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B75 Summer 2017 camp review

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    Posted: 08/05/2017 at 6:14pm
I went to the B75 TT camp in Hjorring, Denmark from July 15 - 31 and thought since there isn't much about it on the forums I should write a review.  I found out about B75 from Ben Larcombe's EIAY blog.  One of his posts about it is here.  http://www.experttabletennis.com/b75-table-tennis-camp/  

The camp is a fantastic bargain.  I paid 1280 euro for 15 days training and 17 days room and board.  I won't go into a lot of other administrative type details about the camp because all the information is in their flyer here.  http://www.b75.dk/images/PDF/Sommerlejr_2017/English%20invitation%20third%20draft.pdf 

If anyone has any specific questions that the flyer doesn't answer, feel free to PM me or post them here.  

I had been to one other camp, at MDTTC in Gaithersburg, MD for two weeks in August 2014.  The daily routine of the two camps was quite similar, two 2.5 hours training sessions daily for five days, with a long lunch/rest break between.  Most of the time was used for multiball and partner drills, with some match or set play and a little physical training.  This may be the standard routine for serious TT training worldwide and B75 was no different in that respect.  

So I'm going to focus on what was different about the B75, and made it worth flying to rural Denmark. 

B75 is truly international.  There were 36 nations represented over the three weeks, including coaches and the volunteers who helped run the camp.  My playing groups included players from the UK, Denmark, Sweden, Spain, Canada, New Zealand, Switzerland, Germany, Iceland, and obviously the US.  The coaches for my group were from China, Egypt, Hungary via Norway, Poland, and two from Sweden.   That made everything more interesting, from the table tennis, to mealtimes, to sitting around BSing after training.  It was great.  English is the language of the camp, and you realize how privileged you are to get by in only one language when you meet 12 year olds who speak four.   Some people thought I was making poor use of two weeks in europe, because I didn't see much except some farms and the table tennis hall.  But I learned more and met more interesting people living and playing and making new friends for two weeks than I ever would have by shuffling through a museum in a mob of strangers.  

B75 is residential.  You don't have to stay in the dorms (B75 is held in a boarding school that is vacant for the summer), and some people didn't.  But the majority of the camp lived and ate and trained all together.  For someone from a relatively TT-starved area, this was a shock.  If you wanted to hit with someone there were more than 100 players right there.  I could wander down to the main hall at 10pm and there would be people down there training or playing, or goofing around with sandpaper bats, or playing left-handed with a cellphone.   The MDTTC camp was like going to work, albeit very fun work, 9-5 then home.  B75 was total immersion in table tennis.  I considered staying in a separate hotel and I'm so glad I didn't.  I would have still benefitted from great training and coaching, but I would have missed out on a lot of the fun.

B75 is holistic.  Overused word, holistic.  What I mean is that B75 tries to improve your game through technique, and also your mental strength through meditation and visualization, and your fitness through diet and qi gong.  These were new programs being tested at the 2017 B75 for the first time, so I can't say what the camp was like before them.  But I thought they added a lot.  I'm a stressed-out player, as some of you know from my posts, and the visualization and meditation has a lot of potential to improve my game (not to mention my life).  It's only the briefest introduction, and a ton of discipline and independent training will be required to make anything of it, but that's how table tennis is.   I was impressed that the organizers of B75 even thought about these things.    So in the morning there was a 25-minute qi gong warmup.  I'm still doing it at home using the video they made.  It was customized for table tennis from a number of established qi gong routines, and works well for a creaky old body like mine.  After lunch between the two training sessions there was a relaxation for 20 minutes or so, which was basically a restorative yoga asana.  And then the meditation and visualization for sports performance was at 8pm.  All of this is voluntary and included in the price of the camp.  I don't know if they will continue to offer it since this was the first year, but I hope they do. 

The diet part was basically healthy eating, with the four meals a day, plus training snacks, they provide tailored to support training.  I won't go into it a lot, anyone with questions can PM me.  That was the most controversial part of the new initiatives, as a lot of the kids complained about the lack of sugar, and adults about lack of variety.  I noticed that despite much whining there was a mad rush every time they brought the food out, so if people didn't like it they sure still ate a lot.  All I can really say is that I thought the food was great, but it's a personal thing so YMMV.  Nothing stops you from going to the shops or a restaurant if you want, BTW, they are about 1.5 miles away.  

B75 is based on a theory of learning.  I don't know if there are any other TT camps that work this way, I doubt it.  At B75 there is a tremendous amount of structured dialog between the coaches and players, and between the players themselves.  And I found the structured sessions broke the ice so that there was way more unstructured communication among players too.  Each group of 16 players is assigned to three coaches.  The coaches rotate daily between two doing multiball and one leading group exercises.  The 16-player groups are divided into to 8-player halves, with one half doing multiball while the other does exercises.  All the feedback sessions occur in your group of 8.  There are three main ones during the week, on the first day after the first session to talk about your goals for the week, evening of the third day to assess progress and plan the last two days, and at the end of the five days to get final recommendations and plan for your training at home.  That's the big sessions.  Also before and after each 2.5 hour training the group does a check-in and then a check-out.  Those take five minutes to say how everyone feels, any injuries or things the coaches should know, what you want to work on that session, what you are bringing from the day before.  And then the checkout is feedback on how the session went, what everyone learned, and anything the players want to say to each other.  All of these are communications in every direction -- feedback from the players to the coaches on how they organized or trained, what worked or didn't, questions, feedback from the coaches, effort, things to remember, what they saw, what they think you should work on, how your game should be built, and a lot between the players, strengths and weaknesses, what they noticed.  That was really valuable.  I can't say that enough, the input that I got from the other players was some of the best knowledge I took from this camp.  That is nothing against the coaches who were amazing.  But it is so unlike any other training environment I have ever been in that I feel like I should emphasize it.   This would not work except for one really critical thing - the coaches take your input extremely seriously.  They made notes, they talked among themselves, they made a unique plan for every player in consultation with the player him or herself and the fellow players.  It took a lot of time and we all made jokes about it - how much time we spent doing feedback.  But it was worth every  minute.  

I came away with a multitude of changes to make in my game, a lot of technique, and a lot of mental work to do.   I have no idea if I am a better player today that on July 14th, because I have so much to digest.  It's possible that I will not get a higher USATT rating or win an event I wouldn't have without going to B75.  I think eventually I will, but it's definitely not a sure thing.  And I really don't care if I do.  The best thing I got out of B75 was being reminded that table tennis is a game we play for fun.  The kids taught me some new games, we tried goofy serves, we stood ten feet behind the barriers and played lob v smash, played with phones and weird outdoor paddles for cruise ships, and didn't care what happened.  It is fun to play table tennis.    
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Tt Gold Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08/05/2017 at 8:36pm
Can you tell me what your level is and also how would you rank the best players? Do they have a very good variety of players? From newbies to really good players?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote BRS Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08/05/2017 at 8:51pm
I'm usatt 1836 and I was in group 6 out of 7. A guy from Milwaukee who is 1946 was in group 4. They make a point of having some overlap between the groups. I could beat some players in groups 3 - 5, but I was never the strongest player in group 6 any of the three weeks. Group 1 was a big step above everyone else. Khaled Assar, Omar's brother, was in group 1, I think he used to be about 200 wr. Mohamed el Bialy who plays for Egypt was there, and I think some past or present Denmark national players. Most of the players in 2 - 5 were strong juniors, with a percentage of adults in the mix. The age range overall was 9 - 67.   Group 7 was beginners, mainly kids, although it varied from week to week.

My roommate said he thought it would have been better to reach a higher level before going to the camp. But I kind of felt the opposite. If I had gone when I first started playing I think it would have helped the most. But who goes to Denmark when they first start playing?

Edited by BRS - 08/05/2017 at 8:52pm
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote mts388 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08/05/2017 at 9:53pm
Is the group division by skill level only, or do they also consider your age?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Tt Gold Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08/05/2017 at 10:16pm
How do they put you in a group? Looking at rankings doesn't make any sense cause there are a lot of different countries and I know that it is very different everywhere. USA ranking for example has a lot of players in the 1800 to 2200 but in Germany they would be ranked between 1400-1800. And then again Danish people have a slightly different ranking system so that doesn't really work.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote mts388 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08/05/2017 at 10:37pm
The very first morning they have matches in groups.  It could be that is where adjustments are made.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote BRS Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08/05/2017 at 11:03pm
The matches on the first day are mostly to let the coaches see you play. They can also be used to correct a really bad mistake in group assignment, but in practice thst seldom happens.

It's a bit of both, skill and age. The first week there were a lot of adults so they made 6 an all-grownup group. It was good, I got a lot out of it, but my feedback was I'd rather be mixed with the kids, and the next two weeks that's how it was.

The organizers know the returning players, and they know what the leagues or rankings in Denmark and Sweden mean, but even for the UK they don't know. There really isn't a big difference between group 4 and 5, because there may be 30 players at roughly the same level and they have to break them into 16s. Other things equal I think they would put a kid in a higher group than an adult.

Some people got wound up about the groupings as a mark of their skills, and to some degree it is. But the coaches are just as good at the bottom as the top. I loved the coaches I had for group 6 and wouldn't have wanted to change. There were a few times where people got put with a partner who couldn't really execute all of the drills. That was mentioned in a checkout and afterwards the coaches were more careful to assign partners at fairly equal levels. Or you could just ask for someone you liked, I did that once or twice too.

If someone would be upset that the groups are not rigidly set by ability then B75 is not the camp for them, because there was definitely overlap. The most you could say is that overall group 3 would beat group 5, or whatever combination. But at the individual level it could go either way.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Tt Gold Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08/06/2017 at 8:25am
Did you ask some people in which league they play?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pgpg Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08/06/2017 at 8:29am
BRS, thanks a lot for sharing your experience at B75 camp - makes it much more likely that I'll make a trip in the future Big smile 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote BRS Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08/06/2017 at 3:12pm
Originally posted by Tt Gold Tt Gold wrote:

Did you ask some people in which league they play?


Yes I did, but I don't remember much. Everyone in Europe plays leagues. There is no equivalency between second division in Belgium, Sweden and the UK, say, so knowing what league without any context wasn't very useful. I just grouped the others into roughly like me, better than me but still playable, and completely out of my league.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Makelele Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08/09/2017 at 3:32pm
Impressive review, BRS! Clap Thanks a lot for taking the time to write it.
Some questions are beginning to show up in my mind, if you don´t mind I´ll post it here, may be there are useful for everybody.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Makelele Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08/09/2017 at 3:50pm
Originally posted by BRS BRS wrote:

The coaches for my group were from China, Egypt, Hungary via Norway, Poland, and two from Sweden. 


I guess that in table tennis coaching, each coach has its "own book". Where to put your right foot,  the use or not of the wrist, the length of the backswing, and so on. Did you find an advantage to have some many coaches?  Didn´t you face the problem that the coach from, let's say Egypt, gave a technical piece of advice about a stroke that was contradictory with the piece of advice about the same stroke given by the coach from Poland?

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote icontek Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08/13/2017 at 11:58pm
Originally posted by Makelele Makelele wrote:

Originally posted by BRS BRS wrote:

The coaches for my group were from China, Egypt, Hungary via Norway, Poland, and two from Sweden. 


I guess that in table tennis coaching, each coach has its "own book". Where to put your right foot,  the use or not of the wrist, the length of the backswing, and so on. Did you find an advantage to have some many coaches?  Didn´t you face the problem that the coach from, let's say Egypt, gave a technical piece of advice about a stroke that was contradictory with the piece of advice about the same stroke given by the coach from Poland?


Holy smokes - this. Good question.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote BRS Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08/14/2017 at 8:50am
Originally posted by icontek icontek wrote:

Originally posted by Makelele Makelele wrote:

Originally posted by BRS BRS wrote:

The coaches for my group were from China, Egypt, Hungary via Norway, Poland, and two from Sweden. 


I guess that in table tennis coaching, each coach has its "own book". Where to put your right foot,  the use or not of the wrist, the length of the backswing, and so on. Did you find an advantage to have some many coaches?  Didn´t you face the problem that the coach from, let's say Egypt, gave a technical piece of advice about a stroke that was contradictory with the piece of advice about the same stroke given by the coach from Poland?



Holy smokes - this. Good question.



It is a good question. I was curious about this before I went, since I had never had more than one coach at a time, and even then a lot of what one coach would tell me would contradict the one before. It only happened twice at B75, which is not bad considering I got 75 hours of coaching.

1. One coach said to come up from the legs during a bh loop vs backspin, the others all said to stay down. That was pretty easily resolved.
2. One coach taught fh flicks with a closed bat (degree closed varying according to incoming spin). Another said that would only work against light or no-spin, and to flick heavier backspin I would have to start with the angle slightly open. The first coach was feeding light backspin multiball, and her technique worked against the balls she was feeding. So if I had asked her about heavier spin she might have said the same thing, but I didn't ask.

The rest of the 46 technique notes I took were basically the same across all the coaches. There were varying emphases, which is where I felt having six perspectives added a ton of value. The Chinese coach stressed keeping my core tense to maintain correct forward position doing in-out footwork. She also put more stress on light steps, and not dropping the bat below the table on fh - bh transition. Other coaches had different things that they called out. But one of the real strengths of the B75 was that I left feeling like table tennis was much simpler than I thought when I arrived, despite having every shot picked apart. It felt like there was a system, or a consistent vision of how a good player plays, and everything they did fed into that. That's not to say everyone got the same advice, we didn't. Everyone had different strengths and weaknesses relative to that ideal. The most common problems in my group were hitting too hard with too much tension, trying to end points instead of rallying while maintaining control, poor balance and footwork (which probably explains the fear of longer rallies), and relatively much weaker backhands than forehands. In the higher level groups the issues were more complex, or more refined, as in specific to a game situation.

A big reason for their consistency was that the coaches met daily and talked about each player's progress. I was really impressed by their level of commitment, especially considering I was one of the weaker and older players. Also, the check-out and feedback sessions are there to answer any questions from that period of training being reviewed. A majority of participants are operating in their second or later language, so there was some confusion. But there are so many opportunities to clear things up, it's up to you to take them.

Edited by BRS - 08/14/2017 at 8:52am
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