Success! For every table tennis academy, one of the primary keys to success is having the right role models there who can show dedication, hard work, respect, teamwork, and set the bar high for many others to follow! Today, I'm giving an achievement award to 14-year-old Sarah Jalli, not simply because she reached the top 10 in the nation in the women's rankings, but more importantly for the example she is setting for all the members of the Samson Dubina Table Tennis Academy, both kids and adults. Here is my personal experience coaching Sarah Jalli…
Sarah first came to my basement when she was 7.5 years old. She played casually for 2 years taking 1 short lesson per week. The next 2 years after that, she played a bit more seriously. Then for the past 3 years, she has been in beast mode, working hard on a daily basis. Why do I mention this? Because her dedication to the Samson Dubina Table Tennis Academy for 7 years is commendable. This has been and is a huge commitment from both her and her family, which we greatly admire.
#2 Work Ethic
Sarah is self-motivated to work hard at the academy and ALSO to work hard on her own at home doing a morning jog and stretching session before school, finishing school and doing serve practice or robot training in the afternoon, coming daily to the Samson Dubina TT Academy for private lessons, group classes, and league nights, then following a flexibility program for additional stretches before bed. This dedication level is quite special.
#3 Breaking Habits
Sarah had some habits in her game that needed changed - reactions to points won or lost, perception of the game, preparations for matches, and these things took time to change. Yet, Sarah trusted me enough to allow me to help her work through these struggles. It isn't a matter of having problems or not in your game, it is a matter of taking necessary steps to fix these problems - and this is something that Sarah knows about very well.
Starting in 2019, Coach Chance Friend and I have both been coaching Sarah. Sarah has done an excellent job at communicating and expressing her feelings on drills, training routines, playing system, and what needs improved. Communication is a two way street - Sarah does an excellent job in communicating it.
#5 Additional Communication
I have encouraged Sarah to voice her opinion if she disagrees about any technique or tactic. We have had many respectful, insightful conversations lately which has given Sarah a greater knowledge of the game. As Sarah is learning that the ability to communicate is not just agreeing, but working through issues when you are unsure, or perhaps disagree.
#6 Helping SDTTA
This year has been rough on my business. However, Sarah has done what she can to help me continue generating income and stay afloat. In April, she volunteered 50 hours of her time to help me publish a book to promote the sport. Then for the last 6 months, she has helped me develop new robot drills and create online content to promote more sales, which help to pay our fixed costs. By doing these things, Sarah is showing that she has learned to look beyond herself and help others.
Even though Sarah is one of the best 14-year-olds in the world, she doesn’t come across as high and mighty and full-of-herself. She is willing and ready and able to talk to anyone. We love her because she is able to associate with the best and also the worst players at the academy. Her attitude sets her apart and we wish her the best as she trains hard for the 2024 Olympics. Keep up the good work Sarah Jalli!