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Blogs

Larry Hodges' daily blog will go up Mon-Fri by noon USA Eastern time (usually by 10 AM, more like noon on Mondays when he does a Tip of the Week and has three days to cover). 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 eight books and over 1500 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!!!
Also out - Table Tennis Tips and More Table Tennis Tips, which cover, in logical progression, his Tips of the Week from 2011-2013 and 2014-2016, with 150 Tips in each! Or, for a combination of Tales of our sport and Technique articles, try Table Tennis Tales & Techniques
If you are in the mood for inspirational ficiton, The Spirit of Pong is also out - a fantasy story about an American who goes to China to learn the secrets of table tennis, trains with the spirits of past champions, and faces betrayal and great peril as he battles for glory but faces utter defeat. Read the First Two Chapters for free!

February 28, 2017

Navin - on the Attack!
Here's video (53 sec) from my session with Navin Kumar last night. He also did a nice write-up to go with it. Many of you already know of him, either from this blog or elsewhere, as "The Bionic Man," since he has a mostly mechanical heart, as well as Parkinson's. (He gives many talks on the latter as a motivational speaker.) Here, for example, is the video The Bionic Man - Navin Kumar (9:22), and here's the USATT article, Navin Kumar: A Passion for Table Tennis.) He's mostly a blocker, with long pips (no sponge) on the backhand, often called a "pushblocker." But we've been working on his attack, especially on the forehand. The video shows his increasingly aggressive forehand. We're working on establishing it more in games.

In last night's session, after hitting crosscourt for a while (as on the video), we did a lot of down-the-line hitting, his forehand from the forehand side to my backhand. The reason is that too often players see him about to hit a forehand, and so camp out for the crosscourt shot. In practice games, I do this all the time, and Navin usually couldn't get the ball past me, since I'm just standing there, waiting.

But at the end of last night's session, we played several games, but with one twist - rather than my usual attack, I played purely consistent, trying to rally him down. I'm pretty consistent, and so can rally like this forever, but I'm playing soft so he can pick shots to attack. Navin made three discoveries.

  1. When I put the ball to his forehand, if he attacked down the line, I often couldn't even touch the ball since I was anticipating the crosscourt shot. He scored a number of points this way before I adjusted. Even if I did get to the shot, as I did more often once I realized he was going to do that, the returns were generally softer, allowing him to continue hitting.
  2. When my returns got too soft or high, rather than smash at a corner he'd smash at my elbow, the hardest place to defend, and thereby stopped me from returning ball after ball.
  3. When I got into a backhand rolling contest into his backhand, I could go on forever against his long-pips dead blocks, but since the shots I'm doing are soft, they are very hittable. Navin was able to look for the right shot to suddenly step around and smash forehands (the inverted side). Sometimes he'd set this up by moving me around, going to my wide forehand and then to my wide backhand, so I'd have to hit those backhands on the move, making them softer.

We had a lot of long rallies, and many ended with Navin smashing, and one game he made it to 9-all. (If I lost, I'd have to turn in my coach/top player union card, right? Navin was also taking advantage of the fact that I'd already done 2.5 hours of coaching when we started up, and he kept moving me around!) He still plays a mostly blocking style, but as we add more forehand smashing to the mix - as well as forehand looping against backspin, which we're feverishly working on - he might start to shock a few of his rivals.

Capital Area League
This past weekend they finished the latest season in the Capital Area Table Tennis League, for players in the Washington DC region (which includes MD and Northern VA). There were four divisions; click on the division to see the results. Congrats to the four division winners: MDTTC Lions, NVTTC One, PPG Potomac, and Rebel Alliance! Sign-ups for the upcoming season has begun; deadline is March 20. 

Pips Out, Enemies Rout: Guide to Short Pips Supremacy
Here's the article by Ying Wang.

Articles/Podcasts from Expert Table Tennis

2017 Swedish Junior & Cadet Open
Here are USA Results.

Qatar Open - Finals Summary
Here's the video (1:11).

Olympians Clash in NCTTA South Regional Final
Here's the article by Matt Hetherington.

SVTTC Hosts First Family League Night
Here's the article by Angela Guan, featuring the Silicon Valley TTC in Milpitas, CA.

Incredible Ping Pong-playing Robot Earns Guinness World Record
Here's the article and video (3:31).

Nice Backhand by Toomas Libene from Estonian National Championships 2017
Here's the video (30 sec) - the rest of the rally is pretty good too!

Grit: A Complete Guide on Being Mentally Tough
Here's the article. So . . . do you have it? Want to have it? It's a hallmark of all champions!

Trick-Shot Video
Here's the video (3:40) - it's from last year, but I don't think I linked to this one.

Ice Skating Table Tennis Championships
Here's the video (54 sec) from Russia!

Sunny-Side Up Ping-Pong Table?
Here's the picture!

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February 27, 2017

Tip of the Week
Forehand Follow-Through Back into Position.

Weekend Coaching
Well, it's finally happened . . . after a year of zealously keeping Saturdays free from coaching, I've opened it up again, and did three hours of coaching this past Saturday. But don't feel sorry for me, before I did this I cleared up my Thursday schedule so I'm now off on Thur & Fri each week. (Used to be Fri & Sat.) I'll probably gradually pick up more hours on Saturdays, one by one, until I wake up one morning and discover I'm coaching twelve hours that day. Nightmare!!! (Note that my "off days" are really just "writing days.")

Sundays I had three consecutive 90-minute group sessions, as usual. First I ran the Beginning Junior Class, where the focus was on serving, which we did for the first 20 minutes. Then we did the usual series of footwork drills. Training is one hour, then 30 minutes of games, with the group divided in two: The older and stronger players play regular games, while the younger ones play various target practice games, by far the favorite being the "Cup Game." (They stack the cups in pyramids and walls, and then line up to knock them down as I feed multiball. They are actually getting great practice doing this - shhh!)

Next came the Talent Program, which now has 22 kids, roughly 7-12 years old, all invitation only. Many of those kids are really looking good! Each of the coaches were put in charge of 3-4 kids, and led them in shadow practice footwork drills for about 15 minutes. (That was exhausting as I was doing it with them - not easy considering I turned 57 today [Monday] - yikes!) Then we did about 45 minutes of multiball, feeding one student while the others shadow practice behind them, with parents getting the balls with ball nets. Finally they went out to the table for various drills. For one drill we put quarters on the far side of the table (first short, then long), and one player tried to serve on them, then they'd play out the point.

Finally came the Adult Training Session, which I ran. We had eleven players this time, and we did the usual stroking and footwork drills. The last half hour was all serve and attack - I gave them various options to choose from, with each choosing two variations, then they'd each do 7.5 minutes of each chosen drill. One complicating factor is that we had several cases of stronger players who don't drill well, and weaker players who drill better, plus players making changes in technique which hurts their drill performance - so matching them up is tricky.

Then I raced home, and only missed the first 30 minutes of the Academy Awards. (Of the nine nominated films, I was rooting for "Hidden Figures," "Hacksaw Ridge," "Lion," and "Arrival." Oh well.)  Then I saw a 12:45AM showing of "The Walking Dead." And then it was 1:45 AM, and guess what? Rather than try to get everything done in the morning (i.e. later that morning), when I'd be exhausted, I decided, heck, let's get everything done now. So I went through unanswered emails and my todo list like a Tasmanian Devil in a basket of ping-pong balls, crossing items off like Zorro, and guess what? I got mostly caught up on things. (If I gave a complete list of all that I got done last night it'd take up most of this blog.) Even my emails are down to zero unread or unanswered. Then I did the Tip of the Week and most of this blog - and went to bed after 4:30AM. I was up against at 8:30AM, and after finishing this morning's blog, will get to the next item on that dastardly todo list, the MDTTC March Newsletter. And then it's three hours of coaching tonight. Sometime between finishing the newsletter and the 3.5 hours of coaching I have to run some errands (bank, post office), and then I might catch up on sleep - we'll see….

Cousin of USATT CEO Wins Academy Award
One of the producers of "O.J.: Made in America," which won the Academy Award last night for Best Documentary Feature, was Caroline Waterlow, who is a cousin of USATT CEO Gordon Kaye. Congrats!!! (Is this our moment of national fame?)

New Articles and Videos from Samson Dubina

How to Keep Your Wrist Loose
Here's the new article and podcast (7:46) from Expert Table Tennis.

Dimitrij Ovtcharov: We Need Less Breaks Between Points
Here's the article from Table Tennis 365, quoting the world #5 and top European.

Qatar Open
Here's the ITTF site for the event held this past weekend, with results, articles, pictures, and video.

Crazy Rally Between Marcos Freitas and Ma Long - Semifinals of Qatar Open
Here's the video (50 sec).

More News Articles
There are new articles on the USATT News Page and the ITTF page.

Pong Gear
Here's a place where you can get things like shirts and mugs with TT slogans!

Foot Countersmash
Here's the video (11 sec, with slo-mo replay)!

Table Tennis Exhibition at Tennis Tournament
Here's the video (2:35) of Don Flowers (left) and Atanda Musa (right, former Nigerian champion) on the tennis court - with a ping-ping table!

New Table Tennis Mannequin Challenge!
Here's the video (47 sec) from the Table Tennis Academy in Montreal - love the outstretched diving kid at the end! Here's an updated list of table tennis mannequin challenges that I know of, with this added at the top as the "Table Tennis Academy in Montreal."

Beachball Pong!
Here's the video (3:13) - is this our sport's future?!!!

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February 24, 2017

Busy Table Tennis Week
This was one of those incredibly busy table tennis weeks. It started with the weekend, where I ran the MDTTC February Open - "The Days the Juniors Howled." Afterwards there were some corrections and lots of accounting, and of course the results sent to USATT for ratings processing - and it was processed on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, I was busy all week coaching. Despite running the tournament on Sat and Sun, on Sunday night I still ran my 90-min beginning junior class (the day's focus: attacking backspin), and ran the 90-min adult training session. (My featured drill for the latter session was serving and following up on long, breaking serves into the backhand.) Afterwards there was the weekly class accounting (for group and private coaching). And then the week began, with the usual private coaching - eight hours the first three days, then off Thursday. (As noted in my "short" blog yesterday, I was up late working on Wednesday, went to bed with a headache, woke up with a headache, and spent much of yesterday with that headache. It's gone now, hopefully for good.)

In between all this was the usual USATT, MDTTC, and other work. Yesterday I wrote a letter of recommendation for Tong Tong Gong, who is applying for an internship with Senator Ben Cardin. A coach was planning a presentation at a school and I helped with that. We're running the Hopes Camp and Tournament at MDTTC this coming weekend, and there was all sorts of work on that. (I'm running the tournament and will be one of the coaches in the camp.) It's for kids born in 2005 and 2006.

On the USATT front the USATT Board (I'm on it) had an email vote on committees, and approved committee chairs for eleven committees, with several more to go. (I was going to blog about that this morning, but decided to wait for the official USATT announcement.) Most were straightforward, two were contested, and I believe three are upcoming, with various complications that postponed their vote.

On the private coaching front, let's see:

  • One student lost to a chopper at the tournament because he didn't take advantage of his serve and forehand follow in the match, often serving and following up with pushes or weak backhand rolls. I showed him how when you play a chopper who chops back your deep serves to the backhand, you get one "free" shot, and you should take it.
  • Another new student is struggling with forehand problems - she keeps reaching forward, almost lunging at the ball, and then either smacks it down into the net or over-reacts by trying to lift it, and goes off the end. We're doing a lot of shadow practice to fix this, but the main fix is for me to go "Duh-duh, duh-duh, duh-duh, duh-duh" to help time the shots, with her trying to contact the ball as I say "duh."
  • Another student is working on forehand looping, where he tends to reach forward for the ball. We're doing a lot of timing drills on this - I blogged about him previously as the one who actually does it pretty well penhold style - but he's a shakehander.
  • Another relatively new beginning girl has quickly developed a strong forehand, but has trouble with high balls, and needs more backhand work, where she tends to just pat the ball erratically. But she's getting the knack for both now.

New Articles/Podcasts from Expert Table Tennis

Dima Ovtcharov Table Tennis Backhand Tutorial
I may have linked to one or both of these before, but they are worth a second look.

Tactics for Beating a Good Junior Player
Here's the article by Tom Lodziak.

What It Takes To Be An Olympic Table Tennis Player
Here's the video (3:40) featuring Allen Wang.

Project Table Tennis
Here's the site. Tahl Leibovitz is the CEO/owner. Others listed on the team include Dawn Leibovitz, Mitch Seidenfeld, Sean O'Neill, Jackie Lee, Jimmy Butler, Cory Eider, and Judy Hugh. "Project Table Tennis is a team oriented company which operates nationally throughout the United States implementing, managing or supporting a series of ongoing projects centered around communities and families. Most of our projects utilize Table Tennis as a vehicle to create meaningful relationships between people. Project Table Tennis addresses Alzheimer’s, Dementia, Veterans with Disabilities, Drug & Alcohol Abuse as well as Obesity by serving seniors, youth and children." Their programs include:

  • Workshops & Clinics
  • Private Lessons & Camps
  • Exhibitions & Demonstrations
  • Pro Shop & Equipment
  • Tournaments & Competitions
  • Player Support & Sponsorship

Qatar Open
It's in Doha, Qatar, Feb. 21-26 (the first two days are qualifiers). 

IN or OUT??
Here's the video (29 sec) of the final (spectacular) point of the match between Kenta Matsudaira (JPN, near side)) Liang Jingkun (CHN), with this point winning it for Liang, 13-11 in the seventh, in the first round of the main draw at the Qatar Open. The ball didn't bounce up, just sideways and down, so it was clearly a side - but it's an easier call for us, after the fact and watching on video, then for the umpire in real time.

Longest Point in Modern History?
Here's the short version (40 sec) of this rally at the Qatar Open (10 min 13 sec, 766 shots). Here's a longer version (4:47), narrated by Adam Bobrow, with a short write-up.

Thanks For The Memories Vladimir Samsonov
Here's the article from Table Tennis 365 on Samsonov's exit from the Qatar Open.

Puerto Rican Princess Adriana Diaz "Growin' Up"
Here's the article.

National College Table Tennis Regional Championships

Trump Forehands
Here's the video (30 sec) - I have no idea why Trump seems to be stroking forehands the whole time. (Here's the picture of him looping a forehand I created long before he was elected. Here's a picture where some evil person has photoshopped Wang Liqin's head onto the picture.) I will refrain from making any political comments here….

The International Wrong Pong Association
Here's the page - I'm not even going to comment, just have fun browsing!

Non-Table Tennis - Zombies Anonymous
My short story "Zombies Anonymous" went up at Galaxy's Edge (one of the top science fiction & fantasy magazines) in January (for the Jan/Feb issue), and will stay up until March 1 (Wednesday), so you only have a few more days to read it. It's the lead story - listed first in the table of contents and the cover. It's the humorous story of a zombie math professor and the three steps to not being a zombie. It just got reviewed by Tangentonline, one of the top SF reviewers. "The year for Galaxy's Edge starts out with a piece of flash fiction by Larry Hodges. "Zombies Anonymous" is a cheerful zombie story, where Professor Wills, now a zombie, is happily devouring a family. The daughter Suzy starts to get him to start thinking about controlling his urges to eat every human in sight. It's fun and funny and nicely paced for the maximum comic effect."

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February 23, 2017

I went to bed way too late last night with a headache, and woke up this morning with a headache. Meanwhile, my todo list keeps banging me in the head, further aggravating said headache. I'm going back to bed for a while, and hopefully wake up refreshed and ready to attack that todo list with a tensor-sponge machete. So no blog this morning, alas - call it a sick day, my first in a while. Meanwhile, here's the best table tennis rally ever (22 sec).

February 22, 2017

West Coast Open Cancellation and Past Near Tournament Disasters
As noted in my blog yesterday, the 4-star West Coast Open was cancelled at the last minute due to the venue's mistaken double-booking. Here is the letter sent out to players by tournament director Meng-Yu Wang on this. Here is a notice on this by USATT CEO Gordon Kaye on it. (Not sure why it's not up as a regular news item.) I know that there is going to be a lawsuit against the venue, and USATT will likely get involved. It got me wondering about past such disasters - but frankly, I couldn't think of anything similar. However, it brought back memories of a number of near-disasters! Here's a listing of ones where I was involved. (I'm sure I'm missing an obvious one.)

  • 1993 Junior Nationals in Potomac, MD. I ran the tournament, the only time in our history we've run the Junior Nationals as a separate tournament. (I even got us a $7000 sponsor - that's $11,764 adjusted for inflation - and gave out prize money for the events, the first time we'd ever done that in junior events.) So what was the near disaster? On Saturday afternoon there was a huge thunderstorm, and suddenly all the power went out. We waited an hour or so, and finally had to give up for the day - with no lighting, you can't run the tournament. So I had a feverish night as I rescheduled everything for Sunday. (I think I had everyone start play at 8AM or something.) Anyway, we managed to run and finish every event. (An even bigger disaster followed - the USATT Board, without consulting with me or the sponsor, decided to recombine the Junior Nationals with the Junior Olympics, assuming the sponsor would follow. The sponsor only wanted to sponsor the Junior Nationals in Maryland, and so pulled out. No more prize money.)
  • U.S. Open or Nationals, circa early 1990s. Back when I was around 12, I became a fan of Harry Houdini, the famous escape artist. I spent some time learning many of his tricks, such as (I'm not making this up) tying and untying knots with my toes and picking locks. What does this have to do with the Open or Nationals? Play was supposed to start at 9AM, and many of us were there at 8AM, when the doors were supposed to open. But the doors were locked. More and more people arrived, and by 8:30AM or so there were probably hundreds by the door - but the janitor who was supposed to unlock the door still hadn't arrived. So I studied the lock, and lo and behold, I recognized the type! Using a paper clip and a credit card, I was able to pick the lock - to the rousing cheers of hundreds!
  • Virginia Open, 1977. I still remember all the numbers - I was rated 1496, and beat a 1790 player twice, a 1738 player twice, a 1722 player, and several others in the 1500s and 1600s. My rating was going to explode!!! Except . . . after the tournament, they lost the results! Said somebody must have taken all the draws. And so the to this day the tournament hasn't been processed. Come to think of it, this was a disaster (to me)! Of course, since my level at that time was pushing 1800, I would shoot up in the ratings in my next few tournaments, but at the time I was pretty angry!
  • 1990 U.S. Open. I was part of a crew helping to put the tables into storage afterwards. They were the type that pulled apart into two pieces. We leaned the first against the front of the truck, and stacked all the rest in their like that, perhaps 30 tables (so 60 halves). All of them were leaning slightly toward the front. To make sure they stayed that way, someone was put inside the truck. (Not me!!!) When we arrived at the storage area and opened the truck, we discovered that while going up a hill, all the tables had cascaded backwards, and the person inside was squatting down beneath the last table, which now leaned into the back of the truck. When we opened the truck, he and the last table or two came falling out. If he hadn't squatted down quickly when the tables fell backwards (like dominoes), he'd have been smashed with the weight of 30 tables. (There was, of course, a big disaster at this U.S. Open - the scheduling fell apart, and they ended up falling over a day behind. Another story for another day.)
  • Southern Open, circa 1988. I was the manager in charge of about 12 players from the Resident Training Program at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs as we prepared to fly to the Southern Open. I had all the tickets. Something came up, and I had to make a phone call right after we arrived at the airport, and used a payphone. (No cell phones back then.) Then we went to United to get our boarding passes. But all of our tickets were gone! I had been holding them, but somehow they had just disappeared! Then I realized what had happened. I practically sprinted back to the payphone - and sure enough, I'd left all the tickets just lying there. Someone was using the phone, but I just reached past him and grabbed the tickets. None of the players I was traveling with ever knew about this - SHHHHH!

How to Play Great Table Tennis in Your 50s
Here's the article and podcast (8:15).

How To Hold the Racket
Here's the four-part series from EmRatThich Table Tennis Coach. I believe I've previously linked to the first three parts. I have not had time to watch them all, but he seems to know what he's talking about.

In Memory of Richard Lee Butler
Here's the USATT obit of the Hall of Famer.

Table Tennis Needs to Follow Chinese Model: Dimitrij Ovtcharov
Here's the interview from the India Times, following Ovtcharov winning the India Open this past weekend. He talks about using multiple balls (including one with less spin), the Chinese Super League, his training regimen (and maintaining it as you age), meditation, and fatherhood.

History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 18 (1990-1991)
Here's chapter 22! Or order your own print copies at TimBogganTableTennis.com, as well as Volume 19!

Table Tennis Equipment Junkies, Here You Go!
Here's EquipmentJunkie.com. It's been out there a while, a site that reviews essentially every TT item. (But remember, if you are an EJ, you have a disease. It can be controlled but never cured. You are the backbone of the equipment industry, without which it would collapse!)

World's Fastest Serve
Here's the video (19 sec) as Adam Bobrow attempts to return the serve of Asuka Sakai. And unlike previous videos I've seen of this kid doing this serve, this time he tosses the ball up six inches, so it's legal! (How good is Sakai? He upset Samsonov at the India Open!)

My New Shirt!
Here's the shirt I just received in the mail. It's an early birthday present to myself - I turn 57 next Monday. I showed it off at the club last night. The kids thought it was hilarious. It became an English lesson for our newest coach, Coach Wu, who is learning English. Helped by an 8-year-old, he was able to sound out the words and figure out the meaning.

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February 21, 2017

Tip of the Week
Hitting Accurate Shots.

$2700 MDTTC Butterfly February Open - the Days the Juniors Howled!
by Larry Hodges

Kids dominated at the tournament this weekend at the Maryland Table Tennis Center in Gaithersburg, MD, winning five of the six rating events (the five highest ones), not to mention Under 15 and Under 12. (Here are complete results from Omnipong.) Only in the Open, Over 50, and Under 1200 were the kids fought off. Taking part were 83 players from nine states (MD, VA, PA, WV, NC, NY, OH, MA, and MO, plus DC), as well as players from Nigeria (Azeez Jamiu), Brazil (Lidney Castro) and Ghana (Courage Nanevie), plus of course a number of Chinese stars now playing and coaching in the U.S. - Jishan Liang, Ruichao "Alex" Chen, Chen Bo Wen, and Wang Qing Liang

I ran the tournament, but with great help from Mossa Barandao of Pongmobile (who acted as assistant director) and Wen Hsu, as well as Referee Paul Kovac and Umpire Steven Yeh. Thanks also goes to sponsors Butterfly and the HW Global Foundation.

Jishan Liang, now coaching at the Triangle TTC in North Carolina, won Open Singles over Ruichao "Alex" Chen in an all-lefty final, 7,8,7,8. If you wanted to see ferocious counterlooping, this was the match to see. In the semifinals, Jishan defeated Nigerian Azeez Jamiu, 8,4,9,-7,-9,9. The match was slightly marred by a controversy at 7-8 in the sixth, with Jishan leading. He apparently ripped a winner, but Azeez and some witnesses claimed it went through the net. Sure enough, the net had become frayed and there was a part where the string had broken out of the netting, and so could be pulled apart. But it's a quick judgement call for the umpire, and he called it good (and you can't change a judgment call), and and so the point stood. (We immediately changed nets - that will never happen again I promise!) Azeez took it pretty well after the match, even staying to watch the final.

In the other semifinal, Alex defeated fellow MDTTC coach Chen Bo Wen, 6,5,10,4, in an all-out two-way power display. Few players can rip the ball as hard as these two players, and yet the more savvy viewers may have studied their serve and often controlled receive, which is what sets up those rips.

The most interesting quarterfinal match was Chen Bo Wen's monumental comeback against Lidney Castro from Brazil. Lidney won the first two games at 6 and 12, but an all-out third-balling Chen won the next two at 7 and 3. In the fifth, down 0-4, chen came back to 9-all, only to fall behind 9-10 match point. His next serve was probably meant to be "half-long," with the second bounce at the end-line, but it went a few inches too long, and Lidney absolutely ripped it - just off! And so Chen saved that match point, and won the next two points. Another great quarterfinal match was Jishan's battle with another MDTTC coach, chopper/looper Wang Qing Liang. Jishan won 3-0, 8,7,9, but all three games were battles.

Now we get to the kid-killing part of the tournament - not killing kids, but kids killing everything and winning the top five rating events, three of them by girls. In Under 2400, it was 12-year-old Tiffany Ke (rated 2238) over Courage Nanevie of Guyana, 11,5,9. In the semifinals, she had barely gotten past 14-year-old Spencer Chen (under-rated at 2057), -11,9,-9,8,8. In the other semifinal, Courage also came back, from down 0-2, to win at -5,-7,8,6,4 against 15-year-old Klaus Wood (rated 2363).

In Under 2200, it was 13-year-old Kelly Liang over Claudia Ikeizumi, 4,5,-9,6. In Under 2000, it was 12-year-old Jessica Lin over Nicholas Wetzler, 9,5,7. In Under 1800, it was 8-year-old Stanley Hsu over Justin Hensley, 7,6,8 - is it even legal to win an event that high at that age? Stanley had come in way under-rated at 1406. In the preliminaries, he'd actually lost a deuce-in-the-fourth battle with Justin (rated 1696), but apparently he (or his coach) had figured something out for the final. Justin had a battle in the semifinals, defeating 12-year-old Daniel Sofer at 12,-7,9,-9,8, in a battle between two players with great lobbing skills. Another 8-year-old took Under 1500, with Mu Du over 10-year-old Nicole Deng, 9,-7,-5,7,9. But the junior howling came to an end in Under 1200, which was a family affair as Jordan Dovel (21, coming in with a rating of 932) upset brother Matthew (17, 1121) in another monumental struggle, 9,12,-9,-10,8.

The juniors came back sweep both junior events. In Under 15, it was 13-year-old Kelly Liang (adding to her Under 2200 title) over 14-year-old Spencer Chen, where she'd won one game from down 7-9, and down 5-7 in the fifth, won five in a row. Spencer had won against his younger brother, 12-year-old Ronald, while in the other semifinals Kelly had to come back to win against William Huang, -9,-8,6,6,6. In Under 12, it was 10-year-old Ainish Dassarma over 8-year-old Stanley Hsu, 3,10,7. Both had titanic semifinal matches, with Ainish winning out against 9-year-old chopper Andy Wu, 9,10,-8,-10,6, and Stanley just edging out 9-year-old Ryan Lee, 2,-5,7,-6,9. In the quarters, Andy had to battle back to win against 10-year-old Nicole Deng, -9,-8,8,11,7. In Over 50, however, the juniors were completely shut out, with James Deng winning out over Eugene Zhang, 11,2,5.

MDTTC Butterfly February Open Results
Here are complete results from Omnipong.
(Click on names to see pictures.)
Open Singles - Final: Jishan Liang d. Ruichao "Alex" Chen, 7,8,7,8; SF: Liang d. Azeez Jamiu, 8,4,9,-7,-9,9; R. Chen d. Chen Bo Wen, 6,5,10,4; QF: R. Chen d. Nathan Hsu, 6,8,11; Chen Bo Wen d. Lidney Castro, -6,-12,7,3,10; Jamiu d. Roy Ke, 6,8,-7,9; Liang d. Wang Qing Liang, 8,7,9.
Under 2400 - Final: Tiffany Ke d. Courage Nanevie, 11,5,9; SF: Ke d. Spencer Chen, -11,9,-9,8,8; Nanevie d. Klaus Wood, -5,-7,8,6,4; QF: Wood d. William Huang, 3,9,-9,3; Nanevie d. Naveen Vaddadi, -8,7,3,4; Chen d. Kelly Liang, 2,-9,-6,7,3; Ke d. John Wetzler, 5,-9,7,-12,8.
Under 2200 - Final: Kelly Liang d. Claudia Ikeizumi, 4,5,-9,6; SF: Liang d. Courage Nanevie, 6,4,-3,4; Ikeizumi d. Costel Constantin, 7,8,5.
Under 2000 - Final: Jessica Lin, d. Nicholas Wetzler, 9,5,7; SF: Lin d. William Xu, 11,9,-9,7; Wetzler d. Frederick Nicolas, -7,9,8,6.
Under 1800 - Final: Stanley Hsu d. Justin Hensley, 7,6,8; SF: Hsu d. Nicole Deng, 8,8,7; Hensley d. Daniel Sofer, 12,-7,9,-9,8.
Under 1500 - Final: Mu Du d. Nicole Deng, 9,-7,-5,7,9; SF: Du d. Andy Wu, 9,-4,6,5; Deng d. Debabrata Ghosh, 5,-9,-7,9,7.
Under 1200 - Final: Jordan Dovel d. Matthew Dovel, 9,12,-9,-10,8; SF: J. Dovel d. Stephanie Zhang, -9,11-11,1,8; M. Dovel d. Eugene Zhang, -5,6,-7,8,9.
Over 50: 1st James Deng, 3-0; 2nd Eugene Zhang, 2-1; 3rd Alex Nguyen, 1-2; 4th
James Wilson, 0-3.
Under 15 - Final: Kelly Liang d. Spencer Chen, -8,9,-6,8,8; SF: Liang d. William Huang, -9,-8,6,6,6; Chen d. Ronald Chen, 6,6,4.
Under 12 - Final: Ainish Dassarma d. Stanley Hsu, 3,10,7; SF: Dassarma d. Andy Wu, 9,10,-8,-10,6; Hsu d. Ryan Lee, 2,-5,7,-6,9.

RIP Richard Butler
The USATT Hall of Famer and father of TT stars Jimmy and Scott Butler passed away peacefully on Friday. Here is the Richard Butler 2014 Hall of Fame Induction.

USATT SafeSport Policy Implementation
Here's the USATT article. I blogged about this on January 26. As noted in my February 14 blog, I did manage to get some of the SafeSport requirements narrowed down to mostly those directly involved with athletes. (Note for the suspicious: I already passed the SafeSport background check.)

Cancelled 4-star Butterfly West Coast Open
This weekend they were supposed to have the Butterfly West Coast Open in Livermore, California. Except - the tournament venue accidentally double-booked their gym for the weekend, for both table tennis and volleyball! When the trucks from Butterfly arrived to set up the 36 tables, the gym was already in use with the volleyball tournament, and they were refused entry. And so, very late on Friday night, the announcement went out that the tournament was cancelled! With 244 entries, and many players from around the country flying in, this was a huge "inconvenience" for many. I'm already told there'll be a lawsuit against them. From what I know, the tournament organizers were not at fault.  

Newgy Ohio Open
Here are results, pictures, and video.

Harimoto and the India Open
History was made (and almost made further) as 13-year-old Japanese whiz kid Tomokazu Harimoto made the final of Men's Singles at the India Open, losing in the final (6,8,4,12) to Dimitrij Ovtcharov (world #5 from Germany). Going into the tournament Harimoto was already world #69, easily the best of anyone his age in men's history. To reach the final he defeated in the semifinals Sharath Kamal Achanta (India, world #62) at 7,-5,7,-11,9,9; and in the quarterfinals Robert Gardos (Austria, world #46) at -4,7,8,-8,10,6.

Blocking Class and WKAR Radio
Here's the video (2:03) of Samson Dubina teaching the block. And here is Samson on WKAR Radio (8 min).

New Articles and Podcasts from Expert Table Tennis
These are articles with linked podcast.

Three-Point Forehand Training
Here's the video (51 sec) of 2015 Men's Singles Champion Yijun 'Tom' Feng doing forehands from the corners and middle.

USATT Video Page
Here's the page, jammed full of videos! Bookmark this page (or remember that it's under the "News" tab at http://www.usatt.org) and you'll never go through pong withdrawal again.

Making Table Tennis Great Again
Here's the article from Coach Jon.

How to Protect Your Table Tennis Racket
Here's the video (5:26) from the EmRatThich Table Tennis Coach.

Will Shortz, Master of Puzzles and Ping Pong
Here's the video (5:58) featuring the Ping-Ponging Puzzlemaster!

Why an Olympic Table Tennis Player Came to Memphis
Here's the article and video (22 sec) from USA Today Network, featuring Atanda Musa.

NBA's Devin Booker Exhibits Table Tennis Skills
Here's the video (3:40). Here's the promo video (30 sec) of the NBA Talent Challenge, where Booker says, "My off-the-court skill is ping-pong."

Finding Timo
Here's the picture from Mike Mezyan!

2016 Olympians?

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February 20, 2017

It's President's Day, a Federal holiday, and so I'm off today celebrating the YUUUUGE success of all 45 of our presidents. In other fake news….

February 17, 2017

St. Andrews Invades MDTTC!!!
Yesterday afternoon, for 75 minutes, MDTTC was invaded by hordes of small creatures, students ages 8-10 from the nearby St. Andrews School - 75 of them to be exact. I ran a demonstration and exhibition, assisted by fellow MDTTC coaches Wang Qing Liang ("Leon") and John Hsu. After giving a short introduction to the sport, Coach Wang and I demonstrated the various techniques - forehands, backhands, looping, footwork, and serves. The serving demo always is a big hit as I use backspin to make the ball bounce back into the net, then directly bounce back over the net (made it on the first try), and then sidespin to make the ball curve and hit a target off to the side.

Then I went into my, "A very bad thing happened today" routine, and explained how Coach Wang told me that he believes he can beat me (!) in table tennis. And so we had it out, one game to 11, with the loser to sweep and mop the entire club. We did lots of fast counter-hitting, lobbing, smashing lobs while on my knees, blowing the ball, big racket vs. small racket, 50-foot serve from the side, the world's "first" table tennis wave (for about the 500th time). It all ended with me lobbing four of Wang's smashes back while rolling about on the ground before he finally smacked one past me to win, 11-9. (I always play the "bad guy" in these exhibitions, and always lose.)

Then I explained how to play "Master of the Table" (commonly called "King of the Table," except that's not fair to the girls). One player is "Master" and the others line up, taking turns, until one of them scores, and then that player becomes the "Master." (The more advanced version is you have to win two points to become the Master, but for this level winning one point is more fun.) Then they fanned out and played this on 16 tables for about 45 minutes. We had great fun, and hope to get a few new players out of this.

$2700 MDTTC Butterfly February Open
Last chance to enter - deadline is 7PM tonight! I'm running the 3-star tournament on Sat and Sun.

USATT Veterans and Resource Development Committees
These are newly formed USATT Committees. Are you interested in being on one of these committee, perhaps even chairing it? If so, email me. It's timely - we're actually supposed to send in our recommendions for committee chairs by 5PM Saturday. We're also getting new chairs for the Ethics and Grievance Committee (two people have already applied), the Coaching Committee (one person has already applied - not me), the Tournament Committee (Larry Rose is term limited out), and the League Commttee (I did my two years). We also will be getting a new chair for the Compensation Committee, but that person must be a current member of the USATT Board. All USATT Committee Chairs have to be approved every two years, but the rest of the committees have current chairs who wish to continue - but you can apply to replace any of them. Here are the two new committees:

  • The Veterans Committee would deal with senior issues. (I originally wanted to call it the Senior Committee, which is what a previous version of this committee was called, but was told USATT is matching the ITTF and World Veterans by using the name Veterans for senior issues, and I went along with it.) There's been a growing need for this committee, with the All-America Over-40 Table Tennis Tours and the 2018 World Veterans Games in the U.S. (Las Vegas in July). Last year when I was looking into having copies of USATT Insider printed and mailed to elderly members without an Internet connection, there was no one to turn the idea over to. I sent emails to three prospective chairs, but none were interested or had anyone to recommend. 
  • The Resource Development Committee would focus on marketing and fundraising. I wanted to call it the "Marketing and Fundraising Committee," since that's what they would do and what a previous version of this committee was called, but was told that these days companies call this a "Resource Development Committee" - which does Marketing and Fundraising. I agreed, but still find it strange to intentionally obfuscate by not calling a committee in charge of Marketing and Fundraising the "Marketing and Fundraising Committee." Doesn't "Resource Development" pretty much describe any committee? Let's see, the Coaching Committee develops our coaching resources (coaches); the Junior Committee develops our junior resources (juniors); the Umpires and Referees Committee develops our umpires and referees; and so on through the Tournament Committee, Club Committee, etc., etc. But I'm not going to fight city hall on what to name this committee since I was assured by half the board that "Resource Development" is the standard term for this. Okay, I'm sort of making fun of this, but I do find it rather funny. We live in a world where you drive on a parkway and park on a driveway, so I can live with this.

History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 19
Volume 19 of this series is available! Once again USATT Historian and Hall of Famer Tim Boggan has brought out another of these mammoth volumes. It covers 1991-92, with 483 pages (8.5x11 pages) and over 1800 graphics. Cost is $40, which is personally autographed by Tim. Buy the whole series - all 19 of them! - and it's $30 each. As I'm quoted on the web page, "How can any serious player not buy these books?" (Disclaimer: I do the page layouts and photo work, with much help from Mal Anderson, who scans the photos and takes about half the pictures.)

How to Get More Power on Your Forehand
Here's the new article and podcast (9:30) from Expert Table Tennis. (Here's a related Tip of the Week I wrote, "Easy Power.")

USATT Insider
Here's the current issue.

Pong Talk With the Stars: Interview with Angela Guan
Here's the interview by Rahul Acharya.

Kanak Jha with His Team in Sweden
Here's the picture.

Training for the Worlds

Xu Chenhao Highlights (Chinese Trials 2017)
Here's the video (8:10) of this rising Chinese star.

German Women Physical and Table Training
Here's the video (52 sec).

What to Look at While Betting on Table Tennis?
Here's the article, which gives eight things to look at.

Darth Vader vs. the Martian
Here's the cartoon!

Minions Playing Pong
Here's a page devoted to the Minions playing table tennis, with four videos. The latter two I've never linked to before.

Photoshopping the Pros!
Here's the video (27 sec) - Ma Long as a cowboy? Zhang Jike as a fire-breather? Or as a Prima Ballerina? Ding Ning as a sword fighter?

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February 16, 2017

Training to Loop Against Backspin
I had a nice session with a ten-year-old on Tuesday, Jackson Beaver, who's about 1300 but will soon be shooting up. He'd been having some trouble looping against backspin - but the reason was somewhat obvious, he stood up too straight when he played. (He's tall for his age.) So we focused on staying down for much of the session. With him, it was somewhat easy - he played basketball a lot, and so I had him "cover me." He'd immediately go to a wider stance, bend his knees, and put his weight forward, which is exactly what you want to do whether you are covering someone in basketball or playing table tennis, as explained in this tip, Your Ready Position - Think Basketball.

Then we did a three-part process to work on his loop against backspin. Throughout it I urged him to make sure at least half his power went into topspin, not just speed. First, we did multiball, where I fed backspin. Once he was in a proper ready position, he was able to generate great force and made many formidable loops. When I thought he was ready, I pulled out my defensive hardbat racket, a very slow, oversized blade that allows me to chop anything back. Then I chopped to his backhand, and he forehand looped over and over - and while I acted like this was completely normal, I was really surprised how quickly he picked this up. He quickly saw and adjusted to the balls having only a little backspin at the start of the rally, then heavy backspin as I chopped his loops back, and was able to loop over and over.

Then we went to serve and attack, where he'd serve backspin, I push to his forehand, he looped, and we played out the point. After all that looping in multiball and against chopping, he was really timed in, and was very consistent with strong loops. One of his best sessions.

And now the funny anecdote. We have a relatively new Chinese practice partner/coach, Wu Jiacheng, who doesn't speak English yet. He's about 2500-2550 or so. I asked the student above (who's Chinese) to ask Wu if he was playing in the tournament. He turned to Wu and said, in perfect English, "Are you playing in the tournament?" After I stopped laughing, I pointed out that Wu didn't speak English, and I wanted him to ask him in Chinese! (Alas, Wu will be very busy coaching this weekend, so can't play.)

$2700 3-Star Butterfly MDTTC February Open
[NOTE - this is a repeat from two days ago. You can enter until 7PM on Friday!]

I'm running the tournament this weekend (Feb. 18-19) at the Maryland Table Tennis Center, in Gaithersburg, MD. I hope to see many of you there! We've expanded our tournaments from last year, going to two days and three star events, doubling the prize money, and going from seven to ten events. Here is our tournament page (with a link to Omnipong where you can enter online), and here is the entry form. The ten events are (on Saturday, with prize money in all events): Open, U2400, U2200, U2000, Over 50, and Under 15, and (on Sunday): U1800, U1500, U1200, and Under 12. The current top seeds are:

  • Ruichau Alex Chen 2716
  • Azeez Jamiu 2639 - from Nigeria, world #370, now playing at the Westchester Club in NY
  • Bowen Chen 2598 (he'll verify tomorrow)
  • Wang Qing Liang 2502

How to Improve Your Consistency
Here's the article and podcast (9:30) from Expert Table Tennis.

5 Tips to Build an Online Presence for Your Table Tennis Club
Here's the article from Pong Universe.

ITTF World Rankings - February
Here's the ITTF video (29 sec), and here are the actual rankings.

AGTTA Host Successful NCTTA Spring Divisional
Here's the story.

The Marker Challenge
Here's the video (52 sec) at the Indian Open. The challenge was to knock the ball off with a serve, without knocking over the tube.

Buy a Ping-Pong Ball Costume!
Here's the page - for only $199, you can be a ping-pong mascot! (Or a baseball or golf ball.)

Ten-Paddle Play?
Here's the picture (with a little help from duct tape).

White Creature vs. Green Creature
Here's the cartoon!

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February 15, 2017

NCAA and NCTTA
When I talk to members about how to develop the sport in this country, one seemingly simple idea inevitably comes up - they want to know why we haven't become an NCAA varsity sport. It would seemingly solve many of our problems, adding exposure to the sport, giving players incentive to develop their games in high school so as to make a college team (and perhaps get a scholarship), and of course lead to huge numbers of college players, and perhaps college table tennis on TV. It'd be the answer to our prayers! It's also something I looked into shortly after I became a USATT board member.  

Alas, the devil really is in the details, and it turns out that becoming an NCAA varsity sport isn't something that's going to happen in the foreseeable future, though perhaps someday. When the topic was raised recently via email from a player, I CCed Willy Leparulo, president of the National College Table Tennis Association (NCTTA), with my response, and asked for his input. Here is his response. (My response was somewhat similar, but without the detail Willy provides.)

Hi All,

(Thanks to Larry for ccing me on this email).

So Larry is correct that the NCAA option is very difficult to do. This is something that I have been working on for over a decade and as an organization we are no longer actively pursuing this option. Let me explain why.

1) NCAA is not accepting sports for men or coed, it is ONLY doing so for women. Currently College TT is a coed sport, not just only men or only women.

2) In College tt currently about 25% is women, not a high percentage to start with

3) There is a large proposal process that we have to go through and we have gone through its requirements and seen that we would not be able to reach the goal without a serious grassroots effort (i.e.) High School table tennis support.

In addition, it requires that 10 Athletic Directors where Table Tennis already exist to agree to sponsor (with letters of commitment) the sport at a Varsity level (highest level). We have not had success. Currently only one NCAA institution sponsors table tennis, Lindenwood University. (Note: Texas Wesleyan is not NCAA but offer scholarships and is a varsity sport.)

If we managed to get these 10 letters of commitment than we would have a decade to get 40 schools to become a full-fledged NCAA sport, and this is the killer of this all, these schools do NOT have to sponsor scholarships for the players. It is up to the school in question. The whole concept for us was being able to provide college scholarships for Table Tennis more than the affiliation of being with NCAA.

Here is the information that was provided to me a couple months ago (I get regular updates from NCAA):
http://www.ncaa.org/about/resources/inclusion/ncaa-emerging-sports-women-process-guide

On the High School table tennis side, I really wish there was more effort pushed into this area. We as NCTTA are only able to cover Collegiate Table Tennis, but we do help the NYTTA (the organization that handles High School TT in the USA) as much as we can. https://nytta.us/

Our current approach is to create as many scholarship programs in whatever kind of school be it NCAA or NAIA or any other type of collegiate organization possible. We feel that scholarship schools may be easier to help foster then being a championship sport in NCAA or NAIA. There were 3 schools that we have been assisting to help get scholarships for Table Tennis on board, all 3 fell apart when the Athletic Director's bosses (Board of Directors) of that school nixed the idea. There is interest, but it is unfortunately not catching as I thought it would be.

Last year we attended the NAIA national conference where we were invited to speak to 150 athletic directors in NAIA, we plan to attend every year as there is interest. Our overall goal is to get more schools to create a scholarship program though.

Willy

On a related note, Willy mentions high school table tennis above. Many believe that getting table tennis into the schools is the secret to developing table tennis in this country. Alas, we've tried many times, and while it sometimes happens locally, in general U.S. schools simply aren't interested in a small sport (in this country) like ours. When we grow the sport ourselves (through club-based programs), then the schools will be interested in us, and that's when they might be able to take us to the next level. But we have to get this started ourselves, though club-based programs such as junior and coaching programs, and leagues. That's how the sport developed, for example, in Europe. (In China, it was often school-based, but that was because the government ordained this. That doesn't happen in the U.S.)

How to Recover After a Wide Forehand
Here's the article and podcast (6:16) from Expert Table Tennis. (My book, Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers, is mentioned in the article.) One small note on the article: It says, "If you play a pivot forehand – where you go around the corner of the table and you play a forehand from the backhand side – what you want to do is make sure you never play it down the line. If you play that shot down the line you’ll be giving your opponent a really easy diagonal block which gets you wide out to your forehand making it tough for yourself."

I generally agree with this, and of course the article is focusing on how to avoid getting caught with those angled blocks to the wide forehand. But there are two times where you might want to loop this ball down the line. First, some blockers crowd the backhand, assuming you won't go down the line, and so leave it open. Against them, a down-the-line loop is an easy winner - so you should go that way if you can ace the player. (This is actually one of my favorite tactics.) Second, some blockers are slow on the forehand side, and if you slow loop down the line, they aren't quick enough to attack it, and so may have trouble with this variation - and the very slowness of the loop gives you time to cover that wide forehand. On the other hand, during my heyday I was very quick to cover my wide forehand, and looping down the line there was usually suicide - but I always had trouble covering loops into my very wide backhand, the ones Ben recommends.

Why learning to play table tennis is like learning to drive a car
Here's the new article by Coach Tom Lodziak. This is an excellent analogy that I might steal. I usually tell players how they must trust their subconscious, which is the whole point of training, to develop that muscle memory, which is exactly what you do in both table tennis and driving a car.

USATT Board Unanimously Elects Anne Cribbs as New Chair
Here's the USATT article.

USATT Club Logo Program
Here's the USATT article. "Does your club logo represent the true passion for the sport? Want to stand out from the crowd? USA Table Tennis (USATT) announced today a partnership with Manna Creations to offer USATT Affiliated Clubs the opportunity to design its own customized logo for use on websites, apparel, and more! For just $100, clubs will receive a design consultation with Manna Creations’ Charlie Jahner, the choice of two customized logos, and multiple file formats for virtually every use (embroidery file not included)."

USA's Brotherhood of Table Tennis Ready to Take on France
Here's the article by Matt Hetherington on the Alguetti brothers in France.

History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 18 (1990-1991)
Here's chapter 21! Or order your own print copies at TimBogganTableTennis.com.

Love Table Tennis
Here's the video (7:27) featuring the "Ten Best Table Tennis Shots." (I don't think I've linked to this.)

One-Legged Looping Pong
Here's the repeating video (7 sec) - why can't you loop like that with your TWO legs? He has amazingly good form. I wonder if he was a top player who lost a leg, or learned to play with only one leg?

Mario Brothers Pong
Here's the video (2:05) as plumber Mario and his brother Luigi go at it! (For you really young know-nothings, it's from the Mario Brothers video game.)

Deadly Green Monster Plays Pong
Here's the picture!

Non-Table Tennis - Funny Horror
This anthology of humorous horror stories went up on Amazon just yesterday. It includes a story by me, "Happily and Righteously." (Yes, they paid me for it!) The story is about paranoia, where every paranoid thing comes true, and features numerous assassins out to get you, a "deadly green alien" (see coincidental segment above!) and "the unimportant person who is no longer a part of this story" who keeps popping up in strange situations. The story was cited by the reviewer as one of the best in the anthology, and described it as "Brilliant!"

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