November 18, 2019

Tip of the Week
"Proper Way" is What Works for You.

Illegal Serves History
I regularly get emails from people asking about illegal hidden serves, since I've been known to campaign against the current situation where the rule is rarely enforced. In recent times I've sort of thrown up my hands in disgust and despair - nothing I do is going to convince ITTF or USATT to take action, and many still ignore the evidence of their eyes when it's pointed out that most top players hide their serves, usually by tossing the ball behind their head, or thrusting out their head or shoulder.

Remember that the problem isn't that umpires don't call serves that they see are hidden; the problem is they don't call serves where they aren't sure, which, of course, is exactly why top players have developed such serves, which are hidden but in ways where the umpire isn't quite sure, and so they are not called and the players get away with it regularly - and to compete on an equal basis, others must do so as well. The rules state that umpires should call a serve that they aren't sure about, and that it is the responsibility of the server to serve so the umpire can see that the serve is legal. Alas, this rule is rarely followed. Someone emailed me about this a few days ago. Below was my response (with a few minor edits), which briefly explains how the situation came about.

When the hidden serve rule first came out, it was enforced and players learned to serve legally. Then top players discovered that if they hid their serves in ways that the umpire (sitting to the side) couldn't tell for sure if the serve was hidden, the umpires rarely called it, despite the fact that the rules say they should fault (or warn the first time) serves where they weren't sure about the legality, and that the rules say it is the responsibility of the player to serve so the umpire can see that the serve is legal. Once this became widespread, it became so standard that umpires didn't call hidden serves that any who did would stand out, and so they don't.

Many argue that umpires shouldn't call hidden serves because it's unfair to have different standards in different matches, and since most umpires allow illegal hidden serves, they should too. When I tried to get USATT to clamp down on this, the High Performance Committee was against it, since they argued that if we enforced the hidden serve rule in the U.S., our top players wouldn't be prepared when they played internationally, where the rule isn't enforced - and the same argument is made in every country, so every country allows hidden serves.

Basically, top players have no choices but to "cheat to compete." High-level clubs can't even ban hidden serves among their players - if they did, then their up-and-coming players wouldn't be able to practice against players using those serves (or do them themselves), and they'd get killed when they face them in tournaments and are handicapped by their own less effective serves. It needs to come from the ITTF, a worldwide directive to enforce the rules, but they won't do anything because, I'm told, it would be "insulting" to umpires to insinuate they aren't enforcing the rules. (I tried to get USATT to petition ITTF to do this, to no avail.) 

Weekend Coaching
The focus of the Thursday Beginning Class was spin serves. I had them do the spin and catch exercise where they spin the ball off their racket (with a forehand pendulum grip) and catch. Then, after a demo, they went out and practiced the serve. I also challenged them to see if any could serve with enough backspin to make the ball come to a stop or even bounce back, and demonstrated the "come-back" serve that bounces on the far side and then directly bounces back over the net. (Top players see it coming and smash it as it goes back over the net - but it's great fun to do with beginners.) I showed them how to "scoop" the ball with backspin (hit the ball with an extremely open racket) so that the ball gets great backspin though often too high. To my utter astonishment, one kid, who had never served with spin before, managed to pull off the come-back serve! He was pretty excited. Then we had a forehand-to-forehand contest - one kid got I think 143 in a row hitting with Coach Spencer. (I gave him the more advanced players while I worked with the younger beginners.)

In the Sunday Beginning Class the focus was on backhand pushing. I also gave them a demo on all the different types of spins and how they affect the ball. Then we finished with a forehand-to-forehand and then a backhand-to-backhand contest to see how many they could get in a row. The record this time was 106 with Coach Lidney. (I gave him the more advanced players while I worked with the younger beginners.)

In the Sunday Talent Development Program, we had a practice tournament, where all the kids were put into three-person teams and played team matches, as most of them will be doing in ten days at the North American Teams. My main task was to watch and take notes of the kids who will be playing at the Teams, who I might coach. I also coached between games in some of the matches, often coaching both players at once. For example, one kid kept pushing back topspin serves deep to the forehand, so I point out this was PRACTICE, and she'd never get better if she didn't attack them now. She got more aggressive, even looped in a few. Another kid kept missing against forehand pendulum side-top serves, so I suggested he have his regular coach do this serve against him for practice. Another kept playing into his opponent's extremely good backhand and forehand, so I suggested (out loud, so both could hear) that he play into her middle instead, and made sure the opponent understood that this is what she needed practice against here in PRACTICE.

Periodic Reminder to Help a Poor, Starving Table Tennis Writer and Coach
Here are my books, both table tennis and science fiction! Great Christmas gifts, both for others and yourself! I will have three more coming out early next year - "Still More Table Tennis Tips," "Still More Pings and Pongs," and "Larry's Adventures in Europe and Egypt." (I'm currently doing the page layouts for the last one - it might be out by the end of the year.)

Maryland Junior Boys Among Top Ranked in the U.S.
Here's the USATT news item on some of the kids from my club - hey, it's by me!

USATT CEO Virginia Sung Reflects on First 6 Months in Office
Here's the USATT article. "Now that I have reached the six months mark of my tenure at USA Table Tennis, I would like to take a moment to share with you the progress our team has made." … "Vincent Van Gogh once said, 'The greatest work of art is to love someone.' In our case, the greatest work of art is to love the sport."

Austrian Open
Here's the ITTF home page for the event held in Linz, Austria, Nov. 12-17, with complete results, news, pictures, and video. Here are some links.

Indonesian Open
Here's the ITTF home page for the event held in Batam, Indonesia, Nov. 13-17, with complete results, news, pictures, and video.

US Open
They finished with 740 entries - you can browse the list by name, rating, or event. (Final deadline to enter was Friday.) Top seed is Aleksandar Karakasevic (2835). Event will be in Fort Worth, TX, Dec. 17-21. Here are some USATT articles.

Overplaying vs Taking the Risk: Learn to Find the Balance
Here's the article by Samson Dubina.

How to Beat a Blocker
Here's the video (8:19) by Tom Lodziak.

One Change to Enhance Your Forehand Against Backspin Opener
Here's the video (1:53) from GnoP GniP.

Learning KILLER Reverse Pendulum Serve
Here's the video (8:29) from MLFM Table Tennis Tutorial.

Anxiety in Sports and Everyday Life
Here's the video (12:21) from sports psychologists (and table tennis players!) Dora Kurimay (Mental Performance Coach and championships table tennis player and coach) and Paul Matkovic (PSY.D and a licensed Clinical Psychologist who many years ago played at my club).

New from EmRatThich

Ping-Pong Literacy
Here's the promotional video (1:57) for the upcoming ITTF kids coaching video.

New from Steve Hopkins (in addition to his article above on Austrian Open)

US Team World Cup Athletes Granted Operation Gold Awards by USOPC
Here's the USATT article by Matt Hetherington. "Kanak Jha, Yijun Feng, Kai Zhang and Lily Zhang, Wu Yue and Amy Wang all received an award payment of $3750USD each."

Unraveling a Five-Way Tie
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

Swan Warriors Table Tennis Club Celebrates Two-Year Anniversary
Here's the USATT article by Michael Reff.

Table Tennis Tidbits #48: '19 German Open: Teen Terrors and Rubbery Issues
Here's the USATT article by Robert Ho.

Table Tennis Match Edge - Table tennis Videos, Equipment and Clubs
Here's the table tennis app! Has anyone tried this?

History of USATT - Volume 23 - Chapter 16
Here is Chapter 16 of Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis, "International happenings." (Page includes links to previous chapters.) Or you can buy it and previous (and future) volumes at Volume 23 is 491 pages with 1841 graphics, and covers all the wild things that happened in 1997-1999 - and I'm mentioned a lot! Why not buy a copy - or the entire set at a discount? Tim sells them directly, so when you order them, you get it autographed - order your copy now!

Ma Long (The Movie): 2009-2019 10 Years on Top
Here's the video (7:53).

USA Players Featured in Videos

New Videos from MALONG Fanmade Channel

Ping Attitude
Here's a site with lots of table tennis videos. They have a "Best of" video for each month, such as "Best of October" (13:37).

For the First Time an Event Of Its Kind in Manhattan - The Big Apple
Here's the video (4:46) by Jules Apatini, featuring Michael Landers (near side) and Nishaad Shah of India.

Female Table Tennis Star | 2019 Star Awards
Here's the ITTF video (1:36).

Waking up in Tokyo | Zen-noh 2019 ITTF Team World Cup
Here's the ITTF video (67 sec).

The First to 21 Points Gets into the Country
Here's the cartoon! (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

Satan's Sponge Sandwich?
Here's the picture! (Here's the non-Facebook version.) 

It's Table Tennis! It's Ping Pong!!!
Here's the meme! (Here's the non-Facebook version.) 

Boomerang Flick
Here's the video (21 sec) of this contender for Shot of the Year!

Table Tennis & Juggling
Here's the video (2:25) featuring Hugo Calderano (world #6 from Brazil) and a professional juggler.

Ram Pong
Here's the video (46 sec) where we learn that sheep aren't good at table tennis. 

Table Tennis Incredible Film
Here's the video (4:39)!

Incredible Ping-Pong Trick Shots
Here's the video (3:01)! "This kid makes incredible ping-pong shots look easy."

Ping Pong Stereotypes 3
Here's the video (4:07) from Pongfinity!

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