April 6, 2020

Tip of the Week
Analyze an Unorthodox Style from the Opponent's Point of View.

The First Pong
Here it is! It's my contribution to World Table Tennis At Home Day (see segment below), with apologies to Leonardo da Vinci, Umpire Jesus, and Biblical table tennis stars Bartholomew and Simon. (Here's the original.)

Coaches Training and Certification
The ITTF is revising its coaching accreditation system. (See segment below.) It's been rather successful in terms of numbers, with over 650 courses taught since it started in 2004, and over 6000 coaches certified, including me. (I also certified 14 coaches when I taught one of their courses.) I've blogged before about several problems with the system, from my experience in going through the first two levels and teaching the first level. I think it's a potentially great system, but there are at least three things that need to be fixed, and that should be addressed in any future system.

First, the English version of the advanced training manual is poorly written and edited. I'm not sure how much of this is from the original or the translation, but there are parts that leave you scratching your head. I think the content itself, once you figure out what is being said, is generally good.

Second, it's written for a coach teaching in a school setting, when the large majority of serious table tennis coaching takes place in clubs. It's very different. When I approached ITTF long ago and asked if I could make some adjustments, so as to focus more on coaching in a club, I was told not to make any changes, stick to the program as listed. That's a primary reason why, after teaching one course, I stopped doing it. In the course I taught, I discussed this problem with the players, and they all agreed I should focus more on club-based coaching. And so I sort of did that, trying to do that and still do all that was in the ITTF course. But I didn't feel comfortable doing this essentially in secret, and so decided not to teach any more of them.  (If I got started writing about the differences between school-based and club-based coaching, that would be a blog by itself. Setting up and running such a program in club is very different than one where you essentially are teaching a PE class to recreational players that you don't have to recruit. Teaching a PE class is very different than teaching, say, Little League Baseball or the equivalence in other sports.)

Third, there was seemingly no Chinese input into the courses, which meant some took it less seriously - and with Chinese input, what and how things are taught might have been different. China is both the strongest table tennis country and the biggest market, so we need them involved. China never adopted the ITTF system. They need buy-in from the biggest table tennis countries - China, Japan, Korea, and Germany in particular, not to mention countries like England and Sweden and others.

Besides the ITTF revamping their coaching accreditation system, USATT is doing so as well - in fact, they've been working toward doing so for a number of years. In January, 2018, during my second tenure as USATT Coaching Chair, I flew out to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs to meet with then-High Performance Director Joerg Bitzigeio and a number of USOC officials about setting up a new USATT Coaching Certification Program. (Here's my blog on this.) We did put some time into this, and afterwards Joerg took the lead. Alas, after he resigned last year, that particular program came to an end. But I've heard they are looking into creating such a system again.

Some quick history of the USATT Certification Program. The current system is basically the version of the one I set up in my first tenure as Coaching Chair, 1990-95. However, the situation in the US has dramatically changed since that time - back then, there were essentially no full-time training facilities or full-time coaches. Now we have over one hundred full-time clubs and hundreds of full-time coaches. So the system I set up was pretty good for back then, but like a Model T Ford these days. (I wrote about this in the blog I linked to above.)

I've toyed with getting involved again in setting up an updated USATT (or ITTF) coaching system, but I think I'll let others have their turn. For one thing, I'm way too busy these days to take on something major like that. For another, there must be plenty of others who can do this - it's their turn! (I'm still on the USATT coaching committee, but I chose not to continue as chair about a year ago, when my term ended.)

There are some things anyone setting up such a system should be careful of. Keep in mind that, these days, with more resources, the goal isn't just a Coaching Certification program - the goal is a Coaching Training and Certification program. So such a program is two-fold. Here is a short list of things to consider in setting up such a program.

  1. Make sure to have Chinese table tennis involvement. It both brings in expertise and buy-in from coaches, where the majority are Chinese. It would also be helpful to get involvement and buy-in from other major table tennis countries, such as Japan, Korea, Germany, and others from Europe, with apologies to those not listed.
  2. Don't get stuck trying to teach all sorts of little things that rarely come up in actual coaching. It's very easy to get stuck where half of the material taught covered maybe 1% of what's actually used in a coaching program, so you had to cover the other 99% in the other half. I really and truly don't need to know about mitochondria to be a top coach! The problem is that it might take as much time to master that 1% as the other 99%, meaning it's far more efficient to focus on the 99%, and become generalists on the 1%, where you can bring in a specialist when needed - or, simply by coaching and learning for many years, you might pick it up on your own. The 1% might sometimes be important, but not if it comes at the expense of the 99%, and should become a focus only at the highest levels of coaching, after the 99% is mastered. 
  3. Make sure the program matches what is needed. That means mostly training coaches for coaching in professional clubs. It might also be helpful to train the coaches on how to set up a professional club where they can coach - the more of those the better.
  4. In this day and age, we can do a lot of coaches training with video, including using Skype, Zoom, or similar programs. However, as it moves up to the higher levels, more of it needs to be more in person. Sometimes the biggest weakness of developing coaches (excluding top players who become coaches) is lack of experience in an elite training environment. Watching top players on video is very helpful, but doesn't replace watching them in training as they develop into top players. So any coaches training program should include requiring coaches to observe such training, if they don't already have a strong background in that. (You don't need to be a top player to be a top coach - though it's helpful. But what you do need is a huge amount of time observing training programs, where you see how top players are developed. The problem is that, unless you were a top player in one of these programs, it's rare for a non-elite player to get that needed experience. But some make the effort and become excellent coaches as a result.)
  5. Make sure any manuals are well-written and user-friendly!

ITTF Coach Accreditation System Revision
Here's the info page. This came out a while ago, but I'm not sure where it stands right now. (I don't see any updates in the ITTF Coaching Development page.) It says that project delivery was due on Dec. 16, 2019, which means they must be well into this now. They are, or were, looking to revise or change the current coaching accreditation system. There was a time when I'd have jumped into this, but it's time for The Next Generation to work these things out. One thing that jumped out at me that raised alarms is where it says, "Administer and supervise the translation of the complete material into French, Spanish and Arabic." Since the original would presumably be in English, this means they are not emphasizing Chinese, not to mention Japanese, Korean, and German, which are the languages of the biggest table tennis countries in the world. Without buy-in from those countries, they are looking at a very uphill struggle.

High Quality Face Masks
Here's JoolaMedical, where you can buy them - it's a new branch of JOOLA. Just Say No to Corono[virus]! The two speaking in the video are siblings Richard (owner of JOOLA) and Dr. Vivian Lee. Both were former US National junior champions.

USATT Teleconference
Here's the USATT Agenda and Notices page, which includes a link to the agenda and dialing info for the USATT Teleconference tonight (Monday at 8PM Eastern Time). Any USATT member is allowed to listen in. On the agenda:

  1. CEO Report
  2. USOPC update
  3. Audit committee report
  4. Payroll Protection Program under the CARES Act
  5. New 2020 SafeSport Code revisions
  6. Delay of USATT Permanent Board Election due to Coronavirus
  7. Appoint Nominating and Governance Committee member
  8. Appoint High Performance Committee members
  9. Appoint Ethics and Governance Committee members

Celebrating 2020 World Table Tennis At Home Day!
Here's the ITTF article. It links to this Incredible Video (5:46), "World's Longest Rally Ever," where a huge number of players make "returns" with anything from a banana to a light saber - you have to see this one! Make sure to watch the name and country listed underneath for each player - see how many you recognize! (There's a smattering of top players mixed in, from Kanak Jha to Zhang Jike, with Ma Long starting it off.) 

World Table Tennis at Home Day Contest!
Here's the USATT info page. "With the majority of people staying indoors due to the world-wide pandemic of COVID-19 and practicing social distancing, World Table Tennis Day on April 6th, 2020 will be transformed to World Table Tennis at Home Day 2020!"

New from Matt Hetherington

New from Samson Dubina

New from Table Tennis Daily Academy

New from eBaTT (Eli Baraty)

The Tomahawk Serve (And Why You Should Learn It)
Here's the article by Alex Horscroft at Expert Table Tennis.

The Last Word On Anti Spin Rubber
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

Improve Your Attitude
Here's the article by John Hsu.

Table Tennis at Home
Here's the article by Tom Lodziak.

How Many Levels in Table Tennis
Here's the article from PingSunday.

Top Ten Mistakes in Table Tennis
Here's the video (19:15) from EmRatThich.

Backspin Comeback Push Practice
Here's the video (26 sec)!

Amicus Training Tips with Richard Prause

Aerobic TT at Home with Steve Rowe

Table Tennis in the Time of Coronavirus
Here's the podcast (49:45), Episode #12 from Table Tennis Talk. "...we discuss the impacts to the table tennis world from the coronavirus pandemic. We also cover the Hungarian Open, Qatar Open, and the US Olympic Trials. Also a T-League Update, Joey's Coaching Corner, and a documental Weird World of Table Tennis!"

Online Table Tennis Workout
Here's the page, from Tom Lodziak. "During April and May, I will be running daily group table tennis workout sessions, via an online video stream.  We will do a mixture of aerobic exercises and shadow play to improve your table tennis footwork, fitness and technique. Each session will be 30 minutes of high energy table tennis fun! No fitness equipment needed, although you can bring your table tennis bat if you want. Watch the video at the top of the page to get a visual idea of what to expect."

Quarantine Ping Pong Challenge
Here's the video (2:44) from PingSkills.

Aerobic Table Tennis
Here's the page, where they will be doing daily table tennis aerobic exercises. "From 1 April 2020, Aerobic TT will be available for you to view in your own home. It’s for both children and adults, it will be a fun and exciting way to keep fit indoors. Fun and fitness along with bat and ball skills."

Play at Home Ping Pong Shadow Training Challenge (Covid Free!)
Here's the video (19:07) from Wally Green. 

New from the Malong Fanmade Channel

New from USATT

New from ITTF - They've Been Busy!

New from Steve Hopkins

Betting on Ping-Pong? Really?
Here's the article. "The coronavirus is a sports gambler’s nightmare."

Message from Timo Boll on Coronavirus
Here's the video (72 sec).

Training Little Girl on Mini-Table with Ball Prop
Here's the video (60 sec). It sounds funny, but it's actually pretty effective training!

Happy World Table Tennis Day from the Dubinas
Here's the video (60 sec)!

Best Rally
I still consider this rally (41 sec) to be the best rally of the past year.

Who is the Real GOAT? Ma Long vs J.O Waldner
Here's the video (12:42).

Smart & Genius Plays in Table Tennis- IQ 300+ (Creative Moments)
Here's the video (5:54)!

Table Tennis Funny: Balls of Fury
Here's the video (5:54) from Malong Fanmade Channel! It's a compilation of the best table tennis scenes from the 2007 comedy movie Balls of Fury. Now that you have lots of time on your hands (hi coronavirus!), now's the time to watch or rewatch it! It's available on Youtube, iTunes, Google Play Movies, Vudu, Amazon Prime, and Hulu.

Funny Match, France vs. Philippines
Here's the video (4:17)!

Houston Rockets Mascot Pong
Here's the video (57 sec) as two of them go at it - and one is pretty good with his tricks! (Why in the Great Loops of Pong does a basketball team called the Rockets have a bear as its mascot?)

Passionate About Table Tennis - Living Room Double-Table Pong 
Here's the video (25 sec)! At the end, I'm told they are saying (in Spanish), "Table Tennis, we are passionate about, gives you worldwide energy, play with the family, STAY HOME!" That's Juan Antonio Vila Reinoso, past president of ULTM and a table tennis legend in the Caribbean, with his family. (ULTM is the Unión Latinoamericana de Tenis de Mesa, i.e. Latin American Table Tennis Union.)

The Best Improvised Mini-Table Rally Ever?
Here's the video (68 sec)! The two kids are brothers from England.

Spectacular Kitchen Pong
Here's the video (1:38) of some of the best "kitchen" rallies I've ever seen!

More Living Room Pong
Here's the video (14 sec)!

Pong Dominoes
Here's the video (23 sec)!

Amazing Trick Shots
Here's the video (58 sec)!

Skills To Learn During Lockdown
Here's the video (4:38) from Pongfinity! And there are some really good ball-control skills taught here.

Non-Table Tennis - Reviews of "Blood Wars" and My Two New Books
Two reviews have now come out for my story, "Blood Wars," which came out last month in Galaxy's Edge. It's my first vampire story! But it's really a satire about corporate America.

"Blood Wars" by Larry Hodges is a fantasy set in an alternative reality where vampires rule the world. The narrator is a board-level vampire executive in a blood producing company whose evil-tempered chairman and proprietor is Dracula. The concept of a reality where humans are farm animals, securely caged and regularly bled to supply their vampire owners may appear to be repugnant, but the tongue-in-cheek style of writing converts it from a potential horror story into a light-hearted poke at Corporate America. Tangentonline

In a world run by vampires, the best-selling drink is Dracu-Blood, owned by the old Count himself. But their chief competitor, Vampu-Blood, is catching up. What to do? Our narrator, who is CEO, comes up with an idea. Hilarious with a great pay-off! SFRevu

And perhaps consider buying a copy of one of my two new books that came out last week:

  • Still More Pings and Pongs, 192 pages. This is a collection of the best 25 science fiction & fantasy stories I've sold from 2016-2020. It is the third in the series, after Pings and Pongs and More Pings and Pongs. Alas, table tennis only shows up sporadically in these stories!
  • Trump Tales: A Taunting, 112 pages. This includes 11 SF & Fantasy stories I've written that satirize Trump, seven of them previously published, four new. If you are, somehow, a Trump fan, stay away! 

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