If you are trying to change or improve your stroke, sometimes it is difficult when the ball is coming toward you. Your muscle memory takes over and you easily revert back to how you had been previously stroking the ball. Also, as you are trying to make contact and must adjust to various placements, speeds, spins, heights, and depths, the strokes often becomes sloppy as you reach/lean for the ball.
For this reason, it is critically important that you have a mirror in your table tennis room and practice shadow strokes. These shadow strokes are an indication of what you think that the stroke should look like.
As a coach, I ask all of my students to show me shadow strokes in front of the mirror because I know that if they can’t do it correctly without the ball, it ain’t goin’ to get better with the ball. After hundreds of strokes in front of the mirror, players begin developing the right muscle memory and are then able to convert it over to playing with a robot or human in drills and eventually implement in matches.
As a player, you should do daily shadow strokes without a coach as well. You should have a list of 5-10 areas of your game that need improvement. Before starting your daily training, do some physical and mental warmup on these areas in front of the mirror. As you can picture it in your mind and as you can demonstrate and see yourself doing it, you will have more effective, deliberate practice sessions.
The video below is Frank Yin who has been taking lessons for about 9 months. Coach Chance and I are making some adjustments to his forehand technique. It has a long way to go, but we are happy that he is making good progress and starting the right way… with shadow strokes!
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