Tip of the Week
Tournament Toughness. (Also covered is the question that's been raised a lot over the years: Should a player play a rating event if he's eligible but who has improved beyond the rating event cutoff?
Coaching Darren O'Day
On Friday last week I had a 90-minute coaching session with Baltimore Orioles pitcher Darren O'Day at the Maryland Table Tennis Center. He's a 6'4" submarining reliever who had a 2.18 ERA in 68 games last year (the best record of any Oriole pitcher), a 2.28 ERA the year before in 69 games, and a lifetime record of 20-9 with a 2.62 ERA. These are great stats! (That is why he makes $3.2 million/year.)
Readers of this blog know that on May 13 I coached Orioles shortstop JJ Hardy and former centerfielder and current Vice President of Baseball Operations Brady Anderson, and that on August 21 I took four of our players to the Orioles clubhouse (they have a table) where we did a demo and played them for three hours. Here's a video (1:19) made of the visit at Orioles.com, and here's another video (5:28) played on Orioles Extra TV. Here's a group picture.
While at their clubhouse, several players asked for my business card for future lessons. (Even Chris Davis asked for one.) And so, out of the blue, I got an email from Darren last week asking for lessons. The session was from 1:00-2:30 PM on Friday. Local schools were closed that day for some teacher meeting, and so we were running a mini-camp - and so a number of our junior players were around to watch.
Darren, JJ, Brady, and over half the Orioles have been playing table tennis in their clubhouse almost non-stop the last few years, and it shows. As I blogged before, over half of them play at the 1200 level or better, led by JJ (pushing 1900 level) and Brady (pushing 1800 level). Steve Pearce is probably the next best (1500?), with Darren probably next at around 1400, just ahead of a number of others. JJ and Brady have pretty good technique, with one major exception - JJ tends to hit his shots with the racket tip pointed up a bit, which is good for blocking - and JJ blocks aggressively at a pretty high level. But it's not so good for hitting and looping.
Darren had copied this tip-up technique from JJ, so the first thing we worked on was keeping the racket tip down a bit. He also had a tendency to roll his racket over at contact (i.e. close it), by raising his elbow. So we also worked on that. On the backhand he tended to reach for the ball rather than move - in contrast to his forehand, where he was more mobile. So we did some side-to-side backhand drills where he had to step with his left to move left, step with the right to move right. We also worked on a slightly wider stance so he'd be lower to the table, with more stability when moving and stroking.
He had learned to put some spin on his forehand serve, probably by watching JJ, who has pretty good serves. But he was using the same grip to serve as he played, and so wasn't getting much wrist into the serve. So I showed him how to change the grip to maximize the spin on his forehand pendulum serve.
So the focus of the first session was forehands (including a lot of smashing drills), backhands, footwork, and serves. Like most professional athletes, he was great at focusing on one topic to perfect it, and picked things up quickly. He, JJ, and Brady all that the same "Get it right!" attitude, and were willing to do any technique over and over until it was perfect. He was surprised at how physical table tennis was.
He's signed up for regular lessons now, once a week. (I can't disclose the times publicly, but I might do so for some locals who want autographs or photos.) He also said that Tommy Hunter is interested in lessons, so we might work him into my schedule next. (When he paid for the lesson, he even left a nice tip!)
After the session he hit for about half an hour with Crystal Wang (11, the top girl of her age in the country), and Raghu Nadmichettu (one of our other coaches and a former USA Men's Singles Quarterfinalist at the Nationals) - they went easy on him. He posed for pictures at the end. Here's a picture, L-R: Nathan Hsu, Derek Nie, Darren O'Day, Crystal Wang, and me (Larry Hodges). Photo by Chris Zhang.
I have a new nickname. I'm "The Oriole Ping-Pong Whisperer."
ITTF Trick Shot Competition - Who/Hugh Should Win?
They are down to five finalists. USA's Adam Hugh's in the lead, but he's in a close two-way race. (Ironically he's actually in third place as well with his second video, but all that counts is first, so he'd rather you focus on that one - the one where he's bouncing the ball on the end of his racket and then making a long-distance serve into a bowl - this one.
It's been a while since USA has won a "world title," so let's bring this one home! Voting ends at 6:59PM USA eastern time (EST), which is 11:59 GMT. Here is a message from Adam on what you need to do:
Thanks to all of your support, I have made it into the final round of the ITTF trick shot contest! This stage is a Facebook vote and takes only a few seconds to do. If you enjoyed my videos and want to help me win, please vote before the poll closes on Monday. All you have to do is:
1) Click on this link: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=721598834536789
2) Click "like" for the photo
And that's it :) If you want to help more, you can always "share" it too so your FB friends can help but that's completely up to you. Anyway, I truly do appreciate everybody's support through this entire process and, regardless of the outcome, I just want to say thank you. I wouldn't have even made it this far.
In fairness to the others, here's the home page for the ITTF Trick Shot Competition. Late last night the ITTF put out on their Facebook page the following note:
Due to a really close view count between 5th & 6th position, we have shortlisted 6 instead of 5! They are: Adam Hugh 1 (377k), Josep Anton: (330k), Adam Hugh 2 (322k), Matt Hetherington (275k), Bruchle (256k), Daniel Ives (254k). Have you voted for them in the Poll yet? Stay tuned, we will be announcing the winner tomorrow, 5th Nov!
Here's the article from Table Tennis Master.
You Call It Ping Pong We Call It Table Tennis!
Here's a new highlights video (9:22) set to music with lots of slow-motion play.
Mary Had a Little Lamb - Ping-Pong Style
Here's the video (15 sec) - by Rich Heo, and I'm jealous because I used to do this, but never got it on video!!!
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