Transferring Technique from Practice to Competition

questionsIf you’re the parent of a young and ambitious table tennis player then this ‘Ask Me a Question’ post will definitely be of interest to you. I won’t waffle on, here’s the question;

Chris, from Ireland, asked;

“Hi Ben,

My son is nine years old and absolutely loves the sport. He has a great coach, however, he’s having trouble transferring what he has learnt in training to competition. When he hits the ball correctly he does well but during competitive matches he doesn’t always apply what he’s been taught consistently.

Do you have any advice for a struggling parent? I try not to pressurise him and emphasise his enjoyment but it would be great to see his confidence boosted by a good day.

Thanks for any help in advance,


table tennis childResponse

Being the parent of a young table tennis player can be tricky. It’s hard to know how involved to get in your child’s development. You don’t want to be a “pushy parent” but at the same time you don’t want to be completely “hands-off” and appear uninterested or let their potential slip away.

Here are my thoughts;

1. Less emphasis on competitions and winning at a young age

  • I usually encourage parents not too take young players to too many tournaments. I think in the UK, and particularly in table tennis, we start kids off too early when it comes to competitions and it would be much better to concentrate on learning to play first and developing a solid technique before being thrown into matches.
  • There are coaches and clubs around the world (Spartak Tennis Club for one) that don’t allow their players to enter tournaments for 2/3 years after starting to practice to ensure that they concentrate on learning how to play first before worrying about learning how to win. Personally, I am beginning to move towards this school of thought and while I think it might not be a good idea to put down such strict rules, about when someone can and cannot play competitively, I think the general principle is a good one.

2. Encourage and reward continual development and fun

  • It can be very hard for a child to understand the difference between playing to improve and playing to win. Children are brought up in a world that highlights the importance of winning (short-term) but for a young, developing player I don’t think this is anywhere near as important as understanding the process of continual development over time (long-term).
  • Emphasis should be placed on the skills of listening, watching, practicing, concentrating and experimenting. If you can create this kind of mindset in a young and ambitious player I believe they will develop much faster, reach higher levels of ability in the future, be far less likely to experience unhappiness or feelings or inadequacy from table tennis, or decide to drop out from the sport altogether a couple of years down the line.

3. When competing, decision making is key

  • When the time is right to begin competing the emphasis should be completely on a players decision making, when it comes to shots and the way he plays the game (being positive and fearless etc.), rather than whether he wins or loses.
  • As a player you are not in control of whether you win or lose and as a young player it really doesn’t matter either. What you can control is how you play and the decisions that you make. That way even if your child loses the game they can come away happy if they played correctly and if they lost playing correctly it should be easy to workout which shots/parts of their game needs more work in order to be more accurate or consistent.

If you have a question that you would like me the answer head over to the ‘Ask Me a Question’ page. I’ve linked to it in the main navigation of the site under ‘ASK’. Thanks for reading.