Ping Pong

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

A long, long time ago (as in the 1990s) I played tennis with a neighbor. We were
not good friends when we started or when we stopped, but we had mutual friends
in common so as we played we became closer. The ability to be spontaneous,
travel together, and improve our game were good advantages. As our knees
began to give out we adjusted our game, but eventually, for not one big reason
but twenty small ones, we stopped trying to play together. Fast forward to now, or
actually a year ago. I joined a local table tennis club. I tend to play in the morning
with the other retirees and my game has improved a lot from playing four times a
week. I ran into my old tennis buddy at the store an went into my manic,
evangelical pitch about how great table tennis is for coordination, reflexes, brain
reflexes, etc. She decided to come and has now become a regular. My problem:
she’s too regular about wanting to play with me, and because she is not as good,
I am losing what was growing access to the better players, both singles and
doubles, because there is stratification of teaming, unspoken but consistent. I
want her to get better, but not at the cost of my own game. On the other hand, I
like having her there. How can I politely tell her I want to play the field?

Ping Pong

Dear Ping Pong:

Emphasize politely when you talk to her. Make a point of playing with her at least
part of most days you play. Tell her that you try to get there when the session
starts so you can warm up, and then get access to the better players before they
get busy with other better players. Tell her how pleased you are that she has
come to join. And how much better she will become if she plays with as many
different people as possible. Talk to her as someone who has come up through
the ranks, and who wants to keep ascending. Tell her The most important thing
you can do is to play with as many different people as possible. You’ll keep
learning much more than I could ever teach you.

See if you can cajole some of the folks you know best to commit to playing
singles with you so that you have a way off of the table with her. Ask the club
manager to help team her with other people “….so she gets to know more folks.”
Be kind and keep paying and playing it forward.