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.
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 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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February 8, 2018

Illegal Hidden Serves: Letter to the ITTF

Two years ago I had an email with a pair of ITTF officials over fixing the problem with hidden serves. Both said they were working on it, but nothing so far as happened. So yesterday I sent them the following email. If nothing happens, I may once again go to the USATT Board on this. Previously I went to the Board and asked them vote to ask our Umpires and Referees Committee (then the Officials Committee) to enforce the serving rules as they are written, but it lost 6-1-1 as they didn't want to handicap USA players, since to compete internationally they'd both need their own illegal hidden serves and be able to return them. This time I'd simply ask the Board to send a note to the ITTF, imploring them to take action on this issue. My email below could be the draft of such a note.

Dear [NAMES WITHHELD],

I presume nothing has happened regarding fixing the problem of hidden serves? Coaches still have to go through that uncomfortable routine with their top juniors and parents where we explain that if they want to compete on an equal basis, they'll have to cheat as the top players do by illegally hiding their serves. Nearly every top player obviously hides their serves, and umpires, who cannot really tell if the serves are visible are not, simply do not follow the rules that specify that if they aren't sure whether the serve is legal, they must warn and then fault the player.

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.

I made my own proposal, the Net Visibility Rule (basically, the ball must be "visible" to the entire net), and others have suggested the ball must be visible to both umpires throughout the serve, or where the umpire would sit. Or the ITTF could simply takes charge, and set a date where all referees and umpires shall enforce the rules as they are written, with notice to the players, and perhaps (for a six month grace period) allow two service warnings per match. Or we could change the rules to make them easier to enforce, and coordinate this with a decree by ITTF for worldwide enforcement – and then follow through on it.

Note that I'm speaking here for myself, but I do plan on bringing this up at a USATT Board Meeting, where we perhaps send a note to ITTF imploring them to take action. I would like USATT to enforce the rule here, but the objection is that if we don't allow our players to cheat like the top players do, we'll be at a disadvantage, both by not using these illegal serves and because our players won't be used to facing them.

We're the only Olympic sport that openly allows cheating in our sport; isn't it time we fix this? Or do we want to wait until there are headline articles in the New York Times and other major newspapers around the world about rampant cheating in an Olympic Sport and at the Olympics itself?

And yes, hiding the serve is cheating, by definition, though an argument can be made that if the opponent does it first, then responding with your own illegal serves isn't cheating. But it all starts with either enforcing the actual rules (my preference), changing the rules to make them easier to enforce, or both. 

-Larry Hodges
Member, USATT Hall of Fame
Member, USATT Board of Directors
Chair, USATT Coaching Committee
USATT Certified National Coach
ITTF Certified Level 2 Coach
USATT Certified Umpire
Full-time Coach at Maryland Table Tennis Center

Table Tennis Speed Trap or, Is Your Racket Too Fast?
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

Adriana Diaz and Hurricane Maria
Here's her message, with photos (on Facebook) from Adriana Diaz of Puerto Rico, world #42 and the 2016 U.S. Open Women's Singles Champion. "Hurricane Maria did a lot of damage to our people. Our Club was no exception. Today, thank god and the contributions of Toyota PRPopular and Universal Group Inc. we celebrate receiving the team that will replace the team damaging during the hurricane. Everyone joined today at our school to install the team. Many children, young people and adults receive the teaching and training offered at our club daily. Sport is a gain for the family, for the people, for society. Thanks for helping us up. A hug from Ōsaka."

So You Think You Have A Good Serve?
Here's the video (3:35).

Let's Do a Little Footwork!
Here's the video (34 sec).

Table Tennis Therapy for Alzheimer's
Here's the video (2:50).

Larry with Clipboard vs. Crystal Wang
Here's the video (4:39) from a few years ago as I take on then USA Cadet Champion Crystal Wang, who was around 2450 at the time. (I'm about 2100 with the clipboard.) She played rather tentative as she knows I'm actually better if you attack over and over - I've played or trained with her many times as she was developing, both with sponge (a thousand times) and clipboard (dozens of times).
NOTE - some have reported they cannot see the video - alas, it must be set with some sort of restrictions, so just imagine me playing incredibly spectacular and you'll be able to see it in your head! :)

I Love Table Tennis Postcards
Here's where you can buy them!

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February 7, 2018

How to Change USATT Policy or Ask Questions
People regularly contact me about various USATT policies with their suggestions on what they think we should do. There's nothing wrong with this, as long as they approach it with an open mind - often there are things going on or info that they don't know about. But there's also this mistaken notion that I can single-handedly change things, or even that the USATT Board of Directors (of which I'm a member) would be the ones to make some of these changes. So let's look at how things actually do get done in USATT.

You have to separate the day-to-day operations and policy issues. Day-to-day operations are done by the paid full-time USATT Staff, mostly at USATT headquarters in Colorado Springs, CO. Policy issues are done by the USATT Board of Directors and by USATT Committees. (These latter two groups are unpaid volunteers.) Deciding which is which is key to getting things done, but if you aren't sure, contact the ones you think most likely and ask. There is a large overlap between these issues, and it often evolves. Often the CEO makes policy decisions on issues that involve staff, day-to-day operations, or issues that the Board has given him authority - ultimately, he makes far more decisions than the Board or anyone else. (There is also the USATT Media Team if you have news to report, though most of that would go through Matt Hetherington, USATT Media and Communications Director, who is listed both here and as a Staff person.)

Much of the duties of the various groups is covered in the USATT Bylaws. Article VII and VIII are all about the Board of Directors. Article IX is all about Committees. Article XIV is all about the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), and by extension, the USATT Staff (which reports to him).

So how do you go about making changes, or just getting info on a topic? If you have questions, for example, about the U.S. Open or Nationals, or Ratings, or the Web Page, you'd go to the USATT Staff. If you have questions on Rules, or Coaching, or Tournaments (outside U.S. Open and Nationals), you'd go to the appropriate committee. It's not all black and white; while the Coaching Committee (which I chair) sets policy for Coaching Certification, the process itself is run by USATT Headquarters (specifically by Director of Operations, Andy Horn).

These committees are the "experts" on their topic. If you want a rule change, you don't go to the USATT Board of Directors; they are not the experts on rules. You'd go to the Rules Committee, and if they agree, they'd give their recommendation to the Board of Directors. And so on.

Sometimes there are parallel "experts." If you want to recommend a change in how USATT selects players for the National Team, you could go to either the High Performance Committee (HPC), or the High Performance Director (HPD, a USATT staff person), or both. While technically the HPC sets policy in this area, it is often based on recommendations by the HPD, the hired full-time expert on the topic. However, both are instrumental in setting these policies. If I, for example, wanted to make a recommendation, I'd likely discuss it with the HPD, and then go to the HPC.

Many still go to USATT Board members as their first step. That's fine, as long as they understand that they will likely be directed to the appropriate committee or staff person, though of course the board member may also discuss the situation with you. But in general, going to board is last resort. You can also go straight to the CEO, who will either deal with the problem, or send it to the appropriate person.

Changing Bats During a Match
Here's the new podcast (25:35) from PingSkills. Also covered: Joke of the week; On This Week; Deng Yaping's Birthday; Tournament Wrap; World Junior Circuits Final; European Top 16; Drill of the Week; Mental Preparation for Tournaments; Smashing Effectively; and Time to Throw Out Old Bat.

Boll Upsets Teammate Ovtcharov in all-German final in ITTF Europe Top 16 Cup
Here's the article from Inside the Games. "Dimitrij Ovtcharov’s quest for a fourth consecutive title at the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF)-Europe Top 16 Cup at the Salle Omnisports du Pierrier in Montreux in Switzerland was frustrated by his 36-year-old German team-mate Timo Boll."

Reality Bites for Table Tennis Star Zhang
Here's the article from ECNS.com in China (in English). "Champion's career in question as TV time replaces table time … It's been too long since Chinese table tennis megastar Zhang Jike stood on the highest medal podium."

Father of the House, Once Again the Guiding Hand
Here's the ITTF article. "Nils-Erik Sandberg, who started Ångby Table Tennis Club in the western suburbs of Stockholm in 1956, was courtside guiding two young players born 50 years after the venerable Swede founded the celebrated club; Isak Edwardsson and Elias Sjörgen, both born in 2006, were proudly wearing the yellow shirt."

ITTF Looking for Media Intern for the Upcoming World Championships in Halmstad
Here's the ITTF article. "The International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) is offering media internship for young media professionals to work as part of the ITTF media team at the upcoming Liebherr 2018 World Team Table Tennis Championships to be held in Halmstad, Sweden from 29 April to 6 May 2018."

First Ever ITTF Staff Retreat
Here's the ITTF article.

2017 World Junior Circuit Finals Highlights: Kanak Jha vs Vikash Manav Thakkar (Final)
Here's the video (4:57).

Omron Forpheus Ping Pong Robot at CES 2018
Here's the video (2:09)

Favorite Celebratory Point
Here's the video (15 sec) from EmRatThich.

Ma Long - Great Rally
Here's the video (19 sec), against Kang Wi Hun of North Korea.

Ma Long - Serious Training
Here's the video (4:36).

Ma Long - Funny Training
Here's the video (1:25) with Zhang Jike.

Table Tennis Training at the Highest Levels of Our Sport
Here's the video (1:26) as Samson Dubina leads a group in munchkin pong.

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February 6, 2018

Vintage Film Reels
Back on January 8-9 I flew to USATT headquarters in Colorado Springs to attend a USATT/USOC Meeting on Coaching Education and Certification. (I blogged about it on January 10.) I also wrote about my adventures in the USATT storage area:

"After the meeting Mark [Thompson] took me to the USATT storage area, and I was stunned at all the boxes of vintage stuff – film reels of vintage players from the 1930s like Viktor Barna and Lezlo Bellak; boxes and boxes of VHS tapes from the 1980s, USATT Magazines, program booklets, and so on. It was way too much to go over in the short time I had there. I may discuss having a USATT history person do a visit and spend a day going over it all."

Mark Thompson (USATT Chief Operating Officer) agreed to send the four vintage film reels I found to Scott Gordon, who is USATT's expert on vintage films, in addition to chairing the Classic Table Tennis Committee. (Here's info on both.) Below is what Scott wrote to us yesterday about them, describing the contents of the four film reels.. Scott has also agreed to fly to USATT headquarters later this year to explore the storage area, in particular the many boxes of old VHS tapes.

I finally had a chance to go through and review the reels. I'm so glad that you noticed them and thought to follow up on them, because there were some very pleasant surprises. These are all 16mm, and all in good condition.  I'll describe each reel:

#1 - probably the least interesting is one labeled "Bill Haid", which is just a series of slow-motion demonstrations of basic strokes by some young players.  I don't recognize any of them, and at some point Larry should have a look - he might recognize them.  It's silent.  Presumably it was meant as a teaching aid.  It's labeled "1982" and that looks about right.

#2 - This is a Dunlop-produced film of Barna and Szabados from the late 1940s.  I already have a copy of this one, but this reel is in better condition than mine, plus it has the missing 30 seconds from my copy.  So it's good to have (and digitize), but nothing really new.

#3 - This is a staged exhibition between Bellack and Glancz, looks like from the early 1940s, with commentary.  I've never seen this one before, and it is very well done.  A great find.

#4 - This is the most significant find.  It is a film called "Table Manners" that was heavily documented in older USTTA materials from the 1940s, but a copy had never turned up.  Accompanying it was a sheet of paper from a film transfer house stating that it was unrecoverable.  Sure enough, the first 30 seconds or so are badly chewed up.  Someone obviously tried to run it through a bad projector.  But thereafter, it is in great shape. It features Bellack, Glancz, Pagliaro, Aarons, Halliday, and Fuller. There is lengthy footage of Glancz and Aarons doing their exhibition routine, and it is even better than the footage many of us have seen from Movietone/Pathe/etc.  This is a really fantastic reel, and an important historical artifact.  Aarons is incredible on this film.

I'll work on digitizing them during spring break.

If you want to read about these past USA stars, you can visit the USATT Hall of Fame Profiles. If you want even more, buy some of USATT Historian Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis books!

Eventually, what I'd like to see is a genuine USATT Museum. We sort of have one at the Triangle TTC in North Carolina that has a number of exhibits (mostly donated by Mike Babuin), but I'd like to see a building dedicated to this, with a full-time curator, where we would collect all our vintage USATT stuff in one place for the public. It would mean finding donations to pay for it, perhaps with the donors making up the Board of Directors. I may look into this later.

Butterfly MDTTC February Open - Events Filling Up Fast
We're getting more entries than normal for our MDTTC February Open, and some events will likely fill up in the next day or two - so I suggest not waiting until the 7PM Friday deadline! In particular, there are only 7 spots left for U2000, 9 for the Open, 12 for U2400, and 14 for U2200. The U2000 could fill up in the next day or so, and the others will likely fill up before the deadline. (I'm the tournament director.)

Understanding the New USATT Selection Procedures and Points System
Here's the article by USATT High Performance Director Jörg Bitzigeio. Here are other documents on USATT Team Selection Procedures.

First Time Ever, All German Final at the European Top 16
Here's the ITTF article. I mentioned yesterday it was an all-German final at the European Top Sixteen; here's the ITTF article on it. "Success for the top two seeds at the semi-final stage of the Men’s Singles event at the China Construction Bank 2018 ITTF Europe Top 16 Cup on Sunday 4th February; thus for the first time ever in the history of the tournament, which started life in Zadar in 1971, it will be an all-German final."

Grant Opportunity: 2018 Sports Science Conference in Halmstad, Sweden
Here's the ITTF article. "Applications are now open for female scientists and coaches to apply for a grant in support of their attendance at the forthcoming Sports Science Conference: The Science and Practice of Racket Sports for Improved Performance and Health to be held in Halmstad, Sweden from Wednesday 25th to Saturday 28th April."

Training With Patrick Franziska and Lubomir Jancarik at Dusseldorf
Here's the video (10:43). Franziska (GER) is world #38, Jancarik (CZE) #112 (formerly #94), from Arnaud Scheen.

Table Tennis "Weight Training"
Here's the video (34 sec)! That's Hugo Calderano of Brazil hitting, Mikael Simon of France lifting weights, and me wondering why I haven't tried this.

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February 5, 2018

Tip of the Week
Speed and Power are Easy with Good Technique, but Good Technique is Difficult.

The Three Types of Backhand Flips
It was another busy weekend of coaching, though not as busy as some weekends - two students were out of town, and with the Superbowl, we didn't have the adult training session. In the Beginning Junior Class we introduced them to pushing, and then the second half it was all footwork drills. At the end, they split into two groups, the older and stronger kids playing up-down tables (games to 11), while the younger ones built huge towers and walls from paper cups, and then we knocked them down with multiball. In the advanced Talent Program I mostly coached serves and fed multiball.

Perhaps the most interesting session was with a player who wanted to attack short backspin balls with his backhand. There are really three types of backhand flips, and he's the type that wants to know about everything, not just the techniques he works on. So I went over with him all three types. Many players and coaches lump the first two types of flips together, but comparing a regular backhand flip to a topspin backhand flip is like comparing a regular drive to a loop - one is light topspin, the other great topspin, so they aren't really the same.

  • Regular backhand flip. This is just a regular backhand drive with perhaps a shorter stroke, where you stroke up a bit more to compensate for the backspin, and put a light topspin on the ball. This is the easiest and most common below the higher levels. It's how I learned originally and still mostly flip, though I can do all three.
  • Topspin backhand flip. This is basically a mini-loop, where you really topspin the ball by using forearm and wrist, and grazing the ball more. The extra topspin gives greater difficulty to the opponent and allows a more consistent aggressive flip. The difficulty is the table is in the way, so it's difficult to lift short, heavy backspin. Many top players do both this and banana flips, using the topspin flip against balls that aren't heavy backspin, and especially against side-top serves that they can basically flip away by spinning almost on the top of the ball.
  • Banana backhand flip. This is the modern way, done by nearly all top players, where instead of trying to lift the ball up directly against the backspin, you approach a bit from the side, and put both topspin and sidespin on the ball. This way you aren't fighting the backspin directly, and you can backswing a bit to the side, so the table isn't in the way so much. Here's a video of Ma Long (3:25) demonstrating his backhand banana flip - not how he backswings from the side.

Kanak Jha Overcomes Intense Battle to Claim World Junior Circuit Gold
Here's the USATT article by Matt Hetherington on Kanak winning the ITTF World Junior Circuit Final in Luxembourg. Here's the ITTF article.  Here's video (28 sec) of a great point from the final. Here's the home page for the event, with results, articles, pictures, and video.

Europe Top Sixteen
Here's the ITTF home page for the event, which was held this past weekend. Last year's champions, Dimitrij Ovtcharov and Li Jie, both lost in the finals. Congrats to new champions Timo Boll (first all-German final in history) and Bernadette Szocs! Here's the ITTF article on the finals.

Tom Lodziak Newsletter
Here's the newsletter, with links to a number of coaching tips.

New from EmRatThich

Planning Your Year
Here's the article from PingSkills. "So we have reached the end of January.  What would you like to achieve in 2018 with your Table Tennis?  … The first thing is to set yourself some goals for the year."

Long Island Ping Pong Prodigy Hopes to Make It to Compete in the 2020 Olympics
Here's the feature article and video (2:43) on Estee Ackerman.

Westchester Table Tennis Center January 2018 Open Singles Final
Here's the video (21:45) as Sharon Alguetti defeats Nuo Xu of China.

Taipei Elementary School Regional Championships
Here's the video (52 sec) from Adam Bobrow. "…almost 4,000 competitors and one of the 10 -year-olds beat me when he was 9...and he was runner up (just FYI). 48 tables and every match had an umpire in uniform and it seemed that every player had a coach."

History of USATT – Volume XX – Chapter 14
Here’s chapter 14 of Tim Boggan’s latest volume, which covers 1993-1994. Or you can buy it and previous volumes at www.timboggantabletennis.com.

Craziest Chinese Table Tennis Points
Here's the video (12:24).

How to Measure a Net
Michael Levene asked on Facebook: Ever need to adjust a Table Tennis net but don't have a net measure to hand? Of course many people answered you could use a dollar bill, or even a racket (which almost always is 6" from tip to where the handle starts). Here was my answer.

"Just balance 8 pennies on top of each other, edge to edge. That's how I always do it, but it takes a few hours to balance them - it's so irritating when you balance seven and then it falls over before you get the eighth, and it sometimes takes me a week to get all the nets at my club measured. I usually end up gluing the pennies together, and then you have exactly six inches. Wait, I could have used a dollar bill???"

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February 2, 2018

Recent Coaching . . . and Frankenpaddle!
We had week three of the Thursday Beginning Junior Class, with the focus on footwork. There are 14 in the class, ranging in age from about 7 to 12, which I run, assisted by John Hsu and Martin Jezo. We demoed various footwork drills, including forehand-forehand side to side, backhand-backhand side to side, forehand-backhand side to side, and the 2-1 drill. (Backhand from backhand side, forehand from backhand side, forehand from forehand side, repeat.) Then we went into three groups with the players alternating hitting with the coach (live or multiball), and the others hitting among themselves or doing ball pickup.

The last ten minutes were the most disgusting in table tennis history. As I explained to them, I have a pet Saint Bernard (I don't), who slobbers everywhere, so I had gathered all his slobber into a bottle . . . and if they hit the bottle, I had to drink it! Suffice to say, my appeals to common decency ("Friends don't make friends drink dog saliva!") didn't work, and I was forced to take many drinks. Usually I do this with "worm juice," but I'd left my Gatorade behind, and so had to use a regular water bottle.

In another session I was working with an older beginner (under 1000 level) who was having trouble pushing in games - kept popping them up. We figured out the problem - he regularly practiced pushing with me and others, but in games many players his level, while they can push with backspin, can't serve with much backspin. And so he was getting no-spin serves and pushing them as if they had backspin, and so the balls popped up. After warming up his push, we did a simple drill where I serve no-spin, he'd push it back by chopping more down on the ball to keep it down (and where he has to create his own spin, since there's no backspin rebounding off his racket as backspin), and then we'd continue pushing, where he had to adjust to the balls that did have backspin.

At various times over the last two nights I've brought out my new weapon - Frankenpaddle! It's an oversized racket that I covered with old sheets of Tenergy 05 on the forehand, Roundell on the backhand. (I used to use Roundell on the backhand so had lots of used sheets, but I now use Tenergy 25, though I've been experimenting with Tenergy 05.) To do so required careful surgery of the old sheets, and covering the racket like a Frankenstein jigsaw puzzle. It actually plays really well - I think I'm about 1700 with it, mostly blocking and counter-hitting, and it's incredible for lobbing. (The cracks between the sponges don't seem to affect it much.) Here are some pictures of Frankenpaddle:

I have a long history of using over-sized rackets. I have an even larger one covered with hard rubber, which I use in exhibitions, mostly chopping and pick-hitting. I'm pictured using that one in an exhibition on the cover of one of my books, Table Tennis Tales and Techniques.

USATT Affiliated Clubs and SafeSport
I blogged on Wednesday about the crisis USATT was facing in regard to clubs and SafeSport. Sure enough, we had a huge drop in USATT affiliated clubs. As Thursday morning, we had 263; by Thursday afternoon it was down to 138. As of this morning it's at 148 as apparently ten more clubs complied with SafeSport. So we're at 148/263 = 56.3% SafeSport compliance - or, seen more accurately, 100% compliance among USATT affiliated clubs, since the 115 who have not complied are no longer on the list. I'm pretty sure more will comply, but I have no idea how many we'll end up losing.

ADDENDUM (added at 11AM) - there's something wrong with the database - two problems. First, when I did a count of entries in the club listing, there are 155, not 148 as it says at the top. (At 20 listings per page, there are eight pages, with 15 in the last one.) However, as noted first by pgpg in the comment below, there are duplicates. I found eleven clubs that were duplicated, with two of them duplicated three times, one of them four times. So that means 15 duplicates in all. Subtract that from the 155 actual entries, and we have 140 affiliated clubs after dropping those that haven't done SafeSport compliance. (I'll email USATT headquarters with my list.)  

Europe Top Sixteen Cup
Here's the ITTF home page for the event this weekend, Feb. 3-4, in Montreux, Switzerland, with draws, results, articles, list of players, pictures, and video.

Butterfly MDTTC February Open
Here's info on the 3-star $2700 Butterfly MDTTC February Open I'll be running Feb. 10-11 in Gaithersburg, MD. It includes links to how to enter online, and to the entry form. There are 11 events. On Saturday: Open, U2400, U2200, U2000, Over 50, and Under 15. On Sunday: U1900, U1600, U1300, U1000, and Under 12.

Here's the great Promo Video (1:33) for the tournament, created by Mossa Barandao of PongMobile, who helps run the tournaments. Here's the Facebook version.

Table Tennis Books
Want to buy a table tennis book? Here's my Amazon page where you find mine. I sold 146 books in January, not a bad month. Why not order one and see what all the excitement is about? Or you can by Dan Seemiller's Revelations of a Ping-Pong Champion, Samson Dubina's 100 Days of Table Tennis, or one of Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis books.

Table Tennis, Reading Spin, or Is It the Amount of Spin?
Here's the article by Eli Baraty. "Most players can read spin; when someone cuts under the ball, they know it's backspin, when they hit the side of the ball they know it's side-spin. Only on the serve do people struggle to read what spin is on the ball, due to deceptive movements after the point of contact."

7 Common Beginner Mistakes in Table Tennis (and How to Fix Them)
Here's the article by Tom Lodziak.

Reverse Pendulum Serve
Here's video (67 sec) of it at regular speed and slow motion, Zhang Jike style. Not sure who the server is.

Featured Videos
Here are five featured videos from Samson Dubina.

Dominant Champions Take Top Spot at Triangle Winter Teams
Here's the article, with links to three videos.

Phoenix Chinese Week Table Tennis Open
Here's the article.

Pong Road
There are now six episodes up of Pong Road. This is the ongoing tales of Rocky Wang, table tennis star and artist, chronicling his table tennis travels. The episodes range from about nine to sixteen minutes. You can read more about it in The Story page, and about Rocky and director Mark Weismantel at the About page.

Best Ping Pong Anime
Here are links to three ping-pong anime shows. "Ping Pong is the focus of these anime. Training and competing in tournaments or championships are common themes in sports titles, as well as individual or team spirit, or being an underdog who goes against the odds to succeed."

Turn a Broken Egg into a Ping Pong Ball
Here's the video (43 sec)!

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February 1, 2018

Focus on Consistency in Drills
Normally I have four hours of coaching on Wednesday nights, from 5:30-9:30PM. But my 6:30PM student's dad came down sick and couldn't bring her over, and my 7:30 student is out for a month, so I only had two hours. (I brought a book.) The first one was with Todd, age 12.

Todd's improved rapidly this past year, and now has a league rating of just under 1600, though his USATT rating hasn't yet caught up. He loops from both wings, but can be erratic in rallies, especially on the forehand, which sometimes is on, others time not. We did the 2-1 drill, a three-shot sequence where he hits a backhand from the backhand corner; a forehand from the backhand corner; a forehand from the forehand corner; and then repeat. All his shots were supposed to go to my backhand. But he wasn't consistent, and the rallies were sloppy. I was struggling too, as his balls were spraying all over the table. The problem was he was looping his shots too aggressively, faster than he could control. I finally got him to slow it down, focusing on spin, consistency, and above all good technique, and a miracle occurred - suddenly he was super consistent, and the shots were all right where they were supposed to go (meaning I was consistent as well)! So we had lots of great rallies after that. Then I told him pick out some shots and rip his forehand, and he found that very easy - all that good, consistent stroking really warmed up his shots.

Here is the important concept here: Power is easy if you have good technique, but good technique is difficult. (That should go on a banner at every club.) So the focus in practice needs to be on good technique, where you don't rally faster than you can do it consistently. If you go faster than that, you may think you are practicing playing powerful shots, but you are really just practicing erratic shots with erratic technique. (If you want to go faster, try multiball, where every ball is right where it's supposed to be, and you can generally rally at a faster pace and still be consistent with good technique.)

I remember learning this way back in 1976 when I was 16 and about 1100 after a few months of play. (I was a late starter, and still reached top 20 in the U.S. But I was practicing 6-7 days a week almost from the time I started that year.) At some big tournament (I think the Eastern Open) I saw U.S. Men #1 Danny Seemiller (soon to be 5-time U.S. Men's Singles Champion) warming up by doing simple side-to-side forehand footwork at a nice, consistent pace with his practice partner and brother, Ricky Seemiller. I remember thinking to myself, "I can do that faster than he's doing it, and he's the best in the country?"

Then I practiced it with someone, and of course I did do it faster than Danny - except I would hit maybe three raggedly rushed shots and miss, my shots were spraying all over the table to my partner's chagrin, and we couldn't have a good rally. Then I slowed down to a pace about the same as Danny and Ricky were doing, and suddenly I was consistent - everything came together, and my shots were fluid and consistent! I was hitting like Danny Seemiller!

From there on I always did footwork and other drills only at a pace I could do consistently and comfortably, with good technique. This doesn't mean you don't push yourself, it means you push yourself at a pace you can do consistently. Eighteen months later I broke 1950, and then after spending several years working on my looping game (I was primarily a hitter at first), I broke 2100 after five years of play, 2200 two years later, and continued to improve until I was pushing 2300, which back then meant top 20 in the U.S. - there's been rating inflation since. (An version of this will likely be Monday's Tip of the Week.)

USATT Club Listing - Number of Clubs Still Affiliated?
Yesterday I blogged about how many of our clubs will lose their USATT affiliation today because they haven't fulfilled SafeSport. As of yesterday, there were 262 clubs on the USATT club listing. As of this morning, it's 263, so apparently SafeSport increased the number by 0.38%! Actually, I think it just means they haven't updated it yet by taking off those who aren't SafeSport certified. I believe that'll happen sometime today.

Advice to Coaches: Type A, Type B, Type C
Here's the article by Samson Dubina.

Table Tennis and the Lifelong Athlete
Here's the article from Coach Jon.

Crossover Footwork
Here's the video (2:41) from PingSkills.

Table Tennis Daily Academy
Here's the video (52 sec).

Number One Man in More Ways Than One
Here's the ITTF article featuring new world #1 Dimitrij Ovtcharov. "The defending champion in the men’s event at the forthcoming China Construction Bank 2018 ITTF Europe Top 16 Cup to be staged in the Swiss city of Montreux on Saturday 3rd and Sunday 4th February, from whatever angle you look, there is one conclusion. Germany’s Dimitrij Ovtcharov is number one."

Two Defenders on Duty, First Time Ever
Here's the ITTF article, featuring Ruwen Filus (world #20 from Germany) and Panagiotis Gionis (world #91 from Greece).

Fan Zhendong 2017 Highlights
Here's the video (8:34).

Heart to Heart with Hugo Calderano
Here's the video (6:07), world #16 from Brazil.

Action-Packed Table Tennis
Here's the cartoon!

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January 31, 2018

SafeSport and USATT Club Compliance
As of this morning, there were 262 clubs on the USATT Club listing. I'm going to check the number again tomorrow morning. There will likely be a sizeable drop. Why? Because, as noted in this morning's USATT Insider, "January 31st SafeSport Club Compliance Declaration Deadline."

SafeSport's slogan is "Make the Commitment. Stop Abuse in Sports." The intent is good, and the program is needed. However, I've blogged some of my misgivings about the program in the past, in particular that the video and quiz are too long and a few other problems, and my suspicion that much of the program is designed more to protect the USOC (and by extension, USATT) legally than the athletes themselves. But regardless, it is now 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." If you are one of these, you need to pass SafeSport.

As of midnight tonight all USATT clubs that haven't done full compliance are going to be taken off the USATT club listing. (The clubs have been sent multiple notices on this. I'm not sure if it automatically will happen at midnight or will happen sometime tomorrow during the workday.) I've done SafeSport, as have all the coaches and staff at my club, MDTTC, which is SafeSport compliant. But SafeSport requires we do it every two years, so in two years we have to go through this all over again. I think that's overkill. But we have no choice - it's a USOC mandate for all Olympic sports organizations.

I'm a little frustrated by all the clubs we might be losing over this. For years I've been mostly a lone voice in USATT regarding clubs, arguing regularly that USATT needs the clubs more than the clubs need USATT, and that we should keep club affiliation fees down so as to have more such clubs. When new players come to the USATT website and look for a place to play, we want as many clubs listed as possible, so the chances of there being one near the potential new player - and potential USATT member - is greater. Some clubs do need the insurance USATT offers, but many do not. (I don't know the percentage of those who truly need it.) Beyond that, many clubs don't find USATT affiliation worth it, beyond a token payment, if the fees are kept low.

I was the USATT Club Chair in the early 1990s, and ran a program called "Club Catalyst and Creation Program." (The acronym, CCCP, was my little joke about the recent fall of the Soviet Union - it is an acronym for the Soviet Union in Russian. No, I'm not a communist!)  With the program we appointed over 45 state directors, whose job it was to develop a club in every city in their state with a population over 100,000, and then 50,000. The number of clubs went from 226 to 301, and later reached 350. But back then the club affiliation fee was $15/year. Now it's $75, and that's primary reason we've lost a number of clubs, down to the currently listing of 262. A number of years ago, after USATT increased the affiliation fee from $15 to $25 to $40 in one year, we lost 100 clubs, and membership dropped from over 9000 to about 7200. (We've since recovered to something like 9000 again, but we might instead be at 11,000 members or more.)

Assuming we charged $25 instead of $75, that's a $50 difference per club. Currently USATT gets 262 x $75 = $19,650 in annual revenue from club affiliation fees. If we had 100 more clubs at $25/year, that would be 362 x $25 = $9050. So for $10,600, we lose 100 clubs, and an unknown number of members (at $75 each for adults). If we got 141 new members from those extra clubs, we break even. If we get 200 new members (two per newly affiliated club), we come out $4425 ahead, plus we've done what USATT is supposed to do - promote table tennis, by gaining all these new clubs and members. Of course, it's always possible that we wouldn't get those 100 clubs back or the extra members, but we'll probably never know.

We used to have eight USATT affiliated clubs in Maryland. Now we have two. One closed, but the others just stop affiliating. I haven't spoken to all of them, but I know several have complained about the cost, and don't need the insurance.

But this is all rather pointless speculation if we lose a large number of clubs at the stroke of midnight tonight. We'll see. C'mon, club leaders, get on the ball! SafeSport isn't perfect, but it's needed, and it's required.

6 Types of Footwork Drills
Here's the article by Samson Dubina.

2018 World Veteran Championships on Track to be Biggest and Best Yet
Here's the article by Richard Finn. "Everything in Las Vegas is big! Big jackpots. Big bets. Big headline stars. Big glitzy resorts. So it is only appropriate that the biggest table tennis tournament in the world, and the world's largest veteran sporting event, the World Veterans Championships (WVC) is to be played at the massive Las Vegas Convention Center June 18-24."

Promising US Trio Look Forward to World Junior Circuit Finals
Here's the article by Matt Hetherington. "This weekend, February 2-4, in Luxembourg, will see the ultimate showdown of the top contenders from the 2017 World Junior Circuit. A tough and level field of 16 boys and 16 girls will face off for the highest honors, and among those players will be USA's Kanak Jha, Sharon Alguetti and Amy Wang."

Interview with Kristian Karlsson
Here's the Butterfly interview.

McDermott Triumphs at Myrtle Beach Open
Here's the article by Tim Connelly. "The Myrtle Beach Table Tennis Club sure knows how to make you feel welcome! 29 players participated in the 2018 Myrtle Beach Open, sponsored by Zeropong, and a winning combination of great matches, great competition, and great sportsmanship prevailed as it usually does in our great game. John McDermott played brilliantly to carry home both the bragging rights and the big money with his first place finish over Aldin Monzales Soneja."

National Pride at Stake, Swedes on Mission to Defend Country's Honour
Here's the ITTF article. "Swedish honour, it lays in the hands of Kristian Karlsson, Mattias Karlsson and Matilda Ekholm at the forthcoming China Construction Bank 2018 ITTF Europe Top 16 Cup."

Tiffany Ping Pong Accessories a Hot Topic
Here's the USATT article. "Tiffany & Co. is certainly a brand associated with fine designs and class, so it was exciting for the table tennis world when the brand announced its new home & accessories collection which included a luxurious looking set of table tennis rackets and ball." US Olympian Tom Feng is pictured using their brand."

SPiN Seattle
Here's the video (60 sec) - pretty nice.

One Thousand Ping-Pong Balls Being Shredded
Here's the video (14:55, but link takes you to 7:12, where the ball shredding begins.)

Table Tennis Trick Shots | Sahabat Pingpong
Here's the video (5:22). Some great trick shots here!

Baby Dinosaurs Play Table Tennis | Funny Dinosaurs Cartoons for Children
Here's the video (1:55, but link takes you 51 second in, where the table tennis starts). I'm going to go out on a limb here and call this the worst and most nauseating animated table tennis ever done. Agreed?

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