I am truly honored to receive the USATT Technology Coach of the Year Award from the United States Olympic Committee. As a table tennis athlete and coach myself, I am continuously learning about this great sport. I will share some advice for table tennis coaches in this three part article about coaching during: private lessons, group lessons and table tennis tournaments. I hope that all the table tennis coaches reading this will learn something new and continue with me to grow the sport.
Part I: Private Lessons
During private table tennis lessons, the first thing that you must do is to make a GOAL for the lesson and verbalize it to your student – some possible goals could be to improve his consistency through footwork rallies or fix a bad habit or learn a new skill or get exercise or merely to have fun. Whatever your goal or goals are for the lesson, it must be clear to you as the table tennis coach and clear to the student. With goal setting also comes an explanation of your expectations. For example, you might say, “Betty, I’m going to introduce you to the forehand reverse pendulum serve. This serve is extremely difficult to learn. I’ll introduce you to it today, but it will likely take you 2-3 years of continual practice before you can fully master it.” With that in mind, Betty will be less likely to get frustrated when she hasn’t mastered it by the fifth try. By giving your expectation, Betty can then realize that this will be an easy or intermediate or difficult table tennis skill to learn.
The second aspect of private table tennis lessons is the training itself. The training should be STRUCTURED PROGRESSIVELY. If you are helping your student with his backhand loop against underspin, then you might start with a basic exercise. You serve long underpin to his backhand and he works on the opening loop while you give feedback. As he improves, then you can combine that skill with a drill. As he improves even further, then you can give more placement, spin, height, and depth variation and open the drill into a game situation. Anytime the player becomes inconsistent, you could take a step back and make it slightly easier. As he progresses, then you can make the table tennis drill more game-like.
The final aspect of private table tennis lessons is the REVIEW and SUMMARY. Ask the student to recap some of the info that he learned during the lesson. Also, send a video clip home with him for further review. We recently installed a full-video playback system at the Samson Dubina Table Tennis Academy with two HD cameras and a 50” flatscreen TV for instant video playback point by point. You don’t need to be that extravagant though. Before the lesson begins, ask your student to take out his smartphone and record the lesson. At the end of the lesson, have him write down as many things as he can remember. At home, have him watch the lesson on his phone and see how many main points that he had remembered. Ask him to take his notes with him to the table tennis club during the week and review the notes between each game. Remember! Merely paying money and merely spending time with an elite table tennis coach doesn’t guarantee improvement! Improvement comes when a player is able to apply the skills in real table tennis matches against real opponents!