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“If I can lose 10 pounds, my footwork will really improve!”
This is a common statement made by hundreds of club table tennis players nationwide. Yes, their footwork probably will improve, but losing 10 pounds is only one of the four elements to having excellent footwork. I have seen some great athletes (in other sports) who had very poor footwork in table tennis. I have also seen some 300 pound table tennis players who had decent footwork.
Element #1 Mechanics
The basic mechanics of the footwork is something that you need to master in the first few years. Having a solid base of how to move will make your strokes more consistent and eliminate bad habits. The basic movements are side-to-side shuffle, in-and-out movement, crossover step, and short ball training. In addition to these movements, there are tiny micro movements that need to be made for each individual ball.
Element #2 Anticipation
This is the most neglected area of footwork. Anticipation allows you to have a general idea where the ping pong® ball is going before your opponent touches the ball. For example, when I loop wide to my opponent’s forehand, what are his options? Can he block a wide angle ball to my backhand? Can he drop the ball short over the net with a push? What can he do? What can’t he do? Anticipation should always be done with the feet. Never take the hand back too early.
Element #3 Watching the Racket
One of the first steps in development is to watch the opponent’s racket; this angle will tell you where the ping-pong® ball is going before your opponent contacts the ball. He could change his angle at the last second, but it is highly unlikely. Should you watch the racket or watch the ball or watch the table? Definitely not the table!!! You should know where the table is and realize that it won’t be moving during the point! You should watch your opponent’s racket until his contacts the ball, then watch the ball. Watch the ball until you contact it, and then watch your opponent’s racket.
Element #4 Physical Fitness
Physical fitness is something very important to me. I would suggest working out 4-5 times per week even on the days that you play at the table tennis club. Playing while fatigued will really help to increase your endurance as well as your concentration. As you probably already know, weight loss if best achieved by a combination of exercise and healthy eating.