Ping-pong Balls on Fire

December 11, 2013

USATT Candidate Statements and Board of Directors

If you are a USATT member over the age of 18, by now you've received the candidate statements and supplementary campaign statements from the two candidates running for the USATT Board, Jim McQueen and Ross Brown. I've read over them, and let's just say I'm dismayed. I blogged about this a few weeks ago after receiving the initial candidate statements, and now we have the supplementary ones. (As I blogged there, I voted for McQueen because I disagree with Brown on most major issues. At the 2009 Strategic Meeting, Ross and I argued about just about everything, and he "won" the day - nothing I pushed for was adopted, while he was on the "winning" side of nearly every decision. I blogged about this several times, such as here, though I didn't mention names. A few of the links in the blog to USATT news items are no longer valid, alas.) I'm not sure why they have these supplementary statements, but they are more of the same. To be clear, what I have to write here is about what they wrote, not about the candidates themselves - but alas, the candidate statements are for many voters all they have to judge them by.

The statements have no vision, no goals, no plans. They are mostly about how well and fairly they'd judge the issues that come before them as board members. It's as if they are running for USATT judge. To me, this may qualify them to be on certain USATT committees, where fairness issues need to be judged. We need to separate "Fairness Issues" from "Progressive Issues. I blogged about this in March.

We don't need more judges on the USATT Board; we need leaders, both executives and legislators, who will take our sport from its current smallness and make it big. Leaders do not grow a sport by sitting back and judging the issues that come before them; they do so by actively taking the actions needed to grow the sport.

To do this takes vision. Once you have a vision of where you want to go, you set goals to reach that vision. Once you have goals, you create plans to reach those goals. I don't see this in the campaign statements.

Members regularly discuss what USATT needs to do. Why is it that as soon as a member decides to run for office, he so often forgets this? Why would anyone want to be on the Board if the goal was status quo? If the goal isn't status quo, then what are their plans for changing the status quo? There's nothing in the campaign statements that shows any plans or desire to change this status quo, where our membership of 8000 (compared to where we want to be) is no more than a roundoff error.

The membership is hungry for someone with vision, with goals, with plans. There are many out there. I even blogged about ten easy things USATT could do that could pay off big if they'd just take initiative. At one time I tried to take initiative on some of these issues, but USATT wouldn't get behind them. That's the primary reason I resigned as USATT editor and programs director in 2007.

My vision is one of regional leagues all over the country, with hundreds of thousands of members competing in them (from the amateur to the professional level), with many hundreds of training centers dotting the country around every population center, with large-scale junior programs. The goal at the start might be 100,000 USATT League members and 200 Training Centers; more later on. As to plans to reach these goals, they are included in the "ten easy things" I blogged about. I've given presentations to USATT on how to reach these goals, but there just doesn't seem to be any energy to take initiative, even on the "easy" stuff.

The sad thing is there were others who wanted to run for the board, who seem to want to take the initiative, but were not put on the ballot by the USATT Nominating and Election Committee. I already blogged my thoughts on that in the links given above. There's something really wrong with the governing process when a board of directors can set up a committee to decide who can and can't run for the board, regardless of who the membership might vote for. A recipe for status quo. USATT, prove me wrong. Start by leaving that 8000 membership figure in the dust by learning how other sports have done it and how table tennis has done it in other countries and in some regions of this country.

While you explore ways to grow the sport, please, for the love of Ping-Pong, remember this.

(Addendum: I do NOT plan on getting involved in USATT politics, other than the above. I've had my say, and now plan to go back to talking about coaching issues.) 

Restrictions of a Drill Mindset

Here's the article. It's about not sticking to a drill when the rally changes unexpectedly.

Practical Advice on Rackets

Here's the article by Kagin Lee, which focuses on proper gluing and care of your racket.

Wang Liqin, Ma Lin, Others Retire from Chinese Team

Here's the article. Others retiring from team are Chen Qi, Qiu Yike, Zhang Chao, Zhai Chao, Zhai Yiming, and Xu Ruifeng.

USATT Annual Assembly

It's at the USA Nationals, as usual, on Wednesday, Dec. 18, from 7-9PM. Here's the agenda. If I'm not coaching I expect to be there. Unlike past years, there doesn't seem to be time set aside for those who wish to address the assembly.

What is Magnus Force?

Here's a video (3:47) that explains the Magnus force, which is what causes a spinning ball to curve. It's actually a pretty simple concept - a spinning ball causes high density air on one side, low density on the other, and the high density air pushes the ball to the low density side.

Ping-Ping Balls on Fire

Here's the video (2:08). The bonfire begins about one minute in. Below the video is an explanation for while ping-pong balls are so flammable.


Here's the picture! One of the few good things to come out of the snow deluge of the last few days.

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March 14, 2012

All-out Attackers and Ball Control

All-out attackers often believe that they have to attack all out. It's the death of many a game. While it's true that a strong attacker should attack most of the time, there's one time where they shouldn't look to always attack - when receiving. If they can only attack the serve, while the opponent has more variation, then, all things being equal, they are toast.

Instead of blindly attacking every serve, an "all-out attacker" should mix in subtle returns, such as short pushes and sudden quick ones. This keeps the opponent off guard, and so when the attacker does attack the serve, it's far more effective. At the highest levels, the top players are great at mixing in flips and short pushes to mess up opponents. Players at all levels from intermediate up should learn to do return serves with such variation. If you are an all-out attacker, then you use the receive to disarm the opponent, and look to attack (or counter-attack) the next ball.

If you always attack the serve, then the server knows the ball is coming out to him, and can hang back waiting for the aggressive receive. This, combined with your missing by being so aggressive, gives him a tactical advantage. However, if the receiver's not sure if you are going to attack the ball, push it back heavy (so he has to drop down to loop) or drop it short (so he can't hang back and wait for your shot), he's going to have trouble reacting to your receive. If you can hide what you are going to do until the last second, and perhaps change directions at the last second as well, it will further mess up the poor server and set you up to attack the next ball. 

Ironically, I'm one of the great offenders of this "don't attack every serve" rule - but only when I play hardbat. When I use sponge, I mostly use control to receive while mixing in aggressive returns. When I play hardbat, I attack nearly every serve, hoping to set up my forehand on the next ball. I do so both because I don't play enough hardbat to have the control to finesse the serve back, and because if I don't attack the serve it leaves my overly-weak hardbat backhand open to attack. (In sponge I have a steady backhand; in hardbat my backhand is awful, and so I usually chop backhands while hitting all-out on the forehand.) Also, in hardbat, if I attack the serve I don't have ot worry about a sponge counter-hit; it's much harder to do that with hardbat. I mention my hardbat game because I'm off to defend my hardbat titles at the Cary Cup from 2010 and 2011. Hopefully my overly aggressive receives won't make me "toast"!

It's also important not to return every serve defensively. Sometimes be aggressive, sometimes use control. Variety messes up an opponent. Predictability does not. 

History of U.S. Table Tennis, Vol. 12

DONE!!! Yes, all 460 pages and 837 photos are done and sent to the printer as PDFs. Now I get a day to rest before leaving for Cary. Wait . . . did I say rest? Today I tutor calculus for two hours (I do that once a week), coach table tennis two hours, and do my taxes. Meanwhile, Tim Boggan has already found a number of items that need to be changed. On Monday, after the Cary Cup, I get to input the new changes and send new PDFs to the printer.

Amazing table tennis shots from 2011

Here's a nice selection (8:49). I vaguely remember some of these shots, and there's a chance I posted this video before, but it's worth watching again.

Table Tennis on Talk Show

Talk show host and actor/comedian Chris Gethard shows up, plays, and videos a table tennis tournament for his show, "The Chris Gethard Show" (2:03).

A scientific experiment using ping-pong balls

The video (1:40) is about the transfer of energy and, indirectly, whether or not the flooring under a table affects play.

Lighting ping-pong balls on fire


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