Table tennis is the most difficult and frustrating sport I have ever played

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I guess I should add a little context. Watch this. Watch it again. Try to understand what they are saying. This video explains a decent amount of why the way a lot of Table Tennis coaches coach is good at making you look better in practice but not better at playing matches.

It is also worth understanding that, when they are talking about retention of skills, they are talking about skills crossing over from practice directly into match performance skills. So, the graphs they show, show that, in block practice, the student looks like he is improving faster, but the skills don't transfer into match situations (there is little skill retention).

In random training, in practice, it looks like the training is not as effective. But the skills that are learned are directly applicable to match playing scenarios so the skills are directly retained. (Hence the name, "Train Ugly").

How can you apply these concepts of training to table tennis: there are so many ways to add the random element to your training. But a certain amount of match simulation where you are playing points exactly as you would in a match but you are not counting so you can experiment and try different things without the pressure of winning or losing the point.

But, you would also do yourself a favor to just play a lot of matches, a lot of matches and not fuss about whether you win or lose but treat the matches, even though you are counting points, as an opportunity to try new things and learn.
 
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says Spin and more spin.
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In any case, Carl used to make some great posts about block practice vs random practice. All in all, the OP has found the key. My first good coach hated general drills. He always had great improvement with his students because he always worked on skills in the context of winning points and improving how students responded to points they lost. He traveled with and coached his students in matches so he could know what to improve with their games. So you could have a really awkward looking game but you would win lots of matches because you had the skills to win.

Most coaches can't do this and don't get paid enough to do it. But having a realistic appreciation of the gap between practice and matches is very important to help you with your mental game.
Yeah. It seems like there is so much to explain about why you would want to do at least a good deal of training that is game simulation. Why, when the coach is feeding you balls it is easy to look like you are doing well and why, when the opponent in a match is trying to mess you up it is a different skill to respond to that then the skill to perform set drills.

In the long run, there may be a point when those drills that look fancy start having application to match play. But that is years and years away.

However, if someone has done all this training in the hopes of winning "The Office Tournament" and then misses all his serves and is super nervous, some of that has to do with the fact that the person cares so much about performing in front of his coworkers, in that office tournament that he is just totally messing up. Missing more than one serve in a match is kind of not so good. Missing more than three serves, in a match is an indication that something is off. And if you miss your serves over and over, the way the OP is describing, well, unfortunately, caring too much can make you mess up and then you never even got a chance to see if you are in any way improving.

I won't say to stop doing the training at the club. It is a choice you can make for yourself. But you should be playing to have fun. And if you are so nervous about how you will do in a match that you miss most of your serves, YOU ARE PROBABLY NOT HAVING FUN when you are playing. Just play matches and let yourself win or lose without caring much about winning or losing. Play enough matches that you stop thinking that any one of them is important. Experiment and have fun with the matches. If you play enough matches, the anxiety of whether you win or lose will go away.

This is a funny story. Before I performed in the circus (1996-1998 - Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus), I entered a bunch of tournaments. There was this company giving me free equipment and sending me to tournaments. I was entering into the vert competitions. The first 3 or 4 tournaments I went to, I did really bad. I was stressed. I was nervous. I really wanted to do well. And I wanted to do well to such an extent that I was too nervous and skated really really badly. At one of the tournaments, I was starting to get stressed and I thought to myself, I got sent to this tournament because I love skating. And I love skating because I have fun when I skate. And I know myself. I am a bit of a trouble maker and a bit of a clown. I like to cause trouble and have fun. So, I started acting how I would have if I was sessioning (training) on a ramp with friends. I started clowning around. When my turn was coming up, I asked the DJ to play a particular song I really liked to skate to. They started playing it. And I started jumping around on the platform of the ramp and yelling the lyrics ('Cause I'm a Pyro, I wanna Burn it Up). And while I was doing that, they counted me in to start my run. Well, I didn't drop in right when they counted me down. I finished the particular verse the song was in and then I skated to the coping and just jumped in. Needless to say, my mind was not on how I was doing but on having fun. And I definitely skated pretty darn well. I never had a problem with nerves holding me back in a vert tournament again after that.

If you are thinking about the results instead of focused on the stuff that makes you love playing, it is going to be hard for you to actual find out what your true potential is at this point. But probably your not much better or much worse than you were when you came in second in the office tournament. You are just putting an undue amount of stress on yourself because of how much you want to do well in front of your coworkers.

 
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Not great music for Table Tennis. But great music for skating a vert ramp. :)

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Mute%20Invert%20jpg.jpeg
 
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It's not as easy to say that random practice can apply to ANY sport. TT is mostly about control and variations of spin, as Volley Ball is mostly about a team effort to make the most effective transition possible between defense/receive first, and then attack in 3 phases, the 3 passes, and it's WAY MORE physical:
1- receive/blocking/digging (blocking doe not count as a pass)
2- setting
3- attacking

But in order to get the maximum of a team effort you have to block train each individual first, the feeling and control of the ball is important there BUT also the physical aspect of it: liberos have to receive services and dig vs attacks, setters have "feel" and control the ball first and set countless of ball first, they are the creators, the blockers/attackers have to first condition themselves to endure digs, slides and vertical jumps, both standing and running jumps.

That's both physical and technical, there's way more to do than in TT. The block pratice is important there:
- serve/receive: 1 libero + 1 attackers + 1 setter, then 1 + 2 + 1, it focuses on the ability for the receivers to endure hard balls and to pass into the right setter's zone (your own 3 meters middle/right side of the pitch) FIRST
- transition to attack without blocking; with 1 attacker first first, then with 2 to force the setter to create setting variations - then 1 blocker in the opp's side: the let the attacker a chance, and then 2 blockers, to train the blockers so they can sync themselves

Then the random team practice only after that (EDIT: the individual random practice is done for only 15 minutes before the fitness conditioning: alone vs wall, and 1 vs 1).

If you don't do that block pratice first, it can lead to serious injuries, specially for the wing/hitting spiker, on the left side of the pitch, this is where you have the most complete players, like Earvin N'Gapeth or Nishida. A typical block pratice here is to receive a ball back to the net, then 180 turn you stand jump for a block, then you turn back and dig a harder attack, and so on... It's damn intense, but that's the real life in an actual game for the spikers: they spend their time either very low AND very high in the air, they do libero stuff, attacking stuff, blocking stuff, and even sometimes setter's stuff when the ball isn't passed on the middle/right side. Middle blockers, the tall guys, don't do all that things, they mostly ... block and attack on combos, they rarely receive, dig or even set.

TT is like training the setters: you have to feel the ball first, you don't have team mates to combine with so it's easier to get a good feeling and conditioning in way less time. Plus, it's not as physical, way less injuries, and way less severe ones.

I've played VB as a setter first, then libero when the new rules entered in the late 90's, then started TT... man, TT is really easier, you can't play all day long in VB, specially beach that is damn physical ! TT allows to play 3 to 4 matches a day for pros, with practices in between. And most of the time it will be random practice just to keep the sensations and control ok.
 
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It's not as easy to say that random practice can apply to ANY sport. TT is mostly about control and variations of spin, as Volley Ball is mostly about a team effort to make the most effective transition possible between defense/receive first, and then attack in 3 phases, the 3 passes, and it's WAY MORE physical:

In table tennis there are many ways to add random elements that help you be able to read and plan the plays in a match better and help you think inside the game better.

There are an ocean of things you can practice in TT and it is worth doing lots of different versions of training. But playing matches, and doing training on match simulation where you are doing everything you would in a match but without counting points so you can try for things you might not if you were counting points, doing both of those things would be important to do if you want to improve.

It is interesting. NextLevel will laugh at this and he will know it was and still is true. I played with Ilija Lupalesku for about 10 min about 10 years ago. It was at this Nike/Killerspin event and I was one of the umpires and Lupalesku was part of the event. After hitting with me for only a few min, Lupelesku told me, if you want to improve, you need to play more matches. Your technique is good but you need to be used to all variations of spin and you need to read spin better. :)

The best way to improve at that is to keep playing in match scenarios where all kinds of balls from dead balls to extremely spinny are coming at you.
 
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In table tennis there are many ways to add random elements that help you be able to read and plan the plays in a match better and help you think inside the game better.

There are an ocean of things you can practice in TT and it is worth doing lots of different versions of training. But playing matches, and doing training on match simulation where you are doing everything you would in a match but without counting points so you can try for things you might not if you were counting points, doing both of those things would be important to do if you want to improve.

It is interesting. NextLevel will laugh at this and he will know it was and still is true. I played with Ilija Lupalesku for about 10 min about 10 years ago. It was at this Nike/Killerspin event and I was one of the umpires and Lupalesku was part of the event. After hitting with me for only a few min, Lupelesku told me, if you want to improve, you need to play more matches. Your technique is good but you need to be used to all variations of spin and you need to read spin better. :)

The best way to improve at that is to keep playing in match scenarios where all kinds of balls from dead balls to extremely spinny are coming at you.

You didn't read me well: of course random practice is important in TT, playing in match-like pratice, it's easy as you don't have to do fitness that much before.

Not the same at all in VB, I've played VB at a high level in my youth before having my left collarbone fratured at 15. That's when I switched more deply into TT, cos' as a setter, a broken collarbone/clavicle means you're out for at least 6 months before being able to set efficiently. You can't train efficiently without block pratice, specially when you have to face different kind of teams that forces to create different combos. Some play quick, those are most of the time the smallest teams, Japan for example, some uses their middle blockers a lot to attack in the center of the pitch, so you have to block train your liberos and spikers for that, you have to block train the combos you'll set up for different teams you'll face.

 
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Oh, and it's LupUlesku by the way, I've seen him playing with Partisan Belgrade vs Charleroi (the Saive bros.) in the 80's with Zoran Primorac, both were really young. It was easier for me to go to Charleroi instead of getting to Levallois (Gatien+ Secretin team at that time) in the Paris suburbs.
 
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You didn't read me well: of course random practice is important in TT, playing in match-like pratice, it's easy as you don't have to do fitness that much before.

Not the same at all in VB, I've played VB at a high level in my youth before having my left collarbone fratured at 15. That's when I switched more deply into TT, cos' as a setter, a broken collarbone/clavicle means you're out for at least 6 months before being able to set efficiently. You can't train efficiently without block pratice, specially when you have to face different kind of teams that forces to create different combos. Some play quick, those are most of the time the smallest teams, Japan for example, some uses their middle blockers a lot to attack in the center of the pitch, so you have to block train your liberos and spikers for that, you have to block train the combos you'll set up for different teams you'll face.

All I was doing was giving a context for the OP to understand how to apply the idea of random practice to TT. Which is also why I only quoted a small part of your post. It actually was not so much about what you said. My post was much more about letting the OP know ways of applying the concepts to TT. Which is also why I said nothing about VB.

In TT too, if you want to get to higher levels, you do have to do enough block practice to learn the strokes, develop the strokes, start getting real massive spin on your topspin shots, develop your footwork and learn to track the ball with your feet....etc. So, block training has its place in TT as well even if TT does not require the kind of strength some sports do, and even if some of the skills I was just referring to in TT don't come into play until you are really at quite a high level.

 
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Oh, and it's LupUlesku by the way, I've seen him playing with Partisan Belgrade vs Charleroi (the Saive bros.) in the 80's with Zoran Primorac, both were really young. It was easier for me to go to Charleroi instead of getting to Levallois (Gatien+ Secretin team at that time) in the Paris suburbs.
Spelling is never going to be my strong suit. :)

 
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This is a fascinating as I've spent most of my adult life trying to change how I feel when in playing any sport,I've beaten myself up for letting myself down so often, couldn't enjoy myself so I gave up and now I'm enjoying training my girlfriend and watching her improve and making sure she doesn't make the same mistakes I made!!! This has helped me to feel better about myself!!!! I would give anything to be able to play the way I know I can play when you start playing games!!!! While I'm training my girlfriend I'm so relaxed play best table tennis,so to me the mental side of sport is so much more important than any amount of coaching !! I believe there should be more attention to the mental side of sport!!!
 
This is a fascinating as I've spent most of my adult life trying to change how I feel when in playing any sport,I've beaten myself up for letting myself down so often, couldn't enjoy myself so I gave up and now I'm enjoying training my girlfriend and watching her improve and making sure she doesn't make the same mistakes I made!!! This has helped me to feel better about myself!!!! I would give anything to be able to play the way I know I can play when you start playing games!!!! While I'm training my girlfriend I'm so relaxed play best table tennis,so to me the mental side of sport is so much more important than any amount of coaching !! I believe there should be more attention to the mental side of sport!!!
In Your profile, what is "Americam Hiniki" ? :)

Cheers
L-zr

 
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So, block training has its place in TT as well even if TT does not require the kind of strength some sports do, and even if some of the skills I was just referring to in TT don't come into play until you are really at quite a high level.
I think I want to emphasize what I am saying here. A lot of that stuff that many TT coaches focus on, if you were 8-14 years old and absorbed what you learned like a sponge, that stuff would make sense. If you kept training like that and kept training like that, as an adult learn for the decade or so it would take an adult learner to get to the part of the training where you put all of that stuff together in match simulation training that includes all of those fundamentals, that kind of training would start to make sense. So, if you were to do that kind of training for 4-6 hours a day, 4-6 days a week, for 6-12 years, at a certain point all of the pieces of the puzzle might start fitting together.

But usually what happens with adult learners is, after about 6 months of training like that, they start noticing that playing in matches they either are going right back to their old habits and can't do any of what they have learned in match situations, and so, think they have not improved, or, they get really nervous in match situations and then they can't do any of the stuff they used to do or any of the new stuff.....really there are many more options. But those two seem to apply to the OP of the thread.

I do hope the information we have all presented is helpful in some way. The stuff you have done in training is, in some ways useful even if you cannot apply it in matches yet. And that this point, from your description, it sounds like your big issue at the time is nerves and mental framework holding you back.

 
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A few years ago, my company had a table tennis tournament and I finished in second place. Then came the pandemic, and we didn't have another tournament until this year.

For the past 6 months, I've been going to the local table tennis club, getting lessons and coaching, thinking that it would put me over the top. I felt like I was improving and learning new skills. Of course, it's easy to do well in drills and practice, when the coach tells you exactly where he'll hit the ball and with what kind of spin. I still struggled in games, because the opponent doesn't tell you that stuff beforehand.

But still, I figured with my new skills I should do well in this year's tournament. One of my coworkers who saw me practicing at the club said he thought I would win the tournament. Then the tournament came and I lost my first and only match! It was definitely a choke job. My normally reliable serve either went into the net or went long countless times. I felt nervous and was afraid to attack and to use the new skills I had learned. Even with all that, I had a 1-0 lead (best of 3) and had a couple match points in the 3rd game. I blew it. Doesn't matter though, even if I had won that match, I don't think I would have won the next match given how scared I was playing.

So it's quite shocking to me that I would spend 6 months training at the club and spend almost $1000, and I have nothing to show for it. In fact, I ended up doing worse than in the last tournament. That is just inconceivable and unfathomable to me.

It's not just in a high pressure tournament where I come up short. Even when I'm playing meaningless games, I haven't done very well. In the days before the company tournament, I was practicing with some coworkers who used to be around my level and who said they hadn't played ping pong in 3 years. I figured with my 6 months of training, I would have put some distance between myself and them. Nope. They were still able to beat me. And at the club, they have you play matches against people around your skill level. I'll watch some of those people play and I'll think "I can definitely beat them", and then of course I lose to them. I end up losing maybe 75% of the time. And there are literally 5 year olds who can beat me.

I'm not trying to become good enough to make the Olympics. I just want to win this stupid office tournament. But now I have to stew for another year. I can't imagine being an Olympic athlete who loses. Then you have to wait FOUR years for your next chance - insanity!

I feel like in order for me to get a lot better (and I just mean to become a very good beginner player), I'd have to spend maybe 8 hours a day, 7 days a week training, and I'd have to spend several thousand dollars. I'm generally good at sports, but table tennis definitely seems like a very difficult sport to become good at, and it has definitely been the most frustrating for me.

I think I'm going to take a break from the lessons/coaching, but I'll still go to the club to play games. I think I need more game experience than lessons at this point. They started me out with a 600 rating, but that may have been too optimistic. I'll probably be under 400 in no time after some more 5-year olds kick my butt.

A lot of good advice here and I'll give my 2 cents.

Put all your table tennis equipment on ebay and sell them. If the only reason you're playing is to win a dick measuring contest at work then TT is not for you.

If TT is the most difficult and frustrating sport you have played then obviously you haven't tried golf.

 
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Nah, the full problem here isn't purely about mindset. Many people have criticized OP for training to improve. This is BS, part of the reason I started going to clubs to play was because I was tired of losing to people who I felt were not that more talented than I was but who had stepped into a club and had information I didn't.

The problem is a bit about mindset but to me more about the gap between how the OP perceives his level of TT stability as a player rated under 1000 and his true stability as a TT player. You can train for a long time in TT, you can still be unaware of how unstable your technique is without having the right foundation. You can underappreciate your ability to read spins, speeds and ball timing.

I had this discussion with someone else (Richie) on the forum recently about how players rated under USATT 1000 hit a ball off the table and complain to themselves because they are completely unaware of the gap between their technique and what it takes to put a ball on the table repeatedly and act as if the ball they missed is a ball they would have put away most of the time, while a technically aware watcher can see all the things they are not doing to maximize their ability to put away the shot and finds their miss totally understandable.

Some good players complain when they miss too, but the enlightened ones often shadow what they should have done to approach the ball correctly had their read of the ball been correct. After all, an enlightened player should be able to tell from the effect of the ball off his racket what spin was actually on the ball and how to adapt to it.

You need to be roughly USATT 1600 at a minimum to be almost unbeatable at an office tournament (assuming no other tournament level players show up) - at that level, you have competed enough to know how to win in various ways and against various kinds of opposition. Anything under USATT 1000 doesn't come close to that bar, doesn't mean you can't win or be one of the best, but you have a decent chance of losing to people because your level and technique are highly unstable.

Even at the highest levels, something like this is in play. Liu Guoliang often said that he only picked the players who had a stable performance on bad days - anyone can play well on a good day, he said, I need to see what you play like on your 40% days and how it matches up against the opposition on their 90% days. And then we can talk..
 
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Thanks for that, it makes sense. I also looked at a couple of his other videos and he has some good material. Next time I get coaching, I'll ask for random ball drills or just play a game with the coach. There was a little bit of that before, but it was mostly block practice. But I'll definitely go back and play matches with the other players, and try not to care about winning. Once a week they have you play 5-6 matches with other people around your skill level, so that will be a good opportunity to try to change my mentality.
I won't say to stop doing the training at the club. It is a choice you can make for yourself. But you should be playing to have fun. And if you are so nervous about how you will do in a match that you miss most of your serves, YOU ARE PROBABLY NOT HAVING FUN when you are playing. Just play matches and let yourself win or lose without caring much about winning or losing. Play enough matches that you stop thinking that any one of them is important. Experiment and have fun with the matches. If you play enough matches, the anxiety of whether you win or lose will go away. If you are thinking about the results instead of focused on the stuff that makes you love playing, it is going to be hard for you to actual find out what your true potential is at this point. But probably your not much better or much worse than you were when you came in second in the office tournament. You are just putting an undue amount of stress on yourself because of how much you want to do well in front of your coworkers.
Yeah, I can't say it's been that fun so far, so I definitely have to change my mentality. I've been putting so much pressure on myself because they actually give out nice trophies at these tournaments. I've never won a first place trophy before. It'd be nice to have one. But I guess I have to try to not care so much.

 
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