Tip of the Week

A Tip of the Week will go up every Monday by noon.

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November 9, 2020 - Think Tactics, Then Let Go

Monday, November 9, 2020
by: Larry Hodges

Between points, think about what you want to do, especially at the start of the rally – what serve to use, what type of receives. Think about what shots you want to do during a rally against any given shot as well – looping, hitting, quick blocks, etc. Keep it simple. Your subconscious mind will get the message about what to do, and it will learn to reflexively go for the shots you are thinking about. However, before the rally starts, blank out your mind, and let the shots just happen - "Let go." If you try to control your shots during a rally, you will not play well. The conscious mind isn't nearly as fast or coordinated as the subconscious mind.






November 2, 2020 - Backhand Chopping in an Emergency

Monday, November 2, 2020
by: Larry Hodges

 

You are stuck out of position away from the table on your forehand side of the table. Your opponent quick hits the ball to your wide backhand, and you can't possibly get to it and make an effective backhand drive. What do you do? You could reach out and "fish" the ball back with a light topspin, but that allows your opponent to smash or loop kill. Instead, this might be the perfect time to chop the ball. Not only is it easier to do this shot from out of position than a more aggressive backhand drive, but it's a good change-up. However, many players don't use this shot because they don't think of themselves as choppers. You don't have to be a chopper to be able to throw in a good chop now and then. Just remember three principles, and your backhand chop will start to rescue you out of what was before an impossible position.

First, let the ball drop to table level or below. Second, contact the ball more toward the back of the ball, not the bottom, with your racket facing more forward, not so much up, and graze the ball with a mostly downward stroke. Many players chop too much under the ball, and so pop it up. (Top choppers can do this, but that's a more advanced technique involving letting the ball drop even more, and vigorously chopping the ball with a very fine grazing motion. You can learn to do this as you get better chopping.) Third, most topspin-style players tend to chop off the end since they aren't used to the way a backspin ball floats long. So try chopping so the ball hits your side of the table – and watch it float to the other side!






October 26, 2020 - Learn To Play Close to the Table

Monday, October 26, 2020
by: Larry Hodges

Many players enjoy playing from away from the table, and some (especially defensive players) base their game on this. Others step back in fast rallies to give themselves more time to react. However, for most players, you want to stay close to the table whenever possible, usually no more than an arm's length back, slightly more for loopers in some fast rallies. Otherwise, you "give up" the table. By backing off the table, your opponent has more time to react to your shots, and you have to cover more ground to cover the wide angles and in and out movements. Basically, you are at the mercy of your opponent if he knows how to take advantage of it.

A looper often needs to play slightly further back then a counter-hitter, but not too far back except when forced. Often a player needs more time because his strokes aren't efficient, or perhaps too long. You might want to work with a coach on making your shots more efficient and shorter.

Against a much faster player, sometimes you have little choice but to back up half or a full step to have time to rally. Sometimes, however, it's best to start the rally closer to the table, so you have a chance to put pressure on your opponent, and only back up when really forced to do so. Don't give up the table for free!

If you have trouble staying at the table during a match, try this remedy. When you practice, put a barrier behind you to make sure you stay within an arm's length or slightly more of the table. You might even exaggerate it some, and really jam yourself at the table (with the barrier right behind you) so that you'll learn to do this. It will pay off in the long run.






October 19, 2020 - Sometimes Hit Twice to the Same Spot

Monday, October 19, 2020
by: Larry Hodges

In table tennis, it's good to keep moving the ball around to make an opponent move. You should play all three spots - wide forehand, wide backhand, and middle (roughly the opponent's elbow, the transition point between forehand and backhand). However, sometimes you want to go to the same place twice. Here are a few examples.

You've just blocked the ball to the opponent's wide forehand. The opponent had to go out of position, but made a somewhat aggressive topspin return from his wide forehand. After the shot, he began to move back to cover his wide backhand. Most players try to take advantage of the opponent being out of position by going back to the backhand. This will often work, but it's often better to go right back to the forehand. The opponent is moving in the wrong direction, and will likely have trouble covering this shot effectively a second time in a row.

Suppose your opponent has a strong forehand but weak backhand. Let's say he covers two-thirds of the table with his forehand. If you play to his wide backhand, you'll get his weak backhand. It might be tempting to then change directions and go somewhere else, and that often works - but often it's better to just pin the player down on their weak side, and not change directions until you see your opponent out of position, perhaps edging toward his backhand side to use a forehand, thereby leaving the forehand side open. If you change directions while he's in position, you are just giving him his stronger shot - and if he's smart, he'll just wait for that shot if you are going to give it to him. (You might consider going to his middle, if you think you can do it without him playing a strong forehand.)  

Now suppose you're playing a chopper. You've made a good attacking shot, but the chopper chopped it back. You did a drop shot, the chopper ran in and pushed it back, and then quickly stopped back for your next attack. Do you attack again? Only if the opponent is too close to the table, or if his push was weak. If the opponent is stepping back to prepare for your attack, why not do a second drop shot, and catch him going the wrong way? Most likely you won't get an ace, but you'll not only get a relatively weak return from a lunging opponent, but your opponent will probably now be jammed at the table, unable to get into position to chop your next ball. Easy point!

Finally, you've smacked a strong shot right at the opponent's playing elbow – usually a player's weakest spot. The opponent manages to make a return, but not a particularly strong one. You get ready to attack his weak return. Why not go right back to his middle again? If you go to the corners, you might give the opponent and easy forehand or backhand counter. By going to the middle again, you can catch him again. Since his previous shot was weak, he's unlikely to be looking to counter-attack from the middle since he'll more likely be in a defensive position.

So while it's important to move the ball around and play all three spots, it's also important to also know when not to move the ball around.






October 12, 2020 - Don't Telegraph the Direction of Your Attack

Monday, October 12, 2020
by: Larry Hodges

Many players telegraph the direction of their attacking shot. Often, the opponent isn't sure how he knows where you are going, he just senses it. That's because when he sees the same stroke pattern resulting in the ball going one way, and another stroke pattern going the other way, it becomes habit to react to it – even if he isn't sure specifically what in your stroke is different. (When you recognize a person's face, do you consciously see the distinct features that make this person's face unique?) So try to keep your shots identical as long as possible before committing to a direction, and even use misdirection.

For example, if you set up for a forehand shot as if you were going to the right (for a right-hander), your body might face to the right. At the last second, whip the shoulders around, and go to the left. Or set up like you are hitting to the left, but at the last second, rotate the shoulders back and go to the right. Or try hitting the ball "inside-out," where you set up as if you were hitting a forehand to the left, and at last minute hit the inside of the ball (relative to you) and go to the right. Do the same type of thing on the backhand, where you might set up to go one way, and then, at the last second, rotate your shoulders so you can go the other way. If blocking, you can make these last-second changes by just rotating the racket left or right.