Traits Of A Good Table Tennis Player

Table Tennis is a simple and fun sport that appeals to a lot of people. A large part of it’s attraction stems from it’s relatively low demands on the players in a lot of areas. For one thing, the actual playing area doesn’t take up much space; therefore, it can be played indoors, and can even be made part of a house’s rec room with little difficulty.

For another thing, table tennis is a low impact sport that can be played by almost any one, so you don’t have to be at extremes of fitness to take it, unlike high impact sports like football. These factors alone are usually sufficient to get people interested in table tennis; what gets them HOOKED on it is that fact that it’s just, plain FUN. Despite it’s lower physical requirements however, table tennis does place certain demands on it’s players that you’ll want to brush up on if you decide to take it as a hobby.

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The first thing you’ll need to train in for table tennis are your reflexes. Table tennis balls are small, and can travel at relatively high velocities if thwacked hard. Therefore, you’ll want to train your reflexes enough to be able to intercept a small, high speed ball and not just hit it, but hit it properly so that it gets sent back at the other player instead of just deflected at an angle (at which point it might fly in your face).

Here’s a simple training exercise to improve your hand eye coordination. Have someone take a stick, about a foot long and half an inch wide. Have them hold it horizontally at one end in front of them, palm facing down. Open your hand palm down over the other end, hovering about an inch above the stick. Then, let your partner release the stick. Your job is to react to their dropping the stick and catching it. You’d be surprised at the number of people who fumble this simple drill.

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Aside from reflexes, you’ll need strong, flexible wrists. A common mistake of new table tennis players is using the fingers and palm to adjust their grip on the paddle, making changes to the angle awkward. Once you get the paddle settled comfortably in your hand, your palm and fingers should remain fixed in that position, and a majority of the changes to the paddle’s angle is made by your wrist. The best exercises to create great wrist flexibility come from a martial art called aikido. No, I’m not recommending studying it (though if you do it would help you a lot in other areas too!). Rather, you can buy a book or video on aikido basics, and these will often list the simple wrist rotation and flexibility exercises you’ll need.

The next element that makes a good table tennis player is general balance and good footwork. If you can dance without falling over yourself, you should be fine. While table tennis doesn’t involve nearly as much running around as other sports do, this is actually part blessing and curse. The reason is because to move from one side of the table to the other, you need to rely on smaller steps and subtle shifts in balance and weight. Because these movements are much smaller than the wider general gross movements made in other sports like running or basket ball, they can actually throw off the timing of people used to high athletic activity.

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Lastly, there is a certain mental element involved in table tennis if you want to win. You have to be able to outthink your opponent, planning two or three steps ahead in the game and adjusting your shots accordingly. The best comparisons would be to fencing and chess, where the ability to feint and trap your opponent into a certain weak position spells the key to victory. In table tennis, if all you do is react to your opponent’s shots, you’ll lose. The simplest example would be to angle shots constantly to your opponent’s left side, forcing him to backhand repeatedly, then suddenly angling a shot wide and far to his vulnerable right. This kind of thinking is what wins you games.