Larry Hodges's blog

June 5, 2018

Tip of the Week
Footwork at Different Physical Levels.

Maryland State Championships . . . and Waldner
They were held this past weekend. My write-up (along with links to photos) is up at the USATT News site and the Butterfly News site - take your pick! The Butterfly one features a picture of the Under 4000 Doubles Finalists - and those two little 9-year-olds in the middle, Mu Du and Stanley Hsu, made it to the final, losing 15-13 in the fifth. They are rated 1789 and 1976! (Read about their exploits in the tournament article.) USATT featured the Open Doubles finalists, with Lidney Castro/Martin Jezo the winners over Jeffrey Zeng/Wang Qingliang.

Here are the ratings from the tournament, which went up yesterday.  And in case you missed it from my mini-blog yesterday, here was the Point of the Tournament (55 sec), from the Men's Singles final between Lidney Castro and Wang Qingliang, care of PongMobile - the foremost way to view ratings!

Running a tournament can be exhausting. I think I received more emails and phone calls in advance of this tournament than just about any other I've ever run - and this was the 201st USATT sanctioned tournament I've run, all but two of them two days long. That makes exactly 400 days of running tournaments. This weekend I opened the club at 7:45AM each morning (play started at 9AM), and was there until 10:30PM both nights. I was also there from 6-11PM on Friday setting up (with great help from Mossa Barandao and Wen Hsu, as well as during the tournament). But I spent a huge amount of time the week before the tournament with those emails and phone calls. (And don't get me started on the time spent before that on scheduling, selecting and ordering trophies/plaques, and the zillion little things that you have to remember to do or the whole tournament comes collapsing down like the pyramids of plastic cups the younger kids like to construct and then knock down by smacking forehands and backhands.

Sunday from 4-5:30PM I ran off to the back tables to run the Beginning Junior Class, while Mossa and Wen kept things going at the control desk. The day's feature, after a bunch of standard drills, was backhand-to-backhand - how many can you do? Grace joined the 100 backhands in a row club - and she did 100 forehands last week.

I'm not sure how people keep getting my phone number as I try to do all tournament business by email. That way there's little chance of misunderstanding, there's a record of what was said, and I don't have to jump every time someone calls - with email I can get back to them after I finish with whatever I'm working on, though I always get back quickly. I also have a problem that I have great difficulty understanding accented voices over the phone, and over half of the calls are from people with accents - and so I'm constantly having to ask them to repeat what they say, which isn't fun. (I think my hearing is getting worse these days, alas.)

This morning I was going to write about how Waldner would have done if he played at his peak now, but when I got up this morning the power was out in my house - I have no idea why. It didn't come back on until about 9AM, and since I'm running short of time, I'll hold back on the Waldner blog until tomorrow. Writing about the tournament is quicker!

Timo Boll Hand Switch at 2018 China Open!
He's done it again - here's the video (45 sec, including slo-mo replay). But that's not the most interesting thing about the rally - look at what he does two shots later to win the point! Replay it a few times.

China Open
Here's the ITTF home page for the event (results, articles, pictures, video), which was held this past weekend in Shenzhen, China. Check out the results!

Three Ways to Win a Point
Here's the article by Eli Baraty.

Tom's Table Tennis Tips
Here's the newsletter from Tom Lodziak, with links to coaching tips.

Taking the Ball Early
Here's the podcast (32:49) from Pingskills. This week they cover:

  • Joke of the Week
  • On This Week
  • Jun Mizutani turns 29
  • Tournament Wrap (China Open, Japan Open, Australian Open)
  • Tip and Drill of the Week
  • Learn a new serve and use it in a game
  • Spin Reversal
  • Advanced Backhand
  • Position for Optimal Power

Butterfly Amicus Prime Table Tennis Robot
Here's the article by Larry Thoman about the new line of robots that just came out. I normally shy away from equipment articles due to conflict of interest - I'm sponsored by Butterfly - but this is rather new. "Butterfly launched a refresh of its highly regarded Amicus line of table tennis robots at the recent World Team Table Tennis Championships in Sweden. The newly introduced models are the Start, Expert, and Prime models. All are upgraded models from the models they’re replacing—the Basic, Advance, and Professional."

World Awaits Tan and Naresh as they Succeed North American Hopes Qualification
Here's the USATT article by Matt Hetherington.

2018 TATA Trickshot Challenge
Here's the video (5:15).

History of USATT – Volume 21 – Chapter 2
Here’s chapter 2 of Tim Boggan's latest volume, which covers 1993-1994. Or you can buy it and previous (and future) volumes at www.timboggantabletennis.com. Chapter 2 covers "June-July 1994 Tournaments." Volume 21 is 438 pages with 1667 graphics, and covers all the wild things that happened in 1994-95 - and I'm mentioned a lot! Why not buy a copy - or the entire set at a discount? Tim sells them directly, so when you order them, you get it autographed - order your copy now!

Werner Schlager - Kalininkos Kreanga, Legends Tour 2018
Here's the video (9:05) from Arnaud Scheen.

Through Rolling Tube and Into Cup
Here's the video (50 sec, including slo-mo replay). I'd love to try this one, and would probably use my forehand where I can smack a ping-pong ball from nine feet better than half the time.

The 1901 Ping Pong Song
Here's the video (1:42) of this song from 1901 (!) played on the original equipment!!! It was sent to me by Steve Grant, who wrote under the video, "Ping Pong Song, by Edward Lauri, 1901, London, playing on a polyphon-like music box. My collection also includes the Edison Bell brown wax cylinder of this same song, sung by Harry Bluff, which I am attempting to play and record. I do not own the sheet music and do not yet know the lyrics. I welcome any help."

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June 5, 2018

When I got up this morning the power was out - I have no idea why. It didn't come on until about 9AM. I'll have the blog up by 10:30AM,and if I don't, I'll just pardon myself. Meanwhile, the Tip of the Week is up - Footwork at Different Physical Levels. So why not stand up and do some table tennis footwork practice, away from the table without a ball? That'll wake you up faster than coffee!!!

June 04, 2018

Maryland State Championships
I'm still recovering from two consecutive 15-hour days running the tournament (98 players), and the huge hours before setting it up (with a record number of emails and phone call queries), and as I normally do after tournaments, will take today off from blogging. Alas, it won't be a day off - I have to finish the tournament write-up, photo work, press release, and accounting, plus finalize the June MDTTC Newsletter with all the tournament info. Here are the results of the tournament. And here is the Point of the Tournament (55 sec), from the Men's Singles final between Lidney Castro and Wang Qingliang, care of PongMobile (the foremost way to view ratings!). For your further TT reading and viewing, USATT put up a number of news items over the weekend. And perhaps this is a good time to rewatch The Ping-Pong Song (3:40, from 2009)!

June 1, 2018

Serve & Receive Tactics Seminar
The Serve & Receive Tactics Seminar was a big success. We had 23 players ranging from beginners to 2000. Here's a group picture. (Several players left before we did the picture at the end.) We raised exactly $400 to help send our coaches to the Nationals to coach the 16 MDTTC junior players going. Here's the funding page, which currently shows $14,175 of the $15,500 goal, but the $400 hasn't been added as of this writing. (It'll probably go up later today.) So we're now just $925 short of the goal. Why not pitch in? From the funding page, "We're raising $15,500 to bring the coaches that work with the kids all year to the tournament to ensure that our young athletes have the support they need to succeed in the sport they love. They will create a training camp for the kids before the tournament and coach them during the tournament."

The seminar went a little longer than expected. We started at 8 PM. Originally I planned 30 minutes on serve tactics, 30 minutes on receive tactics, and 30 minutes table practice where I'd walk around and coach, and we'd be done at 9:30 PM. But the serve tactics part took 45 minutes, partly because of lots of questions, but also because there's a lot of material. The receive part took 25 minutes, finishing at 9:10, but then we had lots and lots of questions, so we didn't get to the tables until 9:25 PM. For the majority who could stay late we went until 10PM, even though it was scheduled to finish at 9:30PM. Special thanks to Wen Hsu, who collected the money and also stayed late to help out.  Here was the list of topics covered:

SERVE TACTICS

  • The purpose of the serve
  • Set-up serves vs. trick serves
  • Types of deception
  • Long serves
  • Short serves
  • Serving combos
  • Holding back on serves
  • Ten-point plan to serving success

RECEIVE TACTICS

  • Reading the serve
  • The purpose of the receive
  • Types of receive - your arsenal
  • Passive, disarming, & aggressive receives
  • Receiving deep serves
  • Receiving short serves
  • Deception on receive
  • What to do with tricky serves

I covered all except the "Ten-Point Plan to Serving Success," where I had initially planned to cover the ten steps one by one. But to save time, I instead gave printouts to everyone of the article and invited them to email questions later. (It's one of the more popular articles, with 4546 reads.) Throughout the seminar I called up volunteers to demonstrate various tactics. I think the parts that had the greatest interest were the backhand banana flip; serving a side-topspin or no-spin serve that looks like backspin; the tactical placement of long and short serves; receiving long serves; and reading spin.

I'll be running the same seminar again on Tuesday, July 3, 7:00-8:30 PM at USA Nationals in Las Vegas - and that one is FREE!!! We have eleven signed up, but there will for certain be many more entered over the next month. If you would like to register, email me, and please include your state, rating (or estimation if you don't have one), and age. See you there!

China Open
Here's the ITTF home page for the event (results, articles, pictures, video), which is taking place right now in Shenzhen, China, through Sunday. Huge news from yesterday - the Japanese whiz kid, Tomokazu Harimoto, defeated Zhang Jike in the round of 32, 4-0 (8,3,6,6)! Here's video of the match (8:28, time between points removed). Xu Xin also lost that round, 1-4 (7,9,-6,-7,-6) to Lim Jonghoon of South Korea. On the women's side, #1 seed (and world #2) Zhu Yuling lost in seven (5,-9,7,8,-9,-8,-5) in the round of 16 to Saki Shibata of Japan. Here's their news page where you can read about all this and more. Here's the Day One Video Review (2:44).

North American Hopes Challenge
Here's the home page for the event which started yesterday in Markham, Canada, in Ontario. This is for the best 11- and 12-year-olds in the North American. Players qualified through a series of regional trials. 

USA Juniors and Cadets in Canada
Here are three ITTF articles on USA players at the 2018 Canadian Junior and Cadet Open in Markham, Canada, which finished yesterday.

Best Table Tennis Serves Tutorial
Here are three videos from Tomorrow Table Tennis.

  • Part 1 (20:54): backspin, hook.
  • Part 2 (24:53): reverse pendulum, tomahawk.
  • Part 3 (30:26): fastest, backhand, pendulum.

Alternatives
Here's the article from Pro Table Tennis by Rowden Fullen. "Power is not only what you have, it’s also a matter of what the opponent thinks you have!"

WAB CLUB FEATURE: Washington DC Table Tennis Center
Here's the article by Steve Hopkins.

USATT Insider - Edition 174
Here's the issue that came out Wednesday.

The New ITTF - Interview with ITTF CEO
Here's the ITTF article.

We’re Hiring: ITTF Content Manager
Here's the info page for this ITTF job. "Do you have a background in media and communications and have dreamt of working for the ITTF? If so then now is your chance of joining the crowning ITTF media and marketing team in the position of ITTF Content Manager."

2018 Elections for NCTTA Board of Directors
Here's the article for "NCTTA school club presidents, members, alumni, coaches, and supporters."

Ted Dabney, Atari Co-Founder and Video Game Industry Pioneer, Dies at 81
Here's the article. He co-invented "Pong," the ping-pong video game that revolutionized the video game industry. Here's one version you can play online - note that it gives you the option of moving your paddle using your mouse or the original way, with the keyboard.

Funny Table Tennis Match France vs Philippines
Here's the video (3:44)! Quality of the video isn't good, but the two kids really have fun as they do exhibition tricks and goof off.

Table Tennis Bees
For this, I'm not distinguishing between bees, wasps, and hornets! This segment is in honor of the Scripps National Spelling Bee, which ended yesterday, and took place at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in Washington DC, the same location for the annual North American Teams Championships. 

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May 31, 2018

Coaching and Public Speaking
As noted in segment below, I'm running a 90-minute Serve & Receive Tactics Seminar at MDTTC tonight, 8:00-9:30PM. With 19 players already signed up, we'll likely have well over 20. The flyer lists eight serve and eight receive topics I'll be covering. 

How am I preparing for it? Many years ago I would have practiced like crazy, and put together a one-page outline. And that's how I recommend most coaches do it. However, I've been coaching for four decades, and have written extensively on these topics, including Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers, and putting together an outline for this would be like creating an outline for tying your shoes. I've been over this material so many times that the only outline I might need is what NOT to cover so as to cover everything in about an hour (including interactive demos), leaving the last 30 minutes for table practice. I've always considered tactics, serving, and receiving my strongest coaching strength, and here they are all together.

The game has changed a lot since I started playing in 1976, and like any coach who wishes to be successful, I've closely followed the changes in our sport, in particular how tactics, serve, and receive have changed. Probably the biggest change has been the growing dominance of the backhand banana flip. 

While I did a lot of coaching before we opened MDTTC in 1992, I'd rarely had to give lectures to groups - until then I either did private coaching or assisted in camps. Like many, the idea of giving public speeches was pretty scary. So back in 1992 I quietly signed up for a public speaking class. There I practiced giving talks on the various table tennis fundamentals. I also learned an interesting trick - practice in front of something moving, which simulates having an audience, so I'd practice by lecturing to the dryer as it spun about!!! Years later I'd get a dog, and when I needed practice I'd lecture her, and she seemed quite appreciative as I also gave her snacks.

I do recommend coaches practice giving talks, and if they have difficulty or are really nervous, take a course on public speaking. It really helps.

For the Seminar tonight, I'll use the eight serve and eight receive topics listed as my outline - I could spend the entire hour on each one. I'll try to pace myself - hopefully if I keep looking at my watch they won't think I'm impatient! (I'll probably explain why I'm looking at my watch.)

For those in the seminar who are reading this, be prepared. The first thing I plan to do is ask everyone what is, or what they want to make, strongest part of their game is after serve and receive. Every playing style should have a different answer. I also plan on making it somewhat interactive, sometimes calling up volunteers for demos.

Serve & Receive Tactics Seminar at MDTTC
We now have 19 players signed up for the Serve and Receive Tactics Seminar tonight, 7:00-8:30PM at MDTTC. (Please email me if you would like to attend.) Players so far range in level from advanced beginners to about 2000. Cost is $15 for members, $20 for others, with 100% of the money raised going to the HW Global Junior Program at MDTTC, to pay for our coaches to go to the USA Nationals to coach the 19 MDTTC junior players who are competing. Here's their funding page - we're now at $14,175 raised of the $15,500 needed. All money raised in the seminar will go toward this - I'm not taking any of it.

Maryland State Championships
I'm running them this weekend. I blogged about them yesterday (second segment) - deadline to enter is 7PM tonight, after which there is a late fee, with entries only accepted if there is room. (Some events have already filled up - Under 2100 and Under 1000 - while there are only two spots left in Under 1500, and four in Under 1800.) Here's the Maryland State Championships Preview Video (2:05).

China Open
Here's the ITTF home page for the event, which is taking place right now in Shenzhen, China, through Sunday. Men's and Women's Singles are already into the main draw (final 32). Today's feature match is probably Zhang Jike vs. Tomokazu Harimoto, the Japanese whiz kid.

North American Hopes Challenge
Here's the home page for the event which starts today in Markham, Canada, in Ontario. This is for the best 11- and 12-year-olds in the North American. Players qualified through a series of regional trials. 

Athlete Transformation: Improving Health and Wellness
Here's the article by Matt Hetherington. "I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder in 2013 and have struggled with periods of relapse and remission ever since, still managing to remain determined as ever to keep my head down and stay in my chosen sport. Each relapse cost me 3-4 months of time each year between 2013 and 2016 in time spent sick or recovering. These are major setbacks for a training athlete."

World-Class Table Tennis Tactics
Here are two videos from Tomorrow Table Tennis.

  • Video 1 (5:22, from December): "Learn about a super effective tactic in games: banana flip + backhand topspin off the bounce. Clarified important points of Mizutani's serve from the last video."
  • Video 2 (8:06): "Learn about another super effective tactic to deal with players who are good at flips: long serve then pivot counter."

Table Tennis Legend Headlines 2018 Vegas World Veteran Championship Entries
Here's the USATT article by Matt Hetherington.

School is Out, Table Tennis Is for the Genius
Here's the ITTF article by Massimo Costantini. "As in any other skill game, talent has its own importance, the paradox is that the talent can express such great potential and at the same time carry great limitations."

Table Tennis Breakups
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

Olympic Coach Magazine
Here's the May issue, which just came out.

History of USATT – Volume 21 – Chapter 1
Here’s chapter 1 of Tim Boggan's latest volume, which covers 1993-1994. Or you can buy it and previous (and future) volumes at www.timboggantabletennis.com. Chapter 1 covers "Potpourri of Interests." Volume 21 is 438 pages with 1667 graphics, and covers all the wild things that happened in 1994-95 - and I'm mentioned a lot! Why not buy a copy - or the entire set at a discount? Tim sells them directly, so when you order them, you get it autographed - order your copy now!

Table Tennis Weighted Workout
Here's the video (27 sec) of some weighted shadow practice. 

Tears of Your Opponents
Want to drink the tears of your opponents? Here's the mug!

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May 30, 2018

Changes I Wouldn't Mind Seeing Tested
We're so used to the way table tennis is played that many are resistant to any change. And there's a good argument for that - why would we want to change the sport we already love? But let's open our minds and consider testing a few - and the key word is test

  • Colored Ball. Our sport is all about spin, and we have a ball that makes it almost impossible to see it! We're used to it, but I've always thought this was almost insane. We want to be a spectator sport while hiding what is practically the central aspect of our sport? Being able to read the spin more easily would also lead to fewer mistakes against serves. It would also pretty much solve the hidden serve problem as you could more easily read spin from the ball. Plus, imagine how cool it would look if we chose a really nicely designed ball! They actually tried this at a major tournament a few years ago, using a multi-colored ball, but the ball itself was a cheap one. It needs to be tried out with a high-quality ball. 
  • Adjustable Table Height. The standard table is 30 inches high. A standard basketball net is ten feet high - except when it is not. We all grew up with adjustable basketball nets in elementary school where they'd lower the nets - second graders won't do so well with a ten-foot basket!!! Similarly, a 30-inch table isn't great for everyone. You can't play table tennis until you are five or six because of the height of the table, and yet I've seen tennis classes for three-year-olds! We could do the same in table tennis. I'd like to make adjustable height tables standard at clubs - every club would have them. This way we could have a much lower table for little kids. Plus the average man is something like three inches taller now than they were when table tennis was invented and standardized in the 1890s, so perhaps the standard table should now be 2-3 inches higher?
  • Anything Goes Open. Imagine a special event where you could use any surface on your racket. I can just see the final between someone with an inch of Tenergy sponge stacked on top of each other, against someone with one-inch frictionless super-thin long pips! (Not sure if pips that long would help, but let's find out!) Here's a scary thought - it would take 12 sheets of 2.1mm Tenergy to make it one inch. At $78/sheet, and covering both sides (24 sheets), that's $1872!!! (Okay, this idea isn't as serious as the previous two.) 

Maryland State Championships
I'm running them this weekend. There are 21 events in this 3-star event, with over $3500 in cash and prizes. Men's and Women's Singles, Open Doubles, and the various age events are open only to Maryland residents, but the rating events are open to anyone. (Residency means living in Maryland the previous three months, with military personnel assigned to Maryland and full-time students in Maryland immediately eligible.) Here's the Maryland State Championships Preview Video (2:05)! It was created by PongMobile, the most efficient way to explore the USATT ratings. Some of the events are filling up fast, so enter now! There are only five more spots left in both Under 1800 and Under 1500. Deadline is Thursday at 7PM. After there's a $10 late fee, but only if there's room in the draw.

Serve & Receive Tactics Seminar at MDTTC
We now have eleven players signed up for the Serve and Receive Tactics Seminar on Thursday (tomorrow), 7:00-8:30PM at MDTTC. Cost is $15 for members, $20 for others, with 100% of the money raised going to the HW Global Junior Program at MDTTC, to pay for our coaches to go to the USA Nationals to coach the 19 MDTTC junior players who are competing. Here's their funding page - we're now at $14,175 raised of the $15,500 needed. All money raised in the seminar will go toward this - I'm not taking any of it.

8 Slump-Busting Tips and Tagging of Coaching Articles
Here's the article by Samson Dubina. He's also tagged and somewhat organized them by topic. Here's his posting on it.

Articles from the Table Tennis Daily Academy
Here are three recent ones. You can also check out older ones from their archives. They also seem to have a good Video library - see their link at top.

New from EmRatThich
Here's his video page - he's posted ten new videos since yesterday - top matches, training videos, and highlights reels, etc.

What it Takes to Become an Olympic Athlete: 15 Essentials According to a Two-Time Olympian
Here's the article by Nick Catlin, two-time British Field Hockey Olympian.

US Brother Duo Deliver Final Blow to China in Canadian Junior Team Event
Here's the USATT article by Matt Hetherington. "The US brother duo of Sharon and Gal Alguetti have achieved what few international teams hope for in the sport of table tennis. Today at the Canadian Cadet and Junior Open in the final of the Junior Boys' team event, the US pair defeated China in a result that left onlookers simply in awe." Here's the ITTF article, Sharon Alguetti steadfast, steers United States to gold.

USA Athletes to Advance Development and Experience in Europe
Here's the USATT article by Matt Hetherington. "In a pivotal move to enhance the international competitiveness of US National Team players, USATT High Performance Director Joerg Bitzigeio has arranged for top national team contenders to compete in European leagues next season. Aside from Kanak Jha, who is already living in Grenzau and will move up to represent 1.FSV Mainz 05 in the 2nd Bundesliga (2nd division) next season, Nick Tio and Jennifer (Yue) Wu will also move to Europe to live, train and compete in the league."

Ping Pong Helps a Senior Bounce Back
Here's the article from the Wall Street Journal. (Alas, you have to subscribe to read it - but they have a Memorial Day Special going on, $1 for two months.) "Intense training and league play at the table-tennis club founded by actress Susan Sarandon brings a New York woman new friends and fitness."

ITTF Butterfly Canadian Junior Open: Photo, Results & Live Stream
Here's the page.

Jun Mizutani: Ask a Pro Anything
Here's the ITTF video (6:25), with Adam Bobrow.

Zhang Jike is BACK
Here's the ITTF video (1:38).

Crazy Pong
Here's the page about this new version! "Crazy pong is a variation of traditional table tennis. It was created for several purposes: to restore the taste of the game to those who practiced it one day and allow the children to discover it in an original and very playful way. Crazy Pong tables have unusual shapes (round, square, with unevenness, holes ...), the net has become mobile; we play with snowshoes of many sizes, and a large selection of balls is proposed to experience a maximum of different sensations."

VeggieTales Jerry Eggs the Ping Pong Table
Here's the video (12 sec)!

Dead Men’s Open with Illegal Rubbers
Here's the picture! (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

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May 29, 2018

Tip of the Week
The Balance Between Tactical and Strategic Thinking.

Balticon and Back to Pong
For once, I had pretty much of a non-table tennis weekend. (But I'll get to the table tennis in a minute.) I was a panelist at the Baltimore Science Fiction Convention. Here's my Balticon Bio - note where it says, "He's also a professional table tennis coach, and claims to be the best science fiction writer in USA Table Tennis, and the best table tennis player in SFWA"! (That's Science Fiction Writers of America, which has stringent membership requirements - you have to sell at least three short stories to one of the big "pro" magazines - I've sold 26 - or a novel to one of the big "pro" publishers.)

On Saturday I had a one-hour book signing session - here's a picture. I was on four panels. I moderated "Techniques for Plotting Your Novel,' and was on panels on "Science Fiction & Sports," "When to Tell Instead of Show," and "Turning the Starship of State: Government in SF." In the panel on "Science Fiction & Sport," I talked about how the best athletes in table tennis and other sports develop, and about the "threat" the world faces from China and its 10,000 sports schools, where kids from age 5 on are basically trained full-time in a sport.

On Sunday I snuck away from the convention and back to MDTTC to run the Beginning Junior Class. Most were away because of Memorial Day Weekend so we had a small turnout. We focused on basics. I had planned a backhand-to-backhand competition - who could get the most in a row, as I had done with forehands the previous week - but decided to postpone that until next Sunday when we have more players.

And now it's back to TT. After this morning's blog and Tip of the Week, I'll be writing up player evaluations for the Talent program; the MDTTC June newsletter; arranging an article for Butterfly; preparing for the Serve and Receive Tactics Seminar for this Thursday at MDTTC; fine-tuning a letter about hidden serves to send to ITTF; and preparing for the Maryland State Championships I'm running this weekend. Plus I'll be seeing the shoulder therapist against today at 2PM - still meet with him twice a week. Shoulder is much better, but the key is not to try to come back too soon and re-injure it.

Butterfly Training Tips With Brian Pace: How To Loop Underspin
Here's the article and video (4:17). "The forehand loop is the skill that can trump any other skill because you can loop a block, serve, push, smash, chop, high ball, as well as another loop. The forehand loop from underspin is the number pathway into the point, and it plays a major role in how rallies will play out. I will breakdown the components of looping underspin. The goal is to have a fully developed forehand loop from underspin that transitions you into extended rallies."

13 Stages: Develop a systematic approach to learning a new skill
Here's the article by Samson Dubina.

Wall Touch Drill
Here's the video (74 sec) from Andrew Williams, where the kids have to touch the wall between shots. I've done similar drills, but not this exact, but I will likely try it out.

Quick Thinking on Flicking Drill
Here's the video (76 sec) from Eli Baraty, where the coach uses flash cards! (Flip and flick mean the same thing.) "This exercise helped one of my students sharpen his BH and FH (push/flick) Return of Serve. It made him quickly think and make the correct decision. Previously he would as most of us do (pre-decide) or react to an oncoming server."

Table Tennis Culture
Here's the article by Ely Baraty. "Life has changed more over the last 20 years than it has in the last 2000 years due to technology. But has table tennis culture evolved? Often I look at life and reflect and ponder, is change a good thing?"

New from EmRatThich
He's put up 14 new videos over the weekend.

DHS ITTF Top 10 - 2018 World Team Championships
Here's the ITTF video (6:09).

Nittaku ITTF Monthly Pongcast - April 2018
Here's the video (9:56).

Legends Tour
Here are two videos from Arnaud Scheen from the 2018 Legends Tour

World Teams Championships Part B
Here's the podcast (34:58) from PingSkills. (Here's Part A.) This week includes Joke of the Week, Competition Winners, Tournament Wrap, World Teams Championships Results, Tip and Drill of the Week, Watching the best players and thinking about the future, Backhand From Outside Body, Backhand against Slower Balls, Fitness for Tournaments, and Backing up from the Table.

WAB Club Feature: North Texas Table Tennis Club
Here's the article by Steve Hopkins.

May "Upside Down" Open Recap
Here's the article on the tournament held at Triangle Table Tennis on May 19.

Grapevine Spring SpinMaster TT Tournament Result & Photos
Here's the article on this Texas tournament held May 20.

ICC Table Tennis Center 10th Annual Gala Serves Up Budding Star Players
Here's the article from India West.

Too Caught Up in Celebrity Life? Multiple Olympic gold medalist Zhang Jike crashes out of the Hong Kong Open
Here's the article from the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong.

SuperHero Universe Table Tennis Championships
Here's the story! It's posted in reverse order, so Day 1 is at the bottom, so read from the bottom up.

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May 24, 2018

No Blog on Friday and Monday
On Friday and Saturday I'll be at the Baltimore Science Fiction Convention ("Balticon") where I'm a panelist and have a book signing - here's my schedule. My first panel actually isn't until 4PM but I'm going out early (it's an hour away) to spend the day at the Baltimore Aquarium. On Sunday and Monday I'm at home reading and writing, i.e. celebrating Memorial Day, though I may drive over to coach at the Washington DC May Open, if I have the energy. (But I still have to coach a junior class on Sunday from 4-5:30 PM.) See you next Tuesday!

USA Table Tennis Hall of Fame
Here's a picture of the USATT Hall of Fame at the Triangle Club in North Carolina. I think it's great that after so many years we finally got this, with the grand opening last year. It's a million times better than what we had before, which was no USATT Hall of Fame.

But you know what? I'd like to see something a lot more extensive. Maybe not as big as the ITTF Museum, but a real tourist attraction. Here's an article on the ITTF Museum in Shanghai, from the Global Times. (It was previously in Switzerland.) Here's a video tour (1:51) of their exhibits at the 2017 Worlds in Dusseldorf, Germany.

I've always had this thought that we'd find some building, perhaps in the suburbs of some large city but far enough out so the cost of renting or buying a building isn't so high, hire a full-time curator, and see if it could pay for itself, or off sponsorships. Or maybe a large house, and the curator could be live-in. Perhaps it could stay in its current location, but expanded into a real tourist site. I just think it needs to be bigger, a real tourist attraction with paying customers who'd could walk through it like any other museum, or perhaps get a guided tour.

I mean, seriously, just in the U.S. there's (and read these over carefully) a Toilet Seat Museum, a Twine Ball Museum, a National Mustard Museum, a Pharmacy Museum, a Potato Museum, a Neon Sign Museum, a Banana Museum, a Maple Tree Museum, a Museum of Bad Art, a Barbed Wire Museum, a Barbershop Museum, a Hammer Museum, a Trash Museum, a Teddy Bear Museum, a Ventriloquism Museum, a Dentistry Museum, a Moist Towelette Museum, a Popcorn Museum, a Vacuum Cleaner Museum, and a Kazoo Museum.

What's probably needed is a wealthy sponsor to get it started. If I had loads of money, it'd be the Hodges USATT Hall of Fame Museum, but I'm a little short right now. But there must be someone out there who wants to be immortalized forever in this way!

Can anyone tell me that table tennis can't compete with toilet seats, balls of twine, potatoes, bananas, mustard, moist towelettes, and barbed wire???

Tips Ahoy!

I had seven Tips of the Week outlined but had been putting off writing them. (They go up every Monday morning.) Yesterday I went to the giant eatery at Lake Forest Mall at 11AM, and armed with pepperoni pizza and Mountain Dew, wrote all seven of them - and then, after a lot of brainstorming, did four more. It took about six hours, three slices of pizza, a cucumber & tomato salad, and two large Mountain Dews. (I only drank half of the second one.) They average about 550 words each. This may have been the single greatest burst of creative inspiration since Einstein in 1905 and Newton in 1666.

Hong Kong Open
Here's the ITTF home page for the event which starts today, May 24-27, where you can find results, news, pictures, and video. Here's their preview video, Get ready for the 2018 ITTF World Tour Hong Kong Open (30 sec). (Note - Zhang Jike is making a comeback, but he just lost 3-4 in the first round (round of 32) in the Main Draw to Maharu Yoshimura of Japan, world #25, 9,-8,11,-13,-6,8,9. Zhang won both his matches in the Qualifier - yep, he had to go through that, since his recent lack of play had dropped him to #168 in the world - but both were 4-2. See video on Zhang's comeback in EmRatThich segment below.)

Final Deadline to Enter the USA Nationals - Friday, May 25
Enter now, or forever not be entered! After tomorrow (Friday), no more entries will be accepted. The Nationals are in Las Vegas, July 2-7, with 91 events. I blogged about it on April 19. You can see the current list of entries (577) by name or by event. I know USATT has a lot of entries received that haven't yet been in putted, so they are likely well over 600 entries now, and could hit 700 if there's the usual last-minute surge.

USATT Insider
Here's the issue that came out on Wednesday. 

Discovering Happy Medium Pips
Here's the article by Coach Jon. "To really understand medium pips, you probably need to really understand long and short pips."

Shut-Up and Just Play...or Call an Umpire?
Here's the article by Samson Dubina. "In the US, most tournament matches are not umpired.  However, you can request an umpire if there is a problem.  So when should you seek help from a tournament official?  You should get help when your opponent is getting an unfair advantage from something like his serve."

Parent Toolkits
Here are five free online manuals from SafeSport.

New from EmRatThich

NCTTA Coaching Certification in Northeast at Zing! Table Tennis
Here's the article. "NCTTA's Coaching Committee has been busy at work setting up yet another College Table Tennis Certification training."

Where Are They Now? Anderson College Series
Here's the article by Steve Hopkins.

Zhang Jike and Ma Long Make ESPN World Fame 100 List
Here's the ITTF article. (One little interesting note about the ESPN list - there's not a single baseball player on it.)

NBA Showdown - Warriors vs. Houston Rockets and Ping-Pong
Here's the article by Shashin Shodhan.

Handcrafted Ping Pong Paddles - Why Not?!
Here's the video (9:40).

Double Knockout on Ping Pong
Here's the video (14 sec).

Overwatch Comic Dub: Ping-Pong
Here's the video (61 sec)!

Play 50 Around the Net Shots
Here's the video (3:45) from Pongfinity.

Star Wars Pong
Here's the video (1:58)!

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May 23, 2018

Serve and Receive Tactics Seminar at MDTTC and Nationals
As mentioned in previous blogs, I'll be running two Serve and Receive Tactics Seminars. The one at the USA Nationals is now the lead story on the USATT News page!  (Here's the direct link.) Here are the two, with links to the seminar flyer.

The one in Las Vegas is free - I'm running it as USATT Coaching Chair. The one at MDTTC is $15 for members, $20 for others, with 100% of the money raised going to the HW Global Junior Program at MDTTC, to pay for our coaches to go to the USA Nationals to coach the 19 MDTTC junior players who are competing. Here's their funding page - we're now at $14,175 raised of the $15,500 needed. All money raised in the seminar will go toward this - I'm not taking any of it.

Here are the main topics I'll be covering. Much of it will be a combination of demonstration and explanation as I go into the nuances of each topic. (I'm hoping to be able to cover all this in an hour, 30 minutes on serve, 30 minutes on receive, and then let players try these things out at the tables the last 30 minutes as I walk around observing and coaching. But we'll see how long it actually takes.)

SERVE TACTICS

  • The purpose of the serve
  • Set-up serves vs. trick serves
  • Types of deception
  • Long serves
  • Short serves
  • Serving combos
  • Holding back on serves
  • Ten-point plan to serving success

RECEIVE TACTICS

  • Reading the serve
  • The purpose of the receive
  • Types of receive - your arsenal
  • Passive, disarming, & aggressive receives
  • Receiving deep serves
  • Receiving short serves
  • Deception on receive
  • What to do with tricky serves

As the flyer says - and the evil Russian player from "Balls of Fury" - "Should I serve long? Short? What spin? Where to? Gosh, I wish I'd attended that Serve & Receive Tactics Seminar at the USA Nationals!!!"

It's kind of a weird morning - my Tip of the Week: Develop Power Timing by Slapping is also the lead news item at the Butterfly News Page, I'm mentioned in the first paragraph of the Table Tennis Tidbits #29 (see below), plus I just sold a science fiction story (see last segment).

Table Tennis Tidbits #29
Here's the USATT article by Robert Ho, "2016 Women’s World Cup - When the Cats/s'  Away…" Here's the first paragraph - and I'm mentioned!!! "At this tourney in Philadelphia, Pa., World Champion Ding Ning and World Tour #1 Liu Shiwen, both from China, were originally expected, but for unstated reasons were no-shows.  Consequently there were surprising finalists and unexpected match outcomes in the City of Brotherly (in this case, Sisterly) Love.  Sitting in the front row at courtside was U.S. coach Larry Hodges from the club in Gaithersburg, Maryland."

Changing Your Pushing Mindset
Here's the article by Tom Lodziak. "Many players I coach come to me with the same issue. They have a pushing problem. In matches they will push, push, push, push, push – waiting and hoping the other player will make a mistake. They aspire to be more attacking, but once the pushing starts in a match, they can’t seem to find a way out. If they do attack, in tends to be erratic and inconsistent, so they go back to push, push, push, push. Does this sound familiar? Is this something you also struggle with? In this blog post, I will explain how you can change your pushing mindset and become more attacking."

Table Tennis for All Shakehand Version: Forehand Slow Loop Tutorial
Here's the video (24:46) - It starts off with a rather humorous, theatrical way!

New Videos from EmRatThich

Wu Continues Excellent Home Performances onto International Stage
Here's the USATT article.

Fitness Concerns Prompt Shenzhen Withdrawal from Dimitrij Ovtcharov
Here's the ITTF article.

Zhang Jike Overcomes First Hurdle but Aspiring Colleagues Attract the Attention
Here's the ITTF article.

Roger Federer Warns Against the Perils of Pushy Parents
Here's the article from the London Telegraph. "Young sports stars do not need pushy parents 'babysitting' them through their career, the tennis champion Roger Federer has said, as he argues athletes should be given space to develop without unnecessary pressure."

Hugo Calderano Jumping Over Player
Here's the video (22 sec, including slo-mo replay) as the world #11 from Brazil leaps over one of his practice partners.

Dupamo Comic Pingpong
Here's the video (60 sec)!

Dog vs. Cat
Here's the video (8 sec)!

Non-Table Tennis - Death for the Cure: A Comedy about Cancer
Yesterday I sold a humorous fantasy story to Galaxy's Edge, one of the big "pro" magazines. It's my 91st short story sale. It's a seemingly controversial story - yes, a comedy about cancer!!! It involves Death herself getting sick of watching people die of cancer and takes matters into her own hands. She tries to raise money for the Cure, where she does things such as deliver pizzas (a seemingly perfect match since she can travel almost instantly to anywhere on the planet - but imagine Death arriving at your door with a pizza), and so on. But she finds a creative way to solve everything!

***
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May 22, 2018

Man in the Arena
Many years ago, when I was in one of my many battles with USA Table Tennis or with some other group of naysayers, I received a note from USATT Hall of Famer Wendell Dillon (one of the all-time great USATT officials, and still active) that I was "The Man in the Arena." To my great embarrassment, I only vaguely knew of this famous speech by Teddy Roosevelt, and had to look it up. Here it is:

THE MAN IN THE ARENA
Teddy Roosevelt Speech, April 23, 1910
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. 

Over the years I've had to regularly face these "critics" who continuously play out their part in the above, while I, and others "in the Arena" are trying to get things done and make things happen. When I opened the Maryland Table Tennis Center in 1992, there were no other full-time training centers in the country and I was besieged with people saying we were crazy, there weren't enough players in the U.S. for something like that to work. Now there are 92 of them. When I co-created the USATT League Rating system (with Robert Mayer) we were told that the U.S. simply wasn't league-oriented, that the winner-stay-on system almost universally used in USATT clubs would never change. Now the system is used in clubs all over the country and processes more matches than the tournament rating system. There are a dozen similar stories. I was in virtual wars with USATT in 1989-1990, from 1996-1999, and in sort of a cold war for a few years after 2007; in each case the ones causing the problems I was citing were voted out or left, and I returned to working for or with USATT.

For the last few years I've been trying to resolve the hidden serve problem. I've blogged about it many times, but the bottom line is that most top players regularly hide their serve, which is illegal, and umpires almost never call it. Why? Because it's become part of our culture not to call hidden serves, since from the umpire's perspective, it's very difficult to tell if the serve is hidden or not. This would be understandable if it were not for rule 2.6.6, which states, "It is the responsibility of the player to serve so that the umpire or the assistant umpire can be satisfied that he or she complies with the requirements of the Laws." Therefore, when an umpire says, "I can't tell if the serve was visible," what he's really saying is, "The player didn't serve so I can be satisfied that the serve was legal," and so the serve was illegal. (And so the player should get a one-time warning or a fault.)

The reality, of course, is that no umpire wants to be the one who calls these serves when the other umpires are not, and of course players who have been serving illegally for years without getting called for it have a fit when they are called for it, and quite legitimately can say that no other umpire has called him for it. I don't blame the umpires for not calling it since in our current table tennis culture, it's taboo to call hidden serves unless the serve is so obviously hidden that the umpire has no choice. (The best example of that is Wang Chen, who gets called for this over and over because she hasn't perfected the art of the borderline hidden serve, where the ball is hidden at contact but no so obviously so that the umpire has to call it.) The overwhelming majority of top players oblige this by not making it so obvious they are hiding the ball, and so it is almost never called.

Complicating all this is that most top players do not hide the serve every time. If they did, the receiver would get used to having to read the serve from how it travels through the air and bounces on the table. But if you serve borderline over and over, allowing the receiver to see contact much of the time, the times when you do hide it are far more likely to force a mistake from the receiver. (Plus you get the umpire used to not calling your borderline serves, so when you do hide the serve it is not called.) At the world-class level, they are so used to illegal hidden serves that they return them pretty well, though not as well, as aggressive, or with as much control as they would if the serve were legally visible. Below the world-class level, hidden serves lead to constant outright misses and pop-ups.

One of the huge victims in all this are the top players and up-and-coming players. They don't want to serve illegally, but they really have no choice if they want to compete on an equal basis. There are a few who don't hide their serves, and they are at a big disadvantage. But those who do reach the top are almost all serving illegally - and so it's difficult for them to raise the issue since they are doing it themselves, so to complain would seem like hypocrisy. It's really not, if they also acknowledge they serve illegally because they have little choice if they want to compete on a level field.

I tried to get USATT to act on this several years ago, where I moved that USATT ask its referees and umpires to enforce this rule, but the counter-argument was that this would put USATT top players at a disadvantage, since they would have to face these illegal hidden serves regularly in international competition, and so we literally had to allow players in the U.S. to illegally hide their serves so our top players could get used to them. And so that motion lost 6-1-1.

As noted in my blog on Friday, I'm now trying to get the ITTF to resolve this problem. I made my own proposal, the Net Visibility Rule, which would make enforcement much easier - it's tricky trying to hide the serve from the receiver and make the umpire think it might be visible, but try making it look like you aren't hiding it from the entire net and still hide it from the receiver! That can't really be done. But of course that proposal met with its share of naysayers who hadn't really tested it out as I have, or simply thought it through. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to convince an umpire you aren't hiding the ball from the entire length of the net, while still hiding it from the receiver, who is somewhere in the middle? It can't really be done. (There are other proposals, such as making it illegal for any part of the body to be in front of contact. That would work as well, and yes, you can still do a forehand pendulum serve effectively with this rule.)

Predictably, my proposed letter to the ITTF (which would go to the ITTF Rules Committee, Umpires and Referees Committee, and Athletes Commission, which already has a working group on fixing the serve problem) has met with the usual protests. Several have already told me "It won't work!" and so they oppose sending it - it's right out of Man in the Arena. To me, this is jaw-breakingly dumb. The odds are it won't work, but that does that mean we shouldn't even try? If you were down 6-10 in the fifth, you probably won't win, but does that mean you shouldn't try?

All I want to do is try to bring attention to the problem in the hope that we can make it a higher-profile problem with ITTF. The ITTF already recognizes the problem, it just isn't a top priority with them, and so while they've had "working groups" on this for at least three years (and I think much longer), nothing has come of it. The worst that can happen is it becomes a higher-profile issue that they don't act on now, but by raising its profile, we can keep coming back to it until the ITTF finally takes action.

Or we could sit back timidly and twiddle our thumbs and hope someone else will jump into the arena and solve the problem.

So . . . should we send the letter and push ITTF to make it a top priority to fix this problem, so that we aren't the only Olympic sport that allows cheating right out in the open, where top players literally have to cheat to compete? Or should we listen to those who are acting out the part of the "cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat"?

Looping and Blocking
Here's video (22 sec) of USA's Yijun "Tom" Feng and Kanak Jha practicing at the Hong Kong Open. Want to learn how to loop and block? This is how it's done. (Tom is a penholder, but there's no real difference between penhold and shakehand looping.) These two have won Men's Singles at the last three USA Nationals, Tom in 2015, Kanak the last two years. 

Training With Chen Weixin, Werner Schlager, Zoran Primorac and Kalinikos Kreanga at Legends Tour 2018
Here's the video (22:530 from Arnaud Scheen.

New from EmRatThich

Parenting and Coaching the Perfectionist Athlete
Here's the article and project.

Indore Once Again Hosts Level Three Course
Here's the ITTF article on the ITTF course held in India by USA coaches Richard McAfee and Christian Lillieroos.

Young US Para Talents Selected Among World's Top
Here's the USATT article by Matt Hetherington.

Las Vegas Table Tennis Club "The Place to Play" in Town
Here's the USATT article by Richard Finn.

NCTTA Best of the Best Announced
Here's the article. Here are the winners:

  • Male Athlete of the Year: Tom Feng (NYU)
  • Female Athlete of the Year: Yue Wu (Texas Wesleyan)
  • Rookie of the Year: Kai Zhang (Binghamton)
  • Coach of the Year: Yanjun Gao (NYU)
  • Rookie Team: Bryn Mawr College
  • Most Improved Team: New York University
  • Division Director of the Year: Doru Gheorge (Texas Division)
  • Regional Director of the Year: Ryan Hsu (West Region)

Retrospectives on Past USA Greats
Here's the page, with articles and lots of photos on the following big stars, mostly from the hard bat era: Ruth Aarons, Bernie Bukiet, Bobby Gusikoff, George Hendry, Erwin Klein, Jimmy McClure, Dick Miles, Leah Thall Neuberger, Lou Pagliaro, Sally Green Prouty, Marty Reisman, Sol Schiff, Thelma Thall "Tybie" Sommer, and Leah & Tybie Thall. There's also the Hall of Fame Profiles by Tim Boggan on the exactly 150 members of the USATT Hall of Fame.

ITTF Museum & China Table Tennis Museum
Here's the page where you can do a video tour, with links to 25 videos.

Why You Don't Sit on the Table
Here's the video (4 sec)!

***
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