I started day one of Werner Schlager Week on Monday with nine table tennis tips from Werner focusing on the area of service and service return. Yesterday was a long one, covering tips for all the major table tennis strokes. Today, we switch to technical and tactical tips.
This is a shorter one with just 10 quotes but I hope that you find them useful and inspiring.
These quotes are taken from Werner Schlager’s fantastic book Table Tennis: Tips from a World Champion. It’s a great read that you can buy from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk. I highly recommend it. In my opinion, it should be compulsory reading for all aspiring table tennis players!
For more table tennis tips please check out my page, 1001 Table Tennis Tips. Now let’s get into the good stuff!
Technical perfection is not a presupposition to become World Champion.
I really love this quote! I’ve seen many players fall into the trap of obsessing over their technique to the detriment of their tactical, physical and mental development. Istvan Moldovan, a sports psychologist and international table tennis player, calls these guys “technique freaks”.
Werner Schlager is a player that the Chinese coaches would probably say has incorrect or sub-optimal technique. It didn’t stop him from becoming world champion, though! Lei Yang, my coach on the B75 Camp in 2014, told me that Timo Boll had bad technique. Clearly, perfect technique isn’t everything and there is more to a top player than nice-looking strokes. Don’t get sucked into the endless quest for technical perfect.
Clearly, perfect technique isn’t everything and there is more to a top player than nice-looking strokes. Don’t get sucked into the endless quest for technical perfection.
The more efficient my stroke or footwork technique is, the more physical energy I can save.
Is Werner contradicting himself here? No, he is simply sharing one reason why developing a solid technique is actually quite important. Note how I chose the word “solid” instead of “perfect”.
A “good” technique is an efficient technique. An efficient technique allows you to save energy and avoid injury. Have you every seen a tiny kid that can generate huge powerful loops? That’s down to good technique (and timing). They are making the most of what they have.
On the flip side, have you ever played someone who is always grunting and shouting, looking like they are about to burst a blood vessel, but can’t seem able to create any real power. Their technique isn’t very efficient – and you are witnessing the result.
Changing a technique after a few years is almost impossible.
I’m not sure I agree with Werner 100% on this one but I decided to share it anyway. Changing a technique that has been firmly ingrained by a player is certainly difficult, but I do believe that, provided the player is motivated to go back to basics, it’s possible.
However, this quote highlights why we need competent beginner coaches. I have made this point a number of times. In China, beginners are coached by some excellent people and they get a really great start in the sport. In England, some beginner’s coaches are good but plenty aren’t.
As a result, many young players find themselves being told several years later that they have some serious technical problems in their game that should have been sorted out by a competent coach a long time ago!
Multiball is very good for learning technique.
I don’t like to overuse multiball but it is brilliant for teaching technique as it allows you to forget about everything and just focus on your body movements. As a young player, Werner also practised against a robot, which he believes is beneficial for improving technique. And he studied the world-class players of his day and tried to emulate them by stealing their best techniques and serves.
Any type of training that allows you to increase the quantity of balls you can hit in a session is going to be helpful for learning or tweaking a technique. Consistency exercises can be good too. For example, aiming to perform 20 forehand loops into a block without a mistake.
There are some players with techniques from out of the book and others with a very individual style. Generally, you can say Asians play closer to the books than Europeans.
Asian players, especially the Chinese, are often compared to table tennis robots/machines. They all play in a very similar way and have very very good technique. European players are a bit more varied – Jan-Ove Waldner is a great example.
You may have thought about this in relation to your own training. Should you learn more like a Chinese player or a European player? I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer to that question, but you need you understand that they are fundamentally different systems that are probably suited to different personality types. Choose wisely.
It is important to get as much information as possible on your opponent before you play them.
That doesn’t sound very controversial, does it? However, I’m always surprised by how few players actually spend any time or effort scouting out their opponents. Watching them play. Figuring out their strengths and weaknesses.
This is something that the Chinese coaching system does very well. The Chinese players know and understand the games and styles of all the top players in the world, inside out. That’s one reason why they are able to win against them so convincingly and consistently.
So, at your next tournament or match why don’t you try and ask around about your opponents. If nobody knows who they are or hasn’t played them before, perhaps you can find them and watch them in a previous game, or warming up. It will certainly increase your chances of winning if you go into your matches prepared.
I look at my coach as a supplier of information. The more information I get, the more profound my tactical decisions will be.
Here Werner is talking about corner coaching. It sounds like he doesn’t want his coach to tell him what to do. Instead, he wants to be provided with information that he may have missed during the match. How many times did his opponent open-up down the line? What happened when he served short to the forehand?
It’s common for players to only recall a small percentage of what happened in a game. Therefore, it is the coaches job to fill in the blanks. If you don’t have a coach available, a friend or family member can be just as good. They don’t need to be an expert at table tennis to be able to answer a few simple questions for you about your opponent.
The faster you play, the more important subconscious tactical decisions become. Intuition is always a deciding factor.
Tennis rallies are long and drawn out. The players have time to track the ball, move into position, and pick their next shot. This isn’t the case in table tennis. Our sport is so fast that virtually everything is done on instinct!
What this means is that the type of training you do in the practice hall is really important. If you spend all of your time blocking on your forehand then when you find yourself with an incoming forehand loop to your forehand side in a match you are going to block it back most of the time. You can tell yourself to counter-loop it but you won’t be able to override your natural instinct to block.
This was a problem I had for a long time. I spent way too much time blocking in practice and found it annoyingly creeping into my game. I would get frustrated as I watched myself block the ball for the 20th time. I knew it would be better to counter-loop. I kept telling myself to counter-loop. But I had spent hours and hours training my brain (and hand) to block the ball.
The development of tactics is developed through lots of competition.
Getting the balance right between training and competing can be tricky. Some players love to play matches but never want to train. Others are a bit wary of matches and feel more comfortable just practising.
If your technique is weak and holding you back – you probably need to spend a bit more time working on drills and multiball. However, if your technique is good but you never seem to get the results you feel you deserve – perhaps you need to spend a bit more time competing and learning to improve your tactical awareness.
You can pick up some good tactical ideas in the practice hall but you really need to try them out in the real world of competition before you can call yourself a master of tactics!
My optimal training session consists of 15 minutes warm-up, 60 minutes table tennis, and 15 minutes stretching.
I decided to include this quote as a little extra because I found it interesting. Werner Schlager generally only trained for 90 minutes at a time, and 30 minutes were filled with warming-up and stretching!
He clearly believed in the quality of his training and chose to spend 60 minutes giving it maximum focus, instead of a couple of hours of semi-attention. Of course, Werner was a professional player and would practice twice per day. But that’s still not that much training.
I’ve written before about the 60-minute practice session and trying to train little and often instead of long but infrequently. You are much better off doing one hour of table tennis a day, six days a week, than six hours of table tennis, one day a week!
It’s also worth pointing out that Werner took his warm-up and cool-down very seriously. If you are to keep training and competing at a high-intensity, on a regular basis, you need to look after your body. Otherwise, you’ll get injured and end up wasting huge parts of the season on the bench.
Buy the book
That’s all for today but I’ll be back tomorrow with some of my favourite Werner Schlager tips on the topic of physical training.
There are hundreds of other brilliant tips in the book, these are just a few that particularly stood out to me. I strongly recommend you get yourself a copy!
Table Tennis: Tips from a World Champion is available in paperback and for Kindle from Amazon. Please use the links below to buy…
- Amazon.com = $13.25 (Kindle) or $15.38 (Paperback)
- Amazon.co.uk = £9.99 (Kindle) or £12.95 (Paperback)
To check out all of my favourite table tennis books please read my popular blog post, The Best Table Tennis Books.
And if you are looking for some more table tennis tips from professional players and coaches please check out my page, 1001 Table Tennis Tips.