Larry Hodges's blog

February 10, 2017

Upcoming Events
Things are busy these days . . . but they always are, with all my writing projects in addition to coaching, and USATT and MDTTC work. I spent part of yesterday working on the cover for "More Table Tennis Tips" (which I blogged about yesterday) - I've got several options I'm working on. The one I'm leaning toward right now is either really good or really corny, I can't decide yet. I also spent much of yesterday at the car place, where they were replacing the broken windshield. What had started out as a small crack had grown until it went all the way across. The fan for the heat and AC also had broken and had to be replaced. Total cost: 11 table lessons (i.e. how much I normally make in 11 hours of coaching.)

Here are upcoming events.

  • Fridays are usually a day off, but not today. Tonight at 6:30PM for about two hours I'm running a volunteer exhibition/demonstration/training camp for up to a hundred kids at "Club Friday" at the Potomac Community Center, home of the Potomac TTC.
  • Saturday has recently been my other day off - surprisingly, since that's when lots of players are free for coaching. I'm opening up Saturdays again for coaching starting this weekend, and already have two sessions scheduled. From 6:30-8:30PM I'm helping with the MDTTC Junior League & Training, where many of our top juniors come in for training and match play. We often have them do "improvised games." In the last session, they played league matches where if you serve and looped, and your opponent returned your loop off the end, you got two points. The same if the receiver looped the serve and the server returned it off the end. The idea was to emphasizing looking to loop and to loop with great spin, so as to force returns off the end.
  • Sunday I have two hours of private coaching, then a 90-minute beginning class I teach, then the 90-minute "Talent Program" (our top juniors mostly under age 10), then the 90-minute adult training session I run. Then I rush home to watch "The Walking Dead"!
  • Monday I normally have 2.5 hours of coaching, 5:30-8:00PM but we have a USATT Teleconference at 7PM, and I need to be home for that (so I have access to my computer and Internet), so I have to leave by 6:30PM. I rescheduled one hour of it for later, and cut a 90-minute session to 60 minutes. As to the meeting itself, it'll be our first one with new board members Rajul Sheth (newly elected At-Large Rep) and player rep Eric Wu, and the second one for player rep Tara Profitt and National Organizational Director Deepak Somarapu. Agenda includes welcoming new members, election of new board chair (not sure who's running yet), discussions of committee appointments and upcoming meetings, and possibly a couple other items. I'm especially interested in the committee appointments, as there are issues I want to work on that are held up until certain committees are filled. (In particular, the coaching committee - I have some proposals I want work with them on.)
  • Tuesday and Wednesday I have two and three hours of private coaching, respectively.
  • Thursday about 100 kids from the highly exclusive private St. Andrews school in Potomac, MD come to visit at 1PM. I'll be doing exhibitions and demos, and then organizing games, along with fellow coaches Wang Qing Liang and John Hsu.
  • Friday I set up and Saturday and Sunday I run the 3-star $2700 MDTTC Butterfly February Open. Why not come and join us? You can enter online!

Chinese World Team Trials
They are doing daily coverage at ttnews365.

  • Day One - Feb. 8: World Table Tennis Championships: China Begin. ("Ma Long and Zhang Jike are already guaranteed positions in the elite squad heading for Düsseldorf.")
  • Day Two - Feb. 9: China Selection Trials: Xu Xin Capitulates

How to Practice Table Tennis Alone
Here's the new article and podcast (11:29) from Expert Table Tennis.

How to Return a Sidespin Serve
Here's the article by Coach Tom Lodziak in England.

Here's the USATT article. I have mine!

Over Half a Billion Watch Table Tennis at Rio!
Here's the article by Coach Shashin Shodhan from the Fremont TTC.

Samson Dubina on News 19
Here's the video (2:22). Yes, he's in the news again!

How to Make a Self-Playing Hand-Held Mini-Table
Here's the video (52 sec) - set to music!

35 Seconds of Extreme Multiball
Here's the video - I've linked to it before, but thought it'd wake you up and inspire you to train this weekend!

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

Angry Paddle: Is it Ping Pong or Table Tennis?
Here's the cartoon!

Send us your own coaching news!

February 9, 2017

More Table Tennis Tips
Yesterday afternoon I finished proofing and formatting my 12th book, "More Table Tennis Tips." It consists of the 150 Tips of the Week I put online from 2014-2016, but in logical progression. It'll likely be about 240 pages, and should be out around March 1. I blogged about this on Monday. (It's the sequel and companion to Table Tennis Tips.) Last night I sent it out to the "Fearsome Foursome," who are proofing it - Kyle Angeles, Mark Dekeyser, John Olsen, and Dennis Taylor. A great thanks goes to them! (Plus mention in the book, free autographed copies, and appointment to my cabinet when I become U.S. president.)

Here's a funny story. I did all my proofing the last two days at Ledo's Pizza. After I finished yesterday, I returned home with the manuscript in a carry bag, and several slices of pizza in a carry-out box. I was thinking feverishly about the cover - lots of ideas. I opened the refrigerator and began putting the carry bag inside! I stopped, then went to the closet, and sure enough, I'd put the pizza box there, where I keep the carry bags.

Regarding the cover, I've got all sorts of crazy ideas, and may play around with them over the next few days. Me coaching a group of animals, all holding paddles? Me, as Moses, holding the two tablets - "Table Tennis Tips" and "More Table Tennis Tips"? (But the latter would then be a picture of Moses holding the two tablets, one of which would be a picture of Moses holding the tablets, one of which would be a picture of . . . you get the idea.)  Or I could just throw in another picture of me coaching a group of (human) players.

How to Read Your Opponent’s Placement
Here's the new article and podcast (5:49) from Expert Table Tennis.

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

2018 ITTF World Tour Open for Bidding
Here's the ITTF article.

Table Tennis Lessons from the Super Bowl
Here's the new article from Coach Jon.

Round Rock Texas Lands 2018 NCTTA Championships
Here's the USATT article.

Timo Boll "Ghost" Recovery at the 2017 Europe Top 16
Here's the video (30 sec).

10,000 Ping-Pong Balls on a Trampoline
Here's the video (11:22)! (The first three minutes is mostly setup.)

Send us your own coaching news!

February 8, 2017

Learning with Other Grips
Yesterday, during a session with Daniel (12, about 1700), we had a huge breakthrough - and it came in a completely unexpected way. He's always had a problem when forehand looping in that he backs up and then reaches slightly forward to contact the ball, and ends contacting the ball too far in front. This means he loses the natural power of the body rotating (torque), and so most of his power comes from the upper body. The result is a soft loop that's steady but not very powerful. It also puts a strain on his shoulder, which has led to shoulder problems in the past. We've been working on this for a long time, and sometimes he'll start doing it properly, but he generally falls back into the old habit.

Yesterday, when I was blocking to his forehand loop, on the spur of the moment, he suddenly switched to penhold and continued looping. I started to say something, then stopped. With the penhold grip, his stroke was almost textbook! He was contacting the ball to the side of the body, and rotating into it just right, without backing up. What was going on?

Then I realized what was happening. Hold a racket out shakehands and imagine looping. Then, without moving your arm, switch the grip to penhold. Notice how the racket moves backwards and down? By moving backwards, it "forced" Daniel to contact to the ball to the side. By moving downwards, it "forced" him to take the ball higher, and thereby closer to the table. The result was exactly the stroke I'd been trying to get him to do for quite some time.

We spent over half of the 90-minute session on this, where he learned to do this shakehands. Before, he sort of knew what he was supposed to do, but change is difficult. When you change one part of a stroke, it changes the timing of the rest of the stroke, meaning you have to make a lot of changes at the same time, which is why it's so hard to change bad technique. But with the penhold grip stroke as his guide, Daniel was able to make the change to doing so with his normal shakehands grip, and spent the rest of the session looping better than he'd ever looped before.

At the end of the session I pulled out a defensive hardbat and played him games where I chopped. Normally I'd have won easily, but for the first time ever he had enough power to put the ball past me when I gave him a chance, and the result was a series of close games, including one that he won. If he incorporates this "new" loop into his game, he'll be 2000 level this year.

This reminded me of my own experiences in learning with other grips. When I was developing my game in the late 1970s I often practiced with Brian Masters, who used the Seemiller grip, with a very strong backhand blocking/hitting game. I've always had a tendency to be too soft on the backhand. So early on I discovered that a way to fix this was to shadow practice my backhand with the Seemiller grip, copying Brian's stroke - and then, using the same stroke, switch to shakehands. The result was always a more aggressive backhand.

How to Improve at Tennis and Table Tennis Simultaneously
Here's the article and podcast (6:39) from Expert Table Tennis.

Rajul Sheth Elected to USA Board of Directors
Here's the USATT article. He and I are the only two members of the USATT Board (nine people) elected by the membership. Welcome aboard!!! 

Yuxiang (James) Jin Interview
Here's the USATT interview by Rahul Acharya.

Atlanta Falcons and Super Bowl Pong
Here are links to four major news media articles (NPR, Rolling Stone, AOL, and ESPN) on the Atlanta Falcons and table tennis, from Fremont TTC. (I think I linked to a couple of these last week.) This was a ping-pong Super Bowl, with Tom Brady (here's an article on him and table tennis, which I linked to last week), and table tennis in the Pizza Hut commercial (which I also linked to).

Susan Sarandon and Why Ping Pong Rocks
Here's the ITTF article and video (65 secs, from 2011), where she gives her top five reasons.

JOOLA North America Named Official Equipment Sponsor of 2018 World Veterans Championships
Here's the USATT article.

Samson Dubina on Sports Extra
Here's the video (3:01).

More of Adam Bobrow Exhibition with "Kai" (in Taiwan)
Here's the video (36 sec). This time they're rolling around on the floor.

They Didn't Teach This in Worm School
Here's the review of this book, which includes this picture of the worm's home, complete with table tennis room! From the text: "Of course there's a table tennis room. Of course there is. The thing is, once you've seen that, you can't help but imagine two worms playing table tennis, and that is Simone Lia's genius."

Animated Kittens Playing Table Tennis - and Obama Watching!
Here's the repeating gif image. Here's another one. And here's Barack Obama watching the game!

Send us your own coaching news!

February 7, 2017

Navin - Looping and Smashing
I had a nice session with Navin Kumar last night. He's about 1500 level now, a blocker with long pips on the backhand (no sponge). I've been working with him for about two years now. During that time he's gone from 856 to 1426, and is poised to make the jump to about 1600. Some of you might recognize him as "The Bionic Man," who's had a lot of news coverage because of his artificial heart and Parkinson's. (Google "bionic man Navin Kumar.") He often plays in paralympic events. 

Yesterday we started serious work on looping for the first time. I've been holding back on this so we could focus on his regular forehand (which he really didn't have at the start), backhand blocking, and receive. Now that that the forehand is getting better - at least in practice! - it was time. We might have done this last year but he was preparing for the Nationals in December, and we decided to hold back until afterwards. Then he came down sick for a while, so we're just getting to this now.

He picked it up pretty fast in multiball, looping against backspin. At first he had a little trouble distinguishing between looping and driving with topspin, which are both on the spectrum from flat hits to spinny loops. I thought this was going to be a long session as I tried to get the stroke right, but to my surprise and happiness, he picked it up very quickly, and soon was ripping big loops all over the place. It's his new toy now!

Then I told him I was going to feed him backspin then topspin, alternating, and he was to loop the backspin, smash the topspin. I also told him his first smash would go off the end - and of course it did, as it does for everyone at this point. (After dropping the shoulder and lifting against the backspin, they do a slight amount of this on the smash, and that's all it takes for the ball to go sailing long.) After smashing, there's also a tendency to shorten the backswing on the loop, so the two main areas of focus on this drill are full backswing on the loop, shoulder up on smash. The different contacts are also key - sinking into the sponge (but not into the wood) for the loop, right into the wood for the smash (but still with topspin - sort of a glancing upward blow at contact).

We're going to keep working on this with multiball to really ingrain the stroke. Then we'll move to doing it in real rallies. The difficult part here is he tends to stand in a backhand position for his blocking. Against backspin, he'll need to pull his right foot back to loop. Then we'll work on following up the loop with a smash. If he loops to the opponent's forehand, probably 90% of returns will come back to his forehand, where he can smash.

Navin reported muscle soreness a few hours later - to be expected since he's using muscles he didn't use much before. We'll get them in shape!

So the focus in the near future will be on looping, smashing, foot positioning, and perhaps also on serves.

New from Expert Table Tennis by Ben Larcombe
Here are two new ones, both articles and podcasts.

2017 Butterfly Arnold Table Tennis Challenge New Year New Elements
Here's the article by Barbara Wei.

Former Colombo Mob Boss Sues for $10 Million Over Injuries from Prison Ping-Pong
Here's the article from the New York Daily News. "Leave the ping pong paddles, file the lawsuit. That's what former Colombo crime boss Thomas (Tommy Shots) Gioeli has done — suing the federal government for $10 million over injuries from a game of prison ping-pong."

$2700 MDTTC Butterfly February Open
I'll be running the 3-star $2700 MDTTC Butterfly February Open, Feb. 18-19. Last year the tournaments were one-day 2-star events, but we've gone to two days, added three more events, and doubled the prize money. Hope to see you there!

Capital Area League
They had a meetup this past Saturday, with 23 teams in four divisions, and about 90 players. Full results are on the Capital League website - click on the division for results. The league is for players in the Washington DC area, which includes Maryland and Northern Virginia.

Gregg Robertshaw Wins 23rd Cape Fear Table Tennis Open
Here's the article about the North Carolina tournament.

2017 ITTF-Europe Top 16 Highlights Ovtcharov v Shibaev (Final)
Here's the video (4:23).

Table Tennis Training and the Big Match: The Musical
Here's the video (3:21) from a month ago. The music doesn't start until 25 seconds in.

50-foot Bouncing Pong Pool?
Here's the video (14 sec, with slow-mo replay) of Allen Wang's long-distance

Nerdy Trek Pong?
Here's the picture!

Send us your own coaching news!

February 6, 2017

Tip of the Week
Top Ten Ways to Win and Lose a Match. (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. 31. This is the last one, so now we can finally celebrate the New Year!)

More Table Tennis Tips
I've spent much of the last few days formatting my next table tennis book, the creatively titled "More Table Tennis Tips." This has the 150 Tips of the Week I've written over the last three years, 2014-2016, but put together in logical progression. This is both a sequel and companion piece to my previous book, "Table Tennis Tips," which had the 150 Tips from 2011-2013. Both go with another of my books, "Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers." (Yes, shameless book promotion!)

This tips in this volume range over nine basic topics: Serving, Receiving, Strokes, Footwork and Ready Position, Tactics, How to Improve, Sports Psychology, Equipment, and Tournaments. It's about 73,000 words, and will likely be about as many pages as its predecessor, which was 228.

I hope to finalize the pages today, then print out and proof over the next few days. Then I'll be contacting some of my regular proofers (some are learning about this for the first time as they read this!) to see if they are available for proofing. If all goes well, it'll be out perhaps by the end of the month.

The Super Bowl really helped my work! Normally I coach until 8:30PM on Sundays, but because of the Super Bowl we didn't have two 90-minute group sessions, and so I finished at 5:30PM, came home, and worked on the book. I actually did watch some of the Super Bowl, interspersed with work.

Now some venting: The formatting is tedious!!! First, I had to organize all 150 of the tips into the nine categories above, which was rather time consuming, and tricky since some could fit in more than one category. Next they had to be organized in logical fashion inside each chapter. Then came the actual formatting for the pages, another huge project. Besides all the headings, the paragraphs had to be switched from online format (line space between paragraphs, no indent) to print format (no line space between paragraphs, indent each paragraph). With all the headings and bulleted lists, I couldn't do a global change, so had to do it page by page. There were a couple dozen other items on the "todo" list to fix up, but most are done.

Next big job: the covers. I have a rather crazy idea for the front cover, and may start playing around with it tonight. It involves pictures of animals learning table tennis! If it's too silly for the front cover, perhaps it'll be on the back cover.

Europe Top 16 Championships
Here's the home page for the event held this past weekend in Antibes, France, with complete results. Here's the news page with lots of articles. Congratulations to Li Jie and Dimitrij Ovtcharov!

Controversy at Europe Top 16 - Simon Gauzy vs Alexander Shibaev (Semifinals)
Here's video starting at 9-all in the sixth, the next-to-last point in the match. Gauzy thinks he's won a lucky point, but umpire (and video) say it missed, hitting the net's clamp, not the table. He's not happy. After the match he and Shibaev have a confrontation.

Devastate the One Wing Looper
Here's the new coaching article from Samson Dubina.

Tom's Table Tennis Newsletter
Here's the new issue, which includes links to numerous coaching articles, including one of mine.

History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 18 (1990-1991)
Here's chapter 20! Or order your own print copies at

Samsonov Promotes India Open with Ball Bouncing
Here's the video (18 sec) as he bounces the ball off the bottom of the handle of his racket and then invites you to come to the tournament.

Tom Brady and Table Tennis
Google "Tom Brady table tennis," and read all the articles about the Tom Brady - Danny Amendola table tennis feud from last June! It seems to have started with this article and video interview (1:58), where Amendola, one of Brady's "trusted wide receivers," talks about Brady having a meltdown after losing to him at ping-pong. (The follow-up article are about Brady's demands for a rematch.) Here's the pertinent quote from Amendola:

"He’s the best teammate. He’s so competitive and what not. I remember one story, it was my first week in the building, he wanted to play some ping ping. I didn’t really know how to go about it. I know I was better than him, I didn’t want to beat him too bad, because I wanted him to throw me the ball."

"I knew I was better. Needless to say, his competitive nature unleashed a broken paddle by the end of it. It the reason why we love him, and the reason why he’s the best quarterback."

For the record, in the Super Bowl Danny Amendola caught eight passes for 78 yards, one touchdown, and a two-point conversion.

Pizza Hut Super Bowl Commercial 2017 George Takei Oh My
Here's the Super Bowl Commercial (45 sec), where table tennis takes place twice! At 18 sec and 38 sec. Technically speaking, isn't this the greatest showing of table tennis in history, with over 110 million Americans and until numbers worldwide watching this table tennis extravaganza, with football mixed in?

Comedian Frank Caliendo Loses 60 Pounds from Ping-Pong and Does Trump Impression
Here's the part where he says, "I've lost like 60 pounds," and in response to the question of how, says, "Running and ping-pong." He then talks about table tennis for about 20 seconds. (I once played doubles with him!)

Not USUALLY a Contact Sport
Here's the video (10 sec) as Adam Bobrow smashes and his opponent (Kai?) runs into camera!

Shoe Pong?
Here's the video (1:36) as Adam Bobrow's opponent (Kai?) removes his shoe about 20 seconds in and begins to play with it - with a unique twist near the end!

Around-the-Table Pot Pong
Here's the video (16 sec) as five players circle an improvised table, rallying with pots!

Send us your own coaching news!

February 3, 2017

Overseas Professional Leagues and Full-time Training
When I ran for the USATT Board, two of the things I wanted to do were to set up professional leagues for our players and a professional players' association. The problem is that we only really have one "professional" player at the moment - 16-year-old Kanak Jha, who is currently playing in the professional leagues in Sweden while training full-time. Timothy Wang was a full-time player, but now he's coaching full-time in Texas. There are many full-time coaches who are top players, but there just isn't enough money in the U.S. at this time for truly professional table tennis.

I met with players and organizers a couple of times to discuss the idea of a professional players' association, but there just isn't a lot of interest right now. Even worse, there's the one stumbling block I knew we'd face, and still haven't really figured out how to overcome - where do non-USA citizens fit in? Right now, the best players in the U.S. are overwhelmingly non-citizens. When you go to the USATT ratings page and click on "Top 25 Men" (with "US Citizens Only" unchecked), the players range from 2673 to 2774 - but only two are US citizens - Kanak at 2708 (#15) and Yijun Feng at 2684 (#20).

So if we set up a professional players' association, who do they represent? Who can play in a US Professional League? All US players, or citizens only? Those I've spoken with are extremely opinionated on this, and split evenly between the two sides.

My conclusion is that we're not quite ready for either. (It'll happen, just not right away.) So what can we do in the meantime?

It so happens that a huge problem in USA Table Tennis is that we lose nearly all our top up-and-coming players at age 18 when they go to college. College is a good thing - but wouldn't it be nice if more of these kids took off a few years to see just how good they could be, and maybe even make it to the Olympics? I took two years off myself before starting college at age 20. Most players hit their peak in the early-to-mid 20s.

When you play in a professional league overseas, as Kanak is doing, you don't just make a living playing in the league - you train full-time with your teammates under top coaches. And Kanak is only the latest of a number top U.S. players who developed this way - others include Jim Butler, Sean O'Neill, Eric Boggan, Dan Seemiller, and many more. (Most opportunities seem to be in Germany and Sweden, and recently there seem to be more openings in China.) The problem is it's not easy finding these overseas positions.

USATT will soon be hiring a new High Performance Director. One of the things I'm pushing for is that he will be in charge of creating and maintaining a listing of foreign professional league opportunities, where USA players may play professionally while training full-time. I've already discussed this with our CEO and others, and I'm pretty sure it'll be part of his duties. I want all our top players, especially our up-and-coming ones, to know about all such opportunities.

We currently have an incredible group of players in the 16 and under age groups. (For perspective, there are five US citizens rated over 2590 - and four are 16 or younger: Kanak 2708, Sharon Alguetti 2651, Krish Avvari 2610, and Nikhil Kumar 2591, with Jack Wang 2582 and a flurry of others not far behind.) Historically, we'd lose nearly all of them soon. Perhaps this time we can keep a few of them for just a few more years before we send them off to college.

Europe Top 16
Follow the action this weekend! It's Feb. 3-5 in Antibes, France. Just two events - Men's and Women's Singles. Here's some live coverage, and here's live scoring.

How To Beat Your Practice Partners in Matches
Here's the new article by Matt Hetherington.

How to Use Short Pips in the 40+ Ball Era
Here's the article and podcast (7:34) by Ben Larcombe from Expert Table Tennis.

3T Table Tennis Training
Here's the video (1:45) - multiball training with towels as targets.

Capital Area League
The Capital Area League meets this Saturday from noon-10PM at the Maryland Table Tennis Center. There will be over 90 players in four divisions. The team league is organized by the National Table Tennis League, a non-profit group formed by volunteers. Spectators are welcome.

Dan Seemiller: Revelations of a Ping-Pong Champion
For those who missed it yesterday, here's the article and podcast (51:26) at Expert Table Tennis, featuring 5-time U.S. Men's Singles Champion Dan Seemiller and his autobiography, Revelations of a Ping-Pong Champion. (I'm reposting it because my Friday blog gets the most reads.)

ITTF Coaching Courses in Ft. Worth, TX, and in NY (USA)

(Table) Tennis Anyone?
Here's the article on Transverse Myelitis, table tennis, and Cindy Hall Ranii.

Confidence blossoms, times have changed for Emmanuel Lebesson
Here's the ITTF article on the 2016 European Men's Singles Champion from France. (He's "only" world #31, but upset Samsonov in the final last year.)

Top Ten Paralympic Table Tennis Moments
Here's the video (4:10).

Jimmy Butler and the Houston Rockets
Here's video (49 sec) of the incredible counter-smash by Hakeem Olajuwon (NBA Hall of Famer on the left) against Clyde Drexler (also an NBA Hall of Famer, playing doubles with four-time U.S. Men's Singles Champ Jimmy Butler). Olajuwon (on left) is playing doubles with Daryl Morey, Houston Rockets General Manager. Here's a longer video (5:42) of them playing.

The Most Difficult Table to Play On . . . Ever!
Here's the picture!

Hoverboard Footwork
Here's video (47 sec) as Gal Alguetti does basic forehand-forehand footwork . . . on a hoverboard!

Ellen DeGeneres and Table Tennis
I've bolded the dates of the best ones - but they're all good!

Send us your own coaching news!

February 2, 2017

Team and Singles Leagues, and the USATT League Committee
By Larry Hodges, USATT League Chair and At-Large Member of USATT Board of Directors
[NOTE - this was a USATT news item last week - not sure how many people saw it. Note the need for a new League Committee Chairs near the end - do you have what it takes?]

It's that time of year again - time to sign up for a Regional Team League! Oh, there isn't one in your area? Then why not set one up? Here is the USATT League Page, which links to the USATT League Prototype, which you can use as a starting model. (You don't have to be a member of USATT to play in such a league.). Here is a listing of Regional Team Leagues currently in operation – email me if I'm missing any.

Why are team leagues so important? It creates a different atmosphere than the "winner stay on" mentality so common in the U.S., fostering instead a "team" atmosphere, where you cheer for your team, and your team cheers for you. It's why European countries have table tennis memberships that dwarf USATT's, and why league-based sports have such large memberships. It's why the German Table Tennis Association has 600,000 members, the U.S. Tennis association has 700,000, and the U.S. Bowling Congress has over two million. USATT has about 8000.

But to quote from the USATT League page, "You don't play in a team league just so you can boost your association's membership; you do so because it's fun! You're pumped up because your teammates are cheering for you, you win and lose as a team, and when it's all done, you and your opponents go out for pizza."

One big difference in overseas leagues, however, is that in most of them, if you are a paid member of a regional team league, you automatically become a paid member of the national governing body, with each getting a share of the fees. That is the source of these huge overseas memberships. Unlike these leagues, USATT doesn't yet have team software to offer league directors, and without this to offer, it's hard to justify requiring USATT membership to play in such leagues.

And so, for now, USATT doesn't directly benefit from such leagues, though they do so indirectly from the increase in participation, which would likely lead to more serious players and therefore more USATT members. I hope league software can become a priority for USATT in the future, perhaps spearheaded by the League Committee. League software would automatically do scheduling, make entering results easy, present the results and standings, and optionally provide ratings.

Such software can be created by USATT, or leased from existing vendors, such as the league software developed by Pongmobile for the Capital Area League, which I can strongly recommend, or TableTennis365, used in England.

Why a Singles League? So you can put players in groups based on level, everyone gets to play competitive matches, and the matches can be rated!

  • USATT Singles League - with league ratings. Since its beginning in 2003 to 2017 there have been 683,948 processed matches by 32,579 players in over 450 leagues (84 of them currently active). (I co-founded this with Robert Mayer back in 2003. In recent years he's been running it.) As of last fall, the Singles League has been integrated into USATT's Simply Compete membership portal. There have been some complications with this transition, but they are nearly all worked out now.
  • USATT Rated Singles League - Coming Soon! For USATT members only, processed for USATT tournament ratings.

Now for a little history, and a call for help. When I ran for the USATT Board two years ago (a four-year term), one of the things I promised was to push for regional leagues. However, while they are among the most important things to the future of our sport, they are not what I personally wanted to work on. (I'm more into the coaching and writing side, and plan to get even more active in those areas.)

But someone had to do it, and USATT CEO Gordon Kaye convinced me to chair the committee. I agreed to do so, with the admonition that my primary task would be to create the much needed USATT League Prototype. How can we develop a nationwide network of regional leagues when every time someone wants to develop one, he has to start from scratch? It took a lot of work, as I studied successful leagues around the U.S., overseas, and in other sports, and used my own experience as co-founder of the Capital Area League.

It won't happen overnight. I co-founded the Maryland Table Tennis Center in 1992 and created the policies that made it the first truly successful full-time training center. Fifteen years later, circa 2007, there were only about eight such centers in the entire country - much like the current situation with team leagues, it hadn't yet taken off. Now there are nearly 90 of them. Similarly, I expect it'll take time for regional team leagues to take off - but eventually, they will, just as they did all over Europe. On the other hand, perhaps the future in the U.S. is in Singles Leagues - who knows. We should invest in both.

Now it's time for me to move on, and for someone else to take over. My two-year term is ending, and we're looking for a new chair. Are you ready to make a difference? Want to help develop the sport in this country? (Perhaps spearhead the acquisition of league software and incorporation of league members into USATT members?) This is your chance! If interested, contact USATT CEO Gordon Kaye, and CC me. Now's the time to get busy!

Dan Seemiller: Revelations of a Table Tennis Champion
Here's the new article and podcast (51:26) at Expert Table Tennis, featuring 5-time U.S. Men's Singles Champion Dan Seemiller and his autobiography, Revelations of a Ping-Pong Champion. (It was originally "Revelations of a Table Tennis Champion," but Dan later decided to change it for more mass appeal.) In this episode you’ll learn:

  • All about Dan’s new table tennis book [1:00]
  • How Dan first started playing table tennis [4:30]
  • What Dan thinks about unique styles and challenging the Chinese [6:45]
  • Why Dan reached a higher level than his brothers [9:30]
  • When things really took off for Dan as a player [12:45]
  • What is the “Seemiller” grip? [16:15]
  • Dan’s strengths and weaknesses as a player [20:30]
  • How to identify bad habits vs individual styles [25:30]
  • How Dan became such a tactical competitor and his tactical tips [28:00]
  • What Dan thinks about combination rackets in 2017 [33:30]
  • Dan’s prediction for the next big change in table tennis strategy [37:00]
  • 2018 World Veterans Table Tennis Championships [39:30]
  • How to change your game/style as you grow older [42:15]
  • Why you should buy Dan Seemiller’s new book [46:00]

Positive Changes
Here's the new video (3:14) by Samson Dubina.

How to Get More Spin on Your Forehand Loop
Here's the new podcast (7:05) by Ben Larcombe from Expert Table Tennis.

USATT Board Teleconference
Here are the Actions and Notices from the Jan. 25 USATT Teleconference. Minutes, which give more detail, will go up later.

Polish Coach Looking for USA Coaching Job
Here's his resume. He (Kamil Duniec) wrote to me, "I'm looking for a job like a table tennis player, coach. I'm playing in German league currently.  I was working as table tennis coach in Northern Ireland. Please contact me if you are looking for somebody. Thank you."

Triple-Impact Competitors Scholarships
Here's info on these scholarships for athletes, which could apply to table tennis. "PCA awards scholarships of $1,000-$2,000 (depending on location) to high school athletes, based on their essays explaining how they meet the standard defined in Elevating Your Game: Becoming a Triple-Impact Competitor by PCA Founder Jim Thompson."

Here's the video (1:59, set to music) of Coach Attila Malek feeding multiball to daughter Amanda.

Weihao YAN vs Alexander FLEMMING (World Championship Of Ping Pong 2017) Final
Here's the video (12:09). Here's the home page for the event held this past weekend in London, with $100,000 in prize money - with Yan getting $20,000, Flemming $10,000.

It's Groundhog Day!
And here are three Groundhog Day TT images. The first I created years ago; the other two are new.

Send us your own coaching news!

February 1, 2017

Changing Racket Angle When Looping
Here's a question I was asked recently.

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. (Here's an example of a player opening the racket as he snaps his forearm and wrist into the shot in this loop against backspin. Compare the very closed racket angle during the backswing to the slightly more open contact point. The link should take you 57 seconds into this instruction video.)

Busy Day Today
Here's my todo list for today:

  1. This morning's blog.
  2. Class accounting (for the various TT classes I teach).
  3. Book accounting (for the various TT books I've written and sell).
  4. Update webpages (on the first of each month).
  5. Go over proofs of "History of U.S. Table Tennis," Volume 19, with Tim Boggan.
  6. Promote MDTTC February Open (Feb. 18-19), which I'll be running. I plan to print out entry forms to send to local clubs, then post about it here and elsewhere.
  7. Organize text for "More Table Tennis Tips," then print for proofing. Yep, I now have 150 Tips of the Week from 2014-2016 for the sequel to "Table Tennis Tips." Today's main job is to organize the 150 Tips into chapters by topic. "Table Tennis Tips" was divided into ten chapters: Serve, Receive, Strokes, Grip and Stance, Footwork, Tactics, Improving, Sports Psychology, Equipment, and Tournaments.) If I have time tonight I might start playing around with the cover.
  8. Two hours of private coaching tonight.
  9. A bunch of USATT correspondence and possible USATT work.
  10. Call Geico. Somehow there's a big crack in my car's windshield. I have no idea where it came from as I haven't been in any accidents. (Hard-hit ping-pong ball?) I'm told my car insurance might pay for it.

USATT Awards Five Top Honors as Coaches of the Year
Here's the USATT article, with bios, statements, and testimonials. Here's the listing:

  • Olympic Coach of the Year: Stefan Feth (Mountain View, CA)
  • Paralympic Coach of the Year: Gary Fraiman (Clearwater, FL)
  • Mark Nordby Developmental Coach of the Year: Tao Wenzhang (Milpitas, CA)
  • Doc Counsilman Technology Coach of the Year: Samson Dubina (Akron, OH)
  • Volunteer Coach of the Year: Joe Ciarrochi (Akron, OH)

2017 Spring High Performance Training
Here's the USATT info page. It's a three-day USATT training camp to be held between the USA National Team Trials (March 23-26) and the  4-star Butterfly Cary Cup (March 30 - April 2) at the Triangle TTC in North Carolina. I may go down, if I have a top player or junior from my club to coach at the Cary Cup or Team Trials. If so, I may attend the Camp, either as a volunteer coach, or maybe, just maybe . . . as a player!

Samson Dubina Breaks Left Hand
Here's the Facebook picture and discussion. (If you're not on Facebook - Muggles? - you might not be able to see it, but here's the lurid non-Facebook image showing the cracked left ring finger.) As Samson thankfully points out, he's right-handed, so he'll be able to continue to play and coach. He claims he broke it playing volleyball, but I'm suspicious. Here's what I wrote: "C'mon, Samson, I've told you OVER and OVER that punching students for missing is risky. Tasers are much safer."

How to Eat and Drink at a Tournament
Here's the podcast (7:37) by Ben Larcombe

Photos from the Westchester January Open
Here's the gallery.

Young-Star National Team Camp-reaction Test
Here's the video (48 sec) - I want to try this!

Ask A Pro Anything - Joo Saehyuk
Here's the video (7:11) by Adam Bobrow of the best chopper in the world and a Men's Singles Finalist at the 2003 Worlds.

The Table Tennis Wheel
Here are four videos of them in action by Tahl Leibovitz and students, where players spin the wheel to develop their looping technique. I found three places where they are on sale: Ping Pong Depot in Canada ($149.95, I think this includes a speedometer), Table Tennis 11 in Estonia ($80.78), and Contra in Germany (EUR 89.90 or $96.69). If you search around, I believe you can get them with or without the speedometer.

Another Beetle Bailey TT Cartoon
Here it is, found by Marv Anderson. It's dated 6-28, but I don't know the year. I've added it to the listing I put up in my Sept. 28, 2016 blog.

Send us your own coaching news!

January 31, 2017

How to Play Practice Matches with a Weaker Player - an Example
It's always a bit disconcerting to go to the USATT News page and see a big picture of yourself! (And it'll stay there until another news item goes up.) Here's the direct link to my Tip of the Week (from yesterday) as a USATT News item.

Here's an interesting example of this. Back in the 1990s we had a junior at MDTTC, Sunny Li, who was dominating several age groups. At one point he won Under 14, 16, and 18 at the Junior Nationals. But as he moved up in level and faced even stronger players, a problem began to show up. He had among the best serves in the country, and easily the best serves among juniors, and often devastated opponents by serving long and watching them flail away at these big, breaking deceptive serves (with spinny-looking no-spin mixed in) - and if they returned them weakly, he'd pound the return, forehand or backhand. But against stronger players, you can't get away with serving long as often, and his short serves were merely good, not great like his long serves. He also hadn't really developed a good short game, and against short serves mostly flipped or pushed long.  

So what did we do? He was assigned to play practice matches with me, over and over, where he couldn't serve long, and had to drop my short backspin serves short. Like most others, I struggled with his deep serves, but I'm very good against short serves, and so even though I was only pushing 2300 at the time to his 2500 level, with these adjusted rules, I was able to beat him many times as he worked on his short serves and short game. It paid off as he got dramatically better at these things. (Though, alas, he quit table tennis at 18 to go to college, right when he was about to really hit the big-time and perhaps make the U.S. National Team and more. He later became a sharpshooter in the U.S. military in Iraq. I believe he now teaches sharpshooting to others in the military.)

USATT Hall of Fame Member J. Rufford Harrison Passes
Here's the USATT obit.

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

Devastate the Top Dog
Here's the new article by Samson Dubina.

ITTF on a fresh start in 2017 with a new approach to marketing and sponsorship
Here's the ITTF article where "Steve Dainton, ITTF Marketing and Commercial Director discusses in length the four-year deal with Seamaster, the new approach to marketing rights which are back in-house, recent technological advancements and much more."

Hu Melek feeling positive about her chances in Antibes: “I hope I can do well”
Here's the Butterfly article on the reigning European Women's Champion.

Ping Pong and Table Tennis
Here's the video (64 sec) - "Andrew Baggaley's reign as World Ping Pong Champion is over, but he's been speaking to the BBC about the differences between ping pong and table tennis."

Loop Grunt vs. Chop Grunt
Here's the video (30 sec) as Ruwen Filus and Ricardo Walther have a "grunt off." (Turn the sound up.)

Send us your own coaching news!

January 30, 2017

Tip of the Week
How to Play Practice Matches with a Weaker Player.  (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. 30. There is one more to go, and then we can finally celebrate the New Year!)

Last-Second Changes of Direction when Blocking
In the Sunday training session I had them do a basic drill, but with a twist. One player would serve and backhand loop (or forehand loop - I gave them that option) to his partner's backhand (or forehand - another option). The partner would aim the ball crosscourt - but at the last second would change and block down the line. (For advanced players, they had the option of going both ways.)

It's much easier to change directions at the last second on a block (or push) then with any other stroke - and players should take advantage of this. But you can't effectively do in a match what you don't practice, and so this was their chance to practice it. (And so should you.)

On the backhand side, it's a simple matter of pulling the wrist back at the last second and jabbing the ball down the line. On the forehand, you often take the ball a little longer - with the opponent often reacting to when he thinks you are going to contact the ball, and moving to cover the crosscourt. By taking the ball a split second later, and by bringing the wrist back slightly, it's easy to block down the line with the forehand. Many players don't have a down-the-line forehand block, a big hole in their games for savvy opponents, who know where you are next shot will be going.

RIP: USATT Hall of Famer J. Rufford Harrison, May 1930 - Jan. 28, 2017
He died Saturday from complications related to Parkinson's disease. He was 86. Here's his Hall of Fame Profile by Tim Boggan. Here's an article featuring Rufford from the Concord Insider in 2012.

$100,000 World Championships of Ping-Pong
Here's the home page for the event held this weekend in London - for Sandpaper. Here are the results - and guess what? It was won by a Chinese player!!! (Until now the event has been dominated by Europeans.) Here's the news article on the final.

2017 Hopes Info
This is for players who were born in 2005 or 2006, and clubs which hope to host a USATT Hopes Camp.

Over the weekend USATT has put up a number of news articles. Some are duplicates of ones I've had or link to this morning, others are new, but rather than my linking to them one by one, why not browse over them?Table Tennis Coaching Blogs
Here's a feature on table tennis coaching blogs - and is in there!

Become a Champion with the Chop Block
Here's the article by Carl Danner featuring 2016 U.S. Open Women's Singles Champion Adriana Diaz.

How to warm-up before a match (if you only have five minutes)
Here's the coaching article from Tom Lodziak.

We’ll Always Have Falkenberg
Here's the article from Coach Jon.

Table Tennis vs Ping Pong
Here's the article from eBATT Sport by Eli Baraty.

Backhand Flip Video
Here's the video (1:45) from Samson Dubina.

Coaching Podcasts by Matthew Pearson at Expert Table Tennis

Fang Bo Forehand Compilation 2017
Here's the video (2:43) of the world #12 from China, who made the final of Men's Singles at the 2015 World Championships by defeating Zhang Jike and Xu Xin.

Amy Wang Narrowly Misses Top 4 Opportunity at World Junior Circuit Finals
Here's the article by Matt Hetherington, featuring USA junior star Amy Wang. (Allen's sister - see below.)

Forrest Gump's got nothing on this teenage ping pong prodigy
Here's the video (2:09) featuring USA junior star Allen Wang. (Amy's brother - see above.)

Insane European Table Tennis Rally
Here's the video (60 sec) between Dimitrij Ovtcharov (GER, world #6) and Liam Pitchford (ENG, world #46).

Tribute to Ma Long - The World Number 1
Here's the video (6:44).

Table Tennis Demonstration Energizes Morning Assembly
Here's the article from the Temple City Tribune, featuring the California TTC from Rosemead, CA.

Julio Jones finally humbled by pingpong that has bonded Falcons' locker room
Here's the article from ESPN.

Epic Ping Pong Fail - Spinning Face Smack
Here's the video (34 sec)!

Buried in Ping-Pong Balls
Here's the picture!

Send us your own coaching news!

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