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!

October 24, 2017

Coaching, Injuries, Volume 20, and All That Pushing in Class
I spent much of last week with a cold, but was mostly over it by the weekend. Meanwhile, the right knee I injured way back in July at the Nationals, and re-injured several times since, is about 70% okay now, though I still wear a knee brace just in case. The back is fine - it's been a year or so since that's been a problem. And my arm is okay, though I also still wear an arm brace. So I'm the peak of health, right?

Except for the dumb moment last Thursday (first day back while still fighting the cold) when I found a celluloid ball mixed with the plastic training balls, and tried to backspin smack it all the way across the club to a court where they were being used. Ow!!! I tore my shoulder up doing so. It's the same shoulder injury I've had in the past, but I think it's been okay for something like two years. So it was due. 

So since Thursday I've haven't been able to really extend my arm, whether going to my wide forehand to loop or even on some forehand pendulum serves. I can’t smash high balls. When students loop to my wide forehand I can't reach out to block - I have to completely step over. In theory, I should be able to do that, but in reality, when someone loops aggressively to the wide forehand, you have to be able to reach out to cut it off to block, and if I do that now it's another Ow!!! Anyway, I'll survive if I manage to rest it. On Saturday while coaching I strained it three times - twice inadvertently reaching for balls to my wide forehand, and once, while feeding multiball, just reaching for a loose ball on the table. 

Anyway, I still managed to make all my sessions. Fortunately, on weekends a lot of the coaching is group sessions, where at most I'm feeding multiball. As long as I don't reach for those loose balls, I should be okay. Unfortunately, it's hard to ignore 41 years of conditioning to reach for balls that need to be reached for. 

On Sunday we had a big party at MDTTC for the Talent Development Program, which is our top junior players, ages 7 to 13. Over 20 kids attended, along with parents and coaches. Lots of great Chinese food was delivered to the club in a huge cafeteria-style banquet. I pigged out on Sesame Beef. They ordered a LOT of food, and I was able to take a large supply of the Sesame Beef home, and had it for lunch and dinner yesterday, and still have enough to do the same today. I'm lucky - when I like something, I can eat it over and Over and OVER!!!

Afterwards, the kids spent an hour divided into two groups, with the younger kids having a long, non-stop ping-pong ball fight, while the older ones played Jungle Pong. This is a favorite of the kids, who often play this non-stop on break. You get a group together, and number themselves in order, so each player knows who he goes after. Then player 1 serves. Player 2 (and all subsequent players) have to let the ball come off the table and bounce on the floor, then he hits it back on the table, on either side, and the next player does the same. When a player fails to make a return, he’s out. This continues until you have a champion. There are a lot of tactics - sometimes they loop aggressively off the floor, other times they smash it into the net so it rebounds backwards. In all cases they are trying to get it to bounce on the floor twice before the next player can get to it. The kids are really good at this and the rallies surprisingly long.

Now comes the big problem - all that pushing and shoving in class. Okay, there was no shoving, but lots of pushing as I introduced our Beginning Class on Sunday afternoon to pushing. New players are fascinated by spin, especially backspin. The hardest part is sometimes convincing them to push low, since they discover if they push high, they can get the ball to bounce backwards!

Yesterday's big project was getting all 28 chapters of Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 20 (!) ready for online publication by USATT. That meant breaking the original PDF into 28 pieces, and then doing a series of filters to get them so each chapter is under 10MB. Alas, I've run into technical problems with four chapters, but I'm working on it. 

Chinese National Team Accused of Doping?
Here’s the article by EmRatThich. He has serveral sources for it. All I can say is Wow! “Chinese doctor Xue Yinxian (former doctor for the Chinese Olympic team) has revealed 2 days ago to German Media: ‘If you refused to dope, you had to leave.’” This could be a huge story - since doping is illegal, wouldn't that mean anyone caught doping would have to give up, for example, their Olympic medals, World Championships titles, etc.?

A Busy Month for US Players Internationally
Here’s the article by Bruce Liu.

2017 ITTF World Cadet Challenge
It’s being held right now in Suva, Fija, Oct. 21-29. Here’s the ITTF page with results, articles, pictures, and video. USA players are Nikhil Kumar, Michael Tran, Rachel Sung, and Amy Wang. Here’s an article, “Early upset; North America on the rise,” featuring Rachel and Amy.

Butterfly Southeast Open
The 4-star event was held this past weekend at the Triangle TTC in North Carolina. Below are some links. The articles are all by Barbara Wei.

Review Day Three: German Stars Impress on Final Day in Liège
Here’s the ITTF article and video (4:35).

Timo Boll Swaps Hands Against Ma Long
Here’s the video (39 sec) as he does this in the semifinals of the Men’s World Cup this past weekend, on the way to winning, 12-10 in the seventh. Here’s another video, from 2013. Here are some related videos.  

Insane Table Tennis Point!
Here’s the video (34 sec), with Keenan Southall against the top seed on the far side, Tung Pham.

2017 World Series: LA Dodgers, Jose Altuve, and Ping-Pong
Here’s the article and video (2:52) by Shashin Shodhan.

Pong Cupcakes
Here’s the picture. (Here’s the non-Facebook version.) The picture was sent to USATT Hall of Famer Dell Sweeris for his birthday, which is today.

Crazy Ping-Pong Drawing
Here it is! (It’s actually on sale here.)

Send us your own coaching news!

October 23, 2017

Tip of the Week
Top Sixteen Reasons Players Don’t Improve.

Liebherr Men’s World Cup
It was held this past weekend in Liege, Belgium. As usual in table tennis, one country dominated, with another all- China German Final – wait a minute, what happened there!!! Yes, it was Dimitrij Ovtcharov vs. Timo Boll in the all-German final. So what happened to the Chinese? To be concise, they were Timoed. Ovtcharov won the final over Boll, but he really should share the prize as it was Timo who took out the Chinese. But only barely.

First, note that China was handicapped because at the World Cup, there’s a limit of two players per country, and so their great depth is not rewarded there. Instead of their usual lineup of world #1 Ma Long, world #2 Fan Zhendong, world #3 Xu Xin, world #6 Zhang Jike, and world #9 Lin Gaoyuan (not to mention world #12 Fang Bo and #17 Yan An), they sent only Ma and Lin. (Lin qualified by winning the Asian Cup.) These days, it’s obvious that Ma Long and Fan Zhendong are the two best in the world, and rarely lose to other players. Xu, their #3, is a bit shakier, as is Zhang these days – both occasionally lose to non-Chinese players, which is a no-no for the modern Chinese team. So perhaps China is looking to develop another big star with Lin? He has the game to do so. 

However, at the last Worlds, Lin was up 10-5 match point against teammate Xu and lost. This time? In the quarters, against Timo, he was up 10-4 match point in the seventh against Timo Boll . . . and lost. (He had another match point at 11-10. See link to the video below. Here’s the ITTF article.)

But nobody can beat Ma Long, right? And he did lead 3-1 in games against Timo in the semifinals, and then he too was Timoed, 12-10 in the seventh. (Here’s the ITTF article.)

And so the final was world #4 Dimitrij Ovtcharov vs. world #5 Timo Boll, two Germans who practice regularly against each other. After all his heroics, you’d think Timo should win, but he was perhaps a bit exhausted from his two deuce in the seventh matches, and remember – this guy is 36, which is really old in table tennis. (Here’s the ITTF article.) And yet, this oldster knocked out the two Chinese, made the final of the World Cup, and after being #1 in the world back in 2002-2003, he’s climbed his way back to #5 – and after this World Cup, perhaps higher.

So . . . how did this happen to the invincible Chinese? At my club last night there was discussion of this, and there seems a universal belief that it’s very simple. Liu Guoliang was arguably the most successfully Chinese coach of all time, with China dominated perhaps more than ever in their history during his years as head coach. And then, for apparently political reasons, with the belief that China would dominate regardless, he was “promoted” out of his coaching position to become one of something like 17 vice presidents for the China Table Tennis Association. More than anyone else, he was the one who seemed to keep the Chinese not just on top, but dominating on top, but with his removal, there are now cracks developing. Or perhaps Ma was just recovering from injuries or having trouble adjusting to the ball? If so, why would he have been sent, instead of Fan Zhendong? (See his interview below.)

So what should or will the Chinese do with Lin? If they are smart, they will focus on sports psychology. If they do, Lin could develop to the same level as Ma Long and Fan Zhendong. However, it’s also likely that they will decide he’s too risky, and while he’ll stay on the Chinese team, he won’t be one of their “Big Guns.” At the World Championships, you play three players in the team event, and for the foreseeable future, Ma and Fan hold two of those spots. But there’s a huge battle for the third spot. Zhang Jike used to have a lock on one of the top three sports, but no more as Xu Xin has mostly passed him – but those two and Lin are the main competitors for that third spot. (Fang Bo is another possibility, if he raises his level just a bit.)

At the next Worlds, for the first time in a while, the Men’s Team competition might get interesting. China will face a Germany sending up their world #4 and #5 stars, along with one of Ruwen Filus (world #24), Bastian Steger (#29) or Ricardo Walther (#43). They will also face a Japan with Jun Mizutani (#7), Noki Niwa (#8), Kenta Matsudaira (#11), and of course the up-and-coming superstar, Tomokazu Harimoto, already world #18 at age 14 (and #13 in last month’s rankings). Maybe, just maybe, China might want to bring Liu Guoliang and begin the difficult task of once again going from best to dominating best?

Here are some links.

Between Points - Learn about the most under-developed part of table tennis
Here’s the article by Samson Dubina.

How to Improve Your Table Tennis Game in One Month
Here’s the article by Eli Baraty. This actually came out last week, while I was sick, and I somehow missed it.

Best Rubbers and Blades for Advanced Players
Here’s the article by Tom Lodziak.

Fifteen Unwritten Rules of Table Tennis
Here’s the article by EmRatThich – with three more added “with your comments,” so there are (at this writing) actually 18.

Table Tennis Tidbits #11
Here’s the article and video (54:50) by Robert Ho.

Backhand Counter Technique
Here’s the video (1:53) from ReSpin Table Tennis. More coaching videos are linked on the right.

Training with Kanak Jha and David Powell at the World Cup
Here’s the video (1:50).

Greatest Table Tennis Shot Ever – Revisited with Fire!
Remember this video (54) second of that crazy, incredible behind-the-back countersmash made by Kit Jeerapaet against “Bogeyhunter” (Sutanit Tangyingyong)? Here’s Bogeyhunter’s fiery revenge!

Send us your own coaching news!

October 20, 2017

Not Worth a Nuisance Lawsuit
I wrote a long blog this morning (Friday) on the recent happenings regarding the long saga and removal of Lee Kondo as chair of the USATT Ethics and Grievance Committee. (He was removed as chair last night in a board teleconference by a vote of 7-1.) However, while I believe all of it to be accurate, after consulting with a lawyer, and considering the reactionary history of Lee (covered in the blog), I could be facing a nuisance lawsuit, which USATT would also inevitably be drawn into. (Lee's a lawyer.) We've already spent a huge amount of time on this issue, and who knows how much longer it would go on. Sufficient to say that it simply isn't worth spending any more time on this issue just so I could win a nuisance lawsuit while spending who knows how many thousands of dollars to do so, as well as wasting more USATT time. Just as Lee shared his version of events with the USATT Board of Directors and others, I will share my version with those involved as needed. 

$2700 3-Star Butterfly MDTTC October Open, Oct. 14-15
My write-up and photos of the tournament went up yesterday. Here’s the USATT news version, and here’s the Butterfly News version. (The only difference is the feature photo at the top – USATT went with the four Under 12 Semifinalists all laughing as they all grabbed at the first-place trophy (with the picture taken before they played the semifinals), while Butterfly went with the four Open Singles semifinalists (who all wore Butterfly!).

Normally write these things on the Monday after the tournament, but as readers who know I was sick most of this week, and so didn’t write it until Wednesday night. The results section links to photos of all the finalists, with the pictures taken by Mossa Barandao of PongMobile. I ran the two-day, 3-star tournament, and between that, my cold, and the long saga of the Ethics and Grievance Committee Chair (see above), I now have about as much energy as a dead stick. (The first person to mention E=MC2, i.e. I have lots of potential energy, gets beaten with said stick.)

Table Tennis Books Selling Like Hotcakes
I checked the sales listing for my book sales at Amazon and had a pleasant surprise. Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers always sells well, but this month the sales are even higher than normal. But what really jumped out is that for some reason, Table Tennis Tips is suddenly selling like hotcakes! (Don’t forget, there’s also More Table Tennis Tips.) Also surprising were the number of sales for The Spirit of Pong. Why not join in the fun – here’s the Larry Hodges Amazon Page.

Liebherr 2017 ITTF Men's World Cup
Here’s the home page. It starts today, in Liege, Belgium, Oct. 20-22. Here’s the news page with lots of great articles. Representing USA is Kanak Jha. Here are some videos and an article.

3 Basic Footwork Drills for Intermediate Table Tennis Players
Here’s the article, with links to video, from Expert Table Tennis.

How to Play Backhand Loop
Here’s the video (6:37) from Yangyang's table tennis lessons.

How to Serve
Here’s the video (6:00). It’s nicely animated, but in German, but you can make sense of what’s going on just by watching. I have a vague memory that I might have posted this before, or something similar, but I can’t find it.

7 Benefits of Table Tennis
Here’s the picture/poster. (Here’s the non-Facebook version.)

2017 Butterfly Badger Open – Interview With Jishan Liang
Here’s the video (1:14) by Barbara Wei.

Fan Zhendong and Lin Gaoyuan Training 2017
Here’s the video (3:55).

Seth Pech vs Samson Dubina at the Millcreek Open in Erie, PA
Here’s the video (69 sec). You get to read a lot of Samson’s articles here, now you get to see him play – he’s on the far side.

Here’s the video (45 sec) of a skeletal looper from Steve Worthington! He says he plans to turn it into a bronze sculpture or t-shirt. Technically, I’d say that the backswing is a bit too much around the body (and so to his left) instead of more backwards, but perhaps that’s because he’s moving so wide to the forehand – plus if the arm goes more backwards instead of to his left behind him, it won’t show up as well on a t-shirt. (Here’s they are on his web page, as a possible poster.)

Ping-Pong Shower
Here’s the picture! (Here’s the non-Facebook version.) This is a great picture - we have to do that at our club in one of our junior sessions!

Top Twelve Tactical Rallying Mistakes – Revisited
Here’s the Tip of the Week from this past Monday (though it didn’t actually go up until Wednesday, since I was out sick). See Mark’s comments underneath – they are rather funny and perhaps more realistically depict what really happens with many players!

Best of Pongfinity Part 3: Ping Pong Trick Shots
Here’s the video (3:48).

Table Tennis Trick Shots
Here’s the hilarious video (3:11)!

Send us your own coaching news!

October 19, 2017

Table Tennis Cold
Yes, when you catch a cold from some evil player while running a two-day table tennis tournament, you get to call it a cold. I’ve had one since Monday, meaning I must have caught it at the latest on Saturday. However, though I skipped my blog on Mon and Tue, I’ve gotten some work done. (Though I’ve spent most of the time in my lounge chair reading, doing crossword puzzles, watching movies, making funny pictures of cold viruses, and eating chicken soup.)

I had sort of a good break on Wednesday. I normally have four hours of coaching on Wednesday nights, my busiest day other than weekends. However:

  • One student was out of town, visiting Rome on business. (I mistakenly told a few people she was in Australia, but it’s easy to get the two mixed up, right? It was a friend from science fiction, my other world, who was visiting Australia.)
  • One student came down sick and cancelled, not knowing at the time that I was also sick. Maybe we had the same donor?
  • One student cancelled because of Diwali, a Hindu holiday.
  • The parents of the final student saw in my blog that I was sick and told me it would be okay to cancel, so we did so. So I got another full day of rest.

Tonight I normally have two hours of coaching, from 5:30-7:30PM. (There was three, but one moved to the weekend.) However, USATT is having an “emergency” teleconference tonight at 7PM regarding certain matters I expect to blog about tomorrow, but pertaining to the chair of the Ethics and Grievance Committee. So I’ve cancelled the 6:30-7:30 session, and will rush home for the teleconference after the first. On my todo list for today is preparing for the meeting.

Last night I finally did the write-up of the MDTTC October Open I ran this past weekend. Normally I’d do that the day after, on Monday, but that silly cold thing got in the way. I also formatted and put captions on ten pictures of the event finalists, and put them online, linking to them from the results section of the article. I’ll do a final proof of it today and then send it to USATT and Butterfly to publish on their news pages. I’ll link to it tomorrow, assuming it’s up.

Alas, while I was sick work built up. There’s a complication in the tournament accounting from the MDTTC tournament I ran this past weekend, and it looks like I’m going to have to go over all 79 players, one by one, to find the discrepancy. I have to prepare Tim Boggan’s History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 20 (you read that right) for online publication, which means taking the 460 page document in PDF form, breaking it into its 28 individual chapters, and then, one by one, shrinking each down in size to publishable size using various filters. I also need to redo the tournament event time schedule for our 2018 tournaments.

And then there are all those calls from President Trump where he desperately asks me what to do. It’s quite Exasperating!!! I tell him how he should build a big wall, cancel lots of health insurance, lower taxes on the rich, go to war with North Korea, pick fights with his fellow Republicans and everyone else, play lots of golf, and have a funny hair style, but he knows I’m kidding.

Liebherr 2017 ITTF Men's World Cup
Here’s the home page. It starts tomorrow, in Liege, Belgium, Oct. 20-22. Here’s the news page with lots of great articles. Representing USA is Kanak Jha.

Which Events Should I Enter?
Here’s the article from Samson Dubina.

My Table Tennis Apologies
Here’s the article from Coach Jon.

Interview with Ferenc Karsai on Long Pips
Here’s the video (4:18).

TABLE Tennis Cartoon
Want to literally play table tennis? Here are earlier versions that didn’t quite work out.

Send us your own coaching news!

October 18, 2017

Tip of the Week
Top Twelve Tactical Rallying Mistakes.

Table Tennis North America Submits Letter of Interest To Host 2020 ITTF World Team Table Tennis Championships
Here’s the article. “Table Tennis North America, a partnership which includes USA Table Tennis (USATT) and Table Tennis Canada (TTCAN), today announced that the group has submitted a Letter of Interest to host the 2020 ITTF World Team Table Tennis Championships in San Jose, CA.”

So, when was the last time the World Championships were held in U.S., or North America, or even South America? Answer: NEVER!!! So this would be a first. USATT has been doing a lot of that in recent times – last year we held the first World Women’s Cup in the U.S., and next year we’ll have the first World Veterans Championships in the U.S. since 1990. (As the article says, other than the 1939 Worlds in Cairo, Egypt – practically a suburb of Europe! – the Worlds has always been held in Europe or Asia.

To quote USATT CEO Gordon Kaye from the article above, “With table tennis exploding across North America, we felt strongly that now was the time to bring a World Championship event to our continent. With the success of last year’s Seamaster Women’s World Cup in Philadelphia and the much-anticipated Uncle Pop’s Women’s World Cup presented by Polar Naturals in Toronto later this month, there is absolutely a strong interest in North America for world-class table tennis.”

Want to be a volunteer at these events? Why not volunteer for the 2018 World Veterans? For one thing, it’ll put you on track to be an experienced pro at this when you volunteer for the 2020 Worlds! (I’m already a volunteer at the World Veterans – I’ll be doing daily coverage.)

Mastering the Flip
Here’s the article by Brian Pace, with links to numerous videos.

New Articles and Videos from EmRatThich

National Collegiate Table Tennis Newsletter
Here’s the October issue.

The Secret to Returning Illegal Table Tennis Serves
Here’s the video (4:04).

Adoni Maropis Has a Web Page
Here’s the page. He’s won numerous hardbat and sandpaper singles titles at the U.S. Open and Nationals, but is perhaps best known as the evil Fayed from the TV show “24” (where he nuked Valencia, CA) and as the flamboyant evil sorcerer, Quan Chi, in the TV show “Mortal Kombat Conquest.”

Matt Hetherington Wins New Zealand Men’s Doubles Championship
Here’s the picture. (Here’s the non-Facebook version.) Matt (the technocrat in the hat, who’s not fat, with no bat, who’s not sat, and has come back from his New Zealand flat) is USATT’s Digital & Social Media Manager. If I weren’t sick with a cold I’d come up with better rhymes. (With apologies to Dr. Seuss.)

Senior Table Tennis Champs Share Love of the Game and Each Other
Here’s the article featuring Si Wasserman and Patty Martinez.

Triangle Table Tennis to Host 4-Star Southeastern Open (Giant RR)
Here’s the article by Barbara Wei.

Successful Premier Capital Plastics Butterfly Youth Championships Held in California
Here’s the article by Kevin Yu.

Sarah Jalli Training Video
Here’s the video (2:52) from Samson Dubina. Sarah, 11, is rated 2108.

Junior Training Session
Here’s the video (2:31) of a junior training session in France.

Roger Federer Challenges Klay Thompson to Ping-Pong Game
Here’s the article about the possible challenge match between the tennis and NBA stars.

Puppy Pong!
Here’s the picture. (Here’s the non-Facebook version.)

Tiger and Lily, Standing at a Table, S-M-A-S-H-I-N-G!
Here’s the video (3 sec) of Tiger Woods smashing in a winner as he plays doubles with Olympian and 3-time U.S. Women’s Singles Champion Lily Zhang.

Non-Looking, Watch-Watching, Waving-to-Crowd Short Exhibition
Here’s the hilarious video (10 sec)!

Send us your own coaching news!

October 17, 2017

Nasty Cold Virus Playing Pong and Making USATT Great
To whoever gave me the cold virus at the MDTTC October Open this past weekend for safe keeping – you can come and pick it up at any time. I know you meant well, but this virus you gave me has multiplied beyond its original numbers, and it has annoying taken up residence in various locations in my throat and lungs, where it is now studying to become a doctor, lawyer, or pneumonia. While I applaud its attempts to better itself, and I may help it out financially if it chooses to go to medical or law school, I’d prefer it not go the pneumonia route, and in fact I’m leaning toward kicking it out at any time as it is no longer welcome. So please come and pick it up at any time.

Here’s a picture of the nasty critter playing pong and crusading to make USATT great again.

Because of the cold, and the struggle to get some timely work done, I need to skip the blog again today. Assuming I'm still alive tomorrow, nothing in the universe can possibly stop me from blogging again. 

October 16, 2017

No Blog Today
There should be a rule that if you run a 2-day, 3-star tournament over the weekend, you should get Monday off. (Plus it looks like someone there gave me a cold...) However, there is no such rule, and so I was going to do the blog this morning. Unfortunately, I’m involved in three major time-consuming projects – one USATT, one MDTTC, one involving Tim Boggan’s History of U.S. Table Tennis (preparing the 28 chapters for online publication for USATT), plus my ongoing battle with Amazon (see my Thursday blog), and a dozen other smaller items, such as doing the tournament write-up and photo work. So I need to work on these today. But to tide you over, here’s a question to you: Who would win between these dizzying table-circling speedsters?

October 13, 2017

Upcoming Table Tennis Events to Sign Up For
There are a lot of table tennis events coming up, and it’s time to make plans and sign up for them! We’ll start with tournaments. (I’m referring to USA events. Others should look to their own country’s table tennis association for their schedule.)

You can find upcoming tournaments at the USATT Tournament Schedule. If you are free this weekend (and haven’t missed the deadline), there are exactly ten USATT tournaments scheduled this weekend. There is one 3-star event – the Butterfly MDTTC October Open, which I’m running this weekend. (Deadline to enter is 7PM tonight.) There are also eight 2-star events, and a 1-star. Events this weekend include tournaments in Austin, TX; Erie, PA; Franklin, TN; New Albany, IN; Gaithersburg, MD; Clearwater, FL; Rosemead, CA; New Orleans, LA; Westfield, NJ; and Manville, RI.

Looking for something bigger? Like a 4-star tournament? At the USATT Tournament Schedule, click on “4 star” events, and seven events come up this fall. They include these six – and note that there’s one next weekend, and also give a great thanks to the Westchester Club in NY which runs monthly 4-star events!

You’ll note that I only listed six of the seven events. That’s because the North American Teams is technically listed as a 4-star, but reality is that it is as big as any 5-star event, with about 700 players each year. So I’m going to include that with the 5-star events. So if you are looking for something even bigger than a 4-star, here are three this fall. (The US Para Open is for Paralympic players only, and is held in conjunction with the U.S. Open which immediately follows it.)

What, you want something even BIGGER??? Okay – if you are age 39 or over (as of Dec. 31, 2017), then you will be considered 40 or over for 2018, and eligible for the 2018 World Veterans Championships, June 18-24, 2018 in Las Vegas. Here’s my feature article on it.

So that’s a lot of upcoming events to look forward to. (I’ll be at many of these!)

Oh, you are more interested in training? Then perhaps visit the USATT Certified Coaches list, and find a coach in your area. Or are you more interested in perhaps a coaching camp? There are a number of Christmas Camps (or, as some call them, Holiday Camps), all around Dec. 26-31. Many or most are primarily for kids, but adults are welcome at these camps as well, as long as you don’t mind training with kids your level. Here’s a listing of camps I know of. (I ran a note a week ago asking readers for info on camps.)

Topspin or Flat Hit?
Here’s the article from Tom Lodziak. One small quibble – a flat hit is rarely completely flat, and almost always has some topspin. I’m known for my own forehand hitting (though I also loop), but though it’s called a “flat hit,” like all good players known for this, I actually stroke up at contact for that topspin. And so the ball doesn’t go in a straight line, as the light topspin as well as gravity pull it down. The result is you can smash even a rather low ball. However, there is a lot more margin for error if you loop the ball instead, with lots of topspin, and you can get almost as much speed as well.

3 Tips to Make You More Successful as a Table Tennis Player
Here’s the article from Coach Me Table Tennis.

Learn to Play Table Tennis On Your Knees – Like a 6 Year Old!
Here’s the article from Expert Table Tennis (with links to video). While I don’t play a lot on my knees, I do demonstrate smashing high balls on my knees for younger kids to shows them they don’t have to be tall to do this. I also do this in exhibitions.

Virginia State Champions
Here are two pictures of the huge champions trophy they created at SmashTT, showing state champions starting in 2015 for Men’s, Women’s, Masters, Juniors, Cadets, Open Doubles, and Hardbat. (Click on picture to see second picture.) I think this is a great idea that more states should emulate. Maybe we’ll do this sometime in Maryland.

ITTF Confirms List of Players for ITTF World Cups
Here’s the ITTF article.

Roskilde Pleasantly Surprised with Michael Maze on Champions League Comeback
Here’s the ITTF article.

Stretching a Child’s Imagination; Design a Ball Competition Winners Announced
Here’s the ITTF article. (I previously linked to another, shorter article on this.)

Battle of the Sexes
The movie Battle of the Sexes (Bobby Riggs vs. Billie Jean King) was great, but what was even better was their table tennis match! (Here’s the non-Facebook version.) Alas, I couldn’t find any video of this.

Friday the 13th
[Reprinted from the last Friday the 13th in January.] Yes, it's the day all Friggatriskaidekaphobias fear most. Here's Jason Vorhees wishing you a Very Happy Friday the 13th. ("I Jason. I no Loop. I smash. I Kill.") While we're at it, here's an extremely acrobatic black cat at the net (2:01). It's hilarious, and set to music. And here are two ghosts playing table tennis. And heck, here's a picture of Tim "Hulk" Boggan! (Hulk scary!)

Funniest Spam Ever Received
I got the following spam email yesterday, which reads like it was written by a seven-year-old. (Can someone give me contact info for U.S. distributor of Chop Blocks? I’d like to buy one! Also, maybe a good backhand loop?)

My name is Jim Moore and i would like to get a quotation on models and sizes of the ( Chop Blocks) you have in stock. Immediate responds is require and advise on payment method.
With Kind Regards
Jim Moore

Catch, Carry, and Drop
Here’s the video (8 sec) as Sean O’Neill demonstrates the new technique that will defeat the Chinese. You’ll need some sticky sponge!

Porcupine vs. Armadillo Pong
Here’s the picture!

Non-Table Tennis - Captain Exasperation Woman Meets President Trump
My humorous political satire story, “Captain Exasperation Woman Meets President Trump,” is now on sale at Amazon! Captain Exasperation Woman has the superpower of exasperation, but it’ll take more than that when she takes on Trump (“T-Rump”). (If you are a Trump supporter, you don’t want to read this.) It’s available now in kindle (and readable in other devices) for only 99 cents, and in print for $5.49. Story is 7000 words, 30 pages in the 8”x5” format. The cover itself is worth the cost of the print version!!! Below is the description of the story:

Can Captain Exasperation Woman Save the Planet from Complete Exasperation?
Captain Exasperation Woman, the world’s greatest superhero, has the power to exasperate anyone and anything into utter perplexity by simply telling the truth. Fences, helicopters, secret service agents, and many others will face her wrath. 

When she goes up against the mighty T-Rump known as President Trump, she will confront him with his countless lies, scams, business and moral failings, and the utter ineptitude of his presidency. But she will find her powers are useless against one who is not fettered by truth or conscience. She must bring out her full bag of tricks, from the Spirits of Presidents Past, Present, and Future, to the Devil himself.

Ultimately, she may need assistance from the Exasperation of the Galaxy itself to solve this problem!

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October 12, 2017

I Am at War with Amazon
Today’s blog is only partly table tennis related. In fact, the main connection is that I’m doing a lot less table tennis stuff temporarily as I’m spending more time in my battle with Amazon, plus of course I sell table tennis books on Amazon. Here’s the situation.

I’ve used Amazon for years, both as a buyer and seller. I have an author page there with 13 books – eight table tennis, six science fiction. (“The Spirit of Pong” counts as both, so yes, 8+6=13.) I make a pretty decent living selling my books there (along with coaching).

On October 31, my new science fiction novel is coming out, “When Parallel Lines Meet.” I co-wrote it with Mike Resnick (a legendary SF writer) and Lezli Robyn. We even had a launch party for it at the Capclave Science Fiction Convention this past weekend. I have ten preliminary copies, though it doesn’t officially come out until Halloween. (That’s a coincidence.)

Here’s the problem. On the kindle and audio versions, it correctly has all three of us as authors. But on the print version, it only has Mike Resnick.

I pointed this out to our publisher months ago when the novel first showed up for pre-orders, and he contacted Amazon. When you have an author or publisher page, as we do, there’s a “contact us” link at the bottom of the page, so contacting them is easy. Three weeks went by, and nothing happened, so I contacted the publisher again. He was irritated, saying that he’d been getting bureaucratic problems at Amazon, and hadn’t been able to get them to make the correction.

Now I’ve been through this before, where I needed Amazon to make such changes, and it’s a quick fix on their end. So I told the publisher I’d take care of it. I contacted Amazon, requesting they put Lezli and me on as co-authors, and pointed out the facts:

  1. Lezli and I are listed as co-authors in both the kindle and audio versions.
  2. My Amazon author’s page links to the book as being one of my books.
  3. Lezli and I are listed as co-authors on the publisher’s page.
  4. Lezli and I are listed as co-authors on the actual COVER of the book.

Now things get insane.

An agent from Amazon responded, asking if I’d like to be listed as the Illustrator for the book. (!!!) I responded by pointing out I wasn’t the illustrator, I was a co-author, and could you please make the correction.

The next response was a request for me to show that I was a co-author of the book. Gritting my teeth, I explained that I had already done so, but gave all the info above again.

The next response was a request for me to show that I was co-author of the book. This was written right above where I had given all this info. I pointed out that I had already done so, and what other proof did they need? Did they believe I co-authored the kindle and audio versions, but not the print version that had my name on the cover?

The next response was that they would forward the info to the proper people to make the change. I then waited about five days, with nothing happening. I then contacted them again, asking the status. The response? A request for proof that I was co-author of the book. I gave all the info again, while pointing out that it was all there in front of them, in previous emails.

This went on in various ways for approximately 15 emails, where I kept repeating the same info. The problem was that a different agent was responding each time, and none took the time to look at previous emails or files.

Finally, an agent responded by saying that, golly gee, I was right, I was co-author of the book! He promised to have the change made, but that it might take up to four days for it to appear.

Minutes after receiving this, I received another email from another agent telling me that for me to be listed as a co-author, I needed to be registered as an author as Amazon. I responded by pointing out that I was a registered author at Amazon, and that I had given links to my Amazon author page in at least ten different emails, and gave it again.

The response (again from another agent) was that I needed to register with Amazon as an author before they could put me down as co-author. As my head exploded, I again pointed out I was registered with Amazon as an author, and gave the link again, and asked if there was anything else I needed to register with.

The response (I am not making any of this up) was they would put me down as a co-author if I registered as an author with Amazon. These were not automated responses; these were actual responses from different agents, none of whom seemed to be looking at previous emails.

I responded again by pointing out that I was a registered author at Amazon, but if there was some other registration they wanted me to do, let me know and I would do that as well.

The response was a request that I register as an author at Amazon.

So I again responded, this time sarcastically, giving all the info above, giving my author’s page again, links to the kindle and audio versions, the publisher’s page, and challenging them to actually look at the cover of the book. I then explained that I was a journalist, and I am now considering writing all this up for the New York Times. Never, I pointed out, have I ever faced such bad customer service. Apparently it’s easier to register to own a machine gun in America than it is to register as an author at Amazon even after you are already registered as an author at Amazon!

The response this morning? A personal apology for all the problems I have gone through, and a promise that they would put Lezli and me down as co-author of the book I co-authored . . . as soon as I registered with Amazon as an author.

As I was about to post this, I got another email from still another agent at Amazon, who also apologized for the inconvenience – and asked if I would register as an author at Amazon so they could put me down as co-author. I’ve now sent them about 30 emails, and gotten about an equal number in response. I’ve explained in about 20 different emails that I am a registered author at Amazon, with a link to my author’s page. Since it took about 20 emails to convince them I was a co-author of the novel (despite this being incredibly obvious), will it take 20 emails to convince Amazon that, by golly, I am a registered author at Amazon, with an Amazon author page and everything!!!

I’m reaching the point where soon I’ll have spent as much time and typed as many words as I did in writing my portion of the novel itself. This is the ultimate in bureaucratic insanity. Maybe I should threaten to sue them if they refuse to put me down as an author of my own book? I can show monetary damages (a central requirement of lawsuits) by the very fact that they won’t put me down as author of my own book. If someone wants to buy the print version of the book because I wrote it, the page doesn’t show me as an author.

UPDATE ADDED AROUND 12:45 PM THURSDAY - The idiots (at this point that's the only word that fits) just asked me to provide a screen shot of the error. Think about it - I've provided the link that goes to their own Amazon page where they can see I'm not listed as co-author of the novel I co-wrote, but rather than look at that page, they insist I provide a screen shot of it!!! 

UPDATE ADDED 7:30 AM FRIDAY - I received two separate emails from Amazon. One said they would make the correction within 96 hours (just as a previous one had said a week ago). The other? It said that if I registered (there we go again!) "then we will check for the amount that is charged to you and proceed the refund." Complete lunacy since I was never charged for anything or asked for a refund. 

UPDATED ADDED SATURDAY NIGHT - They finally put my name down as co-author after dozens of emails and constant non-sensical responses. Only - despite my request in EVERY SINGLE EMAIL that Lezli Robyn and I be put on as co-authors, they only put me, leaving Lezli off. I have never seen such constant blundering. Anyway, I'm running the MDTTC October Open this weekend, but will go back on my quest to get them to get this right. Who knows how many dozens of hours it'll take. Here's the print version, with Lezli's name missing. 

UPDATE ADDED MONDAY MORNING - I won!!! This morning they added Lezli Robyn's name to the print version. It only took about 30 emails and many hours of work. Here's the print version, with Lezli and my names both on it!!!  

MDTTC October Open
Here’s the info page. I’m running the 3-star tournament this weekend. Deadline to enter is 7PM Friday. Some events might fill up before that, so enter early!

Spin Is the Answer. What’s the Question?
Here’s the article by Coach Jon.

Online Coaching
Here’s the podcast (30:50) from PingSkills, which covers numerous other topics as well.

Liu Shiwen in Search of Unprecedented Fifth Title
Here’s the ITTF article about the upcoming Women’s World Cup.

Large Turnout for Annual Sports Science Meeting
Here’s the ITTF article on the JTTA Sport Science and Medicine Committee International Meeting.

Nittaku ITTF Monthly Pongcast - September 2017
Here’s the video (10:15).

Table Tennis Manager Game and Trailer
Here’s the video (28 sec) advertising a new online table tennis game, Table Tennis Manager – and it’s FREE.

Angry Doubles Pong
Here’s the cartoon!

Send us your own coaching news!

October 11, 2017

$4000 Ping-Pong Table Shaped like Easter Island on Family Guy
In the Sunday, Oct. 8 episode of Family Guy (Foxx in the Men House), Peter goes to an Anthropologie store and (completely randomly) asks for a “$4000 ping-pong table that’s shaped like Easter Island.” The cashier responds, “We’ve got one right over there.” We then see a picture of this item, with letters on the screen saying, “Actual Anthropologie item.” Here’s the video – it should take you directly to 2:29 in, and the table tennis only takes up the first eight seconds.

There really is an Anthropologie store – I’d never heard of it – but nothing showed up when I did a search there for “ping-pong” or “table tennis,” alas. Then I had a brainstorm and did an online search for “ping-pong table Easter Island,” and here it is! Except (at Pinterest) it cost $12,000! The text says, “Easter Island Ping Pong Table - Easter Island Ping Pong table anyone? Yes this is for real, and yours for only $12,000 (don't worry, it's signed by the artist).” But when you follow the link by clicking on the picture, it takes you to Anthropologie, but the items appears to no longer be there.

Then I checked my search list again, and realized that the table was listed on numerous pages. For example, here it is at Neatorama – and here it says:

“Do you have $3,995.95? Now discounted from an original price of $12,000 is this one-of-a-kind ping pong table by artist Cyprien Chabert. It's shaped like Rapa Nui, the south Pacific isle also known as Easter Island. You know--the one with the giant stone statues. It's a commentary on the birdman ritual of the aboriginal inhabitants and the island's ecological history.” 

It's for sale at Anthropologie, which comments: [followed by a long description]. After that is a description of how the writer imagines the description came about:

“I’ve had a lot of tough writing assignments, but I’ve never faced a task like that poor guy. I can only imagine his face when he was assigned this one.”

“We’re selling a ping pong table,” his boss must’ve said.

Great! the writer may have thought.  A retro addition to any family room!

“Well, you can’t actually use it, because it was created to complex nature of man’s relationship with nature and the ecological challenges faced by modern societies and cultures.”

Blank look.

“Say something about sharks.  And birdmen.”

“What’s a birdman?”

“You’re missing the point.”

“And the point is…?”


Of course, this isn’t the most expensive table out there. Here’s a ping-pong table that sells for up to $48,000, and here’s one for $45,000. And if you want to see more crazy ping-pong tables, go here. (Anyone know of a ping-pong table more expensive than these?)

Use Booster, Speed Glue, Tuner in Table Tennis
Here’s the article and video (23:55) from EmRatThich. I was hesitant about linking to this, since these are all illegal, but as I’ve posted many times it’s a silly rule. Most top players boost or tune (I use these two terms interchangeably), and they are essentially undetectable and not unhealthy in any way. (Not many use speed glue as that is easily detected when they test rackets at major competitions, using the ENEZ chamber test box.) At the higher levels, those who follow the rules on this are at a disadvantage against those who do not. A rule that cannot be enforced shouldn’t be a rule. This article and video will at least educate you on what's actually going on among top players. Here’s my Racket Testing Rule proposal on this from two years ago, which I sent to the USATT Rules Committee, but they didn't act on it. 

3:1 Principle
Here’s the article from Samson Dubina. “Statistics have shown that players who can average 15 balls per rally in drills can usually rally about 5 balls in a match.  Players who can average 6 balls per rally in drills can usually rally about 2 balls in a match.  Obviously, the numbers are going to vary based on the drill type, the hit quality, the quality of the opponent’s hit, and hundreds of other factors.  But the statistics still stand (on average) the drill to game ratio is usually 3:1.”

Analysis of Advancing Women’s Table Tennis Style—Implementing Men’s Style into Women’s Style
Here’s the article by Jinxin Wang.

Less Is More
Here’s the article and video (7:36) from Dr. Jerry Lynch (sports psychologist). “…when learning, it is more important to go deeper than wider.” (Sort of a variation of my Tip of the Week, Saturation Training.)

2018 World Veterans Championships
USATT printed the article from my blog last week on the World Veterans Championships as a news item and in this morning’s USATT Insider. Are you going? If you are 40 or older, of course you are!!!

In a Distinguished Career, Olympics were Highlights for O'Neill
Here’s the USATT article on Sean O’Neill by Richard Finn. But . . . is he playing in the World Veterans?

Korean Serve Target Practice
Here’s the video (45 sec). Note how at the end, when the little kid smacks the target (a ping-pong ball in the far corner) with his serve, and everyone is cheering, he looks stunned, as if he’s not sure what all the fuss is about, since he’s only doing what he’s been trained to do. But . . . will he play in the World Veterans in 30 years?

Crazy Ping-Pong Shots and Rallies
Here’s the video (1:35). But . . . will you be there to see players make these shots at the World Veterans?

Super-Ultra-Mega-Table Pong
Here’s the video (23 sec) – yeah, that’s eight tables and a bench for a net. But . . . will they use these tables in the World Veterans?

Guys Play Ping-Pong while Wakesurfing
Here’s the video (18 sec). But . . . will this be an event at the World Veterans?

Send us your own coaching news!

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