Some players come to training purely for exercise. They’ve heard that table tennis is supposed to be good for you, and it’s more fun than jogging or lifting weights. Some come hoping to learn from a coach how they might become a better player. There are people who look to the coach for guidance, and people who merely want the coach to accompany them on the path that they have already chosen. I would say that I’ve been pretty flexible with all these types, as well as many others with particular needs and personalities.
Since most of my students come to me once or twice a week, the temptation is to try to always address the most pressing needs. This can be triggered by recent matches that have revealed obvious weaknesses. I’ve had players focusing on skills that are rarely used, convinced that developing their unique shot is the key to improvement. The problem with this is when basic fundamentals are neglected in the process. Table tennis coaches do need to be flexible and accommodating. Players do appreciate a coach’s willingness to work with them, and address their particular needs. There are times when it’s possible to carry flexibility too far. If a coach is spending a lot of time putting out fires, there may not be enough time for reinforcing the skills that will help players improve.
Out of these thoughts comes a solution for the coach who needs to add some structure – The Table Tennis Skill of the Month! The skill for August is the backhand. By concentrating on one area for an entire month, it allows for a more in depth approach. Insights learned from one player can be shared with others. I decided to begin with backhand strokes. It will be interesting to see on August 31st if everyone feels like the extra emphasis was helpful. I’ll still need to be flexible. I’m coaching beginners as well as players with years of experience. Obviously, these players will all require differing approaches, but they could all use some work on their backhands.