The Last Gladiator

Rowden Fullen (2002)

Table tennis is very like life. If you wish to progress and develop then you must really stand outside it, distance yourself from what is going on and make some decisions as to where you are going and how you are going to get there. A good coach can point you in the right direction but there must be a positive input from you. People who just drift rarely achieve anything.

First you must understand that the one constant in table tennis as in life is change, if you try to stop still and stay as you are then you will stagnate. Whether you progress or not depends on whether you are receptive to and ready to accept change. Have you the right mental approach?

One important factor that you must understand is that in our modern society it’s harder than ever to be an individual. Modern society destroys the individual and the specialist. Modern society renders everything uniform, mass media, the speed of communication and the internet for example, all tend to influence us and bring us down to a common level whether we understand this or not. For the human species evolution occurs mostly through behaviour — we innovate new behaviour to adapt and change. The effect of large groups, of mass media, is to stop behavioural change. Mass media swamps diversity, all differences vanish, even humanity’s most necessary resource, intellectual diversity, disappears. We stop thinking for ourselves and follow the herd.

Modern society does not even prepare people to cope with life. Educational establishments unfortunately do not get past the stage of schooling people to use their minds to store information instead of progressing to the level of actually solving problems! Modern education does not teach people to think for themselves – why for example do so many top managers go on leadership courses to help them to do their jobs? The reason is quite simple — in spite of all their time in school and college and university they have never been taught how to use their minds. To progress and develop you must first switch on the mind and then put it into gear. After a while you’ll learn how to drive!

Many players and coaches too do not seem to appreciate that development must be in the right direction for the particular player and that the right training must be devised to enable that player to evolve and mature. Indeed it is the prime function of the coach to unlock the potential of his player. Direction is vital, if the player follows the wrong course for him or her then much of that potential can remain untapped.

The player must of course be aware of his or her strengths and how to use these to win. Each competitor should in essence play his or her own game. If a player is to reach near-maximum potential, it is vital that he or she is aware of how to achieve this. It is the responsibility of the coach to show his player where he or she is going and how to get there! But in the final analysis it’s up to the player to do it!

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