Ping Pong This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

January 28, 2009
Ping-pong is a sport that has the reputation for being nerdy and pointless, but if that’s your impression of it, you have a lot to learn. Let me explain.

Playing a match is like taking a test: you have to calculate angles and probabilities under time pressure. If you don’t determine the right force and acceleration, you might completely miss the ball. Professional table tennis players do not become great overnight, as with any sport. Instead, they dedicate long hours (perhaps spent more productively elsewhere) learning.

It’s inevitable: the more you play, the more types of players you’ll ­encounter. The Ping-Pong Dork is the worst kind of challenger. He brings his own signature paddle to the match, insists on using his regulation-­standardized ball, will argue for hours about 40 mm versus 38 mm, and ­actually knows the names of the greatest players in the world. The most pathetic part is he’s beaten mercilessly every time.

Then there are the cautious folk, the fear of defeat causing them to play conservatively. A more liberal style, on the other hand, suggests control. You won’t try to slam when the game is moving at a fast pace, and you won’t attempt a cut serve when the score is 19-20. But when you can exploit the other player’s weakness and jump ahead, you’re free to miss all the slices and smashes you want.

Don’t think for a second this game isn’t cutthroat. Ping-pong teaches character. You can win, even if you’re down by 10, if you persevere with tenacity. You learn to work against anxiety, sometimes caused by the other player’s trick shots, sometimes by spectators, and sometimes by your own psyched-out self.

I remember one match against my dad, an opponent with over 30 years of experience. He quickly grabbed the lead, and the score stood at 17 to 10. It was my turn to serve. Boom! Boom! Boom! Three points off the return. Dad was starting to lose momentum, and he had broken into a sweat. BAM! I floated one. Can’t be doing that at this point, I thought. Nothing is worse than the ball not even hitting the other side of the table (floating). The score was 18 to 13, creating a psychological crossroads: was it time to pull out my killer move – the Slam Slice Supreme – risking everything? Or should I wait the momentum shift out, hoping Dad doesn’t regain his rhythm? I chose the latter and won. Why? Dad lost his mental game, causing him to lose the match.

Ping-pong is the art of cool – cool calculation, cool consideration, cool delivery. The most successful players know when to go in for the kill and when to sit back and let the opponents kill themselves. Next time you have the opportunity, play a game or two. You just might learn something.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

Join the Discussion

This article has 7 comments. Post your own now!

recreamz29 said...
Dec. 9, 2012 at 3:29 am
whooaa!!! ping pong is really the an awesome game!
Weepinwillow said...
Feb. 14, 2011 at 4:24 pm
good article. i love ping pong!=)
swim4ever said...
Jul. 31, 2010 at 6:06 pm
Absolutely loved this article!! i wanted to go play ping pong as soon as i was done.
cavalier87 said...
Mar. 8, 2010 at 12:56 pm
i also invented the cleveland cutter!
MszRAiNDROPsz said...
Jul. 24, 2009 at 2:52 am
whoa. u've rele given it alot of thought. its good tho =]
cavalier87 replied...
Mar. 8, 2010 at 12:49 pm
i have always loved pingpong. i invented the super cavalier serve!
NCboi said...
Apr. 24, 2009 at 3:07 pm
true true a bit nerdy coments
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