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Coach: Players lack mental focus


Philip Hackett

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NOT FOR THE first time, a Barbadian coach has identified the need for greater attention to the mental approach to training.Clifton Mark, coach of the Barbados men’s team at the recently concluded Caribbean Table Tennis Championships held in San German, Puerto Rico, has emphasised the need for a heavier focus on building the mental strength of players.“The Puerto Ricans were more mentally prepared, that’s the advantage they had on us,” Mark told NATIONSPORT shortly after returning from the championships at which Barbados captured six medals.Barbados won five bronze medals and one silver, the best performance coming in the women’s doubles where Ann Reid and Sabrina Worrell made it to the finals.Barbados won bronze in both the men’s and women’s team competition along with the mixed doubles, men’s doubles and men’s singles.“The mental strength of our players needs to be addressed and this is an issue that will be discussed with Barbados Table Tennis Association officials in order to design a plan,” Mark said.Mark said that the Puerto Ricans, the men’s team champions at the games, also had the advantage of playing much more tennis than the Barbadians.“As far as I am aware they are full-time players. They play professionally and they have been exposed to Chinese coaches,” Mark said.He suggested that the mental skills needed to succeed at that level should be pushed from early and stressed the need to start with the young players currently involved in the sport.He said that it might be necessary to bring in a professional coach or create more training opportunities for the local coaches.Mark also revealed that the Barbados players took a while to adjust to the conditions in Puerto Rico, and actually played their best table tennis after the completion of the team championships.David Harris, manager of the Barbados team, agreed with Mark and made reference to the exceptional play of Abbie “Playboy” Clarke in the singles and the performance of Clarke and Mark Dowell in the doubles.“We started slowly. The loss to Aruba (in the semi-finals) was a little hurtful. The players neededto acclimatise to the air conditioning in the room and the very high roof,” Harris said.“You would need to give the ball more air in playing the loop.  As time went by they played better and produced some of their best table tennis in the individual championships,” Harris said of the team.He emphasised the importance of attending both the Caribbean Championships and the Central American and Caribbean Games to be held at the same venue next week.“You can’t develop off minimum participation in competition if you really want to assess your growth, and compete against people who play as many as ten tournaments a year,” said Harris.

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