Water Pong

March 26, 2014

You Are What You Train

Most players understand this, but don't really absorb how important this simple lesson is. Here are two examples.

On Monday I was teaching the backhand loop to a beginning/intermediate class. I don't have a particularly good backhand loop, so I had assistant coach John Hsu demonstrate it. It seemed a good time to also teach the blocking, so I went over that as well as I blocked John's loop. Then I pointed how at the higher levels many players topspin their blocks, essentially mini-loops, and explained how while I blocked the normal way (relatively flat), John almost always topspins his blocks.

To demo this, I looped forehands from my backhand corner to his backhand and he backhand topspin blocked away. The rally went on for a time, and then I ripped one down the line to his forehand. John reacted quickly and forehand blocked to my wide forehand. I raced over and looped down the line to his backhand. He blocked back wide to my backhand, but not too aggressively. Now I'd just been teaching the backhand loop, and you'd think that at 54 years old I'd play an easy backhand winner (as John and most "top" players would have), but no - I did what I'd trained myself to do way back in the late 1970s and 1980s, and ran all the way over from my wide forehand to my wide backhand and ripped a forehand winner down the line for a winner. Afterwards neither I nor John nor the players in the class could believe I'd gotten over there so fast - and I was sort of surprised as well. But it was a simple matter of balance on the previous shot so I could recover quickly, proper footwork technique that got me there quickly, and the automatic instincts that led me to attempt that shot. (I just wish I could still do shots like that regularly in matches - technique aside, my legs aren't as fast anymore, mostly due to knee problems.)

Another example was two kids I watched play yesterday, both ten years old. One was the #1 10-year-old from Japan, about 2000 level, visiting for a week along with his older brother (about 12 and 2250 level). He was playing a 10-year-old from my club who was about 1900. The Japanese kid had been taught to attack relentlessly, and that's exactly what he did, attacking not only off his serve, but attacking nearly every serve as well, often with over-the-table backhand banana flips. For much of the match the kid from our club was constantly on the defensive as he could only push the Japanese kid's serve back, and his own serves were often slightly high and were getting pulverized. He tried attacking the serve, but unlike the Japanese kid, he hadn't really trained that shot, and so was pretty erratic, and went back to pushing. Then he simplified his own serve to a simple backspin serve so that he could serve lower, and the Japanese kid started missing - and it became apparent that if he couldn't attack the serve as he'd been trained to do, his game went down quite a bit as he didn't push or block well. And so what started out as a rout got close. The Japanese kid won, but it was a battle. And now our kid is going to learn to serve lower with his normal serves, and to backhand banana flip.

So we have me, forcing the forehand because it was what I trained to do, and two kids both doing what they were trained to do and being comfortable otherwise. If I could go back 38 years and talk to myself as I developed, the main thing I'd say was "Develop a backhand loop!" But because I trained as a one-winged attacker, and didn't train the backhand loop, I became what I trained - a one-winged looper with a relatively weak backhand loop that I developed only in later years. (Back in those days the theory was often "One gun is as good as two.") I've got forehand attacking so ingrained in me that I can't imagine ever being a two-winged looper - and ongoing arm and shoulder problems preclude me from even attempting any intense training at this point to develop a stronger and more instinctive backhand loop. (But that doesn't mean you can't - see Backhand Loop tutorial below!)

A few key lessons from all this - train to develop a complete game. Develop both forehand and backhand. Develop effective serves that are low to the net. Develop receives that handle all situations. And develop the ability to both attack and to handle the opponent's attack.

Backhand Loop Against Backspin Tutorial

Here's the video (5:28). Coach Yang Guang (former Chinese Team Member) demonstrates and explains, breaking down the shot to its most basic points, and with slow motion at the end. This is one of the best demos and explanations of the shot I've ever seen - I spent some time copying his form. The common mistakes he points out are the very same ones I commonly see. (Ironically, I just taught the backhand loop to my beginning/intermediate class on Monday. I will point out this video to them next time.)

The Impact of College Table Tennis

Here's an essay by Kagin Lee, USATT Board Member and National College TTA Vice President-External Affairs. He has some good stuff (from a college-oriented table tennis background), but the most important to me is item #3, which is where any discussion of developing the sport in this country should begin. (The only other way to really develop the sport is via club-based junior programs, which happens successfully all over the world in conjunction with leagues.)

Six Seconds of Physical Training

Here's the video. I've done this drill numerous times in training camps. Those "ladders" are great for physical training.

Two-Year-Old Player

Wanna play?

Water Pong

Here's the picture. Hey, let's go play table tennis out in the bay!

Cat That Wants to Play

Here's the video (1:37) - and don't get me started on analyzing the players' technique….

***
Send us your own coaching news!

December 6, 2012

Video Analysis

On Tuesday I did a video analysis for a top USA junior player. I've been doing this for $150, but I just raised the price to $200 - it just takes too long to make it worth the time otherwise. This one took over six and a half hours, and ran 18 pages (single spaced in Times Roman 12 point) and 8653 words, my longest one to date. (I'm not doing any more until January - too busy.) The one I did yesterday covered seven games against four opponents, plus video of him practicing. (One of the games he played ended 25-23!!! Yes, in a game to 11.) Here's my video analysis page, which includes two samples of ones I've done.

I break my video analysis into four parts:

  1. Point-by-point analysis of several games or matches.
  2. Analysis of the games, both on how the player can improve and tactical suggestions against that player.
  3. Player analysis, where I analyze the player's game and what he needs to work on to improve.
  4. Drilling suggestions, where I describe drills for this player.

When I do the point-by-point analysis (the most time consuming part), I write about what happened in every point, usually watching each point 2-3 times. Then I go over those notes to analyze the match itself. Then I go over each match analysis to analyze the player's game, and work out what drills he needs to work on.

In the one I did yesterday, some of the things I found (and gave recommendations on how to improve) included:

  • The player's serves were too high, due to a high contact point. Needs to serve lower.
  • Too often serve and pushed rather than serve and looped.
  • Feet were often in a backhand position when looping forehands.
  • Had trouble covering wide backhand in fast rallies - wasn't stepping to the ball.
  • After strong first forehand loop, often played soft with second loop.
  • Because often rushed, player backhand looped from the side erratically, but in practice did it more in front (more conventional). So he was practicing one way, executing another.
  • Backhand receives were too soft and tentative.
  • Didn't step in well for short balls to the forehand.
  • Held racket too high when receiving, leading to a tendency to push against side-top serves.
  • Plus plenty of strengths to build on.

Peter Li Teaches the Basics

Reigning USA Men's Singles Champion teaches the basics of the grip, stance, and forehand in this short video (1:10).

Playing the Middle

Here's a coaching video (8:26) from Greg Letts on playing the middle.

Magnifique Moment de Tennis de Table

Here's another highlights video (11:21)!

Under 21 Europeans

Here's a good match between the #2 and #4 Europeans under age 21 (#15 and #19 in the world under 21), Simon Gauzy of France versus Kristian Karlsson of Sweden. The future of European table tennis? The time between points is removed so the whole match takes place in 5:26.

Ultimate Ball Control

Here's a video (53 seconds) of a kid who has incredible skill in getting the ball into a cup of . . . water. (So it's not beer pong, it's water pong.)

***
Send us your own coaching news!

Syndicate content