Think your way to a better performance!

Looking to gain that extra edge on your sporting performance? Trying to calm that temper? Or hold back those nerves?
Trying to train your players more efficiently? and help them deal better in match situations?
Then this is the place for you! Brain SPEC is the product of Mark Simpson. A table tennis player himself he is using his experiences and what he has learned from his sport psychology training to help you enhance your own or your players' performances!



Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Table Tennis University

A good friend of mine has relaunched the website Table Tennis University. This is a website that features lots of great coaching, including in the coming months contributions from Brain-SPEC.
It is free to join and there is some good free content available so check it out at and enjoy the content!

Monday, 18 July 2016

Summer Camp in Dordrecht, Netherlands

There is another superb training camp in Dordrecht in the Netherlands the 15th-19th August, with top players and coaches from Netherlands, Belgium and wider. There are only a few places left so if you are interested contact me quickly at
You could tie it in the with the camp in Bishop Auckland the week before and have 2 intensive weeks of training to get you ready for the new season!

Summer Camp in Bishop Auckland

This year there will be a table tennis summer training camp at Bishop Auckland TTC. Running from the 8th-12th August it will include top class coaches and included are 2 sport psychology workshops. There are still some places left so if you are interested contact me at for more information and to sign up.

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Creating Accountability in an individual sport

The Expert in a Year challenge was a huge success! Ok, not a success in achieving its goal of Sam reaching the top 250. Sam will even admit he was not even close to being successful based on his goal...
But it was a success in perseverance, a success in keeping up the challenge even on the days when they didn't want to. Keeping up the challenge on those cold, tired, busy mornings and, to be perfectly honest, nobody would really blame them for taking an extra hour in bed, eating that extra scoop of ice cream, drinking that extra beer. But they didn't, they kept going.
This says a lot about the internal motivation that they possessed. That drive inside them to achieve the goal was undoubtedly strong. However at times even that would fail them, so what kept them going?


One of the big things that kept them going was their accountability. In a team sport, like football you have the rest of your teammates relying upon you to do what you have to do for you all to succeed. That group is with you on the training pitch, with you in the gym, watching whether you are slacking or not. And if they catch you slacking, they are sure to let you know. While this is not the best reason to be your first call for why you do these things, when that primary internal reason fails, this is a very helpful backup to push you through those momentary dark times.
Those momentary dark times, when your primary motivation is failing is when you are most likely to give up, that nagging thought in the back of your mind- `missing one session won't make a difference`- can become even stronger and once that takes hold it can easily lead to a slippery slope to more and more missed sessions, and even giving up. So having that team around you to support you and push you through those particular time can be very helpful.
However, what if you don't have a team around you? If you play an individual sport, sometimes you have those days and days of activities and training sessions where there is not another person in sight. And if there is another person in sight they are most likely just focusing on their own thing and don't care what you are doing. Perhaps it is even beneficial to them to not care if you slack off or miss a session because they may be a direct competitor of yours.
So how do you keep this accountability through these times.

Find `training buddies`

Exercise clubs and gyms have been offering deals for `gym buddies` for a while now. Come along with a friend and you both get a discount. Partly this is for their own gain- getting 2 people in the gym means more money than 1 person- but also it is to help encourage more regular attendance and therefore a fitter population. You can incorporate this into your own plans. Find someone who has similar goals to you and make an agreement to push each other. Wherever possible to train at the same times (together) and keep each other honest about it. Skipping a session should not be ok (unless for extreme circumstances) and you should feel comfortable telling each other that!

Find `accountability supporters`

Make a commitment to inform other people of your progress. Sam had many many people regularly following his progress. If he slacked off, thousands of people would know about it. Ok, telling the whole internet might be a big step, but this can be as simple as telling a few close trusted friends, `this is what I want to do`, and give them permission to challenge you on it, ask about how it is going, this will help them to give you the push when you need it.

Be honest!

If you are not honest about how much you are actually doing, how will your training buddies and supporters know when to push you, when to comfort you, when to congratulate you? If you are not honest with them they are not effective.

(In England at least) I have found that there is a certain pressure to play down the amount of work you are putting in. There appears to be more adulation to be attained from seeming to winning/improving effortlessly. It is seen as good to boast how little training you have been able to do but still win, as if the `natural` ability is to be praised. When people make an honest effort to work hard for their goal and take things as professionally as possible they get shot down and laughed at. If you begin being more honest about how much you have trained, how hard you work, how much you want to win, perhaps others will also start to feel comfortable sharing their effort levels. All of a sudden there begins to be a shift in the `culture` towards one that sees working hard as acceptable.

On the other hand sometimes people like to boast about how much they have done. This is also not helpful, as other people be easily discouraged by comparison or also the lack of improvement seen despite `all this work you're doing` in the end will show you to be exaggerating.

What do you think? Please leave your feedback at the bottom of the page and if you found this interesting check out some of the other posts on the website or get in touch at

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Table tennis psychology workshop in Bishop Auckland

Brain-SPEC has again joined up with Bishop Auckland Table Tennis Club to offer another workshop. 

Do you ever feel you are playing really well in training but not in matches? A difficult thing in table tennis is to know how to make training feel more like matches and matches feel more like training and how to get the most out of the limited training you have access to. The two topics we will look at in this workshop are-

  • Training Optimisation 
    • how to make the most of every minute when training and optimise the speed in which you improve and transfer that into matches. 
  • Routine Setting 
    • How to best prepare for matches to make sure you play closer to your best on a more consistent basis. 

These topics will build upon the previous 2 workshops given last year at Bishop Auckland TTC but are also designed for people new to the whole topic.

Players of any level who are interested in improving their performance in table tennis can benefit from this workshop, by learning skills that can be practiced and integrated day in day out for the rest of their lives!

The workshop will take place on Tuesday 26th May 6pm-8pm at Bishop Barrington School, home of Bishop Auckland TTC and will cost £8 per person. Parents of children under 16 are welcome to sit in on the workshop free of charge.

Players who are attending the training camp the following day will particularly benefit as these skills can be worked on during the camp. A discount is also available to these players by contacting Matt Porter.

Those who wish to book their place on this camp can do so by contacting Matt Porter at or on 07411018856 or by emailing

Friday, 10 April 2015

Team goal setting workshop in Bishop Auckland

Reaching your goal, as a TEAM!

Having clear goals for your team is crucial to motivating your team to train harder and work more effectively together on and off the pitch.
This interactive workshop will give teams the opportunity to learn how to set effective goals both individually and as a team, while also allowing them to work with a specialist together to set goals for the coming season. It will also equip them to regulate, and reset goals in the future.

This workshop will be of great benefit to the team. It helps to improve team spirit, understanding of roles within the team and enjoyment of the collective unit they are part of. It is most effective when as many of the team as possible (most effectively, the full team) including the coach attends. 

It will take place at Bishop Barrington school in Bishop Auckland, home of Bishop Auckland Table Tennis Club on the evening of Monday 25th May 6pm

Please email for further information or to sign your team up! It is well worth attending and could make the difference in your team`s season!
High numbers are anticipated and spaces are limited so get your team booked in early to avoid disappointment

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Make Exclusive Sessions to make your club MORE Inclusive

Stopping people from coming to your sessions will increase the number of people coming to your sessions! While this may seem like a paradox, a contradictory idea, bear with me!
What I am talking about is having specific sessions aimed at certain types of people. In doing this, you are removing some of the reasons potential members of your club are staying away.

What reasons might they be?

One of the biggest factors in whether some people exercise or not is based on what they think other people will say/think about them! Two heavily under-represented sections of society in sport are women and people with handicaps (both mental and physical). I'm sure you can easily imagine some of the comments that might be made by some lesser minded people, or at the very least may go through the minds of someone considering whether to attend one of your club`s sessions and naturally imagines one of these scenarios occurring. This sort of thing is enough to push someone who is on the fence about attending over to the side of not attending.

How can you minimise this barrier to people?

Making specific sessions can help remove some of this thinking. If they know they can attend a session where they will not stick out, be laughed at, stared at, etc. and know that everybody else there is in the same boat (perhaps literally) then they a less likely to be put off.

What sort of sessions could your club offer?

As already mentioned, women-only sessions are already becoming more popular, but some other sessions may be disability sessions, age-specific sessions (e.g. over 50s, under 18s), beginner-only sessions (so they don't feel they will be laughed at if they are terrible, which even the best players were at some point!)

Won't this exclusion lessen my session numbers?

No. Let us take women-only as an example, think about how many women generally attend your mixed sessions currently. It is most likely not very many...
Now think that half the people in the world are women. Half the potential attendees of your sessions are at risk of excluding themselves from coming because of these fears. This is already limiting your sessions!

Should all your sessions do this?

No. I talked at the start about this being more inclusive as a club, but surely if all the sessions are specific then the club is segregating members and therefore not actually being very inclusive and diverse!
Well, this is where also having general, open sessions is also important, and having regular social events where all are invited encourages interaction between members of different sessions. Then they realise perhaps those others aren't so bad, and perhaps they won't be laughed at if they attend the open sessions. Then, once these fears have been put to bed, you have thriving, busy open sessions and a clearer pathway for non-playing potential people to get involved safely, then progress into active, engaged members of your club!

As a result of doing these things you build a diverse, inclusive, thriving club with people engaged from all walks of life.
This next part may sound extreme, but it is these little small steps that amount to big change...
Obesity and physical inactivity are two of the biggest killers in the world at the moment, think of how many of those who die as a result might have not exercised because of these fears. Opening the doors for these under-represented sections of society will save lives! Also, having a diverse, engaged club will help build bridges between sections of society, removing some of the stigmas attached wrongly to certain people, such as mentally and physically handicapped people. The positive social effect may also create a better society where you live and in the world!

Furthermore one more reason to do it... there are a lot of funding opportunities currently being offered to fund such projects from organisations such as Sport England, so doing these things may even make great financial sense for your club anyway, even if the numbers at these sessions are lower as a result of the specialising!