The 7th Match on Saturday

This is what we train for….


I’ve probably been able to stay active with table tennis a little more than most. The month of May allowed for a scattering of coaching sessions, and the beginning of some competitive matches. It looks like things may pick up more in June as players start to feel comfortable returning to their normal activities. My best workouts of the week have been on Saturdays. While I try to maintain my fitness during the rest of the week, Saturdays have been all about playing some competitive matches. 

In an ideal world, if I played seven matches it would be against seven different players. But if I have to just play one person, there’s nobody better than Pierre. I’ve played him hundreds of times. Sometimes I win, but quite often I lose. Pierre attacks from both sides, but is comfortable chopping and countering until he decides to attack. I tend to play to his backhand in order to avoid his strong forehand loop. He knows my game as well as I know his. There are rarely any easy matches when we play on Saturdays.

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This Saturday was typical, actually maybe a little better than normal for me. I won the first match, and after six matches, we had each won three. One thing about playing the same person is, there tends to be very little rest between matches. It’s probably not the best idea to play for three hours straight. It is fun, and it’s a great workout, but you have to assume you won’t be at your best as fatigue sets in. Heat started to be a factor. It wasn’t that much warmer than usual, but a few degrees can make a difference if you aren’t acclimated to it. 

So, after three hours of nonstop table tennis fun, it was time to play the tiebreaker. Once that was over, it would be time to cool off and collapse. Vince Lombardi said, “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.” I’m not completely sure about that one, although it sounds true. He also said, “Winning is a habit.” I’m more inclined to agree with that. All I really know is that when I went into our seventh match, I was so tired I didn’t really care if I won or lost. There was no money on the line or trophy presentation, but I would have thought that I would care a little more about the outcome. Not surprisingly, I lost the seventh match. I don’t think physical fatigue played as big a part as mental exhaustion. Pierre played well, and I didn’t play badly. I didn’t lose any sleep over losing to a very good player. The outcome of the match didn’t bother me. It did bother me a little that losing didn’t bother me more. If winning is a habit, then losing must be one as well. I don’t think fatigue had made me a coward, but it contributed to some apathy. 

It’s not hard to care about the first match of the day. If you win that one, it’s not hard to be confident going into the second one. If you lose a match, you’ll be far more determined to win the next one. But, at the end of the day, maybe you’re playing in the finals. Perhaps you’ve already played six matches. It’s going to be tough to play your best, especially if things start going wrong early in that seventh match. As I was playing my last match with Pierre, I realized I needed to lose ten pounds. My cardio conditioning wasn’t quite as good as I thought. I’m not used to hotter playing conditions. I definitely eat too many Oreos. Concentrating was becoming more difficult, and there wasn’t much I could do about it. 

It’s possible to play table tennis and not be in your best shape, but it’s a lot easier if you maintain a good level of fitness. It won’t mean quite as much in the first match of the day. It might be the difference between winning and losing in the seventh. 

That is what we train for. 

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