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Larry Hodges' daily blog will go up Mon-Fri by noon USA Eastern time (usually by 9 or 10 AM, a little later on Mondays when he does a Tip of the Week).
Larry is a member of the U.S. Table Tennis Hall of Fame, a USATT Certified National Coach, a professional coach at the Maryland Table Tennis Center (USA), and an author of six books and over 1300 articles on table tennis. Here is his bio

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

August 19, 2014

Hong Kong Junior & Cadet Open, and Player Selection

I've been raising heck via email recently over what happened at the Hong Kong Junior and Cadet Open. And perhaps I actually accomplished something, though too late for this time. Here's what happened.

There are limited number of entries for each country, and so each country has to work out rules for who can represent them. A number of USA juniors had paid their own way, and wanted to play singles. (All were able to play doubles and teams, but there weren't enough openings for singles.) According to the rules set by the USATT High Performance Committee (HPC), first and then second priority goes to those who made the National Junior Team (top four), and then the National B Team (next four). That's good so far. But after that, next priority went to players who were from "USATT Hot Spots," which really means ITTF Hot Spots in the U.S. There are four in the U.S., but MDTTC (my club) is not one. The application process goes through USATT, and we started this process in September, 2013. Unfortunately it turns out ITTF is no longer approving new Hot Spots while it rethinks the concept, and so we are not an ITTF Hot Spot, though we obviously qualify, and are one of USATT's eight National Centers of Excellence.

What does all this mean? A member of our club, Nathan Hsu, a U.S.-born citizen rated 2416, is training in China right now, and wanted to play Under 18 Singles at the Hong Kong Open. He's been playing very well recently, even knocking off a 2648 player at the U.S. Open, his best win ever. But he had not made one of the USA Teams at the Trials in December, and so because of the rules set up by USATT, priority went to members of Hot Spots. Result? Because he played at the "wrong club," Nathan wasn't allowed to play singles. Instead, two players rated 1792 (age 14) and 1864 (age 17), who played at the "right club," were entered and represented USA in singles at the Hong Kong Junior and Cadet Open (along with others who were on USA Teams).

Think about that. There were two spots open, and we had players rated 2416, 1864, and 1792. None were on the USA Team. One had a world ranking (Nathan, #298 in Under 18). But the choice was made not by the player's ranking or level, but by which club he played at! And so the two players with ratings around 1800 represented USA in singles, while the 2400+ player sat on the sidelines and watched. He was punished for not playing at the "right club." Can you imagine trying to explain that to Nathan? Or in a court of law? Or to the U.S. Olympic Committee? This is not about the two players who played, their club, or their coach; it's about very bad rules set up by USATT that led to a very unfair outcome.

Even if you decide choosing players based on what club they play at rather than their actual ranking or level is somehow okay, ITTF is no longer accepting Hot Spots, so there's no way of becoming one. (Full disclosure - not only does Nathan play at my club, but I often coach him, especially in tournaments. There's even a picture of me coaching him and his brother John in doubles on the back cover of my Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers book.)

In fairness to the HPC, the chair, Carl Danner, who I greatly respect, explained that they never anticipated this result, and that the surge of interest among parents to send their kids to these international events was unprecedented. He said that part of the intent of the rule was to recognize the most advanced training centers, and a freeze on the Hot Spot designations was unexpected. He said that in light of this experience, he will recommend changing the rule.

I accept that the HPC never expected this outcome, but I sure wish I'd been in the room or saw a draft of this when they were creating the rules to point out the unfairness. Creating rules have consequences. Choosing players to play in international events based on what club they play at isn't fair, and it turns them into pawns, to be given out to favored clubs like chattel - something that they somehow never foresaw. It's too late for Nathan - this was his last chance to compete in junior events. However, he'll continue to train hard for future events.

Maryland Table Tennis Center Video

Here's the video (1:50) created by Evan Sery created by last week. Much of it features Coach Jack Huang, but most of the taping is from a junior session I'm running - you can hear me coaching and yelling out things in the background.

Trip to Zoo (Non-Table Tennis)

Yesterday we had a small turnout in our MDTTC camp, and so I wasn't needed. (Besides, the other coaches need the money more - outside my coaching I have writing income.) So I decided to take most of the day off from everything, and took the subway to the National Zoo in Washington DC! I hadn't been there since I was a kid, probably over 40 years ago. I enjoyed both the animals and the fresh air. Here are the most memorable moments there.

  • I had pizza for lunch. Pigeons and smaller birds were all over, and so I decided to feed them. A large crowd of them gathered! We're not supposed to feed the zoo animals, but I think this was okay. I think. At least I wasn't dragged away in chains, though there were a few moments I thought the birds were getting a bit too close.
  • Three times I stared eye-to-eye with wild animals. At the Great Apes building an orangutan and I watched each other for several minutes. It had these tiny, soulful eyes, just as the orangutan from the recent Planet of the Apes movies. (Later I'd see an exhibit showing brain sizes of various great apes, and seeing how small its brain was compared to a human's, I wondered how much thinking was really going on. But it sure seemed like there was a thinking, aware being in those eyes.) As I left the building, a gorilla stood next to the glass at the front of its cage, and we looked at each other for a moment. Later, at the Great Cats area, I watched the lions for perhaps ten minutes. The male lion, which was pretty large with a huge mane, seemed to pick me out of the crowd and stared at me. I waved at it, and it definitely began to watch me. After a few minutes, as I left, its eyes followed me the whole time. Perhaps it was hungry.
  • My favorite animals: the orangutan, gorilla, and lion that I went eye-to-eye with; the giant tortoise that went on a "sprint" across its enclosure (okay, a craaaaawl); the sea lions; the giant anaconda; the lemurs (so like our ancestors!); the two elephants; the prairie dogs; the komodo dragon; a giant stingray; and a gigantic arapaima fish. My only disappointment was that the Invertebrates House had closed down, so no octopuses.
  • I saw the pandas, but they were just sleeping.
  • To my non-expert eyes, I thought the elephants, lions, and tigers needed larger enclosures. They looked pretty bored, with the elephants pacing back and forth while the lions and tigers just lay about, as they do in the wild something like 20 hours/day.
  • My legs are once again extremely tired from walking around for four hours. 

Youth Olympic Games

USA's Lily Zhang made it all the way to the semifinals of junior girls before losing this morning (i.e. afternoon in Nanjing, China, where they are playing) to top-seeded Doo Hoi Kem of Hong Kong, 1,-5,8,9,6. It was quite a turnaround for her to come back and win game two 11-5 after losing the first 11-1! She will be playing for the bronze tomorrow. Here is the ITTF home page for the event, with articles, results, video, and pictures. (Krish Avvari is the other USA player competing.) Here's a blog entry about Lily by Matt Hetherington. A big Congrats to Lily!!!

$36,000 Butterfly Los Angeles Open

Here are the last two articles by Barbara Wei on the LA Open this past weekend. I linked to the previous seven in yesterday's blog, as well as the results and the LA Open home page.

About.com Articles

Here are three new ones, including two coaching articles.

Sidespin/Topspin and Sidespin/Backspin Serve Tutorial

Here's the video (4:38). (Note for beginners - backspin and underspin are the same thing.) It's in Chinese, but has some English subtitles, and you can learn just by watching.

This Applies to Table Tennis

"I've got a theory that if you give 100% all of the time, somehow things will work out in the end." -Larry Bird.

Table Tennis: The Best Sport Ever

Here's the video (3:11). "Do you know someone who dislikes Table Tennis? Let's show this video!"

Sometimes It Is Not Just About Winning

Here's a nice meme on this.

Is Timo Boll an Unlucky Player?

Here's the article and video (5:33). "Why hasn't Timo Boll been able to win major titles? Is he an unlucky player?"

100-Day Countdown to Change in the ITTF's Presidency

Former USATT President Sheri Pittman Cioroslan is doing an article every day during the last 100 days of Adham Sharara's ITTF presidency, counting downwards from 100. Previous ones are linked from the USATT News page, as well as in my past blogs. Eighty-eight down, 12 to go!

  • Day 13: Germany’s Hans Wilhelm Gäb Provided ITTF the Model for TMS

Barry Ratner Obituary

Here it is. He was a long-time player and organizer. He will be missed.

73 Questions with Daniel Radcliffe

Here's the video (6:21) where the Harry Potter star "…plays ping–pong with us and answers 73 questions on everything from his desire to star in Guys and Dolls to what he would bring on a one-way trip to Mars. What’s something he knows about Harry Potter that no one else does? Watch and find out." This is hilarious! Daniel seems to be playing a lot of ping-pong recently - on Aug. 7 I linked to an article and video (1:46) where he also played.

"Ping-Pong Diplomacy" Movie Might Be Coming

Here's the article.

Electric Pong

Is your paddle charged? Here's the latest table tennis artwork by Michael Mezyan.

Dimitri Ovtcharov Plays Clipboard Table Tennis

Here's the video (3:06) from the 2013 LA Open (last year).

Unbreakable Ball?

Here's the article and picture. It's a collapsible ball made of a flexible material that's created with a 3-D printer! I can't wait to try this out.

Table Tennis Ice Bucket Challenge

It's spread to the table tennis world, including my club. Here are some.

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August 18, 2014

Tip of the Week

The Purpose of the Serve.

MDTTC Camp

Last Friday was Day Five of Week Nine of our Ten Weeks of Camp at MDTTC. Today we start Week Ten. Guess what? I'm exhausted! I had a bunch of other things to write about this morning, but I'm running out of time (and energy), so I'll just write about the camp.

Friday was perhaps the most difficult day I've had all summer - I was up late the night before, then got up early to do the blog, and spent the entire day with a headache that was like 40 kids smacking balls against the back of my head nonstop. Only - there were 40 kids, only instead of smacking balls against my head they were at their most excited over-exuberant, since it was the last day of the camp (for the week). Let's just say I just smiled and put up with it while my head pounded away all day.

My headache wasn't helped when two kids thought it'd be interesting to pour two huge bottles of soap down the toilet. These are the bottles that are used to refill the soap dispensers in the bathrooms. Why would these two kids, both about 10, do this? They couldn't explain it, just thought it would be fun. I was the one who had to break the news to their parents, and they were in a lot of trouble.

Worse was what happened over lunch. I was on my laptop, and the youngest player in the camp, a 5-year-old girl, thought it would be funny to keep jabbing at the keys with a pen while I tried to work. I kept asking her to stop, but she wouldn't. She left for a moment. I went to get something, and when I came back, she was randomly tapping away on the laptop. When I got back on it, what I found was unreal - she'd somehow managed to not only log me out of several pages, but to have gotten my automatic logins deleted! Normally when I go to the pages I get logged in automatically, but no more - and I didn't have the passwords with me. It took me forever to figure them out. All this while my head pounded away.

Coach Aabid Sheikh from Boston was in town, and came by to watch for half the day. He watched while I taught two kids to forehand loop for the first time - and both picked up on it pretty fast.

Most of the players in the camp played a practice tournament in the afternoon. Some of the new and younger ones were strong enough to join in, while others did the usual target practice games. I also introduced them to the robot at full speed, where it shoots balls out at full speed at the fastest rate.

Things I'm Irritated About

I'm debating which of these to blog about later on - more on the problem with the Nationals going to half celluloid, half non-celluloid; USATT creating rules that allow 1800 players to represent USA in singles at the Hong Kong Junior and Cadet Champions while not allowing a 2400 player to do so because he plays at the wrong club (the rules they created favor players who happen to play at ITTF "Hot Spots," rather than individual performance); or more on the ITTF Hall of Fame's silly eligibility requirement of five World or Olympic titles, where being #6 on the Chinese winning team (but not even playing) counts as much as winning Men's or Women's Singles, and so players like Stellan Bengtsson, Istvan Jonyer, Mikael Appelgren, Kjell Johansson, and USA's two-time World Women's Singles Champion Ruth Aarons are not in, while players such as Chen Qi and Peter Karlsson - worthy players, but not at the level of these others - are in.  Alas, I'm out of time this morning, and will likely write more on these topics later on. I'd like to write more on positive stuff, such as new training centers opening up, etc. 

Footwork for Defenders

Here's the video (4:12).

The New USATT Magazine

Here's the U.S. Open issue, headlined "The Plastic Era Begins." I have two articles in it, Review of the Nittaku 3-Star Premium 40+ Ball on pages 16-17, and Pushing Change of Direction on page 47.

$36,000 Butterfly Los Angeles Open

It was held this past weekend. Congrats to Open Champion Chih-Yuan Chuang and Runner-up Eugene Wang! Here are the results, and here is the LA Open home page. And here are articles on the tournament by Barbara Wei, with more coming tomorrow.

Youth Olympic Games

They are taking place right now, Aug. 17-23, in Nanjing, China. Representing USA are Lily Zhang and Krish Avvari. Here is the ITTF home page for the event, with articles, results, video, and pictures. Here's a USATT page with some of Lily's results and quotes. Here are four pictures of Jorgen Persson and Wang Liqin doing an exhibition and signing autographs at the Games.

Interview with Lily Zhang at Youth Olympic Games

Here's the video (1:33).

Ariel Hsing, Teen Chinese-American Table Tennis Sensation

Here's the article in the China Times (in English).

LYTTC Creating Tomorrow's Champions Today!

Here's a new video (3:25) featuring training at the Lily Yip Center in Summer, 2014.

Ping Pong for Charity

Here's a video (30 sec) that advertises the advantages of table tennis (exercise for the brain) while raising money for charities such as Alzheimer's.

100-Day Countdown to Change in the ITTF's Presidency

Former USATT President Sheri Pittman Cioroslan is doing an article every day during the last 100 days of Adham Sharara's ITTF presidency, counting downwards from 100. Previous ones are linked from the USATT News page, as well as in my past blogs. Eighty-Seven down, 13 to go!

  • Day 14: Rules Chair Rudi Sporrer Believes Changes Improved Sport’s Presentation
  • Day 15: Jane Pinto Has Been Mentored by Adham Sharara since 1996
  • Day 16: Oceania’s Continental President, James Morris, Shares “Top 5” Ideas

The Sedin Twins of NHL's Vancouver Canucks Play Table Tennis

Here's the video (3:35). 

Milwaukee TTC Fundraising Cake

Here's the picture - someone took a bite out of it before they got the picture!

World's Biggest Table Tennis Player?

Here's the picture! (If you can't see this in Facebook, try this.)

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August 15, 2014

MDTTC Camp

Yesterday was Day Four of Week Nine of our Ten Weeks of Camp at MDTTC. Much of the focus was on basics as we re-enforced the techniques learned the first three days. It's amazing how fast some have improved since Monday. I also introduced my group to fast serves, as well as to the serving bar, the adjustable bar created by John Olsen that moves up or down over the net so players can learn to serve low. 

The kids were a bit unruly today, perhaps because we were nearing the end of the week. (Or perhaps it took this long for the full moon from last Sunday to take effect?) I went a bit hoarse trying to get their attention a few times. A few times I had to bang my flat hand on a table to get their attention. I'm tempted to bring in a whistle for tomorrow. 

One kid had a hitch in his forehand - every time he does it he brings the racket tip up just before contact, and mostly just jabs at the ball. Yesterday I solved the problem by simply feeding him multiball farther away from him, forcing him to extend his arm. At first he tried to move to the ball too much so he could use his standard poor technique, but I got him to keep his feet in place. So he was forced to extend his arm properly and stroke the ball properly, and pretty soon he was hitting the ball properly! With practice, he will soon have a pretty good forehand. 

There's another kid who tries very hard, but simply doesn't seem to have the ability to learn new things. I wanted to write more about this, but if I did, and if by some chance he happens to read this, he might recognize it. Suffice to say that the talent levels are a bit diverse. 

ITTF Hall of Fame

I just saw the minimum criteria for making the ITTF Hall of Fame - "To qualify for the ITTF Hall of Fame, an athlete must have won a minimum of five gold medals in Table Tennis World Championships, Olympic Games, and Paralympic Games." What a silly criteria! Suppose a player wins Men's or Women's Singles four different times, but never wins Teams or Double because he comes from a country that's not strong in table tennis (but still chooses to play doubles with players from his country rather than team up with someone else). Or a player who is, say, #6 on the Chinese Team, and wins five World Team Championships without ever actually playing in the Team matches? It also handicaps players from before table tennis became an Olympic Sport in 1988. The result? The list is dominated by players from China and Japan, many of whom won their "five gold medals" primarily in doubles and teams. (I'd start listing them but I have to coach this morning and don't have time to start listing them.) Meanwhile, obvious stars who should be inducted are left out, such as:

  • Stellan Bengtsson (1971 World Men's Singles Champion, 1973 World Men's Doubles Champion, undefeated in leading Sweden to World Team Championship in 1973, and world #1 for a long period).
  • Istvan Jonyer (1975 World Men's Singles and Doubles Champion, 1971 World Men's Doubles Champion, 1973 & 1979 World Men's Doubles Finalist, 1979 World Men's Team Champion, and world #1 for at least two years.)
  • Mitsuru Kohno, 1977 World Men's Singles Champion, 1967 World Men's Singles Runner-up, world #1 for one or two years.
  • USA's own Ruth Aarons (1936 and 1937 World Women's Singles Champion).

Seriously, any ITTF Hall of Fame criteria that leaves out these players needs some serious rethinking. I'm trying to find a listing of historical world #1's to see how long these and other players were ranked #1 in the world. Anyone know of such a listing?

Interview with Teodor "Doru" Gheorghe

Here's the video (21:49). Doru is USATT's Interim CEO, Chief Operating Officer, and Women's Team coach. 

China's Fan Zhendong Aims to Win the Youth Olympics

Here's the article

100-Day Countdown to Change in the ITTF's Presidency

Former USATT President Sheri Pittman Cioroslan is doing an article every day during the last 100 days of Adham Sharara's ITTF presidency, counting downwards from 100. Previous ones are linked from the USATT News page, as well as in my past blogs. Eighty-Four down, 16 to go!

  • Day 17: ITTF’s CEO Judit Farago Enjoys Contributing to the Sport’s Success

Pong Attack!

This is what happens when we teach our promising juniors how to kill.

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August 14, 2014

USATT Chairman's Blog - Plastic Ball Update

Here's the new blog entry by USATT Board Chair Mike Babuin. It's mostly about USATT's policy toward the new non-celluloid balls. One item that jumps out is that apparently they will be using celluloid balls at the Nationals in December, but non-celluloid balls in the Team Trials there. That would likely be a serious mistake - some players are training for events that will be using different balls, and so won't be able to play their best. Besides messing up player's games, we might not get the best possible USA teams in the various trials for men's, women's, and junior, cadet, and mini-cadet boys' and girls' teams. Players used to one ball aren't going to play as well using the other. Since the players that do make the various teams will have plenty of time afterwards to adjust to the poly balls, there's no need to use both at the Nationals.

The Men's and Women's Team Trials are normally held separately from the Nationals, but the blog seems to imply they may be held there this year. Do we really want our top players to have to use one ball for Men's and Women's Singles and other events (such as Under 22), and another for the various team trials? Or are they planning or considering combining the Men's and Women's Singles events with the Men's and Women's Team Trials, and so use the non-celluloid balls in all of the "top" events? If so, that would be a rather important piece of info that should be included in the blog. But even then we'd be forcing players to switch back and forth between the balls in various events - for example, nearly all the players in the Junior Team Trials (played with non-celluloid) would normally be playing in Under 22 (played with celluloid). Do we really want to force our top junior stars like Kanak Jha and Crystal Wang (defending champions in Under 22 Men and Women from the last Nationals) to switch back and forth, or to not defend their titles? If we really want our top players to get used to the non-celluloid balls, do we believe the best way of doing this is to have them switch back and forth in the middle of a tournament? This whole thing seems to me a self-inflicted problem by choosing to use two types of balls in one tournament. Hopefully common sense will prevail here.

On a side note, Mike states that the two balls are "closely aligned" in their playing characteristics. However, that's not quite true as nearly every tester, including myself, has reported that the non-celluloid balls are more difficult to spin, and so will take some time to adjust. Here's my own review of the Nittaku non-celluloid ball (i.e. poly ball) where I and all five players who tried it out found it was harder to spin the ball - see items #8 and #12. With practice, players can adjust to the non-celluloid ball, but not in the middle of a tournament, going back and forth. 

MDTTC Camp Happenings

Yesterday was Day Three of Week Nine of our Ten Weeks of Camps. As noted, we have a large turnout this week, with over 40 players. I'm primarily working with the beginning juniors. We worked on all the techniques we've been working on all week - forehand, backhand, footwork, serves, etc. Then I gave a lecture and demo on pushing, and we worked on that. 

We had a lot of interesting happenings yesterday, most of them only somewhat table tennis related. Here's a rundown. 

Willy, age 8, had been coming to all our camps all summer, but had to miss the last half of the camp last week and the first two days this week as he was on vacation in Alaska. (He said it was cold.) When he walked in the door, he was mobbed by about ten others his age. I keep picturing these same kids about ten years from now. Which of them will be dominating play in this country? Many of them, I hope!!!

During the morning break a large moth flew into the club. Perhaps this moth chose the wrong club to blunder into! We have about 15 ball pickup nets at the club. They are made (or at least distributed) by Butterfly Table Tennis, our club's sponsor. So that makes them butterfly nets. The minute that poor moth showed up a pack of kids with butterfly nets went after it. They went back and forth all over the club, but that moth was pretty fast. After about fifteen minutes of racing about, the moth won - the kids couldn't catch it, and we were off break. We couldn't find the moth later, so perhaps it had found its way out with a scary stories to tell its caterpillars. 

Right after lunch I took a group of players to the 7-11 down the street. Because I bring our players there regularly they always give me a free Slurpee. But since I'm on a diet, I only take a few sips through a straw and then give it to the kids in the camp when we return to the club. (I bring back a bunch of extra straws.) Yesterday was hilarious as seven kids, roughly 7-9 in age, circled and drank the Slurpee together, each with a straw. I called it the "Circle of Slurp." 

A few months ago I started doing crossword puzzles from the Washington Post somewhat regularly. I usually solve the entire thing about half the time, but it takes way too long. This summer I've taken to bringing it to the club and doing it during the two-hour lunch break. Yesterday I set a record, solving the entire thing - 124 answers in all - in under an hour as about a dozen kids watched. I was pretty proud! (I'm sure Will Shortz would have solved it in five minutes, or perhaps just a glance and the thing would have filled itself in. In the Shortz-owned Westchester TTC vs. MDTTC crossword championships, they still hold the edge, but we're closing in.)

After solving the puzzle I was sitting on the sofa and was asked how I knew some of the answers. I explained that "Hodges" is just an anagram for "He's God." This sort of blew their minds. They made me write out my name so they could rearrange it themselves to verify. One even insisted on seeming my driver's license to prove the spelling of my name. This was all followed by about 15 minutes of questions and answers as they tried to prove I wasn't God. (I wish we had taped it!) 

We also had a slightly more somber conversation when I asked if any of them had heard of Robin Williams. In the age 7-12 crowd (twelve of them that I asked), eight had never heard of him, and four said they had heard of him but didn't really know who he was. None of them could name a single movie he'd been in. When I mentioned Mrs. Doubtfire, Good Morning Vietnam, Aladdin, Mork and Mindy, and about half a dozen others, all I got were blank stares. I'm starting to feel old. 

Near the end of the afternoon session I introduced the younger kids to "Cup Ball." There are a few variations, but the one we did was as follows. I placed four cups on one side of the table, lined up from left to right. Four kids stood at the end-line, roughly one behind each cup. Another kid stood at the other side, and served as fast as he could. If the ball hit both sides of the table and made it past the "catchers" on the other side (i.e. hit the floor before they could catch it), the server scored a point. If the ball hit a cup but was caught, he'd also get a point. If it hit a cup and then made it past the catchers, he'd score three points. Each player gets ten serves, and then they'd rotate. I have a feeling this is going to be a favorite for this group - they actually liked trying to catch the ball more than serving it. 

USATT's 2013 Financials

Here's the report. It includes both the 2013 IRS 990 Form and the 2013 Independent Audit Report.

Serve and Receive Practice

The following is a public service reminder. Every point begins with a serve and a receive. Yet most players spend nearly all their practice time practicing only the shots that come after this. This is downright silly. Have you practiced your serve and receive recently? If not, please continue in case you ever play someone I'm coaching. 

Learn Various Training Methods to Boost Your Level

Here's the coaching article by Samson Dubina.

Poly 40+ Balls Info

Here's a Facebook page devoted to info on the new plastic balls, which are slightly larger than 40mm. 

2014 Butterfly Los Angeles Open Provides High Level Competition for Top US Player Timothy Wang

Here's the article by Barbara Wei.

Princeton Pong Opens in West Windsor, NJ

Here's the article. David Zhuang is the head coach. 

Why Not Get Yourself a Backyard (Concrete) Ping-Pong Table?

Here's where.

Jan-Ove Waldner-Jorgen Persson Exhibition

Here's the video (10:34) of the new exhibition by these two legends!

100-Day Countdown to Change in the ITTF's Presidency

Former USATT President Sheri Pittman Cioroslan is doing an article every day during the last 100 days of Adham Sharara's ITTF presidency, counting downwards from 100. Previous ones are linked from the USATT News page, as well as in my past blogs. Eighty-three down, 17 to go!

  • Day 18: 1953 World Champion Ferenc Sido Inspired Judit Farago

Congressional Pong

Here are five ping-pong paddles with the faces of congressional leaders. Who can name all five? (It comes from this article.)

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August 13, 2014

Update on My Books

This seems a good time to remind people that if you haven't bought copies of my books, the Easter pumpkin will run you down on Santa's sleigh and smack you with a menorah. Also, I'll starve. (If not interested in my books - sacrilege! - then skip down below to the other segments.) All of my books are on sale at my Amazon page. (Yes, as some of you know there's been controversy with them and their battles with various publishers, but I'm stuck with them for now.)

If you have not bought a copy of Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers then every time you play a match your opponent (who no doubt has a copy in his bag and consulted it before playing you) will have an insurmountable advantage. The book not only covers tactics, but strategic development, i.e. how to develop your game. (Look over the 30 reviews, and ask yourself why you haven't got a copy yet.) It's in both print and kindle formats. It's been selling like hotcakes (oh god, that's a cliché), so why not join in the bandwagon? There's even a French translation coming out later this year!

My more recent book is Table Tennis Tips, which came out in May in both print and kindle formats. It's a compilation of all 150 of my Tips of the Week from 2011-2013, but in a logical progression, all in one volume. It includes chapters on Serve, Receive, Strokes, Grip and Stance, Footwork, Tactics, Improving, Sports Psychology, Equipment, and Tournaments. (More Table Tennis Tips should come out early in 2017, covering all my weekly tips from 2014-2016.)

Perhaps the most interesting read is Table Tennis Tales & Techniques, which is a compilation of both interesting stories about table tennis (lots of fun stuff), and essays on techniques. It also features a series of pictures of 2003 World Men's Singles Champion Werner Schlager in the top right corner of every page, so if you fan the pages you get a movie of him playing!

Table Tennis: Steps to Success is currently out of print, but I'm planning a new version out probably within six months, tentatively retitled Table Tennis Fundamentals. (First I have to get new pictures for every technique taught in the book, a big job.) However you can still buy used copies. (There is another version of this out by Richard McAfee, but it's not related to this one - it's from the same publisher, and they chose to use the same title.) The book sold 28,000 copies and was translated into seven languages. It probably sold a zillion copies if you include bootleg copies in China. (I'm not kidding.)

If you are interested in coaching, then you'll want to buy the creatively titled Professional Table Tennis Coaches Handbook, which is in both print and kindle formats. It covers the professional side of coaching - getting students, keeping them, running classes and junior programs, and other aspects of coaching, with an emphasis on professional coaching and junior training.  

I also have Instructor's Guide to Table Tennis, but that was published a while back by USATT, and is no longer sold. I tentatively plan to do a new version of that next year, using the pictures from Table Tennis Fundamentals. It's a guide for how to coach for beginning coaches.

I also have two non-Table Tennis books, a novel and an anthology. Sorcerers in Space is my humorous fantasy novel that came out last year from Class Act Books. It comes in both print and kindle versions. It's about the U.S.-Soviet race to the moon in the 1960s, but with sorcerers instead of astronauts, and the whole things takes place over one week. (Sorcerers work fast.) It stars a 13-year-old Neil [Armstrong] and fictionalized versions of many of the major political names from the 1960s - President Kennedy and his brothers, Jackie Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Bob McNamara, and Lee Harvey Oswald, as well as dragons and other creatures that keep trying to kill poor Neil - including an attack meteor named Buzz. Oh, and Neil is a wannabe table tennis champion who has to drop his dreams of ping-pong stardom to save the world.

The anthology is Pings and Pongs: the Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of Larry Hodges. It includes the 30 best short stories I'd sold through 2009, including "Ping-Pong Ambition." It comes in both print and kindle versions. (More Pings and Pongs should come out sometime next year - another 30 of my best sales since the previous anthology.)

On my Amazon page there's also a booklet called Willy and the Ten Trillion Chimpanzees. That's actually a short story of mine that's sold by Musa Publishers - but it only costs 99 cents!

I have two other books tentatively coming out. I'm doing a (hopefully) final rewrite of my science fiction novel "Campaign 2100: Rise of the Moderates," about the election for president of Earth in the year 2100, featuring a third-party moderate challenge. One of the four main characters is a professional table tennis player, and there are several table tennis scenes. I have a publisher that liked the previous version, but asked for a rewrite.

The other project? "Parents Guide to Table Tennis," a long-needed manual. I hope to finalize it this Fall, if I have time.

While we're on the topic of writing, I have a few articles published as well. 

MDTTC Camp

Yesterday was Day Two of Week Nine of our Ten Weeks of Summer Camp at MDTTC. Once again there were about 40 players. The focus was on the backhand. I also taught spin serves, and did a lot of footwork drills (as always).

Something strange is going on this camp. Usually we have some sort of minor accident perhaps once every few weeks. In the last two days two kids fell and cut themselves and needed bandages, and another had a nosebleed. I'm getting good at cleaning cuts and applying bandages.

One kid, about eight, has struck me as someone to watch. Not because he's particularly good yet - he's only played a few weeks - but because he is the hardest worker in the camp, and totally focused and enthused about getting better. Even on break he's off practicing his serves. In every drill he's the most focused at getting it right. It'll be interesting to see where he is a few years from now, as compared to one or two others who seem great "naturals" who, while not lazy, aren't as focused on improving.

The Plastic Ball

Here are two new articles from the ITTF on the plastic ball.

ITTF Releases Table Tennis Youth Olympic Games Media Guide

You can download it here. The Games will be held in Nanjing, China, Aug. 17-23.

California-Based Chinese Players Pose Stiff Competition to Top Seeds at 2014 Butterfly Los Angeles Open

Here's the article by Barbara Wei.

Ping Pong 4 Purpose

Here's the home page for this charity event. "Clayton Kershaw, event host Chris Harrison, the Los Angeles Dodgers and other celebrities are joining together for a unique celebrity ping pong tournament and fundraising event Thursday, September 4 on the field at Dodger Stadium. This second annual Ping Pong 4 Purpose fundraising event will feature a celebrity ping pong tournament, high-end silent auction and more. Event proceeds will benefit the efforts of Kershaw's Challenge in Los Angeles and Zambia to transform at-risk communities and the lives of children."

100-Day Countdown to Change in the ITTF's Presidency

Former USATT President Sheri Pittman Cioroslan is doing an article every day during the last 100 days of Adham Sharara's ITTF presidency, counting downwards from 100. Previous ones are linked from the USATT News page, as well as in my past blogs. Eighty-two down, 18 to go!

  • Day 19: Korea’s Mr. Han Sang Kook is the Picture of “A True Gentleman”

Training at the Werner Schlager Academy in Austria

Here's the video (22 sec).

Can Ping-Pong Balls Help Clean Up Oil Spills?

Here's the article and video (1:45) from Table Tennis Nation.

Amazing Table Tennis Shot Off Ground

Here's the video (1:11).

Funniest Faces from Table Tennis Players

Here's the gallery!

Non-TT - ESPN Covers the World Series

For the second time in five days I have a humorous story on the front page of Orioles Hangout. Here's ESPN Covers the World Series! Last Thursday they featured my story Top Ten Ways for Orioles Fans to Cope with a Winning Team. I've had 22 stories featured there, going back to April, 2012. (Did I mention that the Orioles lead the American Lead East by 6.5 games?)

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August 12, 2014

MDTTC Camp

Yesterday we started Week #9 of our ten weeks of summer camps. (I missed last week because I was running a camp in Virginia.) Turnout for some of our camps this summer was lower than normal, but no more - we have 41 players in the camp (40 under age 16), with perhaps our largest contingent ever in the 6-9 age group, about half. (This despite the fact that our top four juniors are all currently training in China - Nathan Hsu, Derek Nie, Roy Ke, and Crystal Wang.) It's also one of our most Asian groups, with only four non-Asian players in the camp. Since we put up 18 tables for training, that means two players on 16 tables and nine others doing multiball on two tables. I spent the whole day feeding multiball, and will be doing that all week, Mon-Fri, 10AM-6PM (with a two-hour lunch break). Raghu Nadmichettu was feeding balls on the other multiball table. 

Here's the camp photo we took yesterday morning. Amazingly, we had two more players join us that afternoon. That's me on the far right. Other coaches in the camp are Cheng Yinghua, Jack Huang, Raghu Nadmichettu, Wang Qing Liang ("Leon") and Chen Bo Wen ("Bowen"). We're actually short-handed, as two of our coaches are currently in China - Chen Ruichao ("Alex") and Zeng Xun ("Jeffrey"). Both are coaching at the club where two of our juniors are training, Nathan and Derek, and should be back soon. 

Most of the emphasis was on forehand play on Day One. Today the emphasis will be on the backhand. (We adjust for advanced players, of course, who do more advanced drills, including many forehand-backhand drills.) As usual, it's amazing the different learning curves for different players. Some pick things up almost as fast as you teach it, others you almost have to hit them over the head to get things through to them. (That's an expression - no kids are hit over the head in the course of our camps!) 

As always, we finished the sessions with games. The more advanced ones played regular games. Others played "King of the Table," while others played the usual target practice games where I feed multiball and they knock over pyramids of cups or hit other objects. As usual, the biggest his is when I put my Gatorade bottle on the table and tell them it's really worm juice - and if they hit it, I have to drink it. They make me drink it. At the end of the day, from 5:30 to 6:00 PM, we did physical training. 

Narrow Defeats but Valuable Experience for North Americans

Here's the ITTF article on the USA and Canadian players preparing for the upcoming Youth Olympic Games. 

Interview with Jan-Ove Waldner

Here's the interview this past weekend from Table Tennis Daily. 

MDTTC Newsletter

The August issue of the Maryland Table Tennis Center Newsletter is out. Here's the archive of past issues.

Ovtcharov's backhand in the China Super League Final

Here's the video (24 sec, including slo-mo replay). 

Junior Training Video

Here's the video (1:42) set to music, apparently from the "Power Table Tennis Academy." Not sure where that is. 

100-Day Countdown to Change in the ITTF's Presidency

Former USATT President Sheri Pittman Cioroslan is doing an article every day during the last 100 days of Adham Sharara's ITTF presidency, counting downwards from 100. Previous ones are linked from the USATT News page, as well as in my past blogs. Eighty-one down, 19 to go!

  • Day 20: Didier Leroy Says It Takes “Real Passion” to Be a Competition Manager
  • Day 21: Cai Zhenhua Commits ATTU to Helping ITTF Achieve P5 Goal

Hyperkinetic Table Tennis Cartoon

Here's the cartoon by David Ziggy Greene. Any suggestions for a caption? (Cartoon comes from the end of this article.)

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August 11, 2014

Tip of the Week

Ten Steps to a Great Service Game.

Virginia Camp

On Friday we had the final day of the camp in Fairfax, Virginia. In the morning we split the players into two groups. One group did various physical training and agility exercises with Wen Hsu (as they had been doing all week). The other group did multiball with me and hit with the robot. We did a lot of smashing and pushing, and a few worked on looping. We also did "player's choice," where the players got to choose what to work on. 

Then we had a practice tournament. There were 14 players, so we divided them into two groups of seven, with the top two from each side playing crossovers. All matches were best of three to 11. For prizes we had a series of "large" prizes - a playing bag and copies of all of my books (signed). We also had table tennis key chains. The first place winner got his choice of two large prizes plus a key chain. Second was one large prize and a key chain. Third through six got their choice of one large prize or key chain. (All took books.) I donated the books - in all, the books chosen were three copies of "Table Tennis: Steps to Success," and one copy each of "Table Tennis Tips," "Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers," and my humorous fantasy novel (which stars a table tennis wannabe), "Sorcerers in Space." I also gave a signed copy of Table Tennis Tales and Techniques to all 14 players. (I have a lot of extra copies.) Camp tournament results: 1. Harrison Tun; 2. Brandon Choi; 3-4: Leo Diperna and Ian Ramanata; 5. Vincent Diperna; 6. Chris Kutscher.

Here's a camp picture, with two players missing - they had to leave early, alas, and we forgot to get a picture when they were there. (Coach John Hsu is in background, that's me on the right.) Immediately after the picture they took turns smacking balls at the cup fort, with me feeding multiball. Many cups dies in the onslaught, but Froggy survived.

Koki Niwa and His Techniques and Tactics

Here's an article on Japan's Koki Niwa, world #15, where he talks about his techniques and tactics. Includes instructional pictures and a link to a Koki Niwa tribute video (3:36). (Note that the "chiquita" her refers to is the banana flip - Chiquita is a major producer and distributors of bananas and other produce, so I'm guessing that's where it comes from.)

Seven Things You Need to Know to Master the New Plastic Ball

Here's the posting and some discussion at the OOAK TT Forum.

Sports Psychology - Recognize Your Feelings

Here's the video (5:27) from PingSkills.

Top 10 Servers in Table Tennis

Here's the video (12:40).

Marty Reisman: The Greatest Sportsman You've Never Heard Of

Here's the article from Esquire Magazine. 

USA's Shivansh Kuma Finds Success at Guatemala Junior and Cadet Open

He made the final of Cadet Boys Singles, and teamed with India's Mudit Dani to win Cadet Boys teams. The two also made the semifinals of Cadet Boys Teams and the quarterfinals of Junior Boys Doubles. Here's the home page for the Aug. 6-9 event, with results, articles, pictures, and video. Here's the ITTF article on the Cadet Boys Teams.  

Hong Kong Junior and Cadet Open

Here's the home page for the Aug. 6-10 event, with results, articles, pictures, and video. Fifteen USA juniors took part in the event - here's a participants listing. Here's a listing USA major results.

  • Krish Avvari: semifinals of Cadet Boys (here's a picture of him on the podium, second from right)
  • Kanak Jha: quarterfinals of Cadet Boys
  • Krish Avvari and Kanak Jha: Semifinals of Cadet Boys Doubles and Teams
  • Adar Alguetti and Victor Liu: Quarterfinals of Cadet Boys Doubles
  • Lily Zhang and Prachi Jha: Semifinals of Junior Girls Doubles, Quarterfinals of Junior Girls Teams
  • Joy Li and Puerto Rico's Adriana Diaz: Quarterfinals of Cadet Girls Doubles

Bockoven Brothers Netting Success in Table Tennis

Here's the article from the Boston Globe. I remember going to a Seemiller camp in 1977 when I was 17 and father Ralph was one of the big stars of the camp! Connor and Chase are the heirs of that tradition.

Top Ten Places to Play Table Tennis

Here's the article by Matt Hetherington.

Final of the China Super League - Zhang Jike vs. Dimitrij Ovtcharov

Here's the video (39 min). To save time and add drama they only play to seven in the fifth game in this league. (Spoiler alert!) Dimitrij leads 4-0 in that decisive fifth game - but Zhang scores seven in a row.

100-Day Countdown to Change in the ITTF's Presidency

Former USATT President Sheri Pittman Cioroslan is doing an article every day during the last 100 days of Adham Sharara's ITTF presidency, counting downwards from 100. Previous ones are linked from the USATT News page, as well as in my past blogs. Seventy-nine down, 21 to go!

  • Day 22: The Gift of Braking and Changing Focus
  • Day 23: ITTF’s Museum Curator Chuck Hoey Preserves Our Heritage
  • Day 24: Shahrokh Shahnazi Promotes ITTF’s P5 Plan, Even to the IOC

Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge Play Table Tennis

Here they are playing at a homeless shelter.

Ruini Li the Cover for the Milpitas Post

Here's the picture. (If you have trouble seeing the Facebook version, try this one.)

Funny Dog Watching Table Tennis

Here's the video (48 sec) - it's hilarious! (I might have posted this a couple years ago, but it's worth repeat viewing.)

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August 8, 2014

Virginia Camp

Yesterday was Day Four of the five-day camp I'm running at Fairhill Elementary School in Fairfax, Virginia, with 14 players, ages 6 to 12. (John and Wen Hsu are assistant coaches, with Wen the administrator.) The focus yesterday was footwork (as usual), serving, and lots and lots of smashing. We also did a lot of relay races. 

After four days of camp, all 14 of the kids can hit forehands and backhands pretty well, at least in multiball. All can smash, push, and move side to side. Most can put spin on their serves. I think I've put more emphasis in this camp on smashing and serves, and the players are well ahead on those two aspects. All were beginners when we started on Monday, though some had been playing on their own. 

When I do multiball forehand smash training, I like to do two players at a time. One stands on the forehand side, the other on the backhand side. The one on the forehand side starts, smashing three forehands in a row, one from the forehand side, one from the backhand side, and one from the forehand side. After the third shot he steps back, and the other player gets three smashes, one from the backhand side, one from the forehand side, and one from the backhand side. Then he steps back, and we repeat with the other player. The drill is continuous, so the players get lots of smashing and footwork practice. If I have a lot of players, I'll do three or more players at a time, with the players smashing forehands from the backhand and then forehand side, and then circling back to the end of the line as the next player gets two smashes. There are many variations, such as smashing on the forehand side and then backhand side, or mixing in backhand smashes, or even doing the "2-1" drill, with the players hitting a backhand from the backhand side, then a forehand from the backhand side, then a forehand from the forehand side, and then rotating to the end of the line. 

Sometimes a simple suggestion cures a problem. One kid was having difficulty timing his forehand - over and over he'd start too soon or too late, and end up with wild swats and lunges. I suggested he start his forward swing right as the ball hit the table, and presto! Instant success. Another couldn't get spin on his serve because he kept patting at the ball. I reminded him that serving with spin is a violent motion, and that if you want the ball to spin 100 mph, you have to get the racket to move 100 mph. Within minutes he was serving serious backspins that often stopped over the table, with a couple even coming back into the net.

I brought out the serving bar so they could practice serving low. (This is an adjustable bar that goes over the net. Here's a picture of it set high, and here's a picture of it set low. John Olsen made this for our club. It has about ten height settings.) The kids had a great time trying to serve under the lowest setting - they insisted on that one. Even I hit the bar about 1/3 of the time with that setting. I also brought out the soccer-colored balls for more spin feedback on serves. Besides spin serves we also practice fast serves. 

I spent the last 20 minutes of the day serving to the kids, who lined up to try to return them. I'd call out where their returns would go in advance, even having kids take turns standing to the side and catching the returns off my sidespin serves. Then I started telling them what they had to do to return them, and some of them were able to make some returns. I also threw in a lot of "trick" serves - backspin serves that bounced back and over the net, under-the-leg serves, fast serves, "blowing serves" (where I'd serve high but then run to the side of the table and blow the ball sideways or back into the net on the opponent's side), and about a dozen others. I also threw in a few 50-foot serves from the side. 

Zhang Jike: The Two-Toned Ball is Okay

Here's the article.

Plastic Ball Reviews from Professionals

Here's the article, with reviews from five world-class players.

Hong Kong Cadet and Junior Open

Here's the info page for the Aug. 6-10 tournament. Fifteen USA juniors are playing in the tournament - here's the player listing by country.

100-Day Countdown to Change in the ITTF's Presidency

Former USATT President Sheri Pittman Cioroslan is doing an article every day during the last 100 days of Adham Sharara's ITTF presidency, counting downwards from 100. Previous ones are linked from the USATT News page, as well as in my past blogs. Seventy-six down, 24 to go!

  • Day 25: Alison Burchell Hopes to See the ITTF Become the Best Integrated IF

Athletes in Excellence

Here's the info page. "The Athletes in Excellence Award from The Foundation for Global Sports Development recognizes exceptional athletes who uphold the values of good sportsmanship and fair play on the field as well as off the field. Do you know of an athlete who spends countless hours volunteering their skills and time to better the lives of others? Submit your nomination to The Foundation for Global Sports Development, and share the athlete’s good deeds around the world. A total of ten athletes (five international and five domestic) will be awarded unrestricted grants each in the amount of $10,000. Award winners will be announced in fall of 2014."

Three Amazing Points

Here's the video (1:54). Ding Ning vs. Seo Hyowon, Ma Long vs. Jun Mazutani, and Ma Long vs. Fan Zhendong.

Casts of Hot in Cleveland and Glee Play Ping Pong

Here's the article and picture

Doug McDermott vs. Nick Johnson - NBA Basketball Players Play TT

Here's the article, with a link to a 16-sec video.

World Series of Beer Pong

Here's the info page. Oh Jeez!!!

Ulf Carlsson Playing with Racket in Pants

Here's the video (20 sec) of the 1985 World Men's Doubles Champion (with Mikael Appelgren).

Cat Playing Table Tennis

It's been a while since I've shown a video of a cat playing table tennis, so here's one (26 sec) that's probably the best pong-playing cat I've seen on video. We'll ignore that he's standing on the table, touching the net, has no racket, and isn't wearing legal attire. 

Non-TT: Top Ten Ways for Orioles Fans to Cope with a Winning Team

After 14 consecutive losing seasons (1998-2011), the fans of the Baltimore Orioles pretty much got used to losing. They have begun winning the last three years, but many fans are still not used to this weird thing called "winning." So here is my Top Ten List for how they can cope - published at Orioles Hangout. (Here's the thread on their forum where a few are discussing the list.)

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August 7, 2014

Multi-Colored Balls

I don't get it. No sport relies more on spin than table tennis. We complain all the time about how spectators don't understand high-level table tennis the way they do other sports because they can't see how much spin players are putting on the ball. We complain all the time over how serves often dominate, with way too many rallies ended by the receiver missing or making a weak return that the server puts away. SO WHY DO WE USE ONE-COLORED BALL??? We should be using a multi-color ball so both players and spectators can see the spin.

Sure, this would hurt players who rely on disguising spin - but not as much as you'd think, since by the time players read the spin from the ball it will often be too late. It might hurt defensive players, and that's the only reason for any hesitation on such a switch, and why it should be well tested first. But it might not hurt them as much as it might seem, as defensive players will be able to make better serve returns against attacking players. They'll be able to read the serve better, and since defensive players usually take the ball later than others, will have more time to read the service spin from the multi-colored ball than attacking players. 

I've blogged in the past about this, suggesting we either use a soccer-colored ball or have a contest for a design for a multi-colored ball. (The kids love it when I pull out the soccer-colored balls in our camps, which I do to demonstrate various spin shots, and so they can get feedback when they practice their spin serves.) The ITTF is experimenting with a two-colored ball, but there are two problems with the ball they are trying out. First, world #4 Dimitrij Ovtcharov reported that over half the balls broke when he practiced with them. (Here's the article, which I linked to on Monday. Here's a picture of the two-colored balls.) Second, the balls they are trying out are boring - half orange, half white. Perhaps having each hemisphere of the ball a different color makes it easier to see the rotation - I'm not sure, since I haven't actually used one like that. But I know you can see the ball spinning very clearly on the soccer-colored balls. Give us something exciting to look at, like the soccer balls or a nice design created specifically for table tennis!!! (Note - see Matt Hetherington's article below, "Why Catering For Spectators has Backfired," where he argues against going to two-colored balls and other changes to the sport. I wrote the above last night, and didn't see his article until this morning.) 

Virginia Camp

Yesterday was Day Three of the five-day camp. The focus was on footwork, pushing, and forehand loop. I was amazed at how quickly most of them picked up looping against backspin as I fed multiball. I also introduced them to Froggy, and much target practice ensued. 

We've started each day with ball bouncing, which is a great way for kids to develop hand-eye coordination and ball control. The record for most bounces in a row at MDTTC is 2316 by Matt Stepanov (now 13, but 11 when he set the record). While he still holds that record, a new camp record was set by 11-year-old Leo Diperna, who did 3363 bounces in a row. We didn't plan on it, he just wanted to go until he missed, and we let him. It took about half an hour. 

2014 North American Championships

Here's the info page. They will be held Aug. 31 - Sept. 1 (Sun & Mon) in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada.

First Non-Celluloid USATT Sanctioned Event

Here's the entry form for this perhaps historic event, the Texas Wesleyan Open, Sept. 20 in Fort Worth, Texas. 

Review of the DHS Plastic Ball

Here's the video (6:17) of Matt Hetherington's review.

Why Catering For Spectators has Backfired

Here's the article by Matt Hetherington, which came out this morning. He takes the opposing view on changing to the two-colored ball. 

100-Day Countdown to Change in the ITTF's Presidency

Former USATT President Sheri Pittman Cioroslan is doing an article every day during the last 100 days of Adham Sharara's ITTF presidency, counting downwards from 100. Previous ones are linked from the USATT News page, as well as in my past blogs. Seventy-five down, 25 to go!

  • Day 26: André Damman Has 70 Years of Table Tennis Experience

Harry Potter Plays Table Tennis

Here's the article that talks about Daniel Radcliffe playing table tennis with Zoe Kazan, his co-star in the new movie "What If," and links to a video (1:46) showing them playing. 

Will Ping Pong be Included in the Robot Olympics?

Here's the article!

Ping-Pong Balls on the Floor Eye View

Here's the picture!

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August 6, 2014

Virginia Camp

Yesterday was Day Two of the training camp at Fairhill Elementary School in Fairfax, Virginia. There are 14 in the camp, ages 6-14, all right-handed shakehanders, and strangely, no girls. On Day One we focused on forehand and backhand, and beginning serves. Yesterday we introduced them to footwork, forehand smash, spin serves, and doubles. I'm still surprised at the level of play - for 14 kids this age who have never been to a table tennis club, they are pretty talented. In most camps like this there would be several players who simply cannot rally, and so you have to put them with coaches. None of the players in the camp come under that category. 

John and Wen Hsu are my assistant coaches (with Wen the administrator), but John couldn't make it yesterday, so Raghu Nadmichettu substituted. After lunch he and I did an exhibition. I had my usual fun, lobbing while sitting on the floor, blowing the ball back, 50-foot serves from the side, racing side to side as Raghu angled me, playing with mini-paddle and clipboard, and various trick serves. As I usually do, before the match I told the kids to cheer for me when I scored, and to boo when Raghu scored, and predictably (as in past exhibitions) they did the opposite. I had my usual run-ins with the scorekeeper, who always held firm no matter how much I claimed my shot that went way off had actually hit the edge.  I always play the "bad" guy, and I always lose.

Probably the most impressive player in the camp is an 11-year-old who has no hands, and an inability to even lower his upper arms, which are jammed up against his side. He grips the paddle's handle in the crook of his arm, i.e. the inside of his elbow - and amazingly, is one of the better players in the camp! He's been playing a lot he said at a table at his swimming pool, and has an amazing forehand smash. I want you, the reader, to imagine holding a paddle with the inside of your elbow and imagine smashing the ball. If you can't imagine it, neither could I until I saw it. In our multiball session with me yesterday he was making the smash about 80% of the time. He also has a decent backhand. He picks the ball off the floor by squeezing it between his elbow and his chin. He also serves by holding it between his elbow and chin and then tossing it up. He's one of the fastest on his feet in the camp. During the one-hour lunch break on Monday the kids played "bottle soccer" in the cafeteria, and he was perhaps the best player, with all sorts of fancy footwork. 

They also were going to play bottle soccer yesterday during lunch break. (It's just soccer but with an empty bottle as the ball, and two trash cans on each side of the cafeteria as goal posts.) But a strange thing happened - we had rolled a table into the cafeteria for Raghu and I to do the exhibition. (The room we were doing the coaching had low ceilings, and we thought the cafeteria would be a more fun place to do it.) Within minutes, the kids came over to the table and were playing "King of the Table." So despite all the table tennis - six hours a day - they wanted more! 

Tomorrow we'll do more stroke and footwork drills (as always), plus I'll introduce them to pushing, backhand smash, and fast serves. 

International News

As usual, you can find lots of international news at TableTennista (which covers the big names more) and at the ITTF news page (more regional news). 

Vote for Prachi Jha for USOC Athlete of the Month

Here's the ballot!

100-Day Countdown to Change in the ITTF's Presidency

Former USATT President Sheri Pittman Cioroslan is doing an article every day during the last 100 days of Adham Sharara's ITTF presidency, counting downwards from 100. Previous ones are linked from the USATT News page, as well as in my past blogs. Seventy-four down, 26 to go!

  • Day 27: Christian Veronese Describes ITTF Marketing Strategies and Successes

Quentin Robinot Bullet Shot at the ITTF China Open

Here's the video (34 sec) as he first plays defense (against Yan An), and then makes an incredible counter-smash.

Topspin Charity Event in Las Vegas

Here's the blog entry by Matt Hetherington, where a bunch of NBA players (with Chris Paul hosting) and table tennis players raised money for charity. Also links to a video of the event (10:14).

Table Tennis Anime

Here's some anime table tennis pictures and a video (1:36). 

Texas Tech Red Raiders - College Football and Table Tennis

Here's the article

Coffee Table Ping-Pong Table

Here it is!

Action Packed Cartoon

As near as I can tell, six people get hit in the head and a light bulb smashed in this table tennis cartoon

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