Butterfly Online


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

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

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

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

October 21, 2016

Notes from Thailand by Richard McAfee
[Richard is a USATT National Coach and Hall of Famer, and an ITTF Coaching Course Conductor. Think of this as a "guest column." I was going to blog about "Some Funny Coaching Incidents," but decided to move that to the end of the blog and feature this instead.]

While recently in Thailand, I had the opportunity to run a training camp for the Thai National Junior/Cadet Teams and to also watch 3 days of the Asian Junior and Cadet Championships. As I knew many players and coaches, I was able to spend a lot of time in the training area. This was very interesting as this tournament highlights the best prospects from Asia and is also a look at how each country is preparing the next generation of players. I got the chance to talk to many of the coaches about how they are preparing their next generation of players and there are some definite trends

  • Emphasis is going to be on staying close to the table but with more power rather than time pressure (more balls played at the top of the bounce).
  • More physical training is being added during the year as a result of the demands of the new ball.
  • Against the opponent's first opening topspin, more blocking and less counter-topspin, the blocks tend to be either power blocks or off-speed. Counter-topspins are then played against the opponent's weaker second topspin. Not using counter-topspin as often against the first attack is a result of the unpredictability of the bounce of the new plastic balls. It is easier to block them.
  • The backhand banana flips are being played even more often and with even more speed.
  • Lots of strawberry backhand flips being played in the girl’s game but not in the boys.
  • The next generation of Japanese boys will have more power and stay closer to the table than the current national team.
  • The best Junior Male I saw was a left-handed Korean boy who had "Waldner" hands with Korean power. Korea defeated China in the Boys Team Final.

In comparing the skill set of the top Asian Players with what I saw at our July Super-Camp, the standout difference was in the serve and receive game. The top Asian Teams were much more advanced in both the quality of the serve and also the tactical use of their serves.

I thought that I would pass the above observations on to our group. I would also suggest that the main theme for the next Super-Camp be, "Serve and Serve Return."

One final observation regarding the Chinese Junior and Cadet Teams. It seems that while China sends a good competitive team to these events, they normally don't send their top athletes. Which leads to the question, "why do they attend"? While they hold-back their best players, they do send their top developmental and planning coaches who can be seen studying the top players from other countries. China is very interested in knowing what is coming up in the pipe-line for the other countries but doesn't want to let out to much information regarding their next generation.

The Importance of Match Practice in Table Tennis
Here's the new coaching article from Matt Hetherington.

Table Tennis University
You can still enroll for free!

USATT Tournament Website and Insider Feature
Here's the USATT news item, and a way to promote your tournaments. Speaking of which…

Butterfly MDTTC October Open
The MDTTC October Open is tomorrow (Saturday) at MDTTC in Gaithersburg, Maryland – don't miss it! I'm running it. Deadline to enter is 5PM today, though I'll likely take them until 7:30PM, when the MDTTC Friday night league starts. Events include Open, U2350, U2000, U1700, U1350, Over 50, and Under 15, with over $1300 in prize money.

2016 U.S. Open
Don't forget to enter!

Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers – Still Selling Big!
Here's a screen image I took a couple days ago, where the paperback and kindle versions hold the #1 and #2 top-selling table tennis spots at Amazon, with Table Tennis Tips at #8. (I'm not sure why they separate the print and kindle versions, since either one is a sale of the same book.)

These rankings are volatile and often change quite a bit each day. For example, this morning Revelations of a Table Tennis Champion (by Dan Seemiller) sold two copies of the kindle version, and that was enough to temporarily move it into the #1 position – despite being out of the top ten as of yesterday! (How do I know it sold two copies this morning? I created the book for Dan at createspace.com, and it allows me to track sales for both print and kindle. It's possible there were other sales not yet reported.) So thanks a lot, Dan, for knocking my Tactics book down to #2 – but I'll be watching sales closely today! (Readers, just buy both, okay?)

Table Tennis Equipment for Sale . . . 1940s
Here's the price list from Table Tennis Inc. (Lou Pagliaro) – as noted by Barry Meisel Table Tennis, "bats complete with rubber from 90 cents, real celluloid balls 144 from $6.50 and tables from $33." (Here's the non-Facebook version.) I remember when I started out in 1976 we could still buy the best table tennis sponge – Sriver and Mark V – for $5. Now a sheet of the best sponge is about $75. And I still look at modern table tennis balls with amazement – how can they cost $3 each? That's more than the average tennis ball!

USATT Insider
Here's the most recent issue, which came out on Wednesday.

Creating Spooky Halloween Ghost Lights from Ping-Pong Balls
Here's the video (43 sec).

Table Table Tennis?
Here's the video (42 sec) of a child playing table tennis while kneeling on the table – and he's pretty good!

Some Funny Coaching Incidents

  • I was recently coaching on the table adjacent to our table tennis robot. An elderly player was using the robot. It ran out of balls, so he began picking up balls using one of our Butterfly Ball Amigo Nets. However, he forgot to turn off the robot feed. As I watched, he put a netful of balls into the robot's ball catching net, then went to pick up more – but he didn't notice it shooting them out. So by the time he returned with more balls, all the balls he'd put in were gone, but again he didn't notice as he poured more balls into the net, and went back to picking them up as balls continued to shoot out. I finally walked over and pointed out the problem.
  • I wonder if I'm the only coach to get into a spirited debate (mostly while picking up balls) with a student who insisted peanut butter was the worst thing ever invented? The kid hated peanut butter, and almost went poetic as he listed the evils of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, both of which I absolutely love.
  • This is a little further back, but I don't think I've ever blogged about this one. Way back in the early 1980s I was the University of Maryland Intramural Singles and Doubles Champion for four years in a row. After winning the doubles three years in a row, I tried something interesting – I paired up with the worst player in my dormitory, a player who could barely keep the ball on the table. (For perspective, he's the guy I once beat with an ice cube as a racket, and also with my driver's license.) I forget his name, but he had an incredible resemblance to William Shatner (i.e. Captain Kirk). We managed to eke out the title, beating a pair of 1500 players in the final. Afterwards, he wore his Intramural medal and t-shirt everywhere – and constantly told people he'd won it for wrestling! We had some heated discussions about this.

Mostly Non-Table Tennis: Capclave Book Signing Picture
Here's a picture of me getting set for book signing at the Capclave Science Fiction Convention on Saturday, Oct. 7. See the nice banner on the right about my novel Campaign 2100: Game of Scorpions! Also included on the table are my other four science fiction/fantasy books: Pings and Pongs (short story collection), More Pings and Pongs (another short story collection), The Spirit of Pong (fantasy table tennis novel!), Sorcerers in Space (humorous fantasy novel), and of course Campaign 2100: Game of Scorpions, the main one I'm promoting. As noted in previous blogs, Campaign 2100 has a number of table tennis scenes as one of the main characters is a professional table tennis player who ends up running a worldwide campaign for president.

Send us your own coaching news!

October 20, 2016

No Regular Blog Today
Like all red-blooded, apple pie-eating, determined-to-beat-the-Chinese-in-ping-pong-someday Americans, I was up late last night watching the debate and the commentary afterwards, and so got a late start today. And now I have a non-table tennis writing project I need to finish before the weekend, and so no blog today. I'll be back tomorrow. Meanwhile, we now have the answer to the age-old question that voters have been asking since the election campaign began – who would win in table tennis between Clinton and Trump? According to this Washington Post article on Monday about Clinton, "In eighth grade, she learned to square dance, became a lifeguard, played plenty of table tennis." (Here's the famous picture of her playing husband Bill.) Oh, and here's a New Cats and Table Tennis Compilation (2:20)! 

October 19, 2016

Daniel's Inside-out Looping
I had a great session with 12-year-old Daniel yesterday. He's about 1700, but he's still struggling to be aggressive in games – he much prefers fishing and lobbing, and so usually lets his opponent attack first. He simply has zero confidence in his looping game. I've been working with him on this for months. In games he often will go for all-out smashes (forehand and backhand), but looping is just an occasional variation for him. He wins mostly by pushing, blocking, sudden smashes, and fishing & lobbing.

Yesterday might have been a breakthrough. When he forehand loops, he tends to bring his arm across his body, dissipating his power and causing occasional arm problems because of the strain it puts on his arm. Periodically we've fixed the problem, but then he falls back into the old habit. But yesterday I noticed something – when he loops inside-out to my backhand, the stroke is much smoother and technically far better. So I had him practice his inside-out loop for a time. Then I had him set up to do an inside-out loop to my backhand – but had him point to where the ball was going to go. Then I had him rotate his body so that his finger pointed crosscourt, i.e. essentially an inside-out forehand loop but crosscourt. Suddenly his technique was just right – though he said it felt funny. We spent about 60 minutes of our 90-minute session working on this with various drills, with me constantly harping on him to "loop inside-out to my forehand." Now he has that Easy Power I'm always talking about!

The problem really is two-fold. He has to both overcome the technical issues, and there's that zero confidence in looping problem, which doesn't really correlate, since he's pretty good doing it in practice. (He has a very nice backhand loop as well, which he also rarely uses in matches. In drills, he can backhand loop over and over to my backhand block.) Anyway, we'll keep working at it. With his ball control – he may be the best 12-year-old lobber in the country – he has potential if he can only develop an equally good looping game and the confidence to use it. (At the end of our sessions I always let him lob a bit, and many gather around, oohing and aahing as he returns my smashes over and over, sometimes 20 or 30 in a row.)

Cressy Goes to China
Here's the article on Gordon Cressy's upcoming 15-day table tennis training program at the Chinese National Table Tennis Training Centre in Shijiazhuang, China. He wrote me this morning saying, "Thought that you would like to know that your book "The Spirit of Pong" inspired me to take this journey." Gordon's in his 70s!

U.S. Open Online Registration
Here's the U.S. Open page, with a link to where you can now enter online.

New Coaching Articles from Samson Dubina

Devising the Best Practices for a Winning Doubles Combination in Table Tennis
Here's the new coaching article from Matt Hetherington.

The 3rd Ball Attack Firework - Serve and Kill
Here's the video (5:14).

Table Tennis Ball Strength Test
Here's the video (1:54).

Tahl Leibovitz Maps Out His Future in Table Tennis
Here's the article.

11 Questions with Tina Lin
Here's the video (2:33) with the U.S. Junior Girls' Team Member.  

2016 Butterfly Teams Tournament Once Again Philadelphia Hosts High Profile Table Tennis
Here's the USATT article by Barbara Wei.

Excitement Brews as the 2016 Edgeball Chicago International Table Tennis Open Approaches
Here's the USATT article.

Never a Cross Word, Mind Over Matter, Halmstad Finding Solutions
Here's the ITTF article that features puzzlemaster Will Shortz and Jorgen Persson.

Follow Livestream from Budapest as Eurosport Broadcasts Events Worldwide
Here's the ITTF article.

DHS ITTF Top 10 - 2016 Women's World Cup
Here's the video (4:41).

Justin Bieber Preparing for Pong
Here's the video (58 sec).

Phoebe's First Lesson
Here's the video (60 sec) as the one-year-old takes her first intensive lesson from dad Samson Dubina. He's a slave-driver! But look at her hands going up and down – I'm worried we may lose her to basketball!

Casual Behind-the-Back Shot
Here's the video (22 sec) – and a pretty crazy backhand smash as well!

Send us your own coaching news!

October 18, 2016

Random Drills
Yesterday I did a number "random drills" with students, though we first did drills leading up to them. With Daniel (age 12) who is often hesitant to loop against backspin in game situations, we started with regular multiball backspin where he looped forehands and then backhands. Then we did the 2-1 drill with backspin only – he'd backhand loop from backhand corner, then forehand loop from backhand corner, then forehand loop from forehand corner, and then repeat. Then I fed random backspin all over, and he had to loop forehand or backhand. Then we played points where he served backspin and I'd push to his forehand, he'd loop, then we'd POP (play out point). Then the same where I pushed to his backhand. Finally, we went full random – he'd serve backspin, I'd push anywhere randomly, he'd loop, and then POP. (Daniel does 90 minutes, so he gets a lot of drills.)

Next up was Navin Kumar – yes, the bionic man himself (google it, but suffice to know he's got Parkinson's and a mostly mechanical heart). He's having trouble making the transition from backhand to forehand. Normally he uses long pips on the backhand, no sponge, with regular inverted on the forehand. However, he's getting ready for the U.S. Open, including the Under 1800 Sandpaper, so he requested that we do the session with sandpaper! I brought out my sandpaper racket, and we did the normal forehand-to-forehand and backhand-to-backhand warmup. Then we did my forehand down-the-line to his backhand, so he could practice hitting it down the line. Then, to work on his transition, I hit forehands alternately to his forehand and backhand, and he returned them all to my forehand. Finally, we went full random – I did forehand and backhand drives to all parts of the table, and he had to transition from forehand to backhand and back to counter-hit or block them all. (We also did a number of other drills, including working a lot on his forehand receive, plus he worked on his attack against my chopping.)

Interesting note – Daniel's dad is in Japan this week, and he didn't have a ride, so for his two sessions this week (Mon and Tue) I'm picking him up. The ride is about 20 minutes. But a strange thing happened when I picked him up at 5PM – my GPS insisted the ride to the club would be 2 hours and 28 minutes! I thought there must have been a really major accident on the highway, and considered whether it was worth trying to get to the club. Then I discovered that I'd accidently changed settings, and it was showing the route and time for walking to the club! So I learned three things at Daniel's house. 1) The GPS on my smart phone has a walk setting; 2) It's a 2'26" walk from Daniel's house to the club; and 3) his doormat has "Welcome" in 18 languages.

USA Team Pictures
Here's the USA Teams Page, with links on left to every team, with each player pictured. (I linked to this last week, before all the pictures were up.) Now you can see them all! Included are the USA Men's and Women's National, Olympic, and World Teams, and the USA Youth Teams: Junior, Cadet, Mini-Cadet, and Hopes Teams for boys and girls. There's also a USA Team Coach listing, but no pictures yet. Here's the Paralympic Team Page, with pictures of the those teams. 

Humidity: The Ultimate Pitfall of the Plastic Ball
Here's the article from MH Table Tennis.

Table Tennis University Back Online
Here they are, including a free "Basics Mastery" course. It's now hosted by Expert Table Tennis – here's their coaching page, with info on this.  

Crossover Step Footwork
Here's the video (15 sec) by Samson Dubina, from his Footwork Clinic.

2016 Rough Diamonds Training Camp with Li Xiadong and Zhang Yining - Quality Training Part 1
Here's the video (17:31).

Leaping, Falling Backhand Attack
Here's the video (24 sec).

Great Rolling Shot
Here's the video (13 sec).

Kids Playing Mini-Restaurant Pong
Here's the picture! (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

Table Tennis on The Simpsons
The Simpsons have become quite the table tennis show! They had table tennis on their new shows on Oct. 2 and Oct. 9. On Oct. 2, Bart and Lisa played table tennis in virtual reality created by Mr. Burns. On Oct. 9, there was a chain mail ping-pong player in a group of nerds. Here's more table tennis with The Simpsons:

  • Here's video (13 sec) that shows Bart playing table tennis in the background.
  • Here's video (33 sec), which ends with the character voiced by Patrick Stewart saying, "Now let's all get drunk and play ping-pong!"
  • Here's video (11 sec) of Grampa Simpson calling a Chinese man "Ping-Pong Craig."
  • Here are two pictures of Bart and Lisa Simpson playing ping-pong: Picture 1 and Picture 2
  • Here's a drawing of Bart with a ping-pong paddle.
  • Here's the online wiki for Madam Wu, a minor character on The Simpsons, where it says that "Her father was a professional ping pong player who died when he got a ping pong ball lodged in his throat." According to The Simpsons 2012 Daily Desk Calendar (which I just got for Christmas), in the Oct. 10, 2012 entry, it says, "Her father choked to death on a Ping-Pong ball the day before the Heimlich Maneuver was invented."

Send us your own coaching news!

October 17, 2016

Tip of the Week
Play Both Weaker and Stronger Players.

Sunday Coaching
Sundays are my busiest coaching day, and yesterday was no exception. Of course, compared to some of the Chinese coaches at MDTTC (and other clubs), it was just another average day. It started with two one-hour private sessions and then a 45-min one. Then I fed multiball for 30 minutes for our "Talent Group" (MDTTC's top kids, mostly in the under 10 age group). Next came the 90-minute Beginning Class I teach every Sunday. (I also have one on Thursday nights.) And finally came the 90-minute adult training session. Technically, that was only six hours and 15 minutes, but it always seems like 16 hours.

How do I prepare for a long coaching day like this? My Sunday "ritual" is a big plate of spaghetti, extra sauce, for lunch before I start, and a granny smith apple halfway through. And lots of water.

One of the private students had been up late the night before due to homecoming, and showed up half asleep. That's always a challenge, getting them to wake up. One "technique" I often use is an old-fashioned one – I send them into the bathroom to splash cold water down their face. In this case, we did a lot of very physical looping and footwork drills to wake him up. At the end of the session we played games, and I decided to take a different approach here – I rarely attacked, just looked for ways to win "cheap" points. As he pointed out after I won the first game, "You didn't earn a single point!" But of course I had – learning to win "cheap" points is one of those things many players never learn, and so never reach their potential.

Another private student has good timing, but keeps jamming up against the table, and often slaps at the ball instead of stroking it. We did a lot of shadow-practice to fix that, and I made him rally very slowly to get it right. He got a bit impatient, and so after I figured he was doing it pretty well, I "rewarded" him by letting him smash, where I fed multiball, side to side, so he was both smashing and moving. So yes, I tricked him into thinking this important and rather difficult drill was a reward!

For the Talent Program – which has 18 kids, all invitation only – we did a series of multiball drills. I had five in my group. I'd do multiball footwork with one, and the other four followed along behind him, shadow-stroking. About one-third of the kids in the group have discovered I keep a bag of hard candy – "Jolly Ranchers" – in my playing bag, and surreptitiously gather around to "borrow" pieces during breaks. The purple ones are king.

In the adult training session, about halfway through I called them together and gave a talk and demo on backhand attack against backspin – drives, flips, banana flips, and most important, backhand loop. The focus was on good technique and contact, because if you get those two, consistency follows. Then we did drills where they served backspin, partner pushed to backhand, and they backhand attacked (mostly loops), and played out the point. Of course, not everything goes according to plan. Two players had trouble pushing effectively so I had them do a straight pushing drill.

The Power of Shot Placement (Precision and Power)
Here's the video (5:31).

2016 U.S. Open in Las Vegas
The entry form came out last week, and here's the U.S. Open Home Page. Here's new info:

MDTTC October Open
Here's the info page (where you can enter online) for the event this Saturday (Oct. 22) in Gaithersburg, MD, and here's the entry form. I'm running it!

Warming Up in India
Here's the video (37 sec) as players warm up for a tournament, about a zillion to a table.

Daddy, Can You and Me Play Ping-Pong?
Here's the video (9 sec)!

Teddy Bear Pong
Here's the video (59 sec) from NBC Sports of a dog dressed as a teddy bear playing table tennis! (I put this up late in my last blog, so here it is again for those who missed it.)

Send us your own coaching news!

October 14, 2016

90 Full-Time Table Tennis Clubs in the U.S.
In my October 5 blog, I wrote how we now had 88 full-time clubs in this country, about ten times the number had just ten years ago with a corresponding increase in the number of full-time coaches (from around 10-20 to over 300). I ended the blog by writing, "Let’s get to 90 this year, and break 100 next year." Well, lo and behold, we're already at 90! I was alerted to the existence of two more full-time clubs in Florida, the Palm Beach Table Tennis Club in Boynton Beach and the PowerStroke Table Tennis Club in Saint Augustine, FL. So now that we have 90 in 25 states and DC, let's go for 100 in 30 states! (Update - alas, a club just closed in California, so as of Sunday we're back to 89. But I'm told someone is interested in re-opening the club at the same location, so it might come back. We'll see.) 

I don't think there's much doubt that this has been the biggest and best thing to happen to table tennis in the U.S. this past ten years. When you look at the way these centers are spread out, I figure the U.S. should have about 500 to 1000 of them. It'll take a while, especially if it has to happen on its own without anyone recruiting and training people to develop these centers, but the numbers will inevitably grow. I believe that any city with a population over 50,000 can support a full-time center. Since the east and west coasts, and much of the Great Lakes and Gulf of Mexico areas (and other places) are basically one long suburban area, the potential for full-time clubs in these regions is almost unlimited.

If you want to start a full-time club, two things that might help are:

Table Tennis Books
And while we're talking about books, here's my periodic note to support us poor, starving table tennis writers! Here are a few to consider:

U.S. Open Entry Form
Here it is! Hope to see some most all of you there!

USA National Teams
Here they are! They include the USA National Team Coaches, Men's and Women's National Team, Olympic Team, World Team, the ITTF USA Hopes Team, and the Junior, Cadet, and Mini-Cadet Boys' and Girls' Teams. And here's the USA Paralympic Teams.

Women's World Cup Review
Here's the ITTF video (5:11).

USATT Coaching Articles
Here they are – USATT has compiled the coaching articles they've featured on their news page onto one page.  

Winning Ugly
Here's the article from Coach Jon.

Thinking Big – A Table Tennis journey
Here's the article from Pong Universe, where he talks about thinking big and how to get there.

Four Table Tennis Shots Every Player Needs to Master
Here's the article, which covers forehand and backhand drives and pushes.

Diary of a 10-Year-Old (Part II)
Here's the new blog entry by Sarah Jalli, where she talks about what she learned at the Women's World Cup. (Here is Part I.)

Ma Long Forehand Technique Analysis 2016
Here's the video (5:10).

The Diversity of Serve
Here's the video (4:29).

Belgian Legend Saive "Positive" About Chances of Challenging Weikert for ITTF Presidency
Here's the article.

TableTennisDaily Podcast #18 - Jean Michel Saive
Here's the podcast (54:08).

Deadline Approaching to Submit Nominations for Fair Play award
Here's the article and other info.

Interview with Ryu Seung-min, New Member of the IOC Athletes Commission
Here's the video interview (39:39, in Korean with English sub-titles).

USATT 2015 Financials
Here they are.

National Collegiate Table Tennis 2016 Annual Report
Here it is.

Tress Way is the Best Table Tennis Player in the Redskins Locker Room…for Now
Here's the article from the Washington Post.

Trip to Hong Kong Starts with Table Tennis Challenge
Here's the video (1:31) which features 100 students from Lincoln High School in Tacoma, Washington, visiting Hong Kong.

Penhold Forehand - Rocket Shots
Here's the video (6:18).

How to Play T3 3-a-Side Ping Pong
Here's the video (3:37).

Ping Pong Meets 'Guitar Hero' When Table Tennis Goes High-Tech
Here's the video (1:19) as they demonstrate this game.

Lots of Around-the-Net Rolling Shots
Here's the video (4:26)!

Mozart Pong
Here's the video (1:22) as a string quartet plays music to the beat of a ball bouncing on a paddle!

Send us your own coaching news!

October 11, 2016

No Blog on Wednesday and Thursday
(I'll get to the table tennis part shortly.) Last week I received an unexpected email from a legendary science fiction writer. He's familiar with my own science fiction writing, and made an offer: Would I like to collaborate on a SF novel with him and one other person? The answer, of course, was yes. But I need a few days to really focus on getting started with this. I can't give out his name yet, but should be able to do so in a month or so. Meanwhile, the plan is this. He's already written the final third of the novel; he had another writer do the middle third; and I'm supposed to do the first third. Yes, it's a strange way of working! I've read the other two parts, and know the main character and where my first third will end, and have spent the last week planning out my part . . . and now I have to get to work!

Don't worry, I'm not leaving table tennis. I do both TT and SF. TT actually pays the bills – both coaching and writing - but I've sold 80 short stories and have three novels, so that's a big sideline for me, both as a hobby and a growing side-profession. Meanwhile, I really have three write-ups below, the Tip of the Week, the World Women's Cup, and the USATT Board Meeting, so this should last you a few days.

Tip of the Week
Taking the Shot Versus Letting it Happen.

$150,000 Women's World Cup in Philadelphia
I was only there on the Sunday, for the semifinals, the third-fourth playoff, and the final. I actually bought a $25 ticket in advance, but then discovered I had a "VIP" ticket – but it was too late. But it did allow me to sit up front in a box seat, next to High Performance Committee Chair Carl Danner. It was a bit disappointing when world's top two players and Olympic Champions Ding Ning and Liu Shiwen dropped out, but it meant a more even competition instead of the usual all-Chinese final. In fact, this would be the first World Cup ever not won by a Chinese player. Below are a few notes on the players and other links.

  • Champion Miu Hirano (JPN) – the 16-year-old from Japan, seeded fourth and ranked 17th in the world, was the upset winner. She probably had the best side-to-side transition from forehand to backhand and vice versa, giving her the strongest overall two-winged attack. She was pretty much down on the ropes to Feng Tianwei in the semifinals, down 1-2 in games and 5-10 in the fourth, but scored seven straight points to win that game and go on to win 4-2. It was here that Hirano raised her level to where she needed in order to win this tournament – and she'd hold that level in the final as well. In the sixth game, Feng had three game points before Hirano pulled it out. One fascinating thing about Hirano – between games and during timeouts she and her coach went over a notebook each time, with Hirano holding it up and going over notes. From a distance, it looked like both notes and charts of the table, apparently with notes on placement. Another interesting thing about Hirano – when she's about to serve, and often between points, she often stops and just stares at her opponent. (Reminds me of the old Cheng Yinghua stare, back in his peak days.)
  • Finalist Cheng I-Ching (TPE) – The other three semifinalists were stronger on the backhand than forehand; Cheng was the only one who was more forehand oriented, though her backhand was also pretty good. However, I was disappointed in that she literally hid her serve every point, and was never called on it. As I've blogged before, this is pretty common at the higher levels, but while some only hide their serves a few times per game, she did it nearly every time, pushing her head out at the last second to hide it. Hirano also hid her serve some, but perhaps only one-fourth of the time, though all of her serves were borderline and likely should have been called as there was no way of the umpire to tell if they were borderline hidden or borderline visible.
  • Feng Tianwei (SIN) – She had the most defined game – she'd cover perhaps 60% of the table with her off-the-bounce backhand topspins, and dominated those rallies against everyone. She was much weaker on the forehand, and didn't transition to it well, but tried to compensate by covering less of the table with it. Her opponents all went after her forehand relentlessly, but Feng often stopped that by pinning them down on their backhand with her own relentless backhand attack, taking away any angle into her forehand. She looked to me like the favorite to win the tournament when the Chinese pulled out, and seemed on track to do so when she led Hirano 2-1 and 10-5, but it was not to be. She occasionally hid her serve, but nothing to the extent that Cheng did.
  • Tie Yana (HKG) – She served nearly all backhand, often serving short to the forehand to get away from her opponent's strong backhand attacks.

And now some links:

USATT Board Meeting
On Monday we had a USATT board meeting in Philadelphia, the day after the Women's World Cup. Only five of the nine board members were able to attend – Peter Scudner, Kagin Lee, Ed Hogshead, Anne Cribbs, and me. Also attending were USATT CEO Gordon Kaye, High Performance Committee Chair Carl Danner, USATT Legal Counsel Dennis Taylor, Assistant Secretary Lee Kondo, Athlete Advisory Council Member Tahl Leibovitz, and a Strategic Planning Advisor named Henry. Also listening in at times were USATT umpires/referees Joseph Lee and Linda Hsing. We met from 9:30AM to 2:30PM.

We started with a report from Gordon on the Women's World Cup. We'd originally anticipated a solid profit for the event, but when the top two seeds and Olympic Champions from China both dropped out, it hurt ticket sales, and so we will likely break even or lose money. And yet, we still had a pretty good turnout on Sunday for the final, semifinals, and third-fourth playoff.

There was a long discussion on the National Teams Selection Process and other High Performance Issues. There was some discussion on why our current men's team is so weak, while our cadets so strong; I pointed out that our men's team was mostly developed before the rise of full-time clubs and training centers in the U.S., and the much higher level and depth of our cadets – and therefore the next generation of teams on both the men's and women's side – would be much higher. I urged USATT to focus on recruiting and training people to set up and run such training centers and junior programs.

Regarding the selection process, I argued for going to more trials, and less selection. In the current structure set up earlier this year, with ten players on each youth team (junior, cadet, mini-cadet, boys and girls for each), only four make the team via trials, the rest are selected. I'd like to see eight by trials, with two selected. (Selections are a "safety net" as you don't want, say, the #1 player in the age group, with a top ten in the world ranking, not on the team because he's sick or injured, or has one bad day.) I'm leery of subjective selections where players deemed "high potential" are selected over stronger players as this often leads to great controversy and the selections just don't seem fair to me – and coaches are often wrong in how they judge "potential." If a player has high potential but isn't yet strong enough for the team, invite them to USATT camps for training, but don't put them on the team over a stronger player.

However, we still need to find a way to get more of them to postpone college for a few years to focus on training as we lose most of them at age 18, right when they are approaching their peak years. I hate the idea of telling someone not to go to college, but why not take a few years off to train first? That's what I did; I took two years off before college.

There was discussion and planning for the next board meeting and USATT Assembly, both at the U.S. Open in December. (Board meeting will likely be on the Sunday before the Open starts.) There was also discussion of the upcoming USATT elections. Five of the nine board members are going to be off, so it'll be a lot of new people. There should be news on the election soon for those interested in running. We also discussed National Collegiate Table Tennis Association issues and the new ITTF coaching rule.

Then came the main topic for the day – Strategic Planning. Alas, we only had about 90 minutes for this, and so I didn't think we were able to really get into this. One interesting thing is the moderator, Henry, had us each anonymously answer three questions, and asked to score them from 1 to 6, with one being we strongly disagree, and six we strongly agree. Here are the three questions (as near as I can remember), and the scoring results.  

  1. Do we have a clear idea of what the board's vision is? Scoring: One 5, three 3's, four 2's, and one 1.  
  2. Does USATT operate at full potential? Two 4's, four 3's, two 2's, and one 1.
  3. Do we devote enough time to discussing USATT strategy. Six 4's, one 2, and two 1's.

There was some discussion of vision, which we need more of. Some do not have the same understanding of vision that I have. For example, one person thought I had a vision of training centers all over the country, and another that I had a vision of regional leagues all over the country. My vision is of a greatly improving the level of play for our national teams and a huge increase in USATT membership. Training centers and leagues are a means to those ends. I believe USATT has the resources to recruit and train coaches and directors to set up full-time clubs. For leagues, we need a full-time USATT League Director, and we currently do not have the money to hire one – so that has to be on the back burner for now.

I really wish we could spend more time discussing our specific visions for the future of our sport, specific goals to reach those visions, plans to reach those goals, and how to implement those plans.

Attitude is the Make or Break of Sports
Here's the new coaching article from Matt Hetherington.

Why You Should Attack the Middle
Here’s the new coaching article by Tom Lodziak.

Resistance Training with Kanak Jha
Here's the video (22 sec) where Kanak is hooked up to a strap that pulls him backward, forcing him to work to move to the table. (You can't see the strap until after halfway through.) The strap makes it harder to move in, thereby developing the muscles needed to do so, thereby increasing his speed in moving in and making it more active and dynamic.

Li Xiaoxia and Zhang Jike - The Grip
Here’s the video (1:13) in Chinese with English subtitles.

Table Tennis in Another Dimension
Here’s the new article from Coach Jon.

Ask a Pro Anything: Meet Wong Chun Ting
Here's the article and video (5:41). Wong, from Hong Kong, finished third at the recent World Men's Cup.

Lily Zhang reflects on meeting President Barack Obama at the White House
Here's the article.

Nittaku ITTF Monthly Pongcast - September 2016
Here’s the video (12:01).

Fan Zhendong Multiball Training with Wu Jingping
Here’s the new video (3:55).

Can You Solve It? The Ping Pong Puzzle
Here's the puzzle. You have until 5PM Eastern Time to solve it, and then they post the answer.

Ball Spins Inside Roll of Tape
Here's the video (13 sec) where Allen Wang smacks the ball into the roll of tape, and the ball spins like crazy inside!

Teddy Bear Pong
Here's the video (59 sec) from NBC Sports of a dog dressed as a teddy bear playing table tennis!

Non-Table Tennis – Capclave Science Fiction Convention
On Friday and Saturday I was at the Capclave Science Fiction Convention in Gaithersburg, MD – coincidentally only five minutes from MDTTC. I was on three panels, two author signings, a reading, and a finalist in their annual "Small Press Award for Short Fiction." The three panels were on humor in science fiction; politics in science fiction; and on writing workshops. I had a lot of fun with the author signings - didn't sell enough books, alas - and didn't win the Small Press Award, also alas. On the other hand, things are looking up right now, as noted in the segment at the top!

Send us your own coaching news!

October 6, 2016

No Blog Friday or Monday – Capclave, World Women’s Cup, USATT Board Meeting
Here’s my schedule over the next few days.

  • Friday and Saturday – at the Capclave Science Fiction Convention, where I’m on three panels, doing a reading, two signings, and I’m a finalist for the annual Small Press Award for Short Stories, given out Saturday night. Here’s my more detailed schedule in my science fiction blog.
  • Sunday – I drive up to Philadelphia for the Women’s World Cup. The semifinals are at 2 and 3PM, the 3-4 playoff at 6PM, and the final at 7PM. Here’s a more detailed schedule for Fri-Sun from the ITTF.
  • Monday – I attend the USA Table Tennis Board of Directors Meeting in Philadelphia. (I’m on the Board.) The agenda isn’t out yet. Then I drive home, returning late on Monday night.

Full-time Table Tennis Centers Revisited
Yesterday I blogged about that dark day ten years ago when USATT board members literally mocked the idea of full-time training centers. I thought I’d elaborate here on the type of thinking that goes on here.

When the idea of a new table tennis program comes up, many get stuck in the present with this deep-set belief that it’s a zero-sum game, that there are only so many players and so only so many full-time clubs or other table tennis programs are possible. They look at how many table tennis players there are, and can’t get beyond those numbers. And it’s true that given the number players in a specific region, it can only support so many table tennis centers, as well as tournaments and leagues.

But what many at that meeting ten years ago didn’t get, and what many still don’t get, is that it is not a zero-sum game. The reality that full-time clubs develop their own base of players. A full-time club that doesn’t do this is going to be a short-lived club. By setting up a full-time club with professional coaches and coaching programs (group and private), junior programs, senior programs, leagues, tournaments, and open play, the club creates a demand that leads to lots of new players. For perspective, my club, the Maryland Table Tennis Center, has something like 400 members. (I co-founded it in 1992.) I’d guess that about 20-30 of them would be playing if not for the club. That means the club created nearly 400 new players.

Another myth is that a full-time club hurts other clubs in the area. Unless they are essentially next door to each other, this simply isn’t true. Each one creates its own base of players, and with a larger base of players, both clubs end up with more and more players in their leagues, tournaments, and other programs. In the long term, more clubs lead to more prosperity for all of them. (“A rising tide lifts all boats.”)

The Ultimate Guide to Table Tennis Psychology
Here’s the article from Expert Table Tennis. Here are the topics covered:

  1. A positive attitude
  2. A high level of self-motivation
  3. High, realistic goals
  4. Good people skills
  5. Positive self-talk
  6. Positive mental imagery
  7. Control over anxiety
  8. Control over emotions
  9. Maintaining concentration

Unique Drills: Learn how to write new robot drills!!!
Here’s the new video (5:33) from Samson Dubina.

Beltway Plaza’s Table Tennis Challenge
Here’s the info flyer on the event this Saturday from 1-4PM at Beltway Plaza in Greenbelt, Maryland. “See if you can beat our resident pro, Navin Kumar, for prizes and to support the Michael J. Fox Parkinson’s Foundation.” (Navin, “The Bionic Man,” has Parkinson’s and a partially mechanical heart.)

Richest Table Tennis League Coming to Asia-Pacific Region
Here's the article

Fang Bo - Best Rallies
Here’s the new video (2:44) of the 2015 World Men’s Singles Finalist from China.

Roller Coaster Pong
Here’s the picture!

Non-Table Tennis – Campaign 2100: Game of Scorpions on Sale
The kindle version of Campaign 2100: Game of Scorpions at Amazon is currently on sale for just $4.99. This is my science fiction novel about the election for president of Earth in the year 2100, where the world has adopted the American two-party electoral system – with a number of table tennis scenes as one of the major characters is a professional table tennis player who becomes a campaign director. I’m doing two book signings for this on Saturday – see note at top.

Send us your own coaching news!

October 5, 2016

88 Full-time Table Tennis Centers in the U.S.
One of my most vividly bad memories in table tennis was the USATT Board Meeting in December, 2006, almost ten years ago. It was at that meeting that I made a proposal for USATT to actively recruit and train coaches and club directors to set up and run full-time table tennis centers and junior programs, with the goal of 100 such centers in ten years.

At the time there were only 8-10 such full-time centers in the country. I’d co-founded the Maryland Table Tennis Center in 1992, the first successful full-time center devoted to training, and we’d set the model that others were beginning to follow.

The response? It was basically laughed off. Two board members openly said that full-time table tennis centers wouldn’t work in the U.S. except in a few specific areas, and that these areas already had a full-time club, so there was no potential for more. The rest remained silent. I remembered arguing with these two with the growing realization that they had absolutely no idea what they were talking about, and yet they were running our sport and firmly believed what they were saying. [I'll likely blog about this more tomorrow, this deep-set belief of many that it's a zero-sum game, that there are only so many players and so only so many full-time clubs possible, as opposed to the reality that these clubs develop their own base of players.]

At the time I worked full-time for USATT as Editor of USA Table Tennis Magazine and as Program Director. I was so disappointed in the short-sighted response to my proposal that I resigned both positions. (I went back to coaching and writing.)

It’s now nearly ten years later, and without any real help from USATT, we’ve gone from 8-10 to 88 full-time table tennis centers. Over the last ten years coaches have been flooding into the U.S. and these centers have been popping up everywhere. Twenty-five states and DC now have full-time table tennis centers. This in spite of the fact that there’s no group actively recruiting or training these coaches, and that every time someone wants to open a full-time center they essentially have to reinvent the wheel as there wasn’t any manual on this.

One result? We suddenly find ourselves with the strongest group of cadet players in U.S. history – by far – one of the strongest groups in the world. Ten years ago the USATT board was focused on developing top players, but when I pointed out that top players start out as top juniors, and top juniors come from full-time centers where large numbers of them can train full-time under professional coaches – well, the response was underwhelming. (I would estimate that in those ten years we’ve gone from about 10-20 full-time coaches to easily over 300.)

USATT did make a move last year in adopting the USATT Club Development Handbook, written by Yang Yu, which covers much of what’s needed to open a full-time center. (Here’s my review of that on June 22, 2015.) Here’s the table of contents:

  1. Are You Ready to Start a Club?
  2. Mission Statement and Business Entity
  3. Facility and Equipment
  4. Income Sources (tournaments, walk-in play, membership, training programs, equipment sales, private events, donations, food & drink sales, sponsorship)
  5. Business Model (mixed operation model, training center model)
  6. Marketing Your Club (with 13 methods listed)
  7. USATT Club Affiliation and Recognition Program
  8. Club Management
  9. Outline the Financial Budget

There's also the Professional Table Tennis Coaches Handbook, which I wrote and published in 2013. USATT may use it at cost as part of any training program for coaches. The focus here is the professional side - recruiting students, setting up and running programs, maximizing income, finding a playing facility, etc. 

Imagine if USATT had gotten move involved earlier – not trying to run things, but simply by trying to recruit and train such coaches on the professinal side of coahcing, including how to open up full-time clubs? We might have twice as many such centers. It’s something I plan to look more into soon. USATT should be actively recruiting and training these coaches. It doesn’t cost us anything – the coaches pay for the training. It can be done as an add-on to the current ITTF coaching programs we already run. If they don't, there's a chance I might try to do this myself. Whether it's a USATT Coaching Academy or the Larry Hodges Coaching Academy, we need some entity that actively recruits and trains coaches, not just on how to coach, but on the professional side. 

Two new full-time centers have opened this past week, the Paddle Palace Club in Portland, Oregon, and Zing Table Tennis in Easthampton, Massachusetts. (Here’s an article on Zing.) Congrats and welcome aboard to both!!!

Why not browse over this list of full-time table tennis clubs in the U.S., and give thanks to all these table tennis entrepreneurs who took the effort to open and run such centers? Also let me know if there are any missing or other updates/corrections.

Let’s get to 90 this year, and break 100 next year.

USATT SuperCamp Request for Proposal
Here’s the info page.

10 Quick Tips to Better Table Tennis
Here’s the article from Newgy.

Alzheimer’s and Table Tennis
Here are two articles.

Numbers Growing, Healthy Situation as Star Names Head for Philadelphia
Here’s the ITTF article.

Female Table Tennis Pro Faces Average Joes to Promote Women's World Cup in Philadelphia
Here’s the video (1:49) of USA Olympian Wu Yue taking challenges at the Shops at Liberty Place in the Rotunda.

ITTF Flash News
Here’s the ITTF News.

Play Ping Pong Against a Robot Inside an LA Gallery
Here’s the article and pictures.

Princeton: Seniors Earn Table Tennis Gold
Here’s the article.

Diary of a 10-Year-Old
Here’s the entry on the upcoming World Women’s Cup by Sarah Jalli, in Philadelphia this weekend.

Vintage Table Tennis
Here are two very old videos:

Chimpanzee Playing a Table Tennis Robot
Here’s the video (2:24)! The headline says it’s a monkey, but I refuse to spread such ignorance. This is a different video than the 13-second video of a chimp playing that I posted on Sept. 14.

Send us your own coaching news!

October 4, 2016

Service Week – Teaching a Beginner to Serve
This past week the focus in both of my beginning table tennis classes was serving. For me, it’s the most fun part to teach, and the part that the kids are most fascinated by. If you show a new kid a backspin serve that bounces back into the net, they won’t stop trying until they can do it. If put a target on the table and smack it with a serve, the kids will spend the next half hour trying to hit it, and keep track of every hit. (I use the latter for the younger kids, who struggle at first with just serving, and aren’t ready to really spin their serves.)

Here’s how I teach serves to beginning kids.

  1. At the very start of the session I challenge the kids to return my serve. They line up, and stay until they’ve missed three serves. Then I serve various spins. When serving sidespin, I always put the racket down right after serving and step to where the ball will go, catching it. For backspin, as I serve I beg them not to go into the net. They have fun with this, and quickly realize how important spin is to the game. After a few rounds I explain what they need to do to return each serve, i.e. aim to the side and down against sidespin.
  2. Next I explain the serving rules. I try to make this interactive, asking them what rules they know, and fill in the blanks. Then demo lots of legal and illegal serves and have them call out if they think it’s legal or not.
  3. I then demo basic forehand and backhand topspin serves, and explain their main purpose is to start a practice rally, such as forehand to forehand and backhand to backhand.
  4. Then we get into spin. I explain the various spins, and then demo them, asking them to call out what type it is. I show them backspin serves coming back into the net. Then I put a racket along the far right side, and serving from my right side, I serve crosscourt with sidespin so the ball curves back and hits the paddle. For topspin, I let them see how the ball jumps as it hits the table.
  5. Then I go over the two keys to spin: racket acceleration and grazing. This is where I explain the difference between racket speed and acceleration.
  6. To teach them how to graze the ball, I first show them the proper forehand pendulum serve grip. Then I break out the colored soccer balls, and have them practice spinning them in the air – spin and catch, spin and catch – for about five minutes. The colored balls give them feedback on whether they are getting spin. Even beginners can spin the ball in this way.
  7. Then go over the specifics of the forehand pendulum serve, and briefly demo other serves. Then I ask for questions – there usually are a few. But by now, they are itching to serve.
  8. I generally put them three to a table, with a box of balls in the middle on one side. Two players practice serving, one from each side, while the third picks up the balls with a net. After five minutes they rotate. After fifteen minutes, they’ve all had ten minutes service practice and five minutes picking up balls. Sometimes we go longer.

The Fitness and Sport of Table Tennis
Here’s the article, with lots of great table tennis links at the end.

Chinese Technique - How to Serve Short
Here’s the video (8:35).

Multi-Ball Exercise for Table Tennis Players and Coaching Tips
Here’s the article. (Recently there seems to be a lot of articles and videos on multiball – I had two here yesterday.)

LIEBHERR 2016 ITTF Men's World Cup
Here’s the home page for the Men’s World Cup, which finished yesterday in Saarbrücken, Germany, with results, pictures, video, and articles. Here’s the Day Three video review (4:37). Here are video highlights (3:59) of USA’s Feng Yijun against South Korea’s Lee Sangsu with the latter winning in seven.

History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 18 (1990-1991)
Here's chapter 2! Or order your own print copies at TimBogganTableTennis.com.

Creative Variations of Table Tennis
Here’s the video (1:18).

Timo Boll vs. Jorgen Persson Exhibition, with Umpire Jan-Ove Waldner
Here’s the video (12:37)! They did this just yesterday at the Men’s World Cup, before the Final. Here’s a shortened highlights version (4:04), but I recommend the full version so you get the full treat, including the crowd singing Happy Birthday to Waldner, who was 51 yesterday.

Send us your own coaching news!

Syndicate content