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

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Published:

07/25/2021 - 15:23

Author: Larry Hodges

Many players, when learning to loop or when under pressure, try to guide the shot consciously. This is a mistake and leads to a weak and erratic loop. Instead, let the shot go, accelerating smoothly through the shot. Don't try to "muscle" it - that just leads to spastic shots and a loss of control. Watch how the top players do it almost effortlessly, and with enough practice, you'll be able to do it. When you miss, adjust the shot on your next shot, and again let it go. If you still have trouble, there are two simple remedies: get a coach or copy the top players. And table tennis is a sport where you can absorb by watching - when you do so, your subconscious picks up on it, and can do a surprisingly good job of copying what it sees. One huge key - once you start looping competently, remember the feel of the shot - the entire stroke, from start through contact - and then just repeat. It's as simple as that!!!

Published:

07/19/2021 - 15:57

Author: Larry Hodges

If you don't have something that threatens your opponent, then you can't threaten the opponent.  So, how do you develop something that threatens an opponent?

You can't do it by just training everything equally each session. You need to spend a huge amount of time developing the things you can do that can threaten opponents. If you train everything equally, you'll tend to do everything at about the same level, and so will have nothing that threatens opponents unless they are weaker players. 

The first step is identifying what it is you might be able to do that will threaten an opponent. To use a common example, suppose you believe you can develop a very strong forehand. Then you need to spend a lot of time developing 1) your forehand; 2) the footwork to get into position to play the forehand; 3) serves that set up your forehand; 4) receive that sets up your forehand; and 5) rally shots that set up your forehand. 

Once you've identified the aspects of your game that you need to develop in order to develop something that threatens your opponents, the next step is to practice those aspects. And here you may face a problem. If you have limited practice time, you may not be able to get enough time to really develop those aspects. So what do you do? You make time - but perhaps only temporarily. (If you can't find the time to practice, then you simply won't improve.) Perhaps make a deal with yourself that you will put in extra practice time for a set period of time - perhaps six months to a year. Once you've developed those techniques, you have them for a lifetime! (Assuming you keep them tuned up.) 

Here's a tip on practice I've always advised to players: "Practice everything you do in a match, but focus on fixing the weaknesses and developing the overpowering strengths." A sequel to this might be that, if you can turn a weakness into a strength, your game will go up a lot. 

Published:

07/12/2021 - 15:58

Author: Larry Hodges

If your opponent is one who analyzes an opponent's game and adjusts to it, and is able to identify patterns and take advantage of it, you need to be unpredictable and vary your tactics. But many players, probably most, do not do this. If your opponent is not one who adjusts, then don't make the mistake of "over-thinking," where you try to mix up tactics that are lost on your opponent. Against the non-adjuster, just use the best tactic in any given situation while not overusing any one serve, shot, or technique so much that he gets too used to it. It's against the smart opponent who can adjust that you must regularly vary your tactics.

Now go look in the mirror. Are you an adjuster or non-adjuster? If the latter, it's time to adjust your thinking!!!  

Published:

07/04/2021 - 18:15

Author: Larry Hodges

A major weakness of many players is an inability to change the pace, and thereby throw their opponent's timing off. Not doing so is a quick way of helping your opponent's timing. Many players try to change the pace, but do so unsuccessfully - either because they don't know how to do it, or because they don't really understand the purpose of changing the pace.

Changing the pace doesn't mean hitting a weak shot. It means hitting the ball at a slower pace, but low to the net, with the ball landing shorter on the table. If the opponent is expecting a faster, deeper ball, he'll have trouble adjusting to this.

Against aggressive players, you mostly change the pace to win the point outright via the aggressive player's misses, though be ready to jump on a weak return as well. Against control players, you mostly change the pace to force a weak shot for you to attack.

Also try to find out which side the opponent is most vulnerable to changes of pace. Fast backhand players may have trouble if you suddenly give them a softer return to their backhand, but may jump on a softer ball to the forehand. Big forehand players may time faster balls but have trouble when you suddenly give them a soft one. Experiment, and find what works!

Published:

07/02/2021 - 15:33

Author: Larry Hodges

If you are primarily a forehand attacker, many of your opponents will get used to your relentless forehand attacks, often from the backhand corner, especially after your serve. Why not throw them off with a backhand loop? This is especially effective against an opponent who routinely pushes your serve to your backhand corner. Surprise them - sometimes serve and get into a backhand position, and follow with a backhand loop! Too often players only backhand attack when they are caught off guard and they aren't able to use their forehand. Imagine how much more effective this is if you plan it, and have time to prepare. It means you don't have to step around (and, of course, many of us can't do that effectively anyway), you won't be out of position, and perhaps most important, your opponent has to adjust his timing to a different type of loop.

The key is to be ready both to backhand loop if the ball comes to your backhand side, or to forehand loop if the opponent surprises you by going to your forehand. If they do, simply rotate your waist to your forehand side and you're all set. But once in a backhand position, you can, if necessary, cover half or more of the table with your backhand loop.

You may worry that your backhand loop isn't as strong as your forehand loop, but if used as a variation, that's not only not a problem, it's a strength - the contrast will force the opponent to adjust. Not only will the backhand loop throw him off, but it'll make your no-longer-so-predictable forehand loops more effective. One of my best tournament wins ever came when, at 19-all in the third (back when games were to 21, best two out of three), after realizing the opponent had adjusted to my relentless forehand attacking, I serve and softly backhand looped twice in a row - and the opponent missed both.

As an addendum, if you are the reverse - someone who serve and backhand loops against pushes to the backhand - then you should do the reverse as a variation, and sometimes serve, step around, and forehand loop, just to mess up the opponent's timing. Be unpredictable!