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Coaching Tips of the Week: Blowing Ball in Air

(By Larry Hodges)

We’re going to have a little fun this week. There’s more to table tennis than just going to the table and relentlessly trying to win. There’s also the fun part! And next to lobbing, the funnest thing I do in table tennis is blowing the ball in the air. I know, because it’s often what I’m asked to demonstrate more than anything else!!!
 
What am I talking about, blowing the ball?  Here’s video of the trick, from an interview I did in 2020 with Kevin Nguyen. (The link should take you to 38:45.) Notice that I’m not just blowing the ball up, but I’m blowing it sideways – and somehow, magically, it just floats in mid-air. Here’s how you do it.
 
First, learn to do it straight up. To do this, face straight up. (In the video, I’m facing somewhat sideways, but you can’t start that way.) Hold the ball a few inches from your mouth. Blow gently, and then release the ball. The key is to find the right distance and how hard you blow the ball, so that when you release the ball, it doesn’t shoot up or down – it just stays where you let it go. If you don’t get this right, and the ball goes up or down as you release it, you’ll lose control. You’ll notice from the video that I started blowing first, and when I released the ball, it barely moved.
 
Once you’ve mastered this, you can move to the next step – blowing the ball sideways. The key here is to blow the top of the ball. Most think you blow under the ball, but that won’t work. If you watch the video closely, you’ll see that when I release the ball, the top of the ball immediately begins to spin away from me, since I’m blowing the top of the ball. This spin causes the Magnus effect – the same thing that makes a topspin ball drop and a backspin ball float (or curve upward if there were no gravity). By spinning the top of the ball away from me, it creates a low pressure area on the top of the ball, and a high pressure area on the bottom of the ball. Result? The low pressure area pulls the ball up, while the high pressure area pushes it up. Result – the ball “magically” floats in mid-air!
 
So . . . get practicing! When you can do it, show it to me (and everyone else) at a tournament!

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