Table tennis looks easy but is it as easy as it seems? Javaun Greenland started playing the sport in his home country of Jamaica in 2008, at the age of 15.
“I originally had no intentions of becoming a competitive player, due to the fact that I only attempted the sport because of a bet at the time with my eventual coach,” said Greenland.
Greenland had some good friends who were learning the sport, and he mocked them for not playing a “real” sport like soccer or basketball.
Greenland had no idea that table tennis would prove to be the most technically and physically demanding game he would ever come to play.
“The coach had bet me that if I was unable to manage one week of training, I should refrain from disrespecting the sport,” said Greenland. “Of course I lost. It was extremely gruelling. No amount of cardio, strength training and hand-eye coordination could have prepared me for the challenges which I had faced during that week.”
“In fact, that week I didn’t hit a single ball due to the coach’s firm belief in shadow practice – simulation of hitting the ball with the correct forearm techniques, lateral leg movements and proper back-arching phases,” remembered Greenland.
On the last day, Greenland said his coach told him to come back next week and work on improving his techniques. From that point on, Greenland quit the basketball team and got sucked into his new sport. He hasn’t regretted it.
“I gradually became dedicated to the sport,” said Greenland. “I spent late nights after school and 10-hour days during my summer months training. I would like to believe my commitment began there.”
Greenland added, “You don’t realize it immediately, but just as [with] many other things in life, attachment to something becomes greater due to enjoyment and affiliation by getting more and more involved.”
In his final competitive tournament, the Jamaica junior team’s coach congratulated him and offered him a chance to train with the national team. However, Greenland was unable to join them because he emigrated to Canada a few months later.
Greenland enrolled in engineering at McMaster University in 2011 and shortly thereafter became very ill. At that point, he gave up playing the sport competitively but he still plays recreationally at the Burnhamthorpe Table Tennis Club in Mississauga.