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Table Tennis Training Report

Purpose of the study

This report is based on a study conducted in Germany. The study involved selecting players in table tennis before training them. The players were divided into two groups, with each group having ten members. One of the groups received both technical and tactical decision training simultaneously, while the other one only received training on the “what” decision (Raab, Masters, and Maxwell 326).

The main objective of this study was to determine the effect of training the “how” and the “what” decisions simultaneously. The study was also aimed at investigating the effects of other variables, for example, the speed of the ball and uncertainty on the performance of players. The study also investigated the effect of long-term training on the transition of forehand and backhand movements. It would also investigate the effectiveness of video feedback in offering training to players.


Two or four players play the game of table tennis by hitting a light ball back and forth on a unique table. The game that requires serious concentration whilst playing, since it involves fast movements; in addition, each player must allow the ball to bounce only once in his/her side of the playing table. Allowing the ball to bounce twice earns the opponent points. In any game, training is essential since winning a game depends on how well a player is conversant with the rules and techniques of the game.

In table tennis, players must be trained on how and what decisions to make. Due to the strict rules and the swiftness involved in the game, training is essential for players. In table tennis, training involves educating a player on “what to do” and “how to do it.” The aim of this study thus is to determine the applicability of training of the two aspects, viz. “what” and “how” when playing ping-pong.

“What” in this context implies the decision that a player has to make depending on the stage of the game, while “how” on the other hand describes the way in which the decision taken by a player will be executed. Training of the two aspects is different though most people tend to use the two terms interchangeably to refer to the same thing.

Decision training

Training in table tennis involves two kinds of exercise, viz. the decision training herein referred to as “what decisions” and the behavioral training herein referred to as the “how decisions.” Decision training involves training a player on what to do in a different situation as the game continues. Behavioral training, on the other hand, involves training a player on the general skills necessary to play the game in the right manner (Raab, Masters, and Maxwell 326).

In most cases, behavioral skills do not vary with the situation, they remain similar in different sessions of the game, and all players apply them equally. Most sports experts argue that behavioral training should precede decision training since the former is regarded as complex, and thus, it is more demanding than the latter.

The study was based on the assumption that behavioral training only helps players acquire the basic skills to play the game while decision training improves the behavioral skills previously acquired, and a player is in a position to perform optimally with these two skills.

Decision skills are fruitful at advanced stages of learning, while behavioral training is essential at the initial stages of learning. In a bid to determine the effectiveness of combining the two types of skills in the training and then teaching them simultaneously, this study used a group of table tennis players.

The importance of ‘What’ and ‘how’ decisions in table tennis

Table tennis involves quick movements, and players must have the necessary skills to be in a position to make the movements. The game is characterized by uncertainty and speed, and thus, players must possess the requisite skills to decide when and how to deal with different situations.

Group differences in learning

This study was based on the belief that decision training produces better results as compared to behavior training. The researchers were of the view that the decision training would produce effective results both in the short run and in the long run, thus differing greatly with previous research, which asserted that decision training was only effective in the long run (Raab, Masters, and Maxwell 326).

Previous researchers argued that behavioral training was the most suitable training for beginners while the decision training was suitable for the experienced table tennis players. The study also incorporated video feedbacks to illustrate movements to learners.

This approach probably was the reason why the researchers presumed that the decision training would produce effective results even in the short run. Earlier findings on the same topic revealed that video training would offer decision training in more or less the same way as practical training.

Effect of decision training on “how” decisions

Video recording was used to offer the “how” decision training to the decision group. The video clips recorded would then be played to players during the laboratory session. Individual movements recorded allowed the researchers to gather the information that was later used in analyzing the results.

Video feedbacks also allowed the researchers to analyze the effects of uncertainty in the game, coupled with the effects of other variables such as speed on the skills imparted to the players. Therefore, the aim of this study also included determining the effects of video feedback on decision training.

Effects of decision training on ‘what’ decisions

Decision training on the “what” decisions were meant to reduce the number of transition between the forehand and the backhand. Reduction in this transition would then result in improved performance due to reduced uncertainty. Data obtained in this study enabled the analysis of movements in a sequential manner as opposed to one trial in previous studies, thus leading to reliable results. The training enabled the players to identify and study the opponents’ movements, thus reducing uncertainty.



The research team used twenty table tennis players drawn from a cross-section of tennis players in Germany. The players had an average of 4.5 years experience in the game, and thus they were conversant with the rules of the game. The research team was made up of six athletic experts of whom two were national coaches while the other four were local coaches. The two national coaches were tasked with the responsibility of assessing the individuals’ movements during the training and organizing training sessions for the players.

On the other hand, the local coaches offered actual training to players on a daily basis and received continuous feedback from the national coaches on the developments and acquisition of skills by players. The 20 players were divided into two groups, viz. the behavior group and the decision group with each group being assigned, ten members. The players in each group were chosen at random. The players were further divided into pairs with each member in a pair playing a game against the other pair member.

The national coaches assessed the strengths and weaknesses of each player individually. The evaluation led to further classification of the players to two new groups based on the abilities of each individual. The new groups seemed to have equal strengths so that the individual strength would easily be identified. All participants were required to submit a written consent before admission into the study.


The training and evaluation of the players were carried out in a period of six months. The evaluation was done in two ways, viz. subjective ratings, which involved observation evaluation, and objective assessment, which involved the collection of practical data.

In the subjective rating, data were collected at three different stages; that is, before the training, during the training, and after the training. The objective data was collected before the training and after the training. The national coaches then analyzed and harmonized the data to come up with meaningful information regarding the study.


The treatment offered to the two groups was different. The decision group was tested before and after the training and had access to the video feedback, which the behavior group never had access to (Raab, Masters, and Maxwell 328). All participants were required to fill in their personal information in an open-ended questionnaire prepared in advance by the research team.

The individual evaluation took place before the training, during the training, and after the training. The players were classified as behavior or decision group, and each group competed against the other. Each player was assessed individually after the training and data on movements collected.

Training Intervention

Behavior Group

The behavior group was trained on the “how” decision only. In addition to this training, the group received verbal feedbacks about the forehand and backhand movements as opposed to the video feedbacks offered to the decision group. The training took a period of nine months with the procedure outlined in the rules set by the national coaches being observed during the period.

In a bid to ensure compliance with the rules set by the national coaches, each player was required to fill in his/her personal information in a form provided by the trainer at the end of each training session. Each session kicked off with some kind of warm-up, which involved practicing the forehand and backhand to improve the players’ ability to hit the target and reduce uncertainty.

The warm-up was in two stages, whereby in the first stage, players were asked to swing at the horizontal level of the table while the second step involved stretching the elbow so as it forms a vertical line to the shoulder (Raab, Masters, and Maxwell 344).

Decision Group: ‘How’ and ‘what’ decisions

Training similar to the one offered to the behavior group was equally offered to the decision group for the same period. However, the decision group received both the “how” and the ‘what’ training simultaneously. Training offered to this group was in two steps with the first one involving twisting the forehand and the backhand to train players on accuracy and reduce uncertainty in players during the game while the second step involved training on the transition of the forehand and the backhand.

The group also received video feedback at regular intervals. A pair of video clips for each individual was recorded and played to the players during laboratory sessions. One of the clips contained the procedures of performing the forehand and backhand correctly, while the other one demonstrated the transition part. The video clips also showed professional tennis players performing the backward and forehand movements in a professional and accurate manner.

The video clips were played during the start of each session and were 10 minutes long. The videos were posted at certain intervals to compare the players’ movements with the movements of national table tennis stars. The videos were accompanied by a short narration of the style running at the time. The two videos illustrated the “what” and “how” techniques and were used as training materials to the decision group.

Materials and Measurement

Subjective measures

A pair of national coaches using the Likert scale carried out an evaluation of the individual player. Among the things evaluated were motivation and forehand and backhand movements. The two aspects received the rating of 1-6 with one representing poor while 6 representing excellent. Transition techniques were also measured using the same scale rating between 1 and 6.

Objective Measures

Two coaches did an evaluation of the objective measures simultaneously and then the results by the two coaches summed up and the mean calculated. The players were required to aim at a target placed at the other end of the playing table. The test was meant to measure the accuracy of the players in targeting a given point. The target set was in the form of a square box divided into small squares, and each squire earned a player a given number of points (Raab, Masters, and Maxwell 326).

The innermost square was 20 centimeters squared, and a player who managed to hit it earned a total of 4 points. The second square was 40 centimeters squared, and a player garnered a total of 3 points for hitting the square. The third square was 60 centimeter squared, and players would earn 2 points for hitting correctly. A player would earn 1 point for each ball that reaches the other side of the playing table without touching the net.

In addition, a player would earn no point for any situation not specified above. On one side of the table was a professional server who was selected from the coaches. The coach served the ball in a professional way for a player to receive it in the correct way. Players were provided with unique clad that were marked at the shoulder joint, elbow, and at the wrist for easy observation of the players’ movements.

Each game was covered using three cameras that were set in a manner that they recorded the players’ accuracy and movements. The movements were assessed against the set standards, and each individual’s forehand and backhand movements were evaluated.


The results of the study revealed that there was a notable improvement in both groups. However, the decision group showed more remarkable improvements compared to the behavior group. In the results’ analysis, the “what” and “how” decisions training were taken as the dependent variables and a “significant main effect for test ‘what’ decisions F (3, 18) = 43.71, p <. 01, η2 =.73; ‘how’ decisions F (3, 18) = 28.28, p <. 01, η2 =.58” (Raab, Masters, and Maxwell 326).

Significant effects of group were found for “both ‘how’, F (1, 18) = 58.37, p <.01, η2 =.91, and ‘what’ decisions, F(1, 18) = 31.49, p <.01, η2 =.75” (Raab, Masters, and Maxwell 326-344). Analysis of how the decision was made using the same rating ranking the decision group at 89 against the behavior group, which stood at 72. This realization was a clear indicator that the decision group was doing better than the behavior group in “what” decisions as well.

Throughout the study, the decision group outsmarted the behavior group in both the “how” and “what” decisions with the analysis of the result awarding the decision group with 68 points for forehand movement and 70 points for backhand movements. The overall results showed that the decision group performed better than the behavior group in subjective measures.

Accuracy was the other factor that the study tested. Shot accuracy was the dependent variable, and the results of the findings showed that the decision group was better placed in this aspect than the behavior group. The group maintained a score of “65 throughout the training as illustrated by the function F (1, 27) = 1362, p < 01, η2 = 65” (Raab, Masters, and Maxwell 326). The score varied with speed, and at the normal speed the scores were represented by the function (1, 9) = 104.71, p <.01, η2 = 92.

The sequence also influenced the results greatly as illustrated by the following function, F (3, 27) = 7.95, p <.01, η2 =.47, which was an indicator that better performance was recorded when sequences involved less number of transition (Raab, Masters, and Maxwell 347).

The correlation coefficient was qualitatively calculated and value of -59 was arrived at indicating that there was a great relationship between the number of components and accuracy so as when the number of components reduced, the degree of accuracy went up. In other words, when there was reduced uncertainty, the level of accuracy was high.

Movement analysis

In addition to accuracy measurement, the players were tested on movements. The analyses of the “how” decisions comprised of the movements of the elbow while the “what” decisions were an assessment of the transitions between the forehand and the backhand.

A reduction in the backswing movements was recorded between the initial test results and the results after the training as illustrated by the following function F (1, 985) = 118.73, p <.01, η2 =.89 (Raab, Masters, and Maxwell 326). The reduction recorded was up to 20 centimeters.

Discussion of the results

Offering the “what” and “how” decisions training to players who have the basic knowledge of the game simultaneously yield better results than offering behavioral training alone. The data obtained by the coaches regarding subjective ratings indicate that the participants demonstrated great improvements in the first three months.

Additionally, accuracy and improved movements were noted in the decision group. The video feedback, according to this study, is essential, and it should not be ignored as earlier proposed by various researchers. The feedback should be integrated with decision training in a bid to offer learners with the necessary skills for the game. This way, the performance of the players will improve, thus achieving desirable results.

Players recorded good performance when the sequence was well known to them and when few transitions were involved. In higher speed and uncertainty, the performance was poorer than under conditions of certainty and low speed. The national coaches designed training programs while the local coaches did the actual training on the ground. The coaches designed the training subjects based on their professionalism in the game.

Movements of the elbow and the backswing were reported to have improved greatly due to the professional training offered by the coaches. The use of video recording was an effective tool in the study since the coaches could not monitor every movement as they were also placed at one side of the playing table to serve the ball. Thus they did not have time to follow the movements.


This kind of feedback contributed greatly to the superiority of the decision group. It painted a clear picture to the learners on how decisions should be executed. In addition to visual learning, the videos were accompanied with a brief verbal narration elaborating the styles of movements being executed at the time.

The video clips played to the decision group are attributed to the superiority of the group in the “what” decisions. This aspect of the acquisition of decision skills through video clips supports studies by other scholars who had also asserted that the method produces equally effective results.


The study was conducted on players who already had some basic knowledge of the game. The point was to investigate how behavioral and decision training can improve the performance of a player. The training offered is important for players since it improves their performance both in the short run and in the long term. The results of the study revealed that decision training was more effective than behavior training.

Players who learn both “how” and “what” decisions through the video capture the first-hand techniques, which makes them perfect in terms of applying them in the actual game. It provides learners with early skills that form the platform of training. Video feedbacks are essential to the trainers as they are in a position to identify the weaknesses of the players and thus determine which areas require more inputs.

In light of the results obtained in the study, it is evident that integrating the two types of training and offering them to players simultaneously produces better results than teaching them separately. Continuous training on the two aspects should be embraced to ensure that players are well equipped both in the short run and in the long run.

Own opinion

The results of this study revealed that for a player to perform well in table tennis, he/she should possess both “what” and “how” skills. A player must be in a position to know what to do in a certain situation as well as how to do it. Training players on the two skills simultaneously could thus help boost the players’ performance.

Both behavioral and decision skills should be trained at the same time since the two are inseparable, and they must be applied simultaneously during the game. Therefore, I would recommend that players be trained on the two skills simultaneously in order to make table tennis more attractive.

Works Cited

Raab, M., Rich M., and Jonathan M. “Improving the ‘how’ and ‘what’ decisions of elite table tennis players.” Human movement science 24.3 (2005): 326-344. Print.

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