Manik Singh in training with the Western Mustangs' table tennis team. Photo from Melissa Zuleta Jimenez

Taking care of table tennis business

  • September 17, 2023

Table tennis and business management apparently have a lot more in common than most would imagine.

That’s especially true for 22-year-old King’s University College student Manik Singh, who has taken the lessons he has learned in the classroom to help make him the highest-ranked table tennis player in Canada, according to the National Collegiate Table Tennis Association (NCTTA).

“The biggest thing you learn from playing table tennis at a high level is the importance of decision-making,” said Singh, a fourth-year international student born in New Delhi, India. “With every ball you have a second to decide what to do.

“You also learn to handle pressure, which helps you in every part of your life.”

One of Singh’s professors, Jennifer Jeffrey, the director of the Catholic liberal arts college’s School of Management, Economics and Mathematics in London, Ont., recognizes some potential overlaps between table tennis and financial planning.

“There is quite a bit of strategy that goes into table tennis, right? You must be able to be skilled at the athleticism piece of it, but you also must anticipate your opponent and what they might do or what they may be thinking. And that is true in a lot of areas of economics and finance,” she said.

“The whole field of behavioural economics looks not only at the quantitative analysis, but also at the psychology of what drives people to make the decisions they are making. The ability to really understand how the market will respond through this psychological lens is likely something that helps Manik with determining what his opponent might do next.”

Singh’s excellence at his craft began long before his arrival in Canada in autumn 2020 to attend King’s. He first picked up a table tennis paddle at age eight and by 2017, at age 16, he had earned a spot on the Indian national team. Upon completion of studies at The Mother’s International School in New Delhi, he was bestowed the Sri Budhha Memorial Award for achieving the highest level of sports excellence in the school’s history.

Singh recalls thriving at the mechanical nuances of the game as young as age 11, even though he was largely self-taught.

“I was understanding all the spins like the backspin, sidespin and topspin even though I had very little coaching,” said Singh. “I also had the talent early on to respond to serves.”

After landing at King’s, which is affiliated with Western University, he joined the Western Mustangs’ table tennis program, which has become a powerhouse at the Canadian university level. The 2022-23 season was a banner campaign, with both the women’s and co-ed Mustangs teams finishing No. 1 in the Waterloo Divisional Tournament last November. Both teams then struck gold again at the Great Lakes Regional Championship in Rochester, N.Y., in March and earned berths at the College Table Tennis National Championships in Round Rock, Texas.

Singh helped guide the co-ed team to a best-ever seventh-place finish. The girls team fared even better with a historic bronze medal.

Concurrently, Singh impressed in the singles competitions, capturing gold at the divisional tournament and silver in the regional. His overall excellence culminated in him being named the Men’s Table Tennis MVP at the 82nd annual Mustang Awards.

Considering table tennis ranks as an eminently popular recreational and arcade sport, Singh said members of the general public perhaps do not appreciate or understand that competitive table tennis “is one of the fastest sports in the world” that requires significant mental preparation “as you only have a second to react” to your opponent at the other end of the table.

Professional table tennis hasn’t hit the heights of popularity like hockey or football, but Singh has aspirations his generation can alter this reality. Competing in the Summer Olympics is his personal summit. 

“That’s the dream since I started playing,” said Singh. “I hope I can be there one day.”

As for the professional possibilities that could await Singh upon his convocation, Jeffrey said the finance and administration scholar’s future is looking bright.

“One of the things I love about Manik is he’s not just interested in quantitative,” said Jeffrey. “He’s extremely articulate. He gets involved in a lot of different activities. For example, on our end, he was selected to be a teaching assistant to mentor and support first-year students because of his academic success and ability to build connections. He has worked as a residence assistant, particularly with international students, and he has become very good at anticipating people’s needs.

“I see him in a role where he can combine his quantitative, technical expertise with client-facing types of solutions.”

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