May 26, 2011


Champions and Chumps

Do you strive to be a Champion or a Chump?

A Champion isn't necessarily the best. He's the best in an event. If you are rated 1099 and enter an Under 1100 event, you are striving to be a Champion. If you win the event, you are a Champion. If you don't win the event but gain experience, you may be a Future Champion. If you have fun, you are a Normal Person. If you avoid the event out of fear of losing rating points, you are a Chump.

So where do you stand? Do you play for titles (Champions), experience (Future Champions), fun (Normal People), or rating points (Chumps)? Let's talk about Champions and Chumps.

During the week, you may be an accountant, a programmer, a cook, a laborer, or anything else. But when you show up at a tournament, you not only get to pretend to be a Champion, you have the opportunity to be one. If you want to be a Champion, think like a Champion. If you want to be a Chump, think like a Chump.


  • want to win titles, not rating points.
  • thrive by meeting challenges, not avoiding them.
  • want to win, not avoid losing.
  • hate losing, but hate avoiding challenges even worse.


  • want to win rating points.
  • avoid challenges.
  • want to avoid losing.
  • hate losing, and so avoid challenges.

There's nothing wrong with using ratings as a goal. A Champion reaches a rating goal by taking on the challenge of beating opponents in the events he strives to win. A Chump reaches a rating goal by avoiding such challenges, and avoids events he might win where he might risk his rating.

The fear of losing rating points causes more damage to up-and-coming players than just about anything else, especially among junior players. Here's my article on Juniors and Ratings, which was published in the USATT Coaching Newsletter, November 2009.

To those of you who do have difficulty in beating lower-rated players consistently, and are a bit leery of blowing your rating if you play in events where you are among the higher seeds where you'd have to play these lower-rated players - are you a Champion or a Chump?

To the Champions and Future Champions: If you want to beat lower-rated players consistently, here's an equation for you. Versatility + tactics + concentration = mowing down weaker players. It also helps to have good serves and/or be consistent, especially on the opponent's serve. If you do lose to a lower-rated player, don't think of it as just a loss. Your opponent has just found a weakness in your game. By competing and losing, you have found this weakness and can now fix it. You'll be a better player for it and will have a better chance of winning future events. That's how Champions think. (Ironically, by becoming a better player, you'll also end up with a higher rating.)

To the Chumps: Just keep avoiding these events and continue with your rating infatuation. Let the Champions win. In the short run, you may end up with a slightly higher rating. In the long run you'll be a weaker (and lower-rated) player. You'll never really understand what it means to be a true Champion.

Robot Adept: a technological paddle versus a magic paddle?

Piers Anthony ( was one of the best-selling and most prolific fantasy writers of the 1980s and 1990s. His books - about140 - usually involved magic and humor (often risqué humor), and he is best known for his Xanth series. However, it is "Robot Adept" (published in 1989), which is book five of his seven-book "Apprentice Adept" series that is of special interest to us. The book contains 16 chapters - and the last two chapters are nearly all table tennis! The gist of it is a battle between the champions of two worlds - one a world of magic, one a world of science. Especially interesting is the game played with one using a magic paddle, the other a highly technological paddle. Some of it may be confusing, since you’ve missed the first 14 chapters, but you can figure most of it out. The "champions" are Bane, a former human now in a robot body and representing the technological world, Proton; and Mach, a former robot now in a human body and representing the magic world, Phaze! (And yes, these two are Champions, not Chumps!)

Anthony was himself a player, although he no longer plays due to arthritis. He and I corresponded regularly in the late 1980s/early 1990s as we are both members of Science Fiction Writers of America as well as table tennis players.


Send us your own coaching news!