Larry Hodges's blog

January 11, 2017

Timmy and Ping-Pong and Calfie, Oh My!
Tim moved in with me yesterday around 3PM, and within minutes we were hard at work, me doing pages of Volume 19 of his History of U.S Table Tennis, him saying "This goes there! Scan this! Type this! No, you fool, that's not what I meant!" We did the front and back covers and the first 15 or so pages (of a projected 500), plus I scanned and fixed up a bunch of other photos. We then left for dinner at about 5:15 PM, Carrabba's. (It's a nice Italian chain, with lots of authentic Italian dishes with Italian-sounding names. I had pepperoni pizza, Tim had Linguini with white clam sauce.) After dinner, he went to bed (around 7PM as usual for him), and I stayed up late writing. (A new SF story, plus started on the blog.)

I went to bed after midnight, was up by 5:30AM to get the blog down, and to be ready to work with Tim by 7AM. As I write this, I'm looking for more ways to postpone getting started with Tim, because once we start, we'll be at it ALL DAY!!! At least until 5PM, when I leave to coach.

The calf injury is 2/3 healed, but I'm still worried about re-injuring it. But I'm going to go ahead and do the one hour of coaching I have scheduled tonight, with a 1700 player. I'll likely just block and feed multiball - not sure if I should play open rallies, but we'll see.

2017 USATT Election
Here's the USATT info page (including campaign statements) - it's Attila Malek vs. Rajul Sheth in this upcoming battle to the death to be on the USATT Board! Voting begins on Jan. 14 and continues for two weeks. 

3 Reasons to Feel Good After a Tough Loss
Here's the article.

Ask a Table Tennis Coach
There are more episodes available at Expert Table Tennis.

History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 18 (1990-1991)
Here's chapter 16! Or order your own print copies at TimBogganTableTennis.com.

President of the Puerto Rican Table Tennis Federation Proud of 2016 Campaign
Here's the article from Butterfly.

Featuring Vladimir Samsonov
Here's the new video (41 sec).

Two New Table Tennis Guinness World Records Set
Here's the video (27 sec).

Ping-Pong Trick Shots by Jeyx
Here's the video (6:35).

Curvy Table?
Here's the picture - try rallying on this! (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

***
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January 10, 2017

History of U.S. Table Tennis: Volume 19
It's hard to believe, but we're into Volume 19 of Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis! As I write this, he's relentlessly driving toward Maryland, with an expected arrival of 3PM. Then we go to work!

As usual, the volume is projected to have about 500 pages and 1000 photos. USATT Hall of Fame official and photographer Mal Anderson scans most of the photos in advance and sends them to me on a CD. But nearly all of them need fixing up in Photoshop as many are scans directly from magazines or are old, vintage (i.e. poor quality) photos - and that's the first part of my job. And then I do the page layouts, with Tim sitting next to me, jabbing his finger at the screen periodically and screaming, "No, it goes there, you fool!"

He used to type up nearly all the text and then we'd place the photos (including captions and photo credits). But in recent years, to save time, he's had Mal scan the articles directly, and so I often place entire pages in one shot. However, the pages need lots of time-consuming fixing up, plus Tim always has a zillion replacement photos to take the place of those scanned.

As in the past, it'll take 10-14 days to complete the job. (I think this one covers 1991-1992.) We generally work from 7AM to whenever I leave to coach - usually around 4:00 or 5:00 PM. And then, in about six months, we start all over again! (When will I do my blog and other work? Late at night. I won't be sleeping much the next two weeks.)

Calf Injury
It's healing okay, but I'm still limping. I've already had to cancel or get replacements for all private coaching from Saturday through today, and I may have to cancel tomorrow's coaching (Wednesday). On Thursday I only have a one-hour session with a beginning junior, so I may make that one.

Consistent Bat Angle During Swing?
I was asked the following question on the forum here last night:

QUESTION: A lot of coaches tell us to not 'turn' or close your paddle during your forehand forward swing. They say it's a bad habit of creating topspin and causes inconsistencies. However, I've seen J.O. Waldner and Xu Xin doing that a lot.

MY ANSWER: They probably do this mostly against a slow incoming ball - and they have the timing to get away with it. Against a fast incoming ball, you normally don't want to be changing the racket angle as you forward swing. Against a slower ball, you can generate a bit more whip by changing the angle as you forward swing - but the timing is more difficult. I often to this when going for an all-out rip against a backspin. 

He also asked about swinging across the body. Here are the two postings. An extended version of this may turn into a Tip of the Week.

How to Practice Looping Backspin Balls
Here's the new coaching article from Expert Table Tennis.

Elizabeth Gresham 1948 - 2016
Here's the USATT obit on this long-time player and supporter.

Athlete Reminder: 2017 WADA Prohibited List Now in Effect
Here's the article. "USADA would like to remind all athletes that the 2017 WADA Prohibited List went into effect on January 1, 2017." And I was so looking forward to lunching on Clenbuterol, Salmetero, Beta-2 Agonists, and Non-erythropoietic EPO-receptor Agonists.

Starting Where Left Off, Tomakazu Harimoto and Fan Zhendong
Here's the ITTF article.

Table Tennis Stick Figure T-shirt in Many Colors
Here's the new kickstarter project from Steve Worthington.

Ma Long Heavy Spin Forehand Technique Slow Motion 2017
Here's the new video (1:19).

Table Tennis Therapy for Alzheimers
Here's the news story (2:51) from News 13.

The Craziest Ping-Pong Skills
Here's the video (2:40), a compilation of crazy table tennis trick shots. This came out a month ago, but I don't think I posted it.

"Big" and "Little" Table Play
Here's the "Big" video (47 sec), and here's the "Little" video (30 sec). Which is more exciting?

***
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January 9, 2017

Tip of the Week
Focus on How to Beat Someone, Not On Why You Can’t. (As explained in my Dec. 28 blog in the Tip of the Week, I'm putting up extra Tips of the Week and post-dating them for earlier in December so I'll end up with 150 Tips for the period 2014-2016. So today's Tip of the Week is dated Dec. 27.)

My Weekend….
Tennis and calf injury and new classes, oh my!

  • Friday: Here's what I wrote on Facebook on Friday night: "Well, I've gone and done it. As part of my 'secret' plan to get in great physical shape, I was in my first tennis (yes, tennis) training session tonight in over five years. I jogged and stretched in advance, but of course you know what happened - 45 minutes into the session I pulled my right calf muscle. I probably won't be doing any private coaching for a while - I can't even walk right now without a crutch. (I can do group sessions on crutches.) I used to do group tennis sessions twice a week for over a decade." NOTE - in the tennis training session, someone drop shot the ball short to my forehand. I raced in at full speed and smacked in a running, lunging winner - but that was where I pulled the muscle. Few people would have gotten to that ball!
  • Saturday: I was on crutches all day (when I had to get up), and had to cancel all my one-on-one coaching sessions through Tuesday. I'll wait and see how it is for Wed and Thur. But I couldn't put any weight on the right leg yet. I spent most of the day reading and writing.
  • Sunday: This is my busiest coaching day, but I had to cancel or get substitutes for all my private coaching due to the leg injury. However, I had two 90-minute group sessions. I thought I was going to be on crutches for them, but discovered that if I taped the leg up very tightly, and kept it slightly bent, I could hobble about without hurting it further. I ran the first session of the new ten-week beginning junior class, with 11 kids, and with John and Wen Hsu assisting. I also ran the first adult training session of the new year, with 12 players.
  • Monday: I already cancelled both private sessions for today. I'll get a lot of other work done, but will limit any walking to help it heal. I'm debating whether I can coach on Wed and Thur. I also have to prepare for Tim Boggan's arrival on Tuesday to begin photo work and page layouts for History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 19 - more on that tomorrow. 

Slow Motion Table Tennis from the ITTF
Here's the video (40 sec), which starts off with the slow motion serve of world #1 Ma Long. Notice how the ball went completely behind his head, illegally hidden from the receiver? The funny and sad thing is that this just showcases that our top players no longer even attempt to hide that their serves are illegally hidden (this was pretty blatant), and the ITTF doesn't even bother to hide it, showcasing it here. Umpires just won't call it, referees won't insist on them calling it, and the various rules & officials committees and governing associations won't act to make sure the rules are being followed. Yep, cheating is rampant in our sport, and the ones in charge know it and won't do anything about it. I've tried every way imaginable, via USATT and ITTF, and it's like throwing ping-pong balls at a cloud of smoke. (Remember, it's not a matter of the umpire being able to tell if the serve is hidden. The question is whether or not he is "sure" of the serve's legality - and if he is not sure, then by our rules it is an illegal serve that should be called.)

Ask a TT Coach
Here are new articles from Expert Table Tennis. They've been busy!

Devastate the Cheater
Here's the coaching article from Samson Dubina.

Can European Players Compete with the Chinese?
Here's the article from eBATT Sport.

Pleasantville Table Tennis Prodigy Sets Sights on College, Olympics
Here's the article featuring Kai Zhang.

USATT Articles
They have a number of new News items - why not browse over them? (Some duplication with items here.)

Board of Directors Meeting Actions and Notices - Dec. 11, 2016
Here are the motions made at that meeting in Las Vegas. Complete minutes will go up later. There was also an email vote on Dec. 16 (to add Dell Sweeris and Donna Sakai to the USTTA Foundation Board. Yes, USTTA, not USATT - it was founded before USATT changed its name.)

Grand Slam Champion Zhang Jike Sets Fire on Cover of Men's Uno Magazine
Here's the ITTF article.

ITTF Monthly Pongcast - December 2016
Here's the video (13:16).

Here is Some Flippin' Practice
Here's the video (16 sec).

Tischtennis in Deutschland
Here's the video (48 sec) of this great attack vs. chop point.

NYCTTA Table Tennis Drill Session 360
Here's the video (76 sec) showing the new New York City TTA club. Forehand-Backhand drill!

Washington Redskins Players Tress Way and Nick Sundberg in Smash Table Tennis League
Here's the Facebook page with pictures.

Funny Guy Table Tennis
Here's the video (3:39).

***
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January 6, 2017

How My Coaching Differs from Some
"You can't do it!" I told the 7-year-old girl.

"Yes I can!" she insisted. I'd challenged her to hit 20 forehands in a row.  

"Prove it!" I demanded. In the next rally, after she missed after about ten shots, I shook my head in disgust. "See? I told you weren't good enough. I think you should give up!"

"No way!!!" Of course, a short time later she was gloating at me while I hid my face in embarrassment. "You were lucky!" I declared. "You'll never get that many in a row again!" Of course, within minutes she hit 30. (This all happened in a session last night.)

Most coaches like to encourage their students. I like to take the opposite approach – and it works. Plus, I have the fun of insulting all my students – and they like it! Of course, you have to have the right manner when you do this. I've seen some stern-faced coaches who, if they said, "You aren't good enough to do it," the student would burst into tears and run for the door. You have to keep it both fun and challenging.

Programs at a Professional Table Tennis Center
It's an honor to work at a really professional training center. What do I mean by professional (in italics)? It means that it's not just a place where people come in and call winners; it means the place actually has programs for the various needs of the players. No two centers are the same, but successful ones have a variety of programs. Here's what we have at the Maryland Table Tennis Center, where I coach.

  • Eight Professional Coaches (for group and private lessons). I'm one of them!
  • Six Junior Training Programs. I coach in three of these.
  • Two Adult Training Programs. I run one of them.
  • Training Camps (ten 5-day Summer sessions, Spring Break Camp, Christmas Camp, 11 one-day camps during school holidays, an annual Disabled Veterans Camp I run). I coach at many of these.
  • Four Leagues (including an Elite League and a Junior League).
  • Five Tournaments Per Year (the annual $5000 Maryland State Championships, and four $2670 Butterfly Opens). I run all of these.
  • Space Rental and Parties. I run all the parties, especially special table tennis birthday parties.
  • Table Tennis Robot. It's almost continuously in use.
  • Monthly Newsletter (to promote these programs). I'm the editor.
  • Pro Shop. Last year we had the second most sales among Butterfly clubs in the U.S.
  • Open Seven Days/Week, with 16 tables (sometime 18 for training).

If you have a full-time club in your area, see what programs they have. If they are missing any key ones, see if they can add them. If there isn't a full-time club in your area, why not take the initiative to develop one? Here's the USATT Club Developmental Handbook. The Professional Table Tennis Coaches Handbook (which I wrote) might also help.

How to Improve Your Forehand Drive
Here's the new coaching article from Expert Table Tennis. Includes links to video.

Table Tennis Spot
Here are a number of coaching articles, and here are other more general articles (with links to still more articles on the right).

The Perfect Table Tennis Serve
Here's the article from Coach Tom Lodziak.

A Fun Way to Learn Table Tennis
Here's the article from Table Tennis North, which includes lots of pictures – including a great headline picture. Article is on teaching table tennis to kids.

Fan Zhendong Super Backhand Technique Slow Motion 2016
Here's the new video (4:02).

Outstanding Rally by Antoine Hachard
Here's the video (40 sec).

A Pair of Sidespin Serves!
Here's the video (14 sec) as the server sends out these super-sidepinning serves. 

Batman Ping-Pong Set
I want one!!!

My New Year's Resolution: Beat You at Table Tennis
Here's the "Uncle Sam" poster! (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

Mostly Non-Table Tennis – Campaign 2100: Game of Scorpions Reviewed in Mensa Bulletin
Here's my science fiction & fantasy blog on this. (Remember, the novel features a table tennis player!)

***
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January 5, 2017

TT-Flex
I tried out the TT-Flex at the club yesterday, the new invention of Samson Dubina. Here's the video (4:02, though you can get the idea about it in the first few seconds). "TT-Flex is a full body strengthening system that targets the exact table tennis movements you need to enhance your game!" It hooked up easily to a table leg, and worked as advertised. It was similar to some oversized rubber bands I'd been given years ago to use to rehab from arm injuries, except, of course, this ties in directly to a weighted metal racket, with various hole placements to work on specific shots. It seems a pretty interesting way to exercise and develop the shots.  

I showed it to one of my junior students, who wanted to try out the weighted racket in rallies. Not easy – it's got those holes for the rubber bands! But he learned to hit the ball at the bottom of the hitting surface, where there's no holes, and spent ten minutes chopping and chop-lobbing to my smashes. I'll show it to others in my adult training class on Sunday.

Cold?
I almost didn't blog this morning. I've had what seems a minor cold for about ten days now – including a continuous sore throat. Believe me, having a sore throat ten straight days is irritating! I haven't seen a doctor or taken anything for it yet, since it's mostly been a minor irritant, but now I'm toying with doing something about it. I'll probably spend much of today in bed, reading and willing the sore throat to go away. Later I'll stop by the supermarket and look about buying something for it. (I have already have throat lozenges, but I'm sick of them.) Fortunately, I only have one hour of coaching scheduled for today. (My Thursday junior class starts up again next Thursday, and then Thursday nights will get busy again.) 

6 Mistakes You Probably Make When Practicing Third Ball Attack
Here's the article from Table Tennis Spot.

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

Same Name, Once Again Ma Long Heads List
Here's the ITTF press release.

Television Figures Released - millions upon millions watched table tennis at Rio 2016
Here's the ITTF article. "A quite staggering 552,300,000; that was the number of viewers, the net reach of the table tennis events at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games."

Behind the Back Power
Here's the video (9 sec) – why haven't you perfected this shot? (I have a student who insists on practicing this shot for several minutes every session!)

Paralympic Floor Pong
Here's the video (43 sec, including slo-mo replay).

Dab Shot
Here's the video (31 sec) - Watch this just before playing me or one of my students. It'll completely mess up your strokes!

Toddler Pong
Here's the video (29 sec)!

***
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January 4, 2017

Visual Imagery with Ma Long
Yesterday I had private sessions with two junior players. The first one, age 12, about 1700, has great ball control, but often falls back on forehand looping with mostly his arm, which leads to both a loss of power and frequent injuries. We've been working hard to fix the problem. Often he'll loop really well for a time, then he'll fall back into old habits. He'd taken some time off during Christmas (partly because I was also away), and so was a bit out of practice, and so I was worried he'd start up with his old habits. What to do?

After a short warm-up, we watched (on my smart phone) the first half of this video of Ma Long (5:06), which features his forehand loop. (For those living in a cave, he's the reigning world men's singles champion and ranked #1 in the world.) The idea was to get that visual image so that he could match it. And it worked – right from the start his loop technique was very Ma Longish.

My second student, age 10, about 1200, is working on developing his forehand loop. He tends to be backhand oriented, and so often blocks with his forehand from a backhand stance. So we're working on rotating sideways on forehands, which opens up the side for a bigger swing. Since we were going to spend much of the session on his forehand loop, about five minutes into the session (after giving him a good warm-up), we stopped and watched the first half of the video. It paid off – once again I had a student looping with Ma Longish technique.

While neither player is going to be Ma Longish level anytime soon, this type of technique training is a big first step. I strongly recommend other players to regularly watch videos of top players with techniques they'd like to emulate.

New Articles from Samson Dubina
Here are two more. I'm mentioned in one!

Shedding Pounds with Ping-Pong
Here's the article from weightwatchers.com.

Request for Proposals - 2017 USATT National Team Trials
Here's the USATT info page.

My 10 Best Stories from 2016
Here's the ITTF article.

Bring in the New Year with Table Tennis [Game of the Week]
Here's the article.

Bay State Table Tennis Club Players Build on History, Love of the Game
Here's the article.

Great Returns!
Here's the video (36 sec).

Robot vs. Big Paddle
Here's the video (16 sec). If you want to be a champ, this is what you gotta do!

How to Play 3-A-Side Ping-Pong
Here's the video (3:37).

***
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January 3, 2017

My 2017 Resolutions

  1. Weight to 175. Currently at 191.
  2. Win a National Hardbat Title at U.S. Nationals or Open.
  3. Address the rest of the USATT issues I promised to work on when I ran for the USATT board.
  4. Put together new book, "More Table Tennis Tips" (the 150 Tips of the Week from 2014-2016), the follow-up to Table Tennis Tips (the 150 Tips of the Week from 2011-2013).
  5. Write "Parents' Guide to Table Tennis" (new book).
  6. Help Tim Boggan put out two more volumes of his "History of U.S. Table Tennis" series – Volumes 19 and 20. (He moves in with me on Jan. 10 for two weeks to do Volume 19.)  
  7. Write a new SF novel, my fifth. I plan to start on this on March 1, but will be doing a lot of planning and research in advance.
  8. Write 20 new short stories (science fiction & fantasy).

Time Spent Out of Town in 2016
Total days out of town: 78. These do not include four days coaching at ITTF Cadet Camp at MDTTC (local), or six days where I did local exhibitions or coaching outside MDTTC. They are roughly split between table tennis (coaching at major tournaments or USATT meetings) and science fiction & fantasy writing (conventions where I promoted my novels, and writing workshops).

  • Mar. 18-20, Lunacon SF Con, Rye Brook, NY
  • Apr. 29-May 1, Ravencon SF Con, Williamsburg, VA
  • May 27-28, Balticon SF Con, Baltimore, MD
  • June 17-18, USATT Board Meeting, NJ
  • July 4-10, USA Nationals, Las Vegas, NV
  • July 10-22, USATT Supercamp, LYTTC, NJ
  • July 22-30, TNEO Writing Workshop, Manchester, NH
  • July 31-Aug 4, Junior Olympics, Houston, TX
  • Sept. 23-24, Baltimore Book Festival, Baltimore, MD
  • Oct. 7-8, Capclave SF Convention, Gaithersburg, MD
  • Oct. 9-10, World Cup, Board meeting, Philadelphia, PA
  • Oct. 27-30, World Fantasy Con, Columbus, OH
  • Nov. 18-20, Philcon SF Convention, Cherry Hill, NJ
  • Nov. 25-27, NA Teams, Washington, DC
  • Dec. 5-9, Caribbean Writers Cruise, Caribbean
  • Dec. 11-18, U.S. Open, Las Vegas, NV
  • Dec. 20-25, Christmas Vacation, Eugene, OR

Books I Read in 2016
I read 46 books in 2016. The bulk of them were fiction, specifically science fiction & fantasy, including 19 by Mike Resnick, who I discovered this year. (I also read two of his "On Writing" books.)

TABLE TENNIS (5)

  1. The Metaphysics of Ping-Pong, by Guido Mina di Sospiro
  2. Revelations of a Table Tennis Champion, by Dan Seemiller
  3. Handbook of Table Tennis, by Mudit Dani
  4. History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 17, by Tim Boggan
  5. History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 18, by Tim Boggan

ON WRITING (2)

  1. Putting It Together, by Mike Resnick
  2. The Business of Science Fiction, by Barry Malzberg and Mike Resnick

NON-FICTION (3)

  1. The Presidents, by Frederick S. Voss
  2. Personality, Character, & Leadership in the White House, by Steven Rubenzer and Thomas Faschingbauer
  3. Numbers, by David Wells

FICTION (36) – the first 19 are by Mike Resnick (as are the two writing books above), who I discovered this year.

  1. The Outpost, by Mike Resnick
  2. The Soul Eater, by Mike Resnick
  3. The Branch, by Mike Resnick
  4. Ivory: A Legend of Past and Future, by Mike Resnick
  5. The Widowmaker, by Mike Resnick
  6. The Widowmaker Reborn, by Mike Resnick
  7. The Widowmaker Unleashed, by Mike Resnick
  8. A Gathering of Widowmakers, by Mike Resnick
  9. The Prison in Antares, by Mike Resnick
  10. The Fortress in Orion, by Mike Resnick
  11. Santiago: A Myth of the Far Future, by Mike Resnick
  12. INCI, by Mike Resnick and Tina Gower
  13. Kirinyaga, by Mike Resnick
  14. Adventures: The Chronicles of Lucifer Jones, by Mike Resnick
  15. Birthright: The Book of Man, by Mike Resnick
  16. Seven Views of Olduvai Gorge, by Mike Resnick
  17. Win Some, Lose Some, by Mike Resnick
  18. Alternate Presidents, edited by Mike Resnick
  19. Will the Last Person to Leave the Planet Please Shut Off The Sun, by Mike Resnick
  20. Quantum Night, by Robert J. Sawyer
  21. Probability Moon, by Nancy Kress
  22. Ancient Shores, by Jack McDevitt
  23. 11/22/63, by Stephen King
  24. Barsk: The Elephants Graveyard, by Lawrence Schoen
  25. Seven Eves, by Neal Stephenson
  26. Superposition, by David Walton
  27. The Einstein Prophesy, by Robert Masello
  28. Taft 2012: A Novel, by Jason Heller
  29. Bloodsuckers: A Vampire Runs for President, by Michael Ventrella
  30. A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens
  31. Magic and Murder Among the Dwarves, by Erik Bundy
  32. Proven Guilty (The Dresden Files #8), by Jim Butcher
  33. White Night (The Dresden Files #9), by Jim Butcher
  34. Small Favor (Dresden Files #10), by Jim Butcher
  35. Cats in Space, edited by Elektra Hammond
  36. After Death, edited by Eric Guignard

Devastate the Smart/Dumb Guy: Tactics for 2 Different Opponents
Here's the coaching article from Samson Dubina.

A Comprehensive Education, Jinxin Wang Provides Food for Thought
Here's the article on this Chinese player now living in the U.S.  Includes links to three technical coaching articles he's written on "The Importance of Fingers and Wrist in Table Tennis."

Adriana Díaz: Latin America’s New Sporting Sensation
Here's the article. It includes some funny cartoon pictures of her!

"Always Loop" Video Channel
Here's the new page, with links to a number of TT videos.

Dimitrij Ovtcharov Training at the Swedish Open 2016
Here's the video (3:52).

58 Smashes to Win the Point
Here's the video (72 sec) of this great lobbing point.

Insane Point
Here's the video (1:24, including slo-mo replay).

Hitting the Ball Before It Bounces
Here's the new video (1:44) from PingSkills, which covers the rules on this.

Happy New Year from Jorgen Persson
Here's the video (13 sec). (1991 World Men's Singles Champion.)

Fan Zhendong Playing with Smart Phone
Here's the video (12 sec) – check out the backhand smash!

Rallying with Three Balls, then Three Smashes
Here's the video (11 sec).

Rallying with Five Balls
Here's the video (18 sec).

Car Pong!
Here's the picture. (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

***
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January 2, 2017

Tip of the Week
Last-Second Changes of Direction on Receive. (As explained in my Dec. 28 blog in the Tip of the Week, I'm putting up extra Tips of the Week and post-dating them for earlier in December so I'll end up with 150 Tips for the period 2014-2016. So today's Tip of the Week is dated Dec. 26.)

Barry Dattel: 1958-2016
Last night I got the horrible news – here's the USATT news item. Apparently Barry, an icon in our sport, had a heart attack while at his club late on Friday, Dec. 30, and passed away around 1:30 AM on Saturday morning, Dec. 31, at age 58. So it was a very bad end to the year. (Here's the Legacy obit.) 

I've known Barry since around 1980; we've competed against each other ever since, first as players (where he soon left me behind as he reached a 2500+ level), and later as opposing coaches in many a match. He was a top USA player for many years; as recently as 2013 he was the U.S. Open Over 50 Men's Singles Champion. He was the father figure in the First Family of Table Tennis – husband to Hall of Famer, Olympian, and head coach Lily Yip at the Lily Yip Table Tennis Center; stepfather to star players Adam and Judy Hugh (both former USA Team Members and many other titles), and father-in-law to Cory Eider (married to Judy), former U.S. Men's Singles Finalist, Men's Doubles Champion, and past USATT High Performance Director.

Barry was one of the hardest-working people in table tennis, truly one of our shining lights. Along with Lily, he was the driving force behind the Lily Yip TTC in New Jersey (one of USATT's ten National Centers of Excellence), where he often ran the desk, ran tournaments, promoted and organized, and did whatever else was necessary. I worked with him quite a bit at the USATT Supercamp that was held at LYTTC in July, where often he was the authoritarian figure who made sure things got done, whether it be giving rides as needed, or coming in late one night to fix the broken door at the house we were staying at.

He was mind-numbingly intelligent, with very strong opinions that he was never shy about expressing. Often at major tournaments you'd see him in consultation with the powers-that-be of table tennis (of which he was one), discussing how best to develop our sport and players. He was also a computer programmer, who wrote his own tournament software. Before the LYTTC, he was president of the New Jersey TTC. He was a top player, coach, director, organizer, and entrepreneur. Here is the USATT interview, 11 Questions with Barry Dattel.

My deepest condolences to Lily, Adam, Judy, Cory, family and friends, and the LYTTC.

Wishing Everyone a Prosperous 2017
Here's the video (38 sec) from Allen Wang. Personally, I think he should be putting out the lights for 2016, a year whose lights definitely should be knocked off.

Ask a Table Tennis Coach
Here's the new feature from Expert Table Tennis.

Tom's Table Tennis Newsletter
Here's the new issue, which include links to a number of coaching articles (including one of mine).

Multiball Angle Training
Here's the video (30 sec). I've done this with my students as well.

Samson Dubina: Enhance Your Game with TT-Flex
Here's the new podcast (35:03) from Expert Table Tennis.

Flip Like a Boss
Here's the video (20 sec) as Michael Maze flip-kills a serve like no serve has ever been flip-killed before. Michael is a professional – do not try this at home!!! Lots of replay. (In Europe they call it a flick.)

Table Tennis - Best Points In 2016
Here's the video (6:23).

Vote for the Best Dressed Team at the 2016 ITTF Star Awards
Here's the ITTF page for voting.

Robot Pong
Here's the new video (63 sec). These robots keep getting better and better. Say hello to our new Lords and Masters!

Table Tennis in Virtual Reality
Here's the video (8:44).

Coca-Cola Table Tennis
Here's the video (2:54) of what appears to be a Coke commercial in Arabic that features table tennis!

Man vs. Dog
Here's the cartoon video (15 sec, repeating) of these two extremely fast, gifted players go at it! Just think of the years of hard training they underwent to develop these skills.

Non-Table Tennis – Zombies Anonymous
Here it is – it's the lead story at Galaxy's Edge, one of the top pro science fiction & fantasy magazines! It's the humorous story of a zombie math professor and the three steps to not being a zombie.

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December 30, 2016

High Performance Director and Supercamps
As those of you at the U.S. Open's USATT Assembly learned, High Performance Director Cory Eider resigned. (I think it's effective Dec. 31.) It was depressing for me as I'd had high hopes for this. But the problems had been mounting, many of them communications problems, as well as some policy problems, such as the youth team selection process. I hope Cory won't get mad at me for this (!), but IMHO, communicating was not his strength, and so often many of us had little idea what was going on, including the athletes and coaches.

Cory and I had a number of long late-night discussions, often via Facebook Messenger. We agreed on a lot, but also disagreed on a number of issues, but I'm not going to go into that. He brought a focus on aiming high, with a 52-week a year training mentality that aimed at beating our overseas rivals rather than our domestic ones.

One cornerstone to all this were the Supercamps (though in the end we only did one, plus an ITTF Cadet Camp at MDTTC). Below are the write-ups of the one held in July in New Jersey. (Why was it held at the Lily Yip TTC, Cory's home club, owned by his mother-in-law? Because it had to be put together very quickly, and other clubs, such as ICC, weren't able to do so at that last minute. It was a huge task, and far easier to do locally, where you have built-in help, then trying to do it alone elsewhere. As it was, they did an incredible job. But alas, the appearance to many was not good. The plan was – is? – to have the camps move about at the various high-performance facilities.)

USATT SUPERCAMP ARTICLES

Some would argue that the players get the same training at their home clubs, usually with top coaches and practice partners. There's a partial truth to that, but it misses the key aspects of the Supercamps. When you get the top USA juniors training together, they see their USA "rivals" training, and it spurs them on to work even harder – both there and the rest of the year. Plus it turns them more into team players, where they focus together on beating overseas players, rather than just each other. Finally, the tips and inspiration they get from the great champions and coaches at the camps gives them a new outlook they cannot get from their own coaches – any good coach has something extra to contribute, and when you have five-time USA Men's Singles Champions like Dan Seemiller and Sean O'Neill, plus other great coaches like Lily Yip, Richard McAfee, Samson Dubina, Han Xiao, Wang Qing Liang, and Cory Eider, there's a lot of extra there. (Hey, I was there too!) The camps also introduced most of them to high-level physical training, something USA juniors are lacking in comparison to their overseas rivals.  

Now the future of the Supercamps are in doubt – there were just so many complaints from people who were not at them, and they are expensive and complicated to put together. Since USATT doesn't have the budget to fund them, the players themselves have to pay. (One other big problem was that the Supercamps were used to select some players, which was a mistake. I was skeptical of this from the beginning, and they will no longer be used directly for selections.)

What exactly is the role of the High Performance Director? (Not to be confused with the High Performance Committee. I'll call them the HPD and the HPC.) Here is the criteria developed earlier this year by USATT.  

  • Program Development. Develop, in writing, a “National Team Program” articulating the overall philosophy as well as clear guidelines and expectations of USATT National Team programs to all key stakeholders.
  • Coaches. Create an integrated and collaborative national team coaching system, including hiring coaches, managing communication, and collaboration among National Team and local coaches, assigning competition coaches, and evaluating system-wide and individual performance. The system needs to provide our athletes with access to the best coaching resources.
  • Athlete Selection. Collaborate with the United States Olympic Committee and other key stakeholders to establish and implement proper athlete selection procedures for Olympic, International, and National Teams.
  • Competition and Training. Devise and implement unified “52-week” programs for National Team members with a  strong emphasis on active collaboration and coordination between the HPD, National Team coaches, local coaches, and training centers, including:
    • USATT funded National Team training camps;
    • USATT funded domestic and international competition;
    • Locally-funded activities (e.g. training provided by parents or local training centers, private lessons, training camps,); and
    • Locally-funded regional, national and international competition.
  • National Team Development Program. Create and implement development programs to include both NT members and a selected number of National Team aspiring players of a sufficient playing level and commitment.
  • National Team Travel. Manage arrangements for able-bodied national team members and coaches to attend international competitions.
  • Performance Metrics. Establish and manage realistic performance metrics for athletes and coaches with a strong emphasis on performance and accountability.
  • Fundraising. Assist CEO in National Team directed fundraising activities.
  • Budget. Manage USATT High Performance budget and resource allocation.
  • Para Program. Assist CEO with supervision of Para National Program.
  • Coaching. As needed, coach National Teams in international competition.

So we're back to finding a new HPD. One change is that while before we focused on finding someone with a table tennis background (such as Cory, a 2500+ player, former USA National Men's Singles Finalist and Men's Doubles Champion, and a professional coach), now they are looking to recruit from outside the sport, looking for more of an administrator type. (When I say "They," I mean the USATT CEO, Gordon Kaye, and the Chair of the High Performance Committee, Carl Danner, as well as various advisors, such as the Player Reps, the National Team Coaches, and the Board of Directors, of which I'm a member.) I'm a bit leery of this as I think a high-level table tennis coach with administrative and communication skills would be ideal, but I'll keep an open mind. Obviously a non-table tennis HPD wouldn't be able to do all of the above, such as the last item ("Coaching"), and would have to rely on others for table tennis knowledge. We'll see.

The key thing here is that a HPD has to justify the huge expense (salary and expenses). How will he make our top up-and-coming players better? Specifically, if a top junior is already training full-time with high-level coaches and practice partners, what can the HPD director do to make him even better? If the HPD doesn't have a positive impact on, say, the Kanak Jhas and other up-and-coming USA stars, then he doesn't justify the expense.

At the board meeting at the recent U.S. Open I made my views on this clear to those making the decision. I'd really like a HPD who can also work indirectly to improve the level of our up-and-coming players – specifically, one who can recruit and train coaches and entrepreneurs to set up and run full-time training centers, which is where we get our up-and-coming players. We might even want one who might even be able to help set up a professional league for our players. I also want one who can investigate overseas training and professional league opportunities for our players, and make these opportunities available to them. The HPD position is a full-time, 40-hour/week job, so I'm hoping a few of those hours can be devoted to these issues.

I'll finish by posting my email to the Board, CEO, and HPC Chair back on Jan. 6, 2016, when we first began the process of hiring a HPD, which was basically a numbered list. 

  1. Just as the USATT board of directors has mostly allowed the CEO a free hand in most of his actions, we need to allow the HPD a relatively free hand in his job. The only way this won’t work is if we hire the wrong person. So the key to everything is hiring the right person. To some of us, that’s equates to “duh!” But it’s very easy to hire the wrong person – flashy credentials don’t always mean flashy results.
  2. A key is to rely on the resources of clubs, including the parents who are paying for their kid’s training. USATT may be able to budget one or two hundred thousand dollars to this; many millions are already being spent at clubs. Just for perspective, I would estimate that just my club, MDTTC, has at least four kids whose parents pay over $20,000/year for their training, and at least 15 whose parents pay over $10,000/year. The HPD needs to find ways to best utilize the resources we already have.
  3. The HPD needs to emphasize the development of general weaknesses among U.S. players. For example, many of our top juniors don’t do enough physical training – and while there are several reasons for this (coaches get paid mostly for table time, not physical training; lack of time in general due to school and other activities; no one taking the initiative to start physical training programs), a HPD could approach the clubs with strong junior programs and work to get physical training more emphasized. (You only need one coach at each club to run the physical training sessions, which would be group sessions.) There are other general weaknesses among U.S. players, such as receive, so the HPD could also ask that training centers put more emphasis into that, or whatever aspects he believes are needed.
  4. Because we need training centers all over the country to buy into this national concept, we need three things: a) reasons why they should buy into it; b) a HPD who can sell them on it; and c) a few top training centers to join in early on, so others would follow.
  5. In general, we need to change the culture from the current situation, where most up-and-coming players focus almost exclusively on winning national events and making national teams, to focusing on beating other countries and becoming the best in the world. At the cadet level (both boys and girls), we can challenge any team in the world outside China, and might even give them a run for it. This is the perfect backbone of a future world-conquering team. Now is the perfect time to start moving in that direction.
  6. We also need to remember why we suddenly have so many promising cadet players – the dramatic increase in the number of full-time training centers in the country, from 8-10  just eight years ago to over 80 now. This is the source of our future elite players, and if we keep increasing the number of such training centers with top coaches and training programs, our situation will continue to improve. So we need to focus on that aspect as well. The depth of play now compared to just a few years ago is mind-boggling – at the cadet level we now have dozens of players who likely would have dominated their age group ten years ago, while players who used to make the semifinals or even finals couldn’t make the final 16 or even 32 these days. I remember one year the final of Under 14 Boys was won by the top seed, rated just over 2100, over a 1950 player who had upset a 2000 player in the semifinals! Those players wouldn’t make the final 32 these days.

Tip of the Week
Maximize Coverage For Your Stronger Side. (As explained in my Dec. 28 blog in the Tip of the Week, I'm putting up extra Tips of the Week and post-dating them for earlier in December so I'll end up with 150 Tips for the period 2014-2016. So today's Tip of the Week is dated December 25 – Merry Christmas! And Happy New Year as well!)

Ma Long Backhand Loop Slow Motion 2016
Here's the video (2:18).

Milestone Year for PingPong.GIVES
Here's the video (2:42) about this table tennis charity. "Greater24 Positive World Network reports impact PingPongforCHARITY having to benefit Mental Health!" Note that PingPong.GIVES is their website.

Nice Table Tennis Rallies
Here's the new music video (5:30), which includes a lot of slow motion.

World-Class Rally Between Marcos Freitas and Stéphane Ouaiche
Here's the video (26 sec).

Top 10 Jean-Philippe Gatien
Here's the video (3:29) of the 1993 Men's Singles World Champion.

Beerless Beer Pong – Ten for Ten on Vertical Pyramid!
Here's the video (33 sec).

Jonathan Groth - Funny Olympic Training
Here's the humorous video (3:05). Somehow I didn't see this when it came out in August. (It's in Danish, with English subtitles.) It's especially good a little over a minute in when one puts on the Knight suit!

Beetle Bailey Cartoon
Here's another Beetle Bailey table tennis cartoon, found by Marv Anderson. This time it's Zero who is stymied by Beetle! Here's my Sept. 28, 2016 blog, where (at the end) I've compiled (and updated) all the Beetle Bailey table tennis cartoons I know of, all 19 of them.

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December 29, 2016

Tip of the Week: Ask the Distributor!
(Today's blog is both a regular blog entry and a Tip of the Week.)

At clubs all across the nation and the world, the same routine goes on all the time - players are constantly asking and talking about equipment. Only ratings are more discussed. (Typical greeting at a club: “What’s your rating? What equipment do you use?”) And it’s true that you can learn a lot by asking others about equipment - and better still, trying out their equipment.

But think about it - a distributor might have dozens of sponges and dozens of rackets that might suit your game. The possible combinations can run into the thousands. While you may gain valuable information asking questions, remember that they mostly know what works for them, and no two players play alike. You need to find what works for you. You may find this by experimenting, but the probability that someone else at the club just happens to have the perfect racket and sponge combination for you isn’t likely.

But there’s an expert out there ready to help - and that’s the equipment expert at the distributor. All of the major ones have someone like this, who has literally tried out every combination of their equipment, and knows just about all there is to know about all of them. Their job is to find a perfect combination for you - because if they don’t, you’ll be going to a rival. Not only that, but each of these distributor “equipment junkies” lives and breathes table tennis equipment, and so it will be his lifelong dream to discuss your equipment needs and find you the perfect combination. He’ll know what questions to ask of your game with the goal of finding you just what you need.

So if you aren’t sure yet about what equipment to use, why not contact one of the major distributors and ASK? (You can also do this at most major tournaments.)

Butterfly vs. JOOLA on a Blimp
Last night I had one of those surreal table tennis dreams. I had some sort of flying device, and used it to fly up to the Butterfly Blimp. It was huge and luxurious, reminiscent of the huge cruise ship I was recently on. It was vacant, and I felt a bit guilty as I explored it, including the private quarters of the Butterfly owners, and even a hot tub. Then I heard a thumping sound – it was a JOOLA attack! The JOOLA crew boarded the ship, armed with machine guns, and it was "Die Hard" on a blimp as I raced about, avoiding them. Finally, one of them caught me, and we had a discussion about my fate as he gently stroked a shaggy white cat on his lap, a la James Bond. Then I leaped out a window, only to discover I'd forgotten my flying device, and woke up as I fell. (Only one of the "JOOLA people" was a recognizable person, and he isn't even affiliated with JOOLA.)

Table Tennis Phenom Harimoto Shows Age No Limit
Here's the article from The Japan News (in English).

Ma Long No Spin Serve Technique Slow Motion 2016
Here's the video (7:18).

This 15-year-old Orthodox girl is a Pingpong Champion
Here's the article on Estee Ackerman. She's beaten Rafael Nadal!

DHS ITTF Top 10 - Best Shots of 2016
Here's the video (7:56).

Images of the Paralympics Go Viral
Here's the video (31 sec).

Net-Eye Glasses
Here's the picture! (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

Insane Table Tennis Under leg shot by Jakub Dyjas!
Here's the video (37 sec).

Dog Hypnotized by Table Tennis
Here's the video (37 sec).

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