What Is More Important For Raising Champions? Skillset or Character Traits?

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I had a chance to visit Statisztika Petofi Sport Club Budapest (called Laszlo Ormai Table Tennis Club now) my home club where I learnt everything about table tennis. Statisztika is the most successful female table tennis club in the world by winning European Champion Clubs twenty-five times and winning Hungarian Champion Teams for forty times! I started playing age eight which was considered a little late to start playing but I could learn from the best coaches about the sport and Statisztika provided me a second family and a great community. I had a chance to interview my former coach who I have known for almost 25 years, Istvan Fulop. He was the Hungarian Female National Coach for 20 years and he has 40 years of coaching experience. Among of his myriad of accomplishments, he has raised 10 European Champions and his players won a bronze medal at the world team and doubles championships and 4th place in doubles at the Olympics. So, upon meeting up with him and I asked about what he thought mattered more in raising champions, being talented or having a certain character traits?

Character is something within you always there, it’s constant like honesty, trust respect or morals but it’s teachable.

– What matters more in term of finding future champions, the skillset of the player or the character traits? Do you think that talent exists at all?

“It doesn’t matter how talented a kid is, how skilled they are. Being talented is a very complex thing and what matters the most are the following characteristics: willpower, diligence, humbleness and the human values from the kid’s family and environment. I recognized that the best players were different from the rest on the following characteristics: willpower, diligence, persistence, and work ethic. During my carrier there were many extremely talented kids who didn’t bring the mentioned characteristics and/or values and they couldn’t succeed. This is my experience after 40 years of coaching and if I could start again I would choose who I want to work with based on the mentioned characteristics then I would consider how talented the kid is regarding coordination and other skills. My opinion is that personality traits are more important than skillset.”

– How did you realize this? Did you always think this way?

“At the beginning I didn’t think like this but it shifted when I selected the kids who I considered very talented and I didn’t select the kids over those whom I didn’t think were talented. Then I realized that the kids who I didn’t consider talented and who were not given special attention and weren’t provided the best training partner for them, regardless these circumstances they got almost the same results as the very talented ones. I believe this happened because their personality traits/characteristics. When I realized this I started selecting kids based on their personality types and my second step was to see their coordination skills. “

This is a really hot topic in sports and in the business land as well. I would love to hear your comments and thoughts on this.

Also, read my new book about how to handle high level pressure situations in table tennis and develop life style choices to achieve peak performance in table tennis!

I interviewed the current Hungarian Female National Coach as well and asked the same questions so stay tuned to read it next week! 🙂

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