So, you’ve got fifty hours a week to train. Oh! You don’t have fifty hours. You have five hours, on a good week. Okay, the truth is you don’t really train at all, but you do like to play. Maybe you think about training, but you have a full time job, a spouse, 1.9 kids, and a vacation to plan for. It doesn’t really matter if you can train seven days a week, or far less. You probably want to make the best use of the time that you can devote to table tennis.
It’s a constant challenge for coaches to make the best use of coaching time. For many players, the ninety minutes a week they spend with their coach is all the real training they have time for. I have given this a lot of thought and have come up with a list of high priority and low priority items. I’ll also give some explanations as to why some things are well worth spending time on, and some things just aren’t.
- Practicing serves HIGH PRIORITY You don’t need a training partner, and it affects every part of your game.
- Practicing Dimitrij Ovtcharov’s serves LOW PRIORITY It won’t hurt your game, but imitating the top players is usually less helpful than you would expect.
- Reading about table tennis HIGH PRIORITY There’s tons of available reading material. Sorting through it can be entertaining and educational.
- Reading the T3 blog EXTREMELY HIGH PRIORITY No explanation needed
- Drills that require challenging footwork HIGH PRIORITY
- Practicing at a distance from the table that you almost never actually play at LOW PRIORITY Lot’s of fun, but not the best use of limited training time.
- Discussing training plans with your coach HIGH PRIORITY
- Explaining to your coach a weird shot that you have created EXTREMELY LOW PRIORITY
- Training to hit every ball as hard as you can NO PRIORITY
- Training to change speeds and recognize attackable balls HIGH PRIORITY
- Practicing against floating balls HIGH PRIORITY
- Complaining about long pips PLEASE
- Working on recognizing types of spin and serve return SUPER HIGH PRIORITY
- Drills that emphasize ball placement and consistency HIGH PRIORITY
- Practicing combinations of shots VERY HIGH PRIORITY
- Doing the exact same shot over and over MODERATELY HIGH PRIORITY This is something that you need to do if you want to continue improving. You eventually have to move beyond this and supplement your training with drills that more closely resemble what happens in matches. It’s possible to have great strokes and still play poorly.
- Watching yourself on video HIGH PRIORITY
- Watching the most incredible shots of 2018 video VERY LOW PRIORITY
- Weightlifting and aerobic training SURPRIZINGLY HIGH PRIORITY Don’t wait until you get close to elite level to realize you need to be in shape to compete.
- Eating right HIGH PRIORITY If you don’t have a lot of time to train, eating right is even more important. Ask any player who has had large fluctuations in their weight how it affected their play. Even if weight is not an issue, eating poorly affects your concentration and energy levels in profound ways.
Assessing your training priorities is essential if you have decided to make table tennis part of your life. A good coach can emphasize the most important skills for each individual and their circumstances. Priorities can change over time. If you are looking to be a better player, you better get your priorities straight.