One of the programs that has been gaining steam at Triangle Table Tennis is the Skype Training Program created by Head Coach Brian Pace, and it has officially produced a State and National Champion in Ben Hartwiger. Ben is from Alabama, and he frequently competes in tournaments at Triangle Table Tennis, as well as other locations in the South and across the country. Wanting more for Ben, his father inquired about remote training that Ben could receive to put his training on a sharper curve. The Triangle Table Tennis coach suggested the new Skype Training program in which Ben would send video of himself playing, have it analyzed, get specific drills customized for his training needs, and communicate remotely on Ben’s program. This is Ben’s Skype Training story.
Establishing A Level
Before starting Skype Training, the first goal was establishing a baseline level from tournament results, and that tournament was the Southeastern Open at Triangle Table Tennis last fall. That result set a marker for his level, and it allows everyone involved to see the starting performance.
Building A Program
The Skype Program starts with building a technical foundation for each player. In Ben’s case it started with being able to identify which shots he used frequently in tournament play, so the training program could be built around what he was executing. Over several months, both the coach and Ben were able to pinpoint the most frequently used shots that had the most impact on the performance. That allowed the most productive focus for Ben’s training.
Restructuring Game Play
One of the most difficult periods any player will go through is rewiring the gut instinct, while learning to play a different way. Many players train one way, and compete another. Ben had to learn how to take the tournament performance, sharpen the best shots, and throw out the shots that weren’t effective. This is the time that players risk the highest level of frustration. In this phase, Ben would instinctively execute the old shot, instead of remembering to switch to the new shot that is designed to create a different outcome in the point. Here is a simple clip where Ben would push deep, and in this case it cost Ben the point.
Perfecting the Performance
Ben’s training started to be performance-oriented, and that is when he began to get some traction. This phase of training is solely dependent on getting tournament performance feedback, not on whether Ben played well and won points, but whether he played the right way. This meant paying attention to the serve return placement to ensure it was a double bounce return. Or blocking the ball to the wide position instead of playing it safe. The performance started to mean more than anything else.
Ben performance hit a milestone at the 2018 Cary Cup when he fought his way to the finals of the B-Division, only to lose to an International Player from India that he had beaten earlier in the same event. His hard work and training was starting to show not only in his result, but his performance. Here is an example of Ben creating a new sequence of play to win the point.
Ben and his father Chris had set goals for the entire season, and the highlight was the Alabama State Championships, where Ben’s goal was to win the title. The Triangle Table Tennis coach set minor goals that would create stepping stones along the way. Over the next months, Ben would start to see progress in tournament play. The main obstacle to reaching his priority A goal was the recent Alabama State Champion, Ciao. Ben and Ciao had played several times over the course of the season, and Ciao was victorious each time. Ben played well enough to win, but just didn’t make the right plays at the right time. You can see in the final two points that he was given the opportunity to win.
Before the Alabama State Singles Championship in May, Ben had the Team Championships in April. This would be a dress rehearsal for the singles, so it was important that Ben establish that he was more experienced and could play at a higher level. Ciao still won, but the match was a lot closer. This was the first time that Ben realized that he played better than Ciao, but didn’t capitalize on all the opportunities.
Through Skype we analyzed every detail of the match from the shots that were played out of convenience, or being pressured. We analyzed the trending positions that were open, as well as the places that were exposed. When he reached the Alabama State Singles Championship, it was the match in which Ben showed the most maturity, awareness, and competitive growth. Ben won the match 4-1 in a dominating performance. The only game he lost was in deuce, and he kept his composure, closed the door on the match, and become the youngest State Champion in Alabama history at 17 years old. The shot that Ben missed in his previous match with Ciao is the same shot that he landed to win the final point.
National Stage Test
The US Open was the final performance of the season and the goal was to play to the end of the day. On all 4 days Ben played to the end of the day. He didn’t lose to anyone below him, and had hard fought matches with top juniors from programs like the ICC. It is difficult to win the round robin, take a break, prepare, win your match, and repeat until 8pm each night. But Ben showed an incredible amount of resolve to maintain that focus while being in the convention center from morning to night. On day 4, after three long days of competing, he captured a National Title.
With a starting rating of 2102 Ben made a true level jump by beating a list of players who are 2179, 2187, 2232, 2246, 2252, 2275, and 2280, ending with State and National Championship titles. This was achieved through a total commitment to the training program, staying on track, setting realistic goals, troubleshooting pitfalls, and learning from competition video footage.
This is just one of the stories of players who have been using the Skype Training at Triangle Table Tennis to reach their full table tennis potential. There is a “Full Potential Table Tennis Athlete” in you, and even if you are not physically near Triangle Table Tennis every week, Skype Training can be just the service to enable you to reach that goal.
Skype training takes commitment from the coach also, and so spots are limited. If you are interested, we encourage you to contact Triangle Table Tennis to learn more.