Butterfly Online


Larry Hodges' daily blog will go up Mon-Fri by noon USA Eastern time (usually by 10 AM, more like noon on Mondays when he does a Tip of the Week and has three days to cover). 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 eight books and over 1500 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!!!
Also out - Table Tennis Tips and More Table Tennis Tips, which cover, in logical progression, his Tips of the Week from 2011-2013 and 2014-2016, with 150 Tips in each! Or, for a combination of Tales of our sport and Technique articles, try Table Tennis Tales & Techniques
If you are in the mood for inspirational ficiton, The Spirit of Pong is also out - a fantasy story about an American who goes to China to learn the secrets of table tennis, trains with the spirits of past champions, and faces betrayal and great peril as he battles for glory but faces utter defeat. Read the First Two Chapters for free!

September 28, 2016

Watch and Learn
I had a student yesterday who couldn’t seem to find his forehand loop. He kept changing it, and roving about, sometimes too close to the table, others times falling back – he was like a leaf blowing in the wind. Finally I had him put his racket down and had him watch two of our top juniors on other tables who were looping against block with other coaches. After about two minutes of this, we started up again, and suddenly it all came back - and he was on fire!

There’s a related Tip of the Week on this: Watch the Top Players Before a Tournament or Big Match. One of the best ways to learn and to get your game together is to watch the top players.

Technical & Tactical Tips for Table Tennis Players – by Werner Schlager
This is “Werner Schlager Week” at Expert Table Tennis, with daily articles from the 2003 World Men’s Singles Champion!

2016 Coaching Rule Guidance
Here’s the article on the ITTF Coaching Rule – rejected (for now) by USATT, but still to be used in ITTF events such as the U.S. Open – by USATT Rules Chair Kagin Lee. Here is the USATT Rules of Table Tennis page, which shows where USATT rules differ from ITTF’s.

Jiaqi Zheng Interview
Here’s the interview by Rahul Acharya.

11 Questions with Amy Wang
Here’s the USATT interview (3:15).

USA Medal Tally Continues in Slovenia
Here’s the USATT article by Matt Hetherington that features USA’s Amy Wang, Victor Liu, and Sharon, Gal, and Adar Alguetti at the Slovenia Junior & Cadet Open.

Top Names Remain Unbeaten but Lower Down Order Testing Times
Here’s the ITTF article that features USA’s Amy Wang at the Slovenia Junior & Cadet Open.

Atlanta Open
Here’s the article.

G. Sathiyan: Dawn of a New Champion from the Indian Subcontinent
Here’s the ITTF article.

2017-2020 USATT Athletes Advisory Council
Here’s the USATT article and listing.

Paddle Palace Club Grand Opening
Here’s the info flyer – another full-time club opening! The new club in Portland, Oregon, has its Grand Opening on Oct. 1.

Karakasevic - The Legendary Backhand (Karas Magic)
Here’s the video (7:12).

2016 September Westchester Open
Here are videos of one of the semifinals and the final, by Ariel Chen.

Allen Wang’s Favorite Shot – Backhand Around-the-Net Loops
Here’s the video (10 sec)!

Beetle Bailey Table Tennis Cartoons
Here’s a new one from 1960, which I’ll call “Ping Ping Ping Ping Pong!” (Initially I couldn't see the year, but Aaron Avery zoomed in and found it in the third panel.) Here are other Beetle Bailey Table Tennis Cartoons, cut & pasted from a previous blog, with the new one added at the end.

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September 27, 2016

The Debate
I watched the Trump-Clinton Debate (please click on link!) last night. I think it was fairly obvious which of the two prepared, and which one just showed up. (When you go to tournaments, which are you?) I was tempted to comment on the debate, but decided not to, since this is a table tennis blog. But this is a good time to repost my 2016 Presidential Election Table Tennis Cartoon!

Sunday Coaching
Sunday is my busiest coaching day, where I normally have eight hours of almost non-stop coaching. As usual, a lot of crazy coaching stuff happened. Here’s a rundown.

  • One student seemed to be struggling with the transition from backhand to forehand in side-to-side drills. Then I had a brainstorm, and had him just loop forehands down the line – and he continued to struggle. The problem wasn’t the transition, it was his positioning for attacking down the line. With a little work there, he was fine, and we went back to side-to-side drills, which no doubt made him happy.
  • I have a new student, age 11, who’s been going to my junior classes but just started out with private coaching. He has this nasty habit of standing too close to the table, with his stomach practically touching the end-line. As a result, he’s often rushed, and covers shots to his middle in various contorted ways. Also because he’s rushed, he tends to reach for balls rather than step. I had him stand aside while I did some easy drives to his forehand so he could see that the top of the bounce was actually well behind the table, and spent half the session reminding him to stand about arm’s length from the table. We’ll keep working on this – things like this you want to fix early on. We also worked on spin serves, and he was able to make his first backspin serve that came back into the net. (This is an exercise so players can learn to put spin on the ball.)
  • In the second week of this Fall’s Sunday Beginning Junior Class, we did forehand review, and then focused on the backhand. John and Wen Hsu assist in this class. I also introduced simple serves. Next week – spin serves.
  • In the Adult Training Class, we did the usual drills, then I finished by calling them together to demonstrate the various ways you can serve with the same motion and go either short to the forehand or long to the backhand. Examples included forehand pendulum serve; forehand pendulum serve deep to backhand/reverse pendulum serve short to forehand; backhand serve (often from middle of table); tomahawk serve (often from middle or forehand side); and forehand tomahawk short to forehand/reverse tomahawk deep to backhand. Then they drilled where the server used one of these variations, trying to hide if they were going short to forehand or long to backhand, and they’d play out the point. It’s a great way to twist an opponent into a knot!

Stroke Development Tips for Table Tennis Players – by Werner Schlager
Here’s the article from Expert Table Tennis. It’s Day Two of their Werner Schlager Week. Yesterday they had Serve & Return Tips.

Revelations of a Table Tennis Champion and History of U.S. Table Tennis
Both are USATT news items this morning. I did the page layouts and photo work on both (I also do their web pages), so I’m glad to see it! USATT always posts the chapters of Tim Boggan’s History of U.S. Table Tennis volumes, and this morning they started on Volume XVIII.

Dan’s had three reviews so far at Amazon, all five-star. Here they are!

5.0 out of 5 starsGreat Book Full of Entertaining Stories
By J.L. on September 17, 2016
This was an enjoyable read, finished the book in a day. It is an intriguing glimpse into the life of a pro athlete in a little known sport. Danny Seemiller should truly be nominated as the "Most Interesting Man in the World"

5.0 out of 5 starsPast and Present, Seemiller Still Reigns
By Tom Wintrich on September 25, 2016
Danny Seemiller is America's most important table tennis player. His time as an elite competitor totals 45 years and counting. His years coaching is nearly the same, where he's helped beginner to expert individually, or as a team, whether it be local, national, World or Olympic. Directing tournaments and promoting the sport is another ongoing passion, mostly on the local and regional level but he's jumping to the international stage in 2018 after he and friend Dave Sakai spearheaded the bid to secure the World Veterans Championship for the USA. And for good measure, Seemiller led the USA Table Tennis Association as president from 1990 to 1995. That statement is the only one that requires the past tense.

Now Seemiller has written a book that fulfills his title's promise of revelations. Even with 40 years in the game, there was plenty of new information to glean. He begins with his humble start in the South Hills of Pittsburgh and takes the reader on a national and international odyssey of modern table tennis from his perspective. His style is simple, direct and personal, switching between the third person reporter and first person narrator. He also mixes in published accounts and articles about himself, other players or the sport in general. And he gets in a few deserved digs against some of the bonehead decisions made by Association officials that directly affected his career. There's even a jab or two against opponents and he lands a nice one on a Hollywood celebrity. There are ample photographs to highlight the narrative. A number of them picture the Seemiller family.

Table tennis is a small game literally and figuratively and that aspect of the sport affords its participants a wonderful benefit: we are all on tour together, there is no separate circuit for the elite. From champions like Seemiller all the way down to the unrated, we play the game in the same venue and we share the competitive memories. If you think this is a friend promoting a friend's book, you would be wrong. This is a player just like you, who has been an eye witness to many of the author's accomplishments and many of the events he describes. While his story may transcend ours, it also contains it and that makes it all the more rewarding to read.

5.0 out of 5 starsBy Mark H on September 19, 2016
Incredible stories of an incredible athlete and coach! A must read for any and all table tennis enthusiasts

Jean-Michel Saive Intends to Run for ITTF President
Here’s his Facebook posting, where the former world #1 says:

“I am very proud and honoured that my federation today officially supported my INTENTION to run for the position of ITTF president. I am very encouraged by this decision and even more motivated to serve my sport in a new capacity. I will make my final decision in the near future after checking the level of support I could get.”

Yijun Feng Set to Make Men’s World Cup Debut
Here’s the article. Most of us better know him as Tom Feng, the 2015 Men’s Singles Champion and 2016 Finalist, and the 2016 North American Cup Champion (which qualified him for the World Cup).

Samson’s Student of the Month
Here’s the article and video (45 sec) – and Sarah Jalli wins because of hustle, as explained in the article.

Knowledge the Foundation for Growth, Thailand Increases Educational Opportunities
Here’s the ITTF article on USA’s Richard McAfee’s ITTF coaching courses in Thailand.

Le Tour De France Ping-Pong
Here’s the video (2:49). Lots of great blue mini-table play, set to music!

Stop War. Play More Table Tennis
Here’s the picture! (Here’s the non-Facebook version.)

Drabble Table Tennis Cartoons
Marv Anderson alerted me to recent Drabble cartoons on table tennis. Here they are! The ones from Sept. 12-16 go together, while the April 7 (which I previously linked to) and Sept. 24 ones are stand alone.

Send us your own coaching news!

September 26, 2016

Tip of the Week
How to Play Against a Player with a Coach.

ITTF’s New Coaching Rule – Rejected (for now)
At 9:30AM Saturday the USATT Board of Directors had a teleconference. (I’m one of the nine members of the Board.) There were only two items on the agenda. (We meet again in two weeks on Monday, Oct. 10 in Philadelphia, just after the Women’s World Cup, where we’ll have a lengthier agenda.) The first item was “Agreement for Broadcast Services with Triode Media Group.” This was a tricky one as a member of the Board is involved with this group. Nothing was hidden, however, and there was a lot of discussion. I will blog about this when the minutes come out. (The motions and votes for the meeting should come out soon, probably this week; the minutes have to be approved by the Board, and will likely come out sometime in the next month.)

The second item was the more important issue for many of us – the ITTF’s new coaching rule, which allows coaching between points starting Oct. 1, 2016. Here is the rule (with English spellings and that silly “and and” typo they seem unable to correct): Players may receive advice at any time except during rallies and and between the end of practice and the start of a match; if any authorised person gives advice illegally the umpire shall hold up a yellow card to warn him or her that any further such offence will result in his or her dismissal from the playing area (in effect as of 1st October 2016). 

I have blogged about the issue three times. On August 19 I blogged about why it's a bad rule, and gave 14 reasons; on August 26 I blogged about whether USATT should adopt the rule; and on September 21 I blogged about my email to the Board on the rule.

Going into the meeting I was still not 100% set on what to do. My thinking was we needed a compromise, and so I suggested the following, though I did not actually make this motion, which had some rather legalish-sounding contortions:

MOVED that USATT temporarily adopt the new ITTF Coaching Rule for the time period of October 1, 2016 through December 31, 2016, but only for the following singles, doubles, and team events: Open, Men’s, Women’s, Paralympic, and age events. In December, the Board will evaluate the Rule’s implementation and decide how to move forward.  Notwithstanding the temporary adoption, tournaments conducted under USATT Rules may opt out of this rule - for entire tournament or for specific events - if it is clearly indicated on the entry form, or if the players are notified in advance through Oct. 31.

However, this was quickly rejected as Board members found it too complicated. However, it also became obvious early on that the Board wasn’t going to accept the rule. It was pointed out that what was needed was not just a motion to reject the rule, but a motion to adopt the current coaching rule as a USATT rule. And so the following was the actual motion voted on, which mirrors the actual current rule (again with English spellings), which passed 7-1:

“Players may receive advice only during the intervals between games or during authorised suspension of play, and not between the end of practice and the start of a match; if any authorised person gives advice illegally the umpire shall hold up a yellow card to warn him or her that any further such offence will result in his or her dismissal from the playing area.”

However, I believe that tournaments should be allowed to operate under the new coaching rule if they chose – which would also give us some feedback on how it worked. Initially I thought I could simply move that tournaments may opt to play under ITTF rules if noted on the entry form, but the problem with that is that there are other differences between ITTF and USATT rules – for example, ITTF rules require full-sized courts (14x7 meters, about 46 feet by 23 feet), while USATT rules allow 30 feet by 15 feet. So I made the following motion:

“Move that tournaments may opt to operate under the new ITTF coaching rule if noted on the entry form.”

I thought this would pass easily, but it only squeaked by, 4-3. Anyway, the result is that USATT will stick with the rule of coaching only between games and a timeout, except in tournaments that state otherwise on their entry form, or that are run under ITTF rules (such as the U.S. Open in December).

Here is the ITTF handbook which includes the ITTF rules, and here is the section that includes Here is the USATT Rules of Table Tennis Update, where differences between ITTF and USATT Rules are highlighted.

Serve & Return Tips for Table Tennis Players – by Werner Schlager
Here’s the article from the 2003 World Men’s Singles Champion from Austria. Here’s a quote that jumps out at you right at the start, one that I’ve been stressing for years, often without success from players who prefer working on flashy loops rather than boring serves: “The service is without a doubt the most important stroke in table tennis.” There are a lot of other golden nuggets in this article.

Choosing the Best Ping-Pong Table
Coincidentally, two major table tennis sites both came out with articles or video on this.

The Conservative Server and the Liberal Looper
Here’s the new article from Coach Jon.

Best of 2016 World Table Tennis Day
Here’s the ITTF video (3:03). It has been selected into "Sports Movies & TV 2016 – 34th Milano International Ficts Festival.

Joo Se Hyuk: A Tribute
Here’s the new video (7:02) honoring the South Korean star, the best defensive player in the world and Men’s Singles Finalist in 2003.

This Guy is a Master at Ping Pong
Here’s the trick-shot video (76 sec)!

Game Show Target Practice
Here’s the video (1:54) – for a moment I thought it was Kanak Jha!

Pool of Ping-Pong Balls and Colorful Lights
Here’s the video (38 sec). “Dawn Of Man filled a pool with 250,000 ping pong balls for one wild party.”

Robot Playing Table Tennis
Here’s the video (75 sec). I have linked to similar videos of actual rallying robots, but I think this one is new. Now if it could only learn to read spin!

Table Tennis Memes
This is what you get when you google “Table tennis memes.”

Non-Table Tennis - Baltimore Book Festival and Why the Police Came for Me!
I spent Friday at the Baltimore Book Festival, which was held in the Inner Harbor, about an hour’s drive away. The two panels I was on (for Science Fiction Writers of America) went really well – here’s a picture of one of them (that’s me, second from the left, looking to the side). I especially enjoyed the “How to Come Across as a Professional Writer When You're Just Starting Out” panel, where I gave my “Ten Commandments for Acting Professional,” and was encouraged to publish the list. (I’ll do so sometime soon in my science fiction blog which doesn’t get updated nearly as often as this one.) I also did a book signing. I also learned the futility of bringing a box of chocolates for fans on a day where the temperatures were approaching 90 degrees.

There was some excitement just before one of my panels. Two police officers showed up at the SFWA site, where we were doing the panels, and asked for me. This was the first time in my life that police have come for me! I debated whether to raise my hands and say, “Hands up, don’t shoot!” However, they explained that they had found my cell phone. Somehow, while lugging a suitcase full of my books, and large retractable banner (for my Campaign 2100: Game of Scorpions novel), and a carry bag, my cell phone had fallen off its holder on my belt. It had been opened to my Facebook page, and so they had posted a note there asking if anyone knew where I was:

“This is the Baltimore City Police Department if anyone can get in touch with Larry and tell him we found his cellphone at the inner harbor and to please call us at [number deleted] so we can return it thank you.”

There were a lot of funny responses to that! Anyway, either from that, or my own Facebook postings, they figured out I was at the SFWA area. Thank you, Baltimore city police!

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September 22, 2016

No Blog on Friday
See “Non-Table Tennis” item at end on the Baltimore Book Festival.

New ITTF Coaching Rule
On Wednesday I blogged about this, and about the USATT Board – which I’m on – will vote on this issue this Saturday morning. If you have any comments or thoughts on this, this is your last chance – I DON’T want to hear from you after the fact if you haven’t commented before. There’s a discussion at Mytabletennis.net which I’m following and participating in, so you can post there, and I’ll see it. (Alas, I will hear from people after the fact because not everyone keeps track of the major happenings in our sport until they are directly affected, and they show up at a tournament and play a match against some kid whose coach is coaching every point.)

Here are my blogs on the topic, on August 19 (on why it’s a bad rule, with 14 reasons) and August 26 (on whether USATT should adopt it, despite it being a bad rule). Two things I plan to make sure of: 1) no matter what we do, tournament directors can opt in or out of the rule (by stating this on the entry form); and 2) we re-evaluated in December. The latter means we may adopt it, and then reconsider in December, or it could mean we postpone adopting, and reconsider in December.

This is not an easy decision. There are a few who think it’s a slam-dunk one way or the other, and when I read that, I honestly lose interest in their opinions, though I’ll listen to their arguments and make the counter-arguments myself. I prefer listening to people who can look at the arguments for both sides, and argue for why one side’s arguments are stronger than the other, and address the counter-arguments. Alas, many simply argue “their side,” ignoring counter-arguments either because they don’t know them or don’t understand them, or perhaps just hoping nobody notices. This may work for many people, but I prefer a somewhat more intellectual approach.

Here is the actual rule, with English spelling and one silly typo I pointed out previously but no one seems to be able to fix ("and and"): Players may receive advice at any time except during rallies and and between the end of practice and the start of a match; if any authorised person gives advice illegally the umpire shall hold up a yellow card to warn him or her that any further such offence will result in his or her dismissal from the playing area (in effect as of 1st October 2016). 

Tentatively, I plan on making one of the following two motions: 

"I move that USATT temporarily adopt the new ITTF Coaching Rule, and re-evaluate and vote on it again in December, but tournaments may opt out of this rule if they state so on the entry form."


"I move that USATT not adopt the new ITTF Coaching Rule at this time, and re-evaluate and vote on it again in December, but tournaments may opt to follow this rule if they state so on the entry form."

Things I Said While Coaching This Week

  • “Even Zhang Jike could make that shot.”
  •  “Life isn’t worth living if I can’t make that flip!”
  • “That was the greatest shot ever not attempted.”
  • “I’m too good to miss that shot!”
  • “If you keep practicing bad technique you’re going to perfect it.”
  • “If you stayed a little closer to the table I might be able to see your technique. Come visit sometime, okay?”
  • “Hello, 9-1-1? I’d like to report a Danielization.” (After student Daniel got still another net ball. Hey, we report things that are vandalized, why not Danielized?)
  • “If you get one more net or edge ball, I’m going to rename you Xi Enting.” (After the 1973 World Men’s Singles Champion who famously got a net and an edge to win at 19-18 in the fifth over Kjell Johansson, when games were to 21.)
  • “If you keep hitting backhands from the forehand side, you’ll have to learn to cover the other side of the table with your forehand.”
  • “Your parents called and asked me to let you know that they no longer love you and are abandoning you, and that you’ll be living full-time here at the table tennis club. You’ll sleep under a table, drop out of school, and train ten hours a day.” (Kid was very happy, though he wanted to negotiate the ten hours of training.)
  • “I can do that.” (After watching Nathan Hsu absolutely rip a backhand loop.) And I can do that – once. There’d be a very loud ripping sound as every muscle and tendon in my arm and shoulder rips and I’d spend the rest of my life in rehab.

Revelations of a Table Tennis Champion, autobiography of Danny Seemiller now available
Here’s the ITTF News Release on Dan Seemiller’s autobiography.

Most Expensive Coach in the World Revisited
In my blog yesterday, I joked about being the most expensive coach, with a student paying $266 for a 90-minute lesson, or $177/hour. (Arguably more, because that doesn’t include transportation from NY to MD, and hotel – but he was down for a business trip, so we didn’t include that.) But Len Winkler, a professional coach from Hawaii (that’s not fair!) wrote me the following:

Aloha Larry,
I beat you in cost of coaching. Although I only charge a mere $30.00 per hour, I had a guy fly here on Saturday mornings every other week from Honolulu. He flew Hawaiian Airlines ($150.00 round trip), rented a car ($38.00), drove the 70 minutes in each direction (gas, $30.00), took his lessons, took me to lunch ($30.00), drove back to airport and home ($15.00 Honolulu parking). He did this for about 6 months. Then his wife had a baby and sadly hasn’t played since. LOLOLOL
Len Winkler

Len later emailed me that this was for a four-hour lesson, so that's $120 in coaching fees. All told, it comes to $353. But $353/4 = "only" $88.25/hour. So I'm still the most expensive coach in the world!

How to Return Spin Serves in Table Tennis
Here’s the new coaching article from Expert Table Tennis.

Why the Right Shoes Are Important When Playing Table Tennis
Here’s the article from Table Tennis Spot.

Women’s World Cup
Interested in attending this international event, which takes place in Philadelphia, Oct. 7-9? MDTTC has a special group rate discount. Here’s info! The best women in the world will be there, including the top two women in the world, Liu Shiwen and Ding Ning of China, and USA’s own Lily Zhang. (I’m reposting this item from Wednesday for those who missed it. I’ll be there on Sunday – hope to see you there!)

Zhang Jike Declines 2016 Chinese Super League
Here’s the article.

Best of Timo Boll - Zhang Jike
Here’s the video (8:55).

Ping Pong Brain Boost
Here’s the newest video (34 sec) on how table tennis is being used to treat Alzheimer’s.

Frogs Playing Table Tennis
Here they are!

Boater vs. Surfer Table Tennis
Here’s the video (10 sec) as they really do this!

Non-Table Tennis - Baltimore Book Festival
Tomorrow I’ll be at the Baltimore Book Festival all day, leaving early in the morning, so no blog tomorrow. I’m on two science fiction writing panels, a book signing (at 4PM for Campaign 2100: Game of Scorpions), plus a few other activities. Here’s their bio of me. My two panels (at 2PM and 3PM) are “How to Come Across as a Professional Writer When You're Just Starting Out” and “The Future of Science Fiction & Fantasy.” During my signing for Campaign 2100, I’ll also have on hand for sale my other novels, including the fantasy table tennis novel “The Spirit of Pong.” What, you, a table tennis player, hasn’t read that yet? What’s wrong with you?!!!

Send us your own coaching news!

September 21, 2016

New ITTF Coaching Rule and Board Discussion on Saturday
This Saturday at 9:30AM the USATT Board will have a teleconference on whether to adopt the new ITTF Coaching Rule that allows coaching between points. I think it’s a horrible rule, and yet we’d be handicapping ourselves if we don’t adopt it, so it’s not an easy decision, and I’m still undecided – though I’m leaning slightly toward adopting it, with a note in the minutes that we should take this up again at the December Board meeting so we can evaluate it. This is your chance to chime in.

Here’s what Samson Dubina wrote me about it:

It is a terrible rule and should never have been passed by ITTF.  However, as you mentioned in the blog, we need to follow the ruling if we want to have any chance to have success at the international level.  USATT really needs to have a conference call about this asap.  Myself, as well as the other US Coaches, need to be developing a system of communication with our players and have a few months to adjust and perfect the system.

Here’s my letter yesterday to the USATT Board, which includes links to my two blogs on the topic. (Some people have text-only email, so I put the links in explicitly.)

Dear Board,

The decision on the new ITTF coaching rule is not going to be an easy one, and could be the most consequential vote we make this year as it will have a major impact on the sport. I think it's a horrible rule, but at the same time I'm struggling with whether we should adopt it, since if we don't, our players will not be prepared when they play at the U.S. Open, the North American Teams, and in the various Olympic, Pan Am, and Paralympic continental trials. (Those are all run under ITTF rules.)

I have blogged about the issue twice. On August 19 I blogged about why it's a bad rule, and gave 14 reasons:

On August 26 I blogged about whether USATT should adopt the rule:

On July 7, the USATT Umpires and Referees Committee voted 4-0 (see Motion 2) that USATT not adopt the rule:

"MOVED that the URC make the recommendation to the USATT Rules Committee and USATT Board that ITTF's new rule permitting coaching at times other than between games not be applicable for United States tournaments that are neither ITTF sponsored nor sanctioned."

Strangely, though they voted on July 7 to make this recommendation to the USATT Board, I do not believe they ever notified the Board of their recommendation to us. (I don't know if they notified the Rules Committee.) On Aug. 30 I asked the Rules Committee Chair (Kagin) for their recommendation on this, but was told they had no recommendation at that time.

As a professional coach who will have to coach under these new rules, I am disgusted, and am not looking forward to this. I'm fairly certain that the rule will be overturned within a few years, but we'll see.

-Larry Hodges

Women’s World Cup
Interested in attending this international event, which takes place in Philadelphia, Oct. 7-9? MDTTC has a special group rate discount. Here’s info! The best women in the world will be there, including the top two women in the world, Liu Shiwen and Ding Ning of China, and USA’s own Lily Zhang.

Looping Flips
Here’s the new coaching article by Samson Dubina.

MH Table Tennis Coaching Blog
Here are the coaching article archives of Matt Hetherington, with 31 different articles. (I think I’ve linked to them all over the last few years as they went up, one by one, but now you can browse them all at once!)

USATT League Software Ready to Launch
Here’s the USATT news item.

Full Youth National Teams for 2016-2017
Here’s the USATT Announcement of the final selections.

Most Expensive Coach in the World?
I am the most expensive coach in the world. Well, sort of! This past Sunday I had a 90-minute session with a player from out of town come in on business in DC, which is about 20 miles south of my club, MDTTC. The actual cost of the lesson was $90. However, he also spent $176 using Uber to get back and forth, so it was $266 total, or about $177/hour. That’s my new coaching rate. Any takers?

34th World Table Tennis Championships and Sportacus ‘77
This is my newest table tennis book – the 204-page program for the 1977 World Championships, which John Olsen gave to me over the weekend. It’s now the latest addition to my collection of 239 table tennis books.

Ping Pong Partyz in the DC Area
Here’s the new business – “We provide young and fun professional level ping pong players to provide entertainment for events and parties.”

Table Tennis Camp for Veterans with Disabilities in Phoenix, AZ
Here’s the USATT article.

A Museum Devoted to Table Tennis
Here’s the article in the Shanghai Daily (in English).

Quadri Aruna Hopes to Surpass Quarter-finals Record at World Cup
Here’s the article on the Nigerian star from the Nigerian Daily Post.

Japan’s Table Tennis Star Fukuhara Announces Marriage
Here’s the article. She’s marrying Taiwan's table tennis Olympian Chiang Hung-chieh.

Chinese Fans go Crazy for Fang Bo
Here’s the video (37 sec), with Adam Bobrow doing the commentary. Now imagine if that were Ma Long or Zhang Jike!

Nurse Pong, 1942
Here’s the picture from a 1942 issue of Shorpy.

Classical Music + Ping Pong =
Here’s the video (1:22)!

Send us your own coaching news!

September 20, 2016

Tip of the Week
Five Serves That EVERYONE Should Master.

Protect Future of Table Tennis in USA
Most of you probably received the mass emails sent out last week from “Protect Future of Table Tennis in USA” about the U.S. team selections, especially in the Mini-cadet teams (12 and under). The letter is from Rajul Sheth from the ICC Table Tennis Center (where he's done some great work), who I consider a friend, and hopefully that won’t change after this. He makes some good points, though there are some inaccurate or misleading items I could nitpick about, and there is more to the issue than what is covered in the letter.

However, there was one serious problem that really angered me, and it had nothing to do with the actual issue involved. I emailed him complaining about his naming these four 10-12 year-old kids publicly in this way (rather than referring to them by rating and as “Player A,” “Player B,” etc.). These kids did nothing wrong, and yet they are publicly being dragged through the mud, turning a dream (making the U.S. National Mini-Cadet Team) into a nightmare as he very publicly tore into the credentials of these 10-12 year-old kids. I know of some parents who are also very angry about this.

Sure, if he left the names out, some could investigate and figure out who these kids were, but few would do so, and it’s a lot more humiliating for a kid to be named directly and publicly in this way, with all these attacks on their playing record. We’re talking about kids who have trained nearly full-time for years, approached the highest levels for their age in this country, did exactly as USATT asked them to do (attending the USATT Supercamp, where they were named to the National Team due to their performance there), and through no fault of their own, this happens to them?

If you don’t like the way it was done, discuss it with or go after the ones who made it that way, but don’t go after the innocent kids.

He did praise the four kids in question in one paragraph – but a little faint praise doesn’t excuse one for then publicly tearing down their record. 

I also jumped on him for publicly naming the kids he went after while keeping himself anonymous. He promised to put his name on the next letter that goes out, so hopefully that will change. (But shouldn't it have been the other way around?) He also left out that he represents specific kids from the Bay Area, which might have been clearer if he’d put his name and position in the letter. That’s like a lawyer writing an Op-Ed for a client and leaving out that he’s the person’s lawyer - it's called a disclaimer. Hopefully in his next letter he’ll address that issue. After all, if we’re going to demand openness from USATT – and we should – we should practice it ourselves.

Rajul is right that there were problems in how the selections were made, and there needs to be much better communication between USATT and top juniors/parents/coaches/clubs. I’ve spent a LOT of time on this issue and related issues (and I’m just a volunteer), and have made my own thoughts and recommendations clear to those involved. Keep in mind that the USATT Board of Directors (of which I'm a member) has no direct involvement in this issue. The USATT CEO, the High Performance Director, the High Performance Committee, and I think the Athlete Advisory Committee are handling this, and hopefully they will resolve it so it does not become a Board issue. Board members have no authority on their own, only at board meetings via a vote. The next Board meeting is Oct. 10 in Philadelphia, though there will also likely be a teleconference before that. Hopefully all will be resolved by then. 

At some point I expect to blog more on this topic. While there were problems, there’s also a lot of false or misleading info out there as well, mostly online, including some of the stuff posted on the website linked above. Hopefully USATT will respond on this soon. However, since lawyers have been brought in (and with it the threat of lawsuits), and because I’m on the USATT Board of Directors, I can’t really comment on the specifics about the problems with the selection procedures at this time. I feel a little like this guy

Dan Seemiller’s “Revelations of a Table Tennis Champion”
You can buy it now from Amazon in Print or Kindle. Here’s the Amazon page where you can buy the autobiography of the five-time U.S. Men’s Singles Champion, our greatest modern player. (Disclosure: I edited it and did the page layouts and photo work, and created the ebook.) There are already two Amazon reviews, both 5-star:

  • “This was an enjoyable read, finished the book in a day. It is an intriguing glimpse into the life of a pro athlete in a little known sport. Danny Seemiller should truly be nominated as the "Most Interesting Man in the World”
  • “Incredible stories of an incredible athlete and coach! A must read for any and all table tennis enthusiasts.”

The USATT News page has nine new news items added since my last blog on Friday. Rather than put in nine segments here, why not go over there and browse around? Many of them feature the exploits of our top juniors overseas at the Croatian Open, where Sharon, Gal, and Adar Alguetti, Victor Liu, and Amy Wang caused quite a sensation with their winning performances.

Advice for Players Who Hit the Ball Very Hard, but Keep Missing
Here’s the coaching article by Tom Lodziak. Some good advice here.

Table Tennis Equipment – Tips for Parents
Here’s the new coaching article from Expert Table Tennis.

Jishan Liang Captures 2016 Butterfly Badger Open Crown
Here’s the USATT story by Barbara Wei. Here are complete results care of Omnipong.

Capital Area Table Tennis League
The Capital Area Table Tennis League had their first meeting of the Fall season, with all 23 teams competing (110 players in all) at the Maryland Table Tennis Center. Results are at the web page, under “Divisions.” The league is for players in the Maryland, DC, and Northern Virginia area.

Wang Hao Wedding
Here’s the video (6:51). Wang Hao was the 2009 Men’s Singles World Champion, two-time Runner-up, two-time World Men’s Doubles Champion, six-time World Men’s Team Champion, and was the silver medalist in Men’s Singles at three straight Olympics, 2004-2012, winning the gold in Teams the last two times. (In 2004 they had doubles instead of teams.) He also won the Men’s World Cup three times, was Runner-up three times, and go the bronze one time. He revolutionized the game with his powerful reverse penhold attack and over-the-table banana flip. Yeah, he was a pretty good player.

Fan Zhendong replaces Jun Mizutani in the 2016 Men's World Cup
Here’s the ITTF press release.

19-Year-old Fan Shocks Olympic Champ Ma to Win China Open
Here’s the ITTF press release.

Para Table Tennis Legend Partyka Leads Poland to Team Gold in Rio
Here’s the ITTF press release.

Didukh Recovers from Cancer to Lead Ukraine to Paralympic Glory
Here’s the ITTF press release.

Tiago Apolonia Causes Uproar at China Open
No, he didn’t win the tournament, but watch the video (54 sec) of the fan’s reaction to him after his match!

U.S. Men’s Coach Stefan Feth and Comedian Judah Friedlander Shooting Video at Facebook HQ
Here’s the video (25 sec). Their average rating is 2151: one is 2695, the other 1607, but he’s funnier.

Paralympics Legend Ibrahim Hamato
Here’s the caricature of the world’s top armless player! (Here’s the non-Facebook version.) For those who missed it, here’s video (2:43) of him by the ITTF.

Timo Boll – “I’m Playing in the Rain!”
Here’s the picture. (Here’s the non-Facebook version.) Strangely, that’s him on the left, playing right-handed, with the umbrella in his lefty playing hand, while his opponent is playing lefty.

Great Table Tennis Show!
Here’s the video (8:21) – you DON’T want to miss this! It is performed by the Taiwan Normal University Table Tennis team and some guests. During the show they do all sorts of spectacular tricks, from table tennis with pots & pans, tambourines, and even boxing gloves and baseball bats, to speed multiball and all sorts of dancing and musical stuff mixed in.

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September 19, 2016

I’m pretty tired right now, and I need a vacation. Plus I’ve got a todo list that goes from here to Beijing – even now Ma Long and Ding Ning are examining the lower parts of it and cowering in fear. (I think the item “Make America so great at table tennis the Chinese quit and take up shuffleboard” is the part that scared them.) Plus today is Adam West’s 88th birthday – the original Batman from the 1960s TV show and mayor of Quahog in Family guy – a national holiday if there ever was one. So no blog today – back tomorrow. 

September 16, 2016

All About Table Tennis Books
As readers here know, Dan Seemiller’s autobiography came out this past week, Revelations of a Table Tennis Champion. It’s what all the “cool” kids table tennis players will be talking about at the club now, so go get your copy now. Don’t make us send you to the nerdy kids table. (See how that works for both schools and table tennis clubs?) Here is the text from the back cover:

Dedication, Determination, Heartbreak, and Achievement

If you are in the Olympic sport of table tennis, then you know Danny Seemiller, USA’s greatest modern champion. In “Revelations of a Table Tennis Champion,” the five-time U.S. Men’s Singles Champion takes you through his 50 years in the sport, from the early days of training, the breakthroughs, the agonizing defeats and the great triumphs. You’ll learn why the three-sport star – baseball, basketball, and football – changed his focus to table tennis. You’ll experience his trips around the world, from being marched at gunpoint to achieving his boyhood dream of defeating the Chinese.

But playing is only half his story. Danny, a long-time coach first in Pittsburgh and then in South Bend, Indiana, was the U.S. Olympic and World Team Coach for ten years, and was named the USOC Coach of the Year for Table Tennis three times. He served five years as president of USA Table Tennis, ran dozens of major tournaments through the years, and was instrumental in bringing the 2018 World Veterans Games to the United States. He is a member of the USA Table Tennis Hall of Fame, and in 2012 became the youngest recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award.

This is his story.

However, there other books out there for those of you who have already ordered and read Dan’s book in the three days it has been out. I collect table tennis books, with 239 in my table tennis books collection. I also of course write table tennis books – here are my books. (Buy them!!!) Here’s a short compilation of relatively recent ones. I’ve included a few older ones in the history/biography segment.

Table Tennis Instructional Books

Table Tennis History and Biography Books

Table Tennis Novels

Other Table Tennis Books

Paralympic Table Tennis
Here’s the ITTF Paralympic Page. Like the Olympics, they are in Rio, Brazil, and are Sept. 8-16, so they finish tomorrow.

Olympic Champions Ma & Ding Return to Action at China Open
Here’s the ITTF press release.

China Open
Here’s the ITTF page for the event, Sept. 14-18 in Chengdu, China.

Capital Area Table Tennis League
The new season of the Capital Area Table Tennis League starts this Saturday! The first meeting will take place at the Maryland Table Tennis Center. This is for players in the Washington DC/Maryland/Northern Virginia area. This seas there are 23 teams and 110 players. I originally founded the league, or at least got the ball rolling in its development, but others quickly stepped forward and have been the real driving force, in particular Commissioner Stefano Ratti. However, Stefano is spending a season in Italy, and in his absence Mossa Barandao (with scheduling) and acting commissioner Rich Heo and the rest of the committee have stepped up and done an incredible job. The league committee is made up of Richard Heo, Larry Hodges, Wen Hsu, Mossa Barandao. Darwin Ma, John Olsen, and Stefano Ratti.

How Well Do You Know Your Table Tennis?
Here’s the new quiz from Pong Universe by Matt Hetherington.

 "My Coaching Table"
Here’s the video (13 sec) of Coach Brian Pace showing the newly built Broward Table Tennis Club in Davie, Florida, and his coaching table. It’s like having your very own cubicle!

2016 German League: Daniel Habesohn vs Tiago Apolonia
Here’s the video (4:40, with time between points removed). Apolonia of Portugal is #17 in the world. Habesohn of Austria is world #95.

Ping Pong Boring
Here’s the video (3:14) of a new compilation of table tennis trick shots!

Losing is Like God Blowing His Nose on Me
Here’s the cartoon! On Wednesday I gave the Eric Boggan quote, and wrote, “Somewhere out there is an artist who can illustrate this in a cartoon.” Steve Worthington stepped forward!

Send us your own coaching news!

September 15, 2016

Years of Training Have Destroyed My Reactions
Okay, this may seem misleading. During my development years I did the usual intensive drills that conditioned me to react properly to nearly any given shot. Let me emphasize one word here: nearly. Now opponents may play at speeds that I might not be able to react to, or catch me off guard with placement and spin, but even there I’d usually react properly, just not always quickly enough or with just the right racket angle.

Some of my students have picked up on a certain flaw here, which I think affects me more than most. When someone throws something at me that I’m not used to, all that conditioning falls apart. It means I basically have two choices – I can go for a “regular” shot, and likely miss, or I can change to a safe shot, usually just fishing or weakly blocking it back.

For example, one of my students (a righty) has been developing this inside-out backhand loop that goes down the line, breaking away from a righty opponent. Now against a regular down-the-line shot, whether it’s a block or a loop, I’d react almost instantly with either a block, a smash, or a loop. It’s instinctive, and I can do all three with equal ease. But when he throws this inside-out backhand sidespin loop at me, I basically freeze up – my subconscious doesn’t know what to do. And so I usually just hold my racket out and block it back weakly, or step back and fish it back, or often react so slowly that I don’t even get to it.

Another student discovered that if he steps around his forehand and plays a backhand from the forehand side, and hits it down the line to my backhand, I often watch it go by before I react. None of my training prepared me for that shot!!!

I faced a more extreme example of this many years ago. In the very first tournament I ever played after they went to 11-point games I n2001, in a best of five, I faced an 1800 penholder – but he was the first penholder I’d ever faced with a reverse penhold backhand. (This shot was basically unknown until the 1990s, and rare right into the 2000s.) I couldn’t react with a regular backhand against the shot, and over and over I’d sort of put it back weakly, and he’d smash a winner before I had a chance to back up and make an effective lob. Next thing I know I’m down 0-2 to this 1800 player. I was about 2270 or so and hadn’t lost to a player under 2000 in over 20 years, and now I was on the verge of losing to an 1800 player. I finally switched to pure fishing and lobbing every time we got into a rally and managed to win in five. Afterwards I found a local with that backhand and practiced until I was used to it.

I think most top players adjust faster than I do to such things. I adjust tactically very quickly, but in the heat of a fast rally, it’s hard to overcome what your brain has been wired to do. I think part of the problem is that I didn’t do much multiball training in my early years, as that really prepares a player to simply react to fast incoming balls; I mostly did one-on-one training, and so learned to react against the shots those players gave me.

But one of my pet theories is that at most levels, players way underestimate the value of throwing in such variations. I’ve seen it done even at high levels. There’s one top USA junior who often throws opponents off with a sidespin chop return of serve (he’s not a chopper) that seemingly just gives the opponent an easy loop – but over and over opponents mess up against it because they’ve never trained against such a shot.

Ma Long Training
Here’s the new video (3:35).

Ask a Pro Anything - Jonathan Groth
Here’s the video (6:41) from Adam Bobrow. World #27 Groth is from Denmark. Wait’ll you see the dance moves!

More Articles on North American Team Championships
Here’s the ITTF page – but it’s confusing as there is also the JOOLA North American Teams in Washington DC.

$100,000 World Championship of Ping Pong
The World Championship of Ping Pong will be held Jan. 28-29, 2017, in London, with $100,000 in prize money for this Sandpaper event. Yes, sandpaper! You can get the latest news from their Facebook page.

Great Highlights Reel
Here’s the video (1:34) of some great rallies.

Ibrahim Hamadtou at the Paralympics
Here’s a new video (55 sec) of the armless player, who holds the racket in his mouth and serves by tossing the ball up with his feet.

Playback Pong with Power
Here’s the cartoon.

Funny Cats Playing Ping-Pong
Here’s the video (2:20) that compiles a number of cats playing (or more likely interacting with) table tennis.  

Send us your own coaching news!

September 14, 2016

Dan Seemiller’s Book and A Tale of Two Quotes
So . . . have you bought “Revelations of a Table Tennis Champion” yet? Why not? This is the story of our greatest modern champion. Warning – some people won’t like some of the things he says. But I’m more interested in what we can learn from the book.

Here’s an interesting quote from page 129 of the book, where Dan says, “I normally don’t get nervous, I’m too busy thinking about strategy instead of the score.” This is one of those things I’ve harped about here and in my books, that if you think about tactics between points, you won’t be thinking about winning or losing, the score, what’ll happen if you lose, etc., and so won’t get nervous (or as nervous). It’s one of those basic things that sometimes takes years to learn, and many never learn it. Contrast that with an actual exchange that took place during my coaching last night:

Me: “Since you can do this shot in practice, what happens in a game?”
Student: “I get scared and miss the shot.”
Me: “Then let’s practice getting scared and missing the shot.”

Now I was joking with that last part – though not completely, as you always want to practice what you do in matches, though perhaps not getting scared and missing – but the point is that many players get scared and so can’t play. They are too worried about winning and losing, and so can’t think or play straight. Instead, if they focused on what they want to do – tactics – then they would play much better.

And just for the record, there were many other great quotes in the book. Here’s perhaps my favorite!

Eric Boggan (2-time U.S. Men’s Singles Champion, #18 in the world, and Dan’s rival for many years), on page 133: “To me, losing is like God blowing his nose on me.” Somewhere out there is an artist who can illustrate this in a cartoon.

USATT News Items
There are a LOT of new items on the USATT news page. I started to put together segments on each, but decided it’d be better to just direct you there.

MDTTC September Open Ratings and Write-up
Here they are – that was fast! I ran the tournament on Saturday and sent the results in that night. They were processed on Tuesday morning. And as I relentlessly last night tried to convince 7-year-old Stanly (now rated 1366), “There is nothing more important than ratings. Not family, not school, not food, nothing. It is the single most important thing there is. Period.” Alas, he has a smart phone with games on it, and so you know what he considers more important. (I did a write-up of the tournament in my blog yesterday, and it’s now up as a USATT News Item.)

How to Read Spin Serves in Table Tennis
Here’s the new coaching article from Expert Table Tennis.

Footwork: Training vs Warm-Up Article and Video
Here’s the new coaching article and video by Samson Dubina.

USATT’s North American Championships Page
Here’s the page, with results, pictures, and video. (This is a bit confusing as this is not the North American Championships where they have singles championships. They only had USA vs. Canada team championships to decide who would represent North America and the World Cup. USA won both men’s and women’s.)

Nittaku ITTF Monthly Pongcast - August 2016
Here’s the video (14:15).

Table Tennis is the Olympics’ Most Revealing Sport
Here’s the article about how the difference between an Olympic table tennis player and a casual player is described as the biggest gap among Olympic sports.

Omron's Table Tennis Robot FORPHEUS Certified by Guinness World Records
Here’s the article.

Poland's Partyka Claims Fourth Consecutive Paralympic Singles Gold in Rio
Here’s the ITTF Press Release.

12-year-old Cerebral Palsy Athlete Makes Paralympic History
Here’s the article from Pong Universe.

A Little Chinese National Team Doubles Smashing vs. Lobbing
Here’s the video (30 sec).

Game On! The Monolith Ping Pong Table
Here’s the article and pictures.

Table Tennis Replaces Baseball as an Olympic Sport
Here’s the meme.

Chimpanzee Playing Table Tennis?
Here’s the video (13 sec) – I think this is real!

Non-Table Tennis - 80th Short Story Sale
Yesterday I sold “The Electrifying Aftermath of a Demon Thrice Summoned” to Galaxy’s Edge Magazine. They are one of the “pro” magazines that pay well. (I’ve sold 14 to the “pros.”) The humorous story is about the U.S. president and the person running against her, with each summoning the demon to wreak havoc on the others campaign – with an “electrifying” conclusion in the U.S. Senate the third time he is summoned. The poor demon just wants peace and quiet so he can read the works of Dante and Faulkner, but finds himself loose in the world of these evil humans, where he can do good or seek revenge. What does he do? (Their current issue has my story "Manbat and Robin," another humorous one about a bat that thinks it's a superhero.) 

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