Last Sunday was my first time at Masaaki’s Sunday League as a trainee. It was my second time ever, last time right before I started training with him.
It was not pretty. I lost all 5 games that I played. I lost even to people to whom I won before (a woman that I managed to surpass in the 5th set the 2 previous times – this time she won the 5th one!).
I was really disappointed. Since the first game, I found myself thinking: “this is a disaster”. I felt really negative and burdened.
Dissapointing my Coach
I had high expectations for last Sunday. Maasaki (my coach) was going to be there to see how I applied to matches we were working on together during the training. Although he only stayed the first match (the one against this woman), I totally felt pressured to “keep up to the expectations”. We were doing great at the training (we had only 4 sessions or so, though), and he always said that I was making great progress. I felt disappointed that I couldn’t show that during the games.
From Training to Competing
See, the thing that made me most frustrated was actually not losing (well, that too), but most of all, not being able to play at the level I was training. Not being able to perform almost any of the strokes that I learned and executed just fine during the coaching. Not being able to take them into an actual game with an actual opponent that is giving the ball back in unexpected ways. I felt exhilarated when I got them right in the training, and I felt equally depressed when I didn’t do it in the matches.
Enjoying the Game?
Another issue I noticed is that I didn’t have as good of a time as when I train. And that’s also concerning, because the matches should be the ultimate goal of the training and not the other way around. Playing table tennis just for the training is not my goal. I want to be able to translate that joy to matches, where it matters. So that’s another thing that I have to start working on!
The 3 first matches were the most disappointing. I guess because I had the training feelings and sensations to compare with. And, as I said, the matches looked awful, compared to the training. So I was in shock. During the second or third one, I realized that’s the way it was going to be, and kind of accepted it and moved on. Also, the last 2 ones were against two guys that were obviously at a higher level than me, and I didn’t have that much pressure.
Results (looks bad)
My results were: 2-3, 2-3, 2-3, 0-3, 0-3. The 0-3’s were against the obviously better guys, people with actual training and looking to improve their game. The first three were with more casual players, and I had higher expectations to maybe win (I thought it should have been easy for me!), and that’s why they hurt more. I was closer, of course, 2-3, but the end result was more painful.
On the technical side, I realized I played mostly hitting, with the racket flat, almost with no spin at all. I guess that’s what I feel confident with for matches.
The challenge is going to be to transfer the cool and effective spin strokes that I’m actually able to perform (during training) to matches. I didn’t perform any successful topspin against backspin, not even on my forehand (let alone the backhand).
- Stop the arm after the topspin strokes (don’t let it go over my head). – didn’t do.
- Preparing and pausing before the stroke. Moving accordingly so I have enough time to pause and hit properly. – didn’t do.
On the tactics side, I realized that I’m basically clueless on the tactics. Meaning, I just send the ball back to the other side with no intention regarding the forthcoming points. Even for the services, I know how to perform some of them well, but that doesn’t give me the point because I don’t really know what to do with the 3rd ball.
The mental side, of course, is still the most important. I have to work on staying positive. Accepting that my level is what it is and I still get benefit and improvement from playing, even if I win not a single match.
At the end, I was able to be more acceptant and just assume that that’s what’s going to happen when I play for the following few times. Especially against people more experienced than me and, to say it plainly, just better than me. Hard for the ego, good for the game!