Killer Practice Sessions
Killer Practice Sessions
Submitted by Larry Hodges
So you’ve decided you want to beat the neighborhood or club champ, and move up to the next level. Then you’re going to have to practice. You know – go out to the table with another person who’s also tired of losing, and do practice drills (not just games) to improve your game. There are a number of factors you should consider to maximize your time. First off, everybody should not be doing the same drills. What drills you should do depend on:
- The playing level of you and your practice partner
- The playing style & equipment of you and your practice partner
- The frequency & duration of your practice sessions
- The Playing Level of You and Your Practice Partner
Obviously, if you’re just starting out, you won’t be working too much on your inside-out loop off the bounce. On the other hand, you won’t see the world champion hitting forehand to forehand much except as part of a short warm-up. So choose drills that are appropriate to your level. Focus on consistency and proper form. Move your feet to every shot and return to ready position. Get the fundamentals down so you will be “good enough” to do advanced drills with shots you can actually do in a match consistently. Without the fundamentals, your game will always be fundamentally flawed, and it will be difficult to improve.
Playing Styles & Equipment of You and Your Practice Partner
The playing style of you and your partner also affects what drills you will be doing. If your partner has long pips on his backhand, don’t expect to practice rapid-fire backhand to backhand type drills. If one player is primarily a looper, the other a hitter, then each will be doing different style drills. So you have to make allowances for all of this. Take advantage of your partner’s style to practice drills against that particular style. To become a well rounded player try to practice against a wide variety of styles, especially prior to tournaments.
The Frequency and Duration of Your Practice Sessions
If you only practice occasionally, you should pick your drills with great care. There are two “theories” as to how to choose drills for an occasional practice session. You can either choose specific parts of your game that need work, and focus on that; or you can do a general session, working on your most common shots. Here’s our recommendation: choose a couple of things that you really need work on; choose a couple of things that you do really well, and want to tune up; and work these items into a general practice session that covers as many of the techniques that you use in a match as possible.
Of course, if you practice regularly, you’ll get the best of both worlds.
Choosing the Drills for Your Practice Session
There are many possible models for a practice session. What we are going to do is design a general session that you can use as a model for yourself. Each part of the practice session developed below is divided into beginning, intermediate and advanced drills. The level designation does not refer strictly to your overall level of play, however. Take into account how well you do the technique being practiced. For example, a player with a good loop may do more advanced looping drills than a stronger player whose loop is not as good. Using the USATT’s rating system, a very rough idea of these levels might be up to 1300 for beginner level, from 1300-1800 for intermediate, and 1800+ for advanced.
When you read the drills below, it is important to remember that the drills are not carved in stone. For example, if a drill calls for you to hit the ball to your partner’s backhand, you can change the drill and hit to his forehand instead. This is simply how one session and set of drills could go. When we say to hit a particular shot with, say, a forehand, that means either a forehand drive or a forehand loop, depending on your playing style. (The drills assume both players are right-handed; left-handers should adjust accordingly.)
As you get better with some drills, you should make them more like a match. For example, when doing a side-to-side footwork drill, instead of starting off with a topspin serve and getting right into the drill, start off the drill with a backspin serve, have your partner push it back, and loop the first ball. Your partner would block it back, and you’d then continue the drill as a footwork drill. Or you might start a drill with a sidespin serve, with the receiver topspinning it back, and then go into the footwork drill. In most of the drills listed here, this type of drill is not listed or the listings would simply get too long and complicated. We leave it to you to incorporate this into some of the drills below – but only after you are consistent with the drill as it is.
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