Butterfly Online


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

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

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

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

October 2, 2015

Thinking About Blocking – a No-No

On Wednesday night I was coaching a junior player with a pretty strong forehand loop. Early in our session we warmed up with his crosscourt loop to my forehand block, where I'm normally very steady. I was blocking to his wide forehand and middle, as he moved side to side. All was well at first, but then I made a few mistakes. So I focused on my forehand block, trying to get the right technique. Instead, I made more mistakes. I'm supposed to be steady in these drills, and yet I was suddenly missing way too many blocks. These were not "easy" blocks, as he does loop hard, but I've been blocking these shots for nearly 40 years, and it's normally second nature. (The key phrase here: second nature.)

I started analyzing my block, trying to find the problem. The more I examined it, the worse it got. The technique was right, so that wasn't the problem. But something was wrong.

I think some readers already know the problem, worthy of a D'oh. Because I was thinking about the shot, without knowing it I was consciously trying to guide the shot, rather than let my subconscious, with the nearly 40 years of blocking practice and muscle memory that made it second nature, control the shot.

When I realized what was happening, I looked off into space for a moment while the student was retrieving one of my errant blocks, and completely blanked out my mind. From there on, my conscious mind focused on just watching the ball and otherwise just being a spectator. And so I went back to having a front-row seat as my dependable forehand block returned. Against a long series of furious loops from the student ("unstoppable force"), I didn't miss another block for the next few minutes ("unmovable barrier"). And it was fun, watching those pin-point accurate punching blocks from my forehand – and though I was just a spectator to it, I get the credit for them!

This is the root of the problem with thinking too much. I've always argued that the problem isn't thinking too much, it's thinking at the wrong time and about the wrong things, and for a few minutes, I was guilty of both. Once you've learned a shot, you have to let go and let the trained subconscious do its job.

My Next "Vacation" – and Another Table Tennis Novel

For those of you who have read my short table tennis fantasy novel "The Spirit of Pong," there's another coming! I plan to attend a local writing workshop, Mon-Fri, Nov. 9-13, where I will work on "Pongman," a new novel set in the same universe as "The Spirit of Pong," though not really a sequel. The star of that one, Andy "Shoes" Blue, will return, but not as the main character. Also returning (Spoiler alerts!): the evil and conniving Coach Wang. The main star is Pongman, the world's first table tennis super hero – table tennis star by day, superhero by night. (He, Andy, and the also returning Derek Klaus Hsu make up the U.S. Team.) But he's up against the Pingkin –North Korean Table Tennis director by day, supervillain by night. It's a clash of powerful table tennis nations as China, North Korea, and USA battle it out for glory at the Worlds – but only if Pongman can save the rival Chinese team from the Pingkin's treachery. ("Pingkin" is, of course, a takeoff on the comic strip villain Kingpin, which is why there's no "g" at the end. Hopefully it won't look like a typo to readers.)

On a related note, my fantasy horror story "Head or Heat" is finally out in the new issue of Ares Magazine, as the top-billed cover story.

Asian and European Championships

They are both going on right now. Lots of great articles on them at Tabletennista. Here are links to the ITTF home pages, with results, articles, pictures, and video. (You could spend your weekend watching just the videos!)

Asian Championships Men's Doubles Final

Here's the video (6:09 with time between points removed) between Fan Zhendong/Chen Meng and Yang Zi/Yu Mengyu.

Can a Table Tennis Robot Help You Improve?

Here's the article and video (10 min).

Dynamic Stretching

Here's video (3 min) of Samson Dubina doing this form of training as part of his Olympic training.

Interview with the 6-time Racketlon Champ

Here's the podcast (43:28) with Jesper Ratzer. "If you haven’t heard of racketlon before you need to check it out. It’s an incredible sport that combines table tennis, badminton, squash and tennis to determine who is the best all round racket sports player. The sport is relatively new but is growing in popularity in Europe and already has world rankings and a world championships."

"So, who is the best all round racket sports player in the world? Well, he’s Jesper Ratzer from Copenhagen in Denmark and he joins me on this episode of The Expert Table Tennis Podcast. Jesper was an accomplished badminton and tennis player as a child, but it was only when he first got involved in racketlon that he discovered the joys and struggles of table tennis. Since then he has been training hard to improve his game and play, as he says, 'proper table tennis.'"

USATT Insider

Here's the new issue, which came out on Wednesday.

Celebrity Table Tennis Battle: Rick Carlisle vs. Daryl Morey

Here's the USATT poll – vote now!

Canton Pursues Chance to Hold U.S. Olympic Table Tennis Trials

Here's the article. The decision between Canton and Greensboro should be made "early next week." According to the article, the Trials will be held in one of these two locations on Jan. 27 – Feb. 1, 2016.

Livingston Freshman Aims for 2016 Olympics

Here's the article on U.S. Cadet star Jack Wang.

UB's Table Tennis Club Bounces Back

Here's the article on the University of Buffalo's TT club.

International Table Tennis

Here's my periodic note (usually every Friday) that you can great international coverage at TableTennista (which especially covers the elite players well) and at the ITTF home page (which does great regional coverage). Butterfly also has a great news page.

Some Serious Concrete Pong – Ariel Hsing and Michael Landers

Here's the video (3:30) as the two give a street exhibition. Ariel's in a dress and high-heeled sandals!

More Mike Mezyan Pictures

NOTE - If you are unable to see these pictures, all you have to do is join the Table Tennis Group - it's easy! Here are all the past, present, and (soon) future pictures he's collected. (I pick out his best ones for here - he has more.)

Table Tennis – and Billiards, Basketball, and Soccer

Here's the cartoon!

Send us your own coaching news!

October 1, 2015

Playing Bag Content – What's in Your Bag?

I recently wrote about how I thought I might have gotten slightly injured from carrying around my way-too-heavy playing bag. I probably carry more stuff around than most. So, let's take an inventory of what's in my bag. Everything in it, of course, is an absolute must, right? Well, let's see.

I use a Butterfly Linestream Bag, black & blue version, which (alas) seems to be discontinued. (But it's similar to the Casio II Sport Bag.) Besides the large bag area, there are large compartments on each side, another along the long side, and two small pouches on each end.

Here's a picture of the complete contents of my bag, on my sofa. (This is the historical sofa that USATT Historian Tim Boggan sleeps on during his annual two-week stays at my house to do the sixteen volumes – so far - of his History of U.S. Table Tennis series.) Total weight: 21.4 pounds. And now I have to put all that stuff back. But first, let's look at what's in each bag compartment.

  • Main Compartment
    • Playing racket (in black racket case) – Butterfly Timo Boll ALC, flared, with Tenergy 05 black 2.1 on forehand, Tenergy 25 red 2.1 on backhand.
    • Backup playing racket (in blue racket case) – identical to playing racket.
    • Hardbat (in green racket case) – I have one student who likes to play hardbat.
    • Butterfly Towel
    • Personalized shoe case
    • Clipboard (both for exhibition & fun play, and to hold papers in classes)
    • Black ball bag (for colored soccer balls I use in classes to demo spin)
  • Side Pouches. This is where I keep my arm brace, which I blogged about on May 20. It's hard to believe I've been wearing that thing for four months now – the arm still hurts, but the brace allows me to play. The other pouch is currently empty, but I often stick things there for quick access later.
  • Large Compartment #1. This is where I keep my drinks. I usually keep about one water bottle per hour coaching scheduled, plus a Gatorade. Today I'll be coaching from 3:30-7:00PM, so I have four waters.
  • Large Compartment #2. This is my "junk" area. It includes:
    • Box of peanut butter granola bars
    • Package of Hormet Chicken & Dumplings (microwavable meal)
    • Mini-racket – don't leave home without it!
    • Two 3-ball containers (where I keep plastic 40+ balls)
    • Copy of Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers
    • Copy of The Spirit of Pong
    • Mini-junk bag, which contains two packets of Butterfly Free Chack, rubber cement (for quick gluing in non-tournament situations), net measurer, scissors, racket key chain, comb, Kleenex, business cards, colored pen, eyeglass holders, three-prong converter, pack of playing cards, and a rubber grip (which I used to use).
  • Long Side Compartment. This contains mostly paperwork, but a few other things.
    • Playing glasses in glasses holder
    • Notebook with pen
    • Four folders: Thursday Junior Class, Sunday Junior Class, Sunday Adult Training, and Misc. The last one contains USATT rules, entry forms, MDTTC flyers, various USATT proposals, and player notes.

So . . . what's in your bag?

Player Archetypes: Defensive Styles

Here's the new coaching article by Han Xiao.

Asian and European Championships

They are both going on right now. Lots of great articles on them at Tabletennista.

Serve’s up: UTSA’s Table Tennis Team Bounces Back

Here's the article on the University of Texas at San Antonio's table tennis team.

Action Shots and Results from the Westchester September Open

Here they are. Here are the results. The 4-star tournament was held Sept. 26-27 at the Westchester TTC.

2015: The Year of Incredible Rallies

Here's the video (3:30).

Around-the-Net Backhand Sidespin Loop Receive

Here's the video (7 sec) as Adam Bobrow pulls off this fundamental shot. Here it is in slow motion (20 sec).

"The Chopper"

Here's a stylized image of defensive superstar Joo Sehyuk.

Vampire Pong

Here's the cartoon!

Send us your own coaching news!

September 30, 2015

Proposal on Boosting: "Racket Testing Rule"
(Here's the online version.)
[NOTE – I sent this to the USATT Rules Committee on Monday, Sept. 28. I blogged about this issue on Aug. 18, 2015. Here's an article from Matt Hetherington, Should ITTF Legalize Boosting?]

Dear USATT Rules Committee,

Boosting (and tuning, which is similar) is currently illegal due to rule 2.4.7, which says, "The racket covering shall be used without physical, chemical or other treatment." However, since boosting is not picked up under current racket testing procedures (and I'm told would very expensive to create equipment sensitive enough to do so), we are stuck with an unenforceable rule where we just hope that players aren't taking advantage of this.

What exactly is boosting? Boosting is where you apply an oil such as Paraffin oil under the sponge to expand the sponge to increase its speed and spin. It's considered illegal since you are treating the racket covering. It's similar to speed glue in its application and its effect. However, speed glue was made illegal because of health problems, and boosting generally does not have such problems. Therefore there is no corresponding reason to make most types of boosting illegal.

Since boosting is a big advantage it's widespread. While it's impossible to know the exact numbers, I've watched players boost for years, and watched them teach others. There are articles and postings all over the internet explaining how to boost or tune. Jun Mizutani of Japan even began boycotting ITTF tournaments because of the lack of enforcement - here's an article from Tabletennista on that, "Jun Mizutani Boycotts ITTF For His Battle Against Illegal Boosters." 

The problem is that since it's illegal, only those willing to cheat can boost, while those who will not cheat are at a large disadvantage. At the moment our sport looks the other way and allows this to continue, essentially relying on the honor system - but that simply doesn't work. And so we honor the cheaters and cheat the honorable ones.

Arguing that honest players should boost because opponents are doing it is the same as telling someone that cheating is okay. You don't know in advance which opponents are boosting, so if you boost, you are cheating while your opponent may be playing fair. You also don't want to boost against some players and not others - that would mess up timing as well as requiring two rackets.

Some might argue that since only a few players are complaining, it's not a problem. That's the same argument that was made during the steroids era, when few players complained even though steroid usage was widespread. (The reasons they didn't complain are many, ranging from being steroid users themselves to not wanting to be considered complainers or "rats.")

There is also some hypocrisy written into the current rules as we do allow players to treat their racket covering with racket cleaner.

Here is a proposal that would solve the problem and level the playing field, which I call the Racket Testing Rule. It also resolves the problem of allowing racket coverings to be treated with rubber cleaner, and any other unenforceable restrictions on racket coverings.

Current Rule:
02.04.07: The racket covering shall be used without physical, chemical or other treatment.

Proposed Rule:
02.04.07: The racket covering shall be used without physical, chemical or other treatment, with leeway such that if there is a racket testing procedure at an event and a racket does not fail that procedure, it shall be considered legal for that event.

The wording is chosen carefully so that players cannot argue, for example, that speed glue is legal at smaller tournaments where there is no racket testing procedure. The wording is also chosen so that there is no indication that a racket that passes a racket testing procedure cannot be tested again, if the referee has reason to test it again. (A player could treat his racket after the initial testing.) That is why the wording doesn't say, for example, "If a racket passes the racket testing procedure it shall be considered legal for that event," as then a player whose racket has passed could then treat his racket, arguing that the racket has passed the testing procedure and therefore is still legal for the event. However, suggestions on wording are welcome. Once the wording is settled, I believe we should propose this to the ITTF.

There are other possible implications of such a rule. For example, if a racket with frictionless long pips passes the racket testing procedure, is it legal? I would argue that any racket that passes the racket testing procedure should be legal, since we don't want to have unenforceable rules that favor cheaters and handicap honest players.

I see three possibilities. Number three seems the only reasonable option.

  1. Ignore the problem, allow rampant cheating by boosting, and handicap those who won't cheat. I don't consider this acceptable.  
  2. Spend extremely large sums of money on extremely sensitive equipment that'll detect boosting. (It would probably have to be developed for this express purpose.) Unfortunately, this isn't affordable and so isn't feasible.
  3. Change the rules, as proposed above.

Larry Hodges

USATT National Championships Set to Roll into Brooklyn Bowl Las Vegas

Here's the USATT article.

11 Questions with Allen Wang

Here's the USATT interview.

Asian and European Championships

They are both going on right now:

Dimitrij Ovtcharov vs. Stefan Fegerl in European Team Final

Here's the video (14:17, with time between points removed). They are world #5 and #43, from Germany and Austria. Great points! (Austria upset Germany in the final – here's an article with links to more video.)

Legends of England Initial Entries into European Hall of Fame

Here's the article.

The Blake Bieber Cup

Here's the hilarious video (3:49) – Justin Bieber vs. Hamish's Dad!

Send us your own coaching news!

September 29, 2015

Team Leagues

As I've blogged before, team leagues is how European table tennis became big, with 600,000 players in Germany and a number of other countries with memberships over 100,000. (The same is true of most other sports with big memberships.) Once you play on a team you want to do it over and over – and that leads to lots of activity and large memberships. I'm planning this fall to develop a proto-type team league that can spread to other regions, using my experiences here in the Capital Area Team League (Maryland, Virginia, DC), what I've learned from successful leagues in other regions like LA and NY, and from overseas leagues. And so it was with great excitement that we started the second season of the CATL. Here's my write-up.

Capital Area Team League

The Capital Area Team League fall season got off to a great start on Saturday, Sept. 26, from 5-10PM, in the first of six monthly league nights. All twelve teams in the league competed that night at the Maryland Table Tennis Center, with players ranging from ten to seventy, and ratings from 850 to 2350. Here's the team listing and a group picture. League venues this season will alternate between MDTTC and the Washington DC Table Tennis Center.

The format is best of seven, with six singles and one doubles. Each team has three singles players, and each of them play two matches. Then any two players may play the doubles. Here are the League Rules, including info on the format. Here is the Schedule and Standings.

Top-seeded MDTTC A (Derek Nie, Klaus Wood, Raghu Nadmichettu, and Nathan Hsu, who is currently training in China) dominated Division One. They defeated Chantilly 7-0, winning six of the matches 3-0, with the doubles team of TJ Sawner/John Olsen winning a game in their doubles battle with Nie/Nadmichettu. They also defeated MDTTC Lions 6-1, with League Commissioner Stefano Ratti pulling out his match with Derek, 3-1.

Also winning both team matches was JOOLA 1, who defeated NOVATTC and WDCTT, both times 4-3. The big hero for JOOLA 1 was Richard Lee, who won all four of his singles matches and both his double matches (with Claudia Ikeizumi), all of them 3-0, so he was 18-0 in games for the night!

Because the format gives each team one point for each match won, and one point for each team match won, MDTTC A won 13 points for matches won and 2 for team matches won, for 15 total. JOOLA 1 received 8 points for matches won and 2 points for team matches won, for a total of 10. But NOVATTC, despite losing 4-3 to JOOLA 1, had a 7-0 win over Chantilly, and so received 10 points total for matches won and 1 for team matches, and so took over second place with 11 points, one point ahead of JOOLA 1. Not far behind was MDTTC Lions with 8.

Team SSTT and MDTTC Veterans dominated Division Two's first night. Team SSTT defeated both JOOLA 2 and Wiff Waff 7-0, giving them 16 points. But just behind them was MDTTC Veterans who defeated Wiff Waff 7-0 and MDTTC Crush 6-1, and so gained 15 points. In a generational clash, William Huang (12, rated 1715) upset chopper Ed Watts (67, 1985) in the seventh match for the Crush's sole win there, and putting them in third with 8 points.

A number of raffles were held that night, with various equipment and several of my books given out. Derek Nie, 14, one of the top players in the league with a 2336 rating, won one of the raffle prizes given out that night. What did he win? A copy of my book, Table Tennis Tips – with his picture on the cover! (I'd already given him a signed copy.) Meanwhile, since I put up all of the chairs for the league, I went around claiming to be the chairman.

Special thanks goes to MDTTC sponsor Butterfly and to Capital Area League Ball Sponsor Paddle Palace. Next league meetup is at WDCTT on Oct. 17. Hope to see some of you there!

Asian and European Championships

They are both going on right now:

Serving Tutorial by Marcos Freitas

Here's the video (4:01 – really starts about 40 seconds in). Two nitpicks: First, the graphic images show the spin serves hitting near the middle of the racket. But you get more spin if you contact the ball closer to the tip. Second, the forehand pendulum serve is demoed 86 seconds in, and is blatantly illegal as he's hiding the ball from the receiver. These days cheating in our sport is so rampant we even teach it in videos!

2016 Selection Procedure for USA Cadet and Junior Teams

Here's the info page.

The Swedish Greats

Here's a nice picture of Waldner and Borg, two of the greats of table tennis and tennis. Did you know that Borg got his start in tennis because of table tennis? From his Early Life entry in his Wiki page: "As a child, Borg became fascinated with a golden tennis racket that his father won at a table-tennis tournament. His father gave him the racket, beginning his tennis career."

Paul Drinkhall in Footsteps of True Legend

Here's the article.

Iranian Players clinch Five Wins in Asian Championships

Here's the article from Press TV.

Celebrity Battle: Judah Friedlander vs. Frank Caliendo

Here's the USATT article – who would win between these comic titans? (I'm not going to take sides, but I've coached Judah, who is rated 1607, and I've played doubles with Frank, who is 1665.)

Greatest "Table Tennis" Rally of All Time?

Here's the video (42 sec). These guys know how to use their heads – they've obviously read Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers.

More Mike Mezyan Pictures

NOTE - If you are unable to see these pictures, all you have to do is join the Table Tennis Group - it's easy! Here are all the past, present, and (soon) future pictures he's collected. (I pick out his best ones for here - he has more.)

Here Lies 21

Here's the cartoon lamenting the change in games from 21 to 11 points.

Send us your own coaching news!

September 28, 2015

Tip of the Week

Watch the Top Players Before a Tournament or Big Match.

The Spirit of Pong: First Two Chapters Online

Here are the first two chapters of my 100-page table tennis fantasy novel, which you can read for FREE. If you like them, then you can buy the whole novel at Amazon ($7 print or $6 kindle). Here's a description of the novel:

Andy "Shoes" Blue wants to be a table tennis champion, but he’s just another wannabe American. And so he goes to China to learn the secrets of table tennis. He is trained by the mysterious Coach Wang, and begins an odyssey where he learns the secrets of table tennis from the spirits of Ichiro Ogimura (who helped spawn China’s greatness), Rong Guotuan (China’s first world champion in 1959, whose tragic story Andy must relive), and others, and must face the mysterious "Dragon." Can he overcome treachery and learn the final secret of table tennis in time to defeat his ultimate nemesis?

The novel includes a bonus short story at the end that I wrote, "Ping-Pong Ambition," which was originally published in the anthology Sporty Spec: Games of the Fantastic. Here's a description, and a review from The Fix:

"A table tennis player is imprisoned inside a ping-pong ball by a genie for 10,000 years, where he practices table tennis and studies to be a genie himself - only to discover a surprising truth."

"Ping-Pong Ambition is a fun take on the genie-who-gives-three-wishes story. The tropes are familiar, but the light tone and twist ending make this an entertaining read." The Fix, Jan. 27, 2008.

There aren't that many table tennis novels. Here's the only five I know of – am I missing any?

  • The Spirit of Pong (2015) by Larry Hodges. (See description above.)
  • Doubles (2009) by Anne Borrowdale. "Tanni Lydd has given up caring that her father disappeared when she was born. That is until new boyfriend Jez Morley nags her to track him down and miraculously turns up a clue which puts her on his trail. But Jez is a professional table-tennis player who spins and deceives for a living, and soon Tanni is convinced he is playing games off the table too. As the spins and deceptions get ever closer to home, what once seemed a game threatens to turn their lives upside down. Perceptive and skillfully crafted, Anne Borrowdale's latest novel makes imaginative use of a table-tennis metaphor to explore themes of love, loss and self-delusion."
  • The Mighty Walzer (1999) by Howard Jacobson. "From the beginning Oliver Walzer is a natural--at ping-pong. Even with his improvised bat (the Collins Classic edition of Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde) he can chop, flick, half-volley like a champion. At sex he is not a natural, being shy and frightened of women, but with tuition from Sheeny Waxman, fellow member of the Akiva Social Club Table Tennis team, his game improves. And while the Akiva boys teach him everything he needs to know about ping-pong, his father, Joel Walzer, teaches him everything there is to know about "swag." Unabashedly autobiographical, this is an hilarious and heartbreaking story of one man's coming of age in 1950's Manchester."
  • The Mystery of the Lost Racket (2013) by Enzo Pettinelli. Children's book. "There's the summer, the sea and wind. The winds are the good ones, the light breezes. The tale is about the parable of life: it starts when it is rising high meeting the point where it starts to go down. The charm is possible for who knows how to tell a story, and Enzo Pettinelli tells it through an extraordinary ping-pong metaphor."
  • My Secret Life as a Ping-Pong Wizard (2005) by Henry Winkler (yes, "The Fonz") and Lin Oliver. Children's book. "Hank thought that getting through summer school to get to the fifth grade would be hard enough, but little did he know that it would get worse! Everyone in the fifth grade is starting to focus on a sport—and they’re really good. Everyone, that is, except Hank. When Papa Pete suggests that Hank take up Ping-Pong, he decides to give it a try but keeps it top secret, as he thinks the other kids will tease him about it not being a "real" sport. Hank is so good that he manages to Ping-Pong his way to the championship! But when he finds out the contest is being held at "Nick the Tick" McKelty’s family bowling alley, will he risk being the laughingstock of the fifth grade?" (Here's my review. Page down a bit.)

Capital Area Team League

We had the first meeting of the fall 2015 season of the Capital Area Team League. There are 12 teams and 70 players – that's 5.8 players per team, since we listed the restriction on the number of players per team. They are divided into two divisions of six teams each. From 5-10 PM on Saturday each team played two team matches. I'll post results tomorrow. Here's a group photo!

Injured . . . Again

Yesterday in the first five seconds of my first private coaching session (with Navin Kumar), I felt agonizing pain in the muscles of my upper left chest. I have no idea how or when it was injured, but it got worse and worse. (I've never had this injury - I can add it to my collection.) We stopped 15 minutes early as I could barely play at that point. Fortunately, the rest of the day I only had three hours of group sessions where I'd at most have to feed multiball. Only – feeding multiball involves picking the balls up rapidly with my left arm and tossing them backwards, which was extremely painful. I managed to get through the day, but now I'm once again injured. For today and probably tomorrow I'm cancelling or getting substitutes. We'll see how it is tomorrow. (But I still have a 90-minute tutoring session today.) 

My best guess is I hurt it while carrying my extremely heavy playing bag around. I probably have more stuff in there than any other table tennis person. I mean, seriously, does anyone expect me to go anywhere without my brick collection? I think I'll blog about my bag's contents later this week. Prepare to be mesmerize.

Why is it that I keep getting injured while coaching Navin? I think my last three injuries have come while hitting with him. If only I could be as healthy as Navin.

Asian and European Championships

They are both going on right now:

Brief Discussion of the Four Principles of Table Tennis in Terms of the Beauty of the Sport

Here's the article by Jinxin Wang, world #77 and the 2015 US Open Men's Singles Champion.

The ABC's of the Table Tennis Block

Here's the new coaching article from Coach Jon.

Robert Gardos vs. Alexander Shibaev

Here's video at 10-9 where the two argue over whether Shibaev's serve hit his shirt. (The link should take you directly there – 132 seconds in.) Gardos of Austria is world #26; Shibaev of Russia is #58. 

What's interesting to me is that with all that argument over that, there's no mention of how illegal Shibaev's serve is. Here's an image of the serve in question – he's hiding it with his head as well as having his arm out there, both illegal, as are essentially every serve in the match. Here's the very first point of the match – see how hidden Shibaev's serve is? But Gardos isn't any better – here's his first serve shown on the far side (94 seconds in - they don't show his first two.) Umpires and referees, nothing to see here, move along, just move along. (This is the standard serve at the world class level, and it rarely gets called. See my blog from last Friday and my proposal to end this cancer on our sport.)

Great Diving Picture

Here's the picture of "Superman" - but who is it? It seems to be from the European Championships, but #137 there is Fedor Kuzmin of Russia, who has light brown hair, not the dark hair of this player. Someone thought it might be Emmanual Lebesson, and I originally thought it was Alexander Shibaev, but I'm not sure. Anyone know? Or perhaps, like Superman, we'll never know his identity? (If you know who it is, comment below. I'm leaving for the afternoon, but will check and update this tonight.) 

Beltway Plaza Table Tennis Challenge Raises $1521 for Parkinson's

Here's the info sheet, with Navin Kumar. (My math mind cannot help but notice that's 13 squared times 3 squared. Nice number.)

New Table Tennis News Page

Here's the Pong Universe news page.

Great Point: Dimitrij Ovtcharov vs. Jung Youngsik

Here's the video (38 sec, including slow motion replay) between the world #5 from Germany and world #14 from South Korea. That's Adam Bobrow doing the commentary.

Great Paralympic Point

Here's the video (43 sec, including slow motion replay).

Blade, I Am Your Father

Here's the latest table tennis artwork from Mike Mezyan. (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

Pope Pong

In honor of the Pope's US visit, here are some images I found online. You can get balls or paddles with his image, silhouette, past popes, slogans, and even commemorative ones for his visits to Washington DC, Philadelphia, and New York City.

Insult Table Tennis

Here's the cartoon!

Send us your own coaching news!

September 25, 2015

Net Visibility Rule

Here is the Net Visibility Rule Proposal, my proposal to solve the hidden serve problem in table tennis. I sent it to the USATT Rules Committee yesterday morning. If they approve it, then they would submit it to the ITTF by Nov. 1, for consideration at the next ITTF meeting at the World Championships in May, 2016. Here's the $100,000 question to ask yourself: Are we better off with this new rule, or with the current untenable situation? (Here's my September 18 blog on hidden serves.)

One thing that's become obvious is the different outlook from those who actually try out the proposal, and those who don't. I've had dozens of people test it, where I'd barely hide the ball from a receiver, and then have them judge it from both sides where the umpires would sit. All said that any ball I tried to hide from a receiver was clearly hidden from at least one net post. To those who have read my blogs about this proposal and reached a conclusion, I hope you will keep an open mind and actually test it. The question to ask is this: If a server hides the ball from the receiver, is the umpire substantially more likely to call it under the current rule (where there's about a 0.7 degree difference between a hidden and non-hidden serve), or this rule (where there's a 45-90 degree difference)?

I was hesitant at first to make the proposal public since it shows so many of our top cadets serving illegally. However the videos are all public, so anyone can see them. But more importantly, showing what we're forcing our kids to do in order to compete fairly may be the only way to cause the outcry needed to get table tennis officials to take action. At the moment, I'm outraged at the lack of outrage.

I don't blame the kids who serve illegally in response to the opponent doing so and the umpire allowing it. But I do blame the one who first does so in a match (or the coach who tells him to do so), and the umpires and referees who allow this. (The most under-used rule in table tennis is Rule "If either the umpire or the assistant umpire is not sure about the legality of a service he or she may, on the first occasion in a match, interrupt play and warn the server; but any subsequent service by that player or his or her doubles partner which is not clearly legal shall be considered incorrect." But my proposal should make such enforcement easier, as a serve hidden from a receiver would now be obviously hidden from at least one net post and so obviously illegal.)

There was a bit of email discussion last night among USATT people about the proposal. At this point I'm not optimistic that USATT will take the lead in this, but perhaps I'll be pleasantly surprised. If they don't, then we'll have to rely on the ITTF to do so, whether with my proposal or another.

USATT did propose a few years ago that the ball must be visible throughout the serve to both umpires, but that was voted down. (I'm told because it was considered too extreme). Some believe we should make the same proposal again, but there's no indication that the vote would be any different. Which is why I proposed a less extreme solution. The problem with requiring the ball be visible to both umpires is that it would dramatically change every top player's serve. My proposal wouldn't. Regardless of whether you are for that rule – and I was and still am – we have to face reality that it was voted down, and look for a different solution.

Weekend Table Tennis Action – Don't Miss It!!!

Player Archetypes: Attacking Styles

Here's the new coaching article from Han Xiao.

The Boy Who Couldn't Throw a Ball

Here's the new blog entry from Expert Table Tennis – it's chapter one from Expert in a Year: The Ultimate Table Tennis Challenge.

Chris Main: Bringing International Table Tennis to Saltcoats

Here's the new podcast (43:33) from Expert Table Tennis. "Chris Main is the head coach of North Ayrshire Table Tennis Club, a thriving club located on the West Coast of Scotland in Saltcoats. Saltcoats is a small town about 45 minutes away from Glasgow but Chris is on a mission to transform it into a hub of table tennis activity."

Butterfly Mag’s 2015 Tricks & Top Shots Award

Here are the videos – you get to vote!

Weirdest "Let" in 39 Years of Play

I was coaching someone recently when he suddenly caught the ball. I asked why. He said he thought he heard a plane in the playing area. He later tried to convince me that he was joking and not to put it in my blog, but to no avail, though I'm leaving his name out. It's not clear if it was a propeller or jet plane.

Ping Pong Diplomat and Champ Extraordinaire

Here's the article featuring USATT Hall of Famer George Brathwaite.

Chinese President Xi Jinping Tries Out Ping-Pong Diplomacy at U.S. High School

Here's the article from the Wall Street Journal.

Obit of Daniel Thompson, Inventor of Folding Ping-Pong Table and Bagel-Making Machine

Here's the obit from the Washington Post. Here's the table tennis part:

In 1950, he and his wife were visiting friends when one of them mentioned ping-pong. It was one of Mr. Thompson’s favorite games but, as he told friends, he hated assembling and breaking down the heavy table every time he played.

“He said there must be a better way,” Ada Thompson recalled last week, “so he sat down with a pad of paper and started sketching.”

Twenty minutes later, she said, he had the design for a folding ping-pong table. He patented it in 1953 and sold the rights to a major manufacturer. The proceeds from the sale became “the kick-starter, financially, for the bagel machine,” Craig Thompson said.

Indonesian Team Sweeps Four Events at Butterfly Badger Open

Here's the article by Barbara Wei.

Ma Long vs. Jan-Ove Waldner
Here's video (5:07) of the two playing at the 2009 Energis Masters. There's a lot of debate about who would win between these two, the current World Men's Champion and the player considered by many the greatest player ever. It's not quite the same as seeing the two at their peak as Waldner is 43 at the time and long retired, and of course during his peak years they played with a 38mm ball. Ma, 20 at the time, is already #3 in the world, and is less than a year away from his first world #1 ranking. Ma wins three straight, but Waldner is up game point in the third.

Umpire Hand Signals

Here's the new video (5:38) from the ITTF that shows how umpires signal various types of service faults. There doesn't seem to be sound.

International Table Tennis

Here's my periodic note (usually every Friday) that you can great international coverage at TableTennista (which especially covers the elite players well) and at the ITTF home page (which does great regional coverage). Butterfly also has a great news page.

Inner Reflections

Here's the latest artwork by Mike Mezyan.

Table Tennis Holster

Here's the pictureDraw!!!

Space and Moon Pong

Send us your own coaching news!

September 24, 2015

Chess and Table Tennis - Seven Facts that "Pawn Sacrifice" Got Right

Here's the article – see #5, "Chess in the Ping Pong Room." Pawn Sacrifice goes out for wide release on Friday, with advance showings today. I'm looking forward to seeing it, about the life of chess champion Bobby Fischer (who was at least borderline insane). The movie focuses on his famous and controversial world championship match in 1972 with Boris Spassky – which I remember following very closely when I was 12 years old. I was for a time a serious chess player, but haven't played seriously since I was 20. I still remember playing Queens Gambit, French Defense, etc., even if I no longer remember the moves!

  • Here are two pictures of Bobby Fischer playing table tennis: photo1, photo2.
  • Here's a table tennis cartoon about the Fischer-Spassky match – note the "Bordtennis" sign, which is Swedish for table tennis.
  • Here's my article, Why Table Tennis Really Is Chess at Light Speed.
  • Here's a picture of USATT Hall of Famers John Tannehill and Dell Sweeris playing chess at the 1968 US Open. This picture is at the start of the introduction for my book, Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers, with the opening lines: "Table tennis has been called chess at lightning speed. There are hundreds of books on chess tactics. Why aren't there more books devoted to table tennis tactics?" (The intro also includes the first picture above of Bobby Fischer playing table tennis.)
  • Here's a picture of former USA National Cadet Team Member Tong Tong Gong playing chess at the national chess championships a few years ago. I used to coach him – at table tennis tournaments, that is!


Recently I've reached three milestones.

  • Published articles. In late August I had my 1600th published article. This does not include about 1200 blog entries, though it does include 235 Tips of the Week here at TableTennisCoaching.com. Here's a listing as of Sept. 1. As of today, I have 1604 published articles, along with nine books. The published articles include 1427 on table tennis, 71 science fiction & fantasy sales (plus 33 resales), and 56 non-TT non-SF&F articles.
  • Daily Hits. It's been a long, slow climb, but this month TableTennisCoaching.com is averaging over 1100 reads per day. To be exact (and not including yesterday's non-blog), it's averaging 1100.6 per day. The last few days have been a bit below average, with only 729 on Tuesday (but 1294 for Friday). I remember after my first year it was averaging about 300. (There are actually more than 1100 readers per day, as some people come in one time and read an entire week or two of blogs, but it only registers as one read.) Fridays up the average a bit as they get three days' worth of hits.
  • Tutoring. I've long known that as I get older I'd find coaching more and more physically demanding. And so I'd have to find more sedentary activities to pay the bills – such as writing. However, there's another activity I've always wanted to move more into – tutoring. I've done it for many years, mostly in math (where I've done everything from grade school through multivariable Calculus) and English (I regularly edit local players' papers for school). Recently I was hired on a regular basis to tutor one of our table tennis kids in his English writing skills, 5.5 hours/week. So it's become a regular part of my routine.

ITTF Spins and Skills

Here are new coaching videos from the ITTF.

Executing Table Tennis Shots

Just out: #5 in this series by Brett Clarke.

Decisions, Decisions: Learn to Slow Down Your Opponent

Here's the new coaching article by Samson Dubina.

Mental Pitfalls: Switch to Winning in Your Mind

Here's the table tennis sports psychology article.

Table Tennis and Age

Here's the new article by Coach Jon.

Stay at the Linq and Get a Free Event at the US Open!

Here's the USATT article.

International Training Center Network Directives and Operational Guidelines

Here's the ITTF Manual.

11 Questions with Jasna Rather

Here's the USATT Interview.

Interview with Tahl Leibovitz

Here's the USATT interview by Rahul Acharya.

USATT Board Member Anne Cribbs Named Olympic Torch Award Honoree

Here's the USATT article.

Is Table Tennis a Sport or a Game?

Here's the article.

Navin Kumar's 2016 Paralympic Table Tennis Journey

Here's the new funding page for the "Bionic Man." Here's the intro paragraph: "Hi there! My name is Navin Kumar (pronounced Nuh-VEEN KOO-mar) and I'm the first athlete in history to actively compete with Parkinson's Disease as I represent the USA in international table tennis competition as part of the Paralympic Program."

The Secret to Ping-Pong: Can it Cure Alzheimer's?

Here's the video (2 min). Here's another video (1:22) about the Alzheimer's Therapy Program that shows the benefits of table tennis.

Sean O'Neill Switches Hands

Here's the video (12 sec) from long ago, where he switches hands to smash a winner against Eric Boggan.

Cartoon Table Tennis Rackets

Here are 24 – take your pick! Personally, I like either the "I Love Books" Dragon Paddle, or the "Wham!" and "Ka-pow!" ones.

Send us your own coaching news!

September 23, 2015

Today is Yom Kippur, a major Jewish holiday. I'm not Jewish, but the local schools celebrate it and are closed today. If the kids I coach get the day off, so do I! So no blog today. But to tide you over, here's a repeating gif image of a cat at the net as two players play. Either that or this one of minions playing table tennis should be on your club's home page. 

September 22, 2015

USATT Rating Inflation

I blogged about this back on June 19, 2014. The subject came up last night during the USATT Teleconference, where we were discussing creating USATT leagues that would be processed with regular USATT ratings, rather than the separate USATT league ratings that are currently used in many leagues. The question was whether we needed to use adjustments. I explained why the rating system would actually deflate without adjustments, but that in the past we've had the adjustments too high, which led to inflation. I've experienced this in the leagues I've run or been involved with, where over and over we've seen the ratings deflate, leading to us putting in an adjustment factor. (At MDTTC, we give bonus points for winning your group.)

Until now, I've always assumed my analysis of this was my own from about 15 years or so ago, and didn't realize anyone else had studied this. (I have a bachelor's in math, and if not for table tennis might have become a math professor…) Here's how I explained it back then.

"If there were no adjustment factor, the system would be deflationary, and the average rating would be dropping. Why? Because the average player improves after his initial rating. Assuming no adjustment factor, let's say that the average first rating is 1200, and that the average player then improves to 1500. That means the player takes 300 rating points from others in the system. Result? Assuming the same number of players in the system, there are now 300 less points distributed among them, and so the average rating goes down - even though the average level of those players has stayed the same. This should be true of any rating system where there's a direct or indirect exchange of rating points."

"Let's assume that the average player instead got worse on average. Then they'd be giving the system points, and so the system would be inflationary."

But last night CEO Gordon mentioned the Elo rating system, which ours is based on. And lo and behold, it said exactly what I had figured out years ago! It includes a segment on Rating Inflation and Deflation. It includes this statement, which matches what I've argued for years, though many have been skeptical of this.

“In a pure Elo system, each game ends in an equal transaction of rating points. If the winner gains N rating points, the loser will drop by N rating points. This prevents points from entering or leaving the system when games are played and rated. However, players tend to enter the system as novices with a low rating and retire from the system as experienced players with a high rating. Therefore, in the long run a system with strictly equal transactions tends to result in rating deflation.”

Below that is a segment on Combatting Deflation, which includes this:

“Because of the significant difference in timing of when inflation and deflation occur, and in order to combat deflation, most implementations of Elo ratings have a mechanism for injecting points into the system in order to maintain relative ratings over time.”

Regarding USATT ratings, my impression is that there was inflation from the time it started in the mid-1970 through the 1990s, but it seems to have slowed in the last 15 years or so, with the upwards adjustments roughly matching the built-in inflation. I don't know if there was a change to the adjustment factor, a natural convergence to a stable norm, or what. I've seen the same deflationary problem in proposed USATT rating systems that did not have an adjustment factor.

In the Zone: Training Emotional Skill in Table Tennis, Parts 1-3

I previously linked to part 1. Here's all three.

  • Part 1: Introduction and the Nature of Emotional Skill
  • Part 2: Ten Attributes of Poised Players, What About Us?, and Diagnose
  • Part 3: Intervention and Changing Goals

Li Xiaodong on Serve and Attack

Here's the video (25:56). I linked on Sept. 8 to his earlier lecture, "Li Xiaodong on Serving" (23:28). Li Xiaodong is 22 years coach of Chinese National Team and 12 years coach of Beijing Team. He was also Head Coach of Chinese Women Team. Now he is Deputy Head of Technical Studies Committee.

Akron, Latest Home as Demand Grows for Development Courses in United States

Here's the ITTF article about the recent ITTF Coaching Course in Akron, Ohio. It was organized by Samson Dubina and run by Richard McAfee.

Liang Xu Wins 2nd Annual Knoxville Secret City gold Dollar Upset Open

Here's the article (by Jude Lam) and pictures.

Zhang Jike Tribute

Here's the new video (5:50). It's in Chinese, but you get to see a lot of footage.

Court Table Tennis?

Here's the video (1:27) with Adam Bobrow and the Singapore Team at a bus station in Czech Repubic.

Water Pong

Here's the video (13 sec)!

Send us your own coaching news!

September 21, 2015

Tip of the Week

Recover from the Previous Shot.

MDTTC and USATT Activities

Lots of stuff going on right now. Here's a quick rundown.

We've finalized the teams and schedule for the new season of the Capital Area Team League. I'm on the organizing committee as webmaster, along with Commissioner Stafano Ratti, Treasurer John Olsen, and Publicist Richard Heo. Play begins this Saturday.

On Thursday and Sunday I ran the first meetings of the Fall junior programs I run at MDTTC. We have twelve new juniors, ranging in age from 5 to 13. We focused on grip, stance, ball-bouncing, and the forehand. Next up: the backhand and serving. On Sunday we also had a staff meeting to discuss upcoming plans for the programs.

On Sunday we had the first meeting of the new "Talent Development Program" at MDTTC, where ten of our best kids in the 7-9 age group met and trained, with five coaches – yes, a 2-1 ratio. We may have more depth in that age group than ever before. I don't think of this group has played tournaments – but that'll be happening soon. The program is sponsored by HW Global Foundation. Watch out China!

Also on Sunday was the weekly meeting of the MDTTC Adult Training Group. I also have two regular students on Sundays, but coincidentally both were away or unable to attend, so I had most of the morning and early afternoon off for a change.

I'm buried in USATT work. (I'm not alone on this – I'm working with other USATT people on many of these. CEO Gordon is helpfully involved in most issues.) A short rundown:

  • USATT Teleconference. We have one tonight at 7PM. The agenda includes various membership items, updates and discussion of the upcoming USA Nationals, a legal update on confidential issues, and plans for upcoming board meetings. (I have a 90-minute private coaching session on Mondays ending at 7PM, but I have to cut that short tonight. Student was understanding.)
  • Editing. Recently I've done a lot of detailed editing of various USATT things, from the USA Nationals entry form to various proposals. It's right up my alley – I'm pretty good at catching mistakes. I'm the type of reader who on page 246 will cry out, "That contradicts what you wrote on page 57!"
  • Net Visibility Rule – a proposal to fix the problem of players hiding their serve. I blogged about this a number of times, including July 17 and Sept. 18. I'll submit this soon.
  • Racket Testing Rule – a proposal to fix the problem with boosting. I blogged about it on Aug. 18. I'll submit this after the Net Visibility Rule proposal is dealt with – one at a time.
  • Regional Associations. I've created proto-type bylaws, and will be going public at some point this fall with plans to regionalize the country with regional associations. They'd be primarily responsible for table tennis in their region, including the next three bulleted items. (Many but not all of them would be state associations.)
  • State Championships. Here's is the list I've put together of current State Championships. (If you know of one not on this list, or would like to run one, email me.) The goal is for a state championship in all 50 states in 2016. I blogged about this on April 17. The goal is to turn these into regional news events that promote the sport. I also would like to initiate a "Parade of Champions" perhaps at the 2016 USA Nationals, where all the state champions are paraded out and recognized, perhaps just before the men's and women's finals.
  • Leagues – as chair of the USATT League Committee I'm taking a two-pronged approach – Team Leagues and USATT Rated Leagues. For the first, I'll be putting together a prototype of a regional team league, based on my experiences with the Capital Area Team League and others, such as the one in LA. For the latter, the plan is to allow clubs the option to run a USATT Rated Singles League, where it would be processed for rating, just like a USATT tournament. The earliest these might be ready are late fall or early 2016. (They require software development.)
  • Coaching Programs and Training Centers. I have plans here, and hope to work with the USATT Coaching Committee on this, though I might put this off until 2016. I'd like to see us start to recruit and train coaches who wish to become professional coaches – and teach them both the technical part (as done in the ITTF coaching program we've adopted) and the professional side (how to make a living as a coach, recruit students, set up and run training centers and coaching programs, etc.)
  • Professional Leagues. There are plans afoot on this, but another item for 2016.

Executing Table Tennis Shots

#4 in this new series by Brett Clarke just came out.

More Zhang Jike Multiball Training

Here's the video (1:55).

Topspin with a Bottle

Here's the video (2:03) that shows how to teach someone to topspin by spinning a ball off the top of a bottle.

Butterfly Badger Open

Argentina Open

Here's the home page for the event held this past weekend in Mendoza, ARG, with results, articles, pictures, and video.

Table Tennis is the Most Complete Sport for Kids

Here's the article. (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

New York Table Tennis League

Here's their September Newsletter.

Autographs of 60+ Table Tennis Greats – Barna, Bergmann, Vana, Leach

Here's the Ebay auction – it'll only cost you £12,000! (That's $18,637.02. Pocket change.) Alas, the auction just ended.

Net-Net Post-Net

Here's the video (11 sec) of this most basic shot.

Some Lobbing, a Backhand Countersmash, and a Little Celebration

Here's the video (40 sec).

Two-Ball, Bottle-Net, Blue Picnic Pong

Here's the video (35 sec) of how the game should be played.

What is the Optimal Number of Ping Paddles?

Einstein has your answer. Equipment junkies, go to it! (I created this one.) 

Send us your own coaching news!

Syndicate content