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.
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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

GTE Table Tennis Camp at Waterloo TTC

GTE Table Tennis Camp at Waterloo TTC

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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.

Warm-ups

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.

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Demonstrations

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.

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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)
• Lunch
• 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.

Multi-ball

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!

Cool downs

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.

Summary

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.

GTE Table Tennis Camp at Waterloo TTC

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!

Gavin Evans