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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!

January 27, 2016

Tip of the Week
Should You Develop Your Forehand Push?

Campaign 2100: Game of Scorpions, Table Tennis, and Donald Trump
Since the novel has so much table tennis in it, I'm going to blog a bit about that, about recent happenings on it, and about some table tennis scenes – including Donald Trump being in it! There's also some futuristic table tennis in it – more on that and Trump below. But first:

Good news: It was scheduled to come out from World Weaver Press on Jan. 26 – yesterday. Yay!

Bad news: On Thursday, Jan. 21, five days before publication, I received an email from the publisher saying something no author wants to hear: the publisher was closing down, and so my novel wasn't going to be published. NOOOO!!!!!

Good news: The very next day I received an email from one of the assistant editors that she was negotiating to buy the company, and still wanted to publish the novel. The deal is apparently going through, and so the novel is back on track – but the publication date has moved to March 8.

Bad news: The novel was long planned to come out in the middle of the presidential election, since it's a political novel that covers the race for president of Earth in the year 2100. (With a third-party moderate challenge, a father pitted against a daughter, and an alien ambassador observing and often participating.) The plan was to have it out before the Iowa caucuses, which will be held Feb. 1 (next Monday). So we'll lose some of that.

Good news: Without any advance knowledge that Trump would be running for president and dominating the news, he's in the novel!!! Sort of. Hopefully he'll learn of this and sue me or call me a hack writer, thereby putting sales through the roof. How is Trump in the novel?

One of the four main characters, Bruce, is a professional table tennis player who drops out of the pro circuit to run the worldwide third-party challenge for the presidency. He is sponsored by Trump Sports, and uses Trump table tennis equipment! Yep, I decided to make the imaginary Trump Sports a big company in the year 2100, where it's mentioned six times – Bruce uses a Trump Maestro Prime racket, wears Trump table tennis shoes, and at one point browses over a pack of Trump sports cards, where the best table tennis players in the world are featured. (He's disgusted because he's not included. That Trump is such a hack!)

The upside to all of this is that now we'll have time to build up buzz, and we'll still get the novel out during the height of the presidential race. So . . . should I wear makeup when I get interviewed on CNN?

I blogged about the various table tennis scenes in the novel on June 13, 2014. I also blogged on May 17, 2012 about how table tennis has changed in the year 2100. Below are the Trump related excerpts. (And remember, Trump plays table tennis – right? And yes, I'm the guilty party who created this graphic. That's really a headless Wang Liqin. Truly headless!)

Here's where we introduce Bruce's racket and future table tennis technology:

Sling was the latest model of ping-pong paddle, a Maestro Prime covered with Spinsey pinhole sponge, both from Trump Sports. When the ball hits it, the Spinsey sponge compresses, forcing air out through the tiny, angled holes that permeate the surface. If he held it one way, the air would shoot upward from the parallel holes, creating a topspin. If he flipped the paddle, so the backhand side became the forehand side and vice versa, then the air would shoot downward, creating a backspin. He held it in the topspin position for attacking.

Here's where sore-loser Bruce, who's broken his racket after losing a match, is looking for a replacement at shops in the Great Mall of China – a 3000-mile long shopping mall that parallels the Great Wall of China.

And right now Bruce was searching for a new ping-pong paddle. After losing to Twenty-two, he’d broken Sling, his former partner in table tennis. Now he hoped to find another Trump Maestro Prime.

A few paragraphs later:

He finally arrived at the table tennis store. Normally he got his equipment free from sponsor Trump, but he didn’t have time to wait. On the front wall hung hundreds of rackets. Nearly every brand name was represented. There had once been a Bruce Sims model, a modest seller, but it had been discontinued.

He browsed through the Trump brands, and there it was: a Maestro Prime.

Next he’d need new sponge covering, and again there were hundreds to choose from in numerous bright colors. Best to stick with the familiar; he found two sheets of Spinsey pinhole sponge.

Trump’s newest playing shoe was the Firmfoot Adjustable, named for its adjustable traction. Bruce found his size.

He browsed through the rest of the store, with every variety of balls, tables, nets, clothing, racket cases, playing bags, and numerous other accessories. He looked through the latest Trump playing cards, but he wasn’t in them this year.

To learn more about the life and times of Bruce Sims, professional table tennis player and campaign director, you'll have to wait until March 8! (One note – Bruce is really just me unleashed, where I can say whatever I want. Writing his sarcastic dialog was fun!) If you want to read more about the tribulations of the novel and its apparent cancelation/resurrection, I blogged about it this morning in my science fiction blog.

Snow
Schools were cancelled for the fourth consecutive school day here in Montgomery County, where we had about 30" of snow. So no afterschool program today. Other than two walks in the snow, I haven't left my house since Thursday. However, I'm coaching tonight at 5:30PM for the first time since then. Hope I still remember how to play.

2015 USATT Coaches of the Year
Here's the USATT article. This year's winners are:

  • National COY – Massimo Costantini:  For his continuing achievements in developing and training players to succeed at the highest levels of the sport, including national champions, world team members, and Olympians.   
  • Development COY – Yang Yu:  For his multi-dimensional development of programs for beginner and competitive junior players; and for his technical achievements in becoming one of the first U.S. coaches certified as Level 3 by the International Table Tennis Federation, and in delivering two technical papers to the ITTF Sports Science Congress. 
  • Para COY – Matthew Winkler:  For his achievements in helping to develop a U.S. Open and Romanian Open gold medalist.  
  • Doc Counsilman COY – Samson Dubina:  For his development and effective use of a two camera, instant playback system for providing immediate analysis and feedback to students, along with online video coaching and development of full-length coaching DVDs. 

Table Tennis Lesson - Advanced Mechanics - Like a Boss!
Here's the new video (4:38) from Brett Clarke.

Backhand Footwork – is it Necessary?
Here's the new coaching article from Samson Dubina.

New from MH Table Tennis
Here are some new articles from New Zealand Team Member Matt Hetherington

USATT 2016 Budget Report
Here it is.

World Championships of Ping Pong
King Baggaley Retains His Crown in Epic Final. (This is the $100,000 sandpaper championships in London.) Here's the final (14 min), where England's Baggaley defeats Maxim Shmyrev. Here's a promotion video (4:07).

Butterfly Newsletter
Here's the January 2016 issue.

Interview with Allen Wang
Here's the USATT interview by Rahul Acharya.

11 Questions with Logan Herman
Here's the USATT interview.

USATT News Items
Here's their news page – they've put up a lot of stuff since last week! Some of it I've linked to in other segments here.

The Brain and Ping Pong
Here's the video (2:18), which starts with a Forrest Gump montage, and goes on to how it affects the brain.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of NYC Pong Championships Event
Here's the video (3:37) of the event held at Grand Central Station.

Greater24 Studios Production
Here's the video (7:05) showing how over $250,000 was raised using Ping

Top 10 Most Popular Sports in the World – We're #7!!!
Here's the video (1:47) – table tennis comes in 33 seconds in, for 9 seconds.

Three-Year-Old Plays Pong
Here's the video (15 sec) – he's really on top of things here! Here's a longer version (2:58).

The Dreamer
Here's Mike Mezyan's latest table tennis artwork. (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

Snow-Related Humor

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January 26, 2016

One More Day
The snow is being picked up, but the snow on my brain, after four days alternating between long stretches of lazing about reading and doing crossword puzzles, and sudden bursts of inspiration and frenzied work, needs one more day of recovery. (Translation: I’ve been staying up late, and after going to bed last night at roughly late this morning, I woke up with a headache and eyes that feel like they've run a marathon. Also, local schools are still closed, and I generally take the day off when they do so.) I'll get to bed earlier tonight, and start blogging again tomorrow morning. Promise!

January 25, 2016

Local schools were scheduled to be closed today for teacher conferences even before a few snowflakes blew our way, so as is my continued policy, when the schools take a holiday, so do I! (I have lots of other work planned, alas.) So no blog today. I'll be back tomorrow Wednesday. In the meantime, here's my (non-table tennis) Facebook rant about the snow and Obama's complete refusal to do anything to stop its arrival - and what other candidates would have done! Enjoy!

January 22, 2016

Fake Ages in Junior Events
One of the more "inside" problems table tennis faces in the U.S. is the problem of fake ages in junior events. In the U.S., it's pretty much assumed – and almost always correctly – that birth certificates are accurate. But this isn't necessarily true in other parts of the world. In particular, I'm told (and my own experiences seem to concur) that in China, it's very easy to get a birth certificate or passport with a fake age. Here's one article on the topic. "While a global problem, the falsifying of ages is considered particularly acute in China due to the massive pressure on coaches and officials to produce victories and the apparent ease with which false documents can be obtained."

Many dozens of parents have approached me on this, mostly Chinese, because there seem to be a number of players all over the U.S. (all non-citizens, as far as I know) playing in junior events with fake ages. I say "seem" because there's rarely any way of really knowing in any individual case. There are legitimate teenagers who look to be in their twenties, and it's not their fault that they look older. For all we know, it's the faster-maturing kids who do well, and that's why there are so many juniors from China who look older than their listed age.

But I'm told that in China, junior ages are like speed limits in the U.S., where few people follow them. If the speed limit in the U.S. is 55, then everyone should drive under 55mph, right? Of course they should; that's what "limit" means. But very few do that. If you do, then other cars pass you by. Similarly, if you are in an under 12 event in China, then players should be under age 12, i.e. 11 and younger, right? But I'm told that in a typical under 12 event in China, most of the players will be several years older—if you aren't, then those you compete against will be older and so will likely pass you by. And so they are given false ages at an early age so they can better compete – if they don't, then they are at a big disadvantage. And so the result is lots of kids with false ages. (See quote from article above.) And once they start with a false age, it's rather difficult to later admit they'd been lying about their age since they were little kids. Who is to blame here, the kids or the parents & coaches? (Of course, there are others who simply have the age changed for their passports when they emigrate so that they can unfairly compete in lower age groups.)

The problem is that once a topic like this comes up, everyone from China comes under suspicion, and that's not fair. As I wrote, it's rarely possible to know in any individual case. If a player looks well over the age limit, but has a birth certificate or passport that shows he's the right age, what can you do? He may be legitimate, or he may not, but there's no way of knowing. The only good news on this issue is that, so far, the only "suspect" cases are among non-citizens, so I don't think it has affected play at the U.S. Nationals. But it's only a matter of time before an "old looking" Chinese junior becomes a U.S. citizen and qualifies for the U.S. Nationals. He may or may not be legitimate – we just won't know. When that happens, it'll become a bigger issue. (And that's when I'll link back to this article, where I'm predicting this problem.)

I have spent a huge amount of hours in discussions with parents and others on this issue, many of whom approach me at tournaments, frustrated with apparently older players playing in events that might not be eligible for. (Believe me, it's equally frustrating to me. Also frustrating to me is that most of the parents who approach me seem to believe this issue hasn't come up, when I've spent a huge amount of time discussing this issue with parents, coaches, board members, and the USATT CEO, trying to find a solution.) There have been numerous suggestions on how to solve the problem, but none seem workable. But before we get into that, here are some of my experiences.

  • One year at a 4-star tournament I coached a player in the final of Under 12. At first I thought they were joking when his Chinese opponent went out – he had a mustache and was about six feet tall. I did a poll of 20 people, asking their estimate of his age. One person estimated him to be 18; the other 19 people all estimated him from age 22 to 30, as did I. Yet the tournament director said his passport showed him to be 11.
  • At the Junior Olympics one year I coached a player in the final of Under 18. (They had just changed the rule to allow non-citizens to play.) A number of parents complained about his Chinese opponent, who looked to be in his late 20s. They all said he was a regional men's player from China who had come to the U.S. several years before as a full-time coach, and was at least in his late 20s. But once again, his passport said he was 17. He won the event, as well as Under 18 Teams and Doubles, playing the latter two with a student of his who, according to his age listing, was older than his coach but looked his age. Apparently, this 17-year-old coach had come to the U.S. as a full-time professional coach when he was something like 13, after playing on men's regional teams in China for several years and already looking in his 20s.
  • Dozens of other experiences, but I don't want to get into each case. They sound too accusatory, and we simply don't really know. This whole issue is unfair to both to those who may play and lose national titles to ineligible players, and to legitimate juniors whose only crime is to look old for their age.

So how do we solve the problem? The answer is . . . there doesn't seem to be a solution. Here are some that have been suggested, and why they don't work.

  • Bone density tests. This keeps getting suggested. The USATT High Performance Committee looked into this, and verified what my online browsing also suggested – they aren't reliable, and wouldn't hold up in court. (There aren't many online articles on the topic; here is one.)
  • DNA testing for age. Here's an article on this, where they can predict ages based on how parts of the DNA change as we age. "DNA has a process of gene expression called methylation, which gradually changes by turning on or off select genes over a lifespan." The problem is that it also says, "…its margin of error was 3.75 years for blood samples and 4.86 for teeth. Roughly 80 percent of the estimations were within five years, either older or younger." So while it might have potential, it simply is not yet accurate enough.
  • Banning juniors from suspect nations. If it could be shown that one country consistently does not have reliable age documents, could we consider banning players from that country from playing in junior events in the U.S.? The problem here is that it comes off as almost Trumpian, where we ban all players from an entire nation because of the transgressions of a few. (It's not banning an entire religion; it's banning an entire country.) I've toyed with this one, but is it fair? What next, do we require them all to wear six-sided yellow stars as well?
  • Extreme penalties for those caught. Under this, players caught using a fake age would be given very severe penalties, such as a long suspension and/or fine. The idea is to make it so extreme that players wouldn't want to risk it. The problem is that to date, I don't know of a single player from China caught with a false age. For all I know, there never has been one, just lots of old-looking kids. So if there's no way of catching anyone, threatening penalties may not do much. Plus we'd be going after kids with extreme penalties that are usually reserved for adults.
  • Hire investigators. It's been suggested that USATT and/or parents should hire private investigators to check into suspect cases. Putting aside the lack of USATT resources to do this, do we really want to start a bunch of witch hunts? (But I admit it is tempting in some cases.)

I really hate issues like this, where we have legitimate problem but apparently no solution. (On the other hand, I hate even more legitimate problems where there are solutions, but bureaucracy keeps us from solving them, such as the problem with hidden serves and boosting. But that's another issue.)

So, readers . . . do you have a solution to this problem?

Snow
I've got piles and piles of work. And conveniently, here comes about two feet of snow here in Maryland, starting later this afternoon! Local schools have already closed, and I'm pretty sure I won't be coaching again until at least Tuesday or Wednesday next week, so I should get a lot done. Or I might get as much done for a day or two, and then spend the rest of the time getting some writing done or just lying in bed reading. We'll see!

Meanwhile, here's a challenge. Make a table tennis snow sculpture of some sort – a ping-pong table, a snowman playing table tennis, anything table tennis related – and send me a photo, and I'll publish it in my blog next week, along with your name. I might do one myself! (No sending in a picture of a large ball of snow and claiming it's a ping-pong ball – not unless it has the proper labeling!)

Here's a version of "Here Comes the Snow" (3:21) by a bunch of talented fifth graders.

Jon’s Table Tennis Diet…..Seriously
Here's the article from Coach Jon.

Sarah Jalli: Follow her example in these 6 areas
Here's the article by Samson Dubina. What are the 6 areas?

Table Tennis Training - KONG Linghui Butterfly Chinese
Here's the video (59:28). It's in Chinese.

ITTF Presents Jan-Ove Waldner Block
Here's the video (4:02).

TableTennisDaily Podcast #6 - Andrew Baggaley
Here's the podcast (32:14) on world ping-pong champion (sandpaper) Baggaley.

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.

"I'm not that short"
Here's the video (47 sec) as Mudit Mahajan creams Adam Bobrow's receive with an around-the-net smash. I'm not sure if Adam gets what coaches mean when they say "short receive."

Liquid Ping Pong in Space
Here's the video (64 sec) of an astronaut playing "ping-pong" in space with a ball of water!

Getting Through the Day Without Ping-Pong
Here's the (cat) picture. (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

Ice Sculpture Ping Pong Table
Here's the picture - and note the dragon net! (Here's the accompanying story.)

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January 21, 2016

A Blizzard is Coming, a Blizzard is Coming!
Yes, it's true. By Friday night we'll be blanketed in snow, with predictions varying from 12 to 30 inches. This could be historic here in the Maryland/DC area. (It'll also dump huge snowfalls along the entire northeast.) The record snowfall for DC is 28" in 1922. The only other time we got over 20 inches was 20.5" in 1899. We had the infamous "Snowmaggedon" of 2010, but that was only 17.8", only the fourth deepest ever. (What made that extreme is that it fell on Feb. 5-6, and on Feb. 9-10, we had another 10.8" inches fall, so 28.6" total – more than the 1922 storm, which lasted three days.) Here's a listing of the 25 Biggest DC Snowfalls.

I'm sure some of you people up north are snickering at us. But you have to remember it's all relative. If you get four feet of snow, but are prepared for four feet of snow, with lots and lots of snow equipment and supplies, it's not a big deal. If you get six inches of snow and are completely unprepared for it – as Maryland and DC are, since it happens less frequently – it's a lot worse. During Snowmaggedon, schools closed for two weeks. (Stop snickering!!!)

Here some memorable table tennis snow experiences.

  • Around 1977 I went to the U.S. Open Team Championships in Detroit in a car with Jim Mossberg and a couple others. There was a heavy snowfall on Sunday night, and we finally had to check into a hotel. If I remember correctly, we had to spend two nights there, returning home to Maryland on Tuesday (or was it Wednesday?) night. That was a mess!
  • In January, 1996, we had 17.1" of snow – fifth most ever, see listing above. At the time I was the sole owner of the Maryland Table Tennis Center (which had opened in 1992), meaning I was responsible for all its finances. (We're about 15 miles north of DC.) The club basically closed for two weeks, and business was pretty much dead for a month. With no income but all sorts of bills, I had great financial difficulties. This was the primary reason that at some point after that I got a group together to be joint owners. It wasn't that the club was losing money so much as there were such financial fluctuations that I decided it was getting a bit too risky for me alone, since I didn't have a large financial reserve.
  • A few years ago we had a snowfall just before the U.S. Nationals, and all our flights from Maryland to Las Vegas were cancelled. Fortunately, at my suggestions, most of us had reserved flights a day early so we'd get an extra day of practice there, and we were able to catch flights the next day and still make the tournament.
  • This isn't exactly table tennis related, but during Snowmaggedon, my dog, Sheeba, a small corgi mix, had great fun tunneling through the snow. She literally would run excitedly about underneath the surface, so you could see the top billowing out like a mole tunneling in the ground, and every ten feet or so she'd leap into the air, breaking the snow's surface, and then she'd go back to running about underneath. (Alas, she died last year at age 16.)

Here are some pictures of Snow Table Tennis!

Table Tennis Training - Jan Ove WALDNER

Ask the Coach Show
Episode 210 (28:11) – Men v. Women (and other segments).

USATT Insider
Here's the latest issue, which went out Wednesday morning.

Kanak Jha Interview
Here's the interview (2:09) by Barbara Wei.

Angela Guan Interview
Here's the interview (2:14) by Barbara Wei.

GTN's "This is Greensboro" - Olympic Table Tennis
Here's the video (9:30) on the upcoming U.S. Olympic Trials.

Table Tennis Racket for an Arm
Here's the video (70 sec).

Great Point
Here's the video (16 sec) between Kristian Karlsson and Jesus Cantero.

Multiball?
Here's the picture!

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January 20, 2016

MDTTC Tournament Director
Well, I've gone and done it; I'm back to being the tournament director at the Maryland Table Tennis Center. I keep saying I have way too much to do, and now I've got more. I'll be running five tournaments at MDTTC this year, four regular ones plus a Maryland State Championships. The regular ones will be held on April 9, June 11, Sept. 10, and Oct. 22, all on Saturdays. Entry form will be posted soon.

I'll be running them using Omnipong, which works really well. I used that software when I ran MDTTC tournaments a few years ago, I think in 2012, before Charlene Liu took over. She's now running the full-time Washington DC Table Tennis Center, and so someone had to take over the tournaments. (Immediately all eyes turned to me, alas.)

I'm not exactly new to running tournaments. I've run about 150 USATT sanctioned tournaments, including monthly ones at MDTTC through much of the 1990s. I also ran the 4-star 1998 Eastern Open, and dozens of other tournaments, dating back to monthly ones I ran at the Northern Virginia TTC in the early 1980s.

Surprisingly, it's not a big conflict with my coaching, as Saturdays (surprisingly) is not a busy day for me, where I usually only have one or two students. For me, the bigger problem is that by Saturdays, I'm tired from coaching and other work all week, and then I have to run the tournament – and that's exhausting. And then it's Sunday, which is my busiest day. And then comes Monday, where I've got a full weekend's worth of stuff to write about in my blog, plus the Tip of the Week, plus my science fiction blog, plus whatever else I've put off while setting up and running the tournament.

There's some conflict as I won't be able to coach students in the tournament. But I can't coach them in about half of them anyway since I don't like to coach against MDTTC members.

So bottom line – enter my tournaments, and have a great time – but if you contact me on the Monday afterwards with something for me to do, don't be surprised if a gigantic ping-pong ball flattens your house that day.

Draws for 2016 World Team Championships
Here's the home page with links to the draws (on right). Here's the ITTF article on them. USA Women are in Division One, Group D (along with Hong Kong, Korea Republic, Austria, Russia, and Sweden). USA Men are in Division Three, Group J (along with Scotland, Algeria, Luxembourg, Guatemala, and Cyprus).

Table Tennis Training - Wang Hao
Here's the video (44:49).

Matt Hetherington's Training Diary
See his home page - he's up to Day 9 as he trains for the Worlds.

Butterfly Selected as New Official Apparel Partner of USATT
Here's the USATT article. That's convenient for me since I'm sponsored by Butterfly. Can't wait to get some of the new stuff with "USA" on the back!

Capital Area League
The Capital Area League had their latest meetup this past weekend. (This is for players in the Maryland/Virginia/DC area.) I've put the results up – see links for Division One and Division Two results, and the Schedule and Standings links.

11 Questions with Doug Wruck

Here's the USATT Interview.

ITTF World Tour Celebrates 20th Birthday
Here's the ITTF article.

Off the Table - Yang Haeun
Here's the ITTF video (4:04). Here's the accompanying ITTF article on her. She's Korean (world #17, #12 back in June), but teamed with Xu Xin of China to win Mixed Doubles at the World Championships.

Xu Xin - Ma Long Sleeping on the Job
Here's the video (19 sec) – sleeping on the tables?

Bench Table Tennis
Here's the video (48 sec). Table Tennis can be played everywhere!!!

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January 19, 2016

Tip of the Week
On Short Serves to the Forehand, Fake to the Forehand, Then Go Down the Line.

History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 17, Days 11-12
My long national nightmare, I mean my twelve days sitting at a desk with Tim Boggan looking over my shoulder and yelling things like, "the photo goes there, you fool!" ended on Saturday. Between that, my normal coaching/tutoring/afterschool program, and my other USATT and MDTTC work, it was roughly twelve straight 18-hour days.

On Day 11 (Friday) we finished the pages, finishing with 450 pages and 1499 graphics – which I've rounded up to 1500. Then we spent Saturday inputting corrections, which he'd been compiling during in the early morning hours as he edited the pages from the day before. (He goes to bed around 7:30PM each night, gets up by 3AM.) I also did the one-page ad flyer for the new volume, printing 120 copies for him. We finished late on Saturday afternoon, then met Dennis Taylor (USATT pro bono lawyer) for dinner at China Bistro, "home of the best dumplings in the region." On Sunday I had a "restful" day with only five hours coaching at the club. Then I took Monday off (MLK Day), mostly in bed reading and saw the excellent but gritty movie "The Revenant."

With this project over, I can go back to normal stuff, like coaching and writing and eating and sleeping. This week I've got all sorts of issues to blog about –ratings problems (see below), players with fake ages, and my return to running tournaments (alas). And make sure to see the final segment below on my upcoming novel, coming out in one week – it's got table tennis!!!

Here are the final stats:

Day 1: Tue, Jan. 5: Pages 1-20 (plus covers, so 22 pages total), 42 graphics
Day 2: Wed, Jan. 6: Pages 21-45, 25 pages, 131 graphics
Day 3: Pages 46-85, 40 pages, 126 graphics
Day 4: Pages 86-132, 47 pages, 138 graphics
Day 5: Pages 133-175, 43 pages, 141 graphics
Day 6: Pages 176-216, 41 pages, 149 graphics
Day 7: Pages 217-274, 58 pages, 137 graphics
Day 8: Pages 275-331, 57 pages, 200 graphics
Day 9: Pages 332-354, 23 pages, 89 graphics
Day 10: Pages 355-409, 55 pages, 203 graphics
Day 11: Pages 410-450, 41 pages, 144 graphics
Day 12: Inputted corrections all day, plus ad flyer
TOTALS: 452 pages (including covers), 1500 graphics, 3.32 graphics per page

USATT Ratings
I'm aware of the serious problems with the rollout of the new USATT ratings page and processing problems. USATT Headquarters is working with SimplyComplete to fix the problems. I'll likely blog about this later. Believe me, I'm not happy about it either. (I didn't see it until it went public, the same time you all did.) There's quite a bit of discussion of this over at the Mytabletennis.net page - see the latter pages to see where things stand. USATT CEO Gordon Kaye has chimed in with updates. 

Brain Training
Here's the video (1:42) from TTedge and Brett Clarke – "The world's first brain training table tennis experience."

Table Tennis Robots
Here's the article from Alois Rosaria from PingSkills.

Instructional Table Tennis - Kalinikos KREANGA
Here's the video (1:04:64)

Ask the Coach Show
Episode 209 (28:40) – Longer Breaks Between Points (and other segments).

Table Tennis Instructional - Techniques to Be Mastered Trainer
Here's the video (32:24).

Table Tennis School - Defense Training
Here's the video (16:44).

Ladder Drills
Here's the video from Samson Dubina.

2016 Japan Nationals Final
Here's the video (6:42) between Jun Mizutani and Chan Kazuhiro.

Insane Around the Net ROLLER!
Here's the video (12 sec).

Trump Talks Table Tennis, Part 2
Here's Part 2 (3:21) where he talks about the service rule! (I linked to Part 1 [1:47] last week.) I never realized how much Donald Trump looks like Larry Bavly!

Mostly Non-Table Tennis – Campaign 2100: Game of Scorpions
My new SF novel comes out in exactly one week – see the posting that went up this morning in my weekly science fiction blog. As noted in previous blogs, table tennis comes up over and over in the novel – one of the four main characters is a professional table tennis player who ends up running a campaign for president of Earth.

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January 18, 2016

No blog today - it's Martin Luther King Day! After working twelve consecutive 18-hour days, followed by a "restful" five-hour coaching day on Sunday (yesterday), I need a break. See you tomorrow!

January 15, 2016

Help Wanted: USA Table Tennis High Performance Director Position
Here's the USATT info page for this – if you think you're qualified and would do a great job, why not apply? This could be a groundbreaking thing for table tennis in the U.S., if we get the right person. As I've blogged before, the U.S. is now a world power at the cadet level, and if we play our cards right, that could lead to the U.S. being a world power. We have the potential to challenge any country in the world outside China, and of course challenging China, something few could dream of doing, is exactly what we should be dreaming of doing. If countries like Sweden and Hungary can develop teams that played even or better than the Chinese for over a decade at a time, why can't we?

The whole idea is not for USATT to take over training our elite up-and-coming juniors, the best of whom are already getting great training. The point is to have someone to oversee all this training, including some group training, but emphasizing the resources we already have at clubs. He'd be working with the actual coaches who are doing the actual coaching, but the coaches at training centers and clubs all over the country would be completely in charge of whoever they are coaching. But as I note below in #3, the High Performance Director would have valuable input on how to maximize our players' potential, as well as running group training. The specific plan would be created by the High Performance Director himself. (Jeez, I'm tempted to apply, but I'm already on the Board of Directors – conflict of interest – plus they are probably looking for more international experience. Alas.)

Here's a key sentence from the info page: "Successful candidates must demonstrate a willingness to design and execute a '52 week' philosophy by integrating and leveraging local, regional, and national resources to provide our athletes and coaches with the best opportunity to compete and succeed internationally."

Here is my email to the USATT Board of Directors on this. I've added a few notes in brackets. I do suggest you read the USATT info page first.

Hi Everyone,

I’m a strong supporter of this plan. A few notes, some of which Gordon [USATT CEO Gordon Kaye] has already emphasized:

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

History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 17, Day 10
Yesterday we had a monster session. I got up at 5:30AM – Tim had already been up for hours – and we worked almost non-stop from 6AM to 2:30PM. We did a record 55 pages and 203 graphics as we did the second half of chapter 22, and chapters 23-25. All that's left are chapters 26-27, which we'll do tomorrow – and then we spend Saturday inputting edits Tim's been making in those wee hours of the morning where he has nothing better to do than check out every photo ("Take out that person in the background, Larry – he's distracting"); every sentence ("Move that comma over here – and it looks crooked, could you straighten it?"), and I now believe every pixel. (I should never have gotten him a magnifying glass to check out the printouts I do after each chapter.) Lots and lots of tournament coverage, including the 1990 U.S. Open/World Veterans Championships/International Junior Open, all held together in Baltimore.

Here are the current stats:

Day 1: Tue, Jan. 5: Pages 1-20 (plus covers, so 22 pages total), 42 graphics
Day 2: Wed, Jan. 6: Pages 21-45, 25 pages, 131 graphics
Day 3: Pages 46-85, 40 pages, 126 graphics
Day 4: Pages 86-132, 47 pages, 138 graphics
Day 5: Pages 133-175, 43 pages, 141 graphics
Day 6: Pages 176-216, 41 pages, 149 graphics
Day 7: Pages 217-274, 58 pages, 137 graphics
Day 8: Pages 275-331, 57 pages, 200 graphics
Day 9: Pages 332-354, 23 pages, 89 graphics
Day 10: Pages 355-409, 55 pages, 203 graphics
TOTALS: 411 pages (including covers), 1356 graphics, 3.30 graphics per page

The Ramblin’ Wreck of College Table Tennis
Here's the article from Coach Jon.

MHTT World Champs Buildup Diary: Day 4
Here's the Day Four Diary of Matt Herrington as he prepares for the upcoming World Championships. Why not follow his daily training as he prepares to take on the best in the world? He's on the New Zealand Team, but currently training at the Lily Yip TTC. (I'm not sure if I'll link to his diary every day, but we'll see.)

Follow Your Ping Pong Dreams
Here's the article.

Teen Pingpong Star Aces Nike Ad
Here's the article on Amanda Malek, daughter of coach and 1979 U.S. Men's Champion Attila Malek.

Table Tennis School - Backhand Topspin
Here's the video (3:31).

Joo Se Hyuk – the Best Defender
Here's the video (5:11) – some really great points with Chuang Chih-Yuan at the start!

The Rules of Table Tennis (Ping Pong) - EXPLAINED!
Here's the video (3:42).

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.

Ping Pong and Fairy Tales
Ping-pong pictures.

Seahawk Players Become Rivals in Ping Pong Grudge Match
Here's the article and video (1:45).

Jabba Plays Ping-Pong
Here's the meme.

***
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January 14, 2016

Weird Racket Retrieving Incident
One of the weirdest incidents ever happened at the club yesterday. I was coaching a junior who pleaded to stay anonymous. We were playing games at the end, and after I won one, the junior tossed his racket into the air. Only – he stumbled as he did so, and the racket went up and sideways, and into the wide pole (or whatever it is called) to the side of the court. Here's a picture of one. It's got lots of pipes and things inside, with the top about nine feet off the ground. The racket was a Timo Boll ALC with Tenergy on both sides, retailing at about $300. Yikes!!!

We were unable to really look in while standing on a chair, so we got out the big MDTTC ladder, used to change lights. Using that we were able to see that the racket had fallen all the way to the ground inside, nine feet down. Worse, it turns out that the wide pole actually is divided into several more narrow ones. The racket was at the bottom of a hole that was nine feet deep, about two feet square. What were we to do?

The junior wanted to climb down and try to reach it, but that was far too dangerous, and I don't think he could have fit down there anyway. He suggested duct taping two Butterfly ball amigos (used for picking up balls during training), but that wouldn't have been long enough – they are only about 3.5 feet long, so seven feet total. He wanted to try to hand down from the top and try to reach down. But then I remembered the bar from the adjustable net height device that John Olsen had made for the club, with the bar in the middle, about 5.5 feet long. (I blogged about this on July 20, 2011.) I duct taped one of the ball amigos to the bar. That gave us a nine-foot poll! I had the junior practice picking up my racket from the floor. Then he went up the ladder, and within about two minutes was able to scoop up his racket.

So the only casualty was the junior's pride, as he was very embarrassed about all this, since half the club was watching! As you can see, the life of a table tennis coach is so exciting – you never know what'll happen next.

History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 17, Day 9
Yesterday was a "weak" day, as we only did 23 pages and 89 graphics – chapter 21 and about half of chapter 22 (of 27 planned). But many of those pages and graphics were really time-consuming, and there were a huge number of attributions to add to photos and other complications. Plus, as noted in yesterday's blog, I finally slept "late," getting up at 7:45AM instead of 5 or 6AM. We worked until 2:15PM, then I had to leave for the MDTTC afterschool program and private coaching, returning home at 8PM.

Tim has assured me that the rest of the chapters aren't so difficult. Today we plan to finish chapter 22 and do chapters 23-24. On Thursday we'll do chapters 25-27 – they are shorter than earlier ones. Then on Saturday we go through and input corrects – Tim's been proofing the pages very carefully, often in the early morning hours. (He keeps strange hours, going to be around 7PM each night, getting up at 3AM.) Then he'll drive home to New York early on Sunday morning.

One fun highlight – Tim used a picture of Hall of Fame Coach Marty Prager – and lo and behold, it was "Photo by Larry Hodges." He's actually used a few of my photos, both in this and previous volumes, but this time I charged him a nickel. I can now add "professional photographer" to my resume.

Here are the current stats:

Day 1: Tue, Jan. 5: Pages 1-20 (plus covers, so 22 pages total), 42 graphics
Day 2: Wed, Jan. 6: Pages 21-45, 25 pages, 131 graphics
Day 3: Pages 46-85, 40 pages, 126 graphics
Day 4: Pages 86-132, 47 pages, 138 graphics
Day 5: Pages 133-175, 43 pages, 141 graphics
Day 6: Pages 176-216, 41 pages, 149 graphics
Day 7: Pages 217-274, 58 pages, 137 graphics
Day 8: Pages 275-331, 57 pages, 200 graphics
Day 9: Pages 332-354, 23 pages, 89 graphics
TOTALS: 356 pages (including covers), 1153 graphics, 3.24 graphics per page

MHTT Interview with Europe's Table Tennis King: Timo Boll
Here's the interview.

Table Tennis School - Service Attack [Topspin random]
Here's the video (19:35).

Table Tennis Wrist Training
Here's the video from Samson Dubina.

MHTT World Champs Buildup Diary: Day 3
Here's the Day Three Diary of Matt Herrington as he prepares for the upcoming World Championships. Why not follow his daily training as he prepares to take on the best in the world? He's on the New Zealand Team, but currently training at the Lily Yip TTC. (I'm not sure if I'll link to his diary every day, but we'll see.)

2016 US Olympic Trials Participants List
Here's the final list. The 2016 US Olympic Trials will take place in Greensboro, NC on February 4-6.

Nittaku ITTF Monthly Pongcast - December 2015
Here's the video (11:53).

Off the Table - Jun Mizutani
Here's the video (4:08).

Why Table Tennis Training Centers Use Loads of Balls and Ball Pickup Nets
Here's the meme.

Saive v Sean the Sheep
Here's the new video (34 sec), which is a takeoff on the video I linked to yesterday!

***
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