June 20, 2011 - Are You a Tree or a Squirrel?

Squirrels run circles around trees, and there's a lesson there. If you are a tree, you just stand there, rooted to the ground, waiting on each shot to see if you have to move. By the time you realize you have to move - how often does your opponent happen to hit the ball right into your forehand or backhand pocket so it'll hit right in the middle of your paddle? - it's too late, and so you can only awkwardly reach for the ball. There are no proud redwoods in table tennis, only weeping willows.

If you are a squirrel, then you are constantly in motion. You expect to move, and so between shots you flex your knees, perhaps do a small bounce, and instead of deciding whether to move, decide where to move. And then you lightly scamper after every shot, or perhaps lumber if you're an out-of-shape squirrel, but at least you are moving, allowing you to make strong shots.

A good way to practice this is with a random drill. Have a partner block or feed multiball randomly all over the table. Your job is to be ready to move instantly as soon as you see where the ball's going, while at the same time not anticipating, just reacting. Make sure your first move is always the right move. With practice, you'll become proficient, and that'll show up in your match results.