Since the beginning of 2008, I have been coaching table tennis for a living. Right now, I have eighteen students ranging from 600 level to 2200 level. In this article, I’m going to give twelve practical ways that I use to maximize my students’ potential.
Tip #1 - Goals
Before starting the first lesson, I talk with my new student about his goals in table tennis. After writing out a detailed plan, I can then suggest some realistic expectations on what he can accomplish in one month, one year, and five years. Someone older students just want exercise, some juniors want to be world champions, and most other students fall somewhere in-between. I am obviously going to be more strict with someone who is aspiring for higher goals, and I am going to be more lenient on someone who wants to merely get exercise.
Tip #2 Daily Training
If my student doesn’t have good training partners readily available, I next suggest that he purchase a table tennis robot. The key to improvement is applying the techniques learned during the lesson on a daily basis. If I coach my student for two hours per week and he plays at the club once per week, that is not enough for improvement. To seriously improve in table tennis, I suggest that each of my students take two hours of lessons, do drills for five hours per week, and play matches three hours per week. Getting five hours of quality drilling is difficult without an expert training partner; this is the reason that I suggest purchasing a table tennis robot.
Tip #3 Information
Another important point to coaching is telling my students what he needs to know and only what he needs to know. There are certain skills that are most valuable at certain levels. For example, in the first few lessons, students need to learn basic footwork, basic strokes, and basic serves. At the intermediate level, students need to learn looping, pushing, and blocking. At the highest level, students need to master all aspects of table tennis. I need to teach strokes in the correct order. If I tell too much information at first, the student will be confused. If I don’t tell enough, my student won’t be learning to his maximum capacity. My goal is not to impress my student with the vastness of my knowledge; my goal is to help my student improve. Giving the appropriate information at the appropriate time with maximize his potential.
Tip #4 Changes
Correcting bad technique is never fun, but it is essential for long-term improvement. When I am changing one of my student’s strokes, I need to continually reaffirm that his game will temporarily go down while the change is being made. It takes thirty days to permanently change a stroke. He needs to be persistent during the thirty days and realize that it will be best for his game in the long run. He needs to sacrifice present pleasures for future benefits. Thinking about the future will help him to make the positive improvement now.
Tip #5 Volunteer Time
I am willing to volunteer some extra time. If one of my students needs additional help, I am willing to occasionally help him longer than originally expected by extending the lesson longer than originally scheduled.
When I’m coaching at my house, I have a camcorder next to the table readily available. When my student needs to visualize his stroke, I record a two-minute clip and we watch it together. This has been an eye-opening experience for many of my students. Once the student sees his error, he is much more determined to fix the problem. I always send the DVD home with the student to study more. After the student analyzes it at home, he needs to bring back a list of ten observations that he made about his game.
All of my students pay monthly. This ensures that they will show-up each week and allows me to lower the hourly cost. My normal coaching rate is $55/hour for private lessons. A one-time payment doesn’t help me that much and doesn’t help the player improve significantly. If a student pays monthly, they will only pay $160/month (for 1 hour/week based on 4 weeks/month) or $300/month (for 2 hours/week based on 4 weeks/month). This considerably lowers the rate for them plus gives me a regular paycheck at the start of each month.
#8 Group vs. Private
My students improve fastest with a combination of private and group lessons. One-on-one is best for correcting mistakes; group sessions help the students apply what they learn. Monday-Thursday, I do private lessons. Once per month, I do a Friday/Saturday group session.
I often go to tournaments to coach my students during their matches. I can then see if my student is able to apply the advice that I gave him. If a student wins a game, I don’t tell him very much. I might point out a couple good things that he did right. If a student loses a game, I will usually suggest two things that he needs to implement during the next game. These two suggestions will be about strategy not about technique. Also, I have my student repeat back to me what advice I gave him. That way, the advice will stick longer plus I can be assured that he heard me correctly. During the following week, I try to sit down with my student to discuss success and failure at the previous tournament and talk about what he needs to improve for the next competition. Good communication with my student is the biggest key to success.
At tournaments, I watch elite matches together with my students. We study the match with a particular focus such as serve return, footwork, racket starting position, or game strategy. I’ll first have one of my students point out observations, then I’ll add my comments. Watching others perform at tournaments is motivating and inspiring for my students to excel to a higher level.
#11 Free Advice
Also, I am willing to offer advice to players at tournaments who aren’t my students. Especially for a player who doesn’t have a coach, a bit of free advice is always very appreciated.
#12 Point by Point
During private lessons, I try to play many game-situation drills or matches with my students on a weekly basis. After each point, I’ll stop and ask my student if he know what he did right and what he did wrong. Being able to understand the game and think between points is a major key. Average players make the same mistakes again and again. Top players make mistakes; BUT when they do, they immediately know what went wrong and know how to correct the error. My feedback varies greatly from student to student. Some students need me to be hard and push them. Other students need more encouragement and positive feedback. It is important for me to know each of them and treat them differently.
If you are a player, I hope that you now have a greater appreciation for coaches and the important role that they play in developing the sport. If you are a coach, I hope that you learned a couple tips on how to help your students maximize their games. Thanks for reading!
12 Tips About Coaching Table Tennis!