Froggy

August 1, 2013

MDTTC Camp

Yesterday's focus was on forehand looping. We didn't have most of the beginners do this, though a couple of them badly wanted to and so I taught them the shot. Normally you give players at least a few weeks at least of regular forehand and backhand drives before introducing them to looping. The six-year-old I blogged about yesterday who had a pretty good backhand loop (at least in multiball) had an even better forehand loop! Very smooth and rather consistent. However, he's not ready to do this effectively in a game yet - he still loses head-to-head to other beginners who don't have his techniques, but are a couple years older and are more consistent.

One of the important points that came up several times yesterday is the importance of rotating mostly in a circle when forehand looping. Imagine a rod going through your head; you should rotate around it. The left side (for righties) should pull back and around as much as the right side goes forward. This doesn't mean you never move your head and upper body (i.e. follow through sideways), but that's usually done to create power when rushed, especially when stepping around the backhand corner. By rotating mostly in a circle you stay balanced and immediately ready for the next shot - which is how top players can pull off a series of powerful loops in quick succession, while intermediate players often struggle to do two in a row.

The younger kids in this week's camp absolutely have gone bonkers over Froggy. All they want to do is put it on the table so they can try hitting it while I feed multiball. I'm starting half the sessions by saying various versions of, "If you work hard for the first hour, I'll bring out Froggy and you can take turns hurting the poor amphibian." It's good target practice, as long as they use good form when hitting.

Over break I was challenged by a 2139 player to a clipboard match. We played best of three to 11. I won the first, 11-9. He won the second, 11-8. He was leading 6-4 in the third when we ran out of time and had to go off break. We plan to finish the match at break today. We're having great points - wish this were on video. (There are a couple videos of me playing clipboard matches on youtube, but neither are among my better-played matches.) Earlier that morning, before we started, another junior (about 1100) also challenged me to a match, so I played him with my cell phone, and won, 11-9.  He wants to play me again today - rematch!

(Note - I have to run over to the club an hour and a half earlier this morning for something, so this blog is shorter than normal - not as much time to scan the Internet for interesting articles and videos.)

The Art of Decisiveness

Here's the article from Table Tennis Master.

International Articles

Here's my periodic reminder that there are lots and lots of international articles at the ITTF and TableTennista sites!

Junior Olympic Results

I've been unable to find any online results from the Junior Olympic Games, which were held the last three days in Detroit, finishing yesterday. One of the parents there put together this listing of medalists from my club (MDTTC). I have a listing now of the results and if I can't find an online listing soon I'll probably format and post that. (They normally put the results online.) So . . . Congratulations to the following MDTTC'ers at the 2013 Junior Olympics!

GOLD
Girls U10 Singles - Lisa Lin
Girls U10 Doubles - Lisa Lin & Jessica Lin
Girls U10 Team - Lisa Lin, Jessica Lin & Helen Yao
Boys U12 Singles - Adam Yao
Girls U16 Doubles - Kaylee Zou & Shirley Hu
Boys U18 Doubles - Chen Bowen & Nathan Hsu
Division I - Sameer Shaikh
Division J - Jessica Lin
SILVER 
Girls U10 Singles - Jessica Lin
Boys U16 Singles - Chen Bowen
Girls U18 Singles - Lilly Lin
Boys U18 Team - Leon Bi, Chen Bowen, Nathan Hsu
Division H - Lisa Lin
BRONZE 
Girls U12 Singles - Helen Yao
Girls U14 Singles - Amy Lu
Girls U18 Doubles - Lilly Lin & Amy Lu
Girls U18 Team - Amy Lu, Kaylee Zou & Lilly Lin
Boys U16 Team - Jason Wei & Adam Yao

Table Tennis Balls - Never Leave Home Without 'Em!

Like this. (No, it's not my car!)

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July 31, 2013

MDTTC Camp

Yesterday's focus was on the backhand, as it always is on Tuesdays during our camps. (Mon=FH, Tue=BH, Wed=FH Loop, Thu=BH Attack, Fri=Pushing and Player's Choice.) One local six-year-old kid badly wanted to demonstrate his backhand loop, and though I was skeptical at first, I let him - and it turned out to be very nice and fluid. So I let him do a bunch of that, along with other hitting drills. Not too many six-year-olds are already backhand looping! (If a kid wants to do something that you aren't sure he's ready for, it's better to teach it to him so he learns it properly than have him learn on his own, as he undoubtedly would.)

The kids I'm working with are improving rapidly. There are five beginners in the 6-8 age group that I'm mostly in charge of. None had even a semblance of forehand or backhand strokes when we started on Monday, but after two days all have the basic shots in multiball, and three of them can now rally live with me forehand to forehand and backhand to backhand. Two of them still struggle to serve, so we're going to focus on that a bit today. We did some service practice yesterday, and I even brought out the serving bar so they could practice serving low. (This is an adjustable bar that goes over the net. Here's a picture of it set high, and here's a picture of it set low.  John Olsen made this for the club and for a few others. It has about ten height settings.)  

Today I'm going to bring out the colored balls and teach pushing to the beginners. The soccer-colored balls (I have a bag of about 20 of them now) make it easier to see the backspin on the ball. (While the focus on pushing is on Friday, we start earlier for the beginners.) To start them off, I'll do a demo, then I'll have them push as I feed the ball multiball style. When they're ready, we'll push live, using the colored balls at first so they have instant feedback on whether they are getting backspin or not. I also use these balls so they can see if they are getting spin on their serves.

While I was working with the beginners, several of the advanced players focused today on relooping against an opponent's opening loop against backspin. I've always wondered why so many players practice straight counterlooping by serving topspin when the first loop they often have to counterloop comes at them against a backspin, and so has more topspin, has a different trajectory, and comes at you somewhat quicker (because of the extra spin and because it's done closer to the table).

Poor Froggy took a beating yesterday. We divided the players into two groups, one lined up on the forehand side, one on the backhand side, and they'd take turns trying to smack him as I fed multiball, with the first team to hit it ten times winning.

Busy

Here's my current schedule and todo list. Something has to give - I'm not kidding. Though things will slow down by mid-September.

  1. Daily Blog and Weekly Tip of the Week
  2. Coaching at MDTTC Camps, four more weeks, 10AM-6PM
  3. Private and group coaching (nights and weekends).
  4. MDTTC August Newsletter.
  5. Promotions and possible translations of Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers.
  6. ITTF Level 2 Coaching Course Sept. 2-7 in New Jersey (attending) - lots of study and preparation needed. 
  7. ITTF Level 1 Coaching Course Oct. 2-6 in Indiana (teaching).
  8. Small claims court against previous tenant in my townhouse. The guy left without paying rent, without cleaning the place, with lots of damaged items behind, and without a forwarding address. (I spent $2700 in cleanup and damages.) I've got piles of mail for him - much of it from lawyers and courts for various infractions. I'm not the only one going after this guy. One of the worst people I've ever met.
  9. A new family has moved in downstairs, and there are all sorts of complications as they get situated.
  10. Promotion, editorial, and cover work, new web page, numerous others things for my novel coming out Nov. 15 - "The Giant Face in the Sky."
  11. Sequel to the novel.
  12. Note to US Airways over flight this weekend - my flights were kept getting postponed or cancelled, and instead of arriving home at around 10PM Saturday I didn't get home until about 3PM Sunday. Free travel voucher?
  13. The planned Maryland Junior League (probably on hold for now).
  14. Dozens and dozens of emails each day, each needing a personalized response.

Former USATT President Mel Eisner Died

Here's the USATT article.

Dimitrij Ovtcharov vs. Wang Hao

Here's a video of their recent match in the Chinese Super League (6:54, with time between points removed).

NBA Star Chris Paul Playing Table Tennis

Here's a picture from a TopSpin Charity event held at The Palazzo in Las Vegas.

Jan-Ove Waldner Rolls Ball Around the Net

Here's the video (42 seconds) - it appears to be in an exhibition. Unlike most cases where a player does it while desperately reaching for a ball that drops off the side of the table, Waldner does it against an easier ball that he could have smashed, and instead intentionally lets the ball drop so he can do this shot.

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July 17, 2013

MDTTC Camp

Yesterday's focus was on the backhand. I gave a talk on it, explaining both the technique and the variations, such as how dropping the tip gives more power (sort of a second forehand) but you lose quickness and have more trouble in the middle, while holding the tip higher does the reverse - though you can still hit it pretty hard. I also explained how the backhand has evolved, from the flatter backhands of the past to the more topspinny ones of the modern day. I also talked about the revolutionary change in penhold play, from conventional backhands to reverse penhold backhands.

For some reason many coaches do not have their students do backhand footwork. I too am sometimes guilty of getting lazy on that, focusing on forehand footwork. Often players only do backhand footwork in conjunction with forehands, such as alternating forehand and backhand shots (either alternating from the corners or alternating both shots from the backhand corner). How about backhand-backhand footwork, where the coach puts a ball to the wide backhand, and then a ball to the middle backhand (or even more to the middle), and the player moves side to side hitting backhands? This type of footwork is even more important for players who use good topspin their backhands, whether looping or just having a topspinny backhand, since these players have longer strokes, and so positioning is even more important to get it right. (Players with more of a blocking stroke should also move for each ball, but can often get away with more reaching.)

Later I completed my serving lecture, going over deception and fast serves. Then we had service practice. As usual, we finished with games. Many Brazilian teams were victorious, many cups were knocked off tables, and poor Froggy also got smacked around a bit.

I had a little fun demonstrating long-distance serves, where I'd serve on a table from 50 feet away, usually from the side, using sidespin to curve the ball onto both sides of the table.

Speaking of serves, several of our top juniors are fiddling around with some seriously funky trick serves. One used one at the recent U.S. Open over and over, and kept winning points with it, often about twice a game. I'll never understand why players don't develop their serves more. It's not a matter of trying to rely on trick serves; it's a matter of not throwing away points by an inability to throw variations at an opponent, including a few trick serves for free points. If you don't, you are giving away points and playing level. (Trick serves are generally serves that will win a few free points, but once an opponent gets used to them, they are ineffective. Players should mostly rely on serves that set up their game - usually their attack - while mixing in a few trick serves now and then. There's an overlap between the two types of serves.)  

New Non-Celluloid Ball

Here's a discussion of the new non-celluloid ball proposed for 2014. They say it's confirmed. Anyone want to do some investigative work on this?

I'm Going to Haunt You

Here's a video (5:39) of table tennis to the music of Sharleen Spieri's "I'm going to haunt you," which sounds like country music to me. (Someone correct me if I'm wrong.)

New Balance Shoe Commercial

Here's a commercial from New Balance (16 sec) that features table tennis as they advertise that they employ 1300 U.S. workers while their competitors employ zero. I have no idea how the table tennis is relevant to the commercial. But it's table tennis!!!

Non-Table Tennis - Novel Sale

Yesterday I blogged about selling my novel, "The Giant Face in the Sky." The novel is about 90,000 words and 451 pages double spaced. It's a humorous fantasy retelling of the U.S.-Soviet race to the moon in the '60s, but with sorcerers instead of astronauts - sort of Hitchhiker's Guide meets the Space Race. Here's the three-paragraph description in my cover letter when I submitted it. (Not mentioned here - at the start, all Neil wants to do is play ping-pong. He has to drop this "childish" desire to save the world.) 

It is 1969, at the height of tensions between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. The powerful sorcerer John F. Kennedy has just won his third term as president of the United States. Neil (alias Neil Armstrong, though his last name is never mentioned) is 13 years old, and badly wants to be someone, do something. It's his mantra. Instead, he's stuck as a sorcerer's apprentice for Gus, the "meanest sorcerer in the world," and who (along with just about everyone else) constantly berates and humiliates Neil. Gus creates a magical talisman to spy on the Soviets, but instead it spies on them and sends the text into space. A Giant Face in the Sky shows up, reading the text. It fixates on Neil, reacting wordlessly to whatever he and those around him say or do.

Realizing that anyone who gets to the Face can lob down spells and have the world at their mercy, the Race to the Face begins. The Soviets, led by General Death, invade the U.S. over and over in an attempt to kill Neil, who is prophesied to defeat them. When a meteor assassin named Buzz fails to kill Neil, the talking, floating meteor becomes Neil's protector and companion--with the rather unfortunate problem that in exactly one week, Buzz must kill Neil.

Kennedy, with advice from the ghost of Abraham Lincoln, and with trusty sidekick Dogface (alias Lee Harvey Oswald), puts together a motley crew to go to the Face: Neil, Gus, Buzz, and the sorcerers Jackie Kennedy (weapons expert), Conrad (a hippy dragon whose hobby is swallowing celebrities), Wernhera (a sorcerer living in Conrad's stomach), Apollo (the Greek God and son of famed children's author Dr. Zeus), and Jim (a 2-D sorcerer from another universe). Can they make it to the Face before General Death, and before Buzz kills Neil?

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July 20, 2012

MDTTC Camp, Week Five, Day Four

Yesterday's focus was the backhand loop. I again used Nathan Hsu as my demo partner, since he has an excellent backhand loop, far better than mine. (His backhand loop is now his greatest strength - few can stand up to it when he unleashes it.) I demonstrated a few where I'd serve backspin, he'd push, I'd backhand loop, he'd block, I'd chop, he'd push, and then I'd backhand loop again, and we'd continue in this way. Then I had him demo it, both against backspin (multiball fashion) and my block.

I also explained a bit on how the game has changed. When I was coming up, the general belief was "one gun is as good as two," and the dominant styles were very forehand oriented. And so I never really developed my backhand attack, and instead focused on forehand attack and a steady backhand. These days, however, most top players attack all-out from both sides.

During one multiball session one of the larger players in the camp smacked a ball that hit me smack on the forehead - and it actually dazed me for a moment! I don't think that's ever happened before. I'm glad I wear glasses to play table tennis; I think I'd be nervous otherwise about getting hit in the eye.

On Tuesday the younger kids had a blast with the adjustable height device, shown here in a high setting. They had fun with it again yesterday, but now the advanced players discovered it. Two were practicing their serves during break on the lowest setting.

Yesterday I blogged about Froggy, a large rubber frog about the size of a soccer ball that the kids took turns in team trying to hit. Here's Froggy! Here he is from a little further way, from the kids' point of view. After smacking the poor amphibian around for a bit, we ended the day with "Mountain Master," which is our version of "King of the Hill," where you have to win two points in a row from the "Master" to become the new Master. Since about half the players were girls, they rebelled at the name "King" of the Hill!

Washington Post at MDTTC

The Washington Post will be at MDTTC this morning at around 11AM to do a special. They will feature Derek Nie (U.S. Open 11 & Under Boys' Singles Champion, already rated 2170) and other players.

How can you get news coverage such as the Washington Post and CCTV (see below)? To start with, it is essential that you have a Ph.D in media relations, with many years of practical experience with a large media firm, and you must be trained in the intricacies of exactly how to write a press release in the exact format required or the press will laugh you off. You must also, of course, have the very best players in the country to have any chance of attracting any interest.

Yes, I'm kidding. To get press coverage, whenever you run a tournament or league or some other event, or a player at your club has good results, write a basic press release. (Just state what the event or results were, giving names, ages, and where they are from, etc.) Go online and Google local news media, primarily newspapers and TV, perhaps radio. Once you have the contact info, email the press release to them. Wait a few days, and resend or even call. Believe me, local media is always looking for local human interest stories, and it's not that hard to sell them on table tennis. Just make sure you have something that will interest readers and viewers. TV especially is always looking to feature people with charisma.

CCTV America Features MDTTC

Maryland Table Tennis Center was featured on CCTV American Wednesday night (3:05). While lots of players are shown training, those featured include Coach Cheng Yinghua and players John Hsu, Timmy La, Lisa Lin, and Derek Nie. (They interviewed lots of players and coaches, including me, but alas mine didn't make the cut this time, though you can see me in the background several times.) The video is also featured on the USATT home page this morning. (CCTV American is a Chinese station that broadcasts in the U.S. in English.) And, as noted above, the Washington Post is coming in this morning to do a feature!

There was actually a sort of behind-the-scenes spat about this. After seeing the video, a member of the USATT board emailed the rest of the board and staff, criticizing the video and Chinese immigrants for calling the sport "ping-pong." The letter was seen by members of our club, who were pretty unhappy about it. I responded with a lengthy email that basically said "Who cares as long as they are covering the sport, and covering it well," and pointed out all the more important things we should focus on in developing our sport rather than worrying about whether they call it table tennis or ping-pong. (I especially pointed out that it is these very Chinese immigrants who call it "ping-pong" that have developed the large majority of our top players and especially the current horde of top juniors and cadets.) The board member apologized and the matter was dropped.

ITTF Coaching Seminar in Champaign, IL

Here's an article from the ITTF on the ITTF Coaching Seminar that USATT Coaching Chair Richard McAfee is running in Champaign, IL.

Justin Bieber Playing Table Tennis in Japan

Table Tennis Nation talks about and links to the video (14:47, with the table tennis starting at around 11:00). Bieber is actually decent - check out the topspin backhands he does at 12:27 and 13:47, and especially the behind the back serve he does at 13:54!!!

Lessons with Larry (Bavly)

Math professor Larry Bavly is at it again. A few months ago I linked to his video "Lesson One: The Ratings Game" (4:26), where he facetiously teaches the important things about table tennis to a little girl. Now he has come out with "Lesson Two: Mental Toughness" (2:32). I'm about 90% sure the girl is in on the joke. Okay, maybe only 70% sure.

Things You Won't See at the Olympics

PingSkills, which usually does serious training videos that teach serious skills, took a journey to the silly side in this "Will See Won't See Olympic Table Tennis - Invade London" video (4:12), where they play with a shoe, a big paddle, a little paddle, two balls at once, and use the hidden ball serve trick.

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July 19, 2012

MDTTC Camp, Week Five, Day Three

Yesterday's focus was on the forehand loop. I gave my usual lecture and demo on the subject, with Nathan Hsu as my demo partner. To demonstrate the loop against backspin I alternately forehand looped and forehand chopped while Nathan blocked and pushed.

There were two new players in my multiball group who had just started out on Monday, so this was only their third day of playing. When the first one's turn came for multiball, a 9-year-old boy, right up until the last second I was thinking we should just focus on the basic forehand and backhand drives. Then, for some reason, I changed my mind and asked if he'd like to try looping. He said "Yes!" About two minutes later he'd picked it up and was doing it pretty consistently, still more of a roll, but with pretty good topspin! I was rather surprised.

So I did the same with the next beginner, a 12-year-old girl. Same result! (Many other beginners are not able to pick looping up this quickly.) As I told the two of them, either they are very talented or I'm a really good coach! (We jokingly argued over which it was all morning, with me taking the "very good coach" side.)

Looping and I have a long-term love-hate relationship. I was a late starter to table tennis, starting when I was 16, and right from the start I was a natural hitter. I found looping much more difficult, probably due to tight muscles (even then). However, I was determined to be a looper (just as many natural loopers were determined to be hitters before that style sort of died out at the higher levels), and practiced constantly. Eventually I developed a pretty efficient, if somewhat stiff forehand loop. When I play matches I loop and smash equally, but my hitting is definitely more natural - but I still focus on looping, because, gosh darn it, I wanna be a looper!!!

In the afternoon I introduced the Adjustable Height Device. I blogged about this back on July 20, 2011, when I first used it in camps last summer. It was created by a player I coach, John Olsen, and the kids love it. Here it is in its high and low settings. The challenge is to serve under the bar. The key is to ignore the bar and simply serve low. We also use it sometimes in regular rallies to see if the players can rally under the bar, which in rallies would be set a bit higher than for serves.

I also introduced Froggy (no pictures available, sorry), a large rubber frog, about the size of a soccer ball (but wider, not as tall). I put it on the table, divide players into two teams, and they take turns trying to hit it, two shots each. First team to hit it 20 times wins. I'll try to get a picture today.

Slurpee fever has stuck the camp. During lunch break each day I'm now taking two car trips to the local 7-11 where the kids load up on slurpees. (The kids were shocked to learn that both 7-11 and slurpees were around when I was their age 40 years ago, when I too used to get 7-11 slurpees, back when 7-11 opened at 7AM and closed at 11PM - hence the name. I just looked it up - 7-11 slurpees came out in 1967, when I was seven.) It's not like I'm not compensated for the taxi service; Allen Wang treats me to a Planters Peanut Bar each time. They are my favorite candy bar; if you want to be my friend, you will bring them to me.

Washington Post to MDTTC

The Washington Post will be at the Maryland Table Tennis Center on Friday at 11AM for a story on Derek Nie (U.S. Open 11 & Under Boys' Champion) and other MDTTC players. Locals, feel free to come in! Ironically, the player Derek defeated in the final, Gal Alguetti of New Jersey, is here this week for our training camp.

Wang Hao and a Short History of the Penhold Grip

Here's an interesting story on the ITTF web page about the modernization of the penhold grip, which at one point was dying out at the higher levels until the development of the reverse penhold backhand brought it back.

Kalinikos Kreanga vs. Michael Maze

Here are some great points from a video (2:53) of a match between these two from five years ago. Still great play - and notice how tactically they keep attacking the other's middle both to score points and to open up the wide angles?

The Way Table Tennis Should Be Played

Olympian Trick Shots

Lily Zhang and Erica Wu demonstrate their trick shots (1:19) - hilarious!

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