One of the best ways to learn tactics is to coach others during matches. It’s a different vantage point that forces you to really open your mind to tactics going on in a match where you aren’t playing, both tactics that are being used and ones that are not. It’s especially helpful when coaching players near your own level, but you can learn a surprising amount even coaching much lower-level players. And if you happen to be coaching a stronger player, well, there’s a lot you can learn there if you are striving to reach that level. Here are two ways you can learn by coaching others:
One of the quickest ways to tell the difference between a world-class player and typical club player is to compare how far their feet are apart. Top players almost always have wider stances than average players. Just go to youtube and watch videos of the best players and the difference becomes obvious. The wider stance can be tricky to learn, and if you have knee problems, weak legs, or are overweight, it may not work for you. But for most players, the wider stance is a big advantage.
This could be a very short Tip, since the mentality in a match and in practice should be the same. So here’s the short version: think of a time where you played GREAT. It could be in a tournament or a practice match, or even a practice session. The key is that you played great, and want to play like that all the time. Now think about your mentality when you were playing great, i.e. were “in the zone.” You were probably playing almost mindlessly, other than tactical thinking. In fact, you probably were more like a spectator just watching yourself react mindlessly and almost flawlessly. THAT is the mentality you want both when you practice and when you play a match.
At the elite levels, deep sidespin and topspin serves mostly get looped, and are mostly used as occasional variations. But at lower levels they are often the bane of players who hit or loop them off the end over and over. Why do they do this? There are three main reasons.
One of the trickier things in table tennis starting at the intermediate level is how to return short backspin serves without giving the server an easy ball to loop. The easiest return is a long push, but then the server gets to loop. You can also flip the short serve, but that can be tricky, and many servers can loop that return as well unless you flip very aggressively – and if you do that, you lose consistency. So what to do?
Playing in tournaments is quite different from playing practice matches. Here are three reasons for this. First, the playing conditions are generally different than you are used to – different tables, balls, floors, backgrounds, and lighting. Second, you are usually playing different players, while in practice you often play the same players over and over. And third, there’s far more pressure in a tournament match than in a practice match. (There are other, lesser reasons – traveling, time zone changes, eating different foods, etc.)
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