Written by Sam Priestley.
If you are anything like me, you hate getting worse. And you hate losing to people you know you're better than.
That's me. And it's natural. Competitiveness and a desire to improve is what used to keep me going. It motivated me to do service practice over and over again on my own, and to traipse across London in the freezing cold to attend an away match.
Life Gets In The Way
But then life got in the way. I finished the Expert in a Year challenge, decided to take a short break from table tennis, and then never really started again.
The years trickled past with me playing less and less. There was always something on that took priority: travelling, marriage, moving house, family illness.
As they say, life happened.
I enjoy table tennis. I want to play more table tennis. But that competitiveness that used to spur me on is now doing the opposite. It is holding me back. Stopping me wanting to play.
I can't handle being worse. And I can't handle not improving at the rate I used to.
I find myself constantly comparing myself to myself when I was at the height of my training. When I was training every day and competing every weekend. And I find myself thinking:
"If I can't play as much as I used to, then what is the point of playing at all?"
What nonsense! I am older, have less time to train, am less fit, and haven't trained in years. My belly has grown and my table tennis skills have atrophied.
But so what? Why should I give up on something I enjoy simply because some fitter version of myself was much better at it. Especially as...
Table Tennis Is For Life
I remember going to a table tennis training camp in early 2014. On the same day, I lost to both a 10-year-old and a 90-year-old. What other sport is there where that sentence could possibly be true?!
I've met so many people in their 20s who used to play a lot of table tennis, and then 'life happened'. They went to university, got into relationships, discovered alcohol, and gave up on table tennis. Now they plan to never play again. Not because they don't enjoy it, but because they will never be as good as they once were.
I am determined to not be that person. How can a 20-something decide they're over the hill of a sport where a 90-year-old can still whoop arse?
Plus, their logic is faulty. I am sure there are some people who are so good that no amount of recreational play will ever make them any better. But that definitely isn't true for most people, and it isn't true for me. If I play once or twice a week for the next 30 years, I guarantee I will be able to destroy my old-self. Even if I've two knee replacements and can barely see.
Table Tennis Is Most Fun When You Don't Take It Too Seriously
Plus what I forget is that training really hard wasn't that much fun at the time.
When I was at the height of my most frantic training schedule, I used to fantasize about the day I could just play table tennis for fun. Where I could whoop some noobs, or just mess around doing silly shots and chatting. I can have that now! So why am I holding myself back?!
I spend quite a lot of time talking to Harrie Austin-Jones who is in the midst of an intense training schedule as part of his Epic Table Tennis Challenge. Do you know what his favourite topic of conversation is? Complaining about table tennis. He's enjoying it, but I bet he can't wait until the challenge is over and he can play solely for fun. I just hope he doesn't quit.
- Stop making up excuses not play because you're embarrassed about your current level.
- Stop throwing a strop because you used to be better.
- And most importantly, start playing again.
Oh, and make sure to get yourself an Eastfield bat when you do.
Sam Priestley is both co-owner at Eastfield and a #TeamEastfield sponsored player. His experience learning to play table tennis in a year caught the public imagination and his transformation video has been viewed over 8 million times on YouTube. He blogs about life and business at SamPriestley.com!