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

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

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

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

August 19, 2015

Boosting, Part 2

Yesterday I posted about the problems with boosting. Here's a simple solution to the problem for USATT. (I've also added this as an addendum in yesterday's blog.) All we have to do is change the USATT Tournament Guide. Under Referee Responsibilities, it says:

5.h. Determines the legality of clothing and equipment. The USATT Dress Code and the red/black racket rule must be consistently enforced at all tournaments

If this were changed to the following, I think it would solve the problem. I’ve only added the last sentence, which I've bolded.

5.h. Determines the legality of clothing and equipment. The USATT Dress Code and the red/black racket rule must be consistently enforced at all tournaments. Any racket that passes the racket testing procedure would be considered legal for that tournament.

Tuesday's Coaching

We spent a lot of time on the backhand yesterday in the camp at MDTTC. The new players really picked it up quickly. The toughest case was the kid who played tennis, and kept turning sideways to hit backhands, tennis style. 

Perhaps my best coaching was with a kid who had an extreme backhand grip, with the soft part of the thumb on the rubber, leading to all sorts of problems. The grip was almost the same as the grip I started with 39 years ago, before Bob Kaminsky and Jim Mossberg convinced me to use a more normal grip. (And note that there's another kid I'm working with in the camp who has jerky strokes like me, as I wrote about yesterday, so that are two players who bring back memories of me long ago.) He was willing to make the change, and so we spent much of the day working that. In drills he quickly picked it up, but it'll take longer to do it in games. 

Our kids in the 7-9 age range are extremely strong - perhaps more depth than we've ever had at MDTTC. We're starting up a new weekly program just for them. It's amazing watching how fast they are improving. When I look at them I can't help but judge and sometimes rank them by 1) current level; 2) technique; 3) physical skills; 4) mental skills; and 5) drive. It's great to see how many of them rank high in all five. But the truth is there are full-time centers all over the country these days, with lots of junior programs and great coaches, and so what seems so good might just be the norm for a top-flight training center - and there are a number of such centers. (We're one of them!!!)

Xu Xin Receive Training

Here's the video (58 sec, including slow motion replay) – note how they don't play out the rally, and so he focuses on receive, getting a lot more receive practice per time than if you play out the points? I once watched at a U.S. Open as Eugene Wang (#1 player in North America) practice his receive for over 30 minutes, with his coach/practice partner just serving and grabbing another ball from a box to serve. This has been one of my pet peeves for many years, that so many coaches, even high-level ones, don't do this basic systematic receive training, and so their students are weaker on receive than those who do. (Side note – notice how Xu is sidespin receiving? Why don't more players use such basic variations?)

Ask the Coach

Episode #168 (30:45) - Benefits of Random Drills (and other segments).

The Best Training is Participating in Matches

Here's the article by USA junior star Victor Liu. 

Para Pan Am Games Final Results

Here's the USATT listing. Congrats to USA medalists:

  • Gold Medalists Ben Hadden and Tahl Leibovitz
  • Silver Medalists Ari Arratia, Lim Ming Chui, and Tahl Leibovitz/Lim Ming Chui
  • Bronze Medalists Pam Fontaine, Sherri Umscheid, and Jennifer Johnson/Cynthia Ranii. 

Turnkey Sports' Carolyne Savini Appointed to USATT Board

Here's the USATT press release

Karlsson Holds Hope for Another Swedish Number 1

Here's the interview with Peter Karlsson by Matt Hetherington. (Karlsson is a former world doubles champion, 4-time team champion, and European Men's Singles Champion.) 

DHS LED Table - the Next Revolution in Table Tennis?

Here's the video (55 sec). Personally, I'd find this highly distracting, both as a player and as a spectator. But maybe I'm living in the past?

11 Questions with Michael Levene

Here's the USATT interview

History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 16

The first four chapters are now online, care of Tim and USATT. Or you can go to TimBogganTableTennis.com and buy the volume yourself, or any of the other volumes! 

More Mike Mezyan Pictures

NOTE - If you are unable to see these pictures, all you have to do is join the Table Tennis Group - it's easy! Here are all the past, present, and (soon) future pictures he's collected. (I pick out his best ones for here - he has more.)

Xu Xin Wine

Here's a picture of the bottle of wine with his face on it that he received for his birthday from CCTV. (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

Mini-Mini-Pong

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

Santa vs. Reindeer

Here's the picture! Any suggestions for a caption?

***
Send us your own coaching news!

August 18, 2015

Table Tennis Boosting and Why Cheating is Rampant in Our Sport

Here's an article by Coach Jon Gustavason about the problems with boosting (and perhaps speed gluing) in table tennis. He wrote, "It also appeared that at least some of the players were using boosters or speed glue on their rackets. There is absolutely no way of knowing how much was taking place, since there was no attempt to test rackets and — even if there had been — current testing methods can’t detect every possible way that table tennis rubbers can be altered."

Next to the problems with hidden serves, this is the most abused rule in table tennis at the higher levels. The rules state, "The racket covering shall be used without any physical, chemical or other treatment." This makes both speed glue and boosting illegal. 

Boosting is the problem, not speed gluing. Boosting on a tensor sponge gives nearly the same effect but is essentially undetectable, and unlike speed glue, has little health risks. I'd be surprised if any but a tiny minority still speed glue. First, if they did, you can hear the unique sound it makes, and we'd know. Second, it's the top players who are most likely to look for such enhancements, and they know that their racket likely would be tested at the biggest tournaments, and so they wouldn't be able to speed glue at the tournaments that are likely most important for them. Third, and probably most important, I'm told that speed glue doesn't really work well with modern tensor sponges, which just about every top player uses. So what's the point? A tensored sponge that's boosted gives the effect of speed glue without being detectable. (Also, where would they get the speed glue? It's no longer being produced by manufacturers. They'd have to go back to the old bicycle glues used in the 1970s, which aren't as effective as the ones produced later for table tennis.)

Others have protested about the boosting problem. Here's an article from Tabletennista, "Jun Mizutani Boycotts ITTF For His Battle Against Illegal Boosters." (Mizutani is world #6.) It's a worldwide problem.

So it is boosting that is the problem. (Most estimates are that it increases spin and speed about 10%.) I'm not going to name names, but it's pretty much common knowledge that nearly every top player boosts. Not all - there are a few who simply won't do it because it's illegal. For example, Samson Dubina has gotten involved in this issue as he's a top U.S. player who is regularly handicapped because he won't "cheat," and so he doesn't boost, while most of his opponents likely do. When he complained to an official while I listened, the official simply encouraged him to boost himself, since others were doing so. Yes, as Samson can verify, the referee/umpire told him to cheat. The official also argued that few others are complaining – but that's because nearly all of the players are boosting, so of course they aren't complaining! (There's also a top player at my club who faces this same dilemma, as he refuses to boost since it's cheating – but he's getting tempted. "Come to the dark side, we have cookies and booster!")

It's somewhat similar to the problem with steroids and other performance enhancing drugs in sports. They weren't legal, but large number of players used them for decades despite the fact that they were both risking their health and their reputations by cheating. With boosting, there is little danger of either, and so it's pretty much commonplace. I've watched players routinely boost for years; many probably don't even know it's illegal. (Unlike speed glue, which is done just before playing, boosting is done well before you play, and lasts much longer.) 

I'm sure some are wondering just what boosting is. Sorry, I'm not going to tell you. I'm sure with a little research you can find it on your own. When/if it becomes legal (or essentially legal, as explained in #3 below), I'll post about it. 

So how can we solve this problem? I've already tried to solve it, but met up with bureaucratic roadblocks. Just like steroids before, many of the current generation of officials simply don't take the problem seriously - it's out of sight, out of mind thinking, plus they don't want the hassle of dealing with a mostly invisible problem - even though they are really hurting players who won't "cheat."

Let's look at this logically. I see three possibilities. 

  1. Ignore the problem, allow rampant cheating, and handicap those who won't cheat. Sorry, this isn't acceptable to me. 
  2. Spend extremely large sums of money on extremely sensitive equipment that'll detect boosting. (It would probably have to be developed for this express purpose.) Unfortunately, this just isn't affordable and so isn't feasible.
  3. Change the rules (or to resolve the problem in the U.S., just the USATT Tournament Guide) to specify that any racket that passes the racket testing procedure shall be deemed legal for that tournament. Then boosting becomes normal, and the only change is that the few top players who currently don't boost because it is illegal will no longer be handicapped since their boosted rackets would be declared legal.

Number three seems the only possible solution. Some would argue that they would still be cheating, since they have used a "treatment" on their racket – but any treatment is a matter of degree. Cleaning your rubber with water or racket cleaner is a treatment, but doesn't rise to the level that's considered a treatment. All this does is set the limit for what is considered to have been a treatment.

The rules also state that the serve begins with a "stationary" free hand, which is physically impossible without cooling the hand to absolute zero (about -460F or -270C), and so all serves are illegal – but common sense is applied instead, and the free hand is considered "stationary" if the hand roughly comes to a stop. So if one argues that a boosted racket that passes the racket inspection procedure is still illegal would also have to argue that all serves are illegal. They'd also have to argue that that it's better to close their eyes to the matter and allow rampant cheating (#1) than deal with the problem (#3).

One could respond by saying, "Prove all these players are boosting." Well, that's the problem, isn't it, when we set up an unenforceable rule, where players willing to break the rule get a huge advantage? That's how baseball avoided the steroids issue for years, by not enforcing the anti-steroid rules or testing for it, and then demanding proof that players were abusing the rule by using steroids. The difference is that they were able to put into place steroid testing procedures; we can't realistically put into place boosting testing procedures.

So I proposed #3 to a USATT official – the same one mentioned above, a major one in USATT - who I thought would back it, but he instead argued that it would mean making cheating legal, and offered no other option other than to continue to close our eyes to the actual cheating and unfairness that is going on. (I really, really hope he'll reconsider.) And so we're back at square one. At some point I plan to propose #3 to the entire USATT Rules Committee. Or perhaps they'll take independent action on their own or after reading this. (As a member of the USATT board, I could simply make a motion, but it would immediately be referred to the USATT Rules Committee, so I might as well start there. If that doesn't work, then I'd have to go to the ITTF Rules Committee. There must be someone out there who wants to solve problems!)

The amazing thing is there are many players out there who illegally hide their serves and illegally boost, and are proud of winning when they beat a player who doesn't do either.

I don't really object to a player doing these things if the opponent is doing them – and since nearly every opponent is boosting, I don't really object to players boosting. I object to those in charge of the rules not addressing the problem. Let's resolve this issue, okay?

ADDENDUM (added next day)

Here's a simple solution to the problem for USATT. All we have to do is change the USATT Tournament Guide. Under Referee Responsibilities, it says:

5.h. Determines the legality of clothing and equipment. The USATT Dress Code and the red/black racket rule must be consistently enforced at all tournaments

If this were changed to the following, I think it would solve the problem. I’ve only added the last sentence, which I've bolded. 

5.h. Determines the legality of clothing and equipment. The USATT Dress Code and the red/black racket rule must be consistently enforced at all tournaments. Any racket that passes the racket testing procedure would be considered legal for that tournament. 

Coaching on Monday

Meanwhile, on Monday we had Day One of Week Ten of our Eleven Weeks of Camps at MDTTC. We have a number of players who have come to all or nearly all of our camps, as well as the usual new ones. It's been a long summer, and we have another nine days of camp (four this week, five next week), and it's going to be a shock when it's all over and they go back to school, and I go back to normal coaching hours. (As well as going back to work on the various USATT initiatives I've started since I was elected to the USATT Board earlier this year.) 

Yesterday's highlights:

  • When I started playing in 1976 I had problems with jerky strokes. I worked with a kid who probably hit just like me back then. We spent much of the day smoothing out his forehand. 
  • One kid really likes serving fast serves. He had two sessions where he just served fast, aiming at my Gatorade bottle as a target. I may show him video of the world's fastest serve.
  • For the second time I felt a strain in my arm while demonstrating a smash for a student. I'm still wearing the arm brace to help protect the arm, but I do need to remember to warm up before demoing a smash.
  • During breaks I often watch forlornly as six or more kids play games on my computer. I never get to use it anymore!!! As I've explained to the other coaches, if I take it back to check email or write, I make six people unhappy to make one (me) happy. If I let them use it, six people are happy and only one is unhappy. Dang it, "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few."
  • We had the usual trip to 7-11 during the two-hour lunch break. The store manager gave us two free Slurpees. I took them back to the club with a huge number of straws. If you've never seen five kids with five straws all slurping from a single Slurpee, you haven't seen anything.

Ask the Coach Show

Episode #167 (22:34) - Antispin (and other segments).

Butterfly Easy Ball Review

Here's the video (3:35) from Table Tennis Daily. I'm relieved at the positive review as my club and I are both sponsored by Butterfly, and we've been anxiously awaiting the coming of the new plastic training balls.

ITTF Stars Award

Here's the ITTF press release. It will be held on Dec. 9 in Lisbon, Portugal.

European Stars Sweep at 2015 Hyson Chicago Open

Here's the article by Barbara Wei.

Sweden's Rocky Balboa

Here's the interview with Swedish rising junior star Hampus Soderlund, by Matt Hetherington.

Ten Reasons to Play Table Tennis

Part 1 and Part 2 (from Pong Universe).

Fang Bo vs. Timo Boll

Here's the video (4:11) with highlights of their match in the Chinese Super League. Fang puts on a show!!!

The Autobiography of a Ping Pong Ball: My Life with ADHD

Here's a new book on "table tennis" – except it's not about table tennis, it's about someone with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. (I've coached a number of players with ADHD – let's just say you have to be patient.)

Snoopy Wants to Play Table Tennis

Here's the cartoon! And here are two pictures of him playing: photo1 (with Woodstock) and photo2.

Green Ping-Pong Creature

Here it is - whatever it is! Any suggestions for a caption?

***
Send us your own coaching news!

August 17, 2015

Tip of the Week

Controlling a Match.

Weekend Coaching

Friday was the final day of last week's camp. We did a lot of basics work as well as introducing some new ones. I introduced forehand and backhand looping to two seven-year-olds. An eight-year-old had a major breakthrough. He can both loop and hit, but usually after looping a backspin he'd swat the next ball off the end. We've been playing a game where I feed multiball, alternating backspin and topspin to his forehand, and he has to loop the first, smash the second. If he makes both, he scores; if he misses either, I score. I'm guessing I was 30-0 against in this came, but on Friday he finally pulled it out, "beating" me 11-7. 

We finished the camp with the "candy game." I put stacks of candy on the table near the end-line, and fed multiball. The kids lined up, and anything they hit off the table, they got to keep. (For the younger beginners, if they hit the candy but didn't knock it off the table, they still got a piece. More advanced players who won five or more pieces were strongly encouraged to share with the youngest kids.) 

With three students away or unable to come in, I was off on Saturday!!! I'd like to say I studiously solved all of USATT's problems, wrote a new table tennis book, and put table tennis in the public spotlight with an 11-0 trumping of Donald Trump, but no – I spent the day reading, doing crosswords, and saw "The Man from U.N.C.L.E."

Actually, I did do one serous table tennis thing on Saturday – I created a Classic Table Tennis flyer that introduces players to the hardbat and sandpaper games, for distribution at major tournaments. (I'm normally a sponge player and sponge coach, but as many know I'm a hardbat player on the side.) I've sent it to the Hardbat Chair for review.

On Sunday I worked with a student who was having trouble covering his wide backhand after moving to his wide forehand. So we did the following. First, we focused on being light on the feet, as discussed in last week's Tip of the Week, "You Can Be Light on Your Feet." Then we did a lot of backhand to backhand practice where he focused on keeping the ball wide to my backhand, which takes away the angle into his forehand, and so makes it easier to cover the corners. And then we did a lot of multiball where I randomly fed to the corners, forcing him to move side to side and cover those wide angles, including the wide backhand.

We also worked on his forehand smash. I pointed out that his smashes all sounded different, because he didn't have a consistent contact, and so his shots scattered all over the place. We worked on replicating the "perfect" smash, with the feel and sound of the contact the same every time. 

In the junior class, for some unexplained reason, the kids were talking about spin serves when we started, and wanted to work on them. So instead of doing serving practice at the end as we usually did we started with it. We ended up practicing spin serves for twenty minutes. One was particularly interested in backhand serves, and had seen Dimitrij Ovtcharov's backhand serve. So we worked on that. 

In the adult training session we did a lot of practice on serve and attack. The server would serve backspin, the receiver pushed back long, and the server looped, forehand or backhand. We did a number of variations, starting with simple ones where the receiver would push to a pre-arranged spot and then on to random pushing to either side. In the last drill I had the receiver focus on "messing up" the server by aiming one way and then quick-pushing the other way. This gave the servers problems at first, but most gradually realized what I kept emphasizing, which was they had plenty of time to wait to see where the ball was going, and then simply move to the ball, backswinging as they moved, and loop it. 

After the class a number of the players stayed late and tried out each other's rackets. There might be some racket purchases coming up!

Pushing

Here's the new coaching article by Han Xiao, with a link to video (2000 Olympic Men's Final between Waldner and Kong Linghui). 

Reading Spin of Your Opponent's Serves

Here's the coaching video (9:21). (This is from January, but I don't think I ever linked to this.) 

Homer Brown in Sports Illustrated's Faces in the Crowd

Here's a picture of the page. He's just played in his 47th consecutive US Open. Richard McAfee, David Sakai, and Dell Sweeris are also mentioned.

Why We Need Real Fan Superstars

Here's the article from Matt Hetherington. "Is part of the reason the sport is dying that we have no one to cheer for?"

Pong Adventure

Here's a new blog entry from globe-trotting ponger Matt Hetherington, "Don't Enjoy the View Through an Office Window." Below that is his previous one, "Why I Gave Up 9 to 5 Working Hours!" (That's two MHTableTennis segments here in a row!)

Short Interview with Waldner

Here's the video (22 sec) as he talks of him growing up since age two with ping-pong balls. (There's actually a longer interview, but you have to pay for that.)

Double-Multiball Training of a Chopper

Here's the video (31 sec) as two coaches feed multiball to this chopper.

Winner Off an Edge Ball

Here's video (35 sec) as Dimitrij Ovtcharov lobs on the edge, and Patrick Baum, light on his feet, still manages to rip a winner.

Great Points Between Timo Boll and Defensive Star Koji Matsushita

Here's the video (2:13).

More Mike Mezyan Pictures

NOTE - If you are unable to see these pictures, all you have to do is join the Table Tennis Group - it's easy! Here are all the past, present, and (soon) future pictures he's collected. (I pick out his best ones for here - he has more.)

Jean-Michel Saive – Benjamin Rogiers Exhibition

Here's the new video (33:11). Saive's a great showman – this generation's Jacque Secretin?

Waldner and Persson on a Mini-Table

Here's the video (5:21).

High-Table Pong?

Here's the picture!

Ai Fukuhara in a Game Show?

Here's the video (9:46) as she and others do various trick shots. It's all in (I think) Japanese, but it's funny to watch, with an over-excited narrator.

Classroom Chalk-Smacking Pong

Here's the video (7 sec)!

***
Send us your own coaching news!

August 14, 2015

Thursday Camp

Yesterday was Day Four of Week Nine of MDTTC's Eleven Weeks of Summer Camps. I've now coached over 200 of these five-day camps, or over 1000 days - nearly three years. That's 6000 hours of camp. (Here's a group picture from yesterday morning. It's missing some of our locals who sometimes come in just for the afternoon session.)

For once I didn't have any additional private coaching or classes, so it was "only" six hours of coaching. At this point the beginning players I'm working with have at least decent strokes and timing, and so can hit backhands and forehands, and can serve. I only wish we had videos of their play on Monday to compare with now!

On Monday, the youngest player in the camp had about a dozen turns at multiball, about 4-5 minutes each time, all forehand work - and throughout it all, she only hit two balls on the table. On Thursday, she hit five in a row. The crowning achievement? She smacked the Gatorade bottle with "worm juice," and so I had to drink it, to her great glee.

We had a new six-year-old in the camp. Let's just say this player had better concentration than just about anyone in the camp – at age six – and with extremely good hand-eye coordination and racket control for that age. That's a triple whammy – if this player takes private lessons, as the father is looking into, this could be interesting. (This player also made me drink lots of worm juice. But the player had an almost icy determination to hit the bottle to make me drink it, while others that age were more likely giggling between shots.) 

A big breakthrough for one player - for the first time he succeeded in serving backspin so it came back into the net. This isn't a serve you normally use in a match - you usually want to drive the ball out a bit more - but it's a great exercise to create a heavy backspin serve. If you're a serious player, you should learn to do this – it'll force you to contact the ball more finely, and lead to spinnier serves.

I spent a lot of time working with one player who, strangely, had an excellent forehand but basically just stuck his racket out with hunched shoulders to hit backhands - it was pretty bad. But he understood this, and soon he was hitting backhands much better, at least in multiball and drills. Hopefully this'll translate into matches soon. 

During break a 2050 player in the camp challenged my clipboard. I was a bit hesitant as I hadn't used it in a while and wasn't sure I could still move around. I fell behind 4-8 in the first game, then led 10-9. I fought off four game points before winning that game, and ended up winning four straight games before break ended. I'll likely be challenged tomorrow - and now the player knows what he's getting into! (I'm normally about 2100 with a clipboard, a little weaker against pips-out players, but it does take me at least a game sometimes to get into it.)

Lily Zhang's Six Tips for Improving Your Game

Here's the article  in ESPN Magazine by the USA Olympian and Women's Singles Champion.

What I Learned From Playing in China

Here's the article by Matt Hetherington.

Short Receive and Follow-up Multiball Drill

Here's the video (60 sec) where the coach feeds one ball and plays one random shot afterwards, and then grabs the next ball. An excellent drill.

Ask the Coach Show

No new episodes today, but here's their archive, with all 166 episodes. At 20 minutes per video, you can zip through all of those in just 55 hours!

Capital Area Team League

Don't forget to enter by Sept. 7 if you live in the Maryland/Virginia/DC region! (I'm now the webmaster for the league, though my webmastering skills are a bit dated.) There's a new "Players Looking for Teams" page, so you can put your name there if you want to play but don't have a team. (It's empty right now since it just went up.)

USATT Insider

Here's the new issue, which came out Wednesday morning. 

Got a Trick – Did a Top Shot?

Here's where you can enter the Butterfly "TTS Award – Tricks & Top Shots" contest for Aug-Sept 2015. "We and the world are looking forward to your video with a surprising trick shot, an awesome top shot or “just” an exciting rally."

ITTF Has Big Plans for Table Tennis

Here's the article from Tabletennista.

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.

China Open Videos

Here are links to 17 of them, including most of the big ones.

Amazing Table Tennis

Here's a new highlights music video (8:38).

Both Lefty and Righty on a Robot

Here's the video (3:56). 

Table Tennis Trick Gif

Here's the repeating Gif image of a player tricking his opponent – why not put this on your table tennis page? (I linked to a video of this before, but not the repeating Gif image.)

More Mike Mezyan Pictures

NOTE - If you are unable to see these pictures, all you have to do is join the Table Tennis Group - it's easy! Here are all the past, present, and (soon) future pictures he's collected. (I pick out his best ones for here - he has more.)

"Here's an Empty Table"

Here's the cartoon!

***
Send us your own coaching news!

August 13, 2015

Getting a Grip: The Backhand is Back!!!

Yesterday in our ongoing summer camps I taught (blah blah blah), and then we worked on (blah blah blah), and the players were really excited when we did (blah blah blah). And after six hours of camp, I did another two hours of private coaching, where we (blah blah blah). Yeah, let's get through all the boring stuff, and get to the interesting part!

My game has slowly deteriorated over the last few years. Much of this is simply age – I'm 55 (yikes!). Both the muscles and knees won't let me move like I used to. But other parts of my game have also gone done, including my backhand. It used to be a wall when it came to blocking and counter-hitting, which made me a pretty good practice partner. But I've spent much of the last year or two often staring at my racket, wondering where the old magic was.

And then, yesterday, while hitting with a player in a private session, the backhand magic was back!!! Or more specifically, my old grip was back. Somehow, over the last few years, I'd changed my grip. I've always gripped it with my middle finger slightly off the handle, with the racket resting on the first knuckle. Somewhere along the way I'd lowered the middle finger down with the other two fingers. I'd sort of noticed this in the past, but didn't think it made much difference. Boy, was that wrong!!!

Yesterday I raised it back to where I'd done it before, as I'd done other times, and it didn't help. Then, fiddling with my grip, it fell into place, with the key (for me) being the racket rested on that middle finger knuckle when I hit backhands. Bingo – and suddenly the old backhand was back. I think my eyes went a bit wide when the old backhand returned after perhaps a two-year leave of absence. Suddenly I could do little wrong as I was counter-hitting and blocking with near 100% efficiency. It improved my forehand blocking as well, and probably much of the rest of my game.

I think I'd changed the grip inadvertently because I do so much multiball training when I coach. For that, it's a bit easier to have all three fingers gripped around the handle. And so, without realizing it, I'd gradually adopted that grip for my regular play. If I were still playing competitively – I'm retired from tournaments, though who knows! – I'd have probably figured this out long ago, but as a coach I'm more focused on who I'm playing than on my own game. Also, as I've blogged in the past, most technique problems come in twos – if one part of a stroke is wrong, it affects at least one other part, and to fix it, you have to fix both. In this case, I had to both change the middle finger position and then rest the racket on the knuckle.

I had a similar problem with my hardbat game a number of years ago. I normally play sponge, but at major tournaments where I'm mostly coaching I often enter the hardbat events. At the Open or Nationals I've won Hardbat Singles twice, Over 40 Hardbat four times, and Hardbat Doubles – my specialty! – 13 times. But there was a period of about two years where I was struggling, losing to everyone. Then I discovered I'd been using my sponge grip when playing hardbat, when I'd always used an extreme forehand grip for hardbat. I switched, and started winning again.

Note to self (and readers): Check your grip!!!

Para Pan Am Games

They are in Toronto, Aug. 7-15, with table tennis from Aug. 8-13. (I expect there'll be a feature article at the end on all the USA winners.) Here are the results so far:

Ask the Coach Show

Episode #166 (18:40) – Serving Strategy (and other segments).

Coach Sets the Bar

Here's the USATT article featuring Coach Yang Yu from the Austin TTC.

USATT Online Store

For those of you who missed it before, USATT now has an online store. Why not do some shopping?

Training Like a Pro

Here's 24 seconds of Samson Dubina doing forehand-backhand training.

Fan Zhendong Technique in Slow Motion

Here's the video (77 sec).

Big Backhand Punch by Panagiotis Gionis

Here's the video (13 sec) as he catches Saive off guard.

Great Chopper Turns Attacker Point

Here's the video (23 sec) of chopper/looper Joo Saehyuk (KOR, world #13) vs. Marcos Freitas (POR, world #10).

Fake Smash and Drop Shot

Here's the video (8 sec) of Adam Bobrow pulling a fast one.  

"Do Yourself a Favor and Take Up Ping-Pong"

Here's the cartoon!

Welcome to the Wonderful World of Table Tennis

Here's the hilarious video (5:39)!

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August 12, 2015

Tuesday Coaching

Yesterday's focus for the new kids was the backhand. We started with forehand practice to re-enforce what they'd learned the day before. Then, after a short demo, I had them line up and shadow practice backhands. Then it was lots and lots of multiball. Some of the kids are too short for a standard backhand, and so have to move their contact point to the left side of their head or they wouldn't be able see the ball, with the racket in the way. 

I had one scare. Near the start of the morning session one kid I was feeding multiball to kept popping up his backhand. To show that they were too high, I smashed one very hard - and felt a twinge in my shoulder. I hadn't warmed up, since I was only feeding multiball. I was worried all day about it. I had a private coaching session after the camp where I hit live with a pretty strong player, and the shoulder was fine. (Note to self: be careful!!!)

As usual, we did a lot of serving practice. Older and more experienced players often find serving practice boring, but to younger kids, it's both a struggle and a challenge, and just as interesting as rallying. To make things even more interesting, I often put targets on the table, or bring out the net-height device that puts a bar over the net (height adjustable) and they have to serve under it. (John Olsen created this. Here's a picture with the bar set low, and set high.)

Toward the end of a session I introduced them to the serving game: 3-4 players (without rackets) line up on one side of the table, with a paper cup on the table in front of each of them. Another player serves ten times, trying to serve fast and hit the cups or at get the serve past the players. The players on the far side try to catch the serve. If they do, the server gets zero points for that serve. If the serve gets past them and hits the floor, the server gets a point. If the serve hits a cup and then the floor, the server gets three points. 

During the lunch break I did a quick run to Toys 'R' Us and bought a nerf football for the kids to throw around during break in our parking lot, without damage to the cars. They had a good time with it at first while it was cloudy, but then the sun came out, and under the sudden barrage of photons they retreated back to the club's air conditioning. (Side note - the air conditioning at MDTTC is set considerably higher than it was early in the summer, so it's nice and cool inside.) 

After the break in the afternoon session I introduced a new "game" that I hadn't done in years. I lined up five balls on the floor, and challenged the kids to pick up all five with a ball net with one scoop. When they were able to do five, we upped it to six, and so on. I demoed that I could do ten. After a few tries, Audrey, age six, matched it, getting all ten with one scoop!!!

After the session I had a one-hour private session with Sameer. We did the usual routine, with lots of footwork and looping from both wings, and had him do a lot of attacking into my backhand block, which suddenly came alive. We did a bunch of multiball, focusing on looping against backspin, backhand smashing, and random topspin. Then we played several improvised games, where he served backspin, I pushed to his backhand, and he backhand looped anywhere, and then we played out the point. 

Forehand and Backhand Flip

Here are two new videos showing the forehand flip (68 sec) and backhand banana flip (69 sec). Players often practice these only in games. Why not take turns feeding multiball to each other, as in this video, to work on these and other specific techniques?

Ask the Coach Show

Episode #165 (33:50) - Improving Your Game Play (and other segments).

Para Pan Am Games

They are in Toronto, Aug. 7-15, with table tennis from Aug. 8-13. Here are results so far:

New USATT Perks Program

Here's the USATT article. Here's the first paragraph: "USATT is proud to announce the rollout of our new discount program. This Thursday you will be receiving a welcome email from PerkSpot. Your personal account will already be established. All you have to do is setup your unique password, enter your membership number and you are on your way to saving!"

World Theatrical Premiere of Documentary TOP SPIN in Los Angeles on August 21

Here's the USATT article

Training at the Werner Schlager Academy in Austria

Here's 15 seconds of players in training. And here's 43 seconds of world #39 Stefan Fegerl training there.

Zhang Jike, Fan Zhendong, and Fang Bo Preparing for the China Open

Here's the video (50 sec), set to music.

Fast Play

Here's video (8 sec) of some really fast and wristy shots!

More Mike Mezyan Pictures

NOTE - If you are unable to see these pictures, all you have to do is join the Table Tennis Group - it's easy! Here are all the past, present, and (soon) future pictures he's collected. (I pick out his best ones for here - he has more.)

Popeye Ping-Pong

Here's the cover of an old Popeye comic book, where you find out what comes out of a ball when you crack it. (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

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August 11, 2015

Tip of the Week

You Can Be Light on Your Feet. (Includes links to videos.)

Coaching and Other Activities

It's been a busy few days. Here's a quick rundown.

FRIDAY AND SATURDAY
I did little coaching these days, and instead spent nearly the entire time glued to my desk. I gave pretty much a grocery list of things I'm working on in my July 23 blog (before I left for my nine-day writing workshop "vacation"), and I basically jumped from one thing to another for two days. I also started work on rewrites of the three stories I had critiqued at the writing workshop. 

SUNDAY
It was a rather long day. It started with several hours of private coaching. We're doing some technical adjustments for one of my students, a rising junior, and so spent a lot of time on that. (Shorter, more forward stroke, and related issues.) Then came a junior class, where we did a lot of fundamental work, and then spent a lot of time on serves. Then came my Sunday night training session, where we had eight adults training together. It's pretty physical - lots of footwork and attacking drills. (But the attacking drills means that the other player is working on his defense and ball control, mostly blocking.) With Raghu Nadmichettu assisting as a practice partner and moving from player to player about every ten minutes, everyone got lots of good practice. We finished with serve practice, where I emphasized the smooth acceleration of the wrist and fine grazing motion, which leads to tremendous spin.

MONDAY
This was Day One of Week Nine of our summer camps. (There will be eleven weeks in all, Mon-Fri all summer through Aug. 28.) After working the previous few days mostly with more advanced players, this was a switch as I spent most of the day working with beginners in the 6-8 age range - plus a memorable four-year-old. (I won't go into that here!) It's a great group, and given their ages, they worked pretty hard - but they played even harder. They had a memorable hide and seek competition during break - MDTTC, at 10,000 square feet and lots of barriers, tables, couches, etc., provides a lot of hiding places. There was also a memorable paper airplane competition during lunch break, which somehow morphed into a "zombies attacking others with paper airplanes" that's not really possible to explain - you had to be there.

I probably emphasize serve practice more than other coaches. This is both 1) I believe serve and receive are the most under-practiced aspects of the game; 2) good serves allow a player to dominate play, develop their shots faster, and so raise their level - which has the double whammy of allowing the player to compete with stronger players, thereby improving their play even more; and 3) if you develop good serves, you understand them, and so learn to return them better. I'm in a constant state of disbelief at the lack of serving skills by many players who train long hours but never reach their potential because of this. 

One player was so shy that he/she completely ignored me and the ball at first, just letting ball after ball go by while refusing to even look up. I did everything I could to get the player's attention, but to no avail. I'd already gone over the basic forehand as a group, and had them all shadow practice. I kept going to the player's side of the table to get the player's attention, but to little avail. After several minutes trying to get any reaction, I gave up, and went to the next player. The player's brother told me the player was super shy and had a short attention span. As the day went on, the shy player got better, but it was a long, gradual struggle. The player did like doing ball pickup, which helped, but was a bit oblivious to those hitting on tables, and I had to keep shooing the player away from players so the player wouldn't get hit by someone's backswing. By the end of the day the player was beginning to lose the shyness, and I have a feeling as the week goes on I'm going to miss the shy version. (Notice how I cleverly/awkwardly kept saying "the player" to hide the player's gender?)

Para Pan Am Games

They are in Toronto, Aug. 7-15, with table tennis from Aug. 8-13. Here are USA results:

China Open

It finished this past weekend in Chengdu, China. Here's the ITTF home page for the event, with results, lots of articles, and a link to videos. Here are a few interesting video highlights and articles:

  • Men's Final: Ma Long vs. Xu Xin (4:40)
  • Women's Final: Ding Ning vs. Zhu Yuling (4:10)
  • Video (6:16) of Chuang Chih-Yuan's upset of Zhang Jike in round of 16
  • Two articles from Tabletennista on Japanese sensation Yuya Oshima, who made the semifinals of Men's Singles with wins over Dimitrij Ovtcharov, Koki Niwa, and Chuang Chih-Yuan before losing 4-3 in the semifinals to Ma Long.
  • Video (32 sec) of spectacular Ma Long – Chen Weixing exhibition point, with Chen lobbing from the side stands, and then they switched side (Ma was up 3-0 and 9-4).
  • Video of incredible rally (19 sec) between Mu Zi (CHN) and Ai Fukuhara (JPN), with Fukuhara up 12-11 match point in the seventh in the round of 16. (Fukuhara would still win, 14-12.)

Using Misdirection

Here's the new coaching article by Han Xiao, with a link to video.

Good, Better, Best!

Here's the new coaching article by Samson Dubina.

Eight-Shot Sequence

Here's video (11 sec) of Samson Dubina in a drill. It's a good illustration of forehand and backhand loops. It's also a great example of this week's Tip of the Week (see link at top) – see how Samson bounces slightly between each shot as preparation for the next move.

11 Questions with Samson Dubina

Here's the USATT interview. (Is today Samson Dubina Day? That's three Samson segments in a row!)

Ask the Coach Show and the Service Rule

Episode #164 (24:50) – Changing the Service Rule.

At 9:05, they talk about my serving rule proposal to solve the problem of hidden serves, but they didn't cover it very well, alas. When initially giving the proposal, they quoted the current rule but forgot to mention the actual proposal, so viewers will be confused. The basic idea is that the ball not only shouldn't be hidden from the receiver, but also should not be hidden from the net and its upward extension. (They seemed unsure if this was covered in the current serving rules – it isn't. They may have been thinking about the rule about the non-serving arm – rule 2.6.5.) I've blogged about this a number of times and have been corresponding with an ITTF official on this who said he would propose it – but told me it'll probably take some time. Here is the actual proposal, with the proposed new wording bolded.

Current Rule:
02.06.04: From the start of service until it is struck, the ball shall be above the level of the playing surface and behind the server's end line, and it shall not be hidden from the receiver by the server or his or her doubles partner or by anything they wear or carry. 

Proposed Rule:
02.06.04: From the start of service until it is struck, the ball shall be above the level of the playing surface and behind the server's end line, and it shall not be hidden from the receiver[, or any part of the net and its upward extension,] by the server or his or her doubles partner or by anything they wear or carry. 

I’ve tested this out at my club along with many others, and it solves the problem. If you try to hide the ball from an opponent in a normal ready position, it’s obvious you are hiding the ball from at least part of the net (which includes the net posts). For example, if a righty serves to a righty, there is almost a 90 degree angle in the line of sight from the ball to the opponent, and the ball to the left net post. When serving to a lefty the angle is still close to 45 degrees unless the lefty goes into an extreme forehand position.

Table Tennis Intelligence

Here's the new article from Jon's Table Tennis Training.

USATT Athletes of the Month – July

Here's the USATT article. They are Yue "Jennifer" Wu, Nikhil Kumar, and the 2015 Pan Am Women's Team (Lily Zhang, Jiaqi Zhang, and Yue "Jennifer" Wu).

USA's Victor Liu Wins Cadet Team Gold

Here's the ITTF article – he teamed with China's Xu Yingbin to win at the Hong Kong Junior and Cadet Open.

Ask a Pro Anything

Here's the video interview (3:09) of reigning World Women's Singles Champion Ding Ning, by Adam Bobrow.

Interview with Zhang Jike

Here's the video (3:32), in Chinese with English subtitles. It starts with Zhang wearing a huge Panda mask!

'Bionic' Maryland Grad Has the Heart of a Competitor

Here's another article on Navin Kumar, "The Bionic Man." (I'm his coach!)

ALS Ping Pong Ball Bucket Challenge?

Here's the article from Table Tennis Nation.

Playing Off a Rebound Board

Here's the video (1:52) – not bad!

Matt Kuchar and Samson Dubina at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational

Here's the article and video (8 sec and 4 sec) of the golf star taking on the table tennis star. Matt's pretty good!

Ping Pot Mat

Here's the picture – "It likes to go between table and hot pot." (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

Humorous Table Tennis Pictures and Video

Here's a French page with lots of humorous table tennis pictures and videos. (I've previously linked to most of them in my blog.)

Ban Junk Rubbers in Table Tennis

Here's the hilarious animated video (3:47)!

***
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August 10, 2015

Yikes! I thought I was off this morning, but I just got called in to coach at our MDTTC camp. I'll be there all day, coaching from 10AM-6PM, plus some private coaching afterwards. So no blog this morning. The Tip of the Week will also go up tomorrow. (Normally, when I know I'll be coaching in the morning, I do most of the blog the night before.)

August 7, 2015

Capital Area Team League and Other Team Leagues

If you live in the Maryland/Virginia/DC area, it's time to sign up for the Capital Area Team League! Deadline is Sept. 7 (though the page currently still lists it as July 31). Season One had 73 players on 13 teams; why not join us for Season Two? There's nothing better than competing on a team, with your teammates screaming for you every point!  

As I've blogged before, I now chair the USATT League Committee. (I'm too busy during the summer to do much work on this, but will be getting very busy starting in September.) I'm working setting up a prototype team league, using my experience with the Capital Area Team League and learning from other team leagues (both USA and overseas, and table tennis and other sports) to create a league that can be set up in other regions throughout the U.S. I'm also taking over as webmaster for the Capital Area Team League – I'll be working on that much of today. (I'm on the Capital Area Team League committee, along with Stefano Ratti, John Olsen, and Richard Heo.)

Team Leagues are why countries in Europe measure their memberships often in the hundreds of thousands, with huge league numbers in countries like Germany and England. USA needs to follow in their footsteps, but it's going to take time to build it up. But it won't happen until we create such a prototype league that can spread to all regions.

But there will always be the naysayers who can't get imagine anything beyond the status quo.  

  • In 1992 I co-founded the Maryland Table Tennis Center with Cheng Yinghua and Jack Huang. We were told there weren't enough players to support a full-time training center. We're now in our 24th year, with seven full-time coaches.
  • For years I advocated more full-time training clubs in the U.S., but I was told there aren't enough players in the U.S. to support more than a few. Now there are about 80 of them, with more popping up regularly. There were no more than ten just eight years ago.
  • For years I've argued that if we had more juniors training seriously, we could successfully compete internationally, but I was told there would never be enough juniors training seriously in the U.S. to compete internationally. Now we have far more juniors training seriously and our top juniors are successfully competing internationally. Our top cadets can compete with any team outside China, which would have been mind-boggling to us just a few years ago.)
  • For years I've argued that if we promoted the U.S. Open and Nationals we could break out of the "rut" of the usual 600 players each year, but I was told there weren't enough serious players in the U.S. to get more. Now we are getting 1000+ players.
  • When I was first hired as editor of USATT Magazine I was told that we'd saturated the advertising market and couldn't get more ad revenue. I tripled the ad revenue in four years. In my second tenure I was told the same, and I tripled it again in eight years. (USATT Magazine has been replaced by USATT Insider.)
  • For years I've argued we need Team Leagues all over the U.S. like they do overseas, and again I'm told there aren't enough players in the U.S. to support more than a few. Stay tuned!!! (And why not be part of the solution – contact me if you are interested in running a Team League in your area.)

Here are Team Leagues you can join – assuming you are within driving distance! Let me know if there are any I missed.

Ask the Coach

Episode #163 (24:34) – Waldner's Movement and other segments.

Forehand Pendulum Serve

Here's video (5:11) from a few years ago, but I don't think I've ever linked to it. It's a tutorial on the forehand pendulum serve, titled, "Learning Ma Lin Serves Step by Step." (Ma Lin was one of the best servers in the world before he retired a few years ago.) There doesn't seem to be sound except for music near the end, but the instructions are captioned on the screen and demonstrated.

Inside Information: Learn How to Improve Your Ball Placement

Here's the new coaching article from Samson Dubina. (I linked to his site on Wednesday, but not directly to this new article.)

Zhang Jike's Infamous Backhand Loop in Slow Motion Against Fang Bo

Here's the video (15 sec) from Matt Hetherington (currently training in China).

Sam Walker: Entering the Bundesliga

Here's the new podcast (28:18) from Expert Table Tennis.

China Open

Here's the home page where you can follow the action in Chengdu, China, Aug. 5-9. (Breaking news: Zhang Jike just lost in the round of 16 to Chuang Chih-Yuan of Taiwan!)

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.

Jorgen Persson in a Reality Show

Here's the article from Tabletennista.

Playing on an LCD Table?

Here's video (8:51) of Samsonov playing Ma Long on a LCD table in the recent Asia vs. Europe Challenge. See the discussion below, and here. It must be pretty distracting playing on what's essentially a huge TV screen that constantly changes!

Great Hand-Changing Point

Here's the video (24 sec) of Cuba's Andy Pereira (world #172) switching hands and winning the point against Portugal's Marcos Freitas (world #10) in this battle of lefties.

Great Exhibition Point Between Timo Boll and Jorgen Persson

Here's the video (62 sec).

The Feel of Table Tennis vs. Reality

Here's the article and rather weird video from Table Tennis Nation.

Frank Caliendo Takes on Donald Trump

Here's the video (1:49) as USATT member Frank (USATT #85108, rating 1665, from Tempe, AZ) impersonates The Donald for ESPN. (Frank's been to my club a few times when doing stand-up locally, and I got to play doubles with him once.)

So, who would win in a table tennis match between these two, Frank or The Donald

"Must This Family Always Talk Sports at the Dinner Table?"

Here's the cartoon!

Non-Table Tennis - The Critique Circle, i.e. The Circle of Strife

Here's a picture of the nine members of the Short Story Group at the science fiction & fantasy writing workshop I recently attended, July 24 – Aug. 1. (Picture was taken by Jeanne Cavelos, the workshop leader, who joined in about half our meetings. Here's the non-Facebook version.) That's me in the back middle, holding a pen to my mouth. There were 23 in the workshop, but the others were in the novel groups. (I was in one of the novel groups last year.) While there were numerous group activities – see my blog on August 5 – central to such workshops are the critique sessions. We each submitted three stories in advance, and others in the group read and critiqued them. During the sessions we went around the circle, with each person giving a five-minute critique of the story. Afterwards the author discussed the work with the group for fifteen minutes. And then the written critiques were given to the author, and we went to the next story. The attendees are all graduates of the six-week Odyssey writing workshop, and so are all experienced in this type of activity, and the critiques are generally both long and in depth.

***
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August 6, 2015

Top Ten Things if Donald Trump Were Running USATT…

A little fun with Photoshop this morning!

  1. He'll make USA players competitive with the Chinese. "I will build a great training center — and nobody builds training centers better than me, believe me —and I’ll build them very inexpensively. I will build a great, great training center, and I will make China pay for that training center. Mark my words."
  2. All USATT members would receive a free "Make USATT Great Again" red baseball cap, a Trump hairpiece, and a copy of Trump's luxurious new book, "Table Tennis Tactics for Bombastic Egotistical Blowhards." (Hey, wait a minute!)
  3. As a championship player, he'd personally teach our players how to defeat the Chinese, explaining, "When was the last time anybody saw us beating, let's say, China in a ping-pong match? They kill us. I beat China all the time. All the time."
  4. The rules would have to be changed so that 1) orange balls cannot be used as they would be lost in the background of Trump's hair; 2) hair cannot be used to hide contact when serving; and 3) shots made by contacting the ball with hair shall be illegal.
  5. He'd make China send us their best players to train USA players, explaining, "When China sends its players, they're not sending the best. They're sending people that have lots of technical problems and they're bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing bad technique. They’re bringing bad training habits. They’re weak players. ... And some, I assume, are good players."
  6. He'd donate money to all segments of table tennis – top players, officials, clubs, leagues, hardbat & sandpaper - and remind us every few minutes that "I'm very wealthy."
  7. USA players would no longer be allowed to use topspin. "The concept of topspin was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. players non-competitive."
  8. The US Open, USA Nationals, North American Teams, USA Team Trials, and all other USATT sanctioned tournaments would be played in the penthouse at Trump Tower.
  9. USATT would keep its name, but it would now stand for, "USA Trump Trump."
  10. I'll be packing my bags. Since I wrote the above, and I'm on the USATT Board of Directors, the first thing Trump would say to me when we he takes over is, "You're fired."

Expert Table Tennis

Their home page features four of Ben Larcombe's most popular articles:

Ask the Coach Show

Episode #162 (26:25) – Zig Zag Serves (and other segments).

How Does Your Cerebellum Counteract "Paralysis by Analysis"?

Here's the article from Psychology Today. (One of the things I stress regularly, and in my Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers book, is that most tactics must become subconscious.)

How to Serve like Koki Niwa

Here's the video (12:38). It's in Japanese, Chinese, or Korean, with subtitles in one of these languages (can anyone identify the languages?), but you can learn by watching.

Jimmy Butler and Lily Zhang on the NBC Today Show

Here's the video (7:36, with table tennis starting from 4:57 to 6:21). The broadcast also features golf, track and field, Paralympic wheelchair racing, and (after the table tennis segment) weight lifting. Here are five pictures from Jimmy's Facebook page. Here's USATT coverage.

World Team Championships Gets Smaller

Here's the article from Tabletennista, about the ITTF putting limits on the number of teams allowed. "From more than 200 teams (110 for men and 95 for women) in 2014, it will now become 96 teams for each of the men and women division." So while it won't affect women's teams much (at least right now), it'll mean cutting 14 teams on the men's side. (This is unlikely to affect Team USA.) Personally, I think they should go back to the old format, where they had the Worlds every two years, with singles, doubles, and team events. Now they alternate, one year with singles and doubles, the next with teams. This might be fine for the very best teams, but for the years when they run just singles and doubles, for most countries it means spending a lot of money to send a bunch of players who'll be out of everything after just a few matches. ​

Disabled Players Have Paralympic Hopes

Here's the article from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Footwork Training in the Ocean

Here's the video (14 sec) of Eliza Samara (world #17, from Romania) in training! Presumably that's the Atlantic Ocean.

Chinese Table Tennis Exercise Music Video

Here's the video (7:23) of a huge number of juniors in China, all in matching yellow & black uniforms, shadow practice in unison to music.

Clayton Kershaw's Ping Pong Charity Events

Here's the article from Table Tennis Nation.

Great Point

Here's the video (57 sec, including slo mo replay).

Giant Ping-Pong Robot

Here's the article and videos from Table Tennis Nation.

More Mike Mezyan Pictures

NOTE - If you are unable to see these pictures, all you have to do is join the Table Tennis Group - it's easy! Here are all the past, present, and (soon) future pictures he's collected. (I pick out his best ones for here - he has more.)

Ping-Pong Ball Breakfast

Here's the video. Go to 1:11, and see the ping-pong segment as we get . . . poached pong?

***
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