June 30, 2014

Last Blog Until Tuesday, July 8, and the U.S. Open

This morning I'm flying out to the U.S. Open in Grand Rapids, along with a large group of other Maryland players. So no more blogs until after I return next week. I'm mostly coaching, though I'm entered in two hardbat doubles events (Open and Over 50 Hardbat Doubles, but I normally play with sponge). When I'm free I'll probably be watching matches or hanging out at the Butterfly booth - stop by and say hello! Better still, buy one of my books (likely on sale at the Butterfly and Paddle Palace booths), and I'll sign it. Prove to me that you read my blog by saying the secret password: "I'm a pushy pushover for power pushing pushers." (Better write that down!) 

Here's the U.S. Open press release, which went out on June 18. Here's the U.S. Open Program Booklet. And here's the U.S. Open Home page. Here's the player listing of the 705 players entered (click on their name and you can see what events they are entered in), the event listing (which shows who is entered in each event), and the results (which won't show results for this Open until events start coming in on Tuesday, though can see results of past Opens and Nationals there).

Tip of the Week

Forehand or Backhand Serve & Attack.

Tactics Coaching

I had my final tactics coaching session with Kaelin and Billy on Friday. We revisited the tactics of playing choppers to go over how to play chopper/loopers, which are a bit different than playing more passive choppers. (For one thing, you can't just topspin soft over and over or they'll attack.) Then we went over playing long pips blockers, and I pulled out one of my long pips rackets, the one with no sponge, and demonstrated what good long pips players can do if you don't play them smart - not just blocking back loops with heavy backspin, but also how they can push-block aggressively against backspin, essentially doing a drive with a pushing motion.

Next we covered the tactics of pushing. The thing I stressed most is that it's not enough to be very good at a few aspects of pushing; you have to be pretty good at all aspects. This means being able to push pretty quick off the bounce, with pretty good speed, pretty good backspin, pretty low to the net, pretty deep, pretty well angled, and be pretty good at last second changes of direction. If you do all of these things pretty well, you'll give even advanced players major fits. If you do four or five these things well, and perhaps even very well, but are weak at one or two of them, a top player will make you pay for it. We also went over pushing short, and how you can also change directions with them at the last second.

Then we covered the tactics of playing different styles - loopers (both one-winged and two-winged loopers); the "flat" styles (blockers, counter-hitters, and hitters); and playing fishers & lobbers. When you play a fisher or lobber, mostly smash at the wide backhand and middle. The goal isn't to win the point outright, though that'll often happen with a good smash. The goal is to get a lob that lands shorter on the table, which you can smash for a wide-angle winner, either inside-out with sidespin to the wide backhand, or a clean winner to the forehand. You don't want to challenge the forehand of most lobbers as they usually have more range and spin on that side, and can counter-attack much better there.

I'd given them an assignment the day before to come with an example of one player that they had trouble playing against so we could go over the tactics that might work there. By an amazing coincidence, they independently chose the same player, a top lefty from their club. So we went over how to play that player. Poor guy doesn't know what's about to hit him!

And so ended our five hours of tactics coaching. But it's all written down in Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers!

Coach Chen Jian

The last few days before the U.S. Open we had some guests from China, who came to MDTTC to train before the U.S. Open. Heading the group was Coach Chen Jian. He's the former National Junior Coach for China, who coached Zhang Jike and Ma Long as juniors in international events. Now he's the head coach of the full-time Ni Rui club in Hang Zhou, China. Since I was busy coaching in our camp, I only barely noticed him the first few days. But on Friday, after the camp finished, I got to watch him do a session with one of our top players, Nathan Hsu. Nathan just turned 18, and is about to spend three months training in China, including at least a month under Coach Chen. The session was great to watch as he made some changes in Nathan's footwork and strokes. It was all in Chinese, but Ryan Dabbs gave a running translation for me, and Nathan told me about it afterwards.


On Friday we finished Week Two of our ten weeks of summer camps. Because of the U.S. Open I'll be missing Week Three, but coaches Cheng Yinghua and Jack Huang are staying home to run that, along with Raghu Nadmichettu and others.

During a short lecture and demo on forehand looping against heavy backspin, I demoed the stroke, and as I often do, held a ball in my playing hand as I did this, releasing it at the end of the stroke to show how the power is going both forward and up. Except this time the ball went up and got stuck in an air conditioning fixture! The kids found that very funny, and we're out another ball.

I also verified something I've always known: given a choice, younger kids seem to like scorekeeping with a scoreboard more than actually playing matches. We did an informal tournament on Friday, and I brought out a scoreboard, which some of them had never seen before. At least two kids were near tears when told they had to play matches, and so couldn't scorekeep. ("But I want to keep score!!!") They battled over control of the scoreboard, and most matches ended up with two or three kids simultaneously and together flipping the score each time.

As I've noted in past blogs, I spend most of these camps working with the beginners and younger players. It wasn't like this for most of our 22 years, but three years ago coaches Cheng and Jack asked if I'd do that during our summer camps. But on Friday I finally did a session with some of the advanced players, and had a great time. We focused on multiball training where I fed backspin followed by topspin, and the player had to loop the first, and either loop or smash the second (depending on their style and level of development).

Table Tennis Lawsuit

Here's a strange one. I received an email this weekend from a lawyer representing a woman who was injured while playing table tennis on a cruise, and was suing the cruise ship! They asked if I could be their table tennis advisor. I don't think that knowing about table tennis is going to help deciding whether the ship was liable for the woman's injuries. She apparently received her injury when she went to retrieve the ball and "struck her face on an unmarked stairwell railing immediately adjacent to the table where she was playing." I told them I didn't have much experience in the safety aspects of table tennis pertaining to this and didn't have time anyway, and gave them contact info for USATT. (Sorry, USATT!)

Dimitrij Ovtcharov's Physical Training

Here's the page with links to numerous videos - his trainer is creative!

Kanak Jha and Mo Zhang win North American Titles

Here's the ITTF article.

Photos from the North America Cup

Here they are

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, counting downwards from 100. Previous ones are linked from the USATT News page, as well as in my past blogs. Thirty-six down, 65 to go!

  • Day 64: The President’s Views on the Ban of Speed Glue, Part I
  • Day 65: Dr. Amen Questions: "Table tennis is the perfect brain exercise"
  • Day 66: Junior Commission Chair Dennis Davis

Zhang Jike Used Ma Long to Prove Something

Here's the article.

Thomas Weikert on Chinese Domination

Here's the interview with the incoming ITTF President. 

Table Tennis: Like a Fish and Water

Here's the article on junior star Michael Tran. 

Xu Xin Shows the Power of Lob

Here's the video (50 sec) as he lobs and counter-attacks against Ma Long.

Ariel Hsing - Photos from Princeton

Here are seven photos of our three-time National Women's Singles Champion in various poses, including some table tennis ones.

Justin Timberlake Plays Table Tennis!

Here's the picture

Miller Light Commercial

Here's video (31 sec) of a new Miller Light Commercial, with "water" table tennis four seconds in (but only for a second). 

Net-hugging Cat Playing Ping-Pong

It's been a while since I've posted a new video of a cat playing table tennis, so here's 27 seconds of a cat playing while hugging the net.

Send us your own coaching news!

June 20, 2014


I've coached at over 180 five-day or more training camps, usually six hours per day. That's over 900 days of camp, or two and a half years. (Add camps I went to as a player and it comes to over three years. Add group sessions I've run, and the numbers go up astronomically.) I can do lectures on every topic we cover on the drop of a ping-pong ball, and most of them probably come out word-for-word the same every time as they are so ingrained now. I have changed the lectures somewhat over the years as techniques have changed and as I've learned better ways of explaining them, but most fundamentals haven't changed a lot since we opened up the Maryland Table Tennis Center 22 years ago. (Probably the biggest change in my lectures is a greater emphasis on topspin on the backhand than before.)

This camp I'm not giving many lectures, as most of the players are locals and we decided to get them out to the tables more quickly rather than have them watch demos and listen to lectures from me that they've all heard before. It's actual a surreal experience not giving these lectures.

As always, the players can be divided into three types. There are the goof-offs - the ones who are here strictly for the fun, or because their parents made them, or are just too young to be serious yet, and aren't really interested in learning. They are the hardest to deal with. There are the in-betweens - the ones who do want to learn, sort of, and will do what you ask, but are really counting the minutes until we get to playing games. They're okay to work with, and you push them as hard as you think you can without losing them. And then there are the ones who are determined to get good, and really work at it. They are great to work with. I often surreptitiously give them longer sessions, and sometimes hit with them at the end of a session or even on break. These are the ones who want longer turns at multiball while the others can't wait to finish their turn. They are also the ones who get really good.

Here's an interesting question of biology and physics. Did you know that the average mass of a seven-year-old's foot is many thousands of times greater than an adults? It may not seem so until you see the gravitational pull between the bottoms of their feet and any ping-pong balls that lie on the floor, leading to many broken balls.

Due to this blog and other writing projects, I've been operating on little sleep this week at camp. I confess I've taken the easy way out. When I take the kids to 7-11 during lunch break I've been buying a Mountain Dew each time. I try to go easy on soft drinks, with a general rule of only drinking them at restaurants and at home when working late at night, but I made an exception here. Hopefully I won't be this exhausted all summer.

I've got the summer divided roughly into six segments:

  1. June 16-29: first two weeks of summer camp plus private & group coaching
  2. June 30-July 6: the U.S. Open in Grand Rapids
  3. July 7-24: three more weeks of camps and private & group coaching
  4. July 25-Aug. 3: Writers workshop in Manchester, New Hampshire
  5. Aug. 4-24: three more weeks of camps plus private & group coaching, ending with MDTTC Open
  6. Aug. 25-29: Rest and Recover!!!

Help Wanted - USATT CEO

Yesterday I linked to the job description and application info for CEO of USA Table Tennis. As I noted the, they have a LOT of requirements!!!

One thing that jumped out at me near the end is where it said near the very end under Qualifications, "A genuine passion for the sport of Table Tennis.  Exposure to, or involvement in the sport is a plus." If exposure or involvement in the sport is only a "plus," then how could it be required that the person have a "genuine passion for the sport of Table Tennis"? There were a couple of other things that threw me that I won't get into. It said to apply or respond to this opportunity, please visit I visited it, but it was a bad address. However, under it was a link to apply.

No, I'm not applying. I don't qualify for much of what is required - I'm not what they are looking for. I blogged about this on March 27 and on May 21. As I wrote in those blogs, I believe we are once again playing the lottery in trying to sell the sport now rather than focusing on the process of developing our sport so we can sell it. (You don't need large sums of money to start this process, as I've pointed out repeatedly.) Maybe we'll get lucky this time, but we've tried this unsuccessful approach for many decades. Playing the lottery can be addictive - instant get rich schemes are always more attractive than doing the hard work in developing the sport.

At the end of the application info there's a "Characteristics of the Successful Candidate" section. I decided to grade myself on the ten items. Why not grade yourself as well?

  1. Proven success in effectively leading, building, mentoring, managing, motivating, encouraging professional growth of, and delegating to staff.
    C or Incomplete; I don't have a lot of experience in these areas.
  2. Credible, truthful and honest; a person of high integrity.  Able to express themselves frankly but with respect.  Conflict resolution and sound decision-making skills critical.
    I would hope I get an A here.
  3. Experience in planning and executing fundraising activities in non-profit and/or amateur sports organizations.  Track record of growing revenue and creating progressive, stable and sustainable funding sources.
    C or Incomplete; not a lot of experience here.
  4. A self-starter able to independently assess or enhance existing programs as well as initiate new programs as needed.
    A; this pretty much defines much of what I do.
  5. Skilled written and verbal communicator on all levels along with ability to liaise with Board of Directors, the USOC, and other organizations within and related to the sport.
    Easy A for me here!
  6. Ability to initiate, develop, and maintain favorable relationships with athletes, volunteers, parents, officials, sponsors, members, other related organizations, such as the ITTF, and the United States Olympic Committee.
    I think I'd get an A here as well.
  7. Knowledge and skill to manage a budget effectively.
    Another A. Besides a bachelors in math, I was familiar with the USATT budget for years. I don't know advanced accounting systems, but that's not needed - we have accountants for that.
  8. Ability to successfully negotiate contracts.
    D; I'm not that good a negotiator. I hate haggling. I used to bring in record advertising when I was editor of USATT Magazine, but I sold the ads based on the strong content and timeliness of the magazine, not by salesmanship.
  9. Organizational competence and multitasking proficiency.
    Easy A here.
  10. Tested business savvy coupled with strong people skills.
    C+. When I put aside my idealistic side, I have pretty good business savvy, other than my weak negotiating skills. My people skills are pretty good via email, not so good in person, especially with strangers.

Stop Pushing

Here's a new coaching article by Ben Larcombe at Yes, at - the table tennis site there is back up, but I don't see the forum yet.

How to Make the Most of Similar Level Training Partners

Here's the new coaching article by Matt Hetherington.

Footwork Training with Jorgen Persson

Here's the video (33 sec) - it's a great and fun way to develop quick feet!

USA Nationals

It's official - it'll be held in Las Vegas, Dec. 16-20. It now shows up in the USATT Tournament listing.

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, counting downwards from 100. Previous ones are linked from the USATT News page, as well as in my past blogs. Twenty-seven down, 73 to go!

  • Day 74: The Ravages of World War II & Resulting Peace Initiatives in the ITTF

ITTF Schools Program

Just thought I'd give a shout-out to their Table Tennis in Schools Program, which is especially helpful for teaching groups of younger kids. Recently I was looking for more table tennis type games kids in the 6-8 age range could play, and copied a few of the ones they have in their manual in section four, "Activity Cards."

The Internet Wins Pingpong Battle with Obama

Here's the article, where they show how a picture of Obama playing table tennis with English Prime Minister David Cameron has become a hit with online memes.

Ping Pong - the Animation

I'm not sure if I linked to all four of these animated table tennis cartoons before, so there they are. Each episode is exactly 23:07. I haven't watched them yet - I may do so tonight. Can anyone tell us about them in the comments below?

Ping Pong with Oncoming Traffic

Here's the article and pictures - yes, the guy rallied off oncoming cars and trucks!

Send us your own coaching news!

August 27, 2013

Tip of the Week

A Step-by-Step Sequence to Learning Pendulum Serves.


"It's Monday . . . and there's no camp??? No lectures on grip, stance, forehand, and serves?" (Okay, it's really Tuesday, but this is what I was thinking yesterday.) Our ten weeks of camps at MDTTC ended Friday. I've now run about 180 five-day camps, six hours per day, or 900 days and 5400 hours of camp. That's nearly 2.5 years of camps. I've given each of my standard lectures 180 times, or about 1800 lectures in all. I've led in stretching (twice a day) 1800 times. (Well, actually less since I've sometimes missed the afternoon sessions.) And we're not done for the year - we have another camp, our Christmas Camp, Dec. 26-31. (Our camps are primarily for kids, but adults are welcome - we usually get 2-3 each week, sometimes none, sometimes more.)

MDTTC August Open

Here are the results (which I also gave out yesterday) of the August Open this past weekend, run by Charlene Liu. Congrats to Chen Bo Wen ("Bowen"), who finally broke through and won against Wang Qing Liang ("Leon") after a series of second-place finishes to Wang. It was a dominant performance - he didn't lose a game. Anther having a nice tournament was Nathan Hsu, who's been in a slump recently - but this time he won Under 2400.

I mostly coached Derek Nie and Sameer Shaikh in the tournament. (I also coached Tony Li one match, against a Seemiller-style player with antispin, something he'd never seen before. A new experience, and next time he'll be ready.) Derek (12, rated 2291) started well, with wins over a pair of 2150 players - including a mind-numbing win over Lixin Lang (2187) at 16-14, 19-17, 11-8! - but his elbow began to hurt during his match with Lixin. He kept clutching at it, and I almost had him default there. He finished the match, but decided he had to drop out to rest it. Hopefully he'll be okay in a few days.

Derek's other decent win was against Nam Nguyen (2137). They had one of the most incredible three-shot sequences I've ever seen. Nam lobbed a ball short. Derek absolutely crushed it. Nam absolutely crushed a counter-kill from no more than eight feet back, and Derek absolutely crushed a counter-counter-kill off the bounce. It was the fastest three-shot sequence I've ever seen - three forehand smashes/counter-smashes in the blink of an eye. I wish it was on video - it could have gone down as the fastest three-shot sequence ever!!! 

Sameer had a strange tournament - he literally could have won or lost all eight or so of his matches. As it was, he made the final of Under 1150. Down 0-2 in games in the final, he led 5-3 in the fifth before losing 11-8.

During the tournament a player said, "I have to play [higher-rated player]." I pointed out that he had it all wrong - that this [higher-rated player] had to play him! I often quote to my players Rorschach from the movie Watchmen, where he's allowed himself to be taken prisoner and he's surrounded by other prisoners out to get him. After dispatching one in very violent fashion, he says to the group of prisoners gathered around in his gravelly voice, "You don't understand. I'm not locked in here with you. You're locked in here with me!" Here's the video of the scene (47 sec) - warning, it's pretty violent!!!

North American Championships

The North American Championships end today, Aug. 25-27 in Vancouver Canada. Here's their home page, which includes results, write-ups, photos, video, video interviews, live streaming

USATT Minutes

Here are the minutes of a USATT teleconference meeting on July 22 and the email approval vote of those minutes. Here are USATT minutes going back to 1999.

Footwork for a Short Ball

Here's a video from PingSkills (1:46) showing how to step in for a short ball and recover for the next shot.

Zhang Jike Doing Multiball

Here's a video (36 sec) of World Champion Zhang Jike doing multiball. Want to have footwork like Zhang's? Then watch his stance - wide, with left foot off to the side for stability as he rips shots from the backhand side. There needs to be a balance here. If the left foot is too far off to the side, then the follow-through goes too much sideways, and you're not in position for the next shot. If it's more parallel to the table, you lose body torque. (I had a disagreement with a coach recently - not from my club - who insists that when you step around the backhand corner to play a forehand the feet should be parallel to the side of the table. However, not many top players do that, if any.)

Top Ten Shots at the Harmony Open

Here they are (4:38)!

Table Tennis Through Google Glass

Here's an article and video (17 sec) showing table tennis through Google Glass. (Why isn't it called Google Glasses?)

Kim Gilbert After a Two-Hour Session

Here's the picture! So restful....

Mouthful of Pong

Here's another video (14 sec) from the (Tumba Ping Pong Show"! I linked to two other of their videos on my blog on Aug. 16 (at the very end).

Send us your own coaching news!

June 28, 2013

Last Blog Until After U.S. Open

I'm off soon to the U.S. Open in Las Vegas, returning on Sunday, July 7. As usual, I don't blog when I'm at tournaments - just too busy. I'll start up again on Monday, July 8. (It'll be a hectic time as I also have a new Mon-Fri training camp starting that morning.)

U.S. Open

It looks like a record number of entries. There are currently 913 players listed as entries for the U.S. Open, but this does not include entries to the ITTF U.S. Open World Tour. (The actual U.S. Open doesn't include Men's or Women's Singles or Under 21 Boys or Girls, which are part of the ITTF World Tour.) The ITTF U.S. Open World Tour Page shows 181 entries, but there are overlaps between that and the regular U.S. Open entries. However, it looks like there'll be more entries in all than the 1000+ from the 1974 and 1975 U.S. Opens in Oklahoma City and Houston. However, the 1990 U.S. Open in Baltimore included the World Veteran's Games and a special Junior Championships, and in all had something like 2700 entries if I remember correctly, though I may be off. (Anyone have better numbers for 1990?)

You can follow the action of the World Tour events at the U.S. Open at the ITTF U.S. Open World Tour Page.

MDTTC Camp, My Back and Foot, Fortune Cookies, and White House Down

Yesterday's focus was the backhand loop. I gave a short lecture on that as well as on the backhand drive against backspin and the backhand smash, and used Roy Ke as my demo partner. I also introduced the beginners to returning serves, mostly with a return serve game where they'd line up and try to return my serve. If they did, they stayed until the missed. Then I explained the way to return the various spins I was giving them. If I told them in advance what the spin was, most were able to return the serve about half the time. I also gave them fast serves (they did not like those!) as well as my infamous backspin serve that bounces back over the net to my side. (I let them do a takeover when I do that. Top players see it coming and smack it in from the side of the table.)

Unfortunately, my back hasn't gotten much better. I tried giving a private lesson, but after hitting two minutes I went to multiball, and then brought in Raghu Nadmichettu to do the last 30 minutes. The problem is the back has really stiffened up, and when I try hitting, I'm like a block of granite. Worse, this put a strain on the rest of me as I compensated - and in those two minutes I managed to aggravate the back problem as well as hurt my foot. Yes, I'm limping now. But I've got substitutes for my coaching sessions today and this weekend so I'll have three days off (Sat-Mon), other than one session with a six-year-old on Sunday where hopefully I'll survive.

For lunch, I created another fake fortune that I snuck into my fortune cookie, which said, "A giant panda will sit on you and crush you." The day before I had one that said, "A giant wolverine will eat you today." Previous ones included "A meteor will kill you in five minutes" and "A ping-pong player will kill you this afternoon." Today's says, "Today you will be shot, electrocuted, burned, drowned, eaten, and a giant squid will choke you. Have a nice day." I create these in Photoshop, and have mastered the art of surreptitiously opening the plastic around a fortune cookie, breaking the cookie in half, replacing the real fortune with the fake one, putting it back together again so it looks unbroken (with the fake fortune sort of holding it together), and sneaking it back inside the wrapper. I think the kids are getting suspicious!

After the camp finished at 6PM I took five of the players (Derek Nie, Roy Ke, Leon Bi, Raghu Nadmichettu, and Allen Lin) to see the 7PM showing of White House Down. (Three others - Crystal Wang and Princess & Tiffany Ke - went separately and I believe saw Monsters University.) It went over really well - a nice action movie. As an amateur presidential historian, I loved the White House scenes, including recognizing all the presidential pictures and statues.

How to Cut Table Tennis Rubber

Here's a new article from Paddle Palace on this.

Pong XT - Europe on Fire

Here's a great new video (4:05) set to music that showcases the best points from the 2013 World Championships. Edited by Canadian star Xavier Thérien!

Saving Norman

Here's a great short film just out (10:30, actual movie is about 9 min) on table tennis, starring Willem Dafoe. It actually takes table tennis seriously. Spoiler Alert! It's about a former table tennis star who missed his big chance at the World Championships 25 years before, who's become a recluse, and how someone helps him resolve these issues - and how it all affects his parrot, Norman. From a serious table tennis player's point of view, the actual table tennis scenes are pretty weak - the first one because the level is obviously very low with poor technique, the second because the computer special effects are poor and obviously fake, as are the actors attempts to fake real table tennis strokes.

Ping-Pong Ball Mouth Juggling

Here's a video (1:04) of a guy setting the record for the most consecutive pong-pong ball juggling with his mouth - 212.

Send us your own coaching news!

June 24, 2013

Tip of the Week

Feet and Grip.

Exhaustion Times a Thousand and MDTTC Camps

That's how tired I seem to be most of the time, with the sudden increase in coaching hours due to the MDTTC camps. I normally coach or act as practice partner about 20 hours/week. Add six hours/day, Mon-Fri on top of that, and suddenly my legs feel like dried out sticks. Meanwhile, I've got a zillion things on the side I have to do - prepare for the U.S. Open next week, prepare for the ITTF coaching seminar I'm attending in August and the one I'm teaching in October, prepare for the writer's workshop I'm attending in late July, work on the planned rewrite of my Table Tennis Steps to Success book (tentatively retitled Table Tennis Fundamentals), promote the MDTTC junior program, set up the planned Maryland Junior League for the fall, plus the usual daily blog and Tips of the Week. Anyone got some sleep or extra hours each week for sale? (I think the Steps to Success rewrite will probably be the first casualty; I'll probably postpone that until the fall.)

I actually went to bed early last night with a headache, and woke up with a headache at 6:45AM. I went to my computer, and the first thing I wrote was, "I went to bed with a headache and woke up with a headache, so no blog today." Then I reconsidered, and did the blog after all. The headache's still there, but more of a background thing.

On Friday we finished the first week of our ten weeks of summer camps, each of them Mon-Fri, 10AM-6PM. I gave short lectures on pushing and doubles. We did our usual Friday's "player's choice," where players chose what they wanted to work on in multiball, with the coaches ready with a suggestion if the player wasn't sure. In the afternoon we ran a practice tournament.

Over the weekend I coached about ten hours, which was less than during the camps, but still exhausting. In the Saturday group session, 4:30-6:30, where we play practice matches (I'm a practice partner for it), I was exhausted. So I played a very conservative blocking game, with a bunch of tricky serve and one-shot finals added in, and somehow won all my matches easily (mostly against 1900-2100 players). In the end, consistency is king. (That's true at all levels - it's just at the highest levels it's consistency in loop-killing winners that's king.)

This morning we start a new camp. As usual, I mostly run the morning sessions, with Cheng and Jack running the afternoon sessions. In the afternoon, I'll be working with the beginners. This week will be even more exhausting than last week. The camp hours are 10AM-1PM, 3-6PM, so there's a two-hour break in the middle where we eat lunch, I take the kids on the daily trek to 7-11 (five minute walk), and then rest. But this week I have a one-hour private coaching scheduled every day from 2-3PM.

I'm looking forward to the U.S. Open next week, where I'll finally get to "rest." After all, I'm only coaching three players, attending meetings, and playing in five events! (Only hardbat/sandpaper events - I may have to drop some if they conflict with coaching. I'm normally a sponge player.)

Japan Open

Who'd have thunk it? A chopper, a Japanese player ranked 188 in the world, wins Men's Singles at the Japan Open this weekend in Yokohama. Here's the ITTF home page for it, with articles, pictures, and results. Here's a video of the final (5:13, with time between points taken out), where Masato Shiono defeats China's Xu Chenahao 4-0. Here's more on the final from Table Tennis Daily. Here's a video (5:03) of the Top Ten Shots at the Japan Open. Here's video (50 sec) of a great doubles rally.

Ariel Hsing at Awards Ceremony

Here's video of Ariel at the Awards Ceremony after reaching the final of Under 18 Girls at the Egypt Junior and Cadet Open this past weekend. She was all gracious and professional despite losing a close final - she was up 10-9 match point in both the sixth and seventh games, and was up 6-0 in the seventh before losing to Doo Hoi Kem of Japan, 12-10 in the seventh. Here's the ITTF page for it, with articles, pictures, and results.

Timo Boll Defeats Zhang Jike

Here's the article, pictures, and video (3:55) of his great win at Chinese Super League just yesterday.

Behind-the-Back Shot of the Day

Here's the video (19 sec). And then he just nonchalantly walks away! It's the other guy who reacts.

Hermione Plays Table Tennis

Okay, it's really Emma Watson, who played Hermione in the Harry Potter Series. Here's the article from Table Tennis Nation. Here's what she tweeted: "I just got rid of my sofa and replaced it with a ping pong table. I think this is the best decision I have made in months.#gameon!"

Lady Antebellum at the Country Music Festival

Here's the article, pictures, and video links. That's Homer and Adam Brown playing two of the band members, with Michael Wetzel umpiring.

Send us your own coaching news!

June 21, 2013

MDTTC Camps - Day Four Highlights

Yesterday's focus was on backhand looping and hitting. As usual, I did a short lecture and demo. I used Derek Nie as my demo partner, feeding him multiball as he looped against backspin. We also rallies where I served backspin, he pushed, I backhand hit or looped, he blocked, I chopped, and we started over.

One of the changes in my coaching over the years is in regard to when to teach the backhand loop against backspin. For many years, I would teach the backhand drive against backspin first, as did most other coaches, and later teach the backhand loop, which in some ways is just an extension of a topspinny backhand drive. But more and more I'm teaching the backhand loop against backspin very early on. Topspin on the backhand is more and more important these days, and so I tend to teach a more topspinny backhand from the beginning than before - and so it's easier for kids to learn to backhand loop as well, since after a few sessions they have already developed the habit of creating some topspin. Older beginners have more trouble with this, and sometimes I'll have them learn to drive against backspin, like in the old days, but only after testing them out and seeing if they were able and willing to learn to backhand loop.

If you ever come to my lectures, everyone there quickly pays attention for one reason and one reason only - at some point, often without warning, I'll say "What's the first thing you do?" The kids in the camp compete to see who can blurt out "Get in position!" first. It's also a good way of ingraining that idea in them. I'll sometimes say this right in mid-lecture.

Here's something that's come up a few times in the camp on the forehand loop. Often players take the ball too quick off the bounce. This causes multiple problems. First, since looping is a longer stroke, a player (at the beginning/intermediate levels) need more time for the stroke, and so are rushed if they try to take it too quickly, such as at the top of the bounce as they might with a regular drive. Second, if contact is too much in front, they'll end up with a flatter and erratic loop. Instead, they should start out by taking the ball a bit later until they can get good topspin and do it over and over. Once proficient at it they can take it quicker. Some coaches do teach the loop at the top of the bounce right from the start, but I find this leads to more problems if done too early. However, it might work for a very talented player with extremely good timing. It all depends on the player.

The afternoon session included a lot of stroking drills, some serve practice, way too many broken balls (did we set a record? Hopefully never again), and the usual games toward the end - King of the Hill, Brazilian Teams, and the ever-popular Cup Game, where the kids stack paper cups and then knock them down as I feed multiball.

One of the kids, 13-year-old Leon Bi, who is signed up for all ten weeks of our summer camps (as are a few others) is having problems with an ingrown toenail. Over lunch I took him to see a doctor. But irritatingly, they wouldn't see him unless one of his parents was present, even though they faxed over a signed document giving permission. So later that afternoon Coach Cheng took him to another doctor, with Leon's parents meeting him there. This time they treated it with various ointments and painkillers, and he seems fine now.

It was a pretty exhausting day. After coaching in the camp from 10AM-6PM (with a lunch break), I also had two private coaching sessions from 6-8PM. 

USATT Search Box

You can now search the USATT home page for various items, including tournaments (listed by star level), coaching courses, Paralympic events and classifications, and USATT meetings, and you can do it by date ranges and by region/state/country. Here's the link, or click on the "See all events" link on the top right of the USATT home page. (Click on "coaching courses" and the seventh one down is the ITTF coaching course I'm teaching in South Bend, Indiana, Oct. 2-6.)

Chairman's Blog - Regarding our Tournaments, Part 1

Here's a new blog entry (just went up this morning) of USATT Board Chair Mike Babuin on USATT tournaments, in particular about the upcoming U.S. Open.

Guo Yan Ends International Career

Here's the story.

Serena Williams and Table Tennis

Yesterday I linked to a picture of Serena Williams playing table tennis at Heathrow Airport as she "prepares" for Wimbledon. Here's a page that links to a video of her playing (1:49) as well as more pictures.

Table Tennis Reality Show in China

Here's the link - "Who is the King?"

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June 20, 2013

MDTTC Camps - Day Three Highlights

Yesterday's focus was on forehand looping. I did a short lecture and demo, both against backspin and block.

There are four ways to demo a forehand loop against backspin. You could just serve backspin, your partner pushes it back, and you loop. But then they only get to see the shot one at a time. Another way is to feed multiball backspin to someone with good form so they can see it over and over. Another way, if you can chop, is to serve backspin, partner pushes, you loop, partner blocks, and you chop. Then your partner pushes, and you loop again. (If your partner is the one who can chop, then adjust for this.) If you or your partner can really chop (i.e. against loops, not just against blocks), then one loops, the other chops. A good player with a sheet of antispin, long pips, or hardbat can often chop loops back over and over even if they aren't normally a chopper. (If they use long pips, it may put some strain on the looper since he's getting all his topspin back as backspin!)

Two of the players in my group had never looped before. One picked it up pretty quickly, though he had one of those ragged strokes with lots of extra movements. We worked on simplifying it. One thing I often tell players is that much of coaching isn't telling players what to do; it's telling them what not to do. In this case, there was a lot of excess motion to get rid of - sort of a waving backswing, extra wristiness, and too-jumpy feet.

The other player had hitting thoroughly ingrained, and had difficulty switching to looping against backspin. He had trouble dropping the racket or bringing the tip down and back, dropping his shoulder, and getting down in general to lift the backspin. He also had trouble grazing the ball for topspin, but as I quickly suspected, this was more because of his not dropping his racket than an inability to "roll" the ball with topspin. Once I got him to drop his racket (which wasn't easy), he began getting pretty decent topspins. He'll need a lot of practice on this.

One of the "highlights" I have fun doing when teaching the loop to new players is their first regular forehand drive or smash after doing lots of looping against backspin, where they are lifting the ball instead of driving forward. I always tell them that I'm going to now give them a regular topspin ball (I'm feeding multiball), and that they shouldn't drop the shoulder, just drive forward. But invariably, even though I warn them and predict they'll go off the end, sure enough their first few shots go off. This happened with all five players in my morning group, even the ones who had had done some looping before. I ended the session by having them all alternate looping backspin and hitting topspin so they could work on switching back and forth.

Fortune Cookie Frivolities

Now we find out if any of the kids in the camp read my blog. (Some do, but not each morning.) We have Chinese food delivered to the club at lunch each day, with the players making their orders in the morning, which we call in. At lunch yesterday I pulled a trick on them that I'd pulled in the last camp as well. Using Photoshop, I created a fake fortune cookie fortune that read, "A meteor will kill you in five minutes." I opened my fortune cookie very publicly, made a surreptitious switch of the fortune with the fake one I'd hidden in my hand, and held it up and read it, and then showed it to them. The kids went crazy with disbelief. Five minutes later, when none were looking, I smacked a rock I'd snuck in against the ground and claimed it was a meteor that had just missed me. Today I've got another fake fortune ready, which read, "A ping-pong player will kill you this afternoon." I'll report tomorrow on the response.

Jungle Pong

This is the all-time favorite game of the kids in every camp during breaks. I think I've described it before, but it's so popular I'll go over it again. I'm not sure, but I think the kids in our camp from years ago might have invented and named the game - I don't remember ever seeing this until it suddenly began popping up in our camps.

The rules are simple. You can have as many players on one table as you want, numbered in the order they will hit the ball. You start the rally with a player serving just like table tennis. From there on, whether off the serve or in a rally, the next player must wait for the ball to go off the table and bounce on the floor, even if it means waiting for the ball to bounce several times or roll across the table, and even if it hits the net. The player must then return the ball so it hits either side of the table, and the rally continues until someone misses. Then that person is out. You continue until there is only one player. The only other rule is no looping; they are almost impossible to return. Soft topspins are allowed, but nothing aggressive. If one does loop, it's a takeover.

There are some interesting tactics, such as faking a hit to one side and going the other way, or using various spins to make the ball do funny bounces - backspin is especially popular in throwing off the next player. Players sometimes smack the ball into the net so that the next player will break the wrong way, and then have to recover when the ball rebounds off the net. Some of the kids focus on just getting every ball back; others are more creative with their shots. Since it takes time for the ball to bounce both on the table and the floor, players have time to run down most shots. I watched them play for a while - at one point there were two adjacent tables going with about eight on each - and I've decided my next book will be "Jungle Pong Tactics for Thinkers."

Table Tennista and ITTF

As usual, there are lots of international news articles at Table Tennista and the ITTF News Page.

Serena Williams Table Tennis

Here's a picture of her where she "...trades her tennis racket in for a table tennis one on her way to Wimbledon." (If you can't see the Facebook version, try this.)

Pong-Style Beach Surfing

Here's Kim Gilbert doing a little beach surfing, pong style. 

Now That's a Lot of Ping-Pong Tables

Here's the picture!

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June 18, 2013


Starting yesterday we have ten consecutive weeks of camps at the Maryland Table Tennis Center, each Mon-Fri, 10AM-6PM, with a 1-3PM lunch and rest break. Here's info on the camps.

I'll be coaching at most of them. I will miss at least two of them: July 1-5 for the U.S. Open, and July 22-26 for a science fiction writer's workshop I'm attending in Manchester, NH, July 19-27. (Call it my annual vacation.) I might also miss July 29 - Aug. 2 for the Junior Olympics - not sure yet. If there's a small turnout in some weeks, I may miss some of those sessions as well - I could use the rest break. The camps are dominated by junior players (mostly Chinese), but there are usually a few adults who take part. The camps are for all ages and levels.

This is our 22nd consecutive year of running camps at MDTTC, which started in 1992. Coaches Cheng Yinghua, Jack Huang, and I have been there from the start. Also coaching (or acting as practice partners) at the camps are Wang Qing Liang ("Leon"), Chen Bo Wen ("Bowen"), Chen Jie ("James"), and Raghu Nadmichettu.

From the start we've had a basic system. I mostly run the morning sessions (10AM-1PM), where I give short lectures, and then we break into groups doing lots of multiball. Until two years ago the players were divided pretty much randomly in each group.  Then Cheng and Jack asked if I could focus on the beginners in the camp, since they tended to slow things down in other groups - they need more individual attention - and I agreed. So now I generally get all the beginners in my group. We end the session with games, often 11-point games moving up and down tables, either singles or doubles.

Then lunch is served - Chinese food that each player orders for $6 in the morning. (Some go out for lunch or bring their own, but most order the Chinese food.) After lunch I generally take a group to our customary 7-11 trip.

Cheng and Jack run the afternoon session. This is mostly table practice, and then games at the end. We usually finish with Brazilian Teams, where you have teams of 3-6, with one player at a time from each team playing a point. If you win the point, you keep playing; if you lose the point, you go to the end of your team's line, and the next player is up. New player always serves. We generally handicap the top players against the weaker players, for example only giving them one shot to win the point.

Day One Camp Highlights

We focused on grip, stance, and the forehand on the first day. (Advanced players were grouped separately.) I had an interesting mix in my first group on Monday morning. Here's a listing of five of them:

  • Jumpy two-fingers grip kid. He's 13 years old, and had two fingers on the racket's surface instead of just the index finger, and tended to jump around a bit as he hit forehands. (Anyone remember Jills Hammersly of England?) It took some urging to convince him to take the second finger off, but by the end of the session his forehand was greatly improved, care of the better grip and a more balanced stance.
  • Wrist back forehand kid. He was the youngest in the camp, five years old. No matter what you say to him or how many times you adjust his shot, he likes to tip his wrist straight back on forehands. By the end of the day we'd mostly fixed the problem, but not completely - I still had to remind him every few minutes. Okay, more like every 30 seconds.
  • Big backswing forehand kid. He's about 10, and took a backswing that brought his racket back to about California before sweeping forward through the USA heartland before eventually arriving in Maryland just in time (usually) to hit the ball. We spent some time shortening his stroke, and he met with much greater success.
  • Stand-sideways forehand guy. He's about 20, and stood completely sideways for his forehand shots. He was self-taught, but was open to change. I fixed his stance so that his right foot was only slightly back (otherwise you can't really get any body rotation into the shot without looking pretty much backwards, plus you don't have time to go into this stance in a fast rally). He picked up the change pretty fast.
  • Out-of-practice backs-off-the-table-too-much kid. He's 13. I was his coach for a year (he reached about 1400 with a good loop from both sides), but then he stopped playing for almost two years. Now he's back. He's hitting and looping his shots well, but we do need to get him to stay a little closer to the table.

In the afternoon session I worked with eight beginners, including Jumpy Two-Fingers, Wrist-Back Forehand, and Big Backswing Forehand. We did a lot of practice and a lot of games.

ITTF Coaching Seminars

Here's a listing of upcoming ITTF Coaching Courses in the U.S., both Level 1 and Level 2. I'm teaching one in South Bend, IN on Oct. 2-6, 2013. I'm also attending the Level 2 course in New Jersey, Aug. 26-31.

Hopes Week

Here's a video (2:37) with highlights from the ITTF Hopes Week in Austria (where many of the best 11- and 12-year-olds in the world trained and competed together for a week).

Homer and Adam Brown Earn Guitars

Here's the article on their getting guitars from the country music group Lady Antebellum.

New Nike Ping-Pong Commercials

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June 17, 2013

Tip of the Week

Shadow Practice for Strokes and Footwork.


Starting today we have ten consecutive weeks of camps at the Maryland Table Tennis Center, each Mon-Fri, 10AM-6PM, with a 1-3PM lunch and rest break. Here's info on the camps. I'll write more about them tomorrow.

Crystal Wang at Hopes Week

Here's the home page for Hopes Week in Austria, where the best 11- and 12-year-olds in the world (outside China) gathered after qualifying in national trials. In the tournament held at the end of the camp, 11-year-old Crystal Wang (with a now outdated 2292 rating) made the final of Girls' Singles, losing to a player from Hong Kong in the final. (For some reason, the results and articles have her listed as "Chrystal.") The USA boys' representative, Victor Liu, made the quarterfinals of Boys' Singles. The two teamed up to make the final of the Team event, where they lost to Hong Kong.

Crystal is from my club, the Maryland Table Tennis Center; I've watched her develop from a beginner. Jack Huang is her primary coach. I've coached her in a number of tournaments, including the Hopes Trials in the U.S., and I've had many practice sessions and hundreds of practice matches with her. Let's just say playing her is scary; no matter what you do she keeps coming at you with heavy topspin from both wings, often right off the bounce. I don't think I've ever seen anyone that young who was so good at going after the middle or moving the ball around. She may be the best 11-year-old girl in the world outside China, though Korea and Japan might have something to say about that. (Remember that Hong Kong is a territory of China, though it's actually a bit more complicated than that.)

Mikael Andersson, the ITTF Senior Consultant - Development/Education & Training, blogged about Hopes Week in his June 13 blog, including a picture of Crystal. Here's what he had to say about her:

Best of all the Hopes in the venue – in relation to relative skill – at least in training, is the (also) 11 year old Crystal WANG from the deep gold mines of the Maryland Table Tennis Center in the USA. With her – the sky is the limit. "I am training seven times a week said Crystal when I caught her in the hotel lobby early in the week. Three of the sessions are with private coaches/ sparring partners. One is left –handed, one is defensive player and one is a pen-holder. The remaining times I join some group sessions and practice / play with the other players in the center."

No wonder – the perfect technique – the touch and the calm composure that this young USA shooting star is showing us in training.  I beg you Crystal; Spread your wings and fly as far as you can!

China Open

It finished yesterday. Here's the home page with results, articles, photos, etc.

Table Tennista - the Magazine

Here is Issue Three of their new magazine.

Top Spin: The Story of Ariel Hsing

Here's a video (11:46) that chronicles the rise of USA's Ariel Hsing. "With hard work and family sacrifice, a young table tennis champion works towards becoming one of the top players in the world -- Ariel Hsing exudes a quiet confidence and intensity that rivals any young professional athlete working hard to become a promising Olympic champion. However, Ariel's story goes beyond her personal dedication and also reveals the family sacrifices that foster her talent."

Quentin Robinot Bullet Shot at ITTF China Open

Here's the video (35 seconds) of this great counter-kill.

The Darkness of Pong

Here's another artistic table tennis artwork from Mike Mezyan. (If you can't see it in Facebook, try this.) Here's how Jim Short described it: "Wonderful artistic touches: notice how the light draws your eye from upper left to lower right, making the table the centerpiece of the work. And these elements combine to make the figure even more shadowy and mysterious, adding to the dark flair of the art."

Actress Ping Pong

Actress Chace Crawford teaches Anna Kendrick how to play, as brought to you by Table Tennis Nation.

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August 08, 2012

MDTTC Camps Week Seven Day Two

Here's a typical day at an MDTTC camp, morning session, divided into segments based on my most common camp phrases.

  • "Lunch orders!" (We have Chinese food delivered for lunch for $6.)
  • "Everybody out! Schnell, Schnell!!!"
  • "Today's focus will be the _____."
  • "What's the first thing you do?" (That's how I start every lecture. Correct answer is "Get in position!")
  • "Everybody into their groups."
  • "You're on ball pickup."
  • "Number ___, you're up."
  • [Lots of multiball.]
  • "Pick up the balls! Balls in boxes!"
  • "Break!"
  • "Everybody out!!! Schnell, Schnell!!!"
  • [Lots of multiball.]
  • "Pick up the balls! Balls in boxes!"
  • "Who wants to be team captains?" (For Brazilian Teams at the end of the session.)
  • "Lunchtime!"
  • "Who wants to go to 7-11?" (I get stampeded.)

Yesterday's focus (as usual on Tuesdays) was the backhand. This doesn't mean that's all we do; it's just the focus, especially for new players. We personalize it more for more advanced players, though even there we focus a bit on the day's focus. Today we'll be focusing on the forehand loop.

Regarding the backhand, besides the basics, I always point out the various backhand styles. For example, players who keep the racket tip low tend to play their backhand almost like another forehand, with great power, but often less consistent, not as quick, and weaker in the middle, compared to those who hold the racket tip a bit higher. Taller players tend to hold the racket tip lower, but not always.

It's going to be a busy day. My rough schedule for today:

  1. Write blog
  2. MDTTC Camp, 10AM-1PM, including lectures on forehand loop and pushing
  3. Interview and coaching demo for Channel 9 News (see below)
  4. Thirty-minute coaching session during lunch break
  5. Lunch
  6. Take kids to 7-11 (it's become a lunch break camp ritual)
  7. One hour drive into Virginia for a one-hour coaching session I do once a week during the day. (I'm off for the afternoon camp session.)
  8. One-hour coaching session at MDTTC at 6PM
  9. Write letter of recommendation for one of our top players going to college
  10. If there's any energy left, do some of my SF & fantasy writing. I've got this great idea for a story where...

Channel 9 News

This morning Channel 9 New (WUSA) is coming in to do a feature on MDTTC 2016 Paralympic hopeful Timmy La. We've had a lot of media coverage recently, and there's supposed to be a feature on us in the Washington Post in the next few days. (It keeps getting bumped because of Olympics coverage.)

Olympic Coverage

As noted in previous blogs, you can get full Olympic Table Tennis coverage at the ITTF page.

2012 Olympic Table Tennis Pin

Here's where you can see a picture of and buy one. Here are some technical problems I see with this mascot's form. First, he's only got one eye on the ball - it's important to keep both eyes on the ball for better depth perception. Second, it's better to bend the knees than to have them cut off, and don't get me started on his lack of playing shoes. Third, he's holding the racket almost straight up and down on a forehand shot, and so is probably blocking. It'd be better to focus on looping on the forehand side. (In fact, it looks to me like he's doing a forehand block from the backhand corner - how weird!) Fourth, it's important to have a mouth so you can call the score, call timeouts, and argue with umpires. And fifth,  his lack of ears make me wonder if he's listening to me.

There's also a Paralympic logo playing table tennis - here are all the Paralympic mascots. Table tennis is on lower left.

God or Galileo?

We'll let the religious people think this is a picture of God in various activities, including table tennis. Us scientific types know it's really Galileo. Or perhaps Mark Twain.


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