The Student of Table Tennis

How long do you think it will take me to be a ______ rated player? You can fill in the number with a 1000, 1500, 2000, or any other number that seems like a worthy goal. I get this question on a fairly regular basis. I usually make an educated guess, and I’m almost always wrong. Coaches can’t see into the future or anticipate how determined their students will be. My standard answer is that improvement will come with getting some coaching, playing matches, and practicing serves. Those three items are essential, but they don’t take into account two important variables. Some players just have more talent. They may have good hand/eye coordination, be very athletic, or be quick learners. The other unknown is their willingness to study. 

There is plenty of information available, and most players have seen videos or read articles. The best players I know, and the ones who have shown the most improvement are gifted students. They not only absorb information, they work to apply it to themselves, and never stop learning. 

Students of the game can have different approaches. I’ve seen quite a few. It’s not really what you major in. It’s about how helpful your studies are in real life, or in this case, table tennis.

  • The Philosophy Major – These students have probably changed their major a few times. Perhaps they began as attackers, became blockers, and see themselves as eventually becoming defensive choppers. The philosophy major sees the big picture but often fails to focus on the details enough to reach their full potential.
  •  The Education Major – Good teachers should also be good students. Their strength is not in their abundance of knowledge, but in knowing what knowledge is most important. They know how to pass tests, and they learn quickly how to win matches.
  • The Science Major – Having a deep understanding of the physics of table tennis is not necessarily an advantage. Attention to detail, and focus on positive results can be very advantageous. Much like the philosophy major, scientists are prone to overthinking. They can become technically excellent players with their scientific approach.
  • The Physical Education Major – Aptitude in other sports, and a love for physical activity will serve the P.E. major well. There are times when the challenges of table tennis become frustrating when it’s discovered that athletic ability alone does not make for a great table tennis player.
  • The Dropout – Unfortunately, some players never really develop a love for studying. They have a remedial understanding but never master advanced skills. They don’t necessarily drop out of table tennis, but will survive with their basic knowledge, knowing that they will probably never graduate. 

No matter what your approach is, you’ll need to keep learning, keep practicing, and keep studying. What’s your major? 

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