September 15, 2017

A USATT Coaches Training and Certification Program
There are currently two ways of becoming certified as a USATT coach. One is the USATT certification process itself, which explains how to become a Club, State, Regional, or National Coach. (There is also an Instructor category, which is for non-table tennis people with teaching experience, such as PE teachers. I wrote the Instructor’s Guide to Table Tennis for this, which has also been used at the Club level for many years.) The other is to take one of the ITTF coaching courses, where Levels 1, 2, and 3 equate to State, Regional, and National coaches.

However, as is often pointed out, the ITTF coaching courses weren’t really set up as a certification process, and they don’t always teach what we specifically would like taught at each level. And so we are now looking into possibly setting up our own USATT coaches education and certification process. (I’d be working closely with others on this, such as USATT High Performance Director Jorg Bitzigeio and former coaching chair Richard McAfee.)

While I inherited the current process (appointed earlier this year as chair), I actually set up much of it when I was coaching chair for four years back in the 1990s. The situation back then was very different as we had few active coaches, and less than ten full-time professional coaches in the U.S., probably more like five. So to be a club coach, all you have to do right now is pass a simple open-book test. But now we have over 300 full-time professional coaches and over 90 full-time centers (compared to just one or two back then), and we need to raise our standards.

I wrote about this idea when I ran for the USATT board, with plans for a “USATT Coaching Academy.” One semi-step was the USATT University we had at the USA Nationals in July, where we had eight one-hour seminars, including ones on serving, receiving, and setting up and running a junior program. But while that was educational for the attendees, I’d like to have something bigger, more comprehensive.

Assuming we stay with the same levels, here’s a quick draft for the prerequisites, requirements, and skills needed for each level. The list of “Skills needed” are roughly from the current certification guidelines, but much of the rest is new and still in the beginning planning stages. One thing I’m beginning to believe is that most of the “education” should be at the Club, State, and Regional levels, while at the Regional and National level it’s about actual experience working with high-level players in training while applying the knowledge learned from previous levels. (Yes, there’s overlap between Regional and Nationals here.) I’m also thinking about whether we should require State coaches to attend at least some major training camps so they can be exposed to high-level training.

  • Club coach
    • Prerequisites. Must have achieved a 1400 level of play, or have been a USATT or ITTF affiliate member for at least two years, or equivalent, and 100 tournament or league matches. This is to show minimal experience in table tennis.
    • Requirements. Attend a six-hour course taught by a high-level (regional or national?) coach. The course would focus on the main techniques of table tennis. I blogged about this on Sept. 1. One additional item would be to require the reading of a manual or substantive article on teaching or coaching, though at this level we wouldn’t test them on this.
    • Skills needed. According to the USATT specs, a Club coach should be able to “teach basic skills and techniques; plan and carry out training sessions with beginning player groups; coach beginning players on competitive match play; and teach beginning players up to a USATT rating level of 1700.”
  • State coach
    • Prerequisites: Must have been a club coach or equivalent for at least two years. Must have achieved a 1600 level of play, or have been a USATT or ITTF affiliate member for at least five years, or equivalent.
    • Requirements. Attend a two-day course taught by a high-level (national?) coach. The course would focus on more advanced techniques than at the club level. It would also focus on tactics, sports psychology, physical training, and on actual teaching methods, i.e. pedagogy.
    • Skills needed. According to the USATT specs, a State coach should be able to “Plan and carry out individual and group sessions for player development; teach basic and advanced skills and techniques; maintain a greater knowledge of major concepts of technical training and physical training conditioning methods; to teach players from beginner up to a USATT Rating level of 1850.”
  • Regional coach
    • Prerequisites. Must have been a State coach or equivalent for at least three years. Must have achieved a 2100 level of play, or have been a USATT or ITTF affiliate member for at least eight years, or equivalent.
    • Requirements. Attend coaching courses (five days?) taught in conjunction with USATT National Team camps, and gain extensive experience by watching these camps. Attend other coaching seminars as needed. More emphasis on setting up and running large-scale programs, especially junior programs. Large emphasis now on high-level techniques. Lots of video study and analysis would be done at these camps. A lot of experience is now needed working with high-level players.
    • Skills needed. According to the USATT specs, a Regional coach should be able to “plan and carry out training sessions for players and coaching development; have knowledge of advanced training concepts for higher-level player development; to learn tournament organization methods; and be able to teach intermediate adult and juniors from 1750 up to a USATT rating level of 2250.”
  • National coach
    • Prerequisites. Must have been a Regional coach or equivalent for at least three years. Must have achieved a 2300 level of play, or have been a USATT or ITTF affiliate member for at least ten years, or equivalent.
    • Requirements. To attain level, a coach should be showing results. He should be developing high-level players and running coaching sessions with high-level players, including group junior sessions. He would be required to attend USATT camps held in conjunction with USATT National Teams, and attend seminars run by USATT National coaches on a semi-regular basis. Emphasis now is on developing players at the highest level with the highest level techniques.
    • Skills needed. According to the USATT specs, a National coach should “have a comprehensive knowledge of working with junior and senior elite players; be able to train and coach players for conditioning and competition at the highest levels, including the Worlds and Olympic Games; and demonstrate strong leadership for the sport of table tennis and represented entities in all coaching experiences.”

When the Tail Wags the Dog
Here’s the article by Ben Larcombe from Expert Table Tennis. “Today, I’m looking at a common forehand loop mistake – something I refer to as ‘the tail wagging the dog’ – and what should happen instead… ‘power from the ground.’ If you have trouble playing a strong forehand loop when the ball is placed wide to your forehand, or often find yourself out of position after the shot, this article is for you.”

Speaking of Table Tennis
Here’s the article by Coach Jon. “While talking table tennis is great, there are times when it might be better to not talk so much. I’ve found that during a match there are three people I don’t need to talk to. One would be spectators, the other is my opponent, and the most important is myself.”

Interesting side note and gratuitous self-promotion – in my science fiction novel “Campaign 2100: Game of Scorpions,” one of the main characters, Bruce, is a professional table tennis player. (There are a number of table tennis scenes in the novel.) Chapter five is titled, “Arguing at the U.S. College Table Tennis Championships” (college sports are now all professional – it’s the year 2100) – and it ends with Bruce playing in the final of the national championships, where it’s deuce in the fifth – and he gets into simultaneous arguments with his opponent, the umpire, and a group of spectators, all while listening on his thought computer to events unfolding at the United Nations, where alien first contact is being made. He ends up walking off the court to join (and eventually run) a third-party challenge in the election for president of Earth. (The world has adopted the American two-party electoral system in this drama-satire.) This character Bruce (which is my middle name) is really just me unleashed to say whatever I want!

Hundreds of Free Articles from Samson Dubina
Here’s the links page – he’s got them all organized by type now.

Zhu Zhaohui Backhand Against Backspin in Slow Motion
Here’s the video (4:28).

Flawless Performance Leads Jha to Gold in Croatia
Here’s the article by Matt Hetherington as USA Kanak Jha wins the Croatian Under 18 Boys’ Singles.

ITTF PanAm Championships
It’s taking place right now in Cartagena de Indias, Columbia, Sept. 11-17. Here’s the home page (with links to draws, results, news, livestreaming, photos, and everything else).

Asian Cup
Here’s the home page for the event which starts today, Sept. 15-17 in Ahmedabad, India.

Rising Youth Stars from a Place (and with a Style) You Might Not Expect
Here’s the article featuring protégés of Coach Dan Seemiller from South Bend, Indiana - Marty Stoner, Dion Payne-Miller, Dionta Payne-Miller, Dominique Clark, and Ronnie Coleman. And four of the five use the “Seemiller” grip!

Top Ten Facts You Didn’t Know About Ma Long
Here’s the article and discussion thread (from Table Tennis Daily) about the world #1 and reigning two-time world men’s champion.

Mo Zhang Prepares to Fight on Home Ground
Here’s the article on the Canadian star. “Canada’s very own Mo Zhang will enter the field of 16 players at the 2017 Uncle Pop Women’s World Cup in Markham from 27-29 October.”

Home-Made Tables in Nassau
Here’s the picture. (Here’s the non-Facebook version.) That’s Richard McAfee (the tall one) teaching an ITTF class in Nassau, Bahamas.

USATT Insider
Here’s the new issue that came out Wednesday.

Asuka Sakai: World’s Fastest Serve
Here’s the video (25 sec) as Adam Bobrow takes on the world’s fastest serve. It doesn’t go well. (I think I linked to a similar but different video previously.)

Facebook Live with Adam Bobrow
Here’s the video (70 min) though of course it’s no longer live. Adam is the “Voice of Table Tennis” as the commentator for the ITTF at their major events. (You don’t have to be on Facebook to see it.)

50-Shot Rally – Saive vs. Merchez
Here’s the video (69 sec) as Jean-Michel Saive (former world #1 from early 1990s) fishes and eventually lobs over and over against fellow Belgian player Cédric Merchez in the 2017 Super Division. Ironically, Merchez himself is a great fisher/lobber – here’s a video (10:21) featuring his own fishing style.  

Casual Behind-the-Back Winner
Here’s the video (32 sec) as Jonathan Groth of Denmark (world #37) makes an emergency return off a net ball before winning the point with this shot against Mattias Karlsson of Sweden (world #22).

Best of China National Games 2017
Here’s the video (4:11).

Matrix Ping-Pong
It’s been a while since I’ve linked to what may be the most hilarious table tennis video ever made. Here’s the video, and four parodies!

Non-Table Tennis – “When Parallel Lines Meet”
My new science fiction novel comes out Oct. 31. When it does, the kindle version will be $6.99. But if you pre-order now, it’s only $2.99! You can also pre-order the print version for $14.99. Sorry, no table tennis, but lots of aliens!!! (It’s set up out of sequence – I wrote the “origin” story of the main character, which actually comes at the ending 1/3 of the novel. His main two co-stars in my segment, set about a thousand years in the future, are three genetically enhanced “pets,” with human intelligence – a comedic two-faced (literally!) rhesus monkey; a passive-aggressive miniature blue whale; and a giant cottlesnake (half cobra, rattlesnake, 100% nasty). His job is to find home worlds for their races. I co-wrote the novel with Mike Resnick and Lezli Robyn. Resnick is a legendary writer, with a record 37 Hugo nominations and five wins.

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Re: September 15, 2017

You mentioned coach certification a few times and I have a few thoughts about it. I notice that some people that aspire to become coaches totally lack communication and interpersonal skills. They have a good grasp on technical aspect of table tennis, but cannot deliver the message effectively. Some have toxic personalities and present a serious threat to psychological well-being of potential students. 

In ideal world there should be a way to test accurately for these kind of skills and weed out people that score way too low. At least borderline psychopaths should not be certified as coaches (it won't prevent them from coaching though). I understand that in our world it is all subjective and hard to test. What do you think?

Larry Hodges's picture

Re: September 15, 2017

There's no question that some people have great table tennis knowledge but aren't good at teaching. Others, as you say, have personalities that don't do well in coaching. (I know of at least one table tennis coach who is basically a psychopath or sociopath.) But there's no real objective way to test for this, so there's not much we can do. 

Re: September 15, 2017

Yeah, it is hard to test. But I think that this aspect is worth emphasizing when educating coaches during formal courses and seminars. i.e. that is important to not only develop technical skills, but become a better communicator and ehnahce one's abilities to empathize with others. This could make a difference, at least somebody would reflect on this and adjust their ways.

Larry Hodges's picture

Re: September 15, 2017

Note that for Club Coach, it says, "One additional item would be to require the reading of a manual or substantive article on teaching or coaching, though at this level we wouldn’t test them on this." And this is more emphasized at the State level.