Home  »  Coaching Tips   »  

How to avoid “choking” in table tennis

How to avoid “choking” in table tennis?

A player asked me, “hi coach, how can I stop choking in a match? It’s my mental problem.

Yes, it’s a very good question, because table tennis mental preparation is very important.

You’re not the only one dealing with this. During a match, every player feels tightness at some point. Your emotional level has to rise. First, you have to be able to understand what that feels like.

Do professional table tennis players choke?

Yes, we are all human. Lin Gaoyuan, the professional player from China, often chokes at the important moment. His techniques are superior, but his mental strength is weak.

Pro players can choke and lose the control
Pro players can choke and lose the control

He lost in the winning situation. So here is a rare example of the comeback of Lin Gaoyuan.

Watch this tutorial:

How to avoid “choking” in table tennis?

Watch this video.


What is choking in sport?

In sports, “choking” is when an athlete makes a big, unexpected mistake in a high-stakes situation. When a professional fails, they often act like they know nothing. Here, we look at why we choke and how to avoid it.

So why would a top athlete play like a beginner all of a sudden?

Because choking is a type of reversion in the mind. You lost all of the attention in the table tennis match. You lost focus and concentration.

A complicated task that you were doing without thinking about it suddenly becomes very clear, and your conscious brain can’t handle how hard it is. And now that your conscious brain is busy trying to figure out the details of something you used to know. When you shifted your attention, you went from being an expert to a beginner in an instant.

How to avoid choking?

To avoid choking you need the right practice. Have you ever noticed that you’re less nervous when you’re playing someone who isn’t as good as you and you’re sure you’ll win? So, as you get better, more players will be at a lower level than you, and you’ll feel less nervous.

01 Reduce stress

You can reduce stress when you think only about 1 point, but not the match outcome. Be realistic about your standard. Be honest about your skill level. Don’t think you can play better than you can, and don’t think you can be sluggish and lazy in practice and then play well in games. You can only play as well as you practice.

Reduce stress
Reduce stress

02 Do your favorite routine

Do something that you feel the most confident in. Make a small routine so you don’t have to think too hard about what you’re doing when you’re not doing it. For example, you might bounce the ball or twist your bat. You could even sing a song about it, or say some slogan. The slogan of PingSunday is “in spin we trust”. This will boost your confidence.

Do your favorite routine
Do your favorite routine

Or in some hard situation, you can think about me. Say something like “thank you coach EmRatThich. Slow down. Slow down”.

03 Practice under pressure

When you practice under high pressure, you’ll gain the skills you’ll need to handle pressure when it comes. In a friendly match, you should think that this is the final of the Olympics match. Always think that you are Ma Long. And your opponent is Fan Zhendong. Do your best in the friendly match.

Practice under pressure
Practice under pressure

So, anything you can do in practice to make the pressure higher will make it less likely that you will choke in a game. Anything that makes you feel more pressure will help you in the real thing.

04 Slow down

Slow down to regain the calm. Take slow, deep breaths to calm your nerves and your breathing. When you’re nervous, you tend to breathe quickly and shallowly, so taking slow, deep breaths will help you calm down.

Slow down
Slow down

Go away and practice with these tips in mind to make sure you are mentally tough enough when you need to be.

I’m EmRatThich. If you found my free coaching advice helpful, please support me (Coffee or Patreon). Your support motivates me a lot. See you in the next videos.

Player’s feedback about choking

Some players have give me feedback:

I think people misunderstand choking. I’m choker. Choking is more about losing, for example being 2:0 up and losing 2:3. If u win being 0:2 down not meaning that u stopped being choker it’s more rival choked

Being a little nervous is normal. It is important that you remain calm and relaxed during the game. Slightly nervous also has its benefits, heightened concentration and mindfulness. You can clench your fist or cheer for a point or a set win. Any nervousness will go away on its own. Excitement only comes back at the end when you are 3:3 set and 10:10. There’s some nervousness again. It’s a question of mentality, whether it prevails. Just the same as I described in the beginning, just stay calm and relaxed.😉🙂

So far my only go to is take one point at a time and just play my game. Nothing else matters.

I played in the world champioship in Bremen team event 2006 germany and my country Nicaragua and jersey we tied 2-2 in match and 2-2 and the final game I was behind 6-10 in that moment I take deep breath and reach deuce and final I won 13-11 was work for me 😊

Some photos of Lin Gaoyuan: ((c) from WTT)

©PINGSUNDAY. Unauthorized use, translation or duplication of this material is strictly prohibited. Link and excerpt may be used, provided that clear credit is given to PingSunday with the specific link to the original content.

Sign up and join +65k readers. Get free coaching ebooks and coaching advice every week

Table tennis coach in France since 2012, founder of pingsunday.com (the best online coaching program for table tennis players). Born in Vietnam in 1983, Ph.D. in Université Pierre Marie Curie. Read more about him.

Leave a Comment