Larry Hodges's blog

March 23, 2017

Tips of the Week and Equipment
I’ve been doing them almost every Monday since January, 2011 - in all, 306 of them. I’m still coming up with them, but it’s not as easy as before. Do you have something you’d like me to write about? Here’s your chance - comment below! Serve (my second favorite topic!), receive, strokes, footwork, tactics (my favorite!), training and improving, sports psychology, equipment, tournaments - take your pick!

Tips can cover nearly all aspects of the sport. The only thing I avoid are ones on specific equipment. I’m sponsored by Butterfly, so writing about rival equipment would be a problem. At the same time, if I write strictly about Butterfly equipment, then my writing is a bit biased. So long ago I decided to stay away from discussing specific equipment in the Tips.

The Tips are all online, but in chronological order. If you want to see them organized in logical order, by subject, with a table of contents, then you can read the first 300 of them this way in Tips of the Week and More Tips of the Week.)

While I don’t write about specific equipment in the Tips, I can blog about my own equipment. For the record, I use a Butterfly Timo Boll ALC FL blade, with Tenergy 05 black 2.1 on forehand, Tenergy 25 red 2.1 on backhand. Tenergy 05 is great for looping, and makes it easy for me to loop over and over with power even at age 57. I use Tenergy 25 on the backhand because, while it’s also easy to loop with, it’s great for counter-hitting and blocking. Few world-class players use Tenergy 25 because it’s not designed for players who take a big swing at the ball, as most world-class players do, but for players under 2000, and really well beyond that, unless you loop all-out on the backhand, I’ve always thought Tenergy 25 was the best one.

I blogged about Tenergy 25 and other related issues on Oct. 14, 2015, “Emulating the Equipment of the Top Players.” It starts off, “One of the best and worst habits intermediate players make is copying the equipment of the top players.”

There’s a story behind the Timo Boll ALC blade I use. About five years ago I was coaching 13-year-old Tong Tong Gong at the USA Cadet Team Trials (under 15). He was seeded ninth, with only the top four making the team. I’d tried out his racket, the Timo Boll ALC blade, and kept raving about what a great racket it was. (At the time, I was between sponsors.) Tong Tong pulled off a series of upsets to make the team, and as a reward, he and his dad presented me with his racket. It’s still the one I use - ask me sometime at the club or tournament, and I’ll show it to you - you can still see “Tong Tong” etched into the blade’s throat! Tong Tong went on to make the team again the following year as well, pulling off nine upsets those two years without losing to anyone below him.

Fan Zhendong, Zhou Yu, Xu Chenhao, Wang Hao Training
Here’s the video (7:35).

Interviews - Watch the Interviews with Coaches and Pros
Here’s a selection of six video interviews put together by Samson Dubina.

College TT March Madness Challenge
Here's the info page - “Predict the results of the 2017 TMS College Table Tennis Championships and win fabulous prizes! . . . TMS is offering up a 500 dollar 1st place prize; 2nd place 300 and 3rd place 100. Doublefish is offering its winners a Gross and ½ gross of tournament quality balls!”

New Schools Brighten the College Table Tennis Landscape
Here's the article by Willy Leparulo.

Triangle Table Tennis a Smashing Success
Here's the article from VisitRaleigh.com.

ITTF President Thomas Weikert attends “SPORT.CITY.BUSINESS. - The Experts Talk” 
Here’s the ITTF article.

World Championships Flashback
Here’s the new ITTF video (39 sec).

Zhang Jike and Liu Guoliang Take on World Champion at Sandpaper Table Tennis!
Here's the article and video (1:23) from Table Tennis Daily.

Power Woman!
Here’s the picture. (Here’s the non-Facebook version.)

Protect Your Face!
Here's video (29 sec) as George Li repeatedly protects his face against the sheer power of Greg Mascialino's attack!

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March 22, 2017

Serve and Attack
One of my junior students (age 10, about 1600) is a great rallier, but often just serves to put the ball in play. So now we’re focusing on third-ball attacking. He knows he’s supposed to do this, but to make it a habit, he has to do it in games. The problem is most of his games are either league or tournament matches – and he doesn’t want to lose those. So we’re arranging for him to play regular practice matches once a week where he just plays games, where he can work on new things such as this.

The problem with league matches is 1) they are rated, and players get protective about even league ratings, and 2) if you do poorly, you move down a division the following week. As I explained to him, 1) you shouldn’t take the league ratings seriously (or other ratings, for that matter), and 2) if he moves down a division one week, it’s actually an opportunity, as that means he can focus on beating these “weaker” players with his third-ball attacks.

I’m working with him on three types of third ball attacks:

  1. Serve short, follow with forehand.
  2. Serve short, follow with forehand or backhand.
  3. Serve long, mostly big breaking serves to the backhand, and follow from both sides.

Today’s session focused on serve short and follow with forehand. I demonstrated by doing it myself – and this is a strength in my game, even at age 57. I served short backspin to the middle, he pushed long anywhere, and no matter where he put it, I was able to forehand loop very aggressively, almost always for a winner. (This will be the topic of next Monday's Tip of the Week.) Then he took his turn, and it was almost a new concept for him, this serve and going for the forehand. In theory he’s always known he should do this, but in practice he’d avoided it. No more! I made sure he understood that unless the return is weak, the first loop shouldn’t be a rip, but just an aggressive, well-placed, heavy topspin shot.

Next we’ll be focusing on serve and two-winged attacks. But first I want him to be able to serve and forehand loop whenever needed against passive returns. (We also did some work on his backhand loop, to prepare him for following up on short serves, #2 above, and on backhand kill, to prepare him for following up on deep serves, #3 above.)

More Table Tennis Tips
Here’s the USATT news item! Let’s face it – I’m going to keep posting about More Table Tennis Tips until YOU – yes, the one reading these words right now – buys it!!!

Don’t Ever Question Yourself
Here’s the article from Eli Baraty.

Forehand Chop Tutorial
Here’s the video (3:12) from PingSkills.

 “Recruiting Enthusiastic Kids”
That’s how this video (2:39) begins, where he talks about attitude. The speaker is Geno Auriemma, Head Women's Basketball Coach at Univ. of Connecticut for 32 years. According to Wikipedia, “The UConn Huskies are the most successful women's basketball program in the nation.”

2017 World Table Tennis Day - April 6
Here’s the video (73 sec).

Interview with Chen Bin - Coaches Grow Together with their Players
Here’s the video (9:25).

History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 18 (1990-1991)
Here's chapter 26! Or order your own print copies at TimBogganTableTennis.com, as well as Volume 19!

Table Tennis/Ping-Pong T-Shirt ALIEN Design
Here’s the Kickstarter page for these new TT t-shirts.

Zhang Xielin- the “Magic Chopper”
Here’s video (13 sec) of this Chinese penhold chopper from the 1960s, who chopped with both backspin and sidespin, and gave Europeans fits.

Jorgen Persson – Leg in Cast!
Here are the pictures and comments. (Here’s one of the non-Facebook pictures.) And note my comment: “My years of patiently waiting have finally paid off!!! Jörgen, I hereby challenge you to a match. (Scary part: I'll still probably lose.)”

Afloat Without a Ball
Here’s the cartoon!

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March 21, 2017

Coaching Almost Non-Stop from 11:15 AM to 8:30 PM Takes Its Toll
Yeah, I did that this past Sunday, not easy at age 57, and now I’m paying the bill. On Monday I had 4.5 hours of coaching scheduled, but one kid came down sick and so I “only” did three hours – but toward the end my back was killing me. I had to “retire” any looping in rallies with students. On top of that, my right Achilles tendon was screaming, “Stop moving or I’ll throw a fit,” and throw a fit it did as I developed a subtle limp toward the end that wasn’t so subtle later that night.

Anyway, after a good night’s sleep, the back and Achille’s tendon are back to mostly just angry muttering. I only have two hours of coaching today and two tomorrow, and then I can rest them on Thurday and Friday. (I’m normally off those two days, but I’m subbing on Thursday, teaching a class, but that’s not as physical as private coaching. I’ll wear running shoes instead of table tennis shoes – I’m sure Mr. Achilles will approve.)

I remember back in my late teens and early and mid-twenties being able to practice hour after Hour after HOUR, with no side effects. Once, on a “day off,” I played 15 sets of tennis in one day (!) - and had no trouble going back to table tennis training the next day. Ah, the good old days. . . .

But doing those long hours on Sunday (and a growing number of hours on Saturdays and Mondays) allows me to go a bit easier the rest of the week, so I can get more writing and USATT work done. Some of the coaching – group sessions and multiball – aren’t as physically demanding.

Meanwhile, I’m off to see the dentist at noon today – we’ll see what other bad news I can have today! And then I can attack that growing todo list.

More Table Tennis Tips as ITTF News Item
Here’s the article! C’mon, you KNOW you want to buy copies of Table Tennis Tips and More Table Tennis Tips!!! (Or Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers, still my best seller.) 

Traditional Backhand Flip vs Banana Flip
Here’s the video (1:44). I actually linked to this video in January, but the title was simply “Backhand Flip” and some may have missed it – so here it is again! I spent my playing days with a regular backhand flip – and a pretty effective one! – and only learned the banana flip later on as a coach. I sometimes think it would be valuable for players to have both as each has advantages (as you’ll see in the video), but that would mean perfecting still another technique, and it might be harder to learn both – so if you are to specialize, the banana flip is the stronger shot.

3T Table Tennis Training
Here’s the video (2:44) where they practice half-long serve, counter topspin, and other techniques.

Chopper/Looper Training
Here’s the video (30 sec).

World’s First Down Syndrome Table Tennis Coach
Here’s the video (2:08) from the BBC.

Grace Lin TTC Hosts Superb Hopes Camp and Trial
Here’s the USATT article.

If You’re Leading 10-0, Do You Give a Mercy Point?
Here’s the video (1;25) where you see how different players reacted.

International Day of Happiness
Here’s the video (31 sec) from the ITTF!

Sixty Seconds of Two Six-Year-Old Girls Hitting Forehand Without Miss
Here’s the video! Their heads are barely over the table.

China vs Yugoslavia (1975 WTTC final)
Here’s the video (3:25) - China wins 5-3. Lu Yuansheng, Li Zhenshi, Xu Shaofa vs Antun Stipancic, Milivoj Karakasevic, Dragutin Surbek.

2017 Nut Cup
Here’s the video (1:18) of Allen Wang highlights at the Coconut Cup tournament held at MDTTC this past Saturday – some crazy shots! He was in town and so played the tournament, which is a non-rated “fun” team tournament.

Fetch! Fetch! Fetch!
Here’s the cartoon – poor dog!

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March 20, 2017

Tip of the Week
Everything You Wanted to Know About Down the Line.

Sunday Coaching
Sundays is my “big” coaching day, though to some of the full-time Chinese coaches, it would be just another day. Many of them coach 50 or more hours per week, while I’m only doing 24 this next week. (I’m such a slacker.) This Sunday I mostly coached from 11:15AM – 8:30 PM, with a rare 1.5 hour break in the middle where I’d normally teach the Beginning Junior Class – we had a snow day built into the schedule, but since there were no snow days, we were off yesterday. (Another ten-week session starts next Sunday.)

After doing private coaching from 11:15AM – 4:00PM, and that 1.5 hour break, I worked with the “Talent” program from 5:30-7:00PM, where I supervised shadow practice, serve practice, and then fed multiball for almost an hour. We did a lot of interactive multiball, where I fed the first ball (usually backspin), and the two players played out points. There are 22 kids in the program, ranging from about 7 to 12, all advanced for their age.

For the Adult Training Session (7:00-8:30PM), after the usual stroking and footwork drills, the night’s focus was on “Brick Wall Backhand Blocking.” One player would attack crosscourt from the backhand corner, hitting or looping, using either backhand or forehand (or alternating or switching back and forth as they wanted), while the other player had a simple goal: get everything back. I explained how you watch the opponent’s stroke to see where his shot is going and how hard, and so begin to react before he even hits the ball. Then just stick your racket in the way of the ball, and watch it go back! As I’ve often said, it’s a crime to get your racket on a hard-hit ball and not get it back – see my Tip, Returning Smashes: Reacting and Racket Angles.

More Table Tennis Tips – Print and Kindle
It’s now out in both formats! 200 pages, 150 Tips in logical progression – what are you waiting for? (If you don’t buy it, I go hungry. Is that what you want?)

How to Stop Changing Grip Between Shots
Here’s the article and podcast (6:27) from Expert Table Tennis.

Dexterity - Learn How to Improve Your Game 500 Points This Year!
Here’s the article from Samson Dubina.

12 Steps On How To Serve A Ping Pong Ball Like A Pro
Here’s the article from Ping Pool Shark, with links to video.

4 Key Skills You Need to Become a Match Winner
Here’s the article from Table Tennis University.

Pips Appreciation Days
Here’s the article from Coach Jon on our new National Holiday. But what’s on the menu these three days? Since chips are like pips, I’m going to suggest we eat only chip ice cream those three days - Mint Chocolate Chip, Chocolate Chocolate Chip, Mocha Chip, Raspberry Chip, and so on. This just became my favorite holiday!

USA Team Trials Articles by Matt Hetherington
The USA Team Trials are this week, March 23-26, Thur-Sun, at the Triangle TTC in North Carolina.

Commencing in Korea, New DHS Plastic Ball to Be Used at All ITTF World Tour and Challenge Tournaments
Here’s the ITTF article.

Belarus Open
Here’s the ITTF page for the event, held this past weekend, with results, articles, video, and pictures. Congrats to Champions Samsonov and Sato!

Minnesota Brings Diverse Table Tennis Team to Nationals
Here’s the article by Andy Kanengiser.

Ask A Pro Anything - Miu Hirano
Here’s the video (6:07) with Adam Bobrow.

Best Points Of Lin Gaoyuan - The Marvelous 12
Here’s the video (4:28) of this new Chinese sensation, who even upset Ma Long!

Great Backhand
Here’s the video (40 sec, including slo-mo replay)!

Moves like Ogi
Here’s the article and video (15 min) – “Have you got the moves like Ichiro ‘Ogi’ Ogimura?” “Japan’s Ichiro ‘Ogi’ Ogimura was a two time men’s singles World Champion during the 1950s and went on to become President of ITTF. If you’ve never seen Ogi in action, now’s your chance.” (Ogimura was one of the prime characters in my fantasy table tennis novel, “The Spirit of Pong.”)

Steve Shirts Artist Shop
Some new table tennis shirt selections from Steve Worthington!

21st Century Neon Pong?
Here’s the picture!

Size Restriction on Racket?
Here’s the cartoon!

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March 17, 2017

More Table Tennis Tips
As noted in my blog yesterday, my new book, More Table Tennis Tips, is out! It’s 200 pages, $11.99, and covers the 150 Tips of the Week from 2014-2016, organized by topic, in logical progression. It’s the follow-up from "Table Tennis Tips," which covered the 150 Tips from 2011-2013. (Kindle version will come later.) By now so I’ll have money for dinner!!! (UPDATE on Saturday morning - kindle version is up!)

USATT Coaching Committee
On Monday I was appointed chair of the USATT Coaching Committee. (This will be my second tenure. I chaired the committee back in 1991-1995, and was on the committee 2010-2013.) This is a big honor, and will allow me to work directly on some of the things I promised to do when I ran for the USATT Board. (I’m also a bit more enthused about this position then I was with chairing the League Committee the last two years – that was important, but not as much my area of expertise or interest.) In particular, I said I wanted to set up a “USATT Coaching Academy.” Alas, many have noted that that makes it sound like an actual building or campus. While USATT doesn’t have the funding for that, I do have plans for the equivalent.

So what exactly are my plans? Well, my immediate reaction upon taking power was this. However, once I was through cackling, it was time to make plans. Here are some.

  • Recruitment and Training of Coaches. (Acronym – “RAT”?) It’s not enough to just set up an ITTF coaching course, put out a notice, and see who comes. We need to sell the idea of being a full-time table tennis coach, and train them to do so. The primary selling point is you can make good money doing so, generally from $30-$70/hour, depending on your region, and sometimes over $100/hour for group sessions. (The higher hourly fees are mostly in a high-cost area, like New York City.) We also have to sell the idea that you don’t have to be a star player to be a top coach; with proper training, study, and experience, 1800-2000 players can be great coaches and make a living coaching. We’d likely run seminars at the U.S. Open, Nationals, and in conjunction with ITTF coaching courses where we teach the professional side to coaching - setting up and running a full-time center, recruiting students, setting up and running junior programs, maximizing income through multiple streams, etc.  Much of this could be taught right out of the Professional Table Tennis Coaches Handbook, which I wrote, and will donate at cost.
  • Emphasis on Junior Programs and Full-Time Centers. We simply need more of them. I co-founded the Maryland Table Tennis Center in 1992, and it was the first successful full-time training center. Fifteen years later, in 2007, there were only about eight of them. Then it began to take off, and now, ten years later, we have over 90, with nearly all of them running junior programs. This has been the single best thing that has happened to table tennis in the U.S. in modern history. (The only other thing that’s close was the Olympic debut in 1988.) The side effect, of course, is that the level of play among our top cadets and juniors has skyrocketed. They used to struggle to get out of the preliminary groups at major cadet and junior tournaments around the world. Now they’re beginning to win these championships!
  • Coaching Seminars at U.S. Nationals and U.S. Open. We used to do them, but stopped. We’re going to start them up again. We’d recruit a top coach to run them, with different topics each time. USATT certified coaches would be allowed in free, others would pay perhaps $15, with the revenue going mostly to the instructor. If there is interest, is there any reason why we should run only one seminar at these tournament? Why not several? When I go to a science fiction convention (my outside table tennis interest), they have multiple panels going on all day, and they are well attended. Why don’t we do the same? (I’m a regular panelist at these SF conventions, so I know it from both ends.)
  • Review and Update USATT Coaching Certification. Here’s the current certification process. I’ll go over this with the rest of the Coaching Committee, once appointed. We currently have both USATT and ITTF certification. We’ll decide later whether to continue with both, or to simply adopt the ITTF system.
  • Coaching Links to Coaches. I link to various coaching articles, videos, and podcasts here on a daily basis. Many of these should be collected and sent to coaches – perhaps a monthly newsletter. Learning is a lifelong endeavor!

My first task is to appoint a coaching committee. I already put together a list of ten coaches I’d like on it, and think I’ve got it narrowed down to the 3-4 I will nominate, as well as 1-2 player reps I’d recommend. (If I decide to go with a five-person committee, I nominate three, subject to board approval, and the Athlete Advisory appoints an athlete rep. If a seven-person committee, I nominate four, with two athlete reps.) I’m still mulling them over, and will finalize the nomination list soon.

ITTF President Thomas Weikert Ensures Work to Improve Quality of Balls
Here’s the ITTF article. “Since the change, the main issue that has been put forth is that a ball from different manufactures acts differently, thus making it difficult for the players to adjust to the change. The ITTF understands this issue, and has been relentlessly working to minimize such differences in order to provide the best equipment to the players.”

Ping Pool Shark
Here’s a site with lots of coaching tips and articles, in two categories.

Articles and Podcasts from Expert Table Tennis

Third Ball Attack In Table Tennis: Chinese training
Here’s the video (10:04).

2017 Butterfly Cary Cup: Largest Prize Pool in Cary Cup History
Here’s the article by Barbara Wei.

Belarus Open
Here’s the ITTF home page for the event, March 15-19 in Minsk. Follow the action all weekend!

A Clean Sport, Table Tennis Holds Head High at World Anti-Doping Agency Symposium
Here’s the ITTF article.

How Long Has It Been Since a Non-Chinese Opponent?
Here’s the meme! (Here’s the non-Facebook version.)

Ma Long - Top Spin Machine (The Dragon Warrior)
Here’s the video (6:45).

Spectacular Doubles Rally
Here’s the video (51 sec). Actually the point should have ended immediately - the receiver moved the table while returning the serve, so his team should have lost the point right there! 

Blast from the Past: Sweden d. China 5-4 (1973 WTTC Final)
Here’s the video (4:15), featuring Kjell Johansson, Stellan Bengtsson, and Ingemar Wikström vs Li Jingguang, Liang Geliang, and Xu Shaofa. Stellan (now coaching in San Diego, and the defending World Men’s Singles Champion from 1971) wins all three! In the last match, Johansson defeats an attacking Liang Geliang, who would lose all three matches. Liang had originally been a chopper with medium long pips, but (according to interview below) the style was denounced by Chiang Ching (wife of Chairman Mao), and so he was forced to switch to inverted on both sides. He would later go back to pips, and be a mainstay on the Chinese team for many years, including making the semifinals of Men’s Singles at the Worlds in 1977 - where he was ordered to dump to Mitsuro Kohno of Japan (who Liang said he'd beaten five times in a row), who would go on to win. (Info provided by John Olsen from OOAK forum interview.)

Coach Looking for Work
Here’s the email I received from this Portugal coach, who is currently in Peru. Email him directly if interested.

I am Alexandre Gomes, table tennis coach. At this moment I am working on the selection of Peru as the main coach and I have trained several clubs in Portugal as well as I trained the selection of Portugal. I was player of the selection of Portugal in all the categories and several times champion. I trained several world-class players such as Aruna Quadri, Fu Yu, Andre Silva, Sas Lasan Diogo Silva. I would like to work in the U.S.A, I know that table tennis is going to have a very big development and that is why I am interested in working in U.S.A. I would like to know if you would be interested in my services. I send my C.V if interested.

It's St. Patrick's Day!
Wear green to the table tennis club tonight. Did you know I searched the entire Internet for a picture of a Leprechaun playing table tennis and came up empty? (Just Leprachauns or St. Patrick's Day slogans on paddles and balls, or people in green from Ireland or Notre Dame.) 

Would You Like a Ping-Pong Ball?
Here’s the picture! (Here’s the non-Facebook version.)

Cow Pong
Here’s the cartoon!

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March 16, 2017

More Table Tennis Tips
Here it is! And it’s yours now, exactly 200 pages, for only $11.99! I’ve been hard at work (yes, many of those late nights) compiling it in logical fashion, editing, doing page layouts, the covers, inputting edits from the “Terrific Trio” of proofers (Mark Dekeyser, John Olsen, Dennis Taylor), even putting in a few graphics. I don’t yet have a copy myself. I proofed and okayed an online version, and am now feverishly awaiting a hard copy. (A kindle version will come later.) This is my eighth book on table tennis (and twelfth overall). Here’s the description from Amazon:

Here are 150 Tips to help your table tennis game, by Larry Hodges - a member of the U.S. Table Tennis Hall of Fame and a National Coach. They compile in logical progression three years' worth of Tips of the Week (2014-2016) from TableTennisCoaching.com. They cover all aspects of the game: Serve, Receive, the Strokes, Grip and Stance, Footwork, Tactics, How to Improve, Sports Psychology, Equipment, and Tournaments. (This is a sequel to "Table Tennis Tips," which covered the 150 Tips from 2011-2013.)

How to Get Backspin on a Reverse Pendulum Serve
Here’s the article and podcast (7:50) from Expert Table Tennis

A Guide for Parents to Find the Best Table Tennis Coaching For Their Child
Here’s the article from Coach Me Table Tennis.

It's Not All About You - Something to Think About...
Here’s the article from Samson Dubina.

USATT Insider
Here’s the new issue, which came out yesterday.

2017-2018 Youth National Team Trials and Selection Procedures
Here they are!

Richard Solomon, Kissinger aide involved in ‘Ping-Pong Diplomacy’ with China, dies at 79
Here’s the obit in the Washington Post, which includes a picture of Solomon playing doubles with China’s 3-time Men’s Singles World Champion Zhuang Zedong.

Why Would a Below Average Table Tennis Player Would Try Out for the U.S. National Men’s Team?
Here’s the video answer (3 min) from Richard Perez, who is trying out. (Current rating: 1549; highest rating: 1721.)

Parkinson's New, Unexpected Foe: Table Tennis
Here’s the article and video (2:53). “Nenad Bach, an international musician and Croton resident, is encouraging fellow Parkinson's sufferers to try ping-pong to battle the disease. His health has improved since he started playing two-to-three times a week about a year-and-a-half ago.”

Circling the Table

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March 15, 2017

USATT Teleconference, New Coaching Chair, and the Service Judges Proposal
The USATT Board had a teleconference on Monday night, starting 7PM. (I blogged about the agenda on Monday.) Among other things, we appointed a number of USATT committee chairs and members. At exactly 8:36PM on Monday night I was appointed to my second tenure as chair of the USATT Coaching Committee. (USATT will publish online the full listings of soon of the various committee chairs and members we just appointed.) I’ll blog later about my plans for the coaching committee. My previous tenure was 1991-1995; I was also on the coaching committee 2010-2013.

The meeting was scheduled to last only 70 minutes, but took about two hours. This was mostly because the seven minutes allocated to the Rules Committee Proposal for Service Judges ended up taking something like 40 minutes of debate. The proposal was to give referees the option of appointing service judges on each end of the court at the upcoming USA Nationals, where they can better see the legality of a serve, in particular whether the serve was hidden. It would essentially be a test, and if it works, it would then be presented to the ITTF. The key thing here is that the referee would have complete discretion over whether to call for this, and would not, for example, call for it if there’s no room for the service judges (i.e. the back of the court is a wall) or if there aren’t enough umpires. They would also not use it in “big” matches at this time, with events such as Under 2400 mentioned as events where it could be tested. The proposal will also be tested at the upcoming College Nationals.

There were some objections to this proposal. The main ones were:

  1. It would disrupt big matches, where the players aren’t used to having the service rule enforced.
    (I asked what the players’ arguments would be, “I object to the service judge correctly faulting my illegal serve”?
  2. We didn’t get feedback on this from the Tournament Committee.
    (I didn’t see why this was needed – it’s a matter for umpires and referees, not tournament directors.)
  3. It will make players nervous – “Players would wonder why is this umpire watching my serve?”
    (I pointed out they already have up to two umpires watching, with the main difference now being they couldn’t hide their serve from the umpires.)
  4. It would force U.S. players to play under two sets of rules and conditions, putting them at a disadvantage overseas.
    (Top players who hide their serve – either sometimes or all the time – already have to do this, as they have to be ready for the occasional umpire who does enforce the rules. But the plan is to only try out the proposal, and then submit to the ITTF with the idea that it would become more widespread. If ITTF does not adopt it, we would likely drop the idea as well.)   

I made the motion to adopt the proposal, and gave an impassioned argument that we need to stop looking the other way at all the cheating that takes place in our sport at the higher levels, where illegally hiding the serve is the norm, and so to compete on an equal basis, nearly all top players have to learn and use these serves. I thought it was going to be a close vote, but lo and behold, it passed, 6-1-1 (one abstention).

Other issues: welcome and introduction of new board member Gary Schlager; CEO Report (National Team Trials, USA Nationals, Membership, Sponsorship and Fundraising, Clubs Update, Tournaments, High Performance/USOC, Junior National Team Trials, and Seamaster & Newco.); a closed session for a legal update (has Trump been tapping our phones to learn our coaching secrets?); and a discussion of our upcoming board meeting schedule. (We’ll be meeting near the ICC club in California April 22-23. Taking the weekend off will cost me over $500, but that’s comes with being on the Board.)

[Begin Rant]
One part about the Rules Committee Proposal for Service Judges I didn’t like was the rationalizing for it. It argues, with pictures included, that “the umpires are in poor position to judge whether the ball is hidden.” While this is correct, it misses what I consider the key problem in our enforcement of the service rule. As I’ve pointed out many times in this blog and in arguments with umpires and referees, the key question is not whether the serve was hidden, but whether the umpire was “sure about the legality of the serve,” with the rules also stating that “It is the responsibility of the player to serve so that the umpire or assistant umpire can be satisfied that s/he complies with the requirements of the law.” When players serve so the umpire cannot be “sure” and “satisfied” about the legality of the serve, then the serve is a fault (with an optional warning first).

So while some argue that umpires can’t tell if the serve is hidden or not from their viewpoint, they don’t seem to realize that they have just stated that the serve is illegal. If they are not “sure” and “satisfied,” there is no longer any gray area – the serve is illegal, and if they don’t call it, they are allowing a player to cheat. Alas, umpires and referees don’t want to be singled out as the only one enforcing the rules, so we’ll continue to have illegal serving – yes, cheating – until the people in charge – Rules Committee, Umpires and Referees Committee, USATT Board, ITTF – make it a priority to enforce the service rule as it is written and stop the rampant cheating in our sport. (I tried, at the December, 2015 Board meeting – see Motion 6 – and may bring this up again sometime. I also have my Net Visibility Rule proposal to solve the problem.) We’re still in the “denial” stage, like baseball in the steroids era, where most knew what was going on but mostly looked the other way. But the Service Judges Proposal is a step in the right direction.
[/End Rant]

Coaching Articles and Podcasts from Expert Table Tennis

Supermicro Returns as Title Sponsor of the 2017 USATT National Championships
Here’s the USATT press release.

Lily Zhang Eyes 8th World Championship Opportunity
Here’s the USATT article by Matt Hetherington.

Anastasiia Rybka Lights the Way for Texas Wesleyan Rams for NCTTA Nationals
Here’s the USATT article by Matt Hetherington.

History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 18 (1990-1991)
Here's chapter 25! Or order your own print copies at TimBogganTableTennis.com, as well as Volume 19!

Ding Ning Outrageous Table Tennis Rally
Here’s the video (59 sec).

Jason Piech in Training!
Here’s the video (66 sec) of the up-and-coming star from the Northwest Arkansas TTC. I’ve coached him a few times at training camps at MDTTC.

Overweight Player Watches Ball Go By
Here’s the animated gif.

Fish Table Tennis
Here’s the cartoon!

Zhang Jike vs. King Kong
Here’s the picture! I added it to all the King Kong/gorilla table tennis pictures at the end of my March 10 blog.

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March 14, 2017

USATT Teleconference and Snow
We had it last night. I’ll blog about it tomorrow. Meanwhile, it's snowing here in Maryland, and my coaching (and the Tuesday night League) is cancelled for the day. So I'll get a lot of work done!!!

When was USA Table Tennis Team Strongest?
I’m referring here to the strength of our National Team, and their results at the World Championships in Men’s and Women’s Singles, Doubles, and Teams. (Our results in other events such as Paralympics is a separate issue.) I was asked recently when we were at our best. The answer is probably in the late 1930s.

  • In 1936 we won Women’s Singles and Men’s Doubles, and made the final of Women’s Teams.
  • In 1937 we swept Men’s and Women’s Teams, Women’s Singles, and Men’s Doubles. Easily the best year ever for us.
  • In 1938 we won Men’s Doubles and made the semifinals of Women’s Singles.

By comparison, we won only two titles in the 1940s – Mixed Doubles in 1948 and Women’s Teams in 1949, and one in the 1950s – Mixed Doubles in 1956. (We did have some pretty good performances both decades.) As to the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s, and 2010s . . . less said the better. (I believe Gao Jun, former world #3 from China, after emigrating to the U.S. made the quarterfinals of Women’s Singles at the Worlds one year.) Oh, and Tybie Sommers, who won Mixed Doubles in 1948 (as Thelma Hall) is our last surviving World Champion, and sometimes shows up, medal around neck, at the U.S. Open or Nationals!

Below are a list of World Titles won in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s, plus notable performances (semis or better in Singles, finals or better in Teams and Doubles). Note that due to World War II, there were no Worlds held from 1940-1946, which of course cost us a number of titles. But nothing compared to what we did in 1937.

=>1930s

  • 1936 World Women’s Singles Champion (Ruth Aarons)
  • 1936 World Men’s Doubles Champions (Jimmy McClure/Robert Blatner)
  • 1937 World Men’s Teams Champions
  • 1937 World Women’s Teams Champion
  • 1937 World Women’s Singles Champion (Ruth Aarons)
  • 1937 World Men’s Doubles Champions (Jimmy McClure/Robert Blatner)
  • 1938 World Men’s Doubles Champions (Jimmy McClure/Sol Schiff)

-Other 1930s Notables:

  • 1936 World Women’s Teams Finalist
  • 1938 World Women’s Singles Semifinalist (Betty Henry)

=>1940s

  • 1948 World Mixed Doubles Champions (Dick Miles/Thelma Hall)
  • 1949 World Women’s Teams Champion

-Other 1940s Notables:

  • 1947 World Women’s Doubles Finalists (Mae Clouther/Reba Monness)
  • 1947 World Men’s Teams Finalist
  • 1947 World Men’s Singles Semifinalist (Lou Pagliaro)
  • 1949 World Men’s Singles Semifinalist (Marty Reisman)
  • 1949 World Women’s Singles Semifinalist (Thelma Hall)

=>1950s

  • 1956 World Mixed Doubles Champions (Erwin Klein/Leah Neuberger)

-Other 1950s Notables:

  • 1951 World Women’s Singles Semifinalist (Leah Thall)
  • 1959 World Men’s Singles Semifinalist (Dick Miles)

Serving Low
Here’s the Serving Low Tip of the Week from July 16, 2012 – but it’s still one of the most under-developed skills in table tennis.

Ma Long Best Points Marvellous 2017
Here’s the video (4:51).

Rachel Sung Takes First International Title in Italy
Here’s the USATT article by Matt Hetherington.

2017 Smash TT Winter Challenge 2 Star Open
Here’s the article. Chen Bowen, Lidney Castro, and Tiffany Ke are all from my club!

Landmark, records broken, World Table Tennis Day bigger than ever
Here’s the ITTF article.

Novak Djokovic Surprises Fans With Ping Pong
Here’s the video (38 sec).

Super-Fast Animated Table Tennis
Here’s the repeating gif image.

Unreturnable Spin Serves
Here’s the video (14 sec).

Fast-Action Balloon Pong
Here’s the video (29 sec)!

It’s Pi Day!
Yes, today’s date is 3.14. Here is some pi related table tennis products.

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March 13, 2017

Tip of the Week
Warm Up the Shots You’ll Be Using.

13.5 Hours of Weekend Coaching
My weekend hours keep going up. This weekend I did five hours on Saturday and 8.5 on Sunday! (Of course, to many full-time coaches, it's just another weekend.) On Mondays I have 3.5 hours, then just two on Tue and Wed. I’m normally off on Thur and Fri. Due to the USATT Teleconference, which is normally scheduled the second Monday every month, I had to cancel one hour for tonight, so being on the Board is costly.

On Sunday we had the tenth and final week of the Beginning/Intermediate Junior Class (90 min, 14 players). The first half was “player’s choice,” where the players go to choose what they needed to work on. Then we did what I always like doing at the end of each ten-week session – lobbing!!! We did a demo and I went over how to smash lobs. Then John Hsu, William Huang, and I each took a court and spent 15 minutes lobbing to the kids, who stayed up until they missed three. Wen Hsu took the youngest beginners and fed them multiball lobs. After an hour of training we did 30 minutes of games. The older players did Brazilian Teams while the younger ones voted unanimously (as they do every week) for the ever-popular “Cup Game,” where they make pyramids of paper cups, then line up and knock them down as I feed multiball.

In the Talent Program (22 advanced juniors, 90 min), we did lots and Lots and LOTS of shadow practice and multiball. Then a lot of serve and attack type drills. I spent a lot of time with one of the kids who was really into developing his spin serves. The night before in a league match he’d pulled off a nice upset, with his new reverse pendulum serve winning him a lot of points.

In the Adult Training session (90 min, 11 players), after the usual drills (FH-FH and BH-BH warm-up, footwork, smashing and looping drills), we did 30 minutes of serve and attack, with the players taking turns, 7.5 min each. The focus was on attacking down the line and recovering. Often players attack down the line and just stand there, leaving a wide angle open. So they practice not only attacking, but following through back into the proper position for the next shot.

USATT Teleconference
Tonight at 7PM we’re having a USATT Teleconference. (I’m one of the nine on the USATT Board.) On the agenda (my wording, not directly from the agenda itself):

  1. Roll Call/Conflict of Interest Statements/Welcome Remarks.
  2. Introduction of Gary Schlager, who joins the USATT Board as one of the two Independent Directors. He has an extensive financial background, which USATT can use. Gary plays at my club (MDTTC) and other Maryland clubs, so I know him well. (He’s been rated over 2000, and has assisted me in local clinics.) He’s a welcome addition. How long will it take us to convert him from this to this?
  3. Rules Committee Proposal. They are proposing the use of service judges, who would be positioned at each end of the court (instead of at the side, where umpires are positioned), so as to better see the serve. They will be used at the recent College Nationals as a test. More on this later.
  4. CEO Report, covering National Team Trials, USA Nationals, Membership, Sponsorship and Fundraising, SimplyComplete, Clubs Update, Tournaments, High Performance/USOC, Junior National Team Trials, and Seamaster & Newco.
  5. Appointment of NewCo (who will be running major table tennis events).
  6. 2017-2019 Committee Appointments.
  7. Closed session (legal update).
  8. Upcoming Board Meeting Schedule
  9. Old and New Business
  10. Adjourn.

Whip Forehand Topspin Table Tennis - Like a Boss!
Here’s the new video (4:07) from Brett Clarke.

New Articles and Videos from Samson Dubina

Table Tennis Training With a Purpose - Make it Count!
Here’s the article from Table Tennis University.

Unreal Drop Shots by Yijun 'Tom' Feng
Here’s the video (44 sec) as the 2015 U.S. National Men’s Champion practices and demonstrates his drop shop against lobs, fed by Cory Eider. Did you think players develop this type of touch by not practicing it?

Rare Footage of Fan Zhendong at Age Ten
Here’s the video (1:16) as the now world #2 played against German star Thomas Keinath as a kid.

Master Stroke Table Tennis Training Device
Here’s the video (1:28) of this new table tennis invention, apparently from Asia. (Who’ll be the first to let me know whether the sub-titles are Chinese, Japanese, or Korean? I have no idea.)  

2017 Italian Junior & Cadet Open: Gold for Rachel!
Here’s the article by Bruce Liu, featuring USA’s Rachel and Joanna Sung.

Personal Invitation to 2017 Spring High Performance Camp
Here’s the article. Camp takes place March 27-29, between the USA National Team Trials (March 23-26) and the Cary Cup (March 30 – April), all at the Triangle TTC in North Carolina.

ITTF Looking for Media Interns for Liebherr 2017 World Table Tennis Championships
Here’s the article. “The International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) offers media internships for young media professionals to work for the ITTF at the Liebherr 2017 World Table Tennis Championships to be held in Dusseldorf, Germany from Monday 29th May to Monday 5th June.”

ITTF Executive Committee Meets in Dubai
Here’s the article, with a summary of the meeting this past Saturday.

China: Marvelous Twelve
Here’s the ITTF page featuring Chinese news, with coverage of the just completed Chinese Team Trials. Lots of articles, including ones on why Ma Long and Zhang Jike both had to withdraw due to injuries.

NCTTA National Championship is Coming!
Here’s the preview video (3:36).

NYCTTA and Aerobic Table Tennis
Here’s the video (1:51) by Jules Apatini, featuring Coach Ernesto Ebuen. “This video is a collaboration between the Aerobic Sports Dance & Music Exercises Group & NYCTTA. It was created to demonstrate how Table Tennis is an excellent form of Aerobic Progressive Exercises. We will bring you videos like this in the not so distant future.”

Amazing Table Tennis Hand Switch Shot
Here’s the video (37 sec) of this great shot. It turns out she had been practicing the shot for this very circumstance!

Shadow Practice at the Gym
Here’s the video (7 sec) – Think of the fitness benefits if millions of Americans did this?!!!

Ping Pong is Night Out for Tech CEOs Zuckerberg, Houston and Kalanick
Here’s the article and pictures. “The trio of tech CEO pals hit SPiN in San Francisco, part of Susan Sarandon's network of ping pong social clubs, last Friday.”

Meet Cody Bellinger, the Dodgers' Latest Budding Superstar
Here’s the article – but is he a budding baseball or table tennis superstar? “Getting a look last year at the club’s pingpong culture, Bellinger worked on his table tennis game in the offseason, in addition to his attention toward baseball. He even has his own paddle now.”

Funniest TT Player Ever? Timo, Who Else?
Here’s the video (2:57) that compiles some of his funniest real or exhibition points. (He’s the lefty, the former world #1 from Germany.)

The Greatest Football Players “Play” Table Tennis
Here’s the video (59 sec) as these soccer stars (yeah, real football) “play” table tennis, set to music!

Non-Table Tennis - Top Ten Leadoff Options for the Baltimore Orioles
Here’s the article I wrote, now featured on Orioles Hangout. (Yes, baseball.)  It includes a number of inside jokes some might not get. The Orioles are a great power-hitting team, but at the moment don’t have a really good option for leadoff hitter (where on base percentage and speed are important). It’s my 32nd article published there, going back to 2012. Other than table tennis and the Orioles, I don’t really follow sports too closely. (I used to coach Orioles players – one hour each with JJ Hardy and Brady Anderson, and about ten sessions with Darren O’Day. Here’s my blog on my visit to the Orioles Clubhouse in 2013 with four of our players, and here’s video.)

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March 10, 2017

More Table Tennis Tips
The book is almost done! This is a compilation of all 150 of my Tips of the Week from 2014-2016, put in logical progression. It’s the sequel to Table Tennis Tips, which did the same for 2011-2013. Yesterday I finished inputting the edits and suggestions from the Terrific Trio of Mark Dekseyser, John Olsen, and Dennis Taylor, who read the first draft. So the text is now done. Today I’ll be formatting the pages. I also have to do the back cover. (Front cover is done.) If all goes well, it’ll be ready for final proofing in a few days. When it comes out (by the end of this month), I may put together some sort of special where you can get both volumes at a discount. Or why not buy Table Tennis Tips and read it now, so you can go straight to More Table Tennis Tips when it comes out?

Shadow Practice
I’ve been encouraging some of my students to shadow practice. This is a big part of the Talent junior program at the Maryland Table Tennis Center, where the coaches lead the players in shadow-stroking drills, and then feed multiball to each player, with the others in the group lined up behind and shadow-stroking. (Parents take turns picking up the balls so it’s continuous, with short breaks.) Here are three videos I sent to them as examples.

Full-time Clubs
On Wednesday, I wrote about how we had reached 90 full-time clubs in the U.S. Well, now we’re at 92, with the additions of the New York City Table Tennis Academy and the Houston International Table Tennis Academy. I’m not sure how these two were left out before, but now we’re just eight away from that magic 100 mark. I hope to focus on developing more of these centers over the next couple of years. (If you know of any not on the list, let me know.)

It was at the December 2006 USATT board meeting that I urged USATT to make it a goal to have 100 full-time centers in the country within ten years. I created a plan and made the proposal where we’d actively recruit and train people to set up these training centers, focusing on how they could make a full-time living coaching table tennis. (At the time there were about eight such centers, with perhaps a couple dozen full-time coaches in the U.S.; now we have many hundreds.) The program would be paid by the coaches themselves, who already were paying to attend USATT certification clinics. My point was that we were only teaching them how to coach, not how to be professional coaches, and so few of them extensively used the skills we taught them.

The idea was scoffed at, with the eternal argument that there aren’t enough table tennis players in this country – but here we are. It was the primary reason I resigned early in 2007 as USATT editor and programs director. Two board members in particular ridiculed the idea, and others sort of quietly looked the other way. Now imagine where we would be if USATT had helped out by recruiting and training people to set up and run these centers? Instead, people have had to do it on their own, one by one, with experienced people like myself advising informally. Instead of 92, we’d probably have twice that many. If that seems like a lot, remember that back then eight seemed like a lot, and the idea of having 100 seemed a joke. I once calculated that we should have about 500 in this country.

I get scoffed at a lot. When I co-founded the Maryland Table Tennis Center in 1992, it was the first successful full-time training center of its kind, and we were also told it couldn’t work, that there just isn’t enough table tennis activity in this country for something like that to work. What they were missing, of course, is that you develop the interest. We’re the same species of human as people overseas, and it works there, so why not here? But every step of the way the idea of full-time training centers has been scoffed at, with people believing each step of the way that we had saturated the market and there was no room for more.

I was toying with creating a comprehensive lists of all the things I’ve been scoffed at for, but then I’d be here all day. (Do you play in a rated table tennis league, using the USATT League ratings? When I co-founded that with Robert Mayer as an attempt to break away from “winner stay on” mentality of most clubs, it was scoffed at. In both of my tenures as editor of USA Table Tennis Magazine I was told that they had saturated the table tennis advertising market – and each time I tripled the ad revenue. Heck, I didn’t start table tennis until I was 16, and guess how many people believed someone could start that late and reach top 20 in the U.S.?)

How to Plan a Third-Ball Attack
Here’s the article and podcast (7:50) from Expert Table Tennis. I thought I’d comment on one statement, where it says, “If you’re a player with a really strong forehand, but a weak backhand attack, then it doesn’t make sense for you to do loads of pendulum forehand serves when you’re playing matches. Because you’re just increasing the chance that you’ll need to use your backhand for the third-ball.”

I believe this was written more for beginning and intermediate players, where it’s generally true. At the higher levels, among those with fast footwork, it actually changes, and forehand-oriented players (like myself) favor the forehand pendulum serve. Why? Because it allows us to attack with the forehand from the backhand side, which puts us in position for a second follow-up forehand. If we used sidespin to put the ball to the forehand (say, a backhand serve, tomahawk serve, or reverse pendulum serve), then the ball might tend to go to the forehand side, giving us a forehand shot, but pulling us to the wide forehand side – and then the opponent could block to the backhand, taking away the forehand.

MH Coaching Blog
You’ve got a long weekend ahead, so why not curl up with a few good coaching articles at MH Table Tennis (by Matt Hetherington)? They’ve accumulated over the years, so there are a lot of nice ones!

Adam Bobrow 'The Voice of Table Tennis' on Board for the Next Four Years
Here’s the ITTF press release.

2017 Butterfly Arnold Table Tennis Challenge Collegiate Players & Alumni Dominate Rating Events
Here’s the article by Barbara Wei.

MasterChef rivalry: Heston Blumenthal’s Table Tennis Battle Royale with George Calombaris
Here’s the article from the London Daily Telegraph.

LIVE NOW: The Marvellous 12 - Stage 2 Finals
Here’s where you can watch the Chinese Team Trials – live! (Presumably you can go back and watch them afterwards as well.)

War of the Worlds Pong?
Here’s the picture of these tripod beings taking up table tennis!

Humorous Table Tennis T-Shirts
Because only a really boring table tennis player doesn't have at least one humorous table tennis shirt in his collection!

Ping-Pong in Kong!
When you see Kong: Skull Island, watch closely early in the film when they set out on the big boat - there's a ping-pong table on deck! As to the movie itself (non-table tennis aspects), this is what I posted on Facebook after seeing it last night (with a few minor edits): “Kong: Skull Island is basically Apocalypse Now + Jurassic Park + Moby Dick + Robinson Crusoe + Beauty and the Beast + Godzilla (as King Kong played by "Caesar" from the Planet of the Apes) all in one. Great movie, very different from past King Kong movies. 80% on Rotten Tomatoes. Stay for the after-credits scene.”

And since we’re on the topic of King Kong, here are King Kong/Gorilla table tennis pictures!

Non-Table Tennis: Funny Horror
The recent anthology Funny Horror has a story I wrote in it, “Happily and Righteously,” a parody of paranoia. The first review of the book is out, from Imagine Books, where my story is listed as one of the favorites. The reviewer then went over each story one by one, and gave the story the shortest review of all: “Brilliant!”

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