May 22, 2014

Playing Modes

You can divide players into two types. There are those who are ready for anything, and can do any appropriate shot in their repertoire at any time. This pretty much describes all world-class players, but also many who are nowhere near that level. They are often just considered athletic or coordinated, since they can do just about anything anytime. And there are those who switch from one "mode" to another. I'm one of the latter. What does this mean?

When I play, I'm often in one of the following modes: forehand looping mode, forehand hitting mode, two-winged hitting mode, steady backhand/looping forehand mode, steady blocking mode, or defensive off-table defensive mode (fishing, lobbing, chopping). What this means is that I'm much better at any of these if I focus on that shot, but weaker at other shots. The problem is if I don't go into one of these modes, I'm often weaker at everything, and have no strengths to challenge my opponent.

This doesn't mean a "mode" player can't switch modes in a rally. I can - but it's not so easy, and often the switch is from an offensive mode to off-table defense. But once in a mode in a rally, it's often hard to switch. For example, once they start blocking in a rally many players have difficulty doing anything but block the rest of the rally.

Ideally, you don't want to be a "mode" player. It's much better to be able to effortlessly switch from one shot to another, doing the appropriate shot rather than the one you are looking for (i.e. in the "mode" for).

I've often wondered why I have to resort to these various modes to play my best, knowing it's also a big handicap. I think it was because in my early years I did lots and lots of rote drills, where I'd do some footwork drill where I'd move from A to B to A to B to A to B to A, and so on. If I could go back, I'd tell myself to do more random drills as well, where you don't know where the ball is going each time, and have to just react to the incoming ball with the appropriate shot. This develops the reactions to any shot so you don't have to sort of anticipate what you'll do by going into a "mode." (Random drills will likely be the topic of the next Tip of the Week on Monday.)

A simple version of a random drill is your partner backhand blocks or counters the ball to your backhand or forehand, but randomly, and you keep driving the ball back to his backhand. (You can also do this to his forehand, of course.) When you become comfortable with this, then have him go to all parts of the table, including your middle. There are many variations.

Teaching the Banana Flip

I had an interesting session Wednesday with a student who was learning how to backhand banana flip against a short serve. There's nothing greater in coaching than seeing that look of shock and awe when they realize how easy it is to banana flip even a very low, heavy, short backspin serve! In practice, he picked it up pretty quickly, but he'll need to do it regularly in matches for a while before it becomes consistent - and then he'll be a terror against short serves.

Junior Class at MDTTC

Here's a short video (14 sec) taken at the start of last Sunday's junior class by my assistant coach for the class, Jeffrey Zeng Xun. (Jeffrey added the music.) I especially like the shot of the little kid on the left shadow practicing his forehand near the end! I think I can name all the players, but it's never easy as there are so many of them, and there are more kids off to the left you can't see. According to Google Translate, the caption in Chinese says, "Each week the most troublesome Training has begun. Filling it! Jeffrey! Too cute little mixed race." I think something got lost in the translation. Can anyone give a better translation?

Table Tennis Tips

My newest book is officially published. However, just to be safe, I ordered a copy to check out. (It's print on demand, so I can still make corrections.) According to the post office tracking system, it'll be delivered today. Assuming all is well, I'll "officially" announce it tomorrow, and you can all buy a copy!

ITTF's Developmental Program

Here's an article on the ITTF's Developmental Program.

Ping Pong Summer

The movie was officially released on January 18, but there's been no wide release. But there's a showing in my area on Thursday, June 5, at 7:30 PM, at the Carroll County Arts Council in Mount Airy, Maryland. Any locals want to join me? (I teach a junior class on Thursday nights from 6-7PM, but by great luck the current ten-week session ends the week before, and there's no session scheduled on this date. So I'm off that night after a coaching session that ends at 5PM.) Here's a picture of the theater where it'll be play - it's already advertised in big letters! The movie stars Susan Sarandon, Judah Friedlander, and others. Here's the Ping Pong Summer Facebook page. The IMDB page. The Rotten Tomatoes page. (It's at 83% fresh!) And here's the trailer (2:10).

Yasiel Puig Plays Table Tennis

Here's an article and video (1:42, plus some short gif videos) of LA Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig playing table tennis.

Mattress Table Tennis Commercial

What's the connection between table tennis and selling mattresses? Here's the 30-sec commercial! "Honey, I quit my job to become a professional ping-pong player."

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