Go from Good to Better to Best in Your Table Tennis Practice and Matches

Jena Newgarden

Most table tennis players have “good” practice sessions on a weekly basis but they aren’t the “best.”  Many players continue practicing the same things over and over without pushing themselves to improve their spin, placement, variation, power and shot selection.

There are improvements that you personally need to make this week during your table tennis training and practice matches.  Make a note card and keep it beside the ping pong table.  Before each point in practice and matches, glance at the note card to remind yourself of what you need to work on.

Here are some examples of a few things that you might need to focus on. Remember to:

1. Lean forward

2. Keep my table tennis racket up

3. Watch the contact point when returning a serve

4. Wait on the ball, watch the bounce, read the spin, then contact the ball when returning serve

5. Spin the ball and focus on friction, not force

6. Contact the ball low when I am serving

7. Glance at my opponent prior to serving

8. Get back into my ready position after I serve

9. Adjust my feet based on the position of my hit

10. Watch my opponent’s racket and re-adjust my feet based on what I see

11. Be patient in working the point

12. Have confidence in my loops and complete the stroke

13. Attack the majority of the balls against my opponent’s middle transition point

There are literally thousands of things that you could write on that little note card as reminders.  However, I recommend that you choose two things to focus on each session.  Review after the session on how you did.  Did you actually do your “best” in applying these things in order to improve your table tennis practice sessions and matches?

The good, better, best principle applies to table tennis matches as well.  Are you checked out of the match just because your opponent is 300 points higher?  Do you have a defeated attitude because you have lost to this opponent the previous five times?  Do you feel that you will have a bad table tennis tournament because you only slept three hours the night before?  Do you lack confidence because you didn’t properly warm-up?  Don’t give up before you start!  And of course, don’t give up during the match either!

I’m not asking you to do the death crawl or to begin some Rocky Balboa style fitness program.  All I’m asking you to do is give it your best.

Give your best physically

When you are training with your Robo-Pong table tennis robot, be disciplined in keeping your knees bent and be disciplined in moving for each ball – no reaching and leaning allowed.  When you are playing matches at the table tennis club and are tired after the third match, don’t go home.  Push yourself to play five more matches more than you think that you can play.

Give your best mentally

Instead of allowing your mind to wander off and think about your favorite TV show, do your best to stay in the moment; use every moment at the ping pong table to perfect your skills.

Give your best emotionally

When things aren’t going your way, stop whining and having a sour attitude.  Grow up, be mature, and emotionally get back in the game.  Unfortunately, losses have an accumulative effect.  After a loss, be willing to pick yourself up and give your best.

Give your best tactically

Throughout the table tennis match, be ready to evaluate and re-evaluate your current tactics and be willing to change if necessary.  Be disciplined enough to keep track of the point and how you won or lost the points.  If the game is 10-10, can you clearly recall what you did right on 10 points and what you did wrong during the other 10 points.  If you can, then you can think clearly how to play your strong points against your opponent’s weak points.

Remember to always give your best physically, mentally, emotionally, and tactically in table tennis!

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Peak Performance for Table Tennis Tournaments

Jena Newgarden
Many professional table tennis players peak for certain tournaments each year.  By having a systematic training cycle, these players can perform well at the important tournaments.  There are usually four parts to the six-month season:  Pre-season, in-season, the peak tournament and post-season.  Here are some tips for how you can learn to “peak” for that one important table tennis tournament six months from now.

Pre-Season

For the first few days before the intense training begins, you should take out a notebook and write out your main goal.  What do you hope to win or accomplish in the major table tennis tournament six months from now?  Next, make a plan.  How often do you plan to practice table tennis drills?  How often do you plan to play practice matches?  How often do you plan to play tournaments?  And finally, determine what changes need to be made to your basic, foundational table tennis strokes.

In-Season

At the beginning of the season, it is very important to work on your base strokes and develop excellent consistency in the long table tennis rallies.  Also, during the beginning of the season, you should try to make some improvements to your table tennis game.  Realize that it will likely take at least 30-60 days to change a bad habit.  During the beginning of the season, it is also important to strengthen your body – especially your legs and core.  With better fitness, you will be able to train harder and longer during the season and will be less likely to get injured at your main table tennis event six months away.  As the season progresses, it is very important to begin doing more game-like drills starting with the serve.  As you play table tennis matches, make sure that you take plenty of notes and adjust your practice according to your findings.  Before the peak table tennis tournament for the season, it is also important to play in other tournaments.  Playing tournaments is the best way to understand every aspect of your game and is one of the best ways to improve your mental game as well.

The Peak Tournament

Now, it is time to play your best at your peak table tennis tournament.  If you have properly prepared physically and mentally and have played plenty of practice matches and tournament matches, then performing well at your peak tournament should not be a huge issue.  During the competition, treat this tournament as any other tournament, go through your normal tournament routine, focus, and have FUN.

Post-Season

After your peak table tennis tournament, it is important to rest for at least one week to allow your body to fully recover.  During this rest week, spend some time to re-evaluate your season and your peak performance.  Adjust your training plans accordingly and begin strategizing how to come back even stronger the next table tennis season!

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Why Does This Happen in Table Tennis?

Jena Newgarden
Sometimes table tennis players will work really hard over the summer, training for many hours each day.  At the end of the summer, they play a table tennis tournament and are very disappointed with their results.  They might have spent thousands of dollars traveling to China, hiring professional table tennis coaches, and giving great effort, but still they didn’t have the expected results.

Yet other times, players will take a break from table tennis for a few weeks and practice very little.  Without expecting much from their first tournament of the season, these players are sometimes surprised with amazing results!

So, why does this happen to so many players?

Actually, I think that there are several possible reasons.

1. Sometimes players who aren’t expecting much are able to play worry-free, relaxed without effort.  While others who have trained hard, put too many unnecessary expectations on themselves and the pressure hurts their performance.

2. Sometimes players who are training hard every day are making positive changes to their games – new strokes, new serves, and new strategies.  Before these players can properly implement their new weapons, they first must play several practice matches and tournaments before perfecting these new elements.  On the other hand, players who haven’t been practicing much might not be so worried about the exact technique used.

3. Sometimes game styles have a huge impact into the performance of many players.  If these players are matched up against ideal styles, they can play well.  However, if they are matched up against difficult styles, these players may play poorly.  For example, if a group of players practice speed work for six hours per day in China, they might have difficulty playing slow blockers or choppers.

Regardless of the outcome, these players must remember that practice is a necessary element to long-term major improvement.  Just because they had one great performance after a four-week vacation, does NOT mean they will continue to have great tournaments without practice.  Consistent practice, while making positive changes, with the help from a table tennis coach is the best way to improve long term.

Samson Dubina

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Featured Club: SMC Woodbury Table Tennis Club

Jena Newgarden
The SMC Woodbury Table Tennis Club is the premier place to play and train on Long Island, New York. It features 8 new ping-pong tables in a 7500 square feet air conditioned facility.

Table tennis coaching is available with the club’s coach Sameh Awadallah. Sameh was a top ranked professional table tennis player and national team member in Egypt before moving to the USA five years ago. He coaches all levels from beginner to advanced. He is known for having “the best backhand in America.”

The club is open for League Night on Tuesdays and for Open Play on Fridays.

SMC Woodbury is hosting a table tennis clinic on August 29-30 with pro table tennis players/coaches Samson Dubina and Sameh Awadallah. The clinic will be geared toward intermediate and advanced level players.

To learn more about this table tennis club, visit www.woodburytabletennis.com.

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The Right Balance in Table Tennis – Samson Dubina

Jena Newgarden

Most club table tennis players can’t train 40 hours per week due to work, school, family commitments and just life in general.  However, most players can dedicate around 10 hours per week to improve their table tennis skills.  For my training students, I ask them to work hard to produce the best possible 10 hours that they can do.  I ask them to do 4 hours of table tennis matches, 1 hour of serving practice, 1 hour of physical training, 1 hour of video analysis, and 3 hours of training with the Newgy Robo-Pong 2050 table tennis robot.

Playing matches against various playing styles is an important part of a weekly training program because it “tests” your table tennis skills.  You should be able to properly regulate WHAT to practice based on how you perform in practice matches.

Serving practice is one of the fastest ways to improve.  If you can score 2-3 more points each game, that is a major improvement.  Even if you can’t win the point outright, a good serve should set you up for the next ball.  When serving, focus on keeping the ball low, with good spin variation, and good placement variation.  Try to develop a very similar motion while giving slight changes in the spin – heavy sidespin, sidespin backspin, no spin, and sidespin topspin.

Physical training is a vital aspect that every table tennis player needs to work on to move to the elite level.  At your current level, physical training might not seem very important.  However, at the elite level, it is critical.  I would recommend focusing mainly on speed and flexibility exercises for the legs and core.  Top table tennis players say that 70-80% of their looping power comes from the legs and core (not the arm).

Video analysis is the most neglected aspect of table tennis training in the US.  Without visualization of your strengths and weaknesses on a weekly basis, you are probably training incorrectly.  Record at least one session per week and take some time to watch it slowly while taking notes.  Ask a friend or coach to watch it with your and take a somewhat critical approach to analyzing your game.

Table tennis robot training has helped me tremendously and I’m sure that it will help you too.  Instead of thinking about the score, you can focus on the areas of your game that really need to improve.  You can focus on making changes to your footwork, short game, blocking, looping, smashing, chopping, and serve return.  Start the drill very slowly with +50% wait adjust so that you can perform them correctly.  As you become more consistent at that speed, slowly decrease the time between balls by 10%.

Here is a sample weekly table tennis training program from one of my students:

Monday:         Robot (1 hour) and Physical Training (30 min)

Tuesday:        Club (2 hours)

Wednesday:  Rest

Thursday:       Club (2 hours) and video analysis (1 hour)

Friday:             Robot (1 hour) and serving (1 hour)

Saturday:        Robot (1 hour) and Physical Training (30 min)

Sunday:           Rest

Samson Dubina

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Strive for Dexterity in Table Tennis – Samson Dubina

Jena Newgarden
Every table tennis player should strive for dexterity.  This is a skill that some players are naturally more gifted with and some players are not.  The good news is that it can be trained as well.  So what is dexterity?

Dictionary Definition of “Dexterity”

dex·ter·i·ty

noun \dek-ˈster-ə-tē, -ˈste-rə-\

: the ability to use your hands skillfully

: the ability to easily move in a way that is graceful

: clever skill : the ability to think and act quickly and cleverly

In regards to table tennis, dexterity can mean several different things.  It can mean…

1. Having the ability to learn a new stroke

2. Having the ability to relax even while swinging hard

3. Having the ability to be extremely precise and accurate

4. Having the ability to put impart speed and spin on the ball with very little effort

5. Having the ability to adjust the stroke for various types of balls

I will focus on the fifth type of dexterity in table tennis.

Dexterity is the ability to adjust to various aspects of the ping pong ball – adjust to the speed of the ball, adjust to the placement of the ball, adjust to the depth of the ball, adjust to the height of the ball and adjust to the spin on the ball.  I will use the forehand loop as my example.

In order to develop more dexterity in your forehand loop, you must be able to adjust your swing based on the different speeds of the incoming balls.  Ask your table tennis training partner to block to your forehand and vary the speed of the block – sometimes slightly harder and sometimes slightly slower.  Keep your racket in front and backswing once you see the approaching ball.  If the ball is blocked quickly, then shorten your loop while still generating a lot of spin.  Always keep your weight leaning forward and contact the ball in front of your body.

In order to develop more dexterity in your forehand loop, you must be able to adjust your swing based on the placement of the incoming balls.  Ask your training partner to move the ball around in the forehand 50% of the ping pong table.  Watch your opponent’s racket and adjust your feet into position before swinging.  Once your feet are set, then take a swing.  If you are in good position, loop slightly harder with a longer swing.  If you are off-balance and forced to reach or lean for the ball, shorten your swing, focus on control, brush the ball with spin, then get in better position for the next loop.

In order to develop more dexterity in your forehand loop, you must be able to adjust your swing based on the depth of the incoming balls.  For this exercise, I would recommend starting very slowly.  Set up your Newgy Robo-Pong table tennis robot to throw the ball once every 3 seconds or have your training partner feed multiball.  If the ball is slow and lands near the net, move both feet forward and loop near the table.  If the ball is deep near the end line, then move back slightly and loop the deep ball.  When moving forward (for right-handed table tennis players), step with your right foot then the left foot.  When moving backward, step with the left foot then the right foot.  Both feet actually move simultaneously, however, the outside foot always initiates the movement.  When moving in-and-out, make sure to stay with your weight leaning forward.  Focus on moving your feet very fast while looping with control.

In order to develop more dexterity in your forehand loop, you must be able to adjust your swing based on the height of the incoming balls.  Ask your training partner to adjust his block sometimes higher and sometimes lower.  Keep your racket in front of your body and take your backswing once you see the height of the incoming ball.  For the forehand loop against topspin, try to start your swing directly behind the ball and loop forward with spin.  If the ball is higher, then start your racket higher.  If your racket is lower, then start your racket lower.

In order to develop more dexterity in your forehand loop, you must be able to adjust your swing based on the various spins of the incoming balls.  Ask your training partner to vary the spin on his block, sometimes he should block normal with slight topspin, sometimes he should spin over the ball with more topspin and sometimes he should chop-block.  If he adds topspin, the ball will jump up as it contacts your side of the table.  If he performs a chop-block, the ball with slow down as it contacts your side of the table.  Adjust your racket height and body position to the incoming ball.  This is the most challenging of all the exercises.  Don’t be discouraged if it takes several months to perfect this aspect of dexterity.

Every table tennis player should strive for dexterity.  I am convinced that dexterity should be trained.  In your training sessions, you should make it just as challenging as or more challenging than an actual game.  Be ready to adjust for various speeds, placements, depths, heights, and spins and you will be on your way to success!

Samson Dubina

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