April 15, 2011

Preparations for ITTF Coaching Seminar

I've been run ragged this past week preparing for the ITTF Coaching Seminar I'm running the next two weekends. I won't bore you with the details.

As I'm going over the various techniques we'll be going over its bringing back memories of all sorts of coaching examples I've experienced over the past 35 years. I was thinking of creating a list of them to use in the seminar, but decided it's not necessary; they will pop into my head as we get to each item. For example, I know that when we talk about a coach analyzing a player's needs or the forehand follow-through, I'll remember the 5'2" coach trying to get a 6'10" player to follow through with a "salute" stroke, with the racket going to the forehead. It was both hilarious and sad. (I later worked with the 6'10" player, where I "allowed" him to have a more normal follow through to his chest, and in about a year he went from 1300 to 1800.) I know that when we go over common problems for any technique, dozens of examples will pop jump into my memory banks. I probably ruined my own technique for the next ten years by "practicing" some of these bad habits so I can challenge the coaches to figure out what the problem is. (Hint - many will see and try to fix the symptoms of the problem rather than the root cause of the problem.)

Twas the Night Before the Table Tennis Coaching Seminar

'Twas the night before the seminar, and all through the center,
Not a coach was yet stirring, but soon they would enter,
The tables were lined up on the courts with great care,
In hopes that great coaching would soon take place there.

The coaches were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of forehands danced in their heads,
And my racket in its racket case, and I in my playing shoes,
Had just settled down for a pre-seminar snooze,

When out on the playing courts there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the sidelines to see what was the matter,
Away to court one I moved with great footwork,
And saw that something by the table did lurk,

The lights over the tables, all lined up in rows,
Shown over the creature, who stood in a pose,
And what to my wondering eyes did appear,
But the Table Tennis World Champion, holding a beer,

With a paddle in hand, so lively and quick,
I knew in an instant why his serves were so slick,
He was practicing forehands with technique so sweet,
And his footwork was fluid and amazingly fleet.

He cried, "Now Forehand! Now Backhand! Now Serve and Receive!
On, Looping! On Smashing! With good tactics, we'll achieve!
To the final we'll go, we'll loop every ball,
Now loop away! Loop away! Loop away all!"

He tossed off his beer, and served very short,
He watched the return and gave a great snort,
As he looped a clean winner with incredible might,
He cried, "Practice hard and always give a good fight!"

Then with the speed of a high-level pro,
He was out through the door, with me in the know,
That I'd witnessed such brilliance that few could approach,
And yet it was something we must all learn to coach.

Top Ten Ways to Be a Table Tennis Champion, or At Least Look Like One
(Because I promised last week to create a Top Ten List each Friday.)

  1. Play like a champion. But that can take 10,000 hours of practice, so this method is frowned upon by experts from the N Double-L CP (National Look Like a Champion People).
  2. Wear flashy brand name table tennis outfits, and never, Ever, EVER let anyone see you actually play. Just walk around a lot with a slight strut, with a brand name playing bag over your shoulder.
  3. Bear with me on the following - it'll make sense! Buy a mop made in China. Mop about an inch. Hop about manically. Stand on a chimpanzee. Stand on a potato chip. Listen to the chip moan. Greet someone and tell them there's no table tennis camp today. Put a cap on some guy. Chop the guy in half. Throw out any pictures you have of pork. Now why would you do all these things? Because the following are all anagrams of Champion: China Mop, Mop A Inch, Manic Hop, On A Chimp, Am On Chip, Chip Moan, Hi No Camp, Cap On Him, I Chop Man, and No Ham Pic.
  4. Hollywood makeup experts can make you look like Jan-Ove Waldner for only a few tens of thousands of dollars.
  5. Hollywood special effects people can make you look like a champion for only a few tens of millions of dollars.
  6. Invent a new type of table tennis, like, say, clipboard table tennis, and practice for years before introducing it to anyone else.
  7. Choose your parents wisely so that you inherit that highly-sought table tennis champion gene.
  8. There's something like 10,000 equipment surfaces, costing an average of $50 each. With 9,999 of them, you'll play like a chump. So try them all out until you find the one that magically transforms you into the champion that you know you are. 10,000 racket surfaces: $500,000. Championship table tennis player: priceless.
  9. Cheat.
  10. Hire an audience to cheer your every move. (Hey, this actually happened! A rich player once paid the way of about 30 members from his club to a 4-star tournament on the condition that they watch and cheer all his matches.)


Send us your own coaching news!

Hi Larry, As usual you've said something interesting that I would like to hear more about.  I help teach a class for little kids who are beginners and we teach to them finish their fhs in the salute position.  However, I personally don't do this, as I'm 6'2" and my forehand ends up neck height in most cases.  I explain this to the kids by telling them that it's not about their foreheads per se but more about where the racket is relative to the table, that is, their little foreheads are conveniently at about the right height when they're little but as they grow their stroke will gradually finish lower relative to their heads but at the same height relative to the table.  Am I on the right track?

In reply to by david.bernstein

Hi David,

You are correct, though when you measure height, you have to take into account how low the player is in his ready stance. A 6'2" player who uses a wide stance with bended knees may be as low as a much shorter player, and so both might have the same follow through. The example I gave of the 6'10" player was rather extreme as there was no way he could get down to most other players' level. Most top players are in great physical shape and are trained to stay low, and so they often have similar follow throughs, even if one is much taller than the other. However, when you are over six feet tall, you generally need a lower follow through.

A classic example was Kjell Johansson, who had one of the best forehand smashes ever. His forehand was nicknamed "The Hammer." Johansson was about 6'3", and followed through on his smash with the racket over his left shoulder.

A common problem for aging players is their forehands become awkward because they are standing more straight, but using the same stroke learned when they were younger and able to stay lower.