There is an ongoing discussion happening in the iCoachTableTennis Facebook Group. This is the original post…
Thank you to everyone who has commented so far. Some very interesting thoughts on this subject arose and after going through the comments I feel that these fundamentals every coach should encourage in their players.
First mentioned by coach and player Craig Bryant, anticipation and the ‘reading of the game’ was a popular suggestion. The skill of knowing where the ball is going and what your opponent may do next is a skill that I think is often overlooked when coaching but can be improved through effective practice.
An understanding of spin also came up as another fundamental suggested by sports psychologist Mark Simpson. This falls into a similar category as ‘reading the game’. The ability to read the spin is important but the knowledge of how to deal with the spin is equally important. Developing good touch and handling of spin is vital in becoming a better player.
Finally, adaptability was suggested by Steve Bailey (an interview with Steve Bailey can be found here). Adapting to the player you’re playing and what is happening on the table is fundamentally what every player needs to do when they come up against opposition. The better a player is at adapting the more successful they will be.
A side point that came up was that when developing these fundamentals it is important that players do not develop a technique that will limit them later on. Each players technique will be slightly different due to many variables (height, arm length, distance they prefer from the table, etc…) and this individuality needs to be preserved. Some examples given in the Facebook discussion were Werner Schlager and Jean-Philippe Gatien. Both players were noted to have unorthodox technique but still both became world champion. Although their technique may have looked unorthodox it was not limiting to their play and that is an important distinction to make.
A further point mentioned was that coaches must not coach the natural flair out of players through a focus on seeking the ‘perfect technique’. The perfect technique doesn’t exist. The best technique is the one that is adaptable to the seemingly infinite situations that can occur in a match and that ultimately wins points.
If you haven’t done so already, click on the link above to the Facebook group and join in on all the coaching and table tennis discussion.