The Start of a Journey

So, lets get the easy bits over with, my name is Harrie. I like sport. I like it so much it basically broke me. I also like the Olympic games. The quest to get there has yielded little fruit so far and that is where we begin this little journey...

The Olympic games has always resonated with me. I guess the shear volume of sport combined with my love of winning basically anything has provided me with a drive to one day compete there. However, I have not always been necessarily blessed with a body that can achieve it. Let's quickly run down the list for all of you that don't know:

3 shoulder operations
1 hernia
7 back procedures (not quite operations but I was still out like a light bulb)
1 broken thumb

then lets go to the muscles:

torn hamstrings
torn groin
torn calves
torn quad tendon 
torn pectoral
torn quad body

Needless to say impact sports have not been kind to my little frame (I stand 5"7). These include the usual football, rugby and athletics (with Rugby and Athletics being my "main" sports). So I have spent the last 10 years on a constant stream of rehab with a faint dream of playing professional sport drifting further and further into the distance. I am now 25 and, needless to say, I haven't quite got enough time to retrain as a gymnast (my probable calling). So with the 2016 Olympic games in full swing it was time to look elsewhere. I narrowed it down to 4 sports: Canoeing, Badminton, Table Tennis and Archery. All of these sports were sports where you could go on into your 30's. Most required less power and more skill. They all have no element of subjectivity (team sports will always have this when it comes to selection) and they are all small sports. 

My first venture was into canoeing. However, three problems arose from this. The club I joined was more focused on Marathons and long distance canoeing and I have no talent or interest in this. The second is that my back really hurt in the boat and the final problem was my knee hurt. 

Oh sorry did I forget the knee from the list? Well that is because I am having surgery on that bad boy in a few weeks. Its a probable meniscus tear but we don't actually know, so I will keep you posted. 

Anyway, Canoeing was out of the window. So was badminton with the knee keeping me out of action and Archery never replied to my e-mails. So finally, last but not least, I decided to give table tennis a try. The reason it was last on my list is that I have basically never played table tennis. I can count 2-3 times I have played in my whole life and, therefore, I am a beginner of the highest order. 

I have always wondered about table tennis though, I read a book called "the bounce" about 10 years ago by Matthew Syed and within this book was the idea of the 10,000 hour rule. Now, it is not an exact science but it is a useful guide and I apply is to a few things in my life. I am currently 3000 hours into becoming a master of throwing and catching kitchen utensils being my back, for example. So table tennis is the perfect place to test this rule out properly. 

After a few emails, it was time to go down to the local club, Larkfield Table Tennis Club, and see where this journey would take me. Now, I would love to tell you that I stepped up to the table and with my sweeping forehand, dynamic backhand and lethal serve I put away all challengers on my first time out. However, it wasn't quite like that. I basically sucked. I could hit the ball and, even then, only on the backhand. I could also get the ball over the tiny net. Sometimes, I could even get the ball onto the table. Aside from that I sucked. This was to be expected though and I knew that the only way to improve was to play with anyone who will play with me. In my first week I played a guy in his 40's who had been playing since his was 6. A guy who was about 70 and I think he basically thought I was a moron and a kid who battered me. Two hours later though, improvements had begun.

The week after consisted of playing a wide variety children, all of whom were better than me. There is literally nothing better than getting beaten by an 11 year old that struggles to see over the table. Once again, improvements were coming. I started practising with the chairman of the club and suddenly I had a forehand. A week later I brought my friend Ollie down who had played a reasonable amount and that meant I could bring my forehand to bare. I even won 3 games, although, he won 5. Although, he did batter me to love in one of those! It was nice, however, to start winning.

Week 4 was my toughest week so far the lessons I had learnt seemed to go out of the window whenever I played anyone. Everything needed to be a conscious decision and I couldn't concentrate on the ball enough. Everyone at the club seemed to paste me. I really did wonder if the mountain was going to be too high to climb. Every shot was laboured, everything I did my body position was wrong. It seemed like I couldn't get anything right and the frustration started to show. 

Now we reach the most recent week of the little journey. Week 5. After a small disaster of week 4 I felt a little nervous coming into it. My progress, after massive improvements in the first three weeks, seemed to be faltering and my friend was coming down to play and he said himself he had played "40 hours a week" at one point. Yet, I needn't of worried. My game had yet again improved and finally I won my first game at the club. My friend, Sam, came down and was as good as he said he would be. His aggressive style causing me problems combined with a quick, spinning serve that, at first, I had no idea how to return. Yet, as time went on I found myself getting better. I understood that I could use his power against him and I could stand further from the table to counteract the speed of his shots. I could even use some power of my own. What I have noticed is that previous background in intense sports does have an advantage. The dedication and drive to win keeps you on the table longer, it keeps you more focused and it also means that you are used to listening to instructions and acting on them. Maybe this will prove an advantage in months to come.

With about 12 hours of actual playing time in I feel I need to step up a little bit. Two(ish) hours a week isn't going to work. I need a table at home and so I have made the purchase of a mini table ( With the view to getting a full size table for the garden. Then eventually, I have permission (yes I need permission!) to get this bad boy ( when I can afford it. Likewise, I have also bought my first bat (, I basically read a couple of blogs that said it would be good. So I will tell you if it is! 

The journey towards being Olympic Champion has started. 

P.S I have no links to anything I have purchased it might all be rubbish for all I know as none of it has even arrived yet! 


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