Korean table tennis movie

March 23, 2012

Talking versus Drilling

I often think the most difficult part of coaching is finding that line between coaching (i.e. explaining things demonstrating techniques) and drilling (i.e. letting the student work on a skill). The more you talk and demonstrate, the more information you convey. On the other hand, the more you actually have the student drill, the more the techniques get ingrained.  Where's the balance?

It really depends on the student. Younger players often are not particularly interested in a coach who blathers on and on, even if the blather is laden with nuggets of gold. They just want to play. Older students often look for more info, because they have a longer attention span, they understand the value of the info, and because they probably need the rest break anyway.

Ideally the coach says as little as is necessary for the student to get the technique right. But it's not that simple. Let's say you're teaching a kid to forehand loop. He starts out going crosscourt over and over. Then he gets the bright idea of looping down the line, and does so awkwardly. So you show him how to rotate the shoulders back so he can loop down the line more easily. Then he points out that he likes his way better since the opponent can't see it coming. And so you show him how to loop deceptively down the line by lining up the shoulders to go crosscourt, and at the last second rotating them back to go down the line. Next thing you know you are talking about the various placements when looping from the wide forehand (down the line, to the opponent's elbow/crossover point, crosscourt to the corner, extreme crosscourt outside the corner), and then you're talking about when to loop soft, medium, or hard, and pretty soon you're pretty much teaching a graduate seminar on looping to a fourth grader. (The preceding is a rough synopsis of an actual experience.)

The temptation to expand on any topic is huge, at least for me, since I generally have about 10,000 words to say on any topic. Getting it down to 20 words is harder work than going with the 10,000-word blather. But I restrain myself. Usually. Even older players have their limits, and I probably want to narrow those 10,000 words down to 50. Or less.

It's probably best to keep it simple, and let them work at one skill at a time, and resist the urge to expand to PhD techniques and explanations until your student is relatively advanced. In other words, focus on basics like developing solid drives until he's old enough to drive. I'll save the 10,000 word blathers for my next table tennis book.

My next table tennis book

Speaking of that, I put "Table Tennis Tactics: A Thinker's Guide" on hold a few weeks ago. I was just too busy on other things. I've already written a first draft (21 chapters, 86,000 words, about 370 pages double spaced in Courier New), and had it critiqued by a number of people. (Thank you again Scott Gordon, Chris Grace, Richard McAfee John Olsen, Dennis Taylor, and Kevin Walton!) It's still on hold, but I think I might finally get back to it next week, where I expect to both add more material and do some rewriting. It should come out later this year, though it might take longer if I decide to submit to publishers instead of self-publishing. (One publisher has already expressed interest.) 

Ariel Hsing blogs for ESPN

The 2010 and 2011 U.S. Women's Singles Champion blogs about her play at the recent Olympic and World Team Trials.

LA Dodgers partake in Ping-Pong to unwind

Ace pitcher Clayton Kershaw (2011 Cy Young winner) dominates. Here's the article.

More on Korean table tennis movie "As One"

Yesterday I gave the link to the Korean trailer for "As One." It's a movie about how North and South Korea came together to play as one team at the 1991 Worlds, winning the Women's Team event over China. (They defeated Deng Yaping and Gao Jun. The latter would later emigrate to the U.S. and win nine U.S. Women's Singles titles while representing the U.S. at the worlds, Olympics, and other major tournaments a number of times.) The movie will feature actors playing North Korean star Li Bun Hui  (sometimes spelled Lee Boon Hee) and South Korean star Hyun Jung Hwa, rivals until they were suddenly on the same team. (One confusion that took some research to work out - the movie was originally titled "Korea," and is still listed that way in many places, but has been renamed "As One.") I now have more links, all in English.

Cary Cup Highlights Video

Here are two highlights videos from the recent Cary Cup Championships.

Crazy table tennis

Here's another highlights video set to music (3:44).

Eight-year-old does beerless beer pong

Here's 59 seconds of beginning beer pong by an eight-year-old. But it's pretty impressive, even if he probably had to do each shot many times before getting it in.

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March 22, 2012

What's your secret weapon?

What do you do when you absolutely, positively have to win the next point? How do you serve and follow, or receive, when the game is on the line?

Note that this is somewhat of a trick question as you should be using these plans throughout a match, often to keep you from actually reaching a point where you absolutely, positively have to win the next point. And if you do reach that point, you should have tried out so many of these plans that you'll know which ones work.

Here are my "go to" plans, the secret weapons I pull out when I absolutely, positively have to win the next point.

On serve:

  • Short forehand pendulum serve with a big downward motion that looks like backspin, but actually has sidespin-topspin. With a subtle snap of the wrist at contact, the inner part of the paddle moves up on contact, creating topspin. Opponents pop it up or return it weakly over and over, setting up easy smashes and loop kills.
  • Deep breaking forehand pendulum serve into the backhand that jumps away from the opponent. If the opponent doesn't have a good backhand loop, or can't step around and forehand loop it (and still cover the wide forehand on the next ball), then this serve sets up many easy smashes and loops. Because it goes so deep I have time to get my forehand on the next ball over and over.
  • Heavy no-spin short to the middle. ("Heavy no-spin" means that I fake lots of spin but put no spin on the ball.) As long as I keep it very low to the net, I almost always get a relatively weak ball, usually a push, that goes deep, setting up an easy loop. It comes back with less backspin than if I served backspin, and flips off it are usually softer than off a sidespin serve.
  • Forehand pendulum serve with heavy sidespin-backspin, short to the forehand. As long as I hang back toward my backhand side this tends to get returned to the forehand or middle, setting up an easy forehand loop.
  • Fast no-spin to the middle (opponent's elbow) with my forehand pendulum motion. The opponent has to decide quickly whether to return forehand or backhand, has to swing harder than usual to overcome the no-spin (as opposed to a fast topspin serve, where the topspin makes it jump off their paddle), and they usually end up returning it into the net. If they do return it, they are out of position (from covering the middle), and so usually open to an attack to the wide corners.
  • Forehand tomahawk serve short to the forehand. Most opponents make weak returns to my forehand, setting up an easy forehand loop.
  • Forehand tomahawk serve deep to the forehand. This works against players with weaker loops. Since it breaks away from them, they often lunge for the ball at the last second, which means they both lose control and lower their racket (meaning they will lift the ball too much, usually off the end).

On receive:

  • My favorite go-to receive is to receive anything on the backhand or middle with my backhand, right off the bounce, and topspin to the opponent's deep backhand. This usually takes away their serve advantage and forces a straight backhand-to-backhand rally. (And I'm confident that NOBODY can beat me straight backhand-to-backhand. This might not be true, but as long as I'm convinced of it, I can outlast most opponents with my steady but not-too-powerful backhand.)
  • Against short backspin serves either drop the ball short or quick push wide to the backhand, sometimes deep wide to the forehand. In either case I try to aim the ball one way and change directions at the last second. This is effective on both short and long pushes. On short pushes, I generally aim to the backhand, and at the last second drop it short to the forehand, where players are generally a little slower reacting to. On long pushes I mostly go long to the backhand, often aiming to the forehand side until the last second. But since many opponents anticipate this, I can get a couple of "freebies" in many games by switching directions at the last second and going to the forehand.
  • Against someone who consistently serves long, just loop the serve, but focus on spin, depth, and consistency.
  • Against a forehand pendulum serve (or other serves with spin that breaks away from me on my backhand) I have a pretty good forehand loop, and I see the serve coming, even under pressure I can often step around and loop it away with my forehand. I would normally only do this against a player who not only predictably serves long, but doesn't have much variety on his serve. Against someone who has great spin variety looping too aggressively is usually too risky.

Korean table tennis movie?

This video (1:06) seems to be a preview of a historical Korean table tennis movie. Can anyone translate what it's about? Added bonus - go to 0:32, and you'll see two Chinese women playing doubles on the far side. The one who starts on the right (while the other woman is hitting the ball), and then moves to the left is Gao Jun, former Chinese star (world #3, 1991 world women's doubles champion) who emigrated to the U.S. in the mid-1990s and was USA Women's Singles National Champion nine times.

The table tennis fantasy tour

While we're on the subject of table tennis movies, here's an article I had published in Fantasy Magazine three years ago on fantasy table tennis in movies and on TV.

Nominations open for U.S. Olympic Foundation’s George M. Steinbrenner III Award

Nominations are now being accepted for the 2011 George M. Steinbrenner III Sport Leadership Award, which annually honors a member of the U.S. Olympic family who has made outstanding contributions to sport.

Day off

After coaching table tennis eight straight days and 18 of the last 19, I'm off today. The bad news: I'm going to spend all day working through my todo list. It's long. Really long. Really, really long. (Will I have enough energy left to see a midnight showing of "The Hunger Games"? We'll see. I read all three books.)

Marty Reisman in slow motion

Yes, now you can stretch out those few seconds of Marty bliss to a full minute and a half!

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