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Friday, Jan 05, 2007 - 20:39 SGT
Posted By: Gilbert

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Anatomy Of A Kick

As Platini said, what Zidane can do with a football, Maradona could do with an orange - but what about ping pong balls?


Cheap, common (a box of six for a dollar or two)
Furniture/family-friendly (whoops there goes the TV, not)
Suitable for full-power shots even when indoors
Dull sting after said shot locates point of impact on foot accurately
Relatively quiet (or noisy in a different way)
Lightness helps train control
Can even be used for table tennis!


Obviously different feel from a football (2.7 grams to ~400+ grams)
Reluctance to play/hard-trap ball on ground (misstep = flat ball)
Reluctance to really accelerate with ball (more a consequence of being indoors)
Pretty hard to take shots from the ground
Toe-poke non-existent
No high looping shots (more because of ceiling)

Whether the pros outweigh the cons (or cops), the pro in bold settles matters; There is no way one can shoot at anything near maximum strength with a regulation soccer ball indoors, without being a guniang, having a basement, or a spare set of windows and other breakables. So for that at least, a three gramme ping pong ball is essential. Empirical observations confirm that said ping pong ball will ricochet off TV screens and glass cabinet doors with nary a scratch on either.

Shooting lane (Red indicates preferred corners, yellow indicates secondary side preferences, green arrows are examples of good shot paths, blue arrow is a common miss. Note the altar at far right, making things more interesting - at least my ancestors have a grandstand view)

The blank wall to the left of the above photo is great for practising passing and receiving - tennis with feet, in fact. Balls can also be thrown high off it to simulate heading situations. Lots of space for simple keepy-uppy too.

Unfortunately the sofas in the living room are raised, so it can get frustrating when the ball keeps getting under them, even if falling flat to the floor every now and again should be good exercise.

Acme Ball Retriever

Thus, for long training sessions, I keep this close at hand. The prongs are even exactly the right width apart to fork the ball when it gets behind the TV cabinet. Swinging at the ball with it baseball-style is a nice diversion, too.

And now to the meat (and bones, and tendons):

My Foot, Part Deux

Our feet aren't nicely flat, as I have found out more than once in my sketching; Also, some bits are just better to kick with, keeping in mind that propelling a soccer ball needs slightly adapted technique from ping pong balls. The inside of the foot, for instance, is seldom used (by me at least) when shooting. Or even passing, but that may be my personal preference. It loses out in power.

The ridge is one area to avoid. Just no control there, or at least, I can't find any. If you can, all skill to you.

The slope - ah, here's where it starts to get interesting. Most of my contact with the ping pong ball occurs here, not least because its just about the largest even (and predictable) expanse of flesh on the foot. It is equally good for juggling the ball, or smacking it full across the room, and even gives a satisfying piak for the latter. Not the most powerful part, but for a mix of that and accuracy, it's hard to beat this.

The outside of the foot. Not used by itself often - very hard to kick the ball just so. For curlers, it's more a case of contact on the slope followed up by the ball leaving on the outside. The outside heel is actually a pretty big area, and is handy to juggle with too - can even be used to shoot with a rather situational thigh-high movement when the ball is too close to the body. My first little trick from primary school, in fact :P

And now the instep, here divided into knuckles and toes, since no shoes are worn over them. The knuckles appear to hit a little harder than the slope, if somewhat wilder. Currently, the spot around the top right of the slope area and the bottom right of the knuckle area seems to be my accustomed default contact area. The toes are rather bony and can hurt when impacting at high speed, so I don't recommend using them on purpose; They are surprisingly decent for control, however.

And finally the nails. They have given me my absolute fastest strikes, likely due to a combination of their hardness transferring most of the kinetic energy over, and their position at the very end of the legs. Of course, those strikes went all over the place. The exception seems the very tip of the big toenail, where hit balls make virtually no sound, but on even rather relaxed swings seriously fly. No contest. And they seem to invariably go straight and true, even. The only trouble is consistently getting a moving target spot of perhaps a centimeter square with another spot roughly the same size... Truly the perfect kick.

This concludes the initial intro on How to Kick a Ping Pong Ball, and as a bonus here's a short clip on a basic one-revolution Around The World trick, of course with a ping pong ball:

Okay, it isn't in the middle of a juggle or off a stopped ball, but getting a ping pong ball to stay on a foot is beyond me. Some moves just don't translate well from heavy balls to near weightless ones - Try it on the back of your hand, without using the ridges between bones. Something to practice.

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