Adversity means a difficult or unpleasant situation, I am going to write this blog about being positive and not negative when facing an adverse situation.
Growing up was a process that happened very quickly for me with not a lot of notice. There I was, a very young boy in a world of full time professional athletes, traveling around the the world and exploring some very hard training enviroments in the likes of China! At about the age of 10, I was told by the performance director of British Table Tennis,
” You must have a old head on young shoulders, if you want to achieve great things”.
That very sentence is a series of words which I firmly agree with and have stuck with me forever. Why is this relevant in table tennis?
Around the UK – week in, week out – there are competitions being played in sports halls with hundreds of children all with a common denominator. They want to be successful and if possible the best! As I have attended these events and looked around numerous 2 stars and 4 stars, the one compelling thing for me is the difference in one childs characteristics to another, often the same age. Almost without a doubt the players who display the most mature mentality are the players we look upon as “winners”.
Positive Mental Attributes
Ability to absorb information (being very receptive)
Ability to change tactics and game plan when the going gets tough
Displaying a ‘Growth Mindset’
Calm in pressure situations
These are all positive characteristics “winners” have in common. As coaches we must try to install as many of these attributes into our players as early in their playing careers as possible. However these players may also display extreme anger or negative behavior in certain situations. Anger shows competitiveness and a desire to win. This must be balanced – knowing where the line is and not allowing it to effect the next point. They must be ready, calm focused ready to play the next point.
Old Head – Young Shoulders
Dealing with adversity and having a growth mindset work hand in hand. Maturity enables us to cope with defeats and use losses as a positive to improve a skill for next time. Maturity also enables us to, when facing a deficit, keep composed and think clearly in order to regain parity. How many times do we see a child giving up and giving off a ‘ I cant do attitude’? Instead of thinking ahead taking away pointers to get better and fine tweaking or learning a new skill in the practice hall. Preparation is again a sign of a mature player who has every opportunity.
“FAIL TO PREPARE,PREPARE TO FAIL.”
The sooner a player can deal with challenging situations, the easier life will be and equally the better they will perform. If a player is able to get the balance right between wanting to win and understanding that a defeat will aid their development, the pressure on oneself is far less than a player who only cares about winning and can’t see past that.
I recently saw a very interesting backronym:
This, I thought was very relevant to this blog and a great example of a growth mindset if you apply this to your learning outlook.
Winning a table tennis match is of course very important and extremely rewarding, however when you lose it is an opportunity to go back to the training hall and get it right. The great Jan Ove Waldner was onced asked why he was so good, his response was quite genius;
“I learnt to lose”.
This is quite ironic considering most of us seldom saw the Mozart of table tennis lose.
My performance director was right and this hopefully has explained what he meant when he said,
“You must have a old head on young shoulders, if you want to achieve great things”.
There is always a positive to every sporting situation with a growth mindset, and we must always remember this!
Repetitive strain injuries are often seen and found in elite level athletes, however an injury like this can develop through playing a sport or regularly using the same muscles. A RSI (repetitive strain injury) is normally caused my using an area of the body more than what most people would consider normal. This is not always a bad thing, as to become good at anything in life you must do it a lot, usually more than others, so without the right knowledge an injury can occur!
Over the last year or so many people have been coming to me for fitness advice and table tennis advice. A regular conversation I have is around an injury one may have just developed, and they can’t understand why. Almost unequivocally it is an RSI (repetitive strain injury). Now a common injury area in table tennis is the shoulder, so in this blog I will explain how to prevent this injury and sustain a strong stable shoulder.
Pain in the front of the shoulder (Anterior Deltoid) with a sharp shooting sensation when raising the arm are all common occurrences. This is caused by a lifetime of f/h exercises which draw the shoulder forward, into a protracted position and inevitably create strong pectoral muscles and neglect the back muscles around the scapular causing them to weaken. Once the back muscles are weakened this causes a loss of shoulder control and instability which then causes pain to your rotator cuff muscles Supraspinatus and Subscapularis (front shoulder).
If you are a table tennis player or a tennis player, when you work out in the gym be sure to do a lot of strength work around your mid and lower trapezius. This is the major muscle surrounding the shoulder blade. Below I have listed a few great exercises to do to strengthen your back and mid trapezius muscles:
High Pulley Cable Row
Pull Up with hand facing you, grip slightly narrower than shoulder width
Bent Over Lateral Dumbbell Raise
Reverse Pec Dec
Standing Cable Rear Deltoid Extension
Bent Over Cable Lateral Raise
Prone Trap Raises with a dumbbell in a Hammer Grip
Latissimus Dorsi Pull Down
Bent Over Barbell Row
Reverse Latissimus Dorsi Pull Down
The Glenohumeral is a synovial ball and socket joint commonly known as the shoulder with a large range of movement and somewhat complex as there are many muscles which attach to it.
The four rotator cuff muscles are extremely important and must be worked correctly. They are the Subscapularis and the Supraspinatus located at the front of the shoulder and the Infraspinatus and Teres Minor located at the back of the shoulder. These muscles connect your shoulder blade (Scapula) to the Humerus your arm bone.
It is also extremely important to remember, the muscles which need working the most are not the ones which look good or are easily seen! It’s the ones which cannot be seen but are there to stabilise a joint and add controlled strength to prevent injuries. I have put a link below to give you some ideas of some crucial exercises to help stabilise and strengthen the shoulder!
These exercises can be performed with a Theraband or a resistant band. The exercises are to be done very regularly, performing the exercise for 20 repetitions 3 times each.
How do I know which muscles I need to work to prevent an RSI?
This question is important to understand. The main concept of this is to recognise which muscles you are using most in your everyday life then consciously train the opposing muscles group to equal out the dominance. For example if in life you use your chest muscles all the time, then train your back muscles, if in life you use your quadriceps all the time, then train your hamstrings, if in life you use your biceps all the time, then train your triceps, if in life you use your abdominal muscles all the time, then train your lower back muscles.
I hope this helps. If you have any questions about your own development please contact me without hesitation.
Firstly, I’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone that came to the camp this weekend (2nd & 3rd April 2016). Natalie, Emily and I enjoyed it very much. Also a big thanks to Cliffedale Chandlers Table Tennis Club for the tables and a big shout out to Darran, Matt and Sue Leete.
The feedback has been overwhelming. I’m thrilled that so many of you benefited from the 2 days and equally enjoyed it. So thank you so much to everyone, you all said really lovely comments about the camp and about us as coaches. We are so grateful and really appreciate it. Here is a quote from a happy participant on the camp:
Hi Gavin, Just to thank you and Natalie for a great days coaching and especially the multi ball at the end. I am absolutely shattered. I hope tomorrow goes well. Do keep me on your mailing list for the next camp.
My only regret for the camp is that I wish that we’d taken loads more photos! Check out my album on flickr by clicking on the photo below.
Myself and the coaches are discussing dates for our Summer Table Tennis Training Camp. I will be keeping you all informed on any developments. If you have any questions about the camps or about any further training please do not hesitate to contact me.
Overall it was a great weekend and I can’t wait to see you all again soon!
So last month I said that I was going to start a more alkaline enriched diet. As I’ve been making my meals, I have experimented with different combinations of alkaline foods.
The meal that I have found to be the most difficult to make is breakfast. A lot of people struggle with finding a breakfast that is healthy, not boring and that tastes good too!
Below are two simple breakfast ideas that are not just your average porridge or weetabix.
Green Pepper and Spinach Omelette (for 2) – (V)
An omelette is a great way of getting essential protein into your body and by adding green vegetables you are also getting one or more of your 5-a-day and essential vitamins and minerals. Eat this with a toasted wholemeal pitta for your slow releasing carb fix and a dollop of houmous for some extra zing! Don’t forget to drink a large glass of water with your meal so you stay hydrated. This is a vegetarian meal that can also be eaten for lunch.
1 green pepper or 1 cup of frozen mixed peppers
1 cup of fresh spinach
3 or 4 eggs (depending on how big you want the omelette)
Semi-skimmed milk (150ml for 3 eggs or 200ml for 4 eggs)
2 wholemeal pitta bread
2 desert spoons of houmous
Dash of salt and black pepper
Dash of extra virgin olive oil
1 medium to large frying pan
1 0.5L jug
Pre heat the grill to 200ºC
Chop the pepper into medium size chunks or to a size you prefer
Heat the olive oil in a frying pan on medium heat
Add the chopped up peppers to the pan and saute for 1 minute, then add the spinach and mix until the spinach has wilted
Crack the eggs into the jug and add the milk and salt and pepper – whisk together
Make sure the pepper-spinach mixture is evenly distributed in the pan and then pour the egg mixture into the pan. After 1 minute turn the heat down on the pan so that the omelette doesn’t burn
When the omelette has mostly cooked through, put the pan under the grill so that the egg cooks on the top and browns slightly
Cut the pitta bread in half and pop in the toaster
Plate up the omelette and the pitta bread, dollop 1 desert spoon of houmous to each plate and enjoy!
Super Duper Morning Yogurt Pot
A fun way to kick-start your day, it’s more than just a yogurt and it’s mightier than a smoothie! This breakfast is easy for people who are short of time in the mornings or for commuters to grab and go. If you’re a really early starter, you can prepare the smoothie the night before and keep in the fridge over night.
1/2 cup of frozen summer berries
1/2 cup of spinach
30g of rolled oats
1/4 cup of almonds
1 tbsp of chia seeds
500ml of water
Blender (Nutribullet or a similar alternative)
Sistema To Go Mug (Method 1 – for holding your Super Duper Morning Yogurt Pot. Although, I bought an unbranded one from Poundland)
Add the summer berries, mango, spinach, banana, oats, almonds, chia seeds and water to your blender and blend until smooth
Put the yogurt and the mulberries into your ‘to go’ mug and pour the smoothie that you just made over the top of the yogurt-mulberry mixture
Stick you large straw into the mug, mix everything together and drink up!
Add the summer berries, mango, spinach, banana, almonds, chia seeds, natural yogurt, mulberries and water to your blender and blend until smooth
If you have a Nutribullet blender or a similar alternative, use the drink lid to take your Super Duper Morning Yogurt Smoothie out and about. Or just drink it before you leave for work and feel re-energised until lunchtime!
If you do try out these recipes, feel free to let me know how it goes!
It was 7am on Saturday 12th March, as myself and Emily headed up north to the city of Liverpool to deliver a 2 day table tennis camp organised by Graham Chellew. We had been once before to do the same so we were very excited and honored to be invited back. As we left our house it was very foggy, which made the journey slightly longer than we would of hoped, however we arrived safely and raring to go.
I am very passionate about delivering fun but also fitness based warm-ups to raise the core temperature and to build up agility and co-ordination. As part of the warm up we used cones, speed ladder and balls. The balls were used to help participants catch and think about a moving object while doing quite challenging footwork. Instantly this focuses the minds of players, so when they come to the table to play, it is that bit easier than usual. Shadow play was another warm up we used to ingrain good footwork and technique without worrying about keeping the ball on the table. This is a good way of improving muscle memory to different parts of the body, so once again life is easier when you start to play and more challenging obstacles are there to overcome.
Demonstrations are a key part to an athletes’ development; this allows those visual learners amongst us to take in different patterns of play and technical advice, so they can replicate the movement seen. Bandura’s model of observational learning is part of his Social Learning Theory. This states that when an individual is learning a new skill, there are 5 components for this model of learning to be effective. These are:
Attention – The learner must observe a demonstration for them to copy. This creates an image in their mind to replicate.
Retention – The learner must then almost immediately try to perform the new skill based on the demonstration that they have just seen.
Motivation – The learner must be motivated to perform and try the new skill. This is a part of having a growth mindset and being prepared to fail before succeeding.
Motor Reproduction – The coach must be sure that the learner can replicate the skill. It may be too hard because their muscles are not strong enough or too cognitively difficult.
Significant Other – This can be a role model for the learner or a person that the learner can relate to e.g. a child doing the demonstration can be useful for other children.
Moreover it gets the group together to talk about the exercises and iron out any questions before players start to play.
Format of the day
• 2 regular exercises (Focused closely on timing point and movement wide fh)
• 1 irregular exercise (Close focus on anticipation and moving efficiently)
• Service exercise (Focus on good receive and good consistent first attack)
• Top table ( Situational match play to learn match strategies, e.g server is 5-7 down, 8-8 etc)
• Service exercise based on what we feel needed improvement before lunch.
• Fh flick and Fh touch exercise (Focusing on having a plan A and Plan B when receiving)
• Serving master class
• Competition at the end of the day.
Every player receives multi-ball throughout the day to target areas they want to further improve (strength) or a weakness they want looking at more closely. Multi-ball is also another way of improving muscle memory, along with being a good cardio vascular workout as the balls just keep on coming!
Warm-ups are widely recognised as a valuable practice to an individual’s development, although one area which is widely overlooked is a cool-down. A cool down is designed to slow the heart rate down and cool the core body temperature after strenuous activity. Make sure after exercise to walk or jog slowly for at least 5 minutes and then perform stretching as this is a crucial time to lengthen the muscles and increase flexibility.
Overall everyone improved their game tenfold and enjoyed themselves, which is the most important thing. I would like to take the time to thank everyone who came to our camp, once again it was an absolute blast!
Please check out the full photo album on flickr by clicking on the image below.
I am fascinated by the psychology of the human mind, especially when it comes to sport. I have written a little bit about Bandura’s Social Learning Theory in this blog post: I will be writing more about sport psychology in the oncoming months.
Thank you for reading my blog, something awesome happened on Saturday night which will feature in my next blog, so keep a look out and don’t miss out!
As some of you may already know, I’m not that good with technology. I can do Facebook and Twitter (although I’m still not great at that) but Emily has been pestering me for ages to get Instagram and all sorts of other profiles that I may or may not need. In the end, I didn’t do any of it. Em took my phone, downloaded the Instagram App and set up my account.
I was happy at first because I thought that she was going to do it all for me. All the fancy photo editing that I don’t even know about. She posted the first two photos (well one photo and one video) and I only had to approve the caption, so I thought great! Instagram is not my problem. But no. Apparently I have to learn the hard way.
So as you all know – I never give up! I’m going to give it a go and post photos and videos of what we will be getting up to in the future.
A true champion is someone who wins under the harshest of pressures and nearly always delivers when they need to.
So what defines a true champion? What makes Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Tiger Woods win time after time with what looks like and inability to choke? The strong trend and correlation between them all is an indestructible confidence, frightful competitiveness and an unshakeable trust in their game.
These global phenomena are seen in every generation. I believe strongly that the champions are made in the training hall, not by the number of hours they train but how they apply themselves is what sets them apart from the rest.
Second to all of the above they have the ability to turn it on when it most counts. Djokovic time and time again looks on the very brink of defeat entering the all-important 5th set of a very important match, but converts it so effortlessly to an easy 6-2 win, without any hesitation. How?
Have a goal every session
Many of us train but just go through the motions and swing our arm, in the hope we will feel good at the end of the session. Make sure you put emphasis on a particular outcome you would like to achieve at the end of the day however big or small, then monitor progression and adapt goals accordingly.
Competitive approach and targets
When doing a simple drill, think about a match play scenario how you would feel doing this rally in a match. Set yourself a specific target (“I must make 10 shots on the table, any less is unacceptable and consequently I would lose if I didn’t make them”). Play games with your opponent or in your own head by carrying out the exercise but score it from 9-9. All these things will help you perform when the pressure is on.
Do the small things in life right
How many of us leading up to a tournament have the right diet or the optimal amount of sleep or carry out a perfect strategic physical programme? This type of practice will set you apart from the rest. Running on Christmas day, making sure your bat is right, having your bag ready the night before so your mind is clear and not anxious, preparing healthy nutritious snacks for throughout the competition day so you maximise your energy levels. All of these mentioned will help build your confidence, as the saying goes
“fail to prepare, prepare to fail”.
Tactics and forward thinking
So leading up to the tournament you are playing great often better than you have ever played before, but all of a sudden come tournament day you feel like you cannot play. This is not a coincidence; this is the power of the mind. When practicing we feel free and relaxed and we often think of other things even when practicing. However when we enter the playing hall our focus suddenly becomes very introvert and all of our focus is on ourselves, how we feel, how we look etc. Try to turn your focus on your opponents, have a clear tactical strategy for everyone you play. Don’t think about rhythm when warming up, turn your focus to how am I going to win the point, what serves should I practice, which direction should I play. This way of thinking will in turn take all your focus away from yourself and allow you to play on instinct which is what you know best as this is what we all do in the training hall.
OK so by now you probably know by reading this, I believe greatly in the mental side of the game.
By following the advice listed above, and practicing in the right way, this will help build your confidence. This will allow you to think “I deserve success as much as anyone, so I can do it”. It will also prepare you for very tight moments, for example when its deuce, you will be used to putting yourself under pressure, as you do it in training every day, in the right way!
If you have a problem with nerves, or struggle to perform at your best when you most want to, or you always seem to play better in practice and just wish you could do the same in a tournament, or if you are coach looking to create the next superstar, I hope this has helped.
” With his first-class instructional techniques, highly professional approach and supportive nature, I can wholeheartedly recommend Gavin Evans as a table tennis coach. Under his instruction, I feel I have made great improvements in a very short space of time, and consequently my enjoyment for the game has risen tenfold.”