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 5, 2017

USATT and MDTTC Stuff
As soon as I finish this blog I’m off to Ledo’s Pizza where I’ll spend much of the afternoon going over upcoming USATT coaching plans. (I was recently appointed chair of the USATT Coaching Committee.) There are two primary items.

First, I’m working with USATT headquarters to put together several coaching seminars at the upcoming USA Nationals, for both players and coaches. They would likely be held on Sun, Mon, Tue, and/or Wed nights, and range from 60-90 minutes long. Possible clinics we’re mulling over include:

  • Advanced Serve. We’d bring in a top coach and player for this – I already have a duo in mind. (I’d assist.)
  • How to Become a Professional Coach. I’d teach this one.
  • How to Set Up and Run a Junior Program. I’d teach this one. (I’d only teach this one or the one on becoming a professional coach, so have to decide which one.)
  • USATT Club Coach Certification Clinic. I’d run this one.
  • Basics Clinic. I might run this one.

Second, I’m going over the current USATT Coaching Certification Program. I’ve already gone over them, but now I’m going over them very closely for updates I might recommend to the USATT Coaching Committee. For one thing, there’s that silly rule that someone came up with where you have to achieve a specific rating for each level of coaching. There have been some great coaches who were not top players, but based on our criteria, they could only be low-level coaches. What’s important for a coach is his coaching ability, not his playing ability – I thought this would be obvious, but apparently not. (For one-on-one coaching, playing ability makes a difference, but a low level of play doesn’t stop a top coach from running high-level group sessions.) The key point is that top players usually have the opportunity to spend huge amounts of time with top players in training, and so gain much of the necessary experience to become a top coach. It’s harder for lower-rated players to get this experience, but some do, and become top coaches. I know of at least four top coaches who never reached 1400 level, but all spent many years working with top players as they developed, and so gained that experience – but based on our criteria, they can’t even be club coaches, our lowest level. I’ll blog later on about how we’ll change this. (Short version – playing level does indicate a minimum amount of time put into the sport, but if a coach can show he’s been active for a specific number of years, that does the same.)

There’s always a lot going on with USATT. There have been a huge number of emails to the USATT Board (I’m a member) regarding the North American Hopes Trials that were held this past weekend – apparently there were some problems. I keep debating whether I should wade in, but what’s the point? The problems are being taken care of, so I’d just be politicking at this point. Instead, I’ll just watch to make sure the problems are fixed. I’ve coached at past Hopes Trials, including a really well-run North American Hopes Trials at the Westchester Club in 2013, run by Robert Roberts and Will Shortz that could be a model for future ones.

There’s a listing of upcoming ITTF coaching courses below. (Here’s the online listing, which needs some updating – I’ll look into that shortly.) As coaching chair, I have to approve and do some paperwork on each, though headquarters does the bulk of this. There’s a new one being planned in Portland, and I have to send some emails out shortly on that.

On Monday at 7PM we have a USATT Teleconference. I don’t have the agenda yet, but will likely blog about that on Monday and Tuesday. We’ll also finally get the last member of the USATT Coaching Committee approved, and then I can blog about that.

Last week I spent a bunch of time on grandfathering seven new National Coaches. More on that later once the online coaches list is updated.

There’s also lots of MDTTC work (my club). Yesterday I finalized the May Newsletter. (Usually it goes out around the first, but the newsletter publisher is out of the country until tomorrow – May 6 – so it can’t go out until she returns.) I also have to go over with our nine coaches and about a dozen others the USATT/USOC SafeSport Requirements. I am NOT looking forward to that. A kid accidentally broke off the on/off switch for one of our robots, so I had to package that up and send back to Newgy for fixing.

Upcoming ITTF Coaching Courses in the U.S.

USA Nationals – Online Registration
Have you entered the USA Nationals yet? You can now enter online! They will be held July 3-8 in Las Vegas. I will be there; will you? There will be several coaching clinics and other seminars.

My Table Tennis Books
What, you haven’t bought all my table tennis books yet??? What’s wrong with you?

Why Every Table Tennis Player Should Use Multi-ball Training
Here’s the article from Pong Universe. (This is from last year, but I don’t think I posted it.)

Ask the Coach
More questions answered at PingSkills – 16 since yesterday!

Different Strokes for Different Folks
Here’s the new article by Coach Jon.

Ma Long & Xu Xin & Zhang Jike & Wang Hao Training
Here’s the video (15:25).

Billy Ding and the 2017 World University Games
Billy’s on the USA Team to the World University Games, and is trying to raise funds to go. Here’s his funding page. “This summer, I will be representing Team USA and the University of Washington at the 2017 World University Games in Taiwan. While I’m thrilled for this opportunity, it does take a lot financially to make this possible. I’m looking for support for training and my trip to the World University Games. Thanks so much for the support!” Here are the USA Team Members:

  • Men: Yijun Feng, Timothy Wang, Billy Ding, Nathan Hsu, Jason Plog
  • Women: Wu Yue, Lily Zhang, Angela Guan, Erica Wu, Isabel Chu

2017 USA Paralympic Table Tennis Teams

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

China Announces the New Coaches for Top 4 Players
Here’s the article, with link to video. The new coaches:

  • Ma Long - Ma Lin
  • Zhang Jike - Liu Guozheng
  • Fan Zhendong - Wang Hao
  • Xu Xin - Wu Jingping

Battle of the Paddles: Ping-pong players flex their brains and conquer fear in recent tournament
Here’s the article

The Slickest Shot Ever Made
Here’s the video (28 sec) as China’s Fan Zhendong (world #2) pulls off a rolling shot that makes even him and his shocked opponent, France’s Simon Gauzy (world #16), to smile.

World Championships Top Ten Moments - #5-10
Here are links to these five, care of Fremont Table Tennis. I’m not sure if ITTF has done #1-5 yet.

2017 ALN Cup Open Final - Tao Wenzhang vs. Lubomir Pistej
Here’s the video (10:38).

Table Tennis Manager – Online Table Tennis Game
Here’s the online game - “The Multiplayer Online Game for Table Tennis.”

Sizzling Photoshoot of Feng Tianwei, Timo Boll and Others
Here’s the article and photos.

Justin Bieber’s Bizarre List of ‘Demands’ for India Tour Goes Viral
Here’s the article – So what if he (with a 120-person strong entourage) demands 10 luxury sedans, 2 Volvo buses, a Rolls Royce for himself, a Jacuzzi, and will be flying in a PlayStation, IO HAWK, sofa set, washing machine, refrigerator, upholstery, wardrobe cupboard, massage table . . . and a ping pong table. At least he has his priorities straight! Here are some videos of Bieber playing table tennis.

How to CHEAT at Table Tennis
Here’s the article!

True Table Tennis Love?
Here’s the picture! (Here’s the non-Facebook version.)

Skill Level God Mode
Here’s the video (41 sec). (I think I posted this once before, but this seems a new version.)

Table Tennis Battle
Here’s the hilarious video (1:42)!

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May 4, 2017

Star Wars Table Tennis
Today is Star Wars Day. How did that happen? It is May the Fourth, as in, “May the Fourth Be With You!” And, of course, Star Wars and Table Tennis go together like ketchup and fries, chocolate and nuts, and table tennis and nets. (Seriously – my club has 18 tables and so 18 nets, plus about 12 ball pickup nets, plus the robot net.)

What does Yoda say to Luke Skywalker? Among other things, Yoda said, “Do or do not. There is no try.” At first glance (and perhaps many glances after that), this is rather unhelpful. Do we really want to tell our table tennis students not to try, that they should either do or do not? Everyone starts out as a beginner, unable to do proper shots, so that means they all “do not.” Does that mean they should not try? Perhaps a student should stop “trying” and instead just “do or do not.” At first there’ll be a lot of “do not,” but gradually there’ll be more and more “do.” Technically, they are “trying” to “do,” but you can think of each attempt as “do or do not,” since that’s essentially what happens. (We’ll ignore those gray areas where the shot is pretty good but not perfect – is that “do” or “do not”?)

In the same clip above, Yoda also says, “You must unlearn what you have learned.” This applies directly to table tennis as most coaching is not teaching a student to do something – it’s getting rid of bad habits and unwanted movements, i.e. unlearning what they have learned. Yoda might have made a fine table tennis coach!

Now let’s look at the Jedi Code.

There is no emotion, there is peace.
There is no ignorance, there is knowledge.
There is no passion, there is serenity.
There is no chaos, there is harmony.
There is no death, there is the Force.

Grammatically, this is awful, but then while the rest of us were learning proper writing and speaking, Yoda (with his backward speech) and the rest of the Jedi gang were out practicing their “sad devotion to that ancient religion.” But what this seems to say is that the five items listed first do not really exist, that there is only the second item. Does this help us in table tennis? Let’s see:

  • No emotion, only peace. This will greatly help you when you play, especially in a close match!
  • No ignorance, only knowledge. Well, duh, this will help all table tennis players who use their knowledge to play smart tactics and develop their game strategically. However, just as important as knowledge is wisdom, and the Jedi seem to leave that out.
  • No passion, only serenity. This is a tricky one, as you need passion to give you that driving force (snicker) to practice to get better. Those with a passion for the sport will practice longer and harder than those that don’t. On the other hand, once you are at the table, serenity is your friend.
  • No chaos, only harmony. I think this refers to chaotic thinking, and it greatly helps a table tennis player if he replaces this with harmony – but this seems redundant with the previous item, serenity. I guess the Jedi want to emphasize this.
  • No death, only the Force. The only “death” in table tennis comes when you lose, though of course if your opponent does a lot of kills that could imply some sort of death. But if you think of losing when you play (i.e. “death”), then you’ll be nervous about it and not play as well. But to play well means relying on your training, i.e. muscle memory, and basically letting go and playing at a mostly subconscious level, other than tactical thinking. That’s basically relying on the Force.

Should adopt the Jedi Code for our table tennis selves? But perhaps cheat a little and allow passion? Or maybe we should go the other way, and fall to the Dark Side? After all, most of us “don’t understand the power of the dark side.” (I use black on my forehand, and I’m primarily a forehand attacker, so I regularly use the power of the dark side – but that’s just me.) Perhaps we should look at the Dark Side (don’t they have cookies?) and the Code of the Sith?

Peace is a lie. There is only Passion.
Through Passion I gain Strength.
Through Strength I gain Power.
Through Power I gain Victory.
Through Victory my chains are Broken.
The Force shall free me.

Now we’re told to forget about peace (of mind?), that it’s a lie, and that the passion that the Jedi says we should not have is all we have. How does this apply to table tennis? Basically, the Sith are saying Passion => Strength => Power => Victory => Chains are Broken, and that the Force (your subconscious muscle memory) will set you free. Somehow this seems to fit table tennis better than the passionless Jedi Code. So guess what? If we want to be good at table tennis, perhaps it’s time for us all to take a trip on the Dark Side!

And now for some Star Wars Table Tennis!

“Ladder Drills”: Chinese Table Tennis Footwork Training Methods
Here’s the video (8:11) from EmRatThich.

How to Get More Spin on Serves
Here’s the video (2:37) – a neat trick for teaching spin.

How To Play Defensive – Important Tips For You To Protect Your Score
Here’s the article from PingPoolShark.

Table Tennis Resort for Highest Ambitions
Here’s info from Butterfly on training camps at this club in Germany.

Melton Table Tennis Association Newsletters
Here are links to all ten of the newsletters from this club in Australia. They have lots of interesting content, such as an article on lefties in the May 2017 issue.

World Table Tennis Day Celebration
Here’s the highlights video (3:32).

World Champs Top 10 Moments: Ding Ning Recovery
Here’s the ITTF video (58 sec).

Hina Hayata vs Kim Kyung Ah: ITTF Asian Championships 2017, Women's Team
Here’s the video (22:12).

U.S. Men’s Champion Kanak Jha Hitting with School Children
Here’s the video (30 sec).

Jealous Ping-Pong Paddle?
Here’s the cartoon!

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May 3, 2017

Biggest Comebacks in Table Tennis
Here are the biggest comebacks I know of. Note that games were to 21 until the early 2000s.

  • In 1976, my first year of playing, I think at the Eastern Open, 13-year-old Curt Kronlage (son of Hall of Famer Yvonne), rated 1677, won the first game and was up 20-6 match point on Sid Jacobs, a chopper rated 1858 – and lost 16 points in a row, and lost the third badly. (I saw parts of the match, but didn’t know what was happening until afterwards.)
  • I’ve been told that Istvan Jonyer/Tibor Klampar were up 20-8 match point at the World Championships against a Chinese team in Men’s Doubles, and lost. This must have been at the 1977 Worlds, where in the round of 16 they lost to Huang Liang/Lu Yuan-Sheng, -13, 16, -19, 18, 21. (Here’s where you can find results of past Worlds.)
  • At the 2003 World Championships, Werner Schlager was down  2-3 in games and 6-10 match point in the quarterfinals of Men’s Singles against reigning world champion Wang Liqin, but came back to win. (I was watching in the stands.) Here’s video. Schlager went on to win the title.
  • At the USA Team Trials around the early 1990s, Brian Masters led 10-0 in the fifth against Jim Butler (games to 21), but lost. (I was watching in the stands.)
  • At the 2016 USA Nationals, in the Men’s Singles Final, Kanak Jha came back to win against Feng Yijun from down championship point in the fifth game, and down 4-9 in the seventh, but won seven in a row to win. (I was watching in the stands. Here’s video.)
  • At the 2014 USA Nationals, in the Men’s Singles Final, Jim Butler came back to win against Kunal Chodri from down 1-5 in the seventh to win 11-8. (I was watching in the stands. Here’s video – go to 2:08.)
  • Here are more Amazing Comebacks.

Here are some comebacks in matches I’ve played.

  • The second 2000+ player I ever beat was Benfield Munroe, at the 1979 Southern Open. He was up 20-15 match point in the fifth. I pulled out my forehand tomahawk serve, which I hadn’t used until then, and miraculously he missed it five times in a row. I won the next point on his serve, and he missed the tomahawk serve a sixth time in a row! (I blogged about this on May 3, 2016.)
  • I was down 0-10 in the fifth against Pat Cox in the Under 2400 final of the Eastern Open, circa early 1990s – and tied it up 10-10, and won 26-24.
  • In the semifinals of Handicap Singles at some 4-star tournament – games to 51 (!) – I spotted an unbelievable 45 points to some beginner, tied it up at 47-47 . . . and lost! (He scored three of those last four points on nets and edges, and smacked in one wild forehand kill.)
  • One of my proudest tournament achievements is that I’ve come back from down 20-15 match point or worse seven times in tournaments, but no one’s ever done it to me. I did blow a 20-16 match point lead once on Joe Cummings, leading to weeks of various “wits” saying, “He’s Cummings back!”

Ask the Coach
More questions answered by PingSkills – this morning they talk about anatomic handles and the book Ping-Pong Diplomacy by Nicholas Griffin.

Righties versus Lefties
Here’s an interesting interactive chart showing that of the top 300 men and women in the world, 24.75% and 18.47% respectively are lefties, which are above the worldwide average for left-handedness which is about 10% (according to Wikipedia). Lefties obviously do have at least some advantage in table tennis as players aren’t as used to playing them, and so their natural tactical instincts are for playing righties.

Worlds: Ma Long and Ding Ning Once Again Head Seeding
Here’s the ITTF article.

Hugo Calderano on Whose Shoulders Rest Brazilian Hopes
Here’s the ITTF article.

Feat Not Achieved for Four Decades, Career High for Miu Hirano
Here’s the ITTF article, featuring Hirano’s beating the top three Chinese, which was last done in . . . 1977!

Matthew Syed Admits One of His Biggest Regrets
Here’s the video (2:17) where he admits to trying to cheat against Des Douglas. (Syed and Douglas were both former English champions.)

Behind the Back Shot by Vladimir Bril
Here’s the video (25 sec).

A Little Sit Down Lobbing
Here’s the video (31 sec).

Ping Pang is Life
Here’s the video (60 sec), a compilation of hilarious short clips.

Non-Table Tennis – “Eternity and the Devil”
This morning I sold my science fiction horror story “Eternity and the Devil” to the Flametree Publishing for their upcoming Time Travel anthology. They pay well! The story is about a physicist who sells his soul to the Devil in return for solving the Grand Unified Theory, which he uses to greatly benefit mankind – he’s a good guy. When the Devil shows up and takes him to Hell, the scientist escapes into the future in a time machine, pursued by the Devil.

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May 2, 2017

Lack of Injuries and Why They Are Gone
I’ve been pretty much injury free for a while now. I don’t understand it – I’m playing an Olympic Sport 25 hours/week, and I’m not falling apart??? (That’s different from merely being exhausted all the time from all the exertion and other work.) Here’s a summary – it’s strange how injuries come and go. Let’s see:

  • Knee problems. I had lots of them for many years, and had to wear ace knee braces (sometimes on both knees) for a decade. Then the club went from cement to rubberized floors, and the knee problems went away. I still keep the ace knee braces in my bag, but I don’t know why – I haven’t used them in about a decade.
  • Arm problems. I’ve had arm problems since playing baseball when I was about 12, due to poor throwing technique. It caused havoc with my game in the 1980s, and then, after mostly going away for 20 years, started up again about ten years ago. And then I discovered the BandIT Therapeutic Forearm Band – and no more problems! (I wish I’d had this back in the 1980s. I coulda been a contenda!)
  • Shoulder problems. Every time I hurt my arm I’d adjust my stroke to accommodate – and every time this led to shoulder problems. First I’d hurt the front area. Then, adjusting for this, I’d hurt the back area. But with the forearm band (see above), no more arm problems, and so no more shoulder problems.
  • Back problems. I’ve had periodic upper-back problems, which come about because my right side is so much stronger than my left (gee, I wonder why?), and so the muscles of the upper back literally pull my spine out of alignment. I’ve missed a lot of sessions because of this. But then a physical therapist showed me a simple stretching exercise that loosens those muscles – and no more back problems. (The picture shows the person stretching the upper left side; I do the opposite way, for the upper right side.) I’m supposed to do this stretch regularly, but I’ve discovered that I don’t need to – I can feel when the back muscles are beginning to tighten up, which leads to the back problems, and so when I feel that, I do the stretching regularly for a few days, and it goes away.

Having said all this, there are other health risks to table tennis, such as:

  • About once a year, while following through on a forehand loop, I smack myself in the head. Someone said this explains a lot about me.
  • Spending many hours in table tennis shoes can lead to occasional foot problems. I’m lucky that I don’t have major problems this way, but sometimes on weekends after ten hours at a table, my feet and I aren’t on speaking terms.
  • On Saturday I had several free hours at the club where I did some writing on my laptop. I brought a small (7.5 oz) Mountain Dew with me to drink while writing, but forgot to put it in the refrigerator. So, to cool it faster, I put it in the freezer – and forgot about it. On Sunday I remembered it, and brought it out, and it was, of course, solid ice. So I decided to sip it slowly while coaching as it melted. Three things came from this – 1) I had a nice, sugary drink while I coached that took about two hours to finish; 2) I poisoned myself with this nice, sugary drink; and 3) I learned that when you freeze and then melt a Mountain Dew, it goes flat, so I was left with a flat, sugary drink. (I normally drink water while coaching, and try to limit myself to one 7.5 oz Mountain Dew per day.)

Fan Zhendong Backhand Flick & Forehand Technique
Here’s the video (11:31).

Table Tennis Exercises to Improve Footwork
Here’s the video (9:54) from EmRatThich.

Ask the Coach
More questions answered at PingSkills, including (over the last two days):

  • Backspin and sidespin service           
  • Is it important for serves to have sidespin
  • Service secrets while playing doubles
  • Topspin return on underpin serve
  • Attacking sidespins
  • Shakehand shallow grip
  • Backhand sidespin flick off serve

A Little Serving Target Practice
Here’s the video (23 sec). This is great practice for your serves as long as you use full spin. Many players, when using targets, ease off on the spin, making the practice counter-productive. Instead, learn to serve with full spin and still control the ball’s path – which you should see in your head before serving.

Stuttgart Revisited, Jörg Rosskopf Wins Legends Tour in Metz
Here’s the ITTF article. Here’s the home page for the Legends Tour.

Zagreb Open
The Zagreb Open in Croatia starts today and goes through Saturday, with the qualification rounds today and tomorrow, and the main draws starting on Wednesday.

DHS ITTF Top 10 - 2017 Korea Open
Here’s the video (5:19).

Great Point: Timo Boll vs. Tiago Apolonia
Here’s the video (18 sec, no sound).

Ping-Pong Posters
Here are some great ones!

Ping-Pong in Space
Here’s the video – link should take you to 13:16, where she says, “We’re going to play a little ping-pong…, but it’s kind of space ping-pong because we’re going to use a ball of water as our ball.” What follows is perhaps the most mesmerizing, action-packed table tennis ever seen in outer space. (You can stop watching after he swallows the ball at 14:12.)

Animated Pong – Hippos and Dogs and Cats!
Here’s the video (1:35) – I think that’s a hippo and a dog playing doubles against a pair of blue cats! About 2/3 of the way through it gets more interesting as something happens to the poor hippo.

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May 1, 2017

Tip of the Week
Strive to Make Every Shot a Memorable One.

Exhausting Weekend!!!
It was a long one. On Saturday I had four hours of private coaching, from noon to 3PM, and 5-6PM. Normally I have a 3-5PM multiball session with two players, but they couldn’t come in, so I had a two-hour break. Then I had the 5-6PM session, and then I’m done, right?

Wrong. We had a group of 40+ people who come in annually for a ping-pong party. They are from a church, and this is the third straight year they’ve rented to the club on a Saturday night for a ping-pong party, 6:30-10:00PM. None of them are what we’d call “serious” players, but a number were good “basement” players. I do exhibitions and demos for many parties, but for this one my only job was to watch over the club for 3.5 hours. I did spend 15 minutes doing an impromptu trick-shot demo, where I did the 50-foot serve, the bounce-back-over-the-net serve, demoed that I could force opponents to return my spin serves where I wanted them to, did the blow the ball in the air trick, speed bouncing on the table, tossing balls in the air and smacking them with another, and my latest trick – having someone toss my Gatorade bottle into the air and I smack it with a ball. I also rescued the table tennis robot from a kid who apparently mistook it for a toy to be broken – and he managed to break off the on-off switch before I stopped him and took down the robot. (Getting that fixed is on my todo list today.)

But during most of those “free” hours (3-5, 6-10PM) I worked in the back on my laptop, getting a bunch of science fiction writing (my sideline) done. I mostly finalized a rewrite request from my publisher for my new novel, and finalized two short stories I’ve been working on. I have several table tennis writing projects coming up which I hope to get to soon.

Recently my students are more and more into serving (yes!), and so I’ve been coaching that a lot. I worked with one student on fast, deep serves, and he picked it up so fast it was scary – fast ones, big breaking sidespins, fast no-spin. After the session he stayed late to practice them on his own. Others are focusing on spin serves, which are more important. (Fast serves are normally variations to catch an opponent off guard. Overused they become less effective.)

Sunday is my busiest coaching day, with almost non-stop coaching from 11AM to 8:30PM. First up was private coaching to 3:45PM. Then from 4:00-8:30PM were three consecutive 90-minute classes. 4:00-5:30PM is the Beginning Junior Class I teach, with John Hsu assisting. Yesterday’s focus was on spin serves. Because we spent so much time on that we finished with some very physical footwork and smashing multiball.

Then came the Talent Development Program, 5:30-7:30 PM, our advanced junior class (ages 7-12), invitation only. (Officially the class goes to 7PM, but they rarely leave the tables until about 5-10 minutes after that, and then they do physical training.) Normally I’m assigned three players to work with – there are 23 players and eight coaches/practice partners. But one player was missing, so I only had two, so they got 50% more attention each. The entire camp started with lots of shadow practice, then came serve practice, then multiball, then table training. I always have to stop about five minutes before 7PM to teach my adult training session.

Because of the Capital Area League the day before, several of our regular players were resting, and a couple of others were out of town, so we only had eight players in the session. Since we were missing most of our “top” players, I focused on the basics, and on often under-practiced down-the-line shots. One “new” players is Joanna, who I blogged about a couple of times. She was apparently a strong junior player from Poland many years ago, then stopped for 30 years. She started up two months ago, taking private coaching from me. At first, I could see she had good strokes, but her shots were wild, going all over the place. But things quickly changed – and now she drills like an 1800 player. I’m not sure what her level is now in games as she is only practicing now, but we’ll soon find out. She might be pushing 2000 level soon if she starts playing matches.

Recently I’ve upped my private coaching hours, and I’m now back to coaching six days a week. I usually try to have two days off per week to rest, but it just isn’t happening. And now I’m beginning to pay for it! I was exhausted at the end of Sunday, and woke up this morning with every muscle sore. The hard part each day when I’m this tired is getting started each session. Once I get going it’s easier. Then on Thursday I have a light schedule – just one hour – and Friday I’m off. (I keep getting requests to coach on Friday, and I’m desperately fighting them off!)

Tom Lodziak Newsletter
Here’s the new edition, with links to numerous coaching-related articles – including one by me, and my recent interview there.

Emotions at the US Nationals: Problem and Solutions
Here’s the new article by Samson Dubina.

Table Tennis Tournament Knock Up
Here’s the article from CoachMeTableTennis.com, which gives three elements to maximize your chances for success in tournaments.

Ask the Coach
More questions answered from PingSkills.

A Coach’s Dozen: An Update on Building Healthy, Strong, and Resilient Young Athletes
Here’s the article and chart.

Wiggle Wobble Table Tennis - Like a Boss!
Here’s the new video (2:48) from Brett Clarke.

Qualifiers Emerge at 2017 ITTF North American Hopes Trial
Here’s the USATT article by Matt Hetherington, with a link to video of the boys’ final. Here’s the home page with the results from this past weekend.

Young Officials Take Center Court at Hopes Trial
Here’s the USATT article by Matt Hetherington.

Capital Area League
The Capital Area League (Washington DC area) had their second meet of the season, this time at the SmashTT club in Virginia. (Click on the division for results.)

Vladimir Samsonov Receives Order of Honour from President of Belarus
Here’s the article.

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

108 Countries Set to Compete at 2017 World Table Tennis Championships
Here’s the ITTF article, and the home page for the event, to be held May 29 – June 5 in Düsseldorf, Germany.

The Contenders: 2017 World Champs
Here’s the ITTF video (28 sec).

Best Table Tennis Tables 2017
Here’s a site that reviews tables.

Pong Universe Point of the Week
Here’s the video (30 sec).

Epic Attack vs. Defense at the Slovenian Open!
Here’s the video (1:46).

Ping Pong Trick Shots with Dude Perfect
Here’s the video (7:16)!

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April 28, 2017

USATT Coaching Committee
I spent all of last night, and into the wee hours, working on USATT coaching committee issues. Some are rather mundane, such as getting the online committee listings updated. Others are more complicated, such as grandfathering several top-level coaches into our coaching certification system, and setting up two coaching seminars at the Nationals – probably one on serving, and another on becoming a professional coach. I already have a coach and top player in mind for the serving seminar (I’d assist), and would run the “professional” seminar myself. The plan is that certified coaches, and perhaps tournament volunteers, would be allowed in free, while others would pay, with the coach running the seminar getting half or more of that money. (I wouldn’t take anything – conflict of interest.)

The serving seminar would be for both players who want to learn advanced serves, and for coaches who want to teach it. One possibility is splitting it into two parts, one for players, and one for coaches. I might take the lead in the one for coaches. The Nationals starts on Monday morning. The seminars might take place on Sun, Mon, Tue, and/or Wed night. Thursday night is the Hall of Fame Banquet, and Friday night is the Men’s and Women’s Singles Finals.

The new coaching committee is currently made up of me (chair), Rajul Sheth, Han Xiao, and Timothy Wang. (Note that all have great experience with full-time clubs – that’s intentional. They also are regular attendees of the Nationals and Open, so we can meet twice a year at those tournaments.) One more will likely be joining the group soon. Long-time chair Richard McAfee has been very helpful as a “special advisor.” New High Performance Director Jorg Bitzigeio is the USATT staff liaison, and would be involved in coaching committee issues. My first item of business with him will be to apologize that I will never remember how to pronounce his last name, so he’ll always be just Jorg (“George”) to me.

Double-Hit Rules Question
Here’s one I came up with recently. Rule 2.10.01.07 states, “Unless the rally is a let, a player shall score a point . . . if an opponent deliberately strikes the ball twice in succession.” The reason for this is that it’s usually impossible to tell if the ball does a double-hit or not when it hits your playing hand – and remember that your hand below the wrist is considered part of the racket. (That never made sense to me, but it’s the rule – 2.05.07: “A player strikes the ball if he or she touches it in play with his or her racket, held in the hand, or with his or her racket hand below the wrist.”) So while it's legal to accidentally double-hit a ball (usually as it hits part of your hand and racket, or two parts of your hand), you can't do this deliberatly, such as hitting it once into the air high and near the net, and then smashing it. 

Now suppose your opponent hits the ball rather short, and you reach in and smack it rather hard. Suppose the ball hits the net or the net post and bounces back very fast, and before you can react, it hits your racket again, and then goes over on the other side for a winner. Whose point is it? Well, the double-hit wasn't deliberate, so it should be your point, right? But I’m guessing that if you did this, your opponent might see it differently! (Any referees/umpires out there want to chime in on this?)

Ask the Coach
More questions answered at PingSkills!

Analysis: Miu Hirano vs. Ding Ning Quarterfinal Match in Wuxi
Here’s the ITTF Article.

The Meaning of "Cho-le" in Table Tennis
Here’s the video (4:39). The mystery is solved!!!

Table Tennis to Benefit Special Scholarship Students at Eleanor Roosevelt High School
Here’s info – it features Navin Kumar, and takes place this Saturday (tomorrow) from 1-4PM at Beltway Plaza Mall in Maryland. It’s listed as a tournament, but it’s really Table Tennis Challenge, where passersby can challenge Navin. I’d stop by – it’s local – but I’ll be at the club from noon to 10PM on Saturday.

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

Join Together at the 2017 Butterfly America’s Team Championship
Here’s info on the 4-star team tournament held May 27-28 in Rockford, IL.

ITTF Articles on the Worlds
There are a number of articles on the upcoming 2017 World Table Tennis Championships, to be held May 29 – June 5 in Düsseldorf, Germany.

Milestone in Ajmer
Here’s the ITTF article on the ITTF Level 1 course taught in India by Christian Lillieroos.

Highlights of the 2017 TMS National College CoEd Team Finals
Here’s the video (10:31).

Ma Long Mixed Martial Training
Here’s the video (52 sec). “Ma Long went to Fighting Bros Club in Beijing for Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) training.”

Crazy Hand Switch Attempt of Ma Long
Here’s the video (19 sec) – note how it starts with Ma Long’s sidespin block, which he pops up this time.

Crazy No-Look Table Tennis Shot
Here’s the video (52 sec)! Notice that the guy who won the point didn’t even know it.

Crazy Spinning No-Look Table Tennis Shots
Here’s the video (43 sec). (I may have posted this one once before – it looks vaguely familiar.)

How to Play Ping-Pong Alone
Here’s the video (2:59)!

Non-Table Tennis – “Alternative Truths”
Alternative Truths,” an anthology of science fiction & fantasy stories that satirize the election of Donald Trump, just came out. It comes in print or kindle versions. Included is my humorous fantasy, “The Monkey Cage Rules,” which starts out by mocking gullible voters – the unnamed president’s first words after getting elected are, “You people are soooooo gullible.” It then skewers numerous governing philosophies as the new president attempts to find a governing process that works. Along the way you meet the Ladybug of Liberalism, Specter of Socialism, Cardinal of Conservatism, Lion of Libertarianism, Mollusk of Moderation, Coelacanth of Communism, Mastiff of Monarchy, Doberman of Dictatorship, and the Sage of Baltimore (H.L. Mencken). The anthology includes 17 stories, including one where Donald Trump gives the Gettysburg Address! (I had another story that also came out recently, “Happily and Righteously,” a satire on paranoia, in the Funny Horror anthology.)

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April 27, 2017

Playing in a League and [Not] Reading Hidden Serves
I mentioned in my blog yesterday that some of the USATT board (as well as CEO Gordon) played in the ICC League on Saturday night. I also mentioned I didn’t do very well, and said I’d probably blog about it later. I was hesitant to do so as some will argue that I’m just making excuses. But I’ll just report what happened.

On the very first serve of my very first match, my roughly 13-year-old opponent (I’m told from a local club, not ICC, about 2000 level) served a blatantly hidden serve, hiding contact with his arm and shoulder. I badly missed the first two serves, one into the net, the other off to the side, and complained, to no avail. I didn’t want to create a scene, but at the same time I was pretty disgusted that even kids are hiding their serves illegally these days – but how can I blame him? It’s no different than what the best players in the world and the U.S. are doing, and it’s what his coach taught him to do, and umpires overwhelmingly allow it. If Ma Long and most top players (and Zhang Jike – see below) can serve this way, why not anyone else? I’ve blogged about this many times, and am still working on trying to get ITTF and/or USATT to resolve this issue.

 The key part that many still don’t get is that the key rule isn’t just that you can’t hide the ball. It’s that you must serve so that the umpire can see that the serve is legal, i.e. not hidden. In this case, four serving rules were being broken. (Note that for the last two, when there are no umpires, the players act as the umpires.)

  • 2.6.4: From the start of service until it is struck, the ball … shall not be hidden from the receiver by the server…
  • 2.6.5: As soon as the ball has been projected, the server’s free arm and hand shall be removed from the space between the ball and the net. 
  • 2.6.6: It is the responsibility of the player to serve so that the umpire or the assistant umpire can be satisfied that he or she complies with the requirements of the Laws, and either may decide that a service is incorrect. 
  • 2.6.6.1: If either the umpire or the assistant umpire is not sure about the legality of a service he or she may, on the first occasion in a match, interrupt play and warn the server; but any subsequent service by that player or his or her doubles partner which is not clearly legal shall be considered incorrect.

As a player and coach, I knew what I had to do – against his short serves, instead of my usual off-the-bounce flips, and quick short and long pushes, I’d have to take the ball as late as possible so I’d have more time to read the spin by how it bounces and curves through the air, and return them defensively, giving my opponent easy attacks, which isn’t exactly fair.

As a player, I could have adjusted, but I’m basically retired from tournaments, and so my priorities are different. The fact that I was stuck out there, facing blatantly illegal serves, unable to do anything about this, and knowing that this is now the norm, was just too frustrating, and so I pretty much lost any interest in really playing – and my results that night showed it. The other players served legally, and I tried to win, but my heart wasn’t really in it anymore. I do have to apologize to my opponents for how grim-faced I was that night, but now you know why. (I actually defaulted my last match, to a chopper, as my arm was getting sore, and I didn’t want to make it worse.)

Zhang Jike Plays School Kids – and Hides His Serve!
Here’s the video (2:10) – it’s in Chinese, but you don’t need to understand that to understand what’s going on as the kids try to return his serve. The ironic part is that even here, against little kids, he’s illegally hiding his serve – note how in the very first serve (20 sec in) he leaves his arm out to hide the ball.

How to Combine Your Forehand Drive and Backhand Drive
Here’s the article and video (1:36) from Coach Tao Li at Table Tennis University.

Chinese Physical Training/Training in China
Here’s the article, with links to video, from Fremont Table Tennis.

Ask the Coach
Two more questions answered at PingSkills – Deciding the Serve and Anatomic Handles.

US Coaches to Lead Team on Home Turf for Dusseldorf World Championships
Here’s the USATT article.

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

USATT Sanctioned Tournament Video Feature
Here’s the USATT article where USATT will help promote your tournaments.

Dublin Jerome Senior is a Top Contender for Paralympic Table Tennis Team
Here’s the article and video (2:28) from NBC4 WCMH in Columbus, OH, featuring Andrew Schneider. If you’d like to help fund his Paralympic Table Tennis dreams, here’s his GoFundMe page.

USA’s Amy Wang Triumphs in Belgium
Here’s the ITTF article.

ITTF Partners Legends Tour
Here’s the ITTF article.

Erie Open Final RR
Here’s video (58 sec) of some of the best points in the final round robin. That’s Open Champion Samson Dubina against Runner-up Roy Ke and then Seth Pech (3rd).

Duck Pong
Klaus Wood (member of USA Cadet Boys’ Team) recently adopted two pet ducklings. He did so by creating (according to his dad, Matthew), “a well-researched, multi-slide Powerpoint presentation with details on all his duck plans.” That, and straight A’s on his report card, won Klaus the two ducklings, whose names are Ping and Pong. Here’s the Facebook announcement. Here are the ducklings with a ping-pong ball. (Here’s the non-Facebook version.) Here they are again, in bathtub, with curious dog watching. Inspired by this . . . I give you Duck Pong!

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April 26, 2017

Tip of the Week
How Do You Develop Ball Control and a Feel for the Ball?

USATT Board Meeting
On Friday I flew out to the USATT board meeting in Milpitas, CA, last Friday, arriving in San Jose Airport around 5PM. I spent much of the flight going over USATT coaching committee plans – I was recently appointed the chair. (It’s my second tenure – I also chaired it for four years in the 1990s.) I flew in with fellow board member Gary Schlager (his first in-person board meeting) and USATT lawyer Dennis Taylor. Local player Michael Greene picked us up at the airport – right on time - and would later be picking up others as well.

That night we did a quick visit at the Silicon Valley TTC, which was a five-minute walk from the hotel, hitting for perhaps 15 minutes. Then we had dinner at the Outback Steakhouse. (I just had a salad.)

On Saturday morning we took what I kept calling the “Great White Whale” (a large white van, almost a bus, which USATT CEO Gordon Kaye drove to charter us everywhere) to the ICC Table Tennis Center to observe elite training. They had huge numbers of players training in three large groups, based on level, including U.S. Team Members Kunal Chodri and Nikhil Kumar. We then had lunch at the home of Anil Godhwani, the primary owner of ICC Table Tennis, who has donated over a million dollars to the center. (Pause while you lift your jaws off the floor.) As he put it, the donations were to get the ball rolling, which led to others donating money as well – and so this might be the only “cash rich” table tennis club in the country! But it all goes back into table tennis, so they have an incredibly successful table tennis program.

The board then went on a tour of some of the local full-time table tennis clubs. Besides ICC Table Tennis, we also visited the Fremont TTA, Table Tennis America, World Champions TTA, and (on Sunday) the Silicon Valley TTC (my second visit there). We were supposed to visit the Alameda TTC, but ran into time problems, and since it was 45 minutes away, we had to cancel that trip.

The board met in a meeting room at Anil’s house Saturday afternoon. There were few contentious issues that afternoon, which featured many reports, including:

  • Upcoming USA Nationals in Las Vegas, July 3-8;
  • 2017 U.S. Open, to be held Dec. 17-22, Sun-Fri, in Las Vegas – we save hordes of money by using these dates;
  • 2018 World Veterans Championships;
  • Discussion about other USATT events - Team Trials and future Nationals and Opens. Some believe that by switching the dates of the Open (now in December) and Nationals (now in July), we lost world-class players who might be more likely to come to the U.S. Open in July. But the switch was done because so many kids in the U.S. had great difficulty making the Nationals in December since it coincided with finals exams. There was also discussion of the format of the Team Trials. I pointed out there were mathematical proofs that there is no such thing as a truly fair trials process, and so all you can do is pick the least unfair one – which in our case seems to be three consecutive days of single elimination. The problem with giant round robins is that in the late rounds it’s easy for players who are out of the running to either stop trying as hard or to dump to friends who have a chance of making the team, and this has unfortunately happened a number of times.
  • Coaching Committee: I’ll write about this later.
  • Discussion of Advisory Committee Roles;
  • Discussion of ITTF election;
  • High Performance and USOC Update on: High Performance Director Update; Upcoming Events; and Funding;
  • CEO’s report on membership, clubs, tournaments, sponsorship, and fundraising;

That night some of us took part in the ICC League, including me. (I didn’t do well – I’ll blog about this probably tomorrow or Friday.)

We’d fallen behind on Saturday, and had to move a few items to Sunday. To make up for this, we met in the hotel lobby at 8AM for a combined breakfast and board meeting, where we went over proposals from the Umpires and Referees Committee (URC) and Tournament Committee. A key part here was about who the URC Selection Sub-committee reports to – the URC itself, or the USATT board? But most believed it should report to the URC, which seemed logical. There was also a discussion about age requirements for coaches. The ITTF has no age restrictions for coaching certification, but USATT – apparently for legal or insurance reasons, but not sure yet – requires coaches to be 18 to be certified. This is something we may look into later. I pointed out that I can see the logic of certifying players under age 18, perhaps at age 16 or 17, but we do have to draw the line or we’ll have 7-year-old certified coaches. Maybe that’s a good thing?

Then we took the van to ICC, where we had our Sunday meeting. It wasn’t actually at the ICC Table Tennis Center, but the Indian Community Center, of which ICC Table Tennis was a part. That afternoon’s discussions:

  • Financial Update;
  • Service Judges Update. At the recent National College Championships they experimented in some matches with Service Judges, where two umpires would sit in the stands behind each player, allowing them to see more easily if the serves were hidden. The accounts were mixed. The report showed that more faults were called, and as a result players served more legally. But the problem was it meant having two more umpires for each match; not all tables had stands behind each player where an umpire could sit; and some thought it changed the playing conditions from what our top players face overseas, putting them at an unfair disadvantage if they have to learn to serve legally when there are service judges, and go back to the usual illegal hidden serves otherwise. (Amazing how that is the norm now.) USATT will experiment with this more at the upcoming Nationals, but not in championship events.
  • Board Fundraising and Philanthropy Seminar. Martha Johnson from the US Olympic Committee gave a roughly 75 minute seminar on raising money. Part of this included getting the USATT Board on board – meaning all nine of us are expected to donate money. I’m going to donate, but will have to guard my wallet so not too much disappears. Anil also spoke of his experiences in fund-raising.
  • Proposal from Resource Development Committee. This was a proposal from Cogeo Sports and Entertainment to partner with USATT “to provide consulting advice and execution services to support the growth of USTTAF’s fundraising initiatives.” (USTTAF = US Table Tennis Association Foundation.) I honestly said that I couldn’t tell if this was the key to USATT’s salvation or something from Dilbert. It’ll be looked at by business minds and perhaps discussed and voted on later.
  • Lunch – Indian food served at the board table.
  • There were several other issues, such as a rewording of Hearing Panels from the bylaws (passed), and a discussion on whether to add language to entry forms that said, “I agree to abide by all ruling of the referee and tournament director provided they are in accordance with the rules.” The latter was not passed – it would basically give players an excuse to refuse to follow the referee’s rulings on the grounds that the player didn’t believe they were in accordance with the rules. But it is the referee who has to make that judgement, not the player, and could lead to havoc, and so this was not passed. (No vote was taken.)
  • During a legal discussion, I learned that in legal terms, “or” supposedly means the same thing as “and/or,” which makes no sense to me, but I’m no lawyer. But I know English – one can serve topspin or backspin, but he can’t serve topspin and/or backspin, as that implies you can sometimes serve topspin and backspin!!! I’m sorry, but or ≠ and/or!

Then came the BIG issue of the day – SafeSport. I’ll likely blog about this more later on. This came about because of abuses in other sports, primarily gymnastics, where some coaches were harassing minors. This, of course, could happen in any sport. So the USOC set up SafeSport – and while they meant well, and I agree that something like this was needed, I think they over-reacted.

Suffice to say that this requires a background check (which I passed), and an online tutorial and quiz that took me about two hours to complete. This will soon be required of all USATT certified coaches, umpires, and referees; all owners and officers of USATT clubs; tournament and league directors and organizers; all USATT board members, committee members, staff, and other positions with USATT; and anyone else in a position of authority over athletes. This is all being required of all Olympic Sports by the USOC, so we really have no choice – if we vote this down, they’ll simply decertify us and/or appoint a new board of directors.

I pointed out numerous problems with the current tutorial and quiz:

  • User Friendliness. I found it tricky getting started. If you have specific instructions, no problem, but I tried doing it from what was on the website, and it took a few minutes to figure things out. Once I got started, it was user-friendly, though at the end it took a few minutes to figure out how to print my certificate of completion.
  • Length. They should have been able to condense this into something much shorter.
  • Bad Questions. Three of the questions or answers I believe were unimportant, confusing, or wrong.
  • Non-English Speakers. Over half of U.S. Table Tennis coaches are Chinese whose English would make it impossible for them to understand the video and/or take the online written quiz. So they’ll either have to get a translator (and probably take five or more hours as they play a snippet of the tutorial, stop, translator translates, then repeat, and then go through the quiz slowly), or simply get others to take it for them. Guess which is more likely? (Note that there are many hundreds of coaches, not to mention all the others who will be required to take the tutorial and quiz.)
  • Underage Volunteers. Many clubs, including mine, have minors under the age of 18 who help out in running coaching sessions and leagues. Do we have to do background checks of 13-year-olds, and force them to take the online tutorial and quiz?
  • Slippery Slope. If this is required – and remember, I’m not against it once they fix the problems – what about other issues? Players have died of heart attacks at clubs – should the USOC require us to have doctors on hand at all clubs at all times? Clubs have had fires – should the USOC require us to have a firefighter on hand at all times? A terrorist could attack a club – should the USOC require metal detectors at all clubs and security guards?
  • Feedback. There is such a thing as good bureaucracy, where you set up procedures to do good things – and that’s the intent of SafeSport. But part of that means that the bureaucrats who create the rules should get feedback from “those on the field” – people like me, who are out there actually coaching and organizing – so they can find and fix problems like those I’ve pointed out.
  • Social Security Numbers. Others pointed out that many would object to giving out their social security numbers for the background checks. I run tournaments at MDTTC, and have one referee and two umpires – and one has already resigned as an umpire rather than give out his SSN. I’m waiting on the other two, one of whom has also voiced objections to giving out his SSN. (I haven’t spoken to the other.) I’m worried I’ll lose all three.

We spent over two hours on this issue. Carl Danner was especially good at going over the language of the actual USATT bylaw that would require SafeSport. One problem we kept coming up with is that based on the wording of SafeSport, we could face issues where a club can’t act with common sense, but must instead rely on SafeSport to resolve problems. I pointed out past examples from my club where common sense worked well, where escalation to SafeSport wouldn’t have been needed. For example, a player once kept bringing in ultra-violent videos and playing them at MDTTC for kids in the 6-9 age group. We told him to stop. He did it again, and the MDTTC management kicked him out for I think a month. When he returned, he did it again, and was kicked out for life. End of problem, and no SafeSport was needed in this case.

Then we voted. With the USOC literally forcing this on us, it passed 8-0-1. I was the abstention – I simply couldn’t vote for it in the current state. I doubt if they will shorten it – it’s more likely to be lengthened as more possible issues come up.

That night we attended the ICC Table Tennis Fundraiser. It started with a few short speeches, and then demonstrations with the ICC coaches and top juniors, following exhibition matches between Olympians Timothy Wang and Lily Zhang, and another between ICC coaches Bob Chen and Wenzhang Tao. Then they asked for donations, starting at $10,000, then $5000, then $2500, then $1000, and kept working their way down. It was very professional. Then Olympians Timothy Wang, Lily Zhang, and Ariel Hsing were all available to hit with players, as well as ICC top juniors. I had a little fun, playing exhibition-type matches against Timothy and Ariel where I chopped with a clipboard! Later I hit for half an hour with the clipboard against ICC juniors.

That night we had dinner again at the Outback, and then we were done! Gordon picked me and two others up at the hotel at 5AM Monday (you read that right) and I caught a 6:30AM flight back to Maryland. I spent Tuesday catching up on things (plus four hours of coaching), and will spend the rest of the week on that as well.

A great thanks goes to Gordon and to ICC (especially Rajul Sheth and Anil Godhwani) for setting up, organizing, and hosting the meeting - they did a great job. Thanks to all those who attended as well!

ITTF Presidential Election, Illegal Serves Question, and ITTF Commenting
Last Thursday, in the second segment, I blogged about this. Well, it took a week and several querying emails, but my question to the candidates about illegal serves finally went up Tuesday night, over a week after I first tried posting the note. It took a day for ITTF to send me the “verification email,” and another six days to approve the note, apparently they say because it included a link. Hopefully if the candidates respond it won’t take them a week or it’ll be a very slow communication process – smoke signals are faster. Strangely, while the questions went up on the announcements for Jean-Michel Saive and Thomas Weikert, it still hasn’t gone up for Khalil Al-Mohannadi. If they respond, I’ll link to their responses here.

New Coaching Articles from Samson Dubina
While I’ve been away, the Dubina’s been writing away!

Ask the Coach
Here’s the page from PingSkills – they’ve answered 16 more questions while I was away!

How to Play Offensive – You Will Never Win If You Don’t Know These Tips
Here’s the article and video (7:07) from PingPoolShark.

New Articles from USATT
While I’ve been away, USATT’s been posting away! I won’t link to all the new articles; I’ll let you browse their news page.

Westchester TTC Presents “Chip and Gus”
Here’s info on this table tennis play to be held at the Westchester TTC in New York on Friday, April 28. “Chip and Gus, oddball acquaintances meet once a month in the back room of a rundown bar to play ping pong.  But on this funny, smart, sad, and surprising night, something will change their relationship forever.”

Dan Seemiller Leads Camp for Veterans in South Bend
Here’s the article.

Chinese National Team Closed Training for WTTC 2017
Here are articles, video, and pictures.

Man vs. Machine
Here’s the video (44 sec, in slo-mo) as “Ty Petty ‘returns’ a ping pong ball shot out of a vacuum cannon... at 300 plus miles per hour!”

Better Nuclear Power Through Ping Pong
Here’s the article and a video (63 sec) showing a ping-pong ball traveling at Mach 2 (over 1500 mph) going through a paddle.

Ping Pong Pool
Here’s the video (19 sec)!

Ping-Pong Song and Tricks
Here’s the hilarious video (1:41)!

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April 20, 2017

USATT Board Meeting, and No Blog Until Next Wednesday
Tomorrow morning I’m flying out to San Jose, CA, for the USATT Board meeting on Sat & Sun in nearby Milpitas. I won’t get back until Monday night. I’ll have a lot of work to catch up when I return, so I’m going to take Tuesday off as well to catch up – so no blog until next Wednesday. I’m going to the meeting as a member of the USATT Board as well as the recently appointed chair of the Coaching Committee.

We’ll be staying at the Courtyard Marriot in Milpitas – which, I discovered by chance when I looked it up on Google Maps, is practically across the street from the full-time Silicon Valley TTC. So I may walk over there after dinner on Friday night. (Gee, this could be my big chance to do what I’ve always dreamed of doing – walk into a table tennis club dressed in a gorilla suit, and challenging and beating some of the top players – all without saying a word! If I did this at my own club, MDTTC, they’d all recognize my strokes, plus they’d figure I’m the only one who would do this. Hmmm...except I don’t own a gorilla suit, drat…)

On Saturday morning we’ll be watching advanced training at the ICC club. I may come dressed to play – perhaps they can use a practice partner! (No gorilla suit here.) Then we’re scheduled to do a quick tour of some local full-time clubs – Fremont TTA, Table Tennis America, and perhaps others, time and location permitting.

Then, starting right after lunch, the board meets for the rest of the day. That night we have the option to play in the ICC Saturday Night Advanced League. I’ll likely play in it. (I better go practice my serves.) On Sunday we meet all morning and into the afternoon. Afterwards we have a visit planned to the Alameda TTC. After that we attend the ICC annual fundraiser.

Items on the agenda include:

  • USATT Events Update (USA Nationals, U.S. Open, World Veterans, other USATT Events). Regarding the World Veterans next year, I’ll be doing daily coverage of that.
  • Advisory Committee Roles and Responsibilities.
  • Resource Development Committee Proposal.
  • High Performance and USOC Update (HP Director update, upcoming events, funding)
  • CEO’s Report (membership, clubs, tournaments, sponsorship, fundraising)
  • SafeSport Update and Bylaw Amendments. This is going to be a real headache. I’ll likely blog about this next week. I took the tutorial and quizzes – took just over two hours.
  • Financial Update and Discussion
  • Service Judges Update (a proposal to have, in some matches, service umpires at the court ends, behind the players, so as to better judge serves, which was tried out at the recent College Nationals)
  • Board Fundraising and Philanthropy Seminar
  • Closed session for legal update
  • Approved Tournament Venues and Regulations
  • NewCo/Table Tennis USA (involving them running or promoting certain USATT events)

ITTF Presidential Election, Illegal Serves Question, and ITTF Commenting
As I posted back in January, the upcoming election for ITTF president is a three-way battle between incumbent Thomas Weikert of Germany, ITTF Deputy President Khalil Al-Mohannadi of Qatar, and superstar player Jean-Michel Saive (former #1 in the world and Men's Singles Finalist in 1993). "The elections will be held on Wednesday 31st May at the Annual General Meeting in Düsseldorf, Germany, to be held on the occasion of the Liebherr 2017 World Championships." Here are their campaign statements:

All 222 member associations will be able to vote in the election, including USATT. Who should we vote for? I’m not a one-issue person, but perhaps the most important issue to me regarding the ITTF is their taking action on the problem of illegal hidden serves, which I’ve blogged about many times. (More on that in my note below, especially in the commentary in my proposal.) And so on Tuesday morning I decided to ask the candidates about this. I posted the note below under Saive’s statement. A note popped up saying that I would be receiving a verification email from ITTF that I needed to respond to, to verify I was real. However, no such email came over the next 20 minutes or so. There was a link to have it resent, and I did so multiple times, but still no email. Finally I emailed the ITTF webmaster and ITTF media director about the problem. They responded by saying they were looking into it.

The following morning, Wednesday, out of the blue, I received three verification emails. I responded, and my posting appeared under Saive’s note – but with a notice that it would not appear to others until it had been approved by ITTF. I then posted similar notes to the other two candidates, with the same result. I emailed the ITTF webmaster and media director that I had received the verification emails but was waiting for ITTF approval.

Another day has gone by, it’s now Thursday morning, and my notes still haven’t gone up. I don’t know why – presumably either they object to my note and won’t approve it, or they’ve set up such a cumbersome approval process that any serious discussion isn’t possible. Whatever it is, I can’t seem to get my posting to show up. So I’ll post it below. (You can click on the links above to see the campaign statements and any comments, from me or others, and see if they’ve “approved” mine and put it up. As of this writing none have any comments.) Later on perhaps I’ll research and find direct emails for the three candidates and email them the questions, but since this is an ITTF election, it seems like the logical place for such a discussion would be on publicly the ITTF site. I was hoping to hear from the candidates before the USATT board meeting, where we’ll likely discuss the election, at least informally.

Note that the USATT CEO will make the final decision on who USATT votes for, but the board and others will likely be advising him. This is from the USATT bylaws, which states: 

Section 14.3. Secretary General. "The Chief Executive Officer shall serve as Secretary General of USATT and in that capacity shall represent or designate representatives for the USATT in relations with the international sports federation for Table Tennis recognized by the International Olympic Committee and at international Table Tennis functions and events."

Here is my [non-published as of Thursday morning] note. [NOTE - after several querying emails, the notes finally went up on Tuesday night, April 25, one week after I first attempted to post them. Strangely, while the ITTF approved and posted the notes for Saive and Weikert, the note for Al-Mohannadi still had not gone up as of Wednesday morning, April 26. I emailed ITTF about this.]

[Candidate’s name],

One big problem our sport faces is illegal hidden serves. The rules not only state that you can't hide the ball or contact during the serve, but that it's the responsibility of the player to serve so the umpire can see that the serve is legal, and if the umpire is no sure of this, the serve is not legal. Currently, these rules are rarely enforced, and so top players essentially cheat on most serves, regularly hiding contact on the serve, either for illegal advantage, or to compete on an even basis since the opponent is doing so and the umpire allows it.

Individual umpires don't want to be the only one enforcing the rule, and since others are not doing so, they feel they cannot either. To change this it would take a strong emphasis from the top leadership positions so that all umpires and referees will enforce these rules equally. The key part is that if the umpire isn't sure of the legality of the serve, the serve is not legal. So borderline serves that might actually be visible aren't legal because the umpire, from their vantage point, can't be sure.

I've made a proposal on this, the "Net Visibility Rule," where the rules require the ball be visible to the net throughout the serve, making it harder to hide the serve without it being obvious. I've sent this to the USATT Rules Committee and to Samsonov (Athletes Commission Chairman), but haven't heard anything back yet.
http://larrytt.com/Net-Visibility-Rule-Proposal.pdf

Whether they adopt this proposal or some other, I would like to see the problem fixed. As a full-time professional coach, I am forced to explain to my students that if they want to compete on an equal basis, they will have to serve illegally since their opponents are doing so and umpires allow it. All coaches and players face this problem. This needs to change.

Do you have any plans to fix this problem?

-Larry Hodges

Have You Entered the USA Nationals Yet?
Here’s the home page for the event to be held July 3-8 in Las Vegas. I’ll be there; will you?

Korean Open
Here’s the home page for the ITTF Pro Tour event taking place April 20-23 in Incheon, KOR.

Forehand Pendulum Serve
Here’s the video (4:10) from EmRatThich.

Back Injuries - 7 Ways to Keep Your Back in Top Shape
Here’s the article from Samson Dubina. I’ve had some back problems as well – see #2 in Samson’s list – due to my right side being so much stronger than my left side that it literally pulls the spine out of alignment. I’ll blog about this and the stretching exercise I do for this later on.

Ask the Coach
Here are three more questions answered at PingSkills:

Certified Strokes Coming to China
Here’s the ITTF article. “Graded tests that will certify the ability of table tennis amateurs and enthusiasts will soon be part of the Chinese education system.”

USATT Insider
Here’s the new edition, which came out yesterday.

2017 World Table Tennis Day For All
Here’s the article by USA Women’s and Junior Girls’ National Team Member Angela Guan.

2017 Asian Championships – Chinese Supremacy Threatened
Here’s the article from Fremont TTC.

Ma Long vs Zhang Jike, Olympics Rio 2016
Here’s the video (5:12) from EmRatThich that reflects on the match. It speculates that the match was fixed, but seems to conclude otherwise.

USATT Top 10 Points from the 2017 USA National Team Trials
Here’s the video (3:52).

Short but Funny Table Tennis Scenes
Here’s the video (91 sec)! It's in Japanese, but it's mostly physical humor so you don't need to know the language. 

Tischtennis Cartoons
That’s German for Table Tennis – and who knew that the Germans had so many table tennis cartoons! When I Googled “Tischtennis Cartoons,” here’s what I got! While they are in German, you don’t need to know German to enjoy most of them. Warning – there’s a lot, and they are addictive!

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April 19, 2017

The Relationship Between Stroking and Footwork
I worked with an adult beginner yesterday. She’s only had a few lessons, and her forehand and backhand shots were still more or less patting the ball back and forth. Until yesterday.

Here’s what happened. We probably spent a good 20 minutes at the start just hitting forehands, first multiball, then live, and she was unable to do more than awkwardly pat the ball back and forth, hitting the ball flat (no topspin). Then we did backhands, and it was the same, though a little better. We did some pushing and serve practice, then came back to forehands, and still mostly just patting the ball back and forth. Then I decided to introduce her to footwork, which we normally hold back on until the strokes are more solid. So I fed multiball side to side as she hit forehands from the forehand side and the middle.

And suddenly she was driving the ball! The balls even had some topspin. She hadn’t been able to do this while standing more or less stationary, but once I had her moving, the stroke fell into place. Presto, instant good forehand! (Well, it still needs a lot of practice, but a lot less pitter-patter.) What happened was that when she was forced to move, she became more aware of getting into position for each shot and rotating the body. When she didn’t have to move, she more or less reached for the ball, which also led to using less body rotation.

We finished the session with something I wouldn’t have expected we’d be doing that session: I fed high balls (multiball), and she smashed. After getting the stroke right while moving, she was now able to smash balls. Quite a transformation!

Regarding that serve practice mentioned above, it was her first time – she’d never served before. When I asked her to show me a serve, she dropped the ball on the table and hit the ball after it had bounced. So I went over the rules and showed how you do it properly, and she picked it up quickly. I also brought out the colored soccer balls for pushing practice so she could get feedback on the spin on her pushes. We’ll work next on putting spin on her serves.

Side note - this is the same woman I mentioned in a previous blog who has an uncanny resemblance to former USA Team member, 3-time Canadian Open Women's Singles Champion, and USATT Hall of Famer Barbara Kaminsky - twice I've tricked locals into thinking she was Barbara, who lives nearby in Virginia. But I think Barbara still has the better forehand! 

Kanak Jha: My Quest for Olympic Games 2020
Here’s his funding page, where he talks about his training, including a video (2:24).  

10 Benefits Of Playing Ping Pong For Your Health And Brain
Here’s the article from PingPoolShark.

Ask the Coach
Here are more questions answered from PingSkills.

Zhang Jike Pendulum Serve Slow Motion
Here’s the video (18 min).

Sportfist Launch Offline Tournament Software for Windows
Here’s the USATT article. I haven’t tried this new software as I use Omnipong for my tournaments, and am quite happy with it.

Young Talent Overcomes Obstacles on the Road to Hopes Qualification
Here’s the USATT article featuring Shishi Hu, by Matt Hetherington.

Seeking Elusive Title; Timo Boll Returns to Korea
Here’s the article.

Taiwan's Top Female Table Tennis Player Aspires After Glory at Upcoming Taipei Universiade
Here’s the article featuring Cheng I-Ching (鄭怡靜). (I thiink that's the first time I’ve put Chinese in my blog!)

Top Ten Shots from the Asian Games
Here’s the video (4:09).

Tribute to Liu Shiwen
Here’s the video (4:18).

Smacking Things with Paddle
Here’s the repeating gif image!

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