My cousin was coming to town for a table tennis tournament and he would be staying at our plays during the week before the final. I wondered what he would need my help for, but I was ready to deliver at whatever cost.
Kevin got to my place on Wednesday evening, explaining that his team would be arriving on Saturday.
“So I’ve been ill for a while now” He started, “I didn’t let anyone on my team know though cos this is what we’ve been working hard for and telling them I won’t be at the training cos I’m ill automatically means I can’t play.”
“So you missed your training, and are still currently missing them because you are ill? I inquired, trying not to look too confused, so as to not discourage Kevin.
“Correct, except for one thing,” Kevin said as he pointed his index finger up.
“What’s that?” I looked up at Kevin who has been pacing around the room, pulling down the stubbles around his cheek and jaw.
“They believe I’ve been here in Chicago, training with your school coach for the finals,” He said as he stopped right in front of me, looking down at me.
Well, I now see why he needed my help. I could have felt disappointed, or at least a part of me wanted to feel that way, but still, he wouldn’t need my help until he needs it; I thought to myself as I looked up at him with a sinister smile.
“You sneaky bastard!” I said as he also let out a short smile.
“It started with a headache, and I just couldn’t risk it,” He said as he sat on the bed beside me, rubbing his mohawk haircut.
“I understand. So what how would you like me to help you out?” I inquired, looking at him curiously. At least he must have had a plan before asking for my help, I thought.
“I was hoping you could talk to your coach and he could sort of go with my story and train me till Friday. I am ready to give it my all… I’ll pay if I have to.” He said, giving me no chance to cut him along the way if I wanted to.
With a smile on my face, I said; “ There is no game this weekend, so I am not so sure what he’ll be up to, but I could talk to him, and we’ll figure something out.”
I went to talk to the coach in school on Thursday morning, explaining what Kevin had told me but also making sure there was a bit of something to motivate coach in our favor.”
“Okay” Coach responded, “I think I know how I can help him, but he needs to put in a lot of effort.”
“Sure” I responded with a smile on my face and so much excitement in me.
“Be here by 1500.”The coach said as he stood up to attend to some students who had come in the right after me but had to wait.
Kevin was excited, and we both had no idea what coach had installed but I trusted him, and Kevin didn’t have much of choice.
“Kevin! I have heard so much about you. I hope you are ready to get started?” The coach who was late as usual in all of his meetings said as he stretched his hand to Kevin who received it firmly and with a smile on his face.
Kevin had almost given up when we had been waiting for about 20 minutes, and coach hadn’t shown up.
He’ll be here, and I said as I tapped the back of Kevin who was beginning to look sad.
“Yes sir” Kevin responded, assisting his response with a nod.
“This way.” The coach said as he led us to the empty with table tennis in the middle, some bats and balls around on the floor, and a machine is standing at the other end of the table. “I’m sure you’ve seen it before.” The coach said looking back at Kevin who stared at the machine curiously.
“That is a table tennis robot trainer right?” Kevin inquired.
“Yeah, it was donated to the school a few weeks back but hasn’t really been used. It is exactly what you need. Just be creative. I have to go now, but you shouldn’t leave here till about 7pm and be back by 7am in the morning. I’ll be waiting.” Coach said as he gave me a wink, turned his back and left.
“Damn! I forgot to ask coach how to set it up” I said as I ran to the machine. The machine really didn’t look like it needed to be set up, with the basket at the back filled with balls and all I seem to need to do was pull the switch. Nothing happened… till after about 10 seconds when the machine spat out a ball towards Kevin, and it did the same after another 10 seconds. I could see a panel which I opened and saw the programming interface. It then made sense to me, and I explained to Kevin who seemed to already know what it does.
Kevin trained till about 7:30pm when he was exhausted. He had brought up a question about how this would help him and what coach meant by being creative. I sat with him all through and wasn’t so sure of the point of the exercise either, so I decided to ask coach in the morning.
While Kevin was coming behind me, I jogged ahead to ask coach why he had left Kevin to just the machine and what he meant by creative.
“Well,” The coach started “Kevin is a good player, so he took a break. All he needs his practice to get ready. Being creative was about him trying out different stroke and spin.” Coach said as we got to the entrance of where Kevin had trained the previous day.
“So yesterday, I hope when you got bored of the regular swinging, you tried out some stroke and spin because all that was just to warm you up,” Coach said as he turned to face Kevin who was now right behind us.
“Yes I did,” Kevin said as he adjusted the gear bag on his shoulder.
“I have set the machine to be faster, and I have increased its angular range as well as other tricks you can repeatedly try out,” Coach continued with a smile. “You practice from now till noon, take a break and continue till 1500.
Then go get some rest. I know you may want to do more, but because you catastrophize your situation doesn’t mean it’s that bad.” Coach said as he tapped his index finger on the side of his head and walked around us, away from the entrance. “You’ll be ready to show your coach what you’ve got tomorrow. I’m going home to pack for my weekend trip. Good luck in your finals, I’ll be watching!”