Advice for Table Tennis Coaches – Part III: Tournaments

Jena Newgarden
Leading up to a table tennis tournament, the coach must design table tennis drills for his players that are more game-like and shift the players’ mentality from self-focused to opponent-focused.  Instead of focusing on the player’s own game, the player must think about how to counter the opponent’s spin, return the opponent’s serve, get the opponent out of position and control the table.  Pre-tournament preparation also includes visualizing the tournament venue, the practice time, the opponents and many other factors.  It is the coach’s job to paint the picture so that the student can imagine the success he plans to have.

Before each table tennis match, your job as a coach is to give your student final reminders about himself and his opponent just prior to entering the court, such as…  “Remember to take your time between points, keep your feet active, have confidence in your spinny loops and keep exposing the wide angles.  When returning Betty’s deep serves, take your time, read the ball and spin deep to the backhand.  When she blocks quick to your backhand, maintain the spin while playing mainly to her middle and wide forehand during the table tennis rally.”

Between games, your job as a table tennis coach is to keep your advice very concise.  If your student wins, continue to give him simple reminders.  If he loses close, give him simple advice about tweaking his tactics slightly.  If your students loses badly, then be willing to try an extreme tactical change to force the opponent to play differently.  Regardless of what you say, most of it should be pertaining to the opponent – the opponent’s strengths and weaknesses, the opponent’s patterns, the opponent’s serves.  Most of your students will be very self-aware but many will not be aware of their opponent.

After the table tennis match, you might want to talk or not talk; this greatly depends on the personality of your student.  Some students want to talk, while others want to sit quietly.  At some point prior to the next match, you should give a couple words of encouragement about the previous match and a good mental shift to gear up the student for the next match.

After the table tennis tournament, you should be in contact with your student within the first 2-3 days. Your student should be able to give you a brief summary of each match discussing the highs and lows.  After the student has given a lengthy explanation, you should fill in the gaps with what he missed.  Based on the performance of your student during that recent competition, you should adjust your coaching sessions with him accordingly.  During private lessons and during group lessons, your job is to remember the exact details of the table tennis tournament and continue to give that particular student particular drills to continue to enhance his strengths and fix his weaknesses and better prepare him for the next tournament.  Good table tennis tournaments should be an encouragement that you are on the right road to success and poor tournaments should be a wake-up call to both the coach and player that the training routine needs to be adjusted.  Now you understand why I recommend that my students play lot of table tennis tournaments!

I definitely don’t know it all.  I’m trying my best to learn more and more about the sport of table tennis every year, every month, every day.  I hope that as I continue to learn more, I can pass along some of my knowledge to others as well.  Thanks for reading!

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