Archive for the ‘Coaching’ Category

Are you giving me pity points?

Friday, November 25th, 2016

Pity Points

I’m at the JOOLA North American Teams Tournament in Washington, and I had a revelation today.

I was playing a match against a higher rated player, the top on the opposing team. This is a “teams tournament” where you send out three players to play each of the opposing team’s three players, making nine individual match-ups. Your team wins by earning five wins out of the possible nine individual matches.

My teammates had already played this player so I got to see him in action before facing him myself. He had some amazing strokes. A powerful forehand loop. Textbook technique. Highlight reel stuff. He is clearly well-trained. I had already lost to his two lower-rated teammates and, seeing his amazing play so far, I assumed I’d lose again.

I’m thinking: Alright Arthur, just play your best, you’re going to lose, but just do your best anyways. Losing is a part of competing.

Surprisingly, the match started out in my favour. I already saw the serves he was using on my teammates, and I simply returned them rather defensively, returning his short, no-spin serves with a light touch back over the net. He’d often tap them back lightly, and this would go on for a few hits until he popped one a little high or a little deep, and I’d put a decent topspin on it, and might win the point a few hits later. Sometimes I’d get an outright smash opportunity. I was now winning 8-5. He hadn’t put out a single powerful attack that I had seen him give against my teammates.

Why isn’t he attacking? He must be giving me a few pity points. To avoid embarrassing me 11-2, he’s giving me a few points up front, then he’ll turn on the jets and destroy me.

A few points later, and I’ve won the first game. At this point I’m actually annoyed.

I’m thinking: You’re actually going to give me an entire game out of pity? Not cool, man. Just play your game and beat me.

I actually considered saying something to him about this but decided against it.

The match continued and was relatively close, and I ended up taking the match 3 games to 2. That’s when I realized, he was never giving me pity points. I just had the right strategy! That was my “aha” moment.

The right strategy is so powerful that you may really believe your opponent is giving you points for free!

This wasn’t the first time I thought I was receiving pity points. I thought back to a tournament I had played the previous year in Toronto. I played someone who had just dominated a much better player than myself, and assumed I’d face a similar fate. And throughout the match, as I was winning, I kept thinking that she was giving me free points. And then I won.

This just reinforces something I always knew deep down, that the match-up of individual strengths and weaknesses matters a lot more on the score sheet than someone’s overall rating. Nobody’s game is so well-rounded that they can handle all situations well. Some players have amazing forehand strokes but weak backhand strokes, and opponents can capitalize on that by playing to the backhand. Some players are great when they stand back and engage in looping battles but weaker with close-to-the-table play. Your decisions on what serves to use and what strategies to employ dictate the direction of the match.

This opponent great with mid-distance attacks. He can destroy deep balls. But in our match he rarely got to use those impressive power strokes. I returned his serves short, low, with little spin, and the point rarely went in the direction of his strengths.

The interesting thing is that his choice of serves enabled me to avoid his strength. He was serving short, low, and without that much spin. That let me return it short, low, and without much spin. Had he served long and with heavy spin, I would have had to return it long as well, and this would have started a series of those offensive rallies that he excels at.

This just highlights the importance of a good coach or playing partner that can identify these strengths and weaknesses during your tournament play. While you’re wrapped up in the stress of competitive play, they can observe your opponents and see how to best move the game towards your strengths.

With the right tactical choices, David can beat Goliath.

Writing Out a Game Plan for Improvement

Sunday, April 1st, 2012

Game Plan

All serious table tennis players should set long term goals. Having a goal ensures that you keep making steady progress and spend your practice time effectively instead of stagnating as you practice aimlessly. Read more

12 Drills That I Use

Saturday, December 31st, 2011

Samson Dubina Training

To dramatically pick up your game, you need a solid routine of various types of drills. Here are the drills that I personally use on a daily basis. Read more

What I Do When I’m Losing

Sunday, November 20th, 2011

Never Give Up

I’m playing a very important match in a tournament. I am losing 0-2 in games and now losing 0-5 in the third game. What should I do? Read more

Being an Effective Coach at Tournaments

Sunday, August 28th, 2011

Effective Table Tennis Coaching

Encouraging and coaching fellow club members at tournaments is one of the best aspects of a competition. In this article, I’m going to outline how to coach another player between games.   Read more

Perfecting Your Serve

Monday, July 25th, 2011

Perfecting serve

Serves are the only part of the game where you have full control. You can dictate how the rally will develop by having a serve strategy and executing on it, so focus on this part of your game. Committing considerable time to this craft can be the fastest way to progress. In this article, I will be outlining nine tips that I personally use to perfect my serve. Read more

Active Blocking

Saturday, June 25th, 2011

Active Blocking

Most players label topspin shots into several categories such as: loop, block, or smash. However, modern attacking players have developed an offensive block called an active block. Active blocking is a combination of a block, loop, and counterloop. It is best used off-the-bounce against a slow to medium speed loop. Read more

Who’s the Coach?

Saturday, April 16th, 2011

Who's the Coach?

My full-time job is coaching students aged 5-75. Regardless of age, I expect each of my students to listen to my coaching as I give them advice point-by-point and apply what I am teaching them during each coaching session. During a coaching session, I am in charge; my student’s job is to listen to my advice. Read more

Breakfast of Champions

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

Breakfast of Champions

From Asia to Africa to Europe, there are thousands of professional table tennis athletes who are aspiring to be the next World Champion. One of the key elements to reaching the top is consistent training six hours per day. Most top players wake up, eat breakfast, train three hours, eat lunch, rest, then train three more hours in the late afternoon. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day to fuel an intense early morning session. Read more

The “First Strike” Principle

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

Attack First

Seventy-five percent of the time, whoever attacks first wins the point (this statistic applies to two offensive players in competition). One of the questions players most frequently ask me is, “Samson, how can I attack first?” Here are four tips for the beginning player on how to initiate the attack. Read more