September 4, 2014

Where Do Top Players Come From?

I'm always hearing about how USATT leaders want to develop medal contenders and world-class players. When I hear this I have a simple set of questions for them, which leads to a conclusion that's sort of obvious.

  1. Where do the overwhelming majority of top players come from? (Answer: successful junior training programs.)
  2. Where do successful junior programs come from? (Answer: successful training centers.)
  3. Where do successful training centers come from? (Answer: coaches and directors who take the initiative to create them, where they have to reinvent the wheel over and over from scratch and figure out how to do this because there is no one helping them out, no manual or guidance, nothing from any organizing body for table tennis, and of course no one's recruiting them to do any of this.)
  4. What's the major stumbling block here?

That's why I strongly believe that one of USATT's top priorities should be to recruit and train coaches and directors to set up and run training centers with junior programs. This is not something that costs much. USATT is already running ITTF coaching courses. What's needed is to adjust the focus to recruiting and training those who wish to become full-time coaches or run junior training programs. If there are additional costs, the coaches in training would pay for them, just as they already pay for the ITTF coaching courses. The "hook" toward recruitment is that coaches can make a full-time living as coaches at these training centers, making $40-$50/hour. (I write about this quite a bit in my Professional Table Tennis Coaches Handbook, which I'd donate at cost to those who run such programs to recruit and train coaches.) I still have on the backburner the idea of starting up my own coaching academy where I recruit and train coaches, but right now I'm just too busy on other things.

Breaking the Upper Body Forehand Muscling Habit

A common problem for players is to try to muscle the ball when forehand looping. This means they try to produce most of their power with their upper body and arm rather than using the legs and rotating the body's weight into the shot. Normally a way to break this habit is to do lots of shadow-practicing where the player exaggerates the leg and body rotation, and then do lots of multiball. However, in a session with a kid this weekend I found a new way. I've always pointed out that a player should be able to loop with great power while carrying on a conversation, since the power mostly comes from the legs and weight transfer. Players who muscle the ball instead tense their upper body as they use that as the primary source for power. But it's almost impossible to do that if you are talking. The kid I was coaching was trying to rush the shot, and so was muscling the ball with his upper body instead of rotating into the ball properly. So while I fed him multiball so he could practice looping I had him tell me about school, about his favorite sports, or just count. Result? Once he got over giggling, he stopped muscling the ball.

International Table Tennis

Here's my periodic note that you can great international coverage at TableTennista (which especially covers the elite players well) and at the ITTF home page (which does great regional coverage).

6th Annual Ping Pong Charity Tournament

Here's the article and video (3:11) that'll take place in Virginia Beach, VA.

Turn Your Kitchen Table into a Ping-Pong Table!

Here's the article and video (2:37).

Kids Playing TT

Here's a video (47 sec) of a kid playing table tennis. Watch his reaction as he loses the first two points, and especially his celebration when he wins the third point! Here's another video (2:44) as Samson Dubina trains his daughter in on-table cross-legged Gatorade-bottle target practice. (Spoiler alert: she hits it at 2:22, and after celebrating gets to drink it.)

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