Blogs

Larry Hodges' Blog and Tip of the Week will go up on Mondays by noon USA Eastern time. Larry is a member of the U.S. Table Tennis Hall of Fame, a USATT Certified National Coach, a professional coach at the Maryland Table Tennis Center (USA), and author of eight books and over 1500 articles on table tennis. Here is his bio. (Larry was awarded the USATT Lifetime Achievement Award in July, 2018.)
NOTE - Larry is on the USATT Board of Directors and chairs the USATT Coaching Committee, but the views he shares in his blog are his own, and do not necessarily represent the views of USA Table Tennis.

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

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

February 22, 2018

NOTE - off to do MRI on my shoulder Friday morning, so no blog that that morning. (See my Wednesday blog on this.) Wish me luck!

Help Fund Coaches to the Nationals for These Top Juniors!
The HW Global Foundation, which runs the Talent Junior Program at the Maryland Table Tennis Center, is trying to raise money to send coaches for the many kids they will be sending to the USA Nationals in July. In their words:

"We're raising $15,500 to bring the coaches that work with the kids all year to the tournament to ensure that our young athletes have the support they need to succeed in the sport they love. They will create a training camp for the kids before the tournament and coach them during the tournament."

Want to help out? Here is their GoFundMe page. There are 26 kids in the program, and I'm guessing that well over half will go to the Nationals. They are a great group to work with, and they are getting very good. (As of Dec. 31, 2017, they had 6 of the top 14 players in 10 and under boys in the U.S.) Disclaimer: I likely will be one of the coaches. (I'm in one of the pictures on the page, and think I'm just off-camera in another.) I work with them on Sundays, and coached two of their teams at the 2017 North American Teams. Over half of them started in my beginning table tennis classes.

Why should you help these kids get coaching? I'll let the page speak for itself.

Our Olympic dreams
Table tennis is one of the most popular sports in the world but is still growing in popularity as a sport in the United States - it remains one of only a few Olympic sports in which the U.S. has not medaled. The HW Global Foundation Talent Development Program, which my husband and I founded, hopes to change that. We are working to raise up new generations of table tennis players who not only excel at but are great ambassadors of the sport. Our 27 young athletes (20 boys and 7 girls) from the DC/Maryland/Virginia region train all week with their coaches and compete in local and regional tournaments year-round. They have Olympic dreams.
The next step towards fulfilling their dreams of becoming world-class Olympic athletes is for them to compete at the national level this summer. This July, many of our young athletes are looking to travel to Las Vegas for the U.S. National Championships, the biggest stage for table tennis in the country. To get the most out of the experience and maintain the team atmosphere we’ve worked so hard to create, their coaches need to come, too! The coaches have a deep impact on our young athletes - both on and off the table tennis court. Having their coaches at their sides at the U.S. Nationals will inspire our young athletes to compete with integrity and sportsmanship. 

The talented kids in our program can’t wait to show off their skills and sportsmanship at the U.S. Nationals but we need your support! We're raising $15,500 to bring the coaches that work with the kids all year to the tournament to ensure that our young athletes have the support they need to succeed in the sport they love. They will create a training camp for the kids before the tournament and coach them during the tournament. If you can help us reach our goal, you will be supporting the growth of table tennis in the United States and most importantly, inspiring our kids to reach for their dreams throughout their lives! All donors will receive a handwritten thank-you card from one of the Talent Development Program athletes and a video highlighting our talented kids. 

Shoulder Update
The shoulder started to really act up yesterday afternoon, and I had to cancel or get substitutes for my Wednesday and Thursday private coaching. (I'm still going in tonight to teach one of my beginning junior classes, with 14 students.) Later this morning I see a physical therapist, and Friday morning I get the MRI. (Probably no blog that morning.) I'll have a better idea of how things stand after these, and whether I can do my weekend coaching. If I can't, I need to notify students as soon as possible to cancel or get substitutes.

Larry Hodges Table Tennis Books on SALE!
My best-selling book is Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers, which sells faster than a Ma Long forehand. However, I have 13 books, including 8 on table tennis, and most are on sale at my Amazon page. Five of the print versions just went on SALE!!! Buy some, or The Spirit of Pong will come for you!!!

Capital Area Table Tennis League
The Capital Area Table Tennis League will be starting its next season soon. They currently have 17 teams signed up, and have room for one more. If you are in the Washington DC area (including Maryland and Northern Virginia) and would like to be on a team, or have a team ready to join, contact them at the Contact Us page.

ITTF Team World Cup
The 2018 World Team Cup starts today, Feb. 22-25, in London. Here's the news page. Follow the action!

Mastering the Backhand Smash
Here's the article and videos from Brian Pace.

Half Truths in Table Tennis
Here's the article from Coach Jon. "Table tennis is full of half truths. Players and coaches don’t mean to be misleading, but they can easily be misunderstood. … Here are a few of my favorite table tennis half truths."

What to Know Before Purchasing Used Table Tennis Tables
Here's the article from Table Tennis Spot. Or you can just use this table.

USATT Videos
Why not take a tour of the USATT Video Library? Lots of great stuff there!

A Special Tournament, Kanak Jha Grateful for Opportunities Afforded
Here's the ITTF article on the USA junior star. "Only 17 years old but Kanak Jha of the United States is a seasoned player; he has competed in four World Championships, two Men’s World Cup tournaments; now he is making his debut in the ITTF Team World Cup."

Michael Maze is Back!
Here's the ITTF article.

Doubles First, Proposed Olympic System Tested in London
Here's the ITTF article.

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

The Rhode Island Table Tennis Association is Celebrating 70 years of Continuous Operation
Here's the article by Steve Hopkins.

Pong Road Episode 7
Here's the page, with links to all seven episodes, including #7 (11:12). They feature table tennis pro Rocky Wang.  

Navin Kumar on the Smile with Simi Show
Here's the video (36:12).

Table Tennis Stickers!
Here's a huge selection. Note that there are 28 pages of them!!!

Yea Ping Pong
Here's the video (4:58) - one of the strangest table tennis videos yet! The full title is: "YEAH PING PONG | FUNNY TABLE TENNIS FILM | TẬP 5: CHIẾC AÓ KỲ DIỆU - THE INCREDIBLE T-SHIRT."

Crazy Table Tennis
Here's the video (1:38).

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February 21, 2018

Shoulder Shenanigans and Other Maladies
Yesterday I finally went to see an orthopedic doctor about my shoulder. As I've blogged, I began having shoulder problems in October or November, but it was just a repeat of past problems. At the U.S. Open in December I tore it badly while moving wide to the forehand for a big smash, and had to default out immediately. Because I'd injured it before, I thought I knew how to rehab it, and so took a month off from coaching and did various exercises with these giant resistance rubber bands.

I started coaching again in mid-January, but the shoulder was only (in my estimation) 80% healed. I've been careful not to aggravate it by extending my arm out or reaching upwards too much, but occasionally a student would put a ball wide or short to my forehand and I'd mistakenly reach out for it - ow! Anyway, the shoulder seemed to get worse, so I finally saw the doctor yesterday. (How bad is it? When I comb my hair I have to use my left arm to hold up my right arm.) 

They did x-rays, and he ran some tests, and I have an MRI on Friday morning. (I might not be able to blog that morning.) So the final diagnosis will have to wait until then - it could be a rotator cuff injury. But he said I have a "shoulder impingement," which means "tendons of the rotator cuff muscles become irritated and inflamed as they pass through the subacromial space, the passage beneath the acromion. This can result in pain, weakness and loss of movement at the shoulder." He was amazed at my lack of shoulder mobility. I haven't been able to touch my back with my right arm for many months, and it's been years since I could do so without first doing a lot of warm-up and/or stretching. I also can't raise my right arm straight up in the air. The left arm is perfectly normal, so the contrast is startling.

They gave me a cortisone shot in the back of the shoulder, which is supposed to reduce the swelling and make it easier to coach for now. However, this morning my shoulder seems worse, if anything - I can barely lift it. I normally have four hours of coaching on Wednesday nights (5:30-9:30), but due to a series of random events, tonight I only have the first hour. (I have a separate meeting with club officers on various issues at 6:30PM, but that's separate.) There's a chance I might have to cancel or get a substitute - I'll see how the shoulder is this afternoon. (Update - it's feeling a bit better, so I should make the 5:30 PM session.) 

Tomorrow (Thursday) I see the physical therapist. I already have a series of exercises assigned by the orthopedic doctor I saw yesterday, but we'll see what more they have in store for me.

Now before anyone gets off on a "Larry's not taking care of himself" thing, while there's some truth to that - I did avoid seeing a doctor at first - I was born with a somewhat rare condition that, as far as I know, has no name. I have naturally tight, stiff, and dense muscles. How dense? I'm incapable of floating in water. (I can float in salt water, which is much denser and so more buoyant.) When I was in the Boy Scouts I had to get a doctor's note explaining that I was incapable of floating or they wouldn't give me the swimming merit badge, which requires one to float on their back for 30 seconds, which I cannot do. At hotels at tournaments I sometimes show off by walking on the bottom of pools or doing pushups. Yes, I really can walk across a pool on the bottom. (Maybe I'll show off and do this at the Nationals in July, if they have a pool. I'll charge $5 a person. Get your tickets now!) I used to go to carnivals where they had one of those people who would try to guess your weight, and they'd always underestimate me by 10-15 pounds.

So my muscles are very stiff. All the stretching in the world won't change that, though they of course help. This is one reason I tend to have stiff, somewhat ragged strokes, not something I want my students to copy.

These stiff muscles lead to other muscle problems, either directly or indirectly - stiff muscles also lead to tendon problems. I've had tendonitis in my right arm for years, but an armband solves that problem. I've also had upper right back problems, because my right side is so much stronger than the left side that it pulls the spine out of alignment, but that problem is solved by a specific stretch I do regularly that loosens the upper right muscles of the back. I've also had problems with my right knee, probably from years of coaching on cement before we went to all rubberized flooring at MDTTC about 15 years ago. I hurt it last July, and from then until December I couldn't walk up stairs normally, having to go one step at a time, left leg, then right, supporting as much weight as possible on the railing. But the knee has been fine since December. And a month ago I tore up my right heel in a freakish accident, when the screen door on the front door closed on the back of my foot, tearing a very deep wound that even now hasn't completely healed - I had to wear protective bandages until just a few days ago.

Meanwhile, my left side is in perfect health! (Well, it's stiff as well, but it hasn't gone through 42 years of table tennis strokes and injuries.) But I sometimes think my entire right side is held together by tape. If this were politics, I'd say "the right" is being punished! :)

And while we're on the topic of health, I hit an all-time high of 200 pounds even around Christmas. I've been dieting since, and this morning hit 184. I plan to get to 175.

2018 ITTF Team World Cup
The 2018 World Team Cup starts tomorrow, Feb. 22-25, in London. Here's the news page. Here's a video interview (1:33) of Ma Long and Ding Ning, in Chinese but with English subtitles.

Mighty Challenge Lies in Wait for Team USA in London
Here's the USATT article by Matt Hetherington. "The ITTF World Team Cup is back and USA will feature in both the Men's and Women's events as the 2018 event hits London, England. Due to kick off February 22nd, the three day competition will host the world's top table tennis teams on world ranking and continental qualification."

Hopes Program
The ITTF Hopes program is for the best 11- and 12-year-olds in the U.S. and the world. Here is information on the program, including upcoming USATT camps and regional qualifiers.

Collegiate Table Tennis

2018 HITTA Spring Festival TT Tournament Report
Here's the article on this Houston event, by Manny Velazquez.

Silver Medallist One Year Ago, Adriana Diaz in Search of Gold
Here's the ITTF article on the Puerto Rican star and the upcoming Swedish Junior and Cadet Open.

China's Zhang Xie-Lin "Magic Penhold"
Here's the video (2:48) of this penhold chopper from the 1960s, against Li Furong (1961, 63, 65 World Men's Singles Finalist). Video is from 1984, but just went online. "The Magic Chopper" devastated European players in the 60's with his tricky sidespin chops.

Western Union Table Tennis Ad
Here's the commercial (30 sec).

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February 20, 2018

Tip of the Week
Forehands and Backhands: 1-2-3, not 1-2.

USA Team Selections
On Friday I spent much of the day studying the USATT Team Selection Process. (I blogged about this on Friday morning - somewhat jokingly though it's a serious matter.) There's a lot of nuance to this. For example, I often read complaints about how the teams are selected, but without distinguishing between how players are selected to be on the National Team (now called "TTTeam USA"), as opposed to who is selected to play at specific events, such as (for juniors) the World Junior Championships, Pan Am Junior Championships, or various ITTF junior tournaments. So there are really things involved in Team Selection - these two (who is on National Team, who plays in which events), plus the selection of coaches.

There's also the question of how much should be done by Trials, and how much by Selection. Many instinctively want it to be all Trials, until it's pointed out that due to injury, illness, or just having a bad day, the best player might not make the team, and then he's out for an entire year. So most agree that the High Performance Director (HPD), the High Performance Committee (HPC), or the National Team Coaches should be able to add perhaps one or two players. But then we start listening to the HPD and the HPC and they point out how a Team Trials isn't always realistic - it favors those who are good against other U.S. players that they are familiar with, it's a one-shot process that favors whoever is hot that day, and it leaves out players with great potential that are developing their game for the long term, while favoring those who play for the short term.

Plus, of course, who makes all these decisions, the HPD, the HPC, or the National Coaches?

There's also a distinction between how to put together a mini-cadet (12 and under), cadet (15 and under), junior (18 and under) and men's or women's team. For the various junior teams, you want to focus on developing them as future international players. For men's and women's teams, you want players who have become international players, or are on the verge. Do you favor younger players over older ones who are still better, but have less potential to improve with international experience? These are some of the questions that need answering.

Probably the biggest problem is that many are so opinionated on this that it's hard to have a serious dicussion. Many consider "compromise" a dirty word.

And so on Friday I created the perfect plan, the proposal to end all proposals, a proposition so precise in its ping-pong perfeduity (I just made that word up since I was running out of usable "p" words, but it sure sounds like a word), that all people will proclaim it's prodigious profoundness.

To be clear, I'm only set on two of the three selection items I've listed above; I'm still playing around with a third. I also want to think some more on this, and later on discuss it with the HPD and perhaps members of the HPC before submitting it as a proposal. I just want to make sure they've all done their laundry since some of those socks it'll knock off might smack me in the face. Or they may hate it so much they'll rub their dirty socks in my face. Either way, I'm going to get socked.

So I'm not going public with it yet. There's no rush as this year's selection procedures are set, and they won't be looking into 2019 plans probably until the fall.

The Inside Scoop on Shortz and Westchester
Here's the USATT article by Richard Finn. "Will Shortz has a lot of balls in play. He is probably best known as the Crossword editor of the New York Times. Shortz is also the Puzzlemaster for NPR, founder and director of the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament and Chairman, World Puzzle Federation. Oh yes, he has also been the author/editor of more than 500 puzzle books. Wait, there is more. The 65-year-old Shortz is a passionate table tennis player and owns the runs the Westchester Table Tennis Center that opened in the New York City suburb of Pleasantville NY in 2011."

Watch Ping-Pong Make Its New York Philharmonic Debut
Here's the article, pictures, and great video (1:39) from the New York Times, featuring Michael Landers and Ariel Hsing. Dazzling!!!

Lindenwood College
Here are two USATT news items where they are featured.

You Don't Play Well in Tournaments Because...
Here's the article by Samson Dubina. "Find Out 5 Ways to Maximize Your Performance!"

Table Tennis Tidbits 17 & 18
Here are two more from Robert Ho - articles and video.

New Videos from EmRatThich

Chloe's Birthday
Here's the podcast (31:17) from PingSkills. Joke of the Week, On This Week, Tournament Wrap, Tip and Drill (Trill) of the Week, Forehand Placement, Training Relaxed Focus, Training Tools, and Topspin Against Backspin.

Excitement Builds for ITTF Team World Cup 2018
Here's the article from Table Tennis England. Here are ITTF World Team Cup articles. Event takes place in London, Feb. 22-25.

From Whiff Whaff and Gossima Beginnings, Table Tennis Continues to Be a Smash Hit as Sport Prepares to Come Home
Here's the article from Inside the Games.

National Collegiate Table Tennis Association Newsletter
Here's the February issue.

The Man Who Plays Table Tennis Using His Mouth
Here's the video (2:07). Here's another video of this incredible table tennis player, Ibrahim Hamato.

Very Young Timo Boll 1995
Here's the video (8:46).

Ma Long Under-Table Hidden Sidespin
Here's the video (16 sec) against Dimitrij Ovtcharov.

Happy New Year 2018 Table Tennis Lovers!
Here's the highlights reel (3:16). Somehow I hadn't seen this until now.

Blast from the Past: Primorac vs. Kim Taek Soo
Here's the video (22 sec) of this great point from the Gilbert Cup. 

History of USATT – Volume XX – Chapter 16
Here’s chapter 16 of Tim Boggan’s latest volume, which covers 1993-1994. Or you can buy it and previous volumes at www.timboggantabletennis.com.

Potato Thins Handsfree Table Tennis Commercial
Here's the video (30 sec, including about 5 sec of table tennis)

Cartwheel Pong
Here's the video (11 sec)!

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February 19, 2018

President's Day
It's President's Day, the day we all celebrate all of our great presidents and try to forget the bad ones. (Or perhaps mock them.) It's a federal holiday, so I'm off today - though I'll be spending most of the day on a writing project. Meanwhile, to tide you over until tomorrow, here's the best 21-second rally in history - the Maggie intro scene from Balls of Fury

February 16, 2018

UTZ Day
Yes, it's Usa Team Zelection (UTZ*) Day, the day I start looking into how USATT chooses its National Teams. I blogged about this on January 22 blog, where I wrote, "However, right now I'm just too busy to look into it too much, but I plan to do so in February, probably after I run the MDTTC February Open (Feb. 10-11)."
[*Our High Performance Director Jörg Bitzigeio and our long-time National Men's Coach Stefan Feth are both German, and in really bad movies the Germans always pronounce "S" words with a Z, so I'm going with "Zelection" here. And I'm suddenly craving potato chips. Yeah, it looks more like a Pringles, but close enough.]

Now, While Hodges Yielding a Mesmerizing Editorial (WHYME) on this, where I rip into any little thing I don't like, may be entertaining, that's not gonna happen. Instead, I'm going to hedge a bit here as while Hodges Endeavors this Day to Grok Everything (HEDGE), that doesn't mean I'm going to hash it all out in public, as some would like to see it done. After I've gone over all the materials, I'll either agree with it completely; find some small recommendations; find larger problems and make recommendations; or come up with my own plan that I'd recommend to the USATT High Performance Committee. But after Hodges Evaluates Long-term Plans and Makes Evaluations (HELPME), I'll first share anything I come up with to our HPD (Jörg) for comment as a first step. So no, I'm not going to Try to Tackle This In a Public Skirmish (TTTIPS). I will Study Every Regulation In Our Usatt Schemes (SERIOUS) to see if there are ways I think we can improve. (Yes, this is a serious issue, but allow me my fun.)

This Is Probably Our First Time Hodges Ever Will Examine Every Key (TIPOFTHEWEEK) to our National Team Selection, where he looks at all Team Rituals that Usatt Might Plan to Lead our Inevitable Escalation to Stardom (TRUMPLIES). (Hey, that was just a coincidence! Really!)

Some, like Bruce Liu (from Bay Area Table Tennis) and Rajul Sheth (also Bay Area, ICC Director and USATT board member) have approached me about our team selection process, and so I'm now starting the Hodges Initiative for Bruce and Rajul to Unite in our Common Endeavor (HIBRUCE). I hope to work fast and Find A Solution Today (FAST)!

Feel free to post below your own silly acronyms on this topic. Please don't make me read them. (But I will.)

House Update
As I blogged previously, coaches Ruichao Alex Chen, Wang Qing Liang, and Wu Jiachen moved in with me a few days ago, with MDTTC renting the first two floors of my townhouse for them. (I live on the third floor.) I had to do a lot of costly things to get the place ready for them.  Costs so far: Cleaning: $457; Handyman: $796; Locksmith $120; plumber $332. I've agreed to spend $1000 on new carpets. So total costs for me (so far) are about $2700. Next week: replacing two windows, probaby about $300. 

Thursday Beginning Junior Class
Yesterday's session had 14 players, with coaches John and Martin assisting. We divided the hour into three parts. Part 1 was serve practice, where I gave a short demo (we've covered this already), and gave them the choice on whether to work on fast serves or spin serves. Part 2 was smashing. After a demo, they went out on the tables and did this, mostly three at a time (others practiced or picked up balls) where the coach fed multiball - one to wide backhand, one to middle, one to wide forehand - and then rotated back while the others took their turn. Part 3 was games, where the players had their choice on either playing King of the Table or trying to smack my infamous Gatorade bottle of "worm juice" as I fed multiball (3 shots per player, rotating) - if they did, I had to drink it. As it happened, every player wanted to make me worm juice (despite my admonitions that "Friends don't make friends drink worm juice"), and so there was no King of the Table. I drank much worm juice.

World's Worst Ping-Pong Excuse?
On Wednesday I was coaching a kid (age 12) who normally works very hard. But this time he seemed distracted when doing footwork drills, and kept stopping to stretch and to examine his leg. I finally asked him why he wasn't trying harder, and this is what he said: "There's no blood in my leg." I think I've heard it all now.

Learning to Whip My Forehand with Eli Baraty
Here's the article by Tom Lodziak. "One of my team-mates Daniel Hearne-Potton (a rapidly improving cadet player) recently said to me, 'Tom, you’re quite good at table tennis, but your technique is terrible.'"

How To Improve Your Speed In Table Tennis
Here's the article from Table Tennis Store. "We have all heard of fast and slow twitch fibers in muscles — in almost every sport the secret to improving your athletic skill is to make your muscles not only stronger but also faster. Fast muscles give you a big advantage in almost all sport related skills but especially in fast reaction sports."

Defending Table Tennis Serves
Here's the article by Coach Jon. "What makes a great serve? For a lot of players the answer is a variation of what once was used to identify obscenity; 'I know it when I see it.'"

Cal Table Tennis: Road to NCTTA Regionals and Nationals!
They are doing a fundraiser to send Cal Table Tennis to the National Collegiate Table Tennis Association (NCTTA).

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

“I will try to win the title next year”: Dimitrij Ovtcharov looks back on Montreux display
Here's the ITTF article on Ovtcharov's thoughts on failing to win his fourth consecutive Europe Top 16 title (losing the final this year to teammate Timo Boll).

Table Tennis England (Current State of Affairs)
Here's the article by Eli Baraty. He's not happy.

A Plucky Paralympic Point
Here's the video (43 sec, from 2014) - if he can get this many balls back (from the floor), why can't you?

Down-the-Line, Around-the-Bottle Serve
Here's the video (18 sec)!

Under 12 Finalists at the Butterfly MDTTC Open - Animated!
Here are five photos of the top four finishers - animated! (May take a few seconds to load.) L-R: Kay O'Hara (3rd); Mu Du (1st); Lance Wei (4th); and Andy Wu (2nd).

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February 15, 2018

USATT Teleconference
We had a USA Table Tennis Board of Directors teleconference on Monday night, 7:00-8:31PM. Attending were all nine board members (including me), plus the CEO, the COO, the HPD, and the S&LC. (Give up on this alphabet soup? The first three are listed on the USATT Staff Page, the third is the Secretary and Legal Counsel, Dennis Taylor.) I'm guessing that I spoke less in this meeting than any past meeting, probably by several magnitudes. However, before the meeting I did do a number of edits to the minutes of the December 2017 meeting - once an editor, always an editor.

First on the agenda was the approval of the minutes of the December two-day board meeting in Las Vegas during the U.S. Open, and the January teleconference minutes. After some discussion, they were both approved - I made the motions. They are now both online for your reading pleasure in the USATT Minutes and Actions page.

Then came reports on SafeSport. We have lost almost 1/3 of our clubs due to this - from 263 to the current 183, though we expect a number of others to soon become SafeSport compliant - we'll almost for sure get back over 200. I blogged about this on February 2 when we were down to only 138 clubs (see second segment). The good news is the USOC sent us a note saying they were happy with our SafeSport compliance. They had given us some recommendations, which USATT had implemented. They wrote, "The review found that the recommendations were implemented and are considered closed. USATT was prompt to implement the recommendations in the SafeSport audit." Now if we can just get most of those 82 non-compliant clubs! (And yes, it's a big hassle that I wasn't happy about either.)

Next up was discussion of the currently empty chair of the Ethics and Grievance Committee. A USATT news item went up yesterday on this. Next came an update on the World Veterans Championships, coming up June 18-24 - currently there are 3702 entries (deadline March 15 or 5000 entries), but there are hundreds of "provisional" ones, who we expect to enter but haven't officially sent them in yet - enough to safely say we'll at least break 4000. Then came updates on sponsorship and fund-raising, the Para Procedures update, the High Performance update, and the 2019 World Tour and 2020 World Championships update. Then came a closed session to discuss some disciplinary matters. (I can't believe Trump cheats at table tennis - he hides his serve, boosts, and when you're not looking, steals your wallet to give to the rich.)

We finished with a discussion about our next in-person update, and apparently there isn't a single date between now and July where the board is free. I'm guilty of not being free six weekends: running the MDTTC Open on Apr. 14-15; coaching at and running the tournament at the Hopes Camp and Tournament in Maryland Apr. 27-29; a panelist at the Balticon Science Fiction Convention May 25-27 (my other "life"); running the Maryland State Championships June 2-3 and my annual science fiction writing workshop vacation in Manchester, NH, July 20-28 (covers two weekends). We will likely try to have the board meeting either just after the World Veterans Championships (June 18-24) or just before the U.S. Nationals a week later (July 1-7). I plan on staying the entire three weeks, taking a one-week reading/writing vacation in between.

And then we adjourned!

Excellent Health Advice for all Ping Pong Players
Here's the article from Table Tennis Spot.

North and South Korea - They Joined Forces But It Didn't Last
Here's the video (3:01) from the BBC. "This is the story of North and South Korea's ping pong stars, who joined forces and became firm friends - but it didn't last."

Super Quick Style of Long Pips Penholder Kid
Here's the video (3:05). I think he's using medium long pips. Watch it once to see how this kid plays. Watch it a second time to see the expressions on his poor opponent, who probably has never faced anything like this!

He Zhi Wen (Juanito) - Master of Short Pips
Here's the video (3:05). This style used to be common, now it's almost extinct. It'd be great to get more diversity like this back into our sport.

Two Paddles Baby Pong
Here's the picture! (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

Long Table Pong?
Here's the video (59 sec) as they play with three tables, placed end to end. I can't wait for them to go for that short ball!

This Is the Coolest Ping-Pong Table!
Here's the video (49 sec).

Solo Pong!
Here's the video (28 sec). Why not try this out at your club?

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February 14, 2018

Tip of the Week
Focus on Performance and Fun to Maximize Your Chances of Winning.

$2700 3-Star Butterfly MDTTC February Open
February 10-11, 2018 • Maryland Table Tennis Center • Gaithersburg, MD
[Here's my write-up of the tournament I ran this past weekend. If not interested, then as usual skip ahead to the many segments afterwards!]

Top-seeded Wu Junhan from New Jersey, rated 2691 (but over 2750 most of last year, with a high of 2788), cruised into the final without losing a game, or even going deuce. As someone on the sidelines said, "He makes it look so easy." Yes he does, but that's why he's 2700. How many players that level make it look hard? Well, maybe Chen Alex Ruichao, the other Open finalist, who goes after every shot in ways that do not look so easy. (Here's a nice picture of the final.)

Alex was also over 2700 for a number of months the last three years, with a high of 2722 before dropping to a likely temporary 2615. The lefty Alex may have the best pure serve and forehand rip game in North America, and you could see much of the match came down to Wu trying to stop that, and when Wu serves, trying to stop Alex from counter-ripping winners. It wasn't easy - here's video of the shot of the Tournament (46 sec, video by Mossa Barandao of PongMobile) - Chen Ruichao's lunging, down-the-line counter-smash in the Open Final against Wu - at 12-all!

But I noticed something about Wu - he is incredibly quick at reading service depth. When Alex served short, Wu would almost always receive backhand, even if the serve was short to the forehand, using a topspinny backhand banana flip. If the serve was the least bit long, he'd forehand loop it. The result was Alex was perpetually trying to counter-attack against these topspin attacks, which put great pressure on his third-ball attack. Early on Wu dominated with these tactics, but gradually Alex got used to them, and his attacks began to hit more and more - but Wu's attack almost never missed. After winning the first two easily, Wu had a battle on his hands for three games  - with Alex winning a pair of 14-12 wars, and leading 9-8 in the game he lost at 9 - before Wu pulled away in the sixth to win, 3,6,-12,9,-12,6.

Congrats to Champions Wu Junhan, Khaleel Asgarali, Vikash Sahu, Stephen Emmons, Stephanie Zhang, Wang Zhantong, Sameer Wadkar, Danny Wan, Eugene Cristoaica, Jackson Beaver, and Mu Du! The closest battles? 12-year-old Danny Wan "eighting" things up in the Under 1300 final, where he was up 5-0 and 10-8 match point in the fifth against Sameer Wadkar, but lost four in a row to lose at 8,-8,-8,8,10. He took it pretty hard, but went back out and won Under 1000, and celebrated equally hard with his two trophies. In Under 1900, 14-year-old chopper Stephanie Zhang had a pair of 11-7 in the fifth wins in the semifinals and final. In the Over 50 final, top-seeded Michael Huang was up 2-0 on Eugene Cristoaica, but Eugene came back to win, -6,-8,10,7,8.

The biggest romps were Vikash Sahu's 18-0 game record in winning Under 2200, and Mu Du's 12-0 record in winning Under 12. (Both were top seeded.) Khaleel Asgarali sort of romped in Under 2400, where he was also top seeded at 2397, going 9-0 in the quarters, semis, and final - but in the preliminaries he had to battle with Aldin Soneja (2025) and Costel Constantin (1948), at 8,-8,7,7 and -11,7,8,9 respectively. 11-year-old Jackson Beaver also sort of romped in the Under 15 event, losing only one game in four matches - partly because he went 5-0 in games that were 11-9 or deuce.

The tournament was processed on Monday, the day after the tournament - remember when we often had to wait weeks? Here are the rating results. Here are the biggest gainers - the "100 Point Club":

  • 230 by Danny Wan, 841 to 1071 (who won Under 1000 and was second in Under 1300, going 9-1 in the tournament)
  • 182 by Wang Zhantong, 1380 to 1562 (who won Under 1600)
  • 171 by Stephanie Zhang, 1505 to 1676 (who won Under 1900)
  • 150 by James Zhang, 1496 to 1646 (who made the semifinals of Under 1900 - one match away from playing his sister in the final)
  • 132 by Todd Klinger, 1338 to 1470 (despite two nail-biting five-game losses that would have seen his rating shoot to perhaps infinity)
  • 116 by Allan Anzagira, 1517 to 1633 (who made the final of Under 1600, and was the best lefty penholder in the tournament)

As usual, a great thanks goes to sponsors Butterfly and HW Global Foundation, the latter which runs the Talent Development program that trains at MDTTC – which swept all four semifinal spots in both junior events. A great thanks also goes to Mossa Barandao of PongMobile, who helped run the tournament – he’s at the control desk the entire tournament doing much of the data input, plus taking pictures - see links below in results. (Mossa also sets up a station at our tournaments and leagues so players can easily look up via PongMobile, their ratings and ratings histories, both in numbers and graphic form. The station is always surrounded by players looking up all their friends, coaches, and rivals.) Thanks goes to referee Paul Kovac and umpire Stephen Yeh. And a great thanks to the 88 players entered in the tournament!

Complete results are available at Omnipong. Here is a summary – click on event links to see pictures of the finalists!

Open Singles - Final: Wu Junhan d. Chen Ruichao, 3,6,-12,9,-12,6; SF: Wu d. Chen Bo Wen, 5,6,9,5; Chen Ruichao d. Martin Jezo, 5,7,9,4; QF: Wu d. Roy Ke, 9,6,5; Chen Bo Wen d. Lidney Castro, -5,5,8,7; Jezo d. Shao Boyang, 9,5,3; Chen Ruichao d. Wang Yimiao, -8,9,5,8.
Under 2400 - Final: Khaleel Asgarali d. Gabriel Skolnick, 8,3,5; SF: Asgarali d. Shao Boyang, 4,10,3; Skolnick d. Tiffany Ke, 10,9,6; QF: Asgarali d. Xu Rui, 6,7,6; Shao d. Stephen Chu, -2,6,2,10; Ke d. Vikash Sahu, 9,-9,3,4; Skolnick d. Mohamed Kamara, 6,2,7.
Under 2200 - Final: Vikash Sahu d. Spencer Chen, 3,5,6; SF: Sahu d. Stanley Hsu, 5,10,4; Chen d. Joshua Gong, 9,12,8; QF: Sahu d. William Xu, 7,6,5; Hsu d. Aldin Soneja, 6,-8,8,-8,10; Gond d. Costel Constantin, 6,6,-9,14; Chen d. Lakhan Abichandani, 7,-2,11,6.
Under 2000 - Final: Stephen Emmons d. Joshua Gong, 8,-9,10,7; SF: Emmons d. Pavan Kumar, 6,12,6; Gong d. Gideon Teitel, 5,10,-2,-6,12.
Under 1900 - Final: Stephanie Zhang d. Hanfei Hu, 11,5,-7,-6,7; SF: Zhang d. Robert Gabay, 2,-8,7,-9,7; Hu d. James Zhang, 9,9,6.
Under 1600 - Final: Wang Zhantong d. Allan Anzagira, 9,-4,-5,7,2; SF: Wang d. Kurtus Hsu, -8,4,4,8; Anzagira d. Anoop Srivastava, 9,4,4.
Under 1300 - Final: Sameer Wadkar d. Danny Wan, 8,-8,-8,8,10; SF: Wadkar d. Robert Lehrman, 9,8,5; Wan d. Eugene O'Bryan, -9,7,3,6.
Under 1000 - Final: Danny Wan d. Joseph Cho, -9,7,10,-9,6; SF: Wan d. Matthew Guo, 10,6,7; Cho d. Christian Funderbert, 6,5,12.
Over 50 - Final RR: 1st Eugene Cristoaica, 2-0; 2nd Xinsheng Michael Huang, 1-1; 3rd James Wilson, 0-2.
Under 15 - Final RR: 1st Jackson Beaver, 4-0; 2nd Stanley Hsu, 3-1; 3rd Hanfei Hu, 1-3; 4th Todd Klinger, 1-3; 5th Kay O'Hara, 1-3.
Under 12 - Final RR: 1st Mu Du, 5-0; 2nd Andy Wu, 4-1; 3rd Kay O'Hara, 2-3; 4th Lance Wei, 2-3; 5th Kurtus Hsu, 2-3; 5th Matthew Guo, 0-5.

Happy TT Valentine's Day!
This is what you get when you Google "Table Tennis Valentines Pictures."

H.W. Global Talent Development Program
Here's the USATT article by Richard Finn. I'm one of the coaches for this program.

USATT Release New Coach of the Year Award Guidelines
Here are the USATT Guidelines. I created these, based on suggestions and feedback from the Coach of the Year Selection Committee (I'm a member) and the USATT Coaching Committee (which I chair). They were then voted on and adopted by the USATT Coaching Committee.

USATT Tournament Promotion Guide
Here's the new USATT manual by Matt Hetherington - ATTENTION TOURNAMENT DIRECTORS!!!

USATT Seeks Applicants for Chair of Ethics and Grievance Committee
Here's the USATT notice.

Nominations Open for ITTF Athletes’ Commission
Here's the ITTF article.

How to Win Against Younger and Better players (Junior Players)
Here's the article from EmRatThich.

Training Plans
Here's the podcast () from PingSkills. Items covered: Joke of the Week; On This Week; Tournament Wrap; Tip and Drill of the Week; 52 Week Training Plan; Serve to the Body; Practicing Pendulum Serve; and Practicing on Small table.

37 Seconds of Footwork with Lily Zhang
Here's the video - do you practice this?

New Videos from Arnaud Scheen

The Rise and Future of a Prodigy: Harimoto Tomokazu
Here's the USATT article by Ray Huang.

The Koreas: Divided by War, United by a Flag?
Here's the article and video (3:31) from CNN. The table tennis is from 0:53 to 2:02.

Thursday Morning Ping Pong: The little sport doing big things at Toronto retirement home
Here's the article and pictures from CBC News in Canada.

History of USATT – Volume XX – Chapter 15
Here’s chapter 15 of Tim Boggan’s latest volume, which covers 1993-1994. Or you can buy it and previous volumes at www.timboggantabletennis.com.

Floyd Mayweather's $30,000 Crystal Ping Pong Table
Here's the article, video, and pictures.

How Many Times Did the Ball Bounce? Best Guess Wins!
Here's the video (1 sec - you read that right) from Karen Chang Wu.

Some Serious Anime Pong
Here's the video (1:38). This is over-the-top crazy and absolutely insane! You don't want to miss it.

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February 13, 2018

Three Coaches Moving In Downstairs
The three MDTTC coaches are moving into my townhouse this morning, and I'm helping them, and doing last-minute clean-ups and fixes. Has there ever been a higher-rated group of movers? Chen Alex Ruichao, Wang Qingliang, Wu Jiacheng, Cheng Yinghua, and Jack Huang? The first three are renting the first two floors of the townhouse I own; I live on the third floor. I'm compiling a list of damages downstairs - the people before left much of it a mess, with everything from damaged windows to broken drawers, so I'm calling a handyman probably today to fix things. So no blog today. Back tomorrow, likely with an aching back. 

Addendum, added Tuesday afternoon: Here's the Tip of the Week, Focus on Performance and Fun to Maximize Your Chances of Winning. (This will go up in tomorrow's blog as well.) 

February 12, 2018

I'm off today - I'm resting from the MDTTC February Open I ran this past weekend, plus I have a todo list from here to Mars, much of it table tennis stuff. Below is a quick rundown of today's list - fortunately, I have no coaching scheduled for today, "my day off." But here's a new video (9 sec) of a great behind-the-back counter-smash to tide you over.

  • USATT Tournament Report - DONE
  • Tournament Accounting - DONE
  • Tournament Write-up, Results, and Photos (Results and Photos - DONE)
  • ITTF Coaching Report for a Coach - DONE
  • Create ITTF Hopes Camp Flyer - DONE
  • Finalize ITTF Hopes Tournament Flyer - DONE
  • Finalize Coaching Committee Vote on Coach of the Year Guidelines - DONE
  • Prepare for 7PM USATT Teleconference tonight - DONE
  • I own a townhouse with three floors, and live on the top floor. The people who rented the first two floors for the past 4.5 years left this weekend, and today I've got a cleaning crew coming in to clean up the place, and then three coaches from MDTTC move in tomorrow - Wang Qingliang, Chen Alex Ruichao, and Wu Jiacheng. So I have to get everything ready for them. - DONE
  • Change locks on doors - DONE
  • Fix broken doorbell or get new one - DONE
  • New cable arrangement with Comcast - DONE

See you on Tuesday!

February 9, 2018

Tournament Prep for Butterfly MDTTC February Open This Weekend
I'm running the Butterfly MDTTC February Open this weekend at my club, the Maryland Table Tennis Center. We'll have about 80 players in the eleven events.

MDTTC normally has 16 tables set up, about half full courts, the others smaller courts. For tournaments, we use eight full-sized courts, with the full-time coaches using the others throughout the tournament. With the tournament set-up the coaches have six tables that they'll be coaching on throughout the tournament, which is actually a strain since we have ten full-time coaches - but I'm one of them and won't be coaching, and another is out of town. After lunch some of them stop coaching as they are playing in the Open. (We sometimes use some of those tables in the afternoon.)

I run the tournaments on Omnipong. It's great for running tournaments, very user friendly, and the creator, Craig Krum, is very helpful when problems arise.

We ran into a potentially serious problem with this tournament. I'd made some changes to the time schedule in December, but I didn't think to upload the new entry form to Omnipong until about ten days ago. Yesterday I discovered some players had the old version, and so would likely have shown up at the wrong time - either way early, or (worse) way late, and so get defaulted. But Omnipong has a feature that allows me to email the players, so yesterday I emailed everyone about the entry form, making sure everyone had the correct one. Problem averted.

Mossa Barandao of PongMobile will be helping out, as usual. We take turns on who runs the computer, who does the rest (calling players over, assigning tables, sending them out, all the other miscellaneous stuff). International Umpire and Certified Referee Paul Kovac is the referee.

The top seed is Junhan Wu (2691), who entered Friday afternoon (so this is an update). Second is Chen Ruichao, who is usually close to 2700, but recently dropped to 2615. Chen Bo Wen is usually around 2600, and is now also under-rated at 2515. There are 13 players over 2300 in the Open:

  1. 2691 Junhan Wu 
  2. 2615 Chen Ruichao
  3. 2519 Martin Jezo
  4. 2515 Chen Bo Wen
  5. 2495 Lidney Castro
  6. 2494 Wang Qingliang
  7. 2456 Wang Yimiao
  8. 2433 Nathan Hsu
  9. 2397 Khaleel Asgarali
  10. 2373 Gabriel Skolnick
  11. 2330 Roy Ke
  12. 2317 Tiffany Ke
  13. 2306 Shao Boyang

One event some of you might want to jump into is Over 50. For some reason, we only have three entries so far, rated 1842, 1708, and 948. The event has $50 first, $25 second, and starts at 5:30PM on Saturday. I'm retired from tournaments (other than occasional hardbat events, though I normally use sponge), but I'm tempted to enter. Also, as of now, there are only two spots left for Under 2000, which should go soon, and then that event will be closed, unless someone drops out. (Max is 28, we have 26 entries.) 

I did some investigative work last year, and counted up all the USATT tournaments I've run over the years. This will be my 198th. In April I'll run the MDTTC April Open, and then the USATT Hopes Trials Tournament on April 29 will be number 200. (Followed soon after by the Maryland State Championships in June, #201.) Nearly all of the tournaments have been two-day tournaments - I think only three have been one-day tournaments, including the Hopes tournament that will be #200. The largest was the 1998 4-star Eastern Open, with 411 entries, still the record for a 4-star tournament, excluding the North American Teams, which is listed as 4-star.

I have no coaching today, but I'll be going over to the club tonight to get any final entries left there, and to set up. I keep two fold-up tables in the back storage room, which I combine with one of MDTTC's regular lounge tables for our control desk. I set up my laptop, the printer, clear out the tournament results on the wall from the last tournament to make room for this one, and about a zillion other things. Here is my tournament checklist of things to do before the tournament, and things to bring.

Before Tournament

  • Check on trophies DONE
  • Check on prize money checks DONE
  • Check on balls DONE
  • Print table numbers
  • Test laptop and printer
  • Backup mouse battery – AA DONE
  • Umpires DONE
  • New ratings DONE
  • Verify online checks
  • Check for Open Specials (discounts)
  • Remove players registered but not entered in any events
  • Set up check-in list
  • Draws for first events

To Tournament

  • Laptop
  • Printing paper
  • Bottled water, snacks
  • Paper clips, pens, tape, duct tape, extra folders
  • Extension cords, cell phone cord
  • Blue cash box
  • Table numbers
  • Printing ink for Samsung ML-6060
  • 3-prong power converters (2)
  • Umpire kit
  • Blank RR and SE draws
  • Director’s Password for Omnipong

Timo Boll ALC Review
I don't usually put up equipment reviews here, but I'm making an exception - here's a video review (14:16) from Table Tennis Daily of my own blade, the Butterfly Timo Boll ALC! The video features lots of action play by Timo Boll, who uses and help create his namesake racket. I've been using the blade (flared - FL) for about eight years now, with Tenergy 05 (FH) and Tenergy 25 (BH, though I've been experimenting with using 05 there as well), both 2.1mm. I originally discovered it when I was coaching Tong Tong Gong at tournaments, and he used it. When he made the USA Cadet National Team by upset - he was seeded 9th - he and his dad gave it to me as a reward. (I'm now sponsored by Butterfly so I get them free now.) I still use the one they gave me, with Tong Tong's name carved into it!

Table Tennis Grip and Handle Shape
Here's the article from Coach Me Table Tennis (Eli Baraty). "I was asked by an international player my opinion and thoughts regarding handle shape. And how does the grip effect your backhand and forehand strokes?!"

How to Improve Your 3rd Ball Attack
Here's the video (8:40) by Tom Lodziak.

Best Table Tennis Glue for Your Rackets
Here's the article from Table Tennis Spot.

Table Tennis Legend Ma Lin Serves Up Some Advice
Here's the article. "Growing up as one of the best table tennis players in the world isn’t like a normal childhood, but it brings its own reward."

Pingpong Diplomacy: How two Koreans united for table tennis -- and haven't met since
Here's the article from ESPN. "They were rivals when they first met, she said. Bitter adversaries. Two champions from nations who were -- and still are -- at war. Yet somehow they left each other having forged something deeper."

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

Forehand and Backhand Loop Against Backspin Multiball
Here's the video (37 sec) from 3T Table Tennis.

Some Fast Multiball
Here's the video (36 sec) of João Monteiro of Portugal, world #56 (but as high as #12 in 2014).

Just Do It!
Here's the video (5:26) from two years ago - I ran it then, but I just saw it again and thought I'd run it again.

LIU Shiwen vs CHEN Xingtong - China Super League 2017/18
Here's the video (32:14).

Turn Your Door into a Ping-Pong Table
Here's the video (37 sec).

The King of the Ping Pong of D4rkolandia
Here's the video (6:17) - it looks really funny, but it's spoken in Afrikaans! (Tell the truth - how many of you even knew that was a language?)

Adam Bobrow in the Philippines on a Table Tennis Tour
Here's the video (59 sec). Lots of funny trick shots!

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