On the Right Foot - Coaching Table Tennis

Newgy Robo-Pong

When I first started playing table tennis, all I ever wanted to do was blast the ball past my adversary! But soon I realized that I was hitting two or three amazing shots per match and still losing matches to players who never hit the ball past me – I never gave them the chance as I missed first with my attacks!

I realized something HAD to be done… but what? I could not find any table tennis training books in the local library and I did not know anyone who gave lessons. So I started looking at tennis books for insight as to how they practice to get better. The two big things I found repeated in every chapter and every book were about adding consistency and control to your game. So with this new outlook I started doing more actual practice, no longer for power but for repetition of the correct form and a better understanding of where I SHOULD be putting the ball.

About this time I was told of the five-time U.S. National Table Tennis Champion who lived less than an hour away and that he had his own gym! It was almost like a myth – stories of how they practiced, grueling physical fitness training and yet no one had an address or phone number! Yes, it was before the INTERNET! I luckily met a guy who had been there to get some equipment and offered to have me tag along when he was picking up his order! We arrived on a Saturday afternoon and just a few guys were there hitting balls, pretty casually, I thought for “serious players” but it turned out the owner was on his way and wasn’t one of the guys hitting!

Dan Seemiller was, and still is, a very quiet and unassuming guy – until you put him out on the ping pong® table! After an introduction, Dan and his brother Randy went to table one and started warming-up. I was in shock! They hit 150 ping pong® balls easily in a row at speeds of my hardest shots and went from forehand to backhand without missing or changing the tempo!

I signed up for a table tennis clinic for the following Saturday and I still use some of those core lessons now with my own students! I really learned about the process of improvement and how effort is just one part of the total equation! But all I learned I shared when I went back to school that fall and saw a very important thing happen, as I made my fellow players better, I now had better practice partners! The cycle of improvement continued to churn and pretty soon I had a group of five guys who trained, travelled and wanted to win – not just for themselves but for all of our “team”!

I was the lucky one who had the knack for teaching and who had a parent that lived near a large table tennis facility in Maryland! I went there and took lessons from two of the top “new” players in the US, both from the powerhouse of table tennis – CHINA! The style of coaching was different [a very hands on approach] it kept me hustling but improving too! Again I would take the things I learned back to college and shared everything with my players! So, I naturally started doing all the organizing for practice sessions and even events! After one weekend group session with Dan, he suggested I take the Certified Table Tennis Coaches’ test to be able to recruit more players for training and I haven’t looked back since!

Roger Dickson

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