Hmmm…. I’ve heard of introspection, but not extrospection. This little used, but lengthy word, is essential to playing advanced table tennis. For years I’ve been telling beginning players that the longer they play, the less they will be concerned about how they are playing, but will be focused more on the movements of their opponents. It’s okay to be an introspective person, but introspection may be working against even the most advanced players.
This theory is illustrated in this TED Talk about misdirection.
Apollo Robbins, considered one of the greatest pickpockets in the world, explains how he picks pockets by getting his victims to think introspectively. The misdirection is not outward, but inward. The point is that if you are taking inventory, or shuffling through the files in your brain, you may not notice your wallet disappearing.
Consider all the things that you might be thinking of during the course of a match. During a key point you might be telling yourself to relax, don’t forget to spin the ball, and trying to remember some of what your coach said. None of those messages have anything to do with what your opponent is doing. While you are thinking about the score, who’s watching, and how you look, your pocket may be getting picked. Your opponent may soon be walking off with your points, and a nice trophy.
Extrospection is observing external things. Is your opponent nervous? Are they out of position? What serve are they doing? What are their weaknesses? Focus is essential, but only if you’re focusing on the right things. There will be plenty of time for introspection after the match. Remember that thirteen letter word, and get yourself pointed in the right direction.