April 4, 2012

Adventures in Babysitting and Coaching

Yesterday we finished Day Two of the MDTTC Spring Break Camp. Anyone who thinks coaching is just about coaching hasn't done much coaching - at least not with younger kids. I had most of the beginning kids in my group yesterday, average age around 8 or 9. I've learned to referee fights about cups and dominoes (yes, it's a table tennis camp), about setting up doubles teams ("I won't play doubles with a girl" says one, and another says, "My mom says I have to play with her!"), and how best to get them to aim for a target on the table (either use candy they win if they knock it off the table, or use a drink bottle and tell them it's "worm juice" that I have to drink if they hit it).

Oh, and their shots are getting better and better!!!

Beginning kids often hit the ball off the end over and over when learning new strokes. The cure? I tell them, "Put the next ball in the net." With clockwork efficiency, they inevitably hit the next shot perfectly on the table, to their utter surprise.

One kid really, Really, REALLY wanted to learn to serve with sidespin, but no matter how hard he tried, all he got was backspin. After many tears were shed, something clicked, and now he's serving with sidespin.

There are 34 players in the camp, all but two 15 or younger. The strongest players in the camp are Tong Tong Gong (age 14, rated 2334) and Nathan Hsu (15, rated 2317). Also in the camp are 11-year-old Derek Nie (2080) and 10-year-old Crystal Wang (on right, as Barbara Wei smacks in a forehand; Crystal's rated 2079, but was recently an even 2150 before she began focusing more on looping). Coaches are myself (need to work on the kid's grip), Cheng Yinghua, Jack Huang, and Jeffrey Zeng Xun. (The pictures linked here are from the Coconut Cup tournament held this past Saturday - see "MDTTC Open House and Pictures" segment below.)

Fourteen-year-old Karl Montgomery (rated 1963) took me and my clipboard down on Monday, 11-6. Yesterday we went at it again twice, and this time I won 11-5, 11-9. He's tough - he can loop both hard and spinny over and over, moves me in and out with hard and soft loops and drop shots, mixes in backhand loops, and ends the point to my middle.

There are few things funnier than yelling out "Emily!" and watching the three inseparable girls with the same name, all about age nine, look up at the same time. We do this at least once every twenty minutes.

Chinese food (big portions) is delivered for lunch as part of the camp for $6. I had Chicken with Garlic Sauce. It was great! Only - friends don't let friends over age 20 eat an entire dish of Chinese food, as I lectured some of our players as I wiped the gravy off my face after eating it all. If I keep doing this all week I'm going to gain some weight.

MDTTC Open House and Coconut Cup Pictures

It's just three days until the MDTTC Open House! See you there this Saturday for demonstrations, exhibitions, a serving seminar, junior program, games, raffles, refreshments, and open play. Anyone who is anybody will be there; so should you. (MDTTC is in Gaithersburg, Maryland, USA.) Junior players should come for the 10:30AM-Noon junior training session. Adults should be there by noon, when the demonstrations and exhibitions begin. (Don't be late!)

Here are pictures taken at the recently renovated MDTTC this past Saturday during the Coconut Cup tournament by James Mu. I'm pictured in a few of them doing a group junior session on the back tables. Here's one of me and Jeffrey Zeng Xun working with a new kid. Even 2011 U.S. Men's Singles Finalist Han Xiao got in on the action (on right, playing doubles with Steve Hochman), as did the Over 50 Women's Champion Charlene Liu.

Reverse Penhold Backhands

After nearly a decade of playing against it semi-regularly, I still have trouble playing reverse penholders. I've played for 36 years now, and those first 26 pretty much ingrained my play against shakehand and "conventional" penhold backhands. I put conventional in quotes because what was once conventional is now unconventional as the new generation of penholders nearly all play with reverse penhold backhands. But when I play against it, something in my bring freezes up and I end up doing a lot of lobbing and fishing against these players. When I'm playing well I can sort of stick my racket out there and make solid counter-hits - I'm not hopeless against it - but I doubt I'll ever have the comfort level against this style backhand that I do against others. Here's world #3 Wang Hao's reverse penhold backhand in slow motion (2:16).

This segment was brought on by a practice match with a 12-year-old 1200-level junior who had a reverse penhold backhand, and while I won the match easily, I struggled to stay at the table with him in backhand exchanges. On a related note, while I know the basics of the shot, at some point I need to really learn the subtleties - probably by experimenting with it myself, as well as examining the grips and strokes of those who do it well.

World Team Championships Final

Here's a video (9:49) showing the men's final between China and Germany from a spectator's view (featuring the Zhang Jike-Timo Boll match), with a focus on the huge packed stadium (it's like an NBA basketball game) and all the pomp and ceremony of the event. When the Zhang-Boll match begins, the zoom lens puts you right in the action. (And here are some great photos taken during the Final.)

Justin Bieber vs. Ellen DeGeneres

Here's a picture and story about the two playing table tennis from Table Tennis Nation.


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