At the high-performance level , attention to detail becomes essential . Shaun Marples gives two examples of players he ’ s seen improve , and how .
“ STUDY HOW THE DISABILITY IMPACTS THEIR GAME ”
‘ We have Kim Daybell
( right ) on the Para GB team who is on the border between Classes 9 and 10 . We ’ ve looked a lot at his disability , which includes limited pectoral muscles , and played around with his forehand to try and compensate . To begin with , he would fall out of the forehand and leave himself in a lobbing position , which we couldn ’ t afford . So we worked on getting his trunk more involved , so he was pushing through onto his right side – he ’ s left handed – so his body maintained its position close to the table .’
“ CONSTANTLY TALK AND ASSESS ”
As Marples points out below , severe impairments highlight the importance of a strong , flexible relationship between player and coach .
‘ The coach-athlete relationship here has to revolve around their classification , how that ’ s looking internationally , and their disability , how they are looking to adapt their game to work with it . These adaptations might work or they might not , but having a relationship where coach and athlete are constantly talking and assessing is what we want . That comes from spending time together and spending time at the table , getting a low player-to-coach ratio . That ’ s where the individual athlete plan comes into it , so if David Wetherill
( left , a class 6 player ) for example decides he needs to work on something specific , he ’ s got the time and contact with the coach to do it . ‘
WHEN TO CLASSIFY
A problem many grass – roots coaches will come across is questions over classification . Whether it comes from worried parents or eager players , they often want to know where they or their child falls . Despite our breaking down of the classes , the recommendation to most coaches is to encourage players not to obsess over it .
This is firstly because the method of getting someone classified is arduous at best . There is currently nobody in the UK who can make an official decision on it , with many British Para players travelling to Hungary to complete the process . But that verdict is far from final , as Shaun Alvey explains .
‘ I don ’ t look at classifications at first , only when you get to competition level , and even then you get different criteria : the Special Olympics
for example has a different set of classifications than TTE .’
Alvey also touches on the second , more immediate , reason why players shouldn ’ t be worried about classification : it only becomes a factor in competitions . And , currently , para competitions on a local level are almost non-existent and are rare even nationally .
British Para Table Tennis coach Shaun Marples is clear that , despite its necessity at elite level , coaches should hold off on classification discussions . ‘ Even when we go and play in competitions players worry about what classification they ’ ll fall into .
‘ That ’ s really unhelpful because they need to just concentrate on improving their game and get used to competing . The only classification discussion that could go ahead early on is whether they would be categorised at all .’
As Alvey puts it : ‘ Let ’ s get people playing the sport first . Classifications can come into it later .’
While discouraging coaches from progressing the classification discussion with players , Marples explains that having grass – roots coaches clued-up on classifications can make his life as a pathway and development coach far easier .
‘ We focus on 10 classifications at British Para , with an 11th for learning disabilities . It ’ d be useful for us to get to the situation where coaches can approach the pathway programme and be able to say : “ We ’ ve got a Class 7 girl who ’ s really promising ”.
‘ At the moment it tends to be a coach saying , “ we ’ ve got a disabled girl here ”, well , what is her disability ? “ I ’ m not actually sure .” If coaches have a level of education and awareness that would be really helpful . It is certainly the case that we ’ d suggest different drills and exercises for a Class 3 athlete than a Class 6 .’