Coach Samson Dubina US National Team Coach 4x USATT Coach of the Year

To see this website as it was intended, please update to a modern browser!


13 Stages

Develop a systematic approach to learning a new skill


13 Stages!
Coaching Article by Samson Dubina
"I'm so dumb!"
"I'm a loser!"
"Why can't I just do it?"
These are some of the comments that I hear flying around the table tennis club after learning a new skill.  Some local player goes on youtube, learns a new stroke, and thinks that he should have it perfected one week later at the club.  
It doesn't work like that.  Learning a new skill takes time and there is a systematic progression to learning.  If you are learning a new skill, start at stage 1.  If you have been learning a new skill, try to figure out which stage you are currently at and work from there.  This concept can be applied to any stroke, but I'm going to use backhand loop as an illustration here...
Stage #1 Understanding the Need
You have a great forehand loop.  You are developing footwork in order to use your forehand as much as possible while still maintaining balance and control.  However, you aren’t able to cover the extreme angles and often get stuck blocking or counterdriving with your backhand.  You also aren’t able to attack strong against a hard, low block.  You clearly understand that the backhand loop against topspin is vital to your game, you are willing to work hard to get this new weapon.  Again, this thinking can be applied to any new skill, not just the backhand loop.
Stage #2 Visualization
Next, you need to be able to visualize it in your mind.  Start by watching some youtube videos of the world’s top players performing this stroke; if possible, watch the slow-motion version .  Also, try to watch other club members, elite players at tournaments, and especially some top coaches.  This stage should take less than 1 week.
Stage #3 Shadow Strokes
Stand in front of a large mirror.  Holding your racket, perform about 100 strokes per day trying your best to remember all the elements that you saw during your visualization – stance, foot positioning, shoulder, arm, wrist, racket angle, timing, backswing, contact point, follow through, and other aspects.  Occasionally, pause and review the youtube video over and over again for deeper visualization.  This stage should take about 1-2 weeks.
Stage #4 Hit the Ball
It is now time to give your new stroke a try!  Using your Power Pong table tennis robot, have the balls shoot slow topspin to your backhand court.  You should  be recording your backhand loop throughout the practice.  Every 30 seconds, turn off the robot and quickly review the video.  If you don’t have access to a Power Pong robot, ask a friend or club member to block slowly and consistently to your backhand.  The goal is to get 20 consecutive backhand loops on the table.  This might possibly be the hardest stage and will likely take 4-5 months to perfect.
Stage #5 Changing Speeds
There are 2 aspect to this stage.  The first is to adjust your own speed.  You should be able to consistently loop slightly harder or slightly softer while still maintaining consistency and spin.  By giving variation in your game, you will be able to keep your opponent off-balance.  The second aspect is adjusting your opponent’s speed.  Have your training partner or power pong robot hit the ball sometimes faster and sometimes slower to your backhand.  When the fast ball comes, shorten your stroke while spinny through the ball.  When the slow ball comes, lengthen your swing.  Developing an adjustable stroke will allow you to later perform well against any style – regardless of the quick or slow timing.  This stage will probably take about 1 month to somewhat develop and a life of training to perfect.  This stage needs to be repeated over and over again, even for professional players.
Stage #6 Changing Distances
In table tennis, most players have a preferred distance that they like to play –near the table, mid-distance, or far from the table.  However, in matches, it isn’t always possible to stay at that exact distance.  For this reason, it is good to learn to play all three distances and be able to smoothly move from distance to distance within the same rally.  If you are closer to the table, shorten your stroke.  If you are farther from the table, lengthen your stroke.  This stage will probably take about 1-2 weeks.
Stage #7 Combining Strokes
After you have perfected your new skill through the steps previously mentioned, it is time to move to the next stage – combining the strokes.  Select a Power Pong robot drill that will simply give you 1 ball to your backhand and 1 ball to your forehand.  See if you can be consistent while moving into position and linking the shots together.   This stage will probably take about 1 month.
Stage #8 Semi-Systematic Drills
This stage is very similar to the last one, however, now there is a random factor to the drill.  Using your Power Pong robot, click RANDOM on the previous drill.  Just like in a game, it is important to watch the approaching ball, then quickly transition to watching your opponent’s racket angle or the robot’s head.  There are dozens of drills like this one.  Semi-systematic means that the balls somewhat hit the table in a system or pattern and sometimes give you a surprise.  
Stage #9 Full Table Random
Random drills are very similar to semi-systematic, except they are much harder.  During a random drill, the Power Pong robot or training partner can hit the balls anywhere on the table or anywhere in a specified zone for any number of balls.  You must be very focused and very flexible to adjust.  I personally like to do random drills as the bulk of my training. 
Stage #10 Game Situation
Now that you have completed all the previous steps, you are now equipped to use your new skill in a game situation.  Have your training partner or robot start with a serve; you should attack the serve and then begin using your backhand loop in the drill.  You are performing the drills with a training partner, there are a variety of ways to start a game situation drill.  You can serve and ask him to flip or push; or he can serve and you attack.  Either way, the drill should work into a systematic, semi-systematic, or random drill.  Before going to the club, you should be able to comfortably perform game-situation drills.
Stage #11 Club
Here lies one of the main obstacles in perfecting a new skill – losing!  At the expense of possibly losing a match, many players don’t want to use their new stroke.  First, you must realize that it is ok to lose to someone that you have beaten for the past 2 years.  It is ok.  Don’t worry what other players might say.  Next, think long term.  By thinking long term, you will be able to keep temporary winning and losing in perspective.  It is ok to lose today to Bob, because I will be beating everyone within 2-3 years.  Tell yourself, “Tonight, I’m going to sacrifice present pleasures for future benefits!” 
Stage #12 Tournament
Playing tournaments is actually very similar to playing club matches.  Continue to remind yourself to do your best, be brave, do the right thing, apply your new skill, perform well, and let winning take care of itself.  Be flexible and ready to adjust to a variety of playing styles.  Take your time between points and encourage yourself.  Your approach to a tournament should be no different than your approach to a club match.
Stage #13 An Important Point
You have been using your new skill successfully throughout the easy match.  Now you are in the final of your event and the score is 9-9 in the final game.  The entire tournament has stopped to watch this point.  At this moment, it is all mental.  You have proved to yourself through months of hard training that you have mastered every step of the way.  What are you going to do? 
The choice is yours.
'Hi Friends!

We are thrilled to announce our first annual banquet and tournament here in Akron, Ohio at the Samson Dubina Educational Table Tennis Academy with amazing food, fun, games, snacks, music, raffles, dessert, special guests, and tournament action!  Yes, we are a 501(C)(3) Organization and count on your yearly support!  All the support from tickets and donations will be used for building table tennis stronger through better daily group training, more professional leagues, stronger tournaments, and more opportunities for table tennis to continue growing!  
Tickets are now on sale!
Banquet and Tournament:   $55 Pay at the Door
Banquet and Tournament:  $35 Pre-Pay  BUY NOW
VIP Banquet and Tournament:   $200 Pay at the Door
VIP Banquet and Tournament:  $95 Pre-Pay  BUY NOW
Can't attend the banquet but still want to partner with us?  DONATE NOW
Saturday, November 19th 
12pm Doors Open
1pm Meal
2:30pm Dessert, Prizes, Exhibitions, Games
3pm Tournament Action Starts
Exhibitions and Challenge Matches:

  • Angela Guan - US National Team Member
  • Sarah Jalli - US National Team Member
  • Nandan Naresh - US National Team Member
  • Andrew Cao - US National Team Member
  • Jeff Yamada - Brazil National Team Member
  • Senura Silva - Sri Lanka Men's Singles National Champion
  • Seth Pech - National Team Trials #10 in the US
  • Chance Friend - National Team Trials #9 in the US
  • Yutaka Nakano - Japan Top 16 Men's Singles
  • Samson Dubina - CEO of the SDETTA, Inc. 501(c)(3)

Normal Tickets
$35 Pre-Pay
Meal and Dessert
Tournament Participation
VIP Tickets
$95 Pre-Pay
Meet and Greet with the Pros
Meal Upgrade
Premium Seating
Signed SDTTA Shirt
30 Min Lesson with an elite coach
Tournament Participation
Target Goal
Raise $80,000 to support our non-profit
Your Choice of Pasta Dinner Including Vegetarian, Chicken, or Shrimp as well as Salad and Dessert.
Tournament Format
Unsanctioned Round Robin format with the top 3 in every division getting prizes!
Samson Dubina Educational Table Tennis Academy, Inc. 501(C)(3) Non-Profit
2262 South Arlington Rd Akron, Ohio 44319
Contact Samson Dubina Today!
Phone:  Text 330-949-9230
Your Support
Hi Donors, 
I'm Samson Dubina, founder and CEO of the Samson Dubina Educational Table Tennis Academy, Inc.  
When I was 12 years old, a received a flier in the mail about a free table tennis lesson from a local church.  After attending some weekly sessions, I was introduced to the Canton Table Tennis club at the local YWCA.  From age 12-21, I played once a week at the club and also met up with friends throughout the week and practiced.  Lack of proper coaching and training, hindered my development as a player.  When I was in my 20's, I received some professional training.  There were many many opportunities that I missed out on during my younger years.  I don't want that to happen to you!!!  Our team of expert coaches and practice partners here at the Samson Dubina Educational TT Academy want to give you the best training experience possible!  In 2022, we established the first academy in North American that has professional group training twice daily!  The expense of taking care of locals and visiting players, the expense of running the Ohio Mega Camps, the expense of operating a full-time 15,000 sq. ft facility with full staff is more than we can afford.  That is the reason that we value and appreciate your yearly donations!  The only way that we can stay open and committed to help you reach your goals is by your annual support!  This year, we need to raise $80,000.  Thanks in advance for your generosity!
Samson Dubina 


Tickets are now on sale!
Banquet and Tournament:   $55 Pay at the Door
Banquet and Tournament:  $35 Pre-Pay  BUY NOW
VIP Banquet and Tournament:   $200 Pay at the Door
VIP Banquet and Tournament:  $95 Pre-Pay  BUY NOW
Can't attend the banquet but still want to partner with us?  DONATE NOW