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. We encourage readers to send in your own questions. You may email us 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. I have lost the identity of the person who asked this month's question, so I cannot properly give credit. Should any reader recognize this question, please e-mail me with the identity of the writer. Thanks.
I'm 29 years of age and I started playing table tennis 2 years ago. It has become sort of a passion. Do you think it would be worth the cost for me? Please try to think as a player rather than as a salesman. Also are there are any disadvantages to Robo-Pong 2000?
Newgy robots are used by players of all levels, but are particularly useful for players who are in the development stages. In the U. S. at the top levels, Cheng Ying Yua (who has beaten Jan Ove Waldner), Jimmy Butler (several times U.S. Champion), Barney J. Reed (current national team member), and many others use our robot for practice. Several of our top coaches like Barney D. Reed, Richard McAfee (1996 Olympic TT Director), Marty Prager, and Larry Hodges all practically insist on having their students use robots so strokes can be "grooved" as quickly as possible. Anytime you're learning something new, you will find a robot helpful. The Newgy robot can be adjusted to challenge any player from beginner to national champion.
A robot purchase is a great investment; it's worth every penny. If you have a robot at home, you are more likely to play and practice than if you have to go to a club and hunt for a compatible partner. The single most important thing to do to improve is to play a lot. With a robot you will hit approximately 5-10 times more balls in the same amount of time than if you were training with a human partner (particularly in the earlier stages where both partners lack the ball control to keep a practice rally going for a long period.). Robot and multi-ball practice is a much more efficient method for practicing which dramatically cuts down the time to learn new skills. The Chinese introduced the concept of multi-ball training back in the 60's and is (arguably) one of the primary reasons why they have so many players that have high level skills.
A robot is not the complete answer to getting better, just a part. Develop strokes and techniques by repetition on the robot, then find a practice partner to incorporate random drills, variable shots, and other things that a robot can't reproduce. A coach guiding this entire process is invaluable also. Other aspects of a complete training program include practice competition (so you can incorporate skills learned in practice into an actual match-like situation), tournaments, calisthenics, league play, and proper nutrition.
The Newgy Robot's spins are very similar to a human's. As a former top level player (top 50 in the U.S.), I have no trouble going from playing on the robot to playing a player in a game. The Newgy Robot is limited, however, in that speed and spin must be increased or decreased at the same time. So it can produce a fast loop with fast speed and high spin, but not a slow loop with slow speed and high spin. A high-level player can also produce more topspin on a good loop than Robo-Pong 2000 can.
One of the least recognized advantages of using a robot is that you can use it to develop your aerobic conditioning. If you set the robot to oscillate (so you have to move your feet) and at a frequency rate that you can keep up with for at least 20 minutes, you can get true aerobic conditioning by keeping your heart rate elevated for an extended period of time. This is very difficult to do with a human partner, for instance, because you must stop at the end of each rally. Using a robot for your aerobic conditioning kills two birds with one stone: you improve your aerobic condition while at the same time you improve your table tennis specific skills. (The Player's Instructional Manual that comes with every Robo-Pong 2000 or 2040 robot includes a complete chapter on how to use your robot to improve your fitness.)
I do not know of any disadvantage to using a robot. However, the robot is limited in what it can do. As long as you keep in mind that the robot is not the complete answer, just a part in the puzzle, you will enjoy your practice and reap many benefits from its use.