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Bad Words to Avoid: for Students and for Coaches

Samson DubinaBad Words to Avoid, from Coach Samson Dubina:


On a daily basis, many of my students say the words, “I can’t” as it relates to learning a new stroke,  learning a new serve, enduring through physical training, and many other table tennis related activities. As a coach, when I hear a player say these words, here is what I’m hearing…

I … Certainly …  Am … Not … Trying

Often, when a player has declared that he can’t do something, then he will stop giving his best effort or give up all together.  Therefore, I no longer allow my students to use these words.  Instead, I ask them to say something like…  I haven’t fully developed it yet and I’m working toward my goals!


To all the coaches reading my articles, I have some advice.  Try to avoid using the word “but.”  This word seems very harmless, yet it can ruin your compliments.

For example… My student asks, “So Coach Samson, what did you think about my performance at the last tournament?
A reply, “Your looping was very powerful; your footwork was fast; you had good strategy; BUT you missed every smash.”

By using the word “but” it puts the focus on what my student didn’t do.  In light of all the good things that I said, he will remember that I was focusing on his weak point.

Instead, here is how I should word that sentence:
I reply, “Your looping was very powerful; your footwork was fast; you had a good strategy; AND we need to continue to work on perfecting your smash. By using the word “AND” I have not degraded him but instead I show that we have areas to continue improving while building his confidence.

–Samson Dubina

Updated: January 5, 2015 —
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