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PostPosted: 23 Jul 2018, 09:19 
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Dr. Chop-Blogger
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LordCope wrote:
...I can now score in Russian. I just need to learn how to swear ;)


You are doing it wrong - should've started with swearing. :)

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PostPosted: 23 Jul 2018, 11:39 
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Well done LC, sounds like a great experience. You know that whenever we have a good result we tend to say that the opposition weren't that good. I'm guilty of it when running. If I get a podium or a win I tend to think that there was none of the good racers there. Remember though that to all the people you beat, you are the good player. All you can do is show up on the day and see what happens. On another day, who knows, you might have lost several of those matches.

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PostPosted: 24 Jul 2018, 09:51 
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LordCope wrote:

... a person who makes a living as a coach turned up. My new friend had suggested I might have a session with him, and I felt it would be worth a go, even if only for some sparring.

The language barrier was significant, and he didn't seem to have any interest in trying to "teach" me anything. We did some fh/bh warming up, and I chopped for him for a while, then we did some free play, and ended with some matches. He won all the matches, but I got to 9 or 10 a couple of times. He was obviously a pretty decent player in his time, but is unfit and doesn't compete any more, but his touch was good, and he had some very good shots.
...


This is something I've recently become aware of as far as TT culture differences between countries is concerned. You were expecting 'coaching' (and I don't blame you...), but you've got 'sparring' instead, that is a higher level practice partner.

Coach is trying to actively teach you something, sparring partner is simply there to put ball back on the table for the drill you are interested in, but you have to pay in either case. The latter is pretty much non-existent here in the US (at least in the commercial sense in the area where I am in), not sure about UK, but it seems to be the norm in Russia etc. I guess once you have decent number of high level semi-pro players, they have to make a living somehow, and so this becomes a way to do so. I could be wrong, but that looks like you ended up with here: 'coaching' and 'practice' are more or less interchangeable in Russian meaning of the word 'тренировка'.

For other aspect of TT club differences: in many places in Russia you are renting a table by an hour, be it for a lesson with a coach, or just hitting with a buddy. Obviously no way you can have a 'challenge' system so common in US - you OWN the table for a certain time. So - no such thing as going to a club on a whim like I do here when I feel like it and playing whoever is there, it becomes more of a structured TT date. Don't know if that's what you encountered in Minsk, though.

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PostPosted: 24 Jul 2018, 20:15 
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pgpg wrote:
You were expecting 'coaching' (and I don't blame you...), but you've got 'sparring' instead, that is a higher level practice partner.


To be fair I would rather have sparring than coaching from a random, unless I know the coach has a particular expertise. While there's always value in listening to high level players and coaches, I've come to the view that too many cooks can really spoil the broth, esp. when it comes to developing technique.

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The latter is pretty much non-existent here in the US (at least in the commercial sense in the area where I am in), not sure about UK, but it seems to be the norm in Russia etc. I guess once you have decent number of high level semi-pro players, they have to make a living somehow, and so this becomes a way to do so.


Yes, pretty rare in the UK, but does happen, and I think possible on the increase.

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'coaching' and 'practice' are more or less interchangeable in Russian meaning of the word 'тренировка'.


Yep, so I explicitly asked for тренировка, anticipating that to mean "training" not "coaching".

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For other aspect of TT club differences: in many places in Russia you are renting a table by an hour, be it for a lesson with a coach, or just hitting with a buddy. Obviously no way you can have a 'challenge' system so common in US - you OWN the table for a certain time. So - no such thing as going to a club on a whim like I do here when I feel like it and playing whoever is there, it becomes more of a structured TT date. Don't know if that's what you encountered in Minsk, though.


At the centre, I just gave the coach some money (not much) for his time. It was mid/late afternoon, and there was nobody else around. On Saturday I think my friend had booked 2 hrs of the coach's time, but shared it with me, very kindly. I hope I can return the favour this weekend...

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PostPosted: 30 Jul 2018, 04:01 
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I had the opportunity to have a two hour session with Dmitry Chumakov, member of the 2003 European Team Championship-winning Belarus squad, alongside, of course, forum favourite Evgueni Chtchetinine.

I greeted him and introduced myself in Russian and was surprised that he replied in excellent English. We went into his gym, where I'd already trainined on saturday, and after gettting changed and a bit of physical warm up, we were ready to start.

We began with touch-to-touch play, with him constantly reminding me it's *touch* - we're looking for feeling, minimum force possible. I'm increasingly of the view this is one of the most important things to work on - feeling, in the fingers.

Next we did some FH - drives and topspins. A big emphasis from Chumakov on using the legs and body, synchronising with arm and wrist. Adding accelaration with the hand at the point of touch. He also commented that my ready position was much too bent over - making it very hard to use legs, and the ground for propulsion. I need to work on this very hard, because it will feel very strange, but is an important correction.

He made an interesting point here -- many players use a lot of energy before and after hitting the ball. Optimal is to explode energy at the point of contact. Of course there needs to be preparation and follow-through, but the maximum acceleration should be at contact. This makes sense if you think of other sports - golf, archery, snooker - you're coiling back, and exploding forwards. The other point was to *pause*. When playing a topspin shot we can wait just a little - we're a bit away from the table, and have more time than we realise - time to coil and prepare, remembering - power from the legs.

We did the same with BH, and again, the emphasis on using the legs to generate spin. I'd never really thought about this on my BH, but I tried it, and it did make a difference. Here once more, my ready position tends to be leaning too far forwards, which is bad for balance, and makes it hard to use the legs.

Now we were warmed up, he asked me what I wanted to work on. I explained that I'd like to develop a clear distinction between my FH topspin and my FH hit, because I feel that most of the time I tend to do a hybrid, which is neither a fast direct hit, nor a loaded topspin. Chumakov thought this was very interesting, and asked me to show him my FH hit. He thought it was ok, but used too much body - it should be a smaller faster movement with my wrist. He said my FH topspin was good as long as I waited just a little longer and made sure I used my legs, and a snap of the hand. He said in his opinion, with the plastic ball, the best way to attack is with a mixture of hit and spin, and that most players struggle to do this, but thanks to my years of SP play, I had a pretty decent FH hit. So we worked on some hits for a bit - short backswing, massive acceleration, and then mixing with topspin. Balls to my fh and middle, and my shots to each corner.

An interesting comment he made was that I was often over-keen to hit the ball. That is I wanted to rush into the shot, so as to reduce the amount of time he had. He pointed out that this really isn't necessary and often isn't helpful. When I did this my shots tended to be in the middle of the table, and easy to block. If I waited just a moment, I was better able to place the shot. He also said that when an attacker pauses for a moment, it has a very significant psychological effect - like a striker advancing on a goal-keeper - the goal keeper isn't sure which way the ball with go, and the pressure is on. The same is so - when you pause, the defender will have unconscious doubts - where will the ball go? This is a powerful thing to use.

Another correction on my hitting technique was to keep my elbow down and locked. My elbow tends to go up - we did some exercises with resistance bands to drill the idea of keeping the elbow low and strong, and this helped a lot.

Then we did something I've never done before. Chumakov asked me to hit chopped balls. I complained that I would never do that. I would open up against a chopped ball and hit the return. Chumakov asked me to do it anyway. He assured me if I got the angle right, even against a heavy chop I could hit it. We practiced for a while, and sure enough I was able to hit chopped balls. Next we moved into an exercise with movement, in which I had to hit chopped balls. This was much harder, of course, but I still felt I was making progress.

I asked about this as a strategy, and Chumakov explained that in his view, with the plastic ball, it's hard to generate enough spin against a push or chop to make it threatening - that a good player could attack an open-up. A hit against a push/chop (which also has somewhat less rotation with the new ball) is possible and much much harder to counter-attack. His view was to invert the paradigm of spin first, hit second, and try hit first, spin second.

Next he asked me to push a top-spin serve, and then chop a topspin, which he'd push, and again, I'd hit. At this point he had a number of things to say. He said that when I got into a good position, my chops were good, but I would often get into position and find my position wasn't quite right, and then my chops would lack control and spin. To remedy this, he suggested I try to get into the habit of moving with smaller movements - "mouse steps", he called them. Be lighter and faster on feet and be prepared to adjust. Same on FH - pay attention to footwork *after* the shot to make sure I'm still balanced and able to move in any direction. He also I needed to use my legs more in chopping. Just as in fh topspin, I need to drive up and forwards with legs, in a chop, I need to go down with legs as I move. I tried this, and it had a big effect.

After this we played some games - we had time for four. The first three I got 7, 6, and 7, but in the last he upped his game and I only got 2.

His comment after the games was that I needed to work a *lot* on my serves - with better serves and a follow-up plan I could add three or four points a game - by not giving away points, and by creating opportinities. A big focus on improving my serves would take me to the next level. Against anybody who can confidently attack a long or half-long serve, I'm in trouble. My long serves aren't fast enough or spinny enough, and I do them too often. My half-long serves are ok, but only one or two a game if that - make them a surprise. My short no-spin serve is good, but I need to mix it with a variety of spinny short serves. My attempts at spinny short serves usally drift long, and are very easy to attack. Additionally when I recover to reasy, I'm leaving too much FH open - I should either pivot more aggressively, or start my serve from further over. Again, use of legs and body momentum is important - I'd get a lot more spin this way. Additionally, I seem to lack a plan after my serve - I need to know what I am expecting in return, and have a point strategy. Service return wasn't bad, and BH service return was sometimes quite good. FH service return needs to be more relaxed and less jerky.

Overall a very worthwhile session - lots to think about and work on.

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Read my blog: "LordCope's Latest Learnings Log": http://ooakforum.com/viewtopic.php?f=58&t=24452


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