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Updated: Aug 31, 2022


I would like to take some time to re-iterate the purpose of participating in leagues and offer a few takeaways that I hope parents can use to help their children to be more productive and effective in using leagues as their learning vehicle.

Leagues are simulated tournaments. They are supposed to be a “learning” mechanism. A mechanism that gives players the perfect opportunity to practice what they learn in lessons and try out the new skills they picked up recently. They are organized to encourage keenly competitive matches to be played. It is through repeated, close competitions that our players grow in skills, game strategies, and mental toughness; all necessary to be a competent and higher level player.

Nobody can elevate their games to the next plateau without trying something new and taking more risks. They should not keep falling back to bad, old habits that had inhibited their progress just wanting to win some points or games. In leagues, we want our players to be free to try and practice their newly learned skills.

Trying out something new and taking more risks mean the player will likely make more mistakes and pick up more loses. But the important part is that they try new things, new skills, new footwork, and take more risks. A player who is not afraid to try new things in league play will solidify his/her mastery of the new skills and ditch the bad, old habits much quicker than one who does not.

Notice that I haven’t even mentioned “winning” more than half way through this writing. I assert that “winning” is not a crucial part of playing leagues. “Winning”, even though satisfying to the winner, isn’t necessarily best for learning. “Losing”, even though painful to bear most times, is what triggers longer term changes and permanent learning. Pains linger while joy evaporates quickly. Those who dare to try new skills in leagues will be much more successful in the longer haul.

So, parents, allow space for and encourage your children to try new things and take more risks in leagues. Allow them to lose in the process; knowing that they will grow and be more successful in the longer haul. Parents should observe in a distance most of the time unless you see something bad happened. Remind and encourage them try new things and ditch old habits. Pay particular attention to any sign of losing focus, negative energy, and poor sportsmanship issues. Leagues are not where you should be critical of your children when he/she lost a game or match. On your way home after a league night, don't ask how many matches your child win/lose. Instead, ask them what they learned from their matches and what adjustments they can make in the future. Be supportive of your children’s long journey most of all.

I know parents want to see their children improve and win immediately. I know because I am one of you as well. But understand that the “road to winning” is a long and arduous one. Focus on letting your children grow and learn, and guiding them to become a much better sportsman/person is a much better route to take.

HITTA League Director/HITTA Advisor, Chong Pang

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After a diagnosis of Parkinson's disease 10 years ago, Alley, 58, picked up a Ping-Pong paddle—and it changed her life.

Your diagnosis of Parkinson's disease was delayed partly because you'd been injured while playing sports. What finally solved the mystery? The first symptom I noticed was that my foot kept cramping when I was playing tennis. I went to see a podiatrist, who recommended surgery. But my foot didn't improve after the operation, and I developed problems in my wrist, elbow, and knee—all on my left side. I eventually went to a different foot surgeon for a second opinion. When I told him about a tremor in my hand, he said I should see a neurologist.

What happened during the visit with the neurologist? He did a clinical exam, then ordered an MRI to rule out multiple sclerosisor a brain tumor, which I didn't have. He thought I might have Parkinson's disease and recommended that I see a movement disorder specialist. He was right. I was diagnosed with Parkinson's and prescribed medication, and was able to resume playing tennis.

How did you adjust after your symptoms progressed and tennis was harder to play? I fell on the court a few times and was concerned about injuring myself seriously. I was still doing physical therapy about twice a week in the basement of a building, and during one visit I heard stamping noises coming from above. It turned out the offices were in the same place as a table tennis center. And they had classes for people with Parkinson's disease. It was a great discovery.

How has Ping-Pong helped? It makes me feel competent. When I'm playing and moving, no one would ever say I have Parkinson's.

In what other ways has Ping-Pong affected your life? Soon after I started playing, I met a guy who volunteered with the group because he had an interest in helping people with Parkinson's disease and loves Ping-Pong. We made a connection, and he's been very supportive. During lockdown, we played Ping-Pong in his basement almost every night.

You recently were the subject of a documentary film, Gotta Keep Moving, about living with Parkinson's disease. How did that come about? The twin daughters of one of my mother's best friends are documentary filmmakers. The movie chronicles my journey from my various sports injuries to my diagnosis to how I've adapted over the years. It was made in collaboration with the Neurorehabilitation Research Laboratory at Columbia Teachers College and premiered at the first-ever ITTF Parkinson's World Table Tennis Championships, where I won the gold medal in the women's singles tournament. To help pay the people who worked on the film, I held a Ping-Pong party fundraiser.

What did you hope to convey through the film? I wanted to help other people with Parkinson's disease. I am a school social worker, so I'm a counselor by occupation, and I wanted to combine that skill with my experience as a person with a chronic condition. I wanted to help people see that if you exercise and take care of yourself, you'll be okay—and the effort is worth it.

To view the documentary, visit

By Mary Bolster

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