Five Peer-Reviewed Articles Which Address Your Identified Ob Outcome Variable Calming Ping Pong Emotions – Part 1

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Calming Ping Pong Emotions – Part 1

They swing wildly back and forth or suddenly explode. For many, emotions during competition can even destroy the fun for their friends nearby. As a coaching authority for over 25 years, the author will discuss the nature of the problem, how professional athletes handle it, and provide some concrete ways that overly competitive players can calm the emotions that damage their “play time” and ours!

We’ve all seen it happen to an individual during competition. More often it is males who exhibit these behaviors. The causes are due both to nature and nurture, but this discussion will remain non-gender specific.

Often, it begins with the player who starts moaning or groaning about “things not going their way today”. The frustration gradually builds during a team sport or individual sport like table tennis, tennis, or racket ball. Suddenly it explodes.

A racket goes flying, or a ball sails over the fence or worse, a friend or acquaintance becomes a target. A person who is generally kind in nature changes suddenly during competition.

Given the enormous number of contests, rarely does this happen to professionals. Those making a living in sports, especially individual sports, have made some important “emotional adjustments”, often with outside help. They do this because they MUST to be competitive, to make a living.

Unfortunately, recreational players are not often so lucky to get outside help or forced to change. This article will explore some of the behind the scenes “emotional adjustments” that the pros make, but first, it’s helpful to look at the personality who needs them and the exact reasons to do so.

The victims of “Ping Pong Emotions” usually see themselves as overachievers, and often work in another competitive environment from 9 to 5. The recreational sport they choose, whether table tennis, tennis, or basketball, is a passion that deserves the same intensity they bring to every task. The outcome of each individual effort within that contest is a measure of accomplishment, a test of their self-esteem.

A psychologist would call them “Over Reactive” or what used to be called a classic “Type A Personality”. Tactically, in tennis and other sports, there are several GREAT reasons to stay calm on court that are NOT personal. They are why tennis professionals, for example, make the effort to change as displays of negative emotions cost them matches and lots of money.

First, emotions are not the enemy here. Every human has them. The mission here is to keep them productive, not destructive. Recreational players like the pros, should briefly celebrate successes at key junctures in competition. In tennis especially, some points are more important than others, some critical. Creating positive emotional expressions after an important sequence helps establish momentum, but negative emotions are best hidden for tactical reasons and confined for personal reasons.

Tactically, showing negative emotions encourages your opponent AND gives tactical advice to them. It gives them what a poker player would call a “tell”. The strategy against someone who is desperate, or on the edge of emotional collapse, is different than the strategy a great competitor would choose if the opponent appears stable.

The best competitors maintain a “poker face”, a business like countenance. Essentially, a tennis match should be played like a polite poker game with no “tells”. Celebrate winning a “big pot”, but get back to business after that.

In a team sport, like tennis doubles, the success of your team REQUIRES that you maintain a positive, cooperative, encouraging attitude in the face of adversity–AT ALL TIMES. Anything less is destructive behavior to your teammate, thus your team. A coach SHOULD bench any player whose behavior harms the team. Simple enough?

You and your partner/teammate are in this together. Humans read body language very well. Slumped shoulders, turning away from them, or biting your lip when they fail harms the team. Dr. Allen Fox, the great coach, tennis champion, and sport psychologist, says that If you wince when your partner makes a mistake it is because of your own insecurities.

Mistakes and miscues are inevitable. The great teams are measured by how they move forward after that. Great teammates ALWAYS encourage their partners after a mistake for two great reasons. First, the team will need a better performance from that person as soon as possible. Second, if the roles were reversed, you would want to be supported and treated like you were valuable and about to play better any moment.

It’s important to realize that external signs of frustration isolate and disorient your teammate(s). It makes them feel helpless to help you. Then after they have that feeling, they have to execute properly and who wants to have to do that? Yuck!

Because outward signs of frustration hurt your team, that by itself, should be extra motivation take the steps necessary to calm over reactivity during competition. In the next article of this series, we will examine concrete methods that great competitors employ to do just that.

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