Rowden Fullen (1980’s)
China-training or multi-ball came originally from Asia, where it has long been used as a natural part of the training method. Not only is it used by Asian coaches but also by the players themselves and is in fact often utilized as an alternative in the place of normal training.
Multi-ball is an excellent training method for both new beginners and elite players and can be employed over a large number of areas, to improve technique and tactics, to develop footwork or to help solve problems in weaker parts of the player’s game. It is of especial value in that the method can be used in an infinite number of different ways and it is very easy to think up and evolve new exercises to suit the needs of your particular player.
Where the player trains one stroke, for example opening against backspin on the backhand. Here the coach can examine the technique and its effectiveness quickly as the player executes a large number of strokes in a short time period.
Where the player switches between backhand or forehand or topspin and backspin and must adjust to different placement, spin or speed. Such exercises can be regular or irregular.
Exercises can be aimed at short or long movement, in and out or side to side. The coach can determine just how long the movement should be and whether regular, part regular or completely random.
Where the player operates at a rather higher speed than in a normal game and is compelled to adapt his or her techniques, movement and balance under constant pressure. (A pressure which can be adjusted, increased or decreased at will by the trainer).
Where the player is called upon to change the game from control to attack or from spin to hit and to adapt to differing situations.
Where the multi-ball is put into a match play situation — for example short push to the player’s forehand, which he pushes or flicks long, return looped to the corners.
SPECIFIC EXAMPLES OF EXERCISES
- Regular switch play — One ball to each corner with topspin, even tempo, low bounce. The same with backspin.
- Irregular switch play — One ball to the backhand corner, one to the middle or to any part of the forehand side. One or two balls to each corner.
- Tempo training — The ‘Falkenberg’ with a fourth ball to the middle. Feed at a little higher tempo than the player would encounter in a game so that he or she must adjust the technique to the higher pace. Study the movement and balance, the aim being to increase the strength and movement abilities of your player. Ensure that the technique doesn’t suffer under the increased stress. Take up and feed the four balls then allow your player the time to return to the ready position before re-commencing the next group of four balls.
- Technique training — Backhand loop against backspin – pay particular attention to the player’s technique and give him or her time to re-assume the ready position before continuing. It is important that this type of exercise is not operated at too high a speed.
- With two players — the coach feeds a backspin ball to player 1 who loops. Player 2 drives through the loop.
- Match training — Short backspin to forehand, long backspin to backhand, long topspin to forehand. Ensure that the player returns to the ready position between strokes and take care that the feeder does not feed too fast, especially between balls of different tempo. As a general guide the player’s ball should bounce on your side as you feed the next one. After regular exercises build in random movements as the player improves.
- Defence training — Feed from a distance, perhaps 2 – 2½ metres back and it may be necessary to feed from a lower position to achieve the correct trajectory. Give the player time and vary the spin from heavy backspin to float.
- Smash training — Feeder stands well back and lobs up high balls with varied topspin to different table areas. Train player to smash from differing areas but especially at an earlier timing point.
- Control training — Feeder drives hard or topspins and player controls with various blocks and occasionally counters. Player should try to control to different table areas and return to the ready position after each stroke. Always also be prepared to ‘force’ or counter-hit hard and early on the suitable ball.
- Footwork patterns — 1 – 5 balls to the crossover and one to the forehand or backhand. Important that the player has good balance at all times. It is physically hard to be played into the crossover all the time but the player must try to move the feet first, then play the ball.
THOUGHTS FOR THE FEEDER
- Take the ball quite early, not too high or the trajectory can be flat and unnatural.
- Drop the ball down or throw it slightly backwards.
- For a higher tempo you can hit the ball directly out of the hand.
- Take 4/6 balls in the hand at a time so you can have an even rhythm.
- Be relaxed.
- Try to work calmly and methodically. The priority is that the balls come over the net in a natural way, at whatever speed you work.
- Let the player know the time interval if you are feeding series of say five balls then a short pause. It is often good to work in series for example in footwork exercises. In a technical learning situation however the player often learns better if you feed continuously for a given period.
- Stand closer to the net to play short balls.
- During speed or movement exercises if you miss one point proceed to the next, then the player doesn’t lose the rhythm.
- Use China-training to improve your player’s placement, ability to play straight balls or to the crossover or out to the angles. Many players have too much diagonal play.
- Bear in mind that China-training takes much more concentration than a normal session and should not be operated for the same time period. The player strikes many more balls in a much shorter time.
- One-to-one training of this kind gives excellent opportunities to talk ‘table tennis’ to your player.
- Feeders can use both forehand and backhand. It’s also particularly useful to use different rubbers from time to time to train your player against defence or pimples.
- One big advantage for the trainer is that he has an excellent opportunity to study his player’s technique and to see any problems first-hand.
- Have an extra racket for China-training as the rubbers will wear very quickly!