August 14, 2023 - Shadow Replay

Over the many decades I've watched and learned about this sport, there are certain trends I see that stick out. This is one of the simplest, often the difference between fast-improving players and those who just stare at their rackets in frustration after missing a shot and continue to do so the rest of their playing years.

When you miss a shot, instead of staring at your racket in disbelief, or whatever other bad habits you've picked up after missing, instead do a simple thing: shadow practice the shot as you should have done it. It's a simple way of re-enforcing to the subconscious what it should have done, rather than what it did do. There are a zillion things that can go wrong with a stroke, and if you do one of those things wrong and don't correct it, guess what? You'll do it again. And again. And again.

Suppose someone pushes heavy to you, and you mistakenly baby the ball, and so either go into the net, loft it off the end, or (probably worst of all) make a weak topspin return that any good opponent will smack into subspace. Or perhaps you stroke it properly but misread the spin and so go into the net or off the end. Immediately after the rally, shadow practice what you should have done. Then, the next time you face this same heavy push, guess what? You are far more likely to do it properly than if you had just stared at your racket. Sure, staring at your racket allows you to accurately describe your racket, but that's not very helpful to your table tennis future. Instead, fix the problem immediately.

And guess what? By doing so, you'll likely start doing it correctly, and it'll be the other guy staring at his racket wondering why he's not as good as you!