June 8, 2020

Tip of the Week
How to Never Miss an Easy Smash.

LATE ADDITION (Tues) - USATT Did a News Item on My Book, "Still More Table Tennis Tips"!
Here's the news item! C'mon, you know you want to buy my books!!! :) (It includes links to some of my other ones.) 

They Let Us Play Table Tennis Again!
Remember my When Will They Let Us Play Table Tennis Again cartoon? The answer, for me, was this past Saturday! It had been 83 days - one day short of twelve weeks - since the last time I'd played. Navin Kumar contacted me about taking private coaching again - MDTTC reopened last week for limited private coaching, with various limits on how many can be there at a time, taking everyone's temperature as they enter club, rules on masks (not required at the table, but required off the table), social distancing (the tables are well spaced out, making this easier), sanitizing (I had to sanitize the table afterwards), and so on. I retired from private coaching two years ago - I only do group sessions now - but he talked me into doing some private coaching. After twelve weeks of lying around my house, I needed the exercise, so I agreed. And so we did the one-hour session at 5:30PM on Saturday. There was no one else in the club at the time, though I'd been told there had been others earlier.

Navin put up three videos of the session:

  • Video 1 (98 sec) - forehands
  • Video 2 (60 sec) - forehands and footwork (multiball)
  • Video 3 (37 sec) - backhand long-pips block, backhand hit (multiball)

Table Tennis Abuse Horror Stories
In the segment below on USATT SafeSport Meeting for Parents and Coaches, there was a lot of discussion of SafeSport and abuse from coaches and parents. Sean O'Neill asked me about my experiences - and frankly, I could fill up a few hours with such stories!!! Here are a few examples. (In the meeting, I mentioned #1, 3, 4, 5, and 7 below.) 

  1. It seems every junior program has at least one parent that constantly yells at his/her kids. Some can get really abusive, even physically. But most of it is just yelling, which isn't a good way to motivate someone in table tennis.
  2. One of the worst case of abuse by a parent I know of took place at a US Open. I was coaching the final of Under 14 Boys. The other kid was up double-match point, but my kid came back to win the title. A few minutes later, several of our kids came running up, saying, "Larry, Larry, Mr. [kid's dad] is throwing [kid's name] against a wall! I ran outside just in time to see the father walking away, with the 13-year-old kid sitting against a brick wall crying. The kids said the father had thrown him against the brick wall over and over for losing the match. We reported it to the referee, and I was told action was taken - the kid moved out from living with his dad. (I think the parents were divorced.)
  3. For a few years in the 1990s, there was an opposing coach who made it his thing, when his students were playing mine, to come over and "trash talk" with my kids. He thought it was funny, but it made my kids very nervous, and at least one was almost terrorized by it. I talked to the coach, but he just reacted sarcastically. So I had to spend several years watching for him when our players played, and I would literally have to walk over and cut him off, blocking his path each time. The first time I did this he got angry, but after a few times he finally stopped doing it.
  4. I was coaching a kid against a higher-rated one, both among the best of their age in the country. The other kid won the first game easily - but in the last point, he popped a ball up, and my kid creamed it to the other kid's forehand. The kid made a miracle forehand block to win the point and game. Things did not look good for my player. But between games, the opposing coach started screaming at his player, demanding to know why he'd blocked that last ball instead of doing what he was trained to do, which was to always counterloop on the forehand. By the time they went back to the table, the opposing kid was crying, while I'd told my kid exactly how to play someone whose coach is yelling at him. My player came back and won! At the very end of the last game, when my kid went up match point, the other coach walked off - but later I saw him yelling at the kid. Afterwards, the kid dropped him as his coach for a short time, but soon they were back together. About six months later, the kid quit, and has never played since.
  5. I've been tempted to write an article on how to play someone whose coach is yelling at them - there are specific things you can do - but I feel it's already so unfair what such a player has to go through, it feels wrong to write an article taking advantage of it. And yet . . . when it happens, I generally tell my player how to deal with it. But only then.
  6. There was a kid I coached who reached #1 for his age in the country. There was a top player who had become his idol, since they both played a similar, unique style. When that top player was in town, the kid's parents arranged a coaching session with him. The kid was really excited. But during the session - which I only saw from a distance - he spent much of it yelling at the kid. Then, after the session, he told the kid, "You'll never be any good." (About ten people witnessed this.) The kid left, crying, and he never seemed enthusiastic about playing after that, and he quit a year later. (I later checked, and discovered this player was notorious for this type of thing. Thankfully, I'm told he no longer coaches.)
  7. I coached a kid who pulled off a great win. Both players were athletic, inverted players, which is what my player was used to. In his next match, he played an old guy (rated about the same), with long pips, who dead-blocked everything - and my kid lost. But his father, after seeing how well his kid played against the stronger player, couldn't seem to understand why his kid struggled and looked so bad against the long-pips player, and so kept yelling at him, insisting he hadn't tried, and threatened to pull him from the tournament. The kid was crying, and kept trying to explain to his dad how hard it is to play long pips, but the dad wouldn't listen. I finally pulled the dad aside and explained what long pips was and why younger kids often have trouble with it, and he sort of backed off - but the kid had great difficulty playing the rest of the day after that.   
  8. You can often tell which kids will turn it into a lifetime sport. At the end of a training session, if he wants to stay and goof off with the other kids, and is allowed to, he'll have fun, will love the sport, and will likely play forever. When I say goof off, that means they lob, chop, play with hardbat or clipboard, opposite hand or opposite grip, big ball, move tables together so they can play on two or more tables, or whatever else they feel like. I've been told that the great Swedes Waldner, Persson, Appelgren, and others always did this not only when they were developing, but even when they were the best players in the world. On the other hand, if they can't wait to leave, or if their parents always drag them out immediately so they can't have some fun with their friends, they tend to drop out eventually.

Why Table Tennis? 10 Aspects of the Sport That Will Change Your Life
The new table tennis book is out! The link takes you to Amazon, or you can get it directly from Samson Dubina Table Tennis. The book is by Samson Dubina, Sarah Jalli, and Jacob Boyd (the latter two are two of Samson's top junior students), and edited by Larry Hodges (hey, that's me!). It's 50 pages. Here are testimonials by Richard McAfee, Dora Kurimay, and Christian Lillieroos. Here's the Amazon description: "The Olympic sport of table tennis is well-respected worldwide for the dexterity of the athletes, the speed of the rallies, and the excitement of watching players of all ages and nationalities compete for world titles. Here in the US, very little is known about table tennis … Until Now! Why Table Tennis takes you on a one-hour journey where you will explore the vastness of the sport, understand how it is healthy for the mind and body, how it has impacted world history, and why it can impact your life too!!! Buckle up for this one-hour journey… The Olympic Sport of Table Tennis!"

USATT Board Meeting, Monday, June 1
It took place on UberConference. I listened in on the online meeting, though it was a relatively short meeting for most of us - they covered the first eight items on the agenda in 25 minutes, and then reached the last item, Executive Session, and that's when I and most others had to get off. Here's the notice and agenda for the meeting. (As you'll see in my notes below, they had some problems with getting the agenda online, and so we didn't get to see it until after the meeting Board Chair Richard Char sent out a note afterwards, apologizing for the problem, which came about because of technical problem.) The minutes for the meeting are not up yet, but they should soon in the USATT minutes page. You can also browse the USATT Agenda and Notices page. I believe they'll have another meeting in July, and I'll try to put it in the blog when it goes up.)


  1. Approval of Minutes (for May 4, 2020)
  2. CEO Report
  3. Audit Committee Report
  4. Appointment of Board
  5. Re-election of Board Chair
  6. Re-election of Audit and Compensation Committees
  7. Club Committee
  8. Update Umpire and Referee Committee Update
  9. Executive Session

The meeting started at 8PM, with about 30 in attendance. CEO Virginia Sung gave opening remarks. Alas, I missed much of what she said because I was in the chat box asking where the agenda was. I was told by two USATT people it was on the USATT site at the Agenda and Notices page, but as I kept pointing out, all that was there was the notice of the meeting, no agenda. We were then told the agenda would be posted after the meeting, which was disappointing. Meanwhile, one person (who has a long history of . . . how shall I put this gently? . . . making stuff up, and has already said he's running for the USATT board) falsely insisted that USATT had taken down the Agenda and Notices page, which was obviously not true since at the time he was arguing this I was on that page, and a link had been provided to him even before he made the claim. And so, while I was dealing with that irritating distraction, I missed most of what was said at the start. (At one point, someone gave me the link to the USATT Minutes page. I found that funny, since I'm the one who created that page back when I was USATT co-webmaster!!!)

Next up was discussion of the upcoming USATT election. Because of the pandemic they had to postpone it, since some candidates may need to get signatures to qualify, which is difficult to do when clubs and tournaments are closed, and you have to keep six feet distance, and most of us don't have Kareem Abdul-Jabbar-like arms. We were told the rules for the election would be posted as soon as they were approved by the USOPC.

Next up were committee approvals. They approved various members of the Audit, Compensation, Club, and Umpires & Referees Committees. At some point they also approved the Technology and Innovation Committee - I'm guessing they must have ended the meeting by coming out of executive session so they could make this motion. (I don't believe they can make such a motion in executive session.)

At 8:25PM, they went into executive session to discuss personnel or legal matters, and so I had to get off. It was fun while it lasted!

USATT SafeSport Meeting for Parents and Coaches
This online meeting took place on Zoom, on Tuesday, June 2. The participants varied from 33-37, and it lasted about 75 minutes. Here's the notice of the meeting. Here are some notes I took from the meeting.  

  • Welcome Statement – Virginia Sung, Chief Executive Officer - The Importance of the Physical and Mental Health of our Athletes. She spoke about how in China, the parents and coaches can be stricter and become abusive.
  • SafeSport Compliance – Mark Thompson, Athlete Protection Officer. What is SafeSport and Who Must Be Compliant
  • Tara Profitt, USATT Board Member – Athlete Advisory Council. Info on SafeSport and the USATT Athletes Advisory Council
  • The National Team and Athlete Safety – Sean O'Neill. Maintaining Proper Parental Involvement for Young Elite Athletes

During his presentation, Sean put up links to five articles. #4 is probably the most extreme! (The Iraqi torture of soccer players who lost. The others are problem more relevant to what happens in the US and most of the world.)

All these USATT Meetings
USATT will have another "Happy Hour" meeting on Zoom this Thursday at 7PM Eastern Time. It's where USATT members, staff, volunteers, and anyone else get together to talk about . . . anything. We actually had one this past Friday, but due to a technical problem, few people were able to join us, and so we ended up with only nine people, while the previous week we had 33. (When you clicked on the link, it didn't work - you had to copy and paste it. It's been fixed.)

Here's the bigger question - Why do I attend these USATT online meetings?

  1. I am interested in what happens in USATT.
  2. I report on them in my blog.
  3. People often ask me what happens in them.
  4. I honestly have nothing better to do. :)

Maryland Table Tennis Center Junior Program Featured in Chinese World Journal
Here's the article - alas, it's in Chinese, though it has some nice pictures. I used Google translate to read it, and got a somewhat broken version. (It translates "Maryland" into "Massachusetts," though I'm assured the Chinese version has it right.) The article came about when I sent out press releases to various media, and they contacted me. (The press release also became basis for the news item I did for USATT, Juniors at the Maryland Table Tennis Center Training Online with Zoom.)

The Best Ping-Pong Paddles, According to Experts
Here's the article from New York Magazine, featuring Sean O'Neill, Judy Hoarfrost, Will Shortz, and John Hsu. (The author initially contacted me, and since I'm not really an equipment junky, and I forwarded him to the others, though I think he had already contacted Will Shortz.)

MH Table Tennis: 30 Coaching Tutorials in 30 Days
Here's the video page. Matt Hetherington of MH Table Tennis is making one every day! (If you find his videos of value, here's his GoFundMe page.) Below are the recent ones (also see the playlists at the bottom of the page).

Hooks and Fades (Elevate Your Loop Game)
Here's the article from Expert Table Tennis.

New from Samson Dubina

Jimmy Butler and Huijing Wang
Here's video of their practice match (2:53), with Jimmy's commentary below on fixing a forehand looping problem. They're both Olympians!

"Fun" Physical Training on Four Tables
Here's the video (2 min)!

30+ Table Tennis Players Humiliated by Xu Xin
Here's the video (9:11).

New from USATT

New from Steve Hopkins

Time, Space, Ping Pong, Church, and Logistics
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

New from ITTF
Here's their home page and news page.

Adam vs. Girls High School Table Tennis Team
Here's the video (10:11) featuring Adam Bobrow. "I was invited to come and challenge one of the Top 3 Girls High School teams in Taiwan. It was a ton of fun."

The Most Insulting Hilarious Drop Shot Ever
Here's the video (16 sec) - watch how Lily Yip immediately puts her paddle down and goes for her phone - and don't miss Matt Hetherington's reaction! (Turn sound on.)

Scott Preiss Behind-the-Back Counter-Smash
Here's the video (10 sec)! (I always hate these shots - because of stiff shoulders, it's the only shot in table tennis I never can do!)

Great Fishing and Lobbing Point, Vráblík vs. Prokopcov
Here's the video (77 sec)!

Shot-Making Compilation
Here's the video (4:51) from Table Tennis TV!

New from Kevin Table Tennis

Target Practice
Here's the video (14 sec) of Nandan Naresh picking on cups and tape dispensers. If you think it is easy, give it a try!

Ping Pong on a Non-Existent Table
Here's the video (34 sec) from AR Ping Pong! It "uses Virtual and augmented reality together."

Pool Pong Lobbing and a Diving Counter-Smash
Here's the video (31 sec)!

High Pong
Here's the picture! (Here's the non-Facebook version.) Next time you have 104 bricks handy, you know what to do!

Happy Ping-Pong Balls
Here they are! Is 2020 getting you down? Getting sick of pandemics, economic collapse, nationwide protests, and marauding carnivorous dinosaurs (oh wait, that's later this month)? Then put these balls on your screen and just stare at them for a bit. And I promise you that 2021 will be here soon, in just 211 days. (Think of 2020 as just a really, long deuce game, with lots of nets and edges, but it'll be over eventually.)

Non-Table Tennis - My Posting on Attending a Black Lives Matters Protest
Here's my Facebook posting about the rally I attended last Wednesday night. It is completely non-political other than some analysis at the end.

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