Walking and Chewing Gum in Table Tennis

What’s one of the biggest challenges for developing table tennis players? Perhaps it’s returning serves, developing a strong forehand loop, or learning how to play against long pips. The challenge I’m referring to isn’t any one thing. It’s any two things. It’s learning to walk and chew gum simultaneously. Let me explain. I have a student who I coach every Saturday. On Sundays he works with a different coach. I encourage players to get a different perspective from time to time. Apparently this other coach puts extra emphasis on footwork, while I spend more time on reading spin and learning how to get a feel for the game. I emphasize the hands while the other coach is working on the feet. 

Players that reach their full potential will need more than good footwork. They’ll need more than good hand skills. They’ll need to be able to get their skills to compliment each other. The value of good footwork is that it allows you to get into position to execute your best shots. But it’s of little value if you can move into position but miss your shots. It’s tempting to compartmentalize table tennis skills. Some players have good serves but are less skilled at dealing with unpredictable returns of those serves. Some very good players might be excellent players, if they had better footwork. Once you’ve developed your basic skills, it’s time to start putting them together. If you are looking at it from a mechanical point of view, realize that all the parts of any machine have to work together for the machine to perform well. Table tennis has to be approached holistically. 

holistic – characterized by comprehension of the parts of something as intimately interconnected and explicable only by reference to the whole 

For coaches, it’s important to remember that as players develop individual skills, they’ll eventually have to assemble them into an effective playing style. They’ll have to learn how to walk and chew gum.  

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