This is one big, awesome, super, fantastic day, in the state of Georgia. Schools and businesses have closed. The streets are emptying. I’ve upgraded my television package so I can watch the pregame show, the halftime show, the postgame analysis, the victory parade, the actual game, and the reaction of drunken fans. I can get ESPN, ESPN 2, ESPN 3, and all other channels that understand that a National Championship Game between Alabama and Georgia is more than a once in a lifetime experience. It will likely never happen again, and if it does, it won’t be played in Atlanta. President Trump has taken time out from tweeting to attend. The National Guard and Secret Service are on full alert. Football in the south is one big #&@*/^ deal.
While watching a pregame show this afternoon, one of the announcers stated that the young Georgia quarterback needs to focus on playing the game, and not try to win it all by himself. That is probably great advice, and something I am totally on board with. There’s a lot to be distracted by in sports, and those distractions often keep us from playing our best. By the end of the evening, there are likely to be some big heroes, and possibly a few goats. This is about as big a stage as one can play on.
Most table tennis players will never experience playing on such a stage. I appreciate the times when anybody at all watches me play. If you play the greatest game of your life, chances are it will never be written up in newspapers, or recognized in any manner. This doesn’t stop table tennis players from getting caught up in their successes and failures. Failing in table tennis hurts just as much as any other sport, and has the added sting of realizing very few people care, or understand. Sometimes we don’t even see how we can play great one day, and on another day feel like we’ve never played before. Losing on such a small stage can really be humbling
Novice players often overestimate their own playing abilities, but more advanced players can fall into the same trap. I’ve had players come to me for coaching and state that they probably only need a couple of lessons to take on the table tennis world. I’ve had beginners who thought that one year of training should be plenty to get them to a USATT 1500 level. Players who play once a week fail to see why they are losing to players who are playing seven days a week. I’ve seen players stunned that they have lost to wheelchair athletes (who just happened to have world rankings).
Nether the size of the stage, or the size of the ball makes table tennis particularly easy to play. Interestingly, the size of the ball was increased from 38mm to 40mm, at least in part, to make playing easier. Players of every level experience periodic moments of humbling. These times, painful as they may be, are opportunities to rethink your approach to playing, and reassess what it will take to achieve your goals. The best players I know have all put in many hours, and have had many periods of frustration on the way to achieving their goals.
I’ve written about all this before, but it still seems like it needs to be said. Sometimes I feel like my job is part coach and part counselor. Occasionally I’m called upon to try to talk players off of a metaphorical ledge, when they are about to end their table tennis lives. Here are just a few of the articles where I’ve attempted to explain the difficulty of dealing with our deceptively difficult sport.
There are times when we might feel like we’re not nearly as good as we thought, but sometimes it only means table tennis is just a lot tougher than it seems.