Stroke Correction Techniques
Rowden Fullen (1970’s)
Technique is important. If your player has stepped outside the bounds of good technique then it is most unlikely that he or she will reach the highest levels. It is a cruel fact that weakness is always exposed once you arrive at the top levels.
When working with a young player it is important that you look at stroke production from a scientific viewpoint. Only in this way can you pinpoint exactly where the problem lies. It is also useful to have guidelines which are applicable at all levels of stroke-play and to each individual stroke.
Feet should be shoulder width or a little wider, knees bent, back arched, shoulders slightly forward (all important for balance and efficient movement). Always relate stance to the line of play (where the ball is coming from), not to the table or the opponent. Always face the line of play, with both the body and the feet.
Stance should be the best position of advantage with reference to the opponent — start to build in tactics early in the player’s career. The majority of modern players will use a square stance, (facing where the ball is coming from), it saves time, especially close to the table. Once players drop back from the table side-to-square is used a little more as it aids power production particularly on the forehand side.
Here we are talking about use of leg power, rotation of the waist and shoulders (sometimes a little rocking action of the shoulders), fast arm movement, especially forearm and forearm fold. Bear in mind that the crouch with head forward extends the range of the stroke and economizes on movement.
This is the distance the bat travels. With beginners a short stroke is the priority and particularly close to the table. (Less to go wrong if short). Try to have a longer pre-swing and limit movement after contact with the ball. Longer strokes with very young players can also lead to injuries.
‘Peak’ or 1/2 centimetres before is the most efficient for control. (Peak is the highest point after the bounce on your side of the table). Many coaches in Europe see peak as being relatively late, later than in fact it is — Asians see peak as being earlier than we do.
Peak gives the biggest target area and allows the player the best chance of hitting the ball down on the other side of the table. If players let the ball drop when small (a natural tendency with the ball coming at the face) this can easily become a habit leading to running away from the table whenever under pressure. This of course gives the opponent a better chance to use the angles. By adopting peak when young the player’s natural tendencies have the opportunity to emerge and he/she will have more options when older. It will be of prime importance later on, particularly with drive players (this includes the majority of girl players), to be fully aware that with this type of play there is an extremely narrow ‘window’ from the point of view of timing.
What we are talking about here is the exact contact of the ball in relationship to the table. Is it over the table, at the end of the table or back from the table? For the beginner we must again look at this in terms of control — usually this is best over the table but with the ball coming through (not too short).
This is particularly valuable as an aid to rotation (especially on the forehand side). Lack of use of the free arm limits movement and often leads to a forehand stroke where only one half of the body is used with the risk of subsequent injury. Also the free arm aids balance and orientation. For the beginner this latter is often useful in helping him or her to have some idea of where the ball is in relation to the body.
The optimum for control is the 90 degree angle at the elbow, with no wrist at first and only a slightly open or closed blade. The elbows should be about a hand’s width from the sides and both hands equally relaxed. The stroke is to be initiated from the elbow as well as the shoulder (but with no wrist in the initial stages). Bear in mind at a more advanced level the arm consists of the three joints, shoulder, elbow and wrist — the last two move much faster than the shoulder and will be used much more at top level (e.g. flick, fast forearm fold). Also the 90 degree angle of the elbow can be extended to 120 degrees or even straight to give a longer lever and more power.
FIRST 7 REFERENCE POINTS
These first seven reference points form the machinery by which the player hits the ball and will give the best control. As early as possible the beginner should learn to control the rally as a whole and not just the individual shots. This of course involves movement while retaining good balance which is indeed the cornerstone of our sport.
Be particularly aware of the theory of conservation of angular momentum. The centre of gravity of the arm (elbow area) will cover a certain distance in a given time period. Because the distance is a constant, if the arm is shortened, it must move at a higher speed to cover the same length. This principle is of vital importance in the short arm loop.
Play the ball and recover always is one of the most important principles in table tennis. Every time you and your opponent strike the ball, the angles of play will alter. After you have played your stroke there must be a continuing, on-going assessment from you of the total angle available to the opponent — you must then move into the most advantageous position to cover this angle. Do not forget also recovery of the racket after each shot.
Recovery fastens the first seven reference points together and gives control of the table.
This gives control of your opponent. After you have played the ball focus on the opponent. Watch him or her moving into position, look at the body, the stance, above all watch the racket at that point in time when the player is committed, 4/5 centimetres before contact with the ball. This should give you enough edge that you are already moving before the ball even crosses the net. The ability to read what your opponent is going to do will give you a big advantage. If you train your young players from the very start to play their own stroke and then to watch what the opponent is doing they will soon learn to anticipate without thinking.