Chatting with Jiwei Xia

By Jay Crystal, Paddle Palace Club Manager | June 06, 2019, 8:03 p.m. (ET)

Jiwei Xia has made a home for his family in Portland, Oregon and the Paddle Palace Club members continue to show their great appreciation for his passion to share the sport.  As evident by the results over the last 18 months in USATT sanctioned events at Paddle Palace, Jiwei has been the dominate player as well as the head 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 a deep understanding of the sport, strong implementation of the 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. 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.

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 various companies, or they 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 US Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs brought him to USA in 2011. The USA, with 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 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.

The Paddle Palace Club of Portland, Oregon is open 7 Days a Week, 9-12 Hours a Day with ITTF approved sports flooring, 12 STIGA Optimum 30 Tables, Nittaku training and tournament balls, High 24-Foot Ceilings, and a world-class head coach named Jiwei Xia.