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!

November 16, 2015

Tip of the Week
Loose Grip Leads to Better Shots.

Is There a Mathematical Advantage to Serving First?
I keep reading online postings about whether a player should serve first or not. Many of them insist you have a better mathematical chance of winning by serving first. That's simply not true. Here's a simple way of looking at it.

A game to 11 is really just a best of 20, where you just happen to stop once a player clinches it by scoring 11 points. If it goes to 10-all, you alternate serves so both players serve just as often, so there's no mathematical advantage to serving first or second there. So we'll assume that the game doesn't go deuce. Is there a mathematical advantage to serving first or second? Ignoring deuce games, no matter what the final score is, one player scored 11 points in this hypothetical best of 20, and so even if both players had an even number of serves (i.e. ten each), he'd win 11-9 or better.

Some would argue that if a player gets to serve first, he'd get to serve more often, which is technically correct in many cases. But it doesn't matter since even if they played it out so both players got to serve an equal number of times (i.e. ten times each), a player who scored 11 first while serving first is still going to win 11 points, even if he allows his opponent the same number of serves. By serving first, all you can do is make it closer if you lose, or more lopsided if you win.

Let's look at specific examples. Suppose for example that you served first and won 11-8, and served ten times while the other player only served nine. It makes no difference because even if you gave that player the extra serve and he scored, you'd still win 11-9. If you won 11-7 and served ten times to the opponent's eight, again the best your opponent could have done, given the extra two serves, is win both those points, but you'd still win 11-9.

Now let's suppose you gave away the serve. If you win even though you might serve up to two less times, you win. If you lose, that means your opponent got to 11 first, and even if he got to serve two more times than you did, you are in the same situation explained above: the best you can do is make it closer, but you'd still lose because the opponent will have scored at least 11 points, so again, even if you get the two missing serves, he'll still outscore you 11-9 or better.

There are some advantages to serving first or second. In a round robin match, if there's a tie between players, it first goes to matches, then games, and then points. If it goes to points, which rarely happens, then there is a tiny advantage in serving first as that means that you may have one or two extra serves more than the opponent in the entire match, and so might on average have a slightly better scoring percentage. However, this is unlikely that it is overpowered by other considerations.

There's a simple reason I recommend players give the serve away. It is at the start of a match that players are least warmed up or adjusted to the opponent. So you are more likely to make mistakes at the very start – and these are more costly on your own serve than on the opponent's, since the server is supposed to win the majority of the points. Plus if you serve second, then you will be serving at the end of the first, third, and fifth games, and it's under pressure like that when serving is most important. More players "choke" when receiving then serving as there's more uncertainty in returning a serve (especially near the end of a close game or match when there's both pressure and your opponent now knows what serves give you trouble) than serving, where you know exactly what your first "shot" will be – your serve. Players pop up or miss serves a lot more than servers pop up or miss their own serve, plus there's more confidence in dealing with an opponent's return of your serve than dealing with the uncertainty of his serve.

Some players do play better with a lead, and for them it might be better to serve first. For example, some players like to go for winners, and have more confidence in doing so when they have a lead. Others play better when their back is to the wall, i.e. playing from behind, and for them, it's best to serve second. Either way, this is psychological reasons to serve first or second, not mathematical ones.

You do have one other option at the start of the match – which side to start on. There is some advantages to using this. For example, I find I have trouble getting into a match if the background is poor, and in matches like that I take the side with the better background at the start. By the time I'm into the second game with the worse background I'm into the match and so it's not as important. (If you are in a large arena and on a side table where you are looking into the open expanse, it's harder to pick up the ball then if you are looking into a wall. Of course, if the wall is similar in color to the ball, that changes things.) I often try to choose which side I want to start on by simply going to that side in the warm-up, knowing that few opponents take advantage of choosing a side. And since most players like to serve first, I usually get the best of both worlds – I get to receive first and start on the side I want to start on!

There's another advantage to choosing a side. If the match is close, you might be playing more points on the side you don't start on. On average you'll play the same number of points on both sides in the first four (or six) games, but in the final game two things come into consideration. First, you change sides when a player reaches five. Let's suppose you change sides at 5-4. At ten-all, you would have played eleven of the twenty points on the "good" side – and then you'll play all of them on the good side in deuce. (If it's more lopsided at the start, then you'll potentially play even more points on the good side.) In the proverbial best of 20 explained above, in the final game you'll almost always get to play more points on the good side by starting on the bad side, both before and at deuce. So there's an advantage to choosing to start on the "bad" side!

In the end, who serves first or which side you start on are rather small variables in who wins the match – there's a lot of things that are more important. But why not take whatever advantage you can?

The Writing Retreat
This is a table tennis blog, so I won't spend too much time on this. As noted in my blog last Monday, I spent the week at a writing retreat at The Writer's Center in Bethesda, MD. My new SF novel, "Campaign 2100: Game of Scorpions," comes out in late January, and so I started the sequel, "Campaign 2110: Scorpions in Space." Both novels feature table tennis as one of the four main characters is a championship table tennis player, and I keep working that into the plot.

The first one was 123,000 words, a little longer than I'd planned. I'll try to keep the sequel to 90,000-100,000 words. I did a little over 17,000 words during the five days, as well as plan out a lot of it. (I'd originally hoped to get more done, but it's a complicated work requiring a lot of planning and research.) I'll continue to plug away at it, and hopefully finish it next year. ("Finish" doesn't just mean finish writing the draft; all first drafts requiring a lot of rewriting.)

I'm having a lot of fun with one new alien character, Thirteen, a spaced-out, haughty, philosophical economist from Grodan (which orbits Tau Ceti) who develops her economic and political theories while humming and staring into the many mirrors in her home, while occasionally calling out nonsensical words of wisdom. She has 60,000 volunteers working in her basement.

Call for Coach of the Year Nominations
Here's the info article.

Help Wanted: Coach for Alameda Table Tennis Center
Here's the info.

The Serving Test
Here's the test of your short spin serves.

Ask the Coach Show

  • Episode #183 (24:23) – Getting a Grip (and other topics)
  • Episode #184 (15:10) - Friday Funnies or Black Friday? (and other topics)
  • Episode #185 (25:05) – Aggressive Mindset (and other topics)

Podcast with Daniel Reed
Here's the new podcast (52:53) from Expert Table Tennis with Reed, who is currently ranked #5 in England and #217 in the world. Here are a few of the questions Daniel answered during the interview:

  • How Danny first started table tennis at Ormesby TTC in Middlesbrough.
  • Why his coach Carole Moore was so influential in his rapid development.
  • How much training Danny was doing as an 11-12 year old.
  • All about his drive and determination to succeed even as a young boy.
  • Why he decided to study for a degree alongside his table tennis.
  • What he is currently working on (physically, technically, tactically and mentally).
  • How tough it is to make a living playing professional table tennis.
  • Danny’s plans for the next few years.
  • Why Danny believes players must put themselves under pressure in practice (Top Tip).
  • How to get in contact with Danny.

Swedish Open
The event was held Nov. 11-15 in Stockholm. Here's the ITTF page for the event where you can get results, articles, pictures, and video.

Early Success Brings Continued Growth for Americas First Full Time Training Center
Here's the article about my club, Maryland Table Tennis Center, by Barbara Wei. One small thing – technically the club at least broke even the first five years, excluding start-up costs, other than a serious financial situation it ran into I think in the second year, when a record snowfall basically closed us down for weeks. But the only reason the club did okay financially in its early years is that I didn't take a penny for all my work there – nothing, not for coaching, running tournaments, or running the place, as I did much of the first ten years.

Capital Area League
The Capital Area League had another meet on Saturday, Nov. 7, from 5-10PM, with all twelve teams (with 73 players on their rosters) playing at least two team matches. (There were a few additional make-up matches.) Here are the results. Here are detailed results for Division 1 and Division 2. (These and previous results are linked from the results page.) I'm the webmaster and a member of the organizing committee for the Capital Area League.

RIP Vincent Purkart
He was a great French player (two-time French National Men's Singles Champion and five-times runner-up, mostly to Secretin), but was best known as part of the greatest exhibition team ever, the Secretin-Purkart show. From my April 28, 2015 blog:

Here's the full video (93 min) of the greatest exhibition team of all time. Warning - once you start watching, it's addictive! But it's great stuff, with the great Jacques Secretin (17-time French National Men's Singles Champion, 1977 World Mixed Doubles Champion, and former world #4) against the clownish Vincent Purkart (two-time French National Men's Singles Champion and five-times runner-up, mostly to Secretin). They spent many years touring the world doing their famous comedy exhibition. Sean O'Neill messaged me that the umpire who they constantly fight with is Claude Bergeret, 1977 World Mixed Doubles Champion with Secretin. (I'd been told it was Purkart's wife, but that might have been incorrect.) Here's a recent picture of Secretin and Purkart - they're still at it!!!

Addendum: Here's the ITTF obit on Purkart, which I'll also link to tomorrow. 

USATT Rules Update
Here's the update.

Nominees for 2015 Male & Female Table Stars Announced
Here's the ITTF article.

11 Questions with Kevin Korb
Here's the USATT interview with the 19-year-old owner of The Topspin Club. (He was interviewed in a podcast in September at Expert Table Tennis.)

Two Generations Meet
Here's the picture of Japan's 12-year-old whiz kid Tomokazu Harimoto (already ranked #262 in the world, higher than the #1 U.S. man) and Swedish legend (generally considered the GOAT) Jan-Ove Waldner at the Swedish Open. (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

Pingpong Club Appeals to a Diverse Crowd
Here's the article from the New Orleans Advocate.

Andrey Borovik's Para Story
Here's the article.

How to Rip a Forehand
Here's video (34 sec, including slow motion replay) as Anton Kallberg (SWE) shows us the basic forehand put-away against Liam Pitchford (ENG).

Ask a Pro Anything: Kasumi Ishikawa
Here's the video (5:52) with Ishikawa and Adam Bobrow. And here's the hilarious movie trailer video (61 sec) of the two!

ITTF Pongcast – October
Here's the video (12:40).

Xavier University Confucius Institute Cup Finals Video
Here's the video (6:17) between Jimmy Butler and Peter Nguyen, along with another video showing one of the best and craziest points you'll ever see.

Soccer Star Dave Beckham Playing Soccer and Table Tennis with Kids in Nepal
Here's the video (48 sec) – wait'll you see the table they play on!

Ping Pong Player Eats His Paddle
Here's the article! Ironically, in the science fiction novel I'm currently writing one of the characters said to a candidate running for office, "If you win, I'll eat my ping-pong paddle." (Spoiler Alert: He will. But the election in question wasn't the main election in the novel, so it's not really a spoiler.)

Top 10 Annoying Situations Every Table Tennis Player Has Encountered!
Here's the article with lots of pictures and video.

The Most Painful Game This Decade
Here's the video (26 sec) of what is titled, "Officially the most painful game of table tennis that will take place this decade."

Send us your own coaching news!

November 9, 2015

Tip of the Week
Sidespin Serves that Break Away Tend to Be More Effective.

Writer's Retreat This Week and Table Tennis
No blog this week after today – I'll be back next Monday, Nov. 16. I'll be away all this week at a writer's retreat at the Writer's Center in Bethesda, MD, which they call a Writing Staycation. It's a day thing, where I drive over early in the morning, and return that night. So little table tennis for me this week – I've got others subbing for me in most of my sessions until next Saturday.

As I blogged about on October 16, I recently sold a science fiction novel to a publisher, "Campaign 2100: Game of Scorpions." (As noted in the blog, it has lots of table tennis.) So this week I'm starting the sequel, "Campaign 2110: Scorpions in Space." The first one was 123,000 words (that's 622 pages in double spaced Courier New). This one will likely be a touch shorter – I'm aiming for 100,000 words. I hope to get 30,000 done during the retreat. I promise to keep table tennis in the novel!

What's the difference between a writer's retreat and a writer's workshop? At a retreat, the focus is on writing new stuff. At a workshop the focus is on critiquing each other's work – in advance you read and analyze the submitted work of other participants, and at the workshop you give both a verbal and written critique to the writer. (And they do the same for you.) It's usually done in sort of a circle, where you go around the circle, with everyone giving their comments in turn, and everyone turning in the written version at the end. I've been to many of these, including an annual "The Never-Ending Odyssey" that I go to for nine days each summer in Manchester, NH.

I've been to two past writing retreats at the Writer's Center. At the first is where I started work on Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers; at the second I started Sorcerers in Space. The Writer's Center mentioned me in their November 4 blog!

I'm bringing my weighted paddle to shadow stroke during breaks. Yep!

On Saturday, after I finished coaching at 3:30 PM (and after finalizing that morning the USATT Hall of Fame Program for the Nationals Banquet, and a HoF ad for the Nationals Program booklet), I took my laptop and notes to the back room at MDTTC and worked continuously (with a few walk around breaks) until 10PM, while the Capital Area League was playing out from 5-10PM. I didn't do any writing – just researched and outlined. Sunday morning I spent finalizing my notes and printing them out. (Then I coached from 1:30-8:00PM, then rushed home to watch "The Walking Dead.") I'm ready to start writing this morning!

Strategic Risk Taking
Here's the new coaching article by Han Xiao.

Here's a coaching site I hadn't seen before, run by Ben Larcombe, the same guy who runs Experttabletennis.com.

Ask the Coach Show
Episode #182 (25 min) – Serving Styles (and other segments)

How Do We Create a New Generation Waldner?
Here's the new article from Matt Hetherington.

SAEF Table Tennis Therapy Program for Alzheimer's
Here's the article and video. "SAEF Table Tennis Therapy Program is an innovative tool designed to benefit early stage Alzheimer's individuals through carefully supervised instructions in "table tennis therapy."

Table Tennis Illusions
Here's the new article from Coach Jon.

11 Questions with Dean Johnson
Here's the new USATT interview.

History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 16
Chapter 16 is now up! (This is from 1988.) "A New Era Begins for Table Tennis." "Will we see a dramatic upsurge in membership/players? Will the U.S. public overall now see table tennis as a sport and not as a game?" Here's where you can buy copies of the books by Tim Boggan for yourself.

This Ping Pong Trick Shot Compilation is Incredible
Here's the article from USA Today, which links to the trick shot video (2:21 – I linked to this last Wednesday) from Kevin Korb.

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.

Here's a Great Rally
Here's the video (52 sec, including replay), Simon Gauzy (FRA, near side) versus Panagiotis Gionis (GRE).

Here's a Tricky Serve!
Here's the video (16 sec) as Bernadette Szocs of Romania does an apparent regular backhand serve, but contacts the ball going the other way.

Jumping Backhand?
Here's the picture of Luisa Saeger of Germany.

The Leader of the Free World is Losing to Kim Jong-un!
Only you can help him.

Fitbit.com Sports Commercial
Here's the video (30 sec), with about two seconds of "Ping Fit" table tennis starting seven seconds in.

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

Thirty Excuses for Losing a Ping-Pong Match
Here's the listing, care of the Newport TTC!

Titan Open
Here's the out-of-this world picture as Schlager takes on Xu Xin! (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

Epic Ping Pong with Roger Federer
Here's the video (45 sec)! It's some sort of commercial where Federer is smashing ping-pong balls over and over, but is supposed to miss – but can't!

Send us your own coaching news!

November 6, 2015

Serve and Forehand Attack, and Serve and Two-Winged Attack
Ilia asked the following on the TableTennisCoaching forum:

In your amazing book "Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers" [Larry's note: I'm blushing – but I also added the link] I read that it is beneficial to be able to have different tactics for games, i.e. Plan A, Plan B, Plan C. I can loop both with backhand and forehand, but my backhand open-up against backspin is weaker. So my Plan A is to use forehand loop whenever possible, and use backhand loop for receive and when caught off-guard. The Plan B is to play forehand from the forehand side, and backhand from the backhand side. I have two questions:

1) What is the best recovery position after the serve for Plan A and for Plan B? Should they be the same?
2) How to practice these two plans with the best efficiency? Should I spend, say, a few weeks strengthening the Plan A, and then a few weeks on Plan B? Or it is better to interleave the practice? I play 4-5 times per week for 2-2.5 hours for each session.

It was such a great question that I decided to use it in my blog this morning.

First, remember that favoring your forehand is probably the right thing for you to do tactically, based on what you wrote. Strategically, even if you always favor your forehand, you should make sure to strengthen that backhand! (Tactical thinking is what works now; Strategic thinking is thinking long term. You need both.) But now let's look at the two questions.

>1) What is the best recovery position after the serve for Plan A and for Plan B? Should they be the same?

For Plan A, where you are looking to play a forehand from the backhand corner if the ball goes there, you should be a bit to your left (assuming you're a righty), in a slight forehand stance. There's a simple way of judging how far over you can stand. Imagine your opponent returns your serve somewhat aggressively down the line to your forehand. Stand as far to your backhand side as you can where you can still get to that ball effectively. (If he's able to consistently attack your serve down the line very aggressively, then you both need adjust for that, as well as work on your serves.) 

For Plan B, where you are looking to play forehand or backhand, depending on where the return is, go to a neutral position and stance. Clear your mind and just use whichever side the ball goes to. One thing that many do effectively is to look to follow the serve with the backhand loop, and so stand in the middle of the table, looking for that shot - basically saying, "Go ahead, I'm planning to backhand loop, but if you go to my forehand, I'm ready and waiting." If they do go to your forehand, you don't have much table to cover, so you just rotate that way and loop the forehand. The only tricky part here is if they go after your middle, where you have to choose. 

>2) How to practice these two plans with the best efficiency? Should I spend, say, a few weeks strengthening the Plan A, and then a few weeks on Plan B? Or it is better to interleave the practice? I play 4-5 times per week for 2-2.5 hours for each session.

First, focus on developing your backhand so it is at least consistent. It doesn't need to be as powerful as the forehand, but it needs to be dependable. Once you have that, you can wear an opponent down with it. Putting that aside, practice serve and attack using both Plan A and Plan B. Many focus on practicing their Plan A, and wonder why their Plan B doesn't improve. There's usually more room for improvement there. So develop both roughly equally. If you are really having trouble with Plan B, focus on that for a while, then go back to 50-50. You want to both get rid of weaknesses and develop overwhelming strengths. 

Podcast with Dora Kurimay
Here's the new podcast (54:05) from Expert Table Tennis with the championship player, sports psychologist, and author. Here are a few of the questions Dora answered during the interview:

  1. How to deal with nerves and conquer fear.
  2. How to clear your mind in between points.
  3. How to focus and stay in the moment.
  4. How to play as well in matches as you do in practice.
  5. How to use “deep breathing” to improve your performance.

ITTF Spins and Skills
Here are new coaching videos from the ITTF. I ran this before, but I don't think all at once.

MDTTC November Newsletter
Here it is. (I'm the editor.)

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.

Marcos Freitas Looping and Moving
Here's the video (24 sec) of the world #7 from Portugal. (See hos "007" picture below!)

A Little Counterlooping?
Here's the video (1:43) as Samson Dubina and Liang Jishan have a counterlooping practice session. Notice the simplicity in their strokes?

Werner Schlager's Backhand Loop
Here's the video (42 sec, including replay) as Schlager unleashes a series of power backhand loops against chopper Joo Saehyuk.

Table Tennis Coffee Mug
Here's the picture – "I might look like I'm listening to you, but in my head I'm playing table tennis." (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

Curving, Colorful Giant Pong
Here's the picture! (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

Freitas. Marcos Freitas. 007
Here's the picture! (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

Timo Boll and KUKA Have Fun with Fans in China
Here's the video (3:01).

Here's the video (3:39) of a version that I've never seen. Here are five other versions, including the classic original, and four takeoffs.

Send us your own coaching news!

November 5, 2015

What to Do with Defaulters
Recently there's been discussion about what to do with players who default matches to protect their rating. (Here's a discussion on this at Mytabletennis.net – it starts with the third posting on page 3 of the thread.) It's a problem, though overall it's often overblown. But there are a few players out there who do this regularly, i.e. "strategic" defaults to protect their rating. They'll enter a rating event, play the players ahead of them, but default to those below them. This means the players below them paid for an event and expected to play matches, but instead got defaults for their money – and unlike the player who defaulted to them, didn't get the chance to play the players above them.

There are also more "legitimate" defaults, where a player defaults a match in one event because he's tired, and perhaps wants to save himself for another event. But that's part of the game – if you are so out of shape you can't play the match, then perhaps you should be penalized for it, or at least have incentive so as to think twice about it.

There is no simple solution. I could go through all the possible solutions and point out the problems, but that would be time consuming and pointless. It's one of those problems where you have to choose the least bad solution. So finding flaws with a possible solution does not disqualify that solution, it simply gives us something to compare to the flaws of other solutions.

So here's my take. (And I'm not yet pushing for this, only offering it as a possible solution.) Why not set a rule that once a player enters an event, if he defaults, he loses eight rating points? The only exceptions might be if he gives a good enough reason so that the tournament director withdraws him from the event. (Guidelines would have to be set for this. This would only happen if the player is truly injured, for example, and does not play again that day.) The opponent would not gain points they haven't earned. The purpose is simply to penalize players who default so they have incentive to play. And to those who are protecting their rating, those eight points loom large!

Some would argue (with some merit) that it's not fair to penalize players who default because of injury. But staying healthy in sports is part of the game. Others would say this would help sandbaggers, who intentionally lose matches to keep their rating down so they can play and win lower events. But eight points (or even 24 – see below) isn't enough to really sandbag – most sandbaggers keep their rating down by losing 50 points at a time, often "losing" that match in the same tournament that they win a rating event with a cutoff far ahead of the player they "lost" to.

I'd set a maximum number of points a player can lose per tournament – 24 seems about right. Three strikes, and you're (24 points) out!!!

Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers
The book is now being translated into Korean. (It's already in French.) I'm starting to look around for a Chinese translator. Of course, every human on Earth who can read English (or French!) has already bought a copy, right? What, you haven't??? (Here are the reviews.)

Five Bronze Medals for Team North America at the 2015 World Cadet Challenge
Here's the USATT article, with pictures. The five were:

Stefan Fegerl Recognized By Liu Guoliang
Here's the article and videos. It has been a long time since a new European showed up who could challenge the top Chinese – for the last ten years or so it's been only Boll, Ovtcharov, and Samsonov.

What to Look for When Buying a New Table Tennis Table
Here's the new article from Matt Hetherington. Oh, and he just made the New Zealand National Team! (He's been mostly living in the U.S. in recent years, playing at the Lily Yip Club in New Jersey.)

Interview with Mishel Levinski
Here's the new USATT interview about the former Israel star now going to Baruch College in New York.

World Table Tennis Day Nominated for Peace and Sport Award
Here's the ITTF article, which came out yesterday – the same day I blogged about USATT needing one!

Hofstra Gets a New Coach-an NCTTA Alum
Here's the new USATT article about the new Hofstra coach, Michael Reff.

Singapore's Men's Coach Sacked, Women's Coach Stepping Down
Here's the article.

You Won't See a Better Table Tennis Rally All Day!
Here's video (54 sec) of Jorgen Persson (near side) playing a great exhibition point against Jun Mizutani. (I wasn't sure initially - video isn't clear - but comment below says it's Mizutani, and after watching it again, it's sort of obvious.)

Twirl and Backhand Rip
Here's the video (13 sec). "Swedish STIGA player Hampus Nordberg uses influences from ballet to secure the win."

Barack Obama vs. Kim Jong Un: Who Would Win?
Here's the new USATT poll, including a link to a video of Obama playing. (The picture of Kim cuts off part of the ping-pong table he's leaning over. Here's the complete picture. Caption anyone? How about, "We will invade America and capture their celluloid balls. Down with plastic!" "Now guys, the rules clearly say that the ball cannot be hidden from the server, so enforce that rule or you will be shot.")

Goofy Ricochet Shot Against Mickey Mouse
Here's the cartoon!

Send us your own coaching news!

November 4, 2015

National Table Tennis Day
Let's establish a National Table Tennis Day. In the weeks and months before that day we'd flood the media all over the country with press releases, and recruit clubs to take part. We'd also do a web page and a promotional video. Then, on the day itself, we'd get clubs all over the country to open their doors and welcome new players. Some ideas for that would include a short beginners' clinic, an exhibition, and a recreational round robin event, singles or doubles. Snacks and drinks a must!

I suggest the date be Sept. 23, commemorating the anniversary of table tennis's Olympic debut in 1988, allowing us to tie it into the Olympics. Once the date is established, we do a nationwide campaign to get clubs to join in every Sept. 23, with lots of local promotion. Having the date this far in the future would give us time to promote it properly. Perhaps have a countdown thing on the web page counting down the days until Table Tennis Day. Additional benefit of Sept. 23: The initial day would be Sept. 23, 2016, a Friday, when many clubs are open and when people are free (not a work night). England already has a National Table Tennis Day – July 16. We could match them, but I like the Sept. 23 connection better. Either is fine with me.

ADDENDUM: As GMan pointed out below, the ITTF is scheduling a World Table Tennis Day on April 6, 2016. Let's join them!

"Scholer-Hodges Aspect Ratio Rule"
This is sort of crazy, but a certain person who I will not name (but he's infamously known as the Internet table tennis troll "sjan," plaguing online forums for something like two decades now, and now often going by the name "tthanahan") has been sending out mass emails and creating web pages that attribute things to me that I had nothing to do with. At the top of his list is the "Scholer-Hodges Aspect Ratio Rule," which was passed in 1998, and limits the ratio of width to height in long pips, which this person hates. The irony is that 1998 was the year I mostly took off from table tennis, working as a computer programmer. When I first saw my name connected by him to this rule I had to look it up because I didn't even know what the rule was at the time.

I've pointed out the falsity of his claim, but he doesn't care. Why does he do this? Because he can. There are crazy and dishonest people out there (this guy isn't the only one), and I unfortunately often make the mistake of trying to reason with them (silly me!), which only puts me on their radar. He also makes a lot of other claims about my beliefs, few of which are true, and attributes all sorts of quotes to me that I've never said. I've heard that Eberhard Schöler, the 1969 World Men's Singles Finalist whose name he also connects to this rule, was involved in creating the rule, which limits how soft and flexible long pips can be. Why this person connects me with this is bizarre. (He also refers to me over and over as "Rev. Hodges"!) 

New World Rankings
Notes on the Men's side:

  • Ma Long remains #1.
  • Fan Zhendong moves to #2, with Xu Xin dropping to #3. Fan was also #2 last year in September and October.
  • Dimitrij Ovtcharov (GER) moves to #4, ahead of Zhang Jike, breaking China's stranglehold on the top four spots since Ovtcharov was also #4 from April to August of 2014. The other top Chinese player is Fang Bo, #8.
  • Marcos Freitas (POR) moves to #7, with Timo Boll (GER) dropping to #8. Except for March, 2014, when Boll dropped out of the rankings for one month because of injury, Germany had had the top two European spots since November, 2011 when Samsonov was #8 and Ovtcharov #12, with Boll at #4. (I had to go through every monthly ranking, one by one, to get all this.)
  • Wong Chun Ting (HKG) jumped from #16 to #11.

Notes on the Women's Side:

  • Women's World Cup Champion Liu Shiwen recovers the #1 spot, which she also held from Jan. 2010 to Sept. 2010, and from Sept. 2013 to Sept. 2014. She's been top three since Feb. 2012.
  • Previous #1 Ding Ning drops to #3 and Zhu Yuling moves to #2. Ding had been #1 since Oct. 2014, and previously from Nov. 2011 to Aug. 2013. This is Zhu's highest ranking.
  • Li Xiaoxia returns to the ranking list at #6 after dropping off last month. She was #1 for eight months in 2011.
  • China has had the top three spots, and usually the top four, for a LONG time – I'm not going to go through all the records and try to find out the last time a non-Chinese player was in the top three. Suffice to say that none of the non-Chinese players in the top 20 have ever been in the top three.
  • Petrissa Solja (GER) jumped from #26 to #14.

2016 US Olympic Trials Tickets
Here's info. They will be held in Greensboro, NC, Feb. 4-6.

Invitation to the New York League Finals
Here's info – "The NYTTL finals 2015 are Sunday November 8th at the NYISC, New York Indoor Sports Club. NYISC is located at 1535 126th Street in College Point, NY.  Competition begins at 1:00pm, Semi-Final 1 is Spin New York vs NYISC A and Semi-Final 2 is Atlanta TTA vs NYISC B."

World Cup Always a Good Experience
Here's the article from Canadian Champion Mo Zhang.

Great Point between Stefan Fegerl and Kalinikos Kreanga
Here's the video (22 sec) from the Champions League.

Adam Bobrow Goes Court Side with Petrissa Solja at the 2015 Women's World Cup
Here's the video (57 sec) as he talks to the bronze medal winner. (Here's video – 91 sec – of Adam giving an exhibition I think in the U.S. with Coach Erick.)

Teqball – a Table for Soccer Table Tennis
Here's the picture!

Here's the video (4:30)!

Hit and Blow Balance
Here's the video (3 sec) – nice trick. I do the blowing ball trick all the time, and am thinking about coming up with a routine for the next trick shot competition.

Trick Shots
Here's the new video (2:21) from Kevin Korb – "Table tennis trick shots like you've never seen before!

Why Looping in Table Tennis is Bad
Here's the video (38 sec) by Nathan Hsu and Chris Zhang. A good looper can do it over and over until the point is over – and apparently well after!

Send us your own coaching news!

November 3, 2015

Tip of the Week
Distance from Table When Looping a Push.

My Weekend
This was one of the busiest four days I've ever gone through, Fri-Mon. Here's a rundown.

  • The usual private and group coaching – but a little less than usual as one student was away at a tournament, another was sick, and another had to cut a lesson short because of shoulder problems, so only about seven hours total.

    One interesting note – it seems a number of players I'm coaching are working on backhand serves, so I'm coaching that a lot. My backhand serve was my #1 serve for a short time in the late 1970s, but I had some arm problems that made that difficult and pretty much stopped using it. Now I'm using it a lot – in demonstrations! In fact, I've been coaching it so much that on Sunday I spent ten minutes practicing the serve to get it back to where it was way back when. The big breakthrough was I finally can do a backspin serve that comes back into the net – more of an exhibition trick serve than a player should use in a match (where it's better to drive the serve out so the second bounce is at or near the end-line), but it's good practice, and shows students just how much backspin one can put on the ball. (I can do this easily with my forehand serve.)

  • Spent 3.25 hours Friday night studying videos of one of our top players (and some of his opponents), and wrote a long analysis, along with a shorter version with recommendations. I kept track of unforced errors for the player and his opponent to show how he was losing on that (trying to force shots and losing focus), pointed out how he had several streaks where he lost a bunch of points in a row without taking a break or timeout (while his opponent had zero such streaks), as well as showing that he dominated when his first attack was to the middle (winning 78% of those points), while he roughly broke even when his initial attack was to the corners. I think this last stat caught him off guard as he seemed to prefer attacking the corners first.
  • Had a short coaching conference with a player at a tournament via phone, where I gave tips on playing a specific player. (Attack the middle! Move the serve around, including short to the forehand!)
  • Wrote the Tip of the Week and gathered links for this morning's blog.
  • Spoke on phone with USATT CEO for an hour, primarily on league plans and regional associations, and then finalized the prototype for a USATT Regional League. I sent it to the USATT League Committee for comment. (I chair the committee, alas.) I expect to go public with this before the Nationals in December, perhaps even in November.
  • Lots of email discussions with various people on: League plans; Regional Associations; What to do if two groups from same state want to run a State Championships (gist of it is the local clubs get to decide); and on the League Finals at the U.S. Nationals.
  • Worked out plans for a Korean translation of Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers. Now if I can only get it into Chinese!
  • Did the accounting for the past week's classes.
  • Did updates on the numerous web pages I maintain, both TT and SF.
  • 1.5 hours of private tutoring in English.
  • Wrote two new science fiction stories (one rather long, one rather short), finalized two stories I'd been working on before, read and critiqued two stories by others (in return for their critiquing mine), submitted eleven stories to new markets, and started outlining a new novel, "Campaign 2110: Scorpions in Space" (the sequel to Campaign 2100: Game of Scorpions) – lots of table tennis action in these SF novels! (When people ask me for help on things, I've run out of ways of explaining that I'm trying to run two or three careers – table tennis coaching and table tennis writing [is that one or two careers?], and SF writing, plus an exorbitant amount of volunteer time for USATT as well as MDTTC and others. I'm pretty much doing 12-16 hour days every day now. Thank God I don't sleep much…)
  • Went to the bank and post office, got a haircut, went grocery shopping, and still found time to see the movie "Our Brand is Crisis" on Saturday, watch The Walking Dead on Sunday night, read a few chapters of a novel, and do the entire Friday and Saturday Washington Post Crossword Puzzles!

World Women's Cup
It finished this past Sunday, in Sendai, Japan, with China's Liu Shiwen defeating Japan's Kasumi Ishikawa in the final. Here are some links.

ITTF World Cadet Challenge
It finished on Saturday, in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt.

  • USATT page for the event
  • ITTF page with complete results, articles, pictures, and video. 
  • Jack Wang ripping a forehand. (Someone should add a thought bubble and turn this into an Internet Meme! If no one else does, I might.)
  • Shot of the Tournament, by Adriana Diaz of Puerto Rico – it's a great rally, then watch her next-to-last shot – what the heck was that??? (And then the final backhand kill.)

Here are USA's main results.

Transitioning More Quickly
Here's the new coaching article by Han Xiao.

Footwork Tips
Here's the new coaching video (91 sec) from Samson Dubina.

In the Zone – Part 9
Here's the new coaching article on the mental side of table tennis. I linked to Parts 1-7 on Oct. 21, and Part 8 on Oct. 27.

Table Tennis Newsletter from Tom Lodziak
Here's the newsletter, from the English coach & player, with links to articles on:

Table Tennis Tips for Competition Play
Here's the coaching article(s) from Pongworld.

Will Shortz and Kai Zhang in The New Yorker
Here's the article – a must read!

Return Kim Gilbert's Serves for Charity
Here's info on the charity for brain tumors to be held this Sunday at Dockweiler State Beach in Playa del Rey. (Here's the non-Facebook version.) It's held in conjunction with a 5K/10K Fun Run for Kids and an Expo. Here's more info

World Championships of Ping-Pong
Here's the entry form for the USA Trials in Las Vegas, to be held on Monday morning, Dec. 14. (This is sandpaper table tennis.) Here's the USATT news item about it from last week. I plan on entering, but I may run into a problem – USATT has a board meeting scheduled all day on Sunday, Dec. 13, and for Monday morning. I'll have to wait and see what's scheduled on Monday morning.

11 Questions with Scott Gordon
Here's the USATT interview with the Classic Table Tennis Committee Chair and Hardbat Champion.

History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 16
Chapter 15 is now up! "1988: October Tournaments. 1988: Hall of Fame Open/1989 U.S. World Team Decided." Here's where you can buy copies of the books by Tim Boggan for yourself.

2015 South Shore Sports Butterfly Table Tennis Championships
Here are the results – click on links to see complete draw sheet.

Best Table Tennis
Here's the new highlights video (4:59), "…dedicated to all those who MAYBE not become world champions but for a moment have felt thus!"

Halloween Table Tennis

"Lubo" and the Most Dangerous Backhand on Earth
Here's the video (44 sec) as the coach wears a helmet for protection!

Toddler Pong
Here's the video (10 sec) – that kid's gonna be a champion!

French Table Tennis Commercial
Here's the crazy video – I think it's for a smart phone.

Send us your own coaching news!

November 2, 2015

Local schools are closed today for a "professional day" for teachers. As is my standard practice, when the kids are out of school, I'm off too! So no blog today, and the Tip of the Week will go up tomorrow. (I'll get a lot of work done.) But I'll leave you with this short, six-second repeating gif image of a player catching the ball on his racket, carrying it over, and smashing it. Legal??? Time to go practice this new shot!!!

Send us your own coaching news!

October 30, 2015

A Short History of Modern Receive
If someone were to write a History of Receive, I think there would be four major breakthroughs in modern professional table tennis.

  • 1960s: Looping (Europeans and Japanese, especially Hasegawa). Before this time top players mostly attacked a long serve with a regular drive (or they'd chop it), without much topspin. But as the loop was developed during the '60s, long serves became vulnerable to a loop. And so most top players were forced to switch to serving short most often, which are often not as tricky and doesn't have as much break. There were players who used loop-like shots before this, but until the '60s looping wasn't done at a particularly high level. Nobuhiko Hasegawa in 1967 was the first world champion with a modern loop. He also was the first of the great lobbers, plus had a big backhand.

    Here's vintage video (8:57) of the 1971 World Men's Team Final, Japan vs. China (China wins 5-2), with Hasegawa against chopper/looper Liang Geliang in the first match. At 5:10 Hasegawa goes up against Li Jinghuang, a lefty penhold attacker. (China wins 5-2.) Others shown include Zhuang Zedong, Shigeo Itoh, and Mitsuro Kohno. (I couldn't find any video from 1967, when Hasegawa won the Worlds.) Here's 14 sec in 1974 of Hasegawa against Li Zhenshi, who now coaches in California, with Hasegawa looping a number of times against Li's blocks and hits.

  • 1971: Short Push (Stellan Bengtsson). Before this time, most short serves were returned long, and so servers would serve and attack. A growing number of servers would start each rally with a serve and loop. Bengtsson of Sweden (now coaching in San Diego) perfected the art of returning short serves with a short push, taking away the server's attack. This forced servers to decide between long serves that could be looped, or short serves that could be pushed short. Others had used short pushes effectively, but Bengtsson popularized it, and used it to win the 1971 World Championships.

    Here's video (1:33 in) of Bengtsson of the final in 1971 against defending champion Shigeo Itoh of Japan, where Itoh serves short and Bengtsson drops it short, forcing the all-out attacker Itoh to push. Here's video (26 sec) of short pushing practice.

  • 1979: Forehand Flip (Hungarians). Players used forehand flips before this time, but the Hungarians brought it to a new level as their "secret" weapon at the 1979 Worlds. The Chinese often specialized in serving short to the forehand, since forehand receive was often trickier than backhand receive against a short ball, but the Hungarians, in secret sessions, had spent a huge amount of time preparing for this. When they played the Chinese in the final, the three Hungarians – Istvan Jonyer, Tibor Klampar, and Gabor Gergeley – went flip happy, putting the Chinese on the defensive as they won the Men's Team event against the favored Chinese. They also used the shot effectively when the Chinese returned their serves short, sort of an answer to the short receive revolution that had taken over the game since 1971.

    The following are all from the 1979 World Team Final, won by Hungary over China. Here's video (53 seconds in) of Jonyer forehand flipping crosscourt in the 1979 team final against Guo Yuehua, forcing the Chinese star off the table and putting him on the defensive that led to Jonyer's winning shot. Here's video (3:55 in) of Jonyer flipping into Gue's backhand, again putting him on the defensive and again setting up a winning shot. Here's video (47 secs in) where Klampar does a controlled down-the-line flip to Li Zhenshi's backhand, followed by a forehand winner. On the very next serve Klampar flips in a winner. Here's video of Gergeley vs. Li Zhenshi (I seem to be picking on him – sorry Li!), where in the very first point, after a couple short pushes, Gergely flips in a winner. And then, 55 secs in, Gergely steps around and flips the serve aggressive to Li's backhand to set up his attack.  (Here's a tutorial (7:28) on the forehand flip from Pingskills.)

  • 2009: Backhand Banana Flip (Wang Hao). Plenty of players had shots similar to this throughout history, such as Tibor Klampar and Anton Stipancic. But Wang Hao, a penholder, brought it to a new level as he dominated against short serves with this shot, using his reverse penhold backhand. The shot is essentially a wristy backhand loop over the table, with both topspin and sidespin. The shot was quickly copied worldwide by shakehanders. The shot was central to China's Wang Hao winning Men's Singles at the 2009 Worlds. China's Zhang Jike, a shakehander, made the shot central to his receive, and won the next two World Championships.

    Here's video (65 sec in) of Wang Hao backhand flipping Wang Liqin's serve in the 2009 World Men's Singles Final, taking away Wang Liqin's big forehand. Here's video (28 sec in) of Wang Hao backhand flipping in Ma Long's serve in the semifinals. Ma Long also has a highly effective backhand banana flip, as shown here (8 sec) in that same match against Wang Hao, but he'd have to wait six more years before he'd win the World Men's Singles Championship, where he'd also use this shot effectively – but by then, nearly every top player was doing it. Here's video (27 sec, including slow motion) of Zhang Jike's backhand banana flip. Here's my article (with link to video of Ma Long) on the backhand banana flip.

A Complete Game: Learn the Importance of Developing Many Skills
Here's the new coaching article from Samson Dubina.

Training at the Werner Schlager Academy: Tom Lodziak
Here's the new podcast (48:46) from Expert Table Tennis, featuring Tom Lodziak, "a Cambridge-based table tennis coach who blogs over at www.tabletenniscoach.me.uk and offers one-to-one coaching to players of all ages and abilities." In the episode he talks about:

  • How Tom got started in the sport in his mid-twenties.
  • Why he believes training camps are so important for player development.
  • All about the WSA including; the cost, the entry requirements, the accommodation, the daily timetable, the type of training and much more.
  • What Tom learnt from top coach Richard Prause.
  • About some of the other training camps available in the UK and Europe.
  • Tom’s top tip from his week of training at the WSA.
  • How you can get in touch with Tom to ask him any questions you may have.

Xu Xin's Serve
Here's video (23 sec, including slow motion replay) of the Chinese superstar practicing his serves. He was #1 in the world for a total of 16 months, including most of 2014, until dropping to #2 in March this year.

Women's World Cup
It starts today, in Sendai, Japan, Oct. 30 – Nov. 1 (Sunday). Here's the ITTF page where you can get complete results, articles, pictures, and video. (No USA players – Zhang Mo of Canada is representing North America for winning the North American Championships.) Here's the ITTF promotional video (59 sec). Here's a music video (38 sec) of the players training for the tournament. Here's Day One Point of the Day (49 sec), Caroline Kumahara against Petrissa Solja.

ITTF World Cadet Challenge
It's taking place right now in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, Oct. 23-31 (Saturday). Here's the USATT page for the event, and here's the ITTF page with complete results, articles, pictures, and video. 

Ask a Pro Anything - Kasumi Ishikawa
Here's the video (16 sec) where she asks you (in English) to "Ask me funny question." Selected questions will be used in an upcoming episode starring her of "Ask a Pro Anything" with Adam Bobrow. (Ishikawa of Japan is #5 in the world and seeded #4 at the Women's World Cup that started today – see above.)

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.

More Bouncing Balls on Racket Handles
Here's video (45 sec) as the player bounces it "only" 116 times – but 30 sec in, he manages to balance the ball on his racket handle as he takes a drink, and then continues!

Earls Court Ping Pong Bar Shut Down After Hipsters Attack Bouncer Who Told Them to End Their Game
Here's the article!

Great Chop, Spin Around, Behind-the-Back Shot!
Here's the video (30 sec, including slow motion replay).

Dog vs. Chinchillas
Here's the cartoon! Here's a close-up of the chinchillas. My brother had a pet chinchilla for several years – we let it run loose in the basement, where we both had our rooms. Eventually he moved out, and we donated it to the National Zoo, where he joined the others already there. (This would have been around the mid-1970s or so.) This is what a chinchilla really looks like – sort of half guinea pig, half rabbit, and about the same size as a large guinea pig.

Moose Pong

Send us your own coaching news!

October 29, 2015

State Championships and Why Table Tennis Leaders Often Don't Try New Things
The project is moving along pretty well – see the USATT news item from last Friday (also my blog for that day). As of that time we had 14 state championships in 2015 (plus 15 state games). Since Friday we've had volunteers stepping forward for another eight state championships in 2016. (I'm hesitant to name the states until they have gone through the sanctioning process.)

When you run a local tournament, you may get publicity. But think about it – what do you think will bring in more exposure, another MDTTC Open (or some other tournament), or the Maryland State Championships? Some monthly or even 4-star event in California or New York, or the California or New York State Championships? State championships are a must. I've always known this, but didn't really prioritize it until our new CEO, Gordon Kaye, convinced me that now was the time to focus on setting these up, and asked if I'd take charge.

Now here's the thing that many don't understand. The GOAL is state championship in all 50 states in 2016 (plus DC – which someone just volunteered to run, so cross that off the list). Ignoring state games, which usually aren't quite the same thing, we've gone from 14 to 22 state championships. Let's suppose, just suppose, we end up with 40 in 2016, and that we turn many of these into media events, bringing attention to our sport. Would this be a success? Of course!

But there will always be those mudslingers who will come forward at that time and say we've failed, since we didn't get all 50, that we're short ten. And that is a major reason why it has always been so hard to get USATT leaders to try new things, because even if their new project helps develop the sport, they will still get ripped for it, while leaders who do nothing rarely get ripped for their lack of initiative. It's the culture of our sport, to chop off the heads of those who stick their neck out, but it's gradually changing. Gordon, for one, has shown a willingness to try new things, instead of playing it safe like 100% of our past CEOs/Executive Directors, all of who accomplished little but stayed popular with many. As a member of the USATT board, I've told him a number of times that I'm more interested in the things that are successful in developing our sport then worrying about the ones that don't. We can always fix the latter, but if we don't try new things to develop our sport, we'll never develop our sport. (State championships is one part of the recipe. Others I'm working on are leagues and coaching programs, and regional associations to oversee these regional programs. More on these in the upcoming months.)

Putting all this aside, the goal is 50 states in 2016, and so once again I'm asking for volunteers. If you would like to run a state championship, see the USATT news item, and email me if you have any questions. You get to set the date, and you sanction it like any other tournament. (One thing I left out of the news item was a direct link to the TUSATT Tournament Directors Info Page. I've emailed to have that added.)

Using Scientific Techniques to Improve Your Sport Skills
Here's the coaching article, which focuses on table tennis. The part on visualization is something that cannot be over-emphasized.

Why Women's Table Tennis Deserves More Coverage
Here's the new article from MH Table Tennis.

2015 ITTF World Cadet Challenge LIVE on Thursday
Here's info. It's taking place right now in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, Oct. 23-31. Here's the USATT page for the event, and here's the ITTF page with complete results, articles, pictures, and video. 

Local Hero Fukuhara Playing for Tsunami Victims at Women's World Cup
Here's the ITTF article.

How Champion and Refugee Mufid is Inspiring Young Players
Here's the article from Table Tennis England.

Great Champions Table Tennis
Here's the video (4:08) showing champions as they win their titles.

Halloween Fun at Pong Club

Here's the article from Pong Club in South Austin. Rocky and shoe should visit more clubs!

A mysterious stranger is coming to Pong Club this Halloween. Between 3:00pm and 4:30pm, ping pong pro Rocky Wang of Pong Road will be taking challengers and fighting them off... with his shoe!

Everyone who challenges Rocky will receive a raffle entry for every point they score on him in an 11 point game. If you are USATT rated, Rocky will still take your challenge with his normal paddle.

The raffle winner will receive a 10-visit pass to Pong Club and a new Cobra or Python paddle. The first person to BEAT Rocky gets a 3 hour table reservation credit and Pong Club's undying respect.

If you show up on Saturday in costume or bringing Halloween candy for Pong Club Staff, your entry will be 50% off. We'll be ready for play at 11:15am that day so there will be plenty of time to practice for Rocky's arrival.

Ask a Pro Anything - Marcos Freitas
Here's the video (36 sec), where Marcos (world #8 from Portugal) does accents – American, French, and Australian!

Google a Rabbit
Here's some of what you get if you google "Rabbit Table Tennis Pictures." (There were a number of ball and paddle pictures – below are just some of them.)

Send us your own coaching news!

October 28, 2015

Coaching Tennis Players at Table Tennis
This keeps coming up. (I played tennis on the side for many years.) I'm coaching a ten-year-old who plays tennis and insists on using an almost tennis-style backhand. Whenever I get a new player who's played a lot of tennis, five things happen – one good, one sort of good, one bad, two very good.

  1. They have good forehands. Table tennis and tennis forehands are somewhat similar, though there are differences. In table tennis you stroke more from the elbow, i.e. arm snap, while tennis is more from the shoulder. (Both use body rotation about the same.) However, in tennis, players often raise the racket high during the backswing, a habit we have to fix for table tennis.
  2. They have good smashes against lobs. However, they often do them tennis style, with an overhead instead of turning sideways and doing a more conventional smash. Usually this isn't hard to fix, and tennis players are often a terror against lobs – they are especially good against any lob that lands a bit short, where they use their regular tennis overhead.
  3. They want to turn sideways for backhands. That may work for tennis, but not in table tennis for two reasons. First, you don't have time in a fast rally to turn sideways for both forehand and backhand shots. And second, turning sideways on the backhand moves the contact point well to the side, meaning there's a lot of distance between the forehand the backhand contact points – and so it's extremely difficult to cover the middle (shots at the elbow). Tennis players do pick up the backhand pretty quickly, but rarely have quick ones, and even years later you can almost always tell if a player started out as a tennis player by looking at their backhand stroke, where they will usually always turn a bit sideways.
  4. They are really good at putting topspin on the ball. They can do this on both the forehand and backhand – it's natural for them after playing tennis. This is sometimes difficult to teach a beginner, so it's always nice to have a tennis player who does this so easily.
  5. They move. In tennis, you have a full court to cover. In table tennis, you have less time but much less court. Tennis players are used to moving to stroke, and they do this in table tennis as well.

Pips and Anti
Here's the new coaching article by Samson Dubina. (He won the Millcreek Open – see below!) The article talks about the myths about these surfaces, and goes over how different players use these surfaces, such as Dan Seemiller, David Zhuang, Angela Guan, and John Wetzler.

Ask the Coach Show
Episode #181 (18:11) – Serving Styles (and other segments)

"I Never Thought It Would End This Way"
Here's an article from a soccer coach on the values we teach the kids we coach.

2015 ITTF World Cadet Challenge
It's taking place right now in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, Oct. 23-31. Here's the USATT page for the event, and here's the ITTF page with complete results, articles, pictures, and video. USA players competing (and representing North America, along with their Canadian counterparts) are Victor Liu, Jack Wang, Crystal Wang, and Grace Yang. The North American Boys' and Girls' Cadet Teams both lost in the semifinals to Team Europe. The NA Boys defeated Latin American for third, while the NA Girls lost to Asia in the playoff for third. Asia defeated Europe in the Boys' final, but in a shocker, Latin American Girls upset Asia in the semifinals and Europe in the final! Here's the Boys' draw and the Girls' draw. (Both show complete results of individual matches – click on team scores.)

World Championships of Ping Pong U.S. Qualifier Added to U.S. Nationals
Here's the USATT article. For those not in the know, this is for sandpaper table tennis. I'm a little flummergasted (yeah, I made up that word) because I want to play in this event but USATT is having a board meeting all day on Sunday, Dec. 13, and until roughly noon on Monday, Dec. 14. The Qualifier is Monday morning. I'm going to take a good hard look at the agenda and see if there's anything I consider important on Monday morning.

A Purpose for Ping Pong
Here's the article by Kim Gilbert on Ping Pong Charity events.

Women's Hardbat Events at the USA Nationals
Here's the USATT article.

Millcreek Open
Here's the USATT article by Sam Steiner.

How I Turn from Love to Hate Table Tennis
Here's the article. Some things to think about.

Top Ten Points at the Men's World Cup
Here's the video (6:16).

Savio College Exhibition with Mario Genovese

Incredible Shot by Michael Maze Against Ma Lin
Here's the video (37 sec, including slow motion replay) as he does an improvised running around-the-the net roll-on-the-table loop at the 2015 Tsingtao Tour. (Yeah, Ma Lin still plays, even if he isn't the best Ma anymore.)

Bouncing Ball on Racket Handle Challenge
On FridayMonday, and yesterday I linked to players setting records on this, and yesterday I wrote that 445 was the "ultimate record that will never be broken (yes, that's a challenge)." Well, challenge taken. Here's video (5:09) of 1109 in a row!!! Make sure to see the near miss and incredible recovery at 4:14. (I can't find the name of the person from the video or comments underneath.) Yes, a new record that will never be broken

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

Google a Gorilla
Here's some of what you get if you google "King Kong Ping Pong Pictures" and "Gorilla Table Tennis Pictures."

Send us your own coaching news!

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