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How Charlie Strong’s ping pong vision saved Texas Longhorn Football

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The Longhorns’ embattled coach may have unlocked the secrets of the college football universe with a simple family game.

ITTF World Team Cup - Day 1 Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images for Falcon

It’s early in the 2016 off-season. No bowl game. It’s been a rocky start to what he’d hoped would be a brilliant tenure. Coach Charlie Strong, normally teeming with inspiration, is unsure about where to turn this time. Late in the evenings, tormented by doubts and conflicting thoughts in his office, he would descend the stairs to the Texas Longhorn Football game room.

The lounge looked as if it belonged in a business titan's vacation home. The lounge was a man cave of dark wood, cushy chairs, high-top tables and two big flat-screens hovering above eye level. In the middle sat a pool table with burnt orange felt. What the game room didn't have was bodies. It looked emptier than Perry-Castaneda Library on Saturday night.

The emptiness only fueled his sadness. Could his players not even enjoy themselves with simple family-style distractions? Had he led them this far astray? What could he possibly do to salvage this team that was teetering on the brink of a plunge into college football obscurity?

Then it hits him: ping pong.

The game was invented, appropriately enough, by bored British aristocrats in Victorian India in the 1860s and 70s. But what they saw as an after-dinner distraction will hopefully become a vital center of focus for a rejuvenated Longhorn football team this season after Strong’s vision and initiative led him to a radical decision: a new look for an otherwise deserted game room. The addition of the tables has already resulted in a complete change in the game room’s atmosphere:

"The place is always packed," Strong said. "Even in the afternoons, they're in there. They're always in there. They're always in there. They're sitting around, and it's such a big deal. They're interacting! They're shooting pool. They're waiting on a pool table. 'Hey, Coach! I'm the best pingpong player EVER!' 'OK, whatever. You can't beat so-and-so.'"

It was as simple as that: adding a ping pong table had changed the entire culture at The University of Texas’ football program.

The excitement spread like wildfire, and soon ESPN was on the story:

ESPN ping pong stringsays

Mao Zedung once said,

“The cardinal responsibility of leadership is to identify the dominant contradiction at each point of the historical process and to work out a central line to resolve it.”

Charlie Strong has done exactly that: a game room where no one was playing games? That’s a brutal contradiction for a sports team to suffer. A glaring abnormality for a prestigious football program.

Charlie has identified that central line, and it is demarcated by a tiny plastic net, and on either side of it stand players at the ready.

Prepare to witness history, folks. The 2016 Texas Longhorns are going to astound you.