Who is your greatest inspiration in Table Tennis and why?
Stephane Lebrun – Over many years I gained so much knowledge and many things as I assisted him as a young coach in Montpellier. From him I learned many things in terms of technique, tactics plus his general mentality around our sport! Players I enjoy watching are Hugo Calderano and Xu Xin as they both have exceptional feeling and can do many things with the ball.
Do you think attitude plays a big factor in winning?
For me this is very important and it’s about bringing the right mentality out at the correct times… Also, as a coach it’s so important that the player brings the correct attitude to training everyday! For example, many players can train hard but many can not train so good when there is no short term goal or competition. In the training hall it is important that “Mistakes” are necessary and too many players play it “Safe” and try to win but they are not making something different to have a winning edge! For me this is difficult concept especially for the young players. Finally, in terms of Attitude it’s very important that the players have the ability to think in terms of what decisions they will make during training, with their coach, in life and during a match! Jean Philipe Gatien (French legend) – when he was in the training hall he wasn’t winning so much but was never afraid to try new things and when it came to the big occasion these shots and gameplays came together perfectly!
How do you get the best from your players?
For me the most important thing would be respect and confidence between the coach and player. In the training and during events the player and coach need to be together as one… I think now this is a little problem in France! Respect between the player and the coach is very important and the player must not be afraid to build this respect by talking a lot about the game with their coach, working on the details step by step and also having some fun on the way! I feel this respect and relationship builds primarily in the training hall and it’s something we work hard on every day between player and coach.
What do you look for in a player?
First, like many coaches I look to see if the player takes pleasure in playing Table Tennis. It’s important that technique is not so rigid but this can be flexibly and let the player develop some things with guidance – this will allow the player to be more adaptable in their game. Finally, I look for the players who are massive fighters in the training hall, on the court, in the warmups and in life!!
Image from Nathanaels Instagram
Who is the best player you have worked with and what sets them apart from others?
I’ve had many enjoyable experiences working with some of France’s best players but if you push me to name a player currently I would say Steban Dorr… With Dorr we have a good connection as coach and player where I try to give him confidence in his game and if I am very hard with him he will close up a little. He is a very special player as his level rises much higher in matches especially under pressure and he absolutely loves the pressure situations! This is very unique…
Any advice for the new generation of Table Tennis players?
Now we need to adapt with the new technology especially social media as the players have many resources and we as coaches need to educate the players as they are becoming more hungry for knowledge. The game of Table tennis will not be determined by what strengths you bring to the table but it will be how well you can adopt your game to each unique situation. We are now focused in the training hall on trying to work on many situations and variations so the players are ready for anything! From the start players need the freedom to develop a wide range of shots. Finally, for me “Competition” plays an important part in developing world class players. We need the players to feel and get used to playing like it’s a real game! If you don’t work on this during training how can you be good?? You must have a love for competition at all times and work on creating these situations every day in the hall!!