Samson Dubina

Maximizing Your Table Tennis Game Under Poor Circumstances 

True or False Question:
One must play against better players in order to improve? 

Answer:  FALSE
It is possible to improve your table tennis game even if you don’t have ideal training partners, ideal coaching, and an ideal facility.  In this article, I’m going to suggest TEN ways that you can maximize your game under poor training circumstances. 

     Use the table tennis training partners that you have to the best of their ability.  Even if the club members in your area are 500-1000 points lower than you, you can still use them to improve.  One player at our club is 600 points under me but has an excellent lob.  Each time that I go to the club, I ask him to lob to me for twenty minutes prior to our match.  This really helps improve my loop, smash, and overall racket speed.  Another player who is 700 points under me has a very good anti-block.  I loop to his backhand while he mixes up inverted blocks with anti-blocks.  This is beneficial for adjusting to off-speed balls.  Instead of complaining about the level of training partners that you currently have, I suggest that you use what skills they have to maximize your game.

     Serving practice is a skill that doesn’t require an opponent.  If you have a table at your home, I suggest doing thirty minutes of serving per day.  In tournaments, you will see a big difference by merely winning two or three more points each game.  At the club, be willing to use your serves that you have practiced.  Remember, club players are not your enemies; they are your training partners to help you improve. 

     At least once a month, you should record your practice/match play.  Take the time to watch each stroke in detail.  Compare your table tennis strokes to the pros and see the difference.  Take time to make necessary changes.  If a coach is available in your area, review the clip with him and ask for his advice.  Visualizing your strengths and weaknesses is the fastest way to improve.

     Physical conditioning and nutrition is an area that nearly everyone can improve.  If your table tennis club only meets three times/week, make a habit of working out an additional three times per week focusing on lower body strength, core muscles, flexibility, and cardio.  Don’t starve yourself, but instead make smart meal plans; this applies to training days, resting days, and tournament days.

     Purchase a table tennis robot.  Although a robot cannot replace a human, it does add some benefits in that it is always ready to practice, never misses, can simulate human speed, and gives you a great one-hour workout.  Try to select drills that are similar to a game, usually drills that start with a serve and have variation in the rally.  Remember, you are practicing to improve your game, not just your strokes.  So imagine that there is an opponent across the table and you are actually trying to beat him with shot selection, ball placement, spin variation, and depth variation.

     Watching better players is one of the keys to forming the right strokes in your mind and visualizing your game at the next level.  If you don’t have any top players in your area, watch table tennis pros for free on youtube.  When watching these players, be specific on what you are looking for.  Spend the first ten minutes giving attention to their footwork.  Watch their positioning while returning serve, stepping-in for the short ball, moving side-to-side, etc…  Next concentrate on their serve return techniques.  Each ten minutes, focus your attention on something different.  Focus on learning then envision yourself being able to imitate their strokes.

     Another important way to improve your game is by getting good advice from better players.  Ask!  If you don’t ask, they probably won’t tell you.  After a match against a much better player, be willing to ask if he has any tips for you.  If you don’t understand his advice, politely ask him to repeat it.  Then make sure that you apply your new knowledge.  As stated before, application is the key.

     Play more tournaments because it will improve your ability to play against many different opponents, it help you get used to handling pressure, it will give you a chance to discuss your game with others, it will improve your stamina, and it will also give you the opportunity to see better players.  I personally play more than twenty tournaments per year.  Playing tournaments is the best way to transition your practice to results.  The more competitions you play, the less pressure you will begin to feel.  If you don’t have any tournaments in your area, consider hosting one per month with the help of your club.

     Also, if you don’t have any tournaments in your area, consider taking a few days and traveling to a distant tournament.  Arrive a couple days early to practice with the locals, get some lessons, and get used to the tournament facility.  It is great to combine both tournaments and practice during the same week.

     The number one way to maximize your game is to put heart into it.  During every training session and every tournament, give 110% effort.  Going through a tough training-day with your best will help you to improve twice as fast.  Stay self-motivated by keeping your goals posted on the wall and reminding yourself that your work today will show your results tomorrow.  Fixing your eyes on the finish line will help you run the race.  Even if you live in a state where table tennis is not booming, you can still maximize your game using the methods listed above.  I live in Ohio, which is about five hour drive from any players near my level.  I have personally applied all of the above techniques and this is how I continue to progress my game.