Finding Your Table Tennis Identity

Finding your identity in table tennis is more than developing a style. If people can’t remember your name, but refer to you as that chopper on table three, that only tells you how others see you. At some clubs if you mention a female player, it immediately narrows down the possible players to a small group of ….one. Your table tennis identity is not primarily about your sex, race, or physical characteristics. It’s not so important how others categorize you. How you see yourself actually has important implications for your future table tennis success.

It’s not a good idea to identify too closely with your rating. If you see yourself as a 1500 player, there’s a good chance you’ll never see 1600. Even your playing style may not be the best label to associate yourself with. Don’t let your perceived style stifle versatility or creativity. If you’ve been playing for two years and still think of yourself as a beginner, it’s probably time to drop that label. Go ahead and challenge better players. It will give you a much better idea about what areas you’ll need to improve. Some people identify with the equipment they use. I once competed in a team tournament against “Team Tenergy.” 

We do need to have some identity. There’s no point in being aimless or unfocused. Rather than seeing ourselves as merely a certain level of player, or a certain style of player, consider the traits you would like to have associated with you. Maybe you are an attacking topspin player. There are thousands of players who could describe themselves that way. But what if you were a creative and determined attacker? Whether you’ve been playing for decades or only a few weeks, you can identify as relentless, focused, smart, flexible, intense, determined, tough, and unflappable. It doesn’t matter if others don’t see you that way. It doesn’t even matter if you have a hard time seeing yourself that way. Just recognize that these traits are skills that can be developed, one match at a time, one point at a time. 

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