August 2, 2011

Celebrities Playing Table Tennis

Yes, it's that time of month again - the Celebrities Playing Table Tennis site gets updated around the first of each month. There are now 1234 pictures of 720 different celebrities playing table tennis - and any short listing of the Who's Who of Celebrities Playing Table Tennis just wouldn't do it justice! There are sections on Politicians/Leaders; Actors and Actresses; Athletes; Musicians; Talk Show Hosts; Writers; Cartoon Characters; and many more!

New celebrities playing table tennis pictures this month include actors Tom Hanks, Haley Joel Osment, Justin Timberlake, Sam Rockwell, Claudette Colbert, Esther Williams, Broderick Crawford; Prince Akihito of Japan (now Emperor); Ed Lee, Mayor of San Francisco; John Prescott, former Deputy Prime Minister of England; Ed Nixon, brother of Richard M. Nixon; golfer Tiger Woods; tennis players Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs; Chinese Olympic Gold Medalist Hurdler Liu Xiang; pool star Mika Immoren; talk show host Regis Philbin; singers Lil Jon and Anne-Marie Godart; English socialite Lady Norah Docker; and cartoon character Donald Duck.

Short sidespin serve to the forehand

Can you serve a short sidespin serve to the forehand that breaks away from a right-hander? A LOT of players have great difficulty with this serve, and many can't return it except crosscourt, i.e. into a right-handed server's forehand. If you play one of these players and can't do this, you are handicapping yourself. Shouldn't you be ready to throw this serve at these people? Three common ways of doing this serve: the forehand tomahawk serve (i.e. racket tip up); reverse forehand pendulum serve; and the regular backhand serve. (This may be expanded into a Tip of the Week.)

New USATT logo

In case you haven't noticed, USATT recently got a new logo. They went from this to this. (The new one is now up on the USATT home page.) One USATT board member told me at the U.S. Open last month that this symbolizes the "new" USATT, and that things were now different.

To quote the oft-used phrase from the fantasy novel "A Dance with Dragons," words are just wind. (Not always, of course, but words that aren't backed up by action are.) To expand on this, logos are just pixels. Things will be different when USATT addresses the real problems of expanding the sport in this country - and that means accepting that our 8000 or so members is (as noted at the infamous Strategic Meeting in 2009) a round-off error, and that we need to find ways to expand on this - like countries like Germany and England have done through leagues (700,000 and 500,000 members respectively), or how they and other countries like Sweden and France developed top players and large junior membership through club-based junior programs. (I'm using the European examples because their situation is more similar to the U.S.'s, as opposed to, say, China, where table tennis became popular because it was decreed to be the national sport by Chairman Mao.)

New Players, Tennis versus Table Tennis

When a new player walks into a typical tennis club in the U.S., he can sign up for a league with players at his level, for private or group coaching, and kids can sign up for junior training programs. When a new player walks into a typical table tennis club in the U.S., they tell him to call winners on a table, where he gets killed by experienced players, and since there are few leagues where he can compete against players his level, little group or private coaching, and few junior programs for kids, they rarely return. The solution, of course, is a new USATT logo. :) At some point, I'll expand more on this novel concept of table tennis clubs actually addressing the needs of new players as a way of getting new players.

Tennis has been my "side sport" for many years, and I spent years going to a training program twice a week where 3-5 of us would work with a coach, who ran us to death. I also competed in USTA tennis leagues (I'm up to about 4.0 level now), and discussed the tennis situation with tennis coaches extensively. We could learn a lot from tennis if we were only willing to listen.

Ping-Pong for Poverty

If you are anywhere in the vicinity of Virginia Beach Sept. 30 - Oct. 1, why not play in the Ping-Pong for Poverty charity tournament?

The Traveling Ping-Pong Parlor

Yes, a truck that brings table tennis to the masses! Who'd have thunk it. (1:52)


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I play at the Charlotte Table Tennis Club in Charlotte, NC, (I think Larry's been there many times). Three days a week we still have the stupid "winner stays" rule at the tables and they are almost always "booked" solid (we have 12 tables on the main floor and two practice tables in side rooms). For beginning players it is very intimidating and if they can get in two or three matches in a night they are lucky (and usually dispatched quickly 3-0).

Fortunately, we do have a sanctioned USATT league every Thursday night so that turns into 5 or 6 round-robins which roughly match people of equal strength. So beginners playing in the lowest division can at least get in 6-8 matches, win or lose.

Our Saturday league is off for the summer right now, but we also have a doubles/singles league on Saturday afternoons the rest of the year where we seed the highest ranked participants as partners with the lowest ranked to form doubles teams. Then we play "high" group and "low" group singles round-robins. "Match" points are tracked (2 for win, 1 for loss) and the cumulative totals are used to award participation prizes at the end of the year. Some 1900-2000 level players enjoy playing with a 7-year-old 650-level partner and just considers it for the fun it's intended to be (no rating points are at stake in the doubles). Others don't want to be bothered and just go to a corner and play with their usual partners. The latter players are the ones who do not contribute to the success of a club.

If the better players don't reach down to the beginners, a club cannot grow. Fortunately, we have enough intermediate and higher players who are not selfish and our club has been growing rapidly the last few years. (Not all of the higher level players like this as they see it as cutting down on the available tables--so I don't see the "winner stays" rule being changed anytime soon for non-league playing days).

To join a club as a beginner and then be able to stick with it takes some fortitude and perserverance (not to mention a lot of ego-deflation).