Blogs

Larry Hodges' Blog and Tip of the Week will normally go up on Mondays by 1:00 PM USA Eastern time. Larry is a member of the U.S. Table Tennis Hall of Fame, a USATT Certified National Coach, a professional coach at the Maryland Table Tennis Center (USA), and author of  eight books and over 1900 articles on table tennis. Here is his bio. (Larry was awarded the USATT Lifetime Achievement Award in July, 2018.)
NOTE - Larry is on the USATT Coaching Committee, but the views he shares in his blog are his own, and do not necessarily represent the views of USA Table Tennis.

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

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

November 30, 2020

Tip of the Week
Letting an Opponent Control Play is Risky.

Sports Illustrated
They have an article in the new issue, Table Tennis Remains Diversity's Best Kept Secret. (I think it's in the December print issue.) The story features one of my students, Navin Kumar, as well as Nancy Zhou, Dr. Tsz Lun (Alan) Chu, Ibrahim Hamadtou, Anushka Oak, and Lily Zhang. Navin's involvement (and I think some of the others) came about when the writer contacted me with a series of questions about diversity in table tennis. I thought about it for a few days, and realized I was probably not the right person to interview about this. To use a metaphor, cars are important, but I'm probably not the person to interview about cars. (What's a carburetor? I have no idea.) So I sent them some other contacts, and then turned them over to Navin, who is Indian, as well as having Parkinson's (bronze in singles, silver in doubles at the 2019 World Parkinson's Table Tennis Championships) as well as having a mostly artificial heart.

Why Doesn't Table Tennis Get More Exposure?
I was asked on Facebook recently (by Mike Clardy) why our sport gets so little TV (and online) exposure from the major venues, while sports like bowling, darts, and even axe throwing get more coverage. Here was my response (with some minor updating).

It's always been a strange phenomenon that table tennis gets so little TV exposure in the US, while more obscure sports (and in some cases, "sports") are on TV. There have been a few isolated cases, such as ESPN's coverage of table tennis circa 1980, and we had some TV exposure in the early 1990s due to Dan Seemiller's efforts. But these are the exceptions. In general, table tennis doesn't get nearly as much TV exposure as other, seemingly lesser sports. The same thing applies to the various major online venues as well. But long ago I realized why. I'm going to explain with a seemingly non-related item - the history of Star Trek.

In 1964, Gene Roddenberry went to Desilu Productions with the idea for Star Trek. It was well-thought out, but was so revolutionary that it was turned down by CBS and NBC. The board of Desilu also voted against producing it - but they were overruled by their owner, Lucille Ball, of "I Love Lucy" fame. Ball liked the idea and championed it, and made Star Trek happen. If not for her, there would be no Star Trek. (Here's an article about it from Entertainment Weekly and here's another from Star Trek.com.)

How does this relate to table tennis? Well, look at all those sports and "sports" that get exposure on TV. Also look at all the bad movies and TV shows that get made. Why does that happen? Because of each of them had a "champion" who made it happen. It means that no matter what you do, there is an element of luck in getting something produced on TV.

However - and this is the BIG HOWEVER - there's a saying in sports that champions make their own luck. What that means when it comes to getting on TV is two-fold. (And now I'm going to cleverly and completely change the meaning of the word "champion.") First, you have to find your champion. Second, you have to sell your champion. In the case of Star Trek, Roddenberry went to multiple networks and studios in search of a champion, and found one in Lucille Ball. Then he was able to sell her on the idea. She championed its production, and the result is history.

In the case of all those bad movies, TV shows, and "sports" that get more TV and online coverage in the US than table tennis, they all did the same thing - they looked for and sold themselves to a champion, and that champion made it happen.

What does this mean for table tennis in the US? Occasionally someone from USATT or elsewhere looks for a champion, but is unable to sell it. Others might be able to sell it, but aren't looking for that champion, or don't know how to do so. More often, neither happens. And so (with rare, temporary exceptions), we have never found and sold ourselves to a champion to get table tennis regularly on TV in the US.

How can we change this? Simple, and by that, I mean the idea is simple, but the execution not so easy. It means going to those people (like Lucille ball) who are in a position to put both good and bad movies, TV shows, sports, and "sports" on TV and large online venues, and selling them on table tennis, just as Roddenberry did with Star Trek. It's how all those good and bad productions got on TV. All we have to do is to follow in their footsteps, and keep doing so until we find our champion - i.e. we MAKE our luck. (Hopefully as a sport, not a "sport.") If all goes well, someday someone will point at us and say, "How come a 'sport' like table tennis gets so much TV exposure, while our sport doesn't?"

One addendum I'd add to the above is that when we do get coverage, we need to make it stand out (duh!). Many focus on the personalities, which is important. But equally important, and maybe even more so, is to focus on conflicting styles. One of the reasons people love to watch Federer vs. Nadal in tennis is that clash of styles - the elegant Federer, with his power forehand and one-handed backhand, vs. the runs-down-everywhere Nadal with his topspinning forehand and two-handed backhand. One of the reasons the current world #1, Novak Djokovic, is considered boring is that he doesn't really bring anything exciting, style-wise - he's basically a robotic backboard who never misses. The same is true of the past tennis - think of the clash in styles of McEnroe (net-rusher) vs Borg (two-winged topspinner) v. Connors (aggressive flat hitter). Or boxing - who could forget the dancing, boxing style of Muhammed Ali vs. the constantly coming-at-you attack of Joe Frazier? (Okay, I'm dating myself.)

In the past, table tennis at the top had more styles, but many of those styles are almost dead now - pips-out hitters, choppers, even Seemiller grip players. The difference in styles is more subtle, so it's more important that the commentators and public relations directors emphasize the differences - for example, the backhand dominance of Japan's Tomokazu Harimoto vs. the off-table topspins of Xu Xin vs. the two-winged blistering attacks of Ma Long and Fan Zhendong.

Weekend Coaching and MDTTC Juniors
On Sunday, I worked mostly with two of the younger players in the junior session, with a focus (as usual) on fundamentals. One thing that always surprises me about younger kids - they are fascinated with serves, and given a choice, will often choose to do that (and do ball pickup!) rather than actually, you know, play!!! Afterwards, I stayed late and hit with two of our 1800 juniors. I'm way, Way, WAY out of shape after eight months of pandemic isolation (i.e. mostly sitting in my lounge chair reading, writing, doing crossword puzzles, and watching TV), and when I played a practice match with one of them, it showed.

This was the first Friday-Sunday after Thanksgiving since 1975 that I didn't play or coach at the North American Table Tennis Teams Championships (previously the US Teams). My first year was 1976, when I was 16, and it's been 44 years in a row until now. It was cancelled this year.  

All these cancelled tournaments is, of course, disappointing to the kids, who train so hard for them, as well as the incredible coaching staff that works with them. I'm pretty proud of our players. In the new rankings that came out last week (after the Presper Financial Architects Open in Ohio, which didn't get cancelled), in Hopes Boys (12 and under), my club (MDTTC) now has the #1, 3, 5, and 6 players in the country, with ratings of 2286, 2078, 2020, and 1994. We also have the #2 and #3 in 11 and under, at 2078 and 1994 - these two are also in the Hopes rankings at #3 and # 6, and have another year of eligibility. We also have the #1 in 9 and under. (The latter plays out of Philadelphia but trains with us on weekends.) We also have 7 of the 21 players in Mini-Cadet Boys (13 and under). Along with my great fellow coaches, I've worked extensively with most of these players, several of them starting out with me. Here's a listing of some of our top junior players.

  • Stanley Hsu (12, 2286, #1 in Hopes Boys, National Hopes Champion)
  • Tiffany Ke (16, 2220, #12 in Junior Girls, but recently #1 with a rating over 2400, with two years of eligibility left, National Team Squad)
  • Nicole Deng (14, 2116, National Mini-Cadet Champion, National Team Squad, trains with us on weekends)
  • Ryan Lin (11, 2078, #3 in Hopes Boys, #2 in 11 and Under)
  • William Wu (14, 2071)
  • James Zhang (13, 2059, #14 in mini-cadets)
  • Stephanie Zhang (17, 2038)
  • Lance Wei (13, 2027, #17 in mini-cadets)
  • Mu Du (12, 2020, #5 in Hopes Boys)
  • Winston Wu (11, 1994, #6 in Hopes Boys, #3 in 11 and Under)
  • Ryan Lee (13, 1986, #21 in mini-cadets)
  • Arjun Kumar (9, 1585, #1 in 9 and Under, trains with us on weekends)
  • A dozen others from 1600-1900

On Saturday, I had my weekly session with Navin Kumar. (As I've often noted, I'm retired from private coaching except for these sessions.) He made a breakthrough on attacking pushes with his long pips (no sponge), as he's gaining confidence in taking the ball right off the bounce and "bumping" it with a quick topspin. His forehand was also much stronger than usual this session. Here's video (14 sec).

World Table Tennis
Here's their home page, with the large title, "Introducing World Table Tennis: A New Perspective." WTT was set up by the ITTF to run all of their events.

Here's the ITTF home page for World Table Tennis Macao, held Nov. 25-29 in Macao, China (where they have created a "bubble" for players and others involved, due to the pandemic), with complete results, articles, pictures, and video. Note the links to Prize Money ($400,000, including $15,000 appearance fees), Playing Format, and Scoring - the latter two are especially of interest.

USATT Coverage (from World Table Tennis)

Other Articles and Video

USATT Coaches Meeting
The Zoom meeting was on Friday, Nov. 27, at 11AM. Here's video of the meeting (83 min), hosted by Sean O'Neill. The meetings usually take place the second and fourth Friday of each month, and usually last about an hour - and ALL USATT coaches are invited to attend to ask questions and give their thoughts. (Info on each meeting is posted in advance in the USATT Coaches Facebook page.) Discussions included Coaches feedback on their latest activities; Coach of the Year award; SafeSport/Background Checks; Articles for the USATT website; National Development Team; World Table Tennis Feedback; and perhaps of most interest to viewers, a great discussion of coaching between games that starts at 16:56 where all five of us give our thoughts on this. There were five of us attending:

  • USATT High Performance Director and five-time US Men's Singles Champion Sean O'Neill
  • USATT High Performance Manager and long-time USA Women's Team Coach Doru Gheorghe
  • USA National Team Coach and 8-time US Women's Singles Champion and former world #3) Gao Jun
  • USATT Certified National Coach and 2018 USATT Volunteer Coach of the Year Mike Lauro
  • Me

Champion and Great Entertainer, Jacques Secretin passes (1949-2020)
Here's the ITTF obit. He was a big star in the 1970s and 80s, reaching #3 in the world, 1976 European Men's Singles Champion, 1977 World Mixed Doubles Champion (along with four silver medals), and completely dominating French table tennis for decades. (Here's his Wikipedia page.) Besides his lefty topspin attacking, he was also known for his lobbing - when I started out in 1976, I was told he was one of the "Big Three Lobbers" - Secretin, Surbek, and Hasegawa. However, he was best known as half of the famous "Secretin-Purkart" exhibition team - he was the brilliant and incredibly skillful straight man to Vincent Purkart's clowning. Here's video from their exhibitions (8:20). Here's another article, Jacques Secrétin, the legend of table tennis, is dead, from World Today News, with more pictures and great video.

PongNow: Ty Hoff
Here's the video (20:17) by Steve Hopkins. Ty and I have a long history. I was one of his original coaches. His first coaching came at the 1980 Perry Schwartzberg Camp in Wilson, NC, where I was Perry's assistant coach. Later, Ty hired me as a private coach for I think three days in New Bern, NC. Still later, Ty and I teamed up to nine US Open and Nationals Hardbat Doubles titles. (I also won singles twice, while he won I think four times. I normally use sponge.) We also made the quarterfinals of Men's Doubles at the Nationals one year. In 1990, when I became the director of the Resident Table Tennis Program at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, I brought in Ty as the dorm manager, where he also acted as a practice partner.

New from Samson Dubina

Table Tennis VOD Review #5 - Need to Be More Stable
Here's the video (32:50) from Louis Levene, where he analyzes a match.

World's Best Table Tennis Server Par Gerell vs Dan and Tom
Here's the video (7:39) from Table Tennis Daily.

How to Reverse Serve from Basic to Professional and Tips of World Stars
Here's the video (19:55) from Ti Long.

Windshield Wiper Serve Tutorial | Short Deadball
Here's the video (9:24) from Joey Cochran at Table Tennis Junkie.

Basic Skills is the Key
Here's the video (6:28) from Table Tennis TV.

Ding Ning Full Training Session WTT MACAO 2020
Here's the video (25:14). She's the three-time World Women's Singles Champion and reigning Olympic Women's Singles Gold Medalist.

Reflections on Excellence by Michel Gadal
The book is now on sold as a Kindle book at Amazon. I reviewed the digital book in my November 9 blog.

Move Like a Table Tennis Player
Here's the article from Coach Jon.

Table Tennis Returns Thanks to You!!
Here's the ITTF video (3 min).

New from the ITTF
Here's their home page and news page.

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

ProSpin95 Table Tennis Trick Shots
Here's the video (53 sec).

Blue Funny Face Table Tennis Paddle
Imagine playing someone with this paddle!!! Wouldn't it be great if you could use rackets like this, instead of the all-one-color surfaces required?

International Political Table Tennis Cartoons
Here they are, one on climate change, and one on Greece, Turkey, EU, and Refugees.

AJAX Retro Comic Book Cover Full Fun PING Pong Black Art Print
Here's your chance to order this table tennis poster - I think it's a dog playing a kangaroo and its baby joey!

Broken Table
Here's the cartoon!

Happiness is . . .
Here's the cartoon.

New from Pongfinity!

Spider-Man into the PingPongverse - Basic Table Tennis drills with Spider-Man
Here's the video (5:49)!

Legos Table Tennis!

Non-Table Tennis - "The Untold Christmas Carol" and "Pinning the Egg"
Tangent, one of the big science fiction reviewers, did a very positive review of a current story of mine in Galaxy's Edge, "The Untold Christmas Carol," the behind-the-scenes expose of what really happened to Tiny Tim - with Satan and Benedict Arnold involved. The review finished with this: "The prose was well-paced and told in a whimsical style. A nice nugget to pass a few minutes with a smile." Here's the review. On Wednesday, I sold a humorous science fiction story to the Sci-Fi Journal, "Pinning the Egg." (It involves an alien invader and Excalibur, but in a SF fashion.)

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November 23, 2020

Tip of the Week
The Forehand Down-the Line Block and Counterloop.

USA Table Tennis Executive Directors, CEOs, Presidents, Board Chairs, and Editors
Here is the comprehensive list, which I put together for the heck of it. I've published partial lists in the past, but now they're all there!!! I'm in it for my two tenures as editor, totaling 12 years and 71 issues.

Christmas Table Tennis Book Shopping
It's that time of year again - time to do your Xmas shopping, either for some other table tennis player, or for yourself. (Interesting tidbit - I sell almost as many table tennis books in November and December as the rest of the year combined - lots of Christmas shoppers.) Here are some choices.

=>Books by Larry Hodges

=>Books by Dan Seemiller

=>Books by Samson Dubina

=>Books by Dora Kurimay

=>Books by Tim Boggan

=>Other Table Tennis Books Published in 2020

Weekend Coaching
On Sunday I mostly worked with three kids in the group session, with a huge focus on footwork and serves. For much of the session the three rotated, one with me, one practicing serves, one on ball pickup. (Halfway through I gave them the option of doing either serve practice or hitting with the robot, and they all chose more serve practice.) The down side - my neck started bothering me, and I could barely turn it by the end of the session. I'd told two high-level kids I'd play practice matches with them after the session - something I hadn't done in a while - but had to drop out because of the neck problem. It seems better this morning, but still stiff.

On Saturday I had my usually weekly session with Navin Kumar. His strength is still his backhand block (with long pips, no sponge), but his forehand is improving. During this session he started hitting harder at one point, and made some good shots, though the consistency went down - mostly because he sometimes didn't recover fast enough from the previous shot, and so was vulnerable on the next, especially if my return went deep on the table. Here's video (62 sec) of him hitting harder, and doing some footwork. (I'm retired from private coaching, other than the sessions with Navin, to get him ready for the next World Parkinson's Championships.)

Regarding weekend coaching, I was taking next weekend "off" to go coach two of our junior teams at the Westchester Teams in New York. Alas, for some strange reason (what could it be?), it got cancelled. One of the things about table tennis is that it's best if you have something to look forward to - and that usually means tournaments, whether playing or coaching at them. At this point, I'm just looking forward to the day when we all this is over.

Published Article #2000
This morning, when my Tip of the Week went up, both here and at Butterflyonline, it was an historic moment for me - it was my 2000th published article. This is in addition to 1795 blog entries (including this one) - with my 1800th blog entry scheduled to go up on Monday, Dec. 28. (If you include blog entries, that's 3795 published articles.) The articles include 1765 on table tennis; 63 non-fiction/non-table tennis (including 33 on the Baltimore Orioles, several science articles, and one in a math journal back in my math days); and 114 short story sales (plus 39 resales, 4 novels, and 15 "twitter" sales). I also have a total of 17 books, which include nine on table tennis, eight science fiction/fantasy, and one travel book. (That adds up to 18 because the novel "The Spirit of Pong" counts as both table tennis and science fiction/fantasy.) Here's a complete listing of my published work. I normally update it at the end of each month, but went ahead and updated it this morning to including all 2000 articles.

USATT High Performance Committee
The new, updated minutes are up. I blogged about this in my November 2 blog. They've taken the emails to the committee out of the minutes - but you can compare the new version with the old one, which is linked in the Nov. 2 blog. I haven't checked to see if there are other changes.

ITTF Grand Finals
Here's the info page for the event held Nov. 19-22 in Zhengzhou, China, with complete results, articles, pictures, and video. On the women's side, Chen Meng won for the fourth year in a row, after also winning the Women's World Cup two weeks before. On the men's side, Ma Long defeated Fan Zhendong in the final, reversing their result from the week before at the Men's World Cup. Here is coverage by Steve Hopkins from Butterfly:

Stupa Analytics
On Fri & Sat, Nov. 20-21, Stupa Analytics did online Zoom seminars for Clubs and Coaches, hosted by USATT and Sean O'Neill. I attended the Coaches seminar at noon on Saturday, which lasted exactly one hour, with eleven participants. Here's a screen shot. They have some really sophisticated software with a lot of features that can really analyze your table tennis game. (They currently specialize in table tennis, but plan to branch out to other sports.) The software first detects the table, ball, and players, and then analyzes the rallies - it can even distinguish between a block and a topspin stroke. For example, in one video, I wrote down its seemingly accurate analysis of a player's shot: "Not making enough space between elbow and body while playing FH topspin. Right leg weight on heel and unstable." Their front page advertises, "Get Your 1st Match Analyzed For Free!" So why not give it a try? Their services include (with the first three perhaps of greatest interest to most players):

New from Samson Dubina

New from Joey Cochran at Table Tennis Junkie

Epic Sidespin Serve Tutorial
Here's the video (19:10) by Tom Lodziak.

New from Louis Levene (Looeelooee)

How To Win A Point In Table Tennis
Here's the video (2:43) from ProSpin95 Table Tennis

Tomokazu Harimoto Practicing Serves at World Cup
Here's the video (4:07). At 17, the Japanese star is already #4 in the world. Note how much care goes into each serve - none of that rushed "serve and grab the next ball and serve again" thing that many players do, with the apparent theory that quantity is more important than quality. He also has not one, but two coaches watching over him! Interesting side note - 20 seconds in you'll see former MDTTC coach (my club) Jeffrey Zeng Xun in the foreground, briefly picking up balls and then talking on his cell phone. He shows up a few more times. (He coached Lily Zhang at the last two Women's World Cups - semifinals and quarterfinals.)

Antecedents and Consequences of Outward Emotional Reactions in Table Tennis
Here's the academic paper from Frontiers in Psychology, where "researchers analyzed footage from the finals of the youth National Championships in Greece and categorized all of the outward emotional displays as either positive, neutral, or negative. They then examined the antecedents and consequences of these displays to see if any patterns emerged." Some of it is techy; some is very readable and relatable to our own table tennis experiences. Here is the key takeaway from Kevin Finn at In the Loop ("Your concise monthly guide to the latest research pertaining to all things table tennis").

Key Takeaway:
There's a decent chance you are showing more negative emotions to your opponent than positive. When the stakes are high and the score is close, know there is a good chance you will react emotionally after the point. You should have a plan for how to handle losing a point in these situations and work on perfecting that table tennis "poker face." If you win the point, you can celebrate (you don't have to go full Harimoto), but learning to react a little more stoically when you lose the point might be a good idea. Easier said than done, I know! Note: In a recent video on mental strength, Timo Boll made this exact recommendation.

New from Steve Hopkins
(See also his coverage of the ITTF Grand Finals above.)

Making the Best of Being a Blocker
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

Table Tennis Referees
Here's the USATT article, by Wendell Dillon

The Pursuit of Belonging, Part 2
Here's the article featuring Anderson College and August College in the early 1990s, and including a link to Part 1 (which I linked to when it first came out).

TTLive Software
Here's the info page. "At TTLive.app, we have software with complete tooling for running leagues and tournaments with the ability to create pools, teams, and brackets for tournaments with the click of a button."

New from the ITTF
Here's their home page and news page.

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

Archival Footage

  • 1937 Newark, N.J. National competition (45 sec) - actually an exhibition, with Sol Schiff on left, Coleman Clark on right, both lefties.
  • 1946 US Table Tennis Championships (65 sec)
  • 1947 Worlds Finals - Bohumil Vana d. Ferenc Sido (48 sec). Vana would win in 1938 and 1947 (and likely more if not for the eight-year break because of World War 2), and lose in the final in 1948 and 1949. Sido would win in 1953, while losing in the final in 1947 and 1959. Sido was the last player to win men's singles at the Worlds with a hardbat, and the last to make the final with all hardbat. (Eberhard Schöler would make the final in 1969 with hardbat on the backhand only.)

The Best Ping Pong Movies of All Time
Here's the article, including preview videos. It's from 2019, but I don't think I've linked to it before. While we're at it, where's the Table Tennis Films Wikipedia page.

Great Hand-Switch Shot
Here's the video (10 sec) - that's a nice lefty off-the-bounce counterloop! And he did it at 9-6 in the fifth. Even the opponent clapped. There's another interesting thing about this - note how the opponent barely reacted to the lefty loop. He's obviously a good player, but table tennis reactions are done by the subconscious - and since it wasn't expecting or prepared for a sudden lefty loop, it barely reacted, and so the opponent barely waved his paddle at the ball going by. If it had been essentially the same shot, but done righty, he probably would have either returned it or made a good effort.

Fancy Ping-Pong Paddles
For the Table Tennis Nerd. Now if they only came in Tenergy...

Test Your Ping Pong IQ
Here's the video (8:49) from Adam Bobrow.

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

Baby vs. Table Tennis Balls
Here's the video (2:13) from Tom Lodziak!

Well, Kid, Ya Beat Me - Best Table Tennis Cartoon Ever
Here it is! And here's a related one that might have come just before it. Both are from The Far Side.

New from Pongfinity!

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November 16, 2020

Tip of the Week
Use Both Sides of the Body When Forehand Looping.

ITTF Men's World Cup
Here's the home page for the event, which finished yesterday in Weihai, China. Here are news articles, videos (or see them directly on Youtube), preliminary RR results (including USA's Kanak Jha's two seven-gamers), and the single eliminations results. The big news - Fan Zhendong won for the fourth time, including his third in a row! Here are some videos, with time between points removed:

Here's Men's World Cup coverage from Steve Hopkins at Butterfly:

Kanak Jha at the Men's World Cup and Some Analysis
The results for USA's Kanak Jha (world #27) could be called a well-played disappointment. He was in a preliminary group of three, top two advancing, with Liam Pitchford (ENG, world #15) and Chuang Chih-Yuan (TPE, world #30). Coaching Kanak was Jörg Bitzigeio, former USATT High Performance Director. (See also the interviews with both by Steve Hopkins below. Also, I'm told that Kanak here and Lily Zhang & Wu Yue at the recent Women's World Cup were funded by themselves and sponsors, not by USATT, primarily due to Covid-19 health and safety concerns.) The group started with Pitchford defeating Chuang, -9,6,8,11,11. Then Kanak played Pitchford and Chuang . . . and they were both wild ones, but both ended in seven-game losses for Kanak. Here are the two matches:

I haven't watched the Chuang match, but I watched the entire Pitchford match. He won the close ones (he always seems at his best when it's close), but when he lost, he lost big, averaging 4.5 points in those four games - primarily because Pitchford had adjusted to Kanak's tactics. Kanak won game three from down 4-8, 8-10.

I was impressed with Kanak's tactics and game plan against Pitchford, especially on receive. (I'm also impressed by his continual improvement over the last few years.) Like most world-class players these days, Kanak (and Pitchford) has a nice backhand banana flip, and could probably attack all of Pitchford's serves. But Pitchford is at his best about half a step back, counter-attacking off these shots. If Kanak attacks the serve, it almost plays into Pitchford's game. So Kanak avoided the temptation to attack most serves, and instead pushed most serves short, bringing Pitchford in over the table and out of his comfort zone. This allowed Kanak to often control play, even on Pitchford's serve. However, it might have been slightly overused. By about the fourth game, Pitchford was so expecting and used to these receives that they became less effective. I think the next time they play, Kanak should use the same tactic, but go ahead and attack more serves to keep Pitchford off balance, especially as the match goes on. If Pitchford has to guard more against the attack, then he won't be as ready for those short receives.

When attacking, I think Kanak attacked the corners too much. I think he often attacked the forehand to get Pitchford out of his two-winged pocket, where he's strong attacking from both wings. However, this usually led to Pitchford counterlooping cross-court to Kanak's forehand, and unless Kanak was able to counterloop the first one aggressively (and hopefully for a winner), Pitchford dominated the forehand-to-forehand counterlooping duels, since he's a natural off-table player, while Kanak plays closer to the table. When Kanak attacked the backhand, he let Pitchford play his strong backhand while staying in that pocket.

Instead, when attacking, I think Kanak needs to put a target on Pitchford's elbow and just go after it aggressively, over and over, rarely going to the corners until he sees Pitchford out of position, with a corner open. By going to the middle, it forces weaker shots (as Pitchford has to both choose between forehand and backhand and then move to the ball, and without a big angle to go for), but it also draws Pitchford out of position, and then Kanak can go for the open corner. I think Kanak knows all this, but in the heat of a rally, when he had a strong shot, he too often went to the corners. Sometimes he did this because crosscourt is usually more natural and easier (more table), but too often that gave Pitchford the chance to regain the initiative.

The other problem I saw was that by the fourth game, Pitchford was so used to Kanak's serves that he often controlled play there. Kanak pretty much served every time from the backhand corner, while Pitchford would often serve from the middle (with his reverse pendulum serve). I think Kanak would do better if he developed serve and attack patterns that start with a serve from the middle or even forehand side. This doesn't leave him in as strong a forehand position as he'd like, but the added variation makes up for that. It forces Pitchford and other opponents to adjust to a ball coming from a different angle. Serving like this and perhaps following with a backhand attack would give him more variety that the opponent would have to adjust against.

Regarding Kanak's overall game, he has a quick, aggressive topspin backhand (like Harimoto), and a quick, close-to-table forehand (also a little like Harimoto, though that's Harimoto's "weaker" side). On the forehand side, I was impressed at Kanak's ability to end the point quickly while close to the table, but he doesn't have world-class point-ending power. So he has to loop from close to the table to make up for this. When he backs up, he's not nearly as strong. Hopefully, he's doing a lot of weight training and multiball to develop power, working with an expert trainer - I'd be surprised if he's not already doing this.

If he wants to truly challenge the best players in the world (and go for medals at the 2024 Olympics - perhaps 2021, though that may be too soon) - then he needs to develop something (or somethings) that really challenges the best players. There are many possibilities - forehand, backhand, footwork, serve, receive, steadiness, etc. But here's the catch - to develop something that's so strong that it challenges the best players in the world, he can't just practice it a part of each session, and then move on to the next technique. If he does that, the techniques will likely get a little better, but not to the point where they challenge the best players. Instead, once he and his coaches decide what it is that he can develop to challenge the best players, he needs to focus on that for half or more of EVERY session, day after day for months and years, with the goal to be the best at that technique IN THE WORLD. For example, he could learn to dominate with quick, aggressive topspin backhands (like world #4 Harimoto, who is only 17 and already challenging the best Chinese), or perhaps quick forehands, or maybe receive. But it has to be something that he focuses on and strives to make the best in the world. (It's just an advanced form of Saturation Training.)

For Kanak, he might be best dominating on the backhand, with a quick, point-ending forehand when he gets the right shot. Which means, if he really wants to challenge the best, then he should spend much of every single session working on that dominating backhand (along with sudden point-ending forehands).

He might also turn receive into an over-powering strength, since this already seems a relative strength. The latter means a coach should be serving to him, over and Over and OVER, maybe 30-40 minutes at a time, maybe twice a day, while he works on developing the best receive IN THE WORLD. Most of that would be without playing out the point, so the focus is on the receive itself and to maximize the receive practice. Then he'd go on to where a practice partner/coach serves and plays one shot, so Kanak gets feedback on how strong the receive was. He'd also play out some points, but players do that way too often when working on receive, and so don't get the repetitive practice needed to make a technique GREAT.  

But Kanak and his coaches know his game better than I do, and they are the ones who should decide just what it is Kanak can turn into an overpowering strength. And then they should focus on that in every session until it IS an overpowering strength - something so strong the Chinese will study videos of it to prepare to play him!

Weekend Coaching
On Sunday I worked with the kids in the MDTTC junior program. As usual, lots and lots of stroking and footwork drills. We also did some pushing games to work on that, and a lot of serve practice.

On Saturday I had my weekly session with Navin Kumar. We spent a lot of time on his backhand "bump," where he attacks a push with his long pips (no sponge) with a quick block, i.e. aggressive pushblocking. Even though he hits the ball with an open racket, with a pushing motion, the backspin rebounds back as topspin! (See second video below.) Ideally, eventually he'll be bumping the ball like the woman in this video.

USATT Coaches Meeting
USATT has a USATT Coaches Meeting twice each month on Zoom, normally on the second and fourth Friday. (Info is posted in the USATT Coaches Facebook page.) Most meetings have been at noon (Western time, so 9AM Pacific time), but the time sometimes varies, to accommodate various coaches' schedules. The meetings are hosted by USATT High Performance Director Sean O'Neill. Last week they met at 10:30AM Eastern time (7:30 AM Pacific time), and the meeting lasted just under an hour. Attending were eleven coaches (a twelfth joined near the end). Here's a group shot. Topics covered:

USATT Election
The USATT election began Oct. 29 and continues until Dec. 13. I wrote about this in my Oct. 26 blog, where I strongly endorsed Khoa Nguyen and Thomas Hu, and also endorsed Will Shortz for Club Rep, though both candidates for that spot were good, the other being Mike Babuin. Susan Sarandon, the actress and founder of SPiN Table Tennis, endorsed Thomas Hu! He has 47 testimonials on the Thomas Hu for USATT Board of Directions Facebook page.

Stupa Analytics to Hose Product Presentations
Here's the USATT News item. They will be doing three presentations:

USATT News

Tactical Review: How Lily Zhang Stunned Feng Tianwei in Weihai
Here's the ITTF article.

New from Samson Dubina

Proper Footwork During Serve & Attack
Here's the video (2:52) from Zhou Xin.

Top 5 Tips To Return Impossible Table Tennis Serves
Here's the video (12:25) from Table Tennis Daily.

How to Lob Like a Pro
Here's the article by Alex Horscroft at Expert Table Tennis (which includes video of Xu Xin doing some monster lobs).

Pendulum Serve Like a World Superstar
Here's the video (15:56, in Chinese with English subtitles) from Ti Long. Also see his past videos.

New from Tom Lodziak

Dimitrij Ovtcharov Backhand Loop
Here's the video (25 sec) as he prepared for the Men's World Cup. "Rah!"

Match Analysis with USATT Rank No. 17
Here's the video (12:19) from Panda Pong.

Remembering George Brathwaite
Here's the video (George is on the first five minutes) from NYC TV Live and Jules Apatini

DHS Top 10 Points at the ITTF Women's World Cup
Here's the video (6:04) - "Vote your favourite point!"

New from Steve Hopkins and Butterfly

A Whole Lotta League
Here's the article from Coach Jon.

Ping Pong Beast
Here's a site that does lots of equipment reviews.

New from the ITTF
Here's their home page and news page.

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

Butterfly Racket Outdoors Contest
Here's the info page. It's simple - you  take a photo of Butterfly racket or rackets (with or without rubber) OUTDOORS and send it to Butterfly by Nov. 30 - and you might win a Harimoto Innerforce ALC Autographed Blade!

Ping Pong Legend Shirt
Here it is!

Chen Meng Visits New Zealand - in 2001!
Here's the video (1:22) showing the world #1 woman Chen Meng (and recent Women's World Cup winner) already dominating when she was seven years old!

Cat Ping-Pong in the 50s
Here's the video (38 sec) because we haven't had a cat video in a while.

Fuzzy on Table Tennis
Here's the cartoon! Apparently credenza golf and toilet bocci would be better.

Types of Ping Pong Players
Here's the video (6:17) from Pongfinity!

Table Tennis Trickshots, Outdoor Edition
Here's the video (4:08)!

***
Send us your own coaching news!

November 9, 2020

Tip of the Week
Think Tactics, Then Let the Shots Happen.

Major Topics This Issue

Women's World Cup
Here's the ITTF home page for the event in Weihai, China, Nov. 8-10, with preliminary group results, single elimination results, news articles, and video (including Lily Zhang and Wu Yue matches). USA's Lily Zhang (world #27) made the quarterfinals, upsetting world #9 (and #5 seed) Feng Tianwei of Singapore in the round of 16. She was down 4-8 and 8-10 in the last game! Here's the ITTF article on the match, First round upset, Lily Zhang comes of age. Alas, she lost in the quarterfinals to world #1 Chen Meng of China. Here are her complete results. She was in a three-way tie in the preliminary RR with Diaz and Pesotska, with all three 2-1 in matches, and all three 6-6 in games among themselves! It went to points, with Lily advancing in first, Diaz second. (Lily was coached in her matches by Jeffrey Zeng Xun, a former co-coach of mine at MDTTC!)

Here are Lily's results:

  • RR#1: Lost to Margaryta Pesotska (UKR, world #34), 13,6,5,-7,-3,10
  • RR#2: Defeated Adriana Diaz (PUR, world  #19), -11,-7,9,9,10,5
  • RR#3: Defeated Mo Zhang (CAN, world #34), 9,-9,10,-9,8,-7,11
  • Round of 16: Defeats Feng Tianwei (SIN, world #9, seeded #5), 7,8,9,-8,-8, 11 (down 4-8 and 8-10 in the last game!)
  • Quarterfinals: Loses to Chen Meng (CHN, world #1), 8,6,3,9

USA's Wue Yu (world #32) also advanced out of her group of three, making it to the Final Sixteen. Here are her results:

  • RR#1: Defeated Petrissa Solja (GER, world #20), 5,4,7,-9,-8,-3,9 - she was up 3-0 before pulling it out, 11-9 in the seventh!
  • RR#2: Lost to Chen Szu-Yu (TPE, World #26), 5,-3,4,4,-9,-9,11 - yes, from down 1-3, she lost deuce in the seventh.
  • Round of 16: Lost to Cheng I-Ching (TPE, world #8), 5,4,4,3

In the semifinals it will be Chen Meng (CHN, world #1) vs. Han Ming (GER, world #25), and Sun Yingsha (CHN, world #3) vs. Mima Ito (JPN, world #2).

Here is Steve Hopkins coverage of the Women's World Cup. (If you want to read it in order, then read from bottom to top.)

Here's USATT coverage

Weekend Coaching
On Saturday I had my regular session with Navin Kumar. We're really doing a lot of work on his forehand smashing and aggressive blocking. However, we're also doing a lot of work on his backhand blocking, which is his strength. Why so much time on something he already does well? Because you can't beat "stronger" players unless you have something that threatens them, and that means developing overpowering strengths. And so we are trying to turn that into an overpowering strength.

I had a recent discussion with the father of one of the top players in the US, who is striving to improve. I pointed out that if he trains like most players, that means he'll work at all aspects of his game roughly equally - so in each session he might spend 15 minutes on one thing, 15 on another, and so on. If you train that way, your overall level should improve, but you probably won't develop any overpowering strengths that can threaten the best players. To do that, you need to really focus on developing that strength (or strengths), which means, for many months or even years, spending perhaps half of your session completely on that technique and things that set it up. I gave a whole bunch of examples, from Istvan Jonyer (backhand loop) to Todd Sweeris (receive).

On Sunday, we had an odd number of players in our junior group session. So I volunteered to be a practice partner while Coach Wang ran the session. I got a lot of exercise!!! I only fed multiball a few times, did 90% live play, mostly the usual stroking & footwork drills. I did introduce one kid to something she hadn't done much - attacking forehands down the line (to my backhand). She was so used to going crosscourt that at first her "down-the-line" shots kept going to my middle, so I finally put a box on the table to force her to put the ball right down the line to my backhand. (This also involved turning the shoulders back more.) After a few minutes she was smacking the shots!

Chop and Smash by Virginia Sung, and Unanimous Consent
USATT CEO Virginia Sung has started a new USATT blog, "Chop & Smash by Virginia Sung." Most of the first one covers her side in the National Team Selection arguments that have been going on. I was fine with most of it, even parts I disagreed with.

However, in the last paragraph, she defends taking down the minutes of the last two High Performance Committee meetings. (I went over this in my November 2 blog last week.) It says, "In addition, there is no such thing as 'unanimous consent' to approve minutes under our Bylaws or corporate law in the way the HPC acted." (Italics mine.) This is an example of argument by assertion, similar to the assertions made in the USATT Statement that I pointed out in my blog last week. Robert's Rules of Order makes it clear that "unanimous consent" is the standard way to approve minutes, saying, "The correction and approval of minutes is an example of business that is normally handled by unanimous consent." So, if one is going to argue against what is explicitly stated in Robert's Rules, then you have to give a reason WHY. This was not done.

I emailed Virginia last Wednesday, Nov. 4, explaining the above and writing, "May I respectfully request that you cite the bylaw or corporate law that makes the HPC's use of Unanimous Consent improper?" She chose not to answer. I guess I'm now persona non grata. :) 

I am not Virginia's or USATT's enemy, but anyone who knows me knows I can't let something like this go. Tim Boggan, in his Hall of Fame profile about me, wrote that I was "compulsive about truth and accuracy, can’t stand what he thinks is an injustice," and "argues his views rationally and persistently, rationally and persistently, rationally and per—for god’s sake, Larry, Enough!"

Imagine if I were to make similar vague accusations against USATT or someone else, claiming their actions were improper, but didn't specify why they were improper. I'd lose credibility pretty fast. Similarly, if the USATT CEO is going to order the minutes of the High Performance Committee taken down and justify it by saying they used "unanimous consent" and claim that is improper, when that's contradicted by Robert's Rules, then she needs to specifically say what was improper about it, not just make the vague claim. 

Reflections on Excellence by Michel Gadal
I just read the "excellent" table tennis book, Reflections on Excellence by Michel Gadal. It is only available in digital format - and it's definitely worth it! 

Gadal was the long-time national coach for France and Canada, the Director for Performance for England, and the National Technical Director for France. Most famously, he was the coach of 1993 World Men's Singles Champion Jean-Philippe Gatien. He is also the author of the 1997 book, "Train to Win," which was almost a table tennis bible to many.

I'm going to start off by quoting something from the very back of the book, in the Conclusion: "The search for excellence is a passion that has guided me since my beginnings as a coach…" The book is basically an incredible expansion of that passion.

It starts off with a foreword by Gatien, who Gadal coached since he was a kid. Much of Gatien's technique was ground-breaking at the time, such as his close-to-the-table looping.

Then comes a section on what defines excellence. For example, "In terms of results, the definition [of excellence] is quite simple: it is about winning medals in major competitions, Olympics Games, World Championships." But then it goes on and defines it in more ways. There's an entire chapter on The Three Fundamentals of Excellence. They are: 1) How easy it looks [i.e. how easy top players make the game seem, their "fluidity of movements" - there goes my changes!]; 2) Sustainability [repeat performances]; and 3) Agility [which is really Mental Agility, the ability to adapt]. 

He covers the Four Pillars of Excellence: Passion, Patience, Perseverance, Project. ("Project" means "Winning should not be a dream but a project.") Under passion, he asked three-time world women's singles champion Deng Yaping (who also won 4 Olympic golds, 2 singles, 2 doubles), what she thought of the girls she had observed in training, expecting a technical answer. Instead, she answered with a question: "Do they love table tennis? If not, it will be very difficult because repeating the same gestures, the same exercises can be a pleasure or a nightmare." And that pretty much explains how anyone gets to be the best!

He covered Four Areas to Connect for Success. They are Vision, Strategy, Tactics, Technical, and then he explained them and their connection. As an example of vision, he remembered suggesting to the junior Gatien that he learn to take the ball earlier, as the Chinese did, at a time when most European coaches taught players to take the ball later (for consistency and to produce more topspin). Gatien jumped on the idea and made it his own vision, developed a style around it (looping from close to the table), and became the best in the world. (And ironically, most modern players have adopted much of what he and Gadal developed.)

He also wrote about The Three Criteria For Quality Training: Volume + Focus + Feedback. Here he talked about the idea you may have heard about the 10,000 hours (and ten years) it takes to achieve excellence, but makes clear that you can't just put in the hours, it has to be "deliberate practice," where the player is the "actor of his training" and not just executing instructions given by the coach. There were charts showing what age many top players started, and how many hours per week they trained at various ages - the book is worth it just to see that! (The charts are based on a questionnaire given out to 28 of the "greats" of our sport, including the best of the Chinese, Swedes, and so on.) He also discussed concentration (focus) and how to achieve it, and how to give good feedback.

Under Coaching to Win, he wrote about things good coaches do, including: Take a step back; Be patient; Be flexible; Anticipate (the future of your player and sport); Enjoy taking on new challenges; Knowing one's strengths and weaknesses; Be passionate; Be a Leader; Form a team around you; Create a network; and Coaching is not only teaching. (He expands on each of these.)

There was also:

  • The Four Meta-Skills: Looseness (oops, once again I'm out…), Rhythm, Skill Zone, and Use of the Hand.
  • The Five Parameters: Effect, Placement, Direction, Speed, Height.
  • The Four Pillars of Learning: Active Engagement, Attention, Feedback, and Consolidation. The Four Pillars of Competitive Play: Self-knowledge, Self-confidence, Intuition, and Creativity (such as the development of the backhand banana flip).
  • Managing Towards Excellence

I could go over each of these, but that would turn this review into a book itself, and so why not just read the book and find out?

Business and Table Tennis
I was interviewed on the phone on Friday for over an hour by someone who is doing a book on business lessons you can learn from table tennis. We went over a number of them, many of them situations from my book, Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers, which he'd read - he's a serious player.

I don't want to give too much away, but here are some examples we went over:

  • Misleading a rival. In the book I went over a match where my opponent was equally good attacking or chopping. As an attacker, he could challenge me, but he had little chance playing defense - I used to be very good against choppers. So what did I do? When he played defense, I pretended to struggle, often grunting and groaning as I "struggled" to lift his chops, missing shots on purpose, and basically putting on an academy award performance. He stuck with chopping, and never realized I could have eaten him alive if I'd wanted to. In business, apparently you also want to mislead rivals!
  • Thinking outside the box. The table tennis lesson is from two matches I played where everyone was losing to a pair of junior stars from Canada. When I played them, I did a simple thing - when serving, I took two steps to my right and served forehand pendulum serves from my forehand side, which almost nobody does. This didn't put me in a good position to follow with my forehand (which I wanted to do), but they had so much trouble with this that it didn't matter. The business lesson is that sometimes you have to think outside the box.
  • Finding something that threatens an opponent. If you don't have something that stands out as a threat to an opponent, he has nothing to fear. Similarly, a business needs to have something that stands out, something they do better than others, so people have a reason to come to them.

USATT Election
The USATT election began Oct. 29 and continues until Dec. 13. (I'm not sure why they needed six and a half weeks for an email election, but that's the way it's set up. I think there's some other election happening tomorrow.) I wrote about this in my Oct. 26 blog, where I strongly endorsed Khoa Nguyen and Thomas Hu, and also endorsed Will Shortz for Club Rep, though both candidates for that spot were good, the other being Mike Babuin. One big piece of news - Susan Sarandon, actress (Academy Award Winner, five nominations) and founder of SPiN Table Tennis has endorsed Thomas Hu! He now has 46 testimonials on the Thomas Hu for USATT Board of Directions Facebook page.

USOPC Opens Ethics Investigation of Former USATT Chair
Here's the news item about former USATT board chair Anne Cribbs. Yikes! I'm glad I got off the board when I did - a lot of bad stuff seems to have happened afterwards. We'll see how this turns out. And try to remember - innocent until proven guilty. (This was in last week's blog but went up a day late.)

USATT News

  • USATT Announces Cancellation of the US Hopes 2020 National Finals. This was understandable but disappointing. The event was for the best 12 and under players in the country, and my club (MDTTC) is strongest right now in this age group for boys. I (and Coach Wang Qingliang) were going up with six players, who would have been seeded #1,4,6,7,9,11,12. (The one's seeded 6&7 are actually both ten, with two more years of eligibility!)
  • Kanak Jha v. Kirill Gerassimenko (5:34) - a big German league match! Gerassimenko from Kazakhstan is world #46; USA's Jha is world #27.

New from Samson Dubina

How To Reverse Pendulum Serve With Ojo Onaolapo
Here's the video (1:36).

Ma Long Serve (and Follows) at Three Speeds
Here's the video (6:49) from TableTennis BelgiumTV.

Timo Boll Serve (and Follows) at Three Speeds
Here's the video (8:15) from TableTennis BelgiumTV.

How Loose Should the Grip Be?
Here's the video (2:07) from Jun Feng.

How To Do A Backhand Topspin In Table Tennis
Here's the video (4:03) from ProSpin95.

Is It Too Late?
Here's the video (56:02) from PingSkills.

Training a Chopper/Attacker
Here's the video (54 sec) with Coach Samson Dubina and student Chester Taylor.

Table Tennis Serve Disguise - Different Contact Point
Here's the video (20 sec) from eBatt.

Interview with Nandan Naresh
Here's the video (42:20) from Kevin Table Tennis.

Best Table Tennis Shots of October 2020
Here's the video (13:49).

Adam vs. World #8 Female
Here's the video (11:39) from Adam Bobrow. "This is the 3rd and final video from my 3-part with Cheng I-Ching and her coach Jiaqi."

New from Steve Hopkins
(See also his articles in the Women's World Cup segment above.)

Opening Pandora’s Box of Table Tennis Accessories
Here's the article from Coach Jon.

New from the ITTF
Here's their home page and news page.

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

Table Tennis Training Part I . . . Rocky!
Here's the video (1:26) from Mods Ullah.

Toddler's Table Tennis Game Takes Internet by Storm
Here's the video (66 sec) . . . from CNN! Note the platform on the far side that the three-year-old kid is standing on. (The table is pushed up against the edge of the platform.) We need this type of thing in the US so we can start players out younger.

Insane Table Tennis Touch by Xu Xin
Here's the video (7 sec) of the world #2 from China!

Waldner Shows Off Soccer Skills
Here's the video (21 sec) - let's see Ma Long do this! (There's also video of Waldner doing the trick Xu Xin demonstrates above, but I can't find it.)

Fun with Mr. Falck and Mr. Persson!
Here's the video (29 sec) as Swedish stars Jorgen Persson (1991 Men's Singles World Champion, on right at start) and Mattias Falck (2019 Men's Singles World Championships Finalist and current world #9) play an exhibition point. Note that Falck has short pips on the forehand.

Banana Practice
Here's the video (34 sec) - literally!

The Craziest Table Tennis Jump Shot You Will Ever See
Here's the video (43 sec)!

Does Wind Affect Ping Pong?
Here's the video (8:01) from Pongfinity!

T-Rex Playing Table Tennis
Here's a picture of me wearing my T-Rex playing table tennis baseball cap, taken at ITTF headquarters last September in Lausanne, Switzerland. It's normally on sale at Amazon, but it's currently unavailable, though you can get the "Christmas" version (see below). But you can also get one of the following! (I have no financial interest here, I just like the idea of a T-Rex playing table tennis - it sort of combines my TT and SF interests.)

Non-Table Tennis - "The Untold Christmas Carol"
My fantasy story, "The Untold Christmas Carol," just came out at Galaxy's Edge. This tells the REAL story of Tiny Tim, Uncle Scrooge, Benedict Arnold (you didn't know he was involved?) . . . and Satan, the "protagonist." It's my 17th story in Galaxy's Edge. I'm proud to share a TOC with such greats as Mike Resnick (RIP), Joe Haldeman, Jack McDevitt, Gregory Benford, Michael Swanwick, and Nancy Kress! (If you are a science fiction/fantasy reader, then those names are like reading names out of the world's top twenty ranking list in table tennis!) Here's the cover with all those big names . . . and me!

***
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November 2, 2020

Tip of the Week
Backhand Chopping in an Emergency.

Table of Contents
This blog has a lot of stuff, so here's a quick listing of the major items, with links to take you to them.

George Braithwaite RIP
It's hard to believe that this fixture in USA Table Tennis since roughly forever is gone. He died of Covid-19. Over the years, I had many great discussions with him on developing table tennis in the US, including during his years as a USATT vice president. I also had a great time watching and sometimes doing match coverage of his many senior battles with Dave Sakai, Lim Ming Chui, and Dell Sweeris, as well as some earlier ones with a rising junior, Eric Boggan. He was a great sportsman and a constant cheerful presence.

Here's an interesting tidbit involving George and I. For many years - decades, really - he and I, and a lot of others, played in lots and Lots and LOTS of tournaments. There was always a central group of dozens of players who played all the major and regional tournaments. Most of them I'd end up playing a dozen times or more. But for some weird statistical quirk, in all those years I only played George once in a tournament. We used to jokingly accuse each other of ducking each other.

I vividly remember the one time we played, probably early 1990s. We were both rated about 2270, but he was much, much older. I started out well, and almost won the first game. What happened was that, as the match went on, it became obvious that George was figuring me out. I was strong on the forehand, so it was dangerous to go there or to my middle, which I'd cover with my forehand. I was super-steady on the backhand, so he couldn't get through me there, and if he went there too much, I'd step around and rip a forehand. I sound invincible, right? But that's only looking at individual shots. George found patterns that created weaknesses, such as going to my middle to draw me out of position, I'd play forehand, then he'd go wide to my forehand, moving me farther out of position - but I'd often still make a strong shot. (If he'd gone to my forehand first, I'd be in position and would often end the point with one shot.) But it wouldn't matter, because the next shot would be to my wide backhand, and the rest of the point I'd be fishing and lobbing. (He couldn't get past my off-table defense with one shot. But he never missed, and he always placed the ball perfectly.) Other times he'd go to my middle, but a bit toward my backhand side, getting me to play a backhand away from my backhand corner - and once again he'd follow with a shot to my wide backhand, and I'd be on defense the rest of the way. He had trouble with my serves - everyone does - but that lasted about half a game, and then he handled them well. He won two straight close games. We never played again.

Here are some links.

USATT Election
The USATT election began Oct. 29 and continues until Dec. 13. (I'm not sure why they needed six and a half weeks for an email election, but that's the way it's set up. I think there's some other election happening tomorrow.) I wrote about this in my Oct. 26 blog, where I strongly endorsed Khoa Nguyen and Thomas Hu, and also endorsed Will Shortz for Club Rep, though both candidates for that spot were good, the other being Mike Babuin. One big piece of news - Susan Sarandon, the actress and founder of SPiN Table Tennis has endorsed Thomas Hu! He now has 46 testimonials on the Thomas Hu for USATT Board of Directions Facebook page.

USATT High Performance Committee Removes World Ranking as Criteria to Make National Team
and
Minutes of High Performance Committee Taken Down
and
Chair of USATT High Performance Committee Resigns
Oh My!!!

It's been a crazy week with USA Table Tennis. I've never written a segment in my blog that's left me so confused. The following segment should only be read by insane USATT members who find diving into silly USATT business as gratifying as, say, arguing politics or drinking lava. Feel free to skip it and go on to the other good stuff that follows.

We'll start with Bruce Liu's resignation as chair of the High Performance Committee (HPC). He emailed his resignation letter to USATT on Oct. 27 and posted it on several Facebook pages. Here it is on the Table Tennis Think Tank page, which gives his reasons. If you are unable to see that, here is a graphical version. Here are the two links he includes, to the minutes of the High Performance Committee meetings in September and October:

There are two issues here:

  1. Removing world rankings as criteria for making the National Team
  2. The minutes of the Sept. 29 and Oct. 13 HPC meetings - specifically, the emails that were included

WORLD RANKINGS AS CRITERIA FOR SELECTING THE NATIONAL TEAM
USATT had been putting the top USA man and woman on the team, provided they were in the top 50 in the world (such as Kanak Jha and Lily Zhang). The HPC voted 3-2 to remove world ranking as a criterion. Voting to remove it were Jimmy Butler, Amy Feng, and Angela Guan; voting to keep them were chair Bruce Liu and Khoa Nguyen. Others expressed their opinions on this, with CEO Virginia Sung against using world rankings, while High Performance Director Sean O'Neill and High Performance Manager Doru Gheorghe were in favor of using them. (I'll get to this shortly, but you can see their emails in the link above for the 10/13/202 meeting minutes.)

The general thinking on this, and all or most top countries do, is to either automatically qualify players with very high world rankings (such as top 50  in the world), or have a committee pick for perhaps the final spot on the team. This way a team always has their best players, the ones who have already proven their level with their performances over the past year. Some say this is unfair, that others do not have the opportunity to play internationally and get a world ranking, but this is not about them; this is about players who have (and I repeat myself here) already proven their level, and not just showing they are good enough to be on the team, but that they are the best on the team over the past year - and so definitely in the top four or so that would make the team. But now they might not be on the team, despite proving their level consistently over a full year.

The problem is if you are sick or injured, or have a bad day, tough; you're off the team. This problem is partly eliminated by USATT automatically qualifying whoever wins men's and women's singles at the Nationals, which is an argument for not using world rankings, since that way players get two chances to make the Team. (But only one man and woman can win the Nationals.) Some of us remember, for example, the case of Eric Boggan. He first won the US Nationals at age 15, when he wasn't a top seed. After that, he made the Men's Final six more times, and I'm pretty certain he was top seed all six times - but only won once, getting upset five times by US players who had learned how to play his game. But internationally, he was easily our best player during those years. If he'd been sick or injured during the Trials during those years, he wouldn't have been on the National Team despite reaching #17 in the world. I also remember the decade when the Hungarians had three players who could challenge and beat the Chinese - could you imagine them showing up at the Worlds without all three? Or China showing up without their best?

Some may think that's fine, let them all battle it out equally, but then you go to the World Championships and your team isn't that good because your best players might not be there. Note that our funding from USOPC is partially based on our international results and rankings.

I could make a seemingly strong argument for either side, but have to lean toward either automatically qualifying our best man and woman (assuming they are in the top 50 in the world, which would make sure Kanak Jha and Lily Zhang, both currently ranked #27 in the world, are on the team, with Wu Yue just behind at #32); or having the final spot selected by committee.

Thomas Hu, one of the candidates running for the USATT At-Large position, asked constituents on his page what they thought in neutral language, and created a poll. The results are not scientific, but do show a trend - the current vote is 27-4 to keep world rankings as a criterion for making the National Team.

MINUTES OF THE SEPT 29 AND OCT. 13 HPC MEETINGS
These minutes were written up by Chair Bruce Liu. They were then sent to the HPC for approval, using the standard "unanimous consent" method recommended for the approval of minutes by Robert's Rules of Order. (This is how previous minutes for the HPC had been approved, and numerous issues with USATT when I was on the Board. There's nothing nefarious here.) When he sent them to the committee, he wrote, "Please let me know if you have any questions by the end of Thursday 10/22. Will submit the two minutes for USATT to publish." When no one had questions at the end of Thursday, Oct. 22 (three days later), he sent them to USATT for publication, and the staff published them on the USATT Committee Minutes Page this past Monday, Oct. 26, a full week after the notice sent to the HPC.

As I was about to post my blog last Monday (Oct. 26), I did a quick check of to see if there were any updates, and saw the minutes for the HPC meetings had just gone up. So I did a short segment on them, including a note about them, "which includes a number of emails giving the thoughts of committee members and others."

Fireworks!!! Explosions!!! Pandemonium!!!

USATT CEO Virginia Sung had not seen the HPC minutes before they were published. (Nothing nefarious there; they are committee minutes, created by the committee.) She told me she first saw them after seeing the link in my blog. She was not happy about the five emails that were included in the minutes. They included one from her, and others from High Performance Director Sean O'Neill, High Performance Manager Doru Gheorghe, HPC Chair Bruce Liu, and HPC Member Angela Guan. Each stated their opinion on whether USATT should use world rankings as a criterion for selecting National Teams.

Virginia made some phone calls, and was apparently told by one or two HPC members that they had never specifically voted to approve the HPC minutes. She ordered the USATT staff to take them down. She then called me, and asked that I remove the segment I'd written, since she said that the HPC minutes were not approved. Not knowing at the time that they had actually been approved (by unanimous consent), I agreed and removed the segment about two hours or so after I had posted the blog.

Now comes the really interesting part. I learned later that the minutes had been approved by unanimous consent, plus Bruce posted them online. I've now had five phone calls from CEO Virginia about the world rankings issue. I'm not going to give out the details of these discussions, but the primary argument is that the five emails shouldn't be included in the minutes. The argument was initially that the minutes hadn't actually been approved, but that argument fell apart once it became apparent that they had been approved by unanimous consent. I'm not 100% certain when they first began making the argument that the minutes weren't done properly, though it took six days before I was given anything specific on this - more on that below.

The HPC minutes that I linked to above (along with Bruce's resignation letter) are now highly public - at last count, they have been shared on at least 15 Facebook pages plus the MyTableTennis.net forum. As to the attached emails, as I pointed out to USATT, sending a letter to a USATT committee and demanding that that letter remain secret is no different than standing up in a public meeting and giving your opinion, and then demanding that your opinion be kept secret. USATT is a public organization, and so there is no expectation of privacy.

USATT put out a response to the controversy on Friday, Oct. 30, about taking down the HPC minutes:
USA Table Tennis Statement Regarding High Performance Committee

USA TABLE TENNIS STATEMENT REGARDING HIGH PERFORMANCE COMMITTEE MINUTES
(Colorado Springs, CO – October 30, 2020) – Ever since the USOPC required governance changes as a means of bringing USATT into compliance with best practices in nonprofit procedures, USATT has endeavored to promote improvements throughout the corporation and its committees.  This process does not occur overnight, and when we see things that need to be changed, we change them.  When HPC's practices regarding corporate minutes did not follow our own corporate guidelines or best practices as articulated by leading nonprofit scholars and nonprofit organizations, our outside counsel notified the HPC, explained the problems with HPC's processes, and recommended changes.  Counsel also advised USATT to take the minutes down to give the HPC an opportunity to handle them properly. The HPC Chair choose to resign rather than to accept this advice.  The issues regarding the minutes is largely procedural, and the suggestion that USATT is hiding something is fanciful, as anyone who reads the original minutes and materials will readily see for themselves. Procedures will be followed and the HPC minutes will be edited to comply with best practices and reposted to the USATT website. USATT will continue to focus on improving its governance in every respect that it can.

When I read it, I went, huh???

There were many problems with it, including several grammar problems that shouldn't be in such an official document, but that's a minor issue and I won't go into that. The notice says, "the suggestion that USATT is hiding something is fanciful." And yet:

  • The notice says that the HPC didn't follow USATT's "corporate guidelines" or "best practices" - but doesn't specify what corporate guidelines or best practices were not followed. These need to be cited.
  • It says, "The issues regarding the minutes is largely procedural" - but doesn't specify which procedures were not followed.
  • It says, "…outside counsel notified the HPC, explained the problems with HPC's processes, and recommended changes" and "Counsel also advised USATT to take the minutes down to give the HPC an opportunity to handle them properly" - but it doesn't show any actual notice from the counsel or any statement specifying what the problems were that the counsel raised. This would be a simple matter of citing the bylaws or Robert's Rules of Order.
  • Plus, there is the obvious fact that USATT is trying to hide (with little success) the emails that were sent to the committee. In a public organization like USATT, when people email their opinion to a committee, they have no reasonable expectation of privacy. These are neither personnel nor legal matters that require confidentiality. It's no different than stating your opinion in an open meeting and then demanding that nobody repeat what you said.

Whether on purpose or not, USATT is literally claiming they are not hiding anything while openly hiding things. I sent a version of the above to CEO Virginia on Friday (Oct. 30) after I read the notice. She called, and we discussed it again, but none of the above was resolved. Finally, late last night (Sunday), I had an email exchange with the USATT lawyer. He claimed that the minutes were improper because he didn't think they followed Robert's Rules of Order, 12th Edition, 48:2-6. (Feel free to dive into that if you choose.) I'm not sure I disagree, but I have no plans to get into a long discussion of Robert's Rules here - to me, it's a moot point, since the minutes were taken down initially because of the claim that they had not been voted on by HPC, as Virginia told me. (And it's quite possible some of those members did not know the term "unanimous consent," though it had been used in two previous minutes approvals.) And so it appears they were just looking for a technicality to rationalize taking the minutes down.

And so the conclusion is that a lot of time and energy were expended to keep those emails private, even though they are widely public. This makes no sense to me - they are already public. All it is doing is creating a public relations nightmare for USATT. The comments on this on Facebook and elsewhere are pretty negative, including some scathing ones from Kanak Jha's father.

So what exactly is in these emails that is so controversial? Absolutely nothing, other than showing the opinions and arguments of these interested parties. As noted above, there is no expectation of privacy here, and they are already widely public. And since this is all closely part of the issue whether to use world rankings or not, let's look at where everyone involved stands. (Remember, on the HPC members vote, and it passed 3-2.)

=>FOR keeping world rankings as a consideration for team selection: 

  • High Performance Director Sean O'Neill (as explained in his email)
  • High Performance Manager Doru Gheorghe (as explained in his email)
  • High Performance Committee Chair Bruce Liu (as explained in his email and by his vote; he resigned on Oct. 27)
  • High Performance Committee Member Khoa Nguyen and current USATT At-Large candidate (as noted by his vote)

=>AGAINST keeping world rankings as a consideration for team selection:

  • CEO Virginia Sung (as explained in her email)
  • High Performance Member Jimmy Butler (as noted by his vote)
  • High Performance Member Amy Feng (as noted by her vote)
  • High Performance Member Angela Guan (as explained by her email and vote, though she was on the fence until near the end; she cites Virginia's email in giving her reasoning)

I don't think Sean or Doru care that their emails are public; in all of the discussions of the past week (there have been a LOT), this hasn't come up, and they are simply sharing opinions I believe they have consistently held in the past. Bruce and Angela are both on the HPC, so their emails are part of the committee discussion. The only other email is CEO Virginia's. I have no idea why she doesn't want it public, but the cow's already out of the barn on that.

She has an opinion, as expressed in her email, that world rankings shouldn't be used in selecting National Teams. That's fine; if you have an opinion and an argument justifying it, then stand behind it. (You can always change your mind later.) But you can't email a committee in a public organization and have an expectation that it'll be private. (The only "legal" question is whether they should specifically be in the minutes, a pointless argument now.)

But the part I simply don't get is why, when the HPC minutes with the emails are now widely public and seen by all interested parties, is there still a fight to keep them off the USATT committee minutes page? What's the point, unless the goal is lots of bad publicity and unhappy constituents?

There is absolutely nothing wrong with the CEO of an organization, like Virginia, getting involved and expressing her opinion. She did so in the HPC Sept. 29 meeting, where the minutes say she and Bruce discussed using world rankings for 27 minutes. She did so at the Oct. 13 USATT Board Teleconference (held just before the HPC meeting on that date), an open meeting that I attended, where she also said she was against using world rankings. She made the argument in her email to the HPC, which was cited by Angela Guan in her reasoning on this in her email to the HPC.

I've now had five phone calls from Virginia on this topic. I have no battle with Virginia, but I'm perplexed by the attempt to keep her involvement in this "secret" and the attempt to find a technicality to do so, even though it's widely public. (It also keeps "secret" that both the High Performance Director and High Performance Manager recommended we continue to use world rankings. Both sides have arguments, whether you agree with them or not.) If you have a strong opinion on something, as she obviously does here, then make your argument and own it. And as noted above, you can always change your mind.

=>BREAKING NEWS: CEO Virginia Sung has posted a blog, "Chop & Smash by Virginia Sung," that explains some of her side of the HPC situation. Most of it as fine. However, in the last paragraph, it says, "In addition, there is no such thing as 'unanimous consent' to approve minutes under our Bylaws or corporate law in the way the HPC acted." (Italics mine.) This is an example of argument by assertion, similar to the assertions made in the USATT Statement that I pointed out. Robert's Rules of Order makes it clear that "unanimous consent" is the standard way to approve minutes, saying, "The correction and approval of minutes is an example of business that is normally handled by unanimous consent." But Virginia's statement seems to disagree - until we get to the last part of the sentence, where it says, "...in the way the HPC acted." But it doesn't explain what was improper "in the way the HPC acted," and so it is an example of argument by assertion. I don't see how they can argue that the unanimous consent used by the HPC was improper, but I'm also tired of responding to vague assertions where I have to do their research. If there's something improper with how the HPC used unanimous consent, then they need to say what it is, not just assert it. 

USOPC Opens Ethics Investigation
[BREAKING NEWS added one day late, on Tuesday]
Here's the news item about former USATT board chair Anne Cribbs. Yikes! I'm glad I got off the board when I did - a lot of bad stuff seems to have happened afterwards. We'll see how this turns out. And try to remember - innocent until proven guilty. 

Weekend Coaching
On Saturday I did my weekly session with Navin Kumar. He likes to put up videos of him smashing against my lobs, but that's only part of his training, which we usually do at the end of the session. Here are two videos from our past session - we got into the Halloween spirit for the first one!

  • Halloween Smash - Hulk vs. Scream! (1:29)! Strange thing was that I discovered that with the mask on, I could barely lob, since it cut off my peripheral vision. When lobbing, if you try following the ball all the way into your racket, you'd hurt your neck and your head would be moving so fast you couldn't really see anyway. So you only watch the ball partway, and your peripheral vision does the rest. I didn't realize until I tried lobbing with the Scream mask just how important that was!
  • Smash vs. Lob - and Blowing the Ball (1:44) - make sure to see the last five seconds!

On Sunday I worked with our junior program. The last few weeks I've actually done a lot of one-on-one hitting with players and a lot of multiball, but this session I ran four tables/eight players the entire time, walking around. The big change for me was that, for this, I had to wear a mask, which I normally only do for short periods of time, such as when shopping. This time I had to wear it the entire 90 minutes. We did a lot of basic drills, focusing on strokes and footwork. Toward the end we switched to serve and receive games, where they played games, moving up and down tables - but we'd give certain rules, such as had to serve long to the backhand, or had to serve short to the forehand, with the receiver returning to the server's middle.

USATT Coaches Meeting
USATT High Performance Director Sean O'Neill has been organizing bi-monthly Zoom meetings for all USATT Coaches. They are normally the second and fourth Friday every month, usually at noon eastern time, and last about 30-60 minutes. Sean announces each meeting, including agenda and the link to attend, on the USATT Coaches Facebook Page. I attended the one last Friday, which started at noon and lasted about 54 minutes. Attending were Sean O'Neill, High Performance Manager Doru Gheorghe, Director of Para Programs Jasna Rather, Samson Dubina, Mike Lauro, and Larry Hodges (me). I'm hoping we get more coaches to these meetings. Here's the meeting video (53:45). Some of the items discussed included:

  • T2 (Thursday Night Live), both the completed season and the upcoming season that starts Nov. 18. Here's the info page.
  • There was a discussion of what USA coaches could use from USATT. I suggested sports psychology (such as videos), which I think is a weakness of many junior programs. Mike suggested Hotspot help, and Samson suggested recognition of players for achievements - such as automated emails congratulating a player for reaching, for example, top ten in their age group.

USATT's Thursday Night Live - Season 2
Here's the info page. The new season starts Nov. 18. "USATT and T2 wants you to be a part of the exciting upcoming season 2 of Thursday Night Challenge - T2 Challenge.  Preliminary rounds will be open to the public and we invite you to register at your local tennis club located near you.  The top 32 players will then advance to Season 2 of the Thursday Night LIVE - T2 Challenge which starts November 30th, 2020 and goes to February 2021. The Finals will be in taken place Feb 16-19 in LAS VEGAS!" [NOTE - I'm told there is $43,000 in prize money, but I don't see that listed in the info page.]

New from Samson Dubina

How to Play Deceptive Shots – with Craig Bryant
Here's the video (5:21), from Tom Lodziak.

I Got Coached by Dimitrij Ovtcharov!
Here's the video (8:42) from Table Tennis Daily.

USATT Ratings Calculator
Here it is! From a posting in mytabletennis.net: "I am Tony Ma and you may know me from the USATT 2000 in 2 Years video on YouTube, but I'm posting here today to tell you guys about a mobile app I created. I am studying computer science in college so I decided to use my skills and work on a project relating to something I was passionate about, table tennis! The result is a "USATT Rating Calculator" app which word for word implements the USA Table Tennis rating system explanation on their website. It is currently both on the Android Google Play Store and iOS App Store AND now I have also created a website for it https://usattratingcalculator.com/. I think it turned out pretty good but there's always room for improvement so I'd love to hear your guys' feedback so don't be afraid to tell me what I could improve for future updates!"

New from Steve Hopkins

USA Table Tennis and Happy Paradise Foundation Team Up for Third Year of Pong4Kids Grant Program
Here's the USATT news item.

The Darkside
Here's the article from Coach Jon.

New from the ITTF
Here's their home page and news page.

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

Contender for Point of the Year?
Here's the video (33 sec) of Sharon Alguetti (near side) vs. Samson Dubina.

Halloween Video of "Ghost" Serves
Here's the video (1:58) from TI Long Table Tennis!

Halloween Multiball with Wei Qi

Happy Halloween from Butterfly and JOOLA!

"Holey" Racket
Here's where you can buy one!

How to Defend in Table Tennis
Here's the video (5:09) from Pongfinity - but this one's also instructional!

Email Exchange with Online Scammer
On Oct. 28, 2020, I received an email from someone claiming to be Teodor (Doru) Gheorghe, USATT National Teams Coach/Manager. He quickly tried to convince me to send him money. I double-checked with the real Doru (who is the USATT High Performance Director - here's his USATT bio), and he verified his account had been hacked. I decided to have some fun, and so strung the guy along with a series of emails, where I kept promising to send him money, but in return asking for his coaching advice, as he was the "Great Doru," the "Greatest Table Tennis Coach in History." Throughout it I asked him on advice on how to play Kanak Jha in our upcoming league match, who I said played with the Seemiller grip, with long pips and anti, and all sorts of nonsensical semi-table tennis technical terms, like banana serves, forehand pendulum receives, and double axels. He didn't answer my last two emails, alas.

Making this even funnier is that I began BCCing the real Doru on these (after sending him an explanatory email). I would be remiss if I didn't point out that the real Doru did give me advice on how to play Kanak - he wrote me, " Use your baseball bat. You might have a chance."

IMPORTANT -  For best effect, go to the very bottom and read in order from there.  

Here are the emails. Enjoy!!!

October 26, 2020

Tip of the Week
Learn To Play Close to the Table.

USA Table Tennis Election
Here's the USATT announcement, including statements from all six of the candidates. There are four candidates running for the two At-Large positions, and two candidates running for the one Club Representative position. (For the latter, I always wonder why they don't have USATT certified clubs vote for this, since this person represents them.) Voting for these positions starts October 29 (Thursday) through December 13.

I wasn't planning to get involved initially, but after looking over the candidates, I've decided to write a little about them and give my endorsements. I know all six of the candidates - I bet there are only about a dozen who can say that!

Here's the short version: For the At-Large positions, I strongly endorse Khoa Nguyen and Thomas Hu. For the Club Rep position, I think we have two great candidates in Will Shortz and Mike Babuin, and would be happy with either, but will give my endorsement this time to Will Shortz. Here are my thoughts, and I will start with Thomas Hu, so I can say, "Hu's on first."

=>Thomas Hu is the founder of the National Collegiate Table Tennis Association (NCTTA), one of the most successful table tennis organizations in the US. He is now the CEO of the American Youth Table Tennis Organization, also one of the most successful and fastest-growing table tennis organizations. (These are non-profit organizations.) These two alone show he's a table tennis doer running for a position in an organization that's infamous for not doing as much as we'd like. He also has an MBA and a master's in computer science as well, so he'd be a tremendous asset to the board for his business and technical skills as well. He would be a tremendous asset in growing our sport. And he can play a little too, with rating of 1857. (I've spoken with him on the phone at length recently about various table tennis issues.)

You should visit the Thomas Hu for USATT Board of Directions Facebook page, created by Sharon Lin. So far, 46 people have written testimonials supporting Thomas. Not just comments from random people, but 46 real testimonials from real people he has worked with. Why not read them over? You might know some of them: Susan Sarandon (yes, the famous actress who started up SPiN Table Tennis!), Willy Leparulo (president of NCTTA), Dora Kurimay, Matt Hetherington, Qiumars Hedayatian, Sydney Christophe, Edmund Suen, Angel Tang, Andrew Tang, James Budenholzer, Stephen Levin, Lydia Kwong, Tina Chen, Joanne Li, Allen Chen, Luz Brissett, Elisha Tang, Mira Gandy, Jasper Wong, Mike Clarke, Sharon Lin, Ashley Popp, Yasiris Ortiz, Kunal Shah, Steven Granaturov, Maximilian Kogler, Jeffrey Ku, Jody Gao, Brian Fong, Riaz Journey, Jason Chu, Takeo Suzuki, Thomas Suzuki, Michael Song, Mentor Wan, Kevin Li, Don Yang, Debbie Feiner, Evan Rabin, Angela O'Dowd, Brian Crisp, Adeel Rajput, Diana Bruno Perkins, Peter Fisher, Cathy Chen, and Wilson Cheah.

I read over some of the testimonials for Thomas, and here's an excerpt, from Edmund Suen (the USATT Northeast Sanctioning Coordinator, among many other table tennis positions):

"Your vote for Thomas is not just for him but for a common philosophy all of us believe in that table tennis is a life-long sport, a sport without boundaries and limitations. Most importantly, it is a Fun sport. He believes and builds opportunities for everyone, including team concepts and equal equity for all stakeholders. With USATT, he will build better integration between school, collegiate and professional table tennis. He will work closely with USATT management, NCTTA leadership and AYTTO to ensure a continuous pipeline of athletes into the college system. He will build platforms and mechanisms with hundreds of clubs and facilities nationwide to allow you to continue to enjoy the sport of table tennis after college."

=>Khoa Nguyen is best known as a two-time US Olympian, long-time US Team Member, and former 2700 player. I've known him since his junior days in the 1970s and early 1980s. It's hard to believe he's now 54 years old - and still rated 2443! He's been on the board before as a Player Rep, and I always respected his take on things and thoughtful votes. However, he's not running as an elite player, he's running on developing the sport, and in particular on focusing on the clubs, as his campaign statement makes clear. He brings to USATT both his table tennis and technical expertise. (He's already on the USATT Technology and Innovation Committee.) He also brings something that's badly needed - organizational knowledge. What is that? It means he knows what has been tried before and how it worked out, so we can learn from what has worked and not worked in the past. I really like his strong focus on clubs - he'll work well with whoever gets the Club Rep position. But note that focusing on clubs includes a focus on what goes on in clubs, so (as noted in his statement), he'll also be working closely with the Clubs and Leagues Committee, the Coaching Committee (I'm a member), the Junior Committee, and the Tournament Committee. 

=>For the Club Representative, we have two excellent candidates in Will Shortz and Mike Babuin. I can support either one. I respect Mike's many years on the board (including past chair of the board) and think he'd be great on the board again or on a USATT committee, perhaps as chair. However, in this case, I have to go with Will Shortz. He'll bring new energy to the board, really loves the sport, and has done great things at Westchester. He's the founder and owner of the innovative (and HUGE) Westchester Table Tennis Club. How many clubs in history have run monthly 4-star tournaments for years? (Answer: None.) He's also done something incredible: He's toured the US and visited 246 USATT clubs in all 50 states, DC, and Puerto Rico, plus 118 clubs in 39 foreign countries! Here's the listing. Going to all these clubs and talking to club leaders is a HUGE asset for a Club Rep. He also has an iron-man streak going on, having played nearly 3000 consecutive days. That's dedication! I've had numerous table tennis discussions with him, and found him to be insightful and knowledgeable, and believe he'd be a tremendous asset to the board. Also, did I mention he's the famous crossword puzzle editor of the New York Times? Here's his Wikipedia page.

My Stories of Mental Toughness On and Off the Table, by Dora Kurimay
I just read My Stories of Mental Toughness On and Off the Table, another great table tennis sports psychology book by mental performance coach Dora Kurimay. She knows something of the topic - she has a master's in psychology and another master's in sports psychology. She was also a member of the Hungarian national team for six years, and despite taking five years off from table tennis to focus on school, she reached top ten in the US as well. She's a professional player and coach at SPiN New York.

It's a relatively quick read, just under 100 pages packed with sports psychology and mental toughness nuggets. It comes in both paperback and kindle. It starts off with a foreword by Adam Bobrow, voice of the ITTF. Here's the description of the book from Amazon:

"I believe that the principles of sports psychology can be applied to all aspects of your life. Whether with public speaking, being a great parent, or developing your skills as an athlete. This collection of 11 stories from my life offers insight on gaining a psychological edge and attaining mental toughness."

Then we get to the meat of the book, with chapters on the following: Introduction, Motivation, Goal Setting, My First Championship, Visualization, Adjusting, Pre-Performance Routine, Breathing and Remaining Calm, Distraction, Public Speaking, Recovery, Coaching and Mentorship, Conclusion, Recommended Reading and Videos, and Resources.

At the end of each chapter are a series of bullet points that recaps what the chapter covered, with key points on how to deal with various mental aspects of competition. I toyed with simply typing them all up as an outline of what the book covered, but that would be too much - plus, it's far better to read the chapters themselves first so you'll understand the key points.

My favorite quote in the book is one of those seemingly obvious things that is not so obvious to most, since few have really thought about it or looked into developing it. The quote: "Mental toughness can be learned."

Then we get into motivation: "Motivation is an inner drive. Intrinsic motivation means you do something because it's fun but challenging, and there is fulfillment from the activity itself. Extrinsic motivation is focusing on the outcome, fame, and money. The motivation is outside you. … Extrinsic motivation can lead to burnout … even when you are really successful. … The best is when it is combined with intrinsic motivation."

Then comes Goal Setting, with the SMART Guide to Goal Setting: Specific, Measurable, Realistic, Adjustable, Time-Based.

The chapter on Visualization is sub-titled, "How I used visualization as a pre-performance routine to qualify to the Hungarian National Team." Here's an excerpt:

"Before I went to sleep, I visualized how I'd play against her. In general, when you use visualization (also known as 'imagery') the best is if you use as many details and senses as you can. … I imagined the hall where we would play, the tables, and I visualized myself playing against her. I imagined that I was confident, I recalled the emotional feelings and also the bodily feel of how I was going to play. I imagined the rallies we would play, and, most importantly, I saw in my mind's eye the tactics that I was going to use against her. I also visualized my serves that I'm going to use and my opening forehand loops from underspin since it would be crucial to make those shots. Finally, I imagined myself being calm and being relaxed but confident during my match."

As she also explains, "Almost all high-level athletes use imagery before and during their games to manage their stress level, increase their confidence, concentration, and overall performance."

Here's another one that stood out for me:

"Many table tennis players think that the match starts with the serve. Technically that's correct, but, realistically, that's a serious blunder. What you had for breakfast, how well and the way you warmed up, and what you did right before your match - all powerfully influence your performance. Everything you do mentally and physically after you wake up until the game time influences your performance."

Then she got into the mechanics of how to prepare for a match: "My advice is to create your pre-performance routine and use it before you play." Here's a longer excerpt:

"To create your pre-performance routine, you can grab a piece of paper and write down what you usually do right before you play your matches. Next, write down what worked for you in the past. Think about a match when you were very focused and played well. What did you do exactly before the match?"

I gave my favorite quote above, but this last chapter gave one that gave it a run for the money: "So, let's go skydiving, just not the day before a competition!"

It was interesting that there was a chapter on public speaking, but think about it - public speaking is similar to sports competition in that both can lead to great anxiety. When I first opened the Maryland Table Tennis Center way back in 1992, I realized I would be doing lots of group coaching sessions - and so I took a course in public speaking. Not only did that help directly with public speaking, but many of the things you learn there apply directly to dealing with pressure in sports.

So there's a lot here to help your game, and so I can strongly recommend the book. Plus, you'll have to read the book to find out why I'm mentioned on page 17!

Dora also has a video version of the book, My Stories of Mental Toughness On and Off the Table – Video Series. Here are other Table Tennis Sports Psychology Books by Dora Kurimay:

Weekend Coaching
I introduced some of our younger players to random multiball on Sunday. The fundamental strokes have mostly been drilled into them, but now it's important to be able to react to an incoming ball. The main drill was simple multiball where I'd feed the ball to the forehand or the backhand, and as rapidly as I figured they could react. The key, as I kept harping on, was that the first move has to be the right move. The keys to that were good ready position, realization that you have more time than you think, and to just react, not guess or anticipate. At the end I did a lot of one-on-one rallying with them where I'd serve simple topspin to their backhand, and then we'd rally randomly.

USATT Town Hall Event with Club Administrators
Here's the video (36:34) of the online meeting they held last Tuesday, Oct. 20. Much of it was about the 2021 US National Table Tennis Championships State Qualification Tournaments (and requests for proposals).

Reflections on Excellence
Here's the new table tennis book by Michel Gadal. He was the long-time national coach for France and Canada, the Director for Performance for England, and the National Technical Director for France. Most famously, he was the coach of 1993 World Men's Singles Champion Jean-Philippe Gatien. He is also the author of the 1997 book, "Train to Win," which was almost a table tennis bible to many. I will have a review of the book in my blog next week.

Master the Backspin Ghost Serve in 4 Simple Steps
Here's the video (11:24) from MH Table Tennis (featuring Sam Walker).

New from Samson Dubina

  • Weak Points - Check them out!
  • New Power Pong Video - Backspin/Topspin Transition - Sarah Jalli...  Currently ranked #1 in Cadets and #10 in women's is now on a regular training program with the Power Pong 5000.  Check out one of her backspin/topspin transition drills!
  • The Think Circle - Learn the 4-Step Process

Looping Against Backspin and Then Topspin
Here's the video (37 sec). Notice how the shoulder goes down slightly against backspin, but not against topspin. It's one of those obvious things, but if you don't practice it in sequence like this, it's hard to get consistently right in a match. (The player is Matthew Chamblee, who I practice with quite a bit at the Ohio Mega Camp in August.)

How to Do the Big Forehand Slap Shot
Here's the video (7:11) from Tom Lodziak. "A forehand slap is where you hit the ball very hard and very flat. It’s a hard shot to do consistently, but if you can master this technique, then you can win a lot of points."

Multiball Training Against a Sidespin Banana Flip
Here's the video (21 sec). Far too often players rely on working against certain things only when they face it in a match, or in a drill where they face it only once per rally, instead of repeatedly, as you can do in multiball. You improve faster if you practice your techniques, and things you will face in a match, repeatedly in a multiball-type drill where you focus on one thing rather than multiple things at once. After you have perfected your play there, then move on to doing it in a game situation drill, and then in actual games.

Table Tennis Teaching Forehand and Backhand Conversion Skills
Here's the video (54 sec, in Chinese). I don't know who the player is, but he has good technique.

Ping Pong Serving Rules for Beginners
Here's the video (4:38) Joey Cochran at Table Tennis Junkie. "If you know anybody with illegal serves, this might be a good video to share with them."

New from Steve Hopkins

Ping Pong Vs Table Tennis: Is There A Difference?
Here's the article from Ping Pong Ruler.

Side Effects of 2020
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

The Aerobic Sports Dance and Music Exercises Group
Here's their page, which seems to focus on table tennis. Jules Apatini explains: "In the Apple and Google Play Store, the free APP AerobicSDM is there for downloading. That will explain all there is needed to know about this Aerobic Progressive Exercise Concept if anyone is interested to learn more about it. People will be able to exercise and keep active safely during this COVID 19 Pandemic and, at the same time, commit the proper strokes and moves used in Ping Pong/Table Tennis to muscle memory while they execute the exercises."

The Rise of Tomokazu Harimoto
Here's video (5:59) of the Japanese 17-year-old (world #4) from age four on. Note the early temper tantrums!

Inner Spin | from Lockdown to RESTART
Here's the ITTF video (37:06), featuring USA's Lily Zhang and Brazil's Hugo Calderano. "What do our world-class athletes think about the return of international table tennis and the arrival of WTT?"

Best Points of All Time
Here's the video (18:50). Get out the popcorn! Here are more videos from Table Tennis Ball.

New from the ITTF
Here's their home page and news page.

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

ATTU Aim for the Stars Videos
Here they are.

Semi-Pro Man vs. USA Champion Woman
Here's the video (9:32) from Adam Bobrow, who takes on Jiaqi Zheng, the 2015 US Women's Singles Champion, who now coaches the Chinese Taipei Women's Team, including world #8 Cheng I-Ching.

Shadow Practice with a Squirrel and a Skeleton
Here's Jules Apatini doing strangely hypnotic aerobic table tennis with a:

Best Roller of the Year!? With LONG PIPS!
Here's the video (22 sec) of Konstantyn Salatov. Watch the reaction of Coach Wang Qingliang!

Can U Do This Trickshot by Grand Slam Champion Zhang Jike?
Here's the video (20 sec)!

Table Tennis Mouth Wall Bounce Guinness World Record
Here's the video (4:01)!

Paddle and Ball for Breakfast
Here's the video (19 sec)!

Over the Moon Movie Clip: Chang'e Vs Chin Pingpong Game
Here's the video (2:57)!

***
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October 19, 2020

Tip of the Week
Sometimes Hit Twice to the Same Spot.

Weekend Coaching and Shadow Practice
I worked mostly with the youngest players on Sunday. In the 90-minute session, we spent the first 45 minutes doing multiball. For most of it, I'd feed multiball to one player, with various footwork drills, while I'd have one or two others behind him, shadow-practicing as they match the player's movements. I'd rotate them every two minutes or so. It's a great way to work with beginning-intermediate players. Here's a video example (61 sec), but not of the players I was working with, who are a little more advanced.

Shadow practice is one of the most under-utilized training techniques. Most players try to develop both their technique and timing at the same time (i.e. stroke and hit the ball in a drill), when you can develop the stroke better if you don't always have to also time it to hit the ball. You need both, of course, but if you shadow-stroke the correct technique enough, it becomes second-nature, and makes it much easier to do so in drills and game situation. Here are three Tips of the Week on Shadow Practice:

Here are some videos on shadow practice:

On Saturday I had my usual session with Navin Kumar. We're working a lot on forehand smashing, as well as turning his backhand blocking (with long pips) into something that strikes terror in the hearts of lesser and stronger players. Here's video (61 sec) near the end, where he's working on smashing against my lobs. If you look in the comment section, you'll see a long comment by me where I went over what we did in the session.

USATT News
Lots of big issues this week!

USATT Board Teleconference
It was held on Tuesday, Oct. 13 at 8PM. The open portion only lasted 24 minutes, and then they went to executive session to discuss legal and/or personnel matters. There were 19 people on the call (though listed as 20, with one person listed twice). Included were the USATT Board (five people), staff members CEO Virginia Sung, COO Mark Thompson, Marketing and Communications Director Chad Knasinski, High Performance Director Sean O'Neill, High Performance Manager Doru Gheorge, Director of Para Programs Jasna Rather, NCTTA President Willy Leparulo, American Youth Table Tennis Organization CEO Thomas Hu (who is running for the USATT Board in the upcoming election), and others, including me. Here's a screen shot.

First up was the CEO report from Virginia Sung. Some of the things she covered:

  1. New USTT Membership Plan
  2. Regionalization (and note the USATT Town Hall Meeting with Club Administrators. on Tuesday, Oct. 20, where this will be discussed),
  3. ITTF matters (WTT). The 2023 World Championships to be held in Durban, South Africa - first time ever in Africa. (See news item below on this.)
  4. Recertification of NGBs, once every four years.
  5. Olympics movement.

Next up was the High Performance Director Report from Sean O'Neill. Some things covered:

  1. 2020 World Championships in Busan, Korea, were originally scheduled for March 22-29, 2020, but were rescheduled for Feb. 28 - Mar. 7, 2021.
  2. 2020 World Junior Championships have been cancelled. They were supposed to have been Nov. 29 - Dec. 6 in Portugal.
  3. He discussed the China bubble for the World Singles Cup and World Tour Finals.
  4. Olympics - Team selections, coaches, alternates, and camps
  5. USOPC Grants - Stupa Analytics and Polar Heart Rate Monitors
  6. National Team Selection (from the High Performance Committee) - Trials, Team Size, and Preparation. (The HPC meets twice a month, and will be coming out soon with info on these issues. They had their own teleconference immediately after the board meeting. Minutes and info on that will likely be up this next week.)
  7. T2 Competition (Thursday Night Live) - Team Butterfly d. Team Nittaku, 6-3, discussion of Season 2.

Next up was the Auditing Committee Report, by Kelly Watson. Gist of it - USATT lost money due to the pandemic, but that was somewhat unavoidable.

New from Samson Dubina

New from Tom Lodziak

Five Ways to Improve Your Serves
Here's the video (8:08) from Joey Cochran. Check out his past instructional videos at Table Tennis Junkie!

The Science of Spin in Table Tennis
Here's the video (35:24).

Deep, Breaking Serve - Around a Target
Here's the video (29 sec). You might even consider putting the target wider, outside the corner, to practice serves that really force the receiver to reach for the ball.

Forehand Training Movement
Here's the video (74 sec) - Forehand loop, touch barrier, repeat. Note the wide stances, despite being kids and shorter than most adults.

New from Steve Hopkins

My Once a Week Hardbat Habit
Here's the article from Coach Jon.

Desmond Douglas on Race and Results
Here's the article from Table Tennis England on the former world #7 and 11-time English Men's Singles Champion.

Best of Fan Zhendong at the 2020 Chinese National Championships
Here's the video (9:11). He defeated Ma Long in the final.

6 Great Rivalries in Table Tennis
Here's the video (4:17).

Amazing Table Tennis Block shots! Who Did It Best?
Here's the video (2 min).

Amazing 7-Year-Old Hungarian Girl
Here's the video (3:08) of Lizett Fazekas. According to Jules Apatini, "It is my great pleasure to personally know Peter Fazekas, who happens to be the Father, coach, and trainer of this little seven years young lady who, if I may predict, will be a world-class Table Tennis Champion if she keeps this up!"

Top Five Tallest Professional Table Tennis Players in the ITTF TOP 100 and Their Best Points
Here's the video (5 min).

Durban, South Africa, to Host Historic 2023 ITTF World Table Tennis Championships
Here's the ITTF article. It's the first World Championships in Africa.

New from the ITTF
Here's their home page and news page.

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

Pistol Paddle
How can you call yourself an Equipment Junkie if you don't have a Pistol Paddle?

Hubie Halloween and Adam Sandler's Weapon
Here's an image of Adam Sandler from the new Netflix movie Hubie Halloween. Twice Adam Sandler's character is about to fight with a ping-pong paddle as his weapon - against a werewolf and against a car driven by a headless driver. Alas, the werewolf runs away, and the paddle wasn't much help against a car.

Grunt Pong
Here's the video (19 sec) - I'm not sure if they are grunting so loud for fun, to copy someone, or if it's the latest technique!

Ping Pong Battleship: Grand Final
Here's the video (5:43) from Pongfinity!

Non-Table Tennis - UFO8
This Sunday was the Book Launch for Unidentified Funny Objects 8, the annual anthology of humorous science fiction & fantasy stories. I have a story in it, "Journey to Perfection," and so was on the online panel, which was held at Capclave, a science fiction convention. I gave a short synopsis of the story and read a 450-word excerpt. The story is a satire on self-driving cars and GPS, where a snob buys the latest model, and it takes whatever he says literally - leading to a number of crazy adventures, and his comeuppance and redemption. (One of the other authors is David Gerrold, who wrote the famous original Star Trek episode, "The Trouble with Tribbles.") There is one mention of table tennis, where I describe the main character as bouncing around inside the car "like a ping-pong ball" when the car is driving up a set of steps - from his living room to the upstairs!

***
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October 12, 2020

Tip of the Week
Don't Telegraph the Direction of Your Attack.

USA Table Tennis Announces New Membership Programs for 2021
Here's the USATT news item. Here are the first two paragraphs:

"USA Table Tennis, the National Governing Body for the sport of table tennis, today announced that the organization is implementing a new, simplified membership structure, which will take effect on January 1, 2021. Under the new program, members can select one of two available annual memberships – "Basic" and "Pro" – depending on each particular member's playing goals."

"The Pro Plan, which will cost $75 per year, will allow the member to play in all USATT Sanctioned Tournaments and Leagues, including the US Nationals and US Open. The Basic Plan, which will cost $25, permits the member to play in 0 – 4 Star Tournaments, which will include a new event – the US Nationals State Qualification Tournament – and USATT Leagues. All members will continue to receive the historical benefits of USATT membership including coverage under an accidental medical insurance policy, voting privileges, travel and sponsor discounts, access to the USATT newsletter, and full access to the complete USATT rating system."

This could be a good idea, but a lot of it will come down to execution and communication. A key thing here is that USATT will now be requiring the $25 membership to play in the USATT League. Until now, it has been free, some will not like this. How to turn USATT League players into USATT members has been an ongoing question for years. One of the keys here is that they don't have to pay the full $75 membership, only $25.

HOWEVER . . . and here's the part that's important. In just over eleven weeks, USATT clubs all over the country might be running USATT Leagues. (I say "might" because of the pandemic, which is a separate issue.) If League Directors don't know about the change, they will likely show up in January to run their leagues as always . . . and get caught when they find non-USATT members can't play, or at least can't get their ratings processed. What will happen if they have some non-members playing? Will that stop the entire league rating processing? Non-members will also show up, not realizing they have to be USATT members, and some will be unhappy at this. I think the $25/year is fair, but they key is to not have lots of leagues play with non-members, and then discover they weren't eligible.

So COMMUNCATION will be key. USATT needs to inundate clubs and league directors with info on the new policy so they can prepare by alerting their players. They will need a lot of lead time on this since often they may not even communicate with the players except when they show up at the club. Ideally, USATT could even produce simple flyers that clubs can put up, showing the benefits of the USATT League, with the key part that they get a LOT for that $25.

One irony is that, in this case, the pandemic might have helped USATT. Normally, such a change would take place while leagues are running every week all over the country, and so it would cause problems. But with the pandemic, most leagues are currently on hold, and so it's a natural time to make such a switch.

One problem, of course, is that many league directors might simply choose to look around and find other free table tennis league software. Ideally, USATT will cut that off by communicating to the clubs and league directors the value of the USATT League, as part of a nationwide league, along with the ease of league ratings, submitting, and processing. Lowering the membership for leagues to $25 is a big help.

One thing that might help is if clubs get a percentage of the new $25 memberships. The problem there, of course, is that $25 isn't a lot, and when you split it up, it becomes even less. Of course, if USATT were to give clubs 40% of that ($10), clubs might simply charge $15/year to play in the league.

One nice thing - USATT has eliminated the hated Ratings Access Subscription plan, so USATT members can again look up the ratings of anybody, even former members whose memberships have expired.

A little history. I initiated USATT League about 20 years ago, and co-founded it with Robert Mayer. At the time we started it, "winner stay on" was the norm all over the country, with very few leagues. So the question was: How could we jumpstart a league system? And so the USATT League system was born - and now it is used every week in club leagues all over the country. A key part was that the ratings were separate from the USATT Tournament ratings, since players are very protective of that. However, at some point (and it might already be happening - not sure), some leagues can run using regular USATT ratings, if they choose. One goal of the USATT League was to allow players to get initial ratings from the leagues, and use that as their starting rating when they play their first USATT tournament. That way they don't have to go through what most have to do, play in rating events their first tournament where they can't advance, since they are unrated.

There is also info in the news item on the new Regionalization of the Nationals, where players qualify in regional events. I'll look into that sometime later. The next USA Nationals is now scheduled for July 4-9, 2021, at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas.

Weekend Coaching
In the Sunday Class, I worked mostly with the younger kids, and continued to work on fundamentals. At the end of the session, I put a water bottle on the table, and put a trillion dollar bill under it. I'd feed each of them three balls (wide backhand, middle, wide forehand), and if they knocked the bottle over, they got a trillion dollars! I lost four trillion dollars, my entire life savings...

On Saturday I spent much of the session with Navin Kumar working on forehand loops followed by smashes. But we also spent a lot of time on his blocking, making sure he's solid on both sides, and able to cover the whole table in random drills. Here are two videos from the session (41 and 74 sec). Navin also posted two videos of himself, side by side. The first was of him before I started coaching him, and the second a recent one. Forehand has improved!!! He also did this video (2:20) for a Parkinson's group.

USATT Board Teleconference
They have one tomorrow (Tuesday, Oct. 13) at 8PM Eastern Time, using Uberconference. Here's the USATT Agendas and Notices page, which includes a link to the info for this teleconference if you would like to listen in and perhaps participate. (You can ask questions in the chat box, and then they may respond or allow you to speak.) The current agenda is sparse, just CEO Report, High Performance Report, and Committee Reports and Updates, but more may be added later. (Here's the USATT Minutes page, where you can see the minutes of past meetings.)

USATT Coaches Meeting
USATT High Performance Director Sean O'Neill has been organizing bi-monthly Zoom meetings for all USATT Coaches. They are normally the second and fourth Friday every month, usually at noon eastern time (though they sometimes have to vary that due to coaches' schedules), and last about 30 minutes. Sean announces each meeting, including agenda and the link to attend, on the USATT Coaches Facebook Page. I attended the one last Friday, which went a little longer than previous ones, about 50 minutes. Attending were Sean O'Neill, Doru Gheorghe, Samson Dubina, Mike Lauro, Sameh Awadalla, Wang Qingliang, and Larry Hodges (me). Here is a video of the meeting (50 min), along with links about the items covered in the meeting. Some of the items discussed included:

  • USATT Hopes Program
  • US Nationals and regionalization
  • International and National Teams
  • Thursday Night Challenge
  • Coaches reported on their clubs

Table Tennis Books Out This Year
There are at least eight new books on table tennis out this year! Here's a listing. Time to do your Christmas shopping! (Here's my table tennis book collection of 269 books.)

  • My Stories of Mental Toughness On and Off the Table, by Dora Kurimay. "I believe that the principles of sports psychology can be applied to all aspects of your life. Whether with public speaking, being a great parent, or developing your skills as an athlete. This collection of 11 stories from my life offers insight on gaining a psychological edge and attaining mental toughness."
  • Winning Table Tennis, by Dan Seemiller and Mark Holowchack, reprinted in 2020. "Whether you're a competitive tournament player or a serious recreational player, Winning Table Tennis: Skills, Drills, and Strategies will help you improve your game. Dan Seemiller, 5-time U.S. singles and 12-time doubles champion, shows you all the shots and strategies for top level play. This book features 19 drills for better shot-making, plus Seemiller's own grip and shot innovations that will give you an edge over the competition. Featuring the most effective table tennis techniques and strategies Winning Table Tennis shows you how to: choose the right equipment; serve and return serves; use proper footwork and get into position; practice more efficiently; prepare for competitions; make effective strategy decisions in singles and; doubles play, and; condition your body for optimal performance."
  • Spin: Tips and Tactics to Win at Table Tennis, by Tom Lodziak, 2020, "Table tennis is a weirdly addictive sport. All over the world, an army of amateur table tennis players compete in leagues, tournaments, pub battles, work challenges and 'friendly' family games. A 78-year-old can beat a 28-year-old. A 10-year-old can make a grown man cry. To win, you need ninja-like reflexes, the control and coordination of a tightrope-artist, and the tactical dexterity of a chess grandmaster. In this book, coach Tom Lodziak will help you improve your table tennis skills, win more points and win more matches. Tom shares tips on training, service, returning serves, winning points, tactics, playing matches and continual improvement. These are tips which work at amateur level. Tips which are achievable. Tips which will make a difference, even if you only play one hour per week. Are you ready to transform your table tennis game?"
  • It Takes Balls to Play Table Tennis, by Gerard Desmond Flanagan, 2020. "A sports journey with a reflective look back at how the Troubles in Northern Ireland have shaped everything. Des has somehow talked himself into writing a book about table tennis of all things. After deciding to try and play international table tennis after a small gap of forty odd years, it is not long before his mind is off all over the place. The effects of living through 'The Troubles' soon appear and events shape his journey. The various journeys to and from the tournaments via his past become a form of a 'mens shed' on wheels."
  • Table Tennis From Then Till Now, by Rowden Fullen, 2020. "This book is about our great game of table tennis. But in fact it's not a book as such, rather a series of articles, lectures and seminars, delivered over many decades which chart the journey through time and many differing eras. Over almost eighty years of involvement in the game I have had the great fortune to meet many of the greatest coaches and their stars and have tried to absorb their thoughts and ideas. Equally in these articles I have tried to chart the way the game has changed and evolved over the decades."
  • Ping! A Personal Perspective on Table Tennis, by Graham Frankel, 2020. "Table tennis, the sport that almost everybody has played at one time or another, has a unique position among all other popular world sports. The evolution of table tennis at a competition level has been dominated by changes in equipment. This fascinating story is punctuated by moments of drama where unknown players have burst onto the international scene upsetting established champions and setting the sport into a new direction. These pivotal changes sparked bitter conflicts – sometimes drawn out over decades - between the authorities, players, and those with commercial interests in creating new products. Set against the historical background, Ping! is also a very personal story, charting the experiences of how a young boy whose humiliating failures in other sports led to a lifetime commitment to table tennis."
  • Why Table Tennis?: 10 Aspects of the Sport That Will Change Your Life, by Samson Dubina, Jacob Boyd, and Sarah Jalli (editor - Larry Hodges), 2020. "The Olympic sport of table tennis is well-respected worldwide for the dexterity of the athletes, the speed of the rallies, and the excitement of watching players of all ages and nationalities compete for world titles. Here in the US, very little is known about table tennis … Until Now! Why Table Tennis takes you on a one-hour journey where you will explore the vastness of the sport, understand how it is healthy for the mind and body, how it has impacted world history, and why it can impact your life too!!! Buckle up for this one-hour journey… The Olympic Sport of Table Tennis!"
  • Still More Table Tennis Tips, by Larry Hodges, 2020. "Here are 150 Tips to help your table tennis game, by Larry Hodges - a member of the U.S. Table Tennis Hall of Fame and a National Coach. They compile in logical progression three years' worth of Tips of the Week (2017-2020) from TableTennisCoaching.com. They cover all aspects of the game: Serve, Receive, the Strokes, Grip and Stance, Footwork, Tactics, How to Improve, Sports Psychology, Equipment, and Tournaments. (This is a sequel to "Table Tennis Tips," which covered the 150 Tips from 2011-2013, and "More Table Tennis Tips," which covered the 150 Tips from 2014-2016.)"

31,000 Reads!
The last week's blog was the first to break 30,000 reads in a week, and went over 31,000 this morning. It's been getting about 28,000 the last few weeks.

Benefits of Becoming a USATT Certified Coach
Here's the USATT article by Joshua Dyke. "The USATT Online Coaching Certification program is an excellent opportunity for those who wish to teach the game they know and love. Whether you want to coach table tennis players that compete on the national stage or be joined by friends and family to have weekend matches in your recreation room; these are moments where coaching certification would be a welcome addition to enhance the quality of play and the spirit of the game."

2020 US Hopes National Finals
Here's the info page. They will be held in Akron, OH, at the Samson Dubina TTC, Dec. 2-5. This is for kids born in 2008 or after. My club (MDTTC) will likely be sending six kids - Stanley Hsu (just turned 12, 2286, #1 in Hopes), Mu Du (12, 2020, #4 in Hopes), Winston Wu (10, 1935, #7 in Hopes), Ryan Lin (10, 1926, #9 in Hopes), Arjun Kumar (9, 1585, #1 in US in Under 10, lives in PA but trains with us once a week) and Aaron Zhang (11, 1516, #22 in Hopes). I hope to go as one of the coaches, but we have a lot of coaches at our club, so we'll see. 

USATT Hall of Famer George (Gus) Kennedy Passes Away
Here's the USATT article. Although he was on the USATT Board of Directors the first few years I worked for them, I never really knew him well, alas.

Interview with USATT High Performance Director Sean O'Neill
Here's the video (50:22) from Kevin Table Tennis.

"In the Loop" Table Tennis Research Roundup
Here's the info page. "Ready to CHOP down your competition and PUSH your game to the next level? Join my FREE monthly "research roundup" and get concise breakdowns of the latest research pertaining to table tennis players."

Do Your Serves Complement Your Playing Style?
Here's the article from Tom Lodziak.

New from Samson Dubina

Special Training China's Table Tennis
Here's the video (8:15).

Reverse Tomahawk Serve
Here's the video (63 sec, includes slo-mo) of Ding Ning.

Table Tennis Player Has Got Crazy Skills
Here's the training video (3:01).

Jimmy Butler vs. Daniel Tran
Four-time US Men's Champion Jim Butler has been posting videos of his practice matches with US MiniCadet star Daniel Tran and others. You should go to the Jimmy Butler Facebook page and have a look!

New from Steve Hopkins

Chinese Nationals
Here's the ITTF Article: Fan Zhendong wins singles gold; Chen Meng and Wang Manyu secure women's doubles title. See also Steve Hopkins' article above.

All of the Dragons in The Table Tennis Dungeon
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

Adriana Diaz, Puerto Rico's "Athlete of the Decade"
Here's the ITTF article.

Vladimir Samsonov - The European Legend!
Here's the video (6:22).

INCREDIBLE Table Tennis Backhands! Who Did It Best?
Here's the ITTF video (1:50).

New from the ITTF
Here's their home page and news page.

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

Tahl Leibovitz Racket at the Olympic & Paralympic Museum
Here's the picture. (Here's the non-Facebook version.) Want to know more about Tahl? Here's his 2017 book, Ping-Pong for Fighters. Here's another Facebook posting that shows both Tahl's racket and a racket signed by USATT's first three Olympians (from 1988), Sean O'Neill, Insook Bhushan, and Diana Gee. (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

US Table Tennis Championships (1940)
Here's the video (1:21), including a lot of Lou Pagliaro vs. Sol Schiff.

Ping-Pong Paddle Shirts from Amazon

I Played Against World No. 8 Cheng I-Ching
Here's the video (14:44) from Adam Bobrow!

Top 10 Table Tennis FAILS of 2020
Here's the video (4:04) from Table Tennis Daily!

A Little Ping Pong Madness
Here's the music video (4:13)!

Hand Sanitizer Backboard Basketball Pong
Here's the video (3 sec)!

Table Tennis Funny Collection
Here's the video (2:52)!

Table Tennis Trickshots Maharu Yoshimura Edition
Here's the video (6:14)!

Split Table Tennis Racket
Here's the video (5:10) from Pongfinity!

***
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October 5, 2020

Tip of the Week
Exaggerate Serving Follow-Through in "Wrong" Direction.

This is B.E.S.T. Week - Buy Every Seemiller Tome!
Here's the new Dan Seemiller page, where you can buy both of the books by USA's greatest modern player. (It's a relatively simple page I put together.) One teaches you how to play table tennis; the other is about his table tennis life.

Here's Dan's very short resume:

  • Dan Seemiller's USATT Hall of Fame Profile (by Tim Boggan)
  • 5-time U.S. Men's Singles Champion: 1976, 1977, 1980, 1982, 1983
  • 12-time U.S. Men's Doubles Champion: 1976-1983, 1990-1991, 1994, 2009
  • 7-time U.S. Mixed Doubles Champion: 1976-1978, 1981-1983, 1988
  • U.S. Men's National Team Coach, 1999-2009
  • U.S. Men's Olympic Coach, 2000 Sydney, 2004 Athens
  • 3-time USOC Coach of the Year for Table Tennis
  • South Bend Table Tennis Club Head Coach 1996-present
  • President of USA Table Tennis, 1990-1995
  • Hall of Fame Inductee, 1995, Lifetime Achievement Award 2008 (youngest ever, at 58)
  • A major driving force in bringing the World Veterans to the US, which led to us getting the Worlds in 2021 - well, maybe...

This is what I wrote about Dan on the page:

I first met Dan Seemiller at one of his Pittsburgh camps in 1977, my second year of play. Let's just say that I was in awe as he and his brothers (Ricky and Randy, plus Perry Schwartzberg) demonstrated and explained the various techniques. I went to another of his camps in 1978. The day before he badly sprained his ankle, and he showed up with the leg in a full cast so he could still move about to coach – and in a challenge match, hobbling about mostly on one leg, he still managed to win a challenge match against the U.S. #1 junior player, Rutledge Barry! Those Seemiller camps formed the basis both for my own game, and for my future professional coaching career. Little did I know that, one day, I'd be assisting Dan at his Pittsburgh camps in the early 1990s, and learning how to run my own camps. I'd also be his coaching chair during his USATT presidency. (And now I'm editing and doing the photo work and page layouts for his autobiography – wow!)

Dan is considered by most the greatest modern U.S. player, going back to the 1950s. He's done it all at the highest levels – player, coach, tournament director, club president, and president of USA Table Tennis. He even has a grip named after him – the "Seemiller grip." There's a reason he was the youngest person ever awarded the USATT Lifetime Achievement Award, in 2012 at the age of 58. Even now, as I write this, he's still actively playing – easily the best over 60 player in the U.S. – while coaching at South Bend and helping USA Table Tennis run training camps for their top juniors. Plus, he was instrumental to bringing the World Veteran Games to the U.S. in 2018, something he's very excited about – setting it up, running it, and playing in it.

Dan's been putting up on his Facebook page daily photos and news clippings from his past, along with daily tips. If you are on Facebook, why not friend him so you can see these daily nuggets? Here are the recent tips:

  • Always go for the shot. Many times scrambling to win a point can make all the difference.
  • In the photo, this is a late loop which I will spin heavily. If I had the time to step forward, then that would be a drive loop. Knowing that there is more than one timing position for every stroke - is a very important lesson to learn that increases one's range and improves decision making.
  • When blocking one 1st needs to assess the quality of the attack for their response. If there is plenty of energy there- just redirect it. If it lands short or is weak then block aggressively or counterattack.
  • When you lose focus, everyone does at some point, the key is to recognize it and recover as quickly as possible. Think of strategy and get your mind active again.
  • To make comebacks takes never giving up and not focusing on the score. Nothing more satisfying in sports than turning what could be a loss into a win.
  • Use your free arm to help create balance and power.
  • Develop quality serves and be unique whenever possible- racket speed is essential. Use the body to create momentum.

And now, the books, which you must buy or you will be cursed for life by the table tennis demons! (Note - some think that Dan teaches the "Seemiller grip" when he coaches. Nope, he coaches mostly regular shakehands or penhold grip, which is what's he's coached during his 45+ years coaching - I know, I went to his camps, first as a player, then as his assistant coach. The key thing isn't your grip, it's understanding the game - which is why Liu Guoliang is probably the greatest Chinese coach, even though he was a penholder mostly coaching shakehanders.)

=>Winning Table Tennis (168 pages)
Whether you're a competitive tournament player or a serious recreational player, Winning Table Tennis: Skills, Drills, and Strategies will help you improve your game. Dan Seemiller, 5-time U.S. singles and 12-time doubles champion, shows you all the shots and strategies for top level play. This book features 19 drills for better shot-making, plus Seemiller's own grip and shot innovations that will give you an edge over the competition. Featuring the most effective table tennis techniques and strategies Winning Table Tennis: shows you how to:

  • choose the right equipment,
  • serve and return serves,
  • use proper footwork and get into position,
  • practice more efficiently,
  • prepare for competitions
  • make effective strategy decisions in singles and doubles play, and
  • condition your body for optimal performance.

=>Revelations of a Ping-Pong Player (218 pages)
"If you are in the sport of table tennis, then you know Danny Seemiller, USA's greatest modern champion. In 'Revelations of a Table Tennis Champion,' the five-time U.S. Men's Singles Champion takes you through his 50 years in the sport, from the early days of training, the breakthroughs, the agonizing defeats and the great triumphs. You'll learn why the three-sport star - baseball, basketball, and football - changed his focus to table tennis. You'll experience his trips around the world, from being marched at gunpoint to achieving his boyhood dream of defeating the Chinese. But playing is only half his story. Danny, a long-time coach first in Pittsburgh and then in South Bend, Indiana, was the U.S. Olympic and World Team Coach for ten years, and was named the USOC Coach of the Year for Table Tennis three times. He served five years as president of USA Table Tennis, ran dozens of major tournaments through the years, and was instrumental in bringing the 2018 World Veterans Games to the United States. He is a member of the USA Table Tennis Hall of Fame, and in 2012 became the youngest recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award. This is his story."

USATT Thursday Night Live: Sun Seals Series Win for Team Butterfly
Here's the article by Steve Hopkins, as Team Butterfly (captained by Dave Sakai) defeats Team Nittaku (captained by Patty Martinez), 6-3. Here's video of the final match (47:25, starts with pre-game show by Sean O'Neill and Mark Thompson, with match beginning at 21:21), between Aziz Zarehbin (14, 2388, #2 in Cadet Boys) vs. Rachel Sung (16, 2406, #3 in Junior Girls, and 2019 US Nationals Women's Singles Finalist). Here's an interview with the players (16:04, starts about one minute in) before the match. Here's my tactical analysis and play by play:

Tactically, Rachel often pins Aziz on the backhand, dominating with her relentless backhand topspins, while Aziz looks for chances to counter-attack with the backhand, and to get his forehand into play. (This is often true for matches between men/boys vs women/girls.) Rachel rarely wins with one-shot winners, instead often taking several shots to force a winner, or forcing Aziz into mistakes. Aziz more often goes for big winners - and often wins or loses streaks of points, depending on whether they are hitting. Aziz often attacks Rachel's wide forehand, dominating the points when he found chances to attack that way. Rachel often serves short to the forehand, with Aziz sometimes receiving forehand, sometimes reaching over with his backhand. Rachel often serves with a semi-penhold grip - I had to watch it closely a few times to verify this. (She'd quickly return to shakehands grip afterwards.) She varies her serving motion more than Aziz, but Aziz varied his service depth more, going both short and long to the backhand, looking to counter attack when Rachel backhand loops off the long serves weren't strong enough. Rachel has a very strong forehand flip that often gave her the initiative.

The lefty Rachel completely dominated the first game, winning 11-3. She often would pin Aziz on the backhand side, and Aziz would often miss backhand counter-attacks, and wasn't able to get his stronger forehand into play enough, and was erratic when he did. Rachel was consistently aggressive, and her backhand loop forced mistakes.

The second continues like the first, with Rachel going up 10-4 - to this point she's on a 21-7 start. Until now, it's Rachel on the consistent attack, and Aziz erratic on the counter-attack, especially on the backhand. And then, suddenly, improbably, it's 10-10! Aziz is on the attack now, from both wings, and his shots are hitting. He plays a shot-making style, and often goes for difficult shots - but when they start hitting, watch out! He deuces it with a backhand kill. In the rules for Thursday Night Live there is no regular deuce, where you have to win by two points, so next point wins. Aziz serves short, Rachel pushes short, and Aziz, seemingly caught off guard (looking for a longer ball), reaches in and pushes in the net, so it's 11-10 for Rachel.

In the third, Aziz continues his strong play, and goes up 7-2 and (with a nice lobbing and then counter-attacking point), 9-6. But now it's Rachel's turn to pull off a run of five in a row to win, 11-9.  

Aziz takes another lead in the fourth, 5-1, but Rachel quickly ties it up, 6-6, then 7-7, 8-8. Aziz steps around and absolutely creams a forehand from the backhand side - but Rachel somehow quick-blocks a clean winner to the open forehand court to go up 10-8 match point, and she wins the game and match, 3,10,9,9.

Weekend Coaching
On Saturday, as usual I worked with Navin Kumar for an hour. We've spent a lot of time working on his smash, both in rallies and against lobs (which have given him some trouble). A good portion of this session I worked on his transition from backhand blocking to forehand smash. For about fifteen minutes I'd backhand topspin over and over to his backhand and middle, and he'd block with his long pips, and then I'd suddenly go to his forehand, and he'd smash, and then we'd play the point out. About halfway through, I started throwing pushes against his pushes (against his long pips, my topspins come back as backspin), he's do a quick "bump" shot with the pips (which gives me a light topspin), and then I'd counter-hit that to his forehand  for him to attack. Here's video (35 sec) of one lobbing point where I caught him on his backhand, but he somehow pulled off his own long-pips backspin lob, which landed short and didn't bounce out, catching me off guard. ("Doesn't count, can't play that one," I said to the camera.) As I've mentioned, I'm retired from private coaching, but made an exception with Navin.

I was recently contacted by Sports Illustrated about a feature they are planning on table tennis and diversity. I thought about the questions for a few days, and finally decided I was the wrong person for them to interview - and turned them over to Navin, a more appropriate choice for this type of thing. I believe he will be one of the people featured in the article. 

In the advanced junior program, I worked with group 3, and spent much of the session on basics, plus a lot of footwork and serve practice. Focus on serves was speed - the kids liked that, especially when I challenged them to knock over bottles where you had to serve fast or the ball would just bounce off. We finished with the "ten-cup challenge," where I stack ten cups and they each get ten shots to see how many then can knock down.

JOOLA Teams Cancelled; Teams in Westchester, NY
The annual JOOLA Teams in Maryland has been cancelled because of that pesky virus. However, the Westchester TTC in New York decided to schedule a two-person team tournament that weekend, with $8000 in prizes. Here's the info page. (I've been to the Teams 44 years in a row; would this count as #45? I'll likely be there coaching a team.)

How to Improve Your Backhand Loop – with Ferenc Horvath
Here's the video (9:57) from Tom Lodziak.

8 Advanced Table Tennis Drills
Here's the video (15:17) from Panda Pong.

Weekly Training Lessons - The Serve
Here's the ITTF video (4:21).

Learn the Core Forehand Drive Technique- Beginners Table Tennis Tutorial
Here's the video (5:01) from Jin Jeon Ping Pong.

New from Samson Dubina

Motion Analysis for Coaches
Here's the table tennis info page, with video (1:55).

How Much Should A Table Tennis Lesson Cost?
Here's the article from Coach Jon.

Serious Robot Training
Here's the video (15 sec) - can't wait to see this in the US. The key is these robots hit the ball at you with an actual paddle, so players learn to react to a ball coming off a paddle. It's still not completely the same, as in real table tennis you also learn to react to the opponent's backswing and forward swing before he hits the ball (which is a bit different than the robot's swing), but it's still very good training.

New from Steve Hopkins

September Westchester Little Open Recap
Here's the article by Will Shortz. Here's video of the Open Final, Sharon Alguetti vs Mishel Levinski (17:18).

$3000 Nittaku Ohio Open Recap
Here's the article by Samson Dubina.

Glory for Guangdong and Hebei at 2020 China National Championships
Here's the ITTF article as these two provinces win Men's and Women's Team Events at the Chinese Nationals. Here is the Men's Team Final (3 hours) and the Women's Team Final (2 hours).

New from the ITTF
Here's their home page and news page.

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

Crazy Table Tennis Rallies
Here's the highlights video (4:22).

Best Table Tennis Shots of September 2020
Here's the video (13:23).

Dimitrij Ovtcharov Better Penhold?!
Here's the video (3:11) from Table Tennis Daily of the German star playing penhold - he's really good!

Top Five Penholders in Table Tennis Right Now
Here's the video (6:16).

Our Table Tennis Anthem
Here's the video (4 min) from Leo Hsu. "In a time when the sport was not allowed to be played, I followed 6 players to document the impact of the virus only to discover a unified voice (almost a song) of passion and love towards the sport." (Adam Hugh is one of the players featured.)

The Dominating Force of China National Team
Here's the video (18:37).

Japanese Men vs. Women: Brazilian Teams
Here are links to two versions, a highlights version (6:19) and the full version (16:03). The Japanese men spot the women four points in a game to eleven. Each team member goes to the table and plays a point. If they win the point, they stay; if they lose the point, they go to the end of their team's line and the next player is up. Lots of lefties!

The Mozart of Table Tennis - My RODE Reel 2020
Here's the video (3 min) from Ramon Bannister. "This is a short documentary about my life-long mentor and table tennis coach, Mozart Francois. This film is being entered into the My Rode Reel 2020 competition."

International Table Tennis Federation is Feeling Nostalgic
Here's the video (56 sec).

Jumping Jack Pong
Here's the video (9 sec) from the semifinals of the Spin & Smash Fall Open in Ohio, between Sarah Jalli and Sharon Alguetti. (Mixed in there is that great backhand loop from the barriers by Sharon, and Sarah's great block.) I sometimes do the "distraction jump" that Sharon does here - and sometimes it works! Many, many years ago I was playing USATT Hall of Famer Yvonne Kronlage and I popped a ball up. As she was about to smash, I jumped in the air as Sharon does here, waving my arms about - and Yvonne missed. She got very angry with me. I've always debated whether this is a legitimate response (which is where I tend to believe, as long as you do it silently) or poor sportsmanship, as some believe.

Ping-Pong Ninja Shirt
Here's where you can get one! (Or a mug, phone case, towel, etc, with other TT designs as well.)

Table Tennis Trick Shots
Here's the video (4:18) from 2018.

Storming the Table
Here's the video (39 sec) as Adam Bobrow's opponent takes things to a higher level.

Car Table Tennis
Here's the video (5:14).

New from Pongfinity!

***
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September 28, 2020

Tip of the Week
Use Quickness, Ball Placement, and Variation Against Short Serves.

Two Zoom Coaches Meetings
I was on two coaches Zoom meetings this past week.

  • Meet the Coaching Committee (26:57). This was on Wednesday, with USATT COO Mark Thompson interviewing Pieke Franssen (chair), Gao Jun, Dave Fullen, and Larry Hodges (me).
  • USA Table Tennis Coaches Catch-up (33:48). This is a new bi-weekly meeting for USATT coaches, held every other Friday at noon eastern time. Come join us! Attending this first one were Sean O'Neill (USATT High Performance Director), Doru Gheorghe (USATT High Performance Manager), Jasna Rather (USATT Director of Para Programs), Samson Dubina, Dora Kurimay, and Larry Hodges (me). For this meeting, topics of discussion were Club Status; Group and Private Lessons Status; USATT Thursday Night Challenge Update; USOPC Grants (in particular, robots and software for analysis); USATT Hopes Finals for 2020 (likely in December at Samson Dubina TTC in Akron, OH)

Weekend Coaching
Due to the pandemic, we have a limit of 12 players in a session. And so the roughly 36 players in our advanced junior program are divided into three groups. On Sunday I helped coach Group 1 and Group 3.

Group 1 was pretty strong for their ages - their ages and ratings were 12/2286 (Stanley Hsu, US #1 in Hopes Boys, turned 12 on Friday), 13/2059; 17/2038; 13/2027; 14/2022; 12/2020; 13/1986; 10/1955; 10/1901; 14/1762. (The last spot is often a rotating one from players from Group 2.) However, most of them haven't played tournaments in six months, but have been training throughout, and so are under-rated. I spent part of the session essentially standing over two players, saying, "Stay down!" over and over - both stood up too straight, and coincidentally were playing each other. (None of the others had that problem.) One player was having trouble with the humidity - the ball kept sliding off his damp sponge. I explained to him that when it's humid, you need TWO towels - one for you, and one just for the racket. They played improvised games at the end, such as one player serves short backspin, receiver pushes short, server flips or pushes aggressively long, and then play out point - but if the server won the point with his flip or push, he got two points. One kid played perhaps the best he's ever played--totally "In the Zone"--so I made sure he remembered his mental state during his play - relaxed and focused, and pretty much having fun out there.

In Group 3, I worked with three players at a time - one with me (some live practice, some multiball), with one on the robot, and the third picking up balls. We did mostly foundation work on forehands, backhands, footwork, and pushing, with serve practice at the end. The players I worked with rotated throughout the session.

On Saturday I coached Navin "Bionic Man" Kumar. He had a breakthrough on movement and smashing lobs - the latter has always been a weakness, so we've been working on it. Here's a video (22 sec).

USATT's Thursday Night Live - Joanna Sung vs. Ved Sheth
Here's the video (53:28). Sean O'Neill and Mark Thompson do the pre-game show and commentating. The actual match starts at 23:53. (It's every Thursday at 9PM - here's the info page.) After this match, Butterfly leads Nittaku 5-3. Here's an interview with Joanna and Ved (22:38, starts at 1:40) in advance of the match. Joanna is 16 and rated 2305, #9 in junior girls. Ved is 14 and rated 2303, #8 in cadet boys. 

Joanna has several serve motions, and often serves from the middle or forehand, to get an angle into the short forehand to force a forehand receive. Ved mostly served from the backhand side, also often short to the forehand. Neither wanted to give the other too many backhand flips. Neither tried to force the backhand flip as some do - so many rallies began with a forehand flip from the receiver.

Much of the match played like the previous week's match, with Joanna similar to Lily Zhang, and Ved similar to Adita "Adi" Godhwani. Like Lily, Joanna has a strong backhand, stays close to the table, and relentlessly attacks from both wings with quick topspins. Like Adi, Ved has a strong forehand and looks to end the point with it every chance. In rallies, Joanna tends to go after the wide corners, while Ved tends to attack the middle and wide forehand - just like Lily and Adi. Adi often serves long to Joanna's backhand, looking for a relatively soft topspin return, which he attacks with his forehand from the backhand side. Ved also has a similar receive to Adi on the backhand side, often dropping short to the forehand or flipping deep to the backhand or middle.

In the first game, Ved seemed tentative on the backhand, and often backed up. He did well from off the court, and throughout the match won a number of lobbing points, often by counter-attacking with the forehand. Joanna went up 7-3 and 9-7, then is down 9-10. At 10-all (with no deuce), Ved served long to the backhand, but Joanna saw it coming and stepped around and RIPS a super gutsy forehand winner! So first game to Joanna, 11-10.

As the match went on, Ved became more aggressive with the backhand, often attacking down the line to Joanna's forehand (so Joanna couldn't pin him down on the backhand with her strong backhand), just as Adi often did against Lily the previous week. This paid off as he began to win points from both wings. When Joanna attacked his wide forehand, often with strong backhands, Ved relentlessly counter-attacked, forcing Joanna to block as Ved attacked. Point after point, Ved is the aggressor, and his shots are hitting from both wings, including a lot of big forehands. Ved's attacks to Joanna's forehand from both wings especially pay off.

When Ved served short to Joanna's forehand, she often flipped aggressively crosscourt, but Ved is usually waiting and counter-attacked with big forehand loops. Ved also forehand flipped many of Joanna's short serves to the forehand, but her counter-attack wasn't as strong or as consistent.

After almost coming back to win game one, Ved dominated the rest of the way, winning the match at -10,6,6,6,7.

USATT Continues Thursday Night Live
Here's the info page. It's every Thursday at 9PM Eastern Time. This week it's Rachel Sung of Team Butterfly vs Aziz Zarehbin of Team Nittaku.

Tim Boggan Turned 90
Over 50 people wished Tim a Happy Birthday on Facebook for his 90th on Friday. Tim had no idea until he received the printout I expressed to him on Thursday. I spoke with him on the phone that afternoon, and was quite pleased! If you want to see them on Facebook, here's the main page, and here's another (from Sheri Rose Soderberg Cioroslan). On a related note, I discovered on that Friday that as Tim turned 90 on Sept. 25, US #1 Hopes player Stanley Hsu (rated 2286) turned 12! (He's from my club and I was his coach his first year before I turned him over to our 2600 coaches/practice partners. He was in Group 1 of the Sunday session above.)

USATT Board Meeting
Here is the USATT Minutes page, which includes a link to the minutes of their Sept. 14 Zoom meeting. I usually attend these meetings as a spectator, but missed this one because I didn't know about it - I guess I need to check the USATT Agenda & Notices page more often. (Nothing scheduled there at the moment, but they seem to meet once a month, so there'll likely be a meeting in mid-October.) Main issues in this meeting were the CEO Report, Audit Committee Report, Nominating and Government Committee Report (voting for two At-Large positions will be from Oct. 29 to Dec. 13 - I'll blog about this in my Oct. 26 blog); and an Executive Session (closed, presumably about legal or personnel matters).

Coaches Who Do Online Coaching
Here's an updated list. (Coaches - email me if I should put you on the list.)

  • LearnPong, with Kai Zhang, Brad Robbins, Chase Bockoven, Vlad Farcas, Andrew Williams, Christian Stelting, Bjorn Stelting, and Alfred Dela Pena.
  • Samson Dubina (OH), USATT Certified National Coach and multiple Coach-of-the-Year awards, and 2009 US Men's Singles Finalist. See his web page (scroll to the bottom of the products page).
  • Cory Eider (NJ), former USATT High Performance Director and 2013 US Men's Singles finalist, 2014 Men's Doubles Champion.  
  • Kevin Finn (NJ), Peak Performance Table Tennis
  • Pieke Franssen (CA), USATT Certified National Coach and chair of the USATT Coaching Committee. See his USATT about page
  • Matt Hetherington (NJ), member of New Zealand National Team, now coaching in the US, ITTF Level 2 coach. See also his web page.
  • Judy Hugh (NJ), former member of US National Team. See her USATT about page
  • Christian Lillieroos (CA), ITTF Level 3 coach. See his web page.
  • Sean O'Neill (OR), five-time US Men's Singles Champion and two-time Olympian, USATT Certified National Coach, and current USATT High Performance Director. See his USATT about page
  • Tim Wang (CO), three-time US Men's Singles Champion. See his USATT about page

LIVE: First Ever Online ITTF AGM!
Here's the ITTF info page. "The ITTF's Annual General Meeting (AGM) is taking place on Monday 28th September 2020 and, for the first time ever, it is being held virtually to enable the safest possible solution amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Tune in from 13:00 CEST to watch the AGM live on the ITTF’s official YouTube channel or itTV!" (NOTE - 13:00 CEST time is 7AM Eastern Time, so it's already started and probably over by the time you read this - but I believe you can see the video from earlier.)

Breaking News - Durban, South Africa will hold the 2023 Worlds, the first time in Africa. Here's the ITTF news item. They won over Düsseldorf, Germany (which ran it in 2017), 90-39. (Singles and Doubles are held in odd-numbered years, Teams in even-numbered years.) Here is more info on the World Championships, including past results.

New from the ITTF
Here's their home page and news page.

New from Samson Dubina

New from Paragon Table Tennis.

8 Forehand Loop Mistakes YOU Make
Here's the video (18:33) from PandaPong.

Tom in Training…Help Me Improve! (Sep 2020)
Here's the article and video (11:02) from Tom Lodziak.

Personalized Online Performance Coaching for Table Tennis
Here's the page from Peak Performance Table Tennis.

When Have You Thanked Your Coach?
Here's the video (47 sec).

New from Steve Hopkins/Butterfly

Name That Serve OR Stealing Table Tennis Serves For Fun and Profit
Here's the article from Coach Jon.

Putin Aide Named President of European Table Tennis Body
Here's the article from AP News. "An aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin was named the new president of the European Table Tennis Union on Wednesday."

USA Table Tennis Invites Nominations for Athletes' Advisory Council
Here's the USATT news item.

United States Table Tennis Athletes Association
Here it is - but I'm not sure how active it is yet.

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

Best Points 2018-2020 Seth Pech
Here's the video (3:24). (Seth is currently rated 2414, has been as high as 2479.) Check out the lefty power loop in the point starting 33 seconds in!

Ping Pong in Qatar
Here's the video (17:52) from Adam Bobrow.

Play Table Tennis Images
Here's a page of them.

Ping-Pong Paddle: "I Lost!"
Here's the image!

Beer Can Pong
Here's the cartoon!

Ping-Pong Cat Shirts
You can buy them at Amazon!

Cat Playing Ping-Pong
Here's the video (7 sec) - okay, he's playing with a ball on the table.

Types of Table Tennis Players
Here's the video (75 sec)!

A Dog's Table Tennis Journey
Here's the video (89 sec) from PingSkills!

***
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