Table tennis coach Ben Larcombe had a dream: He believed that with enough training and perseverance, he could transform even the most novice of table tennis players into a paddle-wielding master.
To test this hypothesis, Larcombe recruited Sam Priestley, a friend who had started playing the game recreationally with his roommates. Priestley was apparently awful at the game, lacking coordination and skill.
In other words, he was perfect for the experiment.
In January 2014, Larcombe, who is based in London, and his new protégé embarked on what the coach has dubbed the “Expert In A Year” challenge.
The idea was that Priestley would play the game every day for a year, honing his technical and tactical skills in the process.
The eventual goal? To turn him into a top 250-ranked player in England.
It was, however, no easy process.
“I spent the next 12 months training hard. On top of the daily coached sessions, my ‘holidays’ for the year involved intense training camps in Hungary, Denmark and Middlesbrough,” Priestley wrote in a blog post about his experience. “As time went on the intensity ramped up and by the final 8 weeks I was sacrificing every weekend to travel and play in tournaments.”
In the end, Priestley did not actually break the top 250. He didn’t even come close.
But as this video of his progress shows, his ability skyrocketed.
Here is Priestley playing against a real top 250 player in January 2015:
“I learnt a lot from the challenge,” Priestley said in his blog post. “Not just about table tennis, not just about myself, but I think most importantly I learnt that there are no shortcuts to mastery. You need to put in the work. But if you put in the work, anything is possible.”