Can Engineers Play Table Tennis?

en·gi·neer·ing

noun
the branch of science and technology concerned with the design, building, and use of engines, machines, and structures.
  • the work done by, or the occupation of, an engineer.
  • the action of working artfully to bring something about.
Yes. Obviously engineers are able to play table tennis. There is no reason to outlaw them, or ban them from competition. If you happen to find yourself coaching one, I would suggest that you proceed with caution. I touched on this subject previously in Spin Art or Spin Science.
Engineers seem to have a different way of looking at table tennis, and the world in general. I recently identified one while coaching a new student. He informed me he would be returning to college in the Fall. It wasn’t until he inquired as to whether his elbow should be pointing down or out that I asked his major. I was already certain he wasn’t going to say world literature or psychology. The nature of all of his questions led me to believe he intended to learn to play like a well oiled machine. The problem with this approach is that he is not a machine. Perhaps some exposure to more humanities classes would have given him a different perspective on how to approach his chosen sport.
I admit I don’t understand engineers. Some of my best friends have been engineers, and I rarely, if ever knew how they came up with the ideas that guided their lives. You don’t have to have a degree in engineering to be obsessed with how things work, and attempting to apply this thinking to table tennis. A certain amount of table tennis is scientific. You simply can’t overcome the physics involved in successfully controlling a 40mm ball, spinning at over 100 revolutions per second, and traveling 40mph, by writing an essay about it.
Table tennis does appeal to the intellectuals of the world. But neither the engineer or the philosopher is best equipped for excellence in this sport. The best table tennis players are athletic geniuses. Athletes are rarely recognized as geniuses. Jan Ove Waldner is a genius of table tennis, but would likely not be recognized as brilliant, except athletically. The exceptional table tennis player is a superb athlete. It is interesting that we defend table tennis as a sport, but sometimes treat it like a engineering problem.
Engineers can be table tennis players. Philosophers, truck drivers, plumbers, and teachers can play. Everyone has their own approach. No matter your profession, if you want to play well, you better learn to be an athlete as well.

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