Manuals and Policy

Rowden Fullen (2007)

Over most countries in Europe coaching manuals and policies are initiated and controlled by only one or two coaches. Although in the case of the manuals there is an increasing tendency to bring in experts (in some European countries manuals for example pay tribute to as many as 20 – 25 specialists over a number of fields, diet, physical, mental, technical, professors of ballistics, authorities on table tennis history etc.) often coaches in charge of policy are reluctant to dissipate their power by calling in outsiders.

Unfortunately in these modern times with the increasing complexity of our sport it is next to impossible for any one coach to be accomplished in all the technical aspects of table tennis. All coaches whatever their level will be good in some areas and not so experienced in others. Some are better ‘corner-men’ and tacticians, others at ease giving lectures or seminars. Some are more skilled in the development of the girls’ game, have comprehensive insight into style development, or in coaching defenders or pimple players. Yet others are specialists in multi-ball and its various uses. What is needed more and more is for National Coaches to have access to a team of specialists, if they are to be successful at world level.

Regrettably by their very nature manuals are often obsolete by the time they come out in print. The preparation time more often than not takes years and our sport is continually changing, so to keep them up to date is next to impossible. How many coaches too in charge of national technical development are completely up to date – how many are in touch with what the top players are doing at world level and observe them critically in action at the major tournaments at least half a dozen times every year?

Often the key to innovation is apparent in the tactics and techniques which are being used by a significant number of the world’s best players. If enough good players are all adopting a certain tactic then there must be a good reason for this and it’s up to the policy coaches to see and understand this as quickly as possible and then to disseminate the information down to grass roots level. Sadly this takes far too long and in a considerable number of European countries there seems little urgency to redress the situation – in fact technical development in some countries is still some 10 – 15 years behind the times.

The quickest way to contact the table tennis public is probably via the national website (a technical update page) or to hold a forum at major tournaments 3/4 times per year. A section in the manual ‘Technical developments over the last 1 – 2 years’ could be regularly updated and the rest of the manual left largely untouched. Probably in fact we are now reaching a stage of professionalism in our sport where a National Technical Adviser should be appointed in most European countries, solely to monitor technical/tactical changes and advances as and when they occur.