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good in practice, bad in tournaments

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    Posted: 12/19/2017 at 4:59pm
Hi everyone,

I've been practicing a lot one-on-one with a coach, and everyone who watches me practicing thinks I'm a relatively strong player (amateur level). 

But when I actually participate in amateur tournaments, all those elements that I do well in practice I do much worse in an actual game against the opponent who, unlike a coach, is not following  a certain routine known to me (like two balls to left corner then three to right cornet). 

Different very good players suggest different things:

1) Stop playing with a coach, just play tournaments till your tournament play catches up with your level in practice
2) per week, 2 times  training and  1 tournament
3) Change how you practice with a coach - instead of predictable routines, spend half the session on routines like in a real game with unpredictable changes of direction and spin. 

Anyone has been in a situation similar to mine and found a way how to actually use the technique from practice session in tournaments? Or maybe there is a good book where this is all explained?

Would be very grateful for any ideas.

Thanks!
Dmitry
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote henningf Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12/19/2017 at 5:11pm
Hard to give advice without watching you. I would give you the following advice: Eighter make someone come with you or make theese notes yourself: HOW do you loose your points in a match? This is the most important thing to find out. Do you hit the ball out of the table, do you have trouble with serve returns? Do you hit your loops in the net? Do you block heavy topspins out of the table?

Find out where you loose your points first, then you try to make adjustments. One key element is: If you play mostly rule-bound exercises and you have a good couch, you know where the ball is going to hit, the first thing I would ask you is: Are you shure you track the ball with your eyes at all times? If I train with a good partner I don’t have to track the ball, because I know where it is going to hit. But if I don’t track the ball and I go into a tournament, I would react too slow.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Baal Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12/19/2017 at 5:54pm
Play more matches against unfamiliar opponents. Play more tournaments. This is a common problem but if you do that you get better (and if you don't you won't). You need to practice real pressure play just like you practice a loop.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Simon_plays Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12/19/2017 at 5:55pm
Would be interesting to see 5 minutes from a training session and 1 set from a match.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Kolev Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12/19/2017 at 5:55pm
Dmitry, I understand you well. I've been in your situation and probably I am still there. Practicing drills is a very important part but it takes a lot of time untill all becomes your second nature. Why don't you play some matches while your coach is observing you? If he is a coach by nature he should be able to work on your weaknesses during the training session , not just feeding you balls and making you run around the table. Whenever you have a chance you should play matches in your club, even with much weaker opponents. Like this you can take you time to apply in reality what you've learned from your coach.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote fatt Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12/19/2017 at 7:03pm
Between practice and tourneys there is league play, the closest thing from a tourney when it’s avout controlling our nerves.
League play happens generally with people you know and is a weekly thing so you get mentally stable in it pretty quick, and that’s most of the job done; the last mile happens at... the tourney.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Baal Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12/19/2017 at 7:44pm
You have to practice playing people you are not used to playing. Then you get better at it. There is no shortcut. Eventually your drill skills will transfer to real matches.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote darucla Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12/19/2017 at 8:12pm
The problem (or one of them at least) with playing real opponents is that they will insist on hitting the ball into positions other than those from which you can get your good strokes into action.  It takes a long time before this does not matter to you.  Smile
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Lightzy Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12/19/2017 at 9:14pm
From my perspective: If your personal coach *knows* this but still coaches you in a 'rigid' way, trust your coach. It may be that he's more concerned with building your basic strokes, which in the long term is the best thing, rather than 'fooling around winning games by luck' :) Ultimately yes, you gotta play more people and join a club but there is a crucial stage in training where the basic shot is built and its the worst stage to screw up.

Edited by Lightzy - 12/19/2017 at 9:16pm
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TT newbie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12/19/2017 at 9:21pm
Nothing beats experience. 
I´ve been there before. It will come naturally, just play more and more tournaments.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Baal Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12/19/2017 at 9:52pm
Originally posted by Lightzy Lightzy wrote:

From my perspective: If your personal coach *knows* this but still coaches you in a 'rigid' way, trust your coach. It may be that he's more concerned with building your basic strokes, which in the long term is the best thing, rather than 'fooling around winning games by luck' :) Ultimately yes, you gotta play more people and join a club but there is a crucial stage in training where the basic shot is built and its the worst stage to screw up.


Sorry, I can't go along with this. For one thing, I don't have that much blind trust in a lot of coaches, especially those who work with adult players. I have a lot of experience to support tbat. And if technique breaks down under pressure, it requires some analysis and new drills to fix that. And real matches are where that shows up. It is like a QC stress test. You need to learn to use what you are drilling. Finally some people lose in matches because they play like idiots in ways that don't show up in drills. And experience can get people past that. There is value in learning from mistakes. Even mental ones.

One last thing. If your coach is not already incorporating at least some random elements in sevefal drills, find a new coach.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote BRS Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12/19/2017 at 10:45pm
Everyone has been in the situation similar to yours. Playing in tournaments is much harder than doing drills, and basically everyone not named Ma Long plays worse in tournaments than practice. 

Have your coach (or a new coach, whatever) add some random elements to your drills.  

And expect it to take many months to transfer drill technique to matches.  Table tennis is not easy.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote smackman Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12/19/2017 at 11:02pm
Your level maybe lower than you think, I coach my wife she is over 50 and is learning and looks fantastic doing backhand returns wide on the forehand, she can handle speedy top spin rallies has a correct forehand but has sh/t serves and can't handle backspin so would hardly win a game against someone else, 
people watching including other coaches think she was a provisional player and how could I ever beat her

what Im saying is film your games , watch it with your coach and go from there
ie work on problems rather than just the easy stuff
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Dmitry Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12/20/2017 at 7:28am


Edited by Dmitry - 12/20/2017 at 7:29am
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Dmitry Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12/20/2017 at 7:46am
Thanks everyone for suggestions - a lot to think about!

If I were to briefly summarize the main reason I lose games, it's my inability to start an attack by doing a topspin loop against a backspin chop. After a serve, we exchange chops with the opponent, and either he starts the attack and I tend to lose or I try to start the attack with a loop but the success % is very low. In training, however, both BH and FH loops against a chop I can do very well - success % is around 90%. 
So, when I KNOW the ball I am about to receive is good for a loop and I have a "loop program " ready to be executed in my brain, everything is fine - and the technique is very good, as I am being told. But when it is a real game, I usually decide too late that the ball is good for looping, and so my positioning for the loop and the body/hand movement - much more poor than in training
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Baal Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12/20/2017 at 9:11am
This is a stage people go through at the beginning. Play more and you get past it. It takes awhile to develop ability to read the ball more quickly and play it with confidence. It can be frustrating for people. Smackman is basically saying the same thing.   You should know, though, that players at this stage are not strong even at an amateur level. So don't have expectations that are unrealistic if you play matches. Keep playing though.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote NextLevel Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12/20/2017 at 9:17am
Originally posted by Dmitry Dmitry wrote:

Thanks everyone for suggestions - a lot to think about!

If I were to briefly summarize the main reason I lose games, it's my inability to start an attack by doing a topspin loop against a backspin chop. After a serve, we exchange chops with the opponent, and either he starts the attack and I tend to lose or I try to start the attack with a loop but the success % is very low. In training, however, both BH and FH loops against a chop I can do very well - success % is around 90%. 
So, when I KNOW the ball I am about to receive is good for a loop and I have a "loop program " ready to be executed in my brain, everything is fine - and the technique is very good, as I am being told. But when it is a real game, I usually decide too late that the ball is good for looping, and so my positioning for the loop and the body/hand movement - much more poor than in training
<div id="gtx-trans" style=": ; left: -61px; top: -25px;"><div ="gtx-trans-icon">


If your coach never watches your matches, he is doing you a huge disservice. A coach should take feedback from your actual play and provide insight into how he intends to address your problems.   I know many coaches don't invest the time tons this but those are uncommitted or bad coaches. Just about every semi-decent coach I know will ask for footage or watch your matches. And they may not agree on what the problem is but but they will at least frame it in the context of their expectations for you.
I like putting heavy topspin on the ball...
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote piligrim Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12/20/2017 at 9:20am
I have exactly same problem. advise to play more tournaments doesn't help. I played lots tournaments for many years and house-league. each time come for tournament feel like frozen :(
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote NextLevel Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12/20/2017 at 9:35am
Originally posted by Dmitry Dmitry wrote:

Thanks everyone for suggestions - a lot to think about!

If I were to briefly summarize the main reason I lose games, it's my inability to start an attack by doing a topspin loop against a backspin chop. After a serve, we exchange chops with the opponent, and either he starts the attack and I tend to lose or I try to start the attack with a loop but the success % is very low. In training, however, both BH and FH loops against a chop I can do very well - success % is around 90%. 
So, when I KNOW the ball I am about to receive is good for a loop and I have a "loop program " ready to be executed in my brain, everything is fine - and the technique is very good, as I am being told. But when it is a real game, I usually decide too late that the ball is good for looping, and so my positioning for the loop and the body/hand movement - much more poor than in training
<div id="gtx-trans" style=": ; left: -61px; top: -25px;"><div ="gtx-trans-icon">


This is about two things. There is a very good video on YouTube about block vs random practice.   Block practice is a rote drill where you just execute.   Random practice requires you to read the play, prepare your response on the basis of your read and then execute the shot.

The thing is that too many coaches give you block practice because it makes you feel better. You are playing the ball consistently and You feel good to be getting the ball back on the table.   But a good coach will try to help you build the transition from what you do in your practice to actual matches or random situations.

The truth is that a ball can have different degrees of spin and your stroke has to adapt to the ball. Then you have to read the trajectory and the placement. You have to do this in a match and if your coach isn't making you do this in practice, then the gap between practice and matches will be greater.

Don't get me wrong, I can see why some coaches don't do this.   I have students who when I try to get them to do random practice, they forget the point of the drill is to build their instincts and they start trying to end the drill early by hitting the ball as hard as they can to make themselves feel better that they are winning points. Or they get frustrated that they are not making shots when I mix up placements and spins and they complain about my quality of coaching and that I am not preparing them properly. But there is no way to begin random practice without some frustration.   The quicker you trust your coach and accept the failure as just being a stepping stone to better play, the better.

You learn a lot from your misses as well as your makes. In fact, in practice you have to deliberately put the ball somewhere other than the table in order to see whether you have precise control over the ball and understand your racket angles and swings. When I ask my students to do this, some of them get bored and think it is pointless.   But to me it is the fastest way to learn to control your racket and the ball. Just swing, see what the ball does, make an angle adjustment and see if you are more accurate. If Not, you will think that the only shot that puts the ball on the table is the one you always do in practice in response to your coach's spin and this is a mistake. You need to be adapting all the time. It takes a long time and smackman and Baal are right to ask you to be patient but it is much easier if you are willing to ask your coach to mix up things a little in practice to help you better adapt to matches.   Ask him to give you spinny and spinless balls for example so you can learn to read and adjust your strokes to them.

The most important thing is to always swing at the ball in matches the way you do in practice whether you make it or miss it. Over time as you understand your stroke better you will learn to adjust it.   But if you always focus on putting the ball on the table, you will use strokes that do so but which will not get better as you get better. And then you will have strikes in muscle memory that you wish you didn't have. I

Edited by NextLevel - 12/20/2017 at 9:38am
I like putting heavy topspin on the ball...
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Rich L Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12/20/2017 at 9:36am
Sometimes when I'm working with my coach, I find myself hitting the ball back to him instead of exploiting him with ball placement.  In training, it's easy to get into predictable patterns rather than being unpredictable and exploitive.  Subconsciously, we may have misgivings about "taking advantage" of a mentor, or someone who is trying to help us.  Just another thing to consider.  That being said, I have spoken to many players whose abilities exceed my own, and competition is completely different from training or friendly play.  One friend often uses the term "competition hardened".
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Baal Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12/20/2017 at 7:20pm
Originally posted by piligrim piligrim wrote:

I have exactly same problem. advise to play more tournaments doesn't help. I played lots tournaments for many years and house-league. each time come for tournament feel like frozen :(


P, what do you do in a typical practice?

Practice without matches is not good.

Matches without practice designed to improve weaknesses is also not good.

Matches reveal weaknesses. They can guide your practice.

This next part is not directed at at Piligrim per se but it is amazing how many people I see who only practice stuff they are already good at. And looping.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote piligrim Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12/20/2017 at 7:43pm
Originally posted by Baal Baal wrote:

Originally posted by piligrim piligrim wrote:

I have exactly same problem. advise to play more tournaments doesn't help. I played lots tournaments for many years and house-league. each time come for tournament feel like frozen :(


P, what do you do in a typical practice?


BH to BH, FH to FH, looping, blocking, counter looping, serve and attacking same as in game without counting points.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Baal Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12/20/2017 at 9:33pm
That is a bit like playing matches all the time. Fun but doesn't do much to get beyond a plateau in level. This I know from personal experience.

I found over the years the stuff I had to do to really improve in some ways were less fun and really needed some honest assessment of where I was weak.

Crucislly, I also found a couple of psrtners into doing some hard disciplined drills and we helped each other get better. It is not easy to find partners like that. And I live in a place where I coukd see how 2500+ players train.

An injury can derail progress.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote LUCKYLOOP Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12/21/2017 at 1:33am

Using balls that are too old and playing on dirty tables will cause your practice to not simulate tournament play where the speed and spin are 10-20 % more.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Tinykin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12/21/2017 at 12:03pm
Originally posted by henningf henningf wrote:

................ .......Are you sure you track the ball with your eyes at all times? If I train with a good partner I don’t have to track the ball, because I know where it is going to hit. But if I don’t track the ball and I go into a tournament, I would react too slow.


This is so important.
"Are you sure that you track the ball with your eyes at all times" This is the first thing that I ask myself  whenever I am doing badly against a contemporary.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Swiff Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12/22/2017 at 4:11pm
Ah. Probably the most common problem among players.  It's certainly a problem I have. LOL

When you play in a club or with a coach, you're in a very comfortable environment and you know what to expect.  When you get to a tournament setting, you're playing against new play styles which forces you to adapt and think your way to a win.  Bottom line, what makes you a good player is the ability to adapt and always get a win.  Not the ability to have amazing rallies with friends or do multiball well.

When people see my friends and I play in our club, there's amazing rallies with fast, beautiful loops and they think I should be at least a 2000 rated player.  Truth is, my rating is only about 1800 and that's probably accurate.  
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote JimT Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12/22/2017 at 10:32pm
This is a very common issue, well known to many amateur players. There is a LOT of factors... A HELL OF A LOT...

Major things to work on (besides technique, physical preparation etc)

a) psychology - maintain mental equilibrium, keep yourself focussed, do not let yourself get distracted by whatever noisy or uncomfortable things spectators or your opponents do. How to get yourself to the best mental state of mind for a match. Find out and remember circumstances and factors that help you as well as the ones that create problems for you.

b) strategy - learn how to come up with a plan for the game. If this is a familiar opponent, prepare a plan in advance. If you are playing an unknown, then you need to teach yourself how to make fast changes, how to decide on plan A, plan B etc.

c) tactics - play in a way that makes your opponent uncomfortable (for that you need to make quick assessment to see what are his/her strengths and weaknesses). Also try to play to your strengths, do not let him exploit your weak points. Change your serves accordingly, change your receives accordingly etc.

Finally, have a small notebook where after every game you write down a very short review: name, result, place etc. Main impressions from opponent - strong and weak points. Main reasons for win or loss. Short plan for the next match vs this same opponent.

And many more... Hope this helps a bit. Good luck!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote JacekGM Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12/23/2017 at 9:02pm
Frequently playing real life tournament matches will let you progress. When you practice with your coach, most of the time he wants you to be able to return the ball... when you play a match, most of the time the opponent does not want you to be able to return the ball. Simple. It requires competing to compete well.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote BH-Man Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12/23/2017 at 9:22pm
Adjustments are the biggest thing I think, the conditions, light, friction of table are different in larger tourneys.
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