Practice matches are exactly that - practice. That means you should play them so as to maximize how much practice you get from them - meaning maximizing your improvement from them. This means several things.
- Play practice matches as hard as you play tournament matches. If you don't play them seriously, then you won't be able to practice the mental or physical skills you'll need when you play tournament matches.
- Play them for practice. This means playing some matches exactly as you'd play them in tournaments, so as to maximize your practice for how you should play in a tournament. But you should also use them to practice the techniques you need to develop. For example, if you have trouble counterlooping, and so avoid counterlooping in practice matches, then you'll never develop your counterlooping skills in a match situation. This is your chance to practice the style you are trying to develop.
- Don't worry about winning or losing; worry about how you played the game. Did you maximize your practice (good) or maximize your chances of winning (sometimes good)?
To give an example of the difference between a practice match and a tournament match, I'll use a player I used to play named Paul. I was rated a little higher than him, but he had one skill that he did a lot better than me at the time - he was a great counterlooper. So, when we played practice matches, we had lots of counterlooping duels. My counterlooping got better and better . . . but he always won, since we were playing his game. Then we played in a tournament - and this time I stayed mostly right at the table, only occasionally counterlooping. I won easily. Result of all this? My counterlooping game greatly improved, and I not only held my own when I did counterloop with Paul, but it was much better against others as well.
So, next time you play a practice match, think about what type of practice you need and what type of game you are trying to develop, and go to it!!!