January 9, 2023

Tip of the Week
Developing Fast Reflexes.

Weekend Coaching
I coached in four sessions over the weekend, and part of a fifth. As usual, lots of work on Fundamentals!!! In various times I fed multiball, acted as a practice partner, and was a walk-around coach. Some issues that came up:

  • How to backhand loop against a deep, aggressive push to the backhand. Key is recovering quickly from previous shot or serve to a ready position about arm’s length from the table so you have time to react, and early racket preparation, i.e. getting your racket down and back early so you don’t have to rush it at the end.
  • Recovering from a forehand from a wide corner. Key is returning to ready position as part of the follow through. When forehand looping from wide forehand, you follow through to your left (for righties) to get back into position. When forehand looping from wide backhand, you follow through to your right to get back into position.
  • How to create heavy backspin serves. It’s a matter of wrist and forearm, and grazing contact as much under the ball as possible.

And then it was book delivery time! I’d decided to give out copies of my Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers book to all the kids in our junior program – about 60 in all – for Christmas. I gave out a bunch in December in our Christmas camp and before, but many weren’t there, so I left the big box of books at the club, and gave out the rest this past weekend. For those that already had the book, they had the option of picking any of my other books. Many got Table Tennis Tips, the first in my Tips series, which includes More Table Tennis Tips, Still More Table Tennis Tips, and (coming in May this year) Yet Still More Table Tennis Tips. Some of the younger kids got Table Tennis Tales and Techniques, since it has more pictures.

Speed and Reflexes, or Proper Technique?
Many of you may have seen this video of my lunging return in the Over 40 Hardbat Singles Final at the US Open, including slow motion, put together by Jimmy Butler. (I normally use and coach sponge, but play hardbat on the side.) Here’s the full video of the match from Ping Pong Weekend.

The interesting thing is how many people thought I was able to make this return due to fast reflexes and feet. Actually, neither of those had anything to do with it! It was just a matter of proper technique During the pandemic I gained weight that I haven’t been able to lose, I’m having knee problems, and I’m about to turn 63 – all of these should have slowed me down, but proper technique overcame all of these. I also don’t have huge numbers of fast twitch muscles – while long ago I was a good distance runner, I was never known for my sprinting.

Let’s analyze what REALLY happened, as you can see from the video if you watch closely, especially the parts in slow motion. And note that I’d written this week’s Tip of the Week above, Developing Fast Reflexes, a few weeks ago during a long afternoon writing up Tips. It was going to go up in two weeks, but I moved it to today since it’s relevant to this.

  1. My serve return was relatively deep (though I’d like it to be even deeper), so opponent is less able to rush or angle me on the next shot, giving me time to react.
  2. My return was to the opponent’s middle, forcing him to choose between forehand and backhand, and so, on average, his return is not as quick as it would be if I’d gone right to the forehand or backhand.
  3. Immediately after hitting the ball, I looked up to see what the opponent was doing so I could react more quickly to it.
  4. After making the serve return, I quickly moved back into a ready position, ready to move in either direction.
  5. Before opponent made his return, I did a little hop to prepare me to move quickly in either direction.
  6. From years of watching opponents, I reflexively saw where he was hitting the ball as he started his forward swing, well before contact, and so was able to start moving to my left before he even hit the ball.
  7. By staying balanced rather than lunging and putting my weight on my left foot, I was able to quickly change directions when I saw the ball hit the net and bounce away.
  8. By staying balanced even while making a last-second change of direction as I moved to the ball, I was able to maintain ball control on my return.
  9. Note the quick recovery in case he returned my edge ball.
  10. And, of course, the polite raising of my hand in apology for the edge - sorry, Ilya!

So . . . do I have super-human reflexes and footspeed, or just good technique? Is there anything here than anybody can’t learn (barring major disabilities), and that essentially all top players do routinely and reflexively from years of practice?

Navin Kumar, Dead and Back Again!
On Dec. 26, Navin Kumar “died” and returned from the dead. As he wrote on Facebook, “I woke up in the hospital this morning. I was unconscious and unresponsive yesterday with no pulse and was dead at my parents house. I was dead for a short time. My heart stopped beating for 10 minutes. In the hospital now alive and fighting for my life. Back from the dead and feeling like a zombie minus eating brains.”

He’s written a number of posts on his hospitalization and recovery on his Facebook page. He’s now back home, with a new pacemaker. Navin, also known as “The Bionic Man,” has both Parkinson’s and a mostly artificial heart. I’ve been coaching him for a number of years, and he’s won a number of medals at the US Open, Nationals, and a few years ago go silver in doubles and bronze in singles at the World Parkinson’s Championships. (Google “Navin Kumar bionic man” and see all links that come up!)

Books I Read in 2022
I read 43 books in 2022. For many years I’ve kept track of all the books I read. It’s not an exact thing as far as showing how much I’ve read as books vary greatly in length. The numbers vary, from a high of 84 in 2018 to a low of just 25 (!!!) in 2012. The 43 this past year is a drop – in the past six years I’ve read 43, 52, 67, 68, 84, and 57 books. One “low” – I only read one book on table tennis in 2022, while most years I read a number of them. (Instead, lots of science fiction, science, history, and books on writing.) At some point I might combine the lists into one long one and post it.

Butterfly Training Tips

New from EmRatThich/PingSunday

New from Samson Dubina

New from Ti Long

New from Drupe Pong

New from PingSkills

New from PongSpace

New from the Performance Biomechanics Academy Table Tennis

New from Taco Backhand

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

Tom’s Table Tennis Quiz 2022
Here’s the quiz from Tom Lodziak.

30-Day Table Tennis Fitness Challenge
Here’s the 30-Day Table Tennis Fitness Challenge from Peak Performance Table Tennis.

“Want to improve your game while getting more fit in the process? Then start your 2023 off STRONG with the 30-Day Table Tennis Fitness Challenge. It’s really simple. Everyone who signs up for the challenge will get a workout program that’s optimized for table tennis, PLUS direct coaching support from Kevin Finn of Peak Performance Table Tennis. He'll answer your questions, review your form, and provide motivation and accountability! This program is fully remote and can be performed on your own time at home, or at your local gym. It will work well for both beginners and more serious athletes. You can also win prizes! Every workout you complete increases your chance of winning one or more of the following:

  • Paddle Palace gift certificate
  • Box of balls
  • Signed copy of Peak Performance Table Tennis
  • And More!
  • So if you’re interested in getting in better shape while also…
  • Increasing the POWER of your point-winning shots
  • Increasing your SPEED & AGILITY so you’re moving like lightning around the court
  • Reducing your risk of injury
  • And increasing your confidence via the “tight jersey effect”

2022 Para ITTF Costa Rica Open: Team USA Wins 5 Medals In The Last International Event Of The Year
Here’s the article by Vlad Farcas. On weekends in our group junior sessions, I often get to work with Samuel Altshuler, the junior near the top left!

Signed Blade from 1981 World Table Tennis Championships in Novi Sad, Yugoslavia
The blade is for sale, jammed with autographs. (For example, side one includes Istvan Jonyer of Hungary, the 1975 World Men’s Singles Champion. Look it over and see if you recognize others.) If you are interested, email Dzafer Buzoli. Here are pictures:

Ping Pong Serves Up Therapy for Mind and Body Among People with Parkinson's Disease
Here’s the video (4:18) from CBS News


New from Steve Hopkins/Butterfly


Table Tennis: It’s In My DNA
Here’s where you can buy the shirt – two versions!

Twas the Night Before Christmas . . . Ping-Pong Style
Here it is, by mjamja at the mytabletennis.net forum!

Ping Pong in the Classroom
Here’s the video (16 sec)!

Epic Ping Pong Trickshot Compilation
Here’s the video (57 sec) from Matt Hetherington!

Best Ping Pong Shots of 2022
Here’s the video (8:23) from Pongfinity!

Send us your own coaching news!