Taking a Closer Look at Spin

It’s probably possible to be a successful table tennis player without completely understanding spin. You may not need to understand spin in the same way a physics professor does. You do need to know the basics, and know how to recognize and understand how spin affects your game. Over the last few years I’ve grown to have a greater appreciation for the significance of spin, and learned to think about it a little differently. Most of these insights have come from coaching and addressing common misconceptions of spin. 
  • The most common misconception seems to be what the primary purpose of spin is. In the table tennis world, spin is more of a tool than a weapon. Spin allows you to control the ball. It helps control speed, placement, height, and can add curve to your shots. It also can be used to overwhelm your opponent, but that is not the only reason to spin the ball. 
  • I am frequently asked if a ball had spin on it. Usually the answer is yes. It is possible to hit a ball with little or no spin, but there is actually a big difference between not much, and none at all. Even if there is not much spin, you can’t ignore the direction that the ball is rotating. 
  • Just as you can’t ignore the type of spin, you also cannot ignore the amount. A ball rotating at twenty revolutions per second will act much differently than one at a hundred.
  • Spin and speed are directly related. A ball with heavy topspin will maintain it’s speed, and even appear to accelerate when it strikes the other side of the table.  A ball hit hard but with little spin will appear to slide rather than bounce.
  • It is possible to see the rotation on a spinning ball. It’s impossible to see the rotation if you don’t look for it. Learning to read spin is akin to learning a new language. You won’t understand what the spin is revealing at first, but the more you study it, the easier it is to read. 
  • More spin is not always better. If you accept the premise that spin is what controls the ball, it stands to reason that this control will be enhanced by varying the amount of spin.
The small size and light weight of a table tennis ball are the factors that make spin more important than in some other sports. The more you understand spin, the more you will understand table tennis. Understanding begins with taking a closer look.

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