COACH CARL’S COLUMN: Build a Solid Foundation for your Table Tennis Game by Carl Hardin

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To maximize your potential, it is important to start by building a solid foundation for your table tennis game. It is best to build this foundation by developing each skill one step at a time.

1.Start by developing the proper blade grip:

When you play you see the ball but your blade angle and direction of swing is by feel, therefore you must develop a feel for the blade angle. You can develop this feel by bouncing the ball on the blade; forehand side 25 bounces, backhand side 25 bounces, next alternate 1 bounce on the forehand side and 1 backhand side for 10 bounces. Make sure you can do these drills with no more than 2 misses.

2. Stance:

The width between your feet should be greater than the width of your shoulders, knees bent, and lean forward until the heels of your shoes start to come up off the floor, now you are in position to do your footwork.

3. Footwork:

The outside foot moves first, (example) when you want to move to the right direction, your left foot is the outside foot, to move left your right foot is the outside foot.

Watch for my next blog which will teach you how to develop perfect strokes in table tennis.

Carl Hardin

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ITTF/IPTTC Level 1 Coaching and Course Conductors Seminar by Roger Dickson

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ITTF training pic 1 I was much honored to be selected to attend the first ITTF/IPTTC Level 1 Coaching Certification and Course Conductors Seminar by the USATT Coaches Committee at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Sept. 5-11, 2010. Twenty-three table tennis coaches from all experience levels and regions of the USA came to share, learn and to be humbled by Glenn Tepper - the ITTF Executive Director of Development. Mr. Tepper created the structure for the ITTF coaches program and wrote the book, so we were lucky to be learning from the master!

One of the unique parts of this class revolved around the large amount of actual practical application time that was spent by the participants working through the skills and drills included in the book. Mr. Tepper wanted us to  wear both the student and coaches hat nearly all the time so we could not only see the WHAT and HOW but the bigger reason WHY we teach the sport of table tennis the way we do and new ways to approach our teaching.

ITTF training pic 2 Having combined forces with the ITTF, the Para-Table Tennis portion of the   course included an introduction to the classification system for Para-Athletes and a simulation where the coaches participated as different classes of athletes! It was truly an experience to see the various difficulties that are unique to each class and how important the tactics are! Luckily we had Daniel Rutenburg, the USA National Para coach and Christian Lillieroos, long time USA Para coach and PTT board member, to show us the best way to help these unique and inspiring athletes!

Much to Mr. Teppers’ surprise and delight, all 23 of the participants were able to pass the Level 1 practical and meet the standards to pass the educational section of the program. Now we must fulfill the needed application hours to complete the course.

Roger Dickson

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My Beginning to Table Tennis Success! by Samson Dubina

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My coach used the Newgy Robo-Pong table tennis robot to develop my table tennis game early on in my table tennis career. When I was 13 years old and beginning table tennis, some other young table tennis enthusiasts and I were invited to Carl Hardin’s table tennis camp in southern Ohio. One of Coach Hardin's main teaching tools was the Newgy robot. My strokes were horrendous. I was not sure why I was inconsistent; one of my main problems was that my racket angle was always changing right before contact.

Coach Hardin began having me practice stroking the ball using this consistent robot. He started with slow topspin to my forehand using the slow frequency setting. With this consistency, I learned to keep my racket angle set. If my angle changed, I would hit the ball into the net or off the table.

Another hindrance in my game was my loop against backspin. Throughout the week, I would play against opponents of all levels. When I played against an opponent with heavy chop, I would always loop the ball into the net. Coach Hardin said that I was using the same angle for the topspin stroke as I was for the backspin stroke. I did not believe him. So, back to the Newgy robot we went. With the help of the robot, he showed me that it was nearly impossible to lift the backspin by hitting the top of the ball. By setting my angle more open, I learned to consistently lift any amount of chop. (Note: the most recent chopper I played was rated 2453. I won at 6,4,6. I guess I learned how to loop against chop.)

The first table tennis camp helped my game so much that six months later, I attended my second camp. My strokes were beginning to develop, so Coach Hardin decided to move on to advanced techniques with the Newgy robot. My strokes were much better, but I seemed to be using so much energy for such a weak loop. I needed to learn to accelerate at contact. The robot was the ideal tool. Feeding me consistent topspin, Coach Hardin taught me about speeding-up my racket when I hit the ball. By accelerating the stroke at contact, I was getting more power with half the amount of energy. The robot was perfect for giving me a never-missing, consistent ball to topspin.

Coach Hardin always says that a player’s main focus must be consistency. Ninety percent consistency is a good goal. He would set the robot at random to my forehand, and I had to move and loop the balls with a consistency of 90% on the table. As soon as I achieved this goal, he would immediately increase the frequency. As soon as I accomplished that, he would increase it again. We continued with this type of training to develop speed, without losing control.

Carl Hardin always tried to make table tennis as fun as possible. An added bonus to some of our robot practices was using Pong-Master. Pong-Master is a table tennis game that uses different size pads on the table to be used as targets to hit. Pong-Master also keeps score with the amount of times the player hits the pads. Coach Hardin stressed the fact that, at any level, ball placement is very important. All the young players at the camp enjoyed competing to see who had the best ball control. I was always very competitive, so having a goal to aim at, always inspired me to work harder.

The Newgy robot helped develop my table tennis game into what it is today. Back then, after just two years, Carl Hardin’s coaching techniques raised my game from 1100 to 2100! Using the Newgy robot to develop correct strokes is definitely a winning strategy that I guarantee to raise anyone’s table tennis game!

Samson Dubina

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COACH CARL’S COLUMN: Are you committed? by Carl Hardin

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Here are some of the attacks against your commitments; pressure thoughts about needing to win or fearing to lose, awareness of others’ expectations, other competitors’ gamesmanship, injuries, nets and edges, poor lighting and slick floors. None of the issues would matter as much to you if you weren’t striving to be something greater. However the higher your table tennis game elevates, the greater the potential for distractions that can suck the commitment right out of you like a mental game undertow. The good news is that nothing can happen in your competition that can unseat you from your game, unless you let it.

Turn everything to your advantage. After a demanding table tennis match, most competitors can tell you what they would have done better or differently. Often they can do this immediately following the competition. Curiously few table tennis players can step back from the action, while it is occurring, in order to resolve whatever is challenging them. The first step to turning any situation to your advantage is to take at least 30 seconds to ask yourself, “What is happening here, and what do I intend to do about it”? Under stress most table tennis players’ mental processes pick up speed. You have to discipline yourself to do the opposite. Take time, make space, step back and do some self inquiry. It will save more of your games than you can believe.

You have to expect people to act differently at pressured events; total commitments means that you do not take anything that happens in competition personally. In table tennis, as in life, you have to have confidence in your own game. You know where your focus has to be. Get your attention only on the game. By the time the competition ends none of that stuff will matter, unless you are looking for excuses.

Everything that happens in table tennis competition is practice for what happens next. Committed table tennis players are learning machines. Wimpy table tennis players get hung up on problems and mistakes and never move forward. Committed players can lose a tough match, get up, assess what happened, and then put the new learning into play. All table tennis competition moves them forward. Believe it or not committed table tennis players are proud that they showed up for the competition; they do not sweat what other think of them.

Remember there are only three things that you can control: what you think, what you visualize, and what you do. You can not do anything about the points you have already played. You can not do anything about your history of performance in pressure situations. You cannot do anything about the score to this point. You have to forget all of that, other than whatever learning you have gained about how to play the shot, and go for it. Have a plan for a strong mental game and work your plan. Keep positive thoughts, they become words and follow you like your shadow. Your greatest competition is in your mind.

Carl Hardin

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Flat-Hitting with the Newgy Robo-Pong by Eric Owens

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Whenever players first start out in table tennis they typically want to start looping right from the beginning. They go to a tournament or watch videos of world-class table tennis players and see them looping every ball that goes over the net. What beginners neglect to realize is that these players have been looping for many years and certainly didn’t learn to loop as their first stroke. I can promise you that nearly every one of them began with the flat hit prior to looping, and the Newgy Robo-Pong table tennis robot is the perfect tool to learn this technique.

Set the robot up so that a slow-paced, topspin ball is going to one corner (either forehand or backhand). As the ball approaches, remember to use proper timing and backswing at the same speed as the ball. Do not focus on using the wrist on either forehand or backhand, but rather let the wrist flow naturally. After backswinging the same speed as the ball, contact the ball out in front of your body and follow through where you want to hit the ball. The follow through is very important when trying to control ball placement. You never want to cut it short, and it should be very relaxed and smooth. At the end of the follow through, return to the ready position and repeat. Try to contact every ball slightly away from the middle of the blade toward the outside edge. Every contact should be at the same location on the blade, and you can monitor this by looking at the marks on the rubber from the contact of the ball. If you have spots all over your rubber, then you are not being consistent in your contact and your control will suffer. Do this drill until you can comfortably hit each ball with very few mistakes and have proper contact. Once the forehand is mastered, move on to the backhand and vice-versa. You can increase the difficulty by increasing oscillation and speed of your Newgy Robo-Pong table tennis robot. When you can comfortably maintain a setting of 10 on oscillation AND speed, you are ready to begin looping.

Train Hard!

Eric Owens

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