The Ability to Deal with Adversity

The Ability to Deal with Adversity
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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
  • Positivity
  • Enjoyment
  • Self-encouragement
  • Self-evaluative
  • Displaying a ‘Growth Mindset’
  • Calm in pressure situations
  • Self belief
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.
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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.
gav coaching tom
I recently saw a very interesting backronym:
FAIL means:
  • First
  • Attempt
  • In
  • Learning
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!
Thank you for reading.
Gavin Evans

BUCS Table Tennis Championships at the University of Nottingham

BUCS Table Tennis Championships at the University of Nottingham

University of Nottingham Team

22 hours coached in 2 days, was it worth it? My answer is, absolutely! The team produced there best when it mattered the most, winning 10 medals over the course of the weekend.

Saturday

Play started early on Saturday morning with many of our 3rd and 4th team playing the group stages. After some nail biting table tennis many progressed through to the first round, which meant they would be back with the cream of the crop on Sunday. The smiles on many faces were an amazing thing to see. For me this was great, not only are our first team performing, our lower teams are pulling their weight…. hard work really does pay off!  As the day went on, a sense of suspense was starting to gloom over the hall as some of the universities first teams came in. You could see the crowd compelled to the actions of some players completely in awe. They came to warm up for their doubles matches and not least to see out there fairly unchallenging singles groups. The day came to an end with most of our players into the Sunday draw.

Sunday

 I arrived at the hall at about 8:30am full of beans and ready to help our players to victory. Round after round some of our players started to drop, however we still had numerous exciting matches to come. As the ¼ finals and ½ finals started to get near, the crowd was filling up, some of the universities staffing team were in the audience, with the director of sport looking proudly as his team got into action. In the late stages of the competition the games were so close some going down to the very last set, however more often and not we emerged victorious in true GREEN AND GOLD STYLE! The highlight for me was simply, on every table we had our colours competing. As the day came to a close we didn’t quite manage to bring home gold in the individuals we had to settle for silver, although losing to some very reputable players.

UoN

 OK So what makes the University of Nottingham so great to work for? The structure, consistency and quality of the Table Tennis training at the UoN is simply second to none. High level practice partners, world class coaches and some great players all managed by Nicola Perry, in my eyes is very hard to beat….dare I say impossible. The university has strong links with China and are looking to develop all the time. As a player or a coach working there you cannot stand still. You must continue to develop to keep your place in the team. Academically you must be at a certain grade to be offered a place, so hard work is very much a clear trend and a thing of habit. There is a clear correlation of high level athletes coming through year after year all academic, this for me is a  message to anyone “striving for greatness” if you can commit to your studies with a mature outlook on development, this is a transferable skill easily emulated in sport.

Well done to all players and coaches involved, let’s do the same next year… JUST BETTER!

 Gavin Evans