June 7, 2012

Why am I not improving?

Hi guys, here is a question that some of us are quite familiar with. We are all too familiar of hearing players sobbing and complaining that they don't improve. They always complain about the same things, while the real reasons why they are not improving are left unattended. It happened to me when I was in my teens, and I am here to share some of the bad habits I did. There are certain things that have a lot of influence on most players improvement, but the 3 below are the most common:

1.They choose inadequate equipment. The faster the equipment, the slower they'll learn to handle it, if ever.

2.They do ROBOTIC practice drills, MORONIC exercises and SILLY practice matches with a wrong & biased mentality. Instead of working on their weaknesses, they work ONLY on their strengths. They play for winning on practice matches, and don't use them to practice.

3.They choose the wrong practice partners by the wrong reasons. A partner can be adequate / inadequate for lots of different reasons.

If you want to improve, instead of asking 'why am I not improving?' you could ask yourself 'how can I improve?' ('What am I doing that is making me improve?' and 'Does it really work?'). If you are not improving, your practice sessions LACK something. Spending hours at the table (playing / drilling) will probably make you improve, but when you have a somehow developed game, you need a lot of practice time to notice even a slight improvement. At this point, you need a partner (or coach) that forces you to play at your best, and to polish your strokes, footwork, tactics, whatever.

What's more: finding a partner (just ONE) is no good, unless he's a very good player.What you really need is A WIDE SET of partners so you can hit with all of them. The more different his styles / equipment / personality / tactics / strengths & weaknesses, the better. You have to do FOCUSED practice: Improving a weak point is much easy and quick than improving a strong point. You have to work on your weaknesses:
Some players have no backhand, and a pretty decent decent forehand - guess what are they training? they spend (let's say) 4 hours / week ripping forehands (which I was found guilty ofDescription: http://www.tabletennisdaily.co.uk/forum/images/smilies/biggrin.png). If they practiced 2 hours BH and 2 hours FH per week, they would improve A LOT his overall game.

Inability to rally, to handle (play against) long pips / short pips / antispin / OX rubbers / reglued sponges, to push (yes - there are players than can loop but can't push), or to return serves are huge weaknesses that you can improve. Playing against your buddy, which is always feeding you with that CANDY balls (again, guilty..) so you can loop SO EASY will make you improve, BUT MUCH LESS than looping against that chopper at your club with those dangerous long pips, who will be chopping/feeding and floating POISONED balls to you.

Which brings us nicely to practice partners Description: http://www.tabletennisdaily.co.uk/forum/images/smilies/smile.png, the Good Practice Partners (GPP) and the not so good ones or Bad Practice Partners (BPP):

GPP : Is a constantly changing face. The more styles and equipment you play against, the better.
BPP : Is always the same guy (unless he's way better than you -then you could be a bad practice partner for him-, or he's a good coach).

GPP : Warms up all possible strokes / spins / placement / pace combination: Is not a one-dimensional player.
BPP : Wants to FH to FH loop, all at the same pace for 40 minutes before doing another thing.

GPP : Goes for tight rallies, or drills that allow to develop control and counter control, and forces you to think and take (tactical) decisions during rallies.
BPP : Goes for robotic drills. (like 'OK. Now you loop 1 BH and 1 FH, and I'll block' crosscourt). Allows non-thinking, robotic playing.

GPP : Is a player who (by ANY reason) gives you a hard time when playing matches.
BPP : Is a player who you are very used to play against.

GPP : Favors spin, placement and pace. He forces you to play for control. Makes you practice your footwork and play the ball.
BPP : Favors speed (and not pace). He kills so hard when practicing, that you never have a chance to return (to learn to return) those balls.

GPP : Should be able to surprise you with new serves.
BPP : Won't let you improve your serve return once you are used to his serves.

GPP : Plays an unusual, extreme or complex style as twiddling, penholders that BH-loop, choppers with offensive capabilities, unusual combination rackets... You should have some of those players among your practice partners. 
BPP : Plays an ALL to OFF style, (probably looping with inverted). This style is the most common, and it's the less likely to give you troubles, as you are (probably) VERY used to it already (& it makes me looks good Description: http://www.tabletennisdaily.co.uk/forum/images/smilies/smile.png)

GPP : Has a destructive style of play, don't allowing you to play comfortable, BUT letting you rally - so you can get used to any spin, change of pace, placement, whatever.
BPP : Allows you to play at your best, so you both end feeding each other with easy balls so you look like you could play.

GPP : You play less matches, but they are much more intense and tight as every point is fought hard.
BPP : Play tons of silly matches with you one after another. Matches can be won by any of you and by any result, as neither of you is trying hard.

GPP : Is patient. He will feed you with progressively difficult balls so you can learn to handle those shots that give you problems.
BPP : Don't like to pick up balls. He doesn't seem to understand that missing shots is part of the game

GPP : Is an open minded, nice person.
BPP : Can't win. Can't loose. Trash talks. Cheats. Judges other people. Thinks he can play (doesn't matter how good is he). Has 'TT prejudices'.

GPP : Wants to play other players too.
BPP : Is your TT buddy, and he only wants to play with you.

GPP : Is a friend too.
BPP : You see only at your club and with the sole purpose of practice TT (I used to get a lot of these).

GPP : Gives advices. Show you his weak points, so you'll try to take profit of them, to force him to improve.
BPP : Don't share his knowledge (like: he won't do his best serves except on the match has started). - How do you want to improve with a guy like this?

GPP : Wants to play his weaknesses on your strengths / weaknesses, and viceversa.
BPP : Wants to play his strengths on your strengths to have cool rallies.

GPP : Tries to be a good partner.
BPP : Thinks he is a good partner.

These are some of my experiences, and honestly, they're not intended down talk anyone. I hope you enjoy reading them.

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