17 Dicembre 2015 da Ping Pong Italia · Lascia un commento 

What does talent mean? If you look up the meaning in the major dictionaries, they say: ”talent is a natural aptitude or skill”. Normally the term talent is associated to sports or even in any other field to indicate someone unusually, rarely skilled but one thing is indisputable fact, if you want to succeed in something you have to be a talent. Tabletennis certainly is not excluded from the list of sports where talent is one of the pre-requisite to excel at the highest level.

When we observe someone performing amazingly, It is extremely easy to exclaim: “what a talent!!!” Now the question is: as tabletennis coach or any key person for anything you want, are we able to identify some signs that lead us to invest or trust in somebody? Be a coach means to treat our kids as a sort of start up companies. What does the start up company need? Support, encouragement, knowledge and somebody who trusts in their abilities to make money or produce results. There have always been the start-ups since the dawn of the time, since birth of each person; who are the people who trust the most in our abilities? No doubt, our parents, I would say. Be sons or daughters for them mean having great talent, no matter what we do, how we do, if we do, just because we have a natural aptitude or skill to be devoted to whom gave us life, we are talents. But this is not enough, I would say too simplistic, because the crucial point to be a talent in anything you wish, is the environment and the aptitude to improve yourself. There have been a lot of studies that demostrated environment is the key of success.
To better explain it we should flip through the pages of anthropology. Our behavior is affected by our mother and father figures, why? Because for us they represent a role model and unconsciously, day after day, we want to be similar to them, if my father has been able to make it, hence I can make it. Another quick example, if my father is engineer, my least expectation of career is to be an engineer (emulation), but this is not enough, because I want become a chief engineer i.e. better than my father (challenge). And again, let’s see how it works in the animal behavior: what is the ability of a baby lion to hunt a prey? Surviving? yes, but most important is to stay all time with father lion and mother lioness, so they will guide the baby to develop the proper abilities in surviving, hence to hunt.
The consequence of all above said is: to have a talent we need to create and develop a solid, protective and, at the same time, challenging environment where our “babies” players can show day after day their potential to be and become talents.

I don’t want to write treatise of anthropology, so I want to keep my feet on ground and coming back to our major area of interest which is tabletennis but nevertheless not immune to the studies of anthropology.
We have a daily challenge: make our students devote to us in a sort of umbilical cord in a cozy and loving environment, every coach desires it. To do so, we have to set up few things: how to recognize a talent; in what area we want to identify the talent.
It is very common by mistakenly say: that player is a real talent just because played a outstanding stroke. Sometimes to me the word talent associated to amazing stroke is abstract because tabletennis is made by many different ways to express the talent. Talent is much more than a simple amazing shot. So what kind of talent are we looking for? What is the sign or signs which can inflame the will to dedicate our work in that particular element?
Let’s analyse the 4 skills + 1 of tabletennis:
1) Technique
2) Strategy and Tactic
3) Will power and mind set
4) Appropriate phisycal or as French say: having “Le physique du rôle”.

1) Technique
It is the ability to perform some particular movement with the paddle in order to make the ball on the other side of the table, this ability includes: grip, position of the paddle, rhythm (tempo), stability (balance), stance (posture), general coordination (ability to move in a certain area), specific coordination (ability to perform at least two things at the same time, an example: legs do something, arms do something else) and so on.

2) Strategy – Tactic
I keep these two aspects always separately cause is very common to conclude that the words are synonyms. To me they are not.
The strategy involves a general plan in order to put to opponent in a weak balance and make him an error, the tactic is the ability to use proper strokes (push, smash, various type of spins and so on) to achieve the strategy, both are inter-connected, for examples, there are lots of kids who keep playing their balls in the same spot, forgetting that the table is big enough to send the ball in some specific areas, now in this case we have a poor strategy plan. Have you ever noticed that when you play with some smart player either young or adult or amateur, the first things he/she does is to play what I call “windshell-wiper” example: one ball to the right, one ball to the left and keep going until the opponent loses his balance. There are some other kind of player that use only one kind of stroke or spin, in this case we have in front a player with poor tactic.

3) Will power and mind set
This combined skill includes the psychological sphere, in other words, everything that is truly untouchable like emotion, passion, will to win, hard work, excitement, fear to lose, be afraid of somebody or something, laziness and I can list many others, you can also name them. This area is directly related with the past experience and the motivational; most of the time the emotions are affected by the initial experience. So it is very important to consider and understand our kids in the very first moment of their tabletennis “life”.

4) Physique du rôle
This last skill is never considered enough in evaluating a potential champion, in the early stage does not matter if kids are too skinny or a bit chubby, too tall or too short, lefty or righty. We can definitely have time to shape them with some specific programs of training which allow him/her to better perform but we also have to keep in consideration the phases of their growth, a kid of 10 years old has different needs than a kid of 14 years old. One of the most important sign is how the kid moves his/her body in relation of the space of action. So the question is: where should I search the sign of talent? Have you ever gone into a ballroom? If so, you should have observed how the dancers move with music, you should have also noticed that someone has a special grace, a different way to express their dance. Here you are what to look for, the grace of movement, the harmony of the body stimulated by the sound of the ball. Most of the kids trying to hit some balls but they are mesmerized, motionless even afraid of their own shadow. Try it and let me know.

So when we have in front of us these start-ups we have to identify some potentials for the future. Many coaches think about technique, i.e. ability to generate power or spin, coordination, rhythm and so on. Other coaches are more focused on fitness or other abilities as I have listed above.
I’m not a know-it-all type, and I am very open to learn new things, so I don’t want to say “this sign is better than that sign”. My feeling is to be open in respect of whom I have in front and try to consider all the 4 skills at the same time. It often happens that a kid can be very talented in something and lacking in something else, then what to do? Well, of course, we try to bridge the gap by doing specific training or we can develop some other alternative solutions, but eventually that particular lacking will be his/her on going limitation for the which we have to live with. Or I can forget in what is lacking (I like it more) and I am more focused to perfect his/her skills. Anyway, most of the time, the reason why they did not achieved higher results is because they lack in something at the very first stage of career.
As tabletennis is considered a minor sport by a majority of media, we have to work with a limited number of subjects. We don’t “live off the fat of the land” like China superpower or Asia in general, so we should not weed out them, on the contrary we have to keep them involved and passioned to tabletennis by handling them with very much care, we don’t have to forget that they are fragile, in every sense, they can quickly approach to tt but likewise they can leave tt if we don’t give them proper support and incentives.

For some of you was evident that I forgot to tell about the +1 skill, I did it on purpose. To me is the most important. What is this +1 skill? It is the control panel, the setting icon. A stable system has beyond a solid setting. +1 skill is the ability to supervise all the 4 skills at the same time. This is the real talent that we are looking for to produce a great player first and then a champion. It is very difficult to identify it, because we are too focused for some limited things instead of seeing things as a whole. That’s why the observation of how they act, they play, they think, is crucial to assess them. And remember a great shot does not make a great champion.

I believe all above said is interesting indeed and can involve even other areas of daily life, Just imagine in any other field how is important to identify the right person in order to make your business more efficient and more effective in the market. Sometime we don’t linger enough to consider people in their whole, we want to be fast, at first glance, arrogantly, we want to understand everything.

So to conclude my a bit long write-up, the secret of success is to create a vital environment where people can perform freely by enjoying themselves, to establish a feeling of love and affection with people who take care of them and last but not least, to make them comfortable as if they were at home.
Classic question: “can my son/daughter become a champion? Obvious answer: “yes but he/she has to work very hard. Unusual answer: “after hard work he/she definitely can be a better person which is a requirement to be a champion”.

Massimo Costantini

A new way to teach tabletennis

8 Dicembre 2015 da Ping Pong Italia · Lascia un commento 

This post was published on LinkedIn

I joined this professional social a bit awhile but I never published a single post, I’d like to do it now because I feel a sense of confusion when we talk about teaching tabletennis. There are lots and lots of coaches around the world who are trying to explain how to play tt in all their different and individual ways to communicate. Here I want to put my point of view.
I believe tt is a skill game overseen by a specific gestures, possibly correct gestures. I believe tt is a skill game overseen by a sense of game, of strategy, of tactic with a high level of winning mentality. I believe tt is a skill game overseen by a strong mind & soul participation, at last I believe tt is a skill game overseen by a fluid and harmonious body motion in a relatively limited space. It comes naturally that when we want to teach tt we have to confider all the factors at the same time either for beginners or for more advanced level players.
As you can see, in my humble opinion, there is something in common: the skill or ability (if you prefer) in doing something. Let’s bring some examples: we want a kid/adult learning forehand counter, we want arrogantly teach him/her to keep the paddle in proper position, bend their leg, lean their torso and so on then we invite him/her to wait for the ball coming and eventually hit the ball. First mistake: we don’t consider the grip. To me the grip it’s the “original sin”, everything you are doing in tt is generated by the grip. Second mistake: we don’t consider what kind of squeezing force he/she applies on the grip. Third mistake: are we sure he/she is looking the ball in all its trajectory? I can list many other mistakes but I stop here. What I want to explain is: are we sure to teach tt properly? I believe in individual, to me tt is a very subjective sport, in term that you cannot apply any kind of technique valid for every player who comes across to your lesson. And on top of that, worst, you cannot teach tt according to your skill. It is very common to see coaches teaching tabletennis in the exact way as the coach acts. Well, the instinct is to see your player performing like you perform, in a sort of duplication, in the image and likeness. It is like a doctor that before listening to what kind of symptom the patient has, he prescribes a drug. You need to get a sort of anamnesis in order to give the cure that fits to that specific person. Tabletennis is not that different, we have to consider the player as a unique type of player and we have to be skilled to understand their limitations in order to reduce them. So teaching…”hey look, you have to execute forehand in this way” and you show how to do, nicely, perfectly, amazingly, without thinking that for he/she that’s Greek, and the situation is tremendously emphasized when you have to deal with little kids. First you have to talk the same language, not your language, you have to wear his/her shoes and feel what kind of difficulties he/she has. Have you ever tried to get on your knees and see what a little kid sees? Well this is the challenge: to understand their need in order to give them proper advices.

Dall’America con furore

4 Dicembre 2015 da Ping Pong Italia · Lascia un commento 

In un clima che comincia a riscaldarsi, non quello di cui hanno discusso i capoccia della terra a Parigi nel cosiddetto COP 21 (in inglese: poliziotto 21), ma poi, in definitiva, cosa hanno deciso? Insomma parlavo del clima, quello pongistico naturalmente, dove iniziano già a circolare i nomi di candidati a destra e sinistra, sopra e sotto e chissà anche da dove; dove, appunto, il presidente uscente Sciannimanico si potrebbe ripresentare, non si presenterebbe, si presenterebbe a metà, 3/4, chi lo sa!!! Ci saranno accordi o lotte, oppure lotte concordate, lotte senza cordate, infine guerre e mai un armistizio? Insomma le solite cose, lo sappiamo già.

In questo clima nord californiano, un po’ rigido per i miei gusti, oggi cambio discorso e parlo dell’America, gli USA, gli Yankee con il fenomeno Curry.
Stephen Curry, pettorina 30, è il fenomeno del momento dei Warriors, la squadra chiamata GS Golden State che nella passata stagione di NBA ha vinto appunto il titolo e Curry è stato insignito del prestigioso MVP Award ossia Most Valuable Player. Curry è talmente fenomeno che sta influenzando tutti qui negli States, chiunque abbia qualcosa da gettare lo fa eseguendo un tiro da 3, è pazzesco, tutti vogliono fare i tre punti, al ristorante, al centro commerciale, al Jamba Juice e così via. Attualmente i giganti di Oakland hanno un parziale di 20-0 mostruoso, penso sia il record di tutti i tempi nella storia dell’NBA. E tutti, e dico tutti vogliono il tiro da 3 con la traiettoria più incredibile possibile.

A proposito di ristoranti, io vado sempre al Macaroni & Grill, mi conoscono e non ho nemmeno bisogno di ordinare, lunedì e giovedì mi faccio i miei Sausage Rigatoni (no Sausage) e mi arriva un bel piatto di pasta di rigatoni, rigorosamente entro 7 minuti altrimenti non si paga, il condimento è ai funghi, martedì e venerdì Chicken Pesto Farfalle (no Chicken), questo rigorosamente in 9 minuti, il Rigatone mi costa 2$ + tax, la Farfalla 4$ +tax. Direte, come mai così poco? Me lo chiedo anch’io. Insomma c’è una promozione che se torni con lo scontrino entro una settimana c’è lo sconto di 5$ ecco svelato l’arcano. Di sicuro con me non fanno del gran business, ma loro sono contenti e quando entro nel locale mi accolgono con tutti gli onori, anzi se appena appena dico che la pasta non va, il manager arriva prostrato come non mai a chiedere scusa, a fare in modo di rifare il piatto e naturalmente non fartelo pagare.

Parlando ancora di luoghi pubblici, beh chi non conosce Starbucks, in americano il Buck equivale a 1$ quindi dal “Dollari Stella” mi faccio il mio solito espresso single shot, tradotto il normale caffè, se lo vuoi doppio chiedi il double shot. La cosa interessante che succede dal Dollari/Stella, anzi le cose interessanti che succedono sono: ordini online con il tuo smartphone e come arrivi nel locale c’è un asiatica che chiama: “Massimo single shot, have agretta day” e tu dici presente, ricambi il great day, lo ritiri e te lo bevi dove ti pare, ah anche qui mi conoscono pertanto ci mettono già lo zucchero di canna e me lo servono in tazzina e piattino di ceramica targati Starbucks. La seconda cosa è la ricarica del telefono, ci sono dei normali tavoli e poi c’è un aggeggio a forma di cd, ben intagliano nel legno dei tavoli, si prende un piccolo dispositivo da collegare al cell, lo si appoggia al coso a forma di cd ed il gioco è fatto, la batteria del telefono inizia la sua ricarica. Ma la cosa bella sono gli avventori, in realtà Starbucks è un luogo per studenti e nullafacenti, i primi arrivano con zaini pesanti di libri, ma anche di iMac, Macbook, iPad, iPod, iPhone, Smartwatch, cuffie e altre inutili cose, ah gli studenti qua sono tutti multitasking, mentre studiano e si danno un gran da fare sui libri con evidenziatori di tutti i colori, guardano youtube nel computer, nel telefonino seguono Facebook ascoltando la musica con gli auricolari mentre controllano quante calorie hanno consumato dallo Smartwatch. Sono dei fenomeni, solo loro ci riescono, ah, nel frattempo bevono in enormi contenitori di carta delle cose imbevibili per noi, non vi dico cosa bevono perché mi sono rifiutato di memorizzare il menu. L’altra categoria di avventori è il nullafacente, il nullafacente è trasversale, ha un’età variabile di classe medio bassa, arriva con il laptop (computer portatile) e un incredibile numero di dvd, serie tv, film, documentari, qualunque cosa e sta là seduto per 3-4 ore o più finché il locale non chiude consumando un bibita. Se lo fai in Italia, il cameriere ti guarda con fare minaccioso intendendo: “allora lasci sto cavolo di tavolo o stai qui tutta la notte spendendo 2 euro?”

Il traffico nella Silicon Valley è intensissimo, nonostante le Freeways a 5-6-7 corsie il traffico c’è sempre, come a Napoli ma qua è leggermente ordinato, ma c’è qualcosa in comune, anche da queste parti passano con il rosso non verso tutte le direzioni, solo quando devi svoltare a destra, la regola dice che puoi svoltare a destra solo se la svolta è sicura, ossia priva di rischi per te e per gli altri. Oh, non se la prendano i napoletani, lo so che è un luogo comune dire quando scatta il verde ci si ferma e quando scatta il rosso si passa, ma succede davvero?
In America lo stop è sacro, è incredibile ma i poliziotti sono davvero appostati e se non ti fermi completamente allo stop, così come recita il codice della strada in men che meno hai le luci da discoteca dentro la tua macchina sparate dalla Patrol Car che attraverso l’altoparlante ti intima qualcosa, in modo gentile, ma te lo intima.. Anche il pedone è sacro, accidenti, certe inchiodate per farli passare, beh non ci pensi, dici tanto loro possono aspettare, no, sei tu ad aspettare e si va avanti così. I parcheggi sono straordinari, anzi sono ordinari, non esiste un parcheggio fuori parcheggio, devi essere preciso e mettere la tua auto nello spazio apposito, se non lo fai sei guardato malissimo e ancora una volta la pattuglia della polizia è li, in agguato. In auto non si scherza, è vero i ragazzi già a 16 anni possono guidare e devo dire che sono molto responsabili, innanzitutto perché fino a 21 anni non possono toccare alcol, e credetemi, non fanno i furbetti. Ancora una volta gli americani sono puntigliosissimi, ti chiedono la foto ID (in genere patente) per verificare la tua età. Per concludere la benzina costa…niente, nel senso che 1 gallone=3.7854118 L costa 2.50$ ossia 2.30 Euro.

Per quanto riguarda il pingpong, i mondiali di Francia hanno decretato che le giovani juniores hanno conquistato il podio per la seconda volta, credo sia un record, uno dei miei “studenti” ha perso sia da Pinto sia da Bressan, il che si deve preparare ad una punizione esemplare, insomma le solite cose.
Bene, ho altre faccende che vi racconterò più avanti, per il momento vi lascio e vi saluto augurando di godere la vita, sempre. Viva Starbucks.

La foto di copertina, cioè questa qua sotto, l’ho scattata nel settembre 2011 mi piaceva l’idea di questa che fuoriusciva furiosamente.


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