September 7, 2012

Tournament Season

Tournament season is upon us! After a long summer of practice (right?), you are now ready to take on all those pampered players who didn't train as you did, and make their ratings points yours while gathering a collection of hardware. (And if you are in the Maryland area, don't miss our Sept. 22-23 MDTTC tournament, which I'm running - we've got hardware AND checks just sitting around, waiting for someone to take. Won't you please?)

It's time to focus more on game-type play. All summer you've been doing stroking and footwork drills (right?), physical training (right?), and practicing your both your regular and new serves (right?). Those stroking and footwork drills will take you far, but in matches, most opponents will object if you ask them to hit the ball back and forth between two spots so you can move back and forth and attack with your forehand. So now's the time to introduce game-type drills.

Focus on serve & attack drills and random drills. When possible, start off drills with a serve and attack, and then either play out the points or combine both rote and random footwork. For example, you might serve backspin, partner pushes deep to your backhand, you loop (forehand or backhand, depending on your style), partner blocks to your wide forehand, you forehand loop, and then you play out the point. Or partner pushes your serve back randomly anywhere, and you loop and play out the point. Or partner flips your short serve anywhere (or perhaps the first flip goes to the wide forehand, or perhaps wide backhand), and then play out the point. Be creative in designing drills that match what you face in matches.

This doesn't mean you should stop doing regular stroking and footwork drills - they are important at all times. But the focus needs to switch to more game-like drills.

You should also be honing your serving skills. Can you pull off in tournament conditions the serves you can do in practice? Can you serve with all spins to all parts of the table, both short and long, with deceptive motions? If not, better start practicing. In particular practice your fast and deep serves out of proportion to how often you use them. You may only serve them a couple of times a game, but they need more precision and therefore more practice if you are going to use them at all.

And don't forget your sports psychology! Playing in a tournament is quite different than playing a regular club match, and if you aren't ready for that, you are sunk. Here are some good links on sports psychology.

Below are two articles I wrote on playing in tournaments (which I also linked to a few days ago):

Coaching Articles

While I'm linking to articles, here are many of my online coaching articles. I've also got over 80 Tips of the Week. And here's a complete listing of my 1382 published articles, many linked online.

Ding Ning to Miss World Cup

Here's an article where defending champion and world #1 Ding Ning explains why she'll miss the World Cup. Article includes a link to the video of last year's final between Ding and Li Xiaoxia.

Interview with Allen Wang

Here's an interview with Allen Wang, who just won the North American Cadet Championships. (And he trained for two weeks this summer at MDTTC, my club!)

Marty Reisman Featured in American Way

The article isn't online, so you'll have to fly American Airlines to read the entire thing. But this article from Table Tennis Nation features a number of excerpts from the article, such as: "Even at 82, I'm itching for a good money game…What I really want to do is play a money match against someone who's young enough to be my grandson — ­someone of note, not some Mickey Mouse player. That’s never been done in professional sports before. Sure, I’ve lost some speed, but I still play a very clever, witty game. I’m pretty athletic for someone who's 82. I’ve still got plenty of vinegar left in me." There are also some nice pictures.

iTable Tennis!

Watch this video of this ordinary room becoming a feature table tennis club in just 20 seconds!


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