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

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

September 1, 2014

Labor Day

It's Labor Day, and it would be unpatriotic not to join the national frenzy to not labor on this day dedicated to laboring. So like nearly everyone else, I'm off today.

But to tide you over until tomorrow, here's a video (10 sec) of a player accidentally smacking the umpire in the forehead with the ball and getting yellow carded.

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August 29, 2014

Disabled Veterans Camp

Yesterday was Day Three of the four-day camp. As they have every hour of the camp, 13-year-old Sameer Shaikh (who was humorously insulted that I mistakenly listed him as 12 yesterday) and Wendy Brame-Bogie assisted, with Sameer a practice partner and Wendy on ball pickup. Also joining us yesterday (as well as for an hour or so the day before) was Ram Nadmichettu (father of Raghu), who sometimes helps out with coaching at MDTTC. 

Most of the players came early, so I joined in with an impromptu 25-minute practice session before officially starting at 10AM. The day's focus was pushing, forehand looping, and return of serve. We started off with pushing, where I did a short lecture and demo with Sameer. (I even brought out the soccer-colored balls so they could see the amount of backspin.) Then the players rotated about, taking turns hitting with me, Sameer, Ram, and the robot. We did it a second time with the forehand push. 

Next up was forehand loop. Since the players were older and not young athletes, I started by demonstrating and explaining a regular forehand drive against backspin. Then I did the same with looping. Surprisingly, all but one player wanted to focus on looping - and the one who wanted to work on driving experimented with looping, and quickly changed his mind. So all of them worked on looping, even 79-year-old Bernard, and all of them figured out and did some nice ones. (Modern sponges helped! Most of the players were using the brand new rackets they'd been given as part of this USATT program - Donic Waldner Exclusive AR+ rackets and Stiga Magna TC11 max sponges.) Once again I had them rotate among me, Sameer, Ram, and the robot (which was set on backspin so they could loop against backspin). I did multiball, while the other two did live play, with the players serve and looping against backspin. 

We finished with my receive lecture. This took a while as it seemed of great interest to all. As I pointed out, returning serve is almost everyone's weakness! We also had fun as the players attempted to return serves - but unlike last time, this time I actively helped out, so they were able to return my best serves - as long as I let them know what spin was coming. 

It's been a tiring week, since besides the camp I'm also averaging two hours of private coaching each day/night, the blog, and all sorts of other stuff, such as picking up kids after school for our after-school program. 

Stefan Fegerl's Footwork

Here's a nice video (29 sec) showing the side-to-side footwork and two-winged looping of Austria's Stefan Fegerl (world #53).

China Completes Sweep of Youth Olympic Games

Here's the article on their winning Mixed Doubles Teams to complete the sweep. Here's the ITTF page for the tournament, with results, articles, pictures, and video.

Table Tennis Second Most Views Sport at Youth Olympic Games

Here's the article.

ITTF Competition Managers Seminar in October

Here's the article. The ITTF Competition Managers Seminar (i.e. for tournament directors for ITTF events) will be held at the Werner Schlager Academy in Schwechat, Austria, Oct. 6-8, 2014.

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

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

  • Day 3: Reasons for Optimism, Walter Rönmark Positive for Future of Table Tennis

Table Tennis: The Best Sport Ever

Here's the video (3:11). 

Ice Bucket Challenge

  • Mikael Andersson, ITTF Senior Consultant - Development, Education & Training (he challenged Kanak Jha and Rajul Sheth).

The Fiery Racket

Here's another table tennis artwork from Mike Mezyan.

A Little Ping-Pong Soccer?

Here's the video (22 sec).

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August 28, 2014

Disabled Veterans Camp

Yesterday was Day Two of the four-day camp at MDTTC. We started with a contest - the players paired up to see who could get 100 forehands in a row. As I explained to them, we often say that a player doesn't have a forehand or backhand until he's hit 100 in a row, and so everyone was determined to do so. 

For inspiration I told them the story of 13-year-old practice partner Sameer Shaikh. About a year before he was struggling to get 100 forehands in a row in a session with me. He got 99 in a row, and missed! Then he got 97, then I think it was 94, and each time, just as he approached 100, he'd miss. It was torture for him! But we decided we'd devote the entire session to this, and he finally got 100 in a row. But once he did that, he relaxed and stopped trying to guide the shot. Result? The rally continued, and he actually hit 1000 in a row!!! I caught the ball and told him he'd done enough, and we'd continue later. (We never did get back to it. I'm not sure if my arm could take another 1000.) The purpose of the drill/contest was both to develop the stroking technique, timing, and consistency, but also to develop concentration and confidence. 

We rotated the players regularly so everyone hit with everyone else, including practice partner Sameer. Then we did the same thing with backhands. Everyone hit at least 100 in a row on one side, and several managed to do it on both sides. We finished with a smashing drill, where players would hit two forehands in a row, then smash and continue smashing, while the other tried to return them. 

Then we went to the main focus of the day - serving. I brought out the colored soccer balls so they could see the spin, and showed them how much spin could be created on a serve, as well as showing them various "tricks," such as backspin serves that bounced back into (or over) the net, and sidespin serves that broke almost directly sideways. Then I had them practice spinning the soccer balls in the air - spin and catch, spin and catch. It's one of the best ways to learn to spin the ball. Then I gave several lectures/demos on the rules, creating spin, deception, the main service motions, and fast serves. Between the lecture/demos they practiced serves, with each getting a table and box of balls to themselves.  

Next on the agenda was more smashing. After a lecture and demo with Sameer, the players formed a line, and in rapid-fire fashion took turns smashing forehands as I fed multiball, three shots each, one to the backhand, one to the middle, one to the forehand, and then the next was up. 

We finished with a receive "game." They took turns trying to return my serves, and stayed up until they'd missed two. The catch was that I got to make fun of them when they missed, while they got to make fun of me if they got them back. I'd mostly serve and quickly put my racket on the table and step to the side of the table my sidespin would force their return to - so if they did return the serve, I'd be stuck rallying with my hand. Or I'd say, "Don't put this in the net!" as I served backspin. Or I'd serve fast aces at the corners. Tomorrow we'll be covering return of serve, along with pushing and looping. 

It was a long day. After the camp I had another 2.5 hours of private coaching. Had some nice breakthroughs - Willie is learning to loop, Daniel's loop is getting powerful, and Matt's is even more ferocious! 

Here's the group picture, which I also linked to yesterday. Using a high-quality version, I printed out copies for everyone on photo paper, which I'll give out today. 

New Two-Toned Ball Undermines Chopper's Advantage

Here's the article and video (2 hours!). 

Interview with German National Coach Jörg Rosskopf

Here's the article

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

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

  • Day 4: Latin American Ascending to New Found Heights

Ping-Pong Balls for Children's Therapy

Here's the article

Ping-Pong Table Sound System

Here's the article - yes, a sound system that doubles as a ping-pong table!

Xavier Therien - STIGA 2014 ITTF TrickShot Showdown

Here's the Canadian National Team Member's juggling and table tennis with a crazy contraption trick shot (1:22)! And here are more - there are so many that I haven't really gone through them. Here's the home page for the competition.

Backhand of the Year?

Here's video of Nelson's Backhand (52 sec) - see the shot 7 seconds in!

Around-Net Rolling Return

Here's the video (22 sec) of some rather incredible staged shots. 

Incredible Rally

Here's the video (32 sec).

Ice Bucket Challenge

Ping-Pong Cupcakes Anyone?

Here's the picture

Tricky Serve!

Here's the video (6 sec).

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August 27, 2014

Disabled Veterans Camp

Yesterday was the first day of the four-day Disabled Veterans Camp I'm running at MDTTC. We had six players plus three volunteers. One of the players was in a wheelchair, the others were standing disabled. All of the standing disabled were in good enough condition to do footwork. The ages ranged from 32 to 79. All of them were experienced players, with the playing range from about 800 to 1500 in level.

Players in the camp are Marvin Bogie, Anthony Floyd, Bernard Gibson, Honicliff "Cliff" Nitchew, Talmadge "Cash" Nowden, and Crystal Young-Terrell. Volunteers were Steve Hochman, Sameer Shaikh, and Wendy Brame-Bogie. Steve (rated about 2000) and Sameer (age 13, about 1600) acted as practice partners while Wendy did ball pick-up the whole time. Their help was greatly appreciated! Here's a group photo. I got caught with my mouth open wide. As the picture is taken I'm leading the group in a chorus of, "Steve can't smash!"

The camp was made possible by a grant to USATT from the USOC. Not only is the entire camp paid for - the players don't pay a cent - but they sent a large box of goodies for the players, via Paddle Palace. Each of the players received a very nice Stiga blade and sponge. I don't remember the model or types as I'm more versed with Butterfly equipment, but it was top-of-the-line rackets and sponge. The sponge was a type of tensor sponge, and probably retails at $50 to $60 a sheet. I spent a large chunk of time on Monday night putting the rackets together. I'll try to remember to jot down the type for tomorrow. Besides the rackets and sponge, they received Paddle Palace racket cases, free lunches, and each received a one-year membership to MDTTC. 

The focus on the first day was the basics - grip, stance, forehand, and backhand. The main difference from other camps was that we can't be as strict on technique, both because of disabilities, and because some of them have played many years. For example, the oldest, Bernard, 78, has been playing for longer than I've been alive (I'm 54), and uses an extreme backhand grip, and uses the same side for both forehand and backhand. Rather than try to change that the focus for him is to make sure he strokes the ball from both sides, and not just keep the ball in play. From his grip I thought he'd be very backhand oriented, with a weak backhand - but it turned out to be the reverse, with a soft backhand but a very aggressive forehand. So when I worked with him the focus was to play his backhand more aggressively. It reminded me of the story of how Dan Seemiller as a junior went to Dell Sweeris for coaching, and rather than change Dan's "Seemiller" grip, Dell just made sure he stroked the ball rather than just block - and of course Dan went on to be a five-time USA Men's Singles Champion with the grip, where he also hit both forehands and backhands with the same side. 

I set up a six-player rotation, where players had six stations: multiball with me, robot, hitting with Steve, hitting with Sameer, and two of them hitting together (the last counted as two stations). 

We ended the first day with the "ten-cup challenge," where I stacked the cups in a pyramid, and each player had ten shots to see how many they could knock down. One player did all ten, and I think two others did nine. All got at least five. 

New Full-time Club

I've added the Boston TT Academy to the list of full-time clubs in the U.S., raising the number to 74. 

Table Tennis Tutorial in Chinese

Here's the video (59 min), a "Table Tennis Tutorial from Beginner to Advanced, the Secret of the Chinese Team."

Side-to-Side Footwork

Here's the video (2:39) of kids in a junior program doing it really well.

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

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

  • Day 5: Why President Sharara Can Leave the ITTF Presidency with Satisfaction 

IOC President Thomas Bach Gets TT Lesson from Jorgen Persson

Here's the ITTF article and picture.

Aerobic Table Tennis

Here's the new trailer (35 sec).

Another Superstar USA Junior Girl

Forget Ariel Hsing, Lily Zhang, Crystal Wang, Amy Wang, and all the others not mentioned. Here's the future of USA Women!

Spiderman Pong!

Yep, the superhero plays, and so does Pikachu - here's the proof! "P is for Peter Parker Playing Ping-Pong with Pikachu."

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August 26, 2014

Disabled Veterans Camp

I'm running into a time crunch - I was up late last night working on two timely projects, and this morning I'm coaching a disabled veterans camp. (So blog is a little shorter this morning than usual.) Any locals who want to volunteer to help out as practice partners or ball pickup, email me. The camp is Tue-Fri, 10AM-1PM.

Professional Table Tennis Clubs Association

I've toyed with setting up a Professional Table Tennis Club Association (PTTCA), for full-time clubs. As I've blogged a number of times, I consider the rise of full-time table tennis centers in the U.S. to be the best thing that's happened to table tennis in this country in decades - and nothing else is even close. Here's a current listing which I maintain, with a few more to be added soon.

This is where you get both large numbers of junior players, and elite players as well. Want to develop players who can compete for medals? Well, where do they come from? From junior programs, where they train regularly from a young age with top coaches. Where do they do this? At training centers, where top coaches can make a living as professional coaches while running these junior programs. So if you want to develop medal contenders, you need to develop junior programs and training centers - they go together. It's always been somewhat of an eyebrow raiser that this isn't obvious to everyone, and yet it somehow isn't. It's only in roughly the last eight years that we've seen these training centers pop up all over the U.S., and with it, we now have the strongest players in our history at the cadet and under level (15 and under). Both the level and depth is way, way beyond what it was before.

So should there be an association for these centers? What would be its purpose? What would be the incentive for a professional club to join? Should the association focus on developing new centers or on the current ones? Your comments are welcome.

Serve and Receive Practice

Here's my periodic reminder - have you practiced your serves recently? If not, get a bucket of balls and go to it! It's the quickest way to improve. (Here's my Ten-Point Plan to Serving Success.) Just as importantly, have you practiced your receive? If not, get a bucket of balls and have someone serve to you! (Here's my article Why to Systematically Practice Receive.)

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

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

  • Day 6: Zoran Primorac Credits Sport for Making Him a Better Person
  • Day 7: Ivan Santos Ortega: We Must Create a Mystique about Table Tennis

Dimitrij Ovtcharov: Way to the Top

Here's a great video (7:46) that features the world #4 player - and the first point (against Timo Boll) is incredible!

Westchester Open Final

Here's the video (15:38) of the final this past weekend between Qing Feng Guang (rated 2770) and Kai Zhang (rated 2666). Qing is the chopper.

Samsonov Extends Record for Winning World Tours

Here's the ITTF article about his winning #34 (Belarus Open), the most ever. Second is Wang Liqin with 31.

Jorgen Persson Commends Fan Zhendong's Performance

Here's the article on the Chinese's star's performance in winning gold at the Youth Olympic Games.

Chinese Team Supports & Donates to the ALS Association

Here's the article and video. (Yes, ice bucket challenges taken, including by Liu Guoliang, Zhang Jike, Ma Long, and Wang Hao.)

More Ice Bucket Challenges

Here are more from prominent players.

Choo-Choo Pong

Here's the cartoon.

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August 25, 2014

Tip of the Week

Semi-Circular Motion on Serves.

Serving Tips

My last three Tips of the Week have been on serving. On August 11 I did Ten Steps to a Great Service Game. But when I did so, I realized I didn't have article explaining #5 and #6 (which go together) and #10. And so on August 18 and August 25 (this morning) I did The Purpose of the Serve and Semi-Circular Motion on Serves. I've now updated the Ten Steps to a Great Service Game article, with links to these two Tips. I'm also going to post the Tip here.

Ten Steps to a Great Service Game

  1. Learn to serve with lots of spin by accelerating the racket through the ball and grazing it.
    (Here's the article Serving Short with Spin. Here's another, Five Steps to a Great Spin Serve.)
  2. Learn to serve various spins, including backspin, side-backspin, sidespin, side-topspin, and topspin, and be able to serve with sidespin in either direction.
    (Here's the article Importance of Serve Variety.)
  3. Learn to serve low.
    (Here's the article Serving Low.)
  4. Learn to control the depth and direction of the serve.
    (Here's the article Depth Control of Serves.)
  5. Learn to serve with spin using a semi-circular motion so you can create different spins with the same motion by varying where in the motion you contact the ball. 
    (Here's the article Semi-Circular Motion on Serves.)
  6. Learn to minimize and do quickly this semi-circular motion so receiver has trouble picking up contact.
    (See same article linked in #5.) 
  7. Learn to change the direction of your follow-through with your racket the split second after contact to mislead the receiver.
    (Here's the article Exaggerate the Opposite Motion on Serves.)
  8. Learn to fake spin and serve no-spin by contacting the ball near the handle.
    (Here's the article Those Dizzying No-Spin Serves.)
  9. Learn to serve fast & deep as a variation to your spin serves.
    (Here's the article Fifteen Important Deep Serves. Here's another, Turn Opponents into Puppets with Long Serves. Here's How to Ace an Opponent.)
  10. Learn to follow up your serves.
    (Here's the article The Purpose of the Serve.)

Upcoming Stuff

With summer over and kids back in school, you'd think I'd be less busy. I thought so too. But it seems my todo list always grows to encompass all time available. Here's a Top Twelve list from my todo list.

  1. Run Disabled Veterans Camp, Aug. 26-29, Tue-Fri.
  2. Afterschool program at MDTTC. Mon-Fri I'm back to picking up kids Mon-Fri at school for the afterschool program, and then helping run it.
  3. Group coaching. I'll be running junior programs Sat 10:30AM-Noon, Sun 4:30-6:00, and Thur 6-7PM.
  4. Private coaching. I'm putting together my fall schedule now. I'll likely be doing about 12-15 hours per week, more if I have the energy.
  5. The daily blog and Tips of the Week.
  6. I'm getting interviewed for a table tennis feature. I'll post a link to the interview when it comes out, which should be soon.
  7. General promotional and other work for MDTTC. This afternoon I need to put aside at least an hour to reglue numerous beginner paddles at MDTTC, since the sponge is coming off many of them. I'm also planning a Multiball Seminar for parents, so they can work with their kids. I also have to put together the September MDTTC Newsletter.
  8. Upcoming books. I plan on doing new photos and then a rewrite of my previous book, "Table Tennis: Steps to Success" (which is no longer in print), tentatively retitled "Table Tennis Fundamentals." I'm also planning a rewrite of "Instructors Guide to Table Tennis," which is no longer in print.  I'm also planning on writing "Parents Guide to Table Tennis."
  9. Read and review recent table tennis books: The Next Step by Alex Polyakov, and Get Your Game Face On Like the Pros by Dora Kurimay and Kathy Toon. I've been putting it off all summer - was just too busy, and frankly, when I'm exhausted from coaching, I prefer to read SF at night.
  10. From Sept. 29 to roughly Oct. 10, Tim Boggan moves in with me so we can put together the pages for History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 15, which covers 1986-1988. (It really covers 1986-87, but goes into the beginning of 1988.)
  11. I'm doing the final rewrite on my SF novel "Campaign 2100: Rise of the Moderates," which covers the election for president of Earth in the year 2100 - where the whole world has adopted the American two-party electoral system. I wrote this several years ago, but just had it critiqued at a writing workshop and so have lots of rewriting to do. (As I've noted in previous blogs, it stars a table tennis player and has numerous table tennis scenes.) I also have three short stories in various stages of completion.
  12. If I seem tired these days, it's because I'm eating less. I've gone from 195 to 183 lbs in six weeks, and plan to continue right on to 170. I expect to reach 175 by the time Tim Boggan moves in on Sept. 29, and then (alas), as he likes to eat and takes me with him, I'll probably gain a few over the next ten days. But I hope to get to 170 by the end of October.  

Coaching Articles from Samson Dubina

Here are recent coaching articles from the Ohio coach.

Table Tennis Training with "The Wheel"

Here's the video (36 sec). Even if you don't have such a wheel, this is how you can do footwork training with a robot that hits to one spot - alternate hitting an actual ball, and move to the other side to shadow practice a shot, and then move back to hit the next shot, and so on. (I used to have a wheel like this but it broke.)

Corkscrew Return from Waldner

Here's the article and video (1:55).

Atlanta International Academy

Here's the USATT article. How many people remember before we had all these top training centers popping up all over the U.S.? It used to be a barren wasteland out there. There used to be a lot of USATT "leaders" who doubted there would ever be a demand for these things!!! (I remember arguing about this with certain short-sighted USATT board members at the December, 2006 board meeting.)

Belarus Open Men's and Women's Final

Here are the Men's and Women's Finals at the Belarus Open this past weekend, with the time between points removed. Here's a picture of the champions. Here's the ITTF home page for the event, with results, articles, pictures, and video. This was the first ITTF Pro Tour Event that used the new non-celluloid balls. They also experimented with playing without service lets! Not sure yet how that went off - I'm sure there'll be an article on this.

  • Men's Final (5:32) - Vladimir Samsonov (BEL) d. Wang Zengyi (POL), 6,4,-8,3,6.
  • Women's Final (8:18) - between Sayaka Hirano (JPN) vs. Misaki Morizono (JPN), 5,6,9,-10,-5,-6,9.

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

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

  • Day 8: Chan Foong Keong Gives Advice to Associations Hoping to Host ITTF Events
  • Day 9: The ITTF’s First-Ever Competition Manager Zlatko Cordas Reminisces

MDTTC August Open

We had a 2-star tournament at my club this past weekend. Here are the main results. You can get complete results (care of Omnipong) here.

MDTTC Open
Maryland Table Tennis Center, August 23-24, 2014
Director: Charlene Liu. Referee: Paul Kovac.
Open Singles - Final: Chen Bo Wen d. Wang Qing Liang, -13,2,5,9,-9,8; SF: Chen d. Raghu Nadmichettu, 4,-9,6,7,-9,7; Wang d. Khaleel Asgarali, 6,5,9,6; QF: Chen d. John Wetzler, 9,7,5; Asgarali d. Stefano Ratti, 8,6,-11,9; Nadmichettu d. Bojun Zhangliang, -8,11,11,-10,6; Wang-bye.
Under 2400 - Final: Khaleel Asgarali d. Raghu Nadmichettu, 8,8,-9,13; SF; Asgarali d. Humayun Nasar, 5,-6,1,4; Nadmichettu d. Stefano Ratti, -11,-11,7,8,8.
Under 2250 - Final: Nasruddin Asgarali d. Lixin Lang, -9,-6,9,5,8; SF: Asgarali d. Ryan Dabbs, 1,8,8; Lang d. Humayun Nasar, 5,4,4.
Under 2050 - Final: Gong Yunhua d. Joshua Tran, -5,-7,5,9,10; SF: Gong d. Gary Schlager, 9,-6,-10,3,7; Tran d. Carlos Williams, 9,7,-7,9.
Under 1900 - Final: Justin Bertschi d. Michael Greenbaum, 8,-10,8,-6,7; SF: Bertschi d. Gordon Lee, -10,2,4,6; Greenbaum d. Ara Sahakian, 2,6,10.
Under 1650 - Final: Chanakya Anne d. Jozef Simkovic, -8,9,6,-4,10; SF: Anne d. Gordon Lee, 4,9,9; Simkovic d. Hu Yingyao, 6,8,-10,-6,9.
Under 1400 - Final RR: 1st. Huang Siliang, 4-0; 2nd Benjamin Clark, 3-1; 3rd William Huang, 1-3; 4th Pelle Deinoff, 1-3; 5th Ian Dominguez, 1-3.
Under 1150 - Final: Pelle Deinoff d. Benjamin Clark, 6,4,4; SF Deinoff d. Ian Dominquez, 8,9,-10,9; Clark d. Krishna Ganti, 11,-10,3,-9,7.
Under 13 - Final: Daniel Sofer d. Benjamin Clark, 9,4,8; SF: Sofer d. Emily Yuan, 4,5,1; Clark d. William Huang, 6,5,-6,10.

New York Jets Table Tennis Tournament

Here's the article and video (6:31).

Ice Bucket Challenges

Here are more from prominent players.

Table Tennis in Space

Here's the cartoon.

Non-Table Tennis - Orioles Top Ten List

Orioles Hangout published another of my infamous lists, "Top Ten to Stop the Orioles Historic Two-Game Utter Collapse." (They've now lost three in a row, but still lead the division by six games over the Yankees.)

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August 22, 2014

USATT National Volunteer Coordinator

One of the best things USATT has done in recent times is create the position of National Volunteer Coordinator. Here's the info page where you can apply for the position. Even if you aren't selected for the position you might get selected for another volunteer position, based on your skills and interests. So now's the time to apply - or would you rather just sit around watching TV? I hope not!

Here's a short description of the position:

"This position's primary responsibilities are to plan and organize volunteer programs associated with USA Table Tennis's board of directors, committees, and staff efforts. Individuals who are not selected for the primary position, but bring value, will be referred to the selected individual as possible assistant coordinators."

I hope USATT will feature this prominently on their front page and in the magazine. When the notice first came out I think it was on the front page for a day or so, but now it's mostly buried in the news items. If you page down a bit there's a block about this on the USATT home page, but few will see it unless they are looking for it. (Also, it just says, "Opening Position: National Volunteer Coordinator." How about something catchier, like "Would You Like to be USATT's Volunteer Coordinator? USATT Needs Your Help!") Until the deadline comes up on Oct. 15, I'd like to see this featured all over the place, so we get as many applicants as possible, both for this position and for others who are willing to volunteer on other things.

I'm a member of Science Fiction Writers of America, which is nearly all volunteer run. They run regional conventions with over 1000 participants and national ones with 6000. (For comparison, USATT's U.S. Open and Nationals generally get 700 or so players, though they break 1000 sometimes. Regional tournaments get about 200 players.) Who runs these conventions? Volunteers. Who does the membership stuff? Volunteers. Who does their web pages? Volunteers. Who does their promotional work? Volunteers. And it all gets done very smoothly. The irony is their politics is even nastier than USATT's at its worst - these are people who are good with words and not afraid to use them. But they keep the politics (in particular policy making) and the volunteer stuff completely separate. (I'm also a former member of the U.S. Tennis Association, and they also make similar use of volunteers.) 

A key thing to understand is the difference between "fairness issues" and "progressive issues." Both are important, but need to be handled differently. It is the fairness issues that tend to get political, and so we don't want the same people handling fairness issues and progressive issues. (There can be people who work on both, but they too need to keep these types of issues separate.) Progressive issues can also be political, but far less so as they are actually doing things that are presumably positive for the sport.  

Fairness issues include such things as working out policy for choosing teams; choosing the site for U.S. Opens and Nationals; disciplinary proceedings; and other issue where it's important to be fair, and so you don't want just one person making the decision. Fairness issues should usually be decided by committee. In most cases, once the committee makes a recommendation, the USATT Board of Directors should go with it, unless there's something really wrong with the recommendation. More importantly, the USATT CEO and other such leaders should stay out of these issues when possible, going with the committee decisions whenever possible so they can focus on progressive issues.

Progressive issues are those that develop and promote the sport and/or organization. You do not want a committee doing these. Committees are great for working out the fairest way of doing something, but for progressive issues you need someone to take charge. So unless you have a committee chair who is able and willing to take charge and get things done, and committee members willing to act as only advisors while the chair actually does everything (unless they are asked to do specific tasks), committees don't get much done. For progressive issues, you need to put someone in charge and assign him a specific area where he has authority - and then let him go to work. If he messes up, he can always be reined in afterwards or replaced. Sometimes the person in charge works alone, sometimes he has others working for him - but he needs to be in charge and given the freedom to work on his area of authority and expertise.

In USATT, we have lots of committees. In recent times they were renamed "Advisory Committees," to make clear they only advise. So who does the actual progressive work? Neither USATT nor SFWA have the staff to do these things. So we need to bring in volunteers.

The National Volunteer Coordinator wouldn't be doing any volunteer work except for one thing - he'd be in charge of the other volunteers. Here's an example of how I see it working, which would be similar to SFWA.

Recently Lily Zhang won the bronze medal at the Youth Olympic Games. USATT doesn't really have someone to write and send out press releases, follow up with phone calls and more press releases, and in general work with the press to maximize publicity. What it could do is have several press volunteers, one perhaps for each of the following:

  • U.S. Open and Nationals
  • Elite players
  • Paralympics
  • Juniors
  • Seniors
  • Coaches
  • Leagues
  • Tournaments

Then, whenever something happens in one of these realms, that volunteer would spring into action. There'd almost be a friendly competition between the press volunteers to see who can get the most press! There would be some overlap, but the volunteers can either work out who works on which ones, or both send out press releases. The more the better!

Similarly we'd want volunteers who take care of other aspects for USATT. For another example, take coaching. As I've blogged about repeatedly in recent years, the single best thing that's happened to table tennis in the U.S. in recent times is the rise of full-time training centers, from less than ten in 2006 to about 75 now. USATT has never gotten involved in this, so every time a top coach wants to create a training center or a junior program, he has to start from scratch, perhaps questioning current ones to find out what needs to be done. There's a lot of reinventing the wheel. That's a major brake on the creation of these training centers - and anyone thinking we're anywhere close to approaching our limit with 75 isn't paying attention. With a little streamlining, we could end up with 500 to 1000 around the country.

But we need a volunteer who is in charge of the creation of a manual for creating training centers, who would recruit others to do most of the work, with payment for those workers in the form of commissions when it sells on Amazon, or perhaps a small direct payment from USATT. (I can assist with part about getting published on Amazon - I'm pretty experienced.) We'd have another in charge of recruiting coaches who wish to create training centers or junior programs, who'd put notices out everywhere - USATT magazine and web page, emails to coaches and top players, etc., promoting the idea that they can make a very nice living as a table tennis coach. We'd have another who would coordinate coaches to train these coaches, something I've toyed with doing, perhaps with a Hodges Coaching Academy. (I've already written the manual for much of this, the Professional Table Tennis Coaches Handbook, which I'd let USATT use at cost if they ever make these things a priority. The manual explains the professional side of table tennis coaching, i.e. how to make a living at it by getting students, keeping them, getting places to play, maximizing income, etc. )

USATT already does this sort of thing in some ways, such as the National Tournament Coordinators, where eight volunteers do the tournament sanctioning, reporting to National Coordinator Larry Thoman, but mostly working independently. This is the model we could use for other aspects of USATT volunteerism. In this case the "fairness issues" were worked out in advance by the USATT Tournament Advisory Committee, which set up the rules and guidelines for sanctioning, but then the progressive work - the sanctioning part - is done by specific volunteers.

Not Recognizing a "Prominent" Player

Yesterday I went to the club to do some private coaching. As I went to my table in the back I glanced over at one of the front tables and noticed we had some new girl dressed in a USA uniform. I didn't look closely as I was in a hurry to get to my table. (I was early, but so was my student, who was following me.) During the lesson, from across the room I saw the girl play some more, and while she looked somehow familiar, I didn't recognize her - the club is pretty big, so it was a good distance. Then Coach Jack Huang walked by, and I asked her who it was. He broke up laughing, and finally told me. It was Crystal Wang! You know, the girl from our club since age 7 (she's now a very tall 12), who'd I'd worked with countless times (though Jack is her primary coach), and coached many times in tournaments! The youngest in U.S. history to make the U.S. Team and win Under 22 at the Nationals! The highest rated of her age in history at about 2400! In fairness to me, I was watching from across the room; she'd been training in China for seven weeks and I'd been told wouldn't be back for another week; and she'd both grown another inch or two and had a new hair style.

New Poly Balls: How Do We Bounce?

Here's the article from Butterfly Mag.

Belarus Open: Non-Celluloid Balls, No Service Let Rule

Here's the article. The tournament, held Aug. 21-14, is the first international competition to use the non-celluloid ball. But they are also experimenting with not having a let on net serves. This means if the serve nicks the net, the point continues.

Lily Zhang Wins Bronze at Youth Olympic Games

Here's the USATT article on her win this past weekend. Here's USATT Board Chair Mike Babuin's congratulatory note to her.

Table Tennis Players Crib Sheet

Here's the article, which is about how fast the sport is and how you need to rely not just on your eyes but on your ears as well. One confusing statement - it says, "Sound helps the player because it reach[es] the brain 300 hundreds of a second faster than just using your eyes." This doesn't make sense, since light travels about 186,000 miles per second (i.e. sight), while sound at sea level travels about 760 miles per hour, or about 0.21 miles per second (i.e. hearing), meaning light travels almost 900,000 times faster than sound.

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

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

  • Day 10: Krisztina Tόth Advises Players & the ITTF to Collaborate to Create Stars

Table Tennis Brand Name Artwork

Here's the latest artwork from Mike Mezyan - or should we call this wordwork?

Ice Bucket Challenges

Here are three more prominent ones from a pair of Germans, a Swede, and a Frenchman. I was going to post more from "regular" players, but there are just too many. Note that Dmitrij challenged Jan-Ove Waldner - can't wait to see that!

Twelve Weird and Wonderful Ping Pong Videos

Here they are! I've linked to a few of these in the past. My favorites are #5 ("PongQuest") and #7 ("Ping Pong" – Armin Van Buuren).

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August 21, 2014

Ice Bucket Challenge - My Video

I was challenged to do the ice bucket challenge by Nathan Hsu, who will rue the day. For those of you living under a ping-pong ball or lost in a forest of long pips, this is a charity for ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), better known as Lou Gehrig's disease. Find out more at the ALS Association home page.

I put together a skit for my ice water dousing. Dumping a bucket of ice water on my head wasn't enough for me. Special thanks to Leon Bi and Darwin Ma for their help.

I have challenged three others: Todd Sweeris, Jim Butler, and Dan Seemiller Sr. They have 24 hours to complete their assignment of either dumping a bucket of ice water on their heads or donating $100 to ALS!

While we're on the subject, here are a few others that have come up since yesterday (when I posted others) in the table tennis world:

USATT's July Meeting

Here are the minutes to the meeting, which went up yesterday. A few items I found interesting:

  1. In D-Magazine, it says, "About $10,000 in advertisements were sold in the Spring Issue, which resulted in a $4,000 shortfall to projections." In my blog on February 11, 2014 on the cancellation of the print magazine and going digital, I wrote, "But they'll lose money on advertising and membership." I also wrote, "I'm told they are budgeting advertising to stay the same, which of course won't happen." Of course it was going to drop - anyone in the industry knows you get more ad revenue from print than online. But for some reason USATT budgeted something that they should have known wouldn't happen. Roughly multiply this time six, and at the end of the year they are going to have a roughly $24,000 shortfall. Or maybe, just to spite me, they'll focus on advertising and get ad revenue back up!

    This isn't me retroactively criticizing; I wrote this as soon as they cancelled the print version and went all-digital. It was an easy prediction. I still believe they messed up badly here, and should have kept the print magazine, added the online version (which is easy to produce once you have the print version), and simply increase ad rates because of the added online exposure. This would have substantially increased revenue without cancelling the print magazine that was such a valuable tool to clubs for promoting our sport, as well as for the roughly 1/3 of our membership who get nothing from USATT except the magazine. The loss in ad revenue is verified, but we may never know how many members we lost (or will lose) when they discover they no longer get the magazine.

    But even before the drop in advertising they were only getting $14,000 in ad revenue. That's almost exactly what I'd brought it up to when I resigned as editor at the end of 2006 (though I did two more issues in 2007). Adjusted for inflation, I was bringing in about $16,500/issue. (When I first took over in my first tenure as editor, ad revenue was running at $2300/issue. I brought that up to $5500/issue. When I took over for my second tenure, ad revenue had dropped a little - forget the exact amount - but over the next eight years I brought it up to $14,000.)

    One thing I'm confused about. In these minutes, it says that the Spring issue received about $10,000 in advertisements, about $4000 short of projections. But in the May 19 minutes, it says, "The digital magazine generated $9000 in ad revenue for the Spring 2014 issue, constituting a $6,000 shortfall to budgeted revenue." So one says there was $10,000 in revenue, the other $9000; one says a $6000 shortfall, the other $5000. It can't be both. (I blogged about this on July 15. But there is a discrepancy in their numbers.)

  2. There are two items of direct interest to coaches, so I'll paste them both here.  Coaches, take notice! (Here's the link to the SafeSport info page - you have to click on the attachments at the end to do the background checks.)
    1. K. USATT's SafeSport Program - Background Checks, RailStation Rollout
      ​​USATT is fully committed to implementing the SafeSport program as mandated by the U.S. Olympic Committee ("USOC").  Our SafeSport program now appears on USATT's website, with 50 coaches completing background checks.  It is reasonable to give coaches notice of an August 1st deadline to complete their background checks. Mr. Scudner suggested that USATT provide a "SafeSport" informational packet to its clubs which includes a notice that their coaches must complete background checks.  Mr. Gheorghe will send an email to coaches containing an easily accessible website link to the SafeSport program. 
    2. V. Fede Bassetti - Coaching Presentation
      Mr. Bassetti presented a coaching education program based upon the ITTF curricula (i.e., levels 1, 2, and 3) to the Board.  Under his program, coaches receive certification at the end of a two year program, consisting of 40 credits of continuing education. Under his approach, schools are categorized as competitive, developmental, recreational, and business.  Each school is divided into 4 levels of coaches.  He seeks USATT's and ITTF's endorsement of his program and $2500 to $5000 to create each course.  Coaches would maintain their teaching credentials on two year cycles, with background checks every two years. Mr. Danner recommended that he speak with professional table tennis coaches/training centers for their feedback.

      The COB said that the USATT will send its questions to Mr. Bassetti via email, and the Board then will revisit this program after Mr. Gheorghe and Mr. Basetti review the certification system we now have in place--this should not occur until after the new CEO has been recruited.  Additionally, all USATT coaches must complete their background checks by August 1st, or they will be removed from the list of active coaches.  Tentatively, the Board may address the coaching issues at its December meeting.

    3. Here's info on upcoming U.S. Opens and Nationals.
      Y. Future Tournaments
      Currently, the 2015 U.S. Nationals and U.S. Open are planned to be held in Las Vegas.  Dallas submitted a bid for the U.S. Open, and a Dallas information packet was distributed to Board members.  
    4. I blogged about the National Volunteer Coordinator position before, but here it is in the minutes. I may blog more about this later. This is a great idea - why not apply? Even if you don't become the National Volunteer Coordinator there'll be plenty of volunteer positions they'll be looking to fill.
      MOVED that the Board adopt the proposal to develop the position of National Volunteer Coordinator and request that the CEO proceed as soon as possible to find a volunteer to fill this position.
      Movant: Han Xiao
      Second: Anne Cribbs
      Discussion:  The USATT, with its limited resources, should create an organized volunteer organization. When the Board has tasks to be performed, expertise is needed to carry out these tasks.  A National Volunteer Coordinator position should be created, reporting to the Board.  The Coordinator's job will be to work with staff and volunteers, perhaps on a daily basis, to accomplish the Board's assigned tasks.  Expenses for this Coordinator will be minimal at first--the Coordinator will present an annual report once a year to the Board and occasionally report progress at Board teleconference meetings. 

Forehand Loop Technique - Correct Use of Legs and Waist

Here's the video (13:37) by Gregg Letts.

USA Youth Olympic Games Home Page

The page now has a number of quotes from Lily Zhang, Coach Lily Yip, and a slideshow at the end featuring Zhang and Krish Avvari, the other USA player.

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

Former USATT President Sheri Pittman Cioroslan is doing an article every day during the last 100 days of Adham Sharara's ITTF presidency, counting downwards from 100. Previous ones are linked from the USATT News page, as well as in my past blogs. Ninety down, 10 to go!

Day 11: Michel Gadal Urges Worldwide Table Tennis Family to Embrace P5 Plan

People in Sports Who Are Unexpectedly Ripped

Here's Wang Liqin in the listing. But this is true of essentially every top table tennis player. "Unexpectedly"? Only to the non-table tennis person.

Beat the Best, Beat Jean-Michel Saive

Here's the ITTF article on the contest, sponsored by Stiga, where you challenge the competitive Saive to various contests.

Floor Table Tennis

Here's the article and video (1:11). "If your kids aren’t quite tall enough to see over a table tennis table yet, consider floor table tennis."

Berlin Style Ping-Pong

Here's the article and pictures of this new type of table tennis that's sweeping the world!

Clayton Kershaw Plays Table Tennis

Here's a new video (5:24) of the Dodger superstar pitcher where he talks about his table tennis and his charity table tennis event.  

Jorgen Persson, Chef

Here's the picture from the Youth Olympic Games. I mean, gee whiz, the guy hasn't been World Men's Singles Champion since 1991, the last of his World Team Champion titles was in 2000, and he hasn't been world #1 since 1991-1992. He obviously needs a new line of work.

Dogs Playing Table Tennis to Music

Here's the video (15 sec)! This is hilarious. Can someone translate the Asian words that come up right at the end?

Non-Table Tennis: Baltimore Orioles

They now have a nine-game lead on the Toronto Blue Jays, 9.5 games on the Yankees. As some readers know, I often get published at Orioles Hangout, mostly with humorous stories or top ten lists. I just created this image for them that shows the state of the American League East.

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August 20, 2014

Lily Zhang Wins Bronze at Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, China

In the battle for the bronze, USA's Lily defeated Japan's Kato Miyu in a close battle, -10,9,10,-9,9,8. Every game but the last was decided by two points. Lily seemed more calm and won most of the key points, while Kato seemed very nervous. Lily dominated the rallies throughout the match. Kato, looking tight, often was blocking on the forehand rather than counter-attacking, while Lily came at her from both wings with non-stop topspins. Kato had a slight edge on serve and receive, and often challenged Lily with deep serves that Lily had some trouble with. If not for Kato's serves, Lily probably would have won comfortably 4-0. In the first game, Kato led 10-8, but Lily won two nice rallying points before Kato won in deuce. And while Kato seemed the nervous one, it was Lily who led 2-1 in games and 9-4 in the fourth, and "calmly" lost seven in a row. But Lily's superior rallying made her win seem almost inevitable, even though the games were close. At 8-all in the sixth, Lily won the last three points with three great rallies.

Here are two screen shots taken right after Lily's win, with match coach Lily Yip in the background. Here's the ITTF article on the match. Here's Matt Hetherington's blog about the match. Here is the ITTF home page for the event, with articles, results, video, and pictures. (China swept the singles, with Fan Zhendong winning Junior Boys' Singles, and Liu Gaoyang Junior Girls' Singles.) Here's the USATT page for the event. Here's Lily Zhang's "selfie interview" (2:02) after winning in the quarterfinals. Here's her "selfie interview" (21 sec) after winning the bronze medal. Here's the entire match (1:11:58, with the match actually beginning at 8:18). Or you can watch just the last point (1:41) and the aftermath. Here she is with the medal.

Hong Kong Junior and Cadet Open Revisited

I blogged yesterday about the problem with the USATT rules for choosing which players could represent them in singles in international play. In it I wrote, "This is not about the two players who played, their club, or their coach; it's about very bad rules set up by USATT that led to a very unfair outcome." I just want to be clear about this. The coach, Lily Yip, actually helped Nathan get entered in the Hong Kong Open, which turned out to be a rather long and difficult task. Her help was appreciated. I'm also glad USATT will apparently change the rules.

Top Ten Craziest Things I've Done in Table Tennis

  1. In 1977, when I was 17, I saw a bunch of cheap sandpaper rackets on sale for $1 each. I bought ten, and brought them to a tournament. I broke them all ten of them, one by one, whenever I lost a match that day.
  2. After losing a match in 1977 I locked myself in a closet for an hour.
  3. In 1978, when I was 18, I played in 33 tournaments, including 12 consecutive weekends
  4. For lunch at a training camp when I was 19 I pulled out an entire loaf of Wonder Bread, made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches out of the whole thing, and ate it all in one sitting. (I was showing off.)
  5. After winning the 1980 North Carolina Open a bunch of players took me to dinner, and challenged me to see how much I could eat. (They were treating.) I ate two spaghetti dinners, a small pizza, an Italian submarine, three bread rolls, and washed it all down with three Cokes. (I was showing off.)
  6. On a dare from other table tennis players around 1980 I ate a quarter cup of hot sauce.
  7. At a training camp around 1980 I let U.S. Team Member Rick Seemiller jump off a chair onto my stomach twice. I also let others jump up and down on my stomach. (I used to do sit-ups regularly, and once set a school record with 87 bent-knee sit-ups in a minute.)
  8. A few years ago I gave detailed instructions from my notes to a player on how to beat a certain player. After he went out to play I realized I'd read him the notes from the wrong player! However, the player was so confident in knowing how to play this player that he executed the strategy flawlessly, and won easily. Afterwards he thanked me for the great tactics. (Who were the players? I'll go to my grave before I tell anyone.)
  9. At the U.S. Open Teams in Detroit in the early 1990s, in the match to decide whether our team would move up a division, we played a team made up of three 2350 players and an elderly 1950 player who was there as coach/backup player. For some reason one of the 2350 players didn't show, so at the last minute they put in the 1950 player. I beat both 2350 players, and celebrated by eating a hot dog, and generally relaxing. Then I had to play the "easy" 1950 player in the ninth match, who both of my teammates had beaten easily. I'd been standing around for something like an hour at the time, and hadn't bothered to reglue (this was back in those days). When I went out I was cold, stiff, unwarmed up, and my racket was dead from not regluing. You can guess what happened. It's still my worst loss since the early 1980s.
  10. I started a daily blog in 2011 that meant getting up early every morning, Mon-Fri, and write all sorts of stuff. What a silly thing to do!!!

Pictures from the $36,000 Butterfly LA Open

Here they are, care of Bruce Liu. (They were available yesterday, but I missed putting them in my blog.)

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

Former USATT President Sheri Pittman Cioroslan is doing an article every day during the last 100 days of Adham Sharara's ITTF presidency, counting downwards from 100. Previous ones are linked from the USATT News page, as well as in my past blogs. Eighty-nine down, 11 to go!

  • Day 12: Neil Harwood Reminds Us that We Are on the Big Stage with Other Sports

Ping Pong in the Park

Here's the article and video (3:02). "'Ping Pong in the Park,' a creative innovation by The Urban Conga in Tampa, is the latest winner of a small grant from Awesome Tampa Bay."

Kanak Jha's First Day at High School

Here's the picture, with sister Prachi Jha in her last year. How time flies!

Ice Bucket Challenge

Here are some prominent TT people doing the ice bucket challenge:

Nathan, who will rue this day for the rest of his life, challenged me - so I'll be doing it later today. Check back tomorrow for the video. 

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August 19, 2014

Hong Kong Junior & Cadet Open, and Player Selection

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maryland Table Tennis Center Video

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

Trip to Zoo (Non-Table Tennis)

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

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

Youth Olympic Games

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

$36,000 Butterfly Los Angeles Open

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

About.com Articles

Here are three new ones, including two coaching articles.

Sidespin/Topspin and Sidespin/Backspin Serve Tutorial

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

This Applies to Table Tennis

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

Table Tennis: The Best Sport Ever

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

Sometimes It Is Not Just About Winning

Here's a nice meme on this.

Is Timo Boll an Unlucky Player?

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

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

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

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

Barry Ratner Obituary

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

73 Questions with Daniel Radcliffe

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

"Ping-Pong Diplomacy" Movie Might Be Coming

Here's the article.

Electric Pong

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

Dimitri Ovtcharov Plays Clipboard Table Tennis

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

Unbreakable Ball?

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

Table Tennis Ice Bucket Challenge

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

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