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This chapter is intended for those who need assistance in moving to the ball. If you can perform a stroke well while keeping your feet in one spot, but you lose consistency when you start practicing the stroke with foot movement, then you need to improve your footwork. When learning footwork, slowly shadow practice several sets of the described footwork until you get the hang of it. Then combine practicing footwork with a particular stroke or combination of strokes using the robot to deliver balls to different points on the table.
Having proper footwork greatly assists in executing good strokes. With proper footwork, a player will move into good position and then execute his strokes from a solid, balanced stance. This leads to consistency, quickness, and being able to use full power. Without good footwork, a player will reach, lean, and hit the ball from an unbalanced position. Strokes end up being jerky and erratic, more like slaps than strokes.
In table tennis, you won't have to cover a lot of ground, but you will have to move to a spot very quickly. Therefore, most table tennis footwork consists of one or two steps, usually fairly short. During all footwork, it is crucial to stay balanced. Always start your foot movement from the balanced ready position.
Place your weight on the balls of your feet with your heels lightly touching the ground. Keep your shoulders centered over your knees. Eliminate any up and down movement. Move the instant the opponent has committed to his shot, not before. Move to where the ball will come before starting your stroke. Avoid stroking while moving.
For side-to-side movement, you may use one-step, two-step, or three-step footwork.
One-step footwork is normally used for short distances, two-step for medium distances, and three-step for long distances. One-step footwork is very common when moving left to cover a wide backhand. It is performed by simply shifting your weight to your right leg and pushing your left foot further to the left. Vice versa if you want to go to the right. One big disadvantage of one-step footwork is it can leave you in a "stretched out" position if you have to move more than a foot or two. Once stretched out, it is difficult to get ready for the next shot.
The two-step footwork is the most common form of footwork. It is used to get into forehand position for balls to your wide forehand two-step footwork, you lean on your right leg, pull your left foot toward your right foot, then quickly shift your right foot to the right. You end up with your feet in the same relative position as when you started the movement except 2-3 feet further to the right. It is a side-skipping type of movement.
Three-step footwork is used to cover shots hit deep to the forehand comer, angled off the wide forehand sideline, or to step out wide on your backhand side to hit a forehand. It is very similar to the two-step except an additional small step is made before both feet are shifted. To move right, take a small step with your right foot to the right (6 to 8 inches), shift your weight to your right leg, then perform a two-step movement.
Figure O: Footwork Diagrams
Below are diagrams showing how to place and move the feet f or one-step, two-step, and three-step footwork. The diagrams are for a right-handed player. You should practice these patterns until they become second nature. When practicing, remember to stay balanced and in a good ready position. Strive to keep your shoulders level and on the same plane (no up and down movement of the body and no dipping or raising of one shoulder).