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.
No Blog Until
Alas, something had to give. Since Tim Boggan moved in with me on Tuesday, Sept. 30, I've been working on the page layouts and photo work for his Volume 15 of History of U.S. Table Tennis every day from roughly 5AM to 2:30PM, then leaving to coach, returning roughly between 6 and 9PM. If I'm back "early," we usually do another hour or so of work, and then he goes to bed while I work on a dozen other things, including this blog. The problem is that means I'm up late, often until midnight, and I've been getting up around 4:30 AM.
It's too much. I'm known for being tireless, but I can barely keep my eyes open. Meanwhile we've fallen a bit behind. We want to finish by the weekend as I'll be away all day Saturday and coaching nearly all day on Sunday. At our current pace we aren't going to make it. (His past books are typically 500 pages with 900 photos that have to be cleaned up and placed on the pages one at a time, captions typed in, etc. This one will be a little shorter in page length, but with FAR more photos, which is the time-consuming part.) So I've made the command decision to take the rest of this week off from blogging so we can get the thing done. Meanwhile, here are two segments I'd already put together. See you next Monday!
Here's a pretty good point (36 sec, including slow motion replay) by the Chinese phenom, now ranked #2 in the world.
Tip of the Week
Coaching and a Ball Shortage - a Good Thing?
Yesterday was somewhat hectic for an unusual reason - a ball shortage. But perhaps that was a good thing?
I spent the morning working with Tim Boggan on Volume 15 of his History of U.S. Table Tennis (1986-88). We started around 6AM and stopped at noon. (Over the weekend Tim and I watched the Marty Reisman documentary "Fact or Fiction: The Life & Times of a Ping-Pong Hustler, which I'll blog about later this week, probably tomorrow - I took lots of notes. 84-year-old Tim found it depressing.) After lunch I went to MDTTC for three hours of private coaching and a 90 minute junior group session.
The private coaching went pretty well - two juniors and one adult. The first of the two kids was a relative beginner, age 11. He did pretty well - his basic forehand and backhand strokes are sound - so we spent much of the session working on his forehand loop, and then on serves. His loop gets surprising spin for someone who hasn't been doing it very long - he has very good contact with the ball, though he tends to stop his upper body rotation before contact, costing him power. The second kid was a 7-year old who already topspins all his backhands, essential an off-the-bounce backhand loop that's going to be scary good someday. We spent much of the session also working on his forehand loop. The final session was with Navin, the full-time hardbat and sandpaper player with the artificial heart and Parkinson's. We spent much of the session working on his forehand hitting and backhand chop blocking, and then on hardbat serves.
Then came the hectic part. From 4:30-6:00 I teach a junior class with 12 players. Assisting was Coach Jeffrey. We needed three boxes of balls - two for Jeffrey and I (for multiball) and another for the robot. The problem was that coaches Cheng, Jack, Leon, Bowen, Raghu, and John were all doing private coaching sessions, and several of our top juniors were using boxes of balls to train or practice serves, and suddenly we had a severe ball shortage. (Fortunately, Coach Alex is in China right now or it might have been worse!) We'd opened the last box of training balls a few days later, and for now there were no more. So Jeffrey and I scrounged around the club, grabbing every ball we could. We managed to get enough - barely - though we had to really focus on ball pickup so we wouldn't run out of balls.
We do nearly 300 hours of coaching at MDTTC each week. I'm constantly amazed when I hear from some players and club leaders about how impossible it is to get players, that there just isn't enough demand out there. But there's a simple formula we discovered when we opened MDTTC 22 years ago - if you bring in high-level coaches with great work ethics, and let them keep the bulk of their private coaching income, they will have great incentive to bring in students, and those students will become the backbone of the club, paying for memberships, tournaments, leagues, equipment, and group coaching sessions. That's how you fill a club up. It's not easy at the start, but if you do it, the players will come. That's the formula that works for us, and for the large majority of the roughly 75 full-time clubs in the U.S. (I wrote more about this in the Professional Table Tennis Coaches Handbook, in particular on how to find students to develop a full-time coaching practice.)
More Larry & Tim Quotes
On Friday I blogged about working with Tim Boggan on Volume 15 of his History of U.S. Table Tennis, and gave a number of quotes. Here are more.
Larry: "Should we use the good one or the blur?"
Tim: "It goes against my grain, but we'll use the better picture."
Larry: "I knew you'd weaken."
Tim: "Let's use them even though they're good." (About two photos that were so good they made the others look bad.)
Tim: "Bring the curtain over." (Wanted me to move something in a photo.)
Larry: "Posterity will come and go, and no one will ever know." (Musing to himself about the various manipulations he does on the page.
Larry: "I want to check something." (Every five minutes.)
Larry: "Have to check on the Orioles game." (Every five minutes.)
Larry: "I have an email coming." (Every 30 seconds.)
Snake Serve Table Tennis
Here's a video (5:19) of a hilarious coaching video. Learn the Snake Serve (a forehand pendulum serve), the Reverse Serve, and the Lizard Serve! Warning - if you suffer from Ophidiophobia (fear of snakes), do not watch this.
Top Ten Creative Servers of Table Tennis
Here's the article and video (12:41).
Learn How to Make Your Loops More Deceptive - Just Add Variation!
Here's the article by Samson Dubina.
Nathan Hsu in China
Here's Nathan's latest vlog (4:12). He's actually back now, and editing and putting the videos online when he's not training.
USATT Athletes of the Month
Here's the USATT article. This month they are Crystal Wang (women), Timothy Wang (men), and Tahl Leibovitz (Paralympic). Crystal, of course, is from my club.
Charity Tournament and Celebrity SLAMFest Huge Success
Asian Games Men's Final
Here's the video (7:12, with time between points taken out) between the top two players in the world, Xu Xin and Fan Zhendong.
China on Top of Asia after Claiming Men's & Women's Singles Gold
Ping-Pong Business Hopes to Restart Table Tennis Craze
Here's the article (with pictures and video) about King Pong Table Tennis in Staten Island.
Happy Birthday Jan-Ove Waldner
Here's the graphic and comments - he turned 49 on Friday.
Arguing About Benghazi Talking Points
Send us your own coaching news!
A Visit from St. Timothy
As readers here know, Tim Boggan moved in with me this past Monday so I could do the page layouts and photo work on his latest History of U.S. Table Tennis book - this is Volume 15! He's been writing and publishing these books for about 15 years, moving in with me about once a year for 10-14 days. We expect to finish the current one by the end of next week. (We've done the covers and have finished seven of the 25 chapters.) You can learn more about these books (and buy them!) at Tim Boggan Table Tennis, which I created and maintain for him.
Tim Boggan, 84, is a member of the U.S. Table Tennis Hall of Fame - here's his Hall of Fame Profile, and here's the feature interview I did with him in 1996 (which includes lots of pictures, including ones of him growing up). His two sons, Eric and Scott Boggan, both were USA Men's Singles Champions and are members of the USATT Hall of Fame. (So am I!) Eric was top 20 in the world.
The first thing to know about Tim is that he keeps strange hours. He goes to bed around 7:30 PM each night, and gets up around 3:00 AM. This means he's impatiently waiting for me to get started each morning. While he's here I do the bulk of the blog the night before, but in the mornings before we start I still have to get any new TT items, and put it up. Typically we start work by 6:30AM. (That's why the blog has been going up extra early this week - usually around 6:00 AM - instead of the normal 9:30 AM or so. Though not this morning since I was up late last night working, alas, so the blog is going up until around 7:45AM this morning, meaning we are starting work on the book "late." Tim is grouching!) Except for a 30-minute lunch break, we work until 2:30 PM. That's when I have to leave Mon-Fri to pick up kids for our afterschool program, which lasts until 4:30 PM. I usually then have group or private coaching for several more hours, so I don't get home until sometime between 7:30 and 9:00 PM - and Tim's already in bed. So I do my blog, catch up on other work, read a bit, and go to bed. (Tim sleeps on the sofa in my office.) Then I get up by 5:30 AM and we start over. (On weekends it'll be even busier.)
This is how we actually do the work. I work on my desktop computer with Tim sitting next to me, looking over my shoulder. He comes prepared, with printouts of each chapter, and notes on where each picture goes. We move through the chapters one photo at a time. Since the books typically are about 500 pages with 900 photos, it's a huge job.
We're greatly helped by still another U.S. Table Tennis Hall of Famer, Mal Anderson, photographer extraordinaire. Over half of the photos used are by him. He also helps by scanning the large majority of photos we'll use in advance. When it's time to put in a photo (~900 times per volume), as Tim watches over my shoulder I open the photo, clean it up in Photoshop, and then place it where Tim needs it. Then he gives me the caption and the "photo by" credit, and I put them in. Then we continue. As we move through each chapter I do the page layouts, make sure everything lines up, etc.
Since many of the scans are from newsprint or from old, beaten-up or vintage photos, I spend a lot of time cleaning up the photos in Photoshop. I'm sort of an expert at that, from my 12 years as editor of USA Table Tennis Magazine. But Tim is pretty picky about one thing - he's constantly scanning the backgrounds of pictures, and always wants them cleaned up. If there's someone standing in the background that detracts from the person featured in the photo . . . well, I try not to get too emotionally attached to that person. He often mysteriously disappears. I also spend a lot of time removing blemishes from backgrounds. If there's a pixel that shouldn't be there, Tim will find it and indignantly demand that the guilty pixel be removed.
When the volume is done, I do a lot of pre-press work, getting it into proper PDF format for the printer. I also create the files so we can put it up for sale on Amazon. Then I put together the ads for the newest volume. Then I sleep for a week.
Some of the side effects off all this work? Let's just say I usually do not have Mountain Dew at 7AM. (I normally restrict my soft drinks to one 7.5 oz can per day, but I'm a bit lax on that during Tim's stays.) But on the days that I get back early from coaching (only twice a week it looks like) he treats me to extravagant meals at nice restaurants.
It wouldn't be right to not mention Tim's ongoing wars with my gate, front door, and microwave. Let's just say he and they don't see eye to eye. But eventually he always wins, but only after a lot of, well, scrimmaging and loud cussing.
I kept track of some of our interesting "discussions" today. Here they are!
Larry: "I didn't know you were a devout Muslim."
Tim: "I'm not!"
Larry: "Then why are you writing about a 'South Koran'?"
(He had me change it to "South Korean.")
Tim: "Die Lily!"
(Okay, he wasn't threatening U.S. National Coach Lily Yip; he was referring to photos of Dai Lili, former Chinese champion.)
Larry: "Is that a 'yes' yes, or an 'I'm not paying attention' yes?"
Larry: "Is that an inkblot test?"
Tim: "But it's the only photo I have of him!"
(We use the photo.)
Larry: "I can barely make out the guy's face."
Tim: "Then clean up the background."
Tim (A minute later): "It came out better than I thought."
Larry: "Photo by?"
Larry: "Three . . . two . . . one . . ."
Tim: "Sorry, photo by Mal Anderson."
Larry: "Does that picture add to the book?"
Tim: "No. Put it in anyway."
Larry: "That's the worst picture I've ever seen."
Larry: "Is the person important?"
Tim: "No. Put it in anyway."
Larry: "While I'm changing these historically accurate pictures by changing them for you, should I fix up their technique as well?"
Larry: "Given the choice between doing it right or doing it your way, what do you want to do?"
Tim: "My way."
Larry: "Where should I put this blur?"
Tim: "Right hand top of the page."
Tim: [Long description of where the next photo goes, how he wants it, etc.]
Larry: "I'm still cleaning up the photo."
Tim: [Continues description of where the next photo goes.]
Larry: "I still haven't got it on the page."
Tim: [Description of where the next photo goes continues.]
Larry: "Okay, photo is ready. Where does it go?"
Tim: "Bring up photo [photo's name]"
Larry: "There isn't any photo by that name."
Larry: "Are you still here?" (At 5:30 AM after getting up.)
Tim: "Something wrong here." (Said approximately every five minutes.)
Larry: "Are we done yet?" (Said approximately every five minutes.)
Tim: "We're doing fine. We're doing fine. (Said approximately every five minutes.)
Larry: "Can I go home now?" (Said approximately every five minutes. I'm already home.)
Ask the Coach Show - Episode 2
Here's the video (14:14) from PingSkills. Here are the questions asked and answered this episode (yeah, there are typos in the questions, but this is the Internet):
2015 Special Olympic World Games Technical Officials Application
ITTF Establishes Testing Lab in Singapore
Here's the article. "The International Table Tennis Federation sets up a joint lab with Nanyang Technological University, which will focus on testing of table tennis balls and racket coverings, among other projects."
Kanak Jha Training
Here's video (61 sec, much of it in slow motion) showing Kanak training for the upcoming World Cup. Looks like a random drill.
As usual, you can follow international news at Tabletennista (great coverage of top players) and the ITTF News Page (great regional coverage). Both are covering table tennis at the ongoing Asian Games.
Great Trick Shot
Here's the video (44 sec) - bouncing ball on racket's handle while rolling a tube target, then serving through the moving target.
Amazing Michael Maze Maze
Send us your own coaching news!
Different Short Serve & Follows
There are no rules, but here are a few guidelines that many players often don't realize or think about. You have to think about these things so you can make them a habit, and then you don't have to think about them as much, except tactically.
When serving short backspin, most opponents won't attack the serve until the higher levels, but they may be able to push low and heavy. So you might have to focus more on spin on your first loop. However, if you serve short and low no-spin while faking backspin (i.e. "heavy no-spin"), you'll get mostly pushed returns that tend to pop up more and with less spin. So when you serve these types of no-spin serves, be ready to end the point with loop kills and smashes. (Don't use 100% power - a well-placed shot at 80% is more consistent and a higher percentage shot.) I'm always surprised by how few players below the higher levels effectively use backspin and no-spin serves - most will serve straight backspin over and over and over, perhaps mixing in a few obvious deep topspin or sidespin serves.
While you're at it, besides serving short backspin and no-spin, why not short side-top? It's not that hard to learn. Learn to do it with essentially the same motion as your backspin and no-spin serves. Result? Opponents will tend to pop them up or go off the end. (But don't overuse them and let opponents get used to them.) Learn to serve with a semi-circular motion so you can serve different spins with the same motion. Here's how.
When you can serve short backspin, sidespin/topspin, and no-spin, and do so with a similar motion, and to all parts of the table, you have a nice arsenal - try them all out and see which ones are effective against various opponents. If you keep throwing these different serves at an opponent, they'll have great difficulty. And when they are having great difficulty, that's when you throw a deep serve at them as still another surprise, and watch them completely fall apart.
Okay, it's not that easy, but done properly, over the course of a match, these serve variations will wear down an opponent and often win the match for you.
I keep talking about short serves (i.e. serves that, given the chance, would bounce twice). Actually, below the 2000 level, tricky long serves are often more effective than short serves. Below the 2000 levels even most backspin serves tend to go long, but they are still most often pushed back. (Here's what you should do against short backspin serves.) But it's those short serves that'll allow you to serve and attack over and over, which is why at higher levels most serves are short, with long serves a variation.
You do understand the purpose of the serve, right?
French Translation of Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers
My book Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers is being translated into French. The translation is now about halfway finished, and should be done in the next 1-2 months. Hopefully it'll be on sale in the French version of Amazon by the end of the year. (Here are all my books; buy some!!!)
Don't forget to enter! They are Dec. 16-20 in Las Vegas.
2014 Asian Games
They are taking place in Incheon, KOR, Sept. 27 - Oct. 10, and have already finished the Teams (China swept). They are now into singles and doubles. Here's the ITTF Asian Games page, with articles and a link to results on the right. There's also coverage at Tabletennista.
2014 Asian Games Team Final, Ma Long vs Joo Sae Hyuk
Here's the video (9:50, with time between points removed) between attacker Ma Long of China and chopper/looper Joo Sae Hyuk of South Korea.
Physical Training for Kids in Thailand
Here's the video (1:06), with some of these drills taught in the ITTF Coaching Courses.
Here are news items/press releases from the ITTF on the World Anti-Doping Agency.
This announcer found it hard to see the action without his glasses. Right?
Send us your own coaching news!
One of my favorite tricks for new players is demonstrating forehand accuracy. (You can also do this with the backhand.) It's a simple trick - I put a bottle on one side of the table (typically a 16oz Gatorade or water bottle), and standing at the other end, I drop a ball on the table and smash it against the bottle. I hit it easily over 80% of the time, and over 90% once I get warmed up. It looks impressive, even to advanced players. When they try it, they often miss. But there's a simple reason for that. They don't know how to aim.
Here's what you do. Assuming you are a righty, put the bottle on the far left side, perhaps a foot from the sideline. You stand on the same side (your wide backhand), so you are next to your left sideline. Practice dropping the ball a few times and note where your contact point would be. Now here's the secret: put your racket up against where contact would be made, and simply make sure it's aimed directly at the bottle at that point. You should be able to keep the racket aimed exactly at the bottle for at least a foot during your forward swing - about six inches before and after contact. Practice this a few times without the ball, making sure the racket is aimed directly at the bottle whenever the racket is near where the ball would be.
Then drop the ball and smack the bottle. You might mess up a few times at first, but with practice you'll be surprised at how consistent you can be with this. I'm guessing that the large majority of the readers of this blog will be able to hit the bottle at least half the time. If you can't, there's a simple answer - practice! You can also do this looping, though hitting is probably more accurate.
Here's the late great Marty Reisman demonstrating in this hilarious video (1:14) - except instead of a bottle, he's smacking (and breaking) a cigarette! (He's doing it from right by the net. With a bottle, I do this from near my end of the table.)
Here's the shocker. Once you can hit the bottle pretty consistently, it will likely help with your smashing accuracy in a game.
Video Review: Men's Final - European Team Championships 2014
Here's the video (18:40), with analysis of the Team Final between Germany and Portugal.
Video Review: Women's Final - European Team Championships 2014
Here's the video (9:24), with analysis of the Team Final between Germany and Austria.
Ask the Coach Show - Episode 1
Here's the video (6:05) from PingSkills.
Chinese National Table Tennis Team - Exhibition Matches
Here are photos from the Chinese exhibition at the Triangle TTC this past Friday.
Betting Can Inject a Thrill into Table Tennis
Here's the article by Matt Hetherington - but is it legal? (Depends on the state and location.)
Palestine's Youngest Player
Here's the article and video (4:09) about this three-year-old sensation.
Unbelievable Table Tennis on a Helipad
Here's the new ad (30 sec) for China Dubai One Energy - done way up in the air! (Can you name the Chinese National Team Members?)
Send us your own coaching news!
Table Tennis Ball Pickup Devices
When MDTTC first opened 22 years ago we didn't have any ball pickup devices. Correction - we had our hands. Two of them, in fact, and that's how we picked balls up our first couple of years. What were we thinking???
Then we got the Butterfly ball amigos, and life became much better. They are great for picking balls up quickly, which is big when you are coaching or training long hours. We have seven full-time coaches at MDTTC, and usually have two nets per court, so that's a lot of nets. Most of the major companies sell some sort of ball pickup net or similar device. (We have ball pickup nets, table tennis nets on each table, and nets to catch balls on the robot. We're practically a net club. Wonder what our net worth is?)
There are now a number of ball pickup devices on the market. Most come in three types: nets to scoop them up (probably the fastest); tubes to pick them up one at a time (not as fast, but easier to get balls in tricky spots like in corners); and the "ping-pong buddy," which grabs the balls a bunch at a time. (The kids love these.) There's a nice review of all three types at the Breaking 2000 page, which includes pictures. It also has video of three ball-picking up robots. Here's another (1:30).
Back in the 1990s or so there was sort of a ball pickup wars, where Newgy introduced their ball pickup tubes. There were a number of ads in USATT Magazine for these tubes and ads by other companies for net pickup devices. Personally, I've been using the nets for about twenty years, and swear by them. During training sessions I often have ball pickup contests with students to see who can pick up the most.
You can also make your own ball pickup device. Here's a page showing how to make one that's similar to the Newgy tube device, but made from a fluorescent tube box.
Here's video (2:37) of another ball pickup device that picks ping-pong or golf balls up one at a time when you are playing, and hangs on the table or your belt while you play. Alas, I don't see order info in the video. I wouldn't mind ordering one of these.
European Team Championships and the Nittaku Premium 40+ Ball
I blogged yesterday about the European Team Championships. One thing I didn't think to mention was that they were the first tournament (or at least major one) to use the Nittaku Premium 40+ plastic ball - the same ball that we'll be using at the USA Nationals. The last time Germany lost in the European Team Championships was back in 2005 - they've been that dominant - but this time they were upset in the final by Portugal. Make of that what you will. (Here are European Championship results going back to 1958.) Here's video (13:02) of the final match where Portugal's Marcos Freitas (world #12) upsets Germany's Timo Boll (world #9).
China Sweeps Asian Team Titles
Ping Pong Diplomacy and Training Visit by Chinese National Table Tennis Team
Here's the USATT article and pictures of their visit to the Triangle Table Tennis in Morrisville, NC.
Nathan Hsu in China
Here's Nathan's latest vlog (4:37).
Amazing Table Tennis Tricks
Here's the video (3:04).
A Little King Kong Ping Pong?
Send us your own coaching news!
Tip of the Week
Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis Books
As long-time readers here know, about once a year USATT Historian/Hall of Famer/Legend Tim Boggan moves in with me for 10-12 days, where I do the page layouts and photo work for his U.S. Table Tennis history books. (Most of the photos come from Mal Anderson, who fixes them up before sending them to me.)
We did Volume 14 back in February, and I wasn't expecting him back until next year. But dang it, Tim, he went and got Volume 15 done in record time. And so he's moving in with me tomorrow. As usual, he'll live in my office/lounge, sleeping on my sofa. Also as usual, he'll be going to bed every night about 8PM and getting up around 3AM, and then impatiently waiting for me while he does more editing and planning on the day's pages. I'll be getting up extra early during his stay since I have to get this blog done first, though I'll be doing most of it the night before during his stay. We'll probably start around 7AM and work until 2:30 PM, which is when I have to leave Mon-Fri to pick up kids and coach/tutor in the MDTTC afterschool program. Weekends are tricky due to my coaching hours, but I'm mostly free now on Saturdays, but have a very busy Sunday schedule. If all goes well, we'll finish by Friday, Oct. 10. (I plan to spend much of Oct. 10-11 at the Capclave Science Fiction Convention that's held locally. I'm a panelist - here's the bio they have for me. )
The complicating factor is that I'll be getting up extra early, working all day with Tim, then doing the afterschool program and (on most days) staying on afterwards for private and group coaching, then returning home to do the blog - and then it'll be time to go to bed and start over in the night. These are going to be some long days.
Meanwhile, here's your chance to support Tim by buying one or more of his books. How can you call yourself a table tennis player if you don't have some of these? You could, of course, buy all 14. Currently there's no discount listed, but if interested in this email me and I'm sure Tim will give you a discount. Or pick and choose the years you are most interested in - see listing below. (The quotes are from the covers of each volume.) Volume 5: 1971-1972, the Ping-Pong Diplomacy Years, is especially popular. Or pick the years that cover when you started out or had events of interest to you.
You can buy the books or find more info on the Tim Boggan Table Tennis Page. (I created and maintain this for Tim. The link to the 1996 interview is no longer valid - I'm working to have that fixed.) At that page you can also see the covers, find reviews of the books, and see the number of pages and photos in each. I also maintain the Amazon pages where you can buy the books online, linked from his page and below (or you can buy them directly from Tim) - so if you buy them on Amazon, I can actually see the sales as they happen! (No, I don't see names, just the fact that someone bought them.) I'm hoping to show a bunch of sales for Tim tomorrow - so Buy Now!!!
European Team Championships
The event finished yesterday. Portugal upsets Germany in Men's Final, ending Germany's run of six men's titles in a row. But Germany won the Women's for the second year in a row, defeating Austria in the final. Here's the ITTF page for the event, with articles, video, pictures, and of course complete results. Here's the Men's Team article from TableTennista with video of the Men's final matches. Here's Women's Team article from TableTennista. Here's a video (2:54) showing the Top Ten Rallies of the Championships.
Article on Me I Didn't Know About
Here's a nice article about me from four years ago - but I don't think I even knew about it! I discovered it while browsing a few days ago. Wow, that Larry guy sure knows his stuff! It focuses more on my writing than on my coaching. A few updates - I'm now up to over 1500 published articles in over 140 different publications, and I recently sold my 71st science fiction or fantasy story. I also got another USATT/USOC Coach of the Year Award, the 2013 Doc Counsilman Science Coaching Award.
Here's the new coaching video (6:43) from Pingskills.
Backspin Serve - Like a Boss
Here's a video (9:35) that uses a number of creative ways to learn and practice the backspin serve.
Footwork Training in China
Here's a video (3:37) showing some kids doing footwork drills in China. Not much different than what's done at training centers in the U.S.
Nathan Hsu in China
Here's his latest video blog (2:33). It's short and no table tennis in this one, but you meet his grandparents and see a lot of Hong Kong. Links to previous ones are on right.
Muppet Show - Swedish Chef and Ping Pong Ball Eggs
Here's the video (2:57). The ping-pong balls first show up 49 sec in, though you don't really know this until the chef bounces it 55 sec in.
"Stop War" - Play More Table Tennis
Here's the picture - Go Pedro!
Send us your own coaching news!
The Ping Pong Diet, Table Tennis, and Academics
Dr. Chris Ko just came out with a new book, The Ping Pong Diet: The Twenty-One Point Plan. A few of you may remember Chris as a top MDTTC junior from the early 1990s, usually known back then as Christopher Ko. Here's his home page/blog, where he focuses on diet and nutrition. (The diet part might be of interest to me, though I think I've figured that part out, going from 196 this past summer to 178 this morning.) I just ordered the book, and will likely write about it after I read it. I'm not sure yet how much it applies to table tennis. Here's the book description:
"The Ping Pong Diet teaches you how to use the power of plants and protein to control your hunger and manage your weight. No counting. No calculations. Just eating, and a lot of it! But unlike other diet books, this book teaches you how to both lose the weight and keep it off. These strategies make up the twenty-one point plan for weight management that teaches you to eat well, be well, and finally feel well again. Engaging and inspirational, the Ping Pong Diet combines practical nutritional insight with motivational psychology to give you a new appreciation for food and for yourself. So pick up the Ping Pong Diet and get in the game!"
Here's a list of Chris's titles, where at the Junior Olympic, Junior Nationals, and U.S. Open he won three silvers and seven bronze in various junior events. (I only have a listing from 1992 on, when MDTTC opened, so don't have some of his earlier titles. I believe he also won Under 10 Boys at the Junior Olympics before 1992.)
Chris isn't the only former top Maryland junior with a medical degree, i.e. an MD MD. Vivian Lee, Jessica Shen, and Michael Terao all have MDs, and I'm sure there are many others I don't know of or have forgotten about. But it's not just Maryland juniors who are academically oriented - the same is true of kids from training centers all over the U.S. - and I hesitate to list any because I'll leave out some obvious ones. (Readers, please list in the comments former top juniors who now have MDs or equivalent high-level degrees.) Eric Owens, the 2001 USA Men's Singles Champion, either has his MD now or is on the verge. Dennis Hwang, a member of the Resident Training Program for Table Tennis at the Olympic Training Center at Colorado Springs in the late 1980s, trained three hours a day, graduated as the valedictorian, and is now an MD. There are many more. Even Crystal Wang, the 12-year-old 2400 phenom from my club, who recently became the youngest player ever to make the USA Women's Team and win Under 22 Women's Singles, goes to a magnet school because of her advanced academics. But she's just one of the many juniors at my club (and other clubs) who have the discipline to excel at both table tennis and academics.
So why are top junior players in table tennis so successful in academics? There are two primary reasons. Let's face it, one of the reasons is because of the Asian community, which places so much emphasis on academics (bravo!), and since they also dominate the table tennis world, we get a lot of academically-minded table tennis stars. The other reason is that training at anything teaches self-discipline, which applies to other activities as well - so if someone has or develops the self-discipline to train hard and become a top table tennis player, he usually has the same self-discipline to become good at whatever he tries.
European Team Championships
ITTF Trick Shot Competition
They are down to the Final Five - chose your favorite!
Olympic Coach Magazine
Epic Point Between Ma Lin and Jorgen Persson
Here's the video (53 sec, including slow motion replay).
Amazing Come-Back Scoop Return
Here's the video (29 sec - watch the replay from the side)
The Six-Bounce Ping-Pong Plate Trick
Here's the repeating gif image. It's hypnotizing as it repeats over and over - careful or you'll be watching it all day.
Ping-Pong Balls Gone Wrong
Here's the video (90 sec) of this video prank.
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Timeliness and Table Tennis
One of my proudest accomplishments in table tennis is that, in the 22 years since we opened MDTTC, with countless private and group sessions, I've been late to a session exactly two times. Yes, just twice. Once I had a coaching event out in Virginia, and got stuck in a two-hour traffic jam on the way back, which normally would have been about 40 minutes, and so missed a session with Sammy. The other time I got my times mixed up and missed a session with John & Kevin. Ironically, both times when I was late, I missed the entire session. Not once have I ever actually shown up during a session late. (Technically, I showed up for the session with John and Kevin about 15 minutes before it ended, thinking it started in 15 minutes.)
I remember when we first opened MDTTC back in 1992 one of our coaches had a session scheduled with someone from Baltimore, an hour away. The coach forgot about the session, and the person from Baltimore wasn't happy. I ended up subbing for the coach. Later I met with him, and gave him a serious lecture about timeliness and scheduling. The coach was relying on memory to keep his busy schedule, which is a no-no. (He'd forgotten about a session the day before as well, and was walking out the door when the student came in, and so he returned and did the session.) If you have more than a couple of sessions per week, write them down. Full-time or near full-time coaches should keep a schedule book, and go over it each day to make sure they don't miss anything.
Twice in these 22 years a coach has been fired or replaced at MDTTC because of consistent lateness. Other coaches have lost many hours of valuable coaching time because students were unhappy with their lack of timeliness - and the coaches who do this often never know. Timeliness is one of those really important things for a table tennis coach.
The most common causes for lateness is probably the mentality that if you have a session scheduled at, say, 6PM, they need to show up at 6PM, or perhaps five minutes before. That doesn't work, unless you live next door. If I have a 6PM session, plan to get there at least ten minutes early, just in case. It also allows you to prepare for the session, rather than walking into the club and rushing out there. I'm probably on the extreme side on this - I always plan on being there 15 minutes early, which is why I'm essentially never late.
Speaking of timeliness, this blog went up later than usual. Why? Partly because I had to take my car in for minor repairs this morning (and walk a mile back), but mostly because I got drawn into an online "debate" with a close-minded fool. (I searched a Thesaurus for a better word than "fool" but couldn't find one. Even seemingly intelligent people can be fools at some things.) When will I learn to avoid such people?
Deal Chicken Coupons
Recently our club (MDTTC) has been hit with what appears to be a scam. People are coming in with coupons to play at our club, which they paid $50 for. The problem is we had nothing to do with it. Here's the coupon at DealChicken.com - see link at upper right, where it says "Buy Now!" and you pay $50 for $100 worth of supposed MDTTC play. They have lots of other "deals" for other businesses (check their home page). Since we didn't authorize this, it seems sort of scam, and club officers are contacting them about it. But I Googled DealChicken, and according to the Better Business Bureau, while there have been 106 complaints against them, it said:
"BBB has determined that DealChicken.com meets BBB accreditation standards, which include a commitment to make a good faith effort to resolve any consumer complaints. BBB Accredited Businesses pay a fee for accreditation review/monitoring and for support of BBB services to the public. BBB accreditation does not mean that the business' products or services have been evaluated or endorsed by BBB, or that BBB has made a determination as to the business' product quality or competency in performing services."
But since we didn't authorize there MDTTC coupon, that means someone put this up without our knowledge or permission, and they are making money off it, and that makes it a scam, right?
Zhang Jike Backhand Basics
Here's a short video (7 sec) showing the world men's singles champion's backhand. It's pretty similar to Ma Long's backhand, which I blogged about on Sept. 18, though Zhang here is topspinning the ball more. One interesting note - see how he plays the backhand with the left leg slightly in front, which keeps him in position to quickly change to a forehand. Many players play this way. Here's an interesting discussion on world-class backhands at the Mytabletennis.com forum.
Nathan Hsu in China
Here's his latest video report: Table Tennis Highlights! - China Day 31 Hong Kong (4:52). He's on the right at the start, wearing the blue USA shirt. There's both playing action at the Nikon Hong Kong Junior & Cadet Open, and you get to see the sites of Hong Kong. Other USA players appearing in the video include Jack Wang, Tina Lin, Patrick Pei, Sam Rockwell, and MDTTC Coach Jeffrey Zeng Xun (who is traveling with Nathan). And speaking of backhands (see previous segment), check out some of Nathan's off-the-bounce backhand winners!
Hardbat Forehands and Navin
Here's a video (52 seconds) where I'm coaching Navin on his newly developed forehand. He's a hardbat player (also uses sandpaper), with Parkinson's and an artificial heart. (Here's the recent USATT News Item about him.) We've actually just finished the lesson, and he's practicing on the robot, so I came over, and you can hear me coaching him in the background. I also give some commentary in the comments.
2014 Butterfly Badger Open
Here's another article by Barbara Wei: 2014 Butterfly Badger Open: Gateway to Growing Midwest Table Tennis
European Team Championships
Table Tennis Movie Posters
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USATT Coaching Academy
As noted in my blog yesterday, I'm thinking about running for the USATT Board of Directors in the upcoming USATT election. I gave five things I'd focus on, including the following coaching item:
Recruit and train coaches and directors to set up and run full-time centers and junior programs.
The goal is to have a huge number of such training centers with junior programs, leading to both large numbers of junior players and the development of elite juniors, which leads to elite players. When I made a presentation on this to the USATT Board in December, 2006, two board members openly scoffed at the idea, arguing that there wasn't enough interest in the U.S. to support full-time training centers. The rest sat about silently, waiting for the next item on the agenda. In response I resigned my position as USATT Editor and Programs Director. At the time there were about eight full-time centers in the U.S.; now there are about 75. Once a successful model was created, others copied it. USATT could greatly accelerate this process by recruiting and training coaches and directors as other successful sports do. Since USATT already runs clinics for coaches, and since the coaches would be paying for it (as they do in other sports), the system pays for itself.
For several years I've toyed with setting up a Hodges Academy, where I'd recruit and train coaches to become full-time professional coaches, to run junior training programs, and to set up full-time training centers. We already have a proven model for such full-time centers that works - that's why there are 75 such centers in the country, and that's without any serious involvement by USATT or anyone else really helping out. My club, MDTTC, basically pioneered the model 22 years ago, and we have seven full-time coaches. By word of mouth others have adopted similar methods, and so these centers keep popping up all over the country. We have 75 now; why not 500 in ten years? (Seven years ago, how many people dreamed we'd have as many as 75 now? Well . . . I did! Others just laughed.)
The problem is that while I'd get a number of prospective coaches if I opened such a Hodges Academy - and make a bunch of money - I wouldn't get nearly as many as USATT could get, as the official governing body for table tennis in this country. So I think establishing a USATT Coaching Academy would be the very first thing I'd work on if I did get on the USATT Board. (In which case I wouldn't make a bunch of money, since it's a volunteer position. And the other four items on my priorities list would have to wait until my second day in office.) How would I go about this?
First, we'd need to create the curriculum. USATT already teaches ITTF Coaching Courses, but the problem with that is that it teaches how to coach, but not how to be a professional coach. We need a curriculum that also teaches how to find a place to coach, solicit and keep students, set up and run junior training programs, set up and teach classes, how to maximize income, and all the other issues faced by professional coaches. Most of this is already covered in the Professional Table Tennis Coaches Handbook, which I wrote and would make available at cost. One aspect that's not covered that much in the handbook is setting up full-time centers. A manual for that is a must, and would be part of the curriculum.
Second, we'd need to bring in someone to teach the course. Ideally we'd bring in someone who is already teaching ITTF coaching courses in this country, who can simply add the additional curriculum. (Richard McAfee, are you listening?) This person would also likely be in charge of creating the curriculum for item #1, with my assistance if needed.
Third, we'd need to find a site or sites to teach the course. They should take place at full-time clubs with successful junior programs and top coaches so the prospective coaches can learn how a successful program works. Ideally we'd use various clubs around the country. We have a number of such clubs now!
Fourth, we'd need to solicit people who wish to become full-time professional coaches, as well as ones who wish to run junior programs. It's not enough to simply put out a notice and hope some people show up. We need to sell the program, very publicly showing and advertising how coaches can make very good money - typically $40 to $50/hour, and more for group sessions, plus various commissions. We need to create a corps of professional coaches, who not only know how to coach, but are actively coaching and running junior programs, with the emphasis on those who wish to do so full-time. The students would pay a fee, just as they do for the ITTF courses, and this would pay for the person running course and other expenses.
Fifth, we run the program, and the USATT Coaching Academy is born!!! I'll likely be there assisting at the first one - as an unpaid volunteer if I'm on the USATT Board.
Full-time Table Tennis Centers - Cart Before Horse?
In the forum here I was told I "...continue to put the cart before the horse." Read the posting and my response (which I've updated a few times) and judge for yourself. I really don't get this. To me, this is sort of like having 75 people learn how to loop, while three people who do not receive coaching are unable to do so. Does that mean we can't learn to loop? Oh, and I've coined a new slogan: "If you build it and promote it, they will come."
Here's the new coaching article by Samson Dubina, Ohio #1 and former USA Men's Singles Finalist.
Reading Serves and Medium Long Returns
Here's the coaching video (3:13) by Pierre-Luc Hinse, North American table tennis champion and Canadian Olympian.
I've always gone by the general rule that if there's a sharp pain, stop. If it's a steady pain, go easy. However, this is just a generality. Here are some articles on the subject. (Readers, comment below if you have input on this issue, or if you have links to other such articles that you think might be helpful.)
Portugal Looking to Upset Germany at the TMS 2014 European Team Championships
Back of Hand Serve
Here's a posting in the Mytabletennis.net forum on serving a ball off the back of the hand. It's perfectly legal. Here's my response. "I have that serve, and have used it twice in tournaments, both times against weaker players. Both times my opponent caught the ball and tried to claim the point. Both times I rolled my eyes and agreed to a let. Both times I should have won the point. (There was no umpire.) I also tried it in practice matches against Crystal Wang and Derek Nie (2350 12- and 13-year-olds), and both unhesitatingly backhand banana flipped winners, then looked at me like I was crazy."
Tribute to Ma Long
Here's the new video (6:31) that features the long-time Chinese superstar.
Here's video (45 sec, including slow motion replay) of a great "get" by Pierre-Luc Hinse against Xavier Therien back in 2011.
Adam Bobrow Around-the-Net Backhand Smacks Ball
Here's the video (5 sec).
Here's the Pep Talk of All Pep Talks
Here's the video (2:28) from a high school football player.
Stupid Game Spotlight: Pig Pong
Here's an article about the deadly sport of table tennis, pigs, and the connection. "Today I would like to talk to you about two things. Two things that should have never been brought together, but for some ungodly reason... they were. These two things are Ping-Pong (the game) and Pigs (the farm animal, not cops). Combining a sport (well Ping-Pong is kind of a sport isn't it?) with an animal that is the very personification of "sloth" just doesn't make sense to me."
The New iPhone 6, Wally Green, and Ping Pong!
Here's the video (38 sec).
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