Butterfly Online

July 23, 2014

Doc Counsilman Science Coach of the Year and Ruminations on Coaching

Look what I got in the mail recently! Here's the plaque for my winning the USATT Doc Counsilman Science Coach of the Year. And here's the plaque/box from the U.S. Olympic Committee for being a finalist for the award - one of three out of all the Olympic sports. (Here's their news item.) The latter is actually a box - it opens up. I can store ping-pong balls inside! ("The Doc Counsilman Science Award recognizes a coach who utilizes scientific techniques and equipment as an integral part of his/her coaching methods or has created innovative ways to use sport science.")

This was my second USATT Coach of the Year award - I was Developmental Coach of the Year in 2002, and finished second in the voting for Coach of the Year three times. I've had a few other plaques from USATT - the 2007 President's Award and my 2003 Hall of Fame Induction Award, plus various certificates showing my coaching certification as a USATT National Coach, ITTF Level 1 Coach, and ITTF Level 2 Coach. (I'll put the latter two online some other time.)

This got me thinking about my strengths and weaknesses as a coach. I think I’m at my best at the following:

  • Tactics
  • Strategic development (i.e. developing a player's game)
  • Fixing bad habits
  • Teaching serve & receive
  • Teaching beginners, both kids and adults

My weaknesses? I’d like to say I have none, but alas, everyone does. I’m not enough of a slave-driver, not like some other coaches who can simultaneously work a player to death and stardom. I’m probably too lenient at fine-tuning advanced strokes - again, I can be too lenient once a player reaches a high level. I'm not as experienced as I'd like in teaching the intricacies of penhold play. And I’m not an equipment junkie. Another problem is sheer level of play - at 54, with numerous nagging injuries, I'm not as fast as I used to be, and so in private sessions can't push top players like I used to.

Of course that's one reason why we have practice partners at MDTTC. These practice partners are also coaches, but it is their playing level that distinguishes them, and allows them to push up-and-coming players to their limit.

Speaking of practice partners and coaches, there's a huge overlap between them. Not all "coaches" are good, while some "practice partners" are very insightful. The primary thing that distinguishes good coaches from bad ones, in my opinion, isn't just their experience and coaching skills - it's their learning skills. Even a relatively inexperienced coach can do a pretty good job if he knows he is inexperienced, and so studies top players and coaches to learn, and more importantly, when he’s not sure what to do with a student, he finds out, either by asking questions of experienced coaches and players, by watching video, or sometimes by just thinking extensively about the problem. The beginning of the end for a coach is when he starts just saying stuff that he thinks might be right, but isn’t sure (or worse, is confident of things that he really doesn't know about), rather than making sure he gets it right. It’s not hard to learn in this day and age – there are these wonderful things called “Google” and “Youtube." Use them!

Wang Hao Takes Pride From His Olympic Silver Medals

Here's the article. Wang won the silver medal at the last three Olympics (2004, 2008, 2012), and was also second in Men's Singles at the last two World Championships (2011, 2013), but did win gold in Men's Teams in 2008 and 2012, as well as World Men's Singles Champion in 2009. (Here's a listing of Olympic Table Tennis Medalists, and a listing of World Champion Table Tennis Medalists.)

Preview of the $36,000 Los Angeles Open

Here's the article by Barbara Wei on the $36,000 LA Open to be held Aug. 16-17.

100-Day Countdown to Change in the ITTF's Presidency

Former USATT President Sheri Pittman Cioroslan is doing an article every day during the last 100 days of Adham Sharara's ITTF presidency, counting downwards from 100. Previous ones are linked from the USATT News page, as well as in my past blogs. Sixty-one down, 39 to go!

  • Day 40: Motivated by Seeing Others Achieve, Leandro Olvech

Timo Boll's Serve in Slow Motion

Here's the video (4:01) of the German star, world #10, formerly #1.

Jean-Michel Saive's Lobbing Point Against Wang Liqin

Here's the video (49 sec, including slow-motion) of the great Belgium player (former world #1) lobbing at the 2003 World Championships.

Michael Maze - Off the Table

Here's the video (3:15) of the Denmark star, world #28, formerly #8.

Serving Trick Shot

Here's the video (42, including slow motion replay) of one of the best and most creative trick shots I've seen, by Josep Antón Velázquez. I think I could do the same pair of serves, but how many tries would it take?

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Re: July 23, 2014

So, this means there is no way in the world that USATT could change the level of Level 1 certified course, or can ITTF committee could do anything if I make a complain or it's just a wastage of my time. I'm thinking of writing to USATT and ITTF can you tell me to whom should I contact.

thanks,

Larry Hodges's picture

Re: July 23, 2014

You'd want to contact the chair of the USATT Coaching Committee, Federico "Fede" Bassetti, fede@nctta.org. (All USATT committees and chairs are listed on the USATT Committee page.) 

Re: July 23, 2014

Larry,

As you mentioned the Level 1 coach and it's reminds me of the ITTF Level 1 class I took couple of years ago.  My question is why the USATT won't put any conditions before someone take the Level 1 course, like the person taking this course must be at least 1200 to 1500 rating, and their experience as a table tennis player.  There were few students in my class and they were not even 1000 and can't even drive or hit a simple ball so my point is the class won't help them learning the game but to teach the game.  If he/she is not capable or have not any experience or rating how can they teach kids or adults.

I think they're trying to make some money which should not be the case and I completely disagree on that, this will make some bad ITTF approved coaches down the road and that would not be good for our sport.

thanks,

Aabid

Larry Hodges's picture

Re: July 23, 2014

I know about the problem. I was lucky in that the other coaches in the level 1 course I took were mostly at a decent level at least, though not all. The course I taught also had only qualified coaches. But it bothers me that I'm not sure what I would have done if essentially a beginner applied for the class, knowing that nothing I could do in 30 hours instruction would change the fact that this player was a beginner. It takes more than 30 hours to get past that stage. Many years ago USATT had a problem like this, when a player who was basically a basement player, who never in his life went to a table tennis club or tournament, attended enough seminars that he reached national coach level, the highest level, despite not being qualified even to teach beginners. Even now I was surprised that even at the ITTF Level 2 course a number of the coaches couldn't do basic stuff like feed multiball.