Robo-Pong Robots Are Great For All Ages - For Fitness, Training & Fun!

Training Tips

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THE SHAKEHAND GRIP 0

While there are many ways to hold a racket, the shakehand grip is the most versatile and universally used of all grips. Therefore, I recommend using it for learning table tennis. If you have not used this grip, it may initially feel awkward. Please persevere, as this grip will permit you to develop all the strokes these articles willdiscuss and illustrate. Other grips may hinder or limit your development.

Lesson 1: Learning the Shakehand Grip

To use this grip, you essentially "Shake hands with the racket." Fit the edge of the blade snugly in the "V" of your hand between your thumb and forefinger. Grip the handle with your middle, ring, and little fingers. Finally, place the forefinger flat on one side of the racket head close to the bottom and the thumb sideways on the other side of the racket head. See Photo 3 and 4.

Hold the racket with just enough tension to keep it in place. Another person should be able to take the racket out of your hand and feel just a slight resistance while you maintain your grip. It is important not to grip too tightly. Too tight of a grip causes excess tension in the arm. The excess tension will, in turn, slow down your strokes and make it harder to adjust the racket angle to compensate for various spins and angles. This is not to say, however, that hand tension is constant, never shanging. Hand tension should increase just before ball contact on a hard hit shot and it may decrease on soft touch shots or serves.

Hold the racket so the edge of the racket is perpendicular to the floorand tilt your wrist slightly down. The wrist should remain in this downward tilt position throughout all your strokes. Do not force this downward tilt, but rather let the racket naturally fall into this position by relaxing the hand muscles. While we're talking about the wrist, do not let the wrist flop back and forth or up and down as you stroke the ball. Letting the wrist flop is one of the most common causes of mis-hit shots.

Photo 3: Shakehands Grip, 
Forehand Side

Notice how the side (not the 
front
) of the thumb lays across 
the top of the handle, and only three 
fingers wrap around the handle. Also 
notice the downward tilt of the wrist.

Photo 4: Shakehands Grip, 
Backhand Side

Notice how the knuckles lay on top 
of the handle, and the forefinger lays 
close to the bottom of the racket 
face.

 

10 Quick Tips To Better Table Tennis 0

  1. Know what spin is on the ball.The key to acquiring this important skill is to carefully watch the opponent’s racket when it makes contact with the ball. If the opponent’s racket is moving from low to high, the spin is topspin; from high to low, backspin; from his/her left to right, right sidespin; and from right to left, left sidespin.
  2. Compensate for the spin with your racket angle.If topspin, angle your leading racket face down and contact the ball above its center; if backspin, angle the leading racket face up and contact the ball below its center; if right sidespin, angle the leading racket face to the right and contact the ball to the left of its mid-line; if left sidespin, angle the leading racket face to the left and contact the ball to the right of its mid-line. While holding the racket at the suggested angle, stroke gently forward. Only after you have developed a “feel” for the spin should you stroke the ball with more force.
  3. Use your whole body when you stroke your forehand.Make sure that you rotate your hips and shoulders backwards during the backswing and then forward into the ball as you stroke your forehand. This motion is coordinated with a transfer of your body weight from the back foot to the front foot. The harder you hit your forehand, the more forceful your weight transfer must be. A common forehand mistake is to use only your arm to hit the ball, which severely limits your power and consistency.
  4. Maintain a good ready position.A good ready position is balanced and prepares your body to move instantly in any direction. Use it when preparing to return serves and between strokes. The basic sequence of a rally is as follows: (A) put yourself in a good ready position, (B) move to the ball with your feet, staying balanced, (C) stroke the ball, (D) return to ready position, and (E) repeat B, C, and D until the rally ends.
  5. Train your strokes until they are "automatic."When you first learn a new skill, you use a lot of mental energy to formulate a clear mental picture of how the stroke looks and feels. Once this mental picture is relatively accurate, you should then practice that skill repeatedly until you no longer have to think about how to do it. This is your “automatic stage”. Your best performance will come when you operate on “automatic” and you do not analyze your skill. You just “let it happen.”
  6. Use only your own racket.It’s important to get your own racket and then to use it exclusively. Every racket has its own “feel” and playing characteristics, and you will benefit greatly by using only one racket so you’re not always trying to adapt to a different one. Also, take good care of your racket; treat it with respect. Keep it in a case when you’re not using it. If you’re using inverted sponge rubber (smooth surface), you should wash it with soap and water or a special racket cleaner after every use.
  7. Develop sidespin serves.Few beginners use sidespin on their serves; whereas, top players use sidespin on almost every serve. Sidespin is almost always combined with either topspin or backspin; pure sidespin is extremely rare in table tennis. Particu larly useful is a sidespin/backspin serve that is low to the net and bounces twice on the other side of the table. This type of serve will severely limit your opponent’s serve return options.
  8. Keep your returns low over the net.In general, the lower over the net you place your shots, the less angle your opponent can use and the harder it is for him/her to hit it with power. The one exception to this rule is if you use lobs, you will want to place the ball very high over the net (and as close to the end of the table as possible).
  9. Practice more than you compete.By practicing, I mean all the time you spend developing your game by concentrating on some aspect you want to strengthen. The primary object during practice is to develop your game. On the other hand, when you compete, your main object should be to win, not to work on some part of your game. It is advisable to play practice games where the object is to blend in a new skill or tactic into a match-like situation before you compete. The emphasis for these practice games is still on development, not winning. And when you do compete, even though your main emphasis is on winning, you can still learn a lot about your game (development) if you analyze your matches after they are over.
  10. Join a table tennis club.To really make progress with your game, it’s important to find others with similar desires and interact with these people. A table tennis club is the best place to do this. Most clubs have players of all different playing levels. Find someone of similar playing ability as yourself and make a commitment to each other to practice regularly. Periodically test your progress by competing with players of higher ability. Furthermore, most clubs have a coach who can help speed up your development. To find a club in your area, contact USA Table Tennis.

USING ROBO-PONG IN A SCHOOL PROGRAM 0

David Cole 
Beech Island, SC

This past Fall I used Robo-Pong 1000 to help train the youth in our Fall School League. It was great because I could easily carry it from one school to another and set it up in under 5 minutes. The youth really liked hitting with Robo-Pong and we started using it as a reward to hit with Robo-Pong. Lastly, I would carry it to the school before the league started and use it for a demonstration and to excite the youth about playing.

(Editor's note: This is an excellent example of how Robo-Pong can be used in a school program. Newgy School Program uses Robo-Pong as an essential element to provide excitement and a sense of uniqueness. Robo-Pong also provides an equal opportunity to all students to participate in the program. And lastly, combining Robo-Pong with Pong-Master gives the students immediate feedback as they are learning a new stroke and rewards them when they improve their strokes enough to be able to beat the robot.)

BUYING YOUR FIRST RACKET 0

By Larry Thoman

This following question was posed on the table tennis newsgroup, rec.sport.table-tennis, by Henry Berlin:

I was recently told that when buying one's first racket, it is a good idea to get a blade designed for good control, but to get more offensive rubbers because it's important to get used to the feel of rubbers you'll use when you're better. Any thoughts on this would be greatly appreciated.

To which I replied:

Henry, you ask a good question, one that does not have a simple answer. Many coaches at present believe in starting their students with the type of racket your describe - a medium speed, flexible blade with spinny/fast rubber on it. With diligent practice, I believe this is a good strategy, but only if you're committed to practice many hours a week with this type of racket.

There are several dangers to this: (1) If you don't have a coach to help mold your strokes and improve your technique, the fast rubber often leads to shortened strokes and letting the rubber add speed/spin to your shots instead of using proper stroke technique. This often leads to a sense that you have greatly improved the speed/power of your shots, when in actuality, all you've done is use a faster/spinnier rubber. In crucial game situations, relying on the rubber instead of solid technique often leads to unnecessary losses. (2) The faster/spinnier rubbers will be harder to handle than rubbers that emphasize control. Without proper technique, your power shots will tend to go sailing off the end of the table and returning spinny serves, fast loops, and heavy chops will be very difficult.

The other prevalent theory on what to use for a starting racket is to use a medium speed, flexible blade with high control rubber on it. Use this combination to learn the basic strokes— counter, push, block, smash, beginning loop, and basic serve and serve return techniques. When you have good control over these strokes, switch to a faster, spinnier rubber and continue your development by mastering the various loop variations, learning to increase your power, and adding more complicated serve and serve return techniques. I does seem to hold true that there is some difficulty during the switchover phase as you adapt your strokes to the faster/spinnier rubber. But at least you'll have a solid foundation for your strokes already.

So which way do you go? In general, I would say that you should consider your objectives and personality. If you're committed to serious training with a coach, you tend to like power, and you don't mind spending $30-$40 per sheet of rubber, then perhaps the faster/spinnier rubber from the start is the way to go. If you're more of a recreational player and/or you play more games than you practice, I believe the second strategy would be advisable. Particularly if you're not looking to become a high level player and/or you don't want to spend a lot of money on your equipment.

In observing players (up to say 2000 or so rating), who have developed under these two theories, I can make a few generalities: (1) Players using theory one tend to have well-developed power games, but their table game often lets them down. If they're "on", they're awesome. If they're not, they look terrible. Often high control players who have good placement frustrate them. (2) Players using theory two often have well-developed table games with good ball placement but do not have strong looping games.

I developed using theory two. Even today, after playing for 29+years, I can rely on the basics to win many games, even though I seldom play any more. I still tend to view my looping game as much weaker than the rest of my game. Yes, I can loop, and loop very well, with all the many variations, but when it comes to crunch time in a tournament match, I stay with the tried and true basics of the game.

If theory two sounds more like the path you want to take, I would recommend the Newgy Applause. This is by far, in my humble opinion, the best buy for recreational grade rackets available today.

THE BENEFITS OF USING A ROBOT 0

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 atexpert@newgy.com 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.

Question: 
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?

Answer: 
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.

SWITCHING FROM ROBOT PLAY TO COMPETITION 0

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. We encourage readers to send in your own questions. You may email us atexpert@newgy.com 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. This month's question was asked by ZHOUJY. Also, with some additional sleuthing, I was able to identify the person who asked last month's question - Yves Thomas.

Question: 
Once I got used to Robo-Pong's speed, angle, placing and rhythm, I have a big disadvantage playing with human players whose hits vary so much in speed, angle, placing and spin. Although I can adjust Robo-Pong's speed, angle and placing, it does not help much. My playing skills worsened.

Answer: 
Regarding your concerns about training on the robot affecting your competitive play, please remember that robot training is only a part of a total training program. Robot training, 1-on-1 training, multi-ball training, fitness training, practice competition, tournaments, and having a good coach are all necessary for a complete training program. Using a robot will indeed accelerate development of a number of skills if used properly. As a 2100 level rated player, I can seamlessly go from playing on a robot to a competitive match with no ill effects. The secret is in how you design your training program.

The robot's biggest strength is in developing strokes and footwork. For fastest improvement, particularly in the early learning stages, it is very important to have a consistent ball to practice a new stroke against. This is exactly what the robot affords. It would be extremely difficult to learn a new stroke if every ball had a different combination of spin, speed, and placement.

This is what I would suggest: Learn a stroke on the robot until you feel very consistent against a variety of spins, speeds, and angles, practicing them one at a time. When you can handle a variety of different returns from the robot, then start working with your practice partner or coach to work in controlled drills that vary returns from shot to shot so that you can learn to modify each stroke to accommodate the type of return. This is a skill that must be practiced in a controlled practice type environment. Do not mislead yourself to think that you can practice this skill in a game or other competitive environment where your focus should be on winning points, not on developing a new skill.

Once you can modify your strokes "on the fly" to accommodate varying controlled returns, then it's time to start working this skill into practice games, where the object is to use this skill as much as possible in the game, win or lose. The last step is using this skill in actual competition. Skipping one of these steps will lead to poor results. Real improvement takes not only hard work, but working smart as well.