I absolutely believe in visualization. I don’t really understand everything about it, but I’ve experienced enough positive results in my own life to be a believer. We spend a lot of time training our bodies in table tennis, but sometimes undo our progress with negative visualization. The problem with visualization is that it works both ways. If we constantly imagine that we are playing the same way, and having the same results, that’s what usually happens.
Turning this pattern around will require some very deliberate steps. If you have been stuck at a certain level of play, I’m not suggesting you imagine yourself becoming world champion. It is a good idea to visualize making aggressive shots, focusing on great serves, and finishing matches strong. Visualizing exactly the way you want to play, the way you want to feel, and the way you want to move, are all good exercises.
My own experiences have been more accidental than deliberate, but they have taught me some valuable lessons. It has occurred to me that winning means different things to different players. My own motivation is usually driven by a need for respect from my opponents. While I would like to always win my matches, I usually play my best up to the point that my opponents realize I might actually defeat them. This seems to result in playing a lot of close matches, but not always finishing strong. Understanding yourself, and your emotions is important if you expect to begin visualizing positively.
Before you dismiss the idea of positive visualization, realize you are visualizing already. You may be positive one day, and negative another. Running the same positive messages through your mind over a long period of time can have surprisingly good results, often turning dreams into reality. Mental training is not a substitute for physical training, but no amount of physical training will produce good results if you are mentally defeated.
Table tennis is, as we all know, a great sport for the brain. I previously wrote about this in Table Tennis Intelligence . But, there is a lot more to the brain than calculations and thinking. Emotions and dreams have a profound effect on our lives. Now is a good time to start visualizing yourself playing a new and better way. The more you envision yourself positively, and picture yourself playing well, the less room there will be for negativity. This could even spill over into your life outside of table tennis. But, if your intention is to play as well as you can; keep training your body, but don’t forget your brain.