Larry Hodges' Blog and Tip of the Week will go up on Mondays by noon USA Eastern time. 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. (Larry was awarded the USATT Lifetime Achievement Award in July, 2018.)
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!

April 6, 2018

What It Takes to Be Great - and How to Beat the Chinese
Here's a nice video showing what it takes to be a top player: Coming-of-Age of the Ping Pong Kiddo (12:15). It features a kid in China - one of many thousands - who is striving to be the best, and what type of training this means. (Thanks to John Olsen who sent the link to me.)

This is the type of training that goes on all over the world, often out of sight of even local players, who often don't realize how many hours these kids with their coaches are training. I see it on a daily basis at my club, Maryland Table Tennis Center, and it's happening all over the U.S. in training centers, and all over the world. But the sport is more "serious" in China, and so there are far more kids training full time, and making it their top priority, then anywhere else in the world. Even the best U.S. players have to focus more on school (or at most, equally so), and so it's hard to compete against a system where table tennis is the central focus, with numbers far larger than anywhere else. But it can be done! (See below where the Japanese 14-year-old whiz kid, Tomokazu Harimoto, just beat the world #1, China's Fan Zhendong. But Japan might have the second most kids training in the world after China.)

Here's an example of how players are often developed in China. Cheng Yinghua, one of the head MDTTC coaches, from age 5 to 12 trained eight hours a day at table tennis (also training in badminton before that was dropped), with only one hour of school. After that, starting at age 12, he was full-time table tennis, no more school. He became one of the best players in the world, and was on the Chinese National Team from 1977-1987.

These days school is considered more important in China, and fewer players go the extreme route of someone like Cheng. But long hours with top coaches - this is how top players develop and how they are made.

How can USA develop its own players and turn into a powerhouse - maybe even competing with China? Here are five keys.  

  1. Keep opening up training centers. That is a BIG key. MDTTC was the first successful full-time table tennis training center in the U.S. when it opened in 1992, and as of 2007, there were only eight. Now there are 93. This is why our top cadets and juniors are now competitive with the rest of the world, where before they were rarely so. This is what leads to the level and depth of players needed to reach the highest levels.
  2. Develop and bring in more and more and better and better coaches. Neither quantity nor quality will do it; you need quality AND quantity in coaches. Here's the algorithm:
    Many Great Coaches + Many Kids Training = Great Players
  3. Focus first on reaching #2 in the world. Then we can turn it into a USA vs. China battle, and go for #1. Yep, that means we have to catch up to the rest of the world, other than China. But that's at least foreseeable, while beating China isn't at this time. But once you reach #2 and have just one more barrier to break through, it becomes foreseeable.
  4. Don't be pale copies of the best Chinese. We need to take what they and the other best players in the world do and expand on it. That's what every new generation of players has done since the 1920s. We tend to coach players to match the current best players, which is mostly successful, but it's the ones who expand on what the current best players are doing that will become the next generation of best players. Serve and receive are especially areas open for innovation.
  5. Sometimes learn from the past. For example, Waldner could tie up opponents in every rally - no one was comfortable against his variety of deceptive and change-of-pace shots. Take that, add the best of modern top players, and you have someone who will beat the best Chinese. But because such "unorthodox" play develops outside of "orthodox" training, that type of variation game is often forgotten, despite its obvious success.  

History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 21 - 1994-95
You can order your copy now! This volume is 438 pages with 1667 graphics, and covers all the wild things that happened in 1994-95 - and I'm mentioned a lot! (Plus a good portion of the volume is from articles I wrote back then - I was editor of USA Table Tennis Magazine.) Why not buy a copy - or the entire set at a discount? Tim sells them directly, so when you order them, you get it autographed!

Maryland Table Tennis Center April Newsletter
Here it is - I'm the editor for the 71st issue in a row.

World Table Tennis Day
Celebrate 2018 World Table Tennis Day on 6 April! (44 sec)

Asian Cup
Here's the ITTF home page for the event taking pace April 6-8 in Yokoyama, Japan. There's already one shocker - Bigger they are, harder they fall; Tomokazu Harimoto beats Fan Zhendong. Here are highlights of the match (1:29).

Slovenia Open
Here's the ITTF home page for the event taking place in Otocec, Slovenia, April 2-6. The dates caught me off guard this morning - I assumed it was this weekend, but they are already past the preliminaries (Mon and Tues) and into the main draws starting yesterday.

Commonwealth Games
Here's the ITTF home page for the event taking place in Oxenford, Australia, April 5-15.

Ping Sunday
Here's their home page. While I've been linking to their articles as they come up, they have a lot of material there, from EmRatThich. Here are the sections on the web page. (There's another menu lower down that breaks it down into eight categories.)

Ma Long Backhand Loop
Here's the video (67 sec) as he rips ball after ball with Liu Guoliang feeding multiball. This is one of the best videos I've seen of it

Ma Long in Kiehl's, China Unicom, Audi and MONTBLANC Commercials
Here's the video (4:26). "Which commercial do you like the best?"

USATT Training Camp in Davie, Florida
Here's the USATT Facebook page, which links to video and pictures from the national training camp going on there this week, Mon-Fri, ending today. Most of the top junior players in the country from ages 9 to 14 or so are there. Here's a link to video of practice matches yesterday (53:51).

2018 Butterfly Cary Cup

Table Tennis Therapy for Alzheimer's
Here's the video (2:51). "Very few sports work the game, researchers will tell you, as much as the game of ping-pong."

Table Tennis Pins
Is this the world's biggest collection?

Baby Pong
Here's the video (9 sec), with Dimtrij Ovtcharov and Super Baby!

Attacking a Beehive with Ping-Pong Paddles
Here's the video (3:20, with "table tennis" only in the first six seconds) - this is NOT a smart thing to do!

Send us your own coaching news!

April 5, 2018

Lefty Multiball?
As noted in my blog yesterday (second segment), I'm having major shoulder problems. They have been ongoing since October, but became dramatically worse in December at the U.S. Open when I went for a big forehand and tore (or technically "frayed") my rotator cuff. That, along with shoulder tendonitis, bursitis, and extremely tight muscles, mean I won't be doing any private coaching for a while, as explained in the blog.

It also means I can't feed backspin repetitively. When I did this on Saturday, my arm literally went into rebellion, with every part of the shoulder screaming out in terror, "Stop It You Fool!" I stopped a little short of 90 minutes into a two-hour multiball session with a very inflamed shoulder, and it's been hurting ever since. I can feed regular topspin no problem, but when I open the racket for backspin, the arm twists about slightly, and this puts a strain on the shoulder. I experimented all sorts of ways, trying to find a way of doing this without hurting the shoulder, but couldn't find one. (It also puts a strain on the shoulder if I repetitively do my favored forehand pendulum serve, though I've found a way to adjust so it isn't as bad, but the serve isn't quite as good. Tomahawk serve is fine. Backhand serves are out of the question.)

So guess what's on my todo list sometime over the next day or so? I plan to stop by the club and practice feeding multiball left-handed. I've never even tried doing this. I'm not particularly good playing left-handed - I occasionally switch hands when I'm way out of position and either lob or soft-spin a lefty shot, but I'm probably about 1100 overall that way. I've been shadow-practicing feeding multiball left-handed the last few days, and while I'm not too confident I'll be able to feed multiball very well that way, it's worth a try. One option is to do most multiball right-handed, but switch hands (and sides of the table) when I need to feed backspin. But can I learn to do this (with practice) at a high enough level to be effective?

Have any of you ever tried switching hands to feed multiball? Or, due to injury to your playing arm, learned to play with your other arm? I absolutely am NOT going to do the latter, but lefty multiball might be a temporary solution.

Butterfly Cary Cup
Here are articles on the 4-star tournament held this past weekend. The first four are by Steve Hopkins. (I added the last two items one day later.) 

Slovenia Open
Here's the ITTF home page for the event taking place in Otocec, Slovenia, April 2-6 (Mon-Fri). The dates caught me off guard this morning - I assumed it was this weekend (perhaps starting today), but they are already past the preliminaries (Mon and Tues) and into the main draws starting yesterday.

Commonwealth Games
Here's the ITTF home page for the event taking place in Oxenford, Australia, April 5-15 - it starts today.

Register for Spring Group Classes & MDTTC Butterfly Spring Open
Here's info! This is for players in my region, at the Maryland Table Tennis Center in Gaithersburg, MD.

Reflections on Reflectoid
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

How Do I Choose The Right Ping Pong Paddle For My Playing Style?
Here's the article.

New Articles from Samson Dubina

Will Ma Long Win Tokyo 2020?
Here's a great Facebook posting by EmRatThich. Alas, you might not be able to read it if you are not on Facebook - not sure. If you can't read it and DESPERATELY want to, email me and I'll email you the text.

Power of World #1 Fan Zhendong!
Here's the video (4:12) from EmRatThich.

USATT Insider
Here's the issue that came out yesterday.

Featured WAB Club: Li Loeber
Here's the article by Steve Hopkins.

Improvised Pong
You can play it anywhere! (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

Butterfly and Amatur Romania
Here's the video (8:10) - but the part I like is the great ping-pong ball animation in the first 25 seconds!

Badminton Pong?
Here's the video (34 sec) - and watch the kids' heads go side to side!

Batman Pong
I just like this Batman photo! (Here's the non-Facebook version.) Here's my April 1, 2016 blog, with Batman and Superman table tennis pictures at the end. (No, not an April Fools' joke, though the first segment there is!)

Skull Pong
Here's the picture! (Here's the non-Facebook version.) I just added this to my Skeleton Pong listing in my March 30 blog.

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

Send us your own coaching news!

April 4, 2018

Head Chinese Coach??? April Fools!
Yesterday's blog was, of course, an April Fools' joke, something I do every year on April 1. This year it fell on a Sunday, and I was off on Monday, so it came out two days late - but note that I dated the blog April 1, even though it came out on April 3! Also note that I said I'd been hired as the Head Chinese Coach on Sunday, which was April 1. And most important, read the first letter of each line (which I've now bolded), which reads out (twice), "April Fool April Fool"! It should also have been suspicious that each line had a hard break ("manual line break") instead of flowing like all the other articles - otherwise I couldn't force the starting letters. (Plus do you really think I'm going to kick Ma Long and Fan Zhendong off the Chinese team if they don't learn English? Or that China would hire an American coach due to his table tennis books?) But some emailed me believing it was true.)  Here are my annual April Fools' blogs since 2011. And now to start planning next year's! (I did "Ping-Pong for Quitters" twice - once "announcing" it as my next book, then "announcing" its completion.)

Shoulder Problems and Private Coaching
Yesterday I sent the following email to all my students. Alas, I won't be doing any private coaching for a while, just group sessions. I'll also have to withdraw as a player from the World Veterans Championships (though I'll still be there doing coverage), and I won't be playing at the Nationals (though I'll be there coaching and attending meetings). 

Dear Players and Students,

Alas, it looks like I won't be doing any private coaching for quite some time, at least until the fall. I've been undergoing physical therapy on the shoulder for six weeks now, but it's going to be a lot longer. For now, assume I'm retired from private coaching, though I'll continue to run group sessions.

On Saturday I tried doing a two-hour multiball session. Feeding topspin isn't a problem, but feeding backspin repetitively puts a strain on the shoulder, and after 90 minutes I had to cut the session short as the shoulder was badly aggravated. Even before that the shoulder had been hurting. I also tried regular hitting, and while I can do it at a slow pace, as the pace goes up and as balls spray around, it puts a strain on the shoulder, which aggravates the injury.

I saw the doctor again yesterday. I was convinced I needed surgery, but he explained why I can't yet. I have a frayed rotator cuff, plus tendonitis and bursitis, plus abnormally tight shoulder muscles. My range of motion in the various shoulder muscles are all under 50% normal. The problem is that the tight muscles are pulling at the rotator cuff (impinging it), and that's why it hurts, and why playing will further injure it. So I have to continue the therapy which is primarily aimed at loosening the muscles. Once that's done, then either I'll be able to play again somewhat normally, or that's when we may consider surgery. But surgery now, he said, would not help since the tight muscles would continue impinging on the rotator cuff.

If you are interested in working with other coaches, here is the MDTTC Private Coaching Page. (Martin Jezo hasn't been added yet.)

-Coach Larry Hodges

Youth Talents Muster Energy and Tackle USATT Training Camp Head On
Here's the USATT article by Matt Hetherington. Most of the top kids in the U.S. are in Davie, Florida this week for the big USATT training Camp, Mon-Fri. They are streaming some of it live. I watched some of it on Monday, and much of the afternoon session yesterday (78 min). They have two three-hour training sessions each day, plus physical training in the morning. (The morning sessions appear to be live practice, while the afternoon sessions are mostly multiball training.) The sessions are linked from the USATT Facebook page - I think you can go there and get the links even if you are not on Facebook. I was impressed with the coaching - they have a great team: head coach Pieke Franssen, and Dan Liu, Maggie Tian, Wei Qi, and Wang Qingliang. I was also impressed with the players - the depth and level at every level is very strong, much stronger than most past years, far stronger than it was ten years or more ago. I had a good time spying on my fellow MDTTC players (Tiffany Ke, Nicole Deng, Stanley Hsu, and Mu Du) and coach (Wang Qing Liang)! I'm jealous that I'm not down there. Here's the link to this morning's session, 9AM-Noon. (That's Matt Hetherington operating the roving camera.)

Grand Opening of Glen Head Table Tennis Center & Chess Academy
Here's their announcement - they open in Glen Head, NY, this Friday, April 6.

Ready for Action to Begin, Quadri Aruna Optimistic
Here's the ITTF article on Quadri and the Commonwealth Games.

Table Tennis Tidbits #22
The 2016 Korean Open - Championship goes (due to a) South(paw), by Robert Ho.

History of USATT – Volume XX – Chapter 22
Here’s chapter 22 of Tim Boggan’s latest volume, which covers 1993-1994. Or you can buy it and previous volumes at Chapter 22 covers "Mar/Apr 1994 - International Tournaments."

Young Michael Maze - Damien Delobbe 1998 YOUTH TOP 12 Table Tennis
Here's the video (8:01).

Big Paddle Pong
Here's the picture! (Here's the non-Facebook version.) Yes, the paddles are bigger than the kids!

Chen Weixing's Secret Training
Here's the video (60 sec)!

Send us your own coaching news!

April 1, 2018

Tip of the Week
Arrange Practice Partners in Advance.

I'm hired as the Head Chinese Coach!!!
An incredible announcement: I've been hired as the Head Table Tennis Coach for China!!!
Probably because of the recent very poor performance of Chinese players, the Chinese TTA
reached out and hired me on Sunday. Liu Guoliang was replaced as head coach last year, and
it hasn't gone well for China since. But that is going to change - I'm already in contact with
Liu to get his advice on bringing Chinese table tennis back to the top. I'll be working with
famous players: Ma Long, Fan Zhendong, Zhang Jike, Xu Xin, Lin Gaoyuan, Fang Bo, and
others on the men's side, and stars Chen Meng, Zhu Yuling, Chen Xingtong, and Liu Shiwen
on the women's side. I am going to work these players to death! I have a few weeks before I
leave, but seriously, this is a dream come true. Beijing, here I come!

As if that weren't enough, I'll get paid a LOT more than I ever got paid here in the U.S. - they
pay top dollar. But I'll have to earn it. The sport is a whole lot more serious over there, and I'll 
really need to work like 16 hours/day. I can say just a few table tennis phrases in Chinese, so
I've decided I'm NOT going to learn Chinese - I'll coach in English, and the Chinese players will
learn English or they will be off the team. I think this will force them to respect and obey a coach
from a foreign country that they probably don't consider a top table tennis power. However, based
on my table tennis books, and Germany's sudden dominance, the Chinese TTA decided to bring me
on, and I don't plan on letting them down. I'm already studying video of their top players. This is
literally historic, China naming a USA coach as their head coach. I'm going to Make China Great Again!

Summer Training Camps
I'm putting together a listing of summer table tennis camps in the U.S. - if you are running one, let me know! Ones I already know about include MDTTC, ICC, Powerpong, Lily Yip, and Ohio Megacamps.

2018 US Youth National Ranking Tournament
Here's the home page for the event that was held this past weekend in Davie, FL. Here are two USATT articles by Matt Hetherington, and a great lobbing point.

Butterfly Cary Cup
Here's the home page for the event held this past weekend in North Carolina. Here are complete results on Omnipong. The tournament has already been processed for ratings.

New World Rankings
The new ones are out, with changes at the top.

9 Aspects of Blocking
Here's the article by Samson Dubina.

New from Ping Sunday and EmRatThich
Here are four new articles

National Collegiate Table Tennis
They have a number of new articles on their home page, featuring regional championships, sponsors . . . and new balls!

ITTF Museum Officially Launched in Shanghai China
Here's the ITTF article.

Melton Table Tennis Newsletter
Here's the April issue from Australia, "Across the Net."

DHS ITTF Top 10 - 2018 German Open
Here's the video (5:54).

Table Tennis Training on a Treadmill
Here's the video (66 sec) of world #8 Cheng I-Ching of Taipei. .

Backspin Serve, Spinning, Ball Smacking Shot
Here's the video (10 sec) of Matthew Gandy.

Best of Pongfinity Part 4 I Ping Pong Trick Shots
Here's the video (3:09)!

Easter Bunny Pong!

Send us your own coaching news!

March 30, 2018

NOTE - no blog on Monday - power will be out from 7AM-5PM for electrical repairs, plus local schools are closed for Easter holiday, and so I'm off too. 

Upcoming USATT Stuff
As usual, there's all sorts of time-consuming USATT stuff going on behind the scenes. I get a double-whammy because I'm both on the USATT Board of Directors and chair the USATT Coaching Committee, both unpaid volunteer positions. (I'm probably going to have to drop one of them next year - just too much.) A lot of it is email correspondence. Fortunately, I'm a writer, so emailing is a strength. But then you add all the local volunteers stuff (such as the monthly MDTTC newsletter I'll be working on today), and then add in all the actual paid stuff, and I'm pretty busy. 

This past year there's also been a major headache with one individual who believes there's a huge conspiracy against him, and has lodged numerous complaints - a total of 64 (!!!), to be exact - against about 20 USATT people with both the USATT and the ITTF Ethics Committees, with one big filing to each containing the complaints. (I'll give a full report on this later on, when all the complaints have been dealt with by the two committees, hopefully within a month or two.) I've already spent about 90 hours now on this person's "issues," over and over finding his charges to be false and often made up. (Most are easily proved false, but it takes time to do so each time.) And now I've had to spend more time on him again, since I'm named in both of these "Complaints." I ended up writing a response to each, one 10 pages, the other 13. I really, Really, REALLY am looking forward to going public with all this, and then never having to deal with this time-wasting person again. The USATT Board has spent more time this past year on this one person than the rest of the membership combined. If you ever wonder why USATT doesn't get more done, this will be Exhibit A. (We do need to find a better balance where we never let one person waste so much of our time like this again while not taking away USATT members' rights to file grievances. We don't want to take the latter away, but we also don't want one person to be able to highjack USATT's time like this ever again.)

The Event Listing for the upcoming USA Nationals in Las Vegas (July 2-7) came out this morning. The entry form for the Nationals should be out soon, hopefully next week. I haven't asked why it's been held up, but my best guess is, well, see what I wrote above. I'll post here as soon as it's up. 

There most likely will be a USATT board meeting during the World Veterans Championships in Las Vegas, which is June 18-24. The meeting will most likely take place on Wednesday, June 20, which is sort of an "off" day. The membership is welcome to attend, except when we go into "executive session" to discuss legal and personnel issues. (We also have USATT teleconferences on March 12 and April 9.) 

I will be attending both the World Veterans (where I'll primarily be doing daily coverage) and the USA Nationals (where I'll primarily be coaching). I'm entered in singles in the Veterans, but because of my shoulder problems I'll likely drop out. For that reason I'm also not playing doubles - three people have asked me, but I've had to say no. I haven't done any private coaching in a month, though I've done a number of group sessions and fed a lot of multiball. Tentatively I might try some private coaching next weekend - we'll see. But I can feel that the shoulder still hasn't healed. Dang. 

The Veterans are June 18-24, the Nationals July 2-7, so I'll have about a week in between where I plan on taking a reading and writing vacation right there in Las Vegas. I'll likely run a USATT coaching seminar on July 1, which is a Sunday. I might also help out with some training sessions at the playing site just before the Nationals. 

Have You Practiced Your Serves Recently?
Well why the heck not? Get to it!!! Here's Practicing Serves the Productive Way.

Tentative Event Schedule Released for 2018 US National Championships
Here's the USATT listing.

Spanish Open
Here's the ITTF home page for the event, March 28-April 1, in Guadalajara, Spain. The first two days were preliminaries; the main draws start today. Articles, results, pictures, and video.

2018 Butterfly Cary Cup Championship: Photo, Results & Live Stream
Here's the home page for all this. You can also see the results when they go up on Omnipong. (Thursday results are already up.)

Chinese Table Tennis College in Shanghai, Home for Youth Olympic Games Training Camp
Here's the ITTF article.

Insane Rally
Here's the video (26 sec)!

Just Your Basic Inside-Out Falling-Back Forehand Sidespin Countersmash
Here's the video (19 sec, including slo-mo) by Adam Bobrow. Why does Adam get so many videos like this? Because 1) he goes for lots of "crazy" shots, and 2) he videotapes them, and 3) he puts them online. Why don't you?

Ping-Pong Ball Math
Here's the video (52 sec).

Multiplication Math Ping Pong - Commutative Property Math Videos
Here's the video (3:17).

Skeleton Pong

Send us your own coaching news!

March 29, 2018

MDTTC Spring Break Camp: Day Three
Yesterday I had six players in my group for most of the session, so I decided to put them in three groups of two. Two of them would practice on a table by on their own. Two would be on the robot, taking 15 shots each, sometimes with a target on the table to aim for. And two would be with me, with one on ball pickup. It worked pretty well. I did some changes in the pairings after each cycle so they'd get different players to hit with when they were on their own.

Much of the session was stroking and footwork drills. But for one cycle I hit with each player live (rather than multiball), and so each got to do some steady forehand-to-forehand and backhand-to-backhand, and some did live footwork drills. (This was the morning session, which emphasizes multiball. In the afternoon session it's almost all live play.)

We also had a serving session, where I worked with the various levels, from one who is still struggling to serve on the table, to several who were well into learning spin serves. One was hard at work the whole session on his tomahawk serve, and he can now do sidespin, backspin, or side-backspin.

I always have a number of possible table tennis games to finish the session, but the younger kids always have one demand: "Cups!!!" So once again we finished the session with them building pyramids and forts made of cups, and then I fed multiball as they took turns knocking it down. (The older kids from my group and others play up-down tables, games to 11, 11-10 wins.) Often one or two of the kids will go to the cup side and try to rebuild the pyramids and forts as fast as they are knocked down. When they get down to a single cup, I often end it by putting a ball under the cup and explain it's the most powerful nuclear bomb in the world, and if it blows up it will destroy the galaxy, and they have 60 seconds to knock it off - two shots each. So far they've managed to save the galaxy all three days. Be thankful.

Are You Ready for Table Tennis Success?
Here's the article by Eli Baraty.

Lessons From One Billion Backhands
Here's the article from Coach Jon.

Everybody Jumps: Fitness Challenge from Chen Longcan
Here's the article, with links to video, by Bruce Liu and Steve Hopkins.

Three Year Eurosport Agreement Signed; World Class Events Covered in Tokyo 2020 Build Up
Here's the ITTF article.

Edghill Wins St Joseph Garden Open Table Tennis Championships
Here's the article. However, I think they mean the St. Joseph Valley Open!

Airport Tennis Pong
Here's the video (40 sec) of Adam Bobrow and MDTTC Coach Jeffrey Zeng Xun! Coach Jeffrey was on his way back from a vacation in China and apparently he and Adam just happened to bump into each other. Jeffrey was already at the club yesterday coaching! Here's some more Airport Pong (2:47) from 2012, featuring Lilly Lin, Amy Lu (lefty), Nathan Hsu, and myself.

Send us your own coaching news!

March 28, 2018

MDTTC Spring Break Camp, Day Two
I focused on basics in my group today - forehands, backhands, footwork, and serves. The strokes are coming along nicely. One girl "invented" a heavy topspin serve, with almost a looping contact - she did this on her own, I hadn't even taught her yet about the different spins or what a loop was. She was so excited about it I didn't have the heart to tell her that she hadn't invented the serve. Others in the group had difficulty returning it, and so were trying to copy the serve.

It was interesting contrasting two players and their forehands. One had a tendency to take a short, quick stroke, and hit the ball on the rise with a jerky, almost slap-like stroke. The other tended to take a long, wandering backswing, with a flapping wrist, and hit the ball late with a very flat contact. Both improved as the session went on, but the two shots were such extremes I told them that, on average, they had perfect forehands. 

We did the ten-cup challenge, where I stacked ten cups into a vertical pyramid (four on bottom, then three, two, and one on top), and with me feeding multiball, each got ten shots to see how many they could knock down. In the first round, two knocked over seven, three got six. The second time around, three got seven, but the last player got eight - or as I put it, no one had ever gotten that many in billions of years, not on that table on that morning.

Someday I'm going to figure out if, to the kids, I'm a towering pillar of ping-pong wisdom, or just that guy who gives them Jolly Ranchers (candy) and my smart phone to play with during breaks. Hmmmm….

Table Tennis Tidbits #21
Ramen in Slovenia and Australia, but Lo Mein in Japan, by Robert Ho.

US Sister Duo Combine for Pair of Medals in Italy
Here's the article by Matt Hetherington.

Calderano a Beacon of Light for Latin America
Here's the USATT article by Ray Huang.

ITTF CEO Steve Dainton Talks 2018 Plans
Here's the ITTF article.

Double Skipping Challenge to Table Tennis Players
Here's the video (48 sec). 

Fan Pong
Here's the cartoon!

Send us your own coaching news!

March 27, 2018

Tip of the Week
Finding Simple Tactics That Work.

MDTTC Spring Break Camp
We had a great first day of camp yesterday. As usual in recent years, I worked with the beginners - though they weren't all exactly "beginners"! I got to work with one five-year-old for the first time. I was expecting to have get him started, but lo and behold, he'd been taking lessons regularly with our coaches, and already had an excellent forehand, a decent backhand when in position (not easy when your head barely comes over the table and so the racket hides the ball when you hit backhands unless you hit from the side), and had incredible focus for his age. He was fun to work with.

There were five in my group. All had played, though two (both about 8) hadn't had formal coaching. With those two, I focused on the basics, while the others did more footwork. By the end of the morning training session, all five were doing the two-one drill.

They had great stroking practice at the end of the session when we did the cups game, where they'd stack cups into walls and fortresses, and then knock them down as I fed multiball.

During break I taught two of the older players (both about 13) the "backspin game." Each serves backspin five times, twice each. (No rallying in this game.) If the ball bounces back into the net, one point. If it bounces cleanly back over the net on one bounce, three points. If it bounces back over the net but takes more than one bonce on the far side, or nicks the net in either direction, it's two points. My record for three-points in a row (i.e. bounceback serves) is 14. I took one turn, didn't do so great, but scored 14 points in ten serves, with four three-pointers and a pair of one-pointers. The two new players played for a while and both did a few three-pointers. Soon they'll be challenging me, so I better go practice!

Seamaster German Open
Here's the ITTF home page for the event, which was held this past weekend in Bremen, GER. Ma Long is back!!! Here are some links.

Mastering the Mental Approach to Tournament Play
Here's the article by Brian Pace.

The Perfect Stroke?
Here's the article by Samson Dubina.

Ma Long Seeking Number 1 Ranking
Here's the new podcast (25:47) from PingSkills. Other topics covered:

  • Joke of the Week
  • On this Week
  • Tournament Wrap
  • Tip and Drill (Trill) of the Week
  • Advanced Forehand Footwork
  • Chopping Against a Pusher
  • Playing a Backhand Dominant Player

Join my Journey to the Olympics - Estee Ackerman
Here's her Go Fund Me page.

History of USATT – Volume XX – Chapter 21
Here’s chapter 21 of Tim Boggan’s latest volume, which covers 1993-1994. Or you can buy it and previous volumes at Chapter 21 covers "Jan/Feb 1994 -Tournaments."

DHS ITTF Top 10 - 2018 Qatar Open
Here's the video (5:30).

Westchester Table Tennis Center March 2018 Open Singles Final - Jian Li vs Kai Zhang
Here's the video (22:29).

Mixed-Reality Table Tennis
Here's the video (61 sec) of an "interactive digital table tennis experience."

Around the Bottle Serve Challenge
Here are two new videos.

  • Roy Ke (13 sec) - set to music, with a bottle flip AND a back flip! (This was at MDTTC, my club.)
  • Keenan Southall (65 sec) - set to music, with dancing fire! (Here's the shortened version - 36 sec.)

Play Table Tennis with a PILLOW I Challenge Pongfinity Ep. 13
Here's the video (5:03)!

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March 26, 2018

I'm coaching this morning at the MDTTC Spring Break Camp, and ran out of time to do my blog. I'll be back tomorrow. Meanwhile, here's a Doubles Fighting Pong Cartoon - could one of them be you?

March 23, 2018

Coaching "Future Stars" vs. Coaching "Older Players" and Fixing Bad Habits
There's a huge difference between coaching, say, a young, up-and-coming player, who started out with a good coach and has good basic technique; and coaching either an older player, or one who has technique problems.

Many top players, without extensive coaching experience, can be somewhat effective in working with young, up-and-coming players, since they are basically coaching younger versions of themselves, and are simply molding the player as they hone those good techniques as they player develops. In fact, much of the coaching may be inspirational, where you help the player strive to be the best. There's more to it than this, but there's less creative thinking involved in trying to solve problems, as opposed to continued pushing of the player to higher and higher levels, where the biggest need is often exactly what the top player brings - high-level play as a practice partner. (Alas, there are aspects where a top player with less coaching experience might miss, which may hurt the player eventually, but they are often subtle, and mostly effect the player when he's striving for the highest levels. It might eventually mean the difference between a 2600 and a 2700 player - but both levels are rather high.)

Now compare this to coaching older players and players with technique problems. Older players are not striving to play like younger top players, since they are less physical, and so the coaching is different. But inexperienced coaches often have trouble with this, since their experience is often from their own past as a younger, highly physical player. Even I have to remind myself sometimes that there's little point in having older or out-of-shape players do, say, the 2-1 drill, except as a fitness exercise.

The focus on coaching players with poor technique is either fixing the technique or compensating for it. At first glance, this can seem easy for a top player - he knows what good technique is, and simply shows the player with bad technique what he should be doing. Sounds easy, right? But it's far from that as fixing bad technique is more about identifying the root problem or problems. Changing Bad Technique is tricky, and it takes coaching experience to identify problems and how to fix them. Worse, Technical Problems Often Come in Pairs, and inexperienced coaches often see one problem and try to fix that, without noticing that second one - and so they are doomed to fail since you can't fix one without also fixing the other. Meanwhile, a coach is always walking a fine line, balancing the idea of fixing a player's technique with whether it's worth doing so. If a player has reached a high level of play with techniques that aren't considered sound, that doesn't mean they need to change. The shots might be too ingrained to significantly change for the better, and it might be better to focus on other aspects of the player's game, which might lead to better long-term improvement.

I had this experience in tennis. Because of my table tennis, I had a very strong forehand in tennis, better than some of the tennis coaches at my tennis center. But the rest of my tennis game wasn't nearly as strong. The irony is that because of my "ping-pong technique," I didn't have perfect forehand technique, but I had very good technique on other shots where I wasn't very good, such as my backhand. The good coaches understood that all my years of table tennis meant that my forehand technique was ingrained, and while I lost a small percentage of power because of this, I still hit the ball very hard, with great consistency and accuracy, and so the focus should be on the rest of my game. I had one very bad coach who almost ruined my game by doing the reverse - trying to "fix" my forehand technique, which led to a year where I could barely play as he turned my forehand into a beginner's shot while the rest of my name languished. I finally made a rule - work on every aspect of my tennis game except my forehand, and let me worry about that part. That coach didn't like that, so I finally switched coaches. Soon all aspects of my game improved, and my forehand continued to get better, without "perfect" tennis technique. (I compensated for that small loss of power by often taking shots aggressively on the rise, something that came natural with my "ping-pong technique.")

Some might argue, "But Larry, if you'd listened to the coach, you might have had an even better forehand!" Sorry, but that only would have worked if the coach had gotten me many years earlier, and if I had many hours to work on it. In theory, if I were to devote myself 100% to tennis, 40 hours/week, then perhaps I should have worked on the forehand technique, and after a long period of work, it might have gotten subtlety better. But that's not the real world, in tennis or table tennis, and so it was far more important to work on all the other aspects of my game. There was some frustration that I was winning all my matches by pounding consistent forehands, while losing on my backhand, overheads, volleys, and serves, and all that one coach wanted to work on was my forehand!

So it takes some experience to work with older players or those with technique problems. It also takes judgment, where you work with the player in choosing priorities. Trying to turn a 60-year-old, who has been blocking and hitting for forty years, into an all-out looper is silly, yet I've seen coaches try to do that. Of course, it might be the 60-year-old's choice to do so, in which case it isn't silly - and it's never too late to learn new tricks!

Seamaster German Open
Here's the ITTF home page for the event, which starts today in Bremen, GER, March 23-25, 2018.

How to Make Coaching a True Profession
Here's the article.

Improve Your Table Tennis Fast, Beginner to Advanced
Here's the article from Eli Baraty.

Best Table Tennis Serves Tutorial. (Pt 1: backspin, hook)
Here's the video (20:54) from Pongnews/Tomorrow Table Tennis.

ITTF Foundation Manager Position Announced
Here's the ITTF article.

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

Ten Tips for Sports Parents
Here's the video (60 sec).

Sung Sisters Play in Main Draw for Junior Girls Singles
Here's the article by Bruce Liu.

Indiana University South Bend Hosts National Tournament
Here's the article and video (1:53) featuring the St. Joseph Valley Open this past weekend.

2018 Butterfly Canada Cup Finals

  • Men’s Singles Finals - Jeremy Hazin vs. Antoine Bernadet (35:31)
  • Women’s Singles Finals - Siqian Wu vs. Joyce Xu (24:30)

Book Pong
Here's the picture!

Ghostly White Creatures Play Pong
Here's the video (19 sec)!

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