Larry Hodges's blog

October 18, 2017

Tip of the Week
Top Twelve Tactical Rallying Mistakes.

Table Tennis North America Submits Letter of Interest To Host 2020 ITTF World Team Table Tennis Championships
Here’s the article. “Table Tennis North America, a partnership which includes USA Table Tennis (USATT) and Table Tennis Canada (TTCAN), today announced that the group has submitted a Letter of Interest to host the 2020 ITTF World Team Table Tennis Championships in San Jose, CA.”

So, when was the last time the World Championships were held in U.S., or North America, or even South America? Answer: NEVER!!! So this would be a first. USATT has been doing a lot of that in recent times – last year we held the first World Women’s Cup in the U.S., and next year we’ll have the first World Veterans Championships in the U.S. since 1990. (As the article says, other than the 1939 Worlds in Cairo, Egypt – practically a suburb of Europe! – the Worlds has always been held in Europe or Asia.

To quote USATT CEO Gordon Kaye from the article above, “With table tennis exploding across North America, we felt strongly that now was the time to bring a World Championship event to our continent. With the success of last year’s Seamaster Women’s World Cup in Philadelphia and the much-anticipated Uncle Pop’s Women’s World Cup presented by Polar Naturals in Toronto later this month, there is absolutely a strong interest in North America for world-class table tennis.”

Want to be a volunteer at these events? Why not volunteer for the 2018 World Veterans? For one thing, it’ll put you on track to be an experienced pro at this when you volunteer for the 2020 Worlds! (I’m already a volunteer at the World Veterans – I’ll be doing daily coverage.)

Mastering the Flip
Here’s the article by Brian Pace, with links to numerous videos.

New Articles and Videos from EmRatThich

National Collegiate Table Tennis Newsletter
Here’s the October issue.

The Secret to Returning Illegal Table Tennis Serves
Here’s the video (4:04).

Adoni Maropis Has a Web Page
Here’s the page. He’s won numerous hardbat and sandpaper singles titles at the U.S. Open and Nationals, but is perhaps best known as the evil Fayed from the TV show “24” (where he nuked Valencia, CA) and as the flamboyant evil sorcerer, Quan Chi, in the TV show “Mortal Kombat Conquest.”

Matt Hetherington Wins New Zealand Men’s Doubles Championship
Here’s the picture. (Here’s the non-Facebook version.) Matt (the technocrat in the hat, who’s not fat, with no bat, who’s not sat, and has come back from his New Zealand flat) is USATT’s Digital & Social Media Manager. If I weren’t sick with a cold I’d come up with better rhymes. (With apologies to Dr. Seuss.)

Senior Table Tennis Champs Share Love of the Game and Each Other
Here’s the article featuring Si Wasserman and Patty Martinez.

Triangle Table Tennis to Host 4-Star Southeastern Open (Giant RR)
Here’s the article by Barbara Wei.

Successful Premier Capital Plastics Butterfly Youth Championships Held in California
Here’s the article by Kevin Yu.

Sarah Jalli Training Video
Here’s the video (2:52) from Samson Dubina. Sarah, 11, is rated 2108.

Junior Training Session
Here’s the video (2:31) of a junior training session in France.

Roger Federer Challenges Klay Thompson to Ping-Pong Game
Here’s the article about the possible challenge match between the tennis and NBA stars.

Puppy Pong!
Here’s the picture. (Here’s the non-Facebook version.)

Tiger and Lily, Standing at a Table, S-M-A-S-H-I-N-G!
Here’s the video (3 sec) of Tiger Woods smashing in a winner as he plays doubles with Olympian and 3-time U.S. Women’s Singles Champion Lily Zhang.

Non-Looking, Watch-Watching, Waving-to-Crowd Short Exhibition
Here’s the hilarious video (10 sec)!

Send us your own coaching news!

October 17, 2017

Nasty Cold Virus Playing Pong and Making USATT Great
To whoever gave me the cold virus at the MDTTC October Open this past weekend for safe keeping – you can come and pick it up at any time. I know you meant well, but this virus you gave me has multiplied beyond its original numbers, and it has annoying taken up residence in various locations in my throat and lungs, where it is now studying to become a doctor, lawyer, or pneumonia. While I applaud its attempts to better itself, and I may help it out financially if it chooses to go to medical or law school, I’d prefer it not go the pneumonia route, and in fact I’m leaning toward kicking it out at any time as it is no longer welcome. So please come and pick it up at any time.

Here’s a picture of the nasty critter playing pong and crusading to make USATT great again.

Because of the cold, and the struggle to get some timely work done, I need to skip the blog again today. Assuming I'm still alive tomorrow, nothing in the universe can possibly stop me from blogging again. 

October 16, 2017

No Blog Today
There should be a rule that if you run a 2-day, 3-star tournament over the weekend, you should get Monday off. (Plus it looks like someone there gave me a cold...) However, there is no such rule, and so I was going to do the blog this morning. Unfortunately, I’m involved in three major time-consuming projects – one USATT, one MDTTC, one involving Tim Boggan’s History of U.S. Table Tennis (preparing the 28 chapters for online publication for USATT), plus my ongoing battle with Amazon (see my Thursday blog), and a dozen other smaller items, such as doing the tournament write-up and photo work. So I need to work on these today. But to tide you over, here’s a question to you: Who would win between these dizzying table-circling speedsters?

October 13, 2017

Upcoming Table Tennis Events to Sign Up For
There are a lot of table tennis events coming up, and it’s time to make plans and sign up for them! We’ll start with tournaments. (I’m referring to USA events. Others should look to their own country’s table tennis association for their schedule.)

You can find upcoming tournaments at the USATT Tournament Schedule. If you are free this weekend (and haven’t missed the deadline), there are exactly ten USATT tournaments scheduled this weekend. There is one 3-star event – the Butterfly MDTTC October Open, which I’m running this weekend. (Deadline to enter is 7PM tonight.) There are also eight 2-star events, and a 1-star. Events this weekend include tournaments in Austin, TX; Erie, PA; Franklin, TN; New Albany, IN; Gaithersburg, MD; Clearwater, FL; Rosemead, CA; New Orleans, LA; Westfield, NJ; and Manville, RI.

Looking for something bigger? Like a 4-star tournament? At the USATT Tournament Schedule, click on “4 star” events, and seven events come up this fall. They include these six – and note that there’s one next weekend, and also give a great thanks to the Westchester Club in NY which runs monthly 4-star events!

You’ll note that I only listed six of the seven events. That’s because the North American Teams is technically listed as a 4-star, but reality is that it is as big as any 5-star event, with about 700 players each year. So I’m going to include that with the 5-star events. So if you are looking for something even bigger than a 4-star, here are three this fall. (The US Para Open is for Paralympic players only, and is held in conjunction with the U.S. Open which immediately follows it.)

What, you want something even BIGGER??? Okay – if you are age 39 or over (as of Dec. 31, 2017), then you will be considered 40 or over for 2018, and eligible for the 2018 World Veterans Championships, June 18-24, 2018 in Las Vegas. Here’s my feature article on it.

So that’s a lot of upcoming events to look forward to. (I’ll be at many of these!)

Oh, you are more interested in training? Then perhaps visit the USATT Certified Coaches list, and find a coach in your area. Or are you more interested in perhaps a coaching camp? There are a number of Christmas Camps (or, as some call them, Holiday Camps), all around Dec. 26-31. Many or most are primarily for kids, but adults are welcome at these camps as well, as long as you don’t mind training with kids your level. Here’s a listing of camps I know of. (I ran a note a week ago asking readers for info on camps.)

Topspin or Flat Hit?
Here’s the article from Tom Lodziak. One small quibble – a flat hit is rarely completely flat, and almost always has some topspin. I’m known for my own forehand hitting (though I also loop), but though it’s called a “flat hit,” like all good players known for this, I actually stroke up at contact for that topspin. And so the ball doesn’t go in a straight line, as the light topspin as well as gravity pull it down. The result is you can smash even a rather low ball. However, there is a lot more margin for error if you loop the ball instead, with lots of topspin, and you can get almost as much speed as well.

3 Tips to Make You More Successful as a Table Tennis Player
Here’s the article from Coach Me Table Tennis.

Learn to Play Table Tennis On Your Knees – Like a 6 Year Old!
Here’s the article from Expert Table Tennis (with links to video). While I don’t play a lot on my knees, I do demonstrate smashing high balls on my knees for younger kids to shows them they don’t have to be tall to do this. I also do this in exhibitions.

Virginia State Champions
Here are two pictures of the huge champions trophy they created at SmashTT, showing state champions starting in 2015 for Men’s, Women’s, Masters, Juniors, Cadets, Open Doubles, and Hardbat. (Click on picture to see second picture.) I think this is a great idea that more states should emulate. Maybe we’ll do this sometime in Maryland.

ITTF Confirms List of Players for ITTF World Cups
Here’s the ITTF article.

Roskilde Pleasantly Surprised with Michael Maze on Champions League Comeback
Here’s the ITTF article.

Stretching a Child’s Imagination; Design a Ball Competition Winners Announced
Here’s the ITTF article. (I previously linked to another, shorter article on this.)

Battle of the Sexes
The movie Battle of the Sexes (Bobby Riggs vs. Billie Jean King) was great, but what was even better was their table tennis match! (Here’s the non-Facebook version.) Alas, I couldn’t find any video of this.

Friday the 13th
[Reprinted from the last Friday the 13th in January.] Yes, it's the day all Friggatriskaidekaphobias fear most. Here's Jason Vorhees wishing you a Very Happy Friday the 13th. ("I Jason. I no Loop. I smash. I Kill.") While we're at it, here's an extremely acrobatic black cat at the net (2:01). It's hilarious, and set to music. And here are two ghosts playing table tennis. And heck, here's a picture of Tim "Hulk" Boggan! (Hulk scary!)

Funniest Spam Ever Received
I got the following spam email yesterday, which reads like it was written by a seven-year-old. (Can someone give me contact info for U.S. distributor of Chop Blocks? I’d like to buy one! Also, maybe a good backhand loop?)

My name is Jim Moore and i would like to get a quotation on models and sizes of the ( Chop Blocks) you have in stock. Immediate responds is require and advise on payment method.
With Kind Regards
Jim Moore

Catch, Carry, and Drop
Here’s the video (8 sec) as Sean O’Neill demonstrates the new technique that will defeat the Chinese. You’ll need some sticky sponge!

Porcupine vs. Armadillo Pong
Here’s the picture!

Non-Table Tennis - Captain Exasperation Woman Meets President Trump
My humorous political satire story, “Captain Exasperation Woman Meets President Trump,” is now on sale at Amazon! Captain Exasperation Woman has the superpower of exasperation, but it’ll take more than that when she takes on Trump (“T-Rump”). (If you are a Trump supporter, you don’t want to read this.) It’s available now in kindle (and readable in other devices) for only 99 cents, and in print for $5.49. Story is 7000 words, 30 pages in the 8”x5” format. The cover itself is worth the cost of the print version!!! Below is the description of the story:

Can Captain Exasperation Woman Save the Planet from Complete Exasperation?
Captain Exasperation Woman, the world’s greatest superhero, has the power to exasperate anyone and anything into utter perplexity by simply telling the truth. Fences, helicopters, secret service agents, and many others will face her wrath. 

When she goes up against the mighty T-Rump known as President Trump, she will confront him with his countless lies, scams, business and moral failings, and the utter ineptitude of his presidency. But she will find her powers are useless against one who is not fettered by truth or conscience. She must bring out her full bag of tricks, from the Spirits of Presidents Past, Present, and Future, to the Devil himself.

Ultimately, she may need assistance from the Exasperation of the Galaxy itself to solve this problem!

Send us your own coaching news!

October 12, 2017

I Am at War with Amazon
Today’s blog is only partly table tennis related. In fact, the main connection is that I’m doing a lot less table tennis stuff temporarily as I’m spending more time in my battle with Amazon, plus of course I sell table tennis books on Amazon. Here’s the situation.

I’ve used Amazon for years, both as a buyer and seller. I have an author page there with 13 books – eight table tennis, six science fiction. (“The Spirit of Pong” counts as both, so yes, 8+6=13.) I make a pretty decent living selling my books there (along with coaching).

On October 31, my new science fiction novel is coming out, “When Parallel Lines Meet.” I co-wrote it with Mike Resnick (a legendary SF writer) and Lezli Robyn. We even had a launch party for it at the Capclave Science Fiction Convention this past weekend. I have ten preliminary copies, though it doesn’t officially come out until Halloween. (That’s a coincidence.)

Here’s the problem. On the kindle and audio versions, it correctly has all three of us as authors. But on the print version, it only has Mike Resnick.

I pointed this out to our publisher months ago when the novel first showed up for pre-orders, and he contacted Amazon. When you have an author or publisher page, as we do, there’s a “contact us” link at the bottom of the page, so contacting them is easy. Three weeks went by, and nothing happened, so I contacted the publisher again. He was irritated, saying that he’d been getting bureaucratic problems at Amazon, and hadn’t been able to get them to make the correction.

Now I’ve been through this before, where I needed Amazon to make such changes, and it’s a quick fix on their end. So I told the publisher I’d take care of it. I contacted Amazon, requesting they put Lezli and me on as co-authors, and pointed out the facts:

  1. Lezli and I are listed as co-authors in both the kindle and audio versions.
  2. My Amazon author’s page links to the book as being one of my books.
  3. Lezli and I are listed as co-authors on the publisher’s page.
  4. Lezli and I are listed as co-authors on the actual COVER of the book.

Now things get insane.

An agent from Amazon responded, asking if I’d like to be listed as the Illustrator for the book. (!!!) I responded by pointing out I wasn’t the illustrator, I was a co-author, and could you please make the correction.

The next response was a request for me to show that I was a co-author of the book. Gritting my teeth, I explained that I had already done so, but gave all the info above again.

The next response was a request for me to show that I was co-author of the book. This was written right above where I had given all this info. I pointed out that I had already done so, and what other proof did they need? Did they believe I co-authored the kindle and audio versions, but not the print version that had my name on the cover?

The next response was that they would forward the info to the proper people to make the change. I then waited about five days, with nothing happening. I then contacted them again, asking the status. The response? A request for proof that I was co-author of the book. I gave all the info again, while pointing out that it was all there in front of them, in previous emails.

This went on in various ways for approximately 15 emails, where I kept repeating the same info. The problem was that a different agent was responding each time, and none took the time to look at previous emails or files.

Finally, an agent responded by saying that, golly gee, I was right, I was co-author of the book! He promised to have the change made, but that it might take up to four days for it to appear.

Minutes after receiving this, I received another email from another agent telling me that for me to be listed as a co-author, I needed to be registered as an author as Amazon. I responded by pointing out that I was a registered author at Amazon, and that I had given links to my Amazon author page in at least ten different emails, and gave it again.

The response (again from another agent) was that I needed to register with Amazon as an author before they could put me down as co-author. As my head exploded, I again pointed out I was registered with Amazon as an author, and gave the link again, and asked if there was anything else I needed to register with.

The response (I am not making any of this up) was they would put me down as a co-author if I registered as an author with Amazon. These were not automated responses; these were actual responses from different agents, none of whom seemed to be looking at previous emails.

I responded again by pointing out that I was a registered author at Amazon, but if there was some other registration they wanted me to do, let me know and I would do that as well.

The response was a request that I register as an author at Amazon.

So I again responded, this time sarcastically, giving all the info above, giving my author’s page again, links to the kindle and audio versions, the publisher’s page, and challenging them to actually look at the cover of the book. I then explained that I was a journalist, and I am now considering writing all this up for the New York Times. Never, I pointed out, have I ever faced such bad customer service. Apparently it’s easier to register to own a machine gun in America than it is to register as an author at Amazon even after you are already registered as an author at Amazon!

The response this morning? A personal apology for all the problems I have gone through, and a promise that they would put Lezli and me down as co-author of the book I co-authored . . . as soon as I registered with Amazon as an author.

As I was about to post this, I got another email from still another agent at Amazon, who also apologized for the inconvenience – and asked if I would register as an author at Amazon so they could put me down as co-author. I’ve now sent them about 30 emails, and gotten about an equal number in response. I’ve explained in about 20 different emails that I am a registered author at Amazon, with a link to my author’s page. Since it took about 20 emails to convince them I was a co-author of the novel (despite this being incredibly obvious), will it take 20 emails to convince Amazon that, by golly, I am a registered author at Amazon, with an Amazon author page and everything!!!

I’m reaching the point where soon I’ll have spent as much time and typed as many words as I did in writing my portion of the novel itself. This is the ultimate in bureaucratic insanity. Maybe I should threaten to sue them if they refuse to put me down as an author of my own book? I can show monetary damages (a central requirement of lawsuits) by the very fact that they won’t put me down as author of my own book. If someone wants to buy the print version of the book because I wrote it, the page doesn’t show me as an author.

UPDATE ADDED AROUND 12:45 PM THURSDAY - The idiots (at this point that's the only word that fits) just asked me to provide a screen shot of the error. Think about it - I've provided the link that goes to their own Amazon page where they can see I'm not listed as co-author of the novel I co-wrote, but rather than look at that page, they insist I provide a screen shot of it!!! 

UPDATE ADDED 7:30 AM FRIDAY - I received two separate emails from Amazon. One said they would make the correction within 96 hours (just as a previous one had said a week ago). The other? It said that if I registered (there we go again!) "then we will check for the amount that is charged to you and proceed the refund." Complete lunacy since I was never charged for anything or asked for a refund. 

UPDATED ADDED SATURDAY NIGHT - They finally put my name down as co-author after dozens of emails and constant non-sensical responses. Only - despite my request in EVERY SINGLE EMAIL that Lezli Robyn and I be put on as co-authors, they only put me, leaving Lezli off. I have never seen such constant blundering. Anyway, I'm running the MDTTC October Open this weekend, but will go back on my quest to get them to get this right. Who knows how many dozens of hours it'll take. Here's the print version, with Lezli's name missing. 

UPDATE ADDED MONDAY MORNING - I won!!! This morning they added Lezli Robyn's name to the print version. It only took about 30 emails and many hours of work. Here's the print version, with Lezli and my names both on it!!!  

MDTTC October Open
Here’s the info page. I’m running the 3-star tournament this weekend. Deadline to enter is 7PM Friday. Some events might fill up before that, so enter early!

Spin Is the Answer. What’s the Question?
Here’s the article by Coach Jon.

Online Coaching
Here’s the podcast (30:50) from PingSkills, which covers numerous other topics as well.

Liu Shiwen in Search of Unprecedented Fifth Title
Here’s the ITTF article about the upcoming Women’s World Cup.

Large Turnout for Annual Sports Science Meeting
Here’s the ITTF article on the JTTA Sport Science and Medicine Committee International Meeting.

Nittaku ITTF Monthly Pongcast - September 2017
Here’s the video (10:15).

Table Tennis Manager Game and Trailer
Here’s the video (28 sec) advertising a new online table tennis game, Table Tennis Manager – and it’s FREE.

Angry Doubles Pong
Here’s the cartoon!

Send us your own coaching news!

October 11, 2017

$4000 Ping-Pong Table Shaped like Easter Island on Family Guy
In the Sunday, Oct. 8 episode of Family Guy (Foxx in the Men House), Peter goes to an Anthropologie store and (completely randomly) asks for a “$4000 ping-pong table that’s shaped like Easter Island.” The cashier responds, “We’ve got one right over there.” We then see a picture of this item, with letters on the screen saying, “Actual Anthropologie item.” Here’s the video – it should take you directly to 2:29 in, and the table tennis only takes up the first eight seconds.

There really is an Anthropologie store – I’d never heard of it – but nothing showed up when I did a search there for “ping-pong” or “table tennis,” alas. Then I had a brainstorm and did an online search for “ping-pong table Easter Island,” and here it is! Except (at Pinterest) it cost $12,000! The text says, “Easter Island Ping Pong Table - Easter Island Ping Pong table anyone? Yes this is for real, and yours for only $12,000 (don't worry, it's signed by the artist).” But when you follow the link by clicking on the picture, it takes you to Anthropologie, but the items appears to no longer be there.

Then I checked my search list again, and realized that the table was listed on numerous pages. For example, here it is at Neatorama – and here it says:

“Do you have $3,995.95? Now discounted from an original price of $12,000 is this one-of-a-kind ping pong table by artist Cyprien Chabert. It's shaped like Rapa Nui, the south Pacific isle also known as Easter Island. You know--the one with the giant stone statues. It's a commentary on the birdman ritual of the aboriginal inhabitants and the island's ecological history.” 

It's for sale at Anthropologie, which comments: [followed by a long description]. After that is a description of how the writer imagines the description came about:

“I’ve had a lot of tough writing assignments, but I’ve never faced a task like that poor guy. I can only imagine his face when he was assigned this one.”

“We’re selling a ping pong table,” his boss must’ve said.

Great! the writer may have thought.  A retro addition to any family room!

“Well, you can’t actually use it, because it was created to complex nature of man’s relationship with nature and the ecological challenges faced by modern societies and cultures.”

Blank look.

“Say something about sharks.  And birdmen.”

“What’s a birdman?”

“You’re missing the point.”

“And the point is…?”


Of course, this isn’t the most expensive table out there. Here’s a ping-pong table that sells for up to $48,000, and here’s one for $45,000. And if you want to see more crazy ping-pong tables, go here. (Anyone know of a ping-pong table more expensive than these?)

Use Booster, Speed Glue, Tuner in Table Tennis
Here’s the article and video (23:55) from EmRatThich. I was hesitant about linking to this, since these are all illegal, but as I’ve posted many times it’s a silly rule. Most top players boost or tune (I use these two terms interchangeably), and they are essentially undetectable and not unhealthy in any way. (Not many use speed glue as that is easily detected when they test rackets at major competitions, using the ENEZ chamber test box.) At the higher levels, those who follow the rules on this are at a disadvantage against those who do not. A rule that cannot be enforced shouldn’t be a rule. This article and video will at least educate you on what's actually going on among top players. Here’s my Racket Testing Rule proposal on this from two years ago, which I sent to the USATT Rules Committee, but they didn't act on it. 

3:1 Principle
Here’s the article from Samson Dubina. “Statistics have shown that players who can average 15 balls per rally in drills can usually rally about 5 balls in a match.  Players who can average 6 balls per rally in drills can usually rally about 2 balls in a match.  Obviously, the numbers are going to vary based on the drill type, the hit quality, the quality of the opponent’s hit, and hundreds of other factors.  But the statistics still stand (on average) the drill to game ratio is usually 3:1.”

Analysis of Advancing Women’s Table Tennis Style—Implementing Men’s Style into Women’s Style
Here’s the article by Jinxin Wang.

Less Is More
Here’s the article and video (7:36) from Dr. Jerry Lynch (sports psychologist). “…when learning, it is more important to go deeper than wider.” (Sort of a variation of my Tip of the Week, Saturation Training.)

2018 World Veterans Championships
USATT printed the article from my blog last week on the World Veterans Championships as a news item and in this morning’s USATT Insider. Are you going? If you are 40 or older, of course you are!!!

In a Distinguished Career, Olympics were Highlights for O'Neill
Here’s the USATT article on Sean O’Neill by Richard Finn. But . . . is he playing in the World Veterans?

Korean Serve Target Practice
Here’s the video (45 sec). Note how at the end, when the little kid smacks the target (a ping-pong ball in the far corner) with his serve, and everyone is cheering, he looks stunned, as if he’s not sure what all the fuss is about, since he’s only doing what he’s been trained to do. But . . . will he play in the World Veterans in 30 years?

Crazy Ping-Pong Shots and Rallies
Here’s the video (1:35). But . . . will you be there to see players make these shots at the World Veterans?

Super-Ultra-Mega-Table Pong
Here’s the video (23 sec) – yeah, that’s eight tables and a bench for a net. But . . . will they use these tables in the World Veterans?

Guys Play Ping-Pong while Wakesurfing
Here’s the video (18 sec). But . . . will this be an event at the World Veterans?

Send us your own coaching news!

October 10, 2017

Tip of the Week
Top Ten Tactical Receiving Mistakes.

Sunday Coaching and Monday USATT Teleconference
I spent Friday and Saturday at the Capclave Science Fiction Convention – see segment at end of blog. On Sunday had a 5.5 hours of coaching, mostly group sessions.

In private coaching with Todd, we focused quite a bit on serve and loop, especially backhand loop. He tends to be forehand oriented, but we’re adding more backhand attack to the mix. He’s picking up backhand loop pretty well, but sometimes tends to rush it against pushes. We also worked on moving to the wide forehand faster – but the key here wasn’t the movement itself but rather a faster recovery from the previous shot, a forehand from the backhand side. His backhand in rallies was on fire – he’s discovered he can hit winners by going after my wide forehand. Thanks a lot, age and bad knee, dang it! One problem – he needs a lot more serving practice, so I’m hoping he can increase that.

In the Beginning Junior Class we focused on footwork and serving. After an hour of practice we went to games. They divided into three groups. About half played up-down tables (i.e. real games). Several others took turns on the robot. I taught five of the younger ones the “Serving Game.” For this, one player serves ten times. The other four players stood on the other side (no rackets), with a plastic cup on the table in front of them. The server would serve and the other four would try to catch the serve. If they did, the server scored zero. If the server managed to serve so that it got past the four and hit the floor, the server got one. If the server hit one of the cups and the ball got past them and hit the floor, the server scored three. Then they’d rotate and the next player would serve.

In the “Talent Program” (advanced juniors from ages 7 to 13), I finally managed to do something I’ve strived to do for a while – memorize all their names! I always struggle with this, even though I use the normal mnemonic tricks. I had it down to two girls who I always got mixed up, but now I have that straightened out. Oh, and we did lots and Lots and LOTS of footwork practice. I worked with several of them on their transition from backhand to forehand, which seems to give some of them trouble in random situations.

In the Adult Training Session there were a number of questions about plastic balls, since we have multiple types. We ended up talking about this the first ten minutes. Then it was on to the usual drills – footwork drills early on, lots of serve & attack drills at the end. I spent some time with several of them working on specific footwork problems. One tended to keep his feet stationary between shots and so wasn’t quite ready to move when the opponent hit his shot. Two others simply hadn’t made it a habit to step to balls that they could reach by just reaching out.

On Monday we had a 7PM USATT Board Teleconference. It was a short one, just 7PM to about 8:05PM, with only one item on the agenda – CEO Gordon Kaye’s budget report. He’d emailed us copies earlier, and went over it item by item. Things look pretty good this year – we’re currently up about $52,000, with memberships and tournament participation up quite a bit. 

MDTTC Open and Promo Video
I’m running the 3-star Butterfly MDTTC Open this weekend, Oct. 14-15. There are ten events – Open, U2400, 2200, 2000, 1800, 1500, 1200, Over 50, and Under 14 and Under 12. Hope to see you there!

Here’s the MDTTC Open promo video (66 sec) created by Mossa Barandao of PongMobile.

Sunny Li Featured in Veterans Ad
Here’s the video (30 sec), and here’s the profile of him (page down to the bottom). Sunny dominated junior events I the U.S. from Under 10 to Under 21 in the 1990s, winning all of these events, and even sweeping Under 12, 14, and 16 one year, and Under 14, 16, and 18 another. He stopped playing when he was 17, rated about 2550, and went to college. After graduating, he joined the marines in 2002, shortly after 9-11. He was honorably discharged as a captain in 2009. From the article: “Sunny Li is missing a rib and has shrapnel in his body that he can still feel today. But if you ask him about these things, he’ll tell you that there is no scenario that has made him broken - these things have only made him stronger.” (Sunny was from MDTTC, my club – I probably practiced with him a thousand hours, and played him a thousand matches.)

Pretend You’re a Goalkeeper to Correct Your Table Tennis Stance
Here’s the article from Expert Table Tennis. (I also used the example of a soccer goalkeeper in my 2012 Tip of the Week, “Ready Position” – see last line. Ben elaborates on this a bit more.)

How to Serve – Forehand Pendulum Serve
Here’s the video (6 min) – it’s in German, but with great graphics that show what you need to know.

Chinese Table Tennis Super League to Exclude Japanese Players
Here’s the article from Japan Times.

Sharon Alguetti Responds, Wins in Belgrade
Here’s the ITTF article on the USA junior star.

The Three Winners of the Design a Ball Competition
Here are the winners. (Here’s the non-Facebook version.)

A Bar in London Just Got an Interactive Ping Pong Table That's a Giant Computer Game
Here’s the article from Business Insider.

Tomokazu Harimoto vs Jun Mizutani (2017 T2APAC)
Here’s the video (8:20) from EmRatThich.

Triples Table Tennis
Here’s the video (1:42) with a specialized table and net for this new version that’ll be demonstrated at the next World Championships.

Pong Cup Basketball?
Here’s the video (45 sec)!

Boll Bathing in Balls
Here’s the picture! Yes, that’s world #5 Timo Boll from Germany, former world #1. Caption says he’s #6, but he just moved up a spot. (Here’s the non-Facebook version.)

Really Fast Cowboy and Indian Pong
Here’s the repeating gif image!

Non-Table Tennis – Capclave Science Fiction Convention
I spent Friday and Saturday at the Capclave Science Fiction Convention. (It continued on Sunday, but I spent that day coaching at MDTTC.) As many of you know, science fiction writing (and reading!) is what I do outside of table tennis. (Here’s my Capclave bio, which mentions my being a professional table tennis coach.) I was the moderator on two panels, “Care and Feeding of Writers Groups and Critique Circles” and “Writing for Anthologies,” and was on the panel “I've Done My Research and You're Going to Suffer For It.” (There I explained how I’d inadvertently become an expert on blue whales as this kept coming up in my writing – and blue whales show up in three of my four novels!) I was also in two book signings – here’s a picture of me with my six SF books. We also had the official book launch party for my new novel, “When Parallel Lines Meet,” which I co-wrote with Mike Resnick and Lezli Robyn, and comes out officially on Oct. 31. (Here's a picture of me with our book.) About 30 people came for the party, which was a joint party with two other novelists with new novels coming out. (One small irritant – at the Amazon listing above it correctly has all three authors listed for the kindle and audio versions, but for the print version, it only lists Mike Resnick. That’s being fixed.)

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October 5, 2017

Capclave and Columbus and teleConference, Oh My!
No blog on Friday and Monday. On Friday and Saturday I’ll be at the Capclave Science Fiction Convention, where I’m a panelist (three panels, moderating two of them – here’s my Capclave bio with a link to my schedule), doing a book launch for my new SF novel, “When Parallel Lines Meet” (co-written with Mike Resnick and Lezli Robyn), and doing two autograph sessions. So no table tennis for me those two days, though I have a full day of TT scheduled on Sunday. Monday is Columbus Day, so I’m taking the day off – except for a 7PM USATT Board of Directors Teleconference.

2018 World Veteran Championships in Las Vegas
It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity – or at least once every 27 years, the last time the U.S. held a World Veterans Table Tennis Championship, back in 1990. The 2018 World Veterans Championships will be held at the Las Vegas Convention Center, June 18-24, and if you are over the age of 40 (as of Dec. 31, 2018), you need to be there.

Let’s start with the basics – the events. There are eleven age categories, with singles and doubles in each.

  • 40 - 44 years (Born 1978 or before)
  • 45 - 49 years (Born 1973 or before)
  • 50 - 54 years (Born 1968 or before)
  • 55 - 59 years (Born 1963 or before) 
  • 60 - 64 years (Born 1958 or before)
  • 65 - 69 years (Born 1953 or before)
  • 70 - 74 years (Born 1948 or before)  
  • 75 - 79 years (Born 1943 or before) 
  • 80 - 84 years (Born 1938 or before) 
  • 85 - 89 years (Born 1933 or before) 
  • Over 90 years (Born 1928 or before)

All events, both singles and doubles, will have preliminary groups of four, with two advancing to the championship draw and the other two to the consolation draw. If you enter both singles and doubles, you should play eight matches.  

You are probably asking yourself, “I haven’t got a chance! The best players in the world will be there!” Well, it’s true – the best players will be there, and most players are not going to become World Champion. But that’s not the reason you go to the World Veterans Championships (unless you are one of the best of your age in the world) – you go there to compete, meet other players (including the best in the world), have fun, spectate, shop, and enjoy the Las Vegas vacationland. It’ll be a full week of table tennis paradise, where you hobnob with your table tennis friends (old and new) and the stars. You’ll get to attend in person the opening and closing ceremonies, as well as sightseeing and social events planned.

Which top players will be there? We don’t really know yet. But we do know we are looking at a probable record number of entries. There were 4602 players at the last World Veterans, in Spain in 2016, but as of the end of August there were double the number of entries this year as there were in 2016 at that time. There are currently 1447 players entered in the online listing (which you can list by name, country, or events), but that doesn’t include most of the 1400 reserved entries from Germany, as well as over 250 that are “pending.” That puts us at over 3000 (already more than 1990, when we previously held it), and it’s still over two months until the “Early Bird” deadline of Dec. 15. The maximum number of entries that will be allowed is 5000, and it’s almost certain that we will reach that number – so enter now, while you can!

There are already over 200 entries each from Germany and China, and about 170 from India, so we are on a pace for huge numbers from them, as well as from the U.S., where we definitely will have a record number of entries. Yes, all your friends will be there – will you? (If you are worried about rating points, don’t. The tournament is not USATT rated. So you get to play for fun and competition.)

Think about it – we normally get 700-1000 players in our U.S. Nationals and Opens. There’ll be about 5000 at the 2018 World Veterans, from all over the world. It’s still early, and yet we already have players from 58 countries – ARG, AUS, AUT, BEL, BRA, CAN, CHI, CHN, COL, CZE, DEN, ENG, ESP, EST, FIN, FRA, GER, HKG, HUN, IMN, IND, IRI, IRL, ISR, ITA, JPN, KAZ, KOS, LTU, LUX, MAS, MGL, NED, NEP, NGR, NOR, NZL, PAK, PER, PHI, PLE, POL, POR, ROU, RSA, RUS, SCO, SIN, SRI, SUI, SVK, SWE, TPE, TUR, UAE, UKR, USA, AND VIE.

Since it’s taking place in the U.S., there’s going to be a lot of interest in USA players. The Over 60 Men’s Doubles Team of Cheng Yinghua and Dan Seemiller (both USATT Hall of Famers) will likely be a huge fan favorite. Both of them spent about a decade dominating table tennis in the U.S., both are surprisingly better at doubles than singles. With Cheng’s two-winged attacks and consistency, and the lefty Dan’s receive and ball control, they have a legitimate chance of winning. Dan is 5-time U.S. Men’s Singles Champion, 12-times Men’s Doubles Champion, and 8-time Mixed Doubles Champion. Dan also won the Bronze Medal for 60-64 Men’s Doubles at the 2016 World Veterans with David Sakai. Cheng was 4-time U.S. Men’s Singles Champion, 3-time Men’s Doubles Champion, 5-time Mixed Doubles Champion (as well as winning Men’s Singles and Doubles at the U.S. Open twice each) – but before he came to the U.S., he was two-time China Open Men’s Doubles Champion. They will also both be battling it out in the 60-64 age category. Cheng will actually be only 59 at the time, but they take ages as of Dec. 31. Dan will turn 64 five days before the competition begins.

Cost is $185 if you enter by the Dec. 15 “Early Bird” deadline. Then the price goes up to $235, with entries cutting off when they reach 5000 or on March 15 – but it’s likely they will reach 5000 well before that, so enter soon. Included in entry fees:

  • Entry to both Singles and Doubles
  • Use of practice facilities
  • Free monorail pass for the week (if you stay at the host hotels)
  • Free pickup at the airport (if you stay at the host hotels)
  • Participation in the Opening and Closing Ceremonies
  • Personal accreditation
  • Tournament documents
  • Participant’s diploma and gift

The event will be run by USA Table Tennis, in conjunction with the World Veterans Committee (with Director Eberhard Schöler and chair Hans Westling). The Organizing Committee is co-chaired by Dan Seemiller and David Sakai, with Honorary Host Stellan Bengtsson, and members Gail Kendall, Mike Babuin, Dean Johnson, Dell Sweeris, and Thor Truelson.

Here’s the Volunteer page if you would like to help out and get hospitality. (Alas, you can’t both volunteer and play – but you get to be a HUGE part of the event!) They are looking for volunteers for the following categories: Field of play (table managers, scorekeepers, and other related activities); Data entry; Tournament operations; Hospitality; Accreditation and Administration; Events; Transportation; Translators; and General Assistance.

Here is a listing of USA medalists at the 2016 World Veterans in Spain:

  • Charlene Liu/Patty Martinez won the silver medal in Women's 60-64 Doubles
  • David Sakai/Dan Seemiller won the bronze medal in Men's 60-64 Doubles
  • Minming ZHU won the gold medal in Women's Singles 60-64 Consolation
  • TingNing Cheung won the bronze in Women’s Singles 65-69
  • Ting Ning Cheung/Chiyako Suzuki won the silver medal in Women's 65-69 Doubles
  • Donna Sakai/Connie Sweeris won the bronze medal in Women's 65-69 Doubles Consolation
  • Chong Keng Tay won the bronze in Men’s Singles 75-79

So how do you enter? Here’s the Registration page, and in just minutes you will be entered. Then take your pick of hotels from the Hospitality page – Bally’s, Caesars, Flamingo, Harrahs, or the Paris Hotel. Then practice up!

How to Play Quick Backhand Topspin Attacks
Here’s the article and video (7:17) from Tom Lodziak.

Exercise of the Month
Here’s the video (1:21) from Eli Baraty. “The exercise: 1x forehand wide on the forehand topspin side, followed up by a forehand topspin from the middle of the table, moving back to the forehand wide and this is then followed up by a potentially aggressive backhand form the forehand side.

Ma Lin “Ghost Serve”
Here’s the article and video (11:04) from EmRatThich.

More Videos from EmRatThich
Here are his latest ones from his video page.

Polish Open
Here’s the home page for the event, Oct. 4-8 in Czestochowa, POL. Follow the action all weekend!

The Imaginary World of Ratings
Here’s the article by Coach Jon. Interesting tidbit – that chart he copied from the USATT ratings page? I created that many years ago.

Jörgen Persson: Honorary Doctorate with Commitment to Sport and Hometown
Here’s the article. “After 30 years as a professional table tennis player and the holder of a great many titles, Jörgen Persson now has a new title to add to his collection, an honorary doctorate in health and lifestyle at Halmstad University.”

Really Big Paddle Pong
Here’s the picture! (Here’s the non-Facebook version.)

Jesus vs. Satan Pong
Here’s the repeating gif image!

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October 4, 2017

Corresponding Correspondence
One of the things you learn when you volunteer for an organization like USATT is that when you schedule your time, you have to use what I call the 25% Rule. What does that mean? It means that you spend 25% of your time actually doing “productive” work, and 75% of your time corresponding and answering questions. Some of this is good and reasonable, some of it is not.

I’m on the USATT board of directors and chair the USATT coaching committee. (These are both unpaid volunteer positions.) I’ve spent much of the last week just emailing with people, mostly answering questions and discussing issues. It’s a huge but necessary time allotment. The problem is that not all the time spent on this is what I would call “necessary.” There is a famous saying that you spend something like 90% of your time on 10% of the people you are working for. In USATT, I’d say you spend 95% of your time on 1%. It’s been really true this past week.

Of course you also have to divide the 1% into those who deserve responses (many of them well-meaning, thoughtful individuals who really contribute to our sport), and those who are rude and/or irrational and only get cursory responses. We have plenty of those. (If I were a paid employee, I’d probably have to have a longer leash for these people, but as a volunteer, the leash is rather short for abusive and/or time-wasting people.)

There are some issues that are important, and yet I have little interest in getting involved in myself. For example, USATT’s had to spend an inordinate amount of time on SafeSport, the program imposed on us by USOC. I’ve been involved a few times, and have corresponded about it and advised on some issues, but mostly I’m leaving that to the USATT office staff and USATT lawyer. They probably spend 25% of their time dealing with SafeSport issues and 75% dealing with those complaining they aren’t dealing with SafeSport issues that they are, in fact, actually dealing with, except of course when they are responding to those who say they aren’t responding to those SafeSport issues. (You may have to reread that last sentence a couple of times – I had fun writing it.) Just yesterday I spent some time parsing the wording of past reports and board minutes to advise on an issue pertaining to this, but I hope to leave that to others.

I’ve spent a lot of time envisioning how USATT should set up a revamped coaching education and certification system, and have had a lot of great correspondence about this. My main frustration there is that I value the emails I receive from many people on this, but don’t always have time to give long responses. Hopefully they understand that – and believe me, I read and think about every email I receive. (Here’s my email.)

Christmas Table Tennis Camps
I’m going to put together a listing of all the Christmas table tennis camps in the U.S. that I can find, and then post it, sometime next week. They need to have an online info page I can link to. If you know of such a camp or are running one, and would like it to be listed, email me. (I already have links to camps at MDTTC, Samson Dubina Megacamp, and Lily Yip TTC.) (And by the way, I don’t care if you call it a Christmas Camp, a Hanukkah Camp, a Holiday Camp, or a Pongatious Ping-Pong Paradise Party.)

How to Play Table Tennis
Here’s the page from Tom Lodziak.

Plastic Balls
Here’s the video (11:34) from Table Tennis 11. “Watch Ferenc Karsai, one of Europe's most famous table tennis coaches, explain how the introduction of plastic balls has changed the sport, and what other changes we may witness in the future.”

Prohibited List
Here’s the ITTF article on substances banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency. (And yes, table tennis has had one athlete banned for steroids abuse – the same athlete twice, in 2002 and 2008.) Here’s the more extensive article and listing by WADA. Fortunately neither chocolate nor Mountain Dew are on the listings, so I’m okay. But read some of the banned substances out loud and try not to giggle. (Actually, reading the ingredients list for Mountain Dew sounds almost as bad.) Here’s a short listing of some of the prohibited substances – read them aloud. Fibroblast, Hepatocyte, Mechano, Vascular-Endothelial, vascularisation, Fenoterol, Formoterol, Higenamine, Indacaterol, Olodaterol, Procaterol, Reproterol, Salbutamol, Salmeterol, Terbutaline, Vilanterol, Salbutamol, 4-Androstene-3,6,17 trione (6-oxo), Aminoglutethimide, Anastrozole, Androsta-1,4,6-triene-3,17-dione (androstatrienedione), Androsta-3,5-diene-7,17-dione (arimistane), Exemestane, Formestane, Letrozole, Testolactone.

USATT and ICC Set to Host ITTF North America "China in North America" Camp
Here’s the USATT article.

Paddle Palace, Well Established but New Venture
Here’s the ITTF article on the ITTF Level 1 course held there by Christian Lillieroos.

Jenson Van Emburgh Takes More Medals on his Paralympic Journey
Here’s the USATT article on this top USA wheelchair player by Tina Hyunh.

A Table Tennis Life - Willy Leparulo
Here’s the USATT article by Richard Finn.

Early vs Delayed Rehabilitation After Acute Muscle Injury
Here’s the ITTF Education article.

Dramatic Table Tennis Poses
Here’s the photo gallery with six pictures – it’s from Facebook, but hopefully non-Facebook users can still see it. Click on the picture to see the next picture.

Cat Head Pong?
Here’s the repeating gif image!

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October 3, 2017

Jun Mizutani vs. Interactive Robot
Here’s the video (66 sec). Suppose you entered this robot in a U.S. tournament, and ignore the fact that its serve is illegal. What rating would it achieve? It would be reminiscent of when they started entering computers in chess tournaments.

It mostly just keeps the ball in play, often high, and without spin. Alas, I don’t think it can adjust very well to spin – Mizutani (world #8 from Japan, #4 in February) is mostly just patting the ball back and forth without spin - so that right away would probably put it below 1000. On the other hand, 49 sec in Mizutani soft loops the ball, and the robot returns it with ease, though a bit high. How would it react to a heavy backspin serve, push, or chop? Or a fast serve to a corner? Or fast breaking sidespin serve? Or a heavy topspin lob?

As to its serve, it breaks two serving rules. (Go to 34 seconds in to see it serving.)

  • 2.06.01: Service shall start with the ball resting freely on the open palm of the server's stationary free hand. 
  • 2.06.04: From the start of service until it is struck, the ball shall be … behind the server's end line.

However, there’s also this rule:

  • 2.06.07: Exceptionally, the umpire may relax the requirements for a correct service where he or she is satisfied that compliance is prevented by physical disability. 

Since the robot doesn’t have palms, I think the umpire may relax the 2.06.01 requirement due to physical disability. However, I don’t see how we can get past 2.06.04, since the ball seems in front of the end line throughout the serve. But I am impressed that it seems to fulfill the rest of the requirements, even doing a six-inch toss, and contrary to most world-class players, it doesn’t illegally hide the serve!!!

Chinese Table Tennis: Liu Guoliang Comments in Trial WTTC 2017
Here’s the article and video (8:16) from EmRatThich. “[In China], you only have 2 chances in your table tennis career.”

Lin Gaoyuan Backhand Flick Technique
Here’s the video (11 min), showing it in slow motion. It’s in Chinese, but you only need to watch. The lefty Lin is currently ranked “only” #29 in the world, but will likely be going up. Notice how he moves to receive backhand against short serves to the forehand? Many of the top players in the world now do that. Key thing to note – see how high he (and others doing this) puts his elbow for the shot? One small surprise – after doing the backhand flip, he gets caught and takes another backhand from the wide forehand. Usually he and others who do this get back quickly and would take that shot with the forehand.

Match Analysis
Here is some great match analysis from Zoom Table Tennis. Every month or so they pick out a match between two of the best players in the world and analyze it.

Across the Net
Here’s the October newsletter of the Melton Table Tennis Association from Australia, which always has some interesting articles. (Here are their archives.)

Happy 52nd Birthday to Jan-Ove Waldner!
Here are 12 pictures. (See #11 – does he golf left-handed???) This is a Facebook album, but I’m hoping those not on Facebook can still see it.

ITTF Rough Diamonds, Setting a New Standard for the Future
Here’s the ITTF article. USA players attending (and pictured0 are Amy Wang, Nikhil Kumar, Aditya Godhwani, Victor Liu, and Coach Zhou Xin.

Table Tennis Tidbits #10
Here’s the USATT article (with link to video) by Robert Ho. “Shades of Takashima?  Omni-potent Ma: ’15 World Tour Grand Final.”

USATT Has a New Referee
Here’s the short article from Samson Dubina. “Congrats to Blake Cottrell for being the first person in the last decade to get a perfect score on the USATT Written Referee Test and Draw!”

ITTF Satisfied with Preparations for 2018 World Team Table Tennis Championships
Here’s the ITTF article.

Defending Champions Dominate Para Table Tennis Euros
Here’s the ITTF article. Here’s the home page for the European Paralympics, which are taking place Sept. 26 – Oct. 5 in Lasko, Slovakia.

Top Ten Amazing Table Tennis Shots
Here’s the video (3:17). You’ve probably seen most of these before, but now they are compiled in one video.

The Truman Show - Truman Sleeps (Ping Pong Video Song)
Here’s the video (2:14) – music by ping-pong balls!

Pong Shootout?
Here’s the repeating gif image!

Send us your own coaching news!

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