December 4, 2013

Sports Psychology and Sport Psychology Books

After watching and coaching at the Teams, I'm upping the sports psychology training. In fact, I just got out to review my copies of "Get Your Game Face On" by Dora Kurimay, "The Inner Game of Tennis" by Timothy Gallwey, and "Finding Your Zone" by Michael Lardon. I also discovered that my copy of "Winning Ugly" by Brad Gilbert is missing, and realized I lent it to someone a long time ago and never got it back - so I just ordered a new copy. (A new version came out in May this year anyway.) I also discovered a new book, "Coaches Guide to Sport Psychology" by Rainer Martens which I just ordered. (Dora Kurimay and Michael Lardon are both sports psychologists and top table tennis players. Dora ran a sports psychology session at MDTTC I think in early 2012. "The Inner Game of Tennis" and "Winning Ugly" both use tennis as examples, but the principles apply to all sports, and they are both considered classics that are read by top athletes from every sport.)

I've undergone a lot of sports psychology training, and long ago incorporated much of it into both my game and my coaching. During the four years I was (at different times) manager, director, and/or assistant coach at the Resident Training Program for Table Tennis at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs (1985-89), the players often had weekly group sessions with the sports psychologists there, which I normally attended. Many had private sessions as well. But I think it'd be valuable for me to go back and review all the stuff I learned so long ago.

At the Teams it was interesting watching the different responses to tournament pressure by different players. Here are four of them, all ages 12 or 13. All four of them read my blog (at least sometimes), as do some of their parents, so I'm guessing they'll recognize themselves!

Player A was a vintage case of nervousness under pressure. He had difficulty throughout matches overcoming this, and especially when it got close. I'm going to be working with him on this as it really hampers his play as he tends to stand up straight, freeze up, and miss shots over and over that he makes pretty consistently in practice games at the club.

Player B seemed on edge much of the time, but was able to play well in spite of this - but it affected his tactics as he often was afraid to attack. Especially against weaker players he'd just push, chop, fish, and lob, even if he was losing. When he'd fall behind, he'd finally work up the nerve to attack, and then he'd start winning again - and then he'd stop attacking again. He needs to gain confidence in his game, which includes attacking.

Player C seemed to guide his shots early in games rather than just let them go, especially with his forehand loop, his best shot. But in contrast to most players, as it got close, he seemed to get looser, and his shots more fluid. He needs to work on relaxing early on, perhaps by pretending it's already deuce.

Player D wasn't really nervous, but he kept having slow starts as if he couldn't quite get up for the match. Then he'd turn it on and play really well for several games. But late in matches, especially in fifth games, he seemed to lose focus and get careless with his shots. He also is too easily distracted by outside things, which affects his play and leads to some matches where he's mentally not there. I have a few focus drills I want to try on him - one of which is where he practices serves while I try to distract him with "trash talk," and he has to just tune me out. (This is based on the famous Tiger Woods drill where he'd practice at the driving range while his dad would try to distract him.)

I'm working out plans for these players so they can overcome these problems, and ideally turn them into strengths. There's a reason why so many top players say the game is mostly mental. I'll likely be assigning some reading to these players.

While pulling out my sports psychology books, I also pulled out my copy of "Successful Coaching" by Rainer Martens, the best-selling coaching book in America. It also covers sports psychology. The five sections are:

  1. Developing a Coaching philosophy
  2. Sport Psychology
  3. Sport Pedagogy
  4. Sport Physiology
  5. Sport Management

So I'll be reviewing this book as well. (And I still have to read "The Next Step," so I've got some busy reading coming up.)

Difficulty Level of Table Tennis Techniques

Here’s an article that judges the relative difficulty level of various table tennis techniques, and puts them in five categories, from easiest (the counter-hit) to most difficult (topspin against topspin, i.e. counterlooping, and chopping against topspin).

Random Thoughts of a Table Tennis Nut from a Basketball-Crazy Nation

Here’s the essay from fellow TT nut Lorenzo Antonio Angel.

Ma Long for Super League’s Most Valuable Player

Here’s the article.

Ma Long and Yan An Backhand Topspin Training

Here’s the video (1:56).


Here’s a new picture of Snoopy playing table tennis. Here’s another one where he looks like Mr. Cool.

Never Underestimate Your Opponents

Here’s a hilarious new video (2:14) of two guys who underestimate the level of play of the two girls who ask to play. The two women are Austrian stars Amelie and Petrissa Solja.

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