Larry Hodges' daily blog will go up Mon-Fri by noon USA Eastern time (usually by 9 or 10 AM, a little later on Mondays when he does a Tip of the Week).
Larry is a member of the U.S. Table Tennis Hall of Fame, a USATT Certified National Coach, a professional coach at the Maryland Table Tennis Center (USA), and an author of six books and over 1300 articles on table tennis. Here is his bio.
Next Blog on Tuesday, and the South Shore Open
This will be my last blog until next Tuesday. I'm leaving very early (6AM) Friday to coach at the 4-star South Shore Open and Nate Wasserman Junior Championships in Indiana, and returning Monday afternoon. Here's the Omnipong listing, where you can see the listing of players by event, rating, or alphabetically, and where results will be posted.
I'm Running for the USATT Board
Or at least I'm applying to be on the ballot. Here is the USATT Notice on the election, which gives the rules and deadlines. (I'd be running for the At-Large position.) In a nutshell, by Nov. 14 I have to send to the USATT Nominating and Governance Committee (NGC) the following:
This past weekend, at the MDTTC Open, I got 38 signatures of support from USATT members (13 extras, just in case some are ruled invalid). I printed out and signed the USATT Code of Ethics and Ethical Behavior and Conflict of Interest statements. (I have two potential conflicts of interest - I'm sponsored by Butterfly, and I coach at MDTTC, a USATT National Center of Excellence. I would abstain in votes directly involving Butterfly or MDTTC.) I've written the one-page statement, though I'll probably do some rewriting of it.
The NGC will announce on Nov. 21 who is on the ballot. Voting begins on Nov. 27 and ends on Dec. 27. The results will be announced on Jan. 6, 2015.
Why am I running? Either because I really want to see table tennis succeed in this country and am tired of waiting for others to do it, or because I'm insane. (It's an unpaid volunteer position.) Below are the five main items I'd focus on. I'll write more about each of these if and when I'm on the ballot. (I blogged about roughly these five items on Sept. 23, but I've made a few changes since then.)
Will these things be hard to do? Of course. Is that a reason to avoid them? No, but it's been a reason for 80 years now, since USATT's founding in 1933. I do have plans on how to instigate each of these. I can't promise that everything I try will succeed, but I can promise I'll work hard on each one, and believe I will succeed on most, and hopefully all - if I get on the ballot and am elected. I'm not one to avoid trying something for fear of failure, but I'll be faced with some board members who do have this mindset (I'd be one of nine), and will have to find ways to overcome it. If I'm on the ballot, I'll devote an entire blog to each of the items above, as well as another on a series of other issues, many of which I've blogged about already.
A key thing is that while money is needed to instigate programs, we have to face the fact that USATT has limited funding. And so each of my plans focuses on ways to develop these items without huge funding. Doing things right and thinking long-term is usually more successful than just throwing money at a problem.
A few things that I'd do that are different than how we've done things. I would focus on progressive issues. Here's my blog entry from March 19, 2013 where I blogged about the difference between progressive and fairness issues. I also want to focus on things that really make a difference. Too often we do "nice things that don't accomplish much." I want to focus on dramatically increasing USATT membership (less than 9000), developing our junior and elite athletes, and turning table tennis into a major sport in this country. I believe the five items above are big steps in this process.
I wish I were the back-slapping, compliment-throwing, buddy-buddy type who looks great in a suit. It would make things a lot easier when it comes to campaigning and getting elected. Instead, I'll have to focus on accomplishing stuff - and hope a few people notice!
I did run for the USATT Board once before, back in 1991 when I was 31. There were seven of us running for two spots on the board, including the two incumbents. I received over 70% of the vote and came in first, and so became a USATT Vice President. However, at my first meeting it was announced that USATT had (if I remember correctly) a $70,000 budget deficit (that's $122,000 in 2014 dollars), and so we spent pretty much all of the meeting going over budget items one by one and cutting everything. It was an incredibly frustrating time - I had things I wanted to do, but no money for anything serious. Sometime I'll blog about my time on the board. One thing I've learned since then is how to get things done with limited resources.
Coaching Position Open
The Austin TTC is looking for a full-time coach, and you could be that coach. Here's the help wanted notice.
Modern Table Tennis
Here's video (29 sec) showing a player doing side-to-side footwork in multiball, looping everything from close to the table. This really shows the difference between table tennis now and how it was before, where most players backed up to do these shots, and with the backhands usually softer.
Ask the Coach
Episode #14 (15:44):
Table Tennis Tips and Other Books
Mark Dekeyser did some editing of Table Tennis Tips, and so I've updated the book. Nothing hugely substantive, but there were a few doozies in there! Here's where you can find all of my books. I also have an Amazon Page.)
Interview with Georgina (Gina) Pota
Here's the interview by Dora Kurimay.
So You're a Fan of Jan-Ove Waldner?
Incredible Exhibition Rally by Timo Boll and Jean-Michel Saive
Here's the video (70 sec).
Great Shot from 2013 European Championships
Here's the video (44 sec, including several replays) of the rally by Gionis Panagiotis.
Chinese Team at Triangle TTC Revisited
Zhang Jike/Li Xiaoxia vs. Ma Long/Ding Ning - Playing Doubles?
Here's video (4:11) of the Chinese stars playing doubles in front of a huge crowd . . . on a mini-table!
German Table Tennis TV Comedy
Here's video (33 sec) of a ping-pong game and an over-celebratory player. Alas, it's in German (anyone want to translate?), but you can get the gist of it by watching.
UPDATE: The clip is actually from the TV show "The Kings of Queens," which ran on CBS from 1998-2007. The original was in English, which was dubbed in German in the version linked above. Here's the original in English - the table tennis starts at 1:11. Special thanks to Grant Vogl for pointing this out!
Why Pong-Ping Never Caught On
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Studying Table Tennis Videos
Yesterday I spent an hour and a half with one of our top up-and-coming players studying videos of himself and potential opponents. This is one of those things that should be basic to any player who wants to improve. Video cameras and Youtube are your friends!
First we watched two of the player's matches. While you can learn from any video of yourself, you probably get the most out of watching yourself when you are playing your best against a somewhat orthodox player. Whatever is your best is what you want to emulate, so those are the ones to study. (Watching yourself play poorly is a good way to emulate poor play. So only do that to 1. figure out why you played poorly, if you think it was a technical thing, and 2. for tactical reasons to study an opponent so you can learn how to beat him.) In this case, the thing that jumped out from the videos was that our up-and-coming player (whose identity I'm hiding!) has been working so hard on a particular weakness that he/she was overplaying it, at the expense of actual strengths, and so didn't play as well as he/she could.
We also saw a video where our up-and-coming player had a serve that an opponent struggled against every time. But the up-and-coming player used the serve only about once a game rather than perhaps 3-4 times, and probably lost a completely winnable match as a result.
We next watched videos of two players he/she might have to play, both among the best players in the country. One of them had one huge numbingly obvious weakness, and it was almost entertaining watching some opponents go after it over and over (and win), and others go there only as a "variation," and so lose. When someone has a weakness the size of Mount Everest (or even one much smaller), you should go after it relentlessly, with other tactics the "variation." But too often players fall back into the same old habits and thereby find a way to lose despite a huge sign practically saying "Do this and win!" It was also educational watching the player with the huge weakness using various tactics to cover for the weakness - sometimes successfully, other times not. One player who had been playing him for years ate him alive, going after the weakness essentially every single rally.
One thing that also showed up here and in all the videos we watched - partly coincidentally, but a real trend and tactical problem for most players - was that too many attacks were to the backhand. That's the side where most players block better. In general, players should attack more to the middle and forehand. Here's my Tip of the Week on this - the 3-2-1 rule, i.e. in general, against most players, for every attack to the backhand you should attack twice to the forehand and three times to the middle. Few follow this rule except at the elite level - and in some of those matches they don't follow it because at that level the forehand counterloop is so strong that they have to go more to the backhand. We watched a video of our up-and-coming player where he lost to a player who had trouble when his forehand was attacked, but too often the first attack went to the backhand instead.
We also studied the receive of some players. Far too many players mindlessly return serves, either with blindingly obvious attacks or blindly obvious control shots. If they aim one way, that's the way they go. Then you watch the better receivers, up until the last second you never know what they are going to do, and often they appear to be doing one thing or placing the ball to a certain spot, and then they do something else. One video that was interesting was watching Eric Boggan - former top 20 in the world, now a way-out-of practice player in his early 50s - completely dominate players with his receive. While he did have the advantage of antispin on one side of his racket (with his Seemiller grip and flipping), what jumped out was how he kept changing his placements at the last second, tying his opponent in knots as he constantly reacted to where he thought Eric was going. Eric not only varied the direction, but also the depth and speed of the shots - if the opponent was too close to the table, he'd get an aggressive receive; if he was farther off the table expecting a deep ball, he wouldn't get it.
More on PBS MDTTC Video
One thing I might have mentioned about the PBS video on MDTTC (featuring Crystal Wang, Derek Nie, and myself, which I linked to in my last two blogs) was that I tried to get coaches Cheng Yinghua and Jack Huang into them. I think PBS did video them coaching, but both coaches were busy, and since my English is better, they both asked me to do all the talking for the club. I don't want it to appear that I'm "The" MDTTC coach - we have seven full-time coaches. Cheng, Jack, and I co-founded MDTTC 22 years ago in 1992, but these days they do more of the running of it (along with long hours of coaching), while I just coach and help with some organizing and promoting. (I also do our monthly newsletter.) I was pleasantly surprised that they opened the video by featuring my books!!! The video was featured yesterday on the USATT home page.
Nittaku Premium 40+ Balls
These are the new plastic non-celluloid balls that will be used at the USA Nationals. They are not yet available in the U.S., but (from the Paddle Palace web page, which has other info as well on the ball), "A limited supply [will be] available in November, 2014 only for players entered in the US Nationals. The balls will be more readily available starting in January.
First ITTF Level 3 Coaching Course in U.S.
Here's the ITTF article. Wish I could have been there - hopefully next time.
Ask the Coach
Episode #13 (12:10):
Ping-Pong Diplomacy Movie
Here's the article about the planned movie, coming from Village Roadshow Pictures, and based on the Nicholas Griffin book, "Ping-Pong Diplomacy: The Secret History Behind the Game That Changed the World."
Adham Sharara on the New Balls
Here's an article from Tabletennista where past ITTF president and now ITTF Chairman Adham Sharara comments on the new plastic 40+ balls and the Chinese team.
Here's the video (24 sec) of a dog trying to play!
Send us your own coaching news!
I hope you enjoyed the PBS video I showed yesterday that featured Crystal Wang and Derek Nie. (I said it was a WETA video, but it was actually produced by PBS.) I showed it at MDTTC on my laptop yesterday to a number of players. The video is currently featured on the USATT home page.
Lots of coaching happenings yesterday. The biggest news was Sameer's breakthrough on the backhand loop. Sameer (13, about 1600) has been topspinning his backhand pretty well this past year. But yesterday something clicked, and suddenly he was just ripping backhand loops off the bounce with ease - at least in practice. He was doing it both in rallies against my backhand block, in side-to-side footwork drills (including the 2-1 drill), and in multiball against backspin.
Technique-wise, he's now hitting pretty much the same as Ma Long in this video (1:55, far side). Note the nice, relaxed power with this stroke, with the small body rocking motion that creates power. (Here's a Tip on "Easy Power," demonstrated in the video by Ma Long, which Sameer is now learning.) Sameer still goes through stages where they all hit and then they all miss (often when he tries to muscle the ball), and it'll take time to incorporate this into a match, but now he's on a really scary path (for opponents). Since I wanted him to really ingrain this, we spent about 45 minutes of our two-hour session on this, and we'll continue to focus on this for a time - yes, a little Saturation Training.
Near the end I played Sameer a few games where I chopped, using my regular inverted rubber (Tenergy both sides). He's much better against me when I play regular, and since I'm almost as good chopping as attacking, let's just say things didn't work as well here as it did for his backhand loop. He did throw a lot of backhand loops at me, but he kept putting the balls into my forehand or backhand corners - easy returns for a 2100 chopper. I finally hinted that he needed to go after my middle. He served and looped there several times, and I missed four chops. He said, "Are you messing up on purpose?" He was wondering if I was missing to show him the importance of playing the middle, as opposed to my missing because he was going to my middle. It was the latter!
I've been playing for 38 years, and coaching for 34. And yet, yesterday was the first time I ever had to tell a student (age 7) to stop chewing on his shirt during points.
We're facing serious problems at the club because of the changeover to plastic balls. The ITTF really jumped the gun on this - they should have waited until the new plastic balls ("40+") were standardized and there were training balls available. Right now we have different players training with different balls, and players have to check on what the other players are using before they can play or practice. Since Butterfly doesn't have plastic training balls yet, we're still mostly using regular Butterfly celluloid balls for most coaching. Players used to have to contend with going from Butterfly balls to the slightly harder Nittaku balls, but the difference there is only a fraction of the difference between the various plastic balls.
All of the plastic balls are white, as are most of our training balls, which seems to be the preference of most players. At the moment, though, I wish all our training balls were orange so we could tell them quickly from the white plastic ones. A training center is not like a typical club, where players use just one ball on each table. Players train at our club with buckets of balls, and so balls are scattered everywhere. (For an example of this, see the Multiball Footwork segment below.)
Yesterday, at the same time, we had players training with Butterfly celluloid (used in last weekend's 4-star North Carolina Open and MDTTC Open, in next weekend's 4-star South Shore Open and Wasserman Junior Championships, and along with other celluloid balls, still used in most USATT tournaments), JOOLA plastic (for the upcoming North American Teams), Nittaku Premium plastic (for the Nationals) and Nittaku SHA plastic (for the Nationals for players who didn't have the Premium yet). Meanwhile, Crystal Wang is training with various plastic balls to prepare for the World Cadet Challenge which starts next weekend, which will be using Butterfly plastic balls, but we don't have any since they aren't available in the U.S. yet. Players were running about trying to keep the same balls in each court and sifting through balls in boxes and on the floor to find the ones they were training with. And yesterday someone was practicing with DHS plastic balls for some other tournament. This is crazy!!!
One that'll help a little - USATT is requiring all tournament entry forms must list the ball material used in the tournament. Here's the news item.
Is Search Engine Showing Up?
I need help on something. Tell me if you see the search engine on the top left - it should read "Search this site:" with a field underneath it. It shows up for me on both my desktop and laptop computers on all the major search engines, but it's not showing up on someone else's laptop computer for some reason. (Right now it should only show up if you are logged in. I've asked my web page expert to fix that so that the search engine shows up no matter what.)
Drill Your Skills with the Chinese National Team
Here's a video library that's a MUST for all players. It has 14 videos of the Chinese National Team or coaches demonstrating and explaining techniques. (This includes seven videos in the "Drill Your Skills with the Chinese National Team" series. There's a Part 8 that just came out but isn't yet listed, "Forehand Serves and First Attack by Yan An" (7:43).
Contact Point for Maximum Backspin
Here's the new video from PingSkills (3:13).
Ask the Coach
Episode #12 (9:55):
Photos from the First ITTF Level 3 Course in the U.S.
Here's the photo album from Shashin Shodhan. Photo #17 shows that they stayed in the same dormitory (Building 87) that I stayed in from 1986-1990 during my years as manager/director/assistant coach for the Resident Training Program for Table Tennis at the Olympic Training Center. Others that lived there included Sean O'Neill, Jim Butler, Eric Owens, Todd Sweeris, Dhiren Narotam, Diana & Lisa Gee, and many more.
Here's an article by Barbara Wei on the upcoming Butterfly Teams in Hobart, Indiana, to be held on Thanksgiving weekend. (Not to be confused with the 4-star South Shore Open to be held this weekend in Highland, Indiana - I'll be there coaching - or with the North American Teams, also to be held on Thanksgiving weekend in Washington D.C.)
World Women's Cup
Here are two more videos on the Women's World Cup held this past weekend in Austria.
Who Will Win the Men's World Cup Contest
Here's the blog entry on this from Matt Hetherington. The Men's World Cup is this upcoming weekend in Dusseldorf, Germany, Oct. 24-26. The basic challenge is to guess the two finalists and the total number of points the losing player will score in the final. Winning prize is two sheets of Butterfly Tenergy.
ITTF Timo Boll Puzzle Contest
Put poor Timo Boll back together again, and win a signed blade from him.
Top Five Reasons Why Ping Pong Rocks by Susan Sarandon
Here's the video (1:04). #1: "I like ping-pong because Richard Nixon had to leave the country for at least two weeks during Ping-Pong Diplomacy."
Olympic Power Table Tennis
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Tip of the Week
Fact or Fiction: The Life & Times of a Ping Pong Hustler
Here's where you can download the video (60 min) or see the trailer (2:12) about the late Marty Reisman (Feb. 1, 1930 - Dec. 7, 2012). "A chronicle of the final three years of Marty Reisman's life. A table tennis champion turned hustler. Pursuing notoriety and motivated by his love of fame and ping pong, he has to face his biggest fear: mortality."
Here's the IMDB entry on the film. Here's the full description:
Fact or Fiction: The Life and Times of a Ping Pong Hustler is a chronicle of the final three years of Marty Reisman's life, a former international table tennis champion-turned-money player. Pursuing notoriety through his idiosyncratic lifestyle and motivated by his love of fame and Ping Pong, he inadvertently has to face his biggest fear: mortality. Shot over three years, the film follows Marty - a complex mix of childlike excitement, eccentric narcissism and constant charm - as he negotiates between pride, the denial of old age, past defeats and the decline of his fame and fortune, as well as his devoted wife Yoshiko's health, all while clinging onto the hope that his own life and career are just beginning to blossom. The film's observational style, combined with rare archive footage and interviews with key New York and London society characters such Booker Prize winner Howard Jacobson and eminent psychotherapist George Weinberg, work to tell the story of one of America's greatest.
I recently watched the video on my computer, along with Tim Boggan. I knew Marty pretty well. In fact, he's how I got into table tennis! Here's the story.
The video uses both old and recent footage of Reisman, showcasing him from his early years (growing up in the depression, discovering "a different world" in table tennis, and developing as a player in the hardbat era) to his last days, and especially the last three years of his life. Parts of it are rather dark, with much of the video taking place in a hospital after his heart surgery and shortly before Marty died. There's also footage of him running Reisman's Table Tennis Club, which ran from 1958 to the late 1970s.
Marty was perhaps the most flamboyant and stylish table tennis player who ever lived. The video features his many outfits, hats, his tailor and dry cleaner, and even the cane he used - not because he needed it, but for style purposes. Marty quotes poetry, jokes with doctors, talks and sings about mortality, teaches his forehand, shows his microscopes (a hobby of his), demonstrates the cigarette trick, talks about Satoh (the man from Japan who introduced the sponge racket and won the 1952 Worlds, the year Reisman thought he should have won), and talks about how much he was looking forward to a challenge match he had planned with 2009 U.S. Men's Champion Michael Landers. "You'll be in a film with the great Marty Reisman," he explained to Landers. (The film mistakenly credits Landers as being on the U.S. Olympic team.) There's also segments about a planned "Marty's Bar" at Spin TTC in New York.
Yes, Marty was an egomaniac, but he didn't hide this fact - in fact, he wore it on his sleeve, with an almost in-your-face ego. And yet he could be incredibly nice if you played along with it and treated him well. He was a God to many, and enjoyed playing the role. Much of his Godhood came about from the stand he took against sponge rubber, insisting on sticking with hard rubber (and later sandpaper), which he considered a far superior game, where two players had a "dialog" when they rallied.
Near the end there's about 3.5 minutes with USATT Historian Tim Boggan, who gives sort of a fact check to some of the items in the film. (Hence the "Fact or Fiction" part of the title.) He also shows a "Marty as Don Quixote" picture, symbolizing Marty fighting the windmills of sponge.
MDTTC Featured at WETA
Here's the video (4 min), which features me, Crystal Wang, and Derek Nie.
First Ever ITTF Level Three Course in USA Staged
Here's the ITTF article on the course just completed in Colorado Springs, taught by Richard McAfee.
Women's World Cup
In the all-Chinese final held Sunday, world #1 Ding Ning defeated world #4 Liu Xiaoxia. Here's a video of the match highlights (4:04). Here's the ITTF home page for the event with results, articles, photos, and video. Here's the ITTF Press Release on the Final. Here's the Daily Shot of the Day:
iPong Basic Series: Forehand Drive
Here's the video (1:19) of Richard McAfee teaching the stroke.
Kenta Matsudaira's Sidespin Block
Here's the new video (3:56) from PingSkills of the Japanese player (world #27, #16 in January). My students hate it when I throw sidespin or chop blocks at them!
Training at Zhou Xin TTA
Ask the Coach
Here are two more "Ask the Coach" episodes from PingSkills.
Episode #10 (13:26):
Episode #11 (13:05):
Shonie Aki Scholarship Award
Here's the article and info for this annual $1250 scholarship - see last paragraph in particular. Deadline is Nov. 1, 2014. "The Shonie Aki Scholarship award, in the amount of $1250 for one year, will be offered to a young table tennis player who has aspirations to complete a college education, become a better player, and a productive individual who would reflect on Shonie's legacy. In order to be considered to receive this scholarship award, candidates must be expecting to attend college in 2015 (and have at least two years remaining to complete their degree) and have GPAs of at least B or better."
Top 5 Veteran Table Tennis Ladies You Don't Want to Mess With
Here's the article by Matt Hetherington.
Table Tennis Tournament to Benefit Homeless Portlanders
The Making of Table Tennis Blades and Rubbers
Here's the video (13:08).
Nathan Hsu in China
Here's the latest episode - Hengdian World Studios! - China Day 48 Part 1 (5:49).
Jorgen Persson and Bill Clinton
Here are five pictures of the two playing golf in 2005. The other player is Brian Laudrup, a Danish soccer player.
Ma Long's Birthday Party
Here's the picture. He just turned 26.
Be So Bold
Here's the video (60 sec) - I think this is a jeans commercial, but I'm not sure. That's one cheap paddle the "star" is using.
Bruce Lee Ping Pong
Here's a new video (3:13) where two hackers flamboyantly play table tennis with various implements, from bottles and paper towel rolls to cheese graters. (Not really a lot to do with Bruce Lee, however, other than the title.)
Cooking Ping-Pong Balls for Breakfast
Here's the video (5 sec) - looks pretty tasty!
Send us your own coaching news!
Big Upcoming USA Tournaments
This is sort of the main "tournament season" for many players, with the Teams and Nationals both coming up, along with other big 4-star tournaments. If you are relatively new to big tournaments, perhaps the first thing to do is to read my USATT article (with the longest table tennis article name ever), "Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Your First Table Tennis Tournament…But Didn’t Know Where To Ask!" (It includes sections on General Info, Ratings, Etiquette, and How to Play Your Best.)
If you play in any of these tournaments, you might want to enter some smaller events first to develop "tournament toughness," which will help you in the big ones. Here's my Tip of the Week on this, which begins, "Playing in tournaments is quite different from playing practice matches. Here are three reasons for this. First, the playing conditions are generally different than you are used to - different tables, balls, floors, backgrounds, and lighting. Second, you are usually playing different players, while in practice you often play the same players over and over. And third, there's far more pressure in a tournament match than in a practice match. (There are other, lesser reasons - traveling, time zone changes, eating different foods, etc.)"
Here's a rundown of some of the big ones coming along. (To find tournaments, see the USATT Tournament Schedule.) We'll start with three of the BIGGEST ones.
Nov. 28-30 - The Teamses. We normally call it the "Teams," but there are now two big 4-star Team events over the Thanksgiving holidays, so we have to pluralize that to "Teamses." (Now I sound like Gollum.) The format for the two Team tournaments is 3-person teams, with each team match a best of nine. (In some of the "feature" matches in the final or just before that they play an adjusted best of five.)
I've got a huge conflict here. I'm sponsored by Butterfly, but the JOOLA North American Teams are both local and run by a former junior star from my club, Richard Lee. (Richard won nearly every age event at the Junior Nationals and Junior Olympics during his heydays in the 1990s - and though I wasn't his primary coach, I spent hundreds of hours practicing and playing with him.) Richard still comes to MDTTC, and his son, 7-year-old Ryan, is now one of our up-and-coming juniors. Here are the two tournaments.
The $3000 Butterfly Teams are held in Hobart, IN. Here's their promotional video (2:07). Tournament director is Dan Seemiller. They are the "new kid on the block," running their own 4-star team tournament on the same weekend as the traditional North American Teams. If they are successful, I'm guessing they will increase the prize money in the future.
The $20,000 JOOLA North American Teams are held in Washington DC, about 20 miles or so from my club (MDTTC). Here's their promotional video (54 sec). This is the bigger of the two by far, with 140 tables and 830 players last year, the most of any USA tournament. I've been going to this one since 1976. (It was in Detroit back then, moving to Baltimore in 1998, and to Washington DC last year. I was the original instigator in bringing it to Baltimore, along with Richard Lee, Jim McQueen, and others.) They'll be using the new JOOLA 40+ plastic balls at the tournament. I'll be coaching my students at this tournament.
Dec. 16-20 - the 5-star $31,000 USA Nationals in Las Vegas. This is one of USATT's two showcase events. (The other is the U.S. Open in July.) I'll be there mostly coaching and attending some meetings, though I'm also playing in a few hardbat events. (I normally use sponge.) The deadline to enter the tournament without a late fee was originally today, with a $75 late fee until Oct. 27, and then no more entries accepted. But they just extended the deadline - they do this every year - and now the first deadline is Oct. 31, with entries accepted with the $75 late fee until Nov. 10. You can actually watch as the entries come in, either by name or by event. They currently have 388, but will have about double that before entries close. (For some reason they don't advertise the total prize money, so I painstakingly added it all up, and it came to $30,650, which I rounded up to $31,000 above.) They'll be using the new Nittaku 40+ Premium ball at the tournament.
Oct. 25-26 - $8900 Butterfly South Shore Open in Highland, IN. I'll be at this one, coaching Nathan Hsu, who is in the Open, Under 2450, and 18 & Under Boys. We're driving up - a 9.5 hour ride. (If you're there, come by and say hello.) Here's the list of entries so far. The highlight of this tournament might be the Nate Wasserman Junior Championships. These include six events:
Oct 25-26 - $7000 Westchester October Open at the Westchester TTC in Westchester, NY. (It's actually in Pleasantville, NY, which is in Westchester County, but I like saying "Westchester.") They run a monthly 4-star tournament at Westchester, so I hope lots of players will support this. I wish I could bring players and attend more of their tournaments (as a coach), but I'm too buy on weekends to get away too often.
Nov. 22-23 - $7000 Westchester November Open - another big one at the Westchester TTC. The entry form for this one doesn't seem to be up, but info is at the club's web page.
Dec. 27-28 - $7000 Westchester December Open - still another big one at the Westchester TTC.
Knock the Ball Off the Table Contest
Here's the video (1:53) between USA's Kanak Jha and Sweden's Kristian Karlsson.
Interview with Brian Pace
Here's the interview, which covers his table tennis (player and coach), cycling, and other subjects.
2014 ITTF Women's World Cup About to Take Off in Linz
Aging Player Keep On the Ball with Pingpong
Here's the feature article in the LA Times.
TableTennis11 Blog and the Ten Best Backhand Players of Modern Table Tennis
Here's their blog page, with the link the "Best Backhands" item (which includes video) and two previous blog items on "7 Things You Need To Know to Master The New Plastic Ball" and "Top 5 Blades You Want Right Now!"
Training Through Seo Hyowen's Eyes
Here's video (15 sec) of what training looks like from the world #10 and #1 Korean woman.
Table Tennis USB Flash Drives
Here they are! Up to 16GB size.
Lefty Cat Smacking Forehand
Real Table Tennis
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Lack of Creativity in Serving
I'm always amazed at how simple most players serve. Serving is the most creative part of the game (though receive is close), and yet most players seem to serve with little purpose or variation.
A major reason for this is because most players play the same players at their club over and over. There are all sorts of little nuances you can do with your serve that can give opponents trouble - last second changes of spin and direction (via last-second changes to the racket's motion), widely varying spins and placements, serving the extremes (deep breaking serves to backhand/short to forehand, or short heavy backspin/short side-topspin), or just different serving motions - but few use them. Many probably experiment, but since they play the same players over and over, opponents quickly get used to them, and the advantage of these little nuances mostly goes away.
Now even in practice there are ways to overcome this. If an opponent adjusts to your variations when serving from the backhand corner, for example, try it from the middle or forehand side - you'll be amazed at how much this changes things. Or just come up with variations. The more you have, the harder it is for an opponent to get used to them all. Or just hold back on certain serves for a while, and then, when you come back to them, they are effective again. Meanwhile, while you use those newly effective serves, hold back on some others for a while. (When I say hold back for a while, I mean both for a few games or for a few weeks of play - both ways work.)
When you watch world-class players play, often their serves look all the same. What does this mean? It means the world-class server has been successful at hiding his variations from you! There are nuances in every serve they do; they don't just serve to get the ball in play. If they did, world-class opponents would be all over those serves. Instead, they throw lots of little variations out there, varying the motion, spin, and placement just enough to keep the opponent slightly guessing and not completely comfortable. They may not get outright misses as we see at lower levels, but they force slightly weaker returns.
But a key thing to note from all this is that while all your serve variations might not continue to work in practice matches against the same players, they will work in tournaments. If you have a few serve variations that work at first at the club, but then players get used to them and they are no longer effective, guess what? They will still be effective in tournaments against new players, because for them, it is the first time they've seen them, just as it was for the players at your club before they got used to them.
I face this type of thing every day. All of my students are so used to my serves that most of them return them better than players rated far higher who don't face them regularly. In practice games at the end of sessions I often am split between using serves they'll see in matches, or coming up with new variations of my own serves just to throw them off, knowing that they are unlikely to face those specific serves in tournaments. (Last night, for example, one of my students was playing very well and led against me in two straight games. I fell to the dark side of the force and threw at him a series of Seemiller-grip windshield-wiper serves that he'd never seen before, and "stole" the games. Afterwards I let him practice against them, and they probably won't work next time. But I still feel guilty about "stealing" those games!)
One things I always stress is to find the right balance between "set-up serves" and "trick serves." At lower levels, trick serves are more effective, but as players get better they lose some of their effectiveness, and set-up serves become more important - but you should always have both. (Set-up serves are designed to set up a follow-up attack but don't usually win the point outright, while trick serves are designed to win the point outright or give an easy winner.) There's a lot of gray area between the two - a set-up serve can also be a trick serve in some circumstances. Here's a short tip I wrote on this a while back.
Why Karakasevic's Backhand Deserves Recognition
Here's the article by Matt Hetherington. The Serbian star has always been known for his phenomenal backhand. From 2001 to 2013 his world ranking mostly bounced about in the 40 to 70 range, with his highest at #33 in January, 2007.
Ask the Coach
Here's another episode from PingSkills.
Episode 9 (11:51)
USATT Tournament Advisory Committee Meeting
They met via teleconference on Sept. 18. Here are the minutes.
Here's a new website that features equipment reviews, videos, and custom-made paddles. Lots of good stuff there! (One thing that wasn't at first clear - in the Equipment Review section it looked at first like there were only very short reviews of each item. Click on the picture or heading and you get a far more extensive review.)
Dimitrij Ovtcharov Visits Piing of Power
Here's the article. (And yes, there are two i's.)
As usual Tabletennista has lots of international articles.
Ping Pong Trend Bounces Across the Nation
Here's the article on the rising popularity of the sport.
Nathan Hsu in China
Here's his latest entry, "Names, names, names - China Day 47" (4:47).
The Spinning Paddle Bouncing Ball Cookie Jar Trick
Here it is (13 sec) - but is it real?
Send us your own coaching news!
All About Color
I'm regularly asked the difference between red and black rubbers, and which color should be used on the forehand and backhand. The short answer - it doesn't really matter. They supposedly play the same. So what you put on each side is just a personal preference. (I have heard that black DHS rubbers are better than the red, the only exception I've heard about.)
But it wasn't always that way - in the early days of the red and black rule the red side was a bit faster. The problem was in the black dye, which apparently slowed the rubber down. And so for the first few years most top players put the red side on the forehand. I was different - I had plenty of pop on my forehand, but needed more on the backhand, and so right from the start I had black on the forehand - and I still do. I always thought more players should do it this way for the same reason, but back in those days it was more acceptable for shakehands players to have softer backhands. (After using black on the forehand for 30 years, it would seem strange to me to put red there.)
After a few years the problem with the black dye was fixed, and the two colors now apparently play the same. However, for years afterwards most top players were in the habit of red on forehand, black on backhand, and many players copied them, so during the 1980s about 2/3 of top players had red on the forehand. However, for some reason the tide has slowly changed, and these days the majority of top players have black on the forehand - I have no idea why. I just did a quick check on Youtube of the top ten players in the world and found that nine of the top ten men and nine of the top ten women use black on the forehand - see below. Of the men, only Chuang (and apparently Boll earlier in his career) use red on the forehand, and only Feng Tianwei of the women does so. (Note that some Chinese players flip when smashing lobs, such as Fan Zhendong below - I think they may have harder or faster sponge on the red backhand and prefer smashing with that.) One reason for this is that some of the Chinese apparently use black DHS rubber on the forehand (since, as noted above, some say black DHS plays better than red), and red Tenergy on the backhand.
MEN - Forehand Color
WOMEN - Forehand Color
Why is there a color rule? Let's go back to the 1977 World Championships. Two Chinese players, Liang Geliang and Huang Liang, reached the semifinals in Men's Singles. Both were chopper/loopers, with long pips usually on the backhand. This was a rare style in those days - most choppers were more defensive, pick-hitting mostly when given an easy chance. These two Chinese players had the same color on both sides (as most players did in those days - usually red), and flipped both when serving and during rallies. Opponents couldn't tell which side they were hitting with, and it caused havoc. They devastated most opponents, but (according to numerous sources) were ordered to dump in the semifinals, where both lost.
Players all over the world copied this. At the time of the 1977 Worlds perhaps 10% of players had combination rackets, and most of them were with short pips on the backhand, rarely if ever flipping. By 1983, when I did a survey at tournaments (I was already running monthly ones in Virginia), over 70% of players had combination rackets, nearly all of them with long pips or antispin. Rallies were getting worse and worse, and players with the same surface on both sides weren't able to compete with players they had easily beaten before - in fact, they could barely get into rallies. It was not a fun time for the sport, and players quit in droves. (Of course, some players loved the havoc this type of game created!)
The ITTF changed the rules in 1983 to require two "clearly different" colors. The first reaction to this was the use of "clearly different" colors that, when the racket was moving, were difficult to tell apart - in particular, maroon and black. The ITTF then made the rule cherry red and black. ("Cherry red" was later changed to "bright red.") It did take some of the color out of the sport. Before the color rule surfaces came in a wide variety of colors, such as green, purple, gold (some of us remember the introduction of Tornado!), and even one that was white. I sort of miss the variety.
I was one of the many that pushed for the two-color rule. But I also promised that if they passed the rule, I'd never complain about a player's legal racket surface again - and I never have. From the intermediate level on, if a player can see what surface the opponent is using he should be able to play it.
While it was long pips users that caused the most problems before the two-color rule, there were also players using antispin. Some shakehanders used it very successfully, as did many players with the Seemiller grip. Dan Seemiller and Eric Boggan both reached about top 20 with the grip, before the color rule. Dan had a powerful forehand loop, and didn't flip nearly as much as Eric, and so many thought Eric would drop a lot after the color rule. Many assume that Eric reached top 20 only because he used the same color on both sides. However, that's not what happened. Eric jumped the gun, and when the ITTF announced a year in advance, in 1982, that they'd be requiring two colors, he made the switch a year in advance. As he explained to me once, he knew he'd have to use two colors for the rest of his career, so he might as well get used to it.
At the time he went to two colors he had his highest ranking ever, #23 in the world. After making the switch to two colors he reached #17. (I've heard others say he only was #18, but I'm pretty sure I remember seeing #17.) What people didn't understand about Eric's game was that because he hit the ball so quick off the bounce, players had trouble reacting, different colors or not. It was often choppers who took the ball later that caused more problems before the two-color rule, and now players had time to react to them - but not so much time when playing Eric.
Nationals Deadline This Friday
The deadline to enter the USA Nationals without a $75 late fee is this Friday, Oct. 17. Don't forget to enter!!! I'm going mostly to coach, but also entered hardbat doubles and hardbat over 40. I was toying with other events, but there are just too many conflicts with my coaching.
Fall USATT Magazine
The new issue is out. I have two articles in it: "Why Table Tennis is Chess at Light Speed" (page 45) and "A Visit from St. Timothy" (page 66 - this latter from my blog last week).
ITTF Level 3 Course
The course is taking place right now in Colorado Springs, Oct. 11-20, run by Richard McAfee. I originally planned to go, but finally concluded I was both too busy and couldn't really afford to go at this time. (That's a lot of lessons cancelled!) I will try to go to one in the future. Here are some photos from the ongoing course.
Interview with Hungarian Women's Coach on What Makes the Best Players Stand Out
Here's the interview with Peter Teglas by Dora Kurimay. I found the ball-bouncing thing interesting as I've seen the same thing. Often the little kids who early on are most competitive on who can do the most bounces become the best players.
Ask the Coach
Here are two more "Ask the Coach" episodes from PingSkills - they are creating them pretty fast!
Episode 7 (12:55).
Episode 8 (9:41).
Kanak Jha Featured by ITTF
Here's the ITTF article on the USA junior star.
Kristian Karlsson in Training
Here's video (51 sec) of the up-and-coming Swedish player in training, who recently shot from world #69 to #50. Note how the drill is a two-shot sequence. Far too often players do continuous drills when in reality, few rallies are like that. When doing multiball at the intermediate and advanced levels much of multiball should be two- or three-shot sequences.
Here's the video (43) of this rally between Taipei's Chuang Chih-Yuan and South Korea's Joo Saehyuk. It starts as a standard attack vs. chop rally (and note how Chuang goes after Joo's middle), then the counterlooping begins.
Ping-Pong Protesters in Hong Kong
Will Shortz and the Quest to Play in All 50 States
Here's the article. I've been to all 50 states, and I've played table tennis in all but three (Alaska, Hawaii, and Connecticut), so Will and I are tied - but he's about to pull ahead!!!
It seems like half the top cadet players at MDTTC are starting to take trig, and so I've been helping some of them. (I have a bachelor's in math.) So the sines are I've become a trig tutor, one of the tangents to my coaching. And while I'm making bad puns, has anyone else noticed that the Italy is part of the ETTU (European Table Tennis Union), and that Et Tu was supposedly Julius Caesar's last words? (My careful research also finds that Dennis Brutus was a former VP of the South African Table Tennis Board.)
The Lost Tablet of Amun Ra
Here's the latest TT artwork from Mike Mezyan, hieroglyphics and all - and yes, "tablet" is just a "t" away from table!
Backhand Cartwheel Chop
Here's the video (3:34) of this hilarious "coaching" video from PingSkills featuring cartwheels, pandas, and chopping!
Send us your own coaching news!
Tip of the Week
The Last Two Weeks
I'm back!!! The past two weeks have been among the busiest I have ever had. As noted in my blog from a week ago (before I took a sort of forced sabbatical), USATT Historian Tim Boggan moved in with me on Tuesday, Sept. 30, so I could once again do the photo work and page layouts for Volume 15 of his History of U.S. Table Tennis. Here's a rundown on that, on my coaching, on a science fiction convention, health - and on a theft at the supermarket!
Because Tim goes to bed every night around 7:30 PM and gets up by 3AM, I tried to sort of match his schedule. For eleven days I mostly got up around 5:30 AM (sometimes earlier!), and we'd go to work by 6:30AM. (Several times we started by 5:30 AM.) We'd work until about 2:30 PM, with a 30-minute lunch break. At 2:30PM I'd normally leave to coach, since that's when I have to leave to pick up kids for our afterschool program. On weekends I was even busier with coaching, and Tim and I had to work around that.
We "sort of" finished everything on Friday night. I saw "sort of" because, even though Tim left on Saturday morning, I still had a bunch of work on it. It got worse when Tim emailed me on Sunday night with a long list of changes and corrections needed, which I did on Monday. I finally sent the finished version to the printer on Monday afternoon. It should be available in ten days or so.
The final version is 401 pages long, with 978 photos, and covers the years 1986-88. The 401 is actually a bit shorter than his norm, but the 978 photos is a record. Think about this - for each photo I had to pull it up, fix it up in Photoshop (taking anywhere from ten seconds to ten minutes), place it on the page where Tim indicated (he had copious notes), put in the caption (which Tim read to me), and then (when the photos for the page were up), lay out the page so everything lined up to Tim's satisfaction. It would have been a lot harder if not for Mal Anderson, who not only took the majority of the photos used, but scanned them all in advance. (In the early volumes, I did all the scanning, which added about two days to the project each time.)
I don't think any of my students noticed how exhausted I was each day during Tim's stay. My busiest days are Wed, Thur, Fri, and Sun. On those days I'd go straight from long hours with Tim to long hours at the table. On other days I did the same, but typically only had perhaps two hours of coaching. Often I'd be working essentially non-stop from 6:30AM to 9PM, then coming home and trying to do this blog and other work. (This is why I finally had to take a sabbatical.)
One of my students, Matt, has been working hard on his backhand loop. (He recently turned 13, is about 1700 level now.) During his session on Wednesday we did an improvised game where he served backspin, I pushed to his backhand, and he backhand looped anywhere, then we played out the point. At first I won every game easily. Near the end of the session he had a game where he led until the very end, and then I came back to win. I won the next few games easily, and he grew increasingly frustrated. The session ended - my last of the day - but he was determined to do better, and so I stayed late. We played more games, and some were close, but I kept winning. And then it all came together, and he played a brilliant game, making nearly every shot (forehands and backhands), and he won. As I've blogged before, anything you can do in practice you are perhaps six months away from being able to do in a serious match, so perhaps he'll be able to play like this all the time in six months - in which case he'll be pretty scary!!!
In the group sessions on Thursday and Sunday we did a lot of smashing and serving practice. With Navin on Sunday we worked more on his forehand smash and on his backhand chop block (he uses hardbat). He's had a problem in that he often has me use hardbat to practice with him, so his chop block became used to that - but when he played sponge players, he'd pop the ball up against their greater topspin. So this session I used sponge, and hopefully that'll pay off. With Doug, we focused on forehand looping and backhand banana flip - and it paid off as he did very well in the league afterwards. On the downside, Daniel, one of the top 10-year-olds in the country, is having arm problems and had to cancel lessons both weeks. He'll likely rest it another week or so.
After Tim left on Saturday morning I spent much of the weekend jumping between the Capclave Science Fiction Convention here in Gaithersburg and coaching. I was a panelist (yes, people paid to hear me speak!); here's my Capclave bio. Here are the three panels I was on. (I moderated the one on Flash Fiction.)
Healthwise, I was exhausted all week, but it's been a while since I've had any real injuries. (I'm crossing my fingers.) I've had some minor twinges in my right knee, but nothing serious yet. As noted in previous blogs, I had dropped my weight from 196 in July to 178.4 when Tim arrived. Alas, with the long hours and Tim's treating me to fancy meals, this morning I'm at 181.8. So back to dieting. (I plan to get to 170.)
Now the theft. I went to Giant for some shopping on Sunday. Included on my shopping were two bottles of Ruby Red Grapefruit Juice, which is my morning staple. At the checkout counter, as the items were being rung up, someone walked by. I noticed them lean over my stuff for a moment, but didn't pay close attention. Then I saw the person carrying a bottle of Ruby Red Grapefruit Juice as he walked away. I remember thinking, "I'm not the only one who likes the stuff." Then, as my items were being bagged, I noticed I only had one bottle of the juice. That's when I realized the person had stolen one of them when he'd leaned over my stuff! I showed the receipt to the person at the cash register, who verified I'd been charged for two but only had one. They allowed me to get a new one. So somewhere out there is a bottle of stolen Ruby Red Grapefruit Juice. To paraphrase another "juice" person, "I will not rest until I find my juice's stealer." (Bonus points to whoever correctly comments below who I'm paraphrasing.)
ITTF Trickshot Competition
Josep Anton Velazquez won it for the second year in a row. Here's the ITTF press release, and here's the winning video (42 sec). I can do the same serve that breaks sideways and parallel to the end-line (at least with my forehand pendulum serve, where tried this out after seeing the video), and can do the same fast down-the-line serve, but I wonder how many tries it would take to get them both together so they collide (not to mention the carpentry work to create the props)? That's some awesome precision. Here's the runner-up video (1:09) and here's the ITTF Trickshot Competition Page.
A Lesson in "Work Ethic" from 5-time U.S. Champion Sean O'Neill
Here's the video (4:05) by Brian Pace.
Learn How to Develop Your "A" Game
Here's the article by Samson Dubina.
Ask the Coach
PingSkills has a new "Ask the Coach" video series. I previously posted links to their first two episodes. Here are four more.
Episode 3 (11:10).
Episode 4 (9:40).
Episode 5 (12:56).
Episode 6 (13:36).
Table Tennis Can Help Those with Parkinson's
Maccabi USA Seeking Jewish Athletes for European and Pan American Maccabi Games
USATT Joins AmazonSmile Program
The Immigrant Sport: What Ping-Pong Means in America
Table Tennis Included in 2020 Paralympic Games
Nittaku ITTF Monthly Pongcast - September 2014
Here's the video (13:58).
Nathan Hsu in China
Here are his latest videos.
Secret of Olympic Medals
Here's the video (2:28) featuring physical training and other aspects at the ICC table tennis center.
The Top Spin League's Challenge
Here's the video (2:33) from the Top Spin Club in San Jose, CA.
The King of Backhands - Kreanga
Here's the highlights video (2:56).
Omron Table Tennis Rallying Robot
Here's the video (41 sec) - these robots are getting better and better. Soon they will master the deadly secret of reading spin and Chinese domination of our sport will be at an end as we bow to our new robot masters.
Big Bang Theory and Ping Pong
Last night on The Big Bang Theory there was a sequence where the actors watched a video of pigeons playing ping pong. I was curious and looked it up, and sure enough, here it is - a 38-sec video of pigeons trained to play a version of table tennis!
Cat Playing Table Tennis
Here's the video (34 sec) - and in this one, the cat really is rallying!
Table Tennis's Ten Funniest Moments
Here's the video (7:25) from the ITTF. These are great!!! If you haven't seen the highlights of the famous Saive-Chuang shown at the end, then you haven't seen table tennis.
Send us your own coaching news!
Alas, the blog and Tip of the Week will have to wait until tomorrow. Over the weekend Tim and I "finalized" Volume 15 of his History of U.S. Table Tennis, and he went home on Saturday. However, on Sunday he found a lot of corrections and changes needed. Between that, and catching up on other things (mostly table tennis issues) that I'd put off during his 11-day stay here (plus attending a SF convention this weekend), I'm rather inundated for one more day. I'll write about all this tomorrow.
No Blog Until
Alas, something had to give. Since Tim Boggan moved in with me on Tuesday, Sept. 30, I've been working on the page layouts and photo work for his Volume 15 of History of U.S. Table Tennis every day from roughly 5AM to 2:30PM, then leaving to coach, returning roughly between 6 and 9PM. If I'm back "early," we usually do another hour or so of work, and then he goes to bed while I work on a dozen other things, including this blog. The problem is that means I'm up late, often until midnight, and I've been getting up around 4:30 AM.
It's too much. I'm known for being tireless, but I can barely keep my eyes open. Meanwhile we've fallen a bit behind. We want to finish by the weekend as I'll be away all day Saturday and coaching nearly all day on Sunday. At our current pace we aren't going to make it. (His past books are typically 500 pages with 900 photos that have to be cleaned up and placed on the pages one at a time, captions typed in, etc. This one will be a little shorter in page length, but with FAR more photos, which is the time-consuming part.) So I've made the command decision to take the rest of this week off from blogging so we can get the thing done. Meanwhile, here are two segments I'd already put together. See you next Monday!
Here's a pretty good point (36 sec, including slow motion replay) by the Chinese phenom, now ranked #2 in the world.