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

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

His new book, Table Tennis Tips, is also out - All 150 Tips of the Week from 2011-2013, in one volume, in logical progression!!!

May 27, 2015

Forehand and Backhand Loops Falling into Place

I had a great 90-minute session yesterday with one of our top 10-year-olds, Daniel, who’s rated 1639. (They said it was okay to blog about it.) In practice, he alternates between pretty good and then extremely awkward forehand looping, the latter because he either rushes or hangs back and plays lackadaisical. His contact point for his forehand loop, whether against backspin or topspin, is often all over the place, and so he can’t really time it, and it throws the rest of his body off as well. (His backhand loop right now is probably better than his forehand loop.)

I told him at the start of the session we were going to do a lot of shadow practice during the session, where we’d do the stroke and imagine the contact point. We’d done this once before and it worked well, but he’d fallen back into old habits. I explained the importance of stroking and contacting the ball roughly the same way each time, and we went through the stroke slowly to re-enforce the proper technique and contact point.

And guess what? Suddenly Daniel was looping over and over really well against my block, every ball with good speed and spin. We did this for a while, and then some footwork drills, but I kept each drill short as I didn’t want him to tire physically or mentally and fall back into bad habits. Then we did a bunch of multiball, and after a shaky start where I had to keep reminding him to use his legs more against backspin, he forehand looped really well. We did the same for his backhand loop, which also was strong. Then we did random backspin, where he had to loop forehands or backhands, and he did very well again. I decided to skip the shadow practice.

The key for his success yesterday, besides the emphasis at the start of the session on good technique? I think it helped that I joked with him throughout the session, keeping him loose, while constantly reminding him of one of my favorite tips – “You have more time than you think.” (I first heard this from 2001 USA Men’s Champion Eric Owens, a likely Hall of Famer this December now that he’s 40.) Between the two, he didn’t feel pressured and didn’t rush, and so made strong shots. When he has the confidence to use these shots in tournament matches the way he can in practice (sometimes), he’ll be a terror. But first he has to get that confidence, which he doesn’t yet have even in practice matches, not to mention league matches.

He tends to push serves back too much, even backspin serves that go long to the forehand, which is a horrible habit for an up-and-coming player. He knows this, but is often afraid to loop these serves, and he has so much ball control that he can often win this way. That’s actually the root of the problem – he knows that, right now, he wins more by pushing and blocking then he does looping. (Though every now and then he surprises us by going on the all-out attack.) But he knows this has to end, and that winning now isn’t as important as developing his game for later. We spent some time where I served long backspin serves all over the table, and he had to loop them, forehand or backhand. (For some reason, although he has a good backhand loop, he went forehand happy, and tried looping them all with his forehand, with pretty good success.)

Then we played two games where he served every point, always short backspin, and I always pushed it back deep anywhere on the table, and he had to always forehand or backhand loop and to continue to attack unless I did something to take the attack away. (If he got passive, I’d catch the ball and claim the point, which gave him incentive to play aggressive. He jokingly accused me of being an “unfair” umpire when I did this, so we agreed I was a rotten umpire but a great coach.) We’ve done this before, where I spot him six points, and I usually win, but this time he won both games with the spot. I look forward to the day when we play even, but for now the spot gives him the confidence to play aggressively. He’s going to skip tournaments for a while as he focuses on developing his looping, and equally important, the confidence to use it in a game. He’ll likely play tournaments again in the fall.

History of U.S. Table Tennis, Day Two

Here’s a recap, which I may put up each day, so ignore this paragraph if you’ve seen this already.

USATT Historian Tim Boggan moves in with me about once a year for 10-14 days to do his next volume of his History of U.S. Table Tennis. I do the page layouts and photo work for the roughly 450 pages in each volume. We’re now working on Volume 16, which covers 1988-89. About half the photos are by USATT Hall of Famer Mal Anderson, who scans and sends them to me on a CD. We start work each morning at roughly 7AM, and except for a short lunch break, work until around 2:30 PM, when I have to leave for the MDTTC afterschool program and other coaching. I usually get back after 8PM, and then have to do all my regular work, including the next morning’s blog, which I normally do in the morning, and usually a zillion other things.

Here’s where things stand. We started on Monday, either two days or two years ago, I’m not sure. We’ve done the covers, intro pages, and the first three chapters (of 24), and it’s taken us about 12 hours. Chapter two had so many photos (most needing Photoshop fixes) that it took us about five hours. (I think every active player in the U.S. and the rest of the world circa 1988 was pictured in this chapter.) After it was done, I played the first seven seconds of this, and when he said there might be one or two other chapters just as long, I played him these five seconds. (I wonder if Gerald Ford and Darth Vader have ever been reference in the same sentence together – and in two consecutive sentences here!) Hopefully it’ll go faster as we move along. Here are the chapter headings for the three chapters so far:

  • Chapter One - 1988: USTTA Potpourri.
  • Chapter Two - 1988: Jan-Feb. Tournaments.
  • Chapter Three - 1988: International Tournaments—Europe-Asia; Leeds English Open; West German Open; European Top 12; European Championships.

Serve Return Tips

Here’s the article from Han Xiao – a MUST read.

Story Time! Learn about Fred’s weakest moment!

Here’s the new coaching article from Samson Dubina.

Ask Mark on Sports Psychology

Here’s the new playlist from Expert Table Tennis, with questions answered by Mark Simpson of Brain Spec (a Sport Performance Enhancement Consultancy) answers questions pertaining to the mental side of table tennis. There are currently two videos up, on developing habits and routines between points, and on how to stay calm when closing out a big win. Both are about 3.5 to 4 minutes long.

As the Coach

Episode #130 (27:50): Rule Change: Deciding Game to 7.

Table Tennis Coverage on the Edgeball Consulting Facebook Page

Here’s the Facebook page.

11 Questions with Homer Brown

Here’s the USATT interview with the man who’s played in 46 consecutive US Opens. (I believe this year will be my 32nd consecutive US Open and US Nationals, so Homer’s always going to be 14 ahead of me, alas. I played my first US Open my first year, in 1976, but missed a few Opens and Nationals until 1984.)

Quadri Aruna to Play in 2015 US Open

Here’s the USATT article, with links to video.

National Collegiate Table Tennis Association

Jun Mizutani vs. Dimitrij Ovtcharov in Russian Premier League

Here’s the new video (5:24, with time between points removed). Great points!

Top Points from the Worlds

Here’s the video (8:53) from International Table Tennis Thailand.

What is Table Tennis? What is Ping Pong?

Here’s the new video (2:06) that answers this, from the Smash club in Massachusetts.

Adam Bobrow Plays Cyber Table Tennis in China

Here’s the video (2:14). It looks pretty real!

Fox vs Chickens

Here’s the cartoon! (Here’s the non-Facebook version.) Any suggestions for a caption?

More Mike Mezyan Pictures

NOTE - If you are unable to see these pictures, all you have to do is join the Table Tennis Group - it's easy! Here are all the past, present, and (soon) future pictures he's collected. (I pick out his best ones for here - he has more.)

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May 26, 2015

Three Items From Yesterday’s Blog You Might Have Missed

Memorial Day Table Tennis

Tim Boggan’s History of US Table Tennis, Vol. 16 . . . and Some Coaching

We started work on it yesterday morning. (Here’s info on the series.) I had an afternoon coaching session that cost us a few hours, but we managed to do the front and back cover, all the intro pages (title page, author’s page, acknowledgements), and a lengthy chapter one (21 pages). So far I’ve fixed up and placed 41 photos. There are 24 chapters; we expect to finish by Friday, June 5. Part of the difficulty is I have to fit in time to do this blog, plus I have to leave Mon-Fri at 2:30 PM for our afterschool program and other coaching (private and group), plus I’m away nearly all of Sunday coaching. (Strangely, I may be mostly free this Saturday.)

Much of what chapter one covers is politics – a USTTA board meeting and the 1988 USTTA election. (It didn’t become USATT until the early 1990s. How many of you remember it as the U.S. Table Tennis Association, as I did my first 17 years or so. Though I just realized I’ve known it as USATT for 22 years now! Yes, I’ve played 39 years.)

Meanwhile, I did 1.5 hours of coaching on Memorial Day. I was supposed to do three, but a student cancelled. Due to the arm problems I’m playing pretty soft in open play, but can block and counter pretty much normal. I can’t do my forehand pendulum serve very well right now, but I discovered I can do the reverse pendulum serve without putting much strain on the arm. Alas, I can’t serve fast and deep either.

Despite my problems with serving, we spent a good portion of the session on serve practice. We also did a lot of multiball and the 2-1 drill (live). At the end we played games, where I played super soft but steady – and exposed a major weakness in the student, who had great difficulty timing these softer shots. For one thing, if I take two steps back to return a shot, it changes the trajectory so the ball bounces out more. My opponent needs to take perhaps a half step back to attack this ball or he’ll be jammed – which is exactly what happened over and over.

Balticon Science Fiction Convention and Table Tennis

I spent much of the weekend at Balticon, a regional science fiction & fantasy convention. There was actually quite a bit of table tennis involved.  

First, I did a one-hour signing, where people lined up to buy autographed copies of my books. (Is one person in line at a time a “line”?) Here’s a picture. I had three of my nine books on sale, all three of which have table tennis content:

  • The Spirit of Pong, my fantasy table tennis novel about an American who goes to China to learn the secrets of table tennis, and trains with the spirits of past stars.
  • Sorcerers in Space, which stars a teenaged sorcerer’s apprentice who has to give up his table tennis dreams to save the world (and himself).
  • Pings and Pongs, which is an anthology of the 30 best science fiction & fantasy stories I’ve sold, including “Ping-Pong Ambition,” a fantasy table tennis short story. (I included that story as a bonus at the end of “The Spirit of Pong.”)

Second, during one panel I was on several kids approached with questions. One asked me what “The Spirit of Pong” was about (it was on display). After explaining, I nonchalantly pulled out a handy ping-pong ball, rubbed it a few times like a wizard holding a crystal ball, and then did my blowing ball trick where I blow the ball up and sideways. (I don’t have a picture, but the key is to blow the top of the ball, creating spin which holds it up.)

On a related note, the editor of the InterGalactic Medicine Show (yep, that’s its name!), one of the major science fiction, is Edmund Schubert. At another SF convention in Maryland a few years ago he told me how he used to be a serious player. When we had a break, we drove over to the Maryland Table Tennis Center and played for an hour. He’s about 1400. (He’s a great guy. I have less kind things to say about the magazine’s owner, Orson Scott Card, but I won’t get into that.)

Why Do I Always Lose When I’m Winning?

Here’s the new coaching article from Matt Hetherington.

Ask the Coach

Episode #129 (31:30) – Fan Zhendong’s Reverse Serve.

We Are USA Table Tennis

Here’s the new highlights video (1:43), created by Jimmy Butler.

America’s Team Championships

The event was held this past weekend in Rockford, IL. Here’s the home page with results.

Kanak Jha in the A League in China

Here’s a short article and picture.

Werner Schlager Academy Review

Want to train overseas? Here’s a review of the famed Austrian training center.

How Technology Has Transformed Table Tennis

Here’s the article from Sport Technie.

Ping Pong Goes From Basement to Big Business with Hipster Help

Here’s the article from Bloomberg.com. “Ping pong is going upscale. Long a mainstay of garages, basements and dives, the game is springing up at high-end bars, restaurants and hotels around the world.”

Timo Boll Backhand Training

Here’s the video (30 sec). It’s short, but much of it is in slow motion where you can clearly see the essentially perfect technique of this former world #1.

Kenta Matsudaira’s Awesome Backhand

Here’s the video (26 sec) of the world #27 (formerly #15) from Japan.

Unbelievable Drop Shot by Mima Ito!

Here’s the video (18 sec) of the world #11 from Japan.

USA Table Tennis Watchface Generator

Here it is! Apparently you can use it to create your own USATT watch face.

Playing a Big Guy

Here’s the cartoon! (Here’s the non-Facebook version.) Any suggestions for a caption?

Plastic Pong

Here’s the picture – now the whole table and the players are plastic! (Here’s the non-Facebook version.) Is this a Lego thing?

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May 25, 2015

No Blog Today – Memorial Day

While you get the day off, I’m hard at work with Tim Boggan putting together Vol. 16 of his History of U.S. Table Tennis. (Plus three hours of private coaching.) We hope to finish by Friday, June 5. I do the page layouts and lots of photo work. Meanwhile, here are a few things to tide you over until tomorrow.

Tip of the Week

Performance vs. Results.

The Spirit of Pong

Here’s the ITTF news item on my new fantasy table tennis novel! Why oh why haven’t you bought one yet??? (Print and Kindle versions.)

Ice Pong

Here’s the video (1:54) as two players genuinely go at it while skating around to music!!!

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May 22, 2015

Top Ten Reasons to Attend the 2015 US Open

If you aren’t one of the 471 players entered so far in the US Open (Las Vegas, July 6-11), or a parent or coach attending, then consider this a warning. If you don’t go to this years’ US Open, you are going to miss it!!! Just what are you going to miss? (Deadline is Sunday, May 31, with entries accepted until Sunday, June 7, with a $75 late fee.)  So here are the Top Ten Reasons to Enter the US Open.

  1. Compete in some of the 94 events, which are all listed on the US Open page, as well as on the domestic entry form (for US players) and the international entry form. (Here’s an event listing that shows who is entered in each event.) They include:
    1. Rating Events!!! 19 of them, from Under 800 to Under 2600, and that’s just singles.
    2. Under 2000 Tiered Super Round Robin! Here’s info.
    3. Over Age 18 Rating Events!!! Tired of losing to 10-year-olds who are 500 points under-rated? Then enter the Over 18 Rating Events – Under 1850, Under 1600, Under 1400, and Under 1250.
    4. Rating Doubles!!! Under 4200, Under 3700, Under 3200, Under 2700.
    5. Senior Events, 29 of them, from Over 30 to Over 80, both singles and doubles.
    6. Junior Events, 20 of them, from 9 & Under to Under 21.
    7. Handicap Singles – nope, not a Paralympic event, this is an event where you play one game to 41, and spot points based on the difference in rating. Here’s info.
    8. Hardbat (10) and Sandpaper (4) events!
    9. Paralympic Events (11)! (Mostly Wheelchair and Standing Disabled).
    10. Oh, and there’s also Men’s and Women’s Singles and Doubles, and Mixed Doubles (for the truly elite).
  2. Spectate as the best players in the country and many from around the world congregate and battle for the top prizes.
  3. Shop at the many equipment booths. If you are an equipment junkie, this is heaven. If you are just looking for good equipment, this is heaven. If you just like to shop or like table tennis, this is heaven. Rackets and Sponges and Table Tennis Clothing, Oh My! (And you can buy signed copies of my books!!!)
  4. Meet up with friends – over 800 players are expected.
  5. Top Players and Coaches will be all over the place, and you’ll get to meet and talk to them. (I’ll be there – stop by and say hi.)
  6. Vacation – we’re talking Las Vegas!!!
  7. Tournament T-Shirts – FREE with entry!
  8. Pool Parties – More on that later!
  9. Caesars Palace and the LINQ. The hotels alone are a reason to go. You also get free entry to one event if you stay at one of them – here’s info.
  10. USATT Leaders will be there – here’s your chance to meet and yell at them politely discuss the issues!

Samson’s Book, Tim’s Book, My Books, Balticon Books

It’s a bookish time. Let’s see:

  1. Samson’s Book. Yesterday I finished editing Samson Dubina’s new coaching book, tentative titled “100 Days of Table Tennis Success.” It’s a hugely informative book, with exactly 100 chapters/subchapters! Final version will likely be around 190 pages. I’ll blog about it here when it’s out.
  2. Tim’s Book. On Monday Tim Boggan moves in with me for 10-14 days so I can do the page layouts and photo work on Volume 16 of his History of U.S. Table Tennis. This one covers 1988-89.
  3. My Books. They keep multiplying, and are now up to nine. Here’s my Amazon page, with my table tennis fantasy “The Spirit of Pong” the latest entry. (They are also listed, with short descriptions, at here at TableTennisCoaching.com.) The best-selling one right now is “Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers,” which if you have not yet bought you will suffer a 50-point loss in your next tournament.
  4. Balticon Books. I’ll spend much of this weekend as a panelist at Balticon, the regional science fiction convention. Here’s my bio at their site. I’ve got a reading and a book signing, where I’ll be selling three of my books, all up on my Amazon page: “Sorcerers in Space,” “The Spirit of Pong,” and “Pings and Pongs.” On Saturday night I’m moderating a panel on “What’s so Great about the Undead?” Besides being a fan of “The Walking Dead,” I’ve sold several stories about the undead/zombies, including “Running with the Dead” (sort of an equal rights for the dead story that features a dead high school kid who wants to be a miler on his high school track team but faces the Mile Mafia) and “The Devil’s Backbone” in the anthology “After Death,” about a colony of Undead living in (you guessed it) the Devil’s backbone. (He’s two miles tall.)

Improve Your Looping: Learn what skills you need at what levels

Here’s the new coaching article by Samson Dubina.

Ma Long Reverse Serve Training

Here’s the video (68 sec).

Ask the Coach with PingSkills

Episode #128 (19:20) – Men vs. Women.

Ask the Coach with Richard Prause

Part 11 (4:26) - How to Beat the Chinese. 

Incredible Returns, Spin Smash, and the Point Isn’t Over Till It’s Over

Here’s the video (41 sec).

Crazy Net Pop-up Edge Point

Here’s the video (6:32, but the link should take you directly to the point in question at 5:49), between Jens Lundqvist (near side) and Niagol Stoyanov. It’s a great rally even before the flukiness begins!

International Table Tennis

Here's my periodic note (usually every Friday) that you can great international coverage at TableTennista (which especially covers the elite players well) and at the ITTF home page (which does great regional coverage). Butterfly also has a great news page.

Balloon Pong

Here’s the picture! I’m told that the paddle is actually a pen, making the balloon holding it a shakehands penholder!

Popeye vs. Bluto

Here’s the picture! Backhand stances and hammer grips? My coaching services are in grave demand!

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May 21, 2015

5:17AM

That’s what time it is as I write this. (I posted it at 5:22AM; it normally goes up between 9AM and 10AM.) No, I didn’t get up early; I’ve been up all night working on various projects. I’m going to go ahead and post this shortly before going to bed. So what have I been working on tonight?

  • Samson Dubina’s new coaching book. Get ready to mark your calendars: it’s coming soon!
  • This blog, a little shorter than usual as I’m a bit too tired to have deep thoughts right now.
  • Regional Table Tennis Association Sample Bylaws. But I won’t be going public with much of my work on regional associations and related issues until this fall. (I’ll be pretty busy all summer due to our summer camps, which start in a few weeks.)
  • US Open plans. Are you going? C’mon, you have to!!!
  • Top secret discussions regarding the serving rule, which could lead to a better service rule where players don’t hide their serves, leading to peace on earth, the destruction of ISIS, and banana splits for all. I’d explain more but it’s TOP SECRET!!! Shhh.

Arm Problems Non-Problems

Yesterday I did my first private coaching in ten days, due to the arm problems. I blogged yesterday about the new arm brace; it's working great. I was able to do an entire hour without any serious problems. I still can't smash lobs at full power or backhand smash, and I have to go a bit easy on my loops and serves, but overall, it's a miracle. The arm is still injured, and yet I can coach with the arm brace protecting it from further injury. I wonder how many others are out there with arm problems that would be basically fixed by these braces?

The Spirit of Pong

Have you bought a copy yet of The Spirit of Pong, my new table tennis fantasy novel? Yes, you, the one reading this! Well, if you haven’t – and I can see that you haven’t – then march on down to Amazon and buy one!!!

This is my fantasy table tennis novel about an American who goes to China to learn the secrets of table tennis, and ends up training with and learning from the spirits of past greats. It's in two formats, Print and Kindle, both on sale from Amazon. (Here’s my Amazon Page where you can see and buy all of my books.) I've kept the price low - only $6.99 for print, $5.99 for kindle. It’s relatively short, exactly 100 pages. Here's the description from the back cover:

Andy “Shoes” Blue wants to be a table tennis champion, but he’s just another wannabe American. And so he goes to China to learn the secrets of table tennis. He is trained by the mysterious Coach Wang, and begins an odyssey where he learns the secrets of table tennis from the spirits of Ichiro Ogimura (who helped spawn China’s greatness) and Rong Guotuan (China’s first world champion in 1959, whose tragic story Andy must relive), and must face the mysterious “Dragon.” Can he overcome treachery and learn the final secret of table tennis in time to defeat his ultimate nemesis?

Senior Moment

Last night I had my first "senior" moment, at age 55. I used to drink too much Mountain Dew. I finally set a rule that I could only drink one 6.5 oz can per day, other than at movies or when traveling. After coaching yesterday I decided to have my daily Mountain Dew while watching the news. I grabbed one from my pantry to replace the cold one I'd get from the refrigerator. After getting the cold one, I looked around, but couldn't find the one from the pantry. I checked around the refrigerator, the pantry, and everywhere in between. Then I went back to the refrigerator and tried to figure out where it was. That's when I noticed I'd been carrying it in my left hand the entire time. (In my defense, even as I was looking for the missing can my mind was on about twenty other things, mostly involving USATT and MDTTC, with a touch of SFWA.)

Serving Tips

Here’s the new coaching article by Han Xiao.

USATT Insider

Here’s the new issue of USATT Insider, which comes out every Wednesday morning.

Amazing Rally

Here’s the video (46 sec).

Potomac Open

Here are results, photos, and video from the Potomac Open, held this past weekend here in Maryland.

Boston Sports Stars Team Up for Ninko’s Ping Pong Challenge

Here’s the article.

“That Cat is Spooky!”

Here’s the ghostly cartoon.

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May 20, 2015

Disabled Veterans Camp

We had nine players in the camp yesterday from 10AM-1PM. A big thank you goes to assistants Steve Hochman and Josh Friedlander, who volunteered to help out as coaches/practice partners. It was another great and highly enthusiastic group. We covered all the basics - grip and stance, forehand and backhand, pushing, and serving. We finished with the ten-cup challenge, where everyone had two chances to see how many cups they could knock over with Steve and I feeding multiball. 

The camp was made possible by a grant to USATT from the USOC. Not only is the entire camp paid for - the players don't pay a cent - but they sent a box of goodies for the players. Each of the players received a nice Stiga racket with sponge. It was an honor working with these servicemen. I'd like to thank them for all the hard work they put in, both in uniform and at the camp! I'd also like to thank those who made it possible - the USOC and USATT, the Department of Veteran Affairs, MDTTC officer Wen Hsu, and especially Jasna Reed, USATT's Director of Para Programs. 

Arm Problems Non-Problems

It's a miracle!!! Yesterday for the first time I tried out the new Bandit Therapeutic Forearm Band that I blogged about yesterday. (Paul Choudhury emailed me a month ago recommending this – I should have listened! But I did receive a LOT of recommendations.) I'd thought it would at most be a small help - after all, how much can something wrapped around the outside of the arm help an injury on the inside? Boy, did I get that wrong!

The arm band somehow holds the injured part together almost perfectly. When I'm hitting, I can still feel the injury, but it's like it's on the other arm or somewhere else since hitting doesn't seem to affect the injury much at all, even though I'm using all the muscles around the injury. At the start of the Disabled Veterans Camp yesterday, where I wore the arm band for the first time, I was very protective of the arm. As we went through various demos it dawned on me how well it was working. By the end of the camp I was smacking balls all over the place without any pain. I tested out forehand looping against Steve Hochman's blocking, and as long as I go somewhat easy I think I'm okay. I was worried that I’d feel the effects today, but this morning the arm seems fine, i.e. still injured, but no worse than before.

I'm still going to be taking an inflammatory cream twice a day, and should start ultrasound treatment later this week. But I can get back to regular coaching now, starting tonight. (Of course, I might be posting tomorrow how I jumped the gun and that I was rushed to the hospital during a coaching session for an emergency arm transplant.) 

The Aging Ageless Jim Butler

Here's the REAL picture of Jimmy Butler after winning the North American Cup . . . right? I linked to this yesterday, and Jimmy thought it was pretty funny and posted it on Facebook and responded to me on the USATT News Page. Unfortunately, he also wrote, "I'll get you back!" Uh oh. (I originally added an AARP membership card with Jimmy's name on it, tucked under one of his wrist bands, but it didn't really add to the picture and you couldn't really read his name anyway.)

Crystal Wang and Derek Nie in Washington Post

Here’s the print version from yesterday’s paper. I blogged about this yesterday; here’s the regular online version.

McAfee’s Mechanics: Correcting Movement Problems

Here’s the new coaching article by Richard McAfee.

Ask the Coach with PingSkills

Episode 127 (20:16) – Mental Muddle.

Ask the Coach with Richard Prause

Part 10 (1:36) – Plastic Balls.

Ryu Seung Min Training Backhand Fishing and Counterloop

Here’s the video (1:23). He’s sort of the last of the great conventional backhand penholders, but the techniques for this type of thing are about the same for all grips.

US Open Tiered Super Round Robin Event

Here’s the USATT article on this new event.

11 Questions with Tahl Leibovitz

Here’s the USATT interview.

Nittaku ITTF Monthly Pongcast – April 2015

Here’s the video (12:12).

North American Cup Men’s Final

Here’s the highlights video (11:25) of Jimmy Butler vs. Timothy Wang. Here’s a video (1:16 sec, including slo-mo replay) of Timothy Wang as he reacts to an edge ball at 5-4 in the third game.

The Silicon Valley Table Tennis Band

Here’s the video (3:53) – “What the coaches at SVTTC do after full day of coaching.” (Note the “dancing” coach in the background picking up balls!)

Table Tennis Fall

Here’s the video (27 sec) – yep, table tennis is a dangerous sport!

“Astig” vs. “Stiga”

Here’s a “cool” Filipino comparison from Adam Bobrow.

More Mike Mezyan Pictures

NOTE - If you are unable to see these pictures, all you have to do is join the Table Tennis Group - it's easy! Here are all the past, present, and (soon) future pictures he's collected. (I pick out his best ones for here - he has more.)

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May 19, 2015

Another Eventful Day

Here’s a rundown of yesterday’s events.

  • Disabled Veterans Camp. From 10AM-1PM I ran the first day of a two-day clinic for disabled veterans. (I did this last August as well, so perhaps it’ll be an annual thing.) It was supposed to be four days, but we didn’t get anyone signed up for Wed and Thur. We only had three signed up for the first day, but have about ten coming today.

    I went over the basics – grip, forehand, backhand, pushing, serve, receive, and looping. We used the robot a lot. There was a wheelchair player, so I spent some time with him going over the differences there. I also explained various organizations – USATT and Paralympics, MDTTC, and local leagues. The players were surprisingly good – probably close to 1000 level with a little practice.

    There was an interesting juxtaposition at the start – on three nearly adjacent tables we had two disabled military veterans (one in a wheelchair), two Buddhist monks in full robes who had come in for lessons, and two 2550 players (Wang Qing Liang and Han Xiao).

  • Orthopedist. I arrived at 2:20 PM for my 2:30 PM appointment for my arm problems, but they were overbooked, and I didn’t see the doctor until 3:25 PM. After a rather painful examination where he basically pushed at the injury in every possible way and I found all sorts of creative ways of yelling “Ow!”, he concluded what I sort of already knew, that it was tendonitis. He gave me a brace to wear when I play, a type of inflammatory cream, and in a few days I start ultrasound treatment. The brace, a Bandit Therapeutic Forearm Band, does seem to relieve some of the pressure. It fits on the arm like this. We’ll see how it goes – this morning I’ll try the brace in action.

    Meanwhile, I’ll likely have to cancel all my private coaching this week, as I did last week, and as I did a couple of other weeks when the arm first started hurting. However, let’s see how the arm is today, my first day with the arm brace.

  • USATT Teleconference. The USATT Board had a teleconference last night from 7PM to about 8:30 PM. Here’s a brief rundown.
  1. Roll Call and Conflict of Interest (no conflicts)
  2. Approval of Minutes from March 28 board meeting in Baltimore. The minutes were only distributed about an hour before the meeting, so not everyone got a chance to read them, and so it was tabled. We’ll vote on it next meeting.
  3. 2015 World Championships Report. Much of this was from CEO Gordon Kaye, and included info on the U.S. getting the World Veterans Championships for 2018. There was some discussion of some issues, such as the new rule (starting Oct. 2016) where coaches can coach between points; a lowering of the time limits required before juniors who switch countries can represent their new country; and of a new task force to look into fixing the problem with hidden serves. (I may get involved in that.)
  4. Financial Review. CEO Gordon reported on this. All is well for now.
  5. Review of 2015 Strategic Initiatives. Gordon reported on a few of these doings, including sponsorships, marketing, fundraising, RailStation and ratings, and committees. I’ll comment more on these perhaps when the minutes come out.
  6. Discussion about next in person board meeting. It’ll likely be in late August. (We have a teleconference scheduled June 15.)
  7.  Legal Update and Executive Session. Alas, I can’t talk about what happens in Executive Sessions. But Wow!!! Golly!!! Jesus!!! (I guess you just had to be there.)
  8. Adjourn.
  • A little Photoshopping. Didn’t feel like going to bed, so had some fun with Photoshop – see Jimmy Butler segment below. (Sorry Jimmy!)

The Spirit of Pong

Have you bought a copy yet of The Spirit of Pong, my new table tennis fantasy novel? Well, for gosh sakes why not?!!! (Here’s my blog about it.) C’mon, it’s only 100 pages, even you can get through it!

Crystal Wang and Derek Nie Featured in Washington Post

Here’s the article and pictures in this morning’s paper, where they are featured in “Kids Post.” (They are both from my club. I’m quoted in the article.) Here’s what the paper version looks like. (I’m not sure, but you may need a Washington Post account to see this – but if so, it’s free.) I have my own copy since I get the Washington Post every morning in my never-ending quest to destroy the Amazon forests and convert them into table tennis books to sell on Amazon.com.

Jimmy Butler Makes Breakthrough at North America Cup

Here’s the article and a supposedly 44-year-old Jimmy Butler winning the North American Cup, with an obviously doctored photo to try to hide his true age. Now, in a TableTennisCoaching.com exclusive, the truth comes out - I give you the Actual Picture of Jimmy Butler as he wins!

Seeing Your Opponent: Knowing Where to Hit

Here’s the new coaching article by Samson Dubina.

Ask the Coach

Episode #126 (33:55) –Topspin Variations.

Dan O’Connell: Full-Time Table Tennis in Germany

Here’s the podcast (25:53) from Expert Table Tennis. O’Connell is the #1 player from Wales.

Zhang Jike Training

Here’s the new video (7:33).

Tahl Leibovitz Gets a Master’s

Here’s his robed graduation picture. He’s the author of Ping Pong for Fighters and a Paralympics Gold Medalist. (Here’s his bio.)

Butterfly Party at the Worlds

Here’s video (1:26) of the party they held at the Worlds – see how many big names you recognize!

Portable Net

Here it is! It folds small, and attaches to just about any table. I have one, which I often take on trips. You never know when you’re going to want to string up a net and play somewhere.

Prince Harry Plays Table Tennis

Here’s the article and pictures from Table Tennis Nation.

Opus, Bloom County, and Berk Breathed Makes Fun of Table Tennis

Here’s the cartoon. “Welcome to POTV…the 24-hour Cable ping-pong network…all day…all night…exciting ping-pong! Ping-pong news…ping-pong personalities…lots and lots of ping-pong…”

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May 18, 2015

Tip of the Week

Become a Player of Routine.

Number of Hours and Hits in a Lifetime

Let’s do the calculation for myself.

  • I’ve started playing table tennis in 1976 when I was 16. From 1976-1985, nine years, I probably averaged at least three hours/day practice. So that’s 21 hours/week for nine years, or 9828 hours. (I played some recreationally before that, but those hours are inconsequential.)
  • From 1986-1989 (four years, actually starting at the end of 1985 and continuing to the end of 1989) I was a manager/director/coach for table tennis at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. I was often used as a practice partner during the three-hour sessions, plus did other sessions in camps and local clubs. I’m guessing that I averaged two hours/day, so about 14 hours/week, or 2912 hours.
  • From 1990-1991 (two years) I played at local clubs while going to graduate school. I probably continued to average two hours/day, so again 14 hours/week, or 1456 hours.
  • From 1992-1997 and 1999-present (23 years) I’ve mostly coached at the Maryland Table Tennis Center. During those years I’ve probably averaged at least 20 hours/week. Many of those hours are in group sessions, where my time is split between “walking around coaching” (and so not hitting) and feeding multiball (where I’m hitting more balls per minute than in regular play). I’m going to assume these two balance out to about the normal amount of hits per minute of regular play. And so I’ve got 21 years where I’m averaging 20 hours/week. Except – I’ve had periodic injuries that have taken me out of commission a few times. They probably bring the average down one hour/week, so we’ll bring that down to 19/hours week for these 21 years, or 20,748 hours.
  • From 1997-98 I didn’t play a lot. During those two years I mostly worked as a computer programmer and as an editor, and probably averaged only a few hours per week – perhaps four hours/week those two years, or 416 hours.

So where does this leave me? 9828 + 2912 + 1456 + 20,748 + 416 = 35360 hours. We’ll round that off and estimate I’ve played table tennis 35,000 hours.

But now the question is how many shots per hour am I actually doing? In a typical rally I might be doing two shots per second. But most of the time is spent between points. Let’s assume (and I could be well off on this as I haven’t done any testing) that only 20% of the time is actually hitting. In a game, it’s probably less; in a drilling or coaching session, it’s probably higher. (Feel free to chime in with your own estimates.) So let’s go with 20%. At two shots per second that’s 7200/hour; 20% of that is 1440/hour. And 35,000 x 1440 = 50,400,000.

I’ve played table tennis about 35,000 hours and hit the ball about 50 million times. Wow. How about you?

Busy Monday

It’s another busy day. This morning I’m running a clinic from 10AM-1PM for disabled veterans. At 2:30 PM I have an appointment with an orthopedist sports medicine doctor to look at my arm. At 7PM there’s a USATT Board Teleconference. Somewhere in between all this I need to finish the editing on Samson Dubina’s coaching book, “100 Days of Table Tennis.” Due to the arm problems, I’ve canceled all my private coaching this week, so that frees up some time. But the sheer number of other issues that come up are endless.

North American Cup

It finished yesterday. Here’s the ITTF page with complete results and articles. Here’s the USATT site which has lots of video and links to the results. Here’s the final ITTF article on the champions. Congrats to champions Jim Butler and Zhang Mo! (They also had the North American Hopes Trials; here are the boys’ results and girl’s results.)

Ask the Coach with PingSkills

Episode #125 (32:44) – Improving Retrieving.

Ask the Coach with Richard Prause – Part 9: Short Pimples

Here’s the video (79 sec).

Motor Learning: Block vs. Random Practice

Here’s the video (15:55). “Motor learning is the study of how people acquire skill through practice. Decades of research show that there are more effective ways to design our practices...”

How to Train with a Table Tennis Robot

Here’s the new coaching article by Samson Dubina.

ICoachTableTennis.com

Here’s the relatively new coaching site, which I believe started in March.

Jan-Ove Waldner: I Hope This Was Not the End

Here’s the article.

Zhang Jike Multiball Training at Worlds

Here’s the video (3:42).

Suzhour Worlds 2015 (Men’s Singles Part 2)

Here’s the video (6 min). Here’s Part 1 (5:23), which I posted last week.

What It Means to Fight in Para Table Tennis

Here’s the video (20 sec).

Li Xiaoxia – Off the Table

Here’s the new video (5:51).

Happy Birthday Matt Hetherington

Here’s his table tennis birthday cake! (Here’s the non-Facebook version.)

Long Distance Floor Pong

Here’s the video (39 sec) as Adam Bobrow and Kanak Jha demonstrate this rapidly growing sport that’s sweeping the world of post-tournament takedowns.

2000 Weightless Ping Pong Balls with Science Bob

Here’s the video (76 sec)!

Dean-O: Trick Shots Galore!!!

Here’s the video (60 sec).

The Greatest Doubles Rally in the History of the Universe

Here's the video (29 sec)! And here’s video (41 sec) of the same group doing some “table” training!

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May 15, 2015

The Spirit of Pong

It's here!!! This is my fantasy table tennis novel about an American who goes to China to learn the secrets of table tennis, and ends up training with and learning from the spirits of past greats. It's in two formats, Print and Kindle, both on sale from Amazon. I've kept the price low - only $6.99 for print, $5.99 for kindle. Buy now so I can afford to eat tonight!!!

I was up half the night working on the kindle version - lots of formatting.) The cover was created by Mike Mezyan, based on a previous table tennis artwork I picked out. It's a relatively short novel, exactly 100 pages. Here's the description from the back cover:

Andy “Shoes” Blue wants to be a table tennis champion, but he’s just another wannabe American. And so he goes to China to learn the secrets of table tennis. He is trained by the mysterious Coach Wang, and begins an odyssey where he learns the secrets of table tennis from the spirits of Ichiro Ogimura (who helped spawn China’s greatness) and Rong Guotuan (China’s first world champion in 1959, whose tragic story Andy must relive), and must face the mysterious “Dragon.” Can he overcome treachery and learn the final secret of table tennis in time to defeat his ultimate nemesis?

There are 14 chapters, each illustrated with a picture or pictures at the start. The main characters are American wannabe Andy "Shoes" Blue (who's just lost in the quarterfinals at the Nationals for the third straight year), Coach Wang, the spirits of former greats Ichiro Ogimura and Rong Guotuan, the "Dragon" (a famous spirit whose identity I'm keeping secret - you'll just have to read the novel to learn about this huge confrontation, which most of my critiquers said was their favorite part of the novel!), with a large number of other spirits (or "spirits of what made them great" for living people) dropping in, including Deng Yaping, Jan-Ove Waldner, Marty Reisman, and Istvan Jonyer. You'll learn about the "Masters of Pong" - Ogimura, Rong Guotuan, Zhuang Zedong, Stellan Bengtsson, and others; meet the spirits of 24 former Chinese stars in a late-night training session; meet suspiciously familiar-sounding characters such as Chinese Men's Coach Kong Guoliang, U.S. Men's Coach Dan Steth, and U.S. Men's Champion Derek Klaus Hsu; relive tragedy in the Chinese Cultural Revolution; witness great treachery; plus chopstick races and "Danny Boy"! (You'll just have to read about it.)

At the end of the book is my fantasy table tennis short story "Ping-Pong Ambition." In that story, a table tennis player is imprisoned inside a ping-pong ball by a genie for 10,000 years, where he practices table tennis and studies to be a genie himself - with a huge twist at the end. (I originally sold this story to the 2007 anthology "Sporty Spec: Games of the Fantastic." Here are two reviews of the story:

  • "Ping-Pong Ambition is a fun take on the genie-who-gives-three-wishes story. The tropes are familiar, but the light tone and twist ending make this an entertaining read." The Fix, Jan. 27, 2008.
  • "Ping Pong Ambition by Larry Hodges was a great, quick read. The story squeezes ten thousand years into one thousand as the main character, Toby, finds himself trapped inside the tiny walls of a ping pong ball after having his wish granted by a wizard. I loved the voice of Toby and the description of the passing years. However, it amuses me most that, the sport was ping pong. You don't see that much and it makes me smile." Review from AnthologyBuilder.com.

A lot of people helped with the novel. Without them, it wouldn’t have been possible. Special thanks go to:

  • The Great Eight, who critiqued early versions of this story. Honfai Geoffrey Cheng, Chris Grace, Vince Green, Nathan Hsu, Navin Kumar, John Olsen, Raul Rasay, and Dennis Taylor.
  • Stellan Bengtsson, who spent an hour on the phone telling me about his 3.5 months training with Ichiro Ogimura in 1969-1970.
  • Tim Boggan, USATT Historian.
  • Etsuko Enami, ITTF Project Manager, who personally sent me the English version of the Ogimura book, which wasn’t available in the U.S.
  • Ariel Chen and Qihong Cui from Mytabletennis.net, who helped with some research.
  • Mike Mezyan, who created the cover.
  • Ledo’s Pizza, Hong Kong Café, and the back room of the Maryland Table Tennis Center, three places where I got a lot of work done, ate a lot of pizza and Kung Pao Chicken, and played a little ping-pong.
  • And all the Champions whose spirits appear in this book!

I owe a lot of thanks to the following four books:

  • Ogi: The Life of Ichiro Ogimura, by Mitsuru Jojima, translated by John Senior (2009).
  • Ping-Pong Diplomacy: The Secret History Behind the Game That Changed the World, by Nicholas Griffin (2014).
  • Table Tennis Legends, by Zdenko Uzorinac and ITTF (2001).
  • The Ogimura Seminar of Table Tennis, by Dell Sweeris (1968).

Here's my Amazon page, where all of my books on sale are listed.

Develop a Super Heavy Backspin Serve

Here's the new coaching article from Expert Table Tennis.

Footwork Training in Thailand

Here's the video (7:54) as players train the small steps needed in table tennis. (You need both small and big steps, depending on the situation.)

Canadian Junior and Cadet Open

It ended yesterday in Markham, Canada. Here's the ITTF home page for the event, with results and lots of articles, and here's the USATT site, which includes a link to lots of video. USA dominated and won all eight non-consolation events - in fact, seven of the finals were all-USA.  

US Open Deadline Extended

Here's the USATT article. Original deadline for the US Open was this coming Monday (May 18), with a $75 late fee for the week after that, and May 25 the final, drop-dead deadline. But they've extended it all two weeks, so you have until Sunday, May 31 to enter without the $75 late fee, and until June 7 with the late fee. This is sort of a semi-annual thing (for the Open and Nationals) - I think they've extended the deadline for every one of them for the past decade or so. It's a way to get more entries, of course. Now, if I can just heal my arm problems and get 20 years younger over the next two weeks, maybe I'll enter the Open!!! (Otherwise, I'll just be coaching, selling table tennis books, attending meetings, and walking about looking important. I need to practice my strut.)

2015 World Championships Most Followed Table Tennis Event in History

Here's the ITTF press release.

Alameda, Austin, and Triangle Named USATT National Centers of Excellence

Here's the USATT article. Here's a listing of the USATT National Centers of Excellence, which includes my club, MDTTC.

Paralympic Hopeful Just Keeps Winning

Here's the article and video (2:10) on Danny Scrivano.

Pint-Sized Pong

Here's video (1:58) of some great points by little kids in a Japanese tournament. I believe it features the lefty kid in this video (1:33) that I posted Wednesday.

International Table Tennis

Here's my periodic note (usually every Friday) that you can great international coverage at TableTennista (which especially covers the elite players well) and at the ITTF home page (which does great regional coverage). Butterfly also has a great news page

Air Guitar Pong

Here's the cartoon!

More Mike Mezyan Pictures

NOTE - If you are unable to see these pictures, all you have to do is join the Table Tennis Group - it's easy! Here are all the past, present, and (soon) future pictures he's collected. (I pick out his best ones for here - he has more.)

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May 14, 2015

Is There a Mathematical Advantage in Winning a Game If You Serve First?

No.

I guess I should explain. Some believe that serving first is a mathematical advantage in winning a game, since it means you will sometimes serve more than an opponent in a game. For example, suppose you serve first, and win 11-7. At that point you will have served ten times, your opponent eight. So you won because you served first? No!!! Even if your opponent had the two missing serves, and even if he happened to win both points (the odds are against it), you still would have won 11-9. Mathematically, serving first means you have a better chance of winning by a larger margin (or keeping it closer when you lose), but it makes zero difference mathematically in who wins.

Here's another way of looking at it. A game to 11 is really a best of 20, where we go to deuce if it reaches 10-all. In the case of deuce, you alternate serves, and both players have served ten times before that, so there's no mathematical advantage there to serving first. If it doesn't go to deuce, it means that one of the players scored 11 points within the first 20 points - it just so happens that in our scoring system, we stop the game as soon as someone reaches 11, and so don't play out the entire 20 points. If we did, to use the example above, then both players would serve ten times, and it might change the final score, but no matter how you work it, the player who scored 11 points first is going to win that game, even if the other player were given his missing serves.

In the example above, if the loser were to win both points on his missing two serves, he'd still lose 11-9. If he split the two points, he'd lose 12-8. He might even lose both of them, and lose 13-7.

So there is no mathematical advantage to serving first as far as winning a game. However, there is a rare mathematical advantage in tie-breaking. If you are in a round robin group and involved in a tie of three or more players, and if you are all tied in matches and games, it goes to points. In that rare case, there might be an advantage to serving first as it might give you a one or point advantage since you'd be serving first in three of the potentially five games.

But there are other things to take into consideration, some of them psychological, which I wrote about in my article, Should You Choose Serve, Receive, or Side at the Start of a Match? (Personally, I always give the serve away, except occasionally when playing someone who very badly wants to serve first.) 

Arm Tendonitis

The arm has taken a turn for the worse. I blogged about this briefly yesterday. Last night I had to cancel one private session, bring in Coach Raghu to hit for me in another, and in the afterschool program (where I usually mix in multiball and live play) had to use the robot only. I'm not going to be hitting any balls anytime soon. The problem in the arm, tendonitis, is an old one I had in the early 1980s, but went away mostly for thirty years. Sometime this morning I plan to make an appointment with a physical therapist, though I have a feeling they are going to test it, and say, "Yep, you've got tendonitis. You need to rest it, and then exercise it in this way." They'll then demonstrate the exact same exercises I learned 30 years ago, which I recently started up again.

I think the problem is that the arm seemed 90% healed this past week, and I was coaching almost normally. I was fine as long as I avoiding excessive forehand looping, forehand pendulum serves, and feeding backspin in multiball. Alas, right now it hurts just to pick up a racket. I've already hired Raghu and Josh Tran to feed multiball in my various group sessions, including one tonight.

Canadian Junior and Cadet Open

It ends today in Markham, Canada, May 11-14. Here's the ITTF home page for the event (lots of articles and results), and here's the USATT site, which includes a link to livestreaming. It was all-USA finals in all four team events - junior boys and girls, cadet boys and girls.

Learn from the Best: MH Table Tennis' Pro Tip Blog

Here's the new page. "A couple of years ago I trialed an idea of introducing small tips from professional players linked to small articles which included my own ideas also. I began the Pro Tip Blog. Unfortunately I never followed through with it...until now!"

Failure: Why It's Actually Good for Your Young Athlete

Here's the article from Sporting Kid Live.

Stay at Caesars Palace or The LINQ and Get a Free Event

Here's the USATT article about the upcoming U.S. Open in Las Vegas, July 6-11.

Reduce Recently Imposed Table Tennis Fees

Here's the petition started by USATT Hall of Famer George Brathwaite. He needs only 100 signatures! The Roosevelt Operating Corporation has begun charging non-residents a fee for playing at the Sports Park facility, and he's out to stop it.

Support Navin Kumar in His Mission to Win Gold

Here's the article. He's a student of mine - but with my arm injuries, I haven't been able to work with him that much recently.

Table Tennis Wants Olympic Mixed Doubles or Mixed Team Event

Here's the article from Fox Sports.

Ping Pong Therapy and the Alzheimer’s and Dementia Fight

Here's the article with links from Table Tennis Nation.

The Best Shot in Table Tennis

Here's the new highlights music video (4:34).

Table Tennis Doubles Best

Here's the new highlights music video (3:43) that features doubles.

40 Seconds of Ma Long and Xu Xin Goofing Off

Here's the video. (Ma Long in Yellow.)

Amazing 41-shot Rally Between Segun Toriola and Gao Ning

Here's the video (68 sec).

Nice Picture of Noki Niwa Stretching for Ball

Here's the picture from the ITTF - click on the picture to see a whole series of interesting ones.

Child Knee Pong

Here's the video (41 sec) - pretty impressive!

"I Don't Like the Looks of This"

Here's the Frank and Ernest table tennis cartoon.

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