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!

June 12, 2017

No Blog Monday and Tuesday
No blog today or tomorrow (Mon and Tue) – I’m mentally and physically exhausted from running the Maryland State Championships this past weekend. (I was at the club 7:45AM-9PM on Saturday, 7:45AM-11PM Sunday, doing paperwork at the end. Everything is submitted for ratings processing. We had 88 players.) I also have to catch up on hordes of USATT, MDTTC, and writing work. Today’s priorities are to write and send out press releases on the tournament, put together a list of changes for next year, read through 43 pages of USATT printouts to prepare for a USATT teleconference at 7PM tonight (which will probably go to at least 9PM), and then get started on several long put-off writing projects. But here’s a new video of a Table Tennis Cat (19 sec)! 

June 9, 2017

Serve Practice and the Complacency of Non-Practice
By the time you’ve reach the intermediate or advanced level in table tennis you probably have at least decent serves. You can serve an advanced beginner off the table, and probably have “go to” serves that score you points against your peers, maybe even against stronger ones. And since you already have those serves, you don’t really need to practice them, do you? After all, you are using them in games every week, which keeps them honed and ready to use at their very best, right?

Wrong. There are three flaws with this logic.

First, no matter what level your serves are, they won’t have that little extra they’d have if you practice them regularly. Recently, in preparation for the Serving Seminar I’m running at the Nationals, I practiced my serves a few times, something I hadn’t done much recently. The result was immediate and obvious – my students, even advanced ones who were used to my serves, some of them practically growing up returning them, began having fits with them. It led to a lot of frustration – I had to explain to them that they weren’t getting worse, that my serves were actually better, back to where they had been years ago when I practiced them regularly. What specifically made them better? With a little practice, I’m keeping the serves lower (low-bouncing net-grazers), and getting both more spin and (more importantly) my contact is much quicker and more deceptive (as they used to be), and receivers are having fits telling my side-backspins from my side-topspins, and other variations.

Second, because I’m practicing them, I’m back to being able to pull off very deep serves where the ball actually goes very deep. It’s risky serving too deep, and so most players don’t go too deep. With a little practice, you can serve consistently at almost any depth, including big breaking serves, fast no-spins, and those sudden quick down-the-line ones, with the bounce on the far side within six inches or so of the end-line, jamming receivers.

Third, if you don’t practice your serves regularly, how can you improve them? With just a few minutes of practice last week my backhand serve went from okay to a deadly weapon. How? Because I practiced it, and can how whip the racket through the ball at full acceleration while grazing the ball and changing racket directions just before or after contact – and the receiver has to read all this.

I blogged about Service Practice on June 2, and gave these two links to serving articles:

Improvement of Players Who “Goof Off” – Part 2
Yesterday I blogged about improvement of Players Who “Goof Off.” Here’s an interesting Facebook comment on it from Han Xiao (many-time USA team member, 3-Men’s Doubles Champion, Men’s Singles Finalist).

“It's likely that players who really focus on training rather than goofing off will develop a better understanding of ball contact, spin, body control and mechanics, etc. that will allow them to pull off more creative shots with relative ease as well. I also know from personal experience that the goofing off or laziness in certain situations becomes a bad habit, so it's actually actively detracting from your game instead of just reducing your training efficacy. For a few months in my career I kept doing things like settling for a backhand every time after covering the wide forehand, and even chop blocking the next ball quite often. Things like that really set you back a bit and a few months of bad habits will really hurt a player's development.”

Building Blocks of Table Tennis
Here’s the page from PingSkills, with links to nine videos, most about two minutes long. “To build a complete table tennis game you need to develop a range of skills. We break these down into 7 building blocks. By understanding these you'll be able to ensure you work on skills that will help you evolve your game. After watching this module you should have a good understanding of the building blocks and then can watch all our other tutorials to build your skills.”

Beat the Injured Player: Learn some new tactics
Here’s the new article from Samson Dubina.

How to Do a Reverse Sidespin Serve
Here’s the article and video (6:13) from Tom Lodziak.

Ask the Coach
Questions answered at PingSkills.

Fan Zhendong Reverse Pendulum Serve Practice 2017
Here’s the video (46 sec). (I won’t comment on how well hidden contact is.)

KoKi Niwa Forehand Technique
Here’s the video (7:08). It’s in Japanese, but you can learn by watching. Niwa of Japan, ranked #9 in the world, made the quarterfinals of Men’s Singles at the Worlds this past week, including a win over world #5 Dimitrij Ovtcharov.

Jean-Michel Saive Re-Elected to National Olympic Committee
Here’s the ITTF article.

USATT Insider
Here’s the issue that came out on Wednesday.

Spanish Junior Para Open in El Prat de Llobregat
Here are two ITTF articles that feature USA.

Unforgettable Experience for Isa Islam
Here’s the ITTF article about this Turkish coach’s experiences at the Worlds.

Ask a Pro Anything: Lily Zhang
Here’s the video (20:50) featuring the U.S. Women’s Champion with Adam Bobrow.

Hirano Miu - The Supergirl
Here’s the highlights video (4:47) of the world #8 woman from Japan, who made the semifinals of the Worlds this past week, including a win over world #4 Feng Tianwei.

2017 World Championships: Glorious Scenes
Here’s the video (2:08).

Table Tennis Postcards
Here’s the page.

Ma Long vs Zhang Jike Funny Training Lob
Here’s the video (1:58).

Bowling Pong
Here’s the video (37 sec).

Table Tennis Monster
Here’s the video (2:55) – not sure how I missed this from a year ago. It’s got table tennis, a dinosaur, and features Alex Piech (human) and Jason Piech (dinosaur) of Arkansas, brothers who have been to our training camps in Maryland. Both of them will be at the USA Nationals next month. They’ve had other videos, such as this one, 2016 USA Table Tennis National Championships (33 sec) and others – see links on right.

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June 8, 2017

Improvement of Players Who “Goof Off”
What comes first, chicken or the egg? It’s sort of like a question that comes up regularly in table tennis. Obviously, players who work harder and train more seriously tend to get better than those who do not. But there’s a related question. Suppose you have two developing players who roughly work and train equally as hard, with one exception – while Player A is nearly 100% serious, Player B will sometimes goof off and use weird strokes. How does this latter habit effect a developing player?

I’ve noticed over many decades of coaching and observing that players who focus nearly 100% on doing the shots right, all the time, almost always improve much faster and become much better players than those who spend even a small amount of their developing time goofing off by throwing in “weird” shots. I’ve come to believe that when a developing player, after working hard for a time, throws in a few “goof off” shots where he intentionally does the shot wrong, he might be undoing much of his earlier practice and confusing his subconscious so the technique doesn’t turn into muscle memory.

For example, suppose I’m teaching forehands to two players. One is focused on getting it right, and so gets it right. The other is also mostly focused on getting it right, but interrupts practice somewhat regularly to throw in different variations of the stroke. My impression is that the first player improves much faster and gets much better because the subconscious, which is what is really learning the strokes, picks up what’s needed without interference, and so it efficiently becomes muscle memory. The latter player doesn’t improve as fast since the subconscious is confused as to what is supposed to become muscle memory, and so doesn’t learn as fast.

The problem here is there’s a second possibility. The latter player might not improve as fast because he’s confusing the subconscious as to what it should be doing, and so doesn’t develop muscle memory as well or as fast. But that itself might be a side effect – it’s possible that the first player, the one who doesn’t “goof off” in this way, is simply a more focused player, and that’s why he improves faster than the latter, who might simply be less focused and so picks up techniques more slowly and with more difficulty.

As I’ve explained to students many times, there are some things in table tennis where you should be creative, and other things where you should focus on just getting it right. You can be creative with your serve, receive, placement, and various tactics. But in getting the techniques right, you should generally put aside creativity and focus on getting it right until it’s muscle memory. Some, however, simply find this difficult, perhaps due to a lack of patience, and so they throw in weird "experimental" shots, which might be undoing much of their earlier practice. I wonder if there have been studies on this problem in other sports?

Once you have a shot down so you can do essentially do it in your sleep, then you should experiment on possible variations that might be trickier for the opponent to deal with – but only after the shot is pretty much mastered. For example, once you can loop pretty well, and the stroke is pretty much mastered, then you can experiment with shots such as hooking with sidespin, inside-out loops, dummy loops (loops with no spin), and other variations.

Note that this doesn't mean players shouldn't ever "goof off." Some superstar players like Waldner were notorious for sometimes goofing off in practice. But they did so only after they had mastered the basics - usually very early in their careers, as little kids. 

Match Analysis: Ding Ning vs Zhu Yuling Women's Singles Final
Here’s the article.

When Training Kicks In
Here’s the article by Coach Jon.

Ask the Coach
Questions answered at PingSkills.

PingSkills Show #283 – World Championships
Here’s the podcast (41 min), which includes On This Day, Joke of the Week, Tip of the Week, Drill of the Week, Tournament Wrap, Win a PingSkills Bat, Defense, Doubles Serve, Doubles Position, Awkward Grip, and Links.

Fan Zhendong 2017 "Sadness Deep Inside"
Here’s the video (4:47) from EmRatThich. There are many other videos there.

An Hour Before with Zhang Jike
Here’s the article about the preparation by the 2011 and 2013 World Men’s Singles Champion and 2012 Men’s Singles Gold Medalist. (In all, Zhang Jike’s won 7 golds at the Worlds, and 3 at the Olympics.)

2017 World Championships: Xu Xin and Lin Gaoyuan Training
Here’s the video (4:23). Xu (world #3) is penholder on right. Later, in the round before the quarters, Lin would be up 10-5 match point in the seventh – and lose seven in a row. (Here’s the video of that, which I linked to yesterday.)

North Korean Statue in Pyongyang
Here’s the picture. (Here’s the non-Facebook version.)

Table Tennis Postcard
Here’s the card – “It’s not whether you win or lose that counts. It’s whether I win or lose…”

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June 7, 2017

$4500 Maryland State Championships and Other Tournaments
They are this weekend! I’m running them at MDTTC, with 24 events. Deadline to enter is 7PM on Thursday - though it looks like some events may fill up before that. Mossa Barandao is assisting – he and his team from PongMobile may take over running our tournaments this fall. That way I can focus more on coaching and writing. (Note - while you must be a resident of Maryland to enter Men's and Women's Singles, Open Doubles, or any of the age events, the rating events are open to all.) 

I’ve run over 180 USATT tournaments, going back to the early 1980s. These include the 4-star 1998 Eastern Open (411 entries!), and lots of tournaments at MDTTC since 1992. I also ran dozens of tournaments at the Northern Virginia TTC in the 1980s, and a number of others. (Back in the 1980s I ran them all on paper – no computers, so you had to do each draw by hand. Scary!!!)

In the early 1990s I was assistant tournament director at two U.S. Opens, with Donna Sakai the director. Or was I? Just a few weeks before the first one they named someone from the sponsor – I think it was Dow Corning – as the “honorary” tournament director, and Donna’s title was switched to Operations Director, and me to Assistant Operations Director. (They did the same the following year.) But for months I was Assistant Director for the U.S. Open, and that’s what I’m sticking with!

The 1998 Eastern Open was downright scary to run. I was the director, with Richard Lee tournament president. We were expecting 200 or so entries, and got 411! (We did lots and Lots and LOTS of promotions.) I had to do all the scheduling, and it was very difficult. We ended up setting up tables in racquetball courts in the facility. Things got held up and it fell behind on Saturday afternoon. Heroic efforts by those assisting, including Dennis Taylor and Steve Gibson, kept things going. However, I decided afterwards that running big tournaments simply wasn’t fun, and didn’t run any more 4-star tournaments. The complexity of larger tournaments with more players and more events goes up something like to the square of the increases.

At the upcoming USA Nationals, I won’t be involved in running the tournament – North American Table Tennis does that, with Richard Lee, John Miller, and staff – but I’m involved in the new USATT University, which will have eight seminars there. I’m teaching two of them – one on Intermediate and Advanced Serving, and one on Setting Up and Running a Junior Program. I’ll also assist Stefan Feth in his Advanced Receive seminar, and will likely attend most of the others. Hope to see you all there!

The Best Ping-Pong Serve: Serve Up a Killer Ping-Pong Game
Here’s the article by Greg Letts. Here are many more table tennis articles from ThoughtCo.

Dozens of Table Tennis Interviews, Coaching Articles, and Videos
Here’s the Interview Page from MH Table Tennis! Of course, as linked to previously, he also has his Coaching Page and Video Page, with dozens of items in both.  

Ask the Coach
Questions Answered at PingSkills.

New World Rankings
Here they are after the Worlds, and here are the ITTF articles on the new Men’s Rankings, and on the new Women’s Rankings. (Note that Japanese whiz kid Tomokazu Harimoto, age 13, went from #69 to #39 – though the article at the time I’m reading it mistakenly has him at #59.) Ma Long is world #1 for the 58th time, and the 28th month in a row. Ding Ning is world #1 for the 44th time, and the ninth month in a row.

Oddball: World Championship Weigh-in
Here’s the ITTF article. “The numbers have been crunched and the results are in. Which team heads the weigh-in heading in to the Liebherr 2017 World Table Tennis Championships?”

Timo Boll’s Great Sportsmanship at the 2017 Worlds
Here’s the article by Shashin Shodhan.

What Impact Has Table Tennis Had on Your Life?
Here’s the essay by Nicole Ebreo of Princess Anne High School. (Here’s the non-Facebook version.) “It [ping pong] taught me one very important lesson. It taught me the importance of resilience.”

Think-Move-Achieve Conference for Physical and Health Educators
Here’s the table tennis schedule this Thursday, run by the American Youth Table Tennis Organization, with Ben Nisbet and Sydney Christophe – all three sessions are filled!!!

Wong Chun Ting and Han Ying Head Ultimate Table Tennis Line-up
Here’s the ITTF article on this new professional league in India. Wong (HKG) is world #7 in Men’s, Han world #9 in Women’s.

Harrie and the Epic Table Tennis Journey
Here’s the article from Expert Table Tennis, featuring the progress of player Harrie Austin-Jones.

2017 World Championships: Life of a Player
Here’s the video (2:52).

Xu Xin’s Unreal Comeback against Lin Gaoyuan
Here’s the video (4:22), with the winner advancing to the quarterfinal of Men’s Singles at the Worlds. Lin led 10-5 match point in the seventh. Both are Chinese National Team Members, with Xu #3 in the world, Lin #29.

Footwork in Table Tennis
Here’s the video (31 sec) – “Do you still think that leg work doesn't serve in the table tennis?” That’s Fan Zhendong!

PongUniverse Point of the Week
Here’s the video (48 sec) of this point between England's Alan Cooke and Portugal's Joao Manteiro at the 2005 European Championships.

Ping Pong Trick Shots: Much Better than Dude Perfect
Here’s the hilarious video (4:13)!

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June 6, 2017

Tip of the Week
Rallying Tactics for Blockers.

World Championships
By now you’ve seen all the results, read all the articles, and watched all the videos (see yesterday’s blog) from the World Championships. Life can now go back to normal!!! Here’s the article on the Men’s Final, Ma Long Retains Title, Most Dramatic Final Ever?, and here’s video of the final (15:06). A few observations:

  • The Push Heard Round the World. Fan Zhendong was serving up 9-7 in the seventh. At 9-8 he serves, and Ma Long does a seemingly simple push to the forehand, and Fan is right there, in position to rip it – but instead weakly loops off the end. What happened? The simple-looking push was actually an extremely effective one, outside the corner but short enough so that the table was in Fan’s way, forcing him to adjust. If the push had been longer, Fan would have ripped it; if it had been shorter, he would have flipped it. So Ma found the perfect balance. But this wasn’t the first time Ma used this push tactics. Down 1-7 in the first game he uses it and gets a weak Fan loop, and so he used it effectively throughout the match.
  • Tomokazu Harimoto in Training (3:34). Is he the future? Probably – at age 13 he beat world #6 Mizutani and a slew of others to make the quarterfinals of the Worlds. Go 51 seconds in, when he’s on the far side doing forehand loops, and see how he loops with while rotating in a circle? His head and body don’t move forward, always rotating in that circle, so he’s constantly balanced, instantly in position and ready of the next shot. This is how top players mostly loop, when in position. Here’s Ma Long ripping a forehand in the first point of game two, also going in a near perfect circle. It’s called “circling the rod,” where you imagine a rod going through your head from the top. This is why top players can relentlessly attack without backing up. Most players think one loop at a time, and so aren’t ready for a follow-up. (Here’s Harimoto vs. Xu Xin in the Quarterfinals - 7:16. Here he is against Mizutani – 4:12.)
  • Hypothetical question that keeps me up late at night: If a player is up match point against the greatest of all time, but flubs three easy shots and blows it, who is the GOAT?

How Ma Long Became World Champion – Analysis of Final Points
Here’s the great analysis by Shashin Shodhan. He also wrote about the Worlds regularly in his daily blog.

USATT’s Coverage of the Worlds
Here’s their news page, with lots of articles on the Worlds, both links to ITTF ones and ones by Matt Hetherington.

Timo Boll on Loss to Ma Long
Here’s the video (4:39) – “He’s a machine!”

The Best 13 Year Old Ever Seen
Here’s the article from Coach Me Table Tennis, on Tomokazu Harimoto.

Sweden's Golden Era Legend - Interview with Jorgen Persson
Here’s the interview. Some great stuff from the 1991 World Men’s Champion!

Tom’s Table Tennis Newsletter
Here’s the new one. It includes links to a number of coaching articles, including one of mine.

Ask the Coach
Questions answered at PingSkills.

Eberhard Schöler Recognised in Düsseldorf
Here’s the ITTF article on the 1969 World Men’s Singles Finalist – the last player to make the final with hardbat (on his backhand). He’s a chopper, and was up 2-0 in the final against Shigeo Itoh of Japan before losing in five. “There were three persons who marked the history of the German Table Tennis: Boll, Rosskopf and Ebby Schöler, who dedicated all his life for table tennis. German table tennis has been lucky to have someone like him and he deserves our all thanks.”

History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 19 (1991-1992)
Here's chapter eleven! Or order your own print copies at TimBogganTableTennis.com, as well as Volume 19!

Virginia State Championships
Here’s the write-up and results, by Michael Levene - they were held this past weekend!

Mexico City the Home Basic Umpires Course Proves Equally Successful
Here’s the ITTF article.

And the Vlogs are Back! – Nathan Hsu in China
Here’s the video (6:16), where he mostly reviews the movies he watched during his 14-hour flight to Shanghai, China. Training starts soon!

Beer Pong vs. Ping Pong
Here's yesterday’s “Zits” cartoon!

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June 5, 2017

Worlds
Due to a sudden last-minute “emergency,” I have to run an errand this morning. (I might write about it tomorrow.) So no blog, and the Tip of the Week will go up tomorrow. But there’s only one thing you should be watching and reading about right now, and that’s the Worlds!!! Here are videos of Men’s Singles from TTInfo. They haven’t yet put up the shortened videos of Women’s Singles – I’ll put them up when they go up. (Shortened means time between points taken out. If you want to watch the complete matches, here's the ITTF video Page.)

June 2, 2017

Service Practice
In preparation for the Serving Seminar I’ll be running at the USA Nationals, I did something a few days ago that I only do about once or twice a year these days – I practiced my serves! I’m retired from tournaments (except for occasional hardbat events at the Nationals and Open, and sometimes doubles), and so practicing my own game just isn’t high on my priorities list. But I did about 30 minutes of serve practice this past weekend, and it paid off.

At my peak I had pretty good serves. I practiced them regularly my first three years (1976-1979, ages 16-19), and from 1979-1981 (ages 19-21), I practiced them 30 minutes/day, six days/week, for two years. I continued practicing them regularly until the early 1990s. (Yes, I didn’t start playing until I was 16 – a very late starter, but I still reached 18th in the U.S. at my peak.)

I have a huge variety of serves, mostly centered around forehand pendulum serves. My best serves were a variety of short side/top serves, which looked like backspin, and various deep serves, including fast down-the-line, fast no-spin to the middle, and big breaking serves into the backhand. I also had a nice reverse pendulum serve short to the forehand that caused havoc if I used it sparingly. Then there were the backspin/no-spin combos, the forehand tomahawk serve, the windshield wiper serves, and others.

But without practice, they have gradually deteriorated. They still give fits to “weaker” players, but my students face them regularly and so have little problem with them. Until now.

I played a number of practice games with my more advanced students this past week, and my serves were alive! Maybe not as good as they were 25 years ago, but suddenly they were no longer able to catch the subtle racket changes between my side/top and backspin serves, and so their returns shot off the end or to the side, or into the net. My deep serves were shooting at them like torpedoes or jumping like kangaroos. Anyway, I left a trail of frustrated kids behind this past week. I feel very guilty.

So . . . have you been practicing your serves? I have many articles on serving, but here are two of the better ones:

For more, why not try out one of these books?

World Championships
The Worlds are going on right now, May 29 – June 5 in Düsseldorf, Germany. Alas, USA is finally out of everything, with Lily Zhang/Wu Yue losing in the quarterfinals of Women’s Doubles to the #3 seeds from China, Chen Meng/Zhu/Yuling, at -12,6,9,5,7. But can you imagine the excitement after they won that first game? Below are some links. (And don’t miss “The Lighter Side of the Worlds” at the end of the blog!)

China's Grand Slam Table Tennis Sensation - Interview with Ding Ning
Here’s the interview from Matt Hetherington.

Learn How to Counter-Attack (and take your game to the next level)
Here’s the article from Tom Lodziak.

How to Improve Reflexes in Ping Pong
Here’s the article with links to video, from PingPoolShark.

Planning Your Week of Practice
Here’s the article with links to video, from PingSkills.

Ask the Coach
More Questions Answered at PingSkills.

USATT Insider
Here’s the issue that came out Wednesday.

Sid and Nandan at Little Big Shots
Here’s the video (7:36). The show was actually taped last year, but just came out yesterday. They’re great kids – I worked with both of them at the two-week USATT Supercamp last year.

Ping Pong of the Future
Here’s the article. “There are only two annoying things about playing pingpong… setting up the net and keeping score. Smart Net takes care of both in one simplistic solution!”

MrThePortal
Here’s an interesting table tennis shirt. (Here’s the non-Facebook version.) I wondered what the meaning of MrThePortal was and googled it, and discovered it was a youtube site dedicated to table tennis videos!

The Lighter Side of the Worlds

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June 1, 2017

World Championships
The Worlds are going on right now, May 29 – June 5 in Düsseldorf, Germany. Here are some links.

USA is doing pretty well, especially Lily Zhang! For specifics of our players, see the draws in the Main Page, and do a search for “USA.” Or click on the below. (Note that where it says, for example, “1-32” in the Men’s Singles, that means the top 32 spots in the draw, i.e. the top quarter.)

Here are USA Highlights:

  • Lily Zhang/Wu Yue – they are into the quarterfinals!!! In the first round they upset the #5 seeded team, Lee Zion/Yang Haeun (KOR), at 3,4,-8,7,11. Then they knocked off Hana Matelova/K. Tomanovska (CZE) at 9,-10,5,-8,2,7. Then they defeated S. Polcanova (AUT)/Mo Zhang (CAN), 11,-6,9,9,15. In the quarters they will face Cheng Meng/Zhu Yuling, the #3 seeds from China, at 1:30 PM on Friday. (That’s 7:30AM Eastern time, or 4:30AM Pacific time.)
  • Lily Zhang (world #82) – she upset Sabine Winters (GER, world #39) at -7,-4,7,10,-7,6,6, to reach the final 32 before losing to Li Jie (NED, world #21), 13,-5,4,4,9. Here’s the USATT article and the ITTF article on her.
  • Lily Zhang/Kunal Chodri – in the first round of Mixed Doubles they went seven games with the #7 seeded team of Fang Bo (CHN)/Petrissa Solja (GER), and led 3-2 before losing at -9,4,-9,3,-5,2,6.
  • Kanak Jha (world #246 at age 16) – he upset Adrian Crisan (world #67) at 8,8,-5,-11,-9,8,9 to reach the Final 64. Here’s the USATT article on this. He will next face Mattias Karlsson (SWE, world #27) at 8:30 PM (2:30 PM Eastern time). He’s in the 65-96 draw. Here are video highlights (3:48) of Kanak’s match against Paul McCreery of Ireland in the preliminaries.

ITTF Election
It’s over – Weikert won re-election over Saive for ITTF president, 118-90. Here’s the USATT article.

Across the Net: Melton Table Tennis
Here’s their new newsletter. It includes a number of interesting essays. One that caught my eye was the “Proposed Rule Changes” on page 3, where they make the same type of argument about hidden serves that I’ve been making, while pointing out some rather . . . interesting rules proposals at the ITTF. Other articles include “The Dividing Line” (about table tennis in the Southern Hemisphere) and “G.O.A.T.” (who is the Greatest Of All Time?). Here’s their archive of past newsletters.

Hopping Footwork and Other Forms of TT Physical Training
Here’s the video (47 sec).

Weird Vectored Ping-Pong Image
Here’s the picture.

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May 31, 2017

Tip of the Week
Contact Point on Racket When Serving.

Habits and Homework
One of the kids I coach has a nasty habit of standing up straight, both when receiving and in rallies. You’d think this would be an “easy” habit to break, but no – it’s like the minute he goes out on the table, he forgets what he’s been practicing and he stands up like a giraffe stretching for leaves on a tree. We’ve videotaped him to show him the problem, and he understands it, so that’s not the problem. He also tends to reach for balls rather than move to them, another bad habit that mostly comes from standing up straight. Central to these problems is that he has good ball control and very nice rallying skills, and plays at a high level despite these problems – but he pays for them when he plays stronger players. (He’s about 1700, age 11.) So how to you get someone to break such a seemingly simple bad habit?

We’ve given him homework. Four days a week he is to spend about fifteen minutes shadow-practicing, with four specific exercises assigned, all involving footwork. Staying low and moving are stressed. He’s agreed to do these, and seems enthusiastic, so we’ll see if it works.

His serves aren’t every strong either, so along with the above he’s supposed to practice serves for 15 minutes after doing the shadow-practicing, i.e. 30 minutes total, four days a week. (This is in addition to three private sessions, one group session, and three nights of match play each week.) The good thing here is that at first I told him to practice serves 10 minutes, and he thought he could do 15. I’m too lenient!

He’s splitting his serving practice into three parts: Short spinny serves; long, breaking serves; and doubles serves, since he’ll be playing doubles at the upcoming Nationals. We spent some time yesterday going over the serves he should practice.

At the end of our session, we played points, and he was on fire! It was about the best I’ve seen him play – he stayed low and moved to the ball, just as we’d been practicing. Then he played in the MDTTC Tuesday night RR. In his first match, he continued to be on fire, staying low and moving, and won easily against probably the strongest player in the group. But after that he fell into old habits, and his level dropped as he stood up straight and reached for balls. When I motioned him to come over to talk after one match, he knew exactly what I was going to say, said he sort of realized after the match that he had gone back to standing up straight. The sad thing is he still managed to win all his matches – but I think he realizes that if he wants to go up another level, he needs to overcome this.

If you have a bad habit, you have to do the same – find ways to overcome it by practicing the correct movements until they are a habit. It’s either that or accepting the bad habit forever!!!

World Championships
Here’s the home page where you can get news, draws, results, photos, and video. For USA Coverage, see the USATT news page, though I’m also linking to them below. The Worlds are May 29 – June 5 in Düsseldorf, Germany. Here are some links.

DoorTricks Challenge at the Worlds with Pongfinity
Here’s the video (2:17)! I thought this deserved a segment by itself.

ITTF Coaching Courses
Here is the page where the ITTF courses in the U.S. are listed. They not only will make you a better coach, but you will then become ITTF and USATT certified as a coach. There are currently four scheduled:

2018 Youth Olympic Games Selection Procedures
Here they are.

Commitment
Here’s the article by Coach Eli Baraty.

Memorial Day at NYCTTA 2017
Here’s the video (11:08) from Jules Apatini.

Sit Down and Smash
Here’s the video (6 sec)!

Solo Pong
Who says you need a partner to play?

Non-Table Tennis - Balticon
This past weekend I was at the Baltimore Science Fiction Convention, where I was on four panels, plus a reading and a book signing. (Sold a bunch of my SF books!) Here’s a picture of me on the “How to Write Snappy Dialogue,” where I was the moderator. (Here’s the non-Facebook version.) That’s me second from the right – I’d have sat in the middle but a fellow panelist was already there when I arrived. I was at the convention all day Friday and Saturday. Here’s my Balticon Bio. (The convention continued through Sunday and Monday, but I had to go back to coaching.) I went out for dinner with a number of other writers on Friday night, and at one point pulled out a ping-pong ball (never leave home without one!) and demonstrated my blowing-the-ball-in-the-air trick.

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May 30, 2017

NOTE - the Tip of the Week will go up tomorrow.

Prepping for a School Club Tournament
Here’s something I’ve never done before – “dumbed down” my play so a student would be better ready to face such competition at his school! The student, who just started a club at his Middle School, was worried about their grand opening, since they were running a tournament on the first day. Everyone knew he was the big star who trained regularly, but he’d seen some of them play, and despite being about 1900 level, he was somewhere between worried and outright scared of losing to one of these basement players.

The problem was that several of them were very experienced and high-level basement players, who used cheap paddle (i.e. hardbat or slow, dead inverted), and either kept the ball in play with dead balls, or swatted in winners. They also – and most scarily – served fast serves right out of their hands, which of course is illegal, but the student didn’t want to sound like a crybaby on day one by complaining about them.

As long as he has his own racket – which he will – I don’t think there’s any way he would lose to anyone – none of his potential opponents have had training before. There is a long history of experienced tournament players finding themselves in some basement environment where they are forced to use the local cheap sponge/hardbat/sandpaper paddles that they are not used to, against basement “stars” who are, and so losing. Scott Gordon, who chairs the USATT hardbat committee and plays with a hardbat in tournaments (rated about 2000) told me this is why he originally got into hardbat, after losing to some basement player because he had to use the local equipment, and so he learned to play with other surfaces.

So after a brief warm-up, I used a cheap inverted racket for the session, with the usual forehand-to-forehand, backhand-to-backhand, and other drills. When we played points, I’d either dead-block or swat in shots. I also did multiball serving, where I served fast, all over the table, right out of my hand, over and over, until he was comfortable with that. Then we played lots of games where I did lots of funky dead-ball blocking, quick hits and swats, and a steady diet of out-of-my-hand serves.

I won the first game, but he soon adjusted, and he barely pulled out game two. After that he began to dominate – the rubber I was using was 2/3 of the way toward being antispin. I was tempted to switch to chopping and pick-hitting, where I could probably win, but he’s not going to face any choppers, so I ditched that. Also, did I mention that in the new club, they only have about four feet on each side?

I don’t think he had any trouble winning the tournament – I trained him well in the ways of the basement star!!!

World Championships
Here’s the home page where you can get news, draws, results, photos, and video. They are now underway, May 29 – June 5 in Düsseldorf, Germany.

Team USA Prepare for WTTC in Papendal, Netherlands
Here’s the article and picture.

ITTF Presidential Election
I’m told it takes place on Wednesday – tomorrow. So by tomorrow we’ll know if Weikert continues as president or if Saive replaces him. Meanwhile, here’s a new article on the topic, “Saive claims support from all over the world in bid to become ITTF President.” And here’s Saive’s new election video. (I’d put up Weikert’s if he had one, but I don’t think he has one.) I blogged about the election, with other links, on May 19. I’m told it’s going to be a close election. Here’s a video from EmRatThich (12:49) that discusses the election.

Kong Linghui Suspended as Head Coach of Chinese Women's Team!
Here’s the article. This is a shocker – the news came out as I was about to post this blog. Apparently he is “being sued $327,600 by a Singapore casino over alleged gambling debts.” There’ll likely be more on this tomorrow. We’ll see. (Here’s the ITTF article that just went up.)

China Team World Championship Song
Here’s the video (4:17). At the next Worlds, maybe Team USA can put together something like this? I remember the 1994 World Youth Cup Championships where every team was required to put on some sort of skit, and so the USA Junior Team quickly rehearsed and did a rendition of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat”!

Up Close and Personal, Liebherr World Championships Television Production Best Ever
Here’s the ITTF article.

British Airways Meltdown Leads to Cancelled Flights, Including to World Table Tennis Championships
Here’s the story. Midway through it there is this:

On Sunday morning, Welsh international table tennis player Chloe Thomas, whose 7.30am flight from Heathrow to Germany for the World Table Tennis Championship in Düsseldorf was cancelled at the last minute, described chaotic scenes.

“It’s chaos, people are running about all over the place trying to rebook,” she told Press Association. “There’s no one to help, no leadership. There are lots of people everywhere. There’s nowhere to sit, so people are just lying on the floor, sleeping on yoga mats.”

Media, Coach and Player
Here’s the ITTF article on Matt Hetherington, Digital and Social Media Manager for USA Table Tennis.

Zhang Jike, Did One Point Change His Career?
Here’s the ITTF article.

Working on Navin’s Backhand Kill
Here’s the video (15 sec). He normally uses long pips (no sponge) on backhand, but we’re working on flipping to the inverted to smash. (Yes, Navin is “The Bionic Man,” as noted in many articles and videos, such as this USATT new item. He has Parkinson’s and an artificial heart.)

Inward and Outward: Reactions to Points Won and Lost
Here’s the article by Samson Dubina.

Ask the Coach
More Questions Answered at PingSkills.

5 Tips on Balancing an Olympic Career With College, From Table Tennis Player Lily Zhang
Here’s the article.

10 Common Injuries in Ping-Pong and How to Avoid Them
Here’s the article (with links to video) from PingPoolShark. (This is from February, but I don’t think I linked to it.)

5 Ways to Mentally Prepare For Your Next Race
Here’s the article from Running Competitor. Though it’s specifically for runners, the principles apply to table tennis and other sports.

Ma Long & Zhang Jike Training Serve - Table Tennis Serve
Here’s the video (5:41).

Who is Azeez Jamiu?
Here’s the video (3:42). The Nigerian star has recently been living in New York and competing in U.S. tournaments.

Why You Should Never Play Your Spouse in Table Tennis
Here’s the article from Coach Jon.

History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 19 (1991-1992)
Here's chapter ten! Or order your own print copies at TimBogganTableTennis.com, as well as Volume 19!

Nine New Videos from EmRatThich
Here’s his video page.

World Champions of the Past
Here’s the video (1:57), Pong Universe’s Video of the Week.

Judah Friedlander: Greatest Soccer Interviewer Ever
Here’s the video (2:23). While the focus is on his “interviews” with soccer players, they play a lot of table tennis. Judah is rated 1607 – I used to coach him!

The Many Faces of Ma Long
Here’s the gif image, with five repeating pictures (though it only repeats three times for some reason)

Colin Kaepernick Visits Ping-Pong Crazy Seahawks
Here’s the article and pictures.

Sticky Sponge!
Here’s the video (7 sec).

Behind Back and Between Legs Lobs
Here’s the article and video (61 sec) by Teodor Alexandrov of Bulgaria at the Worlds.

Awesome Japanese Skills in Pong
Here’s the video (2:18)!

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