Blogs

Larry Hodges' Blog and Tip of the Week will normally go up on Mondays by 2:00 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 ten books and over 2100 articles on table tennis, plus over 1900 blogs and over 600 tips. Here is his bio. (Larry was awarded the USATT Lifetime Achievement Award in July, 2018.)

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, Still More Table Tennis Tips, and Yet Still More Table Tennis Tips, which cover, in logical progression, his Tips of the Week from 2011-2023, 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
Be the Lawnmower.

Table Tennis Doubles for Champions
Last Wednesday I sent the draft of the book to the Editorial Board. They are supposed to get back to me by Monday, March 11 with any edits, suggestions. They bring a wide range of talents to the job, from table tennis to editorial expertise.

Who is this Super Seven? Stellan & Angie Bengtsson, Mark Dekeyser, Sean O'Neill, John Olsen, Dan Seemiller, and Dennis Taylor. That’s a pretty nice group. (Edit- it's now the Great Eight, with Dell Sweeris joining the Editorial Board.)

The book is 133 pages (9x6 inch pages), with 108 photos or graphics. If all goes well, it’ll be on sale  and I’ll have copies printed by the end of March. I’m hoping to have copies with me on March 24, when I go to coach at the US Junior Trials in West Monroe, Louisiana. A number of people who helped with the book will be there. For example, Nandan Naresh helped in doing photo sequences of forehand and backhand flipping (and is in a number of other photos), and I’m hoping some of the photographers for the book will be there. I’ll also give copies to some coaches who helped in some aspects of the book, such as Gao Jun – she and I had a great discussion about doubles footwork last year, and she has a nice video on doubles (4 min). The US Olympic Trials end the day I arrive in West Monroe, so some of the people I interviewed for the book will likely be there, including Gao, Nikhil Kumar, Amy Wang, Jasna Rather, and others.

Weekend Coaching
Once again I split my time between feeding multiball to a rotating set of players, and then as a practice partner for rotating pairs of players, where they’d take turns hitting with me. Theme for the day was consistency, and so we counted how many shots they’d do in a row while doing a footwork drill. One thing they need to learn is that accuracy is part of consistency. If you are spraying balls all over the table in a practice drill, then even though they are technically hitting the table, they aren’t really controlling the ball – and in a game situation, where they don’t know where the ball is going as much as they do in a drill, this lack of control means outright misses. So I kept putting my water bottle in various places on the table and they had to keep the ball between that and the playing corner.

One issue that keeps coming up, and so I keep harping on, is recovery from the previous shot, especially with the forehand. If you hit a forehand from the wide forehand or wide backhand, staying balanced and returning back into position as you follow through is part of the technique. But the return-to-position direction and therefore technique is different depending on where you hit the shot. If a righty hits from the wide forehand, he follows through back to his left. If he hits a forehand from the wide backhand, he follows through to his right.

It’s become a local tradition that every weekend I get a new name. When I show up on Saturday morning for our Intermediate Class, the kids come running up to me, all excited, and ask, “Who are you?” And then I explain that whoever I was the previous week, along with Coach Larry, is in prison for terrible crimes, and I am Coach [Fill In The Blank]. This weekend I explained that my first name was I, my last name was You, and that my middle name was Hate. So, for the weekend I was Coach I Hate You. And if the kids had a question, they’d say, “Coach, I hate you.” In previous weeks I’ve had names such as Coach Hit Me, Coach Spit On Me, and Coach You Have The Best Forehand. I think next time I’ll be Coach You Have The Worst Forehand. (I should sit down and brainstorm on names for the next few months.)

World Table Tennis Team Championships
Here’s the home page where you can find results, etc. for the event held in Busan, South Korea, Feb. 16-25. Here’s the ITTF News page on the Worlds. As expected, China swept both Men’s and Women’s Teams – but the men’s team was down 1-2 in the semifinals of Men’s against South Korea, and in the women’s final they were down 1-2 to Japan. In the Men’s Final, China beat France (and the Lebrun brothers), with Alexis almost defeating Fan Zhendong:

  • Wang Chuqin (CHN) d. Felix Lebrun (FRA), 4,8,3
  • Fan Zhendong (CHN) d. Alexis Lebrun (FRA), -9,4,-8,10,7
  • Ma Long (CHN) d. Simon Gauzy (FRA), -7,2,4,6.

France defeated Taiwan in the semifinals, 3-1. Here’s the China vs. South Korea semifinal battle, with Lee’s upset over Ma Long giving Korea a 2-1 lead:

  • Jang Woojin (KOR) d. Wang Chuqin (CHN), 7,02,11,6
  • Fan Zhendong (CHN) d. Lim Jonghoon (KOR), 8,6,8
  • Lee Sang Su (KOR) d. Ma Long (CHN), 7,-4, 10,10,-6,4
  • Fan Zhen Dong (CHN) d. Jang Woojin (KOR), 6,7,10
  • Wang Chuqin (CHN) d. Lim Jonghoon (KOR), 5,7,6

On the Women’s side, in the semifinals China defeated France 3-0, and Japan defeated Hong Kong 3-0. In the final, China came from down 1-2 to defeat Japan:

  • Sun Yingsha (CHN) d. Miwa Harimoto (JPN), 5,8,4
  • Hina Hayata (JPN) d. Chen Meng (CHN), -6,8,9,12
  • Miu Hirano (JPN) d. Wang Yidi (CHN), 8,11,10
  • Sun Yingsha (CHN) d. Hina Hayata (JPN), 2,7,6)
  • Chen Meng (CHN) d. Miwa Harimoto (JPN), -4,7,8,7

=>Worlds Coverage by Steve Hopkins/Butterfly

There was a major controversy regarding Team USA. USA had clinched advancing out of the RRs and into the main draw – when disaster struck. Jishan Liang (USA) apparently did not turn his racket in to racket testing in time as he was using it to warm up for his next match. Normally rackets are tested before the match, but because of this, it wasn’t tested in advance. Jishan won his match against Kazakhstan which seemed to clinch USA advancing. But when it was tested afterwards, his sponge was found to be 4.19mm thick, over the 4.0mm limit. (I’ve been told they allow up to 4.04mm.) And so he was defaulted from the match, and USA did not advance.

USATT protested and put out two statements on this, but the default was upheld. I’ve linked the statements below to their Facebook pages, where there is a lot of discussion. (Neither statement has been posted on the USATT home page, only on Facebook. There’s nothing on the USATT News Page on the Worlds at all – no new news items since Feb. 16.)
Statement #1:

USA Table Tennis contests the decision at 2024 ITTF World Team Championships to disqualify Jishan Liang due to racket control issues in our pivotal match against KAZ. This decision robbed our Men’s Team of their hard earned place in the final 24 teams. We are challenging the call with the ITTF Jury Committee. We will expect a just and fair response from ITTF in the next day. We support our Men’s Team and congratulate them on their performance at the competition.

Statement #2:

At the 2024 ITTF World Team Championships, USA's men's team was poised to advance to the knock out rounds as long as they won at least 2 matches and 2 more games against Kazakhstan. Jishan Liang played against Aidos Kenzhigulov from Kazakhstan in the 3rd match and won 3-1, giving the US a 2-1 lead. However, he was disqualified because one side of his racket was 0.19mm over the thickness limit. Jishan’s racket VOC was within range.

USATT submitted the following 4 points to the ITTF Jury Committee to contest the decision to disqualify Jishan Liang.

Jishan Liang had competed with the same racket for 3 days of competition prior to the disqualification call on day 5. Prior to the test in question, his racket had passed all visual inspections.

The umpires and referees have no time log indicating Jishan Liang was late to turn in his racket prior to his match. Jishan was not informed his racket would be tested after his match because of the time in which he submitted it.

The announcement of the racket failing came after Nikhil had lost to Kirill, despite the test result occurring earlier. This did not give the US Men’s team an opportunity to adjust their play to account for a disqualification.

Jishan’s racket was tested 4-5 times before it was deemed illegal. The necessity for multiple tests raises significant doubts about the reliability and trustworthiness of the testing process itself. Jishan’s racket, which stayed with the umpires and referees overnight, got tested again today and it was within the standard. They also conducted two separate tests and the readings were different

Major League Table Tennis
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Butterfly Training Tips

Serve Into the Cricket Goals
Here’s the video (20 sec). These are good targets to learn to serve into. (But you can improvise with other objects as targets.) A key thing is to serve faster against the deeper ones, slower but with more break against the closer but wider ones. (And today I’ve learned what a cricket goal looks like.

Basic Strokes - Backhand Drive
Here’s the video (17:09) from PingPongPlaybook.

New from Ti Long

New from PingSunday/EmRatThich

Talkin' Smash by JOOLA Ep9: The Career Journey from Brazil to the World | Thiago Monteiro
Here’s the video (33:32) from Matt Hetherington/JOOLA.

New from Performance Biomechanics Academy Table Tennis

Chuang Chih-Yuan Ball Placement vs Qiu Dang
Here’s the video (58 sec) from Drupe Pong.

Behind the Back Stroke
Here’s the video (3:54) from Pingispågarna.

How a Pro Table Tennis Player Packs
Here’s the video (3:43) from PongSpace.

Ask the Coach
Here are the latest questions and answers from PingSkills.

New from Tony’s Table Tennis Talk

Interview with Sid Naresh at the Worlds . . . While Hitting!
Here’s the video (43 sec)! This reminds me of my Hall of Fame Induction, where I had to be talked out of my initial plan, which was to give my acceptance speech while bouncing a ball on a paddle. Was told it would be too distracting. (And the way to calculate 19 x 65 in your head [while hitting forehands] is just do 10 times 65 [650], double it [1300] and subtract 65 [1235. Yeah, I have a degree in math...)

I Challenged The STRONGEST Ping Pong Hustler in New York!
Here’s the video (4:10) from Table Tennis Daily.

A Table for Two
Here’s the cartoon! (Here’s the non-Facebook version.)

20 Funniest Moments in Table Tennis
Here’s the video (8:06) from Wave of Trend!

World’s Most Dangerous Ping Pong Table (5000 Spikes)
Here’s the video (8:01) from Pongfinity!

AND NOW – Here’s my challenge to Pongfinity – I want to see them each go to a supermarket, pick out the best frozen fish they can find, and use that as a racket! (Flounder, anyone?) Suggestion - wear gloves while holding the frozen fish.  Afterwards they can have a fish fry.

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Tip of the Week
The Laziness of Simple Serves.

USATT’s Illegal Chair, USATT Assemblies, and Those Pesky Bylaws
I sent another email to the USATT Board regarding this. (I blogged about the issue last week, including a link to my previous email.) Just to be clear, I have zero expectation that anything will come of this – too many enablers on the Board. The point is they can no longer deny knowing about it. This abuse of power, as well as policy issues, will be among the big issues in the Fall USATT elections. The facts speak for themselves. The primary “defense” against this is the assertion that Char’s term started on Jan. 1, 2021 – but it’s argument by assertion, with no facts or logic backing it up. But there’s little accountability in USATT these days, and so they can do pretty much get away with anything. Normally the lawyers report to the CEO and Board, and the CEO reports to the Board which oversees everything, but these days it’s pretty much reversed.

I don’t like harping on the bylaws, but this has huge implications. The chair of the board is a powerful position. Later in the year I’ll write about some of the ramifications of past rulings from the current chair. I’ll also write about policy issues, which is what I really want to write about, when the time comes. I don’t know if I’ll be running for the Board this Fall or backing others, but the two big issues will be the abuse of power and policy issues. Much more on this as the election approaches.

But seriously, they don’t even follow obvious bylaws. For example (and this is just one of numerous examples), many years ago USATT began running the annual USATT Assembly at the US Open or Nationals, where USATT members could discuss issues with the USATT board and staff. A key aspect was that there would be a board meeting immediately afterwards so board members could discuss the issues raised. And so Bylaw 15.2 states, “The annual USATT Assembly shall be held in conjunction with a Board meeting.”

So, what happened? In 2021, they had the USATT Assembly at the US Open in December, but no board meeting. Why? At the USATT Assembly itself, I raised the issue, pointing out how easy it would have been to simply hold a Zoom meeting at the end of the tournament or the day after, i.e. follow the bylaws. Chair Char told me that it was inconvenient for the top players to meet during a major tournament.

Two HUGE problems here. First, USATT Bylaws are not things USATT should follow only when they are convenient; they are the rules for governing our sport. Second, I checked with several of the player reps and they denied ever saying they couldn’t attend such a meeting, and thought the Zoom meeting would be the perfect solution. Char promised to follow the bylaws and hold the required board meeting the following year, 2022, and so all would be well, right?

Nope. In 2022, they again held the USATT Assembly at the Open in December, but again didn’t hold the required board meeting in conjunction. I pointed this out again, and once again Char promised they’d do it the following year, in 2023. So, in 2023 the Assembly was again held in December at the US Open, and once again they didn’t bother with the required board meeting. So, for three straight years, despite knowing the bylaws require it, they have refused to hold the board meeting in conjunction with the USATT Assembly. All three USATT Assemblies were held in mid-December, at the US Open; in all three cases, the next board meeting wasn’t until early February the following year.

What are they showing us? 1) Utter contempt for following the governing rules of our sport; 2) Utter contempt for the membership; 3) USATT Assemblies are just for show. 

Note that it’s only a few USATT people who actually abuse the rules. Most of the rest just go along with it. (Alas, my pointing it out will only make them dig in their heels deeper.)

I am sickened to have to write these posts about USATT. I plan to ignore them for a time, since there’s not much we can do about it until the elections come up, and I’d just end up repeating myself week after week. (I have a variety of other topics to blog about.) There’s no accountability in USATT right now, but guess what an election is? Accountability.

Weekend Coaching
I fed multiball for about 15 minutes at the start of one session, but then worked one-on-one with players as a practicing partner the rest of the session. Focus was on consistency in footwork drills, and control. To work on control, I put my water bottle in the table, sideways, about nine inches to the left of the middle line on my backhand side. Anything that didn’t come to the left of the bottle was a miss. Once the kids know what they need to do, they become pretty good at it.

I’m always looking for ways to make the group sessions more interesting. Last week I saw a movie at a Regal theater, and they served my medium popcorn in a plastic Taylor Swift bucket. So I cleaned it and brought it to the club. After the session we had a competition. I put the bucket on the far side of a table, and had the kids line up on the other. They took turns trying to hit or serve a ball into the bucket. After a few rounds, two of them did it, and we then had a playoff, won by 7-year-old Crystal – who, it turns out, is a Taylor Swift fan!

Alas, as the session went on, including the contest at the end, I began feeling sick. By that night I had a full-blown nasty cold, which still won’t go away. (I did a home Covid test just to be safe, but negative.) No fever, but constant chills, aching teeth, countless Kleenex, constant coughing up stuff, and general feeling of extreme sickness.

Table Tennis Doubles for Champions
The first draft is done! That includes the page layouts, all 125 pages, including 103 photos or graphics. (Putting together graphics to demonstrate four types of doubles footwork took a LONG time.) I’ve printed it out for proofing. Because of my cold, I’m not sure if I’m going to get to it today, but hopefully early this week I’ll “finalize” it. I put that in quotes because I plan to send it to an editorial board. I’ve got 17 possible names on the list (!) and so haven’t decided yet whether to ask all of them or not. They’ll all be thanked in the Intro chapter of the book, as well as a signed copy. (If you are a National Coach or equivalent, with an interest in doubles, and wish to be on the Editorial Board, email me. Not everyone on the Editorial Board will be a National Coach or elite player, but I already have several who will double-check my grammar, etc.)

10 Best Table Tennis Books of All Time
Here’s the listing from Sports Foundation – I like the rankings!

World Table Tennis Championships
They are taking place right now, Feb. 16-25 in Busan, South Korea. Because I’ve been alternating between working on my doubles book and fighting a bad cold, I haven’t been able to see much of it. But one USA highlight was the USA Men’s Team defeating England, with Nikhil Kumar upsetting Liam Pitchford (world #25) and Paul Drinkhall (#101), with Jishan Liang also defeating Drinkhall. Nikhil went in seriously under-ranked at #379, but should go up a bunch after this. While I didn't see the matches, I'm guessing he dominated with his supurb receiving skills, ball placement, and overall shot-making efficiency. Here are some links:

=>Coverage by Steve Hopkins/Butterfly:

2023 USATT Coach of the Year Awards
Here’s the USATT News Item. Congrats to Gao Jun, Thilina Piyadasa, Hong Lin, Sean O'Neill, Vlad Farcas, and Lidney Castro (who coaches at my club!).

Major League Table Tennis
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You're Tearing Me Apart
Here’s the blog by International Referee Kagin Lee. It covers a rather interesting rules proposal coming up at the Worlds, and a semi-parallel situation from the past (the infamous Kim Taek See-Wang Tao match at the 1995 Worlds). I haven’t really studied the issue, but here’s the gist of it: “This testing would involve disassembling the racket and examining the discrete blade and racket coverings - after the match.” I’m a bit skeptical of this! Kagin explains why he too is opposed to the proposal.

Butterfly Training Tips

New from Ti Long

How to INSTANTLY Improve as a Table Tennis Player
Here’s the video (13:05) from Pingispågarna.

Coach Jon is Back
Coach Jon Gustavson put up three new blog items. They are: “Offense and Defense at Table Tennis Gwinnett,” “Table Tennis on a Budget,” and “The Great Table Tennis Paradox.”

New from PongSpace

New from PingSunday/EmRatThich

Ask the Coach
Here are the latest questions and answers from PingSkills.

The Prince Who Never Became King: The Best of Zhou Qihao
Here’s the video (1:41) of the world #24 from China, from TacoBackhand.

Nanhu Girls Table Tennis Team - Thank you Coach, Wish you a Happy Retirement
Here’s the video (7:26) from Tony’s Table Tennis.

301+ Table Tennis Team Names (Funny, Cool & Puns)
Here’s the listing!

Orban Wins
Here’s the cartoon. That’s Viktor Orbán, the Prime Minister of Hungary.

Ready to Play Table Tennis Anywhere with Passion
Here’s the video (52 sec)!

YouTuber vs. 4 Pros
Here’s the video (11:57) from Adam Bobrow! “What would happen if I challenge four professional players in a single game showdown?” He takes on Aditya Sareen, El Sayed Lashin, David McBeath, and Tyrese Knight.

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Tip of the Week
Learn From Your Easy Wins and Bad Losses.

USATT’s Illegal Chair of the Board
[Skip this segment if you have no interest in USATT politics. And sorry about the length!]

I’ve blogged about this issue multiple times. This past week I sent an email about it to the USATT Board of Directors. Here is the email. The key issue is simple. The bylaws say a chair cannot serve more than two consecutive full terms. It defines a full term as any term over one year. The current chair became chair of the board on June 1, 2020, and continued as chair until the next election, on Dec. 6, 2021, 18 months later. Since 18 months is more than a year, that’s a full term, with his second term starting on Dec. 6, 2021. As explained in the email, in the Dec. 6, 2021 election, the board voted to make it retroactive, so that the chair, Richard Char, who had already served a full term, suddenly had not served a full term – thereby creating the fiction that his first term started seven months after it actually began. (As I wrote in the email, it’s likely that some board members did not understand the implications of the wording at the time.)

So, what did USATT do after receiving my email? Rather than arguing the case themselves, they brought in their lawyer to argue for them. Now, one should listen to the lawyer’s arguments, but his conclusion was ordained from the start – he’s going to argue for the person or persons he believes he represents, which is the chair and CEO - and so his conclusions are meaningless. And yet, in case after case in recent years, board members hide behind the USATT lawyer, telling me they are just abiding by what the lawyer says, which is circular reasoning since the lawyer is essentially assigned what their conclusion is and then argues it. (The CEO did chime in at the start, of course taking Char’s side – they support each other 100% in all issues - but not giving a serious argument for it, making key assertions without support, such as claiming his term started on Jan. 1, 2021 – more on that below. I pointed this out in my response.)

In this case, the lawyer kept arguing with me on non-central issues while avoiding any serious argument over how the chair’s first term can arbitrarily and retroactively be changed so as to create the fiction that his first term wasn’t a full term, thereby claiming his illegal third term is actually only his second term. Then, after going back and forth a few times, he took me off the CC list so that I couldn’t respond to his arguments to the board. But his arguments on the key issues were mostly arguing by assertion (i.e. claiming key points without evidence) and circular reasoning. When forced to argue something that isn’t logical, that’s about all you can do. (If the lawyer requests it, I’ll post the entire transcript of our emails here and readers can judge for themselves.)

What’s almost nails-on-chalkboard irritating in the various emails is the refusal to address the central point – that Char’s first term started on June 1, 2020 – and instead just assert it started on Jan. 1, 2021, despite the fact that it did not. It’s right in the June 1, 2020 minutes, where they voted to re-appoint him as chair. It says, “That Richard Char is hereby appointed as Chair of the Board, to serve until his successor is duly qualified.” (Italics are mine.) Note the part where it says he serves under his successor is duly qualified? Seven months later, on Jan. 1, 2021, had his successor been duly qualified (i.e. elected)? No. That didn’t take place for another eleven months, on Dec. 6, 2021, when he was re-elected, a total of 18 months, i.e. a full term, as per the bylaws. Voting otherwise violates the bylaws. (The whole issue reminds me of the 1897 Indiana vote to make pi equal to 3.2!)

The facts of the matter are simple, and explained in the email. The key part starts in paragraph five, where it talks about Bylaw 8.3. There’s also a simple timeline given at the end. One interesting issue - for the past three years it’s been generally acknowledged that Char’s first term as chair of the board was to complete the previous chair’s term, since that’s what the bylaws say happens when a chair resigns, which is why there was supposed to have been an election on Jan. 1, 2021. It’s one of the few things the board seems to have agreed on. But now the lawyer disagrees. But if so, then why did they even bother with making the election in December of 2021 retroactive to eleven months before, except for that fact that that’s when it was supposed to have happened? It didn’t, and so Char’s term continued for 18 months, hence a full term, as per the bylaws. (However, I don’t want to get bogged down on that argument since it’s just a way to keep the topic away from the current issue of an illegal chair of the board. That literally is the goal of certain USATT people right now.)

Will my email do anything for now? No. There are several board members who agree with me, but since they don’t have the votes, don’t think it’s worth pursuing right now. I’m sure others know that it’s obvious that Char is on an illegal third term, but since they are part of his “team,” they won’t speak up, or worse, use the circular reasoning that they are just going by what the lawyer “advises.” When a board becomes too close like this where they’ll just blindly support the others in this way, it’s time for a new board. (And yes, it leads to policy problems as well, but that’s for another blog.)

When I pointed all this out to one board member last year, his reaction was curious – he said he wasn’t sure about the bylaws, but would support Char either way. He also said that it doesn’t make a difference who is chair, which is silly – the chair wields great power in our organization. That’ll also be a topic for a future blog. When I’ve brought this up with other board members who support Char, they got very quiet, refusing to comment or to get involved. They know that they are  on the wrong side of the issue but do not want to become pariahs on the board.

There are two options available to pursue this. One is to take it to the USOPC. Any unbiased person there will agree that, since Char served continuously from June 1, 2020 to his re-election on Dec. 6, 2021, what was a full term at the time of the vote can’t be retroactively changed to less than a full term by a simple vote to make the election effective eleven months before. As noted above, the June 1, 2020 vote itself says he stayed chair until the next election (“...until his successor is duly qualified”), which was Dec. 6, 2021, and NOT Jan. 1, 2023. Trying to retroactively change this was a blatant attempt to pretend his first term wasn’t a full term. If so, as I explained in the email, then congress, with a simple majority vote, can declare George W. Bush and Barack Obama eligible to run for a “third” term!

However, I’m in Maryland, while USATT headquarters is right there on the USOPC campus in Colorado Springs, interacting regularly with the very people who might be making this decision. Who knows how that would influence any decision? It might be no different than going to the USATT board where most just want to get along and support their “team” – but I have no way of knowing. So I’m undecided now on whether it’s worth pursuing when there’s another option.

The other option? USATT elections are this Fall. This will be a major issue, and it’ll be interesting seeing board members defend this and other such issues, along with numerous policy issues.

One other interesting tidbit – why did I wait until Feb. 7 to email the board? There’s a simple parliamentary trick that I wanted to avoid. By waiting until Feb. 7, it meant that Char’s (illegal) third term was over one year, thereby a third full term. (His third term started on Feb. 6, 2023.) According to the bylaws, one can only have two consecutive full terms or three in an eight-year period. Now that Char has served three full terms, he cannot run again due to term limits. If I had sent the letter earlier, Char could have simply resigned, let the board elect a new chair selected by Char, then that new chair resigns – and presto, Char is eligible to run for chair again!

Weekend Coaching
Once again my time was split between feeding multiball and acting as a practice partner/coach with one or two players at a time. As usual, lots of footwork drills. At one point I had two advanced beginners, both about seven or eight, who needed work on pushing. So I put them both on the far side, one on the left, one on the right, and we I alternated pushing side to side so they both got to work on it. We had some nice long rallies!

I often banter with the kids. This week when some of the younger kids came in, I pretended not to know them, asking, “Who are you? I am new here.” Then I explained that I was Coach Larry’s twin, and that Larry was in prison for murder. “Someone gave him a high ball and he killed it. He’s in prison for murder!” When they asked me my name, I had a sudden brainstorm, and said, “I am Coach Hit Me.” And so, for a time, I wouldn’t respond unless they called me Coach Hit Me – and, of course, whenever they did that, I had an excuse to fake hit them. Also, when I was feeding multiball and gave them a high ball to “kill,” I’d accuse them of murder.

On a completely unrelated note, I just heard that Will Shortz had a stroke a few days ago and is in the hospital. I don’t know the details. He’s on the USATT Board of Directors, owns the Westchester TTC, and of course is the New York Times Crossword Editor.

Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes Playing Table Tennis
Here’s the video (65 sec) of quarterback Patrick Mahomes playing table tennis back in 2017 (on left), the year he was drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs. (They are playing with hardbats.) He stands up too straight, which affects his entire game – fix that up, and he has some potential! Alas, he chose another sport than table tennis, and yesterday won his third Super Bowl. Alas, there are no know pictures or videos of Taylor Swift or Travis Kelce playing table tennis.

Full-Time Table Tennis Centers
Here’s my listing I maintain, with a number of recent updates. There are now 116 in 26 states and DC. (Steve Hopkins was especially helpful in sending me a number of updates.) Email me if you have any updates!

Major League Table Tennis
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University of Maryland Table Tennis Club Needs Your Support!
Here’s their GoFundMe page – hope you can help out. They are so closed to their $3,000 goal – they are at $2,481.

Butterfly Training Tips

New from PingSunday/EmRatThich
Eleven Lessons from the two-time World Men’s Singles Champion, and the High Toss Serve.

New from Ti Long

Anger Management for Table Tennis
Here’s the video (4:40) from Damien Provost/PongSpace.

On Timo Boll's WTT Doha Win! And Other Things...
Here’s the video (14:21) from Drup Pong.

New from PingSkills

New from Steve Hopkins/Butterfly

Member Clubs Invited to Host 2024 USATT State Championships
Here’s the USATT news item.

New from ITTF

Greece and Turkey Play Ping-Pong with Political Refugees
Here’s the cartoon. It would seemingly be more relevant right now if it were more about Israel and Gaza. (Not sure when the cartoon came out – it’s not dated – but according to Google it was posted this past week.)

I Return Everything
Here’s where you can get the shirt. I like the first one’s design. Great for choppers, lobbers, and blockers!

This Is What a Table Tennis Temper Tantrum Looks Like
Here’s the video (21 sec)!

Beetle Bailey – “Only if you give me an advantage”
Here’s the comic strip from Friday, Feb. 9, 2024! Here’s my Beetle Bailey Table Tennis page, with links to all 33 known Beetle Bailey table tennis strips, as well as a link to where Mort Walker explains why he does table tennis so often.

Funny Table Tennis Tiktoks
Here’s the video (6:40), which is a compilation of lots of old funny videos.

Weirdest Ping Pong Items
Here’s the video (10:34) from Pongfinity! “I searched the Internet for the coolest and weirdest table tennis items ever.”

Non-Table Tennis – Orange Head to Fry
This is political, but I when I figured out that “Year of the Dragon” was an anagram for “Orange Head to Fry,” I put this cartoon together!

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Tip of the Week
Types of Topspin Contact.

Weekend Coaching, Doubles Book, and USATT, Oh My!!!
I split my coaching weekend between feeding multiball (yes, lots and Lots and LOTS of footwork drills), and as a practice partner at the end. I used to be in charge of running these group sessions, but now that I’m semi-retired others have taken over, and I get to just coach. My primary function in most sessions is feeding multiball, where I put them through a series of drills while working on their technique. Different players are rotated to me (the multiball station) throughout the session, so I work with a lot of the players.

I also had a session with Navin Kumar, where I’m getting him ready for the upcoming US Parkinson’s Championships, April 13-14 at the Westchester Club in New York. Opening Ceremonies are on Friday night, April 12, though at $75/person, I will likely skip it. There are also some sort of Parkinson’s workshops during the event, though I’m not yet sure what those are about. Here’s I Love Ping Pong (2:48, by Nenad Bach), the official tournament song and the anthem from the 2019 ITTF Parkinson's World TT Championships. I’ll likely be coaching Navin at the tournament. A lot of my focus with Navin right now is being more aggressive with the long pips against pushes and weak balls, and brick-wall blocking against attacks.

I’ve also been working on my upcoming book, Table Tennis Doubles for Champions. The text was basically done a few weeks ago, but I decided I wanted something more – and so arranged a series of interviews with elite doubles players and coaches. I’m working on page layouts now, and hope to have it done this week. I’m still waiting on one photo sequence I’ve arranged, plus getting photo permissions is a huge headache. I’m debating whether to have the book read and critiqued by an Editorial Board before publishing, which would postpone things a few weeks. I’m hoping to have copies to give out at the US Junior Team Trials, March 24-31 in West Monroe, Louisiana, where I’ll be one of the MDTTC coaches. It'll be about 120 pages, with numerous photos. Chapters are (and now I’m debating whether to take off the “in Doubles” in chapters 6-9):

  1. Introduction to Doubles
  2. Secrets from the Pros
  3. Doubles Stories
  4. Great Partnerships
  5. The Start of a Doubles Match
  6. Serving in Doubles
  7. Receiving in Doubles
  8. Rallying in Doubles
  9. Footwork and Positioning in Doubles
  10. The Wacky World of Doubles
  11. Doubles Rules
  12. World and Olympic Doubles Champions

Regarding USATT, this week I’m taking action on one major USATT issue. Full details in my blog next week. The hardest part was narrowing it down to which item to act on now. I’m sure sparks will fly.

The Ultimate Challenge: 1000 Forehands in a Row!
Here’s the video (11:47) from PingSkills. It is a big challenge. Many coaches, including me, often tell students they don’t have a forehand or backhand until they hit 100 in a row . . . but 1,000??? That’s a lot! I’ve done it – my forehand record is actually about 3,000 circa 1979 (alas, we lost count, so I could be off by a little), while my backhand record is exactly 2,755 (with Ben Nisbet at a 1978 Seemiller Camp in Pittsburgh). Here are two stories about junior players I coached who hit 1,000 in a row.

  • Sameer Shaikh – 99, 97, 94 . . . 1,000!
  • Ryan Li – age 7, not just 1,000, but he did it last summer while doing side-to-side footwork!

Butterfly Training Tips

Talkin' Smash by JOOLA Ep8: The Evolution of Table Tennis Daily
Here’s the video (51:03) with Matt Hetherington talking to TT Daily’s Dan Ives.

Choosing the Right Tactics
Here’s the article by Tom Lodziak. I like this one – it quotes from my book, Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers: “Tactics isn’t about finding complex strategies to defeat an opponent. Tactics is about sifting through all the zillions of possible tactics and finding a few simple ones that work.”

How to Improve Your Mental Game
Here’s the video (3:40) from Damien Provost/PongSpace.

New from Ti Long

New from EmRatThich/PingSunday

All Pros Use This Shot You Should Too!
Here’s the video (9:33) from Sean Pech – the “no-spin loop.”

Effective Method & Exercises for Beginners
Here’s the video (3:40) from Pingispågarna. Also note the Pingispågarna ad/link on the left – they’re a pretty established and high-level coaching group, and we’ve exchanged ads.

Ask the Coach
Here are the latest questions from PingSkills.

Major League Table Tennis
Follow the action!

Ping Pong Trademark
Here’s all you need to know about it – but the short version is Escalade bought the trademark from Parker Brothers in the 1970s.

Ping Pong Challenge
Here’s the game – but it has little to actually do with ping pong! I wonder if Escalade knows about this? See segment above!

NCTTA--2024 (Singles, Divisions, forms and more!)
Here’s the article from National Collegiate Table Tennis Association.

Introducing USA Table Tennis’s New Ranking System Pilot
Here’s the USATT news item.

New from Steve Hopkins/Butterfly

New from ITTF

Very Bad Ping
Here’s a page of French TT cartoon! They’re pretty good even if you can’t read the captions.

Fear My Racket
Here’s where you can buy the shirt at Amazon!

Pros Vs New York Ping Pong Hustlers For $1000!
Here’s the video (9:56) from Table Tennis Daily. They are playing in Bryant Park in New York City, where they have two outside tables with nonstop play. (The linked Wikipedia article mentions the table tennis there.) I toured NYC in 2021, and visited and played in Bryant Park. Here’s my writeup – see paragraph 4.

Adam vs. Daniely
Here’s the video (15 min) from Adam Bobrow! That’s Puerto Rico star Daniely Rios.

Non-Table Tennis - Super Rex
Here’s the great video preview (28 sec, make sure sound is on) from storiaverse.com of my upcoming story, Super Rex – seriously, you should see it. Storia takes science fiction & fantasy stories and animates them along with the text. They recently bought two stories from me. Super Rex is a superhero fantasy with SF and horror elements, and perhaps the only Superhero T-Rex story ever written. A paleontologist digs up a T-Rex skeleton in the Yucatan – only it comes alive. It’s a heroic superhero (basically a T-Rex Superman) that’s been trapped under the remains of the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs for 66 million years, after it failed to save them from it. It’s friendly (though slightly mad after all those years trapped underground) . . . but its priority is to bring back the dinosaurs, even if that means the end for humans.

***
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Tip of the Week
Start With Your Trickiest Serve.

Three Big Things to Happen to USA Table Tennis Since I Started
I started playing table tennis and joined USATT in 1976. Since that time, I would say there are three BIG things that have happened in our sport, specifically in the US for two of them. (If I’d started five years earlier, then I might have put Ping-Pong Diplomacy as a fourth.) They are:

  • Table Tennis Becomes Olympic Sport, 1988. This led to increased revenues and recognition. Many of our athletes now aspire to be Olympic athletes. Our headquarters is at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. There are a number of other benefits – if I researched it, I’m sure I could come up with a lengthy list. However, it’s not all roses without thorns. It’s meant that we do not control our destiny as much as before. Much of our governance is done to uphold rules made by the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC), rather than our making our own rules. When you attend USATT board meetings, you start to realize that much that is done is to keep USOPC happy. It’s meant our board of directors, which used to be made up almost exclusively of elected members, is now 1/3 non-table tennis people from a pool basically set up by USOPC. And twice (in 2007 and 2019) the USOPC has stepped in and dissolved our board for reasons of their own, forcing us to create a new one under their supervision. The irony is that, unlike in the past when we’ve had really bad boards that hurt our sport directly, we were able to vote them out quickly and completely change the board for the better – it’s harder now. (For one thing, the non-table tennis people on the board, since their introduction in 2008, have been almost exclusively supportive of whatever is currently happening and whoever the current CEO is, and so making major changes in our sport is more difficult.)  There’s enough material here, good and bad, to write a book.
  • The Rise of Full-Time Training Centers. From the time I started out in 1976 until 1992, there were a few attempts at setting up training centers, but they never lasted. There were a few full-time clubs, but they were mostly league-driven. The first successful one was the Maryland Table Tennis Center, which I co-founded in 1992 with Cheng Yinghua and Jack Huang. From then until around 2007 a few others copied our business model – I basically explained what made it work for some of them. In 2007 there were about 5-6 such training centers in the whole country, and perhaps a couple dozen full-time coaches in the entire country. I made a proposal to USATT in 2007 to make a goal of having 100 full-time training centers in ten years, but they were not interested. However, the idea exploded anyway, and there are now over 100 full-time training centers in the country. (The list isn’t completely up to date – email me if you have updates on new ones or ones that closed.) There are now probably around 500 full-time professional coaches in the US. This has led to a large increase in the number of junior training programs and junior players, and the level and depth of play in the US has increased dramatically.
  • Major League Table Tennis. There have been a few attempts in the past to set up such professional leagues, but none really got off the drawing board or early stages. Now we have Major League Table Tennis (MLTT) right here in the US. What does this mean? Before, our up-and-coming juniors could aspire to be Olympians . . . but few could really make a living at our sport unless they became coaches. Those that wanted to make a living at it had to go overseas. How we are moving toward a truly professional league where top players may be able to make a full-time living at it. These next few years will be fascinating to watch – we live in historic times for table tennis in the US.

US Olympic Team and Junior Team Trials
Want to try out for the US Olympic Team or the National Junior Team (U19, U17, U15, U13, and U11, for boys and girls)? Both Trials are being held in West Monroe, Louisiana. (Yes, a rather interesting, out-of-the-way place to hold them.) The Olympic Trials are March 21-24, followed by the Junior Trials (Part 1), March 26-30. (I’ll be coaching at the Junior Trials.) It’s still early, but one strange this is that there are currently only ten entries for the Olympic Trials (including likely top seed Kanak Jha, who is back in action), there are 122 for the Junior Team Trials. Here are some links:

University of Maryland Table Tennis Club Needs Your Support!
Here’s their GoFundMe page – hope you can help out. As I blogged last week, I founded the club many years ago. They could use your help! They are about halfway toward their goal of $3,000.

MDTTC Open
It was held this past weekend at the Maryland Table Tennis Center. Here are the results!

TableTennisCoaching.com Ads
Some of you may have noticed that there are four ads here at TableTennisCoaching.com. The question has come up – how much do I charge for these ads? How much money do I get for them? Are they making me rich? Alas, here’s the answer – I do not charge for any of the ads. Nothing. Nobody is paying me for them. I put them up either as favors or as a trade where they put one up for me. (I used to charge for them, but stopped years ago – I don’t need the money.)

Major League Table Tennis

Butterfly Training Tips

New from Ti Long

What Is Your Favourite Backhand Block?
Here’s the video (2:09) from Pingispågarna.

Master Attacking with Longpips
Here’s the video (3:04) from Angela Guan/PongSpace.

New from Table Tennis Daily

Ask the Coach
Here are the latest questions from PingSkills.

New from Steve Hopkins/Butterfly

New from USATT

New from ITTF

Action at the LATTA Butterfly Thanh Banh Memorial Tournament
Here’s the music video (2:27) of the tournament held Jan. 27.

Let’s Slap Some Balls
Here’s where you can buy the shirt – the only octopus (or kraken?) table tennis shirt I know of.

Ping Pong Jokes
Here they are!

Table Tennis Fails
Here’s the video (65 sec)!

***
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Tip of the Week
Court Tricks.

Weekend Coaching
Only did one group session this past weekend – other coaches needed the hours more than I did! I did multiball for about an hour and thirty minutes as a practice partner. (There were 18 in the group. We have over 70 in our junior program, so have to have different groups based on level.) The multiball focus was lots and Lots and LOTS of fundamentals, focusing on topspin drills and footwork. While one player does multiball, another shadow-strokes behind him, matching his shots and imagining hitting the ball each time. Another player does serves, while another does ball pickup. As a practice partner, we again did lots of footwork drills. We also did a rather intensive shadow-practice session at the start, going through lots of stroking and footwork drills without the ball. I spent much of the time yelling, “Turn your shoulders!” as many kids get lazy and go for rapid-fire but poor arm strokes – but not on my watch!!!

University of Maryland Table Tennis Club Needs Your Support!
Here’s their GoFundMe page – hope you can help out. I got my bachelor’s and master’s degrees there – I couldn’t leave the area since I was running many of the local table tennis activities back then! There’s an interesting history of the University of Maryland Table Tennis Club. I founded it back in 1981. I began coaching another student, Larry Johnson. He went from 1500 to 1800 that first year – a shakehand inverted player, not his namesake with long pips who used to play in New Jersey. To promote the new table tennis club, we decided to do an exhibition every week at a different building on campus. And so, every week for a semester I’d arrange it with a different campus building, we’d put out flyers, and then we’d roll the table to the new location and to the exhibition! Lots of people attended them, both students and professors. Result? It became the busiest club in the US for a year or two, with 16 tables, seven days/week, and jammed every night to the point that I stopped going – there weren’t any open tables!!! The table we used was normally set up in my dormitory, and that’s where I practiced with Larry Johnson almost every day, plus the Northern Virginia TTC on Tue, Fri, and Sun nights, where I’d practice with Sean O’Neill, Dave Sakai, Ron Lilly, and others. For a time I was president of both the University of Maryland TTC and the Northern Virginia TTC, and for a short time, also the Beltsville TTC (but it lost its place to play after only a month or two).

The Ping Pong Player and the Professor by Richard Sosis
The Ping Pong Player and the Professor was one of the best table tennis books I’ve read. Others agree – it’s got a perfect rating at Amazon. It’s about the ups and downs of an anthropology professor and player, i.e., a “Ping Pong Pop” (Rich Sosis) raising and coaching an up-and-coming table tennis star, Eliel (pronounced L-E-L).

A lot of the book philosophizes on table tennis and how it relates to Judaism, anthropology, tennis, over-educated parents, and the definition of sport – and it’s all pretty fascinating. To quote Steve Brunskill in the book: “It has the smallest court, the smallest ball, the smallest bat, the quickest reaction time, the most spin . . . and you have to learn to cope with different styles of opponents.”

There were lots and lots of fascinating characters and devoted volunteers in the book. Some, like "Mozart," I'd never heard of. In some cases, when telling stories, he used real names, but sometimes he used fake names to protect the identity of the person, but table tennis aficionados will recognize most of them – in fact, identifying them was one of the fun parts of the book. You’ll learn about the battle with the hotel refrigerator; the infamous huge bag; reading shoes; and lots of other anecdotes. Oh, and can you figure out why 51505 73173 is Eliel Sosis’s favorite number? My club, MDTTC, is mentioned a lot as Rich and Eliel often came down for weeks at a time to train there. I’ve known Rich for decades – I coached him in at least one training camp back when he was an up-and-coming junior star. (Sorry, after all these years, I can’t think of him as “Richard”!)

The book comes in print, kindle, and audio versions. (It says print version is 312 pages, but it’s actually 278; if you don’t read the acknowledgements and end notes, it’s a solid 235 pages.) Here's the Amazon description:

"Most Americans view ping pong as either a basement recreation or the focus of a fraternity-party drinking game. Yet table tennis is an Olympic sport and one of the most popular athletic activities in the world. The Ping Pong Player and the Professor is a quirky memoir about the adventures of a Jewish anthropologist and his son, an elite player, in the colorful subculture of this extraordinary sport. The tale of their exploits in this hidden world is peppered with anthropological wisdom--the professor can't help himself--on a range of topics, including ethnicity, religion, sport, family, and how humans create and discover meaning in life. At its core The Ping Pong Player and the Professor is a heartwarming love story about the relationship between a father and son, two introverts who share a common bond over a nine-foot by five-foot table."

Campaign 2100: Game of Scorpions
My best science fiction novel, Campaign 2100: Game of Scorpions, just got republished! It has a number of table tennis scenes – here’s where I blogged about that. (One of the main characters is a professional table tennis player who – SPOILER ALERT! - walks off the court during the final of the Nationals to join the campaign and meet the visiting alien.) It’s a drama-satire that covers the election for president of Earth in the year 2100, where the world has adopted the American two-party electoral system, with a moderate third-party challenge to the conservative and liberal parties. (Yikes!) Also along for the ride is an alien who makes first contact near the start and joins the third party as an observer – we learn about Earth’s political system and history (our future) through her eyes. Check out the quotes and reviews of the book at Amazon. On sale at $11.95, $5.99 kindle.

Major League Table Tennis

Table Tennis History Magazine
The second (Jan 2024) issue is out! Lots of great stuff if you’re a history buff or just want to learn about our sports history.

Table Tennis Evolution 1930-2023
Here’s the video (22:51) from Table Tennis Central.

Butterfly Training Tips

World Champion Mattias Falck is Unstoppable for Two Minutes Straight
Here’s the video (2 min) from Taco Backhand. Mattias Falk (SWE) was the 2021 World Men’s Doubles Champion. Note how he controls play with his close-to-table backhand topspins, and ends it with pips-out forehand (a rarity in modern table tennis).

How to Add a New Shot to Your Game
Here’s the article by Tom Lodziak.

3 KILLER Serves for ALL Players
Here’s the video (6:04) from Nick Rudd TT.

New from Ti Long

New from Pingispågarna

Forehand Topspin Secrets Revealed | Step-by-Step Guide for Explosive Shots!
Here’s the video (9:11) from Rational Table Tennis Analysis.

New from PongSpace/Angela Guan

Ma Long Maintains Stroke Integrity Under Pressure
Here’s the video (1:16) from Drupe Pong.

New from PingSkills

New from EmRatThich/PingSunday

New from Performance Biomechanics Academy Table Tennis

An Eventful 2023 U.S Open
Here’s the article by US Team Member Joanna Sung

Colorado Doctor Prescribes Ping Pong Treatment for Neurodegenerative Disorders
Here’s the article.

New from Steve Hopkins/Butterfly

New from USATT

New from ITTF

TT11TV
Lots of new table tennis videos here.

Mind Bending Net Recoveries in Table Tennis! Xu Xin, Fan Zhendong, Wang Hao, Timo Boll, etc.
Here’s the video (8:17) from Street TT.

Table Tennis Coloring Pages
This might be good for kids!

8 Best Ping Pong Movies You Need to Check Out
Here’s the article from Ping Pong Ruler.

Table Tennis Hearts Shirt
Here’s where you can get yours!

Bullfight Pong
Here’s the cartoon!

When Ping Pong Goes Too Far
Here’s the video (30 sec)!

Adam/Slander vs. Anastasiia/KSHMR
Here’s the video (16:11) from Adam Bobrow!

***
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Tips of the Week

2023 US Open
The 2023 US Open seems ages ago – it was held Dec. 15-22 in Ontario, California, near LA. But since I’ve been traveling almost non-stop this is my first blog since then. (I’m back to blogging every Monday, except when sick or out of town.) Here are a few tidbits – with more in the next segment about USATT. I had more to write about, but since it’s been a month, I’ll keep the segment short.

  • Here are Complete results, Historical results, and Photos.
  • Normally I’d be mostly coaching at big events like this. However, due to school, only a few of our junior players from MDTTC were playing, and we already had other coaches, so I mostly just played some hardbat events and did some sightseeing. I’ve been to every US Open and Nationals starting in 1984, but probably was the least busy in this one out of all of them. But things will get busier at the US Nationals in July, where we always have a big group. (I’ll also likely be coaching at the upcoming US Junior Team Trials, March 26-30 in West Monroe, Louisiana.)
  • In Over 60 Hardbat, I started out playing very poorly, missing smash after smash. But I came around and made the final. In the final against Jian Zhuang, I played decently except my forehand flip was non-existent. If I get that going, I could do well the rest of the way. It used to be a big strength. I was also in the Over 40 final against Ali Ammar, best of five to 21. I lost the first two badly and was down 12-18 in the third – and with my forehand flip and forehand finally coming alive, I came back to win, 21-19. I won the fourth rather easily. In the fifth . . . let’s just say the net and edges of the table were in league against me and I lost, deuce in the fifth. (Up 9-6 in the fifth, I lost four in a row on nets and edges! I also came back from 18-20 match point to deuce it.) I’ve won Over 40 Hardbat eight times, but not this time.
  • Saw a crazy shot. A boy popped the ball up against a girl. The girl went around the side of the table and took a huge swing as the boy backed up to lob. The girl went for an all-out smash, but her racket’s edge barely nicked the ball, resulting in an inadvertent drop shot that bounced on the table at least 5-6 times.
  • I had waffles for breakfast every morning. Whoever invented the automatic waffle maker for hotels should get the Nobel prize. The Nobel prize for what, you ask? Why . . . all of them.

USATT Issues at the US Open
Not interested in USATT politics or problems at the US Open? Then skip this section.

  • USATT Assembly – it’s required by the USATT bylaws that the board hold this open meeting, where they give reports and members can ask questions and bring up issues. However, these days it’s just for show. For the third year in a row, there was no board meeting held in conjunction with it, as required by the bylaws (Section 15.2, “The annual USATT Assembly shall be held in conjunction with a Board meeting”), where board members are supposed to discuss the issues raised by the membership. I’ve brought this up the last two years, and each time was promised they’d follow the bylaws next year – but for the third straight year they didn’t. (The first year I was told the elite players didn’t want to hold a meeting during the Open, but they told me that was not true – all they needed was a simple Zoom meeting at the end or the day after.) The USATT board is the policy maker for USATT but the majority have no interest in our input. Someone needs to remind them regularly that the bylaws are not something you follow when it’s convenient; they are the laws governing our sport. Knowingly ignoring them as they regularly do is just plain arrogance.

    I thought of showing up to point out that they were violating the bylaws by refusing to hold a board meeting in conjunction with the USATT assembly, to once again point out that the current chair is illegal, and other issues (there’s a lot of them), but what’s the point? As a group, they aren’t listening. (Many or most are simply enablers, who just want to get along and so go along with these shenanigans. There are a few good ones, but they are in the minority.) The irony would be if, after years of this, some of them suddenly get conscientious about it in 2024, with most of the board up for reelection this Fall. Sorry, too late. We needed them to do their jobs throughout their tenure, not just at the end of their term when there’s an election coming up. I’ve been in the sport since 1976, and very active with USATT since the early 1980s, and it’s been a long time since I’ve seen USATT leadership as arrogant as they are now. I’d write more, but what’s the point? We can’t do anything about most of this until the elections this Fall. (However, there is at least one big USATT issue that I will be getting involved in by mid-February. More on that when the time comes. There’s a reason I want to wait a few more weeks on this one, as I’ll explain at the time.)

  • Tables 2-4 were feature tables, with lots of big matches. But they were against the wall, so spectators could only watch from one side. That side was a corridor between tables, with another line of tables on the other side, so the corridor was always completely jammed. Not nearly enough room for spectators. I hope they fix this problem next time.
  • Summer Xia got a 1051 rating from playing one tournament, 13 months before the US Open, where he played just three matches. At the US Open, in the adult rating events, he won U1200, U1300, U1400, U1500, and U1600. He came out rated 2279. Isn’t it time they fix this problem and require a of minimum number of tournament matches to be eligible, and maximum time without playing tournaments to stay eligible? He came out with an inflated rating of 2279. He played 46 matches (!), and his best win was deuce in the fifth against a 2090 player; his next best win was against a player rated 1771. He lost to players rated 1787, 1945, and 2023. Based on that, he probably should be rated around 1950 or so. (Perhaps over 2000, since he probably played some matches exhausted!) But the ratings shot him up way too much. Again, shouldn’t they fix this problem? It’s just a matter of adjusting the algorithm.
  • There’s also the case of Kyle Lam, who in the junior events won U1000, 1200, 1400, and 1600 juniors, and U3100 Doubles. He’d played eleven tournaments before the Open, so that wasn’t the problem. The problem was the US Open used early cutoffs for rating events, and so his official rating for the tournament coming in was 917. But on Nov. 11, he played a tournament and went from 917 to 1571, and on Dec. 2-3, he played a tournament where he went from 1571 to 1711. (After the Open he was 1701.) And so a 1700+ player was playing in Under 1000 and above events! He probably was rated 917 when he entered the tournament, and so his entry was understandable – but with such rating gains before the tournament, there should be an automatic move to higher rating events, to make things fair for others. At the very least, it should be looked at to see what can be done.

    This reminds me of my first year, when I played the Philadelphia Open in fall of 1976, coming in with a rating of 1080. I entered in rating events every 100 points from U1100 to U2000. After seeing me beat several 1500 players with ease – my level after a summer of practice was around 1700 – the tournament director, Herb Vichnin, decided to assign me an adjusted rating of 1500, and took me out of U1100, U1200, U1300, U1400, and U1500. I was very angry – but still managed to win I think U1600 and U1700, as well as Handicap Singles, where you spot points based on your rating – and I not only won with the 1500 rating, I beat 1900+ Vichnin in the event!

$36,600 Ping Pong World Cup
The Ping Pong World Cup (Sponsored by Mecano Sports, presented by Caliente.mx, sanctioned by ICTTF, directed by Steve Claflin.) was held Jan. 4-6 in Mexico City. This is for Classic events – hardbat, sandpaper, and woodbat. I was there to do coverage (17 articles!), and so only played one event, over 55 Hardbat. (Didn’t play well, perhaps because of the thin air at 7,300+ altitude that I never got used to, or perhaps from spending way too much time doing coverage and writing. Lost in quarterfinals.) I wrote a preview article (see below), and sent it to USATT, but they chose not to put it in their news section. Complete results are both at the Ping Pong World Cup home page and at Omnipong. If you go to the “More” section on the home page, and click on either Thu, Fri, or Sat Event, you’ll get a link for streaming. Here are all 17 articles I wrote about the 2024 Ping Pong World Cup.

  1. $36,000 Mecano Sports Ping Pong World Cup – PREVIEW
  2. Mike Babuin and the US Classic Association
  3. Micky “Miky” Huidobro – Rocking with Pong
  4. ICTTF and the Internationalization of Ping Pong
  5. Sandpaper Women at the Ping Pong World Cup
  6. Sandpaper Seniors at the Ping Pong World Cup
  7. Sandpaper Students at the Ping Pong World Cup
  8. Sandpaper Singles to the Semifinals at the Ping Pong World Cup
  9. Hardbat Women at the Ping Pong World Cup
  10. Hardbat Seniors at the Ping Pong World Cup
  11. Hardbat Students at the Ping Pong World Cup
  12. Hardbat Singles to the Semifinals at the Ping Pong World Cup
  13. Player’s Choice Singles at the Ping Pong World Cup
  14. Hardbat Singles at the Ping Pong World Cup
  15. Sandpaper Singles at the Ping Pong World Cup
  16. Bare Wood Singles at the Ping Pong World Cup
  17. Interview with Under 23 Sandpaper Champion Ethan Walsh

Afterwards I did three days of sightseeing. (Uber and GPS both work perfectly there.) I’d already done a two-week tour of Mexico in August, 2022, including four days in Mexico City, so I’d already seen most of the major sites. This time around I visited:

  • Museo del Templo Mayor and Zócalo (which I also visited in 2022)
  • Monument to the Revolution
  • National Museum of the Revolution
  • National Museum of San Carlos
  • Mercado De Artesanias La Ciudadela, a huge and famous Flea Market (I bought up a storm)
  • Angel of Independence
  • Tour of the Chapultepec Castle & Anthropology Museum
  • Mexico City Zoo in Chapultepec

While visiting the Angel of Independence, I came upon a huge protest about Palestinian rights and Gaza. I estimated over 2,000 people, most Mexican, with speeches and large numbers of Palestinian flags. They were in front of some government building, and someone had splashed red paint on the doorways and windows. Then they marched down the street.

Finally, here’s the Ping Pong Song (3:53), by the famous Mexican rock star Micky “Miky” Huidobro (see profile above, third article), who is a sandpaper player (1755 sandpaper rating) and helped set up and run the tournament. The song is in Spanish – but you can hear the bouncing ball and the words, “Ping Pong.”

US World Team Trials
They were held Jan. 12-14 in Corpus Christi, TX. Here are complete results, care of Stadium TT. Congrats to the top five men and women who made the team! (Strangely, a number of top players did not take part, especially top women, such as  Lily Zhang, Amy Wang, Sally Moyland, and Rachel Sung.)

Men

  1. Nikhil Kumar
  2. Nandan Naresh
  3. Sid Naresh
  4. Jishan Liang
  5. Kai Zhang

Women

  1. Tiffany Ke
  2. Jessica Reyes-Lai
  3. Kayla Goodwin
  4. Emily Tan
  5. Sarah Jalli

Here are USATT news items on the World Team Trials.

WTT Feeder Corpus Christi 2024
The event started yesterday, Jan. 15-18 in Corpus Christi, TX. Here’s the WTT home page for the event.

Major League Table Tennis
Follow the action on their home page. See their latest news item, Major League Table Tennis Announces Opening Date for 2024-25 Draft Registration. On a side note, there is usually good coverage at Major Pong Head, but their first item right now is an obvious joke (2.5 months too early for April Fool’s Day), about a Swedish woman in the league, Matilda Ekholm, who they claim just signed a three-year contract with the Florida Marlins as a flame-throwing reliever.

Books I Read in 2023
I read about a book a week. I used to read even more! Here are the Books I Read in 2023. I plan to do a review next week of “The Ping Pong Player and the Professor,” by Richard Sosis, which was really good.

PingSkills
Here are all of their free Tutorials.

Table Tennis Skills Slow-Motion Analysis
Here’s an entire thread with numerous links at the My Table Tennis forum.

How To Move for ALL 3rd & 4th Ball Attacks
Here’s the video (16:16) from Seth Pech.

Talkin Smash by JOOLA Ep7: The Physical and Mental Comeback from Injury | Sophia Klee
Here’s the video (34:50) from Matt Hetherington.

Racket Insight's Quiz of the Year 2023
Here’s the quiz from Racket Insight!

Never-Ending Rally
Here’s the video (19 sec)!

News from All Over
Since I haven't blogged since Dec. 11 due to traveling (US Open near LA, Christmas in SF, and nine days in Mexico City), rather than try to list every interesting article, here are links to some of the main news and coaching pages that have been active in that time, and you can pick and choose.

There’s No Crying in Table Tennis
Here’s where you can buy the shirt at Amazon. This is a takeoff of the famous Tom Hanks line from “A Game of Your Own,” where after he berates a woman player, he says, “There’s no crying in baseball!” Ironically, I have an ongoing joke with the younger kids in our table tennis classes where I’ll tell them, “There’s no smiling in table tennis!”, which of course leads to the opposite. “C’mon, let me see grim faces!” I’ll call out, to no avail. (We have a few kids in our club who I might buy this shirt for!)

61 Ping Pong Jokes & Memes to Impress Your Friends
Here they are, from Ping Pong Ruler.

Elephant Triple-Paddle Pong
Here’s the cartoon! (Here’s the non-Facebook version.) The “Herzlichen Glückwunsch!” is just German for Congratulations!

New from Adam Bobrow!

New from Pongfinity!

***
Send us your own coaching news!

Next Blog: January 15
I’ll be out of town Dec. 15-27 for the US Open and then Christmas, and again Jan. 2-10 for the $36,600 Ping Pong World Cup in Mexico City (plus some sightseeing afterwards). So next blog will be Monday, Jan. 15. There will be a Tip of the Week on Monday, Dec. 18, and Monday Jan. 8. Have a great holiday season!

Tips of the Week
Dec. 11: Why Aren't You Pushing Heavy?
Dec. 18: Are You Too Backhand Oriented?

“Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers” Featured in Table Tennis England
Here’s the article. “If you are looking for a stocking filler for a table tennis fanatic, then a book on tactics by a leading coach may be right up their street.” (That’s Stanley Hsu I’m coaching in the picture they used.) Here’s where you can buy the book on Amazon – and note the 206 reviews and ratings! Get your order for that or any of my other books in today! (Makes a great Christmas present – I get almost as many sales in November and December as the rest of the year combined.) Meanwhile, I’ve finished writing the primary text for my next book, “Table Tennis Doubles for Champions.” I still have to arrange some photo sequences and graphics, which I’ll probably do in January, and then do writeups of those sequences.

Weekend Coaching and a Funny Conversation with an Eight-Year-Old on Looping
It was a slow weekend – I only coached in two group sessions. In the first, the focus was on attacking backspin. I fed multiball for 90 minutes. It’s always interesting to watch how kids pick things up differently. Many are natural mimics and have nice technique almost from the start. Others get into a bad groove and you spend most of your time trying to fix their technique up. I had a fascinating discussion on looping with an eight-year-old girl I hadn’t fed backspin to before.

  • Larry: “Do you know how to loop?”
  • Girl: “What’s a loop?”
  • Larry: It’s a way to attack against backspin.”
  • Girl: “What’s a backspin?”
  • Larry: “That’s when the ball moves like this.” (I demonstrated.)
  • Girl: “That’s a push spin.”
  • Larry: “A push is a backspin against backspin. Do you know how to topspin against a backspin?”
  • Girl: “You mean this?” (She shadow-practices a perfect forehand loop.)
  • Larry: “Exactly! Let’s try looping against backspin now.” (I feed her backspin balls and she loops every one of them perfectly. She’s been doing this for months with her coach but didn’t know what it was called.)

The next kid up didn’t want to move his feet or body, would just drop his arm without dropping his shoulder and, using just his arm, kept putting the ball into the net. I decided my project for the day was to fix up his loop. We went through many baskets of balls, rotating between him and two others – one on ball pickup, one practicing serves – but by the end of the session he was doing it pretty well.

In the other session I spent over an hour as a practice partner, putting them through numerous footwork drills. After the session was done, I went off to the side and practiced my doubles serves, in preparation for playing Over 60 Men’s Doubles at the US Open, and then a 30-minute practice session with Kosta Nikopoulos and his big two-winged looping game.

US Open
I leave for the US Open this Friday, Dec. 15. This will be my 39th US Open in a row – I’ve been to every US Open and Nationals starting in 1984, and several before that, going back to the 1976 US Open. (It would be 40 in a row except they skipped 2020 due to Covid.) In recent decades I’ve mostly coached and played hardbat events on the side, though I’m normally a sponge player. However, our local MDTTC juniors mostly go to the US Nationals in July and North American Teams in November, and we only have two of them at the US Open this year. Since MDTTC Wang Qingliang is also going and will be coaching them, I’ll mostly be just playing this year. I’m in five events:

  • Over 60 Men’s Doubles with Stephen Yeh. We’re seeded second. I was a little leery of playing this event as I’m a bit rusty when it comes to match play, especially when it comes to receive. But doubles serves are a bit simpler, and I practiced my flipping a bit to prepare, as well as practicing my doubles serves.
  • Hardbat Doubles with Bin Hai Chu. We’re the top seeds. I’ve won this event 14 times with four different partners, but it gets harder every year since I’m older. This is my first time playing with Bin. But hardbat is one of the few events where older players can sometimes compete a little more closely with younger players.
  • Over 40 Hardbat. I’m top seed and have won the event eight times.
  • Over 60 Hardbat. I’m second seed, which is ironic because I’m top seed in Over 40 Hardbat. But that’s because Jian Zhuang isn’t in Over 40 Hardbat. (He’s in lots of senior events with regular sponge.)
  • Hardbat Singles. I’m seeded seventh. I’ve won the event two times, but that was a while back when I was faster. But who knows – I can dream of winning again, right? When faced with the overwhelming power of my forehand, maybe my opponents will collapse in fear.

SafeSport
I just took the annual SafeSport refresher course, required of all USATT coaches and other officials or leaders. The course is called “SafeSport Trained - USA Table Tennis.” It says to allot 90 minutes. I’m a professional writer and read hours every day, and I am well above average in reading speed and comprehension. And yet it took me 2 hours 26 minutes to complete the course, or 146 minutes, which is a LOT more than 90 minutes. There were 107 segments (!), including 16 videos that take up close to 40 minutes by themselves. There are three tests, which I aced – 6/6, 6/6, and 7/7. Only one question had me scratching my head, but I figured it out. (It is open book, so I just Googled it.) I also think there was a lot of useless material. I learned that hitting, slapping, and kicking an athlete are physical abuse, and that calling players names is verbal abuse. Really? Lots of things like that. I wish they’d make it a lot shorter and simpler, with an emphasis on looking things up on their webpages when there’s a potential problem rather than memorizing all the problems. But we’re in a country where I’ve seen warning labels that say, “Do not eat this label.” But seriously, if the point was to educate coaches on when to take action when they suspect abuse, the course would be better if it were about 25% as long, with the focus almost entirely on recognizing possible abuse (which mostly comes under the category of “duh!”), and then looking up what to do.

Major League Table Tennis

Butterfly Training Tips

Mastering the Short Game in High Level Table Tennis
Here’s the article by Zheng Pu.

Patience, Placement and Pressure
Here’s the article by Tom Lodziak.

Short Pips vs Long Pips – What Are The Similarities and Differences, and Which Should I Play With?
Here’s the article at Racket Insight by Xinyu.

Talkin' Smash Podcast by JOOLA Ep6: The Atmosphere at Live Table Tennis Events with Ryan Willard
Here’s the video (36:30) from Matt Hetherington.

New from PongSpace

New from PingSunday/EmRatThich

New from TT Crunch

Seth Pech vs Haase Konrad + Backhand Flip BONUS TIP
Here’s the video (11:36) from Seth Pech, with his usual comments and analysis.

Improve Topspin vs. Topspin
Here’s the video (2:38) from Pingispågarna.

The Unreturnable Table Tennis Serve
Here’s the video (7:27) from Nick Rudd Table Tennis.

Ma Long and Fan Zhendong Training
Here’s the video (70 sec) from Taco Backhand.

Ask the Coach
Here are the latest questions from PingSkills.

World Youth Championship’s Trip
Here’s the article by Sally Moyland

NCTT Top 25 List
Here’s the article from NCTTA.

New from Steve Hopkins/Butterfly

New from ITTF

Ping Pong Evolution Shirt
Isn’t it time you got one?

Banned Ping Pong Technique
Here’s the video (5 sec) – headhunting!

I Challenged a World #1 - Xu Xin
Here’s the video (12:23) from Adam Bobrow!

***
Send us your own coaching news!

Tip of the Week
Fake-Outs.

USA Table Tennis Election
This is it, the final week for USATT members to vote – voting ends at 7PM Eastern time on Friday, Dec. 8. If you don’t vote, you cannot gripe about ANYTHING that USATT does for the rest of posterity. (Worse, you may be fined 100 rating points.) On Monday, Nov. 6, at 11AM eastern time, if you were a USATT member for at least the previous 60 days and are age 18 or over, you should have received the election email. Open it and VOTE!!!

I blogged about this on November 6, 2023 and November 13, 2023. There are five candidates running. While all may be excellent candidates, I strongly urge you to vote for Dennis Taylor. Here is his Campaign Flyer, which gives you his background and why he’s running. I’ve known and worked with him for 25 years. He’s a former board member, chaired the High Performance Committee, was on or advisor to eleven committees, was USATT secretary and took minutes for over one hundred USATT board meetings, and was the pro bono USATT lawyer for 18 years. He helped me run the Eastern Open one year and was a student in my adult training sessions for years at MDTTC. He is a rock of integrity and will bring that, experience, and vision to our sport. Some of the others running may be fine candidates as well, but none stand out for me as Dennis.

The election is being run by YesElections, which appears to be fair.

Weekend Coaching
I coached in three group junior sessions over the weekend, plus a one-hour session with Navin Kumar. With the juniors, this gets repetitive, but yes, the focus was on fundamentals, as well as on fundamentals, and we also worked on fundamentals when we weren’t working on fundamentals.

I worked with a number of them on recovering from wide-angle shots. It’s fundamental (though many players and even coaches forget this) to follow through back into position. That means if you play a forehand from the wide forehand, you don’t just finish there; you follow through back into position, i.e. to your left if you are a righty. If you play a forehand from the backhand side, you don’t just finish there; you follow through back into position, i.e. to your right if you are a righty. When players play a forehand from the backhand side and have trouble recovering against a block to the wide forehand, it’s rarely because they are too slow; it’s because of their poor recovery from the previous shot.

I did multiball one entire session, often two players at a time, with a third doing ball pickup and a fourth practicing serves, with the players rotating every two minutes. One of my favorite drills is alternate backspin and topspin, where player has to adjust to each, looping the first, and (depending on level and style) looping or smashing the second. For the two players, I had a range of drills, and it allowed to players to practice and move almost continuously. Two examples (all righties):

  • Player A stands on forehand side. I feed a forehand, a backhand, and a forehand in rapid succession as player moves to hit each shot. Player B starts on backhand side, a few feet back so Player A has room to hit backhand. As Player A moves to hit his third shot (a forehand), Player B moves in, and he gets backhand, forehand, backhand. Then he steps back, and we repeat with Player A’s forehand, backhand, forehand. When we rotate, Player A becomes Player B; Player B moves to ball pickup; Ball Pickup player moves to servers, and Server becomes Player A.
  • Player A and B line up on backhand side. Player A does the “2-1” drill – a backhand, a forehand from backhand side, then moves to play a forehand from the forehand side. Then Player A circles around as Player B does the drill. Then it’s Player A’s turn again.  

With Navin, we did a lot of work on forehand smash, and on attacking with his backhand long pips. There are two fundamental ways to attack with the long pips, mostly against backspin. (You can also attack against no-spin and topspin, but it’s trickier, especially since he plays with no sponge under the pips.) You can attack with a conventional backhand drive. Or you can do a quick, off-the-bounce “bump,” essentially a quick and aggressive block. We also did a bunch of down-the-line work. I also challenged him with my forehand attack (my strength) against his backhand block (his strength) drill, where I really went after him at full power. It was good practice for me as well!

CAS Arbitrator Confirms Table Tennis Athlete Kanak Jha Violated Provisional Suspension
I feel really bad about posting this one, but it is major news. I’ve known Kanak since he was a kid, have coached against him numerous times (always in friendly fashion), and even taught him my “blow the ball in the air” trick when he was about ten. Alas, they say he violated his suspension by taking part in an official TT activity way back on Dec. 14, 2022, and so his suspension, which was supposed to end on Dec. 1, 2023 (three days ago) has been extended to March 15, 2024. I am looking forward to seeing him back in action.

Major League Table Tennis

Butterfly Training Tips

5 Table Tennis MISTAKES and How to Fix Them - Important for ALL Players
Here’s the video (5:54) from Nick Rudd.

Incredible Serve Tactics!!
Here’s the video (3:34) from Pingispågarna.

World’s BEST Table Tennis Server vs TTD Team!
Here’s the video (5:29) from Table Tennis Daily.

How to Properly Chop Block
Here’s the video (2:48) from PongSpace. “Women's WR# 13 Yang Xiaoxin teaches you how to properly chop block with long pips on the backhand.”

New from Ti Long

New from PingSunday/EmRatThich

Ask the Coach
Here are the latest questions from PingSkills.

Enjoy Gameplay of World Number One
Here’s the video (1.25) featuring Fan Zhendong from Taco Backhand.

The Best Rallies Of Tibor Klampar | Hungarian Legend
Here’s the video (9:53). In the mid-1970s, he was the first of the great close-to-table backhand topspinners and the first to use speed glue – a bicycle glue that made the sponge much bouncier and spinnier. He was two-time World Doubles Champion (with Jonyer), was one of the three Hungarians who won the 1979 World Team title over the Chinese (along with Jonyer and Gergely), and was generally ranked in the top five or so for a decade – I think he reached #2.

New from Steve Hopkins/Butterfly

From Their Illinois Basement to the World, Brothers Sid and Nandan Naresh Are Rising Stars in Table Tennis
Here’s the news item from Oct. 30 from TeamUSA, the Olympic news page. 

New from USATT

New from ITTF
Note the item on Henry Kissinger. I met and talked to him once at one of the Ping-Pong Diplomacy anniversaries. Like many, I have mixed feelings on him. His understanding of international situations and foreign leaders made him a valuable advisor, but his Realpolitic recommendations were often problematic. 

Scary Ping-Pong Balls
Here they are!

We All Know Someone Like This
Here’s the video (40 sec) of the typical Slow Server.

I Grew Up Playing Ping-Pong
Here’s the standup segment (60 sec) by comedian Jimmy O Yang!

***
Send us your own coaching news!

Tip of the Week
Forcing or Adjusting Your Game.

North American Teams
I just completed another North American Teams, my 47th in a row. (It would be 48 except they skipped 2020 because of Covid.) My first one was in 1976, where I played with Mike Shapiro and Jackie Heyman. I was a player for most of those years, then a player/coach, but in modern times I’ve only been coaching. Let’s see, 47 Teams, three days each, that’s 141 days at the Teams! (Almost five months.)

This year I think I set two records that will never be broken. Over those three days I coached 102 matches, going 61-41 in all. Has anyone every coached that many matches in a tournament? I coached 46 matches on Saturday, which has got to be a record for one day. On that day I coached from 8AM until 11:40PM, even eating meals while coaching. In several of them I coached two matches at the same time. (I normally only do that with lower-rated teams, where coaching is a bit simpler.) When one team finished a team match, I’d move to another. On Friday and Sunday I coached 28 matches each day.

There were 1096 players on 283 teams, with 166 tables. Here are complete results. As usual, I didn’t see any of the big matches as I was on the back tables coaching our junior teams. The great news was that all of the tables had rubberized flooring – no more playing on concrete. Playing on concrete hurts my knees, and will likely hurt yours as well if you do it a lot. Rubberized flooring also gives better footing, so the level of play is higher. As usual, a big thanks to the JOOLA crew and staff for running the event.

We had 47 players on 13 Maryland Table Tennis Center (MDTTC) junior teams, with seven coaches: me, Wang Qingliang, Cheng Yinghua, Jack Huang, Lidney Castro, Bruno Ventura Dos Anjos, and Wang Cheng. (Not all the coaches were available at all times, so we usually had 5-6 coaches at work.) Khaleel Asgarali from the Washington DC TTC also helped out with some of our teams. There was a time when I organized much of the MDTTC coaching, but I’m retired from that and so Coach Wang did the scheduling of coaches. We have an online spreadsheet we use, where the parents and team captains put in who they are playing as soon as the schedule comes up, and then Wang puts in the coaching assignments, rotating so each team gets a coach as often as possible. The kids did really well this year – I’ll go out on a limb and predict that they will average over 100 points each in rating gains.

Four MDTTC teams won medals in the 17 divisions:

  • MDTTC 3 (AJ Salatov, Justin Liu, Adam Fan) won Division 8.
  • MDTTC 10 (Michael Zhang, Leo Li, Michael Meng, and Aarush Sharma) won Division 15.
  • MDTTC 11 (Yani Morse-Achtenberg, Audrey Liu, Agastya Brahmandam, Batra Aarav) made the semifinals of Division 15, losing a close 5-4 battle, or it would have been an all MDTTC final.
  • MDTTC 2 (Feng Xue, Jonathan Cai, Stephanie Zhang, William Wu) made the semifinals of Division 4, also losing a close 5-4.

The funniest moments of the tournament:

  • A kid called a timeout so he could tie his shoes.
  • While coaching one team, after coaching continuously all morning, I mentioned that I could use a Dr Pepper. Within minutes various parents had given me five of them.
  • In game two of a match, my player got frustrated because nothing felt right, and his opponent also seemed to be having trouble – and then they realized they were using each other’s paddles.

Here are some of the best team names:

Here are some coaching highlights.

  • I think the theme of the tournament in the matches I coached was “Attack the elbow.” Taller players especially have trouble covering their middle – the midpoint between forehand and backhand, normally around the elbow. Shorter players have more trouble covering the corners. Since I was coaching kids and many of their opponents were adults or taller kids, that meant going after their elbows, sometime over and over, other times to move the opponent out of position as they cover the middle with forehand or backhand, thereby opening a corner to attack. The other benefit is that by going to the middle, it cuts off the angles the opponent can play, which means they couldn’t effectively go after the wide corners as they’d like to do when playing kids. This led to a number of wins. In one match, the kid I was coaching lost the first two games badly against a tall girl who was rated much higher. I told him to put an X on her playing elbow and just go after it relentlessly. He won the next three games and the match.
  • We won a lot of points with well-placed, heavy pushes, especially against opposing junior players. The key words are well-placed and heavy. Just pushing over and over to keep the ball in play is a bad habit, but if you do something with the push, such as placing it and pushing heavy, it becomes more effective while also developing a valuable weapon even at higher levels. (Yes, a well-placed heavy push works at higher levels as long as it’s not overdone.)
  • The kids had ongoing lessons on playing “the three spots” – often I’d quiz them on what the three spots were, and almost all knew it meant the wide corners and middle (playing elbow). They learned when to play all three, and when to mostly go over two of them.
  • Another common theme was to take out the opponent’s forehand by returning serves very wide to the backhand. They are learning that a well-placed, consistent receive is better than a more aggressive but less consistent or poorly placed one. It’s all about ball control.
  • Another thing I stressed with the kids is that if you have a game plan, then you are less likely to be nervous. Nervousness comes from uncertainty. If you know, for example, that you are going to go after the opponent’s elbow every chance, that simplifies things and takes out much of the uncertainty. (This will be a future Tip of the Week.)
  • Another issue I stressed was that the primary purpose of the serve is to set up your attack. That means that in most cases, unless the opponent does something to stop it, you should follow your serve with an attack 100% of the time.
  • Many of our players struggled against forehand tomahawk serves to the wide forehand. It became an in-tournament lesson on how to do so. Here’s my Tip on Returning the Tomahawk Serve and Lefty Pendulum Serve.
  • In the lower divisions, many of our younger players and opponents served illegally, mostly because the hand tossing the ball went under the table when they served. This is because the table is higher to them, and so trying to keep the ball above the table when throwing it up is tricky at first. They don’t really get any advantage directly from serving this way, but they do need to learn to serve legally.

USA Table Tennis Election
I blogged about this on November 6, 2023 and November 13, 2023. There are five candidates running. While all may be excellent candidates, I urge you to vote for Dennis Taylor. The election closes on Dec. 8, so it’s time to do your patriotic duty to USATT (if you are a USATT member) and VOTE!!!

Holiday Shopping – Buy My Books!
Now that Thanksgiving is over, it’s time to do some serious Christmas, Hanukkah, and other holidays gift-buying – time to buy my table tennis books! (But feel free to buy my science fiction ones as well.) Here’s a listing with descriptions of each. Below are direct links to the table tennis books. 

You can also buy a few from 5-time US Men’s Singles Champion Dan Seemiller!

World Youth Championships
Here’s the ITTF home page for the event taking place right now, Nov. 26 – Dec. 3, in Nova Gorica, Slovenia. Here’s where you can find Results. Here is TeamUSA in Early Action by Steve Hopkins.

Major League Table Tennis

Butterfly Training Tips

New from PingSunday/EmRatThich
22 new videos this past week!

New from Ti Long

New from PongSpace/International Referee Linda Leaf

Ask the Coach
Here are the latest questions from PingSkills.

Talkin' Smash Podcast by JOOLA Ep5: Overcoming Challenge in Serve Receive
Here’s the video (24:37) with Matt Hetherington and Lily Zhang.

Tahl Leibovitz, Jenson Van Emburgh, and Ian Seidenfeld Book Tickets to Paris Paralympics
Here’s the USATT article by Barbara Wei.

ITTF General News

ITTF Chengdu Previews (on the ITTF Mixed Team World Cup, Dec. 4-10 in Chengdu, CHN)

Mengel Surprise Winner in Portugal
Here’s the article by Steve Hopkins.

Coloradans with Neurodegenerative Diseases Turn to Pingpong for Rehabilitation
Here’s the article from the Denver Post. “Scientists are paying attention.” “NeuroPong program, led by founder and CEO Antonino Barbera, marries medicine with a love of table tennis.”

It’s Raining Ping-Pong Balls
Here’s the picture from Steve Rowe/Aerobic Table Tennis! (Here’s the non-Facebook version.)

Are You a Ping Pong Wizard?
Here’s where you can buy the shirt at Amazon! Here’s another version.

You’ve Seen Scott Pilgrim Takes Off, Now Watch These Other Great Science Saru Anime
Here’s the article – see segment on Ping Pong the Animation.

Retirement Gets Ping-Ponged
Here’s the cartoon!

FUNNIEST Way to Practise TABLE TENNIS!
Here’s the video (7:24) from Pingispågarna – Card Pong!

World's Smallest Ping Pong Table
Here’s the video (8:02) from Pongfinity!

***
Send us your own coaching news!