Nathan Hsu

October 28, 2014

Tip of the Week

Defensive or Offensive Returns of Short Serves.

South Shore Open

I returned late last night from the South Shore Open in Indiana - an 11-hour drive. I have a lot to write about it, but I've also got a todo list that goes from here to Pluto. So I'm going to write about some other stuff today (the Tip of the Week and Men's World Cup - mostly linking to articles about it), catch up on other things, and write about the South Shore Open tomorrow. Here are the results of the tournament, care of Omnipong. Great performances by Samson Dubina, the Seemillers (Dan Sr., Dan Jr., and Randy), Nathan Hsu, and others!

Men's World Cup

It finished on Sunday, with Zhang Jike defeating Ma Long in the all-Chinese final. In the semifinals Germany's Timo Boll went seven games with Zhang, while Ma defeated Japan's Jun Mizutani 4-0. So Boll came close to breaking the near-Chinese lock on many of these events. Here's the ITTF Men's World Cup page, with results, articles, and pictures. Here's the ITTF article on USA's Kanak Jha, the youngest player ever to qualify for the World Cup.

However, the news of the event was Zhang's reaction to winning, where he celebrating by kicking and destroying barriers! As a result, the ITTF penalized him the entire $45,000 in prize money he'd just won. Here's the video (27 sec). Here's another video of it (45 sec), from a different angle. Here's a picture from a newspaper. Here's the ITTF's press release, "Zhang Jike Wins ITTF Men's World Cup Amid controversy." Here's Matt Hetherington's blog on this, "ITTF Fine on Zhang Jike No Less Than Absurd." (I haven't had time to really investigate this, but I pretty much agree with Matt and most others on this that the penalty was excessive - as Matt writes, a $5000 fine might be about right.) Here's extensive discussion on this at the Mytabletennis forum.

Zhang issued a statement, saying, "No matter what kind of honour I won today, I didn't handle my celebration with calmness and rationality. For a long time, I have been withstanding a lot of pressure but I shouldn't bring such mood into the arena. I didn't consider the impact on the team and the event itself. I apologise to everyone."

There are a whole series of articles on this at TableTennista:

And here's Mike Mezyan's cartoon artwork on Zhang Jike's barrier breaking!

World Cadet Challenge

It started yesterday in Barbados, after three days of training. Here's the ITTF page with results, articles, and pictures. USA players competing (on the North American team, combined with Canada) are Kanak Jha (who flew in from the World Cup), Jack Wang, Crystal Wang, and Amy Wang. Crystal was featured in an ITTF article.

Super-Fast Down-the-Line Serves and a Serving Device

Here's the video (48 sec) - I want one of these! And you should want a serve like this.

How to Become Your Own Table Tennis Coach

Here's the article from Expert Table Tennis.

Breaking Sidespin Serves - Serving Into a Shoe

Here's the video (2:41). It's both an exhibition trick and something you should learn to do to help develop your serves. If you can't do tricks with your serves, they can't be very tricky, can they? I do this same trick in clinics, though I usually have someone put their racket on the side of the table and spin the ball one way so that it curves back and bounces on the paddle.

Ask the Coach and Should Zhang Jike Keep His Prize Money?

Here's the latest Ask the Coach feature from PingSkills, Episode 16 (12:10). Below are the questions. At the end they ask the question on whether Zhang Jike should keep his $45,000 prize money from the Men's World Cup after his barrier-destroying episode. You can see the responses underneath.

  • Question 1: I have a friend that can do a serve, almost as fast as a drive and low just about above the net hitting near the edge of the table, chances of countering it are slim, most of the time the my shot goes high. How do you do and counter this serve? Jigo
  • Question 2: I'm interested in a stroke that I'm probably inventing as I've never seen it used. You know the backhand block executed with the wrist movement when the bat curves the ball, I'm wondering if the same stroke can be executed on the forehand side. Eugene S
  • Question 3: What is the most important aspect in table tennis? Is the service, or the return, or the footwork, or the third ball attack, or the speed, or the spin or any other? Kaustubh
  • Question 4: I've noticed that in table tennis, a lot of the professional players wipe the top corner of the table every now and then. I wouldn't have thought that they would use that bit of table very often. Do you know why this is? Kai Ball
  • Question 5: What is the best penhold rubber mark?
  • PingSkillers Question of the Day: Should Zhang Jike receive his prize money for winning the World Cup?

Nathan Hsu in China

As some readers might have figured out, Nathan is back in the U.S. (he just won 18 & Under and Under 2450 and made the QF of the Open at the South Shore Open), but he's editing these videos from his three months training there starting in July. Here's the latest episode - Quadricycle!? - China Day 48 Part 2 (10:00).

Sandwich Racket

I have no idea if this "sandwich" racket is legal, but I sure want one!

Waldner-Appelgren Exhibition

Here's 32 seconds of Jan-Ove Waldner and Mikael Appelgren doing an exhibition for a law firm.

Table Tennis TV Comedy - "The Kings of Queens"

In my last blog I linked to a "German" TV comedy that featured table tennis. However, as emailed to me by Grant Vogl, it turns out the clip was actually from the TV show "The Kings of Queens," which ran on CBS from 1998-2007. The original was in English, which was dubbed in German in the version linked before. Here's the original in English - the table tennis starts at 1:11. Grant also explained that the clip was from Season 6, Episode 3, titled "King Pong (20:39). Earlier in the show (as Grant emailed), Arthur (Doug's father-in-law) surprises Doug with his ping-pong prowess (1:36). Later on, Carrie (Doug's wife) defeats Doug and Doug then asks Arthur to train him. This leads to Arthur training Doug to use a wooden spoon (1:49) so that "the paddle will seem like the size of Texas." Ultimately, Doug defeats Carrie in glorious fashion. However, as shown in the episode, Carrie later proves to Doug that she was just letting him win. Doug has a hard time dealing with this, declares that the ping-pong issue is "gonna ruin everything," and in the humor of the show, considers the possibility that it will lead to divorce unless Doug defeats Carrie "for real."

Viking Pong

Here's the cartoon!

***
Send us your own coaching news!

October 20, 2014

Tip of the Week

Top Ten Ways to Play Your Best in a Tournament.

Fact or Fiction: The Life & Times of a Ping Pong Hustler

Here's where you can download the video (60 min) or see the trailer (2:12) about the late Marty Reisman (Feb. 1, 1930 - Dec. 7, 2012). "A chronicle of the final three years of Marty Reisman's life. A table tennis champion turned hustler. Pursuing notoriety and motivated by his love of fame and ping pong, he has to face his biggest fear: mortality."

Here's the IMDB entry on the film. Here's the full description:

Fact or Fiction: The Life and Times of a Ping Pong Hustler is a chronicle of the final three years of Marty Reisman's life, a former international table tennis champion-turned-money player. Pursuing notoriety through his idiosyncratic lifestyle and motivated by his love of fame and Ping Pong, he inadvertently has to face his biggest fear: mortality. Shot over three years, the film follows Marty - a complex mix of childlike excitement, eccentric narcissism and constant charm - as he negotiates between pride, the denial of old age, past defeats and the decline of his fame and fortune, as well as his devoted wife Yoshiko's health, all while clinging onto the hope that his own life and career are just beginning to blossom. The film's observational style, combined with rare archive footage and interviews with key New York and London society characters such Booker Prize winner Howard Jacobson and eminent psychotherapist George Weinberg, work to tell the story of one of America's greatest.

I recently watched the video on my computer, along with Tim Boggan. I knew Marty pretty well. In fact, he's how I got into table tennis! Here's the story.

The video uses both old and recent footage of Reisman, showcasing him from his early years (growing up in the depression, discovering "a different world" in table tennis, and developing as a player in the hardbat era) to his last days, and especially the last three years of his life. Parts of it are rather dark, with much of the video taking place in a hospital after his heart surgery and shortly before Marty died. There's also footage of him running Reisman's Table Tennis Club, which ran from 1958 to the late 1970s.

Marty was perhaps the most flamboyant and stylish table tennis player who ever lived. The video features his many outfits, hats, his tailor and dry cleaner, and even the cane he used - not because he needed it, but for style purposes. Marty quotes poetry, jokes with doctors, talks and sings about mortality, teaches his forehand, shows his microscopes (a hobby of his), demonstrates the cigarette trick, talks about Satoh (the man from Japan who introduced the sponge racket and won the 1952 Worlds, the year Reisman thought he should have won), and talks about how much he was looking forward to a challenge match he had planned with 2009 U.S. Men's Champion Michael Landers. "You'll be in a film with the great Marty Reisman," he explained to Landers. (The film mistakenly credits Landers as being on the U.S. Olympic team.) There's also segments about a planned "Marty's Bar" at Spin TTC in New York.

Yes, Marty was an egomaniac, but he didn't hide this fact - in fact, he wore it on his sleeve, with an almost in-your-face ego. And yet he could be incredibly nice if you played along with it and treated him well. He was a God to many, and enjoyed playing the role. Much of his Godhood came about from the stand he took against sponge rubber, insisting on sticking with hard rubber (and later sandpaper), which he considered a far superior game, where two players had a "dialog" when they rallied.

Near the end there's about 3.5 minutes with USATT Historian Tim Boggan, who gives sort of a fact check to some of the items in the film. (Hence the "Fact or Fiction" part of the title.) He also shows a "Marty as Don Quixote" picture, symbolizing Marty fighting the windmills of sponge.

MDTTC Featured at WETA  and PBS

Here's the video (4 min), which features me, Crystal Wang, and Derek Nie.

First Ever ITTF Level Three Course in USA Staged

Here's the ITTF article on the course just completed in Colorado Springs, taught by Richard McAfee. 

Women's World Cup

In the all-Chinese final held Sunday, world #1 Ding Ning defeated world #4 Liu Xiaoxia. Here's a video of the match highlights (4:04). Here's the ITTF home page for the event with results, articles, photos, and video. Here's the ITTF Press Release on the Final. Here's the Daily Shot of the Day:

iPong Basic Series: Forehand Drive

Here's the video (1:19) of Richard McAfee teaching the stroke.

Kenta Matsudaira's Sidespin Block

Here's the new video (3:56) from PingSkills of the Japanese player (world #27, #16 in January). My students hate it when I throw sidespin or chop blocks at them!

Training at Zhou Xin TTA

Here's the list of videos.

Ask the Coach

Here are two more "Ask the Coach" episodes from PingSkills.

Episode #10 (13:26):

  • Question 1: Usually players follow one style, attack or defense. If I want to change mine to All Around to add some defensive strokes, when is it efficient to start? When the attack style is completely confident or it’s better to study all the strokes at the same time? Olena.
  • Question 2: I realize that in table tennis we use only one part of our hand (upper arm, lower arm, and wrist) so what is the time to use each part of it and can I combined them? Frendy.
  • Question 3: How to reply to a player who simply sends every shot back with push & chop shots? I feel like I am playing the ball against a wall. I start to think that I have to do something to end the rally and then I make the mistake & lose the point. Len Buffey.
  • Question 4: What advice can you give to changing the momentum in a match? I was recently up 2-0 in a match and lost all confidence after losing the 3rd set and continued to go downhill losing in 5.
  • Question 5: Is there difference between a lob and a fish? If yes, what is it? Kaustubh Kulkarni.

Episode #11 (13:05):

  • Question 1: Hi Alois! I have my first tournament of the season in a week and I want to practice my serves. One problem: I don't have any plastic balls. Is it bad to practice my serves with celluloid balls? Yoan Pelletier
  • Question 2: Do you other professionals who play with shakehand, use a specific or specialized grip to serve and then quickly shift to the shakehand for the majority of the point? Do you stay with the special grip after the serve? Cole Mooney
  • Question 3: I recently received advice to engage my thumb and apply pressure onto the rubber when backhand counterhitting. The advice improved my backhand but I don't know if should change especially if the rallies are transitioning BH to FH in a fast manner. Danny Ly
  • Question 4: Due to studies I didn’t play table tennis for 1.5 months. I played today in an interschool tournament and I lost to a player whom I used to defeat every time. What is the reason of my defeat and how can I prepare for my state tournament. Shivam Goenka
  • Question 5: As a penhold player, should I hit with the other side of my bat? I tend to find that I can't have as much control as if I simply move more and use the same side of my bat. Colin Young

Shonie Aki Scholarship Award

Here's the article and info for this annual $1250 scholarship - see last paragraph in particular. Deadline is Nov. 1, 2014. "The Shonie Aki Scholarship award, in the amount of $1250 for one year, will be offered to a young table tennis player who has aspirations to complete a college education, become a better player, and a productive individual who would reflect on Shonie's legacy. In order to be considered to receive this scholarship award, candidates must be expecting to attend college in 2015 (and have at least two years remaining to complete their degree) and have GPAs of at least B or better."

Top 5 Veteran Table Tennis Ladies You Don't Want to Mess With

Here's the article by Matt Hetherington.

Table Tennis Tournament to Benefit Homeless Portlanders

Here's the article.

The Making of Table Tennis Blades and Rubbers

Here's the video (13:08).

Nathan Hsu in China

Here's the latest episode - Hengdian World Studios! - China Day 48 Part 1 (5:49).

Jorgen Persson and Bill Clinton

Here are five pictures of the two playing golf in 2005. The other player is Brian Laudrup, a Danish soccer player.

Ma Long's Birthday Party

Here's the picture. He just turned 26.

Be So Bold

Here's the video (60 sec) - I think this is a jeans commercial, but I'm not sure. That's one cheap paddle the "star" is using.

Bruce Lee Ping Pong

Here's a new video (3:13) where two hackers flamboyantly play table tennis with various implements, from bottles and paper towel rolls to cheese graters. (Not really a lot to do with Bruce Lee, however, other than the title.)

Cooking Ping-Pong Balls for Breakfast

Here's the video (5 sec) - looks pretty tasty!

***
Send us your own coaching news!

October 16, 2014

Lack of Creativity in Serving

I'm always amazed at how simple most players serve. Serving is the most creative part of the game (though receive is close), and yet most players seem to serve with little purpose or variation.

A major reason for this is because most players play the same players at their club over and over. There are all sorts of little nuances you can do with your serve that can give opponents trouble - last second changes of spin and direction (via last-second changes to the racket's motion), widely varying spins and placements, serving the extremes (deep breaking serves to backhand/short to forehand, or short heavy backspin/short side-topspin), or just different serving motions - but few use them. Many probably experiment, but since they play the same players over and over, opponents quickly get used to them, and the advantage of these little nuances mostly goes away.

Now even in practice there are ways to overcome this. If an opponent adjusts to your variations when serving from the backhand corner, for example, try it from the middle or forehand side - you'll be amazed at how much this changes things. Or just come up with variations. The more you have, the harder it is for an opponent to get used to them all. Or just hold back on certain serves for a while, and then, when you come back to them, they are effective again. Meanwhile, while you use those newly effective serves, hold back on some others for a while. (When I say hold back for a while, I mean both for a few games or for a few weeks of play - both ways work.)

When you watch world-class players play, often their serves look all the same. What does this mean? It means the world-class server has been successful at hiding his variations from you! There are nuances in every serve they do; they don't just serve to get the ball in play. If they did, world-class opponents would be all over those serves. Instead, they throw lots of little variations out there, varying the motion, spin, and placement just enough to keep the opponent slightly guessing and not completely comfortable. They may not get outright misses as we see at lower levels, but they force slightly weaker returns.

But a key thing to note from all this is that while all your serve variations might not continue to work in practice matches against the same players, they will work in tournaments. If you have a few serve variations that work at first at the club, but then players get used to them and they are no longer effective, guess what? They will still be effective in tournaments against new players, because for them, it is the first time they've seen them, just as it was for the players at your club before they got used to them.

I face this type of thing every day. All of my students are so used to my serves that most of them return them better than players rated far higher who don't face them regularly. In practice games at the end of sessions I often am split between using serves they'll see in matches, or coming up with new variations of my own serves just to throw them off, knowing that they are unlikely to face those specific serves in tournaments. (Last night, for example, one of my students was playing very well and led against me in two straight games. I fell to the dark side of the force and threw at him a series of Seemiller-grip windshield-wiper serves that he'd never seen before, and "stole" the games. Afterwards I let him practice against them, and they probably won't work next time. But I still feel guilty about "stealing" those games!)

One things I always stress is to find the right balance between "set-up serves" and "trick serves." At lower levels, trick serves are more effective, but as players get better they lose some of their effectiveness, and set-up serves become more important - but you should always have both. (Set-up serves are designed to set up a follow-up attack but don't usually win the point outright, while trick serves are designed to win the point outright or give an easy winner.) There's a lot of gray area between the two - a set-up serve can also be a trick serve in some circumstances. Here's a short tip I wrote on this a while back.

Why Karakasevic's Backhand Deserves Recognition

Here's the article by Matt Hetherington. The Serbian star has always been known for his phenomenal backhand. From 2001 to 2013 his world ranking mostly bounced about in the 40 to 70 range, with his highest at #33 in January, 2007.

Ask the Coach

Here's another episode from PingSkills.

Episode 9 (11:51)

  • Question 1: Hi Alois, I've noticed that the quality of the training somehow depends on the mood and the concentration. The same strokes I perform differently and miss more with the higher concentration on the ball. What is an object and level of concentration? Olena
  • Question 2: I play at a local club and have received comments that I have a good serve. However, I have noticed that almost all of my backspin serves (Pendulum) have sidespin as well. Is this taking away from the effectiveness of the backspin? Adam
  • Question 3: While playing with my opponent when I tossed the ball for a serve my opponent asked me to stop as he wasn't ready then after a pause of 4 to 5 seconds I served again and again the same thing happened. Is this legal? Rutvik Thakkar
  • Question 4: Hi, sometimes I see professional players immediately smash the ball when returning a serve, I was wondering in what circumstances could and should you do this. Thanks! Alan C

USATT Tournament Advisory Committee Meeting

They met via teleconference on Sept. 18. Here are the minutes.

PingPongRuler.com

Here's a new website that features equipment reviews, videos, and custom-made paddles. Lots of good stuff there! (One thing that wasn't at first clear - in the Equipment Review section it looked at first like there were only very short reviews of each item. Click on the picture or heading and you get a far more extensive review.)

Dimitrij Ovtcharov Visits Piing of Power

Here's the article. (And yes, there are two i's.)

International Articles

As usual Tabletennista has lots of international articles.

Ping Pong Trend Bounces Across the Nation

Here's the article on the rising popularity of the sport.

Nathan Hsu in China

Here's his latest entry, "Names, names, names - China Day 47" (4:47).

The Spinning Paddle Bouncing Ball Cookie Jar Trick

Here it is (13 sec) - but is it real?

***

Send us your own coaching news!

October 14, 2014

Tip of the Week

Working With Your Subconscious.

The Last Two Weeks

I'm back!!! The past two weeks have been among the busiest I have ever had. As noted in my blog from a week ago (before I took a sort of forced sabbatical), USATT Historian Tim Boggan moved in with me on Tuesday, Sept. 30, so I could once again do the photo work and page layouts for Volume 15 of his History of U.S. Table Tennis. Here's a rundown on that, on my coaching, on a science fiction convention, health - and on a theft at the supermarket!

Because Tim goes to bed every night around 7:30 PM and gets up by 3AM, I tried to sort of match his schedule. For eleven days I mostly got up around 5:30 AM (sometimes earlier!), and we'd go to work by 6:30AM. (Several times we started by 5:30 AM.) We'd work until about 2:30 PM, with a 30-minute lunch break. At 2:30PM I'd normally leave to coach, since that's when I have to leave to pick up kids for our afterschool program. On weekends I was even busier with coaching, and Tim and I had to work around that.  

We "sort of" finished everything on Friday night. I saw "sort of" because, even though Tim left on Saturday morning, I still had a bunch of work on it. It got worse when Tim emailed me on Sunday night with a long list of changes and corrections needed, which I did on Monday. I finally sent the finished version to the printer on Monday afternoon. It should be available in ten days or so.

The final version is 401 pages long, with 978 photos, and covers the years 1986-88. The 401 is actually a bit shorter than his norm, but the 978 photos is a record. Think about this - for each photo I had to pull it up, fix it up in Photoshop (taking anywhere from ten seconds to ten minutes), place it on the page where Tim indicated (he had copious notes), put in the caption (which Tim read to me), and then (when the photos for the page were up), lay out the page so everything lined up to Tim's satisfaction. It would have been a lot harder if not for Mal Anderson, who not only took the majority of the photos used, but scanned them all in advance. (In the early volumes, I did all the scanning, which added about two days to the project each time.)

I don't think any of my students noticed how exhausted I was each day during Tim's stay. My busiest days are Wed, Thur, Fri, and Sun. On those days I'd go straight from long hours with Tim to long hours at the table. On other days I did the same, but typically only had perhaps two hours of coaching. Often I'd be working essentially non-stop from 6:30AM to 9PM, then coming home and trying to do this blog and other work. (This is why I finally had to take a sabbatical.)

One of my students, Matt, has been working hard on his backhand loop. (He recently turned 13, is about 1700 level now.) During his session on Wednesday we did an improvised game where he served backspin, I pushed to his backhand, and he backhand looped anywhere, then we played out the point. At first I won every game easily. Near the end of the session he had a game where he led until the very end, and then I came back to win. I won the next few games easily, and he grew increasingly frustrated. The session ended - my last of the day - but he was determined to do better, and so I stayed late. We played more games, and some were close, but I kept winning. And then it all came together, and he played a brilliant game, making nearly every shot (forehands and backhands), and he won. As I've blogged before, anything you can do in practice you are perhaps six months away from being able to do in a serious match, so perhaps he'll be able to play like this all the time in six months - in which case he'll be pretty scary!!!

In the group sessions on Thursday and Sunday we did a lot of smashing and serving practice. With Navin on Sunday we worked more on his forehand smash and on his backhand chop block (he uses hardbat). He's had a problem in that he often has me use hardbat to practice with him, so his chop block became used to that - but when he played sponge players, he'd pop the ball up against their greater topspin. So this session I used sponge, and hopefully that'll pay off. With Doug, we focused on forehand looping and backhand banana flip - and it paid off as he did very well in the league afterwards. On the downside, Daniel, one of the top 10-year-olds in the country, is having arm problems and had to cancel lessons both weeks. He'll likely rest it another week or so.

After Tim left on Saturday morning I spent much of the weekend jumping between the Capclave Science Fiction Convention here in Gaithersburg and coaching. I was a panelist (yes, people paid to hear me speak!); here's my Capclave bio. Here are the three panels I was on. (I moderated the one on Flash Fiction.)

  • Flash Fiction - Writing for the Short Attention Span Generation. Markets are opening up everywhere for stories of 500 to 1,000 words or less and with the advent of Twitter and Facebook, there are markets for stories just a few sentences in length. In this panel we will discuss the markets, the writing techniques, the agony and the ecstasy and the future of writing the super-short story.
  • The Greatest Animated Films. A debate over a list of the greatest animated films. Can we agree on a top ten list for the best or will the panel erupt into fisticuffs?
  • I Hate His/Her Politics But I Love His/Her Books. Should a personal evaluation of an author be separated from how you view his/her politics? Many people refused to see the movie Ender's Game because of Orson Scott Card's statements on homosexuality and other writers charge that political views influence award nominations and who is picked for con programming. Is this true and if so, is it a good thing or a bad thing?

Healthwise, I was exhausted all week, but it's been a while since I've had any real injuries. (I'm crossing my fingers.) I've had some minor twinges in my right knee, but nothing serious yet. As noted in previous blogs, I had dropped my weight from 196 in July to 178.4 when Tim arrived. Alas, with the long hours and Tim's treating me to fancy meals, this morning I'm at 181.8. So back to dieting. (I plan to get to 170.) 

Now the theft. I went to Giant for some shopping on Sunday. Included on my shopping were two bottles of Ruby Red Grapefruit Juice, which is my morning staple. At the checkout counter, as the items were being rung up, someone walked by. I noticed them lean over my stuff for a moment, but didn't pay close attention. Then I saw the person carrying a bottle of Ruby Red Grapefruit Juice as he walked away. I remember thinking, "I'm not the only one who likes the stuff." Then, as my items were being bagged, I noticed I only had one bottle of the juice. That's when I realized the person had stolen one of them when he'd leaned over my stuff! I showed the receipt to the person at the cash register, who verified I'd been charged for two but only had one. They allowed me to get a new one. So somewhere out there is a bottle of stolen Ruby Red Grapefruit Juice. To paraphrase another "juice" person, "I will not rest until I find my juice's stealer." (Bonus points to whoever correctly comments below who I'm paraphrasing.)

ITTF Trickshot Competition

Josep Anton Velazquez won it for the second year in a row. Here's the ITTF press release, and here's the winning video (42 sec). I can do the same serve that breaks sideways and parallel to the end-line (at least with my forehand pendulum serve, where tried this out after seeing the video), and can do the same fast down-the-line serve, but I wonder how many tries it would take to get them both together so they collide (not to mention the carpentry work to create the props)? That's some awesome precision. Here's the runner-up video (1:09) and here's the ITTF Trickshot Competition Page.

A Lesson in "Work Ethic" from 5-time U.S. Champion Sean O'Neill

Here's the video (4:05) by Brian Pace.

Learn How to Develop Your "A" Game

Here's the article by Samson Dubina.

Ask the Coach

PingSkills has a new "Ask the Coach" video series. I previously posted links to their first two episodes. Here are four more.

Episode 3 (11:10).

  • Question 1: Sir, as i play table tennis, while playing too fast the ball sometimes hits my fingers and the whole game goes wrong. So how to prevent it? Rishabh
  • Question 2: I was having problems with countering services with combined spin like the topspin with sidespin services. How to counter them? Pat
  • Question 3: My coach told me to hold the bat differently when i am serving, but in my last competition i felt that i didn’t manage to change the grip on the bat fast enough after i am serving, so when my opponent returns my serve. David
  • Question 4: I am facing difficulty while countering the high returns bouncing just on the end of the table. I often play close to the table and I have an attacking style of play. I know this is an unusual weakness but can you guide me how counter these. Mukul

Episode 4 (9:40).

  • Question 1: Can you give me tips on the traditional pen-hold backhand topspin? I tried gripping the handle a little further from the face, curling my three fingers, and twisting the paddle so the forehand side is facing down, but to no avail. Table Tennis Guy
  • Question 2: I sometimes tend to lean back when I loop or drive. I'm guessing it's a problem with me shifting weight from right to left and instead keeping the weight on my right leg forcing me to lean back to take the shot. I'm not sure though. Justin
  • Question 3: Can you say that drills are essential or are plenty of matches required to become a good table tennis player? Meet Master
  • Question 4: If both sides of the blade has same rubber glued to it e.g. Xiom Vega Pro is on both sides of a blade then can they be both of same color or they should be black and red? Please guide me according to ITTF rules. Muhammad

Episode 5 (12:56).

  • Question 1: Hi Jeff and Alois, I often practice to attack backspins with a topspin using a Donic robot, but because of these exercises I tear my rubbers against the table at least twice a month. What I am doing wrong? Stanislav.
  • Question 2: Against beginners when I play my full loop I miss more because it feels like their ball has nothing on it and my ball just flies into space. It's got to the point where unless the player puts a lot of pace or spin I'm afraid to do a full forehand. Peter C.
  • Question 3: I was bored waiting, so I did some wall practice, it got faster, after a few minutes I noticed my eyes were adjusting to the speed then, we played table tennis I got a winning streak of 6 matches. What other warmups are effective. Jigo.
  • Question 4: Hello, I want to ask: How can I return a fast topspin stroke without blocking it? What are the options? Thanks, Tibor.

Episode 6 (13:36).

  • Question 1: Hello, I'm trying to develop a serve that just nicks the table, is this legal? Thanks. George.
  • Question 2: As I play short pimples on backhand I have recently begun to wonder if it would be good to turn my bat during a rally and hit the ball with my short pips but on my forehand side. What do you think, is it a good idea to train on that? Fredrik.
  • Question 3: I saw when professional players get serves to their forehand they often move over and return it with their backhand. Should I start practicing returning serves that come to my forehand with my backhand or should I practice my forehand more? David.
  • Question 4: I have an 11 year old son I am trying to teach table tennis. We practice about once a month and we have been doing that for a while but not making much progress. I feel I should teach him how to consistently bounce the ball. Can you tell me how? Fatih.
  • Question 5: Hi guys, just to ask what serves did you both use in your careers? Also can you tell me what serves encourage a forehand return? Sasha.

Table Tennis Can Help Those with Parkinson's

Here's the article.

Maccabi USA Seeking Jewish Athletes for European and Pan American Maccabi Games

Here's the USATT article.

USATT Joins AmazonSmile Program

Here's the USATT article.

The Immigrant Sport: What Ping-Pong Means in America

Here's the article.

Table Tennis Included in 2020 Paralympic Games

Here's the ITTF Press Release.

Nittaku ITTF Monthly Pongcast - September 2014

Here's the video (13:58).

Nathan Hsu in China

Here are his latest videos.

Secret of Olympic Medals

Here's the video (2:28) featuring physical training and other aspects at the ICC table tennis center.

The Top Spin League's Challenge

Here's the video (2:33) from the Top Spin Club in San Jose, CA.

The King of Backhands - Kreanga

Here's the highlights video (2:56).

Omron Table Tennis Rallying Robot

Here's the video (41 sec) - these robots are getting better and better. Soon they will master the deadly secret of reading spin and Chinese domination of our sport will be at an end as we bow to our new robot masters.

Big Bang Theory and Ping Pong

Last night on The Big Bang Theory there was a sequence where the actors watched a video of pigeons playing ping pong. I was curious and looked it up, and sure enough, here it is - a 38-sec video of pigeons trained to play a version of table tennis!  

Cat Playing Table Tennis

Here's the video (34 sec) - and in this one, the cat really is rallying!

Table Tennis's Ten Funniest Moments

Here's the video (7:25) from the ITTF. These are great!!! If you haven't seen the highlights of the famous Saive-Chuang shown at the end, then you haven't seen table tennis.

***

Send us your own coaching news!

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.

***
Send us your own coaching news!

September 30, 2014

Table Tennis Ball Pickup Devices

When MDTTC first opened 22 years ago we didn't have any ball pickup devices. Correction - we had our hands. Two of them, in fact, and that's how we picked balls up our first couple of years. What were we thinking???

Then we got the Butterfly ball amigos, and life became much better. They are great for picking balls up quickly, which is big when you are coaching or training long hours. We have seven full-time coaches at MDTTC, and usually have two nets per court, so that's a lot of nets. Most of the major companies sell some sort of ball pickup net or similar device. (We have ball pickup nets, table tennis nets on each table, and nets to catch balls on the robot. We're practically a net club. Wonder what our net worth is?)

There are now a number of ball pickup devices on the market. Most come in three types: nets to scoop them up (probably the fastest); tubes to pick them up one at a time (not as fast, but easier to get balls in tricky spots like in corners); and the "ping-pong buddy," which grabs the balls a bunch at a time. (The kids love these.) There's a nice review of all three types at the Breaking 2000 page, which includes pictures. It also has video of three ball-picking up robots. Here's another (1:30).

Back in the 1990s or so there was sort of a ball pickup wars, where Newgy introduced their ball pickup tubes. There were a number of ads in USATT Magazine for these tubes and ads by other companies for net pickup devices. Personally, I've been using the nets for about twenty years, and swear by them. During training sessions I often have ball pickup contests with students to see who can pick up the most.

You can also make your own ball pickup device. Here's a page showing how to make one that's similar to the Newgy tube device, but made from a fluorescent tube box.

Here's video (2:37) of another ball pickup device that picks ping-pong or golf balls up one at a time when you are playing, and hangs on the table or your belt while you play. Alas, I don't see order info in the video. I wouldn't mind ordering one of these.

European Team Championships and the Nittaku Premium 40+ Ball

I blogged yesterday about the European Team Championships. One thing I didn't think to mention was that they were the first tournament (or at least major one) to use the Nittaku Premium 40+ plastic ball - the same ball that we'll be using at the USA Nationals. The last time Germany lost in the European Team Championships was back in 2005 - they've been that dominant - but this time they were upset in the final by Portugal. Make of that what you will. (Here are European Championship results going back to 1958.) Here's video (13:02) of the final match where Portugal's Marcos Freitas (world #12) upsets Germany's Timo Boll (world #9).

China Sweeps Asian Team Titles

Here's the article from Tabletennista. Here's the ITTF Asian Championships page. (They still have singles and doubles events.)

Ping Pong Diplomacy and Training Visit by Chinese National Table Tennis Team

Here's the USATT article and pictures of their visit to the Triangle Table Tennis in Morrisville, NC.

Nathan Hsu in China

Here's Nathan's latest vlog (4:37).

Amazing Table Tennis Tricks

Here's the video (3:04).

A Little King Kong Ping Pong?

Here's the picture.

***
Send us your own coaching news!

September 29, 2014

Tip of the Week

Improvised Games.

Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis Books

As long-time readers here know, about once a year USATT Historian/Hall of Famer/Legend Tim Boggan moves in with me for 10-12 days, where I do the page layouts and photo work for his U.S. Table Tennis history books. (Most of the photos come from Mal Anderson, who fixes them up before sending them to me.)

We did Volume 14 back in February, and I wasn't expecting him back until next year. But dang it, Tim, he went and got Volume 15 done in record time. And so he's moving in with me tomorrow. As usual, he'll live in my office/lounge, sleeping on my sofa. Also as usual, he'll be going to bed every night about 8PM and getting up around 3AM, and then impatiently waiting for me while he does more editing and planning on the day's pages. I'll be getting up extra early during his stay since I have to get this blog done first, though I'll be doing most of it the night before during his stay. We'll probably start around 7AM and work until 2:30 PM, which is when I have to leave Mon-Fri to pick up kids and coach/tutor in the MDTTC afterschool program. Weekends are tricky due to my coaching hours, but I'm mostly free now on Saturdays, but have a very busy Sunday schedule. If all goes well, we'll finish by Friday, Oct. 10. (I plan to spend much of Oct. 10-11 at the Capclave Science Fiction Convention that's held locally. I'm a panelist - here's the bio they have for me. )

The complicating factor is that I'll be getting up extra early, working all day with Tim, then doing the afterschool program and (on most days) staying on afterwards for private and group coaching, then returning home to do the blog - and then it'll be time to go to bed and start over in the night. These are going to be some long days.

Meanwhile, here's your chance to support Tim by buying one or more of his books. How can you call yourself a table tennis player if you don't have some of these? You could, of course, buy all 14. Currently there's no discount listed, but if interested in this email me and I'm sure Tim will give you a discount. Or pick and choose the years you are most interested in - see listing below. (The quotes are from the covers of each volume.) Volume 5: 1971-1972, the Ping-Pong Diplomacy Years, is especially popular. Or pick the years that cover when you started out or had events of interest to you.

You can buy the books or find more info on the Tim Boggan Table Tennis Page. (I created and maintain this for Tim. The link to the 1996 interview is no longer valid - I'm working to have that fixed.) At that page you can also see the covers, find reviews of the books, and see the number of pages and photos in each. I also maintain the Amazon pages where you can buy the books online, linked from his page and below (or you can buy them directly from Tim) - so if you buy them on Amazon, I can actually see the sales as they happen! (No, I don't see names, just the fact that someone bought them.) I'm hoping to show a bunch of sales for Tim tomorrow - so Buy Now!!!

  1. Volume 1: 1928-1939. "The Formative Years: If Only the Public Can See."
  2. Volume 2: 1940- 1952. "The War Years: Some USTTA Victories, But the 'Wounded Soldier Needs a Blood Transfusion.'"
  3. Volume 3: 1953-1962. "The Early Sponge Years: 'Standardization Through Evolution': 'The Only Natural And Healthy Way For The Sport To Be Regulated.'"
  4. Volume 4: 1963-1970. "The Stagnant Years: Unless our USTTA E.C. 'can clearly see the desires of the players they represent,' there will be no progress."
  5. Volume 5: 1971-1972. "The 'Ping-Pong Diplomacy' Years: "…please, write the truth as best you can. Or at least the little lies that are true.'"
  6. Volume 6: 1970-1973. "The Resurgent Years: 'going to the World's for the first time is…like a first romance, seeing 'Space Odyssey,' [or having]…a religious revelation.'"
  7. Volume 7: 1973-1975. "Hear [at the U.S. Open] the audience participation is genuinely enthusiastic, unmotivated by anything else but the Sport itself. Here people breathe with the ball."
  8. Volume 8: 1975-1977. "Many an average player just doesn't get it. The gulf between amateur and professional, the conceptual difference between them, is too new, too great."
  9. Volume 9: 1977-1979. "Thanks to the major table tennis manufacturers…enough funds have been raised to make the USTTA dream of having an executive director, staff, and permanent home come true."
  10. Volume 10: 1979-1981. "Just bringing these young hopefuls together to compete against one another here at the Olympic Training Center makes them want to excel even more."
  11. Volume 11: 1981-1982. "Everyone expects service from USATT, but the Sport won't make any progress in 20 years if we don't get good results from the National Team."
  12. Volume 12: 1983. "The USTTA must send their young promising player, with coaches, to international events. Let them see and play others so they know what to expect."
  13. Volume 13: 1984. "Young or old, novice or expert, the USATT/OTC camps can help you improve your game, physical fitness, and mental attitude."
  14. Volume 14: 1985-1986. "1985 saw Insook sharing some of her long-time tenacity with Diana; and Sean and Jimmy emerging as new history-making champions."
  15. Coming Soon: Volume 15: 1987-1988

European Team Championships

The event finished yesterday. Portugal upsets Germany in Men's Final, ending Germany's run of six men's titles in a row. But Germany won the Women's for the second year in a row, defeating Austria in the final. Here's the ITTF page for the event, with articles, video, pictures, and of course complete results. Here's the Men's Team article from TableTennista with video of the Men's final matches. Here's Women's Team article from TableTennista. Here's a video (2:54) showing the Top Ten Rallies of the Championships.

Asian Games

Here's the ITTF Page for the event, which takes place in Incheon, KOR, Sept. 27 - Oct. 10. There are already a number of articles on the event at TableTennista.

Article on Me I Didn't Know About

Here's a nice article about me from four years ago - but I don't think I even knew about it! I discovered it while browsing a few days ago. Wow, that Larry guy sure knows his stuff! It focuses more on my writing than on my coaching. A few updates - I'm now up to over 1500 published articles in over 140 different publications, and I recently sold my 71st science fiction or fantasy story. I also got another USATT/USOC Coach of the Year Award, the 2013 Doc Counsilman Science Coaching Award.

Effective Training

Here's the new coaching video (6:43) from Pingskills.

Backspin Serve - Like a Boss

Here's a video (9:35) that uses a number of creative ways to learn and practice the backspin serve.

Footwork Training in China

Here's a video (3:37) showing some kids doing footwork drills in China. Not much different than what's done at training centers in the U.S.

Nathan Hsu in China

Here's his latest video blog (2:33). It's short and no table tennis in this one, but you meet his grandparents and see a lot of Hong Kong. Links to previous ones are on right.

Muppet Show - Swedish Chef and Ping Pong Ball Eggs

Here's the video (2:57). The ping-pong balls first show up 49 sec in, though you don't really know this until the chef bounces it 55 sec in.

"Stop War" - Play More Table Tennis

Here's the picture - Go Pedro!

***
Send us your own coaching news!

September 25, 2014

Timeliness and Table Tennis

One of my proudest accomplishments in table tennis is that, in the 22 years since we opened MDTTC, with countless private and group sessions, I've been late to a session exactly two times. Yes, just twice. Once I had a coaching event out in Virginia, and got stuck in a two-hour traffic jam on the way back, which normally would have been about 40 minutes, and so missed a session with Sammy. The other time I got my times mixed up and missed a session with John & Kevin. Ironically, both times when I was late, I missed the entire session. Not once have I ever actually shown up during a session late. (Technically, I showed up for the session with John and Kevin about 15 minutes before it ended, thinking it started in 15 minutes.)

I remember when we first opened MDTTC back in 1992 one of our coaches had a session scheduled with someone from Baltimore, an hour away. The coach forgot about the session, and the person from Baltimore wasn't happy. I ended up subbing for the coach. Later I met with him, and gave him a serious lecture about timeliness and scheduling. The coach was relying on memory to keep his busy schedule, which is a no-no. (He'd forgotten about a session the day before as well, and was walking out the door when the student came in, and so he returned and did the session.) If you have more than a couple of sessions per week, write them down. Full-time or near full-time coaches should keep a schedule book, and go over it each day to make sure they don't miss anything.

Twice in these 22 years a coach has been fired or replaced at MDTTC because of consistent lateness. Other coaches have lost many hours of valuable coaching time because students were unhappy with their lack of timeliness - and the coaches who do this often never know. Timeliness is one of those really important things for a table tennis coach.

The most common causes for lateness is probably the mentality that if you have a session scheduled at, say, 6PM, they need to show up at 6PM, or perhaps five minutes before. That doesn't work, unless you live next door. If I have a 6PM session, plan to get there at least ten minutes early, just in case. It also allows you to prepare for the session, rather than walking into the club and rushing out there. I'm probably on the extreme side on this - I always plan on being there 15 minutes early, which is why I'm essentially never late.

Speaking of timeliness, this blog went up later than usual. Why? Partly because I had to take my car in for minor repairs this morning (and walk a mile back), but mostly because I got drawn into an online "debate" with a close-minded fool. (I searched a Thesaurus for a better word than "fool" but couldn't find one. Even seemingly intelligent people can be fools at some things.) When will I learn to avoid such people?

Deal Chicken Coupons

Recently our club (MDTTC) has been hit with what appears to be a scam. People are coming in with coupons to play at our club, which they paid $50 for. The problem is we had nothing to do with it. Here's the coupon at DealChicken.com - see link at upper right, where it says "Buy Now!" and you pay $50 for $100 worth of supposed MDTTC play. They have lots of other "deals" for other businesses (check their home page). Since we didn't authorize this, it seems sort of scam, and club officers are contacting them about it. But I Googled DealChicken, and according to the Better Business Bureau, while there have been 106 complaints against them, it said:

"BBB has determined that DealChicken.com meets BBB accreditation standards, which include a commitment to make a good faith effort to resolve any consumer complaints. BBB Accredited Businesses pay a fee for accreditation review/monitoring and for support of BBB services to the public. BBB accreditation does not mean that the business' products or services have been evaluated or endorsed by BBB, or that BBB has made a determination as to the business' product quality or competency in performing services."

But since we didn't authorize there MDTTC coupon, that means someone put this up without our knowledge or permission, and they are making money off it, and that makes it a scam, right?

Zhang Jike Backhand Basics

Here's a short video (7 sec) showing the world men's singles champion's backhand. It's pretty similar to Ma Long's backhand, which I blogged about on Sept. 18, though Zhang here is topspinning the ball more. One interesting note - see how he plays the backhand with the left leg slightly in front, which keeps him in position to quickly change to a forehand. Many players play this way. Here's an interesting discussion on world-class backhands at the Mytabletennis.com forum.

Nathan Hsu in China

Here's his latest video report: Table Tennis Highlights! - China Day 31 Hong Kong (4:52). He's on the right at the start, wearing the blue USA shirt. There's both playing action at the Nikon Hong Kong Junior & Cadet Open, and you get to see the sites of Hong Kong. Other USA players appearing in the video include Jack Wang, Tina Lin, Patrick Pei, Sam Rockwell, and MDTTC Coach Jeffrey Zeng Xun (who is traveling with Nathan). And speaking of backhands (see previous segment), check out some of Nathan's off-the-bounce backhand winners!

Hardbat Forehands and Navin

Here's a video (52 seconds) where I'm coaching Navin on his newly developed forehand. He's a hardbat player (also uses sandpaper), with Parkinson's and an artificial heart. (Here's the recent USATT News Item about him.) We've actually just finished the lesson, and he's practicing on the robot, so I came over, and you can hear me coaching him in the background. I also give some commentary in the comments.

2014 Butterfly Badger Open

Here's another article by Barbara Wei: 2014 Butterfly Badger Open: Gateway to Growing Midwest Table Tennis

European Team Championships

There's lots of coverage at the ITTF page and Tabletennista.

Table Tennis Movie Posters

***
Send us your own coaching news!

September 22, 2014

Tip of the Week

Power in Table Tennis.

USATT Hires New CEO

Here's the USATT announcement. Gordon Kaye is a USATT member rated 1469, who's played in 32 processed USATT tournaments since 2009, plus the Badger Open in Wisconsin this past weekend. (Highest rating: 1510.) Our paths even crossed once - he and I were both at the 2010 Eastern Open in New Jersey, him as a player, me as a coach. Here's his tournament record. He's a standard inverted shakehands player, who likes to attack but doesn't always have confidence in his loop, and so often blocks and counter-attacks. Here's an interview with him at the Badger Open by Barbara Wei, which includes an action picture. Here's another picture of him posing with Barbara.

I'm told he successfully transformed two failing organizations before coming to USATT. One was a minor league hockey team. Here are some online articles I found on him:

What does he need to do to be successful as USATT CEO? I'll write at length about this later. But the most important things are the following:

  1. Recognize the doers and the "empty suits" in our sport. I don't really like the phrase "empty suit," but it gets the idea across. Some "empty suits" are successful in some non-table tennis activities, but it doesn't always cross over. Doers are those who do table tennis things and get results, who understand how to develop the sport. Empty suits are far better at selling themselves than doers, who are better at selling the sport than themselves. Historically, guess which type has had the most influence in USATT policy?
  2. Understand how table tennis grew overseas, and how other sports grew in the U.S., and then come up with a model that'll work for USATT.
  3. Set specific goals to develop the sport, and create and implement plans to reach them.
  4. Think long-term.
  5. Break out of USATT sponsorship logjam. There are two main ways for USATT to find sponsors:
  • Find a rich table tennis person who will give us money. We've been trying that for 81 years. How has that worked?
  • Find a business person who believes he can make money by sponsoring USATT. To do this we need to convince him that USATT is growing, and that he should get in on the ground floor. If we were focusing on developing the sport (developing regional leagues, recruiting and training coaches, etc. - all the stuff I've been arguing for the last two decades or more) this would be a lot easier. In the late 1980s Bob Tretheway raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for USATT (more when adjusted for inflation) - with the selling point that table tennis had just become an Olympic sport in 1988, and so was about to take off in the U.S. (it didn't). How do we sell it now? I believe that the best way to convince a business person that USATT is growing is by USATT actually growing. Getting the process started doesn't take much funding. (I've blogged about this many times, and will elaborate on this tomorrow.)

One obvious problem is that Gordon will face what all USATT CEOs face - conflicting direction from the USATT Board of Directors. Some are forward thinkers; some are not. Should his primary focus be raising money? Developing the sport? I know that at least one board members believes the primary focus of the CEO should be as office manager!!!

Anyone who reads my blog knows I believe the focus for now should be to develop the sport. Rather than trying to sell faulty shoes, fix the shoes first, then sell them. USATT has even had Strategic Meetings about growing the sport (i.e. fixing the shoes), and I've attended several. Somehow the main focus of these meetings has been vague generalities with no follow-up, slogans, and lots of self-congratulatory back-slapping for such a productive meeting.

So how did Gordon do at the Badger Open? Here are the complete tournament results. He had a pretty good tournament, with wins against players rated 1741 (congrats!), 1490, 1221, 1138, and 962, and losses to players rated 2073, 2056, 1879, 1705 (went five!), 1689, 1652, 1603, and 1562. Since he went in rated 1469, my ratings calculations say he'll pick up 49 points, and so come out at 1518 - a new high for him. (See, we know what's important.)

Now that we've read about him, know his rating and playing style, and know how he did at the Badger Open, we have to judge him. And I prefer to judge a person by anagrams. (After all, "Hodges" is just an anagram for "He's God.") So what do we get from Gordon Kaye?

  • Okay Go Nerd
  • Gone Ya Dork
  • Rake Yon God

So he's either a nerdy dork or a God. Only time will tell. Let's support him, and maybe, just maybe, he'll be the one to break the long-time USATT lethargy.

Celluloid vs. Non-Celluloid - Who's Using What?

While for the time being most tournaments in the U.S. are still using celluloid, the two upcoming big ones are both using non-celluloid. The North American Teams just announced they will use the non-celluloid balls, presumably the JOOLA Super-P 40+ balls they were selling at the U.S. Open. And as noted in previous blogs, the USA Nationals will use Nittaku Premium 40+ balls. (They aren't on sale yet, but should be available in mid-October. Don't mistake this for the Nittaku Sha 40+ ball, which is on sale now but plays differently.) My guess is that most tournaments will switch to non-celluloid sometime in 2015.

$10,000 Butterfly Badger Open

Here are the results of the tournament, which was held this past weekend in Waukesha, Wisconsin, with 204 players. (Included among the players was Gordon Kaye, the newly hired USATT CEO.) Butterflyonline has video and a photo gallery. Here are three articles on the tournament by Barbara Wei. (She tells me she has three more coming.)

The Forgotten Skill - Blocking

Here's the coaching article by Samson Dubina.

How to Receive Serves from Opposite Handed Players

Here's the coaching video (2:32) by Pierre-Luc Hinse, North American table tennis champion and Canadian Olympian.

Ma Long Serving Technique Slow Motion

Here's the video (3:03).

Sandpaper Qualifiers for $100,000 World Championship of Ping Pong

Here's the news release.

Nothing is Impossible Video Reaches Two million Views

Here's the ITTF press release on the video (2:44) of armless Egyptian player Ibrahim Hamato.

Nathan Hsu in China

Here are two more videos from Nathan in China. (All eight are linked from the initial video, China Day 4.)

Zhou Xin Table Tennis Academy Physical Training

Here's the video (64 sec) by Bruce Liu.

George Brathwaite

The USATT Hall of Famer called me a few days ago to discuss USATT issues. He might be getting active in USATT again. Here's his web page.

Ping-Pong 4 Purpose

Here's another article on the charity event that was held Sept. 4 at Dodger Stadium, by Kim Gilbert.

Adam Bobrow Exhibition at Bloomingdales

Great Point

Here's the video (61 sec) - the point lasts about 40 seconds!

Katy Perry - This Is How We Do

Here's the music video (3:29), which includes three table tennis segments - seconds 19-24, second 33, and seconds 1:21-1:23. In the first segment she sings, "Playing ping-pong all night long."

Rickie Fowler, Tiger Woods, Ryder Cup, and Ping-Pong

Here's the CNN article. The eighth and final picture shows Tiger playing table tennis penhold style, with the caption, "But with Mickelson's erstwhile ping pong partner Tiger Woods missing the Ryder Cup with injury, could self-confessed table tennis fan Fowler partner up with "Lefty" in Scotland?"

Teasing a Dog, Ping-Pong Style

Here's the cartoon.

***
Send us your own coaching news!

August 20, 2014

Lily Zhang Wins Bronze at Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, China

In the battle for the bronze, USA's Lily defeated Japan's Kato Miyu in a close battle, -10,9,10,-9,9,8. Every game but the last was decided by two points. Lily seemed more calm and won most of the key points, while Kato seemed very nervous. Lily dominated the rallies throughout the match. Kato, looking tight, often was blocking on the forehand rather than counter-attacking, while Lily came at her from both wings with non-stop topspins. Kato had a slight edge on serve and receive, and often challenged Lily with deep serves that Lily had some trouble with. If not for Kato's serves, Lily probably would have won comfortably 4-0. In the first game, Kato led 10-8, but Lily won two nice rallying points before Kato won in deuce. And while Kato seemed the nervous one, it was Lily who led 2-1 in games and 9-4 in the fourth, and "calmly" lost seven in a row. But Lily's superior rallying made her win seem almost inevitable, even though the games were close. At 8-all in the sixth, Lily won the last three points with three great rallies.

Here are two screen shots taken right after Lily's win, with match coach Lily Yip in the background. Here's the ITTF article on the match. Here's Matt Hetherington's blog about the match. Here is the ITTF home page for the event, with articles, results, video, and pictures. (China swept the singles, with Fan Zhendong winning Junior Boys' Singles, and Liu Gaoyang Junior Girls' Singles.) Here's the USATT page for the event. Here's Lily Zhang's "selfie interview" (2:02) after winning in the quarterfinals. Here's her "selfie interview" (21 sec) after winning the bronze medal. Here's the entire match (1:11:58, with the match actually beginning at 8:18). Or you can watch just the last point (1:41) and the aftermath. Here she is with the medal.

Hong Kong Junior and Cadet Open Revisited

I blogged yesterday about the problem with the USATT rules for choosing which players could represent them in singles in international play. In it I wrote, "This is not about the two players who played, their club, or their coach; it's about very bad rules set up by USATT that led to a very unfair outcome." I just want to be clear about this. The coach, Lily Yip, actually helped Nathan get entered in the Hong Kong Open, which turned out to be a rather long and difficult task. Her help was appreciated. I'm also glad USATT will apparently change the rules.

Top Ten Craziest Things I've Done in Table Tennis

  1. In 1977, when I was 17, I saw a bunch of cheap sandpaper rackets on sale for $1 each. I bought ten, and brought them to a tournament. I broke them all ten of them, one by one, whenever I lost a match that day.
  2. After losing a match in 1977 I locked myself in a closet for an hour.
  3. In 1978, when I was 18, I played in 33 tournaments, including 12 consecutive weekends
  4. For lunch at a training camp when I was 19 I pulled out an entire loaf of Wonder Bread, made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches out of the whole thing, and ate it all in one sitting. (I was showing off.)
  5. After winning the 1980 North Carolina Open a bunch of players took me to dinner, and challenged me to see how much I could eat. (They were treating.) I ate two spaghetti dinners, a small pizza, an Italian submarine, three bread rolls, and washed it all down with three Cokes. (I was showing off.)
  6. On a dare from other table tennis players around 1980 I ate a quarter cup of hot sauce.
  7. At a training camp around 1980 I let U.S. Team Member Rick Seemiller jump off a chair onto my stomach twice. I also let others jump up and down on my stomach. (I used to do sit-ups regularly, and once set a school record with 87 bent-knee sit-ups in a minute.)
  8. A few years ago I gave detailed instructions from my notes to a player on how to beat a certain player. After he went out to play I realized I'd read him the notes from the wrong player! However, the player was so confident in knowing how to play this player that he executed the strategy flawlessly, and won easily. Afterwards he thanked me for the great tactics. (Who were the players? I'll go to my grave before I tell anyone.)
  9. At the U.S. Open Teams in Detroit in the early 1990s, in the match to decide whether our team would move up a division, we played a team made up of three 2350 players and an elderly 1950 player who was there as coach/backup player. For some reason one of the 2350 players didn't show, so at the last minute they put in the 1950 player. I beat both 2350 players, and celebrated by eating a hot dog, and generally relaxing. Then I had to play the "easy" 1950 player in the ninth match, who both of my teammates had beaten easily. I'd been standing around for something like an hour at the time, and hadn't bothered to reglue (this was back in those days). When I went out I was cold, stiff, unwarmed up, and my racket was dead from not regluing. You can guess what happened. It's still my worst loss since the early 1980s.
  10. I started a daily blog in 2011 that meant getting up early every morning, Mon-Fri, and write all sorts of stuff. What a silly thing to do!!!

Pictures from the $36,000 Butterfly LA Open

Here they are, care of Bruce Liu. (They were available yesterday, but I missed putting them in my blog.)

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. Eighty-nine down, 11 to go!

  • Day 12: Neil Harwood Reminds Us that We Are on the Big Stage with Other Sports

Ping Pong in the Park

Here's the article and video (3:02). "'Ping Pong in the Park,' a creative innovation by The Urban Conga in Tampa, is the latest winner of a small grant from Awesome Tampa Bay."

Kanak Jha's First Day at High School

Here's the picture, with sister Prachi Jha in her last year. How time flies!

Ice Bucket Challenge

Here are some prominent TT people doing the ice bucket challenge:

Nathan, who will rue this day for the rest of his life, challenged me - so I'll be doing it later today. Check back tomorrow for the video. 

***
Send us your own coaching news!

Syndicate content