Coach Maturity

Too many coaches at all levels seem to put their own interests before those of the player. The more international players the coach develops or has in his/her squad, then the higher his/her reputation; this is obvious and there's nothing wrong with this. But when the coach starts to pay more attention to his own reputation and less to the needs of the player, this is a different matter. Players, especially at a younger age, need support in all areas, technical, physical and mental.
Too many coaches again seem to want to fit players into boxes, depending on how the top players are performing at the present time. 'The world's best are doing this or that, therefore if you really want to succeed at top level you have to do the same!' Of course there are a number of aspects which are vital at top level. You will need good serves and receives for example, but not just any old serves and receives, but those which suit you and your type of game. You will need good movement however not just any old movement, but those patterns which are most efficient for your style of play! Putting players into boxes ignores the basic fact that we are all differing individuals and need to develop to our own personal strengths and capabilities. Trying to copy another player's game is never the answer, we instead, each one of us, needs to evolve in the right direction to achieve maximum potential.
Another aspect which many coaches overlook, is that players, particularly the young require protection. Often players have problems coping with the pressures of high level play and the coach has to be aware that he/she may need to fill the role of psychologist and mentor. We have all seen what can happen in the worst scenario with the suicides of top young athletes, when this aspect is ignored or not fully appreciated.
A contributory factor in the success or failure of a player's evolution can be the rate of progress and development. If players are pushed too hard, too early this can have a detrimental effect and even cause 'burnout'. The coach has to recognise that all players are individuals and will have differing thresholds at differing stages of development; some nine/ten year olds may be capable of coping with much more than many youngsters of thirteen or fourteen. Exactly what players can do and at what age/stage in their development depends on a number of factors -- primarily environment, character and talent: how has the total environment to date prepared the child to cope with pressures and problems, how strong a person is the child and how will he/she perform/react when the 'chips are down', has the child immense natural skills/talents of whatever kind, reactions, strength, stamina, feeling or does he/she need to work much more at acquiring these?
Coaches should also be aware of the 'overall picture'. Our sport is one in most cases of slow progress and development; the evolution of the player is a gradual process in all areas, technical and style development, physical and mental aspects. Too many coaches over-emphasise the technical and don't pay enough attention to the physical and mental sides. Physical development should be appropriate to age and should also be relevant to the player's style. Mental development should also be regular and organised; players must appreciate that at the higher levels the mental aspect may well be the only difference between the top performers. One final point in player development is that no player is too young to be introduced to advanced aspects; the coach should always be ready to teach the child the whole picture and not to leave some phases to a later stage.
My view is always that the player comes first and it's the function of the coach to support the player. Coaching is unlocking a player’s full potential to allow him or her to maximise performance. It is helping players to learn for themselves rather than instructing them. Talk to and work with the player; find out what he/she wants out of the sport. Over many years of coaching my satisfaction has always come in seeing another human being achieve real success, not in the enhancement of my own reputation.
Coaches should also bear in mind the fundamentals of table tennis. The most vital quality of the great players is adaptability, that they have the game to change and cope with any situation as it arises. Above all with our players we must cultivate the flexibility of mindset which encourages them to try new things and to keep growing and moving forward in their game.