Table Tennis has played a huge part in my life and in many ways I owe my success to the sport
As a coach I often ask myself this question, simply because I want to better myself and raise, British table tennis as a whole. I have been privileged in achieving many great things in my coaching career but does that classify me as a "Top Coach"?
Firstly what is classified as a top coach?
For me a top coach is someone who is able to bring the best out of their students: providing the tools and the ability to execute shots with the correct decision making. This is a long and complex subject but ultimately a top coach must possess; good knowledge of the "correct technical methods", good communication skills, open minded, willing to learn, must not possess a big ego 'think he/she are the best coach (as I believe there is no such thing as 'best coach'), I will explain this below. Furthermore the coach must be able to adapt his/her coaching style to suit various conditions, facilities and personalities. This list can go on forever but these are the fundamentals needed to be considered as a top coach.
No such thing as best coach:
I have worked with some of "the so called" best coach's in the world and learnt a little from everyone and put my personal touch on everything making it my own. Furthermore no matter how good I believe I am or others perceive me to be, I continuously search to better my coaching ability
Here is a debate I often face, many TT player ask me if I would like to be a National coach or do you think Lui Guliang is the best coach in the world? In short 1. Currently I do not want to be a national coach and No Lui Guiliang is not the best coach in the world! There is no ranking system for coach's (Yes.. I hear you say, but Lui, coach's the best TT nation in the world) that is correct! but if I told you that around 100 million TT players play in your country and they see TT as a great opportunity, out of poverty and you get to pick the best 30 to coach, what would you think?
I would think I have the easiest job in the world I get the best of the best with an amazing coaching team behind me. In fact its the same for every national coaching job you get the best in your country to work with. When Lui retired as a player he worked with the national team for a few years as a sparing partner and assistant coach, before being handed over the role as head coach. Please don't get me wrong I have no doubt he is a very good coach but I also know he could not or would struggle immensely if he had to do what someone like myself do. Coach from total beginner to national/international level by yourself while coaching 20/30 other kids at the same time and all possessing different level's not to mention the endless hours needed to mentor these young disobedient kids.
I don't want to be negative but often we don't know the ins and outs, the background, the true picture because we are only exposed to the front end of the picture therefore we assume and think what we see is the truth and that's where it all goes wrong. Most top coach's are not the national coach's they are the local, personal and regional coach's, hidden/unseen by the prestigious title of national coaches. In fact one of my former players represented England and reached the semi final of a major international event. I had worked with the player around 5 years at the time approximately 20 hours per week. I stumbled upon a press release mentioning my players achievement which I was not mentioned but the England coach got praise for what a wonderful job he was doing with that player.
I also see the game being coached in a certain way which is basically the same/similar, methods and styles throughout the world. No matter where you go in the word you will see drills such as back to backhand forehand to forehand, Falkenberg, etc. So how can a coach be considered better than another if most coaches work in an almost an identical manor? Simple its an individual's perception if I play for a club in Germany I will automatically think I have a better coach than a English coach because I'm playing in a far better TT nation. When in fact I could be coached by someone whom is far worse and I am failing to realise that its not necessarily the coach its the system in place that makes German TT, far superior to English TT. As mentioned above coaches are split in level only by how they deliver their knowledge and the ability to get the best out of an individual. For example Tiger Woods, the William sisters and others where coached by their parents whom were not professional coaches in that field, you do the maths.
Three things that make a top coach:
1. You have to be in love with the sport because 9 times out of 10 you will not be given the credit you deserve for your dedication, work and love put into your coaching.
2. Coach players as individuals, for example I often see players with a certain forehand technique I automatically know who their coach is. The coach has not provided what certain individuals specifically need, for example one player may be very slow and the other very fast or one short the other tall. This would mean a fast player can develop his game around his forehand if he or she wishes. On the other hand the slower player would require two strong wings otherwise they would be pinned to the weaker side (most cases backhand) and would not have the capability to turn the corner due to lack of speed/mobility. A short player in most cases should look to stay close to the table covering the angles where a taller player can afford to step back and use his/her wing span.
3. Always be willing to learn most coach's have big ego's including myself but if we are willing to learn we will continue to improve and adapt with the game ultimately providing our players a greater chance to improve with us.
A top coach will provide the tools, teach you how to use them plus guide you on your path but only you the individual can make your desires a reality.