No Table Tennis Table? No Problem! 3 Solutions When All Training Tables Are Taken

Table Tennis Life
May 2 · 5 min read

It’s happened to us all at least once. We’ve turned up to an important match a little later than we would have liked and there aren’t even any spare tables for us to complete any on-table warm-ups. Help! We can’t possibly hope to play well without our proper warm-up! What on earth can we do?

Calm down, silly. Here are three configurations that will still get you a decent warm-up.

#1 Training with 4 players to a table

If you have another player also in the same situation as you, you could both ask an already training pair if you could train ‘4 to a table’ with them, also known as ‘training crosscourt’. Assuming the correct positioning of each player (which we’ll look at below), this configuration allows you to do a decent amount of drills, such as third ball attack with both backhand and forehand, pushing, looping, and pivot footwork without getting in the way of the other pair.

Who should you ask to do this with?

If you’re worried about rejection, start by asking people you know. If there aren’t any, next choice is to look around and ask the most consistent looking players. They probably have better placement and you have a better chance of training at such close quarters with them without their ball straying into your space. Also, the fact that they are more consistent players probably means they are also more experienced ones, and they’ve probably had to do something similar themselves at some point in the past, and will be more empathetic to your cause.

Also, if you and your training partner are:

- Both right-handed, look for two left-handers (or at least one left-hander)

- Both left-handed, look for two right-handers

- A right and left-handed combination, look for another right-left combination, though any combination is fine.

In the first two cases above, all four players can do pivot footwork (really the only footwork drill possible when four players are sharing a table) crosscourt from their backhand corners.

Cross table practice doubles

In the third case, both pairs can do pivot footwork down the line, instead of crosscourt.

The only slightly difficult situation arises when only one out of the four players is left handed. In this case, the left-right pair should play down the line forehands and backhands for their respective backhand corners, while the double-right pair will simply need to change ends occasionally to allow both players to play backhands from their backhand corner. In the diagram below, player A of the double-right pair can do pivot footwork as normal. This pair should swap ends occasionally so that both players get a chance to be at point A and do some pivot footwork. (I say this because it feels unnatural for me to play backhands from my forehand corner. If you don’t have the same problem, then switching is not necessary.)

Same court double practice

#2 Training with 3 players to a table

If you don’t have a training partner, you can ask to train three to a table with another pair. This means you can do all of your regular warm-up footwork drills with no restrictions imposed by the combination of handed-ness of the three players involved. Basically, as shown by the diagram below, player A stands alone at one end of the table and does the footwork drill of their choosing while looping one or two balls to each players B and C. One such drill is where player A loops one backhand then one forehand both crosscourt, while players B and C block down the line. Alternatively, players B and C loop while player A does footwork while blocking. The possibilities are endless! Rotate regularly so each player gets equal time as player A, B and C.

Three player practice configuration

#3 Training with 5 or more players to a table

Training with 5 or more players to a table basically involves the same requirements as those for training with 4 players to a table, except the group needs to decide on a rotation policy because at least one player will need to rotate off the table for a time. The group could decide to switch out a pair every second or third rally. This has the added advantage of encouraging players to focus on consistency so they get longer on the table before having to give their spot to another player or pair. I’ve heard this is what happens on the overcrowded tables of China, and is built-in motivation to be more consistent. China is number one in the world. Coincidence? I think not!

In closing, I want to say that you needn’t worry so much about having the perfect warm-up. I’ve lost count of the times I didn’t get to do the full sequence of drills I like to do before I play, whether it be because I was late to the venue, there weren’t enough spare tables, or I had to make do with a training partner who couldn’t do the drills I like. The point is, after many of these occasions, I played a lot better than expected, sometimes even a lot better than I have when I did get my full warm-up!

So there you have it. When it comes to warming up before an important match, don’t worry, be happy!

Good luck with your next overcrowded training venue!

Table Tennis Life

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For some reason, ping-pong came very natural to me, so I started playing it all the time — Forest Gump