Butterfly Online

July 11, 2014

How to Maximize Use of Your Tables

A common problem at clubs is that there are too many players, not enough tables. It's a good problem to have, of course, but perhaps not to those waiting in line to play. How can club leaders handle this problem?

The simplest solution, of course, is either another club night or another club. That's how the sport grows, folks - not by trying to jam too many people into a small club, but by having more clubs, and when they fill up, they also split into more clubs, and so on. But for this to happen, someone has to take initiative to start one. Here's the online USATT Club Handbook.

Or you could have your club open up another day, assuming it's not already full-time. When I started up the University of Maryland club back in 1981 we started out twice a week, with eight tables in one room. Within a year we'd expanded to seven nights a week, with 16 tables in two adjacent rooms. For a couple of years before I graduated it was the busiest club in the country, with students coming in every night to play. (We had two nights a week designated for non-college members, and on those nights players from all over would come in.)

Or you could expand your club, as we did at the University of Maryland club, and as we did at MDTTC, which expanded from 5000 to 10,000 square feet a few years ago.

Another is to have a Doubles Night. That's four to a table (or perhaps six, with teams sitting out to rest), and lots of players like doubles. Perhaps designate one night a month as Doubles Night, or more often if your club is full-time.

But probably the best way is to start up a league. While players may not like waiting to play on limited tables, they may be more likely to do so if they are cheering for a team - and a league (especially a team league) allows you to put 4-6 players on a single table. Here's the USATT League page, which allows you to organize your league and use league ratings. This is really the best way to make use of your facilities, and I strongly recommend it. We have two league nights at MDTTC (plus an elite league on Sunday afternoons), and they are our busiest times - players know it'll be crowded, and yet that's when the most players come.

Here's an idea I came up with last week while at the U.S. Open. Ever notice how top players practice at tournaments when there aren't enough tables? They warm up by going four to a table, with two getting the forehand crosscourt diagonal, the other two the backhand diagonal. But they also want to play points and do full-table drills. So they take turns. Two play a rally, and while they are fetching the ball, the next two take the table. (Sometimes they do this six on a table.) So I had a thought - why not play two-for-one matches? You'd have two sets of players playing a match. Two of them would play a point. When the point is over, while one of them fetches the ball, the other two play out a point of their match. And they'd take turns, so the table is in almost continuous use. When two players finish a game, they switch sides, and continue just like any other match, except they'd alternate use of the table. Anyone want to try this?

July Open at the Lily Yip Center in New Jersey

This afternoon I'm driving up with two others to the Lily Yip Center in New Jersey, where I'll be coaching on Saturday at their July Open. Hope to see some of you there!

Summer USATT Magazine

Here's the new issue. I have two articles in it, Topspinny Backhands and Review of Ping Pong Summer movie.

Mal Anderson Named Official USATT Photo-Historian

Here's the article. Mal's in the USATT Hall of Fame, and has taken over 40,000 table tennis pictures.

USATT Para Training Camp

Here's the ITTF write-up of this event, which took place in Grand Rapids just before the U.S. Open. I wish they'd publicize these events a bit more - I actually flew to the U.S. Open a day early a few years ago when I heard they were holding a Paralympic camp, and acted as a volunteer practice partner for a day. I didn't know about this one, and I don't think there was a news item about it. But of course they primarily publicize things like this to the Paralympic players.

Serving From Middle of Table, Serving to Middle Forehand

Here's a video (1951) of the bronze medal match from the 2012 Olympics between Dimitrij Ovtcharov (GER) and Chuang Chih-Yuan (TPE). Note how in this (and in other videos of him), Dimitrij likes to serve backhand from the middle or even forehand side of the table, usually to the opponent's middle forehand. It's a very nice tactic that's way under-used. I still don't understand why more players don't do this type of serve - not necessarily a backhand serve, but a forehand reverse pendulum serve or forehand tomahawk serve, both of which have the same type of sidespin. Or just a regular forehand pendulum serve, where the focus is backspin or no-spin. (Backhand-type sidespin tends to be more difficult to receive forehand than backhand, which is why this type of sidespin is often done short to the forehand side.) Also note how Dimitrij receives so many serves to his short forehand with his backhand - one of the big changes in the game with the advent of the banana flip.

100-Day Countdown to Change in the ITTF's Presidency

Former USATT President Sheri Pittman Cioroslan is doing an article every day during the last 100 days of Adham Sharara's ITTF presidency, counting downwards from 100. Previous ones are linked from the USATT News page, as well as in my past blogs. Forty-nine down, 51 to go!

  • Day 52: Miguel Delgado Discusses 20 Years of Progress for the ITTF and LATTU
  • Day 53: Koji Kimura Commends Adham Sharara for Rule Changes Made in Our Sport

Japanese Juniors Training in China

Here's a documentary (6:48) of a Japanese junior team training in China. It's all in Chinese or Japanese (not sure which - perhaps someone can tell me?), but it's interesting to watch the training. [EDIT - Bruce Liu informs me that it's in Japanese, with only a few words of Chinese.]

Heritage Oil Table Tennis

Here's video highlights (33 sec) from the Heritage Oil Open in England. Here's a short write-up.

Grammy Nominated Musician Steve Aoki Plays Table Tennis

Here's the article and video (16 sec).

Dawn of the Table of the Ape

In honor of the movie Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (which I saw last night), here's video (2:08) of a gorilla playing table tennis. (He shows up 49 sec in, but the link should take you directly there.) And he's a really good gorilla!!!

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Re: July 11, 2014

I wholeheartedly agree with Larry that USATT League is a great idea if you have Player/Table ratio somewhere above 4. We actually now have around 35-45 players showing up for our League nights which we have started less than two months ago in Boston TTC in Medford, MA (six tables). All are welcome! We have players of all levels rated from 300 to 2300...

One important change we had to make - and perhaps other clubs can try that too - was out of necessity. We could not do fixed time format, because half of our players come and play from 5 till 7, and half from 6 till 10, and another half from 7 till 9... was that too many halves? oh well, I am sure you understand what I mean, right?

So we cannot make RR groups etc. We had to design a flexible system, and here is the main thing. There are no groups in our league, and no time requirements... except that we start around 6 pm and finish around 10 pm. Each player - when his turn comes - plays one of the available players who is closest to him/her by rating. That's it... we have one queue for everybody and if you come later you simply check-in with the league director and he writes your name into the queue. Same happens if you have just finished your match - winner's name goes into the tail of the queue and then loser's name after that. You can read the details on our website (just google "boston ttc league").

As a result we have no empty tables for the whole league night. And we play lots and lots of matches as a result. Our current record is 81 match in four hours!

Also - special thanks to Larry for helping me make contact with USATT League folks. We are using their system for all our league matches, and it's very nice and relatively simple to use.

Larry Hodges's picture

Re: July 11, 2014

Interesting way of maximizing table usage - I've never heard of this particular method. Glad the league stuff helps. (I wonder how many people remember I cofounded the USATT League, along with Robert Mayer, who did the programming?)