Jack Huang

January 22, 2013

A Six-Year-Old's Focus

Yesterday I had a one-hour session with a six-year-old I've been coaching regularly for a while. He always has a hard time keeping focused, not surprising at his age, especially for a one-hour session. Even though he's six, he looks more like four, and I think has more attention problems than normal for his age. I do a number of things to keep his attention, such as using various objects as targets (such as a large rubber frog and iguana he likes to hit), and mixing in game-type activities, such as knocking stacks of paper cups off the table). Getting him to listen and follow directions is like getting Democrats and Republicans to compromise. The fiscal cliff and debt ceiling negotiations have nothing on this kid.

A interesting thing happened yesterday. For the first ten minutes I was having the usual battle to keep his attention. Every minute or two he'd start singing or dancing or making up some weird story or who knows what. He kept grabbing a toy soldier that he claimed was a table tennis champion, and for some reason he kept putting scotch tape on the table, either because he wanted me to hit the tape or because he claimed it was holding the table together.

And then, suddenly, for perhaps the first time ever, he was totally focused. For twenty minutes he was nearly silent, in complete concentration. During that period he played by far the best he's ever played. He was smacking in forehands and backhands with ease and good form (I'm feeding multiball), and hitting the targets I put on the table.

Then the twenty minutes were up, and he was back to being a six-year-old. But at least now I know he can do it. We'll have to keep working on it.

Jack Huang Photos and Nostalgia

Coach Jack Huang (one of my fellow MDTTC coaches and a former member of the Chinese National Team) asked if I could find a series of old pictures of him during his playing days, as well as pictures of his top students and pictures of him coaching. It's for some sort of feature they are doing on him in China. So yesterday I spent about three hours pouring over old magazines and files searching them down. I tried to stay focused, but like the six-year-old in the segment above, seeing all the old articles and pictures was a bit distracting and I kept veering off to read or look at pictures. I managed to put together a good selection for Jack, which I emailed to him. (For some, I scanned directly from the magazine; for others, I found the original, and if it was a hard copy, I'd scan that.)

One photo he was hoping for was a picture of him and Cheng Yinghua winning Men's Doubles at the 1997 USA Nationals. If anyone can find a picture of that, please send it to me.

ITTF News Page

Interested in international news? Then you should be checking the ITTF News Page regularly.

Table Tennis Master Articles

Table Tennis Master has been running a contest for the best table tennis articles. (Deadline is Jan. 24.) Here's a link to the articles submitted so far. 

Reverse Pendulum Serve with Backspin

Here's a video from PingSkills (1:06) demonstrating the reverse pendulum serve with backspin. I'm a strong advocate of players learning both the regular and reverse versions of the pendulum serve as it allows you to use sidespin either way. But many players who learn the reverse version only do so with sidespin or topspin, which hurts them when the opponent realizes this. I like to do it mostly with sidespin-topspin, and then pull out the backspin version near the end of a game, where opponents either miss or give me a weak push almost always toward my forehand side.

Viktor Barna Tutorial

Here's a vintage video (1:42) that just went up, showing and explaining Viktor Barna and his stroking and footwork techniques. Barna was five-time World Men's Singles Champion back in the 1930s, using a hardbat like nearly everyone else back then.

Do the Ping Pong

Here's a new table tennis music video (3:53), with an original song. Not sure if it's going to be a Top Ten hit or Internet sensation, but it's ping-pong, and says "It's the greatest thing!"

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July 26, 2012

Last Blog for a Week

I leave early tomorrow morning to coach at the Southern Open (Sat & Sun) and the Junior Olympics (Mon-Wed), both in Houston. As I've learned in the past, blogging while coaching and keeping track of numerous hordes of table tennis juniors is not an easy mix, so no more blogs until I return. (Next blog will be Friday, Aug. 3.)

Long Night

After coaching much of yesterday, I went to work on finalizing both the "MDTTC Junior Medals Listing, 1992-2012" file and the Coach Jack Huang for the U.S. Hall of Fame Application. I finished both a little after 5AM. It's now 5:20 AM as I write this, and in a few hours I'm off to the MDTTC camp to coach. And then I have to do laundry, go to the bank, get a haircut, pack, finalize and send off the application, and then watch videos to prepare for matches I'll be coaching in Houston the next five days. (See above item.) Yes, I study videos of prospective opponents and take extensive notes. Why don't you?

Yesterday was a wild day. Both the Washington Post and Baltimore Sun came in. The Post sent a writer, a photographer, and a videographer - besides a regular article with pictures they are doing a video feature on the club, which I believe will feature Derek Nie, Wang Qing Liang, Nathan Hsu, Amy Lu, and Timmy La. The Sun is featuring Derek Nie. I spoke with them about Derek for about half an hour. Derek, you're my buddy, but I'm getting sick and tired of talking about you!

The videographer filmed me as I fed multiball to beginning kids as they tried to 1) knock down pyramids made of paper cups; 2) smack a large rubber frog I placed on the table in a team competition; and 3) hit my "Gatorade bottle," which I'd convinced them was actually full of squeezed worm juice - I had to drink it whenever they hit it. He also videoed us using the robot. (But he spent most of his time videoing our top juniors in action, especially doing multiball.) I'll post a link to the video and the articles when the are up. (The Sun article is supposed to be in this Sunday's paper.)

Today will be even more fun - I'm bringing loads of candy, and at the end of the morning's sessions I'll put it all on the table, near the end, and the kids take turns trying to hit it. Whatever they knock off they get. Meanwhile, I have to figure out a way to stay awake. It's now past 5:30 AM, and I still haven't gone to bed. Yikes. (But I'd rather get the blog done before I go to bed for a few hours.)

Olympic Draws

They are posted on the ITTF home page. Table tennis starts Saturday. 

Chinese Domination in Table Tennis

PingSkills brings you this video (7:12) where they are mostly goofing off in London before the Olympics. They play ping-pong with a Panda. About three minutes in they start to talk about why China is so good.

Ben Stiller Talks Ping Pong with Jimmy Kimmel

Brought to you by Table Tennis Nation! Includes links to two videos (4:15 and 3:10).

Nathan's Guide to Table Tennis

This long awaited Guide is finally out! Brought to you by Maryland junior star Nathan Hsu, and assisted by visiting New Jersey junior star Allen Wang (12:33). And here's a hilarious 60-second video by Nathan that shows that if you don't play ping-pong, you might get bitten by a rabid rabbit.

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July 11, 2012

Coach Jack Huang, the U.S. Table Tennis Hall of Fame, and the Junior Olympics

I spent last night going through old USA Table Tennis Magazines and online results, from 1992 to present, going over junior results from Junior Olympics, Junior Nationals, the U.S. Open, and USA Nationals. The reason? I'm putting together an application for fellow MDTTC Coach Jack Huang as a member of the Hall of Fame. So far I've identified 124 MDTTC juniors who medalled at the Junior Olympics or Junior Nationals, with over half of them winning gold medals. Next step is to figure out how many of them were Jack's students. Then I'll put this together with the rest of his coaching resume, and send it in to the U.S. Table Tennis Hall of Fame Committee.

If Jack were inducted, it would be as a "Contributor," for his coaching. (The guy averages about sixty hours coaching per week - no exaggeration! - and has kept this up for over twenty years, producing a steady progression of top juniors.) I was also inducted as a Contributor, for my coaching and writing, while our other longtime MDTTC coach, Cheng Yinghua, went in as a player, though he likely could make it as a coach as well. Of course, if Jack were playing in the U.S. during his prime (he was on the Chinese National Team from 1976-83), he'd have dominated table tennis in the U.S., and would have gone in as a player long ago.

I haven't done a final count, but I believe MDTTC juniors have won over 300 gold medals in its twenty years. From around 1992 to about 2005 MDTTC won over half the gold medals. For various reasons we haven't been sending full teams since then. (For one thing, many of our top juniors spend their summers training in China.) For about twelve years we'd always show up with a team of about thirty kids, always the largest contingent, and compete in every age group in singles, doubles, and teams. However, like little league baseball, most give up the sport once they enter college. A few stay around as players, like Han Xiao (who's also a player rep on the USATT Board), or as organizers, such as many of the North American Table Tennis and JOOLA USA crew (Richard Lee, Katherine Wu, Michael Squires).

I've coached at about fifteen Junior Olympics. It's been a few years since I last went, but there's a good chance I'll be going this year. I'll know in a few days. It's in Houston this year. Cheng and Jack didn't go to all of the past Junior Olympics, while I went to all of them in the 1990s, and coached about 250 of our gold medallists in their medal matches.

CCTV at MDTTC

This morning CCTV America, a Chinese TV Network, is coming to MDTTC to do a feature. They'll be here around 11AM, as well all our top junior players, hopefully in their MDTTC uniforms. I'll post here when their broadcast goes up.

Michael Mezyan Table Tennis Artworks

Michael now has about a zillion of his table tennis masterpieces - why not check them out? They've been featured in Matt Hetherington's blog and on the ITTF Facebook page.

Two-Time USA Olympian Khoa Nguyen

Here's a story (with pictures) where Khoa reflects on his Olympic experiences.

U.S. Open Recap

Here's a recap (1:37) of the recent U.S. Open. Plus you get to see Ronald McDonald play Captain America!

Old Spice and Timothy Wang

Old Spice is teaming up with USA Table Tennis Olympian Timothy Wang! It's all part of their new campaign: "Believe in Your Smellf." (That's not a typo.) "For world-class athletes like Timothy Wang or ordinary guys, believing in your scent can truly be a powerful personal motivator," said Josh Talge, brand manager for Old Spice North America. "Old Spice Champion captures the essence of manhood, confidence and a sense of achievement, and celebrates the true champion in every man. It's designed to give guys the self-assurance that they can do anything if they put their Smellf into it." Check out the article to read Timothy's quote.

Wavy Table Tennis

The new wavy ping-pong table, which will become the standard for table tennis throughout the world in January, 2013. Start practicing!!!

Non-Table Tennis - The Wonderful Wizard of Os

My fiction story "The Wonderful Wizard of Os" was featured yesterday on Orioles Hangout, the web page devoted to Orioles baseball. It's the story of five Oriole players (i.e. Dorothy, Toto, Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion) traveling to see the Great and Wonderful Os to solve their baseball problems (They want a bat, a glove, an arm, and one just wants to go home, i.e. score runs). There are a number of inside Oriole jokes, so you might not get it all. Also a takeoff on "Damn Yankees."

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