June 17, 2011

Use it or lose it

Yes, I'm talking to you, the aging table tennis player reading this article. Or the young but lazy one. You both have the ability to move when you play, but you don't do it enough. Sure, you gradually slow down as you age, and so many older players become more backhand-oriented rather than attacking with their forehand, which takes more footwork. Sure, younger players may find that if they use less footwork and simply stand at the table, they won't get caught out of position. Both of these are defensible positions. But guess what? The loss of footwork begins with a single non-use of your footwork. The more you don't use footwork, the faster you lose it, which gives you more reason not to use it, which accelerates the loss of footwork, which . . . you get the idea.

It's not just footwork. When I was younger, I liked to counterloop off the bounce, or back up way off the table to counterloop. (Strangely, I was better at the two extremes.) Now that I'm older (read: stiffer and slower), these shots are harder to pull off. So it'd be best to stop using them, right? Then they'd become even harder to do from lack of use, making it even more important that I stop using them, accelerating the loss of these shots, which . . . you get the idea.

Let me rephrase what I said above: The loss of any part of your game begins with a single non-use of it. Because you can't stop using it without a first non-use. So keep using it, even if it leads to a few short-term losses.

And if you do have any complaints about your footwork, let me tell you about the . . .

One-legged nine-year-old table tennis player

The title explains the article and short video. Now, you were complaining about your footwork woes? (Ironically, the kid has little problems with his footwork with the nice prosthesis.)

40th Annual Ping-Pong Diplomacy Festivities - Twice

Yes, the 40th Anniversary of the iconic U.S. team's trip to China in 1971 is this year. (At the 25th Anniversary festivities, I met and shook hands with Henry Kissinger.) Here are two festivities that I know of.

Want to read more about Ping-Pong Diplomacy? Try Tim Boggan's two online books on the subject, "Ping-Pong Oddity" (covering the U.S. Team's trip to China in 1971) and "Grand Tour," covering the Chinese team's trip to the U.S. in 1972. Better still, buy the books, along with Tim's other table tennis history books, at TimBogganTableTennis.com! (Disclaimer: I do the page layouts and fix up the photos for these books, and created and maintain his web page.)

China Open

The China Open is going on right now, and let's face it, we might as well call it the "80% of the World Open," since probably 80% of the best players in the world are from China. Here's coverage of it.

Cats and table tennis.

Why do they go together? (Answer they don't, but play along.) Here's 33 seconds of cats and table tennis. Want more? Then see the Humorous Table Tennis Videos section of the Fun and Games section here at TableTennisCoaching.com, and scroll down to "Ping-Pong Cats." Or, if you prefer, "Ping-Pong Dogs." Where else can you find 74 videos of cats and table tennis, and 17 of dogs? Answer: only here! (Send us your own videos!)

Busy on my end

With summer coming up, I'm hitting a really, Really, REALLY busy time. Private and group coaching . . . five different five-day camps (one starting Monday, two others each in July August) . . . U.S. Open in Milwaukee (June 30- July 4) . . . this Blog and other stuff here . . . regular table tennis articles for various outlets . . . a new table tennis book (outlined, first chapter done, but may go on hold for now) . . . my non-table tennis science fiction writing . . . plus a major SF writer (known to any SF fan, but who must remain nameless for now) asked me to proof his latest novel, which I'm working on.

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Re: June 17, 2011

Hi Larry, I'm glad you wrote this entry.  As an older player myself (49, starting at 43) I'm constantly tempted into the mindset of being too old to be able to this or that in table tennis.  Not just by myself but by coaches and other players.  I recently read a forum post about a 40 year old player who is giving up his looping game because "it requires too much strength" (or stamina or speed or something, I don't remember) and I thought exactly what you wrote "that is the first step to completely losing your fitness and your entire game."  Realistically there is nothing in a looping (or chopping or anything else) game that is beyond anyone at almost any age.  It's only a question of how well you can do it.

Larry Hodges's picture

Re: June 17, 2011

Very well said. There's nothing wrong with changing one's game as one gets older, but that doesn't mean giving up on the very physical aspects that an older player most needs. Now if one were to give up looping to become an all-out hitter, and ran about the table hitting - well, that's pretty physcial, and I can see that. But many players, when they become older, just stand at the table and block, and consider it part of their fitness regimen - plus they wonder why the physical part of ther game keeps getting worse and worse. Duh! (Actually, if you move to block rather than reach - as many do - blocking can be pretty physical.) 

Re: June 17, 2011

I'm glad you mentioned that blocking is physical as long as you are moving and not reaching. When I do blocking drills for 2400 level players, I become more tired out than when doing looping drills with my regular training partner. This is largely because the 2400s rarely miss and I have to move fast and concentrate hard to be able to block there stuff back.

As for the blog post, I don't think anyone should give up on themselves. I was told that I could never be an offensive player at my size and that looping was out of the question. Proving people wrong is fun.

Larry Hodges's picture

Re: June 17, 2011

Dave Sakai for years was (and still is) one of the best blockers in the U.S.  After a game, the floor under him would make the Mississippi look like a bit of water vapor.