For this post, I’m borrowing an idea from Scott Adams. Scott is the creator of the Dilbert cartoon strip. He has been widely criticized for suggesting that Donald Trump might not actually be Satan. One of his key concepts is the idea of a talent stack. In the table tennis world, it helps to have a good sized stack of skills.
As a player, it’s necessary to be competent in all the basic skills. If you can stack something special on top of that, your ceiling could be a lot higher. Let’s say you have a fairly solid 1500 rating. You might be able to maintain that rating simply by avoiding mistakes and making fundamentally good strokes. How much better might you be if you added a great serve to your current generic approach? It won’t add 500 points to your rating, but it could easily add 50. If your hope is to reach 2000, it will be necessary to raise your level in all areas, but developing a consistent, powerful forehand loop might be the skill that gets you in the neighborhood. Some players have great looping shots but don’t block. Some attackers get burned when their attacks come back. A player who can play both offense and defense is more dangerous than a one dimensional attacker or defender.
Coaches require a different stack of skills. They need all the skills that a good player has, and then some. It’s essential to be a good blocker, have the ability to chop, and feed multi-ball. Samson Dubina recently advertised for a coaching position. He felt like the skill that was most important was being able to see the game from the perspective of the student. Coaches should have a deep understanding of the game. They’ll need to stack on some good communication skills, competence with computers, tournament experience, business savvy, knowledge of psychology, and a winning personality 😀.
If you are looking to start or run a table tennis club, you’ll probably need an even bigger talent stack. If you are dealing with a city or county recreational group, it’s important to learn to be diplomatic but firm. Having some idea how to deal with finances could turn into an essential skill. Sadly, we’ve lost at least one table tennis club in Georgia this year. The Atlanta Table Tennis Center just went out of business. Obviously, the pandemic was a major factor. But, I had thought they would survive. They had several things going for them. Their facility was fantastic. They seemed to have solid financial backing. They had created a very friendly atmosphere; and they loved table tennis. It seemed as if the talent stack was complete. Unfortunately, there was one missing ingredient. I think the people behind the ATTC were very good business people. I know they loved table tennis. What seemed to be missing was an understanding of how to put those two things together. This has been the downfall of many table tennis enterprises. There are people who know table tennis; and they may have business skills. But, that doesn’t necessarily mean they know how to run a table tennis business.