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 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!

May 22, 2017

Tip of the Week
Looping to the Forehand, Backhand, and Middle.

Another Brutal Weekend
Sixteen hours of coaching on a weekend is brutal. I can personally attest to this – and as usual, I’m feeling the aftermath on Monday. Okay, it’s brutal for me, but just another couple days at the office for many of my workaholic fellow coaches, who do this six days a week and have this much energy.

What made things worse was a silly sort of mishap on Saturday. After doing five hours of private coaching, we had the Saturday night junior league, 6:30-8:30PM. It’s really sort of a misnomer as it’s a combination of league and coaching. For me, it was a nice break – after standing up for five hours, I got to sit down for most of the first hour, watching and taking notes of our players for future use. But here’s where the silly mishap happened – I stood up. Yes, I was sitting in a chair, and I stood up, and pulled something in my left leg. Really.

So I hobbled about for a while, and then we finished the session with doubles. Surprise – to even things out, they put me down for doubles with one of the players! I had neglected to mention to them that I’d hurt my leg. I decided I could do it, so went out and played – and of course aggravated it a bit. (Add the fact that I had no warm up, and let’s just say it took me a game or two to get going, and then it was hobble and loop.)

So on Sunday, where I had even longer hours, I found myself favoring the leg – which led to me straining my back. Yes, that’s how it starts – one injury leads to another. I went through most of the day okay, but toward the end I almost brought in another coach to substitute. However, I made it to the end, which fortunately ended with 4.5 hours of group sessions (so I could hobble about without having to run down balls).

Fortunately, I only have two hours of coaching on Mondays. Still more fortunately, one of them is going out of town for ten days. So I cancelled the other, with Navin, who was understanding, and so I will spend most of today resting.

We had an interesting time in the beginning junior class on Sunday. It’s a small group, just eight kids – but when it started at 4PM, only two had shown up. At 4:20, it was still only two. But we learned there’d been a terrible accident on Highway 270, and all traffic was completely blocked for a time. After 4;20 they started trickling in, but I had to postpone my main topic and demo for the day, which was attacking backspin. Instead, we did a lot of stroking drills. With junior star Ryan Dabbs helping out, plus the robot, myself, and Coach John Hsu, we rotated the players around so they got lots of hitting.

Other than that, it was a normal weekend. I spent half of a one-hour session with one player working on nothing but staying at the table – he likes to back up. Another is hard at work developing a backhand banana flip. Another younger kid has finally learned how to smash lobs, and so we spent some time on that – I was already hobbling about on my bad leg at this point, but managed to run them down. Two others have basically made the transition from hitting to mostly looping on the forehand side. One seven-year-old was practically glowing at his new-found ability to flip in short balls, both backhand and forehand – and with surprising topspin! (He’d been told by a coach recently that he was “too young” to need to flip, which he took as a personal challenge.) Another player was struggling with quick blocks to the forehand, so we spent a lot of time on that – it’s all about recovery on the previous shot, ready position, first step, and balance.

New from Samson Dubina
Here’s been busy this weekend! Regarding the first item, about guessing, I’ve been doing this for so many decades I sometimes think I can read an opponent’s serve before he even has the ball. Yes, most players are that predictable from various mannerisms. But these mannerisms are so varied and unique to each player that writing an article outlining them would be very difficult. For one thing I’m often not even always consciously aware of which mannerisms give away what as you really pick these things up on the subconscious level, from years of experience.

Ping Sunday
Here’s a great coaching site – “Free table tennis coaching videos every Sunday.”

Ask the Coach
Questions answered at PingSkills.

Table Tennis Strategy to Win
Here’s the video (11:48) from EmRatThich

Zhang Jike Training Backhand Flick and Attack
Here’s the video (10:27).

How the Russians Stole My Rating Points
Here’s the article from Coach Jon.

China Dominates Table Tennis Like No Country in Any Other Olympic Sport
Here’s the article.

Major Contenders
Here are two new ITTF articles – a new series?

World Champions Ma Long & Ding Ning Head Seeding for World Championships
Here’s the article.

Li Jiawei Wants to Groom the Next Table Tennis Star
Here’s the article.

Today, May 22, is Final Registration Date for America’s Team Championship
Here’s entry info.

Lily Zhang – Back in Training
Here’s the video (38 sec) – “My first week training full time after the busy school year! Still super out of shape and slow, but it feels amazing to be back! World Championships in 10 days!”

Crazy Rally at the SPiN SF Opening Party
Here’s the video (58 sec) – “Winner was Lily Zhang, the youngest table tennis player at the 2012 Olympics, playing against Jiaqi Zheng. This was match point!”

Pong Universe Point of the Week
Here’s the video (13 sec). “Having good footwork is one of the most important elements in being a good player. Check out Portugal's Marcos Freitas vs. Nigeria's Quadri Aruna as they square off in the French Pro League.”

The Table Tennis Roommate Who Ruins Your Date
Here’s the video (2:04)! Yes, it’s about a table tennis roommate with a certain unique skill.

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May 19, 2017

ITTF Election - Saive and Sharara vs. Weikert?
Here’s the article. Now it can be told!!! Until now, nearly everyone assumed that former ITTF President and current ITTF Chairman Adham Sharara was supporting his previous protégé and handpicked successor, current ITTF President Thomas Weikert. However, I’d learned a while back they’d had a falling out. In the upcoming ITTF election, Sharara is backing Jean-Michel Saive against Weikert.

This sort of throws a lot of cold ping-pong balls on many voters’ plans. Some want to get away from the Sharara years, and so opposed Weikert, thinking he was a continuation of that – and that a vote for Saive was a vote against both Sharara and Weikert. And if you like what’s happened during these years, which way do you vote to continue it?

In fairness to Saive, we have no idea how close he is to Sharara, and he might not have any control over who is supporting him. If elected, hopefully he'll be a fresh face who will take table tennis to the next level. Or perhaps Weikert will do so. 

The election will take place at the Worlds at the end of May. All ITTF member nations will vote anonymously, including USA. Note that the USATT CEO will make the final decision on who USATT votes for – I blogged about this on April 20 (see second segment). I'm told the election is looking to be very close. 

Both candidates have new election pages: incumbent Thomas Weikert, with a manifesto centered on seven points, and challenger Jean-Michel Saive and his 11-point program. (Does this mean Saive wins 11-7?)  Here are their original election announcements: Weikert and Saive. Note that there’s a single comment after both of their announcements, from me a month ago. Neither has responded. 

Table Tennis Books
What, you still haven’t bought a copy of Dan Seemiller’s Revelations of a Ping-Pong Player??? Or Samson Dubina’s 100 Days of Table Tennis??? Or Tahl Leibovitz’s Ping-Pong for Fighters??? Or any of Tim Boggan’s History of USA Table Tennis??? Or my books??? Then listen carefully to this carefully crafted message (6 sec).  

Maryland State Championships
The Maryland State Championships are June 10-11, 2017. Note that rating events are open to all – you have to be a Maryland resident only for Men’s and Women’s Singles, Open Doubles, and the many age events. Enter now!!! And note that you can enter online. (I’m the tournament director.)

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

Liu Shiwen Multiball Training WTTC 2017
Here’s the video (24 sec).

Ask the Coach
Questions answered at PingSkills.

EmRatThich Videos
Here’s a page with lots and lots of videos to browse over, many coaching related. I’ve been linking to many of them as they go up.

Jun Mizutani - Japanese Superstar and World #6
Here’s the highlights video (4:20).

Ladies’ Home Journal, 1902
Here’s the picture. (Here’s the non-Facebook version.)

AFL Footy Show
Here’s the video (2:28). “Jack Watts rates himself as a table-tennis star, so, we put his skills to the ultimate test!”

Xu Xin vs TableTennisDaily's Dan on Stiga's Mini Table
Here’s the video (4:18)!

How to Win a Point Immediately
Here’s the video (1:14) from 2010.

Baby Table Pong!
Here’s the video (43 sec) – they say start early, but how early???

Silicon Valley Pong
Here’s the cartoon.

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May 18, 2017

82 Forehands
Yesterday I was coaching an 8-year-old girl who’s a relative beginner. In our last session we had set a goal of hitting 50 forehands in a row (live, not multiball), but despite spending 20 minutes on the quest, she wasn’t able to do it, though she got 43 one time. We tried again yesterday, and made it past 20 a few times, but couldn’t break 30. (She did manage to get 54 backhands in a row.)

The problem was obvious – she’d get nervous and try to consciously guide her stroke rather than let her subconscious – i.e. muscle memory – guide the shot. So I made it my goal to fix that. As is well known at the club, I keep a bag of candy in my bag (Jolly Ranchers) which I give out as rewards. So while hitting with her I asked her about her favorite flavor. The discussion continued, branching off into gummy worms and chocolate, and various foods she liked. Meanwhile, she completely forgot about the forehands, which she continued to do mindlessly (i.e. subconsciously) as we chatted. When she finally missed one, I asked her how many she thought she’d hit in a row. She guessed 15! Actually, she did 82 in a row. And was quite excited!!!

Next week we’ll go for 100. We’ll probably set aside about 20 minutes of the 60-min sessions for this, if necessary, and perhaps we’ll discuss her other interests – soccer, basketball, and dancing. She’s working hard as she wants to get into the Talent Development Program at MDTTC, with tryouts in August. Besides working on forehand and backhand, we do pushing, serves, and footwork. Her backhand push is coming around – yesterday she pushed one that bounced backward on my table! – and yesterday I introduced her to the forehand push. I think next week I might introduce her to blocking, and see if she can block my (as I’ll explain it) unbelievably powerful forehand loop.

The trick I used above doesn’t mean you should normally be chatting about things as you hit, but it’s one way to learn to get the conscious mind out of the way so the subconscious can do its job, just as it does when you are absentmindedly walking or driving, or tying your shoelaces. And the nice thing is that while the subconscious does the work, you get the credit!

Tournament Tough in 20 Steps - Learn how to train your mind and body!
Here’s the article from Samson Dubina.

Footwork Technique: How to Improve Footwork for Beginners
Here’s the article (with links to video) from PingPoolShark.

Ma Long - Service Training
Here’s the video (4:16 sec – starts with an ad, so skip to 12 sec in). You wouldn’t hurt yourself to study this. Watch his contact closely, and then see which way the ball curves – often it looks like one type of sidespin when it’s the reverse.

China Men's Team Training WTTC 2017
Here’s the video (4:41), which starts with them standing for the national anthem, then some lecture, warm-up, and finally table training.

Victor Barna vs. R.D. Jones (1933)
Here’s the video (2:28). Five-time World Men's Singles Champion Victor Barna is introduced as “The greatest table tennis player the world has ever known.” (He would win his fourth title the year of the video.) Jump to 52 sec in to see them play. That’s a pretty nice first rally!

Spinning Forehand Counter-Smash
Here’s the video (32 sec, with slo-mo replay).

Goofy Swallows the Ball!
Here’s the cartoon.

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May 17, 2017

One Off Day and Everything Happens!
I take one day off (Tuesday), and everything happens in table tennis!!! But first, how did I spend my “rest” day? Well, I did get some rest, but not before spending the morning going over the USATT coaching certification process one more time. Soon I’ll be making recommendations for changes/updates to the USATT Coaching Committee, which I chair. I also made some more arrangements for the upcoming coaching seminars at the USA Nationals. I’m thinking now of doing three clinics – one on serves that I will likely run, one on either receive or looping (with a top guest coach, I’d assist), and on “How to Set Up and Run a Junior Program.”

And then my “vacation” started as I spent most of the day in my lounge chair, trying to ignore various table tennis emails. (I'd get to them all eventually.) I did the Washington Post crossword puzzle (which is actually the LA Times crossword puzzle – wish they’d print the NY Times ones from Will Shortz), then read in one looooong sitting the entire “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” (308 pages) – and yes, I’ve read the entire Harry Potter series. (Did you know the cast played ping-pong during breaks? Rupert “Ron Weasley” Grint introduced them to it, and they became pong-crazy – and Emma “Hermione Granger” Watson became the star.) I watched all the breaking Trump news on TV for a while, flipping channels and trying hard not to laugh hysterically at the contrast between how the regular media and Fox News cover it. (You don’t know how hard it is for me not to blog about that – but this is a table tennis blog. I have a master’s degree in journalism, so I know a bit about this topic.) I also watched the Orioles beat the Tigers in 13 roller-coaster innings while editing some science fiction stuff I wrote during the slow periods and between innings.

So what were all these happenings in table tennis? I had a hard time deciding the order to place them below. I wanted to blog more about the ITTF Strategic Agreement with North America, but I’m not sure how much of it is confidential at this point. As noted below, I know what’s planned and how much money is involved, and hope to be part of some of it. Some of it will likely help us on some of the issues I promised to focus on when I was elected to the USATT Board.

Then there’s the Hall of Fame Inductions – three new honorees (see below) and the Lifetime Achievement Award to Dell Sweeris - I know him!!! He’s a hugely deserving candidate. I played on his team three times at the U.S. Open Team Championships, spending Thanksgiving at his house each time! (They are now in the North American Teams.) Actually, I know, or knew, all of the honorees. It’s been a long time since we had an inductee I didn’t know well. I’ve done exhibitions with Scott Preiss, practiced five times/week with Bowie Martin Sr. for most of 1979 (when I was 19 and training at the Butterfly Club in Wilson, NC) and currently sponsored by Butterfly North America (which he co-founded and owned), and coached players in tournaments against Marcy Monasterial. The Hall of Fame Banquet will take place on Thursday night at the USA Nationals, July 6 – I’ll be there.

There’s also the Pong4Kids Grants, with one of the three going to HW Global Foundation, which runs the Talent Development Program at MDTTC, where I’m one of the coaches. There are two great coaching articles/videos by Brian Pace and PingSkills, a video on how table tennis balls are made, an ITTF article on coaching clinics in India by Richard McAfee and Christian Lillieroos, another chapter from Tim Boggan’s History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 19 (and he tells me he’s already halfway through Volume 20, which I think covers 1993-94), and then . . . five different “shot-making” videos! You decide which of these is best – Adam Bobrow’s backhand around-the-net rip receive, the “ricochet” shot, the two shot-making videos, or the incredible Rubik’s cube one1

ITTF Signs Strategic Commercial Agreement with ITTF-North America
Here’s the ITTF article. This is HUGE for USA and Canada. I’ve seen the contract, and while the article doesn’t divulge the numbers (and so I won’t), they are rather large. The article also doesn’t go over how the money will be used, which is surprising as there are a number of programs that are already planned from this. I’ll write more on this later on.

USATT Hall of Fame Board of Directors Announces 2017 Inductees and Mark Matthews Lifetime Achievement Award Winner
Here’s the USATT article. This year’s Hall of Fame Inductees are Marcy Monasterial, Bowie Martin Sr., and Scott Preiss, with Dell Sweeris the Lifetime Achievement Award Winner. Congrats to all!

USATT and SuperMicro Announce First Pong4Kids Grant Recipients
Here’s the USATT announcement and video (3:01). “American Youth Table Tennis Organization (New York), HW Global Foundation (Maryland), and Westmont High School Table Tennis (California), will each receive equipment grants and other direct support from the Pong4Kids program.” I’m one of the coaches for the HW Global Foundation, whose program is described as, “Through table tennis training and competition, these children learn to master their table tennis skills, focusing on problem solving, perseverance, hard work, and sportsmanship. The program emphasizes the importance of the process; positive performances follow.”

The Art of Serving Deep
Here’s the article (with links to ten videos) by Brian Pace.

The 7 Building Blocks of Table Tennis
Here’s the video (21:36) from PingSkills.

Ask the Coach
More questions answered at PingSkills.

How Table Tennis Balls are Made
Here’s the video (8:24) from Pingsider.

Tag Team, Christian Lillieroos Hands Over Duties to Richard McAfee
Here’s the ITTF article.

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

Table Tennis Gains Popularity in Iowa City Through Multiple Clubs
Here’s the article from The Daily Iowan.

Top 10 World Champs Moments #3
Here’s the video (38 sec) - North Korea become mixed doubles champions for the very first time!

Backhand Rip Receive Around Net
Here’s the video (11 sec) of Adam Bobrow.

Pongfinity – Master Shot-Making
Here’s the video (1:48).

Hype Video | KeatBruceGoat
Here’s the video (22 sec) of their crazy shot-making. Here’s their previous longer one (1:49).

Ricochet Racquetball Pong?
Here’s the video (14 sec)!

Rubik Pong?
Here’s the video (26 sec) – yes, he solves it while rallying with it, and finishes with a smash!

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May 15, 2017

NOTE - As mentioned in the last paragraph below, I'm taking a "LORD" on Tuesday - "Larry's Occasional Rest Day." Here's your chance to explore the 102 Best Table Tennis Animated Images or the original "Matrix Ping-Pong" video (1:43)!

Tip of the Week
Towel for Fast Serve Practice.

Fast Serves and Ready Position and Looping, Oh My!
Another super-busy weekend – and I’d like to think I’ve improved the worldwide level of table tennis perhaps a little bit. I coached nine players in private sessions, and another 16 in group sessions, so that’s 25 players. Let’s suppose, on average, they are all ten rating points better – that’s 250 points in level we just added to the world! So yes, the world is not better at ping-pong – by an average of 0.00000003 ratings points per person. I made a difference!!!

Normally I run two group sessions on weekends and assist with another, but one was cancelled in advance and the others had small turnouts due to Mother’s Day and the Capital Area League, which met on Sunday at the Washington DC TTC.

I worked with Serguei on his fast serves, bringing out a towel to help him get the first bounce near his end-line, which inspired the Tip above. (I’ve done this many times before.) As noted in the “Fast Serve” articles linked at the end of the Tip, it’s not really just about the speed of the serve; you have to do something else with it, either making it very flat, giving it a big sidespin break, or pulling off a quick one down the line to catch an opponent off guard (which is where straight topspin can be most effective).

I worked with Todd (age 12) on returning to ready position. He can sometimes pull off nice shots, but finishes in some of the most awkward positions! He also tends to stand in a backhand position, so it’s no wonder he can be awkward on some forehand shots, often forehand blocking back balls that should be smashed. (Maybe he can be a member of the Forehand Blocking Initiative mentioned below?) His two-winged attacking is starting to get better, but a lot of it will come down to his ready position.

I had two great sessions with Jackson (age 11, recently rated over 1750), on Saturday and Sunday. I say great because he did something we’ve been working toward for a while – his forehand loop suddenly came alive! It was as if a light bulb had gone off over his head. He could already loop pretty well, but it was never very clean, and he’d often back up too much, stand up too straight, and stroke mostly with his upper body. Trying to fix these problems is difficult because if you change one, it affects the rest, so you really have to address them all at the same time. On Saturday I had him loop down the line to my backhand while staying close to the table. This can force a player to loop more efficiently – and it worked!!! I even called over another coach at one point to see. So we’re excited for him now. Of course, doing it in practice is not quite the same as doing it in a match, so that’ll be the next step.

And now it’s Monday, where I always wake up stiff and tired after a long weekend of coaching. But guess what? Due to a series of (fortunate?) events, two of my three students tomorrow are away, and the third agreed to move to Wednesday this one week. So I’ll have a rest day on Tuesday. I’m probably going to take the day off from blogging as well – we’ll call it Larry’s Occasional Rest Day (LORD - never forget that Hodges is just an anagram of “He’s God”!) I’ll put up a note if I do. Normally my only off day is Friday, but at age 57 trying to coach six days a week catches up to me - around this time each week I feel like I’ve run a marathon, and now have to run it again.

The Common Theme - Learn to Maximize Your Tournament Performance!
Here’s the article by Samson Dubina

Top 5 Tips to Improve Fast in Table Tennis
Here’s the video (13:05) from EmRatThich.  The five are:

  1. Focus on Feeling
  2. Hit by the Legs
  3. Fix the *Hitting Position
  4. Relax, Explode and Relax
  5. Learn the Tactics

Ask the Coach
New questions answered at PingSkills.

Xu Xin's Left-Handed Lessons
Here’s the ITTF article. “Have problems playing left-handed opponents? Don't feel too bad, Xu Xin is struggling too.”

Table Tennis Serve and First Attack - Yan An Teach
Here’s the video (16:53), in Chinese with English sub-titles.

Table Tennis Earth
Here’s a table tennis blog I hadn’t seen before. The entries aren’t dated so I don’t know how recent they are or how often they go up.

Ma Long Practice with Ren Hao 2017
Here’s the video (5:32).

Looping Board Invention
Here’s the video (39 sec) of this new invention to help players learn to loop.

These Adorable Mother’s Day Posts Will Melt Your Heart
Here’s the ITTF article. It turns out even top table tennis players have moms!

Cities Announced for 2018 ITTF World Tour
Here’s the ITTF article.

Behind the Neck Serve
Here’s the video (29 sec, including slo-mo). I believe Simon Shtofmakher use to do this serve in tournaments. As done in the video it’s illegal because the ball is hidden (nobody does that!), but you could make this legal with a higher toss. Contact is almost visible – move it back a couple inches, toss the ball higher so it’s not hidden by the head, and presto! A legal serve. But of course half the fun of the serve is doing it behind the head, right?

Phenomenal Rally
Here’s the video (23 sec)!

No Look Shot and Pirouette Spin By Steve Bovenisty
Here’s the video (47 sec, with slo-mo replay).

The Rally Ain’t Over Until It’s Over
Here’s the video (16 sec).

This Morning’s Note
On Mondays the blog generally goes up later than usual, due to extra stuff to write about (three days instead of one), the Tip of the Week, and staying up late on Sunday night, my one major “TV night” each week. When it’s going to be late I generally put up a note around 10AM about it. Here was this morning’s note:

As usual, the Monday blog goes up later than others. It’ll be up by noon or I will become the new FBI Director. As the director of this new Forehand Block Initiative I will revolutionize the sport by training players to block with their forehand instead of counterlooping everything. Oh, and I’ll look into that Russian thing – I heard they putin a lot of time developing new forehand blocking techniques that could trump our current methods, perhaps helping players like Lily Zhang to spicer game up in her training sessions. But we shouldn’t russian to these things.

Hippo Penholder Pong
Bet you didn’t know they were penholders! Don’t believe me? Here’s video (30 sec) of another penhold hippo, playing a dog!!! (I linked to the video before.)

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May 12, 2017

Recent Doings
Has only 24 hours gone by since yesterday’s blog? I think time must have stopped; it seems like I’ve put in about 80 hours since then, mostly in one long binge since last night. I did a lot of arrangements for upcoming events, took care of a backload of emails, and can now sit back and relax on Friday (my “off” day) until something comes up. (3-2-1 – “Larry, can you do something for me?”…) Here’s a quick rundown.

  • Thursday Junior Class and Footwork. As I told them at the start of the class, “Today’s focus is getting from Point A to Point B, otherwise known as what?” It took two seconds for one of the kids to cry out, “We’re doing footwork today!” And that’s what we did, lots and lots of it. (Of course we do footwork every session, but more in some sessions than others.) Then we went to games – King of the Hill for the older kids, building pyramids on the table out of paper cups and knocking them down as I fed multiball for the younger ones.
  • Coaching at the Nationals. Working out my coaching plans for the Nationals turned out to be much harder than developing a comprehensive health care plan for America. Who knew it could be this hard??? But I think I have things worked out.
  • Coaching Seminars and Meetings at the Nationals. Pending confirmation from a few others, I plan on running or arranging two seminars at the Nationals – tentatively, one on advanced serves, and one on setting up and running a junior program. They will likely be held on Monday and Wednesday nights. More info on these as they come up. I’ll also attend the Thursday night Hall of Fame Banquet, and several other planned USATT seminars.
  • Private Coaching Schedule. Arranging it each week is like trying to rally with a smoke ring on a windy day. I had several changes this week, so I’ve had to redo the schedule for some days. It’s really like doing a jigsaw puzzle as I try to keep the sessions back-to-back so I’m not stuck at the club between sessions.
  • Emails. They have a way of accumulating. I went through them last night like a ping-pong paddle cutting through soft margarine. (What, you’ve never cut margarine with a paddle??? It’s a blade, right?) But my inbox is now empty, no more unread ones. Let’s keep it that way for a few minutes, okay? (I think I spent two or three hours just responding to emails.)  
  • Sat & Sun – 16.5 hours of Coaching, Oh My! Or as some of our Chinese coaches would say, just another weekend. You’d think I’d be exhausted at the end, but the truth is that it’s hardest getting started. Once I’m into it it’s easier. It’s a lot easier if my first session is with a relative beginner so I don’t have to go full speed right from the start. It’s also exhausting afterwards – on Sat & Sun nights I might as well schedule muscle cramps. (Recently I’ve had a series of really bad toe cramps!!!)
  • Non-Table Tennis - Writing Workshop in July, New Short Stories, and Balticon. Yep, that’s my idea of a vacation and “fun.” I finalized plans last night for my trip to Manchester, NH, July 21-29 for my annual science fiction writing workshop vacation. I’ve already finalized three stories that will be critiqued there, and am already critiquing stories by others who will be there. Stories are due way in advance! I’ll be at the Balticon SF convention May 27-28 as a panelist, plus doing a reading and book autograph session.
  • Non-Table Tennis - King Arthur and Disappointment – 23% on Rotten Tomatoes??? But I’m seeing it tonight anyway. I recently wrote a SF version of King Arthur, where the sword was actually the petrified remains of an alien creature (who is actually still conscious, but paralyzed), and the stone the petrified egg of a terrible invader that the alien had pinned down to save humanity – and when Merlin sprinkles acid on the sword so that young Arthur is able to pull it out, the egg awakens, hatches, and things get really, really bad! It’s making the rounds of the major SF magazines, and will hopefully sell soon. (The story actually starts in ancient China, 2200 years ago, during the reign of Emperor Qin, who is a character at the start when the egg is “laid” on Earth, and the alien goes to battle with it. It’s one nasty egg, shooting out nasty pink rays!!!)
  • Two Days of Distractions and an All-Nighter. I mentioned in my blog yesterday how I pretty much wasted all of Wednesday due to an online “discussion” (via Facebook and Facebook Messenger) about various USATT matters pertaining to the national team coaches. I was drawn into it again Thursday morning and into the afternoon, not by “trolls,” but by people I’ve worked with for years who have firm opinions on the horrors of certain USATT people, and let’s just say don’t trust what I say about it or agree with my logic. I was so aggravated by some of this that I didn’t get any work done during the day on Wed or Thur – and instead I caught up on everything by pulling an all-nighter on Thursday night. As I type this it’s 8:45AM, and I’ve been working at my desk since “Big Bang Theory” ended at 8:30 PM last night. (I count five 7.5 oz cans of Mountain Dew in the trash. I try to restrict myself to one per day…) The only question is whether, after I post this, I’ll go to bed or just stay up around the clock. I used to do that sometimes when I was younger, but it’s not so easy anymore.

1001 Table Tennis Tips
Here’s the article – technically, there are only 27 short tips, but there are some really good ones. Make sure to check out #21! “Practice what you do in a match” by Larry Hodges (Professional USA Coach and Hall of Famer): “Practice what you need to do in a match (strokes, footwork, serve, and receive). If you work hard at each of these in practice, you’ll become proficient at them, and then it’s just a matter of time before you are equally proficient with them in a match.”

Ask the Coach
Here are new questions answered at PingSkills.

Footwork with Dmitrij Ovtcharov
Here’s the video (31 sec) as he does short-to-forehand/long-to-backhand multiball.

Footwork with Xu Xin
Here’s the video (33 sec) as he does 3-spot footwork – at lightning speed!

Footwork with Stevie Sloth
Here’s the video (79 sec) as he demonstrates moving to the wide forehand with a technique similar to Xu’s above.

Table Tennis Spinning Wheel
Here’s the video (58 sec) – I really have to get one of these things.

New Jersey State Championships
They are this weekend!

Form Maintained, No Stopping Japanese Teenagers
Here’s the ITTF article.

Dr. Miriam Stoppard: Why playing ping pong is great for the brain and could help prevent dementia
Here’s the article.

Table Tennis Pins
Here’s the page. “Dear friends, My name is Tonino Solazzi and being a big fan of table tennis, I had set to myself the task to make a catalog of badges/PINS of TABLE TENNIS (WTTC, ETTC, FEDERATION , TEAM, ...) The purpose of this site is to help to table tennis badges collectors to organize they collections. I had the problem of lack of badge's / PINS images for many tournament ... federation .... I've about in my collection 4000 different pins of TT (List collection downloadable)”

Some Doubles Action!
Here’s the video (28 sec) of this great point from Men’s Doubles Final at the Qatar Open in February. That’s Adam Bobrow doing the commentary.

Moose Pong?
Here’s the picture – help choose the name of the mascot for the 2018 World Championships in Sweden! (Here’s the non-Facebook version – but you can’t vote with that.) Here’s the home page for the 2018 World Championships – this year it’s the Team event. (They alternate each year between Singles and Doubles, and the Team events.)

Ping Pong is a Metaphor for Life
Here’s the hilarious video (3 min)!

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May 11, 2017

Table Tennis Stuff I’ve Learned in the Last Few Days

  1. When faced with a teenager suffering sleep deprivation, a counterlooping duel is the best way to wake him up. Splashing water on the face also helps.
  2. If you encourage a kid to hit a certain number of shots in a row, she’ll probably do it. If you mock her and say she can’t do it, she will do it.
  3. There are few things more fascinating to a kid than hitting with that one orange ball mixed in with a box of white ones. (“Never miss with the orange ball!”)
  4. When a student can’t concentrate, have him stare at a ping-pong ball for five seconds. Works wonders.
  5. Older players can move their feet just as much as younger ones. They just aren’t in the habit of doing so, and don’t do it as fast. (Okay, I already knew this, but just wanted to emphasize it since it came up several times this week.)
  6. Rescheduling a coaching schedule to make up for the varied needs of students is like doing a jigsaw puzzle while trying to bounce a ball up and down on your paddle while on roller skates.
  7. Trying to arrange a trip to the Nationals where you’ll be playing, coaching matches, running seminars, and attending meetings makes a Will Shortz New York Sunday Times crossword puzzle seem like first grade arithmetic.
  8. I can still loop 100 forehands in a row. Did it with a student who was working on his block.
  9. My students still struggle with my fast no-spin serve to their elbow. I have failed as a coach but my playing prospects are promising. (Was that a Chinese scout on the sidelines using a radar gun on my fast serves?)
  10. An average man’s step is about 30 inches, according to my online research. I’m a step slower than I was ten years ago. Assuming the trend continues, I’ve lost about 1/17” to my step this past week. So every 17 weeks I lose an inch. Eventually when I move to my right to cover the wide forehand I’ll be moving to my left.
  11. If I really put my mind to it, prioritize it, and put in the necessary practice time, I can and will learn to pronounce and spell our new High Performance Director’s name, Jörg Bitzigeio.
  12. I’m selling just over four table tennis books per day. (Here’s my Amazon listing.)
  13. There is only one cure for exhaustion, and its name is Mountain Dew.
  14. When you have six consecutive hours of coaching, a Snickers bar halfway through is the single greatest thing in the universe.
  15. If you spend one minute responding to an online posting with false info regarding USATT, you will end up spending an entire day on it. (I almost devoted this morning’s blog to my experiences with this yesterday. . . .)

How to Block Heavy Topspin
Here’s the article and video (5:05) from Tom Lodziak.

Table Tennis the Mind Game
Here’s the article. (The article doesn’t actually have a title, so I gave it one.)

Nittaku ITTF Monthly Pongcast - April 2017
Here’s the video (15:25).

How to Make a Homemade Ping Pong Paddle
Here’s the article and video (3:10) from PingPoolShark.

USATT Insider
Here’s the new issue that came out yesterday.

India Ready for the $450,000 Ultimate Ping Pong Championship This July
Here’s the ITTF article. “Ultimate Ping Pong Championships, an inaugural table tennis league, offering a total prize money of $450,000 (INR 3 Crores) is all set to be played in India from Thursday 13th to Sunday 30th July 2017.”

Mission Accomplished Guinea Bissau Completes Full House
Here’s the ITTF article. “Situated in West Africa, on Saturday 6th May, the Guinea Bissau Table Tennis Federation was founded; a significant date for the small developing country, a significant date for the African Table Tennis Federation but moreover a significant date for the International Table Tennis Federation.”

USA League … Proposal?
Here’s the … info. (I debated whether to link to this, since as written … it’s almost unreadable to … me. You’ll see why.)

Champions League Final – Top Hits
Here’s the video (28 sec).

Brain Pong
Here’s the picture!

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May 10, 2017

USATT Coaching Committee and USATT Board Pages
I have a new picture of myself up at the USATT Board of Directors page and the USATT Coaching Committee page – call it “Laughing Larry.” But what do I have to laugh about? I’ll leave that to your imagination. Heh heh heh.

I blogged on March 17, 2017 on my plans as Coaching Committee chair. I’m pretty happy with our new Coaching Committee – together we will soon be orchestrating plans for world conquest. Who are they?

  • Rajul Sheth. He’s the founder and director of the highly successful ICC Table Tennis in Milpitas, CA, and a two-time USATT Developmental Coach of the Year, who you all know well from his recent election to the USATT Board.
  • Han Xiao. He is one of the USA National Team Coaches, was a long-time USA Team Member, four-time Men’s Doubles Champion, and one-time Men’s Singles Finalist, who coached for many years at MDTTC and worked extensively with their junior players before moving to Philadelphia.
  • Sydney Christophe. He is certified as a USATT National Coach, an ITTF Level 2 Coach, and is one of five USA ITTF course conductors. He’s a Lead Coach for the American Youth Table Tennis Organization in New York, and a former Caribbean Men's Singles Champion.
  • Athlete Rep Timothy Wang. Three-time U.S. Men’s Singles Champion and a full-time coach at the Houston International Table Tennis Academy.
  • Staff Liaison Jorg Bitzigeio. He was a National Coach in Germany before recently being hired by USATT as their new High Performance Director. I’ve already been emailing with him with questions on how Germany runs their coaching certification program, and we’ve been discussing how to revamp ours.

A Question of Gender
Here’s the ITTF article. “A common phrase you will hear in sport is “we have to make the women play like men”. For a lot of disciplines this old adage may be true. But take a step back and look at the progress of the men’s table tennis game over the past twenty years. Perhaps we better start saying that the men should be playing like the women.”

Al-Mohannadi Withdraws from the ITTF Presidential Race
Here’s the ITTF article. It’s down to Jean-Michel Saive vs. incumbent Thomas Weikert.

Enterprising Joint Venture, Butterfly Supports Ping Pong Power
Here’s the article. “Increasingly the health benefits of table tennis are being realized; in addition to being an excellent form of exercise, it´s acknowledged by many as an effective treatment against Alzheimer and Parkinson diseases.”

Li Hsin-Yang Set to Follow Example of Illustrious Colleague?
Here’s the ITTF article on new Taiwanese star.

What Happens When Two Long-Pips Attackers Play
Here’s the video (24:23). They both seem afraid of the other’s forehand.

Westchester Table Tennis Center April 2017 Open Singles Finals
Here’s the video (42:57), Deng Pan vs. Junhan Wu.

Switch Hand Shots in Table Tennis
Here’s the article and video (6:01, from 2013).

Bill Gates and Warren Buffett Really Know How to Let Loose
Here’s the article, pictures, and video (66 sec).

Ping-Pong Anyone?
Here’s the cartoon image.

World #7 Cheng I-Ching, Adam Bobrow, and Reptilian Friends
Here’s the picture! (Here’s the non-Facebook version.)

***
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May 9, 2017

USATT Teleconference
The USA Table Tennis Board of Directors had a teleconference last night from 7PM to close to about 8:45PM. All nine board members (including me) attended, as well as CEO Gordon Kaye, High Performance Committee Chair Carl Danner, and attorney Dennis Taylor. Here’s a quick rundown.

I had nominated Sydney Christophe to be the fifth and final member of the USATT Coaching Committee. The board approved him unanimously, so he joins myself (chair), Rajul Sheth, Han Xiao and Timothy Wang on the committee. Sydney is certified as a USATT National Coach, an ITTF Level 2 Coach, and is one of five USA ITTF course conductors. He’s a Lead Coach for the American Youth Table Tennis Organization, and a former Caribbean Men's Singles Champion.

The board also unanimously approved the Classic Table Tennis Committee. (They cover hardbat and sandpaper.) Scott Gordon was the previously appointed chair. The rest of the approved committee is Diann Darnall, Ty Hoff, Al Papp, Jay Turberville (Athlete).

There was a relatively short discussion of SafeSport. I say “relatively” since we had a very long discussion of this at the recent board meeting in California. One problem that’s come up is that some are reluctant to give their social security number for the background check. USATT is looking into other options for this.

Next up was discussion of the new High Performance Director, Jorg Bitzigeio. (I’ve come to accept that for the next few years, every time I want to use his last name I’m going to have to look it up. Or maybe I’ll just memorize it and save some time. After all, I learned how to spell USATT Hall of Famer Houshang Bozorgzadeh!) Jorg is working on getting his USA work visa. The question Rajul Sheth brought up was whether he should be working with USATT until and if he gets that visa. As explained by Gordon, it would be illegal for us to pay him until he does, but until then his work with us is voluntary. The other question was about his being named the coach of the Women’s Team at the upcoming Worlds. (Here’s the news item on the World Team and coaches. Note that Adar Alguetti had made the Men’s Team but had to withdraw for reasons I don’t know.) Some had been told that Jorg had chosen himself, but he was actually chosen by the CEO and the chair of the High Performance Committee.

This is where I spoke up. I pointed out that there were really three questions being raised: 1) Should Jorg be working for us before he gets the work visa; 2) Who chooses the USA Team Coaches; and 3) Who would be the best coaches for our teams at the Worlds? I said that I’d rely on the CEO’s judgement that we could use Jorg before he gets the work visa (#1 above), and that the third question wasn’t really a board question. The key question for the board was #2, who chooses the team coaches? It seems an obvious thing, and yet we don’t have anything in writing that says who does this.

I’d already emailed with Carl (High Performance Committee chair) that we need to have documentation that says specifically who chooses the National Team Coaches. As I pointed out, I’ve heard arguments that the coaches for our teams should be chosen by the CEO, by the High Performance Committee (HPC), by the High Performance Director (HPD), and by the Coaching Committee. Regardless of who we decide will make these choices, we need to document who makes the choice and how. I was assured they will be doing this. My personal belief is that HPD should nominate and the High Performance Committee approve the choices. If the HPD is in consideration as one of the coaches – as was the case here – then the HPC would make the decision.

One problem also brought up was that Jorg wasn’t as familiar with our top players as some other USATT coaches. But he is studying video and communicating with the players on this. He is going to be in overall charge of developing USA players for the foreseeable future, so this is one way to start. He was a National Team Coach for Germany for ten years, and is highly qualified. And while he may not be as familiar with USA players as some coaches, he has one advantage – he may know the international players better than most other USA coaches.

Next up was a long discussion of the recent North American Hopes Trials. Alas, there were a number of problems at the tournament, and the board received a huge number of emails on this. The tone of the emails was very civil, and Gordon assured us that they are compiling the list of problems, and that they will be dealt with for next time. Probably the biggest issue brought up was an incident where the boys began playing second round matches in their round robin groups when the girls were scheduled to play next. And so the matches, which had already started, with some already into the third game, were interrupted by the referee and told to stop playing. The girls then played their round, and then the boys were sent back to complete their matches from where they had left off. Others cited the lack of “pomp and circumstance” that would make the event feel more classic, such as playing the National Anthem or an awards ceremony. (Afterwards Gordon sent out a packet of “goodies” to all the participants.) Others pointed out that due to the way the tables were set up and the lack of room, it was almost impossible for coaches to coach at certain tables.

I pointed out that the first step for many of these questions that came up was to send them to the USATT Rules Committee and/or USATT Umpires and Referees Committee and ask for their input. (The referee for the tournament isn't on either committee, so no conflict of interest.) 

We had brief discussion at the end of the World Veterans Championships coming next year in Las Vegas, and of the U.S. Para Open – and then we were done!

Reverse Pendulum Serve
Here’s the video (3:02) as Elizabeta Samara teaches you how to hit her famous reverse pendulum backspin serve.

Ask the Coach
More questions answered at PingSkills.

California State Championships
Here are the main results.

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

Warren Buffett, Ariel Hsing
Here’s the picture at the annual Berkshire Hathaway shareholders meeting. Ariel has been an invited guest to the event since she was about 11. Here are lots of pictures of them (and Bill Gates) from past years.

Meet Fan Zhendong
Here’s the video (1:40) featuring the world’s #2 player.

2017 Croatia Open Highlights: Gionis Panagiotis vs Tristan Flore (Final)
Here’s the highlights video (5:02).

Dazzling Winning Celebrations, Inspiring Match Preparations
Here’s the ITTF page with lots of pictures and video. “Surprise wins, match preparations, celebrations and lots of love. Table tennis players around the globe share their week on social media and you will end up feeling their love!”

Marmaduke Pong
Here’s the cartoon!

***
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May 8, 2017

Tip of the Week
Advantage of Passive Receives.

Coaching Level vs. Playing Level
It’s difficult for a low-level player can become a National Coach. It’s a simple reality. To be a high-level coach means spending years regularly working with, or at least watching and interacting with, top players as they develop, and the coaches who work with them, and then coaching and developing (or help developing) your own players. You can’t learn this by watching videos. Since top players become top players by training with other top players and working with top coaches, they automatically get this, and so have the potential to become top coaches.

I say potential because not all top players are suited to be top coaches. Some learn and really understand the game as they develop, while others do not. Some are good teachers, others are not. Some are emotionally suited to coaching, others are not. I've met at least one 1400 player who could be a National coach, and at least one 2800 player who probably shouldn't even be a club coach. Nearly all top players can, if they choose, become decent coaches.

But the reality is that top players are far more likely to become top coaches than non-top players. Non-top players rarely have the opportunity to spend years working with, watching, or interacting with top players as they develop, something top players do on their way to becoming top players. Lower-level players often become fine basics coaches, but not National level unless they have this opportunity. But some do get the opportunity, and if they are the type who is willing and able to learn, they can become high-level, perhaps National coaches.

These days, with 93 full-time table tennis clubs in the U.S., there are far more opportunities for lower-level players to spend years developing as high-level coaches than before. But there are no short cuts; you have to put in the same time and effort into this that a top player spends developing his game. You can’t just watch video of top players and expect to understand what it took for the player to reach that level – you have to see it developing, every step of the way.

What’s the best way for a non-top player to become a top coach? It’s pretty simple. 1) Spend years watching and interacting with top players and coaches as they develop; 2) Spend years studying the sport; 3) Develop players. The first two set you up to do the third item, and the third item proves you are truly a high-level coach. The third item can even be a group effort as sometimes low-level players/coaches work with top coaches in developing players, and in the process can become top coaches themselves.

We’re going to be revamping the USATT Certification Process soon. (I was recently appointed chair of the USATT coaching committee.) We’ll probably be adopting more of the ITTF coaching certification process, and making other changes. One thing I’ve always been unhappy with is the rating requirements for the various coaching levels. For club, state, regional, and national coaching certification, we currently require 1400, 1600, 2100, and 2300 ratings. (There's an adjustment factor for women - +150 points, so 1250 qualifies for club coach, etc..) Playing level is often one of the best indicators of a player's knowledge, but not always, and having it set in stone in the rules that we will certify coaches based on their playing level rather than their coaching level - which would often be a result of their playing level, but not always - needs to change.

USATT Board Teleconference
We have our monthly teleconference at 7PM tonight. (I'm on the board, alas.) I normally coach 4:30-8:00 PM on Monday nights, but as usual had to cancel the last 1.5 hours. The agenda:

  • Roll Call/Administrative Tasks
  • Approval of Committee Members (Coaches Committee, Classic Hardbat Committee)
  • SafeSport Update
  • Discussion Regarding High Performance Director
  • Discussion Regarding Hopes Continental Event
  • Discussion Regarding ITTF-North American Commercial Grant
  • Old Business
  • New Business
  • Adjourn

Articles and Video from PingSkills
Here are new ones.

Articles from Samson Dubina
Here are two new ones.

EmRatThich Videos
There are five new videos up at the enigmatically named EmRatThich.

Table Tennis T-Shirt
I kind of like this one – “It’s okay if you think table tennis is boring. It’s kind of a smart people sport.” (It’s why I titled my best-selling book Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers!)

How to Do Three-Point Forehand Footwork Like an Olympian
Here’s the video (51 sec) featuring USA’s Yijun 'Tom' Feng (2015 USA Men’s Singles Champion).

Ma Long Exercise First Ball With His Coach
Here’s the video (2:11).

Elite Table Tennis in Slow Motion
Here’s the video (11:54). It’s from last year, but I don’t think I saw it until now.

Zagreb Open
The Zagreb Open in Croatia finished on Saturday. Lots of articles, results, pictures, and video.

Doubles Seeding Announced for Liebherr 2017 World Championships
Here’s the ITTF article.

The Perfect World Championships
Here’s the ITTF article on Waldner’s perfect 21-0 game record in Men’s Singles at the 1997 Worlds – the only player to win the Worlds without losing a game. Links to highlights video (57 sec).

Table Tennis Robots
These robots are getting better and better (57 sec)! But they still can only do simple rallying – they can’t well react to spin, and don’t seem to attack themselves. I would love to see this robot in a tournament to see what rating it would get. But I don’t think they can serve, so I’m fine with an adjusted rule that in robot vs. human matches, the human always serves if the robot is unable to. From what I see, I don’t think it could return a simple backspin serve or push, so it would get a rating probably under 800.

China’s Men’s vs. Women’s Team – Serve Pressure Training
Here’s the video (8:17) – I’m not sure what the rules are, but it’s some sort of serving competition, which the men won.

2017 ALN Cup Interviews
Here are the videos (4:00 and 8:57) with Lubomir Pistej, David Gonzalez, Abhilash Rajesh Kumar, Mudit Mahajan & Barney Reed.

Amazing Point
Here’s the video (26 sec)! It’s Artur Grigoryev vs. Mikhael Gladyishev at the Russian Club Championships last year.

Joo Sae-Hyuk vs Jan Ove Waldner Exhibition
Here’s the video (15:16)! Joo Sae-Hyuk, a chopper/looper, was a Men’s Singles Finalist at the 2003 World Championships. And Waldner . . . well, according to Wikipedia, he’s “widely regarded as being the greatest table tennis player of all time.”

Mini-Table Pong
Here’s the video (82 sec).

Table Tennis Trick Serves - Pongfinity
Here’s the video (1:32).

How Adar Alguetti Asks for a Date at the Prom
Here’s the video (32 sec). USA junior star Adar (rated 2626) is holding the sign.

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