April 18, 2011

ITTF Coaching Seminar - Part 1

This weekend was the first half of the ITTF Coaching Seminar I'm running at Maryland Table Tennis Center, Sat & Sun from 9-4. (Part 2 is next weekend, same times.) It's been great fun so far - easier, in fact, than a regular table tennis camp where I would spend half my time feeding multiball. Here all I had to do was spend half the time talking, and the other half walking around and coaching the coaches in the current activity. When you've spent 35 years playing a sport, have coached it for 30 years, and have run 120+ five-day training camps and countless other group and private sessions, it's not hard to know what to say - the hard part is deciding what not to say.

I've learned a lot as well just from thinking about and preparing for the seminar. In practice matches tonight afterwards, I remembered my lecture on counterlooping with sidespin by hooking the ball rather than taking on the incoming topspin directly - and realized I'd been doing that too often. Bingo, my counterloop came alive when needed. Even my forehand flip has gotten better just from thinking about and demonstrating it. I've also learned some interesting stuff from comments from the coaches, a very insightful group.

The funnest part is imitating common mistakes and challenging the coaches to figure out the problem. Pretty much all of them can see the "obvious" problem, but usually that's a symptom of the problem, not the root cause. The challenge is to figure out what is actually causing the problem, which often is something seemingly unrelated, such as the foot positioning or grip. (These latter two are often the root cause of most technique problems.) Also key is not to just memorize how to fix every problem, but to get in the habit of analyzing a technique problem and figuring out what is going wrong.

So far the voice has fluctuated, but by virtue of continuously drinking water, it hasn't gone out. (I think there was a pool on what time I'd lose my voice.) Someone explained that I put a lot of strain on my throat because I don't use my diaphragm when I talk, or something like that. But as a coach, I have a loud projecting voice, and that's all a coach really needs, right?

There are 14 in the camp: Carmencita "Camy" Alexandrescu (NV), Benjamin D. Arnold (PA), Changping Duan (MD), Jeff Fuchs (PA), John Hsu (MD), Charlene Liu (MD), Juan Ly (FL), Vahid Mosafari (MD), Dan Notestein (VA), John Olsen (VA), Jef Savage (PA), Jeff Smart (MD), David Varkey (PA), and Shaobo "Bob" Zhu (PA). Besides the 24 hours in the seminar, all 14 will be doing presentations on various techniques to show their coaching skills. Assuming they pass, they will then be one step away from becoming certified as ITTF coaches. Each then has to do 30 hours of coaching, including five "supervised" hours with an ITTF or other high-level coach. Nine of them are getting the five hours at our Spring Break Camp, which is today through Friday.

We are lucky to have John Hsu (2109, but recently over 2200) and Vahid Mosafari (2280), both with very nice strokes. I've used them numerous times in demos. (And for penhold technique, there's Changping Duan, rated 2178.) There's a wide mix in the group, with several others also having very nice technique. Of course, as coaches, the most important thing is coaching ability - but one part of coaching is the ability to demonstrate proper technique. (You don't have to be able to do it in a match situation, of course.)

Some may recognize Jeff Smart as the USATT (actually USTTA back then) Coaching Chair from the 1970s - he may be 57, but he moves and strokes like a 20-year-old, and is still about 2000 level. Camy, who is certified as a coach in Romania, flew in from Las Vegas for the camp and so wins the "longest travel distance" award, though Juan Ly of Florida is close. Interesting tidbit I learned - Charlene Liu, the U.S. Over 50 Women's Champion, was also the first woman taught how to loop in China. Special thanks to Jef Savage, who will be writing an article on the seminar, and who lent us his projector, screen, and whiteboard for the seminar, and runs the projector as well. Thanks also to Bob Zhu, who is taking numerous pictures.

Spending 9-4 coaching two days in a row may seem like a lot, but the other three full-time coaches at MDTTC - Cheng Yinghua, Jack Huang, and Jeffrey Zeng Xu - do this day after Day after DAY!!! They put in 50+ coaching hours week after week; I can only do about half that per week before I start to fall apart physically, not to mention the mental strain.

And now that the first half of the ITTF Seminar is done, we go directly to the Spring Break Camp all day for the next five days, where I will alternate between short lectures and lots and lots of multiball.

Multiball with two players

I thought this was a nice example of creative multiball with two players.


Send us your own coaching news!

Sounds like it was a fun and informative weekend for everyone. I wouldn't suppose you caught any of the NCTTA championships being streamed live this weekend did you? It was one of the most exciting events I've watched. Texas Wesleyan went to doubles against #3 Ottawa and #2 Lindenwood, but came out on top in the end. Mark didn't seem to be playing at his best, but his doubles partner more than compensated in both singles and doubles. I think we will be seeing very big things from the newcomer to TW, Yahao Zhang, in both the NCTTA and the USATT.


I have to give credit to the Lindenwood team with Fred Cantarelli (who had a hard fought match against Mark) and Paulo Rocha who played a good doubles game against Mark and Yahao. I think Paulo Rocha emerged victorious against former teammate Jose Barbosa and Derek Wong beat Sarah Hazinski. Yahao pretty much dominated Irigoyen...

Hi PipProdigy,

Nope, I didn't see any of the college championships - was busy all day Sat & Sun with the seminar, and Fri preparing for it. I'll say this - the level of play is higher these days than in the past!

In reply to by Larry Hodges

I would have to agree that the level of play has definitely improved. There were a lot of things I played close attention to which raised a few questions, which I'll post in the forums. Interestingly enough, one of the things I noted was featured in today's blog, the amount of counterloops made by hooking, especially in doubles.