By Richard McAfee, USATT International Coach
Table Tennis is one of the quickest reaction sports in the world. When two attacking players meet, the one with the quicker reflexes has a definite physical advantage over the slower player. The slower player will be forced either to back away from the table, or use shorter, less powerful strokes in order to try and keep up with his quicker opponent. Fortunately, you can train to have faster reactions and the Newgy Robo-Pong 2000 is the perfect tool to work with.
Your reflexes are controlled by your Central Nervous System (CNS). To develop faster reflexes, you must put the CNS under stress (overloading) by working against balls coming at quicker and quicker intervals. Coaches often do this type of practice by using multi-ball technique. The coach feeds balls at an increasing rate to the student, with the goal being to increase the student's stroke frequency. However, doing this type of training with the Newgy Robo-Pong 2000 offers several advantages for both the student and the coach.
(1) The student can train by himself
(2) You can exactly control the ball frequency and thus measure your improvement
(3) Robo-Pong 2000 never gets tired
It is a good idea, when starting this type of training, to establish your current reaction baseline. By this I mean, finding out what is the quickest rate of ball speed that you can execute a full stroke against. To do this set your Newgy Robo-Pong 2000 at the following settings:
(1) Oscillator pattern on 1-4, this will cover the forehand side of the table only.
(2) Oscillator speed on 5 or 6, medium speed
(3) Ball speed on 5 or 6, medium speed.
(4) Ball frequency on 4 to begin with.
(5) Turn the robot's head to select Topspin.
After warming up with forehand counters, try slowly increasing the ball frequency one level at a time. At each level, execute several forehand counters and then try to make a full kill shot. Repeat this a number of times for each level. When you reach a level where you cannot react fast enough to land 70% of the kills shots successfully on the table, that is your current reaction baseline. Once you find this point, make a note of it. With regular practice with your Newgy Robo-Pong 2000, you will quickly see a rise in this baseline and your overall reaction time.
Pyramid Up (Half Table)
Set your Newgy Robo-Pong to oscillate over one half of the table, either to your backhand or forehand side with topspin. Set the ball frequency level to 4. Set the ball speed in a comfortable range. Gradually increase the ball frequency, staying at each level for about one minute. Your goal is to make as long a stroke as possible while still being successful at least 70% of the time. At level 4, you should be able to use a kill stroke (long stroke) continuously. As the ball frequency increases, you will find that you have to shorten your stroke to keep up. At the highest frequency setting (10), your Newgy Robo-Pong 2000 will be delivering balls at approximately 90 per minute. At this speed, you probably will have to switch to a very short stroke (block). However, continue to push yourself to make as long a stroke as possible (counter or kill) while keeping inside the 70% success rate.
Pyramid Down (Half Table)
Set your Newgy Robo-Pong 2000 as described above. However this time start out with the ball frequency setting on 10 and slowly work down. Spend one minute at each level. In the beginning of this drill, you may only be able to block the ball back. As you decrease the ball frequency, try hard to lengthen your stroke. Work back down to a level where you can execute a full kill stroke successfully at least 70% of the time.
Advanced Reaction Drill
Set your Newgy Robo-Pong 2000 for full oscillation (3-4), topspin, set ball speed at 5 or 6, set ball frequency at 9-10, and oscillator speed at 9-10. These settings will produce random balls covering the whole table at 90 balls per minute. Start off with just trying to block as many balls back as possible and slowly try to move from blocking to counter strokes. If you are able to return 70% successfully, then increase ball speed.
Basic Elements to Remember
(1) By overloading your Central Nervous System you can increase your reaction time.
(2) To make the drill more difficult you can also increase the ball speed.
(3) Drill both the forehand and the backhand sides.
(4) Retest your baseline reaction as described above to note your improvement.
Every player must be able to attack, defend, and counter attack. Quick reaction times are a key element in a player's ability to do all three. The quicker your reaction time becomes, the more often you will be able to attack, the better your defense will be, and the quicker you will be able to counter attack. It is not enough to just have good stroke technique; quick reactions are essential to our sport. As a full time professional coach, I know of no better way to train this part of your game than working against the ultimate practice partner, the Newgy Robo-Pong 2000