Butterfly Online


Larry Hodges' daily blog will go up Mon-Fri by noon USA Eastern time (usually by 10 AM, a little later on Mondays when he does a Tip of the Week).
Larry is a member of the U.S. Table Tennis Hall of Fame, a USATT Certified National Coach, a professional coach at the Maryland Table Tennis Center (USA), and author of seven books and over 1400 articles on table tennis. Here is his bio

Make sure to order your copy of Larry's best-selling book, Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers!
21 chapters, 240 pages, 102,000 words. Finally, a tactics book on this most tactical of sports!!!

His book, Table Tennis Tips, is also out - All 150 Tips of the Week from 2011-2013, in one volume, in logical progression!!!

His newest book, The Spirit of Pong, is also out - a fantasy story about an American who goes to China to learn the secrets of table tennis and ends up training with the spirits of past champions. Read the First Two Chapters for free!

February 19, 2016

History of U.S. Table Tennis and Other TT Books
It's out – Tim Boggan's History of U.S. table Tennis, Volume 17!!! You may remember me blogging about the long hours of putting the 450 pages and 1500 illustrations together back in January with Tim. So why not buy a new volume or perhaps 17 of them? Cost is $40/book, but if you order all 17, it drops to $30/book! (If you have ordered previous volumes and want to buy the rest, you can negotiate with Tim.)

The volume covers 1989-1990, including a lot about the infamous 1990 U.S. Open/World Veterans/International Junior Championships. I'd say more about this, but then you wouldn't have to buy the book!!! (Sorry, only comes in print.)

If you can't afford all 17, and don't want to order them piecemeal, one option is to go for Volume V, which covers the Ping-Pong Diplomacy Years, 1971-72. Tim gives a first-hand look at those historic events, where we finally made contact with China, with the U.S. Team touring China and the Chinese Team touring the U.S.

So why not curl up with a nice historical table tennis book this weekend? Or, since you'll need to order the book, why not order it now so you can curl up with it next weekend?

Or, of course, you could order one of my books, which come in print and (in most cases) kindle versions. (Here's my Amazon page.) Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers has been the #1 best seller for table tennis almost continuously since it came out 27 months ago (as of tomorrow) – see the "#1 Best Seller for Table Tennis" citation next to it on the Amazon page. (Others books have taken over the #1 spot for short periods of time, mostly when they first come out.) It has 38 reviews – 31 5-star, six 4-star, and one 3-star – read over them to get a gist of the book. It comes in both print and kindle.

If you are looking for Tips, check out Table Tennis Tips. Or if you want a mix of essays on table tennis technique and stories about table tennis, go for Table Tennis Tales & Techniques. If you want to be a professional table tennis coach, go for the Professional Table Tennis Coaches Handbook.

If you are more in the mood for an inspirational story, check out "The Spirit of Pong," my fantasy table tennis novel about an American who goes to China to learn the secrets of table tennis, and trains with the spirits of past champions – you'll meet many of the greats, including Ogimura, Satoh, Rong Guotuan, Reisman, and special appearances by moderns including Waldner and Deng Yaping. (This is my favorite of my books.) It's a quick read, only 100 pages, and comes with a special 4-page humorous fantasy table tennis story, "Ping-Pong Ambition," about a man who wants to be the best table tennis player ever, and while training with a robot, the ball cracks . . . and out comes a genie that had been trapped in the ball for 10,000 years!!! (You'll have to read the story to find out how that happened.)

Here's my blog entry (updated) from December where I listed other table tennis books and linked to my reviews of them.

Table Tennis is Back in the Junior Olympics!!!
Here's the Junior Olympics Table Tennis Info Page – but there's little info there yet other than the main news that we're once again listed. We were part of it from the 1980s until just a few years ago, and now we're back in! The event will be held Aug. 1-3 in Houston, TX. The online listing shows it starting July 30, but July 30-31, Sat & Sun, is actually a 4-star tournament they are planning to be held in conjunction with the Junior Olympics, which start the next day and run Mon-Wed. As some of you may remember, when I ran for the USATT Board of Directors, this was one of the things I promised to push for. But while I pushed for it, special thanks goes to Wen Hsu and Richard Lee who made it happen! Richard and North American Table Tennis will be running the event, along with the 4-star tournament.

Ask the Coach Show
Episode #226 (19:29) - Serving Strategy (and other segments).

Official U.S. Olympic Trials Gear
Here's where you can buy it!

Texas Wesleyan Faces Rival at Regional Tournament
Here's the article from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

2016 World Championships Media Guide Now Available
Here it is. It includes:

  • ITTF Overview
  • History of Table Tennis
  • Basic Table Tennis Rules
  • Player lists and Bios
  • WTTC Information
  • Previous Results
  • Major Event Winners
  • Upcoming Major Events
  • Media Guidelines
  • General Media Information
  • ITTF Media Contacts

Table Tennis Features
Here's a bunch of news items from Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada – way up north, includes table tennis in snow pictures! Click on pictures for next one.

Promoting the Sport – Interview with Blake Cottrell
Here's the video interview (13:33) with the tournament director and promoter, by Samson Dubina.

Amazing Xu Xin Backhand Sidespin Flip Receive
Here's the video (15 sec, including slo-mo replay). It looks so simple, doesn't it?

Great Point
Here's the video (1:11) between Marcos Freitas of Portugal (world #11, #7 in November) and Adrien Mattenet of France (world #46, formerly #19).

International Table Tennis
Here's my periodic note (usually every Friday) that you can great international coverage at TableTennista (which especially covers the elite players well) and at the ITTF home page (which does great regional coverage). Butterfly also has a great news page.

Hulky Pong?
Here's the cartoon! (And here's the Hulk Racket - I own one!)

Mostly Non-Table Tennis - Win a Free Copy of Campaign 2100: Game of Scorpions
All you have to do is go to the Goodread's page, click on the "Enter Giveaway" link, and sign up! I will be sending signed copies to eight winners. (As I've blogged a number of times, one of the main characters in the SF novel is a professional table tennis player turned campaign director, with a number of table tennis scenes.)

Send us your own coaching news!

February 18, 2016

What's in a Name?
Some of us have perfect names for what they do. Let's face it, doesn't Donald Trump have a great last name for a businessman or politician? (Well, until he went and ruined it by, well, I'll shut up now.) Or how about others with perfect names for their sport, like sprinter Usain Bolt, golfer Tiger Woods, or the great baseball slugger Hack Wilson? (There's also the unstoppable tennis star Bjorn Borg, but the unstoppable villains the Borg of Star Trek: Next Generation came after he retired.) Or how about someone with initials "LBH" for "Loop Block Hit"? (That would be me - and my last name is also an anagram for "He's God"!)

So let's examine the USATT ratings database and find out who's out there!

There were 64 Pings, and another 95 with "ping" as part of their names. My favorites: Ping Chao of Somerset, NJ, rated 545; (makes me hungry for ping-pong), He Ping of Durham, NC, rated 875 ("He ping-pong player!"; Ping Hao, of Gaithersburg, MD, rated 1803 (from my club! So "Hao" do you play ping-pong?); Ping Ma of Maritta, NY, rated 339 ("Ma, take me to play ping-pong!"); and Rusty Ping of Texas, unrated – "I need to practice, I'm rusty!" There was also former USA Olympian Whitney Ping.

There were seven Pongs (plus another 30 with "pong" as part of their name):

  • Johnny Pong of Laguna Woods, CA, rated 1048
  • Norman Pong of Chelmsford, MA, unrated
  • Vivien Pong of Eugene, OR, rated 1005
  • Beth Pong Green of Monument, CO, unrated
  • Pong Javier of Illinois, unrated
  • Chin Pong Tsui of New York, NY, unrated
  • Kin Pong Lee, foreign player location unknown, rated 1566

There were 39 people whose first name was "Ping," and four people whose last name is "Pong," so all we have to do is arrange a marriage between two of them (156 possible combinations!), and we'll have a Mr. or Mrs. Ping Pong!

Moving on to strokes, meet:

  • Craig Loop of Los Angeles, unrated
  • Tom Loop of Scotch Plains, NJ, rated 1638
  • Carl Looper of Tybee Island, GA, rated 896
  • Lots of Blockers – say hello to Adam, Eli, Gary, Jerry, Jonathan, Macy, Michael, Miwa, Robert, Rod, and Willen Block, and to Desmond, Jared, Jer'el, and Tavon Blocker.
  • No one named Push, but we do have Pushkar, Pushan, Pushilal, and Pushpak.
  • Mosi Kill Kelly, location unknown, rated 2222
  • No one named Chop, though quite a few had "chop" in their names, including a number of Chopra's. But there was Carl Chopp of Aurora, CO, unrated.
  • There were 11 people named Fish, and 41 named Fisher.
  • No one named Serve, but there were Bert and Humberto Servello.
  • Want to flip a serve? Meet Flip Carico of Troutville, VA, rated 1804. Of course the Europeans call a flip a flick, so meet Bob Flick of Luthvle Timon, MD, rated 837.

Moving on to equipment:

  • No one named Racket, but two had "racket" in their names – Hayden Brackett of Springfield, MO, rated 992, and Jeremy Brackett, of Attalla, AL, rated 1082.
  • There was Sam Blades, from unknown foreign country, rated 584.
  • There were 21 people named Bryce, but no Tenergys or Srivers.
  • There were no Antis, though a lot of Santiagos (which has "anti" in it), but I once knew a player named Ahn-Tuy Nguyen, whose first name was pronounced "Anti" – and believe it or not, he played with the Seemiller grip with anti on one side!

Speaking of Nguyen, do you want to win? There were 654 players with the Vietnamese name Nguyen, which is correctly pronounced (roughly) "Win."

Table tennis is a game of spin and speed, so…

  • Say hello to Vic Lotsospin of Pennsylvania, unrated. There were a lot of others with "spin" in their names, but no one named Spin.
  • Say hello to Nick Speed of Arizona, unrated.
  • But you don't need spin if you are Nospin Mitbbs from California, unrated.

But if you want to know the score, ask Ronald Score, of Washington, UT, rated 1351, or Tyler Score, of Phoenix, AZ, rated 1182.

Someone's playing name games with our database – apparently the guilty party is Fremont Head Coach Shashin Shodhan! The USATT database includes Shashin Chopper Shodhan, Shashin Left Chopper Shodhan, Shashin Lobber Shodhan, Left-Handed Shashin Shodhan, Lefty Shodhan, Pips-out Shashin Shodhan, Shashin Left Penhold Shodhan, Shashin Rght [sic] Shodhan, and Shashin Wheelchair Shodhan! There was also Kuldip Left-Handed Shodhan, Kuldip Wheelchair Shodhan, and Lefty Kuldip Shodhan.

But names aren't everything – who among us isn't determined to break 2000, that magical rating barrier? (Well, other than those rated over 2000.) And Majid Hussain of Ontario's USATT# is 2000. (But he's rated 2306.)

So who's the Best? Meet Alex, Aubrey, Bryan, Daniel, Gabe, Mark, Mia, and Thomas Best! And who's the best of the Best? That would be Daniel Best, from Germany, rated 2248. Of USA players, that would be Aubrey Best, of Orlando, FL, rated 1109. So the best of the USA Best aren't exactly . . . blessed.

Free Video Clips
Here are seven free video clips from Samson Dubina's coaching DVD.

Ask the Coach Show
Episode #225 (20:45) - Backhand Counterloop and other segments.

Nice Drill
Here's the video (58 sec) – short push, long push, quick block.

Waldner Cherishes His Chinese Friends
Here's the article. And here's video (16:10) of Waldner's Most Beautiful Points.

Segun Toriola Qualifies for 7th Olympic Games
Here's the ITTF article. "TORIOLA's appearance at Rio 2016 will be the most by an African in any sport, writing himself into African sporting history." "TORIOLA joins table tennis legends Jean-Michel SAIVE (BEL), Jorgen PERSSON (SWE) & Zoran PRIMORAC (CRO) in an elite group of players who have played at seven Olympic Games."

2016 DHS Swiss Open Final
Here's the video (10:19) of Dimitrij Ovtcharov vs Vladimir Samsonov

World Champs Fav Moment - Ma Long
Here's the ITTF video (66 sec).

Fantastic Backhands
Here's the video (1:11).

LEON's World of Magic with David Wetherill
Here's the video (4:58) – humor, magic, and table tennis! "Leon Thomson, the magician, invites David Wetherill who did the "FANTASTIC TABLE TENNIS SHOT" to play table tennis at BTTC, Leon pulls of a ridiculous trick with David's Bat! David did the Fantastic Table Tennis shot at the Paralympic games in London 2012."

Mostly Non-Table Tennis – Campaign 2100: Game of Scorpions
Here's the Amazon page for the kindle version of my new SF novel! You can only pre-order now, so why wait? Print page should be up in a few days. The novel will be released on March 8. As noted many times, one of the main characters is a professional table tennis player, and there are a number of table tennis scenes.

Send us your own coaching news!

February 17, 2016

My schedule these days is pretty hectic. I've blogged about this a few times – and have been sarcastically called a "table tennis martyr" for doing so – but at some point something will likely have to give. I'm involved in way too many USATT and MDTTC issues, plus have my regular coaching and tutoring hours, afterschool pickups, blogs & tips, and science fiction writing. My guess is I'm probably going to have to drop some of my USATT activities after this year, but I hope to get a lot done this year first. (I'm currently on the USATT Board of Directors, the chair of the USATT League Committee, and the USATT Regional Associations Coordinator. I may drop the latter two after this year – hopefully there'll be worthy successor who can continue this work. Heck, any ambitious, hard-working table tennis martyrs want them now?!!!)

I've had to temporarily drop my usual SF writing to focus on these other issues, and my USATT work has taken a hit. The last few days I've picked up on USATT issues – I was up half of last night on various issues, mostly working with people around the country involving regional leagues and associations, coaching, and state championships. I think half my emails these days are basically, "I'm inundated right now, but will get back to you." (Yesterday didn't help – I spent most of the day in Baltimore for the funeral of my aunt, RIP.)

Today, after the blog goes up, I've got a long list of MDTTC and USATT things to get done, plus a lot of publicity work for the upcoming SF novel, Campaign 2100: Game of Scorpions (out on March 8 – lots of table tennis in it!).

My weekly and upcoming schedules are below. Mon-Fri mornings and early afternoons are devoted to blogging, writing, and USATT & MDTTC work. (I usually start around 7:30AM.) Mon-Fri I leave either 2:15 or 2:30 to do afterschool pickups, then do both coaching and tutoring until 5:30 PM, then private or group coaching. Nights I do more USATT/MDTTC work as needed, and try to get some SF writing in, though that's been down recently – just no time or energy at that point, and there's always some "emergency" USATT or MDTTC item to get done. Then it's off to bed somewhere between midnight and 2AM. I try to squeeze in half an hour of reading at night, and do the Washington Post crossword puzzle during lunch and while waiting for the kids when I do school pickups. I schedule one breath of air every hour on the hour, when I have time.

Weekly Coaching Schedule
Mon: 2:15-7:00PM
Tue: 2:15-7:00PM
Wed: 2:30-6:45PM
Thu: 2:15-7:00PM
Fri: 2:30-5:30PM
Sat: 2:30-3:30PM
Sun: 1:00-8:15PM

2016 Travel and Special Events Schedule

Jan. 5-17

Tim Boggan/Vol. 17


Jan. 30

Capital League


Feb. 12

Exhibitions/Demos, 6:30-9:00PM


Feb. 13

Exhibitions/Demos, 10AM-2PM

Montgomery Mall

Feb. 20

Capital League Final


Feb. 26

Exhibitions/Demos, 6:30-9:00PM


Mar. 8

Campaign 2100 Published

World Weaver Press

Mar. 11

Exhibitions/Demos, 6:30-9:00PM


Mar. 18-20

Lunacon SF Con

Rye Brook, NY

Mar. 28-Apr. 1

Spring Break Camp


Apr. 9



Apr. 17 Capital League WDCTT

Apr. 29-May 1

Ravencon SF Con

Williamsburg, VA

May 14

Capital League


May 28-30

Balticon SF Con

Baltimore, MD

June 3-5

Con Carolinas SF Con

Concord, NC

June 11



June 18

Capital League Final


June 20-Aug. 26

Summer Camps


July 4-10

USA Nationals

Las Vegas, NV

July 22-30

TNEO Writing Workshop

Manchester, NH

July 30-31

4-star Tournament

Houston, TX

Aug. 1-3

Junior Olympics

Houston, TX

Aug. 17-21

World SF Con

Kansas City, MO

Sept. 10



Oct. 2-4


Gaithersburg, MD

Oct. 22



Oct. 27-30

World Fantasy Con

Columbus, OH

Nov. 18-20

Philcon SF Con

Cherry Hill, NJ

Nov. 25-27

NA Teams

Washington, DC

Dec. 12-17

U.S. Open

Las Vegas, NV

Dec. 18-25

Christmas Vacation

Eugene, OR

Dec. 26-31

Christmas Camp


Ask the Coach Show
Episode #224 (22:45) - Backhand Footwork

Former Olympic and World Champion Waldner Bows Out
Here's the article from Eurosport.

11 Questions with Richard Perez
Here's the USATT interview.

Arnold Table Tennis Challenge: Bigger and Better in 2016
Here's the USATT article by Barbara Wei.

San Antonio 2016 Winter Open
Here's the article by Joe Cummings.

Reducing Anxiety and Increasing Productivity … Through Table Tennis?
Here's the video (3:17).

TableTennisDaily Podcast #7 Marcos Freitas
Here's the interview (55:57) with the world #11 (recently #7) from Portugal.

David Beckham Plays Table Tennis
Here's the video (35 sec) where he shows the world that Table Tennis can be played anywhere and everywhere!

Ghost vs. Skeleton
Here's the cartoon – you create the caption! (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

Send us your own coaching news!

February 16, 2016

Tip of the Week
Improving Side-to-Side Reaction.

Exhibitions and Demos
Friday and Saturday were exhausting as I did exhibitions and demos. Sunday was just as bad as I spent nearly the entire day at the club coaching. Sunday was also the 19th consecutive day I'd coached, so I was exhausted before all this. Fortunately, I got a bit rested up by taking Monday off – President's day. (Plus we had about five inches of snow.)

The Potomac Community Center (which is home to the Potomac Country Table Tennis Club), has a Club Friday, where hundreds of kids show up for various sports, games, and other activities. We had a two-hour session there on Friday (7-9PM), with two others coming up on Feb. 26 and Mar. 11. A big thanks go to volunteers Herman Yeh (president of PCTTC who arranged things), Ernie Byles, Gary Schlager, Michael Clarke, Chris Clarke, and Zheng Kangmin.

We had half the big gym, with basketball on the other half, with a huge curtain lowered between us. We were on the far side, which made it a bit more difficult to attract kids since they couldn't see us from the gym door. We probably had about 30-40 total kids, with a core group of about 20 that stayed pretty much the whole time.

Ernie and I started things off with a demo of the strokes, where I did the talking. The kids looked impatient, so we quickly went to some exhibition play, with Ernie doing lots of lobbing. Then I did one of my favorite shticks, where I told the audience that a terrible thing had happened, that after years of training, Ernie had gotten a big head, and now claimed that he could beat me!!! So we had a challenge game to 11, with the loser having to sweep and mop the club. (Well, so I claimed.) Anyway, we did the usual exhibition stuff, with me (as usual) playing the bad guy. (I tell them that whenever I win a point, they cheer; whenever Ernie scores a point, they boo; predictably, they do the reverse.)

Then we let them do open play on the tables with the many rackets and balls Herman had brought in. (We had nine tables.) The volunteers fanned out on the tables, hitting with the kids, while Gary did multiball on one of the tables. I was a roving coach.

On Saturday, the Maryland Table Tennis Center took part in Girls and Women's in Sports Day Expo at Westfield Montgomery Mall, with Wen Hsu organizing it for us. JOOLA volunteered to bring over a table and barriers, and at 10AM we set up in the mall in front of Sears. We stayed until 2PM, giving demos, and playing and coaching those interested, and giving periodic exhibitions. A big thanks goes to Wen Hsu, Jessica Lin (12, around 1900 level, who I did most of the demos with), Eileen Chang, and poor Nathan Hsu – he fractured his playing wrist playing basketball the day after the U.S. Olympic Team Trials, and is out for at least six weeks. However, he is about 1700 as a lefty, and can lob like a 2000 play! He was dying to play, so he ended up hitting almost as much as Jessica and me.

After it was done, I made a terrible mistake. It was 2PM, and there was a movie theatre there. I'd seen six of the eight Academy Award Nominees, with two of the ones I'd missed playing there – The Big Short and Brooklyn. Unfortunately, I'd just missed the 1:55PM showing of The Big Short, with the next showing at 4:50PM. So I wandered about the mall for 2.5 hours – and that was the mistake. My legs were dying before, and after all that walking, I could barely totter about. The movie was great, but I paid for it on Sunday, when I coached all day, and felt like I was 95 years old.

Advice for Coaches
Here's the new coaching article from Samson Dubina.

Ask the Coach
Episode #223 (23:45) - Defenders Receiving Tactics (and other segments)

One Thing to Take to Your Next Table Tennis Tournament
Here's the new article from Coach Jon.

ITTF Hopes Program
Parents and Coaches – If your child or student is an aspiring table tennis player with a birth date between Jan. 1, 2004 and Dec. 31, 2005, then the following should be of great interest to you.

National College Newsletter – Feb 2016
Here's the new one.

Jan-Ove Waldner: I Have No Motivation
Here's the interview.

GW Table Tennis
Here's the article and video (1:29) about this club at George Washington University in DC.

ITTF's Adam Bobrow Highlights Video
Here's the video (1:26) - When the voice of Table Tennis Adam Bobrow is not commentating, he is on the table playing!

ITTF Pongcast January 2016
Here's the video (10:17).

Town of Hempstead Salutes Estee Ackerman
Here's the video (2:12).

Ma Long vs. Dimitrij Ovtcharov – Left-handed!
Here's the video (9 sec).

Dimitrij Ovtcharov vs. Jan - Ove Waldner at the Energis Masters 2016
Here's the video (11:43) – some nice exhibition play!

Reggie Miller Plays Table Tennis

25,000 Ping Pong Balls
Here's the pictures – a perfect way to jazz up a small Brooklyn apartment!

Send us your own coaching news!

February 15, 2016

No blog today - it's President's Day! But it's no day off for me - I've been working since 7AM on USATT matters - primarily the Regional Team Leagues and State Championships initiatives. If you are interested in setting up a Regional Team League in your area, here's info:

If you are interested in running a State Championship (and someone isn't already doing so in your state - see listing in link), here's info:

Meanwhile, it's snowing outside (again) - we're supposed to get 3-5 inches. 

Hopefully I'll get today's work done soon so I can spend the rest of the day in bed - I'm off today after coaching for 19 straight days, including long, exhausting exhibition/demos the last two days at Potomac Community Center and Montgomery Mall - I'll blog about them later. 

Hey, I think I just wrote a blog after all! Sort of. 

February 12, 2016

Clinics and Demos and Other Activities
Things are getting incredibly busy. Tonight, after I finish the afterschool program/tutoring/coaching, I'm off to the nearby Potomac Community Center (home to the Potomac TTC), where they have a regular Friday night Youth Activity Club from 7-9PM (for grades 3-6), though it turns out they really start at 6:30PM. I visited it last Friday, and there were over 300 kids there. Tonight from 6:30-8:00PM (and on two more Fridays, Feb. 26 and Mar. 11) I'll be running a table tennis program for them in the big gym, with 14 tables. I'll be assisted by Cheng Yinghua and several other locals, but I'll be doing all the talking and organizing. I've run a number of such programs. We'll start with a short demo and exhibition, then do a short clinic on the basics. Then we'll send them out on the tables to play – I'll explain how to play Brazilian Teams and King of the Table. For the younger ones I'm bringing a huge amount of paper cups, which they'll build huge pyramids out from and then knock them down as I or the volunteers feed multiball. (This is unpaid, volunteer work.)

Tomorrow morning I'll be at Montgomery Mall for an 11AM-2PM exhibition/demo for the Girls & Women in Sports Day Expo. Assisting will be 11-year-old Jessica Lin (or is she 12 now?), who's about 1900, as well as organizer Wen Hsu. (We're hoping to get one or two more local girls to help out, but two of them have come down sick.) (This is also unpaid, volunteer work.)

As usual, Sunday is my busiest coaching day . . . I won't even get into that. Monday's looking pretty busy too. Recently I've been focusing a lot on simulated games, where my students serve backspin and I push back, either to one spot or randomly, they loop (forehand or backhand), and then we play out the point. It's a nice game-type drill that allows the player to focus on developing this aspect of their game. Several have been having trouble against fisher/lobber styles, so I've been doing a lot of fishing and lobbing recently – that's one of the more fun parts of coaching. In the beginning junior class, several have finally "mastered" the basic forehands and backhands, and are now learning spin serves and looping. One did his first "come-back" backspin serve ever a few days ago – serving so the ball hit the other side of the table and bounced back onto his side on one bounce! Not bad for someone who had never heard of backspin before one month ago. I'm also using the adjustable serving bar (thanks John Olsen!) for a different purpose – we set it on high, and practice pushing under it.

Meanwhile, I spend more table tennis time at my computer than at the table – all sorts of upcoming activities, such as setting up upcoming MDTTC tournaments on Omnipong (I'm running them), various Capital Area League issues, sending out press releases on our local Talent Development Program and on two of our juniors on National Teams (Derek Nie and Ryan Dabbs), as well as helping with an upcoming article (hopefully) from the Baltimore Sun on our top juniors. (We're actually much closer to the Washington Post's area, but they have never been as table tennis-friendly as the Sun.) Plus, of course, the usual private and group coaching, plus this blog and the weekly tips.

Once again I'm frustrated because I haven't been able to put as much time as I wanted into my USATT activities, especially regional team leagues and state championships. I plan to focus more on them next week. (More unpaid, volunteer work, alas…)

But it's hard to find time since not only am I doing all these table tennis activities, but I'm also really busy on the science fiction writing front, with my new novel coming out March 8, Campaign 2100: Game of Scorpions. (It's also up on Goodreads, still with the original January publication date.) My publisher is running me ragged with numerous promotional activities (that's a good thing – I could write several blogs on all the stuff we're doing to promote it), as well as the ones I'm working on. I've also got a science fiction convention publicity tour coming up, with stops at Lunacon (March 18-20 in Rye Brook, NY), Ravencon (Apr. 29-May 1 in Williamsburg, VA), Balticon (May 27-30 in Baltimore, MD), Con Carolinas (June 3-5 in Concord, NC), TNEO (writing workshop in Manchester, NH, July 22-30), the World Science Fiction Convention (Aug. 17-21 in Kansas City, MO), Eeriecon (Oct. 2-4 in Grand Island, NY), Capclave (Oct. 7-9 in Gaithersburg, MD, ten minutes from me, five minutes from MDTTC), the World Fantasy Convention (Oct. 27-30 in Columbus, OH), and Philcon (Nov. 18-20 in Philadelphia, PA). Others might be added later. All these conventions complicate my table tennis life as I have to cancel or get substitutes for all my coaching activities.

But the novel has a lot of table tennis, so it's all for table tennis, right?

I'll also be traveling for a lot of table tennis activities as well – USA Nationals, U.S. Open, two upcoming USATT board meetings, Junior Olympics (yes, we're back in – more on that later!), and a few others, plus the local Capital Area League meets (though I'm not playing in it). I'll likely post my combined schedule at some point, sort of a USA TT & SF tour.

Interview with Massimo Costantini
I linked to Part I last week, and again below. Now we have Part II! Both are interviews by Samson Dubina.

  • Part I: The Physical Side of Table Tennis (27:48)
  • Part II: The Mental Side of Table Tennis (26:22)

Jan-Ove Waldner Retirement
Here's an article on the all-time great's retirement at age 50. Here's a video (very long – 3hr 16 min) of the broadcast (in Swedish) of his final professional matches, in the Swedish elite league, Pingisligan. He played two singles matches, winning one of them. Here are direct links to videos of these last two matches, against Simon Arvidsson (7:49), and in the final professional match of his career, against Andreas Törnkvist (6:32). Here's video of the last point he scores of his career (watch the crowd go crazy!), followed by the last two points of his career – alas, two misses.

Yeshiva Girl Has Olympic Dreams
Here's the story on Estee Ackerman in the Jewish Star.

Patient DFAT Officials Defend Ping-Pong Diplomacy, Yet Again
Here's the article – ping-pong under attack!!! (DFAT is Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Australia.) Their tax dollars paid for a $6300 table???

Las Vegas Reunion Will Unite 300 Elite Athletes
Here's the article about the event to take place Feb 19-21 in Las Vegas – note the table tennis tournament mentioned in paragraph three! USA Table Tennis will be represented by Anne Cribbs (member of USATT Board of Directors), Sean O'Neill (USATT Director of Communications/Webmaster/two-time USA Olympian), and Las Vegas Table Tennis Host Carmencita Alexandrescu. Will they let Sean or Carmencita play in the table tennis tournament? (They'll probably be running it, and perhaps give a demo.)

You’d Never Know This Ping-Pong Playing Vet Fought in World War II
Here's the video (1:50) on News 5.

Nice Shots from an Eight-Year-Old Girl
Here's the video (14 sec).

Ghost in Pajamas Racket
Here's the picture! (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

Tyrannosaurus Rexes Playing Table Tennis
Because who among us has not wanted to play table tennis with a TRex? (TRex1 through TRex3 pictures are pretty spectacular. TRex4 is a still image from the TRex videos.)

Send us your own coaching news!

February 11, 2016

Review of The Metaphysics of Ping-Pong
The Metaphysics of Ping-Pong (2015, 226 pages, by Guido Mina di Sospiro, subititled "Table Tennis as a Journey of Self-Discovery") is a fascinating story of one man's introduction and and often chaotic journey into the world of table tennis. Though I don't believe I've ever met him, much of his table tennis journey took place in neighboring Virginia and in some Maryland clubs, along with various other places around the U.S. and the world, including Italy, China, Mexico, New York City, California, and on cruise ships.

The novel has lots of cultural, philosophical, and historical asides, with various ruminations about this man's journey into the sport of table tennis, with lots of interesting characters. His introduction to the sport included facing a player using the "mythical" Sriver inverted rubber, under the Draconian "winner stays" rules. And from there we are off to meet the various characters in this world of table tennis.

We meet Joe (the short, muscular lawyer guy with one eye who wears goggles to protect the other, who'd gone to Sweden to "check out the table tennis scene"); Alex (the passionate, sweating, cursing Russian with a lightning loop and a boxing background and two years as a "slave" in Siberia); Gilbert (the Filipino player with a limp and two physically demanding jobs); Hien (the Vietnamese who spent eight years as a prisoner of war undergoing torture); the Afghan refugee who had never seen a water fountain with potable water before; Harbin (and his theory of luck – and was a Chinese city named after him?); the ubiquitous coach Jaime, who trained the author on and off; the CIA guard who scornfully says, "Ping-pong tires you out?"; and many, many more of the huge number of characters that make up the table tennis world. The players were "from all over the world – some of them refugees, others eccentrics, rarely jocks – all with interesting stories to tell." (Page 48.) Along the way you'll learn about his having a machine gun pressed against his temple and having to eat his tie.

On page 23 he quotes Larry Hodges (disclaimer: that's me!), where he writers, "Larry Hodges, one of the leading experts on table tennis, explains it [the Magnus effect] in the following layman's terms:" (What follows is a long quote that you'll have to buy the book to find - it's from page 51 of my Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers book, near the end of the chapter "All About Spin.")

As he faced numerous losses in various table tennis settings, he bravely continued to play. He wrote of how the Chinese players "by resorting to unimaginable amounts of spin on their every ball, had given me a reality check." (Page 24.) Of one such loss to a Chinese player he wrote, "Humbling though this was, it didn't make me give up. I'm happy it didn't, because I was about to embark on a strange and, in many ways, awe-inspiring adventure. And should you happen to try this, too, I hope you won't give up, either, because the adventure is worth every minute of your time and every drop of sweat." (Page 24.)

But he learned. "I finally began to make some sense out of the myriad shots that the Chinese and everyone else threw at me. I memorized the motions they made, with the hand and the elbow, without realizing yet that I should have been watching for the movement of the whole body – as they hit the ball – and especially how the ball bounced on the table. Things began to fall into place, and I had my first few wins." (Page 39.)

He also began to realize that he was "complicating my learning process by equipping myself with rubbers – and blades – beyond my level. To add to the confusion, I kept changing combinations, peeling rubbers from one blade and gluing them onto another." (Page 62.) A budding EJ - Equipment junkie! He learns that "A top player knows before hitting the ball that, thanks to his correct position, movement, dose of power, and precision of aim, the ball will land on the opponent's side of the table exactly where and how he wants it to land." (Pages 81-82.) But he continues to make slow progress – and quotes Plato: "Never discourage anyone . . . who continually makes progress, no matter how slow." (Page 61.)

We learn of the "Kokutaku Blütenkirsche 868 Tokyo Super Tacky Japanese Style" rubber. ("Beware, on my backhand I've got a . . . Kokutaku Blütenkirsche! You've been warned." (Blütenkirsche, we learn, means "flowering cherry tree," and refers to the common Japanese flowering cherry.) (Pages 62-63.)

In the never-ending arguments between those who wish the sport had stayed in its classic stage (hardbat and less spin & speed), he takes a decidedly pro-sponge stance, favoring the modern game. He talks about how modern table tennis is "strikingly non-Euclidean," that "Euclidean geometry is the geometry of plain surfaces and three-dimensional space, but non-Euclidean geometry is the geometry of curved surfaces, hence it is indeed and appropriate term for this kind of ping-pong." (Page 5.) While we might bicker with the specifics of these definitions, most of us get the gist of what he is saying. Later he compares table tennis to tennis, which banned spaghetti string rackets, which is tennis's equivalent to table tennis's sponge. "Tennis remains a sport that favors the player's physical stature and power. It missed its chance to evolve and become a more sophisticated game, unlike table tennis." He then says, "Indeed, table tennis had changed forever. The two S's, Spin and Speed, had taken over. Gone was the Euclidean age of the hardbat with predictable trajectories and bounces – both on the table and off the racket – and never-ending rallies. Table tennis had become at once cerebral and snappy, something like a four-dimensional puzzle that one has to solve with no time to think about it." (Page 19.)

There's a whole chapter on "Two Breeds of Players and Men: Metaphysicians and Empiricists." (Page 107.) The definitions are subtle, but he writes, "Metaphysicians strive to master the art of spinning, which propels them, willy-nilly, into the realm of four-dimensional and non-Euclidean geometry. They strive to find the secret at the core of the game, one demanding a holistic approach that starts with agile footwork and ends with a snappy twist of one's wrist; they strive to learn and apply the variations of the loop; they strive to bend the laws of physics, in a sense, by being able to give the ball, through the Magnus effect, the exact arc that will make it touch the deep end of the table rather than go long. In short, metaphysicians take life head on and yearn to get as close as possible to true form." (Page 111.)

Empiricists, on the other hand, "take the easy path and don't strive at all. In their empirical experience, they've realized that spin remains a mystery to them and that striving takes them nowhere; it's unnecessary strife. Plato might remark that they're content to be in the cave. Why climb mountains when one can score points by taking the road downhill?" (Page 113.)

Guido also has some choice words for long pips and antispin: "Long-pips players go hand in hand with anti-spin players, that other branch of cave dwellers who rob the game of its chief mystery by using 'dead' rubbers that don't produce spin and that also neutralize all incoming spin. Horrors!" He wrote that these surfaces put on the hold "the development of the new era of TT ushered in by the sandwich revolution. But when one can fly, why slither?" He follows this with a discourse on such cave dwellers, including basement players who have never experienced the spins of modern table tennis. (Page 115.) He's likely to get some choice words from the non-inverted world for these comments – but perhaps they should read the entire chapter (and book) for context, since he's writing from what he considers a highly modernistic point of view, where inverted speed and spin are king.

He asks one player, Ted, why he uses a hardbat. The answer is, "I started playing with my father, in the basement. Back then, there were no sandwich rackets, so I still play with a hardbat." Guido's response: "By the same token, you watch black-and-white television and own no computer or cell phone, right?" (Page 118.)

Later he talks about "parasitic table tennis," players who "cling indefinitely to their 'shortcuts,' which will grant them many wins, to be sure, but past a certain ranking, no more." (Page 169.) This, of course, is many a coach's bane.

He describes his first tournament as "chaotic," and we learn how it is a complex system – and the ensuing discussion involves chaos theory and quantum mechanics. (Pages 153-158.)

There's a chapter on his "Pilgrimage to the Holy Land" – China, with lots of detail about what really is the holy land of table tennis. While there he compares table tennis to calligraphy – wonder if he knows that internationally famous calligrapher Julian Waters is a regular player nearby in Maryland? He quotes a calligraphy teacher in China, "Competency in a particular style requires many years of practice. Correct strokes, stroke order, character structure, balance, rhythm are essential in calligraphy." Guido writes, "I did a double take; the same words could have been said about table tennis." (Page 182.) Then he writes, "Chinese professional calligraphers will cultivate their every stroke of the brush; professional table-tennis players, their every stroke of the racket. But advanced table-tennis players do not just hit the ball – they brush it. For every brushstroke in calligraphy there is a brushed stroke in table tennis. It's no wonder, then, that so much of the best table tennis in the world is to be found in East Asian countries, in all of which calligraphy is revered as the purest of arts." (Page 184.)

He quotes numerous philosophers, writers, scientists, and others, including (in the order they are referred to): Rupert Sheldrake, Henry Miller, Mircea Eliade, Erasmus, Sun Tzu ("The Art of War"), Carl von Clausewitz ("On War"), Cumean Sibyl (Greek priestess presiding over the Apollonian Oracle), Plato, Teri Garr (lab assistant in the film "Young Frankenstein"), Nizami Ganjavi, Idries Shah, Aldous Huxley, Dino Buzzati, Aristotle, John Locke, Bertrand Russell, Benvenuto Cellini, Aldous Huxley, Ben Jonson ("The Alchemist"), Carl Jung, Epictetus, Chuang Tzu, Johan Huizinga ("Homo Ludens"); French poet and philosopher Paul Valery, Jack London, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Lao Tzu ("Tao Te Ching"), Ludwig Wittgenstein, Rudolf Carnap, Jalal ad-Din Rumi, Shams Tabrizi, St. John of the Cross, and Lin Tutang. It refers to numerous books, from the book ancient Chinese book "I Ching" ("Book of Changes") to The Adventures of Pinocchio. Numerous philosophical systems are referred to, such as Taoism, Zen, Sufism, Feng Shui, and Yin and Yang.

And yet, with all the philosophical meanderings, it's basically a book about the fascinating experiences of this player's introduction and experiences as he delves into this Olympic sport. I highly recommend it – it's a unique story that any of us in this rather eccentric sport can relate to.

Ask the Coach Show
Episode #222 (24:50) - Stopping a Killer Backhand (and other segments).

LYTTC to Host USA’s 2016 ITTF World Hopes Camp & Qualifying Tournament
Here's the article. "USA Table Tennis selects the LYTTC to hold USA’s 2016 ITTF World Hopes Camp and qualifying tournament on February 27-28, 2016. Any child born in 2004 and 2005 are eligible to participate in the qualifying tournament. There will also be spots available in the Saturday Camp for anyone under 12 years old."

Pan America, Continents Unite for Major Tournaments
Here's the article. "Every four years the Pan American Games is staged; the various competitions are fought fiercely, the table tennis events are no exception; now following an agreement between the Latin American Table Tennis Union and the North American Table Tennis Union, the concept of the two continents uniting will happen on an annual basis." … "an agreement was reached to promote three events: the Pan American Championships, the Pan American Cup and the Pan American Junior and Cadet Championships."

Amazing Table Tennis Forehand Technique
Here's the video (1:29) of Kaden Xu at the Lily Yip TTC, with Matt Hetherington feeding multiball.

Kobe Bryant's Table Tennis Competitiveness
Here's the article. "A story about Kobe Bryant playing — and quickly mastering — pingpong illustrates his insane competitiveness."

Ping-Pong Accuracy
Here's the video (12 sec) from Pongfinity.

Adaptive Pong?
Here's the picture – but that net needs more books! (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

Zoolander Plays Pong
Here's the repeating video (15 sec) – "Ping-Pong is a big part of my life."

Send us your own coaching news!

February 10, 2016

USATT Reports – Leagues, Regional Associations, State Championships

My USATT League, Regional Associations, and State Championships Report went to the board in December. (I chair the USATT League Committee and am the Regional Associations Coordinator.) Also online are the minutes of the USATT League Committee Conference Call held on Jan. 16. (You can find these and other committee reports in the USATT Committee Reports Page. Here is a listing of USATT Committees.) Below is the Board Report. If it's boring, skip ahead to the good stuff below! (The formatting below doesn't quite match up with the original - the interface here isn't great.) 

<Start USATT Board Report>

USATT Board Report
USATT League Committee, Regional Associations, State Championships

By Larry Hodges, larry@larrytt.com
USATT League Committee Chair and Regional Associations Coordinator
December, 2015

USATT League Committee
I was appointed the USATT League Chair in March, 2015. Most of the committee members were approved also in March (Adam Bobrow, Michael Levene, Bruce Liu, Han Xiao), with two others added in October (Tahl Leibovitz, Mauricio Vergara).

The USATT League Committee had two major activities this year.

  1. The Regional Team League Prototype went up on the USATT League page, with a corresponding news item. It was a compilation of the best of current leagues (such as the Capital Area Team League and the LA Team League), as well as overseas table tennis leagues (such as Germany and England), and leagues from other sports (such as tennis and bowling). The draft was sent to the league committee for discussion, and then went public. The goal is to set up a series of regional team leagues all over the country.
    1. I've been in discussions with Dell Sweeris about creating a Midwest League in 2016. We met at the Teams in DC in November, and will discuss at the Nationals, now that the League Prototype is up.
    2. Organizers from Massachusetts and Illinois have expressed interest in regional leagues. (Latter may join up with Midwest League mentioned above. This would be separate from the current corporate league in Chicago.)
    3. The Bay Area League is starting up again after being on hiatus for several years
  2. The National League Finals were organized to be held at the USA Nationals in Las Vegas in December. There was some thought to postponing it this year since it wasn't particular well organized from previous years, but after quite a bit of discussion, and with Mauricio Vergara helping to organize it, it was agreed to run them again this year. Here are the current guidelines for that, which will likely be updated soon.

Regional Associations
I was appointed USATT Regional Associations Coordinator earlier this year. As part of this we started a new initiative in November to set up Regional Associations. It's silly to think that an organization with six full-time staff members (plus a few contractors and volunteers), with a budget the size of a 7-11, can organize and run table tennis all over the United States.

Instead, we need to have Regional and State Associations all over the country, with each one primarily in charge of the table tennis activity in their region or state. There are surprisingly few right now, and that needs to change. This is how successful table tennis countries are organized, as well as successful sports in the U.S. And that's what we need to do as well.

The initiative calls for volunteers to step forward to set up Regional Associations. Several have already done so, but we we're in the early stages of this one. Some of the responsibilities of a Regional Association would include:

  • Generally oversee table tennis activities in their state or region
  • Oversee the regional team league in their state or region
  • Arrange tournaments (open and closed)
  • Help to bring in coaches for their clubs
  • Help to organize junior training programs
  • Organize training centers in their state. Every state should have these.
  • Find people to open clubs in the cities in their state that don't have clubs, starting with the more populated ones

Of the three major initiatives I'm working on – Regional Team Leagues, State Championships, and Regional Associations – this is turning out to the be the most difficult. I'm beginning to rethink this, and consider that we focus on setting up the programs – team leagues and state championships, and later on coaching programs and training centers – and let the Regional Associations come about afterwards.

State Championships
This was Gordon Kaye's idea, and I'm glad he convinced me to add this to the regional association programs I'm working on as it looks like it has strong potential. We now have a State Championships page (currently a news item, which will become a regular page later), and a listing of all of the 2015 State Championships. For this year there were 14 state championships, plus 15 states with a state games – but the latter usually aren't quite the same thing.

More importantly, after the news item went up, volunteers from eight states stepped forward and promised to run a state championship in 2016, including the two really big ones (CA and NY), which should bring us to 22 state championships. New state championships in 2016 include:

  1. California
  2. Maryland
  3. Massachusetts
  4. Nevada
  5. New York
  6. South Carolina
  7. Tennessee
  8. Washington DC (which for here I'm listing as a state)

The plan is to:

  1. Have a State Championship in all 50 states and DC in 2016. Realistically, it's unlikely we'll get all 50, but if we strive for it, we'll get more than if we aim for less. The goal isn't just to have state championships, but to turn them into major local media events. The next step, early in 2016, is to start soliciting directly to directors and potential directors to run State Championships in the states that don't have one.
  2. Create a USATT State Championships Page, where state champions from all over the country will be listed.
  3. Have a "Parade of Champions" at the 2016 U.S. Open in December.
    1. What we'll do is at some point between major men's or women's matches in the main arena – perhaps just before one of the finals? – we'll invite all the state champions of that year to come out and do a march around the arena as the crowd watches and cheers.
    2. Details will be worked out later – for example, do we invite only Men's and Women's Singles champions, or all champions? Rating event champions? Do we get a listing in advance and invite them specifically? Do we call out their names as they come out? These will be worked out later, but feel free to offer suggestions - or volunteer to take charge of it!
    3. I would have liked to do this at the Nationals, but the Open is now at the end of the year, with the Nationals in July, and I'd like it at the end of the year so we can honor the state champions from that year. As Gordon pointed out to me, we get more players at the Open anyway, though many are foreign players.

</End USATT Board Report>

Ask the Coach Show
Episode #221 (28:50) - Preparing for a Tournament (and other segments).

2016 US Olympic Trials Slideshow
Here's it is! And while we're at it, here's one for the 1979 U.S. World Team (by Tom Wintrich)!

U.S. Table Tennis Players, 13 and 14 Years Old, Have Shot at Rio Olympics
Here's the article from NBC Sports featuring Crystal Wang and Sharon Alguetti. Here's another article on these two in USA Today.

Fun for All at the Upcoming 2016 Butterfly Arnold Classic
Here's the article.

Congratulations Shen Yanfei, Women’s Europe Top 16 Champion!
Here's the article.

11 Questions with Sherlyn Barvie-Perez
Here's the USATT interview.

Top Rallies from the European Top 16
Here's the video (2:07).

Reggie Miller Prepares for Pingpong Match Against Drake
Here's the article and video (49 sec). The match will take place at NBA All-Star Weekend.

New Hampshire Results
Just remember – Trump will Make USATT Great Again!!!

Mostly Non-Table Tennis – The Cover of Campaign 2100: Game of Scorpions
Here's my Science Fiction & Fantasy Blog from this morning where I reveal the cover and other info. As noted in previous blogs, there's a lot of table tennis in the novel – one of the main characters is a professional table tennis player.

Send us your own coaching news!

February 9, 2016

Pong in the Snow
Yes, it's snowing outside again here in Maryland. It looks like we'll get 3-4 inches, but it'd more except it's been in the 40s the last few days and so the ground is above freezing, and so it didn't stick at first. But schools are open (two hours late) even though the snow continues to fall. And so in honor of our latest snowstorm, and with apologies to the Let It Snow song (and the full version sung by Dean Martin)…

Oh the weather outside is frightful, 
But ping-pong is so delightful,
To the ping-pong club we'll go,
Despite the Snow! Despite the Snow! Despite the Snow!  

It doesn't show signs of stopping,
But I've brought some balls for chopping,
At the club we'll play like a pro,
Despite the Snow! Despite the Snow! Despite the Snow!  

When we finish up pong tonight,
And leave behind our playing site,
We'll stop working on our form,
As we venture out in the storm!

The pong in us ain't dying,
But it's time for our good-bying,
But we'll always have our pong chateau,
Despite the Snow! Despite the Snow! Despite the Snow!

Ask the Coach Show
Episode #220 (27:25) - Returning Smashes.

Inside the Mind of a Coach
Here's the rather detailed graphic! (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

Table Tennis Secrets of China
Here's the video (8:18). Notice at the start how they put towels on the table to force the players to keep the ball to the wide corners? I do the same thing in my coaching!

Xu Xin & Liu Guoliang Multiball Training
Here's the video (5:50).

How Long Pips Work
Here's a video (74 sec) that shows graphically how long pips and inverted affect an incoming ball with spin.

Meet the Six U.S. Athletes Who Won Olympic Trials for Table Tennis
Here's the USOC article.

Former Marylander Crystal Wang Reaches North American Table Tennis Trials
Here's the article from the Baltimore Sun, with a video (1:32) they did two years ago. (Most of the article is from the press release I sent them.) 

Jack Huang's Hall of Fame Profile
Here it is! It's by Tim Boggan, with lots of photos. (His Chinese name is Tong Sheng Huang.) Jack's a full-time coach at MDTTC.

League Awards Banquet for Fall 2015 LA League Season
Here's the article, with pictures and video (1:23).

Vladimir Samsonov's Favorite World Team Championships Moment
Here's the video (46 sec).

Comedian Jackie Mason on the Ping Pong Hustler (Marty Reisman)
Here's the video (39 sec).

Ping Pong Song
Here's the animation music video (3:34).

Send us your own coaching news!

February 8, 2016

Tip of the Week
Looping Against Backspin Drills.

Attacking the Middle
Today's blog is really simple – I'm assigning you to watch the final of Day Three between Crystal Wang and Angela Guan. (With apologies to Angela and choppers everywhere, we're about to let a huge cat out of the bag.) Here's the complete video (2hr 23 min), with Crystal vs. Angela starting about 10:30 in, followed by the Day Three men's final between Kanak Jha and Krish Avvari. (You'll have to register to watch it, but it's a simple process. You can watch video of the men's and women's finals for all three days of the USA Olympic Trials at the USATT Olympic Trials Page.)

I wrote about how to play choppers in a Tip of the Week, appropriately titled Playing Choppers. The second paragraph begins, "A chopper is weakest in the middle, and that is where you should focus most of your attacks." And that's today's subject. Crystal, who is only 13 years old, already knows this, and as you watch the video, watch how she relentlessly attacks the middle (the opponent's crossover point, roughly the playing elbow). She did the same thing in the semifinals in upsetting the 2545-rated Lu Ying, also a chopper. Crystal does have an advantage – she grew up training at the Maryland Table Tennis Center (my club), where she regularly trained with chopper/looper Wang Qing Liang ("Leon"), a 2600 chopper during most of that time.

By attacking the middle, you accomplish five things – and these are true not only against choppers, but against nearly all players.

  1. You force the player to have to make an instant decision between forehand and backhand, leading to many mistakes.
  2. You force the opponent to move out of the way to make room for an often awkward forehand or backhand, forcing misses and weak returns.
  3. You take away extreme angled returns. (This is true more against blockers than choppers.)
  4. You force the player out of position, opening up the corners for the next shot. A forehand from the middle may open up the wide forehand, while a backhand from the middle may open up the wide backhand. Conversely, players often rush to get back into position and end up opening up the other wide corner. If a corner doesn't open up, attack the middle again.
  5. You force the opponent to do a shot he's not used to doing. Most players drill to the corners, rarely to the middle, and so when faced with a shot to the middle in a game, he's not comfortable. 

Over and over one of the biggest tactical differences between average club players and top players is the latter's understanding of the huge weakness in the middle. It's not as easy to play into as the corners, since the opponent's middle is a moving target and is a smaller target than the corners – if you miss it by six inches, you might just be playing into the opponent's middle forehand or backhand, where he's strongest. But it's the biggest hole in most players' games. Go for it!

U.S. Olympic Trials
Here's the USATT home page for the event, held this past Thur-Sat in Greensboro, NC, with complete results, articles, video, etc. Four USA men and women have now qualified for the final North American Trials in Toronto, April 8-10, where they will compete against Canada for the three spots allotted to North America. The USA players are made of the men's and women's singles champions from the past Nationals (Feng Yijun and Zheng Jiaqi), and the three men and women who qualified in the Trials (Men: Timothy Wang, Sharon Alguetti, and Kanak Jha; Women: Chen Wang, Lily Zhang, Crystal Wang). Congrats to these eight!

2016 ITTF Europe TOP 16
Here's the ITTF home page for the event, held this past weekend in Gondomar, Portugal, with complete results, articles, video, etc. Congrats to Champions Dimitrij Ovtcharov of Germany and Shen Yanfei of Spain. Here's the ITTF press release.

Brazil Dominates Latin America Championships Ahead of Rio 2016
Here's the ITTF press release.

Table Tennis Punch Serve - Like a Boss Part 2!
Here's the new video (3:12) from Brett Clarke.

Massimo Costantini - Part I: The Physical Side of Table Tennis
Here's the video interview (27:48) by Samson Dubina.

Ask the Coach Show
Episode #219 (15:10) - Blocking Speed in Training (and other segments).

Table Tennis for Seniors – You Just Might Be One
Here's the article from Coach Jon.

MHTT World Champs Buildup Diary: Two Weeks to Go!
Here's the new blog entry from Matt Hetherington.

$4559 Raised for Parkinson's Research
Here's a picture of Navin Kumar and Jimmy Pelletier (with paddles) after their three-hour table tennis exhibition/fundraiser Michael J Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research at Beltway Plaza Mall this past Saturday. Here's a picture of Navin next to the fundraiser poster. (Navin has Parkinson's and a partially mechanical heart.)

Seth Pech Interview
Here's the interview by Samson Dubina.

MDTTC Newsletter
Here's the February MDTTC News, the monthly newsletter I do for the Maryland Table Tennis Center.

Ping Pong Fever
(I ran this last week, but had a bad link, so I'm rerunning it.) Here's the article by Steve Grant, about the Norwegian humorous documentary about the 1902 Ping-Pong craze, which was largely based on Steve's book, Ping Pong Fever: The Madness That Swept 1902 America. (Here's my review of the book.)

ITTF Legends Tour 2016
Here's their new promo video (1:36). Here's the final (5:18) of their most recent event, this past weekend, where Persson defeated Waldner this past weekend in their most recent event, reversing their previous result. Here's an amazing point (45 sec) between the two! (They mostly play for real, but they mix in exhibition now and then.) Here's the ITTF Legends Tour home page.

Ding Ning's Tricky Serve
Here's the video (26 sec) as Eliza Samara struggles to return this serve – but Ding has just as much trouble with her own returning sidespin! (Ding of China is world #2, was #1 for 24 months, including most of last year. Samara of Romania is world #23, formerly #13.)

World Championships Favorite Moments

Incredible Rally!
Here's the video (48 sec).

Prison Pong?
Here's the video (48 sec)!

Send us your own coaching news!

Syndicate content