BLOG 6 – Summer Break and Pre Season in Ireland

BLOG 6 – Summer Break and Pre Season in Ireland

Writing this blog now, it feels like it has been a very long time since I played a competitive match. Since the World Championships in Tokyo I’ve taken a month break from table tennis entirely, I’ve been on holidays, I’ve started training again and working on some specific areas of my game and I’ve changed my diet for the better. I’ll try to go back and reflect on Tokyo a little bit, and then go into some of the area’s I just mentioned above. It’s been an interesting summer and I hope it proves interesting reading.

Taking myself back to Tokyo and reflecting on the competition, it has to be said our results were a great reflection on the teams work over the last two years since the World Championships in Dortmund. Coming second in our group to Mexico the eventual finalists of the division and losing in the last 16 to Puerto Rico the eventual winners of the division both in close matches shows the level that we are showing now. We are no longer fighting relegation; we are looking to be among the top teams in our division. Personally, Tokyo could have been better results wise, I notched up one or two good wins but I found myself struggling against slightly better opposition. I couldn’t find my best game when I needed it. I strongly believe that I put too much emphasis on the competition for example I even said in this blog, Tokyo was the reason I started to play full time in the first place. Putting myself under too much pressure to perform, I failed to do the basic things well and unfortunately didn’t have as good a tournament as I would have liked. In saying that, I don’t think if I did it would have made a huge difference as our team performances were almost to our maximum anyway. Paul is a great number one, we always believe going into matches that Paul will win two. Ashley is getting better and better showing this in recent international competition, and I feel I am too. Tokyo is a fantastic place and I am delighted I chose to stay a few extra days there with some close friends in order to get a real experience of the place rather than just in the table tennis hall and seeing sights on the bus journey from hotel to hall and back. I would recommend it to anyone who’s never been, a must see city!

After a long hard season without any extended breaks I was always going to take some time away from the game to recuperate and just basically to forget table tennis for a while, see friends and family etc. I took one month to do this and I think it was the best thing my game could have asked for. Over the summer I kept up with physical training regardless of my break with a lot of 5 a side football with friends in order to stay fit and fast. When I came back to training with the Irish Junior squad as they prepared for the European Championships, I had a new appetite for hard work and a real focus to improving some things that let me down throughout the season. I’m not going to go into what those are exactly; I don’t want to open them up to scrutiny as I’m just gaining confidence in those areas. I will say that doing things you’re not comfortable with in training is difficult, you need a lot of perseverance and you need to be able to accept that you’re level is going to drop for a while as you try to change. I took on board some criticism at the end of the season from current national coach John Murphy and with the help of him and Mark O’ Flynn over the summer I feel I’ve improved each area that I wanted to and will continue to work on them when I get back to Germany. I’d say to anyone working on an area of their game it’s so important to remind yourself before every training what it is you are trying to achieve. I can’t stress that enough for younger players who want to get better, even if it’s something as simple as not missing a first topspin or getting 2 topspin’s on the table rather than 1, goal setting is how you’re going to improve the quickest, challenge yourself.

Another area I had really wanted to improve, as I knew over the course of the last 2 years I was not putting enough into was my diet. I made a decision that when I got back from my one month break that I would meet someone to discuss my diet, how I could improve it and then put that in place. The man to do this was Alan McHugh, an employee in St. Tiernans Secondary school in Dublin and a good friend. We went over what I wanted from this whole thing, and where I wanted to be in 6 weeks. He made me list out absolutely everything I ate and drank over the course of a week, with the intention of constructively going over it and explaining the area’s I was falling down in. Now my diet is much better, with the exception of a ‘cheat day’ once or potentially twice a week. I’m eating better, healthier and as a result I feel better, I look better and I have a lot more energy than I previously did (something I never would have noticed without a new diet). It is only now I realise how important diet can be in your improvement as a player or even just as a person in order to feel better. It’s been of huge benefit to me and hopefully when I’m not at home and have my mother to cook my meals for me I’ll be able to continue with my healthy eating in Germany.

There is a long season coming up, and as much as I have enjoyed my summer break I can’t wait to get back to training and get into the heat of competition again, especially with my new club Medizin Magdeburg. I love the break while I’m home but towards the end the lack of routine becomes annoying and I always find myself desperate to get back to the place I was cursing and in need of a break from a couple of months previous. I’m sitting writing this blog in a train station in Berlin as I’ve just landed and have a few hours to wait before I can get to my final destination. As you can guess I’m back at my base in Germany and about to get back into the hard work starting tomorrow. The next blog is going to be about the preseason training here in Germany, meeting my new club mates, and the build up to the Irish Senior Classification along with preparation for the European Championships in September. As always, if there is anything you would like answered or to see in future blogs, just comment below. Thanks for reading!