Too often in today's table tennis clubs, there is a lack of quality choppers available to train with. This is especially a problem when training the young developing topspin player. As a full-time professional coach, I am always on the lookout to find ways to simulate training against styles or individual shots that don't exist in my own backyard.
Often I can accomplish this through the use of multi-ball feeding techniques. However, I have found a creative solution that works even better by using my Newgy Robo-Pong 2000.
First of all, I remove the unit completely from the table and set it on a low table or even the floor itself. The distance back from the table should be similar to the distance that a chopper would actually be working from to return hard hit balls (8 12 feet behind the table).
By setting up the Newgy Robo-Pong 2000 in this fashion, your students gain several advantages over the conventional multi-ball set-up. First and most importantly, the correct timing for the stroke can be developed. Secondly, the student can get the feel of training at full power and observing the results of his/her own strokes.
(Editor's Note: When using the robot "off table" in this fashion, it will help to use the Pong-Master scoreboard to help start, time, and end each drill. Plug the scoreboard into the control box, but do not plug any targets in. Set the robot for the proper trajectory angle, ball feed, ball speed, and sweep range. Turn on the scoreboard and set the number of minutes for the drill. When you're ready, hit the start button and the scoreboard will give you 3 seconds to get ready before it starts delivering balls. The scoreboard will also stop ball delivery when time runs out.
Also, since many of your returns will not be captured by the net for recycling, use lots of balls or have an assistant pick up balls and place them back into the robot's trays. This will permit you to continue doing the drill for the allotted time.)
Here is a set of six attack drills that my students often do against chop. Each set of drills should run from 57 minutes, remember to stress quality not quantity. If your students are having less than a 7080% success rate, than the drill should be modified.
Normally, I set up the Newgy to oscillate from the middle of the table to the wide forehand of my player. After finishing the six drills, I reset the Newgy to oscillate from the middle of table to my player's wide backhand and repeat the six drills again. In all cases, forehand attacks are being used.
1. Loop consistently to opponent's forehand. The student should focus on consistency as well as producing as much spin as possible.
2. Loop consistently to opponent's backhand. Like the above drill, consistency and spin are the keys to work on.
3. Loop consistently, alternating between opponent's forehand and backhand side. Have your student pay special attention to their footwork when changing the direction of the ball.
4. Loop to one corner, then push to the other corner.
5. Loop consistently to opponent's wide forehand corner, then hard attack to the middle. Have student concentrate on contacting the ball at the top of the bounce for the hard attack, as well as the explosion of the hips and the feeling of being "un-weighted" at the moment of the hard attack.
6. Loop consistently to opponent's middle, then hard attack opponent's wide forehand corner. Same focus as previous drill.
You can mix the above drills with some limited multi-ball. A coach can randomly feed a single attacking shot between the Newgy's chops, just to keep the player ready to defend at all times. The coach can also mix in a short drop shot, timed to force the player to work hard to get back into position to loop the next ball.
Throughout the United States, there are very few clubs that have strong players of every style to train against. I hope these chop suggestions, along with the idea of pulling the Newgy Robo-Pong 2000 away from the table will strike a creative cord on just how it is possible to overcome any training weakness.
By the way, the basic six drills against chop that I have suggested come mostly from my several years as acting coach of America's finest chopper, Derek May.