Remember: It’s a game, it’s only a game. Now, having said that, I realize that everyone wants to win. Some are serious about it – some very serious – while some seem to take delight, judging by their lasting smiles, in just playing “for the fun of it,” winning not being an end-all for them.
Let’s assume you’re in the former category, a serious player who wants to beat the crap out of everyone you encounter across the table from you. Well, there’s the old adage on how to get to Carnegie Hall – Practice, Practice, Practice! That perspective mostly relates to the physical skills involved, but in this blog we’ll be turning to the cognitive area or more toward the realm of the psychological. This aspect of sports is often overlooked when one learns to play, but if you are indeed a serious player, then you might want to be crowned a champion with plaques and prizes to put on your walls and trophy cases. You might also desire another kind of experience – the pure joy of killing someone in a sports contest! Admit it, there’s still some law-of-the jungle, a streak of primal sadism in all of us. In any case, be you an unrestrained savage or a hippie pacifist, you cannot possibly ignore the indispensable sagacity that follows. (Editor: All readers should, at this point, take a grain of salt; maybe two grains.)
Editor: Now, Lao Du, how do you know so much about the mental aspect as it relates to winning? When I’ve watched you play recently, you’ve been losing with regularity.
Lao Du: Well, I also go to the bathroom with regularity, too, so that in itself is not a terrible thing. How you lose becomes the issue, not if, because losing is inevitable. Happens to everyone sooner or later. One has to know how to lose – some need to learn – and to do it with dignity and honorableness. That, in today’s egocentric world, is often regrettably lacking.
Editor: Yeah, yea, but that sounds very elevated coming from you. Do I have to remind you that you wrote recently about your excuse for not attaining the “winner’s circle because Trader Joes ran out of Kale”?
Lao Du: Well, okay, but I’ve matured since then. Undergone an epiphany.
Editor: An epiphany? You mean some sort of divine reawakening?
Lao Du: Absolutely! I don’t blame gluten or Kale anymore. I usually buy the baby arugula now.
I may be older, but I’ve learned a few things on the way. For example, I was not a good loser as a kid. I banged tennis rackets on the ground and chucked them into and over fences. I’m pretty sure I still own the distance record for tossed rackets at Kissena Park and, I admit, that wasn’t exactly groovy. (Editor: Did this guy just use the word “groovy”? From whence in antiquity did he emerge?) But nowadays I take a loss more or less in stride. Maybe only a few sleepless nights … but then I recover quickly after I vow never to play ping pong again.
Editor: All right, all right. Let’s get down to it: Do you or don’t you have any psychological pearls for us which will aid us toward our goal of winning at table tennis?
Lao Du: I do. Lao Du can do … but I’m tired now, I’ll tell you next time. Stay tuned.