Everyday Heroes: Olav Stahl

Olav StahlOlav Stahl is a table tennis coach with character. A German-born coach, he has been based in London for the last eight years.

Olav started playing table tennis at eight years of age – his parents were his first coach. He started to coach children when he was 18 and, since then, has been on a roller coaster of a coaching journey, including teaching people of all ages and abilities, the stars of TV shows including Coronation Street, Emmerdale and Hollyoaks and even a celebrity Hollywood shoe designer.

No matter who he has coached though, there is one thing that stands out for Olav in his enjoyment of the activity – giving someone who was previously lacking in confidence the belief that they can get to the next level in their game in a short period of time.

‘I don’t care if my participants become world champions,’ says Olav. ‘I want people to have confidence. I enjoy coaching anybody, but it makes me especially happy when somebody is worried or lacks confidence. I know my coaching method can help a player get over this, no matter what has caused this belief in the first instance.’

Olav’s methods are based on inspiration and empowerment, and he brings enjoyment to his players’ game as he knows this will allow them to improve.

‘As a coach, you can be yourself. I know I may not be the best forehand coach in the world, but I know I can make people laugh more than the number one coach in the world. This is what I add to a player’s experience.

‘People are completely restrained because of society and how they think they should behave. Nobody ever addresses this. I try to support people to give up these restraints and add enjoyment to the game to build confidence.

‘I want people to be more inspired and feel better about themselves.’

Olav’s philosophy on coaching was in turn inspired by Michael C Jensen (www.beingaleader.net), a Harvard University professor whose teaching on leadership is based on integrity, straightforward communication and caring about people. He said this is what continues to make him the coach he is today. His top tip for being a coach is to learn from others.

‘Copy other coaches all the time, feel free to steal from them and deliver it in your own practice. Don’t just rely on this though, find your own ways too, and whatever works for you, do it!

‘There is no time like now if you have considered becoming a coach. There is no need to wait and think you’re not qualified enough. Every single person can be a leader, be inspired and get involved.’

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