It Ain’t Piano
By Samson Dubina
If you ever took piano lessons, you probably know that there is a very systematic approach for beginners. Often there is a 30 or 60 min lesson each week. The student is given a couple songs to perfect during the week. When he/she goes for the lesson the following week, they will likely get those songs checked off and given new songs to play the following week. Once you have mastered a song, then you typically don’t go back 3 years later and keep working on the same one because you have moved on…
With this approach in mind, many table tennis kids and their parents are a bit confused for the first few years when introduced to table tennis training. You never completely check off a skill as “mastered.” You continue to do the same drills but continue to learn new details of the same drills. Let me explain…
Within the first few lessons, you will likely learn a basic forehand drive, basic backhand drive, and simple side-shuffle footwork linking back and forehand together. Your coach might block with his backhand… one ball to your backhand and one ball to your forehand. Sounds simple right? Well if you are someday in the top 10 in the world, you might still be doing the same exact drill.
So what should you be focusing on…
Maybe as a beginner, you might focus on holding the correct grip, bending your knees, moving quickly into position, having the correct racket angle, watching the incoming ball until it contacts your racket, re-positioning yourself for the next shot.
Maybe as a professional, you would focus on making a primary adjustment with your feet, making a small secondary adjustment, correctly backswinging based on the speed + spin + placement + height + depth of the incoming ball, aiming low and deep to your desired location, applying the right amount of force/friction at the point of contact using weight transfer + wrist action + and slight finger action and pressure, watching the opponent’s racket, re-positioning yourself for the follow-up ball.
Instead of graduating from one drill and forgetting it for life, you will often be adding subtle details to perfect your game. Yes, advanced players CAN do extremely advanced drills, BUT many advanced players choose simple drills and just focus on the small details.