The Age of Experience

David Bainbridge (Middle Age: A natural History)2012

Middle and even old age is a controlled and even pre-programmed process – a process not of decline but of development. Development -- and the genetic processes which direct it – does not stop when we reach mid-twenties. It continues well into adulthood. The tightly choreographed transition into middle age is a later, but equally important, stage of human development when we are each recast into yet another novel form.

Nice to look at or efficient?

Rowden 2012

Unfortunately in UK much of our training tends to influence our players into playing and thinking in a predictable manner and does not help in the development of adaptive intelligence. Why do so many players from the UK have extremely good technique compared to the Europeans, yet in no way achieve comparable results? We have nice strokes but we can’t win games!

Is this perhaps due to our training methods and to the lack of intensity in our training? Or is it more because we don’t focus enough on the individual aspects of player development? Could it be that our coaches lack the real vision to understand that all players are individuals and will only reach their full potential if they harness their own strengths?

Development and Training

Rowden 2012

To develop full potential the prime criterion is that the player has an understanding of his/her own style of play as early as possible in his/her career. Bear in mind that tactical development is based crucially on technical abilities. If the player doesn’t have the technical weapons to play his/her own game most effectively then the performer never reaches full potential. Throughout Europe there has to be a great deal more attention payed by coaches to the individual development of the player and to maximising his/her own personal style of play.

Women -- Modern Footwork

Rowden 2012

It would appear that only few coaches throughout Europe understand how the top women in the world move and especially the patterns they most often use when close to the table. First we have to understand that women in general will play most of the time closer to the action than the men: this is mainly because they don’t have the same upper body power as men or the same dynamic movement. The bigger ball takes less spin and playing off the table becomes counter-productive for women players. At a younger age, for example the level of mini-cadet, cadet or young junior, playing off the table can be effective, but not once the girl reaches the ranks of the top women. Higher level women players are just too good at using the ‘whole’ table, playing short and long and out to the angles: the further the opponent retreats the more ground she has to cover.

Motivation or Methods

Rowden 2011

Many countries and Associations in Europe have the desire and motivation to produce world class players, sadly a good proportion just don’t have the right systems in place or the methods to realise their ambitions. Just what do we mean by this?

The Way the Chinese use Multi-ball

Rowden 2011

There are a number of ways in which Chinese coaches use multi-ball which in fact highlight some of the common principles inherent in their coaching tradition. Below are a number of the more common and frequently used exercises.

The coach feeds a short, backspin ball to the player's forehand. The player moves in and pushes the ball directly back to the coach; the coach then pushes deep anywhere on the table, with the expectation of a forehand attack from the player.

Practice makes Perfect?

Rowden 2011

Practice makes perfect! This is a phrase we hear quite often, especially in sport and in various learning processes. But is it true? Surely it is more accurate to say ‘Practice makes Predictable’! Practice in fact usually makes us more rigid and inflexible in our thinking. We perform the same action time and time again, until we no longer need to think about it, until it becomes completely ‘automated’. This is exactly what we do when we are learning table tennis; we train until we don’t need to think about what we are doing and react automatically.

Professionalism in Europe

Rowden 2011


Why is it that European table tennis players, apart from the few rare exceptions, are no match for the Asians? Why are even the real top players in Europe quite old, many 30 to 40 years or more (and still able to win major events in Europe) while many of the top Asians are early 20’s or even in their teens and dominate at world level? Why don’t we in Europe get our young players to the top levels earlier?

Evolution of the Player

Rowden 2011

Technical development

– The 9 Stages
1. Athlete will be able to produce and explain a proper grip, including pressure points (‘a’ grip, as different grips will lead to differing styles).
2. Athlete will be able to demonstrate an appropriate ready position (different ready positions will also lead to differing styles of play).
3. Athlete will be able to execute the following basic strokes with correct form, directional control, and with an 80% success rate when fed by coach:
• Backhand push and forehand push against backspin
• Backhand and forehand blocks against topspin
• Backhand and forehand drives against topspin
• Backhand and forehand topspins against backspin

Develop Excellence and Expertise in Coaches

Rowden 2011

The prime component of any expert system is significant, pertinent and ongoing knowledge and experience. Such experience is never transferable in its entirety to other areas or subjects, though some parts may be. Regarding for example top athletes being fast-tracked into coaching, the downside is that unless their own coach was a great teacher and had them fully understanding the whys and wherefores of workout designs, they are completely missing the foundational skills of coaching. Doing and knowing are rarely the same thing.

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