Blogs

Larry Hodges' Blog and Tip of the Week will go up on Mondays by noon USA Eastern time. Larry is a member of the U.S. Table Tennis Hall of Fame, a USATT Certified National Coach, a professional coach at the Maryland Table Tennis Center (USA), and author of eight books and over 1500 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 Board of Directors and chairs 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 Tips and More Table Tennis Tips, which cover, in logical progression, his Tips of the Week from 2011-2013 and 2014-2016, 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!

November 12, 2018

Salute a Veteran today! Here's what you get when you Google "Soldiers Playing Table Tennis." This week's blog will go up on Tuesday by noon or else I have to play table tennis . . . outside . . . in the rain. :) (Which I've done before.) 

November 5, 2018

Tip of the Week
Heavy and No-Spin Pushes.

Coaching Subtleties and Attacking the Middle
After 42 years of playing and coaching I can pretty much analyze an opponent's weaknesses within a game, based both on what he does, but also on his strokes, stance, footwork, etc. If a shakehand player has long arms and tends to extend his arm when stroking, and so has a big gap between where they contact their forehand and backhand, I don't need to see the player react to an attack to the middle for me to know there's going to be a weakness there.

However, when coaching, you also have to know the player you are coaching to really be effective. Even if you watch a player for a time you can't always pick up on everything. It's not just what your player does, but what he doesn't do - and why. If he isn't playing into an opponent's weakness, is it because he hasn't seen the weakness, or because he can't effectively go after it, at least in some ways?

Here's an example. If I played someone who doesn't cover the middle well (the transition point between forehand and backhand, roughly the playing elbow), and a coach told me to open with my forehand loop to his middle, it wouldn't work. The coach saw the opponent's weakness, and (seemingly correctly) told me to attack it with my forehand. (I was a very aggressive forehand attacker.) But he has no way of knowing whether I could go after that weakness unless he really knew my game. He'd see me attacking the corners relentless with my forehand, and only attacking the middle with my backhand. So he'd tell me to attack the middle with my forehand - but he'd be making a mistake.

Why? Because, like many players, I don't have a good instinct for attacking the middle with my forehand. On the backhand it's easier, since you are looking right at the player, but with the forehand you have to look away, and can only see the opponent and his moving middle with your peripheral vision. (In contrast, the table corners do not move.) When I developed as a player, I developed a deceptive forehand, and can look like I'm going to one corner, and then go to the other. (See Forehand Deception with Shoulder Rotation.) This worked great until I faced 2400+ players, who can cover the corners like walls if they are in position. But I only got away with it because I really spent a lot of time working on forehand deception, and it still handicapped me in many matches, including players well below the 2400 level. (Attacking the middle works at all levels.) 

Against many players, I often should attack the middle first (to draw them out of position as well as force an awkward return), and then go to the corners. Easy, right? Except that I had been attacking the corners with my forehand for so long that I simply couldn't attack the middle effectively. This was both because I hadn't trained at finding and aiming at the middle, and because from my normal forehand ready position as I prepared to forehand loop, I had only trained to go two ways, wide to the right and wide to the left, never in between. Going to the middle was almost like a new stroke.

Perhaps with lots of training I might be able to do this, but it would take serious practice. I read once where the great Chinese player and coach Cai Zhenhua said that learning to attack the middle effectively was one of those things you needed to learn early and young, or you could never really do it effectively. (It's a moving target, and you can't just blindly go there since the opponent will sometimes be ready to blast a forehand off that shot if you aren't aware of what he's doing.) I think he was mostly referring to attacking it with the forehand, as it's much easier to learn to do this with the backhand.

And so the coach, who correctly saw that the opponent I was playing was weak in the middle, and that I wasn't going after it with my forehand, would have given me poor match coaching by telling me to go after the middle. It would have also been distracting since it would make me aware that the coach didn't really know my game. (He would be right to tell me to develop this technique, which is strategic thinking, as opposed to the tactical thinking needed in a match.)

I've faced this type of thing many times. I used to coach Tong Tong Gong at major tournaments, and even after he made the USA National Cadet Team, he was uncomfortable serving short to the forehand, as it opened up an angle to his wide forehand that he not only had difficulty covering, but also pulled him out of position. And so he'd often struggle in matches against players with weak forehand receives versus short serves, since he couldn't take advantage of this. (With training, he finally overcame this weakness.)

I once told a junior player between games to open with slow, spinny loops, and he said, "I don't know how to loop slow, I can only loop fast." I cringed - both because the player had a big hole in his game, and because I should have known this in advance.

So, what types of tactical weaknesses in opponents have you faced that you were unable to take advantage of because of weaknesses in your game? Have you worked to overcome those weaknesses, as I would now be working on overcoming my forehand-vs-middle weakness, if I were still in training?

Weekend Coaching
On Saturday night I coached at the Junior League, which is actually about 50% league, 50% training. The first 45 minutes was doubles. I worked with several teams on proper doubles movement for teams of two righties and for lefty-righty teams, plus other coaching on serve, receive, and placement. Then came singles for 75 minutes, with a number of improvised games to force players to work on specific things - such as learning to play under pressure by starting games with the server down 7-9. (That night I binged watched the final eight episodes of House of Cards, finishing at 3:30AM!)

On Sunday afternoon in the Beginning Class, we started with 25 minutes of various stroking and footwork drills, then ten minutes of pushing practice. Then came the main focus as I introduced them to the forehand loop against backspin. Then they went out on the tables, rotating so they did multiball looping with the coach, and practiced with other players where they'd serve backspin, receiver would push long, and the serve would then push, and play out the point. (That's why I had them do ten minutes of pushing practice.)

In the advanced Talent Program, I mostly fed multiball for about an hour, doing various drills, mostly fast footwork. I also worked with them on serve and attack drills. Then came physical training, and then we finished with Brazilian Teams.

Table Tennis Books by Larry Hodges
Yep, this is one of those periodic postings where I ask you to support a poor (relative to Jeff Bezos), starving (I had a small breakfast and it's almost lunchtime) table tennis writer by buying my books! Here are my table tennis books that are currently sold on Amazon:

Table Tennis Book Collection
I now have 255 table tennis books! The latest three were donated to me by John Olsen, Volume 1, Volume 2, and Volume 3 in the World Class American Table Tennis Players of the Classic Age series, by Dean Johnson and Tim Boggan. There is also a Volume 4, but John didn't have that, and I can't afford $36.59 for it.

U.S. Open - Early Bird Deadline is Nov. 9
Here's the info page. Enter Now!!! Price goes up $75 after Nov. 9, with final deadline on Dec. 1. I'll be there, attending meetings and coaching, and going to Disneyland afterwards.

Swedish Open
Here's the home page for the event that was held Nov. 1-4 in Stockholm, Sweden, with results, articles, pictures, and video. Here are the two finals.

Austrian Open
Here the info page for the event to be held in Linz, AUT, Nov. 8-11, with a qualifier Nov. 6-7.

USATT and ITTF News
Here's the USATT News page and the ITTF News page. Why not browse over them?

USATT Strategic Meeting
It was held this past weekend. Alas, I didn't attend, and haven't heard anything yet about what happened. I will likely write something about it next week.

When Choosing a Coach…
Here are 20 Guidelines, by Edward John Lynn, which is particularly pertinent to parents, though they apply to all.

Free Online Training for Volunteer Youth Coaches
Here's the page. "Nike and the United States Olympic Committee, as part of their commitment to Project Play 2020, has released How to Coach Kids, a free, 30-minute training course on coaching kids ages 12 and under."

New from Samson Dubina

"Pause & Snap" – The Secret to Effortless Loops
Here's the article by Ben Larcombe. What is Pause and Snap? Read on!

Tom's Table Tennis Tips
Here's the Tom Lodziak monthly newsletter.

Why Do Top Chinese Players Switch Rubbers?
Here's the article by EmRatThich.

Think Fast & Watch Slow: Slow Motion Analysis of Xu Xin vs. Harimoto Tomokazu
Here's the video (3:21).

Serve: 5. Yangyang's Collection & Excellent Players' Serve Demonstrations
Here's the video (4:54).

Black Cat Table Tennis
Here's their extensive video page.

Table Tennis! What’s the Point?
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

Table Tennis Tournaments in the UK - Oversaturated?
Here's the article by Eli Baraty.

Tenergy 05 Hard
Here's the review from Butterfly. I generally don't link to equipment reviews - too much conflict of interest since I'm sponsored by Butterfly - but this could be a big one.

2018 ITTF World Cadet Challenge Team Update: US/Canada Teams Score Upsets
Here's the article by Steve Hopkins.

How Ping-Pong Saved the Life of a New York City Kid
Here's the article, from the New York Daily News, featuring Wally Green. Full title is, "The first-person story of how ping pong saved the life of a New York City kid and took him all the way to North Korea."

Michael Hyatt in Guam - Scandals Alleged
Here are three recent articles in The Guam Daily Post on Hyatt. He's a table tennis Olympian from Jamaica who for decades has spent much of his time playing and coaching in the U.S., though not recently as he is on the USATT Suspended List, as noted in the articles.  I'm told there will be at least one more article on this.

JOOLA Sponsors Jackson Chance Foundation’s 6th Annual Ping Pong Ball to Support Families with Ill Babies
Here's the info page.

Jean-Michel Saive vs. Vitalii Lievshin - Super Division
Here's the video (11:55) from Belgium TV last week, care of Arnaud Scheen. (Saive is former world #1.)

University of Maryland Open - Division A Final
Here's the video (20:35) of Nathan Hsu vs. Rui Xu. It was held Sunday, Nov. 4.

Accident of Table Tennis - Adam Bobrow
Here's the video (4:13) where Adam injures his head. The actual injury happens 24 seconds in. Adam is the Voice of the ITTF on their videos and tournament coverage, as well as an exhibition player, as he's doing here.

Nandan Naresh Target Practice
Here's the video (16 sec).

Would I Lie To You?
Here's the video (27.59, with link taking you to where table tennis starts at 15:56 and continues to about 20:40). Steve Worthington sent it to me, and wrote, "It's a British show where 2 panels of 3 are trying to convince each other of various lies, while someone is actually telling the truth."

Show Secretin - Purkart
Here's the video (3:41) of the greatest exhibition pair in table tennis history. It's an old video, but still great! They are star players from France. Secretin was one of the best in the world, and he and Purkart (French wiki entry, you can translate to English) became professional exhibition players.

Costumed Pong
Here are three that came out this past Halloween.

Non-Table Tennis - World Fantasy Convention
I was at the World Fantasy Convention in Baltimore this past weekend in Baltimore, though I only was able to attend on Friday, due to coaching commitments. I had a reading (read the first two chapters of my novel Campaign 2100: Game of Scorpions, which has a lot of table tennis), and a book signing session. I also went to dinner with 15 other Odyssey Writing Workshop alumni! (Odyssey is a six-week writing workshop I attended in 2006, with annual nine-day workshops for graduates in July - I've attended nine of those.)

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October 29, 2018​

Tip of the Week
Don't Try So Hard When Ending the Point.

Upcoming USATT Strategic Meeting
USATT is holding a Strategic Meeting in Colorado Springs, Nov. 3-4. They hold these periodically. They've had a number of mini-strategic meetings, where the USATT board breaks up into groups to discuss specific issues - I've been to about ten of those. But the last time they had a real Strategic Meeting like this was in 2009, which didn't go well and led to nothing. (I've been to five of them.) I was debating whether to attend this one - as Coaching Chair, I was allowed to choose two coaches, and could include myself - but chose not to this time, though now I'm sort of regretting it - I'd like to be there. So I did the next best thing, and wrote the following letter to the attendees, which focuses on learning from the mistakes of past Strategic Meetings, and on Regionalization, which will be a major issue at this meeting. 

Dear Members of the Upcoming 2018 USATT Strategic Meeting, USATT Board and Staff,

I apologize for the length of this email, but I think the content is important. I wrote a similar letter to the USATT Board a few weeks ago, but this one has a number of updates. I am writing about two things:

  1. How to make the upcoming Strategic Meeting successful, in particular by learning from our mistakes in the past;
  2. Regionalization.

I have been to five previous USATT Strategic Meetings, mostly two days long each time, and about ten "mini" Strategic Meetings (where we broke into groups at regular board meetings to discuss and plan various Strategic issues). None have been successful.

I left each of them depressed because each time the same type of mistakes were made, and each was a wasted opportunity. And yet, in every case, the huge majority of those in the meeting left enthused and patting themselves on the back, thinking they had accomplished a lot, when in reality nothing substantive had been done. This is why I decided not to attend this time - I've been to too many of these slow-motion wrecks in progress where we can see what's happening but let it happen anyway. (Though I now regret it - I rather wish I were attending, and would go if there were an opening. Perhaps I'm like Charlie Brown and the football.)

Each time I have brought this up before the latest Strategic Meeting I have been given the same answer - that "This time it will be different." Of course, it wasn't different. A better answer would be, "What can we do to make sure we are successful this time?"

Here are three things to make this Strategic Meeting a success:

  1. Learn from our mistakes in the past. See the link to my blog below.
  2. Figure out how a successful Strategic Meeting is supposed to work. In my opinion, that means having a vision of where you want to go, creating specific goals and plans to reach that vision, and putting specific people in charge of implementing the plans. In the past, the thinking was to just come up with vague goals and slogans, and then set up committees and hope for the best. It has never worked. At past meetings people got sick of me asking about implementation plans, which of course we never got to.
  3. How do I put this delicately? Don't let a Type A personality take control of the meeting, especially on issues he/she have not actually been successfully implementing.

Here is my blog about the infamous 2009 Strategic meeting, and why it didn't accomplish anything. (Most of the links are no longer valid as USATT changed its website since that time.) Like other Strategic Meetings, it was organized and moderated by an outside professional group that specialized in this type of thing, with great credentials. I strongly recommend you read it - those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it. One note – I was nice in the blog, and didn't say this, but in my opinion, two people with strong opinions on every topic hijacked much of the meeting and led it in a bad direction. But the same had happened in all previous such Strategic Meetings. A person with great experience and success can rarely compete in these meetings with a Type A personality without such success, but who speaks well and looks good in a suit. :)

One of the big issues at the Strategic Meeting (and nearly all past ones) is Regionalization. There have been numerous "attempts" to regionalize USATT. For one thing, it's required by our bylaws. Here is Article VI from our bylaws in its entirety:

Section 6.1. Regional Divisions. The Board of Directors shall divide the United States into geographic regions as the Board determines in its sole discretion will best serve the interests of the sport of Table Tennis. The regions shall be an extension of USATT and not separate entities. Additionally, USATT may hold regional competitions or conduct such other regional activities that promote the mission of USATT as the Board and the Chief Executive Officer determine in their sole discretion.

Over the last 20 years there have been a number of "attempts" to fulfill this. I put "attempts" in quotes because, to me, they were not serious attempts, though those who made these "attempts" would likely disagree. In each case, they did pretty much the same thing, in this order – and I apologize if this is sarcastic, but I've been through this nearly exact sequence many times already.

  1. USATT board agreed that we must regionalize USATT.
  2. USATT board spends time analyzing the plusses and minuses of regionalizing and decided that they should, in fact, do what they had already decided to do, which was to regionalize.
  3. USATT assigned small groups or set up a Strategic Meeting where they spent much time analyzing the plusses and minuses of regionalizing and decided that they should, in fact, do what they had already decided to do, which was to regionalize. Some discussion was done on the specifics of how it might look like. No specific plans were made, no implementation plans were made, no one was assigned to do anything, and no timeline was created.
  4. A small number of people pointed out that we weren't actually doing anything to actually accomplish the goal of regionalizing, i.e. little discussion or plans on actual implementation, just as in past "attempts" to regionalize. They were told this was a new group and this time it would be different.   
  5. They reported back to the board that we should regionalize with vague ideas and plans, but no implementation plans.
  6. Nearly everyone went home happy.
  7. USATT never regionalized.

Let's NOT do this again!!!

As I explained at the recent USATT board meeting, we did once successfully regionalize the country, or at least were well into the process, when politics intervened and killed the program. Here is what happened, circa 1992-1995. While this is ancient history to many of us, the applicability of the program hasn't changed, and has only grown easier, since we now have email and websites. When I set up and ran the following programs, it was all done by phone and postal mail. I spent years studying and creating these plans, and was able to put them into operation when I became chair of the Club Committee and Coaching Committee. (And yes, I had fun with the acronyms below, as you'll see.) We also had the advantage of a very supportive President Dan Seemiller.

To create these programs, we ran regular articles in USATT Magazine calling for volunteers, as well as direct mailings to club leaders and coaches, with specific instructions on what volunteers would be asked to do. By giving these specifics, there was little uncertainty, and we were able to get a large number of energetic volunteers.

The actual regions were the states themselves, with some exceptions. California, Texas, and New York were divided into two, and could even be three. Some regions were changed to reflect local table tennis populations. For example, instead of a Maryland Association, there might now be a Capital Area Association, which is Maryland, DC, and Northern Virginia, which already has the Capital Area League – a good start toward a regional association. (When I refer to a state director below, in some cases it's actually a regional director.)

The thinking behind the plan was simple. If you create State Directors right at the start, or have large regions of multiple states, there's just too much for one person to do, and little infrastructure to start with. So we start with the infrastructure - appointing State Club Directors to create clubs in the larger cities in their state; State Coaching Directors to get coaches in these clubs; State League Directors to create leagues in these clubs (as well as intra-club leagues); and so on. When the infrastructure is there, that's when you bring in a State Director to be in overall charge in that state.

Until that time, someone has to be in charge of appointing and supervising the State Directors. That person has to spend much time organizing it, calling for volunteers from each state, and working with them to fulfil their goals. Because we had no Internet in the early 1990s, we did it step by step, year by year, with the goal to build up each state to the point where they could have semi-independent State Associations. These days some states might be able to do several steps at once.

The result? In 2-3 years – including most of the first year just setting things up, so really about two years – USATT certified clubs went from 223 to 301. USATT membership, which had been around 5000-5500 for the previous 10-20 years, went over 7500, with a net gain of over 2000. Certified coaches went from about 80 to over 200. This was just a start; the goal was to emulate growth in such sports as tennis.

The sports I most studied in developing these plans were tennis, gymnastics, and martial arts. Tennis is an individual sport like ours with similar equipment demands and huge numbers of league players, just as table tennis does in Europe. About 97% of the 700,000 members of USTA are league players, with similarly high percentages in European table tennis, with over 600,000 members of the German TTA, and membership in the hundreds of thousands in a number of other European countries. Gymnastics is an indoor sport that faces the same equipment storage problems we face. Martial arts is another sport that started out as a primarily Asian sport but spread successfully to America.

A key aspect here is that USATT does not lose control by developing State Associations. The purpose of these associations is to develop the sport in their region. USATT can continue to collect membership fees directly. (This is done differently in various parts of the world. At the other extreme is the English TTA, which technically has zero members - but it has over 200,000 members in its regional associations, which is what players pay to join.) 

Here is an outline of the program. The main difference I would do now would be more emphasis on full-time professional clubs with full-time coaching and training programs. At the time I was creating these programs, I was also creating the Maryland Table Tennis Center, the first successful full-time training center in the U.S., which was founded in 1992 (the same year we started the USATT State Directors Program below) and is still going strong. (The business model for MDTTC would later be copied and spread nationwide – there are now 93 such clubs that I know of.)

USATT STATE DIRECTORS PROGRAM, 1992-1995

Step 1: Club Catalyst and Creation Program (CCCP), started in 1992
Goal: A club in every city in the U.S. with a population over 100,000, then 50,000, then 25,000. (At the time there were 463 cities in the U.S. with a population over 50,000; only 103 had clubs.) We actually started this program in a few states for six months, had great success, then expanded it nationwide.

  1. State Club Directors were assigned to each state or region. (We ended up with 47.)
  2. We supplied them with a list of all cities in their state/region with a population over 100,000, 50,000, and 25,000, and worked with them on finding someone to set up and run a club in that city. They were supplied with the USATT Club Handbook. For any new club, USATT agreed to do a mass emailing to all current and past USATT members in that geographic area to publicize the new club.

Result: USATT Clubs went from 223 to 301 in about two years.  

Step 2: Coaches National Network (CNN), started in 1993
Goal: A coach in every USATT club, with a later goal of a junior program in every club run by the club's coaches.

  1. State Coaching Directors were assigned to each state or region. (We ended up with 43.)
  2. We supplied them with a list of certified clubs and coaches in their state, including contact info, and asked them to make sure every club had a coach available. For clubs that did not, coaching certification info was given for players who were willing to become coaches for their clubs. When new players contacted the club and were interested in learning the sport, they were put in contact with the coach.

Result: USATT certified coaches went from around 80 to over 200 in about 1.5 years. (As coaching chair, I created and ran the coaching certification process.)

Step 3: League Incentive Program (LIP), started in 1994 but never really implemented
Goal: A league in every club and a club league system in every state or region.

  1. State League Directors were assigned to each state or region. (We had about 20 when the program was cancelled.)
  2. The State League Director was in charge of finding someone to start up a club league in every club in their state or region, and someone to set up an intra-club league. They would use a version of the USATT rating system for these leagues. (The USATT League system was not yet created – I co-created that with Robert Mayer a number of years later, but it was already something I had planned when the program was cancelled.)
  3. Unlike the State Club and Coaching Directors, the State League Directors were set up so that the league directors – not necessarily the State League Director – could make a profit off the leagues they ran, getting a percentage of entry fees or memberships. This gave them incentive to set up these leagues. (This is no different than coaches who get paid for their work.)

Step 4: State Tournament Directors (witty acronym needed)
Goal: Regular tournaments in every state or region, including a State Championship.

Unfortunately, we never got to this step. Process would have been the same as the above.

Sept 5: State Associations
Goal: Every state or region organized as a state or regional organization, whose purpose would be to develop table tennis in their state or region in every way possible – clubs, coaches, junior programs, leagues, and tournaments.

The thinking here was as follows. If you try to set up a state association where there's little already organized, it's hard to get it off the ground. But if you first set up club, coaching, league, and tournament directors, and use them to create infrastructure, then you are well on your way to creating successful State Associations that can continue to develop the sport in their region. Unfortunately, we never got this state.

In 1995, a new president came in. One of his first acts was to replace all the pertinent committees with his own people, change the USATT emphasis to officials and tournaments, and cancel nearly every program that was created under the previous administration, including the programs above.

Should the above program be copied exactly? Of course not; times have changed, and there are more than one way to do things. But the basic plan worked, and would work today even better, due to better communications.

-Larry Hodges, who is NOT volunteering to be in charge of all this again

Sunday Coaching
In the Beginning Table Tennis Class, the focus was on forehand smashing. We started the session with about 25 minutes of regular stroking and footwork drills. Then 20 minutes of smashing, either with multiball, with a coach or practice partner fishing. Then we did ten minutes of serving practice. Then came games the last 30 minutes. The older kids played Brazilian Teams. For the younger ones, I put my water bottle and Gatorade bottle on the table and fed multiball. If they hit the Gatorade bottle, I had to drink its "worm juice." If they hit the water bottle, I had to hit the "dog saliva" inside. The last 15 minutes they did the usual cup game, where they built paper cup fortresses on the table and then knocked it down in multiball. 

In the Talent Program (the advanced junior class), as usual I spent most of the session feeding multiball. Lots and lots of footwork! They finished the session with Brazilian Teams. Afterwards we had a Talent Program Party - lots of pot luck Chinese food! After eating, the head coaches met with each of the parents and kids to give progress reports. Meanwhile, the kids played various games - mini-paddle, big-ball, Chinese yo-yo, and the younger kids had an incredible game of ping-pong dodgeball. 

Miscellaneous

  • Realtor Table Tennis: I've been renting out the first two floors of my townhouse since I bought it in 2001. (I literally moved in days before 9-11, and spent my first few days glued to the TV while unpacking during commercials.) I've always rented it out myself, putting ads in places like Craig's List and the Washington Post. The current occupants are leaving Nov. 15, so it's vacant again. Rather than do it myself, this time I hired a realtor. She came in on Friday, and she'll be taking care of this - and I'll actually be making considerately more per month than before, even after she takes her percentage! (I've always undercharged, it seems.) Now comes the weird part - I mentioned table tennis, and she said that her daughter was in a table tennis class. That's when we discovered her daughter was in my Beginning Table Tennis Class on Sundays!!!
    Weird Addendum added Monday night: I hired a maid service to come in to clean the two floors, to come in at 1PM Monday. I also hired a handyman separately to come in for a number of fixes, to come in at 6PM Monday. NEITHER SHOWED!!! They also didn't respond to texts or emails checking on them. So tomorrow I have to hire a new cleaning service and handyman. (I've had about 20,000 coaching sessions since 1992, and I've been late exactly twice.)
  • On Saturday I went to my 40th High School Reunion. Where have the years gone? How did everyone except me get so old? Or am I really that old??? Somehow everyone there seemed to know about my table tennis, and most even knew that I also wrote science fiction - it seemed everyone had been surfing everyone's bio pages on Facebook. When I expressed surprise that one of them knew about both, he said, "Larry, don't you know? You're the most famous member of our class!!!" No, I didn't know, and am still not sure of this.

Interviews
I recently added links to the About section here to a number of interviews I've done. They are both table tennis and science fiction, my outside activity. Here they are!

TABLE TENNIS

SCIENCE FICTION

World Cadet Challenge
Here's the home page for the event, Oct. 23-31 in Tottori, Japan. They've already finished the team event - Team Japan defeated Team Asia in the final of both Boys' and Girls' Cadet Teams, with Team North American coming in third in Girls' and fourth in Boys'. Here's an article that features USA players, Last four places decided, North Americans shine.

Swedish Open
Here's the home page for the event, Nov. 1-4 (qualifier Oct. 29-31) in Stockholm, Sweden.  

Alameda Table Tennis Club is Looking for a Coach
Interested? Send resume, and preferably some video as well, to the Alameda TTC (in California) at info@alamedattc.org.

iSET NCTTA Coaching Certification
Here's the info page on becoming a National Collegiate Table Tennis Coach.

New from EmRatThich

New from Samson Dubina

How to Do Backhand Topspin vs Backspin…In-Depth Tutorial
Here's the article and video (14:25) from Tom Lodziak.

How Important is a Table Tennis Rally?
Here's the article by Eli Baraty.

ITTF Athletes Commission Welcomes Three More Members
Here's the ITTF article. The three are:

  • Jasna Rather (USA, representing North America)
  • Matt Hetherington (New Zealand, representing Oceania, currently coaching in New Jersey)
  • Sarah Hanffou (Cameroon, representing Africa).

Nicholas Tio Embracing the European Experience
Here's the USATT article on the USA junior star, by Matt Hetherington.

Fundamentally Friendly Table Tennis
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

A New Day Coming for US Open
Here's the USATT article by Richard Finn.

WAB Featured Club: Rhode Island Table Tennis Association
Here's the article by Steve Hopkins.

"Nothing Is Impossible": An Egyptian Paralympian Shows Us How
Here's the new article and pictures of armless Egyptian Paralympian star Ibrahim Hamato at the Westchester TTC in New York.

AYTTO Trip to Beijing, China
Here's the article and pictures.

Huntsman World Senior Games
Here are the results.

University of Maryland Open
Here's the info page and entry form. It's on Nov. 4 at University of Maryland in College Park, MD. Running it is star college player Nathan Hsu, taking the directorial reigns for the first time. It's a double round robin event followed by single elimination. That means you start out in preliminary round robins at 9AM. Based on your performance there you go into a second round robin (with about seven players) at noon. Based on your performance there you go into the single elimination stage at 6:30PM.

Match Review Kanak Jha | 2018 ITTF Men's World Cup
Here's the video (51 sec) featuring Kanak's win over Aruna Quadri at the Men's World Cup.

Out of this World Around Net Rally by Xu Xin
Here's the video (37 sec) of this rally by Xu Xin (CHN, world #2, former #1) against Diogo Carvalho (POR, world #134).

Incredible Point to Finish Comeback
Here's the video (2:17) of Danny Habesohn (AUT, world #38, playing for Post SV Mühlhausen in a European league) winning the incredible last point to win 11-9 in fifth after being down 0-2 in games, against Bojan Tokic (SLO, world #54, former #37). The point itself lasts about 20 seconds, the rest is the team celebrating.

DHS ITTF Top 10 - 2018 Women's World Cup
Here's the ITTF video (5:39).

Matilda Ekholm | Ask a Pro Anything
Here's the video (4:44) from Adam Bobrow, featuring the world #23 (formerly #20) from Sweden.

Richard Hicks, Table Tennis Legend, Named Grand Marshall
Here's the newspaper article and picture. (Here's the non-Facebook version.) He was selected to serve as the Grand Marshal of the Irvington Halloween Festival parade on Saturday, Oct 27.

History of USATT – Volume 21 – Chapter 23
Here's chapter 23 of Tim Boggan's latest volume, which covers 1994-1995. Or you can buy it and previous (and future) volumes at www.timboggantabletennis.com. This chapter covers "1995 World Team Cup." Volume 21 is 438 pages with 1667 graphics, and covers all the wild things that happened in 1994-95 - and I'm mentioned a lot! Why not buy a copy - or the entire set at a discount? Tim sells them directly, so when you order them, you get it autographed - order your copy now!

Bouncing Ball Off Bottom of Handle
Here's the video (5:10) as he does it 1109 times in a row!!!

Happy Birthday Ma Long !!!
Here's the video (42 sec) as top players wish him a Happy Birthday!

Two-Paddled Halloween Monster on Robot
Here's the video (1:56)!

***
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October 22, 2018

Tip of the Week
Top Ten Ways to Be a Professional at All Levels.

Weekend Coaching
I did a lot of "scouting" this weekend. By scouting, what I really mean is I watched and studied our junior players in matches and practice and took lots of notes. Plus, of course, there was the usual weekend group sessions. Here's a rundown.

Friday. I watched our junior players in the Friday night league for 2.5 hours, getting pages of notes on a number of players. I spoke with each of the players on the issues I saw, including both strengths and weaknesses. Some problems I saw included:

  • Not using backhand loop
  • Not attacking the middle
  • Weak pushes
  • Standing in backhand stance as a ready position
  • Frozen footwork against a pips-out player
  • Lifting too much when looping instead of driving the ball more forward
  • Backhand drive too flat
  • Not enough serve variation
  • Rushing, especially when serving
  • Backs off table too easily
  • Grip problem
  • Getting too disgusted after missing a shot instead of getting determined

Saturday. I coached in the Saturday Junior League for two hours. It's not a "normal" league - it's really half league, half coaching. We did a lot of doubles the first half, so I worked with players on their doubles footwork and tactics. In singles, we had them play improvised games, such as where they score two points if they serve and attack and win the point (not necessarily on the first shot). We also played games where each game starts with the server serving down 7-9, but wins if they get both points on their serve, plus a few other variations.

Sunday. In the Beginning Class (1.5 hours), we introduced pushing. Then we did 30 minutes of regular stroking and footwork drills, followed by games. In the Talent Development Program, I did a lot of multiball and then worked with four on their serves for a time. Then we did physical training, much of it with various ladder exercises. Then all the coaches went out for dinner (Japanese food this time) where, as always, we went over each of the players. I brought my pages of notes for this.

Men's World Cup
Here's the home page, with complete results, articles, pictures, and video from the event that finished yesterday in a China-German final between world #1 Fan Zhendong and former world #1 Timo Boll. Here are videos, with time between points removed.

USA's Kanak Jha at the Men's World Cup
He became the first USA man to reach the main draw (final 16 in recent years) since Eric Boggan finished 7th in 1985. (Eric also finished 7th in 1982 and 1983, and 8th in 1980. For many years the format was four groups of four with the top two advancing to the quarterfinals, so back then players had to make the final eight to reach the main draw. Here's a USATT article that went up on Tuesday that better explains this, Kanak Jha Ends 33 Year Drought at 2018 Men's World Cup. Here's a listing of all USA Men's Finishes at the World Cup.) Ranked #67 in the world at age 18, he upset world #21 Arun Quadri. Here are two links.

Jha Reflects on Lifetime Achievement of Youth Olympic Bronze
Here's the article by Matt Hetherington.

New from Samson Dubina

  • Short Push (45 sec) - "When pushing short, most players error in 1 of 2 ways. They either slice it hard with wayyyyy too much energy and the push goes deep OR they simply touch the ball and it falls off their racket. You want to push with enough energy to impart spin but look to impart only spin, not speed. This creative little exercise has helped Sarah Jalli and many others to learn the short push. Check it out!"
  • Forehand Reverse Pendulum Serve (1:49).

How to Play Table Tennis Step by Step
Here's the article by EmRatThich.

Being a Table Tennis Player
Here's the article by Eli Baraty.

Dealing with Illegal Serves, White T-Shirts & Poor Lighting
Here's the article from Tom Lodziak.

University of Maryland Open
Here's the info page and entry form. It's on Nov. 4 at University of Maryland in College Park, MD. Running it is star college player Nathan Hsu, taking the directorial reigns for the first time. It's a double round robin event followed by single elimination. That means you start out in preliminary round robins at 9AM. Based on your performance there you go into a second round robin (with about seven players) at noon. Based on your performance there you go into the single elimination stage at 6:30PM.

Surveying USATT
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

National Collegiate Table Tennis Newsletter
Here's the new October issue.

Selection Procedures for the 2019 Pan American Games
Here's the USATT info page.

Butterfly Southeastern Open
Here's the results, video, and photo page.

WAB Featured Club: Wang Chen Table Tennis Club
Here's the article by Steve Hopkins.

Future Olympians Train at Table Tennis Facility in Katy
Here's the video (1:48) featuring the Houston International Table Tennis Academy.

History of USATT – Volume 21 – Chapter 22
Here's chapter 22 of Tim Boggan's latest volume, which covers 1994-1995. Or you can buy it and previous (and future) volumes at www.timboggantabletennis.com. This chapter covers "1995 July Tournaments." Volume 21 is 438 pages with 1667 graphics, and covers all the wild things that happened in 1994-95 - and I'm mentioned a lot! Why not buy a copy - or the entire set at a discount? Tim sells them directly, so when you order them, you get it autographed - order your copy now!

Soccer/Volleyball Pong
Here's the video (44 sec)!

Table Side Pong
Here's the video (17 sec) of Nandan Naresh! But Nandan - side balls aren't good in table tennis, so you lost every one of those points!!! (Next time you'll have to play off the edge.) Nandan, 11, is rated 2193.

Desk Pong Footwork
Here's the video (16 sec)! How could you possibly go through high school and not do this?

Disney Theme Song Challenge feat. Kanak Jha | 2018 Men's ITTF World Cup
Here's the video (2:22).

Hockey to Pong?
Todd Sweeris, a member of the 1996 and 2000 USA Olympic Table Tennis Team, has a 7-year-old son who's already a budding hockey star. A few days ago I emailed Todd the following, which in just seven steps would fix up this weird sport played on frozen water.

Todd, I need to get into hockey to fix their problems.

  1. It's played on a hard, slippery floor. They should use something grippier and softer so people don't constantly slip and hurt themselves, such as a rubberized floor.
  2. Without that slippery surface, the puck isn't much use, so they need to switch to something that bounces, perhaps a small, plastic ball.
  3. Hockey sticks are way too big and cumbersome. They should switch to smaller paddles.
  4. No one wants to lean down for a ball on the floor, so they should play on a table.
  5. To differentiate your side of the table and the opponents, they'll need a net.
  6. Scoring is way too little, so we're going to get rid of goals and simply score a point whenever someone misses.
  7. We'll turn it into an exciting, high-scoring game, played to 11. (Though going to 21 might be better.)

***
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October 15, 2018

Tip of the Week
Style Experimentation.

Table Tennis Inventions
Table tennis regularly has new innovations, both in technique and equipment. The major equipment manufacturers are constantly coming up with new products. For example, Butterfly (which sponsors me) came up with Tenergy rubber a few years ago, and as a truly innovative product, with high-tension sponge and rubber surface, it became a huge seller. They've since innovated on it in numerous ways, including coming up with four types (05, 25, 64, and 80, and please don't ask me how they got those numbers), as well as FX versions of each, which are softer. And now they have come out with Tenergy 05 Hard! (Here's the Here's the review by Stefan Feth.)

But that is NOT the subject of today's blog. Instead, I'm writing about other table tennis inventions. We'll start with Samson Dubina, who has two recent table tennis inventions: TT-Serve and TT-Flex. TT-Serve (which I tried out last week) is put over the net so that players can practice serving low, but with the added feature that it extends about six inches on both sides of the net. If it were just a rod going across the net, you could potentially serve the ball too high, but have it cross the net a low point, and so seem to be low - but still bounce too high on the far side. TT-Serve forces you to serve truly low, so that the ball stays low before and after it reaches the net, and thereby bounces low on the far side. You can adjust it up and down. TT-Flex is "a full body strengthening system designed to enhance your loops, smashes, flips, chops, serves, and much more!"

Another interesting invention is the TSP Spin Wheel, which I wrote about in my January 11, 2018 blog. "It’s basically a small tire attached to the table that allows you to practice looping by spinning the wheel. Included with it is a speedometer (technically, a tachometer) that tells you how fast you are spinning it! That’s half the fun – the kids at the club were battling to see who could make it spin the fastest. Here’s video (4:02) of the wheel in action."

Another are the Spin Balls sold by JOOLA, which are half white, half yellow, with a black circle separating the hemispheres. This makes it easy to see the spin on the ball, which is very helpful when teaching beginners. I keep a bag of them in my playing bag, especially for demos in group sessions. (JOOLA also has Paddle Wipes and Table Wipes.)

There are many innovations in blades and grips. Most players play either shakehands or penhold. There are also players with the Seemiller grip, as well as the Hammer grip (all four fingers on handle, including index finger) and the V-Grip (here's video). But these grips use "normal" paddles. How about the Pistol grip?  It needs a special racket! Here's video.

As a coach, probably the best invention EVER was ball nets, such as the Butterfly Ball Amigo. When we opened the Maryland Table Tennis Center in 1992, for our first year or so we didn't have ball nets, and had to pick the balls up by hand - murderous in private coaching where you often use baskets of balls at a time! While I prefer nets, some like to pick up balls with a tube, such as the Newgy's Pong-Pal and Pong-Pal XL

Not all inventions are for training purposes - some just make you look good! For example, meet Pong Revolution, who want to make you look cool with t-shirts and hoodies!

Probably the highest table tennis tech are table tennis robots. Don't get me started on them - there are just too many!!! Here are links to some of them.

Some inventions are lifesavers. Imagine you are marooned on a deserted island with nothing but sealed bottles of water. You could die of thirst if you didn't have a Butterfly Bottle Opener! And if a boat comes near, you'll need Butterfly Cheer Sticks to get their attention!

MDTTC October Open
Here's my write-up, with complete results, pictures, and video, of the tournament I ran this past weekend.

Larry Interviews
Here's my interview with Butterfly, by Ayan Bagchi, which went up on Friday. I was also interviewed by Analog Science Fiction the week before (I linked to that last week). The first was about table tennis, the second on my science fiction writing. They just can't shut me up, can they?

Review of Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers
Here's the review by Samson Dubina of my tactics book!

USOC and USATT Teleconferences
I was on two USATT teleconferences, one last Friday, one last night.

  • USATT/USOC/USA Archery Teleconference. It lasted about an hour, with five people from USATT (myself, Anne Cribbs, Erica Wu, Ed Hogshead, and Gary Schlager), plus one person from USA Archery and one from the USOC. USATT is investigating regionalizing. There are a number of ways of doing this. Surprisingly, I was told we could learn about regionalizing from USA Archery, but their representative actually advised against it. However, she was talking about regionalizing in the sense of each region being a semi-independent association that collects membership, etc., in place of USATT.

    A better way of doing it is to do it roughly state by state, with some large states divided into multiple parts, and possibly other regions that don't coincide with a specific state. The regional directors would be appointed, and would be responsible for developing the sport in their state/region - specifically, clubs, tournaments, leagues, coaches, junior programs, and training centers.

    We did this successfully in the early 1990s, where we appointed 47 State Club Directors, then 43 State Coaching Directors. Next we planned to appoint State League Directors and State Tournament Directors, and then, with infrastructure set up, we'd appoint (or possibly have state/regional elections?) a State/Regional Director. The Club Directors had one simple assignment: Find or get a club started in every city in their state/region with a population over 100,000, then 50,000, then 25,000. Result? In just two years, we went from 223 to 301 clubs, and membership went from about 5500 to 7500. State Coaching Directors had the job of finding a coach or player willing to act as a coach for every club. We were just getting started on that, and were about to appoint League Directors, when a new USATT president was elected, and ended the program.

    USATT has a Strategic Meeting on Nov. 3-4. I plan to send an email to the participants outlining how we did this before. I could have gone to the meeting myself, but decided not to this time.
     

  • USATT Board Teleconference. The teleconference was last night, from 7-9PM. Main topics were:
    1. High Performance Update
    2. Strategic Meeting Planning (November meeting)
    3. U.S. Open in Orlando, Florida in December update
    4. Financial Report and Discussion
    5. Preparation for December In-Person Board Meeting
    6. Upcoming Board Election and Nominating and Governance Committee Membership
    7. Closed Session for Personnel and/or Legal issues

ITTF Meets Jan-Ove Walder
In a special 5 part series, the ITTF brings to you an exclusive in-depth interview with Swedish Legend Jan-Ove Waldner. (Here's his Wiki page.)

  • Part 1 (6:09) - see host Fredrik Berling seat down with one of the greatest players to talk about his achievements and early days in table tennis.
  • Part 2 (3:12) - Jan-Ove Waldner shares with us his desire to win that helped him reach the very top of table tennis.
  • Part 3 (4:52) - Jan-Ove Waldner discuss the time he trained in 

Takashi Watanabe Japanese Pathway System
Japan's Women's National Team Coach and Girls' Junior National Team Head Coach, Takashi Watanabe was one of the two head coaches at the 2018 ITTF World Hopes Week & Challenge. Alas, his English isn't that good, but you should be able to follow it.

Youth Olympic Games
Here's the home page for the event in Buenos Aires, Argentina, which ended yesterday. USA players were Kanak Jha and Amy Wang. Kanak won a bronze in Junior Boys' Singles. There were some huge clashes between the top junior players from China, Taipei, Japan (including Harimoto), Sweden, Romania, India, and yes, USA! Here are two related articles on Kanak.

New from Samson Dubina

New from EmRatThich

New from Eli Baraty

New from Tom Lodziak

Peaks, Streaks, and Table Tennis Geeks
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

WAB Featured Club: Fullerton Table Tennis Academy
Here's the article by Steve Hopkins.

Lillieroos Has Spanned the Globe Preaching His Unique Coaching Philosophy
Here's the ITTF article.

He Will Play for His grandmother
Here's the article featuring USA wheelchair star Jenson Van Emburgh.

Nittaku ITTF Monthly Pongcast - September 2018
Here's the video (18:59).

GT Table Tennis Videos
Here's their video page, with lots of links.

The Liebherr 2018 ITTF Men's World Cup is Coming!
Here's the ITTF promotional video (30 sec).

History of USATT – Volume 21 – Chapter 21
Here's chapter 21 of Tim Boggan's latest volume, which covers 1994-1995. Or you can buy it and previous (and future) volumes at www.timboggantabletennis.com. This chapter covers "1995 off-court potpourri." Volume 21 is 438 pages with 1667 graphics, and covers all the wild things that happened in 1994-95 - and I'm mentioned a lot! Why not buy a copy - or the entire set at a discount? Tim sells them directly, so when you order them, you get it autographed - order your copy now!

Christmas Table Tennis Decorations
Here's the Zazzle page - it's never too early to start your Christmas decorations shopping, right?

Acrobatic Table Tennis Shot
Here's the video (9 sec)!

Belly Pong?
Here's the repeating gif!

Rubik's Pong
Here's video (60 sec) of Jacob Boyd and Ricky Martin solving a Rubik's Cube while rallying at table tennis! Here's another video of them (2:27)!

***
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October 8, 2018

Tip of the Week
Counterlooping and the Forehand Block.

Why China's Dominance in Table Tennis is Unmatched at the Olympics
Here's the video (10:54). This is fascinating viewing, and I recommend you watch it.

One interesting statement in the video was someone saying, "61% of the worldwide table tennis innovation techniques and tactics are from China." Now this is a rather arbitrary thing as who judges what is an innovation?

Here's discussion on this at the Mytabletennis.net forum, which includes a listing of the innovations by China and others, where they got the 61%. But as noted, it's somewhat arbitrary. It includes many techniques that are no longer common at the high levels, and some are somewhat redundant. If they are going to include those, then they should include many more European hardbat techniques from the 1940s and 1950s, such as the Barna backhand flick - he won Men's Singles at the Worlds five times with it - and many more. It also has entries for Zhuang Zedong's penhold close-to-table double wing attacking, Li Furong's penhold close-to-table backhand blocking and forehand attacking, and Xu Shaofa's "kuai dai" technique, which are all rather similar, with only subtle differences. If they are to be included, then there are all sorts of subtle variations of techniques that could be included. It includes several items for racket flipping, but leaves out Carl Prean's innovations. It also leaves out the innovative variations and serving techniques developed by Waldner. (There's also the Seemiller grip - two USA players reached top 20 in the world with it.)

A better listing might be of the innovations that are still used at the highest levels. My impression is that the Chinese were no more innovative than the Europeans until recent years, though they have always been the best at refining current technique. In fact, it was the stubborn refusal to change from the old-fashioned Chinese styles centered around close-to-table fast attack that led to Sweden and the rest of Europe dominating the sport the first half of the 1990s. But China quickly learned the new two-winged topspinning game and became the best at it - refining and perfecting everything. And now, as the video shows, they truly study the game with an open mind to develop the best players and innovations.

Here's a short listing of modern techniques and who first developed them at the elite level, to the best of my knowledge.

  • Forehand looping. The modern loop is, in many ways, a perfection of the best of the old Hungarian straight-arm looping style of the 1980s and the Cai Zhenhua arm-snap loop of the 1980s. I would say it reached its pinnacle with China's Wang Liqin, with the modern Chinese having a similar level but no breakthroughs that make it better than Wang's.
  • Backhand looping. The modern backhand loop is usually done close to the table. This was innovated by Tibor Klampar and Anton Stipancic in the 1970s, but it took many years before others copied these techniques. At the time, they were called "freaks of nature" because of their ability to backhand loop off the bounce. The pure power of the backhand loop was shown by Jorg Rosskopf and Erik Lindh. The Chinese have developed these shots to perfection with players like Ma Long, Zhang Jike, and Fan Zhendong, with close-to-table quickness more the focus than pure power. Japan's Tomokazu Harimoto might be taking these techniques to an even higher level.
  • Short Push. This was popularized at the higher levels by Stellan Bengtsson when he won the Worlds in 1971.
  • Forehand flip. This always used, but the Hungarians in 1979 truly brought it to the highest level, spending huge amounts of time practicing and developing this shot in secret and springing it on the Chinese at the Worlds, which they won with this shot, combined with their two-winged looping game. The Chinese at the time liked to serve short to the forehand, but this backfired on them.
  • Backhand Banana Flip. This was innovated at the highest levels first by Czech shakehand player Petr Korbel, and then by penholder Wang Hao, who won Men's Singles at the Worlds with it. While Wang Hao did the banana flip reverse penhold style, it was copied by shakehand players as well, and is now the #1 used receive at the world-class level. 
  • Reverse Penhold Backhand. This was mostly innovated at the highest levels by China's Wang Hao. (Liu Guoliang of China was the first to use the reverse penhold backhand at the highest levels, but he did it as a variation, while Wang Hao made it his primary backhand shot, as did Ma Lin.) Wang Hao was one of the most innovative players, with both the reverse penhold backhand and the backhand banana flip. 
  • Lobbing. This was primarily innovated by 1967 World Men's Singles Champion Nobuhiko Hasegawa of Japan. The Europeans later innovated as they developed the fishing game, i.e. lower defensive topspins.
  • Serving. If I gave a list of who innovated each serve at the highest levels, it would be a LONG list, and I don't really know some of them. For example, the listing above lists "Austrian shakehand reverse pendulum serve (1999)," which probably refers to 2003 Men's Singles World Champion Werner Schlager, who did this serve very well. But many players were doing this well before that - I was doing this serve in the 1980s, and I copied it from others. So who first innovated it?
  • Other Techniques. I'd be at it all day if wanted to be comprehensive!!!

On a side note, I'm very happy that China continues to allow their players and coaches to emigrate to other countries as full-time coaches at training centers. This really helps raise the level and popularity of the sport all over the world. Former Chinese players pretty much dominate the coaching ranks all over the world, and probably 80% of the hundreds of full-time coaches in the U.S. are probably Chinese. 

History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 22
We're just about finished! Tim moved in with me last Monday morning, and we expected, based on the previous 21 volumes, that it would take until at least Wednesday this week to finish. But due to my reduced coaching schedule (due to shoulder problems - primarily shredded rotator cuff), and because Mal Anderson spent a bunch of extra time cleaning up scans in advance, we basically finished yesterday. So Tim drove back to New York this morning. I still have to do some fixes on a few pages, and then do all the pre-press work to get it ready for publication.

This volume is 469 pages with 1447 graphics, and covers 1996-97. It should be available in a couple weeks. Meanwhile, why not buy a volume or 21?

On page 67, former junior star Jessica Shen is quoted saying, "If Larry Hodges can be 2250, so can you." I'm not sure if my game has been insulted or my tactical skills praised!!! (I'm all over this volume, both articles written by me and articles where I'm mentioned.)

Sunday Coaching
I had the usual two group sessions on Sunday. In the Beginning Junior Class (14 players), I introduced fast & deep serves, then we had serve practice both for those and for spin serves. Then we introduced footwork, with a demo and explanation, and then lots of practice. We finished with the usual games - one group played up-down tables, the other (younger) ones did target practice games with me feeding multiball - a competition to see who could hit Froggy the most, and then the inevitable cup game, where they stacked cups and then knocked them down.

In the advanced session, as usual I fed multiball for much of the session, plus led a group in serve practice - and coincidentally, the focus was also on fast & deep serves.

MDTTC October Open
I'll be running the three-star tournament this weekend at the Maryland Table Tennis Center. Come and join us! The Open already has some strong entries - Akufumi Hamakawa (2688), Jishan Liang (2648), Chen Bo Wen (2592) and Lidney Castro (2520), and I'm expecting several more of this level.

TTTeamUSA Training Camp - Maryland
Here's the USATT article on the upcoming USATT training camp at MDTTC. It's an elite camp - "Participants will be current or potential future TTTeam USA members and guest players."

Non-Table Tennis - My Interview at Analog Science Fiction
Here's the interview. I have a story in their current issue, "The Plaything on the Tesseract Wall." (Here's my science fiction page, which includes my SF blog, bibliography, and other stuff.)

USATT and ITTF News Items
Why not browse over the USATT and ITTF news items of the past week?

Youth Olympic Games
Here's the home page for the event going on right now (Oct. 7-15) in Buenos Aires, Argentina. (USA players are Kanak Jha and Amy Wang.)

New from EmRatThich

How to Do an Around-the-Net Shot
Here's the video (5:41) by Craig Bryant (from Tom Lodziak).

Some Loop versus Block Practice
Here's the video (57 sec).

Smart Phones in Table Tennis Tournaments
Here's the article by Eli Baraty.

October Skill of the Month ???
Here's the article from Coach Jon.

USATT Nominates Players for 2018 World Junior Championships
Here's the USATT article.

Off The Table - Lily Zhang
Here's the ITTF video (5:03) with the USA star.

DHS ITTF Top 10 - 2018 Czech Open
Here's the video (5:31).

Denethi Wijegunawardana Videos
Here's the page (2 videos, 1:08 and 2:27) from Samson Dubina.

WAB Featured Club: MK Georgia Table Tennis
Here's the article by Steve Hopkins.

Gaetan Swartenbrouckx vs. Kalinikos Kreanga, Super Division
Here's the video (7:34). Kreanga has the flashiest shots in the world!

Bruce Lee on Table Tennis
Here's the meme! (Here's the non-Facebook version.) It makes sense - "I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 backhands once, but I do fear a man who has practiced one backhand 10,000 times."

Pong Revolution T-Shirts
Here's their page! For the next two weeks you can get 10% off by applying "USATT" as a coupon code.

Juggling Ping-Pong Music
Here's the video (22 sec)!

Life is Ping-Pong
Here's the video (3:01)!

Using Your Head in Table Tennis?
Here's the video (34 sec) of this fast-rising game!

"Stop War" Play More Table Tennis
Here's the picture! (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

***
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October 1, 2018

Tip of the Week
How to Punish those Slow, Spinny Loops.

History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 22
This morning USATT Historian and Hall of Famer Tim Boggan moves in with me for about 12 days so I can do the photo work and page layouts for the latest volume of History of U.S. Table Tennis. This one covers 1996-1997, and will be in the 450 page range, with about 1700 graphics. Actually, every page is technically a graphic, since Tim creates the volumes by mostly cut & pasting articles from the past. He arranges them into 8.5x11 pages, which are scanned by another USATT Hall of Famer, Mal Anderson.

Then comes the "hard" part, for me, as I have to place each page into the layouts, and then fix up all the graphics - and there are a LOT of fixing up. For one thing, all of Tim's scissor cuts show up and have to be removed; for another, most of the work is scanned from gritty newsprint, and that takes time to fix up. Plus Tim is very picky about backgrounds, and regularly has me Photoshop "distracting" background items or people out. We also have to add lots of captions. Tim also always has a large number of separate photos for me to scan to put in.

Tim will be arriving promptly at 9AM, as he always does, driving down from New York during the night. He keeps strange hours, getting up each morning at around 4AM and going to bed around 8PM or earlier. For the next 10-12 days we'll be working from 7AM to 5PM. If all goes well, we'll be done by Oct. 12, so I can set up for the MDTTC October Open that weekend, Oct. 13-14, which I'll be running.

Sunday Coaching
I had two junior group sessions on Sunday. The first was the Beginning Junior Class, 90 minutes, which has 12 students this time around. (Assisting me were coaches John Hsu and Lidney Castro, and practice partner Todd Klinger.) The focus was on serving, especially spin serves. After that we did more forehand and backhand review. The last half hour we broke into two groups, with the older players playing Brazilian Teams, and the younger players with me, doing "target practice" games - first a competition to see who could hit Froggy the most times in multiball, then the usual cups game, where they build pyramids and forts from cups, and then knock them down in multiball.

In the advanced Talent program (2 hours), I spent most of the session either doing multiball, or working with them on serves. We did some work especially on fast, deep serves. I worked with a few of them on a problem where some of them reacted to these fast serves by rotating their body to the shot instead of stepping. And then I went out for dinner with the other coaches (Japanese food), where we went over each player, one by one.

Capclave Science Fiction Convention in Rockville, Maryland
(Mostly non-table tennis.) This past weekend I was at the Capclave Science Fiction Convention as a panelist. (Here's my convention bio.) I moderated two panels - one titled "Flash Fiction: Writing for the Short Attention Span Generation" (stories under 1000 words), and another, "Political Dynamite," on addressing current issues in your work. I was also on the panel Science Fiction of Political Resistance, where we discussed our political writings - here's a picture. (I do a lot of science fiction political satire.) I also had two autographing sessions - here's one of them. I have 13 books, but here I'm only selling and signing my science fiction ones, not my eight table tennis books - but one of the novels here is "The Spirit of Pong," a table tennis fantasy. The one featured in the banner, Campaign 2100: Game of Scorpions, my best novel, also features a lot of table tennis as one of the four main characters is a professional table tennis player who runs a worldwide campaign for president.

Women's World Cup
Here's the home page for the event held this past weekend in Chengdu, China, with results, articles, photos, and video. Congrats to Ding Ning, her third! Here's the Day 3 Review (2:09), and here's the Ding Ning - Zhu Yuling final (9:53, time between points removed).

2018 US Youth National Ranking Tournament
Here are the results from Sacrament this past weekend (Sept. 27-30, Thu-Sun).

New from Samson Dubina

New from Eli Baraty

How to Get Topspin Serve
Here's the video (3:37) of an advanced side-topspin serve. 

Bangkok Camp Footwork Training
Here are three videos from Richard McAfee.

Liu Guoliang is Back for Tokyo 2020
Here's the article from EmRatThich.

Liu Guoliang Appointed New Role in Chinese Table Tennis Association
Here's the article.

Tenergy 05 Hard: Reviewed by Current US National Team Coach, Stefan Feth
Here's the review. (I rarely do equipment articles, but this could be a "game-changer." Note - I'm sponsored by Butterfly.)

Salaries of Top Players
Here's a posting at mytabletennis.net and about the salaries of top players in Europe and around the world. (Note - a euro is 1.16 dollars.)

Kanak Jha Joins 87-Strong US Team for Buenos Aires 2018
Here's the article.

USATT Nominates Players for 2018 Pan American Championships
Here's the USATT article.

WAB Featured Club: The Topspin Table Tennis Center
Here's the article by Steve Hopkins.

Microsecond Multitasking in Table Tennis, and Other Things You Can Do in Less Than a Second
Here's the article from Coach Jon.

Ping Pong: The Best Brain-Sport Tickles Your Brain
Here's the article

Rated Best Ever, Cuenca Raises Standards
Here's the ITTF article on the coaching course in Ecuador taught by Christian Lillieroos.

Former Rock Publicist Paddles Through Life's Back and Forths
Here's the article featuring Carol Klenfner

Liu Guoliang Appointed New Role in Chinese Table Tennis Association
Here's the article.

Ma Long vs. Jun Mizutani
Here's the point (20 sec)!

Sheldon, the Big Bang Theory, and an Egyptian Table Tennis Silver Medalist!
On the Big Bang Theory TV show, on Sept. 27 (Thursday), the main star, Sheldon Cooper, was talking about what an "I Love NY" shirt could stand for, and said it could refer to Egyptian Table Tennis Silver Medalist Noha Yssry - a silver medalist in Women's Teams at the 2007 All-African Games! (Here's video of an older episode (2:37) where they play table tennis on the show.)

Lily Zhang and Kim Gilbert Exhibition Point
Here's the video (7 sec)!

Solo Mini-Pong
Here's the video (35 sec)!

Around the World
Here's the video (43 sec) - I once had that much energy!

Around-the-World to Music
Here's the video (43 sec)!

Classroom Mini-Table Pong
Here's the video (60 sec)! 

Firefighter Pong
Here's the video (15 sec)!

Serve and Stroking Tricks
Here's the video (38 sec)!

Junior Girl Trick Shots
Here's the video (44 sec)!

***
Send us your own coaching news!

September 24, 2018

Tip of the Week
Top Ten Guidelines for Playing the Unconventional Style.

USATT Board Meeting
This past weekend I attended the USATT board meeting at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Sept. 21-23. (I attended both as a member of the board and as chair of the coaching committee.) Friday was travel day, plus an informal dinner at the OTC dining hall. I flew on the same flight as USATT legal counsel Dennis Taylor. Others attending the meeting included fellow board members Anne Cribbs (chair), Rajul Sheth, Ed Hogshead, Carolyn Savini, and Erica Wu (who just took a job at Facebook), with Gary Schlager and Tara Profitt attending via e-conference. Also attending were USATT CEO Gordon Kaye, COO Mark Thompson, High Performance Director Jörg Bitzigeio, and High Performance Committee Chair Carl Danner. Also attending for a few hours were new USATT employees Chris Mauro (accounting) and Tammy Kuyper (administrative assistant).

The meeting started at 9AM on Saturday. First on the agenda were formalities - roll call and call for any conflicts of interest. Then came approval of the minutes of our August teleconference - there were no substantive changes, though I did point out a missing period, which was duly added - my great contribution. The minutes were approved unanimously.

Next up was planning for the upcoming USATT Strategic Planning Conference, which is scheduled for Nov. 3-4 in Colorado Springs, with the USOC hosting, moderating, and funding much of it. The plan is for 16 people from USATT to attend. As coaching chair, I get to nominate two people, which could include myself - but I won't be able to attend as I'll be a panelist and doing book signings at the World Fantasy Convention that weekend. I have my list of possible invitees down to six people, but it's going to be a very tough choice. I've been to five of these Strategic Meetings, but past ones haven't been very successful - and the last time we had a full weekend like this time, it was a disaster. (Here's my blog on that 2009 meeting.) 

Next we had committee reports, including my own Coaching Committee report. Others were from the Junior, Nominating and Governance; Rules, Umpires and Referees, Tournament, Clubs, and High Performance Committees. (I believe these all go online later on the USATT web page.) Next up was discussion of NewCo/ITTF North America, and a long discussion of the Directors and Officers Insurance Program.

Then came a long and valuable discussion of the strategic direction of USATT. Much of this involved discussion of regionalizing USATT. I explained past efforts, including the Club Catalyst and Creation Program (CCCP) and Coaches National Network (CNN), two program I ran back in the 1990s when I chaired the Club and Coaching Committees, with a very supportive President Dan Seemiller. (Yes, I had fun with the acronyms.) With CCCP, we appointed state club directors in 47 states (some had two, such as CA and NY), with the plan to find or start a club in every city with a population over 100,000, then 50,000, then 25,000. In two years we went from 223 clubs to 301. With CNN, we appointed 43 state coaching directors, with the plan to have a coach and coaching program at every club. We doubled the number of certified coaches during those years, from about 100 to over 200. During this time, USATT membership also increased from less than 5500 to over 7500 (about a 2200 increase in all). The plan was to continue next with state league directors, and then start up actual state associations with state directors - but USATT had an election, and a new president came in. He wanted to bring in his own people, and cancelled essentially every program started by the previous administration, including CCCP and CNN. (After the meeting I sent a detailed email to the board explaining these programs, as something to consider at the upcoming USATT Strategic Meeting in November.)

There have been numerous "attempts" to regionalize USATT. For one thing, it's required by the USATT bylaws. Here is Article VI from our bylaws in its entirety:

Section 6.1. Regional Divisions. The Board of Directors shall divide the United States into geographic regions as the Board determines in its sole discretion will best serve the interests of the sport of Table Tennis. The regions shall be an extension of USATT and not separate entities. Additionally, USATT may hold regional competitions or conduct such other regional activities that promote the mission of USATT as the Board and the Chief Executive Officer determine in their sole discretion.

Over the last 20 years there have been a number of "attempts" to fulfill this. I put "attempts" in quotes because, to me, they were not serious attempts, though those who made these "attempts" would likely disagree. In each case, they did pretty much the same thing, in this order – and I apologize if this is sarcastic, but I've been through this nearly exact sequence a dozen times already.

  1. USATT board agrees that we must regionalize USATT.
  2. USATT board spends time analyzing the plusses and minuses of regionalizing and decides that they should, in fact, do what they had already decided to do, which is to regionalize.
  3. USATT assigns small groups or sets up a Strategic Meeting where they spend much time analyzing the plusses and minuses of regionalizing and decide that they should, in fact, do what they have already decided to do, which is to regionalize. Some discussion is done on the specifics of how it might look like. No specific plans are made, no implementation plans are made, no one is assigned to do anything, and no timeline is created.
  4. A small number of people point out that we aren't actually doing anything to actually accomplish the goal of regionalizing, i.e. little discussion or plans on actual implementation, just as in past "attempts" to regionalize. They are told this is a new group that would get it right.
  5. They report back to the board that we should regionalize with vague ideas and plans, but no implementation plans.
  6. Nearly everyone goes home happy.
  7. USATT never regionalizes.

We also discussed USATT's staffing and structure. This, and over lunch (spaghetti!), is when we got to meet new USATT employees Chris Mauro and Tammy Kuyper.

After the lunch break, we had a membership update, with the primary focus on the new USATT Code of Conduct. There were two versions that we are looking at. Next up was the USOC Compliance Update, which mostly involves following the many requirements of SafeSport and USADA, as required by USOC, as pretty much mandated by Congress. There's a push by certain people in Congress to require ALL members of an association such as ours to watch the SafeSport videos and pass the exam and background checks. (Currently it is required of all club officers, coaches, umpires, tournament directors, etc.) Some want to make parts of it an annual thing. Hopefully none of this will happen. We ended up passing several bylaw amendments to fulfill these compliance requirements.

We next had a long discussion on the new U.S. Open format (here's the entry form), which continued the next day. (Don't even THINK about asking questions until you've read the U.S. Open FAQ.) As with any major change, reactions are mixed, yet based on numerous emails received the reaction for the decision to put players into two "tracks" (Elite and Performance), and replace the rating events with the Tiered Singles and Doubles events (far more matches, fare more competitive matches) has been positive.

The main problem faced with this two-track approach is that players can only be in one. For seniors, this means that if they want to play, say, Over 40 or Over 50 Singles or Doubles (men or women), they cannot play Men's or Women's Singles or Doubles. For the junior events, most were okay, but one event in particular faced a problem for some - the Mini-cadet events (roughly 13 and under). With Cadets and Juniors in the Elite Track, and the Mini-cadets in the Performance Track, it meant that Mini-cadets couldn't play both their event and one age event up, i.e. in Cadets. Instead, as recommended by HPD Jörg Bitzigeio, they would play in far more matches by playing in the Mini-cadets and in the Tiered RR, which he considered more important for that age group. But some of the higher-rated Mini-cadets apparently preferred to play in Mini-cadets and Cadets, and skip the Tiered RR. This was both because they were competitive in both events, and because they preferred playing kids their age instead of mostly adults.

There was much discussion over this. From the schedule, it would be feasible for a Mini-cadet to play in Mini-cadets, Cadets, and Juniors, if they skipped the Tiered Singles and Doubles RRs. But the problem with that was it would mean allowing players in one track to play in both tracks - a dangerous precedent, since there would then be senior players who would want to know why some are allowed to play in both tracks, while they cannot. Plus, of course, the entry form and rules had already been posted.

Two board members - myself and Rajul - argued to allow Mini-cadets to choose to play either the Tiered RR events or in Cadets and Juniors, along with Mini-cadets. (At the start of the discussion, I had been under the false impression that the only argument was to let Mini-cadets play in Cadets, not Juniors, and so hadn't examined that schedule, and so at first I mistakenly thought they could not play in both.) Carl Danner, chair of the HPC, also thought they should have that choice. However, we also agreed that this was a staff decision, i.e. the CEO and HPD would make the decision. The day after the meeting (Monday morning) they emailed that they had decided to stick with the current rules, so players could play only in their track. It was not an easy decision, but I understand their reasoning. The situation will likely be looked at again after this U.S. Open, when we've had a chance to see the new format and make any needed changes for next year. (Note that while the Open format has changed, the Nationals will stay as before.)

The meeting ended a little after 5:30PM. Then all the board members present had an informal meeting on setting up Regional Associations, using SWOT Analysis. I wanted to jump right into making plans for implementing, but we'll hopefully get to that later. That night Dennis and I had dinner (a fancy Mexican place) with former USATT President Sheri Pittman and her husband, Dragomir Cioroslan, a bronze medalist for weightlifting for Romania at the 1984 Olympics, the U.S. weightlifting coach for 13 years, and now Director of International Strategies and Development at the USOC. Lots of interesting discussion that night on how to make USATT great! (Sheri and Dragomir now live near Colorado Springs.)

We started up again the following morning at 9AM. Up first was an executive session (so confidential, as the norm when discussing legal and personnel issues), then a discussion on the future of USATT events, including outsourcing. Then was the High Performance Report from Jörg. Next followed a discussion of the LA Open, which was also a USATT Ranking Tournament. It had some problems, in particular poor lighting and high temperatures (no AC, someone described it as "playing in a sauna"). The problem was they had had to changed venues, and with limited choices, it was the best they could get. As pointed out by Gordon, it's a reality that there are a limited number of facilities that are both affordable and meet basic USATT requirements. Hopefully the situation will be improved for next year. (Ed Hogshead pointed out that there now relatively cheap ways to improve lighting.)

Next up was a short financial update. (We'll be discussing this more in the Oct. and Nov. teleconferences, and in particular at the in-person meeting at the board meeting at the U.S. Open in December in Orlando, where we will likely do next year's budget.) Next up was discussion and plans for the upcoming USATT board elections and committee appointments. There are a number of committee chair positions opening up, and one board election - for my spot. There will be USATT news items on these soon.

These days I'm very busy trying to do both table tennis and write science fiction as joint careers. I finally came to realization that, twenty years from now, I'll look back and be very disappointed if I don't see just how far I can get in the science fiction writing world. (I currently have four published novels and have sold 97 short stories, including four this past week, and have a story in the current issue of Analog, the largest SF magazine in English.) And so I've decided to cut down on my volunteer hours. For that reason, I do not plan to run for re-election when my term ends on Dec. 31, 2018. I also do not plan to continue as coaching chair when my term ends on March 1, 2019. 

We went to lunch (spaghetti again!), and then came another long, exciting discussion of SafeSport and their requirements. I understand the importance of this, but for me, it's become so pervasive that it sometimes seems like it takes up half our time. Maybe I'm a poor board members, but these days when the usual SafeSport discussions come up, my eyes start to glaze over. Then came another executive session for a legal update. After this was the continuation of the U.S. Open discussion (see above). We were now at about 2:45PM, and I had to leave for the airport - but we were done! So we adjourned, and I (barely) made my flight after about a 45-minute line at security. I didn't get home until about 1:15 AM.

And now I'm looking over my todo list - so much for SF writing. This next month will be one of the busiest table tennis times I've had in a while, including Tim Boggan moving in with me next Monday for two weeks to do Volume 22 of his History of U.S. Table Tennis, immediately followed by the MDTTC October Open I'm running, and dozens of other time-consuming things. (I'm also a panelist at the Capclave Science Fiction Convention next weekend, with two book signings scheduled.) 

European Championships
Here's the home page for the event held this past weekend, in Alicante, Spain, with complete results, articles, photos, and video. Congrats to champions Timo Boll (7th time!) and Li Qian! And see who the aging but ageless Samsonov knocked off!

Women's World Cup
Here's the home page for the event to be held Sept. 28-30 in Chengdu, China.

McAfee's Mechanics - The 3 Pillars of Sport Performance
Here's the article by Richard McAfee. "In all sports there are three “Pillars” of Performance for the athlete. These are: technical skills (hands), physical skills (feet), and mental skills (head)."

New from Samson Dubina

New from Tom Lodziak

New from EmRatThich

Understanding the Fundamental Table Tennis Shots
Here's the article from Table Tennis Spot. "Table Tennis is similar to many other sports where there are some fundamental or essential shots that you should know in order to practice and improve them. The main shots which I will explain through the course of this article are the counter-hit, block, loop, counter-loop, lob and pushing."

How Important are Parents in Table Tennis?
Here's the article by Eli Baraty. 

Top 10 Serves of Table Tennis: Basic Serve, Punch Serves, Pendulum Serve, Tomahawk Serve
Here's the video (8:01).

7 Common Ping Pong Injuries and How You Can Avoid Them
Here's the article.

Table Tennis Euphoria
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

National Collegiate Table Tennis September Newsletter
Here's the new issue.

WAB Featured Club: PongPlanet 6th Anniversary
Here's the article by Bruce Liu.

"It's Good Fun": Local ping pong guru says sport can keep seniors sharp
Here's the article in The Virginian-Pilot featuring USATT Hall of Famer Dean Johnson.

Butterfly Labor Day 2-person Teams Wrap-up
Here's the article from Triangle TTC in North Carolina.

Manika Batra Asks Indian Table Tennis Players To Get Rid Of Mental Block, Says Chinese Opponents Can Be Beaten
Here's the article from the Hindustan Times.

Nittaku ITTF Monthly Pongcast - August 2018
Here's the video (17:57).

Jang Woojin: Ask a Pro Anything
Here's the ITTF video (5:03), featuring the world #21 from South Korea, with Adam Bobrow. Woojin does a great Michael Jackson impersonation!

Player Ask Player with Kristian Karlsson & Mattias Falck
Here's the ITTF video (2:09).

The Best Table Tennis Rally of 2018!
Here's the video (53 sec) of Jakub Folwarski (POL) and Can Akkuzu (FRA)!

DHS ITTF Top 10 - 2018 Bulgaria Open
Here's the ITTF video (4:35).

Penhold Chopping Great
Here's video (13 sec) of Zhang Xielin, "The Magic Chopper" from China and the 1963 World Men's Doubles Champion. He notoriously chopped with both backspin and often sidespin. His Chinese teammates were used to him and so often could beat him, but he apparently gave the Europeans great problems.

Bowie Martin Sr. Highlights
Here's the video (2 min) of USATT Hall of Famer, co-founder of Butterfly USA (Martin-Kilpatrick TTC) and one of the claimants to be the first person in the U.S. to develop a loop! (For six months in 1979 he was my daily practice partner.)

History of USATT – Volume 21 – Chapter 18
Here's chapter 18 of Tim Boggan's latest volume, which covers 1993-1994. Or you can buy it and previous (and future) volumes at www.timboggantabletennis.com. This chapter covers "Members Interests." Volume 21 is 438 pages with 1667 graphics, and covers all the wild things that happened in 1994-95 - and I'm mentioned a lot! Why not buy a copy - or the entire set at a discount? Tim sells them directly, so when you order them, you get it autographed - order your copy now!

Chair Pong
Here's the video (20 sec) - just don't make him get up out of that chair!

Panda Ping-Pong Commercial
Here's the new commercial (30 sec) from Cox Communications G1gaBlast TV!

Ping Pong Against Yourself (crazy spin)
Here's the video (4:17) from Pongfinity! Best parts were push-up pong, balloon pong, and of course the horse!

2018 Badger Open NBA Dunk Contest Mashup
Here's the video (3:29), featuring Jason (11) and Alex (9) Piech at the 2018 Badger Open Milwaukee, WI. Alex won Under 1200, Under 1300, Under 1400, and made the final of Under 1500!

***
Send us your own coaching news!

September 17, 2018

Tip of the Week
Development of an Outrageously Great Spin Serve.

New Format at the U.S. Open
Here's the 2018 U.S. Open page, and here's the entry form. It will be held Dec. 16-22 in Orlando, FL, near Disneyworld. (Yep, I'm going afterward, probably with a group of our juniors.)

Two huge pluses are 1) Every match will be played on rubberized floors (no more cement!), and 2) Did I mention it's near Disneyworld? The entry form includes discounts for Disneyworld, Universal Orlando, and Universal's Islands of Adventure, all nearby.

However, the format for the Open itself has changed. Before going further, I recommend you browse over the entry form, and then read the FAQ page. Really - it explains a lot! It's not that complicated once you read things over. And note that this is just for the Open; the Nationals in July will stay with the previous format.

The first thing you'll notice is that the format has changed - a lot. Instead of rating events, there's a Tiered Rating event. In this, you play not one, not two, but THREE round robins, with groups of mostly five, and then there's the single elimination state. (See page 3 of entry form, "Performance Track - Event 73.") There's also a Tiered Rating Doubles event, where you play in two round robins before the single elimination state.

The other thing you'll notice is that players are now divided into two tracks - Elite and Performance. Those in the Elite Track are eligible for singles and doubles for Men's and Women's Singles; Under 21 Men and Women; and Junior and Cadet Boys and Girls. Those in the Performance Track are eligible for the rest of the events - see entry form and FAQ.

Here are some of the reasons for the new format.

  • More Competitive Matches. In a typical rating event, you might get one competitive match in a group of four. In the new format, you'll play three round robins in singles, with the last two almost all competitive matches. Plus, the round robins will typically be groups of six, so you get about five matches each. Result? You get about 12 or more competitive matches in just the RR stage, and then comes the single elimination stage. And then you get to do it in doubles, where you'll get up to eight matches in the RR stages!
  • Class Events. You still are playing to win events. Instead of rating events, like "Under 1800," you'll be playing for Class 1, Class 2, Class 3, etc.
  • Less Conflicts. At the Nationals, there were estimates of up to 500 conflicts. Each conflict affects not just the two or four players in the match, but also those who then have to wait for them to play before they can play, plus the scheduling problems of playing matches late, when the tables might be needed for other events. With the new format, there will be few conflicts and matches should be played on time.
  • Easier Planning for Players. With multiple rating events, you had to keep track of each round of each event. The new format leads to a much simpler schedule.
  • Enter Doubles and Classic Events at Tournament. With the new format, scheduling is easier, and so players can now enter doubles and classic events (hardbat and sandpaper) at the tournament site.
  • Ratings Estimation Event on Sunday. (This is the only event on Sunday.) This is for two types of players. It's for unrated players so that they can establish an estimated rating for seeding purposes. And second, it's a great event for any rated player who wants a nice warm-up to the tournament, as the event is not processed for ratings. So you get to play a series of warm-up matches at the playing venue. Then, when you go out to play your "real" tournament matches, you'll be primed and ready to play!

There's been a lot of discussion of the format at the mytabletennis.com forum, with USATT CEO (Gordon) answering questions there. I suggest browsing there, plus that's a good place to ask specific questions.

There are always going to be advantages and disadvantages to any format. The good news is that when you try something new, if it works, you have a better format for many years to come, while if it doesn't work, you can switch back whenever you want.

Some will like the new format. Some will not. But since this is the format for this year's Open, may I suggest not complaining too much about it in advance, and approaching it with an open mind? If you are strongly opinionated before the tournament even happens, how much will your opinion be worth afterwards, when we really could use your feedback? Plus, if you keep harping on how you don't like the new format, you probably won't be in the best frame of mind when you play, and so might not do so well. Seriously, let's give the new format a try, and then tell us what you think afterwards. And then we go to Disneyworld!

Other Stuff

  • My Table Tennis Books. Here's my periodic reminder that if you don't buy my books, I don't eat! Okay, I still make money coaching and other ways, but really, why not browse over them and buy one or ten?
  • USATT Board Meeting. I'll be attending it this weekend, Sept. 21-23 in Colorado Springs. There's a huge agenda to go over, including: Approval of Minutes, Strategic Planning Process and Strategic Direction of USATT; Regionalizing USATT; NewCo/ITTF North America; Staffing and Structure; Membership Update (including new Code of Conduct); USOC Compliance Update (Bylaw amendments, SafeSport, USADA Action Plan, and Financial Policies and Procedures); USATT Events; High Performance Update; Hidden Serves; Financial Update; Board Elections and Committee Assignments Preparation; SafeSport; Legal Update; U.S. Open Format; and (in "New Business") LA Open and Ranking Tournament.
  • Sunday Group Sessions. We started two of our fall junior programs on Sunday. We had the first meeting of our Beginning Junior class, with 11 players, 9 of them new players. Focus was on grip, stance, and forehand. Then we had the first Fall meeting of the Talent Program. We had the Tryouts last year, and ended up with I think 32 players. I fed multiball for much of the session, also coached serves, and spent some time with one of our advanced players, who was forehand blocking late against loops. (I had him focus either on jumping on the ball with a quick forehand block, or counter-looping at the top of the bounce.)
  • Injuries. I've blogged a number of times about my shoulder problems. The current status is simple - I could have done Tommy John surgery, and take a year off. Or, since it wasn't a torn rotator cuff, merely a "frayed" rotator cuff, they said it would heal naturally in six months to two years. Well, we're now nine months into it, and while it's a bit better, it'll still be a while before I'll smashing or reaching out for balls. Meanwhile, I have THREE (3!) other injuries. Last week, while leading kids in jogging before a session, I pulled my right Achilles tendon, and have been hobbling about on it ever since. If I were doing private coaching, I'd have had to take off at least 3-4 days. Then, a few days ago, while carrying groceries up the stairs and favoring the Achilles tendon (and so walking unnaturally), I managed to hurt my right knee, so I'm hobbling a bit on that as well. But worst of all - a few days ago, while reading late into the night (doing research for my upcoming novel), I got lazy and decided to just sleep in my lounge chair. When I woke up, my neck was very stiff. A few hours later, it began to hurt like whiplash. And so, for the last three days, the neck has been hurting, and I can't tilt my head to the left or look to my left. And notice these last three injuries were all non-table tennis injuries!

Table Tennis Jokes
Here are two recent ones I came up with.

  • Samson Dubina posted a poll on Facebook on whether we should use white or orange balls. My response: "I have a dream that my four little Nittakus will one day live in a table tennis club where they will not be judged by the color of their surface, but by the quality of their spin."
  • There was a discussion on mytabletennis.com about difficulties in table tennis, and I wrote this: "This generation is so spoiled. When I was a kid we dragged the tables three miles through the snow on our backs at 4AM. We played in the allies in the local unheated bowling alley, with gutters on each side and dodging the occasional miss-thrown bowling ball from adjacent allies. We used icicles for rackets and a pine cone for the ball. The lighting was 30 lux and we wore sunglasses. Players would make the ball fly funny by spitting tobacco juice on it, and on opponents during the point. And you had to move quick or the big black bats would swoop down and get you, or sometimes a bear that wandered in."

European Championships
Here's the home page for the event that starts tomorrow, Sept. 18-23, in Alicante, Spain.

USATT News
Here's their news page - they've had 13 new items since my last blog, so why not browse them? There's some duplication, but I'm mostly linking below to items not already in the USATT news page. 

The #1, #3, and #4 Players in the USA
Here's the article on MDTTC's top 10 and under boys - Stanley Hsu, Mu Du, and Andy Wu. All three made the semifinals of Under 10 Boys at the Nationals, with top-seeded Stanley winning the event. Stanley and Mu Du both started out in my beginning table tennis class, and I've coached them in numerous tournaments. I once blogged about a match of Mu Du's. I was coaching someone else, and came over after he'd lost the first two games and was already starting the third. At the time he was about 1200, playing a 1700 player. Down 2-7, I called a time-out, and told him that, for the rest of the match, just attack everything at his tall opponent's elbow - put a target on it and just nail it every shot. He followed the instructions perfectly, almost gleefully, and came back and won the match!

New from Samson Dubina

New from EmRatThich

When Returning Serves, DON’T PROD THE BALL
Here's the article by Tom Lodziak.

Four Gems
Here's the new podcast (31:11) from PingSkills. This week they cover:

  • Jokes of the Week
  • On This Week: Dimitrij Ovtcharov, Jang Woojin, and Stefan Fergerl have birthdays in September
  • Tournament Wrap: European Championships and Nigerian Open
  • Tip and Drill of the Week
  • Excitement
  • Returning Long Serves to the Backhand
  • Natural Backhand
  • Serves to Pushers

Zhang Jike Backhand Banana Flip and Backhand Follows
Here's the video (4 min) as he does backhand banana flips off short balls to this forehand, then steps back into position for backhands. This was considered a "no-no" in my day, but in modern table tennis is the norm, as the backhand is simply stronger at creating great topspin off a short ball, and so players use it, even against short serves to the forehand. This often leads to a cat-and-mouse game between server and receiver as the server tries to find ways to force the receiver to receive forehand, by serving wider and shorter to the forehand and by threatening with sudden deep serves to the backhand.

Timo Boll - What Makes Him Strong?
Here are four "What Makes Boll Strong" videos highlighting aspects of the German star's game. (The first two I may have linked to previously.)

It's Time to Recognize that Ma Long is the Greatest Table Tennis Player of All Time
Here's the article by Matt Hetherington. He makes some good points. However, one thing in defense of Waldner, which many who weren't from the Waldner generation don't always get, is that perhaps the strongest argument for Waldner wasn't just his singles titles, but how he led Sweden to victories in Men's Teams over the "invincible" Chinese at the Worlds four different times, a monumental task.

Off the Table - Liu Shiwen
Here's the ITTF video of the world #2 (and former #1) from China.

Brian Pace - A Coach For The People
Here's the video (18:24).

Weikert's Vision and Leadership Continues to Carry ITTF Forward Towards a Brighter Horizon
Here's the interview with the ITTF president by Matt Hetherington.

US Hopes Treasure European Experience
Here's the USATT article by Matt Hetherington. (Somehow I missed this one from last week.)

Liu Guoliang's Commentary
Here's where it was translated, on mytabletennis.com. He was commentating on Chinese players during a tournament on zhibo.tv.

Coach Education Reaching New Heights in Thailand
Here's the ITTF article featuring USA Coach Richard McAfee.

Table Tennis Equipment Whack-a-Mole
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

No, The Bruce Lee Nunchucks Ping Pong Video Is Not Real (Stop Sending it to Me. Really.)
Here's the article by Steve Hopkins. It's amazing to me how many people believe this video is real - I had one person argue for days about it.

Holiday Table Tennis Competition, at the Hotel
Here's the article by Eli Baraty.

Uberpong
Here's an interesting company of "Ping Pong Evangelists Leading the Social Ping Pong Movement." I asked them about their company, and this is what they said:

"Uberpong takes a revolutionary approach to ping pong that blends art and sport. We team up with designers from around the world and put their art on our paddles. Based in Austin, TX, Uberpong has an international reach and has galvanized an engaged community around the nation through events and brand activations. We offer complete paddle customization packages for companies, or even just individuals, who want to build morale and enhance culture, or simply want an awesome paddle."

"We believe that ping pong should never be boring so we create unforgettable experiences that center around our favorite aspect of the game. Just like our paddles, our events are crafted to create a great experience. Our focus is on striking the perfect chord between an improved playing experience and top-quality, authentic artwork."

WAB Featured Club: Table Tennis Minnesota
Here's the article by Steve Hopkins.

History of USATT – Volume 21 – Chapter 16
Here's chapter 16 of Tim Boggan's latest volume, which covers 1993-1994. Or you can buy it and previous (and future) volumes at www.timboggantabletennis.com. This chapter covers "1995 World Championships - Part 2." Volume 21 is 438 pages with 1667 graphics, and covers all the wild things that happened in 1994-95 - and I'm mentioned a lot! Why not buy a copy - or the entire set at a discount? Tim sells them directly, so when you order them, you get it autographed - order your copy now!

Top 8 the Best Table Tennis Serve In the World
Here's the video (2:58).

Liam Pitchford - The Talent of Table Tennis in England (The Best Backhand)
Here's the video (4:42). Here's another (15 sec) of Liam (far side) practicing backhands.

Truls Möregårdh Backhand Training
Here's the video (26 sec). He's #250 in the world, but #4 in Under 18, from Sweden. (In the ITTF rankings, his last name is Moregard.)

Four-Table Footwork Drill
Here's the video (60 sec)!

Inside-Out Backhand Serve of Ma Long
Here's the video (19 sec) as he does the same weird serve I was infamous for pulling out against players a few times a match!

Under-the-Net, Roll-on-the-Table Multi-Ball Practice
Here's the video (40 sec)!

Trickshot Video
Here's the video (2:15) from Pongfinity!

Trickshot 11-Year-Old
Here's the video (54 sec).

Edge Ball Pong
Here's the video (60 sec) from Adam Bobrow.

Dodgeball Pong
Here's the video (25 sec)! This might be a good training exercise for one of my classes - the kids will love it.

Wakeboard Ping-Pong
Here's the video (10 sec) - guy on boat playing table tennis with water boarder!

***
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September 10, 2018

Tip of the Week
Develop Ball Control by Playing with Different Surfaces.

Shortened Tables
There seems to be an obvious way to develop great players that we're almost all missing. Because of the height of the table - 30 inches - kids can't really play until they are about five or six years old, and even then it's rather awkward. (It's especially hard hitting backhands at that age, until their elbow is over the table.) However, there are many stories about how top players started playing much younger, as young as two or three, on shortened tables. They then move to regular tables around six or seven. 

For example, the Japanese whiz kid, Tomokazu Harimoto, who is world #8 (and #6 last month) at age 15, started when he was two years old. Here's video of him playing on a shortened table, where he's at most three years old. (Video should take you ten seconds in, where you see this for about six seconds.) Is it any wonder how good he became? I've seen others start this way as well. I once hit 50 forehands in a row on a one-foot table with Barney J. Reed when he was three years old, who would go on to be a many-time U.S. team member. He'd obviously been playing for a while, probably starting at two.

Imagine your typical six-year-old starting out in table tennis. It takes him a year to learn the basics, and more years to perfect them. He also has to deal with a too-high table, which can lead to awkward strokes, especially on the backhand. Now imagine a kid starting at age two on a shortened table. At age six he's already mastered the basics and has three more years practicing to perfect them. He's four years ahead of his peers. Assuming they are equal in "natural talent," and work equally hard with equally good coaching and other aspects, how can the "late-starting" six-year-old catch up? Sure, he can work hard and get good coaching, but so can the one who started at age two.

Here's another video (61 sec) of a kid training on a platform, giving the same effect as a shortened table. This could also work, though I'm worried about the safety factor if the kid falls off. But watch this kid - take away the platform, and his shoulders would be even with the table, and he'd struggle to hit good shots. But he's obviously been playing for a while and has very nice shots and consistency - and so is years ahead of his future rivals, who start later and develop awkwardly on too-high tables.

Some might consider a mini-table, where the table itself is smaller, but I don't really see the value in that here - it's the height of the table that keeps kids from playing from ages 2-5. A smaller table means a smaller target for them, and it's hard enough at that age to hit on a full-sized table! Kids ages 2-5 aren't really playing competitively yet, they are playing for fun, and during that time they should focus on learning the basics and developing a foundation - while still, of course, having fun.

I remember when I used to play regular tennis in group training sessions I'd sometimes see group sessions of kids who were 2-5 years old, playing on shortened tennis courts with slower balls. It's the same idea, and allowed these kids to start much earlier.

I'm told that overseas there are adjustable tables for sale, where the table can be lowered for kids. (Alas, they probably cost more than normal tables.) At the moment I don't know of any distributors in the U.S. who sell adjustable tables. The other option is to make one by simply cutting part of the legs off a normal table. My guess is cutting off about 10-12 inches would be ideal, so instead of a 30-inch table, perhaps an 18- or 20-inch one.

Other Happenings

  • On Saturday night I went to the wedding of Barbara Wei and Cyril Lan, in North Beach, Maryland, about 75 minutes away. Many of you may know them. Barbara was a long-time member of the U.S. cadet and junior girls' teams and traveled around the world. Cyril broke 1800 as a junior, and his sister, Janice, was on the USA Cadet Team. Where did these two meet? As up-and-coming juniors at the Maryland Table Tennis Center!!! While I wasn't their personal coach, I coached both in group sessions, and Barbara in many tournaments when her primary coach, Jack Huang, wasn't available. Here are wedding photos.
  • On Sunday night we had the Team Trials for the Junior Talent Program, which is run by HW Global Foundation at the Maryland Table Tennis Center. (I'm one of the coaches.) During the trials I was in charge of the springs (where we watched for "explosiveness") and multiball with about ten kids, where I put them through a series of drills.

African Table Tennis Championships
Here's the home page for the event that finished this past weekend in Port Louis, Mauritius, with results, articles, pictures, and video. Here are articles on the two singles champions.

USATT's Ethan Figge to take Ponce De Leon Tour Ahead of 2018 US Open
Here's the USATT article.

How to Counter a Slow Spinny Topspin
Here's the video (8:06) from PingSkills from nine years ago - but it still shows the three main ways of dealing with these balls. If you have trouble blocking or attacking against these slow, spinny loops against backspin, then the answer isn't to do a drill where your opponent loops to your block, which is how most players practice their block. A loop against a block comes out differently than one that comes against backspin. Instead, get a coach or practice partner, and a bucket of balls, and do this drill. Your partner serves backspin, you push, partner loops slow and spinny, and you block or counter-attack. Do not continue the rally; as soon as your partner finishes his loop, he reaches for the next ball and does it again. This is a modified multiball drill that allows you lots and lots of practice against a slow, spinny loop in a short period of time. And your partner gets lots and lots of practice looping against backspin. (Then you switch and you do the looping.) So it's a win-win drill for both. (An expanded version of this will likely become a Tip of the Week.) 

How to Do a Forehand Fade
Here's the video (7:45) from Tom Lodziak, with Craig Bryant.

New from Samson Dubina

The 80/40 Rule – Setting Goals for This Season
Here's the article by Ben Larcombe. "You should play in one tough league, where your goal is to finish the season with a win percentage of 40%, and one easier league, where you’re aiming for an 80% average."

Liam Pitchford: The Perfect Table Tennis Game
Here's the article by Eli Baraty.

September Table Tennis Skill of the Month
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

Melton Table Tennis
Here's the September issue of this Australian newsletter, with a number of interesting articles. Here are their archives.

WAB Featured Club: Texas Table Tennis Club
Here's the article by Steve Hopkins.

Manika Batra: Ask a Pro Anything
Here's the ITTF video (5:05), featuring the world #56 from India, with Adam Bobrow. Lots of interesting and funny stuff, and make sure to watch to the end for the "I want the truth!" "You can't handle the truth!" part1

Six Years of Table Tennis Training
Here's the video (6:26). Here's the video of Marcel Dietl as he developed at the TSV Neuried club near Munich, Germany.

Omar Assar Training
Here's the video (21 sec) of the world #29 (#16 earlier this year) from Egypt.

How to Play Against Yourself
Here's the video (37 sec) - backspin control!

Your Basic Around-the-Net Backhand Sidespin Loop Receive
Here's the video (17 sec) by Adam Bobrow.

Wedding Pong
Here's the video (20 sec)!

Death or a Dark Hockey Goalie Does Footwork Drills
Here's the video (48 sec)!

Jimmy Fallon and Paul McCartney Surprise Elevator Riders - with Ping-Pong!
Here's the video (2:47). The table tennis starts 76 seconds in (lasting about 12 sec).

***
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