Robopong

April 10, 2013

How Can You Practice By Yourself?

"Seeknshare" asked me this question on the forum, "How can one practice alone (all by himself). I do not have a partner...but would like to better my skills. I remember seeing Tom Hank's 'Forrest Gump' movie where he practices on his own..not sure if it was real or meant as parody. Any help/suggestions?"

There are a number of ways you can practice by yourself. Here are a few:

  1. Shadow practice. Top players do this regularly. It means practicing your strokes and footwork without the ball. Some do it at a table, but you don't need a table for this - just imagine one in front of you. At the more basic level, you shadow practice the basic strokes, perhaps 50 strokes at a time - forehand and backhand drives, loops, and any other shot you regularly use. Then practice the movements you use in a game - side to side where you alternate backhands and forehands, side to side where you use just your forehand, etc. You can do the 2-1 drill (Falkenberg drill) where you do a forehand from the forehand side, a backhand from the backhand side, and then a forehand from the backhand side, and then repeat. (That's the three most common moves in table tennis - cover the wide forehand, cover the wide backhand, step around forehand.) You can also do more advanced versions, such as stepping in for a short ball to the forehand, then stepping back for a forehand or backhand loop. Or just play out imaginary rallies where you never miss! Here's an article I wrote, "Shadow Practice For Strokes and Footwork."
  2. Serve practice. Just get a box of balls and serve. Take your time on this - don't serve rapid-fire. As I've said many times, this (along with receive) is the most under-practiced aspect of the game. Here's an article I wrote, "Practicing Serves the Productive Way."
  3. Robot play. The more expensive modern ones have programmed drills that move you around, such as side-to-side footwork, and many others. Or get one of the less expensive ones and be creative. For example, instead of just hitting backhands or forehands, put the balls to your backhand and alternate backhands and forehands (and so work on your footwork). And just the net with a robot is valuable for practicing serves, so you don't have to pick them all up!
  4. You can practice some shots against a wall. This isn't very common anymore, but 10-time U.S. Champion Dick Miles says he spent a lot of time developing his chopping this way. He'd draw a line on the wall at net height, then practicing chopping against it, letting the ball bounce on the floor each time and then chopping it, trying to keep it low to the net line. You can do versions of this with topspin. I demonstrate this sometimes by putting a table a few feet from a wall, sideways to it, and stand to the side of the table and just rally against the wall, hitting each shot so it hits the wall, bounces on the table, and then I hit it again. Or, with some tables, you can just lift up one side and play off that, as Forrest Gump did.
  5. Ball bouncing. This is more for kids developing hand-eye coordination and racket control, but it's good practice for anyone to develop that. First just bounce up and down on the forehand side. Then on the backhand side. Then alternate. Then go to what I call the Graduate level, and alternate bouncing on the forehand side, and the edge of the racket (!). Then you can go to the Ph.D level, and bounce over and over on the edge of the racket. (My record is 17 in a row.) 

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They are running a contest at Expert Table Tennis. All you have to do by this Sunday is answer the question: Why do you deserve to win a free copy of Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers? I will personally sign and mail out a copy of the book to the winner. 

To elaborate, it says, "Feel free to tell me a story of your latest and greatest table tennis tactical nightmare, or describe your complete lack of ability to engage your brain at the table. You can be funny, you can be serious. It’s up to you. I’ll be choosing the person that I believe most deserves (desperately needs) their own copy of the book."

MDTTC April Open

Here's a write-up of the MDTTC Open held this past weekend. Congrats to Open Champion Chen Bo Wen, U2400 Champion Raghu Nadmichettu, U2250 Champion Roy Ke, U2050 Champion Josiah Chow, U1900 Champion Robert Gabay, U1650 Champion Deapesh Misra, U1400 Champion Tony Wang, U1150 Champion Darwin Ma, and Under 12 Champion Frank Xie! (And while we're covering MDTTC, here's the April Newsletter that went out a week ago.)

College Championships Coming to Rockford

Here's an article and video (3:16) on the National College Table Tennis Championships to be held in Rockford, Illinois, April 12-14. Also featured is a Celebrity Doubles Tournament to be held on Thursday, April 11.

Samson Dubina and Robopong

Here's a video (3:12) of a news feature on WKBW ("Exercise While Playing With Toys") where Samson demonstrates the Robopong.

Judah Friedlander Wins Celebrity Madness

Judah wins! He defeated former basketball star Christian Laettner in the final, based on online voting at Table Tennis Nation. Take a look at the draw and results of other celebrity match-ups, and see if you agree with the voting.

Includes a link to a hilarious new video (3:41) where comedian Judah "takes us on a grand tour of table tennis, with special guest Tahl Leibovitz."

Tiger Table Tennis

Here's a picture of a tiger playing table tennis, set against a green paddle in a green forest, by Mike Mezyan.

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