February 3, 2014

Tip of the Week

Winning with Ball Control.

Topspinny Backhands: When to Learn?

Yesterday was a pivotal moment in one young player's table tennis career. One of the tougher decisions for some coaches is when to have their up-and-coming junior players begin to topspin more on the backhand in rallies. At the start, you teach basic backhand drives. But at the higher levels, most players these days topspin the ball, basically a backhand loop with a shorter swing, often right off the bounce. It's not easy to learn to do this in a rally, where it's tricky enough playing a regular backhand, but to topspin the ball off the bounce, practically a backhand loop, against an often fast incoming ball?

Some coaches advocate teaching this starting at around the 1800 level; others do so much earlier. But everyone's different. If a player seems to have a knack for it, and is training regularly, then perhaps he can start earlier. The problem is that in a fast rally, you have little time to topspin the ball, and players who try to do so before they're ready will make lots of mistakes.

I've got several students who are reaching the stage where they're ready to really topspin on the backhand in faster rallies. Yesterday's breakthrough was for Sameer, 12, rated 1378 after the Teams in November. He's developed a pretty nasty backhand drive, especially in drills, though he sometimes still has trouble getting the drilling backhand into games. Sameer already has a pretty decent backhand loop against backspin, but was he ready to do this over and over in rallies?

We tried it out yesterday, and he surprised me on how quickly he picked it up. We did it first in multiball, and then live, and in both cases he seemed comfortable doing so. He's also ready for the rigors of reality - that he'll probably have some bad losses over the next few months as he incorporates this into his game, especially against players who rush him on the backhand. (If you are an opponent of his, please use go ahead and rush him on the backhand - it gives him the practice he needs!) But we have a longer-term goal - the U.S. Open in July. He's going to focus on just training until then, with the plan to show up with a devastating backhand topspin, as well as (hopefully) a few other devastating shots. Maybe he'll be a true basher by then. (See Tip of the Week article above.)

Banana Flip

This video (3:22) may be the best tutorial I've seen on the backhand banana flip. Lots of slow motion and clear explanations.


Here are two videos from PingSkills on the Backhand Push (3:14) and the Forehand Push (3:19).

Table Tennis Strategy Page

Here's a new page, Table Tennis Strategy. It includes pages on Strategy, Fun Facts, Jokes, and others.

Superbowl Ad with Arnold Schwarzenegger

Here's the complete ad (3:44), which ran in several parts. The table tennis starts exactly two minutes in. "Prepare to be crushed in tiny tennis," says the long-haired wigged Arnold.

CNN Features Table Tennis

Here's the video (1:57), which ran on Friday, and is on the growing trend to play table tennis. Features Arnold Schwarzenegger, Susan Sarandon, and Soo Yeon Lee, and with clips of Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron.

Biba Featured

Here's a feature article on Biba Golic in Women's Fitness Magazine.

Bounce Back Shots

Here's a video (57 sec) that compares a desperation backspin shot by Ding Ning that unreturnably bounces back over the net to win the point to a similar shot by Roger Federer in tennis.

Table Tennis on a Boat

Here's video (12 sec) of two men playing table tennis on a boat that's not much bigger than a canoe.

Hit the Card Trick Shot

Here's video (24 sec) of a trick shot where the player smacks a card out from under a ball without knocking the ball off.

When Table Tennis Gets Angry!

Here's the video (1:41) of some very angry players.

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November 30, 2012

1400 Articles!!!

I just realized that the Tip of the Week I published this past Monday was the 1400th article I've had published. (Cue the confetti.) There's a bit of ambiguity in there, as what constitutes a published article? I don't count blog entries (over 500 here since I started two years ago), but I do count the Tips of the Week. (For one thing, they are also published at Paddle Palace.) Included among these 1400 in 138 different publications are 1258 on table tennis. Here's a complete listing.

Pages I Maintain

I maintain a number of webpages. This seems like a good time to post them. (For one thing, I'm battling a cold, and this will be an easy blog to write so I can get back to bed.) Here are the main pages. Each of them includes many sub-pages. If you are reading this, you are there. Here's your chance to explore some of the pages here. For example, have you gone over to the "Fun and Games" section? Lots of hilarious table tennis stuff - videos, pictures, and games. This is where you can find 1440 pictures of 870 celebrities playing table tennis. This is the most important page on the Internet. (I used to update this monthly, but it's rather time-consuming so these days I do it sporadically. This is where you can buy copies of Tim Boggan's history books, History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volumes 1-12. You can also learn about the famous Tim himself! (I do the page layouts for Tim's books.) He's almost done with Volume 13! (Each time he finishes a volume, he drives down from New York to Maryland to stay with me for two weeks, where he'll sit next to me as we do the page layouts together. I do the actual layouts while he waves a finger at the screen saying things like, "No, you fool, the photo goes there!!! And I don't like that font - invent a new one!" This started out as my table tennis coaching page, where I listed my credentials and recent adventures. It's since become basically my everything table tennis page, where I just keep adding stuff. This is my science fiction and fantasy writing page. As readers of this blog know, outside table tennis I write SF&F - I've sold 65 short stories (also 30 resales and 15 paid "twitter" stories), and have two novels making the rounds. I also maintain a page on writing science fiction & fantasy. This is under construction - nothing much there yet except a listing of my six books. Sometime next year this will be where you'll be able to buy copies of your favorite Larry Hodges books!!! I'm currently putting them in proper format for POD (Print on Demand) and ebooks. The following books would be sold there (though I might later start selling other table tennis books):

  • Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers (coming in December, 2012, though this might soon become January 2013)
  • Table Tennis Success (formerly titled Table Tennis: Steps to Success)
  • Table Tennis Tales & Techniques
  • Professional Table Tennis Coaches Handbook
  • Instructor's Guide to Table Tennis
  • Pings and Pongs: The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of Larry Hodges

Table Tennis on CNN Home Page

Here's a screen shot of last night, with the picture of Ding Ning of China featured. The caption is, "Ning Ding of China plays a forehand during the women's singles table tennis quarter-final match against Ai Fukuhara of Japan on Day 4 of the London 2012 Olympic Games on July 31." (I think the Ding is supposed to come before the Ning.) It was part of a gallery of "75 Amazing Sports Moments" from 2012." See photo #20.

Stellan Bengtsson Article

Here's an article from the ITTF on Stellan Bengtsson, former World Men's Singles Champion and now a coach in San Diego.

Zhang Jike's Condition

Here's an article from TableTennista, "Zhang Jike Not Satisfied With His Condition."

Ping Pong Talkin Blues

Since I'm fighting a cold, this seems a good time to link to these guitar strumming songs by Dan Cole.

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July 18, 2012

MDTTC Camp, Week Five, Day Two

The schedule yesterday was similar to the day before, except that the morning's focus was on the backhand, and my lecture after the break was on return of serve.

I did a lot of coaching on serves, where the focus was on creating spin. One thing I introduced was a way to practice spin with just the racket and ball. You toss the ball into the air and try to sidespin it straight into the air, catch it, and repeat. It's a simple exercise any player can learn to do, and it's a great way to practice your spin contact as well as control (since you have to hit the ball straight up).

One serve especially has gained interest - the reverse forehand pendulum serve, especially short to the forehand. I've explained that this is probably the most effective serves against junior players (because of their shorter reach, making it hard both to handle the serve or to return it anywhere except crosscourt to a righty's forehand), and this seems to have sparked interest. Here's a video (1:22) that features Men's Singles World Champion Zhang Jike doing the serve, with slow motion. Normally I'd recommend the serve to go wider to the forehand, but at the advanced levels that gives the receiver a very wide angle into the forehand, so at that level it is often done more to the middle. Learn the serve and experiment on what works best in your matches against different opponents.

Things weren't all lovey-dovey in the camp; we had our first real fight of the season. One kid wanted to share a chair with another (both about 9), for some reason didn't want to use the open chair five feet away. I had to pull them apart. Amazing how such little things can escalate at that age level. (I previously blogged about a fight over paper cups, I think about who got to stack them for knocking down with ping-pong balls.) But an hour later they were happily taking turns on the robot together, and later were teammates in Brazilian Teams, cheering for each other. I wish my memory were that short.

In the ongoing clipboard challenge matches during break, I haven't yet lost to anyone rated under 2200, and am now 5-0 against players rated between 2000 and 2200. However, I believe players are now conspiring together by studying videos late into the night, comparing notes, consulting with coaches, and doing early morning training, all for the express purpose of beating me and my clipboard.

Fundraising for Topspin the Movie

To do the documentary on Michael Landers, Ariel Hsing, and Lily Zhang, they need to raise $75,000. As of this writing, 405 people have donated a total of $44,771. It's all or nothing - so they need you to donate! Here's the movie webpage, here's the fundraising site, and here's a link to the 48-hour Top Spinnathon they started Tuesday at 3:30 PM.

Ariel Hsing on CNN

Here's an article with a link to a two-minute video that ran on CNN yesterday. The person hitting with Ariel in the video is coach and practice partner Anol Kashyap.

Timothy Wang in the News

Here's an article on USA Olympian Timothy Wang.

What Vikash Learned at the U.S. Open

Vikash Sahu blogs about what he learned at the U.S. Open, in particular about attacking, playing different styles, and physical conditioning.

History of U.S. Table Tennis

Chapter 14 of Volume 12 of Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis was featured yesterday on the USATT web page. The heading: "1983: New USTTA Editor Tom Wintrich Replaces 50-Year-Old 'Table Tennis Topics' with 'SPIN.' 1983: Boggan's Fury at President Schiff's Public Explanation as to Why Tim was Fired as 'Topics' Editor. 1983: Boggan Immediately Begins Renegade 'Timmy’s North American World of Table Tennis.'  1983: Initial Responses to SPIN and 'Timmy's' from readers."

Why not buy a copy of this volume and/or the preceding eleven? Perhaps pick and choose the years you are most interested in. Here's Tim Boggan's table tennis page, where you can buy the books or just read about Tim. Here's his Hall of Fame profile.

Wheel of Fortune

Table tennis was on Wheel of Fortune yesterday, as related online by "jj4tt" at the table tennis forum. As he narrates about "Round 2 - Same Letter" (and I presume Wheel of Fortune aficionados can make sense of this?):

Sarah instantly duds out w/ T while Karla goes BANKRUPT. Jed picks up that MDW with three N's. That's followed by $7,000 worth of L's, but he blows it with the C. Back to Sarah who finds the SL of four P's; that allows her to pick up a 1/2 KIA. She narrows the puzzle down to this...
P R O _ E S S I O N A L
P I N _ - P O N _
P L A _ E R
She solves PROFESSIONAL PING-PONG PLAYER for $2,500. Jed left a total of $8,300 on the table in this round.  ...

A Table at Spin NY

I think it's a drowning woman - the table top seems to be blocking her from surfacing. Perhaps tomorrow I'll be posting about Murder at Spin NY.


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June 25, 2012

Tip of the Week

The Game is All Mental.

Week One Day Five and Week Two Begins

Last week was Week One of the MDTTC camp season, with 34 players. We've got eleven weeks of camps, so one down, ten to go!

On Friday morning I gave a lecture on pushing. Topics included the basic push; pushing quick and long, pushing heavy and long, short pushing, and pushing with a purpose. The rest of the morning was multiball. As is our norm, Friday mornings is "player's choice," where the player tells the coach what he wants to work on. If he isn't sure the coach makes suggestions or chooses the drill. Other "highlights" included box battles. (Apparently one kid really, Really, REALLY wanted a particular box to catch balls in, and when another kid wouldn't let him have it, well, things got ugly for a few minutes. Yes, this is a table tennis camp.)

During break I watched the kids play a fascinating game of "24." No, it didn't involve Jack Bauer torturing terrorists who are trying to nuke U.S. cities; it involved dealing out four cards, and trying to find a way to get to 24, using all four cards and using simple arithmetic functions. (Aces are worth 1, face cards 10.)  For example, if the cards dealt are K, 7, 3, 2, then (Kx2)+(7-3)=24. I doubt if they thought of it this way, but I couldn't help think how similar this was to table tennis tactics in a match, where you have only a few seconds between points to puzzle out what to do the next point, just as here they had only a few seconds to solve the puzzle.

This morning we start Week Two. (I'll be missing this Friday, and the first three days of Week Three, since I'll be at the U.S. Open in Grand Rapids. But Cheng Yinghua and Jack Huang are staying home to run the camp.)

Dora and the Sports Psychology Workshop

On Friday night Table Tennis Sports Psychologist Dora Kurimay traveled down from New York to give a sports psychology workshop at the Maryland Table Tennis Center. About fifteen players attended. The workshop went over the main points of her book, "Get Your Game Face On!" (Here's my review of the book on the USATT web page.) Topics included the Four R's (Reaction, Recovery, Ready, and Ritual), the inseparable relationship between emotional, mental, and physical (the "Game Face Performance Triangle"), and other sports psychology topics. If you are interested in a sports psychology workshop at your club, see her webpage

Scott Preiss and Dr. Eric Owens

Here's a nice exhibition (2:42) by Scott Preiss and, yes, DR. Eric Owens. (Our 2001 U.S. Men's Singles Champion now is a medical doctor.) The Ping Pong Man (that's Scott) and the Doctor are performing at the Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles for the US Olympic Committee and Olympic sponsors.

Dumb Anti-Obama Posting

For the last few days USATT has featured on their home page a picture of President Obama holding up an ICC Table Tennis shirt. (Here's a direct link to the article and picture - scroll down to see the picture, or go directly to it.) Someone posted a bunch of anti-Obama nonsense on a table tennis forum, writing "SHAME on USATT" for "posting pro obama nonsense," and linking to an anti-Obama video that insults the intelligence of anyone with a brain, Democrat, Republican, or Independent. (Thankfully, the moderators deleted it soon afterwards.)  First, this was no "pro obama nonsense," simply a neutral picture of the President of the United States holding up a table tennis shirt, a great promotional item for table tennis. Second, it's a TABLE TENNIS forum, not a political forum. Third, can't these types of people see the difference between the president, who happens to be Obama, and Obama, the person who happens to be a president they don't like?

Milwaukee's Airport and Table Tennis

CNN did a special on "14 airport amenities that will make you long for a layover." The picture nine of them; see #8!!! Yes, it's a ping-pong table at Milwaukee's Mitchell Airport! I actually walked by it at last year's U.S. Open in Milwaukee, and considered joining in with the ones playing, but ended up just watching it.


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May 16, 2012

MDTTC Featured

The Maryland Table Tennis Center was featured in a story in the Montgomery Gazette this morning. I'm quoted several times. Make sure to click on the pictures! We've been featured in various media hundreds of times over the years.

How does one go about getting press coverage of your table tennis events? It's not difficult, but it does take some time. First, have something to feature. It can be an actual event (tournament, clinic, big league match, etc.), a person (player or coach), or just table tennis in general. (All reporters need an "angle.") Get a listing of all the local media by Googling your city and state along with "newspapers," "TV stations," and "radio stations." Go to their web pages and compile a list of contact emails. Then write a press release about your event, person, or table tennis in general, and send it off.

If you have a really big event, contact the national press - CNN, MSNBC, FOX, USA Today, Associated Press, etc.

If you don't get any nibbles, do it again a week later. You may have to hit them a few times before you get their attention.

How do you write a press release? Just write about what you hope to feature. Make sure to include all the info - the who, what, when, where, why, and how. Then check it for spelling and grammar - there are few quicker ways to turn off literary types (and anyone from a newspaper, TV, or radio considers themselves "literary types") than with misspellings and awkward grammar. Write clearly and focus on the facts and anything that you think might interest people. Let them do the color - after they've come and interviewed you!

Sean O'Neill named U.S. Paralympic Table Tennis Coach

Here's the story. Sean was previously the U.S. Paralympic Table Tennis Coach from 2004-2008.

ITTF Coaching Seminar in Atlanta

Here's a story about the ITTF Coaching Seminar that USATT Coaching Chair Richard McAfee is running. (I ran one last April, and plan to run another one at MDTTC in Gaithersburg, MD, tentatively scheduled Aug. 26-30. Let me know if you are interested.)

"As One" breaks 1.2 million

Over 1.2 million in South Korea have seen the new film "As One" in the ten days since its release, according to the Yahoo story. The movie chronicles the joint Korean team that won Women's Teams at the 1991 World Championships. Apparently that's a lot for Korea. I wasn't able to find when the movie opens in the U.S. - anyone know?

King of the Table Matt Kuchar

Matt Kuchar is the best player in the PGA, according to tweets by fellow golfer Jason Dufner. However, Baltimore Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy "would give him a good match." Here's the story from Table Tennis Nation. (As noted in previous blogs, I may be coaching Hardy soon. More on this when it's finalized.)

Profile of the Over 80's

Here's a video (3:48) that features eight players from around the world (with 703 years between them, ranging from 81 to 99 years old, including players from England, Australia, Sweden, and China) competing in Over 80 in the World Veteran Championships in Inner Mongolia. Over 3500 players compete in the tournament.

Ping-Pong Offices

Here's a CNN story from Monday (2:11) about modern offices in Silicon Valley with all sorts of perks - including table tennis!

Paulini and the Ping Pong Song

Here's a new song from Paulini - the Ping Pong Song (2:43)! Sample lyrics: "You're playing ping pong with my heart." Okay, probably not the greatest table tennis song - the first comment underneath says, "For the sake of humanity, please someone shoot this woman." The greatest table tennis music is, and always will be, "Magic Ball," the theme song to the 1989 World Championships (3:09).


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