Magic Ball

February 7, 2014

How to Teach a Beginning/Intermediate Class

Starting on Feb. 17, I'm teaching a new Beginning/Intermediate Table Tennis Class at MDTTC. It's designed for adult players from beginners to roughly 1500 in USATT ratings. The class is every Monday for ten weeks, from 6:30-8:00PM. If you are in the Gaithersburg, Maryland area and would like to participate, contact me. We have an even ten already signed up, so I'm hoping for a good-sized group. (There's a whole chapter on teaching classes in my book Professional Table Tennis Coaches Handbook.)

The purpose of the class is to give players a complete introduction to the sport of table tennis. That means covering every major aspect, including grip and stance, the strokes, footwork, equipment, and tactics. But there's another reason for such a class. When new players come to a club, they often are a bit lost. They don't know the sport and they don't know other members of the club - they have no peers. By having a class, we get all of them together, and they not only learn about the sport, they develop their own peer group. I've taught a few dozen of these classes, dating back to when we started MDTTC in 1992. Some of the classes had over 20 players.

I'll start each class with a demo with an assistant coach, and lecture on the focus for the class. Since it's an adult class (younger players allowed in with permission of the instructor), it'll have a lot more lecturing and demos than in a typical junior class or clinic. Then we'll go out on the tables and practice the new technique, with myself walking around and coaching. If there's an odd number of players, one will hit with the robot, or I'll have my assistant coach hit with someone or do multiball. Usually there's a second topic to be covered in each session, so roughly halfway through we'll come together for a second demo and lecture. Most weeks may start off with players practicing/warming up the basic strokes, especially forehands and backhands, before we get to the demo/lecture stage.   

Here's the planned weekly schedule:

Week 1: Intro to TT; Grip; Stance; Forehand drive
Week 2: Table tennis equipment; Backhand drive
Week 3: Footwork; Beginning serves
Week 4:  Pushing; Advanced serves
Week 5:  FH loop vs. backspin; Blocking
Week 6:  BH attack (looping & hitting vs. backspin)
Week 7:  Smashing; Introduction to USATT, tournaments, and leagues
Week 8:  Return of Serve (and review of serving)
Week 9:  Loop/smash combinations (i.e. loop backspin, smash topspin); Tactics
Week 10:  Smashing lobs; player's choice; 11-point games

Fan Zhendong Learned His Lessons from Zhang Jike

Here's the article from Table Tennista, with links to several videos.

Umpires to 2014 World Championships

There are two ways to make it to the courts at the World Championships: as a player or as an umpire. The ITTF just announced the list of umpires for the 2014 Worlds. The list includes two USA umpires: Stephen Banko and Michael Meier. Congrats to them! (Now, what's the going bribe rate?)

Angles Galore

Here's a video (28 sec) of one of the best rallies I've ever seen - and talk about angles!!! That's Wang Liqin on the far side, Werner Schlager on the near side. I'm guessing this is from the 2003 World Championships, where Schlager upset Wang in the quarterfinals and went on to win Men's Singles. (EDIT - according to comment below, it was from the 2003 World Cup - so I was close!)

"Plastic Ball"

When I read about the new plastic balls that are replacing celluloid ones, I start humming to myself the theme music to the 1989 World Championships, "Magic Ball," except in my head it's now "Plastic Ball." So here's the greatest table tennis music (and music video) ever produced (3:10).

A Little Sit-Down Table Tennis

Here's the picture and German article (which my Chrome browser conveniently translated into English) of Milan Orlowski and Jindrich Pansky on the table.

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June 10, 2011

What do you know, and when did you know it?

Sometimes, as an experienced table tennis player and coach, I watch newer, younger players as they move up the rankings, and think, "If only they knew what I know." So much of table tennis is "getting it," i.e. knowing how to win - and there are all sorts of ways to doing this. But they all come from learning the frame of mind that allows you to pick through the fog of war (I mean match play) and find a way to win, both in developing your game (strategic development) and tactically (tactical development). This is probably true of most experienced players, at least those who have also gotten through the "learn how to win" barrier.

How do you learn how to win? Some do it by consciously being aware of what wins and what doesn't, and working toward maximizing the type of play that wins, both in strategic development by practicing those techniques that win when developing their game, and tactical development as they learn to use these winning techniques. Others do this instinctively - especially the tactical part - never really "knowing" what they are doing, and yet seemingly able to feel their way through matches with smart tactics. However, I don't think you can really develop your game to its full potential by feel - you should spend time thinking and analyzing.

I've never bought into the "thinking too much" myth - you can never think too much, you can only think at the wrong times and about the wrong things, and of course you can think poorly - but you also have to learn to play by feel so you can take advantage of instincts developed from years of playing. Most go the other way and don't think enough - and not enough thinking makes you just another dumb player at the mercy of a thinking opponent, both strategically and tactically. And that's exactly where far too many players are at - they don't yet "get it" in terms of learning how to win.

Music and Table Tennis - and "Magic Ball"

Table tennis has inspired the music to the 2012 Olympics! However, I still prefer Magic Ball (3:09), the theme song of the 1989 World Championships. The video shows scenes from the 1989 Worlds, especially featuring the Swedes, who won Men's Teams over China. This has got to be the most inspirational table tennis music ever made. If you are a serious table tennis player, you really should listen to it.

Two other table tennis music videos that I think you'll like are the Ping-Pong Song (3:40) and the Stiga St. Louis Junior Table Tennis Team Dance (3:56, though it doesn't really start until 0.53 in), performed at the 2005 Chinese New Year Festival in St. Louis. (Here are more humorous table tennis videos.)

For Alzheimer's and dementia patients, ping-pong is a game - and therapy

An article in the LA Times on table tennis as a therapeutic sport. "Maybe he's using more of his brain when he plays ping-pong. Afterward, he has more energy, he talks more, he walks twice as fast - it's amazing to me."

2150 at age 9!

In April, I blogged about Crystal Wang (from Maryland Table Tennis Center, where I coach) achieving a rating of 2031 at age 9 years 1 months, the youngest ever to break 2000, boys or girls. Well, she's at it again! At the Eastern Open, at age 9 years 3 months, she broke 2100 and shot right up to an even 2150! (Remarkably, in April of 2010, just 14 months ago, she was still languishing with a 1013 rating.)

Interesting ratings note: Due to confusions about rating cutoffs in rating events, USATT always takes a point off of ratings that end in 00 or 50. (The point is added back on when the rating changes to one not ending in the offending digits.) Many people would wonder, for example, whether Crystal, with her 2150 rating, is eligible for Under 2150. (My thought on this is simple - 2150 is not under 2150, so she's obviously not eligible - but apparently many people don't think like that, which still confuses me.) If you look up Crystal's rating in the ratings database, it comes up 2149. But if you look at the actual rating results from the Easterns, she's listed as 2150, the "correct" rating. And so instead of being listed as 2150, Crystal is now listed as 2149 - which means she is eligible for Under 2150!

Following close behind Crystal is Amy Wang of New Jersey, 8, who is now rated 2020! (And so is now the youngest to 2000.) It looks like the East coast has an up-and-coming pair (the "Wonder Wangs"?) that may soon follow in the footsteps of California's bay area Dynamic Duo of Ariel Hsing and Lily Zhang.

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