Evolution of the Player

Rowden 2011

Technical development

– The 9 Stages
1. Athlete will be able to produce and explain a proper grip, including pressure points (‘a’ grip, as different grips will lead to differing styles).
2. Athlete will be able to demonstrate an appropriate ready position (different ready positions will also lead to differing styles of play).
3. Athlete will be able to execute the following basic strokes with correct form, directional control, and with an 80% success rate when fed by coach:
• Backhand push and forehand push against backspin
• Backhand and forehand blocks against topspin
• Backhand and forehand drives against topspin
• Backhand and forehand topspins against backspin

4. Athlete will demonstrate an understanding of the basic elements of all strokes:
• How to strike the ball - Friction versus force type of ball contact
• When to strike the ball - The proper timing for each of the basic strokes
• Where to strike the ball – The correct contact point on the ball for each of
the basic strokes

5. Athlete will learn basic backspin and topspin theory. This includes:
• How spin affects the flight of the ball
• Where to strike the ball to produce each spin
• The concept of going with or against the spin

6. Athlete will understand the following basic theories:
• The role that racket acceleration plays in all strokes
• The role of the back-swing in helping with stroke/timing/power and when
this is less necessary.

7. Athlete will learn basic serves as he/she learns each stroke.
a. Example: Backhand push = learn a backhand backspin serve

8. Athlete will be able to produce correct 1 and 2-step footwork in both directions while executing correct strokes.
9. Athlete will be able to produce mixed stroke combinations against both backspin and topspin, using all of the basic strokes with a success rate of 80%.
10. Athlete will be able to successfully complete simple consistency drills with a partner.
11. Athlete will be introduced to the concept of inside and outside ball contact to control the direction of the ball.
12. Athlete will be able to change his/her point of contact on the ball to correct for the change between topspin and backspin ball feeds.
13. Athlete will be introduced to the concept of using the lower body to produce power and spin, where this is appropriate.

14. Athlete will be introduced to the concept of producing topspin at different speeds (gearing) by controlling the amount of body use and the speed of arm.
15. Athlete will learn and be able to produce the modified service grips.
16. Athlete will focus on developing the necessary hand skills to produce heavy spin services.
17. Athlete will be introduced to the concept of stopping, using or returning the spin on the opponent’s serve when returning serves.
18. Athlete will learn the relationship between racket acceleration and going with or against the spin on the opponent’s strokes.
19. Athlete will be able to produce both forehand and backhand drop shots, flicks, and pushes against short serves.
20. Athlete will be able to produce and explain the effect of sidespin on the ball.
21. Athlete will be introduced to the concept of applying and redirecting power against an opponent.
22. Athlete will be introduced to the concept of relaxation and use of the stomach in generating maximum power.
23. Athlete will be able to produce both backhand and forehand loops against both topspin and backspin ball feeds.
24. Athlete will be able to practise (with a partner) using the five ball sequencing system. This consists of practice focusing on one of the first five strokes of the game:
• 1st. – Serve
• 2nd. – Serve Return
• 3rd. – 3rd. Ball Attack
• 4th. – 4th. Ball Defence or Counter Attack
• 5th. – 5th. Ball Attack

25. Athlete, working with the coach, will begin developing his or her own personal style of play. This will be accomplished by examining:
• The characteristics of the styles of play currently used at World Level.
• His/her own strengths and weaknesses and which style of play he/she best matches up with.
• What style of play would he/she most enjoy playing?
26. Athlete will learn basic strategy consisting of the four ways to win a point. These include:
• Power
• Deceiving the opponent, varying speed, spin, height, and placement to force
• Special Techniques – combination rackets, special serves, or unique shots
• Time Pressure – playing faster than your opponent is comfortable playing
27. Practice will focus on developing patterns of play which best suit the style of play of the athlete.
28. Athlete will develop effective techniques from close, mid, and far distance from the table with the bulk of the practice focusing on the ideal distance from the table for the athlete’s style.
29. Crossover footwork will be introduced and practised during this stage if the style requires.

30. Athlete will develop the advance stroke techniques necessary to complete his/her own style of play.
31. Athlete will be able to make the necessary grip adjustments during play to enhance specialised strokes.
32. Drills will focus on consistency and learning the new skills.
33. Athlete will focus on improving his/her serve and receive game focusing on the correct serve placements and patterns for his/her style.
34. Athlete will focus on improving his/her footwork focusing on the movements necessary for his/her style.
35. Athlete’s training will continue to focus on the development of his/her strongest strokes (main weapons)

36. Practice during this stage focuses on adding the advanced techniques into the Athlete’s style of play using the 5-Point System of training.
37. The athlete should now have the technical skills necessary to implement any of the four basic ways to win a point against any opponent’s style of play.
38. The Athlete’s main technical development should now be complete.

39. Practice during this stage focuses on specific tactics against different styles of play and at various stages of the match.
40. Drills during this stage become more and more random, forcing the Athlete to begin to concentrate more on what the opponent is doing.

41. Practice during this stage focuses on making small technical changes that have been proven necessary through intensive match play.

42. Practice during this stage focuses on preparing the Athlete to 'Peak' for major competitions.

Physical Training

Athletes should:
1. Be introduced to a program of basic exercises that become part of their warm-up program. These exercises need to be age appropriate and are designed to prepare the athlete for future training.

2. Be introduced to simple movement exercises that help develop the needed foot skills necessary for the sport.

3. Begin a program of general physical training that consists of age appropriate exercises without added weights.
4. Begin a program of aerobic training through on-the-table movement drills.

5. Understand the need for and begin a program of regular physical testing.
6. Incorporate a program of circuit training (without added weights) designed to improve anaerobic fitness.

7. Begin a program of supervised age appropriate weight training to develop the needed strength base required for the sport.
8. Understand the role of strength training, aerobic training, and anaerobic training within their planned training cycles.

9. Understand the need for and incorporate a regular program of flexibility training in their overall training program.
10. Incorporate Power Training (Plyometrics) into their training cycles.

11. Be able to help the coach in designing their own fitness program that incorporates the principles of periodisation.

12. Be able to design their own year-round fitness program that fits into their overall long and short-term goals for the sport.

Injury Prevention

Athletes should:
1. Demonstrate an understanding of the role that proper warm-ups, stretching, and cooling down play in injury prevention.

2. Understand the concept of R.I.C.E. when treating injuries.
• R – Rest
• I – Ice
• C – Compression
• E – Elevation

3. Understand the 5 levels of pain, what treatment to seek and how much play is safe at each level.
• Level One - Discomfort or mild pain that goes away with warm-up.
• Level Two - Mild pain during play which goes away within 24 hours.
• Level Three - Mild to moderate pain during play that continues after 48 hours.
• Level Four - Moderate pain that continues during play and is not helped by warm-ups.
• Level Five - Moderate to severe pain that alters table tennis technique.

4. Understand that strength training is important in both injury prevention and improving performance

Goal Setting

Athletes should:
1. Establish written technical performance-based goals and share them with coaches and parents. These goals should be reviewed regularly. The purpose of these goals is to have the Athlete concentrate on technical/tactical development not competitive development. Example: To execute 8 out of 10 forehand drives, against topspin placed alternately from the middle of the table to the wide forehand of the player.

2. Set realistic but challenging competitive goals and separate them into:
• Long-term 5 years
• Intermediate 2-4 years
• Short-term 1 year
These goals should include ranking levels and specific tournament results.

3. Be able to develop specific objectives necessary to achieve the short-term goals. These include:
• Technique
• Strategy and tactics
• Physical training and fitness levels
• Sports psychology
4. Be able to demonstrate that he/she is developing intrinsic motivation during training and matches. This includes:
• Showing consistent intensity during practice
• Showing dedication to physical and psychological training
• Moving towards independence as a player
• Becoming more involved in the planning of his/her own training


Athletes should:
1. Demonstrate an understanding of the training cycle principle
2. Work with their coaches to develop the yearly competition schedule and to establish which events they wish to 'peak' for.
3. Demonstrate an understanding of the different phases of the training cycle. These include:
• Preparation
• Pre-competitive
• Competitive
• Active Rest

4. Work with their coaches to develop specific training cycle plans for these 'peak' events. These plans should include:
• Goal Setting
• Initial Evaluation
• Technical Training
• Development of an aerobic base
• General and specific table tennis anaerobic training
• Strength training
• Power training
• Psychological skills training

5. Be able to shorten their training cycles, which will allow for more 'peak' tournaments during the year.

Sports Psychology

Athletes should:
1. Be introduced to the importance of keeping competition in the proper perspective.
2. Be able to use imagery to rehearse or to change technique before or during play.

3. Develop a ritual before every serve or serve return that will enhance relaxation and concentration.
4. Be able to use imagery to correct incorrect strokes during practice or competition.

5. Develop a confident physical appearance during practice and competition.
6. Understand the body/mind relationship and how one can affect the other.
7. Understand how important the role that positive self-talk plays in reducing stress, enhancing self-image, and allowing the body to perform at its highest level.
8. Understand how damaging negative self-talk can be to performance and the enjoyment of the game.

9. Be able to concentrate on court and develop mental techniques to help develop the skill
10. Understand that they must concentrate only on the things that they have control over.

11. Understand the level of arousal that they need to train or compete at to reach their highest level and develop techniques to deal with under or over arousal issues.
12. Understand how to recognize negative mental scripts and actively change these into positive scripts through active rehearsal.


Athletes should:
1. Understand the importance as well as practise proper hydration at all times during and after practice and competition.

2. Understand how to make healthy food choices from all the nutrient groups in the food pyramid.

3. Understand the importance of maintaining the optimal body weight

4. Understand how to eat properly before, during, and after competition
5. Understand the negative consequences of drug use in life and sport.

6. Understand how to make good nutritional choices when travelling both domestically and internationally

Media Skills

Athletes should:
1. Always be friendly and cooperative with reporters.
2. Always speak positively about opponents.
3. Always make sure that sponsors’ logos and products are visible.

4. Always dress appropriately for all interview or public situations
5. Maintain good posture and make eye contact with fans or press.

6. Be able to speak clearly and slowly when speaking in public.
7. Make an effort to show their personality when giving interviews or speaking in public.
8. Be aware that they do not need to answer any personal questions that they feel uncomfortable in answering.


Athletes should:
1. Understand that honesty and integrity on the court are more important to one’s life than winning.

2. Demonstrate proper on court etiquette before, during and at the conclusion of the match.
3. Always take responsibility for their actions.

4. Know the rules of the sport and how to properly deal with difficult on court situations.

5. Appreciate the benefits that you receive from table tennis and be willing to give back to the sport.