|How to Make Service Practice More Engaging|
Setting targets to practice hitting is one of the most popular methods of making service practice more fun. So what kind of obstacles are popular and what can you do at more advanced levels?
Mini Paddle Target: This is more for beginning and developing players, aim for a paddle or for a mini paddles on the table. It is usually fairly achievable with the most basic serves and teaches direction and placement.
Broken Ball Target: A popular choice for coaches is to place broken table tennis balls on the table for students to aim for, this is very popular for long fast serves and usually the broken balls are placed along the baseline or on the corners. This can help increase accuracy and also service depth.
Broken Ball Goals: Create a goal out of two broken balls, it can be as wide as you want (narrower the more difficult). You can also place it on angles or even completely sideways for sidespin serves. The aim is to make the ball bounce through the goal. You can even set more difficult tasks like making the ball go backwards through the goal.
Backwards Targets: This is something I tend to practice more often to maintain my feel and my contact on the ball. I like to set up a basket stood up and facing away from me, I serve backspin and try and curve the ball back around into the basket. See the video below.
Harder Targets: At advanced level you can aim for smaller targets like coins or try and bend the ball around objects. Today I used a roll of duct tape and served so the ball would go backwards through the middle of the roll standing up. This teaches you to command and control ball spin and placement and really focus on developing a quality serve.
Service Challenges and Games:
Serving alone is often one of the main reasons why it is so boring, it feels quite isolated and it's hard to stay focused and entertained. Find a serving partner and play some service games.
Short Serve Sudden Death: Serve for 10 pushups, one serve each. The first player who fails to serve short (2 bounces minimum on the opposite side) has to do the punishment. A missed serve is double to punishment. Sometimes punishments can be fun and it also improves the ability to serve under pressure.
Serve at Reward Targets: When I was a young player growing up, we used to serve at candy targets, if you could hit the candy then you won it. For younger kids this is a great game and it makes them more interested in practicing serves. Offer some incentive! :)
Service Matches: Play matches where only one person serves for the whole match. This makes the server really focus on winning points off their serve and also helps the receiver work on the more difficult task of facing a match without serve.
Hope these little tips are somewhat helpful for those of you out there who find it hard to do plain old boring service practice! :)