Why Ping-Pong? Part 4 – By Liliana Kohann

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Always Learning New Things

Today was a really rough day for me. I had a lot of work and a lot of unexpected additional tasks that ended up in my bucket of responsibilities. After a day like that, all I wanted to do is relax, go to bed, do nothing. I made dinner for my boys, and after we ate I just sat there in the chair, thinking if I should just go to bed, or do some more work, or maybe I should go and get some exercise and practice ping-pong at the Newgy Table Tennis Center. I was leaning toward just going to bed, however my son, Julian, encouraged me to go and practice:

“Mom, go, you do want to get better, and you do want to lose some weight, right? Go, maybe you’ll learn something new.”

“But I am so tired and…”

“Go before you talk yourself out of it,” he said lovingly, and convincingly.

That was a great point. How could I not go with such a support? I grabbed my bag, and followed my son’s advice.

Within half an hour of practicing with Robo-Pong my heaviness and tiredness faded away and to my luck, one of the great players offered to practice with me. His name is Slawek Waclawik. He is from Poland and is about a 2100 player. He is way, way better than me as I am about 1350. I usually never get to play with people of that level. I was excited and my son’s words rang in my head: “Go, maybe you’ll learn something.” I knew I’d learn something. We first practiced hundreds of forehands, than backhands.

Here is what I learned: Coaches often talked about the diamond form of your hand/body position, and I do understand that concept but somehow it was not hitting home. I tend to smash the ball more, and hit it kind of early, with my hand close to my body. Slawek explained to me about the letter D, one of methods used in training in Europe.

In forehand, you take your hand in a straight line down, as if you were writing the straight line of D, but you bring it up in a rounded motion, as if you would be writing the round part of D. In backhand the same: you hit the ball in that rounded motion, and you bring your hand down in a straight line. Somehow I got it this time. I saw it in my head very clearly. My stroke immediately improved.

He also pointed out to me that I was not hitting the ball in front of me. While we practiced backhands he noticed that I move my hand too much and am not consistent. “You need to hit the ball in front of you. You must move your body so you can hit the ball when it is in front of you.” Oh, and I learned one more thing: I must always brush the ball. Smash it only when it’s high. Other than that always try to brush it. I know I heard this before, but somehow with this letter D concept it made sense to me.

I learned so many things in ping-pong today. I know it will take a lot of time to master it all, and many hours with the Robo-Pong. As Slawek said, it takes years of playing to really get the right positioning, consistent stroke and spin. I know that it’s better than I learn it now than keep practicing my mistakes.

As I was trying to hit the ball with this improved approach, as I was sweating and burning calories like crazy (the thing is when you play with such good players, they return all your mediocre balls and you have to keep going, and going), I was feeling so glad that I came. I couldn’t help but thank my son, Julian, for his encouragement. I guess I learned one more thing: Sometimes it’s good to force yourself to do something that is good for you. You never know what you may learn!

Liliana Kohann

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