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.
Rules Changes and One Last Change
I am tired of rule changes. The game as it is played now is substantially different than the game when I started out. Some of the rules changes were good, such as the two-color rule, the six-inch toss rule, and the idea of making hidden serves illegal. Others were more ambiguous for me - the larger ball, games to 11, and various rules restricting long pips. Some I'm not happy with, in particular the switch to non-celluloid balls, though that's mostly because they jumped the gun and made the switch before the balls were standardized or training balls were available. (I blogged about this on October 21 - see second segment.)
At this point it would take a rather strong argument for me to agree with any more changes. However, there is one last rule change I'd like to see before declaring our sport "perfect" - and that is fixing the hidden serve rule.
I've blogged numerous times about the problems with the hidden serve rule, where umpires rarely call them and so many top players (and juniors) use them to win titles, while those who play fair learn that cheating often pays off in our sport. The problem is that umpires sitting off to the side cannot tell for certain whether a serve is hidden from the opponent, and for some reason I've never fully understood, do not understand the meaning of these two rules:
Rule 2.06.06: It is the responsibility of the player to serve so that the umpire or the assistant umpire can be satisfied that he or she complies with the requirements of the Laws, and either may decide that a service is incorrect.
Rule 2.06.06.01 If either the umpire or the assistant umpire is not sure about the legality of a service he or she may, on the first occasion in a match, interrupt play and warn the server; but any subsequent service by that player or his or her doubles partner which is not clearly legal shall be considered incorrect.
The second one is pretty explicit. If the umpire isn't sure, then it's not a legal serve. How much clearer can we get?
The first one also makes it very clear that if the umpire can't tell if the serve is visible to the receiver, then the serve is illegal, and they have to either warn (the first time) or fault the serve. If they aren't sure if the serve was hidden or not, then they can't be "satisfied" that the serve complies with the requirements of the Laws. Here (for example) is the Merriam-Webster Definition of "satisfied":
Definition #3 is the one that applies here, though you can use #2 as well. If an umpire can't tell if the serve is hidden or not, he cannot "believe that something is true" (definition #3). Nor can he know if the rule that is required is being followed (#2). (If you do try to use #1, well, I don't think an umpire can be "happy or pleased" that he can't tell if a serve is hidden or not! But the third definition is clearly the one used in the context.)
As I've blogged before, there's an obvious solution, one that was proposed to the ITTF at the meetings at the last World Championships, but was voted down. When serving, players should be required to serve so that "throughout the serve, the ball must be visible to both umpires, or where the umpires would sit if there were umpires." When there are no umpires, it would be assumed the umpires would be sitting about five feet out on each side, lined up with the net. The point of the rule isn't to make sure the umpires can see the ball. The point is that if a server hides the ball from an opponent but it isn't obvious he is doing so, it'll be obvious he's hiding it from at least one of the umpires, and so it would be an easy call for an umpire to declare it illegal. No more hidden serve problems!
Note that the two-color rule was also voted down the first few times it was proposed before it finally passed, and the same is true of other rule changes. I think this rule is so obvious and so easily fixes the problem that we should keep proposing it until it passes.
And then, NO MORE RULE CHANGES*!!!
*Unless there's a really, Really, REALLY compelling argument for one - not likely.
TT Scene from Big Hero 6
I saw the Big Hero 6 last night (it was great!) - and there was a short table tennis scene. When the hero Hiro (pun intended!) visits the university where they are making robots there are two robots rallying in the background. (Or was it a person playing a robot? I should have taken notes!) A few minutes later they are seen again. Alas, I was unable to find any video or pictures of the scene.
Brian Pace and Orlando Muniz Training Session
Here's the video (10:27). This gives an idea of what type of drills advanced players do in their training sessions.
When Serving Short Becomes Important
Ask the Coach
Here's Episode #23 (10:39)
Here's Episode #24 (12:35)
Fan Zhendong is the 2014 Chinese National Men's Singles Champion
Here's the article. The 17-year-old defeated Ma Long in the final, 4-2. Fan also won Men's Doubles, teaming with Xu Xin to defeat Zhang Jike and Ma Long in the final. Zhu Yuling won Women's Singles, 4-2 over World Champion Ding Ning.
Lindenwood College Friends Seek Redemption at 2014 Butterfly Thanksgiving Teams Tournament
Here's the article by Barbara Wei.
Daniel Rosenfeld Interview
Top Ten Shots from the Russian Open
Hand Table Tennis
Non-Table Tennis - World Fantasy Convention
I spent Saturday at the World Fantasy Convention in Arlington, Virginia. This is where science fiction and fantasy fans from around the world gather annually for panels, exhibits, movies, readings, etc. Outside my table tennis world I'm also a science fiction & fantasy writer (one novel and 71 short story sales). I gave a 30-minute reading Saturday at 1:30 PM where I read the first two chapters of my novel "Sorcerers in Space." (Due to table tennis commitments, I only went over on Saturday, though the convention was Thur-Sun.)
I've always admired how well-run these conventions are. For example, the annual World Science Fiction Convention generally gets 5000 or more paid attendees, and it's all volunteer run. The World Fantasy Convention is smaller, but probably had over a thousand.
When I mention science fiction or fantasy conventions, some of you probably have visions of people running around in funny costumes. That's true of some conventions, primarily fan-based conventions. But the more "serious" (like this one) are more literary. While there are always some who dress up, most dress like normal people and act almost like normal people.
I got lost on the way there (I don't have GPS, alas) - and then, by sheer chance, saw a van with the wording "Hyatt Regency Crystal City," which happened to be the hotel the convention was at. I followed it, knowing it was 50-50 it was going to (and not from) the hotel - and I won as it soon pulled into the hotel. After a huge hassle finding parking (and another hassle later trying to find my car), I arrived just in time for the Science Fiction Writers of America 90-minute meeting, which started 8:30 AM on Saturday.
At registration I received book bags with about 15 new novels and other goodies. Then I spent the day attending panels, watching some short movies, viewing the fantasy art show, and meeting and talking with other writers. Some of the writers I talked with included Joe Haldeman, James Morrow, James Maxey, and Cat Rambo. (Haldeman is the equivalent of a top-ten-in-the-world table tennis player, while the other three are the equivalent of U.S. team members.) I had a good time at my reading as well. To promote my novel I gave out about 20 copies.
We shared the hotel with a Rolling Thunder convention. They are basically a nationwide motorcycle gang with the following mission: "…to publicize the POW-MIA issue: To educate the public that many American Prisoners of War were left behind after all previous wars and to help correct the past and to protect future Veterans from being left behind should they become Prisoners of War-Missing In Action. We are also committed to helping American Veterans from all wars." Nearly all wore motorcycle garb, either leather or jean vests with "Rolling Thunder" in large lettering, most of them jammed with patches and buttons. Anti-Jane Fonda buttons seemed popular. I think they outnumbered us - all these bearded motorcycle gang-type people was pretty scary at times!
Here's a thought: there are something like 400 billion galaxies, with about 100 billion stars on average in each. That's about 40,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars. How many aliens are out there? How many of them have developed games like table tennis? Are they shakehanders, penholders, or do they manipulate the paddle telepathically? These are the burning questions that need answers.
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Tip of the Week
Shorter Blog Today
At 11:15 AM I learned that local schools are letting out early today, at noon, and that I'm supposed to pick kids up at that time rather than the usual 3PM time. So I have to rush off now to pick them up and do about 90 minutes of coaching and tutoring. So no main blog today - just the Tip of the Week and the segments below. Back tomorrow!
Reverse Pendulum Backspin Serve - Like a Boss!
Here's the new video (5:37) where the serve is taught. The coach (Brett Clarke from TTEdge) has a very animated and unique approach to teaching the serve! I may have to dig out my old Frisbee from my closet….
Returning the Reverse Pendulum Serve
Here's the new video (12:28) from Coach Brian Pace.
Ask the Coach
Plastic Ball Testing
I linked last week to parts 1 & 2 of the Preston videos where they test the new plastic balls. They've now down six of the eleven videos planned. They are linked below. Here's a thread where all six videos are linked and discussed.
Keep Existing Celluloid Balls Petition
Don't like the switch to Plastic? Here's the petition! (See comments below it.)
Here's the new table tennis magazine - English version! (This is actually the third issue of this international magazine.)
Ping-Pong Diplomacy Inspires American-Chinese Co-Production
Here's the article on the upcoming movie planned, based on Ping-Pong Diplomacy. "Forty-three years ago, a Ping-Pong match between American and Chinese players in Japan led to a diplomatic breakthrough between the U.S. and China. It resulted in a historic 1972 meeting between then-President Richard Nixon and Chinese leader Mao Zedong that changed world history.
What came to be called “Ping-Pong Diplomacy” led to the normalization of U.S.–China relations for the first time since World War II, and is at the heart of a planned $40 million movie called Let It Be."
Atanda Musa's World Ranking
On Friday I had a segment in my blog about the ITTF's press release saying that Nigerian star Aruna Quadri was now the highest ranked African player in history, at #30 - but linked to an article that said former Nigerian star Atanda Musa had reached #20 in the word. I still don't have a definitive answer for this, but Volker Schroder wrote me that Zdenko Uzorinac wrote in his book "Table Tennis Legends" (page 270) that "Musa was ranked 40th in 1981, 48th in 1982, 54th in 1986, 49th in 1989, 60th in 1990, and 74th in 1992." This implies that Musa's highest ranking was #40 - but it's not completely clear, as it doesn't give his rankings for every year, and it does contradict the other article. If anyone has a definitive answer to this, comment below! (I'm also curious if anyone knows if Musa is still coaching in New York City. I haven't seen or heard about him in years.)
What Kind Of A Table Tennis Player Are You?
Here's the quiz from Mezyantt. (About ten questions.) I wonder what the possible answers are? I got, "You Are a Table Tennis Lover Most Indeed, You Are Passionate about The Game, Truly Loves it and want to play at any chance you get! People Like Yourself Inspire Others To Start Playing Table Tennis!"
Okay, this is getting ridiculous. Here's where you can buy a sheet of DHS Hurricane 3 Neo National for $140. Back in 1976 when I started I remember buying Sriver for $5/sheet. Now both the price and the number of words in a sponge's name have increased dramatically!
Here's a video (27 sec) where Japan's Koki Niwa (world #14) makes some great returns, including one where he switches hands!
Sitting in Stands Lobbing
Here's the video (10 sec) as a lazy Adam Bobrow sits down on the job.
Balloon Man Table Tennis
Here they are, care of SmashTT - click on pictures to see all four pictures!
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USA Table Tennis Hall of Fame
For the sixth year in a row I'm putting together the program booklet for the USATT Hall of Fame Banquet to be held at the Nationals. This year's inductees are players Tawny Banh and Lisa Gee, player/official Sheila O'Dougherty, and official Dick Butler. The Mark Matthews Lifetime Achievement Award goes to Donna Sakai - she joins previous winners (in order since 1999) Bobby Gusikoff, Sol Schiff, Jimmy McClure, Dick Miles, Mary Reisman, J. Rufford Harrison, Leah Thall Neuberger, Thelma "Tybie" Thall Somner, Tim Boggan, George Brathwaite, Dan Seemiller, Houshang Bozorgzadeh, Fred Danner, Mal Anderson, Dick Evans, and Yvonne Kronlage. That's a heck of a list! A great mix of players and officials who have greatly contributed to our sport.
Here is ticket information for the Hall of Fame Banquet at the Nationals (Thursday night), where they will be inducted. Dick Evans is the Master of Ceremonies, with Tim Boggan and Sean O'Neill doing the induction talks this year for each inductee. If you are at the Nationals and miss this, you are making a big mistake. This is your chance to hobnob with the stars, both past and present, where you can meet and talk with them, have an excellent meal, and browse the Hall of Fame exhibits. Going to the Nationals and missing the Hall of Fame Banquet is like going to an ice cream social and skipping the ice cream!!! (I'll be there - see you there!)
The USATT Hall of Fame was created in 1966 by Steve Isaacson, and after sort of disappearing for a time, was revived in 1979. Here's the history. I'm proud to be a member, inducted in 2003 as a contributor, for my coaching, writing, editing, and promoting. (But I was a pretty good player too!!!) I was inducted along with David Zhuang and Eric Boggan, with Marty Reisman getting the Lifetime Achievement Award that year - what a group to be associated with! At age 43, I was youngest person ever inducted as an official/contributor. Here's my profile. (I've done a lot of stuff since then, so I may lobby to have it updated!) After this year's inductions there will be 142 of us, including an even 50 officials/contributors, dating back to USATT creation in 1933.
The Hall of Fame Committee is chaired by Dick Evans. Others on the committee are Tim Boggan, Dean Johnson, Sean O'Neill, Scott Gordon, Mal Anderson, Dick Hicks, Donna Sakai, and Yvonne Kronlage. Tim Boggan is in charge of preparing the exhibits for each year's inductees - come to the Banquet and see what he's put together this year! (He also annually raids my photo files, along with Mal Anderson's, for pictures to use.) The minimum age to get into the Hall is 40. Induction requires a 2/3 vote by the Hall of Fame Committee. Many top players are first-ballot inductees, getting in the year they turn 40. Officials/Contributors usually have to wait until they are older. Lifetime Achievement Award Winners have to wait even longer!
Here's an interesting thought: Among current players, who are the future Hall of Famers? Suppose everyone retired right now; who already has the credentials? (Sorry, Kanak Jha and Crystal Wang, you've both done a lot, but you've got a bit more to do if you want to get into the Hall in 2040 and 2042, respectively!)
In general, if you win Men's or Women's Singles at the USA Nationals, you someday make the Hall of Fame. On the women's side, Ariel Hsing (2010, 2011, and 2013) is a lock. So probably is Wang Chen (2006 and 2007). Crystal Huang (2008) and Lily Zhang (2012) are also likely ones.
On the men's side, Timothy Wang (2010, 2012, 2013) is a lock. Eric Owens (2001) is pretty much a lock to be inducted next year when he turns 40. Other future possibles are Peter Li (2011) and Michael Landers (2009). Others include Mark Hazinski (Olympian, 4-time Men's Doubles Champion, I think 3-time Men's Singles Finalist, and National Collegiate Men's Champion multiple times) and Han Xiao (4-time Men's Doubles Champion, National Collegiate Men's Champion, Men's Singles Finalist). There are, of course, arguments for and against each of these players. For example, Wang Chen, Peter Li, and Michael Landers had rather short USA playing careers (though of course Peter and Michael are still young enough that, when they finish college, they may change that).
As to the Lifetime Achievement Award, there are a number of possibles coming. I'm guessing Dell Sweeris will win it next year or very soon afterwards. Sean O'Neill is in the running, when they decide he's old enough. (He'll be 48 next year. The youngest winner by far has been Dan Seemiller, who won it in 2008 at age 54. All other winners were well into their 60s or beyond.) I can make arguments for several others - but I'll leave that to readers.
And my apologies to others I might have missed. Feel free to comment below.
Another Full-time Club
Here's the website for the e4Hats Table Tennis Club of Fullerton, CA, the newest full-time club in the USA. (Here's the complete listing of all 78.) Here's a press release from their Butterfly sponsor. "The facility features a play area that is over 6,000 square feet, professional Butterfly tables and is open seven days a week. e4Hats offers a world class coaching staff, which includes Head Coach Scott Malek and Head Coach Bong Geun Kim, private and group lessons, and a table tennis robot for independent practice." The one question not answered - where did they get this interesting name?
"World Champions Camp" in Duluth, Georgia
Here's info on the Nov. 22-26 camp with coaches Wang Hao (the top-ten-in-the world chopper/looper from the 1990s, not the penholder), Zhang Chao, Xu Rui Feng, and Lin Cheng. (Duluth is about 25 miles from Atlanta.)
Here's their coaching page that covers pretty much everything.
Ask the Coach - Training with a Robot
Here's Episode 21 (12:50):
World Rankings, and Nigeria's Aruna Quadri Highest Ranked African in History?
The Nigerian star moved up to #30 in the world - here's the ITTF press release. However, according to this article, Atanda Musa, also of Nigeria, reached #20 in the world, which is roughly what I remember as well. (Here's more on Musa.) I believe Musa now lives (and I think coaches) in New York City. Here are the complete men's and women's world ranking lists.
Top five in the women's ranking are unchanged. On the men's side, former #2 Fan Zhendong and #3 Ma Long switched places; former #5 Dimitrij Ovcharov of Germany dropped to #6 while Jun Mizutani moved up to #5. Former #6 Wang Hao dropped out of rankings due to inactivity. Marcos Freitas of Portugal moved from #12 to #9.
USATT Athlete of the Month - Kanak Jha
Uberpong Custom Paddle Editor App
Ping Pong Fitness Psychologically Speaking
Omron Table Tennis Rallying Robot
I linked to this video (41 sec) once before, but now it seems to be trending online, so I thought I'd link again. Is this the future of table tennis? The main problem with current robots is that you aren't playing against a ball hit at you with a racket, and so don't develop reactions against a ball coming off a racket. If a robot can be developed that can really rally at higher levels, that would be something. I'd like to hit with this robot and test just how high a level it can play at. I'm guessing it couldn't react well to loops yet, but I've read they are working on the software for reading and reacting to spin.
Kellam High School Kicks Off Ping Pong Club
Setting Stage for First Annual 'Battle of the Paddles' & Scholarships
Teaching Brain Fitness, Leadership & Offering Scholarship Opportunities
Setting TableTennisCoaching.com Record for Most and Longest Headlines for a Single Story
Colorado College Hockey Players Play Pong
Here's the news video (1:45).
Here's the video (18 sec) as one player hits an "unreturnable" backspin lob off the edge of her racket. I do this type of lob all the time with beginning students, but it's rare that a world-class player gets caught this way. (The player needed to go around to the side of the table to reach the ball, but didn't realize this in time.)
Here's the picture - I have no idea what the situation is or who the players are, but it certainly is getting a lot of press coverage!
Angled Table Pong
Non-Table Tennis - "The Roads to Hell"
Here's my dark fantasy story about what happens to political ideologues after they die. (This was my 71st short story sale.) Feel free to leave comments on the story in the comments section underneath it!
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Sorry, no blog this morning - I have a last-minute opportunity to participate in a writer's workshop, and I'm rushing off for that. I promise to feel suitably guilty about this all morning as I improve my writing skills. Meanwhile, here's a new video (3:50) of a kid doing all sorts of ping-pong tricks.
What is a proper ready stance? Any decent coach could go over this in great detail. I've written about it before, such as in Grip and Stance and Use a Wider Stance. But there's a simpler way. (This might be expanded later into a Tip of the Week.)
Next time you are trying to show someone the proper ready stance in table tennis (or trying to work out your own), imagine playing basketball. Pretend to dribble a ball, and tell the person to cover you. Invariably he'll go into a perfect crouch that allows him to move quickly side to side - he'll widen his stance, with his feet aimed slightly outward, knees slightly bent, and bend slightly forward at the waist. (You can also tell someone to imagine being a shortstop in baseball or a goalie in soccer - same thing.) Other than not holding the arms up (as one does when covering in basketball), the player is now in a proper table tennis stance, and you didn't have to go into all the specifics.
Have the player do some side-to-side movements, and he'll quickly realize the benefits of playing in such a stance.
Table Tennis Authors Unite!
I've self-published my last few table tennis books on Createspace.com, a subsidiary of Amazon.com. Along the way I've become something of an expert on it. I've been advising a few other writers on it, and at the upcoming USA Nationals I'm doing an informal demo for three prospective table tennis authors who are writing table tennis books. If you also are interested in this (i.e. are writing a book on table tennis - or perhaps some other topic - that you'd like to self-publish), email me and I'll see if we can find a time at the Nationals where we can all get together.
Mostly Non-TT - World Fantasy Convention and Stupefying Stories
I'll be spending much of the next four days jumping back and forth between table tennis and the World Fantasy Convention, which is happening nearby in Arlington, Virginia, at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City, Thur-Sun. I have a reading scheduled Saturday at 1:30 PM. I have a lot of coaching on Thursday and Friday nights, and Sunday all day, but I'll likely spend my free time over there, plus I've got Saturday completely off. If anyone wants to join me, email me.
On a related note, at 5PM today (Eastern time) my dark fantasy story "The Roads to Hell" will go live at Stupefying Stories. It's a political story about what happens to political ideologues after they die.
The Powerful Backhand Loop of Werner Schlager
Here's video (42 sec, including slow motion replay) of Schlager ripping five backhand loops in a row against chopper Joo Se Hyuk. Many top players use backhand loops as variations against choppers, but five in a row, like this? Wow! (Ironically some of our top up-and-coming stars at MDTTC are also experimenting with backhand loops when playing local chopping star and coach Wang Qing Liang.)
Cast Your Vote for USOC Athlete of the Month - Kanak Jha!
Plastic Ball Testing
The Preston Table Tennis Association has put together a pair of videos that test the new plastic balls. Here they are:
Zhang Jike's Prize Money Goes to a Fund for Annual Fair Play Award
Table Tennis Rock & Roll
Here's the inspirational music video from the ITTF (1:32). However, there's a problem with this. Go to 1:09, and you'll see they are using highlights of the infamous Zhang Jike scene where he's destroying the barriers after his World Cup win. How can they fine him his entire $45,000 prize money for this, and then use it for promotional purposes? I'm guessing this is a case of the right hand not knowing what the left hand was doing.
Table Tennis Daily & Editingsports Trick Shots
Here's the video (1:28) that shows some great trick shots. One of my great sorrows of life is that my shoulder is too stiff to do any of the behind-the-back shots they show here!
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Yesterday I coached two seven-year-olds, feeding them multiball for half an hour as they took turns practicing and doing ball pickup. Coaching seven-year-olds is like trying to catch smoke in your hands. If you haven't tried coaching this age group, then you have no idea what it's like. I've worked regularly with these two, who aren't exactly beginners. Both will likely become very good players. I should be taking videos of them now
to blackmail them to show them someday.
I teach a class of beginning kids twice a week. Our last one on Sunday had 15 kids, including one 6-year-old, three 7-year-olds, and four 8-year-olds. So I'm quite experienced at
threatening to throttle them if they don't pay attention teaching them the finer points of the game. It's always a matter of finding the balance between strictness (i.e. getting them to learn by actually practicing) and fun.
At this age they have an attention span of about three seconds. Okay, they can focus longer than that, but it's not easy for them. It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a 7-year-old to play serious for more than 30 seconds. Pretty much anything brings on a gigglefest. And yet you have to find a way to get them to do things properly, and to practice it, or as you explain to them
they'll grow up flipping burgers at McDonalds they won't reach their potential as table tennis players.
Sometimes you feel like you are tricking them into learning things so that they'll have good techniques ingrained by the time they are more serious. And
since no seven year old can focus for more than three seconds while there are seven-year-olds who can focus (for a time, at least), most simply aren't ready to take it seriously for another year or so. But there are ways of getting their attention and getting them to try. For example, if you challenge them to do a number of shots in a row (say, 50 forehands), they'll usually rise to the challenge. Or you can play improvised games, such as feeding multiball where they have to make three smashes in a row to score a point, but if they miss any of them I score a point. Or, as I did with the two yesterday (who were a bit advanced for seven-year-olds), feed them a backspin ball and a topspin ball, and they have to loop the first and smash the second to score a point - but if they miss either shot I score the point. They can get into these types of games.
The same is true of ball pickup. If you are coaching a group, then while one is doing multiball, the other(s) are doing ball pickup. At age seven, one doing ball pickup is a chore; two doing it is a contest. (This is true of boys, but girls often cooperate. Anyone who thinks they are the same at this age hasn't coached them.) And so it's often best to have two of them competing to see who can pick up the most. They'll go at it, with constant cries of "I'm winning!" - often when they obviously are not winning. Between feeding balls I sometimes help with ball pickup, and there's nothing in the world you can do to make one of them happier than to suddenly pour the balls from your pickup net into theirs, to the even louder cries of "I'm winning!" Of course this brings cries of protest from the other - "No fair!" So be an equal opportunity ball sharer and give each half.
You have to be careful what you do around them. If they see something, they want to copy it. In the middle of a demo a few weeks ago I suddenly chopped a ball. OOPS!!! The rest of the session several of the kids wanted to chop. It's easier to get an elephant to fit into a racket case than getting a seven-year-old to focus on hitting and looping when he has chopping on his mind. (I think we've just discovered the origin of choppers - it's not genetic, it's environment.) So be very careful what you do around seven-year-olds because what you do is what they'll be doing for the rest of the session and perhaps the rest of their lives. It's a heavy responsibility.
At this age they have one natural addiction and one learned addiction. They all like speed. Adults think of running around as work, but kids want to run around. It is easier to fit a blue whale into a ping-pong ball then for a seven-year-old to stop moving. And so footwork drills aren't work, they are play. (Well, at least until they get bored with it, so you keep changing the drill to something new rather than have them do 1-1 forehand footwork for more than a few minutes.) The other type of speed they like is smashing. Oh yes, they love smashing. It's like dessert. And so you usually save it for the last drill. Then let them swing away. Only catch is often they don't care if the ball hits the table, they just want to hit the ball hard. So you might have to remind them to aim for the table.
The learned addiction is spin. They are fascinated by how the ball curves with sidespin, and floats and stops on the table with backspin. So guess what becomes their favorite shot, other than smashing? Pushing. In nearly every session the seven-year-olds (and older ones) ask if they can push. When the ball hits the table or floor and dies, they have big grins. I often bring out soccer-colored balls for pushing so they can see the ball spin, which adds to the fun.
Another drill they like is blocking my loops. You'd be amazed at how fast a seven-year-old can learn to block a loop as long as I keep the ball on one spot on the table, say inside a one-foot area. After a few sessions, you can almost let loose at regular power, and they block them back like it was a video game. The only problem is they get addicted to this as well, and always want to block - which can be tiring for a coach. One other problem is that while they quickly learn to block them back, they aren't very accurate, so their blocks spray all over the table. It also becomes apparent that they have very slow reactions - if you move the loop one foot to the side, they barely react to it.
And what is the favorite game in table tennis for seven-year-olds? No, not table tennis; it's either stacking cups on one side of the table so they can knock them down while I feed multiball, or hitting a bottle filled with "worm juice," which I have to drink if they hit it. As I often point out to them, "Friends do not make friends drink worm juice." They
are not my friends work hard to hit the bottles so as to improve their stroking accuracy.
They are now up to 739 players in this year's upcoming USA Nationals (Las Vegas, Dec. 16-20), and the final deadline for entering isn't until Nov. 9, this Sunday, with several more days probably needed to enter them all. Here's the listing. (Set drop-down menu near top to "USA Nationals.") This already tops the 716 players in last year's USA Nationals (also in Las Vegas), so the switch to the plastic ball apparently hasn't had an effect on attendance. I'll put up an updated list sometime next week when all the entries are listed.
Are You Doing What You Think You're Doing?
Here's the coaching article from Expert Table Tennis. "In a nutshell, I’m using today’s post as another opportunity to convince you of the power of filming yourself playing table tennis. But I’ll also go a bit more into the reason why you need to start filming and analysing your own game."
Was the New Ball More Entertaining?
Here's the new blog entry on the new plastic ball by Matt Hetherington.
Wang Hao: The Rumour Was an Insult to Us
Here's another article on the 2012 Olympic Men's Singles Final apparent fixing story, where Wang Hao sort of denies it. Judge for yourself.
Zhang Jike Fiasco a Benefit to Sponsors
Here's the article. "It is very interesting to note that the Japanese thinks that by his rather destructive merrymaking, Zhang Jike has actually increased the visibility of the sponsor's name and it is a form of advertisement and publicity. For the sponsors, it should be a good thing and they are the biggest beneficiary from this fiasco."
Second Annual Playing It Forward Ping Pong Ball
Here's event info. The charity event takes place 6-10PM on Thursday, Nov. 6, at the Hard Rock Hotel in Chicago. All proceeds support families with critically ill babies at Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago. Event will include "…a Jocks versus Rocks tournament with pro athletes like Chicago Bears’ players Jordan Mills, Cornelius Washington and David Bass, refereed by TV Personality and CEO/Founder of Rockit Ranch Productions, Billy Dec. Talent from Killerspin Table Tennis will be conducting tips and tricks demonstrations. There will also be over 50 silent auction items, including a full wedding package complete with a venue, dress and veil, planner, flowers and more, as well as vacations from all over the world."
Milwaukee Bucks Add Ping Pong Table to Arena
Here's the article from Table Tennis Nation.
Here are two cartoons I created long ago. The first is pretty simple. The second is jammed with gags - see if you can find them all. Special bonus if you can figure out who all the talking people are in the second one - especially the three on the left, and explain why they are in the picture.
Minions Playing Table Tennis!
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Another Full-Time Club - Table Tennis Exploding Nationally and in Maryland Area
Another full-time club is opening in my area, the Smash Table Tennis Center in Sterling, Virginia, which will open in about one month. (Not to be confused with the Smash Table Tennis Club which recently opened in Fall River, Massachusetts.) This makes 77 full-time clubs in the U.S. (in 23 states and DC), and seven full-time table tennis clubs within 45 minutes of me (probably all within 30 minutes if no traffic). Table Tennis in the Maryland region is exploding!!!
So why is table tennis taking off in the Maryland/Virginia region, as well as other regions such as the SF and LA areas in California, NY and NJ, and other regions? It only takes one successful club in an area (which develops the demand) to grow enough interest that there's a demand for more, plus the locals see how successful a full-time center can be and so copy it. MDTTC spent years as the only full-time club in the region (and often the whole country), but now they are popping up everywhere, to the chagrin of all the doubters of the past. (I've been arguing for something like twenty years for USATT to get involved in the recruiting and training of coaches and promoters to spread these centers, whose rise I've been predicting for many years, including a presentation to the board on this in December, 2006, at the 2009 USATT Strategic Meeting, and many others, always falling on deaf ears, alas.)
It is a scary thing for a full-time club when another one opens up locally. In the short run, it does hurt business. But new clubs bring in new business, and some of that business goes to the other clubs, and in the end, everyone benefits - it is not a zero-sum game. When a new full-time club brings in new players, many of those players end up playing in the other clubs' tournaments, leagues, and coaching programs, become members, and the local table tennis community increases, to the benefit of all. (And word-of-mouth from the new players brings in still more players.) So yes, "A rising tide lifts all boats." I wrote about this in my March 19, 2014 blog.
A key thing, however, is you don't open a club with the thought that there is already a demand for the club - though that helps, and is a reality in some regions due to the hard work of those who created the demand. No, when you open a full-time club (or any club), the point is to create the demand. This means creating programs that players are interested in, and so becoming members. Getting players into a club isn't that hard if you know how to go about doing it, but keeping them is.
And for those of you who are thinking of making the jump to full-time table tennis, here's the manual I wrote on this, Professional Table Tennis Coaches Handbook. (It also goes over how to get players into a club and keep them)
World Cadet Challenge
It finished over the weekend. Here's the ITTF page for the event, with results, articles and pictures. Kanak Jha got the bronze medal for Cadet Boys' Singles, while he and Jack Wang got the bronze for Cadet Boys' Doubles and Teams. Crystal Wang and Amy Wang got the bronze for Cadet Girls' Teams, and made the quarterfinals of Cadet Girls' Doubles. Crystal made the quarterfinals of Cadet Girls' Singles. Overall in the singles Kanak came in 3rd, Jack 8th, Crystal 7th, and Amy 17th (after winning the "Losers Bracket"). Here's an ITTF article that features. Kanak.
China's History of Match Fixing
Here's the article. With the recent issue about whether the 2012 Olympic Men's Final was fixed, this is of extra interest. The fixed matches featured here are only a fraction of them; fixing matches was considered standard in the past, where coaches and officials would decide who should win to tactically and politically most benefit China. (And there is no denying there is a logic to this, but at the expense of the players who trained for so many years only to be treated like pawns.) I've had some serious discussions with people from China who strongly believe in this type of fixing - I've concluded it's a cultural thing. It happens in America as well; I know of at least four times where players dumped matches to affect who made the U.S. team or equivalent. There's no getting around this type of thing.
Forehand Looping with Variation
Here's the video (2:26) by Samson Dubina.
Here's the video (6:51). I've done this before, but not recently. I think I'll do it in our next junior sessions. It's not only good training (by forcing players to cover extra ground, the actually ground they do need to cover becomes easy), but it's fun and the kids like doing something different.
Learn How to Deliver Aerobic Table Tennis
Northwest Indiana Welcomes Second Butterfly Thanksgiving Event
Here's the USATT article on the upcoming Butterfly Teams.
Ping-Pong Craze Comes to Fall River
Here's the video (4:59) - the first one is a doozy!
Table Tennis - Our Story
Here's the video (28 sec, including slow-motion replay). I believe the server serves on the edge, followed by three consecutive edges, two by each player.
Happy and Horrible Halloween From:
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Table Tennis Plans and Other Work
It's been an incredibly busy week, and yet I'm more energized now than in years. Why is that? Ever since I decided to run for the USATT Board (assuming I get on the ballot) I've been busy planning out the stuff I've been arguing for (and planning for) for years. Much of it is stuff I've already done or others have done, and only need to introduce to this country, so it's not like we're re-inventing the wheel (or the ping-pong ball) again. Since I do the blog (and Tip of the Week) in the morning, this leaves much of the day for other activities, such as promoting MDTTC and (hopefully) working with USATT.
Yesterday I spent a good portion of the day working out plans and discussing with others the idea of recruiting an entrepreneurial leader to help create a USA Professional Table Tennis Players Association (hopefully with a better name), whose job it would be to go to cities in the NA Tour (assuming we go that route) and bring in sponsorships for each stop (hopefully to dramatically increase prize money), as well as organize activities, find ways to make and save money for the top players (free places to stay, etc.), and other ways of professionalizing the sport in this country. This is only one of the five main issues I plan to work on - I blogged about this on October 23. I've already worked out plans for all five. (I've had them for a long time, but had to write them out and fine-tune them.) I've told people the plan is to have enough prize money so at least eight USA players can make a full-time living as players by the time Kanak Jha (age 14) is ready to go to college, and has to make that college-or-table-tennis decision. Of course, that's sort of just a slogan (a long one), but the idea is that we want up-and-coming juniors to have this option, as well as being able to show other students that there indeed are professional players in this country.
Regarding item #1 from the Oct. 23 blog, "Create a USATT Coaching Academy to Recruit and Train Professional Coaches to Set Up Training Centers and Junior Programs," I've been arguing versions of this for years. At the December, 2006 USATT Board Meeting I made a formal proposal that USATT get involved in this, with the goal of 100 serious training centers with junior programs in five years. At the time there were only about eight in the country. The proposal was pretty much laughed at, even though total financial commitment from USATT was exactly $0. (The plan was to change the focus of currently run USATT coaching clinics, and to use the web page and magazine to recruit potential coaches/directors/promoters.) Two board members openly argued that there simply isn't enough players in this country for full-time training centers, missing the whole point that you develop the demand.
And so the item was checked off the agenda list and they went on to more important stuff that would quickly be forgotten. I had a similar experience at the 2009 USATT Strategic Meeting and other USATT meetings. But if I'm on the board, I'll be in a position to get these things done - all it takes is one person to take action. While others might not take initiative, it's not so easy to openly block someone else taking initiative when it costs almost nothing. I've discussed these ideas with enough board members to know they should get enough support to make them happen. (Not all of them were at the meetings I mention above.)
There are now 76 full-time table tennis centers in the U.S. that I know of. As I've blogged before, I believe this is the best thing happening in table tennis right now. It's why we now have so many top juniors now, as well as more in general. It's why we've gone from a few dozen full-time coaches to many hundreds of them. And yet this is a fraction of the potential if we simply organize this by recruiting and training such coaches/directors/promoters, rather than make each one of them re-invent the wheel or informally learn how to do it from others doing it. (I've spent a lot of time advising people on this. I spent some of my trip to Indiana this past weekend advising two people who are planning two new full-time centers.)
Meanwhile, I've been doing my usual table tennis work. There's the usual private and group coaching, which is mostly nights and weekends. This week I seem to be emphasizing backhand work with my students, just as last week. Lots of backhand drills! More of my students (and others at MDTTC) are really topspinning their backhands, and those balls are really hopping - it's getting scary! I've had several of our top juniors demonstrate their backhand loops for other up-and-coming ones, and have begun making sort of a study on how they each do it differently. (For example, some never change the racket angle during the backswing, while others close it slightly in the backswing and then open it again as a way to get more "snap" into the shot. World-class players also vary in this way, with the key being that the racket angle should be constant during the time just before, during, and after contact or you can't really control it.)
Yesterday a new beginning junior class started with 11 players. I'm also doing the afterschool program, which involves picking up kids at school, coaching, and tutoring. I spent some time working out the upcoming training program for one of our top players, and met with him for half an hour to go over it. As blogged about on Tuesday, I spent Fri-Mon traveling to and from and coaching at the 4-star South Shore Open in Indiana. I've since updated my notes on several of the players I watched there - I keep running notes. I also researched some info from an old USATT Magazine for someone - I have nearly every magazine going back to 1976, though some are crumbling.
One of the regular activities of table tennis coaches is writing letters of recommendation for students when they reach college age. I wrote a bunch this week for Tong Tong Gong. We have seven full-time coaches at MDTTC, but I'm the writer-coach, and most of the others are Chinese and don't write English well, so it falls on me to do this.
This is exciting - I have a new back injury! New and different!!! The injury is in my upper right back, I think a small muscle tear. I've never injured this spot before, so let's all give a great welcome to this brand new injury!
I think I hurt it on the 11-hour ride back from Indiana, or at least it stiffened up there. When I returned my air bed was a bit low on air, but it's very noisy to fill up, and so I waited until the next day - and I think sleeping on a soft air bed may have aggravated it further. I was mostly okay when I coached on Tuesday and Wednesday, but it was bothering me a bit. Then, during a session yesterday, my whole upper right back pretty much became a solid mass of injured rock, and I could barely rotate to hit shots. Halfway through a one-hour session I had to stop, and I had to cancel a one-hour session later that night. (In between I did new junior class, but I only had to do simple demos and multiball for that.) Anyway, I'll rest it today and tomorrow (no coaching planned for once), and see how it is on Sunday. I don't think it's too bad; I should be fine soon.
Halloween Table Tennis
World Cadet Challenge
Crystal Wang, Kanak Jha, and Jack Wang all went 3-0 in their preliminary RRs, and are now in the Final 16 in Singles. They will play two rounds today, and the final two rounds (SF and Final) tomorrow. Here's the girls' draw, and here's the boys' draw. Here's a feature ITTF article on Crystal's latest performance. Here's the ITTF home page for the event, which is taking place in Bridgetown, Barbados, Oct. 23 - Nov. 1. In the round of 16 Crystal will play Nanapat Kola of Thailand; Kanak will play Martin Friis of Sweden; and Jack will play Wong Ho Hin of Hong Kong. You can watch the matches live here.
Breaking News added at 1PM on Fri: Crystal, Kanak, and Jack all won their first match in the main draw, and are into the quarterfinals.
Breaking News added at 6:30PM on Fri: Kanak won in the quarterfinals, 4-1 over Vitor Santos of Brazil. Alas, Crystal lost in the quarterfinals, 2-4 to Adina Diaconu of Romania, and Jack lost in the quarterfinals, 1-4 to Cristian Pletea of Romania. (Semifinals and hopefully the final for Kanak are tomorrow - Saturday.)
Liu Guoliang Misinterpreted by Media?
Here's the article where China's Coach Liu Guoliang apparently denies he ordered Wang Hao to dump the Olympic Men's Singles Final to Zhang Jike in 2012. (See this article, which I linked to yesterday, with the note that a commenter there said Coach Liu had been misquoted.) I'm starting to get more suspicious as he and the players never actually deny it. Here are what Coach Liu, Zhang Jike, and Wang Hao said on this:
Coach Liu Guoliang said, "Zhang Jike deserved the Grand Slam. Wang Hao has no complains being an Olympic runner-up for the third time. Both are my pride. There is no distinction as to my feelings to them. They are like my children. I will never allow them to concede, and I will never allow anyone or anything to hurt them."
Zhang Jike said, "Coach Liu, everything that you've done are all fair and open. We must resolutely put an end to doubts that violate the morals and spirit of sports."
Wang Hao said, "After reaching the finals, I certainly wanted to win the title."
When someone falsely accuses you of ordering someone to dump, isn't the normal response to be a denial that you ordered someone to dump? As noted, this only makes it seem more suspicious. Perhaps Coach Liu said more in Chinese that didn't get translated; I don't know. China does have a long history of ordering players to dump, but that supposedly ended years ago. Or did it? (The dumping was done for various reasons ranging from strategic to political.)
Breaking News: Here's a new article "Fixing the Olympic Finals is Impossible," where Zhang Jike says more on the topic, and seems to insist there was no fixing, though again he doesn't seem to say so explicitly. Technically, only Coach Liu and Wang Hao know if the latter was ordered to dump, so I wish Wang would just say, "I wasn't ordered to dump the 2012 Olympic Men's Singles Final."
Ask the Coach
Mezyan Table Tennis Imaginarium
Boxer Lennox Lewis Visits Werner Schlager Academy
Here's the article and picture of the visit to the Werner Schlager Academy in Austria by Lennox Lewis, the last undisputed heavyweight boxing champion of the world as well as the Olympic Gold Medalist.
GoPro Here 3+ Test
Here's the video (1:28) by PingSkills of table tennis as videoed by a camera attached to a player's forehead! (They look like miners to me.)
The Needle and Table Tennis Nation
Here's an article on the late great Marty Reisman and his founding of Table Tennis Nation.
The Official Table Tennis Nation Halloween Costume Guide
Here's the article and pictures from Table Tennis Nation!
Keep Your Eye on the Ball
Here's the cartoon! (Wouldn't this be a nice Halloween costume?)
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George Brathwaite Statement to The View
On Tuesday morning table tennis was disparaged on the TV show The View. First they showed footage of the Zhang Jike barrier-kicking celebration after he won the Men's World Cup. Afterwards, co-host Nicolle Wallace said, "table tennis can be boring without stuff like that." (Wallace was communications chief during the George W. Bush presidency and a senior advisor for the McCain-Palin campaign in 2008.) Here's a link to 11:40 into the show, where the table tennis starts. At 12:49 is when Wallace makes her statement. The table tennis ends at 13:20. USATT Hall of Famer George Brathwaite sent the following statement to The View. (I may send something as well, but I only saw the video for the first time this morning.)
My name is George Braithwaite and I am an original member of the United States Table Tennis Team that participated in the Historic PING PONG DIPLOMACY tour of the People's Republic of China in 1971. I was watching THE VIEW TV episode this morning and was appalled at the ludicrous remark made by Nicole Wallace in reference to table tennis being a boring sport and needed a demonstration like what occurred at the recently concluded World Tour for Table Tennis which was won by Zhang Jike of the People's Republic of China.
After winning the championships, Zhang displayed an unnecessary degree of anger by kicking and breaking down the barriers surrounding the arena, which triggered the reaction of the promoters to forfeit his prize money of $45,000 and which was in absolute contrast and in violation to the principles of the Chinese Table Tennis Association which also holds their athletes to a strict code of conduct.
However, in reference to Ms. Wallace's preposterous remark about the sport of Table Tennis, let me point out and bring to her attention as well as to the knowledge of those who may not be aware, that "TABLE TENNIS IS THE MOST POPULAR RACKET SPORT IN THE WORLD AND IS RANKED SECOND OVERALL IN TERMS OF PARTICIPATION”
Table Tennis is and has been an Olympic Sport since 1988 and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) never accepts a sport unless it has a great degree of Athleticism for spectators to VIEW.
For further information you may access my website at the following: www.GeorgeBraithwaite.com
Disabled Veterans Camp in South Bend, Indiana
Dan Seemiller ran a Disabled Veterans Camp at his club in South Bend, Aug. 23-24 - and got 31 players!!! These camps were made possible by a grant to USATT by USOC, and organized by USATT Director of Para Programs Jasna Reed. Here's the Disabled Veterans Camp listing and other info on Para events. I also ran a Disabled Veterans Camp at MDTTC in August, but mine had only six players. How did Dan get 31?
Dan had earlier contacted me about how to get players in the camp, but frankly, I wasn't much help. We had a player who worked at a local VA hospital, and he distributed flyers for us, but there wasn't exactly a huge surge of players for the camp I ran. Dan decided that he needed to set up an info table in front of a local VA hospital. But first he had to get permission - and that's when he ran into bureaucracy and red tape. He was hassled every step of the way, but wouldn't take no, and kept moving up the ladder until he found someone who gave it the okay. (Dan admitted that it got so bad that he almost gave up.) And so he set up a card table, brought rackets and balls to attract attention, and talked to an estimated 500 people. A total of 51 people signed up for the camp, though "only" 31 were able to make it - but he has all their emails to send future info.
Coaching at the camp were Dan, his son Dan Jr., Barry Chan, and Zach Steele.
World Cadet Challenge
Here's the ITTF home page for the event. It's taking place right now in Barbados, with singles and doubles events starting today. (Team competition already finished - Asia won Cadet Boys while Europe won Cadet Girls.) Follow the action, including USA stars Kanak Jha, Jack Wang, Crystal Wang, and Amy Wang - or, as I put it, Jaws and the Triple Wangs! Yes, I'm officially suggesting we nickname Kanak Jha as "Jaws," a play on his name, what he does to opponents, and named after this and this.
Wang Hao Ordered to Dump to Zhang Jike in 2012 Olympic Men's Singles Final?
Here's the article. Unbelievable! I thought they had stopped doing this. I think there's a cultural thing with this - I've had discussions with people from China who believe dumping like this is the right thing to do, and that players should dump if asked to do so as the coaches and other leaders have the best interests of the team and country in mind rather than individual achievement. (See the comments under the article where one person says that Coach Liu Guoliang was misquoted.)
Table Tennis Needs a Big Name like Zhang Jike
Twenty Tips by Tahl
Here are 20 tips by Tahl Leibovitz. You can learn from all of them, but I especially like #1, 2, 3, 5, 9, 16, and 18.
Ask the Coach
Here's Episode 19 (10:50):
Zhang Jike, Ma Long, and Timo Boll Review the Plastic Balls
Here's the article, with links to videos.
Interview with Georgina Pota
Here's part 2 of the interview by Dora Kurimay, which went up this morning. (I linked to part 1 last week.) "How Did Georgina Póta Multiple Times European Champion Professional Table Tennis Player Change From Shy To Self-Expressive?"
Top Ten Shots from the Men's World Cup
Here's the video (6:36). If you want to see one of the best "get" returns ever, see #1 at 5:42. The point was over, as even Zhang Jike believed, right? Nigeria's Quadri Aruna - a breakout star at the World Cup as he made the quarterfinals - didn't get the memo.
PingPod #41: Zhang Jike's Fine and the Plastic Ball
Here's the video (6:02).
Aerobic Table Tennis
Ariel Hsing's Home Page
Here it is - bet you didn't know the three-time USA Women's Singles Champion had one!
Top Spin the Movie
Here's the home page, and here's info on the premiere at the SVA Theatre in New York City on Saturday, Nov. 15, at 4:30 PM. "In Sara Newens and Mina T. Son’s spirited sports film, three driven teenage athletes attempt to go for Olympic gold. Their sport? The perpetually popular but underappreciated game of table tennis. Northern California’s Ariel Hsing and Lily Zhang balance friendship and professional rivalry to see who’ll come out on top, while Long Island’s Michael Landers sacrifices his senior year of high school to devote more time to training at NYC’s SPiN."
How Bugs Bunny Cheats
Here's the cartoon! (Actually, wouldn't this mean every ball comes back, and so Elmer Fudd would win?)
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Butterfly South Shore Open
I spent the weekend coaching Nathan Hsu at the 4-star South Shore Open in Highland, Indiana (here are results) - and he played great!!! And I, of course, take full credit, right? Actually, he's been training extremely hard, including three months in China and 6-7 days/week at MDTTC before and after with our other coaches/practice partners/top players. The payoff was his strong backhand is even stronger, his strong receive is even stronger, and every other aspect of his game is stronger. (He's even been doing weight training, so he's stronger!) He won 18 & Under and Under 2450, made the quarterfinals of the Open (losing to top-seeded Li Cheng, rated 2603), and the semifinals of Open Doubles.
I'd like to write pages and pages on the tactics used, analysis of his opponents, what Nathan's working on, his strengths and weaknesses, etc., but other players are reading this, and so I have to keep my mouth shut. Dang.
Here's Nathan on the victory podium for winning the Nate Wasserman 18 & Under Junior Championships ($1000) along with finalist Victor Liu ($500, and another $500 for winning 15 & Under) and semifinalist Chase Bockoven ($100). (Missing - the other semifinalist Brian Gao.) Here's a picture of Nathan and me. In that picture he's holding up a piece of paper with "$1000" on it - he got the real check later, along with prize money from his three other events. Also, he got the wrong medal initially, the silver one in the picture - shortly afterwards we noticed that, and he traded it in for a gold one. (In the background on the left you can see Dan Jr. and Sr. - more about them below.)
I keep most of what Nathan says confidential, but I'm sorry Nathan, I'm quoting you here with your biggest complaint between matches: "My knees are itchy." Yes, that was his ongoing problem. My recommendation was to scratch them.
To save money we drove to Indiana. According to Google Directions, it was a 9.5 hour drive, but we ran into traffic both ways, and so it took about 12 hours to get there on Friday (leaving at 6AM), and about 11 hours to return on Monday. Nathan's dad, Hans, did the driving. We discussed table tennis nearly the entire time both ways. (Coach Jeffrey Zheng Xun substituted for much of my coaching while I was gone.)
The best umpires are often those who aren't noticed, and yet who enforce the rules. I want to commend umpire Jorge Vanegas for doing a great job umpiring all day long both days, from around 9AM to 8PM or so both days, pretty much non-stop, and getting it right match after match. When players didn't serve legally, he immediately warned or faulted, and there was never even a controversy about it, probably because he's so soft-spoken and fair-minded. Several times I started to react to an opponent's illegal serve - and nearly every time he was already signaling a warning or fault. I'm guessing most players and spectators barely noticed him out there, despite the fact that he was working such long hours in one of the most difficult positions at a tournament - a sign of a great job. My hat also goes off to referee Kagin Lee, who once again was highly professional throughout the tournament, even when I was bugging him with hypothetical rules questions.
Samson Dubina, rated 2474 and seeded fifth, won Open Singles. In the quarters he upset second-seeded Zhang Yi Chi (2563) at 6,-13,-9,9,9,0. (Did he really win the last game 11-0, or is that a typo? I don't know.) In the semifinals he upset second-seeded Emad Barsoum (2490) at 10,7,10,-7,1. (Emad injured his leg near the end of the last game and retired down I think 1-8.) In the final he was down match point to Dan Seemiller, 9-10 in the seventh, before winning, -7,-6,5,6,4,-5,10.
How did 60-year-old tournament director Dan Seemiller, seeded fourth at 2479, reach the final? In the semifinals he upset top-seeded Li Cheng (2603) at 8,8,5,-4,-6,14. The last game was a doozy as they took turns going up game point (or match point in Dan's case), including one point where Dan had match point and they played the point of the tournament, where they took turns ripping winners, only to see the other block it back and then take over the attack. Dan had two great tactics that worked against Li and others - he'd either loop anything he could get his forehand on (but not with as much power as he did back when he was around #20 in the world and winning five USA Men's Singles Championships), or he'd serve or block deep to the opponent's backhand and then dead block to the backhand, and follow with either aggressive blocking or forehand loops. Many players can move opponents side to side, but few can move them in and out the way Dan does, and few are less afraid of challenging an opponent's forehand than he is. These tactics worked against both Li Cheng and Samson - and Dan was just one point away from winning that match.
Samson plays a very athletic two-winged looping game, with very aggressive receives, especially his backhand. Of course, the real key to his victory was that he warmed up with Nathan! (As a full-time coach, he also warmed up his students - so he was doing double-duty.)
It was a pretty good day to be a Seemiller. Dan Sr. made the final of Open Singles and ran a great tournament. Dan Jr. teamed with Dan Sr. to win Open Doubles - including somehow beating Nathan and Micaiah Skolnick in the semifinals. Randy Seemiller won both Over 40 and Under 2300, and made the semifinals of Open Doubles with Chip Coulter.
This has been a pretty busy weekend for table tennis, with the 4-star South Shore Open, 4-star Westchester Open, the Men's World Cup, and the ongoing World Cadet Challenge. (Go Kanak, Jack, Crystal, and Amy! That's Jha, Wang, Wang, and Wang - the latter three non-related.)
2014 USA Table Tennis Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony
Here's the article about the Induction Ceremony in Las Vegas, on Thursday, Dec. 18, with ticket information. Inductees are players Tawny Banh and Lisa Gee, player/official Sheila O'Dougherty, contributor Dick Butler, and Mark Matthews Lifetime Achievement Award Winner Donna Sakai.
Washington DC Table Tennis Center
The Washington DC Table Tennis Center just opened - #76 in my list of full-time table tennis centers - and is the first in that city. It's not far from my club in Maryland (MDTTC), and gives us six in the area (including one nearby in Virginia), all within 30 minutes of me. When new full-time clubs open, at first they draw some players away from other clubs, which is a temporary problem. However, it evens out as they bring in their own players and add them to the local table tennis community, with some of them ending up playing at the other clubs, whether as members, in leagues, or tournaments. The more full-time clubs, the larger the pool of players, and the more success for any well-run club - i.e. "A rising tide lifts all boats."
Here are results and pictures from the 4-star Westchester Open in New York this past weekend. (We need to give smiling lessons to some of the top Chinese players, don't you think?)
Incredible Shots of 2013
Here's video (5:11) of the best shots of 2013. (I don't think I've linked to this one.)
PGA Tour Players Challenge USA Table Tennis Players
Here's the article, pictures, and videos as Timothy Wang, Lily Zhang, Cory Eider, and Judy Hugh took on golf stars such as Freddie Jacobson, Matt Kuchar, and Ian Poulter.
Was it Zhang Jike's Idea to Give Up His Prize Money?
Here's the article on his forfeiting his $45,000 prize money.
Good Morning America (ABC News)
Here's video (2:01) of coverage of Zhang Jike's barrier-breaking celebration after winning the Men's World Cup on Sunday.
50 Shades of Pong
Here's video (1:16) of Adam Bobrow coaching a lawyer at a law firm not to be afraid of the ball - and it involves smacking her with the ball! (I've actually done this a few times with students - if someone's afraid of the ball, the only way to overcome it is to face that fear!)
Inclusion TT - Table Tennis with Walls
Here's the video (3:22) of the newest version of the sport (demonstrated at the Westchester TTC), with glass walls on each side so you can rebound shots like racquetball. "This is like Table Tennis 2.0. This game is one of the best twists on table tennis."
Here's video (31 sec) of Hermann Muhlbach demonstrating his lobbing while doing forward and backward rolls.
Halloween Special Tumba Ping Pong Show
Here's video (57 sec) of their latest show. (Not for the weak of heart!)
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