Neutral Racket Position in Table Tennis

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One of the most fundamental aspects of your table tennis game is a neutral racket position. Until the ball is approaching, you should not take a backswing.

Based on your hit, your opponent’s positioning, your opponent’s racket angle, and your opponent’s timing, you can adjust with your feet, but don't take your hand back until you visually see the incoming ball or even until the ball crosses the net.  How will this benefit you?  There are 5 primary ways and many secondary ways it will benefit you.

Five Primary Benefits

  1. You will have a smoother transition between backhand and forehand.
  2. You will have balance to be able to move to the ball.
  3. You will be able to adjust your shot selection based on the incoming ball (choosing the push or flip or loop or block or smash or whatever).
  4. You will be able to adjust the length of your swing based on the speed of the incoming ball.
  5. You will be able to adjust the height of your racket based on the height of the incoming ball.

Check out the below video of Sarah Jalli (#1 US Ranked Mini-Cadet Table Tennis Player) demonstrating a neutral ready position while moving her feet in position and smoothly transitioning from forehand to backhand and backhand to forehand.

Check out the video:

If you want to follow Sarah’s path in table tennis it starts by being able to stay in a neutral position, watching your opponent’s racket, watching the incoming ball, and adjusting to the incoming ball! 

Samson Dubina

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Winning Table Tennis

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A missing key in table tennis is a proper understanding of between-game analysis and between-point analysis.  In this article, I’m going to mention the three keys – understanding the problem, finding a solution, and encouraging yourself with the benefit of implementing the solution.
#1 The Problem
You are trailing 3-9 in the first game, is there a problem?  For sure there is a problem, and likely multiple problems.  What are they?  More specifically, what is the main problem?  It is your opponent’s powerful forehand smash?  Is it your inconsistency on forehand loop against deep push?  Is it that the opponent is able to return more balls in the rally than you can return?   Is it that he is playing a sharp angle shot wide to your forehand?  What is the problem?  Please don’t tell me that you are off your game.  Please don’t tell me that you are losing.  Please don’t tell me that you didn’t warm up.  Tell me how you lost 9 points.
#2 The Solution
There are often times multiple solutions to fixing a problem.  Try to identify which solution is the best one to fix the immediate situation.  One example might be that you are having trouble backhand flipping the heavy backspin serve.  What is the solution?  You could push or wait longer or change your racket angle or contact more on the side of the ball or use your forehand to receive or possibly even see if it is long enough to loop.  Try to come up with the best solution to the problem at hand.
#3 The Benefit
Often times when you are losing, you need to encourage yourself!  It is natural to throw up your hands and say, “I can’t play this game!”  You need to give yourself constructive encouragement knowing that there is a solution, there is light at the end of the dark tunnel, you can come back and win this game, you do have a game-plan.  Encourage yourself by seeing the benefit of implementing your solution properly.
In closing, I need to mention the flip-side of the situation.   Over-thinking can also be harmful.  Table tennis is meant to be played in the automatic mental state where you just let it flow out during the point, allowing your body to perform as you have trained it to perform.  So, in many situation (especially when winning), just play! Don’t over-analyze the situation!  Just play!  Let your body do what it has been trained to do!  Enjoy yourself!  And Let it go!

Samson Dubina

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Ohio Winter Mega Table Tennis Camps

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Train with one of the top table tennis coaches in the country! Samson Dubina's Ohio Winter Mega Table Tennis Camps are Dec 26-28, 2019 and Dec. 30, 2019-Jan. 1, 2020 at the Samson Dubina Table Tennis Academy located at 2262 South Arlington Rd. Akron, Ohio.

Coach Samson Dubina and his team of experts will guide you through learning the details of stroke development, advanced variations, tournament tactics, strategic placement, shot combinations, anticipation, body balance, and much, much more. All ages and levels are welcome and all players will be working on level-appropriate content throughout the table tennis training camp.


For more information and to register, please visit Samson Dubina Table Tennis Academy.

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Shadow Strokes in Table Tennis

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Your imagination is your most powerful tool. Are you using it?
Many club level table tennis players dream of becoming a world class table tennis athlete with awesome balance, positioning, timing, perfect strokes, ideal placement, and deceptive variations. However, when I ask them to do shadow strokes, they have no idea. If you can’t do it without the ball, you most certainly can’t do it with the ball!

Do you want to improve your level? Great! Then do 1 thing for yourself. Watch some world class table tennis players during training and see if you can copy them. As you are watching them, here are some questions that I want you to ask:
1. How bent are their knees?
2. How much are they on their toes?
3. How much are they leaning forward?
4. Where are their eyes looking as the ball is approaching?
5. How does their footwork sync together with their strokes?
6. How fast is their backswing?
7. Where is the timing at contact?
8. How much acceleration do they use?
9. Which main muscle groups are they using?
10. How long is their follow through?
11. How is the recovery for the next shot?
12. How different is their swing going crosscourt vs down-the-line?
13. How do each of their shots link together with the following ball?

Everyone wants to play well in table tennis matches, I get it. But if you can’t do it right without the ball, you most certainly will not do it right with the ball. So study the strokes of other players. Do shadow stokes in front of the mirror. Watch each aspect of your swing. Record yourself and send the video to a professional coach to get his advice. Next try it with the ball. What elements carry over and what elements change. Also, remember, the most strokes in the world are adjustable strokes. If you want to have a stroke that is useful in a match, make sure that it is adjustable to various speeds, heights, depths, and spins.

Check out this video demonstrating shadow strokes here!

Samson Dubina

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Table Tennis... It Isn't Piano!

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If you ever took piano lessons, you probably know that there is a very systematic approach for beginners.  Often there is a 30 or 60 min lesson each week.  The student is given a couple songs to perfect during the week.  When he/she goes for the lesson the following week, they will likely get those songs checked off and given new songs to play the following week.  Once you have mastered a song, then you typically don’t go back 3 years later and keep working on the same one because you have moved on…

With this approach in mind, many table tennis kids and their parents are a bit confused for the first few years when introduced to table tennis training.  You never completely check off a skill as “mastered.”  You continue to do the same drills but continue to learn new details of the same drills.  Let me explain…

Within the first few lessons, you will likely learn a basic forehand drive, basic backhand drive, and simple side-shuffle footwork linking back and forehand together.  Your table tennis coach might block with his backhand…  one ball to your backhand and one ball to your forehand.  Sounds simple right?  Well if you are someday in the top 10 in the world, you might still be doing the same exact drill. 

So what should you be focusing on…


Maybe as a beginner table tennis player, you might focus on holding the correct grip, bending your knees, moving quickly into position, having the correct racket angle, watching the incoming ball until it contacts your racket, re-positioning yourself for the next shot.


Maybe as a professional table tennis player, you would focus on making a primary adjustment with your feet, making a small secondary adjustment, correctly back-swinging based on the speed + spin + placement + height + depth of the incoming ball, aiming low and deep to your desired location, applying the right amount of force/friction at the point of contact using weight transfer + wrist action + and slight finger action and pressure, watching the opponent’s racket, re-positioning yourself for the follow-up ball.

Instead of "graduating" from one table tennis drill and forgetting it for life, you will often be adding subtle details to perfect your game.  Yes, advanced table tennis players CAN do extremely advanced drills, BUT many advanced players choose simple drills and just focus on the small details.

Samson Dubina

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2019 Robo-Pong St. Joseph Valley Open Table Tennis Tournament

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Sign up now for the 55th Robo-Pong St. Joseph Valley Open Table Tennis Tournament on March 16 & 17, 2019 in South Bend, Indiana.

This USATT sanctioned, 3-star event will be held at the Student Activities Center at Indiana University of South Bend. The venue features wood floors, excellent lighting, 35 ft. ceilings, free parking and more. Prize money and trophies awarded to the champions!

This tournament benefits the South Bend Junior Program, and the South Bend Table Tennis Center relies on this event to keep their progress going.

Newgy Robo-Pong is proud to be the title sponsor of this great event!

For more info and to register: visit or click here for the mail-in registration form.

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Six Different Ways Table Tennis Students Learn

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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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To Serve or Receive? That is the Question.

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In a table tennis game, if you win the toss, which do you choose: to serve or receive?

This article starts off seemingly insignificant but concludes with the main point. You need to read the full article to understand my thought process...

If you are like most table tennis players, you play better when you are winning. Most players want to be winning because they have more confidence in their shots, stay level-headed, and aren’t as easily upset with an unlucky break or bad call from the umpire. If your serve is good, you should choose to serve because statistically speaking, you have a better chance to gain a 2-0 or 4-2 or 6-4 lead in the 1st, 3rd, and 5th games. With confidence in the first game, you have a better chance to win the first game. Winning the first game, gives you a better chance to continue the table tennis match with confidence.

If you have a good serve return, such as the ability to push with spin variation or flip with excellent placement or loop long serves really well, then you should choose to receive serve first. Many of the world’s best table tennis players have been dedicating much more time to serve receive than serve, in recent years. When I was a kid, many top players practiced their serves so much and some a lesser time practicing receiving. Now that the serves have less spin with the 40+ poly ball, much more time has been dedicated to perfecting the receive and slightly less time on serving.

So, which are you? Are you the player who should serve or receive first?

I know that many of you are thinking, “It doesn’t really matter if I get a lead. What matters is the end of the game! Can I handle pressure at 8-8 or 9-9 and win? That’s what matters!” With this mindset, you have a faulty understanding that the point at 9-9 counts as more than 0-0. Really, all the points count equally! Playing carelessly in the beginning then putting tons of pressure at yourself at the end will lead to sloppy play in the beginning and nervous play at the end. You should mentally approach each point the same BUT make tactical adjustments point by point as the match progresses.

Key Point:

Do your absolute best to win every point from the very start! Take measured risks to break out with a 5-1 or 6-0 lead in the first game! You should choose to serve first if you have a strong serve or choose to receive first if you have a strong receive! Every decision you make is important! To warm up or not warm up, to eat breakfast or not eat breakfast, to get 5 hours of sleep or 9 hours of sleep, to choose to serve or receive. Every excellent decision brings you closer to victory!

Samson Dubina

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Ohio Winter Mega Table Tennis Training Camp

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The Ohio Winter Mega Table Tennis Training Camp presented by the Samson Dubina Table Tennis Academy will be held December 26-28, 2018 in Akron, Ohio.

All ages and levels of table tennis players welcome to participate in these three days of intense action! Training will be structured based on your individual needs of the game. In addition to the 5 hours/day on the table, there will be optional free lectures giving more details on designated topics.  During the lecture, there will also be Q&A sessions with Coach Samson Dubina and the other table tennis experts.

For more information and to register, click here.

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2018 U.S. Open Table Tennis Championships

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Don't miss the 2018 U.S. Open Table Tennis Championships in Orlando, Florida!

Location: Orange County Convention Center - 9800 International Drive, Orlando, Florida 32819

Date: December 16-22, 2018

This tournament is open to all USATT/ITTF table tennis players from around the world!

With the new event format, players can compete in either the Elite Track or Performance Track. Tournament events include Men's and Women's Singles and Doubles, Junior Boys/Girls, Para, Classic table tennis events of Hardbat and Sandpaper, plus more.

Early bird deadline is November 9, 2018.
Final entry deadline is December 1, 2018.

For more information and to register, click here.

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