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Advice for Couch Potatoes 🏓

Sadly the American athlete reaches an age where the traditional sports of youth are no longer feasible activities, or even worse, these sports have damaged the body beyond repair. Without the motivation of athletic competition, the result, more often than not, is declining health and fitness. 

As we age, it is just not practical for most of us to compete in sports without making fools of ourselves or getting injured. Yes, those same activities of our younger days that earned us the medals, letter jackets, and pep rallies—while simultaneously pumping up our self-esteem—have eventually let us down big time. In the past, as we bashed our opponents and achieved the winning score, we inadvertently were hooked on the natural endorphins pumping into our blood stream. In adulthood those natural, physical highs attained through competition are almost impossible to replicate.  Reviving our heydays of glory and triumph is more complex than just mind over muscle. The painful signals from aging bodies can’t be ignored, so eventually these competitive activities are lost, and without alternatives, we become sedentary couch potatoes.

Further into age—as the body becomes even more delicate—the populace is inevitably left with just plain walking. It's almost impossible to hurt oneself walking other than maybe going to the mall and tripping over a stray gum ball or cracking one’s skull on an un-mopped floor. The social obligations of showing up at 8 a.m. to meet the mall gang can be a great motivator to keep the joints moving, but it can never duplicate the competitive thrill of winning a game or running to first base after hitting the T-ball for the first time. Without competition, without the thrill of endorphins surging through the bloodstream, motivation can be difficult to find, and more often than not when the intensity and drive are lacking, so is the quality of the exercise. Sadly, at this point there are plenty of has-beens and wannabes that cannot even get themselves motivated to get off the couch without the old thrill of competition.

At the apex of our athletic careers, our bodies were stress-free, calorie-burning machines performing on autopilot while simultaneously keeping weight gain to a minimum, or at least a manageable level. Some of the formerly intrepid—now incapacitated—American athletes have to completely give up the fight, or continue living out their sports dreams vicariously through their children’s sports accomplishments, where the vicious cycle repeats itself.  Others will hang out at sports bars—cheering at the TV screen and suffer the Monday morning blues when their favorite sports team loses on the weekend. 

With today’s status quo, it is almost unavoidable that the destiny of the American athlete is to morph from a fierce competitive sports warrior to a mall walker or a zoned out health club member wearing an iPod, resembling a caged hamster going nowhere on a circular treadmill. 

With the current state of affairs in America, it is doubtful we will ever have practical training in an Olympic lifetime competitive sport like table tennis. School athletic directors control the sporting culture at the ground level. They are too often more concerned about their schools’ winning records and a few exceptional athletes moving onto the college and pro ranks. Once athletes are used up as cannon fodder, their aching kneecaps are not the schools’ problems anymore.

New Berlin was the genesis of Metro Milwaukee organized table tennis in the 90’s but the community has since dropped all organized table tennis including the disbanding of their two state championship high school teams. Subsequently, the Milwaukee Table Tennis Club hosted the U.S. Open in 2011, annual high school championships, Senior Olympics, Badger Open and Wisconsin State Closed Tournament. The Milwaukee club has three professional coaches and offers training camps for youth. Shorewood, West Allis and Sussex offer open play. Milwaukee County has two senior centers with tables. UWM
has a collegiate team and offers instruction for credit in its curriculum.

In 1988 table tennis was recognized as an Olympic sport. Except for soccer, table tennis has the most participants worldwide. If community leaders don’t provide us with practical lifetime athletic competition and won’t heed the BAT Foundations (Bounce Alzheimer’s Therapy) recommendation that table tennis therapy could benefit those living with on-set Alzheimer’s, they should at least prepare us for old age by teaching non-competitive activities like “Mall Walking” and “Treadmill 101”.
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