Larry Hodges's blog

February 2, 2018

Recent Coaching . . . and Frankenpaddle!
We had week three of the Thursday Beginning Junior Class, with the focus on footwork. There are 14 in the class, ranging in age from about 7 to 12, which I run, assisted by John Hsu and Martin Jezo. We demoed various footwork drills, including forehand-forehand side to side, backhand-backhand side to side, forehand-backhand side to side, and the 2-1 drill. (Backhand from backhand side, forehand from backhand side, forehand from forehand side, repeat.) Then we went into three groups with the players alternating hitting with the coach (live or multiball), and the others hitting among themselves or doing ball pickup.

The last ten minutes were the most disgusting in table tennis history. As I explained to them, I have a pet Saint Bernard (I don't), who slobbers everywhere, so I had gathered all his slobber into a bottle . . . and if they hit the bottle, I had to drink it! Suffice to say, my appeals to common decency ("Friends don't make friends drink dog saliva!") didn't work, and I was forced to take many drinks. Usually I do this with "worm juice," but I'd left my Gatorade behind, and so had to use a regular water bottle.

In another session I was working with an older beginner (under 1000 level) who was having trouble pushing in games - kept popping them up. We figured out the problem - he regularly practiced pushing with me and others, but in games many players his level, while they can push with backspin, can't serve with much backspin. And so he was getting no-spin serves and pushing them as if they had backspin, and so the balls popped up. After warming up his push, we did a simple drill where I serve no-spin, he'd push it back by chopping more down on the ball to keep it down (and where he has to create his own spin, since there's no backspin rebounding off his racket as backspin), and then we'd continue pushing, where he had to adjust to the balls that did have backspin.

At various times over the last two nights I've brought out my new weapon - Frankenpaddle! It's an oversized racket that I covered with old sheets of Tenergy 05 on the forehand, Roundell on the backhand. (I used to use Roundell on the backhand so had lots of used sheets, but I now use Tenergy 25, though I've been experimenting with Tenergy 05.) To do so required careful surgery of the old sheets, and covering the racket like a Frankenstein jigsaw puzzle. It actually plays really well - I think I'm about 1700 with it, mostly blocking and counter-hitting, and it's incredible for lobbing. (The cracks between the sponges don't seem to affect it much.) Here are some pictures of Frankenpaddle:

I have a long history of using over-sized rackets. I have an even larger one covered with hard rubber, which I use in exhibitions, mostly chopping and pick-hitting. I'm pictured using that one in an exhibition on the cover of one of my books, Table Tennis Tales and Techniques.

USATT Affiliated Clubs and SafeSport
I blogged on Wednesday about the crisis USATT was facing in regard to clubs and SafeSport. Sure enough, we had a huge drop in USATT affiliated clubs. As Thursday morning, we had 263; by Thursday afternoon it was down to 138. As of this morning it's at 148 as apparently ten more clubs complied with SafeSport. So we're at 148/263 = 56.3% SafeSport compliance - or, seen more accurately, 100% compliance among USATT affiliated clubs, since the 115 who have not complied are no longer on the list. I'm pretty sure more will comply, but I have no idea how many we'll end up losing.

ADDENDUM (added at 11AM) - there's something wrong with the database - two problems. First, when I did a count of entries in the club listing, there are 155, not 148 as it says at the top. (At 20 listings per page, there are eight pages, with 15 in the last one.) However, as noted first by pgpg in the comment below, there are duplicates. I found eleven clubs that were duplicated, with two of them duplicated three times, one of them four times. So that means 15 duplicates in all. Subtract that from the 155 actual entries, and we have 140 affiliated clubs after dropping those that haven't done SafeSport compliance. (I'll email USATT headquarters with my list.)  

Europe Top Sixteen Cup
Here's the ITTF home page for the event this weekend, Feb. 3-4, in Montreux, Switzerland, with draws, results, articles, list of players, pictures, and video.

Butterfly MDTTC February Open
Here's info on the 3-star $2700 Butterfly MDTTC February Open I'll be running Feb. 10-11 in Gaithersburg, MD. It includes links to how to enter online, and to the entry form. There are 11 events. On Saturday: Open, U2400, U2200, U2000, Over 50, and Under 15. On Sunday: U1900, U1600, U1300, U1000, and Under 12.

Here's the great Promo Video (1:33) for the tournament, created by Mossa Barandao of PongMobile, who helps run the tournaments. Here's the Facebook version.

Table Tennis Books
Want to buy a table tennis book? Here's my Amazon page where you find mine. I sold 146 books in January, not a bad month. Why not order one and see what all the excitement is about? Or you can by Dan Seemiller's Revelations of a Ping-Pong Champion, Samson Dubina's 100 Days of Table Tennis, or one of Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis books.

Table Tennis, Reading Spin, or Is It the Amount of Spin?
Here's the article by Eli Baraty. "Most players can read spin; when someone cuts under the ball, they know it's backspin, when they hit the side of the ball they know it's side-spin. Only on the serve do people struggle to read what spin is on the ball, due to deceptive movements after the point of contact."

7 Common Beginner Mistakes in Table Tennis (and How to Fix Them)
Here's the article by Tom Lodziak.

Reverse Pendulum Serve
Here's video (67 sec) of it at regular speed and slow motion, Zhang Jike style. Not sure who the server is.

Featured Videos
Here are five featured videos from Samson Dubina.

Dominant Champions Take Top Spot at Triangle Winter Teams
Here's the article, with links to three videos.

Phoenix Chinese Week Table Tennis Open
Here's the article.

Pong Road
There are now six episodes up of Pong Road. This is the ongoing tales of Rocky Wang, table tennis star and artist, chronicling his table tennis travels. The episodes range from about nine to sixteen minutes. You can read more about it in The Story page, and about Rocky and director Mark Weismantel at the About page.

Best Ping Pong Anime
Here are links to three ping-pong anime shows. "Ping Pong is the focus of these anime. Training and competing in tournaments or championships are common themes in sports titles, as well as individual or team spirit, or being an underdog who goes against the odds to succeed."

Turn a Broken Egg into a Ping Pong Ball
Here's the video (43 sec)!

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February 1, 2018

Focus on Consistency in Drills
Normally I have four hours of coaching on Wednesday nights, from 5:30-9:30PM. But my 6:30PM student's dad came down sick and couldn't bring her over, and my 7:30 student is out for a month, so I only had two hours. (I brought a book.) The first one was with Todd, age 12.

Todd's improved rapidly this past year, and now has a league rating of just under 1600, though his USATT rating hasn't yet caught up. He loops from both wings, but can be erratic in rallies, especially on the forehand, which sometimes is on, others time not. We did the 2-1 drill, a three-shot sequence where he hits a backhand from the backhand corner; a forehand from the backhand corner; a forehand from the forehand corner; and then repeat. All his shots were supposed to go to my backhand. But he wasn't consistent, and the rallies were sloppy. I was struggling too, as his balls were spraying all over the table. The problem was he was looping his shots too aggressively, faster than he could control. I finally got him to slow it down, focusing on spin, consistency, and above all good technique, and a miracle occurred - suddenly he was super consistent, and the shots were all right where they were supposed to go (meaning I was consistent as well)! So we had lots of great rallies after that. Then I told him pick out some shots and rip his forehand, and he found that very easy - all that good, consistent stroking really warmed up his shots.

Here is the important concept here: Power is easy if you have good technique, but good technique is difficult. (That should go on a banner at every club.) So the focus in practice needs to be on good technique, where you don't rally faster than you can do it consistently. If you go faster than that, you may think you are practicing playing powerful shots, but you are really just practicing erratic shots with erratic technique. (If you want to go faster, try multiball, where every ball is right where it's supposed to be, and you can generally rally at a faster pace and still be consistent with good technique.)

I remember learning this way back in 1976 when I was 16 and about 1100 after a few months of play. (I was a late starter, and still reached top 20 in the U.S. But I was practicing 6-7 days a week almost from the time I started that year.) At some big tournament (I think the Eastern Open) I saw U.S. Men #1 Danny Seemiller (soon to be 5-time U.S. Men's Singles Champion) warming up by doing simple side-to-side forehand footwork at a nice, consistent pace with his practice partner and brother, Ricky Seemiller. I remember thinking to myself, "I can do that faster than he's doing it, and he's the best in the country?"

Then I practiced it with someone, and of course I did do it faster than Danny - except I would hit maybe three raggedly rushed shots and miss, my shots were spraying all over the table to my partner's chagrin, and we couldn't have a good rally. Then I slowed down to a pace about the same as Danny and Ricky were doing, and suddenly I was consistent - everything came together, and my shots were fluid and consistent! I was hitting like Danny Seemiller!

From there on I always did footwork and other drills only at a pace I could do consistently and comfortably, with good technique. This doesn't mean you don't push yourself, it means you push yourself at a pace you can do consistently. Eighteen months later I broke 1950, and then after spending several years working on my looping game (I was primarily a hitter at first), I broke 2100 after five years of play, 2200 two years later, and continued to improve until I was pushing 2300, which back then meant top 20 in the U.S. - there's been rating inflation since. (An version of this will likely be Monday's Tip of the Week.)

USATT Club Listing - Number of Clubs Still Affiliated?
Yesterday I blogged about how many of our clubs will lose their USATT affiliation today because they haven't fulfilled SafeSport. As of yesterday, there were 262 clubs on the USATT club listing. As of this morning, it's 263, so apparently SafeSport increased the number by 0.38%! Actually, I think it just means they haven't updated it yet by taking off those who aren't SafeSport certified. I believe that'll happen sometime today.

Advice to Coaches: Type A, Type B, Type C
Here's the article by Samson Dubina.

Table Tennis and the Lifelong Athlete
Here's the article from Coach Jon.

Crossover Footwork
Here's the video (2:41) from PingSkills.

Table Tennis Daily Academy
Here's the video (52 sec).

Number One Man in More Ways Than One
Here's the ITTF article featuring new world #1 Dimitrij Ovtcharov. "The defending champion in the men’s event at the forthcoming China Construction Bank 2018 ITTF Europe Top 16 Cup to be staged in the Swiss city of Montreux on Saturday 3rd and Sunday 4th February, from whatever angle you look, there is one conclusion. Germany’s Dimitrij Ovtcharov is number one."

Two Defenders on Duty, First Time Ever
Here's the ITTF article, featuring Ruwen Filus (world #20 from Germany) and Panagiotis Gionis (world #91 from Greece).

Fan Zhendong 2017 Highlights
Here's the video (8:34).

Heart to Heart with Hugo Calderano
Here's the video (6:07), world #16 from Brazil.

Action-Packed Table Tennis
Here's the cartoon!

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January 31, 2018

SafeSport and USATT Club Compliance
As of this morning, there were 262 clubs on the USATT Club listing. I'm going to check the number again tomorrow morning. There will likely be a sizeable drop. Why? Because, as noted in this morning's USATT Insider, "January 31st SafeSport Club Compliance Declaration Deadline."

SafeSport's slogan is "Make the Commitment. Stop Abuse in Sports." The intent is good, and the program is needed. However, I've blogged some of my misgivings about the program in the past, in particular that the video and quiz are too long and a few other problems, and my suspicion that much of the program is designed more to protect the USOC (and by extension, USATT) legally than the athletes themselves. But regardless, it is now required of all "USATT certified coaches, umpires, and referees; all owners and officers of USATT clubs; tournament and league directors and organizers; all USATT board members, committee members, staff, and other positions with USATT; and anyone else in a position of authority over athletes." If you are one of these, you need to pass SafeSport.

As of midnight tonight all USATT clubs that haven't done full compliance are going to be taken off the USATT club listing. (The clubs have been sent multiple notices on this. I'm not sure if it automatically will happen at midnight or will happen sometime tomorrow during the workday.) I've done SafeSport, as have all the coaches and staff at my club, MDTTC, which is SafeSport compliant. But SafeSport requires we do it every two years, so in two years we have to go through this all over again. I think that's overkill. But we have no choice - it's a USOC mandate for all Olympic sports organizations.

I'm a little frustrated by all the clubs we might be losing over this. For years I've been mostly a lone voice in USATT regarding clubs, arguing regularly that USATT needs the clubs more than the clubs need USATT, and that we should keep club affiliation fees down so as to have more such clubs. When new players come to the USATT website and look for a place to play, we want as many clubs listed as possible, so the chances of there being one near the potential new player - and potential USATT member - is greater. Some clubs do need the insurance USATT offers, but many do not. (I don't know the percentage of those who truly need it.) Beyond that, many clubs don't find USATT affiliation worth it, beyond a token payment, if the fees are kept low.

I was the USATT Club Chair in the early 1990s, and ran a program called "Club Catalyst and Creation Program." (The acronym, CCCP, was my little joke about the recent fall of the Soviet Union - it is an acronym for the Soviet Union in Russian. No, I'm not a communist!)  With the program we appointed over 45 state directors, whose job it was to develop a club in every city in their state with a population over 100,000, and then 50,000. The number of clubs went from 226 to 301, and later reached 350. But back then the club affiliation fee was $15/year. Now it's $75, and that's primary reason we've lost a number of clubs, down to the currently listing of 262. A number of years ago, after USATT increased the affiliation fee from $15 to $25 to $40 in one year, we lost 100 clubs, and membership dropped from over 9000 to about 7200. (We've since recovered to something like 9000 again, but we might instead be at 11,000 members or more.)

Assuming we charged $25 instead of $75, that's a $50 difference per club. Currently USATT gets 262 x $75 = $19,650 in annual revenue from club affiliation fees. If we had 100 more clubs at $25/year, that would be 362 x $25 = $9050. So for $10,600, we lose 100 clubs, and an unknown number of members (at $75 each for adults). If we got 141 new members from those extra clubs, we break even. If we get 200 new members (two per newly affiliated club), we come out $4425 ahead, plus we've done what USATT is supposed to do - promote table tennis, by gaining all these new clubs and members. Of course, it's always possible that we wouldn't get those 100 clubs back or the extra members, but we'll probably never know.

We used to have eight USATT affiliated clubs in Maryland. Now we have two. One closed, but the others just stop affiliating. I haven't spoken to all of them, but I know several have complained about the cost, and don't need the insurance.

But this is all rather pointless speculation if we lose a large number of clubs at the stroke of midnight tonight. We'll see. C'mon, club leaders, get on the ball! SafeSport isn't perfect, but it's needed, and it's required.

6 Types of Footwork Drills
Here's the article by Samson Dubina.

2018 World Veteran Championships on Track to be Biggest and Best Yet
Here's the article by Richard Finn. "Everything in Las Vegas is big! Big jackpots. Big bets. Big headline stars. Big glitzy resorts. So it is only appropriate that the biggest table tennis tournament in the world, and the world's largest veteran sporting event, the World Veterans Championships (WVC) is to be played at the massive Las Vegas Convention Center June 18-24."

Promising US Trio Look Forward to World Junior Circuit Finals
Here's the article by Matt Hetherington. "This weekend, February 2-4, in Luxembourg, will see the ultimate showdown of the top contenders from the 2017 World Junior Circuit. A tough and level field of 16 boys and 16 girls will face off for the highest honors, and among those players will be USA's Kanak Jha, Sharon Alguetti and Amy Wang."

Interview with Kristian Karlsson
Here's the Butterfly interview.

McDermott Triumphs at Myrtle Beach Open
Here's the article by Tim Connelly. "The Myrtle Beach Table Tennis Club sure knows how to make you feel welcome! 29 players participated in the 2018 Myrtle Beach Open, sponsored by Zeropong, and a winning combination of great matches, great competition, and great sportsmanship prevailed as it usually does in our great game. John McDermott played brilliantly to carry home both the bragging rights and the big money with his first place finish over Aldin Monzales Soneja."

National Pride at Stake, Swedes on Mission to Defend Country's Honour
Here's the ITTF article. "Swedish honour, it lays in the hands of Kristian Karlsson, Mattias Karlsson and Matilda Ekholm at the forthcoming China Construction Bank 2018 ITTF Europe Top 16 Cup."

Tiffany Ping Pong Accessories a Hot Topic
Here's the USATT article. "Tiffany & Co. is certainly a brand associated with fine designs and class, so it was exciting for the table tennis world when the brand announced its new home & accessories collection which included a luxurious looking set of table tennis rackets and ball." US Olympian Tom Feng is pictured using their brand."

SPiN Seattle
Here's the video (60 sec) - pretty nice.

One Thousand Ping-Pong Balls Being Shredded
Here's the video (14:55, but link takes you to 7:12, where the ball shredding begins.)

Table Tennis Trick Shots | Sahabat Pingpong
Here's the video (5:22). Some great trick shots here!

Baby Dinosaurs Play Table Tennis | Funny Dinosaurs Cartoons for Children
Here's the video (1:55, but link takes you 51 second in, where the table tennis starts). I'm going to go out on a limb here and call this the worst and most nauseating animated table tennis ever done. Agreed?

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January 30, 2018

Movies as Incentive
Hi, my name is Larry Hodges, and I'm addicted to going to the theater. Yep, I'm a movie buff. (Today's blog is only partially table tennis.) Along with reading and writing science fiction (oh, and table tennis!), seeing movies are my favorite "escape." I often go to the local theater directly after I finish coaching at the club, or sometimes late at night. (Now you know why I sometimes need extra time to finish my blog in the morning.) It's great - popcorn, a Mr. Pibb (because they don't have Mountain Dew), and two hours where there's no email, phone calls, or work to do. (Side note - as of Jan. 1, I stopped drinking soft drinks at home - only at theaters and occasionally at restaurants. From that and dieting I've lost 13 pounds since Christmas, from 200 (my highest ever) to 187. Should hit goal of 180 by end of February.)

On the other hand, my brain often won't turn off, so I'm often jotting notes during movies on possible Tips of the Week or blogs, on USATT or MDTTC issues, or (in my other sideline) a possible science fiction story. But I do it while munching popcorn. (Easy on the butter.) I always keep a pen and mini-notebook handy.

The movies serve a table tennis purpose as well. I always have a big todo list of things that need to get done, and most of it is table tennis related. Each day I decide in advance what I need to get done, and promise myself that if I get it done, I see a movie. If I don't, then after I finish coaching, I go home and finish the work. Guess what? I usually get the work done, and am munching popcorn that night.

So how many movies did I see at theaters in 2017? Um . . . 105. Full list is below, along with this month's so far. (Saw "Hostiles" last night.) It seems like a lot, but it's actually about two per week, so once every 3.5 days. That's not so bad, is it??? (I also got a lot of discounts because I see so many.) I would say that about half the movies I see I really wanted to see, and the other half I enjoyed, but mostly wanted to just "get away."

In 2018 I was planning to see a lot less movies, but I recently discovered MoviePass (John Olsen first pointed this out to me), where I can see one movie per day (not 3-D, which I rarely see anyway) for $10/month - and last year I saw about nine movies per month. Guess what? I'll be seeing 100+ movies again in 2018! So far in January I've seen nine movies. Tonight, since there's absolutely nothing important going on :), and assuming I get all my work done (and I've got a long todo list for today, alas, starting with the MDTTC February newsletter and some USATT work), I'll likely see "Maze Runner: The Death Cure" - not because I really want to see it, but to get away.

2018 MOVIES
January (9)

  • Molly’s Game
  • The Room
  • The Commuter
  • The Post
  • I, Tanya
  • Paddington 2
  • 12 Strong
  • Den of Thieves
  • Hostiles

2017 MOVIES
January (11)

  • Assassin’s Creed
  • Passengers
  • Why Him
  • A Monster Calls
  • Fences
  • Hidden Figures
  • The Founder
  • Split
  • A Dog’s Purpose
  • Sleepless
  • Gold

February (6)

  • The Space Between Us
  • John Wick: Chapter Two
  • The LEGO Batman Movie
  • Fist Fight
  • The Great Wall
  • Get Out

March (7)

  • Logan
  • Kong: Skull Island
  • Beauty and the Beast
  • Life
  • Power Rangers
  • Ghost in the Shell
  • The Zookeeper’s Wife

April (8)

  • Going in Style
  • Aftermath
  • Gifted
  • The Lost City of Z
  • Norman
  • Born in China
  • Free Fire
  • The Circle

May (8)

  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
  • King Arthur: Legend of the Sword
  • Snatched
  • The Wall
  • Alien: Covenant
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul
  • Everything, Everything
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

June (12)

  • Wonder Woman
  • It Comes at Night
  • Megan Leavey
  • The Mummy
  • The Hero
  • 47 Meters Down
  • Cars 3
  • The Book of Henry
  • Baby Driver
  • Despicable Me 3
  • The House
  • 2:22

July (8)

  • Spider-Man: Homecoming
  • War for the Planet of the Apes
  • Wish Upon
  • Dunkirk
  • Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
  • First Kill
  • Atomic Blonde
  • An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power

August (4)

  • The Dark Tower
  • Kidnap
  • The Hitman’s Bodyguard
  • Logan Lucky

September (11)

  • Unlocked
  • It
  • American Assassin
  • Brad’s Status
  • Kingsman: The Golden Circle
  • The LEGO Ninjago Movie
  • Battle of the Sexes
  • Stronger
  • American Made
  • Flatliners
  • Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House

October (8)

  • Blade Runner 2049
  • The Mountain Between Us
  • The Foreigner
  • Happy Death Day
  • Geostorm
  • Only the Brave
  • Wonderstruck
  • Suburbicon

November (13)

  • Thor: Ragnarok
  • LBJ
  • My Friend Dahmer
  • Daddy’s Home 2
  • Murder on the Orient Express
  • Justice League
  • Wonder
  • Roman J. Israel, Esq.
  • Coco
  • Howl’s Moving Castle
  • Marshall
  • The Man Who Invented Christmas
  • Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

December (10)

  • Lady Bird
  • The Disaster Artist
  • Just Getting Started
  • Darkest Hour
  • The Shape of Water
  • Star Wars: the Last Jedi
  • All the Money in the World
  • Downsizing
  • Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle
  • The Greatest Showman

2018 US Youth National Ranking Tournament Homepage
Here's the USATT news item, by USATT High Performance Director Jörg Bitzigeio.

Lin Gaoyuan Forehand Loop Technique
Here's the video (4:23) of the world #4 in training.

Dimitrij Ovtcharov and Anton Kallberg in Training
Here's the video (2:40) at the Dusseldorf Training Center in Germany, by Arnaud Scheen.

Great Lobbing and Chopping Point
Here's the video (33 sec) between Melek Hu of Turkey (world #79, previously #10) and Yang Haeun of South Korea (world #27, previously #11).

Australian Team Play the Public
Here's the video (56 sec) as they promote the Commonwealth Games.

Pongstarz Pacific City Beach Ping Pong 2017
Here's the video (4:20). "Pongstarz partners with Pacific City, American Cancer Society, Cornilleau, Kitchen Table PR, and KTLA Morning News to produce the largest beachside ping pong tournament in the country!"

Liu Gouliang vs Ma Long play In Small Table
Here's the video (38 sec). The Men's Singles Champion at the 1996 Olympics and 1999 Worlds vs. the Men's Singles Champion at the 2016 Olympics and the 2015 and 2017 Worlds. Here's more on Liu Guoliang and Ma Long (from Wikipedia), including their medal record (on right).  I think I posted a similar view, but I think this is a new one - perhaps they play mini-pong a lot. 

Little Pony Pong
Here's the cartoon.

Non-Table Tennis - "Redo" Makes Recommended List
My science fiction story "Redo" (6300 words, published in Compelling Science Fiction) made the Featured Features Recommended List! Sorry, no table tennis. It's the story of a large, caterpillar-like galactic alien census taker who has spent the last 83,000 years doing a door-to-door census of earth - and he's only halfway done. After each interview, he hits a redo device, and while time doesn't stop, all the matter and energy on earth and around it zip back to where they were at the time that interview started, the one he interviewed has no memory of the interview, and he goes on to the next house. Then things go wrong, he gets killed by a Doberman (sort of), and another group of aliens (who've been caught in sort of a time loop those 83,000 years) is about to annihilate Earth, as they have unknowingly been trying to do for 83,000 years. Can he and a resourceful human scientist save the world? And why in the world does he need that fire extinguisher?

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January 29, 2018

Tip of the Week
Playing the Crafty Veteran.

End-of-Season Talent Development Program Tournament and Party
We had these last night at MDTTC. The program is made up of our strongest players up to about age 13, though most are 8-11. Because several of the preliminary groups had five players, there would be one player sitting out, and so they were assigned to practice serves, and I was in charge of coaching that section. I worked with one girl on developing her forehand pendulum side-top serve (she only could serve side-backspin and sidespin); with another on his backhand serve; with a lefty who was working on breaking his serves outside the forehand corner (against a righty), with two of them on reverse pendulum serves; and so on. I also worked with some of the younger players on more basic serves.

At the end of the session, visiting coach Chen Longcan gave a speech outlining his thoughts on what he'd observed in the tournament, with John Hsu translating. (Who is Chen? Chen won the gold medal in Men’s Doubles at the 1988 Olympics; Men’s Singles at the 1986 World Cup; Men’s Teams at the 1985 and 1987 World Championships; Men’s Doubles at the 1987 World Championships; and made the final of Men’s Singles at the 1985 World Championships, losing the final to teammate Jiang Jialiang.)

Then came the award ceremony. Stanley Hsu (age nine) won the tournament over chopper Andy Wu. Stephanie Zhang won Hardest Worker. Michelle Kang won Most Improved. And then Chen Longcan gave another speech, and then presented a "special award" for his hard work to Stanley Hsu. (I worried that some of the kids would be jealous of Stanley's success, but he's very popular with them - I hope success never goes to his head, or anyone else's.) The program, sponsored and organized by HW Global Foundation, has been very successful since it started up - as of Dec. 31, we had 6 of the top 14 players in the U.S. in 10 and Under Boys. 

Finally the one hour and 45 minute session was over - and it was party time! A Chinese banquet had been set up, with all sorts of dishes - including my favorite, Kung Pao Chicken. There were nearly 30 kids, 12 coaches/practice partners, and dozens of parents and family members.

During the party each kid and parents were taken aside, one by one, and had a conference with a coach, who went over the player's progress that season, and what he/she needed to work on. (The coaches collaborated on this for each player.)

Afterwards the kids got together on two tables and played Jungle Pong. This is a favorite of the kids, who often play this non-stop on break. You get a group together, and number themselves in order, so each player knows who he goes after. Then player 1 serves. Player 2 (and all subsequent players) have to let the ball come off the table and bounce on the floor, then he hits it back on the table, on either side, and the next player does the same. When a player fails to make a return, he’s out. This continues until you have a champion.

Ten came my "surprise." A few days ago I received the trophies for our upcoming four tournaments, and I'd gone through them, one by one, to make sure all were there and labeled correctly. They came packed in bubble wrap - and I had a brilliant idea. So rather than throwing it away, I put them in a big trash bag. Then I called the kids together and made the announcement that we had a problem - too much bubble wrap, and then emptied the bag onto the floor. Then I said, "We need every bubble popped. If I see one bubble unpopped, you all run extra laps." Guess what happens when you put bubble wrap next to 30 kids, mostly ages 8-11? It sounded like a firing range out there!!!

Several of the kids decided to play a prank. It was raining outside, and so we had towels spread out by the door for people to walk on and dry their feet. So the kids put bubble wrap under the towels, so that when people came in or out, they'd walk on the towels, and they'd go "Bang! Bang! Bang!"

$100,000 World Championships of Ping-Pong
The World Championships of Ping-Pong were held this past weekend in London. In this event, players use sandpaper rackets. Yes, for $100,000! It was an all-China final: Wang Shibo (CHN) d. Huang Jungang (CHN), 15-11, 13-15, 14-15, 15-13, 15-14. (Yes, they use a weird scoring system.) Here are the Playoff results, and here are the qualifier double-elimination results. (Alas, USA players Bin Hai Chu and Trevor Runyan didn't make it out of the qualifier.) Here's video (54 sec) of the award presentation - huge crowd!!! Here's the Final (66 min).

World Championships of Ping Pong - China About to Take Over
Here's the article from Eli Baraty.

Serving Low
Last week I linked to the video and article about TT-Serve, the serving aid invented by Samson Dubina to help learn to serve low. But how do you go about serving low? Here's my article, "Serving Low"!

New from Samson Dubina

2017 US Open Highlight Coaching Moments
Here's the article from Butterfly, by Yu Di. (It calls it the 2018 US Open, but I think that's a mistake, since that won't be until this December.)

10 Fundamental Skills for Modern Table Tennis
Here's the article from Table Tennis Store.

Call for Offers, ITTF Coach Accreditation Scheme Revision
Here's the ITTF article.

Sportfist - GeoLocation Based USA Table Tennis Club Search
Here's the article by Tej Pratap Singh.

In Form at Right Time, for Miyu Nagasaki Improvement Continues
Here's the ITTF article.

DHS ITTF Top 10 - 2018 Hungarian Open
Here's the ITTF video (4:38).

Wonderkid Harimoto Doing His Thing
Here's the video (1:45) of the 14-year-old world #11 in training.

Melton Table Tennis Newsletter
Here's the February issue from Australia, with a number of interesting article. (Here's their archive of past issues.)

USOC Coaching Education Newsletter
Here's the February issue.

Sunny Li - Table Tennis Star, Marine Sharpshooter . . . and Model
Here's the picture - that's him, second from the right. (Here's the non-Facebook version.) Some of you may remember Sunny as the kid who dominated junior table tennis in the U.S. throughout much of the 1990s. He stopped when he was 18 to go to college, then became a marine sharpshooter in Iraq. And now he's in a men's clothing magazine as a model! (I don't think this is his "regular" job.)

Inside Nikola Jokic’s Pregame Ping Pong Matches vs. Nuggets Equipment Manager Sparky Gonzales
Here's the article.

Long Distance Serve
Here's the video (24 sec) of Scott Preiss doing the serve in an exhibition.

Roger Federer and Bill Gates promoting the "Match for Africa 5"
Here's the hilarious tennis video (55 sec), with Gates playing table tennis 22 sec in for about 3 seconds, as Federer as his trainer. (Congrats to Fed for winning #20!)

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January 26, 2018

Professional Day for Teachers
That's today, and so local schools are closed, and we're running a one-day mini-camp at MDTTC. As is my normal policy, if the kids are off, so am I - so I'm off today, except for this shorter than usual blog. After all, I'm a professional coach, so doesn't that make me a teacher? (It's also Australia Day, and we wouldn't want to insult Hugh Jackman, Crocodile Dundee, and 25 million kangaroos. Or PingSkills.) But here are a few quick items.

National Team News
If you happen to be a USA National Team Contender or like to follow the news about them, here are three USATT news items that went up:

World Championship of Ping-Pong
The World Championships of Ping-Pong are this weekend, Jan. 27-28, in London. Here's a video (9:27) from Sky Sports News, where Gavin Rumgay explains the difference between table tennis and ping-pong (the latter is with sandpaper rackets, he says). Here's a list of Qualifiers - USA players are Trevor Runyan and Bin Hai Chu. (I believe A.J. Carney won the U.S. Qualifier, but apparently isn't attending.)

New York City TV Live Online
Here's the video (7:28), from Jules Apatini. From the description: "NYC TV LIVE ONLINE" recorded and edited this very exciting and special TOC event at Grand Central Station. Featuring "Ping Pong" an incredible form of APE (Aerobic Progressive Exercise) for all ages and genders. Presented by Big Brothers Big Sisters Of New York City.

Real Table Tennis
Here's the cartoon! (I've seen other versions of this, but this is the first one with plates and silverware flying!)

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January 25, 2018

Coaching on Wednesday and Other Musings

  • Celluloid Balls. When I went in to coach yesterday I found all the baskets of plastic balls were being used by other coaches – we had eight of them coaching already. There was one filled with the old celluloid balls – we still have them – but I didn't think my first student (Todd) would want to use them, and was about to go to the back room to get some new ones, along with a box to hold them in. But Todd said he didn't mind, he'd been using them in some of his matches anyway. So we started the session with the old Butterfly celluloid training balls, which were pretty much identical to what I'd been using since I started back in 1976 until they went to plastic a few years ago (other than the change from 38 to 40 mm in the early 2000's). Wow, were they strange!!! The lack of sound, compared to the "ping" of the plastic balls, was weird. I remember hating that sound when we first went to plastic, but after coaching almost exclusively with plastic balls for about a year, I'd grown used to that plastic sound. However, about ten minutes into the session I found out the celluloid balls had been reserved for someone who wanted them, and so I traded them in for a box of plastic ones for the rest of the night. (The following two students were under 1000 level and wouldn't care which ball we used.)
  • Backhands and Butler. Two of my students are working hard on his backhand smash. So I gave both an assignment – go to Youtube and type in "Jim Butler table tennis," and watch any of his matches. You'll see a steady barrage of vintage backhand smashes.
  • "Are you tired?" When a coach asks that question, don't answerIT'S A TRAP! Recently I've had fun asking students this late in a footwork drill. No matter how they answer they can't win. If they say they are tired, then that means they are out of shape and so I need to work them harder. If they say they are not tired, that means I'm not working them hard enough and so I need to work them harder. Evil, isn't it?
  • Box on Table. Too many of my students are spraying balls around the table in drills, when they are supposed to hit to a designated spot (usually the forehand or backhand corner). So recently I'm doing a lot of coaching with a box on the table that blocks off the middle of the table, so players have to hit to the corner. Depending on their level, I give them roughly 8-18 inches of table from the corner to aim for.
  • 1500 to 1800. I'm starting to think that the two most important drills to make this jump are very simple: 1) Side to side footwork, where you alternate aggressive forehands and backhands; and 2) the same drill, except the balls are random. If you become proficient at both of these drills, then you will improve a lot, as long as the rest of your game doesn't lag too far behind.

Capital Area League
The Capital Area League has their final team matches of the season this Saturday at the Maryland TTC. The place will be jammed all day, with matches scheduled from morning until night, but I won't get to watch – I have a table reserved for six hours of coaching.

USATT Releases 2018 National Team Point System for Qualifying Tournaments
Here's the USATT news item. (I put this up late, at 3PM on Thursday.) 

USATT and World Veterans Clothing on Sale
Time to buy something snazzy!

Humbled By a 40mm Ball ….
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

Yijun 'Tom' Feng in Training
Here's the video (54 sec) from the USATT Training Camp in December at the Triangle TTC.

FH Topspin Technique of Viktor Yefimov
Here's the video (5:26). The Ukrainian may be "only" world #323 (previously #148), but he has great forehand technique.

New Club, New Blood, Ma Asserts High Position
Here's the article featuring Ma Jinbao, by Matt Hetherington.

Potsville Senior Aiming for High School Sport Recognition
Here's the article by Matt Hetherington.

Pets, Surround Sound Speakers and Ping-Pong Tables: Take a Virtual Tour of This Modern Office
Here's the article and video (2:36) that features table tennis in the workplace (from 0:54 to 1:10). They've already done this in Dilbert!

Can Ping Pong Make You Smarter, Happier and Relieve Your Stress?
Here's the video (8:08).

Jase & PJ Attempted a 20 Hour Non-stop Table Tennis Rally
Here's the article and video (3:55).

Dinosaur Doubles!

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January 24, 2018

Not a Game for Boys
I just finished reading "Not a Game for Boys," a table tennis play by Simon Block that came out in 1995, and published as a play last year (86 pages, though Amazon incorrectly has it at 104). Here's the book description from Amazon and the back cover:

"Once a week, three cabbies seek respite from their lives in a local table tennis league, and tonight they must win, or face the unthinkable oblivion of relegation. Deeper rivalries and competitive obsessions emerge as the team try to survive the pressure, but the real game takes place anywhere but at the table."

The play has only three characters:

  • Eric, the blocker, who desperately wants to win so they can avoid being relegated to the second division.
  • Oscar, the pusher, who thinks they are getting too old to compete in the first division and thinks going into the second division would be good for them.
  • Tony, the hitter, easily the best of the three, who can be relied on to win all three matches - but he's facing marital problems.

The entire play takes place at the sidelines of the league match, usually with two of the players talking while the other is out playing, and out of sight (offstage). Warning - the language is extremely profane and explicit; I doubt if there is a page in the thing without the "F" word and pretty much every other offensive word. The cabbies are also rather sexist in how they treat a woman on the opposing team. If SafeSport were in use, Eric would get suspended for both verbal and physical sexual harassment. If it were a movie it would be rated R.

The fireworks start when Tony shows up late, getting there just in time to play the third match, because he's been cheating on his wife. Right after arriving, he gets a call from his wife, who has somehow found out, and is leaving him if he doesn't come home immediately. But if he leaves, their team has little chance to win. Things get even more dire when Oscar decides to dump his matches, and loses the first two by wildly hitting instead of playing his normal patient game.

Oscar is a bit depressed as a member of the club, an overweight player in his 40s, had recently died of a heart attack while playing at the club. He'd gone to the funeral the day before and saw that they'd buried him in his table tennis playing clothes, which he thought was embarrassing, and swore that that would never happen to him - getting buried in his playing clothes or even dying in his playing clothes. He's lost most enthusiasm for playing. He probably has the best prophetic line in the play, near the end: "This game is full of maniacs."

Eric is your stereotypical obsessed ping-pong player, who single-mindedly only thinks about winning - it's all he cares about, and he literally cannot fathom why Oscar doesn't really want to win, or why Tony won't immediately agree to play his three matches before going home. Eric also has a ready excuse any time he loses. Many readers here will recognize part of themselves in Eric. However, there are times in the play when he pulls back from his single-mindedness as he tries to advise Tony on what to do about his marriage.

One somewhat disappointing thing - minor SPOILER ALERT - came when, early on, while getting his playing clothes, shoes, and racket out of his playing bag, Oscar pulls a gun out of the playing bag, and puts it on the ping-pong table. One of the unwritten rules of writing fiction is that, "If you put a gun on the table, you have to use it." The gun is a metaphor for any dangerous weapon, and here he literally puts a gun on a table - and author Block is obviously playing around with this rule. However, we also learn the gun is unloaded, and when Oscar is finally provoked to threaten someone with it near the end, there's no tension since not only is it unloaded, but the person threatened knows this. If I'd written this play, I might have finished with a bigger "bang"!

Istvan Jonyer and Others at the 2018 World Veterans Championships in Las Vegas
Here's the article I wrote as a USATT news item. I adapted it from my blog from last Friday.

Larry's Six-Month Law
Yesterday I mentioned this in regard to one of my students, Todd, but didn't actually link to the Tip of the Week where I wrote about this. (I added the link in the afternoon.) Here it is - Larry's Six-Month Law! It roughly says (and explains why) when you play well in practice, it'll often take six months before it'll show up in tournament matches.

TTServe: the New Serving Bar
Samson Dubina's invented a new serving bar, the TTServe. Here's a video (1:48). We have a serving bar at MDTTC (made by John Olsen), which has eight settings - here's a high one and a low one. But Samson's is commercially available, so get one for your club!

1 Hour Table Tennis Training in 5 mins
Here's the article and video (5:12) from Table Tennis Guy.

Feng Leaves Strong Impression in Austrian League Appearance
Here's the USATT article by Matt Hetherington, featuring Yijun "Tom" Feng.

Destination Westchester: Inaugural Championships for Players with Parkinson’s
Here's the ITTF article on the event to be held at the Westchester TTC in New York on Feb. 17.

How Ping-Pong Annually Impacts the NFL playoffs
Here's the article from the Washington Post. (I thought I'd linked to this previously, but apparently not.)

Highlights Video
Here's a highlights video (6:46) with lots of incredible points, from All About Table Tennis.

Raining Ping-Pong Balls?
Here's the picture! (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

Tennis or Table Tennis?
Here's the cartoon!

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January 23, 2018

Weekend Coaching
It was a busy coaching weekend for me. On Saturday I coached nearly eight hours straight - from 11AM to 7:30 PM, with only a break from 5-5:30PM. To prepare, I had a big spaghetti brunch at 10:15AM. I ate a granola bar halfway through. I brought some food to eat at 5PM, but after all that exertion, I didn't feel hungry, and so didn't eat then, deciding to wait and have a real dinner later.

The coaching began with two "beginners," a mom and her 15-year-old son, 30 minutes each. I put that in quotes because while neither had ever had coaching or been to a club, they were avid tennis players and played table tennis regularly. The son had picked up playing penhold (saw it on youtube I think), and had a natural topspinning forehand, and will get into looping very easily - his forehand is already basically a loop. He had a bit more trouble on the backhand, which he took too much from the side. He could do both conventional and reverse penhold backhand, so we went with reverse. The mom was a hardbat player who hit everything - and she did it surprisingly well, obviously from her tennis. She switched to a sponge racket, and after a few minutes was smacking in shots. She too hit the backhand from the side too much, so we worked on that.

After that came Brian (lots of work on looping, and on serve and receive); Serguei (30 min, mostly on looping and serving - he's got good serves, wants to make them great); and Anna (30 min, also lots of work on looping against backspin - she always starts slow, then gets it together). Serguei and Anna are husband and wife, and come together. While one is with me, the other is with Coach Jack, and halfway through they switch, so they actually both get an hour.

Then came two hours with John and Kevin, all multiball. We have a regular progression of drills, nearly all involving footwork, two minutes each. John was about 1750 when we started about nine years ago, and is currently 2014. His backhand used to be a big weakness, and his receive was too erratic - tried too many advanced receives - but both have improved dramatically.

Next up was Todd (12), who is in the midst of that infamous "Larry's Six-Month Law," which roughly says that when you play well in practice, six months later it'll show up in tournament matches. This is because it takes time to translate what you do in practice into matches, plus when you suddenly improve a lot, you tend to lose most of your close matches against players at your new level, since they are experienced at that level and you are not, and so they are more confident and experienced at what to do to win at that level. So he keeps losing close ones to "stronger" players, but is on the verge of shooting up. He's most improved at forehand looping in rallies, where he was erratic before.

Then, after the 30-min break, we had "Junior League." I put that in quotes because it's both a league and a coaching session. They played both doubles and singles, with coaches sometimes stopping play to coach, and doing extensive coaching discussions after each match. For example, Ryan, who is about 7 or 8, has a nice forehand - but he almost always serves from the forehand side, and so players just return to his backhand. I spent half the session reminding him to serve from the backhand side so he could more often follow up with a forehand. With Jason, it was a constant reminder to attack, as he tends to push and block otherwise - and this time he played very aggressive, looping every chance even though it probably cost him at least one match. (Tactically, he should push and block since he has a better chance of winning now that way. Strategically, he should attack since he'll get much better that way.) Kyle, who had a tendency to serve and go into a passive backhand position (often following up his serve by backhand pushing against pushes to his forehand!) has broken that habit, and went undefeated in his group by serve and attacking relentlessly.

Then it was off to eat, or as I call it, Saturdays at Subway! I had a 6" Sweet Onion Chicken Teriyaki on a 9 grain honey oat.

And that's just Saturday. On Sunday I had three consecutive 90-minute group sessions.

For the Beginning Junior Class, with John Hsu assisting the focus was on serving. I put them into three groups, rotating around. In one group, they had to serve under the service bar, i.e. keep their serves low. In the second group, they served fast and deep, aiming at bottles I put on the table. In the third group, they worked on spin serves.

In the Advanced Junior Group, I mostly coached serves, then served multiball as the kids moved around, station to station. For my station I fed the 2-1 drill, i.e. backhand from backhand side, forehand from backhand side, then forehand from forehand side, and repeat. Then I supervised the younger kids as they competed to see who could do the most shots in a row with side-to-side forehand footwork.

In the Adult Training, I usually just call out the drills and coach. However, we had a small turnout this tie, so I spent much of the session hitting with the players, rotating from one to the other, about 10 minutes each. We had one beginner who spent much of the time on the robot. We also had each player take a turn practicing serves for 15 minutes each.

Then it was off to eat - and that Sweet Onion Chicken Teriyaki was so good that I went back for another, so it was Sunday at Subway!

This is a really busy time for me, with all this USATT work, plus the regular coaching and blogging, plus (as noted in my blog yesterday), I'm in the middle both a three-week online writing workshop and a five-week online writing competition. (I'm also informed that I'll be getting a visit from Tim Boggan in March for two weeks to work on Volume 21 of his History of U.S. Table Tennis. So I'll barely get a breather in February.) But on the good side, my shoulder is 80% healed, my heel injury is getting better (I'm barely limping now), and I've gone from 200 to 188 pounds since Christmas - lots of dieting, with a goal to get to 180.

Video Conference Call on Coaching Education and Certification
Yesterday, from noon until just after 2PM, I was on a online video conference with USATT, USOC, and others on online software and other resources we may use for USATT Coaching Education and Certification. We are looking at software from the USOC and from a German company that specializes in online webinars for sports. (Our High Performance Director is experienced in the latter.) It's all a part of "Blended Learning," where you combine online and in-person teaching of coaches.

Mastering the Pivot
Here's the article (with links to a number of videos) by Brian Pace.

Ma Lin Ghost Serve
Here's the video (1:40) of how to do the backspin serve that comes back into the net. I might have posted this video before, or one similar to it, but it's still something you should learn to do as an exercise in creating great backspin.

What is Miu Hirano’s Equipment?
Here's the article on the world #6 from Japan, from EmRatThich.

The Battle for Top Spot, Fan Zhendong Closes Gap on Dimitrij Ovtcharov
Here's the ITTF article. "Dimitrij Ovtcharov will remain at the summit of the Men’s World Rankings table for February but Fan Zhendong could potentially rise above the German in the following month’s publication."

Two Japanese Table Tennis Players to Benefit From Cisco Technology
Here's the article, featuring Kasumi Ishikawa (world #4) and Tomokazu Harimoto (the whiz kid, age 14, world #11).

Best of 2017: Ask a Pro Anything
Here's the ITTF video (4:25), with interviews by Adam Bobrow.

Loop - Push Drill by Little Girl
Here's the video (41 sec) - she looks about four!

Under-Table Snake
Here's the video (36 sec) as Niwa Koki of Japan (World #6) fools an opponent.

Table Tennis Funny
Here's the video (7:25). It's narrated in (I think) Chinese, but you don't need the narration - and it gives "thought balloons" in English.

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January 22, 2018

Tip of the Week
Doubles Signals and Why You Should Use Them.

USA Team Selections
A few people have contacted me about the USATT National Team selection process. This is a frustrating topic for me for a very simple reason - I'm involved in so many other activities (USATT, MDTTC, and lots of coaching and writing) that I just don't have time to get too involved in still another issue. And yet, I'm on the USATT Board of Directors, so I'm one of the ones responsible for what USATT does, and so I will likely have to get involved.

However, right now I'm just too busy to look into it too much, but I plan to do so in February, probably after I run the MDTTC February Open (Feb. 10-11). I've got another conference meeting today at noon on the USATT Coaching Education and Certification process - and whenever there's a meeting, there's a lot of time spent preparing for it and even more time on it afterwards. It's hard to believe, but I also have some non-table tennis activities - readers here know that I also write science fiction and fantasy, and I'm currently in both a three-week online writing workshop, ending Feb. 8 - sort of like a top table tennis player going to a training camp - and in a five-week online writing competition, where we write a story each week, ending Feb. 5. Plus, of course, I'm coaching at my club, writing this blog, and a number of other projects.

For most of our history USATT has had annual Team Trials. However, as explained to me by Carl Danner, chair of the USATT High Performance Committee (HPC), "the approach has shifted from reliance on single trials to a multi-competition system paired with the expectation that players will commit to ongoing training and competition consistent with developing into world class adult competitors." The procedures for Team Selections are at the National Teams Selection Page. (Note there's a difference between making the National Team, and actually being on the team representing USA at a specific competition - and so the selection procedures are for both. In international competitions, the players are selected from the National Team Squad, now called the Unified 2018 Table Tennis Team USA.)

These procedures are set up by the HPC, with Carl as chair and members Stellan Bengtsson, Sean O'Neill, Wen Hsu, Erica Wu, Tahl Leibovitz, and Tara Profitt, all highly knowledgeable about High Performance issues. (Contact info for all USATT committee members is on the USATT Committee page.) Many believe that the USATT board sets up these procedures, but the USATT bylaws give the High Performance Committee this authority. According to the USATT Bylaws, 9.16, items #1 and #5 (page 36):

d. The responsibilities of the High Performance Committee shall be as follows:
     1. Develop Selection Procedures as needed for international events;
     5. Oversee and implement the Selection Procedures for international competition;

The USATT Board can overrule them on the procedures they set up, but think about it - the High Performance Committee is supposed to be the experts on Table Tennis High Performance. If the USATT Board of Directors, who have less expertise overall on this than the HPC, overrules them, then they are basically saying they believe they know better than the HPC on a High Performance issue - and so if they do so, that basically means they need a new HPC. Very few on the USATT Board believe this. As a Board member, unless I'm pretty certain they are wrong, I have to give deference to the very people we have chosen as experts - and that means the HPC as well as the High Performance Director, Jörg Bitzigeio, who comes to us from the highest levels of one of the world's most successful table tennis programs (Germany). He has been asked to revamp our high performance program to achieve adult success at the world-class level, and he and the HPC are working together to do so. If the Board gets too involved in this - well, there's an expression, "Too many chefs in the kitchen." 

However, I'm one of the Board members who is qualified on Table Tennis High Performance, so as noted above, I'll look into these matters sometime in February, and perhaps make my own recommendations to the HPC. I've already got an outline of something I'd like to submit to them, but it's not ready yet.

Readers of this blog may remember that I've generally been for the bulk of the team selected by Team Trials, with a few final spots selected, both to make sure we don't lose an obvious team member who was sick or injured at the Team Trials (or just had a really bad day), as well as up-and-coming players that our top coaches believe have great potential. I may want to have some discussions with members of the HPC to get the rationale for the various selection procedures. But remember that a primary change they are doing is going from annual Trials to using results from multiple competitions, which seems to make sense, though it means players have to travel more to the specified tournaments. It also means players have to peak many times each year, rather than focusing on peaking for, say, the USA Nationals and Open, Team Trials, and the World Championships and Olympics.

Besides player selections, there are also questions about how we select the team coaches. Here I generally go with the idea of trusting our High Performance Director to make the selections - if we can't let our hired expert select his own "staff," then why did we hire him? Of course one option is that he makes selections (for coaches, sometimes players), and they are approved by the HPC.

One issue keeps coming up - how do the other top countries in the world do their team selections? I'm told that most do it similar to how we are now doing it, but I don't know if anyone has actually done a systematic check of, say, the top ten countries in men and women. Anybody out there want to do some research and find out how the team selections are made for all of these countries? Make sure to cite sources. Now it so happens that the ITTF has World Team Rankings (page down to third and fourth listing), and so we can get a general listing of the best countries in the world. The following countries have a team ranked in the top ten in either Men's or Women's:

Germany, China, Japan, France, Korea, Hong Kong, Chinese Taipei, Portugal, Sweden, India, Austria, Romania, Singapore, Netherlands, Hungary. Countries that are in the top ten in both are China, Japan, Korea, and Chinese Taipei. (I believe Germany was in the top ten in both until recently dropping to #13 in women - not sure how that happened. They are #1 in Men's Teams in the new ranking system, though some find that controversial and consider China #1. USA is #40 and #24 in Men's and Women's.)

Another thing to take into account is that whole Fairness issues vs. Progressive issues problem I've blogged about before, though not recently. When I ran for the Board I also wrote extensively about this. The gist of it is simple - Fairness issues and Progressive issues are equally important, but members of the Board of Directors invariably get drawn into these Fairness issues (like the selection procedures), and the result is we do not focus on Progressive issues, which are the ones that develop our sport. And so the sport doesn't get developed. I promised when I ran for the Board I'd focus on Progressive issues - such as the USATT Coaching Education and Certification program I'm working with Jörg, and other issues, such as a USATT Coaching Academy (which has begun as seminars we ran at the last Nationals). However, it's my responsibility as a Board member to also get involved in Fairness issues, even if it's not my primary focus - but when possible, I'd prefer to let the appropriate committee work out these issues, such as the HPC, and give deference to them when possible. That's why we appoint them.

Japanese Nationals
They were held Jan. 15-21 in Tokyo.

Hungarian Open
Here's the home page with complete results, articles, video, and pictures.

USATT Presents Unified 2018 Table Tennis Team USA
Here's the USATT article and listing.

2018 USA Hopes Program Homepage
Here's the USATT page. Here's the ITTF Hopes info page. This is for kids in the 11-12 age group.

ITTF Future Events Working Group Reaches Unanimous Agreement on the Future of the World Championships
Here's the ITTF article. USATT CEO Gordon Kay, who is also president of ITTF North America, was the host. In the picture, he's in the back, second from right.

How to Defy the Odds and Make a Comeback in a Match
Here's the article by Matt Hetherington.

How to Play Table Tennis with Low Friction Long Pimples
Here's the article from 2017.

Zhang Jike Training Backhand Again Backspin
Here's the video (4 min).

Training With GAUZY Simon Gauzy and Coach Patrick Chila
Here's the video (14:46) from the 2017 World Cup.

New from EmRatThich

History of USATT – Volume XX – Chapter 11
Here’s chapter 12 of Tim Boggan’s latest volume, which covers 1993-1994. Or you can buy it and previous volumes at www.timboggantabletennis.com.

This Ping Pong Table Used to Be a Vauxhall Astra
Here's the video (1:26). "We accepted the challenge of turning a car into a ping-pong table."

Robot Pong?
Here's the image!

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