Group vs One-to-One Training

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Table tennis players and also their parents often hold the view that one-to-one coaching is the best kind of coaching for them or their child.

It’s thought that the extra time and focus of the coach will concentrate their improvement and they’ll see a larger jump in playing ability because of it. But what if by satisfying the players craving for more feedback and constant isolated attention by having one-to-one coaching you are missing out on the benefits of group coaching.

Bristol Table Tennis Coach Daniel Ives after a group session at Civil Service Table Tennis Club

Reliance on the Coach

During one-to-one sessions the players receive almost constant feedback from the coach. Coaches can comment on every shot and rally. This creates a dependance on the coach and when the player goes to play matches without them, they may struggle to think for themselves.

Group coaching minimizes a dependency on the coach. The players will have to think about their own shots and rallies without the constant support of the coach. They might even try and find sources of feedback somewhere else (eg. from their peers).

Finding Role Models

Mixing ages and standards in group sessions is a huge advantage to the player not found in one-to-one’s. The more experienced players can provide an example to the less experienced on the intensity of the practice and the discipline in their quest to improve. The less experienced can use these role models to learn and to see the effort that goes into getting better.

The more experienced players often respond by wanting to show the less experienced players how good they are and how competitive they can be. They end up training harder and more intensely. This positively adds to a culture of shared learning and improvement.

Competition and Pressure

One-to-one training is tough to make competitive. Having a competitive environment when playing with a young player is also quite a risk to the established coach-athlete relationship. From personal experience I have played with players who’s confidence and motivation has decreased due to competing against me in a 1-to-1. To overcome this I try to create competition where the focus is on the process rather than the results. For example, the player gets a point if they win on the 3rd or 5th ball in a rally, encouraging the player to make an early attack. They may do this for a period of time and see how many points they can get.

Group training with peers often automatically creates a competitive culture. Playing against players of a similar level and that they know well means they put pressure on themselves to win. Players need that competitive pressure to push them. Having that competitive environment can push them further from their comfort-zone. If a player loses to a practice partner, it is so much worse than losing to a stranger in a tournament.

I’d like to see more players opting for small group training sessions in place of 1-to-1’s. What’s your thoughts?…


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