MDTTC camp

August 15, 2014

MDTTC Camp

Yesterday was Day Four of Week Nine of our Ten Weeks of Camp at MDTTC. Much of the focus was on basics as we re-enforced the techniques learned the first three days. It's amazing how fast some have improved since Monday. I also introduced my group to fast serves, as well as to the serving bar, the adjustable bar created by John Olsen that moves up or down over the net so players can learn to serve low. 

The kids were a bit unruly today, perhaps because we were nearing the end of the week. (Or perhaps it took this long for the full moon from last Sunday to take effect?) I went a bit hoarse trying to get their attention a few times. A few times I had to bang my flat hand on a table to get their attention. I'm tempted to bring in a whistle for tomorrow. 

One kid had a hitch in his forehand - every time he does it he brings the racket tip up just before contact, and mostly just jabs at the ball. Yesterday I solved the problem by simply feeding him multiball farther away from him, forcing him to extend his arm. At first he tried to move to the ball too much so he could use his standard poor technique, but I got him to keep his feet in place. So he was forced to extend his arm properly and stroke the ball properly, and pretty soon he was hitting the ball properly! With practice, he will soon have a pretty good forehand. 

There's another kid who tries very hard, but simply doesn't seem to have the ability to learn new things. I wanted to write more about this, but if I did, and if by some chance he happens to read this, he might recognize it. Suffice to say that the talent levels are a bit diverse. 

ITTF Hall of Fame

I just saw the minimum criteria for making the ITTF Hall of Fame - "To qualify for the ITTF Hall of Fame, an athlete must have won a minimum of five gold medals in Table Tennis World Championships, Olympic Games, and Paralympic Games." What a silly criteria! Suppose a player wins Men's or Women's Singles four different times, but never wins Teams or Double because he comes from a country that's not strong in table tennis (but still chooses to play doubles with players from his country rather than team up with someone else). Or a player who is, say, #6 on the Chinese Team, and wins five World Team Championships without ever actually playing in the Team matches? It also handicaps players from before table tennis became an Olympic Sport in 1988. The result? The list is dominated by players from China and Japan, many of whom won their "five gold medals" primarily in doubles and teams. (I'd start listing them but I have to coach this morning and don't have time to start listing them.) Meanwhile, obvious stars who should be inducted are left out, such as:

  • Stellan Bengtsson (1971 World Men's Singles Champion, 1973 World Men's Doubles Champion, undefeated in leading Sweden to World Team Championship in 1973, and world #1 for a long period).
  • Istvan Jonyer (1975 World Men's Singles and Doubles Champion, 1971 World Men's Doubles Champion, 1973 & 1979 World Men's Doubles Finalist, 1979 World Men's Team Champion, and world #1 for at least two years.)
  • Mitsuru Kohno, 1977 World Men's Singles Champion, 1967 World Men's Singles Runner-up, world #1 for one or two years.
  • USA's own Ruth Aarons (1936 and 1937 World Women's Singles Champion).

Seriously, any ITTF Hall of Fame criteria that leaves out these players needs some serious rethinking. I'm trying to find a listing of historical world #1's to see how long these and other players were ranked #1 in the world. Anyone know of such a listing?

Interview with Teodor "Doru" Gheorghe

Here's the video (21:49). Doru is USATT's Interim CEO, Chief Operating Officer, and Women's Team coach. 

China's Fan Zhendong Aims to Win the Youth Olympics

Here's the article

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-Four down, 16 to go!

  • Day 17: ITTF’s CEO Judit Farago Enjoys Contributing to the Sport’s Success

Pong Attack!

This is what happens when we teach our promising juniors how to kill.

***
Send us your own coaching news!

August 14, 2014

USATT Chairman's Blog - Plastic Ball Update

Here's the new blog entry by USATT Board Chair Mike Babuin. It's mostly about USATT's policy toward the new non-celluloid balls. One item that jumps out is that apparently they will be using celluloid balls at the Nationals in December, but non-celluloid balls in the Team Trials there. That would likely be a serious mistake - some players are training for events that will be using different balls, and so won't be able to play their best. Besides messing up player's games, we might not get the best possible USA teams in the various trials for men's, women's, and junior, cadet, and mini-cadet boys' and girls' teams. Players used to one ball aren't going to play as well using the other. Since the players that do make the various teams will have plenty of time afterwards to adjust to the poly balls, there's no need to use both at the Nationals.

The Men's and Women's Team Trials are normally held separately from the Nationals, but the blog seems to imply they may be held there this year. Do we really want our top players to have to use one ball for Men's and Women's Singles and other events (such as Under 22), and another for the various team trials? Or are they planning or considering combining the Men's and Women's Singles events with the Men's and Women's Team Trials, and so use the non-celluloid balls in all of the "top" events? If so, that would be a rather important piece of info that should be included in the blog. But even then we'd be forcing players to switch back and forth between the balls in various events - for example, nearly all the players in the Junior Team Trials (played with non-celluloid) would normally be playing in Under 22 (played with celluloid). Do we really want to force our top junior stars like Kanak Jha and Crystal Wang (defending champions in Under 22 Men and Women from the last Nationals) to switch back and forth, or to not defend their titles? If we really want our top players to get used to the non-celluloid balls, do we believe the best way of doing this is to have them switch back and forth in the middle of a tournament? This whole thing seems to me a self-inflicted problem by choosing to use two types of balls in one tournament. Hopefully common sense will prevail here.

On a side note, Mike states that the two balls are "closely aligned" in their playing characteristics. However, that's not quite true as nearly every tester, including myself, has reported that the non-celluloid balls are more difficult to spin, and so will take some time to adjust. Here's my own review of the Nittaku non-celluloid ball (i.e. poly ball) where I and all five players who tried it out found it was harder to spin the ball - see items #8 and #12. With practice, players can adjust to the non-celluloid ball, but not in the middle of a tournament, going back and forth. 

MDTTC Camp Happenings

Yesterday was Day Three of Week Nine of our Ten Weeks of Camps. As noted, we have a large turnout this week, with over 40 players. I'm primarily working with the beginning juniors. We worked on all the techniques we've been working on all week - forehand, backhand, footwork, serves, etc. Then I gave a lecture and demo on pushing, and we worked on that. 

We had a lot of interesting happenings yesterday, most of them only somewhat table tennis related. Here's a rundown. 

Willy, age 8, had been coming to all our camps all summer, but had to miss the last half of the camp last week and the first two days this week as he was on vacation in Alaska. (He said it was cold.) When he walked in the door, he was mobbed by about ten others his age. I keep picturing these same kids about ten years from now. Which of them will be dominating play in this country? Many of them, I hope!!!

During the morning break a large moth flew into the club. Perhaps this moth chose the wrong club to blunder into! We have about 15 ball pickup nets at the club. They are made (or at least distributed) by Butterfly Table Tennis, our club's sponsor. So that makes them butterfly nets. The minute that poor moth showed up a pack of kids with butterfly nets went after it. They went back and forth all over the club, but that moth was pretty fast. After about fifteen minutes of racing about, the moth won - the kids couldn't catch it, and we were off break. We couldn't find the moth later, so perhaps it had found its way out with a scary stories to tell its caterpillars. 

Right after lunch I took a group of players to the 7-11 down the street. Because I bring our players there regularly they always give me a free Slurpee. But since I'm on a diet, I only take a few sips through a straw and then give it to the kids in the camp when we return to the club. (I bring back a bunch of extra straws.) Yesterday was hilarious as seven kids, roughly 7-9 in age, circled and drank the Slurpee together, each with a straw. I called it the "Circle of Slurp." 

A few months ago I started doing crossword puzzles from the Washington Post somewhat regularly. I usually solve the entire thing about half the time, but it takes way too long. This summer I've taken to bringing it to the club and doing it during the two-hour lunch break. Yesterday I set a record, solving the entire thing - 124 answers in all - in under an hour as about a dozen kids watched. I was pretty proud! (I'm sure Will Shortz would have solved it in five minutes, or perhaps just a glance and the thing would have filled itself in. In the Shortz-owned Westchester TTC vs. MDTTC crossword championships, they still hold the edge, but we're closing in.)

After solving the puzzle I was sitting on the sofa and was asked how I knew some of the answers. I explained that "Hodges" is just an anagram for "He's God." This sort of blew their minds. They made me write out my name so they could rearrange it themselves to verify. One even insisted on seeming my driver's license to prove the spelling of my name. This was all followed by about 15 minutes of questions and answers as they tried to prove I wasn't God. (I wish we had taped it!) 

We also had a slightly more somber conversation when I asked if any of them had heard of Robin Williams. In the age 7-12 crowd (twelve of them that I asked), eight had never heard of him, and four said they had heard of him but didn't really know who he was. None of them could name a single movie he'd been in. When I mentioned Mrs. Doubtfire, Good Morning Vietnam, Aladdin, Mork and Mindy, and about half a dozen others, all I got were blank stares. I'm starting to feel old. 

Near the end of the afternoon session I introduced the younger kids to "Cup Ball." There are a few variations, but the one we did was as follows. I placed four cups on one side of the table, lined up from left to right. Four kids stood at the end-line, roughly one behind each cup. Another kid stood at the other side, and served as fast as he could. If the ball hit both sides of the table and made it past the "catchers" on the other side (i.e. hit the floor before they could catch it), the server scored a point. If the ball hit a cup but was caught, he'd also get a point. If it hit a cup and then made it past the catchers, he'd score three points. Each player gets ten serves, and then they'd rotate. I have a feeling this is going to be a favorite for this group - they actually liked trying to catch the ball more than serving it. 

USATT's 2013 Financials

Here's the report. It includes both the 2013 IRS 990 Form and the 2013 Independent Audit Report.

Serve and Receive Practice

The following is a public service reminder. Every point begins with a serve and a receive. Yet most players spend nearly all their practice time practicing only the shots that come after this. This is downright silly. Have you practiced your serve and receive recently? If not, please continue in case you ever play someone I'm coaching. 

Learn Various Training Methods to Boost Your Level

Here's the coaching article by Samson Dubina.

Poly 40+ Balls Info

Here's a Facebook page devoted to info on the new plastic balls, which are slightly larger than 40mm. 

2014 Butterfly Los Angeles Open Provides High Level Competition for Top US Player Timothy Wang

Here's the article by Barbara Wei.

Princeton Pong Opens in West Windsor, NJ

Here's the article. David Zhuang is the head coach. 

Why Not Get Yourself a Backyard (Concrete) Ping-Pong Table?

Here's where.

Jan-Ove Waldner-Jorgen Persson Exhibition

Here's the video (10:34) of the new exhibition by these two legends!

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-three down, 17 to go!

  • Day 18: 1953 World Champion Ferenc Sido Inspired Judit Farago

Congressional Pong

Here are five ping-pong paddles with the faces of congressional leaders. Who can name all five? (It comes from this article.)

***
Send us your own coaching news!

August 13, 2014

Update on My Books

This seems a good time to remind people that if you haven't bought copies of my books, the Easter pumpkin will run you down on Santa's sleigh and smack you with a menorah. Also, I'll starve. (If not interested in my books - sacrilege! - then skip down below to the other segments.) All of my books are on sale at my Amazon page. (Yes, as some of you know there's been controversy with them and their battles with various publishers, but I'm stuck with them for now.)

If you have not bought a copy of Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers then every time you play a match your opponent (who no doubt has a copy in his bag and consulted it before playing you) will have an insurmountable advantage. The book not only covers tactics, but strategic development, i.e. how to develop your game. (Look over the 30 reviews, and ask yourself why you haven't got a copy yet.) It's in both print and kindle formats. It's been selling like hotcakes (oh god, that's a cliché), so why not join in the bandwagon? There's even a French translation coming out later this year!

My more recent book is Table Tennis Tips, which came out in May in both print and kindle formats. It's a compilation of all 150 of my Tips of the Week from 2011-2013, but in a logical progression, all in one volume. It includes chapters on Serve, Receive, Strokes, Grip and Stance, Footwork, Tactics, Improving, Sports Psychology, Equipment, and Tournaments. (More Table Tennis Tips should come out early in 2017, covering all my weekly tips from 2014-2016.)

Perhaps the most interesting read is Table Tennis Tales & Techniques, which is a compilation of both interesting stories about table tennis (lots of fun stuff), and essays on techniques. It also features a series of pictures of 2003 World Men's Singles Champion Werner Schlager in the top right corner of every page, so if you fan the pages you get a movie of him playing!

Table Tennis: Steps to Success is currently out of print, but I'm planning a new version out probably within six months, tentatively retitled Table Tennis Fundamentals. (First I have to get new pictures for every technique taught in the book, a big job.) However you can still buy used copies. (There is another version of this out by Richard McAfee, but it's not related to this one - it's from the same publisher, and they chose to use the same title.) The book sold 28,000 copies and was translated into seven languages. It probably sold a zillion copies if you include bootleg copies in China. (I'm not kidding.)

If you are interested in coaching, then you'll want to buy the creatively titled Professional Table Tennis Coaches Handbook, which is in both print and kindle formats. It covers the professional side of coaching - getting students, keeping them, running classes and junior programs, and other aspects of coaching, with an emphasis on professional coaching and junior training.  

I also have Instructor's Guide to Table Tennis, but that was published a while back by USATT, and is no longer sold. I tentatively plan to do a new version of that next year, using the pictures from Table Tennis Fundamentals. It's a guide for how to coach for beginning coaches.

I also have two non-Table Tennis books, a novel and an anthology. Sorcerers in Space is my humorous fantasy novel that came out last year from Class Act Books. It comes in both print and kindle versions. It's about the U.S.-Soviet race to the moon in the 1960s, but with sorcerers instead of astronauts, and the whole things takes place over one week. (Sorcerers work fast.) It stars a 13-year-old Neil [Armstrong] and fictionalized versions of many of the major political names from the 1960s - President Kennedy and his brothers, Jackie Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Bob McNamara, and Lee Harvey Oswald, as well as dragons and other creatures that keep trying to kill poor Neil - including an attack meteor named Buzz. Oh, and Neil is a wannabe table tennis champion who has to drop his dreams of ping-pong stardom to save the world.

The anthology is Pings and Pongs: the Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of Larry Hodges. It includes the 30 best short stories I'd sold through 2009, including "Ping-Pong Ambition." It comes in both print and kindle versions. (More Pings and Pongs should come out sometime next year - another 30 of my best sales since the previous anthology.)

On my Amazon page there's also a booklet called Willy and the Ten Trillion Chimpanzees. That's actually a short story of mine that's sold by Musa Publishers - but it only costs 99 cents!

I have two other books tentatively coming out. I'm doing a (hopefully) final rewrite of my science fiction novel "Campaign 2100: Rise of the Moderates," about the election for president of Earth in the year 2100, featuring a third-party moderate challenge. One of the four main characters is a professional table tennis player, and there are several table tennis scenes. I have a publisher that liked the previous version, but asked for a rewrite.

The other project? "Parents Guide to Table Tennis," a long-needed manual. I hope to finalize it this Fall, if I have time.

While we're on the topic of writing, I have a few articles published as well. 

MDTTC Camp

Yesterday was Day Two of Week Nine of our Ten Weeks of Summer Camp at MDTTC. Once again there were about 40 players. The focus was on the backhand. I also taught spin serves, and did a lot of footwork drills (as always).

Something strange is going on this camp. Usually we have some sort of minor accident perhaps once every few weeks. In the last two days two kids fell and cut themselves and needed bandages, and another had a nosebleed. I'm getting good at cleaning cuts and applying bandages.

One kid, about eight, has struck me as someone to watch. Not because he's particularly good yet - he's only played a few weeks - but because he is the hardest worker in the camp, and totally focused and enthused about getting better. Even on break he's off practicing his serves. In every drill he's the most focused at getting it right. It'll be interesting to see where he is a few years from now, as compared to one or two others who seem great "naturals" who, while not lazy, aren't as focused on improving.

The Plastic Ball

Here are two new articles from the ITTF on the plastic ball.

ITTF Releases Table Tennis Youth Olympic Games Media Guide

You can download it here. The Games will be held in Nanjing, China, Aug. 17-23.

California-Based Chinese Players Pose Stiff Competition to Top Seeds at 2014 Butterfly Los Angeles Open

Here's the article by Barbara Wei.

Ping Pong 4 Purpose

Here's the home page for this charity event. "Clayton Kershaw, event host Chris Harrison, the Los Angeles Dodgers and other celebrities are joining together for a unique celebrity ping pong tournament and fundraising event Thursday, September 4 on the field at Dodger Stadium. This second annual Ping Pong 4 Purpose fundraising event will feature a celebrity ping pong tournament, high-end silent auction and more. Event proceeds will benefit the efforts of Kershaw's Challenge in Los Angeles and Zambia to transform at-risk communities and the lives of children."

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-two down, 18 to go!

  • Day 19: Korea’s Mr. Han Sang Kook is the Picture of “A True Gentleman”

Training at the Werner Schlager Academy in Austria

Here's the video (22 sec).

Can Ping-Pong Balls Help Clean Up Oil Spills?

Here's the article and video (1:45) from Table Tennis Nation.

Amazing Table Tennis Shot Off Ground

Here's the video (1:11).

Funniest Faces from Table Tennis Players

Here's the gallery!

Non-TT - ESPN Covers the World Series

For the second time in five days I have a humorous story on the front page of Orioles Hangout. Here's ESPN Covers the World Series! Last Thursday they featured my story Top Ten Ways for Orioles Fans to Cope with a Winning Team. I've had 22 stories featured there, going back to April, 2012. (Did I mention that the Orioles lead the American Lead East by 6.5 games?)

***
Send us your own coaching news!

June 26, 2014

North American Cup

Kind of a big upset last night - 12-year-old Crystal Wang upset top seeded Lily Zhang in the semifinals of Women's Singles in a nail-biting seven-gamer (8,5,5,-3,-9,-6,7)  where Lily almost came back from down 0-3. Lots of incredible rallies. I was up late watching it - it started at 8PM western time, which is 11PM eastern time here in Maryland. Worse, I was up much later discussing the match and other issues with others via Facebook and messaging with Han Xiao, one of Crystal's regular practice partners. We're pretty proud of Crystal, who is from my club. She's too fast for me now, but for years I was one of her regular training partners and I coached her in many tournaments. She was training here at MDTTC (as she does essentially every day) just the day before, and then flew out to Vancouver, Canada. (Tournament was held in nearby Burnaby.) To get to the final Crystal had 4-1 wins over Liu Jiabao of Canada and USA's Erica Wu. In the final Crystal will play Mo Zhang of Canada.

In the Men's side, it's an all-USA final between Adam Hugh and Kanak Jha. That match starts at 8PM (i.e. 11 pm my time). Here are the results for Women's Singles and Men's Singles. Here's the ITTF home page for the event, where you can find results, articles, photos, and video. Men's and Women's finals are tonight at 8PM and 9:20PM (that's 11PM and 12:20 AM eastern time, alas). Here's where you can watch the live streaming.

MDTTC Camp

Yesterday was Day Three of Week Two of our Ten Weeks of Summer Camps. I could write about the camp - kids are making breakthroughs right and left, everyone's getting better (except us coaches, alas), and every day's highlight is the daily trip to 7-11. But for me, the dominating feature is physical and mental exhaustion. Ever spend an entire day coaching kids in the 6-8 age range? With a five-second attention span? And do this day after day? We have almost the same kids as the previous week, so they're into their eighth day of this. So I'm not just a coach, I'm their entertainer. However, the key thing to remember here is the rule of five - you have to say everything at least five times to get their attention. And getting them to pick up balls? It wasn't so hard on day one and two, but by day eight it's like pulling teeth. But somehow, inadvertently, and often against their will, they are rapidly improving. Now if I can only keep my sanity and not collapse physically, I'll be just fine! (My legs are pretty much dying right now.) 

Tactics Coaching

I had another tactics coaching session yesterday with Kaelin and Billy during the lunch break. The focus was on deceptive serving and serve variations, the tactics of long serves, receive, and rallying tactics. 

We went over the tactics of serving short. These including varying the placement, even of simple backspin serves; serving to the middle; serving very, very low; heavy no-spin serves; varying the backspin in side-backspin serves; serving with extra-heavy backspin; mixing in sidespin and side-top serves; serving with both sidespins with good placement; deceptive follow-throughs on serves; and serving half-long (so second bounce would be near the end-line); 

We went over the advantages of the various service depths, noting that the emphasis of short serves should be half-long serves, where the second bounce would be near the end-line. But we also went over the advantages of shorter serves - forcing a player to reach more for short serves to the forehand, and bringing a player in over the table so they aren't ready for the next shot. This latter is especially effective if you serve very short to the forehand, bringing the receiver in over the table, and then going after the deep backhand. But it's also somewhat risky as it gives the receiver a chance to flip aggressively into the very wide forehand, or down the line if you move to cover the forehand.

I also went over my Ten-Point Plan to Serving Success - and we spent some time going over each of these. (I wrote quite a bit about these and everything else I'm covering in Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers.

  1. Serve legally
  2. Serve with a plan
  3. Maximize spin
  4. Vary your spin
  5. Disguise your spin
  6. Speed
  7. Low bounce
  8. Direction
  9. Depth
  10. Follow-up

We talked about serve deception, and the four main ways of doing this: sheer spin, semi-circular motion, exaggerating the opposite motion, and spin/no-spin serves by varying the contact point on the racket. We also went over the advantages of specific serves. For example, a primary advantage of the pendulum serve is that you can do either type of sidespin with the same motion until just before contact. A primary advantage of the backhand serve is that you see your opponent throughout the serve, and so see if he reacts to the serve too soon, allowing the server to change serves, such as a sudden fast serve if the opponent is reaching in or stepping around the backhand. We also talked about where to serve from, and why too many players repetitively serve from the backhand corner, ignoring the advantages of sometimes varying this. If you sometimes serve from the middle or forehand side, you mess up the opponent who's not used to this - try it and you'll be surprised how much trouble players have with this. Plus it gives you an angle into the forehand, especially the short forehand against players who like to receive short serves with their backhand. 

We went over what are commonly the most effective long serves. Every opponent is different, but I'd say the most essential serves - the ones that all players should develop, and yes, I mean you - are (for this I'm assuming righty vs. righty - others adjust): 

  • To the Backhand: Big breaking sidespin serves to the wide backhand that break to the right into the wide backhand, ranging from side-topspin, pure sidespin, and side-backspin, as well as a fast no-spin. The reverse sidespin serve can be almost as effective as a variation as it often catches the receiver off guard, and the returns tend to go to the server's forehand. 
  • To the Middle: Fast no-spin serves, and at least one side-top variation. Often a reverse pendulum serve is effective here. 
  • To the Forehand: Fast topspin serves where the direction is well disguised, along with at least one other sidespin or no-spin variation. 

We went over the tactics of receive. Against deep serves, you have to be aggressive unless you are a very defensive player. Against short serves, you can be either passive, disarming, or aggressive. Passive returns are common at lower levels, but unless the opponent is a weak attacker, they aren't too effective at higher levels if used too often. The most common passive receives are long pushes, though soft topspins may also be passive returns, depending on the opponent and how he handles them. Long pushes can be a bit more aggressive (or disarming) if done quick off the bounce and pretty fast. A disarming receive is one designed to stop the server's attack and get into a neutral rally. The classic disarming receive is a short push. Another is a quick flip to the server's weaker side. An aggressive push can also be disarming if the server isn't able to make a strong attack off it. An aggressive receive against a short serve is usually an aggressive flip. Ambitious players should learn all three types of these receives against short serves, but focus roughly equally on disarming and aggressive receives. 

We spent the rest of the session going over rallying tactics. This included when to respond. Usually you respond when you see what and where the opponent's shot is. But sometimes you can anticipate a shot, and move for the shot in the split second between when the opponent has committed to a shot and when you can see what the shot will be. 

We talked about the tools needed when rallying: at least one scary rallying shot (a big loop, a fast, aggressive backhand, etc.); quickness; speed; spin; depth (mostly deep on the table, other times short); placement (wide angles, elbow); variety; misdirection; and finally consistency, which is king. Then we went over the tactics of playing the weaker side (often by playing the stronger side first to draw the player out of position); down the line play; going to the same spot twice; placement of backhand attacks; forehand deception with shoulder rotation; changing the pace; rallying down faster, quicker players; where to place your put-aways; and developing an overpowering strength. (We ran out of time, so have one last item to cover here - playing lefties, which we'll talk about tomorrow.) 

Tomorrow we'll start going over the tactics against various styles, grips, and surfaces. 

Xu Xin: No Regrets in Choosing Penhold

Here's the interview.

Stiga ITTF Approved Plastic/Poly Ball Review

Here's the detailed video review (11:15) by Table Tennis Daily. It seems to play a bit different than the Nittaku poly ball I reviewed on June 16. Much of this was probably because the Nittaku ball was noticeably bigger and heavier while the Stiga ball was the same weight as a celluloid ball. With the bounce test, the Nittaku poly ball bounced higher than the celluloid, while Stiga poly ball they reviewed bounced lower. Both poly balls were harder to spin when looping. You can go straight to their conclusion at 9:10, where they sum things up in about 90 sec.

100-Day Countdown to Change in the ITTF's Presidency

Former USATT President Sheri Pittman Cioroslan is doing an article every day during the last 100 days of Adham Sharara's ITTF presidency, counting downwards from 100. Previous ones are linked from the USATT News page, as well as in my past blogs. Thirty-four down, 66 to go!

  • Day 67: Mikael Andersson Details Creation of the ITTF’s Junior Program
  • Day 68: Jean-Michel Saive Recounts His Past and Present Successes

Lion Table Tennis

You can come up with your own caption for this table tennis cartoon. How about, "No, we don't want to play winners. We want to eat winners."

***
Send us your own coaching news!

June 25, 2014

The Tactics of Doubles and Serve & Attack

Today during break from our MDTTC camp I gave another one-hour lesson on tactics to Kaelin and Billy. We spent the first 20 minutes on doubles tactics, the rest on serve and attack. The two are playing Under 4200 Doubles at the U.S. Open next week. Both are righties rated about 2000, ages 15 and 16. Here's a summary. In each of the discussions above we also played out examples at the table. 

I explained the importance of one of them focusing more on control, the other on attack. We decided that Kaelin, since he has fast footwork, should focus on constant attack (i.e. trying to loop everything) while Billy would focus on control (i.e. setting up Kaelin). While Kaelin has the tougher physical task, Billy has the more difficult mental task as he has to do things that aren't as natural, as he looks to set up shots for his partner instead of doing his own shots. I went over some of the ways of doing this, especially on receive - pushing short (with last second changes of direction), faking crosscourt flips but then going down the line instead, etc.). 

We also went over doubles serves. Most doubles serves center around backspin and no-spin serves that go very low toward the middle of the table. But you need to test out the opponents with other serves or you may miss out on some easy points. I showed how easy it is to attack and to angle if you serve too wide in doubles, and yet some players have trouble with this. I also showed how awkward it can be to flip against short serves to the middle. 

We discussed receive. Rule one - loop anything deep. Both players are going to receive forehand, so this is the easier part. Many world-class players now receive forehand against deep serves, but if you serve short (as most do), they reach over and banana flip with the backhand. (Of course they also push, usually short.) Against short serves you use mis-direction as you mix in short and long pushes, and either aggressive or deceptive flips. I also showed them how to angle the racket to meet the spin directly when pushing, by dropping or raising the racket tip. This makes it much easier to drop the ball short. Between two righties, if the server does a forehand pendulum side-back serve, the receiver should drop the tip on the backhand, or raise it on the forehand, so that the paddle is aiming to the left. Against the opposite spin, he should do the reverse.

We discussed rallies. Rule one is to try to hit shots toward the player who just hit the ball, on the far side from his partner, so they get in each other's way. Since players in doubles are often moving into position as they hit the ball, they often have trouble blocking since in singles players are usually more in position. So looping first with good placement is generally even more important in doubles than in singles. Attacking down the line will often catch an opponent off guard in doubles, and is often the best place to smack winners. But it also gives the opponents an extreme angle, which often gets your partner in trouble.

We discussed footwork. Many players move too far off to the side after their shot, leaving them out of position for the next shot. Instead they should move mostly backwards and slightly sideways. A more advanced type of doubles footwork is circling footwork where the players circle about clockwise after each shot so that both players can approach the table from the backhand side, i.e. favoring the forehand. However, this takes lots and lots of practice to get right, so I suggested a hybrid, where whoever serves or receives steps back and circles over to the left so that he gets a forehand shot. Once you get past that first circling, it's tricky, so after that they should mostly move in and out, improvising when necessary.

Then we moved to singles tactics. We had a lengthy discussion of serve and attack (with numerous examples at the table), especially after serving short. This should center around serving half-long to the middle, so that the second bounce, given the chance, would hit near the end-line. By going toward the middle, the receiver has to make a quick decision on whether to receive forehand or backhand; has a rather awkward forehand flip; has no angle; is drawn out of position and so leaves a corner open; and the server has less ground to cover. (For players who favor one side against short serves - usually the backhand - you might move the serve some the other way.) the main disadvantage of serving short to the middle is that so many players do this that players get used to it; the receive can receive with his stronger side (forehand or backhand); and has both angles to go after, though no extreme angles. 

Serving short to the forehand is a bit riskier as it gives the receiver an extreme angle to flip into. If the serve tries to cover this, he leaves the down-the-line side open. However, many receivers find it awkward to receive short to the forehand, and many can't flip down the line (so you can just serve and get ready for a forehand). I also pointed out the value of serving short to the forehand, but not too wide, so that the serve is midway between the middle of the table and the sideline. This can be more awkward to flip then a serve that goes wider, almost like flipping from the middle, plus there's less angle to go after.

Serving short to the backhand takes away the angle into the forehand, so a forehand attacker can serve and stand way over on his backhand side and likely play a forehand from the backhand side. But it's often where a receiver is most comfortable receiving short serves. (So it's often better to serve deep breaking serves to the backhand if the receiver can't loop this serve effectively, forehand or backhand.) When a forehand attacker serves to the backhand he should stand as far to the backhand side as he can while still able to just cover a shot down the line to his forehand, knowing that usually those shots aren't too aggressive.

We also discussed the differences between serving short backspin, no-spin, and side-top. If the receiver tends to push the backspin serves long, then you can either look for a forehand loop, or just stand in the middle of the table and attack either forehand or backhand. Many players like to follow these serves with a backhand loop, since this allows them to stay in position to attack from either wing on the next shot, plus it forces the opponent to adjust to a different loop than just forehands. When serving backspin players are often more likely to flip very aggressively than against no-spin as a receiver can use the incoming backspin to flip with topspin. Against a low no-spin serve, it's easy to flip medium fast, but aggressive flips are usually more difficult. 

On the other hand, when you serve short no-spin (with the focus on keeping it very low, though this is true of all serves), you can more likely anticipate a weaker return that can be attacked with the forehand. If they push it long, it'll tend to be higher and with less spin. If they push short, it'll tend to pop up. So even two-winged loopers often become more forehand oriented when serving short no-spin. 

When serving short sidespin or side-top, the serve is likely to be flipped, but if the serve is done well and kept low, it won't be flipped too aggressively with any consistency. The key here is that the opponent is unlikely to drop the serve short, and so you can serve and hang back a bit, looking to attack either with your stronger side or from either side. 

We also started to get into the tactics of long serves. I'll likely write about that and other tactics issues tomorrow.

MDTTC Camp

Pleasant surprise yesterday! After six days of struggling to hit forehands or serve, the six-year-old girl I mentioned previously suddenly made a breakthrough today. I'd been pulling my hair out trying to get her to hit a proper forehand (though she'd managed to pick up a decent beginning backhand), but day after day, no matter what I did, the minute no one guided her stroke she'd revert to this slashing, racket twirling, wristy stroke that had no business existing in this plane of existence. And then, as if by magic (and after lots and lots of imploring), she suddenly figured it out yesterday. Now she's hitting proper forehands, and even made ten in a row!

And then, perhaps 20 minutes later, she suddenly figured out how to serve, even managed to make 9 out of 10. For perspective, in the first six days of the camp, in nearly an hour of total practice, she'd made exactly one serve. Armed with a serve and a workable forehand, she was able to join in a game of "Master of the Table," and twice was master. (One of them came about when she served on the edge, and then the Master missed his own serve. To become Master of the Table you have to score two points in a row against the Master.) We often call the game King of the Table, but the girls objected!

I taught several players how to push today. I brought out the soccer-colored balls so they could see if they were getting any spin. It's always funny watching their eyes go wide the first time they see the ball spinning and realized they put that spin on the ball. Also, I have to confess that at one point I did say the following: "I'm a pushy pushover for power pushing pushers."

Rolling Ball Loop Drill

Here's video of an interesting looping drill (1:34), where your partner rolls the ball to you (under the net), and you loop it as it comes off the end. I've done this at a number of camps - it's not just for beginners, it's also good for teaching players to loop those slightly long serves. One key is to set up so you are almost directly over the ball, looking down on it - which is exactly what you need to do when looping slightly long balls.

Interview with Table Tennis Sports Psychologist Dora Kurimay

Here's the video interview (7:19). She had a new ebook out recently, Get Your Game Face Out Like the Pros!

100-Day Countdown to Change in the ITTF's Presidency

Former USATT President Sheri Pittman Cioroslan is doing an article every day during the last 100 days of Adham Sharara's ITTF presidency, counting downwards from 100. Previous ones are linked from the USATT News page, as well as in my past blogs. Thirty-two down, 68 to go!

  • Day 69: Thomas Weikert Speaks about Peace and Sport

Crystal Wang - Youngest U.S. Team Member in History

Here's my feature article on Crystal in USA Table Tennis Magazine. 

Lily Zhang Featured by ITTF

Here's the article, "Lily Zhang the Shining Star in Tokyo, the Top Seed and Senior Member in Burnaby."

Timothy Wang Featured by ITTF

Here's the article, "Timothy Wang Aiming for Las Vegas Reprise but Beware Teenage Colleague."

Incoming ITTF President Thomas Weikert Reveals Direction of ITTF

Here's the interview. It's rather short. 

Exercise Makes the Brain Grow

Here's the article. So go play ping-pong!

Ping-Pong Ball to the Eye

Here's the video (35 sec). 

***
Send us your own coaching news!

June 24, 2014

MDTTC Camp and Tactical Coaching

Yesterday was Day One of Week Two of our Ten Weeks of Camps at MDTTC. As I've blogged about, I'm in charge of the beginners and younger kids, a group of 6-7 this week, ranging in age from 5-9. As usual, we focused on the forehand on the first day, though we varied this for those who have had coaching and were more advanced. 

It always amazes me the range of skill in these players. Some kids struggle and struggle, while others pick it up about as fast as you can show them. The youngest in the camp, age five, started playing in the junior program I coach a few weeks ago. Because of his age and tiny size - he's small even for his age - I figured he wasn't quite ready for real games. So I put him in a group of three that would do various target practice games (knocking over cups, etc.) while the other four played "King of the Table." He begged to be with the group with the bigger kids playing "King of the Table," and I skeptically let him. He ended up being one of the dominant players. (There's another kid who's been to both weeks who's on the opposite end of the spectrum. It took six days for this player to make a successful serve, after a cumulative total of over an hour of trying.) 

There's a new type of coaching that I'm doing this week. There are two kids in the camp from out of town, Kaelin and Billy, ages 15 and 16 and both about 2000. Besides the regular six hours of daily training these two are taking an hour of tactics coaching during lunch break each day. (Lunch break is 1-3PM, so we still have an hour off.) Normally we teach tactics more or less "on the job," teaching it as the players play, both in practice matches and even more so in tournaments. I've also assigned many of my students and other players at MDTTC to read my book Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers. (But you should not as then you might beat our players!!! No, don't even think of getting it. Put that credit card away!) Now I'm doing straight tactics coaching, and will do at least five hours of it, possibly more if we do some on the weekend. 

I put together an outline of what we should cover in these sessions, using my Tactics book as the guide. (Both of the players had already started reading it, but hadn't finished it.) We mostly just discussed the various subjects, though I grabbed my racket a number of times to give examples. We intentionally went off on tangents to discuss various situations. Tomorrow we're going to jump ahead and cover doubles as they are playing Under 4200 doubles at the U.S. Open next week, and are practicing it here in the camp. After that we'll get back to regular singles tactics, and gradually work from the theoretical to the specific. As we do so we'll also gradually move from discussion to table time. Below is what we covered in today's session.

  1. Tactical Thinking vs. Strategic Thinking. (Tactical thinking is how you use what you already have to win. Strategic Thinking is how you develop your game and playing style. We discussed the specifics of how these related to their games.)
  2. Tactics isn't about finding complex strategies to defeat an opponent. Tactics is about sifting through all the zillions of possible tactics and finding a few simple ones that work.
  3. Tactical thinking is a habit
  4. Tactics are not rigid rules, just guidelines
  5. The myth of thinking too much. The problem is thinking at the wrong time.
  6. "The faster you play the more important subconscious tactical decisions become." - Werner Schlager
  7. Tactics and the Subconscious
  8. Much of strategic development is doing what's uncomfortable to make it comfortable. (Pushing short or counterlooping are examples.)
  9. Develop what you do well, and develop what you need to do well.
  10. Develop a "B" and "C" game.
  11. The book on your game.
  12. We discussed the current tactical and strategic thinking of both players, going over their playing styles, common tactics, and strategic thinking for how to develop their games. 

New Chinese Wonder Boy - Yu Ziyang

Here's the article (including a link to the 44-min video of the Japan Open Final) about Yu Ziyang, who turned 16 one month ago and follows on the footsteps of another Chinese 16-year-old, Fan Zhendong (world #4). Yu had a ranking of #180 before winning the Japan Open.

100-Day Countdown to Change in the ITTF's Presidency

Former USATT President Sheri Pittman Cioroslan is doing an article every day during the last 100 days of Adham Sharara's ITTF presidency, counting downwards from 100. Previous ones are linked from the USATT News page, as well as in my past blogs. Thirty-one down, 69 to go!

  • Day 70: Adham Sharara Discusses the ITTF’s Commitment to Peace and Sport

Mind Pong to Raise Awareness for Brain Tumor Charity

Here's the article.

Tom Hiddleston's Table

Here he is with his unique sized pink table. He's an English actor best known as Loki in the Avengers movies.

Eight Stylish Guys Playing Table Tennis

Here's the article and photos

***
Send us your own coaching news!

June 18, 2014

MDTTC Camp

Yesterday was Day Two of Week One of our ten weeks of camps at MDTTC. As usual, it's always surprising watching beginners on day one who seem to have no concept or potential to do a proper shot suddenly start making the shots properly on day two. There are four in the camp who are basically beginners. 

Sometimes it's a coach can get caught off guard by what he doesn't know about the players. After a day and a half of coaching, I asked three of the beginners (ages 6, 8, and 10) if they thought they were ready to play some games. All three looked rather confused. After some questioning, I realized the obvious - they didn't know how to play a game. None knew how you score a point or how many points a game was up to. So I stopped everything and went over the rules with them. I made a game out of it, seeing who could correctly answer (or guess) the answer to basic rules. When I first asked how many points a game was up to, they argued whether games were to ten or twenty. One guessed that each player served six times in a row, and the other two immediately agreed with this. So I made a mental note to myself to remember to go over the basic rules sooner next time. 

Ratings Quirks

Here are two interesting quirks of the USATT rating system. 

1) Can You Predict the Odds in a Match from their Ratings?

The USATT rating system is set up so that players exchange points based on the difference in their ratings, and whether it's an upset or not. (Here's an explanation of the system.) For example, if the two players are rated 100 points apart (technically from 88 to 112 points), if the higher-rated player wins, he gains 4 points, the lower player loses 4. If it's an upset, then the lower-rated player gets 20 points while the higher-rated player loses 20. Based on this, the higher-rated player should win 20 times for every four times he loses, or 5/6 of the time. There have been discussions of this on online forums for years.

On the one hand, it's fairly obvious that there are more upsets among lower-rated players than higher ones. For example, a player rated 1100 is more likely to upset a player rated 1200 than a player rated 2100 is going to upset a player rated 2200. This is because the ratings are far more volatile at the lower levels - players are far more likely to make sudden dramatic improvements at those levels than at the advanced levels. So there are far more upsets at the lower levels than at the higher levels.

On the other hand, the ratings should spread out to match this probability, so at all levels the probability of a hundred-point upset should be the same at all levels. But this seems to contradict the previous statement.

So who's right? Surprisingly, both are basically right. The part left out is that many of these under-rated players at the lower levels get adjusted upward. The USATT system goes through four steps in processing the ratings. The first step only finds players who need to be adjusted, and then adjusts them upwards. So mathematically, the system is making predictions for these players with their adjusted ratings. So when an 1100 player beats a 1200 player, but is adjusted up to 1500, as far as the rating system is concerned, a 1500 player just beat a 1200 player. In other words, it doesn't see an 1100 player beating a 1200 player; it sees a 1500 player beating a 1200 player. 

Among 1100 players who beat 1200 players but are not adjusted, I would guess that the percentage of their wins against 1200 players would be about the same as a 2100 player (who is not adjusted upwards) against a 2200 player. And so if you look only at the adjusted ratings of players (for those who were adjusted) and use the USATT rating system to predict matches, it'll be pretty consistent at all levels, i.e. the chances of an 1100 player beating a 1200 player would be about the same as a 2100 player beating a 2200 player - about 1/6.

2) Can a Player Gain Ratings Points by Losing a Match?

Yes, but it's extremely rare. The only case I know of where this happened was at the Southern Open in 1996, though I'm sure there are others. Xu Huazhang, a former Chinese national team member who had recently moved to the U.S., had been going to school and so had a rating of only 2572. He went undefeated in the tournament, winning both the Open and Elite Singles. He was adjusted upwards, and came out 2777. But when we looked at the results, we realized a strange thing. The USATT adjustment factor - a mathematical formula which used to be public but is no longer listed in the explanation of the system - normally adjusts a player upward partially based on their best win and worst loss. But since Xu had no losses, a different formula is used. We discovered that if Xu had lost one of his two matches against Jim Butler, he would have achieved a rating over 2800! So by winning both matches, he lost at least 23 rating points. When I discovered this I reported it to the USATT Ratings Committee, but nothing was done. And since the adjustment formula is no longer online, I can't show why this happened.

Facebook Friends

Are you on Facebook? Are you an avid table tennis person? Then send me a friend request! Here's my Facebook page. One advantage - as soon as I finish a blog each morning (Mon-Fri), I post a note on Facebook about it, including a content listing.

Why the New Poly Balls Can Be Heavier

Here's the ITTF Technical Leaflet on this - see the parts in green, which are new. The key part is right at the end, where it says that instead of the standard range for the weight of the ball from 2.67 to 2.77 grams, with the new balls it can be from 2.65 to 2.82 grams until Jan. 1, 2016. I don't have any accurate way of measuring the Nittaku Poly ball I blogged about on Monday, but I'm guessing it pushed the upper limit here, while most balls were, if anything, probably on the lower range. (Anyone have figures on that?)

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. Previous ones are linked from the USATT News page, as well as in my past blogs. Twenty-six down, 74 to go!

  • Day 75: Until the 1950s, Table Tennis Was Considered a “Jewish Sport”

Youngest Player at the Japan Open

Here's a picture of Japan's Harimoto Tomokazu, showing all the media attention he's getting.

Top Ten Shots at the Korean Open

Here's the video (5:16). 

Ping Pong Beer

Here it is - straight from Belgium!

World Ping-Pong Federation

Here's the cartoon!

***
Send us
your own coaching news!

August 23, 2013

Orioles Photos

Yesterday I blogged about our visit to the Baltimore Orioles clubhouse, where the top juniors from MDTTC and I played most of their players. Here are the photos I promised! (I should have video of the Orioles pre-game show that featured table tennis next week.)

Here are two photo albums. All the photos in both albums were taken either by Qiming Chen or someone using his camera.

Most of the players in the pictures are identified by the photo name/caption, though you might have to click on the picture to see the full name/captions. In the second album there are two group pictures. Here are the captions for those two photos.

Kids Post, L-R - Chris Tillman, Darren O'Day, U.S. Open Under 12 Table Tennis Champion Derek Nie, Steve Pearce, Tommy Hunter, Orioles ping-pong table. Background - Chris Davis (back to us), Brady Anderson, Ryan Flaherty

Group picture, L-R - Darren O'Day, Tong Tong Gong, Tommy Hunter, Chris Tillman, Larry Hodges, Adam Jones, Nathan Hsu, Derek Nie (in front), JJ Hardy (in back), Qiming Chen, Miguel Gonzalez, Steve Pearce, Alexi Casilla, Manny Machado, and Troy Patton

The Atmosphere Inside the Orioles Clubhouse

Here's another article on the Orioles and Table Tennis

MDTTC Camp

Yesterday was Day Four of Week Ten of our ten weeks of camps. The focus was the backhand attack, mostly backhand looping. It was a breakthrough day for some. One girl who struggled all week with backhands and forehands sort of figured out the backhand today, though she's still struggling with forehands. Two others have transformed from passive get-the-ball-on-the-table backhands to serious topspinning backhands.

It wasn't all great - the natives were restless yesterday, as they often are on Thursdays. It's four days into the camp, but not the last day, so the day sort of drags for some of them. I pretty much accepted I'd have to say everything three times to get heard.

Here's something you don't do too often: yesterday I taught a 73-year-old man to backhand loop. He started off slow and awkward, but after time was smacking them in like a 14-year-old.

Today is the last day of our summer camps. It's been ten weeks and fifty days of non-stop action. Alas, I'm totally exhausted - and Raghu Nadmichettu is substituting for me today, so I'm off today, for a change. It's really a half day for coaching since we'll have a practice tournament in the afternoon.

Playing Well 90% of the Time

We have a top junior who's been struggling recently. Sometimes he's on, sometimes he's off. He's sort of in that class of player (like most players), who's at his best 1/3 of the time, plays average 1/3 of the time, and poorly 1/3 of the time. This is a common philosophy, and is serious mental mistake. Top players don't do this; in any important match, a top player is probably at his best 90% of the time. (My percentages are rhetorical, not exact.) Assuming you are playing regularly, and unless you have physical reasons not to be at your best - and many physical reasons are actually mostly mental - players should be at their best nearly always. It's all in the mind. Timing doesn't just come and go, but the mind does. If you are focused, the rest will come.

Here's a shortcut to playing strong mentally. Just think about the best match you ever played. Close your eyes, and get into the mental focus you had in that match. Then use that same focus in your current play.

The Making of Butterfly Blades

Here's a video (13:09) that shows how Butterfly blades are made. It's in Japanese, but you can still follow the video and images.

Lupi versus Rafa

Here's a video (22 sec) of table tennis star Ilija Lupulesku playing table tennis with tennis star Rafael Nadal (far side) in a battle of lefties.

Adizero Shoes Table Tennis Commercial

Here's a video (1:14) of a Adizero shoe commercial that features table tennis.

***
Send us your own coaching news!

August 21, 2013

Exhibition and Challenges with the Baltimore Orioles!!!

Today I'm leaving the MDTTC camp at 11:30 to pick up some players so we can go to Orioles Park at Camden Yards (about an hour away), where from 2-3PM we're giving a demo for and taking challenges from the Baltimore Orioles baseball team! They have a huge clubhouse which includes a nice table with lots of room. We'll be surrounded by (on average) 6'3" 230lb multimillionaires. (Average major league salary in 2012 was $3.4 million; the Orioles are a little above that. Here's their listing.)

This all started in May when Orioles star shortstop JJ Hardy and former centerfielder and now vice president of operations Brady Anderson visited the Maryland Table Tennis Center, where I gave each a lesson and then they played our local juniors. (Here's my blog on that.) They, along with Jeff Lantz, the Orioles Manager for Media Relations, invited us for a return visit. It took a while, but we finally got it arranged. We even had to get approval from Manager Buck Showalter - who I'm hoping to meet, along with a few others, such as Chris Davis, Adam Jones, Brian Roberts, Nick Markakis, Matt Wieters, Manny Machado, and others.

I discussed with Jeff the idea of bringing in a large contingent of players, who'd get a tour of the Orioles clubhouse, then stay for the game, with a few of us giving the demo and exhibition. However, he and Buck discussed it and decided it'd be better to keep it a smaller affair so it wouldn't be a big distraction, and suggested we bring in three top juniors. So I invited Nathan Hsu, Tong Tong Gong, and Derek Nie. (See listing below.) Tong Tong, Derek and I plan to stay for the game - they're giving us free tickets. Nathan had a previous commitment; he'd volunteered as a guide for the incoming freshman class at his high school. (Bravo!) So he has to leave as soon as we're done at 3PM. His mom quickly recruited Qiming Chen to give him a ride to and from the event since she'd be out of town at the time. I explained the situation to the Orioles, and they agreed to add him to the list.

A number of locals (both juniors and adults) had asked if they could go on the reciprocal visit to the Orioles park, and I'd hoped I could, but it was not to be.

MASN TV (Mid-Atlantic Sports Network), home of the Orioles and Washington Nationals, is planning to do coverage and turn it into a pre-game show. One thing we hope to catch on video - JJ Hardy and Jeff are planning a "surprise" for one particularly brash player (the Orioles third best TT player after JJ and Brady), who won't know what he's getting into when he agrees to play a "friendly" game with a visiting kid, Derek Nie, 70 lbs, rated 2291.

Since all four of the players I'm taking are Chinese (and at least two have parents from Taiwan), they were pleasantly surprised to learn that Wei-Yin Chen of Taiwan will be pitching for the Orioles in tonight's game. (Well, Tong Tong and Derek were, since they're staying to watch with me.)  We're playing the Tampa Bay Rays, with who we're in a pennant/wild card race.

Players going with me:

  • Derek Nie, 12, 2012 U.S. Open Under 12 Boys' Champion (and looks about 10, only 4'7" and 70 lbs)
  • Nathan Hsu, 17, 2011 USA Junior Olympic Under 16 Boy's Singles Champion and 2012 USA Junior Olympic Under 18 Boy's Singles Finalist, #1 Under 18 player in Maryland (U.S. citizens)
  • Tong Tong Gong, 16, member of USA Cadet National Team (15 & Under), 2011-2012, who lives only 15 min from Camden Yards in Ellicott City, and is a big Orioles fan
  • Qiming Chen, 21, University of Maryland Champion and President of the Univ. of Md. Table Tennis Club 

I'll write more about this in my blog tomorrow.

Speaking of the Orioles, there was an article in the Washington Post Sports section on Monday that said, "[Adam] Jones has at least 25 home runs in three consecutive seasons, joining Hall of Famer Frank Robinson as the only Orioles to accomplish the feat."

On Tuesday there was a correction: "An Aug. 19 Sports article about the Baltimore Orioles' 7-2 victory over the Colorado Rockies incorrectly said that Adam Jones joined Frank Robinson as the only Orioles to hit at least 25 home runs in three consecutive seasons. Eddie Murray also accomplished that feat."

I just sent in a correction yesterday: "Dear Washington Post, the correction in the Post this morning (Aug. 20) about Eddie Murray also hitting 25 or more home runs at least three consecutive seasons for the Orioles (as well as Adam Jones and Frank Robinson) left out Cal Ripken, who did it six years in a row (1982-1987), Rafael Palmeiro four years in a row (1995-1998), and Lee May three years in a row (1976-1978). Jim Gentile and Miguel Tejada both missed it by one home run."

As of this morning, they haven't run my correction  For the record, Ripken from 1982-87 hit 28, 27, 27, 26, 25, and 27 HRs. Palmeiro from 1995-98 hit 39, 39, 38, and 43 HRs. Lee May from 1976-78 hit 25, 27, and 25 HRs. How could they miss this? Especially Hall of Famer Cal Ripken??? (Who, by the way, used to play table tennis with Brady Anderson; both have their own sponge rackets.)

MDTTC Camp

Yesterday's focus was the backhand. We had some interesting sessions. One kid had pretty good control, but kept sidespin swiping the ball; I finally took him aside for 15 minutes and straightened that out. Another also had good control, but had a very backhand grip and just jabbed at the ball. I also took him aside for a while and straightened that out. Both had some difficulty making the change as their old stroke was pretty ingrained. It's always easier when working with someone who hasn't played much. One older player had a pretty good backhand but almost no forehand; we worked on and off all day on his forehand, and it's gradually improving.

There's one girl who's a complete beginner, and perhaps the only one who can't really play games yet. All day long for two days she's struggled to hit forehands or backhands. Then, late yesterday afternoon when we played the "cups" game, where we stack the cups and let the kids take turns knocking them down, something happened. Out of the blue she kept smacking them, over and over! Before this she had about a 20% success rate in hitting the table, not to mention a three-inch wide cup. This time she knocked more cups off the table than anyone else (about ten players) two games in a row!

USATT Tip of the Day - Serve Violently!

Here's a tip on serving from Dan Seemiller, five-time USA Men's Singles Champion and former USA Men's Coach.

Table Tennis Good for the Brain

Here's a nice compilation of articles on this from Table Tennis Nation, with five links and a video (4:26).

Ping Pong Only Gets Better When You Add Crazy Visuals

Here's a video (1:12) of some serious psychedelic ping pong.

***
Send us your own coaching news!

August 16, 2013

MDTTC Camp and a Day of Rest

After coaching 6-8 hours/day for 14 straight days, I'm finally off today. I was exhausted a week ago; there are no adverbs or adjectives in the English language that adequately describe my current state of exhaustion, so let's just say I'm tired. I went to bed last night at 11PM and slept to 9AM. That's unprecedented for me; I normally sleep about six hours/night.

However, I've got a "busy restful" day ahead. Nothing physical, but a few errands, and lots of paperwork stuff - editing, rewriting, organizing. Mostly stuff I've put off the last two weeks due to the busy workload. We have one more week of our ten weeks of camp this summer, and then I can go back to writing during the day, and coaching nights and weekends.

Yesterday's focus was the backhand loop. I had 4'7" 12-year-old Derek Nie demonstrate; as I think I mentioned in a previous blog, if he can backhand loop at a 2291 level (that's his rating!), then anyone can, right? However, the beginners aren't ready for backhand looping, and we focused on the basics.

The natives were restless yesterday - Thursdays is always the most "dragging" day, as it's four days into camp, but not the last day yet. I let the beginning kids go to games earlier than usual in both the morning and afternoon sessions. The more advanced ones are a bit more focused, and if anything, trained longer than usual before playing games.

The 5-8-year-old beginners aren't really ready for real games the first few days, but I decided they were ready yesterday. So I had twelve of them play up-down-tables for the first time - games to 11 (11-10 wins), winner moves up, loser moves down. Some picked it up right away; some had great difficulty getting the rules or the score right. Two found playing games so distressful they quit and wouldn't play, so I had those two just rally for fun while the others played. One enthusiastic 7-year-old dramatically improved this week, and won every game he played; this kid is going to be good.

During break I pulled out my Franklin Table Tennis To Go Net Set, which allows me to set up a table tennis net on any table. It weighs about 12 oz., can stretch up to 75 inches across any table, and has adjustable clamps on the side that will grab about any table. (I'm starting to take it on trips wherever I go!) We set it up on the lounge tables (about six feet long), and the kids went at it. Nathan Hsu (about 2400) had some fun taking on challenges where he put the net near the far end so he only had about one foot of table space to aim at. Near the end coaches Wang Qing Liang and John Hsu joined in, and they put on a chopping versus loop exhibition.

An interesting thing happened during a private coaching session after the camp yesterday. I'm 53 and getting stiffer every year. After a day of camp, my muscles are like neutronium. I can still execute the shots at a pretty high level, but it's not easy, and looping/counterlooping isn't as easy as before. The 13-year-old I was coaching is learning to counterloop, and has picked it up really well - he's about 1600-1700, and a very good rallier. So we went at it, counterlooping for perhaps 15 minutes. Afterwards I was about as loose as I've been in since around the time of Aristotle. Then we played a few practice games, and wow! I felt it was the 1980's again. I was all over the table looping forehands, and when he'd quick-block, I was jumping on those balls. Have to remember this next time I warm up for a match!!! (I've had similar experiences before, and already knew counterlooping loosens me up, but usually not this much.)

Discounted JOOLA Teams Entry for Sale

A local paid for an entry last year for the North American JOOLA Teams when the price was greatly discounted but can't use it now. He's willing to sell it for $600. (Current price is $799.) If interested, email me and I'll put you in contact with him. (The Teams, previously in Baltimore, will be held in Washington DC this year, Nov. 29 - Dec. 1.)

Training Tips from Waldner and Persson

Here's a video (40:03) with training tips from superstars Jan-Ove Waldner and Jorgen Persson.

International Training Camp in China

China will host an international training camp in September. Here's the article. China's Men's Coach Liu Guoliang said, "We will be organising an international training camp this September. We are inviting overseas players to participate and help them improve their overall level. It will better promote the development of table tennis. What is important is that more people will get involved into the sport and the masses will appreciate the charm of table tennis."

Play Table Tennis with a New York Mayoral Candidate

Here's the article from Table Tennis Nation. "If you've never tried to play ping pong with your favorite mayoral candidate before, now's your chance! By Donating money to Bill de Blasio for his campaign you will get the chance to face him in a ping pong game at SPiN New York this Sunday. Hitting some balls while sipping on cocktails and listening to good music seems to be the perfect way to have Bill Blasio loosen up and genuinely elaborate on his plans for the city as a Mayor. This genius plan comes from the award winning actress, ping pong ambassador and Spin co-owner Susan Sarandon who endorses Blasio."

Two-Year-Olds Playing Table Tennis?

Here's the video (19 sec) - on the table with a little multiball help.

Balls in the Face

Here's the video (17 sec) of the new Tumba Ping Pong Show! And here's another video (10 sec) from them, featuring a ping-pong ball and a cucumber in the mouth!

***
Send us your own coaching news!

Syndicate content