Spelling Bee

May 30, 2014

My Table Tennis Books

Just a reminder that if this table tennis blog isn't quite enough to satisfy your table tennis itch, you can buy one of my table tennis books!!! As noted in my blog earlier this week, Table Tennis Tips is now out. Or, if you haven't done so, you absolutely and positively must buy Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers!!! Here's the Larry Hodges Books page where these and my other books are listed and described.

While you're at it, if you have a liking for history, then check out Tim Boggan's page, where he sells the 14 volumes of his History of U.S. Table Tennis. (Disclaimer: I do the page layouts and maintain the web page for him.)

Practical Ways to Overcome Nervousness

Sports psychology is one of the most under-utilized aspects of table tennis. One problem is that it's easy to get bogged down wading into all the literature on the subject. Here are some of the simple methods I use with students to overcome nervousness. Most of these I've done for years, though I've fine-tuned some after reading material and books from Dora Kurimay's table tennis sports psychology page.

  1. Take all the nervousness and ball it up inside your stomach. Then cough it out your mouth, and toss it in the trash. It's surprising how well this simple mental exercise works.
  2. Breathe deep into the stomach through your nose. Hold it for a couple of seconds. Then slowly exhale through the mouth. You'll be surprised at how this relaxes you. It's key that you exhale slowly.
  3. Pick out something on the wall in the distance and just stare at it for 5-10 seconds. This clears the mind.
  4. Watch the ball, both during and between points. This helps you to focus. That and simple tactics is all the conscious mind needs to do while letting the subconscious do the rest.
  5. Imagine you are playing a match back at your club. It's just another match. Have fun!
  6. Remember what Ariel Hsing used to write on her arm before every tournament: "Let go. Have fun." This works.
  7. Focus on a few simple tactics. This gives your mind something else to do other than worry that your fate and the fate of humanity in general will be determined by the next few points.
  8. Learn the three-second rule. Don't let anything in a match bother you for more than three seconds. Don't start another point until those three seconds are up and you are back to being the calm, clear-headed champion inside you that's dying to come out.


This Sunday WETA TV will come to my club (MDTTC) to do a segment on table tennis. They will likely come in around noon, though the exact time is not set. MDTTC has its Elite League on Sundays starting at 12:30, which is why they chose that time. All or most of the top MDTTC players and top juniors should be there.

Ariel Hsing in Chinese League

Here's a picture of her with her new teammates!

96-Day Countdown to Change in the ITTF's Presidency: Striving to Attain 225 Affiliated National Associations:  It’s in Our Blood!

Here's the article, Day 96 in Sheri Pittman Cioroslan's 100-day Countdown. I linked to the previous four in earlier blogs, but they are all linked from the USATT News Page.

Hugh Jackman Plays Table Tennis

Here's video (15 sec) of Hugh Jackman - yes, Wolverine! - playing table tennis, including a little dancing between points!

Dominic Moore Plays Table Tennis

Here's video (59 sec) of hockey star Dominic Moore playing table tennis.

Crazy Shot

Here's video (30 sec) of one of the greatest and craziest shots you'll ever see.

National Spelling Bee and Table Tennis

Here's an article from Table Tennis Nation showing the connection between table tennis and spelling at the highest levels of the Scripps National Spelling Bee. But could they spell Dimitrij Ovtcharov?

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May 31, 2013

Good Misses, Bad Misses

In a session with an advanced beginner yesterday, while hitting forehand to forehand (we're both righties), I pointed out to him the difference between a "good miss" and a "bad miss." Ideally, there would be no misses, but some are better than others.

When his shot went long, that was a "good miss" since at least he was driving into the ball, usually with some topspin, and he only needed to adjust his racket angle and perhaps not lift so much. When his shot went into the net, it was a "bad miss" because it usually meant he was taking the ball too quick and hitting it straight on into the net, rather than with any type of topspin. The same was true later on when I had him loop against backspin (multiball) - spinny loops off the end - good. Loops into the net - bad.

When his shot went wide (to my right), it was a "good miss" because, again, he was driving into the ball, and only needed to adjust his timing. If his shot went toward the middle of the table but actually hit the table, that was still a "bad miss" because it meant he was probably turning his wrist in and letting his racket tip fall back, i.e. it was a technique problem, not just a timing issue.

Another "good miss" is a missed serve that has lots of spin. When I play practice matches with juniors, I often claim "I wasn't ready!" if they miss a serve. I want them to push the envelope and go for great, spinny serves rather than wimp out and go for safe ones. If they serve high I'll return it passively, but mention they need to practice keeping it lower. (Key to that is a low contact point with a fine grazing motion.) A "bad miss" is any serve that misses - or hits! - that's not otherwise a good serve, i.e. spinny. (Not all serves have to be spinny, but I'm talking about players learning to serve with spin, not advanced players learning to serve no-spin that looks spinny, i.e. "heavy no-spin.")

Best Shots of My Life

Here are the best shots I've ever made in my life in a tournament, in rough order:

  1. The dive under the table.
    This was against Marty Reisman in a hardbat challenge match in the late 1990s (so not really a tournament match), but it was at a tournament, so I count it. I was out of position and he hit wide to my backhand. I lunged over and chopped it back short to his wide backhand. He did a short drop shot to my forehand that went off the side. We were playing on a table where the table legs were near the end, and there was no obstruction underneath. So I dived under the table, in front of the table leg on my forehand side, and managed to scoop the ball back up onto the table. Marty pushed it back for a winner, though I didn't see it - was I was sprawled on the ground.
  2. Forehand Counter-Smash From Two Tables Away While Knocking Over Eric Boggan.
    I was on table three playing Dave Sakai in 1983. U.S. Men's Champion Eric Boggan was on table one. I was back lobbing against Dave, and lobbed one high and wide to his backhand. I knew that Dave had this inside-out forehand smash he'd do on such shots, so as he was about to smash I ran way around my backhand to forehand counter-smash. Dave smashed it inside out with sidespin so it broke way over, all the way into court one. I ran after it, and ran right into Eric Boggan, knocking him off his feet - but I made the forehand counter-smash! Dave blocked it back for a winner, alas. Eric was not happy with me.
  3. The counterloop against Allen Barth.
    He's a lefty, and he looped to my backhand in a tournament match in the early 1980s. I started to block, but the ball hit the net. I readjusted, but the ball hit the side edge and jumped to my left. I dived after it, and did a mid-air backhand counterloop around the net that just rolled on his side of the table for a winner. I landed on the floor on my stomach.
  4. The underhanded counter-smash.
    This was against a much weaker player in the late 1980s. I was back lobbing, and the guy just creamed one to my forehand. I backed way, way back, and lobbed it back. He smashed again to my forehand, but not as hard. For some reason, spur of the moment, I did an under-handed counter-smash, bowling style. (I think I'd seen Jan-Ove Waldner do this shot, so perhaps I was subconsciously copying it.) It went in for a clean winner.
  5. Backspin Chop Lob Ace.
    This was against Sunny Li, the U.S. Under 10 and 12 Champion in the early 1990s, and already rated something like 1900 or so. (He would go on to win just about every junior event up to Under 18 before going off to Iraq as a sharpshooter.) I was up match point, something like 20-15. Sunny served short backspin to my backhand. I chop lobbed it into the air so it landed very short on his forehand side and bounced back to my side for a match-winning ace. (I've also done backspin serves that bounce back to my side of the table, usually against in less serious matches, but those aren't great shots - I can do that serve 2/3 of the time.)

Kagin Lee Blog on the College Championships

Here's the blog that went up this morning, "The Making of the College Table Tennis Championships, 2013 Edition." (Kagin is on the USATT Board of Directors.)

ITTF Development and Education Programs

Here's a report on the ITTF's plans on this for the next four years.

Table Tennista

Here are this morning's headlines at Table Tennista.

Ping Pong Hustler

Here's a short film (15:03) made in 2006 featuring the late great Marty Reisman.

Table Tennis Movie Posters

I did a Google search for "Table Tennis Movie Posters," and this is what I found. Lots of great pictures!

Scripps National Spelling Bee

Table Tennis Nation did this preview of the spelling bee - turns out a number of the contestants are table tennis players! Alas, the final winner wasn't one of the table tennis players, even though three of the four finalists were.

River Table Tennis

Here's a video (39 sec) of table tennis played on a floating mini-table in a river! Added bonus - you get to see player fall into river.

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June 1, 2012


I'm off for the Eastern Open this afternoon, where I'll primarily be coaching Derek Nie, one of the top 11 and under players in the U.S. with a rating of 2136. If you are there, stop by and say hello! 

Adventures of the Ping-Pong Diplomats by Fred Danner

Review by Larry Hodges

If you're a history buff, and enjoy reading the behind-the-scenes happenings in Ping-Pong Diplomacy; war (Chinese Civil War, Korean War, Vietnam War); China, the Soviet Union, and the U.S.; table tennis in the U.S., and even the aerospace industry during the Apollo era, then you'll find this book fascinating. The book is really four short books in one.

Chapters 1-3 (pages 1-86) covers the history that led up to, and the actual events of, the 1971 Ping-Pong Diplomacy trip to China. The three chapters are titled "Setting the Stage for Ping-Pong Diplomacy," "The 1971 World Team's China Trip," and "Who Won the Nobel Peace Prize for Ping-Pong Diplomacy?" These chapters include fascinating background on the Chinese Civil War, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War, and all the political infighting taking place in these countries, the Soviet Union, and the U.S.  The three wars were related in numerous ways, and all led to the eventual Ping-Pong Diplomacy of 1971-72. We also learn how it could have happened in 1961, but the U.S. blew it. The answer to the question posed in the last chapter is nobody won the Novel Peace Prize for any of this, but it goes over the possible recipients and explains why nobody ever did win for it. And here's a hilarious quote from Chairman Mao: "Regard a ping-pong ball as the head of your capitalist enemy. Hit it with your socialist bat, and you have won the point for the fatherland."

Chapters 4 and 6 (pages 89-125 and 162-170, "The Growth of Long Island Table Tennis" and "Table Tennis Becomes a Family Affair") cover the growth of Long Island Table Tennis, as well as how it became a family affair for the Danners. Slowly but inexorably Fred found himself running more and bigger events in Long Island (clubs, leagues, and tournaments) and for USTTA (now USATT), until it led to the U.S. Open (he was Operations Director) and the Long Island stop for Ping-Pong Diplomacy in 1972. He also begins to travel to tournaments with his son Carl, now a prominent player and coach in the bay area in California. Did you know that the 1972 U.S. Open in Long Island, forty years ago, had 725 entries? (A few years later these numbers would break a thousand in Houston and Oklahoma City.) For perspective, last year's U.S. Open in Milwaukee had 607. Fred also shows how the world has changed since those days, explaining how USTTA kept records in those non-computer days: "Each membership application required writing or typing the player's name and address nine times."

Chapter 5 (pages 126-161, "Life in the Long Island Aerospace Industry") is about life in the Long Island Aerospace Industry in the '60s, where Fred worked during the many years he was also working with Long Island Table Tennis. In some ways this seemed a bit off-topic, but it was related in various ways to Fred's continuing table tennis endeavors, in particular since all the corporate infighting both interfered with and somewhat mirrored what was going on in the world of table tennis, both in Long Island and the political intrigues in the background of Ping-Pong Diplomacy in the various wars and countries involved. Much of the chapter was about infighting and politics at Grumman Aviation, including their fights with GE and other companies as they bid for various aspects of the Apollo 11 trip to the moon. We also learn about the theft of atom bomb designs by the Soviets, how we could have avoided the Korean War, and how we outwitted the Soviets by helping to bring table tennis and China into the Olympics.

Chapter 7 (pages 171-204, "LITTA's Big Year: The U.S.-China Matches") is about the Chinese National Team's U.S. trip, covering primarily their stop in Long Island, and how that came to be, rather than it being in the New York City's Madison Square Garden, as New York City Mayor John Lindsey wanted. (He doesn't come off very well in the book.)

Now who is Fred Danner? He's not only one of the 134 members of the U.S. Table Tennis Hall of Fame (inducted as a contributor in 1993), but he's also one of the 14 recipients of the Mark Matthews Lifetime Achievement Award (2010). Fred has a long career promoting table tennis both in Long Island and with USATT. He was instrumental in getting table tennis in the Olympics. He was president of the Long Island Table Tennis Association, founded the National Junior Table Tennis Foundation, wrote the National School Table Tennis Guide, and was at various times USTTA's Junior Development Chair, Membership Chair, Treasurer, Corresponding Secretary, and Vice President. He also got USTTA its tax exempt status.

You'll note this is Volume 1. Volume 2 will cover what Fred calls "$7,000,000 worth of favorable publicity" as a result of Ping-Pong Diplomacy, and the various contrasting ideas on how USTTA should proceed, and the resulting successes and failures. (A third volume is also planned.)

The book has a catchy cover, with USA's D-J Lee (6-time U.S. Men's Champion) serving to a Chinese opponent against a background made up of the U.S. and Chinese flags and the earth as seen from space. It is available at amazon.com for $29.59 (hardcover), $13.22 (soft cover), and $3.99 (ebook). 

This is the third book I know of in English that covers Ping-Pong Diplomacy, at least from the table tennis angle. The other two are "History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 5," by Tim Boggan, $40, which covers the Ping-Pong Diplomacy Years, 1971-72, available at timboggantabletennis.com (along with his other eleven books on U.S. Table Tennis History); and "The Origin of Ping-Pong Diplomacy: The Forgotten Architect of Sino-U.S. Rapprochement" by Shigeo Itoh (1969 World Men's Champion from Japan), available at amazon.com for $90 or $65 used.

Backhand Loop

Here's a new video from Coach Brian Pace from Dynamic Table Tennis on Setting up the Backhand Loop in Competition (8:38).

New Coaching Video from PingSkills

Returning a Drop Shot (1:41)

Celebrating 40 Years of U.S.-China Exchanges

Here's a video that highlights 40 years of "Ping-Pong Diplomacy" (2:36).

Erica Wu in LA Times

Here's an article in yesterday's LA Times on U.S. Table Tennis Olympian Erica Wu.

Spelling Bee Ping-Pong Champion

Table Tennis Nation explains why Nicholas Rushlow, ping-pong player, will win the National Spelling Bee. (He didn't.)

Non-Table Tennis - How to Kill a Dragon

My fantasy story "In the Belly of the Beast" (6600 words) went up on Electric Spec yesterday. A sorcerer with a unique method for slaying dragons is swallowed by his dragon prey. While in the dragon's stomach, he uses a force field to protect himself, his daughter, and others, all of whom have also been swallowed. He abandoned his daughter when she was a child to go to sorcery school, and she doesn't recognize him. To her, there is the inept sorcerer in the dragon's stomach; the father who abandoned her; and the famous dragonslayer on the way to rescue them. She doesn't know that all three are the same. Most of the story takes place in the stomach of the dragon, which features the only battle between a wizard and a warrior in the belly of a dragon in history.


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