Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Maximizing Benefits from Multiball Training in Table Tennis

The topic of multiball came from a good friend of mine and player/coach from New Zealand who wanted to know my thoughts about multiball feeding when coaching. I figured I would take the opportunity to look at it from both sides of the coin as both a player and coach and see how you can get the very best out of multiball sessions as a player and provide the best quality training if you are a coach.

Remember for more tips and blogs on how to improve your table tennis, head to my Coaching Blog.

Liu Guoliang feeds Ma Long multiball
Everybody knows that there are many great benefits to multiball, the main factor being the high amount of repetitions in strokes and movements. Here are some helpful ideas to get the best out of your multiball:

Player Training Tips:

Incorporate Multiball into Regular Training: Multiball is an excellent training tool for players of any level and is often overlooked once techniques are developed. The repetitive and high paced nature of multiball means it can aid players all the way from beginners through to World Champion players.

Whether you are fine-tuning or fixing technique, improving footwork movements and speed, increasing stamina or simulating match scenarios, multiball can offer a helping hand. The differences between training with no multiball and adding multiball on a regular basis can be significant.

Focus Your Session: I tend to focus a handful of drills around a key area for the session. Take for example the pivot forehand movement. I can practice a plain backspin feed for opening, or perhaps falkenberg, maybe a forehand short ball transition to pivot forehand, a backhand flick transition to pivot forehand, or others. there are a huge number of drills you can incorporate one key element into.

You could start a session with the focus of 'in and out' footwork and attach a set of related drills, side to side footwork, random topspin elements, full table forehand drills. Each focus area can fill a session and, by working on a number of elements which are fundamental to that focus area, can create a substantial improvement.

You can also read at the bottom of this article about how to build a simple concept into a more complex feeding drill.

Always Strive to the End: One of the things which made a big impact in my game was challenging myself to finish entire buckets of multiball in one go without breaking. I spent the better part of 2 weeks in China doing multiball every day and just grinding myself into the ground to train to the end of each bucket (and they weren't exactly small buckets). This has incredible benefits to physical stamina, training level and form and also psychological aspects.

The mentality that builds of pushing onwards even when your body is screaming to stop is something which can have a lot of positive effects on your game. I found that as each day went on my muscle memory improved, my strokes became more fluid and my movement improved. Aside from that it became easier to finish a box of multiball.

Video Your Multiball Sessions: When the pace is sometimes higher than that of an actual match, a great number of technical errors can come to light. I always feel that multiball is a great time to video and analyse techniques and footwork movements. Sometimes a fixed position ball can also present the opportunity to use slow motion video to really break a technique down and make changes to even minute details.

World Number 1 Ma Long Multiball Training

Basic Feeding Tips:

Pace of the Feeding: One of the key areas, especially for coaches, is knowing how fast or slow to feed the ball. This can almost be a make or break between a good quality training session or one which is not so useful. I like to feed to a number of scenarios;

Focusing on Fixing Technique: Marginally slower starting feed, bigger recovery time between balls to evaluate strokes and recover fully. As the session goes on you can increase the speed and shorten the recovery time.

- Focusing on Stamina and Speed: I always try to aim for a pace which will push the student but not be too fast for them. If the player is making errors because the feeding is too fast for them, that is the point at which you need to slow down.

- Placement Changes: I tend to feed the ball faster when doing short movement within a drill and a touch slower when there is a longer movement where the player has to really stretch.

To Bounce or Not to Bounce?: Some coaches prefer to bounce the ball before feeding it, other choose not to. During my time coaching I have found that it is preferable (for me at least) and more popular to feed underspin with a bounce and topspin without a bounce. This allows you to achieve a greater feeding speed and contact quality on the topspin ball as from the hand it is fed above the net height.

Distance from the Net: To give your player more reaction time during basic long backspin or topspin drills you can move you feeding position closer to the back edge of the table, this gives a more realistic time-frame for the player to react to the ball at 'matchplay speed'. Multiball however is particularly good for offering a speed higher than matchplay so as to prepare a player to deal with match speed with ease. Standing closer to the net reduces the reaction time significantly and can add extra pressure to the training player.

Vary the Spin and Pace: Once a player has become accustomed to basics it is important to create some variation when feeding multiball. One of the weaknesses one could assume of a training robot and sometimes multiball is the constant nature of feeding. Try and change the amount of spin on the ball frequently as well as the pace of the ball and also the depth on the table. These changes will simulate real opponent scenarios and add random elements into an otherwise fixed drill so as to avoid mindless repetition.

Increasing the Degree of Difficulty: Often each ball added to a drillset can have exponential effects on the difficulty of each drill. Adding speed, spin and additional ball placements are all ways of increasing the difficulty levels of a drill.

The great thing about multiball is you can build on something very basic and turn it into something much more complex. Here is an example:

Two Phases: The two ball drill of one short push on the forehand line and one pivot forehand loop off backspin from the backhand corner.

Three Phases: The two phases above followed by a wide forehand ball.

Four Phases: After the wide forehand ball, recover to play a backhand.

Complex Drill: Forehand Short Push > Pivot Forehand Loop off Backspin > Forehand Topspin > Backhand Recovery Topspin > Falkenberg Transition (after backhand, step around forehand then wide forehand). Then recover to start the drill again.

You can do this with any simple drill, adding different elements of the game in. If you go through the complex drill above there is an in and out footwork movement and short touch, followed by an opening ball and a pivot movement, followed by a long footwork movement and a long recovery. Granted it's not an easy drill but it can improve many parts of your game.

Austria's Stefan Fegerl in Multiball Training

So I hope both players and coaches alike can take something away from this article. As always I am looking for more topics to write on. Send your submissions to mhtabletennis@gmail.com!

1 comment:

  1. I dedicate one day per week to drilling with my regular practice partner. Sometimes we do fed multi-ball, sometimes we do in-play multi-ball (e.g. still using a box of balls, but just doing drills like A serves, B pushes, A loops).

    I find that for grooving a stroke, improving physical fitness and improving footwoork, fed multi-ball is unparalleled.

    However, I think the multi-ball drills are just as important. They're also easier to do. Feeding multi-ball is an under-appreciated skill, it's actually quite difficult to do - and even more difficult to do well. If your partner can't do it well (aiming this at us local league players, rather than coaches obviously), you may just be better off practising drills. Playing against low-spin, mid-height, mid-length multi-ball is probably counter-productive.

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