Mari Baldwin was a bit of a star at the recent English Senior Nationals – we caught up with her and her coach Craig Bryant to get a first-hand take on what has driven her rapid improvement.
Mari is only 15 years old but managed to make the final of the Women’s singles and only lost out to Tin-Tin Ho in the final having beaten some of the top ranked ladies!
We asked Mari and her coach Craig Bryant for their thoughts on her amazing performance…
‘This year I have continued my training sessions with Craig where I have been working really hard on my consistency. It really helps that we have honest and open communication as it allows me to improve at a fast pace.
I’ve been playing regularly in the Joola Plymouth Pairs league which has given me the opportunity to compete against some powerful and experienced players, which has significantly improved my performance in matches.
This season I have also started to attend my local gym and have been working with my personal trainer Alex to improve my overall fitness, strength and core-stability.
Having qualified for the Senior Nationals for the first time, I was really looking forward to the challenge, especially since I have had previous successes at this venue winning the Cadet National title here last year!
I think the key to my success was listening to my coach and keeping to my game plan regardless of my opponent.
It was rather intimidating playing on the Sunday as it was a different experience than any other matches I have played in before but I tried to stay focused despite the added pressure of the cameras!
It was also great to meet my mascot Jemima who is a Table Tennis prodigy in her age group.
I will keep training and working hard for the rest of the season and I am looking forward to playing abroad next year after my GCSEs.’
‘For me Mari’s quick progressions can be attributed to her openness to try new things and her understanding that her game has to be adaptable.
Mari’s development has come in stages, she had a very obvious strength at a young age and became reliant on it and as players matured they figured her out. We had to develop a more robust game plan, develop some new strengths and begin to build a more complete game. Once again, players started to find a way to play against Mari, so we again had to change things (this time a little more on the mental side), improving her patience as well as her consistency, for me, was the thing that helped contribute to her incredible performance at the Senior National Championships.
When Mari won the Cadet National Championships we did not go into the competition with the sole purpose of winning it. Instead the focus was to improve things round by round, to keep raising the level and to reach a point where everything just clicked and happened. The similarities in her Senior National Championships was uncanny, reaching the final of this competition was not a goal of hers but the focus remained the same. We’d talk about what needed to be better, whether that be her consistency, her placement, her tactics, execution etc. and as the competition progressed, her playing level improved, and she was making good decisions and things absolutely clicked.
Mari dealt with the occasion like an absolute professional. She was faced with competing on the one and only table, in front of a crowd, with the BBC filming, at her very first Senior Nationals event. I’m well aware of the thoughts that can creep into your mind in those scenarios!
However, I was put at ease when in Mari’s semi-final, after the walk out with the camera in her face, her being announced to the crowd, she came over to the corner to take her jacket off and said, ‘I feel fine now.’ Many, many positive things followed after that.
We have a good rapport in the corner, it works well. I understand her game and can inform her of what I think she needs to do to win that game. Mari trusts my knowledge and buys into the game plans. If things need changing then we change them, things have to be adaptable.
Mari has shown what her top level Table Tennis looks like, and we’ll continue to push those boundaries. We’re also well aware of her bottom level and we need to raise that too. If the latest result are good or bad it doesn’t matter because regardless, there’s some work to do.
We are constantly improving and adapting her game and style, we’re regularly adding new skills as well as adding strategies to her game that she’ll be able to call on, when she needs them. I think Mari has a great understanding that we’re developing her game for the long term and when a player has that common goal in mind there are some real possibilities for the future…’
You can read more on all our sponsored players here.Posted on 24th March 2020