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Learn how to transfer your developed table tennis technique to competition success with these simple steps. Use the spin, loops and drives to the maximum

Hi coach, I saw this article recently "Sports Skills: The 7 Sports Skills Steps You Must Master in Every Sport" for our table tennis competition members in Sydney. It teaches the serious comp player to don't just stop after developing textbook technique. Applying a few more strategies will ensure that you use competitions to prove you're no showboat.

The article is from the website: https://wgcoaching.com/sports-skills/ which I'd like to copy chunks of it and apply it to table tennis.

"Every coach and every skillful table tennis player will tell you that the fundamental element of all sports is skill.

  • Kicking and passing in football.
  • Passing and shooting in basketball and netball.
  • Hitting, blocking and spinning the ball in table tennis.

Learning, practicing and mastering the basic skills of sport is one of the foundations of coaching, sports performance and athletic training. However, just learning a sports skill is only the first step in the process. Only fools believe that “Practice Makes Perfect” if the goal is to win in competition.

Comp tt players do not fail because their skill level is poor: they fail because their ability to perform the skill in competition conditions is poor and that’s a coaching issue.

There are 7 Skills Steps You Must Master in Every Sport to be successful. People drone on and on and on about skills in sport. “It’s all about the fundamentals” some say. Others insist, “Skills are everything”.

Hard to disagree but……there is a huge difference between learning a skill and learning to perform the skill consistently well at speed, when you are fatigued, under pressure and trying to execute the skill in front of thousands of people.

One of the greatest myths in sport is the “Technically Perfect Skill” myth. You know the myth you learnt from a biomechanics professor or you heard from a coach at a course or you read about in a textbook that said something like “you must coach the athlete until they have mastered every element of technique X perfectly”.

Whilst you should pursue excellence in technique and strive to continuously improve an athletes skills, it is ridiculous to try to coach every athlete you coach to achieve the myth of technical perfection.

“Textbook” perfect is just that – perfect for still images in textbooks. But if you want them to win in the real word – coaching sports skills is so much more than looking perfect. Your athletes need to be able to execute sports skills in performance situations – and that means a re-think of the way you coach skills.

Performance Practice: Train the Way You Want to Perform.
Want to learn and master a basic sports skill? Find a coach, learn how to do it then practice, practice, practice.

Want to learn and master a basic sports skill so that you can enhance your performance under competitions conditions….then practice, practice, practice will not cut it: you need Performance Practice.

Performance Practice is a logical, systematic 7 Step process that takes athletes from the execution of the basic skill to being able to perform it under competition conditions.


The 7 Skills Steps of Performance Practice:
Sports Skills Step 1:
Perform the Skill. This is the first, and unfortunately for most athletes, the last step in their skills learning program. Coaches come up with a drill, athletes copy it, try it, learn it.

Sports Skills Step 2:
Perform the Skill very well. Skills mastery comes from regular practice combined with quality feedback from coaches and may incorporate the use of video and other performance analysis technologies – including the best one of all…the coach’s eye!

It is about here that most coaches stop coaching the skill, believing that if the athlete can perform the skill really well, and it looks like it does in the coaching textbooks then they have done their job.

Wrong.The job is not even 30% complete.

Sports Skills Step 3:
Perform the Skill very well and at speed. Name one sport where the ability to perform sports skills really slow is a winning strategy! Technical perfection at slow speed may look great for the text books, but unless the skill can withstand competition level speed (and included in that is competition accelerations, competition agility requirements and competition explosiveness) then it is not competition ready.

Looking technically perfect at slow speed is great for the cameras but it is even better for your opposition who will have smashed most of your slow balls in competition.

Sports Skills Step 4:
Perform the Skill very well, at speed and under fatigue. Think of the “danger zones” in all competition sport. The last two points in a game, the last 5th game in a set. Many, many competitions come down to the quality of skills execution during the last 5% of time and being able to perform fundamental skills when tired, dehydrated, glycogen depleted and suffering from neuro-muscular fatigue is a winning edge in all sports.

Sports Skills Step 5:
Perform the Skill very well, at speed, under fatigue and under pressure. How many times do you see athletes miss simple balls or make errors at critical moments – “danger-zones” in competitions? There is no doubt that emotional stress and mental pressure impact on the ability of athletes to perform skills with quality and accuracy – (read more about the emerging field of “psycho-physiology!!”). But….this is a coaching issue. Incorporate the element of pressure in skills practices in training and ensure that training is more challenging and more demanding than the competition environment you are preparing for.

Sports Skills Step 6:
Perform the Skill very well, at speed, under fatigue and under pressure consistently. Being able to perform the skill under competition conditions once could be luck, but being able to do it consistently under competition conditions is the sign of a real champion. Consistency in skills execution in competition comes from consistency of training standards. Adopting a “no-compromise” approach to the quality of skills execution at training is a sure way to develop a consistent quality of skills execution in competition conditions. Unfortunately, many athletes have two brains:

Training brain– the “brain” they use in training and preparation. This “brain” accepts laziness, inaccuracy, sloppiness and poor skills execution believing that “it will be OK on the day” and everything will somehow magically be right at the competition;
Competition brain – the “brain” they use in competition.
The secret to competition success is to use “competition brain” in every training session.

Sports Skills Step 7:
Perform the Skill very well, at speed, under fatigue and under pressure consistently in competition conditions. This is what it is all about. The real factor in what makes a champion athlete is their capacity to perform consistently in competition conditions.

Performing a basic skill well is not difficult. But add the fatigue of 75 minutes of competition, the pressure of knowing the whole season is on the line with one spin loop the expectations of the coach, the management, team-mates and lots of fans and all of sudden that basic skill is not so basic: it becomes the equivalent of juggling six sticks of dynamite.


wintrophyPractice does not make Perfect:
In the old days, people would say, “Practice Makes Perfect”. We now know that is rubbish.

Some people moved on and said, “Perfect Practice Makes Perfect”. That philosophy is only true if the goal is to perform skills well for the textbooks.

The real issue now is “Performance Practice Makes for Perfect Performance”.

Practice consistently under the conditions to be experienced in competition and success will follow.

Just learning and mastering sports skills is not enough: it is no longer “Practice Makes Perfect” or “Perfect Practice Makes Perfect”;

Coaches and athletes must spend as much time, energy and effort learning to perform the fundamental skills of their sport in competition conditions as they do to learning and mastering the basic skill;

Coaches should progress athletes systematically through the 7 skills steps to ensure they can perform fundamental sports skills in competition conditions: to do less is to rely on luck, the bounce of the ball and some good fortune – none of which are strategies for consistent success." - End of referenced article.

Note: my background is that I was a talented junior sportsperson. I won primary school swimming and running carnivals, I got ranked in TTNSW state juniors top ten after one year of table tennis coaching, I was selected in Div 1 junior outdoor and indoor soccer, got runners up in State championship high school touch football for Baulko High and represented junior rep cricket at zone level (including being the first to score a century at Under 12 Reps). I loved sports and was able to learn the skills much more quickly than the average kid but I agree totally with the article by Wayne Goldsmith because it's much harder to use your skills in the real competition situation.

Everything was much easier doing laps in the pool, football, cricket and table tennis practices even in trial matches but during real competition the opposition provided an environment that was difficult, pressured, needed instant decisions and gave us scenarios for us to lose rather than easy situations to win. However, it was always wonderful when things we practised came out winners during competition.

In all the sports that I excelled in I found table tennis the most satisfying but time consuming; you must try to play in lots of competitions and tournaments to use all your loops, serves and shots so that you can hit the balls fast, even though tired after an all-day comp, under constant pressure and consistently in comp situations. You may play and win often during club practice or 'friendly' matches, but if you can't do well in district and state competitions (assuming you're in the right level or age group) then your practice needs to be modified. The above article gives you the right steps in how to do it. I just wished I had this formal training in my junior days!

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