2015 Fed Cup World Group Finals: The Best Women’s Doubles in Years!

 

Dear Team Captains & Competitive Doubles Players [Bcc’d to over 50]:
On Sunday, the 5th rubber to decide the world team Fed Cup champion nation came down to the final doubles match between defending champion Czechs in Prague, lead by two time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova and the Sharapova lead Russian team in front of a raucous crowd of over 10,000 lucky spectators.
Not since 2011 has the 5th rubber doubles match decided the champion.  The stars of the team could only watch and bite their already short nails.  There are many other interesting story lines to this event.  One being that a Sharapova match in Fed Cup for Russia is rare but created by new coach Anastasiya Myskina.
Like the dominating play of Hingis/Mirza at the WTA tour finals two weeks ago, a classic Baseliner/Net Rover pair, this match had two evenly matched Net Rovers and two Baseliners on both sides.  Of course it went 3 sets and
should not be missed by any competitive women’s doubles players who represent a team.  This is the best example of closely competitive, team women’s doubles play available to view in all of 2015.  Perhaps for several years!
Deciding 5th Rubber:  Pliskova/Strycova (CZE) vs Pavlyuchenkova/Vesnina (RUS).
Each player has WTA tour stop doubles victories and plenty of doubles experience going into this match.  In this case, Pliskova and Pavlyuchankova are the younger baseliners who are comfortable at the net.  Strycova and Vesnina are the more experienced and excellent Rovers at the net who are comfortable on the baseline.
Team captains would do well to match partnerships in similar ways.  While you watch the match, notice that the Baseliners are ready to come forward when possible.  The net experts also know they must stay back after serve or return until they earn the opportunity to go forward.
Historically, great net players would serve and volley or chip and charge.  In todays doubles, the returns are too threatening at the pro level, but NOT at the recreational level.   Recreational servers need to mix in some serve/volley.
Men take note:  Tactics for men’s and women’s doubles is more similar now than it has ever been because of this!
Also worth noting during the match: plenty of “I” formation was used and watch how the Rovers take more poaching risk and the Baseliners come forward more often as the points become more critical.  All four are well aware that both at the
net is still the best formation in crunch time.  Enjoy!

The Partner During a Crosscourt Rally

I was asked for the best advice for the partner during a crosscourt rally so here is the pro, best in the world, poop on that role:

This subject came up during our Mixed Doubles class last night.   Now that she is fearless with her new Oakley polycarbonate eyewear, and doesn’t mind a bruise or two (or three!), Jill prefers to build a fort at the “O” (a chalk mark I put in the very middle of the service box which stand for “offense”) while her partner plays from the baseline during a cross court rally (unless she knows the opponent will tag her).

Despite Jill’s fantastic reflexes at the net and intimate knowledge of her opponent, I prefer she go back to the “Star” (a chalk mark I put at the middle of her service line on my teaching court) in mixed or women’s doubles.  This prevents lobs from going over her head so that her partner can come forward without worrying that they need to cover that shot.

The Bryans, Hingis/Mirza (1), and Mattek-Sands/Safarova (2) have all discussed the role of the partner in interviews when the crosscourt baseline rally is going on.  That role is huge in pro doubles.

The “home” for the pros who are partners during a baseline rally is the “O” or the “Star” (see above)—> HOWEVER—they run from the Star to the center line, to the O, depending on the quality of their partner’s/opponent’s crosscourt shots.  They do this EVERY time the ball crosses the net!   They are that mobile because they are trying to intimidate the baseliner into an error or make them change their shot to down the line.  The best poach for winning volleys.   This kind of constant movement requires a LOT of off court preparation.

The best players in the world say they get a lot more tired than the baseliner so, unless you have Sania Mirza’s forehand groundstroke, to prevent the wear/tear on the partner, the pro baseliner should come forward ASAP.  Even Sania knows she has to make something happen so Martina doesn’t melt doing all that footwork!

Recreational Tennis:  if that kind of effort can not be put into every crosscourt rally by the partner, both on the Star ready to go to the O is best (or both back second best) but the team should ALWAYS try to avoid being extremely split by one being at the O and one on the baseline.  Make sense?

Tennis Stains? Spray Them With Fed

9/11/15

After watching all the US Open semi-finals singles matches today, I was asked by a student, “Why and when did our sport get so ugly?” My first response was that ratings and money have compressed sports behavior into MTV sound bites that are often undignified. Then I started to think more about the question and what was behind it.

These dramatic on court antics certainly don’t reflect the honorable background of tennis from its days as a gentleman’s game. I noted the sport’s most honorable exceptions like Kim Clijsters, Li Na, Pete Sampras, and Roger Federer. Each contributed their own character to the tennis legacy. Kim’s friendship and graciousness was beloved and admired in/out of the locker room and around the world. Li Na for her outgoing spirit and candid nature. Pete was famous for his low-key public persona and for letting his racket do the talking.

Roger Federer brings a multitude of facets of enrichment to the tennis industry that will linger well beyond his competitive career. The crowds that are drawn to Federer are there for many reasons. At the top of the list are his historical perspective, poetic motions, and respect for the sport. Yes, he is a wizard’s assortment of skills and he makes teaching tennis easier, but there is something more.

He is a throw back; a reminder of what tennis was like when Laver, Rosewall, Smith, and Ashe strode the grounds of the majors. Perhaps if players like Marty Fish, Tim Henman, and Coco Vandeweghe got to number one, he would have enough company at the top of the sport to bring back the behavior of yore. The dignified times for which so many purists yearn.

Serena should watch how Roger handles the “pressure” of winning when you are expected to win. His approach to high expectations is that he far prefers that to the alternatives. A pretty simple reply to a vexing issue for many right?

Most psychologists would agree that consistent, over-the-top emotionalism is harmful to athletic performance. It needs to be carefully metered out so that the athlete’s level of arousal can be kept constant. This is as important a principle of competition as that of “temporary amnesia” for the loss of a point, game, or match. So, we come back to Roger.

He has held the flag for elegance in temperament, for athletic amnesia, and for grace under tremendous athletic pressure for many years. Will tennis swing back toward net rushing if he prevails in the finals? I don’t know. I hope so. One thing I know for sure, he won’t scream so loud and so often that he might break a blood vessel in his neck and he won’t tear his shirt off.

RB’s & ASCT’s

Hey TennisDr:

What is the latest advice from the on air pundits and professional coaches that I can put into my game?

Regards
Tiger Topspin

Hey Tiger:

Great question!  When I watch recreational players, I see some of the same issues that touring pros face.  Too many singles shots in the net, usually when they are out of position.  Here are some tips from world class authorities:

1) Tennis pundits and pro coaches use the terms “Rally Ball (RB)” and “Aggressive Shots to Conservative Targets (ASCT)” frequently on the air.  Recreational players need the same advice.

RB means a ball that has no business being anywhere near the level of the net.  Typically, you are out of the center or off balance at the baseline and your shot selection is not appropriate.  Loop or floater are the correct selections.  Like the chant at a basketball game,  “D-D-D-D-Defense!”

2)  ASCT:  EVERYONE, pros included, goes through patches in which the confidence/accuracy in your aggressive shots is dips.  ASCT means to try that same racket speed a few times down the middle of the court to the T to get your confidence back.  If you are still missing after that, slow the racket and use RB’s (see above).

If you need help with these, ask your local pro.
TennisDr

Doubles Ups & Downs

Professional doubles is rarely broadcast.  That is a shame because doubles is the most popular form of tennis.  Go to a college tennis match and see how different it is as a team sport.

First, it is rare when both partners are on and making aggressive shots successfully and taking risk at the same time.  Most of the time its a bit of a see saw, one player hot, the other has to be steady.  It’s important to note that in mixed doubles its not always the guy who is thermal.

One of my best mixed doubles teams got down 2-5, and the guy was showing outward signs of dejection.  He felt responsible for their plight, but doubles is always about the teams shared responsibility.  That’s why the pros and college players ALWAYS approach each other, fist bump, or high five no matter the out come of the last point.  The feeling of sharing responsibility must be reinforced as often as possible.

His female partner dolled out the proper amount of encouragement on the change over and he dedicated himself to keeping his body language positive plus, choosing safer shots.  His partners advice in this case was the key.  She had taken on the role that makes a valuable partner for any competitive team, always encouraging her teammate.

Her role became tactically important as he reigned in his aggressiveness, she got bolder.   She started taking some chances and it paid off with a 7-2 win in the tiebreaker.  There is no “I” in team…unless its Dominique Thiem!

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On Changing Your Serve

This is a note I sent to a 3.5 league player who came to me for a 4.0 level serve.  His serve was predominantly flat and deserted him when the stress was on.  What he needed, but did not know it, was a serve with spin, arc, and shape that could stand up to stressful situations and be more precise.

He SAID he wanted to change it, but did not know what the task entailed.  Here is that note:

Dear Jim:

People come to me who want to change.  When it comes to tennis movements,
 you need to understand that when your body tries to move differently, attention to 
making the ball strike the center of the racket is TEMPORARILY distracted.

It is INEVITABLE that anyone will mishit and frame shots during this process.
  If you are standing near the net, the racket velocity is lower and the shock 
to the arm is much reduced during this stage of learning.  

I realize you were not comfortable with that part of my training, but it was very necessary.

The body can basically learn one thing at a time before it can incorporate 
multiple skills.   You are no different than anyone else learning skills EXCEPT
 you are more reluctant to trust me during this stage of development on your serve.

The serve is very likely the most complicated performance in ALL sports.  That is the reason 
why it is so difficult to improve it without help.  IFFFF you want that, you are in the right place, but you have a choice.

We can spend your LivingSocial purchase fine tuning other shots and avoid changing
 your serve OR we can do both if you trust the process I’ve developed over 30 years that is 
backed by a Ph.D. in Biomechanics/Exercise Physiology and has been used with players of 
ALL levels from beginner to elite University team members.

You are the customer.  It is your choice.

Sincerely,
TennisDr

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Problem Solving Levels the Playing Field

Dear TennisDr:

Just wanted to let you know that I played an epic USTA singles match on Sunday against a very young and formidable opponent.  After 2 hours and 20 minutes, I prevailed in 3 sets (7-5; 4-6; 6-4).  I think that we went to deuce on almost every game and the points were long and filled with lots of great shots by both of us.

The woman I played was really quick, had amazing topspin shots and a pretty good kick serve.  If I ever hit anything at mid court, she put the ball away with some amazing cross court angles (particularly on her backhand).  So, I realized that I needed to keep her deep, be patient and wait for her to give me the short shot so I could put it away.

Furthermore, it became apparent that her backhand was more consistent than her forehand, so needless to say I hit tons of balls to her forehand side.  Luckily, she did not attend the TennisDr Tennis College, and did not realize that my forehand was my stronger shot.

I had a great time and would have been OK had I lost the match since I know that I played well, but was really thrilled with the win.  After the match she commented on how well I covered the court, how quickly I got to the ball and how I always seemed to hit the right shot.  And, when I told her my age, she was amazed and said that I was almost her grandmother’s age!

So, chalk one up for the senior citizen!!

Michelle
============================

Nicely done Michelle!

I know you don’t consider yourself to be fast or probably not even a formidable athlete.
BUT good anticipation and strategic awareness make tennis players appear to
be much greater athletes than they are.  In this case, knowledge and experience is power.

One of the things we love about this sport is that experience and wisdom can also
make up for a lot of differential in years.  No one takes advantage of this principle
to compete better than you.  Even your surprising play last week against my “big guys”
told me that you were more than ready to “unleash the hounds” in women’s singles.   Pretty fun huh?

Most players don’t view tennis in a strategic context.  When you ask most players what they need to do during a match, they usually respond by saying something like, “I tell myself to just play better and I will win”.  Court awareness and problem solving is worth many key points in a close match.

Good luck in your next match!
TennisDr

Tips for Healthy Eating at a Chain Restaurant

Americans are relying on chain restaurants during these tough economic times more than ever before. One reason is how competitive the pricing has become. These days for $10, you can get a large meal and avoid fast food at the same time, but can more food for less money still be healthy? Are there ways to help reduce fat and calories but still get a good deal? This article will examine smart food choices at some of the most popular chain restaurants and provide calorie/money saving tips for all dining out.

It’s a huge understatement that Americans like to eat out. Did you know that for every dollar spent on food, 49 cents of that is spent at restaurants? According to the National Restaurant Association (NRA), if the NRA was a country, it would have the 18th largest economy in the world! So, it’s time to look closely at what we eat at the most popular chains and how to eat smart. The good news is that many chains have started some form of “low calorie” or “good nutrition” menu.

Discounts have abounded during this recession including all courses and cuisines. Here are just a few: Outback Steakhouse offered 15 meals for under $15, Bob Evans offered 30 dinners for $5.99, Mimi’s Cafe had coupons for a free breakfast entree, the Melting Pot offered free chocolate fondue for joining their email list, and even the high- end chain Morton’s The Steakhouse used major discounts to sell more steak dinners.

Unfortunately, more food for the money often translates into a loss of will power. One free appetizer and logic flies out the window! These bargains usually mean American’s are subjected to an industry that is based on excessive salt, oil, and sugar. A single dish at many chains can often contain a day’s worth of sodium.

The good news is that picking correctly from the menu can help change these odds dramatically. The best way to look at these picks is to contrast them with their high calorie counterparts from some of the biggest national chain restaurants, plus their fat and sodium contents. Here are the passes and picks on a few of America’s top chains, some will surprise you:

Cheesecake Factory-Pass on the Fettuccini with Chicken and Sun-Dried Tomatoes with 1,832 Calories, 70 grams of saturated fat, 876 mg of sodium. Sounds healthy right? Keep in mind that the average male should not eat more than 2000 Calories per day! Pick instead-Grilled Salmon with 713 Calories, 11 grams of saturated fat, and 320 mg of sodium.

Red Robin-Pass on the A1 Peppercorn Burger with 1096 Calories, 64 grams of fat, and 1,899 mg of sodium. Go with the Chicken Caprese Sandwich with 665 Calories, 29 grams of fat, and 1153 mg of sodium.

Olive Garden-Skip the Chicken & Shrimp Carbonara with 1440 Calories, 88 grams of total fat, and 3000 mg of sodium. Try the Chicken Scampi with 740 Calories, 52 grams of fat, and 1350 mg of sodium.

Applebee’s-Pass on New England Fish and Chips with 1,910 Calories, 24 grams of saturated fat, and 3,140 mg sodium. Pick-Steak & Honey BBQ Chicken Combo with 520 Calories, 5 grams of saturated fat, and 1,840 mg of sodium.

P.F. Chang’s-Avoid the Almond & Cashew Chicken Lunch Bowl which is served over white or brown rice at 991 Calories, 6 grams of saturated fat, and 4,963 mg of sodium. Instead, try the Buddha’s Feast Lunch Bowl served over brown rice which is 550 Calories, 1 gram of saturated fat, and 1,833 mg of sodium.

Red Lobster-Resist the Admiral’s Feast with 1280 Calories, 73 grams of fat and 4300 mg of sodium. Go with the Ultimate Feast with 600 Calories, 28 grams of fat, and 3660 grams of sodium. Both of these are entrees listed in the Signature Combinations part of the menu.

Boston Market-Pass on the Meatloaf Carver Sandwich with 940 calories, 18 grams of saturated fat, and 2,430 mg of sodium. Pick-Roasted Turkey Open-faced sandwich with 330 calories, 1 gram of saturated fat, and 1,480 mg sodium.

Denny’s-Pass on the Heartland Scramble with 1,160 Calories, 63 grams of fat, and 2,930 mg of sodium. Instead, try the new Fit Fare Omelette with 390 Calories, 18 grams of fat, and 870 mg of sodium.

There are also many things you can do to save money, calories, and fat at ANY of your favorite restaurants. You can now look up the nutrition of many chains on the web so that you can even plan your meal before you go. Many states and cities now require this nutritional information, if not on the web than at the restaurant, so ask your server. Another web source is HealthyDiningfinder.com.

Restaurant jargon can be decoded. The words “crispy”, “crunchy”, and “fritto” tell you that the item is likely fried which ads calories and fat. The same is true for “creamy” which implies butter, cheese, cream, or all three have been added.

On the good side, “steamed” is the healthiest way to cook. Poached, blackened, broiled, baked, and grilled are generally smarter ways to prepare food. You can also request that minimal or no oil be used and that any sauce can be placed on the side.

At restaurants, be aware that a smart salad choice can be at risk. High calorie salad dressings, croutons, cheese, and crispy noodles are another caution that can ruin an otherwise satisfying, low calorie meal. Ask for salad dressing on the side and lightly dip your fork for each bite.

Giant plates of food at chains like the Cheesecake Factory can be shared with a friend or boxed for another meal at home. Some restaurants even offer half portions, smaller sizes, or kids sized meals to adults.

Drinks, appetizers, coffee, and dessert are generally the most expensive per calorie so avoid them if possible. For that after dinner sweat tooth stock healthy desserts at home, fresh fruit salad, popsicles, and low-fat yogurt.

With restaurants trying to conserve water you may need to order water to drink. Takeout food doesn’t require tipping and makes it easier to resist dessert and unlimited bread being placed at the table. Two appetizers might be cheaper than a main course while at the same time giving you more variety and smaller portions.

Portion control is a complete topic of its own to be covered in my next article. In the mean time… healthy dining!

========About the Author=========

Jonathan Bailin, Ph.D. received his doctorate in Sport Science while coaching tennis at the University of Southern California. Currently, Jonathan operates a tennis coaching business in Marina del Rey, California, publishes research, consults for corporations in ergonomics, injury prevention, and nutrition, and enjoys recreational table tennis locally.

Dr. Bailin published http://www.TableTennisMenace.com when he rediscovered his first childhood passion, ping pong. On this site he uses his expertise to better guide consumers to table tennis products. Here you will find only the best and most popular ping pong tables, table tennis rackets, ping pong balls, and accessories from the most respected suppliers. Because of the sport’s universal appeal, modest space requirements, and potential to fight inactivity, obesity, and even Alzheimer’s Disease, he truly feels that whether you call it “Ping Pong” or “Table Tennis”, anyone can “Be a Menace” at TableTennisMenace.com.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/6802325

Sport Psychology: The Schedule for Emotions

Whether you play tennis, table tennis, racquetball, badminton, or squash, individual sports have similar emotional challenges. In coaching, once in a while you meet a student whose dedication becomes too intense. This is a letter to just such a student. Let’s call her Engrid.

Dear Engrid:

I want to thank you for the intense effort you bring to every minute on my lesson court as well as the studious approach you have to practicing your skills on other courts. Of all my students, you are the most intense about your tennis game and I want you to know that I appreciate how much effort you put into it.

Of course intensity is a two edged sword and has some disadvantages too. One is that it tends to put players at more risk of injury (your recent calf muscle experience is an example). Another is that you run the risk of what many sport psychologists call “Burn Out”.

Today coaches and psychologists use the term “Burn Out” to mean different things, but generally they mean that the sport or activity has become more often irritating or anxiety producing, than enjoyable. When that balance shifts negatively, a player either quits or at least notices a significant plateau in performance which is difficult to break through.
Players may ask, “how can a game I love like tennis ever feel distasteful or repulsive?”

In over 25 years of coaching at all levels of skill, especially at the elite athlete level, I have answered this question many times. This time Engrid my answer will be customized a bit for you.

As your coach and health care practitioner, I realize that you have some compulsive personality traits. It’s an intensely which strives to reach toward perfection in most, if not all, modes of expression. The good news for coaches is that for complex activities these feelings motivate you to bring a high degree of focus.

This is why I believe you appreciate my style of instruction. You enjoy when I break a motor skill down to its minute parts so that you may scrutinize and practice them in there bite size portions until you have mastered each part toward creating the better whole.

The bad news is that these detailed study, for some personality types like this, can become tedious, may negatively influence your mood, approach to outside activities, or perspective on those around you. When I hear you berate yourself, or express feelings on the court that others are not trying their best in practice, my alarm bell goes off telling me that tennis is becoming too much of a burden. That perhaps it has become a chore, or at least more trouble than it is worth. Their are two approaches to ameliorate this situation–one logistic, one attitudinal. Both will help make you a better player!

Logistically, I would advise that you schedule more recreational time off. Get away from the court. That time should be spent in amusement/relaxation and should be as carefully interspersed between your tennis workouts as if you were designing a cross training schedule with other fitness activities. The question arises, “How do I tell if I am successful enough at this?”

When you are getting dressed to PLAY you are well rested and as you walk toward the court, feelings of anticipation of the adventure you are about to have crescendo. Your heart rate picks up as the fun of the last great shots and disappointments of the correctable errors flood back to you as you get ready to hit the first ball. Now we have struck on our second method of amelioration–attitudinal.

Tennis must remain a game. It must remain PLAY in every sense of the word. It certainly has no components that should elicit feelings SIMILAR in intensity to a life or death struggle, that your survival is in the balance, or self esteem is at risk, AT ANY TIME.

It should not feel like work. It should not elicit feelings that are as intense as those you feel when you are busy or frustrated while trying to make a living and pay your bills. It should not elicit feelings as intense as, for example, if all your family were suddenly coming to visit. It should not make you doubt your own effort, your own dedication, and the unique skills and attributes that you bring to the sport. To let others worry about their own level of effort and intensity is a skill which requires practice. That practice can be done outside competition too.

You may not have met anyone like this, because I have not either, but there are many people who can’t leave their homes because they are afraid of failure. Of being hurt either psychologically or physically. They are physically fit enough but they can’t go out, can’t go shopping, can’t go to a movie, or go to a restaurant, let alone play sports. They are psychological “Shut Ins”, agoraphobics unable to go into public places.

The take home lesson from them is to treat each event in which you participate with a sense of gratitude. Embrace the idea that you are healthy enough to enjoy the risk of both good and bad performances.

In tennis, I would like to see everyone respect, if not relish the inevitable but temporary feelings of failure in themselves, as well as respect others who take these risks too. Be proud of the ability to risk your feelings in competition as a sign of a healthy life and healthy tennis life. As a sport scientist, it is sometimes difficult to communicate that this is a critical part of the process of improving motor skills.

The “Schedule for Emotions”

The great athletes when they miss a shot are well adjusted to this perspective. They PRACTICE handling it better than recreational players. With rare exceptions, they take 5 or 10 seconds to SILENTLY indulge in purely normal disappointment WITHOUT showing negative body language. The next 5-10 seconds to physically practice the proper motion or mentally note the proper decision for the next time the situation arises. Then in the next 5-10 seconds they move on to preparing for the next point.

That is what I call the “Schedule for Emotions” in tennis. Some coaches call these rituals to be employed before every point. Inevitably you have about 30 seconds to indulge silently and get your act together for the next point. If you verbalize, slump your shoulders, or take too long in recovery, your opponent will think you are about to loose several points if they just get the ball back. This makes their task very easy. Remember, psychological skills are like motor skills that require practice!

Missing a shot and making a shot are two sides of the same coin that fascinates us all with this game. It is as inevitable that you will have moments of elation as well as moments of disappointment. You can handle these feelings like a beginner or strive to handle them like the pros.

The best players demonstrate the above competitive psychological skills as often as forehands. They have taken to heart that the risk of having these temporary and illusory failures is actually part of the fun.

If this topic interests you further, I can pass along several articles by the top sports psychology people in the industry, one of which is Dr. Allen Fox. These articles have been required reading for scholarship athletes at USC and other teams I’ve coached.

Tennis is play time. Have fun!

Warmest Regards,
Jonathan

Racket Sports Biomechanics: Brain Function, Eye Skills, and Table Tennis

How closely related are table tennis skills to tennis? Can ping pong help my vision skills, reactions, and balance? Can table tennis help improve brain function or help me read better? These kinds of questions about the impact of table tennis on brain function and motor skills are starting to capture the attention of researchers. The author has some unique credentials to help bring the reader up to speed on these questions by first looking at the unique qualities of table tennis, then their application to brain function.

First, ping pong can definitely help anyone learn tennis and other racket sports. One rough measure of mastering a tennis movement is the creation of spin. With the exception of flat ground strokes, elite players prefer extreme spin to add control and can make the ball rotate several thousand times a minute. In order to do that the racket must pass steeply through contact. The more steep the path, the more spin is imparted, but as the path becomes faster/steeper it becomes less tolerant for error. That’s where better skill comes in!

Since ping pong helps teach players spin (its elite players also want fast rotation for control), that makes table tennis motions great preparation for learning spin for tennis. Further, these sports also use subtle forms of side spin, another rare stepping stone between these two sports. But table tennis can go much farther than good preparation for tennis.

The connection between the brain and visual/motor skills required to play competitive table tennis are useful to practically ANY other sport and even reading as noted below. Many athletic abilities are improved such as eye muscle tracking, recognition, decision making, response time, muscle activation, and rhythmic muscular response are all ramped up.

Eye muscle tracking skills may be the most unique set of physiological skills enhanced by table tennis. Most sports emphasize distances for eye teamwork beyond 15 feet, also called “Optical Infinity”. Within 15 feet the eyes work much harder to track, diverge, and converge on objects.

To prove this, stay focused on your finger at arms length as you gradually move it toward your nose. See how it becomes more difficult to keep focused until the eyes “give up” and create a double image? Most of ping pong’s tracking skills occur within or near this convergence/divergence range for the human visual system. At the same time, the basic manual task itself is relatively easy.

According to Dr. Gary Polan, a pioneer in the field of Vision Training (VT)/Sports Vision Training (SVT), eye hand skills like ping pong help stimulate the visual/motor system in similar ways to the skills needed for reading performance. Every day at his office he helps patients improve their reading challenges by exercising the visual cortex, the interocular muscles which control the lenses of the eye, and the extraocular muscles which control eye teamwork. Dr. Polan says that EVERY reader and athlete, even elite athletes, can improve performance with VT/SVT. Better eye performance makes better readers AND better athletes because–ALL eye skills are learned!

The attribute of “ease of use”, the usability of table tennis, has other huge advantages. Table tennis allows almost every first time user, from kids to seniors, to quickly feel competent. After that, its easier than most other sports to ramp up overall physical performance in the first few sessions, without coaching. This “ease of use” attribute has captured the attention of scientists too.

Some researchers are interested in ping pong’s influence on the brain, its ability to adapt, improve function, and ward off chronic disease. Dr. Mehmet Oz calls it his favorite “Brain Sport” because it improves cognitive function and motor function which, help prevent and ameliorate Alzheimer’s Disease. Nerve conduction speed actually increases, and with it, the ability to faithfully reproduce a motor program more quickly. It’s great brain exercise!

That principle for human muscle in sports medicine is called “Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands” or the SAID principle. Like a skeletal muscle, brain function can be improved, IF it is pushed to improve, at ALL ages. We now know that the brain also responds to the SAID principle and reveals what researchers now call “Brain Plasticity”.

For rehabilitation needs in a small space, ping pong can be a potent tool. Remember the table tennis in Forrest Gump? To learn more about table tennis therapy, see the SAEF Table Tennis Therapy Program (SAEF.us). This organization is preparing to launch an in depth study of the effects of table tennis therapy on Alzheimer’s Disease. It’s a fascinating and FUN form of physical therapy because almost ANYONE can “Be a Menace” with table tennis”!