January 24, 2011

More Service Tribulations

At a tournament last fall, the cadet player I was coaching was using a backhand serve with a toss that was almost exactly six inches. He'd practiced it so he could minimize the toss, since on the backhand serve a shorter toss on that serve makes it both easier to control and harder for the opponent to react to.

An opponent complained that his toss was borderline high enough, and called an umpire. The umpire verified the toss was high enough, and all was well; even the opponent didn't complain again. The player in question not only has never been faulted for a serve, he's never even had a warning, and this was the first and only opponent ever to complain about it.

After the match, one of the club officials pulled me aside and vehemently argued that I should instruct the player to toss the ball higher on his serve so that it would not just be legal, but obviously so. I pointed out that this would decrease the effectiveness of the serve, and since the serve was legal, why should he change it? But the official was very insistent, claiming I wasn't doing my job as a coach if I didn't make sure my students serve so there would be no question about the legality. I pointed out that just because one opponent out of hundreds complained doesn't make the serve illegal or justify making the serve less effective to make him happy. But the official wouldn't back down, and got pretty angry about it.

There are a number of serves that increase in effectiveness if you "push the envelope." For example, many players leave their free arm out as long as the umpire or opponent will allow, hoping to obscure the receiver's view of contact. Or players serve from as close the endline as possible, or even over it if the umpire or opponent allows it. Or they toss the ball backwards, which gives a better angle for certain serves, as well as making it possible to hide contact, if the umpire or opponent allows it.

How legal are your serves? Do you "push the envelope?"

Amtrak Amblings

On Saturday morning (Jan. 22) at 3:15 AM, I took an Amtrak train from Union Station in Washington DC to Penn Station in New York City. I went up for a writer's convention, where I attended workshops and pitched both a proposed new table tennis book and my completed SF novel to agents.

We left the station on time. However, 15 minutes into the trip, they announced that they were having engine trouble and had to return to the station. So the train back up back to Union Station and we sat around for about half an hour as they attached a new engine. Then we left again, about 45 minutes behind.

Sometime later, as we approached Philadelphia, they had another announcement. It seems a different Amtrak train going in the opposite direction had broken down. And so we again back up for about 30 minutes so that we could pick up those passengers. It took forever for them to load them on our train, and then we started up again, another hour or so behind. We dropped the new passengers off in Philadelphia so they could catch another train south, and continued on our way. For a time.

Perhaps an hour afterwards, the train stopped again - more mechanical problems! After about an hour we left again. We reached a station in New Jersey, and we spent close to another hour there as they checked the engine out again. Finally we continued our trip.

We were scheduled to reach Penn Station at 6:40 AM. We go there at 10:15 AM. I missed the morning workshops, but made it for the "Agent Pitch" sessions.

The good news? One agent was very interested in my proposed new table tennis book, and we'll be working together to create a proposal for a large publisher. (Can't give any more details right now - sorry!) Two other agents were interested in my SF novel, and so I'll be sending them sample chapters and an outline shortly.

USATT Strategic Plan

Go to the USATT home page; click on Organization; under Plans click on Strategic Plan (2009). What comes up is the USATT Strategic Planning Summary. It's undated, but comes from the Strategic Meeting in September, 2009, 16 months ago, which I attended. I'm finding it high on slogans (13 total), and a bit short on implementable plans, something I pointed out, with increasingly loudness, over and over during the meeting. What do you think?

Coaching News

Starting in February, the New Jersey Table Tennis Club will be hosting a 10-week training program for advanced players. This highly competitive program is specially designed for motivated, advanced-level players that want to move up to the elite level. The minimum program entry requirement is a USATT rating of 2000. A maximum of 12 students will be accepted. Six-time U.S. National Champion David Zhuang will serve as the Head Coach. He will be assisted by Henry (Zongqi) Zhong, a professional athlete from Beijing Sports University. The first class will be on Saturday, Feb 12, 2011. Training sessions will run from 1:00-4:00pm on Saturday afternoons, except for the first 2 sessions (Feb 12 and Feb 26), which will be held at 10:30am -1:30pm. If you are interested, please register by sending an email to training@njttc.org, or see the flyer.

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