Blogs

Larry Hodges' daily blog will go up Mon-Fri by noon USA Eastern time (usually by 10 AM, more like noon on Mondays when he does a Tip of the Week and has three days to cover). Larry is a member of the U.S. Table Tennis Hall of Fame, a USATT Certified National Coach, a professional coach at the Maryland Table Tennis Center (USA), and author of eight books and over 1500 articles on table tennis. Here is his bio.
NOTE - Larry is on the USATT Board of Directors and chairs the USATT Coaching Committee, but the views he shares in his blog are his own, and do not necessarily represent the views of USA Table Tennis.

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

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

January 16, 2018

Tip of the Week
Best Way to Learn – Watch, Mimic, Practice.

Board Teleconference – Executive Session
Last night we had a USATT Teleconference from 7PM to 8:40PM. Unfortunately, most of the meeting was in executive session, where we discussed confidential matters (personnel, legal, and/or certain financial issues). So I'm limited in what I can talk about.

We did come out of executive session to approve the 2018 USATT budget. It should be published on the USATT site sometime soon. We went over this previously, and went over it again during the teleconference. We also went over the dates of the USA Nationals this summer in Las Vegas – and the official dates should come out very soon. (There were scheduling complications in regard to the World Veterans Championships, June 18-24, also in Las Vegas, which I may blog about later.)

I've been pretty busy with USATT meetings recently. In December we had two days of meetings at the U.S. Open, plus the USATT Assembly. I flew out to Colorado Springs for a meeting on USATT Coaching Education and Certification on Monday, Jan. 8. There was the teleconference last night. And next Monday I'm on another teleconference regarding USOC online coaching resources that we may use or adapt. Mondays are becoming USATT Mondays.

USATT CEO Gordon Kaye returned Sunday from Vacation in Hawaii. Yes, he was there during the mistaken reporting of an incoming missile strike, and for 40 minutes or so thought his life was in danger!!!

Shoulder Injury
I was out for a month with a shoulder injury. I was having shoulder problems all through November and December, and at the U.S. Open in December I injured it pretty badly. I was forced to cancel all private coaching until this past Saturday, when I started up again. The shoulder is perhaps 80% healed, but I have a feeling this is one of those injuries that won't completely go away for a long time. I'm doing various exercises with a long rubber band.

I do have another injury. On Thursday last week, while getting the newspaper outside (yes, I still get one), while reaching down for it I released the screen door, which slammed into my heel, tearing an injury four inches long. It was pretty bad, and I really should have gone to the hospital. Instead, I cleaned it with soap and Neosporin, bandaged it up, and I've been limping ever since. But it doesn't really affect my table tennis, though it does hurt some moving as it puts pressure on the scab. It didn't get infected, and it's healing up.

The No. 1 Brain Sport
Here's the article by Mark Dekeyser in The Active Senior's Digest. "How do we stay mentally sharp as we age? Some try computer programs such as Lumosity (www.lumosity.com) or Fitbrains (www.fitbrains.com), others may prefer puzzles such as Sudoku and crosswords. We may be surprised to learn that physical activity is also good for our brains. Any type of physical activity can be valuable. The top physical activity for the brain is table tennis, say some experts."

2018 Team World Cup – China Team
Here's the article and pictures from EmRatThich.

How China Develops Their Players
Here's the video (1:57).

Training With Ma Long and Lin Gaoyuan at World Cup 2017
Here's the video (18:42) by Arnaud Scheen.

Sharon Alguetti (USA) vs. Artur Abusev (RUS) 2017 WJTTC
Here's the video (6:21).

The Future is…Ping-Pong? Omron Shows Off Incredible Table Tennis Robot
Here's the article and video (1:46). "Amid the buzz of drones, companion bots, and self-balancing rideable, an unlikely star shined on the first day of CES: ping-pong. Omron offered an incredible demonstration of its massive ‘Forpheus’ robot, which uses artificial intelligence to help improve your pong skills and set up the perfect volley."

Navin Kumar at Parkinson Association of Southwest Florida
Here's the video (6:01) of his motivational speech on Jan. 9 in Naples, FL at the Live Laugh and Learn Symposium for PASFI. (Here's a shorter 24-sec video of him bouncing a ball as he speaks.) The "Bionic Man," Navin Kumar has Parkinson’s and is a survivor of five open heart surgeries with mechanical heart, pacemaker and other artificial components.

Estee Ackerman to Appear on PIX 11 News
Here's video (9:20) of her playing with reporter Mr. "G" (Irv Gifoksky) in West Hempstead, NY. Estee won four gold medals at the recent U.S. Open in December. The story will come out in a few weeks.

History of USATT – Volume XX – Chapter 11
Here’s chapter 11 of Tim Boggan’s latest volume, which covers 1991-1992. Or you can buy it and previous volumes at www.timboggantabletennis.com.

Shot of the Day - Nandan Naresh
Here's video (11 sec) as Nandan pulls off a lunging, spinning backhand chop block that double bounces. Opponent is older brother Sid.

Ma Long in Smart Phone Commercial
Here's the video (30 sec).

Pongfinity – "Spin Serves" Episode 11
Here's the video (4:54). "In this episode Emil tries to flip a bottle with a ping pong shot, spin a coin with a ping pong serve, do various table tennis spin serves and eat a whole meal while keeping the ball in the air with his paddle."

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January 15, 2018

MLK Day
Today's MLK Day, so I'm off today - yes, it's Ma Long Karaoke Day! Here's the Chinese National Team members singing Karaoke (2:57) in 2010 – Ma Long, Wang Liqin, Ma Lin, and Wang Hao. The music starts about 15 seconds in. Ma Long sings 54 seconds in. (When they are standing at the stage at the start, L-R it's Wang Hao, Wang Liqin, Ma Lin, and Ma Long.) And just for fun, here's video (15 sec) of a trusting player blowing the ball up as Adam Bobrow smacks it out of the air. 

January 12, 2018

EmRatThich Table Tennis World Ranking System
Here’s the article and ranking list. This is not something he threw together – he goes over in detail the way his system works, which analyzes “43,735 table tennis matches played in 2017 (in official ITTF events) nearly 100 table tennis international tournaments during 2017.”

There have been many complaints about the new ITTF system, which rewards participation as well as level of play, leading to results that often don’t always correspond to actual playing levels. For example, it has Ma Long at #7 in the world, when he’s obviously #1 or #2. Here are the ITTF rankings. If you page down to “Official Documents,” there is info on how they are done. 

When doing such ranking systems, there is always the conflict between trying to set up the most accurate system, versus setting up a system that rewards and thereby increases participation. This is a classic case. USATT has the same problem - many players avoid playing to "protect" their rating. Using a system that rewards participation would likely increase participation, at the cost of accuracy. 

So let’s compare the two rankings, and you can judge for yourself.

EmRatThich System – Top 20 Men

  1. Fan Zhendong (CHN)
  2. Ma Long (CHN)
  3. Dimtrij Ovtcharov (GER)
  4. Timo Boll (GER)
  5. Lin Gaoyuan (CHN)
  6. Xu Xin (CHN)
  7. Tomokazu Harimoto (JPN)
  8. Jun Mizutani (JPN)
  9. Yan An (CHN)
  10. Fang Bo (CHN)
  11. Koki Niwa (JPN)
  12. Marcos Freitas (POR)
  13. Kenta Matsudaira (JPN)
  14. Lee Sangsu (KOR)
  15. Simon Gauzy (FRA)
  16. Vladimir Samsonov (BLR)
  17. Wong Chun Ting (HKG)
  18. Quadri Aruna (NGR)
  19. Ruwen Filus (GER)
  20. Hugo Calderano (BRA)

ITTF System – Top 20 Men

  1. Dimtrij Ovtcharov (GER)
  2. Fan Zhendong (CHN)
  3. Timo Boll (GER)
  4. Lin Gaoyuan (CHN)
  5. Xu Xin (CHN)
  6. Koki Niwa (JPN)
  7. Ma Long (CHN)
  8. Wong Chun Ting (HKG)
  9. Simon Gauzy (FRA)
  10. Kenta Matsudaira (JPN)
  11. Tomokazu Harimoto (JPN)
  12. Marcos Freitas (POR)
  13. Jun Mizutani (JPN)
  14. Lee Sangsu (KOR)
  15. Chuang Chih-Yuang (TPE)
  16. Omar Assar (EGY)
  17. Hugo Calderano (BRA)
  18. Ruwen Filus (GER)
  19. Yuva Oshima (JPN)
  20. Quadri Aruna (NGR)

Table Tennis with a Robot
Here’s the video (3:08) as they play with a robot that can rally live, not just shoot balls out at you. I’m wondering when these things will be on the market? However, they obviously can’t yet compete with a top player. From what I see, I don’t think it can react to aggressive shots to the corners, or to spins. However, I think they are missing the real future for this robot – put on a sheet of long pips, no sponge, and turn it into a pushblocker!!!

Throughout history people have made predictions about the future of such technology wonders that have proven false, so it’s risky making predictions here. However, I’m fairly certain that for the foreseeable future, these robots won’t challenge the top players. Perhaps many years from now.

US National Team - Year in Review 2017
Here’s the video (2:10). Live out the year with our National Team!

Dream Come True for Kanak Jha, Rankings Breakthrough for USA Star
Here’s the ITTF article.

30 Day Challenge to Improve Your Weakest Stroke
Here’s the article from Tom Lodziak.

Table Tennis Tidbits #16
Here’s ’16 Asian Olympic Trials:  Zhu “Helps” Ching Lose, by Robert Ho

Qualities Coaches Look For in Their Students
Here’s the chart. (Here’s the non-Facebook version.)

A Little Side to Side Footwork
Here’s the video (31 sec) with Lily Zhang, 4-time and current U.S. Women’s Singles Champion. Are you awake now?

Ma Long Serve Technique - Begin of the Attack
Here’s the video (7:18).

USATT Insider
Here’s the latest issue, which came out Wednesday.

Reliving the Memories of Riva del Garda, Truls Moregard Reflects on Stunning Campaign
Here’s the ITTF article. The next great Swede?

Adult Table Tennis and Coaching in England
Here’s the article by Eli Baraty about problems with table tennis in England.

Westchester TTC December 2017 Open Singles Final
Here’s the video (15:38), Tomislav Pucar vs. Kai Zhang.

Camping Pong
Here’s the cartoon.

Trick Shot Lob
Here’s the video (14 sec) as A.J. Carney puts together three trick shots in one routine. (That’s my U.S. Open Hardbat Doubles Champion partner!)

Christmas Ping Pong Trick Shots
Here’s the video (7:17) from Pongfinity

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January 11, 2018

Tip of the Week
Systematically Practice Against What You Have Trouble With. (I normally do these on Mondays, but I was out of town Monday and Tuesday, and didn’t have time to do one on Wednesday.)

Spin Wheel
I had some fun in December with the new TSP Spin Wheel, which was sent to me by PingPongDepot. It’s basically a small tire attached to the table that allows you to practice looping by spinning the wheel. Included with it is a speedometer (technically, a tachometer) that tells you how fast you are spinning it! That’s half the fun – the kids at the club were battling to see who could make it spin the fastest. Here’s video (4:02) of the wheel in action. (This one is white, but the one I have is black.)

I didn’t want to hurt the sponge on my racket so I annexed an inexpensive sponge racket as the full-time racket to be used with the Spin Wheel – I recommend you do the same. The wheel will spin the same whether you use a $300 racket and sponge combo or a $15 one.

The key is to use your normal loop stroke (forehand or backhand) and do it over and over, focusing on proper technique each time as you build up the spin. Some might get careless and use just their arm, so focus on using the whole body, as you do with a loop, from the legs on up. Done properly, it could help in developing the stroke and the muscles used.

It wasn’t all fun for me when I found out what I’d suspected – that with age, I probably don’t get as much spin as before. I was able to hit an even 60 on the speedometer with my forehand (I’m not sure if that correlates directly to miles per hour, but it’s all relative), but then John Olsen went over and hit 72, dashing my hopes and dreams.

Here’s what it says on the Spin Wheel info page (see link above):

  • A useful device for learning and practicing spin variation and learning the difference between brushing the ball for spin instead of hitting the ball for speed.
  • Can be used in many different ways and at different angles, to improve spin on your stroke and on your service technique.
  • Has speedometer attached to measure the wheel's speed.
  • The faster the wheel rotates, the more spin you are likely to generate with that stroke.

ITTF Statistics Page Now Available
Here’s the ITTF article. Or go straight to the Statistics Page.

Progressing to Higher Levels, Learn from China
Here’s the ITTF article.

Simplifying An Overly Complicated Game
Here’s the article from Coach Jon.

Ma Long Chop Block Technique
Here’s the video (5:04). It’s in Chinese, but you can watch how he does it.

Waldner Videos!

Saive vs. the Little Girl
Here’s the video (46 sec) where Saive apparently is taking on challenges – and she smacks one in! Make sure to see Saive’s serve at the end.

When Accuracy Meets Table Tennis Fun!
Here’s the video (38 sec).

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January 10, 2018

USOC Meeting on Coaching Education and Certification
I returned yesterday afternoon from a whirlwind trip to the US Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, where I met with USATT and USOC people on creating a USATT Coaching Education and Certification Program. Those attending the meeting were:

  • Larry Hodges (Chair of USATT Coaching Committee and member of USATT Board)
  • Jörg Bitzigeio (USATT High Performance Director)
  • Mark Thompson (USATT Chief Operating Officer)
  • Denise Parker (USOC Vice President, National Governing Bodies Services and former CEO for USA Archery)
  • Chris Snyder (USOC Director of Coaching Education)
  • Avery Wilson (USOC Director of Strategic Planning)

The USOC people have extensive experience in developing education and certification programs for Olympic sports, and so we weren’t starting from scratch. They were very knowledgeable and extremely helpful. We spent probably the first half of the meeting going over where USATT currently stood – who the coaches were, where they coached, the current business model of USATT clubs where the coaches develop players, and current resources. We went over the current coaching certification program – USATT has two, both the badly outdated USATT certification program (much of it created by me in the early 1990s when our situation was very different) and the ITTF program, which we have adopted as part of our program.

How is our situation different now than in the early 1990s? Back then, we had one full-time training center (MDTTC, which I opened with Cheng Yinghua and Jack Huang in 1992); now there are 94. Back then we had dozens of certified coaches, few of them active; now we have 311, and twice that many before we had to trim the field due to the recent SafeSport compliance rules. Back then there were perhaps six full-time coaches in the U.S.; now there are about 300, though only about half are USATT certified. Back then we were desperate just to get anybody out there coaching; now we can focus on quality.

After a lot of discussion of the strengths and weakness of our current situation, we discussed how other sports did it – especially tennis and archery. Then we got into the real nitty gritty of what we could do, which included a lot of brainstorming. Many of the potential opportunities come from doing online programs, especially at the lower levels. They would focus on two aspects – the table tennis part (of which there already is a lot of material we might be able to use), and the non-table tennis part, i.e. how to teach, plus sports psychology, physical training, etc. (and here the USOC already had a lot of material we could use).

We spent a lot of time diagramming the way we could set up such a program, using large sheets of paper on an easel, which we would then tear off and tape to the wall. By the end of the meeting the walls were covered with such notes!  (We took pictures so they are not lost.) Anyway, we now have a rather strong vision and plans on how to develop a USATT Coaching Education and Certification program for the modern age.

After the meeting Mark took me to the USATT storage area, and I was stunned at all the boxes of vintage stuff – film reels of vintage players from the 1930s like Viktor Barna and Lezlo Bellak; boxes and boxes of VHS tapes from the 1980s, USATT Magazines, program booklets, and so on. It was way too much to go over in the short time I had there. I may discuss having a USATT history person do a visit and spend a day going over it all.

Perhaps the hardest part of the meeting for me was just getting there. I had a flight at 6:50AM to Chicago, where I’d transfer to another flight to Colorado Springs, arriving at 11:52PM. The meeting was scheduled 1-5PM. However, when I got up at 3:30AM to get ready for my flight, I had an email that said the flight had been cancelled, and that I’d automatically been put on a “Direct Flight” at 8:40AM. So I lounged about for a time, and then drove over to Dulles Airport in Virginia. It was there that I discovered that the direct flight was to Chicago, and that they had me on another flight to Colorado Springs, which would arrive there at 6PM – an hour after the meeting ended!!

So I spent some time with the agent, trying to find a way to get there on time, but there just didn’t seem to be a way. Then she said, “Well, there is this flight from National Airport, but I don’t think you can make it in time.” To make the flight I would have 55 minutes for the agent to book the new flight; I’d have to find a way to National Airport (about 30 minutes away if no traffic – but we were in the middle of rush hour); get through security; and make it to my gate. Not a chance, right? The cheapest way would have been to take a shuttle or Uber, but there just wasn’t time, so I ran outside and grabbed a taxi. It cost $80 ($68 plus tip), but he drove like a maniac, and magically, there was little traffic. At National, there was almost no line in Security, and I was “TSA Pre,” and I went through that really fast, and lo and behold, I made it with five minutes to spare!

So I made it to Chicago in time for my original flight, though there was a rush there as well, with only 30 minutes between flights. So I rushed through the terminals to the gate - and then, just as I arrived, out of breath, they announced the flight had been delayed two hours, due to weather! This meant I’d arrive around 1:45PM, well after the 1PM meeting began. I let the USATT know I’d be late, they alerted the USOC, and they rescheduled the meeting for 2:30-5:30PM. Once at the Colorado Springs Airport I Ubered over, and arrived around 2:15PM.

I spent the night at the USOC, where I lived in the dormitories from 1985-1990, so it was nostalgia time. Then I caught an 8AM flight back to Maryland on Tuesday.

USATT Announces 2017 National Coaches of the Year Awards
Here’s the USATT article. I was on the selection committee for this, and the choices were not easy as we had to choose between such quality coaches. Congrats to:

  • Coach of the Year: Jörg Bitzigeio (Colorado Springs, CA)
  • Mark Nordby Developmental Coach of the Year: Pieke Franssen (Alameda, CA)
  • Paralympic Coach of the Year: Mitch Seidenfeld (Lakeville, MN)
  • Doc Counsilman Technology Coach of the Year: Samson Dubina (Akron, OH)

Nets and Edges: Learn 5 Key Elements to Returning Some of the Most Difficult Balls!
Here’s the article from Samson Dubina.

Reshuffling the World Rankings: Progressive or a Mistake?
Here’s the USATT article by Ray Huang.

New World Ranking System Launches Jha into Top 100
Here’s the article by Matt Hetherington.

Estee Ackerman, Long Island Table Tennis Phenom, Spreading the Word
Here’s the article and video (1:38) from Newsday. “You might say that Estee Ackerman is an ambassador of Ping-Pong Diplomacy.” (She and I won Hardbat Mixed Doubles at the U.S. Open a few weeks ago! We both normally use sponge.)

Tom’s Table Tennis Tips
Here’s the monthly newsletter from Tom Lodziak.

Relocation Leads Tom Feng's Charge Towards 2020
Here’s the USATT article by Richard Finn.

Best Year Ever, Now Simon Gauzy Looks Forward
Here’s the ITTF article.

Paddle Palace Club Leads Charge for Safesport Compliance
Here’s the article.

History of USATT – Volume XX – Chapter 10
Here’s chapter ten of Tim Boggan’s latest volume, which covers 1991-1992. Or you can buy it and previous volumes at www.timboggantabletennis.com.

Dimitrij Ovtcharov – The Road to the TOP
Here’s the ITTF video (6:18). “What a year of 2017 it was for Dimitrij Ovtcharov that led him to the TOP of the new ITTF World Ranking! Relive his sensational journey to become the new world number ONE!”

Nittaku ITTF Monthly Pongcast - December 2017
Here’s the video (8:29).

Ask a Pro Anything: Timo "the Bandana" Boll
Here’s the article and video (9:03) from Adam Bobrow. Great video – features a challenge match where the lefty Boll plays right-handed in a challenge match with Adam!

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January 5, 2018

Coaching Matters, and Away Mon & Tue
I’ll be away Monday and Tuesday, so next blog will be next Wednesday. I’ll be at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, meeting with USATT and USOC people about setting up a USATT coaching education and certification program. My flight leaves at 6:50AM from Dulles Airport on Monday, so I’ll be leaving for the airport very early. We have a detailed agenda to go over – I’ll likely go over here when I return. It’s actually formulated in the form of questions – 18 of them.

The USOC is in the business of winning medals for the U.S., and part of that business is setting up coaching programs that lead to these medals. They have a lot of experience working with the various sports organizations in doing this, and are willing to support us in this with money and other resources. There was a time when there simply weren’t enough training centers or potential coaches in the U.S. to make this worthwhile for table tennis, but these days we have lots of both. So now we can focus more and more on quality.

Meanwhile, I’m also involved in about a zillion other issues. I’m on the selection committee that’s currently debating the coach of the year awards – we have the nominations, and there are some very tough choices to be made from a number of highly qualified coaches. Picking and choosing among them is perhaps the least favorite part of my volunteer work. The coaching committee is also debating the grandfathering of a top coach, and along with it various requirements in general, such as English skills needed, the value of full-time versus part-time coaches, and the potential problems of being a high-level coach while still competing as a player.

I’m sort of lucky that I hurt my shoulder recently as it’s given me more time to attack that infamous todo list that sits on my desk. Yesterday I was able to finish scanning all the Hall of Fame Inductions program booklets (see segment below), which we’ll put online soon. I also mostly caught up on a huge amount of email that had been piling up. I also did a bunch of planning and preparation for new junior classes starting up this Sunday and on Thursdays, as well as the adult training program which starts up again this Sunday after a one-month break. (I’m still doing group sessions, but had to cancel private coaching due to shoulder injury.)

Other issues for today – ordering trophies for our 2018 tournaments (always a time-consuming, tedious hassle); updating two online info articles; figuring out how to FTP to some of my older table tennis pages (a huge irritation – they discontinued WS_FTP); finalizing the rosters for three upcoming group sessions; some accounting and billing for some of my table tennis books sold; and arm rehab. Tomorrow is set aside to prepare for the USOC meeting so that I’m ready to answer those 18 questions from the agenda. Sunday I’ll be coaching much of the day – three consecutive 90-minute group sessions.

Wanted – the 1989 Hall of Fame Banquet Program Booklet
[NOTE – I ran a version of this yesterday, but thought I’d give it one more try.]
There have been 34 USATT Hall of Fame Induction Banquets, from 1979 to 2017, and 34 Hall of Fame Program Booklets. I’m putting all of them online. But there’s a problem – I’m missing the one from the Ninth Hall of Fame Induction, in 1989, when George Brathwaite and John Read were inducted at the USA Nationals. I’ve checked with George, but he doesn’t have one, and John died years ago. So . . . do any of you have a copy? If so, please contact me or comment below!!!

Do Not Buy Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers!
Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers is so full of lies that the White House has sent a cease and desist order. They do not want you to read this book. Do not under any circumstances buy this book to find out what it is they don't want you to read. In fact, do not buy any of my highly subversive books.

Volunteer at the National College TT Championships
Here’s info on the event held April 18-22 in Round Rock, Texas. They need volunteers for umpiring, scorekeeping, registration, transportation, results processing, venue set-up and takedown, hospitality, information desk, production and announcing, media, video, photography

US Open Ratings
They are up. Memorize them – you will be tested.

Rocky and Pong Road: Episode 06
Here’s the new episode (16:50). You can find the first five episodes at Pong Road. The episodes feature the trials and tribulations of table tennis star Rocky Wang.

Rocky Music
In the 1980s we learned that you train much harder after listening to Rocky music – so why not give it a try?

Rocky Bullwinkle Table Tennis Set
While we’re into Rocky, here’s a Rocky Bullwinkle table tennis set.

In-Out Multiball Training
Here’s the video (25 sec), with a short ball, then a random deep backspin.

Top Table Tennis Mistakes
Here’s the article from Pong Boss.

Bottle Top Pong Challenge
Here’s the video (27 sec) from Eli Baraty.

Top Ten Craziest Shots of 2017
Here’s the video (3:11).

Ping Pong Table Buying Guide
Here’s the article from Table Tennis Spot.

Tom’s Table Tennis Quiz 2017
Here’s the quiz from Coach Tom Lodziak.

The Best Table Tennis Funny Compilation 2015-2017
Here’s the video (23:11)!

North Korea – USA Nuke Pong
Here’s the cartoon!

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January 4, 2018

Books I Read in 2017: "I have no life, and I must read."
Today’s blog is only partly related to table tennis – skip ahead if you have no interests in my book-reading proclivities. Below is a listing of the 58 books I read in 2017, which includes three books on table tennis, and another on coaching. It includes 21 novels by Mike Resnick; I’ve now read 43 of his books, 41 of them science fiction novels, the other two books on writing. I also read biographies of the first ten U.S. presidents (partly in preparation for a SF novel I might write), and lots of other stuff.

NON-FICTION (21)

  1. How to Coach Table Tennis, by David Hewitt (1990)
  2. History of U.S. Table Tennis: Vol. 19, 1991-92, by Tim Boggan
  3. History of U.S. Table Tennis: Vol. 20, 1992-93, by Tim Boggan
  4. Successful Coaching, by Rainer Martens
  5. Zen in the Art of Writing, by Ray Bradbury
  6. Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, by Neil De Grasse Tyson
  7. How to Build a Time Machine, by Paul Davies
  8. The Third Chimpanzee: The Evolution and Future of the Human Animal, by Jared Diamond
  9. A Concise History of China, by J.A.G. Roberts
  10. On Tyranny, by Timothy Snyder
  11. The Indisputable Existence of Santa Claus: The Mathematics of Christmas, by Dr. Hannah Fry and Dr. Thomas Evans
  12. Encyclopedia of Presidents: George Washington, by Brendan January
  13. Encyclopedia of Presidents: John Adams, by Barbara Feinberg
  14. Encyclopedia of Presidents: Thomas Jefferson, by Jim Hargrove
  15. Encyclopedia of Presidents: James Madison, by Brendan January
  16. Encyclopedia of Presidents: James Monroe, by Andrew Santella
  17. Encyclopedia of Presidents: John Quincy Adams, by Sean McCollum
  18. Encyclopedia of Presidents: Andrew Jackson, by Kieran Doherty
  19. Encyclopedia of Presidents: Martin Van Buren, by Lesli J. Favor
  20. Encyclopedia of Presidents: William Henry Harrison, by Steven Otfinoski
  21. Encyclopedia of Presidents: John Tyler, by Dee Lillegard

FICTION not by Mike Resnick (16)

  1. Buying Time, by Joe Haldeman
  2. The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas
  3. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
  4. Murder on the Orient Express, by Agatha Christie   
  5. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, by J.K. Rowling
  6. The Ice Dragon, by George R.R. Martin
  7. Wonder, by R.J. Palacio
  8. Barry’s Deal, by Lawrence Schoen
  9. The Genius Plague, by David Walton
  10. Supersymmetry, by David Walton
  11. All the Birds in the Sky, by Charlie Jane Anders
  12. Staked, by Kevin Hearne
  13. Zombies and Calculus, by Colin Adams
  14. H.G. Wells, Secret Agent, by Alex Shvartsman
  15. Funny Horror, edited by Alex Shvartsman
  16. Alternative Truths, edited by Bob Brown

FICTION by Mike Resnick (21)

  1. Gods of Sagittarius, by Mike Resnick and Eric Flint
  2. Soothsayer, by Mike Resnick
  3. Oracle, by Mike Resnick
  4. Prophet, by Mike Resnick
  5. Kilimanjaro, by Mike Resnick
  6. The Castle in Cassiopeia, by Mike Resnick
  7. Stalking the Unicorn by Mike Resnick
  8. Resnick’s Menagerie by Mike Resnick
  9. Sideshow, Galactic Midway #1, by Mike Resnick
  10. The Three-Legged Hootch Dancer, Galactic Midway #2, by Mike Resnick
  11. The Wild Alien Tamer, Galactic Midway #3, by Mike Resnick
  12. The Best Rootin'Shootin' Gunslinger, Galactic Midway #4, by Mike Resnick
  13. The Buntline Special (A Weird West Tale, Volume 1) by Mike Resnick
  14. The Doctor and the Kid (A Weird West Tale, Volume 2) by Mike Resnick
  15. The Doctor and the Rough Rider (A Weird West Tale, Volume 3) by Mike Resnick
  16. The Doctor and the Dinosaurs (A Weird West Tale, Volume 4) by Mike Resnick
  17. Walpurgis III, by Mike Resnick
  18. The Return of Santiago, by Mike Resnick
  19. The Other Teddy Roosevelts, by Mike Resnick
  20. Sideshow, by Mike Resnick
  21. Masters of the Galaxy, by Mike Resnick

Wanted – the 1989 Hall of Fame Banquet Program Booklet
There have been 34 USATT Hall of Fame Induction Banquets, from 1979 to 2017, and 34 Hall of Fame Program Booklets. (Here are the Hall of Fame Profiles.) I’m putting all of them online, scanning all the old ones. But there’s a problem – I’m missing the one from the Ninth Hall of Fame Induction, in 1989, when George Brathwaite and John Read were inducted at the USA Nationals. I’ve checked with George, but he doesn’t have one, and John died years ago. So . . . do any of you have a copy? If so, please contact me or comment below!!! (I was actually at the induction, but somehow misplaced my copy of the program, and nobody I’ve checked with seems to have a copy.)

Sidespin Serve – Tips and Tactics
Here’s the article and video (8:24) by Tom Lodziak.

How Can Having Targets on a Table Can Uplift Your Game
Here’s the article by Eli Baraty.

How to Do the Reverse Pendulum Serve
Here’s the article (lots of pictures) from EmRatThich.

The Complete List of Table Tennis Resolutions for 2018
Here’s the article by Coach Jon.

2018 Projects Ovtcharov to World Number 1
Here’s the USATT article by Ray Huang.

The Best Points of Lin Gaoyuan
Here’s the video (4:22).

Smart Phone Chopping
Here’s the video (22 sec) of Rory Scott – personally, I’m rooting for Hodges!!! (No relation.)

***
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January 3, 2018

North American Youth Olympic Games Qualification – Boys’ Final
Here’s the match, Kanak Jha vs. Jeremy Hazin (17:35, missing first game). This was one of the few top matches I got to see at the US Open, since I was so busy in meetings, coaching, and playing. But it was a great tactical match – basically, Kanak, age 16 but already over 2700 and #90 in the world, gave a clinic in receive and ball placement.

The match epitomizes something I’ve been quoted saying many times: “Tactics isn’t about finding complex strategies to defeat an opponent. It’s about sifting through all the zillions of possible tactics and finding a few simple ones that work.” In this case, Kanak used disarming receives to take away Jeremy’s serve advantage, and then used one seemingly simple tactic that completely dominated the match – attack the middle and wide forehand.

It seems simple, but the execution is far more difficult than it appears. If you just keep going after someone’s middle or forehand, they can anticipate it, and jump on that shot, so you have to be ready to switch back and forth. If you attack too aggressively, you make mistakes; if not aggressive enough, opponent has time to react.

Watch the rallies, and you’ll see over and over that when Kanak attacks the middle, Jeremy would struggle to react, either going for erratic counterloops (ones he’d likely made if the attack were to a corner) or awkward blocks. If Jeremy hedged over to cover the middle, usually with his forehand, Kanak immediate attacked the opened forehand corner.

For example, see the point at 3-1 in game two (0:28), where Kanak attacks a corner, than the middle, then the open corner. At 5-2 he spins a serve back to the middle, catching Jeremy, who appears to be guarding the wide forehand and so is slow to cover the shot. (Note how irritated he is after the point, since he should have been jumped on it quicker.) Often in this game Kanak finds openings to the wide forehand as Jeremy seems to be covering the middle, perhaps in reaction to Kanak’s attacks there in the first game, which isn’t seen here, but which I watched, and where Kanak went after the middle even more.

On receive, Kanak focused on consistency and variation. I’m not going to rewatch the whole video, but I don’t remember him outright missing a single serve. But more important, watch the variation – a mixture of flips, and short and long pushes, with last-second changes of direction that kept Jeremy from following up his serve effectively. (Ironically, Kanak’s first receive in the video is one of his weakest.)

Watch the first point of game three at 4:55. Kanak fakes a backhand flip but instead drops the serve short, then flips the next ball to the middle, setting up an easy winner. On the next point, Kanak quick-pushes to the wide forehand for a winner. Watch closely and you’ll see Jeremy start to move to his backhand the split second before Kanak contacts the ball – and Kanak instantly picks up on that. On the next point, Jeremy again leaves the forehand a bit open as he’s covering the middle, Kanak again jumps on the wide forehand. Jeremy is reacting to receives before Kanak has committed, and so Kanak is able to catch him off guard by changing his receive at the last second.

Another interesting thing you’ll notice about the match is the seemingly lack of pure counterlooping rallies. Normally when you see two top players go at it, there's a lot of counterlooping, and both of these players are great at counterlooping. But this is a big strength for Jeremy, who would love to turn the match into a pure counterlooping duel. While that might have been interesting to watch, Kanak shut that down almost completely, rarely letting Jeremy to get into a straight counterlooping battle. Kanak might have won such a counterlooping battle, but why should he play into the opponent's strength?

These tactics are seemingly simple. On paper, many could execute them. But in practice, they are very difficult - but Kanak made them look easy. As to Jeremy, he knows what he has to do next time out against Kanak – if he’s smart, he’ll be doing lots of drills where his partners vary their shots to the middle and wide forehand. He also probably needs to be less reactive to the opponent’s receive – most players telegraph their receive too early, and Jeremy was used to reacting to that. Against Kanak and other players his level, he’ll have to lose that instinct since he often seemed to react to Kanak’s receive before Kanak had committed, and so was caught off guard. Two seemingly simple things, and yet they made all the difference in this match. Take them away, and unless Kanak comes up with another simple yet effective tactic, we have an even match.

Kanak Jha to Top 100
The new ITTF ranking system definitely has shaken things up, since it gives an advantage to those who are more active. This helped our top two USA players. In the new rankings, Kanak Jha jumped from #200 to #90, while Lily Zhang went from #92 to #60. It’s been a while since USA had men in the top 100 – we had several in the 1990s - Cheng Yinghua, David Zhuang, Jim Butler, and Sean O’Neill. Since then the only other USA man in the top 100 I know of was Ilija Lupulesku in the 2000’s.

Decoding Jun Mizutani's serve
Here’s the video (12:25).

10 Stages of Footwork Summary
Here’s the video (4:46) by Samson Dubina.

New from EmRatThich
He has lots of new material up. Here are his two pages:

Table Tennis Tidbits #15
Here’s the article by Robert Ho, “Qatar Open ’16:  Genes and Memes—the Cream Rises to the Top.”

Irregular Drills, Positioning, and Anticipation – Problems of the Intermediate Player
Here’s the article from Epic Table Tennis.

Equipment – How Important Is It to the Sport?
Here’s the article by Eli Baraty.

Top 10 Best of 2017
Here’s the ITTF video (6:38).

History of USATT - Volume XX - Chapter 9
Here’s chapter nine of Tim Boggan’s latest volume, which covers 1991-1992. Or you can buy it and previous volumes at www.timboggantabletennis.com.

Samson Dubina in the Movies?
Samson gets a lot of coverage in my blog (and here’s his news page, with lots of coverage of his recent MegaCamp), but that’s because he creates a lot of great articles and videos. But now the truth is out – he’s secretly a movie star!!! Don’t believe it? Here’s video (38 sec) of a Regal Theaters Coca-Cola ad that they’ve been showing before movies the last month or two. When you see the character behind the counter selling the drinks and popcorn – tell me that isn’t Samson Dubina!!! (For comparison, see “10 Stages of Footwork Summary” segment above.) So . . . which of you is the guy in the glasses?

Colorful Beach Table
Here’s the picture. (Here’s the non-Facebook version.)

Dimitrij “Santa” Ovtcharov
Here’s the picture! (Here’s the non-Facebook version.)

Santa Ninja Table Tennis Cross Training
Here’s the video (90 sec) – table tennis is only in the first six seconds.

***
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January 2, 2018

Tip of the Week
Elbow Drill.

U.S. Open
It seems like ancient history now, but the US Open ended only eleven days ago. A lot happened there, and a lot’s happened since! In case you missed them, here are the complete results.

I flew to Las Vegas on Thursday, Dec. 14. We had USATT board meetings all day Friday and Saturday, Dec. 15-16. I blogged about the agenda on Dec. 13. The minutes for the meeting will go up later, but the list of Actions and Notices is already up. They don’t really give a proper reflection of all that went on – the minutes will do a better job of that. I’ll likely blog more about the meeting when they go up. (Note – I’m on the USATT Board of Directors, and chair the USATT Coaching Committee.)

I also had a long, productive meeting with USATT High Performance Director Jörg Bitzigeio on USATT Coaching Education and Certification. I’m flying to Colorado Springs on Jan. 8-9 (USATT and USOC headquarters) to meet with him and USOC officials on creating a USATT Coaching Education Program.

I also attended the USATT Assembly on Tuesday night. It was shorter than usual and sparsely attended. In advance of the meeting one USATT member – who happens to be a lawyer and a former USATT committee chair – had circulated a notice making numerous accusations against USATT. He’d been doing this via email for many months, and I’ve now spent over 70 hours dealing with his issues, nearly all of which I’ve found to be non-issues. Since he said he was going to speak up at the meeting, I spent three hours on Monday night reviewing his emails and preparing notes so I’d be ready to respond. That was a fun night. (Yes, that’s sarcasm.) And then, at the meeting, when he was given the chance to speak out, he said he had nothing to say at this time. Great!!! There went another three hours for nothing. Ironically, he later had a big issue with the tournament referee, and tried to recruit my support in the matter. I referred him to the story of The Boy Who Cried Wolf. He’s wasted 70+ hours of my time (that’s all unpaid, volunteer work), and he’s way past his lifetime quota.

The US Open itself was Dec. 17-22. My time was mostly split between coaching and playing. We had a rather small turnout of MDTTC players at the Open, since it’s 3000 miles away and takes place during a school week. (We’ll have a much bigger turnout for the Nationals, which is in July.)

Though I’m primarily a sponge player and coach, at national tournaments like this I generally only enter the hardbat events, where I win a lot of titles. I was in four events: Hardbat Mixed Doubles, Hardbat Doubles, Over 40 Hardbat Singles, and Hardbat Singles.

I won Hardbat Mixed Doubles with Estee Ackerman. It’s a relatively new event, started just a few years ago, and this was the first time I played in it. In the final round robin we actually lost our first match when I made a strategic mistake. Against a team that had an attacker and a defender, I decided to play more passive in the first game when the attacker hit to me. Tactically, it made sense, since his partner, the defender, didn’t attack my passive shots. But strategically, it cost us, as it took me out of my normal game, which is aggressive forehand attacking, and so I played poorly. Meanwhile, the other team stuck to what they did well – the attacker mostly attacked, the defender mostly defended, and so they played well Estee also played well (she would later win Hardbat Women’s Singles), but my lack of attack hurt us, and we lost in three games. Fortunately, I regained my senses in the next match and went back to all-out attacking, and when the team that we had lost to lost to that team, we won in a tie-breaker.

I won Hardbat Doubles with A.J. Carney. He played really well, and would also go on to win Hardbat Singles, as well as Sandpaper Singles and Sandpaper Liha Singles. It would have been easy for me to go back to playing passive and rely on his attack, but that would have been the same mistake I’d made in Mixed Doubles. So I stuck to my all-out attack, only playing defense when forced, and we won all our matches. In the final, A.J. pulled out a brilliant tactic when he started chop-blocking serves back short, which stopped the opponent’s attack and set up mine over and over. (This was the 14th time I’ve won hardbat doubles – nine times with Ty Hoff, four times with Steve Berger, and now with A.J.)

The 800-pound gorilla at the table this whole time were my ongoing shoulder problems. I was having trouble reaching in for short balls or extending my arm to reach for balls to my forehand. We’d covered for this partly in doubles by my partners favoring shots off to the right (a righty’s backhand), so opponents couldn’t angle into my forehand, where I was having trouble with the shoulder. But now I was in singles. I won my three round robin matches in Over 40 Hardbat, and was in the quarterfinals against Ken Pinili. I’ve won this event five times, and was the defending champion from the U.S. Nationals in July.

In the first game, two things happened – he played great, and he exposed my shoulder problems with a steady barrage of short balls and attacks to my wide forehand. I lost badly, 21-8. Ken was playing really well, but so could I – but not if I kept holding back because of my shoulder. So I made a fatal decision to simply let loose, ignoring any shoulder problems. It was my only chance to win. In the second point of the second game, he attacked my wide forehand. I went for it, reaching out and making a strong counter-hit – but as I did so, I could actually feel the shoulder muscle tearing. I dropped the racket as I yelled, “Ow! Ow! Ow!” And that was the end of my tournament.

I’ve emailed my students I’ll be out until at least Jan. 13. We’ll see how the arm is at that time. I was supposed to set up a rehab appointment last week, but stomach flu got in the way. (See previous blog.) I’ll be setting up an appointment later today.

I didn’t get to see many of the top matches since I was busy in meetings, coaching, and playing. However, one great match I saw the final of the Boy’s Youth Olympic Qualifier, Kanak Jha vs. Jeremy Hazen (17:35). I’ll likely blog about this later, probably tomorrow – it was a great example of a seemingly simple tactic implemented brilliantly by Kanak. Can you see the tactic?

Had a memorable night when the one of my students, Todd, and his family treated me to the legendary “The Beatles Love: Legendary Musical at Cirque du Soleil.” My best description of it is that it’s indescribable!

After the Open I flew to San Francisco on Dec. 22 to spend Christmas with family, then flew home on Dec. 27. Then, on Friday, Dec. 29, I came down with stomach flu – see previous blog.

New ITTF World Rankings
The new rankings are out for Men and Women, with the new system – and they are controversial!!! I’ll blog about this later.

USATT and ITTF News
I’ve been away a while, so there’s been a lot of new items on their news pages – so why not browse them? USATT has lots of coverage of the US Open, the USATT SuperCamp, and the MegaCamp in Ohio with Samson Dubina. Samson also covers the MegaCamp on his news page.

Other News
While I’ve been away there has obviously been a lot of other new items on numerous other table tennis pages. Rather than compile all of it in one batch today, I’m sort of doing half today, half tomorrow. So there’ll be a lot of other stuff coming tomorrow.

New from PingSkills
Here are three new videos.

Training with New World #1 Dimitrij Ovtcharov
Here are two new videos from Arnaud Scheen, both from the 2017 World Cup.

New from Coach Jon
Here are two new ones.

Kickstarter for SpinBlock Table Tennis Center
Here’s the page. They are trying to raise funds for a full-time table tennis center in Indianapolis.

On Ping Pong and Other Addictions
Here’s the new table tennis novel by Bill Rees, kindle only. I just bought it and will read and perhaps review it sometime soon. It’s a “satirical work by an author who seems destined to end his days in some therapeutic centre for ping pong obsessives.” You can read full description on the page.

The Coolest Ping-Pong Table?
Here’s the video (49 sec)!

Sound Ping-Pong
Here’s the video (1:48)!

***
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December 29, 2017

Sometimes life just isn’t fair. I battled the flu just before the U.S. Open. During the Open I battled shoulder and knee problems – and after badly injuring my shoulder, I’ve had to cancel all private coaching for the next 2-3 weeks. And now I’ve come down sick again - chills, queezy stomach, complete exhaustion, and just miserably sick. I got up this morning fully expecting to start blogging again, and then reality hit – and I’m about to go back to bed. (I’m still on west coast time, so 9:30AM feels like 6:30AM.) I’ll get back to my usual daily blogging, Mon-Fri, next Tuesday, Jan. 2. Until then, check out the news items at USATT and ITTF. Plus here’s a dog trying to play table tennis (12 sec). 

5 PM FRI UPDATE: I spent the day in the hospital. Diagnosis is Gastroenteritis, better known as stomach flu though its not actually the flu. I'm in agony. Was dizzy and could barely walk, so had to take Uber home, leaving my car there. Haven't eaten since breakfast, can't keep anything down, and can barely drink water, so am dehydrated as well. Have to go back tomorrow for a follow-up. Hope your day went better. 

10 PM FRI UPDATE: Still in agony, fever over 102. Managed to eat a bowl of cream of wheat.

9 PM SAT UPDATE: I thought I was getting a little bit better today, but tonight it's come back in full relapse. I'm wearing warmups and under a heavy quilt, but have been shaking like a leaf in a hurricane almost non-stop for hours. In between are short periods where I'm burning up. But head is on fire. The rest of of me is just agony. In two days I've eaten only two small bowls of cream of wheat, and that was a struggle. 

10 AM SUN UPDATE: Slept over 12 straight hours, 10PM to 10AM - first time I've been able to really sleep in days. Woke up 90% better. Hopefully no relapse this time. Was able to eat a banana nut muffin for breakfast, first food other than two bowls of cream of wheat since Thursday. I might actually get some work done today - have a long todo list. Need to get the MDTTC January Newsletter out, for one. Plus about a million emails!!!

9 PM SUN UPDATE: My stomach has been going crazy all day, and the very sight of food makes me nauseous. Haven't eaten anything since that muffin this morning. I'm staring at a can of chicken soup in a monumental battle of wills, but so far it's winning. But I think I'll win . . . eventually. I did the MDTTC newsletter today, but that was my energy limit for the day. Now I'm watching the Twilight Zone marathon on SyFy. 

11 PM SUN UPDATE: I won the battle of the chicken soup. It fought well. It's now doing footwork drills in my stomach. I think it plans to set off fireworks at midnight. 

11 AM MON UPDATE: Just in time for the new year, the miracle new Larry Hodges Diet Program is now available! Here is the process:

Step One: Catch Gastroenteritis

That's it - it's a one-step process!!! You too can lose five pounds in just 2-3 days. Here's a limited time offer - for just $10, come by my house and I'll drag myself out of bed and shake your hand, and if all goes well, you'll curse me for a few days, but a week from now you'll be five or more pounds lighter!!!

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