Butterfly Online


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

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

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

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

March 7, 2016

Tip of the Week
Preparing for Major Events – a Checklist.

Newly Published Stuff
Here's a rundown.

  • Eating Author's Blog. This morning I'm featured on the Eating Author's Blog. While he features science fiction writers (which is what I do when I'm not doing TT), the story is about the 1980 North Carolina Open Table Tennis Championships, the day I ate nine McDonald's quarter-pounders with cheese, nearly died (well, it felt that way), but still pulled off a series of upsets to go undefeated in winning the Open and three other events.
  • Butterfly's Ask the Expert. I've got a feature "Ask the Expert" article for Butterfly Online that came out on Friday, where I answer the following question: "I often found articles in the website that discuss about table tennis playing style which in modern era is dominated by looping style. I want to know the reason(s) why a playing style like hitter (two wing-or hardbat) is also decreasing, because I think it still very effective."
  • Baltimore Sun on Derek Nie and Klaus Wood. Here's the feature article from the Baltimore Sun, which came out yesterday." I'm quoted a few times. Last week they ran a story on Lisa Lin winning Hopes Trials. (Derek, Klaus, and Lisa all train at MDTTC; I send out regular press releases. Klaus also plays at the Baltimore TTC.)
  • Science Fiction Blog. In non-Table Tennis writing, I blogged this morning in my Science Fiction & Fantasy Page that Needs a Better Name (that might become its name) about it being one day until publication of Campaign 2100: Game of Scorpions, with a compilation of the daily notes I've been posting on Facebook, linking the number of days to publication to countries with those electoral votes in the election of 2100, or similar issues. This is actually table tennis news, since (as I've blogged a number of times) there's a lot of table tennis in the SF novel. I'll blog more about that tomorrow.
  • Galaxy's Edge. I was published in Galaxy's Edge with my story "Pretty Pictures at War." I have another story in their next issue, "Penguins of Noah's Ark." (Yes, I get paid for these.)
  • Baltimore Orioles. In other non-Table Tennis writings, I had two recent articles on Orioles Hangout - some of these won't make sense to you if you aren't a baseball person. Orioles baseball is the only sport I really follow outside table tennis. I've hit with or coached half the team, including private lesson for JJ Hardy, Darren O'Day, and Brady Anderson. They've published 29 of my "Top Ten Lists." 

World Team Championships
Once again China came out of nowhere and won Men's and Women's Teams – who saw that coming? They defeated Japan in both finals. Here's the ITTF home page for Worlds, which finished yesterday in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where you can see results, articles, press releases, pictures, video, and quotes. Here are the Highlights from the Final Day.

Perhaps the most interesting story of the Worlds was England making it to the semifinals of Men's Teams, where they faced Japan. It started as expected, with Jun Mizutani (world #6) defeating Paul Drinkhall (world #65) at 8,9,4. Then Liam Pitchford (world #44) pushed Maharu Yoshimua (world #19) to 11-9 in the fifth before losing, giving Japan a 2-0 lead in the best of five. But then Samuel Walker (world #118) upset Yuya Oshima (world #12) 3-1. In the fourth match, Pitchford played Mizutani, and was up 2-1 and 10-6 match point – but lost six straight points, and lost game five 11-6. Here's video (10:33) of the Pitchford-Mizutani match, and here's a link to where Pitchford leads 10-6 match point.

Here is the USATT home page for the Worlds, where you can find USA results. USATT has also posted several videos and articles of USA players on their News Page. USA Women finished 17, USA Men 51.

Tom's Table Tennis Newsletter
Here's the new edition, with the following segments:

  • How to identify and exploit an opponent’s weakness
  • 3rd ball attack training drills
  • Magnificent Ma Long - the greatest table tennis player of all time?
  • Best table tennis bats for intermediate players
  • Best from the web
  • Other news...

2-1 Footwork Drill – Demonstrated by a Kid
Here's the video (51 sec) – if he can do it, why can't you? (He looks about five.)

Ask the Coach Show
Episode #235 (27:09) - Power Of Practice Week 1 (and other segments).

Navin Kumar's 2016 Paralympic Table Tennis Journey
He needs funding – and here's where you can help.

Table Tennis Umpires and the Reluctant Referees
Here's the new article by Coach Jon.

2016 Arnold Table Tennis Challenge
Here's the Butterfly page for the event, with links to results, video, photos, and articles by Barbara Wei.

Orange County Register on Fund-Raising Tournament
Here are two articles.

  • Back in the Paddle Again: The third annual table tennis tourney benefits two Laguna Hills High programs. "More than 100 people of all ages competed in Laguna Hills High School’s third annual table tennis tournament fundraiser on Saturday. The tournament raised more than $2,700 for the school’s science and Chinese programs."
  • Table Tennis for a Cause. "Laguna Woods resident Chee Ho, 68, had some tough competition at a table tennis tournament he and five other members of Laguna Woods’ Table Tennis Club competed in on Saturday. His competitor was Keenan Zhou, a 10-year-old. More than 50 years separated the two in age, but their match was not just for fun and games."

Table Tennis - Great Way to Promote Your Brand!
Here's the ITTF video (2:43). Next time you are looking for sponsors or media coverage, show them this!

How to Make an Illuminated Ping-Pong Ball Lamp
Here's the video (1:21).

Greatest Beer Pong Trick Shot You'll Ever See
Here's the video (23 sec).

The Gal Alguetti Footwork Training Video
Here's the video (47 sec) – on a hoverboard!


Send us your own coaching news!

March 4, 2016

Regional Team Leagues and State Championships
Want to play in a Regional Team League? Or a State Championship? If there already are ones in your state, then you're all set! But if not, we need your help, either in organizing them, or talking to club leaders about doing so. (Sometime next week I'm sending an email to all USATT clubs on this, somewhat similar to the below, as the USATT League Committee Chair and a member of the Board of Directors. USATT CEO Gordon Kaye has been a great help in all of this, and instigated the State Championships initiative.)

Here is a listing of Regional Team Leagues currently in operation – email me if I'm missing any.

Here's a listing of State Championships held in 2015 (with the assumption that most will have similar championships in 2016). So far 2016 State Championships (or State Games) have been sanctioned in AL, AR, AZ, CA, FL, IN, MN, MO, NY, OK, PA, VA, and WI. (I plan to run ones in Maryland, tentatively June 25-26.)

Now let's assume you are one of those poor souls without a Regional Team League or a State Championship, but like all those who want to Make USATT Great Again (as some say we were during the hardbat era long ago), or just want to play in them, what do you do?

You have two options: Talk to your local club leaders about organizing them - or organize them yourself! And here's how, for club leaders or you.

Here is the USATT League Page, which includes a link to this League News Item (which explains the importance and benefits of leagues), and to the USATT League Prototype, which you can use as a starting model. (You don't have to be a member of USATT to play in such a league.)

Here is the USATT State Championships Page, which gives info on setting up a State Championship, with the goal of holding them in all 50 states this year. (Unlikely, but if we strive for it, we'll get more than if we don't.)

Why are leagues so important? It creates a different atmosphere than the "winner stay on" mentality so common in the U.S., fostering instead a "team" atmosphere, where you cheer for your team, and your team cheers for you. It's why European countries have table tennis memberships that dwarf USATT's, and why league-based sports have such large memberships.

To quote from the League page:

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

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

Why are State Championships so important? Because they foster local news media, leading to publicity and growth in the sport. To quote from the USATT State Championships Page:

For most players, the State Championships should be one of the most important events of the year. Many can compete to become a State Champion, whether it be in men's or women's singles, a senior event, a junior event, hardbat or sandpaper, a rating event, or doubles. It gives them something to train and look forward to. It's also the time when players from all over the state get together for table tennis and fun, usually ending with everyone going out for dinner together.

We'd like to celebrate these champions by commemorating them on a USATT State Champions Page as well as on the USATT News page. We'd also like to have an annual Parade of Champions at the U.S. Nationals, where, between matches during the showcase events, we invite all the attending state champions to take a march around the playing arena as the crowd cheers.

We'd like to turn these State Championships into major events in the local media. To do this, the tournament director or publicity director would simply Google the local TV, radio, and newspaper listings to get contact emails. Then, the week before the tournament, send them press releases inviting them to cover the tournament. Afterwards send them a follow-up press release that they can use.

To set up a nationwide system of regional leagues and state championships we need your help, either in organizing them, or in talking to club leaders to do so. Now's the time to get busy!

World Team Championships
The finish this Sunday. Here's the ITTF home page for the ongoing event, Feb. 28 – March 6, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where you can see results, articles, press releases, pictures, video, and quotes. Here is the USATT home page for the Worlds, where you can find USA results. USATT has also posted several videos and articles of USA players on their News Page.

Timo Boll Effortless Forehand Rip
Here's the video (21 sec, but link takes you 14 sec in) – someone should create a repeating gif of this shot. It's a nice one to study, illustrating the "easy power" of a shot done with proper timing and technique.

Ask the Coach Show
Episode #234 (24:59) - Snapchat Questions (and other segments).

China Junior Table Tennis Practice
Here's the video (5:29).

The Relative Age Effect in the Chinese National Table Tennis Team
Here's the new article from Expert Table Tennis.

An Odd Pairing on the Road to Rio
Here's the article and video (2:57) featuring Timothy Wang (3x U.S. Men's Singles Champion) and former professional football player Corey Bridges.

International Table Tennis
Here's my periodic note (usually every Friday) that you can great international coverage at TableTennista (which especially covers the elite players well) and at the ITTF home page (which does great regional coverage). Butterfly also has a great news page.

Ask a Pro Anything: Feng Tianwei
Here's the video (4:04) featuring the world #8 (formerly #2 for eight months) from Singapore, by Adam Bobrow.

Great Rally at Worlds
Here's the video (36 sec) of the point between Austria's Stefan Fegerl (world #23) and China's Zhang Jike (world #4, but former world #1 and men's singles champion at Worlds and Olympics).

Doubles Service Toss and Switch
Here's the video (13 sec)!

Dodgers Ping-Pong Doubles Tournament
Here's the article, Dodgers spring notes: Clayton Kershaw, Sandy Koufax, ping pong, which includes a picture of a fancy, home-made draw sheet and the rules – which include best of three to 21 and 7-0 and 11-1 "skunks."! The table tennis excerpt:

Saturday also marked the drawing of names for the Dodgers annual ping pong tournament. Teammate pairings were reportedly drawn out of a hat, and among the notable pairings are Yasiel Puig and Kenta Maeda, and Joc Pederson and Dave Roberts.

 Kershaw was paired with first baseman Adrian Gonzalez.

"Gonzo's not very good," Kershaw joked. "We're going to work on his competitiveness and the games. Hopefully we can at least make it a couple rounds."

Eye-Patched, Gloved Werner Schlager Wins Around-the-Table
Here's the video (2:13) where the 2003 World Men's Singles Champion is handicapped in this weird competition in Austria!

World Ping-Pong Federation
With the growth of Leagues, soon table tennis will take off and we'll follow in the footsteps of All-star Wrestling with the World Ping-Pong Federation. (I ran this cartoon once before, but it sort of fits the theme of today's blog!)


Send us your own coaching news!

March 3, 2016

Winning with the Tomahawk Serve
Here's a video (2:12) where Samson Dubina demonstrates the Tomahawk serve. He first demonstrates the sidespin version, then the side-backspin, and finally (92 seconds in) the sidespin-topspin version - which is the focus of what I'll be writing below. This brought back an interesting memory of the second player I ever beat in a tournament rated over 2000 - and shows the value of developing multiple serves and techniques, since you never know what will work against specific opponents. 

It was 1979 (or was it 1879? I'm getting old...), when I was 19 years old. I was a late starter at age 16, and at this point I was about 1850. I'd actually broken 1900 with a high of 1954 as an almost pure forehand hitter, but I was reworking my game by looping more, and so had dropped a bit. The only 2000+ player I'd beaten in a tournament at this point was Herb Horton, a 2002 chopper with antispin rubber on both sides, who'd graciously been playing me since I was a beginner, and so I was used to his game. (I felt bad about beating him when I was around 1800 since I only did so because of the many times he'd played me!)

I believe it was at the Southern Open in Atlanta that I played Benfield Munroe, who was rated 2048. (He was a former member of the Guyana National Team.) It was a best of three to 21 (yes, games used to be to 21!), and players served five times each (yes, we used to do that!). We split the first two games, then I served from down 15-20 match point. Until then I'd been serving all forehand pendulum serves. Recently I'd been fooling around with the tomahawk serve, which I'd never used in a serious match before. I only had one variation - sidespin-topspin, as demonstrated by Samson above. My version had a shorter, quicker swing, with a big downward follow-through, as Samson does. 

With nothing to lose, I tried the serve. Benfield pushed it way off the end. What the heck, I tried it again, the exact same serve - and again he pushed it off the end. I did it again, this time I think to the forehand, and again he pushed it off the end, and it was now 18-20. After the third one Benfield got really irritated at himself, walking around the court angrily.

I strongly considered going back to my forehand pendulum serve, and even lined up for that serve. Then I stepped back, realizing I was overthinking, assuming he would be ready for the serve this time. But receiving is mostly subconscious, and if he was having this much trouble with this serve, why would I let him off the hook? I used the serve two more times, and he pushed the first off the end again, then tried attacking the last one, but again went off the end. It was now deuce in the third, and Benfield was really angry at himself. 

He played cautious the next point, looping soft, and I smashed it for match point. Benfield was now having a real discussion with himself. So was I - should I give him the same serve he'd missed five times in a row, when he'd know it was coming?

Of course I used it, and he pushed off the end again. And so I won deuce in the third from down 15-20 in the third, with the opponent missing my serve six times in a row. It was easily my best tournament win ever. 

Benfield was unhappy with himself, but acted graciously afterwards. I think the first three times he missed the serve because he subconsciously thought it was backspin, due to the big downward follow-through. The last three were a combination of that and the irritation and loss of confidence after missing the first three - and once you lose confidence in your game, it's hard to react properly. 

While I coach and encourage players to focus on developing solid serves that'll set them up to attack, I also believe it's important to develop a few trick serves. After my experience above, I developed a whole bunch of them, and they have won roughly a zillion matches for me - the tomahawk serve mentioned above (but with more variations), fast no-spin to the middle, fast down the line, windshield-wiper serves, super-high toss serves with loaded backspin, big breaking sidespin serves deep into the backhand, and probably my best, a light sidespin-topspin forehand pendulum serve with a big downward motion that looks like backspin. 

Over the course of many years and tournaments, and partially because of pulling out such trick serves at key moments, I've come back from down 15-20 or 5-10 match point or worse nine different times. (I used to have a listing of all nine, but I misplaced it, alas.) Nobody's ever done it to me. (The closest was when I once blew a 20-16 match point lead on Joe Cummings, and had to put up with jokes about "He's cummings back!" for weeks from the kids at the Resident Training Program at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs that I helped run, 1985-1990. That's the only time I've blown a 20-16 or 10-6 match point lead.)

So here's my question to you: What serves do you have when you need to win "free" point? Not necessarily six in a row, but you should have at least some "trick" serves that'll might give you a point or two each game. If you don't, you are handicapping yourself. Note that this is especially true through the intermediate level and well into the advanced level - even 2400 players can be tricked into misses by a tricky serve they haven't seen much before, as long as it's not overused. Even at the highest levels smart players have different variations or motions to throw at opponents, which are often enough to give them a slightly weak ball, which is all they need. 

Here are two Tips of the Week about trick serves vs. third-ball serves, with short excerpts.

  • Trick Serves and Third-Ball Serves - "If you have a tricky serve that opponents miss or pop up over and over, that's great. However, too much reliance on this can actually hold you back. The same tricky serve that your peers mess up against might be returned more easily by stronger players, including the ones you hope to learn to beat."
  • Macho or Tricky? - "Going macho means you serve mostly to set up a third-ball attack, knowing that you will have to follow it up with a strong attack. Most often these serves will give the server a return he server can attack, but the receivers generally don't miss these serves outright, and the server does have to make a good shot or sequence of shots to win the point. Going tricky means pulling out a serve where you are trying to win the point outright with the serve, either by the receiver missing the serve or giving an easy pop-up. The weakness of these serves is that if the receiver reads them well, they are often easier to attack then third-ball serves."

Readers – Can you See This Video?
Can you see this video of George Brathwaite training? A few people apparently couldn't, so I'm trying to find out how widespread it is, and why. It's a Facebook video. I've had a few people say they couldn't see Facebook images, but this is the first time I've been told they couldn't see a Facebook video. Comment below!

Ask the Coach Show
Episode #233 (30:48) - Dealing with Sidespin (and other segments).

World Team Championships
Here's the ITTF home page for the ongoing event, Feb. 28 – March 6, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where you can see results, articles, press releases, pictures, video, and quotes. Here is the USATT home page for the Worlds, where you can find USA results. USATT has also posted several videos and articles of USA players on their News Page.

Chen Weixing and His Usual Tricks Against Xu Xin
Here's the video (15 sec) as he puts on an exhibition near the end of the match.

Adam Bobrow Photobombing at the Worlds
Here's the first one; click on it to see the next two.

Maryland TTC Newsletter
Here's the new March issue! (I'm the editor, Wen Hsu the publisher.)

Ping Pong Run!
Here's the new iPhone and iPad table tennis game! There goes your productivity!

Purdue's Supersonic Ping Pong Ball Launcher featured on Tonight Show
Here's the video (6:04). Table Tennis first shows up at 3:06, and the actual 920mph ping-pong ball launches (two of them through a ping-pong paddle target) takes place at 5:05.

How the Chinese Choose Their Up-and-Coming Stars
Here's the cartoon video (64 sec), with a guest "appearance" at the end by Ma Long!


Send us your own coaching news!

March 2, 2016

Shadow Practice
This is one of the most under-used ways of training – practicing a stroke without the ball. If you want to perfect a movement (i.e. a new stroke), don't try to do so while also trying to contort the movement so that you can also hit a little white ball that's moving and spinning – not until you've got the movement down. Otherwise, since the correct movement is not yet ingrained, you'll end up changing the movement to react to the ball. So it's important to first get the movement down.

Once you do have the movement down, that doesn't mean you are done with shadow practice. Shadow practice allows you to hone the movement as well as practice strokes and footwork together. They are also good for physical training.

Here's a whole class shadow practicing (6:42), with Lily Yip and then Judy Hugh feeding multiball to one player while seven others mimic the strokes, rotating in when it's their turn. (See "11 Questions with Judy Hugh" below.) I used to do this in my classes, and think I will start it up again.

The topic of shadow practice has come up quite a bit recently, in private coaching, classes I teach, and via email. So here are three Tips on the subject.

1) Shadow Practice Your Shots
If you spent five-ten minutes each day shadow practicing your strokes and footwork, you'll be surprised at the improvement, not to mention the health benefits. Make it part of your fitness regimen. For example, every day do 50-100 forehands, backhands, forehand loops, backhand loops, and side-to-side footwork, alternating forehands and backhands or just doing all forehand, side to side. Adjust to your own style of play, i.e. if you mostly loop the forehand, do lots of forehand looping shadow practice. If you are a chopper, do lots of chopping. Vary the routine to include other moves you use regularly, such as shadow practice stepping in and flipping a short ball to the forehand, or a forehand loop against backspin followed by a smash or loop against topspin. When no one's watching (if you're shy), play out points as if they were real!

2) Shadow Practice for Strokes and Footwork
A great way to improve the sharpness and steadiness of your shots is to shadow practice them. This means practicing your shots without the ball. One of the best things that ever happened to me when I was a beginner was when I was told to shadow practice my forehand and backhand drives and loops, and side-to-side footwork, one hundred times a day. This was a primary reason why I went from beginner at age 16 to 1900+ in about two years.

  • For Beginning Players: focus on the basics. You want to develop smooth, repeatable shots and footwork. You might want to have a coach work with you first, so you aren't practicing bad habits. Once you know what to do, do perhaps fifty to a hundred forehand and backhand drives, and fifty to a hundred forehand and backhand loops. Then go side to side fifty to a hundred times, stroking each time (either all forehand, or alternate forehand and backhand).
    One key thing: remember that strokes have three parts: backswing, forward swing, and back to ready position. Many players tend to just go back and forth (going directly from forward swing to backswing), which you never do in a game. The stroke should go through a triangular motion (dropping down to ready position), not just a back and forth motion.
  • For Intermediate Players: Focus on improving the speed, crispness and power of the shots and footwork. Think about the type of specific movements you do in a game, and mimic them. For example, if you want to develop a powerful forehand loop that you can use from all parts of the table, then shadow practice powerful forehand loops, from both the wide forehand and wide backhand, as well as from the middle, and practice moving from one spot to another. (Note--intermediate players should also use some of the techniques explained for advanced players.)
  • For Advanced Players: At this point, your shots are consistent and powerful. You should continue to do the shadow practice as explained for intermediate players. However, now you should add randomness. As you shadow practice, imagine you are playing a real match. Imagine a specific opponent, and play out the rallies--except now you are playing at whatever level you hope to attain. Want to be a world-class player? Then shadow practice rallies as if you are world-class! Instead of alternating forehand loops from side to side, add randomness - imagine your opponent spraying the ball all over the court. For example, after looping a forehand from the backhand court, your "opponent" might put one to the wide forehand, which you then cover; or he might block one right back to your backhand again, which you've vacated after the previous shot to get back into position, and so you either step around again for the forehand, or play a backhand attack shot.
    You can also practice receive techniques - imagine an opponent's serve, read it, and return it. You might step in, drop a ball short or flip it, then step back and attack the next ball. Or you might shadow practice looping the deep serves. Think of what happens in a real match, and play out those points.
  • For All Players: You can practice everything this way, except for the actual timing of hitting the ball - and you can do that later at the table, with much faster, stronger and crisper shots because of the shadow practicing. And the nice thing is you can shadow practice anywhere - at work, at home, on the subway. (Okay, that last one might get you strange looks--but I've done it before!)

3) Shadow Practice When You Miss
Table tennis is a game of technique, timing, and adjustment. When you miss a shot, that means something went wrong with your technique or timing. That means something went wrong with your muscle memory, which includes both the technique and timing. So what should you do to get back and reinforce that muscle memory?

You shadow practice the shot. Immediately after missing, before whatever went wrong has a chance to become part of your muscle memory, do it the right way. Imagine the same incoming ball you just missed against, including its speed, spin, and location. Then shadow practice the shot the way you should have done it, and visualize the ball doing what it was supposed to do, i.e. the perfect shot. This is how you reinforce the correct muscle memory. Put the feel of the miss out of your memory; thinking about it only reinforces in your muscle memory something you don't want reinforced.

This is especially important for beginning and intermediate players, whose muscle memory is not as developed, but advanced players should do this as well to re-enforce the proper muscle memory. Ultimately, this is the goal of the constant practice needed to become a top player - the primary purpose is to develop and reinforce those muscle memories so they'll remember to come out when needed in a match. 

Table Tennis Music
If you are going to shadow practice – see above – why not do it to table tennis music?

  • Magic Ball (3:09) – the theme music from the 1989 World Championships, and still considered by many the greatest table tennis music ever.
  • Piano Ping-Pong Song (3:40) – This is mesmeriazing - one you start, you can't stop watching and listening. The two women I'm told are members of the German National Team, but I don't know their names. 
  • Concerto for Table Tennis (2:56) – yes, that's Ariel Hsing and Michael Landers doing the table tennis.

Ask the Coach Show
Episode #232 (31:30) - How Tournaments Help (and other segments).

William Henzell: Time to Retire
Here's the podcast (41:15) from Expert Table Tennis on the 13-time Australian champion.

Table Tennis Player Lisa Lin Wins Girls' Hopes Trials
Here's the article from the Baltimore Sun on Lisa. Also featured are Tiffany Ke and Ronald Chen. It's from my press release - all three are from my club, MDTTC. (There's another feature coming out in a few days from the Baltimore Sun, featuring Derek Nie and Klaus Wood – the reporter came out this past Saturday and Sunday to do interviews with them, their parents, and me.) Here's the USATT article on this, with a picture and a link to video.

World Team Championships
Here's the ITTF home page for the ongoing event, Feb. 28 – March 6, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where you can see results, articles, press releases, pictures, video, and quotes. Here is the USATT home page for the Worlds, where you can find USA results. USATT has also posted several videos and articles of USA players on their News Page. Here's an ITTF feature on USA's junior star Kanak Jha.

ITTF Athletes' Commission Chairman Given Full Voting Rights
Here's the article. Vladimir Samsonov is the Chair who now joins the ITTF Executive Committee as a voting member. (I couldn't find an ITTF notice on this, but I'd heard about it separately, I think on Facebook.)

11 Questions with Judy Hugh
Here's the USATT interview with the New Jersey star.

Raymond Filz Sr. Obituary
Here's the USATT article by Wendell Dillon.

Zhang Jike Practicing Serves at the Worlds
Here's the video (12 sec) – alas, like most high-level serves these days (due to lack of enforcement), they're completely illegal, as he hides the ball and contact behind his head. His racket continues downward after contact, faking contact below his head.

Table Tennis Practice with Exercise Equipment
Here's the video (9:56) – first 24 sec are conventional before they get to the rebound boards.

Robot vs. Two Stationary Rackets
Here's the video (6 sec).

Michael Maze Playing with Smart Phone
Here's the video (29 sec).


Send us your own coaching news!

March 1, 2016

Tip of the Week
Move Those Feet. This is a slightly rewritten version of a blog I did last week – but I put a note then that it would likely become a Tip of the Week, and here it is! This way it'll be included with all the other Tips of the Week, both for browsing and for upcoming compilations into books – "More Table Tennis Tips," comes out early in 2017. It'll be a sequel to Table Tennis Tips. While you can just read the Tips online as they come out, both volumes put the Tips in logical order of progression, and compile them together for easy reading.

Coaching a Seven-Year-Old
Here's what you need to know – 14 dos and don'ts. I have a new kid I've been working with, and this is pretty much a checklist.

  1. Do have them start out by balancing a ball on their racket, and then bouncing the ball on the racket. They'll have great difficulty at first, but it'll help their hand-eye coordination develop.
  2. Do feed multiball as much as possible – they can learn to be pretty consistent that way.
  3. Do expect him to learn quickly. They may not have hand-eye coordination, but if you know how to teach it, they are natural mimics at that age.
  4. Do remind them to watch the ball. Amazingly they'll often forget this.
  5. Do count how many shots he gets in a row or give him a target to aim for. It keeps their attention.
  6. Do expect them to be hungry all the time. I've learned to keep snacks around.
  7. Do coach him as close to the restroom as you can. It'll save you a lot of time.
  8. Do expect him to find absolutely anything hilarious. Do not attempt to figure out what he finds funny as you will never understand.
  9. Don't expect him to hear anything you say unless you say it three times, grab him by the hair and yell it in his ear, and possibly use a taser. That'll get his attention . . . for a few seconds.
  10. Don't expect him to have any hand-eye coordination. At that age, when they first start out, struggle just to make contact with the ball, and hitting it on the table is a somewhat rare occasion. But their expectations are low, so those few shots that do hit are cause for celebration.
  11. Don't expect him to understand that a table tennis session is just for table tennis. Anything will distract him – a broken ball, a bug, a mark on his paddle, whatever. And if there's nothing to distract him, the lack of distraction will distract him. I'm serious.
  12. Don't have a smart phone or other game device anywhere in sight or that's all he'll see.
  13. Don't get impatient or you'll be perpetually impatient.
  14. Don't have them hit too backhands for long periods. Their arm muscles aren't developed for that yet.

Exhibitions and Clinics at Potomac Community Center
Here's the email sent out yesterday from Herman Yeh, president of the Potomac Country TTC. Click on the links to see photos and video! We've done two exhibitions/clinics so far, each time for about two hours with 30-40 kids.

Members of PCTTC and Friends,

The second of a series of three table tennis clinics/exhibitions was completed on last Club Friday (2/26) at Potomac Community Center. Again, it was a very successful evening with many kid’s participation.

I am very grateful to Larry Hodges for taking the lead role in coaching these youngsters and to many volunteers from club (Gary Schlager, Michael Clarke, Shaw Zee, Kangmin Zheng, Yon Wacker) for helping Larry to put up such a great show. Everyone had a great time on that night. Here are some photos (www.pcttc.net/cf_slide1.html and www.pcttc.net/cf_slide2.html) and video taken by Shaw Zee on the night of 2/26 if you are interested. (Unfortunately, Terry Berman missed the photo shooting on the first night (2/12) because pre-approval wasn’t made in advance.)

I like to thank Yon Wacker and Kevin Shorter for generous donation of buckets of practice balls and Len Pettiford for gift of ball picker. Thanks also go to Friends of PCC for supplying beverages to volunteers.

-Herman, PCTTC

LA and Capital Area Leagues
Today's the deadline to enter the LA Team League – enter now! (If you are in the Maryland/Virginia/DC area, then enter the Capital Area League – you have until March 31 to enter. If you don't have a team, there's a signup form for players looking for teams.)

Coaching Articles from Samson Dubina
Here are two new ones.

  • Spin: Here's the video (3:32) where they illustrate spin using a bicycle wheel.
  • Chopping Advice: Video Interview (3:02) with Angela Guan.

"Tilden's Doubles Falk Drill" Based on The Falkenberg
Here's the video (45 sec) of this footwork drill for doubles players.

Ask the Coach Show

  • Episode #230 (28:55) - World Championships Starts (and other segments).
  • Episode #231 (24:35) - How to Win Matches (and other segments).

World Team Championships
Here's the ITTF home page for the ongoing event, Feb. 28 – March 6, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where you can see results, articles, press releases, pictures, video, and quotes. USATT has posted several videos of USA players on their News Page.

Budapest to Host 2019 ITTF World Table Tennis Championships
Here's the ITTF Press Release.

Lagom Table Tennis – Swedish Training
Here's the article from Coach Jon.

Legend Peter Karlsson Shares His Experiences
Here's the article.

Susan Sarandon on Ping Pong
Here's the article.

Timo Boll Forehand Topspin
Here's the video (1:47) that shows him looping in slow motion. I think this might be a reposting of an older video, but it's still a great one to watch and study.

Podcast with Jorgen Persson
Here's the podcast (49:53). When asked how he would have done in his prime against Ma Long, he said, "Me and Jan-Ove would have found a way to beat the current Chinese."

Lindenwood University Table Tennis
Here's the video (1:41) of a team practice. "Ever wonder what it's like to play in Lindenwood University's fastest collegiate sports? Two members of the LU table tennis team wore GoPro cameras during a practice to take an up close look at how intense the game can actually be."

Close up: Jun Mizutani
Here's the video (50 sec).

Jonah Bokaer’s 3,000 Ping-Pong Balls Take Stage at American Dance Institute
Here's the article from the Washington Post about a modern performance dance that includes 3000 ping-pong balls!

Washington Redskins Quarterback Kirk Cousins Plays Table Tennis!
Here's the picture. He's the tall one, with 3-time U.S. Men's Champ Timothy Wang second from left.

Speed Bump on Saturday
Here's the table tennis cartoon!

Non-Table Tennis: Galaxy's Edge Story
My humorous science fiction story "Pretty Pictures on Walls" went up this morning at Galaxy's Edge, one of the truly premier online SF magazines - I'm still a bit in awe that my name is listed right there next to Robert Silverberg! Mine is the second one in the story listing just above (gulp!) Silverberg's! (I met him at a SF convention - wonder if he remembers me?) Note the ad on the top right for my upcoming novel, "Campaign 2100: Game of Scorpions"!


Send us your own coaching news!

February 29, 2016

Every four years on February 29 the Leap Year Bull Frog makes his rounds, delivering pogo sticks, trampolines, and pole vaulting poles to deserving boys and girls all over the world. On this solumn occasion advocates of the ancient religion of Leapianity spend their days in quiet contemplation of future leaps. As a deeply religious Leapian, I will spend my day visualizing many leaping smashes against lobs, along with attacking a todo list that is longer than the magical Leap Day Bull Frog can jump. (I hope that's not sacrilegious.) So no blog today. Back tomorrow, along with the Tip of the Week!

However, it wouldn't be Leapian of me to leave you with nothing on this holiday, so why not follow the World Team Championships, taking place right now in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia? 

February 26, 2016

Regional Leagues, Capital Area League Finals, Results, and the New Season
Let's start with what's probably of greatest interest to you – leagues in your area. Want to play in a league? Then why not join one of these?

But what if there isn't one in your area? Then start one! (If you are in the Washington DC Metropolitan Area, now is the time to sign up for the Spring season of the Capital Area League.)

How are team leagues different from tournaments? First, you aren't risking your USATT rating – yay! But second, and more important, you have the fun of playing regularly on a team, with thousands your teammates cheering for you! I blogged about team leagues back on Nov. 24, 2014. Here is the recently created USATT League Page, and the news item on Regional Team Leagues.

The Fall 2015 season of the Capital Area League came to an end this past Saturday, with the Grand Finals at the Maryland Table Tennis Center. MDTTC A (Derek Nie, Klaus Wood, Raghu Nadmichettu) won the A Division Finals, defeating MDTTC Lions (Stefano Ratti, Ryan Dabbs, Greg Mascialino) in the final, 4-0. (NOVATTC had come in first in the regular season, edging out MDTTC A due to a default by the latter on the last meetup, but they lost 4-2 in the semifinals to the Lions here.) You can find complete results on the Capital Area League page.

But now we're on to the new season – and things are really looking up! Last season had 12 teams and 74 players, but the upcoming season already has 15 teams signed up, with a month to the March 31 deadline! The schedule is already up on Capital Area League page (I won't link to it every time I mention it…), with the first meet on April 17 at the Washington DC TTC. The newly reopened SmashTT (in a new, bigger venue) will host the second meet on April 30, with five to six meets scheduled, depending on the final schedule and division sizes. (There'll likely be three divisions.)

We ran into problems this past season over prize money. There's always an ongoing debate on this. If you put sizeable prize money into the top division, some players in other divisions feel like they are subsidizing the top players and don't think that's fair. If you don't put sizeable prize money in the top division, you don't get the top players, and so it becomes a weaker league as far as level. The solution? Get sponsors so that you can put prize money everywhere! And that's the plan this year – but mostly because we now have FIVE sponsors! So a great thanks goes to Paddle Palace, HW Global Foundation, Go Table Tennis, West, Lane & Schlager, and Pongmobile for sponsoring the league. Special thanks goes to Commissioner Stefano Ratti, who's done an excellent job in mediating the various disputes that inevitably arise, and for masterminding all these sponsorships.

Interesting Tidbits

  • A 9-year-old player I was coaching complained that he was hungry. (He's always hungry.) I jokingly told him to eat a ping-pong ball, they're filling. He picked one off the floor, put it in his mouth, and bit into it! After getting over the shock, I took the now broken (and saliva-covered) ball from him and explained about germs and the sin of breaking perfectly good ping-pong balls (someone has to pay for them!).
  • A mom and her son, about 12, came in, and were interested in trying out our table tennis robot. It was being used by Navin Kumar, the famous "Bionic Man." (Here's video of him.) I introduced them, and left. I only later found out that by an incredible coincident, the two newcomers were next-door neighbors to Navin's parents in Bangalore, India! Here's Navin's Facebook posting on this.
  • The Baltimore Sun is coming in this Sunday at about 1PM to do a feature on Derek Nie and Klaus Wood.
  • Tonight I'm doing an exhibition and clinic at the Potomac Community Center (home of the Potomac TTC), from 6:30-8:30PM.

Perfect World Team Championships
They begin this Sunday, Feb. 28 – March 6, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Here's the ITTF home page for the event, with draws, results, articles, video, pictures, quotes, etc. The draws are up, the Chinese are testing the tables (see segment below), and Kanak has his haircut, so we're all set to go! Here's the ITTF press release on 2016 World Table Tennis Championships to be Most Social of All Time, where they list all the social media they'll be on - Facebook, Instragram, Twitter, YouTube, flickR, Weibo, Wechat, youKu, and Tencent Video. (Here's the ITTF Press Release from last August on the title sponsor, Perfect China Company - thanks to TTRocks' comment on their for finding this. For some reason their logo on the ITTF page doesn't link to them.) 

National Collegiate Livestreaming
The NCTTA will be livestreaming four regional championship events this weekend!

USATT Insider
Here's the new issue that came out Wednesday.

Generation Gap, Example to Young Koreans, Joo Saehyuk
Here's the article.

Netherlands Seeks Elusive Medal but Is it Last Chance?
Here's the article.

Markham Once Again City to Decide Olympic Games Fortunes
Here's the article.

Mark Zuckerberg and the President of Indonesia Played Ping Pong in Virtual Reality Together
Here's the article and pictures.

International Table Tennis
Here's my periodic note (usually every Friday) that you can great international coverage at TableTennista (which especially covers the elite players well) and at the ITTF home page (which does great regional coverage). Butterfly also has a great news page.

Backhand Multiball
Here's video (44 sec) of a two-shot sequence drill where the player backhand flips a short ball to the forehand, followed by a quick backhand loop off the bounce from the back hand corner of the simulated block there. Note how they don't play out the point as they are zeroing in on developing these two shots in sequence.

Great Point: Ma Long vs. Yuya Oshima
Here's the video (15 sec) between China's world #1 and Japan's world #20. That's Adam Bobrow commentating.

Chinese Stars at the Worlds in Kuala Lumpur
Here are the top four players in the world testing the tables.

Ma Long's Best Points
Here's the highlights video (4:26) of the world #1.

Cat TT Cartoons
Marv Anderson alerted me to a table tennis theme in this week's Monty comic strip! Monty teaches his cat to play table tennis – and isn't happy with the result.


Send us your own coaching news!

February 25, 2016

Rarely Used Shots
After losing a backspin counter-lobbing point to a student (you heard that right), it got me to thinking about such rarely used shots. So here is a listing of a few of the lesser-used shots that are central to exactly nobody's game - but are fun to try!

  • Backspin Lobs. They are great fun, and a break from the usual topspin and sidespin lobs, but of course the backspin means the ball stays over the table, giving the opponent an easy angled smash. But it's so fun to watch the shock in a an advanced beginner as he prepares to smash the ball, only to have to make a last second lunge for it that rarely works! Extra bonus - a backspin lob that bounces back to your own side of the table! (See "Mistaken Comeback Backspin Lob" segment below – but normally you do this on purpose with a chop contact.) This is especially effective if you do it short to the forehand, where it's harder for the opponent to reach over the table or run to the side. I do this shot at least every 30 minutes when I'm coaching. 
  • Backspin Counter-Lobs. Now we're taking backspin lobs to the ultimate, just as counterlooping is the ultimate in looping. So your opponent does a backspin lob? Backspin lob right back, and let the backspin counter-lobbing begin! I had a few vicious backspin counter-lobbing points with a student yesterday; I'm sure the Chinese are researching this highly advanced shot. 
  • Running Forehand Push. Okay, this might be a somewhat normal shot for a chopper, but for the rest of us, it's not something you do every day, or every year. I took on a student recently in a pushing battle, and we both quickly realized there were two strategies: either push over and over to the other player's forehand (since neither of us normally forehand push much against deep backspin), or quick push side to side, forcing running forehand pushes. I have to say my running forehand push needs work. 
  • Forehand Pendulum Drive. I learned this shot in the late 1970s from Charles Butler, a 2300 player who was at least 6'4". He was a two-winged looper back when most top players weren't (yes, there was a time...). He was not only tall, but his arms seemed extra long as well, leading to a huge middle. And so what did he do? Every now and then on a shot to his middle he'd return it with the same motion as a forehand pendulum serve, basically a sidespin drive from the middle! I too have learned this shot (key is to learn to close your racket), and about once a day when someone blocks to my middle I'll throw this at them. Alas, I haven't yet mastered the intricacies of a reverse forehand pendulum drive - have you?
  • Backhand Strawberry Flip. At the higher levels most top players use backhand banana flips to attack short serves, creating topspin and sidespin with the shot. For a righty, the racket contacts the ball on the left side, so the ball spins clockwise when seen from above, and curves to the right. But what about the lesser-used strawberry flip, pioneered by Stefan Feth, where you contact the ball on the right side and spin it the other way? Not with just a blocking motion - that'd be a sidespin block, with this type often called a squeegie block - but an actual drive so that the ball spins to the left? I've fooled around with the shot and perhaps I'll unleash it on the world at the upcoming Worlds - oops, forgot to try out. 
  • Emergency Seemiller Backhand. Ever get caught by surprise by a shot to your middle where you were already preparing for a forehand? And reacted by simply blocking with your forehand side from the middle, windshield-wiper fashion, i.e. a Seemiller backhand? Heck, I've seen seemingly normal shakehand players use this contrived shot to smash against short, high balls when caught off guard. (Confession: I've done it.)
  • Hand Serve. The rules consider the hand below the wrist to be part of the racket. So it is legal to serve by hitting the ball with your hand, as long as you are holding the racket with that hand! The easiest way to do this is with a backhand serve, where you hit the ball with the back of your hand. Yes, it hurts, but imagine the look of shock on your opponent's face when he catches the ball, thinking you've mishit it, and you claim the point? I've done this twice in tournaments (in 40 years), and both times the opponent caught the ball. Being the nice person I am, I gave them lets both times even though it was legally my point. (Both were weaker players; I decided not to test it against my peers and face their wrath.)

Ask the Expert: 10 Questions about Table Tennis Rules
Here's the new article from Samson Dubina.

Ask the Coach Show
Episode #229 (23:34) - 3rd Ball Against Fast Push (and other segments).

Jun Mizutani: Japan Hopes Are High
Here's the article on Japan's Men's Team at the Worlds, with Jun Mizutani, Koki Niwa, Yuya Oshima, Maharu Yoshimura, and Kenta Matsudaira, with world rankings respectively of 7, 14, 20, 24, and 28.

Science in Olympic Games/Table Tennis: The Science of Spin
Here's the video (39:16).

China Warm Up Matches for 2016 World Championships
Here's another nice match! Zhang Jike vs Fan Zhendong (4:54)

Xu Xin the Showman
Here's the highlights video (8min).

Mistaken Comeback Backspin Lob
Here's the video (64 sec, including slo-mo replay)!

Kanak Gets a KANAKKANAK Haircut
Here's the video (39 sec) as he gets the haircut in Malaysia seemingly double-named after him – for 8 Ringgits, which is $1.89. $1.89 for a haircut???! I'm flying to Malaysia for my haircuts from now on. (Video by U.S. Men's Coach Stefan Feth, who is heard talking in the background.) 

Send us your own coaching news!

February 24, 2016

Zhang Jike vs. Ri Chol Guk at 2011 Worlds - and an Interesting Banana Flip
Here's an interesting video (4:38), for three reasons. (I first saw it as this Facebook posting.) First, you get to see the best in the world (Zhang Jike) against a player you rarely get to see, Ri Chol Guk from North Korea. (His peak was world #82 in June, 2011, before leaving the world rankings in May, 2012 at #86.) Second, Guk has a conventional penhold backhand (same side for forehand and backhand) rather than the modernistic reverse penhold backhand – a dying breed. And third, see the receive by Zhang at 8-6 in third, where he flips a short serve to his forehand with his backhand. Any video of Zhang and most modern top players will show them using the backhand banana flip to receive many short serves to the forehand, but what's unique is that he flips it inside-out to Guk's wide forehand – for an ace.

It's one of those way under-used shots. Let's examine what's actually happening. Guk serves short to the forehand, giving Zhang an angle into his forehand. Against a normal forehand receive, Guk and other players would automatically guard against that wide angle. But as soon as Zhang reaches in with his backhand, many players – including Guk here – reflexively give up this angle. Watch the video again and see how Guk, as soon as he sees a backhand receive, is already moving to his left (our right), giving up the wide forehand.

Why does he (and others) do this? Because from zillions of hours of play, players are not programmed to react to backhands from the forehand that angle into your forehand as Zhang does here, since they so rarely see it. When faced with an opponent's backhand, players are used to seeing at most a down-the-line backhand to their forehand (no angle), and so reflexively only guard against that, while more often expecting a crosscourt shot to their backhand. (Here's an example of that three points earlier, as well as a number of earlier times.) Result? The wide forehand angle is given up. Receivers, take notice!

Ask the Coach Show
Episode #228 (25:10) - Is the Backhand Sidespin Flick Overrated? (And other segments.)

34 Seconds of Forehand Multiball
Here's the video.

USATT Releases iOS Mobile App
Here's the download/info page.

11 Questions with Paul Shih and Yun Fan
Here's the USATT interview.

Interview with Kokou Dodji Fanny (Togo)
Here's the USATT Interview by Rahul Acharya.

The Road Traveled
Here's the article by Joe Windham on his experiences at various clubs – Triangle TTC in NC, Milwaukee TTC, Atlanta International Academy, San Diego TTC, Minneapolis TTC, St. Louis TTC, Salt Lake City TTC, and the South Bend TTC in IN.

2016 US Olympians and Paralympians Reunion
Here's the USATT article and slideshow. "USA Table Tennis Olympian Sean O'Neill (1988-1992) along with Las Vegas TTC's Carmencita, Luoana and Cynthia Alexandrescu shared table tennis duties for a great weekend of play at the Tropicana!"

NCTTA Commentator Challenge Winners Up to the Task
Here's the article. The National Collegiate TTA had a contest to find commentators for their events. The winners are Kevin Korb and Bryan Song, with runners-up Dylan Ley and Andy Nguyen. "Sports commentary can run the gamut from entertaining and insightful to "meh." Good commentary can add to spectators' enjoyment of an event, while bad commentary--or sometimes even too much commentary--can send them scrambling for the mute button."

Drew Ogden Leads Dixie Division
Here's the article.

Two Current Stars Withdraw, Two Stars of Yesteryear
Here's another article on the withdrawal from the Worlds of Ovtcharov, as well as Chuan Chih-Yuan, and the entries of Schlager and Primorac. Here's another article on Ovtcharov and the German Team.

Lakeland February Open
Here's the video (7:03) showcasing the prizewinners!

Filling a Car with Ping Pong Balls!
Here's the video (4:44).

Alien Pong
Here's the cartoon!
Send us your own coaching news!

February 23, 2016

Coaching the Candidates
Before the most recent Republican and Democratic Debates, there was a rumor that the moderators would challenge them to showcase their table tennis skills. And so each candidate quietly contacted me about private coaching. Here are my notes on each of these sessions which took place this past week at the Maryland Table Tennis Center.

=>DONALD TRUMP. He wore his customary "Make USATT Great Again" baseball cap. (It fell off once and took his hair with it, but he paid me $1000 not to tell anyone.) As we warmed up, at first I thought he was just really, really slow, but then I asked to examine his racket, and it was made of solid gold and weighed about twenty pounds – and he insisted on using it. I wanted to go over to his side of the table to help him with his technique, but as we rallied several Mexican workers came by and extended the net in both directions into a six-foot barb-wired fence.

The rallies weren't very good as Trump insisted on attacking everything. Way too aggressive. Most of his shots missed, but he claimed they hit, and a bunch of people wearing Trump shirts kept clapping and screaming, "Great shot!" even when they missed by ten feet. I tried to get him to done it down, but he said, "I have the best forehand and backhand in the world. Everybody loves my technique. I have a beautiful game and I'm very rich."

He told me a story about how at the World Table Tennis Championships, when Team USA lost to Team China, thousands of Chinese had celebrated in the streets of New Jersey, and that he had decided that until we figure out what is going on, he was calling for a complete shutdown on New Jersey natives entering the United States. Now some of my best friends are from the Lily Yip Table Tennis Center and the New Jersey Table Tennis Club, but I didn't want to get into an argument with him. He had some strong opinions on unrated players, and didn't believe they should be allowed to play in rating events. "I will round up every unrated person in American and export them, and make China pay for it."

At the end of the session he slapped a Trump bumper sticker on the table and then took an escalator out. (When did we install that?) Trump said some really nasty stuff during our session, but he also bought the club with some pocket change during a break and is now our owner, so I'll shut up.

=>JEB BUSH. I could already see he was having so much trouble in the election. He looked bushed (sorry!), tottering about like an old man with sacks under his eyes. I asked him what was wrong, and he said, "I have no Tenergy." Now I happen to know that his campaign had raised over $150 million, so you'd think he could shell out $150 – 0.0001% of the money raised – for two sheets of Tenergy. But apparently Trump was right, this guy is always low on Tenergy. He played passively with antispin on both sides, just blocking everything back with a pained smile on his face. We only hit for about ten minutes, and then, pleading exhaustion, he dropped out of the session and the presidential race.

=>BEN CARSON. We never had a session. You see, we have this storage closet at MDTTC, and immediately after entering the club, Carson ran into it, screaming, "I found it! This is where Joseph stored his grain!" He spent the next hour searching through the boxes of rackets, balls, and other TT stuff, looking for that grain. I think he found an old ham sandwich one of the kids discarded back there, and called it a victory. On the way out he stopped by one of the tables and claimed it was the Ark of the Covenant, and my Gatorade bottle the Holy Grail. The guy is nuts.

=>TED CRUZ. He plays with a bible as a racket, with long pips no sponge on one side, vintage Sriver on the other, and both sides are illegally the same bright Republican red – yeah, he cheats. He also insisted on playing on a God Table Tennis Table that he brought himself. He kept moving to his right all the time, and so often was way, way off to the side, making rallies impossible. The session was cut short as he got into an argument with the club's management about his insistence that we not pay our bills, and he went into an absolute rage when he heard we were raising our ceiling (to allow for more lobbing), and  after a few minutes he stormed out. Last I saw he was outside on the steps of the club reading Green Eggs and Ham to an empty parking lot.

=>MARCO RUBIO. He's only five feet tall and looks about twelve. He was a strange student. When I asked him if he'd ever had any coaching before, he said, "Tactics isn't about finding complex strategies to defeat an opponent. Tactics is about sifting through all the zillions of possible tactics and finding a few simple ones that work." This had nothing to do with my question, and of course are the opening lines to my book Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers. I asked him if he'd ever seen high-level table tennis, and he repeated the same lines. When I asked if I could see his grip, he repeated it again. For the next hour, no matter what I said or asked, that's how he responded, always word for word. And yet, despite this weird repetition, he was probably the most talented of the candidates.

=>JOHN KASICH. I have to apologize. Like everyone else, I'd never heard of this guy. When he came in he seemed reluctant to play, so I practically dragged him out to the table. One of his security guys protested, but we had him kicked out. Kasich kept protesting throughout the lesson about something, but like everyone else, I never really heard what he had to say. At the end, when we shook hands, he said, "I keep telling you, I'm not Kasich, he was the guy you kicked out." In the immortal words of Rick Perry, "Oops."

=>HILLARY CLINTON. All the stuff you've heard about her being dishonest . . . well, it's all true. I was ready to teach her all the wonderful secrets of table tennis, but she only wanted to play games. But her serves were illegal! She used a hidden serve(r), thereby illegally hiding contact. Anyway, halfway through the session representatives from Butterfly, JOOLA, Paddle Palace, and others came by, and she went to the back room to have talks with them. We secretly recorded her speech to them, but we've been bribed to keep them secret. Suffice to say that if elected, table tennis equipment will become tax-free, and so I'm voting for her.

=>BERNIE SANDERS. As you can probably guess, he played with a hardbat. We didn't get much practice – he spent the whole session griping about the sponge conglomerates and how unfair that was to the average hardbat American. He couldn't put any spin on the ball. When I tried to teach him how to spin, he refused, insisting on talking without spin, saying he'd raise taxes, turn America into a (Democratic) Socialist Paradise, and reminiscing about the old days when he'd cheer for his old hitting partner, Fidel Castro and growing up in the 50s (1850s). But at the end he got really hot, and I could feel the bern. 

Today's Todo List
Let's see how much of my todo list I can get through today. Check back periodically throughout the day and night as I cross them off the list. (By making this public it sort of puts pressure on me to get them done – so now I have to get them done. I'll have to stop at 2:15 PM for the afterschool program, but I'll continue tonight. There's nothing in the world more joyful than checking items off a todo list, right?)

  • Blog
  • Update links for MDTTC Opens with direct links for payments
  • Work with translator on questions regarding Korean translation of Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers
  • Email to ITTF officials regarding hidden service rule
  • Finalize and send last minute edits of SF novel to publisher
  • Two promotional items for upcoming SF novel
  • Updates on Capital Area League webpage
  • Afterschool program (leave at 2:15PM) and 1.5 hours coaching
  • News item on History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 17
  • Update Capital Area League Results
  • Letter of Recommendation for top player who's applying for a grant
  • Prepare email to USATT clubs about leagues and state championships
  • Online coaching analysis
  • Order trophies for MDTTC April Open (Thur)
  • Schedule and start plans for Maryland Closed (Thur)
  • Ongoing correspondence with roughly a zillion people on leagues, state championships, regional associations, coaching programs, and other issues
  • Finalize short SF story I've been working on [will likely postpone this for some time - Saturday morning?]
  • Article for Orioles Hangout
  • Browse and procrastinate on the 23 items on my long-term todo list

US National Junior/Cadet Team Members and Top Collegiate Teams to Compete at 2016 Butterfly Arnold Challenge
Here's the article by Barbara Wei.

Ovtcharov Withdraws from 2016 World Championships & Legends Return
Here's the ITTF article. The two returning Legends are Schlager and Primorac.

Table Tennis Hurts
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

2016 World Champs Teams - China
Here are two videos that introduce the men and women who will represent China at the Worlds

China Warm Up Matches for 2016 World Championships
Here are two good ones as the top four in the world go at it!

Spinning on a Table
Here's 28 seconds of a player spinning on a table like a top – balanced on one hand – while rallying. Dear player – you have it all wrong, you are supposed to spin the ball, not yourself!

Alec Baldwin and Jason Schwartzman "Traffic" Commercial for Amazon Echo
Here's the video (30 sec)!

Super Sideways Dive into a Pool in a Captain American Uniform
Here's the picture of Adam Bobrow demonstrating basic movement in table tennis. (Here's the non-Facebook version.)


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