by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor.
It is in that role Chen Bin operates.
“I was the head coach of the Hubei provincial Men’s Team, I was with them for 11 years; I started with the national team in 2003”, said Chen Bin. “I always met Ding Ning at national events, even before I started coaching the national team. I started coaching her in 2010, after she lost at the 2010 World Championships in Moscow.”
Ding Ning was beaten by Feng Tianwei in the contest that witnessed a three-one win for Singapore. Consistently, Ding Ning has stated the defeat in Moscow was a major reason why she became World champion in Rotterdam the following year.
It was a character building experience; it is that part of her nature which more than impressed Chen Bin when asked about her strengths.
“It’s definitely her perseverance, her stable performance and she’s also very bold in trying out new skills & techniques”, stressed Chen Bin.
“The level of the players differs a lot, the Asian and the European teams are stronger, while African and Oceania team are weaker. The main difference lies on the players’ understanding of the sport and the ball itself, the weaker players know how to play, but they don’t know how to play it well, table tennis is not just about hitting the ball back on the table, you have to return the ball back, you have to have a feel of how the ball is coming towards you, and visualize how your ball is going to end up on your opponent’s table when you hit it back”, Chen Bin
A strong character but to achieve, especially at world level, a player must be prepared; on the first evening of the training camp that was Chen Bin’s message to the coaches.
“I gave them a talk on pre-match preparations, which I think is an important part of competition”, said Chen Bin. “Before a match, the coach and the player have to be well prepared, anything can happen; the players must know how to deal with different situations that could happen.”
“I have given the Hopes team a lot of focus, helping the eight coaches and the eight players on with their playing strategies. For this training camp, it’s also hard on the players as they only have three days to learn and practise whatever new techniques and tips I gave them, they will have to practise more to better acquire the skills from this training camp. I hope it’s beneficial especially for the coaches, and they have to implement what was learnt here at this camp”, Chen Bin
He gave classic examples.
“A victory or loss of a match can have a huge impact on an athlete; it can either make or break them”, said hen Bin. “Tak for example Ding Ning’s London 2012 Olympic gold medal match with Li Xiaoxia, I wasn’t prepared for the situation that the umpire will fault her serves; that caused her to lose her calmness and eventually the match and the gold medal, of course it doesn’t mean that she will win if she wasn’t given the yellow card for her serves but at least she would have stayed calm during the match.”
“Players have to have a good understanding of the ball and its spin, that’s the main thing that these players have to improve on. Understanding how the spin works and knowing how to counter-react to the different spin variations, this is also what differentiates professional players from the amateur players. A player’s adaptability and reaction on court is also very important”, Chen Bin
Ding Ning and Chen Bin learned from the experience.
“At the World Championships in Suzhou when she hurt her ankle in the final against Liu Shiwen, we were prepared for that, because she had played four four-three matches which stressed her shoulder muscles”, explained Chen Bin. “We were prepared for the scenario that she could be injured in that match, I told her that if that happens, she will have to take a medical time out; in the end, it was her ankle that was injured, even though she didn’t recover after the time out, it affected Liu Shiwen’s rhythm, as she was not prepared for that situation and didn’t know how to react.”
Thus they message from Chen Bin was very clear, there is more than technical preparation prior to a match.
“Mind set is vital, the pre-match preparations and the players’ mentality in different situations on court. the European players, they have good physique and good strength, but they don’t know how to release that power in their play”, Chen Bin
“You must think of “Plan B” or “Plan C” to help your athlete to be mentally prepared for all kinds of scenarios and difficulties on court”, continued Chen Bin. “This is also the key message that I hope all the coaches will take away from the education session; it’s not easy for them to come all the way to Shanghai, I believe the teaching of the coaches is more important than that of the players, as they will be able to pass on these knowledge in their countries”
A most informative session and one fact was clear. The ITTF World Cadet Challenge is not just for the players; it is also for the coaches; it is learning experience for all.