Sunday, December 7, 2014

Who we are in table tennis

Hi! and then comes a variation of Want to hit with me?

You're in a club or tournament, and someone talks to you. They may ask you your name, but most of the time, not what style you play or how good you are - almost every player would rather find out, and we do find out, pretty quickly, after some strokes.

We may be interested in just warming up, or we may be itching to play anyone, or we might have seen you and we are interested in measuring something (ourselves? your level? how we would handle your chop, your serves?).

One of the things i love about table tennis is that everyone is equal when in front of the table. This is what i mean:

- it doesn't matter what race or sex you are
- to a big extent, it doesn't matter if you seem to be fit or weak, thin or chubby
- it doesn't matter if you are poor, or rich
- to a very big extent, it doesn't matter what paddle or rubbers or shirt/shoes you have (let's assume at least the paddles involved are ittf certified)
- it doesn't matter if you are a 5 year old, a teen, a working adult, a retired person
- even when a person has a disability, they may still beat your butt in table tennis, so you can't assume things

When we play, we aren't who we normally are. We become a person describable with

"a good backhand loop"
"pretty good serves"
"blocks very well"
"can't handle side-spins to his right"
an attacker, a defender, or an all-rounder
a spinner, a hitter, or a person who uses plenty of gears
a trained player, or a "i learned playing" player .

Sure, there are ratings, but that only tells you a range of people who were beaten by this person, and the range of people who this person can't beat, over possibly years. You just won't know until you play; and sometimes, people will show different things over several matches!

This is one of the things I love the most about table tennis. This discovery, this mental exploration using techniques and strategy, knowing the other is doing the same, getting direct feedback on every little test you run! It's exciting, and when you think you are very evenly matched, it's unnerving to think you could lose for just choosing the wrong strategy. Risk and reward are all very direct and intense!

And after playing, especially after things are pretty clear if one is much better than the other... now you can talk. You have a much better idea of where each stands. And this is where I find one of the nicest things about table tennis - people will give you advice, or readily take it. There is no shame in being better or worse, no need to be smug or feel bad. We're all here to be better and we enjoy this game, we all want to get better, and we all know with time things will change.

Who we are in the end, after crossing our wooden blades, is much closer to a friend, than if you had asked me my name. I'll remember you, and you will remember me for a long long time :D

1 comment:

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