Friday, 10 April 2020

The Critical Difference Between a Table Tennis Player and a Table Tennis Athlete

Well overdue for some blog post additions to my coaching blog, and here is one I hold in very high regard. People often ask what it takes to become a top table tennis player, well that line says it all in itself. I like to separate the term player and athlete, because I believe there are key differences in how people approach these and their attitudes and mentality. I will explain.

The steps to become a table tennis 'athlete'
and a potential professional
In my eyes a table tennis player can train very hard, and they can become very good at what they do, but what sets the professionals above the rest? They are not mere players, they don't train like table tennis players, they train like athletes - the full package.

To become successful in table tennis you need to broaden your horizons and embrace the habits and discipline of an athlete.

I categorize table tennis 'players' as those who generally work hard on the table, but are lacking in other areas off the table that supplement their game. They get a lot of training time, drills and match practice, but are lacking in the areas of hard physical training, mental training, and improving their tactical knowledge and experience.

Why do the best individuals rise to the highest levels in table tennis? Let me break it down by using the 4 Pillars of Performance - which I have recently embraced as the core principles of my Coaching Blog.

Technical:

A table tennis athlete will work relentless on technique, repetitions, tailored drills to focus on key technical areas, technical analysis by coach, video and training partners alike. Techniques will be adapted, expanded, broken down and examined for each mechanic in order to create efficiency, precision and technical mastery.

Tactical:

Athletes will learn service set plays, analysis of opponents, evaluation skills after matches (whether they won or lost). They will prepare across the season for major tournaments and build tactics around the strengths in their game, and prepare strategies and tactics for players of all styles and levels. An athlete will constantly measure the effectiveness of their tactics and expand their knowledge and experience in competition as they grow.

Physical:

Here is a major part of the growth to becoming a successful athlete. Here students and developing athletes will work rigorously to improve speed, power, cardio and stamina in order to maximize their training output and performance. Here it is also important to include resting and dietary habits, monitoring of energy levels throughout training sessions and tournaments. This is an area where most players fail to take their commitment seriously enough to progress to the next levels in the game.

Mental: 

Mental training is a tough subject area because most people don't fully understand how to do it. This step combines visualization, meditation, stress management and reflection and also includes attitude management on the table. All of these have direct relation to how an athlete can perform in competition and also how the standard of their practice and discipline can be managed.

In order to be a successful athlete in table tennis, and have a chance to progress and follow dreams of becoming a professional - you need to have a strong combination of ALL 4 of these Pillars of Performance. Shortcomings in just one of the areas will effect your overall ability to produce your best results.

For example a player who is strong with tactics and mental game, but weak with technique and physical training can struggle with a player who has balanced all 4 elements. Similarly a player with a weaker mental game and poor tactics can have the best athleticism and technique, but fall to players who play with a strong tactical knowledge and a watertight mental game.

This is an important theory for any players who really want to take any sport seriously, not just table tennis.

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