April 13, 2020

Tip of the Week
The Grinding Mentality - How to Play It and Against It.

Larry's Adventures in Europe and Egypt
My book on this is out!!! Some of you may remember I did a seven-week tour of Europe and Egypt last Fall, Aug. 13 - Sept. 28. It wasn't a table tennis tour, though table tennis came up a number of times. I visited ITTF Headquarters in Switzerland (there's a picture of me there), wore my "T-Rex Playing Table Tennis" hat everywhere, found some TT places in Berlin, and was recognized by a table tennis player at Stonehenge. 

The full title is, "Larry's Adventures in Europe and Egypt: Seven Weeks Following Tour Guides with Little Flags and Funny Hats, and the Quest for the Elusive Dr Pepper." There's a lot of humor, including my often futile search for Dr Pepper in Europe. The book is 180 pages, with 253 pictures, in full color.

I saw Stonehenge, Buckingham Palace, Normandy Beaches, the Louvre and the Mona Lisa, Catacombs of Paris, Palace of Versailles, Eiffel Tower, the Alps, Venice, Florence, Siena, Leaning Tower of Pisa, Ancient Rome and Greece, the Sistine Chapel, Pompeii, Checkpoint Charlie, Auschwitz, Great Pyramids, Great Sphinx, and countless other sites, including a plethora of ancient castles, cathedrals, and more museums than I knew existed.

I visited Portugal, Ireland, England, France, Switzerland, Italy, Vatican City (yeah, that’s a country), Germany, Poland, Hungary, Greece, and Egypt.

I toured Lisbon, Dublin, London, Paris, Lausanne, Venice, Florence, Pisa, Siena, Rome, Vatican City, Pompeii, Naples, Berlin, Warsaw, Krakow, Budapest, Athens, and Cairo.

I walked the beaches of Normandy, Lake Geneva, and the Mediterranean, the banks of the rivers Liffey, Thames, Seine, Arno, Tiber, Spree, and Nile, and the Grand Canal in Venice.

And took a camel ride around the Great Pyramid! So why not come and share my adventures?

The downside is that full color is expensive. I created the book with KDP, a subsidiary of Amazon, and according to the automatic rules at Amazon, the cheapest price I could sell it for was $21.42. So I went with $21.50. Until now, all my books have been color on the covers, but black and white on the inside. I toyed with doing a black and white version, but the pictures are so much of this that, without the color, you don't get the real picture. So I decided to stick with all color. There's also no kindle version - just way too time-consuming to create one with this many pictures.

NOTE - Yeah, this makes three books in two weeks - two weeks ago I announced publication of two others books, Still More Pings and Pongs and Trump Tales: A Taunting. In late May I will have still another, my 17th book, and this time it's pure table tennis: Still More Table Tennis Tips. I've been busy.

USA Table Tennis High Performance Committee
At last week's USATT board meeting (see below), they created the High Performance Committee (HPC), which is in charge of general policy toward developing players in the US. (They work with the High Performance Director and top coaches from around the US.) The new members are: Bruce Liu (chair), Khoa Nguyen, Jim Butler, Amy Feng, Angela Guan. This is an illustrious group. (And note that this is all volunteer - they do not get paid.)

However, when I saw it, I did a doubletake. Individually, they are all highly qualified. Khoa, Jim, and Amy are Olympians, and they and Angela were all members of the USA World Team. Jim won Men's Singles at the Nationals four times. Bruce has been instrumental in the development of table tennis in the Bay Area in California. So why the doubletake?

None of them are USATT certified coaches. While all have undoubtedly done some coaching, I think Amy Feng is the only one that might be considered a professional coach - I believe she coaches at the EC Sports club in Marietta, Georgia, which is a joint table tennis-fencing club.

My general thoughts on putting together a High Performance Committee is that it should be made up first of high-level coaches and elite players. The purpose of an HPC is to develop elite players, and isn't that what high-level coaches are experts at?

Again, these members are individually highly qualified. It's just that the committee is lopsided. It's like putting together a baseball team where you bring in 25 great sluggers, and then realize you didn't bring in any pitchers. (It's also quite possible that some high-level coaches were asked, but turned it down. But there must be others.)

I think Bruce, the chair, will work hard to do a good job - I know him well and we've worked together many times, including at the recent USA Olympic Trials, where I wrote the articles and he took pictures. But one potential problem - as some might have noticed, over the last few years, USATT was sort of split between two groups. Roughly speaking, one group supported former High Performance Director Joerg Bitzigeio (who resigned last September) and his policies, and generally supported USA Teams with a balance between Trials and Selections (using selections to make sure we sent our best players, not just who played best at the Trials, plus taking doubles into consideration). The other group did not support Joerg (or more specifically, his policies), and wanted to minimize Selections, since they can be subjective and sometimes unfair. Bruce was one of the leaders of the latter group, and as I jokingly told someone, making him chair will make a few heads explode!

But hopefully he and the rest of the HPC will do a great job for USA Table Tennis, working with the new HPD Sean O'Neill (a staff position). Sean is a USATT Certified National Coach (highest level) as well as an Olympian and five-time US National Men's Champion. They have over a year to prepare USA for the now-2021 Olympics, so if we don't win gold, they are all out, right? :)

But I really hope they will consider expanding the HPC to seven and adding a couple of high-level coaches who can bring a wealth of coaching experience and expertise. (No, I'm not volunteering.) (Side note - I was told the HPC may also have sub-committees.)

USATT Board Meeting
Here are the minutes of the USA Table Tennis Board meeting held on April 6, last Monday night. It was a virtual meeting, which anyone could attend either online or by phone via Uberconference. Only board members and staff could speak, though you could request to speak on something, and if the board chair allowed it, you were given voice. I did this one time. There were exactly 20 people attending. Some highlights from my notes:

  • USA Nationals postponed - surprise! - see segment below under USATT News.
  • There's a new USATT coaching certification program being developed. 
  • The upcoming USATT election is postponed "until it is safe," due to coronavirus, since some candidates have to get signatures to be eligible. This is where I spoke up, suggesting they waive the signature requirement this year, since most years only a few apply. Unless you get a large number, just this one time, under extraordinary circumstances, they could waive the signature requirement and see how many apply. If too many, then postpone the election. 
  • The approved the chairs and members of three committees: High Performance, Nominating and Governance, and Ethics and Grievance. 
  • The meeting finished with a closed session, where they discuss personnel or legal matters.

The Critical Difference Between a Table Tennis Player and a Table Tennis Athlete
Here's the article from Matt Hetherington.

New from Samson Dubina

Coping with Covid-19 from a Psychotherapist's Perspective
Here's the article by Tahl Leibovitz.

New from EmRatThich

New from eBaTT

The Backhand Punch
Here's the video (1:35) from Rory Scott.

Table Tennis at Home
Here's the article and videos (six of them) from Tom Lodziak.

Table Tennis Footwork Exercises You Can Do at Home Right Now!
Here's the video (8:11) from Louis Levene.

Aerobic TT at Home with Steve Rowe
(Numbers 1-4 were in last week's blog.)

Table Tennis Daily Academy
Here's an excellent site, both for informative articles and videos as well as for their online courses.

Where Medicine Stops
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

New from Steve Hopkins

New from USATT

Pong Positive Interview Series
Here's the page, with new video interviews going up every day or so, all about 9-18 minutes. Current ones include Kanak Jha, Tom Feng, Sharon Alguetti, Lily Zhang, Han Xiao, Eve Yen, Huijing Wang, and Jennifer Wu. They also taped one with me that should go up soon.

Rockville Man’s Ping Pong Company Making Masks for Health Care Workers
Here's the video (1:44) from NBC News, featuring Richard Lee and JOOLA USA, which has revamped its local office into a mask-making facility. Here's JoolaMedical, where you can buy them - it's a new branch of JOOLA.

Mouse Traps and Ping Pong Balls to Show Powerful Message: 'Social Distancing Works'
Here's the video (30 sec). "The Ohio Department of Health has a powerful message for the public: Social distancing works. The agency tweeted a video illustrating a demonstration of chain reactions using ping pong balls and mouse traps to get its point across as people nationwide are urged to practice social distancing in an effort to battle the spread of COVID-19."

A Message from the ITTF CEO
Here's the letter. See item #3 especially, where there's a proposal to do away with individual (singles and doubles) events at the World Championships (make them Teams only), and instead have 3 to 4 "Grand Smashes" per year. I don't think this is a good idea - a huge part of any sport is its history, and this would be like football doing away with the Superbowl or baseball the World Series.

New from the ITTF

High-Level Looping Dining Room Pong
Here's the video (35 sec)!

Target Practice - Cup and Rolling Tape
Here's the video (12 sec)!

Make a Table at Home
Here's the video (24 sec)!

Multi-Layered, Multi-Tables, Multi-Dimensional Pong
Here's the video (42 sec)!

Zhang Jike Free Style 2020
Here's the video (3:52) from Zhang Jike, the 2011 and 2013 World Men's Singles Champion. Now 32, I've heard rumors of a comeback!

Relaxing Hammock Pong
Here's the video (32 sec)! The lefty in the hammock is Jean-Philippe Gatien, 1993 World Men's Singles Champion.

Ten Seconds of Weird Table Tennis
Here's the video (link should take you to 2:06 of this long and strange animated movie)!

Multi-Level and Floor Ping Pong
Here's the video (4:04) from Pongfinity!

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