Blogs

Larry Hodges' Blog and Tip of the Week will go up on Mondays by noon USA Eastern time. Larry is a member of the U.S. Table Tennis Hall of Fame, a USATT Certified National Coach, a professional coach at the Maryland Table Tennis Center (USA), and author of eight books and over 1500 articles on table tennis. Here is his bio. (Larry was awarded the USATT Lifetime Achievement Award in July, 2018.)
NOTE - Larry is on the USATT 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 21, 2019

Tip of the Week
The Grinding Mentality - How to Play It and Against It.

Sunday Coaching
I ran two group sessions on Sunday. The first was Week #2 of this season's Beginning Junior Class. (Lidney Castro and Aron Zhang are assistant coaches, with Todd Klinger a practice partner.) We did forehand review for 20 minutes, and then the focus was on the backhand. As usual, we finished with games, with half the class playing "King of the Table" (no girls there so we can use the "King" title), and the other half (the younger kids) building the usual pyramids and walls out of paper cups on the table and then knocking them down as I fed multiball.

The advanced junior program at MDTTC is the Talent Development Program, which is run by the HW Global Foundation, using mostly MDTTC coaches. Normally John Hsu runs groups 3-4, but he was out of town this weekend so I ran them. It was mostly a multiball session, where we went through a series of nine different drills. Most of the groups were of three, where one player did the drill while the other two stood behind, shadow-stroking and shadow-moving. Then we did ten minutes of serve practice, and then Brazilian Teams. Then we had a big meeting, where the 30+ kids voted for "Best Teammate." I've never been thrilled with this type of vote as those who don't get votes may feel left out, and it's basically a popularity contest between the stronger kids. But the winners here were deserving - Stanley Hsu came in first, Stefanie Zhang second, Hanfei Hu third.

Afterwards the coaches, as usual, went out for dinner where we discussed the players. I excitedly told them about one of the players in the Beginning Class who likely will be in the Talent Program soon. And there are other possible ones as well. One six-year-old already mimics the top players in his stance and strokes, and it won't be long before he develops consistency to go with that.

USATT Statement on 2020 Olympic Selection Procedures
Here's the USATT statement. I blogged about the 2020 Olympic Selection Procedures extensively in my Jan. 7 blog, and more in my Jan. 14 blog (about the USATT teleconference). I am not happy with these Procedures, nor was I too happy with one part of the USATT Statement. (I'll get to that.) However, there's not a whole lot that can be done about the Procedures. According to the USATT Bylaws, the responsibilities of the USATT High Performance Committee (HPC) include:

9.16.c.1: Approve selection Procedures or other policies as needed for national teams and international events, or the operation of the High Performance Program

So even if the USATT board were to vote against this, it would be meaningless as the bylaws make it clear the HPC has this authority, not the USATT board. (Changing that would require a bylaw change, which requires 2/3 of the board, which has zero chance of happening.) As I noted before, I'm on the USATT board and never saw these procedures until after they were published.

The HPC seems pretty set on staying with the current procedures, even though it means there's a good chance that we might end up with four out of six members of the 2020 Olympic Team selected by committee. I've already blogged about that and am not going to rehash it here. (If you do have questions or comments, you should politely contact USATT High Performance Director Jörg Bitzigeio and/or the HPC - see the USATT Committee listing.)

Here's the part about the USATT statement above that bothered me. It includes the following statement: "…those raising concerns would prefer that more, or all of the team positions be filled by the Olympic Trial result only." (I bolded the word "only.")  I want to make it absolutely clear that this is NOT what I've argued for, and that the USATT response is NOT a response to what I've argued for.

This same statement was made in the USATT teleconference on Monday last week, and I very vehemently explained that this was NOT what I (and many others) have been pushing for – the word "only" completely changes the meaning of the USATT statement. In my blog, for example, I wrote:

"But if we believe they [top USA players] are good enough to have earned their spots, doesn't that imply they have earned that right by showing they are medal contenders by their international performance? So why not simply put it in the pre-qualifying rules that whatever it is they did to earn that right means they pre-qualify?"

I also wrote:

"I envision a future where we have trials for only one spot because the other spots are all taken by players who prequalify by being medal contenders. But we haven't reached that spot yet."

What I have argued for is that, if we get six players (3 men, 3 women), that at most only one player per team be selected by committee. That leaves two spots on each team by pre-qualifiers AND Trials, and we could adjust the pre-qualifier rules so we are assured that our best players make the team. They would, of course, likely be selected anyway by the committee, but this gives the committee more leeway in the final selection, including taking doubles into account. At no time did I say anything like "Olympic Trial result only."

I emailed the four signees to the letter, and I was assured that the USATT Statement was NOT a response to me, but to the numerous others who have voiced objections. I just don't think that the "only" part of the USATT statement accurately reflects the arguments made by a lot of people, including me. It's only one word, but it dramatically changes the meaning of the statement.   

USA Table Tennis Sets New Strategic Direction Through to 2024
Here's the new USATT Strategic Priorities. Originally this was the USATT Strategic Plan, but I pointed out that in its current state, there are no plans, just a listing of priorities and goals, and I refused to vote for it. So it was renamed "USATT Strategic Priorities." I do commend those who put in the time in coming up with these. However, I have misgivings on two areas here. First, listing priorities and goals are extremely easy; creating implementable plans to achieve them is the hard part. Many think we've accomplished a lot here, but it's like taking the first step up Mount Everest and then celebrating. In my mind, nothing has been accomplished until we actually have plans to implement. Second, there are too many things listed, practically a laundry list of priorities. It would be better to focus on fewer and do them well. (I blogged about past USATT Strategic Meetings in my Oct. 29, 2018 blog. So far - and let me emphasize the so far - they are falling into the exact same traps as all past USATT Strategic Meetings. I'm assured this time it will be different, but I was also assured that in past ones when I raised the exact same objections as I have done here. C'mon, let's break the cycle!)

Hungarian Open
Here's the ITTF page for the event this past weekend Budapest, Jan. 15-20, with results, news, video, and pictures. Here's the Day Four review (1:42), covering the finals.

ITTF-PTT Level 1 Coaching Course: March 18-22, 2019, Tigard, Oregon
Here's the USATT info page.

New from Matt Hetherington

New from Tom Lodziak

New from EmRatThich

Why Having a Table Tennis Coach is So Important
Here's the article by Eli Baraty.

Barrier Forehand Coaching Technique
Here's the video (43 sec) as Gary Fraiman uses a barrier to get a student to stroke forward and up, to put topspin on the ball.

Jim Butler Interviews Timothy Wang, Daryl Morey, and Niraj Oak
Here's the video (3:51).

Serendipitous Table Tennis
Here's the article by Coach Jon. "If serendipity is a chance occurrence in a happy or beneficial way, table tennis appears to be a very serendipitous sport. Even if you remove all the nets and edges, there are times when players are just in the right place at the right time."

Ma Long Injury "more serious than expected"
Here's the ITTF article. "Over five months have passed since Ma Long last completed a match of international Table Tennis: his round of 32 defeat to Liam Pitchford at the ITTF World Tour Bulgaria Open on 16 August 2018." … "When Ma Long injured his knee last year, at first he did not realise that it was especially serious. He thought that he would be able to make a quick recovery."

Sharath Kamal
Here are two articles about and by the great Indian champion.

New from Steve Hopkins

National Collegiate Table Tennis January Newsletter
Here it is.

A Ping-Pong Robot at CES 2019 Made Me Wonder: Could I Go Pro?
Here's the article. "CNET's Katie Collins gets a glimpse of the elite sporting career she might have had."

Three Month Suspension for Zhou Yu
Here's the ITTF article on the world #61 (previously #11) from China.

Jamaica Building a Base for High Performance
Here's the ITTF article by Richard McAfee.

Raising the Bar to Reign Supreme
Here's the article by Johnathan Humbles on Canadian stars Eugene Wang & Mo Zhang in Mixed Doubles at the Canadian Championships.

Picture This: Willy Leparulo's View at the US Open
Here's the article.

LRTTC 2019 Winter Giant Round Robin
Here's the article and pictures by Mike Lauro.

Table Tennis Tidbits #42: Stockholm Syndrome 11-1—4-18
Here's the USATT article by Robert Ho.

History of USATT – Volume 22
Here is Chapter Four, subtitled, "Readership offered two magazines." (The second option? Table Tennis World, a new independent magazine I started that lasted three issues.) Or you can buy it and previous (and future) volumes at www.timboggantabletennis.com. Volume 22 is 469 pages with 1447 graphics, and covers all the wild things that happened in 1996-97 - and I'm mentioned a lot! Why not buy a copy - or the entire set at a discount? Tim sells them directly, so when you order them, you get it autographed - order your copy now!

Jimmy Pelletier Takes a Ping-Pong Bath
Here's the picture! (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

Adam Bobrow vs TableTennisDaily's Dan!
Here's the video (14:54).

ITTF Table Tennis Stars do the 10 Year Challenge!
Here's the ITTF video (53 sec)!

Crazy Roller by Fan Zhendong
Here's the video (24 sec, with slo-mo instant replay). The best part is the expressions on their faces! (Fan of China is world #1; Simon Gauzy of France is world #32, but was as high as #8 in March of 2018.)

Bowling Pin Pong
Here's the video (32 sec) - they make good targets!

Literal Table Tennis
Here's the video (20 sec) of playing table tennis . . . with a table!

Jean-Philippe Gatien Having Fun at a Ping-Pong Bar!
Here's the video (44 sec) of the 1993 World Men's Singles Champion goofing off.

Music Ping-Pong Show
Here's the video (3:39), featuring French stars Jacques Secrétin, Patrick Renversé, Francois Farout, Patrick Mozola, and Jean-Marc Boiteux.

Non-Table Tennis - My 100th Science Fiction Sale!
Last week I sold my 100th short story! "Confederate Cavalry on a Plane" sold to the Space Opera Libretti anthology, which will come out this fall. It's a humorous SF romp through physics, time, and alternate universes, about a physicist on a Boeing 737 who claims that, with essentially infinite universes, anything you can imagine happens somewhere. So his student bets him there is no universe where there are Confederate cavalry running down the plane's aisle. Um . . . yes there is! The story is 4700 words long, about 22 pages double spaced. (Sorry, no table tennis.) I've also sold four novels. Here's my science fiction page.

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January 14, 2019

Tip of the Week
If You Can't Do It Without a Ball, How Can You Do It With the Ball?

USATT Teleconference
We had a USATT Board of Directors Teleconference last night, from 7-9:20PM. Alas, only five of the nine USATT board members were able to attend. On the call were board members Anne Cribbs (chair), Gary Schlager, Carolyne Savini, Erica Wu, and myself; plus (in various capacities) Dennis Taylor (USATT lawyer), Carl Danner (chair of HPC), Jasna Rather (USATT Director of Para Programs), Gordon Kaye (former CEO, asked to be available on certain issues), Jörg Bitzigeio (High Performance Director), Mark Thompson (COO/Interim CEO), Chris Mauro (USATT Accountant), Han Xiao (Chair Of U.S. Olympic Committee Athletes' Advisory Committee), Roger Dickson, and Sebastian di Francesco.

We were supposed to review and approve the minutes from the October meeting, but we only had four board members at the start - there might have been a mix-up as I think we had all five at that time - so no vote was taken, and since the meeting went long, we never got back to this. So they'll likely be voted on at the Jan. 22 teleconference, though that one is supposed to be dedicated to financials. (If not, then they'll be voted on at the Feb. 11 teleconference.) Once approved, they can be posted publicly so you can see what took place in the meeting.

Next up was the High Performance Update by Jörg, covering the recently completed physical training camp in Colorado Springs (see article below by Matt Hetherington); Hopes Tour; Pan Am Cup; and Pan Am Games Trials. That was followed by a Para High Performance Update by Jasna Rather.

Then came the CEO Search Update by Anne and Carolyne. We have eight applications from the table tennis community, and are still debating whether to spend a lot of money on a CEO search firm. One option I pointed out here (and previously) was going with such a search firm, but postponing it for a few months, with Mark Thompson as Interim CEO, with the savings in CEO salary going toward the CEO search. But I'm no expert in this, and will await the report of the CEO Search Task Force.

There was a discussion of the upcoming ballot for the USATT election - there should be an official announcement on this any time now. (I know who is on the final ballot, but I really should let USATT make the official announcement - I'll add it here when they put the news item up.) There was also discussion of Committee Member Selections and an upcoming Invitation to Prospective Committee Members, which will be posted soon as a USATT news item. There was also discussion about three prospective candidates for the fifth position on the Nominating and Governance Committee, but that was tabled as most board members didn't really know the candidates and wanted more info and possibly a recommendation from the committee.

There was a long discussion of the Board of Directors Obligations and Responsibilities. I was involved in this one quite a lot. At issue were some apparent negative things said about the association by a board member. While I wasn't a "target," I know some were not happy about my blog last week about my disagreement with the current 2020 Olympic Selection Procedures. The gist of the problem is difference of opinion in interpreting the five-page Board of Directors Code of Conduct. (This was a new one, created in 2017, which I and others signed in December, 2017.) Here are some excerpts (bolds are mine):

  • "As a member of the Board I will respect and support the decisions of the board, including in instances where I voted against a particular decision/action."
  • "As a member of the nonprofit Board I will not be critical, in our outside of a board meeting, of other board members or their opinions. This does not restrict me from disagreeing with another board member."
  • Under "Board Social Media Policy": "Personal opinions about individual board members, specific board decisions, etc. are not appropriate. Once the board has taken action on a particular issue, the board speaks with one voice - even if a particular Board member's vote on an issue was a dissenting opinion.

In the first bullet item, it says board members must "support" the decisions of the board. But as I pointed out in a board meeting over a year ago (when we all signed this new version), the word "support" has multiple meanings and so is ambiguous. Some seem to think it means you literally have to openly be for whatever the board decides - for example, if someone asks my opinion on the 2020 Selection Procedures, a policy I disagree with, I'd have to say I support them. As I pointed out, using Webster's, there are several definitions of "support," and the one I prefer is, "to uphold or defend as valid." So yeah, I agree the 2020 Olympic Selection Procedures are valid, as in they were passed legally and will be used unless overturned, but I don't agree with the policy. If I say I "support" them, that's subject to misinterpretation because of the multiple definitions. Also, think about the implications - with this Code, members know that board members may be forced to "support" things they don't really support, and so can't trust what those board members are saying.

In the second bullet point, it says we cannot be critical of the opinions of other board members. Really??? That's downright silly, and is basically contradicted by the next sentence. As I pointed out in the meeting, it is my opinion that the 2020 Olympic Selection Procedures are not a good policy, and if anyone on the board criticizes my opinion, they are in violation of the Code of Conduct. The board of directors is essentially the Legislative branch of USATT, and to say that legislatures must agree to "support" that which they really don't "support" is just wrong. (I'm using the quotes because, as noted, the word has different meanings.)

In the third bullet point, it says that we can't post our personal opinions on "specific board decisions." Sorry, that's just wrong, and is again contradicted by the second part of bullet point #2. The idea that the board "speaks with one voice" is a historical way for the majority to force the minority to publicly agree with decisions they do not agree with. The board does not speak with one voice - but it does act as one. So while I disagree with the 2020 Olympic Trials Procedures, that doesn't mean we don't act as one in implementing them, since they are the legal rules at this time. (Technically, they have never come up for a vote as they were created by the USATT High Performance Committee and High Performance Director, and approved by the USOC.) What is important is that board members, when voicing disagreement with board decisions or the opinions of others, are respectful in so doing, as I was in my blog last week.

I asked a rhetorical question to a few people (outside the board meeting): What would happen if someone were legally elected to the USATT Board, but refused to sign the Code of Conduct due to the problems listed above? Can you imagine, for example, explaining to a judge that you won't let him on the Board of Directors unless he'll sign something saying he'll support policies he doesn't support?

I volunteered to make suggested wording changes to these, working with USATT lawyer Dennis, and will bring the new wording for a vote at the Feb. 11 meeting.

There was a closed session titled "High Performance Retention Effort," but I can't go into details on that. It lasted about half an hour. During this session non-board members had to get off the phone (other than High Performance Committee Chair Carl and lawyer Dennis).

There was a short discussion of the Strategic Priorities by Anne. Next came the Foundation and Fundraising Report by Carl. There was a financial report by accountant Chris, but they needed an extra week on this, so we'll be discussing this more at length in the Jan. 22 teleconference.

There was a very long discussion of the 2020 Olympic Selection Procedures. I gave my arguments for why I don't think we should have a scenario where, if we get the maximum six spots for USA, four of them would be selected by committee. Player Rep Erica gave a report on feedback from players, who seem mostly against this, and she gave the many reasons voiced. (Alas, I didn't take notes and don't want to write about it piecemeal.) She also agreed that she thought only two (one man, one woman) of the potentially six players should be selected by committee. Jörg and Carl gave arguments for why they believe the Procedures should stay as they are. (Many of those reasons I gave in my blog last week. But if they want to make their arguments public, they should do so on their own - and I will link to it from my blog. Or, if it's not too long, I could make it a segment of this blog.) At this point I think the Player Reps and the High Performance Committee should be discussing this, with any proposed change coming from them. Board member Rajul, who is outspokenly against the procedures, is in India and wasn't able to make the call. (Note - The 2020 Olympic Selection Procedures were created by the High Performance Committee, as authorized by the USATT bylaws. The USATT Board of Directors never saw them until they were published.)  

Next was a report on the status of the upcoming Nationals - Mark is the lead on this. We finished with discussion of the location of the next in-person board meeting in April, which will either be in Denver or Washington DC (with Gary arranging the latter).

Snowy Weekend
I was scheduled for three group sessions this past weekend, about 5.5 hours, but we had just over 12 inches of snow at the Maryland Table Tennis Center and they were all cancelled. With school cancelled on Monday, I'm guessing a lot of our kids switched from pong to building snowmen and sledding. (I'm tempted to post all the table tennis stuff I worked on since last week, but that would take about a week to write up.)

Hungarian Open
Here's the ITTF page for the event in Budapest, Jan. 15-20. Here's the promo video (30 sec).

How to Get Explosive Forehand Power – with Paul Drinkhall
Here's the article and video (5:44) by Tom Lodziak.

USATT Playlist
Here's the USATT Video Playlist Library. Why not explore this?

Why is Boll Strong? #5
Here's the article and video (3:32, in English)

How to Play Forehand Against Backspin - Ma Long
Here's the video (11:27).

New from Samson Dubina

New from EmRatThich at PingSunday

New from Matt Hetherington

Table Tennis Bad Boys and Bad Girls
Here's the article from Eli Baraty.

Signing Off On a Table Tennis Report Card
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

Unified Korea at the Worlds?
They are planning a joint team at the upcoming Worlds. They did this at the 1991 Worlds - there's even a movie based on it, As One. (It's also the source for this hilarious outtake.) Here's an article and video on the plans for 2019.

Fan Zhendong, Seeking High Note Start to Year
Here's the ITTF article.

Six Months, No Titles, the Dragon is Breathing Fire, Ready to Roar
Here's the ITTF article on Ma Long.

Raising Awareness, Parkinson's Disease a Focus for World Table Tennis Day
Here's the ITTF article.

What's Your Idea for Bringing Positive Social Change Through Table Tennis?
Here's the ITTF article.

A Look Inside the Challenging and Misunderstood Sport of Table Tennis
Here's the article. "When you think of table tennis, also known as ping-pong, what comes to mind? Middle school gym class? Forrest Gump? Your grandparents' basement?"

WAB Featured Club: The TopSpin Table Tennis Center
Here's the article by Steve Hopkins.

Where Are They Now? Wilson Club Series #2
Here's the article by Steve Hopkins.

Table Tennis Tidbits #41: Teens and Twenties Triumph
Here's the article by Robert Ho.

Truls Moregard | Ask a Pro Anything
Here's the ITTF video (4:48). Moregard of Sweden is world #3 in Under 18, #164 in Men. Learn about his "Hercules" pose!

Bouncing Ball on Edge of Racket
Here is 13 seconds of U.S. Minicadet Star Nandan Naresh bouncing the ball of the edge of his racket 27 times in a row.

Table Tennis Girls MAIKO
Here's the video (2:36)! It's only at the end that you find that the two Japanese Maiko's are (SPOILER ALERT!!!) . . . Miu Hirano (world #9) and Hina Hayata (world #43)!!! 

Incredible Serving Trick!
Here's the video (13 sec)! How many tries did it take to get this right?

3T Trick Table Tennis: Best of 2018
Here's the video (59 sec)!

Freestyle Table Tennis
Here's the video (3 min) starring Sabrine Winter of Germany (world #55, formerly #36). This video is incredible - they spent a LOT of time putting this together!!!

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January 7, 2019

Tip of the Week
Top Ten Things to Remember in Doubles.

2020 USA Olympic Selection Procedures
The 2020 Olympic Games Athlete Selection Procedures went live a month ago on the USATT Selection Procedures page. Although I'm on the board of directors for USATT, I believe that was the first time I saw them. They were created by the USATT High Performance Committee (HPC) and the USATT High Performance Director (HPD). 

They are our designated experts on these topics, and so in most cases, even though I would probably be considered an "expert" on these topics as well, I normally defer to them on these matters. However, in the case of the procedures planned for choosing USA table tennis players for the 2020 Olympics, I simply can't agree. 

The procedures are a bit complex. However, in simple terms, the most likely scenario is that we will have six Olympic spots, with a committee selecting 4 of those 6 spots, and the other two spots going to the winners of the Olympic Trials (one man, one woman). The committee that would choose the rest of the team would be made up of the HPD; the chair of the HPC; two USA National Team Coaches; and one of the Athlete Representatives on the USATT board of directors.

To get all six spots, USA has to beat Canada in an upcoming team match, one for men, one for women. (I'm assuming no USA player will prequalify, which would mean reaching top 25 in world rankings or the quarterfinals of men's or women's singles at the upcoming Worlds.) 

Here are the main arguments for having so much of the USA Olympic Team selected by committee instead of mostly be an Olympic Trials. 

  1. Trials can be erratic - a weaker player may get hot, while a stronger player has an off day or is sick or injured. So if you want your best team, you should bring in your best experts to select them.
  2. Trials favor those who play against players from their own country, who they are used to playing against. If we want to challenge other countries, we need to send the players who do best internationally.
  3. Doubles is now part of the Olympic Team Competition, so choosing the team based on singles play ignores the doubles aspect.

Now putting aside the fairness aspect, and arguing strictly on the idea of maximizing our chances of winning medals, these are all good arguments. But much of this goes against our sense of fairness. Heck, experts are often wrong - I've been told by multiple sources that Deng Yaping, arguably the greatest women player of all time, was sent home from the Chinese National Team three times because the coaches didn't think she had the potential to be great, due to her short height and unconventional playing style. Many thought Eric Boggan's playing style wouldn't work past the junior stage, and he became the highest ranked USA male player in the sponge era (#17 in the world).

USATT adopted the policy a few years ago of using more selections and less trials in its team selections. Besides some of the reasons above, the core principle was that to develop a really strong team, we needed to bring in a very good High Performance Director (and we seem to have one in Jörg Bitzigeio), and then give him the freedom to do his job - which often meant choosing many of the players he thought have potential, as well as which players would gain the most from playing internationally on a USA team and which ones should stay home at that time to focus on training, and similar aspects. (And he and others have taken a LOT of flak for this.)

This does makes more sense at the junior/cadet/mini-cadet level, if the sole goal is to develop teams for the future. However, I've never been completely comfortable with this, preferring players directly earn their spots on the team with perhaps 25% of the team made up of coach's picks. But I've gone along with it, especially since the top coaches from other countries assure me it's the way to go. I had a long discussion with Stellan Bengtsson on this, and he also agreed with this. Who am I to argue with Stellan??? (1971 World Men's Singles Champion, then a world-renowned coach for Sweden, now coaching in San Diego and a member of the USATT High Performance Committee.)

But for the Olympic Team? The arguments fall apart there. Let's suppose we believe that Kanak Jha on the men's side, and Wu Yue, and Lily Zhang on the women's side have earned the right to be on the Olympic Team. Kanak is world #51, Wu Yue is world #46, and Lily Zhang #95 (previously #53). But if we believe they are good enough to have earned their spots, doesn't that imply they have earned that right by showing they are medal contenders by their international performance? So why not simply put it in the pre-qualifying rules that whatever it is they did to earn that right means they pre-qualify? Why not, for example, simply have it that the top two USA players with rankings at least, say, the top 50, 75, or 100 pre-qualify, for all but the final spot? If players know this well in advance, they know what they need to do to qualify. (Even if you do it all by Trials, it's overwhelmingly likely these three would make the team anyway . . . unless someone better comes along.)

And since this gives incentive for them to do more international play, they all get better by this very international experience. Nobody I know of has complained about pre-qualifying, only about a committee choosing players, in particular possibly choosing 4 of the 6 members. (This gives an advantage to players who can afford to travel the world, playing internationally, in addition to playing on USA teams. But to prove yourself internationally, you have to play internationally - and playing internationally will make you better, period.)

I envision a future where we have trials for only one spot because the other spots are all taken by players who prequalify by being medal contenders. But we haven't reached that spot yet. (Maybe I just gave our players incentive to prove me wrong!)

When we are in contention to win medals, then sending those medal contenders is the top priority. But until we reach that point, we shouldn't be selecting by committee which non-medal contender should go over another. It defeats the argument that we are trying to win medals by using committee picks that don't affect our medal outcome, and only affects which non-medal contender gets to be an Olympian and which non-medal contender stays home.

I'm not 100% against any committee selections. There could be a compromise where the final player on each team is selected (so two make each team by Trials, assuming no pre-qualifiers), so we can make sure we get our "best" player to the Olympics, in case he has a bad day at the Trials, or is sick or injured, or in case the coaches want a doubles specialist. We could also have two Trials, with perhaps the two winners making the team. This takes out the problem of a player being injured, sick, or just having a bad day. But setting it up so that we will likely select by committee 4 of the 6? I don't agree with that. This is the OLYMPICS, the biggest sports event in the world, and players should directly earn their right to be on that team.

Another problem we face in having so many committee selections is the simple reality that the players involved are hesitant to complain about the procedures for the simple reason that it would give the appearance they don't trust the ones making the selections (who also created the selection procedures), and so could influence whether they would be selected. This is NOT a criticism of the committee's integrity in any way, but a simple reality that would be true no matter who was on the selection committee. It's a natural concern. I've already had four players tell me they are afraid to speak up for this reason, and others have told me they have heard the same thing. My suggestion is they go to the player reps to voice their concerns, but ask to be kept confidential.

One argument that comes up is comparing our sport to others to see how other sports select their team. Most Olympic sports seem to go mostly or all by Trials. But comparing us to a sport that's not a one-on-one competition (whether singles, doubles, or teams) isn't really the same thing. In track and field, or weight lifting, or similar events, you can measure a player's performance by their results directly, and rank them accordingly. But table tennis is style-oriented, and so how a player does against a player from his own country that he's used to playing isn't quite the same as playing internationally, against players you aren't used to. So comparisons should only be made with similar type sports - such as tennis, badminton, boxing, wresting, judo, etc. (Here's a listing of the Summer Olympic Sports, if anyone wants to investigate how other sports like ours do their selections.)

If you have a strong opinion on this, either for or against, and especially if you are a top player who might be trying out for the 2020 USA Olympic Team (or the coach of one), feel free to contact the USATT Board, especially the player reps (listed at the end), High Performance Director Jörg Bitzigeio, the High Performance Committee (contact info in the USATT Committee Listing), or the USOC Ombudsmen (contact info at the end of the 2020 Olympic Games Athlete Selection Procedures.

USATT CEO Search
USATT is currently doing a search for a new CEO. (Here's info on that - see last paragraph. We have a CEO search task force already set up.) I jotted down what I considered to be the most important qualities in a table tennis CEO, and then did some Googling of "Qualities of a CEO" and "Qualities of a Leader." I then did some rewriting, and eventually came up with the following "Qualities I'd Like to See in a USATT CEO." (I wanted to get it to ten, but couldn't come close.) In no particular order:

  1. Passion for the job (favors a table tennis background)
  2. Drive to develop the sport
  3. Integrity
  4. Great communicator
  5. Open-minded and willing to listen
  6. Able to think outside the box
  7. Able to learn from the past
  8. Common sense decision-making skills
  9. Able to work with and read people
  10. Able to assemble and inspire a great team
  11. Understands and creatively embraces new technologies and ideas
  12. Understands and able to organize key constituent groups
  13. Able to generate revenues
  14. Looking to turn USATT into a strong brand and lead it in the right direction
  15. Able to compartmentalize and deal with criticism and political battles
  16. Not using us to build a resume and then move on

USATT Teleconference
We had one on Thursday, Jan. 3, for a little over an hour. Topics were the CEO search, Strategic Priorities, and a personnel matter. The Strategic Priorities will likely be voted on at our Jan. 14 teleconference, and then published. (We usually have only one per month, and three in-person meetings per year.) It was initially our Strategic Plan, but I refused to approve it as a "plan" since, at this point, there is no plan in it, just a list of priorities and goals. So we changed it to "Strategic Priories." I'm assured that plans will be added later.

Weekend Coaching
We started a new ten-week Beginning Junior Class on Sunday, 4-5:30PM. There are 14 in the class, with John Hsu and Lidney Castro assisting. I've been teaching these classes for years. U.S. #1 in Ten and Under Boys (and ten and under champion at the Nationals and Open) Stanley Hsu started in my class, as did many others. For the first session, the focus was on grip, ball bouncing, stance, and forehand. Then we finished with games, with the class split between Up-down tables and building the Pretty Good Wall of China out of paper cups on a table, and then taking turns knocking it down as I fed multiball.

From 5:30-7:15 we had the advanced juniors. I fed multiball for half the session, then worked with four of them on serves. One of the kids I worked on made a huge breakthrough - out of nowhere, he suddenly is getting great spin on his backhand serve! After the session ten of the coaches went out to dinner, where we discussed each player.

USATT Coaches of the Year 2018 Announced
Here's the USATT announcement. As coaching chair, I chaired the selection committee. I abstained from voting in the Developmental Coach of the Year category since Coach Wang is a co-coach of mine from MDTTC. One thing that came up was that the only award for Para coaches is at the elite level, for Paralympic Coach of the Year. There was some discussion of having co-Developmental Coaches of the Year. I suggested we simply add the category of Para Developmental Coach of the Year, and it was unanimously agreed - and so we now have a new category. Congrats to:

  • Coach of the Year: Kanak Jha's Coaches Team: Jörg Bitzigeio, Stefan Feth, Dirk Wagner
  • Mark Nordby Developmental Coach of the Year: Wang Qingliang
  • Para Developmental Coach of the Year: Sean O'Neill
  • Paralympic Coach of the Year: Gary Fraiman
  • Doc Counsilman Technology Coach of the Year: Samson Dubina
  • Volunteer Coach of the Year: Mike Lauro

Books I Read and Movies I Saw in 2018
For those with a rabid interest in what I do in my free time, here's a listing of the 84 books I read and 130 movies I saw in theaters in 2018. I'm always amazed at how few books American read. But I'm guessing most of you are more amazed at the 130 movies I saw! Yes, I'm a movie buff, and saw many late-night movies, often after coaching. But many of them were close to free, due to MoviePass (which worked for half the year) and volume bonuses. However, I'm guessing most of you spent more time watching TV than I did movies! I just like the movie experience - always with a popcorn and Mr. Pibb. (They don't have Mountain Dew at the regal Germantown Theater, which is three minutes from me.)

Gordon Kaye Appointed ITTF Managing Director of Product Innovation
Here's the ITTF announcement of their hiring of the former USATT CEO. Gordon resigned to take this job - we're going to miss him!

New from Samson Dubina

  • Facebook Live Q & A Session. "On Saturday, Jan 12th at 5pm, I'll be doing a Facebook Live Session answering your table tennis questions."
  • It Ain't Piano. "If you ever took piano lessons, you probably know that there is a very systematic approach for beginners."
  • 20 Different Opponents! "Playing the right tactics is one of the vital keys to winning your next match.  In order to know which tactics to play, it is often helpful to label your opponent as a looper, chopper, lobber, blocker, etc.  Once you have placed him in a category, then you can begin making a game-plan."
  • 5 Levels of Communication. "To reach your highest potential, you and your coach must communicate on a detailed level realizing that communication is a two-way street."

Powerful Backhand like Jon Persson
Here's the article and video (5:23) from EmRatThich.

New from Steve Hopkins

New from Eli Baraty

Why is Boll Strong? #4
Here's the article and video (3:36).

Team USA Trains with Boxing Coach
Here are the videos!

Strawberry Flips . . . Forever!
Here's the video (47 sec) of this extremely deceptive shot. Stefan Feth popularized and coined the term "strawberry flip." It's the opposite type of sidespin on a banana flip, and he told me that he needed another fruit to call it, so came up with strawberry! (A banana flip is called that because the forward swing of the stroke is banana shaped.) The player doing it here is Romain Ruiz of France.

China's Liu Guoliang on Japan's Tomokazu Harimoto
Here's the video (6:16) with English subtitles.

Table Tennis Training Methods in China
Here's the video (8:10) from Table Tennis Destiny.

Exclusive Interview: Brazilian Table Tennis Star - Hugo Calderano!
Here's the ITTF video (7:14). He's the world #6 from Brazil.

Interview with Coach Jack Huang
Here's the interview by Ayan Bagchi on my fellow Hall-of-Fame coach at MDTTC.

Peace. Passion. Pride. Unified Korea!
Here's the ITTF article on the unified Korean team that will compete at the 2018 Worlds. Includes link to video (14:38).

Time For a Table Tennis Tune-up
Here's the article by Coach Jon. "Well, 2019 is here and it’s time to make some table tennis resolutions. I’m always willing to make a few suggestions as to how you might have a more successful year playing your favorite sport."

Teen Wins Table Tennis Gold While Observing Jewish Fast Day
Here's the article featuring Estee Ackerman.

This Cincinnati Table Tennis Club is Known Worldwide
Here's the article.

2018 West Coast Teams in Newark
Here's the article and pictures from Shashin Shodhan.

Best Table Tennis Shots in Vietnam
Here's the video (3:54).

ITTF Top 10 Table Tennis Points of 2018
Here's the ITTF video 6:40) from DHS.

Around-the-Net Backhand Loop Roller
Here's the video (41 sec, including slo-mo replay).

Pianist Pong
Here's the podcast - Dec. 31 broadcast, Show 262 (table tennis is from 19:20-19:40), featuring Tristan Parody, a 17-year-old pianist from Burbank, California. (She's introed at 15:10.) "I know you're on the tennis team. I hear you're a vicious competitor at the ping pong table as well." "Many people I play in ping pong I learn from.  Each person I play I learn from them and then, I destroy them."

Ping-Pong Kid Trick Shots
Here's the video (76 sec)

Catch the Spin!
Here's the video (13 sec).

Ponginfity - Best Ping Pong Shots of 2018
Here's the video (5:02)!

Panda Pong Ad
Here's the ad (15 sec) from Cox Communication for their ping-pong game played as pandas, with Gigablast Internet.

***
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December 31, 2018

Tip of the Week
The Next Point is the Biggest Point of Your Life.

U.S. Open
Wait, was a U.S. Open going on while I was coaching at the U.S. Open? Because I'm busy coaching, I rarely actually see the "big" matches at major tournaments, this this year's U.S. Open was no different. However, I did see the Men's and Women's Singles Finals, and they were incredible! Before I go further, here are a few links:

Many thought the Men's Final would be an execution, with the way Wang was playing - could anybody beat him? (He's previously won the U.S. Open in 2012 and 2013.) But Kanoya of Japan went up 3-1 in games. And then, a seemingly innocuous occurrence apparently changed everything. On the second point of give five the umpire, apparently correctly, faulted Wang for not tossing the ball up at least six inches. Wang has a habit of following the ball up with his tossing hand, and according to most referees, there must be six inches of clearance between the hand and the ball. (Here's video, and here's discussion at Mytabletennis.net.) But Wang may have used this for incentive, because for the next 2.5 games (including an 11-1 game six thumping) I don't think anyone on Earth could have beaten him, not Ma Long even Fan Zhendong. Then, down 3-8 in the seventh, Kanoya ties it up 9-all. Wang leads 10-9 and finally wins 12-10 in the seventh!  Final scores were 9,-12,-11,-9,7,1,10. On the women's side, it was Liu Juan over Lily Zhang, -4,12,7,-8,5,12.

As to coaching, Coach Wang Qingliang and I were coaching the Maryland contingent, with Stanley Hsu easily winning 10 and Under Boys' Singles, winning in the quarters, semis, and finals by scores of 7,3,6,6,4,6,6,6,5. He and Mu Du won 10 and Under Boys Doubles, going 5-0 and 15-2 in games. The two are #1 and #3 in the country now in 10 and Under Boys with ratings of 2129 and 1989. I was pretty happy about the doubles as I've been working with them once a week for about 45 minutes for the past two months, and it's paying off - their doubles play has really improved, especially in their positioning.

My table tennis books were on sale at the Butterfly booth, and several sold out. I think I signed over 20 copies during the Open. You can buy them at Amazon or Butterfly.

After the Open I spent a day at Universal Studios, where I bought Batman and Dr. Seuss pens (I sort of collect SF & fantasy-type pens), and rode the following rides: Men in Black, Simpsons, Harry Potter, Hogswarts Express, Jurassic Park water ride (got wet), Spider-Man, Shrek, and the extremely scary Hulk roller coaster. During the Open I spent my nights eating pizza and reading in the hot tub.

And I almost forgot - HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

U.S. Open Meetings
I didn't take careful notes during the USATT board meeting, held most of Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 15-16, but the minutes of the meeting should go up sometimes probably in January, after they are approved by the USATT Board. Here's a very quick rundown of what was covered: Review of September meeting minutes; Status report of U.S. Open; High Performance update; Committee reports - I have the Coaching Committee report, and there were others from the Club, Juniors, Rules, Tournaments, and High Performance Committees; Foundation report; Proposed bylaw amendment to create Paralympic High Performance Standing Committee; Tournament Update Ideas; Discussion of Strategic Plan, now renamed Strategic Priorities (because I refused to approve it as a "plan" since it is not, at this point, a plan); CEO search plan; SafeSport audit; Financials; and Planning for USATT General Assembly.

We had the USATT Assembly on Tuesday night, Dec. 18, from 7:00-8:42PM. I counted 33 attendees, including four USATT board members; myself; Ed Hogshead, who ran the meeting; Deepak Somarapu; and Gary Schlager. Also attending were USATT staff members Mark Thompson (COO); Chris Mauro (accountant); Jörg Bitzigeio (High Performance Director); as well as former CEO Gordon Kaye, who had resigned as of Dec. 1. Also attending were committee chairs Carl Danner (High Performance), Linda Leaf (Nominating and Governance), Ed Hogshead (Clubs) and myself (Coaching). Other luminaries were USATT attorney Dennis Taylor and long-time official Wendell Dillon.

The meeting began with a video of our High Performance athletes. Next Gordon read an election statement from Mike Babuin, who is one of three know people running for the At-Large spot I currently hold. (As noted previously, I'm not running for re-election - too busy. Others who are planning to run include Bruce Liu and Lily Yip.) Then came a thank you plaque to former CEO Gordon Kaye; discussion of our upcoming elections and committee openings; finances; SafeSport; Membership numbers; CEO search; Strategic Priorities; USATT tournaments; Ranking tournaments (especially Hopes); and Hardbat. On a side note, five of the seven people I know of who have expressed interest in being our next CEO were in attendance, but I'm not going to give out those names at this time.

I made a proposal at this meeting, which I've also discussed with others. For many years, we held team events on the first day of the U.S. Open - Men's and Women's, Junior and Cadet Boys and Girls. But sometime in the 1990s they stopped running them. Jörg Bitzigeio (HPD) and I are discussing bringing them back. It gives added incentive for foreign countries to send their players, plus it's international experience for our players without having to travel internationally. At this year's U.S. Open, on the first day, Sunday, Dec. 16, we had all of the tables set up, but only a fraction used for the two events run that day - Paralympic events and the Ranking tournament, so players without ratings could establish their level for seeding purposes. I proposed that we do two additions. First, we add the team events. Second, we run all the hardbat events on that day, with the option to run some finals on following nights. This way there's no conflict between hardbat and sponge events, so players can play both. (At this Open you mostly had to choose, with Hardbat getting its own "track," where you played only hardbat.) We have lots of tables, so why not use them this way?

Upcoming USATT Meetings
We have a USATT board teleconference this Thursday at 7PM eastern time, where we'll be discussing the CEO search, Strategic Priorities, and personnel matters. The next day, Friday at 9:15PM, the Coach of the Year Committee meets to go over this year's nominations.

Shoulder Update
As readers here know, I retired from private coaching in March due to shoulder problems. Since that time I've run lots of group sessions, and did simple demonstrations, but no serious play. But the shoulder is probably 90% better now. During the Open I was a practice partner each morning for our kids, and had no problems. A couple of days ago I volunteered as a practice partner during our Christmas Camp, where I spent 90 minutes not just blocking for someone, but did the drills myself - especially looping and footwork drills. I'm pretty stiff, but the shots are still there, and I can still do long rallies in a drill. My guess is I've got a ways to go before I can play games that well. However, regardless of the shoulder, I am retired from private coaching. But there's a good chance I'll play some events at the U.S. Nationals in July in Las Vegas. 

USATT Opens Applications for Chair of Coaching Committee
Here's the USATT news item. Yep, after two years as coaching chair (and a previous four-year term), I'm stepping down as coaching chair - just too busy. So why don't you apply for the position? My term ends on March 1. Information is in the link.

New from EmRatThich/Ping Sunday

New from Samson Dubina

New from Eli Baraty

3 Tips for Developing 'Feeling' in Table Tennis
Here's the article from Ben Larcombe. "Have you ever heard a fellow table tennis player described as having great 'feeling'? It's clearly a good thing, but what does it actually mean? And how do we improve our table tennis 'feeling'?"

Create Confusion by Using Disruptive Shots
Here's the article by Tom Lodziak.

New from Coach Jon

ITTF Reviews 2018

USATT, ITTF, Butterfly News
I've been gone three weeks, and there's been a LOT of new items up on these three sites! So why not browse over them?

Table Tennis Serves
Here's are links to a huge number of videos of top players and their serves.

Wang Hao Slow Motion Footwork
Here's the video (3:20, from August) of Wang Hao, the 2009 World Men's Singles Champion and 3-time Olympic Men's Singles Silver Medalist.

WAB Club Feature: Maryland Table Tennis Center
Here's the article by Steve Hopkins on my club.

History of USATT – Volume 22
USATT has started to put up Tim Boggan's latest volume, which covers 1996-1997. Here is Chapter One and Chapter Two. Or you can buy it and previous (and future) volumes at www.timboggantabletennis.com. These chapters cover "International happenings" and "Member Interactions." Volume 22 is 469 pages with 1447 graphics, and covers all the wild things that happened in 1996-97 - and I'm mentioned a lot! Why not buy a copy - or the entire set at a discount? Tim sells them directly, so when you order them, you get it autographed - order your copy now!

Season of Giving--Helping College Table Tennis
Here's the article from the National Collegiate Table Tennis Association.

Liam Pitchford | Ask a Pro Anything
Here's the ITTF video (5:45).

Who Is The Best Athlete?
Here's the online poll, with athletes from six sports, including Fan Zhendong from table tennis. Alas, here are the current results, which give Fan 90 votes, or 1.1%. LeBron James leads with 3220 votes, or 39.9%.

First Look: SPIN Is a Surprisingly Fancy Place to Play Ping-Pong
Here's the article on Spin DC, which recently opened. They are having a New Year's Eve Party tonight -maybe I should visit! Spin Table Tennis now have locations in New, Chicago, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Seattle, Austin, and Toronto.

17-year-old Ping Pong Player Scores Big Wins at Table Tennis Championships in Florida
Here's the video (68 sec) featuring Estee Ackerman from News 12 in Long Island.

ITTF Posts Record-Breaking Numbers on TV, Social Media, and Online Streaming
Here's the ITTF press release.

Little Girl Feed Multiball
Here's the video (10 sec)! Who needs a paddle to feed multiball?

Scott "PingPongMan" Preiss Goes Through Security at Palm Beach
Here's the picture! (I think I posted a similar picture once before, or it might have been this one.) The security guy has no idea what to make of this oversized racket. (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

Two Unarmed Players?
Here's the video (2 min)! The player on the left is a feature on Ibrahim Hamato, who has been featured many times, including this video (3:33) from last month.

Best Ping Pong Trick Shots 2018
Here's the video (5:02) from Pongfinity!

Labrador Pong
Here's the video (60 sec)!

Superhero Table Tennis Videos

Season's Greetings from Table Tennis
Here's the video (47 sec) as top players sing Jingle Bells!

Santa Claus Pong
Here's the video (60 sec)! Table tennis starts about 15 seconds in.

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December 10, 2018

Next Blog on Monday, December 31
I'll be away the next couple of weeks for the U.S. Open and Christmas, so will skip the next two weeks. See you on Monday, Dec. 31!

Tip of the Week
Punish Passivity.

U.S. Open
The U.S. Open will take place in Orlando, Florida, Dec. 16-22. I'll be there to coach and attend meetings. I fly out this Friday, Dec. 14, and will likely attend the "Pong on the Plaza" event that night, 5-7PM (see link below). Then I will attend the USATT Board meeting, held all day long on Sat & Sun, Dec. 15-16. On Sunday there's also a "Rating Classification" event, and if I'm out of the meetings in time, I'll go over to coach our players in that. Then I'll be coaching MDTTC juniors throughout the tournament. I'll also be at the USATT Assembly at 7PM on Tuesday (see link below). Finally, on Sun and Mon after the tournament, Dec. 23-24, I'll be handing around, probably going to Disneyworld or Universal Studios, or perhaps just taking a reading/writing "vacation." Then I fly home late on Dec. 24, arriving home on Christmas morning! Here are some links.

Weekend Coaching
On Saturday, in the Junior League (which is half league, half coaching), I worked a lot with Stanley Hsu and Mu Du on doubles. They are playing in three doubles events at the upcoming U.S. Open. They are getting better at footwork and positioning, which is key to them playing well. One key thing for all doubles teams (with two righties) is recovering after going to the wide forehand, especially if the opponents hit to the same spot. Most players automatically move to the right to get out of the way of their partner, and so go way out of position for the next shot. It's important to instead take a step back so the partner can cut in front, and as the partner moves to the wide forehand, you move to the left and into position for the next shot.

In singles, I spent a lot of time watching them and two other juniors who will be at the Open, especially focusing on what serves they are using. After watching one player play two games, I pointed out to him that he hadn't served short to the forehand a single time. But it turned out he'd thought it through - he said the other player had a good forehand flip, and he'd learned not to serve there or he'd face that flip to his wide forehand. I told him to give it a try next time as a variation, and anticipate that flip, and counter-attack. Plus, if the opponent is easily flipping your serve, then you need to focus on serving low!!!

In the Beginning Junior Class, it was the tenth and final week of this session. The focus was "Player's Choice" - yep, they got to tell the coach what they wanted to work on. Then we did smashing lobs, where we split into groups, with the players smashing to the coaches' lobs until they missed three, and then the next player was up. (Lidney Castro and John Hsu were the lobbers.) While they did this, I took the youngest ones, who weren't ready to smash lobs, and played the "Serving game." One player served ten times, the others (defenders) stood on the other side without their paddles. In front of each of them was a cup. The server's job was to serve so that that it got past the defenders. If the defenders caught the ball, the server got zero. If the ball got past the defenders and hit the floor, the server got one point. If the serve hit one of the cups and then hit the floor, three points! (At this age group, roughly 6-7, catching a moving ping-pong ball is hard.)

In the advanced Talent Program, as usual I did lots of multiball the first half. Then I had four players, rotating about. On one table, the player served short and attacked. On the other table the server had to serve long. We finished with physical training, and then around-the world!

Craziest Table Tennis Shots
This started out as the title suggests, but sort of turned into a compilation of Behind-the-Back shots. Here's the listing - which is the craziest shot? Of course, these are only ones that were caught on video.

I've seen some crazy ones that weren't caught on video, such as a Waldner underhand counter-smash (from way off the table) and Mike Bush lobbing the ball off the end but an air-blower blowing it back. But perhaps the best shot I've ever seen not on video was by the #1 14-year-old from England, circa 1987. He was visiting and training temporarily at the Resident Training Program for Table Tennis at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, CO. (I was the manager and one of the coaches.) He was playing Chi-Ming Chui, a pips-out penholder who was also about 14 and about 2150 rated. The English kid mishit a serve almost straight up, and Chi-Mind absolutely creamed the ball. Without backing up, the English kid turned his back to the table, jumped into the air, and did a wild no-look swing at the ball with the backhand side of his racket - and counter-smashed the ball on the rise!!! He was as surprised at making the shot as we were watching it.

My best shot ever was a shot against left Allen Barth, circa 1980. He looped the ball to my backhand. I prepared to block, but the ball hit the net, and then the side edge on the left! As the ball bounced away, I did a diving, in-the-air backhand counterloop around the net that just rolled on the other side, unreturnable!

Behind-the-Back Shots

World Junior Championships
Here's the home page for the event that just finished in Bendigo, Australia, Dec. 2-9. USA Boys' Team: Nikhil Kumar, Kanak Jha, Sharon Alguetti, Nicholas Tio; Girls' Team: Rachel Sung, Rachel Yang, Crystal Wang, Amy Wang. Here are some articles and a video featuring USA players. (The last two I linked to last week.)

USATT Guides
Want to better run or promote your tournaments? Set up a club? Learn how to coach beginners? Set up a league? Better understand the rules? Here are some USATT guides that might help you!

New from Samson Dubina

Nine Important Backhand Techniques
Here's the article by EmRatThich.

How to Move Quicker
Here's the video (5:36) by Tom Lodziak.

Why is Boll Strong?
Here are two new links that go to English versions of this.

Maryland Table Tennis Center
Here are three features! On a related note, the MDTTC juniors (all part of the HW Global Foundation's Talent Development Program, which trains at MDTTC) had 24 players in the North American Teams. The ratings just came out - they averaged a 133-point gain!!! The three kids on the team I coached started at 1736, 1730, and 1668, and came out, respectively, at 1901, 1954, and 1827. They learned a lot not only on tactics, but on the proper mentality to play your best.

South Bend Table Tennis Tournament & Clinic News
Here's the info page, featuring the upcoming South Shore Open in Highland, IN, run by Dan Seemiller.

West Coast Teams in Newark
Here's the article by Shashin Shodhan.

Where Are They Now? Wilson Club Series #1
Here's the article by Steve Hopkins.

Table Tennis Is Becoming Popular But Lack of Facilities Hold the Sport Back
Here's the article by Eli Baraty.

Seamaster 2018 ITTF World Tour Grand Finals
Here's the ITTF home page for the event, to take place Dec. 13-16 in Incheon, South Korea.

Ma Long withdraws from World Tour Grand Finals
Here's the ITTF article.

US Junior Teams Among Top 8 in the World
Here's the USATT article by Matt Hetherington.

Ruth Aarons Among Seven Elected To Jewish Sports Hall Of Fame In Israel
Here's the article. She's the 1936 and 1937 World Women's Singles Champion, the only USA singles champion at the World Championships (excluding Consolation Singles).

The Really, Really, Flexible Blade
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

ITTF Parkinson’s World Table Tennis Championships Announced for 2019
Here's the article on the event to be held at the Westchester TTC, with Will Shortz, Board Member of Ping Pong Parkinson.

History of USATT – Volume 21 – Chapters 27 and 28
Here's chapter 27 and chapter 28 of Tim Boggan's latest volume, which covers 1994-1995. Or you can buy it and previous (and future) volumes at www.timboggantabletennis.com. These chapters cover "International happenings" and "Member Interactions." Volume 21 is 438 pages with 1667 graphics, and covers all the wild things that happened in 1994-95 - and I'm mentioned a lot! Why not buy a copy - or the entire set at a discount? Tim sells them directly, so when you order them, you get it autographed - order your copy now! (Volume 22 is also now available.)

Table Tennis Tidbits #37
Here's the new USATT article by Robert Ho, "The (Ma) 'Long and Short of the FH Loop.'"

Cristian Pletea Highlights - World Junior Table Tennis Championships
Here's the video (60 sec)!

Pong Universe Shot of the Week
Here's the video (16 sec)!

Sit Down Multiball Chop Practice
Here's the video (23 sec).

Musical Pong Juggling?
Here's the video (19 sec)!

Baby Pong, Baby Smash
Here's the video (23 sec)!

Play Pong While Waiting at Traffic Lights in Germany
Here's the article, with pictures and video!

Juggle Pong
Here's the video (2:24)!

***
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December 3, 2018

Tip of the Week
Style Disadvantage or Tactical Problem?

Weekend Coaching
On Saturday we had the usual Junior League, which is half league, half coaching. I spent some time working with many of our top juniors on doubles - I've sort of been put in charge of that. I worked with Stanley Hsu and Mu Du, who will be playing doubles together in three events - 10 and Under Boys' Doubles, Hopes Boys' Doubles, and Ratings Doubles. (If they can improve their positioning, they will do well.) In singles, we did a lot of work on serve and attack, forehand and backhand. Some of our players were following through off balance after forehand loops, and unable to get set for the next shot, so I spent a bunch of time on that, including demoing getting back into position quickly, even after a powerful forehand. Balance is key!!! (Dan Seemiller always emphasizes that, and he's right.) We also worked on attacking deep serves, and forehand attacking from the middle.

On Sunday, in the Beginning Junior Class, we ran the players through a number of footwork drills, then introduced them to the "Hard-Soft" backhand drill, which really should be called the "Hard-Medium" backhand drill. One player alternates hitting a medium backhand and then a hard backhand, while the other player plays steady. Then we did some smashing drills (one smashes, the other tries to counter or fish it back). And then games!

In the more advanced Talent Program, I spent the first hour or so feeding multiball - lots of footwork drills. Then we ran them through live serve and attack drills. We finished with physical training (ladder drills) and then Brazilian Teams. Afterwards, eleven of the coaches went out for Chinese food, where we discussed the players and future coaching plans.

Christmas Table Tennis Shopping
EmRatThich put together a nice shopping list, X-Mas Gifts for Ping Pong Lovers. I especially like the book he recommends!!! Since table tennis books are my forte, here are some choices for table tennis books for table tennis players, and that most especially includes you!!! (C'mon, help out us starving table tennis writers.) I'll start with my own books.

Want Novels?

Want Biographical?

Want History?

Want to Play Better?

U.S. Open Players
As of now, there are 555 players entered in the U.S. Open coming up in two weeks in Orlando, Florida. Alas, it's the lowest showings in many years. Why the drop in numbers? There was obviously the big change in format this year, and the change in location from Las Vegas to Orlando. The entries are now closed, but there are likely some entries received at USATT headquarters not yet inputted, and others might withdraw. But it looks like we'll have a little over 550 players. (I like 555 - the height of the Washington Monument, and a lot of other interesting properties!)

Regarding the new format, there there are two "tracks" (Elite and Performance), and rating events replaced by tiered rating events. This likely lost us a lot of players. But there are two ways of looking at it - one is that the new format isn't as good as the previous one, and that we should go back to the old way (which will continue for the U.S. Nationals). The other way of looking at it is that players just aren't used to it, and we'll get more entries as players get used to it, especially if we do some fixes on some aspects. Which is it? To be honest, I don't really want to think about this too much until after the Open, when we'll have a better idea of this. (Or at the USATT Assembly - see below.)

The other big change was going to Orlando. We had a number of very successful U.S. Opens in Florida back in the 1980s and 1990s, in Miami and Fort Lauderdale - but they were in July, and players came for the beaches. The beaches in Orlando in December are too cold, but it has other features - Disneyworld and Universal Studios. We'd hoped they would attract lots of players, but apparently not.

If you are at the U.S. Open and want to voice your opinion on this, there is a USATT Assembly at the Open on Tuesday night, Dec. 18. I'll be there.

USATT Members Who Are Actors
This weekend I learned that Navin Kumar will be acting and one of 16 co-producers of the movie Attack of the Unknown, which is currently in pre-production. You may have heard of him; he's a former student of mine (until shoulder problems led me to retiring from private coaching earlier this year) who's known as "The Bionic Man" as he has an artificial heart as well as Parkinson's. So there is now a Navin Kumar IMDB page. I wondered - how many USATT members (past or present) are actors (or related aspects such as writer, director, etc.) with pages at IMDB (Internet Movie DataBase). Here are the ones I know of (alphabetized) - comment below if there's anyone I missed, and I'll add them.

World Junior Championships
Here's the home page for the event taking place right now in Bendigo, Australia, Dec. 2-9. USA Boys' Team: Nikhil Kumar, Kanak Jha, Sharon Alguetti, Nicholas Tio; Girls' Team: Rachel Sung, Rachel Yang, Crystal Wang, Amy Wang.  Here are two USA articles.

Table Tennis Legend Liu Guoliang Elected as CTTA President
Here's the article. It was just a year or so ago that he was controversially removed from his highly successful tenure as head coach for the Chinese National Team. Is there going to be a "war" between him and the ones who removed him?  

US-Based Sport Squad, Inc. Acquires Global Table Tennis Leader JOOLA Tischtennis GmbH
Here's the article. In plain English, what this basically means is that JOOLA USA (founded and owned by Richard Lee, which was the JOOLA distributor for North America) has bought the German company, JOOLA, and its worldwide distribution. And I remember when Richard was an up-and-coming kid, training at MDTTC for years, and then winning national championships in every age group from Under 14 on up!

Tournament Play Video Analyzation
Here's the article and videos by Brian Pace. "Are you a player that really struggles in tournament play? Do you have a problem translating your training into a viable tournament performance? Have you ever had your performance analytics broken down in a way that allows you to exactly pinpoint what you did in tournament play? If these question still leave you with no answer, then the “Tournament Play Video Analyzation” program created by Brian Pace at Dynamic Table Tennis is perfect for you."

New from EmRatThich

New from Samson Dubina

  • Kids - Learn 5 reasons why your son or daughter should start playing table tennis.
  • Doubles Practice (1:29)!

Table Tennis Evolution
Here's the article by Eli Baraty.

JOOLA ASV Grunwettersbach a Crowd Pleaser on its Road to Title Defense
Here's the USATT article on the North American Teams by Matt Hetherington.
***BREAKING NEWS*** - Here are the Ratings for the North American Teams, which were processed on Monday afternoon.

JOOLA Teams Tournament Experience
Here's the article by Tahl Leibovitz.

Around The World of Table Tennis
Here's the article by Coach Jon. "I've noticed that people from different parts of the world approach table tennis in very different ways. It's possible to learn something from all these approaches. Let's start our journey in the U.S. and move on from there."

Getting Serious About Table Tennis
Here's the article by Connor Graham, from the Jewish Times, featuring the Baltimore TTC. "For the last 25 years, Goldstein has run the Baltimore Table Tennis Club out of the gymnasium at the Northwest Academy of Health Sciences in Pikesville. The club operates 11 months of the year, and when it started back up in August, it began its 49th consecutive season. Goldstein has been there since the beginning, when Fred Tepper founded the club under the auspices of the Baltimore County Department of Recreation and Parks in 1970." (I went to this club numerous times in the early 1980s, hitching a ride with Dave Sakai.)

Peak World Rankings for Wu and Jha Display International Progress for USA
Here's the USATT article by Matt Hetherington.

Support Alexa Szvitacs, Suffering Life Threatening Illness
Here's the ITTF article.

Breakthrough 2018 Season Has Pech Feeling Good About the Future
Here's the USATT article by Richard Finn.

TopSpin Table Tennis Charity Event Set For Dec. 6
Here's the article on the event taking place at the Metropolitan Pavilion in Manhattan.

WAB Club Feature: Seattle Pacific Table Tennis Club
Here's the article by Steve Hopkins.

Pong Road
Here's Episode 08 (15:20). Here's their home page, where you can find the first seven episodes. They feature table tennis player, coach, and artist Rocky Wang. Here's their About page.

Final Countdown to the 2018 ITTF Star Awards!
Here's the ITTF video (50 sec).

New from Arnaud Scheen

Ma Long and Xu Xin Training Bulgaria 2018
Here's the video (11:01).

Ma Long Backhand Rips
Here's the video (1:28).

Incredible Rolling Shot by Chee Feng Leong at North American Teams
Here's the video (30 sec, with slo-mo replay).

Nittaku ITTF Monthly Pongcast - October 2018
Here's the video (15:49). (It only went up on Nov. 26.)

Black Cat Table Tennis
Here's a site with lots of new videos.

Table Tennis Vlog in Missouri
Here's the video (3:42) from Keenan Southall, where he covers his recent tournament in Kanas City.

70 Side Table Bounces in 15 Seconds by Nandan Naresh
Here's the video - some are done "no look" style!

Crashing Into the Umpire
Here's the video (8 sec)!

Craziest Shot in Table Tennis on CNN!
Here's the CNN video (48 sec) as Chris Chen, sitting on floor and unable to see the ball, sticks his racket up and blocks back a smash! Here's an analysis. "Norwegian teenager Christopher Chen had no idea the can of worms he was releasing when he optimistically stuck his table tennis paddle up from the depths." (I linked to this last week, but now we have CNN and analysis.)

Big Paddle Pong
Here's the picture! (Here's the non-Facebook version.) Here's my May 25, 2016 blog which has, in the last segment, 21 links to big paddle pong. While we're at it, here are three repeating gif images of big-paddle play!

Belly Pong?
Here's the cartoon! (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

***
Send us your own coaching news!

November 26, 2018

Tip of the Week
Use Your Weaknesses or They Will Always Be Weaknesses.

North American Teams
Or as I would put it, here we go again! It was my 43rd year in a row at the Teams, starting in 1976 as a player, but primarily as a coach the last decade or so. Here are complete results - you can use the dropdown menu to see the results of any division and the preliminaries. You can see any player's complete results by going to the Team listing and clicking on their rating. Here is video from the livestreaming. Alas, as usual I saw little of it as I was out coaching. Here are Pongmobile Photos from the North American Teams. Here's a video (25 sec) showing the sheer size of the playing hall - for 260 teams and 1002 players!

This year we had ten HW Global Foundation junior teams, who are from the Talent Development Program that trains at MDTTC. Coaching them were the HWGF and MDTTC coaching team of myself, Wang Qingliang, Jeffrey Zeng Xun, John Hsu, Wen Hsu, Klaus Wood, Greg Mascialino, Cheng Yinghua, and Jack Huang. (I think Martin Jezo and Lidney Castro also coached some when not playing.) Here is a group photo on Sunday afternoon - alas, at least five players missed the photo - some had left, and others were out playing. (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

I was primarily in charge of HWGF TDP#2, which was Stephanie & James Zhang, and Todd Klinger. They went in with respective ratings of 1730, 1736, and 1668. These were relatively up-to-date ratings - James has played in eight tournaments this year, Stephanie seven, and Todd 15, and all three played in the October MDTTC Open, and Todd played in the Southeastern Open in November. However, they had been training very hard, and Stephanie and James were in the USA Team Training Camp the week before the Teams as one of the locals. All three are among the hardest workers in practice, all came in primed and ready! So . . . how did they do? In short, they executed brilliantly!!!

Going by ratings, they pulled of a total of 33 upsets. (So yeah, all three were way under-rated.) They only had two upsets against them, and both were against players who were also "ringers" and so will likely be adjusted upwards. All three pulled off lots of upsets, mostly against 1800+ and 1900+ players. (Todd had the slightly lower rating, which helped him rack up the upsets!) 

On day one, they were seeded to be in the ninth division, but they not only beat the two teams below them (5-0 and 5-1), but the team one ahead of them 5-3, and the team two above them 5-1! So they played the tournament two divisions up. At that point, they had already pulled off fifteen upsets (since the teams below them were lopsided, with higher-rated players combined with lower-rated ones). But their assault had only just begun. They were seeded last out of eight in their division, but beat the #1, #2, and #3 seeded teams, 5-1, 5-2, and 5-0! Overall, they basically dominated against 1800 players and played even or better with 1900 players. They finished 4-3 in the division - it turned out the lower-rated teams in the division were stronger than the higher ones, including our team. 

There were a lot of really interesting tactics used these three days, and I could write a book on just this One thing that worked really well was holding back on calling timeouts as often as possible until my players were up game point, and using the timeout to decide on what serve or receive to use. It worked really - over and over opponents would miss the serve we chose to go with.

Here are some of the interesting tactics that came up - and I'm being careful here as I'm not about to let on anything about how to play these three! (But these are all standard tactical things - they key is knowing which ones to apply and when.) As noted above, their execution both tactically and of the things they'd been training at was brilliant - and they were also tactically astute and so knew when to change tactics if something wasn't working anymore. (A coach's bane is telling a player to do something, the opponent adjusts, but the student sticks to the no-longer-working tactic.)

  • Players are so used to pushing to the backhand, or at most going to both sides, that they often struggle against a player who is much stronger on the backhand. We faced such a player. In the first match against this 1900+ player, our player pushed to both sides, and the opponent just waited for the push to the backhand, and ripped backhand loops over and over. So I told the player to push everything to the wide forehand, relentlessly, unless the opponent stepped over to try to play backhand, then push to the wide backhand. The opponent completely fell apart and after we lost the first game badly, we won the next three easily. One of the other two players played him and used the same tactic, and also beat this player.
  • There's something almost mystical with how many times I'd call for a no-spin serve, usually during a timeout, and the opponent would dutifully push the ball three feet high. The key, of course, is that all three players knew how to serve "heavy no-spin," where you fake heavy backspin and serve no-spin, which is a basic serve at the world-class level. They usually didn't need me to call these serves as they learned quickly what serves worked against each player.
  • "Attack the middle relentlessly" was a big winner for Todd and James, the attackers.
  • Some matches were decided by a choice of whether it was better to move the ball around, or pin them down on their weak side, where you might then change directions off a weak return to rip a winner.
  • A winning tactic in a number of matches was mixing the serves between short to the forehand (then going to their backhand while they are jammed to the table) or big breaking serves long to the backhand and jumping on the backhand returns. For attackers, the more often go-to serve is short or half long (so second bounce is right at the table edge), low to the middle (to cut off extreme angles), with backspin or no-spin, sometimes side-top. But if you do this too much, the opponent gets used to it.
  • I think the players were surprised how easy it was to take away an opponent's attack by simply pushing quick off the bounce to the extreme wide backhand. This led to lots of four-ball attacks - serve, quick-push receive, server pushes, receiver loops.
  • Sport psychology is a huge thing in table tennis - the game is more mental than physical. So much of the focus was on proper mental approach. James, for example, plays best when he lets go and "plays free." Stephanie plays best when she gets into "grinder" mode (see below). Todd plays best when he gains confidence, often by remembering his best matches.
  • For Todd and James, the byword was relentlessly "serve and attack" and (especially for James), "play free." But this is true of most attacking players. For Stephanie, a chopper, it was "grind it out," which means a willingness to play as many shots as needed while refusing to make a single weak return, whether pushing or chopping, with a focus on strong chops against slow or medium loops and not worrying about the fast loops.

I also developed nicknames for the three - Todd was Harry Potter (he looks the part, even wears glasses, and has about the same demeanor), James was Ron Weasley (because he makes the same type of funny faces that Ron does in the movies), and Stephanie was a tall Hermione (since she also has her demeanor). Stephanie is one of our regular volunteers for various activities, such as running our leagues and leads the junior team in warm-up exercises, while Todd is a volunteer practice partner for our beginning junior class that I teach.

USATT Training Camp
USATT ran a training camp at the Maryland Table Tennis Center, Nov. 18-22, just before the North American Teams. Close to 30 players were in the camp - here's a group photo. (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

 Pieke Franssen was the head coach. He was the primary boys' coach in the camp, assisted by Wei Qi, while Wang Qingliang was the primary girls' coach, assisted by Ying Peng. I wasn't a coach in this camp, though I observed two sessions, but I was a volunteer driver - including picking up a player at 6AM at Dulles Airport and dropping another off at 5AM (for a 6AM flight) at BWI! (Both airports are about 45 minutes away with no traffic.) On most days they had two three-hour sessions, plus physical training. On Monday, they had three training sessions! The final session was on Thanksgiving morning, then most were off to the hotel for the North American Teams.

2018 Pan American Championships
Here's the ITTF page, with complete results, news, video, and pictures for the event which finished yesterday in Santiago, Chile. Congrats to Kanak Jha on winning Gold in Men's Singles! For USA fans, here are USA results (one gold, four silvers) and articles featuring Team USA.

  • Kanak Jha: Gold in Men's Singles
  • Kanak Jha/Wu Yue: Silver in Mixed Doubles
  • Lily Zhang/Wu Yue: Silver in Women's Doubles
  • USA Men: Silver in Men's Teams (Kanak Jha, Nikhil Kumar, Nicholas Tio, Victor Liu)

Nominating and Governance Announces Procedures for Open Board Positions
Here's the USATT news item. My four-year term on the USATT Board of Directors ends on Dec. 31, while my two-year term as chair of the USATT Coaching Committee ends on March 1. These days I'm just so busy on so many issues that I've decided not to run for re-election or continue as coaching chair. (Note - due to complications in finalizing the USATT Nominating and Governance Committee, the board election was held up, so as per the bylaws, I'll be staying on the board until March 1, 2019, when the election concludes.)

New from EmRatThich

New from Samson Dubina

"Palm Up, Palm Down" – The Secret to Effortless Loops (Part 3)
Here are the articles (with links to video) by Ben Larcombe.

How to Beat a Pusher
Here's the article and video (7:53) by Tom Lodziak.

Table Tennis Ups and Downs
Here's the article by Eli Baraty.

Everything You Never Wanted to Know About Playing Doubles
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

University Table Tennis in America
Here's the article by Bill Draper, which also features University of Maryland and Nathan Hsu.

20 Years and Counting--Florida State University Table Tennis
Here's the article by Michael Reff.

ITTF Strategic Plan, 2018-2024
Here it is - I don't think I've linked to it before. "The ITTF have developed its Strategic Plan with five strategic priority areas – Organisation & Governance, High Performance & Development, International Events, Promotion and Revenue. These five areas will be underpinned with 55 objectives to be achieved between 2018-2024. The Strategic Plan was unanimously endorsed at the 2018 ITTF Annual General Meeting." (USATT also has a new one coming out, but it won't be public until sometime after the December USATT board meeting at the U.S. Open.)

ePonger League Software
Here's the info page. "ePonger is software used by table tennis clubs worldwide to manage league games, player results, and reporting.  It’s based on Microsoft Excel and runs standalone on any Windows PC that has Microsoft Office 2010 or later.  It does not require an internet connection.  It was originally developed by Jeff Pepper for the Pittsburgh Oakland Table Tennis club in 2013, and has been used since then at clubs around the world."

Pittsburgh Fall Table Tennis Tournament
Here are results and video.

Hotel Room Pong
Here's the video (18 sec) as Arcot (near side) and Nandan Naresh go at it in their hotel room at the North American Teams, with some serious lobbing and smashing at the end. What, you've never done this before? You must lead a boring life.

Ping-Pong Ball Bouncing
Here's the video (24 sec) - but he's doing four at a time, with two paddles and both feet!

How Many Shots Can You Do in Ten Seconds?
Here's the video (3:54) from Pongfinity!

The Best Table Tennis Shot of 2018?
Here's the video (46 sec, including slo-mo replay) - maybe the craziest shot of all time? Here are two other nominees for craziest shots of all time - the Kit Jeerapaet behind-the-back counter-smash (54 sec) and this crazy racket-edge chop-lob come-back return (6 sec)! Which is your pick, or do you have another?
ADDENDUM (added Thursday) - CNN picked up on this!

Turkey Pong
This is mostly a repeat from past years, but the first three items are new. (Only Thanksgiving Turkey stuff, not the country.)  

***
Send us your own coaching news!

November 19, 2018

Tip of the Week
Forehand Stroke Efficiency. (Note - on Monday night I added a last line that links to Ma Long's forehand loop, as an example.) 

Weekend Coaching

  • Friday: I watched and took notes on our junior players for 2.5 hours during the Friday night league at MDTTC, getting ready to coach them at the North American Teams this coming weekend. Lots of little stuff, some big stuff. The hard part at this point is deciding on what things each player should focus on. For example, there are two players who still tend to serve and go into a backhand position, and so often aren't ready for easy forehands. Do we spend the week trying to fix this, or wait until after the Teams? (I've been on them for this for months.) In general, most are pretty much ready. I told them that for this last week, play lots of practice matches and practice their serves.
  • Saturday: I coached in the Saturday night junior league training, which is half league, half training. We had them play team matches, using the same teams that will play in the Teams next weekend. (We have a LOT of teams - at least ten junior teams, and about ten others.) We ran into the same type of things I wrote about above.
  • Sunday: The focus in the Beginning Junior Class was backhand attack against backspin, and then a forehand-to-forehand and backhand-to-backhand consistency competition. After an hour of training, they played games.

USATT Team Training
They are training at the Maryland Table Tennis Center, Nov. 18-22 (Sun-Thur). They had the first session last night, with 28 players. I'm not coaching at this one, but I did watch for an hour last night. (Coaches are head coach Pieke Franssen, Wang Qingliang, Qi Wei, and Ying Peng. They have one session on Sunday, three on Monday and Tuesday, two on Wednesday, and one on Thursday morning - yeah, Thanksgiving. Plus running in the morning.) I did somehow get volunteered into doing airport pickups, and picked up Amanda Malek at Dulles Airport yesterday morning at 6:16AM (you read that right, 45 minutes away). On Thursday I'll be transporting players from MDTTC to the hotel for the Teams, an hour away. On Friday morning I get to take a player to the BWI Airport (50 minutes away) for a 6AM flight. Then I race over to the Teams playing hall to coach for three days! (Play begins 9AM Friday.)

Non-Table Tennis - House and Car Repairs
I own a townhouse and live on the third floor, and rent out the first two floors. The place opened up, and so I'm about to rent it out again. Alas, I had to do a LOT of fixups first. I also had some car problems - ignition system broke. The costs? (Not including $100 to see four movies to drown my financial sorrows in. On the other hand, in my other career, science fiction writing, I sold three short stories this week, about $600. Also sold 37 books this past week, mostly table tennis, about $260 profit. Why don't you buy a few???)

  • Painting: $1175 (They are actually painting the first two floors on Tue and Wed, starting tomorrow)
  • Handyman: $835 (hordes of big and small fixes)
  • Maids: $451 (includes carpet cleaning)
  • Car: $578 (ignition system - "starter assay," plus new air filters, wiper blades, oil change, "complete PMA," general checkup)

Belarus Open
Here's the info page for the event held in Minsk, Belarus, Nov. 13-18.

New from EmRatThich

Timo Boll - What Makes Him Strong?
Here are six "What Makes Boll Strong" videos highlighting aspects of the German star's game. (I've linked to the first four previously.) Butterfly also did an article on the first five, with links after the video. (I'm guessing article #6 will show up soon.)

New from Samson Dubina

Responding Positively to Mistakes
Here's the article by Tom Lodziak.

Tomokazu Harimoto Training
Here's the video (42 sec). World #6 at age 15.

How to Attack Half Long TT Shots
Here's the video (7:07) from Eli Baraty.

National Collegiate Table Tennis Newsletter
Here's the November issue.

Table Tennis - People's Voice
Here's the article by Eli Baraty.

Trends in Table Tennis
Here's the article by Coach Jon. "I've been attempting to sell table tennis for over a decade. Whether it was trying to start a club, coach, or simply find somebody to play, I’ve noticed a few definite trends."

Quadri Aruna Once Again Sportsman of the Year
Here's the ITTF article on the Nigerian star.

WAB Featured Club: NYITTC
Here's the article by Steve Hopkins.

USA Table Tennis and the Happy Paradise Foundation Partner in Pong4Kids Grant Program
Here's the info page.

Nandan Naresh and Former NFL Star Charles Tillman
Here are the five great pictures! They were taken at an exhibition at the Jackson Chance Foundation. Nandan, 12, is on the USA National Mini-Cadet Team. Charles Tillman played in the NFL for 13 years, and just this year became an FBI agent! (Before I get hounded by those not on Facebook who can't see them, here are the non-Facebook versions: photo1, photo2, photo3, photo4, photo5.) Want more of Nandan? Here's 56 seconds of him playing under-the-leg table tennis with his dad! (Also before I get hounded for more info, Nandan is rated 2193, and had a recent rating of 2308. Dad Arcot is 1997, has been as high as 2075. Older brother/practice partner Sid, 14, is rated 2439.)

Pingsider | The Romanian Secret
Here's the ITTF video (12:31).

Table Tennis: A Sign of China-PNG Friendship
Here's the video (4:44). "Table tennis athletes and fans in Papua New Guinea's capital Port Moresby were thrilled when they were coached by Zhang Yining, China's former world table tennis champion. The spinning table tennis ball is writing the new chapter of friendship between China and Papua New Guinea."

DHS ITTF Top 10 - 2018 Men's World Cup
Here's the ITTF video (5:01).

Olympian Helps NYU Clinch the National Title
Here's the video (2:57) featuring Yijun Feng.

Paralympic Athlete Pursues Dream Shared With His Lost Twin Brother
Here's the ITTF video (6:02).

Fortune Cookie that Knows Table Tennis
"It's not the will to win, but the will to prepare to win that makes a difference."-Fortune cookie

History of USATT – Volume 21 – Chapters 25 and 26
Here's chapter 25 and chapter 26 of Tim Boggan's latest volume, which covers 1994-1995. Or you can buy it and previous (and future) volumes at www.timboggantabletennis.com. This chapters cover "August 1995 Tournaments" and "1995 September-October Tournaments." Volume 21 is 438 pages with 1667 graphics, and covers all the wild things that happened in 1994-95 - and I'm mentioned a lot! Why not buy a copy - or the entire set at a discount? Tim sells them directly, so when you order them, you get it autographed - order your copy now!

TTHistory | Legend Series | Ep.01| Jan Ove Waldner
Here's the video (8:37). This is episode 1 of what looks like a new series. Who will be episode #2?

Jan-Ove Waldner Complained About the New Ball
Here's the video (2:18) where he actually talks about a number of things, including increasing the ball size from 38 to 40mm.

Waldner-Appelgren Exhibition
Here's the video (30 sec)!

Robotic Racket Production
Here's the video (1:46) showing the final stages.

Improvised Beach Pong
Here's the video (9 sec) - and some nice shot-making!

Winged Mushroom Birthday Card Pong
Here's the picture. (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

I'm Not Sure What This Is Playing
Here's the video (5:56) and taking on challenges (and winning), but it looks to me like a toilet bowl brush and holder! (According to the comments, the player is Aiden Noren.)

Jenga Battles w/ Ping Pong Shots
Here's the latest video (5:16) from Pongfinity!

***
Send us your own coaching news!

November 12, 2018

Tip of the Week
Subconscious Aiming and Stroking.

Ten Things Every Table Tennis Player Should Be Able to Do

  1. Lob. It's the funnest thing to do in table tennis, it'll win you a few emergency points, and by doing it, you'll learn how to play against this style.
  2. Chop. Not only is it a great way to win an emergency point when you are out of position, but by learning to chop you will quickly learn how to play choppers.
  3. Loop. Even if you aren't a looper, you should learn to do it because it's such a big part of the sport, plus doing them yourself helps you learn how to play against them.
  4. Play with different surfaces. It not only is fun to try out short pips, long pips, and anti, but it allows you to understand how they play, and so you'll learn how to play against them.
  5. Have a tricky "go to" serve. If you don't have at least one serve that people have trouble with, you better see a coach and develop one as you are literally giving away games. Some have a tricky serve they go to when it's close (though it's better to use them early so it doesn't get close!), while others develop their serves to the point where all of their serves are tricky.
  6. Serve backspin so the ball comes back into the net. Because it's a neat trick and helps you develop and control spinny serves.
  7. Bounce a ball on your side of the table and smack it and hit a bottle on the far side. Because it's fun, it helps you develop control and accuracy, and because it helps you "let go" and allow your training to take over, i.e. your subconscious. (See Tip of the Week above.) You can use other targets than a bottle, but water bottles are pretty convenient.
  8. Stay calm under pressure. If you can't, you are just throwing away matches. The best way to develop this is to play lots and lots of matches where you imagine every point is 10-9 in the fifth in the final of the Worlds. Then, when you are at 10-9 in the fifth in the final of Under 1700, you won't be so nervous! (You can vary the scores so sometimes you are down 9-10, or at 10-10.)
  9. Umpire. It makes you learn the rules, plus gives you a better understanding of what an umpire does.
  10. Help run a tournament. Then you'll appreciate all the time and work that goes into one, and have a better understanding of it.

Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers in a Movie!
I was contacted recently by a production assistant for the upcoming French movie "Perdrix." They want to use the French version of my book, "Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers," as a prop in the movie. As he explained, "In the movie, one of the characters, a teenager named Marion is a table tennis player and learns from the French translation of your book Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers. As she reads it every chance she gets." As near as I can tell, the movie has already been produced and will be showcased in May, 2019 at the Cannes Film Festival.

Dick's Sporting Goods: The Table
Here's the video ad (60 sec) - it's a great TT story! Plus they used real players even though it literally takes place in a basement!

USATT CEO Gordon Kaye Submits Resignation
Here's the USATT article. It's a terrible loss for our organization. But the USATT board has already started a search for a new one, with a search committee task force.

USATT Opens Nominations for 2018 Coach of the Year Awards
Here's the USATT article. (I chair the Selection Committee.)

Belarus Open
Here's the info page for the event starting today in Minsk, Belarus, Nov. 13-18.

Austrian Open
Here the info page for the event held in Linz, AUT, Nov. 8-11, with results, articles, pictures, and video. Here's the Day 4 Highlights (2:28).

Table Tennis Star Point | 2018 Star Awards
Here's the video - vote for the best!

New from Samson Dubina

New from EmRatThich

"Hand Not Shoulder" – The Secret to Effortless Loops
Here are the articles (with links to video) by Ben Larcombe.

Amicus Training Videos with Richard Prause

How to Improve Your Pendulum Serve
Here's the video (5:59) from Sherwin Remata.

Training Drills or Matches?
Here's the article by Tom Lodziak.

Table Tennis Expectations
Here's the article by Eli Baraty.

Drills to Practice for the Beginner
Here's the article from Table Tennis Spot.

7 Tips and Tricks to Help Beginner's Win
Here's the article.

Former World Champion Focuses on Developing Next Generations
Here's the USATT article by Richard Finn, featuring Stellan Bengsston.

US Players Making a Mark in European League Competition
Here's the USATT article by Matt Hetherington, featuring Lily Zhang, Victor Liu, Michael Tran, Jennifer Wu, and Kanak Jha.

Why is Boll Strong?
Here's the article on the world #4 - at age 37.

Signs of Spirituality in Table Tennis
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

Six Years Later, Malaysian Initiative Once Again Proves Successful

Here's the ITTF article, featuring USA's Richard McAfee.

WAB Club Feature: California Table Tennis, and the Angel’s Cup Butterfly Team Tournament
Here's the article by Steve Hopkins.

WAB Club Feature: Spin & Smash Table Tennis & Ping Pong Club
Here's the article by Steve Hopkins.

Rhode Island Table Tennis Hall of Fame: Class of 2018
Here's the article. Inductees are Joe Polselli, Marta Zurowski Lachcik, and Steve Hopkins.

Announcing the PongMobile Cup 2019
Here's the article by Steve Hopkins.

Michael Levene the new Director of Marketing and Coaching at Triangle TT
Here's the Facebook announcement. Triangle TT is in North Carolina. SmashTT, the club Michael started and currently runs, will continue with new management taking over.  

History of USATT – Volume 21 – Chapter 24
Here's chapter 24 of Tim Boggan's latest volume, which covers 1994-1995. Or you can buy it and previous (and future) volumes at www.timboggantabletennis.com. This chapter covers "Past and Present Interactions." Volume 21 is 438 pages with 1667 graphics, and covers all the wild things that happened in 1994-95 - and I'm mentioned a lot! Why not buy a copy - or the entire set at a discount? Tim sells them directly, so when you order them, you get it autographed - order your copy now!

The Dragon Hits an Unbelievable Around-the-Net Receive
Here's the video (8 sec) as Ma Long loops around the net against Ovtcharov's serve.

Ibrahim Hamato on a Robot
Here's the video (1:29) as the no-armed Egyptian Paralympic sensation does footwork drills on a robot. (Haven't seen or heard of him? Google him!)

Bouncing Two Balls on a Paddle
Here's the video (9 sec) - I counted 23 bounces. I've tried this, and it's a lot harder than it looks.

Playing Table Tennis on 3 Tables
Here's the video (17 sec).

You Need to Watch this Match Point!
Here's the video (73 sec, but "the point" is in the first 6 sec, the rest is replay and slo-mo).

Off-Stage Exhibition Lobbing
Here's the video (49 sec)!

The Adventures of Tawny Banh

Ping-Pong Cannon from Vacuum Cleaner
Here's the video (2:46) on how to make one. "11-year-old inventor fashions ping pong ball cannon out of vacuum cleaner."

VR Ping Pong, but Fun - Racket Fury Table Tennis VR
Here's the video (4:26) - "What happens when you combine space and sci-fi and robots . . . and ping-pong."

Tom & Jack in Table Tennis Game
Here's the cartoon (4:01)! It starts off slow but gets a bit crazy as it goes on.

Darth Vader "Stop!" Shirt
Here's the picture and where you can buy the shirt!

Waldner Trick Serve
Here's the video (12 sec)! Watch the ball in his hand closely.

Adam Bobrow vs. Jorg Rosskopf
Here's the video (26 sec)!

Big Paddle Pong
Here's the video (42 sec) as Samson Dubina rallies with a paddle the size of Ohio. That's a lot bigger than the ones used by Bill Gates or Ellen Degeneres!

Stan Lee Signs Limited-Edition "The Amazing Spider-Man" Table Tennis Table
Here's the article (from 2012) and here's the picture.

The Avengers and Table Tennis
In honor of Stan Lee - yeah, I was a big fan. This is from my April 27, 2018 blog.

Spider-Man Plays Table Tennis
Again, in honor of Stan Lee. (This was from a blog in 2014, but hopefully all the links still work.)

  1. Spider-Man Smacks in Forehand Against Pikachu (here's the non-Facebook version). 
  2. Spider-Man Plays Doubles with "World Champion" Judah Friedlander
  3. Spider-Man's Big Backhand
  4. Spider-Man at Ping-Pong Club (15-sec video - you get webbed)
  5. Spider-Man vs. Skeletor (63-second video)
  6. Spider-Man Plays Table Tennis (54-sec video)
  7. Spider-Man plays table tennis with Spider-Man theme music. (3:58 video, Spider-Man masked man appears at 2:37, Spider-Man theme music a few seconds later.)
  8. Spider-Man Ping Pong (22:46 video in Spanish that doesn't actually appear to have any table tennis! Can anyone explain the title?)
  9. Spider-Man Playing Car Pong (1:47 video). Car Pong is from 0:31 to 0:40, and from 0:48 to 1:17 Spider-Man plays Table Pong. (Yes, that's Adam Bobrow.)
  10. Adam Bobrow as Spider-Man.  And here's another. And another (with Superboy looking on). There are plenty more! 
  11. Spider-Man Table
  12. Spider-Man's Andrew Garfield Plays Table Tennis
  13. Spider-Man Makes Web Paddle
  14. Spider-Man Paddles
  15. More Spider-Man Paddles
  16. Still More Spider-Man Paddles
  17. Spider-Paddle
  18. Spider-Balls
  19. Spider-Man vs. Batman Online Ping-Pong Game
  20. Spider Playing Table Tennis
  21. Spider-Man Ping-Pong Gun
  22. Web Slinging Ping Pong Master of Disguise (I have no idea what this one's about)
  23. Ping-Pong Playing Spider Robot

***
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November 5, 2018

Tip of the Week
Heavy and No-Spin Pushes.

Coaching Subtleties and Attacking the Middle
After 42 years of playing and coaching I can pretty much analyze an opponent's weaknesses within a game, based both on what he does, but also on his strokes, stance, footwork, etc. If a shakehand player has long arms and tends to extend his arm when stroking, and so has a big gap between where they contact their forehand and backhand, I don't need to see the player react to an attack to the middle for me to know there's going to be a weakness there.

However, when coaching, you also have to know the player you are coaching to really be effective. Even if you watch a player for a time you can't always pick up on everything. It's not just what your player does, but what he doesn't do - and why. If he isn't playing into an opponent's weakness, is it because he hasn't seen the weakness, or because he can't effectively go after it, at least in some ways?

Here's an example. If I played someone who doesn't cover the middle well (the transition point between forehand and backhand, roughly the playing elbow), and a coach told me to open with my forehand loop to his middle, it wouldn't work. The coach saw the opponent's weakness, and (seemingly correctly) told me to attack it with my forehand. (I was a very aggressive forehand attacker.) But he has no way of knowing whether I could go after that weakness unless he really knew my game. He'd see me attacking the corners relentless with my forehand, and only attacking the middle with my backhand. So he'd tell me to attack the middle with my forehand - but he'd be making a mistake.

Why? Because, like many players, I don't have a good instinct for attacking the middle with my forehand. On the backhand it's easier, since you are looking right at the player, but with the forehand you have to look away, and can only see the opponent and his moving middle with your peripheral vision. (In contrast, the table corners do not move.) When I developed as a player, I developed a deceptive forehand, and can look like I'm going to one corner, and then go to the other. (See Forehand Deception with Shoulder Rotation.) This worked great until I faced 2400+ players, who can cover the corners like walls if they are in position. But I only got away with it because I really spent a lot of time working on forehand deception, and it still handicapped me in many matches, including players well below the 2400 level. (Attacking the middle works at all levels.) 

Against many players, I often should attack the middle first (to draw them out of position as well as force an awkward return), and then go to the corners. Easy, right? Except that I had been attacking the corners with my forehand for so long that I simply couldn't attack the middle effectively. This was both because I hadn't trained at finding and aiming at the middle, and because from my normal forehand ready position as I prepared to forehand loop, I had only trained to go two ways, wide to the right and wide to the left, never in between. Going to the middle was almost like a new stroke.

Perhaps with lots of training I might be able to do this, but it would take serious practice. I read once where the great Chinese player and coach Cai Zhenhua said that learning to attack the middle effectively was one of those things you needed to learn early and young, or you could never really do it effectively. (It's a moving target, and you can't just blindly go there since the opponent will sometimes be ready to blast a forehand off that shot if you aren't aware of what he's doing.) I think he was mostly referring to attacking it with the forehand, as it's much easier to learn to do this with the backhand.

And so the coach, who correctly saw that the opponent I was playing was weak in the middle, and that I wasn't going after it with my forehand, would have given me poor match coaching by telling me to go after the middle. It would have also been distracting since it would make me aware that the coach didn't really know my game. (He would be right to tell me to develop this technique, which is strategic thinking, as opposed to the tactical thinking needed in a match.)

I've faced this type of thing many times. I used to coach Tong Tong Gong at major tournaments, and even after he made the USA National Cadet Team, he was uncomfortable serving short to the forehand, as it opened up an angle to his wide forehand that he not only had difficulty covering, but also pulled him out of position. And so he'd often struggle in matches against players with weak forehand receives versus short serves, since he couldn't take advantage of this. (With training, he finally overcame this weakness.)

I once told a junior player between games to open with slow, spinny loops, and he said, "I don't know how to loop slow, I can only loop fast." I cringed - both because the player had a big hole in his game, and because I should have known this in advance.

So, what types of tactical weaknesses in opponents have you faced that you were unable to take advantage of because of weaknesses in your game? Have you worked to overcome those weaknesses, as I would now be working on overcoming my forehand-vs-middle weakness, if I were still in training?

Weekend Coaching
On Saturday night I coached at the Junior League, which is actually about 50% league, 50% training. The first 45 minutes was doubles. I worked with several teams on proper doubles movement for teams of two righties and for lefty-righty teams, plus other coaching on serve, receive, and placement. Then came singles for 75 minutes, with a number of improvised games to force players to work on specific things - such as learning to play under pressure by starting games with the server down 7-9. (That night I binged watched the final eight episodes of House of Cards, finishing at 3:30AM!)

On Sunday afternoon in the Beginning Class, we started with 25 minutes of various stroking and footwork drills, then ten minutes of pushing practice. Then came the main focus as I introduced them to the forehand loop against backspin. Then they went out on the tables, rotating so they did multiball looping with the coach, and practiced with other players where they'd serve backspin, receiver would push long, and the serve would then push, and play out the point. (That's why I had them do ten minutes of pushing practice.)

In the advanced Talent Program, I mostly fed multiball for about an hour, doing various drills, mostly fast footwork. I also worked with them on serve and attack drills. Then came physical training, and then we finished with Brazilian Teams.

Table Tennis Books by Larry Hodges
Yep, this is one of those periodic postings where I ask you to support a poor (relative to Jeff Bezos), starving (I had a small breakfast and it's almost lunchtime) table tennis writer by buying my books! Here are my table tennis books that are currently sold on Amazon:

Table Tennis Book Collection
I now have 255 table tennis books! The latest three were donated to me by John Olsen, Volume 1, Volume 2, and Volume 3 in the World Class American Table Tennis Players of the Classic Age series, by Dean Johnson and Tim Boggan. There is also a Volume 4, but John didn't have that, and I can't afford $36.59 for it.

U.S. Open - Early Bird Deadline is Nov. 9
Here's the info page. Enter Now!!! Price goes up $75 after Nov. 9, with final deadline on Dec. 1. I'll be there, attending meetings and coaching, and going to Disneyland afterwards.

Swedish Open
Here's the home page for the event that was held Nov. 1-4 in Stockholm, Sweden, with results, articles, pictures, and video. Here are the two finals.

Austrian Open
Here the info page for the event to be held in Linz, AUT, Nov. 8-11, with a qualifier Nov. 6-7.

USATT and ITTF News
Here's the USATT News page and the ITTF News page. Why not browse over them?

USATT Strategic Meeting
It was held this past weekend. Alas, I didn't attend, and haven't heard anything yet about what happened. I will likely write something about it next week.

When Choosing a Coach…
Here are 20 Guidelines, by Edward John Lynn, which is particularly pertinent to parents, though they apply to all.

Free Online Training for Volunteer Youth Coaches
Here's the page. "Nike and the United States Olympic Committee, as part of their commitment to Project Play 2020, has released How to Coach Kids, a free, 30-minute training course on coaching kids ages 12 and under."

New from Samson Dubina

"Pause & Snap" – The Secret to Effortless Loops
Here's the article by Ben Larcombe. What is Pause and Snap? Read on!

Tom's Table Tennis Tips
Here's the Tom Lodziak monthly newsletter.

Why Do Top Chinese Players Switch Rubbers?
Here's the article by EmRatThich.

Think Fast & Watch Slow: Slow Motion Analysis of Xu Xin vs. Harimoto Tomokazu
Here's the video (3:21).

Serve: 5. Yangyang's Collection & Excellent Players' Serve Demonstrations
Here's the video (4:54).

Black Cat Table Tennis
Here's their extensive video page.

Table Tennis! What’s the Point?
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

Table Tennis Tournaments in the UK - Oversaturated?
Here's the article by Eli Baraty.

Tenergy 05 Hard
Here's the review from Butterfly. I generally don't link to equipment reviews - too much conflict of interest since I'm sponsored by Butterfly - but this could be a big one.

2018 ITTF World Cadet Challenge Team Update: US/Canada Teams Score Upsets
Here's the article by Steve Hopkins.

How Ping-Pong Saved the Life of a New York City Kid
Here's the article, from the New York Daily News, featuring Wally Green. Full title is, "The first-person story of how ping pong saved the life of a New York City kid and took him all the way to North Korea."

Michael Hyatt in Guam - Scandals Alleged
Here are three recent articles in The Guam Daily Post on Hyatt. He's a table tennis Olympian from Jamaica who for decades has spent much of his time playing and coaching in the U.S., though not recently as he is on the USATT Suspended List, as noted in the articles.  I'm told there will be at least one more article on this.

JOOLA Sponsors Jackson Chance Foundation’s 6th Annual Ping Pong Ball to Support Families with Ill Babies
Here's the info page.

Jean-Michel Saive vs. Vitalii Lievshin - Super Division
Here's the video (11:55) from Belgium TV last week, care of Arnaud Scheen. (Saive is former world #1.)

University of Maryland Open - Division A Final
Here's the video (20:35) of Nathan Hsu vs. Rui Xu. It was held Sunday, Nov. 4.

Accident of Table Tennis - Adam Bobrow
Here's the video (4:13) where Adam injures his head. The actual injury happens 24 seconds in. Adam is the Voice of the ITTF on their videos and tournament coverage, as well as an exhibition player, as he's doing here.

Nandan Naresh Target Practice
Here's the video (16 sec).

Would I Lie To You?
Here's the video (27.59, with link taking you to where table tennis starts at 15:56 and continues to about 20:40). Steve Worthington sent it to me, and wrote, "It's a British show where 2 panels of 3 are trying to convince each other of various lies, while someone is actually telling the truth."

Show Secretin - Purkart
Here's the video (3:41) of the greatest exhibition pair in table tennis history. It's an old video, but still great! They are star players from France. Secretin was one of the best in the world, and he and Purkart (French wiki entry, you can translate to English) became professional exhibition players.

Costumed Pong
Here are three that came out this past Halloween.

Non-Table Tennis - World Fantasy Convention
I was at the World Fantasy Convention in Baltimore this past weekend in Baltimore, though I only was able to attend on Friday, due to coaching commitments. I had a reading (read the first two chapters of my novel Campaign 2100: Game of Scorpions, which has a lot of table tennis), and a book signing session. I also went to dinner with 15 other Odyssey Writing Workshop alumni! (Odyssey is a six-week writing workshop I attended in 2006, with annual nine-day workshops for graduates in July - I've attended nine of those.)

***
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