First Place at the U.S. Olympic Trials by Michael Landers

Jena Newgarden
I’m happy to report that I earned my spot on the United States Olympic Team by finishing in first place out of a twelve-man round robin this past weekend! This qualifies me for the next and final stage of the Olympic Trials, which will be against Canada in April.

On top of that, I’ll be going to the World Team Championships in Dortmund, Germany. Even though I feel like I’m so close to achieving my goal of becoming an Olympian, I know that there is still a long way to go and I can’t look back now. My schedule for the next two months is pretty packed in order to prepare for the upcoming tournaments. In 11 days, I’m headed back to the TopSpin Club in California for a few weeks to prepare for the World Championships. Then, I’ll fly to Frankfurt and meet up with the rest of the Men’s team to have some pre-worlds training in Grenzau, Germany.

After finishing the World Championships, I’ll fly back to San Jose for another few weeks of training there. Finally, after a few weeks, I’ll fly back to New York and pack my bags for the final stage of the Olympic Trials in Cary, North Carolina. The next few months are going to be difficult, but I’m sure that I’ll get through them and perform my best at both tournaments.

Wish me luck!

Michael Landers

Read more →

The Olympic Trials by Michael Landers

Jena Newgarden

The Olympic Trials are just a couple days away. This is what I’ve been training for since I began playing table tennis and can honestly say that I don’t have any regrets up to this day about the lifestyle that I’ve chosen to live for the past few years.

While I was in California for a month training, I stuck to a strict schedule. All I did during the day was go to the gym, eat, play table tennis and sleep. Being away from my family and friends helped me focus on what I went there to do and that helped me enormously. I’m happy to say that I will be going in to the trials knowing that I’ve prepared as much as possible and will be at my best. I’m heading down to North Carolina today to warm up. I will begin playing the trials on Friday. Hopefully, I’ll make the team. But If I don’t, I am glad that I will be able to say that I gave it my best.

Wish me luck!

Michael Landers

Read more →

The Importance of the Half-Long Ball by Michael Landers

Jena Newgarden

One of the main things that I’ve been working on during my training in California is my opening loop off of a half-long ball. In table tennis, there are three main types of balls that can be served or received (in terms of depth). The ball can either come short (the ball will bounce twice on your side if you don’t touch it), long (the ball will only bounce once on your side and will come off the end of the table), and half-long (the ball’s second bounce is very close to the edge of the table).

Many times when a match is tight the opposing player cannot control how short they serve the ball and the ball ends up coming half-long, giving you the opportunity to attack the ball. However, these types of balls take much practice to master. They require a much shorter stroke and much greater use of the wrist.

Here are a few things that you should keep in mind when attacking a half-long ball:

1. Make sure that you keep your stroke compact

2. Use a lot of wrist to spin the ball and make up for your short stroke

3. Stay as low as possible

By doing these three things, you could easily control the match and dictate each point.

Michael Landers

Read more →

What a Great Workout! by Michael Landers

Jena Newgarden
2011 has officially come to an end, and what a year it has been!  Lately I’ve been asking everyone at the gym that I go to what their resolutions are for the New Year.  I wasn’t surprised at all that the majority told me either that they want to lose some weight or just improve their overall health by exercising more. 

I then brought them down into the room where I practice with my Newgy Robo-Pong 2050 table tennis robot and challenged them to see if they could keep up with the robot for a full minute without losing their breath.  Needless to say, all of them began to sweat profusely and were amazed at just how physical playing table tennis can be.

Let’s face it, gym memberships are expensive and tons of dedication. Robo-Pong provides a great workout while having fun at the same time. Also, setting up your Robo-Pong is effortless, and practicing with it will help you lose weight, improve your endurance, and help you to become a ping-pong® master!  So, if one of your resolutions for the New Year is to get in shape, Robo-Pong is definitely for you!

Michael Landers

Read more →

End of Year Update from Michael Landers

Jena Newgarden

Whew, it’s been a long year! After playing in two of the largest tournaments of the year, I’m exhausted.  I’ve been tempted to take a short one week break from table tennis, but I know that I have to keep training and preparing for the Olympic Trials in February.

I spent New Year’s Eve in New York City. What a blast that was! I plan on practicing with my Newgy Robo-Pong 2050table tennis robot this week and working out at the gym. Even though I’m not taking a real break like I would like to, I’ll try to at least get a little bit more sleep.

This next month is going to be crucial in my preparation for the trials, so I’m headed back to California for three weeks to the World Champions Table Tennis Academy.

I hope everyone had a happy New Year and most importantly, stayed safe!

Michael Landers

Read more →

Making Use of Service Practice by Michael Landers

Jena Newgarden
Chances are that you’ve heard someone say, “I would have beaten them if it weren’t for that nasty serve that they had.” If you think about it, your service is really the only part of each point that you have total control over in table tennis. You are the only person who dictates where the ball will go, what spin it will have, and how fast it will be. Though service practice is often overlooked, it is a necessity for any top player.

The smartest way to practice your service is by taking your time on each ball and pretending that you’re in a tight match. If you have noticed, it’s quite difficult to serve short with decent amount of spin whenever the match is close and near the end of the game. It is very important to take your time on each serve while practicing to simulate match play. When I was younger, I would place 3-4 balls in my hand at a time and just keep serving one after another, which I later found out was not useful in the least bit.

Here are a couple of tips you can use to help you make the most out of your serving practice:

· Serve one ball at a time

· Be patient with your serves

· Begin serving short without a lot of spin- as you get more consistent you can gradually add different types of spins

· Study some videos of the top players’ serves- the contact, spins, placements, etc.

· Experiment! – This is VERY important. Try to create your own serves and see what works. Chances are you may develop a weapon of your own!

Good luck and happy practicing!

Michael Landers

Read more →

Stroke Repetition for Beginners by Michael Landers

Jena Newgarden
It is a well-known fact that practice makes perfect. It’s virtually impossible to just get good at something overnight. Just like in any other sport, muscle-memory is extremely important in table tennis. When I was younger, my coach would have me stand in front of a wall for 20 minutes each day practicing my forehand stroke. In table tennis, stroke repetition is possibly the most important method for a beginner. It is an absolute necessity to have a basic stroke that is exactly the same every time before you can move on to more advanced play. If your arm movement deviates too much, developing a more advanced stroke in the future is nearly impossible. Many players who never had a coach to show them how to properly hit the ball use the unorthodox strokes they learned in their basement and find it difficult to improve their game. By learning how to hit a correct forehand and backhand, the chances of improvement are greatly enhanced. There are so many table tennis players who maxed out their potential due to the sole reason of not learning the game correctly. The basic forehand stroke should go something like this:

You should start somewhere around your hip and finish in line with your forehead. By accomplishing this, you put yourself in the right spot for becoming a better player.

Other info:

Many newcomers to the sport of table tennis never learn one important thing: the proper stance while hitting the ball. It’s important to position your legs correctly so that you are properly balanced. For right-handed players, you should position your left leg a tiny bit in front of your right, enabling you to get into a rhythm while rallying forehand to forehand. While hitting the ball, try to transfer your weight from your right leg forward. For left-handed players, do the opposite. (Right leg in front of left) Make sure your legs are positioned correctly and remember the stroke: low to high – this generates the spin on the ball, thus making it arc over the net and landing on the other side of the table.

How to practice:

To practice these first steps to becoming a champion, set your Newgy Robo-Pong table tennis robot on a relatively low frequency and speed. Have the robot dispense the ball to your forehand and do so for about 20-30 minutes every day. When I was younger, I would do the same with my Robo-Pong every night. I quickly saw an improvement in my game. If done correctly, you’ll be ready to move onto the next step in little to no time at all.

Good luck and have fun!

Michael Landers

Read more →

A Training Move by Michael Landers

Jena Newgarden
Earlier this year I decided to move my table tennis training inside the gym that my trainer owns. I placed a top-of-the-line Cornilleau ping-pong® table along with a Newgy Robo-Pong 2050 table tennis robot inside the large wooden-floored space in the downstairs part of the gym. I have been training with the robot and lifting weights nearly every single day since.

Now, I don’t have to travel all the way to the city for training, and have a huge space with high ceilings to play matches with people in, unlike my house. Everything has been working out great thus far, and my friends at the gym are starting to see how much of a workout table tennis can actually be with the Robo-Pong. Having the Robo-Pong in the gym is great because it allows me to train by myself and also teach and correct others’ strokes without having to feed them balls by hand. A few people there already want robots for themselves and are looking into it!

Michael Landers

Read more →

How to Prepare for a Tournament – by Michael Landers

Jena Newgarden
Proper preparation is necessary if you want to play your best at a table tennis tournament. First of all, eating a big, healthy breakfast gives your body the energy it needs throughout the morning during matches. Usually, morning table tennis matches start around nine o’clock, so breakfast is an absolute must. Some feel that eating a large breakfast will upset their stomachs and choose not to eat at all. The problem with this is that without food, the body will not have any energy. If you don’t eat breakfast, your body will not have received food since dinner the night before. That’s a long time without eating any food. Eating during the tournament helps as well. Try to keep some power bars on hand or some kind of light food that helps to provide energy, as well as lots of water.

Stretching and warming up correctly are extremely important as well. A proper warm-up and stretch should last 20-30 minutes and should consist of jogging/biking and stretching. Without warming up, your body is prone to injury. After stretching, try doing some drills on the ping-pong® table to get your feet moving.

Getting an adequate amount of sleep the night before a tournament is also quite important. You definitely don’t want to be tired while playing. Not getting enough sleep can cause your mind to cloud up, causing frustration and poor match play.

Following these tips will definitely help you to perform your best in your next table tennis tournament.

Good luck!

Michael Landers

Read more →

An Update from Michael Landers

Jena Newgarden
I got back from my three week Euro-trip recently and now I’m trying to finish up with all of the schoolwork that I missed. I’ve cut down on my table tennis training by a lot. I’m only practicing two days a week in order to get caught up with school. However, I’m still going to the gym for physical training five times a week just to stay in shape. I’m also practicing with the Newgy Robo-Pong table tennis robot a few minutes a night just to get a feel for the ball.

I’m not sure what my plans for this summer are. I may go to China or Germany, but right now I’m just focusing on catching up with all of the work. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to attend the U.S. Open. My next major table tennis tournament isn’t until late August, so now is sort of an off-season for me. I’m hoping to finish everything with school as quickly as possible and get back to training!

Michael Landers

Read more →