December 1, 2011

Reasons to attack the middle

I did some video coaching for someone recently. One of my primary comments was that over and over his first loop went to the corners, where the opponent was ready. Instead, I recommended his first attack primarily should go to the middle (i.e. roughly at the elbow, the transition point between forehand and backhand). Why? It's much harder to block or counter-attack from there, as 1) the player has to decide whether to play forehand or backhand; 2) he then has to move into position, which is usually harder than moving to cover the corners; and 3) it draws the player out of position, allowing you to attack to the open corner, or (if the player rushes to cover it), to the other corner, or right back at the middle again.

Far too often players attack the corners with the idea they are looking for a ball to attack to the middle, with the common result of a strong return that they can't attack effectively. This is backwards - instead, attack the middle first, and then look for a chance to attack the next ball to the corners or the middle again.

Personally, I love opponents who mostly attack first to the corners, making my life easier. I'll buy my peers a drink if they promise to do so at key points. I hate with a vengeance those who attack my middle, who simply do not understand the "Do not go here!" sign implied by my constantly missing against those shots.

The main time you wouldn't attack the middle is when the opponent is looking to cover as much table as possible with his forehand, in which case the corners are probably more vulnerable, or else the middle moves toward the backhand side. But even here, while a soft or medium loop to the middle will probably get attacked with the forehand, a strong loop to the middle is very hard to handle with the forehand because the player is often jammed, and can only use the front half of their forehand hitting zone, while on a strong attack to the wide forehand, they can use the whole zone.

Table Tennis Tactics: A Thinker's Guide

Alas, I discovered yesterday that I'd stopped midway through the chapter on Loopers, so I've got a bunch of work to do on that. (It'll be a long chapter, already almost 4000 words.) The book is now at 69,000 words, and the first draft - hopefully done within days - will probably be about 75,000 words, though the final version will likely be well over 80,000. Here are the opening paragraphs to the chapter on Serving Tactics (currently 8400 words, the longest chapter):

"What is your goal when you serve? That is the primary question you must ask yourself when considering service tactics.

"Serves are one of the most under-practiced aspects of the game, and yet they are often the quickest way to improve and to develop the tactical weapons needed to win. Not only do serves start off half the rally, but a good serve sets you up to attack, and if you do this enough, you improve your attack as well.

"Remember in the chapter on Strategic Thinking I talked about how you needed to develop an overpowering strength? (If your overpowering strength happens to be serve and receive, then focus on the strongest shot in your game that your serve and receive sets up.) The primary purpose of your service game should be to get that overpowering strength into play. But what is that strength?

"For some players, the answer is both easy and hard. It's easy because they know what they want to do: serve and loop, the most common goal at the higher levels. It's difficult because you can't effectively use the same serve over and over and over or your opponent will adjust. So even these players have to develop a repertoire of serves that set them up to do what they want to do."

Time Lapse Photography of the North American Teams Set-up

This is great - you actually get to see the entire set up in 29 seconds! It was created by Tom Nguyen of NATT. (As a side note, for several years I worked part-time for them at tournaments, and helped with these set-ups - and believe me, it's a LOT of work!)

Best points from the 2011 JOOLA North American Teams

Enjoy! (10:50)

Want to serve on the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency Board of Directors?

 Here's the opening (roughly the first half) to the job description:

"The United States Olympic Committee (USOC) Athlete Advisory Council is pleased to announce its nationwide application process by which qualified athlete candidates may be nominated to serve as an Athlete Member on the US Anti Doping Agency’s Board of Directors.  A total of up to three candidates will be proposed to USADA’s Nominating Committee for their approval and acceptance for one of the two Athlete Member seats on USADA’s Board.  The Athlete Director shall serve a four year term starting Fall of 2012 and may be reelected for an additional four years. 

"Candidates should share the core values USADA: Integrity, respect, teamwork, responsibility, and courage.  The role of Athlete Member on USADA’s Board shall entail advocating and protecting athletes’ rights while remaining objective in achieving USADA’s goals.

"Candidates must have represented the United States in the Olympic, Pan American, Para Pan American, Paralympic Games, World Championships, or an event designated as an Operation Gold event within the ten (10) years preceding election.  However, it is preferred that candidates have competed more recently than the 10 year rule.  No candidate should have any prior doping violations and candidates may be required to complete and adequately pass a background and criminal check.

"The Anti Doping Division hopes to select from diverse pool of candidates from various backgrounds.  Although a minimum of Bachelor’s Degree is a must, no specific degree is required.  Knowledge of medicine, law, and chemistry may facilitate understanding of USADA policies and protocol.  Athletes may come from any sport under the Olympic, Paralympic, Pan American or Para Pan American umbrella."

This cat doesn't like ping-pong

Six seconds of feline fury.


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