We’re big fans of table tennis, with the only major problem being that we don’t have room in the house for a table of our own! As long as you’ve got someone to play with, it’s great exercise and a lot of fun with it – and it’s among the most accessible sports around once you settle on somewhere to play.
Like most accessible sports, you’ll see people on TV and on the internet that play at a professional level, and it won’t take long before you realise that this is a game with quite the skill gap. While being able to hold a bat and hit the ball is one thing, playing to a good standard requires plenty of practice. We’ve designed this feature for people that either want to try the sport or have already started and are desperate to elevate themselves from beginner status. Read on for our 10 best tips to quickly improve at table tennis and to take your game to a new level in no time.
1. Learn All You Can About Spin
It doesn’t take much practice to hit and return the ball comfortably. However, games at a high level are not won simply through hitting the ball back and forth – decent players could do this for hours on end. It’s as much about tricking your opponent and catching them off guard, and one of the best ways to do this is through applying spin to the ball. Depending on who you play against, they may already be comfortable with this, and if you’re to stand a chance, you need to know what to expect.
You need to think about the implications of spin both as the receiver and the spinner. If you get the chance to practice alone, you can do this on a table set against a wall and pay attention to how the ball bounces back to you depending on what you did with your bat.
2. Put Your Body into Each Shot
Spin is excellent to trick opponents but sometimes, you can’t beat a good old-fashioned power shot to limit their chances of making a return. Rotate your hips as you pull the bat back and push your entire body through the return. Most beginners rely on their arm alone to power their shots, and this is a habit you should endeavour to get out of as quickly as possible.
3. Prepare Properly for Each Return
You’ll probably start to play others that are already at a higher level of competence than you before long, and it’s never too early to get into the habit of being ready for anything. Figure out a ready position that works for you and enables you to react to balls with any kind of spin and in any direction, then mentally focus on returning to this position between each shot.
4. Build on What You’re Good At
The chances are that you’re naturally predisposed to some aspects of the game. You might be better at backhands than forehands, or find that you are surprisingly adept at unreturnable serves. In the grand scheme of things, you’re probably naturally average at some aspects of the game, and poor at others. Rather than working on your weaknesses to start with and becoming average at everything in the process, focus on your strengths. It’s better to become outstanding at a handful of parts of the game than adequate at all of them in the early stages.
5. Get Your Own Bat
Once you’ve played a few times and decided that table tennis is the sport for you, a bat is a worthy investment. There are differences in weight, materials and characteristics, even between technically identical bats. Once you have your own, you can work with its nuances and practice in situations that will reflect in a more competitive environment.
6. Learn the Sidespin Serve
Many beginners focus their serves on getting the ball over the net and into play, and for good reasons. However, this is not difficult to master, and it’s good to get into the habit of spinning serves early on. Points can be won with the serve as much as with any other shot, so making the start of a point unpredictable and difficult is never a bad idea.
7. Work on Keeping the Ball Low
The closer the ball is to the table, the fewer options your opponent has to work with. With a combination of spin and aim, you should always endeavour almost to clip the net with each return, thus placing your opponent in a tricky situation with each shot.
8. Find a Regular Partner
Consistency in competition has its ups and downs, but the last thing you need is the desire to practice and compete, but nobody to play with. A friend or family member with the same desire to play and improve can be just what you need to keep things ticking over nicely, and you can work with each other to keep the motivation levels going as you both reach your goals.
9. Don’t Wait Too Long to Get Competitive
If like us, you tend to play table tennis somewhere other than at home, there will often be leagues and tournaments to enter. You’ll be nervous during your first competitive match, but there’s nothing like the adrenaline of competition and playing better players to improve your own game. Once you’re confident in the basics, join up with groups and leagues to continue your personal improvement.
10. Training is Never Complete
As great as competition can be to improve your game, your skills are built on the training tables, and that doesn’t stop. There’s a reason why professional athletes in all sports continue to train as well as play, and you should never consider yourself too good. Practice games remove pressure and enable you to focus on specific tools in your arsenal, while potentially trying something new that would be too much of a risk in a serious game.