full-time clubs

November 3, 2014

Another Full-Time Club - Table Tennis Exploding Nationally and in Maryland Area

Another full-time club is opening in my area, the Smash Table Tennis Center in Sterling, Virginia, which will open in about one month. (Not to be confused with the Smash Table Tennis Club which recently opened in Fall River, Massachusetts.) This makes 77 full-time clubs in the U.S. (in 23 states and DC), and seven full-time table tennis clubs within 45 minutes of me (probably all within 30 minutes if no traffic). Table Tennis in the Maryland region is exploding!!!

So why is table tennis taking off in the Maryland/Virginia region, as well as other regions such as the SF and LA areas in California, NY and NJ, and other regions? It only takes one successful club in an area (which develops the demand) to grow enough interest that there's a demand for more, plus the locals see how successful a full-time center can be and so copy it. MDTTC spent years as the only full-time club in the region (and often the whole country), but now they are popping up everywhere, to the chagrin of all the doubters of the past. (I've been arguing for something like twenty years for USATT to get involved in the recruiting and training of coaches and promoters to spread these centers, whose rise I've been predicting for many years, including a presentation to the board on this in December, 2006, at the 2009 USATT Strategic Meeting, and many others, always falling on deaf ears, alas.)

It is a scary thing for a full-time club when another one opens up locally. In the short run, it does hurt business. But new clubs bring in new business, and some of that business goes to the other clubs, and in the end, everyone benefits - it is not a zero-sum game. When a new full-time club brings in new players, many of those players end up playing in the other clubs' tournaments, leagues, and coaching programs, become members, and the local table tennis community increases, to the benefit of all. (And word-of-mouth from the new players brings in still more players.) So yes, "A rising tide lifts all boats." I wrote about this in my March 19, 2014 blog.

A key thing, however, is you don't open a club with the thought that there is already a demand for the club - though that helps, and is a reality in some regions due to the hard work of those who created the demand. No, when you open a full-time club (or any club), the point is to create the demand. This means creating programs that players are interested in, and so becoming members. Getting players into a club isn't that hard if you know how to go about doing it, but keeping them is.

And for those of you who are thinking of making the jump to full-time table tennis, here's the manual I wrote on this, Professional Table Tennis Coaches Handbook. (It also goes over how to get players into a club and keep them)

World Cadet Challenge

It finished over the weekend. Here's the ITTF page for the event, with results, articles and pictures. Kanak Jha got the bronze medal for Cadet Boys' Singles, while he and Jack Wang got the bronze for Cadet Boys' Doubles and Teams. Crystal Wang and Amy Wang got the bronze for Cadet Girls' Teams, and made the quarterfinals of Cadet Girls' Doubles. Crystal made the quarterfinals of Cadet Girls' Singles. Overall in the singles Kanak came in 3rd, Jack 8th, Crystal 7th, and Amy 17th (after winning the "Losers Bracket"). Here's an ITTF article that features. Kanak.

China's History of Match Fixing

Here's the article. With the recent issue about whether the 2012 Olympic Men's Final was fixed, this is of extra interest. The fixed matches featured here are only a fraction of them; fixing matches was considered standard in the past, where coaches and officials would decide who should win to tactically and politically most benefit China. (And there is no denying there is a logic to this, but at the expense of the players who trained for so many years only to be treated like pawns.) I've had some serious discussions with people from China who strongly believe in this type of fixing - I've concluded it's a cultural thing. It happens in America as well; I know of at least four times where players dumped matches to affect who made the U.S. team or equivalent. There's no getting around this type of thing.  

Forehand Looping with Variation

Here's the video (2:26) by Samson Dubina.

Two-Table Training

Here's the video (6:51). I've done this before, but not recently. I think I'll do it in our next junior sessions. It's not only good training (by forcing players to cover extra ground, the actually ground they do need to cover becomes easy), but it's fun and the kids like doing something different.

Learn How to Deliver Aerobic Table Tennis

Here's the article.

Northwest Indiana Welcomes Second Butterfly Thanksgiving Event

Here's the USATT article on the upcoming Butterfly Teams.

Ping-Pong Craze Comes to Fall River

Here's the article on the new full-time Smash Table Tennis Club in Fall River, Massachusetts.

Best Points

Here's the video (4:59) - the first one is a doozy!

Table Tennis - Our Story

Here's the motivational music video (5:12)

Edge-Edge-Edge-Edge Point

Here's the video (28 sec, including slow-motion replay). I believe the server serves on the edge, followed by three consecutive edges, two by each player.

Happy and Horrible Halloween From:

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October 6, 2014

Tip of the Week

Should You Play Tournaments When Working on Something New?

Coaching and a Ball Shortage - a Good Thing?

Yesterday was somewhat hectic for an unusual reason - a ball shortage. But perhaps that was a good thing?

I spent the morning working with Tim Boggan on Volume 15 of his History of U.S. Table Tennis (1986-88). We started around 6AM and stopped at noon. (Over the weekend Tim and I watched the Marty Reisman documentary "Fact or Fiction: The Life & Times of a Ping-Pong Hustler, which I'll blog about later this week, probably tomorrow - I took lots of notes. 84-year-old Tim found it depressing.) After lunch I went to MDTTC for three hours of private coaching and a 90 minute junior group session.

The private coaching went pretty well - two juniors and one adult. The first of the two kids was a relative beginner, age 11. He did pretty well - his basic forehand and backhand strokes are sound - so we spent much of the session working on his forehand loop, and then on serves. His loop gets surprising spin for someone who hasn't been doing it very long - he has very good contact with the ball, though he tends to stop his upper body rotation before contact, costing him power. The second kid was a 7-year old who already topspins all his backhands, essential an off-the-bounce backhand loop that's going to be scary good someday. We spent much of the session also working on his forehand loop. The final session was with Navin, the full-time hardbat and sandpaper player with the artificial heart and Parkinson's. We spent much of the session working on his forehand hitting and backhand chop blocking, and then on hardbat serves.

Then came the hectic part. From 4:30-6:00 I teach a junior class with 12 players. Assisting was Coach Jeffrey. We needed three boxes of balls - two for Jeffrey and I (for multiball) and another for the robot. The problem was that coaches Cheng, Jack, Leon, Bowen, Raghu, and John were all doing private coaching sessions, and several of our top juniors were using boxes of balls to train or practice serves, and suddenly we had a severe ball shortage. (Fortunately, Coach Alex is in China right now or it might have been worse!) We'd opened the last box of training balls a few days later, and for now there were no more. So Jeffrey and I scrounged around the club, grabbing every ball we could. We managed to get enough - barely - though we had to really focus on ball pickup so we wouldn't run out of balls.

We do nearly 300 hours of coaching at MDTTC each week. I'm constantly amazed when I hear from some players and club leaders about how impossible it is to get players, that there just isn't enough demand out there. But there's a simple formula we discovered when we opened MDTTC 22 years ago - if you bring in high-level coaches with great work ethics, and let them keep the bulk of their private coaching income, they will have great incentive to bring in students, and those students will become the backbone of the club, paying for memberships, tournaments, leagues, equipment, and group coaching sessions. That's how you fill a club up. It's not easy at the start, but if you do it, the players will come. That's the formula that works for us, and for the large majority of the roughly 75 full-time clubs in the U.S. (I wrote more about this in the Professional Table Tennis Coaches Handbook, in particular on how to find students to develop a full-time coaching practice.)

More Larry & Tim Quotes

On Friday I blogged about working with Tim Boggan on Volume 15 of his History of U.S. Table Tennis, and gave a number of quotes. Here are more.

Larry: "Should we use the good one or the blur?"
Tim: "It goes against my grain, but we'll use the better picture."
Larry: "I knew you'd weaken."

~

Tim: "Let's use them even though they're good." (About two photos that were so good they made the others look bad.)

~

Tim: "Bring the curtain over." (Wanted me to move something in a photo.)

~

Larry: "Posterity will come and go, and no one will ever know." (Musing to himself about the various manipulations he does on the page.

~

Larry: "I want to check something." (Every five minutes.)
Larry: "Have to check on the Orioles game." (Every five minutes.)
Larry: "I have an email coming." (Every 30 seconds.)

Snake Serve Table Tennis

Here's a video (5:19) of a hilarious coaching video. Learn the Snake Serve (a forehand pendulum serve), the Reverse Serve, and the Lizard Serve! Warning - if you suffer from Ophidiophobia (fear of snakes), do not watch this.

Top Ten Creative Servers of Table Tennis

Here's the article and video (12:41).

Learn How to Make Your Loops More Deceptive - Just Add Variation!

Here's the article by Samson Dubina.

Nathan Hsu in China

Here's Nathan's latest vlog (4:12). He's actually back now, and editing and putting the videos online when he's not training. 

USATT Athletes of the Month

Here's the USATT article. This month they are Crystal Wang (women), Timothy Wang (men), and Tahl Leibovitz (Paralympic). Crystal, of course, is from my club.

Charity Tournament and Celebrity SLAMFest Huge Success

Here's the USATT article.

Asian Games Men's Final

Here's the video (7:12, with time between points taken out) between the top two players in the world, Xu Xin and Fan Zhendong.

China on Top of Asia after Claiming Men's & Women's Singles Gold

Here's the ITTF Press Release.

Ping-Pong Business Hopes to Restart Table Tennis Craze

Here's the article (with pictures and video) about King Pong Table Tennis in Staten Island.

Happy Birthday Jan-Ove Waldner

Here's the graphic and comments - he turned 49 on Friday.

Arguing About Benghazi Talking Points

Here's the TT cartoon.

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March 21, 2014

The Ping-Pong Apartments

Below is an essay I wrote that was published in USA Table Tennis Magazine in 1991. (Back then the USATT board of directors was called the Executive Committee, hence the "Mr. Ec.") Has our situation changed in the 23 years since? Before we get to the essay, let's look at the current situation.

The rise of full-time training centers all over the U.S. is a dramatic improvement, and growing leagues in NYC and the SF and LA areas in California are promising. But we still have a long way to go. We're not going to really fix our sport until the leaders of our sport actually focus on fixing our sport, i.e. developing the infrastructure as it is done overseas, and in other sports in the U.S. There's no systematic development of these full-time centers or professional coaches, i.e. recruitment and training on how to set up a full-time center or be a professional coach; entrepreneurs have to come forward on their own each time and either learn from others or make it up as they go along. There's no model of a regional league to streamline the process needed to set up a nationwide network of such leagues, as is done all over the world but not here.

When a new player walks into most clubs, he's usually thrown to the wolves, i.e. told to call winners against an established player who will kill him, and we rarely see that player again. What's needed are professional coaches we can send these new players to (adults and juniors) for instruction, and leagues for all levels so the new players can find other players their own level. This is how it's done overseas, and how it's done in successful sports all over the U.S., whether it's tennis, bowling, soccer, basketball, baseball/softball, and so on.

These problems can be fixed by calling on the membership for qualified volunteers to develop these aspects. Get our top league directors in a room and tell them they can't come out until they develop a prototype of a regional league that can grow throughout the country. Ask the coaching committee to focus on the recruitment and development of professional coaches. I already wrote the Professional Table Tennis Coaches Handbook; as I've told them already, I'll donate them at cost (about $2/each) if they'll actually use them in a serious way.

No, I'm not volunteering at this time to do these things for USATT anymore because I've been through this before, and it won't work without their strong support, which won't happen if they aren't equally motivated to do these things - but they have other priorities, and so the issues I bring up are barely afterthoughts. All you have to do is read the USATT minutes (see segment below) to see if developing the infrastructure is a serious priority. Over the years I've given a number of presentations to the USATT board on plans to develop our sport, to deaf ears. Maybe I just don't look good in a suit.

Beware of those who promise to focus on clubs, schools, leagues, coaching, etc., but don't have any specific plans to do so, or have anyone to actually implement any plans. Generic promises aren't promises at all. Beware of those who come up with small things instead of the big things needed. Small things are nice, but we've had over 80 years of small things in our sport, and it's why we're small.

Until we fix these problems, we'll continue to have around 8000 members while overseas countries measure their paid memberships in the hundreds of thousands or even millions. There's a well-traveled road to success if we'd only follow it.

The Ping Pong Apartments

Mr. Ec bought the Ping Pong apartments in 1933.

The first thing he did was to take a tour of the facilities. He found the rooms were unheated, the plumbing broken, and there was no air conditioning. The building was drab and unkept, and rats and cockroaches infested the building. Paint was chipping.

Mr. Ec did not have the money for renovations, and so he couldn't fix up the building. He spent 52 years lamenting what he would do if he only had more money.

In 1985, Mr. Ec. received a grant from the Olympic Committee to fix up the Ping Pong Apartments. Suddenly he had the money so desperately needed.

It was a great time for ping pong. According to a Gallup Poll, over 21 million Americans had expressed an interest in the Ping Pong Apartments. Ping Pong was now an Olympic Sport. Yet, for some reason, few wanted to stay at the Ping Pong Apartments, once they saw the condition of the building.

For some reason, the other Apartments always did better. The Football Apartments, the Basketball Apartments, the Baseball Apartments, the Tennis Apartments, even the Bowling Apartments - all of these buildings were full of happy tenants. And the Ping Pong Apartments in Asia and Europe were full. Mr. Ec was determined to do something about this.

He bought ads in newspapers and TV, advertising the Ping Pong Apartments. He sent agents to the other Apartments to do exhibitions, trying to get them to come to the Ping Pong Apartments. He went to the schools, urging kids to come to the Ping Pong Apartments. He sent literature out to everyone, telling them all the advantages of the Ping Pong Apartments. And all of these ideas were good.

But nobody would come to the Ping Pong Apartments.

The rooms are still unheated. The plumbing is still broken. There is no air conditioning. The building is drab and unkept, and cockroaches and rats still infest the building. The paint is still chipping.

Why won't people come to the Ping Pong Apartments?

Back to Coaching - Serve Practice!

Have you practiced your serves lately? Why not? There's nothing harder to coach against than a player with good serves, so please, Please, PLEASE, if you are going to play against anyone I coach, don't practice your serves. Here's a Tip from a few weeks ago: Practicing Serves the Productive Way.

Game Strategies

Here's an interesting article on tactics by Samson Dubina.

Four New Full-Time Table Tennis Clubs

I've added the follow four new ones to the growing list I maintain of full-time table tennis clubs, bringing the number to 71. Three of them are in California, making 23 for that state. This includes twelve in the San Francisco Bay area - here's a map of clubs in the San Francisco Bay area, including twelve full-time ones, courtesy of Bruce Liu. There are also twelve full-time ones in the New York City region. Maryland has four, plus a fifth just over the border in Virginia.

Seemiller Camp in Newport News, Virginia

Dan Seemiller Sr. and Jr. surprised us at MDTTC yesterday afternoon when they showed up unexpectedly. Turns out the two were driving in from Indiana (ten-hour drive) to join Rick Seemiller (Dan Sr.'s brother) to run a three-day camp in Newport News, VA, March 21-23, Fri-Sun. (Here's info on the clinic.) The two hit for a time as they waited for rush hour to end. 

New York Table Tennis League

The deadline to join the NYTTL is March 31, so sign your team up now! From their invitational email: "Some people said it was not possible have a club league. And we did it. Some people said nobody will play without awards. And we played for many years only for trophies. Other people said it was not possible to have a national final. Well, you know."

USATT Teleconference Minutes

Here are the minutes for the USATT Feb. 17 teleconference. Here are minutes of all USATT board meetings.

ITTF Legends Tour to Debut in May

Want to see Waldner, Persson, Appelgren, Gatien, Saive, and Jiang Jialiang compete again? Here's the ITTF Legends Tour page!

Table Tennis on 60 Minutes

A feature on Westchester TTC member Bob Mankoff, the cartoon editor of The New Yorker, will be aired on Sunday, March 23, 2014. Morley Safer and a film crew from "60 Minutes" were at the club on February 19 to film Bob Mankoff and Will Shortz playing table tennis. Check your local listing for details.

Table Tennis on Rachel Ray Show

"Killerspin Kid," Estee Ackerman, the 2013 US Nationals Under 1800 Champion, will be on the Rachel Ray Show this Monday, March 24. The program airs on the ABC network.

Suge Knight Plays Ping Pong

Here's the story and video (12 min) from Table Tennis Nation of the "infamous" hip hop executive playing.

Attempt on World's Longest Rally

Here's the article. On March 23 (this Sunday), Peter and Dan Ives (father and son) will attempt to break the record for world's longest table tennis rally, currently held by Max Fergus and Luke Logan at 8 hours, 30 minutes, and 6 seconds. The Ives are doing so to raise money for Prostate Cancer UK Charity. The event will be live streamed if you want to watch two players pat the ball and forth for ten hours.

2014 PaddleYou Celebrity Ping Pong Madness

Who is the best celebrity table tennis player? The brackets are all set up; let the voting begin!

Chewbacca Plays, Yoda Umpires

Here's the picture - better let the Wookiee win! (Who is that supposed to be on the right?)

Great Ping Pong Balls of Fire

Watch Ethan Chua's fiery serve (26 sec)!

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March 19, 2014

Successful Clubs Build Each Other Up

I've often blogged about the best thing happening in U.S. table tennis right now - the rise of the full-time training center. There were about ten in 2006; now there are 67 in my listing, with another one about to join the list once I get their website. (Email me if you know of any that I'm missing.) One of the huge results is the number and depth of our elite juniors, which are better than anything we've had in the past - and it's not even close.

However, one of the consistent criticisms of these training centers is that they hurt other clubs. After all, a part-time club can't compete with a full-time club, right? And a full-time club will be hurt if another club opens up nearby, right?

Actually, the answer to both of these questions is a resounding NO. Successful clubs build each other up. In fact, often the best thing that can happen to a part-time club is if a full-time center opens nearby, and often the best thing that can happen to a full-time club is if another full-time club opens up - perhaps not next door, but in the region. It might lead to a temporary problem as you lose a few players, but in the long run the club gains. 

Why is this? People worry too much about the competition for current players. This is similar to the arguments made so often in the past that there aren't enough players (read: current players) to sustain more than a few full-time clubs. What they didn't understand is that a successful club develops its own players. It only helps to have another club developing these players, i.e. increasing the market for your club.

Similarly, when a successful new club opens, it develops its own players. Sure, at first it might take a few current players away from the current club. But this is offset by the new ones it creates, some of whom will end up playing at the other club. Table tennis is not a zero-sum game, though many have a hard time getting out of that thinking.

What happens when more clubs open is they develop a table tennis community, with many players playing at multiple clubs. When a "rival" club opens, some of the players they develop will end up playing in your club, as well as in your leagues, tournaments, and coaching sessions. There's a synergy when multiple clubs all develop players and the table tennis community grows bigger and Bigger and BIGGER!!! All the clubs grow and prosper, except perhaps for really badly-run ones that make no effort to improve.

More clubs also forces clubs to improve to better compete to develop, keep, and attract players, leading to better clubs. This is better for everyone. 

Is this all theoretical claptrap? No, it's from actual experience. For example, the part-time Potomac TTC has been around since the 1980s. It was successful before the Maryland Table Tennis Center opened in 1992, about 20 minutes away. It's now even more successful as result of the many players developed by MDTTC that now play regularly at both clubs. (Many train at MDTTC and play matches at both clubs.) There are also full-time clubs opening up all over the San Francisco Bay Area (12 of them now) - but I don't know of any part-time ones closing down because of this, though a few have instead gone full-time. (I'm sure there are exceptions, but they are exceptions, not the rule.) And the result of all the new training centers in the Bay area is they now have a successful table tennis league, with players from both the full-time and part-time table tennis clubs competing. The same thing is happening in the LA, NY, NJ, and MD regions, and probably others.

How about full-time clubs opening up near each other? For many years MDTTC had the luxury of being the only full-time club in the region, and one of the few in the country. In recent years four others have popped up within a 30-minute drive: Washington TTC in Gaithersburg (about five minutes away), Club JOOLA in Rockville (20 minutes away), Howard County TTC in Ellicott City, and the Northern Virginia TTC in Chantilly. Have we lost any players to them? Not really. But we've gained from players from those centers who often come to our club to train and to compete in our leagues and tournaments. We've prospered from their players coming to our club, and they have prospered partly because of the table tennis community MDTTC built up over the years, and which they are now enlarging.

Don't believe it? MDTTC was a 5000-square foot facility during most of its history. It doubled in size to 10,000 square feet two years ago. It was done partly to keep the club competitive both among local clubs and with other large clubs in the rest of the country, but the larger local TT community helped make it possible. 

Sure, there's competition for the top players between clubs, but that's more for prestige than anything else. (And the more successful ones mostly develop these players on their own rather than rely on the current ones.) The clubs with the better coaches and facilities might get more of the elite players and juniors, but that's not the primary source of revenue for a club, which comes from the average player - and those numbers only go up when more clubs open up.

I'll finish with a famous quote: "A rising tide lifts all boats."

The Two Shoe Salesmen

Here's a great instructional story that was pointed out to me by Bruce Liu. There's no table tennis in it; it's about two shoe salesmen and their differing reactions to a country where nobody wears shoes.

How does this relate to USA table tennis? Relative to the rest of the world, few players play seriously here with our 8000 members, compared to the hundreds of thousands in European countries and millions in some Asian countries. One type of person says, "Nobody here plays table tennis," and thinks that means it's a bad market for table tennis. The other type of persons says, "Nobody here plays table tennis!" and realizes it's an untapped market and a "glorious opportunity."

Unfortunately, too many in our sport think like the first person, including many of the leaders. Many of them simply do not have experience in how table tennis can grow, and so (consciously or subconsciously) continue to support the status quo. You can tell which ones they are - they are the ones who do the little things for the sport, and proclaim it from the highest hills, while avoiding the big things - like growing the sport in this untapped market. They just don't see the glorious opportunity.

Want To Be the Voice of Table Tennis?

Here's the link to the new ITTF contest. "Do you love Table Tennis? Do you fancy yourself as a commentator? Would you like to travel to the biggest events on the planet? If the answers are YES, you might be the new Voice of Table Tennis that we are looking for! 1 lucky and talented winner will join us in Tokyo as a commentator for the ZEN-NOH 2014 World Team Table Tennis Championships, happening 28 April to 5 May 2014! The winner will also join the ITTF Team as a commentator on the World Tour." Deadline to enter is April 1. (This is NOT an April Fool's Joke!)

Jack Wang Impressive at Cary Cup

Here's the article on the 13-year-old from New Jersey.

International Articles

Here's my periodic note about all the great daily international articles at Table Tennista and at the ITTF News page.

Fun with Ping-Pong Ball Eyes

Here are the pictures!

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October 3, 2012

USA vs. Belgium Clubs

Someone emailed me yesterday saying he was pretty sure Belgium didn't have 500 full-time clubs, as I'd quoted someone posting yesterday. There's no way to judge from here. But the key is that both seem to agree they have 500 clubs in an area about the size of Maryland with about twice the population. Maryland, the state with the highest percentage of USATT members among its population, has only six clubs. That's about an 83-1 ratio by area, or 42-1 by population. I think we're outgunned.

The writer also pointed out that clubs in Europe are organized differently and said there's no point in comparing numbers, but I disagree. People are people, and if we create a good product, they will come. Every time someone has opened a nice table tennis club in the U.S. and run it properly, the people have come. The limiting factor isn't the U.S.; it's the small number of people in the U.S. able and willing to create such clubs. Sure, Belgium and other European countries have more government support, but entrepreneurs in the U.S. have shown over and over that professional table tennis clubs can make it in the U.S.  Look no further than the San Francisco Bay area, where new full-time clubs seem to pop up every week.

There's a reason why so many can open in a relatively small area and be successful. While more dedicated players will travel longer distances to play at a nice club, something like 90% of a club's business is with players within five miles. That's five miles in both directions, so call it a square with a ten mile diameter, or 100 square miles. You could ring most major cities with full-time clubs, as they have in the Bay area, and they'd barely affect each other. Plus the major cities themselves, with their much denser populations, can support a larger percentage. (The Maryland Table Tennis Center, my club, is about 15 miles north of Washington D.C.  I once estimated that the D.C. area could support 20-30 full-time clubs.)

Of course, from the point of view of each club, do we really want more local clubs that will take away some business? Of course it hurts a little bit, but not nearly as much as you'd think. More clubs means more players, and more players mean a larger field to draw when running leagues and tournaments. The simple reality is that most of a club's business is not only local, but from locals they develop themselves by promoting the sport and setting up programs that meet the needs of the players, i.e. leagues, coaching programs, etc.

Here's the current list of full-time clubs in the USA. I really wish USA Table Tennis had chosen to get involved in recruiting and training of coaches and promoters to set up these centers (as well as leagues), but my proposals to them over the years haven't convinced them. So we're on our own. Why not take an online virtual tour? Each of these clubs is the result of someone who took the initiative. They are the heroes of our sport, the ones who will take it to the next level.

The Orioles Excuse

Some readers may remember my back problem tribulations of last year. I got over them from a regimen of weight training and stretching. After the back was better, I stopped weight training, and so far my back has survived. However, the weight training did something else - it made me play better. In particular, my upper body and legs were stronger, and this led to my better play. I found myself looping with mobility, consistency, and power that I hadn't had in years.

Now it's mostly gone and I'm back to futilely waving at balls as they whip past me. The solution? Back to weight training. However - I'm going to put it off a few more days, possibly a few more weeks. I've been following Baltimore Orioles baseball, and now they are in the playoffs. I usually did weight training at Planet Fitness on the way home from coaching sessions at the club, which often finish as the Orioles are about to play. They could be done as early as Friday (if they don't win the AL East today over the Yankees and then lose in the one-game wild-car playoff), or they could continue all the way to the World Series, with a potential seventh game scheduled on Nov. 1.  

So here's my vow. Starting after the Orioles finish their season, I will start up weight training again. Opponents beware!!!

USA Junior and Cadet Team Selection Procedures

Here is how USATT will selection their 2013 junior and cadet teams.

Ryder Cup Table Tennis

It seems the real reason USA lost to Europe at the Ryder Cup is the golfers spent all their time playing ping-pong. Here's another article on the topic care of Table Tennis Nation. (Yesterday I wrote about Phil Mickelson at the Ryder Cup; last Thursday I wrote about how table tennis was the heart of Team USA bonding at Ryder Cup.)

The Ping-Pong Round Table

I'm not sure if this is a conference table or King Arthur's table, but it looks like fun.

The King Kong of Ping Pong

Yes, King Kong plays ping-pong. Guess what he uses for balls?

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May 17, 2012

My writing

This blog has a lot about my own writing. It wasn't planned - it just happened. So be it!

How table tennis will change, according to "Campaign 2100"

I've long wondered how table tennis will change in the future. Here are some possibilities that are straight from my book "Campaign 2100: Rise of the Moderates," a 117,000-word SF novel I wrote that is currently making the rounds of agents and publishers. (It covers the 2100 election for president of Earth, where the whole world has adopted the American two-party electoral system. I describe it as "West Wing in the 22nd century," with the underlying theme moderation in politics; some will read it as a Moderate Manifesto.)

One of the main characters, Bruce, is a professional college table tennis player, and one of the dramas is when, at 19-all in the fifth in the semifinals of the college championships against his nemesis, he loses interest and defaults the match to join the presidential election campaign. (Yes, the game has gone back to 21-point games in my future. Hey, it's my future!) Throughout the novel Bruce often has a ping-pong ball in hand, which he nervously fiddles with, tosses about, or throws at people.

Here is an excerpt that describes Bruce's futuristic paddle, which he calls Lore.

Lore was the latest model of ping-pong paddle, a Maestro Prime covered with Spinsey pinhole sponge, both from Trump Sports. When the ball hit it, the Spinsey sponge compressed, forcing air out through the tiny, angled holes that permeated the surface. If he held it one way, the air shot upward from the parallel holes, creating a topspin. If he flipped the paddle, so the backhand side became the forehand side and vice versa, then the air would shoot downward, creating a backspin.

Here's a listing of the changes to the sport I put in the novel:

  • Table tennis is the #1 sport in world. Everyone watches it.
  • As noted above, the sponge has microscopic holes that shoot air out when ball hits sponge. The holes are angled so they put topspin on the ball. If you flip the racket, it puts backspin on the ball.
  • College players are all highly-paid professionals.
  • Professional players use steroids as matter of course, except for Bruce, who refuses to use them even though they are completely safe. This is a huge handicap for him.
  • Striped balls.
  • Playing shoes have adjustable traction.
  • Tables have sensors that detect hits.
  • Games are back to 21 points

Regarding the "Campaign 2100" novel, it's currently at a publisher who, after reading the opening three chapters, wrote the following:

"I found your premise interesting and your opening chapters engaging -- I was a great fan of The West Wing when it aired, and the show might have been influential in my misguided decision to attend law school for a semester.  I wised up about my own incompatibility with law school, but I remain intrigued by real and fictional political drama like yours. I enjoy the succinct narration and explanations from Toby Platt's point of view and the intriguing twist chapter three provides with the introduction of a student on vacation for Earth's first contact. I would like to consider the full manuscript for CAMPAIGN 2100: RISE OF THE MODERATES. Please send the manuscript as an attached Word document or .rtf file at your earliest convenience."

The novel has multiple table tennis scenes, including the following:

  • Bruce's introduction scene, described above, where he defaults out of the college nationals at 19-all in the fifth to join the presidential campaign.
  • Bruce teaches table tennis to Twenty-Two, an alien ambassador who is observing the election, and they play constantly in the "floater," the flying vehicle the campaign uses to campaign around the world. Since his ancestors snatched flying insects out of the air, the alien has fantastic reflexes and coordination and becomes very good very quickly, and is soon beating Bruce, to the latter's great chagrin.
  • Bruce and Twenty-Two do a table tennis exhibition in front of the Chinese leadership in a packed stadium. The scene ends with Twenty-Two getting arrested on orders from President Dubois, leading to major political ramifications.

Table Tennis Tactics: A Thinker's Guide

The book is basically done, but I'm going to do one last reading on screen (where I'll undoubtedly make lots of minor wording changes, and probably add new stuff), and then I'll print it out for one last proofing. It's currently at 91,000 words, which is 395 double-spaced pages in Courier.

I'm leaning toward changing the title to "Table Tennis Tactics and Strategic Development." What do you think? I'm also leaning toward self-publishing. I do have a convention publisher interested, but that'll mean putting off publication for at least a year, plus lots of likely rewrites for the publisher, who have their own idea on what they want. More likely I'm going to put this and my other books all in ebook and POD (print on demand) formats, and sell them online by the end of the year or sooner.

New full-time clubs in NYC and Philadelphia

A Mini-table as a Graduation Gift?

RealSimple.com has it as one of their 29 "unique" graduation gifts!

Pneumatic Ping-Pong

Flashing lights, blasting music, high-powered fans, toys dropping on you, tables covered with hundreds of balls . . . this is the ultimate ping-pong challenge, right? Brought to you by Table Tennis Nation.

Non-Table Tennis - Two story sales

In my separate science fiction & fantasy writing career, I sold two stories in the last two days. "The Oysters of Pinctada" (4400 words) went to Flagship Magazine yesterday (Wednesday), my fourth sale to them. It's the story of a space pirate's kidnapping of the king of the planet Pinctada to find the secret of where they get the giant pearls they sell - and the lengths the Pinctadan's will go to save their king, and the terrible secret the pirate learns.

"The Devil's Backbone" (7000 words) sold to an anthology on Tuesday. Unfortunately, the editor asked that I not publicize which anthology until he's ready to announce the entire lineup. It's the story of an ice cream man who is killed and pulled into the ground by an incredibly gigantic hand, which turns out to be the Devil's, who literally jams him down his throat and (from the inside) onto his equally gigantic backbone, where there is an entire city of lost souls. How can he escape?

This makes 61 short stories sales. And while we're at it, here are my complete writing stats: 1356 published articles in 133 different publications, including 1224 on table tennis. Here's my science fiction & fantasy page, and here's my complete publication history.

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