Common mistakes in Table Tennis
… and how to correct them
You learn a sport like Table Tennis by playing against opponents in training and in matches. It is a game. You learn through trial and error. It is normal to make errors or mistakes, and it is normal to lose. The game is fun when you solve the problem that caused the mistake and succeed in permanently implementing the solution. You do this all the time, even if you don’t think about it. The world of problems is endless, also for the professional elite players. The sport is developing. This is what makes the game of Table Tennis so challenging and fun for the curious mind, for the motivated learner.
The more mistakes you do, the faster you become better. But only if you learn from your mistakes. To speed up that process, it is good to learn from the mistakes done by others as well. At least some more common ones. You don’t have to make all the common mistakes yourself. And you don’t have to figure out the solutions all by yourself.
I hope the below list of common mistakes and proposed solutions can be useful to you.
List of common mistakes in table tennis
Too strong grip
Common mistake: You hold the racket/bat/paddle too hard.
Which means: Because your racket-hand-arm is stiff, you lose feels or control, and the ability to make spin and this leads to missed balls or opportunities.
Solution: Hold the racket as loose and flexible as possible (really loose). Pinch with the index finger and the thumb (the thumb at the wood, not on the rubber) to control the racket angle and the feels, and support the shaft with the last three fingers. Practice the strokes well, with the improved grip.
Common mistake: You stand on your heels and have some back-weight.
Which means: You get the wrong balance so your stroke goes long or is too weak. You also get stuck and become late for the next stroke.
Solution: Always stand on your front feet and lean forward a bit. And try to be more “floating” with your feet, ready to move slightly backward (or sideways) when you need.
No ready position
Common mistake: You don’t practice the ready position.
Which means: You open up parts of the table for the opponent’s strong shot, or you are late for your return ball.
Solution: Always go back to the ready position immediately after each stroke, or at least make an attempt to do so. Your ready position is not the same all the time. The ready position depends on where and how the opponent can place the ball.
Bad position for the stroke
Common mistake: You move the arm before the legs.
Which means: You come wrong to the stroke with a high risk of failure.
Solution: Always move your feet to the right position before making the next stroke. Only then can you make the same kind of strokes consistently.
Not looking at the ball
Common mistake: You don’t look at the ball long enough (instead you look where to place the ball).
Which means: You miss the ball and lose the point. This often happens when playing against (material) players using (deceptive) strokes and balls with
A. heavy backspin (sudden standstill), or
B. heavy topspin (kick-up balls), or
C. lateral deviation (longitudinal sidespin; where the ball jumps sideways after contact with the table, also called corkscrew spin).
Solution: Instead of anticipating the trajectory, look at the ball until racket contact. Where to place the ball you sense or know anyway.
Hitting forehand too far back
Common mistake: You hit of the forehand stroke at the side of your body. You are holding your elbow too far back, either even with your body or behind your body.
Which means: Your forehand strokes become too weak, or at least less powerful than they could be. Also, you can’t switch fast between forehand and backhand.
Solution: The ball contact point of your forehand stroke should be in front of your body. It should be about the same as for your backhand. Bend your knees, lean slightly forward, and for the forehand stroke, hold your elbow somewhat in front of your body, and learn to hit the ball in front of you all the time.
Hitting forehand too close to your body
Common mistake: You hit the forehand stroke near your body. Your arm is too much bent, the angle of the crook of your arm (on the inside) is too small.
Which means: Your forehand strokes become too weak, or at least less powerful than they could be.
Solution: The ball contact point of your forehand stroke should not only be in front of your body, but it should also be a bit away from your body sideways. Then you get much more power in your strokes.
Common mistake: You are too eager.
Which means: You don’t get a good hit.
Solution: Take it easy, play relaxed, you have time.
Common mistake: You start the stroke too early and strike too slowly.
Which means: Your stroke becomes too tame. Or you get weak or missed shots.
Solution: You need momentum, acceleration, power, in your attack strokes. Wait for the ball. Fixate the ball strike position on the trajectory. Explode!
Wrong contact point on the trajectory
Common mistake: Different strokes have different ball contact points, that is, different places on the trajectory where you should hit the ball, and you do not recognize this.
Which means: Bad quality of your stroke or return.
Solution: For each stroke, learn the ideal trajectory contact point. And give it lots of practice.
Wrong choice of stroke
Common mistake: You use the wrong stroke, for instance, you push on a topspin ball.
Which means: You’ll probably lose the point because (in this example) the ball goes high and the opponent can smash it in.
Solution: Learn to read the spin and be attentive on what stroke the opponent makes and with what material and where on the rubber the point of contact is. There are no shortcuts — practice!
Wrong racket angle
Common mistake: You may use the right stroke, but you use the wrong angle of the racket.
Which means: You’ll probably lose the point, as the ball goes into the net or go long.
Solution: Be attentive on the type and amount of spin there is on the ball. There are no shortcuts — practice! As soon as you know if you should open or close the racket, don’t be afraid to try the extremes and experiment with the hitting power.
Wrong racket angle at the start position of the stroke
Common mistake: Different strokes, and different material, have different racket angle, and direction, that should be used when you initiate the stroke, and you do not recognize this. Material with less spin sensitivity (such as long pimples) requires a more open racket angle (more vertical).
Which means: Many shots will go into the net, or go long.
Solution: For each stroke, learn the ideal racket angle. For each kind of material, learn the ideal racket angle. Practice.
Wrong start position of the stroke
Common mistake: Different strokes have different start positions, and you do not recognize this.
Which means: Various negative effects. Too late, too little power, wrong timing, and missed shots.
Solution: For each stroke, learn the ideal start position. And give it lots of practice.
Wrong stop position of the stroke
Common mistake: Different strokes have different stop positions, and you do not recognize this.
Which means: Various negative effects. Wrong direction of your return or shot, too late for the next ball.
Solution: For each stroke, learn the ideal stop position. Practice.
Too little spin
Common mistake: You get too little spin on your balls.
Which means: You cannot create difficulties for your opponent and you don’t get enough control.
Solution: Learn how heavy spin is generated (brushing touch + fast speed) and practice!
Too late in-depth movements
Common mistake: You are too late to move backward when you are unfortunate to give the opponent an opportunity to attack.
Which means: You are attacked and get difficulties to defend yourself.
Solution: Try to practice to sense when you make a weak stroke and immediately move back to prepare for defense. Also, when going forward to receive a short ball put only one foot forward so that you can go back again quickly, and be prepared to move further back.
Not using spin to correct
Common mistake: You lift the backhand ball instead of using spin when you need to use spin the most — when you come slightly wrong to the ball.
Which means: You are an easy target.
Solution: Practice twisting with the wrist to make a lot of spin to help get control, and also create some difficulty for the opponent.
Smash in the net
Common mistake: You smash in the net at high balls with lots of backspin.
Which means: You miss a point you really should have had.
Solution: You need to compensate for the spin and smash more forward and with a slightly more open racket angle. And with more speed and power.
Common mistake: You smash out at high balls with lots of topspin.
Which means: You miss a point you really should have had.
Solution: You need to compensate for the spin and press more down and with a slightly more closed racket angle.
Confused with side spin
Common mistake: You don’t recognize lateral deviation or how it is generated.
Which means: You might miss your shot.
Solution: Normal side spin is easy to recognize because the trajectory is changed, and rather easy to compensate for, but the lateral deviation is trickier. The lateral deviation is the kind of side spin around the longitudinal axis where the ball jumps sideways after contact with the table (also called corkscrew spin). Learn how the opponent generates this spin so you expect it, and learn by practice how to handle it.
Can’t handle kick-up balls
Common mistake: You don’t know how to cope with kick-up balls.
Which means: The ball kicks up suddenly after the bounce and you might miss your shot or return of service.
Solution: Learn how the opponent generates this spin so you expect it, and learn by practice how to handle it. It is about timing and closing the racket angle.
Wrong foot forward
Common mistake: You use the wrong foot forward when going close to the net.
Which means: You don’t get the best position for the stroke and you are slow back to the ready position.
Solution: Forehand foot forward at forehand; backhand foot forward, or out to the side, at backhand.
Not having a game idea or tactics
Common mistake: You don’t have a plan, or a clue, for how to win the game.
Which means: You don’t take the initiative to control the game. You will lose against a technically equally skilled opponent.
Solution: Practice game systems and do your tactics.
Common mistake: You are not experimenting enough at training sessions.
Which means: You will waste the best opportunities you have to do your trial and error and learn by experience.
Solution: Plan what to try or test for each training session. Utilize the training matches or simulation games!
Not focusing on your weak points
Common mistake: You are focusing only on your strengths.
Which means: You lose self-confidence. Games are complex. Opponents are tactical.
Solution: It is good to give some focus on your strengths at your training sessions, to secure and consolidate them, making benefit of your strengths and let them give you the best effect at matches. But you also need to focus on your weaknesses, especially the big holes that bothers you — you need to fix them! You should make sure you become all-around, and be confident in all situations. And if you want to be the best (an expert), then you need to focus on eliminating all your weaknesses.
Not having your own style
Common mistake: You are not developing your own unique style of play.
Which means: You become predictable.
Solution: Consolidate all your knowledge of table tennis, feel what you like, and define how you want table tennis to be played and mastered. Your winning formula. This unique style will make you tougher to meet, mentally, tactically, and technically.
Not reflecting your service
Common mistake: You don’t care enough about what services you do, or why, or what the effect is.
Which means: Your performance is not what it could be.
Solution: Make sure you have a large portfolio of well-practiced services and select them according to your tactical plan.
Not reflecting lost points
Common mistake: You do not analyze why you missed the point.
Which means: You have a significantly slower improvement rate.
Solution: After each lost point, in training games as well as in competition matches, think about why you lost the point. Make sure you understand what happened, what mistake you did or what your opponent did, that led to your missed point. You do this while playing. You may also use video recordings.
Not having a strategy or improvement plan
Common mistake: You don’t have a plan for how to become better. You have no serious goals.
Which means: Ineffective training and slower improvement rate.
Solution: Develop an individual strategic action plan, and execute it. Take command of your progress, and don’t just follow group training sessions.
We all do common mistakes.
Please help me improve this list! Let’s make it better together.