Coach Samson Dubina US National Team Coach 4x USATT Coach of the Year

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Improving Long-Term

What should I be working on this year?

During the first lesson with a new student, I often ask the following question,
“Which areas of your game are you trying to improve long term and what measures are you taking to improve those areas?” 
They usually respond with a short reply like…
“I’m working on losing this fat belly.”
“I’m just trying to perfect my forehand, that’s all I care about.”
“I just want a serve that no one can return.”
Usually their answers are very short and not detailed.  They want to improve, but don’t have a plan.
Instead of merely focusing on one aspect of your game; try to make improvements in several areas.  In this article, I’m going to give you 7 samples on things that some of my beginner students are working on.   Make it your goal to improve these 7 areas in the next year.
1.  More Spin
This year, adding more spin will improve your game.  Try to develop a more relaxed technique, try to brush the ball lightly using more topsheet, try to use more wrist and forearm at contact.
2. Better Placement
This year, better placement will be a fast way to make some easy points.  Instead of merely returning the ball on the table, try to be specific with EACH and EVERY HIT.  Try to hit imaginary targets.
3. More Serving Variation
This year, try to develop a very similar serving motion, while having several different spins and while varying the placement and depth.  Not only vary the spin, but also very the amount of spin.  Improving your serve will help give you more opportunities to attack.  Make sure that you are looking for these opportunities.  Don’t count on your opponent outright missing your serve.  If he misses it… GREAT!  But you must be ready for him to return it.
4. Better Serve Return
This year, instead of merely watching your opponent’s racket when returning serve, try to also watch the bounce and look to make last second adjustments based on what you see.  Instead of just returning the ball, try to actually stroke the ball with a good push or a good flip or a good loop.  Stroking the serve will give you MUCH more control than blocking the serve.
5. Better Balance
This year, instead of reaching and leaning, look to stay balanced through every shot by moving into position with your feet.  Even for the ball in the center of the table, you should be making small steps to stay balanced.  With better balance, you will have better spin, better power, and better placement.
6. Better Focus
This year, take each practice session like a real tournament.  Even when winning by a large margin or losing by a large margin, try your best to stay focused and win each point like it is match point at the Olympics.
7. Better Perspective
This year, try to have the proper perspective on winning and losing.  Set goals and strive to reach those goals.  However, don’t turn table tennis into a god.  Keep it fun and enjoyable while striving to be the best you can be.