Clean Your Robot For Best Performance

Newgy Robo-Pong

"When setting up your Robo-Pong take time to clean the area properly. Block off areas where you might easily lose a ball. If it is a pleasure to use the robot, you will use it much more often and have a better time, while increasing your skills and improving your health."

Technical note: Another advantage to playing in a clean setting is that maintenance on the machine is greatly reduced. Depending on the amount of dirt in the room with the robot, the robot must be periodically cleaned, in particular, the Ball Discharge Wheel, Friction Block, and the Ball Feed Transfer Gears. The reason these parts get dirty is that when balls roll on the floor they pick up minute amounts of dust and dirt. These particles fall off the ball as they travel through the machine, ending up on one of the parts mentioned above. The worst enemy of the machine is hair (e.g., pet hair), dust balls, and carpet fibers. These can become entangled in the Ball Feed Transfer Gears and stop the machine from pushing balls up the ball chute. In the case of someone playing on the robot in a carpeted room who also has pets running around, that person might have to clean the Ball Feed Transfer Gears once a week. In the case of someone without pets who plays on a tile floor that is mopped weekly, that person may only have to clean the Ball Feed Transfer Gears once a year, or even less!

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How to Use the Newgy Robot to Develop Chaotic Relaxation.

Newgy Robo-Pong

One of the key techniques to developing a higher level of play is to learn to relax while accurately focusing ones energy during a game, especially when making a stroke at the ball. Fluid motion may be that extra ingredient that has made a decisive world champion out of Waldner.

The best environment for testing relaxation ability is, of course, a chaotic one. Chaos is very easy to create with the Newgy robot, though it is not merely a matter of turning all of the controls up to 10! Here are the settings that I use. Place the head angle to deliver the ball onto the player's side of the table first, the spin control to topspin, the oscillator range levers to position 3 & 4, the ball speed to 10, the ball frequency to 5, and the ball oscillation speed to 6.

The oscillation lever settings sweep balls across the whole table, the high speed forces one to react quickly, the frequency (being at the midpoint) provides plenty of aerobic challenge, and the oscillation speed at 6 is chosen to form an unpredictable spray pattern.

These settings will prove at least 3 things to any developing player. First, returning most of the balls is impossible without relaxing the shoulders, elbow, wrist, and grip. Second, you really don't relax as much as you think you do, until you put yourself to a test like this one. Third, using the Newgy robot is the only way to provide a sustained test of your relaxation ability and the means to improve this essential aspect of your game.

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Increase Consistency And Precision

Newgy Robo-Pong

Here is a great tip if you find that your stroke is too big. Normally, the bigger your swing the less consistent you are. The Newgy Robot can help you develop shorter more precise swings. Place the large target at the center back of the table. Put the ball speed somewhere between 4 to 6 depending on your level and frequency, 4 to 5. Make the target worth 1 point and set the game time to 1 or 2 minutes. Go ahead and use your normal strokes and see how you score. If you win, note by how much you win by and if you lose, note how much you lost by. Now try it again except this time stay close to the table the whole time and put this in the front of your mind. (SHORT, CONTROLLED, and QUICK strokes). If you stick with this you will begin to notice that you are beating the robot by a larger margin as you progress in time. I have used this theory with the different size targets at different locations on the table. I can still generate plenty of pace and spin on the ball using shorter strokes. The biggest benefit of all is consistency. Good luck to all!

(Editor's Note: Nick is using the optional Pong-Master target game in this drill.)

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Check Ball Placement After Serve Practice

Newgy Robo-Pong

Your training doesn't have to stop when the robot does. Gather the loose balls on the ground, put them in a small box, and then practice your serving into the robot. The Newgy robot works great at collecting your serves. If you have enough sidespin or backspin you will hear the ball rattle around in the collection area. Also when you are done serving, check and see which side has the most balls. This will indicate how well you spread your serves around the table.

(Editor's note: Of course this only works if you first pull all the balls out of the ball trays before beginning your serve practice. Also to better segregate your returns, place the robot's ball dams in their retaining slots before starting.With the ball dams in place, the balls will not mix together in the center area, thereby giving you a much truer indicator of your ball placement. It will also make it easier to pull the balls out of the trays if you decide to continue your serve practice after you use up the first box of balls.The Robo-Caddy works great as a tray to hold the balls for your serve practice. You can position it beside the table where it is convenient to pick up the next ball but it won't interfere with serve execution like a box on top of the table would.)

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Unique Footwork Drill

Newgy Robo-Pong

Always doing the same stroke may be a wrong thing to do as it is rare to have the partner at the club serving you balls consistently the same way in a match, even in practice. Have your ping pong robot send balls (underspin or topspin) to the middle of the table at a low frequency so you have time to:

  1. Hit, loop, or push the ball with your forehand, depending on what stroke you want to practice.
  2. With your free hand, first touch your backhand corner and then your forehand corner of the table.
  3. Execute a backhand stroke (your choice).
  4. With your free hand, touch first your forehand corner and then the backhand corner of the table.
  5. Repeat.

It just adds a little bit of randomization and helps to better integrate the environment. Once you can successfully do this drill with the ball sent to the middle of the table, try this drill with the ball sent slighlty to either side of center. Another variation is to change the depth of the ball. E.g., set up one drill with the ball landing midways between the net and endline of the table and then another drill with the ball landing either shorter or longer than in the first drill.. I suggest 3 minutes each drill. Have fun, Yazel.

(Editor's Note: I did this drill and it is surprisingly fun to do. It has a pleasing variety of body movements and is very good for helping footwork It blends table tennis movements with non table tennis movements, so it feels strange to someone used to doing traditional ping pong drills. Also it is mentally challenging because I had to keep myself focused on the proper sequence of motions. Depending on how forceful your strokes are and how good of shape you're in, you may not be able to do this drill for an entire 3 minutes. Vary the duration of your drill accordingly. This is somewhat similar to the Chair Drill, where actual strokes are combined with other movements.These types of drills are a great way to add variety and spice to your workouts.)

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Better Shot Placement

Newgy Robo-Pong

We all hear about how important placement of the ball is. We watch world-class players compete and are in awe of their ability to put the ball in just the right place every time. Is this an attribute that is common only to high-level players? The answer is no! Many players have the ability to have much better placement and do not even know it. The biggest step is just making a conscious decision to improve this aspect of the game.

The first thing to improving placement is having an idea as to where the general placement should be. Playing at wide angles and into the opponent's elbow are the only places you should be aiming. The wider angles will make your opponent have to move much more, which in turn opens up the middle. Moreover, jamming the opponent into the middle opens up the wider angles. It is a circle that is very effective and can be used over and over again.

The Newgy robot is the perfect tool for improving your ability to hit at wide angles. Every drill done on the robot can be done with the main focus being ball placement. Make sure every ball hit is beyond the outside white line. If this is done repeatedly, you will be able to do it in a match.

Most players already have the basic skills to hit at wide angles, but just do not do it because they are not thinking about it and have not trained it. Applying this concept to all of the drills you already do on the robot will transfer into a match. You will be making your opponent move much more causing him or her to be very uncomfortable and lose rhythm.

A good strategy in a match is to generally look for the middle first, because the time to play the wider angles is much more obvious during a point. Make sure your placement does not fall somewhere in between the middle and off the side of the table. Your opponent will not have to move very much to reach this type of ball. Be conscious of every ball you hit, and make sure it either goes out at a wide angle or right at the opponent's elbow.

Good luck!
Eric Owens

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Hand Eye Coordination

Newgy Robo-Pong

Before anyone attempts to learn a sport that involves hitting a ball with a racket or bat, it is necessary to do  some preliminary hand-eye coordination drills. These drills must be mastered before any progress can be made for a beginner, these drills must be practiced until perfected before hitting a moving ball. For someone who already plays, take a few minutes to be sure you can do these drills. An experienced player can do these drills in one or two minutes. 

Developing Basic Hand-Eye Coordination
  1. Drill One: Using the shakehands grip, bounce the ball repeatedly on the forehand side of the racket (the side of your thumb is on) fifty times without missing or moving the feet. The bounce should be 8-10 inches above the racket. See photo 5.
  2. Drill Two: Same as Drill One, but bounce the ball on the backhand side of the racket (the side with your forefinger). See Photo 6.
  3. Drill Three: Bounce the ball repeatedly on the racket, first with the forehand side, then with the backhand side, then with the backhand side, alternating sides until 25 hits have been counted for each side without missing or moving your feet.

Once you find these drills easy to do, you should be ready to learn the basic strokes. However, if you have trouble contacting the ball as it moving, more hand-eye coordination drills are called for. Several examples follow:

  1. Do any of the above listed drills but move your feet by walking forward or backward, or sideways, either to your the left or right.
  2. Bounce the ball on the floor using your racket to dribble the ball.
  3. Hit the ball against the wall, let the ball rebound off the floor then strike it again. (Just like practicing against a wall in tennis).
  4. Have a partner stand about 10 feet apart away and hit the ball with your racket so it strikes the floor midway between you and your partner. Your partner will do the same. See if you can keep a rally going.
  5. Have a partner stand about 5 feet away and volley the ball back and forth without letting it touch the ground.

 

Photo 5: Basic Hand and Eye Coordination Drill (Forehand Side)

Notice that the racket is held with the shakehands grip in front of the stomach with the handle pointing toward the body. The ball is bounced only 12 inches or so above the racket, and the eyes follow the bouncing ball.

Photo 6: Basic Hand and Eye Coordination Drill (Backhand Side) 

Same as Photo 5 except handle of the racket points sideways away from you, and the back of the hand is turned up, instead of down.

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10 Quick Tips To Better Table Tennis

Newgy Robo-Pong
  1. Know what spin is on the ball. The key to acquiring this important skill is to carefully watch the opponent’s racket when it makes contact with the ball. If the opponent’s racket is moving from low to high, the spin is topspin; from high to low, backspin; from his/her left to right, right sidespin; and from right to left, left sidespin.
  2. Compensate for the spin with your racket angle. If topspin, angle your leading racket face down and contact the ball above its center; if backspin, angle the leading racket face up and contact the ball below its center; if right sidespin, angle the leading racket face to the right and contact the ball to the left of its mid-line; if left sidespin, angle the leading racket face to the left and contact the ball to the right of its mid-line. While holding the racket at the suggested angle, stroke gently forward. Only after you have developed a “feel” for the spin should you stroke the ball with more force.
  3. Use your whole body when you stroke your forehand. Make sure that you rotate your hips and shoulders backwards during the backswing and then forward into the ball as you stroke your forehand. This motion is coordinated with a transfer of your body weight from the back foot to the front foot. The harder you hit your forehand, the more forceful your weight transfer must be. A common forehand mistake is to use only your arm to hit the ball, which severely limits your power and consistency.
  4. Maintain a good ready position. A good ready position is balanced and prepares your body to move instantly in any direction. Use it when preparing to return serves and between strokes. The basic sequence of a rally is as follows: (A) put yourself in a good ready position, (B) move to the ball with your feet, staying balanced, (C) stroke the ball, (D) return to ready position, and (E) repeat B, C, and D until the rally ends.
  5. Train your strokes until they are "automatic." When you first learn a new skill, you use a lot of mental energy to formulate a clear mental picture of how the stroke looks and feels. Once this mental picture is relatively accurate, you should then practice that skill repeatedly until you no longer have to think about how to do it. This is your “automatic stage”. Your best performance will come when you operate on “automatic” and you do not analyze your skill. You just “let it happen.”
  6. Use only your own racket. It’s important to get your own racket and then to use it exclusively. Every racket has its own “feel” and playing characteristics, and you will benefit greatly by using only one racket so you’re not always trying to adapt to a different one. Also, take good care of your racket; treat it with respect. Keep it in a case when you’re not using it. If you’re using inverted sponge rubber (smooth surface), you should wash it with soap and water or a special racket cleaner after every use.
  7. Develop sidespin serves. Few beginners use sidespin on their serves; whereas, top players use sidespin on almost every serve. Sidespin is almost always combined with either topspin or backspin; pure sidespin is extremely rare in table tennis. Particu larly useful is a sidespin/backspin serve that is low to the net and bounces twice on the other side of the table. This type of serve will severely limit your opponent’s serve return options.
  8. Keep your returns low over the net. In general, the lower over the net you place your shots, the less angle your opponent can use and the harder it is for him/her to hit it with power. The one exception to this rule is if you use lobs, you will want to place the ball very high over the net (and as close to the end of the table as possible).
  9. Practice more than you compete. By practicing, I mean all the time you spend developing your game by concentrating on some aspect you want to strengthen. The primary object during practice is to develop your game. On the other hand, when you compete, your main object should be to win, not to work on some part of your game. It is advisable to play practice games where the object is to blend in a new skill or tactic into a match-like situation before you compete. The emphasis for these practice games is still on development, not winning. And when you do compete, even though your main emphasis is on winning, you can still learn a lot about your game (development) if you analyze your matches after they are over.
  10. Join a table tennis club. To really make progress with your game, it’s important to find others with similar desires and interact with these people. A table tennis club is the best place to do this. Most clubs have players of all different playing levels. Find someone of similar playing ability as yourself and make a commitment to each other to practice regularly. Periodically test your progress by competing with players of higher ability. Furthermore, most clubs have a coach who can help speed up your development. To find a club in your area, contact USA Table Tennis.

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The Benefits Of Using A Robot

Newgy Robo-Pong
Question: 

I'm 29 years of age and I started playing table tennis 2 years ago. It has become sort of a passion. Do you think it would be worth the cost for me? Please try to think as a player rather than as a salesman. Also are there are any disadvantages to Robo-Pong 2000?

Answer: 

Newgy robots are used by players of all levels, but are particularly useful for players who are in the development stages. In the U. S. at the top levels, Cheng Ying Yua (who has beaten Jan Ove Waldner), Jimmy Butler (several times U.S. Champion), Barney J. Reed (current national team member), and many others use our robot for practice. Several of our top coaches like Barney D. Reed, Richard McAfee (1996 Olympic TT Director), Marty Prager, and Larry Hodges all practically insist on having their students use robots so strokes can be "grooved" as quickly as possible. Anytime you're learning something new, you will find a robot helpful. The Newgy robot can be adjusted to challenge any player from beginner to national champion.

A robot purchase is a great investment; it's worth every penny. If you have a robot at home, you are more likely to play and practice than if you have to go to a club and hunt for a compatible partner. The single most important thing to do to improve is to play a lot. With a robot you will hit approximately 5-10 times more balls in the same amount of time than if you were training with a human partner (particularly in the earlier stages where both partners lack the ball control to keep a practice rally going for a long period.). Robot and multi-ball practice is a much more efficient method for practicing which dramatically cuts down the time to learn new skills. The Chinese introduced the concept of multi-ball training back in the 60's and is (arguably) one of the primary reasons why they have so many players that have high level skills.

A robot is not the complete answer to getting better, just a part. Develop strokes and techniques by repetition on the robot, then find a practice partner to incorporate random drills, variable shots, and other things that a robot can't reproduce. A coach guiding this entire process is invaluable also. Other aspects of a complete training program include practice competition (so you can incorporate skills learned in practice into an actual match-like situation), tournaments, calisthenics, league play, and proper nutrition.

The Newgy Robot's spins are very similar to a human's. As a former top level player (top 50 in the U.S.), I have no trouble going from playing on the robot to playing a player in a game. The Newgy Robot is limited, however, in that speed and spin must be increased or decreased at the same time. So it can produce a fast loop with fast speed and high spin, but not a slow loop with slow speed and high spin. A high-level player can also produce more topspin on a good loop than Robo-Pong 2000 can.

One of the least recognized advantages of using a robot is that you can use it to develop your aerobic conditioning. If you set the robot to oscillate (so you have to move your feet) and at a frequency rate that you can keep up with for at least 20 minutes, you can get true aerobic conditioning by keeping your heart rate elevated for an extended period of time. This is very difficult to do with a human partner, for instance, because you must stop at the end of each rally. Using a robot for your aerobic conditioning kills two birds with one stone: you improve your aerobic condition while at the same time you improve your table tennis specific skills. (The Player's Instructional Manual that comes with every Robo-Pong 2000 or 2040 robot includes a complete chapter on how to use your robot to improve your fitness.)

I do not know of any disadvantage to using a robot. However, the robot is limited in what it can do. As long as you keep in mind that the robot is not the complete answer, just a part in the puzzle, you will enjoy your practice and reap many benefits from its use.

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Switching From Robot Play To Competition

Newgy Robo-Pong
Question: 

Once I got used to Robo-Pong's speed, angle, placing and rhythm, I have a big disadvantage playing with human players whose hits vary so much in speed, angle, placing and spin. Although I can adjust Robo-Pong's speed, angle and placing, it does not help much. My playing skills worsened.

Answer: 

Regarding your concerns about training on the robot affecting your competitive play, please remember that robot training is only a part of a total training program. Robot training, 1-on-1 training, multi-ball training, fitness training, practice competition, tournaments, and having a good coach are all necessary for a complete training program. Using a robot will indeed accelerate development of a number of skills if used properly. As a 2100 level rated player, I can seamlessly go from playing on a robot to a competitive match with no ill effects. The secret is in how you design your training program.

The robot's biggest strength is in developing strokes and footwork. For fastest improvement, particularly in the early learning stages, it is very important to have a consistent ball to practice a new stroke against. This is exactly what the robot affords. It would be extremely difficult to learn a new stroke if every ball had a different combination of spin, speed, and placement.

This is what I would suggest: Learn a stroke on the robot until you feel very consistent against a variety of spins, speeds, and angles, practicing them one at a time. When you can handle a variety of different returns from the robot, then start working with your practice partner or coach to work in controlled drills that vary returns from shot to shot so that you can learn to modify each stroke to accommodate the type of return. This is a skill that must be practiced in a controlled practice type environment. Do not mislead yourself to think that you can practice this skill in a game or other competitive environment where your focus should be on winning points, not on developing a new skill.

Once you can modify your strokes "on the fly" to accommodate varying controlled returns, then it's time to start working this skill into practice games, where the object is to use this skill as much as possible in the game, win or lose. The last step is using this skill in actual competition. Skipping one of these steps will lead to poor results. Real improvement takes not only hard work, but working smart as well.

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