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Table Tennis: Developing Anticipation Skill Coursework

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The field of skills’ acquisition has undergone significant growth, which elaborates the mechanisms involved in the development of new skills. This article highlights the changing and vibrant nature of the field of sports. This goal will be achieved by examining the cultivation of the anticipation skills in table tennis, which entails the ability of a trainee to foresee events fast and effectively. As identified by Bennis and Pachur (2006), table tennis is one of the fastest ball sports, which entail the acquisition of the anticipation skills that are needed to construct and interpret information fast and precisely. The purpose of this article is to evaluate the main theme of table tennis learning. The focus is to generate conclusions that show how motor skills such as hitting a tennis ball can be enhanced by practicing the anticipation skills. Table tennis is one of the challenging sport fields that do not only require energy, but also accuracy especially during serving where the time required to synthesise and respond surpasses the ball flight duration. Bearing this in mind, this study begins by considering the framework of mechanisms that underpin the nature of training and the corresponding outcomes for table tennis learning.

Literature review

Diedrichsen, Flanagan, and Wolpert (2011) posit that learning to play table tennis effectively entails several interacting elements. The main challenge for most reviews is the apparent lack of a consistent definition and clarity leaving research evidence on the anticipation skills vulnerable and imprecise. Learning is hugely determined by the motor activities that affect how learners assign concentration and react to different situations during the skill acquisition process. In late childhood, a child attains high coordination of muscles and skill in anticipation. Diedrichsen, Flanagan, and Wolpert (2011) classify psychomotor abilities as speed of response, level of control, aiming, and arm-hand control. The development of neuromuscular technique and attention are needed for effective acquisition of table tennis skills (Maslovat 2010). Visual control plays a key role while an individual is training on a new perceptual motor skill like anticipation in table tennis. Diedrichsen, Flanagan, and Wolpert (2011) argue that learning table tennis anticipation skills entails making fast and precise decisions, which improves with practice. Renshaw, Davids, and Savelsbergh (2010) record that knowledge linked to the anticipation skills is easily acquired through practice rather than clinical-based training that aims at raising visual sharpness. In addition, table tennis skills and effective motor abilities can be established appropriately at a tender age of about seven years (Renshaw, Davids & Savelsbergh 2010). The table tennis ball and bat are light and the distance coverage is short enough for the young and energetic individuals to practice with ease, hence it is essential to initiate this skill early during the child development process.

The nature of training

The nature of training has increasingly assumed different directions and mechanisms depending on the structures and aspirations of the learner. This aspect has developed from the widespread realisation that table tennis is a tactical game involving a combination of complex interlinking variables. These variables involve mechanisms that control the coordination of physical movement and the development of the visual abilities of the learner (Zhang 2008). This aspect incorporates the stage of motor development of learners as the nervous system matures. Motor skills involve the development of fine and gross skills. Fine motor skills entail moments engaging smaller muscles such as those in wrists and fingers. On the other hand, Miller (2011, p. 1914) posits that gross motor skills ‘define movements incorporating larger muscles such as those in legs, arms, or the entire body, which are needed in the coordination of events such as jumping’. The combination of these motor skills enables the coordination, which is needed to accomplish a task like hitting a tennis ball. This aspect implies that learning the anticipating skill in table tennis can be well affected during the early stages of development when the rate of coordination improves from motor movements at a high rate. In addition, learning effectiveness is not only underpinned upon the necessary application of the required sequential techniques, but also the quality of interpersonal skills between instructor and the learner. Sport is a social activity, which should be evaluated and explained amicably with regard to the social environments and relations of the involved parties. This requirement forms the primary tenet of developing and enhancing the anticipating table tennis skills (Williams et al. 2004).

Elements of motor learning

Information extraction and interpretation are the critical elements of motor learning. Learning occurs through a number of ways, for instance, through observing, experience, reflection, practice, or training. The emphasis is placed on the individual under training in a bid to develop a certain skill. The behaviourists approach to knowledge acquisition embraces learning that develops from one point to another based on previously acquired understanding. The role of the instructor should be to help the trainee to adopt skills through simple procedures. For instance, table tennis involves repeated learning at initial stages until the trainee presents positive results that evoke the spirit to move on. Table tennis practice is a motor task, which entails the interpretation of information as it is received during the ongoing task. Acquiring efficient skills as a tennis player is highly influenced by the speed with which the player can make the right decisions on when to make the next movement and in which manner (Purdy, Potrac & Jones 2008).

During training of a new skill, the sensorimotor system can detect the movement’s outcome and match it with the expected result. In case the desired target is missed, the sensorimotor not only tells the system that the target was missed, but it also specifies the manner in which the aim was missed. These sensorimotor activities assist trainees to learn slowly through errors to a point that they master the essential skills of the game. For instance, when a serve is made and it lands to the opposite of its desired target, the sensorimotor system quickly adjusts the command for the next serve by altering the orientation of the body, changing the movement of the arm, or exerting more energy. Learning through error-based systems can provide gradual acquisition for effective table tennis skills. Continued learning from one’s mistakes, according to Wolpert et.al (2011), has the potential of reducing the average error to zero. However, this assertion this does not mean that one becomes a perfect player, since humans are subject to fatigue, interruptions, and emerging challenges. However, the available studies have not shown congruent and consistent information to understand the significance of sensorimotor mode of learning new skills as opposed to other methods. Therefore, further research is needed for more consistent results and evidence on this topic.

Observational learning

Observation is a very fundamental source of information in the development of the anticipation skills in table tennis. At the initial stages of learning, individuals are encouraged to make keen observations from their experienced counterparts in a bid to grasp the basics that guide the game. Studies have generated evidence that watching other individuals play initiates sensorimotor images of the observed act (Burchett 2012). However, the essence of coaches is magnified in this argument. Learners can learn about what orientations to assume, movements to make, and in what formula by observing trainers. The ability to interpret and learn successfully from actions of others depends on continued or repeated observation of that skill. The combination of the basic skills and continued learning leads to gradual acquisition of the anticipation skills. One gains the ability to make the necessary predictions like reading the movements of the opponent and generating prior knowledge of all possible movements that the ball is ought to make. Such capabilities of anticipation are referred to as situational abilities, which provide a competitive edge against one’s opponent. Miller (2011) suggests that cognitive approaches influence the internal mental structures, which are needed in a bid to recognise the interconnection between observing and learning. Learning through observation can be progressive based on visual information processing. For instance, using video simulations can help the learner to create customary view of the act such as a serve in table tennis. These simulations are initially presented in slow motions in a bid to give the learner the opportunity to grasp the most informative cues of the game. After the learner acquires the informative cues, simulations can be presented in real time in a bid to give the trainee the challenge to master the anticipation skills from the point of view of the video after which such is applied during practice.

Experiential learning

Experiential learning is defined as the process through which trainees acquire new skills during on-court instruction and training. This approach is the key mechanism for learning the anticipation skills in table tennis sport. This stage is critical as knowledge acquired through observation and sensorimotor activities is utilised practically through reflective learning. Learners have to map and capture perceptual variables and combine them into action (Rwin, Hanton & Kerwin 2004). The huge part of the practice time should be dedicated to the physical practice on the tennis court with the learner focusing on making movements in response to different actions. Learning by doing gives the trainee a good understanding of the procedures, drills, and rules, which facilitate the mastering of the anticipation skills (Petitpas 2007). Specialists recommend the learning of the anticipating skills after one has mastered the basic steps such as body orientations, ball control, and making successive return serves. In the process, the anticipation skills grow with practice. Learning and improving the anticipation technique needs time and concentration (Tresilian 2005).


Learning the anticipation skills in table tennis entails a variety of informal and formal strategies. This study has identified informal learning as the dominant mechanism of acquiring new skills with continued practice playing the major role. Meanwhile, experiential and observational learning underscore the underlying factors in developing the anticipation skills in table tennis. As indicated before, the participants’ ability to anticipate and interpret the opponents’ serve precisely depends on the quality of practice and the ability of the sensorimotor to relay commands.

Reference List

Bennis, W & Pachur, T 2006, ‘Fast and frugal heuristics in sports’, Psychology of Sport and Exercise, vol. 7, no. 6, pp. 611-629.

Burchett, A 2012, Playing Tennis – A Learning Manual, World Technologies, Delhi.

Diedrichsen, J, Flanagan, R & Wolpert, D 2011, ‘Principles of sensorimotor Learning’, Nature Reviews Neuroscience, vo. 12, no. 3, pp. 739-749.

Maslovat, D 2010, Motor preparation changes with practice, University of British Columbia, Vancouver.

Miller, P 2011, ‘Psychology Gets in the Game: Sport, Mind, and Behaviour, 1880–1960’, International Journal of the History of Sport, vol. 28, no. 13, pp. 1913-1915.

Petitpas, A 2007, ‘Modelling the complexity of the coaching process: a commentary’, International Journal of Sports Science and Coaching, vol. 2, no. 4, pp. 423-424.

Purdy, L, Potrac, P & Jones, R 2008, ‘Power, consent and resistance: an auto ethnography of competitive rowing, Sport, Education & Society’, Sports Behaviour, vol. 13, no. 3, pp. 319-336.

Renshaw, I, Davids, K & Savelsbergh, G 2010, Motor learning in practice: A constraints-led approach, Routledge, London.

Rwin, G, Hanton, S & Kerwin, D 2004, ‘Reflective practice and the origins of elite coaching knowledge’, Reflective Practice, vol. 5, no. 3, pp. 425-442.

Tresilian, J 2005, ‘Hitting a moving target: Perception and action in the timing of rapid interceptions’, Attention Perception & Psychophysics, vol. 67, no.1, pp.129-149.

Williams, M, Ward, P, Smeeton, N & Allen, D 2004, ‘Developing Anticipation Skills in Tennis Using On-Court Instruction: Perception versus Perception and Action’, Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, vol.16, no. 4, pp. 350-360.

Zhang, P 2008, The effects of play practice on teaching table tennis forehand skills, Ohio State University, Columbus.

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