Blogs

Larry Hodges' Blog and Tip of the Week will normally go up on Mondays by 1:00 PM USA Eastern time. 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  eight books and over 1900 articles on table tennis. Here is his bio. (Larry was awarded the USATT Lifetime Achievement Award in July, 2018.)
NOTE - Larry is on the USATT Coaching Committee, but the views he shares in his blog are his own, and do not necessarily represent the views of USA Table Tennis.

Make sure to order your copy of Larry's best-selling book, Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers!
Finally, a tactics book on this most tactical of sports!!!
Also out - Table Tennis TipsMore Table Tennis Tips, and Still More Table Tennis Tips, which cover, in logical progression, his Tips of the Week from 2011-2013, 2014-2016, and 2017-2020, with 150 Tips in each!

Or, for a combination of Tales of our sport and Technique articles, try Table Tennis Tales & Techniques
If you are in the mood for inspirational fiction, The Spirit of Pong is also out - a fantasy story about an American who goes to China to learn the secrets of table tennis, trains with the spirits of past champions, and faces betrayal and great peril as he battles for glory but faces utter defeat. Read the First Two Chapters for free!

Tip of the Week
Focus on the Next Point.

Weekend Coaching
Had a pretty busy weekend coaching group sessions with my fellow coaches, Wang Qingliang and Lidney Castro. (Cheng Yinghua and Jack Huang were also there, but doing private coaching.) I had an interesting experience on Sunday. I was only scheduled to coaching one session that day, 12:00-1:30 PM. Afterwards, I went to Panera's to do some writing. I left my playing bag in the trunk of my car. It was cold out, below freezing. At 3:40PM I got a text from Wang, asking if I could come in at 4PM. The problem was that my racket was now ice cold! What did I do? I cranked the heat on full blast while driving back to the club, and held my racket in front of it most of the way! I roasted both sides, and the racket was nice and toasty by the time I got to the club. (A cold racket plays dead.)

I had an interesting thought. A good coach should be able to name every player's shoes at the end of a session! Okay, not really, since he's not paying attention to that specifically, but we do spend much of our time just watching players' feet to make sure they are moving and moving properly. After thinking about this, I started to notice all the different shoe types and colors. One good thing - there were about 20 kids in the session I was coaching at the time, and every one of them had on table tennis shoes.

Some things I focused a lot on include:

  • Keep the ball to wide angles. If you do this in practice, you'll do it in games. Some of the players were letting their balls wander in to the middle backhand or middle forehand, which makes things easy for the opponent. Go to the very wide corners on every shot unless you are going for the middle (opponent's playing elbow).
  • I reminded several of the kids that you NEVER have to decide whether to move. You only decide where and how far. (Maybe once in a hundred shots you move zero inches, but the key is that you are prepared to move, whether it's an inch or five feet.
  • A spinny serve that misses in practice is better than a weak serve that's consistent. The latter is just practicing bad serves, while you can learn to keep a spinny serve on the table.

How to Teach Beginning Kids
The question came up on Facebook, and so I wrote the following (with a few minor edits). Here's the process I've used for decades with younger beginning kids. 

  • Make sure they have a good grip. A bad grip is like twisting a rubber band - it warps everything.
  • Do some ball bouncing on the paddle, to develop hand-eye coordination and control.
  • Shadow practice the shot to be learned, so they can learn the strokes without also trying to hit the ball.
  • Then move to multiball and robot play. Put the ball in the same place over and over and they'll quickly be able to hit it on the table, even as young as age five. (Their arm muscles will tire quickly on backhand, so go back and forth.) 
  • Put targets on the table. Watch their eyes light up as they try to hit them. While they are having fun, they are learning the strokes, timing, and ball control. I often use Froggy and water bottles.

I also like to finish sessions with beginning kids by asking if they like to build things ("Yes!") and asking if they like to destroy things ("YES!"). Then I have them stack paper cups into pyramids and walls, and they take turns knocking them down as I feed multiball. 

Some of the current top junior stars who started out in my beginning classes or in my summer camp groups include Stanley Hsu (13, 2400), Mu Du (13, 2289), and Ryan Lin (12, 2216), and many others from the past. 

Butterfly Training Tips

JOOLA Coaching Videos
Here's the page.

Learn the Basic Backhand Drive Table Tennis Technique
Here's the video (1:22) from Matt Hetherington.

New from Ping Sunday/EmRatThich

New from Samson Dubina

How to Play Backhand Drive for Beginners
Here's the video (5:06) from Reynald Table Tennis.

New from the Performance Biomechanics Academy Table Tennis

Ask the Coach
Here's the latest questions for PingSkills.

Training Experience in Taiwan
Here's the article by Darryl Tsao.

Houston/World Championship Report
Here's the article by Sally Moyland.

Sean O'Neill in Action, 1978 to Present
Here's the video (4:12) by Jim Butler.

Samson Dubina Table Tennis Academy on TV
Here's the video (9:43) from FOX 8 News.

Ping-Pong Diplomacy Player Discusses Significance of Sports Exchange
Here's the video (3:20) featuring Judy Hoarfrost, a member of the US Team during Ping-Pong Diplomacy in 1971-72.

New from Coach Jon

New from USATT

  • Updated Contact Information for USATT National Headquarters. "USA Table Tennis has relocated its National Headquarters office to the US Olympic & Paralympic Sport House in Colorado Springs, Colorado."
  • Marguerite Cheung of Austin, Texas, Named USATT Volunteer of the Year. "Here's what I wrote about Marguerite in my Dec. 29 blog about the US Open: "However, when problems arise, sometimes a hero emerges. In this case, it was experienced volunteer Marguerite Cheung at the control desk. Many of the volunteers at the control desk were inexperienced, and when things fell behind, they weren't sure what to do. Marguerite is an experienced tournament director, and when things fell behind, she was the one who basically started getting matches out, calling them individually on the loudspeaker. I watched, and she was doing the work of about five others. I told her that, if not for her, instead of four hours behind it would have been eight! (This is not to disparage others, who also worked hard, including some experienced ones. But Marguerite was like Wonder Woman this tournament.)"
  • USATT Announces the ‘Everyone In’ Umpire Development Program. (This went in late in last week's blog.) One thing I don't get - it says the program encourages everyone to be an umpire "Regardless of Age...." But then it says it's "targeting all genders under age 40."

New from Steve Hopkins

WTTC Interviews

ITTF News

New from the Malong Fanmade Channel
Lots of new videos here.

Come-Back Serve and Cup Smash
Here's the video (41 sec)!

Bob The Ping Pong Hitman
Here's the video (3 min)!

Great Point with Unbelievable Ending
Here's the video (29 sec)!

Wanna Buy a $7000 Ping-Pong Table?
Here you go - with some as cheap as $5115!

Wanna Buy Some Interesting Table Tennis Posters?
Here's the Zazzle page! (No, I don't get any percentage from this!)

The Founding Fathers Were Clear, You Must Win By Two
Here's the cartoon!

You're Not Taking This Policy Meeting Seriously Enough
Here's the cartoon!

I Wish This Game Gave Me Some Opportunity for Cardio
Here's the cartoon!

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Send us your own coaching news!

Tip of the Week
The Most Important Reason for a Match Coach.

Junior Ratings and Rankings
One of my pet peeves is when the junior rankings include non-juniors because of database mistakes. I don't blame USATT or others for this, but I do like to see them fixed up. When I find them, I periodically email USATT to let them know, and they always fix them up. I emailed about a number of new ones on Dec. 27, and I'm sure they'll fix them up soon. But until then, here's what you find if you do an age search - and what sponsors see when considering sponsoring a junior player. (These mistakes often happen when players or tournament directors mistakenly put in the current date for DOB.) 

Let's start by going to the USATT Ratings page, and click on Browse Individual Ratings. Set Citizenship to USA. Set Gender to Male (for now). Set Max Age to 13. The click on Search. I like this listing - it includes Stanley Hsu, Mu Du, Ryan Lin, and Winston Wu (ranked #1, 5, 6, 12), all from my club. But wait . . . what's Hiep Tran (2136) doing at #8? I know him - he's 50 years old and has played USATT tournaments since 1998!!! (So move Winston up to #11, and everyone else below Hiep moves up a spot.) But how far does this go down?

ADDENDUM: USATT has acted on some of these. Hiep Tran and some of the others below no longer appear. 

Let's set Max Age to 12. Hiep is now #4 in the country! (Take him out, and Ryan and Winston are #2 and #5. Patryk Zyworonek turns 13 in February, Charles Shen in April, after which they move up to #1 and #3 - with Winston one point behind Kef Noorani.)

Let's set Max Age to 11. Hiep, it took you five decades, but you are now #1 in the country in Under 11!!! But wait a minute - who is this Wesley Pritchett at #3? He's been playing USATT tournaments since 2012, about the year he supposedly was born!!! (Kef, you are sandwiched by old guys.) So he's not eligible either. Neither is #7, Dmitri Greydinger, who has been playing tournaments since 1995.

Let's set Max Age to 10. Now Hiep, Wesley, and Dmitri are #1, 2, and 4 in the country.

Let's set Max Age to 9. Now Hiep, Wesley, and Dmitri are #1, 2, and 3. #4 is Norman Lehr, whose first rating was 1165 in 2015 when he would have been about two. #5 is Robert Gabay, who has been playing tournaments since 2012. (His first tournament was the 2012 MDTTC October Open, which I ran almost ten years ago.) So the top five boys in the country for Under 9 are all well over age 9.

Let's jump down Max Age at 5. We get five players - Wesley, Dmitri, Norman, Robert, and a new player, Mark Yelavich, who has been playing tournaments since 2010, about seven years before he was apparently born.

Let's do one more test, keeping Max Age at 5. Go back to the top and change Citizenship to Any Country, and set Gender to Any. Click Search. Now we get 21 players, all supposedly under age five, with ratings ranging up to (gulp) 2622!!! (Others have ratings of 2426, 2057, 1952, 1927, and so on.) China may be the best in the world, but USA dominates among four-year-olds!!!

Hopefully USATT will fix these soon.

Weekend Coaching
I somehow injured my foot while walking down stairs a few days ago. So, on Saturday, I was hobbling about, wearing running shoes for support instead of my usual table tennis shoes. I spent most of each session feeding multiball, which was tricky, since in my running shoes I'm an inch taller and it throws off my control built up from 40+ years of feeding multiball. But I adjusted, and did a wide variety of drills with a multitude of kids. And then the snow came, and the Sunday sessions were cancelled.

University of Maryland Fundraising for the Nationals NCTTA Championship
Here's the GoFundMe page. "We are in need of funds to travel to Round-Rock, Austin, Texas during late March-early April 2022 to compete in the NCTTA National Championship."

USATT News

Aruna Quadri vs Kanak Jha | German League 2022
Here's the video (5:47).

Butterfly Training Tips

New from Samson Dubina

Learn the Basic Forehand Drive Table Tennis Technique
Here's the video (1:44) from Matt Hetherington.

Table Tennis Psychology Guide
Here's the guide from Table Tennis Top.

Push or Flick?
Here's the article and videos from Tom Lodziak.

Force, Friction, and Table Tennis
Here's the video (6:10) from Coach Jon. "Every shot is a combination of force and friction. Getting the right ratio is a key to consistency."

4 Steps with Dimitrij Ovtcharov to Learn the World's Best Tomahawk Serve
Here's the video (4:14).

How to Win Against ANY opponent - Weakness of EVERYONE
Here are the videos from Geoffrey Cheng.

New from the Performance Biomechanics Academy Table Tennis

New from Ping Sunday/EmRatThich

VLOG - German Cup Finals 2022
Here's the vlog (5:24) from Timo Boll.

Ask the Coach
Here's the latest questions for PingSkills.

Off-Table Backhand Sidespin Counterloops
Here's the video (9 sec) - why aren't you practicing this?

A Good Group Warmup Exercise?
Here's the video (39 sec).

NCTTA Singles Registration is OPEN!
Here's the info page from the National Collegiate Table Tennis Association.

WTTC Interviews

Princeton Pong January Open Post-Finals Match Interview With Nigerian Team's Ojo Onaolapo
Here's the video (11:41). See also Aditya Sareen and Ojo Onaolapo dominate at Princeton Pong 2022 January Open.

New from Steve Hopkins

New ITTF President Sörling Lays Out Sustainability Vision
Here's the article.

ITTF News

New from Table Tennis Central

New from the Malong Fanmade Channel
Lots of new videos here.

U.S. Open Highlights with Rachel Wang
Here's the video (1:49). She is a member of the US Under 15 Girls' Team.

Why A Professor Plays Table Tennis
Here's the video (4:34). The video features Dr. Howard Lasnik, a linguistic professor at the University of Maryland, who is asked why he chose table tennis over other sports.

What Ping-Pong Taught Me About Life
Here's the video (12:33) featuring Pico Iyer of England.

Never Give Up - and This Year's Luckiest Shot?
Here's the video (27 sec)!

Can You Succeed in the Table Tennis Challenge?
Here's the video (23 sec) - pie in the face if you miss!

Tongue Pong?
Here's the video (20 sec)!

A Year of a Ping Pong Channel
Here's the video (11:31) from Adam Bobrow!

Non-Table Tennis - Part 2 of Odyssey Interview and Another Science Fiction Story Sale
I was interviewed recently about my science fiction writing by the Odyssey Writing Workshop. I linked to Part 1 last week (which included my "Twenty-Point Short Story Writing System"). Here's Part 2, where I talk about how I came to write a recent story, challenges faced in writing SF, and my biggest weaknesses as an SF writer.

I sold another science fiction story yesterday, "Death Message" to Martian Magazine - where prisoners in a ship use the deadliest form of communication to send a message. It's my 125th short story sale, plus an even 40 resales and four novels. It's also my fifth sale in six weeks, so I'm on a pretty good run. (One strange thing - I'm sometimes asked how much I pay to get these published! It's the other way around - I get paid by magazines for these stories. How much depends on the magazine and the length of the story. Some payments are rather low, but most range from $50 to $500, with my highest payment for a story $1000.)

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Send us your own coaching news!

Tip of the Week
Take the Weird Styles Pledge.

Serving Tactics
One of the things you learn as you play more - assuming you are a student of the game - is to get a feel for what serves work at what times. Someone asked me about this, and I used as an example two serves at a key moment in an international match I recently coached at the America's Hopes in Cuenca, Ecuador. I was coaching Ryan Lin, who was the top-rated 11-year-old in the country at the time. (He's 2176 and recently turned 12.) I will call the other player "Doe." Doe was also the best of his age from his country and was rated/seeded higher. At 8-8 in the fifth, with Ryan serving, I called a timeout, both so Ryan could relax and clear his mind, and to discuss what two serves to use. (I initially wrote this calling Ryan as "John," but he and his father said I could go ahead and use his name.) 

Doe had been a bit passive on his backhand receive, and Ryan and I both agreed we should start out with a slightly long dead ball to the backhand. If Doe pushed or spun it soft, as we expected, Ryan would jump on it. The problem was, what to do for the second serve? If you go long again, Doe would likely jump on it, and he'd been dropping Ryan's short serves back effectively. What to do? Since there weren't any other great options, we decided the second serve would be short no-spin to the middle. This cuts off the angles, and by going no-spin, it's a bit trickier to drop short than backspin. And yet, I wasn't too comfortable with the call - I was pretty sure Doe would drop it short, and Ryan would lose the serve advantage. (The key problem here was Doe's return of serve was very good.)

Ryan goes back and does the deep dead ball - and Doe softly spins it off. Ryan now leads 9-8 - and alarms go off in my head. Years of experience tell me that Doe is playing cautious, lifting the ball softly. What does this mean? It means that if we give him another long serve, he'll likely lift it as well. That means no backspin serves. And he'd likely adjust if we give him another slightly long dead ball. But if we serve side-top slightly long, his natural instinct might be to lift it off - except at this point, he's seen all of Ryan's normal serves, and would likely adjust. And then a flashbulb goes off in my head - it's time for Ryan to bring out his not-that-good-yet backhand serve! (It's since improved.) He was just starting to work on it, and didn't have much variation - it was mostly a slightly long side-top. But the two key things were 1) it was side-top, and 2) Doe hadn't seen it. What did the latter mean? It meant that, while the serve itself might not fool him, the very fact that it was new would likely get him to fall into his natural tendency, which at this point was to lift the ball. And if he did that, he'd likely go off.

If Ryan were on my side of the table, he'd have probably served the short no-spin serve, and Doe likely would have dropped it short. But he was on the far side, facing me, with Doe's back to me. So I waved my arm to get his attention, and did a backhand serve motion. Ryan saw it, stared for a second, then nodded. He did his backhand for the first time in the match - and sure enough, Doe softly spun it off! (I was incredibly nervous as Ryan served - imagine if Doe had looped that serve in!) Even if the ball had hit, it was a soft return and Ryan was ready to rip it. Up 10-8, Ryan won the next point to win 11-8 in the fifth.

A key thing here is that we didn't call timeout until 8-all in the fifth. Why? Because Ryan, even though only eleven, was already an experienced veteran, and with coaches regularly talking to him about serve selection and tactics, he pretty much knew what serves and tactics to use throughout, though we did discuss them between games. (It's always a threshold moment when an up-and-coming junior begins to really understand these things and learns to play consistently smart - and can even discuss the tactics afterwards.)

Weekend Coaching
After a few weeks' break, we started up the new training season this past weekend. For me, it was an extremely multiball-heavy weekend as I fed balls to seemingly every player in the club. Since some had been off for a few weeks, I focused on fundamental skills, especially with the lower-rated players. One focus - I kept harping with several players about having "active feet" - too often they just stood there, and only moved if they had to. The key is to always move - even if it's an inch. Even if you don't have to move at all, you should start to move (with a light flexing of the knees), as it's much quicker to start to move and then see where to move, than to wait to see if you have to move, and then start the process late. I also worked with a chopper, with various topspin feeds to work on his fundamental chopping skills.

Sports Mask
A few days ago I ordered a special "sports mask," designed for sports in this age of Covid. It was supposed to make breathing easier. The problem was - it did so by having essentially giving no Covid protection! It was basically a thin mesh, one layer, with holes noticeably large enough to see, and easy to breath through. From a few feet away, it looked like a normal mask for use against Covid, but as protection against spreading Covid, it was useless. I'm not going to provide the link as there might be some tempted to order them just for show!

USATT Five-Star Tournament Task Force
As noted previously blog, here's the USATT news item on this. They met this past week on Tues and Wed nights. I keep thinking I dodged a bullet here. Since I'm pretty experienced in these matters - I've run 203 USATT tournaments and did operations/scheduling for two US Opens with Donna Sakai - I'm a bit surprised I wasn't asked to serve on the task force. Not only would I have good input for them, but it would have been smart on USATT's part. I've criticized them a lot for what happened at the US Open - and what better way to both silence me and perhaps improve the Open then by putting me on the task force? But since I'm not on it, I'll stay out of it, and just wait and see if they fix the problems when the Nationals come up in July. Why did I dodge a bullet? Because this is the type of thing where, if I'd been asked initially, I'd have felt obligated to join in, since I'd written so much about the problems. And if I had been on the task force, I would have been all in, and would have put in a LOT of time and effort on it. Instead, I can put all that time and effort into other things. So I did dodge a bullet. (No, I'm not interested in being added now - that time has passed.)

USATT Announces Coaching Staff

Stanley Hsu's Forehand & Footwork
Here's the video (19 sec). Note the crossover step to cover the wide forehand, and the fast recovery. (Stanley is #1 in the US in 13 and Under. He started out in my beginning class, and (along with other coaches) I still work with him sometimes in group sessions and at tournaments. But I don't beat him anymore!)

Serve Tips No One Tells You
Here's the video (15:10) from Seth Pech. This is a must see!

Basic Shakehand and Traditional Penhold Grip
Here's the video (4:04) from Matt Hetherington. They've also launched a new app: "The JOOLA Infinity App has launched, and in these coming weeks I will be uploading some of the basics series of videos from the platform that I created."

New from Samson Dubina

New Butterfly Training Videos, Commentaries by Brian Pace

New from PingSunday/EmRatThich

New from the Performance Biomechanics Academy Table Tennis

Two Easy But Effective Drills
Here's the video (9:31) from Coach Jon.

Ask the Coach
Here's the latest questions for PingSkills.

WTTC Interviews Timo Boll
Here's the interview with the world #10 (formerly world #1) from Germany.

WTTC Interviews Adriana Diaz
Here's the interview with the world #17 from Puerto Rico.

US Table-Tennis Player Recounts Pairing with Chinese Team
Here's the article and video (2:48) from the China Daily (in English).

USA Ping Pong Diplomacy USA-China Pairs Practice Match for Worlds
Here's the video (10:41). At the start, that's Lily Zhang and Lin Gaoyuan on the left facing Kanak Jha and Wang Manyu.

Don't FORGET--NCTTA Eligibility
Here's the article from the National Collegiate Table Tennis Association. "Anyone who intends on playing in Regionals must be on this form and have been listed on a roster for the teams that they will play for."

New from Steve Hopkins

2021 US Open
Here's the article by Steve Moreno of Puerto Rico.

ITTF News

New from the Malong Fanmade Channel
Lots of new videos here.

Four Saves and a Rip
Here's the video (14 sec)!

Table Table Tennis?
Here's the video (25 sec)!

Toddler Pong
Here's the video (13 sec) - imagine how good this kid's going to be when he's tall enough to play on a regular table!

Spider-Man vs. Spider-Man
Here's the video (3:59)! Here's an entire page of Spider-Man Table Tennis.

Beetle Bailey - "Are You Ready to Get Clobbered?"
Here's the Beetle Bailey comic from yesterday (Sunday, Jan. 9)! It joins a long line of other Beetle Bailey table tennis comics, which includes an explanation for why there are so many.

Science Fiction and Table Tennis - Interview with Odyssey Graduate Larry Hodges and Other SF Matters
Here's the interview, Part 1, about my science fiction writing. (Part 2 comes out next Monday.) Odyssey is the six-week science fiction & fantasy writing workshop I attended in 2006. I also attend the annual nine-day writing workshops for graduates every July - I've been to twelve of them, including the last nine in a row. I've actually been interviewed in the science fiction world more often than in the table tennis world - see the interview links after my bio.

On my science fiction page, I blogged about my science fiction writing year in review. It includes a listing at the end of my table tennis travels in 2021.

On a related note, I have a rather long science fiction story that was making the rounds, "First Galactic Table Tennis Championships." It's literally the story of just that, as the best table tennis players from around the galaxy all compete at these championships, held in Beijing about 200 years from now. It's full of intrigue and betrayals, and lots of crazy aliens. It's 10,000 words, about 40 pages double-spaced. I think I just sold the story - the editor of a SF magazine I submitted it to just wrote me, "We definitely are interested in this story. As long as it is, I will have to decide which issue it can fit into. I'll be back in touch with you most likely long before the end of October. Thank you for sending it to us!"

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Send us your own coaching news!

Tip of the Week
Outcome Versus Process.

The Usual USATT Rundown
Sometimes, when I think about USA Table Tennis, I just want to cry out, "USATT, USATT, USATT!" :) Here's a quick rundown, hopefully the last one for a while, other than general news. But we'll start with the positive. (Skip ahead if not interested in USATT issues.)

=>USATT 2021 Year in Review. Here's the video (17 min).

=>USATT Athlete Elections. USATT First and Second Elite Athlete Elections Certified – Nomination Period for Third and Fourth Athlete Positions Opens.

=>USATT Announces 2021 All-American Honors. Here's the announcement! Three of the players named are from MDTTC and started out with me, and I still work with them in groups sessions and coach at tournaments - Stanley Hsu, Mu Du, and Ryan Lin. (But they work extensively with the rest of the MDTTC staff.) I've also worked with a number of others in camps and tournaments recently in Ecuador and Jordan, and in past USATT camps. Congrats to all! (Interesting note - I've coached or coached against all 17 of the boys, and 11 of the 17 girls.)

=>USATT Board Chair of the Board. Back in February, 2020, Richard Char was elected chair of the USATT Interim Board. The "Permanent" board took office in January, 2021. At that point, there should have been an election for chair of the board since Char had only been elected chair of the Interim board. However - they didn't hold the election. There were complaints about this, including comments some of us remember (such as by Willy Leparulo, president of NCTTA) in the comment section of USATT Board Zoom meetings. Long-time former Rules Chair and International Referee Kagin Lee emailed the board about this on March 28, 2021, saying, "The chair's term expired at the end of 2020 and there should have been an election of a new/renewed chair at the first meeting of the year." While nothing is in writing, I remember it being explained that Char had been appointed to a two-year term, ending in February, 2022, which is next month. When the athlete elections for four board spots began a few weeks ago, this was a key issue - who should be the next chair, with the upcoming election in February. Many of them were not happy in the direction of USATT and might favor a new chair. With four new athlete reps replacing the two current ones (USOPC required the increase), the board was about to change dramatically. So what happened?

On Dec. 6, out of the blue, there was a notice in the USATT Agenda and Notices page that there would be a USATT Board Meeting that night, with election of the Chair of the Board on the agenda. At the meeting, Char admitted that there should have been an election in January, 2021, but said that he "forgot" - that's a direct quote. (Will it be in the minutes? We'll see. I'm guessing no.) So he, the CEO, and the two USATT lawyers all forgot about this, despite reminders at Zoom meetings and Kagin's email, until they were faced with an election that might bring in four athlete reps who might not support them? Okay. There was little time for anyone else to consider running against him or put together any campaign. He ran unopposed and won, I believe 5-2. (Take out the two current athlete reps who voted for him, add in four athlete reps who likely won't, and suddenly it's 3-6. For further perspective, only one of the five who voted for him was actually elected to the board.) They did make his term only through January, 2023, when his term would have ended if they had held the election in January, 2021.

So, what are the odds that they really "forgot" about the election, as opposed to interpreting Char's initial term as a two-year term, but changing that interpretation when it became convenient? You can judge for yourself, but there's no way of reading their minds. But let me quote from the USATT Staff and Volunteers Code of Ethics:

"Recognize that even the appearance of misconduct or impropriety can be very damaging to the reputation of the USATT and act accordingly."

An argument for holding the election as soon as they "remembered" it was that, until they did so, there was no elected board chair. (I won't get into the legality of nearly a year of board meetings without an elected chair, by this new interpretation.) And so, yes, they should have held the belated election as soon as they "remembered" it - but with one catch. Since it was their mistake, then rather than have outgoing board members choose the chair for the incoming board members, and thereby saddle the board with a chair most did not vote for, they should have simply voted for another "interim" chair, through February (and so after the athlete elections), and then hold a new election for chair at that time. Then, whoever wins - whether it be Char or someone else - would truly represent the board. Isn't that what we want?

=>USATT Membership. I keep hearing celebratory talk of USATT having "record membership." They claim membership this past year shot up from 4600 to 8900. That's a good thing! But let's take it in perspective.

  • First, the reason membership was down to 4600 was because of the pandemic. It's normally around 8000 or so.
  • Second, 8900 is not a record. Membership broke 10,000 twice. It did so circa 2005, but then they raised membership rates from $25 to $40, and lost 2500 members in a year. (In 2021 dollars, that's raising the rate from about $36 to $57.)
  • Third, the recent increase is the obvious result from dropping the basic membership rate from $75/year to $25/year, the reverse of what they did in 2005. In 2005, IMHO they raised it too much too quickly; this time, again IMHO, they dropped it way too much. The result is that to get the same revenue at $25/year as $75/year they need triple the membership. Perhaps $40 to $50/year would be a good number for basic membership.

=>"Discussions" with Virginia. At the US Open, as I walked out of the playing hall and down the hallway back to the hotel, I was confronted by USATT CEO Virginia Sung on several issues. (This was in a public place, witnessed by one board member who listened in and numerous others who walked by, with neither of us saying it was off the record, so there's no expectation of privacy here.) I'm still debating whether to give the blow-by-blow - but much of it would end up being my word vs. hers.

It all started with her again claiming she wasn't "involved" in the High Performance Committee's change of the Selection Rules, a big issue from a year or so back. She had called me on the phone and convinced me to take out that mention in my blog, saying it wasn't true, that she hadn't been involved in it, and talked me into doing so, despite two people telling me she had. As it turned out, she had argued for it in a Zoom meeting and in an email to the HPC, and after the 3-2 vote, one of the members even emailed that Virginia had convinced her to change her vote - so she was heavily involved, as my initial blog said, and as I wrote in the following blog once I had more info. (I also made a mistake - I thought the video of Virginia arguing for the change was at the meeting where they took the vote, but it was at a different meeting. But that doesn't change the substance of the argument.) She now says that when she said she wasn't "involved," she meant she hadn't voted on it - but of course she didn't vote for it, since she's not on the HPC, but my blog never said she voted on it, only that she was very involved, which she was. (Involved: "having a part in something; actively participating in something.")

She also insisted that she had no choice but to get involved in the HPC's discussions on this, that she is required by the USATT Bylaws to do so - and she was surprised, even scornful that I didn't know this. I looked this up in the Bylaws, and later went back to her and pointed out this wasn't true - see pages 33 (Section 9.16. High Performance Committee and Para High Performance Committee) and 45 (ARTICLE XIV CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER). The closest thing is the HPC is required to make recommendations to the CEO, not the other way around. When I pointed this out to her, she quickly changed to saying she felt that, as CEO, she should get involved - which was completely different from what she had been arguing before. (But as I wrote last week, I'd rather a CEO who focuses on the big picture and on raising money, and stays out of these issues.)

We discussed other issues - some covered in my previous blog - but I don't think it's going to accomplish anything giving the blow-by-blow. I really don't like writing about these types of USATT issues. Anyone want to talk about ball placement? :)

=>US Open. In my blog last week, I wrote about the problems with the US Open. In the following days I did some updates. The number of confirmed Covid cases is now at 31 (though of course there are actually far more, as these are just those who were tested and who announced they were positive); I added a long paragraph under "Scheduling" on how to stop the cascading effect; and added two segments, "Loudspeaker" and "Event Finishing Day."

=>USATT Youth Trials Petition. This morning I was sent the 2022 Junior Trials Petition. When it was sent to me, I did make a few editorial suggestions, but I didn't originate the petition, nor did I see or know about it until this morning. When I got the final copy, I put it online on my own. The petition pretty much speaks for itself - it's unfair that both of the US Junior Team Trials are held in the same area on one coast. IMHO, it would be better to have an annual trials at the US Nationals in July, when kids are out of school and almost all at the Nationals anyway. The petition is in response to the USATT news item of a few days ago, USATT Announces Dates and Locations for 2022 US National Youth Team Trials. If you agree with the petition, then I'm told you should send it to the USATT Board of Directors, the CEO and HPD, and to admin@usatt.org.

I'm sure there are arguments for having them this way - but as usual, USATT doesn’t communicate these things as they communicate at the 1000 level. I heard they plan a USATT training camp between the two, for example, but somehow they left that out of the news item. Or perhaps they only hope to run one, and so aren't committing yet. I don't know.  We shouldn't have to ask USATT about these things - they should be telling us. Regardless, I don't think the benefits outweigh the arguments against, as noted in the petition - including the Covid problem. That's a long, expensive 11-day trip to the west coast, with lots of missed school, plus the COVID problem just recently got much worse. (31 known cases from the US Open, and that's likely just the tip of the iceberg.)  

UPDATE - USATT has delayed the Youth Trials due to Covid

Yet Still More Table Tennis Tips
Here are the first three books in the series:

Notice a pattern? Tentatively, the next two will be "Yet Still More Table Tennis Tips" and "And Yet Still More Table Tennis Tips." One big change - the first three volumes had 150 tips each, but I'm switching over to 100 tips per book. (The Tips are compiled from my weekly Tip of the Week, but put in order by topic.)

I thought the next volume would be out this month, but I made a silly mistake. When I do a tip, I put it into a master volume, with a # after each tip. When I want to know how many tips I've done, I just do a count of the #'s. I reached 100 a couple weeks ago - or so I thought. Then I discovered that one tip mentioned a number of world-ranked players with their ranking, and so had 16 #'s in the tip, plus it was used two other times. So there were 18 #'s in the tips themselves, meaning I only had 82 tips!!! I should hit 100 tips on May 2, and the next volume should then come out soon afterwards.

Books I Read in 2021
Here's the listing. I ended up with one book per week, at 52. It was a wide range - 21 fiction, 9 science, 13 history, 4 sports psychology, 3 writing, and but only 2 on table tennis. I have a small stack of table tennis books that came out the last two years - I should probably read them this year. But the 52 is a "down" year for me - I usually read more. For comparison, the previous four years, 2017-2020, I read 57, 84 (!), 68, and 67 books. I think I did too many crossword puzzles this year. (Plus I did a lot of science fiction writing.)

New Butterfly Training Videos

New from Samson Dubina

New from PingSunday/EmRatThich

New from Ti Long

New from the Performance Biomechanics Academy Table Tennis

Ask the Coach
Here's the PingSkills page.

Is Table Tennis Defense Dead?
Here's the video (9:13) from Coach Jon.

New from Steve Hopkins

2021 U.S. Open – U15 Girls Teams
Here's the article by Isabella Xu.

ITTF News
Here's their news pagevideo page ("World Table Tennis") and home page.

New from the Malong Fanmade Channel
Lots of new videos here.

Ma Long Guides Children to Play Table Tennis in Macau
Here's the video (2:12).

2021 Table Tennis Rewind
Here's the video (12 min) from Table Tennis Media.

Certified Ping Pong Champ
Here's the video (9:15)!

Table Tennis Battle
Here's the dramatic video (1:43) from PingSunday/EmRatThich!

Double-Edge Serve
Here's the video (20 sec) from Table Tennis World!

Table Tennis, Archery, and Blondie
Here's the cartoon!

You Want a Pong Shirt?
This is my Ping Pong Shirt!

Non-Table Tennis - Another Fiction Sale
Yesterday I sold another story, "Soul Testing in Major League Baseball," to Daily Science Fiction. Forget steroids - what happens when major league baseball players sell their souls illegally to Satan to become stars? Finding ways to test for souls leads to an ever-escalating battle between players and Major League Baseball. It's my 124th short story sale and second sale to Daily SF.

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Send us your own coaching news!

Tips of the Week

2021 US Open . . . a Fiasco
To paraphrase Winston Churchill, this year's US Open, held in Las Vegas, Dec. 17-22, was a fiasco, wrapped in disaster, inside a calamity. It was the third consecutive poorly run US Open or Nationals since USATT CEO Virginia Sung took over as tournament director at the 2019 US Open, which ran many hours behind, though not as much as this year's. After a break in 2020 due to Covid, it was followed by the 2021 US Nationals in July, the worst-run Nationals in USATT history. And now we have the worst-run US Open in history. (More on that below, and why it was worse than the infamous 1990 US Open.)

Plus, with the total lack of mask enforcement, it's turned into a "super-spreader," just as I predicted on Facebook on the first day. As of now, there are 34 confirmed positive tests, including US Open Women's Singles Champion Lily Zhang. (There obviously are many more - most don't announce on Facebook or even get tested.) See the segment below on this, where I list the positive tests so far. 

One piece of breaking news - last night this went up: USATT Announces Formation of Five-Star Tournament Task Force. More on this in the following segment. Also note that this morning I sent an email to Virginia with four questions. She responded that she was driving, and "Will not get back until late afternoon." When/if she does, I may put in an Update.

Before we go further, here are complete results. (I'm not sure why the Men's and Women's Singles are listed as "Prelim Rounds," but if you click on them, you get the full results.) There were 745 players in the tournament, with 83 events played on 78 tables. (Many past Opens and Nationals had far more players and events.) Since I spent most of the tournament waiting for, playing, or coaching matches, I didn't see any of the top matches, so no coverage of those.

Here are other USATT news items on the Open:

Throughout the tournament people would come up to me to exchange complaints about it, and each time it would involve a long litany of problems. I finally began to simply call it a fiasco to save time. At one point, someone came over and asked me what I thought of the tournament, and I responded the same way, "It's a fiasco." Then I looked over and saw it was Craig Krum, the hard-working but completely gob-smacked Operations Director, who admitted he was running the Open as "the largest 2-star tournament in history." Well, perhaps I wouldn't have been so blunt if I'd known it was him first, but bluntness is what was needed in such a case. Buttering it up doesn't get the message across of just how bad the tournament was. There are certain minimal expectations for a tournament such as this, and they were not met. I'm sure the USATT board will look into these problems - but only one of the nine board members was present at the tournament. As to Craig, he was highly apologetic, admitting he simply hadn't realized what he was getting into when he went from running four-star tournaments (with perhaps 200 players on maybe 20-25 tables) to five-star ones (745 players on 78) - the complexity goes up exponentially. He said he would be writing a letter of apology - see below from the U.S. Open Tournament Committee.

Writing about this tournament is among the most difficult things I've ever had to write - it makes me sick to my stomach just thinking about it. Trying to find the balance between politeness and saying it like it is isn't easy. It would be a lot easier to do what many do, and just smile and say all's well. But all is not well. And I'm not the only one writing about it. Here are two threads on Facebook (there are many more) where lots of people chimed in on their experiences - and they are pretty scathing, including notes from numerous professional coaches, top players, and hall of famers.

USATT posted two news items on the problems with the tournament:

The latter states, "active efforts to enforce the mandatory mask rules of Clark County, Nevada." I strongly disagree with this statement. See the Covid section below.

Personally, I was at the tournament to coach and play in two events - Hardbat Singles (where I got second for the third time - I've won it twice) and Hardbat Doubles (which I won for the 14th time at the Open or Nationals, this time with Estee Ackerman). I'm normally a sponge player but play hardbat on the side. Alas, I and my players had to play most of our matches "cold" since they fell so far behind that we never knew when we'd play. I didn't even get to see the men's or women's finals or semifinals - I was at the desk both times, waiting for matches.

There will always be some problems at tournaments. However, it is the responsibility of the tournament director to have a checklist to go through to make sure everything has been taken care of and done properly before the tournament begins. This is tournament 101, and it didn't happen. On the other hand, I'll give Virginia and Craig credit - they literally lived at the control desk most of the tournament, with Craig at the computer and Virginia often looking over his shoulder as they tried to keep the tournament running in some fashion. The tournament staff also did an incredible job in a nearly impossible situation.

Below is a rundown of what we faced as participants in the tournament. I was pretty nice in my writeups for the last two major tournaments USATT ran (2019 Open and 2021 Nationals, both poorly run), and each got progressively worse. So this time I'm putting together a literal checklist of problems, both for USATT and for participants. I debated which aspect to start with but will start with Covid.

=>Covid. The rules were very clear - everyone must wear a mask unless they were playing, eating, or drinking. But there was no enforcement. Nor was there any social distancing. When I walked in on the first day, I saw all the unmasked people. I did a quick count of the first table area - only 6 of 22 were wearing masks. I checked the arena - only 13 of 29 wore masks. None of the four coaches coaching on the two tables wore masks. Here is a picture of the Men's Final, taken from USATT's own news item on day four. I've circled 22 people in the stands who are not wearing masks or have the masks pulled down. Here is another USATT news item - note the two people prominently not wearing masks. On the second day I did another count of people in the arena at around 6PM. Of those not playing, eating, or drinking, 18 of 43 were not wearing masks.

I checked about this at the registration desk, control desk, and officials area, and all said that mask enforcement was up to the tournament director, which was Virginia. I asked her who was in charge of enforcing the rule, but she wouldn't answer, only saying, over and over, "Everyone must wear a mask." So, there was no enforcement of the rule. After the fact, there have been claims by USATT that there was enforcement, but that's simply not true. (One umpire did take it upon herself to try to enforce the rule and managed to get most of those in the first table area to put on their masks. But she had other duties and stopped after a short time.) Simple reality - if you say everyone must wear a mask but do not enforce it then the mask rule is not being enforced.

There was no serious social distancing. For much of the tournament there was a "mob" at the control desk as huge numbers of players tried to find out about their matches as the tournament fell many hours behind. The people at the control desk were also close together with no social distancing.

USATT did provide free Covid testing onsite, which was a good thing. I took the test and was negative. But it's likely that only a small minority of the huge number of people at the Open took the free test.

I wrote a Facebook posting about this the very first night, which starts off, "I'm worried that the US Open Table Tennis Championships here in Las Vegas is going to turn into a super-spreader event for Covid." I was right to be concerned. I know of at least 13 15 21 24 26 27 29 30 31 34 people so far who have tested positive. The number is obviously much higher, as these are just the ones who posted on Facebook or otherwise let others know, plus most people didn't get tested. Each of them exposed large numbers of others to Covid, further spreading the disease. This is the definition of a "superspreader." Here are the ones I know of (so far) who have tested positive.

  • The Spartan TTC in San Jose, CA, posted, "At least three of our students have tested COVID-19 positive after the US Open." (They also had to cancel their training camp.)
  • Matt Hetherington from Maryland.
  • Max Nasab from Washington state.
  • Alireza Hejazi posted that a friend who attended the US Open with him tested positive.
  • Two adults who wish to remain anonymous.
  • Two junior players who must stay anonymous.
  • I was told "several" from the Houston International TT Academy have tested positive. So at least three.
  • Bahram Panahi and his wife tested positive.
  • Vicky Na informs me that at least six people at the Open from North Carolina and three from Atlanta tested positive.
  • At least one junior player from Boston tested positive. 
  • US Open Women's Singles Champion Lily Zhang has tested positive!!! 
  • Paul David tested positive.
  • I'm told two more people from Atlanta tested positive. 
  • A junior from the Lily Yip club tested positive
  • Another from Atlanta tested positive
  • Three from a CA club, but they don't want to be named

=>Scheduling. Just as with the Nationals in July and the last US Open in 2019, they fell way, Way, WAY behind. Each day (especially the first three) quickly became a madhouse as players were forced to wait around the control desk often for 3-4 hours, waiting for their matches. There were no schedules in the player packets; they were not given out until the morning the tournament began - and then it turned out the match slips hadn't even been printed out! So there were delays right from the start, and they only got worse.

I had a relatively slow first day, didn't have to coach until 5:30 PM. I warmed up my player, and we went to the control desk at 5:30 PM to check in for his round robin event, little knowing what we were in for - over and Over and OVER throughout the tournament. As of 5:30 PM, they were just sending out 2:30 PM matches, so they were three hours behind. Worse, they had no idea when the 5:30 PM matches would go out, and so told us to just "wait around." They were now calling matches one by one over the loudspeaker system, as if it were a two-star tournament. (Many of us, including me, had great difficulty making out what was being said.) Lots of tables were open, but there didn't seem a way for the desk to keep track or to get match slips ready in a reasonable time. The match I coached was finally called at 8:15PM, but of course my player was now stiff as a rock. I had planned on coaching his 5:30 RR and then having a leisurely dinner. We didn't get out until after 10PM. It would be the first of three straight nights where I wouldn't get dinner until after 10PM. Little did we know that day two would be worse, and day three worse still. (Day three started out well, then everything fell apart in the early afternoon.) The following days they also fell behind, but it wasn't quite as bad - I think they had more matches scheduled the first three days.

Imagine warming up for your matches, over and over, and each time you are forced to wait at the control desk for 3-4 hours - and then, when you are suddenly and out of the blue called, you have to play cold, other than the two-minute warmup. This simply doesn't meet even minimally minimal standards. But I wasn't alone in this - the mobs at the control desk were all in the same situation. I could write books about this. Suffice to say this Open was more behind than any US Open or Nationals since or before the infamous 1990 US Open.

One interesting note - I had an argument with Virginia over the software used. I pointed out that there was nothing currently in Omnipong, or any procedure at the control desk, to deal with the cascading effect in large tournaments, where if one event falls behind, it cascades into other events, leading to the entire tournament falling further and further behind - exactly what happened here each day. When I first mentioned this, I got blank stares from Virginia (and later, by others at the control desk) - they didn't know anything about this. Then Virginia insisted they did have a system for this. We argued, and it finally came out that she was referring to conflict resolution, i.e. when a player has two matches at the same time and one has to be rescheduled. That is how you deal with individual conflicts, but not the cascading effect. Alas, at this point in time, the ones running our tournaments were basically oblivious to this problem. For the twenty years before they took over the Opens and Nationals ran on time because NATT, the ones running it (as well as others before them) knew about this problem and how to deal with it - and so, even if one event fell behind, it wouldn't drag the rest of the tournament with it. Omnipong is great for most tournaments - I've run many dozens on it - but for larger ones like the US Open, it might need some upgrading.

I don't know the specifics of how past directors stopped the cascading effect, but I believe the concept is simple. (I was involved in the scheduling of two past US Opens, but it was long ago, plus I've run over 200 USATT sanctioned tournaments.) When an event falls behind, they do two things. First, when there's a conflict, they favor playing the events that are still on time, so other events don't also fall behind, which causes the cascading effect. Second, they quickly reschedule the matches in the specific event that's falling behind, often on tables set aside for this. (This is subtly different from normal conflict resolution, where they reschedule individual matches, as opposed to rescheduling the entire event.) Without this, players can spend hours at the desk waiting for their match to be rescheduled (as at the 2021 US Nationals and US Open) never knowing when they'll be called. With this method, the match might not be played right away, but they are given a specific time when it will be played, and so they know when to warm up and be ready to play. Result - other events do not fall behind, and in the event that does falls behind, matches are quickly rescheduled, and everyone's happy. Note that players accept that an event can fall behind and their matches rescheduled. What they can't accept is an entire tournament falling behind, and having to wait around for hours not knowing when they'll play.

=>Loss of Experienced Volunteers. One of the reasons they had such difficulty once they fell behind was the inexperience of many of the volunteers. This was the first time in decades where I didn't recognize most of the volunteers, and most of the volunteers didn't recognize me. Normally it's an experienced crew, but this time Virginia decided that there would be no hotel or flight reimbursements for volunteers. Because of this, several regular volunteers told me they decided not to volunteer this year. I told Virginia this, and she exploded, saying that all volunteers got hotel and flight reimbursements, and anyone who said otherwise is lying - and she wanted to know who was saying this. The problem is the Volunteer Form says exactly what the missing volunteers said - "There is No Hotel or Flight Reimbursement."

However, when problems arise, sometimes a hero emerges. In this case, it was experienced volunteer Marguerite Cheung at the control desk. Many of the volunteers at the control desk were inexperienced, and when things fell behind, they weren't sure what to do. Marguerite is an experienced tournament director, and when things fell behind, she was the one who basically started getting matches out, calling them individually on the loudspeaker. I watched, and she was doing the work of about five others. I told her that, if not for her, instead of four hours behind it would have been eight! (This is not to disparage others, who also worked hard, including some experienced ones. But Marguerite was like Wonder Woman this tournament.)

=>CEO/Director Illegally Overrules Referee on Rules Question. This should be a no-brainer - the referee of a tournament is the FINAL authority on rules questions. From the USATT Tournament Guide, 4.4.5a, the referee "Is the final authority on interpretation of the rules and regulations as they apply to the tournament." The ITTF Handbook concurs, saying, "The referee shall be responsible for: 3.3.1.2.10 deciding any question of interpretation of Laws or Regulations, including the acceptability of clothing, playing equipment and playing conditions."

In my 46 years in the sport, I've disagreed with referees, but never thought I could overrule them - and, until now, I've never seen one illegally overruled! I was told about this by a number of witnesses, most of them umpires, and spoke to tournament referee Joe Yick, who verified what happened, as did several umpires and other witnesses.

He had ruled that a junior player was using an illegal surface. (There were equipment booths where the player could get a legal replacement, though not of the same surface.) CEO/Tournament Director Virginia overruled him, saying the player could use that surface. When the player went out to play, the umpire said the racket was illegal. So the Virginia ordered that there would be no umpires for this player's matches for the rest of the tournament. The player made the final of an event - and again, no umpire was allowed! (The player's mom actually became the scorekeeper for the match. I don't even know who the player is - I intentionally didn't want to know.) I'm sure Virginia (and perhaps the player or her parents) could argue for why they thought the surface should be allowed, though I can't think of an argument for it. But that's a side issue - the issue is that Virginia believed that she, as CEO/Tournament Director, could overrule the referee on a rules question. This is blatantly wrong. The referee said he will be filing a report to the chair of the Umpires & Referees committee. I hope they will make this report public.

=>Top Seeds Mistakenly Taken Out of Rating Events. Incredibly, about 24 of the top seeds in rating events were defaulted out of their events by mistake!!! For rating events, there are two ratings used: a "qualification" rating (as of Oct. 17) and a "seeding" rating (as of Dec. 1). The qualification rating determines if one is eligible for the event; the seeding rating is used to seed the player in the event, even if the new rating is over the cutoff. This is so players know in advance which events they are eligible for. They used to use just one cutoff, but it always ran into problems, and so years ago they switched to this system, which has worked fine - until now. So, what happened? The tournament director ordered that those over the cutoff in the seeding list were to be defaulted, even though this contradicts the actual rules on the entry form, and how it's been done for the last decade or more. Why have a "qualification" rating if the "seeding" rating is going to be used for qualification? It makes no sense. And so 24 players, all among the top seeds in their rating events, were mistakenly defaulted out of their primary rating event. Lots of very unhappy players. Oops!!!

=>Men's Quarterfinals (and others?). When I went out to play the semifinals of Hardbat Doubles on table 45, we noticed that Men's #2 seed Eugene Wang (rated 2735) of Canada was playing #7 seed Ju Mingwei (rated 2665) on the adjacent table 44. It was the Men's Quarterfinal - and there was no umpire, no scorekeeper, played on a back table with about five people watching! Wow. There were plenty of open tables, so we moved to another one so as not to interfere. How can a match like that not be highlighted and played on a feature table with an umpire and scorekeeper??? I never did find out about the other quarterfinal matches for men or women, but presumably some or all of them were similarly played - but I don't really know. So unprofessional. Email me if you know anything about this. Is it any wonder we no longer get top international players? Anyone in the top 20 in the men's world rankings could have come here and gotten an "easy" $8000, and yet they don't.
UPDATE 1: I'm told the two players decided to play this match on their own, on an empty table they found, rather than continue waiting to be called. By the end, about 20 people had found out about it and were watching. 
UPDATE 2: I was just shown the schedule for #5 seed Nikhil Kumar. He was scheduled to play the Men's Quarterfinals on table 37!!! They later changed it to table 1, where he won to make the semifinals. 

=>Wrong Times on Draw Sheets. The tournament software, Omnipong, automatically put in time scheduling on the draw sheets. However, this didn't always match up with the actual schedule. For example, I was scheduled to play the semifinals and finals of Hardbat Doubles at 6:30 PM and 7:30 PM on Sunday night, Dec. 19. We waited around for hours, and finally was able to play the semifinals at 9:45 PM. We won, and got back to the desk at 10:15 PM, only to find that they still hadn't sent out the other 6:30 PM semifinal, and that they had just told those two teams that they would play the semifinal the next day, at 8:30 AM on Monday. The players hadn't left yet, so we argued to play their semifinal and then the final that night, while we were all available and warmed up.

Tournament Director Virginia, who had made the decision to continue the next day, came out and told me that I had the schedule wrong, that the semifinals and final were scheduled for 10:30 and 11:30 AM the following day, and the final at Noon - and showed me the Hardbat Doubles Draw from Omnipong. Note how it shows my semifinal match on table 5 at 11:30 AM on 12/20/2021, and the other semifinal on table 3 at 10:30 AM on 12/20/2021? But here's my schedule, showing my semifinal on table 17 at 6:30 PM on 12/19/2021! The draw shows the final on table 1 at 12:00 on 12/20/2021, while my schedule shows it on table 4 at 7:30 PM on 12/19-2021!

I had to explain to her that that the table numbers, times, and days on the draw sheet weren't the actual schedule, and we had to show her our schedules to show that the semis and final had actually been scheduled for that night, at 6:30 PM and 7:30 PM. Alas, she still wanted to play them the next day, since it was getting late. But think about it - if the tournament director is misreading the schedule, imagine the 745 players trying to figure things out!!!

When the doubles teams arrived the next day and warmed up, they found out one of them had a conflict - and instead of playing the doubles semifinal at 8:30 AM as they'd been told, they sent one of the players out to play singles. (Another amateur mistake - when there's a conflict, you almost always play doubles, both so you inconvenience fewer people, and since it's much harder to later get four players together than two.) The team that had come in at 7:45 AM to warm up and was ready to play at 8:30 AM had to wait several more hours before they got to play - they weren't happy. We finally played our 7:30 PM Sunday final at about 2PM on Monday. (From down match point, we won!!!)

=>Water. This was an athletic event with 745 players, plus about an equal number of family members, coaches, officials, staff, and so on. And NO WATER??? Before Covid, there would have been water fountains or equivalent. Covid, of course, makes that problematic. And the food court, a quarter mile away (so a half mile round-trip journey), obviously would prefer no water be provided so people would have to trek over to them to buy overpriced water at $4.95/bottle. (Multiply that by about eight per day for an active player over six days.) USATT should have insisted that they be allowed to supply water in the venue, and then simply brought in many cases, and sold the water at perhaps $1/bottle, or more if necessary. Let people know in advance it's cash only to keep it simple. As it was, kids were refilling their water bottles in the bathrooms - not sure how safe that is.

=>Chair Shortage. I complained (and blogged) about the chair shortage at the US Nationals, but once again they had only about half as many as needed. People were forced to stand up or battle for the few available chairs. I spent half my tournament at the control desk waiting for matches, and half roving around the playing hall looking for chairs. Perhaps the worst part was there weren't chairs by the control desk to sit in during the hours waiting for our matches.

=>Missing Medals. There were 22 doubles events and 6 team events. Amazingly, they only ordered one medal for each team!!! I won Hardbat Doubles, but there was only one medal for my team. I let Estee take it. When we came in to pick up our awards, they took our addresses and will send us the medals later. (It took me 52 minutes to go through this line and get my other medal, second in hardbat singles.)

=>Loudspeaker. Because the tournament ran so far behind and they had no real backup plan to catch up, the control desk resorted to calling individual matches on the loudspeaker system. (They had little choice at that point.) Two problems. First, many, including me, had difficulty making out their names when called on the loudspeaker system. Second, it was very loud and often almost nonstop, and so was a constant interference with matches, where in the middle of points there'd suddenly be these loud calls for players to come to the desk.  

=>Event Finishing Day. The entry form says, "Events are not guaranteed to be completed on the same day that they begin." The problem is that if a player enters only events on, say, the first day, does that mean he/she has to stay the entire six days of the tournament? Many past Opens and Nationals had a note that events would finish within two days of the starting day, with exceptions sometimes made for major events such as Men's and Women's Singles.

=>Tournament Balls. Nittaku was the tournament ball, but they were not sold by any of the vendors, and the control desk couldn't lend them out since they weren't sure if they had enough. So players often had to warm up with a different ball. 

=>Links on US Open Home Page. Here is the US Open Home page, with six major links. You would think that this would be an important page to maintain, but three of the links are bad - the Results page (!), FAQ page, and Event Format page. All simply take you back to the US Open home page. Unless one just happens to know to go to Omnipong, viewers will get pretty frustrated trying to find those results!

=>Erratically Sized Courts. There were 78 total courts. Of these, 14 were 35' (too short, six on cement), 41 were 42', and 23 were 56'. Why in the world are there 56-foot courts? That's way too long - even international courts are about 40 feet. It meant long walks to pick up the ball after nearly every point. With a little geometry, perhaps they could have shortened the 56-foot courts, and had rubberized flooring for the six cement courts.

=>Erratic Table Numbers. Normally, if you have rows of tables at a major tournament, you number them in order. That seems obvious. But not here! They decided to "alternate" the numbers between the rows, leading to confusion. So, for example, one row had table 31, then the adjacent row was 32 and 33, then back to the first row for 34 and 35, then back to the other one. The result is a row that was not in obvious order, where the table numbers were, for example, 31, 34, 35, 38, 39, 42, and so on. Here's the table map that was taped to one of the posterboards where they had results.

=>Table Numbers Only on One Side. It's standard, especially when there are a lot of tables, to label them on both sides since people approach from different sides. But they only had the numbers on one side. This, combined with the erratic table numbering (see above) led to headaches as players tried to find their table.

=>The Mysterious Tables 77-78. On the first day I had to coach on table 77. I found table 76 on the far side of the hall from the control desk, but the row ended there! Where was table 77? We couldn't find it. There was no table map anywhere we could find. (I think that went up on the second day, and it was just a small piece of paper buried in among all the draws.) We finally had to go all the way back to the control desk to ask where it was. It turned out tables 77 and 78 were across the hall from table 76, so another long walk. (Tables 76, 77, and the control desk roughly were the three vertexes of a very large triangle.) There should have been a note on the wall next to table 76 saying where tables 77-78 were. (Better still, number them in actual sequence - tables 77-78 should have been tables 55-56, with the row ending with tables 77-78.) At some point in the tournament, the small table map was added to one of the posterboards where they put up the draws, but few noticed it. Normally this would be much larger and more prominent, or in the player packets.

=>Draws on Posterboards. The draws and results were posted on a number of posterboards near the control desk. But they were posted out of order. If you went to the area for rating events, rather than progressing from high to low, or low to high, they were just posted in the order they were played, leaving players to search all over to find specific draws - tricky to do when there are crowds of other people also looking through the draws. There's a simple way to keep it professional looking and user-friendly. In advance, space out where each draw should be, from high to low. For example, for rating events, start with 2600, then 2400, and so on. Put the RR draw on top, the SE group below (or to the side if more space is needed).

=>USATT Assembly. It was scheduled for 7:30 PM on Sunday night, day three. This is where USATT leaders and officials meet with members as required by the USATT bylaws, giving reports and answering questions. I'm sure many would have many questions about the poor running of the tournament. However, there was no notice about this in the player packets, as was the case in the past. There was no notice about this until a few hours before. Few knew about the meeting. I asked the lone member of the USATT board of directors who was present about it, and he didn't know about it - he had to ask Virginia about it. I had to coach a 6:30 PM match and would then be able to attend. Of course the match was delayed - it went out at 10:15PM. So I spent an hour before the meeting, the two hours of the meeting, and 45 minutes after the meeting at the control desk with my player, waiting for his match. If I'd known this, could have attended the meeting and easily gotten back in time to coach the match. Instead, I have no idea what happened at the meeting. If people had been able to attend, I'm guessing there would have been a lot of unhappy ones with pointed questions, both about the tournament and other USATT issues.

=>Equipment Vendors Facing Wrong Way. The equipment vendors told me they had been told that there would be a walkway that players would have to walk past to get to the playing hall, and to face their booths in that direction. However, it turned out the entrance opened into the playing area, and so players did not have to walk by the booths. This meant that the booths were facing the wrong way! The booths were rather elaborate and difficult to take down and put up again, so they just kept it that way. Here is what we saw from the playing area of the Butterfly and JOOLA booths! Imagine how many more sales they would have made if they were open to where the players were.

=>USATT Tournament Committee. They represent a huge amount of tournament experience - that's why they were appointed to this committee, right? But one of them contacted me during the tournament, saying they had never been consulted about the tournament. Imagine how many problems might have been avoided if the relatively inexperienced ones running the Open had consulted with them.

=>Seemingly Large Number of Controversial Defaults. There were so many problems this tournament, and I was so busy trying to figure out when my next match would be (as player or coach) that I never got to investigate this. But over and over players complained about seemingly unfair defaults. I'd go more into this but I didn't take notes.

=>US Open Shirts. There's some confusion on this, and I'm still not sure what's going on. I didn't see any, and others said there were none. One person told me there were US Open shirts. Volunteers were told they would all get free US Open shirts if they worked five shifts or more, but several told me that there were no shirts available. Email me if you know anything about this.
UPDATE: I'm told there were no US Open shirts, and that the volunteers who were promised them never got them. This would be the first time we've had a US Open or Nationals since I started in 1976 that didn't have a tournament shirt. 

=>Slanted Surfaces. On the first day I noticed that several tables were slanted, with a "hill" in the middle - if you put a ball on it, it quickly rolled to the end-line. I pointed this out to the officials, who were pretty busy at the time. But eventually they sent someone out to fix it. Things like this should be checked in advance.

=>Refund Policy. About two months before the entry deadline I entered three events - Hardbat Singles, Hardbat Doubles, and Sandpaper Singles. Cost was $80 each, so $240. About two hours after entering I realized that I probably couldn't play Sandpaper Singles due to coaching obligations. So I withdrew from the event the very day I entered it - again, two months before the deadline. But USATT has a policy of no refunds, and so they refused to refund the $80. I'm sure others faced the same problem.

* * * * *

So, there you have it, my "checklist" of problems at this US Open. While the 1990 US Open fell behind two days (!), they didn't have all these other problems, plus they were running the Open in conjunction with the World Veterans Championships, and so had about 2000 entries. This year's US Open had so many problems that I think I can safely say it was the worst-run US Open in history.

The frustrating thing is some will think, "All we have to do is address these specific problems, and all will be great!" And the answer to that is - NO!!! If I were hired as a car mechanic and made twenty mistakes because I'm not an experienced car mechanic, the answer wouldn't be to correct those twenty mistakes - it would be to bring in an experienced car mechanic. USATT badly needs to bring in someone with the type of big-tournament experience so that the problems of this Open, and the many similar and different problems from the Nationals, can be resolved, rather than a constant learn-on-the-job while the participants suffer. (Note that they have partially addressed this, with the "Five-Star Tournament Task Force" - see below.)

Will there be accountability and repercussions for what happened at this tournament? Or will USATT "circle the wagons"? We'll see. But whether they mostly stick with the same people running these tournaments or bring in new people, they need to completely revamp how these tournaments are run. 

I'll have more to write about next week. I had three (yes, three) confrontations with Virginia, both on the problems with the US Open and other issues. There was also a controversial election for chair of the USATT board, which I'll also write about.

USATT Announces Formation of Five-Star Tournament Task Force
Here's the news item. Finally, some good news! Well, sort of.

But - and I'm writing this through gritted teeth - why did it take three tournament fiascos in a row before they realized they needed help? At this point, it's happening because the outcry is too loud for the USATT board of directors to ignore. Of course, the simplest solution would be to simply bring back the ones who ran it successfully for 20 years - NATT - but I'm guessing that's not even on the table - and that itself is a serious problem. Contacting them and seeing if a deal can be made should have been the first thing they did.

I'm suspicious about the effectiveness of a committee made up of 14 people. (See below.) Also, can the USATT CEO give up control to these others? From what I've seen, that's iffy. (Personally, I'd prefer a CEO that stayed out of most issues and focused on the big picture and on raising money.)

Rather than a humongously large committee, perhaps it would be better to bring in an experienced person to oversee things. Committees are great for fairness issues, not so great at getting things done. For that, you need a qualified, energized person with vision. A committee will likely come up with a checklist of things to fix - much like I've already done. That's the easy part.

There does seem to be a possible math problem with the news item on this. (Math-phobes, look away now.) The news item lists eight members by name, plus an unnamed USATT staff person. That's nine members before you get to the athlete reps. USOPC requires 33% athlete representation on all committees, and I believe that includes task forces. (Otherwise, we could just call all our committees "task forces" to get around the rule.) The news item says, "A minimum of three Ten-Year and/or Ten-Plus Year Athletes will also be appointed to the Task Force." If you add three athlete reps, then you end up with a committee of twelve, with only 3/12 = 25% athlete reps. If you add four athlete reps, then you end up with a committee of thirteen, with only 4/13 = 30.8% athlete representation. So you'll need to add five athlete reps to get to a committee of fourteen, with 5/14 = 35.7% athlete representation. So that "minimum of three athlete reps" should be a minimum of five. (They also list Will Shortz as one of the "At-Large Directors," but he's actually the Club Representative.)

USA at the ITTF Hopes in Jordan: Three in Top Eight!
Here's the USATT news item I wrote. I was one of the three USA coaches there in Amman, Jordan, Dec. 8-14 for the ITTF Hopes Camp and Tournament, along with Wei Qi and Thilina Piyadasa, and players Ryan Lin, Mandy Yu, and Tashiya Piyadasa. (Here are some video and photos on Facebook.) It was part of a rather harried schedule for me - I flew to Jordan on Dec. 6, returned on Dec. 15, flew to Las Vegas for the US Open on Dec. 16, flew to San Francisco for Christmas with family on Dec. 22, and flew home to Maryland on Dec. 26, arriving home at 2AM on Dec. 27.

Ryan Lin wrote an article about his experience at the Dead Sea, with pictures. (Here's the non-Facebook version.) I brought home a hunk of salt and Dead Sea water in a bottle!

More USATT News

December News
Since I've been away a month, rather than link to every news item while I was gone, here are links to the news pages of major sites.

Stop Losing Doubles after This Guide
Here's the video (15:05) from Coach Lin.

Film. Analyze. Win!
Here's the video (73 sec) from Betterplay ai. "You can use our AI service to automatically edit your Table Tennis Videos."

Bob Chen Table Tennis
Here's his new video site - lots of coaching videos. He's been rated as high as 2768.

PongNews
Here's the latest newsletter from PingPongGives.

Unparallel Forehand - The Chinese Are Crazy Again! Xu Xin, Fan Zhendong, Wang Chuqin, Fang Bo
Here's the video (8:10).

Footwork Drill on Cutoff Table
Here's the video (15 sec)!

Table Tennis Trio Aims to Bring Ping-Pong to Every Neighborhood
Here's the article from Spectrum News NY1, featuring Ernesto Ebuen, David Silberman, and Max Kogler from PingPod.

China Dominates Table Tennis Titles, Earns Points on Diplomacy
Here's the article from China Daily. "The Chinese team dominated the 2021 World Table Tennis Championships, which concluded on Monday in Houston, Texas, but the event is just as likely to be remembered for China and the United States' gesture of unity."

Lily Zhang - Richard Bergmann Fair Play Trophy
Here's the video (31 sec) of the presentation at the Worlds.

Houston Table Tennis is Aiming for the National Spotlight After Hosting the Historic World Championships
Here's the article from Title Press.

Jimmy Butler's Remarkable Table Tennis Return
Here's the video (3:37) from KHOU 11. "He's one of America's greatest table tennis players and he calls Houston home. How he got here is part of his incredible story."

Christmas Table Tennis
Here's what you get when you Google these and click on Images! Here's a new one - Ninja Santa! (Here's the non-Facebook version.)  

Shark vs. Mermaid
Here's the video - I have no idea what's going on!!! It seems to be in Hindi. Link should take you to 10:28, where the TT starts.

Ping Pong Battle
Here's the video (9 sec)! Warning: Strong language.

New from Pongfinity

Science Fiction Sales and Publications
On Dec. 19, I sold a science fiction story to Stupefying Stories, "The Annual Times Square Paint Dry," which should be coming out soon. Meanwhile, my fantasy story "Love Drops" just came out in New Myths Magazine. I have eight other SF and fantasy stories coming out early next year, along with a feature interview of me coming in January. As you can see, I'm always juggling my TT and SF lives!

***
Send us your own coaching news!

Next Blog on Monday, Dec. 27 29
There will be a Tip of the Week every Monday, but my next blog will be on Dec. 27 29. I'm going out of town for three weeks - coaching the ITTF Hopes Camp and Tournament in Amman, Jordan, Dec. 6-15; the US Open in Las Vegas, Dec. 16-22 (where I have to adjust in one day to the ten-hour time difference between Jordan and LV!), and a family gathering in San Francisco, Dec. 22-26.

Tip of the Week
How to Get Lucky.

Christmas Table Tennis Book Shopping
Don't forget to do your Christmas table tennis book shopping!!! Below are my seven books on table tennis that are in print. You wouldn't want me to go broke and have to live and play ping-pong on the streets? (And note that "And Still More Table Tennis Tips," fourth in the series, will come out early in 2021.) Or, if you are a non-reader, skip this and move on to the sections on the Teams, the Worlds, and so on!

North American Teams
Just had three exhausting days coaching at the JOOLA North American Teams!!! Actually, five days, since I was coaching at our pre-Teams coaching camp for two days before. This was my 45th consecutive time at the Teams, every year starting in 1976 (excluding last year, which was Covid-cancelled). Here are complete results. It also signified another milestone. My first 22 years, 1976-1997, the Teams were in Detroit, with the annual Thanksgiving drive there. This makes 23 years in Maryland/DC (where I live), so I've now played more Teams here than in Detroit.

My club, MDTTC, had ten junior teams with about 40 players. Since we only had five MDTTC coaches (myself, Cheng Yinghua, Jack Huang, Lidney Castro, and Wang Qingliang, with Jeffrey Zeng Xun coaching some players), it meant we had a coach for a little over half the team matches. (Since some teams had byes in some rounds, we were able to be there for over half.) A number of the parents are players, and they, along with players on the team, also helped coach, so most players ended up with someone in their corner. It's actually a great learning experience for players to coach their teammates - not only do they learn to be team players, but they learn tactics by watching other players and thinking about what's happening. I'm often amazed at some of the insights kids have - it's often easier to think tactically when watching then when actually playing.

Our kids did really, Really, REALLY well! I can't wait for the new ratings to come out. Coaching was both tactical and psychological - one of the trickiest parts of coaching between games is recognizing which to focus on, and how much. I'm pretty good at pep talks, but they always come at the expense of coaching tips, since you only have 60 seconds - and you often want to emphasize certain things, so you do sort of a recap in the last ten seconds or so. (Or just do what one opposing coach did - I started timing him, and he averaged over 2.5 minutes coaching between games and in time-outs. I actually yelled "Time!" at him a few times, but he just ignored me. I almost called for an umpire.)

I had a good run in close matches, going 5-0 in deuce-in-the-fifth matches that I coached. In three of them, I called a timeout right at the end and called the serves to use - and magically, it worked each time!!! ("Magically" in this case means the kids executed flawlessly.)

I spent a large percentage of my coaching time reminding kids to focus on attacking the "three spots" - wide forehand, wide backhand, and middle (roughly opponent's playing elbow). Next to serve and receive advice, it's probably the thing I emphasize most. Receive advice was mostly about where to play the return, and how aggressive on average. Often the best advice was simply to have them control the serve back to the wide backhand, and then rally. Other times it was important to play aggressive off the serve, though they should always vary it.

I coached one girl who caused havoc in her division. She played a number of old players who, despite all the experience and having much higher ratings, couldn't play at her pace. The tactic there was simple - serve fast and deep to the three spots, and then keep attacking those three spots. In each match, we'd usually narrow down the two best spots to attack, though we'd make sure to go to all three - and her execution was great. We pretty much put backspin serves on hold. The older players were very gracious about losing to a girl 1/4 their size, helping turn the tournament into a great experience for her. In new ratings, I think she may come out #1 in her age group in the country - she beat at least three players rated higher than the current #1, and I don't think she had any "bad" losses.

One of our juniors played a higher-rated player who blocked with long pips, no sponge. That's a touch match for a junior - this is where older, experienced players do well, while the long pips players feast on less experienced players. But we quickly found the two spots the player had trouble covering - extremely wide backhand and middle forehand, which was his "middle" (since he covered most of the table with his backhand blocks), and went after those two spots. He won, deuce in the fifth! Most players would likely have automatically gone to the wide corners, but he covered the wide forehand well. Many players might have tried to go his "middle," and gone right at his elbow - which was where he blocked best. His "middle" was where most players played their forehand best. Once again, good tactics + good execution = another win!

Meanwhile, I heard rumors there was some other major tournament going on...why in the world were they scheduled at the same time???

World Championships in Houston
USA's Lily Zhang teamed with China's Lin Gaoyuan to reach the semifinals of Mixed Doubles and win a bronze. It's the first medalist at the Worlds for a USA player since Dick Miles made the semifinals of Men's Singles at the 1959 Worlds - 62 years ago!!! We've had a few close calls - Gao Jun (while representing USA) made the quarterfinals of Women's Singles in 2003 and 2005, and Dan and Rick Seemiller once made the quarterfinals of Men's Doubles. Plus, of course, Kanak Jha reach the quarterfinals of Men's Singles this year, the first time a USA player has done that since Miles in '59!

Here's where you can find videos of the major matches, such as the men's semifinals between Truls Moregard vs. Timo Boll.

The Men's Singles Final is tonight (Monday, Nov. 29) at 7PM Houston Time (8PM Eastern Time), between China's world #1 Fan Zhendong (as expected) and Sweden's Truls Moregard (not expected!). How did 19-year-old world #77 Truls get to the final? This is how:

  • Round of 64: defeats Chuang Chih-Yuan (TPE, world #25), 4-3
  • Round of 32: defeats Patrick Franziska (GER, world #14), 4-3
  • Round of 16: defeats Lim Jonghoon (KOR, world #71), 4-3
  • Quarterfinals: defeats Quadri Aruna (NGR, world #17), 4-2
  • Semifinals: defeats Timo Boll (GER, world #11), 4-3

Now let's look at Fan Zhendong's route to the final:

  • Round of 64: defeats Amir Hossein Hodaei (IRI, world #165), 4-0
  • Round of 32: defeats Emmanuel Lebesson (FRA, world #39), 4-0
  • Round of 16: defeats Wang Chuqin (CHN, world #16), 4-2
  • Quarterfinals: defeats Lin Gaoyuan (CHN, world #7), 4-1
  • Semifinals: defeats Liang Jingkun (CHN, world #9), 4-1

Notice how Fan coasted to the final, only losing a few games to the three fellow Chinese teammates he played in the last three rounds before the final? Contrast that with Truls, who needed to lose just one more game to Quadri and he'd have made the final with five straight 4-3 wins!!! Plus, of course, Truls didn't have to face any of the Chinese players. Most interesting match was his semifinal win over former world #1 Timo Boll (now #11), who almost reached the final at age 40!

Women's Singles wasn't quite so interesting - the four semifinalists are all Chinese. Wang Manyu (world #5) upset Chen Meng (world #1) 4-3 in one semifinals, while Sun Yingsha (world #2) defeated Wang Yidi (world #10) 4-1 in the other semifinals. So the final is between Wang Manyu and Sun Yingsha at 6PM Houston Time (7PM Eastern Time).

For info on how to watch the finals live, go to the World's Where to Watch page. Here are some links, including daily wraps:

Houston Vlog #3 - My way to the quarterfinals
Here's the video (4:20) from Timo Boll.

World Championships Coverage by Steve Hopkins

World Championships Coverage by Amy Karpinski

News From the ITTF Annual General Meeting Held During the Worlds

USA Table Tennis Star Celebrates Thanksgiving Day with Stellar Performances
Here's the ITTF article on USA's Kanak Jha.

New from PingSunday/EmRatThich

12 Movement Exercises and Coordination with Table Tennis Training Tool (Part 1)
Here's the video (5:53) from Ti Long.

Ask the Coach
Here's the page at PingSkills.

Learning Spin Through Multi-ball
Here's the video (4:55) from Coach Jon.

New from the Performance Biomechanics Academy Table Tennis

WAB Club Feature: Alameda Ping Pong Gym
Here's the article by Steve Hopkins.

Reflections of a Legend - Jorgen Persson
Here's the video (6:30).

New from the Malong Fanmade Channel
Lots of new videos here.

Man VS Machine: Who Plays Table Tennis Better?
Here's the video (6:26).

55 Ping Pong Sounds
Here's the video (9 min) from Adam Bobrow!

aMAZING sKILLS sHOTS iN pING pONG
Here's the video (26 sec)!

Non-Table Tennis - Story Sale to Daily Science Fiction
Just sold a short story to Daily Science Fiction (one of the major "Pro" SF magazines), "Four Score and Seven Years of the End of America: A Bibliography." It's literally a fictional bibliography of books published from 1953 to 2040 whose titles humorously show the downfall of America. It's my 121st short story sale. Sorry, no table tennis this time!

***
Send us your own coaching news!

Tip of the Week
How to Fix a Weakness in Your Game.

Classic Hardbat World Championships
I had an adventurous weekend in Sugar Land, TX, just outside Houston, where I played in the first Classic Hardbat World Championships. It was held on Sunday, Nov. 21, just two days before the start of the "Sponge" World Championships in Houston. (Results are not yet online - they may go up later on Omnipong or Facebook.) Thirty-seven players competed, including nine over 2400. (Draw included Mario Genovese, who flew in from Malta, plus a number of players from other countries who now live in the US.) Prize money was 1st $2000, 2nd $1250, 3rd $750, 4th $500, 5-8 $150. (Here's the single elimination stage; RR group results should go up later.) 

Special thanks goes to Director Steve Claflin (who organized all this), referee Dan Reynolds, the many sponsors (including sponsor and presenter "We R Table Tennis," a new startup - no web page yet - that "will endeavor to put a FREE ping pong table into every school in America." I had a great time and can't wait to return next year! (Did I mention the free pizza they served for lunch? They also had free shuttle service from the very nice Marriott hotel in the Sugar Land Town Square.)

The final, between top seed Jimmy Butler and current US Nationals Champion AJ Carney, was a classic - an incredibly entertaining and well-played match that got better as it went on. Here's video - go to 2:33:30 for the Final. Jimmy is a steady attacker from both wings, who normally stays relatively close to the table, counter-hitting consistently from both wings. (But late in the match he added in chopping, and played his aggressive forehands more off the table as the rallies got faster.) AJ also mostly attacks from both wings (sometimes close to table, other times backing up), but also chops a lot.

It looked like AJ had it wrapped up in the best of five to 11. Jimmy wins the first, 11-9, but AJ wins the next two at 7 and 6, and leads 7-2 in the fourth. It's over, right? From here on, Jimmy played like a champion . . . and also had a bit of luck. Jimmy switches to a super-steady countering and chopping game, and AJ makes four straight mistakes, and it's 7-6. Then AJ smashes . . . and Jimmy chops back a net dribbler! (AJ lunges for it and pops it up, Jimmy kills.) It's now 7-7. Jimmy misses his own serve, then AJ puts Jimmy's next serve into the net, 8-all. But Jimmy misses a backhand kill, and AJ smashes a forehand, and he leads 10-8 match point. Jimmy hits a forehand off, the match is over - but no, it just nicked the edge! (See it at 3:05:49.)  He then deuces it. AJ has five match points before losing that game, 16-14. The only net/edge point - at 13-all, AJ gets a net, except instead of winning the point, it popped the ball up, giving Jimmy an easy kill. So, we're into the fifth!

AJ goes up 2-1, and smashes one - but Jimmy chops it back on the edge! Jimmy wins four in a row, 2-5 (AJ missing his own serve at 2-4) - and Jimmy then gets another net dribble winner, and it's 2-6, and then scores a sixth in a row to make it 2-7 - the same score that AJ led the previous game. But no comeback this time. At 4-9, AJ gets a net dribbler (5-9). Jimmy scores the next point to go up 10-5, and yells, "That's it!", just about the first thing he's said all match. He wins, 11-5.

As to me, I was in Group C with five others. I went 4-1, including a win over Randy Hou, a 2125 pips-out penholder, which is almost like hardbat, so very tough. I had a struggle with mostly-chopper Rick Mueller (1880), who caught me off guard early with his aggressive chops, almost chop-blocks but coming fast. After losing the first, I won the next two pretty easily. In the fourth, he began pick-hitting like crazy, but I'm up 10-9 match point - and he pops up my serve on the edge to deuce it! He wins in deuce with more pick-hits, and then - by continuous pick-hitting (should be illegal for choppers!), has me 10-8 match point. But I smack in two winners and win in deuce. Whoo!

Against the top seed in my group, Vlad Farcas (2450, with a win over Jimmy Butler in sandpaper), I was up 8-4 in the first and had a few game points before losing the first on a net ball, 14-12. I won the next, then he won the third, and the fourth, 11-8. If I'd pulled out that first game, we'd might have been in the fifth!!!

In the single elimination, in the round before the quarters, against Mishel Levinski (2576), I had several games points in the second before losing it, 14-12. He won the other two games pretty easily - it's not easy playing all-out forehand attack at age 61 against a near-2600 player!!! 

It was a great and fun weekend adventure. I initially hoped to stay a few days and tour Houston, but alas, I needed to get back to help prepare our players for the Teams, and so flew back on Monday morning. Steve promises to run it again next year, and so that time I will schedule a Houston tour either before or after.

World Table Tennis Championships

USA-China Ping-Pong Diplomacy

2021 ITTF Pan American Championships
Here's the ITTF page, with complete results and news for the event held Nov. 13-19, 2021, in Lima, Peru.

North American Teams and US Open

  • Here's the 2021 JOOLA North American Teams page. The event will be held Nov. 26-28, 2021, in Washington DC. There are 160 teams. I'll be there! My first Teams (then in Detroit) was in 1976, my first year playing. I've been to every Teams since (Detroit, Baltimore, now DC) ever since - this will be my 45th in a row (not counting 2020, when it was cancelled due to Covid). Originally I always went as a player, then as a player/coach, now just as a coach. I'd likely be at the Worlds in Houston except I'm committed to coaching at the Teams. It's silly that USATT/ITTF chose the same time frame to run the Worlds as the Teams, which were already scheduled.
  • Here's the 2021 US Open page. The event will be held Dec. 17-22 in Las Vegas. There are currently 680 entries. I'll be there! My first US Open was in 1976, in Philadelphia, my first year playing. I've been to every US Open and US Nationals starting in 1984.

New from Timo Boll

2 Backhand Loop & 2 Forehand Loops
Here's the video (1:35) from Jishan Liang.

Game Play Drills
Here's the video (60 sec) from Ted Li.

How to Hit the Powerful Backhand Rocket Against Backspin
Here's the video (10:15) from Ti Long.

New from Samson Dubina

New from Tom Lodziak

New from Coach Jon

New from PingSunday/EmRatThich

New from the Performance Biomechanics Academy Table Tennis

Worlds Visa Issues
Here are three somewhat cryptic ITTF news items involving visa issues at the Worlds and USATT.

RIP: Bill Guilfoil - Memories
Here's the video (6:42). Bill died on Nov. 12, six days short of his 99th birthday. Here's his legacy obituary.

Two Sisters Tashiya and Tiana Excel at Pan Am TT Championship
Here's the article from The Daily News ePaper.

Ping-Pong Phenomenon Estee Ackerman Visits Hempstead Town
Here's the video (3:40).

Young Hockey Goalies Tried Table Tennis to Improve Coordination - It Worked
Here's the article and video (2:55).

New from Steve Hopkins

Call for Nominations: The Center for SafeSport Athlete Director
Here's the USATT info page.

Help Wanted: ITTF High Performance Manager
Here's the ITTF help wanted info page. "Main Responsibility: The High Performance Manager will be responsible for the development, management, improvement and monitoring of various programs and projects within the High Performance Unit that aim at establishing a high performance platform within the international Table Tennis community in the pursue of the related strategic objectives set in the ITTF Strategic Plan."

Presentation of the Candidates for the ITTF Executive Committee
Here's the article and video (73 min) from the ITTF. Sixteen people are running for eight positions, including USATT CEO Virginia Sung, China's Liu Guoliang, and French coach Michel Gadal (Jean-Philippe Gatien's coach).

New from the Malong Fanmade Channel
Lots of new videos here.

Cartoon Ping Pong Paddle Shirt, Anyone
Here it is!

I Don't Like the Looks of This . . . This is a Ping-Pong Ball!
Here's the NASA cartoon! (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

Fiery Table Tennis
Here's the video (50 sec)!

Waterbomb Special
Here's the video (3:57) from XOLAY!

Playing Table Tennis With Your Wife - With Anything!
Here's the video (37 sec)!

Superheroes Playing Ping-Pong
Here's the video (3:51), with Batman, Spider-Man, Deadpool, and Wonder Woman!

***
Send us your own coaching news!

Tip of the Week
Don't Give a Quick Player Too Many Short Balls.

MDTTC Open, Weekend Coaching, and Jordan, Oh My!
It was held this past weekend at the Maryland Table Tennis Center, where I coach. Here are complete results, care of Omnipong. I spent much of Saturday coaching matches, including Stanley Hsu in the semifinals and final of the Open. (I wish I could blog about the tactics used, but alas, that's secret.) Here are the rating results!

I also helped coach the Novice Junior Class on Sunday, 5:30-7:00PM. Lots and lots of multiball!!! Most of it involved on player on ball pickup, one doing multiball, and one shadow-practicing behind him. I also had them do some two-person multiball drills, so two players could do multiball at the same time.

Meanwhile, I'm preparing to coach for a week at the ITTF Hopes Camp and Tournament in Jordan, Dec. 8-14. (I fly out on Dec. 6.) The top 20 boys and 20 girls from around the world will be there. (Except for China, which doesn't seem to be participating in this.) I'll be coaching Ryan Lin, the US #1 eleven-year-old until he turned twelve a week ago. Also going are Mandy Yu (with coach Wei Qi) and Tashiya Piyadasa (coached by father Thilina). The time-consuming part is that ITTF requires all 37 coaches who are going to take a three-week online course. I did the first week's course already, finishing it yesterday. The next session goes up next Thursday, and the final one the Thursday after that (Thanksgiving). With these courses, the Jordan trip itself, the World Hardbat Championships, the North American Teams, and the US Open, this next month is going to be extremely busy. But thanks goes to USATT, USATT High Performance Director Sean O'Neill, and Director of Para Programs Jasna Rather (who obviously is involved in other activities besides Para) for their help in organizing the Jordan trip!

Joerg Bitzigeio Arbitration
I've blogged about USATT losing roughly $200,000 in the arbitration case with former High Performance Director Joerg Bitzigeio. USATT should have had a news item on this, where they not only could have been upfront with the membership, but could have given their side. Several people (including USATT board members and committee members) told me they have never heard about this and asked me where I get it from, since there has never been a USATT announcement on it. So here's a public notice from June, 2021, from the law firm of Benezra & Culver, Firm Prevails in Two Arbitration Hearings/Trials (see paragraph 4).

In August of 2020, our firm participated in an arbitration hearing for its client, Joerg Bitzigeio against his former employer, USA Table Tennis (“USATT”). Mr. Bitzigeio is the former high performance Director of USATT. During his tenure, the US Table Tennis team experienced unprecedented success. Nonetheless, a new Executive Director essentially forced him from his position and failed to pay him the $90,000 in severance due to him under his employment agreement if USATT materially reduced his job responsibilities. After the hearing/trial, the arbitrator awarded Mr. Bitzigeio $90,000 in severance and $8, 222.57 in prejudgment interest. It also ordered USATT to reimburse Mr. Bitzigeio for the $74, 931.50 in attorney fees and the $7,67.40 in costs that he incurred pursuing his claim.

If you add up the numbers, it shows that USATT was forced to pay about $174,000. But that doesn't include USATT's own legal fees, which presumably would have been similar to Joerg's - so perhaps about $75,000. So that comes to about $250,000 in all, more than my initial estimate. (Perhaps USATT's legal fees were less, but we have no way of knowing without their telling us. And note that while we would have had to pay the $90,000 fee to Joerg either way, in this case we had to pay it while simultaneously paying the salary of his successor.) Hopefully, nobody is going to get mad at me for publicizing a public matter that's already public about a public organization!

ITTF Pan American Championships
Here's the ITTF page for the event taking place now in Lima, Peru, Nov. 13-19. There have been three ITTF news items so far, all featuring USA players.

Classic Hardbat World Championship in Houston
Here's the info page - it's this Sunday! I'm playing in it, along with Jim Butler, AJ Carney, and many others - here's the player listing. I'm coaching until 4PM on the Saturday before, then driving straight to the airport for a 7PM flight (arriving at 9:45PM), play on Sunday at 8:30 AM, fly back Monday morning. (So next week's blog will likely be on Tuesday.) Great thanks to Steve Claflin (former junior star) for setting this up. Here's an article on a Malta star flying in for it: Mario Genovese Ready for the Classic Hardbat World Championship in Texas.

USATT to Conduct Elections for Elite Athlete Seats on the Board of Directors
Here's the USATT news item. "Pursuant to Newly Adopted Bylaws, Eligible Elite Athletes Will Choose Four Representatives to Serve on the USATT Board of Directors in Two Separate Elections – Eligible Elite Athletes Are Encouraged to Submit Their Request to Run in Elite Athlete Elections Starting Today." As of now, I know of four players running in the first election for two spots: Lily Zhang, Nikhil Kumar, Tahl Leibovitz, and Jennifer Johnson.

ITTF Emergency Executive Committee Meeting Called [About Worlds in Houston]
Here's the ITTF news item. The main discussion will be related to the remaining entry and visa issues for the Worlds in Houston. But it also has this seemingly cryptic statement: "As USA Table Tennis issued a legal letter to the ITTF insisting that the Annual General Meeting must be held in the United States in accordance with the ITTF Constitution, this therefore also obliges them to perform their duties. The ITTF now must look at measures in the highly likely case that these duties will not all be met."

The Hardest Step in Table Tennis - the Step Around
Here's the video (1:26) from Timo Boll.

New from Samson Dubina

Ball Placement
Here's the video (58 sec) from Brian Pace.

Forehand & Backhand Counterlooping
Here's the video (46 sec) from Angel Luis.

Continuous Forehand Loop Development
Here's the video (1:58) from Jinxin Wang.

Opening Attack & Footwork
Here's the video (60 sec) from Wang Hui.

Backhand & Forehand Attack with Footwork
Here's the video (65 sec) from Patryk Zyworonek

The Key to Consistency
Here's the video (4:42) from Coach Jon.

Seth Pech vs. Andrew Cao 2021 Edgeball Open
Here's the video (10:58) from Seth, who gives point-by-point analysis.

Felix Lebrun vs Chuang Chih-Yuan Analysis of the Points
Here's the video (1:54) from the Performance Biomechanics Academy Table Tennis.

How to Hit Backhand with Long Pimples Against Backspin
Here's the video (6:49) from Ti Long.

New from PingSunday/EmRatThich

15th Si and Patty Wasserman Junior/Open Tournament Results and Photos
Here's the links page.

Coach Lin: "Get Better with Me"
Here's the video site I recently discovered.

Portland Ping-Pong Club Needs Better Lighting
Here's the fundraiser! Junior star Kevin Nguyen is leading the charge to raise $4000 for the better lighting.

Table Tennis Player Killed In Chicago
Here's the article/obit and video (2:35) on Shaoxiong 'Dennis' Zheng.

FISU World University Games Announcement
Here's the USATT news item. "With the US Open being just a little over a month away, many athletes will be preparing for one of the biggest events at the Open; the University Games Trials."

New from Steve Hopkins

Timo Boll: Fan Zhendong is the Favorite, But Other Chinese Look Vulnerable
Here's the article from Edges and Nets.

ITTF News
Here's their news pagevideo page ("World Table Tennis") and home page.

New from the Malong Fanmade Channel
Lots of new videos here.

$120,000 YouTuber Ping Pong Competition!
Here's the video (2hr 54min)! Adam Bobrow does some commentating.

Zazzle Table Tennis Shirts
Take your pick!

TT Trump Shows Different Grips
Here's the video (7:57) from Larry "Trump" Bavly!

No Look Shots from Level 1 to 100
Here's the video (3:45) from Pongfinity!

Adam vs. Toa 2.0
Here's the video (15:36) from Adam Bobrow! You should see the kid bouncing the ball on the handle of his racket while riding a scooter.

***
Send us your own coaching news!

Tip of the Week
Relentlessly Reliable Receives with Systematic Practice.

Weekend Coaching and Upcoming Schedule
It almost didn't happen. On Thursday I took the Pfizer booster shot. Alas, I was one of the small minority to have a bad reaction to it. I spent much of Thursday night shaking in bed, feeling like I was freezing to death and nauseous. It wasn't helped that the heating in my house had broken down and the temperature dropped to around 50 degrees inside! On Friday, I was still nauseous and could only eat cream of wheat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. (But I got the heating problem fixed.) By Saturday I was still a bit weak and slightly nauseous (cream of wheat for breakfast and lunch, then a real meal for dinner), but I managed to coach two group sessions at the club. However, having these symptoms is far better than the alternative - having the real thing!

Saturday was "multiball day" - for both the beginning and advanced junior groups I fed multiball nearly the whole session, with a twist at the end of each session. At the end of the beginning class session, I and other coaches hit live with the students, who took turns, staying up until they missed three shots. At the end of the advanced session, we had the advanced kids feed each other multiball. Yeah, I'm training them to take my place, so I'm no longer needed!!!

For the advanced session on Sunday, I was a practice partner - and this is where I realized those two days in bed from the booster reaction was still affecting me as I struggled to move. But I got better as the session continued. We finished with Brazilian Teams doubles, where doubles teams stayed up until they lost a point or won three in a row. I was with Riley Yang, and we did surprisingly well! I dominated with my serves (not easy in doubles!) and otherwise just kept the ball in play and let Riley do the damage. But I pulled off a nice backhand loop near the end for a winner! (We won't talk about the short serve that I somehow got aced by.)

One nice thing is that several of the kids from the recent Ecuador trip have sent me thank you notes and cards. They have no idea how much they are appreciated!

My upcoming table tennis schedule is packed. Here are the highlights, excluding the normal group sessions.

  • Nov. 13-14: Coaching at the MDTTC Open.
  • Nov. 20-22: Competing at the Classic Hardbat World Championship in Houston. Here's the list of players. I coach two group sessions the afternoon of Saturday, Nov. 20, then fly out that night to Houston, compete all day on Sunday, and fly back on Monday morning, Nov. 22, just in time to help prepare our players for the upcoming Teams.
  • Nov. 26-28: Coaching at the JOOLA North American Teams. This will be my 46th consecutive year playing or coaching at the Teams, starting in 1976 and excluding 2020, when it was cancelled due to the pandemic. (I've also been to every US Open and US Nationals starting in 1984, and several before that, including the 1976 US Open.)
  • Dec. 6-15: Coaching Ryan Lin at the ITTF Hopes in Jordan. This is for the best players in the world under age 12 (as of Jan. 1) - though China isn't participating. Other US players going are Mandy Yu (with coach Wei Qi) and Tashiya Piyadasa (coached by father Thilina).
  • Dec. 16-22: Coaching and playing hardbat events at the US Open in Las Vegas. (I'm normally a sponge player, but play hardbat on the side and have won a lot of titles.) I'm only entered in Hardbat Singles (which I've won twice at the Open or Nationals) and Hardbat doubles (which I've won 14 times!). Alas, no hardbat age events at the Open - I've won Over 40 Hardbat six times and am the current National Champion in Over 40 and Over 60 Hardbat. Because of school (especially for those who took off up to two weeks for the recent Hopes, Pan Am Youth, and ITTF Contender tournaments in Ecuador), most of the MDTTC juniors are not attending the US Open. But they are all playing in the Teams (above) and attend the Nationals each year en masse.
  • Dec. 22-26: Family gathering in San Francisco.
  • Dec. 27-Jan. 1: I'm toying with taking off a few days and training as a player, possibly at the Samson Dubina camp in Akron, OH. If so, I'd be going up with Ryan Lin and his dad.

Christmas Table Tennis Book Shopping
It's that time of year again - time to do your Xmas shopping, either for some other table tennis player, or for yourself. (Interesting tidbit - I sell almost as many table tennis books in November and December as the rest of the year combined - lots of Christmas shoppers.) Here are some choices.

=>Books by Larry Hodges

=>Books by Dan Seemiller

=>Books by Samson Dubina

=>Books by Dora Kurimay

=>Books by Tim Boggan

=>Books by Graham Frankel

=>Other Table Tennis Books Published in 2020-2021

USATT Bylaws
In my blog last week, I wrote about USATT Bylaws Problems, focusing on the new Bylaw 7.5 that will allow a majority of the board to appoint another board member, thereby further cementing their majority. If they choose to take advantage of this bylaw, I'm not going to hesitate to call it what it is - a power grab. This one is by far the most problematic one. But my idealist side tells me there's no way they can fail to fix this bylaw - right? Seriously, I'll be impressed by the board member who first stands up and proposes fixing it. (And while I may sound critical below, I do appreciate the time and effort spent on redoing all these bylaws . . . again. We do seem to spend a lot of time doing that.)

Here's the USATT news item about the proposed bylaws (since passed). Here's the actual revisions. Here are a few problems. (And note that while some of these perhaps could be explained, the simple reality is that they have not been publicly explained to my knowledge - and the idea of "never explain," often cited as a leadership principle, doesn't work in a public organization like USATT, or really any other organization or group with thinking, reasoning members.) The document to go over, comparing the changes to the previous version, is 106 pages, so I haven't even come close to examining it line by line. If someone else wants to do a more thorough analysis and puts it online, and it's done thoughtfully, I'll likely link to it.

In 7.10, it says, "At the end of 2020, the Directors were selected in accordance with these Bylaws and all Directors began their four (4) years terms on January 1, 2021." This does not seem to be accurate. Many of the board actually began their terms in 2020, some as early as February, 2020. While some have made the argument that these board members didn't start their term on the "permanent board" until Jan. 1, 2021, that is not true. For example, in the minutes of the June 1, 2020 board meeting, it specifically states that five people had been appointed to the "permanent board" - and three of them are still on it, with terms that started well before Jan. 1, 2021. (The minutes even say that the USOPC required USATT have a permanent Board in place by June 1, 2020.) By putting in the bylaws that their terms began on Jan. 1, 2021, they seem to have increased their four-year terms an extra seven months. I wish they could have simply put in that the initial terms would be slightly longer so as to get to that nice, tidy Jan. 1 date for terms to begin.  

It says, "all Directors began their four (4) years terms on January 1, 2021," but this isn't correct in another way. As I've blogged about a number of times, initially the board did not allow the National Collegiate Director his position on the board, despite it being required by both the USATT bylaws and the USOPC's Ted Stevens Act, until Feb. 22, 2021, and so he did not begin his four-year term on Jan. 1, 2021. Why put something in the bylaws that is factually incorrect? (And this also doesn't change the problem that for nearly a full year before Jan. 1, 2021, USATT had a board that was setting up procedures for the "permanent board," but did not allow the NCTTA rep to be seated and take part in this.)

In 7.13, it says, "Unless otherwise restricted by law, by the articles of incorporation or by these Bylaws, any Director or the entire Board may be removed, with or without cause." It then explains how individual members may be removed. But how would the "entire Board" be removed? It doesn't say who can do this. Twice in the past the USOPC has stepped in and done this, but this doesn't specify they are the ones who can do this.

There is also some confusion about the term "permanent board." For example, in the minutes of the June 1, 2020 board meeting, it refers to the "Appointment of Permanent Board" as taking place by June 1, 2020. While this can be interpreted multiple ways, some believe they appointed themselves as permanent members of the board! However, since they are individually listed as having their terms end on Dec. 31, 2024, they are obviously not permanent. (They simply have longer than four-year terms, since they took office seven months before Jan. 1, 2021.)  

The Perfect Receive Position
Here's the video (1:58) from Timo Boll.

Coaching DURING the Game
Here's the article by Samson Dubina.

Slow Down! You're Playing Too Fast
Here's the article by Tom Lodziak.

New from Ti Long

New from PingSunday/EmRatThich

Executing the Short Forehand Push
Here's the video (78 sec) from Bob Chen.

Footwork and Stroke Chemistry
Here's the video (65 sec) from Anav Gupta.

Serve Attack & Random Play
Here's the video (68 sec) from Patryk Zyworonek.

Counter Topspin
Here's the video (49 sec) from eBaTT.

Punny Boy - the Forehand
Here's the video (3:04).

Why Your Next Table Tennis Racket Should Have a Straight Handle
Here's the video (7 min) from Coach Jon.

Reaction and Anticipation Training for Table Tennis
Here's the video (6:25) from Dr. Table Tennis.

How to Train with Multiball Alone
Here's the video (4:23) from Everything Table Tennis.

10th Anniversary Westchester Open
Here's the USATT article by Will Shortz.

New from the National Collegiate TTA

New from Steve Hopkins

Inspiring Conversations with Adam Davis of Salt Lake City TTC
Here's the article from VoyageUta.

ITTF News
Here's their news pagevideo page ("World Table Tennis") and home page.

New from the Malong Fanmade Channel
Lots of new videos here.

Point of the Day!! Champions League Day 1
Here's the video (36 sec).

Table Tennis Jigsaw Puzzles
Here's what my Google Search found!

The Best Table Tennis Players in the World
Here's the video (20 sec)!

Tears of My Opponents
Here's the must-have table tennis mug!

Funny Serves
Here's the video (7 sec)!

Ping Pong Stereotypes 5
Here's the video (3:19) from Pongfinity!

***
Send us your own coaching news!

Back from Ecuador
I was coaching in Ecuador for nearly three weeks, and it's been a month since I last blogged. And boy, is there a lot to cover! Here's a quick Table of Contents.

Tip of the Week
Use Practice Matches to Practice.

=>START ECUADOR
19 Days Coaching in Ecuador
I returned last week from almost three weeks coaching in Cuenca, Ecuador. I could write a book on it!!! So much happened. For all their help in these events, I want to thank USA Table Tennis, High Performance Director Sean O'Neill, Team Leader Daniel Rutenberg, the players and parents, and my three fellow coaches - Thilina Piyadasa, Qiumars Hedayatian ("Q"), and Wei Qi. I also went to thank Ecuador Table Tennis for the excellent job they did in putting together these events. I also want to thank the umpires and referees for the professional jobs they did - I had no problems with them throughout.

While in Ecuador, I went on a diet. First, I tried to limit my calory intake. Second, I stopped drinking soft drinks, in particular Dr Pepper, my go-to drink. Result? I lost eight pounds. But Stanley Hsu lost five, and he had less to lose - some of this due to getting sick. More on that below.

Here's a summary, with great apologies to anyone or anything left out.

PART 1 - Oct. 10: Arrival. There were a number of complications in getting to Cuenca. I was on a flight with Ryan Lin and his dad, Hung, connecting in Miami. But the flight to Miami was delayed, and we wouldn't have been able to make the flight to Cuenca. So we had to cancel that entire flight and get a new flight - this time connecting in Panama City, Panama!!! I have fond memories of my 61 minutes in Panama - 15 minutes sitting on the plane waiting to get off; 15 minutes speed walking through the airport and barely making it to our connection just minutes before they closed the door; and about half an hour sitting on the plane waiting to take off. Ah, the sites of Panama!!! (I told Ryan the famous palindrome about the Panama Canal and Teddy Roosevelt: "A Man, a Plan, a Canal . . . Panama!" (Of course, there's a bit more to the story, but I won't get into that.) Here's a good place to thank Steve Hsu (Stanley's dad) and Hung Ling (Ryan Lin's dad) for their help in arranging my flights - which seemingly had to be changed every day due to changing circumstances.

Then it was a 3.5-hour wild ride from sea level to Cuenca at 8400 feet altitude, a roller-coaster ride that went on and On and ON! I got pretty nauseous. Next time, on the way back, I remembered to take Dramamine.

PART 2 - Oct. 11-16: Hopes Week. This involved a four-day camp and a two-day tournament. The camp was run by head coach Zoltan Batorfi and assistant coach Rafael Armendariz - and they did an excellent job. The top ten boys and girls from the Americas (under age 12 as of Jan. 1) took part. The four US players were Ryan Lin, Charles Shen, Manda Yu, and Tashiya Piyadasa. The two US coaches were myself (working with Ryan and Charles) and Thilina Piyadasa (working with Mandy and daughter Tashiya). I could write a book about this week alone!!! They trained six hours/day for four days, training with others in the group and multiball with the coaches. A key thing was adjusting to the thin air, where the ball travels differently than at sea level. (Most players were in this same situation, but some opponents were used to training at high altitude.)

One of the boys in the camp wasn't eligible for Hopes (but was allowed to train with them), so there were nine boys and ten girls in the Hopes tournament. On the first day of the camp, I remember the smallest kid in the camp, Emanuel Otalvaro from Columbia, as he went about his training, seemingly always smiling, and often doing "silly" things like throwing weird experimental serves at people, or bouncing the ball against the side of the table over and over. He didn't seem to stand out in practice. But when the tournament began, that's when we discovered how consistent he was. He plays a soft, mostly off-table spinning, fishing, and lobbing game, about 2250 level. He dominated the Hopes on the boys' side, going 8-0.

Finishing tied for second were Enrique Rios of Puerto Rico (with a 2274 USATT rating) and Ryan Lin, both 6-2. (Charles came in fifth, just missing the playoffs.) But since Ryan had defeated Rios head-to-head (deuce in the fourth), Ryan finished second in the RR, Enrique third. However, there was a secondary stage, where the players who finished first and fourth, and second and third, played semifinals. And so Ryan played Enrique again. This time he was down 0-2 in games, but fought back to 8-all in the fifth. We had a timeout, I called two serves - and Enrique missed both! So Ryan won again, 11-8 in the fifth. In the final against Emanuel, Ryan lost the first badly, but made it to deuce the next two games (leading 10-8 in the third), but lost both. Here's a picture of Ryan and Emanuel. Ironically, they were the two smallest players in the camp.

On the girls' side, coached by Thilina, Mandy Yu came back in the final from down 0-2 to win against Dafne Sosa of Dominican Republic, while Tashiya finished third. Here's Mandy and Dafne. And so USA came first and third on the girls' side, and second and fifth on the boys' side.

CHEESEBURGER SPECIAL - Alas, I had made a promise that if a USA player came in first, I'd eat a cheeseburger. (Here's the story behind that.) And so, afterwards, they ordered a quarter pounder with cheese from McDonalds, and while everyone watched and cheered, I was forced to eat it!!! Thanks a bunch, Mandy!!! Here's the video (8:19) - don't you dare watch it!!!

Meanwhile, the Pan Am Youth players arrived on Thursday, Oct. 14, and began training on Friday (getting used to the air) for the Pan Am Under 11 and Under 13 Championships. How does the air affect players? On the first day, in the first five minutes of counterlooping, Xianyao broke four balls, Mu Du three, all off the edge of their rackets as the balls came in higher than expected.

PART 3 - Oct. 18-24 - Pan Am Under 11 and Under 13 Championships. Now USA had 16 players, 4 coaches, a team leader (Daniel Rutenberg), and 17 parents. We went from the 20 players in the Hopes to over 160 players from countries all over the Americas. Here's the ITTF page, with complete results and other info. (This page is probably better for results.) Here are ITTF News stories, many of them featuring USA players. Here are pictures taken by Daniel. Here's the entire entourage!

Officially, I was in charge of Under 13 Boys (Stanley Hsu, Mu Du, He Xianyao, and Krish Gandhi); "Q" was in charge of Under 11 Boys (Kef Noorani, Brian Wu, Max Mouchinski, and Kyler Chen); Wei Qi in charge of Under 13 Girls (Amber Liu, Yishiuan Lin, Mandy Yu, and Aria Shi); and Thilina Piyadasa in charge of Under 11 Girls (Tashiya Piyadasa, Geetha Krishna, Abigail Yu, and Tiana Piyadasa). We each oversaw the training and daily schedule of the four in our charge. But for the tournament, where players in the same event would go out together, we coached players from outside our group. I ended up coaching mostly Stanley, Mu Du, Kyle, Max, Brian, Mandy, and one huge key match for Geetha.

I could write another book on this week. Instead, here are bullet points.

  • The coaches often worked one-on-one with the players. I had brought along my "racket bag," a huge racket case with four rackets - long pips with sponge (for choppers); long pips without sponge (for blockers); short pips; and antispin. Throughout the tournament I and other coaches would pull them out so players prepare for a player using that equipment. For example, Geetha had to play the second seed in Under 11 Girls' Singles, Paola Zerpa Flores of Venezuela, a chopper with long pips. I brought out the chopping blade and chopped to her for 45 minutes. We devised a tactical plan involving her using her short backhand pips to alternate driving and pushing, with mixed in forehand loops and smashes. Geetha then executed the tactics brilliantly and pulled off the upset, 3-2!!! Which led to her getting the bronze in singles.
  • In the final of Under 11 Girls' Singles, Tashiya was down 1-2 in games and 0-5 in the fourth against Karolayn Maldonado of Ecuador. Tashiya won the next 15 points in a row (!), winning game five 11-4. Fourteen of those points came exactly the same way - she slow looped against a push, and the opponent blocked off. At high altitude, slow, spinny loops are deadly - they just shoot off the end when you block. The irony is that at high altitude, pushes are deadly as they jump at you and have more spin then expected (since there's less air resistance to take off the spin). But if a player just drops the racket and spins, the push becomes a trap, as they have to face that spinny loop. This tournament was Tashiya's coming out party - she swept Under 11 Girls' Singles, Doubles, Mixed Doubles, and Teams!
  • In Under 11 Boys' Doubles, Brian and Max faced the top-seeded and seemingly overwhelming favorites from Columbia, Emanuel Otalvaro and his partner, Juan Mineros. Emanuel swept singles in the Hopes and Pan Am Hopes Under 11. But Brian/Max pulled off the upset in the quarterfinals. Alas, in the semifinals, up 9-7 in the fifth, they lost to a pair from Guatemala. Kyler and Kef won the final over the Guatemalans.
  • We had downpours nearly every day. This led to some problems with humidity. Most were minor. But just before the Under 13 Boys' Team final (Stanley & Mu Du vs. Puerto Rico), it not only downpoured, but it poured in through leaks in the roof onto the playing area. They postponed the final for an hour. But due to the essentially 100% humidity and the water pouring in, the players found their rackets were slick, and no amount of drying seemed to help more than temporarily. And so ball after ball slid off their rackets. This especially hurt Stanley and Mu Du, who play aggressive close-to-table looping games, and had to change their games dramatically. Stanley barely pulled out his two matches, but we lost the final 3-2. But the conditions simply weren't realistic - you won't play in humidity like that at the Olympics, Pan Ams, Worlds, Team Trials for any of these, the US Open, Nationals, or other major tournaments.
  • We also had a problem with noise, but that we need to get used to, as that's the norm at many tournaments, including the Worlds. During many matches people in the crowd chanted and played musical instruments during points. This meant the players couldn't hear the ball hit the table, a key part to timing. I'm told this is the norm in Latin American tournaments, and so our opponents were more used to this. It's not the norm in the US, so we weren't as prepared for it. I told the players to focus on watching the ball hit the table, which helped some. As with humidity, the noise affected certain players more than others.
  • The high altitude also caused problems. While the Hopes players had 24 hours of training to prepare for their tournament, the Pan Am Youth players only had ten hours, since we had to share the tables with other countries and so there was limited table time.
  • Another interesting dynamic we faced was the language. Latin American coaches called out advise between nearly every point, mostly in Spanish (the Brazilians in Portuguese). We couldn't do the same in English since many of the opposing coaches and players understood English. (I toyed with talking very fast!) Having Wei Qi coach our Chinese-speaking players (10 out of 16!) was an advantage as few, if any of the opponents understood Chinese.
  • And then the stomach virus struck. It started with Xianyao He, who came down sick just before the singles, with a 102 fever. (A doctor came in and diagnosed it.) He had to drop out of singles. Then we found out several of the parents had also come down with it. Then Stanley Hsu came down with it - not as bad as Xianyao's, but it put him in great discomfort. He tried to play singles - he was likely the favorite - but wasn't able to play effectively and lost to Sebastian Bedoya of Columbia, who Stanley had beaten 3-1 in the Teams. (Sebastian went on to win Under 13 over Enrique Rios.) And then I came down with the virus. I spent three days coaching while grabbing my stomach. It wasn't fun.
  • A serious topic of discussion were the many "13-year-olds" who towered over me and looked like high school seniors. But they all had passports that "proved" they were 13. This was ironic, considering the two top Hopes players were the two smallest players, with the smallest winning.
  • With all these tribulations, all 16 USA players won a medal!

PART 4 - October 25-27: ITTF Contender. Most of the USA contingent left after the Pan Ams. But three players stayed for the final event - Stanley, Mu Du, and Kef. Also joining us was USA's Nathaniel Hwang and his dad, former USA junior star Dennis Hwang, now a medical doctor. Kef was in Under 11 and Under 13 Boys', the other three in Under 13 and Under 15 Boys. Here's the ITTF page, with complete results and other info. Here's the ITTF News Page.

Kef got second in Under 11, losing the final to Emanuel. Once again Stanley seemed the favorite - and now he was healthy and pretty much used to the air! In the quarterfinals, he played Hamilton Hato Yamane of Brazil, a chopper/looper who Stanley and Mu Du had both beaten somewhat easily in the Pan Ams. At the Pan Ams, Hato had played very aggressively - so aggressive that I told Stanley and Mu Du to play him as an attacker who sometimes chopped. However, in the ITTF Contender, he switched to a steadier chopping game, and attacked less - but more effectively when he did. He caught Stanley off guard, winning the first two games at 4 and 8. Stanley won the next two easily at 4 and 5, and led 7-5 in the fifth. But he made some mistakes, and Hato attacked more, and Hato led 10-8 match point. Stanley deuced it but lost 12-10 in the fifth. Hato went on to win the event, defeating Enrique Rios in the final, 3-0. (Hato essentially came out of nowhere - nobody was looking at him as a contender.) There's a key tactical thing we'll need to work on next time the two play, but I can't really go over it here. Mu Du made the quarterfinals of Under 15, losing to Enrique.

And then it was time to leave - or was it? Kef, Nathaniel, and their dads had already left, but Stanley and his dad, Mu Du and his mom, and I were the last to leave, with a 4 AM pickup for the 3.5 hour ride to the airport. At 11:25 PM, there was a knock on my door, the panicked van driver. It turns out a nationwide anti-government protest had just erupted, and that we needed to leave immediately. We quickly got our things together and went to the lobby. Unfortunately, the word came back that all the roads out of Cuenca were blocked by protesters, with fires, barricades, and rioters. We were shown images and video - it was pretty nasty. So, the five of us, and dozens of other players/coaches/parents from all over South America and elsewhere were stranded in the hotel. We couldn't even step outside due to the violence. Here's video (2:33).

So we went back to bed and awaited our fate. At about 8AM, there was another knock on my door, and it was driver, saying the roads were now open. So we got into the van and took the 3.5 hour ride to the airport, just making our flight. (Others were not so lucky, and missed theirs.) And then, late that night, I was home!!!
=>END ECUADOR

USATT Bylaws Problems
Last week, while I was in Ecuador, the USATT board passed a series of bylaws. There are a number of problems with them, but I'm going to focus on one of them in this blog, buried in 106 pages of bylaw revisions. (I'll likely write about other problems in next week's blog.)

7.5: The Board, in its sole discretion, may also appoint an Interim Director until 2024. The Interim Director shall be either the Chair of the AAC or another member of the AAC as selected by the Board in its sole discretion.

What does this mean? It means a majority of the board can now pad its majority by simply appointing another voting member (from anyone they choose from the Athletes Advisory Council) who fits in with their majority, thereby increasing their majority (for the next three years) by 1/11, or 9%. This is just wrong.

The US Senate is currently split 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans, with Vice President Kamala Harris the tie-deciding vote giving the Democrats the majority. Suppose the Democrats decided to appoint nine new members to the Senate (9%), thereby increasing their majority to 59-50. Or if they decided to increase their current 220-212 lead in the House (three vacancies) by 39 (9%), thereby increasing their lead to 259-212. Do you think Republicans would object? The same if the Republicans held the majority and padded their majority. Allowing a majority to arbitrarily increase their majority by 9% changes a small majority into a nearly insurmountable majority. And that's the point! They are literally appointing a majority representative to increase that majority.

Some will try to make the argument that, "We need this person on the board!" You can make the same argument for many people. Since the person they appoint will be an athlete from the AAC, that person will have the opportunity to run for not one, not two, not three, but four athlete rep positions on the board this fall. (See 7.6.4, the election of the four athlete representatives, and the USATT news item on the elections.) If they need a specific person's advice, that person doesn't need to be on the board for that. But here's the key part - the USOPC has mandated that all Olympic sports have boards composed of at least 1/3 athletes, and so USATT will now have four athletes representing them - and yet, the USATT board wants to appoint another. Does USATT believe they know better than the athletes over who should represent them?

I hope the USATT board will rethink this one, and take out that provision.

US Open Volunteers
Here's the USATT News Item. I'm singling this one out for a reason - they no longer are offering hotel or partial air fare for volunteers. Normally, all volunteers get half a room and up to about $250 in air fare, along with two free events. This year - neither, just the two free events and a t-shirt for five days work. Presumably, this is because USATT is nearly broke, due to the pandemic and the roughly $200,000 lost in the (former high performance director) Joerg Bitzigeio arbitration case. But seriously, they really need to offer volunteers more than this. Five days of work, and to do so, you have to pay for your own flight and hotel?

There's another serious problem that I've already heard grumbling about. It says that the two events they play in cannot conflict with their shifts. But since they only know the starting time of their two events, how can they schedule their events and shifts so as to not conflict? This is the obvious question that the Volunteer form should have addressed. USATT needs to have someone oversee this, so volunteers can trade time slots or times so as to complete their events. 

George Brathwaite Tribute

Peak Performance Table Tennis: Unlock Your Potential and Play Like the Pros
Here's the new book that just came out by Kevin Finn, table tennis player and strength training and nutritional consultant. From the opening of the back cover: "What athlete hasn't become frustrated at losing a game, not because they were outplayed or outmatched, but because they gassed out, had a mental lapse, or just couldn't get in the zone? Peak Performance Table Tennis comprehensively covers those game aspects needed for peak performance and provides actionable steps for athletes to ensure they are in the best possible position to perform at their peak when it matters most."  

I haven't had a chance to read it - my reading queue is rather long - but I like the opening to the chapter on Tactical Skills on page 48: "When I first sat down to write this chapter, I unironically explored the possibility of simply making it one sentence long: 'Go buy Larry Hodges' Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers.' If you are at all interested in improving your game via tactics, that book is your one-stop shop!"

Weekend Coaching and the MDTTC Halloween Party
After 19 days in Ecuador, it was great to be back coaching at MDTTC! It took only minutes to adjust to playing at sea level again - going up is hard, coming down is easy. (Of course, I didn't really train much at high altitude, so unlike the players, I didn't really get as used to playing in the thin air.) On Saturday, Oct. 30, we had the Halloween party - not at MDTTC, but at a local park, where we had a barbecue (hamburgers and hot dogs) and a huge number of other food dishes brought in by players and parents, about 70 of us in all. The kids came in costume. Lots of games were played, from beanbag toss to throwing a football and frisbee around.

Then it was back to MDTTC. My first session back was with the Beginning kids, where we did (as usual) lots of stroking and footwork drills. Then came the advanced group (1800-2350), where I fed multiball for about 90 minutes. On Sunday and Monday, I worked with the advanced group again - including much of the sessions as a practice partner. One drill involved a player serving long to backhand, receiver backhand looping it back, and then into a footwork drill - but the kids had a hard time returning my tricky long serves, where I vary the spin and serving motion. I do need to spend some time just serving to some of them.

News of the Last Month
If I were to comprehensively cover every table tennis news item that went up this past month, as I often do, this blog would be rather looooong. Instead, here are some links to browse.

Ma Long Multiball Looping
He makes it look so easy! (46 sec)

Dimitrij Ovtcharov Finding Ways to Play Table Tennis After Surgery
Here's the video (5:53)!

Marvel and Table Tennis
They seem to like table tennis! In Ant-Man, at 1:33:40, Ant-Man swats the evil enemy Yellowjacket with a ping-pong paddle! In Spider-Man: Homecoming, at 34:40, here are two pictures of Spider-Man running past a pair playing table tennis in a garage:

Here are some others, mostly copied and pasted from a past blog:

There's No Crying in Table Tennis
Here's the shirt!

Large Objects for Paddles Pong
Here's the video (36 sec)!

Many Objects Pong
Here's the video (41 sec)!

The Other 12 Ways of Playing Table Tennis
Here's the video (69 sec)!

Non-Table Tennis - SF Stories
On November 1 (Monday), I had two new science fiction stories published. (Alas, I think you have to buy the magazine to read them.) With five other stories coming out in December, it's going to be a fun Christmas! Here are the two that just came out:

  • "99 Sextillion Souls in a Ball" in Dark Matter Magazine. What happens if a religious world government (helped by advanced computers) takes "Be fruitful and multiply" to its logical conclusion, ending in the complete conversion of the earth's mass into humans?
  • "The Purple Rose of Retribution" in Utopia Science Fiction. What happens when an elderly luddite is forced to live in a virus-filled virtual world?

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