by Massimo Costantini
My reflection starts right here: the power of communication.
I put myself in the role of a fan, a fan who has an unlimited attraction to table tennis. This period of total standstill was a real shock in many ways. Not being able to go to the table tennis hall, keeping the racket in its case, the lack of preparation, the total absence of everyday sweat, the sounds of racket and ball, the competition and finally the teammates.
If on the one hand the sense of nothingness created a void by putting our passion for table tennis to the test, we saw on the other hand an unexpected world open up and we all plunged headlong into it: the world of online communication.
Thanks to the internet, many people did their best to offer online lessons on all sorts of topics related to table tennis, from technique to psychology, from tactics to fitness, webinars, interviews, interactions at all levels. Everything was conveyed through a webcam, taking the table tennis player to a level that no one knew. We were amazed at how much knowledge exists in the world of sports. Yes, we had an idea, but all these initiatives opened up our minds even more and increased our desire to play.
We had the opportunity to appreciate our favourites, the real protagonists, even more; we saw them on all social platforms, they proved to be champions even in front of a smartphone.
The top management of all organizations, local, national, international and even the top management of the ITTF, have made themselves heard, creating a deep union around table tennis and especially communicating in a way that until a few months ago was unthinkable.
We also had the opportunity to relive the history of table tennis as we had never experienced it, let alone appreciated it. We watched epic matches, unforgettable champions of the past, and we read the impressions of those who, in those moments, were right at the table. We have seen technical analyses and retraced extraordinary moments of our sport.
There were social interactions: the friendship between athletes and coaches was also rediscovered. At a time of normality there are fleeting greetings, a handshake, “hi, how are you doing?”. Those who ran for a meeting and those who ran to grab a table, sometimes a half table, shared in 4, a diagonal to train and get into the match climate.
In my opinion, this unpublished version of the table tennis champion was really a good thing; as an enthusiast, I virtually entered that circle of exclusive friendships, I saw the champions laughing sincerely and serenely. I normally see them sulking, not because they were angry but because they were focused only on the game, and so I felt included, involved. My champions felt close, human, and it was, indeed it is a beautiful feeling.
Paradoxically, our sport has improved its image when the image was absent. The image of table tennis is not always the television one; this period offered us the best of the table tennis athlete, and now we appreciate their feats at the table, their great performances even more.
Then there is the point of view of the protagonist, the athletes on the other side of the screen. The champion of all nations sits comfortably in an armchair and speaks to many people, also comfortably seated in their sofas. He/she took an unexpected turn too, the online interaction has reached a large audience; undivided from the players by a barrier, a grandstand, the security service, they are now divided only by a click of a key on the keyboard.
Although this description seems cold, everything but excited, I find it instead of great sporting value. The champion needs the fans as the fans need the champion and this exchange of clicks, the likes, the emojis, the comments have only strengthened the relationship between them.
Finally, there are the managers: those who are behind the scenes, who organize, who worry that things are going well. Even the managers have discovered a way to be on the front line, to inform, to relax people and in any case to be present in the eyes of the movement.
Remote work has become the new way to be creative and efficient, sometimes more active than before. Many have commented on the disadvantages of this period that we hope will never happen again; we are certainly not out of the tunnel, but we see the light, for some brighter, for others a slight glow.
Concluding these brief reflections of mine, I hope that when the activities resume, the normality that we miss so much, we will not forget these teachings, the incredible experience that we have all been called to live; it is a bit like when you play a match, you can win or lose, but the important thing is to try to learn something, always.