Do you have a table tennis robot? Is your robot training boring? Yes, possibly, if you are knocking the same ball into a machine for 6 hours/day. What can you do to make your robot sessions more interesting and more effective for your improvement during this lockdown?
In this new coaching article, I'm going to briefly outline 11 things that you can do to make your robot sessions at home more effective! Try them out and let me know what you think!
There are two aspects of rallies - adjusting for the incoming ball and making the opponents adjust to your shots. The same thing applies to robot training - you need to setup drills that give variations to you so that you need to adjust, and at the same time giving variations to the imagined opponent... speed variations, spin variations, placement variations, height variations, depth variations, and shot type variations.
Simulate Real Games
You will have your most focused training sessions when you picture a real opponent - think about your current rival - Kanak Jha or Matt Hetherington or Adam Bobrow or Chester Taylor or Erick Chamblee on the other side of the table. Setup scenarios that they often play, such as... short serve to the forehand followed up by consistent rally to the backhand followed by a fast punch to the middle. Setup 4 or 5 or 6 ball games. In order to score, you need to make the 5 balls on. Keep score to 11 and see if you can make progress during the coming days in beating Mike Boyd
Before starting any robot training day, make a plan to what you are doing. Start off with doing 20-30 min/day with goals for each drill and times for each drill. Between drills, use the time efficiently and mix in serve practice and/or fitness training.
Count Your Hits
When playing against an opponent, you realize that you lost the first game 11-1 and are down 8-2 in the second. When playing with the robot, you don't get feedback on your successes. So start counting. Do a drill with 20 balls and see if you can land 16/20 every time. If you are getting 20/20, then push the limits for added speed, added depth, or different variations on your own shots. If you are getting 8/20, then focus more on consistency aspects - are you getting in the right position, are you timing it correctly, are you watching the ball fully to your racket - are you playing within your most consistent zone. If you aren't counting, you probably don't know exactly how you are doing.
You likely have a smartphone or tablet. Record your drills and watch them during water breaks. Learn to coach yourself. No matter what level you are, it is important to have a personal coach. In addition to your personal coach, you also need to be giving yourself advice session by session... drill by drill... and even hit by hit! What kinds of thing should you be looking for? The list is endless, by here are a few things for starters.
How is your distance from the table?
How is your response to the incoming ball?
How is your feeling or action on the ball?
How is your placement?
How is your recovery for the next hit?
How is your breathing?
And thousands of other observations...
Have Fun With Robot Positions
The most underused aspect of robot training is changing the position of the robot in your table tennis room. Try putting it on a chair and moving it back from the table - move it to the side of the table - even move it on the floor and have it throw lobs to the ceiling. Different positions give you a different feel, and that is really what you want. You don't want to be getting the same exact ball again and again. You want variations... sometimes simulating Sarah Jalli firing hard from point blank range and sometimes simulating Chance Friend at mid-distance and sometimes simulating Sid Khandelwal lobbing sidespin from the barrier. The more variation you get, the more you are practicing for real opponents - it makes it more challenging and more enjoyable.
Try Something New
Are you stuck at home for weeks on end with no tournaments in sight? Well NOW is the time to try something new. Develop an off-speed block or learn a sidespin push or experiment with a backhand chop or practice looping around the net or learn to loop from different positions to different positions or experiment with the Yoshimura serve. Adding some new things to your game could pay off BIG TIME in the future and now is the season to try it.
Focus on Placement
When playing against a human, it is vitally important to be consistent so that you can both get a good training session. It is tough to push the placement limits during a footwork drill trying to go for extremely angled shots or extremely deep loops in the last 4" of the table. However, the robot doesn't care if you miss!!! Think about that. Now is your chance to really learn to hit wide with precision. Consider even adding targets to the table. Just make sure the targets aren't too small. I once had to do a robot repair with someone who got an action figure jammed in the robot!
Do It Together
Now is the best time to connect with your family. Instead of doing robot training by yourself in the garage, ask your wife or son or daughter to join you! Set the robot up for a beginner drill - they do a 2 min beginner drill and you do a 2 min advanced drill. Robot training is something fun for the whole family!
You will have better sessions if you spend just a few minutes on note-taking! Before you begin, take 1-2 min to write down some goals for the session, write notes on your progress during the session, and write some closing thoughts. You have heard the expression, "If you don't know where you are going, any road will get you there." This is true for your robot sessions as well. Map out your session and see if you can reach your goals!
Upload Your Session to Social Media
I would love to see what you are doing at home. Record a 1-min session and upload it to Instagram or Facebook or even Youtube. Send me a link and let me know how your sessions are going. Regardless if you are taking Skype lessons from me or not, I would love to see how this article impacted your robot sessions and would love to see you having FUN and making progress during this difficult time! Be safe - stay home - and I'll see you in the coming months right here in Akron, Ohio at the Samson Dubina Table Tennis Academy!
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