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 six books and over 1300 articles on table tennis. Here is his bio.
USATT members, don't forget to vote!!! Here's my USATT Election Page. (You have to be at least 18 years old to vote.) I think we have to decide if the main purpose of USA Table Tennis is to develop table tennis in this country, or just maintain the status quo. If you believe as I do that it's to develop table tennis in this country, then I hope you'll vote for me.
If you're at the USA Nationals, stop by the USATT Assembly Tuesday night (7-9PM), where I'll be giving a short speech. Come to the Larry Side, we have cookies!!!
As noted below, I'm out of town at the USA Nationals and then a family Christmas. So the next blog will be after I return, on Monday, December 29.
Tip of the Week
Backhand Footwork. (Some of this is a rewrite from my blog last Friday, but I've added to it.)
USA Nationals, and Last Blog Until after the Nationals and Christmas
I'm off to the USA Nationals early this morning with a group of other Marylanders - and so am writing most of this the night before. I'll be back next Sunday night, but only for a day as I leave the following morning for a family Christmas gathering in Eugene, Oregon. (Yeah, I'm flying coast-to-coast on consecutive days, don't ask.) So this will be my last blog until Monday, Dec. 29, when I get back to daily blogging.
The playing hall at the Nationals will be open today (Monday) from 3-8PM. I land at 3:45PM, and will likely be at the playing hall around 5 or 6PM. Due to my recent back problems, I won't be hitting, alas. But I think I'll be ready for the hardbat events on Wednesday. (I normally play sponge, but at the major tournaments where I'm coaching I like to play hardbat.)
If you are in the tournament, this might help - Top Ten Ways to Play Your Best in a Tournament. Have you practiced your serves? Well, have ya???
While at the Nationals I'll be attending much of the USATT Board meeting (Tues 9AM-6PM, Wed 9AM-Noon). I want to emphasize something I wrote recently - that if I get elected, my goal is to help turn this Board and the new CEO into the greatest ones in history. I really mean this, and I want to be a part of it. The indications I'm getting so far is that the thinking is changing, and we might be ready to really tackle the serious problems faced in developing this sport.
I've been in a number of discussions recently about developing a Pro Tour. There are serious complications as there are more than one way to do this. If you have three ways of doing something successfully, and there are three contingents all insisting on their way, then you can't get more than 33% in favor of any one way! Of the five main issues I'm focusing on, this might be the most difficult. Ultimately, the best way to make a Pro Tour successful is to grow the sport, through leagues and other programs, so there is funding. If I'm on the Board, that'll be my focus. When you have 600,000 paid league players as they do in Germany, it's easy to support the top players. If we had 100,000 paid USATT members, or even 50,000, it would be easy to do so in the U.S.
Here's an informal goal: A successful professional circuit in this country - where the top players can make a living - by the time Kanak Jha (and about ten other cadets who are chasing him!) is college-aged. So we have four years. Let's get crackin'! (Sorry, Kanak, we also plan to train this generation of cadets so well that in four years you're going to have some serious competition.)
And yet, with all my talk of pro circuits, leagues, state associations, and how to develop the U.S. Open and Nationals, the issue I'm personally most interested in is developing a USATT coaching academy. Well, of course! I'm a full-time professional coach from a club with seven full-time coaches. (The other six work longer hours than I do - they work incredible hours.)
In recent years I've worked mostly locally, at MDTTC in Maryland. But the sport in this country isn't getting better, and I finally decided I'd done enough talking about it, it was time to take action national to make things happen. I don't want my club to be a big fish in a small pond; I want my club to be one of many huge fishes in a huge pond.
At the Nationals I'm looking forward to finally meeting our new CEO, Gordon Kaye. I've spoken to him on the phone several times but have never seen him. It is my theory that he's just a disembodied voice, with the online pictures of him taken from Getty Images, with the whole plot orchestrated by RailStation. Soon I will get to test my theory.
Here's a list of some of the things I'm taking to Las Vegas:
- Coaching notes
- Rackets (sponge and hardbat)
- Floor towels (for players playing on cement)
- Table tennis clothing (including my "USATT Certified Coach" shirt from long ago)
- Ten precious Nittaku Premium 40+ poly balls, the ball used at the Nationals but with limited supplies
- USATT Election Flyers
- TableTennisCoaching.com flyers
- Flyer stands
- My table tennis books and bookstands. The books will be on sale at the Butterfly and Paddle Palace booths.
- Starting times schedule for players I'm coaching
- Various folders:
- USA Nationals folder
- USATT Election folder
- Table Tennis Professionals of America folder
- State Associations folder
- USTA folder (to show how tennis does things differently than USATT)
- Laptop computer
- Kindle full of great books. I just started "The Wise Man's Fear" by Patrick Rothfuss, the sequel to "The Name of the Wind," which I finished recently. I also have Tahl Leibovitz's "Ping Pong for Fighters" and Alex Polyakov's "The Next Step."
- 500-piece "The Hobbit" Jigsaw puzzle - I plan to put it out somewhere for players to put together during the Nationals!
Things I'm Not Good At
Since some of you might be considering voting for me in the USATT Election, perhaps you should know the things I'm not good at.
- Foreign languages, and remembering technical terms and names. (I think these all go together.)
- Judging esthetic or fashion issues.
- An irrational belief that people will respond more favorably to logical arguments than to emotional ones.
- Dealing with Internet trolls and other time-wasters.
- I often speak too fast. I took public speaking classes to overcome this for my group coaching.
- Hearing when there's background noise. I hope I won't need a hearing aid someday.
- Stiff and injury prone.
- Demonstrating smooth strokes.
- I see way too many movies in theaters - better than one a week. I must have low standards when it comes to movies. But the popcorn is great!
- I'm a picky eater. No seafood, hamburgers, mushrooms, mushy vegetables, and if I don't recognize it, I don't eat it. I'm also a non-drinker, sometimes a problem in social situations.
- Looking good in a suit. I can barely tie a tie - but I only wear one about once every few years (weddings and funerals).
- I still use a flip phone. Once I go to a smart phone and am connected 100% of the time, there's no going back. I'm told "resistance is futile," but I'm still fighting this. Someday I'll weaken and life will never be the same. (I use the flip phone to take on challenges from my beginning junior classes.)
- And here are weaknesses in my table tennis game - see "How to Play Larry Hodges"!
$1,000,000 ITTF World Tour Finals
The event finished yesterday in Bangkok, Thailand. Here's the ITTF home page where you can find complete results, articles, pictures, and video. Congrats to the champions - Jun Mizutani (JPN), Kasumi Ishikawa (JPN), Cho Eonrae/Seo Hyundeok (KOR), and Miu Hirano/Mima Ito (JPN)! (As noted in previous blogs, the top Chinese didn't play enough Tour events to qualify for the Finals.) Here's the ITTF Press Release on the two 14-year-old Japanese girls (Hirano/Ito) who won Women's Doubles. Here's the ITTF Press Release on Japan sweeping both singles titles. Here's the Day Four Daily Review (4:50). And don't forget to check out the daily Shots of the day for Day One, Day Two, and Day Three!
Newgy Coaching Articles
Here's the page - I count 114 coaching articles (!) including ten by me.
Ask the Coach
Here are all 47 "Ask the Coach" videos. (By the time you read this there might be more!)
International Table Tennis
While I'm away at the Nationals and for Christmas you can keep track of USA Table Tennis news at the USATT News Page, and all the International news at TableTennista (which especially covers the elite players well) and at the ITTF home page (which does great regional coverage).
Another Reason the Serving Rule Needs Fixing
Here's a thread with links to pictures showing more hidden serves at the European Championships. These aren't isolated incidents - it's common all the time. That's why I want to change the rule to, "Throughout the serve, the ball must be visible to the opponent and to both umpires, or where the umpires would sit."
Scott Preiss "The Ping Pong Man" and Jimmy Butler on Live with Regis and Kathie
Here's the video (4:04), which just went up though I think this was from 1996, after Jim made the U.S. Olympic Team.
Atlanta Beats JOOLA in 2014 North American Teams Championships
Here's the article, along with pictures and video.
USATT CEO Pays Visit to Sports P'ville 'Mecca'
Washington Post Style Invitational: Think Up a New Radio Channel
Here's the article and graphic. So what was the #1 example used? "Ping-Pong Radio: Play-by-play and analysis of global table tennis tournaments. Station doubles as a metronome if commentary is disabled."
Here's the video (75 sec) from Spin NY that features "A night of very unique entertainment featuring 'Model Citizens Benefit Match' between Kenza Fourati and Amanda Salvato."
Here's the repeating gif image! This really should be on the home page of some club.
Send us your own coaching news!
SPUR USATT Growth and Filling Up a Club
How do you SPUR growth in USATT? This has always been one of my favorite acronyms. SPUR, or more properly S.P.U.R. stands for:
- Show the sport
- Play: get them to play
- USATT: get them to join
- Rejoin: get them to rejoin
If you do three of these things, you generally won't succeed. (This is for USATT growth; you can replace the USATT part with something else if that's what you are trying to grow.) It's like a chain missing a link. I try to incorporate all four in programs I propose to USATT, or have programs that, working together, do all four.
Many don't understand the concept that to grow the sport, you don't just look for places where there are already players and then set up a club or league. (Though you do want to continue to grow those areas until table tennis is outrageously popular there.) You set up clubs and leagues and other activities to create a player base. That's how the sport grows.
And yet I'm always hearing the following:
- "There aren't enough players for a league."
- "There aren't enough players for a club."
- "There aren't enough players for a training center."
- "There aren't enough players for a full-time coach."
- "There aren't enough players for the sport to be big in this country."
All I can say when I hear this is Jeeeeez!!! These are the people who are living in the status quo mediocrity that's been accepted for so many years in our sport, at least in the U.S. You grow the player base, and that's how you get enough players for the first four items above, and this all leads to the final item.
To grow the sport does mean finding solutions to problems, such as how do you get players into a club? (That's #2 in SPUR.) There's a great quote about this type of thing:
"Complaining about a problem without proposing a solution is called whining."
So what is the solution to filling up a club? The two best ways are leagues and coaches. If your club has a singles league for all levels, then you can fit new players into it right from the start, and they become regulars. If you don't have such a league, and instead have the common "call winners" club concept, then new players call winners, get killed by regulars, and you never see them again. So you need a league if you want to keep these new players and turn them into regulars.
The other way is with coaches bringing in players. A key to all this is understanding the purpose of a table tennis coach in an area where there aren't many players. You don't want a coach who just sits around waiting for students - how does that help the club increase the number of players? You want coaches who are out there bringing in new players as students - and thereby filling up the club. It is this implicit deal between clubs and coaches that has led to the success of many - the coaches bring in the players (who pay for memberships, tournaments, leagues, group sessions, equipment, refreshments, etc., and thereby finance the club) while the club lets the coaches keep most of their money in return for them bringing in players.
It isn't always like this - once a club is successful (i.e. full of players), or if they have a major sponsor (rare), then they no longer need their coaches to be out there scrambling for students. (The best clubs with the strongest players have elite coaches who aren't scrambling for students, but are instead working with the best players and developing them.) But coaches looking for students, and thereby filling the club, is what's needed at the start. They need to be out there doing exhibitions at schools (including Asian schools on weekends), talking to the press, and going to rec centers and churches. They need to have flyers or business cards to give out everywhere, always trying to turn potential players into regular players at the club.
So let me re-iterate: A primary purpose of a coach for a new full-time club is to bring in players.
I've been having my students do a lot of backhand footwork training recently. This is one of those things that a lot of coaches have their students do enough of. I think I've figured out why.
The most basic backhand footwork is no different than forehand footwork - you put the ball side to side, and the student moves side to side and hits backhands. (There's also in-and-out footwork.) This is exactly what a player has to do in a game when covering the backhand side with the backhand, so why don't more coaches do this? Most often when students do backhand footwork drills it's incorporated into a drill where they are also doing forehand footwork, such as side-to-side footwork, where they alternate forehands and backhands, or other variations that mostly have the player move from the forehand side to the backhand side to hit a backhand. But players also have to move around on the backhand side to hit backhands, and need drills to cover. In fact, it was backhand footwork training that Eric Owens attributes as the primary reason he upset Cheng Yinghua in winning Men's Singles at the 2001 USA Nationals.
What happens with many coaches is this. At the beginning stages, players focus on just the strokes, and so don't do footwork. When they can do footwork, they might do some backhand footwork. But soon the forehand becomes the dominant shot, and so the players focus on moving around and attacking with the forehand. Often the backhand isn't as developed, and so the coach doesn't want to push the player into doing too much movement while doing backhands as they think it might hurt the stroke. This is especially true of intermediate players making the transition from standard backhands to topspinning the backhand - and so the backhand is often in a perennial situation of being behind the forehand in development. And so the coach focuses on forehand footwork while focusing only on technique on the backhand side as the backhand develops into a topspin attacking shot.
By the time the player does have a solid topspin backhand, both the coach and the player aren't in the habit of doing backhand footwork drills in their sessions, and so they just don't do them. And this can lead to a weakness in the player's game as they don't move around as well as they could in covering the backhand side. This is a problem as the backhand by its very nature is a more cramped shot, with the body in the way, and so being able to move about and attack with the backhand is key.
A version of this will likely be the Tip of the Week on Monday - sorry in advance for any redundancies!
On Wednesday I wrenched my back pretty badly. I didn't realize at the time how bad it was, but on Thursday morning when I got up I could barely move. Even feeding multiball is like having a knife in my back. So I've had to cancel all my coaching through Sunday. (I leave for the U.S. Nationals on Monday morning.) It seems like I always get injured just before the Open or Nationals. It's like clockwork. Alas, pain killers never seem to work on me.
So if you see me at the Nationals and I'm sort of hunched up, or walking funny, or noticeably even stiffer than usual, now you know why. Thank god for wheeled playing bags! I am entered in two hardbat events, but I don't play until Wednesday, so we'll see if I'm at all recovered by then.
They are next week, Dec. 16-20, in Las Vegas, Nevada. I leave for them Monday morning. (I should still get one last blog and a Tip of the Week in on Monday before leaving.) Here's the home page for the event. Here's an alphabetical listing of all 761 players, and here's a listing by event. (Make sure to set dropdown menu to "2014 US Nationals.")
I checked with USATT, and the playing hall will be open for practice on Monday from 3-8PM. I arrive at 3:45 local time, and will likely be at the playing hall soon after.
It's going to be a busy trip for me, probably made worse by the back injury I wrote about above. I'm mostly there to coach (that'll take up most of my time), but I'm also in two hardbat events (we'll see about that) and a lot of meetings. Official meetings I hope to attend include:
- Board meeting, Tue 9AM-6PM, Wed 9AM-noon, room N251
- USATT Assembly, Tue, 7-9PM, room N245-247
- Officials & Rules Committee: Wed 7PM room N247
- Hall of Fame Banquet: Thur 6:30PM
I've also got meetings for the Table Tennis Professionals of America; to demonstrate Createspace (for would-be table tennis authors); and with someone who's apparently writing a training center manual. Plus I finally get to meet that disembodied voice better known as the new USATT CEO Gordon Kaye!
Here's an assignment for all players going to the Nationals (and really for all readers): Read the rules. It always astonishes me how many players have never done so. If you do it just one time, you'll have a better idea of just what's in there - and some of it might surprise you! Here are the ITTF Rules.
$1,000,000 ITTF World Tour Finals
The event continues today, Dec. 11-14 in Bangkok, Thailand, with Men's and Women's Singles and Doubles. Here's the ITTF home page for the event where you can get results, articles, pictures, and video. USA's own Adam Bobrow is, as usual, doing the TV commentary. Here are player bios.
PingPod #42 - Change the Service Rule
Here's the new episode (8:28). (Here's a text version.) At 3:09 (and in the text version) they refer to my serving proposal, but leave out a key part. My proposal isn't that both umpires must be able to see the ball, but the following:
"Throughout the serve, the ball must be visible to both umpires, or where the umpires would sit if there were umpires."
The second part is key, since most matches do not have umpires. And just as the purpose of the 6-inch toss wasn't to make players toss the ball six inches but to make sure they weren't serving out of their hand, the purpose here isn't to make players serve so the ball is visible to both umpires (or where they would sit) but so that the ball is clearly visible to the opponent - which is the result of this rule. (I didn't originate this idea, but I'm hoping to push it through.)
Ask the Coach
Episode 47 (20:01) - Pick the World Tour Grand Final Winners
- Yesterdays #PQOTD - 1:04: Do you remember your first tournament?
- #PQOTD - 4:18: Write down the Mens & Womens Singles World Tour Grand Final Winners as a comment on the Blog to this show and win a free 1 Month Premium membership. First to name both winners on the PingSkills blog wins. You are only allowed one guess.
- Question 1 - 6:27: I heard the term "dummy loop" on some table tennis blog that I can't quite recall. It had a vague definition and I couldn't quite grasp the concept. What is it? Sawyer Meverden
- Question 2 - 10:00: I see a few players serving with a "pick axe” motion a shakehand version of Wang Hao's service. I don't understand why a professional is serving this way, because there seems to be hardly any wrist action. I must admit that they are hard to read. Dieter
- Question 3 - 13:28: I have been unable to return balls which dribble over the net. Often they are hit hard and I am expecting them to come fast and far back. Is it possible to increase reaction speed to the point that you could lunge forward and return it? Adam
- Question 4 - 15:40: Some friends of mine said that my game is very predictable, like hitting the ball back right at where it come from, and some other stuff. I often lose because of this. I'm a looper, and how to fix this? Erriza
International Table Tennis
Here's a photo gallery from USATT of the event held this past weekend at the Metropolitan Pavilion in New York City. Top players included Sean O'Neill, Lily Yip, Ariel Hsing, Erica Wu, Wally Green, Kaz Yakoyama, and a host of celebrities - go through the pictures to find out who! And here are three pictures of Joel Roodyn on his way to winning the tournament they held (presumably the "celebrities" event).
Inclusion Table Tennis
Table Tennis on Reuters
Here's the article, Table Tennis: the Addictive Spin. "Table tennis bounces as effortlessly as its little white balls through all sorts of venues, from church basements to the Olympic Games to urban social clubs for the ultra cool."
Here's the latest table tennis artwork by Mike Mezyan - but how do we teach footwork to this fiery pong player?
Xu Xin Under-the-Leg Shot
Here's the video (18 sec), and check out the sidespin!
Don't Forget the Ball
Send us your own coaching news!
Table Tennis Professionals of America
I've started work on Table Tennis Professionals of America (TTPA). This would be a USA professional players organization, sort of like ATP in tennis but for U.S. players. The primary goals are a professional circuit in this country within four years, where top players can make a living, as well as an upgraded U.S. Open and Nationals. I've finalized a draft (is that a contradiction?) on its creation, including funding (top priority at the start), plans, and goals, and will meet with some players about it at the Nationals. (I've had some busy messaging sessions the last few nights over this.) I'll go over the plans publicly at some future date, but not at this time. (We will be soliciting an Executive Director - are you interested?) For this program, I need USATT's cooperation, not their funding, which will be a lot easier if I'm on the board. I blogged about this on December 2 and of course it's something I promised to do in both my election mailings and on my Election Page. If I'm not elected, well, I'll still get this one done, maybe others.
I had two of my students spend some of the session watching our top players train - nice, fluid shots, as I want my players to have. Daniel (10, about 1600), for example, tends to back up too much when forehand looping and then reaches forward to sort of lift the ball up with his upper body. By staying a little closer to the table and taking the ball later (in relation to his body), he gets more body rotation (i.e. a power from entire body, from legs on up), and a much nicer stroke, with more power, control, and less stress on the arm. (He's had arm problems.) He always starts sessions looping a bit awkwardly, but as we get into it his shots get better. I'm worried that at the Nationals next week, under pressure, he'll fall back into old habits rather than the "good" ones. (And he's probably reading this - aren't you, Daniel?) We'll make sure he gets a good warm-up.
Several students have been having trouble smashing high balls, so we did a lot of smash against lobs and fishes yesterday. ("Fishing" is sort of a low lob.) It was fun for me as they ran me around the court. Toward the end I gave play-by-play commentary during the points. We also played several points for the "world championship." Yes, I'm the world champion, I won it fair and square.
Something historic occurred yesterday. I was doing a drill with Matt (13, about 1700) where he serves backspin, I push back randomly, and he loops. Over about a ten-minute period at least half his serves were net serves, nicking the net. It got to be incredible! Twice he served four net serves in a row. One of those times, after doing four in a row and then serving a non-net serve, he followed with three more in a row. (He only served a few into the net.) He rarely did two "clean" serves in a row as over and over his serves nicked the net. When I commented on how incredible it was getting to be, instead of falling back to the norm he began serving even more net serves! It went on and on and on, to the point that we could barely drill as we were laughing too hard, and there were just too many "interruptions" with so many net serves. In my 38 years, I don't think I've ever seen anything like this. Recently I've been stressing to him and others the importance of serving low, but this got to be ridiculous! (Side note - I'm calling them "net" serves to be clear, but technical they are "let" serves.)
About ten years ago I while hitting with a beginner we suddenly had seven consecutive net balls - he got a net, I returned with the net, etc., with him getting four nets to my three, consecutively. I don't think I've had another rally with more than three or four in a row.
My arm, neck, back, and the rest of me are holding up, but sometimes I feel like I'm moving like a 70-year-old. I need one of those portable telescoping rods that pick up balls for me. (Addendum added later - my back is bothering me this morning. This is worrisome.)
Top Tournament Tactics
Here's the preview (3:58) of the new coaching video (1hr 49 min) from Brian Pace. "This video covers everything you will possibly need to know to equip you with how to exploit your opponent’s weakness and achieve victory." Topics covered include Tournament Play Analytics, tactics against attackers, defensive players, choppers, lefties, and short pips, tactics for serving, serve return, defensive play, and counter-attacking, how to coach tactics, and training with the pros.
Ask the Coach
Episode 46 (23:05) - Ovtcharov's Backhand Serve
- Discussion - 0:45: There was talk on a local radio station about Table Tennis as an Olympic sport. Should it stay?
- Response to Yesterday's #PQOTD - 3:22: Why are left handers over represented on the World Rankings list? Xu Xin and Ding Ning are both number 1.
- #PQOTD - 5:19: Do you remember your first tournament?
- Question 1 - 5:41: This one's for both of you. Do you have any signature serves? Brony
- Question 2 - 7:55: Do the balls lose any quality of spin, speed or bounce after a certain amount of usage? Thanks guys. George Byron
- Question 3 - 9:19: What happens if you make the ball touch the net twice or more during a serve? Lance Ramos Yeo
- Question 4 - 10:47: When my opponent lobs the ball I can't hit the ball consistently and it just annoys me when my opponent takes the point. I mostly lose the point when the lobbed ball hits the table on the third line and I'm forced a bit away from the table. Utkarsh
- Question 5 - 12:36: I noticed that Ovtcharov's backhand service are sometimes effective, sometimes not. Once when he executes this service, Ma Long easily returned the ball around the net and won the point. So what are the advantages and disadvantages of this serve? Viet
- Question 6 - 15:24: I have a lot of problems when receiving heavy sidespin short serves. Since theres is almost no backspin nor topspin, what is the most effective way to receive? Michel
- Question 7 - 18:04: ma long serve plz - Jerome
- Question 8 - 19:47: I have been having trouble against the Ma Lin serve recently and was wondering if there's a good way to counter it - Tyler.
$1,000,000 ITTF World Tour Finals
Here's the ITTF Press Release. The event takes place Dec. 11-14 (starting today) in Bangkok, Thailand, with Men's and Women's Singles and Doubles. Here's the ITTF home page for the event where you can get results, articles, pictures, and video. USA's own Adam Bobrow is, as usual, doing the TV commentary. Here's the article from Tabletennista explaining why there are no Chinese players in the World Tour Finals: "Because they don't meet the criteria for this event: to attend to at least 5 World Tour events during the year." Here's sort of a video preview (38 sec) of the players there training for the event - how many can you name?
ITTF News Feed
Here it is, where you can keep track of all the ITTF press releases.
Top Five Rallies from the World Junior Championships
Here's the video (2:21).
The Ultimate Drop Shot
Here's the video (25 sec, including slow motion replay) by 2368-rated He Jiaming. Even his aced opponent, the 2732-rated Zhang Xiang, applauded the shot.
Jiaqi Zheng Preparing for 2014 US Nationals
Here's the video (36 sec) as ICC Coach Masimo Costantini feeds multiball.
Here's the commercial (31 sec) that features table tennis twice. At 13 seconds in, while giving reasons for friends to come over, a character says, "…play a little table tennis." At 25 seconds in, another character says, "We're all ready over here," as he waves arm toward basement ping-pong table with a sponge racket and ball on it.
Table Tennis Moon Launch
Here's video (16 sec) showing the future of the USA Space Program and its new moon launch capabilities. Alas, after six successful launches the seventh one ends in disaster, though all aboard survived as it crashed into the safety net.
Send us your own coaching news!
Tuesday Coaching and Neck & Arm Update
I only did an hour of coaching yesterday, but it wasn't easy - both my neck and arm were hurting. However, I don't think I'll have to miss any sessions over it. I have three hours of coaching today. If it does get to be a problem I'll bring in one of our top players/practice partners and they'll do the hitting while I coach. We'll see. (Ultimately, this is I'll have to do. I'm getting slower every year, alas.)
One of the two kids I coached yesterday is an interesting case. He's seven, and not at all serious about playing. He's the definition of a goof-off. I wish I had video of him back in January when he joined our afterschool program with all the desire, focus, and hand-eye coordination of a three-year-old. And now? No, he's not on track to be U.S. champion, but he's really beginning to pick it up. If I can just keep tricking him into learning without his realizing he's learning, next thing you know he'll be old enough to play seriously, and he'll have the foundation needed to reach a high level. He can even loop, in multiball, against either backspin or topspin. If he does reach a high level, the first time I hear someone say something like, "Oh, he's just talented" I think I'll tear my ears off.
Readers, I'm doing a lot of writing about USATT since I'm the election for the USATT Board. Bear with me on this for just a few more days, and soon I'll be back to blogging mostly on coaching issues! I'll be out of town for two weeks starting next Monday (coaching at Nationals and Christmas with family), and so won't be blogging after next Monday until after Christmas. Then I can go back to more coaching related issues, along with regular USATT updates, whether I'm elected or not.
On my Election Page I wrote, "A few years ago most of the USATT committees had the word 'Advisory' added to their names, which emphasized that they are only advisory rather than action committees. That was a mistake. We need committees that get things done, not just sit back and advise."
Why was it a mistake? These committees need to work on a regular basis with the CEO as they implement programs to develop the sport. For decades when I talk to USATT people I've constantly heard about their plans, but the plan-to-implementation ratio is unbelievably high. Rarely are these plans actually put into practice. Even as I write this I know I'll be surrounded by people at the Nationals telling me about their plans - but that's the problem, it's always plans. This has gone on roughly since USATT was created in 1933. Often a lot of time and work go into these plans, just as a lot of work is done in advisory issues. And while we should be grateful for this work, there is something missing.
From the USATT Advisory Committee Responsibilities, it says:
"Advisory Committees (ACs) are, by definition, advisory in nature to the Board of Directors and the Chief Executive Officer (CEO). ACs are not policy making bodies but they can recommend policy and operating procedures to the Board or CEO."
The problem here is the emphasis is on advising rather than doing. Having an Advisory Committee advising the USATT Board or the CEO may sound nice, but who is going to do the actual implementation of these programs? The tiny, overworked USATT Staff? Rarely. That leaves volunteers - except they are stuck on Advisory Committees that are mostly advising!!! There's a reason why USATT struggles to implement anything. Contrast this with, say, USTA (tennis) or SFWA (Science Fiction Writers of America), two organizations I'm familiar with, which get a huge amount done using volunteers.
Now let's look at the Committee Responsibilities, from the same document. It says:
All ACs are expected to perform the following tasks:
- Submit articles to the magazine on a regular basis on topics relevant to their respective AC’s missions.
- Review and update all respective AC related materials on the website
- Submit web/blog posts to the webmasters on a bi-monthly basis. Posts should cover a topic related to the committee’s area of focus and be of interest to the general membership.
- Meet on a regular basis (suggested monthly) via web or teleconference to ensure continued progress on committee-related responsibilities
- Meet face to face annually at either the U.S. Open or U.S. Nationals/Annual Assembly, provided committee members are able to make the trip.
- Submit minutes of any meeting conducted for posting on the website. Minutes are expected to be submitted in a timely fashion, within 30 days of a meeting date
- Submit an annual report on committee activities in December of each year to the Board and CEO. Present and discuss the committee’s annual report at the subsequent Board meeting.
Read through this as many times as you need to convince yourself that there isn't anything listed there about implementation! The closest is #4 - but what are "committee-related responsibilities"? Ah, but we're getting that.
Further along in the document it gives more specific responsibilities for each of the Advisory Committees. Over and over you see words like "recommend" and "develop" and "review." ("Review" is a favorite, used 18 times. Apparently a lot of reviewing going on!) Rarely does the word "implement" occur - and where it does in the progressive committees, sadly nothing is really happening right now. Part of this is because of a lack of funding, but as I've shown in my blogs, there's a lot you can do with little funding by organizing and using volunteers.
Here are a couple of typical examples. From the Club Advisory Committee guidelines, it says, "Review the existing USATT club membership structure and advise the Board on the promotion, growth and support policy of clubs." So they will advise the board on this, but who is going to actually implement something to actually promote, grow, or support clubs? Or from the League Advisory Committee guidelines, where it says, "Develop plans to promote the growth of affiliated leagues." I haven't seen these plans, but if they exist, who actually implements them? I'm guessing we may actually have some good plans sitting around - but that's all they mostly do, sit around. I'm already in the process of implementing a local Capital Area League - or more specifically, two gung-ho volunteers I'm working with are doing it, both with experience in overseas table tennis leagues - and if it works, it could become a proto-type for a nationwide regional league that can spread everywhere, one of things I promised if elected.
Here is the list of USATT Committees. As I've blogged before, I divide USATT issues into "progressive issues" and "fairness issues." Both are important, but USATT tends to get bogged down on fairness issues and so never develops the sport with progressive issues - and those are the ones I want to focus on. Some of the committees I consider central to these progressive issues include the following:
- Junior Advisory Committee
- Senior Advisory Committee
- Tournament Advisory Committee
- Clubs Advisory Committee
- League Advisory Committee
- Coaching Advisory Committee
- Hardbat Advisory Committee
- Marketing & Fund Raising Advisory Committee
But notice - all eight of these committees are all Advisory Committees! Sure, they can take the initiative sometimes in progressive ways (as the Coaching Advisory Committee did a few years ago to adopt the ITTF Coaching Program, and as others sometimes do), but these committees are by definition advisory in nature, and so that's what they mostly do. We need ones that are progressive in nature, who will work together and with our CEO to develop our sport. These "Advisory" committees should be central to developing the sport in this country - but the emphasis needs to be on developing the sport, not advising on how to do it. Implementation is key.
There are also six Standing Committees. But five of them are clearly in the "fairness issues" department, leaving only one non-advisory committee in the "progressive issues" category - the High Performance Committee (HPC). So out of all our committees, we have exactly one progressive non-advisory committee. That needs to change dramatically. (Alas, I'm told the HPC budget is being cut dramatically next year due to USOC funding cuts. They will have to get creative.)
I'm told by one committee chair that dealing with the Board is a headache, simply because they are not really knowledgeable or even interested in their topic, meet infrequently, and you have to spend too much time trying to convince them of various things. Plans change, but it's difficult for committees to change once their annual plans are approved. From the Advisory Committee Responsibilities listing above, it says, "ACs will conduct their business in accordance within a budget that is approved by the Board on an annual basis." The problem is that the budgets are itemized, and so once it gets its annual approval, it's stuck in stone, unable to change without another board vote.
Once we have the right people in the right positions, we need to give them great freedom to do as they think best. The board still oversees when they choose, mostly at budget time, but as long as they stay within budget, I want committees to have the freedom to operate more independently, working with USATT mostly through the CEO. That may mean changing their plans in mid-stream when the situation arises, but so be it. At the least allow this with the go-ahead of the CEO rather than having to go through the entire board each time there's a change in plan.
Have You Practiced Your Serves Today?
The Nationals start in six days. If you are not going (what's wrong with you?) then you probably have other tournaments, league matches, or other important matches coming up. Have you practiced your serves? Well, why not??? Here's my article "Practicing Serves the Productive Way." Get to it.
Ask the Coach
Episode 45 (20:45) - Ma Lin's Awesome Flick
- Discussion - 1:10: 2014 ITTF World Tour Grand Finals. The Draw is out.
- Response to Yesterday's #PQOTD - 4:30: In what year will a Non Chinese player win a World Mens singles championship? - 2031 :)
- #PQOTD - 7:09: Why are left handers over represented on the World Rankings list? Xu Xin and Ding Ning are both number 1.
- Question 1 - 7:32: Can you explain to me the Ma Lin awesome flick? Nick V
- Question 2 - 9:17: I am a defender, my opponent attacks on my forehand and I would play a very fast deep chop but my opponent just plays it short and I need to run for it. So is it right to play a fast, deep chop or should I play a normal chop allowing him to attack? Rutvik
- Question 3 - 13:52: I struggle with my backhand topspin against loose/dead balls which are just dropping of the edge of the table. I also sometimes find myself doing the stroke either in slow motion or too much vertical, why? Mudit
- Question 4 - 16:48: I played against a top player in my school. I lost points when he does a very fast topspin serve to my Backhand side. Sometimes I can return with an attacking topspin stroke. But then he increased the speed and sometimes put a little sidespin. Nicho
Here's the article by Samson Dubina.
International Table Tennis Skills
Nittaku ITTF Monthly Pongcast - November 2014
Here's the video (12:48).
Pride of Africa Takes the World by Storm
Here's the interview with Nigeria's Quadri Aruna by Matt Hetherington
Jan-Ove Waldner Reflexes and Touch
Here's the repeating Gif image. Context: He was giving a point to the opponent (Primorac) because the Umpire had made a wrong decision in the previous point.
Toronto Maple Leafs Dion Phaneuf and Phil Kessel Play Ping
Here's the article from Table Tennis Nation.
Ping Pong Cakes and Cookies Ideas
Here are pictures and discussion - just in time for the holidays!
Lily Zhang and Prachi Jha Chewing on Their Bronze Medals
"Here's an empty table."
Send us your own coaching news!
Ringers at the Open and Nationals
I've had a few people email me about this problem. At every Open and Nationals most of the rating events are won by "ringers," i.e. players who are way under-rated. Most, though not all, are rapidly-improving juniors. Because of these ringers, some of the fun is taken out of competing in these tournaments. After all, when you play, say, an Under 1500 event, you expect to play players whose level is under 1500, or at least not that far over it. The reality, of course, is that to win a rating event at the Open or Nationals usually you have to play well over the rating cutoff. To have a chance of winning, you probably have to be at least 200-400 points over the rating cutoff of an event. (The lower the event, the more volatility and the more you have to be over the event's cutoff.)
I considered putting this down as one of the issues in my "Other USATT Issues" portion of my USATT Election Page and mailing. But in contrast with the other issues I did put there, there is no easy solution to this. All we can do are find "less bad" solutions. But we really do need to address this.
There are three main types of "ringers" at these tournaments. They are:
- Up-and-coming players - mostly juniors - who are playing tournaments regularly but have recently improved dramatically.
- Players who haven't played tournaments recently and have improved dramatically since their last tournament. Again, these are often juniors.
- Players who intentionally dump matches to get their rating down for big tournaments. These are low-life scum.
There is little you can do (or perhaps should do) about players in Category One. They were legitimately under the cutoff, are playing tournaments regularly, but due to lots of practice have suddenly improved a lot, and now they are reaping the rewards. Congrats to them! Perhaps you can allow the tournament director or staff to rerate such a player once they realize how under-rated they are - but be somewhat lenient. If a 1000 player is playing an estimate 1500, perhaps let them play Under 1400 or even Under 1300, while taking them out of Under 1200 and Under 1100. Estimates are only so accurate, and you do want to let players compete when you can. Even if they are playing 1500 level they are going to have a tough time winning Under 1300 - they won't be the only ringer.
But there's a weakness to their new level, which experienced players can take advantage of, even if their level is no longer as strong - these rapidly-improving players are new to this level, and so under pressure are not always so good. They get nervous, they aren't sure what type of tactics to use, and they often either fall back onto old habits when it's close or begin to play wildly, as they aren't confident of their new level yet. Stick with them and keep it close (not always easy), and you have a good chance against them. (The downside is these players, mostly kids, usually have coaches - such as me - and we're pretty good at guiding them through these close matches. Sorry!)
What can be done about those in Category Two? There are several options.
- You can have rules that don't allow players to play in their lowest rating event if they haven't played a tournament in, say, six months. Or perhaps add 100 points to their rating for eligibility purposes (but not for seeding). The downside is many long-time players with legitimate ratings don't play that many tournaments, and so may object to not being able to play in their best events at the Open or Nationals. I tend to like this one. Perhaps require a player to play at least a certain number of "competitive" matches in the last six months, i.e. players rated within 100 points, so as to get a more accurate rating.
- You can run the rating events in reverse order, highest to lowest. If a player wins one event, he is no longer eligible for another. There are several problems here. First, it's a scheduling nightmare, and probably not feasible. (If not in sequence, you can still take players out of lower events, but then eligibility is often based on the order of events, which is somewhat arbitrary.) Second, suppose someone rated 1000 wins Under 1500 - then he can't play any lower events, and is out of U1100, U1200, U1300, and U1400? Suddenly it's not much of a tournament where he's taken out of four of his five rating events, and so not much is left for him to do in a five-day tournament. And third, suppose he loses in the final to some other ringer - he's obviously better than 1000, but by losing that final (because of an even better ringer) he gets to stay in U1100, U1200, U1300, and U1400. Suddenly it's sort of arbitrary, with eligibility for four events based on one match. (Strong incentive to dump even!)
- You can allow tournament directors or staff to rerate players who are obviously under-rated. They should be somewhat lenient here - when in doubt, let the player play an event. But if a 1000-rated player is beating 1800 players, at least rerated to 1600 or 1700.
- You can use a rating system with standard deviation, and not allow a player in their lowest events if their SD gets too high. This would be a complete revamping of the system, a possibility but not something I'm thrilled with. There are strengths and weaknesses to such a system, and which have been debated extensively - and I have no desire to get into another such debate.
What can be done about those in Category Three, other than immediate expulsion from the human race? (I'm against execution, but it's a close thing.)
- You can use a player's highest rating of the past year for eligibility. But what about the poor player rated, say, 1350, who has one great tournament, gets to 1601, then drops back to 1400, and suddenly can't play Under 1500 or Under 1600?
- You can require that a player cannot drop more than 100 points from their highest rating in the past year for eligibility purposes. So if a player dumps matches and drops 200 points, he'd effectively only go down 100 points, and so wouldn't be able to really dominate that event. (Most likely he'd lose to a ringer from categories one or two - yay.)
- You can simply give the tournament director (or a tournament committee) the power to rerate a player they believe has been dumping.
You'll note that allowing a tournament director or staff to rerate a player is in all three categories, and I believe this should be allowed - but as noted, it should be applied leniently. But overall, there are no easy solutions. And yet, the current situation is worse than some or most of the above. I think the USATT Tournament Committee (and perhaps a much-needed USATT Ratings Committee) needs to really address these problems, with the understanding that there is no perfect solution.
Once again we had the headache of keeping the various balls separate. Fortunately, with the World Junior Championships (Butterfly plastic balls) and the North American Teams (JOOLA plastic balls) both over, we're mostly down to players training for the USA Nationals next week (Nittaku Premium plastic balls, very limited supplies) and celluloid. I still have eleven of the dozen Nittaku Premiums I ordered a few weeks ago and I'm religiously guarding them. When I coach someone going to the Nationals we combine our balls and usually have over 20 - almost enough to do some quick multiball! I've taken to using the two tables in the far back corner, which are barriered off separately, so as to keep these balls apart from the rest of the club.
One of my students came in about ten minutes late. While waiting I was sitting on a sofa, with one of the cubicle shelves used for players to store their bags blocking my view of the door. I kept leaning forward and craning my neck so I could see the door to see if my student was coming in. I finally commented to others that their putting the cubicle there was going to cause me to wrench my neck, which would lead me to being unable to coach, which would leave me unemployed, leading to my living in the streets, penniless, hungry, and shivering in the cold. Sure enough, I did wrench my neck - I think I hurt it a bit while trying to watch the door, and aggravated it while coaching. So all last night my neck was stiff and hurting. I think I'll be okay - I only have one hour today, so I can mostly rest it. I've got a busy schedule Wed-Sun, and then I leave for the Nationals.
Christmas Stocking Stuffers
Looking for Christmas stocking stuffers for a table tennis player - or yourself? Here are a few suggestions.
- Training Videos by Brian Pace
- International Table Tennis Skills DVD by Samson Dubina
- Ping Pong for Fighters by Tahl Leibovitz
- Breaking 2000 and The Next Step by Alex Polyakov
Here's my review of Breaking 2000.
- Get Your Game Face On Like the Pros! By Dora Kurimay
Here's my review.
- History of U.S. Table Tennis by Tim Boggan (15 volumes - take your pick!)
- World Class American Table Tennis Players of the Classic Age, Volumes One, Two, Three, Four, Five, and Six, by Dean Johnson and Tim Boggan
- Adventures of the Ping-Pong Diplomats, Volume 1: The U.S. China Friendship Matches Change World History, by Fred Danner
Here's my review.
- My books!
Full-Time Coach Wanted
Coaching Articles by Samson Dubina
Here are two new ones.
Giving Advice During a Match
Here's the coaching video (7:27) from PingSkills - I don't think I posted this previously.
Ask the Coach
Episode 44 (13:46) - 10,000 counterhits
- Response to Yesterday's #PQOTD - 1:07: How many counterhits can you do in a row?
- #PQOTD - 4:04: In what year will a Non Chinese player win a World Mens singles championship?
- Question 1 - 4:26: I see lot of discussions here on footwork but am not able to understand why it is required cus I have seen many players in my colony not using efficient footwork but can play very well. Chandrachur
- Question 2 - 7:26: When using long pips what is the proper stroke to use against another long pips no spin ( dead) return assuming you are not going to twiddle to the inverted side? Should this stroke be only defensive or can it be use more offensively? Jeremiah
- Question 3 - 9:48: How many sets are required to win a match? I thought that the game is 3 of 5 sets till 11 points, but now i see matches with 4 of 7 sets. Is it fixed value or depends on tournament or judges? Or rules are changed? Dimitar Dimitrov
- Question 4 - 11:31: l bought a Grass D Tecs rubber last year and l am very happy with it , After playing a match this week my opponent was not happy , and produced a list of legal rubber which he stated it was not on his list and declared my rubber illegal. Robert Atwell
Barbara Wei Profile
Here's the feature on her from Butterfly. Barbara practically grew up at MDTTC, my club, starting at age 7, and eventually traveling the world as a member of the USA cadet and then junior team.
Here's video (28 sec) as Kalinikos Kreanga of Greece plays a great point. Among world-class players, I think Kreanga is the best at playing spectacular points.
Another Great Rally
Here's video (34 sec, including slow motion replay) of a great rally with a great finish between two kids.
Go All In - This is Table Tennis
Here's the video (1:42) of mostly junior training at a club, set to music.
Fundraiser in Florida
Here's the video (48 sec) "PongUniverse and The Florida Grassroot Table Tennis Association at the Pinellas County 2014 Annual Tennis Shoes and Tie fundraiser. Tropicana Field. Tampa, Florida."
World Chess Champion Plays Table Tennis
Here's the picture of Magnus Carlsen of Norway, care of Alberto Prieto.
Ping-Pong Balls in Mouth
How many? (Kids, don't try this at home; he's a trained professional. I think.)
Send us your own coaching news!
Tip of the Week
We're five days into the election. If you haven't voted yet, here's my Election Page, and here's the USATT Voting Page. Read over the various programs I will work on, and if you agree we need these things to develop the sport in this country, please vote for me. Equally important, ask others from your club to vote for me. Perhaps print out some of my Election Flyers to distribute!
I've heard some describe my plans as "grandiose," but they are only grandiose if I claimed I could get them all done, say, in my first year. I will do whatever I can to get the process started on all five the first year, and hope to have results to show after two. Four years in and I'll be up for re-election, and if I don't have good results to show at that point, then of course it's time to throw us scoundrels out. It really comes down to a Shakespearean question - to work to develop the sport, or not to work to develop the sport?
Two of my goals are to make the new CEO, Gordon Kaye, into the most successful CEO in our history, and to have this board of directors go down in history as the greatest ever - the equivalent of Eisenhower and "The Greatest Generation" after World War II. Let's get it done.
Nets and Edges
I've blogged about this before, such as on February 6, 2012. They don't even out - some styles do get more than others. I've tested this many times. Choppers, hitters, and blockers (especially those with deader surfaces such as long pips) hit with a lower trajectory, and so get more nets. Aggressive hitters and blockers hit the ball deeper on the table and so get more edges. Blockers who angle a lot get lots of side edges. So it is a matter of playing style. There is, of course, the argument that these players are playing a more aggressive style, playing life on the edge (yeah, pun intended, sorry) as they keep the ball low to the net, deep, and at wide angles, and so deserve those nets & edges - but then that's the argument, not that they all even out. Since they are hitting lots of shots dangerously near the net and table edges, they are also hitting a number of balls into the net or off the side. Some nets aren't as valuable as others - for example, choppers mostly hit the ball more slowly, and so it's not such a timing problem adjusting to their nets, plus since they are often off the table they can't always take advantage of your weaker returns off their net balls.
In the blog linked to above I was out net & edged 32-10. On Friday I blogged how two of my students beat me at it 19-8. This weekend Sameer decided to keep track of all nets & edges during our 90-minute session; he won 32-13. So for those three sessions I was out net & edged by a total of 83-31. Let me read that again: Eight-three to Thirty-One. That's a 52-point deficit. Of course, some would say it's a matter of level, but I used to keep track of this as well when I was developing and practicing regularly with Brian Masters, a future USA World Team Member and 1983 Pan Am Singles Gold Medalist. He was also rated higher, and would typically out net & edge me nearly 3-1 - but he was an aggressive Seemiller-style blocker who hit deep and at wide angles, with a low trajectory, and often flipped to the antispin on the other side. So he had all the ingredients for someone who would get lots and lots of nets and edges, and he did.
So, do you have the edge (sorry) with a net surplus (sorry) in the net & edge department?
China Sweeps the Medals at the World Junior Table Tennis Championships
Here's the ITTF press release for the championships that were held in Shanghai, China, finishing yesterday. Here's the ITTF home page for the event (results, articles, pictures, video). Here's the USATT page for the event, where you can see USA results (upsetting South Korea in the QF to get the bronze in Girls' Teams!), pictures, video, and lots of great quotes from the USA juniors. Here's the Boys' Singles Final (8:16, with time between points removed) between China's Yu Ziyang and Japan's chopper/looper Yuto Muramatsu. Here's the all-China Girls' Singles Final (6:14, with time between points removed) between Wang Manyu and Zhu Chaohui. (However, it was not all intense competition at the Junior Worlds as the world's best juniors took some time out to play with some school kids in Shanghai - here's the video - 69 sec.)
Kanak Jha vs. Kim Minhyeok
Here's the video (5:21, with time between points removed) of USA's Kanak Jha vs. South Korea's Kim Minhyeok in Round One (round of 64) of Boys' Singles at the World Junior Championships. (Kanak had to go through the Qualification RR to get there, while Kim was seed directly to the Final 64.) It's a nice match to watch, where you can analyze what each player did well and won or lost on. (I'll leave that as an exercise for you.) Spoiler alert - Kim wins the match 4-1, and wins the next two rounds 4-0, before himself losing 4-0 in the quarterfinals to eventual winner Yu Ziyang of China.
2014 North American Table Tennis Tour Update - ICC Stiga California Open
You can read about it and see pictures on the Bay Area Facebook Page.
Backhand Loop Technique Development
Here's the newest video (4:47) from Coach Brian Pace.
Ask the Coach
Episode 43 (16:55) - The New Plastic Balls
- Response to Friday's #PQOTD - 0:56: When should local clubs start using the Plastic balls?
- Discussion - 3:56: World Junior Championships results, Chinese dominance and choppers.
- #PQOTD - 6:04: How many counterhits can you do in a row?
- Question 1 - 6:16: After watching your demonstration of how to execute pure backspin on serving by contacting the ball underneath with a completely flat level bat please advise how you impart enough forward movement to get the ball up the table and over the net. Thanks. Les
- Question 2 - 9:14: I am a penhold player, and I play at my local high schools, table tennis club, I have difficult doing a backhand when people hit the ball hard and fast, and also when they hit in the middle, How do I have a strong backhand while playing penhold grip? Ben
- Question 3 - 11:00: I’m not sure if you guys have a video of it but i was wondering what the rules are when it comes to accidentally hit the ball with the finger or the racket handle, the ball goes over the net, and hits the other side of the table. Jayce Soberano
- Question 4 - 13:30: I am having a hard time with my forehand loops. It seems that I am able to loop it because it is a long ball but when I hit it I feel very awkward because it feels like the ball is too close to the table for me to do a proper forehand loop. Any tips? Mark
USA National Team Trials
Here's the USATT article. "2015 Pan Am, National and Worlds Team Trials will be held on March 6-8, 2015 in Fort Worth, Texas at Texas Wesleyan University. Prospectus and entry form will be posted on USATT webpage soon." I'll probably be there coaching.
Topspin Charity is having an event on Dec. 10 (this Wednesday) at the Metropolitan Pavilion in New York City. "Who else is counting down the days until our 6th Annual Charity Ping Pong Tournament in NYC?? Join us for an exclusive event at Metropolitan Pavilion that helps out children's education in your own city." They also have this nice picture!
Marty Reisman Feature from Spin NY
Here's the trailer (65 sec), with a full version coming by the New Year. "On December 5th 2014 SPIN NY celebrated the LIFE of the GREAT "MARTY REISMAN" American Ping Pong - Table Tennis LEGEND. This fabulous EVENT was held at the famous SPIN NY. It was attended by many of the TOP players in the US."
See the Light
Here's the latest table tennis artwork from Mike Mezyan. (And like this picture, table tennis in the USA is still in the jungle, but we're starting to see the light!)
Ping Pong: The Ultimate Social Networking Tool
Here's the article from Pong Universe.
Stone Age Concrete Table Tennis
Here's the new video (1:50) on concrete tables, some of it showing how they are made.
Ibrahim Hamato Recognized at Al Maktoum Creative Sports Awards
Here's the article on Hamato, who gained fame earlier this year as a guest of the ITTF at the World Championships where he played points with the best players in the world. He has no arms, and holds the racket in his mouth. Here's video (2:43) of him hitting with the best players in the world at the World Championships. (There's an Internet rumor that he died - that's false.)
Table Tennis Best of 2014
Here's the video (12:56)!
Serious Racket Throw
Here's the video (9 sec) as a player reacts to losing. Amazingly the opponent doesn't even react to his opponent's paddle whizzing by at high velocity. Equally enthralling is the mournful cry of "Nooooo!" by a spectator as the thrower loses the last point. Do you think the racket survived the journey? Do you think the player survived without penalty?
Underground Pong with Santa
Here's the video (11 sec)! They're pretty good, and since they are miners, can they play in the World Junior Championships? (Okay, I know, I know, it's "minors.")
Here's the video (41 sec) of some incredible ball bouncing off plates into cups. It starts pretty simple but by the end it's pretty wild!
Send us your own coaching news!
Election Stuff and Other Stuff
If you are sick and tired of reading about USATT and election stuff, jump past the first two items here! However, I think USATT members might be interested in the following USATT vs. USTA comparison.
USATT vs. USTA
I've pointed out for years how, when it comes to promoting and developing their sports, USTA (tennis, 700,000 members) seems to do so many things right, while USATT (8000 members) does not. As I've also pointed out, this is not the norm. Tennis is big in Europe, but in nearly every country there are more paid table tennis memberships than tennis. The U.S. is the big exception here. And yet we're so used to thinking of tennis as "big" and ourselves as "small" that we've come to accept it. But the only reason for this is that tennis does things right, and we don't. Here's a comparison.
- Adult Membership fee: USATT $49, USTA $44
- Junior Membership Rate: USATT $25 (under 18), USTA $20 (under 19)
- Family Membership Rate: USATT $90, USTA $72
USTA does have the advantage of large numbers that allows them to keep low rates, but low rates often lead to large numbers. I'd like to see USATT lower their rates to match USTA, with the idea that they would likely come out roughly even with the lower rate by getting more members this way. However, USATT is currently facing budget problems, and would be unlikely to lower the rates. Perhaps we can at least freeze them until USTA at least catches up?
USTA Membership Benefits
As a former member of USTA, I have a copy of their main brochure. What do they focus on? In order, this is what the brochure advertises:
- Annual subscription to Tennis Magazine (a monthly print magazine)
- Special access to discounted and early ticket sales for seats to the US Open and other major tournaments across the country.
- Opportunity to participate in USTA League, the world's largest recreational tennis league.
- Members-only savings on sports gear, hotel reservations, entertainment, and dining.
- Travel discounts to major tennis tournaments around the world including the four Grand Slams.
- Special benefits and discounts on tennis instruction and your next great vacation.
- They also prominently advertise a US Open cap for those who join.
Let's also look at the USTA webpage and see what they offer:
U.S. Tennis Association ($44/year)
- USTA Leagues & Tournaments
From recreational leagues to tournaments offering the opportunity to qualify for a national ranking, the USTA provides play opportunities for players of all ages and abilities.
- Top Tennis Publications
Adult and Family members receive subscriptions to TENNIS magazine and Tennis Tuesday digital magazine offering tournament previews, insight into the professional game and its players, fitness tips, instruction and other features to improve your game. Junior members ages 11-18 receive Tennis Tuesday digital magazine, while Junior members age 10 and under receive Bounce.
- Special Benefits at Top Tennis Tournaments
Beat the crowds! USTA Members have special access to discounted seats and early tickets sales for the US Open, Emirates Airline US Open Series and other major tournaments across the country.
- Savings & Discounts
Enjoy a 10% discount on US Open and USTA merchandise, as well as, discounts on dining, travel, retail, and entertainment at well-known hotels, car rental agencies, restaurants and more.
- Resort & Camp Program
Bring great vacations and tennis instruction together with benefits ranging from free private lessons, room and package discounts, complimentary restringing and more.
- US Open Travel Packages
Steve Furgal’s International Tennis Tours, Inc. offers USTA Members packages to one of the greatest tournaments in the world—the US Open!
- Tennis Tuesday
Delivered weekly, Tennis Tuesday provides coverage of the sport from its most renowned players, top instructors, exciting personalities and talented writers. Each edition offers compelling on- and off-court insight into the pro tours, and offers tips and techniques for players to improve their games, including racquet, apparel and gear reviews as well as compelling features and video instruction.
Now we compare this to USATT:
USA Table Tennis ($49/year)
- Personalized help in locating clubs and coaches in all fifty states
- Liability insurance during USA Table Tennis Sanctioned Events
- Certification programs for Coaches and Officials across the nation
- Discounts with Hilton and United for hotel and travel for USA Table Tennis Sanctioned Events
- Ratings which allow you to compare yourself to other players who play in sanctioned tournaments. Ratings will be updated after information is received from each tournament.
- Monthly newsletter
- Bi-monthly digital Table Tennis Magazine
Quite a contrast, isn't it? USTA's biggest focus is on their print magazine, leagues, and US Open. USATT no longer has a print magazine, it doesn't have any sort of leagues to offer, and the US Open isn't something they advertise much. All this needs to change. (I plan to bring USTA brochures and their magazine to the USA Nationals to show at the USATT board meeting and USATT Assembly.)
I was up past 3:30 AM responding to 162 emails, all table tennis-related, almost all election-related. Lots of interesting comments! The most common theme was the call for the return of the print magazine.
If you are a USATT member age 18 or over, then you should have received the USATT election notice two days ago, and my email yesterday. (If you didn't, and you are sure you are a current member, then contact USATT to see if they have your correct email address.) However, not all adult USATT members received Jim McQueen's email of two days ago, and many former (but not current) USATT members did receive it. Based on a sampling of people from my club, I've come to the conclusion that the email list he used was probably from July, August, or September 2012. There's a member of my club whose membership expired on Sept. 30, 2012. He received the McQueen email, but not the other two. I found another who is a member now (and so received the emails from USATT and me), but apparently was not a member between June 30 and Sept. 30 in 2012, and did not receive the McQueen email. So presumably the email list he used was from July, August, or September of 2012. But we don't really know for sure.
However, I don't plan to make an issue of this from this point on. I'm very much for transparency and do want to know what happened, but I also told USATT that if they allowed me access to their email list so I could also do a mailing by Thursday morning, that the issue would basically be resolved. They agreed, and so for me the issue is basically resolved.
One of the things I decided not to do in this election is use endorsements. I have a list of prominent players and people in the sport who have endorsed me in the election, but I'm not using those names. (I'm sure my opponent could get some as well.) Why? Because even the appearance of conflict of interest is a problem. The last thing I want is to appear to be favoring or to "owe" people for their endorsements. This doesn't mean individuals can't endorse my candidacy, just that I won't use them myself in the election. I was originally going to use them but I really want to think ahead to when I might be on the board, and decisions come up that involve them. Almost by definition many of them involve some of these prominent players or people. (I'm already planning to abstain from issues that directly involve Butterfly, since I'm sponsored by them - I put that in my application to be on the ballot.)
Regarding my own email to the membership yesterday, some of you may have noted it didn't have great formatting. I spent a lot of time creating it very nicely in Word (here's the original), but USATT uses a program called Constant Contact that lost much of the formatting. (Headquarters did the best they could to match my formatting, which I appreciated.)
Two of the coaches at my club had problems voting with their iPhones. When they tried to input the required date of birth, the dropdown menu wouldn't drop down - and without that, the software wouldn't accept their vote. They showed it to me, and I also tried it, but it wouldn't work. Both of them voted instead on an iPad. I know that the software was tested on other iPhones where it did work, so I don't think this is a widespread issue. (They both probably had the same make and model, and I'm told that the Chinese character set they have on it might have caused a problem.) Did any of you have trouble voting?
Thursday Coaching and Other Happenings
Thursday was a somewhat busy coaching day, with four hours of coaching. (For most of our other full-time coaches, five of whom coach at least 50 hours/week, this would have been a very light day!) In the junior class I taught the focus yesterday was on smashing, which of course is very popular among kids and non-kids alike. One question that always comes up is how much to enforce the "proper" grip. With smaller hands, kids often feel more comfortable with their hands lower in the handle, with their index finger more up the middle. But this leads to a floppy wrist and tightness in the forearm. However, some find it uncomfortable holding it higher. We often have to find a compromise. We do have some smaller kids rackets with smaller handles (which are easier to grip), but some of the kids don't like the smaller racket faces.
In two of my private sessions we had a contest to see who would get the most/least nets or edges. I've done this before, and I always get the least. Yesterday's results were actually among the closer results. In both cases we kept track for perhaps 15 minutes. Daniel got 10 to my 3, and Sameer got 9 to my 5.
On January 24, Saturday night, we're running a fund-raiser at MDTTC for Cystic Fibrosis. Sameer (13) is the driving force behind this. He and I will do a demo and exhibition, and then run a recreational tournament. The Baltimore Orioles promised to donate an autographed item, though they haven't said what yet. More on this later.
World Junior Championships
They are continuing in Shanghai, China, Nov. 30 - Dec. 7. Here's the ITTF home page for the event (results, articles, pictures, video). Here's the USATT page for the event, where you can see USA results, pictures, video, and lots of great quotes from the USA juniors.
Yesterday wasn't a great day for the USA juniors, with four of the five left in singles losing in the round of 64. In Girls' Singles, Prachi Jha lost 4-3 to Bernadett Balint of Romania; Angela Guan lost 4-0 to Soo Wai Yam Minnie of Hong Kong; and Crystal Wang lost 4-0 to Wang Manyu of China. Only Lily Zhang advanced, 4-0 over Giorgia Piccolin of Italy. In Boys' Singles, Kanak Jha lost 4-1 to Kim Minhyeok of Korea.
In Girls' Doubles, in the round of 32, Prachi Jha/Lily Zhang defeated Reem Morad/Aida Rahmo of Egypt 3-1, while Angela Guan/Crystal Wang lost 3-0 to Miyu Maeda/Hitomi Sato of Japan. In the round of 16, Prachi Jha/Lily Zhang lost 3-1 to Ji Eunchae/Lee Zion of Korea.
In Boys' Doubles, in the round of 32, Kunal Chodri/Kanak Jha defeated Claus Nielsen/Tobias Rasmussen of Denmark 3-0, while Krish Avvari/Aashay Patel lost 3-0 to Tomas Polansky/David Reitspies of Czech Republic. In the round of 16, Kunal Chodri/Kanak Jha lost 3-0 to Liu Dingshuo/Wang Chuqin of China.
In Mixed Doubles, in the round of 32, Kanak Jha/Prachi Jha lost 3-0 to Patryk Zatowka/Natalia Bajor of Poland; Kunal Chodri/Crystal Wang lost 3-1 to Kilian Ort/Nina Mittelham of Germany; and Krish Avvari/Lily Zhang lost 3-0 to Asuka Sakai/Miyu Maeda of Japan.
So the only remaining USA player in the tournament is Lily Zhang, who is in the round of 32 in Girls' Singles, where she'll face Orawan Paranang of Thailand.
195 Tips of the Week
I just put in a direct link so you can browse all 195 Tips of the Week I've written since January 2011. You can buy the first 150 (2011-2013), formatted nicely by topic, in my book Table Tennis Tips! (Coming early in 2017: More Tips of the Week, with 150 Tips from 2014-2016.)
Ask the Coach
Episode 42 (17:31) - Table Tennis Strokes to Master
- Response to Yesterday's #PQOTD - 0:40: Should Table Tennis players use a tennis grip?
- #PQOTD - 3:22: When should local clubs start using the Plastic balls?
- Question 1 - 3:40: I wonder how often i need to change my racket if i take care of it. Jasper Nokkosmaki
- Question 2 - 8:33: It's clear that Alois and Jeff have mastered all the shots, forehand and backhand blocks, topspins, loops, flips and chops. But for the club player, should we focus on the few shots we are strong at or try to master all the shots? Mark Roberti
- Question 3 - 11:02: Can you please explain the angles required to execute banana flip on short and low serve with large backspin and moderate sidespin on it? Parkash Rawat
- Question 4 - 13:25: I am 13 I have started table tennis could I play international tt tournaments Gavish Pandya
- Discussion - 15:00: World Junior Table Tennis Championships
International Table Tennis
Which is the Table Tennis Star Point of 2014?
Here's the video (27 sec) of this counterlooping duel between two top lefties!
Triangle Table Tennis
Here's a video (5:50) by Jim Butler that features the gigantic Triangle Table Tennis Center in North Carolina. (When I hear "triangle table tennis," I think of a triangular table tennis racket I once saw many years ago. But I was unable to find a picture of one online, though I did find this and this - triangular TT medallions.)
1938 Table Tennis Poster
Here's a picture of a table tennis poster near the end of the Calvin Coolidge Administration.
1971 U.S. Junior Team
Here's a picture of the 1971 U.S. Junior Team to the World Junior Tournament in Canterbury, England. Back, L-R: Coach/Captain Dell Sweeris, Bill Lesner, Jeff Smart, Mike Veillette, and Dan Seemiller. Front, L-R: Kathy Scheltema, Elsie Spinning, Angelita Rosal (now Bengtsson); and Sue Hildebrandt. (Yes, we had a member of the Junior Girls' Team named Spinning!)
Here's video (3:45) of the "Top Ten" rallies in this new emerging sport - these are some incredible rallies!
"This is a Table for Two"
Send us your own coaching news!
USATT members on Wednesday received a mass email from my opponent in the election, the incumbent Jim McQueen. I don't know how he received access to the USATT email database for this mailing, but since he had access, USATT agreed it was only fair that I have access as well. They will send out my own email today at 1PM eastern time. It means he got a one-day headstart on this, with who knows how many of the 6000 or so adult members who received it already voting. I believe most of the membership agrees with me on what's needed to develop our sport, and if they read the campaign statements before voting they will side with me.
Voting began yesterday - if you haven't voted yet, here's the ballot. And here's my Election Page. I need your support, and so do those who want to see the sport developed in this country - please vote!
Below are links to a series of blogs about my plans if elected to the USATT Board.
Here's a perfect encapsulation of why I'm running for the USATT Board, which I've linked to before - "The Ping-Pong Apartments." I'm running to fix the Ping-Pong Apartments. And I plan to continue to be a Man in the Arena.
Coaching on Wednesday
I had three hours of coaching, including a half-hour session with a new nine-year-old who'd been attending our group sessions. He's already developing pretty well, but is a bit wrist-floppy on the forehand, and tends to hit the backhand too much from the side, sort of tennis style. After working on his backhand for a bit I was somewhat amazed at how fast he picked it up - soon he was hitting them really well, with decent topspin as well despite using a beginner's racket.
I spent time with two players getting them ready for the Nationals. One is focusing on getting his loop more into play. We're doing a lot of random drills where I push the ball to random spots and he has to loop from either wing. In practice he's getting pretty consistent, and follows them up pretty well, but will he be able to do it in tournaments?
I spent much of another session working with one of our up-and-coming juniors on serves. One of the best exercises is to learn to serve backspin so it comes back toward the net. This is not easy to do if you keep the ball low. It's also not something top players do very often - it's better to serve the ball a bit faster, so the second bounce is near the end-line. However, if you can learn to serve with great spin but so little speed that the ball comes back into the net - in other words, barely graze the ball - then it's easy to add a bit more pace so the ball goes out more. I think it's harder to learn the other way, where you aren't focusing on grazing the ball so finely that you are struggling to get it over the net. Acceleration is key, along with the grazing contact. The junior had never served a backspin ball so that the ball bounced backwards before, but after some work on this - where I had him almost scoop the ball up from underneath - he figured it out, and soon he was able to get almost half the serves to come backwards.
I discussed with one top player going to the Nationals the priority of his serve practice. Should he focus on just one serve (and its variations), and perfect it or, work on all his serves? I recommended focusing on the main one, but practice the others as well, both so they'll be ready when needed as variations, and so that they'll continue to improve for when he does focus on them. As I told him (to his great amusement), "Focus on the serves you are focusing on."
Two of the players I worked with yesterday are going to the Nationals, and so we used the limited quanitites we had of the Nittaku Premium 40+ poly balls. We used regular Butterfly celluloid training balls for the others (where we can do multiball with boxes of them). Sometimes it feels like we spend half our time keeping the balls segregated. (Yeah, we're segregationists.)
My coaching was sort of interrupted when someone told me they'd received a mass email from my election opponent - see the "USATT Election" segment above. It was near the end of my last session, but as soon as I was done I rushed home to look into the matter. Not a fun way to end a coaching session.
USATT's New Look
See the new look for USATT's web page! I haven't had a chance to go over it closely yet. (Note that the cover picture changes about every eight seconds.) What do you think of the new design?
USATT Regional Leagues
One of the ironies of USATT so far not getting involved in developing a nationwide regional league structure is that they are going to someday miss out on the revenues from it if they don't get in on this soon. In much of Europe, players join leagues, and in so doing join (or essentially join) the national governing body, which gets some of these revenues. (I'm not sure of the percentages.) Why would they pay money to USATT if they started the league on their own? The national governing bodies of sports like tennis and bowling, and table tennis overseas, all are involved in this way, and get huge revenues from the ensuing huge memberships.
If USATT doesn't get on this, then at some point others will, and these independent leagues will spread. And if these leagues hit huge numbers as they do overseas, guess who's going to be left on the outside looking in, penniless and wondering what their predecessors were thinking? (Of course, if this happens without USATT involvement, that's still a good thing!) Without leagues to sell to the membership - the selling point for the hundreds of thousands of members in overseas countries - what will USATT have to sell them? We don't even have a print magazine anymore. If I get on the USATT board, I have a lot of work and convincing to do.
World Junior Championships
In yesterday's action, USA's Crystal Wang pushed European Champion Chantal Mantz of Germany to the limit before losing 4-3, 11-9 in the seventh. Here's the ITTF article. Here's the ITTF home page for the event, and here's the USATT's, where you can get USA results, videos, pictures, and quotes.
In the Boys' Singles Preliminaries, USA's Kanak Jha advanced to the Main Draw (Final 64) with a 1-1 record, where he will face Kim Minhyeok of South Korea. Alas, teammates Kunal Chodri (0-2), Krish Avvari (0-2) and Aashay Patel (1-2) did not advance.
All four USA girls, who already won the bronze in Girls' Teams, advanced to the Main Draw (Final 64). Lily Zhang was seeded directly into it, while the other three USA girls all advanced from the Girls' Singles Preliminaries - Prachi Jha (3-0), Crystal Wang (1-1 - see note above), and Angela Guan (1-1).
Ask the Coach
Episode 41 (21:55) - Adjusting to New Conditions
- Response to Yesterday's #PQOTD - 0:30: Would Waldner survive in the modern game?
- #PQOTD - 2:39: Should Table Tennis players use a Tennis grip?
- Question 1 - 3:12: Is it better to block at the bounce of ball or at the peak of the bounce. I find that when I block at the bounce, it gives less reaction time to my opponent, but when I block at the peak I can control the block better against heavy topspins. Luke Woodley
- Question 2 - 6:47: How do you know when you need to calm down? Should you call a time out when you are ahead, behind, or both? Should you call a time out when you are about to lose a set, or wait for the set to be finished? Nicholas
- Question 3 - 11:45: I have been playing table tennis for 18 months and I have made it my life and my world. This is my last year in Under 15 category and I have 12 months remaining to practice. Pls advise how to practice and win. Aditya
- Question 4 - 14:49: Our tt hall is small and the table is dead so that when we go to play matches in the bigger hall, we cant manage the strokes, and the speed of ball. When we change from small to big hall, how can we manage the speed, spin of ball. Akash
- Question 5 - 17:30: What do you think about the rubber tenergy 80 fx compared to tenergy 80 in terms of spin and speed ? Thanks. Dat Pham
- Discussion - 18:59: Vote for the ITTF Star Awards
Lily Zhang Willing to Give Up Studies for Table Tennis
Here's the article from Tabletennista.
Great Rally at the North American Teams
Here's the video (68 sec, including slow-motion replay) between Nigeria's Quadri Aruna (world #30, playing for Team JOOLA) and Ruifeng Xu of China (playing for the Atlanta team).
Susan Sarandon Dishes on New Flic, Plays Ping-Pong
Here's the video (6:35) from Good Morning America, with the table tennis starting at 4:25. (She's on to talk about her new movie, "Jeff, Who Lives at Home.")
Happiness is . . . sometimes no words, just the sound of a ball
Here's video (30 sec) of perhaps the best (and funniest) example I've ever seen of a mistaken backspin lob that comes back for a winner. I just wish I could see the expression of the guy who did it, who is probably grinning like a Cheshire cat.
Sorcerers in Space (with Table Tennis!)
My humorous fantasy novel "Sorcerers in Space" (293 pages) is on sale right now at Amazon for $10.79! Retail price was $16.95. It comes in both print and kindle versions ($5.99). It's about the U.S.-Soviet race to the moon in the 1960s, but with sorcerers instead of astronauts, and the whole things takes place over one week. (Sorcerers work fast.) It stars a 13-year-old Neil [Armstrong] and fictionalized versions of many of the major political names from the 1960s - President Kennedy and his brothers, Jackie Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Bob McNamara, and Lee Harvey Oswald, as well as dragons and other creatures that keep trying to kill poor Neil - including an attack meteor named Buzz. Oh, and Neil is a wannabe table tennis champion who has to drop his dreams of ping-pong stardom to save the world.
Or you can just buy my table tennis books!
Send us your own coaching news!
Voting began today - and here's the ballot! Alas, the picture of me in the ballot makes me look like a pixilated monster. For comparison, the same picture I sent them is on my Election Page. I've already emailed asking them to fix it. (I'm told it's a technical issue. Or maybe that's what I really look like?)
If you've been reading my blog or have visited my Election Page then you know where I stand on the issues, and know something of my background. I really need your support - please vote!
- Monday, November 24: Create a Nationwide System of Regional Team Leagues
- Tuesday, November 25: Create State Associations
- Wednesday, November 26: Create a USATT Coaching Academy to Recruit and Train Professional Coaches
- Monday, December 1: Turn U.S. Open and Nationals into Premier Events
- Tuesday December 2: Create a Professional Players Association and Professionalize the Sport
- Wednesday, December 3: Other USATT Issues (Balloting opens on this day, and continues until Dec. 27.)
Other USATT Issues
I'd like to focus on the five issues I've blogged about - see links above. However, there are a lot of other important issues. Some might be just as important as the "Big Five," but as I've also blogged about, I want to focus on progressive issues that develop the sport, and I didn't want to have 17 main issues. That would be a shopping list. However, here are twelve other issues I'd like to take care of. Here they are, in no particular order.
- Mailings to past members. There are something like 60,000 former USATT members on our database, and I'd like to try to bring them back. That's what other successful organizations do. I still get regular mailings (both email and postal) from USTA and other organizations that I once belonged to. We should do the same. We don't have emails for most of them, so we need to do at least one big mailing to all of them. We might want to wait until we've fixed the sport up a bit so we have more to offer, but eventually we need to do this. I'd like to have someone "famous" be the "face" of USATT. I want these past members to get a personal invitation from one of our past big stars to rejoin USATT. Sure, a mailing is expensive, but you can budget an overall profit from this - plus you get new members, which should be high priority. (I blogged about this on Feb. 19.)
- Hidden serve rule. The current rule is that the ball must be visible to the opponent throughout the serve. The problem is that umpires cannot usually tell if the serve is visible or not. The rules state that it is the responsibility of the player to serve so that the umpire is satisfied that he is serving legally, and if an umpire can't tell if the serve is visible or not, then he cannot be satisfied that the serve is legal, and should warn or fault. In reality, few umpires do that, and so many or most of our national titles go to players who abuse this rule and hide their serve. I'd like the rule changed so that it says that the ball must be visible to both umpires, or where the umpires would sit. I'm going to keep pushing for this rule, probably looking for a USATT tournament to test it, and then to the ITTF. (I blogged about this on Nov. 11 and numerous other times.)
- Rules changes and the plastic ball. I'm not interested in more rules and equipment changes, other than fixing the hidden serve rule. I'd be very hesitant on any others - I'm tired of rule changes. Aren't you? However, I am going to look into the problems with the new plastic ball - the ITTF jumped the gun on this. They shouldn't have made the change until the balls were high quality, standardized, and training balls were available.
- USATT Advisory Committees. A few years ago most of the USATT committees had the word "Advisory" added to their names, which emphasized that they are only advisory rather than action committees. That was a mistake. We need committees that get things done, not just sit back and advise.
- Committee Chairs. Too often committees are chaired by the first person who volunteers. We need to do searches and recruit the right candidate for each. I've seen times where a committee chair was decided like Jeopardy - whoever hit the buzzer first (i.e. raised their hand) got the position. Additionally, task force committees need to have deadlines set up for when they'll report back. Far too often these task forces are set up and never even meet, or if they do meet, nothing gets done and they are forgotten, and become just another inactive committee on the USATT committee page.
- NCAA recognition. I want to work with NCTTA on this. Here's some info on this. I blogged about this on November 18.
- Fix rating system. Too much to go into here. To start with we need a USATT Ratings Committee. We don't have one.
- Publish USA citizens ranking lists. This was actually required by a past USATT board vote that's long since been forgotten. Too often U.S. players are buried in the rankings behind foreign players. We need both an open listing and a citizens listing.
- U.S. Open and U.S. Nationals info. The dates and location of these events should be available at least one year in advance. The U.S. Open Tennis Championships the next two years will be on Aug. 31-Sept. 13, 2015, and Aug. 29-Sept. 12, 2016, at Flushing Meadows, NY. Where and when will the 2015 U.S. Open and Nationals Table Tennis Championships be held? We don't know yet. Many people need this info far enough in advance so they can schedule for it. Also, by getting the info out way in advance, players begin thinking about it, and are more likely to attend.
- Bring back print magazine if financially feasible. About one-third of our membership doesn't play tournaments, and that's all they really get. U.S. Tennis still has a monthly print magazine, and it's one of their major membership recruiting tools. I think USATT jumped the gun in canceling it. I'd like to have both the online version and the print version - and by adding the online version to the previous print version, we can bring in more advertising than before. (I had two tenures as editor of USATT Magazine, totaling twelve years, and I increased advertising revenue by a factor of six.) USATT budgeted the advertising for the online version to be the same as the print version, which had no chance of happening, and advertising is dramatically down, unfortunately. (I blogged about this on February 11, where I predicted the large advertising decrease.)
- Let members get on the USATT ballot by petition. It used to be that USATT members could get on the ballot with 150 signatures. That was changed a few years ago - now the entire ballot is chosen by the USATT Nominating and Governance Committee (NGC). We need to allow others on the ballot with the 150 signatures (from adult USATT members), and schedule the election so they can get these signatures during the Thanksgiving weekend (where there are major team tournaments), as they used to schedule it.
There have been a pair of half-hearted attempts to fix this. At the June 2014 meeting at the U.S. Open the USATT Board voted unanimously to "recommend" that the NGC place "all eligible candidates on the ballot." (The NGC didn't act on this.) At the October board meeting Mike Babuin moved that "…all qualified candidates securing the 25 requisite number of signatures shall be placed on the election ballot." However, this standard is too low, and it didn't get a second. If I'm on the board, I'll move that candidates be placed on the ballot with 150 signatures, and that the election be timed so they can do this during the Thanksgiving weekend. Also, the USATT Club Representative is currently an appointed position. I'd like to see this position get voted on by clubs. There's also been talk of having a Coach Representative - I'm all for it!
- Change USATT's Mission Statement. Here is our current bureaucratic shopping list mission statement, followed by the mission statement of the U.S. Tennis Association. I like theirs, and would like to quote the table tennis version of it regularly at USATT board meetings. It needs to be the driving force behind everything we do.
- "The Mission of the USATT shall be to enable United States athletes to achieve sustained competitive excellence in Olympic/Paralympic, Pan American or Para Pan American Games, and other international competitions, and to promote and grow the sport of Table Tennis in the United States, while creating a lasting value for our members."
- "To Promote and Develop the Growth of Tennis."
Training for Nationals
Now that the North American Teams are over, we've made the switch from JOOLA 40+ plastic balls to the Nittaku Premium 40+ balls to be used at the Nationals in two weeks. I did a test with one of my students going to the Nationals (Daniel) where, before we started the session, I took three balls and we randomly rallied with each. The first ball we both quickly realized was the same JOOLA ball we'd been using at the Teams. The second one we both thought at first was a celluloid - but it was the Nittaku Premium plastic ball! It plays like a slightly heavy celluloid ball. As soon as we hit with the third ball - a regular Butterfly celluloid training ball - we realized that that was the celluloid, and that the previous one must have been the Nittaku plastic ball. It plays roughly in between a celluloid and the JOOLA (and Sha and Butterfly) plastic balls.
We had 23 Nittaku Premium plastic balls - we both had a dozen, but he'd left one at home. It made multiball a bit short as we're used to doing it with a gross of balls. To keep the balls separate from others who were still using celluloid we used the two tables in the back. One has the robot; when someone asked to use it near the end of our session I asked if he could come back in 15 minutes after we were done, since otherwise the celluloids in the robot would mix with our plastic ones, which would have ended life on earth as well as make us have to search through the balls separating them.
Daniel's going to be on a steady diet of looping (and game-type drills that involve looping) between now and the Nationals. He played well at the Teams, but did way too much pushing, blocking, and smashing. In practice he's a looper, and eventually he's got to get that into his tournament play!!! At the Nationals I'm going to let him smash out of rallies, but I want him to loop off backspin more. After the Nationals he'll be going more and more to looping nearly everything in a rally. He just turned ten, and is about 1600. He has a few technical issues we're working on.
One problem he's facing is that in the Tuesday and Friday night leagues that he usually plays in the players are still mostly using celluloid. He skipped it last night but he's going to go back to playing it probably this Friday, but only with opponents who agree to use the Nittaku Premium plastic ball. I think most will be willing, but we'll see.
While I worked with Daniel, our Chinese practice partner/coaches worked with our other top juniors on other tables, also with Nittaku Premium plastic balls.
Here's something interesting I discovered last night. Celluloid balls, and most of the new plastic balls (Nittaku Sha, JOOLA, Butterfly) are hard to write on with a ballpoint pen. (Try it.) But the surface of the Nittaku Premium plastic ball is different - it's easy to write on. This'll make it a lot easier to sign autographs!
Table Tennis: It Might Be Time to Take It Up Again
Here's the article from the Washington Post, which features Navin Kumar, a student of mine at MDTTC with both Parkinson's and a partially mechanical heart. (It'll be in the print edition tomorrow.) The article features table tennis and its health benefits. (I'm quoted in it a several times.)
World Junior Championships
The action continues at the World Junior Championships! Here's the USATT page where you can follow the USA results. As noted yesterday, USA Girls made the semifinals, and so got the bronze, while USA Boys finished 13th. As expected, China swept both team events. Three of the four USA teams advanced yesterday to the main draw (64 teams) in Mixed Doubles:
- Kanak Jha/Prachi Jha (USA) defeated Deas Markhabayev/Selena Selvakumar (KAZ), -13,3,6,8
- Kunal Chodri/Crystal Wang (USA) defeated Roger Rao/Ruofei Rao (NZL), -10,-9,8,5,8 (NICE COMEBACK!)
- Krish Avvari/Lily Zhang (USA) d. Marko Medjugorac/Alicia Cote (CAN), 10,-8,6,6
- Alexander Valuch/Maria Malanina (SVK/RUS) d. Aashay Patel/Angela Guan (USA), 6,-7,-6,4,8
Alas, all three lost in the first round in the main draw:
- Patryk Zatowka/Natalia Bajor (POL) d. Kanak Jha/Prachi Jha (USA), 3,9,9
- Kilian Ort/Nina Mittelham (GER) d. Kunal Chodri/Crystal Wang (USA), 10,6,-7,6
- Asuka Sakai/Miyu Maeda (JPN) d. Krish Avvari/Lily Zhang (USA), 6,6,4
Great Point at World Junior Championships
Here's the video (44 sec) of Carl Ahlander of Sweden (the disbelieving chopper pick-hitter) vs. Stanislav Kucera of Czech Republic.
Team Thailand Celebrates Their Upset over Romania at World Junior Championships
Here's the team picture after their win at the World Junior Championships - I think they had too much soda!
Actions of the USATT High Performance Committee
I'm glad that we're getting these regular reports (see below), and given the funding level, I'm overall happy with what they are doing. However, we've got a serious problem for next year. From the Oct/Nov report is this disappointment: "The USOC informed USATT that no funding would be provided to support our High Performance program for 2015. Although the USOC’s support in recent years has tended to be targeted for particular athletes, this was a significant financial loss to the program. The USOC explained that it is focusing on sports with more immediate potential for medals." I believe the USOC funds USATT in other ways in addition to the High Performance program, but I'm not sure of the specifics.
Pips in a Nutshell: Understand Your Opponent's Weapon
Here's the new coaching article by Samson Dubina.
International Table Tennis Skills
Here's the coaching DVD by Samson Dubina. I just got my copy!
Ask the Coach
Episode 40 (20:32) - Shut Down a Killer Forehand
- Our Response to Yesterday's #QOTD - 0:25: How many different serves do you use
- PingSkillers Question of the Day - 1:58: Would Waldner survive in the modern game?
- Question 1 - 2:23: In a match against Xu Xin, Samsonov seemed to put him under all sorts of pressure, almost as if he cut Xu Xin down to size by not letting him play that fast forehand. Was there something wrong with Xu Xin in that match, or was it Samsonov’s game? Shripathi
- Question 2 - 8:19: I have a problem when they do topspin stroke, I block but sometimes they heavy topspin and sometimes it has no spin, so when i block it, it sometimes goes out or net. What should I do to keep the block on the table and know how much spin it has? Long
- Question 3 - 12:06: i have a major problem witch is that i know a lot about ping pong but when i start a match i scare a lot and i lose ! plzzz help! Ramzi
- Question 4 - 14:24: If my head moves up or down because of my stance does it matter in judging a ball? Should its position remain at same height all the time? Should I constantly look at the ball during play or shifting the sight between ball and opponent? Ahsan Ali
- Question 5 - 16:38: For Backhand serve, where should I stand? Maybe more than one position? Should I have my left foot in front ( I am right handed), right foot in front, or feet even? Anthony Capasso
Dubai 2014 ITTF Star Awards Nominees
Here's the ITTF Press Release. You get to vote for the winner! The nominees are:
Male Table Tennis Star:
- Quadri ARUNA (NGR) - World number 30, highest ranked African player of the last 30 years.
- FAN Zhendong (CHN) - 2014 Youth Olympic Games winner, World number 3.
- Marcos FREITAS (POR) - 2014 European Team Table Tennis Championships winner, first Portuguese player to be ranked top 10 in the World.
- XU Xin (CHN) - 2013 ITTF World Tour Grand Finals & 2014 Asian Games winner, World number 1.
- Nomination video: http://youtu.be/_CW-Vt_eacs.
Female Table Tennis Star:
- DING Ning (CHN) - 2014 ITTF Women's World Cup winner, World number 1.
- FENG Tianwei (SIN) - Won 3 World Tour events in 2014, World number 4.
- Kasumi ISHIKAWA (JPN) - Leader of Japanese National Team, Silver medalist at the 2014 World Team Table Tennis Championships, World number 6.
- LIU Shiwen (CHN) - 2013 ITTF World Tour Grand Finals & 2014 Asian Games winner, World number 2.
- Nomination video: http://youtu.be/edOQyE0hiwM.
Kenta Matsudaira vs. Vladimir Samsonov
Here's the video (11:16, with time between points removed) of their very nice match at the Worlds. Sometimes it seems as if Samsonov isn't doing anything and yet he dominates most of the points.
Righty Flip, Lefty Smash
Here's the video (12 sec) as Sean O'Neill switches hands to end the point in the Under 21 Finals in Las Vegas (many years ago, circa early 1980s?) against a disbelieving Eric Boggan.
Ten Christmas Gift Ideas for a Table Tennis Player
How to Be a Table Tennis Player
Here's the video (1:45) from the "Piing of Power" that explains the five steps to becoming a top table tennis player - strength, endurance, diet, practice, and service. But somehow I don't think this is from any of my coaching manuals!!!
Here's the table tennis parody song (3:02) that parodies the song Mad World (3:02) by Gary Jules. Since it is produced, lyrics by, and sung by "Heavyspin," we can conclude it's by the infamous Larry Bavly!
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Create a Professional Players Association and Professionalize the Sport
=>The Goal: For top USA players to make a living playing professionally.
We need to bring in an entrepreneurial leader to create an independent USA Professional TT Players Association. He would focus on creating a professional league or circuit, and bring in local & national sponsorship money for each event to turn table tennis into a money and TV sport. (He'd be paid primarily via commissions, though USATT might need to put in seed money.) This could grow out of the current NA Tour. A possible model is tennis, where there is a partnership between USTA and the ATP (the professional group).
Right now there are essentially three "Tours" in the U.S., with the NA Tour the largest. There is also the Butterfly Tour, and North American Table Tennis runs a series of 4-star tournaments. I'd like to get them all together, perhaps as part of the NA Tour, but that could get tricky. For now I'm going to call it the USA Tour.
We need to recruit an entrepreneurial leader to be President of a USA Professional Table Tennis Players Association (hopefully with a better name), whose job it would be to go to cities in the USA Tour and bring in sponsorships for each stop (to dramatically increase prize money), to promote the events (both to bring in paying spectators and to interest sponsors, who aren't interested in an event that nobody knows about), to organize activities, to find ways to make and save money for the top players (free places to stay, etc.), and other ways of professionalizing the sport in this country.
The President of the Players' Association would promote the events locally, both to bring in paying spectators (and therefore more prize money) and to bring in TV. With the publicity and TV there is a growing awareness of the event, and that is the bait that brings in sponsors. He'd then focus on bringing in those sponsorships. He'd do this at each event, with the goal of turning each event into a big event, with large prize money, lots of paying spectators, and TV.
Most sponsorships are local - there are only a few sporting events large enough to bring in more national sponsors than local ones - and so he needs to focus on bringing in those local sponsors. If there's a tour stop in, say, Chicago, he'd focus on local sponsors in Chicago. For example, if there's a large local car dealership, then he'd try to get that car dealership to be a sponsor.
Publicity, TV, and sponsorships go together. Publicity leads to paying spectators and TV, and both lead to sponsorships, and that's what leads to big prize money and professional table tennis.
Can we get paying spectators for table tennis? When China sent players to the U.S. Team Championships in the 1990s I ran two "USA vs. China" team matches, and got about 500 paid spectators at each. That was before we had the Internet to publicize such events - I had to rely on local newspapers and TV News to promote it. In Europe local club matches are big spectator events. It's all about marketing and promoting.
How do we pay for the President of the Players Association? Ideally, he'd be paid by commission. If he brings in lots of money, he makes lots of money. I'd like to find someone who sees this as a huge opportunity to be the next David Stern or the next Pete Rozelle, the guys who turned the NBA and NFL into huge properties. Rather than work for a set salary, he'd rather work for commission and become both rich and famous. Realistically, we might have to pay this person, at least at the start. So I will try to get USATT to spring for some of this. Knowing the USATT budget is tight, that'll be a battle!
This won't be just a USATT thing. We need to get the top USA players together to support this new organization. Their player reps (who are on the USATT Board) would be the main ones involved in the hiring of this person. We need to find someone who will make professional table tennis his top priority, and who will work with both the players, with USATT, and with the USATT CEO in achieving the goal of professional table tennis in this country. Are you (yes, you, the one reading this) that person?
There's going to be some resistance. We're essentially setting up a rival organization, i.e. a professional table tennis players association. But that's no different than how other successful sports operate. For example, USTA and the ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals) work closely together, and they are both highly successful. (ATP is a worldwide association, but it was once USA dominated.) USTA focuses primarily on amateur players (leagues, juniors, colleges, seniors, coaches, and the U.S. Open), while ATP focuses on the professional players (tour events, prize money, TV). USATT is always split between the interests of the average player and the pros, and so serves neither very well. By splitting the duties between two organizations both groups will be better served.
Sometimes I think we have to remind USATT people that the goal of USATT is to develop table tennis in this country, not control it. There's a distinction.
Of course, if USATT is against such an organization, and I'm unable to convince them otherwise, the players themselves could do this. The very act of trying to get USATT to instigate this could lead to the players organizing and getting this done. I'll support them all I can.
ADDENDUM ADDED DEC. 24: At the USA Nationals I learned not of one, but of TWO different plans being created to professionalize table tennis in the U.S. for the top players. I will have to go over these other plans and see if they can be developed and would be better than what I propose above. It's either a headache or a wealth of riches.
World Junior Championships
USA Junior Girls (Lily Zhang, Prachi Jha, Crystal Wang, Angela Guan) upset South Korea (3-0!) to make it to the semifinals. Here's a video interview with them (1:23) after the win, and a team picture. (L-R: Angela Guan, Crystal Wang, Coach Lily Yip, Lily Zhang, and Prachi Jha.) Here's an ITTF article on USA making it to the quarterfinals, and another on their win over South Korea. Alas, they lost in the semis to Japan, 0-3; here's the ITTF article on that. Here's the ITTF home page for the event (results, articles, pictures, video). Here's the USATT page for the event, where you can see USA results, picture, video, and lots of great quotes from the USA juniors.
Coming up are singles and doubles. In Girls' Doubles, USA teams are Lily Zhang/Prachi Jha and Crystal Wang/Angela Guan. In Boys' Doubles it's Kanak Jha/Kunal Chodri and Krish Avvari/Aashay Patel. In Mixed Doubles it's Kanak Jha/Prachi Jha, Aashay Patel/Angela Guan, Kunal Chodri/Crystal Wang, and Krish Avvari/Lily Zhang.
Crystal's from my club - I've coached her a number of times in tournaments and worked with her some when she was younger before she got too fast for to practice with. (Her primary coach is Jack Huang). I watched her 10, -10, 7, 10 win over South Korea's Kim Jiho. (Kim had earlier upset Doo Hoi Kem of Hong Kong, ranked #1 in the world in Under 18 Girls and the top seed here.)
Ask the Coach
Episode #39 (23:06) - Spin Reversal
- Response to the #QOTD - 0:36: Should edge balls be ruled out?
- PingSkillers #QOTD - 2:07: How many different serves do you use?
- Question 1 - 2:23: When a topspin ball hits a bat with pimples, the rotation isn't reversed, so it comes back with backspin. In table tennis terminology this is spin reversal, while actually it is spin continuance the ball keeps spinning in the same direction right? Thomas K
- Question 2 - 5:14: When it's 10-8 for my opponent and it's my serve, what type of serve should I do if I want to do a comeback, or does it just depend of the player you're playing against. And also if I am the one leading 10-8 what serve should I use to finish the set. Luke W
- Question 3 - 8:32: Finally i was able to join in. So i only have 2-3 hours daily for working on my table tennis and i want to rework on my game from basics. So should i start with stroke mechanics and then footwork? and in which order should i learn strokes?
- Question 4 - 12:11: I've got a question. How do you determine whether a rubber has long pips or medium pips? Do you measure its length? If so, how? Thanks! Kong Wen Ge
- Question 5 - 15:51: I've noticed that most players have more than one serve. Is this a good idea? If so please could you recommend another serve or other serves that I should try to learn? I currently only use the pendulum serve. Matthew
- Question 6 - 18:48: Another question guys: Difference between european and Chinese looping style and pros and cons of both.
Ping Pong for Fighters
Here's the new book, on sale at Amazon, by Tahl Leibovitz. I just ordered it. (Stellan Bengtsson wrote the foreword.) Here's the book description:
This book is called Ping Pong for Fighters, and it’s about fighting all the different elements that are attached to table tennis. The fight starts inward and eventually moves outward, from within ourselves, to the ball, to our opponents, to the environment and the external conditions. I think what’s interesting about this book is that the reader takes the journey with me. All that I learned in over 20 years of competing in table tennis, is in this book. The goal of this book is to try and get the reader to approach the game differently. The book is basically a philosophy for the thinking and feeling player. A philosophy that encourages one to stay in the present moment, have self confidence and compete to the best of their ability. This book is also very direct and very easy to understand. It is not an intellectual discourse or any kind. The book reads more like a conversation consisting of helpful direction through experience and a philosophy of table tennis that is concerned more with experiencing what it feels like to think and play table tennis like a top table tennis player.
Meanwhile, Tahl's been getting some unlikely endorsements!
- Arnold Schwarzenegger: "If you read this, you will terminate your opponents!"
- Andre Agassi: "Tahl definitely serves up an ace!"
- George Foreman: "It's a Knock Out!"
- Albert Einstein: "Pure Energy!"
- Tom Cruise: "Note to self, 'Get Ping Pong for Fighters' for character help for next Mission Impossible sequel"
- Michelle Obama: "Tahl, your book really hits the right target for kids and adults to get up and play! Congrats and I can't wait for my copy to arrive at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave!"
- Donald Trump: "This is the most luxurious table tennis book ever written. Tahl Leibovitz is an amazing player. If you don't get this book, YOU'RE FIRED!"
- Jackie Chan: "Exactly what I was looking for!"
- Adam Sandler: "He doesn't play table tennis, he destroys it!"
- Mark Zuckerberg: "I LIKE this book!"
- Beyoncé: "All the Single Ladies, get this book!"
- Starbucks: "Starbucks - The perfect place to sit down and enjoy a little Ping Pong for Fighters!"
- New York City: "If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere!"
Here's Pong Universe, a relatively new table tennis site that's "Everything Table Tennis."
Using 40+ Poly Balls in Newgy Robo-Pong Table Tennis Robots
Here's the article by Larry Thoman from Newgy Industries. It has a lot of general info on the new plastic balls.
Plastic Ball Still Needs Improvements
Here's the article from Tabletennista.
Michael Maze in Recover Process
Here's the article from Tabletennista.
Pictures from the North American Teams
Here they are, care of JOOLA USA.
North American Teams - Best Team Names
Here's the listing of all 207 teams. Here's my picks, in alphabetical order, for the twelve best team names.
- Aardvark Assassins
- After School Learning Tree
- Alaskan Assassins
- Beta-lactamase Inhibitors
- Experience Over Youth
- Fire Breathing Rubber Duckies
- LYTTC - Buddy Wuddies
- LYTTC - Oompa Loompas
- LYTTC - White Water Buffalos
- Squatting Dragons
- Swedish Pong Mafia
- Wolves of Pong Street
Your Basic Forehand Underhand Pendulum Sidespin Around-the-Net Countersmash from Backhand Corner
Here's the video (12 sec) as Adam Bobrow demonstrates this fundamental shot.
Racket Edge Chop Lob Winner
Here's the video (33 sec, including slow motion replay) as we see this crazy point by Hou Yingchao in the Champions League. (I'm assuming Hou is the player who hit the crazy shot. If so, does anyone know who was the helpless player trying to return it?)
UPDATE: Dan Seemiller emailed me that the other player was Hui Xu from Team Eslov.
Send us your own coaching news!