The great Greek philosopher Aristotle said “We are what we repeatedly do.” So It’s no secret that we are creatures of habit. This fundamental behavior can be seen in pretty much in all aspects of our lives. As a table tennis athlete, it’s important to understand how this relates to skill improvement and proficiency. When explaining this concept to my students I often put in simple terms: “The more you do something the better you get at it.”
Interestingly enough the number one question many players ask is; How do I keep doing something over and over again, day after day without getting bored or disinterested? For me the answer is quite simple, you challenge yourself.
For an athlete to truly evolve into better a player through the repetition of tasks they must first understand the what, the why and the goal of doing these tasks. As you continue to brave uncertainty and build confidence in your abilities, you must challenge yourself both personally and professionally to reach your goal. Here are some tips I think can help to get you on your way:
Always set a goal
Have something to work towards is a great way to start. In order for you to challenge yourself, you’ll need a realistic goal. This should be something you are having difficulty with for example getting to wide balls on your forehand during matches. Try to simulate this in game-like drills during your training sessions. Challenge to keep working in this till you’ve mastered it.
Always keep score! By this, I mean that you should always keep track of your results. How many times you’re able to hit your goal successfully during each training session. Challenge yourself to beat this number every week. For example, last week I was successful 20 out of 200 attempts, this week my goal is to break that record.
Let’s face it, doing the same task every day can be a bit boring. This is why many amateur players usually tend to wisp past the warm-up drills and move straight to the games as for them this is where the fun lives. To better deal with the issue of monotony training drills, try to be more creative in your approach. Try to come up with new routines that you may find more interesting. Adding some random drills to your workout is a great way to make things more interesting. For example, while doing a backhand to backhand counter drill, you could ask your partner to move the ball to the wide forehand anytime after the second or third ball. Challenge yourself to find these types of drills whenever you feel you’re getting bored during training sessions.
Find your superpowers
The path for development for many players is self-realization. This is the point when they discover what I like to call their superpower. For some, this could be a serve, forehand or backhand loop and for others, it could be as simple as how quickly they can get to balls. Knowing this allows you to grow exponentially as you can begin to structure your game around your best features. An example of a player who’s game is structure off their best feature would be former World Champion, Zhang Jike. His service game and ready position stance both favor his backhand as this is his favorite stroke. Challenge yourself to find the things you’re really good at.
Never stop learning
Once you start learning more about yourself and what you’re good at, improving your knowledge and skillset will become more relevant to you. Stay curious, always try to learn as much as you can about current trends and tendencies in table tennis. This will help you understand more about what to practice during your training sessions. Challenge yourself to watch more pro matches regularly. Use these matches as inspiration to create a new training drill at least once per month.
Accomplishing things that you didn’t think was ever possible can be an awesome way to boost your confidence. However, without challenging yourself, you will never know just how far you can go and what you can truly accomplish in your table tennis career.