Looks aren’t everything. I would never judge a man by the Butterfly on his shirt. It’s not wise to judge a player by their sex, size, nationality, or age either. You should never judge a player by their paddle. I’ve seen some really good players with pretty sad rackets. Even ratings can be misleading. You just never know. The best way to really appreciate how talented any given player is, is to play them.
But, while players come in all shapes and sizes, there are some things that distinguish all the really great players. Good players just move differently. Take a stroll around any tournament venue and observe the top players. Then, find the novice group, and see if you can see the difference. It’s usually dramatically different. I spend a lot of time with novices, trying to get them to move like professionals. It’s not that I just want them to look more professional; they need to move more efficiently. The good looks will just be a bonus.
One of the reasons that pros look good, and move effectively, is because they have spent years practicing the correct movements. They don’t have to think about it. If you are new to table tennis, or need to break some bad habits, you’ll need to do some retraining. Repetition of the correct movements can get you going in the right direction. While it may take years to move as gracefully as the top players, there are some changes that you can make today. For any of these changes to work, you’ll need to make a conscious effort to work on them every time you play.
A good place to start is with a wider stance and bent knees. Most players are not in the habit of being as low as they need to be. A short video of one of your matches might reveal how big a problem this is.
Good players tend to warm up in a deliberate manner. While this can look a little robotic, the idea is to make absolutely every shot count. If your shots aren’t consistent quality shots when you warm up, they aren’t likely to be better in competition. Even if you don’t get regular coaching, it might be a good idea to schedule a lesson so a coach can evaluate your movements. Coaches look at all types of players on a regular basis, and can frequently spot flaws that you might be completely unaware of.
To really improve footwork, or to fix major problems with strokes, it will take more than a lesson or two. You’ll either need a coach, or an excellent training partner that’s committed to practicing proper movement. You could get a table tennis robot, but make sure your stroke is correct before the robot reinforces lingering bad habits. Keep in mind that sometimes moving the right way may seem awkward after years of doing it wrong.
Efficient movement ensures that you are always in the best possible position to make your shots. A good table tennis player should always look balanced and graceful. Powerful shots are smooth and explosive. Not every player that looks good is great, but every great player….. actually looks pretty good.