LEARN ABOUT SPIN TO IMPROVE YOUR GAME
By Larry Thoman
This column will consist of questions that have been asked of the staff at Newgy or our replies to questions posed on the table tennis newsgroup, rec.sport.table-tennis. This month's question was posed by Tim Miller on the TT newsgroup. We encourage readers to send in your own questions. You may email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or fax or write us. All questions cannot be answered, but every month we will pick out one of them to answer in this column.
The amount of spin the thing (Newgy Robo-Pong robot) puts on the ball seems nearly overwhelming to me. I can adjust it to top, right, left, bottom and so on, but there is no way to turn it off, or adjust the degree of spin-only the direction. Being an inexperienced player, I don't really know if I should anticipate this much spin from normal human recreational players.
I'm wondering if this is a real drawback to this device. On the other hand, maybe it will prepare me for tough players.
I agree that the spin that the robot produces can be considered severe by those players not used to returning strong spins. Spin is a very important part of table tennis. Spin is used to both win points outright and to make it more difficult for the opponent to be offensive. All top players are masters of spin; whereas, most recreational players have little knowledge of how to spin the ball severely and/or return severe spin. The biggest difference between recreational players and tournament players is that tournament players produce and respond correctly to spin.
Newgy Robo-Pong robots were made to simulate typical tournament play. In this regard, every ball coming from the robot will have spin on it. While the amount of spin may seem severe to recreational or novice players, it is quite normal, if not somewhat less than normal, for advanced players.
If you want to improve your skill level, and I assume you do since you bought a robot, then the strategy should be to learn how to stroke the ball like the top players do (with spin) rather than continue to stroke the ball as recreational players do (without spin). If you will follow the lesson plans in the Instructional Manual that came with your robot, you will learn how to return the different spins by changing your paddle angle and then how to produce your own spin by learning the various strokes.
Once you learn how to produce strong spins, your recreational opponents will be at your mercy. Their return options will be severely limited by the type of spin you put on the ball. They will mis-return many balls or give you plenty of weak shots that you can then attack. I encourage you to hang in there and keep working on your game, striving to emulate the way top players play. I know it can be frustrating at first because it is a whole new way to play from the way you're used to playing the game. The end result though, is that you will become a much stronger player if you learn to deal with spin correctly instead of shying away from it.
If you still choose to limit the spin capabilities of the robot, there is something you can do, but it will also reduce the speed of the ball as well. All you have to do is remove the Friction Block in the head and glue or attach a spacer at the top of both Friction Block tabs. The object is to move the Friction Block away from the wheel so there is less "pinch" on the ball as it passes between these two parts. I would suggest trying something about 1mm in thickness at first and then going up or down from there until you find the desired reduction in speed and spin.
- Jena Newgarden