5 Day Salem Training Camp Featuring Stellan Bengtsson

The Willamette Table Tennis Club located in Salem, Oregon is hosting a 5 day training camp featuring World Champion, Stellan Bengtsson. The camp begins Thursday, August 30 and goes through Monday, September 3. The camp is limited to the first 14 applicants so don’t delay! Check out the details and sign up.

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Coaching Tip: Serving Short with Spin

Many players face a devastating choice: Should you serve with lots of spin, with the serve going long and allowing the opponent to loop, or should you sacrifice spin, even serving with no spin, so you can keep the serve short? Actually, you can do both. In fact, the spinnier the serve, the easier it is to keep short.

Nearly every coach will tell you to first learn to serve with great spin. Holding back on the spin so you can serve short is a good way to develop a bad habit. When you can get great spin on the ball, then you learn to serve short – but this happens automatically. To get maximum spin, you need to whip the racket into the ball at full speed (using the arm to get the playing hand moving, and snapping the wrist into the ball just before contact) but barely graze the ball. Nearly all of the energy from your arm and wrist goes into spin. When that happens, the ball barely comes off the racket – and so it is easy to keep the ball short. Those who have difficulty serving short with spin are having trouble mostly because they are not grazing the ball finely enough – and so the solution isn’t to serve with less spin; it’s to serve with more spin by grazing the ball more.

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Coaching Tip: Make a Game of Your Weaknesses

One of the best ways to improve is to make a game that zeroes in on your weaknesses and forces you to improve them. There’s nothing like a little fun competition to bring out your best!

For example, suppose you have a weak backhand counter-drive. Here’s a game I’ve played with students for years, spotting points to make it competitive. I put a box, towel, or other object around the middle of the table so that my opponent has to aim for my backhand to keep the ball in play. Then we play backhand-to-backhand games, where either of us starts the rally by serving straight topspin, then we go at it, backhand-to-backhand. If the ball hits the box or towel, or goes to the other side of it, then they lose the point. If a player plays anything other than a backhand drive, they lose the point. The rallies become fast and furious – and the backhands improve!!!

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Coaching Tip: Forehand Deception with Shoulder Rotation

Whether you are hitting or looping, you should normally line up your shoulders when you backswing on the forehand so that the shoulders roughly aim in the direction you are hitting towards. This maximizes your hitting zone and allows you to stroke naturally through the ball. If you don’t rotate the shoulders back enough, you’ll have an abbreviated stroke, costing you control and power. (The reverse is less often a problem, but if you do rotate the shoulders back too much, then the stroke becomes too long and cumbersome to control, as well as taking too long in a fast rally.)

So a top priority in developing the forehand is proper shoulder rotation. But once the shot is developed and the shoulder rotation natural, you can use this very shoulder rotation to deceive an opponent.

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Coaching Tip: Returning the Tomahawk Serve

This is the forehand serve where you serve with the racket tip up, and contact the ball on the right side so it curves to the left, and the spin makes the ball come to your right off the opponent’s paddle. It’s awkward for many to take a ball spinning away from them on the forehand side and aim to their right, especially if the ball is short – try it and you’ll see. Until you reach the advanced levels, nearly everyone returns this serve crosscourt toward the opponent’s forehand side, and often they miss by going off the side to their left, or they allow the opponent to camp out on the forehand side.

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