Table Tennis 101

with Coach Matt Hetherington

Basic introduction to foundational skills for table tennis beginners
May 12th, 2020

Video Focus Areas

Racket Grip (00:48 - 02:15)

Shakehand: Named as such because in this grip, your hand looks like it’s ready to shake another person’s hand. The head of the racket tilts upwards. This style of grip is popular amongst European and American players.

  • Great for beginners and provides better sense of control
  • Increases speed and power
  • Allows for more wrist flexibility to achieve increased spin

Penhold: Named as such because this grip is similar to the way you would hold a pen or a pencil. The head of the racket tilts downwards. This style of grip is popular amongst players in Asia.

  • Better for players who play close to the table
  • Even more wrist flexibility than shakehand grip
  • Easier to switch between backhand and forehand strokes
Neutral Stance (02:16 - 03:30) & Table Position (03:31 - 04:48)

To achieve neutral stance:

  1. Facing square onto the table, bring the foot on the same side as your playing hand back a step
  2. Slightly bend your knees and shift your weight onto your quads and knees
  3. Keep your back straight with your chest slightly forward
  4. Bring your playing arm forward to form an L shape
  5. Bring your non-playing arm forward and form the same L shape

Table position: Position yourself on the half of the table that aligns with your backhand. This position is efficient in allowing you to quickly move around to achieve different types of strokes.

Forehand (04:49 - 07:44) and Backhand (07:45 - 10:14) Topspin Strokes

Forehand: Most natural playing position.


  • Move from the hips
  • Line up your racket to be diagonally in front of your hip
  • Keep your racket slightly facing down at about a 45 degree angle

Backhand: Requires rotating your arm across the body.


  • Racket should be in a more vertical position (vs. horizontal with forehand)
  • Make sure to keep your playing shoulder and elbow relaxed
  • Keep stroke within confines of your shoulders
Basic Rules of Serving (10:15 - 12:15)
  1. Ball must be served from behind the table
  2. Ball must be launched at least 6inches into the air (about same height as the net)
  3. Ball must bounce at least once on each side of the table

About Matt Hetherington

Matt Hetherington is a JOOLA-sponsored coach and auto-immune athlete. Originally from New Zealand, Matt has represented his home-country in table tennis tournaments all over the world.

He currently coaches at Lily Yip Table Tennis Center in New Jersey and runs the popular coaching blog, MHTableTennis.

Previously, he served as the Media and Communications Director for USA Table Tennis (USATT).