What I Mean by Being Bulletproof

What I Mean by Being Bulletproof

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Bulletproof in sport is a feeling of inner confidence, a feeling of indestructibility and a feeling of your character being imperishable.

Are you tenacious? Will you persevere when the going gets tough? If your answer to these questions is yes, then you have some of the ingredients needed to being bulletproof!

Strong character

Part of being a successful sportsman, businessman or writer is having a strong character and a desire to achieve. In my playing career what helped me gain confidence was preparation – knowing I had done more than any other person; this for me then gave me the right to win. However, we must prepare in a clever and structured way starting with the basics. There is no point of training, putting the hours in, if you are reinforcing bad habits or not clear where you are going. We must have a way to measure progression. Try to find out which system works for you.

First we have to start with the body. As coaches, we are responsible for providing the players with knowledge on how to protect their body from injury and how to strengthen the body to optimise their performances. We need to make sure we are allowing time in sessions to develop agility, balance and co-ordination. If we create the environment and continuous encouragement the player’s responsibility is to do it and work hard at it!

Having a strong character, being able to come back from defeats and keep sticking with what you believe in are all traits champions have. Without these, the obstacles in life will be too great!

ETTA Nationals Sheffield 89
ETTA Nationals Sheffield, 28th Feb Ponds Forge Winner

How committed are you? Would you rather be out with your friends or train? Do you think about your sport before you go to bed? Do you make decisions in life based on what is going to best for your craft? Is your nutrition suitable for your sport? All these questions need to be a yes if you want to be the best.

It’s a lifestyle choice.

Visualisation

Visualisation is a tool I used every day when playing. I really feel if you can put yourself in situations you are going to face in competitions and have a Plan A and a Plan B to deal with them, you are more likely to be prepared for whatever happens and when the real tough times comes. Having a clear system in your head of how you are going to react in difficult situations and equally joyful situations fills you with confidence and a belief you can deal with anything. This, ultimately, will stop you being fearful and scared of the challenge, it will in fact create the complete opposite effect. You will embrace the fight and look forward to the obstacles.

Technical visualisation is also extremely important, imagining you:

  • Making the right shot choices
  • Moving and be sharp on your feet
  • Playing technically correct strokes
  • Being in the right position

This also goes hand in hand with the tactical element of the game:

  • Having a game plan against certain types of opponents
  • Which direction you are going to play your shots
  • How much spin or speed you are going to play with

 

Training the mind is a great chance to give you that edge when wanting to be the best and make yourself bulletproof. After all if you want to be extraordinary, find out what the ordinary do and do the opposite!  

This can be done during the day in your travel time or before you go to bed, it is a great tool, don’t forget to use it!

Technical

Technical practice is another crucial part of development. This is usually a discussion you would have with your coach – to be done on the multi-ball table. Being sound technically and having good foundations help endure lots of pressure against you. Another good reason for having good technique and good habits is when the pressure is on and the nerves kick in, we usually resort back to what we know best. Let’s get it right from the start! Having many different shots in your repertoire gives you lots of tactical options so you can the change the game at any given time to help you. Technique practice needs to be planned carefully and at a time of the year with fewer competitions, adjustments need to be made and they can take time to ingrain into match play.

Protect the body

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If any of you have followed my career you will understand why I believe a coach’s role is vitally important in supporting young players and filling them with the knowledge and actively encouraging them to protect their body.

Sport, places very high demands on the body and more often than not has a dominant muscle being used, this can cause repetitive strain injuries, can effect performance in a negative way and if very unlucky shorten the longevity of your career. Players start very young and are sometimes elite level at an early age. I feel it is a huge responsibility and almost unrealistic to ask a passionate 13 year old who only wants to play the game because they love it to research what physical preparation they should do and which conditioning training would be best. In my view this is the role of the coach – to know your sport and seek advice as to what demands and strains the sport has on the body and then come up with a programme to strengthen all necessary areas. Coaches then should use a period of time in the sessions for conditioning training.

 

“Don’t settle for mediocrity, place high expectations and demands on yourself”.

 

If you dissect all these elements of sport and preparations and try to focus on doing the right things day in day out, you are well on your way to becoming bulletproof!

 

“Nobody can be perfect, but you can be pretty close if you reach for the stars!”

 

Gavin Evans

Please see the link below for my blog about repetitive strain injuries:

https://gavinevanstt.com/2016/05/06/how-to-prevent-repetitive-strain-injuries/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Creating the Right Environment

Creating the Right Environment

Creating the right environment

 OK, so why is it that some training environments seem to produce great athletes time and time again, with what looks like the same set up as many others? Many times the qualification of the coach is the same, there is often  the same number of players, however almost certainly a particular place will produce better players, WHY? There are clubs around right now and definitely in my childhood where they would produce talent after talent. The easy thing for onlookers to say is, “well they are always going to produce players, look at the players they have already, imagine playing against them every day”. How did those ‘good’ players initially become good? The answer in my view is competition and environment!

Somewhere along the line an environment had been creating to allow individuals to excel. So what do I mean by competition and environment?

Competition

 Competition is a healthy thing for an individual, it allows them to see where they are and self-evaluate- a very useful tool, it allows them to be able to create goals, it allows them to strive for more and most importantly, with the right set up allows a player to have fun! When I started to play, I remember I wasn’t even good enough to enter the beginners group, so my mother and I would play on the tables adjacent to the group, copying and learning quickly what the group were doing. “I want to be in that group mummy” I would say, she would reply “keep working hard and you will get there one day”. This was my first experience of goal setting. At the club I trained at there was a beginner group, intermediate group and an advanced group. We all trained at the same time in the same hall, however we all wanted to be in the best group so this was an example of healthy competition.

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Environment

 So what do I mean by environment? Of course you must have tables, bats, balls and barriers and so on; however environment to me is how a player feels when they step into the hall. Do they feel confident, or do they feel inferior as though they don’t belong? Environment is very much the responsibility of the coach in charge, their job is to create unity! Unity in its simplest form means ‘joined as a whole’ and is the most important thing to creating the right environment. Players must feel proud of being part of your club, they must feel equally as important as anyone in the hall, they must feel they can ask the best player in the hall for a knock and they would get respect back, they must be encouraged, they must enjoy it, but most of all there has to be discipline. Unity is something which can be created off the table. Maybe a team day out? If a player is not so good at table tennis but is exceptional at fitness, use them for demonstration; integrate fitness into sessions for them. Giving players responsibilities is a good way of helping build confidence. Monthly prizes for best attitude, this all helps the morale of every person.

 

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So as you can see I feel strongly that with the right environment, competitiveness and unity every club has the opportunity of creating some super talents!

By implementing this mindset into your training environment, you will create a hardworking, fun and competitive atmosphere, where players have a growth mindset who are not afraid to fail!

I hope you have enjoyed reading this blog and possibly got some ideas to help your club achieve great things!

 

Gavin Evans

 

How to Prevent Repetitive Strain Injuries

How to Prevent Repetitive Strain Injuries

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What’s The T?

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).

 

Gym

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
  • Seated Row
  • Prone Trap Raises with a dumbbell in a Hammer Grip
  • Latissimus Dorsi Pull Down
  • Bent Over Barbell Row
  • Reverse Latissimus Dorsi Pull Down

 

The Shoulder

 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!

http://accidentalamazon.com/ther-scap-ex.pdf

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?

Tip:

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.

 

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

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

New Diet, New Me!

New Diet, New Me!

Can your diet help rehabilitate an injury and more importantly prevent an injury occurring?

Ok, so as many of you will know, table tennis was something that gave me huge amount of success, and a life one could never have dreamt of. Competing was all I had ever known and consequently I loved every second of it. I have always ever since a very small child wanted to be the best, and I have had a warrior like instinct to get there.

Over the last couple of years, injury in one particular part of my body has been extremely common, which has forced me to take a different route, although fortunately doing something I love. 3 operations on both my hips and steroid injections in my shoulder, yet still I experience pain when playing. This for me is very difficult to swallow, as I still feel in good form with my touch and feel around the table. I feel angry this has happened to me, as the sport I love playing is getting more difficult due to lack of mobility in my hips. I ask myself the question was I given the vital information about looking after my body when I was younger? Did I over train at a young age? Did I allow my emotionally love for the sport to take over the mature calculated approach I should of have for developing as an athlete? Was my nutrition correct?

Physiotherapy

During my time spent at the Isokinetic clinic in London just of Bond Street, the physio told me they would like to do a study on hip injuries in table tennis. Is it inherited, or is it a lack of knowledge of anatomy & physiology and bio-mechanics in our sport which is damaging us? After all the positions table tennis players put themselves in, are somewhat abnormal at times! The first surgeon that operated on me in London said he believes my condition was hereditary; he also operated on Ryan Giggs, so clearly very reputable.

Passion

So all that you have read above, of me expressing my anger, is the real passion behind what I do now. It is also the real catalyst into creating educational videos so people can have the right knowledge before training very hard.

Alkaline Foods

List of Alkaline Foods/Drinks 

salad

Baking Soda Broccoli
Dulse Seaweed Fresh Greens
Lemons Banchi Tea
Lentils Carrots
Limes Cashews
Lotus Root Garlic
Mineral Water Ginger
Nectarine Grapefruit
Onions Kale
Persimmon Kiwi Fruit
Pineapple Herbal tea
Pumpkin Seed Herbs
Raspberry Logan berry
Sea Salt Mango
Sea Vegetable Mustard Green
Seaweed Olive
Spirulina Parsley
Sweet potato Parsnip
Tangerine Passion Fruit Peas
Taro root Peppers
Vegetable Juices Spices
Watermelons Turnip
Apples Sweetcorn
Apricots Soy Sauce
Chlorella Asparagus

All of the foods mentioned above are examples of alkaline foods and drinks.

Acidic Foods

List of Acidic Foods/ Drinks

bread

Basmati Rice Peanuts
Beer Pecans
Casein Pistachio Seeds
Chestnut Oil Pomegranate
Chicken Popcorn
Coffee Pork
Corn Prunes
Cottage Cheese Rye
Cranberry Snow Peas
Egg Whites Soy Milk
Fructose Squid
Garbanzo Beans Artificial Sweeteners
Green Peas Barley
Honey Beef
Ketchup Brazil Nuts
Lard Bread
Maize Brown Sugar
Mussels Fruit juices with Sugar
Mustard Jam/Jelly
Nutmeg Fried foods
Oat Bran Ice Cream
Olives Liquor
Pasta Lobster
Pastry White Bread
Pickles Processed Cheese
Sugar Yogurt
Yeast Wine

All these foods/drinks listed are acidic.

So does having an alkaline diet work?

So, Why the lists? Why the Blog? I was at a table tennis tournament and someone said “why are you not playing?” the reason was simple; the pain in my hip was too great. He then proceeded to tell me, how he has never had any problems with his body before, and the reason behind it, was he has a very rich alkaline diet.

So over the next few months, I will be uploading recipes and videos of my diet and keeping everyone informed to whether the effects of changing my diet has a positive effect on my ability to play table tennis pain free!

Now some of you may have noticed, most of the meat is acidic. I will still be eating meat and other acidic foods; however it will be high quality meat. I will change from white pasta and white rice to brown and I will up my intake of all other alkaline foods, and get rid of the pointless acidic foods.

Who knows? I may be back fitter, faster and stronger!

I will keep you posted!

Gavin Evans