Why Ping-Pong? Part 5 by Liliana Kohann

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Amazing for my Health

I haven’t written for a while, but I’ve kept playing Ping-Pong® at the Newgy Table Tennis Center this whole year, with the exception of this July, when I went back to my homeland, Poland. My beloved father had passed away. I miss him horribly and a big part of my life is missing. Sadness is a part of life and I try to go through this stage by honoring my father, and by trying to keep getting better in everything I do. I know that that’s what he would want me to do. I made some big changes in my life, and made some good choices. The majority of those changes relate to my roles as a mother and as an entrepreneur. But two choices were related to my health. One: I will work on becoming a better Table Tennis athlete. Two: I WILL go for a medical check-up, for which I am really overdue.

Regarding Point (1), I did start playing table tennis more with the plan that I would actually start learning, and learning consistently. I often heard from other players who would give me feedback about my playing, that my stroke was inconsistent. So, how do I gain consistency? One of our best players here, Slawek Rybski Waclawik, who is also from Poland, who is very consistent, (he makes amazing custom bass guitars!), played with me one day, and as we played, he told me exactly what I was doing wrong and gave me some good points:

“Look at the racket as an extension of your hand. Finish your stroke - don’t stop your stroke right after you hit the ball. Complete your motion. You hit the ball when it is too close to you. You have to adjust your body position to the ball. Sometimes you have to move away from the ball so you can hit it in an appropriate distance from you. Of course, do it over and over the again. It doesn’t matter if you keep hitting the net. As you practice correct motion, eventually the ball will go where you want it to go.”

I took his advice seriously and now I am working on it as much as I can. I already see that my ball has more curve, and that I am moving even more, as I do need to often move away from the ball. (Before I was either jumping toward the ball, or standing in one place).

Now, time for my medical check-up!

P.S. My medical check-up was great. The most important part of it was ultra sounds of my veins in my left leg. A while ago I had a car accident and ever since that time I had problems with circulation in my leg. My tests results were the best EVER. The doctor was pleasantly surprised: “Whatever you are doing, keep doing it!”

Oh, yes, I’ll keep playing Table Tennis. It does wonders for my spirit and my body!

Liliana Kohann

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Why Ping-Pong? Part 4 – By Liliana Kohann

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Always Learning New Things

Today was a really rough day for me. I had a lot of work and a lot of unexpected additional tasks that ended up in my bucket of responsibilities. After a day like that, all I wanted to do is relax, go to bed, do nothing. I made dinner for my boys, and after we ate I just sat there in the chair, thinking if I should just go to bed, or do some more work, or maybe I should go and get some exercise and practice ping-pong at the Newgy Table Tennis Center. I was leaning toward just going to bed, however my son, Julian, encouraged me to go and practice:

“Mom, go, you do want to get better, and you do want to lose some weight, right? Go, maybe you’ll learn something new.”

“But I am so tired and…”

“Go before you talk yourself out of it,” he said lovingly, and convincingly.

That was a great point. How could I not go with such a support? I grabbed my bag, and followed my son’s advice.

Within half an hour of practicing with Robo-Pong my heaviness and tiredness faded away and to my luck, one of the great players offered to practice with me. His name is Slawek Waclawik. He is from Poland and is about a 2100 player. He is way, way better than me as I am about 1350. I usually never get to play with people of that level. I was excited and my son’s words rang in my head: “Go, maybe you’ll learn something.” I knew I’d learn something. We first practiced hundreds of forehands, than backhands.

Here is what I learned: Coaches often talked about the diamond form of your hand/body position, and I do understand that concept but somehow it was not hitting home. I tend to smash the ball more, and hit it kind of early, with my hand close to my body. Slawek explained to me about the letter D, one of methods used in training in Europe.

In forehand, you take your hand in a straight line down, as if you were writing the straight line of D, but you bring it up in a rounded motion, as if you would be writing the round part of D. In backhand the same: you hit the ball in that rounded motion, and you bring your hand down in a straight line. Somehow I got it this time. I saw it in my head very clearly. My stroke immediately improved.

He also pointed out to me that I was not hitting the ball in front of me. While we practiced backhands he noticed that I move my hand too much and am not consistent. “You need to hit the ball in front of you. You must move your body so you can hit the ball when it is in front of you.” Oh, and I learned one more thing: I must always brush the ball. Smash it only when it’s high. Other than that always try to brush it. I know I heard this before, but somehow with this letter D concept it made sense to me.

I learned so many things in ping-pong today. I know it will take a lot of time to master it all, and many hours with the Robo-Pong. As Slawek said, it takes years of playing to really get the right positioning, consistent stroke and spin. I know that it’s better than I learn it now than keep practicing my mistakes.

As I was trying to hit the ball with this improved approach, as I was sweating and burning calories like crazy (the thing is when you play with such good players, they return all your mediocre balls and you have to keep going, and going), I was feeling so glad that I came. I couldn’t help but thank my son, Julian, for his encouragement. I guess I learned one more thing: Sometimes it’s good to force yourself to do something that is good for you. You never know what you may learn!

Liliana Kohann

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Why Ping-Pong? Part 3 by Liliana Kohann

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Mastering the Skill of Concentration

So, I am playing with Joey Newgarden. He is the son of that man who created Robo-Pong (I mentioned him in my last entry blog from November, 2010). In order for me to play with him I have to get to my highest level of concentration, OR ELSE…

Joey is a busy businessman, and does not give himself much time to play, but when he plays, it’s as if the world does not exist. He is extremely focused, solid in his game, and does not waste a second on the “past.” I, on the other hand, with every bad or even with a great shot of mine start the inner process of either self-criticism, or self-wonder: “Wow, I can’t believe I got that shot...” I would think, and WHAM the ball hits me back out of nowhere. Or: “Gosh, how can I be so stupid? I know better, I should hit the ball up and forward! What’s that definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over, and expecting different results? Liliana, you’ve got to start practicing more!” And of course I pay the price, especially with Joey. I asked him once:

“Joey, you don’t seem to be affected by any of your bad shots. Do you ACT as if you are not affected, or you are really not affected?”

“I don’t even go there,” he said. “I just think of my next ball.”

That answer really made me think. I started working on it. Every time I miss the ball, and the bad feeling takes me to this process of self-analysis, I try to say to myself quickly and loudly: What can I do with this next ball!

I started noticing great improvements. When I stay concentrated like this, I actually win more games. I do admit that I can’t do it all the time, but I am working on it. Table tennis is the absolute best tool to improve my ability to concentrate. There is just simply no time to waste, the balls keep coming at me fast. Sometimes before I start playing games, I practice on my Robo-Pong at the high speed, changing the direction of the balls, not giving myself a second to think, and that keeps me going.

Joey just hit another great serve and I returned it perfectly for the first time. I wanted to throw my racket and jump out of joy, but no, I didn’t. “What are you going to do with your next ball?” is the only thought allowed, at least for now.

Liliana Kohann

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Why Ping-Pong? Part 2 by Liliana Kohann

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Improving Mental Attitude

Years ago, as a child, I vowed to myself that one day I would beat my oldest brother, Slawek, in ping-pong. Once in a while I would try, and I just kept failing. No wonder! He was five years older than me, much stronger, and he had that "I am unbeatable" kind of guy attitude. Even later, when I got better and faster, I still couldn't beat him. I was "losing" before we even started playing.

Life took its course and I ended up in America, far away from home, which is Gdansk, Poland. Every few years I'd go back to Poland, try to play with him and I would lose. It was about two years ago that I heard of this incredible place, the Newgy Table Tennis Training Center, where some man had created a robot to train with. These robots (Robo-Pong) can train with you and make you a better player. You can imagine what I thought. I started going to the Newgy Center for training and to play with the Robo-Pong table tennis robot. Eventually I ended up buying one for myself and a year and a half later I was ready to try. I knew that Slawek was not practicing table tennis at all, and I was finally really learning how to play. During my summer vacation in Poland, I challenged my brother, and I finally won! It was a hard match but I won. Yet, as I played with him, I realized how he still wins with me mentally. As I kept beating myself up for every wrong shot, he would just not waste a second on any of his mistakes. They seem not to affect him at all.

So now I am focused on improving my mental attitude. I no longer want to waste time on telling myself how bad I am, or getting mad at myself, neither in ping-pong nor in life. In table tennis there is so little time between balls, and every time I get down on myself I waste the opportunity to prepare well for the next ball. The speed of table tennis and the frequency of the ball forces me to work on my attitude quickly. It's like I am trying to re-wire the muscle memory of my brain. The outcome? I not only see the improvement in my table tennis game but also in life. Every time I make a mistake, or something goes wrong, I tell myself: ok, prepare for the next ball, prepare for the next opportunity, because it will come, and when it comes, I want to be ready!

Liliana Kohann

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Why Ping-Pong? Part 1 by Liliana Kohann

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Speed, Intensity and… Relaxation

“Serve return, Liliana, you need to improve your serve return, and then one more thing: recover immediately to be ready to attack,” said Coach Roger.

“Gosh, I can’t even enjoy my shot! How much time do I have to recover?” I asked, already out of breath.

“Oh, about half a second.”

“Half a second!”

Yes, he was not kidding! You hit the ball and if you don’t immediately jump into a position, you loose your chance to attack, and if you are an aggressive player, like I am, you don’t want to loose that chance. One second is too long!

For me, the speed and the intensity of table tennis is what makes me love this sport. I am a creative person, I write music, poetry, I take care of three sons, I run businesses, my work load is huge and quite intensive, on top of it I am a “thinker,” I pretty much think and solve problems all the time. “Just take time, sit down and relax,” they say but if I do my head spins even more! So how come this incredibly fast sport, is my favorite form of relaxation? Because there is no time to think! I have to focus all my energy on only one thing - an orange ball. I have to hit it, hit it in the right direction, with the right spin, I have half a second to recover, and another ball comes right back at me. No time to think, just me, the ball, and of course, usually a fun opponent that is on the other side of the table, as excited and enthusiastic as I am. Earlier today one of the musicians I work with saw me a little down. I had a big problem I was trying to solve and things didn’t go my way.

“What are you going to do? Are you going to be OK?” he asked with a sincere concern in his voice.

“Oh, yes,” I said. “What am I going to do? Hmm… I am just going to go to the Newgy Table Tennis Center (we practice ping-pong here with different players and with Newgy Robo-Pong Table Tennis Robots), and I am going to SMASH(!) the ball against a bunch of guys, and I’ll feel better,” I said with an ease and conviction. For a moment he was just staring at me, and then he was laughing hard.

And so here I am. I practiced with Robo-Pong Robots for half an hour, smashed the ball at a bunch of guys, (it is mainly male dominated sport, and when one plays aggressively, they usually not only don’t mind, but appreciate the challenge), I learned that I have to recover faster, get ready for my move faster. Now I feel good, I had my great exercise, and now…. and now…. (yawn), I am truly RELAXED! :)

Liliana Kohann

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