Larry Hodges's blog

August 25, 2017

USATT Coaching Questions
I’ve been very busy this summer - coaching, traveling, and writing. One casualty of this is that I haven’t done as much as chair of the USATT coaching committee as I’d have liked. However, sometime in the next few weeks I should be able to focus more on that. Here are upcoming coaching items. (Here’s the list of USATT committees – we’re third on the list.) I also have a coaching committee report due to the board, which I should have by Sept. 1. (We have a USATT board meeting in Washington DC, Sept. 9-10.)

What is the primary responsibility of the coaching committee? I’d say to recruit, train, and certify coaches. Recruitment basically means encouraging potential coaches into taking the plunge, either as part-time or full-time coaches. For the latter, this essentially means showing them that they can make a good living as a table tennis coach – as over 300 currently do in the United States.

Training means educating coaches so they become better coaches. I’ve had numerous discussions with USATT people on how best to do this, especially USATT High Performance Director Jorg Bitzigeio and past coaching chair Richard McAfee. Here are some possibilities:

  • Coaching seminars. For example, at the recent USA Nationals we started up “USATT University,” with eight courses, including ones on Serving, Return of Serve, and How to Set Up a Successful Junior Program.
  • Coaching courses. We currently have ITTF coaching courses, with two going on right now, in Portland, OR, and Flushing, NY. More will be scheduled later on.
  • Web page. We have a USATT coaching page, with numerous links. When a coaching article makes the USATT news page, it also makes the USATT coaching articles page. We may be setting up something more extensive later on for our top coaches.
  • Invitations to National Team Training Camps. If a coach wants to learn to coach players to a high level, he needs to see how the top players train. We are looking into setting up an ITTF Level 3 course late next year where we combine it with such a national team training camp. We’re starting to look at the idea that if you want to be a National Coach, you really need to be working with National players.
  • Recertification seminars. Currently, once you are certified at a level, you stay there for live. We may need to add something like “active” to this list, or require recertification every few years, as is done in many countries and many sports. USATT might then set up such recertification seminars, and require coaches at various levels to attend them to keep up their coaching knowledge.
  • Newsletter. We’ve periodically had a USATT Coaching Newsletter in the past. (I was the editor for a time in the 1990s.) I’ve debated about whether it’s worth bring that back.

Certification is the final major thing the committee does. Here is the current USATT certification program. However, it is greatly in need of updating. I’ve already marked up a printed copy, and will be updating much of this in September. We’ve already adopted the ITTF certification process as part of ours, with Level 1 equating to State coach, Level 2 to Regional coach, and Level 3 to National coach. Here are three issues coming up, besides the changes in the certification process already mentioned, and the question of recertification and other educational ideas.

  1. Club test vs. Club course. Much of the current certification process was set up when we had few coaches in this country, and were desperately trying to get coaches certified. (I was coaching chair for four years in the 1990s, and remember those problems.) Currently you can become a club coach just by passing a test, having two years USATT membership, and a 1400 rating (current or past). Putting aside that there shouldn’t be rating requirements for any level, should we change this process, now that we have so many more coaches than before? I’ve put together an outline of a six-hour coaching seminar that might become the basis of becoming a club coach. It would be somewhat easy for any high-level coach to run such a seminar at any club in the country, where they’d just following the seminar schedule, and we’d assume that the high-level coaches would know how to teach each aspect listed.
  2. Grandfathering. Here are the current guidelines for Grandfathering. Some of this likely needs updating. Also, should we grandfather below the National level? If so, under what circumstances?
  3. National coach term. When I last checked, we had 77 USATT certified National Coaches. (Some of since dropped off the list because they haven’t done SafeSport – see below.) Last year we had 11 USATT National Team Coaches. The latter are the ones chosen by the USATT High Performance Committee to coach our national teams. But there’s occasionally been some confusion on this, since the terms are similar. So there has been some discussion of changing the National Coach designation. However, I don’t know of a similar term, and of course the currently USATT certified National Coaches wouldn’t be happy. So this item is on hold until and unless someone comes up with a good solution.

One headache I’m hoping not to have to get too involved in is SafeSport. The USOC (in my opinion) prematurely forced this on us with a flawed program, and all USATT coaches (and most other officials) are required to take this online seminar and do a background check. Fortunately, USATT headquarters is primarily in charge of this, and so I don’t have to worry about it much. (I blogged about this a bit on April 26, toward the end of my report on the board meeting.) However, it is required of all USATT coaches, so I urge you to do it if you are a coach.

Table Tennis Books
It’s been a while since I put in a plug for my table tennis books . . . so here we go!!! Why not help a starving table tennis writer by buying one of mine? You have so many choices!!!

Of course, there are other table tennis books out there as well, such as Tim Boggan’s History of U.S. Table Tennis, Dan Seemiller’s Revelations of a Ping-Pong Champion, and Samson Dubina’s 100 Days of Table Tennis. (These are ones I helped the authors put together in various ways.) At some point in time I’ll be doing an update of my old Table Tennis: Steps to Success Book, which is currently out of print, as well as Instructor’s Guide to Table Tennis.

Probabilities VS Indicators
Here’s the article by Samson Dubina.

Ask the Coach
Questions answered at PingSkills!

World University Games
Here’s the table tennis page. The event is taking place in Taipei, with 22 sports. Table tennis is scheduled for Aug. 22-29, with Men’s and Women’s Singles, Doubles, and Teams, plus Mixed Doubles. They just started the Singles events. You can follow Team USA or any other country!

Czech Open
Here’s the home page for the event, Aug. 22-27 in Olomouc, CZE.

2017 World Tour, Czech Open
Here’s the article by Shashin Shodhan.

Strange Blocking Style
Here’s video (13:38) of Simon Csaba of Romania, against one of Romania’s top juniors. He plays with inverted on the black side, and what appears to be frictionless antispin (not long pips) on the red side – and constantly flips. With the anti on the backhand, he’s sort of a conventional pushblocker. When he flips the inverted to the backhand side, he plays an extremely aggressive, almost flat backhand, while blocking and chopping on the forehand. Estimate for his level range up to 2650, though I’m guessing it’s not quite that high – but I don’t really know. Here’s discussion of him at the forum. There are many more videos of him playing at youtube if you put in his name and “table tennis.”

Zhou Yu Multiball Training
Here’s the video (2:16). He's a member of the Chinese National Team, getting bronze and silver in Men’s Doubles at the 2013 and 2015 Worlds, and winning Men’s Singles at the Chinese Nationals in 2012. His highest world ranking was #13 in March, 2014.

 “The Tables” Wins Best Documentary at Holly Shorts Film Festival
Here’s the awards listing – see “Best Doc,” directed by Joe Bunning. Here’s their Facebook promotional page. (Here’s the non-Facebook version.) The table tennis documentary features Wally Green (here’s the non-Facebook version) and perhaps others – I haven’t yet seen it and can’t find an info page with more info than the above.

USATT Insider
Here’s the new issue which came out on Wednesday.

Exceptional Prize Money for 10-Year Anniversary Butterfly Badger Open
Here’s the article by Barbara Wei. The tournament takes place in Franklin, Wisconsin (15 miles from Milwaukee), Sept. 15-17.

England to Host 2018 ITTF Team World Cup
Here’s the article from Table Tennis England.

We Want You to Ask Kristian Karlsson Anything
Here’s the article and video (19 sec) from Adam Bobrow. Karlsson is world #25 and #1 from Sweden.

Incredible Japanese Shot-Making
Here’s the video (1:58).

Billy Ding Shoots Lily Zhang with Ping-Pong Ball
Here’s the video (6 sec) from the World University Games.

Badminton Pong
Here's the video (32 sec)!

How Doughnuts Are Made
Here’s the video (25 sec) - now you know why doughnut holes are ping-pong ball sized!

Send us your own coaching news!

August 24, 2017

Play Hardbat or Sandpaper – Here’s Why
No, this will not be an evangelizing blog entry on why we should make sponge illegal and go back to a simpler time when everyone used hardbat, politicians were honest, and life was perfect. (No, those times never happened.) There’s a better reason why you should bring out that cheap hardbat or sandpaper paddle you have stored away at the back of your closet (or borrow one from someone), and learn to play with it.

Putting aside the fact that it is fun, as a sideline, to play with these rackets, there’s a better reason. There are table tennis tables all over the place. Unless you are some oddball who carries his $300 table tennis racket (and table tennis shoes, plastic balls, table tennis towel, net measurer, etc.) everywhere, you will someday find yourself someday at a table without your racket, watching inferior players play each other, each believing themselves to be champions, or at least competitive with the best players – of whom they have never seen. You will be forced to do one of the following:

  1. Watch and smile;
  2. Challenge one of them, but forced to use one of the local paddles – some cheap thing similar to what you have sitting in the back of your closet – you either lose and feel humiliated (and sound like an idiot when you complain that you don't have your regular racket), or at least struggle, and in no way impress anyone with your table tennis skills;
  3. Because you practiced with a hardbat or sandpaper in advance, you have no trouble using one of the cheap paddles and absolutely destroying the locals, who then ask if you are a professional player. You can then choose to explain to them about “real” table tennis, or you can just sagely nod your head.

The thing to remember is this – once you learn to play with one of these cheap paddles, you can play with just about anything – a book, a pot, even a smart phone, like Matt Hetherington here. (I’ve beaten people with an ID card and an ice cube.) But the key thing is you have to learn how to use these cheap paddles or you will face #1 or #2 above. A good basement player who has spent years using a cheap paddle can often beat a good club player who isn’t using his normal racket and isn’t used to using anything else. With his normal racket, the club player might win 11-1, but without it, all his instincts and reactions are wrong.

Last December I went on a science fiction writing workshop cruse in the Bahamas. I checked in advance and was told the ship had no ping-pong table, so I didn’t bring my table tennis stuff. The first day on the cruise (a HUGE ship!), I discovered they not only had two ping-pong tables next to the pool, but that there would be a cruise ping-pong tournament! All they had were cheap hardbat rackets. What to do? Oh wait, I’m the current U.S. Over 40 Hardbat Champion (five times, and twice in Open Hardbat Singles, though I normally use sponge), so I got to go the #3 route above, and nobody got more than two points against me. And guess what? I was asked if I was a professional player, and I got to say “yes.” But you don’t need to be a “champion” to use one of these rackets effectively, you just need to be a good club player who practices with one a bit.

How do you play with a cheap paddle? (This includes cheap sponge rackets, which basically play like hardbats.) There are basically two things you should learn to do. First, learn a basic forehand or backhand drive. With a little practice, you can do this. The key is to learn to be steady with it, not try to blast everything, and above all, don’t try to loop. Just stroke the ball consistently, and you’ll seem like a world champ at the table against most non-coached players.

Second, learn to chop a bit, or to just chop the ball back with a light backspin. Use this shot when you are in trouble, such as when reaching for the ball, or when the opponent makes an aggressive shot. You might be able to counter these, but a simple chop is very easy with a cheap paddle – they are practically designed for that. You might think you can’t chop, but that’s because you are playing with super-fast blade covered with tensored sponge, and against an opponent who is super-looping everything.

With these two basics down, you’ll become the champion at every basement, rec center, bar, or other gathering of amateur players who think they are very good but aren’t, and you’ll spend the rest of your life knowing that you can play well with just about anything with a hard hitting surface. And maybe, just maybe, you’ll be able to report back that you too beat someone with an ID card or an ice cube.

Butterfly MDTTC August Open
Here’s the home page, and here’s the entry form. I’ll be running it this weekend, Aug. 26-27, at the Maryland Table Tennis Center in Gaithersburg, MD. Entry deadline is 7PM Friday. It’s a 3-star event, with $2700 in prize money. Top seeds in the Open (so far) include Jishan Liang (2677), Chen Bo Wen (2575), Jeffrey Zeng (2558), Wang Qingliang (2492), and the wild card from the Czech Republic, Jakub Nemecek, who we’re seeding at 2550, but I’ve been told he could be more like 2650. (We estimated the 2550 based on his world rankings from 2015, as high as #569, but ITTF rankings can vary based on participation, and so aren’t always accurate.) Hope to see you there!!!

The Art of Calling Timeout
Here’s an interesting analysis of the topic, and discussion at the forum. It gives a lot of actual stats on when top players call time-outs. Here’s my Tip of the Week, Time-out Tactics. I also blogged about this on June 11, 2013.

Good, Better, Best!
Here’s the article from Samson Dubina. “Most table tennis players have Good practice sessions on a weekly basis but it isn’t THEIR VERY BEST! Many players continue practicing the same things over and over without pushing themselves to improve their spin, placement, variation, power, and shot selection.”

Internal vs. External Factors – Making the Table Your Only Focus
Here’s the article from Epic Table Tennis. “The story of a 25 year old who foolishly decided to try to get to the Olympics at a sport he had never played before.....”

The Conundrum of Table Tennis
Here’s the article by Coach Jon.

Master Stroke Table Tennis Training Device
Here’s the video (2:41).

Olympic Experience Carries Team USA to World University Games Main Draw
Here’s the USATT article by Matt Hetherington. Here’s the table tennis page , where you can follow the action, Aug. 22-29 in Taiwan. They are finishing the Team events today, and singles start tomorrow (Friday).

2017 Hopes Team Announced
Here’s the ITTF article. USA’s Swathi Giri made the team.

Czech Open
Here’s the home page for the event, Aug. 22-27 in Olomouc, CZE.

Insane Rally
Here’s the video (56 sec) of the exhibition rally between Kristian Karlsson and Stefan Fegerl!

Behind-the-Back Bottle Bashing Serve
Here’s the video (43 sec)!

Lighting a Match with a Table Tennis Shot
Here’s the video (45 sec)!

Send us your own coaching news!

August 23, 2017

$80,000/Year Coaching Table Tennis?
An interesting question was raised at the forum – how much money can one make coaching table tennis? At least one person ridiculed the idea that one could make $80,000/year coaching table tennis. However, many coaches in the U.S. do just that, including ones from my club. The arithmetic is simple. If you coach 40 hours/week at $40/hour for 50 weeks per year, you’ll make $80,000/year.

The reality is that there are a number of coaches at full-time clubs who work more like 50/hours a week, which comes to $100,000/year. Add in group sessions, where you often make more than you do in private sessions, and the annual salary goes up. Add in secondary income from selling equipment, tournaments, leagues, and so on, and some coaches get still more.

The $40/hour is typical, but not standard everywhere. In expensive areas like New York City coaching is more like $80/hour. The club typically gets a percentage, but most successful clubs know that they rely on the coaches to bring in and retain players, so they let them keep the bulk of their money. At my club, for example, private lessons are $50/hour for members, $60/hour for non-members, with the club keeping $10/hour of that. (This is different for some of our coaches, who have different deals that involve salary, housing, and other amenities, but they still get pretty good hourly wages on top of all that.) In a place like New York, full-time coaches make even more per hour, and so more annually.  

But here’s the $100,000 question for those who want to make $100,000/year coaching (or $80,000, for that matter) – can you work those long, grueling hours? Coaching table tennis is both physically and mentally demanding, and doing 40 hours/week is tough. Personally, I’ve always put 30 hours/week as my limit, and usually prefer no more than 20. (I make as much money writing as coaching, so I can get away with it.) But a number of coaches at my club do 50 hours/week, week after week, month after month, and at least two of them have been doing this since we opened in 1992 – sometimes doing 60 and even 70 hours in a week. If you can do the hours, you’ll get paid well.

It’s surprisingly easy to get coaching hours at a full-time table tennis center. I remember when people used to argue that there wasn’t enough demand for table tennis coaching for full-time centers or full-time coaches (and later revised to for more than a few of them), but of course they just keep popping up, and there are hundreds of full-time coaches in the U.S. – at least 300, probably more. My club alone has 8-10, depending on how you define it, and they all keep busy.

Do you think you have what it takes to be a full-time table tennis coach? Here’s my Professional Table Tennis Coaches Handbook, which tells you all you need to know to become one!

World University Games - Update
Here’s the table tennis page. The event is taking place in Taipei, with 22 sports. Table tennis is scheduled for Aug. 22-29, with Men’s and Women’s Singles, Doubles, and Teams, plus Mixed Doubles. Right now they are playing team matches. You can get detailed results at the website. Here’s a summary of Team USA results.

  • USA Men (Billy Ding, Feng Yijun, Nathan Hsu, Jason Plog, and Timothy Wang) started off by losing to Japan 0-3, then beat Oman 3-0, and then pulled off a close one, 3-2 over Greece, to finish second in the group, advancing to the single elimination stage – where, alas, they play top-seeded China in their first match, the round before the quarters.
  • USA Women (Isabel Chu, Angela Guan, Erica Wu, Wu Yue, and Lily Zhang) started off with a 3-1 win over Sri Lanka, followed by a 1-3 loss to Japan, then a 3-0 win over Croatia, to come in second in their group and advance to the single elimination stage. There they lost their first match, 2-3 to Romania in the round before the quarters.

Tournament Tactics – Attacking Against Choppers
Here’s the article by Brian Pace, with links to numerous videos. “Playing against a chopper is one of the unique experiences that you will have in tournament play. The reason that choppers have a unique advantage in tournament play is, there aren’t enough of them to go around for you to develop a tangible tactical approach against. That makes it difficult to create a solid strategy you can recall on quickly. In most cases, you are relearning the strategy as the match progresses. This video post will help you understand the framework the chopper works under, and how you can systematically gain control over the sequence of play.”

Table Tennis Tidbits #6
Here’s the article: Length of Matches, by Robert Ho.

Thoughts about the 2017 World Table Tennis Championships
Here’s the USATT article by Wei Wang. This is a very thorough examination on how techniques have changed at the highest levels. (Wei Wang is a USATT Hall of Famer and the 1990 U.S. Women’s Singles Champion.)

Tao Wenzhang Survives Tight Final to Win 2017 Hawkeye Open
Here’s the USATT article (with link to video) by Matt Hetherington.

Perfect Record, Ishana Deb Supreme in El Salvador
Here’s the ITTF article.

History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 19 (1991-1992)
Here's chapter twenty-two - 1992 – Non-Tournament Articles. Or order your own print copies at, Volumes 1 to 19! (Volume 20 should be out in a week or two.)

USTTA Foundation Opens Applications for 2017 Shonie Aki Scholarship
Here’s the USATT info page. One big change – this used to be open to all USA players hoping for a college scholarship – here’s the info page from last year, for example. Now it’s only for those from Northern California. I’m not sure why they made this change. “The Shonie Aki Scholarship award, in the amount of $1,250 for one year, will be offered to a young table tennis player who is a northern California resident and has aspirations to complete a college education, become a better player and a productive individual who would reflect on Shonie’s legacy.”

Top Step in Bulgaria, now Dimitrij Ovtcharov Stands Tall
Here’s the ITTF article.

Table Tennis Coming Home: 2018 Team World Cup
Here’s the ITTF promo video (31 sec).

Watch Them Filling a 2017 Lexus NX with Ping-Pong Balls
Here’s the video (8 sec). “Between now and September 15th, enter to win your very own KETTLER USA Table Tennis Table when you stop by our dealership and estimate how many ping pong balls are in the LexusNX!” (They are in Virginia Beach.)

Crazy Point
Here’s the video (41 sec) – it starts slow, then gets crazy!

Jörg Rosskopf Takes on Challenges – with Various Objects
Here’s the video (2:19) as the German superstar plays with a cooking pan, a shovel, what appears to be a wooden sword, and finally a frozen pizza!

Send us your own coaching news!

August 22, 2017

A Short History of Chop Blocks
Recently, due to an article at SportsFlu, there’s been a lot of talk about chop blocking and who invented it. Here’s an entire thread devoted to it at the forum. According to the article, it was “invented” by Koki Niwa, world #9 from Japan. Alas, it’s been around long before Koki was born in 1994.

To give you some perspective on how long players have been chop blocking, here’s a little history – and I’ll get to the point momentarily. How many of you remember the Paddle Point Rule? Until the early 1990s, if the ball went off the end of the table but hit your paddle, you lost the point, no matter how obviously the ball was off. Many thought it was a silly rule, and it was finally changed. (Here’s my blog where I explain how that happened – I made the original proposal to change the rule.) The argument for the rule was that sometimes players took the ball so quick off the bounce that you couldn’t tell if it hit the table first or not – something that doesn’t happen much in the modern sponge game.

But guess what? During the hardbat era, this was quite common, as players often chop-blocked. They not only took the ball right off the bounce, they chopped down on it, and so contact was often almost as the ball hit the table. One of the top experts at this was none other than Iowa’s Houshang Bozorgzadeh, three-time Iranian Men’s Champion, third at the 1958 Asian Games, and a long-time U.S. Men’s Team Coach in the 1970s and 80s.

With the advent of sponge, chop blocking became less common, but it never went away. Numerous players used it as a variation. It was especially common among penholders with conventional penhold backhands, which made chop- and sidespin-blocks natural (see Ma Lin and Chen Longcan below) – but much of this died away with the advent of reverse penhold backhands, where players more commonly attack. I was doing it back in the late 1970s. Sean Lonergan, who made the U.S. National Team in the early 2000s or so, used them regularly, as did many others on occasion. It was perhaps popularized by all-time great Jan-Ove Waldner, who would throw in chop blocks regularly in the late 1980s and into the 2000s, as does current world #1, Ma Long. (Lonergan, Waldner, Ma Long, and I are all shakehanders.) Here’s my article, Chalk Up Wins with Chop Blocks. And here are videos of some top players doing chop blocks:

Eclipse Watching at MDTTC
We had an informal eclipse watching party at MDTTC yesterday. Some of us had our own eclipse glasses, but Todd Klinger brought in ten, so with a little sharing, everybody got to watch. Several also brought in homemade eclipse watching viewers, made from cereal boxes. Here are some pictures of us watching the eclipse, taken by Carolyn Klinger.

Contrary to all the laws of astronomy, we had a TOTAL eclipse at MDTTC – here’s the four-picture sequence to prove it!!! 

Butterfly MDTTC August Open
Here’s the home page, and here’s the entry form. I’ll be running it this weekend, Aug. 26-27, at the Maryland Table Tennis Center in Gaithersburg, MD. It’s a 3-star event, with $2700 in prize money. Hope to see you there!!!

Match Play
Here’s the podcast from PingSkills (30 min).

World University Games
Here’s the table tennis page. The event is taking place in Taipei, with 22 sports. Table tennis starts today! USA players are:

  • Men: Billy Ding, Feng Yijun, Nathan Hsu, Jason Plog, and Timothy Wang
  • Women: Isabel Chu, Angela Guan, Erica Wu, Wu Yue, and Lily Zhang

National Collegiate Table Tennis August Newsletter
Here’s the new edition. Note that the first item is, “NCTTA College Table Tennis Coaching Certification” – they’ve set up a new coaching certification program for college coaches.

A Smashing Day of Ping-Pong at Chinatown Festival
Here’s the article and pictures from San Francisco.

2017 Bulgaria Open – Ovtcharov and Ishikawa Win!
Here’s the posting by Shashin Shodhan.

2017 Bulgaria Open - Finals Summary
Here’s the video (70 sec).

Training with Former World Champion Tibor Klampar
Here’s the video (7:49).

Things You Hardly Knew About Table Tennis
Here’s the article from Wild Fire News.

Xu Xin vs Ma Lin Funny Show Table Tennis
Here’s the video (47 sec)!

Send us your own coaching news!

August 21, 2017

Tip of the Week
Fourth-Ball Backhand Loop Attack. Of course, today’s the day when you should browse through all of my Tips of the Week (497 total) since “Eclipse TT” is just an anagram for “Select Tip”!

Two Common Successful Serving Patterns
In the adult training session last night I pointed out that there are really two main successful serving patterns among most players. At the higher levels, the most common one is half-long toward the middle, often mixing in backhand and no-spin serves, with sidespin and side-top mixed in. By serving half-long, you make it tricky for the receiver to rush or angle you, while also making it difficult for him to attack. (Half-long means the second bounce, given the chance, would bounce just short of the end-line. Some serve it slightly longer, just past the end-line, leading to many awkward loop attempts.)

By serving to the middle it cuts off the extreme angles, and makes it easier to follow up with an attack, especially a forehand attack. When you serve short to a corner, you give the receiver an extreme angle, and so you have a lot more table to potentially cover. For example, if you serve short to the forehand, you have to guard that extreme forehand angle, and so the receiver can take away your forehand attack by simply going down the line – which also means you might have to move to play that backhand since you were guarding that wide forehand. There’s just a lot more table to cover when you serve this way.

However, this doesn’t mean you don’t serve short to the forehand. Many players have trouble with that – and many players also have trouble attacking deep balls with their backhand. This leads to the second common successful serving pattern, where you mix in serves short to the forehand and long to the backhand. It makes the receiver cover a lot of ground, and often leads to many weak or erratic returns. In theory, the short serve to the forehand gives the receiver a wide angle, as noted above, and the deep serve to the backhand gives the receiver a backhand loop opportunity, but in practice it’s not that easy, especially below the highly advanced level. In practice, most short serves to the forehand are returned crosscourt, giving the server a forehand attack. If caught off guard, many deep serves to the backhand are returned relatively softly, giving an easy attack, forehand or backhand.

So learn both of these serving patterns, and use what works. If it doesn’t work against one player, it will likely work against another.

Eclipse Table Tennis
Our training camp today is 10AM-1PM, 3-6PM. The eclipse here in Gaithersburg, Maryland, will start at 1:17PM, reach its peak at 2:42PM, and continue until right at 4PM. One of the kids in the camp is bringing in at least eight sets of eclipse glasses, and others are bringing them as well, so during the afternoon break we’ll have an informal eclipse viewing party in the MDTTC parking lot. (Feel free to join us.) The weather reports are for “partly cloudy,” so hopefully the clouds will cooperate. If not, we’ll just hold ping-pong balls up and block off lights in the club to create our own eclipses. Meanwhile, here are some eclipse table tennis items:

  • Eclipse Table Tennis Set
  • Dark Eclipse Ping Pong Paddle, named for a somewhat obscure superhero. “Before the powers, Dark Eclipse (Nick O’Neil) was a student at Shield City University. While at college, he was majoring in sociology. With the mounting pressure of the real world hitting him all at once, Nick had a difficult time paying bills on time and managing his time effectively. After getting fired from his job as a banker, Nick realized that he had the power to control darkness. By harnessing the darkness around him, Nick became a thief known as Dark Eclipse.”
  • Facial Pong Eclipse?

Returning Shots Hit To Your Playing Elbow
Here’s the article from Table Tennis Spot.

Table Tennis Training Kids of China
Here’s the video (3:37) from EmRatThich. “The coach asked his players to hit the ball fast but consistent. He counted "1, 2, 3, 4, 5, ...". They train with only 1 ball. He also held a small baton to show the error of the kids.”

Dirk Wagner Profile of a Table Tennis Coach – Part 3
Here’s the video (13:57). Here’s Part 1 (17:09), which I linked to on Aug. 4, and Part 2 (17:40), which I linked to on Aug. 15.

Seamaster Bulgaria Open
Here’s the home page for the tournament held this past weekend, with results, articles, pictures, and video.

USA Juniors Making Headlines Around the World
Here are three articles on their results at the World Hopes in Luxemburg, and at the El Salvador Junior and Cadet Open.

New Articles at SportsFlu

My Project "History of Table Tennis"
Here’s the video (17:04) from EmRatThich. “I love seeing the evolution of the top male and female players in table tennis. That's why I focus on this project "History of table tennis". In this video, you will see some interesting points in the ranking of the best players (top 10) in table tennis.”

2017 Hawkeye Open Videos
Here’s the page. The 4-star tournament was held this past weekend in Iowa City, Iowa. Here are complete results care of Omnipong.

Navin Hitting Forehands
Here’s the video (82 sec) of part of his session with me a few days ago. Navin Kumar is, of course, the Bionic Man, with an artificial heart and Parkinson’s.

Mayweather vs. McGregor
Here’s the article from the Washington Post (you may have to sign in to see it), which includes the following quote: “The greatest ping-pong player in the world isn’t going to beat Roger Federer, and Conor McGregor isn’t going to beat Floyd Mayweather.” In the context, it means the “greatest ping-pong player” isn’t going to beat Federer in tennis. In table tennis, of course, Federer would be lucky to score against Ma Long!!!

Outrageous Placement Skills of Zhang Jike
Here’s the video (60 sec) of Zhang in some sort of game show.

Send us your own coaching news!

August 18, 2017

Off Today
As mentioned in my blog yesterday, I’m off today – I’ve been on the go for weeks without a break, including ten straight 14-16 hour days while working with Tim on his new book. But to help you get through the weekend, why not follow the action at the Bulgarian Open and the El Salvador Junior & Cadet Open? Oh, and here’s video (1:35) of a baby feeding multiball to a player – the best multiball practice I’ve ever seen!!! 

August 17, 2017

Most Common Mistake
I’ve been thinking about what are the most common mistakes players make, and came to a surprising conclusion. There are lots of common problems that gradually decrease as players improve, but what one thing seems somewhat more prevalent than most as players move up? I think it’s contact on the serve is too high.

If you contact the ball too high, the ball bounces higher on the other side. But it’s a subtle thing, and so there’s not a lot of feedback that forces a player to lower his contact point. Instead, players just generally return the serve more consistently and more aggressively. The server often doesn’t notice this as it often just means the receiver, given a slightly higher ball (and so a larger target on the other side), may just push better than otherwise, or perhaps attack just a little better. Instead, learn to contact the ball lower on the serve, perhaps at net height. This leads to a lower serve, which forces the opponent to lift the ball upwards instead of driving it forward, which leads to weaker and more erratic receives.

When I see players at our club practicing their serves I think about 80% of the time I’m calling out, “Lower contact point!” Here’s my Tip on Serving Low.

They come in bunches. I’m taking tomorrow off from everything to rest, so no blog tomorrow. (Friday is my off day for coaching.) Here’s a rundown.

  • Neck. As I type this I can barely hold my head up due to a neck injury. I’m resting it against the back of my office chair since it hurts if I lean it forward. I also can’t look to my left – I’m not sure if I can drive safely because of this. How did I hurt my neck? I have no clue – my best guess is while moving boxes around a couple days ago while doing a major house cleaning. But I don’t remember doing anything that would affect my neck. Yesterday it was also hurting, but I was able to coach two hours. Today – I’m not so sure as it’s much worse. We’ll see. I have three hours scheduled tonight.
  • Right knee. It’s been injured since the Nationals over a month ago. I wear a knee brace, which helps. But I can’t put weight on it when moving to my right, so (as I blogged last week), all of my students take great glee in going to my wide forehand. It also makes walking up and down stairs difficult. One big worry here is that because I’m favoring the right knee so much, I could injure the left.
  • Shoulder. On the very last shot I did coaching on Monday I smashed in a loose ball from a student – and reinjured my shoulder. It’s an old injury that comes back about once every year. So now I have to be careful on smashing or looping as it puts pressure on this.
  • Arm. I still wear an arm brace to protect against recurring arm injuries – and probably because I’ve been trying to avoid hurting the shoulder, the arm is getting sore again. (I blogged about this on May 19 and May 21 in 2015.)
  • Left thumb. On top of all this, I have an infected ingrown thumbnail that hurts more than all of the above put together, other than the neck.
  • Back problems. I periodically have them, but nothing right now. Yay. 
  • General exhaustion. From Aug. 2-12, while working with USATT Historian Tim Boggan on his new book, I literally worked 14-16 hours per day for ten straight days. Since then I’ve had almost as long hours catching up on things. I think I’ve just used up my lifetime quota of energy – or is that just a Trump theory? :)

Coaching DURING the Game
Here’s the article from Samson Dubina. It covers three types: Encouragement, Informative, and Secretive.

Ask the Experts: Pushing Question
Here’s the question and answer from Jon Ebuen.

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

USATT’s YouTube Channel
Here’s the page. “Since overhauling our YouTube channel 4 months ago we have uploaded over 65 new videos.”

2017 Hopes – Swathi Giri (USA)
Here’s the ITTF article featuring the USA junior star.

Table Tennis and a Dose of Faith
Here’s the article from Coach Jon.

Glenn Tepper and his 19 Years with ITTF
Here’s his posting. (It’s on Facebook, but I think it’s set so anyone can read it.)

Table Tennis: Little Ma Long of Brazil
Here’s the video (3:36). “There are many fans of Ma Long - one of the greatest table tennis player in the history. However, this is the first time, I've seen that a dad has named his son as ‘Little Ma Long’. So amazing! We all love this sport.”

Olympics Dream of Lee Ho Ching - Hong Kong
Here’s the video (23:38).

Craziest Chinese Points
Here’s the video (12:25).

Zhang Jike in a Singing Contest
Here’s the video (12:54) – it’s in Chinese, with Zhang singing in Chinese.

Epic Ping-Pong Match
Here’s the cartoon video (1:29:04) – apparently it went up a week ago.

Split a Ball by Hitting It at a KNIFE I Challenge Pongfinity
Here’s the video (4:16)!

An Eye for an Eye, a Ball for a Ball
Here’s the video (37 sec) of a sore loser getting his comeuppance!

Send us your own coaching news!

August 16, 2017

Bob Tretheway RIP
He died yesterday, at age 69, of congestive heart failure, which he’d been suffering from for several years. Bob was the director for USA Table Tennis from the early 1980s to around 1989. (He was never officially the Executive Director of CEO – his formal title was National Program Director – but since we didn’t have an ED or CEO in those days, he essentially was it.)

In 1985, Bob was instrumental in starting up USATT’s Resident Training Program, starting in September that year. This was primarily a junior program for the best USA players, where they’d live in a dormitory (“Building 83”) at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, go to school (East Middle School and Palmer High School), and train at the table tennis hall (“Building 65”).

In December he brought me in, officially as a player (though I was too old for the program at 25), but really to help develop various coaching manuals, including Instructor’s Guide to Table Tennis. Soon I was named assistant manager, then manager, and later I became the director and one of the coaches. Many players went through the program there, including Sean O’Neill, Jim Butler, Todd Sweeris, Eric Owens, Randy Cohen, Brian Pace, Sean Lonergan, Dhiren Narotam, Chi-Sun Chui, Rocky Wang, Diana and Lisa Gee, Nan Li, Li Ai, and many dozens of others (apologies for those not named). Coaches, practice partners, and other staff at various times included Li Zhenshi, Li Zhang, Henan Li Ai, Liguo Ai, Cheng Yinghua, Jack Huang, Xu Huazhang, Ty Hoff, Mark Kennedy, and Scott Preiss. (The program ended around 1993.)

Bob was perhaps our most successful director at bringing in sponsorships, from Brother International to Ground Round. After his years with table tennis he brought his fundraising skills to Christmas Unlimited in Colorado Springs as their executive director.

Over the last week many dozens of players have been posting messages to him and among ourselves via a private Facebook “Bob Tretheway’s Buddies” group. I wrote, “Bob was one of the true doers in our sport, as well as one of the nicest. The RTP days will always hold great memories for many of us.”

Here are some other links.

Seamaster World Tour Bulgaria Open
Here’s their home page. It started yesterday, and is held Aug. 15-20, 2017, in Panagyurishte.

A Guide to Social Media and Online Marketing for USA Table Tennis Clubs
Here’s the new Guide, by Matt Hetherington, USATT’s Digital & Social Media Manager. Sections include:

  • Introduction
  • Starting Your Own Facebook Page or Group (what are the differences)
  • Effective Posting for Facebook and Useful Features
  • Other Social Networks – Instagram, Twitter etc.
  • How to Maximize Your Partnership with USA Table Tennis to help grow your club’s social presence.

USATT and Cournilleau Introduce Average Joe and Jane's – 'Not Your Average Table Tennis Tournament' - Promoting socially competitive Ping Pong
Here’s the USATT info page. “The third most popular sport in the world, table tennis is enjoyed by over 300 million people around the world. It’s good for your mind and body, and fun to play. It’s social and competitive – and virtually anyone can play almost anywhere there is a table, two paddles, and a ball. But the real question you have what it takes to win an Average Joe and Jane’s crown?”

Off-Table Footwork Training
Here’s the video (2:21).

Who is Mr. Sportsman of the Table Tennis World?
Here’s the article from SportsFlu, featuring 4-time world men’s singles champion Richard Bergmann.

The Out-of-Shape Table Tennis Player One Mile Challenge
Here’s the video (4:27) as these three former 2200+ players – Larry Bavly, Rich DeWitt, and John Andrade – battle it out for fun and glory!

GIANT Ping Pong!
Here’s the video (13:13) as they play with giant paddles and I’m guessing 400mm balls.

Send us your own coaching news!

August 15, 2017

USATT Board Teleconference
Last night we had a USATT Board teleconference. (I’m one of the Nasty/Naughty/Notorious/Nonsensical/Nauseating/Notable/Neighborly/Noble/Nifty/Nicest Nine – you choose the adjective.) It was a relatively short one, starting at 7PM and ending around 8:20PM. Attending were eight board members, plus CEO Gordon Kaye, High Performance Director Jorg Bitzigeio, High Performance Committee Chair Carl Danner, and legal Counsel Dennis Taylor. Here’s a rundown.

  • September In-Person Meeting. This will take place in Washington DC, Sept 9-10. Most of the board that’s not in driving distance already has their flight tickets and hotel reservations. It’s relatively local to me, maybe a 45-minute drive. Note that USATT members are welcome to attend all except for closed sessions, which generally don’t take up much time. (In closed sessions we cover legal and personnel matters.) I’ll publish the agenda for that meeting when it comes up, probably a few days in advance. There’s going to be a lot of discussion on issues such as player and coach selection for U.S. teams, and many reports. I’ll be giving the Coaching Committee report.
  • December Board Meeting. It’ll be held just before the U.S. Open, on Fri-Sat, Dec. 15-16, in Las Vegas.
  • SafeSport Audit/Compliance Update. Compliance has been relatively slow, but it’s picked up a lot recently. My club wasn’t very compliant a week ago, but this past week most of our coaches have taken it. There was a bit of discussion on how to better implement this. I've been pushing for the USOC to create versions of this in other languages, especially (for table tennis) in Chinese. The USOC is aware of the problem, and it's now on their longterm agenda, but it's not likely to happen in the near future, alas. I don't understand how they can consider this so important, and yet not do something as basic as this, considering their huge resources ($300+ million annual budget). My impression is they are more interested in legally covering themselves, by requiring SafeSport, than in actually implementing it, by putting it in multiple languages, since so many top coaches do not speak English as a first language. I hope they prove me wrong. 
  • USATT Events. We had reports and discussions on the following events: 2017 Para Open; 2018 Youth Olympic Games North American Qualification Event; 2017 U.S. Open (Dec. 17-22); ITTF China in North America – training camp; USATT SuperCamp; 2018 World Hopes Week; 2018 World Veterans Championships; and 2018 U.S. National Championships.

Wanted: Female Coach/Practice Partner
Here’s the info page at the Samson Dubina Table Tennis Academy.

Should You Use Wrist in Forehand Topspin Table Tennis?
Here’s the video (6:46) from EmRatThich.

Match Drills
Here’s the podcast (28:33) from PingSkills.

Dirk Wagner Profile of a Table Tennis Coach – Part 2
Here’s the video (17:40). Here’s Part 1 (17:09), which I linked to on Aug. 4.

Multiball with a Robot and with Attila Malek
Here’s the video (53 sec). Robots can be great practice, but you also need practice against a real person – live or multiball – so you practice reacting to a ball coming off a paddle.

Samsonov (Controlled attacking style) vs Joo Sae-hyuk (defender style)
Here’s the video (10:02, time removed between points) with some commentary.

Nittaku ITTF Monthly Pongcast - July 2017
Here’s the video (9:06).

Table Tennis Therapy
Here’s the video (2:51) from CBS News. “Can playing ping-pong really reduce risk of Alzheimer’s disease?”

History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 19 (1991-1992)
Here's chapter twenty-one - 1992 - International Matches - World Championships. Or order your own print copies at, Volumes 1 to 19! (Volume 20 should be out within two weeks.)

Izabel Rather and the Floating Ping-Pong Ball
At the USA Nationals in July I demonstrated my blowing ball trick to Izabel, five-year-old daughter of coach and former U.S. Women’s Champion Jasna Rather. Here are the pictures, taken by Hall of Famer Mal Anderson!

How Many Balls Can You Put in Your Mouth?
Here’s the picture! (Kids, don’t try this unless you have a physician standing by to save you when you start to choke to death.)

Send us your own coaching news!

August 14, 2017

Tip of the Week
Attacking the Middle with the Forehand and Backhand.

Basics, Basics, Basics!!!
It seems like half my students were on vacation recently, and so they all seem out of practice. So what are we focusing on? Yes, BASICS!!! This doesn’t mean just forehand to forehand or other simple drills like that. But it means a lot of basic stroking and footwork drills. One of the things about taking time off is that when players come back, they often fall back into old habits we had spent so much time fixing. So I’m being very careful to watch for that.

For example, I have one student who used to habitually lift his elbow when he hit forehands, thereby closing the racket during the forward swing, leading to erratic shots. He kicked the habit, or so we thought – but he was right back to it in our last session. But we quickly fixed it, and did a lot of forehand drills to make sure.

Another student felt like he’d completely lost the feel of his forehand loop – nothing seemed right. We spent quite a bit of time in our session on it before it began to click. This was a case of his feeling tentative, and so he kept falling back, and so the ball was falling front of him, throwing off his stroke and timing. This led to erratic contacts, and so even when he did it “right,” he was erratic. I had him focus on positioning and contact, and soon all was well. He’s also seemingly forgotten how to smash lobs, so we focused on that, and the importance of doing a systematic one (bring racket back), two (raise the racket) and three (drive into the ball with legs, throwing upper body into the shot).

Another had had a slightly longer “break” – he had stopped playing for 40 years (!), and recently started up again. He used to have a forehand pendulum serve, but had forgotten how to do it. So we’re working on that, and it’s beginning to come back.

Update - History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 20
We “finished” the volume on Friday afternoon, and Tim drove back to New York on Saturday morning. To get it done before my weekend coaching we put in some long hours!!! The final version is 460 pages with 714 graphics. However, I put “finished” in quotes above because Tim has since emailed me about two dozen corrections he’s found, some of which will be time-consuming to fix. I’ll try to get to them today so I can get the volume sent off to, where we publish the volumes. Today’s going to be pretty busy, as in addition to this I have a noon call coming up on USATT coaching (on coaching certification and education), and a USATT board meeting at 7PM. In between, I have to also attack my growing todo list, which during Tim’s visit blossomed to roughly Godzilla size.

Multiball Champions
Here’s the article, with links to video, by Samson Dubina.

Table Tennis Basics from GT Table Tennis

New Articles from Sports Flu

  • Koki Niwa: The “Inventor” of Chop Block Shot. This is misleading as the shot has been done by players decades before Koki was even born. It’s not that common by world-class players these days, though world #1 Ma Long sometimes does it, and it was probably more common in the past. Jan-Ove Waldner, considered the greatest player of all time by many, often used it - and he won the Worlds before Koki was born. I've been doing the shot myself somewhat regularly since the late 1970s.
  • Bill Guilfoil Could Not Make It to Rio Olympics 2016 Because… In the article they mention some past achievements by USA at the Worlds, but somehow left out that we swept Men’s and Women’s Teams in 1937, our greatest achievement. (We’ve won a few other men’s, women’s, and mixed doubles events, but none since the 1950s.)
  • A New Bond Surprised Everyone – When Art Meets Table Tennis

Amazing Hopes Training in Multi-ball Session with Li Xiaodong
Here’s the video (4:04).

Who Was Better at Age 14, Ma Long or Tomokazu Harimoto?
Here’s the video (8:17) from EmRatThich

Best of Tomokazu Harimoto
Here’s the video (5:20) of the 14-year-old whiz kid from Japan, now #20 in the world.

Best of Chen Weixing
Here’s the video (10:39).

You Don’t Have to be Tall to Play Table Tennis!
Here’s the video (39 sec) of a three-year-old showing us how it’s done!

Trick Shots
Here’s another trick-shot video (3:39), set to music.

Table Tennis Squash (1959)
Here’s the video (2 min) of this other version of table tennis that didn’t quite take off! (I may have linked to this once before, long ago.) 

Reverse Engineering in Table Tennis
Here’s the video (2:15) of table tennis played in reverse.

Desk and Chair Pong
Here’s the video (68 sec) – kids, now you know what you should really be doing at school!

Sunday Comics - Blondie and Agnes!!!
This past Sunday in the Washington Post comics section (and presumably other papers) there were TWO table tennis cartoons!!!

  • Blondie – I’m putting this on the wall at my club, since this is what happens after our summer camps every year!
  • Agnes – I’m looking forward to seeing that shower of paddles, balls, and nets. But who in the world would throw out half a ping-pong table???

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