Table Tennis — the six strengths you need

The canonical breakdown structure of the capability to play table tennis

Competitive strength — Your ability to win matches relies on four strong blocks…

Mental strength — Willpower, self-control and your ability to concentrate at each point.

Tactical strength — Your ability to adjust how you play your game, to how your opponents play their game, given your mental strength.

Technical strength — Your ability to read the game and strike the strokes right, according to your tactics.

Physical strength — Your ability to play each point according to your technique.

and a strong foundation…

Strategic strength — Your ability to set the right goals and to create action plans and follow them. The foundation for success (and the blocks :)

Competitive strength

If you want a heavy competitive strength, you must have strong building blocks to support it. The five balanced and well-fitted blocks contain all the different kinds of strengths you need, Mental, Tactical, Technical, Physical, and Strategic. You should train them all. Together they form and hold your competitive strength.

What I here mean by a “strength” is a measure of ability or capability. So, a strength here is a combination of knowledge, skills, and capacity.

Physical strength

Your ability to

  • Build and maintain fitness and stamina — through regular cardiovascular exercise and endurance training.
  • Build and maintain muscle strength — through regular strength training.
  • Build and maintain mobility and agility — in part by stretching exercises before and after each training.
  • Build and maintain balance — through balance exercises.
  • Build and maintain the speed — through reaction and speed training.
  • Avoid injury — be careful with the warm-up and the stretching. Also, do exercise breaks to rebuild your powers.

“Training your sport is not enough — you have to train for your sport!”

Technical strength

Your ability to safely, use the right (i.e. the recognized winning):

  • Racket grip.
  • Footwork — be back to the ready position, perform good lateral and longitudinal movements (for example, to get back for defense or to position yourself well for the chosen stroke).
  • Stroke technique (for each combination of bh/fh, placement, speed, and spin).
  • Service.
  • Service receives and returns.
  • Attack and defense strokes — for example, counterattack, loop, drive, block, smash, push, dig, flick, banana flick, chop, lob, balloon lob, or drop shot.
  • Dynamics — for example, to open the game, change the pace or tempo, switch from defense to attack, etc.
  • Technical adaptation to external circumstances — for example, to the room/hall, floor, table, ball, and to a borrowed spare racket.

Tactical strength

Your ability to adapt your game to the opponent, namely to

  • Know your own strengths and weaknesses.
  • Identify the opponent’s strengths and weaknesses (even during the match).
  • Continuously and in real time, analyze what you should change, to
    - successfully exploit your opponent’s weaknesses
    - take advantage of your strengths
    - manage to suppress or neutralize your opponent’s strengths
    - not allow the opponent to exploit your weaknesses.
  • Depending on the situation, select the stroke or game system that gives the best effect with a balanced risk.
  • Evaluate the opportunities for using, for example, surprise effects, deception, game dynamics, and degree of offensive/defensive play.
  • Foresee the opponent’s tactical changes during the match play (e.g. based on their coaching), and revise your tactical preparedness thereafter.
  • Apply the theories you studied about tactics in table tennis.

Mental strength

Your ability to

  • Want to win, and believe that you can win.
  • Come into competition mode — to get a top performance of the moment.
  • Sharpen your focus and concentration at each point of the match — putting all the energy on the next point.
  • Not allow previous mistakes to disrupt the current match.
  • Not allow historical mistakes, or prior losses, to affect the current match or future games.
  • Keep the same focus and level of nervousness or tension regardless of the current match score.
  • Play relaxed so that not your Technical strength weakens — for example, so that your game freezes or you become stunted.
  • Open up for, and exploit, your Tactical strength during the whole match.
  • Acquire and use match coaching.
  • Recharge for the next game, even after a long match that you won, or lost.
  • Raise your goals during the tournament, if it goes beyond expectation. Don’t be satisfied with how far you’ve got.
  • Hide your feelings — the opponent can exploit them to their advantage.
  • Be unaffected of any opponent’s psyching and exclamations.
  • Ignore or benefit from the public and its activities — for example, applause, cheers, or away match.

Strategic strength

Your ability to improve your Technical, Mental, Tactical and Physical strengths, namely how you manage to

  • Picture your vision — a vision gives you meaning, direction, and motivation.
  • Set your goals (that preferably are SMART — Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound), on both long and short term:
  • - orientation goals — for example, to handle opponents with styles of play or using all kinds of materials, equally well,
  • - effect goals — for example, rank number one or be selected for the team,
  • - performance targets — for example, good competition results or to contribute to the league win.
  • Not lock yourself too hard on the above goals!
  • Make your current state analysis (also called situation analysis) — how to:
  • - further enhance your strengths and drop your weaknesses,
  • - seize opportunities and
  • - suppress threats.
  • Make your individual strategic action plan; activities for:
  • - adapt the style of play to the conditions and requirements,
  • - material selection,
  • - coaching,
  • - training programs (details, the amount of),
  • - match training.
  • Use the action plan. Follow-up the plan and the goal achievements. You follow-up by taking regular measurements and doing analyzes.
  • Revise the plan when required or at least yearly, with the help of developments talks with your coach.
  • The strategy relates to the detailed content of the four blocks (the strengths). This means the analysis and the action plan should include specific details for all four strengths; the Mental strength, the Tactical strength, the Technical strength and the Physical strength. Also, the vision and the goals can, at least to some extent, relate to the four strengths.
  • The strategy may also include the training of the ability to use some general basic tactics, related to, for example, different styles of play and different player characteristics.
  • To make a full-fledged situation analysis, you need results from both (practical) tests, measurements, and estimations of each component, every detail, both by the player himself (self-assessment, self-perception) and from every coach who knows the player.

And some fun …


A=1, B=2, C=3, D=4, E=5, F=6, G=7, H=8, I=9, J=10, K=11, L=12, M=13, N=14, O=15, P=16, Q=17, R=18, S=19, T=20, U=21, V=22, W=23, X=24, Y=25, Z=26


K+N+O+W+L+E+D+G+E = 11+14+15+23+12+5+4+7+5 = 96 %

H+A+R+D+W+O+R+K = 8+1+18+4+23+15+18+11 = 98 %

Both Knowledge and Hard Work are important, but falls just short of 100 %.


A+T+T+I+T+U+D+E = 1+20+20+9+20+21+4+5 = 100 %


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