No question, Xia Jiwei is a world-class table tennis coach. Being such a high-level player contributes of course, but to be a world-class coach requires more than being a world-class player. It also requires deep understanding of the sport, strong implementation of best coaching techniques, special insights into the traits of individual players, and an excellent ability to communicate to students in ways they can best learn. What makes Xia Jiwei special is he has all of this!
Where did Jiwei’s special coaching talent come from? Perhaps we can only look at the experiences that have led him on his path to Paddle Palace Club, bringing life to the dreams of our players.
His table tennis journey began at the age of five in Tianjin, China. Although Jiwei’s father was not a player, he loved the sport, and he needed to find an outlet for his boisterous son. So for several hours every day Jiwei was sent to his aunt, a table tennis coach for a Tianjin sports center. For his first year of table tennis learning he did not play; at first he chased and picked up balls, he bounced balls on his paddle, and he listened, watched, touched, and breathed table tennis.
After the first year, from the ages of 6 to 9, he began basic training with his aunt. Although the table tennis program had ten tables, four coaches, and many kids, Jiwei learned primarily from his aunt with a handful of other young kids, most of whom were his cousins. They played every day and his aunt was a strict and demanding coach. Twenty years later, his aunt still coaches in this program in Tianjin which has 100+ players.
The philosophy was “spare the rod, spoil the child”, typical of many table tennis programs in China. The coaches punished the kids if they didn’t play well, if they goofed off, or if they didn’t focus. They hit the kids and made them run laps. In USA many would think the punishment was excessive, as well as ineffective. However, Jiwei said that when the kids were not punished, they did not play well, that under this system punishment made them play better.
At the age of ten, Jiwei’s father hired a personal coach. Jiwei worked with him for two or three years and improved very quickly. Jiwei loved his coach, a very good-hearted person who always helped him, buying him food, taking him places, and caring for him. But here again, strict discipline was part of the training regimen. One time the coach was teaching Jiwei not to let his elbow go up too high in his forehand stroke. The coach banged his arm very hard, striking him so badly that he broke Jiwei’s arm. It took three months to heal. Jiwei was happy for the broken arm so he could take a break.
Jiwei represented Tianjin two years in a row in the North vs South China tournament. The second year, after very hard training, he played so well that his team, with him as the leading player, reached the quarter-finals. With all the major scouts in China watching, he played very well.
Riding the tails of this success, at the age of 12 Jiwei was selected to join the Beijing Men’s Team, 90 miles away from home. The team, consisting of players up to age 16, lived together in dorms, 6 players per room. Players from Beijing went home on the weekends, but Jiwei and a few other kids lived full-time at the center. He only went home to Tianjin once every few months.
The players attended a special sports school where teenage athletes of several sports attended. The students only had classes a few hours a day, and nobody was much interested in school. Some of the older table tennis players were so unruly that all the table tennis players were kicked out of the school, and they then had a special teacher come to the table tennis center to teach them.
Jiwei trained with the team six days a week, six hours a day, with a half-day of training on Saturdays. Additionally, Jiwei received extra private coaching and training after hours. He moved up quickly in the ranks. When he first arrived on the Beijing Men’s Team he was on the B Team, but he soon earned his way to the A team, and then to the A Group of the A Team.
Being a member of the Beijing Men’s Team opened up many possibilities for the players. Only a few would make it onto the coveted National Team, but others would eventually get jobs as coaches, or good jobs with the government or with companies, or would be selected to go abroad to coach or to play in professional leagues. Jiwei and his teammates had opportunities to go to Germany, France, Sweden, and other countries. Only one country offered an education – Japan. When Jiwei was offered a high school scholarship in Osaka, at the time he did not want to go. However, his father insisted because he felt it was Jiwei’s chance for a better life, to get a good education in addition to his table tennis career.
So at the age of 15, Jiwei left China and attended both high school and university in Japan as a scholarship player. Training in Japan was as strict as his training had been in China. School was even more challenging for Jiwei, where teachers had high expectations and Japanese was a new language for him. He adjusted and flourished, and today Jiwei speaks fluent Japanese as well as Mandarin, with English as his third language.
Jiwei was a star player in Japan, earning many national titles. This included a gold medal in the Junior Men’s Singles in the 2006 Tokyo Open, silver medal in Men’s Singles in the 2008 Hiroshima Japan Open, bronze medal in Men’s Singles in the 2008 Osaka Open, gold medal in Men’s Singles in the 2009 University of West Japan Open, bronze medal in Men’s Singles in the 2010 Osaka Open, and gold medal in Men’s Team in the 2010 Japan University Championship. The Tokyo Open and Osaka Open are two of the highest level and most influential table tennis competitions in Japan, each with around 1500 top players participating from around the world.
When he left Japan, Jiwei coached for a time in Tianjin, China. An invitation to be a trainer for National Team players at the U.S. Olympics Training Center in Colorado Springs brought him to USA in 2011. The USA, with a growing interest in professional coaching, kept him quite busy with various coaching opportunities. When Jiwei heard that Paddle Palace was opening a new club in Portland, Oregon, he jumped at the chance to apply as a coach.
When a young mind is exposed to varied perspectives, multiple languages, wide experiences, as well as extra specialized training, it opens up connections in the brain that are not available to most of us. Jiwei’s lifelong experiences as both a player and coach with significant experience in the widely divergent table tennis disciplines of China, Japan, and USA have undoubtedly contributed to his exceptional insight and talent as a coach.
We are happy and honored that Coach Jiwei’s journey has led him to Paddle Palace Club!
Comments from his PPC students:
“I used to think there’s a plateau to every player’s skill set (at least for me) until I took lessons with Coach Jiwei. Then as I observed my other 2100-level peers receiving customized advice from Jiwei, I realized how his adaptive coaching techniques are super effective to different individuals with different needs. There are never cookie-cutter routines. And more importantly, Jiwei knows how to apply small adjustments for exponential improvements in paddle skills and footwork.”
“Compassion — He takes the time to get to know his students, on and off the table. He makes the effort to listen and understand. He knows their strong and weak points and works hard to give every student the chance to improve. Passion—His passion and excitement for the game and improvement is contagious, and his students catch it. He feels he’s been blessed to have a unique ability to get the best of students through table tennis, and it is obvious he just enjoys coaching and watching his students get better.”
“Jiwei has amazing insight – he knows exactly what I need as a player. He zeroes in on it right away. He is very observant, he notices everything that I do and is very detailed in giving me feedback. He is straight-forward and tells it like it is, sticking with it until I get it right. And when I do it the way Jiwei teaches me, once I get it, it feels right too.”
“Jiwei very quickly identifies what my issues are, and he is strict in enforcing me to make corrections, continuing to work with me until I get it right. He coaches comprehensively, teaching not just a stroke but all the components that go into it such as footwork, where I hit the ball, where I put my eyes, and how I move to the ball. He totally knows the right way for me to do it, he cares about whether I get it, and he works very hard to help me.”
Sean O’Neill, fellow PPC coach and 5-Time US Men’s Champ
“I have already seen Jiwei’s positive impact on a number of players in the time he has been at Paddle Palace Club. His knowledge of the latest techniques and understanding of traditional Chinese coaching make him a real tour de force. As a coach, I am excited to collaborate with Jiwei as we grow the sport in the Northwest and nationally.”
The equipment of Xia Jiwei
BLADE: NITTAKU TORNADO KING SPEED
I like this Tornado King Speed because it is very fast. It has a hard feel so that when I loop it is fast and powerful. I recommend it for experienced players, rated at least over 1500.
I like Fastarc G-1 because it is very fast and it makes my forehand go very fast. It is more of a fast, quick feeling than the power feeling that I have with Hammond Power. It is especially good for close to the table loop and hit.
Hammond Power feels very good for the power player because the ball doesn’t go in too deep, so it has a faster rebound. For the loop it grabs the ball very well, and my backhand needs this extra grab on the ball to get more power.