11 Ways of Improving While At Home

Newgy Robo-Pong

Do you have a Newgy table tennis robot? Is your robot training boring? Yes, possibly, if you are knocking the same ball into a machine for 6 hours/day. What can you do to make your robot sessions more interesting and more effective for your improvement during this lockdown? In this new coaching article, I'm going to briefly outline 11 things that you can do to make your robot sessions at home more effective! Try them out and let us know what you think!

#1Add Variations
There are two aspects of rallies - adjusting for the incoming ball and making the opponents adjust to your shots. The same thing applies to robot training - you need to setup drills that give variations to you so that you need to adjust, and at the same time giving variations to the imagined opponent... speed variations, spin variations, placement variations, height variations, depth variations, and shot type variations.

#2 Simulate Real Games
You will have your most focused training sessions when you picture a real opponent - think about your current rival - Kanak Jha or Matt Hetherington or Adam Bobrow or Roger Dickson or Chester Taylor or Erick Chamblee on the other side of the table. Setup scenarios that they often play, such as... short serve to the forehand followed up by consistent rally to the backhand followed by a fast punch to the middle. Setup 4 or 5 or 6 ball games. In order to score, you need to make the 5 balls on. Keep score to 11 and see if you can make progress during the coming days in beating Mike Boyd

#3 Be Efficient
Before starting any robot training day, make a plan to what you are doing. Start off with doing 20-30 min/day with goals for each drill and times for each drill. Between drills, use the time efficiently and mix in serve practice and/or fitness training.

#4 Count Your Hits
When playing against an opponent, you realize that you lost the first game 11-1 and are down 8-2 in the second. When playing with the robot, you don't get feedback on your successes. So start counting. Do a drill with 20 balls and see if you can land 16/20 every time. If you are getting 20/20, then push the limits for added speed, added depth, or different variations on your own shots. If you are getting 8/20, then focus more on consistency aspects - are you getting in the right position, are you timing it correctly, are you watching the ball fully to your racket - are you playing within your most consistent zone. If you aren't counting, you probably don't know exactly how you are doing.

#5 Record Yourself
You likely have a smartphone or tablet. Record your drills and watch them during water breaks. Learn to coach yourself. No matter what level you are, it is important to have a personal coach. In addition to your personal coach, you also need to be giving yourself advice session by session... drill by drill... and even hit by hit! What kinds of thing should you be looking for? The list is endless, by here are a few things for starters.
How is your distance from the table?
How is your response to the incoming ball?
How is your feeling or action on the ball?
How is your placement?
How is your recovery for the next hit?
How is your breathing?
And thousands of other observations...

#6 Have Fun With Robot Positions
The most underused aspect of robot training is changing the position of the robot in your table tennis room. Try putting it on a chair and moving it back from the table - move it to the side of the table - even move it on the floor and have it throw lobs to the ceiling. Different positions give you a different feel, and that is really what you want. You don't want to be getting the same exact ball again and again. You want variations... sometimes simulating Sarah Jalli firing hard from point blank range and sometimes simulating Chance Friend at mid-distance and sometimes simulating Sid Khandelwal lobbing sidespin from the barrier. The more variation you get, the more you are practicing for real opponents - it makes it more challenging and more enjoyable.

#7 Try Something New
Are you stuck at home for weeks on end with no tournaments in sight? Well NOW is the time to try something new. Develop an off-speed block or learn a sidespin push or experiment with a backhand chop or practice looping around the net or learn to loop from different positions to different positions or experiment with the Yoshimura serve. Adding some new things to your game could pay off BIG TIME in the future and now is the season to try it.

#8 Focus on Placement
When playing against a human, it is vitally important to be consistent so that you can both get a good training session. It is tough to push the placement limits during a footwork drill trying to go for extremely angled shots or extremely deep loops in the last 4" of the table. However, the robot doesn't care if you miss!!! Think about that. Now is your chance to really learn to hit wide with precision. Consider even adding targets to the table. Just make sure the targets aren't too small. I once had to do a robot repair with someone who got an action figure jammed in the robot!

#9 Do It Together
Now is the best time to connect with your family. Instead of doing robot training by yourself in the garage, ask your wife or son or daughter to join you! Set the robot up for a beginner drill - they do a 2 min beginner drill and you do a 2 min advanced drill. Robot training is something fun for the whole family!

#10 Take Notes
You will have better sessions if you spend just a few minutes on note-taking! Before you begin, take 1-2 min to write down some goals for the session, write notes on your progress during the session, and write some closing thoughts. You have heard the expression, "If you don't know where you are going, any road will get you there." This is true for your robot sessions as well. Map out your session and see if you can reach your goals!

#11 Upload Your Session to Social Media
We would love to see what you are doing at home. Record a 1-min session and upload it to Instagram or Facebook or even Youtube. Send us a link and let us know how your sessions are going. We would love to see how this article impacted your robot sessions and would love to see you having FUN and making progress during this difficult time! Be safe & stay home!

Samson Dubina

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Table Tennis Tips – Short and to the Point

Jena Newgarden
I have written hundreds of table tennis articles and blogs throughout my career as a professional table tennis player and coach.   I realize that sometimes it can seem overwhelming to try to figure out which articles to read and which tips that you should be applying to your game.  For this reason, I have written this summary article which will summarize many of the table tennis tips I discuss in my articles in just one sentence – short and to the point.

When developing a good loop, focus on spin rather than speed.

When developing a good push, contact the ping-pong ball early and keep the ball low with spin.

When developing a good block, try to bend your knees, lean forward, get your feet in position, and relax your grip on your table tennis racket.

When developing a good smash, focus on getting your feet in position first then take your backswing to the appropriate height depending on the ball placement, ball depth, ball height, and spin.

When developing a good serve, focus on serving low with spin while using the serves that best setup your game, training them in a table tennis tournament environment, varying the quality of spin, and using them in practice matches as well.

When developing a good serve return, focus on having the proper ready-position, reading the spin from your opponent’s table tennis racket, moving to the ball, reading the bounce, then adjusting and readjusting just before contact.

When developing a good table tennis strategy, focus on your opponent’s strengths, weaknesses, serve, and serve return.

When developing a good perspective on winning and losing in table tennis, read the book 7 Days in Utopia.

When developing a good level of confidence, remember that: trust is a must or your game is a bust.

When developing a good deception, focus on varying the spin, speed, placement, and type of shot while still staying within your means to maintain at least 70% consistency.

When developing a good base of physical training, focus on lower body and core strength and speed – focus on speed and flexibility, not bulky muscle.

When developing a good table tennis tournament plan, be sure to set goals – when you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.

When developing good rallies in table tennis, focus on anticipating the incoming ball based on the placement of your hit, the type of your hit, the spin of your hit, watching your opponent’s racket, while watching the incoming ball.

When developing a good tournament game, try to play at least one table tennis tournament per month to test your skills and test your ability to perform well under pressure.

When developing a good strategy against loopers, try to attack first and force them to block or lob.

When developing a good strategy against blockers, be patience and work the point until you are ready to hit a winner.

When developing a good strategy against choppers, try to attack the middle often and move them in-and-out instead of side to side.

When developing a good strategy against lobbers, try to see which balls are hitting near the net (smash down) and which balls are hitting near your endline (smash forward).

When developing a good strategy against lefties, try to expose the wide forehand with explosive loops then curve wide the backhand when they are away from the ping-pong table.

When developing a good strategy against long pips, try to push deep to the pips in order to get an easy no-spin ball to loop.

When developing a good strategy against female table tennis players, try to loop with plenty of spin deep on the table, which will be difficult for them to smash or block.

When developing a good power shot, focus on using your core muscles while relaxing your arm as much as possible – at contact, focus on the acceleration.

When developing a good mental game, try to focus on the performance and strategy rather than the benefits of winning or the consequences of losing.

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Coaching at Tournaments by Samson Dubina

Jena Newgarden
Encouraging and coaching fellow club members at tournaments is one of best aspects of a competition. In this article, I’m going to outline how to coach another player between games. If I were coaching a friend or student, here is what I might possibly say.

Good game – you ended strong with a nice comeback.

He is having difficulty when you attack first into his wide forehand; try to open most of your loops to his wide forehand side. Once the rally begins, your opponent nearly always backs off the table. Once he is far from the table, his backhand with pips gets pretty weak.

Remember to keep using your strong loops; stay close; be aggressive; and try to play long rallies. You are much more consistent than he is in the long rallies.

The above coaching had 3 parts:

#1 Positive Comment

Good game – you ended strong with a nice comeback.

Your friend needs to see that you are on his side. Don’t start arguing with him; stay positive!

#2 Two Observations

He is having difficulty when you attack first into his wide forehand; try to open most of your loops to his wide forehand side. Once the rally begins, your opponent nearly always backs off the table. Once he is far from the table, his backhand with pips gets pretty weak.

You are suggesting some game sequences that worked very well for him during the previous game.

#3 Reminder About Using One’s Strengths

Remember to keep using your strong loops; stay close; be aggressive; and try to play long rallies. You are much more consistent than he is in the long rallies.

Giving your friend positive reminders is one of the best ways to build his confidence.

Samson Dubina

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Tournament Handicap Events by Samson Dubina

Jena Newgarden
This event is open to all participants. This is not an event for disabled people nor does it count for rating. This is the only event in a tournament where all participants have an equal opportunity to win. In this event, the higher rated player is “handicapped” because he gives the lower player points. The match is played 1 game to 31 points. The amount of handicap will depend on your rating vs. your opponent’s rating.

For example:

Bob is rated at 890 and Sue is rated at 1124. Because Bob is 234 points lower, he will start the game with an 8 point lead.

Wang is rated at 1560 and Steven is rated at 2577. Because Wang is 1017 points lower, he will start the game with a 25 point lead.

If 2 players are very closely rated, they both start at zero, there is no handicap.

This event is fun yet very competitive because everyone has an equal chance to win. If you are entering a tournament to win money in the main events, it is a great consolation event if you don’t walk home with your desired result. If you are playing in the recreational events, it is a great opportunity to beat one of the “top guys.”

Samson Dubina

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Write Out a Game Plan by Samson Dubina

Jena Newgarden
All serious table tennis players should have a long term goal. This requires hard work over an extended period of time. To make each practice session more effective, it is important to write out an exact game plan. In this article, I’m going to ask you many questions about your game. Get a notebook and write out answers to each of the following questions. Once you have answered these questions, it will be easy for you to write detailed strategies on how to progress your game.

During the next year, look to improve one level; this is a great starting point. If your rating is under 1000, then a level is about 300 points. From 1000-2000 rated, a level is about 200 points. From 2000-2600, a level is about 100 points. Over 2600, a level is about 50 points. Your goal should be to improve your game, not your rating. Your USATT rating just gives a starting point to make your goal.

Start out by watching many players who are one level above yours and ask yourself the following questions listed below. Once you have answered these questions, you should have a good idea of what your weaknesses are. It is very important to continue practicing your strengths as well as improving your weaknesses.

How are their serves better than mine?

Do they have more spin?

Do they have better placement?

Do they have more spin/placement variation?

Do they keep with bounce lower?

Do they disguise the backswing, contact point, and follow through better than I do?

Serving practice is one of the fastest ways to improve. You just need a table and a bucket of balls. Focus on keeping your short serves spinny and low with good variation. Focus on keeping your long serves fast as a surprise with good placement.

How are their serve returns better than mine?

Are they able to attack the long serves?

Are they able to control the short serves with a variety of returns – flip, drop, and long push?

Are they able to adjust to different spins?

Are they able to keep the ball low enough?

The best way to progress your serve return game is to play against many different opponents by playing at different table tennis clubs and tournaments. Instead of merely trying to touch the ball back onto the table, learn how to stroke the ball onto the table using spin. Your opponent’s spin will affect you less and you will be making it more difficult for your opponent on the next ball.

How are their attacks better than mine?

Are they able to attack with more power?

Are they able to attack with better placement?

Are they able to attack more consistently?

Are they able to attack with both forehand and backhand?

Are they able to counterattack against an attack?

Are they able to consistently attack both backspin and topspin?

Most likely, power is not the main problem. The main difference is usually ball placement and consistency. If you attempt ten opening loops in the first game and miss five of them, it’s like spotting your opponent five points before the game even begins.

How is their defense better than mine?

Are they able to return many different loops?

Are they able to combine both offense and defense?

Are they able to vary their defense?

Are they able to adjust to different kinds of attacks coming at them?

Many attackers only focus on attacking. In tournaments, you cannot always attack first. In this case, you will need to learn how to block, chop, or counterloop. If you have no defense at all, you probably won’t move to the next level.

How is their footwork better than mine?

Are they able to make small steps and adjust for every ball?

Are they able to make long dives to save a wide ball?

Are they able to move forward and adjust in for the slow block?

Are they able to move in-and-out faster for the short ball?

Footwork is one of the main reasons that top players are very consistent. This takes time to develop. If you improve your balance and footwork, you will see long-term benefits.

How are their game patterns?

Most players have very common patterns that they consistently play again and again. Some players have very fast serves followed by hard smashes. Some have well-placed opening loops followed by killer forehand loops. Some have heavy pushes followed by a wide block. If you have several patterns that you can force onto your opponent, it becomes much easier to win a few cheap points each game.

How are they able to adjust to the playing conditions?

Are they able to quickly adjust to strange tables, balls, floor, and lighting?

Do they have a pre-game warm-up and stretching routine?

Most top players will arrive at a tournament venue three days in advance to adjust to the conditions and prepare well. Even if you can’t arrive three days early, I suggest that you arrive at least two hours early to do some light jogging, stretching, basic warm-up, footwork, points, rest, and then another brief warm-up just prior to your match.

After you have answered these questions, highlight the areas that you feel are keeping you from that level. Each month, take up the task of improving two of your biggest weaknesses. Every month, review these questions and update your answers based on how your game is progressing. Hire a professional coach to give you guidance on how to improve long term. Changes take time, so be persistent in practice and look to have great results within one year.

Remember to also keep practicing your strengths! By keeping your strengths strong and improving your weaknesses, you will be on your way to the next level.

Samson Dubina

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Stepping Forward by Samson Dubina

Jena Newgarden

In table tennis, footwork is important for all levels. Using the Newgy Robo-Pong 2050 is one of the best ways to improve footwork. Most players try to improve their side-to-side footwork, which is important. However, only a few players try to improve their in-and-out footwork.

In-and-out footwork is vitally important for the slow block, especially when you are away from the table. Watch how Joo Se Hyuk demonstrates the stepping in on this video.

Using the Newgy Robo-Pong 2050, I go to:

  1. Normal Mode
  2. Topspin
  3. Head Angle 8
  4. Speed 12
  5. L Position 10
  6. R Position 20
  7. Wait 1.40
  8. Oscillator ON
  9. Speed Random 5

This drill will give me varied depths of balls to my forehand. I focus on staying away from the table, then stepping forward for the slow ball. I suggest adding this drill to your daily training routine; you will be seeing major improvements in just a couple weeks.

Samson Dubina

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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

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What Do I Do When I Am Losing by Samson Dubina

Jena Newgarden
I am playing a very important match in a table tennis tournament; I am losing 2-0 in games and now losing 5-0 in the third game. What should I do?

The first thing is… Never give up! I have won many table tennis matches because of a third-game comeback. My opponent starts crying to himself that he should have finished the match and the momentum swings to me.

The second thing is… Call time out. A friend or coach might be able to give me tips, insights, or encouragement which could really help.

The third thing to consider is… Am I missing, or is he dominating? If I’m having an off-day, which particular shots am I missing? If I’m making many backhand errors, why not move better and play more forehand. If I’m not flipping the short ball well, why not push. If my opponent is dominating, which particular shot is he winning most of his points with? See if I can devise a plan to take away his strengths.

The final thing to consider is… Maybe I should try a totally different strategy. I might try pushing and blocking instead of all-out attacking. It can’t hurt. I could even play further from the ping-pong® table or closer to the table. Even with a strategy change for a couple points, my opponent might make a few errors and allow me back into the game.

Samson Dubina

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Helping Others in Table Tennis by Samson Dubina

Jena Newgarden
Everyone starts table tennis as a beginner. No one picks up a racket for the first time and is 2000+ level.

Probably along your way to greatness, there have been players who have helped you.

I first started table tennis at age twelve when I was invited to a local church for competitive table tennis. As a beginner, I received free tips from local club members who encouraged me in the right direction. My game greatly benefitted from these tips and I quickly excelled past them. There are two primary things that I want to suggest:

#1 Don’t forget who helped you. As a mature player, thank those players who have helped develop your game. Even if you are three levels better than them now, remember they were the ones who helped you achieve greatness. Encourage those same players to continue developing more players.

#2 Help the newbies. Remember back to when you were a beginner and walked in to a table tennis club for the first time. Welcome beginners to help them along. Years later, they may be thanking you for your advice that pushed them to be world champion! If you help others, you will feel better about yourself and know that you have improved another member in the table tennis community.

#3 Be a team. When you and other club members go to a tournament, help each other out. Even if you don’t have any technical coaching advice, be willing to encourage and cheer for other club members.

Samson Dubina

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Perfecting Your Serve by Samson Dubina

Jena Newgarden
Improving your serve is the fastest way to progress your table tennis game. In this article, I will be outlining nine ways that I personally use to perfect my serve:

#1 Use the serves that best setup your game

#2 Train them in a tournament environment

#3 Miss some serves

#4 Use your best serves early

#5 Vary the quality of spin

#6 Remember to attack

#7 Be willing to sacrifice a couple points

#8 Train them to perfection

#9 Play practice matches

The most important aspect to serving is to use the serves that most effectively setup your game. Even if you can’t win the point with an “ace”, at least you can setup the point to play the style you want to play. Take the time now to outline a detailed game-plan so that you can have a clear understanding of your style and the strengths in your game. If you are a looper, then most of your serves should be short, low backspin. If you are a pips-out attacker, you should serve mostly fast long with good placement. If you are a chopper, then you should serve deep spinny serves. Once you have determined which serves best setup your game, now develop a motion in which you can serve either short or long with the same motion and at least two different spins with the same motion.

When practicing your serves, do them in a tournament environment. First, try to be tired when you serve. Do jumping jacks or footwork so that your hand will be sweaty and it will be challenging to concentrate. Second, practice in tournament conditions. Try to use a tournament table and 3-star ping-pong® balls so that the bounce will be similar to what you will be using in the tournament. If you are trying to serve short, the ball will probably go slightly longer in the tournament. For this reason, I suggest covering the last three inches on the opponent’s side of the ping-pong® table when you serve. This will force you to serve slightly shorter during practice. Third, when doing serve practice, think of specific opponents. What serves have worked well against this opponent previously? How would this particular opponent receive this serve? Fourth, use these same serves at the club. Don’t save your serves for a tournament – be willing to use them in practice matches.

In practice, you should try to put so much spin on the ball, that you will miss about 25% of your serves. If you are not missing any serves, that is a good indication that you are not trying hard enough. In tournaments, you should usually miss about one serve per match. If you miss too many serves, you will be hurting yourself.

By serving your best serves early, you can build an initial lead in the match and gain confidence. I recently beat an opponent who had a very tricky serve. In three games, I only returned one out of seven of these particular tricky serves. However, I won the match 3-0 in games. Once the serve started working, he should have continued using it. He wanted to save it for “a closer”, which never came because he lost 3-0 in games.

As I mentioned in the above paragraph, if a serve is working, keep using it! If you change your serve too often, you might confuse yourself. Instead of jumping from one serve to another, sometimes use the same serve with the same spin, but vary the quality of spin. For example, on the forehand pendulum serve, I might sometimes serve heavy back-sidespin sometimes medium and sometimes light. My opponent probably won’t outright miss my serve, but he may give me an easier return.

Remember to attack. Your serve will seem ten times more threatening if it is backed by a vicious attack. If your opponent is trying to keep you from attacking, he will make many mistakes trying to keep the ball short and low. Personally, my serves work the best when my attacking game is at its best.

During the game, be willing to sacrifice a couple points. Many players are afraid to serve long against a looper, so they always serve short. This allows the looper to stay closer to the table when returning serve and be prepared for the short serve. Sometimes you must serve fast down-the-line or to the backhand just to keep the opponent guessing. You might lose a point, but all your short serves will be much more effective later.

When practicing serves, train them to perfection. Focus for 30 minutes on one particular serve. Take your time and analyze it serve by serve – what you did right and what you did wrong. Study how the world’s top table tennis players serve that particular serve, by watching their backswing, body movement, contact point, racket angle, follow through, and ball positioning. Also, be willing to hire a professional table tennis coach to help perfect your main serve.

The final link to professional serves is to use them in actual games. Use them in practice matches and use them in tournaments. Improving your serve is the fastest way to progress your game. Use the nine techniques listed above and you will be seeing excellent results within a few weeks!

Samson Dubina

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