This weekend I was playing ping pong with my fifteen-year-old nephew from Spain. It pains me to say, but he was better than me. Not by a lot…but enough.
I could go on about the fact I hadn’t played any ping pong in about two years. And even then it was the first time in about five years.
I could make excuses how I was sick (I was).
Or I could make excuses about the equipment (crappy paddles, weird table and a plywood net). I won’t.
Nope, he was better. He should have won.
But he didn’t.
What was my magic power? It was the fact that I was older and could concentrate. He was about as focused as the ping pong ball. Bouncing all over the place.
He watched the TV. He watched girls. He looked all around. He goofed around. Me, I just played ping pong. I had fewer errors, fewer missed shots. He had better shots than me but they weren’t enough.
He should have won but I ended up winning two of the three games. The third game wasn’t even that close. By that time his 15-year-old brain was whizzing away and had really lost it.
I’m not sure if it was because I was more competitive or just older. I can tell you though I did want to win. I focused and tried hard. Score one for old age. And one for the good old U.S. of A.
Kids need to learn to focus for success in sports. Whether ping pong, soccer, swimming, basketball or anything else, the ability to focus probably needs to be taught. If you’re a coach, parent or teacher, don’t expect your kids to get it.
And I don’t think it’s natural. I think it can be taught and learned.
You don’t need to wait till you’re an adult.
Here are some ideas on how to teach focus to your kids.