Training with a Twist by Samson Dubina

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All top players and coaches agree that table tennis requires a variety of training techniques. Some examples of training include – drills, robot, multiball, serving practice, matches, plus a variety of physical training. Within those types of training, a multitude of variations are excellent. To be a complete player, one must be able to win against any playing style – looper, chopper, pips, lefty, etc…

While training with my Newgy Robo-Pong 2050, (click here for YouTube video), I now practice with more variety than ever before. For drills such as #28 and #59, I set the robot for topspin/sidespin. This is best performed by adjusting the robot head to the left or right 3 clicks. This variation has done 4 things for me:

1. Improved my concentration

2. Improved my ability to follow the ball closely with my eyes

3. Improved my ability to counterloop against lefty and right hook loops

4. Improved my ball placement on “weird” balls

One might argue that this is “unrealistic.” Actually there are several US players that play these types of unorthodox strokes: David Zhuang and Gao Jun with blocking and De Tran with forehand counterlooping.

Give it a try- it’s fun and challenging!!!

Samson Dubina

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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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2010 U.S. Nationals: A Youth Uprising in Vegas by Roger Dickson

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With strong coaching programs on both coasts, the young players are gaining ground quickly on the seasoned players! The ICC program and Lily Yip’s Table Tennis Academy (LYTTA) are providing great resources for the young players to quickly gain advanced skills!

In the Men’s, Adam Hugh (LYTTA) took a huge step by defeating Fan Yi Yong – the number two seed and odds on favorite. Multi time Men’s winner David Zhuang was ousted by Barney Reed, National Team Member Han Xiao went out 4-3 to Timothy Wang and Ilija Lupulesku (Lupi) sent defending Champion Michael Landers home 4-0, but was well into the match with the last two games settling at deuce!

In the Semi Finals, it was teens vs. titans as Li faced Lupi and Wang squared up with Hazinski. Somehow both young guys came back from down 3-1 to win 4-3! I don’t know how long it has been since the Men’s finals featured two U.S. born teenagers!

Much to nineteen year old Timothy Wang’s credit, he was able to control the nerves just a little bit better and got the better of seventeen year old Peter Li in straight games to become the second teenager in a row to become U.S. Men’s National Champion!

The Women’s event looked to belong to former World ranked #2 Gao Jun, but due to flu like symptoms she withdrew at the Quarter Final stage. From that point forward the two young ICC stars Ariel Hsing and Lily Zhang were on a collision course to the Finals. Being travel partners to several ITTF Junior and Cadet events, Ariel and Lily know each other’s game quite well and it showed in the seven game battle final! When the dust settled, Ariel was left collecting her first U.S. Nationals Women’s crown!

What impressed me was not just the energy the young players showed, but also the strong technical skills and match pressure savvy against much older and trickier players. The growing strength of coaching programs through the U.S. is making our young players solid players for the future.

Roger Dickson

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Jonathon Lian Foothills X Gold Dollar Upset Open Table Tennis Tournament by Bill Neely

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On Saturday November 13, the Knoxville Table Tennis Club hosted one of their better tournaments of the year, the Jonathon Lien Foothills X Gold Dollar Upset Open. This tournament was named in honor of a special young man, Jonathon Lian, the grand upset winner in the previous tournament, the Foothills IX Gambler Gold Dollar Upset Open. There were 18-upsets during this tournament.

The Upper divisions were characterized by play befitting that of National events. There were 9-players rated above 2000, some of whom could have been under rated judging from their play. The matchup in the final Championship round could not have been predicted.

blog 3 pic In the end, however, the top seed, Richard Doverman from Potomac, Maryland prevailed over third seed, John Mar from Atlanta, Georgia. This final began at what appeared to be a walkthrough for Doverman, but that was not to be. After being down 2-0, Mar came back with blistering loops and smashes to win the third game at 4. From that point on, the games see-sawed, back and forth, with Doverman winning at 5, Mar at 4, and finally, Doverman took the seventh and final game at 11-6. (See Photo, Richard left, John right.) For their efforts Doverman and Mar rode off into the night with $500.00 and $300.00, respectively.

Yuichi Yageyama, after hard-fought losses, to John Mar, 7,-6,-9, 10, and -4, and to Richard Doverman -9,-5, and -9, won third place by defeating Liedy Handoko at 7, -7, -7, 8, and 5. Yuichi won $200.00 for his efforts.

Other great matches saw John Mar narrowly defeating Yevgeny Puzyrev at -8, -9, 9, 10, and 6: John Mar defeating Petro Stirbu at 7, -9, -9, 7, and 6: Richard Doverman defeating Liedy Handoko at -8, 5, 7, -5, and 9: Di Di De Souza defeated Slawomir Waclawik at-3, -5, 8, 9, and 7; and Slawomir Waclawik defeated Liedy Handoko -9, 8, 8, -7, and 7.

The other results were:

Division A: Jude Lam (Knoxville) 1st, Guido Schnable 2nd, Kui Zhang 3rd, and Yoshiyuki Okawa 4th. First, second, and third place players were money winners.

Division B: Tatiana Peskova 1st, Albert Zhang 2nd, Carl Bradley 3rd, and Roger Dickson 4th. Again first, second, and third place players were money winners.

Division C: Perry Smith 1st, Art Xu 2nd, Anene Onyemelukwe 3rd, and Kirin Kasichayanula (Knoxville) 4th.

Division D: Kathy McMillin (Knoxville) 1st, Josh Cook 2nd, John Edd Walker 3rd, and Manuel Dy 4th.

Division E: Archie Jordan (Knoxville) 1st, Jonathon Lian 2nd, Tim Roundtree 3rd, and Daniel Decker 4th.

First, second, and third place winners for Divisions C, D, and E won beautiful plaques designed by Kathy McMillin.

The “Winner-Take-All” winning doubles team was Petro Stirbu and Nick Broussard, each winning $107 for their wins.

Our thanks to Newgy, Zero-Pong, Horizons Avionics, Crown Plaza, and Phyllis Wheatley YWCA for their continued support and their part in making this event possible.

Bill Neely

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The Importance of Footwork by Perry Wilson

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In table tennis there are several important aspects. In my opinion the most important is footwork. I will tell you why it is important, and how to improve it.

Footwork is important in every point and every shot. You need to have your feet in the correct position if you want the most effective shot. If you do not get your feet where they need to be, then not only that shot will be a bad one, but then the rest of the point will not be good. Also, when you have your feet in the right place, then your shot can be more powerful and spinier. Then you can get your opponent out of position.

The second thing I want to show you is the way to have correct footwork. There are many different aspects to footwork that you must have. The first one is to always have your knees bent. If you do not have your knees bent, it will be so much harder to move your feet. Another important thing you need to know is where you last hit the ball. Most of the time the ball will be coming back diagonal from where you hit it to. So this will help you sort of predict where the ball will be coming. Finally, weight transfer is another very important thing. Without correct transfer of weight, your body will be off balance and it will ruin your entire game.

In conclusion, I believe if you work on improving those three areas of your footwork, your game will improve a lot, and will take you to the next level.

Perry Wilson

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Improving your Serve by Pierce Scott

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What starts off every single point? What shot do you have 100% control of? Your serve!

The best way to improve your table tennis game drastically is to improve your serves. If you can improve your serve, you can get into the point better and set up your way of playing. If you can practice your serve about five days a week for a focused 30 – 60 minutes, you can really boost your game.

The best way to practice serves is to pick one or two serves that go with each other. For example, you could just work on short heavy backspin to the forehand. Or you could work on short heavy backspin to the forehand and long fast topspin to the backhand. These two serves go together because you would use these as a combination in a table tennis match. Work on only these two serves for the training session. When you are serving, make sure you don’t lose focus. If you feel you are losing focus, then stop. There is nothing wrong with stopping — quality always wins over quantity when serving.

Another great way to improve your serves is to record yourself serving to look for certain things. You could be looking to see if they are legal, if they look the same as other serves or if they are deceiving. Watching yourself make the mistake is a lot easier to correct than having someone tell you about it and not know what was wrong.

To have an effective serve, you need to have varieties of serves you can use. The main varieties of serves you can have are short and spiny, long and fast, trick serves and dead balls. Short and spiny serves need to bounce twice on the opponent’s side if they weren’t touched. Long and fast serves need to hit within 3-5 inches of the white line at the end of the table. Also, a very useful serve that people often overlook is the dead ball. It can be served short or long. If you serve it short, make sure it double bounces. If you serve it long, a good place to serve it is to the backhand or the player’s middle. Normally a player’s middle is at their elbow. The benefit from serving a long, fast and dead ball serve is normally the opponent is surprised when you serve long and fast so they try to block it on. If you give them a dead ball they will have to create their own spin to get the ball over the net. If they do not create spin then the ball will go into the net. Remember when you are practicing your serves they will not get better overnight. They will require a lot of little improvements to add up after about six months. Now you have an overview of how to improve your serves.

Pierce Scott

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Visualization by Samson Dubina

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Why is it that most people only floss their teeth 2x per month?

“People just don’t see the need!”

It isn’t hard. It isn’t painful. It isn’t expensive. It doesn’t take hours. Dentists see the results of not flossing daily. If everyone saw the need (in the same way the dentists saw the need) there would be a world of people flossing daily and having healthier mouths.

As a table tennis athlete and coach, I see major problems in players’ technique and strategy daily. However, until the player sees it for himself, he really doesn’t believe that his problem is THAT bad. It’s kind of like bad breath; it is easy to detect in others, but we can’t smell it on ourselves.

So here is what I do to show a student just how bad his (breath), aka table tennis game, is. During a practice session, I will record a student’s strokes, then let him watch the DVD. Shocked… he will often come back with a response like:

“That’s not what I imagined.”

“I have some major changes to make.”

“That’s not me!”

“I had no idea that I looked that bad.”

Visualizing your game is the fastest way to improve. Once you see your mistakes, you need a coach to help correct your problems and give advice. About 90% of the American players do not have access to a professional coach. This is why I started the website: www.samsondubina.com.

Here is how it works:

Record several videos of yourself playing table tennis: match play, drills, robot, serving, etc. Load the videos onto youtube. Paste the youtube link onto my website. Wait 24-48 hours. I will give you a thorough analysis of your game including instructional videos and match play to explain your problems and the solutions to fixing your errors. Practicing is good. But remember: Perfect practice makes perfect.

Samson Dubina

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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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COACH CARL’S COLUMN: Coaching Technique by Carl Hardin

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Table Tennis coaches need to be aware of how their students learn— some by watching, some learn by hearing, some learn by doing, and some learn by feeling. All are important, but the coach needs to focus on the way the student learns best. The coach can determine this by trying each method out or a combination. When you know which method works best, practice using it and then learning will become much easier for the student.

Keep records on your students’ fundamentals. Do not proceed on to the next assignment until your student can perform the current activity with 80% accuracy. For example, when training with a table tennis robot, set it to a faster level of speed and/or oscillation if the student can perform 50% accuracy without footwork or stroke break down. Then continue the drill until the student can reach the 80% accuracy level. Then overload the student again by increasing the drill difficulty until the student reaches the 80% level. If the footwork, stroke breaks down or if success is below 50%, then you need to lower the difficulty.

By keeping records you can your keep your students advancing according to their ability.

Carl Hardin

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Moving Up a Level by Samson Dubina

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Everyone wants to improve; however, most table tennis players will plateau at a certain level – 1200, 1800, 2100, etc… Here are some of the strategies that I have used to advance my table tennis game far beyond my fellow club members.

1. Know your strengths and weaknesses

Once you clearly understand your strengths and weaknesses, you can strategize on how to play your strengths against your opponent’s weaknesses. Do you win points with a strong attack or by being consistent? Do you make more mistakes with forehand or backhand?

2. Get a coach

A table tennis coach will see and understand things that you won’t see – strokes, footwork, serves, mental game, or an endless list of other common problems. If there isn’t a coach in your area, record yourself and compare the video to the pros.

3. Improve every aspect of your game

Advancing one part of your game might help against one particular opponent, but you need to progress all aspects. For example, if you develop a great forehand flip – excellent! But what happens if your opponent only serves long and pushes long?

4. Place a priority on serve and serve return

Each point starts with serve and return. If you can serve effectively, you can possibly win 3-4 more points each game. This is valuable. If you can return serve well, you will force your opponent to rally and lose his serving advantage.

5. Serving practice 20%, Drills and/or Robot 40%, Matches 40%

Serving, as stated previously, is the fastest way to progress in the shortest amount of time. Drills and/or table tennis robot practice will improve your basics and give a solid foundation. Matches are vital; this is the time to implement what you have been practicing.

Samson Dubina

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