13 December 2009
Dear members of the management committee,
Former national Australian coach Marcus Gustafsson said it like
"My biggest goal is to get the players to think more 'group'
than just 'individual' like now. This is the way the rest of the
world does it and I'm trying to make Australia understand the benefit
of group training."
Group training sessions are similar to a school-situation, with
many players and often only one coach: The coach explains the exercise;
the players practise the exercise at the tables while the coach
moves from table to table to correct/assist/give feedback. He is
rarely playing at the table with the players (might be a few seconds
with beginners to give them shots they can hit). The coach (coaches)
is working for the association, the players pay the association,
and the association pays the coach (or can be voluntarily). Private
coaching is as good as non-existent in other countries than Australia.
In our association many of the players are used to private coaching
(one-to-one or in small groups). Some claims it gives fast results,
but the fact is that the Australian players are far from the best
on the international arena. Sweden might be the best sample of how
it is possible to make world-champions without private coaching
(or table tennis schools/camps for the best talents): J-O Waldner,
Jørgen Persson, Peter Karlsson and the others never had a
private coach - they did their daily practising with the other members
of their respective associations in normal coaching squads! The
same goes for the Swedish juniors that now are on the rise to European
It often seems that coaches in Australia used to getting money from
private coaching believe that group coaching will reduce their income,
but it does not have to be so.
Private coaching and small, private coaching groups:
- is too costly for the association.
- is too costly for players/parents.
- disrupts other coaching activities.
- divides players and coaches.
- can result in wrong development for the players.
- gives no team-feeling or feeling of social belonging.
The last point is very important. Quite a few players in our association
and else in Australia have become very good with quite a lot of
private coaching - only to quit playing at young age. For rugby
players it is easy to see why so many of them continue to play after
becoming seniors: If they become good enough they can make heaps
of money from their sports! The motivation is there. To tell young
table tennis players that they might be selected to the Olympics
if they practise hard enough might be ok, but they will still be
unable to make a living from their sport. The motivation has got
to be something else in the long run. The love of table tennis is
of course there, but it is not enough. In Europe and other countries
what they do to motivate the young players is to make the social
aspect very important: When you head off to your practising sessions
you are not only going to hit a small white ball across the net
- you are going to see your friends!
My hope is that the diversion that the association has experienced
during the last years will come to an end. The association is being
pulled apart and will not, as Brian pointed out, live long if we
do not see a change. I believe that this change could start by making
sure that all our junior players practise and play their fixtures
together - so that they all can improve their skills and built a
positive team-spirit. Let's show the players down south that the
Townsville players are getting ready to beat them!