Precision Table Tennis…Exactly
Precision – the quality, condition, or fact of being exact and accurate
What is it that makes for a great shot? One of my students routinely proclaims that some of his best shots are accidents. I could probably make the case that all of the really amazing shots are at least partially accidental. Most of my impressive shots are predicated on my opponent making a more impressive shot. If I happen to throw my racket in the general direction of the ball and manage to block a loop kill, I’ll take credit for it. There had to be some skill involved. But, if you are counting on winning matches with lucky shots, and accidentally placing shots in the one spot your opponent couldn’t reach, you won’t be winning too often.
Perhaps one of the biggest challenges for coaches is to get players to be more precise. To make impressive shots consistently will take more than luck. Some players have precise strokes, but are rarely precisely in the right position to make them. Others have a knack for being in position, but fail to fully commit to their stroke. There are a lot of things that can go wrong if you are slightly off your game. The problem with being less than precise in one area of play is that it will affect other areas. A typical example is when a player makes a nice backhand shot, but makes it from their forehand corner. Now any shot back to their backhand is going to result in a scramble to get back in position.
I recently discovered how quickly my game could fall apart. While experimenting with a new forehand rubber, I began to lose confidence in my forehand shots. Even though I normally favor my backhand, I was now overly relying on it. With essentially no forehand, my game was out of balance, and the effectiveness of my backhand was diminished as well. This same thing happens when players try to force new shots into their matches. If the shot doesn’t easily come within the flow of the game, it will probably cause more problems than it’s worth.
Having the wrong racket angle on loops seems to be a fairly common problem. New players tend to want to go forward, but aren’t used to the upward motion required to lift a ball when it is played below the height of the net. Not closing the angle enough on blocks can cause problems as well. Serves can be just a little too high, a little too predictable, or just slightly inconsistent. For a lot of intermediate level players, most of the problems are relatively small. But, three or four little problems can start to add up to big problems in competition.
One of the goals for training is to practice precision. You may not always be able to make a technically perfect shot in a match, but during training most of your shots need to be as precisely correct as possible. Sometimes it’s necessary to slow down drills to try to get the footwork exactly right. Here are some synonyms for precise. See if these describe your style of play – accurate, error free, specific, unambiguous, inch-perfect, definite, distinct,If this doesn’t sound like a good description of how you play, it needs to at least be a description of how you train. Otherwise, you just have to hope that you get lucky.