Two-time United States Olympian Sean O’Neill knows gold when he sees it. O’Neill is a former USA Table Tennis Association High Performance Director and current color commentator for NBC Sports’ coverage of table tennis for the past five Olympic Games. And when it comes to video coaching, he uses mmhmm to win students over.
Based in Portland, OR, O’Neill began using mmhmm to coach players he could no longer see in-person during the height of the pandemic. “As a former player, I coach a lot. During COVID, you would think, no one's playing anything, no one can do anything. But, actually, remote coaching became really popular,” he said.
Instead of driving for hours to see players, O’Neill now does video coaching sessions. Players send him video of their tournament matches. O’Neill then provides feedback on shot selection, stance, opponent analysis, and training drills — in other words, all of the services a coach provides without the inconvenience of travel.
“They'll drop a clip, which is like 3 minutes, 4 minutes into Google Drive. I download it, bring it into mmhmm and then do my stuff. I publish it, pump it back up, and then I get a Venmo check literally within the hour,” said O’Neill.
“I can’t live without it.”
2-time United States Olympian and table tennis coach
With mmhmm, he is able to cut the time he spends making a video by 30% while also producing a more professional-looking product. He loves the simplicity of the platform and the fact that he can turn around a coaching session without having to waste time wrangling technology. “It's just grabbing that information, making it easily digestible, and not wasting time trying to open up three different apps in order to do something that I am able to do relatively quickly,” O’Neill said.
Now he can connect with students across the country who seek his expertise. Recently, Max Kogler of PingPod, a high-tech, autonomous table tennis club in New York City, expressed interest in getting help with his game but worried he lived too far away from O’Neill. “I said, ‘What does me being in Portland have to do with helping you improve?’” said O’Neill. He asked the student to send a video of his match and was able to turn around a coaching video in only 15 minutes.
The quality of coaching O’Neill provides virtually is as detailed, if not more, than what he could provide in-person. He can let game play flow, pause at key moments, synthesize his feedback (what he calls “golden nuggets”) into key takeaways, and provide a video the student can revisit to absorb. He’s saving time and scaling the number of students he can teach with limited time—without leaving his home.
O’Neill is adding the coaching videos made in mmhmm to a treasure trove of 7,000 videos on his unlisted YouTube channel, which he shares with students for training purposes. He also uses mmhmm to share backgrounds during committee meetings with his colleagues at USA Table Tennis or Paddle Palace, where he works as the director of communications & marketing. “Within the table tennis community I constantly receive positive feedback about my cool ping-pong backgrounds and ability to add written content to our virtual meetings on the fly,” he said.
“It’s not often that you have products that you really like,” he said. “I came in as a beta tester and now I can’t live without it.”
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