October 26, 2015 - Develop a Practice Partner

It's the lament of developing players everywhere: How do I get a good practice partner? You might get lucky and find someone at your local club who happens to be about the same level, has the same burning desire to improve, and is both willing and available to train at the same times and number of hours that you want to do so. If so, you've hit the jackpot, and your game will be going places.

But more often finding someone who meets all this criteria is difficult. So you may have to go to option two – develop a practice partner by practicing with a weaker player.

This enhances your chances in multiple ways. First, the number of players below your level is almost for certain far greater than the number of players right around your level, and so the chances are greater of finding a compatible partner. Second, because it gives a weaker player the opportunity to train with someone stronger, the incentive is greater, so you are more likely to find a willing partner. And third, it will likely force you to focus on your basics, i.e. re-enforce the foundation of your game, which is so often overlooked.

Let's elaborate on that last point. Many players look for practice partners at their level or higher, who can push them to a higher level. This often means playing faster and faster, which should make you better – and there's some truth to that. But what's often missing is the consistency part. If you ask a beginner and most intermediate players what the biggest difference between an average player and a top player, they would most likely say the pace they play at. If you ask a top player the same question, he'd likely say consistency. By hitting with a weaker player, you are forced to slow down a bit and focus on consistency – and that should be the foundation of your game.

How do you develop such a practice partner out of a weaker player? At the start you have to be patient as the player won't be able to play at either your pace or consistency. So you use your powers as the stronger player and focus on consistency as well as accuracy – keep the ball right to their forehand and backhand pockets, so they can fine-tune their strokes and develop their consistency. And a magical thing will happen –not only will they improve, but they will get more and more used to your shots, and soon they will be practicing with you on an almost even basis. (I've not only done this in the past with several practice partners, I've seen others do it many times.)

And note that they will be improving not because you are pushing them to play faster and faster, but because both of you are focused on consistency. Only increase the pace when both players are consistent at a given pace. (This is also a hint about practicing with any player – focus on consistency. Stronger players play faster because they are consistent at that speed.)

So if you are having trouble finding a good practice partner, change your mind-set and develop one, and together you can take the table tennis world by storm. 


>It's the lament of developing players everywhere: How do I get a good practice partner?

That is the biggest challenge in table tennis, at least for me. I exit the sport 7 years ago because my regular training partner at some point had no time to practice. It was difficult to find another one because there was no "club" for amateurs in the place where I lived.

>and is both willing and available to train at the same times and number of hours that you want to do so.

That is the most frustrating thing. In the place where I play, there is a group of players that practice regularly, and I am amongst them. However, other such players avoid practicing with me at all costs because I am the weakest one. There are other guys, and some of them are stronger than me, but they play once in a while and it is a problem. I'm willing to play with weaker players and I often do, I'm OK to invest time in them. But the problem is that they don't play regularly, so they don't improve and even if I try to help them, it all goes in vain. At this moment I'm thinking about giving up the sport again due to the same reason: abscence of practice partners. I haven't had a quality practice session in last several weeks :(