Butterfly Online


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

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

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

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

June 10, 2015

Top Ten Surprising USATT News Items

Here are some new USATT issues you might not be aware of.

  1. Chinese table tennis has been outlawed.
  2. Jim Butler, who recently won the USA Nationals, North American Cup, and Meiklejohn Seniors, has been banned from table tennis to allow younger players to have a chance.
  3. Plastic is flammable, so we are switching to tin balls. (This is what happens when you mix hot metal balls with regular ones. Which side would you prefer to be on?)
  4. Only legal surface is speed-glued sandpaper.
  5. The modern TV audience doesn’t have the patience for 11-point games (not to mention those interminable 21-point games from before), so henceforth all matches will be best of one game to one point. (With the new scoring system, the U.S. Open will now be held on July 6 between 1:00 and 2:00 PM.)
  6. Because USATT is devoted to improving your table tennis games, they will be adding 100 rating points to all USATT members. Additional points are on sale at $1/point.
  7. Topspin is illegal.
  8. Players with long pips are required to wear a picture of a yellow ping-pong ball with six “long pips” sticking out from it.
  9. The U.S. Open and USA Nationals now have first place prize money of $1,000,000 (pending receipt of $1,000,000 sponsorship).
  10. My book, “The Spirit of Pong,” is now the official bible of USA Table Tennis. All members will be required to put their hands on it as they swear eternal allegiance to USATT. Table Tennis is God, and Andy “Shoes” Blue is his prophet.

Upcoming ITTF Coaching Courses in the U.S.

Here’s the USATT listing.

Ask the Coach with PingSkills

  • Episode #138 (24:44) – World Australian Open (and other topics)
  • Episode #139 (25:54) – Importance of the Short Push (and other topics)

Ask the Coach with Richard Prause – Part 16: Footwork

Here’s the video (1:46).

Ma Long’s Backhand Technique

Here’s the video (47 sec).

Bidding Process for 2019 World Championships

Here’s the ITTF article. Place your bids now!!! (I wonder if we could run them at the Maryland Table Tennis Center? Hmmm…)

Zhang Jike Undergoing Rehabilitation

Here’s the article from TableTennista.

Ma Long, Joo Se-Hyuk, and Yan An Training for China Super League

Here’s the video (3:20). Can anyone identify the fourth? (If it turns out to be someone obvious like Zhang Jike or Ma Long, I’ll be embarrassed.)

Australian Open

Here’s an article, results, and video.

Table Tennis Alone

Here’s the video (55 sec) – who needs a playing partner when you have a wall? (A long distance runner might point out that he’s “hitting the wall.”)

9 Chickweed Lane

Here’s a table tennis cartoon that only partially makes sense. I think there’s an inside joke here somewhere.

More Mike Mezyan Pictures

NOTE - If you are unable to see these pictures, all you have to do is join the Table Tennis Group - it's easy! Here are all the past, present, and (soon) future pictures he's collected. (I pick out his best ones for here - he has more.)

Send us your own coaching news!

June 9, 2015

One-Sided Coaching

Had an interesting coaching session with 10-year-old Daniel yesterday. He’s about 1700 level, but tends to play way too passive in matches, and so we spend nearly all our time working on his attack – especially his opening loops, forehand or backhand.

When we were warming up for our session yesterday he was looping to my block, and kept going into the net. It was rather noticeable that the ball was sliding off his forehand sponge. I checked it, and sure enough, the surface was rather slick – it was worn out. The rubber on the other side was fine. He had a backup – his dad’s – but it had a slow sponge on one side. So with either racket he had one side that wasn’t really usable. (He’s getting new sponge today.)

What to do? We spent most of the 90-minute session doing one-sided drills, where he’d play all forehand or all backhand. We skipped ones where he’d have to do both forehand and backhands. For example, in multiball, I had him do a lot of side-to-side forehand looping off both backspin and topspin. Then I’d feed backspin to his backhand, then a quick topspin to his forehand, and he had to loop them all with his forehand. We did similar backhand drills.

Result? Perhaps because he was so focused on just one side at a time he had perhaps his best shot-making session ever. If he could bring into match play the shots he was doing yesterday, things might get scary!!!

NBC News

I’m off this morning to the club for a taping with NBC News and Navin Kumar, he of the Parkinson’s and mechanical heart. More on this tomorrow. (I had to get up at 6AM to do this blog…)

Thoughts on the Plastic Ball

Here’s the new coaching article by Han Xiao, where he analyzes how it has changed the game.

How to Serve Faster

Here’s the new coaching article from Expert Table Tennis. These are two of the main things I also stress when teaching this.

Ma Long Technique

Here’s a new video (2:14) that features Ma Long’s techniques in slow motion.

11 Questions with Dell Sweeris

Here’s the USATT interview with the Hall of Famer. (Hey, I’m mentioned – but I don’t keep track of matches! Except in my head, of course.)

Jimmy Butler Wins Fourth Straight Meiklejohn Cup

Here’s the article. I linked to the results yesterday.

Invitation to Bid for Hosting Rights of ITTF North American Events

Here’s the USATT article.

Kanak Jha and Jack Wang Qualify for 2015 Cadet National Team

Here’s the article – they automatically qualified based on world ranking.

Table Tennis “Try”
Here’s the new highlights video (5:58). Kanak Jha’s around-the-net loop against Jimmy Butler is featured at 3:27.

Ruth Aarons and Sandor Glanoz

Here’s video (67 sec) from the 1930s of the two U.S. stars doing an exhibition. Near the end they begin circling the tables! Aarons was the 1936 and 1937 World Women’s Champion. (She was co-champion with Gertrude Pritzi in 1937 as the final wasn’t finished due to time problems. I initially wrote the match "wasn't played," but as emailed to me by Steve Grant, the match was stopped after 1 hour and 45 minutes because they violated the match length rule, and the title was declared vacant until 2001, when the finalists were declared co-champs.) 

Timo Boll vs. Dimitrij Ovtcharov

Here’s the video (9:24) between the two German stars from the Champions League 2015.

2015 China Super League (Men): Tianjin vs. Shandong

Here’s the video (1:32:43) of the entire team match.

  1. Ma Te - Zhang Jike @ 7:54
  2. Liu Dingshuo - Fang Bo @ 40:12
  3. Wei Shihao/Chuang Chih Yuan - Zhang Chao/Hao Shuai @ 1:18:24

2015 China Super League (Women): Shandong vs. Jilin

Here’s the video (2:48:40) of the entire team match.

  1. Gu Yuting - Wang Manyu @ 10:35
  2. Chen Meng - Chen Ke @ 45:42
  3. Gu Yuting/Gu Ruochen - Yuan Xuejiao/Chen Ke @ 1:32:35
  4. Chen Meng - Wang Manyu @ 1:48:41
  5. Fan Siqi - Liu Fei @ 2:16:26


Here’s video (60 sec) of USATT CEO Gordon Kaye vs. CTTA CEO Tony Kiesenhofer (Canada) at an ICC fundraiser. (Gordon is rated 1563; not sure about Tony, though he looks pretty good.)

Miss “Table Tennis”

Here’s a new music video (3:27) that celebrates the best women players.

Herbalife Table Tennis Ad

Here’s an ad (30 sec) from 2011 that features table tennis. I’m not sure why it’s labeled a “Messi” ad when it’s clearly for Herbalife. (As emailed to me by Steve Grant, the "Messi" is for Lionel Messi.)

Serena Williams Plays Table Tennis

Serena’s been caught playing table tennis again! Here’s a listing, starting with the most recent one.

Send us your own coaching news!

June 8, 2015

Tip of the Week

What to Think About in a Match.

MDTTC Featured in Montgomery County Magazine

This is the Olympic Sport of . . . Table Tennis came out over the weekend, featuring my club, the Maryland Table Tennis Center. The player pictured - and one of the main ones featured - is Ryan Dabbs, 11, who I’ll be coaching at the U.S. Open. To get that picture of him smashing a winner I lobbed up about 50 balls, one at a time, with him smashing and cameraman taking pictures until he got the perfect shot.

Weekend Coaching Sessions

It was another busy coaching weekend. In the junior class on Sunday, we did a LOT of side-to-side footwork, just forehand to backhand, with the focus on grip. Why? Because I’d noticed a number of the kids changing their grips for forehand and backhand. They needed to find a grip where they could hit both forehands and backhands with little grip change. (Some minor grip changes are okay, but not a lot.)

In the adult training session we did a lot of down-the-line practice. A number of players were trying to hit their forehands down the line with contorted upper body and arm movements, so we spent time working on that – hitting down the line is no problem if you position yourself properly (right foot more back, more shoulder rotation) and time the ball right (a little later, by the back leg). We finished the session with a lot of service practice.

In my private coaching sessions, one drill I’m doing a lot of recently is a serve and backhand loop game. The student serves backspin to my backhand, I push to his backhand, he backhand loops, and we play out the point. It’s both drill and game, and good practice. We also do variations where the student follows with a forehand from the backhand, or I push to the forehand and he forehand loops, or I push anywhere and he loops.

History of U.S. Table Tennis

Our long national nightmare is over – or at least mine is! On Saturday night, after 13 straight days of work, Tim Boggan and I finished the page layouts for Volume 16 of History of U.S. Table Tennis, which covers 1988-89.

From Monday, May 25, through Saturday, June 6, I worked thirteen consecutive roughly 17-hour days, where I’d roughly start work with Tim as early as 5AM and normally work almost non-stop (with a short lunch break) until I left to coach around 2:30 PM in our afterschool program at MDTTC. I’d also have private and group coaching most nights and weekends. When I’d return I’d have my blog to do and a zillion other things from my todo list. Sunday wasn’t so easy either, with 2.5 hours of private coaching, 3.0 hours of group coaching, and several other hours on various other projects.

The book is 427 pages long (8.5” x 11” pages), a little short by past standards, but it smashed all records for graphics, with 1327 jammed into those pages – better than three per page. The previous volume had set the record at 978, with the last ten volumes all over 800. (The numbers are all at TimBogganTableTennis.com.)

Here’s the cover, featuring the dancing clown from the 1989 Worlds, with ping-pong balls cascading all over him. Here’s the Magic Ball video (3:09) from those Worlds, showing the clown for about ten seconds starting 19 seconds in – but I strongly suggest watching the whole thing from the start as it’s hands-down the best table tennis song ever. I still use it in my mind to get psyched up for a match.

Like I’ve done with all his volumes, I’ve already created the files for createspace.com, which allows us to print and sell them. The new volume will likely be on sale in a week or so. The main delay is that once it’s ready, I’ll have a proof copy sent to Tim. Once he gives the final okay, he’ll be able to sell them within days. Once it’s ready, I’ll announce it here, and Tim will start distributing the flyer I created for him.

New Coaching Articles from Samson Dubina

Ask the Coach

Episode #137 (16:10) – Attacking Medium Long Balls (and other topics).

Backhand Banana Flip Kills

Here’s the video (20 sec) – go for it! (However, I’d generally recommend not flipping so aggressively and focusing on placement, unless of course the serve is weak.)

Koki Niwa Training

Here’s a new video (3:22) of the world #11 Japanese star training. The commentary is in Japanese, but you don’t need to know Japanese to watch.

Physical Training by Galina Georginova

Meiklejohn National Senior Championships

Here are the results from this past weekend. Jim Butler once again swept Over 40, Senior Elites, and Hardbat.  

Table Tennis Targets Schools in Samoa

Here’s the newspaper article on Richard McAfee’s coaching seminars in Samoa, which (for us geographically-challenged Americans) is almost in the dead center of the Pacific, about 2500 miles south of the Hawaiian islands. (Here’s a map.)

Seattle Installing Ping Pong Tables in City Parks to Deter Crime

Here’s the article.

Another Incredible Behind-the-Back Shot

Here’s the video (24 sec). How does this compare to these past ones I’ve linked to?

The Most Unlucky Player – Timo Boll

Here’s the new video (5:32).

Floor Pong?

Here’s the video (43 sec) as a player falls to the floor and continues the rally on his knees, not even attempting to get up – and ends it with a loop kill while still on his knees!

Ball Rolling on Net Serve

Here’s the video (23 sec) – is it real? I suspect the net is cut at the top, creating a thin passage for the ball to roll across.

More Mike Mezyan Pictures

NOTE - If you are unable to see these pictures, all you have to do is join the Table Tennis Group - it's easy! Here are all the past, present, and (soon) future pictures he's collected. (I pick out his best ones for here - he has more.)

Send us your own coaching news!

June 5, 2015

Vision and Growing the Sport

Success at developing table tennis, and anything else, involves three things: Vision, Planning, and Implementation. If you want to be a successful leader, be a VIPVision, and Implementation after Planning. (Should I trademark that? I just made it up!) If you don’t know where you are trying to go, you won’t get there. If you don’t plan on how to get there, you won’t get there. If you don’t implement your plan, it won’t happen and you won’t get there. Two out of three doesn’t cut it.

Someone can be successful without all three if they are in partnership with someone who complements them so that, together, they have all three. Or one can do perhaps two of these three things, be successful on a small scale, and claim victory while others are pulling out their hair in frustration.

In my 39 years in table tennis, nothing has been more frustrating than to watch leaders unable to understand this simple concept, or to watch those few who did understand it meet up with this opposition. I’m sort of flabbergasted that after all these years, I got fed up and ran for the board – and lo and behold, our new CEO Gordon Kaye, does understand this concept. Here’s an example.

When I ran for the board, one of the things I campaigned on was to “Turn U.S. Open and Nationals into premier events,” with the goal to “attract players, spectators, TV, and sponsors to our sport.” (That’s word for word what I wrote.) I also wrote, “We need to find permanent homes for the Open and Nationals, and let the local TT community develop and market them into big properties, like tennis and other sports did with their major events.” Since I’ve worked with local table tennis communities since I co-founded the Maryland Table Tennis Center in 1992, this is an aspect I know something about, and so my vision matched something I could plan for and implement.

But Gordon has contacts or knows how to get in the door with what I’ll call “high-end” groups that I wouldn’t have a clue how to work with, such as Caesars Palace and other organizations in Las Vegas, who know how to put on a show. So his vision involves turning the Open and Nationals into premier events through these groups, and turning them into high-profile Las Vegas events. Our vision is similar, but the planning and implementation are very different. He’s been planning and implementing changes to our upcoming U.S. Open, and if all goes well, over the next few years our Opens and Nationals will grow and become these premier events we all want. If it happens, it didn’t “just happen” – it happened because Gordon had a vision, planned for it, and implemented it. (If it doesn’t happen, well, we’ll discuss that with Gordon in a few years when his contract is up for renewal!)

Those who read my blog regularly know my Vision: Regional team leagues and coaching programs that lead to huge memberships, and national tournaments and leagues allowing professional players to make a living in this country. USATT has always had internal fighting between those who favor grass roots development (i.e. large membership) and those who favor elite development (i.e. professionalizing the sport so top U.S. players can make a living, or winning Olympic medals – China says hello). I’ve always argued that the two are the same – you need the large number of players or there’s little chance of professionalizing the sport, not to mention challenging the Chinese when we only have a small base of players.

USATT currently has about 9000 members. Imagine if we had 100,000 – primarily through league memberships – then there’d be money pouring in to USATT as well as the major dealers (since they’d be selling to all these players), and suddenly both USATT and sponsors could support professional players through sponsorships, tournaments, and professional leagues. Plus, of course, with the larger base of players we’d be far more likely to find and/or develop a Jan-Ove Waldner.

So my primary goal at the start is grass roots, where we develop regional team leagues and training centers. Much of this would be done through the development of regional associations, which would also run state championships. (One of my goals is to have 50 state championships next year, with the winners from each invited to take part in a “Parade of Champions” at the U.S. Nationals in December where they’d all be honored. Just as the U.S. Tennis Association uses the U.S. Open to promote itself, I see state championships as a way for regional associations to promote themselves and grow. This was actually CEO Gordon’s idea, which I’ve stolen from him. Shhh!)

But Vision won’t do it alone. You need the Planning and Implementation. And lo and behold, I’m now in a position with USA Table Tennis where I can do much of this. I actually have three positions with USATT: I’m on the Board of Directors as an “At-Large Representative” (since January, when I was elected to a four-year term); and for about two months I’ve been the Regional Associations Coordinator (appointed by the CEO) and the chair of the League Committee (appointed by the Board). All three are unpaid, volunteer positions. (Alas!)

It’s ironic that I’m chairing the League Committee when I’m more on the coaching side. But if someone doesn’t chair the League Committee and put together a proto-type regional team league that can spread, it’ll never happen. It’s my great wish that I’ll get this done in the next two years, and then someone else can step in and continue the work as chair of the USATT League Committee. (I’d likely stay on and focus on my other two positions to develop the sport.)

I’m currently in the planning stage for all of this, which really means watching and learning. I’m watching how the new Capital Area League works, and other ones. I’m looking at how other sports and table tennis around the world operates regional associations. But I’m also facing reality – I won’t be doing much until this fall. Why? Because I’m a professional table tennis coach who’s about to hit the summer, where kids are out of school. We have eleven consecutive weeks of training camps at the Maryland Table Tennis Center, and between that, my regular coaching outside the camps, and writing (including this blog), I won’t have much time or energy for much else. So I’ll just keep watching and learning for now.

But this fall I hope to get a lot more active. I’ve already written a feature article on my plans for USATT Insider, though many details have to be filled in before I submit it for publication this fall. I’ve started work on a number of things, such as proto-type regional association bylaws, league plans, compiling a listing of current state championships, and the recruiting and training of professional coaches. It’s on hold now until the fall, but I expect to go public with a number of related plans by the Nationals in December. We’ll have a lot to talk about then!

History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 16 (1988-89)

Yesterday Tim Boggan and I got about 1/4 of the way through chapter 23, so today we only have to finish that and chapter 24, and then we are “done.” I put “done” in quotes because we won’t really be done. We’ll spend much of Saturday doing corrections – Tim has been going over the roughly 400 pages, marking them up with changes, such as “You fool! This photo goes here!!!” From past experience, corrections will take a day. Then I’ll need time to prepare it for publication on Amazon, create the flyer and ad for the new volume, and update the wepage. (Also, Tim has warned me that chapter 24 is a doozy. By that he means there’s roughly a photo corresponding to every word in the text – and there’s a lot of text.)

Friday will likely be the twelfth consecutive 17-hour day I’ve worked. I wrote about how Tim has enslaved me on Wednesday. I hope you clicked on all the links – if not, go back and do so! (The first few are pretty straightforward, but they get more and more outrageous as you go on.) I am so looking forward to going back to leisurely 12-hour days.

Above I wrote about VIP: Vision, and Implementation after Planning. And guess what? That’s exactly what he did. And that’s why Tim’s a VIP!

  • Vision: A comprehensive history of U.S. Table Tennis, including extensive international coverage.
  • Planning: Each issue is meticulously planned, first about what will be covered, and then the huge number of photos. He has pages and pages of notes on what goes where, and printouts of text with marks showing where the huge number of photos go.
  • Implementation: That’s two parts, the writing, and the page layouts, which is what we’re spending two weeks creating.

A few recent quotes:

  • “I can always turn a terribly horrible picture into a horrible picture.” -Larry
  • Larry: “Would you rather use the really nice photo, or the black, blurry blob that matches the other photo?” Tim: “Use the blurry one.”
  • “Please don’t tell anyone how stupid I was.” -Tim
  • “I must have been insane.” -Tim, on the unbelievably huge number of photos he had planned for the last chapter, which we plan to do today.
  • “You’re still here?” -Larry every morning.

MDTTC Summer Camps

Our summer camps at MDTTC start on Monday, June 15, and continue for eleven consecutive weeks. Each camp is Mon-Fri, 10AM-6PM, with a two-hour lunch break. Here’s info. The camps are for all levels, but are dominated by kids. If you don’t mind being a room full of hard-working kids, come and join us!

U.S. Open Entries

As of this writing, the upcoming U.S. Open has 996 entries, and will almost for certain go over 1000, making it one of the most successful US Opens ever. Here’s the listing! When the entries are all in, I’ll blog about how it compares in history to past ones and other interesting stuff I find.

Ask the Coach

Episode #136 (21:25) – Which Serve Should I Learn? (and other topics).

Mark Simpson: Train Smart, Play Smart

Here’s the new podcast (27:23) at Expert Table Tennis. Mark “…studied psychology at the University of Nottingham, played table tennis semi-professionally in several European countries, and completed a Master’s degree in Sport Psychology.” “In today’s episode I talk to Mark about his ‘Train Smart, Play Smart’ seminars that he is delivering to table tennis clubs up and down the UK.”

Here’s a list of topics covered:

  • How Mark became a semi-professional table tennis player.
  • Why he moved away from the UK.
  • What he is doing back in the UK for a couple of weeks.
  • All about his ‘Train Smart, Play Smart’ seminars.
  • How you can improve your table tennis with imagery.
  • A three-step routine to use in between points in a match.
  • What services Mark offer to table tennis players looking to improve their performance.

Redesign My Brain for Table Tennis

Here’s the new video (5:12). “William Henzell and Trevor Brown try to teach Todd Sampson how to improve his brain by playing Table Tennis.”

“The Spirit of Pong”

Looking to get psyched up to play championship table tennis? Then buy a copy of my fantasy table tennis novel, The Spirit of Pong, and see what happens! If it doesn’t get you psyched to play, then you just don’t have any table tennis spirit!!! (The novel includes some serious training sequences – the scenes with Ogimura are straight out of a Rocky movie.) Of course, if you are just interested in learning, perhaps get Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers, or one of my other table tennis books. (It’s my blog, so I get to blog about my books!)

Ask a Pro Anything: Mima Ito

Here’s the interview (4:52) with Adam Bobrow. 14-year-old Mima of Japan is already ranked #11 in the world. In March this year she won Women’s Singles at the German Open, the youngest player ever to win an ITTF Pro Tour Event. . In 2014 she teamed with Miu Hirano to win Women’s Doubles at the German Open and become the youngest players ever to do so (both were 13).

This May Be the Best Shot You’ll Ever See

Here’s the video (26 sec) – and it happens at 9-all in the fifth! After watching, replay it and watch the look on the opponent’s face.

Training Makes Perfect!

Here’s the new ITTF promo video (37 seconds) that features players training for the Australian Open (which begins today), with some unique camera angles.

International Table Tennis

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

Table Tennis Humor

  • The School of Bounce (2:30) – a new hilarious table tennis video!
  • Cat Net Pong (65 sec video) – you’ll never need a net again.
  • Cartwheel pong (11 sec video) – remember, this is just ping-pong!
  • Afterhours with Princess (47 sec video) – here’s Adam Bobrow goofing off with a member of the Philippines National Team. Some crazy sidespin shots, and I don’t mean just the ball spinning! I believe her full name is Rommelia Princess Naval Tambo.
  • Budget Negotiations Pong – here’s a table tennis cartoon that satirizes budget negotiations between Obama and Republicans – and the latter won’t like this. (But absolutely no political comments here!)

Non-Table Tennis – Review of “Leashing the Muse”

My fantasy story “Leashing the Muse” was a cover story for the June issue of Space and Time. The issue was reviewed at SFRevu – here’s what they wrote:

"Leashing the Muse" by Larry Hodges – William is an English professor, distressed by the lack of literary quality in the writing of his students. But suddenly, the words on the paper change, rewritten to improve the quality of the prose. This happens everywhere and to anything, even the already great works of literature. It turns out this is being done by Polyhymnia the Muse. William finds her and confronts her about it in this amusing tale.

Here’s a more comprehensive description of the story, with minor spoilers:

An English professor is disgusted with the poor work of his students. And then, due to global warming, Polyhymnia, the muse of sacred song, oratory, lyric, singing, and rhetoric, and the daughter of Zeus and Mnemosyn, is released from where she had been imprisoned in arctic ice for thousands of years by Zeus for criticizing his poetry. She decides her mission is to turn all written work into masterpieces, whether it be Milton, newspaper articles, or a how-to manuals. When any three-year-old with a crayon can write masterpieces, nothing stands out anymore, and so there are no more masterpieces. It's up to our English professor to capture the muse and convince her to stop, with the help of a super-powerful computer.

Send us your own coaching news!

June 4, 2015

Bernie Bukiet in USATT Insider

The profile on Bernie Bukiet by Tim Boggan was in yesterday’s issue of USATT Insider, which is emailed to USATT members and to those who sign up for free subscriptions. Many “old timers” who knew Bernie well still miss him – I’m told he was one of the great sportsmen of his time. Take some time to read about this past great, and others in the USATT Hall of Fame. (Here’s a nice picture of Bernie.)

Dave Sakai, a great friend of Bernie’s, called me yesterday to talk to Tim Boggan about it, since Tim is staying with me while we work on the next volume in his History of U.S. Table Tennis series. (Dave had introduced me to Bernie many years ago the one time I met Bernie before his death, alas, in 1995.) Tim says that Dave, like Tim in the past, was nearly in tears about it, since Bernie was so loved by all who knew him.

Some who read the profile quickly might have missed that the first part, entitled “A Day to Remember,” about the day Bernie died, and listed as “by Bernie Bukiet,” was actually by Tim Boggan. (If so, reread it more carefully.) The actual Hall of Fame profile comes immediately afterwards, starting with the words, “Sosnowiec, in southwest Poland…” Bernie was originally from Poland, and didn’t come to the U.S. until he was 34, and yet he was still:

  • 3-time U.S. Men's Singles Champion (at age 38, 44, and 47)
  • 6-time U.S. Men's Doubles Champion (the last time at age 49)
  • 3-time U.S. Mixed Doubles Champion (the last time at age 47)
  • 8-time Member of the U.S. Team to the World's (from age 35 to age 54)

History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 16 (1988-89)

Yesterday was Day Ten of the long national nightmare of trying to put all these pages and photos together for Volume 16 of History of U.S. Table Tennis. We’ve completed 19 of the 24 chapters, totaling 319 pages. We expect to finish work on Saturday. (We’ll try to do chapters 20-24 on Thursday and Friday, and Saturday is reserved for corrections – Tim spends much of his free time going over each page and marking needed changes, and in the past it usually takes about a day to make these changes.) I’ll also need a few hours to finalize the volume for print on Amazon.com – see the links on the History of U.S. Table Tennis page that link to their Amazon pages – plus I have to update the webpage itself. I’ll also need time to create the one-page flyer and ad for the volume.

I’ve lost track of the number of graphics because Tim did something relatively new in the volume – many of the pages are collages of graphics and clippings he cut and pasted on sheets of paper, which were then scanned. He didn’t realize that every scissors cut would show up as a line on the page, and that the various graphics needed different types of work, and so I’ve spent painstaking hours selecting portions of each page so I could work on that part alone, along with zooming in and erasing the seeming mazes of scissor-cut lines on each page.

But I think I can safely say it’s over 1000 graphics total. I can do a program check of how many actual graphics are on the pages, but that would count each of these pages as one graphic, and I’ve spent up to 30 minutes just cleaning up a page of them, which are often full of different graphics. When the whole thing is done I’ll likely do a manual count. The last volume had a record 978 graphics; this one will dwarf that record.

As to the content of the volume, let’s just say a lot of stuff happened in 1988-89!!!


While I’m busy doing Tim’s books I’m still coaching (and writing this blog). Yesterday I coached a 13-year-old who’s rated about 1600 but really should be pushing 1800. The main weakness in his game is he plays such high-level shots in rallies that he makes too many mistakes. He also is a bit too forehand oriented, but we’ve spent a lot of time working on his backhand – which he often loops over and over. I also coached an 11-year-old who had a hard time getting serious – until he saw one of the Chinese coaches wander over to watch. There’s something about an “inscrutable” Chinese coach that seems to scare kids into trying hard. Perhaps I need to look into this – I tend to be too easygoing when I coach, and some kids take advantage of that.  

One thing I’ve noticed recently – when I play points with students they all like to serve deep to my backhand, challenging me to step around and forehand loop, which I no longer do as well due to arm problems and age. So I usually receive backhand, and they tee off on it. (My backhand loop isn’t particularly strong.) So recently I’ve started taking these serves right off the bounce, as I should be doing. I’m not returning them any faster or more aggressively, just quicker – and the result is almost comical as they no longer can tee on these shots, and they get frustrated. I have to explain to them the reason why they suddenly feel rushed. But the more you push them in ways such as this the better they get. Pretty soon they’ll be teeing off on these, and I’ll have to find something else. Maybe I’ll time travel back to the 1980s and 1990s and run around and loop all their serves. Or maybe I’ll just chop.

Ask the Coach

Episode #135 (28:25) – Is Psychology the Difference?

Training Forehand and Backhand Topspin

Here’s the new video (17:42) from Table Tennis School.

How Do You Get Into “Flow” When Playing Table Tennis?

Here’s the video (3:39) as part of the “Ask Mark” series. (Mark is table tennis sports psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihaly.)

Vote for Jimmy Butler as the Top USA Athlete for May

Here’s where you can vote.

New Ma Long Videos

Highlights from China Super League 2015

Time between points removed.

More Mike Mezyan Pictures

NOTE - If you are unable to see these pictures, all you have to do is join the Table Tennis Group - it's easy! Here are all the past, present, and (soon) future pictures he's collected. (I pick out his best ones for here - he has more.)

Non-Ping Pong Diplomacy

Here’s the cartoon!

Send us your own coaching news!

June 3, 2015

Help! I’m Being Held Prisoner!!!

For the past nine days I’ve been held prisoner in my house by the 84-year-old man pictured here, a ruthless slave-driver and sadist. Each day he holds a racket to my head in a threatening manner and forces me to sit at my desk from 5AM to 2:30PM, coercing me into changing historical photos and designing the pages for some 1988-89 historical book that’s mostly a constant repetition of the words Boggan, Seemiller, Butler, O’Neill, Onifade, Teekaveeraki, Gee, and Bhushan. It must be some kind of code; I have no idea what these words mean. He assures me we’ll finish this weekend, but I don’t trust him.

At 2:30, he takes custody of my computer, with links to all my accounts, and threatens to use his extensive computer knowledge to delete all my books at Amazon. And then I am forced to go to a local table tennis club and play ping-pong with the cohorts of this man, hour after hour, day after day, with no respite. They keep calling me “coach,” but I think that’s code for “You are our prisoner and will do as you are told.”

Strangely, many of his henchman appear to be children, many of them Chinese, and they are all armed with ping-pong paddles. They seem to know how to use them; I am very afraid. I believe that they became this person’s partner in crime when he visited China back in 1971 – he is so arrogant that he even wrote about his experiences there, in a book and in Time Magazine, practically daring the U.S. State Department to come after him – but after meeting him, they too are afraid of him

At night he stuffs ping-pong balls in my mouth and won’t take them out until I’ve finished typing a daily table tennis blog, which he dictates to me. It’s a silly thing that nobody would take seriously, but it has my name on it, so all those who read it think I wrote it. What do I know about table tennis? I’m a concert pianist, for crying out loud!!! (Here’s a video of two of his armed female cronies forcing me to perform.)

I am forced to live on a diet of expensive steaks, baked potatoes, and Coca-Cola at the Outback he drags me to. He often forces me to eat Rocky Road ice cream at Haagen Dazs afterwards. When I explained that I was on a diet, this is what he said. I am not allowed to watch TV, read, or any other pleasures in life as I am forced to obey the whims of this horrible monster during all my waking hours. The days are long, the nights are short, and I am in a constant state of physical and mental exhaustion. I cannot hold on much longer.

If this horrible tyrant asks me to fix up one more dimly-lit, out-of-focus picture scanned from an old, crumbling newspaper, I believe I will be forced to . . . fix up the photo as requested, as I am in mortal terror of the hulk-like strength and green rage of this old man.

My only hope is that I am able to smuggle this message out, and some decent person will take mercy on me, and free me from this living purgatory by challenging my horrible master to a ping-pong duel and beat him. If you believe you have what it takes to be my savior, all I can tell you is that he’s a shakehander with short pips on both sides, with a good backhand block and a unique forehand “no-look” smash that never misses, and likes to serve fast and deep over and over with a one-inch toss. I do not believe he is beatable, though Stockholm Syndrome may be affecting my thinking about this wonderful human being who has taken over and given purpose to my life.

Oh, and Tim is threatening politely asking me to add this addendum: “Amazing how unconsciously inspirational I can be!”

New Adult Training Program

This past weekend I started a new adult training program. It’s every Sunday, 6:30-8:00 PM, for adults only. (Technically, I will allow players as young as 13 to join in, but only if they are serious.) Here is more info (second item). We had eleven players in our first session, ranging in age from roughly 20 to 60. I put them through a series of drills, mostly involving footwork. It’s for all levels, though I’ll generally try to pair players with others at about the same level. Assisting as both a coach and practice partner is Raghu Nadmichettu, a 2400 player and part-time MDTTC coach. Hope to see some of you there!

Want to help USA Table Tennis and its National Teams? 

Here’s the new webpage, FriendWithPaddles.org, including a link to video.  From the page:

USA Table Tennis has created the Friends with Paddles campaign so that every fan can contribute to the success of the national team at all levels. The money you donate will make it possible for national team members to have access to the level of coaches and facilities necessary to compete at the international level. 

You may donate at any gift level you choose to receive the respective thank you gift from USATT, or you may choose to make a flat donation. It’s up to you! Thank you for being our Friend with a Paddle, and for contributing to the continued success of USA Table Tennis and its national teams!

Ask the Coach with PingSkills

Episode #134 (21:22) – Should I change my racket? (and other topics).

Ask the Coach with Richard Prause – Part 14

Here’s the video (2:44) - Doubles Practice.

2015 U.S. Open Men’s Champion vs. USATT CEO

Here’s the video (17 sec) of Tao Wenzheng and Gordon Kaye – who would win? With the U.S. Open coming up in Las Vegas, you can legally place your best – current odds are roughly the number of grains of sand on the planet to one. A little research and some basic math tells me that if you bet a penny on Gordon and he wins, you’ll receive about 75 quadrillion dollars ($75,000,000,000,000). Put me down for a dime! (Gordon can play - he has a 1563 rating, only 1152 points behind Tao's 2715.)

U.S. Open Entries

They just broke 900, and more are coming in. You can see the entries here – alphabetically, by rating, by state, by club, or by event.

2015 U.S. Open to Be Best Yet!

Here’s the USATT article.

USATT Athletes of the Month

Here’s the article – they are Jim Butler, Angela Guan, and Pam Fontaine & Cynthia Ranii.

11 Questions with Scott Preiss

Here’s the USATT interview with the professional table tennis showman.

Rachel Sung and Nikhil Kumar Qualify for ITTF World Hopes Week and Challenge

Here’s the USATT article.

Polish Pro’s Table Tennis Lessons Give Club Popularity Bounce

Here’s the article from the San Antonio Express-News on Coach Milosz Przybylik. (You may have to set up an account to read this article.)

39 Seconds of Ma Long Multiball

Here’s the video – it should wake you up!

More Mike Mezyan Pictures

NOTE - If you are unable to see these pictures, all you have to do is join the Table Tennis Group - it's easy! Here are all the past, present, and (soon) future pictures he's collected. (I pick out his best ones for here - he has more.)

  • Paddle in Pants Pong – do we call it panthands or panthold?
  • Crazy Yoga Pong – Twister on a table?
  • Net Pong – and when it hatches you’ll have your very own table tennis player.
  • Baby Pong – silly baby doesn’t realize you legally have to have a free hand.
  • Street Pong – for those who wish to live short but exciting lives.
  • Dessert Pong -DO NOT click on this on an empty stomach.
  • Frying Pan Pong – of course, this is what the sore loser does to the winner.

Send us your own coaching news!

June 2, 2015

Top Ten Craziest Shots I’ve Ever Done

Some of the kids I coach were talking about the craziest shots they’ve ever done. So I’ve compiled my Top Ten list. How about you?

  1. An opponent mishit a shot off the edge of his racket, popping it up high on my side with a crazy backspin that made it bounce back over the net to his side. I ran to the left side, and smashed it as hard as I could – straight down. The ball went down at great speed, the ball went down at great speed . . . and then just dropped. Because I’d hit it almost exactly straight down, it dropped back down over the table. I was stuck on the side of the table when my opponent pushed my smash back for a winner! I actually dived for the ball and got my racket on it, but couldn’t make the return.
  2. I was back lobbing when the opponent smashed weakly to my backhand. I chopped it back down the line to the opponent’s forehand. He pushed it right off the bounce at an extreme angle to my forehand, so that it bounced on my side of the table and crossed the sideline to the right. There was no way I could get to the ball the normal way by going around the corner of the table. So I dived under the table, inside the table leg on the near right, and managed to make the return by scooping the ball back up off the floor. I didn’t see it, but my opponent pushed it back for a winner as I lay on the floor on my stomach.
  3. A player popped a ball up to my very wide backhand at an angle so it went well to the left of the table. I stepped around and tried smashing it down the line. Instead, the ball hit the left net post. It bounced to the left, and hit the right side post (!), and bounced back sideways, where it hit the net, balance there for a second, and then dribbled over for a winner.
  4. An opponent dribbled the ball over the net at 19-all. (This was a long time ago, when I was 17 and games were to 21.) I lunged over the table, putting my left (non-playing) elbow on the table, and managed to scoop the ball up and return it. My opponent caught the ball and claimed the point, saying I’d touched the table with my non-playing hand. It so happened that the opponent was the tournament referee!!! I was in one of my first tournaments, and yet I knew he was wrong – the free hand is defined as from the wrist down. But he insisted that the elbow was considered part of the free hand, and claimed the point. So instead of being up 20-19, I was down 19-20. I won the next point (should have been the game), but lost in deuce. He won the second, and so won two straight. (I was about 1700 at the time to his 1900.)
  5. At the North American Teams in Baltimore one year I was at deuce in the third with Samson Dubina, who was around 2300 or so at the time. He smashed side to side several times, and I managed to run them down. Then he smashed really hard to my wide forehand, and I raced after it into the adjacent court. In almost one motion, I made the return while knocking over a 13-year-old and giving him a bloody lip. I won the point and the match – the last time I’d ever beat the future USA Men’s Singles Finalist.
  6. There used to be a rule that you couldn’t foot stomp on your serve. This was so players couldn’t hide which surface on their racket they were hitting with before the color rule came about in 1983. (This was circa 1981 or 1982.) I had an uncertified and inexperienced umpire for a match against a very strong player. As I’d find out later, the player told the inexperienced umpire that if I lifted my foot when I served, that was a foot stomp, and I should be faulted. Well, I always lift my foot when serving, it’s part of the motion, but it’s not a foot stomp, which was defined as an attempt to hide the sound of contact – and I didn’t make any noticeable sound in lifting my foot up and dropping it to the ground as I served. But the umpire fell for my opponent’s trick, and faulted me! When I found out why, I called the referee. The referee sided with me. But the opponent pointed out that foots-stomping is a judgment call, and correctly pointed out that an umpire can’t change a judgment call. After thinking it over, the referee reluctantly agreed, and awarded my opponent the point. It’s the only time in 39 years of play that I’ve been faulted – but I won the match.
  7. While playing Sunny Li when he was about ten years old and dominating the U.S. in that age group (rated about 2100), I was up match point – I forget the score. He served short backspin, and I opened my racket and did a backspin scoop, popping the ball up short with heavy backspin so it bounced right back to my court for the match-winner, as Sunny could only watch. (I think I was up around 20-12 at the time.)
  8. In a match with 1985 U.S. Men’s Champion Hank Teekaveerakit, I aced him down the line on the first serve of the match. He was a penhold looper who tried to loop all deep serves, but I had a very deceptive motion that looked like I was going crosscourt. I served fast down the line again, and aced him again. He shook his head, grumbling to himself. I decided to go for it again, and aced him again! Hank, who was about 2600, began laughing, and said (pronouncing the r’s like l’s), “Lally, Lally, nobody serves fast down the line three times in a row!” After that he returned most of my serves with his backhand, and easily won that game and took a big lead in the second. At that point he lined up way over on his backhand side for the first time since the first three points, and sort of smiled. The rest of the game I served fast to the corners and he was able to loop most of them with his forehand – a pretty good practice session for him!
  9. In the quarterfinals of the New Jersey Open I played David Zhuang. After he won the first two and was up about 17-10 in the second, I began to play exhibition, and he went along as we took turns lobbing and other tricks. But the umpire didn’t like it. I was blowing back balls, David was kicking them back, and the umpire was on his feet trying to catch the ball while yelling the point was over!!! Seeing this, David and I began hitting down the line, my backhand to his forehand, just out of reach of the umpire, who kept reaching for the ball. Finally I think he did deflect it and the rally ended. David got the point (since I’d blown the ball back before he’d kicked it), but we were yellow carded. David said he couldn’t risk getting red-carded, so we played it straight the rest of the way – or more specifically, we put on a lobbing exhibition the rest of the way with only legal shots.
  10. I was playing Dave Sakai in the early 1980s in a match at the Northern Virginia Table Tennis Club. (I was club president.) We were on table three. Top-seeded Eric Boggan (top 20 in the world, two-time U.S. Men’s Champion) was on table one. The tables were a bit crowded together, but he was still two courts away when this happened. I was back lobbing, and put the ball too short to Dave’s wide backhand. He did a backspin smash to my wide backhand at a crazy angle. But I saw it coming, and was off and running for it before he even hit it. No one was playing on table two, but the ball went all the way to court one. I not only got to it, I counter-smashed with my forehand – and then ran smack into Eric, knocking him down. He wasn’t happy. Dave, who hasn’t missed a block since the 1960s, of course blocked my smash back for an easy winner as I was also on the floor after the collision with Eric.

Reviews and Articles about “The Spirit of Pong”

More reviews are coming out on my fantasy table tennis novel, The Spirit of Pong. They’re pretty good! But I’ll let you judge. Newest ones are from Expert Table Tennis (which sounded like a 5-star review until the very end!) and a new one on Amazon. The book is selling pretty well!

History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 16 (1988-89)

I was exhausted before we started on Monday morning. On Sunday, I’d started work at 4:45 AM and finished at 8:30 AM. Along the way I did 6.25 hours work on Tim Boggan’s History of U.S. Table Tennis, and seven hours of private and group coaching. But it didn’t end there – I then stayed up late watching Game of Thrones, Silicon Valley, and Veep – it’s my weekly “TV night” - and then staying still later to do the Tip of the Week and blog for Monday and other work. I went to bed Sunday night around 1:30 AM . . . and got up at 6:30 AM Monday to work with Tim. We worked from 7:00AM to 4:30PM on his book (with a long lunch break, fortunately), finishing chapters 13 and 14, pages 196-244, and well over 100 graphics. It’s slow going; we started last Monday (eight days ago), and expect to finish sometime this next weekend, so about two weeks total.

About 20 of the pages were direct scans from pages that Tim had glued on sheets of paper as collages of photos and articles. Alas, he didn’t realize that when you cut and paste articles with scissors, every cut shows up when you scan the pages. So I spent a huge amount of time painstakingly erasing all the paper cuts. I have now banned all scissors from Tim; he’s not allowed to come within ten feet of them.

I came close to skipping the blog this week due to complete exhaustion, but I’m determined to keep it going. At this point I think I’m living on Mountain Dew, the only thing keeping me going. But I’ll be off that as soon as we finish.

Having a First Game Plan

Here’s the new coaching article from Han Xiao. This is a great article that should get you thinking.

As to me, I always have a first game plan. On my serve, I want to attack, but I need to find out which serves will set me up to attack against this opponent. I also want to try out a number of my “trick” serves to see which work – and one I find ones that gives the opponent trouble, I want to keep going back to those serves periodically for “free points,” spacing them out so the opponent doesn’t get used to them. Then I’ll basically go into a cycle of varied short serves to set up my attack, sudden deep serves that will often force mistakes or weak attacks I can counter-attack against, and the trick serves that work.

On my opponent’s serve, I want to force rallies, and so my plan in the first game is often to topspin the serve back any way I can, usually deep to the backhand, and then rally. Often I backhand flip to force backhand-to-backhand rallies, taking the opponent’s serve out of the equation while challenging him to try to outlast my super consistent (though not very aggressive) backhand. I’ll also start pushing short against short backspin or no-spin serves, and try to find the right balance between short pushes and flips. If the serves go long, I either forehand loop or backhand drive. As the match goes on, if necessary I’ll get more aggressive against deep serves, looping them with my forehand whenever I can – but only if necessary; if I can disarm them and win with controlled backhand receives, I’ll stick to that.

Ask the Coach

Episode #133 (32:01) – How to do a Deceptive Topspin Serve and other topics.

To All the Kids Who Love Ping Pong

Here’s a new table tennis music video (4:18) from China.

Kenji Matsudaira vs. Enzo Angles

Here’s video of a pretty good match (4:02, with time between points removed), from the 2015 French League. Matsudaira of Japan is #102 in the world (formerly #34), while Angles of France is #174.

Arguing About Benghazi Talking Points

Here’s the political table tennis cartoon.

Send us your own coaching news!

June 1, 2015

Tip of the Week

Fast No-Spin Serve to the Elbow. (Having trouble learning to do this serve? If you see me at a tournament or club, I’ll demonstrate.)

Balancing the Three Big Interests in a Big Event

With the US Open coming up, once again the triangulation needed between the three big interests is important. Who are the three big interests?

  1. Players. They are there to compete, as well as to spectate, visit the table tennis booths, and meet up with friends. They want as many events as possible where they are competitive (or at least can look for a “big upset”!), good playing conditions, accurate and intelligent time scheduling, nice prizes, and perhaps even special events, such as parties or panels. Of course, each of these take work to make happen, and that work is done by Operations.
  2. Operations. They are there to run the event. Left to themselves, if they didn’t take the players into account, they’d just want the most efficient schedule, i.e. players in, players out, and get each event done as quickly as possible with as few conflicts as possible. But they do have to take the players into consideration, since the event is run for the players. That means finding a balance between their interests and the players’. But they also have to take into account the ones who often help finance the tournament – the Showcasers.
  3. Showcasers. They are there to sell equipment and their brand. The sellers want to be out there in the playing area, where the players are. The sponsors selling their brand want their name everywhere. So where’s the balance? Sometimes the sellers’ booths are shunted off to the side, where they aren’t quite as visible as if they were right next to the playing area. Other times there’s sort of a compromise, where they are located next to the entrance to the playing hall, where players will see them while going in, but won’t be around them in the playing hall itself. Of course the sellers, given a choice, would like to be out there right next to the tables, while the sponsors want their names there as well, on the barriers and on banners, because they are catering to one specific group: the Players. So once again a balance has to be found.

So how is a balance found? Triangulation is the key, where a perfect point is found that balances the interests of all – and ideally, makes all three very happy. Think back to your last major tournament: were the interests of all three balanced out well?

History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 16 (1988-89)

It was an incredibly long weekend, Fri-Sun. I spent over 26 hours of it sitting next to Tim Boggan as we did the pages of Volume 16 of his History of U.S. Table Tennis, one page at a time – with some pages taking close to an hour to finish as they went through various drafts. It’s meticulous work, most of it done In Photoshop as I prepare each photo for use, and then the page layouts themselves, including photo placements and sizes, captions, fixing up text, headlines, and so on. (Mal Anderson scanned most of the photos for us, a huge time-saver, but nearly all need various fixes, and many need massive work. So far I’ve placed over 500 graphics, one by one. I’ve also scanned about 100.) Fortunately, my Friday and Saturday coaching schedule was light. (However, Sunday I coached seven hours.) We’ll continue to work on it all weekend, and expect to finish next weekend. Here’s a rundown:

  • Friday: Worked ten hours, 5:15AM-Noon, 12:45PM-2:30PM, 4:00PM-5:30PM. We completed chapters 6-8, pages 97-143, 47 pages with 135 graphics.
  • Saturday: Worked ten hours, 6:30AM-Noon, 12:30PM-5:00PM. We completed chapters 9-11, pages 144-184, 41 pages, 126 graphics.
  • Sunday: Worked 6.25 hours, 4:45AM-10AM, 1PM-2:00PM. We completed chapter 12 and half of 13, pages 185-199, 15 pages, 83 graphics.
  • TOTALS for Fri-Sun: 26.25 hours, 103 pages, 344 graphics

Here are the chapter titles:

  • Chapter 6: 1988: April Tournaments. 1988: ACU-I Championships.
  • Chapter 7: 1988: USTTA Program Director Bob Tretheway’s Colorado Springs Interests.
  • Chapter 8: 1988: International Tournaments.
  • Chapter 9: 1988: May Tournaments.  1988: Zoran Kosanovic/Julie Barton Are Canadian Champions. 1988: U.S. Wheelchair Players Prepare For Seoul Paralympics.
  • Chapter10: Untitled – a series of page scans of miscellaneous topics.
  • Chapter 11: 1988: June Pre-U.S. Open Tournaments.
  • Chapter 12: Untitled – a series of page scans of miscellaneous topics.
  • Chapter 13: 1988: U.S. Players Sweep Events at Toronto’s Annual CNE. 1988: July-August-September Tournaments. 1988: Chicago’s Maccabi Games.

Minutes of USATT Board Meeting

Here are the minutes from the March 28 USATT Board Meeting in Baltimore. I’m involved in a number of them. They are mostly self-explanatory.

New Coaching Articles from MH Table Tennis

Both link to video.

Interview with Alex Polyakov: Breaking 2000

Here’s the new Podcast (27:46) from Expert Table Tennis, where they talk with Alex Polyakov, author of Breaking 2000 and The Next Step. (Here’s my review of Breaking 2000.) Some of the things covered in the podcast:

  • Why Alex first started playing table tennis aged 28.
  • How we came up with his Breaking 2000 challenge.
  • The kind of training he did to achieve it.
  • His experience at US rating tournaments.
  • How he has improved since first reaching 2000 points back in 2011.
  • Some of his crazy training methods.
  • A little more about his two table tennis books.

Ask the Coach with Richard Prause

Part 13 (3:11) – Footwork.

Incredible Rally at the Philippines Open

Here’s the video (40 sec) between Jung Youngsik (KOR) and Tazoe Kenta (JPN).

Table Tennis is Life!

Here’s the video (4:46) from Table Tennis Daily.

Top Ten Shots from the German League Final 2015

Here’s the video (5:22).

Ma Long – An Unbelievable Championship

Here’s the video (11:36) with highlights of Ma Long winning Men’s Singles at the Worlds.

Qoros Driving with the Stars – Bernadette Szocs

Here’s the video (3:54) of the world #59 player from Romania.

Table Tennis Celebration

Here’s the video (22 sec) of the Swedish winning team and some bubbly!

Duct Tape Pong

Here’s the video (4 sec)!

More Mike Mezyan Pictures

NOTE - If you are unable to see these pictures, all you have to do is join the Table Tennis Group - it's easy! Here are all the past, present, and (soon) future pictures he's collected. (I pick out his best ones for here - he has more.)

Send us your own coaching news!

May 29, 2015

"Ping Pong’s First Fantasy Novel a Smashing Read!"

Here’s the review from MH Table Tennis. Disclosure: It’s my novel!!! (And that’s why it goes first in my blog.) There’s also a 5-star review at Amazon:

“A fascinating story of an American wanting to be the best in the world of table tennis, going to China for some magical and intriguing training sessions, and how he eventually achieved his hard-earned success. The best part is in the journey of it - vivid, colorful descriptions of the matches, processes, psyches, and sometimes point-by-point analysis. This was a real page-turner, and was one of the best binges I've been on.”

As noted in my blog yesterday, there have also been news items at the below:

Foreigner publishes new ping pong-themed book The Spirit of Pong, with way-cool cover.

American author Larry Hodges has written a new ping pong-themed novel, The Spirit of Pong, telling a story of an American Andy "Shoes" Blue, who dreams to be a ping pong world champion, comes to China to learn how to play ping pong, where he inadvertently finds China's "ultimate secret."

This is a rather short novel, with only 100 pages and 14 chapters. However, Larry Hodges uses his imagination to the fullest extent to include many ping pong famous such as Rong Guotuan, Deng Yaping, and Waldner. Indeed, the so-called "secret" is the spirit of pong within their heart.

Serve Practice

I’m always surprised at how uncreative most players are when they practice serves. Rather than think about why a top player serves a certain way, many just blindly copy what they see, never really understand it or know which parts are important, and end up with only a pale copy of the serves they were trying to copy. If you see a top player doing something, don’t just copy it; figure out or ask why they do each aspect of the serve. Then focus on what makes the serve effective.

For example, here’s a video (3:10) from Brett Clarke that not only shows the forehand pendulum serve, but explains why each aspect is done the way it’s done. (I linked to this yesterday.)

On a related note, recently I seem to be teaching two specific serves to a lot of players: Reverse Pendulum Serves, and fast no-spin to the middle. Why? The first is a great variation to normal forehand pendulum serves, and you can hide which way the sidespin is going until the last second – and the serve is especially effective if you can use the same motion and go either short to the forehand or long to the backhand. (Also, my arm still won’t allow me to do my forehand pendulum serves effectively, but it doesn’t seem to affect my reverse pendulum serves.)

The second is simply a great point-winner. Want a couple free points every game, and see your “level” go up 100 rating points? Develop a very fast no-spin (i.e. flat) serve that goes right to an opponent’s middle (usually the elbow). How and when to do this serve will likely be next Monday’s Tip of the Week. (I thought I’d done a Tip on this already, but just discovered that I haven’t, I’ve just written briefly about it in related tips on serving long.)

Here are three tutorials on how to do the Reverse Pendulum Serve:

History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 16 (1988-89)

Here’s a recap, which I may put up each day, so ignore this paragraph if you’ve seen this already.

USATT Historian Tim Boggan moves in with me about once a year for 10-14 days to do his next volume of his History of U.S. Table Tennis. I do the page layouts and photo work for the roughly 450 pages in each volume. We’re now working on Volume 16, which covers 1988-89. About half the photos are by USATT Hall of Famer Mal Anderson, who scans and sends them to me on a CD. We start work each morning at roughly 7AM, and except for a short lunch break, work until around 2:30 PM, when I have to leave for the MDTTC afterschool program and other coaching. I usually get back after 8PM, and then have to do all my regular work, including the next morning’s blog, which I normally do in the morning, and usually a zillion other things.

On Day Four (Thursday), we did chapter five and less than half of chapter six. We worked from about 7AM to 2:30PM, with a one-hour lunch break that I mostly spent on other work. (Primarily the report on the Disabled Veterans Camp I ran last week, and a bunch of emails.) The book will have 24 chapters. 

Chapter Five was titled “1988: March Tournaments.” It ran from page 78-96 (18 pages), with 56 graphics. I have to pull each of these graphics into Photoshop, do all sorts of fixes to these often horrible and old pictures (Tim is picky about distracting things in the background, and I’m picky about making sure they come out as well as possible), then pull them onto the document, place them, and put in the caption and attribution.

Chapter Six is titled “1988: April Tournaments. ACU-I Championships.” We only did about six pages with 20 graphics.

Because I mistakenly admitted to Tim that I’d finally caught up on most of my other “emergency” work, he talked me into starting early tomorrow. So we’ll be starting around 5AM this morning (Friday).  Since Friday is my day off, where I only have to do afterschool pickups but no actual coaching (so I can rest my arm), I’ll be leaving around 2:30 PM, and returning by 4PM – meaning we might work from 5AM to 2:30 PM, and then 4-6PM. I may not survive it.

World’s Biggest Ping Pong Pool Party at US Open

Here’s the USATT article. “USA Table Tennis (USATT), THE LINQ, Joola and Uberpong announced today that the “World’s Biggest Ping Pong Pool Party” will be coming to THE LINQ pool in Las Vegas on Friday night, July 10th, in conjunction with the 2015 US Open. The party, which will run from 8pm to Midnight, will feature pool-side pong, a live DJ, and plenty of fun!” (NOTE –party is for ages 21 and up only. Sorry kiddos! It’s not in the article, but I believe this is because alcoholic beverages will be served.)

Ask the Coach

Episode #132 (23:25) – No Practice Partner.

Table Tennis School – Players Attack and Defense Exercises

Here’s the new video (39:50).

Inside the Life of a Chinese National Team Player: Exclusive Interview with Guo Yan

Here’s the interview from MH Table Tennis with the former world #1.

International Table Tennis

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

Paralympic Table Tennis

Maybe I shouldn’t complain about my arm problems? (Here’s the non-Facebook version.)

Cats Playing Ping Pong

Here’s the video – it’s only 45 sec, but manages to pack in the best of the best of this surest of Internet lures!

Here’s a Pair of Penguin Pong Cartoons

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May 28, 2015

The Spirit of Pong

The Spirit of Pong is getting a lot of publicity!

Meanwhile, 10-year-old Daniel Sofer, a student of mine (who I wrote about yesterday), read it cover to cover on Tuesday night . . . and found three typos. AAAAAHHHHH!!!!! (Fortunately, it’s in print on demand and kindle formats, so I can upload a new version and have it up within a day.)

What to Do When You’re Too Tired to Play

I coached a 13-year-old student yesterday who had been up late the previous few nights due to vacation and last-minute work on a school project. He was almost too tired to play and had what he described as a headache that kept coming and going. My solution? Sometimes the simplest ones are best. I sent him to the sink in the bathroom to splash his face with water. (I’ve used this coaching “technique” for many years, with great results.) It basically solved the problem, and he ended up having a great session, with the focus on basic forehand and backhand looping – and we had a nice counterlooping segment. We stayed late and worked on his serves, especially his reverse pendulum serve, which he’s now getting the knack of.

History of U.S. Table Tennis

Tim Boggan and I continue our work, but it’s slow. Yesterday we basically did chapter four, another extremely long and cumbersome one. Chapter four is titled “1988: Non-Tournament Preoccupations.” It’s 17 pages, but with 45 graphics, most of which needed tedious cleaning up and fixing in Photoshop. We worked on it from 7:30AM to 2:30 PM, with a one-hour break for lunch and so I could do other work. Hillary Clinton or perhaps Ted Cruz will be president by the time we finish if we don’t pick up the pace.

Then I left to do our afterschool program (picking up kids and then one hour of coaching), and then a 90-minute private coaching session. I then met with a few MDTTC people on various issues. Next I met Tim for dinner at a steakhouse he chose. I didn’t get home until after 9PM. So what did I do after that 14-hour binge? The MDTTC June Newsletter; worked on the Disabled Veterans Camp report for USATT; wrote an introduction to Samson Dubina’s upcoming coaching book; tried and failed to find time to work on an ongoing USATT ratings issue; spent way too much time on the phone and online trying to resolve a problem with a shipment of my books that went to France and then inadvertently was sent back; and then wrote most of this blog. I got to bed at 1:45AM, and will be back at work with Tim at about 7:00AM. Such is the life of your average table tennis coach.

Learn Table Tennis Serves – Like a Boss!

Here’s the new coaching video from Brett Clarke.

Introduction to Multiball Practice

Here’s the video (9:42) from the Werner Schlager Academy in Austria. (It’s in English.) “Maybe you know the multiball practice from your own training or you have seen players doing multiball sessions. In this video we explain what the use of multiball training is and what you need to take care of while doing multiball.”

Ask the Coach

Episode 131 (19:00) – When to Attack.

USATT Insider

Here’s the issue that came out yesterday.

USATT Ratings Algorithm Adjustment

Here’s the USATT article.

Team "NJTTC" Takes Title at 2015 America's Teams Championship in Impressive Style

Here’s the article from Barbara Wei.

Richard McAfee Coaching in Samoa

Here are pictures as he teaches at a girls’ school. Here are more.

Zhang Jike Backhand Loop

Here’s a new video (8:41) that shows his backhand over and over, including slow motion. It shows each one a number of times so you can study it.

Best of Ma Long vs. Xu Xin

Here’s the video (8:28).

More Mike Mezyan Pictures

NOTE - If you are unable to see these pictures, all you have to do is join the Table Tennis Group - it's easy! Here are all the past, present, and (soon) future pictures he's collected. (I pick out his best ones for here - he has more.)

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