Introducing young children to the sport of table tennis can be an exciting but difficult task for coaches. The difference in age and personality of each child plays a pivotal role in how quickly each child progresses. In my experience, a slow approach is always the best way to go. Table tennis isn’t the easiest sport for young kids to learn, but if you start them right, they’re likely to be lifelong players. Here are a few tips I hope will help you get started.
Where to start
For me, the first step is always to make kids aware of the differences between Ping Pong (The Recreational Activity) and Table Tennis (The Olympic Sport). This always seems to set the perfect tone for learning. As curious little beings, kids are usually more excited to learn about stuff that’s new to them.
Keep it short
Young children have short attention spans, so don’t overdo it. Keep sessions short and manageable both mentally and physically. Add interesting bits of information and fun facts to keep them engaged. During the first session is where I like to introduce them to grips and stance. Be sure to explain the importance of each, take questions and then add a few simple games to further illustrate both.
Keep it simple
We know from being students ourselves that not everyone learns at the same rate. Also what may work for one may not work for all. With this in mind, it’s imperative that we keep things simple. I prefer to spend more time on games that promote whatever new skill I’ve introduced at the beginning of the session. Try to give just enough information to keep things challenging but not too hard so that they may lose interest.
Bring out the props
Every child loves to play with toys! This is why it’s always a good idea to have some props. Big, small, round, square, it really doesn’t matter. They’ll enjoy all of them. I use different color props to add in the introduction of new skills. A good example would be colored cones, I love using these for target practice when teaching basic services or sometimes as obstacles, they can jump over when working on movement. Try to always be creative in your sessions as this brings more variety to your training session.
Set a goal
As with all athletes, it’s important to set goals. Start your young student on the path from early. I try to define a goal for each group, then later for each child. Get them used to this way of thinking. Keep goals simple, achievable and realistic for the level of your group. At the end of each month, I usually discuss how we did on our goals with the group. I find this to be a great motivator for most of the kids. Why most? Well not everyone responds well to this type of stimulant, so for these special little guys, I’ll let them tell me what they would like their goal to be. This method has always worked well for me. You may have to explore other methods to help your kids achieve their goals.
For me, it’s always a joy to introduce new children to the wonderful sport of table tennis. The benefits to young growing children are limitless as it incorporates speed, agility, balance, hand-eye coordination, flexibility, and cardiovascular endurance. Not only is it fun, but it helps them to develop life long social and mental skills.