Sports, sports, para-sports.
Well the Paralympics are almost here so I am going to write a little about sports, a small introduction of me is needed in this aspect, I been doing sports for a long time, to be exact 37 years (I know I don’t look that old, but I am a lot older, so I’ll take the compliment that I am young 🙂 ) I started doing martial arts ever since I remember but I started understanding it at around age of 7, before that I was the kicking bag for my brothers, as you know or not, I am the 7 son, yep that little lady you all know had 10 kids, well family tree will be another blog in the future.
Now back to me being a kicking bag for my brothers, at an young age I learned that you have to be able to protect yourself, cause your brothers are not always around. As I was growing y brother Danny was well into martial arts and was practicing it with his friends. Those days getting books was a luxury in our part of the world especially about Martial Arts. One of the books Danny has gotten his hands was ” Chinese Gung-Fu: The Philosophical Art of Self Defense” it was a bit complicated for me, but I looked it over, day in day out, I would look at the pictures and mimic the moves, I watched every movie that I could and just plain lived the Jeet Kune Do life, latter I would get the Tao of Jeet kune do, by Bruce Lee,
So I was on my way to become a little Bruce. One day I was introduced to nunchucks, and practically they became a part of me, I slept with them, ate with them, walked with them, they became a extension of my body, I practiced with them every day several hours, unknown to me at the time, the 10000 hours to perfect something became a part of me also (in the book Outliers, author Malcolm Gladwell says that it takes roughly ten thousand hours of practice to achieve mastery in any field.)
I would train and then train some more, then rest and repeat, as you can imagine I eventually became real good, not only with one hand but with both, I could do amazing things with nunchucks, that was the beginning, I would practice one kind of martial art or another for a long time, then in mid 90’s I got shot and ended up in a wheelchair. Life had different plans for me I guess and it was a rough time for me. At the time I didn’t know about the Paralympics, but I continued with sports and found a solace in them. I began lifting weights (Power Lifting) around 2003, and in about 5 years I was in the 500 club( I was bench pressing 500 lbs or 230 kg) In 2010 I was testing the limits of one’s ability and got injured and had to take a break from power-lifting or at least not test the limits anymore. I started playing basketball with a team here, for about 4 years, but getting somewhere with an organized sport is pretty difficult especially when you hit government bureaucracy and red tape.I was disappointed then and I am disappointed now.The team was not going anywhere than and it’s in the same place now as it was when it started. The basketball team doesn’t even have a classification.
So let me explain how Para-sports work, every sport has its own classification, example basketball players get classed from 4.5 points to 1, 4,5 being the most capable and 1 the least (The higher the point number, the greater the player’s functional ability. With five players on the court, the total number of points may not exceed fourteen so as you can see 1 point player are highly valued in the normal world but here not really.
Why? You are probably asking yourself, well if you have two good 1 point players then higher point players can play and you get to keep the 14-point maximum, confusing? a little let’s simplify: 1- 4.5-point player, 1- 4-point player. 1- 3.5 and 2- 1 point players equals 14 points, now let’s see another example that you will see in most places including my home town: 2- 4.5 point players, one 4 point player, one 3 point and one 1 point that’s equal to 17, so no good for any real tournament. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wheelchair_basketball_classification )
what I noticed is that a lot of people without any disabilities play the sport, and that makes it hard for us that are trying to play and advance, you cannot advance staying on the side lines while some healthy person is playing, the sad part is they will never play in a real tournament, they will never have a classification, but this has become a lucrative business, and most teams are just doing it for the money, not for the advancement of people with disabilities, in order to become good at this sport or any other sport this has to become your life, you have to play, eat, sleep and repeat, the 10000 hr. rule comes in, so if say you train 2 hrs a day twice a week that’s 192 hrs a year well it will take you two life times to get 10000 hrs of training, now if you train 5 hrs a day, 6 days a week , for a year that’s close to 1500 hrs. of training a year it will take you 7 years to master the game, or any sport for that matter, for the last two years I been playing Table tennis, it’s a game of endurance, wits and intellect, in this two years I was absent from the game about 5 months, due to Aneurysm that happened last year in August, few people understood this, if any. How much I lost and how long it took me to get back in track, it was a hard road, that took all I got to get back in, I went from being able to play 5-6 hrs. a day with no problem, to hardly play 1 hr. A day.
My will and sportsman attitude got me back in track and now I feel that I am almost at 100% most people see my smiling face and think that all is well, I learned long ago, that complaining doesn’t serve any purpose, that hard work gets results, this year at Varna, Bulgaria (Balkan tournament in table tennis.) I realized that I need to get myself together and change my training style, I didn’t train enough, I was not in any way ready for tournaments, I befriended the Russian team, first thing they told me was that my racket was wrong, I need more control and my racket offered none
one of them even shoved me, put my racket on the table and his next to it, then he dropped two balls from the same high from my racket the ball flew left and fast on his it just jumped a little and straight up, I was like what the hell is this, well he was nice enough to explain to me that the thickness and the rubbers I was using are for advanced player who plays a fast game and a lot of spin, I didn’t do any of it, I need a racket that’s slower and has a lot of control for now, that would mean I can put the ball where I want and not just return it and have no idea where ,or how did I get it there. We have a trainer but he is not for me, so I will have to find a new one, on my way back from Varna, we stopped at Leskovac, there I meet two great player’s named Nebojša and Bojan who immediately told me that I been playing with the wrong racket and rubbers, I needed more control and precision that with this racket I would not get, while there I learned more than the whole time I been training, so when I got back, I started looking for a new trainer and found one after a while, I lucked out on this subject, I found two, first one I play 2 times a week with and to tell you the truth my game has improved astronomically, I changed my racket and now I have great control and can play a lot better, that and the stuff that I am learning with my new trainer has completely changed my game for the better, in order to become a world competitor one must train hard as it is I train 5 -6 days a week for about 2 hrs a day, that is not enough, actually in this rate it will take 15 years to get to where I need to be, I hope that other players take this to the hart and understand that this is for they own good, those of you that have no jobs and want to one day be European champions or world champs, should workout minimum 5 hrs. a day, 6 days a week, should spend another 2-3 hrs. on reading Table tennis rules watching videos, for us Para TT players you should watch your class and learn from them, familiarize yourself with the game, cause sooner or latter you will play against them, in conjunction to this, you should live a sportsman’s life that means no drinking, no smoking, no hanging out, if you think that Novak Djokovic drinks, smokes and parties, then continue with what you doing, but believe me until the day you start living, eating, drinking, sleeping, Table Tennis or whatever sport you are doing, you will not achieve greatness, if you rely on the fact that maybe on your class there are few players, and when you go to a tournament there will be 3 players and no matter what you do you will get 3 place, then you are not a sportsman, you are a fraud. maybe you are happy with where you are, then this does not apply to you, I learned the hard way, when we went to Romania I played a player that was left handed and was ranked 20 in the world (in my class there are 88 ranked players and about 30 unranked) at this time I was playing 7 months, and should have not been here, but be at as it is, I was faced with a complete different style of game and I lost not to bad but lost never the less(11-5,11-2,11-6) next I played a Chinese guy who played penhandle style, never seen this or played against, he was a player for 40 years, and played extremely well, I lost here also, a good lesson learned here was: “don’t go into battle unprepared” I don’t think it was completely my fault, but I will blame no one. I been back at it for some months now, and hope that by the next Paralympics I will be ready, if my health keeps and I find some sponsors, Yes I need sponsors so please let me know if you are interested in sponsoring me. In the Balkans as you know we have some great Paralympians, unfortunately we lack support and finances, the way it works here is go get a couple world medals and then we will help you, what the heck I need your help then, I need help to get there. In Monte Negro we have a few sports, and some great athletes, we lack training facilities, example: we train in a hallway of the school, during winter there is no heating, in the summer its scorching hot, we have 3 tables and 12 players, at any time there is 6 people watching, and most don’t care about the ones that are not playing, when they are at the table they stay until it’s over, few of us are considerate but not all, so always there are some that don’t get enough training, not that we all get enough, I think we get bare minimal, and yes there are few that get preferred status, but that’s the Balkan way, I think that we should have better training facilities where we can go and play any time, day or night, that’s more important than anything at this time, we have to work more on controlling the ball, less on hitting the ball hard, as my trainer says if you hit the ball hard and the player returns it, it will come two or three times faster than you hit it, so if you have no control or bad control the chances to return the ball are minimal, so first thing to learn is control and perception of the ball.
As a friend of mine said when we was at Romania at the tournament “ You don’t have good perception of the ball” to tell you the truth I had no idea how the ball was moving, no one ever explained that to me, eventually I learned on my own, it took a long time but I am getting better every day, I still need a lot of practice, something like 4 days 2 hrs. with my trainer and 3 times with my team, and in few years I can be in the 10 best players, as it is now there are a lot of obstacles physical, financial and man-made, the way I train now is 60 hrs. a month, that’s half of what I need, minimum should be 120 hrs. a month. At this time my team mates train about 25 hrs. a month as its seen from numbers above, we are way below the minimum and at this rate it will take us about 20 years to get somewhere so if something doesn’t change we are in for some rough times, this blog is to raise awareness not to put any one down, or point fingers, I am just pointing out what it takes to get results, any one that takes advantage of people with disabilities and especially those that do some kind of sports, will not stop cause of what I write or say, so we must train as hard as we can, look for sponsors, experiment with different styles, find a trainer that’s right for you and your style, a trainer that’s good for me it’s probably not good for you, we are all independent and no one has a monopoly on us, at least I feel like that, I will keep training and hope to be in the next Paralympic games, I wish all the athletes that are going to this one good luck, keep training, aim at the 10000 hrs. that means eat, train, sleep, live, have fun, laugh more then you cry, and most of all train, train and train some more.