February 10, 2014

Tip of the Week

Never Give a Server What He's Looking For.

Developing Good Technique

Table tennis clubs are full of players with poor technique. And there's nothing wrong with this, if the player doesn't care, or at least doesn't put a high priority on it. There are also lots of good players with poor techniques, though few of them get beyond good and become very good. That's subjective, of course; I can name a number of players who have reached 2200 and 2300 levels despite poor technique. The key is they developed a game around that poor technique, and didn't get good because of the bad technique, but in spite of it.

Here's comes the part a lot don't realize, and it's a three-parter.

1) You will not reach your potential unless you develop good technique. This doesn't mean everyone plays with exactly the same technique. There are some techniques where there's clearly a "best" way, and there are others where there are multiple options. Often it depends on the rest of the player's game. Some players have developed such unorthodox games that what is proper technique for others might not be proper technique for them. But that's a rarity. Almost always, to reach your potential, you need to develop good technique.

2) Anyone can develop good technique. I don't care how poor your current technique is, you can fix it, and have good technique. This doesn't mean you'll have great technique - that's almost impossible once you've developed bad habits. But you don't need perfect technique in this sport (except in most cases at the highest levels), and good technique will take you pretty far.

3) It will take lots of time and effort to develop good technique if you currently have bad technique. You'll also lose to a lot of players if you continue to compete while changing your technique. (I usually advise against that.) It takes a lot of saturation training to fix bad technique, and you'll probably need a coach - which usually costs money. But it's a one-time fix, because once it's fixed, it's fixed for a lifetime, as long as you continue to play regularly.

So, do you have bad technique? It's your choice whether to keep it that way, or make it a goal to fix that technique once and for all.

Chinese Team Squad Trials Ranking and Videos

Here's a short article with the final ranking of the Chinese Team Squad (men and women), with links to numerous videos of them in action. 

Zhang Jike on the New Plastic Balls

Here's the article, where he says the speed dropped some. Unfortunately, the article doesn't say which of the new balls they were using. There are at least three ITTF approved plastic balls. Leaving that out sort of makes the article somewhat less useful, and I hesitated in including it here.

USATT Criteria and Procedures for Entering US Athletes in International Competitions

Here's the article from USATT.

NCTTA Newsletter

Here's the Feb. 2014 National Collegiate Table Tennis Newsletter.

Ping Pong Summer

Here's video (2:45) of a preview of the coming-of-age comedy coming this summer, starring Susan Sarandon and a break dancing, rapping and ping-pong playing 13-year-old.

European Cup Highlights

Here's video (6:52, with time between points removed) of Denmark's Michael Maze's (world #28, but formerly #8) win over Germany's Dimitrij Ovtcharov (world #6) in the semifinals of the European Cup this past weekend. (Ovtcharov defeated teammate Timo Boll, world #8, in the semifinals - they were the top two seeds, so presumably one of them was upset in preliminaries?) Here's video of the other semifinals (5:09) where Portugal's Marcos Freitas (world #15) defeats France's Adrien Mattenet (world #52). And here's video of the final (4:54) where Freitas defeats Maze.

Unreal Counterlooping Rally - Ovtcharov vs. Boll

Here's video of the rally (48 sec, includes replays), which took place at the 2014 Europe Cup this past weekend.

Wheelchair Player Cindy Ranii

Here's the article from the San Jose Mercury News, "She may be in a wheelchair, but Cindy Ranii is a ping-pong powerhouse."

Shopping Mall Exhibition

Here's video (40 sec) of an exhibition in a shopping mall, with lots of lobbing and changing of sides during rallies.

Holy TT Racket

Here's the racket I lend out to my opponents. 

Send us your own coaching news!

Larry, your claim that anyone can develop good technique, misses one important issue. I kinda agree that almost anyone can after a lot of coaching develop proper technique of, say, FH loop, or backhand banana flip, etc. However, the main problem for a lot of people (myself, alas, included) is that even if they know how to execute some good shots (when I am in good position and have that necessary extra split-second, my backhand loop was not once described by other people as 2300-level shot... but I can do that only a few times in a match) but there is one huge BUT:

Without good footwork and proper body motion (bodywork? smiley) it is often almost worthless to have great execution technique. If you cannot qucikly move yourself in the right position for a specific shot, if you cannot do fast recovery, if your body is out of balance... well you know what I mean.

And, alas, to develop a footwork which is at the same level as your technique (assuming that one finally got himself to a much higher level there) is much harder and often impossible for 40+ amateurs. Unless they change their lifestyle, drop 20-30-40 pounds, fix their knees and tennis elbows, have hip replacement surgery, and what have you... that's not really going to happen.

As a result, the real-life TT veteran-amateur players have to take what they have and mold their technical skills to whatever their body allows to do. As a result you will see lots and lots of shots which have nothing to do with proper execution technique. Having a better technique helps - no doubt about that - but it will not get them better results as in real matches they simply won't be able to use those skills ... unless their opponent doesn't notice that and pushes back a lot of convenient passive shots.

This is why we see so many older players using pips or antis - because at some point they have to somehow compensate for their regular "inverted" skills dropping below what they used to be. Not that there's anything wrong with it (c) wink

In reply to by JimT

While I agree that older players can't move as fast, I would argue (from both observation and personal experience) that much of this is lack of proper footwork technique. In particular, many older players get in the habit of leaning toward the shot instead of stepping to the shot, which seems to save time, but actually handicaps the player by making them even slower by putting them off balance. Younger players with good footwork grow up to be older players with slower but still good footwork. Of course as we get older there will be times when we can't keep up the pace of faster rallies that we could before, but proper footwork technique (as well as "proper body motion," which is part of the stroke) are key in minimizing this. For example, older players might lean and reach for a ball instead of stepping toward it, which is actually as fast or faster, but takes training to do properly. It's not easy - changing footwork patterns is perhaps more difficult than changing stroking technique, but I've seen it done by a number of older players. I'm 54 in two weeks, and while I'm slower than before, I still use proper footwork that was grilled into me when I was younger, and I rarely lean or reach for shots - I move to the ball and make the shots while balanced. 

Having said this, I do agree that as players get older, they have to adjust their games to compensate for slower movements. That's why there is a tendency toward chopping (usually with long pips), more backhand play, and more emphasis on consistency and placement.