Serving

September 8, 2014

Tip of the Week

Easy Power.

The Ball at the USA Nationals

USATT has made the smart decision to use only one type of ball at the USA Nationals. Here is USATT Board Chair Mike Babuin's blog entry on this. They will be using the Nittaku Premium 40+ ball, a non-celluloid one. This is a departure from their original plans, announced on Aug. 14, that they would be using two types of balls at the Nationals - celluloid for rating and senior events, non-celluloid for men's and women's singles & doubles, and in junior events. That would have meant players having to switch back and forth in the tournament, as well as serious problems at clubs as players have to decide which ball to use for practice and training.

This obviously doesn't solve all the problems. Many don't want to change to non-celluloid, but like it or not, the ITTF has pretty much mandated it. (Not by forcing it on everyone, but by mandating it in their tournaments, meaning others have to follow or their top players will have to switch back and forth.) I think they jumped the gun because the new non-celluloid balls still aren't really standardized - depending on which manufacturer makes them, they play differently, unlike celluloid where the balls are much more similar. Also, there are no training balls available, so training centers are stuck trying to decide what to do, since most training involves using large quantities of balls (especially for multiball).

There's also the problem that the ball to be used at the Nationals isn't actually available yet - it'll be out in mid-October, about two months before the Nationals. It'll be on sale at Paddle Palace. (Note that Paddle Palace is already selling a Nittaku Sha 40+ ball, which is non-celluloid, but I'm told that ball plays very differently and is of lower quality than the Premium. Don't get the two mixed up.) Here's an info page from Paddle Palace on the new balls.

There's a good argument to use celluloid balls one more time, and I was actually leaning toward that. However, I think it's more important to use one ball or the other at the Nationals than which one they actually use. If they had stuck with celluloid, the top players would have been frustrated since they are already competing internationally with non-celluloid balls. While we may have jumped the gun and made the switch a few months too soon, the switch was inevitable (given the ITTF's actions), and so we might as well do it now.

I received an advance Nittaku Premium 40+ ball - just one, which came in a one-ball box. I reviewed it in my June 16 blog. It plays similarly to a celluloid ball, but is slightly larger and heavier, and harder to spin - but once spun, the extra weight keeps the spin on the ball more than a celluloid.

Dana Huang Wedding

On Saturday night I joined over 100 others for the wedding reception of Dana Huang and Charles Song, at the Silver Fountain Restaurant in Silver Spring. Dana is not only the daughter of MDTTC coach and former Chinese Team Member Jack Huang (Huang Tong Sheng), but she was also a pretty good player herself. (And yet, during her playing years she mostly acted as a practice partner for others in her father's coaching sessions and camps.) From my archives - where I compile all the MDTTC medalists from the Junior Olympic and Junior Nationals - here is her record - and note the two bolded ones:

  • 1998 Junior Nationals Under 14 Girls' Singles Silver Medallist
  • 1998 Junior Olympics Under 14 Girls' Singles Silver Medallist
  • 1998 Junior Nationals Under 14 Girls' Doubles Gold Medallist
  • 1998 Junior Nationals Under 14 Girls' Team Gold Medallist
  • 1999 Junior Olympics Under 16 Girls' Singles Gold Medallist
  • 1999 Junior Nationals Under 18 Girls' Singles Bronze Medallist
  • 1999 Junior Nationals Under 16 Girls' Singles Bronze Medallist
  • 1999 Junior Nationals Under 14 Girls' Singles Bronze Medallist
  • 1999 Junior Nationals Under 18 Girls' Doubles Silver Medallist
  • 1999 Junior Nationals Under 18 Girls' Teams Gold Medallist
  • 2001 Junior Olympics Under 18 Girls' Singles Gold Medallist
  • 2001 Junior Nationals Under 18 Girls' Singles Bronze Medallist
  • 2001 Junior Nationals Under 22 Women's Singles Bronze Medallist
  • 2001 Junior Nationals Under 18 Girls' Doubles Gold Medallist
  • 2001 Junior Nationals Under 18 Girls' Teams Gold Medallist
  • 2002 Junior Nationals Under 22 Women's Singles Bronze Medallist
  • 2002 Junior Nationals Under 22 Women's Doubles Gold Medallist

Here's a picture taken at the wedding reception of Coach Jack with three national junior girls' singles champions he's coached. L-R: Katherine Wu, Coach Jack, Barbara Wei, and current junior phenom Crystal Wang.

1983 USA Pan Am Trials

I've added an action picture to the home page here. That's me at the 1983 U.S. Pan Am Trials in Colorado Springs, where I made the final 16, finishing 15th. (Photo is by Donna Sakai. The lefty in the background is Brian Masters playing Brandon Olson. Brian, who was one of my regular practice partners from when I first started in 1976 until 1979, would not only make the team but would go on to win the Gold Medal for Men's Singles at the Pan Am Games.)

The Countdown Comes to an End

Here's the ITTF's wrap-up article about the 100+ articles during the last 100 days of the Sharara ITTF presidency. Here are all the articles, including the interview with me (the last one, other than the wrap-up).

Backhand Receive from Forehand Side

Here's a video (9 sec) where a Chinese coach or player demonstrates a drill where he receives a ball short to his forehand with his backhand, and follows with a regular forehand. (I've also seen this drill where the forehand is done from the middle or even the backhand side.) Ten years ago this type of receive would have been frowned upon by most coaches, but now it's a basic technique at higher levels, since it's easier to create topspin with the backhand against a short ball with a banana flip.

Serving - More Handy Hints

Here's the article from PingSkills.

Backhand Topspin to Topspin

Here's the video (1:55) from PingSkills.

Wang Liqin and Jorgen Persson at the 2014 Youth Olympic Games

Here's a nice article with lots of photos on the two former world men's singles champions attending the Games.

Incredible Rally

Here's the video (40 sec) of this rally. Note the player on the far side switches hands to return the ball 22 seconds in!

Tunisian Table Tennis

Here's video (33 sec) of a woman doing very fast multiball footwork with a Chinese coach, in full Arab dress.

Ice Bucket Challenge

Meet the King Kong of Ping Pong

Here's the article and pictures of this $14,500 table, a "700-pound, Bluetooth-compatible, ten-speaker table feels designed for high-stakes tournaments."

***
Send us your own coaching news!

August 11, 2014

Tip of the Week

Ten Steps to a Great Service Game.

Virginia Camp

On Friday we had the final day of the camp in Fairfax, Virginia. In the morning we split the players into two groups. One group did various physical training and agility exercises with Wen Hsu (as they had been doing all week). The other group did multiball with me and hit with the robot. We did a lot of smashing and pushing, and a few worked on looping. We also did "player's choice," where the players got to choose what to work on. 

Then we had a practice tournament. There were 14 players, so we divided them into two groups of seven, with the top two from each side playing crossovers. All matches were best of three to 11. For prizes we had a series of "large" prizes - a playing bag and copies of all of my books (signed). We also had table tennis key chains. The first place winner got his choice of two large prizes plus a key chain. Second was one large prize and a key chain. Third through six got their choice of one large prize or key chain. (All took books.) I donated the books - in all, the books chosen were three copies of "Table Tennis: Steps to Success," and one copy each of "Table Tennis Tips," "Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers," and my humorous fantasy novel (which stars a table tennis wannabe), "Sorcerers in Space." I also gave a signed copy of Table Tennis Tales and Techniques to all 14 players. (I have a lot of extra copies.) Camp tournament results: 1. Harrison Tun; 2. Brandon Choi; 3-4: Leo Diperna and Ian Ramanata; 5. Vincent Diperna; 6. Chris Kutscher.

Here's a camp picture, with two players missing - they had to leave early, alas, and we forgot to get a picture when they were there. (Coach John Hsu is in background, that's me on the right.) Immediately after the picture they took turns smacking balls at the cup fort, with me feeding multiball. Many cups dies in the onslaught, but Froggy survived.

Koki Niwa and His Techniques and Tactics

Here's an article on Japan's Koki Niwa, world #15, where he talks about his techniques and tactics. Includes instructional pictures and a link to a Koki Niwa tribute video (3:36). (Note that the "chiquita" her refers to is the banana flip - Chiquita is a major producer and distributors of bananas and other produce, so I'm guessing that's where it comes from.)

Seven Things You Need to Know to Master the New Plastic Ball

Here's the posting and some discussion at the OOAK TT Forum.

Sports Psychology - Recognize Your Feelings

Here's the video (5:27) from PingSkills.

Top 10 Servers in Table Tennis

Here's the video (12:40).

Marty Reisman: The Greatest Sportsman You've Never Heard Of

Here's the article from Esquire Magazine. 

USA's Shivansh Kuma Finds Success at Guatemala Junior and Cadet Open

He made the final of Cadet Boys Singles, and teamed with India's Mudit Dani to win Cadet Boys teams. The two also made the semifinals of Cadet Boys Teams and the quarterfinals of Junior Boys Doubles. Here's the home page for the Aug. 6-9 event, with results, articles, pictures, and video. Here's the ITTF article on the Cadet Boys Teams.  

Hong Kong Junior and Cadet Open

Here's the home page for the Aug. 6-10 event, with results, articles, pictures, and video. Fifteen USA juniors took part in the event - here's a participants listing. Here's a listing USA major results.

  • Krish Avvari: semifinals of Cadet Boys (here's a picture of him on the podium, second from right)
  • Kanak Jha: quarterfinals of Cadet Boys
  • Krish Avvari and Kanak Jha: Semifinals of Cadet Boys Doubles and Teams
  • Adar Alguetti and Victor Liu: Quarterfinals of Cadet Boys Doubles
  • Lily Zhang and Prachi Jha: Semifinals of Junior Girls Doubles, Quarterfinals of Junior Girls Teams
  • Joy Li and Puerto Rico's Adriana Diaz: Quarterfinals of Cadet Girls Doubles

Bockoven Brothers Netting Success in Table Tennis

Here's the article from the Boston Globe. I remember going to a Seemiller camp in 1977 when I was 17 and father Ralph was one of the big stars of the camp! Connor and Chase are the heirs of that tradition.

Top Ten Places to Play Table Tennis

Here's the article by Matt Hetherington.

Final of the China Super League - Zhang Jike vs. Dimitrij Ovtcharov

Here's the video (39 min). To save time and add drama they only play to seven in the fifth game in this league. (Spoiler alert!) Dimitrij leads 4-0 in that decisive fifth game - but Zhang scores seven in a row.

100-Day Countdown to Change in the ITTF's Presidency

Former USATT President Sheri Pittman Cioroslan is doing an article every day during the last 100 days of Adham Sharara's ITTF presidency, counting downwards from 100. Previous ones are linked from the USATT News page, as well as in my past blogs. Seventy-nine down, 21 to go!

  • Day 22: The Gift of Braking and Changing Focus
  • Day 23: ITTF’s Museum Curator Chuck Hoey Preserves Our Heritage
  • Day 24: Shahrokh Shahnazi Promotes ITTF’s P5 Plan, Even to the IOC

Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge Play Table Tennis

Here they are playing at a homeless shelter.

Ruini Li the Cover for the Milpitas Post

Here's the picture. (If you have trouble seeing the Facebook version, try this one.)

Funny Dog Watching Table Tennis

Here's the video (48 sec) - it's hilarious! (I might have posted this a couple years ago, but it's worth repeat viewing.)

***
Send us your own coaching news!

February 5, 2014

Today's Blog…

…will be shorter than usual. Because of our after-school program, and because I'm rather busy on weekends, I've worked every day this entire year (other than Jan. 1 and two days when I had the flu). Due to icy conditions, local schools are closed today, so no afterschool program. I normally have three hours of coaching on Wednesday nights, but two are off today, so only one hour today. (Plus a dental appointment at 11AM.) So I'm basically taking the day off, though I'll likely use it to catch up on things, such as working on my upcoming book Table Tennis Tips.

Poly Ball

  • My Thoughts on the Poly Ball: They are pretty simple. I haven't really looked into how or why the rule is coming into place - there's a lot of controversy about it. To me it's very simple: do the new balls play like the celluloid ones? The newest one that came out by Xushaofa plays very similar. (I blogged about this on Dec. 26 - see second segment.) According to this article (which I linked to yesterday), the balls are accepted by the Chinese team and endorsed by Ma Long. So I'll accept them as well. Personally, however, I'd rather stick with celluloid, as would many others. For those who would like to fight the change, see next item.
  • Petition to Keep Celluloid Balls: Here's an online petition to keep Existing Celluloid Table Tennis Balls.
  • ITTF Approved Poly Balls: Yesterday I wrote about the ITTF approving the first plastic ball, the Xushaofa. This morning there are two more up, the DHS 40+ and the Double Fish 40+. Here's the listing.
  • Liu Guoliang considers the Poly Ball a "potential hazard."

Serving by Bengtsson

Here's an article on Serving by top coach and 1971 World Champion Stellan Bengtsson. (The article is from 2010, but I don't think I've ever linked to it.)

The iRacket

Here it is! (Why do I have this sudden urge to invade some other country? Think about it until it comes to you.)

Care for a Little Outdoor Table Tennis While it Snows?

Here are some snowy ping-pong table pictures.

Arnold Schwarzenegger Table Tennis Superbowl Ad

Here's a behind-the-scenes look at the ad (14:39), where they interview Ian Rappaport, the "unsuspecting" person who had the wild night in the ad. They discuss the table tennis aspect starting at 4:15. "I'm a big ping-pong player," Ian says. (Here's the complete ad (3:44), which ran in several parts. The table tennis starts exactly two minutes in. "Prepare to be crushed in tiny tennis," says the long-haired wigged Arnold.)

Non-Table Tennis - Win a Free Copy of Sorcerers in Space!

Here's the online raffle where you can win a copy of my humorous fantasy novel. Or just buy it here (save a few dollars) or at Amazon. (Available in print or ebook format. Stars a kid who has to put aside is table tennis ambitions to save the world!)

***
Send us your own coaching news!

April 4, 2013

Different Serving Motions

I had a long, animated discussion last night with a pair of our top juniors and their parents about serves. It's always bothered me when a junior spends so much time developing high-level strokes and footwork, but not a strong serving or receiving game. The discussion ended with a mutual agreement on specific service goals for one of the players - certain serves that he'd have ready by specific major tournaments. The other player had to leave to play a match during the discussion, but I'll speak with her later on her own service goals. (When I say "ready," this means done at a high level with lots of variation and control, which takes many hours of practice. Control means keeping it low while controlling both the direction and, even more important, the depth of the serve.)

It's so easy to fall into the habit of "simple" serves, where a player masters a few basic serves that sets him up for his game, at least against lower-level players, and perhaps against peers - but of course part of the reason they are his "peers" is because they haven't developed their service game, and so aren't really controlling play when they serve.

The part that is most often missed isn't that these simple serves aren't effective, to a certain extent; it's all the points being thrown away by not having a bigger service threat. Often their "peers" are only playing them close because they are winning 2-3 points a game on tricky serves. The irony is that players often complain about losing to an opponent's serves - but make no serious effort to learn these serves themselves.

The classic example is players who develop forehand pendulum serves, with simple backspin and side-backspin, and perhaps a pure sidespin or a no-spin serve - and not much else. Maybe they have a deep serve to throw at opponents, often with a different motion that telegraphs it because they haven't spent the time developing it out of the same motion. (This happens all the time; often the server thinks he's using the same motion for the deep serve, but usually is not.)

At a recent Worlds (I can't remember which one) there was a study that showed that there were more reverse pendulum serves then regular pendulum serves at the world-class level. And yet how many players develop these serves below the top levels? It's not that hard. It allows a player to serve sidespin both ways with the same motion until the racket moves forward. With the most advanced serving technique, you can use the same motion until almost the split second before contact before committing to which sidespin. (Note - a forehand pendulum serves is a forehand serve, racket tip down, where the racket moves from right to left for a righty. A reverse pendulum serve is when the racket moves from left to right, and is often more awkward for players when they first try it. If you have trouble, get a coach or top player to help out, or watch videos at youtube.)

When a player can do a reverse pendulum serve (mostly short to the forehand or long to the backhand), with sidespin, side-top, or side-backspin (this last is the trickiest to learn, but is hugely important), and combine it with the same spin variations of a regular pendulum serves, as well as no-spin serves that look spinny, then an opponent has so many things to watch out for that he'll often fall apart. And yet so many players spend years developing a nice loop but never develop these most basic serves.

It doesn't have to be just pendulum serves. There are all sorts of backhand serves, tomahawk serves, windshield wiper serves - the list is endless. Watch what the best servers do, practice, and experiment. Turn your opponent into the one saying, "If not for his serves..."!

USATT Seeks Junior Committee Chairperson

Here's the article. Interested?

Table Tennista

Here are three more interesting articles.

Photos and Other Info from the Korean Open

Here are photos from the Korean Open, care of the ITTF, which started yesterday in Incheon City, South Korea. Here's the ITTF home page for the event, with results, articles, and photos. In the preliminaries, USA's Ariel Hsing and Lily Zhang both advanced with 2-0 records. They also won their first match in the Women's Doubles Preliminaries against a Korean team. Both are also entered in Under 21 Women's Singles. (The only other USA player, Wally Green, was eliminated in the Men's Singles Preliminaries.)

Target Practice

Here's a video showing a player doing multiball and aiming at targets. How long does it take to hit 20 targets? Apparently 38 seconds.

Pippa Middleton Challenges Boris Johnson

Pippa Middleton, a British socialite and the younger sister of Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, has issued a ping-pong challenge to London Mayor Boris Johnson. The latter is known for his table tennis; Pippa is known for her cross-country skiing. Here's the article in the London Telegraph, where she at one point calls table tennis "whiff whaff," and dismisses the sport as a "less demanding hobby" than cross-court skiing. "My only stipulation is that I can use my favourite Dunlop Blackstorm Nemesis bat, which I used when I played in the Milton Keynes U13 National Championships, don’t you know. Bring it on, Boris." The article includes a picture of Mayor Johnson playing table tennis. 

***
Send us your own coaching news!

November 27, 2012

Tip of the Week

Serving Short to Forehand and Long to Backhand.

JOOLA North American Teams

I spent the weekend mostly coaching at the Teams in Baltimore. Since my family lives on the west coast (Oregon and California), I spent my third straight Thanksgiving with Tong Tong Gong and his family - they served a vintage Thanksgiving meal with turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, green beans, cranberry juice, an incredibly good bread that's a family recipe, and a number of other items, including a few Chinese dishes. (They also had 17 relatives over.) I ate more at that meal than I have at any meal in years - and I mean this literally. Since they live only 20 minutes from the playing hall, I stayed at their house for the weekend, as I did the last two years. (I live an hour away.)

The number of teams was down a bit, from last year's 196 to 158. Part of this is because of the new Butterfly Teams in Columbus - see segment below. Some have written that that tournament had no effect on the Teams in Baltimore, but that's absurd - I know of at least 10-12 teams that regularly play in Baltimore that went to Columbus this year, and that's just the ones I know. I'd guess they lost at least 20 or more teams to Columbus. At $800/team, that's at least $16,000 in lost revenue.

While I'm never happy playing on cement, as most matches at the Teams (both Baltimore and Columbus), Open, and Nationals are played on, there's not a lot that can be done about that. However, I was happy to see (yes, that's a pun) that the lighting was greatly improved this year, as part of a renovation at the Baltimore Convention Center. The tournament ran on time, with two tables assigned to every team match we played. They also had much better prizes this year, giving out nice crystal prizes to the division winners that the players seemed happy with.

Here's a picture of the Division One Champions, Atlanta Table Tennis Academy, holding the crystal prizes. (Picture is care of Tom Nguyen from North American Table Tennis.) L-R: Tournament President Richard Lee, Feng Yijun, Liu Jikang, Li Kewei, Coach Wang, Timothy Wang, Wang (Eugene) Zhen, and Referee Bill Walk.

However, this will be the last year it'll be in Baltimore. Next year it's moving to the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center at the National Harbor, just south of Washington D.C.

Because I was there primarily as a coach, I didn't see much of the finals - just the last match in fact. I played as a part-time player for the NOVA team, playing in three ties where I beat a couple of 2150 to 2200 players and several 1950 players, went five with a 2300+ player, and lost to a 2050 player who moved me around on the slippery cement and then smashed over and over. When I did win points, it was usually off my serves, which gave everyone fits and covered up for my growing lack of mobility. Alas, I don't practice any more (I'm just a coach), and at 52 I'm too stiff and slow to play the way I used to. In my mind, I'm still greased lightning, but once at the table....

It is a grueling tournament, designed for true table tennis warriors. Play began Friday at 9AM, with most teams playing team matches at 9AM, 11AM, 2PM and 4PM, with these matches deciding what division you would get into. (Most teams played two higher teams and two lower teams, though of course this was adjusted for the highest and lowest teams.) On Saturday teams played five more team matches (9AM, 11AM, 2PM, 4PM, and 7PM), and two more on Sunday (9AM and 11AM), with crossovers at 2PM and 4PM. This is a true players tournament.

Tong Tong, just turned 15, didn't start out well, and I'm not going to get into that. He played well on Saturday night, and if he plays like that he might be in the mix for the USA junior team trials coming up in three weeks. He's been on the cadet team the last two years - top four in country - but is now ineligible, but has three years to try out for the junior team. I coached him here, and will be coaching him and Derek Nie at Nationals. Derek, 11, will be trying out for the mini-cadet and cadet teams.

I coached Derek in a number of his matches, and he had a great tournament. He came in at 2139 (from a high of 2170 recently), and pretty much blitzed everyone. He beat about ten players between 2100 and 2200 with, I think, only one loss in that range. He beat three or four players in the 2250 range (one of them from down 5-10 in the fifth), and he beat a 2438 player. He, Crystal Wang, Heather Wang, and Bernard Lemal combined to win Division 3, going 7-0 in the round robin and then winning the crossover semifinals and final for a combined 9-0. (So Crystal won crystal!) I'm wondering if Derek is the first person ever under 70 pounds to beat a 2400+ player?

Derek's best mach might have been the win over the 2438 player, but his gutsiest took place in the Division 3 Final. He was up against I think a 2180 player who could attack from both wings as well as lob over and over, and who played very smart. Derek led most of the first game but lost 11-9. He led 9-8 in the second and was basically lobbed down three straight points. Between games we talked tactics, then I told him if he wanted to win this match, he'd have to win it here (I tapped his head) and here (I tapped his heart). He nodded, and I knew we were in for a long match. Derek won the next game somewhat close, and the fourth easily. In the fifth, the opponent made a diving, lobbing return on the edge, looped a winner, and then got a net dribbler to go up 3-0. After a timeout, Derek only gave up one more point as he won, 11-4.

Crystal, 10, also had an amazing tournament. (I coached a few of her matches.) She beat a 2500+ player, a number of 2250 players, and I don't think lost to anyone below her 2245, though I'm not sure of all her matches. I'll talk more about her when the ratings are processed - but almost for sure she'll achieve the highest rating ever for a 10-year-old, boys or girls, probably well over 2300. There's a chance she or Derek may be adjusted to an absurdly high rating - we'll see. I'm wondering if she's the youngest player ever to beat a 2500+ player?

One strange incident took place. Derek was in a battle with Ray Mack, a 2150 player, and led 10-8 in the fifth. He went for his towel and drink bottle and took a sip. An umpire who was walking by interrupted the match, telling Derek that it was not legal to drink during the towel break every six points! Many or most players regularly do this; I've been doing it for 36 years. While the rules do not specifically say you can take a drink during the break every six points, I've never seen an umpire forbid it. I checked with the tournament referee, Bill Walk, and he agreed that it was okay to take a brief drink during the towel break. It was a rather scary moment when the umpire interrupted the match as it could have disrupted Derek's focus. The umpire got into an argument with Derek's parents and teammates while Derek walked about, looking perplexed. As it was, he scored the next point. I don't think umpires are supposed to interrupt matches in progress to enforce perceived rules violations.

As noted, I didn't see much of the action taking place on the feature courts where the top players were playing. I saw bits and pieces, but not one entire match. I did see the last few games of the last match in the final, where chopper/looper Chen Weixing kept coming from behind before finally losing close in the fifth as Atlanta Table Tennis Academy defeated Team JOOLA, 3-1.

It was a fun but exhausting weekend, which culminated in my getting a mild cold yesterday, though it seems to have mostly gone away already. Maybe I was just tired, though I went through a bunch of Kleenex yesterday. Here are the final division results - playoff results are at the end.

Butterfly Teams in Columbus

While the JOOLA North American Teams were held in Baltimore, the Butterfly Teams were held in Columbus, Ohio. Here are the results, and here's a listing of the players on each team so you can match them with the teams in the results.

Ariel's Speech

Here's Ariel Hsing's acceptance speech as San Jose Female High School Athlete of the Year (3:11). Ariel, 17, has been the U.S. Women's Singles Champion the last two years, and is a 2012 Olympian.

Table Tennis Legends

Here's a video (54:27) of old-time legends playing in the English Table Tennis Association 70-year anniversary gala in 1994. Names include Istvan Jonyer, Gabor Gergely, Klampar Tibor, Milan Orlowski, Janos Takacs, Jacques Secretin, Vincent Purkart, Ferenc Sido, Janos Fahazy, Mihaly Bellak, Tibor Kreisz. Perhaps most interesting is 73-year-old Ferenc Sido (6'4", 240 lbs at his peak, yet still able to move around and chop!), the last hardbat player to win Men's Singles at the Worlds (in 1953, also making the final in 1959). He is shown from 0:52 to 4:54.

Time-Stopping Exhibition Video

This video (1:39) starts as a regular exhibition, with a behind-the-back return, etc., but watch what happens about 13 seconds in!

***
Send us your own coaching news!

June 26, 2012

MDTTC Camp - Week Two, Day One

Yesterday we started another week of camps. As we usually do, the first day we focused on the forehand, though we personalized this for more advanced players. In the second half I gave my service lecture. The players had a good time doing some of the service spin drills I demonstrated: serving on the floor and making the ball curve sideways (toward a target) or backwards into their hands; serving from wide backhand or forehand and making the ball spin around so it bounced in all four quadrants of the table, and ending up down the line from where the serve started and hitting a target set up there; or serving backspin so the ball bounced back into or over the net.

As I was about to do multiball with one new 12-year-old, he walked over and said, "Let me apologize in advance." Before he could continue, I asked him if he'd stolen my car or wallet. He laughed, then said, "No, I'm just apologizing because I can't play at all." I explained to him that everyone started out as a beginner. Then we started, and to be honest, he was rather ragged at the start, with a short, jerky stroke that ended right at contact. It took a while to get him to follow through smoothly, but by the end of the morning session he was hitting decent forehands.

Four Days Until the U.S. Open in Grand Rapids

Have you practiced your serves today? I have. (But I'm only playing hardbat doubles. I'm going primarily to coach.) I recently discovered a new variation of my reverse pendulum serve that's going to create havoc . . . I hope.

Ready Position

In this article and video (4:36), ICC Head Coach Massimo Constantini explains the importance of stance and posture to the "Ready Position." (Seems to be audio only.)

Amateur and Pro Ping-Pong Players Wanted for Reality TV Game Show

Yes, you can be a TV ping-pong star! All you have to do is be willing to look silly. Okay, my bias against reality shows is showing, so here's the actual description:

Amateur heroes take on the pros under extreme conditions in order to score points, win money, and to elevate the sport. WIN MONEY! You don't have to beat them, just score a few points. We believe the time has come, for the very best amateurs to compete head-to-head against the best table tennis players in the world. Submit an online application and upload a video to get on the show.

Non-Table Tennis: Those Onerous Overdone Outlines

Musa Publishing (no connection to Nigerian star Atanda Musa!) recently published a blog item I wrote for them on outlining science fiction stories. The funny thing was they were supposed to notify me when it went up, but they forgot. I just discovered it - it went up on June 14. Here's the blog entry, entitled "Those Onerous Overdone Outlines." They also published my eStory "Willy and the Ten Trillion Chimpanzees" (only 99 cents!). Here's the story description from their web page: "What if William Shakespeare was a demon with ten trillion captive chimpanzees in his basement, where time is sped up a trillion-fold, and where they are forced to randomly type as they produce the works of Shakespeare? And then the chimpanzees rebel…." They also bought another story from me that'll be in their upcoming July issue of Penumbra Magazine, "The Dragon of the Apocalypse" - here's the cover. (And here's my science fiction & fantasy page.)

***

Send us your own coaching news!

March 1, 2012

Peter Li

Imagine a country that has an 18-year-old National Men's Singles Champion. Suppose that country decides to fund four players to the World Championships. You'd think that winning that Men's Singles title would automatically qualify you for the team. Right? Wrong.

That's the story of Peter Li, who won Men's Singles at the USA Nationals a little over two months ago in December when he was 18. However, at the USA Team Trials (just after turning 19), he finished in a four-way tie for second place with a record of 8-3. But after the tie-breaker (going to matches and games among those tied), he finished in fifth place, just missing the top four. He was then offered the fifth spot as an unfunded position, meaning he would have to pay his own way to the worlds. His family is already spending over $10,000/year on his training, and simply couldn't afford to pay more. And so he will not be going to the Worlds, and will not gain the experience he would get there.

Can anyone imagine this happening in any serious table tennis country? I don't think there are very many countries that fund teams to the Worlds that would not fund a teenaged National Men's or Women's Singles Champion.  

There's little chance USATT will change their procedures for this Worlds. The question is if they will look at the result of their procedure, and ask themselves if that procedure is really getting them the best result. Perhaps anyone winning or making the final of Men's and Women's Singles at the Nationals should automatically qualify. (Conflict of interest note - Peter developed at MDTTC, my club, and still trains and coaches part-time there on weekends.) 

Hit the ball harder!

I'm coaching an eight-year-old girl whose forehand is coming along pretty well, except for one problem: she absolutely will not hit the ball hard. Every shot is the same soft keep-it-in-play stroke that wouldn't break wet tissue paper. I've tried to get her to gradually hit the ball harder, to no avail. She just doesn't want to. So what did I do?

I did the obvious thing. I tricked her.

Near the end of our session yesterday, while feeding multiball, I put a half-filled water bottle on the table. I told her if she could knock it over, she could have a chocolate. (I conveniently had a stash handy.) It took her a few shots to hit the bottle, and she discovered she'd have to hit it harder to knock it over. That's when she started hitting harder, and with good form. She won two chocolates. Afterwards I told her mom about what I'd done, and she promised not to tell her daughter. (Shhhhhhh everyone! Hopefully she's not reading this blog.)

Sol Schiff

Here's the obit on Sol Schiff by his longtime friend Dean Johnson.

The Ma Long serve

He's #1 in the world, and here's his serve (2:31). Here's another video of it (0:55), showing it in action. Both videos show it in regular time and slow motion.

Table Tennis in Bed

Yes, you too can play table tennis in bed, using your hands and feet to rally back and forth!

***

Send us your own coaching news!

January 25, 2012

Ready position and basketball

So many players have poor ready positions. They stand up too straight, their feet are too close together, their weight isn't on the balls of their feet, and their non-playing arm hangs loosely at their side like a dead snake. But there's a simple cure I now use with many students. I go over to their side and say, "Let's play imaginary basketball. Cover me!" They immediately bend their knees to get down slightly, their feet go wider, their weight goes onto the balls of their feet, and their non-playing hand goes up. A perfect playing stance! So next time you play, why not get in the habit of starting each rally with a little imaginary basketball? (I wrote about this same topic yesterday, including the basketball angle, but I wanted to elaborate here.) 

Ten steps to a great service game

  1. Learn to serve with lots of spin by accelerating the racket through the ball and grazing it.
  2. Learn to serve various spins, including backspin, side-backspin, sidespin, side-topspin, and topspin, with the sidespins going both ways.
  3. Learn to serve low.
  4. Learn to control the depth and direction of the serve.
  5. Learn to serve with spin using a semi-circular motion so you can create different spins with the same motion by varying where in the motion you contact the ball.
  6. Learn to minimize and do quickly this semi-circular motion so receiver has trouble picking up contact.
  7. Learn to change the direction of your follow-through with your racket the split second after contact to mislead the receiver.
  8. Learn to fake spin and serve no-spin by contacting the ball near the handle.
  9. Learn to serve fast & deep as a variation to your spin serves.
  10. Learn to follow up your serve.

Evolution of Table Tennis

Here are five videos that showcase the evolution of table tennis, from the hardbat days to the present. It includes extensive segments on the major champions. For example, Vol. 2 features Bohumil Vana and Ferenc Sido, while Vol. 3 features (among others) Johnny Leach and Hiroje Satoh (the latter the first sponge player).

  1. Vol. 1 (9:50)
  2. Vol. 2 (9:58)
  3. Vol. 3 (8:26)
  4. Vol. 4 (9:37)
  5. Vol. 5 (13:33)

"Breaking 2000"

Here's a new ebook on table tennis, "Breaking 2000," by Alex Polyakov, about his journey to a 2000+ USATT rating. The cost is $2.99, or free if you are a member of the Kindle Prime program. While we're on the subject of table tennis books, here's my collection of 203 of 'em.

Non-table tennis: "Twisted Tales"

While you're downloading "Breaking 2000" (above), why not download "Twisted Tales" for 99 cents? It's a collection of 66 super-short horror stories, all of the 66 words long, including two of mine, "The Hand of God" and "A Brush with Dirty Yellow Teeth."

Non-table tennis: Credit Card Crime

Yesterday someone got my credit card number and tried to make a $1000+ purchase. The credit card company somehow recognized it as fraud, blocked the purchase, and contacted me. So the card was cancelled, and a new one is coming. Highly irritating.

Quadruple table tennis

This is one of the crazier looking table tennis sets I've seen, but for only $249.95, you can now have your own quad table tennis game!

***

Send us your own coaching news!

October 12, 2011

The most under-used serves

Do you see a pattern?

  • The most under-used short serve: no-spin to the middle. This cuts off the wide angles, is difficult to push heavy or push short, and if served low (very important), is tricky to flip aggressively. The opponent has to make a split-second decision on whether to return it forehand or backhand, which is sometimes awkward even against a slow, short serve. It is especially effective if mixed in with backspin serves. Ideally serve so the second bounce, if given the chance, would bounce just short of the end-line.
  • The most under-used deep serve: fast no-spin to the middle (opponent's elbow). This is the receiver's transition point, and if you serve fast there, he has little time to react. By serving a dead ball - actually a light backspin so it's dead when it reaches the receiver after two bounces - the opponent has to generate his own power while rushing. Result? Mistakes galore. If used two or three times a game, this is a free point about half the time against players rated under 2000, and it can be pretty effective against stronger players as well. It's best used against someone who receives both forehand or backhand. Don't use it too often against a forehand player who is looking to loop the serve - against this player serve fast to the corners.

Doing the journey and heavy backspin

Once again while coaching yesterday "doing the journey" was one of the most interesting things for new players learning to serve with sidespin. What is "doing the journey"? For a righty, you place a box or other target on the far right corner of the table. (Where a righty opponent's backhand would be.) You have your player stand by his forehand court on the right. Then he serves a forehand pendulum serve so it bounces on his backhand court (on the left), goes over the net and bounces on the far left court, then curves to the right and hits or goes into the box. After his lesson was done, one kid spent roughly forever practicing this. (He made several, had lots of close calls.)

Another good exercise is to practice serving backspin so the ball comes back into the net. When first learning to do this, it helps to serve high. As you get better and better you can serve it lower and lower. One key thing to remember is that this is practice in learning to put backspin on the ball. In a real game, the "ideal" backspin serve would drive out a bit more, so that (if given the chance) the second bounce would be near the end-line, and that it would then bounce off. But it's great fun to serve slow, heavy backspin, and watch the ball practically slam backwards into the net!

European Championships

The European Championships (Oct. 8-16) are taking place, and you can watch it live! (Well, you can watch it live while play is actually going on.)

Lots of videos

Here's a whole bunch of videos I saw posted somewhere a while back. Take a look - lots of good stuff!

"Green" ping-pong

The new Spin Galactic paddles - translucent green! (And you thought this was going to be something about Kermit the frog, who, in case you didn't know, has eyes made from ping-pong ball halves - see second sentence.)

Marty Reisman Music Video

Yes, a Marty Reisman Music Video! Okay, it's actually the music video for “Superpowers” by Anthony Cruz featuring Julian Diaz. Marty shows up at 2:44 in this 4:45 video, and stays around for 36 seconds. (What, you don't know who Marty Reisman is? Shame on you! He's the one in the white hat.)

The first sponge - Hiroji Satoh in 1952

And while we're on the subject of Marty Reisman, here's vintage footage and narration by Marty and others on the first sponge player - Hiroji Satoh at the 1952 Worlds (4:01).

***

Send us your own coaching news!

September 20, 2011

More on Serving

On Friday, I gave my periodic "Practice your serves!" reminder, a public service for the benefit of the vast throngs of table tennis players who forget to practice their serves unless I remind them. Over the weekend I put up two more articles on serving, both previously published in USA Table Tennis Magazine: Serving Short with Spin and Serving Short the Productive Way. Want more? Here are 19 articles I've written on serving. (The two new ones are at the end.)

The Shoulder Method of Hiding the Serve

I've blogged about hidden serves a number of times, but I want to point out the most popular method of hiding serves so you can watch for it. Think of it as a public address announcement for the benefit of umpires, who are in the unenviable position of having to call hidden serves, as well as for players and coaches who have to call the service rule on opponents who hide their serves.

It's not enough these day to just hide the serve these days; illegal servers now are able to hiding their hiding! (Hopefully you will read the following so as to watch for it, not to learn to do it - though of course some will do that, alas.) Most umpires watch the non-playing arm closely to make sure the serve isn't obviously hidden by that. The rule says that the non-playing arm must be "pulled out of the way as soon as the ball is projected upwards." However, most umpires aren't strict on this as long as the arm is pulled out before contact so as not to hide the ball. And this is where they are getting fooled.

Most players who hide their serves now do it with their shoulder. They leave their non-playing arm out as long as possible, and then pull it back just before contact. Since most umpires are watching the arm to make sure it is pulled out in time, they think the serve is legal. What they don't see is that by keeping the arm out, the server is able to keep his shoulder thrust out. While the arm is pulled out of the way before contact, the shoulder lags behind and doesn't quite come out of the way until just after contact, and that's what hides the contact. It's like a magic trick, where you distract the observer with one thing (the arm) so they don't see the more important thing (the shoulder). 

And just as a reminder, here are the pertinent parts of the service rule about hiding contact:

  • Rule 2.6.4: "From the start of service until it is struck, the ball ... shall not be hidden from the receiver by the server..."
  • Rule 2.6.5: "As soon as the ball has been projected, the server's free arm and hand shall be removed from the space between the ball and the net."
  • Rule 2.6.6: "It is the responsibility of the player to serve so that the umpire or the assistant umpire can be satisfied that he or she complies with the requirements of the Laws."

Three more coaching articles by Samson Dubina
(Here are all his coaching articles.)

Deng Yaping

Here's a short profile of the great Deng Yaping, now 38 years old and with a Ph.D from Cambridge.

Dora Kurimay

Dora Kurimay, top table tennis player and sports psychologist, is interviewed at The Pongcast. Then check out her table tennis sports psychology page.

Table Tennis and More Commercial

Here's a commercial (1:29) for Table Tennis and More, a club in Phoenix, Arizona. Why doesn't your club have one?

***

Send us your own coaching news!

Syndicate content