Comments on the European Girls’ Game

Rowden Fullen (2010)

• The result of adapting the men’s style of play and their training methods to the women’s game can only be men’s table tennis at a lesser level, without the obvious advantages, such as the power, spin and speed of movement, which men bring to the game of table tennis.

• European women need to find different solutions to the methods of how to win points - normally girls cannot rely on power to win the point, so they have to accentuate other aspects such as placement, speed, spin and safety within the rallies.
• When working with girls they must spend most of the time playing different strokes and combinations near the table.
• Instead of playing further back from the table, the European women’s development should be directed more towards the importance of serve, receive and the first four balls and also towards methods of more effective and active play over the table. In this way they will have rather more opportunities to create attacking positions and earlier in the rally.
• Boys win points with powerful forehand topspins and everything in the rally is secondary to the prime aim of being correctly placed to use this main weapon (plus the fact they have the speed to get to the right position). Such a pattern does not work in women’s table tennis; points have to be won with appropriate placement, speed, rotation and changes in these aspects.
• The ability to play a fast and secure backhand is essential (it’s important to have enough strength on the BH wing to keep pressure on the opponent) and to have an adequate answer when the opponent is switching from your backhand into your forehand side and vice versa.
• Another and major problem in Europe is the lack of good foot-work techniques, appropriate to the individual style of play. The foot-work needs to be right for the player's personal style and complement all the other elements of play, instead of being an obstacle to perfecting the different strokes.
• Women should try and develop a fast game on both wings but with a dominant forehand and the ability to use rotation on both sides.
• When we consider rotation this should be rotation produced with fast strokes near the table. When we look back over the last decade we see that the only European women who were able to put the Asians under real pressure did not play fast counterattack without spin, but played a powerful topspin attack fast and close to the table.
• Not enough European women are able to impose their game on the Asians. Rarely if ever are the Asians afraid of the European women’s serves and follow-up ball. They consider that the Europeans have too few serves, are predictable in the way they use them and therefore usually limited with what they can do with the first attack ball (this usually contains too little spin or is not strong enough). Often at the highest level against the Asians, European players aren’t allowed the opportunity to get their strengths in and are not able to use their strong spin early enough in the rally. With their serve and third ball and receive and fourth, the Asians deny them the time.
• It looks as if many Europeans train far too much control play, loop to loop or loop to block, they don’t train to win the point! The result is that against the top Asians they just don’t have the time or the opportunity to utilize the stronger technical aspects of their game.
• European women must also appreciate that it’s not enough only to be able to play well one way, often they must alter their style to beat others. They must have the capacity to have other ways of playing and to be able to cope with all styles.
• Above all the player and trainer should get together and think of a specialty which can make the player unique.
• Too often in Europe there are only one or two good women in the National team and they are going to stay there whether they win or lose. As a result there is no real incentive to keep raising their levels, they are already the best in their country and they are going to stay in the team because there is nobody pushing for their place, no competition! Under such circumstances it’s very easy for players to let their game stagnate and to cease working at continued growth and development.