June 27, 2017

Hours Spent in Table Tennis
How many hours have you spent on table tennis? Some say it takes 10,000 hours to really develop a skill. Have you done your 10,000? I got to thinking how many hours I’ve spent on this sport. It turns out an insane number – apparently enough to perfect my table tennis skills, oh, about ten times over. So . . . how many hours? Let’s find out. There’s going to be a lot of rounding and estimates, but I think the figures at the end are pretty accurate. (Feel free to skip ahead to other segments if you find this boring.) 

I started in 1976, so I’m in my 42nd year. I practiced a huge number of hours my first few years. Here are estimates:

  • 1976-1981: About four hours per day, six days/week, so 24 hours/week, 50 weeks/year, for 6 years.
  • 1981-1992: About two hours/day, six days/week, so 12 hours/week, 50 weeks/year, for 12 years.
  • 1992-2007: About 1.5 hour/day, six days week, so nine hours/week, 50 weeks/year, for 16 years.
  • 2008-2017: Not so much – just coaching. Perhaps 1000 hours, most of it in the early part.

Now comes the single greatest coincidence in the history of anything. After I wrote the above, and doing the arithmetic, I discovered that the first three segments each added up to 7200 hours!!! Okay, these are just estimates. There were stretches where I put in far more than the above, but I was also injured a few times and had to take time off, so it events out. Anyway, 7200 + 7200 + 7200 = 21,600 hours of practice. Let’s average that up to 22,000.

But that’s only part of my table tennis time. How about coaching hours? Since 1992 I’ve averaged perhaps 20 hours/week as a coach or practice partner, excluding camps. (I did more in the 1990s; I'm slowing down with age!) That’s about 25,000 hours. But I also coached a lot from 1979-1992 (especially 1985-1990, when I was a manager/coach/director at the Resident Training Program for Table Tennis at the Olympic Training Center), perhaps an average of 1.5 hours per day overall, but we'll call it an hour per day to be conservative, so another 5000 hours. So about 30,000 hours of coaching outside of training camps.

How about training camps? In April, 2012, I blogged about running my 150th five-day camp. Since then I’ve coached at another 50, so about 200 now, or 1000 days of camps at six hours each, or 6000 hours of camps. (Some of the camps I only coach half the sessions, but I only counted them as “half a camp,” so the numbers add up.) When I think about spending 1000 days coaching at camps I’m sort of dazzled. That’s 2.7 years!!! I'm going to combine regular coaching and training camps, which total to 36,000 hours of coaching. 

How about playing and coaching in tournaments? To keep it simple, I’ll combine these two since there’s a big overlap. I’ve been to every Open and Nationals since 1985 (and I think five before that), and the Teams since 1976. The Open and Nationals are normally five days, the Teams three, so that’s another 450 days or so. Figuring eight days at the tournament site, that’s 3600 hours. But I’ve also played in over 500 tournaments, and coached at another 200 outside the Open/Nationals/teams. So that’s another 700 tournaments. Figuring an average of 1.5 days each, at eight hours/day, that’s 8400 hours, plus the 3600 above, or 12,000 hours. I’ve spent over 1600 days at tournaments, or about 4.4 years!!!

I’ve also run 190 USATT tournaments, nearly all of them two days long. I spend at least 12 hours/day at these tournaments (plus lots of time before setting up and after doing paperwork), so figure 24 hours each, times 190, and that’s another 4600 hours or so – to keep it simple, let’s say 5000 hours. I’ve spent about 380 days running tournaments, over a year!!!

How about table tennis writing? I’ve been blogging Mon-Fri since January, 2011. I have taken time off, so I probably blog about 230 times per year for 6.5 years, or about 1500 blogs. Figuring an average of two hours each, that’s 3000 hours. But I’ve also written over 1700 articles in addition to the blogs – figure one hour each, so another 1700 hours. Then there are the eight books on table tennis. Some of these used my previous writings, and I can’t count them double. I just did a quick accounting, and I’m going to estimate I spent about 700 hours of them, including writing, editing, formatting, proofing, doing covers, etc. So writing comes to 3000 + 1700 + 700 = 5400. We’ll average that down to 5000 hours.

I was editor of USATT Magazine for 12 years and 71 issues. That was nearly a full-time job – writing, editing, soliciting articles and photos, photo work, page layouts, soliciting advertising, pre-prep work, etc. Call it 25 hours/week for 11 years 10 months, or about 15,000 hours. But I also did 19 U.S. Open/Nationals/Team Trials program booklets, 68 club newsletters, 8 Hall of Fame program booklets, 3 issues of Table Tennis World, 3 issues of USATT’s Coaches Quarterly, and 1 USATT’s Tournament Quarterly. That’s another 1000 hours. So about 16,000 hours as Table Tennis Editor.

I’ve also attended about 80 USATT board meetings, including teleconferences. I’ve been to about 50 actual meetings, averaging two days, eight hours, plus another 30 teleconferences averaging two hours, so about 860 hours of USATT board meetings. Add in committee meetings, and we’d be over 1000, but we’ll say 1000 hours.

There’s also about 500 press releases I’ve written and sent out over the years, and time spent with reporters, etc. Call it 1000 hours under Promotion.

But the above doesn’t include lots of miscellaneous things, like setting up and running clubs; cleaning clubs (I used to do that!); writing letters of recommendations for players; umpiring (many hundreds of hours back in the 1980s and 1990s), and hordes of other stuff that come out to (after 41 years) a lot more than 2000 hours. But we’ll arbitrarily call it 2000 hours, since that gets us to a nice even figure.

So where do we stand?

  • Practice: 22,000 hours
  • Coaching: 36,000 hours
  • Playing & Coaching at Tournaments: 12,000 hours.
  • Running Tournaments: 5000 hours
  • Table Tennis Writer: 5000 hours
  • Table Tennis Editor: 16,000 hours
  • USATT meetings: 1000 hours
  • Promotion: 1000 hours
  • Miscellaneous: 2000 hours.

That’s an insane 100,000 hours of table tennis! For perspective, there are 8760 hours in a normal year. So I’ve done about 11.5 years of continuous table tennis!!! I've played for a little less than 41.5 years, about 150,000 days, or about 360,000 hours since I began. So I've spent nearly 28% of my time on table tennis since 1976 (100,000/360,000) - about 6.7 hours/day. Sounds about right. In fact, at age 57, I've spent about 13% of my entire life doing table tennis!!! (It's fortunate that I only sleep about 6 hours/night so have more time for TT. I think.) 

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