Question.Is it possible to improve your table tennis/ping-pong without a coach?
AnswerYes, but with some provisos.
Having a coach in table tennis can be likened to having a guide on a long journey. The guide is supposed to know the way to where you are going, as well as what areas to avoid, and what tourist spots are worth visiting. But that doesn't mean that it's impossible to get there yourself!
In ping-pong terms, a coach is there to help you maximize your potential, whatever that might be. A good coach will help you to avoid making mistakes that will delay you in reaching your best level, and help you to improve your technique, plan your training and give match advice, among many other things.
So although having a good coach is very useful, does this mean that you can't do it all by yourself? Well no, but expect to take longer to maximize your results. Without a coach, you have to try to take care of everything by yourself, including stroke technique, training plans, tactics, and match advice.
Self-Coaching - TipsWatch Coaching Videos and Match Videos
You will need to monitor your technique by yourself. This means that you need to have an idea of what technique you are trying to achieve on the various strokes, and also what technique you are actually performing. Training videos and match videos can help in giving you the techniques of the professionals to copy, although bear in mind not every professional's technique is a model to follow!
If you can afford it, a video camera is definitely a big help in monitoring your own technique, since you can watch your strokes in detail at leisure. Without the luxury of a video camera, you will need to pay even more attention to the feel of the strokes, and the results you are generating. In general, better technique will produce better results.
When training, make the most of your training buddies, especially if you have regular partners. Someone who trains with you every week will have a fairly good mental picture of your normal technique, and should be able to quickly notice when you are doing something different - although they may not always know what it is!
Training partners can also be a source of new ideas, training drills, and other tips and tactics. Putting both of your heads together in training can help both you and your partner.
Ask for Help
When playing competitions, try to pick the brains of the better players as much as you can, without being pushy. You could always do what Brad Gilbert recommends, and buy the better player lunch and use the time to ask him for help. Or spend a few dollars and ask for an hour of a better player's time in return for an honest appraisal of your game, and his suggestions for improvements.
Don't be afraid of asking players who are at your level or lower either. Any player could have a valuable insight that could help you to improve. Just bear in mind that it is still up to you to decide whether the advice you get is suitable for you and the way you play - regardless of who the source is.
Forget About Copyright
When playing competitions, look at the players who play a style similar to your own and evaluate the tactics they use. Think about what their tactics are, why they work, and how you could do something similar. Also take notice of the tactics their opponents use against them, since these are likely to be the tactics better players will use against you! Stealing tactics from better players is a time-honored way of improving your own game, as long as you keep in mind that some tactics rely on a certain level of execution ability in order to be used.
Surfing Can Improve Your Ping-Pong
Make full use of that incredible resource, the Internet. On our own table tennis forum, you can ask questions of forum members, and get a variety of answers from a whole host of different perspectives, including Olympians and Paralympians, and a number of experienced coaches and players.
Don't Forget to Write
Take notes along the way, so you can refer back to them later when needed. When you are trying to do everything by yourself, it's easy to overlook the obvious every now and then, or just forget a vital point in your technique or tactics. Having things written down will save you from having to work it out all over again - you can just check your notes instead.
If You Can't Find Them, Join Them
Another option is to become a coach yourself. There is nothing like trying to teach others to force you to really understand what you are talking about. I can speak from personal experience that my coaching has made me a better player, since I have had to examine many concepts and techniques that I took for granted, and then try to explain to another person how and why they work.
ConclusionLook, I'm not advocating trying to go without a coach if you have a good one available to you. Why do things the hard way when you can get help to improve? But yes, I think it is still possible to improve your table tennis without a coach. As long as you realize that you are likely to take a couple of dead ends every now and again, you can still make progress when no coach is available to you. Plus you have the satisfaction of knowing that you really did do it your way! Just remember that those players who do get quality coaching are going to progress significantly faster than those players trying to do it all by themselves.
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