no.1 after that event for his age and the year above and maintained that position for 3 years ultimately retiring at 15 years of age. I believe due to FEAR!!! at 15 he went to France to pursue his table tennis career, constantly told his shot selection was wrong and attitude is wrong by the club coach. Furthermore, he lost to various players in and around his age group which he had not experienced in
England and he lost me as his guide and support. All these factors produced internal fear subconsciously which may have changed his initial belief in himself?! 

The best handle control their fear

Jan-Ove Waldner was the best table tennis player I have ever seen under pressure producing shots that 99% of people would say “is he mad doing that at this point!!” he learnt to block out all the negatives and play fearlessly when others froze due to the magnitude of an occasion or situation

*If you learn to face your fear you will realise that it can be conquered and controlled but if you keep hiding from it you will never be able to control it