More than any other blog post I’ve written, this one is borrowed heavily from one source. The book, Long Term Athlete Development does a great job of mapping out the stages that athletes go through, sometimes in the course of their entire lifetime. I’ve taken the liberty of taking these stages and applying them completely to table tennis. While the authors associate these stages with certain age groups, it is possible to progress through these stages, at least to some extent, at any age.
- Active Start – The love of movement develops at an early age. Given the chance, most children love to run, jump, and play. Any introduction to table tennis at a young age will need to be in small doses. Before the age of six, the ability to concentrate for long periods of time is typically not developed. If you want to teach very young kids to play table tennis, it’s far better to play a little every day, than try to do occasional lengthy lessons.
- FUNdamentals – Adults aren’t that different than children, in that we naturally gravitate towards fun activities. As long as table tennis continues to be fun, we’ll likely continue playing.
- Learn To Train – There’s no need to get too specialized at this stage. Learning the basics and continuing with other sports will pay off in the long run. When we first start table tennis training it should still be something we look forward to and don’t overdo.
- Train To Train – At this stage we should be “concentrating on the process”. While still learning fundamentals, we should be looking to improve our skills. Results of any competition are far less important now than overall development.
- Train To Compete – Now we’re getting pretty serious. At this stage training becomes more intense, more. frequent, and more specialized. Table tennis players should be focusing on skills related to their particular style.
- Train To Win – At this stage players are looking to train for particular tournaments. All training is geared towards peak performance against top rated opponents.
- Active For Life – Fortunately, table tennis is a sport that people can enjoy at all ages. At this stage table tennis no longer is something you do, but has become part of who you are. A life in sports can take many different turns at this stage.
A love of sports is often developed at an early age. The benefits can be appreciated throughout life, and into old age. Every stage is unique and enjoyable in it’s own way. The lifelong athlete is the one who goes all the way!