The league season in Cambridge finished a couple of weeks ago. It was my second year playing in Division 1. Last year my team finished 2nd. This year we finished…..2nd again! In this blog post I give a review of my season, sharing a few highs and a couple of big lows, including a 7 match losing streak. Ouch!
League and cup success
So we finished 2nd in the Cambridge league again. This was largely thanks to our star player, James Ward, who managed to go the entire season unbeaten. 36 games, 36 wins. Daniel Hearne-Potton, a very promising junior player, also did very well for his first season in Division 1. As is so often the case with junior players, Daniel improved a lot during the course of the season and was winning most of his matches in the final couple of months.
And what about me? Last season, I finished with a win percentage of 48%. My target for this season was to nudge above 50%. And I just about managed it. 39 games played and I finished with a win percentage of 56%. I was pretty happy with that, but I have a taste for more. Over the next couple of seasons, I really want to push on to a 60%-70% win percentage.
Our team also managed to win the league handicap competition. This is the third time in five years that my team has won the handicap competition. So either we’re very good at playing handicap matches, or our handicap ratings are far too lenient. Probably a bit of both.
Illness, more illness, and even more illness
But the league season wasn’t all great. In the second half of the season I seemed to play most of my matches with some kind of illness.
I am entirely blaming my two-year-old daughter for this. She’s at that age where she picks up all kinds of bugs when playing with other children, but she is not yet capable of covering her face when she sneezes and coughs. So what happens? Poor old Daddy gets splattered with all of those horrible germs. Snot and slobber everywhere!
And it’s difficult to play your best when your head is full of cold, your limbs ache and all you want to do is lay on the sofa and rest. So the second half of the season certainly felt like more of a struggle.
The end of the season was even worse. I ended up in hospital with meningitis. This isn’t the sort of illness you can play through. So I had to miss our last four matches – two league and two handicap matches.
A big priority for next season is to stay healthy!
7 losses in a row
Another big low during the season was a 7 match losing streak. Three of those matches I really should have won, so I was very disappointed with how I played. And a couple of others were winnable, if I had played somewhere near my best. But in all honesty, the quality of my table tennis simply wasn’t good enough. I deserved to lose 7 matches in a row. I think it’s been 10 years since I have lost so many matches in a row. Not good at all.
The worrying thing is that I keep having a dip in form around the same time every year. I start the season well (September to December), but between January and March, I seem to completely switch-off, my level drops and I lose to players I have beaten before quite easily.
Why does this happen? I’m not entirely sure. I usually train pretty hard during the summer months, so when the season begins, I always feel like I’m playing well. But as time elapses and the focus of my summer training fades, I begin to lose focus. I start to slip into a more cautious and passive playing style and my level drops. Every year it takes a couple of bad losses to jolt me out of my passive malaise and I regain some attacking focus again.
I did improve in my last 5 matches, winning all 5. These were against players who I would expect to beat, so no great surprises there, but I was happy with the way I was playing again – attacking table tennis, rather than waiting for the other player to mess up.
So a big goal for next season will be to main good form – playing attacking table tennis – from start to finish. I really want to avoid the mid-season dip of form.
Secret weapon for next season
We have finished in 2nd place in Division 1 of the Cambridge league for two years in a row. The next goal is to win the league. With James and the rapidly improving Daniel in the team we will have a good chance. But I need to up my game as well. I need to win more matches. If I can get over 60%, then we have a decent chance.
But I do have one more secret weapon up my sleeve. I’m currently talking with a top-150 player about joining our team. He might only be available to play a few matches, but he will most probably win any matches he does play. With our secret weapon in our team, I think we might just do it.
Next season should be a lot of fun. Watch this space!