If you're new to table tennis...

then this article is for you. I will be walking you through the most important techniques you will need to master and the order I believe you should tackle them in. Those first few months in a new sport can be tough but I believe that by having a program in place, with clear structure and goals, you can get the most out of your practice and speed up your development.I won?t be going into huge detail on each aspect of this guide; there are countless YouTube videos available that can get the message across much more easily. The purpose of this article is to give to a checklist that you can go through. It's a way to follow your progression and look ahead to future skills you will need to master.

Step 1: The Basics when you first start

Getting interested in table tennis you'll need to find somewhere to play (perhaps a local club), someone to play with (maybe a friend or another new club member) and something to play with (a decent pre-made bat with grippy rubbers). Once you've got all of that in place there are six skills you will need to master.

1. Grip

2. Ready position/stance

3. Forehand drive

4. Backhand drive

5. Backhand push

6. Forehand push

Grip is very important to get right early on as it is much more difficult to change away from a 'poor' grip later on once you've got used to it. It can also take a while to get used to the way us table tennis players stand. Try to keep grip and stance technically correct once you start practicing the four basic strokes.

I've put forehand push last as it's probably the hardest to master. You will need to spend lots of time working on these four shots. Don't be too keen to move onto more advanced shots until you've nailed these four. There's little point trying out forehand loops or smashes if you can't drive. I would probably say you should be able to play about 50 shots in row without a mistake, with good technique, before you can tick off these shots. There's no harm in spending too much time on the basics. Ask as many questions as possible. Coaches and other players will probably be happy to help you out. You may also want to video yourself playing, practice in front of a mirror, or do other types of 'shadow-play' without the ball to get more accustomed to the correct technique for each shot.

Step 2: Basic Movement

Once you've mastered those four basic strokes trying to include a bit of regular movement into your practice. This doubles up as extra practice of your basic shots to really cement them into your mind and learning how to move to the ball early is definitely a good idea too. Here are some drills you can use.

1. One backhand drive, one forehand drive

2. One backhand push, one forehand push

3. One backhand drive, one forehand drive (from the backhand side)

4. X's and H's

5. Falconberg

6. One forehand drive (wide), one forehand drive (middle)

7. Backhand, middle, backhand, wide

There are loads more too. The point is get used to using your four basic strokes in lots of different combinations and from different places on the table. At first you may struggle to play a technically good shot when moving to the ball but over time you will get used to it.

Also make sure you "move, stop, play". Meaning you don't want to still be moving as you play your stroke. Move to the correct position, stop, and then play your shot.

Spend lots of time on these regular movement exercises until you feel comfortable moving a playing good quality shots. Avoid the temptation to start serving or playing games as this will only confuse you further. For now just play a rally either with backspin (push) or topspin (drive). We will cover "opening up" in the next section.

Step 3: Intermediate Stroke

Now is the time to start learning some more interesting strokes. You're probably a bit fed up of all the driving and pushing anyway but you should be very good at it! I would advise maintaining some regular drive movement exercise from step 2 in this section to accompany your learning of these new strokes.

1. Forehand topspin

2. Forehand block

3. Backhand topspin

4. Backhand block

5. Forehand loop (open up)

6. Backhand loop (open up)

Find a partner to practice your topspin with. One of you can block while the other topspin. Do this for your backhand and forehand and soon you'll have four shots ticked off. If you have learnt to drive well you will find it much easier to block (just like playing a soft, small drive) and topspin (just close the bat angle and 'brush' the ball more). If you haven't spent the time working on your forehand and backhand drive you will struggle here as little faults in your technique will be magnified as you start top-spinning.

The 'loop' shots, where you are top-spinning a backspin ball, can be learnt much faster using multi-ball. Multi-ball is also a very useful skill to learn so if you haven't used it before now is a great time to learn how to 'feed'. Once you feel confident you can start with a push-to-push rally and then try to 'loop out'. You can also go back to the movement drills from step 2 but topspin and block instead of driving.

That's all I'm covering today. I'm going to highlight again the importance of not rushing through the steps and strokes. Take your time. Master them fully and feel confident playing each before moving on. There's no rush, build strong foundations which will help you develop more quickly later on.