Changing bad technique

March 4, 2014

Tip of the Week

Changing Bad Technique.

Change of Direction Receive

At the MDTTC tournament this weekend player I was coaching was having trouble against a much higher-rated player who had nice last-second change of directions on his receives. Over and over he'd start to push the ball one way - usually to the backhand - and at the last second, would change and go the other way. (Here's a Tip on this, "Pushing Change of Direction.") Although my player kept the first game close when the other player kept going for (and missing) some difficult counterloops, this last-second change of directions completely stopped my player's serve and attack. He'd see where the ball was going and start to move to attack, and then, suddenly, the ball would be somewhere else, and he'd be lunging to make a return.

Between games I told him to focus on three things. First, go completely two-winged to follow up his serve - if the receive was to his backhand, backhand loop, while if the ball was to the forehand, forehand loop. Players who can't do this when necessary have a major weakness in their games.

Second, since he wasn't trying to follow with the forehand, I told him to take his time and just wait and see where the ball was going. He was so used to reacting quickly that his own instincts were going against him as he reacted too quickly. This showed that most players are too obvious in their returns, telegraphing their receive way too early. It also showed how effective it is when a player learns the seemingly basic idea of not telegraphing the receive, i.e. changing directions at the last second.

Third, I told him to focus on varied backspin and no-spin serves short to the middle. (This, combined with sudden deep serves to his wide backhand, proved effective.) This helps in two ways. By going to the middle it cuts off the extreme angles. If my player served short to the forehand or backhand, the opponent could aim one way, and at the last second instead go for the extreme angle, which would be tricky to cover. And by varying the serve, the server loses some control of those last-second changes of direction. (Varying the serve, of course, is something you should do against everyone, but regular reminders help. But here the focus was on variation mostly between two simple serves, along with the occasional long one.)  

The tactics worked as my player won game two. Alas, remember those difficult counterloops the opponent missed in the first game? He stopped missing them, and managed to barely pull out two close games to win the match and avoid a major upset.

MDTTC Open Results and Raghu's Shot

We had a tournament this past weekend at the Maryland Table Tennis Center. You can see the complete results - including every preliminary match - at Omnipong!

One thing you can't see is the shot of the year, by Raghu Nadmichettu, who's about 2400. He was playing against Nam Nguyen in the Open, a 2100+ player. (Both are righties.) Nam ripped a ball to Raghu's wide backhand, which Raghu fished back. Then Nam ripped another to Raghu's extreme wide forehand. Raghu raced over and made a lunging return from his wide, wide forehand, which left him stumbling into the adjacent court. Nam creamed the ball with a powerful sidespin kill-loop that broke wide into Raghu's forehand again. From the adjacent court, Raghu counter-ripped a backhand sidespin counter-kill-loop from his wide forehand (!). The ball came from outside the table, curving to the right as it went toward the table, and hitting right on Nam's backhand corner for a clean winner. Okay, maybe you had to be there, but page down below to the segment on Timo Boll's backhand passing shots and watch those examples. Now imagine them right-handed, at twice the speed, and done with a backhand from the wide forehand side from the adjacent court, with the ball smacking into the far right-corner.

1500 Published Articles

The new Winter 2014 USATT Magazine includes my article "Blocking Tips." It's a milestone - my 1500th published article. Here's a complete listing. This includes 1334 articles on table tennis. I've been in 145 different publications. (I don't include blog entries in this count, though I do include Tips of the Week.)

Chance Friend is a Pro Player

In my blog on Feb. 28, I wrote, "Right now there's really only one USA player who is basically a full-time professional player, Timothy Wang. I've been told that Chance Friend of Texas also makes a living as a full-time professional player, playing in the German Leagues. (I've amended the blog.) So perhaps it can be said that Timothy Wang is the only professional player in the U.S., since Chance is making a living at it overseas.

Kagin Lee's Blog

Here's his blog from last week where he talks about different types of ping-pong balls (celluloid vs. the new plastic ones, different sizes, and seamed vs. non-seamed). He covers the topics well, including how the various spinning balls move through the air and jump off the paddle.

One picky little thing not covered - how the ball would bounce off the table differently. One of the key hidden reasons looping is so effective is how it jumps when it hits the table, unlike a regular drive which goes at a more constant speed, making it easier to time against. It's also why off-the-bounce looping is so deadly, because you are already rushed to react to the shot and then it suddenly jumps even more quickly.

Mike Babuin's Blog

On Feb. 21, I blogged about USATT Board Chair Mike Babuin's blog. Here's a discussion on about.com about it, where one player posts a lengthy criticism, and Mike responds, also in lengthy fashion.

Timo Boll's Backhand Passing Shot

Here's video (64 sec) of the German star snapping off backhand counterloop winners.

Great Drop Shots

Here's a video (35 sec) that features three great drop shots against topspin in one rally. Why don't players do this more often?

193-Shot Rally

Here's video (2:44) of a 193-shot rally (mostly pushing) between two top choppers. One of them finally and bravely finally ends the point! You don't see too many points like this anymore.

Boca Raton Table Tennis

Here's an article featuring table tennis in general and in Boca Raton, Florida.

Tampa Bay Rays

Now another team is playing table tennis! Includes a picture of Wil Myers playing David DeJesus.

Goran Dragic Playing Table Tennis

Here are photos of the Phoenix Suns basketball star hitting with Coach Matt Winkler.

Mythbusters and the Supersonic Canon

On the March 1 episode of Mythbusters asked themselves if supersonic ping pong can go lethally wrong. And so they created a supersonic ping-pong ball canon. I've linked to other such ping-pong ball canons, but Mythbusters took it to another level, with the ball reaching speeds in excess of 1100 mph! The ball went cleanly through a ping-pong paddle, leaving a ball-sized hold. However, after testing it against a giant pork shoulder, they concluded it did not do lethal damage.

Judah Friedlander Interview

Here it is, where he discusses ping-pong. "The thing with ping pong is, it’s a sport pretty much everyone has played. And everyone thinks they’re great at it. And I just like to show people the truth."

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April 28, 2011

Changing bad technique

How does one go about changing bad technique? Two recommendations.

First, exaggerate the proper technique. If you don't rotate your shoulders enough on a shot, practice over-rotating until it becomes comfortable to do it the proper way.

Second, drop out of tournaments and match play for a while and focus on fixing the technique. Perhaps hit with a coach a lot for an extended periods as you fix the technique. Playing matches will just reinforce the bad technique. If your goal is to really overcome poor technique and replace it with good technique, then you need to have an extended period where you focus on this. That means only playing with the coach, or doing drills where you can isolate the new technique so you can focus on doing it correctly.

You should be able to play without the coach as long as you keep your outside drills simple and focused in this way. You might also want to use videotape to verify you are doing it correctly when the coach is not around. Bad habits are not easy to change, but if you really want to change them, you need a very focused period of time to do so.

In general it's best to play lots of matches and get as much tournament competition as possible when trying to improve (along with lots of regular practice, i.e. drills), but when you are making major changes to your game, it's often best to take time off from competition. Perhaps make a goal to have your game ready for tournament competition for a specific tournament (or series of tournaments) six months or so away, and train specifically for that. I don't think you need to take six months off from playing practice matches, but perhaps two months off would greatly help you in making these technique changes.

Reflex Sports Videos

They have a sale on videos. You can get much of this on youtube, but the videos they put together are rather comprehensive, so if you can afford it, why not build up your own video library? (I once had an extensive VHS collection of Worlds, Olympics, and other major tournaments, but the entire collection was stolen in the late 1990s.)

Table tennis in "On the Fast Track"

Table tennis is featured in this morning's "On the Fast Track" cartoon.

Cartoon cats playing table tennis

Yes . . . cartoon cats playing table tennis. Because your day cannot begin until you've seen cartoon cats playing table tennis.

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