Coach Samson Dubina 2016 US National Team Coach 2015 - 2018 USATT Coach of the Year
 

To see this website as it was intended, please update to a modern browser!

-->

Strict vs Flexible

Making a distinct clarification...

 
 
 
Here is an e-mail that I recently wrote to one of my students.  I hope that maybe you too can learn from this lesson...
 
 
 
Dear Student,
You made a comment during our lesson last week, and I just wanted to make a short clarification.  If I remember correctly, you said, “Samson, you coach like you play.” Referring to being strict with precisely which balls must be played short, which balls must be looped, which balls must be powered, which balls must be placed to certain locations…   in a ridged framework.
Actually, there are some things that are strict for each particular style across the board and there are some things that are extremely flexible for each particular style.  I have done and will try to do my best to help all of my students understand the distinction between the strict and the flexible for each of their developing styles.  Strict means that there is only really 1 good option for that student’s particular style.  Flexible means that there are multiple good options and I’ll let the player develop strategically as he is developing his game.  Let me use an 1800-level 2-winged looper as an illustration.
 
Strict:
If someone serves long sidespin to Bob’s forehand (Bob is an 1800 2-winged looper), what are his options?
#1 He could chop back long (allowing his opponent to attack first)
#2 He could attempt to push short (which is extremely difficult on a long serve)
#3 He could attempt to block (which is difficult on a sidespin serve)
#4 He could smash (which is a bit risky but still possible)
#5 He could lob (which allows his opponent to smash)
#6 He could flip (which isn’t very strong a long serve)
#7 He could loop (which is the safest thing to do, puts the most pressure on the opponent, and puts Bob in an offensive situation where he can control the table with strong attacks.)
So, for this basic situation, there is really only 1 good answer.
If someone serves short heavy topspin to Bob’s backhand (Bob is an 1800 2-winged looper), what are his options?
#1 He could push short (which will likely result in a high push)
#2 He could push long (which allows his looping opponent to attack first)
#3 He can’t really loop because it is short
#4 He could lob (which allows his opponent to smash)
#5 He could block (which might get the ball on the table but unfortunately allows the opponent to attack first)
#6 He could flip (which is the safest thing to do, puts the most pressure on the opponent, and puts Bob in an offensive situation where he can control the table with strong attacks.)
So, for this basic situation, there is really only 1 good answer.
If Bob backhand loops and his opponent blocks low to Bob’s forehand (Bob is an 1800 2-winged looper), what are his options?
#1 He could chop back long (allowing his opponent the opportunity to attack)
#2 He could attempt to push short (which is extremely difficult against a block)
#3 He could block (allowing his opponent the opportunity to attack)
#4 He could smash (which is possible but could be a low-percentage shot against the low block)
#5 He could lob (which allows his opponent to smash)
#6 He could loop (which is the safest thing to do, puts the most pressure on the opponent, and puts Bob in an offensive situation where he can continue to control the table with strong attacks.)
So, for this basic situation, there is really only 1 good answer.
 
 
 
Flexible:
There are many areas of the game that I allow flexibility.  For initially choosing a game style, I allow some of my students to be loopers, some hitters, some blockers, some choppers, some penhold, some shakehands, some near the table, some off the table, as well at various types of equipment.  Also, within each style, I allow a lot of flexibility.  For example, let’s use an average 1800-level 2-wing looper as an illustration.  Here are some basic things that I will allow flexibility in:
#1 Does Bob want to play 80% forehand and 20% backhand or 40% forehand and 60% backhand – I’ll let him choose.
#2 When Bob is stuck on defense, does Bob want to block his opponent out-of-position or try mixing in some very aggressive counterloops – I’ll let him choose.
#3 Does Bob want to serve short 90% and long 10% or does he want to serve short 60% and serve long 40% - I’ll let him choose.
#4 Does Bob want to play all the short backspin serves with a short push or does he want to vary his returns with flips, deep pushes, angle pushes, and sidespin pushes – I’ll let him choose.
#5 Does Bob want to hold a neutral grip or does he want to be shifted to a slight forehand or backhand grip?
There are literally hundreds of aspects of each style that are merely personal preferences.  It is important that I allow each player to develop his style and still give each of them personal direction between bad choices, medium choices, good choices, better choices, and sometimes only choices.
 
I will do my absolute best this year to clearly make the distinction to each of my students about which parts of the game for each particular style are strict and which parts are flexible. 
 
 
 
 

Category: