Written by José Miguel Montoro.
On Saturday, I'm playing in my first ever official USATT tournament - the Sacramento Fall Open in California. It's a big deal for me!
Competing in sanctioned USATT tournaments was one of my goals when I started taking my table tennis more seriously back in April. I'm very happy that it's finally happening and that my efforts will translate into something tangible.
That doesn't mean I have any expectations of winning - although I do have thoughts of it.
Since this is my first USATT tournament, I don't have an official rating yet. My club rating is around 815. Nevertheless, my coach Masaaki suggested competing in the following categories
- Under 1075
- Under 1200
- Under 1375
All of those are way higher than my current level, and the people I'm used to playing against. It's going to be crazy! I'll probably lose most, if not all, of my games.
I have to admit that, many times, I’ve dreamt of just going from zero to champion; winning all of the games that I play because there's a hidden gem in me waiting to be revealed.
But that’s not how table tennis, nor reality, works. I’m fully prepared to play my best table tennis on Saturday and still lose. Why are you playing then, you might ask?
Why I Decided to Enter
I’ve heard my coach Masaaki repeat the following mantra many times... "Matches are another drill." You can interpret that sentence in many different ways, actually. But the way I read it is like this...
The ability to play well in a match is something that needs to be trained. A specific skill, just like your forehand loop or backhand push. You need to practice, practice, and practice some more. The first time is probably going to be bad, and then you'll start doing better.
Does that make sense? I think so.
The only problem with matches is that you always want to win. If you miss a loop in training - that's ok, no worries. If you've only just started learning how to loop, you're going to miss most of them. That's fine and understood by everybody.
But if you go to your first tournament and lose all of your matches (which is to be expected, right?), something inside you won't be happy. It will rebel and tell you that you're not doing it right. That something must be wrong with you. Because, otherwise, why would you lose all of them? You must not be talented. Why are you even trying? And so on.
Training My Mental Game
That's actually my main goal for the tournament: facing all of those demons.
And, of course, gaining experience, meeting other players, enjoying the venue, practicing against new styles, etc. But the main challenge will be: being able to enjoy the event and be positive even if my performance is not great.
Anyway, enough ranting about my feelings. My point is that I do think it's important to self-analyze before and after playing, especially with big and official competition. After all... self-awareness is the key to faster learning.
So, when are you playing your next official tournament? Where is your level at?