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  nine books and over 2000 articles on table tennis. Here is his bio. (Larry was awarded the USATT Lifetime Achievement Award in July, 2018.)
NOTE - Larry is on the USATT Coaching Committee, but the views he shares in his blog are his own, and do not necessarily represent the views of USA Table Tennis.

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

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

Tip of the Week
When to Serve Long.

Weekend Coaching
This weekend I coached in five group sessions, ranging from 1.5 to 2.0 hours each. It was more tiring than most weekends because I acted as a practice partner/coach for approximately 4.5 hours, over half of it with players over 1700 level or so – and they worked me to death, even though I was often just blocking for them. But I also did a lot of counterlooping, and most exhausting of all, a drill where I forehand looped side to side for nearly 15 minutes so the player could practice moving side to side to block. (The rest of the time I either fed multiball or was a walk-around coach.)

Ironically, literally in the last 15 minutes of the last session I injured my shoulder again. At that point we had gone to up-down tables with 11-point games. Rather than play games, I went to the last table, and whoever was there got to practice smashing against my lobs. Since I’m probably going to reinjure my shoulder every time I play, I might as well schedule them for the end of the weekend! (Luckily, I can still play as a practice partner with the shoulder problems – I just can’t extend the arm out on balls that are short or wide to my forehand, or play aggressive backhands. It doesn’t actually affect my normal forehand shots.)

Besides working on smashing lobs – both at the end and earlier (especially with the novice group), there was also a lot of work on backhand looping and covering the wide forehand. For the backhand loop, the most common mistakes are rushing the shot (i.e. need to be in a better ready position and so ready to execute the shot), and trying to guide the shot rather than just letting your training take over. For the latter, this means remembering the feel of the stroke and contact when done properly – and just repeating this, while forgetting the bad ones since you don’t want to remember them.

Recently I’ve introduced the kids to a new game that’s become almost a craze– I call it “Bounce.” I picked it up at the Samson Dubina Elite Camp in Ohio last month, from Doyle Harbaugh – I stayed at his house. We did it at his house on a kitchen table, but it’s easily done on a ping-pong table across the short five-foot side – and I’ve invented a new version of it. So, what is “Bounce”?

For the classic version, you put aside your paddles. Both players face each from opposite sides of the table on one side of the net. (So you can have two games going on at the same time on the same table, with net separating their “playing courts.” Or you can do this on any type of table.) The first player tosses the ball on the table so that it bounces exactly once on the table before crossing the other sideline. (The first one, one bounce, is always easy.) The other player has to then toss it back so it bounces exactly twice. Then the original player tosses it back so it bounces exactly three times, and so on. As the number of bounces required increases, the difficulty increases. When a player fails to toss the ball so it bounces the correct number of times, he loses. The game is often done winner-stay on, and since a game rarely takes more than a minute, it’s fast-moving. The game is great for developing hand control and mental focus. But the new version I also introduced is the same, except that instead of tossing the ball, you have to serve it with a racket – and with this, they are developing serving control.

The Worst Tactical Match I Ever Played
I’ve often written about tactical issues, usually about tactics that worked. In Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers, I have a long chapter about tactics in specific matches – easily the most fun chapter to write. (I’m tempted to give examples here, but once I get started, I wouldn’t be able to stop.) But what about the other extreme, matches where I played poor tactics? I thought about this, and I think the worse ever was a match I played many years ago against Carl Danner. Here’s what happened.

As I often did when playing someone I’d never played or seen play, I asked others about how he played. Someone I don’t know – and to this day, I have no idea who this person was – spoke up about how good Carl’s loop was, that he could loop over and over but not with great power, and how I’d have to be ready to play long, steady rallies against him. So I went into the match with the mentality that when Carl attacked, I had to play very, very steady, keep the ball going until he missed or made a shot that I could attack. Long rallies was the key! However . . . it turned out that whoever gave me this advice must have come from some other multiverse with a completely different Carl then the one I was facing. Carl’s best shot was his forehand smash. I should have figured this out early in the first game – but as I said, this was the worst tactical match I ever played.

In that first game, when he attacked, I played steady, and he kept forehand smashing winners. Rather than adjust and be more aggressive with my blocks and other shots, or go to his forehand and back to his backhand to get away from his forehand, or just fight more for the attack, for some reason, as the match continued, whenever he attacked, I focused on being even more consistent. Rather than fight for the attack (especially on his serve), I often let him attack first since his first loop wasn’t always that strong – it was the follow-up smash that was the problem. I tried to be ultra consistent in even trying to block his smashes, rather than focusing on not giving him balls to smash. I blocked a few effectively, which gave me false confidence. One of the best matches of my life was one where I beat 2450 Rey Domingo in a match where I felt like I could return everything – and for some weird reason, I felt like I should be able to return Carl’s smashes just as consistently. The problem, of course, was that to beat Carl like this I would literally have to play one of the best matches of my life! The result, of course, was Carl won rather easily – and I only realized how bad my tactics were at the very end, when it was too late. Afterwards I sat down for a long time, thinking about the match and wondering what the heck had been going through my head to play so dumb. I think the problem was I was visualizing myself playing as I did in the Domingo match, which was a level of play, rather than thinking about the tactics I needed in the Carl match, which was a different thing.

If I’d played him with better tactics, could I have won? Who knows. It definitely would have been closer. (I was rated higher at the time, though not by a lot.) The tactical lesson here is simple – when something isn’t working tactically, be flexible and change to something else. A key here is the habit of stopping and thinking things over in a match when things aren’t going well – which I think I normally do in about 99.99999% of my matches. For this match, I give myself the Golden HIT Award for Historically Ill-advised Tactics.

Singapore Smash 2023
Here’s the ITTF/WTT home page for the event that took place March 7-19, with resultsnews, video, and player features. (Here’s the Youtube video site – I think it’s organized better there.) Here is USA Reaches the Round of 16 in Singapore from USATT. Here are five articles by Steve Hopkins:

Butterfly Training Tips

New from Timo Boll

New from Samson Dubina

New from Ti Long

10 new articles!

Part 1 of 3 Serve Series by Angela Guan (2:11)
Here’s the video (2:11) from PongSpace.

New from Taco Backhand

New from the Performance Biomechanics Academy Table Tennis

Your Playing Style Quiz
Here’s the quiz from Racket in Sight, which has a lot of other table tennis content as well.

Ask the Coach
Here are the latest questions from PingSkills.

New Day Cleveland Featuring: Kenzie Dubina
Here’s the video (6:11). I practice with her last month in Ohio at the Samson Dubina Elite Camp!

Dora Kurimay: Championing Mind, Body, and Spirit
Here’s the article from Passion Vista. It’s the cover story!

Folsom Table Tennis Club
Here’s the article by Steve Hopkins.

Marathon Effort Raises Thousands for Hospice
Here’s the article from Table Tennis England. (Here’s the article I linked to about this in advance of the marathon.)

New from ITTF

Fan Zhendong's Celebrations Over the Years
Here’s the video from Drupe Pong.

Great Lobbing and Fishing Point
Here’s the video (37 sec) of Segun Toriola getting everything back!

New from the Malong Fanmade Channel
Lots of videos here.

Most Popular Sports Since 1930
Here’s the video (3:05) – see the slow rise of table tennis, and some of the surprisingly popular sports at other time periods. (Even Hockey was #1 in the world at one time!)

Table Tennis Sun Hat
Here’s where you can buy it at Amazon!

Table Tennis Posters
From Café Press.

Joker Pong
Here’s the video (59 sec)!

No Racket, No Problem
Here’s the video (13 sec)! (Alas, it’s not legal to return the ball with a non-racket holding hand.)

Adam vs. Marco Reus
Here’s the video (8:55) featuring Adam Bobrow versus the football star from Germany (that’s soccer for Americans)!

Send us your own coaching news!

Tip of the Week
Study the Player, Not the Ball.

Serving Tactics Lecture
Here’s my lecture (52 min) at the Samson Dubina Elite Camp in Akron, OH, on Feb. 19, 2023. (I linked to this last week, but it was buried in my writeup on the Elite Camp so many missed it.) As I wrote last week, “I meant to keep the talk to 30 minutes, but there were a number of questions, and the reality is I could have gone on for about fifty hours.”

USATT Coaching Committee
I discovered last week that, due to term limits, my eligibility for the committee ended on March 1, and so I resigned this past Friday. I was on the coaching committee 1991-1995, 2010-2015, 2017-2023, and chaired it 1991-1995, 2017-2019. I’m eligible again in two years.

Weekend Coaching and Active Feet
I coached in six junior group session this past weekend, 10.5 hours total. The MDTTC junior program is divided into four groups: Group 1 (“Select,” roughly 1700-2450, 18 players); Group 2 (“Progress,” roughly 1000-1700, 22 players); Group 3 (“Intermediate,” under 1000, 19 players); and Group 4 (“Novice,” beginners mostly 6-8 years old, 11 players). I worked with all four groups this weekend, which is fun – except for the part of trying to remember about 70 names! (I’m terrible at that.) And there’s also Fun in Fundamentals, which was the primary focus all weekend, as it usually is.

I’ve focused a lot these past few months on “active feet” – and there’s been a marked improvement on that. The hallmark of poor training is players who lunge for the ball instead of stepping. But the stepping has stepped up and the lunging has taken a plunge! I will be doing a Tip of the Week sometime soon on “Good versus Bad Lunging” – but the key point is that you always start by stepping in some way to the ball while staying balanced, and only lunge as an absolute last resort.

Singapore Smash 2023
Here’s the ITTF/WTT home page for the event taking place March 7-19, with results, news, and video. Here are some interesting links:

He’s been busy this past week.

New from Samson Dubina

Butterfly Training Tips

New from PongSpace/Angela Guan

New from Pingispågarna

New from Ti Long

How to Return Any Table Tennis Serve
Here’s the article by Tom Lodziak.

Tactical Analysis | Ma Long vs Fan Zhendong | How Ma Long Destroyed Fan Zhendong
Here’s the video (6:38)

Nutrition Recommendations for Table Tennis Players—A Narrative Review
Here’s the journal article from MDPI (Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute).

My World Hopes Experience
Here’s the article by Kef Noorani

19 State Championship Events Awarded to USATT Clubs
Here’s the USATT news item.

New from Steve Hopkins/Butterfly

New from the ITTF

Ovtcharov Plays Outstanding Table Tennis for 2 Minutes Straight
Here’s the video (2:12) from Taco Backhand.

Born to Play Table Tennis
Here’s where you can buy the shirt!

Father and Son’s 12-hour Table Tennis Marathon
Here’s the article from Table Tennis England.

Kremer Wins O's '23 Ping-Pong Title: “It means everything.”
Here’s the article on Dean Kremer winning the Baltimore Orioles ping-pong championships! Here’s my blog about my exhibition for the Orioles in their clubhouse ten years ago – maybe it’s time for another visit!

Blondie on March 12, 2023
Best Stunt Work and Special Effects.”

Cat Toilet Paper Pong
Here’s the video (14 sec)!

Ping Pong Death Match with Aliens
Here’s the video (47 sec) from Steve Worthington!

Pool Level: 9000
Here’s the video (8:03) from Pongfinity, where they combine pool and ping-pong! (They should just call it pool-pong.)

Send us your own coaching news!

Tips of the Week
I've been out of town since Feb. 12. Here are the last four Tips of the Week, including this week's!

Elite Camp Training Camp at Samson Dubina TTC
Was it a middle-age (or old age?) crisis that told me that, just before turning 63 on Feb. 27, I should train for eleven days to get back in shape? When I first saw the notices of the Elite Camps at the Samson Dubina TTC in Akron, OH (Feb. 13-23 and Mar. 21-31), for players from 2000 to 2700 level, my first thought was, why not? At my club, I’m a coach and sometimes-practice partner, but there’s nothing like an actual training camp to get into really good shape. And so I decided to go to the one in February. I was over twice the age of the next oldest in the camp (not including coaches/practice partners), but . . . why not? Yes, that was my mantra.  

After five days, that changed to, oh yeah, that’s why. What happened? I’ll get to that.

It was a great camp, with intense training that I recommend for any up-and-coming player or anyone in good shape (or in reasonable shape and trying to get in good shape). It’s fun and invigorating to spend a week or so inundated with nothing but table tennis, two sessions per day (2-3 hours each), surrounded by table tennis people. We even had a birthday party for those having birthdays during or around the camp – me, Sid Naresh, Sarah Jalli, and Amoolya Menon. A great thanks goes to Samson for setting up and running these camps, along with his fellow coaches and practice partners.

I spent the week at the house of two of the nicest people, Doyle and Tammy Harbaugh, along with their two great dogs, Reagan and Hope. (Doyle’s a pretty good wheelchair player!) Also staying with them (and so sharing rides, meals, shopping, etc.) were Senura Silva (who lives with them), Matthew Lehman, Andrew Yang, and Gediminas “Ged” Mickus, who also drove us back and forth and (along with Tammy) cooked many of our meals – but he’s also “Death from Above” with his two-winged power looping, 2245 rating, and extreme height. (Nothing was more entertaining than the daily “boxing” matches between him and perhaps a foot shorter Senura – who I gave some impromptu boxing lessons). Also special thanks to Tim Detwiler, who also gave rides and took care of other issues that came up during the camp.

While I was there primarily as a player, I also coached a bit, and at Samson’s request, gave a lecture on Service Tactics (52 min). I meant to keep the talk to 30 minutes, but there were a number of questions, and the reality is I could have gone on for about fifty hours. Samson also led a video analysis session where we watched world-class players.

The level of play was very high, with the average rating well over 2300. Players over 2300 including Sid & Nandan Naresh (both pushing 2600 at 19 and 16, respectively, and who would dominate the upcoming US Junior Trials), Senura Silva (over 2500), junior star Sarah Jalli (has been over 2500), Canada’s former national team member (and currently on the “Shadow National Team”) Matthew Lehmann, junior star Aziz Zarehbin, Laurent Jutras-Vigneault, Takahiro Sato, and Andrew Yang. (Ryan Lin, from my club and the reigning US Under 13 Boys’ Champion, also was there to get some variation to his training.) Head coach was Samson Dubina, along with coaches/practice partners Jeff Yamada, Chance Friend, and sometimes Seth Peth – these three, and I state this for the record, never miss.

I mostly trained with players from 2000 to 2250, and sometimes with one of the practice partners. When I blocked, I mostly did fine. It was irritating that I can’t move to react to balls hit to my left or right like I used to. One drill that really helped was with Chance looping randomly all over my backhand side, from the wide corner to the middle, and I had to move to cover them all. Yes, many players don’t think about blocking footwork, but it’s key.

 When I did footwork drills myself, it was a struggle. I faced a conflicting problem – I’m super consistent, which meant lots of long rallies – but I’m not nearly in good enough shape to play lots of long rallies. So it wasn’t easy. But I dug in and tried to keep up. I often started footwork drills looping on the forehand side, but switched to less exhausting hitting when needed.

Alas, on Day Five I hurt my shoulder. I skipped a session, and then hurt it again in a practice tournament. I then told Samson I could try to continue . . . as a chopper! While I’m normally a regular inverted player who only chops when caught out of position, I’ve been chopping for students for years, and once played six months and about nine tournaments as a chopper (with long pips on backhand), and came out 2183. (Ironically, I once did the same with hardbat – and came out with that exact same rating.)

So on Day Seven I chopped, and did pretty well, even chopping to 2500+ Senura for half an hour and others. But about ninety minutes into the session I started feeling intense pain in my lower back and upper hip . . . and that ended the chopping experiment and my playing in the camp. For the rest of the camp I could only hobble about. I took over a desk in Samson’s office and it became my Samson Dubina Writing Camp. I ended up writing seven Table Tennis Tips of the Week and two new science fiction/fantasy short stories – one a SF time travel story taking place 500 million years in the past (the beginning of the Cambrian), the other a ghost story taking place eight billion years in the future – when the sun expands into a red giant and turns Earth into a cinder, what happens to the ghosts that have been “living” there all those eons? I also outlined a new table tennis book I may be writing – but the topic, for now, is top secret.

There was an unsanctioned (no ratings) practice tournament in the middle of the camp. I played in it, but struggled, though my serves gave everyone fits. I had to drop out halfway when my shoulder injury flared up again. But one big highlight was meeting one of the players in the tournament - Nikolaj Coster-Waldau! (Here’s the non-Facebook version.) He’s the actor who plays Jaime Lannister in Game of Thrones – yes, I saw every episode. As I humorously pointed out to him (though he’s likely heard it a zillion times), his playing hand had grown back! (Spoiler Alert – it was chopped off in the early seasons.)

Finally, on Friday, Feb. 24, I left, flying directly to Charlotte, NC to coach at the US Junior Team Trials, arriving in time to help train our players the day before the Trials began.

USA Junior Trials
I coached at the Trials in Charlotte, NC, Feb. 25-28. It’s actually only part 1 of the Trials, with part 2 at the US Nationals in July in Forth Worth, TX. (Information on that is on the Prospectus for the Trials in Charlotte.) Here are complete results, and here are the Top Eight finishers in each age category. They were run by Jasna Rather and Vlad Farcas, with Referee Bill Englebreth, and other staff and umpires. Thanks to all of them, including the ones not named! Overall, things went really well – on time and good playing conditions. (It would have been nice to have all the tables individually barriered, instead of just two, but that might have meant having a few less tables.)

We had eleven players from my club, MDTTC. Three had private coaches. The others were coached by four other MDTTC coaches, Wang Qingliang, Cheng Yinghua, Jack Huang, and me. Two of our players finished in the Top Eight – Stanley Hsu (14) was eighth in Under 19 and third in Under 15, while Ryan Lin (13) was eighth in Under 15. (Alas, Ryan had some really close losses, including against the undefeated top finisher Charles Shen’s closest call – Ryan was up 2-0 and had two match points in the fourth before losing that game on a pair of nets, and the fifth 11-8. But Charles was on a roll this tournament! I coached him for a few weeks in ITTF Hopes camps and tournaments in Ecuador a year or so ago.) I wonder how many times I’ve spent my birthday coaching at tournaments (as I did here on Monday, Feb. 27) or at the club? (Ironically, while they had a premature birthday party for me at the Samson Dubina Elite Camp the week before, along with three others having birthdays around the camp time, nobody from my club knew about it.)

As usual, lots of interesting tactical things came up. My favorite was a match where I studied the opponent on video in advance, and saw three specific weaknesses – awkward against quick, deep, heavy pushes to backhand; trouble with short side-top serves, especially to forehand; and after moving to the wide backhand, slow to cover the wide forehand. The player I coached went after these three weaknesses right from the start, executed perfectly, and a match that might have been close ended up with average scores around 11-5.

One problem with the tournament was trying to warm up – with 210 players and only 24 tables, trying to practice and warm up was often a madhouse of 4-6 players on a table taking turns. (There were also many coaches brought in by players as practice partners, including me, and so it was really over 250 people vying for those tables.) While not all the players came in at the same time, several times there were over 144 players or coaches on the tables – yes, six per table. The gym opened each morning at 8AM; by 8:05AM one morning there were four on every table, and by 8:15AM six on every table. There are three possible ways of alleviating this.

  1. First would be to have more tables. I suggested they try to get this large adjourning room next time that was mostly vacant (I think it was used just once during our stay, for a Tae Kwon Do practice), where they could fit a bunch more practice tables – since practice tables can have smaller courts, they could almost double the number of tables. This would mean shipping in a lot of extra tables, which costs money, plus probably having to pay for the room.
  2. Second, instead of running the boys’ and girls’ events of the same age at the same time (i.e. Under 13 boys and Under 13 girls), where all the players from both events come in to practice at the same time just before the events start (along with coaches and players from other events practicing for later), run one at a time consecutively. That way, instead of one table per group, they could have two tables per group, thereby finishing that event nearly twice as fast and allowing time for the next one, both practice time and the event itself. Scheduling-wise, it would add a little more time to the schedule, but would help solve the practice problem.
  3. Third, when tables are full, they could require that only players in the upcoming event use the tables. (They could also ask that coaches not hit with their players, instead paring up players, but that’s problematic – the coaches were often brought in to hit with the players, and it’s awkward paring up players who are different levels, some playing unique styles.) Of course, it’s easy to suggest this, but it means they’d have to have someone policing the tables, and trying to figure out who should and shouldn’t be practicing, not a fun task.

Weekend Coaching
I had a busy weekend, coaching 10.5 hours in six group sessions and one private session. It was a conglomeration of walk-around coaching, feeding multiball, and in two sessions, practice partner/coach. One issue that I focused on with several players was the sound of the ball hitting their racket. For the same shot, it should sound the same each time. If you are doing a repetitive drill and the ball doesn’t sound the same each time you hit it, then you are changing your stroke or contact, and need to correct that. There’s a stereotype of a Chinese coach who walks around doing two things – watching players’ feet and listening to the sound of their contact. It’s a surprisingly valuable thing for coaches to do.

One player is working on his new backhand serve. I sent him links to Dimitrij Ovtcharov doing the serve, and pointed how he drives the shoulder into the serve, and the low contact. (His contact for the long serve is a little higher, but he’s not playing as serious in that one.) You don’t need to squat down like he does, that’s just something he does but it’s not necessary. Here are the three links I sent the player:

I also had my first session with Navin Kumar in a while. (I retired from private coaching several years ago but made an exception for him. He has both Parkinson’s and a partially artificial heart.) As followers of his on Facebook know, he had a heart attack on Christmas Day 2022, and his heart stopped for a time before getting restarted – he was “legally dead” during that period. Anyway, I still made him do some footwork! Here’s video (46 sec) of our session that he put up.

News from All Over
Since I haven't blogged since Feb. 7 (out of town at the Samson Dubina elite camp in Akron and the US Junior Team Trials in Charlotte), rather than try to list every interesting article, for this blog I'll just link to some of the main news and coaching pages, and you can pick and choose.

How Many Calories are Burned Playing Ping Pong?
Here’s the article.

Table Tennis – “It’s okay if you don’t like Table Tennis. It’s kind of a smart people hobby anyway.”
Here’s where you can buy the shirt!

Playing a Cat

The Comprehensive Beetle Bailey Table Tennis Cartoon Listing
Here it is, all 31 of them
! Steve Grant got me the final one, May 11, 1964, and the missing dates for others.

Ping Pong Inventions That Are On the Next Level
Here’s the video (9:30) from Pongfinity!

Send us your own coaching news!

Next Blog on March 6
Next Blog will be on Monday, March 6. However, the Tip of the Week will go up every Monday. I’ll be out of town at the Samson Dubina Elite Camp in Akron, OH, Feb. 13-23, and then coaching at the US Junior Team Trials in Charlotte, NC, Feb. 25-28.

Tip of the Week
Blocking Spinny Loops.

USATT Election for Board Chair – Major Problems
USATT had a board meeting on Zoom last night. Amazingly, Richard Char was re-elected as chair of the USATT board last night despite not being eligible to run. Here’s the short version.

After serving just over three months as chair of the USATT “interim” board, Richard Char was elected chair of the permanent board on June 1, 2020, to complete the term of the previous chair, who had resigned. According to the bylaws, there was supposed to be an election for chair in January, 2021, but despite reminders, he claims he forgot about it. As of June 2, 2021, he had served over one year as chair and so his first term was officially a full term, as per the bylaws. On Dec. 6, 2021, after 18 months as chair (21 if you include his three months as chair of the “interim” board), and just before the election for four athlete reps, Char said he had forgotten to run the election and so they held the board chair election eleven months late. He was re-elected as chair and began his second term. Included in the wording of the motion was that it was “effective” Jan. 1, 2021 (eleven months before), thereby trying to retroactively make his first term less than one year. However, as of June 2, 2021, he had already served over a year, and nothing can change that reality. It would be as if the US congress were to vote retroactively that Obama or Bush Jr. had only served one term and so could run for president again – the vote doesn’t change reality or make it legal. (It’s likely that some board members did not understand the implications of the wording at the time.) So, as of June 2, 2021, Char had served over a year and so his first term was a “full” term. He was re-elected on Dec. 6, 2021. They then run the next election for the chair on Feb. 6, 2023, 14 months later, which is also over a year, and so Char has completed a second “full” term. The bylaws do not allow a chair to run for three consecutive terms, and so Char is not eligible to run at this time.

Now the longer version. (Feel free so skip ahead if not interested in USATT stuff.) For reference, here are the USATT Bylaws, the USATT Minutes and Actions page, and the USATT Agenda and Notices page.

=>Feb. 26, 2020: Richard Char is elected chair of the USATT Interim Board by a 4-0 vote.

=>June 1, 2020: USATT Permanent Board is seated. Richard Char is re-elected chair, but this time of the USATT Board, not just the Interim USATT Board. However, since Anne Cribbs, the previous chair, had been elected chair in January 2019 to a two-year term, Char was only elected to complete her term after she resigned at the end of 2019. So Char would only be chair until Jan. 1, 2021, when there would the next election for chair. (Char does not contest this.) Here’s the bylaw on that:

Section 8.6. Resignation, Removal and Vacancies. ... A Chair elected to fill a vacancy shall be elected for the unexpired term of such Chair’s predecessor in office.

=>Jan. 1, 2021: The date passes, and the first board meeting of the year is held Feb. 1, 2021, but no election for chair takes place, violating the bylaws. Kagin Lee, former chair of the USATT Rules Committee, writes a letter to the board on March 28, 2021, pointing this bylaw violation out. (He wrote of the USATT board, "Now it cannot follow the simple instructions regarding when terms begin and end - not only board members' terms, but also the chair's: The chair's term expired at the end of 2020 and there should have been an election of a new/renewed chair at the first meeting of the year.") I blogged about this twice. Others (including me) point this out during later board meetings in the Zoom chat. But no election is held. Informally, we are told that Char’s term is through Jan. 1, 2022, after which there would be a vote for chair. As per the bylaws, Char’s term continues until his successor is elected.

=>June 2, 2021: USATT Chair Richard Char has now served over one year as chair of the permanent board, meaning his term now counts as a full term, as per the bylaws. You cannot retroactively change this fact.

=>Dec. 6, 2021: There are elections for four player reps to take place at the start of 2022, after which there’d presumably be an election for chair of the board after his apparent two-year term ended in February 2022. However, with five days’ notice to the board, Chair Char suddenly calls an “urgent/special” board meeting on Dec. 6, 2021, saying that he “forgot” (direct quote) to hold the election for chair of the board in January of 2021, eleven months before, as required by the bylaws. The public notice of the meeting went up the morning of the meeting on Monday, Dec. 6, 2021. Many of us, including me, argued that with four new board members coming in, and since they had already waited eleven months, and since there had been such short notice about the election, they should wait another month or so and then have the election for chair, with the new board. However, this was not done. At the meeting, Char wins re-election, 5-2, and so would preside over the next year over a board that was about to change quite a bit with four new athlete reps coming in.

The wording of the motion was even more problematic. Here’s the motion from the Dec. 6, 2021 meeting:

RESOLVED: That Richard Char is elected as Chair of the Board effective as of January 1, 2021 to serve until January 1, 2023 or until his successor is duly elected and qualified. The Board acknowledges and ratifies Richard’s service as Chair from January 1, 2021, to date.”

Even though Char had served as chair of the permanent board from June 1, 2020, to the vote on Dec. 6, 2021 (18 months, plus three months as chair of the interim board), the vote tries to retroactively change that to having him getting re-elected on Jan. 1, 2021, which never happened. The reality is that as of June 2, 2021, he had served over a year as chair, making it a full term. Nothing can change that, not even a later vote of the board. It would be like the US congress voting that Obama or Bush Jr. had only served one term and so were able to run for president again. But by trying to make the vote retroactive to Jan. 1, 2021, it tried to create the fiction that his first term was only seven months (June 1, 2020 to Jan. 1, 2021) – meaning it wasn’t a full term, making him eligible to run for another term. According to the bylaws:

Section 8.5. Term Limits. No individual shall serve as the chair for more than two consecutive terms, or for more than three terms in any eight (8) year period. In the event the chair serves a partial term, any term served more than one (1) year shall constitute as a full term.

In reality, Char’s first term as chair of the permanent board was from June 1, 2020 to Dec. 6, 2021 (18 months, plus the three as chair of the interim board), and he was re-elected on Dec. 6, 2021 to a term that would end when they held the next election for chair, on Feb. 6, 2023, or 14 months. Both terms were over a year, and so are considered full terms. Result? He’s served two full terms as chair and isn’t eligible for a third consecutive term. HOWEVER . . . by retroactively claiming he was re-elected eleven months before he was actually re-elected, the claim is that his first term wasn’t over a year, making him eligible to run for another term. But it isn’t reality. (It’s likely some board members didn’t understand the implications of the wording of the motion. Now they do. But those who did the motion, or wrote the text for it, knew exactly what they were doing. Alas, this administration doesn't include in the minutes who makes and seconds the motions, so we don't know who did it. Previous administrations did so, with more detailed minutes.)

=>December 2022: It’s looking like board member Dan Reynolds, one of the ones who voted against Char in the previous chair election, will run against him for chair of the board. Behind the scenes there is much discussion as it looks like it could be a close vote. Two interesting things happen.

  1. On Dec. 27, 2022, SafeSport temporarily suspends Reynolds due to an anonymous accusation of a SafeSport violation. (We don’t know how far in advance the accusation was actually made.) This could be completely legitimate – we don’t know. But the timing is somewhat suspicious. We’ll have to wait and see on this. But I’ve been told these things are often resolved rather quickly. Alas, this one has not, but nobody knew that at the time.
  2. The bylaws (Section 20.2) require that the 2023 budget be approved by Dec. 31, 2022. No vote is taken on this, violating the bylaws. This would have implications.

=>January 13, 2023: With Reynolds temporarily suspended, and with 30-days’ notice required for a regular board meeting (and one already scheduled for Feb. 6), Char calls for an “urgent/special” board meeting to vote on the budget, claiming it was necessary since they were late on approving the budget. Here’s the key thing – if the budget had been approved by Dec. 31, 2022, as required by the bylaws, then all would have been fine. But by violating the bylaws, it gave a pretext to call the “urgent/special” board meeting for Jan. 13, 2023, which they can do with five-days’ notice, as opposed to the normal 30-days’ notice required by the bylaws, or wait until the already scheduled Feb. 6 meeting – and then, since the budget meeting now takes place after Jan. 1, 2023, after the expiration of Char’s term, the bylaws require they vote for the next chair.

Section 8.2. Election/Selection. The Chair of the Board shall be elected by the Board, as the first order of business at the Board meeting following expiration, removal, or resignation, incapacity, or death of the previous Chair

Result? By not approving the budget in 2022 as required by the bylaws, it both gave a pretext to call an “urgent/special” meeting in January, 2023 to approve them (rather than wait until the Feb. 6 meeting), while coincidentally forcing an immediate vote for chair of the board while Reynolds is under the cloud of temporary suspension and legally unable to take part in USATT activities. (The temporary suspension says that Reynolds cannot take part in any “USATT-related activities and events.”) If they waited until the Feb. 6 meeting for the chair election, and it was very possible that his case might have been resolved by then. (It hasn’t yet.)

So what happened on Friday the 13th in January? The meeting was called with five-days’ notice to the board. However, unlike all past board meetings in modern times that I know of, there was no notice in the USATT Agendas and Notices page. Bylaw 7.24 says, “Ordinarily, all meetings of the Board shall be open to members of USATT,” and then gives provisions for the board to vote to close a meeting for executive session – but what’s the point of having an “open” meeting if it’s held in secret, with no notice to the membership? (And since there was no vote for executive session in advance, it was an “open” meeting.)

So it was a secret meeting. The membership had no idea that there was going to be a meeting that would include voting for chair of the board for the next two years, and so were unable to give input to their representatives on this. A number of board members objected, believing they should wait until the Reynolds situation was resolved or at least until the Feb. 6 meeting. But the chair has the power to force these things and rule on many other matters. (That’s why these elections matter.)

However . . . when the Zoom meeting took place, only six of the twelve board members attended. Since they were one person short of a quorum, they were unable to hold the vote. That night a vote went out to approve the budget by email. It was approved with “unanimous written consent.” So the “urgent/special” budget meeting wasn’t really necessary. (Any discussion of the budget was already done via email.)

=>February 6, 2023: The meeting was held last night (Monday). Tara Profitt nominated Char to run for re-election. Player rep (and current US Men’s Singles champion) nominated Thomas Hu to run for chair. Char wins easily, 7-2-1. Nobody brought up the issue of Char’s eligibility.

My personal opinion is that some of these board members are living in a bubble. (And three of them, including Char, are non-table tennis people, brought in by the USOPC, and know little of our sport. The other two have supported Char in every vote taken since they joined the board in 2020.) Many on the board have also become overly chummy, seemingly supporting each other out of friendship and team unity rather than just the merits. Those who disagree on something feel great pressure to go along with the others. When there are problems, they “circle the wagons.” There's also a huge amount of politicking behind the scenes, with board members often changing their votes once they realize their candidate probably won't win, jumping on the bandwagon and allowing them to be on the "winning" side, often making close votes not so close. I’ve seen the same thing happen in past boards, leading to many of the same problems we have here. (This type of thing also happened during my two tenures on the board, though not as much as is happening now.)

Yes, Char runs the meetings efficiently, as one board member said. So has every past board chair. The problem is how the power of the chair is used – and if you’ve been reading my blog over the past few years, you’ll know I’ve pointed out all sorts of abuses and bylaw violations. I don’t see the potential for that to change until the next set of elections at the end of 2024. (At some point before then I may have to do a complete listing. It’s long. I also disagree with many of their policies, but that's a separate issue.)

I don’t like writing about this stuff, but someone has to. If USATT just followed their own rules, nobody would have to. 

Weekend Coaching and Training in Akron
I coached in four group junior sessions over the weekend. Most memorable part – teaching a group of them during break how to blow the ball in the air! But on a more practical level, some of the things I worked with players on included recovering from shots from the wide angles (follow through back into position), especially after playing a forehand from the wide backhand or forehand; keeping the ball wide during practice drills (“What you do in practice you will do in a match”); follow up the serve with an attack unless the opponent does something to stop it (as opposed to the old-fashioned thinking of serving and attacking only if you happen to see an easy shot); teaching beginners to smash (backswing regular or even lower, then raise the racket up); and a lot of work on serves.

One small/medium/maybe large worry – I was a practice partner in one session for 30 minutes, and my shoulder was hurting. Right now the shoulder hurts if I extend it or raise it over my head. How fast can I heal at my age? (63 in three weeks.) This is worrisome, since, as noted last week’s blog, I’m going to the Ohio Elite Training Camps– as a PLAYER!!! Yes, I’ve decided to get back in shape. The camp is for players rated over 2000. The level of play will be very high – look at the current list of 23 players, with more likely to enter. It’ll be the first time since 1980 that I won’t be among the strongest players in a camp! (I could, of course, train at my own club, but it’s easier in a group, and at my club I’d be either a coach or practice partner in our camps, which are for junior players.)

Help Wanted - Table Tennis Head Coach
Here’s the notice from the Triangle Badminton & Table Tennis Club in North Carolina.

Ping Pong: The Triumph
The movie comes out on Feb. 17, but was released in China on Jan. 22. It tells the story of China’s comeback in the early 1990s, when Europe (and especially Sweden) had begone to dominate table tennis. “Based on an amazing true story, Deng Chao stars as Cai Xinhua, the man entrusted with forming a new national table tennis team. Assembling a motley crew of dynamic personalities, he must inspire and rally them to rise to their best against the face of incredible competition during the championships.” 2hr 20 min. Trailers are in Chinese with English subtitles, so presumably the movie will also have English subtitles. The listings give the actor's names but not who they play, but presumably the five members of the 1995 Chinese Men's Team at the Worlds (Kong Linghui, Liu Guoliang, Ma Wenge, Wang Tao, Ding Song), Coach Cai Zhenhua, as well as the Swedes. The trailer shows someone who apparently plays Waldner, though it's not a good resemblance. Here are some links:

University of Maryland Table Tennis Club Fundraiser
Here’s their GoFundMe page to help them raise funds to go to the 2023 National Collegiate Table Tennis Championships! They have raised $1690, and so are over halfway to their goal of $3000. C'mon, chip in!

How Should I Practice?
Here’s the video (5:42) from Samson Dubina and Sarah Jalli.

A New Strategy Was Born This Match
Here’s the video (13:07) from Seth Pech (vs. Wilson Wei).

Butterfly Training Tips

New from Pingispågarna

New from Ti Long

New from PingSunday/EmRatThich

New from PongSpace

Backspin to Win
Here’s the video (4:46) from Table Tennis Central.

Tahl Leibovitz
Here’s the video (1:36) from Jimmy Butler. “A fun congratulations to 47 year old Paralympian Tahl Leibovitz. He needed one tournament to gain 234 points last week at Westchester, New York TTC. His previous career high USA Table Tennis Rating of 2531 was when he was 26 years old in 2002. In American table tennis, the computer rating is how we identify level from player to player, so it is always a fun moment for a player when that computer rating is at its highest point!”

Artificial Intelligence vs. Ma Long!
Here’s the video (4:17).

Istvan Jonyer | The Greatest Sidespin Looper Ever
Here’s the video (5 min) about the 1975 World Men’s Singles Champion (and many other titles).

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

New from TT11TV
Lots of new videos here!

New from Taco Backhand

New from Steve Hopkins/Butterfly


 ITTF News

There’s No Crying in Table Tennis
Here’s where you can buy the shirt at Amazon!

Beetle Bailey
Here’s this past Sunday’s cartoon, “Fight to the Death”! Here’s my archive of 31 Beetle Bailey table tennis comics

But Dad, I Love Him!
Here’s the cartoon!

Jesus Came to Serve
Here’s the cartoon!

Pajama Kitchen Pong
Here’s the video (19 sec)!

Somersault Pong
Here’s the video (23 sec)!

Bounce with this Racket, Win $100
Here’s the video (8:06) from Pongfinity!

MozART Group Table Tennis
Here’s the video (4:24)! It’s from four years ago but I don’t think I’ve linked to it.

Campaign 2100: Game of Scorpions
Campaign 2100: Game of Scorpions, my best science fiction novel – which includes a lot of table tennis! – has been republished by Phoenix Pick Publishers, with a new cover and a few minor internal changes. Get your copy today!!! (Or any of my other books.)

Send us your own coaching news!

Tip of the Week
Don’t Fix a Problem You’ve Already Fixed.

Classified Information Found in Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers
The US Government has announced a recall of Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers by Larry Hodges, following an FBI raid on his home where they confiscated dozens of copies. Said FBI Director George Santos, "The book is full of classified information on serving, receiving, and even killing. Nobody is above the law, not even Hodges, and the Forehand Blocking Institute will not rest until we've gone over every tip on how to play long pips."

Said President Biden, "Folks, many of those pages contain classified secrets and other malarky for use only by US table tennis players in their matches with the Red Chinese and the Soviets. If you order a copy, you will be fined 50 rating points.”

Said former President Trump, “BELIEVE ME, if other countries find out, as Larry writes, that 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, then can America be GREAT again? I mean, this book is the BIGGLIEST book ever, the BEST, and it'll lead to so much winning you'll get sick of it, and did you hear about how the 2020 election was stolen from me and all 63 court cases I lost were by backstabbing, disloyal judges? And don't buy a copy of Loser Larry's Trump Tales, it's full of LIES and other true things about me!" 

Fortunately, there is an alternative book you can buy, "How to Be a Great Table Tennis Player Like Me," by 17-time Men's Singles World Champion and current FBI Director George Santos. He'll be signing copies of the book at the post-Academy Awards party, where he'll be accepting his tenth Academy Award, as Best Actor for his role as the ball in Forrest Gump 2: The Fury of Pong.

Hodges is appealing the recall to the Supreme Court, where he claims everything in the book was declassified by himself when he was USATT Coaching Chair, and that the parts about killing were not secret messages to Russian President Putin on assassination methods. Said Pope George Santos, “Trust unto Larry as you would trust unto me.”  

Weekend Coaching, USATT Magazines, and Ping-Pong in the Cambrian
Fundamentals, Fundamentals, Fundamentals!!! They cannot be overemphasized. If you don’t get the fundamentals down, it’s like pulling a trigger on a gun in a gunfight, and instead of firing, the gun explodes. (I learned that from George Santos.) Other related issues that came up this weekend in the five group junior sessions I coached included; playing practice games the way you want your game to develop; how to play hitters and long pips; and serving low. I’m glad to see many of the players are really playing games the way they train, trying to win with their shots instead of panicking and just pushing and blocking.

Meanwhile, while trying to prepare our players for the future, I’m living in the past. I’m still trying complete my collection of USATT Magazines from 1976 (when I started) to 2014 (when it was discontinued, replaced by USATT Insider. I’m missing five issues – anyone have any of these that I could buy/trade/steal? If so, contact me! They are:

  • July/Aug 1982
  • Nov/Dec 1986
  • Nov/Dec 1987
  • Apr/May 1988
  • May 1989

Some old-timers might remember the seven issues of Timmy's North American World of Table Tennis back in 1983-1984. I have six of them, but am missing issue #2, Sept/Oct 1983. Here’s my entire historical collection of table tennis paraphernalia. (I have some table tennis books that I haven’t added to the online listing yet. I may add them tonight.)

Speaking of the past, as some of you probably know I also write science fiction. I recently finalized a short story (3800 words) titled, “Connoisseur of Cambrian Cooking.” It involves a time traveler who goes back 500 million years, to the Cambrian Explosion. I worked in this line: “The closest she ever came to sports was occasional ping-pong, where she'd mindlessly rally with her grad students while pondering the secrets of time and the universe.”

Ding Ning vs. Tahl Leibovitz. Olympic Gold Medalist VS Paralympic Gold Medalist at the United Nations
Here’s the video (36 sec). Here’s Tahl’s TikTok page, where he has lots of other videos.

Butterfly Training Tips and Ask the Experts

  • Backhand & Pivot (64 sec) with Jinxin Wang
  • Stroke Management and Footwork (80 sec) with Anav Gupta
  • Contact Point When Serving Underspin, by Stefan Feth. The question was, “It’s pretty widely accepted that when serving underspin, more spin is produced by contact with the lower portion of the racket than with the upper portion. Can you explain the rotational differences that occur between these two contact locations? What is making the difference?”

New from Samson Dubina

  • Ohio Elite Training Camps – As noted in a previous blog, I’m going to this camp – as a PLAYER!!! Yes, I’ve decided to get back in shape. The camp is for players rated over 2000. The level of play will be very high – look at the current list of 21 players, with more likely to enter. It’ll be the first time since 1980 that I won’t be among the strongest players in a camp! (I could, of course, train at my own club, but it’s easier in a group, and at my club I’d be either a coach or practice partner in our camps, which are for junior players.)
  • Rehearsal
  • Stroke Considerations

New from Ti Long

How to Play with SHORT PIMPLES
Here’s the video (4:10) from Max Noresson/Pingispågarna.

Defeated by KenSpin and the Power of Unorthodox Play
Here’s the article by Tom Lodziak.

New Chapter, New Experiences
Here’s the article by Joanna Sung

New from PingSkills

New from PingSunday

New from TT11TV
Matches from European Team Championships.

New from TacoBackhand

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


New from Steve Hopkins/Butterfly


Ghost Serve
Here’s the video (9 sec) – can you do this? With practice, you can! It’s great ball control and spin practice. I once did 13 in a row, with the ball bouncing back over the net on the first bounce.

Chair Challenge
Here’s the video (24 sec)! I’ve done this trick a number of times in exhibitions, lobbing while sitting in a chair, as well as while sitting or lying on the floor.

Do You Have a King Pong Sticker?
Well, why not? You can also get a King Pong shirt.

Adam vs. Tina
Here’s the video (11:52) – that’s Bobrow vs. Tina Tsai!

5 Hours Ping Pong Challenge
Here’s the video (8:13) from Pongfinity!

Send us your own coaching news!

Tip of the Week
The Advantages and Disadvantages of Size in Table Tennis.

Weekend Coaching and What's In My Bag?
I coached in four group junior sessions over the weekend. In two of them, I mostly fed multiball for most of the 90 minutes. In the other two I split my time between walk-around coach and practice partner.

A lot of the emphasis this weekend was on remembering the feel of the good shots, and then repeating them. This means that when you mishit a shot, you don't focus on the missed shot – that's a great way of ingraining a bad habit! Instead, you immediately focus on what the shot should have been – and so you think about the feel of when you do it right, and try to repeat that. When a player makes a nice shot, I often tell them to "Remember the feel of that shot!" (This will be the focus of next week's Tip.) There was the usual focus on fundamentals. One player kept shortening his backswing, leading to a jerky, uncontrolled shot, but we fixed that. Another kept lunging for shots instead of stepping, so we worked on that. Another player couldn't seem to hit forehands down the line, so we worked on that. One player was feeling sleepy, so I explained how you can fix half that problem – go in the bathroom and splash water on your face! (But to completely solve it – get more sleep.)

I had a little fun before one of the sessions, when I pulled out my old trusty clipboard and took on a bunch of kids, mostly from 1200-1500, and went undefeated (mostly chopping, sometimes pick-hitting) – but there's this nice gleam in some of their eyes that says, "I'm going to figure out how to beat you." (And they get great practice: looping, playing chop, reading spin, and an exercise in figuring things out tactically.) I'm still about 1800 with the clipboard, used to be 2100. With just a little practice, I think I can get back to 2000 with it.

Someone asked me why I have such a big playing bag. Why, because I have a lot of stuff in it, and every single item in it is absolutely necessary. And so, without further ado, here is the current content of my playing bag (a Butterfly Yasyo sport bag), minus the list of classified documents I just turned over to the FBI. Seriously, is there anything below that isn't absolutely necessary?

  • Two sponge rackets (Timo Boll ALCs, regular and spare, Tenergy 05 black 2.2mm FH, Tenergy 25 red 2.2mm BH)
  • Two hardbat rackets
  • Huge racket case with five rackets I use with students, all with inverted on one side, plus:
    1) chopping racket with 1.0 sponge long pips; 2) long pips no sponge; 3) medium long pips; 4) short pips; and 5) antispin.
  • Five mini-paddles with Tenergy on both sides
  • Clipboard
  • Towel
  • Spare shirt - Baby Yoda Playing Table Tennis
  • Playing shoes in personalized TT shoe bag
  • Two knee braces
  • One arm brace
  • Two bottles of water
  • Fake trillion dollar bills (which I give out sometimes as rewards)
  • Bag of Jolley Ranchers (which I give to the kids after sessions)
  • Box of granola bars
  • Three-pack of Nittaku 3-star balls
  • Bag of two-colored balls for demonstrating spin
  • Two oversized 48mm balls
  • Two masks
  • Notebook full of notes
  • Folder full of MDTTC junior group listings and brochures, entry forms, sport psychology training outlines, Pongasaurus stickers, USATT Rulebook
  • Small carry-case with bottle of glue, scissors, net measurer, comb, small pack of floss-picks, fingernail clippers, racket grip (probably 15 years old!), table tennis business cards, 3-prong power converter, small Phillips screwdriver (for fixing ball nets)
  • Small Kleenex pack
  • Sandpaper (to sand down the sharp edges around the handle on some new rackets)
  • Copy of "Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers"
  • Copy of "First Galactic Table Tennis Championships"
  • Kindle
  • Reading glasses
  • Extra Dominican Republic refrigerator magnet left over from coaching ITTF junior tournament in September

New from USATT and Some Commentary

  • USA Table Tennis Initiates Tournament Series to Crown USATT State Champions
    I'm glad they are bringing this program back. As a member of the USATT board, I started up a State Championships Initiative back in 2015, which helped lead to about twelve new state championships over the next two years, with 34 states holding state championships in 2016. (This includes some that used the State Games for the state championships.) Alas, the USATT page for that seems to have disappeared.
  • Robert Mayer Joins USATT as IT Specialist
    I'm sure he'll do a great job. Long ago, he and I co-founded the USATT League. I initiated the idea and did the overall design, but he did all the hard work – the actual programming.
  • 2022 USATT Club Awards Announced
    I don't like the idea that they are judging and ranking clubs strictly by the tournaments they run - how many, the star level, and the prize money (see the "2022 Top 15 Clubs listing), or on hosting ITTF Feeder events. This makes no sense to me – that's how you would rank tournament directors or hosts. (This doesn't mean the selected clubs aren't worthy, just that the criteria for picking them is wrong - and gave the inaugural Club of the Year to the Club Rep on the USATT Board of Directors.) Just as they have Coach of the Year awards, where coaches are nominated and then judged and voted on by a USATT panel, why not do the same with clubs? (They don't judge coaches based on the number, star level, and prize money of the tournaments they coach at!) Instead of arbitrarily deciding the only way to judge a club is by the tournaments it runs, put together a real list of criteria (mostly objective) that a normal person would judge a club by, such as:
    • Programs - private & group coaching, junior, senior, para, leagues, tournaments, etc. - this is probably the most important way to judge a club
    • Size and number of tables
    • Playing conditions
    • Other features - lounge, pro shop, etc. 
    • Hours open
    • Number of members
    • Quality of the coaches
    • Titles and rankings of their top players in various categories

University of Maryland Table Tennis Club Fundraiser
Here’s their GoFundMe page to help them raise funds to go to the 2023 National Collegiate Table Tennis Championships! They have raised $1385, and so are almost halfway to their goal of $3000. C'mon, chip in!

2023 World Veterans Championships
Here’s the ITTF home page for the event that finished this past weekend in Muscat, Oman, with news and results. There are 1,181 players, including 41 from USA. USA Medalists are below – note all the Sakai's and Sweeris's, the all-USA Over 75 Mixed Doubles Final, and all the medals by Cheung and Vinay!
UPDATE - I updated this with a complete list of USA medalists, using this listing.

  • Dave & Donna Sakai – Gold in Over 75 Mixed Doubles
  • Dell & Connie Sweeris – Silver in Over 75 Mixed Doubles
  • Donna Sakai & Connie Sweeris – Gold in over 75 Women's Doubles
  • Donna Sakai – Bronze in Over 70 Women's Singles
  • Dave Sakai – Bronze in Over 75 Men's Singles
  • Cheung TingNing – Gold in Over 70 Mixed Doubles (with ZhaoZhao Jiang of China)
  • Cheung TingNing – Bronze in Over 70 Women's Singles
  • Cheung TingNing & Wendy Fang – Silver in Over 65 Women's Doubles
  • Vinay Chandra – Bronze in Over 40 Men's Doubles (with Shitiz Malhotra of India) 
  • Vinay Chandra – Bronze in Over 40 Mixed Doubles (with Anjana Rao of India)
  • Ray Mack & Simon Shtofmakher – Bronze in Over 70 Men's Doubles

Here are recent ITTF articles:

And one from Steve Hopkins:

PongSpace and NCTTA Enter New Era Together
Here's the article from the National Collegiate Table Tennis Association.

Residual Spin
Here's the video (3:16) from Samson Dubina.

European Youth Champion Teaches How to Loop Long Fast Serves
Here's the video (26:39) from Seth Pech and Jiří Martinko.

Don't Make These 6 Training Mistakes!
Here's the video (10:41) from Iba Diaw, world #76 from Senegal. He has a lot of other videos.

Stroke Chemistry & Distance Change
Here's the video (65 sec) with Simeon Martin

How to Prepare For Your First Tournament and Your First Match to Maximize Winning
Here's the video (1:28) from PongSpace/Angela Guan. "NCTTA national champion Angela Guan shows you the three tips she use in preparing for her tournaments. Preparation is the key to maximize your chance of winning!"

New from Ti Long

New from the Performance Biomechanics Academy Table Tennis

New from Taco Backhand

New from Drupe Pong

New from PingSkills

New from Table Tennis Central

Can Virtual Reality Improve Real Life Table Tennis?! | 30 Day Challenge
Here's the video (9:43) from Table Tennis Daily.

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

New from Steve Hopkins/Butterfly

Bowmar Sport Tournament Highlights – US Open 2022

Five Net Serves in a Row
Here's the video (39 sec)!

Playing Live Against a Robot
Here's the video (10 sec)!

Cartoon Paddles
Here's what you get when you Google "Cartoon Ping-Pong Paddles" under images!

Doubles Footwork?
Here's the video (13 sec) from the Nittaku Open in Ohio this past weekend!

What Everyone Who Loses a Final Wants To Do
Here's the photo of Laura Paglin publicly assassinating Jay Nelson after she lost to him in the final of Under 1400 at the Nittaku Open in Ohio this past weekend . . . 17-15 in the fifth! (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

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Tip of the Week

Weekend Coaching and the Ohio Elite Camp
Another busy weekend coaching group sessions! Here are some issues that came up.

  • Serve placement on fast, deep serves. I had some of our beginning/intermediate players practice serving fast and deep not just to corners, but fast and deep to an opponent’s middle. I lined them up first to take turns receiving them and showed them how hard it is to react to them. Then I put four targets on the table for them to aim for – one on each wide corner, and one each for where a righty and a lefty’s elbow would normally be.
  • Recovering from forehand step-arounds. In a drill that started with serve and forehand loop from the backhand corner, when players were unable to cover the wide forehand they thought they were too slow. I worked with them to show them that it really came down to recover and balance from the previous shot. If you follow through back into position and stay balanced, it’s not so hard to cover that wide forehand.
  • Light on feet. Keep those feet moving!

But the players aren’t the only ones who need training. I gained weight during the pandemic, and since I don’t train anymore, I’m out of shape. So I’ve decided to fix the problem. I could, of course, find someone to train with at my club, MDTTC, or even pay other coaches for training. But it’s a lot easier in a group setting. (At MDTTC, I coach at the group sessions, and if I did play, I’d be a practice partner, mostly blocking.) I saw Samson Dubina’s upcoming elite camps in Akron, Ohio, Feb. 13-23 and Mar. 21-31, and thought, why not? They are for players rated at least 2000, and have a strong group of players already signed up. So I’ve signed up. I’ll fly there on Sunday night, Feb. 12, right after a weekend of coaching. I’ll miss one weekend at MDTTC.

I’ve had some recent knee problems, though it’s a lot better now. However, just in case, I googled the best knee braces, and found and bought the NEENCA Professional Knee Brace. I’ve tried it out, and it seems pretty effective. I’ll be wearing that, along with my BandIt Arm Band for my arm, and a thinking cap on my head so I can figure out how someone my age is training in a room full of people mostly 1/3 or 1/4 my age. But I’ll do every footwork drill to the bitter end.

One sort of interesting thing – this will be the first camp I’ve been to in over 40 years where I’ll be one of the weaker players in the camp! But I’m hoping to get back to 2200+ level, not easy since I’ll be 63 next month and play a rather physical forehand attacking style. But for this camp, I’ll be hitting mostly with the 2000-2200 players.

What do I need to do to get back to 2200+ level? Main things:

  • General fitness.
  • More aggressive backhand – it’s gotten too soft. While I can backhand loop, I’m better playing an aggressive hitting/blocking backhand.
  • Receive practice – it’s the first thing you lose when you don’t play regular matches. This used to be a big strength, but now it’s a weakness.
  • I may also work on my backhand banana flip, which I mostly learned as a coach. My normal instinct is to do regular backhand flips against short serves and pushes.
  • Practice matches. But I won’t do well at first.

I recently had to another SafeSport refresher course, required for SafeSport compliance for coaches, umpires, tournament directors, and others who organize or work at events. (Here's the USATT SafeSport Policy.) It’s required annually. As I’ve blogged in the past, I think they put way too much in these things. Rather than trying to turn us all into experts (it doesn’t), wouldn’t it make more sense to have a one-page thing that gives general guidelines of abuse that would be easy to remember, where if we suspect something is wrong, we go to the appropriate SafeSport page to find out what to do? (In cases where abuse is happening live, we would, of course, have the common sense to stop it, and in other cases, we’d have time to research it.) Of course, for most of us, most issues that would be a SafeSport violation are obvious if you have common sense – and those that don’t probably aren’t going to change by watching the SafeSport video and taking a multiple choice test. (I ran into some technical issues on the refresher, but Tina Ren from USATT headquarters was helpful in fixing them.) 

Some things from SafeSport I disagree with. If a parent says it’s okay for a coach to pick up and drop off a student in their car, then that should be okay – but not according to SafeSport. (But no, I don’t pick up students in my car, though that was a regular thing years ago.) I also don’t think we need to take these “refresher” courses every year. Every two years should be enough.

So, I took the test. It says to allot 30 minutes. But there were 55 pages to go through (many of them short), and five videos (about two minutes each). I’m the academic type, and I can safely say the large majority of people will take longer on this than I took – and it took me 58 minutes, and I was rushing it. In the end, I got 9 out of 10 on the test, but only because I impatiently clicked a wrong button and got one obvious one wrong.

Perhaps it would make sense for USATT to arrange a group session at the US Open or Nationals where lots of coaches, umpires, club directors, and others get together and take the test as a group thing?

University of Maryland Table Tennis Club Fundraiser
Here’s their GoFundMe page to help them raise funds to go to the 2023 National Collegiate Table Tennis Championships! Little-known fact – I founded the University of Maryland Table Tennis Club in 1982, and at one point, turned it into arguably the busiest club in the country, with 14 tables, seven days a week. It wasn’t a professional club, just two large rooms in the main gymnasium building with seven tables in each that we could put up any time. During the day, the rooms were used for other sports. At night, the place was packed with students playing table tennis! How did this happen? We did an exhibition every week for about a year in just about every major building on campus – I’d bring in another player and we’d roll a table to the math building, the physic building, the computer building, the journalism building, and so on, and give out flyers. On a campus of 40,000 people, filling a club every night isn’t hard if you put in the time and energy. (Okay, it is hard because it takes time and energy!)

2023 World Veterans Championships
Here’s the ITTF home page for the event, Jan. 15-21 in Muscat, Oman, with news and results. There are 1,181 players, including 41 from USA.

Carl Danner Presidential Award
Here’s the video (8:39)!

New from USATT

New from Samson Dubina

New from Ti Long

New from PingSunday/EmRatThich

New from Taco Backhand

New from PongSpace/Angela Guan

Reverse Backhand Serve
Here’s the video (6:03) from Performance Biomechanics Academy Table Tennis. “A great tool for players with pimple rubbers.”

World’s Fastest Table Tennis Serve
Here’s the video (2:54) from Pingispågarna.

Wiki-How Table Tennis

New from Steve Hopkins/Butterfly

Bowmar Sports Tournament Highlights

New YouTube Channel By Los Angeles Table Tennis Association (LATTA)
Here it is!

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


The Difference of the Stroke Effect between Two Types of New Material Seamed Plastic Table Tennis Ball: A Case Study of Nittaku and DHS
Here’s the abstract. (Loads slowly.) Click “Download This Paper” to see full paper. The five authors are all from the China Table Tennis College of Shanghai at the University of Sport CN.

Ping-Pong Bar Co-Founded by Susan Sarandon to Replace NYC Comedy Club Carolines
Here’s the article.

Why Table Tennis Balls Can't Always Be Carried In Hand Luggage?
Here’s the video (53 sec)!

Zits – Donut Hole Ping Pong
Here’s the cartoon from Sunday, Jan. 15, 2023!

Biggest Ping Pong Fails
Here’s the video (8:15) from Pongfinity!

Send us your own coaching news!

Tip of the Week
Developing Fast Reflexes.

Weekend Coaching
I coached in four sessions over the weekend, and part of a fifth. As usual, lots of work on Fundamentals!!! In various times I fed multiball, acted as a practice partner, and was a walk-around coach. Some issues that came up:

  • How to backhand loop against a deep, aggressive push to the backhand. Key is recovering quickly from previous shot or serve to a ready position about arm’s length from the table so you have time to react, and early racket preparation, i.e. getting your racket down and back early so you don’t have to rush it at the end.
  • Recovering from a forehand from a wide corner. Key is returning to ready position as part of the follow through. When forehand looping from wide forehand, you follow through to your left (for righties) to get back into position. When forehand looping from wide backhand, you follow through to your right to get back into position.
  • How to create heavy backspin serves. It’s a matter of wrist and forearm, and grazing contact as much under the ball as possible.

And then it was book delivery time! I’d decided to give out copies of my Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers book to all the kids in our junior program – about 60 in all – for Christmas. I gave out a bunch in December in our Christmas camp and before, but many weren’t there, so I left the big box of books at the club, and gave out the rest this past weekend. For those that already had the book, they had the option of picking any of my other books. Many got Table Tennis Tips, the first in my Tips series, which includes More Table Tennis Tips, Still More Table Tennis Tips, and (coming in May this year) Yet Still More Table Tennis Tips. Some of the younger kids got Table Tennis Tales and Techniques, since it has more pictures.

Speed and Reflexes, or Proper Technique?
Many of you may have seen this video of my lunging return in the Over 40 Hardbat Singles Final at the US Open, including slow motion, put together by Jimmy Butler. (I normally use and coach sponge, but play hardbat on the side.) Here’s the full video of the match from Ping Pong Weekend.

The interesting thing is how many people thought I was able to make this return due to fast reflexes and feet. Actually, neither of those had anything to do with it! It was just a matter of proper technique During the pandemic I gained weight that I haven’t been able to lose, I’m having knee problems, and I’m about to turn 63 – all of these should have slowed me down, but proper technique overcame all of these. I also don’t have huge numbers of fast twitch muscles – while long ago I was a good distance runner, I was never known for my sprinting.

Let’s analyze what REALLY happened, as you can see from the video if you watch closely, especially the parts in slow motion. And note that I’d written this week’s Tip of the Week above, Developing Fast Reflexes, a few weeks ago during a long afternoon writing up Tips. It was going to go up in two weeks, but I moved it to today since it’s relevant to this.

  1. My serve return was relatively deep (though I’d like it to be even deeper), so opponent is less able to rush or angle me on the next shot, giving me time to react.
  2. My return was to the opponent’s middle, forcing him to choose between forehand and backhand, and so, on average, his return is not as quick as it would be if I’d gone right to the forehand or backhand.
  3. Immediately after hitting the ball, I looked up to see what the opponent was doing so I could react more quickly to it.
  4. After making the serve return, I quickly moved back into a ready position, ready to move in either direction.
  5. Before opponent made his return, I did a little hop to prepare me to move quickly in either direction.
  6. From years of watching opponents, I reflexively saw where he was hitting the ball as he started his forward swing, well before contact, and so was able to start moving to my left before he even hit the ball.
  7. By staying balanced rather than lunging and putting my weight on my left foot, I was able to quickly change directions when I saw the ball hit the net and bounce away.
  8. By staying balanced even while making a last-second change of direction as I moved to the ball, I was able to maintain ball control on my return.
  9. Note the quick recovery in case he returned my edge ball.
  10. And, of course, the polite raising of my hand in apology for the edge - sorry, Ilya!

So . . . do I have super-human reflexes and footspeed, or just good technique? Is there anything here than anybody can’t learn (barring major disabilities), and that essentially all top players do routinely and reflexively from years of practice?

Navin Kumar, Dead and Back Again!
On Dec. 26, Navin Kumar “died” and returned from the dead. As he wrote on Facebook, “I woke up in the hospital this morning. I was unconscious and unresponsive yesterday with no pulse and was dead at my parents house. I was dead for a short time. My heart stopped beating for 10 minutes. In the hospital now alive and fighting for my life. Back from the dead and feeling like a zombie minus eating brains.”

He’s written a number of posts on his hospitalization and recovery on his Facebook page. He’s now back home, with a new pacemaker. Navin, also known as “The Bionic Man,” has both Parkinson’s and a mostly artificial heart. I’ve been coaching him for a number of years, and he’s won a number of medals at the US Open, Nationals, and a few years ago go silver in doubles and bronze in singles at the World Parkinson’s Championships. (Google “Navin Kumar bionic man” and see all links that come up!)

Books I Read in 2022
I read 43 books in 2022. For many years I’ve kept track of all the books I read. It’s not an exact thing as far as showing how much I’ve read as books vary greatly in length. The numbers vary, from a high of 84 in 2018 to a low of just 25 (!!!) in 2012. The 43 this past year is a drop – in the past six years I’ve read 43, 52, 67, 68, 84, and 57 books. One “low” – I only read one book on table tennis in 2022, while most years I read a number of them. (Instead, lots of science fiction, science, history, and books on writing.) At some point I might combine the lists into one long one and post it.

Butterfly Training Tips

New from EmRatThich/PingSunday

New from Samson Dubina

New from Ti Long

New from Drupe Pong

New from PingSkills

New from PongSpace

New from the Performance Biomechanics Academy Table Tennis

New from Taco Backhand

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

Tom’s Table Tennis Quiz 2022
Here’s the quiz from Tom Lodziak.

30-Day Table Tennis Fitness Challenge
Here’s the 30-Day Table Tennis Fitness Challenge from Peak Performance Table Tennis.

“Want to improve your game while getting more fit in the process? Then start your 2023 off STRONG with the 30-Day Table Tennis Fitness Challenge. It’s really simple. Everyone who signs up for the challenge will get a workout program that’s optimized for table tennis, PLUS direct coaching support from Kevin Finn of Peak Performance Table Tennis. He'll answer your questions, review your form, and provide motivation and accountability! This program is fully remote and can be performed on your own time at home, or at your local gym. It will work well for both beginners and more serious athletes. You can also win prizes! Every workout you complete increases your chance of winning one or more of the following:

  • Paddle Palace gift certificate
  • Box of balls
  • Signed copy of Peak Performance Table Tennis
  • And More!
  • So if you’re interested in getting in better shape while also…
  • Increasing the POWER of your point-winning shots
  • Increasing your SPEED & AGILITY so you’re moving like lightning around the court
  • Reducing your risk of injury
  • And increasing your confidence via the “tight jersey effect”

2022 Para ITTF Costa Rica Open: Team USA Wins 5 Medals In The Last International Event Of The Year
Here’s the article by Vlad Farcas. On weekends in our group junior sessions, I often get to work with Samuel Altshuler, the junior near the top left!

Signed Blade from 1981 World Table Tennis Championships in Novi Sad, Yugoslavia
The blade is for sale, jammed with autographs. (For example, side one includes Istvan Jonyer of Hungary, the 1975 World Men’s Singles Champion. Look it over and see if you recognize others.) If you are interested, email Dzafer Buzoli. Here are pictures:

Ping Pong Serves Up Therapy for Mind and Body Among People with Parkinson's Disease
Here’s the video (4:18) from CBS News


New from Steve Hopkins/Butterfly


Table Tennis: It’s In My DNA
Here’s where you can buy the shirt – two versions!

Twas the Night Before Christmas . . . Ping-Pong Style
Here it is, by mjamja at the forum!

Ping Pong in the Classroom
Here’s the video (16 sec)!

Epic Ping Pong Trickshot Compilation
Here’s the video (57 sec) from Matt Hetherington!

Best Ping Pong Shots of 2022
Here’s the video (8:23) from Pongfinity!

Send us your own coaching news!

Tips of the Week While I Was Away

2022 US Open in Ontario, California
Other than arguing with certain USATT people about USATT rules and illegal ads for alcoholic beverages (see below), I had a great time at the US Open, Dec. 16-21. I was there as both a player and coach. As I player, I won Gold in Over 40 Hardbat (eighth time - see video below), Silver in Over 60 Hardbat, and Bronze in Hardbat Doubles (with Dan Seemiller Jr.). As a coach, I only had one player - Ryan Lin, who won two bronzes, for Under 13 Boys' Singles and Under 15 Boys' Doubles. (I only coached the singles matches.) The Under 13 semis was so close - Ryan won the first and had five game points in the second before losing, 16-14 - with the lights going out and interrupting play at 15-14. The online scores incorrectly have the score as 14-12.) Here are complete US Open results, care of Omnipong.

In the past, we usually had a large group of junior players from the Maryland Table Tennis Center, but this year they went as a group to the Nationals in July, the Teams in November, and most of the top ones had a number of international and other events, and they couldn't miss more school - so Ryan was our only junior player this time. We'll be back at the Nationals in July, probably with close to 30 players. (I hear rumors it’ll be in Fort Worth, TX again, but nothing official yet.)

Here is video (33:49) of my Over 40 Hardbat Final against Ilya Rozenblat, which I won 21-12, 21-14, 27-25 (!). See this diving point at 24-all in the third, giving me my first match point! I immediately took a timeout to rest after that. (Yes, I need to get in better shape, but I can still move.) Here’s the last point, where I smack in a serve. (NEW - Here's it in slow motion, starting 13 seconds in, care of Jimmy Butler!)

It was strange that I won Over 40 Hardbat but lost the final of Over 60. (I was top seed in both.) In Over 60, held on the first day (Friday), I injured my right knee at 3-3 in the first game in the semifinals, and hobbled around much of the rest of the tournament. (But I figured out how to adjust for it and continued to move about, playing my usual forehand-attacking game.) In the final I played Jian Zhuang, who is normally a shakehand player with short pips on both sides, rated 2185. He was very good, and between that and my knee problem, I lost three straight, with only one game somewhat close. I don't know if I could challenge him healthy - but I wouldn't have to in Over 40, as that event was played on the last day of the tournament, day six, and he couldn't stay the whole time and so he didn't play that event.)

In the semifinals of Over 60, I had a wild match with Steve Claflin, who plays hardbat fulltime and runs the Classic Hardbat World Championships. As noted, at 3-3 I injured my knee, and he won the first, 21-10. (It was a best of five, but we agreed to play best of three.) Twice I came very close to defaulting, but I continued. In the second, I let 18-7 and 19-10, and he almost came back, before I won, 21-17. The third was crazier. I led 17-8, 19-11, and 20-14 match point, and then it was 20-19. I was adjusting for the knee problems, but I think that Steve was often playing down to me for much of the last two games, only turning it on when he was way down and had nothing to lose. I finally won that third game, barely at 21-19.

It was strange that all the hardbat events were best of five to 21 from the semifinals on. I checked, and verified that, just as in past years, that was meant only for Men's and Women's Hardbat Singles. But since it said all hardbat events on the entry form, it was best of five in the semifinals and finals of all events, including Over 40 and Over 60. Not good for my knee and for some elderly players!

It wasn't just the knee - I pulled a muscle while shadow-practicing between points. Jeez. But that was relatively minor compared to the knee problem.

I had a strange experience at lunch at Wendy's one day. Sitting two tables behind me were a man and women (not table tennis players). They had one cell phone and were taking turns SCREAMING AT THE TOP OF THEIR LUNGS into it, passing it back and forth. It was something about their car dying and they were one and a half miles away. But that wasn't the really interesting part. As I got up to go, the man (who had been screaming just seconds before) walked over, and said (and if I gave you one thousand guesses, you would never guess this): "Excuse me, may I recite poetry to you?" I was somewhat stunned. I said I had to go, but he went ahead and recited a poem for about a minute, something about hearts and question marks, probably something about how a question mark with its mirror image looks like a heart with a dot over it.

There were a number of panels at the Open, similar to how they did a few years ago. This included the annual USATT Assembly (see segment below). Since the panels generally started around 6:30 or 7:00 PM, and I was always playing or coaching at that time, I wasn't able to attend others. (Many others had the same problem. I only made the Assembly because the tournament fell behind and so a match I was supposed to coach was postponed two hours.) Other panels were on the USATT Foundation; Club Development and Tournament Sanctioning Process; Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in USASTT Membership; Meet and Greet the Olympians; and the High Performance Team. I was a bit disappointed there were no panels on coaching or junior development. At the 2017 US Nationals, I ran two of the panels - "Coaching Clinic: Intermediate and Advanced Serves," and "How to Set Up a Successful Junior Program."

Thanks to all those who put together and ran the tournament! Many of us were especially appreciative that, after years of gradually having more and more rubber-floored courts, they all had rubberized flooring! (With my knee problems, I would not have been able to continue on cement.) With a shortage of tables, the desk crew did a superhuman job keeping things together.  

Afterwards, I flew to San Francisco to spend Christmas with my brother and his family. We toured Alcatraz on the first day. Here's a picture my six-year-old niece Ellie drew after I gave her a table tennis lesson - they have a table in their garage. She loves forehands and serving, absolutely and stubbornly refuses to even try backhands. Maybe next year.

And now, some issues that came up at the US Open. Skip ahead if not interested – a lot of it is about rules and bylaws. (New Year’s Resolution: Pay less attention to USATT so I don’t get drawn into these things...)

Alcoholic Beverages Advertised at US Open
If I gave a blow-by-blow account of the often behind-the-scenes debate on advertising alcoholic beverages on the barriers and table numbers on feature courts one and two, this blog would become a book. A long one. Instead, I'll summarize. And believe me, I’m still amazed that such a seemingly simple thing escalated. It would have been very easy for USATT to simply realize they shouldn’t be doing these ads, since they are barred by ITTF rules - more on that below - but decide it was too late for the Open since they had limited barriers and couldn’t redo all the table numbers.

There were three issues.

  1. Should USATT accept ads and sponsors for alcoholic beverages?
  2. Who should make this decision?
  3. Was it legal to advertise them in the playing courts at the US Open?

The advertiser in question was Dream Blue, a hard liquor company from China. (More on this below.) They had large ads on both sides of seven barriers in the two feature courts 1 & 2 (so really 14 ads), as well as on the table numbers on all 77 tables, plus in multiple signs just outside the playing courts. (On Dec. 20, I emailed the USATT Board Chair, Richard Char, asking how much money USATT received from Dream Blue, and he said he'd get back to me, but he hasn't done so yet. I asked several board members, and none knew anything about it or how much money we were receiving.) Let's go in order.

1) Should USATT accept ads and sponsors for alcoholic beverages?
To start with, here is the ITTF and USATT rule on this:

  • Advertisements or markings in or next to the playing area, on playing clothing or numbers and on umpires’ clothing, shall not be for tobacco goods, alcoholic drinks, harmful drugs or illegal products…

This came up in a past USATT board meeting many years ago. I was at the meeting. At the time, it was illegal in the USATT bylaws. The question was discussed for quite some time, with the idea of changing the bylaws. In the end, though there was no vote, and all of the board members at the time were against it, and so none proposed changing the bylaws. Ironically, a few years later the bylaws were rewritten, and that bylaw was left out.

Personally, I'm against the idea, but I'm not going to write an essay here on why. (I'm a non-drinker and my primary role at major tournaments is coaching junior players from my club's training program – so I’d prefer not to have this bad influence.) But I'm not going on a crusade against this if the policy-making branch of USATT decides to change long-standing policy and allow this. Which gets us to the second issue.

2) Who should make this decision?
The policy-making branch of USATT, obviously. From Section 7.2 of the bylaws (bolds are mine):

  • 7.2. Functions of the Board. The USATT Board shall represent the interests of the table tennis community for USATT in the United States and its athletes by providing USATT with policy, guidance and strategic direction.
  • 7.2.d. Set policy and provide guidance and strategic direction to management on significant issues facing USATT;

Alas, the decision in this matter was made by the USATT CEO, not the USATT Board, though the board chair promised me at the Open that it would be an agenda item in an upcoming board meeting. Making such a major change in policy should be made by the policy-making branch of government, the board of directors.

And now we get to the long, nitty-gritty issue...

3) Was it legal to advertise alcoholic beverages at the US Open?
No, it was not. As noted above, the ITTF bylaws make it illegal to advertise alcoholic beverages in the playing area. The prospectus (i.e. entry form) says, "The 2022 US Open Table Tennis Championship matches will be conducted under the ITTF Rules." Based on ITTF rules, the ads were blatantly illegal. Also based on ITTF rules, the referees interpret the rules, which would include the wording on the prospectus. (From the USATT Tournament Guide, 4.4.5a, the referee "Is the final authority on interpretation of the rules and regulations as they apply to the tournament." The ITTF Handbook concurs, saying, "The referee shall be responsible for: deciding any question of interpretation of Laws or Regulations, including the acceptability of clothing, playing equipment and playing conditions.")

The prospectus then says, "Rules of match play are determined by the Referee. All matters, issues, guidelines, and ancillary decisions beyond match play will be determined by the Tournament Director in accordance with USATT Policies and Procedures, including the USATT Member Code of Conduct." (We'll get back to this.) After reading the relevant wording, the Referee Team (which is how I was asked to refer to them), which included both the Referee and Deputy Referee/Chair of the USATT Umpires and Referees Committee, both ruled the ads were illegal. (I asked them.)

When the issue came up at the USATT Assembly -  mostly with the USATT CEO (Virginia Sung) and Board Chair (Richard Char) - they insisted that the US Open was not played under ITTF rules, since it wasn't ITTF sanctioned. I had to read to them the specific statement from the prospectus (see above) that it was played under ITTF rules, but they still disagreed. As I pointed out, if it were not being played under ITTF rules, what rules were we playing under? There are USATT rules (effective Jan. 16, 2022), which are basically the ITTF rules with some additions. But they have the exact same statement as the ITTF rules about alcoholic beverages and tobacco products.

Then the argument switched to the two follow-up statements in the prospectus that give the Tournament Director (Mike Babuin) limited authority over issues beyond "match play." (Limited because he still has to follow USATT Policies and Procedures, including the USATT Member Code of Conduct – more on that below.) The first problem here is that the term "match play" does not appear anywhere in the ITTF or USATT rules – it’s a made-up term, and so the referees have to interpret it. But as noted, the Referee Team had already ruled that the ads were illegal. (I believe they ruled that anything in the playing area was considered "match play" in this context.)

However, the referees also told me they had been overruled by the CEO. That's illegal – neither the CEO nor the Tournament Director can overrule the referees on a question of rules. Even if you interpret the rules to say that the Tournament Director has the authority to do this (i.e. it wasn't about "match play" and the Referee Team are overruled on this interpretation, even though they are the ones who do the interpreting), we run into a second problem - the Tournament Director wasn't the one who did the overruling. The CEO did.

The third problem here is that even the Tournament Director cannot overrule the referees on this. (And he didn't, to his credit. His focus was on running the tournament.) Why can't he? The prospectus says, "…decisions beyond match play will be determined by the Tournament Director in accordance with USATT Policies and Procedures, including the USATT Member Code of Conduct." And the USATT Code of Conduct says, "Abide by all applicable USA Table Tennis rules and regulations…" Since the USATT rules specifically forbid advertising alcoholic beverages in the playing area (just as the ITTF rules do), the Tournament Director would have to be in accordance with them, based on the very wording on the prospectus. (Italics above are mine.)

[And no, you can’t arbitrarily declare this USATT rule is not “applicable” and then use circular reasoning to declare that since the rule isn’t applicable, the Tournament Director doesn’t have to be in accordance with it, and use that to argue that the therefore the rule isn’t applicable – which was the starting point. Circular reasoning.]

It's the second year in a row that the CEO has overruled the referee on a question of rules. (Last year the referee ruled a racket to be illegal, but the CEO, then also the tournament director, illegally overruled him on this rules question. When umpires subsequently also ruled the racket illegal, the CEO ordered the matches played without umpires, and that the racket could be allowed.) I've run 203 USATT sanctioned tournaments - can you imagine the trouble I'd be in if I illegally overruled a referee like this? In my 46 years in the sport, these are the only two times I've ever seen it happen. Where is the accountability? (If I started citing past issues I've blogged about, this blog would turn into a book.)

They did find video of matches at the 2022 Worlds where there was an illegal logo for an alcoholic beverage company on the flooring, and used that to justify our similarly breaking this rule. (You had to be Chinese to know this as the logo was just Chinese lettering.) I emailed ITTF about this on Dec. 20, but they haven't gotten back to me. However, arguing that it's okay to break the rules because you catch someone else breaking the rules isn't a very good argument. I can show you video of top players serving illegally at those same Worlds, so does that mean we can all serve illegally? Since many athletes have illegally used steroids, does that mean we can too?

Another argument that was made (though not at the USATT Assembly) was that since Dream Blue also sold non-alcoholic drinks, it wasn't actually an alcoholic beverage company. But that's silly - Budweiser,  Heineken, and most other major beer companies also sell non-alcoholic drinks, but few would argue they are not alcoholic beverage companies. If you go the Dream Blue web page (and I’m only giving their web page so people can verify on their own they are a hard liquor company), before you can get there a page comes up asking, "Are you of legal drinking age in your country of residence?" When you click on that, the next headline is, "Dream Blue is our high-end series. Carrying on traditional craftsmanship and distilling techniques from ancient Yanghe, we use base liquor stored for centuries underground…" A little Googling shows that the liquors advertised there range from about 40% to 52% alcohol. Yeah, that's hard liquor. (Let's be honest - these various arguments about allowing alcoholic beverage ads at the US Open were not about whether they were legal; they were about rationalizing rules they had already broken.)

The big issue here isn't just whether to advertise alcoholic beverages in the playing areas at USATT tournaments. It's more about who sets such policies, and the questionable practice of a CEO overruling referees on the rules.

Someone asked, "What do you expect us to do, replace all the barriers when we don't have enough barriers to take their place?" That's not the issue. If a tournament illegally has cement floors - i.e. they forgot to put it on the entry form - then when players show up and discover this, you don't cancel the tournament, the directors simply acknowledge the mistake and make sure the mistake doesn't happen again. Similarly, all the CEO had to do was acknowledge they had made a mistake and promise it wouldn't happen again. Instead, they doubled down, insisting it was legal and throwing every rationalization on the wall they could think of, hoping something would stick.

This whole issue isn't new - I blogged about this issue on December 5, and as the CEO said at the USATT Assembly, "We read Larry's blog every Monday." (I’m really tired of writing about USATT and hope to focus more on coaching in my blogs, but these issues keep coming up. I feel like most discussions with certain USATT people are pointless since they are not discussing what’s right, they are rationalizing what they want to be right.)

The reality is that USATT messed up on this issue, and doubled down when it was pointed out. I'm told I've been called all sorts of names behind the scenes, of which "troublemaker" is just one. But who are the troublemakers, the ones who break the rules of our sport, or the ones who simply point it out?

After all this, I need a drink . . . where’s my Dr Pepper?

USATT Assembly
The start of this was mostly reports from the CEO and others. Then they opened it up to questions, and I had plenty about both the assembly and the alcoholic beverages questions on ads I raised above.

The USATT Assembly was another example of ignoring the USATT bylaws. As I blogged about previously, the bylaws require notice of the Assembly be made 30 days in advance; instead, the news item on it went up seven days in advance. (It was not on the originally published entry form either, though they added it later, I think about the time the news item went up. It wasn’t there 30 days in advance, and it’s not exactly “notice” to retroactively add something to column 2 of page 9 of the entry form well after it had already been published.)

But the bylaws also say, "The annual USATT Assembly shall be held in conjunction with a Board meeting." There is a reason for this - when the idea of the USATT Assembly came up, the whole idea was that board members would listen to members, and then meet where they could discuss those issues. But no board meeting was held at the US Open in conjunction with the USATT Assembly.

I raised this issue at the Assembly, and was told that several members (mostly players) did not want to hold a meeting at the Open, since they were playing. This is reasonable. However, what is not reasonable is that there was nothing in the minutes about the board deciding to ignore this bylaw. The only mention is in the Sept. 6, 2022 minutes, which simply says, "Board Chair Char reported that the next USATT Board Meeting will be held on Monday, December 5, 2022." (That was later changed to Dec. 7, and was a Zoom meeting, held nine days before the US Open.) This is an actual USATT bylaw that's being broken without so much as a vote on whether to do so. To be blunt, they knowingly broke our own bylaws and left it out of the minutes.

My recommendation – if you have to violate the bylaws, then have a vote on it. Better still, have the meeting the afternoon or night of the last day of the tournament, when most players are done. (This came up several times when I was on the board, and we did that sometimes.) Or simply have a Zoom meeting immediately after the Open, which could be said to be in conjunction with the Open. But you can’t just ignore the bylaws when they are inconvenient. (Side note – the USATT Assembly should start at perhaps 8PM, not at 6:30PM when many are still playing or coaching.)

"We Need More Tables!"
While mostly on time, tournament often fell behind, either overall or with individual events, though not nearly as badly as last year’s Open. By most afternoons, many matches were an hour or more behind, though not in all events, and often only due to conflicts that were difficult to resolve with the limited tables. I don't fault those who ran the US Open. When I asked the heroic desk crew about this, I got variations of the same thing: "We need more tables!" The general rule when running large tournaments is you need 10% as many tables as players. Since there were 970 players, that means 97 tables. But they only had 77. (I'm told they were promised more.) This meant that the tables were almost always fully scheduled - which is a recipe for falling behind in large tournaments. Except for matches at the start of the day, you always need about five or more free tables for delayed matches to catch up. Otherwise, there's no place to play them except by holding up other matches, which leads to what I call the "cascading" effect, where everything starts to fall behind. (Note - I've run 203 USATT tournaments and was Operations Director at two US Opens, so I know a little about these issues.)

US Open Improvements

  1. More tables. Need at least 10% of the number of entrants. Except for first matches in the morning, in a large tournament like this you need to always have five or more tables open for delayed matches.
  2. Organize the posted draws. Need to have them in logical order - use listing from entry form - ideally with headings for each. Plan it out in advance. With 100+ draws, it became incredibly difficult to find individual draws when they are posted in chronological order. That’s easier for the organizers, but makes things difficult for players, coaches, and spectators.
  3. Post the draws online the day or night before.
  4. Clarify or reword the term "match play," since it isn't a defined term.
  5. Clarify if setting the policy for accepting alcohol and tobacco ads should be by the policy-making branch of USATT (the board of directors), the CEO, or the tournament director. (Should be the board, of course.)
  6. Need food in playing hall on the last day. For some reason, they didn’t show that day.
  7. Pizza was good, but really, Really, REALLY should have Chinese food. Pizza and Chinese food and everyone's happy.
  8. $5/bottle for water is way too much. (Water has usually been provided in past US Opens and Nationals and are free at Teams.) Either provide it free, provide it cheap from USATT, or require the venders sell it cheaper. Players go through a lot of water, and at $5/bottle it becomes a huge expense. Reality - many just bought a case of water from outside.
  9. Create a "Tournament Hosts" group or equivalent. Their only purpose is to look at the tournament from the players’ point of view and find ways to make the tournament better. An example of this was Dell and Connie Sweeris at the two successful US Opens in Grand Rapids. Bring them, or others such as Dan Seemiller, Dave & Donna Sakai, etc., and we might be amazed at how much better the tournaments become.
  10. USATT Assembly and other meetings should start later, not while everyone's playing. Perhaps at 8PM. It should also have a public agenda and a description for first-timers.


George Braithwaite Major League Table Tennis
Here’s the info page. The league, from the Boston to the Washington DC region, with 3-5 on a team, starts in January, with the final in April. “The purpose of the league is to facilitate individual competitiveness and team spirit of players in various clubs thereby creating more interaction and friendship through team-based table tennis competition. By increasing participation in the Olympic sport of table tennis through the vast number of table tennis players in the United States, Pongpace sets the foundation of making table tennis a major sport in the country.” ENTER SOON!

Kanak Jha's USADA Suspension
This was a shocker, but let's wait for more details to come out. All I know about this is what is below. Kanak was US Men's Singles Champion four straight years, 2016-2019 (he hasn’t played in it since apparently due to conflicting overseas matches), and is current world #28, the top ranked US player. On December 18, he posted the following on Facebook:

On December 1, I was given notice by the US Anti-Doping Agency that they are provisionally suspending me from competing or participating in ITTF, any clubs or member associations affiliated events, effective immediately, as a result of having missed three USADA tests within a 12-month period. As a professional athlete competing at a high level, I am required to comply with USADA’s Anti-Doping Rules and make myself available for random testing.

I have requested and will receive an arbitration hearing to contest the missed tests. The judgement for the case will most likely be done in first quarter of 2023. I am hopeful that the arbitration committee will rule that the circumstances warrants a dispensation in one or more of the missed tests.

Here’s a possible explanation – someone posted the following on the forum:

According to some German New Articles, Kanak changed his residence in Ochsenhausen but negligently forgot to inform the USADA of his new address. So, when the USADA inspectors went to his old address to conduct the inspection/tests, Kanak was of course not present for the test because he was already residing elsewhere.

USATT’s Suspension List
I was shocked to discover that a member of the USATT’s Board of Directors, Dan Reynolds, is now on the public USATT Suspended list, effective December 27. I have no idea what happened – just what’s on the page. (See the fifth and last case.) Let’s not jump to conclusions – we have no idea at this point what the facts are or what it's about, who made the complaint, and whether there is any evidence. (Dan is not even allowed to discuss the issue.) This could also have major political implications as the USATT board of directors will be voting for the chair of the board later this month (January), and many believe Dan would be running for the position, or (since the board is somewhat split right now) would cast a decisive vote. (And yes, the timing of this is suspicious – but we just don’t know yet what the facts are.) The suspension is a temporary measure, “Pending Investigation and Resolution of Complaint.” Anyone can make such a complaint, and that leads to an immediate suspension pending investigation. But until the matter is resolved, it says he is “suspended from participating in any and all USATT-related activities and events.” IF it turns out he is innocent, and yet is barred from the running for or voting in the board chair election, then something very wrong has taken place, and USATT should do all in its power to make sure that doesn't happen. I think we need a timeline here of how long before this will be resolved, and the board chair vote should wait until afterwards, assuming the issue will be resolved in a reasonable amount of time. 

Jan-Ove Waldner: When the Feeling Decides: 2022's Updated Version
Here it is on Amazon! It's updated from the 2003 issue. Here's the Amazon description:

Jan-Ove Waldner: When the feeling decides was originally published in Swedish in 1997. For a long time the book has only been translated from Swedish to English, German, Japanese and Chinese. Now I am deeply happy that the English version of Jan-Ove Waldner: When the feeling decides, first launched in 2003, has been republished in an updated version. Since it is now many years since the original version was published some of the material has not really survived the influence of time. Such chapters have been left out in this edition. On the other hand, there is a longer fresh interview with Waldner, which puts the rest of the material in new perspective. I hope you, dear reader, will find the reading pleasant and the content still interesting.

News from All Over
Since I haven't blogged since Dec. 12 (due to US Open and Christmas), rather than try to list every interesting article, for this blog I'll just link to some of the main news and coaching pages, and you can pick and choose.

Best Backhand Ever? - Kalinikos Kreanga
Here’s the video (10 sec)!

Technical Journal Articles on Table Tennis

Happy New Year from Jorgen Persson
Here’s the video (24 sec) of the 1991 World Men’s Champion as he plays on a mini-table with a robot and a funny hat.

Table Tennis Mug – Big Guy vs. Jumpy Guy
Here’s where you can buy it!

Pabst Blue Ribbon Table Tennis Ping Pong Beer Vintage 1942 Ad Magazine Print
Here it is – and it’s only $12.59 on Ebay!

Spooky #161 FINAL ISSUE of Series (Harvey Comics 1980)
Here it is – and it’s only $3.74 on Ebay!

Are You the Table Tennis or Ping Pong Elf?
Here’s where you can buy the shirts at Amazon!

Big Paddle, Many Balls
Here's the gif!

Lego Table Tennis Robot
Here's the article and video (18 sec)!

World's Spinniest Shots
Here’s the video (8:23) from PongFinity!

The Greatest Game of Ping Pong I’ve Ever Seen
Here it is (54 sec)!

Send us your own coaching news!

Next Blog on January 2, 2023, But Tips Every Monday
I’ll be out of town the next few weeks at the US Open and for Christmas, so no blogging until after I return. However, the Tip of the Week will still go up every Monday!

Tip of the Week
Should You Use a Super-Fast Racket?

MDTTC Open, Books Sales, and the Novice Class
Here are the results of the MDTTC December Open, care of Omnipong. I usually coach at these tournaments, but this time I spent most of my time . . . selling books! I set up a table and had 18 of my books on sale, both table tennis and science fiction. Here’s a picture! (Table tennis books on the right, science fiction & fantasy on the left. Note that I’m wearing my “Baby Yoda Playing Table Tennis” shirt on Saturday. On Sunday I wore my “Baby Yoda Dressed as Santa Claus with Ping-Pong Paddle” shirt.) I ended up selling 42 books, plus gave a way a bunch. Half the profits will go to the MDTTC junior program. Normally, Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers dominates the sales, but most of the locals already have that book. I ended up selling at least one copy of 16 of the 18 books, and three or more of nine of them. (Profits came to about $220, so I'll be donating $110 to the junior program.) 

Speaking of giving away “a bunch,” I’m giving out about 55 of my books for free to those in the MDTTC junior program. The program is divided into four groups; everyone in groups 1-3 will get a free copy of Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers. (Many of them already have the book, so for them, they get their choice of any of my books. Those in group 4, the novice group, will get a copy when they advance to group 3.) It’ll cost me close to $300 for the books plus shipping. Of course, I’ll require them to say, “Larry has the best forehand” or all they get is a crumpled-up ping-pong ball.

Because of the tournament, the only class we had was the Novice class on Sunday at 5PM, where the age range is about 6-8. As usual (drum roll...) the focus was on fundamentals. A key thing here is finding ways to get them to do “drudgery” drills while keeping it fun and interesting. I usually start with standard drills, but when I detect boredom – and kids at that age don’t hide that – I bring out Froggy for target practice, start counting how many shots they make in a row, and do interactive drills. I actually have two “Froggys” – Grampa Froggy, the original that I bought in 2006 (so 16 years old), who is falling apart (missing one leg, most of his toes, and held together by duct tape) and Baby Froggy, the new one I bought summer of 2021. I often put one on the deep forehand side, the other on the deep backhand side, so the kids are forced to hit deep and wide – exactly what we want them to do. At their demand, we finished the session with a short “Simon Says” – except, since I was wearing the Baby Yoda Christmas Table Tennis Shirt (see above), it was “Baby Yoda Says.”

George Braithwaite Major League Table Tennis
Here’s the info page. The league, from the Boston to the Washington DC region, with 3-5 on a team, starts in January, with the final in April. “The purpose of the league is to facilitate individual competitiveness and team spirit of players in various clubs thereby creating more interaction and friendship through team-based table tennis competition. By increasing participation in the Olympic sport of table tennis through the vast number of table tennis players in the United States, Pongpace sets the foundation of making table tennis a major sport in the country.”

USATT Panels at US Open
Here’s the USATT news item, Open Panel Meetings to Be Held at the 2022 US Open. They are running five, plus the USATT General Assembly. (Presumably there will also be a USATT board meeting held in conjunction with the General Assembly, as required by USATT bylaw 15.2.) Below is the panel schedule – much of which conflicts with my own coaching and playing schedule, so not sure how many I’ll be able to attend. One thing that jumps out to me – no coaching panels! Alas. I used to run such clinics at the Open and Nationals. 

  • FRI      7:00-8:00 PM              USATT Foundation: Meet the Members
  • SAT     6:00-7:00 PM              Club Development and Tournament Sanctioning
  • SUN    6:30-7:30 PM              USATT General Assembly
                7:30-8:30 PM              Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
  • MON   6:30-7:30 PM              Meet and Greet Olympians
                7:30-9:00 PM              High Performance Team

We’ve had similar panels in the past at the Nationals and Open. I still have the flyer for the 2017 Nationals, where we had eight panels – I think that was the last time we had such panels. I taught two of them, “Intermediate and Advanced Serves,” and “How to Set Up a Successful Junior Program.” (The turnout for the serving clinic I taught was huge!) Others were “Tournament Directors Best Practices 101”; “Advanced Return of Serve” (with Stefan Feth); “USATT Umpires Clinic”; “USATT Club Best Practices”; “One-on-One with High Performance Director Jörg Bitzigeio”; and “Omnipong 101” (with Craig Krum).

Holiday Shopping – Buy My Books!
Christmas, Hanukkah, and other holidays are coming up – time to buy my table tennis books! (But feel free to buy my science fiction ones as well.) Here’s a listing with descriptions for each. Below are direct links to the table tennis books. 

New from Samson Dubina
Make sure to see the Michael Jordan quote.

New from PingSunday/EmRatThich
He’s been busy – see last item!

This Grip Change Which Will Make a Big Difference
Here’s the article from Tom Lodziak.

New from Taco Backhand

Forehand Topspin Wins Worlds and Olympics
Here’s the video (74 sec) with slow-motion of forehand loop, from Performance Biomechanics Academy Table Tennis.

New from Ti Long

Butterfly Training Tips - Serve & Attack Forehand Smash
Here’s the video (54 sec) with Tiffany Ke.

Bowmar Sport Tournament Highlights – Darryl Tsao WTT at Lignano
Here’s the video (1:45).

Hungary 2022 WTT Youth Contender
Here’s the article by Sally Moyland.

Videos from Pong Space
Here are recent videos from Pong Space, many featuring defensive star Angela Guan.

Ask the Coach
Here are the latest questions from PingSkills.

New from TT11TV
28 new videos this past week!

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

New from Steve Hopkins

New from USA Table Tennis

New from ITTF

Table Tennis Hawaiian Shirt
Here’s where you can get one!

Table Tennis Shirts at Amazon
Here’s a selection.

Navy Drops Ping Pong Balls on Army
Here’s the CNN story!

Big Guy vs. Little Guy – Who Will Win?
Here’s the cartoon! (Here’s the non-Facebook version.)

Adam vs. Anastasiia 2
Here’s the video (10:53) from Adam Bobrow!

World's Stickiest Ping Pong Racket and Ping-Pong with a Remote Control Car
Here’s the video (8:35) from Pongfinity!

Send us your own coaching news!