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    Posted: 08/04/2019 at 3:20pm
At the age of 71, I decided I needed to take up a new sport. I believe that most old folks do not wear out, but rather rust out; in other words, as the research shows, much of the decline in physical and mental performance seen among older folks is due to inactivity (the rest is due to the simple passage of time and to disease). I decided on table tennis as my sport, since I had played a little in my twenties and loved jumping around and smacking that ball, plus there are many well-known reasons why table tennis is good for seniors: it requires both physical and mental activity, is suitable for all ages, low-impact, great fun, etc.

I started playing just over two and a half years ago, and then decided to get more serious about two years ago. I have lessons with a coach every week, and have taken a few summer camps at wctta in Santa Clara CA, near where I live. I play about three evenings a week, and also play in a local league on Saturday. I also have an Amicus Professional robot, and practice with that for a couple of hours many mornings a week.

Basically, the purpose of this post is to share my experience with other seniors, and find out more about how they are doing in similar situations?

As a retired academic, my first thought was to go into the academic literature and read the research on motor learning. That was interesting and helpful. I read about the need for deliberate practice, the need for informative feedback, the need for practicing with contextual interference, practicing tasks that specifically replicate real-game situations, the advantages of randomized practice over predictable drills, and the advantages of distributed over blocked practice. All this is fairly well-known in the motor learning literature. (Although it seems to me that many tt coaches do not seem to think it is important to consider these research findings, most preferring to teach in the manner they were taught, which is itself a topic of considerable interest to me.)

I am making progress, and have a current USATT rating of about 850. This is lower than you would expect if you hit with me—but I am not a good competitor, and once we are playing matches, my skills suddenly get much worse. Everyone tells me that this is a common problem, but I think I am worse than most. My rating is also far lower than I expected when I started. I thought I would be a solid intermediate (say about 1500) within a couple of years of starting if I worked hard, but I am still far from that. However, I am having a total blast and lots of people tell me I am progressing fairly quickly, even if I think my progress should be faster. And for sure, table tennis was a very good choice.

Clearly table tennis is much more difficult than I expected—everyone seems to agree on that. But I notice that among the kids I play (lots of nine or ten-year-olds), they seem to be progressing faster than I am. And I also know some 40 or 50 year-olds who also seem to be progressing faster, or at least keeping pace with my progress, while putting in less effort. So the question arises, is my learning progress being hampered by my age? Again I went back to the academic literature, and sure enough, there are lots of well-known ways in which seniors decline: they get slower and weaker in virtually all physical and cognitive activities. Perhaps most relevant to table tennis is that while reaction time certainly increases with old age, decision time increases even more. And I do notice that shots that I can play well in more predictable situations, I am often too late in a game situation—again, no doubt everyone feels that, but I wonder whether this is a particular problem for seniors, since decision and reaction time is an integral part of every shot in table tennis. Footwork is another area we would expect to be difficult for seniors, and clearly we all need to work on this as best we can—I personally find that jumping around causes more of an unpleasant jolt than it used to do. So perhaps I have to develop a smoother movement. But perhaps we can also find ways to play that cut down the available angles, and make the opponents' shot more predictable, and thus fast movement less important? And surely building up anticipation skills can compensate for the lack of fast movement? But how is that done—developing the habit of watching the opponents’ movement and especially the paddle, presumably? But are there any drills or tips to help with that?

It is also important to realize that there is huge variation between older people: some deteriorate considerably and some hardly at all. Which makes it very hard to generalize. But remaining active is very important here: use it or lose it really seems to be the key. So anyone who is playing in old age is a winner, regardless of their match results. But it is also good to learn, to work hard and to improve, and I do want to get better: at least reach the stage of being a solid, club-level intermediate.

I have searched for information specifically about seniors learning sports, and how their age affects their progress,  but I could not find much at all — besides the oft-repeated recommendation to be active and do something. There is quite a bit written about active sports-men/sports-women continuing to play their sport at a fairly high level into old age—and the research is very encouraging for such people. But I can find little, or virtually nothing, about seniors who start to learn new sports later in life. What research there is, as well as both common sense and my own experience, suggest that it is quite possible to learn new sports, but perhaps that expectations should not be too high—but how high? What can we reasonably expect?

So what is a reasonable expectation for a seventy-year old, in decent shape, not overweight and with no obvious disabilities? Am I doing ok, and more to the point, what strategies can I use to compensate for the effects of age-related decline? How should I modify my training to compensate? What about others?

I would love to hear from other seniors who have decided to take up this sport, and learn about what worked best for them. Plus, surely in all the sports medicine departments in all our universities, there is some academic who studies how well seniors perform learning complex sports (if there is not, there should be). I would love to hear what the experts have to say.

Please forgive the rather rambling, personal nature of this post. This is a huge topic, with many different aspects, and clearly personal narratives will vary considerably.

I would love to hear what you all think—but especially I would love to hear about the experience of other old farts?

Regards,
Gary


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote darucla Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08/04/2019 at 6:22pm
I started playing 3 years ago at the age of 65.  This was after going back to full time education for a while, and hanging out with younger people during those years. I sort of forgot that I was so much older. (I did play for a few months when I was a school child, but took a 50 year break due to illness).

I have improved a lot in 3 years.  I play in the lowest division of the local league, and my teams tend to do much better than expected (I am the captain, but the teams have players from about 14 years up to my age).  Of course, I can't run around like a teenager, so I look to develop compensating techniques --- anticipation, surprise placing, pace changes etc.  I have had some coaching, but have slight problems with coaches who are much more used to teaching kids.  One thing I have observed is that a lot of older players, my age and more, who have been playing for many years, have attained a certain level of play, and then plateaued.  I am overtaking some of these guys, who know most of the tricks to confuse a new old guy.

I also run a free table tennis session for older people every week for 2 hours.  The oldest at those are in their mid-80s, and I am the youngest.  Most of them had no previous experience, but enjoy the table time and the general chat and coffee as well.   They have improved dramatically, in that they can now maintain a rally, where they could not previously return a single ball with confidence.  I give advice if requested, but really they are not worried about getting to league standard.

My advice to you would be to stop reading the literature about what people think you should be able to do.  Just use your own intelligence to work out what you can do.  If you are serious, and want to compete against better players, get some coaching.  Watch some good players in matches. Playing in competition is always different to practice, and the only way to get around that is to do it more often.  Just last week, I brought a new player into my summer league team.  He is a little better than I am, but maybe 25 years younger.  After the match, he made the point that everyone played differently in the match environment, and he had thought it was only him.

As i told my coach about 2 years ago, I have realised that I am not going to reach international level, not even in Vets championships, but I can still get better.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote mjamja Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08/04/2019 at 6:52pm
Gary,  a few thoughts that might help.

1. On the decision making problem:

There are many tactics where you can decide before the point starts most of what you are going to do through the first 5 to 6 balls, especially where you want hit.  Of course you can be forced out of your tactic by good shots from your opponent, but then you can simply go with an "oops" plan such as "hit everything to the elbow" or "hit everything cross court".   Although these pre-decided tactics may not always be optimal, the lack of a need for decision making can make them very effective.  I highly recommend reading "Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers" by Larry Hodges.

2. On the footwork issue:
a) Work on being equally as strong on both the Fh and Bh wings so you will not have to run around your weaker wing.
b) Develop a "racket tip up" style block to use on balls to your elbow.  Can be either Fh or Bh.  This really simplifies your footwork and if done off the bounce can be an offensive shot.
c) Use LP on your Bh.  The nature of LP's allows you to use a Bh rubber block well out to your Fh side so you do not need to move that much on balls hit to your elbow.  They also tend to slow down the speed of play which can help with the reaction time issue.

Good luck on your table tennis journey.

Mark 

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote blahness Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08/04/2019 at 7:11pm
Switch to frictionless LPs and pushblocking lol, you will get that 1500 level very soon!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote lineup32 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08/04/2019 at 11:42pm
I started playing at 64 now 73. Overall your USATT rating of 850 is very good. I play in various league RR's in the San Francisco Bay Area and will be moving to Sacramento at the end of Sept.
Senior play is no different then Junior or middle age play as every age group has its challenges. The only recommendation I can offer is less robot and more real time practice and play. Robot's have a place but at our age getting out and playing is whats its all about..everyday counts.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote stiltt Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08/05/2019 at 12:28am
Originally posted by lineup32 lineup32 wrote:

I started playing at 64 now 73. Overall your USATT rating of 850 is very good. I play in various league RR's in the San Francisco Bay Area and will be moving to Sacramento at the end of Sept.
Senior play is no different then Junior or middle age play as every age group has its challenges. The only recommendation I can offer is less robot and more real time practice and play. Robot's have a place but at our age getting out and playing is whats its all about..everyday counts.
what a beautiful OP and answer, thanks to both of you for sharing your thoughts. I am almost 55 and at a crossroads, with all the fears and apprehensions one can imagine with the goal of playing late in life. I feel unable to say anything valuable as I struggle but I just wanted to say that this thread is very interesting so thanks again. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote qpskfec Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08/05/2019 at 1:13am
If you are paying for weekly lessons with a coach, communicate clearly what your objectives are with the coach and go from there. If your main objective is to be a better match player, you and your coach should put together a long term plan for that.

If you and your coach are communicating effectively, then you shouldn't be relying on advice from random people online who have never seen you play.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote BRS Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08/05/2019 at 9:38am
Stop using the robot.  I know it's very convenient and it feels good.  If the goal is exercise then use the amicus all you can.  It's a great workout.  If you want to play well it's a disaster.

Every time you use the robot you are training yourself to not read body language, and to not pick up spin, speed, and direction off a paddle.  These are the main skills of competitive table tennis.  
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Basquests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08/05/2019 at 10:22am
In new Zealand we have a 70 yr old who at 68 beat 3 players who are world junior champs competitors, and are all similarly talented (one played kanak and won a set off of him), in a single tournament, whilst playing about 8 or 10 matches prior in the day. 

There is another 84 year old who has played 12 or 14 odd matches in a day, and actually managed to play to a very good standard. He is still ranked about 200th in Nz, im guessing at least 1700 or 1800 in level. 

But both of these players have a lot of experience. The 70 yr old was i think possibly part of the Malaysian NT, so whilst being 2400 or above at his age is incredible, his physical fitness and speed is still good so why not. His anticipation and game sense is superior to most amateurs 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote GaryBuck Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08/05/2019 at 12:18pm
Originally posted by mjamja mjamja wrote:

c) Use LP on your Bh. 


One thing I should have mentioned, is long pips. Many players start using long pips as they get older, and naturally some of you are recommending I do the same, especially on the backhand. But I have decided against switching to long pips, for a number of reasons.

Firstly, my inverted backhand is far stronger than my forehand: block, flip, drive and loop are all better on my bh side, and I have far more control over the ball. If I give that up, I would loose the best part of my game. Secondly, it seems to me that the basic strategy of long pips is to lead the opponent to make mistakes by using equipment they don't understand. To me, that does not seem like an attractive way to play; although i know many would disagree. So I intend to continue with the modern two-winged attacking style my coach is trying to taught me.

Originally posted by mjamja mjamja wrote:

There are many tactics where you can decide before the point starts most of what you are going to do through the first 5 to 6 balls, especially where you want hit.

Mjamja's recommendation (see above) to use tactics that enable you to predict in advance where the ball is likely to go is very useful. I can think of some examples, such as serving off the side of the table and expecting the reply to come cross court, but no doubt there are many more. Any suggestions, or further examples, would be very helpful.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote BRS Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08/05/2019 at 12:48pm
Mjamja's tactics suggestion is great when you get control of the point off serve or receive.  

Here is a very simple one.  

Play an active shot at the opponent's elbow/middle/pocket.  

He will move to the bh to use his fh, or vice versa.  Whichever way he moves/leans, play the next ball to the opposite side.  

Ex: You play at the elbow, opp leans left to use his fh, play your next ball to  his wide fh. 

Or if opp leans to the right to use his bh, play your next ball to his wide bh.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote wilkinru Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08/05/2019 at 5:00pm
It's a remarkably difficult sport.

If you are doing well with inverted on the backhand...perhaps pips on the forehand instead? Become a backhand dominate player.

If you want your rating to go up....practice serves. This is one where there isn't much of an excuse.

BRS hates robots with a passion and he has some very valid points. The robot is fantastic to trouble shoot or try new things and even drill good technique but it has many limitations that he mentions.

Do less robot more serve. I know it's a plug but try ttedge.com. There is enough content for you to die before you learn it all. For the record that goes for me too and I'm 39.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote BH-Man Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08/06/2019 at 1:10am
GB...

You have a LOT, I mean an extraordinary LOT, of progress to be made before you even approach the narrowing of the road of improvement.

Go Jeultak all the way - a Korean expression of luvin' TT to the hilt.

Love your path, you got a lot of path in front of you. Love the journey, it will not end for you - that is a really comforting thing.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote DonnOlsen Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08/06/2019 at 9:21am
Originally posted by GaryBuck GaryBuck wrote:

At the age of 71, I decided I needed to take up a new sport. I believe that most old folks do not wear out, but rather rust out; in other words, as the research shows, much of the decline in physical and mental performance seen among older folks is due to inactivity (the rest is due to the simple passage of time and to disease). I decided on table tennis as my sport, since I had played a little in my twenties and loved jumping around and smacking that ball, plus there are many well-known reasons why table tennis is good for seniors: it requires both physical and mental activity, is suitable for all ages, low-impact, great fun, etc.

I started playing just over two and a half years ago, and then decided to get more serious about two years ago. I have lessons with a coach every week, and have taken a few summer camps at wctta in Santa Clara CA, near where I live. I play about three evenings a week, and also play in a local league on Saturday. I also have an Amicus Professional robot, and practice with that for a couple of hours many mornings a week.

Basically, the purpose of this post is to share my experience with other seniors, and find out more about how they are doing in similar situations?

As a retired academic, my first thought was to go into the academic literature and read the research on motor learning. That was interesting and helpful. I read about the need for deliberate practice, the need for informative feedback, the need for practicing with contextual interference, practicing tasks that specifically replicate real-game situations, the advantages of randomized practice over predictable drills, and the advantages of distributed over blocked practice. All this is fairly well-known in the motor learning literature. (Although it seems to me that many tt coaches do not seem to think it is important to consider these research findings, most preferring to teach in the manner they were taught, which is itself a topic of considerable interest to me.)

I am making progress, and have a current USATT rating of about 850. This is lower than you would expect if you hit with me—but I am not a good competitor, and once we are playing matches, my skills suddenly get much worse. Everyone tells me that this is a common problem, but I think I am worse than most. My rating is also far lower than I expected when I started. I thought I would be a solid intermediate (say about 1500) within a couple of years of starting if I worked hard, but I am still far from that. However, I am having a total blast and lots of people tell me I am progressing fairly quickly, even if I think my progress should be faster. And for sure, table tennis was a very good choice.

Clearly table tennis is much more difficult than I expected—everyone seems to agree on that. But I notice that among the kids I play (lots of nine or ten-year-olds), they seem to be progressing faster than I am. And I also know some 40 or 50 year-olds who also seem to be progressing faster, or at least keeping pace with my progress, while putting in less effort. So the question arises, is my learning progress being hampered by my age? Again I went back to the academic literature, and sure enough, there are lots of well-known ways in which seniors decline: they get slower and weaker in virtually all physical and cognitive activities. Perhaps most relevant to table tennis is that while reaction time certainly increases with old age, decision time increases even more. And I do notice that shots that I can play well in more predictable situations, I am often too late in a game situation—again, no doubt everyone feels that, but I wonder whether this is a particular problem for seniors, since decision and reaction time is an integral part of every shot in table tennis. Footwork is another area we would expect to be difficult for seniors, and clearly we all need to work on this as best we can—I personally find that jumping around causes more of an unpleasant jolt than it used to do. So perhaps I have to develop a smoother movement. But perhaps we can also find ways to play that cut down the available angles, and make the opponents' shot more predictable, and thus fast movement less important? And surely building up anticipation skills can compensate for the lack of fast movement? But how is that done—developing the habit of watching the opponents’ movement and especially the paddle, presumably? But are there any drills or tips to help with that?

It is also important to realize that there is huge variation between older people: some deteriorate considerably and some hardly at all. Which makes it very hard to generalize. But remaining active is very important here: use it or lose it really seems to be the key. So anyone who is playing in old age is a winner, regardless of their match results. But it is also good to learn, to work hard and to improve, and I do want to get better: at least reach the stage of being a solid, club-level intermediate.

I have searched for information specifically about seniors learning sports, and how their age affects their progress,  but I could not find much at all — besides the oft-repeated recommendation to be active and do something. There is quite a bit written about active sports-men/sports-women continuing to play their sport at a fairly high level into old age—and the research is very encouraging for such people. But I can find little, or virtually nothing, about seniors who start to learn new sports later in life. What research there is, as well as both common sense and my own experience, suggest that it is quite possible to learn new sports, but perhaps that expectations should not be too high—but how high? What can we reasonably expect?

So what is a reasonable expectation for a seventy-year old, in decent shape, not overweight and with no obvious disabilities? Am I doing ok, and more to the point, what strategies can I use to compensate for the effects of age-related decline? How should I modify my training to compensate? What about others?

I would love to hear from other seniors who have decided to take up this sport, and learn about what worked best for them. Plus, surely in all the sports medicine departments in all our universities, there is some academic who studies how well seniors perform learning complex sports (if there is not, there should be). I would love to hear what the experts have to say.

Please forgive the rather rambling, personal nature of this post. This is a huge topic, with many different aspects, and clearly personal narratives will vary considerably.

I would love to hear what you all think—but especially I would love to hear about the experience of other old farts?

Regards,
Gary



Hi,

The fundamental demands this sport imposes on players are applicable to the full range of competitive participants, independent of the varied categorizations used to delimit groups.

Of most importance is the acceptance of the principle that "table tennis is complex."  Of most flawed is the effort, in all complex domains of human endeavor, to approach simplistically a domain not receptive to simplistic approaches.  In our sport, two elements may be highlighted to illustrate this phenomenon.

1)  Robots: Robots, though holding the potential for value to the player, excessively restrict, to a given precise circumstance, the dynamics of table tennis play to the point of having highly detrimental side effects of which are of a nature that are very difficult to resist or overcome.  One, in particular, is the very critical player quality of adaptability.  After a brief time on the robot for a given routine, the adaptability requirement becomes extremely low, promoting a tolerance within the mental and emotional skill areas in great excess to that which actual play dynamics permits to the player.

2)  Tips: Tips (short advisory statements), on frequent occasions, contain quality content that well reflects observations on an isolated element within the game.  While respecting this content as one should, it is often the case that the description of the context proves inadequate to sufficiently influence the information understanding of the player to the degree that results in concrete improvement.  Many players have absorbed hundreds of tips--tips expressed in various forms--with little evidence of a corresponding improvement in their play to the extent of the investment in tips absorption.  Overall, the inherent form in which the tip is expressed varies greatly from the processes necessary to incorporate otherwise insightful observations into the player's game in a manner which realizes fundamental improvement.

In elevating the complexity of table tennis to the highest respect, PATT - A Principles Approach to Table Tennis approaches the sport as has been so historically found with all complex human domains, via the identification of the principles of the domain as the bedrock foundation upon which all playing activities of the sport are supported.  This notion of principles as the most fundamental expression of a domain has an unlimited number of examples readily visible in educational discourse: The Principles of Accounting I; Chemistry Principles of the 21st Century; The Principles of Health for You and Your Family; Finance Principles of Steel Manufacturing.  It seems to be the consensus case that the human mind functions most successfully when dealing with complexity to structure information in the fundamental forms of principles to assist in managing the enormous details within a given domain.

For table tennis play, PATT employs decomposition, frameworks, and a specialized vocabulary to express one set of principles of the sport.  An elaboration extension is Applied PATT, which functions to communicate how the enunciated principles are applied in training and match play.

My recommendation is to base your efforts for improvement in quality instruction, with the goal of a personal table tennis feature set that holds a viable response to the very broad range of circumstances one encounters in table tennis play.  Seeking instruction based on the sport's principles as foundational to the very important mechanical dimension of the sport is of high value.

Thanks,
Donn

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote stiltt Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08/06/2019 at 4:56pm
I have not played in clubs lately because the only thing that I miss a lot are group lessons. I believe group lessons for elder players are the best because the interaction with other players (social aspect), the controlled environment (drills imposed by a coach) and best use of time guaranteed (a factor that becomes more important as we age and time becomes more valuable). What drills are best for an elder? that's a difficult topic, depending the goal. I would think drills that favor rallying are best. Should every elder learn to feed? I believe so because that's maximize the number of quality balls per hour and whatever saves time is good for reasons stated above. Also learning to feed may be a great way to play better players. "I feed you drills 30 minutes and you play me an hour" or something like that. Knowing how to feed increase the player's value in a club, like a lp player who chops well, we always like to have one of those. Feeding in a club may be frown upon by the club owners though so permission must be asked beforehand.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote vanjr Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08/09/2019 at 9:06am
Love this thread. Thank you for starting it and sharing Gary and others.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote BRS Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08/10/2019 at 8:29am
Nothing will increase the willingness of stronger players to train with you more than developing a great consistent block.  Everyone loves to loop.  And blocking is a foundation TT skill anyway.

Responding to Donn Olsen's principles post, here is an ordered list of priorities for every TT shot I was recently given by a coach I highly respect.

1.  Put the ball on the table in play
2. With spin
3. With a good placement
4. With speed (meaning taking early off the bounce)
5. With power (meaning adding energy to the ball)

This sounds crazy obvious, but how many of us try for a miracle shot when we are off-balance or challenged?  How many of us try to kill an "easy" ball and end up missing?  We are putting priority 5 ahead of 1.  


Edited by BRS - 08/10/2019 at 8:30am
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote NextLevel Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08/10/2019 at 10:40am
Gary,

TTEdge has an app for practicing tracking the ball and reading players.  There is also some serve reading practice. 

While I am roughly 30 years younger than you are, I will give my own opinion coaching players.  It is hard to learn stuff at an advanced age as the body is not as efficient at doing so.  That said, there is no reason it can't be fun.

The thing I struggle with the most when coaching is getting players to understand that what they think they can do to the ball, especially putting the ball on the table, is far less important than copying the mechanics the coach is showing you to produce the stroke.  Unfortunately,  it isn't clear whether older players struggle more because of fewer motor neurons or something else.  But in any case I will explain this principle in detail. 

When most inexperienced players and some experienced ones who should know better are working on learning a stroke,  they tend to try inordinately hard to put the ball on the table.  However the brain tries to put the ball on the table and will only feel it can succeed in doing so with a stroke it understands.  This usually results in bad technique.

What I recommend is to just copy the swing as best you can.  Use video and coach's feedback. Some coaches don't really believe in you and won't give you the feedback unless you ask for it (trust me, I have moments where I would stop a lesson if I wasn't getting paid to live with the frustration).  Now when you copy the swing,  if you miss the shot, all you have to figure out is what the miss means relative to how you should have hit the ball for the incoming spin.  If you swung decently and you hit the ball long, you probably hit behind the ball too much with too much force and need to come forward and over the ball more to give the ball more spin to keep it on the table.  This may be the same thing as aiming at a higher point on the ball.  Some would say close your angle but I am a believer that most racket angle adjustments should come from adjustments to the swing plane and not from actually playing with your racket angle. 

Conversely,  if you hit the ball into the net, you probably need to come behind the ball a little more and be slightly more vertical with your stroke.  Some would say open your racket more (which I don't like but can work) or to hit a lower contact point on the ball (this I prefer).

If you have good technique, missing shots is just as important as making shots in terms of adapting your techniques to the ball.  Unfortunately people complain too much about missing when learning/training rather than using it as feedback for evaluating their control of the technique.  One of the reasons why robots can be bad is that they can obscure the importance of adjusting when the ball quality is too consistent. 

Hopefully this helps.  Before I understood how to adapt my technique to the ball, I played a very tense brand of table tennis where every stroke felt like a unicorn when it hit the table and a gargoyle when it didn't.   Nowadays the logic of my misses and makes are clearer and my limitations seeing the ball are much easier to accept (and in the right context complain about).
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote rbrockerhoff Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08/12/2019 at 9:57am
Hi Gary, my case is somewhat similar, maybe it’s of interest. I’m 68 now, I live in Brazil.


I played intensely from 17 to about 25, often hours every day, but with no formal training available. We had several excellent players in the group — state champions and so forth — but people at the time were somewhat secretive and didn’t like to discuss technique. At the time I played penholder, as did everybody around me.


At 65, after about 40 years of pause, I ran into a German player of about my age and he beat me very easily — and he kindly explained how and why! It was only then that I learned about new rules, the larger ball, and so forth. At any rate, I decided to look for a club in my area and began training there. I soon saw that my old equipment was too slow for modern play and decided to switch to shakehand grip.


At the club we have about 1/3 penholders (most are older guys) and 2/3 shakehanders. Ages range from 12 to 82. It took me about 8 months of training 3x a week to win a single set from anybody! The 82-year old is the only active player remaining from my time; a former state champion. I’ve never won more than one set a game from him.


Today, 3 years later, I’m somewhere in the middle ranks and can take a set off most of the top guys on a good day.


Like you, I bought an Amicus Pro robot and still use it once or twice a week, especially when breaking in some new rubber.


One of the reasons I switched to shakehand was because I never mastered the (japanese) penhold backhand. The chinese reverse backhand came out to late for me; I tried it but either my grip was not proper or my wrist was unsuited to it. With shakehand, I immediately felt more comfortable with the backhand. In contrast, it took over a year to get used to the changed angle for doing forehand loops!


Trying to feel out why some shots made my hand and elbow hurt, I decided to play around with different rubbers. Using spinny short pips on the backhand and soft inverted on the forehand is the combination that works best — plus it allows me to do less footwork, stay close to the table and surprise opponents with unorthodox shots.


A final tip which helped me: I got friendly with some younger guys who were just starting out and tried to keep up with their development, playing them at least once a week. Winning about every other match means I’m doing fine!


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote NextLevel Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08/13/2019 at 1:48pm
Originally posted by rbrockerhoff rbrockerhoff wrote:

Hi Gary, my case is somewhat similar, maybe it’s of interest. I’m 68 now, I live in Brazil.


I played intensely from 17 to about 25, often hours every day, but with no formal training available. We had several excellent players in the group — state champions and so forth — but people at the time were somewhat secretive and didn’t like to discuss technique. At the time I played penholder, as did everybody around me.


At 65, after about 40 years of pause, I ran into a German player of about my age and he beat me very easily — and he kindly explained how and why! It was only then that I learned about new rules, the larger ball, and so forth. At any rate, I decided to look for a club in my area and began training there. I soon saw that my old equipment was too slow for modern play and decided to switch to shakehand grip.


At the club we have about 1/3 penholders (most are older guys) and 2/3 shakehanders. Ages range from 12 to 82. It took me about 8 months of training 3x a week to win a single set from anybody! The 82-year old is the only active player remaining from my time; a former state champion. I’ve never won more than one set a game from him.


Today, 3 years later, I’m somewhere in the middle ranks and can take a set off most of the top guys on a good day.


Like you, I bought an Amicus Pro robot and still use it once or twice a week, especially when breaking in some new rubber.


One of the reasons I switched to shakehand was because I never mastered the (japanese) penhold backhand. The chinese reverse backhand came out to late for me; I tried it but either my grip was not proper or my wrist was unsuited to it. With shakehand, I immediately felt more comfortable with the backhand. In contrast, it took over a year to get used to the changed angle for doing forehand loops!


Trying to feel out why some shots made my hand and elbow hurt, I decided to play around with different rubbers. Using spinny short pips on the backhand and soft inverted on the forehand is the combination that works best — plus it allows me to do less footwork, stay close to the table and surprise opponents with unorthodox shots.


A final tip which helped me: I got friendly with some younger guys who were just starting out and tried to keep up with their development, playing them at least once a week. Winning about every other match means I’m doing fine!


  You have to be very careful about the elbow.  One reason why the elbow hurts is too tight a grip with the racket over time with the 3 lower fingers, especially if you use a computer a lot - it is similar to carpal tunnel in some way.  Most elbow problems come from the fingers or the shoulder indirectly.  Another related thing is yanking or folding the elbow or upper arm too forcefully.  It is why rotating the body is a very important part of all strokes - too much arm use causes issues.

The tip of improving with juniors is very important and helpful.  During my competitive period, I had junior training partners who used to beat up on me a lot.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote rbrockerhoff Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08/13/2019 at 8:24pm
Originally posted by NextLevel NextLevel wrote:

You have to be very careful about the elbow.  One reason why the elbow hurts is too tight a grip with the racket over time with the 3 lower fingers, especially if you use a computer a lot - it is similar to carpal tunnel in some way.
Good tip. I've been using computers continuously for over 50 years, with no carpal tunnel problems — I must have accidentally hit upon good posture.
Yes, I did grip the racket too tightly in my first months of playing shakehand.
All problems went away when I switched to short pips on the backhand, together with the Donic Dotec racket; my grip is loose and further up the handle. Works for me!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote rcgldr Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08/13/2019 at 10:48pm
Quote robots
Mentioned a few times in this thread. I'm wondering about the quality of the robot. The old Stiga robot used two spinning wheels, similar to a baseball pitching machine, except that either wheel could spin backwards for increased spin independent of speed. It could also pan left to right while shooting out balls, so a player would get footwork practice in addition to dealing with spin and speed. 

Getting back to the original post, I've never found good coaching tips for adjusting stroke speed versus stroke angle versus blade angle to deal with the speed and spin from the opponent. 



Edited by rcgldr - 08/13/2019 at 10:52pm
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote smackman Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08/13/2019 at 11:36pm
I think people over think things
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote ericd937 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08/14/2019 at 9:28am
Originally posted by GaryBuck GaryBuck wrote:

Originally posted by mjamja mjamja wrote:

c) Use LP on your Bh. 


One thing I should have mentioned, is long pips. Many players start using long pips as they get older, and naturally some of you are recommending I do the same, especially on the backhand. But I have decided against switching to long pips, for a number of reasons.

Firstly, my inverted backhand is far stronger than my forehand: block, flip, drive and loop are all better on my bh side, and I have far more control over the ball. If I give that up, I would loose the best part of my game. Secondly, it seems to me that the basic strategy of long pips is to lead the opponent to make mistakes by using equipment they don't understand. To me, that does not seem like an attractive way to play; although i know many would disagree. So I intend to continue with the modern two-winged attacking style my coach is trying to taught me.

Originally posted by mjamja mjamja wrote:

There are many tactics where you can decide before the point starts most of what you are going to do through the first 5 to 6 balls, especially where you want hit.

Mjamja's recommendation (see above) to use tactics that enable you to predict in advance where the ball is likely to go is very useful. I can think of some examples, such as serving off the side of the table and expecting the reply to come cross court, but no doubt there are many more. Any suggestions, or further examples, would be very helpful.

You could play long pimples on your forehand rather than your backhand. Its not unheard of. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pongfugrasshopper Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08/14/2019 at 9:44am
Originally posted by ericd937 ericd937 wrote:

Originally posted by GaryBuck GaryBuck wrote:

Originally posted by mjamja mjamja wrote:

c) Use LP on your Bh. 


One thing I should have mentioned, is long pips. Many players start using long pips as they get older, and naturally some of you are recommending I do the same, especially on the backhand. But I have decided against switching to long pips, for a number of reasons.

Firstly, my inverted backhand is far stronger than my forehand: block, flip, drive and loop are all better on my bh side, and I have far more control over the ball. If I give that up, I would loose the best part of my game. Secondly, it seems to me that the basic strategy of long pips is to lead the opponent to make mistakes by using equipment they don't understand. To me, that does not seem like an attractive way to play; although i know many would disagree. So I intend to continue with the modern two-winged attacking style my coach is trying to taught me.

Originally posted by mjamja mjamja wrote:

There are many tactics where you can decide before the point starts most of what you are going to do through the first 5 to 6 balls, especially where you want hit.

Mjamja's recommendation (see above) to use tactics that enable you to predict in advance where the ball is likely to go is very useful. I can think of some examples, such as serving off the side of the table and expecting the reply to come cross court, but no doubt there are many more. Any suggestions, or further examples, would be very helpful.

You could play long pimples on your forehand rather than your backhand. Its not unheard of. 
 
OP said:
"Secondly, it seems to me that the basic strategy of long pips is to lead the opponent to make mistakes by using equipment they don't understand. To me, that does not seem like an attractive way to play; although i know many would disagree. So I intend to continue with the modern two-winged attacking style my coach is trying to taught me."
So I don't understand why you would recommend LP on his forehand.  Nothing wrong at all with the style he's chosen.  He gets coaching on a weekly basis so he's off to a great start.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote BRS Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08/14/2019 at 10:41am
Actually in Florida we have some players who attack everything with longpips on their fh. TSP Curl P2 with a thin sponge, to be precise.  But that's a really hard style to learn to play, so I wouldn't recommend it for you.  Simply mentioning that because most long pips players are defensive, that doesn't mean the equipment forces them to be. The equipment suits that style, but attacks with it are devastating actually.  And LP does reduce the spin-reading requirement that makes it take so long to learn TT compared to other games.  
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote freakinjstu Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08/15/2019 at 7:20am
Gary, I remember you from the US Open in December - you and I played maybe our first match of the tournament on Monday morning, we had 3 close games. 

I started in 2017 too, at the age of 47. Obviously 47 is not 71, but I've been able to get above 1500 in 2.5 years (still improving) and I've thought hard about how to do it - I think it would apply to you as well.

Step 1 is to realize we will never out-rally the young guys. We just won't. These young guys put in 1/2 the work and hit the ball so much better - I don't know how but it's just not happening that way for me (us) and I've sort of come to terms with that. I'm guessing our neural pathways are just way harder to reshape, or something.

I made the decision early on that I needed to win on my serve. I practice TT an hour every morning and I spend half that time on my serve. Every single morning. 

1. You should have the spinniest serve in your division - by alot. Kids should be looking down at their paddle after dumping another serve. You should hear 'wow, heavy' alot from the adults. If this isn't happening you aren't practicing it enough. Brett Clark at TTEdge has some great videos on this and I've watched them more times than I can count. (ps: Some of Brett's videos you have to pay to get at but it's worth it IMO.)

2. Learn to hit your side/underspin and a side/topspin serve with the exact same motion. *This is my MAIN point generator* - so work on it ALOT and video your practice to make sure it looks the same. Many low level people simply cannot read these and it's been THE differentiator for me - 3-4 free points per game makes a huge difference.  

Once you've completed those two - add the following:

3. Get your side/under and side/top variations to be short by stopping the forearm just before contact. Then add a long-fast serve with the SAME motion (don't stop the forearm). This is another free point generator for me, since my short serves are pretty short. But again you need to practice every day and video to make sure they look the same. 

4. People will learn to push back your super-spinny side/under serve - and it will take some time to learn to attack that ball (it's weird attacking that ball), but once you get used to it, it's very effective.  That's where I spend most of the rest of my practice - I use the robot to try and replicate people pushing my heavy side/under serve.

Other ideas:

- You hear alot of anti-robot talk on these forums and personally I think those people are insane. Or they have an environment with ready training partners. Because at my club no one does anything but play games, and how you are supposed to learn consistent strokes (as a novice) by playing games a couple times per week is beyond me. I get all of the downsides, and they are very real, but you have to be able to practice your strokes somehow!

- The long pips idea is probably correct for the same reasons as above - you aren't ever going to out-rally the young guys so you have to change the conditions of contest. I would do it myself but so far my BH loop is far and away my best shot, once my FH develops I expect I'll switch to some sort of pips.

My attitude: the young guys have the athleticism, quickness, and timing to hit the ball amazingly well. But what we have is the patience and persistence to practice serves every single day. (and they don't practice return of serve much either). Fortunately for us, at our level, most matches are serve/receive contests. And we can win those :)


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote rcgldr Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08/15/2019 at 4:21pm
Originally posted by freakinjstu freakinjstu wrote:

we will never out-rally the young guys.
I think he'll be able to out-rally young guys at the 850 level, but maybe not the 1500 level. The higher rated older guys I remember mostly used their backhand, rather than trying to move around for a forehand. Bernie Bukiet had a 2250 rating when he was around 60 to 65 years old, and mostly just countered or blocked (loops), but he's the exception. The other top seniors in my area had a rating around 1900 - 2000 (back in the 1980's). Then again, 71 is different than 65 for most players.



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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote mjamja Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08/15/2019 at 6:18pm
Originally posted by GaryBuck GaryBuck wrote:

Originally posted by mjamja mjamja wrote:

There are many tactics where you can decide before the point starts most of what you are going to do through the first 5 to 6 balls, especially where you want hit.

Mjamja's recommendation (see above) to use tactics that enable you to predict in advance where the ball is likely to go is very useful. I can think of some examples, such as serving off the side of the table and expecting the reply to come cross court, but no doubt there are many more. Any suggestions, or further examples, would be very helpful.

A few general patterns that can be played include:
1. Corner to corner
2. "Pound" patterns
     a) Pound the weak side
     b) Pound the elbow
3.  "Until" patterns
     a) Weak side until angle then opposite side
     b) Elbow until out of position then opposite side
4. Opposite my elbow (or Always Cross Court)

Corner to Corner
Playing the ball as wide as reasonably possible to alternating sides of the table.  You can start with a wide serve or return or you can start with a short serve or return to the opposite side you want to go wide first.  Starting short is used when the opponents return of a wide first shot is often too strong to handle.  Most often the first wide ball is played to the opponents weaker side.
The Double Up is a variant played if the opponent seems to be anticipating your pattern. In it you play wide, opposite corner, then double up by hitting back to the same corner.  

Pound Patterns
Pounding just means playing over and over to the same location.  Pounding the weaker side usually means just hitting over and over to the Bh, but for some players the Fh is the weaker side.  Pounding the elbow means hitting over and over to the transition point where a player has to make a decision as to hit a Fh or Bh.  This point is near the physical elbow but may be slightly off to one side depending on whether they are Fh or Bh oriented players.  For Fh dominate players hitting to the playing elbow requires a relatively large footwork move to play the ball strongly.  Note: As the opponent repositions himself after each shot, his playing elbow may be at a new position relative to the table.  Both these can be very useful when receiving since if executed well can limit the strength of the opponent's first attack.  Again you can start the pattern with the serve going to the pound area or you can move the opponent with the serve to make it easier to hit the 3rd ball to the pound area.  For example a serve to the wide Fh moves the opponent so that it is easier to hit to their Bh.

Until Patterns
The Until patterns are similar to the Pound patterns, but add an option to try to finish the point with a shot to a different location if a certain type of shot is returned or a positional opportunity develops.

In the Weak Until pattern you start out pounding the weak side.  If the opponent returns down the line, to the middle of the table, or short and not too wide cross court he gives you the opportunity to angle the ball away from him with a wide shot to the stronger side that finishes the point.  On wide crosscourt returns, returns to your elbow, or even very strong returns to the middle you just play back to the weak side.

In the Elbow Until pattern you pound the elbow until the opponent moves out of position so that you can go for a winner to the opposite side to the one they moved toward.  Against most players it works best when they move twice in a row to their Bh side to hit their Fh's and get stuck standing outside their Bh corner.  If their return is not really wide crosscourt you should have an angle for a winner to their Fh corner.  With some Bh oriented players, especially LP players, you can get them to move out of position toward their Fh corner and the hit back to their Bh.

These patterns can be executed with topspin shots, a mix (usually underspin followed by topspin), or even all underspin if neither player wants to open.  Try to select the spin used with the concept of hitting the spin I do best and that he likes least.  Sometimes it is obvious, other times you have to play spin that you are not best with, because opponent is terrific against that shot. Orw play with the idea of hitting the spin that gets back the spin I like to play against.

Hope this helps.

Mark



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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote ericd937 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08/15/2019 at 8:15pm
Originally posted by pongfugrasshopper pongfugrasshopper wrote:

Originally posted by ericd937 ericd937 wrote:

Originally posted by GaryBuck GaryBuck wrote:

Originally posted by mjamja mjamja wrote:

c) Use LP on your Bh. 


One thing I should have mentioned, is long pips. Many players start using long pips as they get older, and naturally some of you are recommending I do the same, especially on the backhand. But I have decided against switching to long pips, for a number of reasons.

Firstly, my inverted backhand is far stronger than my forehand: block, flip, drive and loop are all better on my bh side, and I have far more control over the ball. If I give that up, I would loose the best part of my game. Secondly, it seems to me that the basic strategy of long pips is to lead the opponent to make mistakes by using equipment they don't understand. To me, that does not seem like an attractive way to play; although i know many would disagree. So I intend to continue with the modern two-winged attacking style my coach is trying to taught me.

Originally posted by mjamja mjamja wrote:

There are many tactics where you can decide before the point starts most of what you are going to do through the first 5 to 6 balls, especially where you want hit.

Mjamja's recommendation (see above) to use tactics that enable you to predict in advance where the ball is likely to go is very useful. I can think of some examples, such as serving off the side of the table and expecting the reply to come cross court, but no doubt there are many more. Any suggestions, or further examples, would be very helpful.

You could play long pimples on your forehand rather than your backhand. Its not unheard of. 
 
OP said:
"Secondly, it seems to me that the basic strategy of long pips is to lead the opponent to make mistakes by using equipment they don't understand. To me, that does not seem like an attractive way to play; although i know many would disagree. So I intend to continue with the modern two-winged attacking style my coach is trying to taught me."
So I don't understand why you would recommend LP on his forehand.  Nothing wrong at all with the style he's chosen.  He gets coaching on a weekly basis so he's off to a great start.

The OP stated the reasons why he didn't want long pips on his backhand, then he went on to explain that his forehand was not exceptionally good. The way he explained it, made it sound like pimples on fh might not be such a bad idea. It also seemed like he hadn't even considered pimples on forehand as an option. 

Lets be honest. If he's been playing consistently for 2 years and has only achieved an 850 level, something needs to be adjusted. Trying long pimples, short pimples, or even medium pimples on the forehand might not be that bad of an idea. If never played him or seen him play, I was simply trying to think outside the box based on his statement that he had a fairly strong backhand and weaker forehand. 

It might not be that bad of an idea. Heck, he could even try anti. Below 1200 to 1400 level, anti, medium, and long pimples are a killer. Most of those players at that level don't know how to take advantage of the weaknesses of those rubbers. A lot of players at that level even find short pimples extremely hard to play against. 
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