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Larry Hodges' daily blog will go up Mon-Fri by noon USA Eastern time (usually by 10 AM, a little later on Mondays when he does a Tip of the Week).
Larry is a member of the U.S. Table Tennis Hall of Fame, a USATT Certified National Coach, a professional coach at the Maryland Table Tennis Center (USA), and author of seven books and over 1400 articles on table tennis. Here is his bio

Make sure to order your copy of Larry's best-selling book, Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers!
21 chapters, 240 pages, 102,000 words. Finally, a tactics book on this most tactical of sports!!!

His book, Table Tennis Tips, is also out - All 150 Tips of the Week from 2011-2013, in one volume, in logical progression!!!

His newest book, The Spirit of Pong, is also out - a fantasy story about an American who goes to China to learn the secrets of table tennis and ends up training with the spirits of past champions. Read the First Two Chapters for free!

February 11, 2016

Review of The Metaphysics of Ping-Pong
The Metaphysics of Ping-Pong (2015, 226 pages, by Guido Mina di Sospiro, subititled "Table Tennis as a Journey of Self-Discovery") is a fascinating story of one man's introduction and and often chaotic journey into the world of table tennis. Though I don't believe I've ever met him, much of his table tennis journey took place in neighboring Virginia and in some Maryland clubs, along with various other places around the U.S. and the world, including Italy, China, Mexico, New York City, California, and on cruise ships.

The novel has lots of cultural, philosophical, and historical asides, with various ruminations about this man's journey into the sport of table tennis, with lots of interesting characters. His introduction to the sport included facing a player using the "mythical" Sriver inverted rubber, under the Draconian "winner stays" rules. And from there we are off to meet the various characters in this world of table tennis.

We meet Joe (the short, muscular lawyer guy with one eye who wears goggles to protect the other, who'd gone to Sweden to "check out the table tennis scene"); Alex (the passionate, sweating, cursing Russian with a lightning loop and a boxing background and two years as a "slave" in Siberia); Gilbert (the Filipino player with a limp and two physically demanding jobs); Hien (the Vietnamese who spent eight years as a prisoner of war undergoing torture); the Afghan refugee who had never seen a water fountain with potable water before; Harbin (and his theory of luck – and was a Chinese city named after him?); the ubiquitous coach Jaime, who trained the author on and off; the CIA guard who scornfully says, "Ping-pong tires you out?"; and many, many more of the huge number of characters that make up the table tennis world. The players were "from all over the world – some of them refugees, others eccentrics, rarely jocks – all with interesting stories to tell." (Page 48.) Along the way you'll learn about his having a machine gun pressed against his temple and having to eat his tie.

On page 23 he quotes Larry Hodges (disclaimer: that's me!), where he writers, "Larry Hodges, one of the leading experts on table tennis, explains it [the Magnus effect] in the following layman's terms:" (What follows is a long quote that you'll have to buy the book to find - it's from page 51 of my Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers book, near the end of the chapter "All About Spin.")

As he faced numerous losses in various table tennis settings, he bravely continued to play. He wrote of how the Chinese players "by resorting to unimaginable amounts of spin on their every ball, had given me a reality check." (Page 24.) Of one such loss to a Chinese player he wrote, "Humbling though this was, it didn't make me give up. I'm happy it didn't, because I was about to embark on a strange and, in many ways, awe-inspiring adventure. And should you happen to try this, too, I hope you won't give up, either, because the adventure is worth every minute of your time and every drop of sweat." (Page 24.)

But he learned. "I finally began to make some sense out of the myriad shots that the Chinese and everyone else threw at me. I memorized the motions they made, with the hand and the elbow, without realizing yet that I should have been watching for the movement of the whole body – as they hit the ball – and especially how the ball bounced on the table. Things began to fall into place, and I had my first few wins." (Page 39.)

He also began to realize that he was "complicating my learning process by equipping myself with rubbers – and blades – beyond my level. To add to the confusion, I kept changing combinations, peeling rubbers from one blade and gluing them onto another." (Page 62.) A budding EJ - Equipment junkie! He learns that "A top player knows before hitting the ball that, thanks to his correct position, movement, dose of power, and precision of aim, the ball will land on the opponent's side of the table exactly where and how he wants it to land." (Pages 81-82.) But he continues to make slow progress – and quotes Plato: "Never discourage anyone . . . who continually makes progress, no matter how slow." (Page 61.)

We learn of the "Kokutaku Blütenkirsche 868 Tokyo Super Tacky Japanese Style" rubber. ("Beware, on my backhand I've got a . . . Kokutaku Blütenkirsche! You've been warned." (Blütenkirsche, we learn, means "flowering cherry tree," and refers to the common Japanese flowering cherry.) (Pages 62-63.)

In the never-ending arguments between those who wish the sport had stayed in its classic stage (hardbat and less spin & speed), he takes a decidedly pro-sponge stance, favoring the modern game. He talks about how modern table tennis is "strikingly non-Euclidean," that "Euclidean geometry is the geometry of plain surfaces and three-dimensional space, but non-Euclidean geometry is the geometry of curved surfaces, hence it is indeed and appropriate term for this kind of ping-pong." (Page 5.) While we might bicker with the specifics of these definitions, most of us get the gist of what he is saying. Later he compares table tennis to tennis, which banned spaghetti string rackets, which is tennis's equivalent to table tennis's sponge. "Tennis remains a sport that favors the player's physical stature and power. It missed its chance to evolve and become a more sophisticated game, unlike table tennis." He then says, "Indeed, table tennis had changed forever. The two S's, Spin and Speed, had taken over. Gone was the Euclidean age of the hardbat with predictable trajectories and bounces – both on the table and off the racket – and never-ending rallies. Table tennis had become at once cerebral and snappy, something like a four-dimensional puzzle that one has to solve with no time to think about it." (Page 19.)

There's a whole chapter on "Two Breeds of Players and Men: Metaphysicians and Empiricists." (Page 107.) The definitions are subtle, but he writes, "Metaphysicians strive to master the art of spinning, which propels them, willy-nilly, into the realm of four-dimensional and non-Euclidean geometry. They strive to find the secret at the core of the game, one demanding a holistic approach that starts with agile footwork and ends with a snappy twist of one's wrist; they strive to learn and apply the variations of the loop; they strive to bend the laws of physics, in a sense, by being able to give the ball, through the Magnus effect, the exact arc that will make it touch the deep end of the table rather than go long. In short, metaphysicians take life head on and yearn to get as close as possible to true form." (Page 111.)

Empiricists, on the other hand, "take the easy path and don't strive at all. In their empirical experience, they've realized that spin remains a mystery to them and that striving takes them nowhere; it's unnecessary strife. Plato might remark that they're content to be in the cave. Why climb mountains when one can score points by taking the road downhill?" (Page 113.)

Guido also has some choice words for long pips and antispin: "Long-pips players go hand in hand with anti-spin players, that other branch of cave dwellers who rob the game of its chief mystery by using 'dead' rubbers that don't produce spin and that also neutralize all incoming spin. Horrors!" He wrote that these surfaces put on the hold "the development of the new era of TT ushered in by the sandwich revolution. But when one can fly, why slither?" He follows this with a discourse on such cave dwellers, including basement players who have never experienced the spins of modern table tennis. (Page 115.) He's likely to get some choice words from the non-inverted world for these comments – but perhaps they should read the entire chapter (and book) for context, since he's writing from what he considers a highly modernistic point of view, where inverted speed and spin are king.

He asks one player, Ted, why he uses a hardbat. The answer is, "I started playing with my father, in the basement. Back then, there were no sandwich rackets, so I still play with a hardbat." Guido's response: "By the same token, you watch black-and-white television and own no computer or cell phone, right?" (Page 118.)

Later he talks about "parasitic table tennis," players who "cling indefinitely to their 'shortcuts,' which will grant them many wins, to be sure, but past a certain ranking, no more." (Page 169.) This, of course, is many a coach's bane.

He describes his first tournament as "chaotic," and we learn how it is a complex system – and the ensuing discussion involves chaos theory and quantum mechanics. (Pages 153-158.)

There's a chapter on his "Pilgrimage to the Holy Land" – China, with lots of detail about what really is the holy land of table tennis. While there he compares table tennis to calligraphy – wonder if he knows that internationally famous calligrapher Julian Waters is a regular player nearby in Maryland? He quotes a calligraphy teacher in China, "Competency in a particular style requires many years of practice. Correct strokes, stroke order, character structure, balance, rhythm are essential in calligraphy." Guido writes, "I did a double take; the same words could have been said about table tennis." (Page 182.) Then he writes, "Chinese professional calligraphers will cultivate their every stroke of the brush; professional table-tennis players, their every stroke of the racket. But advanced table-tennis players do not just hit the ball – they brush it. For every brushstroke in calligraphy there is a brushed stroke in table tennis. It's no wonder, then, that so much of the best table tennis in the world is to be found in East Asian countries, in all of which calligraphy is revered as the purest of arts." (Page 184.)

He quotes numerous philosophers, writers, scientists, and others, including (in the order they are referred to): Rupert Sheldrake, Henry Miller, Mircea Eliade, Erasmus, Sun Tzu ("The Art of War"), Carl von Clausewitz ("On War"), Cumean Sibyl (Greek priestess presiding over the Apollonian Oracle), Plato, Teri Garr (lab assistant in the film "Young Frankenstein"), Nizami Ganjavi, Idries Shah, Aldous Huxley, Dino Buzzati, Aristotle, John Locke, Bertrand Russell, Benvenuto Cellini, Aldous Huxley, Ben Jonson ("The Alchemist"), Carl Jung, Epictetus, Chuang Tzu, Johan Huizinga ("Homo Ludens"); French poet and philosopher Paul Valery, Jack London, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Lao Tzu ("Tao Te Ching"), Ludwig Wittgenstein, Rudolf Carnap, Jalal ad-Din Rumi, Shams Tabrizi, St. John of the Cross, and Lin Tutang. It refers to numerous books, from the book ancient Chinese book "I Ching" ("Book of Changes") to The Adventures of Pinocchio. Numerous philosophical systems are referred to, such as Taoism, Zen, Sufism, Feng Shui, and Yin and Yang.

And yet, with all the philosophical meanderings, it's basically a book about the fascinating experiences of this player's introduction and experiences as he delves into this Olympic sport. I highly recommend it – it's a unique story that any of us in this rather eccentric sport can relate to.

Ask the Coach Show
Episode #222 (24:50) - Stopping a Killer Backhand (and other segments).

LYTTC to Host USA’s 2016 ITTF World Hopes Camp & Qualifying Tournament
Here's the article. "USA Table Tennis selects the LYTTC to hold USA’s 2016 ITTF World Hopes Camp and qualifying tournament on February 27-28, 2016. Any child born in 2004 and 2005 are eligible to participate in the qualifying tournament. There will also be spots available in the Saturday Camp for anyone under 12 years old."

Pan America, Continents Unite for Major Tournaments
Here's the article. "Every four years the Pan American Games is staged; the various competitions are fought fiercely, the table tennis events are no exception; now following an agreement between the Latin American Table Tennis Union and the North American Table Tennis Union, the concept of the two continents uniting will happen on an annual basis." … "an agreement was reached to promote three events: the Pan American Championships, the Pan American Cup and the Pan American Junior and Cadet Championships."

Amazing Table Tennis Forehand Technique
Here's the video (1:29) of Kaden Xu at the Lily Yip TTC, with Matt Hetherington feeding multiball.

Kobe Bryant's Table Tennis Competitiveness
Here's the article. "A story about Kobe Bryant playing — and quickly mastering — pingpong illustrates his insane competitiveness."

Ping-Pong Accuracy
Here's the video (12 sec) from Pongfinity.

Adaptive Pong?
Here's the picture – but that net needs more books! (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

Zoolander Plays Pong
Here's the repeating video (15 sec) – "Ping-Pong is a big part of my life."

***
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February 10, 2016

USATT Reports – Leagues, Regional Associations, State Championships

My USATT League, Regional Associations, and State Championships Report went to the board in December. (I chair the USATT League Committee and am the Regional Associations Coordinator.) Also online are the minutes of the USATT League Committee Conference Call held on Jan. 16. (You can find these and other committee reports in the USATT Committee Reports Page. Here is a listing of USATT Committees.) Below is the Board Report. If it's boring, skip ahead to the good stuff below! (The formatting below doesn't quite match up with the original - the interface here isn't great.) 

<Start USATT Board Report>

USATT Board Report
USATT League Committee, Regional Associations, State Championships

By Larry Hodges, larry@larrytt.com
USATT League Committee Chair and Regional Associations Coordinator
December, 2015

USATT League Committee
I was appointed the USATT League Chair in March, 2015. Most of the committee members were approved also in March (Adam Bobrow, Michael Levene, Bruce Liu, Han Xiao), with two others added in October (Tahl Leibovitz, Mauricio Vergara).

The USATT League Committee had two major activities this year.

  1. The Regional Team League Prototype went up on the USATT League page, with a corresponding news item. It was a compilation of the best of current leagues (such as the Capital Area Team League and the LA Team League), as well as overseas table tennis leagues (such as Germany and England), and leagues from other sports (such as tennis and bowling). The draft was sent to the league committee for discussion, and then went public. The goal is to set up a series of regional team leagues all over the country.
    1. I've been in discussions with Dell Sweeris about creating a Midwest League in 2016. We met at the Teams in DC in November, and will discuss at the Nationals, now that the League Prototype is up.
    2. Organizers from Massachusetts and Illinois have expressed interest in regional leagues. (Latter may join up with Midwest League mentioned above. This would be separate from the current corporate league in Chicago.)
    3. The Bay Area League is starting up again after being on hiatus for several years
  2. The National League Finals were organized to be held at the USA Nationals in Las Vegas in December. There was some thought to postponing it this year since it wasn't particular well organized from previous years, but after quite a bit of discussion, and with Mauricio Vergara helping to organize it, it was agreed to run them again this year. Here are the current guidelines for that, which will likely be updated soon.

Regional Associations
I was appointed USATT Regional Associations Coordinator earlier this year. As part of this we started a new initiative in November to set up Regional Associations. It's silly to think that an organization with six full-time staff members (plus a few contractors and volunteers), with a budget the size of a 7-11, can organize and run table tennis all over the United States.

Instead, we need to have Regional and State Associations all over the country, with each one primarily in charge of the table tennis activity in their region or state. There are surprisingly few right now, and that needs to change. This is how successful table tennis countries are organized, as well as successful sports in the U.S. And that's what we need to do as well.

The initiative calls for volunteers to step forward to set up Regional Associations. Several have already done so, but we we're in the early stages of this one. Some of the responsibilities of a Regional Association would include:

  • Generally oversee table tennis activities in their state or region
  • Oversee the regional team league in their state or region
  • Arrange tournaments (open and closed)
  • Help to bring in coaches for their clubs
  • Help to organize junior training programs
  • Organize training centers in their state. Every state should have these.
  • Find people to open clubs in the cities in their state that don't have clubs, starting with the more populated ones

Of the three major initiatives I'm working on – Regional Team Leagues, State Championships, and Regional Associations – this is turning out to the be the most difficult. I'm beginning to rethink this, and consider that we focus on setting up the programs – team leagues and state championships, and later on coaching programs and training centers – and let the Regional Associations come about afterwards.

State Championships
This was Gordon Kaye's idea, and I'm glad he convinced me to add this to the regional association programs I'm working on as it looks like it has strong potential. We now have a State Championships page (currently a news item, which will become a regular page later), and a listing of all of the 2015 State Championships. For this year there were 14 state championships, plus 15 states with a state games – but the latter usually aren't quite the same thing.

More importantly, after the news item went up, volunteers from eight states stepped forward and promised to run a state championship in 2016, including the two really big ones (CA and NY), which should bring us to 22 state championships. New state championships in 2016 include:

  1. California
  2. Maryland
  3. Massachusetts
  4. Nevada
  5. New York
  6. South Carolina
  7. Tennessee
  8. Washington DC (which for here I'm listing as a state)

The plan is to:

  1. Have a State Championship in all 50 states and DC in 2016. Realistically, it's unlikely we'll get all 50, but if we strive for it, we'll get more than if we aim for less. The goal isn't just to have state championships, but to turn them into major local media events. The next step, early in 2016, is to start soliciting directly to directors and potential directors to run State Championships in the states that don't have one.
  2. Create a USATT State Championships Page, where state champions from all over the country will be listed.
  3. Have a "Parade of Champions" at the 2016 U.S. Open in December.
    1. What we'll do is at some point between major men's or women's matches in the main arena – perhaps just before one of the finals? – we'll invite all the state champions of that year to come out and do a march around the arena as the crowd watches and cheers.
    2. Details will be worked out later – for example, do we invite only Men's and Women's Singles champions, or all champions? Rating event champions? Do we get a listing in advance and invite them specifically? Do we call out their names as they come out? These will be worked out later, but feel free to offer suggestions - or volunteer to take charge of it!
    3. I would have liked to do this at the Nationals, but the Open is now at the end of the year, with the Nationals in July, and I'd like it at the end of the year so we can honor the state champions from that year. As Gordon pointed out to me, we get more players at the Open anyway, though many are foreign players.

</End USATT Board Report>

Ask the Coach Show
Episode #221 (28:50) - Preparing for a Tournament (and other segments).

2016 US Olympic Trials Slideshow
Here's it is! And while we're at it, here's one for the 1979 U.S. World Team (by Tom Wintrich)!

U.S. Table Tennis Players, 13 and 14 Years Old, Have Shot at Rio Olympics
Here's the article from NBC Sports featuring Crystal Wang and Sharon Alguetti. Here's another article on these two in USA Today.

Fun for All at the Upcoming 2016 Butterfly Arnold Classic
Here's the article.

Congratulations Shen Yanfei, Women’s Europe Top 16 Champion!
Here's the article.

11 Questions with Sherlyn Barvie-Perez
Here's the USATT interview.

Top Rallies from the European Top 16
Here's the video (2:07).

Reggie Miller Prepares for Pingpong Match Against Drake
Here's the article and video (49 sec). The match will take place at NBA All-Star Weekend.

New Hampshire Results
Just remember – Trump will Make USATT Great Again!!!

Mostly Non-Table Tennis – The Cover of Campaign 2100: Game of Scorpions
Here's my Science Fiction & Fantasy Blog from this morning where I reveal the cover and other info. As noted in previous blogs, there's a lot of table tennis in the novel – one of the main characters is a professional table tennis player.

***
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February 9, 2016

Pong in the Snow
Yes, it's snowing outside again here in Maryland. It looks like we'll get 3-4 inches, but it'd more except it's been in the 40s the last few days and so the ground is above freezing, and so it didn't stick at first. But schools are open (two hours late) even though the snow continues to fall. And so in honor of our latest snowstorm, and with apologies to the Let It Snow song (and the full version sung by Dean Martin)…

PONG IN THE SNOW
Oh the weather outside is frightful, 
But ping-pong is so delightful,
To the ping-pong club we'll go,
Despite the Snow! Despite the Snow! Despite the Snow!  

It doesn't show signs of stopping,
But I've brought some balls for chopping,
At the club we'll play like a pro,
Despite the Snow! Despite the Snow! Despite the Snow!  

When we finish up pong tonight,
And leave behind our playing site,
We'll stop working on our form,
As we venture out in the storm!

The pong in us ain't dying,
But it's time for our good-bying,
But we'll always have our pong chateau,
Despite the Snow! Despite the Snow! Despite the Snow!

Ask the Coach Show
Episode #220 (27:25) - Returning Smashes.

Inside the Mind of a Coach
Here's the rather detailed graphic! (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

Table Tennis Secrets of China
Here's the video (8:18). Notice at the start how they put towels on the table to force the players to keep the ball to the wide corners? I do the same thing in my coaching!

Xu Xin & Liu Guoliang Multiball Training
Here's the video (5:50).

How Long Pips Work
Here's a video (74 sec) that shows graphically how long pips and inverted affect an incoming ball with spin.

Meet the Six U.S. Athletes Who Won Olympic Trials for Table Tennis
Here's the USOC article.

Former Marylander Crystal Wang Reaches North American Table Tennis Trials
Here's the article from the Baltimore Sun, with a video (1:32) they did two years ago. (Most of the article is from the press release I sent them.) 

Jack Huang's Hall of Fame Profile
Here it is! It's by Tim Boggan, with lots of photos. (His Chinese name is Tong Sheng Huang.) Jack's a full-time coach at MDTTC.

League Awards Banquet for Fall 2015 LA League Season
Here's the article, with pictures and video (1:23).

Vladimir Samsonov's Favorite World Team Championships Moment
Here's the video (46 sec).

Comedian Jackie Mason on the Ping Pong Hustler (Marty Reisman)
Here's the video (39 sec).

Ping Pong Song
Here's the animation music video (3:34).

***
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February 8, 2016

Tip of the Week
Looping Against Backspin Drills.

Attacking the Middle
Today's blog is really simple – I'm assigning you to watch the final of Day Three between Crystal Wang and Angela Guan. (With apologies to Angela and choppers everywhere, we're about to let a huge cat out of the bag.) Here's the complete video (2hr 23 min), with Crystal vs. Angela starting about 10:30 in, followed by the Day Three men's final between Kanak Jha and Krish Avvari. (You'll have to register to watch it, but it's a simple process. You can watch video of the men's and women's finals for all three days of the USA Olympic Trials at the USATT Olympic Trials Page.)

I wrote about how to play choppers in a Tip of the Week, appropriately titled Playing Choppers. The second paragraph begins, "A chopper is weakest in the middle, and that is where you should focus most of your attacks." And that's today's subject. Crystal, who is only 13 years old, already knows this, and as you watch the video, watch how she relentlessly attacks the middle (the opponent's crossover point, roughly the playing elbow). She did the same thing in the semifinals in upsetting the 2545-rated Lu Ying, also a chopper. Crystal does have an advantage – she grew up training at the Maryland Table Tennis Center (my club), where she regularly trained with chopper/looper Wang Qing Liang ("Leon"), a 2600 chopper during most of that time.

By attacking the middle, you accomplish four things – and these are true not only against choppers, but against nearly all players.

  1. You force the player to have to make an instant decision between forehand and backhand, leading to many mistakes.
  2. You force the opponent to move out of the way to make room for an often awkward forehand or backhand, forcing misses and weak returns.
  3. You take away extreme angled returns. (This is true more against blockers than choppers.)
  4. You force the player out of position, opening up the corners for the next shot. A forehand from the middle may open up the wide forehand, while a backhand from the middle may open up the wide backhand. Conversely, players often rush to get back into position and end up opening up the other wide corner. If a corner doesn't open up, attack the middle again.

Over and over one of the biggest tactical differences between average club players and top players is the latter's understanding of the huge weakness in the middle. It's not as easy to play into as the corners, since the opponent's middle is a moving target and is a smaller target than the corners – if you miss it by six inches, you might just be playing into the opponent's middle forehand or backhand, where he's strongest. But it's the biggest hole in most players' games. Go for it!

U.S. Olympic Trials
Here's the USATT home page for the event, held this past Thur-Sat in Greensboro, NC, with complete results, articles, video, etc. Four USA men and women have now qualified for the final North American Trials in Toronto, April 8-10, where they will compete against Canada for the three spots allotted to North America. The USA players are made of the men's and women's singles champions from the past Nationals (Feng Yijun and Zheng Jiaqi), and the three men and women who qualified in the Trials (Men: Timothy Wang, Sharon Alguetti, and Kanak Jha; Women: Chen Wang, Lily Zhang, Crystal Wang). Congrats to these eight!

2016 ITTF Europe TOP 16
Here's the ITTF home page for the event, held this past weekend in Gondomar, Portugal, with complete results, articles, video, etc. Congrats to Champions Dimitrij Ovtcharov of Germany and Shen Yanfei of Spain. Here's the ITTF press release.

Brazil Dominates Latin America Championships Ahead of Rio 2016
Here's the ITTF press release.

Table Tennis Punch Serve - Like a Boss Part 2!
Here's the new video (3:12) from Brett Clarke.

Massimo Costantini - Part I: The Physical Side of Table Tennis
Here's the video interview (27:48) by Samson Dubina.

Ask the Coach Show
Episode #219 (15:10) - Blocking Speed in Training (and other segments).

Table Tennis for Seniors – You Just Might Be One
Here's the article from Coach Jon.

MHTT World Champs Buildup Diary: Two Weeks to Go!
Here's the new blog entry from Matt Hetherington.

$4559 Raised for Parkinson's Research
Here's a picture of Navin Kumar and Jimmy Pelletier (with paddles) after their three-hour table tennis exhibition/fundraiser Michael J Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research at Beltway Plaza Mall this past Saturday. Here's a picture of Navin next to the fundraiser poster. (Navin has Parkinson's and a partially mechanical heart.)

Seth Pech Interview
Here's the interview by Samson Dubina.

MDTTC Newsletter
Here's the February MDTTC News, the monthly newsletter I do for the Maryland Table Tennis Center.

Ping Pong Fever
(I ran this last week, but had a bad link, so I'm rerunning it.) Here's the article by Steve Grant, about the Norwegian humorous documentary about the 1902 Ping-Pong craze, which was largely based on Steve's book, Ping Pong Fever: The Madness That Swept 1902 America. (Here's my review of the book.)

ITTF Legends Tour 2016
Here's their new promo video (1:36). Here's the final (5:18) of their most recent event, this past weekend, where Persson defeated Waldner this past weekend in their most recent event, reversing their previous result. Here's an amazing point (45 sec) between the two! (They mostly play for real, but they mix in exhibition now and then.) Here's the ITTF Legends Tour home page.

Ding Ning's Tricky Serve
Here's the video (26 sec) as Eliza Samara struggles to return this serve – but Ding has just as much trouble with her own returning sidespin! (Ding of China is world #2, was #1 for 24 months, including most of last year. Samara of Romania is world #23, formerly #13.)

World Championships Favorite Moments

Incredible Rally!
Here's the video (48 sec).

Prison Pong?
Here's the video (48 sec)!

***
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February 5, 2016

Lawyers, and Coaches Seeking Clubs, and Clubs Seeking Coaches, Oh My!!!
A long time ago, before the explosion of full-time clubs in the U.S., when I was a webmaster for USA Table Tennis, I put together a page for Coaches Seeking Clubs and Clubs Seeking Coaches. At the time there were only a few full-time clubs – less than ten – and there just wasn't much demand for this in either direction. And so it wasn't very active.

But things have changed. Over and over we're finding new full-time clubs looking for full-time coaches to help their club, since most successful full-time clubs are oriented around the coaches, who are the ones who bring in new players to fill up the club. (That's the model that led to the "explosion" noted above.) Most of these coaches are from China, which has about ten zillion top players looking to become professional coaches. (Being a top player doesn't make one a top coach, but the ranks of top coaches tend to come from them. And most top players become at least decent coaches, and with experience, many become excellent coaches.)

But how do we get these coaches into the U.S. and into the clubs that need them? (Or start up new clubs centered around them, as often happens, but that's a separate issue.) There are all sorts of immigration issues. I'm only tangentially knowledgeable about these issues. At the request of lawyers, I've written a number of letters of recommendation for coaches, mostly for my club but for others as well. How these letters are used and the specifics of the immigration process, well, I think most of us know more about intelligent life in Andromeda than this process, which is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. (Sorry Winston.)

Currently when a club needs a professional coach (or more likely, realizes they need one, since they all need them), how do they go about finding one? There are more and more coaches in the U.S., but most already are coaching at a club. What's needed are new ones, and the source for that is mostly China. So how do we get the many there who want to come here to the clubs here that want them?

Perhaps somewhere out there is an entrepreneurial lawyer knowledgeable about the immigration process who can start up a business doing just that. He'd find players/coaches in China looking to coach full-time in the U.S., connect them with clubs looking for such coaches, and work on their immigration. Often the clubs will pay for this; other times the prospective coach will. That's all part of the business model this entrepreneurial lawyer would set up.

USATT does have a Coaching Opportunities page, but it's not very active. There are three items there, from Oct. 2014, May 2015, and Nov. 2015. So it's currently a service, but not actively being used. This could change if we were able to systematically identify coaches looking for clubs, and get more clubs to look for coaches (or more entrepreneurial people to create such clubs that need these coaches). I believe several clubs are currently looking for full-time coaches, and I'm guessing more would if they there was a listing of ones looking to become full-time coaches. (While I've been focusing on bringing in Chinese coaches, the opportunities would be for any qualified coach from anywhere in the World, including USA's own home-grown coaches.)

So, immigration lawyers and others knowledgeable or interested in this topic – anybody want to take a shot at this, and develop a new cottage industry of connecting coaches (especially Chinese ones) to clubs, and vice versa?

Happenings
It's been a busy few days, so here's a rundown on coaching and other activities.

  • Last week I declared this week to be "USATT week," and I planned on devoting most of this week to that. Alas, a zillion things intervened, and I didn't get nearly as much work on that as I'd planned. So I'll continue it next week.
  • Yesterday a student asked me if it was legal to brace yourself against the table when smashing, or move the table. I explained how you couldn't touch the table with your non-playing hand, or move the table. I demonstrated by smashing while ramming my left leg into the table – and it really hurt! I was limping for the next hour. Note to self – less realistic demos.
  • I'm coaching a new 7-year-old who has decided that smacking balls off the end as hard as he can over and over is the most fun thing in life. I'm trying to get him to learn a regular forehand, but all he'll do is smack home run after home run while giggling! You'd think a stern warning would work, but it doesn't. In my 40 years in table tennis this is the second time I've had a kid like this. Hopefully he'll get over it, but right now all he does is smack ball after ball way off the end on purpose.
  • One of my students has spent much of the last few months fixing a problem with grip changing – he had a very different forehand and backhand grip. It's fixed now! But it took a lot of practice.
  • I've been teaching backspin serves to a new class of beginning kids. They are absolutely mesmerized by this! All of them have served at least one ball that bounced backwards, and they want to do this consistently. Several are now obsessed with learning to serve so the ball bounces back over the net, as I do as an exhibition trick (and somewhat regularly in classes). And they greatly prefer the soccer-colored balls that show spin to the "boring" white or orange ones.
  • My todo list was roughly infinite in length as of a week ago, but I've been working my through it, and now it's only half as long. ∞/2=?

Campaign 2100: Game of Scorpions
Here's the new press release from World Weaver Press about my upcoming novel. As I've blogged about a few times, one of the main characters is a professional table tennis player who ends up running a worldwide campaign for president of Earth in the year 2100. More on this as the March 8 release date approaches. (The cover is basically done, and will be unveiled next week.)

U.S. Olympic Trials
They began yesterday and continue through tomorrow, in Greensboro, NC. Here's the home page, which includes the draws and results, schedule, format, ticket information, playing listing, and lots and lots of articles and other stuff. The women's and men's finals each night at 7 and 8PM will be streamed lived. Day One's big winners were Timothy Wang and Wang Chen, who qualified for the playoff against Canada for the Olympic spots allocated to North America.

Basic Side-to-Side Forehand Footwork
Here's the video (1:33) of Egypt's Omar Assar (world #33) in training. Here's another video of the Chinese team training (5:36), which starts with Zhang Jike also doing this same forehand-forehand footwork. So . . . why aren't you?

Ask the Coach Show
Episode #218 (19:54) - Teaching Friends Table Tennis (and other segments)

2016 ITTF Europe TOP 16
Here's the ITTF home page for the event, with results, articles, pictures, etc. It starts today, Feb. 5-7, in Gondomar, Portugal.

Budapest Officially Bids for 2019 World Table Tennis Championships
Here's the ITTF press release. "Budapest, Hungary has been announced as the sole bidder for the 2019 World Table Tennis Championships, an event they have not hosted since 1950."

International Table Tennis
Here's my periodic note (usually every Friday) that you can great international coverage at TableTennista (which especially covers the elite players well) and at the ITTF home page (which does great regional coverage). Butterfly also has a great news page.

German Open 2016 - "In Motion"
Here's the highlights video (8:58).

Watch This Rally-Ending Backhand!
Here's the video (23 sec, including slo-mo replay). And check out the first one as well – that's a more standard one that you should copy.

10 Brilliant Ping Pong Graphic Designs
Here they are!

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February 4, 2016

U.S. Olympic Trials
They start this morning at 9AM in Greensboro, NC, and continue through Saturday. Here's the home page, which includes the draws (see below), schedule, format, ticket information, playing listing, Live Results, and lots and lots of articles and other stuff. The matches will also be streamed live, with the women's and men's finals each night at 7 and 8PM. (Read over the format, but roughly speaking it's three consecutive days of single elimination, with the winner each day making the final USA team to the North American Trials, where they will compete with Canada for the final spots. The winner from the previous day doesn't have to play since he/she's already qualified.)

Here are the Day One Draws:

I was toying with listing and linking to all the articles – there are an even 20 of them – but wouldn't it be better to simply visit the page and browse them over there?

Regarding the live streaming at NBC Sports Live, when I go there there's a notice on the screen saying, "Coverage has concluded for the day." Since it was past 9:30AM when this happened, and the matches began at 9AM, I'm guessing that means they are only showing the finals at 7 and 8PM, but I'm not sure. I'll try it again later. The wording on the article on this says that the streaming will be "exclusively" on NBC Sports Live, and that "The coverage will include the Men’s and Women’s Finals at 7pm (ET) each night on Thursday (February 4), Friday (February 5), and Saturday (February 6)." I'm not sure if the "will include" means it will cover it before 7PM? (I've emailed to find out – will update here if I get any info. UPDATE: At 10:45AM it's saying, "Coverage to begin shortly," and then it's doing . . . cycling coverage???)

I'm a bit disappointed that I'm not down there this year coaching, but I have to face reality. First, I'm really busy coaching here in Maryland, and so would have to cancel a lot of lessons, though for something like this I can do that. Second, and more importantly, MDTTC has seven full-time coaches, and the other six are much higher rated, meaning they can both be practice partners and match coaches, and it's cheaper hiring one practice partner/coach than two. (Three of our full-time coaches are at the Trials.) I sometimes hate to watch the livestreaming of our players since I end up yelling at the screen things like, "Attack the middle!" or "Move the serve around!" or "Why aren't you using that serve that worked so well at 7-7 last game?" So I'll just get a lot of other work done, and perhaps peek at the videos later. (I did message with one of our players who asked me about tactics against one particular player.)

The Secret Workouts of Team USA's Top Table Tennis Players
Here's the article.

Ask the Coach Show
Episode 217 (27:45) - Bruce Lee vs Forrest Gump (and other segments). Here's a great quote: "I'm not a smart man, but I know what 11-love is."

Capital Area League
I've put up the results from this past weekend for the Capital Area League (for players in the Maryland/Virginia/ Washington DC area). The regular season ended with this meetup – here are the final standings for the regular season. However, we still have the Grand Final coming up Feb. 20 at MDTTC.

Teen Ping Pong Olympics
Here's the video (2:13) from CBS New York on 14-year-old Estee Ackerman.

Mini-Bat Pong – in Slow Motion!
Here's the video (14 sec).

The Humiliator (used at Game Point)
Here's the video (14 sec) as Adam Bobrow does a basic backspin serve. "What is happening here?"

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February 3, 2016

Table Tennis Variations
Getting tired of playing the same table tennis all the time, where you do the same topspin and backspin shots all night long? Here are some variations!

  • Gnip Gnop. In this version, instead of hitting the ball directly over the net, you hit the ball downward, so it bounces on your side first, and then over the net. Here's video.
  • Jungle Pong. You can have many players play this at once – I've seen the kids at our club play with 15 players at once. Basically the rules are you have to let the ball come off the table, and make your return after the ball has hit the floor. You can hit the ball to either side of the table - so the opponent has to be ready to change sides quickly. Since the ball has to bounce off the table and hit the floor, players have time to run it down. If you have more than 15 players, they take turn in order until all 15 have hit one shot, and then start over – but whoever misses is out for that game. It's a rather strange game, but a lot of fun – at our camps, the kids play it during break all the time. Here's video, though here it's mistakenly called gnip gnop – gotta get these terms right!!!
  • Clipboard Pong. You can play with any size or type of clipboard – and you get amazing rallies! It's especially fun if one player attacks and the other chops, and it's easy to chop with a clipboard. Here's video, which includes Tahl Leibovitz and Marty Reisman. You can also play clipboard vs. regular racket, as I'm doing in this video, where I start off slow as we warm up, but stop missing once the match begins.
  • Smartphone Table Tennis. Both players use their smart phones. Here's video (featuring Matt Hetherington), though to make it fair both players should be using phones (unless one is much higher rated).
  • Any Object Pong. Yes, you just find anything to use, and play with it.
  • Opposite Hand or Grip. Yep, you switch hands or grips. For grips, you can choose shakehand, penhold, or Seemiller grip, as long as it's not your normal grip. (For penhold, you have to decide between convention and reverse penhold backhands.)
  • Pushing Game. It's exactly as the name implies – an all-pushing game. The server must serve backspin, and both players must play all backspin. It becomes a tactical battle of finding the balance between pure consistency, and pushing more aggressively to force mistakes. Often it becomes a mostly forehand to forehand pushing duel (with changes of directions to force opponent to move), since most players push better on the backhand. Prepare for a purely mental game as this game favors whoever has the mental will and patience to push forever.
  • Hardbat or Sandpaper. Why not give them a try, just as an occasional side variation?

8 Tips on Expanding Your Table Tennis Tactics Against Choppers
Here's the new coaching article from Matt Hetherington.

Tom's Table Tennis Newsletter
Here's the new issue from the British coach. Segments include:

  • Tips for maintaining a positive attitude when you’re losing
  • Tactics for beating a big flat hitter
  • Learning from Desmond Douglas at Westfield table tennis camp
  • Most read in January 2016
  • Best from the web
  • Top table tennis matches in January 2016

Ask the Coach

  • Episode 215 (23:15) – Flicking Sidespin Serves (and other segments).
  • Episode 216 (24:49) - Serving with a Purpose

USATT Minicadet Team Listing
Here's the USATT listings for the USA Minicadet Boys' and Minicadet Girls' teams. These are for 12 and under players, who held their Trials at the recent USA Nationals. I noticed over the weekend that they didn't have their own page, as the other teams do (Men's, Women's, Junior Boys and Girls, and Cadet Boys and Girls), and so notified USATT webmaster Sean O'Neill. After some searching, I supplied most of the head shots (Bruce Liu supplied some missing ones), with thanks to Sean, and now it's up!!! These kids trained hard to get where they are, and deserve the recognition. Congrats to Nikhil Kumar, Ryan Dabbs, Michael Lu, Aditya Godhwani, Rachel Yang, Joanna Sung, Rachel Sung, and Ayane Saito!

2016 USA Table Tennis Olympic Trials Format
Here's the USATT article from tournament director Ed Hogshead. Here's the USATT home page for the event, which will likely be updated with live video, results, etc. when the Trials begin. They start tomorrow, Thur-Fri, Feb. 4-6, in Greensboro, NC.

The Politically Incorrect Paddle
Here's the new article from Coach Jon.

Tahl Leibovitz Hall of Fame Induction
Here's the article from Sean O'Neill, who did the presentation for Tahl's induction.

Ping Pong Fever
Here's the article by Steve Grant, about the Norwegian humorous documentary about the 1902 Ping-Pong craze, which was largely based on Steve's book, Ping Pong Fever: The Madness That Swept 1902 America. (Here's my review of the book.)

11 Questions with Stefano Ratti
Here's the USATT interview with Stefano, who's both a top local player (rated 2346) and the commissioner of the Capital Area Table Tennis Team League.

SPiN Ping-Pong Club Owned by Susan Sarandon to Open March 10 in Marina City
Here's the article on the new club opening in Chicago.

DHS ITTF Top 10 Shots - 2016 ITTF German Open
Here's the video (4:10).

Judy Hugh & Cory Eider Wedding Video
Here it is, at long last, the highlights video (4:55) of the Wedding of the Century!!! While the wedding between these two table tennis stars took place on Nov. 8, 2015, the memories are forever. Cory joins a family that already included Judy, Adam Hugh, Lily Yip, and Barry Dattel.

Practice Devolves into a "Clownfest"
Here's the video (15 sec) as Matt Hetherington (on right, with 2699-rated Kaden Xu on left) shows how he is preparing for the upcoming Worlds.

Ice Pong
Here's the video (37 sec). I went ice skating exactly once in my life, when I was about 12. There was another kid who was both a very good ice skater and the local bully. On dry land, he avoided me – he'd tangled with me once and I clobbered him, even though he was a little bigger. But when he saw me out there trying to learn to ice skate, he began circling me, skating both forward and backward (the latter impressed the heck out of me, I didn't know it was possible), jabbing at me as he passed and basically making life on ice miserable. I felt helpless as I slid about trying to defend myself against someone who (I later learned) had been playing ice hockey since he was a little kid. I never ventured out on ice again.

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February 2, 2016

John Miller Match Analysis
I recently did a match analysis of John Miller, a regular in the Adult Training Sessions I run at MDTTC on Sunday nights, 6:30-8:00 PM. He has graciously agreed to let me run it in my blog. (Many of you know him as the Director of the three biggest tournaments in the country – the U.S. Open, the USA Nationals, and the North American Teams.) Here is what I wrote to him.

The match I analyzed was against Dmitriy Buluchevskiy at the Texas Wesleyan tournament, March 22, 2014, Under 1800 round robin match. (Buluchevskiy wins.) I watched it point by point, often replaying points and taking notes. Remember that such an analysis is by its nature critical – the key is to fix the problems.

The strength of your game is that when you are in position, you have very strong loops from both sides, as well as a very strong backhand smash against soft topspin returns of your serve. So setting up these shots with serve and receive is key. Just as important is not throwing away points by trying to loop too hard against serves or not being in position to take advantage of your strong shots. Below are six things that jumped out at me from the video and my notes.

  1. You often try to adjust for shots with you upper body rather than make a small step to get into position. This was a problem throughout the match. For example, watch this sequence of the last five points in game two and the first point of game three (you lost all six), where the lack of small foot movements led to losing five of them. Often you do make these steps and make strong shots, but you need to do them every time out of habit. (You can actually just watch this straight through from the Rally1 point.)
    1.  Rally1: Note how as he serves, you start to step in with your right foot, then stop, and then try to adjust for the serve with the upper body rather than stepping, leading to amissed forehand.
    2. Rally2: You served off the end because your contact point was way too high
    3. Rally3: Here you make a nice backhand, but don't take a small step to position yourself for the easy forehand so miss it.
    4. Rally4: You make a nice backhand loop – and note that you do take a step to position yourself for this - but then you reach for the next shot with your backhand rather than step toward it.
    5. Rally5:  You have an easy push to the middle to loop, but try to adjust with upper body rather than take a short step, and so miss the easy forehand.
    6. Rally6 (first point next game): Leaned over to backhand loop rather than step, and so missed. Ironically, on the next point you do step to return the serve, but opponent serves on the edge. 

    =>​ SOLUTION: Focus on these small steps when doing serve & attack drills (including when opponent is doing them), and other free-play drills. They are key, and it must become a habit. Now that we see the problem, I will harp on this in our future sessions.

  2. You almost never attack the middle (elbow) – you play corners almost exclusively. The middle is usually the weakest spot. In fact, that's how your opponent won game 1, with an easy backhand topspin to your middle. (As noted above, you also didn't move your feet for this, and so weren't able to adjust.) Sometimes you'd make a strong attack, but had to play more shots when the same shot to the middle would have won the point. For example, see this point, where you made three very nice backhands in a row, but all to the same spot. His middle was wide open. (You then lost the point when you didn't step all the way over for the fourth shot.)
    =>SOLUTION: In serve & attack drills and in games, focus on attacking the middle.
  3. On receive you usually move, but sometimes you sort of jump the gun with the wrong movement. For example, see the point at 10-10 in first, where the opponent served to your wide forehand and you were already stepping in, and so missed the loop. Or the first point in the six-point sequence given above in #1.
    =>SOLUTION: Practice this more in games – focus on that first step. You have more time then you think, so wait and make sure the first move is the right one.
  4. Your serves are often too simple. Too many of them are obviously simple backspin serves, no threat to the opponent. Throw in more tricky motions and fake other spins.
    =>SOLUTION: We'll work on these motions in future sessions.
  5. You dominated when you served long, often following your serve with a backhand smash, or opponent missing the serve. (These are just two example of a number of them.) Your backhand is very strong against the soft topspins you often get. But you held back on them too much. Challenge players with deep serves if they don't have strong attacks off them. Also serve long to the middle (elbow). At the higher levels, deep serves don't work as well. Below 2200, they are a must, especially big breaking sidespin serves that are often missed or rolled back weakly. (I toyed with putting together a series of links of all the points you won with long serves, but I think you get the idea.)
    =>SOLUTION: This one's pretty simple - serve long more often.
  6. You missed way too many loops against serves, both wings (though more backhand attempts since he mostly served there). Keep loops against serves simple, focus on consistency and depth only, less power. Shorten the swing, control the ball, don't overpower it. Wear the opponent down with consistent receives and challenge the opponent to make a strong shot off your consistent ones. Only loop strong off a serve if you read it really well and are in perfect position. You did make some strong loops off the serve, but you probably missed as many as you made.
    =>SOLUTION: You can practice this in games, but we can also do a drill around this, where your partner mixes in short and long serves, and you soft loop the long ones.

RIP Marty Prager
News broke last night that the great coach and USATT Hall of Famer from Florida had died. He was a former USATT team member from the early 1960s, but became better known later as a coach. I had the honor of coaching against him in many matches at big tournaments throughout the 1990s and into the 2000s. More on this probably tomorrow.

Over Five Hundred Courses Conducted, Richard McAfee Leads the Field
Here's the ITTF article.

All-America Over-40 Table Tennis Tour
Here's the USATT article and schedule for this new endeavor. Now I have to decide if I'll playing or coaching in it!

Timo Boll Interview
Here's the interview. On illegal boosting: "About 80% of pro's are using illegal rackets." He also complained about the new plastic balls: "The quality of the game suffers in a sustainable manner, because the players are feeling insecure. Some are suffering a serious blow. The rallies have gotten worse on average."

Peng Xin preparing for Augusta Classic Exhibition
Here's the article from the Augusta Chronicle on his upcoming exhibition with Derek May. 

2016 Arnold Table Tennis Challenge
Here's the USATT article on this annual tournament that's part of the Arnold Sports Festival. Yes, that's Arnold as in Schwarzenegger.

JOOLA is Official Equipment Sponsor of US Olympic Trials
Here's the USATT article. (USATT has three main table tennis sponsors: Butterfly for clothing, JOOLA for tables, and Nittaku/Paddle Palace for balls.)

Table Tennis US Olympic Trials in Greensboro
Here's the video (2:12) that features Timothy Wang and USATT CEO Gordon Kaye, with Jack Wang the one hitting with Timothy.

German Open 2016 Highlights: Chuang Chih-Yuan vs Dimitrij Ovtcharov
Here's the video (6:47) of this nice quarterfinal match.

Left-to-Right Sidespin Backhand?
Here's the video (25 sec). 

No Legs? No Hands? No Problem for This Kid!
Here's the video (1:19). 

Smacking Grandma
Here's the video (15 sec, including slo-mo).

Gatien and Chila Two-Ball Exhibition
Here's the video (40 sec) of the two former French stars playing with two balls. 1993 Men's Singles World Champion Jean-Philippe Gatien is the lefty on the right, Patrick Chila is the righty on the left.

Happy Groundhog Day!
Here's Pingpongatawney Phil. (Note the signature on the lower right – yep, I'm the guilty party.)

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February 1, 2016

Tip of the Week
Holding Back Against a Weaker Player.

Fifteen Fun Facts about Table Tennis
A few days ago I received an email from Herson Go, who said he would be doing exhibitions and clinics this week in five 45-minute classes at a middles school– about 300 students in all. He said, "I wanted to perk their interest and one of the things I was thinking of is to give them a short one-page list of 'Did you know that Table Tennis...' Any suggestions?" And so the list was born! Here's the list I came up with. Feel free to use this on your club websites or in other ways to promote the sport!

Fifteen Fun Facts about Table Tennis

  1. It is an Olympic Sport.
  2. It is a sport of great speed, spin, and some of the most acrobatic moves in all of sports.
  3. Professional players train 6-8 hours/day, plus another hour of physical training.
  4. Olympic athletes have been measured to have the lowest fat percentage of any sport after distance running.
  5. It is played by players from age 5 to 100 and more.
  6. It has mostly been dominated by China since the 1960s, but USA once dominated – in the 1930s! (But the #1 ranked Under 14 girl in the world is from USA.) Others that have successfully challenged the Chinese include Japan, Sweden, and Hungary.
  7. The sport was invented in England in the 1880s. It became popular in China in the 1950s when Chairman Mao declared it "The people's sport."
  8. It is one of the biggest participation sports in the world, sometimes ranked #2 after soccer, with about 300 million players. That includes over 700,000 in Germany, and many millions in China. There are over 400 clubs and 400 tournaments all over the U.S. each year.
  9. It is recommended by doctors as the perfect "brain" sport.
  10. It has been recommended to athletes as a way to develop hand-eye coordination.
  11. The sport is governed in the U.S. by USA Table Tennis, and worldwide by the International Table Tennis Federation.
  12. The International Table Tennis Federation has the most member nations of any sports association in the world with 222 countries.
  13. A table tennis player once ate his racket after losing a match.
  14. There is a top player from Egypt, Ibrahim Hamato, who has no arms, and plays with the racket in his mouth.
  15. Several colleges give table tennis scholarships, and the National College Table Tennis Association runs a highly active nationwide league with over 160 member colleges – including all eight Ivy League schools (Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Princeton, University of Pennsylvania, and Yale).

German Open
It was held this past weekend in Berlin.

  • Here's video (11:47) of the Men's Final, Ma Long vs. Vladimir Samsonov.
  • Here's video (6:13) of the Women's Final, Wu Yang vs. Kasumi Ishikawa.
  • Here's video (2:53) of the highlights of world #4 Dimitrij Ovtcharov's seven-game win over world #29 Omar Assar of Egypt in the round of 32. Said Ovtcharov, "It was such a hard fight to keep Omar down, this guy has improved a lot!"

How to Develop Top Table Tennis Footwork and Positioning
Here's the new article from MH Table Tennis.

Talent
Here's the article by Massimo Costantini

Pendulum Serve Slow Mo
Here's the video (19 sec) from Brett Clarke.

Forehand Topspin Variations
Here's the video (3:55) from PingSkills.

Ask the Coach Show
Episode 214 (22:31) - Reverse Backhand Serve (and other segments)

Tahl Leibovitz: Ping Pong for Fighters
Here's the new podcast (44:03) from Expert Table Tennis. In this episode you’ll learn:

  • Tahl’s story and how he first began playing table tennis aged 14.
  • How he managed to quickly become a professional player.
  • What kind of preparation Tahl is doing for Rio 2016.
  • The difference between competing in able-bodied and Para table tennis.
  • Why Tahl decided to write a table tennis book.
  • Advice Tahl has picked up from players like Samsonov.
  • Dozens of tips to help you perform better in your matches.

Ma Long Training
Here's the video (1:31).

Table Tennis Edge Brain Training App and Game
Here's the USATT article.

2016 World Championships Table Tennis Table Unveiled
Here's the ITTF news release on the fancy new Butterfly table.

U.S.’ Best-ever Olympic Table Tennis Player Unretires, Enters Olympic Trials
Here's the article on Wang Chen.

DHS ITTF Top 10 Shots - 2016 Hungarian Open
Here's the video (4:37).

Forehand-Forehand, Left and Righty?
Here's the video (10 sec) as this player plays forehands with seemingly equal ease from both wings.

Floor Defense
Here's the video (43 sec, including slo-mo replay).

This Sure Looks Like Donald Trump Playing Table Tennis
Here's the video (20 sec), but it's only Boris Johnson, mayor of London, taking on England's #6 junior girl Zahna Hall. His hair might be worse than Trump's!

Ping Pong Milk Life TV Commercial Ad
Here's the video (15 sec).

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January 29, 2016

Next Week is USATT Week (followed by a little "rant" on Illegal Hidden Serves)
I've been otherwise occupied on various things the last two months, but next week I'm planning to focus on USATT stuff. What does this mean? As readers of this blog know, I'm focused on three main issues right now for USATT:

Next week I plan to contact people about these issues, both those who have shown interest (and may or may not now be working to set these up), and others who might. I'm finding the first two especially promising (state championships and team leagues), while the third, regional associations, is proving more problematic. (I wrote about this in my USATT Report, which I presented to USATT at the board meeting at the USA Nationals in December. It's supposed to go online, but hasn't yet. I'll link to it when it does.)

Are you interested any of these three – running a State Championship, setting up a Regional Team league, or creating a Regional Association? Contact me! (And note that this is all volunteer work on my part – I don't get paid a penny.)

So what was I preoccupied on the last two months? In December I spent the first week working with my publisher on various issue relating to my upcoming SF novel. Then came the USATT Board Meeting, USA Nationals, and USA Team Trials in Las Vegas – another eleven days. Then I was in Eugene for a family Christmas (five days), and then our Christmas Camp (six days) – though it turned out I was barely needed for that, since we have seven full-time coaches. But December quickly turned into January, and from Jan. 5-17 USATT Historian Tim Boggan was at my house, where we worked on his History of U.S. Table Tennis Volume 17 every day from roughly 7AM to 2:30PM, and then I'd be off for our afterschool program, coaching, and some tutoring, returning late that night to do my own work (blogging, etc.).

Since that time I've been catching up on numerous issues, both table tennis and non-table tennis. (I've been working with the publisher on the novel, plus my second science fiction & fantasy short story anthology More Pings and Pongs. Buy it – you know you want to!) All this time, of course, I'm also blogging, writing Tips of the Week (as well as some SF writing), coaching, tutoring, and doing miscellaneous USATT and MDTTC work. (Today I have to put together the MDTTC Newsletter, another of my volunteer activities.) Early on the afternoon of January 21, I paused and took a breath, and it took me the rest of the day to catch up on work missed during that lapse. I won't let it happen again.

<BEGIN ILLEGAL HIDDEN SERVES RANT>
Another reason I haven't been as focused on my USATT work recently is my disgust with the illegal hidden serve issue. As I've blogged repeatedly, it's a serious issue, where we've developed a culture of cheating to the point where not only do even our top cadets have to serve illegally to compete fairly, but most of our leaders don't consider it cheating when a player breaks the rules to gain an unfair advantage. That's pretty much the definition of cheating. [As I've written before, whoever does it first in a match is cheating; if the umpire allows it, I don't consider it cheating if the other player then responds with his own illegal serves, since 1) they are no longer playing by the actual serving rules, and 2) he is not doing so to gain an illegal advantage but to take away the opponent's illegal advantage.] Unfortunately, this lack of enforcement puts those who will not cheat at a severe disadvantage. Just thinking about this problem and the lack of interest in fixing it often leads to a lack of interest in other table tennis issues. I mean seriously – players are openly cheating, right there in front of us, in public, umpires and referees are allowing it - and we just accept this???

When I see a problem, I want to fix the problem. One solution is to (duh) enforce the rules, meaning that if the serve isn't clearly legal (as required by the rules), the umpire warns or faults. Another solution is my proposed Net Visibility Rule. However, others in the sport do not seem interested in fixing the problem – they keep hoping someone else will fix the problem, and so we all sit around twiddling our fingers as nobody fixes the problem. (As I blogged before, and will again when the minutes go online, I made a motion at the December meeting that the rules should be enforced as they are written, but it was voted down, 1-6-1! Here's my blog on that. Here's my Top Junior Shocks World by Serving Legally blog, where I address the issue first humorously and then more seriously. I've blogged about this many times, so it probably does get repetitive.)

But for now, since I've been unable to get the powers-that-be in USATT to address this issue, I'm going to wait and see what happens on this issue at the meetings at the upcoming World Championships (Feb. 28 – Mar. 6 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. I'm told it's a serious item on the agenda. But if nothing serious happens there, then expect me to go back on the warpath about stopping the cheating in our sport, where nearly every major title is decided by illegal hidden serves, and so we reward the cheaters and penalize the non-cheaters.
</END ILLEGAL HIDDEN SERVES RANT>

Watching a Table Tennis Class
I've been teaching table tennis classes since the 1980s. In junior classes, often there's a group of parents and others on the sidelines watching, so sometimes you feel like you are giving a performance for them – you want them to see how hard you are working to turn their kids into great table tennis players! But the world is changing. Recently I was teaching a class, and glanced over at the parents and others watching. There were eleven of them. One was watching. One was looking the other way, watching two of our top players train on another table. The other nine all had their heads down, staring at smart phones! (So the age-long questions remains: If a coach coaches a class but nobody watches, did he really coach the class?)

Reading the Ball
Here's the coaching article by Francisco Mendez, 9-time Mexican Champion and USATT & ITTF certified coach.

Matt's Coaching Blog
Matt Hetherington has started up his own coaching blog. Great, there go all my readers!

Ask the Coach Show

  • Episode #212 (23:10) - World Championships of Ping Pong (and other segments)
  • Episode #213 (18:40) - Practicing Serves at Home (and other segments)

2016 ITTF German Open Live Update
Here's where you can watch it live as well as get results. Here's the ITTF home page for the event, with more extensive results, articles, and other info. It's staking place in Berlin, Jan. 27-31.

2016 DREAM Open
Here's the article by USA Junior Team Member Angela Guan about the tournament at the Silicon Valley Table Tennis Club (SVTTC) in Milpitas, CA.

Who Will Be the 2016 World Team Champion?
Here's the feature from Butterfly.

What’s Working: Top-ranked Mississippi College Table Tennis Team
Here's the article and video (2:40).

Some Great Saive-Kreanga Points
Here's the video (2:56).

International Table Tennis
Here's my periodic note (usually every Friday) that you can great international coverage at TableTennista (which especially covers the elite players well) and at the ITTF home page (which does great regional coverage). Butterfly also has a great news page.

Wild West Ping Pong
Here's the video (71 sec) of this shootout at the OK Corral table! Great western music and a deadly finish.

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