Table Tennis lesson
I never understood the difference between table tennis and ping pong until recently. It turns out…ping pong is the sport most of us know. We play it in basements, garages, unused bedrooms, church community rooms, taverns, etc.
Table tennis always sounded hoity-toity – even elitist when used to describe the fun and friendly family game I’ve played since the seventh grade, starting in dad’s basement. Sue and I play down at the community center two hours, up to three times a week when we are in town. It’s great exercise, easy on the knees, super social and just a lot of fun. But I’ve noticed that there are two classes of players.
The first group, which Sue and I fit into, is made of people who just do it for fun. They’ve never played in a tournament, they are self taught, never had a lesson, and usually play with cheap Big5 paddles. And you can do this for decades. Depending on how often you play you can gradually develop some nice moves, just by trial and error. That’s what’s great about the sport. Anyone with normal athleticism can pick it up quickly. Playing regularly rapidly increases your skill.
But I’ve noticed there is a second group of players. They have skills that are far advanced beyond us regular folks. They have bizarre serves that can completely dominate a game. Their spins and spikes are un-returnable. The ball comes across the net like a gunshot. Or if it’s slower, it’s spinning so fast that you can’t return it. The ball flies into the net or off the table.
As my basement skills got better I was continually dominated by these exceptional players. But there aren’t many of them. They don’t usually play in our little community center. A few have started showing up, probably because it’s shorter drive, or it fits their work schedule better.
I started watching some youtube videos on how to improve. Both our ace players, and the youtube people were using better paddles. Instead of the $100 paddle I had, they were using custom assembled paddles in the $300 range.
So I decided to upgrade my paddle. I ordered two sheets of rubber, one red and one black. I was originally going to put the new rubber on my old $50 wooden bat by peeling off the $50 worth of rubber. But my youtube studies had revealed that the wooden bat was 70% of the paddle. Why put expensive rubber on a cheap bat? I did more research and ordered a $150 wooden bat. I also ordered the glue for attaching the rubber to the bat, along with some adhesive plastic protector sheets and a zippered paddle bag.
I was worried about destroying $300 worth of high end paddle parts due to my inexperience. But with the help of my trusty YT tutorials I did a great job.
Sadly, all that money only marginally improved my playing. I was still getting badly schooled by the true Table Tennis players. Randy (60), Bob (83) and Alex (55?) would simply smoke me in our doubles matches. They’d take turns playing with me because my-our team would always lose. Now it’s true that playing with people better than you is good. You do pick stuff up, and you have to up your game.
But eventually I came to realize how little I really knew. Those guys are light years ahead of me. They were true Table Tennis players, and I was just a ping pong player. Long story short, I took a lesson at the local Table Tennis club. And wow, it was worth it!
Things I learned:
- put your index finger straight out on the paddle for stabilization on both backhand and forehand
- grab the paddle up as high as you can, next to the rubber
- swing from down low to up high in a sweeping forward motion in both backhand and forehand
- keep the top of the paddle tilted toward the table
- to loop, tilt the paddle even more and brush the top of the ball. It will sound softer as the rubber applies spin instead of just a straight smack.
- practice forehand and backhand drills with a box of balls so you don’t spend all your time chasing balls.
- don’t play to win, play to prolong the drills
- if the ball comes to the center of the table, and it is neither FH or BH, dodge left or right to make it one or the other. Don’t change your grip!
- If your opponent holds his paddle by his left shoulder and strokes to his right shoulder, counter the spin by angling your paddle toward the beginning shoulder, and vice versa.
- Always prepare for a topspin serve with paddle held in topspin position. If it comes over really fast, it will be a top spin and must be countered with same.
- If it comes over slow it will be a bottom spin and you will have time to change your paddle to a chop (a lift).
- When you chop, keep the ball low over the net and dead slow. It needs to be so low, soft and short over the net that it bounces twice on their side, preventing them from doing a long windup to a loop.
That was $40 for a one hour lesson and money well spent. I think I’ll go again. The way I could play while he was coaching me was remarkable. He kept correcting my bad habits. My balls were flying over the net fast, low and true. And when I missed, which I did a lot, he simply pulled another ball out of the box. He never frowned or tried to smoke me. It was all patience and positive encouragement.
Unlike my usual pattern of spending money to purchase stupid toys, gadgets or tools I rarely use, I spent money to buy knowledge that will improve my skills. Reminds me of that old saying: Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.