February 10, 2014

Tip of the Week

Never Give a Server What He's Looking For.

Developing Good Technique

Table tennis clubs are full of players with poor technique. And there's nothing wrong with this, if the player doesn't care, or at least doesn't put a high priority on it. There are also lots of good players with poor techniques, though few of them get beyond good and become very good. That's subjective, of course; I can name a number of players who have reached 2200 and 2300 levels despite poor technique. The key is they developed a game around that poor technique, and didn't get good because of the bad technique, but in spite of it.

Here's comes the part a lot don't realize, and it's a three-parter.

1) You will not reach your potential unless you develop good technique. This doesn't mean everyone plays with exactly the same technique. There are some techniques where there's clearly a "best" way, and there are others where there are multiple options. Often it depends on the rest of the player's game. Some players have developed such unorthodox games that what is proper technique for others might not be proper technique for them. But that's a rarity. Almost always, to reach your potential, you need to develop good technique.

2) Anyone can develop good technique. I don't care how poor your current technique is, you can fix it, and have good technique. This doesn't mean you'll have great technique - that's almost impossible once you've developed bad habits. But you don't need perfect technique in this sport (except in most cases at the highest levels), and good technique will take you pretty far.

3) It will take lots of time and effort to develop good technique if you currently have bad technique. You'll also lose to a lot of players if you continue to compete while changing your technique. (I usually advise against that.) It takes a lot of saturation training to fix bad technique, and you'll probably need a coach - which usually costs money. But it's a one-time fix, because once it's fixed, it's fixed for a lifetime, as long as you continue to play regularly.

So, do you have bad technique? It's your choice whether to keep it that way, or make it a goal to fix that technique once and for all.

Chinese Team Squad Trials Ranking and Videos

Here's a short article with the final ranking of the Chinese Team Squad (men and women), with links to numerous videos of them in action. 

Zhang Jike on the New Plastic Balls

Here's the article, where he says the speed dropped some. Unfortunately, the article doesn't say which of the new balls they were using. There are at least three ITTF approved plastic balls. Leaving that out sort of makes the article somewhat less useful, and I hesitated in including it here.

USATT Criteria and Procedures for Entering US Athletes in International Competitions

Here's the article from USATT.

NCTTA Newsletter

Here's the Feb. 2014 National Collegiate Table Tennis Newsletter.

Ping Pong Summer

Here's video (2:45) of a preview of the coming-of-age comedy coming this summer, starring Susan Sarandon and a break dancing, rapping and ping-pong playing 13-year-old.

European Cup Highlights

Here's video (6:52, with time between points removed) of Denmark's Michael Maze's (world #28, but formerly #8) win over Germany's Dimitrij Ovtcharov (world #6) in the semifinals of the European Cup this past weekend. (Ovtcharov defeated teammate Timo Boll, world #8, in the semifinals - they were the top two seeds, so presumably one of them was upset in preliminaries?) Here's video of the other semifinals (5:09) where Portugal's Marcos Freitas (world #15) defeats France's Adrien Mattenet (world #52). And here's video of the final (4:54) where Freitas defeats Maze.

Unreal Counterlooping Rally - Ovtcharov vs. Boll

Here's video of the rally (48 sec, includes replays), which took place at the 2014 Europe Cup this past weekend.

Wheelchair Player Cindy Ranii

Here's the article from the San Jose Mercury News, "She may be in a wheelchair, but Cindy Ranii is a ping-pong powerhouse."

Shopping Mall Exhibition

Here's video (40 sec) of an exhibition in a shopping mall, with lots of lobbing and changing of sides during rallies.

Holy TT Racket

Here's the racket I lend out to my opponents. 

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November 7, 2012

Table Tennis Truisms That Are False

Here are some off the top of my head. These are primarily about the running of our sport. When you hear these, run for the hills!

"We'll build our junior program up gradually until it's a success."
A junior program that starts small and tries to build up loses players as fast as they attract them. A successful program does enough promotion to get a sufficient number on the first day, and then it's almost self-perpetuating.

"A full-time club can't survive without major sponsors."
Back when there were few full-time clubs (i.e. five or six years ago, when there were about ten), I heard this all the time. Now that there are 56 (see my listing), I still hear it. And yet nearly all of these clubs are self-financed (through memberships, coaching, leagues, tournaments, equipment & refreshment sales, etc.), with only minor sponsors. My full-time club, MDTTC, primarily gets training and tournament balls, equipment discounts, and tournament prize money from its sponsors. At the December, 2006 USATT board meeting I tried to convince the board to get involved in recruiting and training of coaches to set up such full-time training centers, but was basically told there weren't enough players to support such clubs without major sponsors.

"Why don't we get table tennis into the schools?"
No sport has gotten big by relying on middle or high schools, nor has table tennis gotten big around the world via schools. When a sport is already getting big, that's when schools are interested in that sport. So we need to develop our sport on our own, and then schools can take us to the next level. Often the thinking is that we can train PE teachers to teach table tennis, and so we send table tennis coaches to national or state meetings of these teachers. But while we might get a few teaches teaching it that way, little really comes of it. They simply are not interested in a small sport (in the U.S.) like ours.

"If the USA Men's and Women's Team trained together regularly, they could compete with the best in the world."
Not really, unless you mean only the junior members. By the time they make the U.S. Team a non-junior player is generally already too far behind his/her peers in stronger countries. If you got our best cadets and juniors together, along with top-level coaches and practice partners, then it might be different. We are stronger now at the cadet level (roughly age 15 and under) than ever before, so the next generaton of USA team members might be strong enough so that training together might allow them to compete with the best in the world. 

"USATT's goal is to win a medal at the Olympics by the year [choose your year]."
Is the goal to win a medal or to develop a medalist? If the former, then there should be no training at all of our players; we should be importing top Chinese players. If the latter, then USATT should recognize that future medallists come from juniors training at full-time centers with high-level coaches, and focus on recruiting and training coaches and directors to set up and run such centers.

"It's better than nothing."
This is the response I often hear when someone does a program that sounds nice, but doesn't really accomplish anything. Often it's worst than nothing, because precious resources (money, time) were used for something that did only a little better than nothing, rather than invest it in something that might accomplish something. I hate hearing this response. 

"There should be more prize money at the U.S. Nationals and U.S. Open."
That money has to come from a limited USATT budget, and that money should be used mostly to develop the sport, not in one-shot deals that leave us no better than before. As the sport develops, more revenue would come in, and then prize money can go up. Or we can get sponsors. Or we can find a way to use the extra prize money to bring in more revenue, such as paying spectators or TV.

USATT At-Large Position

Want to run for the USA Table Tennis Board of Directors? There's an election for one spot coming up. Here's complete info. Deadline to apply is Dec. 10. I keep toying with running, but reality tells me that USATT and I have different visions for our sport, and leave it at that. (Also, between my coaching and writing careers, I don't have much free time.)

105-Year-Old Table Tennis Champion

Here's the article in the Warwick News.

Robot Playing Table Tennis

I blogged recently about a robot that actually plays table tennis. Here's a video of it rallying with a person at the China International Industry Fair (45 seconds, though only the first 26 are of the table tennis robot). I think it's using a plain wood blade. Notice it can react with either forehand or backhand. Pongcast (see below) includes a robot playing as well.

Pongcast Episode 19

Here's the newest Pongcast (14:56). In this episode, "Adam Bobrow's dancing goes viral again, F1 driver tests his reactions on the table, TT robots are the future, Zhang Jike makes them laugh, Kevin Garnett plays Wang Hao(!?!?) and the 2012 German Open!" The robot play begins at 3:02 and includes a video showing how the robot was "taught" to play.

Maze vs. Kamal

Here's a video of Michael Maze (world #18 from Denmark) vs. Achanta Sharath Kamal (world #79 from India) at the recent Europe-Asia All-Star Series (5:14, with the time between points taken out).

Astronaut Playing Table Tennis?

Uberpong runs a weekly table tennis caption contest. This week's picture to caption is of an astronaut playing table tennis. What's your caption?

Non-Table Tennis: The Election

Yesterday in my blog I gave my election predictions. The last unannounced state, Florida, unofficially just finished their counting, with Obama winning by 6/10 of a percentage point. (And that was the state I said was the toughest to call.) So I was 50 for 50 in my state predictions, which meant I also called the final electoral count exactly, 332-206. (Four years ago I was 49 for 50, missing only Ohio, and eight years ago I was 48 for 50.) As to the popular vote, I predicted "approximately 50.5% to 48.5%." The current numbers (with some counting around the country still going on) are 50.3% to 48.3%, so I got Obama's margin for victory exactly, and was only off by 0.2% overall. I wonder how quickly people will forget all the predictions of a Romney landslide? But those who predicted that lived inside an ideological bubble, much of it caused by a network that shall not be named.


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April 16, 2012

Tip of the Week

Where to Place Your Spin Serves.

Modern juniors

I blogged on last Wednesday (April 11) about how modern sponges make looping so much easier. Even younger kids in the U.S. are playing looping games that would have been almost unimaginable 5-10 years ago. While the sponge makes much of this possible, much of this is because there are far more full-time training centers now than before, and so far more full-time junior programs, and so far more juniors training regularly at a high level. The level and depth of cadets and junior players is now stronger than ever in our history. (I blogged about this on Jan. 4, 2012).

The down side is that, at any given level, while the looping is spectacular, the table game is probably a bit weaker, especially return of serve. For example, I think previous generations of juniors were more sophisticated in their receive, since they couldn't rely on all-out attack and counterlooping as much, plus their sponge wasn't as bouncy, so they had more touch. This is especially true on short serves to the forehand, where many modern junior players in the U.S. seem weak. I think previous generations could push short better, while the modern generation can attack short serves better.

I'm tempted to say blocking is not as good among modern juniors, but that's not quite true - there's so much looping going on that this generation of juniors is probably as good blocking as previous ones, at least on the backhand. However, on the forehand, where everyone's mostly counterlooping, the somewhat infrequent blocks aren't as good.

College Championships results

The National Collegiate Championships were held this past weekend - and here are the results!

Michael Landers Wheaties box

Following the footsteps of George Hendry (who appeared on the back of a Wheaties box in 1936 at age 15, before they started putting athletes on the cover), 17-year-old Michael Landers will be on the cover of an upcoming Wheaties box - and here's the picture!

Ma Long Multiball

Here's a video (1:08) of China's world #1 Ma Long doing backhand loop multiball with China's men's head coach Liu Guoliang. Look at the power of those shots!

Primorac vs. Maze

Here's a TV news report (1:06) from 2008 of a great point played at match point between Zoran Primorac of Croatia and Michael Maze of Denmark.


At our recent Spring Break Camp, we had three inseparable girls, all about age 9, and all named Emily. (I blogged about this.) Now I'm teaching a small group of four beginners, and their names are Ava, Anton, Ambo, Anmo. Forget Triple A; we've got Quadruple A!

Top Ten Signs Your Table Tennis Club is Too Big

The following was inspired by watching a bunch of kids actually playing hide and seek at the newly expanded Maryland Table Tennis Center. The place is huge, and full of prime hiding spots.

  1. The kids play hide and seek on break. The hiders usually win.
  2. Opponents can't hear you call the score because of the echo.
  3. If they raise the Titanic, they plan to store it at your club.
  4. Lewis and Clark are exploring the club.
  5. The club has its own zip code, its own area code, its own flag, and in the morning kids at school put their hands over their hearts and say the Pledge of Allegiance to the Club.
  6. From the front you can't see the tables in the back because of the Earth's curvature.
  7. Lobbers James Therriault and Nison Aronov have enough room to play.
  8. White balls aren't allowed because when you play a lobber you can't see them against the cumulus clouds in the rafters.
  9. There's a football stadium in the lobby.
  10.  You can fit about 90 million ping-pong balls in the club, according to Kepler's Conjecture. (Assuming 10,000 square feet, 15' ceiling, 74% packing efficiency, and the volume of a ball at 2.14 square inches.)

Ultrabook Table Tennis Tournament

Here's a hilarious video (4:59) of the Toshiba Intel Ultrabook Challenge - a tournament where players used these super-thin laptop computers are rackets!


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