Coach Samson Dubina US National Team Coach 4x USATT Coach of the Year

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The Mental Timeout

Read About One of the Most Neglected Aspects of Table Tennis!

In table tennis, each player has one timeout per match lasting up to 60 seconds.  Most experienced tournament players are aware of this and use it at the appropriate time.  However, many players don’t use their mental timeouts!  During a match, a player is allowed to take a brief towel-off break every 6 points.  So if the score is 5-1 or 10-8 or 12-12, the player can take a towel-off break.  I call it my… “mental timeout” – the time that I can step back from the table for a few seconds, clear my mind, encourage myself, consider what I have been doing right or wrong, and form new strategies.
So on a 6-point break, should you take your mental timeout (towel-off break)?
Below, I have listed some situations where you SHOULD take your mental timeout:
#1 You should take your mental timeout if you are tired.  If you physically need to rest for a second, or need to dry off your body.
#2 You should take your mental timeout if you are losing.  You should consider how to correct your mistakes, how to expose your opponent’s weak points, and how to use your strengths.
#3 You should take your mental timeout if you are winning but your opponent score the last couple points.  Let’s say that you were winning 10-5.  Your opponent comes back to 10-8.  You now need a quick mental timeout to reassess the situation, focus, and play your best.
#4 You should take your mental timeout if you don’t have a good game-plan.  You aren’t sure what to serve or you aren’t sure what strategies to implement.  Then, give yourself a brief second to think clearly and form a quick strategy.
Many players are aware of the towel-off break, but few players use it effectively.  Use it in practice, use it at the club, use it in tournaments.  Table tennis is about 50% physical and 50% mental.  Many average players make mistakes over and over again.  Many professional players make mistakes – however, they are able to reassess the situation, learn from their mistakes, and adjust accordingly.