February 10, 2020

Tip of the Week
Stepping Around the Backhand Corner.

US Hopes Camp and Tournament in New Jersey
I spent the weekend coaching at the Regional Hopes Camp and Tournament at the Lily Yip TTC in New Jersey, about four hours north of me. The event was the first of six such regional events, help in six consecutive weekends, for players born in 2008 or later (so mostly age 11 and below). The next five will be in Ohio, Texas, California, Massachusetts, and Maryland. (I'll be coaching at that one and running the tournament.) Here is the USATT Hopes page, with full info and schedule. (There's a chance I might be going to the Ohio one next weekend in Columbus to coach.) There will then be a National Hopes Camp and Tournament (April 22-26 at the Samson Dubina TTC in Akron, OH, for players who make the Final Four at any of the Regionals - once a player does that, he cannot complete in future ones), a North American Hopes Camp and Tournament in May (time and place not yet set), and finally an International one (in August, held overseas).

The Lily Yip TTC did an excellent job with the camp and tournament, with Lily Yip (Olympian), Cory Eider, Judy Hugh, Matt Hetherington, and a number of local practice partners. Lily gave a motivational speech at the start about what it meant to be an Olympian. Everything ran smoothly and professionally and the training was excellent. Here's a photo gallery by Matt Hetherington. 

I went up to coach the three Maryland kids, Stanley Hsu (11, 2289, top seed, #1 in country), Mu Du (11, 2012, second seed, #4 in country), and Ryan Lin (10, 1825, seventh seed, #13 in country but still eligible next year). Arjun Kumar (8, 1394, #3 in country in Under 10), who is from Philadelphia but trains on Sundays at MDTTC, was also with us, coached by his dad. Here's a group picture. Back: Wang Qingliang and I. Front, L-R: Arjun, Ryan, Mu Du, Stanley.

When I walked in the door, I was recruited to join the coaching staff, so I joined them for all the three training sessions on Friday night and Saturday, 7.5 hours, both as a "walk around" coach and feeding multiball.

The Lily Yip TTC is two floors with (for training) 26 total tables. They divided the players into two groups, with the top half on the first floor, the others on the second floor. I spent the first session with the lower group, and the next two sessions mostly with the upper group (which Cory mostly ran, with my assisting). They had lots of interesting drills. One that stuck with me was a variation of up-down tables that Cory used. Both here and at my club in Maryland (MDTTC), we often have the kids compete with improvised games. For example, a player must serve short backspin, receiver must push long (sometimes to a specific spot), and the looper has to loop (sometimes to a specific spot), then play out point. I usually do this with standard 11-point games. Here, they had them play old-fashioned games to 21, with each player serving five times. Why? Because it's easier to get into a rhythm when you do it five times instead of just two times, and so you learn better.

In the tournament, the Maryland kids did well. (Coach Wang Qingliang, a fellow coach from MDTTC and a member of the USATT National Coach Development Team), drove up Saturday night to coach along with me on Sunday.) Here are results. The final was Stanley versus Mu Du, with Stanley winning 3-1. Ryan didn't make the final eight, but he won the Consolation Event for third-place finishers. (There were 19 boys in the tournament, with three groups of five, one of four, with the top two from each group advancing to the quarterfinals, the next player to the Group Three Consolation, and so on. There were five girls, who played a complete RR.) Here's a picture of the Boys' Final Four. L-R: Judy Hugh, Mu Du, Cory Eider, Stanley Hsu, Dhruv Chopra, Krish Gandhi, and Lily Yip.

US Olympic Trials and Format
They will be held in Santa Monica, CA, Feb. 27 - March 1. I'm looking forward to them - I'll be doing coverage, so prepare yourself for a barrage of articles!

In recent years, the format for most Team Trials has been versions of the Single Elimination format. With this, they would run a single elimination tournament for (usually) three consecutive days. The winner each day makes the team and doesn't take part on subsequent days. The winner of the first day is #1 on the team, and so on. If there are four spots, then the two finalists on day one make the team, as #1 and #2. (I think there have been variations of this.) The US Olympic Trials will only select two players, so with this system, they'd only have two single elimination events, so not as many matches as with RR. Some players might only play two matches, though if a player goes 0-2, he probably wasn't going to make the final two. 

The strength of this system is that players rarely have incentive to dump matches to help another player. The weakness is that a player could (for example) lose in the first round the first day and then win the second day, thereby making the team, while another player might finish second both days and not make the team - despite the latter player having a much better overall record. For example, if I remember correctly, Sharon Alguetti made the finals two out of three days at the 2016 North American Olympic Trials, yet didn't make it. (I can't find online results - the links on the 2016 North Olympic Trials page are no longer valid. But email me if you have them!)

This year at the US Olympic Trials they are going back to Giant RRs. At first glance, this seems the fairest way - after all, everyone plays everyone else, and the best players will have the best record and so you get the best players on the team. That's what usually happens - but I put usually in italics because that's not what always happens. For example, a player who is out of contention has less incentive to fight hard and might even dump matches to friends and teammates to help them make the team. (Worse yet, there might be bribes involved.) Or a player who has clinched his spot may dump to a friend to help him make the team.

I know of at least three instances where players have dumped matches either to help a friend or hurt someone they didn't want to advance. The most infamous became know as "Black Saturday," circa forty years ago, when a player out of contention openly dumped to a player to help a friend and practice partner. At one Trials, I watched two players openly calculate how many games they needed to dump to a player to ensure another player wouldn't advance. At another I watched a player who had clinched his spot dump a match to someone to keep another player from making the team - he denied it, but it was obvious to us watching.

Or a player may be injured at some point and have to drop out - so the players getting the default have a big advantage over those who might have lost to this player before he dropped out. Or they might completely remove this player's results - in which case it can completely change the results of who makes the team. I couldn't find anything in the procedures for what happens if a player drops out after play some matches.

At one Olympic Trials a number of years ago, there was a final RR of twelve players. One player was out of contention and had one match left. He complained of an injury and wanted to drop out. The rules at the time stated that if a player didn't play all his matches, then all of his matches became defaults. I was doing coverage, and quickly pointed out to the referee that if he did so, another player who had clinched his spot would suddenly be off the team, while another who had been eliminated would take his place. In the end, the "injured" player played his match. (I think the "standard" used to be that if a player played the majority of his matches and defaulted the rest, they all count; if he dropped out after playing less than half, then none count. But I don't know what the rules are for these Trials. I will check on this later. (There might be a rule covering this in the ITTF handbook, but nothing came up covering this when I searched using the words "default" and "withdrawal." I emailed the US Olympic Trials referee asking this question, and will post here when/if I get a response.)

Trying to decide on a format isn't an easy decision. I remember studying in college the mathematical proof that showed that there are no truly fair Trials or Election procedures - all have problems as well as advantages. So all you can do is choose the one that one considers least flawed.

Here's a Facebook posting by five-time US Men's Champion Dan Seemiller, which he also posted in the comments section at the US Olympic Trials page. For those not on Facebook, here's what he wrote.

"I believe the format is flawed. A huge R/R is conducive to manipulation. Some players when they play will still be in it and others already eliminated. Not a level playing field. In the final stages it is likely no final. It is possible and I've seen it happen where friends have to play friends and a 3rd player is relying on the results. I find it hard to believe the Olympic committee OK'd this format. Two S/E tourneys have been done the past few trials and no controversy whatsoever. You want to lose so be it. In the R/R a player can drop out with a sore shoulder and their results are dropped changing others' positions. The Olympics are S/E why not the trials?"

Universal 2020 ITTF Pan America Cup
Here's the ITTF home page for the event held Feb. 7-9 in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, with complete results, stories, pictures, and video. See also:

CCB 2020 Europe Top 16 Cup
Here's the ITTF home page for the event held Feb. 8-9 in Montreux, Switzerland. See also:

Spanish Open
Here's the ITTF home page for the event held Feb. 4-8 in Granada, Spain, with complete results, stories, pictures, and video. See also:

Table Tennis Community Fundraiser to Support Sally Boggan
The GoFundMe Fundraiser has raised $5834 so far, with 54 donors. (Sally is the wife of USATT legend Tim Boggan.) I thought I'd run this one more time - Tim really appreciates the help, and it's a serious situation, both medically and financially. This help has really raised Tim's spirits!

History of USATT - Volume 23 - Chapter 28
Here is Chapter 28 of Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis, "Jan - March Tournaments." (Page includes links to previous chapters.) Or you can buy it and previous (and future) volumes at www.timboggantabletennis.com. 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!

Dan Seemiller's 2020 Olympic Preparation
It's approaching showtime for the US Olympic Trials (Feb. 27 - March 1), and the legendary five-time US Men's Singles Champion Dan Seemiller could still use your help! Here's his GoFundMe page ($13,180 raised out of $15,000 needed) and his book, Revelations of a Ping-Pong Champion. Can a 65-year-old make the Olympics? Or perhaps take out a few contenders? Stay tuned!

Talking with Dan Seemiller
Here's the podcast (65 min) from Table Tennis Talk.

USATT News (with some duplication from the tournament segments above)

New from Steve Hopkins (with some duplication from the tournament segments above)

New from Samson Dubina

Should I Train or Play Matches
Here's the article. I like the book they recommend!

Bad Technique, Unorthodox Technique, Good Technique, Great Technique
Here's the article from Tom Lodziak.

Table Tennis Pro Training (with Ojo Onaolapo)
Here's the video (21:51) from Louis Levene.

New from the Malong Fanmade Channel (MLFM)

Pitchford & Walker Talk Mental Health & Well-Being
Here's the article and podcast (21:46) from the English table tennis Olympians.

3 Steps to Master the Around the Net Shot
Here's the video (8:49).

Ma Long Slow Motion
Here's the video (4:17).

Ask A Pro Anything | Tomislav Pucar
Here's the ITTF video (4:42) from Adam Bobrow, with the world #32 from Croatia.

Quadri Aruna and Dina Meshref Head Seeding in Tunisia
Here's the ITTF article.

Xu Xin wins STIGA Point of Day 4 | 2020 German Open
Here's the video (33 sec) as he pulls off a behind-the-back shot and wins the point against Ma Long!

The Ping Pong Pecking Order
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

Family Trick Shot Night
Here's the video (16 sec), with Arcot, Sid, Nandan Naresh and Sangita Santhanam! (This runs fine on my laptop, but strangely, when I run it on my desktop it comes out choppy.) Here's a bonus trick shot from Nandan (6 sec)!

The Biggest Table Tennis Fail of 2020 So Far
Here's the video (26 sec)!

Chair Pong
Here's the video (15 sec)!

Table Tennis Alone
Here's the video (6 sec)! I often do this trick in exhibitions. (Pongfinity also demonstrates this and other ways to play solo - see link below.)

Table Tennis with Hospital Patients
Here's the video (26 sec)!

Funny Table Tennis Cartoon
Here's the cartoon! (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

Here's the cartoon! (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

Forrest Gump Ping Pong
Here's the video (3:52) of Seven Ways to Play By Yourself!

Send us your own coaching news!