Players don’t enter tournaments expecting to play poorly, or do they? If your expectation is that you will play horribly, you should probably save your money and not enter tournaments. It’s possible to play very well and not come home with a trophy. Seeding might have something to do with it. If you are the lowest rated player in the A group, you might not rack up as many wins as you might if you are the highest rated in the B group. Either way, you might have a great tournament experience. But, is there any way to guarantee a good performance?
While you can’t guarantee a good outcome on any given day, there are some ways to improve your odds for a great tournament experience. The key to getting the most out of a tournament is being mentally prepared. If it’s your first tournament, or your first tournament in several years, it might be a good idea to consider this to be a learning experience. This doesn’t mean that you don’t give it your best effort. It does mean that your initial tournament is a stepping stone to future tournaments where you can draw on past experience. It’s not possible to play at your best every time you play. The inevitable peaks and valleys of life insure that there will be days that you won’t be playing great. Knowing this, professional athletes map out their training plans, and strategically schedule tournaments with the goal of playing their best when it means the most. For the amateur, it’s a good idea to copy this formula. It may take several tournaments to get comfortable and gain confidence in a more competitive setting. Butterfly table tennis used to use the slogan, “tournament tough.” To achieve a level of tournament toughness will require plenty of tournament experience.
After each tournament, consider what steps will be needed to improve for the next tournament. Evaluate your training schedule and see what skills you need to emphasize. Keep playing matches. League matches and friendly games will help keep your game sharp. Whatever your goals, it will take planning and determination to persist, even when you aren’t playing your best. A training cycle of at least four months means you plan to peak three times a year. For some players, the cycle may need to be nine months, or even a year of training and preparatory tournaments.
This approach means that you will look at competition differently. Your focus is on your next tournament, not the results of weekly games and friendly matches. It will take some trial and error, some good days and bad. There will be some ups and downs. This can take some pressure off of you, knowing that every bump in the road doesn’t define you as a player. Reaching a peak means doing some climbing, maybe some clawing, and possibly falling. Most players don’t fly to the top, they plan their ascent, and start climbing.