Ask the Pro – Should I learn to play defense?

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Question:
As a beginning player, should I learn to play defense, or just work on my attack?

Coach Larry Hodges:
It’s a common mistake for beginning players, especially junior players, to develop their attacks, but not their defense. You need both. The problem comes about because a beginning player usually starts out learning to hit forehands and backhands, and once developed, these are primarily offensive shots. You should also learn to block. Otherwise, when your opponent attacks, you’ll have to go for wild counter-attacks, or just give the point up.

You can also learn other defensive shots, such as lobbing, fishing and chopping. Lobbing is a high defensive topspin shot. Fishing is a lower defensive topspin shot. These are a bit more advanced than blocking, but if you have mobility off the table, they are valuable shots to have.

Chopping is a more specialized defense, and while I don’t recommend most players to back off the table and chop down an opponent, it’s valuable to be able to throw in a chop now and then, especially on the backhand when you are out of position.

Note that I don’t include pushing as a defensive shot. A defensive shot is done against an incoming offensive shot. A push is more a sparring backspin shot against an incoming non-offensive shot, such as a backspin or no-spin push or serve. If done poorly, it’s a defensive shot, but that’s because it’s done poorly. It should be more of a neutral shot.

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