The Way the Chinese use Multi-ball

Rowden 2011

There are a number of ways in which Chinese coaches use multi-ball which in fact highlight some of the common principles inherent in their coaching tradition. Below are a number of the more common and frequently used exercises.

One
The coach feeds a short, backspin ball to the player's forehand. The player moves in and pushes the ball directly back to the coach; the coach then pushes deep anywhere on the table, with the expectation of a forehand attack from the player.

Objective: One of the most common elements in the Chinese approach is found here, requiring the player to first move in, play over the table, then recover to his/her standard position in relation to the table to respond to the opponent's shot. This in and out movement is seen more often than any other footwork pattern so two aspects are stressed here: initiating the attack and using the FH more.

Two
The coach feeds medium speed topspin shots all over the table, placed in a precise manner to promote quick movement and to execute forehand attacking shots on every occasion whenever this is possible.

Objective: Sustaining offensive play throughout the point is one of the distinguishing qualities of the Chinese offensive player. This multi-ball drill simulates a topspin rally of many shots. The ball feed is at exactly the right quality to test the player's movement and to create a forehand offensive shot repeatedly whenever possible. The coach is very attentive to the quality of the player's movement and shot quality; anything not up to the required standard is immediately commented upon.

Three
The coach feeds short balls with various spins short and near the net, expecting the player to move in quickly and to attack strongly.

Objective: Always looking for opportunities to play aggressively is the hallmark of much Chinese play. This drill builds both skill and confidence in initiating offensive play in a short play situation, even in circumstances where most other players would not assess the opportunities as being possibly advantageous. Again we see the importance of moving quickly into the table.

Four
An interesting variation is used here. The coach is assisted by another player playing on the coach's side of the table. The coach feeds a ball short to the player's forehand, the player pushes back to the coach, the coach pushes deep and fast to the player’s BH court.

The player is expected to recover back from the table after the initial short receive and to play a forehand attacking shot down the line. The coach’s assistant returns this shot strongly to the player's forehand court and the two players play strong forehands cross court until a miss occurs.

Objective: This is a very demanding drill, requiring exceptionally quick footwork coupled with producing quality offensive shots against both backspin and topspin. Again the exercise focuses on the power of the FH>

This three person context is the most frequently used option by the Chinese coaches in multi-ball training. A large number of variations are used with it, including many backhand-oriented patterns that require the player to respond to the coach's assistant player's strong forehand shots. Despite the presence of two players, the coach keeps his focus on the training player, with no regard for the assisting player.

Five
With this approach, multiple balls (2 to 5) are used per “point,” to simulate a specific pattern of play during one point. The coach will take the required number of balls in his hand and create the desired shot sequence for the player to respond to, feeding one after the other until completed. Because the coach is feeding balls from his hand, the coach's feeding level for creating the specific shot to respond to, in terms of ball speed, spin, and placement, is very high.

Objective: It is clear from closely observing this exercise performed by expert coaches that there are numerous patterns they drill repeatedly with players.

Many table tennis observers have noted that top Chinese players seem prepared for every situation they encounter. The source of this preparation can be found in the correct application of multi-ball. One of the prime aims of this type of training in modern times is the development and improvement of adaptive intelligence and the ability to assess the quality of the incoming ball and therefore what the player can do with it.