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Focus on the ball - Timo Boll

3 Table Tennis Characters – Which one are you?

There are 3 table tennis characters and you fall into one of them!

History of human survival

Humans have evolved with a “fight or flight” response when facing danger or potential dangers. Our ability to flee or stand up and fight has helped our ancestors avoid or even defeat predators. There is another system we use to avoid harm which is the freeze effect. This is when running away may not be an option and escaping is too late but fighting may prove too hard due to strength or being outnumbered.

When under stress or when we feel our safety is compromised, that’s when we typically will experience one of these three physical reactions: Fight, Flight or Freeze.


Mohammed Ali and Joe Frazier Rivalry
Mohammed Ali and Joe Frazier two Warriors

Which response is the most effective? and do you see yourself in one or all? Let’s find out!


In today’s table tennis tournaments and events, we often see the flight reaction, this is where players will avoid certain tournaments. They may lose to someone on purpose to avoid another player later on in the event, fake an injury, enter low-level events to accumulate points but avoid facing higher level players.

Pro – From all angles, this seems like a very negative approach but there is one positive notion from a flight response. If you pick certain events and schedule your calendar properly, it can allow you to prepare for events, avoid injuries, and provide longevity. This is the positive aspects of “live to fight another day”

Con – Hiding, avoiding, faking an injury mid-match, selecting events that only suits you criteria will only have a negative outcome. Eventually, the lions will find you hiding place and when they do, your number will be up.


Lin Quayan Freezes from 10-4 up to lose the match at the 2017 World Cup

I believe we have all experienced this before, we have prepared and yet when it comes to the big occasion our mind and body’s don’t align. Our mind says let’s do this but our body starts shaking, we struggle to serve, we think about the consequences and nothing seems to work.

Pro – Again not many positives can be found here but there is one, this means you have not truly prepared or over-prepared. There is something missing or you’ve done so much that you expect a certain result and it put too much pressure on yourself. This is where you must learn to prepare as best as possible but at the same time when the moment comes to understand that the outcome is not always in your control. Therefore all you can do is provide your best with what you have done and can do.

Con – You think and know your ability is far greater and you’ve proved it in the club or in the past but yet occasionally or often you freeze. The freeze effect can become habitual and cause plenty of distress, sometimes have such effect players move into the flight mode. This is when they leave the sport and feel the best way for them to come out on top is by disappearing altogether.


At the 2 minute mark of the video you see Kalinkos start to make a mountainous fight back (an amazing match to watch – but notice how Kreanga starts fighting mentally, physically and vocally). Its a shame about the poor video quality video

For survival and sport, this is the role we must possess to come out on top more often than not. This character is often the toughest to possess because you must have courage, be willing to face defeat and a lot of pain.

Pro – Fighters are often seen as heartless or pure heart regardless of view its the heart that will get you to your chosen destiny. If you fight each battle and you’re willing to accept losses on the way you will win the war and the journey will have been great no doubt.

Con – You may be seen as a mean or bad person and you’ll face lots of hurdles all in an attempt to stop your inner desire of becoming a true champion. There will be times when you don’t feel the power or energy to fight but you know deep down those are the times when it truly counts.

Can we change our character?

It’s said our response cannot be controlled and we never truly know how we will respond to a crisis situation. But I have two theory’s

  1. Uncomfortable situation: I like to put myself and my players in an uncomfortable situation as often as possible. This shows me their character and which one of the above they truly are! We can then work together to develop all three and find a way of making the fight (character) their no.1 characteristic.
  2. Breathe: Lots of research has shown me that deep breathing (trigger’s your parasympathetic nervous system) which can ground into the moment. This method enables you to notice more clearly (be aware) by seeing, hearing and physical (not emotionally) feel. This method reassures your mind and body that it’s ok and this period will pass and you will soon regain control.

In the wild it’s all about survival of the fittest, do you have what it takes to become king of the jungle?

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. pingsunday

    Coach Eli Baraty, I really this post. I understand well that the characters do affect the playing style of the player. Some is more aggressive, some will choose a safer choice. And it’s not easy to change this. 🙂

  2. James

    I was born in the jungle, but I do not belong to it, nor do I want any part of it. I evolved. I play sports for the beauty and glory of the sport. Winning and/or losing is just an illusion, it is in essence what is wrong with this planet of the apes.

  3. Kevin James

    Great post Eli

    Here is what I can add:

    In regards to freeze and fight, I personally think its more about how strong mentally you are;
    Mental conditioning is a very vital difference between two almost equally skilled players. The game between Lin and Bolo is a great example. I personally feel Lin is a far better player than bolo and is really fast. But what bolo has is a better experience and strong mental chracterstic and at the same time, Lin crumbled into the pressure.

    Changing the character is nowhere possible but I think it can be channeled out with due practice. I like your approach of putting your players in uncomfortable spots 🙂

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