Focused Vs Diffused mode of learning new strokes in Table Tennis

Jan 16, 2017

Let us take the modes of learning and apply it when learning a new stroke or pattern.

We're familiar with focusing. It's when you concentrate intently on something you're trying to learn or to understand. But we're not so familiar with diffuse thinking. Turns out that this more relaxed thinking style is related to a set of neural resting states.

If you know how to play a topspin then you can go into focused mode and practice the skill as you are aware of the different patterns and you are trying to master the pattern, however when you have never played a topspin before But if you haven't thought that thought before, you don't even know how that pattern feels or where it is. So how are you going to develop that new thought in the first place? Not only do you not know where the pattern is or what the pattern looks like. To get to this new thought pattern, you need a different way of thinking. And that's represented by the diffuse mode. In this diffuse mode of thinking, you can look at things broadly from a very different, big-picture perspective. You can make new neural connections traveling along new pathways. You can't focus in as tightly as you often need to, to finalize any kind of problem solving. Or understand the finest aspects of a concept. But you can at least get to the initial place you need to be in to home in on a solution.

So applying this to learning topspin here are things we can do to get a beginner to understand the high level picture before they start to practice

  • Get them to watch a video and ask them to look at different things that make the stroke, notice the stands, where the stroke starts, where the stroke ends , the body is relaxed and the position is low.
  • Shadow practice the stroke at a very slow pace focusing on the things stated above
  • Visualize the stroke in your mind
  • Start training on the stroke ( we will talk about chunking in a later post on how to start getting different chunks like starting position, finish position and so on ) to learn the stroke faster.

Repeat these steps, the bottom line is when you are learning a new concept especially when it is difficult, your mind needs to be able to go back and forth between the different learning modes to learn effectively. You need to do a little work every day, gradually allowing yourself to grow a neuro-scaffold to hang your thinking on, a little bit every day and that's the trick.