I spent much of yesterday, and already a chunk of this morning, responding to highly frustrating emails. There's an email discussion going on among USATT board members and some committee members about coaching that I won't elaborate on. I'd love to quote the emails, but that would be inappropriate. It's more about the type of thinking behind the emails than the specifics of the current argument that I find so mind-numbing and representative of the same type of thinking that has stagnated table tennis in this country for so long. Let's just say that times like this I am deeply pessimistic about whether USATT can ever take the lead in developing table tennis in this country. Almost for sure it's going to have to come from outside individuals and clubs by setting up leagues and coaching programs independently from the national governing body for table tennis in the USA.
Strategic Versus Tactical Thinking
Here's an excerpt from the book I'm working on, "Table Tennis Tactics: A Thinker's Guide."
"What's the difference between Strategic and Tactical thinking? Strategic thinking is how you develop your game. Tactical thinking is how you use what you have to win. For example, if you have a good loop, a strategic thinker would think about what types of serves will set up your loop, and develop those serves in practice sessions. A tactical thinker would think about what serves will set up your loop in a match against a given opponent. Strategic thinking takes place during the developmental stage of your game--which never ends as long as you are still practicing. Tactical thinking takes place while preparing for and playing a specific match.
"Suppose you have a weak forehand attack against backspin. When an opponent pushes heavy to your forehand, you have to tactically choose whether to use your weak forehand attack (perhaps using good ball placement to make up for the weakness of the attack), or whether to just push it back. Tactically, these are probably your only options. Strategically, you should note this weakness in your game, and go practice it so next time you aren't so limited tactically."
In an email on coaching mixed in with the aggravating ones I mentioned above, I wrote the following, which I think is pertinent to the above.
"One important distinction is the difference between tactical and strategic coaching. Tactical coaching is what you do at the table in a match. Strategic coaching is how you coach the player to develop their games. In this country, we need coaches like Bengtsson and Constantini (and others - I'm not going to make a comprehensive list) who can take the lead in strategic development of our players. For example, when our players go overseas, they get clobbered on receive. So we need someone at the top to work with the coaches so that they will better train the aspects of the game where our players are lacking. As Sean [O'Neill] wrote, our players tend to train to be USA champions or team members, and so aren't prepared when they play outside the U.S., where players are trained with higher aspirations. In other words, in the U.S. we train to be 2600, while overseas players train to be 2900."
From Stiff and Slow to Loose and Juiced
I played some practice matches yesterday with a hardbat against Ty Hoff, who was in town for a few days. At first, I felt stiff and slow. Then, as I got tired, my muscles began to loosen up. Suddenly, I was tired, and yet loose and juiced! (When I say "juiced," I mean I was moving fast, but that doesn't rhyme with "loose.") It was a grueling match where I was racing around the court attacking with my forehand, and I began to tire. The more tired I got, the faster I got! By the end, I was exhausted but moving like a cheetah. I wonder if this was unique to me, who's pretty stiff, or if others have had this experience? (We won't talk about Ty's three net winners at the very end as Ty pulled it out, 21-18 in the fifth.)
Designing Your Table Tennis Game Plan
Here's a nice article by Samson Dubina on planning game strategy. He asks the following questions about your opponent, and elaborates on each.
- How are their serves better than mine?
- How are their serve returns better than mine?
- How are their attacks better than mine?
- How is their defense better than mine?
- How is their footwork better than mine?
- How are their game patterns?
- How are they able to adjust to the playing conditions?
Zhang Jike versus Timo Boll
Here's a nice video of World Champion Zhang Jike of China versus world #2 Timo Boll of Germany, the best European. The time between points has been removed, so you get it all in 6:13. (It's from two years ago at the Danish Open.)
The Mouse That Toured
Yesterday, after finishing a table tennis session, I pulled open my playing bag to put my racket back inside. A mouse jumped out! Apparently the mouse had climbed in while I was at the table, perhaps after taking a tour of the club. Should we set out cheese to feed the mouse, or mousetraps?
Here's a 34-second video of what happens when 100 ping-pong balls meets 100 mousetraps.
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