How to improve your table tennis fast?
How to improve your table tennis fast from beginner level to an advanced level. Featuring Gaurav Aravind, how and why do some people develop faster than others? When I first began playing table tennis all I wanted was to improve, at the fastest rate possible. With limited resources back in the 90’s I resorted to what I believed would help. This included: as much table time as possible watching the best around me and how they do it, purchasing books and videos of past and present TT events and lastly researching the best table tennis coaches.
My development was fast and possibly quicker than most due to my desire and hunger for self-development. But I was unaware of many things that could have helped me develop even quicker!
I started coaching in the year 2000 and the initial years proved difficult with average results, regardless this was an experimental period and a wonderful learning curve. A new job role was introduced to me at Barnet Table Tennis Centre and my results there escalated at a very fast pace. I produced many high-level players and 8 England squad-team players in a very short space of time. The success continued when I was headhunted for a full-time table tennis job role in a specialist sports school called The Harefield Academy.
Why was I able to get super results?
To keep things simple I have chosen 1 player to write about so we can follow his journey towards success.
If you have not heard of Gaurav, it’s probably because he’s only been on the scene for around about 4 years! He was a complete beginner and today stands at no.6 in England (Junior) having beaten England No.1, twice!
How has Gaurav come from a complete beginner to potentially becoming no.1 in his age group?
Gaurav Aravind personal view:
I started playing aged 13 and a half at The Harefield Academy because my friends used to play so I thought why not give it a go!
My School had a full-time table tennis coach (Eli Baraty) and 20 tables which were accessible to us almost every day; morning, during school, after school and some evenings. Eli was the head coach that would bring many guest players and coaches to the academy. He was and still am a very passionate coach that produced-produces many top players, this gave me the confidence and belief in him. I could watch, learn and even play with the top players at the Academy and all this was given to me for free at my school.
I loved playing but got frustrated being beaten and seeing my friends better than me, I am naturally competitive and wanted to be better than them and beat them.
Higher level sparring partner:
I think one of the key things that pushed me faster than the others, was the opportunity of playing with Danny Lewis (former top 12 Cadet and top 30 Junior). I took it upon myself to do more than the others, by asking the better players to train with me. Danny was kind enough to give up his time and would practice with me 2/3 times per week. Being out of my comfort zone constantly gave me no choice but to grow and develop my game quickly. I felt personal pressure to develop otherwise the opportunity of training with Danny would go. In my opinion, most people will play with you if you’re keen and hungry to develop, especially if you’re a passionate player. On another note lots of players go on with top players and have a loser’s mentality ‘he/she are too good, what’s the point?’ Where I embraced the opportunity and Danny was pushed more and more as time went on. “He sacrificed so much time into me, when I look back at it now, I can’t believe he actually did that! I’m truly grateful and hope one day to do the same for someone.
I think setting goals enabled me to progress faster, for example, I remember one of my first goals was to get into the elite squad at Harefield (top 8) and get invited to the special training, on Tuesday’s after school.
Eli, made us write down short, medium and long-term goals. We would write it ourselves and place it on the training hall door, our goals would be revisited often and assessed.
I enjoyed playing small tournaments such as NCL and NJL this would allow me to see my percentage and assess my progression line over a 4-weekend period. Eli would give us goals of what percentage we require prior to the event. For example, if I got 50% last weekend I would require 60% or more on this occasion. I also enjoyed being exposed to big events such as 4* this showed me what a high-level TT can be played like at a junior level and I was able to learn lots by being exposed under the big spotlight. We were always pushed to grow and develop as players and characters.
Aiming high and self-development:
Eli often gathered our group of players together and gave little lectures or speeches of encouragement and development strategies. He would also make us deliver speeches and lectures to the group which would make us do our homework and encourage self-development. We grew as a team and bonded us a family, both on and off the table. Goals would be set such as, winning (English School National Team Championships) or becoming top 10 in England. Some goals felt far-fetched at the time but we achieved most of our targets one that we were able to make happen!
Grateful – making the most of what you have
I am truly grateful for the opportunity that was given to me and I wouldn’t change anything. All the ups and downs over the past few years lead me to where I am today. I am very proud of my achievements and I want young players to learn from my example. Take note of what can be done if you commit yourself and don’t take anything for granted. I was so lucky I had a great set up with many top players and a wonderful coach, I believe it’s something I should have utilised even more because today it’s gone.
It’s funny how you don’t realise how lucky you are until you’ve lost it. I’m still in contact with Eli and occasionally have a knock or a coaching session with him. Unfortunately, I don’t have access to him or top players on a daily basis as I once did. This means I must travel for 1/2/3 hours just to get a knock or join a coaching session, where often I’m the top player.
You need the opportunity to play, America is the best at American Football because kids have many opportunities to play the sport. The rest of the world doesn’t cater for that sport so lack the skill and playing level of NFL. We must find or develop more access/opportunity to play sports, in order to give greater opportunity for youth to develop what may be a hidden talent.
- Surround yourselves with top players and coaches and impose yourself upon them. Resistance initially is inevitable but if you persist they will see your drive and want to help you fulfil your potential.
- Find a good coach, one that wants you to develop and grow just as much as you do. And a coach that is constantly growing himself, that will allow him/her to grow with you.
- Self-develop, find what works and who is getting results and what are they doing to get these results. Try to implement the fundamental requirements such as good nutrition, physicals, mental and tactical, aspects of the game.
If you truly want to expand and accelerate your development, then you must learn to be comfortable with the uncomfortable. Growth comes from being in a position that you don’t like or want to be in but you do it anyways. This allows your mind and body to find solutions and thus increases your progression line at a faster rate.
Lastly, if you struggle to do this naturally, find someone who’s done it and follow their lead. Most importantly if you have something special don’t take it for granted, make the most of it. If you don’t have something special seek it or create it!
Written by Eli Baraty featuring Gaurav Aravind