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-Larry Hodges, Director, TableTennisCoaching.com

Member, USA Table Tennis Hall of Fame & USATT Certified National Coach
Professional Coach at the Maryland Table Tennis Center

Recent TableTennisCoaching.com blog posts

Tip of the Week
Positioning After Serve.

Donald Trump Visits MDTTC
We were all excited to welcome the President of the United States to our club. He played some matches, bragged about how good he was. Here's a picture of him playing

ITTF and USATT Rule Changes and Announcements and a Board Brawl
And so this is what happens the minute I leave the USATT Board of Directors? The ITTF
proposed and approved a new rule that says that the umpire, at his discretion, after a great
rally, may award both players a point. This has got to be the single most ridiculous rule
idea ever, and yet has been approved, first by the ITTF, and now by USATT. And so,
literally right after winning an incredible point, your opponent will now also get a point!
Foolishly, when I first heard about the proposal, I assumed it would be voted down,
or perhaps laughed into oblivion, but it passed unanimously. Suppose there is no umpire,
only you and your opponent, and you win a great point - and your opponent applauds and
laughs, and says, "We each get a point!" I just hope they will rethink and revote on this
silly new rule.

Tip of the Week
Advanced Sponge but No-So-Fast Blades.

USATT Committee Selection Task Force
Did your eyes glaze over just reading that headline? I'm on the task force, along with Eric Wu and chair Gary Schlager. We had three teleconferences, sometimes joined by USATT board chair Anne Cribbs and USATT attorney Dennis Taylor. The purpose of the task force was to sort through the 45 people who had volunteered for 19 USATT committees and make recommendations for the USATT board on who should chair and be members of each committee. It was a herculean task, made much easier by the herculean efforts of Gary and Dennis, who kept us updated on all the needed info. This weekend the board will meet for two days in the Bay Area in California where they will, among other things, finalize and approve the committees for the next two years.

As noted before, my latest two-year term as coaching chair ended recently, and Pieke Franssen has already been approved as the new coaching chair. I have agreed to stay on the coaching committee as a member, pending the board's approval.

Cary Cup
I'll be coaching at the Cary Cup in North Carolina this next weekend, and so no, I won't be at the USATT board meeting held 3000 miles away. I'll be in coaching four kids. This will actually be my first trip to the Triangle Club there since they were super-sized into the largest club in the country. 

Tip of the Week
Challenge an Opponent's Strength.

USATT Election
As I write this, I am a member of the USATT Board of Directors. However, very likely later today I will no longer be on it as they will be counting the ballots in the current election. (I chose not to run for re-election.) The result will be announced on the USATT news page, though I don't know for sure if it will go up today. (I'll link to it directly from here when it goes up.) BREAKING NEWS - Bruce won, 260-208. Congrats to him!

The two candidates in the final runoff are Bruce Liu and Mike Babuin. While both have been sharply critical of USATT in many ways, I'm fine with either of them; I know I can talk to either of them. But that might not be the case for some of the people with USATT - there's going to be some friction involved with either of them. But maybe that's a good thing as it makes us really look at what we're doing.

Tip of the Week
How to Beat a MUCH Stronger Player.

U.S. Open and Nationals
The entry form for the US Nationals recently went up at the 2019 US Nationals Home Page. It's in Las Vegas, June 30 - July 5, and I'll be there! I'll mostly be coaching, though I'm toying with entering Over 40 Hardbat Singles - I've won it five times, and from the schedule it won't conflict with my coaching. (I'd like to play Hardbat Doubles, which I've won 14 times, but it would conflict with events I'd be coaching in, alas. Note that I normally use sponge, but like hardbat on the side.)

There's been some controversy about the cut in prize money. For example, first place in Men's and Women's Singles last year was $7000 each; this year it's only $3000. Overall, prize money dropped from last year's $44,725 to this year's $27,700. However, $7050 of this year's prize money is in the form of vouchers for junior events, which can only be used for "payment towards ITTF Tournaments, USATT National Ranking Tournaments and/or TTTeam USA / USATT Training Camps. Such vouchers are non‐transferrable." If you exclude the vouchers, prize money this year is $20,650, less than half of last years. I don't think we need to get into exact numbers; roughly speaking, prize money is about half of last years. (Here is the 2018 US Nationals entry form for comparison.)

Tip of the Week
Be an Olympian - In Your Mind.

USATT Election, Coaching Committee, and the USATT Committee Selection Task Force

Tip of the Week
Top Ten Ways to Turn a Match Around.

Weekend Coaching
This past week in my two Beginning Junior Classes (Thursday and Sunday nights) the focus was on smashing. We started the sessions (which are two different groups of players) with about 30 minutes of basic stroking and footwork drills. Then came the demo and lecture on smashing. Then the players went into their groups, and either smashes against multiball, or against coaches who fished. (My assistants on Thursday are Lidney Castro and Aron Zhang; on Sundays Lidney and John Hsu.)

At the Saturday Junior League (which is half league, half coaching), we did the usual doubles and singles matches, often with improvised rules to force players to work on specific aspects of their games. For example, one segment, for the lower-ranked players, had them serving backspin to the backhand, the receiver pushed down the line to the forehand, the serve forehand looped, and they played out the point. For the advanced players, they had similar drills, such as serve and backhand loop, or serve and loop against a deep push anywhere.

At the Sunday Talent Program (more advanced juniors), as usual I did lots and Lots and LOTS of multiball in my station. (We often break them into rotating groups.) We also had them play up-down tables, except (like the Saturday league), the server served backspin, receiver pushed to forehand, and server forehand looped. Then came physical training and then Brazilians. And then I raced home to watch the Academy Awards! (I've seen every movie nominated for Best Picture and nearly every other movie nominated for anything.)

Tip of the Week
Judging the Depth of a Serve.

Offensive Clothing
At some point I'm guessing we are going to be faced with the following situation. Someone shows up at a tournament wearing something that, to some, is offensive, while to others, it is not. Before I get into this, here's the pertinent rule:

3.2.2.6, Clothing shall not carry designs or lettering which might cause offence or bring the game into disrepute.

The tournament referee has to judge this, and they will have varying judgments. So where do we draw the line? I'm fairly certain every referee will rule Nazi symbols are offensive, and not allow it. But how about someone wearing a Confederate flag? Would it make a difference if they do this in, say, South Carolina as opposed to New York? Some might find Islamic or Christian symbols offensive, so how does the referee judge this? Would he allow someone wearing a shirt with a picture depicting Allah? (It is offensive in the Islamic faith to show pictures of Allah. People, especially cartoonists, have been murdered for doing so.)

Tip of the Week
Wanting to Win Versus Hating to Lose.

Pink Eye
As noted the last couple of days, I've been sick in bed with Conjunctivitis, i.e. "Pink Eye." I'm 80% over that, and no longer look like Frankenstein's monster. There's still a lot of puffiness, I'm still going through Kleenex faster than a coach can feed multiball, and I have the energy of a smooshed ping-pong ball, but I'm back in action. Alas, my stomach seems perpetuall queezy right now. 

USATT Election
A USATT election is taking place, with three candidate running for my current position - Mike Babuin, Bruce Liu, and Lily Yip. (As I've blogged about, I chose not to run for re-election. It's someone else's turn! I expect to stay neutral in the election.) Here is the USATT Election News Item. Here is the pertinent info from it:

  • Voting will start on February 25, 2019, and end on March 3, 2019. Voting will be on-line only.  
  • Eligible voters must have a current USATT membership that has been valid for at least 60 days prior to February 25, 2019, be in good standing with the association and be 18 or older. 
  • The ballot will be emailed to USATT members on February 25th.
  • Members should vote for only one candidate. If no candidate receives more than 50% of the eligible votes cast, then there will be a run-off election between the top two candidates who received the most votes.

Here is election info from each.

=>MIKE BABUIN
Mike has produced eleven videos where he covers various USATT issues. (He told me he's recorded about 30 so far, and the rest will go up regularly over the next couple of weeks.)

TUESDAY MORNING UPDATE - I need at least one more day off. I'm 50-50 about doing the blog tomorrow or just waiting until the next one on Monday. My voice is mostly back and so I was able to attend the USATT board teleconference last night. Left eye got better, now both eyes look only slightly reddish and saggy. Strangely, the infection seems to have moved into my lower left lip, which is now swelling and puffing out like a cartoonish snarl. I'm still going though Kleenex like former world #1 Mikael Appelgren used to go through sponge. (He was known for changing the sponge on both sides of his racket before every match.) About every half hour I go into a hacking fit as I cough up strange looking stuff. I may do an emergency supermarket run today for Kleenex and soup. Meanwhile, here's a new video: Never Give Up! (5:41).

#

Alas, I've come down pretty sick with Conjunctivitis, i.e. pink eye. It's an almost cartoonish name and I didn't know anything about it until yesterday. I came down with what I thought was a cold early last week. On Saturday morning my left eye was literally crusted shut, and all red and puffy. It was also spreading to my right eye. I was coughing up green stuff and going through boxes of Kleenex. My voice was down to a croak and my throat is on fire. Making things worse, I had to run the MDTTC February Open this weekend. On Sunday early afternoon I finally left and saw a doctor - at that point I looked like Frankenstein's monster. Assistant Director Klaus Wood took over, with help from Greg Mascialiano and half a dozen of our local juniors, who are great at data input.

Tip of the Week
Straighten the Belt, and the Rest Falls into Place.

Weekend Coaching
In the Thursday Beginning Junior Class, we introduced the players to fast, deep serves, using the same method I'd used previously: I put a water bottle on all four corners of each table, and a piece of string across the table about ten inches from the end-line. The players then tried to serve and hit the bottles where the first bounce was past the string. We also did a recap on forehands and backhands. We then finished with the usual games - up-down tables for the older ones, build and then knock down pyramids of cups for the younger players.

In the Sunday Beginning Junior Class, we focused on footwork, and demoed most of the main types. Near the end of the training segment we had a forehand-to-forehand contest, where they tried to see how many they could get in a row. (I think the high-score was 82.) We finished with the same games as the Thursday class.

In the Talent Development Program on Sunday (advanced juniors), we did lots of multiball training, and then a number of table drills, followed by physical training with various ladder drills. We finished with Brazilian teams. One of the players surprised me by his improvement - when we chose up teams, I thought he was one of the weakest, but he started by scoring the first six points in a row, and was consistently the best player the rest of the game. He practices regularly with his dad, a 2000 player, and is moving up fast. Another player surprised me with how good his serves are getting. I told him I could see he had been practicing them, and he pleasantly surprised, but couldn't figure out how I knew, at first thought I must have been spying on him! I explained that a coach can always tell if someone has been practicing their serves by how much their serves are improving!!!