Girls' Game: Be Professional

Rowden December 2012

Do not allow emotion to interfere with you game, your plans and how you intend to play. Try to keep an external not an internal focus – what is the opponent doing, what tactics is she employing, what emotion is she showing? NOT how am I feeling, are my strokes working, am I making too many mistakes? In this way your mind is not distracted nor engaged in looking at negative aspects,it is in fact free to assess the situation, however fluid it may be and to decide what needs to be done.

By taking emotion out of the equation you allow yourself to see much more clearly and you are less stressed and more relaxed in the decision-making process. Being calm and clearing the mind are essential to successful high-level performance.

You shou ld bear in mind too that many girls/women have weaknesses in certain general areas. Many are weak against short serves and in short play and have difficulty in gaining an advantage from this situation. Being able to serve short and keep the returns short are useful skills and should be practised regularly. You should be able to play the full range of short play strokes and from the relevant timing points:
• Short drop shots from a very early timing point
• Flicks from ‘peak’ of the bounce or just before (to anywhere on the table) using BH over much of the table to gain an advantage
• Long pushes from ‘peak’ of the bounce or just before with either heavy backspin or float
• Late-timed pushes or rolls/flicks (to anywhere on the table)
• Against slightly longer serves (half-long) the Schlager flick should often be used from all parts of the table, even the FH side

Also think to use all the table not just the diagonals. Often a major advantage can be gained by playing even a slower (less powerful) ball down the lines or into the crossover. If you stay closer to the table you have more options in terms of placement and angles.

Many women play really well against fast/hard play but not nearly so well against the slower roll ball or the slow loop with heavy spin. It seems that when they have too much time to think then they make a number of unforced errors. In a fast game much of what they do is automatic and requires little consideration or thought. Many girls/women lack the feeling to soft block against this slower type of ball or end up in the wrong position to do this effectively. Alternatively they try to play far too hard a shot, from too late a timing point.

Opening is another area where female players are often less effective than their male counterparts. They don’t open as readily as the boys or as quickly, especially on the half-long balls or those over the table. Also they often push one ball too many or push too long, which allows the opposition to plan and regroup and of course puts the initiative firmly in their hands too.

A very important consideration also is what happens after the girl/woman opens with that first opening ball. Many European female players want to back away and then play topspin to topspin from off the table. This had some success with the 38mm ball, less with the 40mm ball and should the proposed plastic ball make its appearance in July 2013 such a tactic would appear to be rather futile. The reason is of course the lesser level of spin involved.

The Asian women on the other hand use spin as a tool to create the opportunity to win the point, usually with drive or smash. Because they stay closer to the table they are in a good position to do this and also to use angles and pace variation to more effect.

Remember that the first stage of your development is often where the coach, after a while, is able to get the best out of you, the player. However the second and most important stage and one which all coaches work towards, is where you understand how you play and also know how to get the best out of yourself!

Becoming a top player is not about winning, it’s about attitude. How you conduct yourself in all circumstances, whether you win or lose. Having respect for other players, whether they are better or worse than you. Being calm enough to assess and evaluate the situation. Preparing in the right way for matches, being professional at all times.
And above all learning from every situation, from wins and from losses. Only in this way will you move forward, progress to higher levels and get near to achieving full potential. The single most important area of control is the controlling of you in competition. Only by doing this effectively can you hope to rise to the higher levels.

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