Mark Smythe Table Tennis

Australia's no. 1 coach

About Mark


Mark has played Table Tennis for most of his life and developed a passion for the sport which led him to become a professional self employed coach in mid 1997. Since 2002 his students have won over 50 Australian individual (singles and/or doubles) titles – click here to view. Also, Mark has had over 60 of his students that have been selected in State Teams (including B Teams) since 1996.

Mark’s playing days started from age 9 when commenced junior pennant at his local Club (Croydon & District Table Tennis Association). His enjoyment for the sport came from a fascination of different spins that could be generated and how hard a small object can be hit over such a short distance. From the ages of 9 – 17 there was steady improvement where he represented his state (Victoria) in the Under 15 & 17 age groups at the Australian Junior Championships from 1987 – 1990. Through those years Mark won the Australian U15 Boys Singles in 1988 and U17 Boys Singles & Doubles in 1990 plus was named 1990 Australian Junior of the Year.

After completing Year 12 in 1990 he chose to be full-time player, playing 25-30 hours per week for most weeks of the year from mid 1991 till late 1996 and worked part-time (approx.15 hours per week). Through this period he travelled overseas on 10 separate occasions for training and competition covering approximately 30 countries – longest stint away from home town (Melbourne) was only 6 months. 

The best win Mark had during this period was at the 1995 Swedish Open where he defeated Yan Sen (China) who was World Ranked 47 at the time and went on to win the Men's Doubles at 2000 Olympic Games plus two World Championships Men's Doubles titles in 1999 & 2003 and was Semi-finalist in Men's Singles at 1997 World Championships. This is the only time an Australian player has defeated a member of the Chinese National Team in a singles match during official competition.

The best match of his career came in late December 1995 at the Asian Team Cup where Mark played his then favorite player, Kim Taek Soo (Korea) who was World Ranked no. 8 at the time. In a best of 3 match, Mark won the first set 21-18 but was crushed 21-8 in the 2nd then managed to be 13-13 in the last set before losing 21-16. 

To finish this phase of his life Mark competed at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics where he had the privilege to play the eventual Men’s Singles Champion, Liu Guoliang (China), in his first match and had a close loss (21-16 in the deciding 3rd set) to the then World Ranked no. 70, Slobodan Grujic.

It was after the Olympics Mark decided to try coaching, so the next 6 months he was a part-time player (playing 15 hours per week) and part time coach, making himself available for Individual sessions and running group sessions. He represented Australia at the 1997 World Championships - Team & Individual Event – (England) & Commonwealth Championships (Scotland) then made the decision to do coaching full time as he was 24 years old and needed to earn a living from a financial point of view. He still played all available tournaments but only trained once a week for the next 3 years. Ironically, it was through this phase where Mark achieved his best domestic results,

- 1998 Australian Men’s Singles Champion & Australian Senior Player of the Year

- 1998 Oceania Men’s Singles Champion

- 1998 played World Singles Cup (restricted to 16 players) and played against Jan Ove-Waldner, Vladamir Samsanov and, his favourite player to watch, Kalinikos Kreanga

- 1999 Australian Men’s Doubles Champion (with Russell Lavale)

- 2000 Australian Men's Doubles Champion (with Simon Gerada)

- 2000 Represented Australia at Sydney Olympic Games

- 2000 Defeated Yan Chu Leung (World Ranked 58 at the time) from Hong Kong at Olympic Games  

The 2000 Olympic Games was the best experience of his sporting life and was after this event the decision was made to end a successful representative career for Australia (1995 – 2000) and Victoria (1987 – 2000) to totally focus on a coaching career.

It took 6 years (2 generations of players) of coaching to build and create Mark’s first Australian Champion (2002 U14 Girls Singles, Doubles and Mixed Doubles Champion) who had been his student from early 1998. Since then there’s been a steady stream of Australian titles won each year mainly through players he has coached and developed from beginner levels.

From a representative point of view, Mark has coached an Oceania Team at the 2003 World Cadet (U15) Challenge (Malaysia) and coached Australian Junior Teams at,

- 2003 World Junior Circuit Event (New Zealand)

- 2004 Oceania Championships (New Zealand)

- 2004 World Junior Championships (Japan)

All 4 events were coaching positions on a volunteer basis.

The last time he coached an Australian Team was at the 2006 Commonwealth Games (Melbourne) where he was the Men’s team coach and appointed Head Coach for the whole Table Tennis team.

Mark has been awarded the Victorian Table Tennis Coach of the Year a record 6 times. He has also held volunteer positions that include,

- Australian Coaching Committee 2003 & 2004

- Victorian Junior Selector 2004, 2005 & 2006

- Victorian Junior Committee since 2012

One of his greatest feats to date occurred in 2008 where he coached 19 players to make State Junior Teams (U18, U15 & U13). There were a total of 36 players in State Junior Teams that year. 

Over the years Mark has coached hundreds of players of all ages (7 – 70’s) and standards (beginner to elite). His knowledge, skills, patience and enjoyment of the job has allowed him to not only improve player’s standards but to provide the understanding of the skills and the sport in general so players can keep improving while he’s physically not present.