Describing stroke mechanics

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Joined: 01/19/2011

At the club last night, an observation about the mechanics of the backhand counter led to an interesting discussion of how a "coach"  should describe racket position to a student.  Most often I hear comments that describe racket position in terms of other body parts.  Things like "take the racket back about hip high"   or "place the racket just behind and slightly below the knee",  or "forearm should be level with elbow".    In table tennis the real fixed reference is the table top.  For most types of shots there is a fairly limited range of tracetories and thus bounce heights so the ball will generally be in a range from table height to table height + max bounce height for that type of shot (push, block, drive, loop, etc).   Since players have different physical characteristics (leg length, arm length, etc) and different stance heights it seems that racket positions (at least relative to height) should be described in terms of the table top rather than in terms of players body position.   In that case arm angles might have to be different for different players to get the racket into the optimum position for a stroke.   I do know that there is some instruction that seeks to alter a players stance to get them to an appropriate height relation to the table.  If ever player had a ready stance which placed their elbow (or center of mass or hip) at an equivalent height to the table, then referencing the racket height to the body would essentially be the same as referencing it to table height.  This may be the case for more formally trained players (and younger players), however I see a lot of mid range players and especially older players with much more upright stances than elite players.   In dealing with these players, where changing the stance significantly is not likely, is there merit to the table height relation concept rather than the body relation concept.  Doe the table height relationship have merit in that it would be constant even for off balance shots where the body is not in a standard position.

Ultimately it is the racket to ball contact position relationship that is important so adjustments will always have to be made for each shot.  However, due to the limited reaction time in table tennis I think ready positions and backswing positions often have to be taken before knowing actual ball contact positions.  Getting the racket into optimum positions early makes the adjustments smaller and easier to make. 

What do you think about empahisizing this racket - table height relationship for ready position and backswing position rather than a racket - bocy relationship?



Larry Hodges
Larry Hodges's picture
Joined: 11/19/2010
Re: Describing stroke mechanics

What do you think about empahisizing this racket - table height relationship for ready position and backswing position rather than a racket - bocy relationship?

It depends on the shot. For hitting, blocking, etc. (i.e. most shots done at the table), the reference should be the table. One of the funniest and saddest things I ever saw was a roughly 5'2" Chinese coach trying to coach a 6'11" player to hit forehands with a "salute" stroke - it wasn't possible; she was making exactly the mistake you note, trying to force the shot relative to the body rather than to the table. I later coached the tall player, and he developed quite a good forehand, with his follow-through about chest high for hi - about the same height as a "salute" stroke by a much shorter player like the 5'2" coach.

However, for shots like looping and most off-table shots (lobbing, chopping), where the contact point can be further from the table, and the contact height varies, then the stroke is more in relation to the body than the table for most shots.