Getting Better at Sports… the Hard Way

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To say that my body is unathletic is the understatement of the year. A better statement is that I simply do not belong anywhere near a gym. However, when I decided to get better at table tennis of all things (and it is a sport) I found my body being put through a gauntlet.

First, I gave myself goals: I wanted to actually be able to hit the ball when someone returned it to me. I wanted to be able to hold my own in a table tennis match, and I wanted to improve my reflexes.

Those three goals were understandable and I had several sub-goals to track my progress. I didn’t want to go pro or become the best table tennis player in the world, but I wanted to be good enough to have fun every time I picked up a paddle.

Chasing the ball again and again

So I prepared for my goal by rigging up a ball launcher across from my table and then letting it shoot balls at me as I tried to hit them back.

For the first week I was either chasing the balls as they sailed past me or getting hit by balls that fired way too fast. Every time I took my shirt off I had a new ball-shaped bruise on my skin, and it hurt a ton. However, the second week I found myself getting hit less.

I was still madly swinging at the balls and chasing them as they rolled around on my floor, but I was either able to dodge the balls as I ducked or even used the paddle as a shield. So I was at least hitting the ball with the paddle for something.

My reflexes were getting faster and faster, and by the third week the bruises had healed and weren’t being replaced by new ones.

Finding a coach

After I had gotten better against my ball launcher, I decided that I needed to test my skills against a real human, but to do that I realized I needed to find a coach. Thankfully, finding a table tennis coach was surprisingly easy.

The coach I found was an afterschool teacher who not only knew the game and several local table tennis matches but also had a massive love for the game and the drive to see me succeed. We learned from one another over the course of our time together, and it was an interesting experience.

By pitting myself against another experienced human being, who loved the game and had done what I was planning to do I was able to become even better and learn things about myself that I wasn’t able to do myself.

My journey to being good at table tennis and getting my skinny uncoordinated body to do what I want is still ongoing, but I’m still working with my coach and practising at least an hour every day and I can definitely see improvement.

Who knows, maybe I’ll be the best after all, someday.