Competitive Spirit

 

KICKING DEPRESSIONS BUTT!

Due to my illness, I now have major confidence issues, which unfortunately dictate how I live my life. As someone suffering with depression, I have to admit I’ve become a bit of a defeatist and a master of putting myself down! I can soon start to feel useless and incapable of the simplest of tasks. That’s why it’s so important to keep reminding myself that I am good at things and not to shy away from my successes. Table tennis has brought me many successes over the years and become an integral part of my life.

competitive spirit

In the past I have represented my county. In order to do this I had to be ranked in the top three players. That meant that out of over five million people living in Yorkshire, I was rated second best in my age group. I know people might say it’s no big deal, it’s only table tennis, but it takes a hell of a lot of hard work and dedication to reach that standard at any sport. I’ve been playing since I was six years old. Back then I used to find the game extremely frustrating. It took me well over ten years and a number of coaches, to get anywhere near to mastering it. To be chosen to play at that level was fantastic and I felt immense pride every time I put my team shirt on. I knew that however much I managed to fuck up the rest of my life, it’s something that no one could ever take away from me and a feat that few other people will ever accomplish.

The funny thing is I wouldn’t necessarily describe myself as a competitive person, the majority of games and sports I take part in, I couldn’t care less whether I win or lose, as long as I don’t stand out as being really bad. Table Tennis is the exception to this rule. Right from the first time I picked a bat up, as a six year old at a Butlins holiday camp. I’ve become addicted and devoted to being the best I can. Why this sport, as apposed to others? Well, as a child I tried to be good at numerous things but it never really bothered me if I wasn’t, I was always very laid back in that respect. I could quite easily enjoy an activity without being the best at it.

For whatever reason it wasn’t like this for me with Table Tennis. I found the game excruciating, why wasn’t the ball going where I wanted it to? Why couldn’t I keep it on the table for more than two shots? Why was my brother so much better than me! For the remainder of our stay I played every day in an attempt to improve and my parents had to endure several strops from me along the way. By the end of the week I was completely hooked and was setting my sights on becoming world champion, as you do as a six year old!

These days I don’t take it half as seriously, I mainly just play for fun in the local leagues and enjoy the social side of the game. All this aside though, I haven’t lost my competitive spirit. One thing that’s always remained the same is my hatred of losing, and I still do everything in my power to avoid this from happening. I’m not as naturally gifted as most of the top league players, but what I lack in ability I make up for in tactical nous. Over the years I have defeated many better players than myself, purely due to having a better strategy than them.

As I’ve touched upon earlier in other posts, I get on extremely well with my teammates and people from the opposing teams, but when I’m at the table, I become very single minded and determined to beat whoever’s in front of me. There’s plenty of time for pleasantries later in the pub! When I’m up against a formidable opponent, I double my efforts and tend to relish the challenge.

I hope I can adopt this same approach to other challenges in my life, such as dealing with my depression and moving on in the future. I need to view every obstacle I come up against as a new opponent and just like with an opponent; I can weigh it up and adopt the right strategy to beat it. When I put it like this, it seems relatively simple but I’m not naïve enough to believe it will be that easy.

A SPORTING MENTALITY

Nerves can be a good thing. This is especially evident in competitive sports. Obviously if you’re far too nervous, you risk going into self- destruct mode and not be capable of doing anything. But on the flip side to this, if you’re not nervous at all, maybe you don’t care enough! Top sports stars use their nerves to there advantage, they have learnt to channel this energy and the adrenaline rush, to use to there advantage. A certain amount of nervous energy actually enhances there performance.

competitive spirit

A sporting great such as Roger Federer has a very interesting outlook. when interviewed after a match. However much the interviewer pushes him, asking questions or making predictions about winning the overall tournament, he says he never looks so far ahead, and I believe him. Top sports stars have several special qualities. They have to have, to play at the level they do. Single mindedness and that extra grit and determination, not to mention their undoubted talent and natural ability, are all key ingredients in their success. But I believe most important is the ability to remain in the present and focus on one thing at once. They don’t think about winning an event or even who they’re likely to meet in the next round. All they focus on is winning the next point and how they’re going to play the next shot.

This is a great mentality to have and one you can take into other aspects of life, when undertaking any given task. Last week my friend and I started doing some gardening work for an elderly neighbor. At first glance we were both shocked by what we saw, the task appeared overwhelming and even insurmountable. we couldn’t believe what we’d let ourselves in for! The area between too garages had clearly been used as a dumping ground for rubbish and judging by the amount, this had been going on for a long long time. We’d have to clear this before we even got to the garden. To say the garden was overgrown was a massive understatement, In fact the jungle that confronted us was inexplicable. It reminded me a bit of the fairy tale sleeping beauty and the endless thorn bushes surrounding the castle. I now knew what the prince must have felt like trying to get to the princess!  Instead of freaking out,we broke the task down into manageable segments and before we knew it we’d cleared the rubbish and was making a start on the garden. We haven’t finished yet but by taking it one small step at a time and bottling up all our competitive spirit, it won’t be long before we’ve achieved what first appeared to be an impossible job.

 

Inspirations- using positive influences

Having people who inspire you is extremely important for your mental health. My main inspirations are friends and family, however I’m also inspired by various sports men and women. There’s a lot of bad things highlighted on the news everyday. Tragic events happening all over the world and closer to home in recent weeks, with the terrorist attacks. If you’re like me and you already suffer with your anxiety, such events can influence you leaving the house, as you don’t feel safe to do so. It’s hard I know, but this is when it’s important that we also remember all the positive events taking place and I use my inspirations to help me do this.

Everyone loves a good under dog story, someone who has achieved great things against all the odds.

Inspirations- YES I CAN!

This Egyptian Paralympian (Ibrahim Hamadtou)  was told that he could never play table tennis as he had no arms or stumps to grip the bat. He proved that with single mindedness and remarkable determination, anything is possible!

 

The Paralympic moto is ‘Yes I Can’. I’m sad to say that most of the time mine is ‘No I Can’t!’ I find myself blaming my depression for this but sometimes this is just a convenient excuse. When I’m playing sports my competitive spirit shines through, if only I could view depression as my latest opponent, maybe I could put it in it’s place! Seeing my inspirations and all their achievements gives me a huge boost and makes me want to try harder to emulate their success.

Inspirations- achieving greatness

InspirationsBefore anyone says, I know its sad to have a picture of yourself on your bedroom wall, but it does have a positive purpose. The person pictured next to me is a professional darts player called James Wade. The thing we both have in common is that we’ve won tournaments whilst battling our mental health illnesses. James is one of the best darts players in the world, where as I play table tennis in local leagues. James suffers with bipolar and had to have time away from the sport due to his illness. I too had to have a year out from playing in the league when my anxiety levels reached there highest peak and I struggled to leave the house.

James Wade is ranked number 6 in the world and is an extremely talented player, he also comes across as a really nice guy, he’s always respectful of his opponents and conducts himself well, win or lose. When I watch him on the stage he appears very comfortable and in his comfort zone, but off the stage doing interviews and even on his walk ons, I can see a lot of myself in him. Frailties such as low self-esteem, looking awkward and nervous and like he wants to be anywhere else. That’s why it’s truly remarkable that with such obvious confidence issues, He’s still able to perform to such a high standard in front of crowds of thousands of noisy fans, not to mention the millions watching on sky sports! For this reason I admire him more than any other sportsman.

Going back to the pictures on my wall. They’re the first thing I see when I get up in a morning and I use them as a really positive message to start the day. They remind me that anything is possible and I can still achieve good things despite of my illness. Whether your inspirations are well known celebrities or friends and family, doesn’t matter. What matters is that you use them as a positive influence in moving forward and becoming the best version of yourself.