Footwork Focus by Samson Dubina for Paddle Palace
Everyone agrees that footwork is important in table tennis.
Most players struggle to give a concrete answer to why it is important. In this article, I’m going to hit the highlights then show a demo video then give you a homework assignment.
The main reason that movement is important is to maintain your balance and positioning. For example, maybe you can hit 100 forehands in a row in warmup… well, that’s great, but your partner is hitting the ball to your racket. The same applies to a footwork drill or match! If you can get the balance and position right, then you can hit with the correct timing and apply the desired amount of force vs friction on the ball and choose where to place it. Your consistency, adjustability, and your ability to hit to and from various positions will greatly improve when you learn how to properly move.
So what is the technique for moving? It starts with developing an understanding that you need-to-move… Yes, you need to move. It isn’t an option. Next, you need to develop the basic shuffle movement with a fairly wide stance using both feet to move, and having your outside foot leave the ground 0.01 sec before your inside foot. Your knees should stay bent and you should be slightly on your toes and slightly on the inside of your feet with your heels just off the ground. Where should you move? This is one of the missing keys! You need to develop the ability to watch your opponent’s racket angle and timing to understand where the ball is coming, then watch the incoming ball to make primary and secondary adjustments.
Check out the video of the #1 13-year-old in the US doing some fast footwork.
One of the main reasons that she is getting more and more consistent in her strokes is because her ability to watch and see where the ball is coming, her ability to make adjustments based on what she sees, her ability to stay low and balanced, her ability to get there fast enough to be stable, and her ability to expect long rallies… expecting her shots to hit and expecting her opponent to continue making good returns.
If YOU want to make progress in 2020, I highly recommend you sit down and write some notes about your own personal footwork. Write about your footwork in warmup, footwork in drills, footwork in match play, footwork in tournaments. Then, evaluate the following categories – fitness level with speed, fitness level with strength, ability to watch the opponent’s racket angle and timing, ability to get there fast enough to get the right balance and positioning and timing, habit in taking small steps for forehand, habit in taking small steps for backhand, habit in taking small steps for middle, ability to recover after a wide-angle shot, breathing, fatigue level during training, fatigue level during competition, etc… Footwork is the foundation for everything. This year, make a plan with your coach and implement better footwork for a successful 2020 season!