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Touch in Table Tennis

31 December 2018  | Posted in: Table Tennis Tips

About the author

Radivoj Hudetz

Radivoj Hudetz is a 70-year veteran of table tennis and the Chairman of the ETTHoF board. 

He was the coach of Bayern, the German junior team, the former Yugoslavian national women team, and the former Yugoslavian champion women team HASTK Mladost Zagreb. He's an author of several books on table tennis techniques, tactics, and history. He's also the chief editor of table tennis periodicals “Tischtennis aktuell” and “SPIN”, and an author of several films and DVDs on table tennis. He's also the former president of Yugoslav Table Tennis Association and the former General secretary of the Croatian TT Association. He was the tournament director of the World Championships 2007. 

Currently he's an honorary member of ETTU and a member of the ITTF President Advisory Council. He's been honored with the ITTF award of merit, with the Croatian Table Tennis Association’s Trophy and with the Sport Award of Croatian Republic. 

 

Touch” and How to Improve it

 

The expression “touch” is often a well known and understandable expression to a table tennis player. Touch is a very important characteristic of a player that usually demonstrates the talent of a player at first sight. But, when one has to define touch certain difficulties occur. Somebody will say it means the player has a “good hand”, he is a talented player, and so on. In reality, a player's touch is a complex characteristic and denotes said player's capability to decide precisely where the ball shall be hit, ability to precisely control muscle tension, ability to anticipate i.e. foreseeing the opponent's action, and promptly recognizing direction, flight speed, and rotation of the incoming ball.

 

So if you are going to analyze what touch is, you will find that it is composed of different attributes, of which some can be precisely measured like hitting precision, anticipation, and reaction speed. It is obvious if you improve these elements which touch is composed of you will improve your touch and furthermore your whole game.

 

Hitting precision

One of the components of touch is hitting precision, a player's ability to control exactly where the ball shall fly. In training, it is necessary to to be conscious of hitting the ball to the exact point chosen before the stroke has begun to be performed. With special exercises that require hitting a specific mark on the table, a player will succeed in improving his touch relatively quick.

 

Precision can be trained by marking the table with chalk. Start of with a target that has a large field and then progressively make the targets smaller and smaller. The ball should consistently hit its mark before minimizing its size again. The next step involves several targets on the table and immediately before the stroke is performed, the player shall decide or told by their coach which target is to be hit. In service training, the player shall take a box with about 30-40 balls and also practice by trying to precisely hit a target or several targets with the ball.

 

Controlling muscle tension

The greater the ability to precisely control muscle tension, the better touch will be. In order to improve touch, it is necessary to practice with extreme changes in playing tempo. For example, forehand counter strokes should be practiced by switching between regular or irregular, slow and then hard, and quick strokes. Such tempo changes should be practiced in other training exercises too.

 

Today, the market and the sport is dominated by the plastic ball with even still some celluloid balls floating around. It is advisable that during practice, even in the same training session, to use different balls and try quickly to adapt your strokes to the different conditions each ball provides.

 

After some time, without tournaments, you can try to play with different rackets or to put some weights on your racket. By doing all of this, a player gets used to defining the strength of their muscle tension as precisely as possible under different situations.

 

Anticipation

Success in play is directly connected with the ability to anticipate the opponent's action, to foresee where and with what type of spin the ball will be hit by the opponent. The reaction time between the moment in which the ball leaves the racket of the opponent and when we start our reaction and then hit the coming ball is too short if we do not start our reaction prior to when the ball leaves the opponent's racket. This means we must foresee what the opponent is going to do and start reacting even before the stroke has been executed. Anticipation in table tennis comes with experience in play. A beginner will not be able to react on time as he is entirely occupied with his own performance and has no empirical experience to foresee the action of the opponent. When the player starts to perform his technique automatically, he will be capable of watching his opponent and will learn to anticipate his action.

 

In order to improve anticipation, it is necessary to train with different sparring partners as much as possible in order to be efficient in gaining experience with a variety of players. It is not good to practice most of your time with only one training partner. We learn to anticipate his actions but it will not be a big help in anticipating the actions from a different type of player. It is possible to gain necessary experience and improve anticipation even when practicing with weaker partners. It is especially useful to use training exercises in which you move from practice partner to practice partner in quick succession.

 

Anticipation in table tennis is based on a player's experience, each player should conscientiously try to find signs that will help him foresee certain opponent's actions. Be it a certain body posture, certain swing etc.

 

Stroke control

In technical training, a player should try to consciously control the course of each movement of a stroke, not to perform a stroke automatically. A certain stroke, especially one not yet appropriately perfected should be individually analyzed in order to make the player absolutely conscious of how the stroke should be performed. It is very useful to record a video of the course of stroke movements to become aware of mistakes. Another possibility is to use a mirror in order to immediately see and control strokes.

 

Measurements

In order to define and measure touch, different individual components which altogether produce touch can be measured. Accuracy in hitting a certain target can be measured, with help of a kinemometer the player's ability to precisely differentiate, and with a dynamometer the ability to precisely administer muscle tension can be measured too. The reaction time and ability to anticipate the trajectory of a ball hit by your opponent from the movement the opponent makes can be measured as well. These are the components of “touch”. There are players that have an inborn sense of touch and players who do not have it, but it is possible to improve it if you are ready to work on it.

 

Article by: Radivoj Hudetz

Editing by: George T. Latterman