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First, let me say this: If you’re not having fun, you’re not winning. If winning at ping pong has become your sole purpose, your primary mission in life, then go see a shrink or something, because you’re barking up the wrong tree. Maybe you should find something to do which is less destructive (e.g., tiddlywinks … or barking up a tree).
Second, I feel compelled to say this about most of the players (every skill level) that I meet at the club: They think they are better than they really are. I know this can be painful to hear but, sorry. This actually is what the Dunning-Kruger effect is all about. It’s a phenomenon the two researchers labeled as an “illusion of confidence” and “illusory superiority.” We (most of us) are, in effect, inadequate and less effective and capable than we really are. It’s a confidence lacking accuracy and truth. (Now, don’t confuse the Dunning-Kruger effect with not being confident when you play. I’ll explain later.) The reason I bring this up is to remind us not to harness unrealistic expectations. I’m sorry, but you and I are not going to the Tokyo games. We are not going to be among the 3 men or 3 women making the United States Olympic Table Tennis team. Eh, maybe we can be alternates … or carry the equipment bags.
Since I just brought up unrealistic expectations, let’s start with that. Consider this premise: It is unrealistic for you to win all the time or, for some of us, even some of the time. That’s a basic, incontrovertible truth. With every winner there’s a loser, and there’s always a faster gun out there who’s gonna show up in town one day and beat you. And some of us frankly stink. But does that mean you can’t enjoy playing a game even if it means losing? No, absolutely not. Doesn’t mean we’re masochists, either. It means we enjoy playing the game for its inherent value. You can experience an honest to goodness joy at having played a really good point – maybe making great shots and still lose it when your opponent makes a greater play to win it. There’s great satisfaction – or there should be – in doing the best you can. Hey, c’mon, the guy may be better than you; doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy getting shellacked if you are doing your best. Just approach it like that if you can.
Let’s get back to confidence. If you want to maximize your potential ping pong skills, then you have to have this intangible feeling of some kind of belief in yourself. But what is it exactly? What is confidence? I’ll tell you what it isn’t, because I see that all the time. It’s your opponent cursing and kicking himself. It’s a guy looking to the ceiling while exclaiming Why me, Lord? It’s going berserk when a ball touches the net and dribbles over it costing you a point; or, the ball hitting the edge of the table depriving you of another point. These outcries and expressions of woe and anger are more than counterproductive. These kinds of grumbling and displays of outrage and disgust are injudicious, wrongheaded and ill-advised. These outbursts – the moment you open your mouth or gesticulate to the gods about your mistreatment and misfortune– will redound to your falling and failing. Don’t do it. Just keep your mouth shut, for Pete’s sake! Unless you have something nice to say about what your opponent just did, just keep it zipped! It’ll lend you dignity (we all have to borrow some of that at one time or another). You’ll maintain your cool and it will allow you to concentrate on the subject of hand: the game you’re involved in at the moment – undistracted. Besides, you and I know that you’re going to get some of those net and edge points, too. They’ll average out, so just ignore it. Okay, so you lost a point. Big deal! It’s not like someone just stole your car or you lost your house in a divorce settlement.
Further, regarding concentration (on focusing): How the heck can you focus on anything if you’re jumping up and down and screaming like a banshee? For god’s sake, you can’t. The guy I wrote about in this blog some time ago, who punched holes in the walls when he missed a few shots – you think that’s the portrait of a winner? C’mon, it’s a profile of a deranged lunatic! (And he was a nice guy, driven to insane behavior by a 40 mm ping pong ball that missed the table by a couple of inches a few times.)
Let’s sum up the do’s and don’ts:
– Keep quiet. No utterances – of either joy or discontent. This means no “cho-ing.” I’ve read about cho-ing becoming part of the so-called culture of table tennis because it’s supposed to aid in “self-encouragement and tension relief.” That is utter and complete, 100 % pure B.S. I’ll tell you what it is: It’s coarse and obnoxious behavior. It’s insensitive and indecent. It’s a spoiled brat carrying on or an older uncouth douche displaying his own dumbass bona fides.
– No gesticulating. Don’t shake your head in disgust or dance with unbridled jubilation… ever!
– Be courteous. Acknowledge an opponent’s fine play. No fist pumping or any other tacky demonstration.
– Don’t play the game as a means to bolster a flagging self-worth or low self-esteem- If you’re not having fun, find something else to do.
– You’re a loser if you think ping pong victories will propel you onward toward a future financial pay off. (Listen Bunky: There is no money in table tennis with the exception of a few champions with product endorsements.)
– Do a post-mortem, and analyze your performance – what you did right, what you did wrong.
– To prevent choking, don’t eat too quickly.
– If you want to look cool (which is not a proper goal for playing ping pong), stick your head in a freezer.
– To prevent your goose from being cooked, attack your opponent (or play your game) and put the fire out.
– If your heart is in your mouth while playing ping pong, don’t see a cardiologist or an otolaryngologist, see a shrink … prontito. You have to relax, pal.
– If you make a bad play (e.g., serve one into the net), just move on. Don’t obsess about it. Get ready for the next point and just forget it. Same thing for so-called cheap lucky shots. Just forget it! It’s a “so what.” These things happen – to everyone. So what! Just let it go, and don’t even indicate in any way whatsoever that it’s bugging you, because that will only encourage your opponent.
– Don’t forget, and I reiterate: You’re there principally to have fun. If you’re not having fun, go to your neighborhood ShopRite and buy a gallon of Turkey Hill ice cream. (Maybe scoffing down the Triple Chocolate Trio’politan will make you feel better.)
If you do all these things, then You’re de Man now, Dog! Lao Du has spoken.