Coaching Tip: Telegraphing Serves

One of the more subtle ways of turning an effective serve into an ineffective one is to telegraph it. Players often telegraph their serves for years and never realize it. They get away with it because most players don’t pick up on it, and so don’t realize the server is essentially signaling the serve in advance. However, as you reach higher levels, opponents pick up on these subtle signs more often, often subconsciously, and the server doesn’t realize it – he just thinks he’s playing stronger opponents who return serves better. The most common example are servers that telegraph whether they are serving long or short.

As an example, I recently played a top player, rated about 2350. He would serve short most of the time, but about every fourth serve he’d switch to a deep serve to my backhand. I could see it coming every time (and would step around and loop it with my forehand), but it took two games before I figured out what was giving it away – whenever he served deep, he’d set up with his racket slightly farther back and more closed than when he was going to serve short. I beat him three straight, and then told him what had happened.

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Coaching Tip: The Game is All Mental

Okay, let’s be up front about this – the game is not all mental. Or is it? At least indirectly, everything comes from the mental side. Even physical training cannot be effective unless you push yourself – and that’s mental. Even more specifically, as a member of the USA Mini-Cadet Team recently reminded me, once you are out at the table playing a match, the game is all mental.

To quote Derek Nie (age 11, rated 2146), “You can’t improve your skills at a tournament. So at tournaments, the game is all mental.” I was his coach at the Eastern Opens a few weeks ago when he said this. He is a wise fifth grader.

In the middle of a big match, you are not going to get stronger, faster, or improve your stamina. You are not going to suddenly learn how to loop if you couldn’t do so before. You won’t suddenly learn techniques you didn’t have before. What you have is what you brought into the match, and how you use them. The former you no longer have control over; the latter you have complete control, if you know how to do so. And it’s all mental.

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ICC Head Coach Massimo Constantini Details the Importance of Stance and Posture to the “Ready Position”

Massimo Constantini is ICC’s Head Coach. There he continues working with the three current US Olympians as-well-as other high performance players and juniors. Here, in part 1 of an 8 part audio series on the “Ready Position” in table tennis, he discusses the importannce of stance and posture.

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Nittaku’s Fastarc G-1 Table Tennis Rubber Is Getting Great Reviews!

One of my best friends from Japan suggested that I try the new Nittaku rubber – Fastarc G-1. At first, I was a bit skeptical. I don’t like making equipment changes. After trying Fastarc, I know this is one of the best equipment changes that I have ever made. The powerful sponge teamed with the grippy top sheet is the perfect combination.

Samson Dubina

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Coaching Tip: Playing in Different Time Zones

It can be very tough playing well in tournaments after traveling, especially if you cross several time zones. For example, in the U.S., players on the east and west coast sometimes fly 3000 miles to play in the U.S. Open, USA Nationals, or North American Teams Championships. Often they play poorly, especially on the first day, and are frustrated. Sometimes they come back on day two and play well and conveniently “forget” how poorly they played the first day, and so never really figure out how to avoid it in the future.

Travel messes up your sleeping habits, with jet lag leading to fatigue. (So does dry air and varying air pressure, which can also cause nausea, as well as the general hassle of travel.) West coast players playing in east coast tournaments struggle to play effectively at 9AM, which is 6AM their time – meaning they probably had to get up at 4AM. East coast players have little trouble playing at 9AM in west coast tournaments, which is noon to them – but when they start playing in 7PM matches that go on until 9 or 10 PM, well, that’s past midnight for them. Junior players are especially vulnerable to this.

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