Between pitches in baseball, the batter steps out of the batter’s box to re-focus.
The same thing is true in table tennis; the pros often call this the “think circle.”
Between points, step back about 4-6 feet away from the table and draw an imaginary circle around yourself and collect your thoughts in your think circle. Every pro athlete has a different method of processing the points, relaxing, and gearing up for the next point, but I’m going to give you the method that I personally use.
#1 Ask yourself the question, “What just happened?”
While the point is fresh in your mind, you should replay the details of each hit. If you can’t remember how you messed up, you will likely make the same mistake again. If you can’t remember how you scored, then you won’t likely be able to capitalize on your opponent’s weak points.
#2 Remind yourself of your primary tactics.
From the first few points of the match, you should be forming some specific tactics based on your strengths and the opponent’s weaknesses. Point by point, you should be willing to adjust your primary tactics, especially if you are losing.
#3 Breath deeply.
Deep breathing has a calming effect allowing you to forget about that missed smash, calm your anger, and come back focused for the next point.
#4 Ask yourself the question, “What’s next?”
If you are serving, first determine exactly what you plan to serve and what the possible returns will be. If you are receiving, then ask yourself how you plan to deal with fast serve, how you plan to deal with short backspin serves, how you plan to deal with no-spin serves. Remember, you must stay fairly neutral when receiving and be ready for anything while at the same time, having general tactics against various serves.
This method that I briefly explained is the method that I use to analyze the point, remind myself of the plan, calm myself down, and get to the specifics. I would encourage you to develop your own method and be consistent at using it during drills, club play, leagues, and tournaments. As with any skill, it takes time to develop, but it is definitely worth the effort!
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