Learning From A World Champion

Tybie Thall Sommer.

Tybie Thall Sommer.

One of the things I enjoy most is learning about people, especially elders. I love listening and imagining their stories as if I was there to witness it. At the current 2012 US Nationals Table Tennis Championships, I got the chance to sit down and talk with Tybie Thall Sommer.

At the tournament, I was taking some photos and noticed Tybie sitting down. All I knew about Tybie was that she was a two time world champion and a member of the USA Table Tennis Hall Of Fame. I decided to take a seat and introduce myself and to learn more about her. I was ready for some great stories about her past experiences in table tennis, but was surprised with the life lessons she taught me through those stories.

1. Attitude

One of the first things she talked about was attitude. When it comes down to it, sometimes you can't rely on others to accomplish the task before you. This was in reference to so many kids relying on their parents in the sport. When you're out on that court, it's up to you and only you, to have the right mindset and do the best you can. She's witnessed so many kids lose because they had a poor attitude even before going into the match. You need to stay positive and go out and give it your all right from the start. This translates to everything we do in life.

2. Take it one point at a time.

Often times, we think ahead too much and make ourselves worried, anxious, or nervous. "I just need 3 more points to win this game!" We think about the final outcome, and we forget that we actually need to concentrate just on the point that we are about to play and start losing points. It's good to think about long term plans, but don't let that hinder your focus on the task that is before you.

3. Adapt

Tybie noticed that many players continue their game plan even if they are losing the match.  She recited a story of when nothing was working for her and knew that the current game plan would lead to her defeat.  In her mind, she was going to lose anyways, so why not take the risk to change it up and try new tactics? If anything, it helps you learn and improve new things you haven't tried. Luckily for her, the new game plan was working and her opponent didn't adapt to Tybie's new adaptation. So when things aren't working in life, learn to adapt and don't be afraid to try something new.    

I only got a limited time to talk to Tybie, but the time was quite valuable. She took a photo with me and told me wear her world championship medal. It made me feel like a world champion for a brief second. I'm looking forward to learning more about her and her experiences because, as Bruce Lee once stated, "Life is a constant process of relating".