December 14, 2020

Tip of the Week
Use It or Lose It!

Weekend Coaching
This past Sunday and next Sunday we are running our season-ending practice tournament for our junior program. The kids are divided into three divisions by level/rating, with about ten in each, and play a complete round robin, all best of five to 11. I spent the sessions split between watching and taking coaching notes, and umpiring some of the matches (so they could get more of a tournament-like feel for the matches). In the lowest group (with the youngest kids), I taught them how to read the playing schedule and how it is created. After watching them, I realize that a lot of them need more work both on their serves, and on understanding the purpose of the serve, which is primarily to set up their attack. The really good news - I spent some time just watching their feet, and came away pretty happy - with one exception, all of them had "active feet." The only exception tended to lean to the ball instead of moving, so we'll work on that. Most had pretty good stroking technique.

In the other two divisions, the main takeaway was, "Wow!" Many haven't played a tournament in nearly a year, and they have dramatically improved. Their ratings are way behind - beware everyone when tournaments start up again!!! I knew they had improved, but it's a lot more obvious when they play real matches. You can basically add 100 or more rating points to each of their ratings. The ten in the top group ranged (in mostly old ratings) from 1984 to 2286, with all but two of them ages 11 to 13.

On Saturday, I had my weekly session with Navin Kumar. (As I note occasionally, I'm retired from private coaching, but made one exception for him since I coached him at the World Parkinson's Championships last year and will likely do so again next September in Berlin.) A lot of the focus on the session was aggressive return of serve with his long pips (no sponge), instead of just patting the ball back. I traded rackets with him to demonstrate, and showed him how you can "bump" almost any serve back quick off the bounce and rather aggressively, and if you place it well (usually to wide corners), it can tie a serve in knots. Here are two videos:

US Open and US Nationals Historical Results
Here is the page,, still under construction, created by Vince Mioduszewski. It now has all results from every US Open and Nationals (even rating events!) from 1970 to present, as well as 1940-49. Soon they will all be up, 1933 to present. Vince has been hard at work compiling all these results from old magazines (including a box I sent him, and from others), Tim Boggan's History of US Table Tennis (he bought the complete set of 23 books), and online results for more recent years.

USATT Coaches Meeting
We had another of the bi-weekly USATT coaches meetings on Friday, Dec. 11, 12:00-12:54 PM eastern time, hosted by High Performance Director Sean O'Neill. Six of us attended. Here's video (54:25) and a group picture. Here's what happened.

  • Welcome to the attendees, with each giving a short report on their recent club and coaching activities: Sean O'Neill, Larry Hodges, Mike Lauro, Samson Dubina, Doru Gheorghe, Willy Leparulo
  • Player Pathways. Sean spoke about this program, and here's the USATT news item, USA Table Tennis Announces the Performance Pathway Program for 2021. It involves direct athlete assistance to the top four men, women, and Para athletes.
  • Reminder about the USATT Coach of the Year nominations, due Dec. 31.
  • A discussion of Stupa Analytics. (I wrote about this in my November 23, 2020 blog.) You can get one free Stupa analysis. Sean said that they have received a USOPC sports science grant for our national team.
  • USOPC Grants. USATT had applied for a grant late this year for some leftover money, to be used in developing the USATT coaching program. It was denied, but will reapply for 2021.
  • We discussed the All-American Awards - for top ten in each age group, honorable mentions for the next ten. The question was what to do this year, with the pandemic and few tournaments? The consensus was to still have them as they are a nice incentive.
  • We discussed wearables, which are items you wear that monitor various things such as heart rate and sleep. An Apple Watch and Polar Unite Watch are examples.

New from USATT

USATT Board Teleconference
USA Table Tennis held a board teleconference last Monday, Dec. 7, starting at 8PM. Eighteen people attended, including me. This is fascinating stuff to a small minority of us; for the rest of you, skip ahead!!! (NOTE - I wrote the below after the meeting, but this morning I see that they already have the minutes up for that meeting - that's a speed record! Presumably, they approved them via email vote. The minutes match up pretty well with my notes, and go into more detail. Here is the USATT Minutes and Actions page.)

  • CEO Report. Virginia Sun reported that the Olympic Training Center is closed, due to the pandemic. She had just gotten out of a USOPC meeting on Covid-19 situation with over 100 others She also reported on the T2 competitions, where, despite following protocols, a number of people tested positive afterwards.
  • Budget and Audit Committee Reports. Numbers assume (for now) things back to normal in second quarter (not sure if that's before or after), but we don't really know that. They will adjust as needed. The 2021 budget was approved unanimously. One curious thing - there was little discussion of the actual budget items. In past budget meetings that I've attended (including as a board member), they often went over it segment by segment, even line by line, and sometimes spent many hours on this.
  • Licensing and Sponsorship – Protecting Against Intellectual Property Infringement. It seems some equipment vendors have used USATT trademarks without permission, so they had a discussion on how to respond. Not sure if they reached a decision, but presumably this is something the CEO will handle.
  • Board Elections Status Report. They will announce election results by Christmas. New board members will be invited attend February meeting. Not sure why it could take until Christmas (eleven days from now) to get results - voting ended last night (Sunday, Dec. 13), so it'd be nice to get the results today. The number of votes is usually only in the hundreds, so presumably they can do the count in one day. Perhaps there are verification protocols. I'll post here when/if the election results are posted.
  • Board Meeting Schedule for 2021. Board has been meeting almost every month. Will go to bi-monthly, i.e. six times/year.
  • When asked about new business, Lee Kondo asked about enforcing service rules, and cited this USATT notice.
  • They then went into executive session, so I had to leave.

New from Samson Dubina

Four Useful Tools for Improving Your Long Fast Serves in Table Tennis
Here's the article and video (13 min) from Matt Hetherington at MH Table Tennis.

Pendulum Serve Tutorial | Pure Backspin
Here's the video (11:50) from Joey Cochran.

Table Tennis Match Management
Here's the video from Richard McAfee (33:19).

Table Tennis VOD Review #6 - Work on Finding the Ball and Having Better Placement
Here's the video (33 min) from Louis Levene.

Table Tennis Serve Compilation (Part 2) - 11 More Ways To Serve
Here's the video (3:31) from Paragon Table Tennis. Here's the link to Part 1 - 49 Ways To Serve (3:52).

How to Return Fast Serve in Table Tennis
Here's the video (20:34) from Ti Long.

The Table Tennis Gambit
Here's the article from Coach Jon.

Here's What Olympians Eat for Each Sport
Here's the article from Live Science, with a segment on table tennis with info and quotes from Richard McAfee.

Pingponged TV Featuring Mattias Falck
Here's the video (12:45) - their first episode. Falck of Sweden, who uses short pips on the forehand, is #8 in the world, and shocked the world by making it to the final of Men's Singles at the 2019 Worlds.

Incredible Attack vs. Chop Rally
Here's the video (69 sec) - and (Spoiler Alert!) after all those shots to the corners, notice that it was, predictably, a shot to the middle that won the point. (Yeah, that's where choppers and many other players are weakest.)

Best Table Tennis Shots of November 2020
Here's the video (14:12) from TT Entertaining.

New from the Malong Fanmade Channel
Lots of new videos here!

ITTF Equipment Webinar
Here's the video (1 hr 24 min).

New from the ITTF

Dimitrij Ovtcharov Interviews Timo Boll
Here's the video (57 sec)!

New from Steve Hopkins

Funny Ping-Pong Stuff
Here's the page from Etsy. Lots of neat stuff - shirts, mugs, face masks, etc. How can you live without some of this stuff? (No, I have no financial interest in Etsy!)

Impromptu Table Tennis Exhibition
Here's the video (30 sec) - but must be from a while back since the score's 20-13. (Games switched from 21 to 11 in 2001.)

Sunny Bunnies - Table Tennis Practice
Here's the video (20:46, but the table tennis is in the first 3:30)!

World's Longest Ping Pong Shot
Here's the video (8:02) from Pongfinity!

Non-Table Tennis - "The Untold Christmas Carol"
Just got another very positive review, from SFRevu, of  a current story of mine in Galaxy's Edge, "The Untold Christmas Carol," the behind-the-scenes expose of what really happened to Tiny Tim - with Satan and Benedict Arnold involved. Here are the two reviews of the story so far:

  • SF Revu: "A devilish alternate take on the classic Christmas Ghost Story. Another amusing tale and the perfect way to end this issue."
  • Tangent SF Reviews: "The prose was well-paced and told in a whimsical style. A nice nugget to pass a few minutes with a smile." 

Send us your own coaching news!