International Training

Michel Gadal (2005)

Michel feels that the training components necessary to achieve the highest performance are technical/tactical, physical and mental preparation and that at the top level it is the mental side that makes all the difference. There are certain basic areas in which players must be competent.

ADAPTABILITY

is one of the fundamental elements required to reach world class levels (players need to learn techniques to adapt to any given situation, whether these be material combinations, differing styles or methods of play, or unusual tactical ploys).

ANTICIPATION

is vital, the concept of ‘knowing’ and watching the opponent rather than focusing on yourself and what you are doing. In practice for example too many players tend to focus too much on themselves.

SPEED

covers a number of areas – the need to be fast, to create speed on the ball, to take it early, between the bounce and ‘peak’ and the ability to move fast, which should be taught in the early stages of a player’s career. If you play line balls at speed be aware too that 80% will be returned in the same direction.

PRECISION

and the ability to use the table are important. Top players use the corners, the lines and wide angles and hit to the crossover – weaker players play mainly to the middle. A study in 1989 indicated that it was better to play the ball 20% slower but deeper, right on the white line. This opens up the match, gives much better results and creates more opportunities to gain a real advantage.

CONCENTRATION

– table tennis is after all a competition between two brains! You need to be able to focus on the right elements and learn not to be distracted and also practise maintaining focus during the non-playing time.

Each time a coach is coaching he should ask himself whether he is including at least one of these 5 elements (Adaptability, anticipation, speed, precision, concentration). Coaches often know much about technique but not enough about the game. THE GAME IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN TECHNIQUE — YOU ADAPT YOUR TECHNIQUES TO THE GAME. Speed and accuracy should be increased together. In the case of service teach the various spins with at first wrist only. The appropriate service should be used according to the player’s own style and the game situation.

ADAPTABILITY

– a player must be able to give a good/appropriate response, preferably topspin with speed, to any ball. The technique may be with the whole body if there is time, or just with the wrist and elbow. The player should at all times train for the game. Practice should be aimed at the game situation. Sometimes it is more important for a player to adopt his own tactics and to learn from his mistakes. TRAIN FOR COURAGE – TABLE TENNIS IS A VERY RISKY GAME. Many coaches tell players not to take risks, but from the beginning we should train players to think for themselves, take risks and play in an unexpected manner and when the situation is tight to do a little more ( but without going crazy).

COACH FOR THE FUTURE.

The player should practise the game – his game – for the match and at the same intensity as match play. HE SHOULD TRY TO WIN EVERY SINGLE POINT.

The training hall is where players learn their trade. In practice partners can fulfil different functions, being at first totally cooperative, then 50% cooperative and finally competitive/difficult all of the time. Partners should be changed every exercise (around 30 – 40 minutes per exercise) so as to adapt to different playing styles. If a player is making less than 4 successful routines out of 10 then the exercise is too difficult but 8 out of 10 then it’s too easy. Make the exercises easier or more difficult but do not accept the player making too many mistakes. Also in practice teach refocusing in non-playing time to break the sequence of a high level of mistakes.

Regarding duration of exercises it’s good to change and not to be too rigid in timing. Be open to what is happening, listen to players and be flexible. Let players try things out in games and learn from their own experience. Before competition train as you would do in competition and schedule in breaks between exercises so that the players learn to wait between matches.

Technique should be taught for use in different situations. With young players first teach – ‘What should I do with the ball?’ Maybe it’s an arm action first, starting with the wrist and building up with the forearm, whole arm and then whole body (upper and lower body for power). (When the player is inconsistent use the whole body). Let players find their own movement and tempo. A soft hand is important for returning short service. Start with early timing even though this is more difficult. Start playing slow and build up to fast, rather than fast to slow. The timing is slightly later for the slow ball. Teach difficult techniques – what is hardest to learn – early. Young players are able to absorb advanced aspects more easily than you might think. The best age to begin learning is around 7/8 years. Build on something good or new in the player’s game and always be positive. A challenge needs to be given to the more talented player, possibly a more difficult task within the same exercise (playing to only half of the table instead of the whole).

Regarding competition players should always have a reasonable chance to win or at least to put up a fight. Players learn from playing from 9 – 9. Speed glue can be used by young players provided that they are training often – practice only 3 times per week no glue, train 12 to 15 hours use glue. Also let players try out different rubbers, perhaps 20 – 30 minutes per week in match play. In this way they will develop a better understanding of how to play against different material. Be flexible in teaching the flick – the timing and the action. There are a number of different possibilities.

Above all remember it is the player who plays, who wins and who loses. The coach should be ready to stay in the background.