Why you should stop wasting
your time playing table-tennis
The problem is many people who pretend to be (amateur) table-tennis players wasting their time just mindlessly “hitting” the ball using a racket (usually smooth rubber both sides) that does not accurately match their playing style and spending years & years wondering why they are not getting any better. Modern table-tennis is a sport of “spins” not old type or basement game of ping-pong of “hitting” or “slamming” or “smashing” the ball. It is all about spin spin spin spin spin and more top-spin in modern table-tennis keeping mind that this obsession with spin is meant more for younger players and for older players the design of rackete to match their style is a bit more involved and different than most of the discussions below.
Therefore to summarize, don’t waste your time playing table-tennis if you are using the wrong equipment that does not match your style. Even more important id you are using smooth spinny rubber, spend very minimal amount of time mindlessly “hitting” the ball mindlessly nack and forth and spend most of your time learning to top-spin (loop) . Refer to my other articles about talks about learning to loop or get out of table-tennis . Click here too launch that article
This is an updated article written
reinforces what I was saying in the article I wrote called “’Learn to loop or get out of
table-tennis” . The link for this previous article is here as well as in my other index
page. I wrote this article to help players at HTTTC ,
a training center I used to run in coastal area of
My goal is in fact not to make anyone quit playing this sport but I phrased the name of this article this way after seeing so many people wasting their time in this sport year after year all the time complaining why they have not gotten better. Even if you are not complaining but are strictly playing for exercise , you may be better of taking up some other hobby if you have not understood some basic facts about the modern “sport” table-tennis as compared to the silly “game” of basement “ping-pong”. Even if you claim you are playing just to have fun, unfortunately you are nowhere close to having fun in this sport if you have some serious misunderstandings about this sport mostly based on how it used to played 50 years ago or all you know is how it is played in the basements as a silly game.
Therefore what you must realize about modern table-tennis is that it is a “sport” incredible spins played with high technology rackets. But what is even more supremely important (what most of these pretenders don’t realize) is that these rackets need to be designed to match the playing style of the specific person as closely as possible unlike the rackets of 50 years ago where all rackets were basically 50 cent Xmart cyon_light specials also know as hardbat. There had been a recent movement ( mostly motivated by the brainwashings of a highly charismatic former legend in the sport for personal reasons) sadly attempting to take the sport back 100 years. Though there was slight validity to their arguments that the sport used to simple & easy, they fail to accept that the sport has moved on for the better from hardbat and is never turning back. Yes there are some serious problems with modern table-tennis but none of them justify turning the clock back and going back 100 years to go back to hardbat (or even worse the sandpaper, which never was legal & is still illegal in modern version of ITTF table-tennis) and the benefits of modern sponge domain table-tennis far outweigh the problems. It is perfectly OK for these older players live in their bygone fantasy days of hardbat (& sandpaper) but it is unfair for a sport that is still trying to emerge as a mainstream sport in half the countries of the world, by diverting valuable resources such as high prize money and funding trying to keep old styles of play (hardbat / sandpaper) alive.
Modern table-tennis rackets are designed for “spinning” NOT “hitting”
Almost none of our members at HTTTC (even older players) use (or are allowed to use) short pips on their forehand (contrary to what one of our best members & supporters & few others accuse me of spreading only the gospel of pips LOL). I know one member (part-time visiting member) who uses short-pips and he is great at it but that is an exception.
Almost 100% our members use what is called smooth (aka reversed or pips-in or inverted) rubbers on their forehand (and most also on their backhand). Smooth rubbers are NOT designed for “hitting” , they are almost exclusively designed primarily for “spinning” or “looping”.
Ok you may ask What is this damn guys problem with my just hitting the damn ball and why bother with all this spinning nonsense . Great question . In fact theoretically if you can “hit” every ball the hardest with maximum speed with no spin at all, without missing, you will be the undisputed World Champ …but that is pure theory in table-tennis. Spin is what you use to control & keep the ball on the table & gives you better error margins and since smooth rubber can create & reverse spins the best it is the obvious choice in modern table-tennis.
Another issue is difference in built-in design mechanism between smooth rubbers & old pips out rubbers. “Hitting” ball demands near perfect stroke every-time and old pips out rubber rackets are more forgiving in this context and have a better error margin for hitting. Conversely smooth rubbers are designed to provide increased control using spin NOT speed. So if you try to hit at a ball with heavy incoming spin, the pips rubber will have more control since the pips do not react as much to incoming spin as the smooth surface (I assure you this …..take my word for it ……..most newbies will never understand) . The smooth rubber on the other hand will have less control as the ball will slide more off your intended sweet spot. While a professional player can probably also hit with a perfect dead center , this is what separates the professional from an amateur , since a professional player ALSO knows when to spin & when to hit instinctively. Any player below rating of 2300 does have this choose hit or choose spin dilemma, but you will get better as you progress but my point is to demonstrate the purpose of smooth rubber rackets ………..it is spin spin spin spin.
A big problem I have is that many of you are under the impression that you are "spinning" the ball but are far from it ...........you should know this simply from the excessive sound your racket makes when you make contact..... you are still only hitting the ball...... you just are not making that 1. quiet 2. "brushing" 3. tangential acute angle 4. high dwell time contact but you are only more like making 1. loud 2. hitting 3. vertical (or orthogonal) angle 4.very small dwell time loud contact
However , the best part of spin is that , once you learn how to spin the ball that is when the fun begins. The feeling of the ball sinking deep into the sponge and meeting the wood is what creates table-tennis addicts for life.
To go one level further, professional players (or wannabe dreamers) & top amateurs use what is called speed-gluing with smooth rubbers. This is an advanced & also an extremely controversial subject & so I won’t get into it as it is not relevant for us now.
You will learn that spinning the ball like a professional is a whole lot more fun than “hitting” it like when you started in our basement. And then you will be craving to do what professional do …speed-gluing
Short-pips is not suitable for 99% players for many reasons 1. It is an old style of play known as hardbat & mostly a thing of the past. Only the very gifted “natural” table-tennis players can do well with short-pips 3. Short-pips is only suitable for very close to the table play and few amateur players have the exceptionally superior reflexes to be able to handle that style of play given the ever-increasing speed of the sport of table-tennis (despite ITTF pretending to limit it).
Before I get to my point (yet LOL) let me quickly explain the 3 major types of pips-out rubbers
1. Short-pips 2. Medium pips 3. Long-pips
Medium pips is designed & behaves in between Short & medium pips
Short pips were the original table-tennis rubber (known as hardbat now) where the top-sheet was directly attached to the wood (referred to as blade) with no sponge in between. Though it is possible to generate some spin with these hardbat rackets , these rackets are mostly good only for hitting not spinning. After the introduction of sponge in 1952 a layer of sponge was added in between the wood and top-sheet to increase the ability to spin but then it was discovered you can generate far more spin by reversing the top-sheet with pips facing down rather than up (hence the name inverted rubber for the smooth rubber) .
Short pips are shortest & stiffest by design of 3 pip designs & therefore the “DWELL TIME….the amount of time the ball stays on the racket is the most minimum of any rubbers, Long-pips are longest & most flexible of the 3 pip designs and the DWELL TIME is maximum because the pips bend and keep the ball on the racket storing and in fact amplifying the incoming spin if the incoming spin is top spin, The amount of back spin therefore thus seems to be deceptively high & this is why attacking players get frustrated because they miscalculate the amount of returned (back)spin which is the original sent top spin plus added top spin both amplified due to energy stored on the long pips due to the long DWELL TIME of chopping long pips (Keep in mind again that blocking long pips have been invented on the other hand to minimize DWELL TIME but maximize unpredictability …………..this is why they have been largely banned rightfully so in 2008 though some such rubbers elude the testing and get on the list of ITTF approved rubbers somehow)
Medium-pips are pips coming in 100s of combinations in between.
Long-pips were invented to help classic long-distance defenders to be able to handle the powerful top-spins (known as “loops”) . Long-pips is not for use on both sides of a racket since it is most effective when used with smooth rubber one side and long pips on the other side. This racket is known as a combination racket & is like a racket on steroids because you are capable of creating not only both top-spins & back-spins to the very extreme limits but also extreme no spin balls. The behavior long-pips can be extremely complicated and well beyond the intended scope of this article. The focus of this article is mostly on how to use your smooth rubber most effectively.
As stated above the behavior of long pips is somewhat quite complicated. However a brief description & history would help here though full description is beyond the scope of this article
As stated above short pips are shortest & stiffest. And th
With the above introduction, let me elaborate on some important items related to mission & objective of HTTTC
1. “Hitting” the ball & one shot wonders :-
HTTTC is a spin only training center with “hitting” the ball strongly discouraged for the most part.
Basement ping-pong players boast that they can “smash” the ball and finish the point in one deft stroke.
You don’t come to HTTTC to play basement ping-pong & be that one shot wonder.
amount of time the ball spends on the racket (known as dwell time) is the
“minimum” when you ”hit” a ball. It is “maximum” when you “spin” the ball by brushing it on top of it to create
top-spin and under it to create under-spin or
(back-spin). Brushing the
ball is your only magic mantra at HTTTC. You
are NOT here to “hit” the ball. You are here mostly to “spin” the
ball by brushing it. When
you brush on top of the ball to the maximum, it is called
Brushing a ball takes a completely different mindset when you come out of the basement with the mindset of hitting the ball and end the point quickly as a one-shot wonder. You are here to brush the ball over & over and to win by spinning mostly and NOT by hitting. But learning to “brush” the ball instead of hitting it is not easy. It may take you anywhere from weeks to years . In the beginning you are likely to miss almost all your tries. That is a good sign. Gradually it will improve but keep in mind that the contact angle is very acute since it is the most tangential ( compared to hitting when hitting , it is the most orthogonal) . Don’t worry, even the professionals miss it 1% to 5% of the time (If you had watched pro-tennis this is most apparent when the player tries to brush the ball very hard but slightly off and the ball hits the frame of the racket instead and goes up 50 feet in the air). So sleep, eat , think breathe to BRUSH the ball , not to hit it
It is one thing when a newbie does not understand this but is extremely frustrating for me when our long-time players don’t understand this. I can be at the other side the gym and can hear the loud bang of someone “hitting” the ball and it drives me crazy. (because when you brush the ball at the beginning level there should be almost no sound at all) Players regress to basement one-shot wonder behavior when they get over excited when they see a ball that seems high enough to hit but it really is not because it probably has more backspin than you thought. Until you reach a rating of say 1700 , please please loop the ball & not hit it when in any doubt at all & wait for the next opportunity to go for a kill shot.
When I say loop , I mean not only top-spin the ball to maximum but also
1. give it plenty of room above the net &
2. do not worry about the speed ….you goal is maximum spin not speed (at least until you reach a rating of say 1700)
You goal is to rip the ball with maximum spin NOT maximum speed
Your modern racket itself is designed this way for spinning and not hitting.
Please also read the webpage http://sjcttc.webs.com/loop.htm for full details about spinning.
Other advanced articles related to this are at http://4ctt.com
2. Are you at HTTTC to “train” or “have fun”
As many of you may know 99% table-tennis groups in North America call themselves “clubs” and “not training centers” for the fear of turning off & away even the only few members they can manage to get (this is because table-tennis is not recognized as a main-stream athletic sport only in probably North America but is taught as a formal sport just as other athletic sports, starting at school level in other countries).
The objective here at HTTTCis both train & have fun. But what again drives me crazy is when players are neither training nor having fun. What I mean is that I have seen certain players spend hours at a table not training or playing a match but mindlessly “hitting” the ball (more like babying the ball like basement beginners) and all over the table (as if they are playing a match). Is this training ? I highly doubt it because this is recreational ping-pong. Is it fun ? Yes if you are in a bar but not at a dedicated training center. At HTTTC we want to try hard to have a friendly atmosphere but this has nothing to do with that.
Most training routines are multi-ball drills where one or both players only play forehand to forehand or one players backhand to the other’s forehand etc but not mindlessly all over the table babying speed. I am not talking about many formal drills that use the whole table.
It is ok to have fun playing doubles or even creating your own fun training routines but it is not OK to spend hours mindlessly babying hitting the ball all over the table. If there are too many players waiting there is nothing wrong in warming up
by playing a doubles but I noticed that many players are too lazy to set up a table and train but would rather goof off playing doubles. Doubles is well and good but whenever possible try to train one on one with another singles partner & save doubles to towards the end of the day. Of course doubles also seem to be very competitive at HTTTC but don’t take it as seriously as singles except when you are training for a doubles event in a tournament or such.
So to summarize :- Goof off or train but do it separately and consciously for the most part
3. Abuse of serve with “unuse” of serve
This is a very strange item because while many players want to be basement one-shot wonders by quickly “smashing” the ball and end the point but are not willing to do the same with their serves. As you know in tennis, you try to ace your opponent to win the point . In table-tennis , players do not realize serve & serve-receive is 60% of your game. Most players do not seem to understand this. They try a few proper serves & if it does not work, just give up and resign to just putting the ball in play , which only make the situation far worse. You have to keep in mind that a set of serves that fails against Player A may be very good against Player B but more importantly the same set of serves that did NOT work against player B may work very well against player A. You need to develop 100s of services & stick to successful service combinations against each style / player. Just throwing the ball into play is not table-tennis it is basement recreational ping-pong though actually even some basement players have some trick pet serves. Another problem is players serving illegally
(1) right off the hand (not tossing at least 6 inches)
(2) or over the surface of table (ball has to be behind end line at contact)
(3) Cupping the ball (the ball must be in open palm only & not over fingers)
(4 ) Quick serving before opponent is ready ( if you are not ready just raise your hand but you cannot try to
return a serve, miss it and THEN claim you are not ready)
(5) You must serve from a stationary position and not just walk to table as you serve
Take a deep breath , take your time , decide what serve you will use & serve (& look) like a professional
4. What new thing have you learned today
(Diversity over consistency)
Most amateur one-shot wonders in racket sports have no clue as to how good the professionals are. Most professionals can execute a stroke 300 to 400 times in a row (and yet there is always that amateur clown who thinks they can beat them !)
You must initially of course train hard to improve your consistency level but unfortunately there is a saturation point beyond which your talent is not going to allow you to go. Even if you train 6 to 7 hours a day you are not going to do 300 loops in a row like a professional.
So you need to find a balance. You need to know your individual realistic saturation point (not your professional fantasy) to reach for your best strokes …for one player it may be your backhand loop against backspin for another it could just be a backhand push etc. You want to spend minimal time on this once you feel you have saturated out.
Don’t waste too much of your time training on strokes you are already good at and are not going to get any better. Spend only about 20% of your training time just enough to keep these strokes the sharpest and that is it.
Instead you should spend most of your time learning new strokes & new serves. Most players do not realize there are literally 100s of new strokes & serves to learn in table-tennis.
Why is it important ? It is because the more well rounded your overall game is , the better overall you are. For example most professional players are attacking players and yet many top pros spend 2 or 3 hours a day just practicing only how to chop . Why ? Because that one single point when you were forced to chop to stay in the point may be all the separation between two professionals who are otherwise totally equal. But from an amateur perspective it is 1000 times more important because the bigger you arsenal of strokes & serves is , the better your chances are of moving up but more importantly it is just plain fun learning & mastering new strokes & serves than the same plain old day after day
5. Do something to the ball
This is another point of frustration to me. I can understand a quick block or a push if you are caught out of position but don't just keep simple straight pushing the ball (without seizing the first loop) or passively lobbing it. This will only become a bad habit as your skill level increases because you will be attacked mercilessly at higher levels. As your level improves you will learn that not taking any risk at all is the biggest risk you can take (unless you are a defensive player by design & very few of you at HTTTC are defensive players as in any other center and smooth rubbers are not designed defensive play but are meant for all out attacking play. ). Even defensive players have to take some risks in the modern game as there is no way to win with pure defense. Make it a habit of taking the first loop whenever possible before your opponent does it to you and seizes the advantage. This is far easier said than done but if you make it a habit to be aggressive, you will learn to land more and more of your first loops in. Also instead of just pushing or blocking try to learn to use side-spin blocks & side spin pushes and side spin loops. Don't just throw the ball up there. Try to do something to it.
6. Maximum racket acceleration at ball contact
In tennis & table-tennis have you ever wondered some players especially women players with a small build generate tremendous amounts of top-spin especially from their backhands , while their strokes really don't look much different from one with the same seeming good stroke-mechanics ? The key is maximized racket acceleration during the point of contact whether you are brush looping for top-spin or brush chopping for back spin. If your hand is moving with the same speed from start to point of contact (which means acceleration is zero as you may know from calculus, acceleration is next differential of velocity) , your stroke is quite ineffective. Instead your hand needs to accelerate ( constant increase in hand speed) as you approach the point of contact. Again this is easier said than done but then again you are not going to get there if you are mindlessly "babying" the ball with no purpose at same speed (in many cases to look graceful & pretty)
7. No (basement) backhand buffoons allowed at HTTTC
A major difference between basement “game” of ping-pong & organized “sport” of table-tennis is that table-tennis is mostly a forehand dominant sport lot more tennis. Most basement ping-pong players with no clue of table-tennis come to a serious table-tennis center & think they can dominate using just their backhand. And there are a few even as high as 1900 level (expert). But the simple fact that table-tennis is foremost still a forehand sport. Even if you have physical disabilities that is no excuse for not developing a good forehand first. So it is all about forehand forehand forehand forehand and spin spin spin spin at HTTTC It makes me sick to see a regular HTTTC player play with a newcomer and allow the newcomer to be a basement backhand buffoon. This is unacceptable even for a minute & the HTTTC player must immediately orient the newbie to the sport of table-tennis starting with a forehand.
Of course backhand is almost equally important but only after a player starts climbing up in their skill level. What is frustrating to me is coaching malpractice by some coaches who may have a better backhand trying to impose their own style on every newbie. Yes a few players despite all forehand training are destined to be better backhand players but initially we have to proceed based on the probability of that happening which is less than 10% to 15% as most humans by nature (after proper training) will be forehand dominant (of course if don’t insist a newbie learn forehand first and let him/her continue be a backhand buffoon , then (s)he is going to assume that is all there is to table-tennis).
8. Proper table-tennis ATHLETIC attire required
HTTTC is trying to create a professional image for the world’s most popular sport as an athletic sport and not to be viewed as a basement game. While I do no expect or recommend buying $50 athletic top brand name table-tennis shirts I would recommend colorful fashionable polo & T-shirts & shorts / skirts , track-suits etc, As far as shoes you can buy proper table-tennis shoes or any athletic shoes such as tennis, volleyball etc. Dress-shoes, sandals , bare-feet are no longer allowed though we have been a little lenient but the risk of injury is too high.
9. Yes it is true… I am conspiring against you with everyone else & training them all to beat you
Many times players look totally puzzled when during play or practice I give tips to your opponent as to how to beat you , how to play against you , what your specific weaknesses etc right to your face. No need to be alarmed or upset (or wonder what I have personally against you) because as a coach It am helping everyone else. For example when I tell your opponents what your weakness is right in front of you it has two purposes. It helps your opponent to learn how to play strategically but more importantly it tells you that you must work on these weaknesses and so on.
10. Don’t be robotNazi
In the tabletennis world there are a large percentage of players who (irrationally) believe their racket is holier than everyone else’s & their playing style is superior to all other styles and therefore everyone should play exactly the same way with same equipment (theirs) and all other rubbers be banned. But what makes modern sponge version of tabletennis so great is that it enhances every player’s individuality and no two player is actually all alike. You can design a racket that closely matches your playing style. If a player can only spin (loop) well from their backhand but only hit well from their forehand, (s)he can design a racket with smooth rubber only on their backhand but with short pips out (for hitting) on their forehand. If another player can only chop well on their forehand and only hit well on their backhand, that player can design a racket with long pips on their forehand and short pips on their backhand. Therefore it is extremely bigoted to make childish suggestions that all players must use same exact racket like in the old hardbat days but yet otherwise rational highly educated extremely intelligent humans regress to this hateful behavior just when it comes to tabletennis & it is beyond me as to how. Learn to live & let live & respect other player styles instead of hatemongering robotNazi who is more obsessed with limiting their opponents’ equipment (rubbers). ( I won’t get into how & why I coined the term robotNazi circa 1997 as it involves lot more historical context & detailed explanation as it is beyond scope here for now)