MDTTC camp

July 17, 2012

MDTTC Camp, Week Five, Day One

Here's a quick rundown of the day's activities. There were 35 players in the camp. Coaches are myself, Cheng Yinghua, Jack Huang, and visiting Coach Liu (not sure of his full name) from New York. Wang Qing Liang (2641), Chen Bo Wen (2431) and Raghu Nadmichettu (2389) are practice partners. Players include Allen Wang (15, 2370), Nathan Hsu (16, 2349, 2011 Junior Olympic Under 16 Boy's Singles Champion); John Hsu (18, 2226 but usually higher, 2011 Junior Olympic Under 18 Boys' Singles Champion); Barbara Wei (2199, former U.S. Junior Team member), Derek Nie (11, 2170, U.S. Open 11 & Under Boys Champion), the Alguetti brothers (Adar 12, Gal 11, Sharron 11, rated 2081, 2089, and 2098), Lilly Lin (15, 1885); Amy Lu (11, 1838, U.S. #3 Under 12 girl), and many more.  (Regulars Tong Tong Gong, Crystal Wang, and Roy & Princess Ke are in China training.)

  1. Paperwork: making sure everyone's registered and paid, signing people up for lunch delivery (we have Chinese food delivered for $6/person, players order from a menu), etc.
  2. At about 10AM: stretching
  3. Introduce coaches, explain how the camp runs, go over rules, etc.
  4. Short lectures and demos on grip, ready stance, and the forehand.
  5. Divide players in four groups for about an hour and ten minutes of multiball training with the coaches.
  6. Pick up balls, then break.
  7. Take on clipboard challenges during break. (I played three players, with ratings of about 2000, 2080, and 2090, and won all three.)
  8. After break we divided players into two groups. New players (about 15) came with me for my service lecture and service practice. The rest did drills and then doubles with the other coaches.
  9. We finished the morning session with 30 minutes of Brazilian Teams, where we divide players into teams of 3-5. One player from each team plays a point, and the winner stays on the table, the loser goes to the end of his team's line. New person always serves. Game is to 41.
  10. At 1:00 PM, lunch. (I had chicken fried rice.)
  11. At 1:30 PM I took six kids to 7-11. (We had to jam in my car - two in front passenger seat, four in the back.)
  12. About 2:00 PM I went home, let my dog out, checked email, etc., then returned to club.
  13. We started up again at 3:00 PM with stretching.
  14. I took five beginners to two tables in the back while the rest of the players did regular drills on the other tables. We did an hour of multiball training, with the players alternating between me, ball pickup, and using the robot.
  15. Break.
  16. After break we did a few multiball drills, and then played games. We did around the world; bottle hitting (if they hit it, I had to drink it, and I assured them the red stuff in the Gatorade bottle was from my pet rhinoceros's nosebleed); cup pyramid destruction (we make pyramids of cups and knock them down, including a competition to see who can knock down the most in ten shots); and finished at with Brazilian Teams. Camp ended at 6:00 PM.

ITTF Level 2 Coaching Seminar

The first ITTF Level 2 Coaching Seminar will be held at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Oct. 30 - Nov. 6. I expect to participate. Here's the info page. To be eligible, you must fulfill the following:

  • Current USATT Members
  • Currently certified as a USATT Coach
  • Currently listed on the ITTF Coaches Registry as a Level 1 Coach
  • Must have attended the ITTF Level 1 Course before November 1st of 2011 (1 year between courses)

Cast Your Vote for Ariel Hsing USOC June Female Athlete of the Month!

She's up against 15 others in this USOC vote.

Returning a Heavy Backspin Serve

Pingskills brings you this new video on the Returning a Heavy Backspin Serve (2:54).

The U.S. Open Sandpaper Final

Here's Ty Hoff and Adoni Maropis in the Sandpaper final (23:21). Lots of long rallies, with a mix of attack and defense. Check out the point at 15-18 in game one (at 8:54)! And yes, Adoni Maropis, in real life, is the guy (okay, the actor playing Abu Fayed in season six) who nuked Valencia, CA (and tried to nuke others) in the TV series "24." He was also in Troy, Hidalgo, and many other movies.

Samson Dubina on My Valley Sports TV

Here's a news video that features table tennis and Samson Dubina (1:44).

Another Full-time Club in the Bay Area

Here's the article about the upcoming Rossmoor Table Tennis Club.

Ma Long's Under the Net Return

Here it is, in regular and slow motion (0.38).

Practice Safe Pong

So says Steve Colbert in this picture of beer pong. Here's the video (4:19). Colbert introduces a new game called 'Who gave me herpes?"

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June 28, 2012

Last Blog Until After U.S. Open

This will be my last blog until I return from the U.S. Open in Grand Rapids. I should start blogging again on Friday, July 6. I know it will be difficult, but there must be other stuff on the Internet to read. I've heard rumors.

I'm mostly coaching at the Open (primarily Derek and George Nie), though I am entered in one event, Hardbat Doubles with Ty Hoff. (I've won it twelve times at the Open or Nationals, eight times with Ty, four times with Steve Berger.) There's just too many time conflicts in trying to play multiple events while coaching multiple players, and I had to make a choice on whether I'm primarily a player or a coach. (Duh!) Normally I'd also coach Tong Tong Gong, but he's on the National Cadet Team, and so will be mostly coached by the U.S. National Cadet Coach, Keith Evans.

I'm driving up with the Nie family on Friday morning, leaving around 7AM, and should arrive by 5PM or so. I should arrive in time to attend both the ITTF Jury Meeting at 6PM (where they make the draws and go over rules, etc.) and the USATT Coaching Committee Meeting at 8PM (I'm on the committee). The Nie's are staying in Michigan after the Open for a few days of vacation, so I'm flying back on the fourth of July.

MDTTC Camp - Week Two, Day Three

The focus yesterday was on the forehand loop, though as usual we varied this depending on each player's level and playing style. I also gave a lecture and demo of various racket surfaces (pips-out sponge, hardbat, antispin, long pips with and without sponge), grips (penhold, both conventional and with reverse penhold backhand, as well as the Seemiller grip) and how to play choppers.

One 12-year-old beginner really liked the antispin, and asked to borrow it for the day. He's now using it on his backhand in all his drills and matches, dead-blocking with the backhand, attacking with the forehand. I've converted him to the dark side!!! If he stays with this style, most likely he'll eventually "graduate" to long pips (no sponge) on the backhand and become a pushblocker.

There is also a kid, about ten years old, who is developing a chopper/looper style. He spent a lot of time yesterday with Wang Qing Liang, our 17-year-old 2567-rated chopper/looper.

Today's focus will be the backhand attack, especially the backhand loop. Then we'll have the ever-popular "How many paper cups can I knock down in ten shots?" challenge, where we stack the cups in a pyramid and I feed them the balls multiball style.

China and the Timo Boll-Zhang Jike Rivalry

Here's an article that discusses these two players, with insight from Chinese Coach Liu Guoliang.

Top Table Tennis Points

Here's a video (14:12) of top table tennis points. Included in the video are players Adrien Mattenet, Chuang Chih Yuan, Kaii Yoshida, Ryu Seung Min, Jun Mizutani, Chen Chien-An, Fengtian Bai, Christian Suss, Zhang Jike, Ma Long, Alexey Smirnov, Michael Maze, Timo Boll, Jean Michel Saive, Robert Gardos, Christophe Legout, Chen Weixing, Tiago Apolonia, Taku Takakiwa, Patrick Baum, Seiya Kishikawa, Andrej Gacina, Vladimir Samsonov, Gao Ning, Feng Tianwei, Ding Ning, Zoran Primorac, Jan-Ove Waldner, Ding Song, Chen Qi, Lee Jung Woo, Roko Tosic, and Romain Lorentz.

Wanna see a ping-pong ball spin at 10,000 rpm?

Here it is (0:40), care of liquid nitrogen!

Adam Bobrow Reviews the New Plastic Ball

In this new video (0:31), Adam breaks through the window of silence and discovers the shattering truth about the new plastic ball.

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June 26, 2012

MDTTC Camp - Week Two, Day One

Yesterday we started another week of camps. As we usually do, the first day we focused on the forehand, though we personalized this for more advanced players. In the second half I gave my service lecture. The players had a good time doing some of the service spin drills I demonstrated: serving on the floor and making the ball curve sideways (toward a target) or backwards into their hands; serving from wide backhand or forehand and making the ball spin around so it bounced in all four quadrants of the table, and ending up down the line from where the serve started and hitting a target set up there; or serving backspin so the ball bounced back into or over the net.

As I was about to do multiball with one new 12-year-old, he walked over and said, "Let me apologize in advance." Before he could continue, I asked him if he'd stolen my car or wallet. He laughed, then said, "No, I'm just apologizing because I can't play at all." I explained to him that everyone started out as a beginner. Then we started, and to be honest, he was rather ragged at the start, with a short, jerky stroke that ended right at contact. It took a while to get him to follow through smoothly, but by the end of the morning session he was hitting decent forehands.

Four Days Until the U.S. Open in Grand Rapids

Have you practiced your serves today? I have. (But I'm only playing hardbat doubles. I'm going primarily to coach.) I recently discovered a new variation of my reverse pendulum serve that's going to create havoc . . . I hope.

Ready Position

In this article and video (4:36), ICC Head Coach Massimo Constantini explains the importance of stance and posture to the "Ready Position." (Seems to be audio only.)

Amateur and Pro Ping-Pong Players Wanted for Reality TV Game Show

Yes, you can be a TV ping-pong star! All you have to do is be willing to look silly. Okay, my bias against reality shows is showing, so here's the actual description:

Amateur heroes take on the pros under extreme conditions in order to score points, win money, and to elevate the sport. WIN MONEY! You don't have to beat them, just score a few points. We believe the time has come, for the very best amateurs to compete head-to-head against the best table tennis players in the world. Submit an online application and upload a video to get on the show.

Non-Table Tennis: Those Onerous Overdone Outlines

Musa Publishing (no connection to Nigerian star Atanda Musa!) recently published a blog item I wrote for them on outlining science fiction stories. The funny thing was they were supposed to notify me when it went up, but they forgot. I just discovered it - it went up on June 14. Here's the blog entry, entitled "Those Onerous Overdone Outlines." They also published my eStory "Willy and the Ten Trillion Chimpanzees" (only 99 cents!). Here's the story description from their web page: "What if William Shakespeare was a demon with ten trillion captive chimpanzees in his basement, where time is sped up a trillion-fold, and where they are forced to randomly type as they produce the works of Shakespeare? And then the chimpanzees rebel…." They also bought another story from me that'll be in their upcoming July issue of Penumbra Magazine, "The Dragon of the Apocalypse" - here's the cover. (And here's my science fiction & fantasy page.)

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June 22, 2012

Day Four of MDTTC Camp - the Backhand Loop and Doubles Tactics

On Thursday morning we focused on the backhand attack against backspin, mostly the backhand loop but also the backhand drive against backspin, especially against a short ball. Nathan Hsu (15, rated 2356) was my partner for the demo. I demonstrated my favorite loop versus backspin drill: I serve backspin, partner pushes to my backhand, I backhand loop, partner blocks, I backhand chop, partner pushes, and I backhand loop, and the cycle continues.

Later I gave a short lecture on doubles tactics. (Short version - Serves: serve low and short, mostly toward the middle of the table. Receive: be ready to loop any ball that goes long. Rallies: hit to the opposite side of the player hitting to you from his partner, so they get in each other's way. And lots more.)  Then we played doubles for an hour. We also divided the camp into two groups, and I took the "new" players off to the side and gave a lecture on equipment, which ended with everyone trying out playing against and with anti and long pips. (I also talked about short pips and hardbat.)

There are 34 players in the camp this week. We were a bit worried that we'd get a smaller turnout since we're running camps every week all summer - eleven consecutive weeks - but that doesn't seem to be a problem.

U.S. Nationwide Table Tennis League

Here's a new 30-second ad for the upcoming USNTTL league, which starts in September. Here's their home page.

Reminder - Sports Psychology Night at MDTTC

Tonight, Table Tennis Sports Psychologist Dora Kurimay will run a 40-minute sports psychology workshop at the Maryland Table Tennis Center. She runs the table tennis sports psychology page dorakurimay.com, and is the co-author of the book "Get Your Game Face On!" (Here's my review of the book on the USATT website.) The schedule for the night will be: 6:30-7:00PM - book signing; 7:00-7:40PM: Sports Psychology Seminar ($20, which includes a free copy of the book); after 7:40PM: Personalized Sport Psychology Consultation. Here is the flyer for the event. Come join us! (Dora's also coming in early to join in our afternoon session at the MDTTC training camp.)

Moyer Foundation's Celebrity Ping-Pong Tournament

Baseball pitching star Jamie Moyer will host this celebrity charity event this Saturday, 5:30-9:00 PM, in Philadelphia, with proceeds "will help children in distress – including The Moyer Foundation’s Camp Erin and Camp Mariposa programs." Here's the info page, and here's The Moyer Foundation, founded by MLB World Series-winning All-Star pitcher Jamie Moyer and his wife, Karen. Celebrities attending include  the following - and note Delaware Governor Jack Markell - I've coached him! Here's a picture of him playing from the Celebrities Playing Table Tennis Page.

ICC Table Tennis in NY Times

Here's an article in yesterday's New York Times on the India Community Center Table Tennis in Milpitas, CA.

"Beer Pong Saved My Life"

That's the title of this 2010 movie, which bombed both critically and at the box office. "Two best friends, Dustin and Erik, are tired of their stagnant and miserable lives. When Dustin hears about a beer pong tournament at a nearby college, Erik is on board right away. Reluctantly, Dustin agrees to play in the tournament and suddenly they are the coolest and best players there. But when the sudden praise goes to their heads, it's all downhill from there!"

In honor of this movie (and despite the fact that I'm a non-drinker), here are some great Beer Pong videos:

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June 21, 2012

Day Three of MDTTC Camp - the Forehand Loop

Yesterday's focus was forehand looping. In my lecture I used 11-year-old Derek Nie (rated 2146) as my demo partner, and we had some nice rallies, including looping against backspin, against block, and counterlooping. It was new to a few players, and I took these players off to the side to teach the fundamentals while the other coaches fed multiball to the others.

Halfway through the morning session I gave a 20-minute lecture on return of serve, and then we went out on the table to practice serve and receive. (I gave a 30-minute lecture on serving yesterday.) It's great watching their serves improve. Earlier that morning before the camp started I'd done an impromptu challenge where I served and campers tried to return my serve. About fifteen formed a line, and if they missed my serve, they went to the end of the line. (The stronger players in the camp watched with amusement.) I think a couple managed to get two back, but the great majority missed the first one. I think this raised the interest level in the receive lecture, and even more in learning these serves. Some are still trying to figure out how I get topspin on my serve when I stroke downward with an open racket and hit the bottom of the ball. (The racket tip is moving down, but just before contact I flip the bottom of the racket sideways and up, and then continue down after contact. But it's probably something you have to see in person.)

Yesterday's "Big Game" at the end of the morning session was Around the World. I feed multiball while the kids hit one shot, and then circle the table. When they miss five, they are out. When they are down to two players, I put a target on the table (usually a box, but today I used my towel) and they take turns trying to hit it. When one hits it and the other misses, the one who hit it is the champion, and we start over. Later I fed more multiball and they had to knock cups off the table (28 of them in a pyramid), with the warning that the galaxy would explode if they didn't knock them all off in five minutes. They knocked the last one off with three seconds to spare, just barely saving the galaxy!

Later that day Coach Jeffrey Zeng Xun (a 2600 player) was drilling with a 2200 pips-out penholder. One of the players in the camp, Minh Nguyen, is an aspiring two-winged looper like Jeffrey, so I called him over and we watched Jeffrey as he completely dominated rallies with his backhand loop, which he could put anywhere on the table with power, control, and consistency, with textbook technique. Players can improve quite a bit just by watching the way he rotates his body and shoulders and then snaps his arm and wrist into the shot. (It's like throwing a Frisbee toward the ceiling.)

That night I did a one-hour private session with a father and son. The son had learned to forehand loop and was working on backhand looping some, though he prefers hitting on both sides. Looping was new to the father, so we spent much of the session on his forehand loop. It's always striking watching the difference in how people of different ages learn. Younger players learn the technique quickly, but can't control it. Older players have trouble with the technique, but have ball control.

Reminder - Sports Psychology Night at MDTTC

Tomorrow, on Friday, June 22, Table Tennis Sports Psychologist Dora Kurimay will run a 40-minute sports psychology workshop at the Maryland Table Tennis Center. She runs the table tennis sports psychology page dorakurimay.com, and is the co-author of the book "Get Your Game Face On!" (Here's my review of the book on the USATT website.) The schedule for the night will be: 6:30-7:00PM - book signing; 7:00-7:40PM: Sports Psychology Seminar ($20, which includes a free copy of the book); after 7:40PM: Personalized Sport Psychology Consultation. Here is the flyer for the event. Come join us!

100th ITTF Certified Coach in the U.S.

Here's the story from the ITTF. I ran one of the ITTF coaching seminars in the U.S. last April, and certified fourteen of them. I'm running another in August at the Maryland Table Tennis Center. Here's the flyer. If interested, email me. Come join us!

Historical Mistake on the Origins of Table Tennis

Yesterday I linked to a web page that supposedly gave a historical account about the origins of table tennis. Unfortunately I found out that afternoon that the info there was dated. (I've since deleted the link.) I should have known better since I'd read the book "Ping Pong Fever" by Steve Grant, which gave the newest info on the sports origin. (I plead training camp madness - we just started eleven weeks of training camps at MDTTC, so I was a little rushed in putting together the blog.) Here is the account from the ITTF Museum, which was updated to reflect Grant's discoveries, and Grant's own press release on the subject.

New USA International Umpires

Who are they? Here's the story!

Seniors Embrace Table Tennis

Here's the story from the Evanston Review/Sun Times.

Proper Table Tennis Training with Scott Gordon

In honor of the many summer training camps now being run around the country, here is the greatest table tennis training video ever made (2:31).

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June 20, 2012

Day Two at the MDTTC Camp - the Backhand

There are just over 30 players in the camp, ranging from beginner to 2400, from age 7 to 24. Today's focus was on the backhand, though of course that varied from player to player. I did a backhand demo with Tong Tong Gong where he and I went at it backhand to backhand. I am happy to say I smacked about three dozen consecutive backhands at full speed, an incredible display of advanced backhand prowess. I am unhappy to say that Tong Tong did three dozen plus one. Yeah, I finally missed.

So how's your backhand? Do you tend to keep the racket tip down? (This is for shakehanders.) This gives you extra power and can turn your backhand into almost a second forehand. However, it may cost you control and quickness, and make you weaker in the middle. Do you tend to keep the racket tip more up? That'll give you extra quickness and control, and make it easier to cover the middle. To use two classic examples, Jan-Ove Waldner tended to keep his tip up a bit while Jorgen Persson kept his down. (If you don't know these two Swedish world champions, google them.) Jim Butler is another player who keeps his racket tip down, giving him a great backhand smash. Dave Sakai is an example of a player who keeps his racket tip more up, giving him a great backhand counter-hitting and blocking game.

These days, at the world-class level, most players loop almost everything on both backhand and forehand, and so they tend to keep the racket tip down.

I pointed out to the campers that we've run over 150 five-day camps, which comes out to over two years of camps. Yes, I've spent two years of my life running these things. They were suitably impressed.

USA's Kanak Jha wins ITTF Hopes Challenge

Here's the ITTF article!

Challenge the brain with table tennis

Here's an table tennis graphic with Spanish captions. Here is the English translation from an online translator - see #6! ("Apparently"?)

Six Steps to Exercise the Brain

1. Play an instrument, play, not only listen, strengthens the neural pathways.

2. Learn another language. Pay attention to hear another language sharpens the brain functions.

3. Juggle.

4. Dance. Memorize the dance steps improved the memory balance and posture.

5. Put together puzzles. Improve your concentration.

6. Table Tennis. Apparently this sport requires very fine movements that challenge the brain.

London Olympics/Coca-Cola Commercial

And it features table tennis! It's a mixture of music video and coke commercial (4:28). The table tennis player is Darius Knight of the English table tennis team.

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August 22, 2011

Tip of the Week

Strategic Versus Tactical Thinking.

MDTTC Coaching Camp - Day Ten

  • Friday was Day Ten and the last day of our second MDTTC two-week camp of the summer.
  • While working with the beginners (mostly age 8-10), I brought out "Froggy," a large and very realistic rubber frog, which I put on the table for target practice. We divided the group into two teams of four, and while I fed balls with multiball, they took turns trying to hit it. Team A won over Team B, 21-17. I brought it out several more times as the kids seemed to take great pleasure in hitting the poor frog.
  • We ran a tournament for most of the players, but I again took the beginners separately, as they weren't really ready for a tournament. Instead, I brought out two bags of candy - hard candy and Hershey's chocolate kisses - and spread them on the table. I spent much of the afternoon feeding multiball as the kids tried to knock them off. When they did, they got the candy!
  • This was MDTTC's last camp of the summer. Our next camp is our Christmas Camp, Dec. 26-31.

Oh my aching back!

Yes, the two weeks of camp has turned my back into a battlefield tourist attraction on a par with Gettysburg. If anyone can pull the twisted sword out of my back, I will make you king of England.

On Tuesday at 2PM I'll finally see the physical therapist for the first of many sessions. I won't be playing any table tennis for six weeks - I have others coming in to do my hitting when I coach. (I've already started this - John Olsen did my hitting for me during two sessions, and John Hsu will be helping out soon.) I'll give periodic updates here. (For those who haven't been following this blog religiously - what's wrong with you?!!! - my back's been killing me for months to the point where I can barely play anymore.)

Looking forward to practice sessions

Do you (or your students) look forward to practice sessions? Why or why not? Those who do usually improve; those who don't, don't. (Well, usually.) Players who can't wait to get to the practice session are where future champions come from. If you or a player you coach doesn't seem to look forward to practice sessions, perhaps it's time to add some variety. Push their limits - have them try more advanced shots, even if you don't think they are ready for them yet.

Canadian Junior and Cadet Open

It was held this weekend in Vancouver. Here is the web page with results.

Holy Heart-Pumping Ping-Pong!

This 15-minute video is about the best action-packed table tennis video I've ever seen, compiling many of the best points ever played. After watching this, you'll either be ready to beat the best Chinese or you'll be spraying (attempted) world-class shots all over the court.

George Hendry, RIP

Here's Tim Boggan's article on George Hendry (table tennis legend who died last week), from the May/June 1996 issue of Table Tennis World. You'll have to zoom in to read the text. It includes some very nice pictures.
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Here are other articles on Hendry:

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August 15, 2011

Tip of the Week

Can you write The Book on Your Game?

MDTTC Coaching Camp - Day Five

  • Day Five was actually last Friday. Day Six of the two-week MDTTC Camp is today. A number of new players are joining us - this'll probably be our biggest summer camp, with over 30 players, quite a jam on 12 tables. (We do lots of multiball so we can have more than two players on a table.)
  • As noted in previous blogs, one of the favorite games we do in the camp is to put ten paper cups on the table in various configurations, and see how many a player can knock down with ten shots. Unfortunately, on Friday this degenerated into "cup wars." During break, several of the kids took the whole stack of cups (about 50) and created a huge pyramid on the table they planned to knock down by hitting it with ping-pong balls. Another kid walked by and knocked it over with his hand. The others were angry, but couldn't really do much about it. They created another pyramid, and again the same kid came over and knocked it down. Then he wanted to join them in creating a new pyramid, but they wouldn't let him. (Gee, I wonder why?) So the kid grabbed a bunch of the cups. Then we had various chase scenes as the others tried to get the cups back, and it ended up with some punching and a lot of shoving. I finally had to intervene, and took the cups away from the destructive kid - which led to a total meltdown. "I just want to play with the cups!" he wailed. It's easier teaching a beginner how to beat the world champion than trying to explain to a screaming 8-year-old that they wouldn't let him play with him because he kept knocking down their cups - and he vowed he'd keep knocking them down. Alas. Someday I'll ask Stellan Bengtsson if refereeing cup wars is part of table tennis coaching.
  • On the brighter side, a 7-year-old girl couldn't hit one shot in a row when she started on Monday. By Friday, she was smashing winners.
  • Week One was a great success - and Week Two'll be even better!

Ball bouncing

For beginners, one of the best things they can do to develop hand-eye coordination in table tennis is ball bouncing. We have them bounce the ball up and down as many times as they can on their forehand side. It's very difficult for a typical 7- or 8-year-old, though by age 9 or 10 it becomes much easier. After they master this, we introduce the next step: ball bouncing on the backhand side, which is a bit more difficult for most players. When they master that, then we have them alternate, bouncing on the forehand and backhand sides.

We also have advanced players join in this, and have competitions between the beginners and advanced players. The advanced players have to alternate hitting one on their racket's surface, and one on the edge of their racket! I've taken on many of the beginners with this handicap, and it's often a close battle. Try this out and see how many you can do. I usually average about ten shots before missing; my record is 31. But if I practice, I think I can break that, and so should you.

Equipment reviews

One of my students in the camp we're running is looking to change his racket and sponge. I knew basically what he wanted - he loops just about everything on the forehand, both hits and loops on the backhand - but to help with the decision-making I had him do two things. First, he tried out every racket and sponge he could from players at the camp and club. (One problem with that is you often have to try out sponge on an unfamiliar racket, and so aren't sure how it'll play on your own racket.) Second, we researched them online at the Table Tennis Database. It's a great place to find equipment reviews!

When you're starting out, it's a good idea to really learn what's out there by trying out as many rackets and sponges as possible. Once you find the right equipment for you, I urge players to stick with it unless their game changes or there's a real equipment breakthrough (which happens about once every five to ten years).

My web pages

I maintain a number of web pages, mostly for table tennis. Here are the main ones. 

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August 9, 2011

MDTTC Coaching Camp - Day One - and the Forehand

Day one of our two-week camp at MDTTC went pretty well, just like the other 150 or so I've run. Yes, that's not a typo - I've run approximately 150 five-day training camps now, the equivalent of over two years, seven days a week! Yikes.

Originally I was only going to do the morning sessions (10AM-1PM), both because I'm not usually needed in the afternoon sessions (3-6PM) and because of my ongoing back problems. But there's a large turnout, and more beginners than normal, so I'm doing the afternoon sessions as well. I agreed to take charge of the beginners all week. (After the two weeks end on Aug. 19, I plan to take about six weeks off where I have one of our top local juniors do my hitting for me when I coach, to allow my back to finally heal up.) This week I'll be living on Ibuprofen.

Most interesting experience on day one was with a new eight-year-old kid who had never played before. He stood up straight, jammed up to the table, didn't rotate his shoulders, and was trying to hit forehands while facing the table, i.e. without turning sideways. His forehand hitting zone was about two inches wide. For about two minutes, he looked like what he was - a complete beginner, just sticking his racket out to hit the ball, racket tip straight up, with a rigid body. Then I finally got him stand arm's length from the table (so he'd have time and room to stroke) and to get down some by telling him to stand like a goalie in soccer. (I always tell new players to stand like a goalie in soccer, a shortstop in baseball or softball, or a basketball player - one usually clicks.) Then I got him to bring his right leg back and rotate sideways. This gave him a big forehand hitting zone. It also made dropping the racket tip more natural. Suddenly, without warning, he began hitting really nice forehands! It happened so suddenly that my first thought was, "Where did that come from?" So let me elaborate....

The forehand hitting zone

Many beginners and even intermediate players face the table too much when hitting forehands. It's important to bring the right foot back some (for righties) and to rotate back with the waist and shoulders, which turns the body sideways to the table. This gives you a large hitting zone. The key is to learn to hit through this zone. Normally you'd contact the ball in the middle of the zone, but sometimes you can take it early or late in the zone - but the key is you always stroke through the zone. Develop that habit, and most of your stroking and timing problems will go away.

Another key is not to jam the table - you need to be about arm's length away. New juniors especially tend to jam the table, which makes it nearly impossible to do anything other than stick the racket out on forehand shots, not to mention the problem with handling deep shots.

Paddle Palace Coaching Articles

Paddle Palace has a coaching page, including pages devoted to coaching articles by Samson Dubina and Stellan Bengtsson. The latest article is Four Stages of Peaking for a Tournament by Samson Dubina, which went up last Thursday.

Brian Pace video update

Coach Brian "Table Tennis Video Man" Pace gives a two-part update on his life, including parting ways with Pong Nation, upcoming DVDs for Dynamic Table Tennis, a DTT line of equipment, his own equipment changes, the table tennis app from the Apple store, and updates on his European training trip. The videos start out with a nice 30-second table tennis action intro.

Tribute to Waldner (4:36)

Here's a nice Waldner tribute video (4:36). Enjoy!

Backhand Shot of the Year

Judge for yourself.

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July 18, 2011

Tip of the Week - The Mental State of a Looper Against a Push

When you are getting ready to loop a push, are you thinking forehand, backhand, or something in between? This Tip of the Week covers the four mental states you should be in.

Hitting at 100% versus 80-90%.

How hard should you hit the ball when attacking? Even when you have an easy winner, most coaches will tell you never to hit at 100%, that you lose too much control. I have a slightly different take on that. I agree that you should rarely use 100% effort with all the muscles that are used for smashing or loop-killing. It's essentially impossible to time all those muscles at 100% so they work together properly. The key is not so much not hitting at 100% as much as it is using all the muscles smoothly in a progression from down up - the legs, waist, shoulders, arm, and wrist. If any of the muscles tries too much, it throws everything out of synch and you end up with just one spastic muscle trying (and usually failing) to provide all or most of the power. (There are rare freaks who can throw nearly everything into every shot and still do it smoothly and with control. They are called world-class players.)

Here's another way of looking at it, the way I like to teach it. No matter how hard you smash or loop, you should be able to do it and carry on a conversation at the same time without gasping or hesitating in any way. If you can't, then you are not smoothing using all the muscles properly. I always demonstrate this by explaining it while tossing a ball up and smashing or looping it at near full power.

Week two of MDTTC camp

This morning we start week two of the MDTTC July Camp. Let the madness begin! Main worry - my back is killing me, apparently two discs rubbing against each other, i.e. a degenerative disc. However, I won't know for sure until I see a specialist (orthopedist) this Wednesday afternoon.

Harry Potter Ping-Pong Week

The Truth about Harry Potter and Ping-Pong will shock the wizarding and muggle worlds, as told by He Who Shall Not Be Named, alias Dark Lord Marty Reisman and his elicit hardbat wand.

Ping-pong ball prank

That's a lot of balls in a car

Ping-pong ball car

That's a lot of balls on a car.

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