Coaching Tip: Backhand and Forehand Playing Distance

At the intermediate and advanced levels (below world-class level), the most common rallying style combines forehand looping and backhand hitting. These players often attack backspin by looping from both sides, but once in a fast topspin rally mostly hit on the backhand side. It’s simply easier for most to loop in a rally on the forehand side because the body isn’t in the way, so you have a huge hitting zone. On the backhand side, players are often cramped as they try to backhand loop a fast incoming ball, so hitting is easier and more effective. This often means trying to hit the backhand close to the table while looping the forehand from farther back. How can a player handle this?

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Coaching Tip: Complex or Simple Tactics?

Far too often players don’t think tactically, believing the game is too complex for them to play and think at the same time. And it’s true that you shouldn’t be doing any conscious thinking during a point. But between points a smart player does think tactically. The key is to keep it simple.

“Tactics isn’t about finding complex strategies to defeat an opponent. Tactics is about sifting through all the zillions of possible tactics and finding a few simple ones that work, and developing reflexive tactics to cover other situations.” (That’s the opening of my upcoming book, “Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers.”) What does this mean?

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Coaching Tip: Developing Your Forehand Smash

So many players have this strange idea that the best way to develop a smash is to, well, smash a lot. It seems to make sense, but isn’t always the best way. I’ve seen this in student after student – they work on smashing by smashing a lot, and the balls spray all over the place as they ingrain the habit of spraying the ball all over the place. Smashing is, first and foremost, a precision shot, and if you practice smashing by spraying the ball all over the place, you are being counterproductive.

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YOUR DEEP SERVES SHOULD BE A WEAPON

Jim Butler, past national champion believes that, “Making your deep serves in to a weapon can be accomplished by every player. A strong service game is a powerful tool for success in Table Tennis. There are a lot of different ways to become a good server. I developed my serves using a deep serve motion. I practiced 4 deep serves with different spins, and used that same motion for my short service game also. The goal I wanted to accomplish by doing this was to make everyone think I may be serving deep on every serve, while pulling up at the very end of the motion for all of my short serves. I copied the deep service motion of Peter Karlsson, and I practiced serves at least an hour or more a day for about 6 months.”

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Coaching Tip: The Falkenberg Drill

The Falkenberg Drill (also called the Two-One Drill and the Backhand-Forehand-Forehand Drill) is probably the most popular drill for players at the intermediate and advanced levels. It combines three of the most common moves in table tennis: covering the wide forehand, covering the wide backhand, and the step-around forehand from the backhand side (since you often want to end the point with your forehand against a weak ball to the backhand). Go to any major tournament and you’ll often see the top players warming up with this drill.

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Coaching Tip: Turn Opponents into Puppets with Long Serves

One of the big mistakes players at the intermediate/advanced levels make is to serve short over and over against an opponent who doesn’t attack long serves. I’ve watched national championships lost because a server insisted on serving short against a receiver who was very comfortable returning short serves but had great difficulty against deep serves. At the lower levels, and often well into the advanced levels, players often serve long because, even though serves are generally easier to attack (usually with a loop), they have major advantages as well. Done well, a deep serve turns the receiver into a puppet, with the server holding the strings.

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