Timmy La

August 13, 2012

Tip of the Week

Racket Tip Angle on the Backhand.

Table Tennis Records

11-year-old Sameer Shaikh, while on break in our camp on Friday, bounced a ball on his paddle 1210 times in a row. Is it a world record? Probably not, but I'll let someone else google it. But it does bring up the question of table tennis records. Unfortunately, I haven't kept track of who did what and when. For example, in our camps I know the record for completely knocking over a pyramid of 10 and 15 cups is 2 and 3 shots, respectively, but I don't remember who did it. These may sound silly, but they are actually great practice. I remember when Sameer couldn't bounce more than a few in a row; now he has good racket control. (When you start a little kid on table tennis, start him with ball bouncing, and see how many he can do. This is how he begins developing the hand-eye coordination to actually rally.) Hitting pyramids of cups may sound frivolous, but it challenges them to be accurate, besides being a fun way to end a three-hour session in a training camp. 

I have a few personal records which may or may not be "records": 2755 backhands in a row (at a Seemiller camp in 1978 when I was 18); 14 consecutive bounces up and down off the edge of my racket; 14 consecutive "come back" serves (i.e. high backspin serves that bounce directly back over the net after hitting the opponent's side of the table); and blowing the ball back 33 consecutive times in a rally. So what are your records?


My todo list is bizarrely long. Every five minutes I seem to get another email asking questions (often very involved ones), requesting letters of recommendation for green cards or college (I have two to write today), news interviews or questions, stuff about my blog, MDTTC and USATT stuff, not to mention all the correspondence regarding my outside science fiction writing career and complications with insurance after my car accident last week. Plus all the usual coaching in camps and private sessions. It's getting way out of hand. I was up late last night getting things done, and the result was I woke up with a headache this morning. That's why the blog and weekly tip went up late today.

2016 Paralympic Hopeful Timmy La

Here's an article and video (1:55) from Channel 9 News/WUSA, featuring 2016 Paralympic hopeful Timmy La, who trains at the Maryland Table Tennis Center. (I'm interviewed about him throughout the article and video.)

Table Tennis in The Daily Beast

Here are two "dueling" articles in The Daily Beast about the state of modern table tennis in the USA. Most of you know probably know of the flamboyant Marty Reisman, champion player and champion of hardbat (and sandpaper) table tennis. (Here's his U.S. Table Tennis Hall of Fame Profile.) Matt Simon is a former Junior Olympic star who came to a number of my table tennis camps back in the 1990s, when the Maryland Table Tennis Center was known as the National Table Tennis Center in Maryland (as it is referred to in the article).

Coming Soon: Spin LA

There's already a Spin NY, Spin Milwaukee, and Spin Toronto, all courtesy of actress and table tennis entrepreneur Susan Sarandon. Now comes Spin LA, which opens this fall. Here's an article about it in The Huffington Post.

Rhode Island Table Tennis

Here's an article and video (2:44) in "The Rhode Show" about Rhode Island table tennis, which features their club, top player Grant Li, and President Chuck Cavicchio.

Crazy Kids Playing Table Tennis

Here's a video (5:45) of some Japanese show featuring the apparent trash-talking hosts taking on two girls about 4 or 5 years old. The kids are pretty good! If you know Japanese, feel free to post what they are saying!


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August 09, 2012

Car Accident

It happened yesterday morning at 9:35 AM, while I was driving to the club to coach in our training camp. I was just driving along, minding my own business, and about to go through an intersection (Middlebrook Rd. and Century Blvd.) when a Metro Access mini-bus suddenly pulled right in front of me from the left. I swerved to the left, trying to go behind it, and would have made it except the driver, compounding her error in pulling into my lane, panicked and rather then rushing to get out of my way, put on the breaks, stopping right in the middle of the road and blocking two lanes. I had nowhere to go and so plowed right into it, near the back on the side.

I had the right of way, with a green light. The bus driver had been coming from the other direction and was making a u-turn. There was some construction going on in the road on her side, and she claimed a worker had waved her through.

No one was hurt (the bus had I believe three passengers), but the front of my car was smashed in. The bus had little damage, comparatively, other than a surprisingly small dent. (The advantage of having a higher mass.) Though it looked like something from The Living Dead, my car seemed to drive okay, and I was able to pull into an Exxon station next to us, where we exchanged contact and insurance info. Then I drove to a local auto body place. From there I spent about an hour on the phone with my insurance company (Geico), which will deal with getting the Metro insurance company to pay for the damages to my car.

Someone from the auto body place gave me a ride to the club, and I showed up at 11:20AM. (Camp started at 10AM. I'd called right after the crash to let the other coaches know I'd be late.) The rest of the camp went pretty much normal, other than Channel 9 News filming us (see below), and the camp ended at 1PM. I stayed late to do one private coaching session, and then went home to deal with the paperwork involving the car crash. Around 4PM I got a rental car (insurance will pay), and at 6PM I was back at the club coaching.

MDTTC Training Camp Week Nine Day Three

Yesterday's highlight was Channel 9 News/WUSA coming in to do a feature story on Timmy La, a local who is training for the 2016 Paralympics in Standing Disabled. They took lots of pictures, and Timmy and I were interviewed. Afterwards, the reporter got a kick out of watching (and videoing) one of the games at the end, where I put a giant rubber frog on a table, divided the beginners into two teams, and they took turns trying to hit it, with the first to hit it 20 times winning.

One of the kids I was working with made a big breakthrough on the forehand loop. After struggling with technique for quite some time - always rushing, off balance, flat contact, etc. - things suddenly came together. The key seemed to be a focus on "rocking" into the shot, which took out some of the more spastic elements of his stroke which led to the problems. We did a bunch of extra multiball on this to make sure it was ingrained. We'll work on it more tomorrow.

Olympic Coverage

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

China Falling Out of Love for Table Tennis?

Here's an article in The Atlantic on whether China is losing interest in their "National Sport."

Table Tennis in the Times

While it has a few inaccuracies (Ariel Tsing?) and hints that table tennis isn't much of a physical sport, here's an otherwise interesting article on table tennis from the Washington Times, "A sport for nerds maybe, but Ping-Pong makes Olympians of us all."

Journalists Take Up Olympic Sports

NBC15 assigned 15 of its reporters to take up an Olympic sport and do coverage of it. (Guess that's why they are NBC 15.) See the link to the table tennis video. 

Grubba-Saive Exhibition

Here's a hilarious and spectacular exhibition (7:36) by Andrzej Grubba and Jean-Michel Saive. You know it's going to be good when 18 seconds in Saive's sitting in a chair and lobbing.


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August 08, 2012

MDTTC Camps Week Seven Day Two

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

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

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

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

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

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

Channel 9 News

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

Olympic Coverage

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

2012 Olympic Table Tennis Pin

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

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

God or Galileo?

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


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