Our Head Coach Mario Genovese delivered a super-interesting workshop to a group of HiTT players from all categories, revealing the secrets of high-performance table tennis training. He touched also on training systems and self-analysis, crucial to a holistic training approach. With his vast coaching experience on a national and international level, Mario’s bag is full of valuable advice on all aspects of the game. So, what is high-performance training? Let’s find out.
What is high-performance training?
Speaking to a mixed audience of players with different levels of skill, HiTT Head Coach Mario Genovese explained that high-performance is definitely not a question of how many hours you spend hitting the ball with your racket or how hard you push yourself in every training session.
High-performance training is all about finding a natural balance between the physical and the mental aspects of training. It’s about feeding the brain as much as it is about feeding the muscles. It’s about adding different routines and types of training to your schedule, such as mental conditioning (for example, by reading table tennis blogs or watching youtube videos of table tennis matches that suit your style), or body alignment training which is one of the pillars of a successful player.
So what you need is a complete cycle to help you stay fit and in optimal condition throughout the year. This can be achieved by adding different types of exercises to your traditional table tennis exercises, such as strength conditioning, tempo training, running, stretching, agility training and mental alignment. These elements put together make you feel better at the table, affecting also your enthusiasm to play.
Are you doing enough?
If you answered yes to that question, then you’ve just put a massive blocker on your road to success. There’s no amount of training that is ever enough because no matter how good you are, there is always room for improvement. Your thirst to become better and better should never be quenched.
Another big enemy of self-progression is an ‘I cannot do this’ mentality. Believe in yourself, aim high, and do it! Motivation and determination are key factors of constant improvement, and to be motivated and determined, you should always believe that you can reach the toughest objectives.
Training systems and analysis
Moving on from defining what high-performance training is all about, Mario touched upon key elements of training that can quickly improve a player’s condition.
Centre of Gravity
One of the biggest problems identified by table tennis coaches relates to the centre of gravity of players. The position of the player at the table affects many aspects of the game, such as recovery, reach and power. Many table tennis players tend to move the shoulders before the feet, and this causes a great imbalance, with the centre of gravity shifting rapidly. Mario here brought up the example of a table tennis player who has played football in the past – footballers tend to have much better control of their centre of gravity since in football, you learn instinctively to move your feet first.
For many, habits are not easy to get rid of. Delearning is a slow process, but when successful, it can help good players become great.
Centre of Gravity ties in a lot with body alignment between the player, the table and the ball. For example, after serving, many players tend to stay too close to the table. The correct way to align yourself after a serve is to take half a step back (between 40 and 60 cms away from the edge of the table). This space gives you more opportunities to attack the returning ball because you have access to the whole table. From this optimum distance, you can also hit the ball at the highest point, thus creating your own spin.
Another important aspect of high-performance training is to train your brain to react in any situation. This is achieved by first and foremost, knowing yourself well and why you act in certain ways under certain circumstances. It happens to all players to have ups and downs. But you should always be asking yourself ‘why’. Why can’t I feel the ball today? Why is my backhand so bad today? What is keeping me from focusing? If you spot a pattern, then you will know how to adjust. Speak to your coaches and tell them about your problem. This way, they will add specific exercises to your routine that can help you remove the blocks that are keeping you from achieving your goals.
Skill vs Training
The balance between the right amount of training and your skill is a very fine one. Too great an intensity for example, can bring you down both mentally and physically. Fatigue, both mental and physical is detrimental. Recovery is a crucial element of your overall training routine. You have to continuously ask yourself how are you feeling. Do you have enough energy? Are you feeling lethargic more often than not? Is your focus wavering? Flow through long rest periods and micro-resting periods, because rest will help you avoid a burnout, a system collapse often experienced by players who are trying too hard. At the end of the day, it’s all about finding the right balance between all the elements of your training programme.
A note to the parents
After speaking to the players, Mario conducted a brief session with some of the parents that were present. He discussed the importance of creating a positive vibe for their children, and to provide the support they need as they grow older and develop both physically and psychologically.
Be prepared, be ready
An in one final message to the workshop participants who obediently spread out and kept safe distance, Mario talked about the new normality we’re all living. One thing we have all learned from the Coronavirus pandemic is that things can change at a moment’s notice. And until the situation stabilises itself once more, things will continue to change. So in this light, we need to be constantly on alert for quick changes, since training, matches and competitions can be cancelled or postponed at a moment’s notice.
About HiTT Academy
HiTT Academy offers opportunities in local and international table tennis competitions, training camps and workshops. Our dedicated coaches provide professional advice to all levels of players from beginners to advanced. Learn more about us on https://hittmalta.mt/ or find us on Facebook.