Monday, 10 October 2016

Attitude is the Make or Break of Sports

We all train hard and build physical strength and skills in our sports (for us table tennis) but what sets players apart and makes them great? I recently played a handful of tournaments in New Zealand and by the end of it I probably couldn't have been any more disappointed in myself for how things went. I struggled to adapt to the playing conditions and after the first couple of tournaments I was more than a little frustrated at how things had gone. This all served to metaphorically scold me in a lesson which most people take for granted. The role of attitude in becoming an athlete.

Hopefully writing from my own recent experiences can help some of you relate to the situation.

Photo courtesy of Murray Finch
By the time the New Zealand Open came around I could only think of how badly I had been playing prior to the tournament. That was one of many mistakes. Going into the tournament with a negative mindset was setting me up for failure already and in many ways this tournament was what you could describe as a landslide in terms of attitude.

I found myself top edging a lot of balls, mis-timing shots, making average contacts and between all of that, becoming more and more doubtful about my ability to win. My confidence in myself and my game was all but diminished. By Day 3 of the team competition I was already seriously considering hanging up the towel on the sport I have dedicated quite a significant part of my life to. Why? Because I had so many doubts floating around in my head. Having doubts about your abilities is the biggest drain on your confidence you can have.

I felt sour inside and generally deflated and then I just stopped caring. My results quickly followed in the same direction. I had no competitive spirit, in my mind I felt like I hated playing tournaments and I had already committed to not returning to New Zealand to play. I was on the brink of retiring.

Two days later was an event I had committed myself and all my energy to. The Men's Doubles. I had injured my ankle during the event which hadn't really helped with all of this but I strapped it up the best I could and vowed to endure any pain which I suffered. In the doubles I was paired with Adam Hugh and I knew I had to give it everything. I had to try and find my A game.

So how could I find my A game when for weeks I had been performing badly? Quite easily. It was there the whole time. One of the great things about Adam (and those of you who know him will agree) is his ability to be almost explosively positive during matches.

It's contagious.

As we played through the early round I could feel my confidence building as I invested myself into the game. I had a partner to play for and, as it was my last event in the tournament, I had nothing left to lose, I wanted to end on a high note.

By the time we reached the 5th set of the semifinal stage I had so much confidence I had already committed to playing full table forehand. The results were clear. I had found my A game.

Photo Courtesy of Murray Finch
With Adam continuing to burst with positive energy throughout the match I found myself following suit and my game was uplifted with it. While we didn't win the final I sat down after the match and took a moment to reflect on a performance I was finally satisfied with. Not because my skills had improved, not because I felt physically stronger. No, none of those things made any difference, confidence and attitude were the difference between me playing like an idiot and having poor form and me playing like a world-beater.

Several players commented saying the doubles semifinal was the best table tennis they have ever seen me play. It was also the most confident I have been in a match in my whole career.

So the end result was an epiphany, one which might seem obvious. Attitude is the difference between good and great in sports. If you create confidence and positivity in matches, you are much more likely to find your A game than if you just go out there to play.

I left the tournament feeling a lot of disappointment in myself, but more importantly with a desire returning to me, to redeem myself. One of the most popular life quotes is 'never give up', it's pinned as the key to finding success, perseverance, determination even in the toughest of situations.

It is the attitude, from preparation before matches to on the table, which can determine whether you succeed or fail. It's an area of the game which a lot of people struggle with, something I can quite openly admit to finding difficult.

If anyone has any questions of topics they would like answering on mentality and attitude, feel free to email me at mhtabletennis@gmail.com

2 comments:

  1. Well attitude really matters in every profession and it can for sure make or break your prof. I read your post and i really liked it. Thank you for sharing.

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