As noted in my blog yesterday, I did three hours of demonstrations and exhibitions at a health fair at a Bar-T yesterday. The location was about 200 yards from MDTTC, about a 3-iron shot away! They already had a table, so we physically carried over 14 barriers to create a playing court. I did all the talking, giving short intros, then stroke and footwork demonstrations, exhibitions, and then challenges from the audience (sometimes hitting around, sometimes playing games, and sometimes challenging them to return serves). We went through this routine every 30 minutes. My hitting partners were 2500 player Chen Bo Wen ("Bowen") the first half, and 2600 player Wang Qing Liang ("Leon") the second half. John Hsu stayed the entire time to give out flyers and talk to potential players.
The actual turnout was not as great as I'd have hoped. When we do exhibitions for schools we typically get a gymnasium full of kids. (And we have plans now for doing a round of exhibitions at local schools - more on that when it comes up.)
One ironic moment - for one of our "shows," we only had about ten people watching. And then all but one had to suddenly had to leave - it turned out it was time for the belly dancing demo at the health fair, and all of them were either belly dancers or watchers! So we cancelled that segment and hit with the one viewer who remained, and others who came by shortly after. It's the first time in my 37 years in table tennis that I've ever lost an audience to belly dancing. Has this happened to you?
About halfway through, while reaching for a ball that had gone into some wooden shelves, I cut myself badly on my left index finger. It began to bleed pretty badly. Fortunately, being a health fair, they had a first aid kit available. I tried putting on a bandage from the kit, and it literally crumbled in my hand. How old was this kit? Older than my 37 years in table tennis? I grabbed a second band aid, and it too crumbled. I finally found one near the bottom that stayed together enough to cover the cut and stop the bleeding. It sufficed for the two hours before I was able to get home to clean it and put on a more recent vintage of a band aid.
Speaking of injuries, I'd pulled a muscle in my thigh during the hardbat competition at the Cary Cup last Friday. I'd been limping slightly since then, but able to coach against non-top players. I aggravated it a bit during the exhibitions, and will probably take today's session off. (Normally I'm a practice partner on Fridays from 5-7 PM for our Elite junior program.)
Explaining Spin to a Six-Year-Old
After the exhibition I still had two hours of coaching to do that afternoon. The most memorable memory of those two hours? Talking about spin for ten minutes with a very curious six-year-old. Literally every sentence out of his mouth began with "Why" or "How come," but I'd rather kids with such interest than ones without. And now the kid knows all about topspin, backspin, and sidespin, and their effects, advantages, and disadvantages - plus I taught him how to push for the first time, backspin to backspin, which he found fascinating. The funniest moment came after I explained and demonstrated sidespin, and he said that's how the earth spins! At some point I'll explain corkscrewspin to him.
Spring Break Camp
Our Spring Break Camp at Maryland Table Tennis Center is Mon-Fri next week, 10AM - 6PM. Come on out and join us! It's for all ages and levels, but will be pretty much dominated by local junior players on spring break from school. I mostly run the morning sessions, where I give short lectures and the mostly do multiball training. (Since it's mostly locals, the lectures will be very short - they've heard them all a zillion times.) We have a two-hour lunch break (with Chinese food delivered), and then the kids play various games, such as "Jungle Pong," while a dedicated few practice their serves or do other training. The afternoon sessions (run by Cheng and Jack) are about half drilling at the table, and half games.
Here are new articles at Table Tennista. They do great international coverage.
You Think Table Tennis Is Not a Sport Then Watch This
Here's a recent highlights video (9:13).
Jean-Michel Saive vs. Segun Toriola
Here's a video (8:59, with time between points removed) of an interesting match of two veterans from Belgium and Nigeria at the 2008 Olympics.
Aerobic Table Tennis in Spain
Here's a video (9:48) of an aerobic table tennis session with kids in Spain. Most of it takes place away from the table, but they hit the tables toward the end.
"Well, Kid, Ya Beat Me"
Here's one of my favorite table tennis cartoons, from the Far Side.
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MDTTC Open House
If you are within driving distance of Gaithersburg, Maryland, come to our Open House and Grand Re-Opening this Saturday! There will be free refreshments and raffles throughout the day, and it's your chance to talk table tennis with the MDTTC coaches and players, as well as to see the newly renovated and now gigantic MDTTC, which has doubled in size to 10,000 sq feet and 18 tables. Here's the schedule:
MDTTC Spring Break Camp Highlights
Here are the highlights from yesterday, Day Four of the five-day camp:
New World Rankings
Here are the new world rankings after the recent World Team Championships. And here's an ITTF article about the new rankings and China's dominance - they hold the top five spots for both men and women. On the men's side their main challengers are Germany (with world #6, 10, 21), Korea (world #8, 14, 15) and Japan (world #7, 19, 20). On the women's side their main challengers are Japan (with world #6, 10, 12) and Singapore (world #7, 9, 14).
Want to bid to run the 2012 North American Championships?
Eating a ping-pong ball
Here's a 31-second video of someone eating a ping-pong ball. I've eaten a lot of Chinese food this week, but does eating a ping-pong ball count?
Non-Table Tennis: Weird Tales sale
Yesterday I sold a story to Weird Tales, "Galahad Returns," 6300 words. It's a humorous fantasy about Sir Galahad (of King Arthur fame), who returns to Earth after spending 1500 years searching the galaxy unsuccessfully (on the Greek winged horse Pegasus) for the Holy Grail. He jousts with fighter jets and tangles with the U.S. president, nukes, and a painting of former president and unfortunate King Arthur namesake Chester Arthur. It's my 59th short story sale and my second sale to Weird Tales. (Here's my science fiction & fantasy page.)
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MDTTC Spring Break Camp
The Maryland Table Tennis Center will hold its first training camp of the year, our Spring Break Camp, April 2-6. You will be there. Otherwise we will talk about you, and it won't be pretty.
The camp coincides with spring break in local schools, which vary from region to region, so we don't get many out of towners for this camp. However, anyone is welcome to join us. It'll mostly be junior players, but all ages are welcome. Coaches will include myself, Cheng Yinghua, Jack Huang, and Jeffrey Zeng Xun. Hours are 10AM-1PM and 3-6PM each day, Mon-Fri. Chinese food is delivered for lunch for $6 (you order in the morning). The club just doubled in size, and will have about 18 tables set up (more if we squeeze), with all-new red flooring, showers, and wireless web.
If you need a place to stay, we're now allowing players to stay at the club (free for now) if you are willing to "rough it." I'll give rides to local restaurants and for groceries as needed. (Club has a microwave.)
We will be running camps continuously all summer, every Mon-Fri, from June 18 to August 24 (eleven consecutive five-day camps). Come join us!
What is the value of a table tennis camp? Most players spend years trying to improve, and it's a very slow and difficult process. The problem is that 1) you might be practicing bad technique, making it even harder later on to fix the problems, 2) you only get to work at various techniques in a sporadic way, and 3) you have other things on your mind and so can't really focus on table tennis. A camp solves all three problems as you live and breathe table tennis all week, learning proper technique from top coaches (as well as getting to see numerous top players demonstrate it), you practice all day long, and your sole focus is table tennis. If you are a serious table tennis player, I strongly suggest finding a camp where you can really hone your skills as well as have a lot of fun.
Here's the Federal Association of Sandpaper Table Tennis home page, where you'll find articles, results, and videos of this rapidly growing "underground" sport. (If regular table tennis is an underground sport in the U.S., then is sandpaper the underground sport of an underground sport?) News Item #29 is on the Cary Cup.
The Worlds on TV
You can watch the Worlds (Dortmund, Germany, March 25-April 1) on TV via Universal Sports, but it's gonna cost you about $10/day, or $40 for five days. Here's more info. Meanwhile, here's the info I posted yesterday:
Michael Landers on NPR
NPR did a radio interview with Michael Landers, "Ping-Pong Prodigy Seeks Olympic Glory." You can either listen to it (3:51) or read the transcript.
Free table tennis videos from Reflex Sports
I received the following email from Reflex Sports yesterday - so now's your chance to sample their huge video library for free!
"We very much appreciate your support of our subscription table tennis video site. Unfortunately, we have not yet been able to get enough subscribers to allow us to continue, at this time, to offer our videos this way. We have finally been able to set up a new site (tabletennisvideocentral.com). This new trial site is offering everything free in the hope of attracting enough viewers to have advertisers."
Boys Look at the Stars Ping-Pong
You can download this book for free. The book covers the history of world table tennis.
High Performance on a Budget
Can you create a high performance environment without spending any money? Sean O'Neill sent me and other coaches a link to this article on the topic.
Math Professor Larry Bavly teaches table tennis
Math and table tennis connoisseur Larry Bavly teaches a little girl all the important things about table tennis (4:26). The best part starts at 1:11 when Larry says, "What is the most important thing to learn to be a good table tennis player?" After the girl incorrectly says, "Placement and spin variations," Larry brings out the chart.
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History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 12
As mentioned in this blog, USA Table Tennis Historian Tim Boggan moved in with me for two weeks starting on Tuesday, Feb. 28, so that I could do the page layouts and photo work on his next volume of History of U.S. Table Tennis. Yep, it's volume 12! I've done the layouts for all except the first one. I get to read a lot of it as we work, with him sitting next to me and pointing at the screen saying, "That photo goes there. No, I said there, you fool!"
We've now finished the covers, Acknowledgements, Introduction, and 25 chapters (370 pages) of the 31-chapter book. We should finish it all on Friday. He'll spend Saturday proofing the pages, and on Sunday and Monday we'll be making the corrections. Then I'll do all the pre-press work, and send the 500-page PDF file to the printer. Since we're not leaving for the Cary Cup until Thursday morning, we should finish two days early. What'll we do on Tues & Wed? I don't know. Movies, sight-seeing, maybe even some ping-pong.
Here's an excerpt, from page 332 on the Rochester Michigan Open between Danny and Ricky Seemiller (as written by Cody Jones), when matches were still best of three to 21:
Ricky won a seesaw first game from brother Danny, 28-26, and seemed to be in the driver’s—or looper’s—seat. Ricky was aggressive, took chances, while Danny played more of a control game. The second game Danny won at 14. In the third, at 22-21 his favor, Ricky missed a set-up kill—which, since Danny went on to win this game, might well have cost him the match.
Said Danny, "At ad down I had to lunge to my left to return the ball, and when I saw it float back high, I knew Ricky was going to put it away and that I had no chance to get back into position and return it. So it flashed into my mind that my only chance was to keep on going to my left and hope wildly that Ricky would be so surprised by my movement that he’d be watching me instead of the ball. And, unbelievably, that’s just what happened."
50 forehands, 50 backhands
I have a new informal "policy" for beginning/intermediate juniors I coach. They have to hit 50 forehands and 50 backhands in a row before we do anything else. This forces them both to groove their shots while improving their focus. (I also tell them that they don't really have a forehand or backhand until they can hit 100 in a row, a goal I want them all to strive for.)
As if having an injured arm weren't enough, on Tuesday night I strained my hip. I'm walking with a limp, and will have to somehow find a way to coach. It's not too bad, but these (mostly minor) injuries are a real problem. It's not easy coaching one-on-one when you're 52 and have very stiff muscles. The good news is the arm is healing nicely. I'm going to play as a chopper in some matches this weekend, and hope to start playing regular (i.e. lots of forehand hitting and looping) in perhaps two weeks.
Mark your Calendars for Saturday, April 7
That's the Grand Opening for the expanded and renovated Maryland Table Tennis Center. Lots of activities that day, starting around 11AM - demonstrations, exhibitions, coaching seminar, junior program, raffles, refreshments, parade of champions tournament, with lots of top coaches and players. Details coming soon! (If you would like to be on the MDTTC mailing list, send me an email.)
Spring Break Camp at MDTTC
We're having our first camp at the newly expanded and renovated Maryland Table Tennis Center, April 2-6, with coaches Larry Hodges (that's me), Cheng Yinghua, Jack Huang, and Jeffrey Xun Zeng. It's mostly for junior players (locals are off school that week for spring break), but all ages are welcome. Here's more info. Come join us!
Who was having a ball yesterday?
Yesterday I asked if anyone knew who this player was, with all the balls in the air. Aaron Avery emailed that it was Polish paralympic player Natalia Partyka, and sure enough her web page includes that photo. Thanks Avery!
Tampa Bay baseball and hockey stars playing table tennis
Here's baseball star Evan Longoria and hockey star Martin St. Louis playing table tennis (1:45). They play for the Tampa Bay Rays and Lightning, respectively.
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