I was honored to interview Tamara Boros (Tami) who was the World’s number 2 table tennis player in 2002. She also won bronze medal at the World Championship in Paris in 2003. She shared with me how grateful she is for her coach, Neven Cegnar who was her coach for 20 years. She could not have been able to succeed without him. She also expressed the high value she experienced working with a sport psychologist. Working with a sport psychologist changed her negative thinking (negative self-talk or negative inner voice) to a positive mental attitude, which was key to her success. Tami retired a couple of years ago and she is a table tennis coach at the Werner Schlager Academy where she is giving back from her personal and professional experiences and uplifting young international talented players. Here is the full interview. Enjoy it! 🙂
How did you start playing table tennis?
I was born in Zenta where table tennis is very popular. I used to swim but I really did not like it and one of my best friends invited me to a table tennis training. I fell in love with the sport from the very beginning. I was 8 years old that time.
What was the most challenging during your career?
I never thought I would achieve playing at such a high level. The most challenging period was when I had to transition from being a junior national team player to an adult professional table tennis player. Setting up small goals helped me to reach my full potential. My best result was achieving third place at the World Championship in singles.
What helped you the most during your career?
First of all, I trained really hard in a very high quality environment and my experience is that beside hard work, very small things mattered the most for me. I worked with a sport psychologist for 6 years and he helped me tremendously. Unfortunately in Eastern Europe this is not really an accepted service since the approach is to help yourself and to not ask for outside help. I really do not agree with this.
Working with a sport psychologist helped me to change my whole approach to table tennis. He helped me to learn to concentrate during matches and only think about the next point. Basically, the sport psychologist helped me to not be distracted with anything else during my matches. Using visualization exercises before the matches helped me the most. Breathing exercises during the matches were very helpful as well. I practiced these exercises during my trainings and I also did self-reflection about my performance after every training and after my matches. I rated myself by identifying what went well and what I had to change. I invested an hour every day to do these exercises and it was worth it. The more you train, the better you will become. I wasn’t in my best form when I achieved my third place in singles at the World Championship, but I was able to be in the flow or zone while I was playing. I did not hear anything. I did not see the spectators, or the score board. There was only myself and the opponent and the net between us. I got back from 1:3 three matches in a row and won them 4:3. It wasn’t just luck, I was totally in the flow.
Besides working with a sport psychologist, my coach Neven Cegnar helped me the most. He was my coach for 20 years. He believed in me and I believed in him. He helped me the most when I was in a slump. He could help me to bounce back. I used to be really hard on myself and I was really negative. He knew what he had to say exactly and when he had to say it. Our relationship helped me a lot and I couldn’t achieve these results without him.
I am also very thankful Statisztika PSC in Budapest (called Dr. Lászlo Ormai Table Tennis Club now) where I played for 10 years. I really enjoyed the team, the coaches and the trainings. It was a big family.
What did table tennis give you?
It gave me so much. Sport teaches you to fight, accept defeats and glory as well. I traveled a lot and I met lots of new people and built friendship through table tennis. I am also grateful that I gave 200% effort and I did not leave anything inside, I gave it all. I did what I could have done. I didn’t focus on being the number one, instead, I focused on how to bring out my best during training and my matches. I love table tennis and I love this sport the most. I love what I am doing and it is very rare that you earn your money while doing what you love and it makes you feel happy.
What is your message for the youth generation?
Never give up and fight. Don’t stop if you get some bad losses, just keep going.
Sport psychology can help a lot and don’t be afraid to seek professional or mental training support. Unfortunately there is still stereotype about it but I can say, just go for it.
There is no rocket science what makes you successful: you have to train a lot and sacrifice your time. Also, very small things matter like what you eat, how much you drink and how much you rest between your trainings. You have to be prepared physically, mentally and emotionally for your training. All these little things matter.
Who was your role model?
I always liked Nicole Struse, how she played. My other role model was Jan-Ove Waldner. I grew up watching him and I always watched his matches live during European Championships and World Championships. I was always amazed by his game.
What are your future goals?
Currently I am coaching at the Werner Schlager Academy where I really enjoy working with the young talented players. We have three very talented players, Dora Madaras from Hungary, Lea Rakovac from Croatia and Marie Migot from France. There is one more player from Thailand Tamolwan Khetkhuan who is really talented. They are very motivated and it is a pleasure working with them. I would like to help them as much as possible and share my personal and professional experiences with them.
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