Improving at Table Tennis

By Larry Hodges

So you want to improve your game? Well, here are some hints on how to get started. Basically, you will need good coaching, hard practice, experience, physical conditioning, and a good mental attitude.

COACH: Coaching should be your first priority. You can either get personal lessons or go to a clinic.

For most people, though, a clinic is probably best. At clinics you will get to hit with many different players and you will be practicing the right way all day long. This is definitely advantageous in creating good practice habits.

PRACTICE: The secret to good practice partner who is compatible and also wants to improve. Repetition is the key. If you are a beginner, you hit forehand to forehand and backhand to backhand, always concentrating on hitting the ball deep on the table and wide to the forehand or backhand. Also, do extensive footwork drills. For example, hit ALL forehands while your partner blocks the ball to different sections of the table. Consistency is more important than speed so make sure you both do the drill at a rate you each can perform effectively. Remember, move to the ball – do not reach for it. When you're alone, shadow practicing in front of a mirror can be just as beneficial.

As you improve, you should do more advanced drills which any good coach can show you. Always practice with something specific in mind. Especially watch the good players and try to copy what they do. And don't forget to practice serving and receiving of service, as this is one of the most important skills to develop.

EXPERIENCE: It takes time to gain experience but many people play for years and never really get it. Why not? First, they may not play in every tournament possible. Also, they man limit themselves to local competition and not play in other regions where they can encounter different opponents under different conditions. Secondly, they don't try new things in matches, learning what works and what doesn't work, even if this means losing a match. And thirdly, they don't really analyze what their opponents are doing, consequently, they are not learning from someone else's ability. In short, these players are not acquiring "tournament toughness" which translates into experience.

PHYSICAL CONDITIONING: Many players do not like the idea of training off the table but it is a necessity if you are really serious about the game. Almost every top player is in excellent physical shape because of the obvious benefits. If you jump rope or do wind sprints, you will become quicker on your feet. If you train with weights you will become stronger overall and be able to incorporate more power into your game. And if you increase your respiratory capacity, you will be able to stay stronger late in the tournament.

MENTAL ATTITUDE: To lose a game, you must lose 21 points first. Losing two or three points, then, may not seem like much but they can make all the difference, especially if you are evenly matched against your opponent. To overcome this, you must learn to fight for every point which takes considerable concentration.

To be good player, you must learn to think on and off the table. At the table, you must learn to play intelligently, developing good shot selection. Off the table, you must be able to analyze your game objectively and then decide what changes would be appropriate to your style.

To improve, you must be willing to sacrifice for your future development. For example, if you cannot attack well under pressure, the only way to do so is attack under pressure, even if you know you will lose. Forget the loss, it's not important in the long run if you succeed in accomplishing your goal.

Good Luck!