Saturday, 27 August 2016

How to Deal with Losing Confidence When Your Best Shots Start Going Wrong

So recently I started a new job with USA Table Tennis as the Digital and Social Media Coordinator, you can read that article here. I had a busy couple of months doing media coverage and PR with the US Olympic Team as well as covering the US Nationals and Super Camp. After finally getting back home I covered the Rio Games.

As you can imagine my blog took a back seat but I'm happy to say I'm hoping to get back on track. Thank you to everyone for their submission replies to my email the other day. I loved this question from Roger, so I decided to go with this one first.

Regaining Confidence
Image from USA Today
Roger's question was 'How do you regain confidence when your best shot starts going wrong?'

Restoring Confidence in Practice

Obviously there are two occasions where you can lose confidence, one is in practice and the other is in the middle of a match. A player's form fluctuates on a regular basis, that is a normal element of playing a sport. With the highs and lows in training also comes movements in confidence. When we are training well our confidence grows, when we are not in good form our confidence depreciates.

One of the main confidence busters in practice is doubt. On occasions when you are putting a lot of hours into practice and your form hits bottom you may start to wonder whether you are wasting your time. It is important to remember that all players experience lapses in form. So when you are lacking confidence in the training hall, how can you restore it?

Employing a Confidence Drill:

This is one of my favourite concepts, the confidence drill. Usually a confidence drill is the one drill you can execute better than any other drill and sometimes centres around your best shots. Successfully repeating a drill helps your confidence build, especially if you begin to feel like you can't possibly miss.

My confidence drill is backhand to backhand and then I choose a ball and pivot to hit a forehand anywhere. The great thing about this drill is that with the forehand going anywhere it is hard for the training partner to anticipate where the ball is going, which leads to a high success rate as long as you can execute the forehand. A high success rate is the best way to build confidence back up.

Whenever training isn't going well I turn to my confidence drill to help me feel more positive.

Increase Focus on Consistency:

Missing simple balls is the easiest way to destroy your confidence. When you miss a ball which you really feel you shouldn't miss then you start to recognise that something is not going right. Often missing easy balls can be frustrating and emotion creeps into play causing you to distract from the practice or game itself.

Again as above, change the drillset to focus on restoring confidence. Simplify drills and strokes, reduce power and focus on more repetitions. Once you get your touch and form right at the basic level then you can build back up from the foundation levels.

Confidence Crucial to Match Success
Image from ITTF.com

Restoring Confidence in a Match

During a match is probably the worst place to have a dip in confidence, this can be caused by a number of different elements such as:

- Losing a string of points in a row
- Losing a lead
- Missing easy balls or simple executions
- Being genuinely outplayed

There are others of course and it is a psychological battle to stay positive. Losing confidence goes hand in hand with negativity but not always. Here are some things you can do when your confidence in a match starts dwindling.

Evaluate Your Shot Selection and Execution:

It is very important not to get caught up in negativity so you are able to focus on the issue at hand. Why are you missing your best shots?

- Are you making the right shot selection for the incoming ball?
- Are you reading the spin correctly?
- Is your body in the best position to execute the shot?
- Is your stroke technique satisfactory?
- Are you trying to do too much with the ball i.e over-swing, overpower

The list could go on. One thing I find important is to constantly focus on why I am missing shots, especially when they are my best ones. Sometimes losing confidence can detract your attention from very easily solved problems. Always be aware of why you are missing.

Stay Relaxed:

This one is very important. Often for some of the reasons stated above, we can start to get too tense. Being too tight can have a massive impact on your touch and can have big repercussions for your matchplay. Here are some pointers:

- Don't stress your strokes too much, fluid motions are the most efficient.
- Take your time, rushing will increase your rate of errors
- Try and keep your head clear of negative thoughts and focus one point at a time
- Try and focus on placement and control ratio over powerful shots until confidence comes back

Utilise Set Plays:

The best thing to do when you are losing confidence is to win points, I don't think anyone can argue with that. So you need to look to the simplest way to win points, set plays.

Set plays are pre-trained, highly probably structured points which give you a high possibility of winning a point. Every set play starts with a good, reliable serve with a pre-determined response.

Essentially a set play is a well trained point structure where the outcomes of every play are predictable to a high percentage, allowing you to preempt your opponents and hopefully win the point.

When I am struggling in a match or at a tight place i.e 10-10, I almost always look to my set plays to make sure I win the point. Each player has their own unique set plays, often more than one.

If You Don't Have Confidence to Attack, Change Tactics:

If I'm missing attacking strokes frequently in a match I like to change tactics and focus more on out-smarting my opponent. I reduce powerful attacks and replace them with short play, control and strong placement.

If you can't win points from doing your usual gameplay tactics then it is important to realise that before the match is over. When I can't attack I try to focus more on forcing errors and stopping my opponent from attacking. If I can do that then sometimes I will be able to reduce their confidence while restoring mine at the same time, a perfect way to turn the tables and scoreline on its head.


So I hope you have found this article somewhat useful and Roger I hope it has done a good job of responding to your question, again thank you for the submission. Keep them coming guys! :)

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