Somethings been a little off lately. It’s not my enthusiasm, it’s not my love for the game, but something hasn’t felt right for a few weeks. My schedule was thrown off by the winter holiday, and the rhythm and tempo of discipline hasn’t come back yet.
At night, when I go home, I leave dejected and I don’t know why. Because my playing is good. Before I kinda flirted with players from the next level, working up the nerve to play with them for a few games but then retreating to players of a lower level where I felt more comfortable.
But now I’m clearly at the next level, not intimidated playing with people who used to be a lot better. I’ve even heard a few of my opponents telling each other to “keep it away from the front of the net because Xiao Bing is too quick.” That always makes me feel good.
My coach isn’t helping me feel better. In fact he’s making it worse. We haven’t re-started out one-on-one training yet, so I don’t have a structured system with him, yet we play together and he gets all annoyed when I haven’t improved.
We never play until late, at least 9:30 p.m. or later, when I’ve already played for more than two hours and I’m exhausted. So of course I move slow and can’t quite get the mental or physical energy to obey his commands.
The other night we played a few games as partners and my coach kept yelling at me to do something and honestly, I couldn’t even understand half of what he was saying, I was too tired. So I wasn’t able to change my tactics and kept fucking up, which made him yell more (well, he doesn’t exactly yell, but you know, “speak passionately to me and not in a sexy way.”)
Since it was so late everyone was taking a break and getting ready to go so they sat watching us. Every time I did something wrong, which was often, my coach would yell out an exasperated “Xiao Bing! You need to blah, blah, blah, blah” and everyone on the sidelines laughed and laughed. Clearly not fun for me.
Not to say I haven’t shown signs of improvement.
One night, I played 4 games of singles against two guys and I won all four games. I played singles against these same guys a few months ago, and I lost miserably. Not just a little, I lost by a lot. My singles game is really weak but this time I totally killed them. I controlled the game the whole time and won without using 100% of my energy. I was crazy excited.
“I won! I won!” I said running over to my coach afterwards (he was the one that forced me to play singles with these guys in the first place.)
“Great,” he said. “Now play against me.”
“Nope,” I refused. “I’m happy, and I want to stay happy, I’m not gonna play with you,”I said. He laughed but he knew it was true. But those singles games were in the first hour of playing, and even though I continued to play well that night, I left feeling dejected again.
So I’ve been asking myself “why?” Even though I KNOW I’ve been playing better. Even though I KNOW I’ve improved, why am I not happy with it? I think because my improvements are coming at a much slower rate, my weaknesses are showing themselves as a long-term issue, not something easily fixed.
I think I’m finally entering the plateau.
Since I started at such a low level, I could improve with even a little bit of training, so of course I have had leaps and bounds with all the effort I put in. I really realized that the other day when there was a newbie playing. She didn’t know she had to receive a serve on her side, she didn’t know you changed positions when your team got a point. She basically just tried to hit what came to her and giggled a lot.
“When you first met me was I better than that girl?” I asked my coach on the ride home that night.
“You guys were the same,” he said.
“Ouch,” I said. Yet at the same time I was super proud of how far I had come.
But these days my problems reflect an older, less easily adaptable body and a mind that has very little experience of the sport. These are harder to overcome, they can’t be fixed in one or two training sessions.
And I know I need time and I know I just need to continue what I’m doing and trust it will pay off in the end.
But damn, the plateau sucks.