I visited the Newgy headquarters and training center in Gallatin (north and east of Nashville Tennessee ) on December 12-15th with my regular coach Carl Hardin. My goals were to get some help on pips out penhold technique from resident coach Shigang Yang (known as Alex) and to pick up a Newgy robot to practice at home. I got much more out of the trip than I had hoped for.
The Newgy headquarters is quite a nice facility and there are three tables with large courts for drills and free play in one room and six tables with Newgy 2040 robots attached in another room. Having so many robots in one place allowed my coach to set up stations where students can move from one preset robot to another. I practiced serves on one table, serve return of short serves on one robot, serve return of long serves on another and blocks on yet another all without having to change settings. There was still some construction going on while I was there so I look forward to seeing the finished product in a few months when they have their grand opening.
What I most looked forward to was working with Shigang Yang (Alex), a former professional player and 1998 World University Champion who had come up through the Chinese system training with Wang Liqin from age 5 to 15, along with Shao Yu and Virginia Sun. While my coach is good on general principles and the mental side, I’m his only penholder so there are some things that he is less able to help with. As a 2586 rated player (#12 in the USA) Alex certainly knows how to play effectively as a pips out penholder, he was taught by some of the best coaches in the Chinese system, like former Women’s national team head coach Lu Yuansheng.
Alex had also been trained as a coach in China and works with players of a variety of ages, including one who drives from to work to train with him every two weeks. We began with the basics and he immediately made some helpful changes to my grip and stance and then we worked on serve return technique. While working with him I noticed that each change felt more bio-mechanically correct than what I had been doing before, making the strokes seem more reproducible. Seeing him demonstrate the strokes was quite a treat as he has developed very efficient technique. His English is fine and we had no trouble communicating with each other.
Each day Alex would give me something new to work on; using serves with different spins and placements, opening up against underspin at 70% power, rallying against a block and blocking. He would provide small pieces of advice primarily focused on contact and timing that addressed issues that I’ve had with my technique. I would then work on these techniques with my own coach, along with Roger Dickson - warehouse manager at Newgy and state-level coach, and with Josef Newgarden, the owner’s grandson. I look forward to working with Alex in the future as we only scratched the surface of his knowledge but I have plenty of things to work on until then.
I also got a chance to test my skills versus local players. The Newgy Team League meets on Wednesday nights and offers a wide variety of players, ranging from 1000 level to 2100 (or 2500+ when Alex is free to play). The 1000 level players are like none I’ve ever seen, they have good strokes, technique and should rapidly gain in rating when they play more tournaments. Roger was also nice enough to take me to the club in I got to practice against players of a variety of ages and styles including some of Alex’s pupils. Another “Alex,” Alex Lim – Table Tennis Program Director at WCR&R, was very welcoming, as was the case everywhere I went in Tennessee.
Thanks to all of the staff at Newgy who were all very friendly and helpful, particularly President and Owner Joe Newgarden, General Manager Larry Thoman and Vice President Andy Putnam who went well out of his way to make sure I was staying in a place where I could get some rest and also gave me a tour of Mr. Newgarden’s other major business, Nationwide Studios just down the street. Thanks to Alex and Roger who gave me a number of things to work on and a lot of practice time, to Josef Newgarden who rallied and played with me, and to my coach Carl Hardin who gave me a ride and helped me understand how to integrate all these things into my game. I look forward to when they get the training center completed and look forward to my next visit there.
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