Tactics

June 2, 2014

Tip of the Week

Playing Short pips.

WETA TV

WETA TV came to MDTTC for about four hours yesterday to do a documentary on us online – I'll blog about it when it's up. Here's a picture of two of the crew members (there were three of them) as they film us, and here's a picture of them filming Derek Nie and Crystal Wang.

It was a long day. I normally coach Sunday mornings but I was off due to students studying for final exams, and so I had no coaching until 3PM. So I became their chaperone. We had arranged for them to come Sunday at 11AM so they could see some of our top juniors in a group session, and then our Elite League at 12:30 PM. They filmed Derek and Crystal, as well as Nathan Hsu and many others, often from a distance so the player didn't even know they were being filmed. Other times they'd go out on the court and get close-ups. I was hoping to highlight as many players as possible, from our top juniors to our seniors, including Charlene Liu, who recently returned from New Zealand with a bronze for Over 60 Women's Singles. (She also won Over 60 Women's Title at the Nationals and many more in age groups from over 30 to over 60.) However, they told me they could only focus on one or two players. They also didn't want to interview players and then disappoint the player by not using the interview, which is understandable.

They decided to focus on 13-year-old Derek and 12-year-old Crystal. Most of you probably know them, but here's a short synopsis. Derek, rated 2285 (but recently over 2300) was the 2012 U.S. Open Under 12 Boys' Singles Champion. Crystal is the youngest player ever to make the USA National Men's or Women's Team, and the youngest ever to win Under 22 Women's Singles at the Nationals, as well as breaking every record for highest rating for her age, not just for girls but for boys as well. (She's the highest rated under 13 player in the U.S, boys or girls at 2370, and recently over 2400.)

They did interviews with Crystal, Derek, and me. My interview was the longest interview I've ever done. It went on for about an hour as they asked question after question. Part of the reason it took so long as I gave rather long answers. Since they'll end up condensing all this to about four minutes, it'll be interesting which parts they decide to use. In answer to their questions, I elaborated on my background, the kids, MDTTC and its history, our coaches and players, training centers, China, what it takes to be a top player, and much more.

Now the downside. Before they interviewed me they filmed me using the robot. I put it on full speed so the balls were just shooting out as I smashed forehands. I had no trouble doing this at first, but they wanted to get lots of shots from all angles, and so it went on and On and ON!!! Soon my arm and shoulder began to tire, and then hurt, and still they kept filming. I felt my knees and legs begin to go, but still we went on. After the longest time, and after they'd filmed both me and the robot from all possible angles, they said they had enough.

They asked if I had anything else interesting I could show them. They filmed me doing my ball-blowing trick, where I not only blow the ball in the air, but to the side, balancing it in the air by spinning the top of the ball with my breath. Then I demonstrated my 50-foot serve, where I served from 50 feet away from the table, and directly to the side of it (so I'm lined up with the net). I do this by putting a great amount of sidespin on the ball, and made it on the first try. They wanted several more, so I ended up doing about ten of them. The problem – this put more strain on my shoulder, as these 50-foot serves are very physical.

And then I did the interview. I mentioned how long it was, but I didn't mention that I was standing in one spot the whole time in my table tennis shoes, which have little support. Normally when I'm in them I'm moving about, but guess what happens when you stand in one spot in table tennis shoes for an hour? It hurts the feet, calf muscles, and knees. I could barely walk afterwards. (I had to do a lot of stretching to prepare for my upcoming coaching sessions – a private one-hour lesson and then a 90-minute group junior session.)

So now I'm full of these minor injuries – every part of my legs are aching, one knee is bothering me (it was bothering me before, but this aggravated it), and my shoulder is hurting from the robot play. Hopefully it just needs a couple days rest – and fortunately I've got a very light schedule today and tomorrow. We'll see how it is on Wednesday.

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. I linked to the first five last week, and there are four more. So I compiled all nine here. Nine down, 91 to go!

  • Day 92: Interview with Mike Babuin, USATT Chair and New ITTF BoD Member
  • Day 93: A Chat with Philippe Saive, the Promoter of the 2014 Legends Tour
  • Day 94: Competing to be Best in the World in Table Tennis
  • Day 95: Introducing Adam Bobrow, “The Voice of Table Tennis”
  • Day 96: Striving to Attain 225 Affiliated National Associations:  It’s in Our Blood!
  • Day 97: A Special Invitation to Tour Butterfly
  • Day 98: How the Ravages of War Inspired the Beloved Hikosuke Tamasu
  • Day 99: Why Tokyo Hosted the ZEN-NOH 2014 World Team Championships
  • Day 100: Intro

Samson Dubina Demo Tape

Here's a new video (3:25) of Ohio coach and top player Samson Dubina demonstrating the forehand counterdrive, forehand loop, in-out forehand footwork, backhand counterdrive, backhand loop, and footwork. (He's hitting with Sameh Awadalla.)

Table Tennis Tips

No, not the book (though you should buy that!), but the Tips now up at Expert Table Tennis – there are now 25 of them.

How to Predict and React to Table Tennis Tactics

Here's a short article on this.

Susan Sarandon is the Queen of Ping Pong

Here's the article in the New York Post.

Roger Frank Ping-Pong Tourney Raises $3,000 for PCC Foundation scholarships

Here's the article.

Waldner and Persson Tricks

Here's a video (51 sec) of all-time greats Jan-Ove Waldner and Jorgen Persson doing some pretty spectacular tricks with the ball and racket. Notice that the second half is all done continuously. Why don't you try to copy some of these tricks? Good luck!!!

House Playing Table Tennis

Here's a screen shot of Dr. House from an episode of the TV show House playing table tennis – with a clipboard!!!

***
Send us your own coaching news!

November 13, 2012

Tip of the Week

Complex or Simple Tactics?

Crystal Wang

This past weekend 10-year-old Crystal Wang (from MDTTC) had a great tournament at the Potomac Open. You don't know who she is? Last year Crystal achieved a rating of 2150, the highest rating ever for a 9-year-old, boys or girls. She also made both the USA Mini-Cadet Girls' National Team (Under 12) and the USA Cadet Girls' Team (Under 15) at age 9, competing against girls much older. Unfortunately, this year she played three tournaments in a row where she struggled (including the U.S. Open), complaining her wrist hurt. They finally had it x-rayed, and discovered she had been playing with a fractured wrist from a fall! Her rating had dropped from 2166 to 2099, and she couldn't play for a couple months.

But now she's BACK! At the Potomac Open, at age 10, she beat players rated 2334, 2240, 2205, and 2149, while making the final of Under 2300. She didn't lose to anyone lower than 2200. I'm pretty sure she'll be adjusted well over 2200, which could definitely be the highest rating ever for a 10-year-old girl, and possibly for boys as well. (I'm pretty sure Kanak Jha is the only 10-year-old boy to break 2200.)

It's no fluke. In the MDTTC Elite League last week she knocked off two players over 2300 without losing to anyone below 2300. Even at 2099, she was the top rated girl in the U.S. in Under 11, Under 12, and Under 13.

Crystal plays a very modern two-winged looping game, hitting and looping on both sides. I've watched as she's gradually gone from basically hitting to looping from both wings, and her off-the-bounce backhand loop can now be a terror. She and Amy Wang (a year younger, rated 2069, from NJ) are essentially Ariel & Lily, Part II, east coast version - the new Dynamic Duo.

Potomac Open

Here are results, photos, and videos from the Potomac Open in Maryland this past weekend. Wang Qing Liang came back from down 0-3 to win against Sean Lonergan in the final. Sean upset Chen Bo Wen in the semifinals, also in seven games. Sean's been in China the last few years - not playing table tennis much - but started training recently to get ready for the North American Teams and the USA Nationals. You can see all of the final in the video page above, and many other big matches.

"He's the One" - Starring Derek Nie

Here's a funny music video (4:02) by the band E.D. Sedgwick that features U.S. Open 11 & Under Boys' Singles Champion Derek Nie. (Derek is from my club, MDTTC - I coached him in all his U.S. Open matches.) They had been planning this video for some time, and were originally going to use a regular actor to play the kid, and put the ball in via computer afterwards, but then they saw this Washington Post video (3:26) in August on the Maryland Table Tennis Center, which featured our juniors, including Derek - and thought he'd be perfect for the role. All the action scenes where you see one player playing I'm feeding multiball to the player, both to Derek and to the members of the band. It was great fun helping them put this together. It also taught us what I already knew but hadn't really experienced - that much of film-making is waiting around. Derek and I filled the time with lots of smashing and lobbing and various trick shots.

World Cadet Challenge

Here's an article on the USATT web page on the recent World Cadet Challenge, which included several USA cadets.

USATT Minutes

Last week the minutes to the April 19, 2012 USATT Board meeting finally went up. Now there's been a flurry of activity, and the minutes to the July 16 and Sept. 22 meetings have also gone up. Here are the USATT minutes dating back to 1999, including the new entries.

2012 World Fair Play Awards

Here's info on the awards. "If you had a fair play act within your association’s activity in 2012 or you consider a person or organization worth to be nominated for the Trophies, please submit your your application on the attached form before 1st December 2012."

Dancing Table Tennis

Here's a dance video tribute to table tennis (2:10).

OK Go Ping Pong Tips

Here's a humorous "how to" video on table tennis (4:34). It's from 2006, but I don't think I'd seen it before.

Non-Table Tennis - Update on U.S. Presidential Election

As I noted last week, I called all 50 states and the exact electoral count (332-206) in my blog last Tuesday morning. Now we have the essentially final popular vote. I predicted Obama over Romney, 50.5% to 48.5%. Final count was 50.6% to 47.9%. Not bad, considering everyone over at Fox News thought Romney was going to win, many predicting a landslide. (It's tricky predicting the vote turnout for third-party candidates, since many who say they will vote for one change their mind at the last minute rather than "waste" their vote. In this case I thought they'd get about 1% of the vote, but they got 1.5%, which is why I over-estimated Romney's final numbers.)

***
Send us your own coaching news!

March 13, 2012

Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis, Vol. 12

DONE!!! Well, almost. We actually finished the "first draft" on Saturday, and spent much of Sunday and all of Monday inputting changes from Tim's proofing of the pages. (He's very, Very, VERY picky!) I printed out the "final" version last night, but Tim's told me he has many more changes, which we'll be inputting today. Alas.

Meanwhile, you can order the first 11 volumes, and pre-order #12, at the Tim Boggan Table Tennis page. I've already updated the page and the new order form.

How I play "lower" players

The key to beating lower players consistently is to take control right from the start with serve and receive. On the serve, you should have lots of serve and attack patterns. The key is not to serve and go for winners unless the shot is there. Instead, serve and attack with placement to put pressure on the opponent, and let them miss or give you an easy ball. Don't give away easy points by going for reckless shots.

On my serve, I test all opponents out with a variety of short and long serves, looking for two things: serves that they can't return without giving me an easy opening attack (either a long push or weak flip receive), and serves that they pop up or miss outright. Then I focus on serve and steady attack, mixing in the serves that win points outright so that they don't get used to them. My serve and attack serves are mostly short serves with varying spin, often with sidespin, side-top, and no-spin disguised as backspin, and often backspin or side-backspin to set up loops if they push them long. If they can't attack my deep serves, then they'll get a lot of those.

If they can return my serve consistently without giving me easy attacks, and I don't have any serves that they consistently miss, then I have to put aside any thought that they are "weaker" players, unless they are hopeless in the rest of their game. In general, weaker players can't return my serve effectively.

On the receive, all I want to do is neutralize the serve and get into a neutral rally. Control is key. This usually means consistent loops or drives against deep serves, and varied receive against short serves. A push to the backhand corner that's quick off the bounce, deep, angled, low, and heavy, as well as the threat of a sudden push to the wide forehand, is usually all it takes to disarm a weaker player. A quick but not too aggressive flip that's well placed (again, usually to the backhand) also disarms most players. Once you've neutralized the serve, you can take control of the rally. If you can't neutralize the opponent on his serve, then put aside any thought that they are "weaker" players - again, unless they are hopeless in the rest of their game.

You don't need to be too aggressive when receiving - that's the one time that even an aggressive player should focus on control. If the serve pops up or you see an long serve that you read well, you may go for a shot. But that's only because the opponent messes up on the serve. Instead, control the serve, and then look to attack. Control the serve doesn't mean just pushing the ball; if you can loop it, or topspin it from over the table, do so, but focus on spin and control, not speed.

Once in the rally, find the weaker player's weaker side and go after it every chance. Move the ball around, but do so mostly to pull the opponent out of position so you can go after the weaker side. Focus on steady aggressive shots rather than risky point-winners, but be ready to pounce on the many weak balls you'll probably get.

If there's something the weaker player does in rallies that gives you trouble, and it's something you can't avoid getting, then play into it early to get used to it. For example, when I play a shakehands player with short pips on the backhand, I like to go straight backhand to backhand early on to get used to the pips. Once I'm comfortable with that I start moving the ball around, often attacking the middle. (Shakehand players with short pips are notoriously weak in the middle - they generally try to play quick off the bounce, so have little time to react to the middle, and their pips don't have the extra rebounding effect of inverted, meaning they have to stroke more with less time to cover the middle.)

So the key to beating lower players consistently is to serve and attack, but not over-attack; and control the receive to get into a neutral rally, and then get the attack.

One last thought - do you want to know the opponent's rating or level in advance? Most players do, but it often messes them up if the rating isn't accurate. I also like to know an opponent's rating, but I'm quick to put it aside if they can handle my serve, if I can't neutralize them on their serve, or if they are strong ralliers. Many players are more successful by not knowing an opponent's rating, and simply playing their game. I generally consider anyone rated within 300 rating points of me as a "threat," and even if they aren't a serious threat, a primary reason why they are not a threat is because I treat them as a threat.

Ariel & Lily on TV

Here's TV coverage of Ariel Hsing and Lily Zhang (4:22), the U.S. women's singles champion and finalist and the top two junior girls in the U.S. as well. 

Tribute to Jean-Michel Saive

Here's a tribute video to Saive (11:30), one of the all-time greats and former #1 in the world. He's one of the most spectacular players ever, with his combination of all-out forehand looping and off-table lobbing and fishing, as well as his one of the more livelier players between points.

Excerpt from Tim Boggan's History of Table Tennis, Vol. 12

Tim suggested this one. It's not exactly table tennis, but there are human skulls! It's about Dr. Michael Scott's 1983 travels in Northern Borneo.

Here’s USTTA Sports Medicine Chair Dr. Michael Scott (SPIN, Dec., 1983, 18) to tell us about some of his recent travels to places where U.S. players and officials are normally not seen:

Among the most fascinating of my world travel experiences was a visit with the Dyak headhunters of Northern Borneo. To reach them [what in the hell did you want to reach them for?—you were gonna teach them ping-pong, lecture them on the dangers of melanoma? (“Let me see your scalp, your neck, please?”] I had to be flown in by plane and then take a lengthy river trip in a small outboard boat.

When the 'Headman' welcomes you to the longhouse (communal dwelling), shoes are removed upon entering the covered porch, and tan woven mats are spread on its spotless hardwood floor. Inhabitants and guests gather in a ten-foot circle sitting cross-legged. While seated in this circle, I glanced up and observed numerous human skulls dangling from the porch’s ceiling. They were suspended by a short rattan cord that entered through a small hole drilled in the vertex of the skull. Elderly men were tattooed, many even on the anterior aspect of their throat. The location of the tattoo was significant—for example, neck tattoos indicate the tribesman did the capitation himself. Fortunately, the last known incident occurred in the 1960’s.

When I ran out of gifts, I presented one Dyak Headman an embroiderd USTTA emblem. He was totally perplexed as to what it was or what he was to do with it. He turned it sideways, upside down, flipped it over, and still could not determine a use for it. {Not a good idea to frustrate him, do you think?] Another Dyak finally took it and placed it against the Headman’s T-shirt. I’m certain he’s the only headhunter with an official USTTA emblem.”

Perkins the Cat

He/she just wants the ball, and gets the net instead (0:17).

***

Send us your own coaching news!

March 2, 2012

A way to handle fast opponents

This won't work for everyone, but it works for me. Suppose you are playing someone who plays very fast at the table, such as one of those super-quick bang-bang playing junior players. Suppose he pins you down with fast, quick shots to your backhand and middle, and wins points either on your backhand mistakes and pop-ups, or with sudden shots to the forehand. You struggle to keep up the pace, but it's too fast, and the table is too wide. Let's supposed you have a somewhat steady backhand and a good forehand when you are in position and not too rushed. (If not, work on that.)

What I often do is stand toward the backhand side but in a slight forehand stance, with my right foot slightly back (I'm right-handed). Then I just stick my racket up and rebound back anything hit to my backhand or middle with my backhand, using my opponent's own speed to so that I barely have to stroke the ball. (It's almost like playing a video game.) Try to keep the ball deep, and pin your opponent on his own backhand by going wide there. The strategy is to either outlast the opponent, or when he finally goes to my forehand, to tee off on that shot since I'm standing in a forehand stance.

I've been coaching at the Maryland Table Tennis Center for over two decades, and most of my practice matches during that time have been as a practice partner against our up-and-coming juniors. The strategy outlined above has been honed for twenty years.

Arm problems update

As noted in my blog this week, I hurt my arm on Sunday. I've coached at least two hours every day this week, but so far haven't aggravated it. The key? I haven't looped or smashed a ball. While coaching I'm mostly blocking. There have been a few times where I started to reflexively loop or smash, but each time something in my arm sent a red alert signal and I stopped. Perhaps the arm can heal without taking time off. I am doing lots of stretching and massage before and after playing.

USATT Job Openings

Pongcast TV Episode 10 - 2012 Kuwait Open

Here it is (20:23)!

1946 English Open

Here's a video of the 1946 English Open Table Tennis Championships (8:40), and here are links to lots of other vintage table tennis footage.

Table Tennis Cartoons

Here are 30 table tennis cartoons by Marek Zochowski that were published in USA Table Tennis Magazine back when I was editor.

Non-Table Tennis: SF story in Story Quest

My science fiction story Rationalized was just published in the online magazine Story Quest Magazine. The story won the Story Quest Short Story Contest in November. (See second column at top.) It's about a future dystopian society where everyone has an operation on their brain at age 13 to remove all emotions, and the underground society that secretly avoids this operation, but must pretend to always be unemotional - and the lengths they must go to hide their secret when a terrible accident occurs. (Here's my science fiction & fantasy page.) 

***

Send us your own coaching news!

 

June 7, 2011

Reader comments

We're getting about 200 readers per day on this blog, but strangely few comments. Feel free to comment! That's why I always have the "comments on" option turned on. Don't worry, if you say something I disagree with I won't bite your head off. I might hunt you down at tournaments and coach your opponents. :)

USATT CEO Report

In case you missed it, here's USATT CEO Mike Cavanaugh's Report in the May/June USATT Magazine. He talks about Ping-Pong Diplomacy's 40th Anniversary, Milwaukee (site of the 2011 U.S. Open), new USATT co-webmaster and media specialist Sean O'Neill, and upcoming events.

Never miss an opportunity

At the club this weekend I watched a top cadet player play against a weaker player. As he admitted afterwards, he wasn't really into the match even though he won the match easily. (He's had an earlier loss that was bothering him.) The opponent was a lefty, and it so happens that the cadet's been having some trouble with lefties - and here he lost an opportunity to practice against one. Never miss an opportunity to take advantage of an opportunity. Just about any opponent has something you can get practice against. (If I did a second lecture here, it'd be about shaking off losses and playing your best in the next match. Okay, okay . . . </End lecture mode>.)

Doing the Journey

Here's a test of your ability to create and control sidespin on your serve. I call it "Doing the Journey." It's something I challenge many of my students to do. I'm going to describe this for a right-handed player with a forehand pendulum serve. Those with other types of serves and lefties should adjust.

Stand on your wide forehand side. Put a box or other container down the line from you, on the far right. Now serve so the first bounce is on your backhand side. The ball should cross the net, hit the far left side, then bounce sideways and end up in the box on the far right. See if you can do this consistently, then you can create and control sidespin. Congrats!

My next BIG project

Should I write a new book, "Table Tennis Tactics and Playing Styles," or set up the "Larry Hodges Coaching Academy" (or do I need a better, less personalized name?) to recruit and train professional coaches? I've outlined the book; the hard part was figuring out the best way to present it, other than a comprehensive "this style versus that style" listing. (I found a good way to present it, but will not divulge that. I also have a number of introductory essays planned on tactical thinking.) The Academy would focus 50% on the professional side of coaching, i.e. setting up the business, recruiting and retaining students, etc., and 50% on actual coaching techniques. I'm leaning toward writing the book first. Or maybe I should just go visit a museum.

Off to the Museums!

I have some editing/proofing work to do. So what better way to do that then spend the day at the Smithsonian Museums, with a two-hour lunch break to do the paperwork? Shortly after I post this, since I have no coaching scheduled for today or tonight, I plan on visiting the National Museum of Natural History (I practically grew up there - my parents both had offices there), the National Museum of American History (haven't seen the relatively new exhibit on the American Presidency, and I'm an amateur presidential historian), and the Holocaust Museum (never been there). I'll probably stop by the Lincoln Memorial as well. It's always good for inspiration.

***

Send us your own coaching news!

Syndicate content