Larry Hodges' daily blog will go up Mon-Fri by noon USA Eastern time (usually by 10 AM, more like noon on Mondays when he does a Tip of the Week and has three days to cover). Larry is a member of the U.S. Table Tennis Hall of Fame, a USATT Certified National Coach, a professional coach at the Maryland Table Tennis Center (USA), and author of eight books and over 1500 articles on table tennis. Here is his bio.
NOTE - Larry is on the USATT Board of Directors and chairs the USATT Coaching Committee, but the views he shares in his blog are his own, and do not necessarily represent the views of USA Table Tennis.

Make sure to order your copy of Larry's best-selling book, Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers!
Finally, a tactics book on this most tactical of sports!!!
Also out - Table Tennis Tips and More Table Tennis Tips, which cover, in logical progression, his Tips of the Week from 2011-2013 and 2014-2016, with 150 Tips in each!

Or, for a combination of Tales of our sport and Technique articles, try Table Tennis Tales & Techniques
If you are in the mood for inspirational fiction, The Spirit of Pong is also out - a fantasy story about an American who goes to China to learn the secrets of table tennis, trains with the spirits of past champions, and faces betrayal and great peril as he battles for glory but faces utter defeat. Read the First Two Chapters for free!

October 10, 2017

Tip of the Week
Top Ten Tactical Receiving Mistakes.

Sunday Coaching and Monday USATT Teleconference
I spent Friday and Saturday at the Capclave Science Fiction Convention – see segment at end of blog. On Sunday had a 5.5 hours of coaching, mostly group sessions.

In private coaching with Todd, we focused quite a bit on serve and loop, especially backhand loop. He tends to be forehand oriented, but we’re adding more backhand attack to the mix. He’s picking up backhand loop pretty well, but sometimes tends to rush it against pushes. We also worked on moving to the wide forehand faster – but the key here wasn’t the movement itself but rather a faster recovery from the previous shot, a forehand from the backhand side. His backhand in rallies was on fire – he’s discovered he can hit winners by going after my wide forehand. Thanks a lot, age and bad knee, dang it! One problem – he needs a lot more serving practice, so I’m hoping he can increase that.

In the Beginning Junior Class we focused on footwork and serving. After an hour of practice we went to games. They divided into three groups. About half played up-down tables (i.e. real games). Several others took turns on the robot. I taught five of the younger ones the “Serving Game.” For this, one player serves ten times. The other four players stood on the other side (no rackets), with a plastic cup on the table in front of them. The server would serve and the other four would try to catch the serve. If they did, the server scored zero. If the server managed to serve so that it got past the four and hit the floor, the server got one. If the server hit one of the cups and the ball got past them and hit the floor, the server scored three. Then they’d rotate and the next player would serve.

In the “Talent Program” (advanced juniors from ages 7 to 13), I finally managed to do something I’ve strived to do for a while – memorize all their names! I always struggle with this, even though I use the normal mnemonic tricks. I had it down to two girls who I always got mixed up, but now I have that straightened out. Oh, and we did lots and Lots and LOTS of footwork practice. I worked with several of them on their transition from backhand to forehand, which seems to give some of them trouble in random situations.

In the Adult Training Session there were a number of questions about plastic balls, since we have multiple types. We ended up talking about this the first ten minutes. Then it was on to the usual drills – footwork drills early on, lots of serve & attack drills at the end. I spent some time with several of them working on specific footwork problems. One tended to keep his feet stationary between shots and so wasn’t quite ready to move when the opponent hit his shot. Two others simply hadn’t made it a habit to step to balls that they could reach by just reaching out.

On Monday we had a 7PM USATT Board Teleconference. It was a short one, just 7PM to about 8:05PM, with only one item on the agenda – CEO Gordon Kaye’s budget report. He’d emailed us copies earlier, and went over it item by item. Things look pretty good this year – we’re currently up about $52,000, with memberships and tournament participation up quite a bit. 

MDTTC Open and Promo Video
I’m running the 3-star Butterfly MDTTC Open this weekend, Oct. 14-15. There are ten events – Open, U2400, 2200, 2000, 1800, 1500, 1200, Over 50, and Under 14 and Under 12. Hope to see you there!

Here’s the MDTTC Open promo video (66 sec) created by Mossa Barandao of PongMobile.

Sunny Li Featured in Veterans Ad
Here’s the video (30 sec), and here’s the profile of him (page down to the bottom). Sunny dominated junior events I the U.S. from Under 10 to Under 21 in the 1990s, winning all of these events, and even sweeping Under 12, 14, and 16 one year, and Under 14, 16, and 18 another. He stopped playing when he was 17, rated about 2550, and went to college. After graduating, he joined the marines in 2002, shortly after 9-11. He was honorably discharged as a captain in 2009. From the article: “Sunny Li is missing a rib and has shrapnel in his body that he can still feel today. But if you ask him about these things, he’ll tell you that there is no scenario that has made him broken - these things have only made him stronger.” (Sunny was from MDTTC, my club – I probably practiced with him a thousand hours, and played him a thousand matches.)

Pretend You’re a Goalkeeper to Correct Your Table Tennis Stance
Here’s the article from Expert Table Tennis. (I also used the example of a soccer goalkeeper in my 2012 Tip of the Week, “Ready Position” – see last line. Ben elaborates on this a bit more.)

How to Serve – Forehand Pendulum Serve
Here’s the video (6 min) – it’s in German, but with great graphics that show what you need to know.

Chinese Table Tennis Super League to Exclude Japanese Players
Here’s the article from Japan Times.

Sharon Alguetti Responds, Wins in Belgrade
Here’s the ITTF article on the USA junior star.

The Three Winners of the Design a Ball Competition
Here are the winners. (Here’s the non-Facebook version.)

A Bar in London Just Got an Interactive Ping Pong Table That's a Giant Computer Game
Here’s the article from Business Insider.

Tomokazu Harimoto vs Jun Mizutani (2017 T2APAC)
Here’s the video (8:20) from EmRatThich.

Triples Table Tennis
Here’s the video (1:42) with a specialized table and net for this new version that’ll be demonstrated at the next World Championships.

Pong Cup Basketball?
Here’s the video (45 sec)!

Boll Bathing in Balls
Here’s the picture! Yes, that’s world #5 Timo Boll from Germany, former world #1. Caption says he’s #6, but he just moved up a spot. (Here’s the non-Facebook version.)

Really Fast Cowboy and Indian Pong
Here’s the repeating gif image!

Non-Table Tennis – Capclave Science Fiction Convention
I spent Friday and Saturday at the Capclave Science Fiction Convention. (It continued on Sunday, but I spent that day coaching at MDTTC.) As many of you know, science fiction writing (and reading!) is what I do outside of table tennis. (Here’s my Capclave bio, which mentions my being a professional table tennis coach.) I was the moderator on two panels, “Care and Feeding of Writers Groups and Critique Circles” and “Writing for Anthologies,” and was on the panel “I've Done My Research and You're Going to Suffer For It.” (There I explained how I’d inadvertently become an expert on blue whales as this kept coming up in my writing – and blue whales show up in three of my four novels!) I was also in two book signings – here’s a picture of me with my six SF books. We also had the official book launch party for my new novel, “When Parallel Lines Meet,” which I co-wrote with Mike Resnick and Lezli Robyn, and comes out officially on Oct. 31. (Here's a picture of me with our book.) About 30 people came for the party, which was a joint party with two other novelists with new novels coming out. (One small irritant – at the Amazon listing above it correctly has all three authors listed for the kindle and audio versions, but for the print version, it only lists Mike Resnick. That’s being fixed.)

Send us your own coaching news!

October 5, 2017

Capclave and Columbus and teleConference, Oh My!
No blog on Friday and Monday. On Friday and Saturday I’ll be at the Capclave Science Fiction Convention, where I’m a panelist (three panels, moderating two of them – here’s my Capclave bio with a link to my schedule), doing a book launch for my new SF novel, “When Parallel Lines Meet” (co-written with Mike Resnick and Lezli Robyn), and doing two autograph sessions. So no table tennis for me those two days, though I have a full day of TT scheduled on Sunday. Monday is Columbus Day, so I’m taking the day off – except for a 7PM USATT Board of Directors Teleconference.

2018 World Veteran Championships in Las Vegas
It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity – or at least once every 27 years, the last time the U.S. held a World Veterans Table Tennis Championship, back in 1990. The 2018 World Veterans Championships will be held at the Las Vegas Convention Center, June 18-24, and if you are over the age of 40 (as of Dec. 31, 2018), you need to be there.

Let’s start with the basics – the events. There are eleven age categories, with singles and doubles in each.

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

All events, both singles and doubles, will have preliminary groups of four, with two advancing to the championship draw and the other two to the consolation draw. If you enter both singles and doubles, you should play eight matches.  

You are probably asking yourself, “I haven’t got a chance! The best players in the world will be there!” Well, it’s true – the best players will be there, and most players are not going to become World Champion. But that’s not the reason you go to the World Veterans Championships (unless you are one of the best of your age in the world) – you go there to compete, meet other players (including the best in the world), have fun, spectate, shop, and enjoy the Las Vegas vacationland. It’ll be a full week of table tennis paradise, where you hobnob with your table tennis friends (old and new) and the stars. You’ll get to attend in person the opening and closing ceremonies, as well as sightseeing and social events planned.

Which top players will be there? We don’t really know yet. But we do know we are looking at a probable record number of entries. There were 4602 players at the last World Veterans, in Spain in 2016, but as of the end of August there were double the number of entries this year as there were in 2016 at that time. There are currently 1447 players entered in the online listing (which you can list by name, country, or events), but that doesn’t include most of the 1400 reserved entries from Germany, as well as over 250 that are “pending.” That puts us at over 3000 (already more than 1990, when we previously held it), and it’s still over two months until the “Early Bird” deadline of Dec. 15. The maximum number of entries that will be allowed is 5000, and it’s almost certain that we will reach that number – so enter now, while you can!

There are already over 200 entries each from Germany and China, and about 170 from India, so we are on a pace for huge numbers from them, as well as from the U.S., where we definitely will have a record number of entries. Yes, all your friends will be there – will you? (If you are worried about rating points, don’t. The tournament is not USATT rated. So you get to play for fun and competition.)

Think about it – we normally get 700-1000 players in our U.S. Nationals and Opens. There’ll be about 5000 at the 2018 World Veterans, from all over the world. It’s still early, and yet we already have players from 58 countries – ARG, AUS, AUT, BEL, BRA, CAN, CHI, CHN, COL, CZE, DEN, ENG, ESP, EST, FIN, FRA, GER, HKG, HUN, IMN, IND, IRI, IRL, ISR, ITA, JPN, KAZ, KOS, LTU, LUX, MAS, MGL, NED, NEP, NGR, NOR, NZL, PAK, PER, PHI, PLE, POL, POR, ROU, RSA, RUS, SCO, SIN, SRI, SUI, SVK, SWE, TPE, TUR, UAE, UKR, USA, AND VIE.

Since it’s taking place in the U.S., there’s going to be a lot of interest in USA players. The Over 60 Men’s Doubles Team of Cheng Yinghua and Dan Seemiller (both USATT Hall of Famers) will likely be a huge fan favorite. Both of them spent about a decade dominating table tennis in the U.S., both are surprisingly better at doubles than singles. With Cheng’s two-winged attacks and consistency, and the lefty Dan’s receive and ball control, they have a legitimate chance of winning. Dan is 5-time U.S. Men’s Singles Champion, 12-times Men’s Doubles Champion, and 8-time Mixed Doubles Champion. Dan also won the Bronze Medal for 60-64 Men’s Doubles at the 2016 World Veterans with David Sakai. Cheng was 4-time U.S. Men’s Singles Champion, 3-time Men’s Doubles Champion, 5-time Mixed Doubles Champion (as well as winning Men’s Singles and Doubles at the U.S. Open twice each) – but before he came to the U.S., he was two-time China Open Men’s Doubles Champion. They will also both be battling it out in the 60-64 age category. Cheng will actually be only 59 at the time, but they take ages as of Dec. 31. Dan will turn 64 five days before the competition begins.

Cost is $185 if you enter by the Dec. 15 “Early Bird” deadline. Then the price goes up to $235, with entries cutting off when they reach 5000 or on March 15 – but it’s likely they will reach 5000 well before that, so enter soon. Included in entry fees:

  • Entry to both Singles and Doubles
  • Use of practice facilities
  • Free monorail pass for the week (if you stay at the host hotels)
  • Free pickup at the airport (if you stay at the host hotels)
  • Participation in the Opening and Closing Ceremonies
  • Personal accreditation
  • Tournament documents
  • Participant’s diploma and gift

The event will be run by USA Table Tennis, in conjunction with the World Veterans Committee (with Director Eberhard Schöler and chair Hans Westling). The Organizing Committee is co-chaired by Dan Seemiller and David Sakai, with Honorary Host Stellan Bengtsson, and members Gail Kendall, Mike Babuin, Dean Johnson, Dell Sweeris, and Thor Truelson.

Here’s the Volunteer page if you would like to help out and get hospitality. (Alas, you can’t both volunteer and play – but you get to be a HUGE part of the event!) They are looking for volunteers for the following categories: Field of play (table managers, scorekeepers, and other related activities); Data entry; Tournament operations; Hospitality; Accreditation and Administration; Events; Transportation; Translators; and General Assistance.

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

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

So how do you enter? Here’s the Registration page, and in just minutes you will be entered. Then take your pick of hotels from the Hospitality page – Bally’s, Caesars, Flamingo, Harrahs, or the Paris Hotel. Then practice up!

How to Play Quick Backhand Topspin Attacks
Here’s the article and video (7:17) from Tom Lodziak.

Exercise of the Month
Here’s the video (1:21) from Eli Baraty. “The exercise: 1x forehand wide on the forehand topspin side, followed up by a forehand topspin from the middle of the table, moving back to the forehand wide and this is then followed up by a potentially aggressive backhand form the forehand side.

Ma Lin “Ghost Serve”
Here’s the article and video (11:04) from EmRatThich.

More Videos from EmRatThich
Here are his latest ones from his video page.

Polish Open
Here’s the home page for the event, Oct. 4-8 in Czestochowa, POL. Follow the action all weekend!

The Imaginary World of Ratings
Here’s the article by Coach Jon. Interesting tidbit – that chart he copied from the USATT ratings page? I created that many years ago.

Jörgen Persson: Honorary Doctorate with Commitment to Sport and Hometown
Here’s the article. “After 30 years as a professional table tennis player and the holder of a great many titles, Jörgen Persson now has a new title to add to his collection, an honorary doctorate in health and lifestyle at Halmstad University.”

Really Big Paddle Pong
Here’s the picture! (Here’s the non-Facebook version.)

Jesus vs. Satan Pong
Here’s the repeating gif image!

Send us your own coaching news!

October 4, 2017

Corresponding Correspondence
One of the things you learn when you volunteer for an organization like USATT is that when you schedule your time, you have to use what I call the 25% Rule. What does that mean? It means that you spend 25% of your time actually doing “productive” work, and 75% of your time corresponding and answering questions. Some of this is good and reasonable, some of it is not.

I’m on the USATT board of directors and chair the USATT coaching committee. (These are both unpaid volunteer positions.) I’ve spent much of the last week just emailing with people, mostly answering questions and discussing issues. It’s a huge but necessary time allotment. The problem is that not all the time spent on this is what I would call “necessary.” There is a famous saying that you spend something like 90% of your time on 10% of the people you are working for. In USATT, I’d say you spend 95% of your time on 1%. It’s been really true this past week.

Of course you also have to divide the 1% into those who deserve responses (many of them well-meaning, thoughtful individuals who really contribute to our sport), and those who are rude and/or irrational and only get cursory responses. We have plenty of those. (If I were a paid employee, I’d probably have to have a longer leash for these people, but as a volunteer, the leash is rather short for abusive and/or time-wasting people.)

There are some issues that are important, and yet I have little interest in getting involved in myself. For example, USATT’s had to spend an inordinate amount of time on SafeSport, the program imposed on us by USOC. I’ve been involved a few times, and have corresponded about it and advised on some issues, but mostly I’m leaving that to the USATT office staff and USATT lawyer. They probably spend 25% of their time dealing with SafeSport issues and 75% dealing with those complaining they aren’t dealing with SafeSport issues that they are, in fact, actually dealing with, except of course when they are responding to those who say they aren’t responding to those SafeSport issues. (You may have to reread that last sentence a couple of times – I had fun writing it.) Just yesterday I spent some time parsing the wording of past reports and board minutes to advise on an issue pertaining to this, but I hope to leave that to others.

I’ve spent a lot of time envisioning how USATT should set up a revamped coaching education and certification system, and have had a lot of great correspondence about this. My main frustration there is that I value the emails I receive from many people on this, but don’t always have time to give long responses. Hopefully they understand that – and believe me, I read and think about every email I receive. (Here’s my email.)

Christmas Table Tennis Camps
I’m going to put together a listing of all the Christmas table tennis camps in the U.S. that I can find, and then post it, sometime next week. They need to have an online info page I can link to. If you know of such a camp or are running one, and would like it to be listed, email me. (I already have links to camps at MDTTC, Samson Dubina Megacamp, and Lily Yip TTC.) (And by the way, I don’t care if you call it a Christmas Camp, a Hanukkah Camp, a Holiday Camp, or a Pongatious Ping-Pong Paradise Party.)

How to Play Table Tennis
Here’s the page from Tom Lodziak.

Plastic Balls
Here’s the video (11:34) from Table Tennis 11. “Watch Ferenc Karsai, one of Europe's most famous table tennis coaches, explain how the introduction of plastic balls has changed the sport, and what other changes we may witness in the future.”

Prohibited List
Here’s the ITTF article on substances banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency. (And yes, table tennis has had one athlete banned for steroids abuse – the same athlete twice, in 2002 and 2008.) Here’s the more extensive article and listing by WADA. Fortunately neither chocolate nor Mountain Dew are on the listings, so I’m okay. But read some of the banned substances out loud and try not to giggle. (Actually, reading the ingredients list for Mountain Dew sounds almost as bad.) Here’s a short listing of some of the prohibited substances – read them aloud. Fibroblast, Hepatocyte, Mechano, Vascular-Endothelial, vascularisation, Fenoterol, Formoterol, Higenamine, Indacaterol, Olodaterol, Procaterol, Reproterol, Salbutamol, Salmeterol, Terbutaline, Vilanterol, Salbutamol, 4-Androstene-3,6,17 trione (6-oxo), Aminoglutethimide, Anastrozole, Androsta-1,4,6-triene-3,17-dione (androstatrienedione), Androsta-3,5-diene-7,17-dione (arimistane), Exemestane, Formestane, Letrozole, Testolactone.

USATT and ICC Set to Host ITTF North America "China in North America" Camp
Here’s the USATT article.

Paddle Palace, Well Established but New Venture
Here’s the ITTF article on the ITTF Level 1 course held there by Christian Lillieroos.

Jenson Van Emburgh Takes More Medals on his Paralympic Journey
Here’s the USATT article on this top USA wheelchair player by Tina Hyunh.

A Table Tennis Life - Willy Leparulo
Here’s the USATT article by Richard Finn.

Early vs Delayed Rehabilitation After Acute Muscle Injury
Here’s the ITTF Education article.

Dramatic Table Tennis Poses
Here’s the photo gallery with six pictures – it’s from Facebook, but hopefully non-Facebook users can still see it. Click on the picture to see the next picture.

Cat Head Pong?
Here’s the repeating gif image!

Send us your own coaching news!


October 3, 2017

Jun Mizutani vs. Interactive Robot
Here’s the video (66 sec). Suppose you entered this robot in a U.S. tournament, and ignore the fact that its serve is illegal. What rating would it achieve? It would be reminiscent of when they started entering computers in chess tournaments.

It mostly just keeps the ball in play, often high, and without spin. Alas, I don’t think it can adjust very well to spin – Mizutani (world #8 from Japan, #4 in February) is mostly just patting the ball back and forth without spin - so that right away would probably put it below 1000. On the other hand, 49 sec in Mizutani soft loops the ball, and the robot returns it with ease, though a bit high. How would it react to a heavy backspin serve, push, or chop? Or a fast serve to a corner? Or fast breaking sidespin serve? Or a heavy topspin lob?

As to its serve, it breaks two serving rules. (Go to 34 seconds in to see it serving.)

  • 2.06.01: Service shall start with the ball resting freely on the open palm of the server's stationary free hand. 
  • 2.06.04: From the start of service until it is struck, the ball shall be … behind the server's end line.

However, there’s also this rule:

  • 2.06.07: Exceptionally, the umpire may relax the requirements for a correct service where he or she is satisfied that compliance is prevented by physical disability. 

Since the robot doesn’t have palms, I think the umpire may relax the 2.06.01 requirement due to physical disability. However, I don’t see how we can get past 2.06.04, since the ball seems in front of the end line throughout the serve. But I am impressed that it seems to fulfill the rest of the requirements, even doing a six-inch toss, and contrary to most world-class players, it doesn’t illegally hide the serve!!!

Chinese Table Tennis: Liu Guoliang Comments in Trial WTTC 2017
Here’s the article and video (8:16) from EmRatThich. “[In China], you only have 2 chances in your table tennis career.”

Lin Gaoyuan Backhand Flick Technique
Here’s the video (11 min), showing it in slow motion. It’s in Chinese, but you only need to watch. The lefty Lin is currently ranked “only” #29 in the world, but will likely be going up. Notice how he moves to receive backhand against short serves to the forehand? Many of the top players in the world now do that. Key thing to note – see how high he (and others doing this) puts his elbow for the shot? One small surprise – after doing the backhand flip, he gets caught and takes another backhand from the wide forehand. Usually he and others who do this get back quickly and would take that shot with the forehand.

Match Analysis
Here is some great match analysis from Zoom Table Tennis. Every month or so they pick out a match between two of the best players in the world and analyze it.

Across the Net
Here’s the October newsletter of the Melton Table Tennis Association from Australia, which always has some interesting articles. (Here are their archives.)

Happy 52nd Birthday to Jan-Ove Waldner!
Here are 12 pictures. (See #11 – does he golf left-handed???) This is a Facebook album, but I’m hoping those not on Facebook can still see it.

ITTF Rough Diamonds, Setting a New Standard for the Future
Here’s the ITTF article. USA players attending (and pictured0 are Amy Wang, Nikhil Kumar, Aditya Godhwani, Victor Liu, and Coach Zhou Xin.

Table Tennis Tidbits #10
Here’s the USATT article (with link to video) by Robert Ho. “Shades of Takashima?  Omni-potent Ma: ’15 World Tour Grand Final.”

USATT Has a New Referee
Here’s the short article from Samson Dubina. “Congrats to Blake Cottrell for being the first person in the last decade to get a perfect score on the USATT Written Referee Test and Draw!”

ITTF Satisfied with Preparations for 2018 World Team Table Tennis Championships
Here’s the ITTF article.

Defending Champions Dominate Para Table Tennis Euros
Here’s the ITTF article. Here’s the home page for the European Paralympics, which are taking place Sept. 26 – Oct. 5 in Lasko, Slovakia.

Top Ten Amazing Table Tennis Shots
Here’s the video (3:17). You’ve probably seen most of these before, but now they are compiled in one video.

The Truman Show - Truman Sleeps (Ping Pong Video Song)
Here’s the video (2:14) – music by ping-pong balls!

Pong Shootout?
Here’s the repeating gif image!

Send us your own coaching news!

October 2, 2017

Tip of the Week
Top Ten Tactical Serving Mistakes.

US Open Entry Form and Hotel
They are out! Here’s the home page, entry form (pdf – online entry will be out later), and hotel info and for the U.S. Open, Las Vegas, NV, Dec. 17-22. (And yes, I’m aware of the irony of writing about going to Las Vegas right now while the news is all about the shooting in Las Vegas right now.)

This year there are 97 events to choose from. (Note to self: Let’s get them to add three events for a nice even 100!) They include:

  • Rating events from U800 to U2700 (many of them divided into adult and junior categories to solve the problem of under-rated juniors showing up and winning everything);
  • Tiered Super RR (one for U2000, one for Unrated);
  • Rating Doubles events (U4200, U3700, or U3200);
  • Senior events from Over 30 to Over 80;
  • Junior events from Under 9 to Under 21;
  • Eleven Hardbat events – but don’t even think about trying to win Hardbat Singles, Hardbat Doubles, and Over 40 Hardbat – those three events are mine, even though I normally play with sponge);
  • Four Sandpaper events (aren’t you just dying to know what “Liha” sandpaper is?);
  • Four Team events (Adult, Junior, and Under 21 Elite Boys and Girls);
  • Men’s and Women’s Singles, Doubles, and Mixed Doubles.

With all these events, you’ll get lots of play, plus you get to spectate, shop (lots of table tennis booths), meet old and new friends, and of course whatever else Las Vegas might have to offer. (I’ve heard rumors.)

This year’s hotel is Harrah’s. After several bad experiences with overcharging at the Westgate (the old hotel from several years ago), which at first appears to be cheaper but isn’t once they start adding on resort and other fees, I’m definitely staying at Harrah’s. It’s located in the heart of the Las Vegas Strip, and offers “Vegas style and luxury at an affordable rate”! The rates are really cheap for most of the tournament – Sun-Thur just $35/night!!! For the weekend, Fri-Sat, it goes up to $99/night. Here’s the home page for Harrahs, with links to their Casino, Shows, Restaurants, and Things to Do pages. Those who do stay at Harrah’s via USATT receive:

  • Specially discounted room rates;
  • Complimentary monorail passes (5-min trip to playing hall);
  • One free extra event;
  • One free shirt customization (bring your table tennis shirts and for a small fee they’ll put your name, club, state, or whatever else you want on the back!);
  • 50% off week-long player’s lounge pass;
  • Get to mingle with the other players all week long!

I’ll be there along with up to one thousand players (plus coaches, families, guests, staff, officials, and sellers) and if you are not there, we will talk about you. Badly. We might even get Trump to tweet about your badliness. So be there.

Overplaying vs Taking the Risk
Here’s the article from Samson Dubina.

Tactics to Beat a Much Stronger Player
Here’s the article from Tom Lodziak.

How to Get More Spin in Table Tennis
Here’s the article and video (15:32) from EmRatThich: “How to Spin like a Pro.” Here are four other videos from him that came out this weekend.

What to Eat to Improve Performance in Table Tennis
Here’s the article from Pong Boss.

ITTF Level 2 Coaching Course
They are holding one at the New York Indoor Sports Club, Oct. 13-15, and there are still openings. Richard McAfee is running it, assisted by local organizer Sydney Christophe.

USOC Coaching Education Newsletter
Here’s the new issue.

RIP: Kae Rader
Here’s the obituary for Kae Rader, who was USATT’s executive director in the early 1990s.

7 Things That Annoy All Table Tennis Players
Here’s the article.

Lily Zhang Embraces Strong Opposition, Prepares for World Cup Challenge
Here’s the article.

One Year In – The Epic Journey So Far
Here’s the article from Epic Table Tennis.

Capital Area Season Opener
Here’s the music video (1:24), and here’s the Capital Area League’s home page, where you can get results, schedule, teams, and so on. “Great season opener. Lots of action. Lots of socialization. Some awesome shots.”

New York City Table Tennis Academy's 1st Year Anniversary Video
Here’s the video (4:10) – “Thank You ‘Manhattan's Premiere Table Tennis Club.’”

Zhang Yining - The Greatest Female Player in History
Here’s the video (6:48). “Zhang Yining (张怡宁) is a female table tennis player from China. She held the ITTF #1 ranking from 2003 to 2009 and have 4 Olympic gold medals, 10 World Championships, and 4 World Cup wins. That why she is considered the best female player in the history of table tennis.”

Hippo Pong

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September 29, 2017

Table Tennis Biographies
Why not spend a weekend curled up with a good table tennis biography or autobiography? Here are a few to choose from. (I have copies of each of these books in my table tennis book collection.) Or, of course, you could always buy one of my books!

  • Revelations of a Ping-Pong Champion by Dan Seemiller (2016), 218 pages. “If you are in the sport of table tennis, then you know Danny Seemiller, USA’s greatest modern champion. In “Revelations of a Table Tennis Champion,” the five-time U.S. Men’s Singles Champion takes you through his 50 years in the sport, from the early days of training, the breakthroughs, the agonizing defeats and the great triumphs.”
  • Ping-Pong for Fighters by Tahl Leibovitz (2014), 108 pages. Here’s my review. Tahl went from living on the streets to getting a master’s degree, coaching table tennis professionally, and winning lots of medals in the Paralympics.
  • Adventures of the Ping-Pong Diplomats: Volume 1: The U.S.-China Friendship Matches Change World History, by Fred Danner (2012), 238 pages. Here’s my review. This was about half historical, half autobiographical.
  • Ogi: The Life of Ichiro Ogimura (2009), 370 pages. The link goes to my review of the book, with ordering info at the end. (It’s not on sale online.) This was a fascinating read.
  • J-O Waldner: When the Feeling Decides, by Jens Fellke (1997, English version 2003), 237 pages. I have the English version, but I can’t seem to find that version on sale online, just the Swedish version. (I think I picked up my copy on sale at the World Championships a while back.) Here’s a review of the book by Ken Muhr.
  • The Money Player: The confessions of America's greatest table tennis champion and hustler, by Marty Reisman (1974), 241 pages. Entertaining read.
  • Victor Barna by Philip Reid (1974), 152 pages. The link goes to Alibris, where it cost $76.69, but it’s $147.85 at Amazon! Barna was five-time World Men’s Singles Champion.
  • Alas, it costs $147.85!!!
  • The Will to Win: Dragutin Surbek, by Stjepan Kljuic-Branin, 1973. Alas, while I have the English version in my collection, I can’t find this on sale anywhere. Surbek was a great Yugoslavian star in the 1970s who reached #3 in the world.
  • The Youngest Son, Autobiography of Ivor Montagu (1970), 384 pages. From the long-time president of the ITTF.
  • Twenty-One Up, by Richard Bergmann (1950), 242 pages. Bergmann was four-time World Men’s Singles Champion.

Ping Pong Diplomats: Chinese Couple Opens First Table Tennis Center in DC
Here’s the video (2:48) from The World Today at CGTN TV (an affiliate of CCTV), featuring Charlene Liu and Changping Duan from the Washington DC Table Tennis Center. “A couple from China have opened Washington DC’s only full-time table tennis center—using ping pong to bridge the culture divide between the U.S. and China.” (Charlene and Changping were mainstays for many years at my club, MDTTC, where Charlene ran the leagues and tournaments.)

Why You Need a Weekly Routine for Your Table Tennis Training
Here’s the article from Expert Table Tennis. “I’ve got a bit of a love-hate relationship with having a weekly routine. On the one hand, I love the freedom and flexibility of having a virtually empty calendar. On the other, I do find that I get a lot more stuff done when I create and follow a strict schedule.”

How to Avoid Injury
Here’s the ITTF Education article.

15 Reasons for Table Tennis
Here’s the article from Samson Dubina.

Chairman Mao Got it Right! “Why you are a couch potato!” 
Here’s the article from Donald Winze. “Mao Zedong wanted the Chinese people to live a healthier lifestyle and ordered more than a million concrete table tennis tables built and distributed throughout China. Table tennis is now the second most popular participant sport in the world and the national sport of China. This is not the ping-pong game of tapping the ball around in the basement but the intrepid Olympic sport that most Americans have never even seen, let alone taken the time to learn and play properly.”

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

More Super Women's Table Tennis Points
Here’s the video (47 sec) of this great point between world #1 Ding Ning (CHN) and #17 Hina Hayata (JPN).

Training Chinese - MA Long, LIN Gaoyuan, FAN Zhendong, XU Xin, FANG Bo - Trials 2017
Here’s the video (3:19).

Best Rallies by the Best
Here’s the page from TTBrothers, where you can find videos showing “The Best of…” for huge numbers of top players.

Really Big Ping-Pong Ball Crashing Into Building?
Here’s the picture! (Here’s the non-Facebook version.)

Pot Pong
Why hasn’t this dynamic new sport caught on?

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September 28, 2017

Backhand-Forehand Towel Drill
Here’s a great drill I used yesterday while coaching Navin, one which you might want to try. Like many players, his crosscourt backhand doesn’t always go wide enough to the backhand, instead wandering out to the middle backhand, making things easier for the opponent as well as giving them an angle to attack into his forehand. It’s important to be able to hit accurate shots (forehand and backhand) almost always to the three main spots – wide corners and opponent’s playing elbow.

Once you do learn to play consistently wide angles into the backhand, an opponent may look to find ways to get out of this type of rally, often by going down the line to the forehand. This often happens to Navin, who can dominate the backhand diagonal but can be vulnerable to attacks to the forehand if he gives an easy opening.

So here’s the drill. I put my towel over much of the backhand side, leaving an opening about a foot wide from the corner. Then Navin and I played backhand to backhand where he had to avoid hitting the towel. A key to this was not aiming for the area between the corner and the towel, but aiming right for the corner or even slightly outside it. That way, even if you mishit slightly, the ball still stayed near the backhand corner. Then, randomly, I’d suddenly hit my backhand down the line, and Navin had to quick hit the ball to my wide forehand. If he’s keeping the ball to my wide backhand, then my down-the-line backhand not only can’t really angle him, but leaves me open to a wide angle to my forehand, and so he should be able to hit a winner nearly every time. For this drill, I didn’t bother playing out the point, just grabbing another ball to get the next rally started, but you can do it that way or play out the point.

$100,000 World Championship of Ping Pong
Here’s the promo video (62 sec) for the sandpaper event, to be held at Alexandra Palace, London, January 27-28, 2018. Here’s the home page.

5 Steps to Do Backhand Loop Table Tennis – Ma Long’s Technique
Here’s the article and video (2:08) from EmRatThich.

Zhang Jike's Footwork
Here’s the video (3:48) from EmRatThich.

How to Practice Table Tennis Alone
Here’s the video (10:16) from Yangyang.

What I Know About Playing Penhold
Here’s the article by Coach Jon.

Is Table Tennis the Most Undervalued Sport on the Planet?
Here’s the article from Coach Me Table Tennis. “If you are a serious table tennis player, you have surely heard this comment before by someone! ‘Is table tennis a real sport?’”

Fan Zhendong the Next Grand Slam?
Here’s the video (11:18) from EmRatThich.

Timo Boll Highlights at the World Table Tennis Championships
Here’s the video (1:23).

More Super Women's Table Tennis Points
Here’s the video (39 sec) of this great point.

Hungary - Japan Table Tennis (1959)
Here’s the video (60 sec).

Big Paddle, Many Balls
Here’s the animated gif!

Send us your own coaching news!

September 27, 2017

Table Tennis People Who Owe Me Money
My trusting nature has cost me $450 plus interest. Maybe that’s not a huge amount over 41 years, but it’s an irritating $432 because of how they came about. (I’m probably owed other money over the years that I don’t recall offhand. These are the ones that stick out.)

Just last year I hired one of our local player/coaches to help run one of my beginning junior classes. He was short on money and asked if I could pay him $120 in advance. I did so. When the class started, he simply didn’t show, with no notice. The player still lives locally – about a mile from me, in fact - and coaches at a local rec center, but has never returned to MDTTC. I messaged him on Facebook (where he’s active and definitely got the message), texted him, emailed him, and called and left a message, but no response, not even an “I don’t have the money but will pay you later” note. (Not that that would have meant much after he didn’t show up to coach at the class as he’d been hired to do.) I’ve know the player since he was nine years old, practiced and coached him many hundreds of hours, used to coach him at tournaments, and gave him hundreds of rides. I later learned he did the same thing with another player, who he owes something like $300. What a disappointment.

A number of years ago a local player ran into an apparent problem. He was supposed to fly out to a major tournament in a few days, but couldn’t buy his air ticket until he received a check coming in the mail. He asked if I could lend him the money. I agreed, and paid for the $230 ticket. He later laughed at me, asking how gullible could I be to lend money to him, a con artist. So I’ll never see that money. Fortunately, that person would later run into major legal problems due to another scam attempt, and had to leave the U.S. to avoid creditors, not to mention getting banned by USATT. Karma. (Like the player above, I also had helped this player out extensively, giving him hundreds of rides.)

Seven different times since I began my Adult Training Sessions on Sundays someone has shown up but was unable to pay the $20. Seven times they absolutely and positively guaranteed they’d pay if I let them take part in the 90-minute sessions. Two of them were sincere and later paid. Five of them gave Academy Award-winning performances, and I never saw them again.

So . . . anybody out there want to borrow some money?

SafeSport Letter to USATT Community
Here’s the USATT notice.

EmRatThich: New Articles and Videos

Seemiller, McAfee, Chen, Ding Ning, Thompson, Tretheway, Quadri, Wijigunawardana, Hetherington, and Bobrow, Oh My!

Dan Seemiller: Living Legend Marks 21 Years in South Bend
Here’s the article on Dan Seemiller from the South Bend Tribune. “Danny Seemiller is a legend. Danny is a prominent name in table tennis and he is coaching right here in South Bend. He lives in the garden spot of the county, in New Carlisle. He coaches and mentors at the South Bend Table Tennis Club. The club will celebrate his 21 years of coaching with an open house from 3 to 5 p.m. Oct. 1.”

Richard McAfee - The Coaches' Coach
Here’s the article by Richard Finn. “Behind every great player there is a great coach, so goes the cliché. And behind many great coaches most likely there has been Richard McAfee.”

Bowen Chen Takes Crown at Robopong September BTTC Open 2017
Here’s the article.

Ding Ning from great to legend to immortality, moment of history awaits in Markham?
Here’s the ITTF article.

Mark Thompson New USATT Chief Operating Officer
Here’s the USATT article. At our last USATT board meeting (Sept. 9-10) I gave him an impromptu TT lesson during a break. He picked it up pretty well!

Bob Tretheway Memorial
Here’s the picture. (Here’s the non-Facebook version – L-R: Aili Elliott, Scott Preiss, Henan Li Ai, Sean O'Neill, Dhiren Narotam, Larry Rose, Debbie Shuman and Norm Silver.)

Aruna Quadri Empowers Six Table Tennis Players with Equipment
Here’s the article from The Guardian in Nigeria.

Mudit Dani of India Wins Under-23 Table Tennis Tournament in US
Here’s the article from the Hindustan Times.

Denethi Wijigunawardana Interview
Here’s the article and video (2:38) from Samson Dubina. “Denethi Wijigunawardana is the 2017 College Regional Champion and current the #1 female player in Ohio.”

Matt Hetherington Has Fun with Duct Tape
Here’s the video (53 sec).

Adam Bobrow Celebration
Here’s the picture. (Here’s the non-Facebook version.) Yes, he gets a lot of coverage, but that’s because he has photos and videos like this! (Plus he is the “Voice of ITTF.”) The kid seems to be having fun too!

The Rough Diamonds Are Off. Talent Development on the Road to Buenos Aires
Here’s the ITTF article.

2017 Austrian Open: Finals Review
Here’s the video (1:38).

Ma Long & Liu Guoliang Training 2017
Here’s the video (6:17).

Russian New Generation
Here’s the video (6:24) – lots of nice action shots of up-and-coming Russians!

2x4 Board Pong?
Here’s the video (65 sec)! It kind of reminds you of Darth Maul, doesn’t it?

Send us your own coaching news!

September 26, 2017

Power Out
When I woke up this morning the power was out. I have no idea yet why, but it's been out for at least the last 2.5 hours. Alas, all my blogging files and links are on my desktop computer, so I don't have access to them. (I'm using my laptop on batteries for this.) So no blog today. Hopefully power will come back on soon. (I haven't called the power company yet, but will do so after this.) As if this weren't bad enough, I have a noon dentist appointment. To tide you over until tomorrow, check out the USATT news, ITTF news, or Butterfly news. Oh, and here's an animated gif of a man versus a cat

ADDENDUM 1 (1:00PM): Power came back on around 10:30AM. And I have the beginning of a cavity, and so have to go back to the dentist at 3PM for that. 

ADDENDUM 2 (4:00PM): Just got back from the dentist, gained a filling, spent $474 on checkup, cleaning, and new filling. There goes a lot of coaching hours....

ADDENDUM 3 (5:30PM): The pain killer that numbed my teeth and gums has worn off - and my teeth and gums HURT!!!

September 25, 2017

Tip of the Week
Assume You Have to Move.

Looping the Flip and Other Game Drills
One of the drills we did in my adult training class last night was a new one that none of them had done before. The drill itself was simple: one player served short to the other’s forehand; the receiver flipped the ball to the wide forehand (crosscourt – all the players were righties); and the server looped crosscourt, and the rally continued crosscourt, with the server looping against the receiver’s block. (If you are a hitter, you can do this hitting instead of looping.)

The drill is a subtle change on the more common version where you just serve topspin and start looping – now the server had to adjust his timing to looping against a flip, just as he’d have to do in a real match. The added bonus was the server got to work on his short serve to the forehand and his looping, while the receiver got to work on his flip and his blocking.

Once a player has the foundation of his strokes down, it’s important to do drills that bring in game-like conditions. For example, if you can forehand loop against backspin when your partner pushes to your forehand over and over, and backhand loop when your partner pushes to your backhand over and over, it’s time to make it more game-like, where your partner pushes anywhere randomly, and you have to loop, forehand or backhand.

Sundays are getting to be my favorite coaching time. I often have little private coaching, but have three consecutive 90-minute group sessions – the Beginning Junior Class at 4PM (16 players, I’m head coach); the Talent Junior program at 5:30PM (I think 24 players), and the Adult Training Session at 7PM (I’m head coach; numbers vary; last night we had eight).

Chen Bowen: Running Toward His Goals
Here’s the USATT version, and the Butterfly version. It’s an article I wrote on my fellow coach/player at MDTTC.

Lateral vs Deviation Sidespin Serves
Here’s the video (2:36) by Samson Dubina.

Is It Worth Buying Table Tennis Shoes?
Here’s the article from Tom Lodziak.

Ping Pong Training
Here’s the video (19:46) for learning about the sport, compiled by Jules Apatini. 

Table Tennis Footwork Patterns: Side to Side (Part 3)
Here’s the video (8:26) from EmRatThich.

Table Tennis Tidbits #9 - Fegerl: Odd Man “In” at the Polish Open ‘15
Here’s the article and video (13:32) by Robert Ho.

Here’s the video (2:42) featuring Coach Gregg Robertshaw and student Zelin, from the Triangle TTC. “We did a video clip over the last 2 months on "Motivation," where we started off trying to convince Zelin that he can play Table Tennis. As a coach, I tried to change his attitude where if he works hard, he will succeed. As we worked together, we took little steps at a time and conquer them. After few months, you'll be ready to win a few tournaments (actually, he has done this already). I truly gives us all kind of inspirations in watching him being motivated.”

World Table Tennis Wrap – Continental Clashes!
Here’s the article by Shashin Shodhan.

Videos from EmRatThich

Duke Basketball Legend Christian Laettner Visits Virginia Beach for Ping-Pong Charity Event
Here’s the article and video (2:07). “Laettner's visit to Virginia Beach this weekend is not about hate - it's about love. It's not about basketball, either. It's about ping pong. ‘It's a great sport. I've been playing it my whole life and will play it until the day I die.’”

Lots of Table Tennis Pictures and Products
Here’s the page from Pinterest.

Top Ten Hand Switch Shots
Here’s the video (5:36).

Ice Pong!
Here’s the picture of a table and net made of solid ice. (Here’s the non-Facebook version.)

Pong Evolution, the Live Version
A few days ago I linked to this Pong Evolution cartoon. Here is the Live Version! (Here’s the non-Facebook version.) It stars, L-R: Adam Bobrow, Robert Gardos, Can Akkuzo, Omar Assar, and Berndt Öhler.

Sore Loser Pong
Here’s the animated gif!

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