This is a bit of a follow-up to my blog post last month. Back then, I asked the question, are your serves going too short? Today, my focus shifts to your stance and I’m asking you, are you standing too close to the table?
SPOILER ALERT: You probably are!
So many beginners and intermediate players stand too close to the table! I’m not exactly sure why this is. But during 10 years of coaching table tennis, I’ve constantly had to tell my players to take half a step back – if not more.
Can you touch the table?
When you’re in your typical ready position to should be able to reach out and touch the table with your free hand. But only just.
So, when you’re standing there waiting to receive serve, ask yourself, “Can I touch the table?” Some players even reach out and touch the table before every point as a habit to check they are a good distance from the table!
The same goes for when you’re in a standard counterhit or topspin rally. Not that you’ll have time to check. But you should be able to lean forward, stretch out your free arm, and touch the end of the table – without moving your feet.
If you can’t, you might be standing a bit too far away. Unless you’re in a loop-to-loop rally and you’ve stepped back deliberately.
Can you touch too much of the table?
The thing is, most of the beginners and intermediate players I’ve coached aren’t standing too far away from the table to be able to touch it. Instead, they’re standing so close to the table that they can touch most of their own half!
Take the girl in the photo at the top of this post as an example. It looks like she’s just knocking up but even so, if she leant forward and stretched out her free arm she’d be able to touch a lot of her side of the table.
This is telling me she may be standing too close to the table.
And this positioning is what I see time and time again when I watch local league table tennis. The majority of players are probably standing too far forward by half a step.
Sam naturally did this
Sam used to always stand a bit too close to the table. I’d tell him over-and-over to take half a step back, and he would, only to find himself right back up to the table by the next point.
And then towards the end of our year-long challenge, he just took a whole step backwards and started playing matches from back there. And he loved it!
Immediately, he had more time. He felt more relaxed. And he cut down on a lot of unforced errors.
That big step back turned out to be a rather big step forward for his table tennis!
Tweaking Harrie’s stance and ready position
I’m currently trying to get Harrie to do a similar thing.
Like most intermediate table tennis players, Harrie tends to stand a bit too far forward and a little bit too upright. This makes it more difficult to move, gives him less time to react to incoming shots, and makes attacking deep balls very tricky (because you haven’t given the deep ball enough time/space to rise before you have to hit it).
Below is a screenshot from a Stefan Feth training video showing the same principle.
Here’s he’s making sure he can reach forward and touch the table with the tip of his racket. But only just!
Notice that his head is still quite close to the table. But his feet are quite a bit further back. This is the key! This is the change that the majority of intermediate players need to make.
You can keep your head pretty much where it’s always been, but your feet need to move backwards and your body needs to have more of a forward lean. That’s the difference in stance between a beginner/intermediate player and an advanced/elite player!
A correct stance is key!
If you’re currently standing upright and you take half a step back and remain standing upright, you’re going to feel like you’re too far away from the table. You’ll end up moving your feet back in again.
But if you’re currently standing upright and you take half a step back and you start leaning forwards, your head is going to be basically in the same place. You’ll feel comfortable. But the fact that your feet are further back will enable you to play much better table tennis!
To really bang this home, here’s a Ben Larcombe artistic treat for you…
Hopefully, that helps demonstrate exactly what I mean.
The dotted green circle illustrates all of the extra space Mr Advanced has to play his shots due to the fact that he’s taken a step back. Mr Advanced isn’t going to get bunched up by any shots that come deep. His body isn’t going to be in the way like it is for Mr Intermediate.
And yet, because he’s leaning forward, his head is basically as close to the table as Mr Intermediate.
Give it a go…
As I said, I remember when Sam mastered this. It must have been October or November. Right near the end of our year of table tennis. But it made him feel so much more comfortable in his matches.
So why not give it a go this week. Take a step backwards from the table with your feet. But make a big effort to lean forwards much more than you usually do, so that your head is still fairly close to the table.
Like my coach Mike Pantin always used to say…
Nose over your toes!
And, in fact, if you look at Stefan Feth… His nose is quite a bit further forward than his toes, even!