MDTTC camp

August 23, 2012

MDTTC Camp, Week Eleven, Day Three

There are 37 players in the camp, so it's somewhat hectic. Here's a camp photo from yesterday. (A few players are missing, alas.)

Yesterday I gave lectures on the forehand loop, on footwork, and on pushing. On looping, I spoke with three players in the 1800-2000 range on the importance of looping almost anything that comes long - or as I put it, "If you can see it, loop it; if you can't see it, block it or back up and loop it." You can go far with blocking and hitting, but the easiest path to a high level in our sport is to be loop-happy.

As noted in my blog yesterday, I'm wearing a neck brace now so I don't keep aggravating the neck injury. When I walked in with my neck brace, there were many stares as I said, "What, do I look different? Is it my hair?" Here's a picture of me with the neck brace.

When Derek Nie saw me with the neck brace, he said, "Larry, you look 90 years old!" Ten minutes later I interrupted my coaching and demanded that he repeat the statement so I could respond: "Yeah, but I don't feel a day over 85!" (Actually, I felt about 95, with the neck problems, hoarseness from too much coaching/lecturing, and general stiffness.) Don't you hate it when you come up with the perfect response ten minutes late?

Today was the day that the two new players in this week's camp really seemed to put it together, and began to hit real forehands and backhands, as well as pushing and serving with spin. They are even proficient now at knocking paper cups off the table. (If you haven't been following past blogs, don't ask.)

Channel 6 News, a local cable TV station, came in this morning and filmed us for a showing in September. They interviewed the coaches and many of the players, and filmed us during the morning multiball session.

USATT National Centers of Excellence

MDTTC is now listed as one of the seven USATT National Centers of Excellence.

Spider-Man Table

Want a Spider-Man table signed by Stan Lee? Here's your chance! "The SAEF is proud to present the sale of its a one-of-a-kind, Limited Edition Spider-Man table tennis table exclusively signed by Stan Lee and built expressly to raise funds for the SAEF organization and its Alzheimer’s Table Tennis Therapy Program." Here's a larger version of the picture of the table.

Table Tennis Inspired Patriotism

Here's a nice article from The Examiner about table tennis from a non-player's point of view at the Olympics. You can tell where it's going from the first line: "Here's one thing I love about the Olympics: watching people who are the best in the world at some incredibly niche sport, and seeing just how extraordinary at said sport it is possible to be." He also wrote, "It's the best live sport I've ever seen."

The Power of Block with Waldner

Here's a video (3:13) that showcases Jan-Ove Waldner's blocking skills.

Kids Training in China

Here's an interesting video of two kids training in China (0:42). Note the one on the table!

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August 22, 2012

USA Nationals Entry Form

Here's the home page for the 2012 USA Nationals, with a link to the entry form. I'll be there mostly to coach, though I'll probably enter one event - Hardbat Doubles with Ty Hoff, which I'll try to win for the 14th time, including ten with Ty. (I'd like to play other events, but there are just too many conflicts with all the junior events I'm be coaching in.)

Neck Problems

As I noted in my blog on Aug. 9, I was in a car accident on Aug. 8, two weeks ago. The other driver was at fault (she pulled right in front of me as I was driving to the club), and their insurance will be paying to repair my car. I also said no one was hurt.

Not so fast.

About a week ago (I'm not sure exactly when) my neck started bothering me. At first it was more an irritation, and I kept massaging the neck muscles, trying to get them to loosen up. But it got worse and worse. By Monday, the first day of the last MDTTC camp of the summer, it was painful, and by Tuesday morning it was excruciatingly painful just to hold my head up - meaning it was excruciatingly painful ALL THE TIME. I went to see a doctor during lunch break on Tuesday, but had to leave before seeing him when things ran late and I had to get back to the camp. But I found one who saw me that night at 7PM. The x-rays were negative, and there's no apparent nerve damage, so it's probably muscle and tendon problems.

I'm now wearing a neck brace, along with various medications (pain relievers and muscle relaxants). When I go to the camp this morning, there'll be some stares because of the neck brace, but it should allow me to at least do multiball and complete the camp through this Friday. The odds are I'm going to have to cancel all coaching for at least a week after that, though I may be able to do multiball - we'll see.

I'm starting to miss the back problems I had last year.

MDTTC Camp, Week Eleven, Day Two

Yesterday I gave lectures on the backhand, on receive, and on ball placement. For ball placement, I talked about the three or four placements for nearly all shots: to the forehand corner, to the backhand corner, and the middle. What's the fourth placement? Against a ball that goes to your wide forehand or backhand, you have an angle outside the opponent's wide corner, so you can go down the line, to the middle, to the crosscourt corner, or crosscourt wide outside the corner. You should normally go for such extreme angles only if you use lots of topspin to pull the ball down, or against a short ball. I also talked about moving players in and out, and how to be deceptive with your placement by aiming one way, and at the last second rotating your shoulders to change directions. (Here's a Tip of the Week on Forehand Deception with Shoulder Rotation.)

The afternoon session had me with two tables (one with a robot) and eight kids, and was excruciatingly painful - see "Neck Problems" above. Most of the kids understood what I was going through and were on good behavior - not only was the pain obvious, but I told them that today was not a day to give me any flak. (But you'll note I said "Most" above. Maybe my wearing a neck brace today will get through to the one or two not in the "Most.")

A relatively new ritual is the daily five-minute trek to 7-11 after lunch. Yesterday 15 of us made the trip; on Monday we had 13. The 7-11 manager gives me a small mini Slurpee each time I bring in all these kids.

Table Tennis Music Video

On Saturday, Sept. 15, we'll start (and hopefully finish) the band Edie Sedgwick will be filming a table tennis music video at the Maryland Table Tennis Center. The video will star 11-year-old Derek Nie, who will play and defeat the band members in the video. I'll be along as a consultant, and will be well paid in pepperoni pizza. Here's an example of another music video they did.

Team USA in London

Here's a video (1:50) of USA Olympians Ariel Hsing, Lily Zhang, and Erica Wu doing interviews, exhibitions, and promotional work in London.

Top 50 Points

Here's a video (18:36) that shows the "Top 50 Table Tennis Points."

Justin Bieber Playing TT in Commercial

Here's a commercial (2:01) starring Justin Bieber for a medicated cleansing bar that shows him playing table tennis. He says, "After a concert or playing ball I use the bar to shower." He's playing table tennis as he says this, for about two seconds starting at second 21.

Table Tennis Rules

Here's a video (6:26) from PingSkills that explains the rules - with a panda. Really! I like it.

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August 21, 2012

MDTTC Camp, Week Eleven, Day One

It's the first day of the last week. This camp is full - well over 30 players. I gave lectures on the forehand, on doubles, and on serving. Sometimes I only coach in the mornings at our camps, but because of the numbers, I'll be there all day all five days.

In the first half of the morning session I did multiball with seven players. One was a "blast from the past" - sort of. Back when I was in North Carolina from 1979-81 (when I was 19 to 21 years old), I used to hit a lot with Walter Wintermute, a 1900+ lefty all-out attacker, who was two years younger than me. (He's now rated over 2000.) He was a really nice guy, and we even played doubles together a few times. Now his son, David, 14, already rated over 1800, is at our camp and was in my group. He looks almost exactly like his father 30+ years ago! They even have the same long hair style. According to David, however, his dad is on him to cut it. Walter, by the power invested in me as a table tennis coach, I hereby give David permission to keep his hair long at least until the age when you cut yours!!! (That should bring him at least into his 20's.)

I spent much of the second half working with two new juniors. One was a lefty penholder who wasn't sure whether to play his backhand conventional or reverse penhold. I recommended he learn the reverse version, and he seemed to do it pretty well. On the forehand, however, he had this nasty habit of lifting his elbow and wrist as he stroked, and so his racket would close as he hit the ball. We spent a lot of time trying to undo that habit. We're going to focus on that for a while.

The other new junior hit forehands with just his arm, and had an awkward low grip, with a big gap between his hand and the paddle, and his finger almost straight down the middle. We fixed the grip, got him to rotate his shoulders, and his forehand really came alive - he was smacking in shots by late afternoon. On the backhand, however, he tended to sort of slap at the ball, often hitting with backspin. We fixed that, but he's still having trouble generating any pace - most of his backhands are pretty soft. But the technique is now sound, and I'm confident his backhand will really come alive in the next few days. One thought is to have him hit some with pips-out sponge, which forces a player to stroke more. But we'll see how he does tomorrow.

The Legend of "B"

"B" is a player whose name I'm not going to give out, but we're having a lot of fun with it. He's a little kid who started in a group session. He's doing fine. However, a couple other kids who knew him but were in different group sessions asked about him. I told them how "B" was incredible, how his forehand was already as good as the coaches, and went on and on. And so the legend of "B" began. Now we take turns talking about The Legend of B as we take turns exaggerating his greatness. We're at the point where the best players in the world can sometimes see his shots, but usually can only hear them as they go by for winners.

Drill Your Skills with the Chinese National Team

Here are a couple of nice coaching videos on serving. They are taught by Chinese National Team Member Xu Ruifeng.

Washington Post Feature on MDTTC on USATT Home Page

Yep, we're famous now! (Presumably we'll still be on the USATT front page when you read this.) Make sure to check out both the video and article.

Levitating Table?

Here's the picture. The online translation (Spanish to English) of the caption says, "Bureau in period of experimentation. Is installed with a remote control, and it picks up on the wall in the same way. The technique to keep it in a permanent state of levitation and leveled to the ground 0.76 cts prosecutable parallel to a agency to the NASA that has been inspired by the utensils used for their huge ships."

Outdoor Ping-Pong

Umpires - don't you need a free hand?

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August 10, 2012

MDTTC Camp, Week Nine, Day Four

Yesterday's focus was forehand loop and pushing. That was supposed to be the focus on Wednesday, but because of my car accident (see yesterday's blog), it was postponed a day. Friday's focus is usually pushing and "Player's Choice," and while we'll give that option, today's focus will be Backhand Attack, which is usually the focus on Thursday. I gave my lecture on pushing yesterday, which I normally give on Friday. Yes, these traffic accidents can throw an entire camp schedule off!

I think the loop is the shot that coaches are most picky about getting right. Most players can get away with, say, minor technical problems with the forehand smash because, by the intermediate level, most players are mostly looping on the forehand side, and when they smash, it's mostly against easy balls where you don't need technical perfection. The same is true of many other techniques. But the loop needs to be done really well or it can become the limiting factor in your game. There are two kids I'm working with right now who are probably a bit exasperated on how much I'm harping on some minor technical changes in their forehand loops, but they also understand the importance of getting it just right.

Teaching the backhand push to beginners is relatively easy since it comes naturally to most. Teaching the forehand push is trickier. Beginners almost always want to take the ball from way off to the side (i.e. way to the right for a righty) when you actually should be facing the ball when you forehand push. It's also trickier to teach because you really want players to push only against a short ball, since deeper ones should be looped, but to learn the forehand push beginners have to push long to each other. (This is also true on the backhand, but you can get away with pushing more on the backhand side since at least you have an angle into the opponent's backhand if you push wide, and most opponents are weaker looping on the backhand side.) Here's a good tutorial with pictures and video of the forehand push, and here are three articles I've written on pushing.

Today is also candy day. That means that at 12:30 (half hour before lunch break), I bring out several bags of candy (Jolly Ranchers and Hershey Kisses), pile them all over the table, and the players line up taking turns trying to knock them off the table (two shots each, then go to the end of the line and wait for next turn). Anything they knock off the table they win. It's the single most popular thing we do; heck, it's the single most popular thing done anywhere in the universe, based on the reaction of the kids in the camp.

It's also going to be an exhausting day. Last night I discovered some moron had trashed me in an online video. It was a straight personal attack, calling me names I won't repeat here (is this kindergarten?), making up stuff about me, and done in front of an audience for laughs. I was pretty irritated, and couldn't get to sleep until well after 3AM, giving me less than four hours of sleep. It even "quoted" a friend of mine trashing me, though like much of the other stuff he said he probably made that up.

The good news is that we have a smaller than usual number signed up for next week (week ten out of eleven weeks of consecutive camps), so I may get some of next week off to rest, work on my Table Tennis Tactics book (see below), visit the zoo, and perhaps write a new SF story that'll no doubt feature morons who go after others in online videos. (On an interesting side note, one of the top junior players in the U.S. has begun writing SF, and I'm helping him with his stories.) 

Car Crash

Yesterday in my blog I wrote about the car accident I was in Wednesday morning. Here are two pictures of my poor car, which is now in intensive care at the auto body shop. To survive it's going to need a massive infusion of life-giving cash. Hopefully the insurance company is of the right cash type.

  1. Picture One
  2. Picture Two

Status of Table Tennis Tactics Book

My own upcoming book, Table Tennis Tactics: A Thinker's Guide, has been done for a couple of months, but due to the summer camp schedule at the Maryland Table Tennis Center (i.e. complete exhaustion each day) I haven't been able to work on the page layouts. I decided to self-publish it rather than spend a long time going through publishers, who'll want to change it for the mass audience, rather than keep it as it is, written for all levels, including advanced players. Plus, of course, I'll get a much higher percentage of the profits, since I'm doing all the work.

How to Win at Table Tennis

Australian player and about.com table tennis moderator Greg Letts has come out with a new ebook, "How to Win at Table Tennis" - and it's FREE!!! (It's 145 pages, 16MB in PDF format.) Greg, sometime soon I'll explain the basics of capitalism to you. :)

Chinese Unbeatable in Table Tennis?

Here are two Associated Press article that were published in the Washington Post, with a self-explanatory titles.

Olympic Photos

Here are some nice photoshopped table tennis images (19 total) from the Olympics.

A Man Eating a Ping-Pong Ball

I may have linked to this once before, but here is a video of a man eating a ping-pong ball (0.31), in honor of the moron who trashed me in an online video (see above), who symbolically here is eating his words.

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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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July 25, 2012

MDTTC Camp

I won't bother giving you the week and day number (okay, yesterday was week six, day two), since they start to blend together when you are doing eleven straight weeks of camps.

This week we have about 30 players, mostly advanced, with only 4-5 "beginners." Since it's a more advanced group (and since I could work with the beginners separately), I decided not to bother my usual stroke lectures. So yesterday I gave a talk on ball placement - playing the corners and middle, when to go for the extreme wide angles (outside the corners), opening up the wide angles by playing the middle, taking away the forehand by playing to the forehand first (often short) and then going to the backhand, moving players in and out, etc. After the break I gave short talk on doubles strategy - what types of serves to use (mostly short and low backspin and no-spin) and where to place them (mostly toward the center of the table), how to receive (forehand or backhand, as long as you can loop the deep ball), where to place the ball, etc.

Last week a reporter from the Washington Post came in to do a feature on Derek Nie, the U.S. Open Boys' 11 and Under Champion. (It looks like they are featuring Nathan Hsu as well, and other MDTTC players.) He's coming back this morning, along with a photographer. Not sure yet when the story will run.

On top of that the Baltimore Sun is doing an interview with Derek this morning for a feature in this Sunday's paper. I don't think Derek even knows about this one yet. We also have a local TV station that arranged yesterday to come in and do a special on us on Aug. 16. Plus the local Gazette is doing a special on us, not sure when they are coming in. Plus there was that CCTV American special on us last week. So it's been a busy media week. Meanwhile, I'll be coaching at the Junior Olympics next week (Mon-Wed), and will send out a whole new slew of press releases afterwards.

On break I saw Derek, Allen Wang, John Hsu, and Leon Bi playing a winner-stay-on game where they started each game at deuce, and you didn't have to win by two. (In other words, first to win two points. Leon, who's about a thousand points lower, only had to win one point.) I joined in, and did surprisingly well, winning at least the first game all five times I went on the table, and winning three in a row one time. I had a nice counterlooping point with Derek, and won a point chopping against John.

Larry's Law

This has come up several times recently, so I'll give it again. "Larry's Law" is a law I came up with years ago. Often as a player trains and improves they start challenging stronger players, but still lose most of these matches close, though they'll occasionally win one. The reason is that while they may now be playing at the same level as the other player, the other player has more experience at that level, and so is tactically and mentally more prepared to win the close games. In other words, if you are challenging stronger players and keep training and playing matches against players at that level, it means that in six months or so you'll have the experience to consistently win at that level

Interview with Jerome Charyn

Here's an interview with Jerome Charyn, table tennis player and author of the table tennis book "Sizzling Chops and Devilish Spins: Ping Pong and the Art of Staying Alive" (2001). The book is "part memoir and part history," and "...bounces from Manhattan in the 1940s (where unheralded lions of the game, like Marty Reisman and Dick Miles, hustled their way through the ping-pong underworld) to China in the 1960s (when Nixon used ping pong as a tool of diplomacy) to present-day France (where Charyn, our faithful guide, battles his way through the lower-division tournaments)."

Table Tennis Center Sprouts Up in South Carolina Mall

Here's an article about a table tennis center that opened up Richland Mall in Columbia, South Carolina.

Jan-Ove Waldner Tribute

I don't think I've posted this Waldner Tribute Video (4:21), with lots of great points from the Master.

Table Tennis as It Should Be

On a makeshift wooden table balanced on barrels.

Uberpong: Table Tennis Paddles Artwork

Here's an article and video (3:52) on Uberpong's numerous table tennis paddle artworks.

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July 23, 2012

Tip of the Week

Ready Position.

MDTTC Camp, Week Five, Day Five

On Friday we completed Week Five of our summer camps. (We have six more to go!) Week Six starts today.

The big highlight on Friday was the Washington Post coming in to do a feature on Derek Nie and the Maryland Table Tennis Center. While Derek (the recent U.S. Open Boys' 11 and Under Champion) was the focus, they also interviewed me, coaches Cheng Yinghua and Jack Huang, and players Nathan Hsu, Amy Lu, and Timmy La. They are sending a photographer in later on, with the story running in a week or so. 

I gave a lecture and demon on pushing in the morning. And then it was our usual Friday morning's "Player's Choice," where players decided what they wanted to work on when they did multiball training with the coaches. I was impressed that most in my group did footwork drills. At the end of the session I did my usual "surprise" (to new players) and brought out bags of candy - Hershey's Kisses and Jolly Ranchers (hard candy). I spread them out thickly near the end of the table, and the kids took turns trying to knock them off (two shots each). Whatever they knocked off, they got! (I allowed trades, and the Jolly Ranchers proved the more popular, with many of the kids trading in their chocolate kisses for these.)

At lunch I was fascinated by what kids know about. The kids were all talking about the shooting in Aurora, Colorado, presumably because it happened during a showing of the new Batman movie, which all planned to see.  They are all Pixar experts. But many only vaguely knew of Mitt Romney or the war in Afghanistan. Of course they know everything about online places like Facebook, games, etc.

USA Olympic Table Tennis Program

Here's the nine-page program booklet for USA Table Tennis at the Olympics. (It's rather large at 27.7 MB, due to the many graphics.) It profiles the USA players, plus lots of background info, including the playing schedule. The Olympics start this Friday, with table tennis starting on Saturday.

Chinese Olympic Team

Here's an article about the Chinese team training in Leeds in England. Here's another one, which includes a team picture.

The Spin and Speed of Table Tennis

Here's a video that explains some of the science of spin and speed in table tennis, starring Olympian Erica Wu. 

The Mythical Double Bounce Loop!

Go to 2:26 of this match between Jean-Philippe Gatien and Chuang Chih-Yuan. Now watch the loop by the lefty Gatien - yep, it bounces twice! There really is such thing as a double-bounce loop. Now all we have to do are find the mythical Loch Ness Bigfoot that plays table tennis on the grassy knoll in Area 51 and we'll have seen all the wonders of the universe.

Milo Kerrigan Does Table Tennis

Here's a funny table tennis video by comedian Milo Kerrigan (2:10).

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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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July 18, 2012

MDTTC Camp, Week Five, Day Two

The schedule yesterday was similar to the day before, except that the morning's focus was on the backhand, and my lecture after the break was on return of serve.

I did a lot of coaching on serves, where the focus was on creating spin. One thing I introduced was a way to practice spin with just the racket and ball. You toss the ball into the air and try to sidespin it straight into the air, catch it, and repeat. It's a simple exercise any player can learn to do, and it's a great way to practice your spin contact as well as control (since you have to hit the ball straight up).

One serve especially has gained interest - the reverse forehand pendulum serve, especially short to the forehand. I've explained that this is probably the most effective serves against junior players (because of their shorter reach, making it hard both to handle the serve or to return it anywhere except crosscourt to a righty's forehand), and this seems to have sparked interest. Here's a video (1:22) that features Men's Singles World Champion Zhang Jike doing the serve, with slow motion. Normally I'd recommend the serve to go wider to the forehand, but at the advanced levels that gives the receiver a very wide angle into the forehand, so at that level it is often done more to the middle. Learn the serve and experiment on what works best in your matches against different opponents.

Things weren't all lovey-dovey in the camp; we had our first real fight of the season. One kid wanted to share a chair with another (both about 9), for some reason didn't want to use the open chair five feet away. I had to pull them apart. Amazing how such little things can escalate at that age level. (I previously blogged about a fight over paper cups, I think about who got to stack them for knocking down with ping-pong balls.) But an hour later they were happily taking turns on the robot together, and later were teammates in Brazilian Teams, cheering for each other. I wish my memory were that short.

In the ongoing clipboard challenge matches during break, I haven't yet lost to anyone rated under 2200, and am now 5-0 against players rated between 2000 and 2200. However, I believe players are now conspiring together by studying videos late into the night, comparing notes, consulting with coaches, and doing early morning training, all for the express purpose of beating me and my clipboard.

Fundraising for Topspin the Movie

To do the documentary on Michael Landers, Ariel Hsing, and Lily Zhang, they need to raise $75,000. As of this writing, 405 people have donated a total of $44,771. It's all or nothing - so they need you to donate! Here's the movie webpage, here's the fundraising site, and here's a link to the 48-hour Top Spinnathon they started Tuesday at 3:30 PM.

Ariel Hsing on CNN

Here's an article with a link to a two-minute video that ran on CNN yesterday. The person hitting with Ariel in the video is coach and practice partner Anol Kashyap.

Timothy Wang in the News

Here's an article on USA Olympian Timothy Wang.

What Vikash Learned at the U.S. Open

Vikash Sahu blogs about what he learned at the U.S. Open, in particular about attacking, playing different styles, and physical conditioning.

History of U.S. Table Tennis

Chapter 14 of Volume 12 of Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis was featured yesterday on the USATT web page. The heading: "1983: New USTTA Editor Tom Wintrich Replaces 50-Year-Old 'Table Tennis Topics' with 'SPIN.' 1983: Boggan's Fury at President Schiff's Public Explanation as to Why Tim was Fired as 'Topics' Editor. 1983: Boggan Immediately Begins Renegade 'Timmy’s North American World of Table Tennis.'  1983: Initial Responses to SPIN and 'Timmy's' from readers."

Why not buy a copy of this volume and/or the preceding eleven? Perhaps pick and choose the years you are most interested in. Here's Tim Boggan's table tennis page, where you can buy the books or just read about Tim. Here's his Hall of Fame profile.

Wheel of Fortune

Table tennis was on Wheel of Fortune yesterday, as related online by "jj4tt" at the about.com table tennis forum. As he narrates about "Round 2 - Same Letter" (and I presume Wheel of Fortune aficionados can make sense of this?):

Sarah instantly duds out w/ T while Karla goes BANKRUPT. Jed picks up that MDW with three N's. That's followed by $7,000 worth of L's, but he blows it with the C. Back to Sarah who finds the SL of four P's; that allows her to pick up a 1/2 KIA. She narrows the puzzle down to this...
P R O _ E S S I O N A L
P I N _ - P O N _
P L A _ E R
She solves PROFESSIONAL PING-PONG PLAYER for $2,500. Jed left a total of $8,300 on the table in this round.  ...

A Table at Spin NY

I think it's a drowning woman - the table top seems to be blocking her from surfacing. Perhaps tomorrow I'll be posting about Murder at Spin NY.

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