One of my team-mates Daniel Hearne-Potton (a rapidly improving cadet player) recently said to me, “Tom, you’re quite good at table tennis, but your technique is terrible”.
I want to get this quote printed and framed and I’ll hang it on a wall somewhere at home.
Of course Daniel was teasing me a little bit. My technique is’t that bad, but there is certainly lots and lots of room for improvement.
So I’m always looking for opportunities to receive coaching myself. Not only does this help me improve as a player, but it also helps me develop as a coach, as I get to learn coaching techniques from other coaches.
Coaching session with Eli Baraty
Over the years I have received coaching (mostly small chunks) from a number of top players and coaches, including Richard Prause (Timo Boll’s former coach) and former England international players Desmond Douglas, Matthew Syed and Mark Mitchell.
My latest coaching session was with Eli Baraty. Eli has had a lot of success as a coach. He has coached over 20 players into the top 10 in England, in their age group and produced many national title winners.
So he knows what he is doing.
We worked on a few things during a two hour coaching session, including:
- forehand topspin vs backspin
- backhand topspin vs backspin
- reading service spin
But the biggest thing we worked on was my basic forehand topspin vs block.
Fixing my stiff forehand topspin
Eli found a few technically issues with this shot. This was a bit of an eye-opener for me. I have always considered my forehand to be my stronger side. Sometimes it feels great. Other times it feels awkward. But over the years I have found a way of making it effective (up to a certain level), even if the stroke is not as technically smooth as it could be.
Here’s a 4 minute video of our coaching session, focusing specifically on my forehand stroke…
So you can see in the video, Eli picked out a few issues.
He quickly saw that I was standing too tall, standing too close to the table, playing with my arm too much and my arm was only moving at one speed.
So Eli got me to make the following adjustments:
- I got lower
- I stood a little further back from the table
- I turned my hips and shoulders more when playing the stroke
- I snapped my forearm on contact
The result? I certainly felt I was able to get more speed, spin and whip on my forehand. And it felt good! For me the key was getting low and rotating my hips and shoulders. As soon as I got good body rotation, the shot seemed to flow much more. I was able to get more whip on my forehand, but it didn’t feel as though I was putting in any extra effort.
I could see how I could take my basic forehand (which works fine up to a certain level) and transform it into more potent weapon, which will allow me to compete at a higher level.
All of this will take time to implement. I have been told by a number of coaches before that I stand too tall. But I still do it. I have been told I stand too close to table, but I still do it. I have been told I need to twist more, but I still stay too rigid.
I have some fairly ingrained habits and sometimes ingrained habits can be hard to shift. But it can be done. Even if I can improve on all of these things a little bit, it will make a difference.
After the coaching session with Eli, I had a practice session with Daniel, the cadet I mentioned at the beginning. And I was trying what I worked on with Eli. I could feel I was getting more whip on the ball. So I was happy with the instant progress. And even Daniel commented on the improvement in the technique.
It didn’t help much in our practice match though. Daniel won 4-1.
One step at a time!
And just a final word about Eli. He’s a really great coach, with extensive knowledge and a big passion for table tennis. Please take a look at his website. You can find information on Eli’s coaching services and he has lots of table tennis articles and videos.