On Friday 7th March, during week ten of the challenge, Sam and I headed over to London Moberly Table Tennis Club to meet, head coach, Sherwin Remata and get his opinion on Sam’s development so far.
Sherwin is a very competent player and coach. He is a solid top 100 player in England and has many years experience coaching players of all abilities.
I told Sherwin roughly where we were up to (mainly working on Sam’s topspin strokes and open-up) and asked him to have a look at everything and try to tweak things as much as possible. I set the tripod and video camera up, got out my iPad, took a seat, and let Sherwin get on with it!
Here is a video of pretty much the full session. I don’t usually upload full sessions, simply because it takes too long, but I thought it would be good to see and hear everything Sherwin does and says to Sam during the session. I hope that you will be able to take some tips and pointers from the session too and apply them to your own game, if appropriate.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1hOCGeKZKcM
While Sherwin was coaching Sam I was meticulously taking notes. I didn’t want to miss anything he said or corrected. Below are a slightly better organised version of these notes. I’ve tried to split them up into particular strokes or drills to make the key points easy to spot.
Some of the pointers I have reworded as general coaching advice (to make it easier to read) but some things that are very ‘Sam-specific’ I have kept written in relation to Sam. If that doesn’t make sense you’ll get what I mean once you start reading.
I’ve also summarised the main take-home tips we took from the session.
- Don’t drop the bat when playing a forehand topspin, otherwise you are likely to hit the top edge of your bat. Instead take the ball a little earlier and bring it back slightly, not down. It’s a backswing not a ‘downswing’.
- When you are close to the table you need to use a shorter arm swing. If you want to do a big arm movement you need to be standing further back. Keep the shot short and sharp when playing a topspin close to the table.
- To get more spin and power, take a step back and take you time. Take the ball a little later. Use more weight transfer when back from the table.
- Don’t ‘pose’ too much at the end of a forehand shot, there isn’t time! You need to find the right balance between returning to a neutral ready position and getting in position for the next shot.
- Try to use your forearm and elbow more on the forehand for more arm speed. This will help to really accelerate upon contact. If your arm is stiff it will be slow. It needs to be relaxed.
- Don’t move your arm across the ball too much. You don’t want too much of a windscreen wiper action going side-to-side. This sometimes occurs if there is no wrist movement. If you bend your wrist a little a play more through the ball you should be able to get more control and power.
- If you want to generate lots of topspin on a backhand close to the table then you really need to use your wrist. You can’t do it using your arm because there just isn’t the time or space necessary. Wrist acceleration is important for backhand topspin.
2FH – 2BH Topspin Drill
- Sam’s lack of wrist on the backhand means that he is taking his arm across his body on the backhand shots. He needs to go more into the ball both to guide it in the right direction (at the moment his sideways technique is ‘fading’ a lot of balls) and also he generate more power on the shot.
- Sam forehand has got a little bit flat during this drill. He needs to really use his wrist and elbow for more spin and acceleration. He could also do with following through more, instead of stopping the shot early.
FH, Middle, FH, BH Drill
- Sam plays quite a flat hitting game and his loop isn’t so strong. Sherwin is getting him to stand a little further back and encouraging him to let the ball drop before making contact. He wants him to develop a bit more feeling and really be able to ‘brush’ it and not just hit it.
- It’s important have some ‘snap’ and acceleration to your strokes. You need to accelerate at the point you make contact with the ball not just use the same speed throughout the motion.
3BH – 1FH Drill
- ‘Snap’ is really important in all your strokes. You may even find that you have more time than you think because you can wait, wait, wait and then accelerate, rather than just starting the stroke early but not accelerating.
- Sherwin likes the left arm to go back with the right arm during the forehand backswing. Steve Brunskill (Swerve TTC) was getting Sam to keep it out in front of him for balance but I guess different coaches just use different techniques/methods.
1BH – 1FH Drill
- Sherwin quickly picked up on the fact that sometimes Sam doesn’t swing fully through his forehand but will instead try to guide the ball over the net. Mark Simpson picked up on this when he was watching a few of the videos earlier this week too. Sam needs to have the confidence to swing right through the ball and not wimp out and worry it’s going to miss.
- If the ball is half-long (only just going long instead of bouncing twice) you need to come more up the back of the ball. You need to get in to the table, get low, and brush up. On longer pushes you can get away with using your legs for lift and going more over the top of the ball.
- Sherwin wants more ‘snap’ in the forehand open-up too. Snap seems to be his favourite word but I get what he means. It’s no good going through the whole stroke at the same speed.
- It’s a really important skill to learn the difference between the open-up and the counter topspin. These are often the 3rd and 5th balls in a point. You need to be able to loop the first one up and then get over the top of the second one, otherwise you just loop it off the end of the table.
- Every forehand stroke should contain some weight transfer as you make contact with the ball. If you can get this correct it’ll make the shot a lot less effort and give you loads more power.
- Sherwin would often say “drop down” to Sam because Sam wasn’t dropping his body and bat enough before the open-up. This meant he was playing too flat .
- You need to drop the bat and your shoulder in order to get enough lift on the ball for your open up. Start low and then play a standard topspin and it should work. You are using a very similar technique, with lots of wrist, just starting lower down.
- The wrist is very important on all the backhand shots. It helps you to brush the ball and you need to learn that level of feeling and finesse and perfect timing, not just ‘hit’ it every time.
- Sam keeps trying to step in to play his backhand shots. He needs to become more comfortable with playing backhands from slightly further back. A backhand loop, instead of a backhand topspin.
- It’s important to take the ball early when you are touching.
- Use your wrist and fingers to generate backspin on the ball. Try to avoid just plonking it over the net with no spin.
- You need to make sure you are really fast and getting in and out for a touch. Lots of players are quick getting in but not so quick getting out. You don’t want to end up jammed in at the table when the next ball goes long.
- Control and the magic ‘feeling’ are really key for the touch. You need to be able to manipulate the ball, brush it, and understand the degree of spin.
- Sherwin didn’t really say much about the forehand flick except that he thought Sam’s was really good. This was strange seeing as Sam had never done this shot before. We’ll take it though!
- You should go in for a forehand flick like you are going to play a touch, with an open bat angle, and then change to a flick suddenly at the last minute. This is good for deception and it also leaves your options open as you judge the height and spin on the ball. Starting below the ball also helps you get it over the net.
- Timing is crucial. You need to wait a little bit longer than you want to and then accelerate through, brushing the ball.
- Bring your wrist really far backwards to play a ‘banana’ flick. This is the modern aggressive backhand flick that top players play all over the table to attack short serves.
- Keep the arm and wrist relaxed so that they can ‘swing’ through the ball. Don’t try and force them through the ball otherwise it will be too stiff and you wont get the required acceleration.
And that was all of my notes.
Reading back through it there was loads of good stuff in there. We are about to start a session now and I think we will work on Sam’s looping from slightly further back from the table.
Please leave a comment if you would like to discuss anything with me about Sam’s training, or your own.
I should also point out that Sherwin Remata is available for private coaching if you are in the North West London area, and he does an excellent job. For more details, click here.