Following my recent trip to Sweden, to Halmstad Table Tennis Club, and to the Sweden Tour competition in Karlskrona, I would like to share a few observations.

In the training hall, players were focused from the start of their training sessions, warming up thoroughly, with individual stretching, pulse raising activities, followed by further stretching. Each training session lasted approximately 2.5 hours, and players tended to take part in two sessions per day.

Within each training session at Halmstad Table Tennis Club, players were given the opportunity at least once or twice to select their own ‘individual’ exercise. The players were very aware of what they needed to focus on to improve and could confidently plan relevant and specific exercises. It was clear this was something that the players did regularly as part of their training sessions.

Kate (left), coach Marcus Gustafson and England squad members with top Swedish player Mattias Falck

Additionally, the European players were more consistent in training exercises, with rallies and exercises lasting longer, without the intensity level dropping. However, what was interesting about this observation was that the Swedish coaches said their players were still not consistent enough!

At the Sweden Tour Competition in Karlskrona and in matchplay situations, I observed how the players had strong services; and receives of service were tight and prevented the server from playing an easy third ball. Receives of serves were often touched or flicked, the latter often a more aggressive return.

I noticed that more players were successfully playing backhands from the middle of the table, and often playing them out wide to their opponent’s forehand, yet still recovering quickly for the following stoke. This is something I have seen less often in England on a widespread basis.

Finally, it was encouraging to see how players were always very supportive of their club and team members in both the practice hall and at the Sweden Tour competition. Having a large number of players at the same club to practise with clearly raised motivation and effort levels, with the shared goal of everyone wanting to improve every session.