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!

December 30, 2015

Coaching Matches is Trickier Now
Coaching matches used to be easier. In most matches in the "old days" (twenty years ago?) there'd be a style conflict since the odds of two players with the same style playing was rather low. I mean, what were the odds of two players playing with the same style, such as, say, both being two-winged loopers? Sure, it happened sometimes, but there were a lot more common styles back in those days – hitters, counter-hitters, blockers, choppers, various types of pips-out, conventional penholders, Seemiller grip, and all sorts of forehand/backhand combinations.

All of these styles still exist, but it's a matter of degree – they used to be common. Now the matches I coach are mostly up-and-coming players who train regularly under top coaches, and so there are very few "old-fashioned" styles among them – they are nearly all two-winged loopers these days. The few that don't play that way are still usually inverted players who loop both sides, just not all the time.

With style conflicts, there are obvious tactics. There was the thrill of the clash of styles, such as when a looper met a hitter, or a one-winged forehand looper met a blocker. The tactics were more straightforward.

These days, since the large majority of the matches I coach are between standard two-winged loopers, coaching is a bit subtler. Both players tend to play the same, with the same serves, same surfaces, same strokes, and often the same strengths and weaknesses, with subtle differences in degree.

There's still diversity, but nothing like before. In the past it was like throwing a lion, a wolf, a bear, a giant anaconda, a crocodile, a rhinoceros, a shark, and a black widow spider into the quarterfinals, and they'd battle it out. Now it's more or less eight lions, all running around looping everything. The game is more athletic, but it's also more uniform.

As a side note, coaching matches was also easier when games were to 21 – lots more time to watch and decide what to say between games, and there were fewer games as well. (Most matches were best of three to 21, some big matches best of five.) Now you send your player out there, and you've only got it seems like three minutes before you do it again.

Ask the Coach Show

  • Episode 205 (24:55) – PingSkills Yearly Membership Winner
  • Episode 206 (23:30) – Ma Long or Fan Zhendong for Gold
  • Episode 207 (21:59) – The forgotten art of pushing
  • Episode 208 (25:29) – Table Tennis: The Dangerous Sport

New USATT Membership System Launches January 1st!
Here's the USATT article.

Tomokazu Harimoto Promising At 11 Years Old 
Here's the latest article on the Japanese prodigy. He's now ranked #223 in the world. At age 11. For perspective, the #1 ranked U.S. man is Timothy Wang, #278 in the world.

Top 5 Moments of 2015
Here's the new video (3:22).

Even the Best Make Mistakes
Here's video (35 sec, including slo-mo replay, and the following point) of world #4 Dimitrij Ovtcharov not just missing his serve, but hitting it off the edge of his racket so the ball goes directly to the opponent's side of the table – and it happens at 9-all in the first against world #1 Ma Long!

Table Tennis Training with Children with Down Syndrome
Here's the video (2:46).

Righty Penhold to Lefty Shakehand in One Second
Here's the video (24 sec, including slo-mo replay).

The Caw: Legends Todd Heap and Jonathan Ogden Playing Ping-Pong
Here's the article and picture of the two Baltimore Ravens.

The "Eye-Table"?
Here's the picture – we'll just call it the iTable. (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

Best Table Tennis Scene Ever?
Here's video (21 sec) of Maggy Q's intro scene from Balls of Fury.

Cat Plays Ping Pong!
Here's the video (42 sec) from 1951 – this cat really can play!

Send us your own coaching news!

December 28, 2015

Tip of the Week
You're Your Yore.

USA Nationals (and Hidden Serves, Alas)
It's been an incredibly busy two weeks – USATT board meetings, USA Nationals, USA Team Trials, 29.5 hours at San Francisco Airport (see segment below), Christmas in Eugene, and catching up on everything since I returned two days ago. Here are some highlights.

I flew to Las Vegas the morning of Saturday, Dec. 12. And then – I had the day off! Well, sort of. I ended up working on a new science fiction story I'd been planning. (That's what I do when I'm not doing TT.)

The USATT board meeting was noon – 7PM on Sunday, Dec. 13, and 9AM-1PM on Monday, Dec. 14. A quick rundown of the agenda: committee reports and discussions; SafeSport discussion; USOC update; High Performance discussion; lots of time on the budget; TV; USATT events; ratings; marketing and sponsorship; strategic initiatives; and the problem with hidden serves.

This last one – illegal hidden serves – would irritate me the rest of the week, and still does. [Begin Hidden Serve Rant – skip ahead if not interested.] As I've blogged about many times with lots of video and pictures, cheating is rampant in our sport, with the large majority of major titles decided by illegal hidden serves, with the key factor in most matches whether the umpire will enforce the rules. Our sport rewards those who cheat and punishes those who do not. After some discussion the night before, where board members seemed favorable to resolving the problem, it was suggested I make a motion that the board wishes these rules to be followed. So I made the following motion, assuming it would be a no-brainer that'd pass unanimously:

"It has come to the attention of the USATT Board of Directors that illegal hidden serves are being allowed, and that when umpires are not sure about the legality of a serve they often do not call them. This is unfair to their opponents. The Board would like to see the rules enforced as they are written."

Once this was passed, we could then use it to encourage referees and umpires to enforce the rules. Specifically, we'd approach the referees of future U.S. Nationals and Opens and ask if they would abide by the board's direction. Except . . . the motion lost by a vote of 1-6-1!!! I was the only one who voted for it. I'll wait until the minutes go up on this to blog more about this, but just think about this for a few minutes. It's mindboggling. As one wit emailed me about it, the motion might as well have been this:

"It has been brought to the attention of the USATT Board of Directors that illegal hidden serves are being allowed. A majority of the Board encourages this, and would like umpires to continue to ignore the rules as they are written."

I wrote a long email to the board over this travesty. At some point I'll likely post it here. (This definitely has dampened my enthusiasm for USATT.) Meanwhile, as predicted, match after match was won or lost by illegal serves. I watched two top cadets play, where one hid his serve over and over in the first match, and easily won as his honest opponent struggled with his illegal serves. The second time they played an umpire warned both that he would be enforcing the service rule, and so both cadets served legally – and this time the other cadet won easily. (And guess what? Before the match, to encourage that umpire to enforce the rules, I showed him printouts of the opposing cadet illegally hiding his serve. It worked, as it should. However, in most cases, it doesn't work.)

Or just watch this women's singles quarterfinal match between 13-year-old prodigy Crystal Wang and Wang Chen (video starts halfway through game two), where the latter hid nearly every serve the entire match, but was not called for it a single time. Crystal led 3-2 in games and was two points away from winning at 9-7 when Wang Chen served these two hidden serves, and Crystal puts one in the net, and weakly returns the other. The problem here is that some would think this is an isolated incident. Pick any random point in the match, even at the very start (here's Wang Chen's first serve in the video), and you'll see the same hidden serves.

Most top players these days hide the ball with their head by throwing the ball backwards and thrusting their head forward at the last second, contacting the ball behind the head (but often following the ball down below their heads to make it appear the contact was under the head), but Wang Chen is old school, blatantly and illegally leaving the non-playing arm out in front, despite the rule that says, "As soon as the ball has been projected, the server’s free arm and hand shall be removed from the space between the ball and the net." This is so blatant that most umpires will call it, which is why fewer players do it, but this time around I didn't see it called a single time. The rules also say that hiding the ball during the serve is illegal, and that it is the responsibility of the player to serve so the umpire can see the serve is legal, and that the umpire is supposed to call any serve where he's not "sure" the serve is legal (i.e. the ball visible throughout the serve). But the rules were not followed, and so the match was decided by this. Enforce the rules, and Crystal wins for sure. Who wants to explain to her why her opponent was allowed to break the rules?

I don't mean to pick on Wang Chen since nearly every top player was hiding their serve, either on their own, or in reaction to opponents being allowed to do so by the umpires – otherwise, they couldn't compete fairly. (But I can't show videos of illegal serves without picking one.) Whoever does it first is cheating, but I don't blame those who do it in reaction to the umpire allowing an opponent to do so. At that point, they are no longer playing by the rules of table tennis, at least in regard to the hidden service rules. Whoever hides his serve first is doing so to gain an illegal advantage, and that is cheating. Whoever does it in response to the opponent doing so is not gaining an illegal advantage, but is simply evening the playing field since the umpire isn't enforcing the rules, and so I don't consider that cheating.

While changing the rules will help, the culture also needs to change. Our current culture of cheating will continue until we change the culture, and that has to come from the top – but at the moment, those at the top don't seem interested in changing the culture. They have forgotten the U.S. Olympic Oath (bolds below are mine), which is for all athletes in Olympic sports, including ours:

"In the name of all competitors I promise that we shall take part in these Olympic Games, respecting and abiding by the rules which govern them, committing ourselves to a sport without doping and without drugs, in the true spirit of sportsmanship, for the glory of sport and the honour of our teams." 

We've fallen a long way from this. [End Hidden Serve Rant.]

The Nationals itself started Monday morning. The tournament ran smoothly on 126 tables with 771 players. Here are the results.

But perhaps more interesting than the tournament itself on Monday was what was happening at the Westgate Hotel, where many stayed. As I walked to the playing hall I couldn't help but notice about a thousand people mostly wearing "Trump" shirts – it turns out Donald Trump was having an election event there that night, and people were going crazy!!! I spent some time watching – not Trump, who I never saw (and presumably would arrive later that day), but the actual Trump supporters. What was going through their minds that they would support Trump? I could write a lot about what might happen if such an egotistical bombastic sociopath were elected president – what could possibly go wrong? – but I won't.

On Tuesday night we had the USATT Assembly, where a somewhat small but animated group discussed USATT issues. On Thursday night we had the Hall of Fame induction banquet, where Jack Huang (from my club!), Eric Owens, Tahl Leibovitz, Wang Chen, and Dean Johnson were inducted, and Si Wasserman was awarded the Mark Matthews Lifetime Achievement Award. I think five inductees (six if you include Wasserman) is a record – most years it's two or three.

This year I entered more events than usual, since I'm primarily a coach. I was in five events, and made the semifinals or quarterfinals of all five:

  • Hardbat Doubles with Ty Hoff: Semifinals (I've won this event 13 times, 9 times with Ty)
  • Hardbat Over 40: Quarterfinals (I've won this event four times)
  • Sandpaper Singles: Semifinals
  • World Ping-Pong Trials (Sandpaper): Quarterfinals
  • Over 50 Men's Doubles with Ty Hoff (sponge): Quarterfinals (where we lost in five to the top seeds)

I was also entered in Hardbat Singles, which I've won twice, but had to drop out to run the National League Finals (also called the Club Championships). My arm, left knee, and back were all hurting, and so it might have been for the best.

I did less coaching at this Nationals than at any Nationals probably in the last 25 years – we now have seven full-time coaches at MDTTC, and they were all here coaching away. I spent some of my nights doing video analysis for our players, often messaging them bullet points on their upcoming opponents. I wish I could write more about this, but it's top secret! I tend to do a lot of advance scouting of opponents, either live, by watching videos, or asking around. For example, in the semifinals of the minicadet boys, we faced a player that neither I nor our player had seen before. So I asked around, and ended up with a pretty good scouting report – and it helped as our player (Ryan Dabbs, rated 2175 to the opponent's 2262) pulled off a nice 3-0 upset to make the final and make the USA National Minicadet Boys' Team. Derek Nie, also from my club, also made the Cadet National Boys' Team, also finishing second.

After the Nationals was the USA Team Trials. And then I was off to Eugene for Christmas with family – but first I had to get through San Francisco Airport….

29 and a Half Hours at San Francisco Airport
Shortly after lunch on Monday, Dec. 21, right after the USA Nationals, I went to the Las Vegas airport. I flew to San Francisco Airport, and was supposed to transfer to another flight to Eugene, OR, where I'd spend Christmas with family. Instead, my flight was postponed over and over, and finally cancelled at around 1AM. I ended up spending over ten hours at SF airport that day before taking a shuttle to a hotel, arriving around 2AM. It was pouring rain outside, and the shuttle shelter was jammed with others from the cancelled flight, and so I ended up standing outside in the freezing rain for 25 minutes, and so was soaking wet and frozen cold on the shuttle ride. Since the cancellation was "an act of God" (technically, an "air traffic controller problem," whatever that is), United wouldn't pay for it, so I had to pay $113 for the room. The earliest flight available was 5:57PM the following night. The hotel let me stay there until 1PM, then I took the shuttle back to the airport. Then that flight was delayed over and over – nine times to be exact, before finally taking off at 8:15PM. I ended up spending twenty-nine and a half hours at San Francisco Airport (including time at hotel). Isn't table tennis fun? 

Amazingly, this wasn't nearly as bad as my experience at San Francisco Airport last year – see the seventh segment in my blog one year ago, "My Seven Years at San Francisco Airport." I don't think I'll ever go through that airport again.

The Power of Practice
Here’s the new coaching article from Expert Table Tennis.

Coaching Articles from Coach Jon
Here are two new ones.

Articles from Samson Dubina

How To Do A Backspin Serve - Part 2
Here’s the video (2:28) by Eli Baraty. Here’s Part 1 (1:25), which I previously linked to.

Podcast with Nick Ryder: Making a Comeback After 20 Years
Here's the podcast (36:41) from Expert Table Tennis. In this episode you’ll learn:

  • How Nick first started playing table tennis back in the 80s.
  • Why he decided to quit playing as a junior.
  • What he learnt from training with future England star Mike O’Driscoll.
  • Why he chose to make a comeback to the sport in 2012.
  • How he has consistently improved his level over the last three years.
  • The types of training and drills he’s implemented.
  • What his goals are for the next couple of years, and beyond.
  • TOP TIP: Develop a special serve to win you cheap points.

TableTennisDaily Podcast #4 - Par Gerell
Here’s the podcast (36:42).

USATT News Items
Since I've been away two weeks there's an accumulation of USATT news items – so why not browse over them?

National Collegiate Table Tennis December Newsletter
Here it is.

Ma Long Becomes Most Successful World Tour Grand Finals Player Ever
Here’s the ITTF press release.

Ding Ning in Slow Motion
Here’s the video (1:56) of the reigning world women’s champion.

Ma Long Chop Block
Here’s the video (5:17). I have students who insist that “nobody” does this! (I do it all the time, to their chagrin.)

Zhang Jike: Topspin and Flick Backhand
Here’s the video (9 sec).

Vladimir Samsonov Serve Practice - World Tour Grand Finals 2015
Here’s the video (4:14).

Top 10 Table Tennis Points of 2015
Here’s the video (8:39).

Table Tennis - Best of 2015
Here’s the new highlights video (9:35).

Table Tennis Target Practice for Prizes
Here's the video (78 sec). I do this type of thing somewhat regularly in my group sessions, usually with bunches of candy.

Super Sidespin Power Lob
Here’s the video (8 sec) of this lob by Adam Bobrow.

Santa vs. Reindeer Table Tennis Cartoon
Here’s the cartoon!

Send us your own coaching news!

December 11, 2015

Last Blog Until Dec. 29
Tomorrow morning I'm off to Las Vegas for USATT board meetings (and other meetings), the USA Nationals (Dec. 14-19), the USA Team Trials (Dec. 20-21), and then off to Eugene, Oregon for Christmas with family (Dec. 21-26). I return on Dec. 27, just in time for the MDTTC Christmas Camp, Dec. 26-31, missing the first day. (I blogged about all this on Wednesday.) So this will be my last blog until I return – see you then! (I originally said I'd be blogging again on Monday, Dec. 28, but I needed an extra day to catch up on things.) 

Meanwhile, the holidays are a time to think about giving, so why not consider giving to the sport? Not money – why not run a State Championship? A Regional Team League? Set up a Regional Association?

Tip of the Week
Fast, Quick Motions Disguise a No-Spin Serve. (These tips normally go up on Mondays, but I'm putting this one up early since I'm going out of town tomorrow for two weeks.)

USA Nationals
My pickup to the airport for the USA Nationals is at 5:10 AM Saturday. As usual, I'll likely just stay up all night on something, and sleep on the flight. I arrive in Las Vegas at about 10:30AM (helped by the three-hour time difference – it'll be 1:30PM here in Maryland). There are 774 players entered, and probably an equal number of family, coaches, and staff, so there'll probably be 1500 people there.

Here's the USA Nationals home page. It has an event listing, links to news articles, and other links. But probably the most important one is the link to the Online Event Info. From there you can see the Entries by Name, Entries by Event, and Results. The latter (which is not yet active – it currently asks for a password, but I believe that will change) will soon will have the draws themselves, and then the results of every round of every event.

So what does one do at the USA Nationals in Las Vegas? Let's see…

  1. Play. There are 94 events. (List as on the USA Nationals home page.)
  2. Spectate. Nearly every top USA player in the country will be there.
  3. Shop. There'll be lots and lots of equipment booths.
  4. Special events. Such as:
  •   USATT Board Meeting (Sunday & Monday). They will be meeting most of Sunday and Monday morning. (I'll be there.) I believe the meeting room is at the playing hall, and except for a few rare "executive sessions," is open for USATT members to attend. Perhaps stop by to see an agenda and come back when they are discussing something of interest to you.
  • USA World Ping Pong Qualifier (sandpaper trials - Monday 8AM. I'm in this, but might have to drop out since it'll conflict with the USATT Board Meeting.) Here's info.
  • USATT Assembly (Tuesday 7PM. Refreshments, and you get to meet and ask questions of USATT leaders. I'll be there.)
  • USATT Hall of Fame Banquet (Thursday 7PM. Here's info. Here's the USATT Hall of Fame page.)
  • World Team Trials (Sunday & Monday, Dec. 20-21)  
  1. Say hi to friends.
  2. Eat. They have some nice buffets.
  3. There are rumors of other entertainment available in Las Vegas, but in the nearly 40 years I've been going there for the Nationals I wouldn't know as all I ever see are the hotel and playing hall. Does Las Vegas even exist???

I'll be pretty busy at the Nationals: attending meetings, coaching Maryland players, and playing in five events. I'm normally a sponge player – and that's what I use when I coach – but I'm retired from tournament sponge play, and so at the Nationals and Open, when I'm not coaching, I play in hardbat (and now sandpaper) events. I'm in Hardbat Singles (2-time national champion), Over 40 Hardbat (4-time champion), Hardbat Doubles with Ty Hoff (13-time champion, 9 times with Ty), Sandpaper Singles, and the World Ping-Pong Trials (sandpaper).

My table tennis books will be on sale at the Butterfly booth, and they are scheduling an autograph session, so stop by. If you buy a book and I'm not there, have Butterfly call me – they should have my number – and if I'm free I'll come over to sign it. Books of mine that will be on sale there will be Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers; Table Tennis Tips; Table Tennis Tales & Techniques; Professional Table Tennis Coaches Handbook; and The Spirit of Pong.

Why is Grip Pressure So Important?
Here's the new coaching article by Max Costantini.

Ask the Coach Show
Episode #204 (26:11) - 2015 ITTF Star Awards (and other segments). Also, here's their new promotional video (67 sec).

ITTF World Tour Grand Finals
Here's the ITTF home page for the event, running Dec. 10-13 in Lisbon, Portugal. You can watch the matches live.

2014 Decider Kicks off 2015 World Tour Grand Finals
Here's the ITTF press release.

Podcast with Billy Shilton: Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Dreams
Here's the new podcast (49:43) from Expert Table Tennis. In this episode you’ll learn:

  • How Billy got started playing table tennis just four years ago.
  • About Billy’s disability and how it impacts his table tennis.
  • Tips for improving your dynamic balance.
  • What a typical day is like for Billy at the national training centre.
  • How he manages to juggle both table tennis and college work.
  • The effect that a confidence boost has had on Billy’s performances.
  • Why Billy is now a class 8 athlete (he was in class 7 until a couple of months ago).
  • What Billy learnt from his time in China.
  • TOP TIP: Why quality is so important in your training.
  • About Billy’s younger brother Stan who is crushing it in the England U13s.
  • What’s next for Billy Shilton.

USA Table Tennis Christmas Shopping
Why not visit the USATT online store and buy some USATT merchandize?

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.

Some Great Counterlooping
Here's the video (21 sec) of the point between Kalinikos Kreanga (GRE, far side) and Grigory Vlasov (RUS).

Incredible Point between Ovtcharov and Mizutani
Here's the video (66 sec, including replay from different angles).

Double Falling Down Doubles Pong
Here's the video (41 sec, including slo-mo replay).

Jean-Michel Saive on Some Sort of Game Show?
Here's the video (56 sec) – they seem to be having a good time!

2014 Tai Ben Invitational CHUANG Chih Yuan vs Jean-Michel Saive
Here's some exhibition play (81 sec) from these two. I once did something similar while playing a match with David Zhuang, and the umpire went crazy, yellow-carding us both.

Scrambled Egg Pong? Seriously?
Here's the picture! They're making a complete yoke of our sport! But I think drop shots might be a good tactic.

Santa Claus Plays Table Tennis
These come up when you Google "Santa Claus table tennis pictures." Make sure to hum, "Santa Pong is coming to town!" as you look at these.

Non-Table Tennis: Political Campaign SF – a New Sub-Genre?
Here's my new science fiction blog entry. But as I've blogged before, the novel actually has a lot of table tennis!

Send us your own coaching news!

December 10, 2015

Total Ban on Chinese Players
When the U.S. Team lost at the World Championships, thousands of Chinese players cheered from the rooftops in New Jersey. I know; I saw it on television, and all those journalists who have refuted this are third-rate losers. Our country cannot be the victims of incredible play by players that believe in constant training and have no sense of living a normal American life of McDonalds and Dancing with the Stars. It's going to get worse and worse.

And so I am calling for a total and complete shutdown of Chinese table tennis players entering the United States until USATT can figure out what is going on.

To keep the top Chinese players out, USATT will build a great wall – and nobody builds walls better than USATT, believe me. We will build a great, great wall around our country, and we will make China pay for that wall. Mark my words.

This does not apply to Chinese players already living in America, except we have to be vigilant. Many of them would like to force innocent Americans to live under their table tennis laws, forcing children to train eight hours a day plus physical training, with no TV or video games. If you see a Chinese player trying to force innocent Americans to train really hard, call the authorities, and don't worry about political correctness; I'll protect you. I am a strong leader.

Even though Chinese players dominate against Americans, when China sends its players here, they're not sending their best. They're sending players that have lots of weaknesses in their games, and they're bringing those weaknesses to American. They're bringing bad technique, they're bringing bad footwork, they're bringing bad mental training, and some, I assume, are good players. The concept of training hard was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. players tired. They are worse than Voldemort.

Believe me on this, because I have a really high IQ. To beat the Chinese you need the author of Table Tennis Tactics for Bombastic, Egotistical Blowhards. I'm the best table tennis player in this country. Look at my forehand!

We will make USATT great again. It's going to be trumping fabulous.

How to Do a Backhand Drive
Here's the new coaching article and video (1:08) from Coach Eli Baraty of the Harefield Academy in the UK.

Ma Long's Instructional
Here's the new video (56:32), with subtitles.

Ask the Coach Show
Episode #203 (20:13) - Ma Long's Reverse Backhand Serve (and other segments).

New Coach: China Works the Hardest
Here's the article and multiball video (15 sec). Here's another article featuring new coach Wang Qiaozhi, "Chinese Players Are Obedient in Training."

Ma Long & Liu Shiwen Are the 2015 Male & Female Table Tennis Stars
Here's the ITTF press release.

Slo-mo Pongers
Here's the video (3:49).

Passionately Pink Pong
This is a Social Ping Pong Event to Benefit the Susan G. Komen Foundation, to be held during the USA Nationals, on Friday, Dec. 18, from 7-11PM. Here's ticket info. I expect to be there.

Team USA Training at Las Vegas TTC Before Nationals
Here's the video (4:43).

MDTTC is #2!!!
In Butterfly USA sales. Here's the listing – note that #1, the WAB Shop, is Canadian, and so doesn't count. Curse you, Lily Yip!!!

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

Send us your own coaching news!

December 9, 2015

Things are about to get busy for me – or more specifically, go from the usual busy to lip-smacking, hyper-driven sheer non-stopiness as the work piles on. Benjamin Franklin once wrote, "If you need something done, ask a busy person." Thanks a lot, Ben. Here's my upcoming schedule – mostly table tennis, but with a little (lot of) SF at the start.

  • Copy edits on "Campaign 2100: Game of Scorpions." This is my new science fiction novel, coming out in late January. The editor just sent me the copy edits, and I now have to go through them, one by one, and approving or not approving each change. This'll likely take up much of the next few days. Meanwhile, I have to find time to do laundry, go to bank, get a haircut, get a flu shot, and visit Best Buy to find out why my Kaspersky Internet Security refuses to renew.
  • USATT programs. Regional Leagues, State Championships, Regional Associations. When I ran for the USATT Board of Directors, I promised to work on these and other issues, and it's a lot of work. Is it too late for me to change my mind? (Just kidding!) Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg – things come up pretty regularly in my three USATT positions – board member, chair of league committee, and regional associations coordinator. What was I thinking???
  • Las Vegas and Eugene. I leave Saturday morning (Dec. 12) for the USATT Board meeting (Sun & Mon, Dec. 13-14), the USA Nationals (Mon-Sat, Dec. 14-19), the USA Team Trials (Sun & Mon, Dec. 20-21), and Christmas with family in Eugene, OR (Mon-Sat, Dec. 21-26). Here's a breakdown.
  • USATT Board Meeting. It's all day Sunday and half of Monday, Dec. 13-14. I haven't seen the final agenda yet, but I'll be giving a presentation on my activities (see USATT programs above), plus there'll be lots of stuff on the budget, national team, and other fascinating issues. I'll blog about that later on. I also had to put together a USATT report on my activities, which I'll use for the presentation.
  • USA Nationals. They are Mon-Sat, Dec. 14-19. I'm mostly coaching, but I'm also in three hardbat and one sandpaper event, plus a bunch of meetings. Here's the USA National home page.
  • Other Las Vegas Events. I'm entered in the World Championships of Ping Pong Trials on Monday morning (sandpaper – here's the entry form), but will likely have to drop that because of the USATT Board meeting. On Tuesday at 7PM is the USATT Assembly, where USATT leaders and members get together and talk table tennis, with refreshments. On Thursday at 7PM is the Hall of Fame Banquet. (I was inducted in 2003.) On Saturday morning and afternoon are the USATT League Finals. I'm scheduled to play hardbat singles that morning, but if I can't find a volunteer to help run them, then I'll have to default out to do so.
  • USA Team Trials. They are on Sun & Mon, Dec. 20-21. I'll both be coaching and watching. Here's info.
  • Christmas in Eugene. We'll be gathering in my dad's house, Mon-Sat, Dec. 21-26. I've already mailed off several boxes full of presents. We'll be doing our annual jigsaw puzzle, play Settlers of Catan, and see Star Wars 7 (I'm hyperventilating) on Christmas Day.
  • Christmas Camp. From Dec. 26-31 is our annual Christmas camp at MDTTC, which we've done since 1992.
  • Tim's History Volume 17. On Jan. 5, USATT Historian Tim Boggan moves in with me for another 10-14 days as we do the page layouts of his next volume. Here's info on all his History of U.S. Table Tennis books.
  • Book Launch. From Jan. 21-24 I'll be in Novi, Michigan, for the Confusion Science Fiction Convention where they'll be doing the launch of my science fiction novel – see above.
  • Blogging, every morning, Mon-Fri. I will take a break during the Nationals and Christmas holidays. Besides this table tennis blog I also do a weekly science fiction blog on Monday mornings, the same morning I do the weekly table tennis tip here.
  • Coaching & Tutoring. The usual private and group coaching, about 20 hours a week. Recently a couple of students have missed a lot, due to injuries and school, so it's been a bit lighter than usual, but that's temporary. I also do a lot of afterschool tutoring.
  • Weight. Meanwhile, since Oct. 1 I've gone from 196lbs to 179lbs. I've been living on soup. I actually got to 182 pretty quickly; the last three pounds were a struggle.

Ask the Coach Show
Episode #202 (27:24) - How Important Is Luck? (and other segments).

Joo Saehyuk and the Rebirth of Defensive Play
Here's the article from Butterfly, with link to video.

Adrien Mattenet - Big Backhand [Bundesliga 2015 - 2016]
Here's the video (32 sec, including slo-mo replay).

Super Defense
Here's the video (35 sec, including slo-mo replay), as the chopper returns some rips, including a spin-around return.

Old Ping - Johnny Leach & Others
Here's the video (8:35) of some vintage pong.

California State Open
Here are the results, and here are pictures by Long Nguyen.

How to Make Ping Pong Ball Lights
Here's the article, with pictures illustrating each step.

iPhone Pong by Michael Maze
Here's the video (28 sec). I do this in my junior classes all the time!

Toddler on Table Pong
Here's the video (41 sec) – pretty impressive! Imagine when he stands up…

The Origins and Importance of Table Tennis
Here's the Norwegian video (36:41) on this. It's mostly in Norwegian, alas. Here's what table tennis historian and author Steve Grant wrote about it:

Table Tennis was Part 7 this week of a funny and educational 8-part weekly series by the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation on the origins and importance of 8 different sports. Based partly on my book Ping Pong Fever---the Madness That Swept 1902 America, this episode opens with an attempted fratricide-by-racket on the host's lifetime rival. Later highlights include a spit-take by Mr. Jaques, head of the eponymous 200-year-old British sporting goods firm that first popularized table tennis; a ping-pong-curious squirrel; filming at Bounce, the ping pong social club that is the London counterpart of New York City's Spin club; and a reenactment of the moment of my discovery of the game's inventor. Lowlights include a treatise on Virginia Woolf simply because she later lived in the same house as the inventor (a segment that the show's producer mercifully ends with a phone call demanding a return to the show's subject) and a table tennis demo by the director of the Nobel Prize Institute simply because he is a Cold War historian living in Norway who had things to say about Ping Pong Diplomacy. Some parts are in English, but for a Norwegian transcript that you can translate into any garbled language using an online translator, click on "Teksting" under the video.

Justin Bieber Gets Golden Ping-Pong Paddle to Celebrate His Success on Spotify
So table tennis has finally made it.

Ping-Pong on His Mind?
Here's the picture! (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

Flying Pong
Look! Up in the sky! It's a bird, it's a plane . . .  no, it's just four ping-pong players. (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

Ape Over Table Tennis
Here's the picture!

Send us your own coaching news!

December 8, 2015

Regional Team Leagues
By Larry Hodges, USATT League Chair

(NOTE - The following is a USATT news item that went up this morning. Note the links to the new USATT League Page and the USATT Regional Team League Prototype. This league initiative, along with the Regional Associations initiative, the State Championships initiative, and a coaching/training center initiative I hope to do next year, are designed to help jump-start USA Table Tennis to the next level – but it's going to take years, so perhaps "jump-start" isn't the right word.)

Those who study sports association memberships can help but notice a pattern: those with huge membership do so through team leagues. That's the reason why the German Table Tennis Association has 600,000 members, why the U.S. Tennis Association has 700,000 members, and why the U.S. Bowling Congress has over two million members. And the lack of such a league structure is the primary reason USA Table Tennis has only 9000 members.

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

But someone has to start up these leagues. Until now anyone wanting to create such a league has to start from scratch, a huge problem. What was needed was a prototype regional team league that can spread nationwide. And so here it is – a USATT Regional Team League Prototype. (It is also linked from the newly updated USATT League Page.)

There's little in it that is set in stone - it's in Word format so you can make changes. Use it as your starting basis, and go from there. It's based on successful leagues in the U.S., such as the Capital Area League and the LA League.

But first we need people in each region willing to take charge and start up these leagues. It can be a single person or a group. Or a single person can put together such a group, as I did for the Capital Area League, and then step back as others take charge. (And we owe a big thanks to there to Stefano Ratti, Mike Levene, John Olsen, and Richard Heo.)

Playing table tennis in a team league is almost a foreign idea to U.S. players. Most U.S. leagues are singles. That's fine for a club league, but if you want it to spread and get huge numbers, you need team leagues, where players represent their club in various divisions, based on level. This is how it's done not only in successful table tennis countries, but nearly all other successful sports, as noted above. I've even played in tennis leagues - I was part of a six-man team - and it was all run by volunteers. And that's how they got 700,000 members. (A key is to have regional team leagues where everyone in the league is in easy driving distance. In general leagues should cover an area no more than perhaps an hour drive across, preferably less.) A typical league would have multiple divisions, from beginning to elite.

Keep in mind that tennis having more members than table tennis, as it does in the U.S., is not the norm - we have to get away from that type of thinking, which has been indoctrinated into us along with an inferiority complex to tennis and other sports. All over Europe table tennis memberships are higher than tennis - though both table tennis and tennis memberships there dwarf USA Table Tennis membership. Table Tennis is often called the #2 participation sport in the world, and some surveys show this, but whether we're actually #2 or merely #3, we're near the top of the list, along with soccer, basketball, and volleyball. (Here's a typical listing, which has us at #3.)

There's also the National League Finals, held at the U.S. Nationals each year, where the winners of the major team leagues play single elimination to determine the National Champion!

Here's our current listing of team leagues - please email us if you have information on others.

So, are you interested in a Team League in your region? Then go over the League Prototype, and start up your own league. If you have questions, email me. Together we can create a national network of such leagues.

I'll Be Haunting You
Here's the truly haunting new table tennis music video (2:49) starring Adoni Maropis and Carlos Ortega.

A New Way to Teach Table Tennis
Here's the new coaching article by ICC Massimo Costantini. And I've been harping for years on the importance of beginners getting the grip right, and doing the "grab" test (where I grab the racket out of their hand, and if it doesn't come out, the grip is too tight).

How to Strengthen Your Middle
Here are eight tips from Samson Dubina on how he learned to cover his middle (and go from 2400 to 2550), along with a "Rocky" table tennis training video (2:34), on his Olympic funding page.

Ask the Coach Show
Episode #201 (25:14) - Expressing Excitement To Play Better

Work and Play: Ping Pong at Work
Here's the new article from Coach Jon.

International Teams Thrill Participants and Spectators at 2015 Butterfly Thanksgiving Teams
Here's the article by Barbara Wei.

Ping Pong the Animation
You can get this Japanese table tennis anime series at Amazon in Blu-ray (11 episodes, 270 min), or you can get them free online in lower quality. I blogged about this once before, but one of the players in my training group, Chris Buckley, just bought the set and showed me. He described it as, "Ping Pong the Animation is an award winning Japanese anime series that is a coming of age story of top high school players.  The wonderful characterization of even the minor characters has gathered a lot of attention for the director, Masaaki Yuasa."

SONG Chen - SAIVE Jean Michel | SUPER DIVISION 2015-2016
Here's the new video (5:31). Saive may be retiring, but the former world #1 can still play!

Around the Net Compilation
Here's the video (2:25).

Adam Bobrow's New Chopping Blade
Here's the new video (60 sec) as he chops with this new blade. After all . . . isn't that what you are supposed to do with a blade?

The Ultimate Ping-Pong Head Smack
Here's the video (17 sec, including slo-mo replay)!

Send us your own coaching news!

December 7, 2015

Tip of the Week
Use Simple No-Spin Serves in Doubles.

Importance of No-Spin Serves
We'll call today the "No Spin Zone," since it's featured in the Tip of the Week, here in the blog, and in a link to another Tip of the Week below.

I've been surprised several times by players, even relatively advanced ones, who don't really know how to do a no-spin serve. Now obviously any player can serve no-spin by just patting the ball over the net, but what surprises me is how many can serve backspin over and over, but cannot execute a no-spin serve with the same motion. By having this combination, receivers can't just mindlessly push every serve back - if they do, the no-spin serves will pop up.

To execute a no-spin serve that looks like backspin, imagine doing a normal backspin serve, where you graze the ball toward the tip of the racket (the part of the racket that's moving fastest as it rotates around the wrist). Now contact the ball closer to the handle without as much grazing motion. Use the same follow-through or even exaggerated it - you have to sell it as a backspin serve. Result? The receiver likely will read it as backspin and pop it up.

Even if they read it correctly and chop down on the ball to keep the push low, it'll come out with less backspin than if they pushed against your backspin serve. When pushing against backspin, the backspin rebounds out as backspin as the ball changes rotation. There doesn't happen against a no-spin serve, and so the ball has less backspin. Also, a short backspin serve is easier to drop short than a short no-spin serve, since the backspin makes the ball die off your racket. 

The main problem with a non-spin is that it often is easier to attack. But that's mostly because players don't keep the serve low to the net. A non-spin serve that is very low is actually tough to attack, and when it is attacked, it's often done so weakly. Also, once a player is used to a no-spin serve, you can't really vary it - no-spin is no-spin, while you can vary backspin from light to heavy. Some players even hold back on their heaviest backspin serves, pulling them out at key times, with opponent predictably putting them into the net. 

As you play better players, you might need to serve both your backspin and no-spin serves short, i.e. if given the chance the ball would bounce twice. At the higher levels, many players base their games around mixing up short backspin and no-spin serves. 

Here's what I usually advise players - and these are guidelines, not rules. When serving short backspin, be ready for a deep backspin push, and if you get it, loop from either side, and focus on both spin and speed. When serving short no-spin, be ready for slightly high returns, pushes with less backspin, and weak attacks, and be ready to end the point against these. (Here's my Tip of the Week from 2012, "Those Dizzying No-Spin Serves.")

Playing with Purpose Early in the Point
Here's the new coaching article by Han Xiao.

Challenge: Learn how to take down the top dog!
Here's the new coaching article from Samson Dubina.

Ask the Coach Show
Episode #200 (31:39) - Competition Time (and other segments)

World Junior Championships
They finished yesterday in Vendée, FRA, Nov. 29 - Dec. 6. As noted last week, the USA Junior Girls Team got the bronze! Here are some links.

History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 16, Chapter 20
Another chapter is online! Why not buy your own set of these incredible histories?

Club Pride on Display at 2015 Butterfly Thanksgiving Teams Tournament
Here's the article by Barbara Wei.

11 Questions with Fede Bassetti
Here's the USATT Interview with the USATT Coaching Chair.

Interview with Rajat Hubli
Here's the USATT interview by Rahul Acharya with the Indian star now living in the U.S.

Tribute to Jean-Michel Saive
Here's the ITTF video (7:19) on the retiring star.

Top Players in Training!

Incredible Drop Shot
Here's the video (26 sec, including slow motion replay).

Five TT Players Go Sledding
Here's a new JibJab production (67 sec) by Jimmy Butler. Can you name all five players?

Chinese Table Tennis Comedy?
Here's the video (2:03) of some sort of table tennis comedy, but I have no idea what's going on. The table tennis scene is the first 53 seconds, and then they go to what looks like a car dealership.

First a Plastic Ball, Now a Plastic Table?
Here's the picture of the Lego table!

Having a Ball
He has ten reasons to be happy.

Stick Pong
Here's the picture!

Non-Table Tennis - Odyssey and Odyssey Online Workshop
Here's my weekly Science Fiction Blog, where I talk about the Odyssey Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers Workshop.

Send us your own coaching news!

December 4, 2015

Christmas Table Tennis Shopping
It's that time of year again, where you have to decide what to get for that table tennis player in your life – which could be yourself! Here are some suggestions. (And here's Santa playing table tennis with a reindeer.)

Table Tennis Instructional Books
I'm a writer so inevitably I'm going to start with this rather long section. There are a lot of good ones out there – including mine! You can read for free the first two chapters of my fantasy table tennis novel "The Spirit of Pong." But my best-selling book is "Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers." Here are many more. Skip this section if you're not the reader type – videos, equipment, and coaching comes next.

Table Tennis History Books

Table Tennis Novels

Other Table Tennis Books

Table Tennis Instructional Videos
It's tough selling table tennis videos these days since there's so much free stuff online. But there are some really good ones out there. Here's a sampling.

Table Tennis Equipment
I'm sponsored by Butterfly, so of course I'm biased here. (Here's their holiday sale.) Pick your favorite distributor, and go on a shopping spree! Or buy a gift certificate for someone. For Christmas I even asked for some TT equipment – ball amigos for picking up balls, since I use them constantly and go through them faster than I get them from Butterfly.

Table Tennis Lessons
The ultimate table tennis gift for yourself or others! If you are reading this, you likely know the local coaches. If not, here's the USATT coaching list. You can go for private lessons or a training camp – take your pick! Here's a listing of training camps maintained by Butterfly. (Before I get barraged, I'm way overbooked, and can't take on any new students.)

Thursday Night Pong at MDTTC
Last night I looked around the club and was just in awe of the number of top players and coaches there for regular play and practice. (It'll be even stronger tonight – Friday is our busiest night, with both advanced junior training and league night.) Players included last night (junior ages in parenthesis):

  • Chen Ruichao, 2677 (recently over 2700)
  • Yang XinYang, 2661
  • Cheng Yinghua, 2614 at age 57 and a USATT Hall of Famer (former Chinese national team member, previously over 2850)
  • Jeffrey Xeng Xun, 2557
  • Bowen Chen, 2546 (previously over 2600)
  • Jack Huang, 2526 at age 59 and getting inducted into the USATT Hall of Fame in two weeks (former Chinese national team member, previously over 2700)
  • Han Xiao, 2478 (previously over 2600)
  • Wang Qing Liang ("Leon"), 2476 (previously over 2600)
  • Nathan Hsu, 2440 (previously over 2500)
  • Derek Nie, 2369 (14)
  • Roy Ke, 2359 (16)
  • Stefano Ratti, 2313
  • Toby Kutler, 2308
  • Raghu Nadmichettu, 2287 (previously over 2500)
  • Stephen Yeh, 2201 (previously over 2350)
  • Ryan Dabbs, 2175 (12)
  • Larry Hodges, down to 2145….was once ranked 18th in country!!! (Citizens only)
  • John Hsu, 2141 (previously over 2250)
  • Tiffany Ke, 2018 (11)
  • Amy Lu, 2013 (14)
  • Spencer Chen, 1980 (13)
  • Jessica Lin, 1907 (11)
  • Ronald Chen, 1834 (11)
  • Lisa Lin, 1814 (11)

World Junior Championships
They are taking place right now in Vendée, FRA, Nov. 29 - Dec. 6. Here are some links – see the first item, where the ITTF ran a feature on USA.

College Table Tennis

Podcast with Brian Pace: Shadow Training for Table Tennis
Here's the podcast (1:02:28).

  • Why the loop is the ultimate trump card in table tennis.
  • How to incorporate shadow play into your practice.
  • Brian’s story: from late-starter to US national team.
  • What exactly is table tennis talent?
  • The importance of table tennis-specific fitness training.
  • Why shadow training is the perfect cardio.
  • How to get over the fear of looking stupid.
  • TOP TIP: Why hand speed is > power in the modern game.
  • Where to buy your copy of Brian latest training video.

Loop Fundamentals Shadow Table Tennis Training Video
Here's the promotional video (4:07) for Brian Pace's new coaching video, Loop Fundamentals Shadow Training Video. You can learn a lot just by watching this – and then decide whether to get the video. "The Loop Fundamentals Shadow Training Video is the most extensive video created that covers how to improve the Loop by taking you through a non-stop training routine the covers every possible way that you will ever us the Loop in competition. Learn to develop a higher aerobic ceiling, increase handspeed, improve stroke mechanics, develop more stroke awareness, as well as improving production."

Ask the Coach Show
Episode #199 (27:45) - Adapting to New Opponents (and other segments).

Male & Female Para Table Tennis Star Nominees Announced
Here's the ITTF Press Release.

Fang Bo Forehand Training
Here's video (68 sec) of Fang Bo (far side) in training. He's world #10, but made the final of Men's Singles at the 2015 Worlds.

Samson Dubina in Training
Here's video (2:53) of former USA team member Samson in training.

Dimitrij Ovtcharov's Posting on the Retirement of Jean-Michel Saive
Here's the Facebook posting. Here's the ITTF article on his retirement that I linked to yesterday.

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.

Catcher in the Pong
No wonder table tennis is huge – it's mentioned twice in Catcher in the Rye, which is assigned reading in many high schools.

  • "Guys that get sore and childish as hell if you beat them at golf, or even just some stupid game like ping-pong."
  • "He put my [bleep] paper down then and looked at me like he'd just beaten hell out of me in ping-pong or something."

Presidential Candidates and Table Tennis
It's important for a president to play table tennis, of course, because it teaches them to kill and smash (our enemies), block (incoming terrorists), push (America's interests worldwide), drive (unemployment down), to (throw for a) loop enemy intelligence, and to serve (as great leaders) and receive (honors after their presidency). So which of the many candidates running for president has these skills? You decide! (If we could only get Delaware Governor Jack Markell to run - he's rated 1223, and I've coached him at our MDTTC camps before he went into politics.)

Of course, many of our recent presidents have played table tennis.

Celebrity and Epic Fail Table Tennis
Here's a GREAT new video (3:21), created by Jimmy Butler, and set to rousing music that has various celebrities playing table tennis and epic fails – great one to watch! Clayton Kershaw, Jay Leno, Daryl Morey, Byron Davis, Jeremy Lin, Dirk Nowitski, Rich Cho, Frank Caliendo, Dwight Howard, Chris Paul, Kathy Vegh, Matthew Perry, Brian Pace, Jimmy Butler, Biba Golic, Soo Yeon Lee, Ariel Hsing, and the all-time great crashing point of Nathan Hsu – he'd have gotten that ball if not for the barrier!

HOWEVER - the title "Epic Fail Table Tennis" is a serous misnomer. It should say, "Epic Effort" for the effort Nathan put into going after that ball. Plus - he was down 2-1 in games and 4-3 in points at the time he ran into the barriers (and so was down 5-3 afterwards), but he came back to win the match! (Disclaimer - Nathan is from my club, and I've coached him many times in tournaments.) 

Send us your own coaching news!

December 3, 2015

Ma Long's Serve and Other Top Ten Players
In my blog on Nov. 24, I pointed out how blatantly illegal world champion Ma Long's serve was, and in particular how he illegally hid it with his head so the opponent couldn't see contact. (Here's the five-picture sequence.) This is now mostly the norm at the world-class level. However, since that time several questions keep coming up, both in online forums and via email. Specifically, some have argued:

  1. This was a fast, down-the-line serve, and so isn't his normal serve, and so doesn't show that he hides his serve normally.
  2. That he only occasionally hides his serve.
  3. That when he hides his serve, he usually does it with his arm, not his head.

So let's look at the video and see what's really happening. For this, we'll use the video of the Men's Singles Final (12:47, with time between points removed) earlier this year when he became World Champion. We'll only use pictures and video in the three games where he's on the far side (where it can be clearly seen). The video sometimes zooms in from the side when he's serving, and so you can't see clearly if he's hiding the serve on those point, so I've skipped those serves. In the end, there were exactly 21 serves on the far side where you could see whether he was hiding the ball or not. Below are links to all 21, both the video and a still image.

So what do we learn by watching the video? 

  1. In 20 of the 21 serves he clearly hid the ball with his head. The only exception was his very last serve, when he was leading 10-3 championship point, where the serve was borderline hidden, but not clearly hidden.
  2. In all 21 serves his arm was out of the way before contact. He never hid the ball with his arm, though he did not remove it immediately after tossing the ball up as the rules required. (He and others do this as a distraction to the umpire to pull attention away from the actual hiding of the ball with the head.)
  3. If you watch the points that are shown from the side, or the ones when he's serving on the near side, you can see he's using the same motion – they are almost for certain also all hidden with the head.

Conclusions? Ma Long illegally hides the ball with his head essentially every point, but apparently never with his arm, which is pulled out of the way before contact, though not always immediately after tossing the ball up.

Here are the 21 serves. In each case there is a frozen image of the serve where the ball is either hidden behind his head, or (in a few cases) is seen falling behind or from behind his head. They are listed by and linked directly to the time on the video when the serve occurred.

The next question is whether other world-class players hide their serve in this way. Here's the top ten men in the world, with a still image and video, showing that all but Boll regularly hide their serve illegally, and none were called for it in these matches that I saw. All of these are from the 2015 World Championships except the one of Chuang Chih-Yuan, which is from the 2015 Men's World Cup. (Couldn't find one of him at the Worlds.)

The following eight players hid the ball over and over with their heads: Ma Long, Fan Zhendong, Dimitrij Ovtcharov, Zhang Jike, Jun Mizutani, Marcos Frietas, Chuang Chih, and Fang Bo. Freitas also hid the ball with his arm. Xu Xin hid the ball with his body and arm. Ovtcharov sometimes serves backhand, and those serves aren't hidden. Only Timo Boll didn't seem to hide his serve, but they were mostly borderline, with the ball traveling just in front of his face. Most of Fang Bo's serves seemed borderline, but some were obviously hidden. About half of Fan Zhendong's serves seemed borderline visible. (These players sometimes have different serving motions, so you can't get final conclusions from one serve, so I invite others to do their own investigations – but the below is a good representation and shows that nine of the ten hide their serves, mostly using the head to do so.)  

  1. Ma Long: picture video
  2. Fan Zhendong picture video
  3. Xu Xin: picture video - his serve was hidden by entire body and arm.
  4. Dimitrij Ovtcharov: picture video
  5. Zhang Jike: picture video
  6. Jun Mizutani: picture video
  7. Timo Boll: picture video - his serves were all borderline hidden by his head, but none were clearly hidden.
  8. Marcos Freitas: picture video - he hid it with both head and arm.
  9. Chuang Chih-Yuan: picture video
  10. Fang Bo: picture video

Conclusion: The top ten players in the world overwhelmingly hide their serves illegally, almost always with their heads, and aren't called on it. Few hide it with their arms, though few pull their arms out immediately, as the rules require, instead pulling it out as the ball comes down. As I've shown in my Net Visibility Rule Proposal, this serving motion where you hide the ball with the head, with the free arm pulled out as the ball comes down as a distraction (but not actually used to hide the ball) has spread worldwide, and nearly all of the top cadet (under 15) boys in the U.S. now use this illegal serve – yes, coaches are forced to teach them to cheat if they want to compete without being at a large disadvantage.

World Junior Championships
They are taking place right now in Vendée, FRA, Nov. 29 - Dec. 6. USA already has the bronze in Junior Girls' Teams (Coach Lily Yip, and players Prachi Jha, Amy Wang, Crystal Wang and Grace Yang), while the Junior Boys' Team (Coach Shigang Yang, and players Sharon Alguetti, Krish Avvari, Kanak Jha, and Jack Wang) came in #13. They are now they are playing singles and doubles. Here are some links:

Jean-Michel Saive Announces Retirement
Here's the ITTF article about the former world #1.

Ask the Coach Show
Episode #198 (29:03) - Receiving serves in the "old days" (and other segments).

Junior Table Tennis Physical Training
Here's the video (51 sec) – I think this is in Germany.

High Performance Committee Minutes
Here are two recent reports from the USATT Minutes & Actions Page

The Winning Edge
Here's Issue Two of the new magazine of Table Tennis England. Here's Issue One.

Nathan Hsu Crashes Through Barriers
Here's the video (35 sec, shown from two angles). This happened this past weekend at the North American Teams.

On the Floor and on the Run
Here's the video (38 sec, including slow motion replay) of this great junior rally.

Gandalf Fights a Ping-Pong Ball
Here's the picture from the movie. "When Gandalf has his big stand-off scene with the Balrog, Ian McKellen is actually acting to a ping pong ball." Alas, the original image, with actual ping-pong ball, doesn't seem to be available. (Of course, Frodo was Lord of the Ping.)

Foot Pong
Here's the video (8 sec).

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

Send us your own coaching news!

December 2, 2015

JOOLA North American Teams
They were held this past weekend, Fri-Sun, at the Gaylord Convention Center at National Harbor in Washington DC, about 45 minutes south of me and my club, MDTTC. This was my 40th year at the Teams – first in Detroit (1976-1997), then Baltimore (1998-2012), and now DC (2013-present). I used to play in it every year, but since 2007 I've been there as a coach, other than playing a few matches in 2012.

There were 711 players on 181 teams, with 138 tables. Here are complete results – every single match! The lighting and floors were a level better than the erratic lighting and sometimes slippery floors in Baltimore – a major improvement. Over $20,000 was given out in prize money, including $10,000 to the first-place team, AITTA 1 (Timothy Wang, Feng Yijun, Cai Wei, and Wu Yi), with $4000 going to runner-up Team JOOLA (Quadri Aruna, Li Kewei, and Joerg Rosskopf). It was well-run and on time - another superhuman effort by Richard Lee, John Miller, and the rest of NATT. I only wish I could have attended both this one and the competing Butterfly Teams in Philadelphia, 140 miles away – by all accounts, it too was well-run and on time.

Since I was coaching an MDTTC junior team, I didn't get to see too many of the big matches. When I was free I mostly watched or coached other MDTTC players. However, I did get to see several of world #50 Quadri Aruna's matches. He was the highest ranked player in the tournament but didn't seem at his best, losing both his matches in the final. From what I saw, he was playing too soft, too quick to back up to fish and lob. I don't think he meant to do this as he seemed to start rallies aggressively. It was only when the opponent played aggressively that he would quickly get soft rather than go for more difficult world-class shots, i.e. the ones that made him a world-class player. Since he's so good at fishing and lobbing, he's competitive even when he backs up and plays soft, he just doesn't dominate as he would if he played more aggressively.

I watched one of our top MDTTC players lose a close match against a very strong player after leading much of the match by playing aggressively. But under pressure, like Aruna, he got soft, but in a different way. He was winning by driving the ball deep on the table, but as the match went on he began to play his opening attacks a bit softer and spinnier, but more importantly, not as deep – and his opponent jumped all over them with backhand smashes and forehand off-the-bounce counterloops. Unless your opponent is already backed up, it's important to attack deep on the table.

One thing I saw, and am seeing more and more of, from roughly the 2300 to 2700 level, is deep serves. I think this is because of the banana backhand flip. By serving deep they force the receiver to react to more variations and so can't just stand there and flip all the short serves. Servers are serving at three depths – short, half-long (so second bounce is right about the end-line, often barely off), and very long breaking serves or fast & flat.

Most years I've coached a specific top player throughout the tournament, but this year was different as I coached one of MDTTC's junior teams all day for three days – five kids, ages 7-9. All are pretty serious players who train regularly with MDTTC coaches. All of them attended my junior training group sessions for 6-12 months, and I've done private coaching with most of them. Two of them were from the HW Global Foundation's Talent Development Program, which trains at MDTTC, with the others possibly joining next year.

Because of the ages of the players, coaching was a bit more psychological than usual – dealing with tears was as important as dealing with the opponent's serve. I kept the coaching simple, mostly on what serves to use and where to place the ball.

One player on the team, age seven, had an incredible tournament, winning nine matches, including a win over a 1454 player. He'll for certain come out the highest rated under eight player in the U.S. (He might not be listed as such in the USATT ratings at first. There's a current database problem I've alerted USATT about that shows a number of players with incorrect ages. According to the database, we have a three-year-old rated 1334, and 14 players under age five with ratings, including ones rated 1340, 1334, 1298, 1171, and 1030. Not likely! One player's tournament record shows he played matches before he was born, and two others apparently played and won matches at age one. They've already fixed some of the problems, such as a supposed one-year-old rated 1773. Most of these problems came about from one tournament that apparently messed up on the ages.)

The seven-year-old in question also had one of the points of the tournament. He stepped around his backhand and looped a forehand. The opponent blocked to his wide forehand. He raced over and smashed wide to the opponent's forehand. The opponent blocked it incredibly wide to the forehand again. The seven-year-old, who had already returned to the middle of the table, raced and lunged over, barely reaching the ball as it went way outside his forehand corner, and sidespin looped the ball to the opponent's wide forehand. The opponent lunged and made an even wider block to the forehand. The seven-year-old raced over again, and looped even wider, again with sidespin, with the ball now nearly parallel to the net. Again the opponent lunged over and now his block was so wide it virtually did parallel the net. The seven-year-old raced over, but the ball was so wide his racket hit the side barriers before he hit the ball, and so he missed. I wish it were on video!

Since we were in a lower division there were a number of rules problems and questions. In one match I was coaching the seven-year-old above led 5-4 in the fifth, but they forgot to change sides. He served and smashed to win the next point to go up 6-4. One of the parents from the opposing team went over and said something, and they changed sides, so I assumed he had just reminded them of that. But then the seven-year-old served again for some reason, and lost the point, and they called the score as 5-5. I was confused, and wondered if the previous point had been a let serve I'd missed. At 9-9 I ventured over and asked what had happened at 5-4, and the opposing parent explained that the 5-4 point didn't count because they had not switched sides! That, of course, is not the rule – a point played is a point played. And so instead of 6-4, it had been 5-5, and now it was 9-9 instead of 10-8. I was debating whether to protest, but the next two points were played quickly, and my player won both, and so it ended okay. If he'd lost, I'd have been pretty unhappy.

Since they were younger kids, they often lost track of the score. The parents began to stand on the sidelines keeping score, using this Chinese system of hand signals, which I'd seen before but never really knew about until now.

The playing hall was right next to an extensive indoor shopping mall, including a Peeps store. The Peeps mascot, a giant yellow bird, came in on Saturday and walked around, posing with pictures – many of the MDTTC kids got pictures with him. Here he is with me!

The next day, Monday, I went in to MDTTC, not to coach, but to do some English tutoring with a player – my normal students were resting from the tournament. I figured the club would be mostly vacant, with everyone resting. But lo and behold, about a dozen players who'd played all three days were there practicing and taking lessons, without even a day off! That's dedication.

Ask the Coach Show
Episode #197 (24:40) - Xu Xin's Forehand Sidespin Push (and other segments).

World Junior Championships
They are taking place right now in Vendée, FRA, Nov. 29 - Dec. 6. USA Junior Girls, seeded #10, astounded the world with a series of upsets to reach the semifinals, where they finally lost to #1 seed China. Doubles start today, Singles tomorrow. Here are some links:

USA Team Trials
Here's the final list of entries. Men's and Women's Team Trials will be held in Las Vegas immediately after the USA Nationals, Dec. 20-21.

USA Olympic Trials
Wanna make the USA Olympic Team? Here's the Trials info! They will be held Feb. 4-6 in Greensboro, NC.

College Table Tennis News

  • NCTTA Commentating Contest Goes Live
    Want to be a Sports Commentator? Here's the National Collegiate TTA's contest: "NCTTA is inviting the best and brightest and maybe the loudest to sign up for a contest that could create a chance to attend the NCTTA College Table Tennis Championships as a Commentator for the live stream!"
  • University of Miami Table Tennis Team Supports Kids in South Florida
    Here's the USATT article. "Coach Juan Ly and the fabulous University of Miami table tennis team always enjoy helping underprivileged kids in south Florida. The talented table tennis coach joined Miami players offering instruction, encouragement and much more at the Jason Taylor Foundation's Ping Pong Smash Kids Clinic."
  • Upstate New York Splits into Two Divisions
    Here's the article on this growing college division.
  • New College Table Tennis Team Launches on Miami Gardens Campus
    Here's the article. "…the Bobcats will expand their sports program with a table tennis team. The school is taking steps to join NCTTA competition in the Sunshine State. The school's table tennis team has the equipment, six players and a positive attitude as they begin their initial season in 2015-16."

Interview with Nikhil Kumar
Here's the USATT interview with the 12-year-old U.S. star. "Left-handed Nikhil Kumar of San Jose, CA may be only 12, but he is already a world-class player. Earlier this year, Nikhil won the Boys' Singles title at the 2015 ITTF World Hopes Challenge held in Shanghai, China."

Game On: Local Table Tennis Program Helps Senior Citizens Retain Health
Here's the article from the San Clemente Times. "World War II veteran Thomas Hurt, 91, couldn’t even coordinate his walker very well before he started playing table tennis for the first time in years. On Nov. 19, he was volleying with other table tennis players as though he’d played the game competitively for a long time."

Game On: Ping Pong Club Meets Every Week at Woodstock North
Here's the article from the Woodstock Independence. "Twenty-six years ago, Dennis Palys ran an ad in a newspaper looking for interested table tennis players. Palys played for fun in college and just enjoyed the sport of it. Out of that idea, the McHenry County Table Tennis Club was established."

Why is this Woman Smiling: Queen of the Table
Here's the article from Martha's Vineyard Magazine. "'Don’t call it an addiction,' Alina Wen says in a conspiratorial tone as we sit at the YMCA chatting about her zeal for table tennis.' Just say it’s a passion.'"

ATL Loves Outdoor Ping-Pong! But No Beer-Pong Allowed!
Here's the article from the Atlanta Curbed. "In the spirit of making any and every niche ironically cool – unironically? The line's a bit blurry at this point – permanent Ping-Pong tables are popping up at parks all around Atlanta."

Chip Gets a Lesson in Table Tennis
Here are two videos from Real Milwaukee TV (3:58 and 3:11). That's Linda Leaf from the Milwaukee club he's talking with.

Zhang Jike and Ma Long Training
Here are two new videos.

Stunning Backhand Around the Net
Here's the video (16 sec).

Two-Winged Monster Pong
Here's the video (2:18)!

Table Tennis Exorcist Needed!
Here's the video (14 sec) – she must have a hard head! (I'm guessing this is fake. One comment says it's from a Japanese skin care advertisement. But it looks pretty crazy!)

Non-Table Tennis – Short Story Submissions – Business or Hobby?
Here's my weekly science fiction blog, which goes up every Monday.

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