May 28, 2014

Power Outage and Flooding

There was excitement at MDTTC yesterday, but not for the normal reasons. I was in the middle of a coaching session around 6PM when the thunderstorms hit. We had the doors open to let in air, and so the flashes of lightning lit up the whole club while the thunder practically knocked us down before we got the doors closed. Water pelted the roof like a whale-sized snare drum on steroids in a rock concert. The kids got excited. And then the power went out. The emergency lights went on, but the club was only dimly lit. The power came back on after a minute, then went out again, then came back on. And then, at 6:13PM, it went out and didn't come back on. The kids had a great time playing table tennis in the dark. (I couldn't join in because trying to see in the dim light hurt my eyes.) This was the first time power had gone out for more than a few seconds in the 22 years we've been open.

Meanwhile, we faced another problem. The rain outside was so great it caused some sort of flash flood in our parking lot. The water kept slamming into the walls. There's a storm drain that runs across the parking lot a few feet outside the club, but it wasn't ready for this, and the flooding shot right over it. Most of the wall in front is actually a garage-type door that opens and closes. While it was closed during the storm, apparently there's a small gap underneath, and water began pouring in. This had never happened before, probably due to the storm drain. So water began cascading into the club. The coaches all grabbed various mops and brooms and began to fight it, trying to push the water back out, with some success. (There weren't enough mops and brooms, so I spent some time soaking up water from the floor in a towel and wringing it out over a mop bucket.) It was difficult as we were doing this in the dark. Anyway, we battled the elements for about half an hour. At the end, we'd gotten most of the water out, but the power was still off.

This was a problem as Tuesdays and Fridays are league nights at the club, and we were expecting large numbers of players. We had to cancel everything - somehow they got the word out.

During the height of the storm, with the power out, I decided it would be a good idea to run out to my car and get a flashlight and umbrella. I opened the door, took one look, and decided to go back to soaking up water with a towel. I've seen many a storm, but nothing like this watery violence.

I left the club around 7:30PM. Traffic was a mess. Most of the traffic lights were out. When I got home I was happy to find my power had not gone out, though my front yard was a mess.

Here are some thoughts that come to mind.

  1. Throughout the entire situation, one elderly Chinese player who had been in the middle of a lesson simply took a box of balls and practiced serves the whole time. How he didn't this I don't know, he must have had good eyes as I tried it and could barely see the ball, much less do a serious spin serve.
  2. The kids had a great time playing in the dark. If the power goes out at the U.S. Open, we'll have the most prepared bunch of kids in table tennis. No other club trains its junior players to play in the dark. We welcome players to the dark side.
  3. The only thing scarier than a big, strong player with a powerful forehand loop is a big, strong player with a powerful mop or broom fighting off the elements.
  4. The situation reminded me of the 1993 Junior Nationals, which I ran at the Potomac Community Center in Potomac, Maryland. The tournament ran on Friday night (doubles events), and all day Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday afternoon there was a thunderstorm, and sometime that afternoon all the power went out. It didn't come back on that day, so we had to reschedule everything for Sunday. We still managed to finish around dinner time on Sunday. The only other time I remember this happening was at a 4-star tournament in Augusta, run by Pete May, when the power went out. I believe it came back on after a time, so all was well. I think the power once went out for minute or so once at a U.S. Open or Nationals due to a storm.  

Sheeba: Feb. 1998 - May 27, 2014

I had to put my dog Sheeba to sleep yesterday. (She's a corgi mix.) She was 16 years 3 months old, which (based on her size and breed) put her in her early 90s in human years. I got her at a shelter when she was three, so we were together for 13 years. The first twelve years she loved to jump on things, chew, get scratched on the head, and eat bacon snacks. That's the Sheeba I'll try to remember. Over the last year she changed dramatically. She'd barely eat, going from her normal 25 pounds down to 14.9 at the end. She could no longer walk up or down stairs, so I had to carry her outside several times a day. She went completely deaf - if you clapped your hands behind her head there'd be no reaction, not even a flinching of the ears. She went almost blind, and began to regularly walk into walls. The last month or two she was no longer really house trained, so I was cleaning up lots of messes. Her eyes developed some sort of problem that led to their jumping back and forth continuously. A constant river of gooky stuff began coming out of her eyes that would run down her muzzle, which I had to clean off several times a day. The last week she mostly lost her ability to walk due to arthritis and hip problems, falling to the ground every two or three steps. She completely stopped eating her last three days, refusing even her bacon snacks. She was in pain, so the veterinarian and I agreed it was time.

Last Second Flip

Here's a nice video (18 sec, including slow-mo replay) of China's Ma Long looking like he's going to backhand push, then changing to a flip at the last second. While this might be difficult for most players, there are easier variations, such as last-second changes of direction when pushing long or short. In fact, here's a secret for playing against many players, especially junior players. Juniors are almost programmed to react almost instantly to whatever you do. They also tend to serve a lot of short serves to the middle and backhand. If you receive these as if you are going to push to their backhand, they'll begin to react - so if you change directions and push to the forehand instead (either short or quick and deep), they'll get caught over and over. 

The Mental Game: The Pink Elephant on the Court

Here's a sports psychology article directed at junior tennis players, but it applies to table tennis just as well. When the author wrote, "I've heard it all," I was nodding my head.  

97-Day Countdown to Change in the ITTF's Presidency: A Special Invitation to Tour Butterfly

Here's the article, Day 97 in Sheri Pittman Cioroslan's 100-day Countdown. I linked to the first three articles in yesterday's blog.

History of Table Tennis and an Analysis of Spin

Here's a video (10:56) from three years ago that I don't think I've ever linked to, covering the history of table tennis, including a segment on spin.

Neymar Plays Table Tennis

Here's a short article and video (16 sec) on Brazilian soccer star (that's football for you non-Americans) Neymar playing table tennis. (Neymar goes by the one name.)

Table Tennis with Books

I like books. I like table tennis. This is how the game should be played, as demoed by these kids.

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November 7, 2013

Health Checklist, Sheeba and Me

Today I can say we're both a mess. Here's our checklist.

ME: I just came down with a cold (again!!!), though it's a minor one. (I'm living on Nyquil.) Both of my knees are bothering me, so I'm wearing knee braces when I play. And remember how I hurt my arm a month ago and had to take a week off? Yesterday it was hurting again whenever I played backhands with students. I iced it last night, and today I'm going to have to go easy on it. My weight, which regularly fluctuates between 180 and 190, is at the high end right now, so I'm going to have to diet. However, to any students reading this: I'm ready to take you on!!!

SHEEBA (my dog, who's 3/4 corgi, 1/4 some sort of hound): She'll be 16 in February, which is about 76 in human years. I've had her since she was four, when I got her at the local dog shelter. She has arthritis in her back legs, and so has great difficulty walking up and especially down stairs, and no longer can go for walks. She's completely deaf - I can clap my hands together right behind her head as loudly as I can and she won't even react. She's also nearly blind, and regularly walks into doors and walls. She normally weighs around 23 pounds, but she's been losing weight rapidly this year, and is down to about 17 - she just won't eat much anymore. Here she is a few years ago.

I'm not the only one with health problems. As noted in a blog last week, my 5PM Wednesday student (Daniel) hurt his arm, and is out for month. My 6PM Wednesday student (Matt) had an apparent concussion (hit by a door in school!) and was out for a week, but came back last night. Since my 7PM Wednesday student (TJ) was away and my 8PM student (Doug) only comes in twice a month and was off last night, that meant that last night I only had one student - so I gave him an extra 15 minutes, and then spent some time watching the players I'll be coaching at the upcoming USA Nationals as they trained (Nathan Hsu and Derek Nie).

"About Time" Table Tennis

Yesterday I saw the movie "About Time." While technically a time-traveling SF movie, it wasn't really a SF movie, and more of a relationship movie as a man learns to accept the world as it is rather than constantly trying to change it for the better. Along the way were several table tennis scenes. Early on they show him talking with his dad as they play table tennis. Later the dad, played by Bill Nighy, gives a humorous speech while he plays about the greatness of his and his son's play, as if they were in some championship match. (I hope to see this on youtube someday.) They mention table tennis several other times, including the dad at his son's wedding giving a speech where he jokingly says how bad his son is at ping-pong. (Spoiler Alert!) After the dad has terminal cancer, the son appears to often travel back to the times they played ping-pong to visit with his dad when he was healthy - including one last time when, because of the rules for time travel in the movie, he can't do it again.

U.S. Table Tennis Hall of Fame Program Booklet

Yesterday I started work on this year's U.S. Hall of Fame Banquet Booklet. (What, you thought those things made themselves?) This will be the fifth consecutive year I've done this for them. This year's inductees (as noted previously in my blog) are Todd Sweeris (who I've known and sometimes coached since he was 13) and Terese Terranova, with Yvonne Kronlage getting the Lifetime Achievement Award.

ITTF Monthly Podcast

Here's this month's edition (12:03), covering ITTF events in the month of October.

Waldner-Grubba Point

Here's video (54 sec) of a great point from twenty years ago at the 1993 European Top 12, between greats Jan-Ove Waldner of Sweden and Andrzej Grubba of Poland.

Celebrity Table Tennis

  • Gael Monfils: Here's video (1:31) of tennis star Gael Monfils playing table tennis. He's currently #31 in the world, formerly world #7. He seems to play a driving forehand and a chopping backhand. They are using what appear to be sandpaper or cheap plastic blades.
  • Jamie Foxx: Here's video (1:23) of actor Jamie Foxx playing table tennis with table tennis star and model Soo Yeon Lee.
  • Deron Williams: Here's a picture of NBA star Deron Williams getting coached by 2009 U.S. National Men's Singles Champion Michael Landers.

Table Tennis Stats as Animated Gifs

Here they are!

Lots of Bouncing Ping-Pong Balls

Not sure what's going on here, but that's a bunch of balls bouncing around in what appears to be a bathroom with two woman who are oddly dressed for ping-pong.

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October 4, 2013

Over the last few days I've joined in discussions at the forum. I've been in several threads, but the one I was most interested in was one titled "How should I coach someone in a match." I have a lot of experience there, so I posted some notes there, starting on page 5. (For a time the thread was basically hijacked by someone who put a "Hex" on it, but that person has since been banned, both for those postings and numerous postings in other threads.) Below are three postings I put up. Much of the discussion is on whether you should coach technique in a tournament match - which I consider a very bad idea, as my postings explain.

To learn to win close matches means playing lots of close and/or important matches where you develop the habit of tactically using all of your tools to win. To do so takes certain mental skills that can only be practiced at such times. So it's a highly effective time to develop tactical and mental skills, and not a very effective time to develop or fix technique. Some technique problems can be overcome indirectly in the course of a match - I gave examples in my Tip of the Week ("Mid-Match Technique Adjustments"), which was linked to above - but mental and tactical skills are what need to be emphasized in such matches. Hopefully you have far more time at the practice hall to work on the mechanical skills (i.e. technique) - and it is in important matches where you often find out what techniques you need to work on. 

(Addendum: much of this posting is about not worrying about technique in matches. However, you do want to focus on using the shots that you want to develop. If you are a looper, for example, you should generally try to win mostly by looping, not by pushing.) 

-Larry Hodges

Shortly after the above I posted a note about a pertinent Tip of the Week I'd recently done, "Real Tactics versus Parroting Tactics." Later, it was pointed out that there was one person arguing that you should coach technique in a match, while everyone else pretty much disagreed. Below is my response.

I would essentially never coach technique in a match, so I'm in the second category with most everyone else [about never coaching technique when coaching a tournament match]. However, there's a subcategory of the second version. The large majority of the time when coaching in a tournament I coach the player to win. But there are occasional times where you might coach a player to win a certain way. This is not coaching technique; this is coaching playing style. 

For example, I was coaching a kid named Tong Tong Gong (age 13) at the North American Teams a few years ago against Allen Wang. Tong Tong was about 2150 at the time, with a very good backhand and a quick but erratic forehand loop. Allen was about 2200, a pure two-winged looper from mid-distance, and about a foot taller. I believe Tong Tong was up 2-1 in games but lost the fourth game when he got into too many counterlooping duels with Allen, and Allen was a better counterlooper. I was all set to coach Tong Tong to stay at the table, and block and pick loop winners. Before I could say anything, Tong Tong said, "I can beat him counterlooping." It sort of floored me since he thought he could beat Allen at his own game. But I recovered, and made a snap decision to go with it. So I told him how best to win those counterlooping duels - get Allen off the table on the wide forehand, then counterloop off the bounce to the backhand; get the first attack so Allen has to go for the first difficult counterloop; etc. The whole game plan was on winning with counterlooping rather than just winning, which I thought he could do if he stayed right at the table. Anyway, Tong Tong won the match deuce in the fifth, counterlooping like a maniac. He might have won staying right at the table, but by doing it by counterlooping, he gained great confidence in that shot which would pay off later. One month later he'd pull off five upsets at the Nationals to make the National Cadet Team. (I coached all those matches, and they were ALL played strictly to win.) 

There have been a few other cases where I've coached a player to focus on playing the way he was developing as a player, such as looping when he might have won by pushing and blocking. But when I do so, I usually let the player know his options, and let him choose, and they choose both ways. It's good to develop the habit of trying to win with the shots you are developing. But these cases are infrequent; usually you coach to win, period, and usually that means using the shots the player is training to use. 

-Larry Hodges

After I posted this, someone posted the following:

larry, doesn't coaching about playing style involves technique also? i think i would rather coach about adaptation and it involves technique. as long as it it not too complicated and too long to execute just to win a point, there is nothing wrong with coaching technique. also, would you agree with me if for example in a match a player needs to adjust the angle of his bat to compensate for the incoming spin either against a heavy underspin or very light underspin, if you see your player commit errors against this wouldn't it better if you just told me him to compensate bat angle? IMHO, technique is important to coach as long as the player can adjust to it. also, not every player has a mental fortitude problem. i would rather coach the player as what is needed to be coached. i'm just confused where to draw the line between coaching technique and coaching playing style because both obviously involves technique to some point basing on your statement. 

And here's my response:

Coaching playing style and coaching technique are two different things, at least the way I define them. So is telling a player to adjust his racket, which isn't really technique. 

If the player I'm coaching isn't looping enough, I would likely tell him to loop more, and give tactics to help set it up. But if his looping technique were off, there's not much you can do in the match, with occasional exceptions. The technique is done subconsciously, and it's not likely you can change that in the short course of a match. You can do a lot more by scheduling a practice session afterwards where you can focus on fixing the problem. 

You can remind someone in the middle of a match to, say, adjust their racket angle against incoming spin, but that rarely makes a big difference. When someone loops at you, your subconscious sets the racket angle reflexively. If you try to do it consciously, you're not going to do well. However, the subconscious is constantly making adjustments, and will normally adjust by closing the racket regardless of whether a coach tells the player to do so. (Though of course the coach might take credit afterwards for it, even though the player's subconscious was already working on the problem!) It's usually better to use various workarounds, such as one I posted about earlier. Instead of telling them to close the racket against a spinny loop that they keep blocking off, tell them to block more aggressively. Then the spin will take on it less. Adjusting the racket angle to incoming heavy topspin that you are not used to is tricky to do, but blocking more aggressively is much simpler. The player might still have to close the racket more, but it's a less drastic change, and the subconscious can adjust quicker, and then the player can play free, i.e. let the subconscious take over. 

Here's an easy test I've done many times. When I coach a complete beginner if I give him a heavy backspin serve, he goes right into the net. However, it doesn't take long for him to learn to open his racket to return it. But that's because I'm giving it to him over and over, and so he can consciously open the racket. If I then start varying the serves, and come back to the heavy backspin serve every third serve or so, even if I make it obvious that it's a backspin serve (and make it obvious the others are not), the player can no longer react consciously, and goes right back into the net again, over and over. It takes some training to learn to react properly in a game situation, where you don't know what's coming until the ball's coming at you and you have little time to react consciously. That's why telling a player to adjust his racket angle during a match usually won't work because his conscious mind isn't what's setting the angle in the match. (But as noted, the player's subconscious is already making adjustments, and perhaps might make the adjustment before the match is over.) An exception might be if the opponent is, say, giving the same serve every single time (say a heavy backspin serve), in which case you can tell your player to open his racket - and hope the opponent doesn't start changing his serve. 

-Larry Hodges

The Speed of Fan Zhendong

Here's the video (34 sec) of the Chinese 16-year-old, already #10 in the world. He's doing a random footwork drill with a coach feeding multiball. The key to his speed? Much of it comes from his balance. He's balanced even in his follow-throughs, and that is key to his being almost instantly ready for the next shot. His head remains almost still during his shots, even on the forehand. His feet are wide and parallel to the table, allowing great stability and quick transition from forehand to backhand and back.  

Coach Wanted in Northern California

Established Club in northern California is accepting applications for a full time coaching position. Compensation is 30-60K depending on level and experience. The ideal candidate plays at a level of 2500 or higher, has multiple years coaching experience, and speaks English. Mandarin and Cantonese are a plus. Less coaching experience will be accepted from those who currently play at a very high level. You must be able to document your playing and coaching history. Match video is helpful. For more information send your resume to

Improve Your Serve

Here's the new article and video (1:28) from Killerspin.

Phil Mickelson Hires TT Coach

Here's the story from Table Tennis Nation - who is the mystery coach? Mickelson resides in Rancho Santa Fe, California. Any guesses? Or will the mystery coach please stand up?

The Ultimate Trick Shot

Here's a hilarious video (3:18) that shows the tribulations of two players apparently attempting to create a video for the ITTF Trickshot competition, and failing miserably - until something happens at the very end.

Non-Table Tennis: Sheeba and Bacon

I'm told that if one puts up a picture of a cat eating bacon, you'll triple your hits. Well, I don't have a cat, but I do have Sheeba, a corgi mix I got at a shelter 12 years ago. She'll be 16 in February, but still loves her bacon snacks. Here's a picture of her desperately trying to get that yummy bacon at the bottom of a large bacon snack jar. Yeah, I torture her this way - but she did get it! (Here's a head shot.)

Yesterday I did a scientific experiment.
Hypothesis: Dogs don't need their eyes to find food.
Methodology: I blindfolded Sheeba (she went along willingly), then waved a bacon treat under her nose.
Result: She snapped it up instantly.
Conclusion: Hypothesis proven correct. Also, dogs apparently love bacon, but this will require further testing.


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June 13, 2013

Staying Low Revisited

The Tip of the Week this past Monday was Staying Low. It was inspired by a student of mine, Sameer, 11, who tends to stand up straight when he plays. I've been on him about this for some time, and usually he gets lower - but only in practice drills if I constantly remind him. Once he plays points, he stands up again. At the Eastern Open this past weekend he won Under 800 and made the final of U950, but there were times where he didn't look so good since he was standing up so straight. (In newer ratings from before the tournament, he's rated 1181.)

So I told him that for the next month, our sessions are going to be very "boring," that we're going to focus almost exclusively on staying low. It's not just getting low, it's how you do it. When he does get low, his tendency is to simply bend his knees while leaning backwards from the waist, instead of forward. Also, his feet tend to be too close together, his feet pointing too much forward. You can't fix any one of these; they all go together. He also tends to either let his free arm tightly at his side, either hanging down or jammed up to his chest. Keeping the free hand out for balance is closely related to the ready position as you need it to stay balanced when you move.

So yesterday we started off by spending about ten minutes just shadow practicing with the proper stance. Once he looked comfortable doing this, we hit forehand to forehand at a very slow pace - it almost drove him crazy since he likes to play fast (like most kids), and every now and then in exasperation he'd smack one in. But we did this for twenty minutes, just forehand to forehand, adding some side-to-side footwork near the end. Then we did the same thing, backhand to backhand.

Then we played some points. The key was that he wasn't to play table tennis; he was to play "low table tennis," where he had to play the points in his newer stance. I expected problems, and kept the rallies simple - but lo and behold, he'd developed the habit during those excruciatingly slow rallies! Normally when I spot him 6 points I win over and over. This time he did something unthinkable - he won four out of five! Now I probably did miss a few shots, and was keeping things simple, but it was by far the best he's ever played. As a side bonus, by staying low he was able to see and react to my serve better than before, and returned them better than ever, even the "trick" serves I threw at him near the end of most games.

Table Tennista

Here are this week's headlines at Table Tennista:

China Open

Here's an ITTF story that features USA player Ariel Hsing - unfortunately, it features her upset loss. Here's the ITTF home page for the China Open, with results, articles, photos, and videos.

Behind the Scenes at the 2013 China Open

Here's a 38-second video with a few action shots and short interviews with Chinese players at the China Open. Interesting to watch, even more interesting if you understand Chinese, which I do not. Feel free to translate anyone!  

Three More Books Coming Out By Next Year

By the end of the year I'll have enough Tips of the Week to put them together in one volume, "Table Tennis Tips." (Highly original title - have a better suggestion?) It'll clearly be marked as a compilation of my previously published Tips of the Week. So far I've done 123 Tips of the Week here at, one every Monday since Jan. 11, 2011. (Confession: a few didn't go up until Tuesday.) I anticipate doing 29 more this year, for a total of 152, plenty for a book. Sadly, I'm running out of topics, and so anticipate ending the Tips of the Week at the end of this year. (I also did 169 much shorter Tips of the Week, which were published near the back of Table Tennis Tales & Techniques - took up only 54 of the book's 272 pages. The Tips I do here are considerably longer, more like features than simple tips.)

Next year I'll also be publishing "More Pings and Pongs," the second anthology of my best published science fiction & fantasy stories. "Pings and Pongs: The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of Larry Hodges" came out in 2010 with my 30 best; I've now sold enough new stories for a new volume. The only problem is that typically when you sell a story, the buyer generally has sole rights to the story for six months, and so I anticipate I won't have rights to all the stories I'd like to use until April of 2014.

As a special, I've lowered the price for the Kindle version of Pings and Pongs to $2.99 - buy yours today!!! (I'd lower the price of the print version, but due to printing costs and other issues, the lowest I can sell it for is $8.35 - a bargain!!! It includes "Ping-Pong Ambition," a table tennis fantasy story.)

I have one other book also planned - "Table Tennis Fundamentals," the rewrite of "Table Tennis Steps to Success."

Here's my Amazon page that lists all my books, other than the USATT manual "Instructor's Guide to Table Tennis," which I plan to rewrite and have professionally published sometime in the future.

Non-Table Tennis - Orioles Top Ten List

Orioles Hangout published another of my infamous Top Ten Lists. This one was "Top Ten Ways the Orioles Can Get a TOR Starter." (For you non-baseball people, "TOR Starter" means "Top Of Rotation Starter," i.e. a pitching ace.) It's the eleventh article of mine they've published - nine "Top Ten" lists and two regular articles.

Non-Table Tennis - Sheeba

Yesterday I did 3.5 hours of coaching, and was pretty exhausted afterwards. I got home around 8:15PM, and let Sheeba, my dog, outside. She's 15 years old, which puts her in her eighties in human years. She's almost completely deaf, and half blind - almost completely blind without bright light - and has arthritic back legs so she hobbles around. When I went down around 8:30 PM the gate was open. One of the tenants downstairs had just left, and likely left it open, not realizing she was in the yard. Sheeba was nowhere to be seen.

I spent the next hour and 45 minutes circling the neighborhood and expanding outward, trying to find her. Calling for her was pointless since she's deaf, though I found it was a good way to indicate to people that I was searching for a lost dog. I kept asking around, and twice I found people who had seen her going by. Finally, at around 10:15 PM, I got a call from someone who had found her. I thanked her profusely, and walked the evil, naughty dog back home, where she demanded (and got) a bacon snack.

My legs are exhausted this morning, partly from 3.5 hours of coaching, but mostly from walking around for an hour and 45 minutes.

Table Table Tennis and Office Table Tennis

My legs are so tired from coaching and searching for Sheeba that for now on I'm going to play table tennis like this. Or perhaps like this.

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March 26, 2013

Spring Break Camp - Grip Problems

Once again it's obvious that the biggest problem when working with beginning juniors is the grip. If they get the grip right, the rest of their strokes tend to come together. But no matter how many times you correct it, about half of beginning juniors will immediately go back to whatever weird-fangled grip they were using, leading to weird-fangled strokes that can drive a coach to dark, weird-fangled places as they try to keep smiling as they correct the grip for the zillionth time.

A poor playing stance usually leads to a poor grip, and a poor grip often leads to a poor playing stance. Most kids can fix one problem at a time, but here you have to correct two problems at once. If the kid fixes one problem but not the other, he'll almost immediately unfix the first problem and go back to the bad grip or stance, since you have to fix both together. It's a difficult cycle to break out of.

I spent much of yesterday working with five beginners, ages roughly 7-9. Three are picking things up pretty fast. Two are not. These two are still falling back into these bad habits. One insists on using sort of a "claw" grip, where he faces the table perfectly square on his forehand shots, grabbing the racket with his index finger up the middle, and his other fingers wrapped tightly around the edges in a way that tightens his forearm. Until I can get him to turn at least slightly sideways, it's going to be difficult for him to develop a real forehand. The other has limp-wristitis, where he flops his wrist all over the place on all his shots. He doesn't seem to want to fix the problem, but I'll keep trying.

Two other items came up several times when working with these beginners. All have timing problems, but when I tell them to start their forward swing when the ball hits their side of the table, they improve dramatically. It's a great timing mechanism. It's also helpful when feeding multiball to sometimes change the rhythm, so they have to time their stroke with the ball coming toward them, rather than just doing it automatically in rhythm to the rate I'm feeding the balls.

Another helpful hint was to keep reminding them to aim the racket where they want the ball to go. It's one of the more amazing things that younger kids often really don't associate these two together - you have to really harp on this before it really dawns on them that yes, the ball's going to go where the racket aims. (We're not dealing with spin yet - these are beginners.)

I'm writing this at 4AM. My dog, Sheeba, 15, a corgi mix, has taken to waking me up around 4AM each morning to go out. If I don't let her out, she makes a mess.

Finding a Service Spot

Here's the article from Table Tennis Master.

Table Tennista

Some more interesting articles from them on Chinese players.

ITTF World Team Classic Promo

Here's a video (5:05) promoting the Classic, which starts on March 28 (Thur) in Guangzhou, China. Lots of highlight plays and scenic views, done to music.

Kids Making Their Own Rackets

Here's the picture, where an industrial arts teacher has students make their own paddles. If you click on the picture, you get another rather interesting "leaning" picture.

Real Madrid Soccer Stars

Here they are, posing with their rackets

Table Tennis Is Our Drug

Here's a funny "table tennis" video (1:55). I put table tennis in quotes because you don't actually get to table tennis until the last 30 seconds - the rest is build up. But it's a pretty good build up!

Harlem Shake Gangnam Style

Here's a video (30 sec) starring the Alguetti brothers (junior stars from New Jersey) and others in the hilarious table tennis version of this dance.

Send us your own coaching news!

January 28, 2013

Tip of the Week

Holding Back on Serves.

Why You Should Play in Events Where You Are a Top Seed

It all depends on whether your goal is to be a Champion or a Spoiler. Champions have a burning desire to win, and enter tournaments with the intent of winning events. Spoilers have a burning desire to pull off a major upset now and then and so gain temporary rating points, and so they avoid the events where they would be seeded.

If your goal is to be a Champion, then you must think like one, and learn to execute like one. Consider:

  • You’ll never learn to play under pressure unless you put yourself in that position regularly, by trying to win the events you can win. There’s little pressure in playing higher-rated players.
  • You’ll never learn to defeat lower-rated players regularly unless you play them regularly, and learn to mow them down. Every time you lose to a lower-rated player is a lesson on something you need to work on; every time you avoid playing a lower-rated player to avoid losing is a lesson lost.
  • When you learn to mow down lower-rated players, you can apply these same techniques to higher-rated players.

So you have to ask yourself: are you playing to be a Champion, or to be a Spoiler looking to pick up a few temporary rating points?

Here's a longer article I wrote on the topic, "Juniors and Ratings."

Sheeba problems

Recently I've been feeling rather tired, and it's affected my work. But there's a simple reason for it. My dog, Sheeba, a corgi mix, will be 15 next month. She often cannot go the entire night without being let out. So recently, about every other night, she's been waking me up at 3-4AM so I can let her out to do her business. I sure hope this is a temporary thing!

U.S. Open in Las Vegas

It's official, according to the USATT Tournament Schedule: the U.S. Open will be held in Las Vegas, July 2-6, 2013.

Physical Training for Table Tennis

Here's a new article from Table Tennis Master that focuses on Building Cardio and Stamina; Building Explosive Leg Power; and Core Strength

Lily Zhang on Mental Toughness

Here's a video (3:18) of 2013 USA Women's Singles Champion Lily Zhang on Mental Toughness.

Timothy Wang on His Matches at the Nationals

Here's a video (7:09) where 2013 USA Men's Singles Champion Timothy Wang talks about his matches at the Nationals.

Houshang on Table Tennis

Here's a video (1:27) where USA Table Tennis Hall of Famer Houshang Bozorgzadeh talks about table tennis during the recent Iowa Games.

World Championships of Ping Pong (Sandpaper)

Here are videos of the Final between Maxim Shmyrev and Sule Olaleye. Here's Part 1 (29:41, includes introduction) and Part 2 (21:47, includes awards ceremony). This took place at the World Championships of Ping Pong, which was for sandpaper only, in London, Jan. 5-6, 2013. Winner received $20,000, runner-up $10,000, out of a total prize fund of $100,000.

Polkaroo Plays Table Tennis

Here's a picture Polkaroo (one of the stars of the long-running children's show Polka Dot Door) playing table tennis, along with an article, as part of a promotion for the film Ping Pong. Yes, the white spot is the ping-pong ball! (See also the animated picture of Polkaroo playing at the bottom.)

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February 27, 2012

Tip of the Week

Opening Up the Forehand Zone.

Opening Up the Forehand Zone, Part II

The following happened on Saturday night - and I swear it happened after I wrote this week's Tip of the Week. (And now you know what I do on Saturday nights.)

I had a new student, around age 40, with some serious technique problems. His level was somewhere under 1000 in USATT ratings. He'd had a few lessons before at another club, but things hadn't gone well there. As soon as we started hitting forehand to forehand, you could see he had a serious problem with his grip, which seemed to lead to an awkward forehand. His finger pointed upward on the blade, his wrist fell backward, and he more or less punched at the ball in front of him instead of from the side. The obvious and easiest solution was to fix his grip, and then work on the stroke. And that's exactly what others had tried to get him to do. It hadn't worked.

At the USATT coaching seminar I taught last year I regularly harped on the idea of fixing the root cause of problems, not the symptoms. And that's what others had tried to do - the grip wasn't the cause of his problems, it was a symptom of the root cause, which was that he was playing his forehand with a backhand stance, feet parallel to the table, with little waist or shoulder rotation. He was only using about the front one-fourth of his forehand hitting zone, while facing forward. This forced him to adjust his grip to compensate. It took only a few minutes to fix the problem in practice: move the right (back) foot back some, rotate the waist and shoulders, and contact the ball toward the middle of the hitting zone. The key was to start out by hitting forehand to forehand very slowly, focusing on proper technique and timing, until the stroke became ingrained enough to speed up some.

The player still has a lot of practice to do in order to ingrain this new and better forehand technique. If he puts in the time, his stroke will be fine.

Happy Birthday to Sheeba and Me

Today's my 52nd birthday, so people can no longer say I'm not playing with a full deck. (It's also Chelsea Clinton's 32nd birthday. We always go out together and celebrate with root beers.) It's also Sheeba's 78th birthday. Okay, Sheeba is my dog, about 3/4 corgi, 1/4 some sort of hound, and she's actually only 14, though we only know that she was born in February of 1998 (that's from the form about her when I adopted her from a shelter in 2002 when she was four) , but we celebrate it on my birthday. According to the Dog Age Calculator, as a 30 pound dog, she's 78. Here's her picture (from a few years ago, but she looks almost the same), and here she is straining to eat bacon snacks.

Arm problems

With age comes physical problems. Or perhaps they aren't related. My arm has been bothering me for several days, and sometime during yesterday's mornings three hours of coaching it got much worse. That afternoon I was playing matches in a group session (where I'm a practice partner), and had to stop. The injury appears to be a muscle strain, on the forearm, just below the inner elbow, on the right. Here's a picture, with a black dot marking the injury. Any doctors, trainers, or others with suggestions on rehabbing it, other than rest and icing it?

USATT Paralympic Program Manager

USATT has hired Jasna Reed as the Para Program Manager for 2012, a new USATT position. Jasna, two-time U.S. Women's Singles Champion, Olympic Bronze Medalist in Women's Doubles, and head table tennis coach at Texas Wesleyan University, has extensive experience in Paralympic table tennis. Here's an interview I did with Jasna back in 2001, with picture.

2012 USA Table Tennis Budget

Here it is: Income Statement Summary | Income Statement Detail | Programmatic Summary

Table Tennis in New York Times

Here's an article in the New York Times on Saturday on Ariel Hsing's Olympic dreams.

Interview with Jorg Rosskopf

German great Jorg Rosskopf was interviewed just yesterday as he prepares for the 2012 Worlds.

2012 Kuwait Open Final

Jun Mizutani (JPN) defeats Ryu Seung Min (KOR) in the Kuwait Open Final on Feb. 18, 2012. Time between points is taken out, so it's non-stop action with the whole match shown in 6:37. Here are results and articles on the tournament.

Hilarious exhibition

Here's an exhibition between Jean-Michel Saive (on left at start) and Andrzej Grubba at the 1996 Gilbert Cup in Beverly Hills (7:36).


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