I had a chance to interview the current Hungarian Women’s Table Tennis National Coach, Peter Teglas. He gave his insight about what talent means.
So, what makes the best players stand out from the rest?
They can compete much better in high pressure of tournaments. I think the best players excel in the most stressful situations. For example, when points are tied at 9-9. You can recognize this sort of ability even with kids when you give them balls and they have to bounce the bolls on their paddle. When they have to compete often the children who can keep the balls going for the longest time have this innate drive. You can recognize the kids who can handle high pressure situations–when there is no competition they don’t pay attention but when there is a competition they start focusing, they want to win and they perform their best. I believe we have to find and select these youngsters and channel their talent into table tennis. It is an odd fact that the best competitors are able to perform their best at the competition rather than practice. For example our best female player (world rank 26th), Georgina Pota is similar. She can perform her best and make unbelievable plays that she never imagined she was capable of when stakes are incredibly high. These skills can be improved however, and must be for this skill is what differentiates the best players from the rest.
How do you select the most talented kids?
The problem is that at the elite level of sport it can start to be like work. You can be really talented or very skilled and accomplished as a junior player but once table tennis becomes your profession it is characters like willpower, humility, diligence and work ethic that matter the most. Without these characteristics children are not going to able to succeed as adults, they can’t be successful later on. It’s much more important to have willpower, practice and a good work ethic than be talented.
What do you think about quality vs. quantity in training?
The best is when an athlete trains often at a high level. Who can consistently train while maintaining a high quality of play is also a very important characteristic. This can differentiate the best players from the rest. For example, the German players are like this and it matters in the long run. It’s much better to train less often with good quality then train a lot but at a low quality of play.
What do you think about youth champions who burnout?
Eastern Europe is raising so many youth champions but unfortunately they have a tendency to burn out quickly or get injured. Thus, they are not continuing as adult players. The Hungarian table tennis association needs to focus on raising a youth champion who don’t burn out but rather, have long –term careers. It can be incredibly difficult to find the balance between challenging youth and building adult champions who are motivated, healthy and want to continue in the sport. We have to find this healthy balance.
Also, stay tuned for the next interview with Georgina Pota! 🙂