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.
NOTE - Larry is on the USATT Board of Directors and chairs the USATT Coaching Committee, but the views he shares in his blog are his own, and do not necessarily represent the views of USA Table Tennis.

Make sure to order your copy of Larry's best-selling book, Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers!
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 fiction, 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!

January 25, 2018

Coaching on Wednesday and Other Musings

  • Celluloid Balls. When I went in to coach yesterday I found all the baskets of plastic balls were being used by other coaches – we had eight of them coaching already. There was one filled with the old celluloid balls – we still have them – but I didn't think my first student (Todd) would want to use them, and was about to go to the back room to get some new ones, along with a box to hold them in. But Todd said he didn't mind, he'd been using them in some of his matches anyway. So we started the session with the old Butterfly celluloid training balls, which were pretty much identical to what I'd been using since I started back in 1976 until they went to plastic a few years ago (other than the change from 38 to 40 mm in the early 2000's). Wow, were they strange!!! The lack of sound, compared to the "ping" of the plastic balls, was weird. I remember hating that sound when we first went to plastic, but after coaching almost exclusively with plastic balls for about a year, I'd grown used to that plastic sound. However, about ten minutes into the session I found out the celluloid balls had been reserved for someone who wanted them, and so I traded them in for a box of plastic ones for the rest of the night. (The following two students were under 1000 level and wouldn't care which ball we used.)
  • Backhands and Butler. Two of my students are working hard on his backhand smash. So I gave both an assignment – go to Youtube and type in "Jim Butler table tennis," and watch any of his matches. You'll see a steady barrage of vintage backhand smashes.
  • "Are you tired?" When a coach asks that question, don't answerIT'S A TRAP! Recently I've had fun asking students this late in a footwork drill. No matter how they answer they can't win. If they say they are tired, then that means they are out of shape and so I need to work them harder. If they say they are not tired, that means I'm not working them hard enough and so I need to work them harder. Evil, isn't it?
  • Box on Table. Too many of my students are spraying balls around the table in drills, when they are supposed to hit to a designated spot (usually the forehand or backhand corner). So recently I'm doing a lot of coaching with a box on the table that blocks off the middle of the table, so players have to hit to the corner. Depending on their level, I give them roughly 8-18 inches of table from the corner to aim for.
  • 1500 to 1800. I'm starting to think that the two most important drills to make this jump are very simple: 1) Side to side footwork, where you alternate aggressive forehands and backhands; and 2) the same drill, except the balls are random. If you become proficient at both of these drills, then you will improve a lot, as long as the rest of your game doesn't lag too far behind.

Capital Area League
The Capital Area League has their final team matches of the season this Saturday at the Maryland TTC. The place will be jammed all day, with matches scheduled from morning until night, but I won't get to watch – I have a table reserved for six hours of coaching.

USATT Releases 2018 National Team Point System for Qualifying Tournaments
Here's the USATT news item. (I put this up late, at 3PM on Thursday.) 

USATT and World Veterans Clothing on Sale
Time to buy something snazzy!

Humbled By a 40mm Ball ….
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

Yijun 'Tom' Feng in Training
Here's the video (54 sec) from the USATT Training Camp in December at the Triangle TTC.

FH Topspin Technique of Viktor Yefimov
Here's the video (5:26). The Ukrainian may be "only" world #323 (previously #148), but he has great forehand technique.

New Club, New Blood, Ma Asserts High Position
Here's the article featuring Ma Jinbao, by Matt Hetherington.

Potsville Senior Aiming for High School Sport Recognition
Here's the article by Matt Hetherington.

Pets, Surround Sound Speakers and Ping-Pong Tables: Take a Virtual Tour of This Modern Office
Here's the article and video (2:36) that features table tennis in the workplace (from 0:54 to 1:10). They've already done this in Dilbert!

Can Ping Pong Make You Smarter, Happier and Relieve Your Stress?
Here's the video (8:08).

Jase & PJ Attempted a 20 Hour Non-stop Table Tennis Rally
Here's the article and video (3:55).

Dinosaur Doubles!

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January 24, 2018

Not a Game for Boys
I just finished reading "Not a Game for Boys," a table tennis play by Simon Block that came out in 1995, and published as a play last year (86 pages, though Amazon incorrectly has it at 104). Here's the book description from Amazon and the back cover:

"Once a week, three cabbies seek respite from their lives in a local table tennis league, and tonight they must win, or face the unthinkable oblivion of relegation. Deeper rivalries and competitive obsessions emerge as the team try to survive the pressure, but the real game takes place anywhere but at the table."

The play has only three characters:

  • Eric, the blocker, who desperately wants to win so they can avoid being relegated to the second division.
  • Oscar, the pusher, who thinks they are getting too old to compete in the first division and thinks going into the second division would be good for them.
  • Tony, the hitter, easily the best of the three, who can be relied on to win all three matches - but he's facing marital problems.

The entire play takes place at the sidelines of the league match, usually with two of the players talking while the other is out playing, and out of sight (offstage). Warning - the language is extremely profane and explicit; I doubt if there is a page in the thing without the "F" word and pretty much every other offensive word. The cabbies are also rather sexist in how they treat a woman on the opposing team. If SafeSport were in use, Eric would get suspended for both verbal and physical sexual harassment. If it were a movie it would be rated R.

The fireworks start when Tony shows up late, getting there just in time to play the third match, because he's been cheating on his wife. Right after arriving, he gets a call from his wife, who has somehow found out, and is leaving him if he doesn't come home immediately. But if he leaves, their team has little chance to win. Things get even more dire when Oscar decides to dump his matches, and loses the first two by wildly hitting instead of playing his normal patient game.

Oscar is a bit depressed as a member of the club, an overweight player in his 40s, had recently died of a heart attack while playing at the club. He'd gone to the funeral the day before and saw that they'd buried him in his table tennis playing clothes, which he thought was embarrassing, and swore that that would never happen to him - getting buried in his playing clothes or even dying in his playing clothes. He's lost most enthusiasm for playing. He probably has the best prophetic line in the play, near the end: "This game is full of maniacs."

Eric is your stereotypical obsessed ping-pong player, who single-mindedly only thinks about winning - it's all he cares about, and he literally cannot fathom why Oscar doesn't really want to win, or why Tony won't immediately agree to play his three matches before going home. Eric also has a ready excuse any time he loses. Many readers here will recognize part of themselves in Eric. However, there are times in the play when he pulls back from his single-mindedness as he tries to advise Tony on what to do about his marriage.

One somewhat disappointing thing - minor SPOILER ALERT - came when, early on, while getting his playing clothes, shoes, and racket out of his playing bag, Oscar pulls a gun out of the playing bag, and puts it on the ping-pong table. One of the unwritten rules of writing fiction is that, "If you put a gun on the table, you have to use it." The gun is a metaphor for any dangerous weapon, and here he literally puts a gun on a table - and author Block is obviously playing around with this rule. However, we also learn the gun is unloaded, and when Oscar is finally provoked to threaten someone with it near the end, there's no tension since not only is it unloaded, but the person threatened knows this. If I'd written this play, I might have finished with a bigger "bang"!

Istvan Jonyer and Others at the 2018 World Veterans Championships in Las Vegas
Here's the article I wrote as a USATT news item. I adapted it from my blog from last Friday.

Larry's Six-Month Law
Yesterday I mentioned this in regard to one of my students, Todd, but didn't actually link to the Tip of the Week where I wrote about this. (I added the link in the afternoon.) Here it is - Larry's Six-Month Law! It roughly says (and explains why) when you play well in practice, it'll often take six months before it'll show up in tournament matches.

TTServe: the New Serving Bar
Samson Dubina's invented a new serving bar, the TTServe. Here's a video (1:48). We have a serving bar at MDTTC (made by John Olsen), which has eight settings - here's a high one and a low one. But Samson's is commercially available, so get one for your club!

1 Hour Table Tennis Training in 5 mins
Here's the article and video (5:12) from Table Tennis Guy.

Feng Leaves Strong Impression in Austrian League Appearance
Here's the USATT article by Matt Hetherington, featuring Yijun "Tom" Feng.

Destination Westchester: Inaugural Championships for Players with Parkinson’s
Here's the ITTF article on the event to be held at the Westchester TTC in New York on Feb. 17.

How Ping-Pong Annually Impacts the NFL playoffs
Here's the article from the Washington Post. (I thought I'd linked to this previously, but apparently not.)

Highlights Video
Here's a highlights video (6:46) with lots of incredible points, from All About Table Tennis.

Raining Ping-Pong Balls?
Here's the picture! (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

Tennis or Table Tennis?
Here's the cartoon!

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January 23, 2018

Weekend Coaching
It was a busy coaching weekend for me. On Saturday I coached nearly eight hours straight - from 11AM to 7:30 PM, with only a break from 5-5:30PM. To prepare, I had a big spaghetti brunch at 10:15AM. I ate a granola bar halfway through. I brought some food to eat at 5PM, but after all that exertion, I didn't feel hungry, and so didn't eat then, deciding to wait and have a real dinner later.

The coaching began with two "beginners," a mom and her 15-year-old son, 30 minutes each. I put that in quotes because while neither had ever had coaching or been to a club, they were avid tennis players and played table tennis regularly. The son had picked up playing penhold (saw it on youtube I think), and had a natural topspinning forehand, and will get into looping very easily - his forehand is already basically a loop. He had a bit more trouble on the backhand, which he took too much from the side. He could do both conventional and reverse penhold backhand, so we went with reverse. The mom was a hardbat player who hit everything - and she did it surprisingly well, obviously from her tennis. She switched to a sponge racket, and after a few minutes was smacking in shots. She too hit the backhand from the side too much, so we worked on that.

After that came Brian (lots of work on looping, and on serve and receive); Serguei (30 min, mostly on looping and serving - he's got good serves, wants to make them great); and Anna (30 min, also lots of work on looping against backspin - she always starts slow, then gets it together). Serguei and Anna are husband and wife, and come together. While one is with me, the other is with Coach Jack, and halfway through they switch, so they actually both get an hour.

Then came two hours with John and Kevin, all multiball. We have a regular progression of drills, nearly all involving footwork, two minutes each. John was about 1750 when we started about nine years ago, and is currently 2014. His backhand used to be a big weakness, and his receive was too erratic - tried too many advanced receives - but both have improved dramatically.

Next up was Todd (12), who is in the midst of that infamous "Larry's Six-Month Law," which roughly says that when you play well in practice, six months later it'll show up in tournament matches. This is because it takes time to translate what you do in practice into matches, plus when you suddenly improve a lot, you tend to lose most of your close matches against players at your new level, since they are experienced at that level and you are not, and so they are more confident and experienced at what to do to win at that level. So he keeps losing close ones to "stronger" players, but is on the verge of shooting up. He's most improved at forehand looping in rallies, where he was erratic before.

Then, after the 30-min break, we had "Junior League." I put that in quotes because it's both a league and a coaching session. They played both doubles and singles, with coaches sometimes stopping play to coach, and doing extensive coaching discussions after each match. For example, Ryan, who is about 7 or 8, has a nice forehand - but he almost always serves from the forehand side, and so players just return to his backhand. I spent half the session reminding him to serve from the backhand side so he could more often follow up with a forehand. With Jason, it was a constant reminder to attack, as he tends to push and block otherwise - and this time he played very aggressive, looping every chance even though it probably cost him at least one match. (Tactically, he should push and block since he has a better chance of winning now that way. Strategically, he should attack since he'll get much better that way.) Kyle, who had a tendency to serve and go into a passive backhand position (often following up his serve by backhand pushing against pushes to his forehand!) has broken that habit, and went undefeated in his group by serve and attacking relentlessly.

Then it was off to eat, or as I call it, Saturdays at Subway! I had a 6" Sweet Onion Chicken Teriyaki on a 9 grain honey oat.

And that's just Saturday. On Sunday I had three consecutive 90-minute group sessions.

For the Beginning Junior Class, with John Hsu assisting the focus was on serving. I put them into three groups, rotating around. In one group, they had to serve under the service bar, i.e. keep their serves low. In the second group, they served fast and deep, aiming at bottles I put on the table. In the third group, they worked on spin serves.

In the Advanced Junior Group, I mostly coached serves, then served multiball as the kids moved around, station to station. For my station I fed the 2-1 drill, i.e. backhand from backhand side, forehand from backhand side, then forehand from forehand side, and repeat. Then I supervised the younger kids as they competed to see who could do the most shots in a row with side-to-side forehand footwork.

In the Adult Training, I usually just call out the drills and coach. However, we had a small turnout this tie, so I spent much of the session hitting with the players, rotating from one to the other, about 10 minutes each. We had one beginner who spent much of the time on the robot. We also had each player take a turn practicing serves for 15 minutes each.

Then it was off to eat - and that Sweet Onion Chicken Teriyaki was so good that I went back for another, so it was Sunday at Subway!

This is a really busy time for me, with all this USATT work, plus the regular coaching and blogging, plus (as noted in my blog yesterday), I'm in the middle both a three-week online writing workshop and a five-week online writing competition. (I'm also informed that I'll be getting a visit from Tim Boggan in March for two weeks to work on Volume 21 of his History of U.S. Table Tennis. So I'll barely get a breather in February.) But on the good side, my shoulder is 80% healed, my heel injury is getting better (I'm barely limping now), and I've gone from 200 to 188 pounds since Christmas - lots of dieting, with a goal to get to 180.

Video Conference Call on Coaching Education and Certification
Yesterday, from noon until just after 2PM, I was on a online video conference with USATT, USOC, and others on online software and other resources we may use for USATT Coaching Education and Certification. We are looking at software from the USOC and from a German company that specializes in online webinars for sports. (Our High Performance Director is experienced in the latter.) It's all a part of "Blended Learning," where you combine online and in-person teaching of coaches.

Mastering the Pivot
Here's the article (with links to a number of videos) by Brian Pace.

Ma Lin Ghost Serve
Here's the video (1:40) of how to do the backspin serve that comes back into the net. I might have posted this video before, or one similar to it, but it's still something you should learn to do as an exercise in creating great backspin.

What is Miu Hirano’s Equipment?
Here's the article on the world #6 from Japan, from EmRatThich.

The Battle for Top Spot, Fan Zhendong Closes Gap on Dimitrij Ovtcharov
Here's the ITTF article. "Dimitrij Ovtcharov will remain at the summit of the Men’s World Rankings table for February but Fan Zhendong could potentially rise above the German in the following month’s publication."

Two Japanese Table Tennis Players to Benefit From Cisco Technology
Here's the article, featuring Kasumi Ishikawa (world #4) and Tomokazu Harimoto (the whiz kid, age 14, world #11).

Best of 2017: Ask a Pro Anything
Here's the ITTF video (4:25), with interviews by Adam Bobrow.

Loop - Push Drill by Little Girl
Here's the video (41 sec) - she looks about four!

Under-Table Snake
Here's the video (36 sec) as Niwa Koki of Japan (World #6) fools an opponent.

Table Tennis Funny
Here's the video (7:25). It's narrated in (I think) Chinese, but you don't need the narration - and it gives "thought balloons" in English.

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January 22, 2018

Tip of the Week
Doubles Signals and Why You Should Use Them.

USA Team Selections
A few people have contacted me about the USATT National Team selection process. This is a frustrating topic for me for a very simple reason - I'm involved in so many other activities (USATT, MDTTC, and lots of coaching and writing) that I just don't have time to get too involved in still another issue. And yet, I'm on the USATT Board of Directors, so I'm one of the ones responsible for what USATT does, and so I will likely have to get involved.

However, right now I'm just too busy to look into it too much, but I plan to do so in February, probably after I run the MDTTC February Open (Feb. 10-11). I've got another conference meeting today at noon on the USATT Coaching Education and Certification process - and whenever there's a meeting, there's a lot of time spent preparing for it and even more time on it afterwards. It's hard to believe, but I also have some non-table tennis activities - readers here know that I also write science fiction and fantasy, and I'm currently in both a three-week online writing workshop, ending Feb. 8 - sort of like a top table tennis player going to a training camp - and in a five-week online writing competition, where we write a story each week, ending Feb. 5. Plus, of course, I'm coaching at my club, writing this blog, and a number of other projects.

For most of our history USATT has had annual Team Trials. However, as explained to me by Carl Danner, chair of the USATT High Performance Committee (HPC), "the approach has shifted from reliance on single trials to a multi-competition system paired with the expectation that players will commit to ongoing training and competition consistent with developing into world class adult competitors." The procedures for Team Selections are at the National Teams Selection Page. (Note there's a difference between making the National Team, and actually being on the team representing USA at a specific competition - and so the selection procedures are for both. In international competitions, the players are selected from the National Team Squad, now called the Unified 2018 Table Tennis Team USA.)

These procedures are set up by the HPC, with Carl as chair and members Stellan Bengtsson, Sean O'Neill, Wen Hsu, Erica Wu, Tahl Leibovitz, and Tara Profitt, all highly knowledgeable about High Performance issues. (Contact info for all USATT committee members is on the USATT Committee page.) Many believe that the USATT board sets up these procedures, but the USATT bylaws give the High Performance Committee this authority. According to the USATT Bylaws, 9.16, items #1 and #5 (page 36):

d. The responsibilities of the High Performance Committee shall be as follows:
     1. Develop Selection Procedures as needed for international events;
     5. Oversee and implement the Selection Procedures for international competition;

The USATT Board can overrule them on the procedures they set up, but think about it - the High Performance Committee is supposed to be the experts on Table Tennis High Performance. If the USATT Board of Directors, who have less expertise overall on this than the HPC, overrules them, then they are basically saying they believe they know better than the HPC on a High Performance issue - and so if they do so, that basically means they need a new HPC. Very few on the USATT Board believe this. As a Board member, unless I'm pretty certain they are wrong, I have to give deference to the very people we have chosen as experts - and that means the HPC as well as the High Performance Director, Jörg Bitzigeio, who comes to us from the highest levels of one of the world's most successful table tennis programs (Germany). He has been asked to revamp our high performance program to achieve adult success at the world-class level, and he and the HPC are working together to do so. If the Board gets too involved in this - well, there's an expression, "Too many chefs in the kitchen." 

However, I'm one of the Board members who is qualified on Table Tennis High Performance, so as noted above, I'll look into these matters sometime in February, and perhaps make my own recommendations to the HPC. I've already got an outline of something I'd like to submit to them, but it's not ready yet.

Readers of this blog may remember that I've generally been for the bulk of the team selected by Team Trials, with a few final spots selected, both to make sure we don't lose an obvious team member who was sick or injured at the Team Trials (or just had a really bad day), as well as up-and-coming players that our top coaches believe have great potential. I may want to have some discussions with members of the HPC to get the rationale for the various selection procedures. But remember that a primary change they are doing is going from annual Trials to using results from multiple competitions, which seems to make sense, though it means players have to travel more to the specified tournaments. It also means players have to peak many times each year, rather than focusing on peaking for, say, the USA Nationals and Open, Team Trials, and the World Championships and Olympics.

Besides player selections, there are also questions about how we select the team coaches. Here I generally go with the idea of trusting our High Performance Director to make the selections - if we can't let our hired expert select his own "staff," then why did we hire him? Of course one option is that he makes selections (for coaches, sometimes players), and they are approved by the HPC.

One issue keeps coming up - how do the other top countries in the world do their team selections? I'm told that most do it similar to how we are now doing it, but I don't know if anyone has actually done a systematic check of, say, the top ten countries in men and women. Anybody out there want to do some research and find out how the team selections are made for all of these countries? Make sure to cite sources. Now it so happens that the ITTF has World Team Rankings (page down to third and fourth listing), and so we can get a general listing of the best countries in the world. The following countries have a team ranked in the top ten in either Men's or Women's:

Germany, China, Japan, France, Korea, Hong Kong, Chinese Taipei, Portugal, Sweden, India, Austria, Romania, Singapore, Netherlands, Hungary. Countries that are in the top ten in both are China, Japan, Korea, and Chinese Taipei. (I believe Germany was in the top ten in both until recently dropping to #13 in women - not sure how that happened. They are #1 in Men's Teams in the new ranking system, though some find that controversial and consider China #1. USA is #40 and #24 in Men's and Women's.)

Another thing to take into account is that whole Fairness issues vs. Progressive issues problem I've blogged about before, though not recently. When I ran for the Board I also wrote extensively about this. The gist of it is simple - Fairness issues and Progressive issues are equally important, but members of the Board of Directors invariably get drawn into these Fairness issues (like the selection procedures), and the result is we do not focus on Progressive issues, which are the ones that develop our sport. And so the sport doesn't get developed. I promised when I ran for the Board I'd focus on Progressive issues - such as the USATT Coaching Education and Certification program I'm working with Jörg, and other issues, such as a USATT Coaching Academy (which has begun as seminars we ran at the last Nationals). However, it's my responsibility as a Board member to also get involved in Fairness issues, even if it's not my primary focus - but when possible, I'd prefer to let the appropriate committee work out these issues, such as the HPC, and give deference to them when possible. That's why we appoint them.

Japanese Nationals
They were held Jan. 15-21 in Tokyo.

Hungarian Open
Here's the home page with complete results, articles, video, and pictures.

USATT Presents Unified 2018 Table Tennis Team USA
Here's the USATT article and listing.

2018 USA Hopes Program Homepage
Here's the USATT page. Here's the ITTF Hopes info page. This is for kids in the 11-12 age group.

ITTF Future Events Working Group Reaches Unanimous Agreement on the Future of the World Championships
Here's the ITTF article. USATT CEO Gordon Kay, who is also president of ITTF North America, was the host. In the picture, he's in the back, second from right.

How to Defy the Odds and Make a Comeback in a Match
Here's the article by Matt Hetherington.

How to Play Table Tennis with Low Friction Long Pimples
Here's the article from 2017.

Zhang Jike Training Backhand Again Backspin
Here's the video (4 min).

Training With GAUZY Simon Gauzy and Coach Patrick Chila
Here's the video (14:46) from the 2017 World Cup.

New from EmRatThich

History of USATT – Volume XX – Chapter 11
Here’s chapter 12 of Tim Boggan’s latest volume, which covers 1993-1994. Or you can buy it and previous volumes at www.timboggantabletennis.com.

This Ping Pong Table Used to Be a Vauxhall Astra
Here's the video (1:26). "We accepted the challenge of turning a car into a ping-pong table."

Robot Pong?
Here's the image!

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January 19, 2018

Istvan Jonyer, Others at 2018 World Veterans Championships in Las Vegas
If you started playing in the 1970s, like me, then Istvan Jonyer of Hungary was a God. There's no other way of describing the 1975 World Men's Singles Champion, the big two-winged looper from a time when two-winged looping was still relatively new. He had these long, acrobatic forehand loops, like a discus thrower, looping forehands from the shoulder, and tricky sidespin backhand loops. Everybody all over the world copied these shots. In 1979 he led the Hungarian team (along with Tibor Klampár and Gábor Gergely) when they upset the Chinese team to win the World Men's Team Championships.

Jonyer's playing in the 2018 World Veterans Championships!!! Right here in Las Vegas, USA!!! You can get in line for his autograph right behind me. (Here's a picture of Jonyer ripping a ball at his peak – yeah, he went prematurely bald. That's Gergely on the left. Here's a recent picture of Jonyer with Li Zhenshi.) 

The 2018 World Veterans Championships are June 18-24, for anyone age 40 or over as of Dec. 31, 2018. The deadline to enter is March 15 or whenever they reach 5000 entries. They are currently at 3533 (here's the current listing), from exactly 80 countries, with entries coming in fast, so don't delay – enter now or miss this once-in-a-lifetime chance. The last time USA ran a World Veterans Championships was 1990. (I'll be there, doing daily coverage – but I'm not missing this once-in-a-lifetime chance, so I'm also entered in singles, and maybe doubles.)

Other big international names from the past entered include Dmitry Mazunov (the big backhand looper from Russia known for his great doubles play), Zsolt-Georg Böhm (2-time Romanian Men's Singles Champion and then 6-time German Men's Singles Champion), Danish star Allan Bentsen, and many others. There are rumors that 1991 World Men's Singles Champion Jorgen Persson will be playing (oh please oh please!), as well as Chen Weixing, the great Chinese and then Austrian player.

Big USA names competing include (with apologies to many missed):

  • Danny, Ricky, and Randy Seemiller
  • Dell & Connie Sweeris
  • David & Donna Sakai
  • Cheng Yinghua (playing Over 60 Men's Doubles with Dan Seemiller)
  • Sean O'Neill
  • George Brathwaite
  • Perry Schwartzberg
  • Li Yuxiang
  • Shao Yu
  • Gao Yan Jun
  • Jasna Rather
  • Lily Yip
  • Patty Martinez-Wasserman
  • Charlene Liu

With such a field of players, you probably don't think you have much of a chance to win anything. But that’s not the point of going to the World Veterans Championships (unless you are one of the best of your age in the world) – you go there to compete, meet other players (including the best in the world), have fun, spectate, shop, and enjoy the Las Vegas vacationland. It’ll be a full week of table tennis paradise, where you hobnob with your table tennis friends (old and new) and the stars. You’ll get to attend in person the opening and closing ceremonies, as well as sightseeing and social events planned.

So, you are now thinking of entering? Here are the eleven age events, with singles and doubles in each.

  • 40 - 44 years (Born 1978 or before)
  • 45 - 49 years (Born 1973 or before)
  • 50 - 54 years (Born 1968 or before)
  • 55 - 59 years (Born 1963 or before) – stay away, this age group is mine.
  • 60 - 64 years (Born 1958 or before)
  • 65 - 69 years (Born 1953 or before)
  • 70 - 74 years (Born 1948 or before) 
  • 75 - 79 years (Born 1943 or before) 
  • 80 - 84 years (Born 1938 or before) 
  • 85 - 89 years (Born 1933 or before) 
  • Over 90 years (Born 1928 or before)

Here is a listing of USA medalists from the 2016 World Veterans in Spain:

  • Charlene Liu/Patty Martinez won the silver medal in Women's 60-64 Doubles
  • David Sakai/Dan Seemiller won the bronze medal in Men's 60-64 Doubles
  • Minming Zhu won the gold medal in Women's Singles 60-64 Consolation
  • TingNing Cheung won the bronze in Women’s Singles 65-69
  • Ting Ning Cheung/Chiyako Suzuki won the silver medal in Women's 65-69 Doubles
  • Donna Sakai/Connie Sweeris won the bronze medal in Women's 65-69 Doubles Consolation
  • Chong Keng Tay won the bronze in Men’s Singles 75-79

This will be the largest gathering of table tennis players in U.S. history. Are you going to be part of history?

Table Tennis Books
Here's my periodic note that if you don't buy and read my table tennis books, then your opponents will, and then you will have no chance of beating them. None. So why not saunter over to my Amazon Page, and buy a few?

Of course, you could also buy someone else's books, such as:

Or, if you happen to be, shall we say, unhappy with our current president, you can try out my booklet, "Captain Exasperation Woman Meets President Trump"!

Shoulder and Other Injuries Update
My shoulder is about 80% better. I went back to private coaching last Saturday, and have been at it since. I'm still cautious about reaching to my wide forehand or in for short balls, and have to keep reminding myself not to reach over the table with my playing arm to retrieve balls against the net – any of these moves risks re-injuring it. But in general, I'm able to play regular again. I even played a series of practice games with an 1800 student – I was able to attack, but mostly played steady to avoid aggravating the injury. The rest of me is relatively healthy, though I felt a few back twinges yesterday, so I'm doing some specific stretches to make sure that doesn't get worse. Knees are fine for a change so I'm no longer wearing a knee brace – as noted previously, from July to December last year I had to take steps one at a time to protect my right knee. Arm is fine, but I still wear an arm brace when I play to keep it that way. The gash I accidently cut in the back of my right foot (from a screen door that closed on it) is getting better, but I'm still walking with a slight limp, and before playing have to put four bandages across it to protect it. Recuperating from injuries is tough when you are coaching day after day!!!

Coaching Education and Certification Work
I spent a couple hours yesterday preparing for another teleconference session at noon next Monday on setting up a USATT Coaching Education and Certification Program. Much of the time was spent watching a 45-minute video of a proposed online coaching system, using a German system as a model. One booklet I've read that we may incorporate is the USOC Coaching Framework. (Here's the entire booklet in PDF.) As always happens when you're on the USATT board of directors and coaching chair, there were numerous emails on various issues coming in, and the hardest part about getting work done is tuning them out until the work is done, or no work gets done.

Hungarian Open
Here's the ITTF page for the event, Jan. 18-21 in Budapest, with draws, results, articles, photos, and video (including live video). Fan Zhendong (CHN, world #2) and Chen Meng (CHN, world #1) lead the men's and women's draws.

Here are match highlights (3:38) from the round of 32, Vladimir Samsonov (BLR, world #25, former #1) vs. Patrick Franziska (GER, world #43).

USATT Nominates Players for the 2018 World Team Cup in London
Here's the USATT article.

Stretch Your Opponents with Angled Shots
Here's the article from Tom Lodziak.

37 Coaching Articles by Matt Hetherington
Here's his coaching blog – time to dive into the archives!

Table Tennis is a Sport . . . Not Business
Here's the article by Eli Baraty.

How to Protect Your Ranking If You Are Injured
Here's the article from EmRatThich.

Ask the Coach
Questions answered at PingSkills.

College Table Tennis Singles "is a thing" --SIGN UP TODAY
Here's the article from the National Collegiate Table Tennis Association.

Ask a Butterfly Pro Anything! Tiago Apolonia
Here's the interview.

Great Backhand
Here's the video (8 sec) of Kirill Gerassimenko of Kazakhstan counter-ripping a backhand.

LA Times/Washington Post Crossword
I was doing the crossword puzzle on Wednesday during lunch. The clue for 18 across was, "Math Teacher's favorite sport?" (In crossword parlance, a question mark after a question indicates it's a play on words.) After getting a few of the down questions, it gradually dawned on me what the answer was – "TimesTableTennis"! (The play on words is the start, "Times Table.") Here's the completed crossword. (Yes, I was able to solve the entire puzzle.)

Incredible Ping-Pong Ball Art
Here's the picture.

Lots of Weird Table Tennis Pictures!
Here's they are – you could spend an afternoon looking over these.

Mini-Tennis Pong?
Here's the cartoon!

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January 18, 2018

USA Nationals Dates
As announced yesterday in USATT Insider, the USA Nationals this year will be July 1-7 in Las Vegas. For most of us, those are probably fine dates. However, for the large number of U.S. players attending the World Veterans Championships, June 18-24, also in Las Vegas, it poses a dilemma, since there's a week between the two. Do you attend both? If so, do you fly home and back in between, or stick around for a week?

Ideally, the two would have been back to back, with perhaps one day rest between. That's what USATT would have liked, but it was not to be, for several reasons. The main problem is that the World Veterans Championships has built into the contract that no other major tournaments can be run locally at the same time or the week before or after, since that could draw away entries from them. This makes sense, as it is a large undertaking, and the last thing they want is a competing local tournament. There was some discussion of making an exception, but apparently they didn't agree. (I wasn't in on the discussions.)

Another reason not to run them back to back was the hotel cost. Apparently the July 4 week is one of the worst weeks in Las Vegas for tourists, and so around July 1 the hotel costs plummet to something like one-fourth what they normally charge. The hotels don't really need high hotel rates to make money; their primary source of income is from their casinos, and so they do whatever is needed to bring in customers during slow periods so they can get those customers to give them money gamble. (This also happened at the U.S. Open in December, where the hotel costs were about $30/night for most of the tournament, then right at the end went up to about $120. This was in addition to the infamous "resort fee.") So by not having the tournaments back to back, you'll likely save something like $90/night in hotel fees. That should make up for your air costs if you have to fly home and back.

Another reason brought up not to run them back to back was staff issues. It's not easy spending 10-12 hours/day running a tournament for a week – and to do it for two weeks straight is mind-bogglingly difficult! However, this was less important to me as we'd have had a day in between for rest, and likely given staff a few extra days off afterwards, and perhaps schedule other breaks as well. But it was a concern.

Personally, my plan is to attend the World Veterans (June 18-24), where I'll be doing daily coverage for USATT and ITTF, as well as playing in the 55-59 age event. Then I'll attend two days of USATT Board Meetings (June 25-26). Then I plan on taking a reading and writing vacation (June 27-30) – paradise to me is sitting in a hot tub reading a great science fiction novel. And then I'll be coaching and perhaps playing in the USA Nationals (July 1-7).

Of course, none of this answers the age-old question (or at least since 1976, when we first had a USA Nationals in addition to a U.S. Open): Why do we generally call it the USA Nationals, while the other is the U.S. Open?

Hungarian Open
Here's the ITTF page for the event, Jan. 18-21 in Budapest, with draws, results, articles, photos, and video. Fan Zhendong (CHN, world #2) and Chen Meng (CHN, world #1) lead the men's and women's draws.

USATT 2018 Team Selection Procedures Pave Way for Unified National Team
Here's the USATT article.

Who Should Use Thin Sponge Rubber?
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

Portland Hosts Second Successful Course, Ideal Premises in Oregon
Here's the ITTF article on the ITTF coaching course taught by Christian Lillieroos.

Table Tennis Teen from West Hempstead Hopes to Make U.S. History
Here's the article featuring junior star Estee Ackerman. She's also the feature picture on the cover this morning.

Jörgen Persson to Address Sports Science Conference
Here's the ITTF article.

National Collegiate Table Tennis Newsletter
Here's the new January issue.

Not a Game for Boys
Here's the table tennis novel by Simon Block. (I just ordered a copy – at 104 pages, it'll be a quick read.) "Once a week, three cabbies seek respite from their lives in a local table tennis league, and tonight they must win, or face the unthinkable oblivion of relegation. Deeper rivalries and competitive obsessions emerge as the team try to survive the pressure, but the real game takes place anywhere but at the table." The novel is based on the play of the same title, also by Simon Block, from 1994. Here's a review of the play, which was apparently was running last summer in Dublin, Ireland.

Sun Yingsha Best Points 2017
Here's the highlights video (8:32) of the world #1 junior girl from China. (Here's the ITTF Under 18 Girls ranking list.)

Sunny Bunnies in Kung Fu Ping Pong
Here's the cartoon video (3 min 11 sec). The link should take you to 15:09, and the table tennis cartoon goes until 18:20.

***
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January 17, 2018

Ten Tips

  1. Shirt Longevity. Have you ever bought a nice table tennis shirt, and perhaps had your name and/or club lettered on it – only to see it wear away after a year or so? There's a simple way to avoid this. Always turn your shirts inside out before putting in the laundry. A washing machine pretty much pounds with water the outside of a shirt, so put that lettering and other shirt designs on the inside.
  2. USATT Clothing. Buy some USATT clothing, brand table tennis clothing, or some sort of table tennis outfit, and look like a real pro!
  3. Shoes in a Bag. Keep your playing shoes in a plastic bag or shoe bag in your playing bag. You don't want to wear them to and from the club unless you want to get the soles dirty (thereby losing traction), track dirt into your club, wear the shoes down, and put extra pressure on your legs and knees (since table tennis shoes aren't designed for extensive walking – little support).
  4. Dedicated Shoes for Slippery Floors. Do you sometimes play on good floors, other times on slippery floors? Have two pairs of table tennis shoes. One pair should be new and dedicated to slippery floors, since new shoes grab on the floor better. When it begins to wear out, it becomes your regular pair, and you get a new one for the slipper floors. Since some types of shoes grab the floor better than others, you might even buy a special pair of "grabby" shoes for slippery floors.
  5. Keep a Towel. Keep a towel in your bag when the weather gets hot and humid. In fact, if you sweat a lot, have two of them – one for you, and one for your racket and ball. (Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy was right.)
  6. Drink. Always have plenty to drink while playing. Just keep sipping a little at a time the whole session. Perhaps have a few snacks available as well.
  7. Keep your Racket Clean. Normally wash it with water after or before every session. Occasionally use special rubber cleaners to really clean it off.
  8. Long Pips. Learn to play against long pips. If you have trouble playing long pips, then find someone who uses long pips, and ask, plead, or beg them to play you, and keep playing them until you figure out how to play them. Then you will never lose to anyone with long pips ever again. (Unless they are better than you.)
  9. Read this Blog. Mon-Fri. Why, of course.
  10. Have Fun. This is ping-pong, not real life.

US National Ranking Tournament Coming to Arnold Challenge
Here's the USATT article by High Performance Director Jörg Bitzigeio.

3 Years On: Have We Finally Adopted the Plastic Ball?
Here's the USATT article by Ray Huang.

Back Pain? 12 Tips for a Healthier Back!
Here's the video (4:24) by Samson Dubina, who turns out struggled with this for years.

Table Tennis Prodigy Determined to Live Up to Favorite Tag
Here's the article on Kanak Jha as he prepares for the Buenos Aires 2018 Youth Olympic Games.

My Favorite Haitians/Table Tennis From Haiti
Here's the article and video (6:20) from Coach Jon.

New Videos from EmRatThich

Penhold Play of Su Zhi
Here's the video (2:01) from the 2017 Amateur China Open.

Ping Pong Girl
Here's the video (60 sec) as she does trick shots!

FanDuel - Christian Laettner Ping Pong
Here's the video (37 sec) as the basketball star "motivates" workers through ping pong!

***
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January 16, 2018

Tip of the Week
Best Way to Learn – Watch, Mimic, Practice.

Board Teleconference – Executive Session
Last night we had a USATT Teleconference from 7PM to 8:40PM. Unfortunately, most of the meeting was in executive session, where we discussed confidential matters (personnel, legal, and/or certain financial issues). So I'm limited in what I can talk about.

We did come out of executive session to approve the 2018 USATT budget. It should be published on the USATT site sometime soon. We went over this previously, and went over it again during the teleconference. We also went over the dates of the USA Nationals this summer in Las Vegas – and the official dates should come out very soon. (There were scheduling complications in regard to the World Veterans Championships, June 18-24, also in Las Vegas, which I may blog about later.)

I've been pretty busy with USATT meetings recently. In December we had two days of meetings at the U.S. Open, plus the USATT Assembly. I flew out to Colorado Springs for a meeting on USATT Coaching Education and Certification on Monday, Jan. 8. There was the teleconference last night. And next Monday I'm on another teleconference regarding USOC online coaching resources that we may use or adapt. Mondays are becoming USATT Mondays.

USATT CEO Gordon Kaye returned Sunday from Vacation in Hawaii. Yes, he was there during the mistaken reporting of an incoming missile strike, and for 40 minutes or so thought his life was in danger!!!

Shoulder Injury
I was out for a month with a shoulder injury. I was having shoulder problems all through November and December, and at the U.S. Open in December I injured it pretty badly. I was forced to cancel all private coaching until this past Saturday, when I started up again. The shoulder is perhaps 80% healed, but I have a feeling this is one of those injuries that won't completely go away for a long time. I'm doing various exercises with a long rubber band.

I do have another injury. On Thursday last week, while getting the newspaper outside (yes, I still get one), while reaching down for it I released the screen door, which slammed into my heel, tearing an injury four inches long. It was pretty bad, and I really should have gone to the hospital. Instead, I cleaned it with soap and Neosporin, bandaged it up, and I've been limping ever since. But it doesn't really affect my table tennis, though it does hurt some moving as it puts pressure on the scab. It didn't get infected, and it's healing up.

The No. 1 Brain Sport
Here's the article by Mark Dekeyser in The Active Senior's Digest. "How do we stay mentally sharp as we age? Some try computer programs such as Lumosity (www.lumosity.com) or Fitbrains (www.fitbrains.com), others may prefer puzzles such as Sudoku and crosswords. We may be surprised to learn that physical activity is also good for our brains. Any type of physical activity can be valuable. The top physical activity for the brain is table tennis, say some experts."

2018 Team World Cup – China Team
Here's the article and pictures from EmRatThich.

How China Develops Their Players
Here's the video (1:57).

Training With Ma Long and Lin Gaoyuan at World Cup 2017
Here's the video (18:42) by Arnaud Scheen.

Sharon Alguetti (USA) vs. Artur Abusev (RUS) 2017 WJTTC
Here's the video (6:21).

The Future is…Ping-Pong? Omron Shows Off Incredible Table Tennis Robot
Here's the article and video (1:46). "Amid the buzz of drones, companion bots, and self-balancing rideable, an unlikely star shined on the first day of CES: ping-pong. Omron offered an incredible demonstration of its massive ‘Forpheus’ robot, which uses artificial intelligence to help improve your pong skills and set up the perfect volley."

Navin Kumar at Parkinson Association of Southwest Florida
Here's the video (6:01) of his motivational speech on Jan. 9 in Naples, FL at the Live Laugh and Learn Symposium for PASFI. (Here's a shorter 24-sec video of him bouncing a ball as he speaks.) The "Bionic Man," Navin Kumar has Parkinson’s and is a survivor of five open heart surgeries with mechanical heart, pacemaker and other artificial components.

Estee Ackerman to Appear on PIX 11 News
Here's video (9:20) of her playing with reporter Mr. "G" (Irv Gifoksky) in West Hempstead, NY. Estee won four gold medals at the recent U.S. Open in December. The story will come out in a few weeks.

History of USATT – Volume XX – Chapter 11
Here’s chapter 11 of Tim Boggan’s latest volume, which covers 1991-1992. Or you can buy it and previous volumes at www.timboggantabletennis.com.

Shot of the Day - Nandan Naresh
Here's video (11 sec) as Nandan pulls off a lunging, spinning backhand chop block that double bounces. Opponent is older brother Sid.

Ma Long in Smart Phone Commercial
Here's the video (30 sec).

Pongfinity – "Spin Serves" Episode 11
Here's the video (4:54). "In this episode Emil tries to flip a bottle with a ping pong shot, spin a coin with a ping pong serve, do various table tennis spin serves and eat a whole meal while keeping the ball in the air with his paddle."

***
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January 15, 2018

MLK Day
Today's MLK Day, so I'm off today - yes, it's Ma Long Karaoke Day! Here's the Chinese National Team members singing Karaoke (2:57) in 2010 – Ma Long, Wang Liqin, Ma Lin, and Wang Hao. The music starts about 15 seconds in. Ma Long sings 54 seconds in. (When they are standing at the stage at the start, L-R it's Wang Hao, Wang Liqin, Ma Lin, and Ma Long.) And just for fun, here's video (15 sec) of a trusting player blowing the ball up as Adam Bobrow smacks it out of the air. 

January 12, 2018

EmRatThich Table Tennis World Ranking System
Here’s the article and ranking list. This is not something he threw together – he goes over in detail the way his system works, which analyzes “43,735 table tennis matches played in 2017 (in official ITTF events) nearly 100 table tennis international tournaments during 2017.”

There have been many complaints about the new ITTF system, which rewards participation as well as level of play, leading to results that often don’t always correspond to actual playing levels. For example, it has Ma Long at #7 in the world, when he’s obviously #1 or #2. Here are the ITTF rankings. If you page down to “Official Documents,” there is info on how they are done. 

When doing such ranking systems, there is always the conflict between trying to set up the most accurate system, versus setting up a system that rewards and thereby increases participation. This is a classic case. USATT has the same problem - many players avoid playing to "protect" their rating. Using a system that rewards participation would likely increase participation, at the cost of accuracy. 

So let’s compare the two rankings, and you can judge for yourself.

EmRatThich System – Top 20 Men

  1. Fan Zhendong (CHN)
  2. Ma Long (CHN)
  3. Dimtrij Ovtcharov (GER)
  4. Timo Boll (GER)
  5. Lin Gaoyuan (CHN)
  6. Xu Xin (CHN)
  7. Tomokazu Harimoto (JPN)
  8. Jun Mizutani (JPN)
  9. Yan An (CHN)
  10. Fang Bo (CHN)
  11. Koki Niwa (JPN)
  12. Marcos Freitas (POR)
  13. Kenta Matsudaira (JPN)
  14. Lee Sangsu (KOR)
  15. Simon Gauzy (FRA)
  16. Vladimir Samsonov (BLR)
  17. Wong Chun Ting (HKG)
  18. Quadri Aruna (NGR)
  19. Ruwen Filus (GER)
  20. Hugo Calderano (BRA)

ITTF System – Top 20 Men

  1. Dimtrij Ovtcharov (GER)
  2. Fan Zhendong (CHN)
  3. Timo Boll (GER)
  4. Lin Gaoyuan (CHN)
  5. Xu Xin (CHN)
  6. Koki Niwa (JPN)
  7. Ma Long (CHN)
  8. Wong Chun Ting (HKG)
  9. Simon Gauzy (FRA)
  10. Kenta Matsudaira (JPN)
  11. Tomokazu Harimoto (JPN)
  12. Marcos Freitas (POR)
  13. Jun Mizutani (JPN)
  14. Lee Sangsu (KOR)
  15. Chuang Chih-Yuang (TPE)
  16. Omar Assar (EGY)
  17. Hugo Calderano (BRA)
  18. Ruwen Filus (GER)
  19. Yuva Oshima (JPN)
  20. Quadri Aruna (NGR)

Table Tennis with a Robot
Here’s the video (3:08) as they play with a robot that can rally live, not just shoot balls out at you. I’m wondering when these things will be on the market? However, they obviously can’t yet compete with a top player. From what I see, I don’t think it can react to aggressive shots to the corners, or to spins. However, I think they are missing the real future for this robot – put on a sheet of long pips, no sponge, and turn it into a pushblocker!!!

Throughout history people have made predictions about the future of such technology wonders that have proven false, so it’s risky making predictions here. However, I’m fairly certain that for the foreseeable future, these robots won’t challenge the top players. Perhaps many years from now.

US National Team - Year in Review 2017
Here’s the video (2:10). Live out the year with our National Team!

Dream Come True for Kanak Jha, Rankings Breakthrough for USA Star
Here’s the ITTF article.

30 Day Challenge to Improve Your Weakest Stroke
Here’s the article from Tom Lodziak.

Table Tennis Tidbits #16
Here’s ’16 Asian Olympic Trials:  Zhu “Helps” Ching Lose, by Robert Ho

Qualities Coaches Look For in Their Students
Here’s the chart. (Here’s the non-Facebook version.)

A Little Side to Side Footwork
Here’s the video (31 sec) with Lily Zhang, 4-time and current U.S. Women’s Singles Champion. Are you awake now?

Ma Long Serve Technique - Begin of the Attack
Here’s the video (7:18).

USATT Insider
Here’s the latest issue, which came out Wednesday.

Reliving the Memories of Riva del Garda, Truls Moregard Reflects on Stunning Campaign
Here’s the ITTF article. The next great Swede?

Adult Table Tennis and Coaching in England
Here’s the article by Eli Baraty about problems with table tennis in England.

Westchester TTC December 2017 Open Singles Final
Here’s the video (15:38), Tomislav Pucar vs. Kai Zhang.

Camping Pong
Here’s the cartoon.

Trick Shot Lob
Here’s the video (14 sec) as A.J. Carney puts together three trick shots in one routine. (That’s my U.S. Open Hardbat Doubles Champion partner!)

Christmas Ping Pong Trick Shots
Here’s the video (7:17) from Pongfinity

***
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