Coach Corner

Choice of table tennis rackets
Tibhar on Line

It is obvious that there are a great number of rubber and blade makers producing many different kinds and models and that there is a great choice offered for choosing an adequate racket.

The racket is an individual piece of equipment and it is very important that it suits the kind of play of the player who has chosen it. It is unimportant whether somebody else will say that the racket is good or not, that he can or cannot play with that racket! One should bear in mind when choosing a racket, only the basic characteristics a racket one intends to play with should have. It is necessary to know whether we want to play with this or that basic kind of rubber, taking into account one's own way of playing, one's own technical abilities and basic characteristics of the adequate basic kind of rubber. After that, one begins to choose a model of this product. One can get some help from the tables stating certain rubber and blade characteristics. One should bear in mind when making a choice the thickness of a sponge, and of course, blade characteristic. As far as the choice of racket handles is concerned, there is a large variety of shapes and each player may choose the one that feels best in his hand.

The shape and size of the whole racket is also important depending on one's own feelings in play. The coach is only a consultant in choosing the racket for his player. A coach should not make his player take a certain racket. If the player is not convinced himself that this particular racket is excellent for him, then this racket should not be chosen. This is on one hand a subjective feeling and it is wrong to impose a certain racket that a player is not willing to accept.

When choosing a rubber it is not necessary to take only well known roads. Each player should try as many as possible different possibilities and combinations. In such a manner he will find more easily an optimal solution for himself. Also one should not make a mystery of rubbers and blades - neither blade nor rubber will play by itself! If we have played for a long period of time with only one kind of rubber that does not mean it is harmful to try some other possibility. Each tournament player of good quality should have one reserve racket, which should be equal to the one he plays with all the time. It is quite common that a racket will break in a tournament or is misplaced. If there is a tried and equal reserve racket, a player will start using it without difficulty and he may finish successfully his play - if there is no such racket, all chances in that game are practically lost.

Rackets with a classical handle that are played with from both sides often have two different kinds of rubber - on one side one kind of rubber, and on the other side another kind of rubber. This is so that the player playing with that racket can adjust it better with the characteristics of his play from backhand and forehand side. This will also make it harder for the opponent as one ball comes from one kind of rubber, and the other ball from another kind of rubber, which give different speed and rotation to the ball.

Different rubbers on both sides of the racket do not make the game more difficult only to the opponent, they require from the player using combined racket relevant technical knowledge in order to be able to use both kinds of rubber on the racket. Two different rubbers negatively influence the safety of a combined racket player, as he has to perform his strokes in accordance with specific characteristics of a rubber he is hitting the ball with at that time, and i.e. not always easy to achieve in a game!

In contemporary play three types of combined rackets are used:
1. Combined racket with the rubbers of the same kind, but different characteristics. These are mostly rackets with backside on both sides but with different characteristics, usually on one side fast one, and on the other side a very grippy, but slower one. Racket is not being turned in a game.

2. Combined racket with two different kind of rubber for active play. These are almost exclusively rackets with backside on forehand and pimples out on backhand. Racket is turned in a game in one's hand usually only in performing service.

3. Combined racket with a rubber for active play on one side, and a rubber for easier catching of rotation and destruction of the opponent's game on the other side. These are almost exclusively a combination of backside - long pimples or backside - anti-spin. Such rackets are turned in one's hand not only when performing service, but during making points as well, in order to surprise the opponent.

In order to exploit the advantages and lessen the weaknesses of a combined racket which on one side has backside, and on the other side long pimples or anti-spin, it is useful for a player to learn how to turn a racket during the making of a point. In this way, he could, depending on the situation in a game, be able to perform a stroke with either one or the other side of the racket. In such a manner the player's change of ball rotation and playing rhythm will be unexpected for the opponent.

A player has to master the playing technique with backside rubber from both sides because ball control with a grippy backside is harder and active strokes may be performed with backside and ball can gain rotation. After the basic technique with backside has been solidly mastered, a player may start exercising with long pimples or anti-spin on one side of the racket (first on backhand, and then turn the racket and practice the same on forehand). After the basic stroke technique with this material has been mastered, a player starts to turn the racket in a play, depending on the situation, playing alternately with backside and long pimples, or anti-spin. Turning of the racket is performed first on backhand, and then on forehand, and finally, in a game. Turning of a racket in service may start much earlier.

Which grip should be used
It is a fact that in modern table tennis two grips exist in parallel: the shake-hands grip and the penholder grip. In Europe, as a rule, the penholder grip is completely neglected even from the beginning of a player's training. In Europe the penholder grip is not offered as a possible alternative to beginners, everybody is directed to shake-hands grip. It would be useful to encourage beginners to try both grips. There is no reason why it should be necessary to endorse one grip, i.e. shake-hands grip, at the very beginning of training children, and not offer penholder as the alternative. A beginner should have the opportunity and freedom to try each grip, and even after some time change one grip for the other one, if that proves to be more beneficial.

The following conclusions therefore arise:
- It is useful to show both grips in the initial training phase and encourage beginners to try both grips.

- During technique training, at the very beginning, allow players to try both grips, and if necessary, allow them to change from one grip to the other one.

- In Europe, the problem with the penholder grip in a players training is the fact that European coaches have no experience of the problems of technique and tactics training with this grip.

Regardless of which grip a player has decided upon in agreement with his coach, in the first phase of training it should be insisted on as the most correct grip, without exception. In time gradual individual differences in the grip are possible (adjusting the angle of the racket, position of fingers on the forward and backward side of the racket blade, length in which a racket is taken into the hand etc.). However, there is always the danger that the exceptions will become too numerous and become a serious obstruction to the player's progress. In the development of a player the coach has to pay attention to the grip, as it is possible for the player to gradually make changes in his grip. Consequently and almost unnoticeably the player begins to hold the racket incorrectly and, as a rule, it is very difficult to correct the grip.