I could have taken up a different sport. At different times in my life I’ve played baseball, basketball, ran track, and dabbled in several other athletic endeavors. I fully experienced the loneliness of the long distance runner, and the comradery of team sports. Table tennis wasn’t necessarily my first choice. It’s not such a bad thing to stumble into a sport that you never fully appreciated. The longer you play table tennis, the more you respect the challenges that are unique to this sport.
It’s not surprising that many tennis players take up table tennis after age or injury slow down their progress. While it’s true that table tennis seems to not demand the level of fitness as tennis, there are other challenges that are just as great. Demands on raw strength and endurance are less, while the need for coordination and concentration are greatly increased.
There’s a lot to like about table tennis, but it’s not always fun. Tournament participants look deadly serious, and sometimes appear truly frustrated. That doesn’t mean they aren’t enjoying their experience. Every new opponent is a problem to be solved. Coming up with a game plan, and successfully executing it can be extremely satisfying, even if it is mentally challenging.
The fact that it is so mentally and emotionally challenging is actually what makes the table tennis experience so rewarding. Table tennis isn’t easy. Playing well demands a combination of athletic ability, incredible concentration, emotional control, and countless hours of practice. The casual observer won’t understand. The occasional player won’t really get it either. There are other sports I’d prefer to watch. But the sport that demands the most of me is also the one that is the most rewarding. Actually, I’d rather be playing table tennis.