Table tennis, also known as ping-pong, is an extremely fast game which requires exceptional skill and competence to play at a competitive level. In the last 40 years, the innovative style of many top ranked players in the world has introduced a number of new spins and serve and given a new meaning to the word "speed.”

Reactions must be automatic, (not thought out), so players need to analyze the speed and recognize the kind of spin on the ball instantaneously. Their concentration must also remain consistently high in order to minimize errors and the unnecessary loss of a point.

Following is an explanation of some of the dynamic visual skills associated with table tennis that you can talk with your Sports Vision & Performance Professional about.

Accommodation and Convergence

As the ball is being played rapidly back and forth, your eyes have to keep it in constant, clear focus. In the same way, both eyes need to be working in unison in order to track the rapidly moving ball, especially if it takes a funny bounce when hitting the net or the edge of the table.

Anticipation Timing

The key to effective performance is knowing the exact moment to act. If you don’t anticipate properly your opponent could pick up on your miscues and hit a winner.

Concentration

In such a fast-moving sport, there is little room for error. Players have to be involved and focused on every swing and stroke that they make, constantly keeping their eyes on the ball. When in pressure situations, any form of distraction (i.e. crowd noises or camera flashes) must be eliminated, and only the task at hand can be important. Concentration is a skill that can make even an average player perform much better because it promotes more consistent play and less unforced errors.

Depth Perception

Depth perception is necessary for accurate shot placement, especially on smaller playing surfaces such as the table tennis table. Players must accurately judge the speed and revolution of the ball so that they can position themselves correctly for each shot. This is especially useful when they are defending against smashes which can often move them as far as ten feet back of the table.

Eye Fatigue

Table tennis can be a very tiring sport which requires good conditioning. Physical fatigue can greatly affect concentration, visual reaction time and eye-hand coordination. Eye fatigue can also affect performance levels in much the same way. When the muscles in our eyes feel tired or strained, we feel the fatigue all over. Just like a weightlifting routine is used to increase physical endurance, visual exercises can be used to strengthen the eye muscles and thereby, reduce eye fatigue.

Eye-Hand Coordination

This skill is vital in any racquet sport since the process of hitting a moving object with a racquet or bat primarily requires eye-hand coordination. Our hands, feet and body respond to the information the eyes have sent to the brain. If this information is incorrect, even to the slightest degree, there is a good chance that we will err in our physical response. It is visual judgement alone that determines eye-hand coordination.

Peripheral Vision/Awareness

 A well-developed peripheral field helps an athlete to see everything at once, to maintain the whole pattern, to sense the flow of the play, even as they move within it.  This skill is essential in doubles play, so that players can concentrate on the ball and still be aware of where their partner is standing.

Speed and Span of Recognition

Players only have a split second or so to determine the speed and recognize what kind of spin was put on the shot they are about to return. Due to the nature of the game, it is essential for players to quickly recognize when the ball has hit the net or the edge of the table in order to be ready to respond effectively.

Visual Reaction Time/Speed

The more rapidly a player can process visual information and initiate their own physical response, the more automatic their reaction will be, and hence, the more effective their game will be. In table tennis, this is one of the most crucial skills to develop and keep sharp.

©2019, Dynamic Visual Skills for Sports, International Sports Vision Association and DeAnn Fitzgerald, OD.