As far as I know, there are no table tennis think tanks. There are no brain trusts that we can put our faith in to solve our table tennis issues. I get to share my thoughts on a daily basis through coaching. Once a week I gather up the best insights and blog about them.
Lately, there seem to have been a lot of seemingly unrelated items that I jotted down in an effort to put together an interesting post. Some of these items were tossed out, and some might be worth writing about in the future. Two of them did seem to go together, and I’m sure that pondering their meaning will result in future trophies and prize money. The two words are relax and subtlety.
First, on the subject of playing relaxed – FOR GOD’S SAKE RELAX! I find the best method for getting players to relax is to yell at them. Simply reading the all caps sentence repeatedly is bound to boost your rating fifty points. Okay, we all know we are supposed to play better when we are relaxed, but some players tend not to relax in everyday life, much less in competition. There’s no need to change your personality, or resort to drug use. Relaxing in table tennis starts with loosening up your grip on your racket. Next, you do need to relax your wrist, arms, and shoulders. The muscles that will add power to your loops are mostly in your lower body. Attempting to make strong shots without relaxing results in worsening results with each stroke.
If you can start to relax, you may find that your shots take on a unique quality of subtlety.
Subtle – a change or distinction so delicate as to be difficult to analyze or describe.
Have you ever played an opponent who seemed to be able to effortlessly add energy to the ball. A table tennis ball weighs less than three grams. It shouldn’t be surprising that shots that are finely brushed are often far more effective than those that are hammered. The subtle shot is precise. Not only is it precise in it’s placement, but precise in the level of speed and spin. The subtly spun ball is not easy to counter or block. The differing amounts of spin and speed require far more concentration to return than a ball that is simply hit hard.
It is impossible to execute subtle shots without a relaxed body. Once you start to see how effective subtlety can be, relaxing might start to seem more natural. These thoughts on relaxation have come from watching players struggle to loop shots, only to succeed when they finally learn to smoothly complete the stroke. Subtlety is a often overlooked skill. All of the best players play with finesse and subtlety. It’s definitely something to think about.