Orioles

September 17, 2014

Tip of the Week:

Should You Watch the Ball All the Way Into the Racket?

Cold

I've spent most of the last two days in bed with a cold, but I'm over it now. It's fortunate timing as my Mon-Tue schedule is light, while Wed-Sun I'm very busy. There are a lot of segments in this morning's blog as they have accumulated over the last five days. I have no more sicknesses scheduled for this year.

Why Players Plateau

Here's a great article on this topic. This happens to players all the time - they reach a comfort level, and then stick with what's comfortable and works at that level, and so aren't able to progress beyond that point. I'm always trying to convince players at all levels to avoid this type of roadblock to improvement.

Here are two segments from the article.

In the 1960s, psychologists identified three stages that we pass through in the acquisition of new skills. We start in the “cognitive phase,” during which we’re intellectualizing the task, discovering new strategies to perform better, and making lots of mistakes. We’re consciously focusing on what we’re doing. Then we enter the “associative stage,” when we’re making fewer errors, and gradually getting better. Finally, we arrive at the “autonomous stage,” when we turn on autopilot and move the skill to the back of our proverbial mental filing cabinet and stop paying it conscious attention.

And so we get to the so-called “OK Plateau” — the point at which our autopilot of expertise confines us to a sort of comfort zone, where we perform the task in question in efficient enough a way that we cease caring for improvement. We reach this OK Plateau in pursuing just about every goal, from learning to drive to mastering a foreign language to dieting, where after an initial stage of rapid improvement, we find ourselves in that place at once comforting in its good-enoughness and demotivating in its sudden dip in positive reinforcement via palpable betterment.

How many of you are in the "autonomous stage," where you are blindly sticking to your comfort zone with the things that work at that level, but stop you from progressing? Watch what stronger players do, and emulate that. This doesn't mean you should completely lose what helped you reach your current level; much of that will be useful even at higher levels. The problem is when you rely on lower-level techniques and wonder why you can't reach a higher level.  

Navin Kumar: A Passion for Table Tennis

Here's the article. He has "a congenital heart condition that has required 5 major open heart surgeries throughout my lifetime, and I now have a mechanical heart made of the same carbon fiber material that you see in high end table tennis blades nowadays." He recently became one of my students. (He mentions me in the article.)

Three Years Eight Month Old Player

Here's the video (4:33). At the start he's standing on a chair. About thirty seconds in he's on a platform. We need to get something like this at my club. In tennis they start kids at three years old and sometimes even younger, using smaller courts and slower balls. Because of the height of the table players can rarely start in table tennis until they are five or six. There's no reason they can't start by age three if we have either platforms for them to stand on or lower tables. They actually make adjustable tables overseas, where you can lower the table, but they are expensive.

Volunteer Prize for Table Tennis Teacher

Here's the article on USATT Coaching Chair Federico Bassetti.

Berkeley Open

Here's a write-up of the tournament held this past weekend, with a link to a photo album.

Humble Beginnings to Established Event, 6th Annual Badger Open

Here's the article by Barbara Wei.

Ariel Hsing: There Are Not Many Powerful Players in America

Here's the article.

Butterfly Legends

Here's the article on Nobuhiko Hasegawa and Shigeo Itoh of Japan, the 1967 and 1969 Men's Singles World Champions. Includes links to numerous vintage videos.

China's Table Tennis Girls Team Spends Three Days in School, Four Days at Practice

Here's the article. I'm told by many Chinese players that in many Chinese sports schools they spend only one hour per day on school and 7-8 hours on sports.

Crazy Double Around-the-Net Shot

Here's the video (45 sec, including slow motion replay).

Triangle Table Tennis

Here's the video (2:24) of a news item on the Triangle Table Tennis Club in Morrisville, NC.

Princeton Pong - Battle of the Sexes 2014

Here's the video (7:13) of the exhibition doubles match between David Zhuang/Shao Yu and Ariel Hsing/Erica Wu at the grand opening of Princeton Pong on Saturday.

Chuang Chih-Yuan - Off the Table

Here's the video (3:42) of the world #8 from Taiwan.

Out of This World Doubles Rally

Here's the video (39 sec, including slow motion replay).

Stiga 2014 Trick Shot Showdown

Here are the selections - 65 of them! There's a "Play All" button.  

Interview with Piing of Power

Here's the interview, with a link to a hilarious video (1:12).

Carl Sagan's Understanding of the Afterlife

Here's the cartoon sequence. If you're impatient, skip down to the last few pictures!

Marty Reisman, His Forehand, and the Table Tennis Robot

Here's the video (14 sec) of the late table tennis great.

Exhibition by Saive and Merckx

Here's the video (1:35) as all-time great Jean-Michel Saive and Jasper Merckx (both from Belgium) lob and spin the table about.

Dude Perfect: Ping Pong Challenge

Here's the video (3:43) as the twins Coby and Cory go at it in this "ping pong battle for the ages."

Larry Bavly Copies the Famous Ma Lin Serve

Here's the original (1:18) as a shirtless Ma Lin serves backspin so the balls spin back into the net, his "ghost serve." Here's Larry Bavly mimicking this (2:30) in his XXL version. It brings back memories of the famous Saturday Night Live Chippendale skit (2:53) with Patrick Swayze and Chris Farley.

Non-Table Tennis - Letter from a Time Traveler to Orioles Fans

Here's another feature article I had at Orioles Hangout. This year everything that could possibly go wrong with the Orioles went wrong, as the article shows - and yet they clinched the American League East Division last night, with a 13.5 game lead with 11 games left to play. As noted in the past, I've coached three of the Orioles - shortstop J.J. Hardy, star reliever Darren O'Day, and Vice President and former start center fielder Brady Anderson. I've also hit with about half of them. (Here's the blog entry on my day at the Orioles clubhouse last summer.)

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August 25, 2014

Tip of the Week

Semi-Circular Motion on Serves.

Serving Tips

My last three Tips of the Week have been on serving. On August 11 I did Ten Steps to a Great Service Game. But when I did so, I realized I didn't have article explaining #5 and #6 (which go together) and #10. And so on August 18 and August 25 (this morning) I did The Purpose of the Serve and Semi-Circular Motion on Serves. I've now updated the Ten Steps to a Great Service Game article, with links to these two Tips. I'm also going to post the Tip 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.
    (Here's the article Serving Short with Spin. Here's another, Five Steps to a Great Spin Serve.)
  2. Learn to serve various spins, including backspin, side-backspin, sidespin, side-topspin, and topspin, and be able to serve with sidespin in either direction.
    (Here's the article Importance of Serve Variety.)
  3. Learn to serve low.
    (Here's the article Serving Low.)
  4. Learn to control the depth and direction of the serve.
    (Here's the article Depth Control of Serves.)
  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. 
    (Here's the article Semi-Circular Motion on Serves.)
  6. Learn to minimize and do quickly this semi-circular motion so receiver has trouble picking up contact.
    (See same article linked in #5.) 
  7. Learn to change the direction of your follow-through with your racket the split second after contact to mislead the receiver.
    (Here's the article Exaggerate the Opposite Motion on Serves.)
  8. Learn to fake spin and serve no-spin by contacting the ball near the handle.
    (Here's the article Those Dizzying No-Spin Serves.)
  9. Learn to serve fast & deep as a variation to your spin serves.
    (Here's the article Fifteen Important Deep Serves. Here's another, Turn Opponents into Puppets with Long Serves. Here's How to Ace an Opponent.)
  10. Learn to follow up your serves.
    (Here's the article The Purpose of the Serve.)

Upcoming Stuff

With summer over and kids back in school, you'd think I'd be less busy. I thought so too. But it seems my todo list always grows to encompass all time available. Here's a Top Twelve list from my todo list.

  1. Run Disabled Veterans Camp, Aug. 26-29, Tue-Fri.
  2. Afterschool program at MDTTC. Mon-Fri I'm back to picking up kids Mon-Fri at school for the afterschool program, and then helping run it.
  3. Group coaching. I'll be running junior programs Sat 10:30AM-Noon, Sun 4:30-6:00, and Thur 6-7PM.
  4. Private coaching. I'm putting together my fall schedule now. I'll likely be doing about 12-15 hours per week, more if I have the energy.
  5. The daily blog and Tips of the Week.
  6. I'm getting interviewed for a table tennis feature. I'll post a link to the interview when it comes out, which should be soon.
  7. General promotional and other work for MDTTC. This afternoon I need to put aside at least an hour to reglue numerous beginner paddles at MDTTC, since the sponge is coming off many of them. I'm also planning a Multiball Seminar for parents, so they can work with their kids. I also have to put together the September MDTTC Newsletter.
  8. Upcoming books. I plan on doing new photos and then a rewrite of my previous book, "Table Tennis: Steps to Success" (which is no longer in print), tentatively retitled "Table Tennis Fundamentals." I'm also planning a rewrite of "Instructors Guide to Table Tennis," which is no longer in print.  I'm also planning on writing "Parents Guide to Table Tennis."
  9. Read and review recent table tennis books: The Next Step by Alex Polyakov, and Get Your Game Face On Like the Pros by Dora Kurimay and Kathy Toon. I've been putting it off all summer - was just too busy, and frankly, when I'm exhausted from coaching, I prefer to read SF at night.
  10. From Sept. 29 to roughly Oct. 10, Tim Boggan moves in with me so we can put together the pages for History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 15, which covers 1986-1988. (It really covers 1986-87, but goes into the beginning of 1988.)
  11. I'm doing the final rewrite on my SF novel "Campaign 2100: Rise of the Moderates," which covers the election for president of Earth in the year 2100 - where the whole world has adopted the American two-party electoral system. I wrote this several years ago, but just had it critiqued at a writing workshop and so have lots of rewriting to do. (As I've noted in previous blogs, it stars a table tennis player and has numerous table tennis scenes.) I also have three short stories in various stages of completion.
  12. If I seem tired these days, it's because I'm eating less. I've gone from 195 to 183 lbs in six weeks, and plan to continue right on to 170. I expect to reach 175 by the time Tim Boggan moves in on Sept. 29, and then (alas), as he likes to eat and takes me with him, I'll probably gain a few over the next ten days. But I hope to get to 170 by the end of October.  

Coaching Articles from Samson Dubina

Here are recent coaching articles from the Ohio coach.

Table Tennis Training with "The Wheel"

Here's the video (36 sec). Even if you don't have such a wheel, this is how you can do footwork training with a robot that hits to one spot - alternate hitting an actual ball, and move to the other side to shadow practice a shot, and then move back to hit the next shot, and so on. (I used to have a wheel like this but it broke.)

Corkscrew Return from Waldner

Here's the article and video (1:55).

Atlanta International Academy

Here's the USATT article. How many people remember before we had all these top training centers popping up all over the U.S.? It used to be a barren wasteland out there. There used to be a lot of USATT "leaders" who doubted there would ever be a demand for these things!!! (I remember arguing about this with certain short-sighted USATT board members at the December, 2006 board meeting.)

Belarus Open Men's and Women's Final

Here are the Men's and Women's Finals at the Belarus Open this past weekend, with the time between points removed. Here's a picture of the champions. Here's the ITTF home page for the event, with results, articles, pictures, and video. This was the first ITTF Pro Tour Event that used the new non-celluloid balls. They also experimented with playing without service lets! Not sure yet how that went off - I'm sure there'll be an article on this.

  • Men's Final (5:32) - Vladimir Samsonov (BEL) d. Wang Zengyi (POL), 6,4,-8,3,6.
  • Women's Final (8:18) - between Sayaka Hirano (JPN) vs. Misaki Morizono (JPN), 5,6,9,-10,-5,-6,9.

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. Ninety-three down, seven to go!

  • Day 8: Chan Foong Keong Gives Advice to Associations Hoping to Host ITTF Events
  • Day 9: The ITTF’s First-Ever Competition Manager Zlatko Cordas Reminisces

MDTTC August Open

We had a 2-star tournament at my club this past weekend. Here are the main results. You can get complete results (care of Omnipong) here.

MDTTC Open
Maryland Table Tennis Center, August 23-24, 2014
Director: Charlene Liu. Referee: Paul Kovac.
Open Singles - Final: Chen Bo Wen d. Wang Qing Liang, -13,2,5,9,-9,8; SF: Chen d. Raghu Nadmichettu, 4,-9,6,7,-9,7; Wang d. Khaleel Asgarali, 6,5,9,6; QF: Chen d. John Wetzler, 9,7,5; Asgarali d. Stefano Ratti, 8,6,-11,9; Nadmichettu d. Bojun Zhangliang, -8,11,11,-10,6; Wang-bye.
Under 2400 - Final: Khaleel Asgarali d. Raghu Nadmichettu, 8,8,-9,13; SF; Asgarali d. Humayun Nasar, 5,-6,1,4; Nadmichettu d. Stefano Ratti, -11,-11,7,8,8.
Under 2250 - Final: Nasruddin Asgarali d. Lixin Lang, -9,-6,9,5,8; SF: Asgarali d. Ryan Dabbs, 1,8,8; Lang d. Humayun Nasar, 5,4,4.
Under 2050 - Final: Gong Yunhua d. Joshua Tran, -5,-7,5,9,10; SF: Gong d. Gary Schlager, 9,-6,-10,3,7; Tran d. Carlos Williams, 9,7,-7,9.
Under 1900 - Final: Justin Bertschi d. Michael Greenbaum, 8,-10,8,-6,7; SF: Bertschi d. Gordon Lee, -10,2,4,6; Greenbaum d. Ara Sahakian, 2,6,10.
Under 1650 - Final: Chanakya Anne d. Jozef Simkovic, -8,9,6,-4,10; SF: Anne d. Gordon Lee, 4,9,9; Simkovic d. Hu Yingyao, 6,8,-10,-6,9.
Under 1400 - Final RR: 1st. Huang Siliang, 4-0; 2nd Benjamin Clark, 3-1; 3rd William Huang, 1-3; 4th Pelle Deinoff, 1-3; 5th Ian Dominguez, 1-3.
Under 1150 - Final: Pelle Deinoff d. Benjamin Clark, 6,4,4; SF Deinoff d. Ian Dominquez, 8,9,-10,9; Clark d. Krishna Ganti, 11,-10,3,-9,7.
Under 13 - Final: Daniel Sofer d. Benjamin Clark, 9,4,8; SF: Sofer d. Emily Yuan, 4,5,1; Clark d. William Huang, 6,5,-6,10.

New York Jets Table Tennis Tournament

Here's the article and video (6:31).

Ice Bucket Challenges

Here are more from prominent players.

Table Tennis in Space

Here's the cartoon.

Non-Table Tennis - Orioles Top Ten List

Orioles Hangout published another of my infamous lists, "Top Ten to Stop the Orioles Historic Two-Game Utter Collapse." (They've now lost three in a row, but still lead the division by six games over the Yankees.)

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August 21, 2014

Ice Bucket Challenge - My Video

I was challenged to do the ice bucket challenge by Nathan Hsu, who will rue the day. For those of you living under a ping-pong ball or lost in a forest of long pips, this is a charity for ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), better known as Lou Gehrig's disease. Find out more at the ALS Association home page.

I put together a skit for my ice water dousing. Dumping a bucket of ice water on my head wasn't enough for me. Special thanks to Leon Bi and Darwin Ma for their help.

I have challenged three others: Todd Sweeris, Jim Butler, and Dan Seemiller Sr. They have 24 hours to complete their assignment of either dumping a bucket of ice water on their heads or donating $100 to ALS!

While we're on the subject, here are a few others that have come up since yesterday (when I posted others) in the table tennis world:

USATT's July Meeting

Here are the minutes to the meeting, which went up yesterday. A few items I found interesting:

  1. In D-Magazine, it says, "About $10,000 in advertisements were sold in the Spring Issue, which resulted in a $4,000 shortfall to projections." In my blog on February 11, 2014 on the cancellation of the print magazine and going digital, I wrote, "But they'll lose money on advertising and membership." I also wrote, "I'm told they are budgeting advertising to stay the same, which of course won't happen." Of course it was going to drop - anyone in the industry knows you get more ad revenue from print than online. But for some reason USATT budgeted something that they should have known wouldn't happen. Roughly multiply this time six, and at the end of the year they are going to have a roughly $24,000 shortfall. Or maybe, just to spite me, they'll focus on advertising and get ad revenue back up!

    This isn't me retroactively criticizing; I wrote this as soon as they cancelled the print version and went all-digital. It was an easy prediction. I still believe they messed up badly here, and should have kept the print magazine, added the online version (which is easy to produce once you have the print version), and simply increase ad rates because of the added online exposure. This would have substantially increased revenue without cancelling the print magazine that was such a valuable tool to clubs for promoting our sport, as well as for the roughly 1/3 of our membership who get nothing from USATT except the magazine. The loss in ad revenue is verified, but we may never know how many members we lost (or will lose) when they discover they no longer get the magazine.

    But even before the drop in advertising they were only getting $14,000 in ad revenue. That's almost exactly what I'd brought it up to when I resigned as editor at the end of 2006 (though I did two more issues in 2007). Adjusted for inflation, I was bringing in about $16,500/issue. (When I first took over in my first tenure as editor, ad revenue was running at $2300/issue. I brought that up to $5500/issue. When I took over for my second tenure, ad revenue had dropped a little - forget the exact amount - but over the next eight years I brought it up to $14,000.)

    One thing I'm confused about. In these minutes, it says that the Spring issue received about $10,000 in advertisements, about $4000 short of projections. But in the May 19 minutes, it says, "The digital magazine generated $9000 in ad revenue for the Spring 2014 issue, constituting a $6,000 shortfall to budgeted revenue." So one says there was $10,000 in revenue, the other $9000; one says a $6000 shortfall, the other $5000. It can't be both. (I blogged about this on July 15. But there is a discrepancy in their numbers.)

  2. There are two items of direct interest to coaches, so I'll paste them both here.  Coaches, take notice! (Here's the link to the SafeSport info page - you have to click on the attachments at the end to do the background checks.)
    1. K. USATT's SafeSport Program - Background Checks, RailStation Rollout
      ​​USATT is fully committed to implementing the SafeSport program as mandated by the U.S. Olympic Committee ("USOC").  Our SafeSport program now appears on USATT's website, with 50 coaches completing background checks.  It is reasonable to give coaches notice of an August 1st deadline to complete their background checks. Mr. Scudner suggested that USATT provide a "SafeSport" informational packet to its clubs which includes a notice that their coaches must complete background checks.  Mr. Gheorghe will send an email to coaches containing an easily accessible website link to the SafeSport program. 
    2. V. Fede Bassetti - Coaching Presentation
      Mr. Bassetti presented a coaching education program based upon the ITTF curricula (i.e., levels 1, 2, and 3) to the Board.  Under his program, coaches receive certification at the end of a two year program, consisting of 40 credits of continuing education. Under his approach, schools are categorized as competitive, developmental, recreational, and business.  Each school is divided into 4 levels of coaches.  He seeks USATT's and ITTF's endorsement of his program and $2500 to $5000 to create each course.  Coaches would maintain their teaching credentials on two year cycles, with background checks every two years. Mr. Danner recommended that he speak with professional table tennis coaches/training centers for their feedback.

      The COB said that the USATT will send its questions to Mr. Bassetti via email, and the Board then will revisit this program after Mr. Gheorghe and Mr. Basetti review the certification system we now have in place--this should not occur until after the new CEO has been recruited.  Additionally, all USATT coaches must complete their background checks by August 1st, or they will be removed from the list of active coaches.  Tentatively, the Board may address the coaching issues at its December meeting.

    3. Here's info on upcoming U.S. Opens and Nationals.
      Y. Future Tournaments
      Currently, the 2015 U.S. Nationals and U.S. Open are planned to be held in Las Vegas.  Dallas submitted a bid for the U.S. Open, and a Dallas information packet was distributed to Board members.  
    4. I blogged about the National Volunteer Coordinator position before, but here it is in the minutes. I may blog more about this later. This is a great idea - why not apply? Even if you don't become the National Volunteer Coordinator there'll be plenty of volunteer positions they'll be looking to fill.
      MOVED that the Board adopt the proposal to develop the position of National Volunteer Coordinator and request that the CEO proceed as soon as possible to find a volunteer to fill this position.
      Movant: Han Xiao
      Second: Anne Cribbs
      Discussion:  The USATT, with its limited resources, should create an organized volunteer organization. When the Board has tasks to be performed, expertise is needed to carry out these tasks.  A National Volunteer Coordinator position should be created, reporting to the Board.  The Coordinator's job will be to work with staff and volunteers, perhaps on a daily basis, to accomplish the Board's assigned tasks.  Expenses for this Coordinator will be minimal at first--the Coordinator will present an annual report once a year to the Board and occasionally report progress at Board teleconference meetings. 

Forehand Loop Technique - Correct Use of Legs and Waist

Here's the video (13:37) by Gregg Letts.

USA Youth Olympic Games Home Page

The page now has a number of quotes from Lily Zhang, Coach Lily Yip, and a slideshow at the end featuring Zhang and Krish Avvari, the other USA player.

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. Ninety down, 10 to go!

Day 11: Michel Gadal Urges Worldwide Table Tennis Family to Embrace P5 Plan

People in Sports Who Are Unexpectedly Ripped

Here's Wang Liqin in the listing. But this is true of essentially every top table tennis player. "Unexpectedly"? Only to the non-table tennis person.

Beat the Best, Beat Jean-Michel Saive

Here's the ITTF article on the contest, sponsored by Stiga, where you challenge the competitive Saive to various contests.

Floor Table Tennis

Here's the article and video (1:11). "If your kids aren’t quite tall enough to see over a table tennis table yet, consider floor table tennis."

Berlin Style Ping-Pong

Here's the article and pictures of this new type of table tennis that's sweeping the world!

Clayton Kershaw Plays Table Tennis

Here's a new video (5:24) of the Dodger superstar pitcher where he talks about his table tennis and his charity table tennis event.  

Jorgen Persson, Chef

Here's the picture from the Youth Olympic Games. I mean, gee whiz, the guy hasn't been World Men's Singles Champion since 1991, the last of his World Team Champion titles was in 2000, and he hasn't been world #1 since 1991-1992. He obviously needs a new line of work.

Dogs Playing Table Tennis to Music

Here's the video (15 sec)! This is hilarious. Can someone translate the Asian words that come up right at the end?

Non-Table Tennis: Baltimore Orioles

They now have a nine-game lead on the Toronto Blue Jays, 9.5 games on the Yankees. As some readers know, I often get published at Orioles Hangout, mostly with humorous stories or top ten lists. I just created this image for them that shows the state of the American League East.

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August 8, 2014

Virginia Camp

Yesterday was Day Four of the five-day camp I'm running at Fairhill Elementary School in Fairfax, Virginia, with 14 players, ages 6 to 12. (John and Wen Hsu are assistant coaches, with Wen the administrator.) The focus yesterday was footwork (as usual), serving, and lots and lots of smashing. We also did a lot of relay races. 

After four days of camp, all 14 of the kids can hit forehands and backhands pretty well, at least in multiball. All can smash, push, and move side to side. Most can put spin on their serves. I think I've put more emphasis in this camp on smashing and serves, and the players are well ahead on those two aspects. All were beginners when we started on Monday, though some had been playing on their own. 

When I do multiball forehand smash training, I like to do two players at a time. One stands on the forehand side, the other on the backhand side. The one on the forehand side starts, smashing three forehands in a row, one from the forehand side, one from the backhand side, and one from the forehand side. After the third shot he steps back, and the other player gets three smashes, one from the backhand side, one from the forehand side, and one from the backhand side. Then he steps back, and we repeat with the other player. The drill is continuous, so the players get lots of smashing and footwork practice. If I have a lot of players, I'll do three or more players at a time, with the players smashing forehands from the backhand and then forehand side, and then circling back to the end of the line as the next player gets two smashes. There are many variations, such as smashing on the forehand side and then backhand side, or mixing in backhand smashes, or even doing the "2-1" drill, with the players hitting a backhand from the backhand side, then a forehand from the backhand side, then a forehand from the forehand side, and then rotating to the end of the line. 

Sometimes a simple suggestion cures a problem. One kid was having difficulty timing his forehand - over and over he'd start too soon or too late, and end up with wild swats and lunges. I suggested he start his forward swing right as the ball hit the table, and presto! Instant success. Another couldn't get spin on his serve because he kept patting at the ball. I reminded him that serving with spin is a violent motion, and that if you want the ball to spin 100 mph, you have to get the racket to move 100 mph. Within minutes he was serving serious backspins that often stopped over the table, with a couple even coming back into the net.

I brought out the serving bar so they could practice serving low. (This is an adjustable bar that goes over the net. Here's a picture of it set high, and here's a picture of it set low. John Olsen made this for our club. It has about ten height settings.) The kids had a great time trying to serve under the lowest setting - they insisted on that one. Even I hit the bar about 1/3 of the time with that setting. I also brought out the soccer-colored balls for more spin feedback on serves. Besides spin serves we also practice fast serves. 

I spent the last 20 minutes of the day serving to the kids, who lined up to try to return them. I'd call out where their returns would go in advance, even having kids take turns standing to the side and catching the returns off my sidespin serves. Then I started telling them what they had to do to return them, and some of them were able to make some returns. I also threw in a lot of "trick" serves - backspin serves that bounced back and over the net, under-the-leg serves, fast serves, "blowing serves" (where I'd serve high but then run to the side of the table and blow the ball sideways or back into the net on the opponent's side), and about a dozen others. I also threw in a few 50-foot serves from the side. 

Zhang Jike: The Two-Toned Ball is Okay

Here's the article.

Plastic Ball Reviews from Professionals

Here's the article, with reviews from five world-class players.

Hong Kong Cadet and Junior Open

Here's the info page for the Aug. 6-10 tournament. Fifteen USA juniors are playing in the tournament - here's the player listing by country.

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-six down, 24 to go!

  • Day 25: Alison Burchell Hopes to See the ITTF Become the Best Integrated IF

Athletes in Excellence

Here's the info page. "The Athletes in Excellence Award from The Foundation for Global Sports Development recognizes exceptional athletes who uphold the values of good sportsmanship and fair play on the field as well as off the field. Do you know of an athlete who spends countless hours volunteering their skills and time to better the lives of others? Submit your nomination to The Foundation for Global Sports Development, and share the athlete’s good deeds around the world. A total of ten athletes (five international and five domestic) will be awarded unrestricted grants each in the amount of $10,000. Award winners will be announced in fall of 2014."

Three Amazing Points

Here's the video (1:54). Ding Ning vs. Seo Hyowon, Ma Long vs. Jun Mazutani, and Ma Long vs. Fan Zhendong.

Casts of Hot in Cleveland and Glee Play Ping Pong

Here's the article and picture

Doug McDermott vs. Nick Johnson - NBA Basketball Players Play TT

Here's the article, with a link to a 16-sec video.

World Series of Beer Pong

Here's the info page. Oh Jeez!!!

Ulf Carlsson Playing with Racket in Pants

Here's the video (20 sec) of the 1985 World Men's Doubles Champion (with Mikael Appelgren).

Cat Playing Table Tennis

It's been a while since I've shown a video of a cat playing table tennis, so here's one (26 sec) that's probably the best pong-playing cat I've seen on video. We'll ignore that he's standing on the table, touching the net, has no racket, and isn't wearing legal attire. 

Non-TT: Top Ten Ways for Orioles Fans to Cope with a Winning Team

After 14 consecutive losing seasons (1998-2011), the fans of the Baltimore Orioles pretty much got used to losing. They have begun winning the last three years, but many fans are still not used to this weird thing called "winning." So here is my Top Ten List for how they can cope - published at Orioles Hangout. (Here's the thread on their forum where a few are discussing the list.)

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June 17, 2014

Arm Wrestling and Table Tennis

During a break today during our MDTTC camp yesterday, several of the kids began arm wrestling. Alarms began blaring in my head.

Long ago I was a competitive arm wrestler. How competitive? Here's a picture in the newspaper of me winning the 1983 University of Maryland arm wrestling championships. (Little known fact: arm wrestling is more technique than strength, though of course at the higher levels you absolutely need both. In a few minutes I can teach an average person how to beat a much stronger person.) What's not mentioned in the picture caption was that during this match I hurt my arm so badly that I was out of table tennis for six months. And it was far worse than that - I've had ongoing arm problems ever since.

After I'd mostly recovered from this injury, someone heard about my arm wrestling background in the late 1980s, and challenged me to a match. I smiled, and pretty much slammed his arm down so fast it was over in one second. Result? I was out another five months or so as it healed again. (I actually played some during this time, but only blocking or chopping.) 

It not only knocked me out of table tennis for months at a time, it ruined my game on and off for years. When I hurt the arm I was a 2200 player. Here's chapter 11 of volume 14 of Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis, which just went online. In it you'll find me losing in the final of Under 2000 to Stephen Yeh at the 1985 U.S. Open. Under 2000??? Me??? But that's what happens when your arm is constantly hurting, and you can barely loop or hit backhands. I probably took off 1-2 months to rest it at least 7-8 times, and it rarely helped. (I finally mostly got over it with a combination of ultrasound treatments, strength exercises involving stretching a thick rubber band in various ways, and lots of irritating rest.

I'm not the only one this has happened to. I'm hitting a blank, but I remember others who have injured their arm from arm wrestling and had to take time off from table tennis. It's just so easy to spend a few seconds with an impromptu and informal arm wrestling match, without realizing the possible consequences. Here's a page showing common injuries from arm wrestling. The list is rather long. 

So when I saw the kids arm wrestling, after a moment of reminiscing and reliving painful memories, I warned them against it. I also pulled aside some of our top juniors and sort of gave them the riot act - basically, do not risk all your years of training for this. No arm wrestling!

I wonder what other activities up-and-coming table tennis players should avoid. Skiing? (Several of our kids ski regularly, and as far as I know there's been no broken legs or other injuries.) Sky diving? Bungee jumping? Bear wrestling? Some coaches advise against tennis since it can mess with your table tennis strokes, and that's probably true for developing players, but I don't think it seriously affects a table tennis player whose strokes are ingrained.

If you want to see hyper-muscled arm wrestlers showing off their strength and then playing table tennis, here's the page.

MDTTC Camp

Yesterday was the first day of our MDTTC summer camps. They are Mon-Fri every week for ten straight weeks. They are for all ages and levels, but are dominated by our junior players. (This week's camp has only one player over age 18, and he's 22 or so.) Turnout was a little smaller than usual, with fewer out of towners than usual. Coach Cheng Yinghua said he thinks this is because there are so many other training centers now running camps. We used to get contingents from New York, New Jersey, North Carolina, and other states, but they all have their own training camps. 

One side result is that since it was mostly locals, we decided to skip my normal lectures and get the players out to the tables as quickly as possible. So there will be fewer of my brilliant, world-renowned lectures (that's how I remember them) but more sweating time at the table. (Though we do have air conditioning!) 

Today's most difficult task in my group? Convincing the younger kids when we do multiball that it doesn't matter who goes first, you are all going to get the same number of turns!!! One kid had a meltdown over this, all because he lost a rock-paper-scissors thing with another kid over who got to go first. (Okay, they were about seven years old, the youngest in the camp.) Meanwhile, as we usually do, on day one we focused on the forehand.

Upcoming ITTF Coaching Courses in the U.S.

Here's a listing:

Nittaku Poly Ball

I blogged about this extensively yesterday. Here's a long discussion about it at the Mytabletennis.com forum. (The discussion began before I blogged about it.) 

ITTF Reforms Dangerous Says Liu Guoliang

Here's the article

Susan Sarandon, Ping Pong, and Testicular Cancer

Here's the article on her ping-pong related charity work.

Frank Caliendo and the Baltimore Orioles

Here's an article about Frank's visit to the Orioles clubhouse on Saturday, where he played table tennis with the players. (I blogged about this yesterday.)

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. Previous ones are linked from the USATT News page, as well as in my past blogs. Twenty-five down, 75 to go!

  • Day 76: The Wonderful World of Disney's
  • Day 77: Paying Tribute to Our “Founder-President” Patriarch: Hon. Ivor Montagu

Table Tennis in a Mall in Orlando

Here's an article in the Orlando Sentinel about an exhibition at a mall. Taking part were Michael McFarland, Gary Fraiman, Mark Hazell, and Timothy & Aydin Lee. 

Incredible Point at World Hopes Challenge

Here's the video (40 sec) where USA's Michael Tran (far side) goes up against Mexico's Dario Arce in the quarterfinals in Austria. Besides the incredible blocking, see Dario's spin move near the end! Dario had beaten Michael in the team competition, and went up 2-0 in games here, but Michael came back to win in five.

Marco Freita and Soccer

Here's the video (~15 sec) of the Portugal #1 (and world #13) showing off his soccer skills.

Adam Bobrow Playing Outdoors in China

Here's video (1:57) of Adam playing outdoor table tennis in a park in China.

"Think Different" Apple Ad

Here it is - with table tennis!

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June 16, 2014

Tip of the Week

Be a Perfectionist.

MDTTC Summer Camps

Our ten weeks of MDTTC summer camps starts today, Mon-Fri every week, 10AM-6PM. It's going to be a busy summer. I'll miss two of the weeks, June 30-July 4 for the U.S. Open, and July 28-Aug. 1 for a writers workshop. I'm still doing my usual private coaching, plus this blog and Tip of the Week, and other writing, so it's going to be a hyper-busy summer. As usual.

Nittaku Premium 40+ Poly Ball

Paddle Palace sent me one of the newly created Nittaku Poly balls, the 3-Star Nittaku Premium 40+, made in Japan. These are the plastic ones that will replace celluloid balls later this year in many tournaments. This ball is of special interest because it's possibly the ball we'll be using at the USA Nationals in December, as well as other USA tournaments. (There will also be a Nittaku SHA 40+ ball that is made in China, but it's likely the Premium from Japan that might be used at the Nationals.) 

Why is this important to you? Because it's likely these are the balls YOU will be using soon. Might as well learn about them and get used to them.

I tried the new ball out on Sunday morning at MDTTC, hitting with Raghu Nadmichettu, Derek Nie, Quandou Wang (Crystal Wang's dad), John Olsen, and Sutanit Tangyingyong. There was pretty much a consensus on it. Here are my findings, based on my play with it and comments from the others.

  1. The ball sounds almost exactly like a regular celluloid ball - no more cracked sound like many of the previous versions.
  2. The ball is extremely sturdy, almost unbreakable. Unlike a celluloid ball, you could press your thumb on it and there was little give. No soft spots. These balls will last forever until someone steps on it.
  3. The surface of the ball is slightly rougher than a celluloid ball.
  4. It didn't have the powder that covers a new celluloid ball.
  5. It was seamed, but you could barely see it.
  6. The ball is heavier and slightly wider than the celluloid ones. I think to get rid of the crack sound they made the walls thicker. When you hit with it the extra weight is instantly obvious.
  7. I compared it to a 40mm ball, and it looks 40.5mm. That's why they label it "40+."
  8. It spins slightly less because of the extra weight and greater diameter. All shots initially have less spin - serves, loops, pushes, chops, etc. However, what spin you put on the ball tended to stay, as the extra weight allowed it to better overcome air resistance. At the same time the ball reacted to the spin slightly less, due to the extra weight.
  9. It was very easy to serve short with spin with it. I think this was because the extra weight meant the ball came off the racket slower when serving with spin.
  10. I did a bounce test, dropping it and a Butterfly 3-star next to each other. The poly ball bounced slightly higher every time.
  11. Even though it was technically faster on the bounce test, in rallies it played a touch slower, again presumably because of the extra weight, and because the lower trajectory off the racket (due to the extra weight) made the ball cross the net lower and therefore bounce lower on the other side. One player in backhand-backhand rallies kept putting it in the net.  
  12. The ball seemed especially heavy when looping, and a bit more difficult to spin. There was less loft - you had to aim slightly higher. Overall I found it a touch harder to loop against blocks, mostly because of the extra effort needed to overcome the extra weight.
  13. Counterlooping was easier, but the ball definitely felt heavier the more you backed off the table. But balls that might have gone off the end seemed to drop on the table like a rock. This was because even though the ball started with less spin than normal, the spin dissipated less, and so there was as much or more spin at the end than a normal counterloop. However, this was partially offset by the extra weight, meaning the ball reacted slightly less to the spin.
  14. It's very easy to block with it. The ball could bring back the quick-blocking game. But I think blockers with long pips are going to have trouble as the ball won't return with as much spin. Part of this is because the incoming ball will tend to have less spin. 
  15. I think hitting is about the same with it. Because there's less spin it's easier for a hitter to hit against a loop. But because the ball tended to have a slightly lower trajectory, the ball bounced lower, which might even things out. When an opponent loops close to the table, there's less spin with this ball than with a celluloid one. But as the looper backs off, the ball tends to come out spinnier since the spin doesn't dissipate as quickly due to air resistance. (Remember that many players thought going from 38 to 40mm balls would favor hitters, but it was the reverse. And now we've gone slightly bigger.)
  16. When I first tried chopping, balls that normally would have hit the table kept sailing off. (I'm about a 2100 chopper, though I'm normally an attacker.) There was noticeably less spin. Then I hit with Sutanit Tangyingyong, a 2300+ chopper, and he had no such trouble. His chops were extremely heavy, though he said they'd be heavier with the regular ball. (I struggled to lift and to read his chops, and then realized something - since I primarily coach these days, I haven't played a seriously good chopper in well over a decade!) He concluded that the ball would favor choppers who vary their spin - his no-spin chop with this ball was deadly - but choppers who rely on heavy backspin wouldn't do as well. I realized afterwards that part of the reason I had so much trouble with his chopping is that his heavy chops, while starting with less spin, kept the spin due to the ball's extra weight, and so the balls were heavier than I expected. Also, lifting a heavier ball against heavy backspin is more difficult.
  17. My conclusions - the new ball might affect players perhaps the equivalent of 25 ratings points at most. However, that's a 50-point swing, since one player might be 25 points better, another 25 points worse. (Note that 25 points means more at the higher levels. But at the lower levels, where 25 points doesn't mean as much, it'll affect play less as players are less specialized, and so it'll come out about the same.)
  18. The ball is going to help blockers and counterloopers. It's going to hurt long pips blockers, and looping against blocks. After the difficulty I experienced lifting against chops, I'm starting to think it might help choppers, the most surprising thing I found. 

Paddle Palace also gave me what five-time U.S. Men's champion and 2-time Olympian Sean O'Neill wrote about the ball. Here's what he wrote:

The Nittaku Premium 40+. Two words - "Game Changer."
a) Really round, others have noticeable wobble
b) Different matt finish. I don't think these will get glassy with age
c) Spin doesn't dissipate. Really true flight paths.
d) Hard as a rock. No soft spots at all. Feels if the walls are thicker than other 40+
e) Sounds good, no hi pitched plastic sound
f) Texture very noticeable. This makes for truer bounce especially on spin shots
g) Durable. These things are gonna last big time.

Orioles Host Frank Caliendo and Han Xiao

When I heard that famed stand-up comedian Frank Caliendo was in town doing shows, and was interested in playing the Orioles, I contacted their press manager. And so it came about that on Saturday morning Frank (who's about 1800) and Han Xiao (former long-time USA Team member) visited the Orioles clubhouse on Saturday morning to play the Orioles. I wasn't there, and don't have pictures or video, but I'm told they played a lot with Darren O'Day (who I've coached a few times) and others, but they weren't sure of the names. Alas, the Orioles best TT player, JJ Hardy (also around 1800), wasn't available. There was a 10-15 second video of them playing on the Orioles pre-game show. (Here's the link to my blog last August when I visited and played the Orioles in their clubhouse, along with some of our top junior players.)

Non-Table Tennis: Speaking of the Orioles…

This weekend they featured another of my Top Ten Lists. Except this one had 12: Top Twelve Ways That Orioles Fans Can Help Out. This is the 20th article of mine that they've featured. (It contains some inside jokes; feel free to ask about them in the comments below.)

Samson Dubina Coaching Articles

He's put up several more coaching articles on his home page. These include articles on Boosting Your Attack, Returning No-Spin Serves, and How Ratings Can Mentally Fool You.

Why Are the Chinese So Strong?

Here's the article. Includes links to numerous videos.

Lily Zhang Wins Silver in Korea

She made the final of Under 21 Women's Singles at the Korean Open, losing 4-1 in the final to Hitomi Sato of Japan. Here's the "playing card" picture of Lily!

Amy Wang and Michael Tran Winners at World Hopes Week

First, they won the Team Competition; here's the ITTF article. Then Amy won Girls' Singles while Michael made the finals of Boys' Singles; here's the ITTF article.

2014 U.S. Open Blog - A BIG THANK YOU!!!

Here's the blog by Dell & Connie Sweeris. They are co-chairs of the upcoming U.S. Open in Grand Rapids and are both members of the USA Table Tennis Hall of Fame.

Kagin Lee's Blog

Tokyo Recap, Part Two. Kagin is on the USATT Board of Directors and is a Vice President for the National Collegiate Table Tennis Association.

USA Umpires Pass International Umpire Exams

Here's the story and pictures. Congrats to Ed Hogshead, Linda Leaf, and David Pech!

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. Previous ones are linked from the USATT News page, as well as in my past blogs. Twenty-three down, 77 to go!

  • Day 78: A Special Father’s Day Remembrance: President Sharara Pays a Tribute to His Father
  • Day 79: Origination of the 100-Day Countdown

Table Tennis Company Competitions in Washington DC

Here's the story. Golden Triangle is organizing the competitions between June 6 and Sept. 19.  

Table Tennis Keeps Youth Out of the Streets

Here's the article and video (2:19).

Best of the Legends Tour

Here's the video (2:06), featuring Jan-Ove Waldner, Jorgen Persson, Mikael Appelgren, Jean-Philippe Gatien, Jean-Michel Saive, and Jiang Jialiang.

Unbelievable Rally at the Korean Open

Here's the video (55 sec) of the point between Yu Ziyang of China and Romain Lorentz of France.

Table Tennis is So Simple

Here's the cartoon!

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January 3, 2014

Iron Man Will Shortz

Will Shortz, the owner of the Westchester TTC (that's him and manager/coach Robert Roberts in picture) in New York as well as the famed New York Times Puzzle Editor, wrote me about completing his goal. "As you may have heard or read, I set it as my goal for last year to play TT every single day of the year ... and to film myself doing so as proof. On Tuesday, Dec. 31, I completed my goal. Never missed a day. There was a party at my club, with 40-50 people in attendance, in celebration. Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost, the writers/directors of the 'Paranormal Activity' movies, are making a video for me using bits of my clips."

He also wrote that he played at 38 clubs worldwide during the year, 27 in the U.S. in eight different states, plus Japan and China. He also visited Alaska: "In June Robert Roberts and I flew to Alaska and over the course of a week played at every TT club in the state (all six!). Our trip was written up in the Juneau Empire. Also, Gadling.com, a travel website, posted Vines of our trip every day. As for 2014, I intend to keep playing every day. But a) I'm not going to film myself anymore, and b) if I ever don't feel like playing on a particular day, I won't. I will no longer feel obligated."

I wrote back that "I have a firm rule I try to follow (but can't always), which is I have one day a week where I DON'T play table tennis, usually Mondays. Otherwise I go crazy!" I used to have more iron in me. Back in 1977 and 1978 (when I was 17 and 18) and I used to play seven days a week, and at least twice played every day for six months, though I don't think I went a whole year, thanks to holidays like Christmas. I did manage to play in 33 tournaments in 1978, including 14 consecutive weekends. These days, when I'm healthy, I coach six days/week. However, sometimes things get busy, and I sometimes coach or do other table tennis activities seven days a week. I know I did table tennis every day for two months once last year, and a couple times I did a month at a time.

With Tim Boggan moving in with me on Monday, Jan. 13 for a two-week stay to work on Volume 14 of his History of U.S. Table Tennis (I do layouts and photo work), and with a new afterschool table tennis program at MDTTC (where we combine table tennis and academics - I'll be doing a lot of tutoring as well as TT), my table tennis hours are about to jump up for a while.

I also wrote to Will about how I'd recently been doing the crossword puzzles in the Washington Post, and getting most of the answers. My brother and his wife have been doing them for years, and twice in recent years I'd gotten them signed crossword and Sudoku puzzle books from Will for Christmas. However, I also wrote him, "How the heck was I supposed to know that "Summer on the Riviera" was "ETE," that "One who tries to 'solve a problem like Maria'" is a "NUN," or that a Yale Student is an "ELI"??? He wrote back, saying "ETE is French for "summer." it appears often in crosswords. It's a good word to know. MARIA is a nun in "The Sound of Music." And a student at Yale is known as an ELI. That's also a common bit of crossword trivia. Memorize it!"

Speaking of crosswords, I think in the early 2000s, during the 12 years I was editor of USA Table Tennis Magazine, I ran a few table tennis crossword puzzles. I'd found an application that created them from questions and answers I put together.

Back to Private Coaching

After taking much of the last month off from private coaching (though I did lots of coaching at the Nationals and in our Christmas Camp), today I start with private sessions again. Hopefully the arm problems are over, as well as various leg, knee, and back problems that have made splashy appearances on and off this past year. I'm going in to the club around 5PM to get a good warm-up since I haven't played much recently, then I coach from 6-7PM. Then I have more this weekend.

Tips of the Day

Since the last time I posted about them on Dec. 27, USATT has put up another week of my Tips of the Day. Here's where you can see them all. Browse over them and read the ones that sound interesting or helpful, or just read them all! They are rather short and to the point.

$100,000 World Championships of Ping Pong

Wow! And the World Championships of Ping Pong is a sandpaper tournament! This is the third time for this annual event, to be held in London this weekend, Jan. 4-5. Some people will find that off-putting, but to me, table tennis is table tennis in all its forms. My only regrets are that I'm not there, perhaps 20 years younger, since I'm rather handy with the sand. Here's the actual prize fund. And here's a feature on the American duo (actually trio) going to the tournament (Adoni Maropis, Kit Jeerapaet, Ilija Lupulesku).

2014 U.S. Open Blog

Here's the first entry in the LOC Blog (Local Organizing Committee) for the 2014 U.S. Open in Grand Rapids, Michigan, to be held July 1-5. Written by co-chairs Connie & Dell Sweeris, it features the seven P's: "We have zeroed in on some key words to describe our goals & aspirations for this year's Open. ParticipationPrestigePresentationPrizes, PromotionPleasure and Profit are all expression for our passion." Then it goes on to detail these items. Can't wait to be there!

Samsonov Highlights

Here's a new highlights video (3:25) featuring Vladimir Samsonov of Belarus.

Iron Man Table Tennis

After blogging about Iron Man Will Shortz above, I googled for "Iron Man Table Tennis" - and found this hilarious video (2:22), of a kid getting killed in table tennis until he puts on the Iron Man mask!

Non-Table Tennis: Top Twelve New Year's Resolutions by Peter Angelos

Here's my latest article at Orioles Hangout.

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November 1, 2013

Another Oriole Takes Lessons

Okay, cat's out of the bag (or Oriole is out of the nest?), since most of the local table tennis juniors now know. The Baltimore Oriole baseball player I blogged about yesterday that I'm coaching is Darren O'Day, the 6'4" submarining $3.2 million/year relief pitcher with a lifetime 20-9 record and 2.62 ERA. Last year in 68 games he had a 2.18 ERA, the best of the O's relief pitchers. I hit with him some in August. I'm coaching him later today; afterwards he's hitting with our local kids, who are out of school today (some teachers meeting) and so doing a one-day training session (10AM-6PM).

I did find it interesting how fast these Oriole players pick up the sport. As noted yesterday, of the 25 Orioles, about half are at least 1200, the result of non-stop competitive play in their clubhouse. Surprisingly, most have decent technique - they copied much of it from JJ Hardy and Brady Anderson, who play 1800+ level. The lefty Brady actually has the best technique, running around attacking with his forehand, and not a bad backhand either. JJ has a nice counter-hitting game, but tends to point his racket up when he strokes - but it gives him an excellent blocking game, and he can smash as well, along with a surprisingly spinny forehand pendulum serve, made even more effective because he does it from his forehand side, which almost nobody does in "real" table tennis - except me, who does it in close matches as a variation. (Why don't you?)

Scream Halloween

In a class I taught yesterday just before the kids left to go trick-or-treating I did a nasty trick. I hid my Scream mask in the restroom before the class began. About ten minutes before class ended I asked my assistant coach, John Hsu, to talk to the kids about how to create spin on serves, and arranged that he'd be facing the restrooms as he did so, so the kids would have their backs that way. Then I went to the restroom, put on the mask, and quietly sneaked up on them. Then, staying silent, I leaped in front of them. There was quite a bit of screaming! Then I went after Coach John, "choking him to death" right in front of the kids. (John knew - it was pre-arranged.) Then I chased several of the kids around the table, still silent. Finally I put a Gatorade bottle on the table and motioned for them to go to the far side. We spent the last five minutes with me feeding multiball in the mask while they tried to hit the bottle of "worm juice." When they did, I had to jam the bottle up under the mask to drink it, always looking back and forth sharply between the bottle and the kid who hit it. Then I'd go right up to the kid and stare at him from one inch away. At the end, I went back to the restroom, removed the mask, and returned and said, "Did I miss anything?"

Table Tennis the Brain Sport

Here's an essay by Daniel G. Amen, MD, on the greatness of table tennis as a brain sport.

Four-Table Tennis

Cape Fear Table Tennis Club in Fayetteville, NC, is running the first four-table tennis tournament in the U.S. What's "four table"? It's table tennis played with four tables! Here's video (7:06). And here's their home page with info on the tournament.

Around the Net Shot

Here's video (38 sec) of Puerto Rican cadet star Adriana Diaz doing an around-the-net roll-on-the-table shot at the 2013 World Cadet Challenge.

16 Table Tennis World Records

Here they are!

Table Tennis Animation Project

Here is Sneak Peak of a Demo/Test raw footage (1:44) of a table tennis animation work in progress by Mike Mezyan. Can't wait to see the final version!

Queen Latifah vs. Granny Franny

Here's the story and video (51 sec).

Superhero Bee Pong

Look! Up at the Table! It's a Bird! It's a Plane! No - it's . . . a large bumblebee playing table tennis? I think that's what it is, not sure. Someone correct me if I'm wrong.

Non-Table Tennis - "The Best Things About Halloween"

Last year I had a story, "The Haunts of Albert Einstein," published in the anthology Specter Spectacular: 13 Ghostly Tales. ("Poor Albert Einstein is destined to haunt his old offices in Princeton for eternity, surrounded by the ghosts of bickering physicists who simply will not shut up, and the relentless paparazzi. What can he do to save himself from this fate?") The editors asked the authors to recount their favorite memories of past Halloweens. They just put up three of them, including mine - here they are! Mine's about getting caught up in a Halloween prank, and hiding late at night behind a bush in a Tyrannosaurus Rex costume as a drunk, angry man stood on the other side trying to find me.

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August 22, 2013

Visit to the Orioles Clubhouse

Yesterday was an incredible day. As noted in yesterday's blog, we were invited to give a demo and take challenges from the Baltimore Orioles baseball team in their clubhouse/locker room. They have a nice Killerspin table and lots of room. Many of the players have been playing regularly for the past few years - and it showed! This was not a bunch of "basement" players; they were surprisingly good. About a dozen of them could show up at any table tennis club and battle with the regulars. (Photos are now up in Tomorrow's blog.) 

We were supposed to be there from 2-3PM, but the Orioles kept challenging and challenging, and we ended up taking them on for three hours, from 2-5PM.

There's already been a lot of media coverage. The Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (MASN, home of the Orioles and Washington Nationals) did a special pre-game show on it, but I haven't seen it yet. (They just emailed me that they'll mail me copies of the video next week.) There's a short article in the Baltimore Sun, and an article and video (1:19) on the Orioles home page. The video has a great interview about us from Orioles Manager Buck Showalter - you should hear what he had to say about us! They also have video of me, Tong Tong Gong, and Derek Nie in the stands watching the game that night, which started at 7:05PM. (Orioles beat Tampa Bay Rays, 4-2. We sat directly behind home plate! They showed us briefly on the Jumbotron. Nathan and Qiming couldn't stay for the game.)

The players from the Maryland Table Tennis Center were:

  • Derek Nie, 12, 2012 U.S. Open Under 12 Boys' Champion (and looks about 10, only 4'7" and 70 lbs)
  • Nathan Hsu, 17, 2011 USA Junior Olympic Under 16 Boy's Singles Champion and 2012 USA Junior Olympic Under 18 Boy's Singles Finalist, #1 Under 18 player in Maryland among U.S. citizens.
  • Tong Tong Gong, 16, member of USA Cadet National Team (15 & Under), 2011-2012, who lives only 15 min from Camden Yards in Ellicott City, and is a big Orioles fan
  • Qiming Chen, 21, past University of Maryland Champion and President of the Univ. of Md. Table Tennis Club 
  • Coach Larry Hodges, member of the USA Table Tennis Hall of Fame (hey, that's me!)

Playing for the Orioles? Over half the team was at tableside nearly the entire three hours, cheering and jeering. Here are the ones that I remember playing against us: Manny Machado, Chris Davis, Matt Wieters, Nick Markakis, Steve Pearce, Taylor Teagarden, Tommy Hunter, Darren O'Day, and Chris Tillman. (I probably missed a few.) Also playing was former Orioles star centerfielder and now VP of Operations Brady Anderson. Their best player, shortstop JJ Hardy (about 1800), has had recent back problems and so didn't play - but he acted as the scorekeeper for many of the matches.

Here's a group picture taken near the end - many of the players had already left. Tomorrow I'll put up more photos taken (mostly by Qiming), and hopefully identify the players. (I don't have time now - this is a rather rushed write-up, as I didn't get to bed until 2:30 AM this morning, and I have to leave to coach shortly - I'll be coaching until 8PM today.)

To get a flavor for what this was like, image playing table tennis with these stars, with over half the rest of the Orioles all gathered around watching! Many of the players kept coming up to me to ask table tennis questions, and I bravely introduced myself to some of the others. I met and spoke with Chris Davis, Adam Jones, Nick Markakis, Brian Roberts, JJ Hardy, Manny Machado, Nate McLouth, Matt Wieters, Taylor Teagarden, Alexi Casilla, Steve Pearce, Miguel Gonzales, Tommy Hunter, Darren O'Day, Troy Patton, Chris Tillman, Brady Anderson, Manager Buck Showalter, and former hitting coach Terry Crowly. I mostly let the kids play, but I did play Tillman, Hunter, and Brady Anderson, and at one point I did an exhibition with Nathan, and at JJ's request, demonstrated my ball-blowing trick where I blow the ball in the air sideways, keeping the ball in the air by spinning it with my breath. Derek was especially in demand - everyone wanted to challenge him, and he ended up playing nearly half the team.

Much of the time I was standing next to Chris Davis, who leads the majors with 46 home runs after hitting another last night. We talked for 20 minutes on how players develop in skill sports, and how China is developing players in sports school funded by the government. He said that it's almost impossible to make the major leagues these days unless you have systematic training from the time you were a little kid, and that he'd been trained as a baseball player since he was four. Adam Jones and a few others joined in the discussion. When Chris had to leave, he pointed at his large locker area and said, "While I'm gone, Larry, my office is yours." (Here's a picture of Qiming Chen and Chris Davis.)

We owe JJ Hardy (the Orioles power-hitting and gold-glove winning shortstop) and Orioles Media Manager Jeff Lantz a huge thank you for all of this. They invited us, and made all the arrangements. When we first arrived, J.J. Hardy had set up an ambush for Orioles outfielder Steve Pearce, who had no idea what was going on. Pearce, apparently the Orioles third best player after JJ and Brady Anderson (if he counts, since he's not front office) didn't know what hit him when JJ suggested he play this little kid, who happened to be the 70 lb, 2291-rated Derek Nie. Pearce quickly realized he'd been had as the MASN cameras caught it all! So began the night. (Derek was nervous at the start, and since we didn't want to alert Pearce to what was happening, he didn't get any warm-up - and so started shaky, missing a couple of easy shots as Pearce tied it at 2-2. Then it was all Derek the rest of the way, 11-3.)

For the first ten minutes or so, the kids were very nervous, but the Orioles were so welcoming and friendly (when they weren't jokingly trash talking) that they quickly relaxed. At one point Tong Tong disappeared for a while; it turned out Steve Pearce had taken him out to the batting cages, where Tong Tong got to take ten swings against a practice partner pitcher. (Tong Tong and I were the two who knew all the Orioles; Nathan, Derek, and Qiming were all more or less baseball novices.)

Some interesting notes on the players: Nick Markakis plays with sandpaper, and can both chop and attack. Steve Pearce has a nice forehand sidespin loop. Chris Tillman has a pretty good smash. Manny Machado had incredible enthusiasm, never wanted to stop challenging us. Darren O'Day had lots of equipment questions and can keep the ball in play. Brady Anderson is an all-out forehand player, and can really move - he's in incredible shape, and wore both Derek and I out. He's improved dramatically since last time we played when I gave him a lesson at MDTTC in May. (He said he'd been playing nearly every day since then.) Near the end Derek and I played him a series of games. At first he was getting only 2-4 points a game against us. Near the end, as I tired and as he energetically continued to move at full speed, and he got used to my serves, and our last three games were actually close, including one game where (with a little net and edge help!) got to deuce. Derek and I both estimated him at 1800. He may give JJ a run for it now.

Afterwards player after player invited us to come back again, and based on the video interview with Manager Showalter (see link above), he seemed to like it to. Since the Orioles won that night, we are now their good luck charm!

Dimitrij Ovtcharov Smashing Speed

Here's a video (1:27, though it really ends at 1:14) of Germany's Ovtcharov (world #6) smashing as hard as he can with a radar gun, even tossing the ball up by the net and using a big wrist snap to add speed. His fastest was 122 kilometers per hour or 75.76 mph. This seemingly disproves the myth that a table tennis ball can be hit at 100 mph, assuming the radar gun is accurate.

Aerobic Table Tennis

Here's an article by former USA table tennis star Kim Gilbert on Aerobic Table Tennis.

Just Do It!

Here's video (1:32) of a new Nike Commercial that features table tennis about halfway through. The girl playing is Amanda Malek (daughter of 1979 USA Men's Singles Champion and Coach Attila Malek).

Venus Williams

Here's a picture of tennis star Venus playing table tennis at Madison Square Park in New York City on Aug. 21 at the Delta Open Table Tennis Tournament. (I don't think she actually played in the tournament.)

Baby in Backpack Pong

Is this singles or doubles?

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July 15, 2013

Tip of the Week

Adjusting to Weird Serves and Shots.

MDTTC Camp

On Friday we finished week four of our ten weeks of summer camps, all Mon-Fri. In the morning I gave lectures and demos on pushing - fast & quick; heavy backspin; sidespin; and short pushes). As usual, Friday was "player's choice," where the players chose what they wanted to work on in the morning multiball sessions. The beginners mostly worked on basics; the more advanced ones worked mostly on looping or serving.

I introduced the "Loop and Smash" drill to several players. It's very simple: I feed multiball, usually a backspin ball to the middle, then a topspin ball to the wide forehand. The player has to loop the first, and then either loop or smash the second. If they make both shots, they win the point. If they miss either, I win the point. (If they miss the first shot, the second one is practice.) Game is usually to 11. One kid (Victor) struggled with this, losing several times to his dismay. He came to the junior session on Sunday (yesterday), and we did it again. He lost the first two times. The second time I was leading 7-1, and he came back to tie it 10-all - only to lose 11-10. (We have sudden death rather than win by two.) We played one more time - and lo and behold, he made 22 straight shots to "beat" me, 11-0!!! That was a nice breakthrough.

During one session I demonstrated my "no look" multiball skills. When feeding multiball it's important to be able to watch the player you are feeding balls to, but most coaches look down as they are feeding the ball to make sure they do a good feed, as I usually do. But I don't really need to; I demonstrated doing it while looking backwards and chatting with players doing ball pickup.

During a break many of the kids were playing video games on small hand-held devices. I pointed out that "Video games are better than table tennis. All the kids hunch over video games, bringing them together. Table tennis pulls them apart, at least nine feet."

With so many players in the camp (both last week and this upcoming week, starting today, week #5), the turnout for the weekend junior program I run was rather small, so I got to do a lot of one-on-one work with several of the players.

Orioles and Table Tennis

Here are excerpts from the Saturday, July 13 issue of The Washington Post on baseball team Baltimore Orioles - here are the first three and the last paragraph of the article:

The noise is a mainstay of the Baltimore Orioles' Camden Yards clubhouse: the constant "pop" of a ping-pong ball bouncing off a table, a paddle and (sometimes) the table again, punctuated by roars of joy or eruptions of frustration from participants or onlookers.

The Orioles play table tennis pregame and postgame after both wins and losses, a display of Baltimore's rare chemistry and the casual certainty each player has in the efforts of his teammates.

In that tight-knit clubhouse where long-term confidence outweighs daily doubts, no one seems too concerned about the struggles of an Orioles starting rotation that has at times been more consistent on the ping-pong table than the mound, a departure from the late-season dominance that carried Baltimore to the American League Division Series in 2012.

"As a collective group — you can ask any of us — we definitely underachieved," Hammel said over ball bounces and shouts of a heated set between Manny Machado and Troy Patton on the ping-pong table a few yards away.

Todd Sweeris into Grand Rapids Sports Hall of Fame

Here's an article on Todd's induction. Todd, who is from Grand Rapids, Michigan, moved to Maryland right after graduating high school circa 1994, and (as noted in the article) thereupon made the 1996 and 2000 U.S. Olympic Teams while winning Men's Doubles at the USA Nationals in 1996, 1999, and 2000. (Not mentioned in article: he also made the final of Men's Singles at the 1998 USA Nationals, and before that he been USA National Collegiate Men's Singles, Doubles, and Team Champion. I was on his team - as a graduate student - twice when we won the national college team championships.)

Wisconsin Family's Table Tennis Trip to China

Here's the article.

Pingtime

Here's a visual table tennis video (1:12), full of special effects.

Table Tennis as it Should Be Played

Here's a vintage image of how the game should be played, with a classic backhand player on the near side versus a classic all-out forehand player on the far side, both using the same surface on both sides of their racket as they play in front of a local crowd. (If you can't see the Facebook image, try this.)

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