One of the strange things top players and coaches often notice is that beginning/intermediate players who goof off and lob during practice often improve rapidly. There is a reason for this.
When a beginning/intermediate player backs up and lobs, he develops off-the-table mobility and footwork, and learns to react to hard-hit shots from off the table. Most players at this level don’t have the ability to play effectively from off the table as most top players do and often don’t even practice it until they’ve played for many years, when it’s hard to add new aspects to their game. Players who do play off the table early on have a big advantage. Later on, as they become more advanced, their off-the-table play, especially covering ground when looping or counter-looping, or simply reacting to hard-hit shots from off the table, is much better than it would have been otherwise.
There are two classic cases of this. Sweden’s Jan-Ove Waldner and Mikael Appelgren were called uncoachable as juniors due to their tendency to goof off and lob during practice, rather than stick to the prescribed drill. Both went on to be ranked #1 in the world, with two-time World Men’s Singles Champion and Men’s Singles Olympic Gold Medalist Waldner often called the best player ever.
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