Can’t improve at table tennis?


There will come a time when you will probably get stuck in a slump, stop improving or cannot seem to win matches. As with any down hill period in life, it could last a few days, a few weeks, sometimes even a few years.

Even professional players get this. It could be due to anything from confidence, lost in form etc. Here are some tips to help you get away and start getting better and feeling better again.

Rest Your Mind

After a tough table tennis competition or a bad practice session, sometimes it is good to rest your mind.  Take off one or two days of training and do another activity, any activity, especially one that you enjoy doing. Going to the arcade, getting something delicious to eat, go fishing. Anything that will help you stay positive and relax.

Re-evaluate Your Goals

After a couple days of rest, try to re-evaluate your table tennis goals.  Set some short term as well as a few long term goals to work towards. Short term goals are important to keep you positive as you reach those goals much quicker which would add to your positivity.

Set a realistic long term goal then make small challenges to yourself of what you need to accomplish to reach the end goal.  Continue to remind yourself that the road might be bumpy, but with the right coaching, the right training, and persistence,  you can reach your goal in table tennis.

Overthinking

About 90% of the time, table tennis players go into slumps because of timing and footwork issues. You might be thinking too much and forgetting to focus on your movement as well as your timing or rhythm before hitting the ball.

Sometimes overthinking will halt your progress or make you worse because when you think too much you forget some small points that might be the secret to getting back your form.

Consistency

Consistency is the main determining element to winning and losing table tennis matches.  It doesn’t matter if you are super fit or super strong, if you cannot consistently return serves, loop the ball on the table, block loops and other skills, then you will not win.  Consistency is the key.

If you are in a slump, consider how you can make your shots more consistent.  You might need to:

  • Read the spin better when returning serves
  • Impart better spin on the ball when looping
  • Target placement on your push rather than power
  • Focus on relaxing your grip when blocking
  • Adjust with your feet better when smashing
  • And Take your time between points

If your consistency improves, winning will easily follow.

Advice

Be willing to admit to a friend, family member, coach or teammate that you are in a slump.  Ask him to watch one of your club matches and give some advice based on what he sees.  Sometimes it helps just having someone there to watch and encourage you during your table tennis matches.

Coaching

Table tennis coaching is an absolute necessity in order to improve your game. A good coach will be able to spot your mistakes and teach you new skills. It is important to find a good coach who matches your style of play or attitude and work towards a similar goal together.

Your Arsenal

While you are resting, re-evaluating everything, learning to be more consistent and asking advice from others, you might want to also consider adding a new tool to your toolbox.  The main part of winning is being consistent.  The other part of winning is finding ways to make your opponent less consistent.  By adding a new weapon to your arsenal, you could possibly win an extra 2-3 points each table tennis game.  Consider learning a new serve, a blocking variation, a sidespin push or a deceptive loop.

If you are patient yet persistent, learning a new skill can be one of the best ways to get you out of that slump and back in the game.

Tactics to beat a stronger player

Many times, you will have to play someone who is much stronger than you and playing at a higher level. It is an unavoidable situation and you have to be prepared to face players like that.

What is the best approach when playing a much stronger player? Is there any way of winning you might ask. Here are some things you can try.

Embrace the situation

You are unlikely to win against a much stronger player, the odds are against you. You need to acknowledge this first. The player could be better than you at various things like technique, shot selection, placement, consistency, tactics, mental strength and experience.

The good thing is that you can relax and go all out without holding back because you have no expectation to win which will decrease your pressure in this situation. In fact, your opponent is the one with more pressure as he is playing a weaker player and losing is not an option.

Treat the match as a good opportunity to play against someone of a higher standard that you may not be able to during your practices. Don’t be overawed or give too much respect or give up before the match has even started.

There really is no pressure. If you lose badly, no one is surprised. The result has gone to form. If the score is close, but you lose, you’ll probably feel really happy and others will congratulate you on a good performance. If the unexpected happens and you actually win, you’ll be jumping for joy for the rest of the week.

Get your biggest strength into the game

To have any chance of causing an upset, you need to get your biggest strength into the game. There’s no point playing it safe and hoping your opponent is going to mess up. This won’t work. You have to take a few risks and play outside your comfort zone.

Think about your own game. What is your biggest strength? How can you get it into play? What risks are you prepared to take to get your strength into play?

Identify a weakness

It may seem that your much stronger opponent doesn’t have a weakness. It’s certainly true that he may not have a glaring weakness, but he is likely to have areas of his game which aren’t as strong as others.

Your job is to find out what the weaker links are. Is the forehand weaker than the backhand? Is there a type of serve he returns weaker than others? Does he prefer slow or fast balls? Does he play better against backspin or topspin? Does he move well in all areas of the table?

Try to put pressure on your opponent

If you can put him under pressure, get him feeling a bit anxious, get him doubting himself, get him worried he may lose to a much weaker player, it may have a significant impact on his game.

He may start playing more cautiously or the opposite – taking too many risks. He may start getting frustrated and reckless, or start over-thinking his technique.

Coping with defeats in table tennis

We have all experienced losing, in fact we have all lost many many times. The moment of utter defeat, the feeling of losing is tough to swallow sometimes. Emotions you feel very on the level of the opponent you played before your lost.

Step 1 – Analyse your performance

Ask yourself why did you lose. Did you keep hitting balls into the net, or balls out the table? Did you lose because you could not hold your serve or was your serve very attackable.

If you find it hard to analyse your own game, ask someone who was watching. Your friend, your coach, your dad. Sometimes asking someone else can open your eyes to something that you were never aware of.

Identifying how you lost points will help you work out which areas you need to improve.

Step 2 – Watch how other players play the same opponent

You can learn a lot by watching how other players play the same opponent. If they beat the opponent you lost to, what did they do differently? How did they win their points? What tactics did they use? Did they make the same errors as you? If not, why not?

Step 3 – Make notes

After you have analysed your performance and observed other players playing the same opponent, it’s time to make notes. This is a really crucial step. If you don’t make notes, you’ll forget what you did wrong and you’ll probably make the same mistakes when you play the same player again.

Make notes about the following:

  • what happened during the match
  • how you lost points
  • how you won points
  • how other players achieved success against the same player
  • areas you need to work on
  • tactics to use when you play the same player again

These notes will serve two purposes. Firstly, they will help clarify what you need to work on in training . And secondly, they will help you develop a gameplan to perform better when you play the same opponent again.

Step 4 – Work on your weaknesses in training

In the first three steps you will have identified a weakness (or weaknesses) in your game. Don’t just accept that you’re not very good at a particular skill. Be pro-active and do something about it.

If you have a coach, ask them to look at your technique and suggest any adjustments. Don’t have a coach? Ask an advanced player in your club or one of your team-mates.

When you have made any necessary adjustments, work on some training drills where you use the relevant stroke . Ideally, the drills should replicate a match situation. You’d be surprised how quickly you can turn a weakness into a strength with some targeted practice.



Recommended books

Table tennis tactics for thinkers

Learn table tennis tactics from USATT Certified National Coach and Hall of Famer Larry Hodges. Includes tactics against different styles, grips, and surfaces as well as tactical and strategic thinking. The book opens with this: “Tactics isn’t about finding complex strategies to defeat an opponent. Tactics is about sifting through all the zillions of possible tactics and finding a few simple ones that work.” The book then explores the tactical and strategic development needed to have the specific tactical tools needed in any given match – your “tactical toolbox.”




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