Drills for Learning the Penhold Reverse Backhand
by Richard McAfee
This column discusses the use of a table tennis robot in learning ping pong strokes, styles, and techniques. Richard McAfee is one of America's most active and recognized coaches. Certified as an International Coach by USA Table Tennis, he was selected as a USOC (US Olympic Committee) Developmental Coach of the Year. He organized and directed the Eastern Table Tennis Training Center and the Anderson College Table Tennis Team. He served as the Table Tennis Competition Manager for the 1996 Summer Olympics and recently was selected as an ITTF (International Table Tennis Federation) Pro Tour Director. Currently he is Head Table Tennis Coach at the prestigious Sporting Club At Windy Hill in Atlanta, GA.
In my last article, we discussed the techniques involved in executing the Penhold Reverse Backhand. Hopefully, you have had a chance to study the accompanying videos and to practice both the counter and loop strokes. Now you are ready for some drills to help you begin to incorporate this highly effective technique into your own game. How often you will choose to use this stroke depends on two things.
First, how competent you become in executing the strokes. You may simply want to use the Penhold Reverse Backhand as a change of pace to disrupt your opponent’s timing. Or you may find it comfortable to switch randomly between the Penhold Traditional Backhand and the Reverse Backhand. You may even become more confident in the Reverse Backhand and use it as your main stroke.
Secondly, the style you play may determine the amount you want to use this stroke. The Reverse Backhand is ideal for the mid-distance looping game. Using this new technique helps the penhold player match the two-winged attack of the shakehands player without having to cover most of the court with the forehand. In contrast, a pips-out penhold hitter will probably use the Reverse Backhand to open points and then quickly revert to the Traditional Backhand. The possibilities for the use of this stroke are limited only by your skill and imagination.
Here are six Robot Drills to help get you started with some of the stroke combinations you might want to use. Once again, Phillip Gustavson (Atlanta, GA) is helping us by demonstrating these drills in the video clips.
Drill #1 – Alternate Traditional Backhand Pushes with Reverse Backhand Loops.
Set your robot to deliver a long backspin ball to your backhand corner. Push two balls, and then produce a Reverse Backhand Loop. Remember to move back into the ready position after you push so that you will not be too close to the table to loop.
Drill #2 - Continuous Reverse Backhand Counter Drives with Change of Direction.
Set your robot to deliver a long topspin ball to your backhand corner. Using the Reverse Backhand Counter, alternate your returns crosscourt and down-the-line. Remember to contact the outside edge (left side of oncoming ball for right-handers) of the ball to place the ball crosscourt. Contact the inside edge (right side of oncoming ball for right-handers) to place the ball down the line.
Drill #3 – Mixed Traditional Backhands with Reverse Backhand Counter Drives.
Set your robot to deliver a long topspin ball to your backhand corner. Execute two Traditional Backhand counters or blocks, then one Reverse Backhand counter.
Drill #4 - Continuous Reverse Backhand Loop with Change of Direction.
Set your robot to deliver a long topspin ball to your backhand corner. Using a Reverse Backhand Loop, alternate your returns crosscourt and down-the-line. Like the previous drill, remember to contact the outside and inside edges of the ball to control your placement.
Drill # 5 – Continuous Forehand and Reverse Backhand Counters or Loops Against Random Feed.
Set your robot to deliver long topspin returns on full oscillation. Execute continuous counterdrives or loops using your regular forehand strokes and only the Reverse Backhand stroke.
Drill # 6 - Mixed Backhand Returns with Forehand Pivot.
Set your robot to deliver a long topspin ball to your backhand corner. This is a three shot drill. First, execute a Traditional Backhand counter or block, then execute a Reverse Backhand loop or counter, then pivot into your backhand side and execute a forehand attack (hit or loop).
Coaches Note: Start each of these drills with as slow a ball speed and frequency as necessary until you can execute the drill at an 80% success rate. Then increase the ball frequency and/or speed and repeat the drill.
These drills will help give you the skills necessary to start using the Penhold Reverse Backhand in your game. The next step is to begin working with a training partner and practicing using the stroke within the normal sequence of shots in a game. By this I mean, using the Reverse Backhand for serve returns, third ball attack, 4th ball counter-attack, and 5th ball attack.
The Penhold Reverse Backhand has begun to revolutionize the penhold styles of play. Get in on the fun by adding this new stroke to your game.
- Jena Newgarden