Six Different Ways Table Tennis Students Learn

Newgy Robo-Pong

For decades, table tennis coaches world-wide have been teaching all of their students in a similar way.  As we open the NEW Samson Dubina Table Tennis Academy in the spring of 2019, we will be re-structuring the daily training in both private lessons and group classes to meet the needs of each individual table tennis player here in Akron, Ohio.  We believe that each person is unique and requires his/her own personal approach.  Here is a breakdown of the different ways table tennis students learn:


This student does well by trying a new table tennis skill – like trying to serve that new serve, trying to balance properly, trying that new movement, trying to play the correct timing.  With personally trying it out, the player can best learn the new skill. 


This student does well by seeing the new table tennis skill – in person with his coach, in a YouTube video, or even in a photo.  As this student can visualize the correct way to do it, he can learn to imitate the new skill.


This student does well by reading or listening to instructions about the new table tennis skill – drawing charts and diagrams on the dry-erase board helps the linguistic learner quickly improve his new skills.


This student does well by understanding the Whys – why does a topspin ball dip down in the air…  Why does the first bounce on the deep serve need to be to this location…  Why does the ball react differently when my opponent is using long pips or anti-spin rubber? 


This student often does well in a group – discussing various table tennis tactics and techniques and feeling teamwork in partnering with others.  Table tennis is usually seen as an individual sport, but some find it much more enjoyable and exciting to learn new skills together as a group or team.


This student often does well learning alone in a private table tennis lesson with a coach where he can focus exclusively on small details. 

If you are a table tennis coach, consider adjusting the way you teach table tennis, especially if your traditional methods don’t always work.  If you are a table tennis player, consider what type of learner you are and adjust your training routine accordingly.  For example, if you aren’t able to understand how to move well, maybe you are a visual learner…   So, consider spending 15-20 minutes watching online videos each day of professional table tennis players in training and tournaments and seeing how, when, and why they move.  Also, consider explaining it to your coach so that he better understands how to teach you. 

In closing, realize that some of the learning types do overlap.  You need to be able to intellectually understand the skill, you need to be able to visualize the correct movement, you need to be able to explain it, you need to be able to do it in training, and you need to develop the confidence to use it in match play!

Samson Dubina

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Different Types of Table Tennis Coaches

Newgy Robo-Pong

Most table tennis players believe that there are two types of table tennis coaches – type A and type B.  It is true, that 99% of the coaches that I personally have met fall roughly into one of these categories. Today, I’m going to present type C. 

Type A

This table tennis coach does a good job feeding his students with plenty of information.  In private lessons and group lessons, this coach is very excited and eager to quickly offer information and feedback to his players, point by point.  The benefit is that the player gets plenty of quick feedback.  The downside is that the player isn’t taught to think for himself because he is always being spoon fed all the info session after session.

Type B

This table tennis coach knows the value of learning through successes and failures.  Instead of talking a lot during the lesson, he just gives the player the appropriate drills and he has the player work through problems on his own.  The benefit is that the player knows he needs to think on his own and often does think on his own.  The downside is that the player isn’t getting the benefit of the coach’s expertise; the coach’s job is to take the player where he can’t take himself.  Without the detailed insight from the coach, the player might take two years to develop a table tennis skill that should take six months.

Most table tennis coaches will say that they are a nice blend of A and B.  But I would like for you to consider C, which I personally think is the best type of table tennis coach.

Type C

This table tennis coach typically coaches in question form.  Instead of feeding answers to his player, he asks him questions throughout the group lesson or private lesson.  This allows the coach to know what the player is thinking.  This also forces the player to think about what is going and problem-solve, just like in a table tennis match.  This also changes the mindset from that master/slave mindset to more of a team mindset, where the coach and player are discussing it together, working toward the same goal.  So how does it play out? 

Scenario #1

The player is warming up his forehand loop and the coach asks the player what he is focusing on.  The player responds by saying that he is targeting looping deeper.  The coach asks if he has reached his goal in looping deeper.  The player says no.  The coach asks what the player can do differently.  After briefly considering, the player thinks of the solution and the coach agrees.  What happened here?  The coach had no idea what the player was thinking.  By asking the question, the coach realized that the player really did have a goal but wasn’t reaching the goal.  Instead of offering quick advice, the coach had the player discover the solution.  This coaching is much better because typically knowledge that is self-learned sticks longer.

Scenario #2

The player is playing some points during a group table tennis training session and has backhand flipped the same backspin serve into the net 6 times.  After the 6th mistake, the coach asks the player if he realized how he was repeatedly missing the same serve in the same manner.  The player said that he realized it, but still felt that flipping that serve was the best option.  The coach asked why.  The player mentions that against his particular opponent, flipping was a much better option than pushing.  The coach asks the player how he is going to adjust so that he doesn’t make the same mistake again.  The player said that he was going to get there faster with his feet for his backhand flip, wait slightly longer, relax his grip, and focus on generating more spin with location instead of just hitting flat.  The coach accepts it as a reasonable solution and continues watching as the player goes about his task of problem-solving throughout the drill.

There are literally hundreds of scenarios that I can give, but I hope that you understand this distinction.  The Type C Table Tennis Coach is able to understand the thinking of the player, is able to give some guidance, and also is able to allow the player to work through the problem on his own while directing the player’s thinking with insightful questions.

Samson Dubina

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Advice for New and Aspiring Table Tennis Coaches

Jena Newgarden
Have you been thinking about becoming a Table Tennis Coach, or did you recently start coaching?

Many new and aspiring table tennis coaches talk to me about improving their coaching skills.  I feel that the most important aspect is developing credibility early on.

So how do you establish credibility if you aren’t the best table tennis player or coach, and haven’t coached any elite students yet? You quote.

Quoting world class table tennis players, world class table tennis coaches, and showing pertinent videos to your students, will help them see you in that level of the sport. For example, if you recently read a coaching article by Liu Guoliang about the forehand drop shot, then consider teaching your students that stroke.  At the end of the lesson, you can read the article to them and possibly show them a video of some top table tennis players performing the forehand drop shot.  Your students will be able to see that you yourself can properly convey the information while validating your sources.

As your students begin to trust you more and more, then you won’t need to quote quite as often.  Just remember that quoting gives you credibility while showing that you are up-to-date with teaching the best table tennis techniques in the world.

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Table Tennis Players/Students – Avoid This Word

Jena Newgarden
I “can’t

On a daily basis, many of my table tennis students say the words, I “can’t” as it relates to learning a new stroke,  learning a new serve, enduring through physical training, and many other table tennis related activities.

As a table tennis coach, when I hear a player say these words, here is what I’m hearing:






Often, when a player has declared that he can’t do something, then he will stop giving his best effort or give up all together.  Therefore, I no longer allow my students to use these words.  Instead, I ask them to say something like: I haven’t fully developed it yet and I’m working toward my goals!

Positive thinking equals positive results in table tennis.

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