Raise your hand if you tend to reach for the ball when blocking. Don't be shy – raising your hand is like reaching for the ball, so you should be good at it!
The problem with reaching for the ball is that it means you'll have multiple blocking strokes, rather than two good ones (backhand and forehand). This doesn't mean you can't ever reach when needed, but that should be a last resort. Stepping to the ball allows you to use the same consistent blocking stroke over and over, leading to a consistent block. So let's kick this habit once and for all so you'll never reach for the ball when blocking or find yourself raising your hand while reading a coaching article.
What causes the Blocking Reachies? Several things.
- You have no choice but to reach if your feet are anchored to the ground. So be light on your feet. Weight should be toward the front inside part of the feet. Bounce slightly between shots to better prepare yourself for the next shot. Even slow, out-of-shape players with bad knees can do this; it's just a habit to develop.
- If you wait to see if you have to move, you're wasting time. Expect to move; it's just a matter of what direction and how far. So imagine you are on the starting blocks, and take off as soon as you see where the ball is going.
- Moving is a habit. Players who think they aren't fast enough to move are mistaking a bad habit for slowness. The instant you see where the ball is going your reaction should be to step in that direction. You can begin a step just as fast as you can begin a reach. If necessary, do both, just don't skip the stepping part. One way to make this a habit is to shadow stroke the footwork. Imagine a ball coming to you to your right or left, and practice stepping to it to block. Do this over and over until it's habit. Focus on balance as you move. And don't rush; in most cases you have more time than you think.
Develop confidence in your blocking, knowing that you can cover the entire table with a single step in either direction, and turn yourself into the Great Wall of You.