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Be a Better Table Tennis Team Player

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Photo of 2011 JOOLA North America Table Tennis Teams Championships

2011 JOOLA North America Teams Championships

Photo courtesy http://www.natabletennis.com
With the 2011 JOOLA North American Teams Championships taking place at the Baltimore Convention Center, Baltimore, MD this weekend (Friday November 25 - Sunday November 27), I thought this would be an opportune time to talk about one aspect of teams tournaments that often gets overlooked - how to be a good team player.

Being a Better Team Mate

In any tournament that has a teams event, it is important to realize that while you need to play well to do your part for the team, there is actually much more to being a good team member than just turning up and winning your matches when you are picked to play. Here's some tips that will help you become a better team person and hopefully help your team perform better as a whole.
  • Put the team first. Be willing to sit out matches if your team mates stack up better against your opponents and would have a better chance of winning the overall match.
  • Leave the rivalry at home. While it is nice to be the "top dog" in your team, and a little friendly competition between team mates is OK, fight the urge to measure your success against that of your team mates. If you find yourself secretly hoping a team mate will lose a match just so you can have a better win/loss ratio than he does, then you know you are focusing too much on yourself and not enough on what's good for your team!
  • Fight hard for every match, but keep in mind a teams tournament is a marathon, not a sprint! Try not to get too upset over an occasional bad loss, or too ecstatic over a good win - keep an even emotional keel. And by all means celebrate your team mates successes and commiserate with their losses, but make sure that they get refocused for their next game.
  • Bring a positive attitude to the tournament - nothing drags down team morale faster than a downcast, negative outlook from a team member. This is especially true when unexpected problems arise - stay positive and look for solutions, instead of having a pity party! And don't forget to build the confidence of each of your team mates up, don't knock them down.
  • If you are playing a tournament where the players are expected to umpire matches, make sure that you do your share of umpiring. Ideally, those team members who aren't actually playing in a match should do the bulk of their side's umpiring. At the very least, if you are a team where every team member is playing the match, try to make sure that no one in your team has to umpire just before they have to play a match - give them the best possible chance to warm up physically and prepare themselves mentally before going on court to play.
  • When you aren't playing or warming up for your next match, pay attention to your team mates' matches. Try to identify their opponents' strengths and weaknesses, and pass this information on in the break between games, along with any other advice that could help your team member. It's often easier for spectators to spot things that a player can't see because he is too caught up in the match.
  • Once you have played an opponent, or if you are already familiar with your opponents, share what you know with your team mates, to improve their chances of winning, as well as your teams.
  • Give your team mates plenty of encouragement during their matches, but be aware of your team mate's temperaments. Some people like to have plenty of cheering and applause to fire them up, while others prefer a low key approach to help them stay relaxed. Adjust your support to suit your team mates! And don't abuse or put down the opposition while cheering your team mate - this can easily result in distracting your own player.
  • Help your team members warm up properly before each match - be prepared to provide whatever drills or strokes they need to get ready.
  • Offer to fill up water bottles or buy drinks for team mates who are playing or about to play - that's one less thing that they have to worry about.
  • Stick around - don't just wander off around the hall if you aren't playing at the time. Obviously, if you are about to play and you need to go away and clear your mind or warm up, by all means do so. But if you aren't playing that match, or if you are relaxing after a game, try to stay around the playing area to support your team mates and be available if they need anything such as a quick drinks refill, a spare towel from their bag, a bat cleaner etc.
  • Finally, remember that win, lose or draw, you came to the tournament to compete and have fun. Enjoy yourself and do your best to help ensure that your team mates enjoy themselves too - that way they will be more likely to come back and compete with you next time!
I wish the best of luck to all competitors at the 2011 JOOLA North American Teams Championships.

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