Sequential Movement and Adaptability
Many if not most table tennis players are good at playing the first shot in the sequence, even more so if they read where the ball is going and are able to get there.
It is often later in the rally or against much better players (who play more unpredictably) where they fail to read what is happening and don’t get to the ball in time. However in other cases it is readily apparent that a particular player’s sequential movement is inadequate – by this we mean that the movement to a number of balls in succession breaks down quickly. This may be general (where the player for example stops and straightens up between shots) or may be evident in the case of certain sequences – from BH to FH, or back to BH again, from middle to BH or to more than one ball on the FH. It may also be evident in the length of the stroke or in bad balance, which does not permit adequate recovery to the next ball.
What the coach has to decide is where the problem really lies. Not getting to a ball in time can be for a number of reasons. Is the player not reading where the ball is going? Is the player using inadequate or the wrong footwork patterns? Does the player have poor sequential movement? This latter reason is more common than coaches may think.
Of course the most important aspect of our sport is adaptability – no player is going to reach a high level unless he or she can cope with and play against all styles. This is why from a very early age it is important to train against all types of players, lefthanders, penholders, defenders, pimpled players etc. Coaches have to bear in mind that adaptability doesn’t just happen, in most cases it needs to be cultivated and developed. If the development of adaptive intelligence is left till too late then players will have great difficulty in coping with new styles and methods of play later in their careers. Their career development will be severely restricted.
It is interesting to note that in some countries in Europe, France and Germany for example, there is strong evidence in players as young as 9 – 10 years of age of a highly developed adaptive capability and their coaches are to be commended. On the other hand in countries which one may consider to be highly progressive, such as UK or Sweden, the same capability is severely lacking even among players in their late teens or those at senior level.