December 18, 2023 - Are You Too Backhand Oriented?

A common problem for players at all levels is being too backhand oriented. Backhand orientation (BO for short) means that you favor your backhand too much over your forehand and try to cover too much of the table with the backhand.

Some players are better on the backhand, and so should cover at least half the table with their backhands. But since the forehand is generally more powerful and easier to end the point with, except perhaps in fast rallies, you generally want to cover half or more of the table with the forehand. But many players cover more of the table with their backhand as a way to cover for not developing their forehand - and that's Bad BO.

Bad BO is a disease. It infiltrates your game, multiplies and divides, and takes over your entire playing style. Left untreated, you may find yourself blocking lobs with your backhand. But treated properly, there is hope.

Bad BO is highly contagious and can be caught simply by watching or copying (consciously or subconsciously) someone else in the throes of Bad BO. It generally strikes during the formative years, so you must take precautions against this occurring. Once caught, it takes a lot of practice to undo.

Let's examine the causes of Bad BO. We'll start with foot placement, as that's the root cause of the problem. A player with Bad BO tends to play with his playing foot (the right one for a righty) a bit in front. This makes backhands easy, but to play a forehand from this position you have to twist like a pretzel. It also puts you in a trap whereby you find backhands easier since you are in a backhand position, and are used to this, and will likely lose if you try playing more forehands. But that's only because you haven't given the forehand a chance. Giving the forehand an opportunity to develop may mean a few temporary embarrassments, but in the long run, it's the right thing to do.

So, try playing with your feet parallel to the table, or even with the playing foot slightly back, especially when playing forehands. (Ideally, play backhands with feet parallel, forehands with playing foot slightly back. If you train a lot, you can even learn to play forehands with feet parallel, which gives you a quicker stroke that allows you to stay at the table, but it does take physical training to be limber enough to do this.) With a better proper stance, and a lot of forehand practice, you can get rid of Bad BO.

Don't take the easy way out; stick with the new foot positioning. Your uncomfortableness will pass, you'll lose that Bad BO, and you'll be a better player because of the change. And you won't need a shower or deodorant!