ITTF coaches

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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October 21, 2011

Looping versus Hitting

The advantage goes to looping, at least at the higher levels. But everyone's different, and below world-class levels there are many hitters who eat loopers for breakfast. 

The advantages of looping versus hitting

  1. The extreme topspin in a loop pulls the ball down, so you can keep the ball in play at high speeds and effectively attack even low balls.
  2. The topspin makes the ball bounce low and fast on the table, making it hard for the opponent to handle it.
  3. The topspin jumps up off the opponent's racket, making it tricky to keep on the table and low.
  4. Because you can loop the ball on the drop, you have more time to get into position for the shot, and so can loop over and over more easily than hitting over and over.
  5. A looper can often turn a hitter into a blocker.
  6. Because the ball jumps off the table and then sails downward, it's difficult to block or counter a loop effectively from off the table unless you are advanced enough to counterloop. To make an effective return, you generally have to stay at the table and block the ball off the bounce. Against a fast incoming ball, you have little time to react. Against a hitter, you can take a half step back to give yourself more time. Against a looper, that rarely works.

The advantages of hitting versus looping

  1. It's a quicker stroke.
  2. It's easier to learn.
  3. A hitter can often turn a looper into a lobber.
  4. You can generally create more speed since all of your power is going into speed.

The 2011 U.S. Table Tennis Hall of Fame Inductees

They are (and this link includes bios) . . . drum roll please . . . Quang Bui, Jim Butler, Jasna Rather (players); Jim McQueen (contributor); and Mal Anderson is the Mark Mathews Lifetime Achievement Award Winner. Here's a listing of the current U.S. Table Tennis Hall of Fame.

Table Tennis at the Pan Am Games

Here are the table tennis results from the just completed Pan Am Games. Here are some articles. USA finished with three bronzes, in Women's Team (Ariel Hsing, Lily Zhang, Erica Wu), with Ariel and Lily each getting bronze medals in Women's Singles. Mo Zhang of Canada won the gold medal for Women's Singles. Here are more detailed USA results.

Table Tennis News Video

Pongcast brings you the table tennis news, putting together this video (26:53) on the latest table tennis news. After a rather long one-minute intro, they talk about the sport, starting with a video of Susan Sarandon playing at the Spin Club in New York City, then go on to table tennis robots, the new "hyperbolic" serve, news from Europe, and other news.

ITTF Coaches in the USA

All fourteen of the coaches from the ITTF seminar I ran in April are now certified. They are (in alphabetic order): Carmencita "Camy" Alexandrescu (NV), Benjamin D. Arnold (PA), Changping Duan (MD), Jeff Fuchs (PA), John Hsu (MD), Charlene Liu (MD), Juan Ly (FL), Vahid Mosafari (MD), Dan Notestein (VA), John Olsen (VA), Jef Savage (PA), Jeff Smart (MD), David Varkey (PA), and Shaobo "Bob" Zhu (PA). Overall, there are now 44 USA coaches who are ITTF certified. Here is the ITTF coaches database; put in "USA" and you'll see the complete list for USA.

Group Coaching for Kids

This morning I'm off to coach a new group of about 20 new kids coming to the Maryland Table Tennis Center. They are from a local Optimal Learning Center. I'm going to start off with an exhibition, then go over a few basics, then introduce them to ball bouncing on the racket and various table tennis relay races. Then it'll on to the tables.

Entries at the USA Nationals

Currently there are 374 entries listed in the online listing. (You can search by name or event.) However, there are undoubtedly numerous entries not yet entered into the database or entering late, so I expect a bunch more, though it'll probably be a low turnout since, let's face it, Virginia Beach is not a "vacationland" like Las Vegas.

Here's a graph of the number of entries we've received at the Nationals each year going back to 1994, when the info first went online. (These numbers are from the USATT ratings database and only include players who played in rated events; they do not include players who only played doubles or hardbat.)  It was held in Las Vegas in each of these years. As you can see, we've regressed badly since 2006, though we had an uptick last year. It'd be nice if we could get back to where we were five years ago. Below are the actual numbers, though I think the graph shows it better.

  • 2011: ?
  • 2010: 686
  • 2009: 597
  • 2008: 604
  • 2007: 730
  • 2006: 837 record high
  • 2005: 829
  • 2004: 755
  • 2003: 707
  • 2002: 678
  • 2001: 672
  • 2000: 686
  • 1999: 658
  • 1998: 592
  • 1997: 650
  • 1996: 613
  • 1995: 660
  • 1994: 598

Photos of the Day in the Wall Street Journal

See photo #2!

This is not where the ball is supposed to go

Here are seven seconds of someone spitting a ball at a wall and catching it in his mouth.

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June 21, 2011

Serious Goofing Off versus Non-serious Goofing Off

Some players simply do not understand the advantage of SGO (Serious Goofing Off) versus NGO (Non-serious Goofing Off, with apologies to numerous Vietnamese players). In SGO, you are simply goofing off, and besides insulting your opponent, you are not only not helping yourself, you are developing bad habits. However, SGO can actually be valuable. For example, I saw one of our junior players play a lobber by constantly faking a smash and then just patting the ball back. I pulled him aside and said, "If you are going to drop shot his lob, then try to drop it for a winner." In other words, instead of just patting it back, he should go for a side-spin chop block, and try to double-bounce it so the lobber couldn't even get to it, or had to lunge. Another example: If you are going to lob, try to win the lob point with heavy spin (both topspin and sidespin), basically a high loop. Another example: If you are going to just return the serve without attacking it, then, well, do something serious with it - fake one way and go the other, and try to win the point with a "weak" return. Aim to this backhand, and as he's stepping around, go to the forehand and try not to giggle as the server stumbles all over the place trying to get to it.

Who was the all-time greatest SGO champion? Jan-Ove Waldner. You don't develop his touch and control without some serious SGO.

Why can't you serve like this?

Well, why can't you? There really are two types of serves: those whose purpose is to set you up to attack ("third-ball serves"), and those whose purpose is to either win the point outright or set up an easy winner ("surprise serves"). You should develop both.

Highlights of day one of the MDTTC Camp

Weird stuff happened on the first day of the camp here in Maryland. I was feeding multiball to one kid who was looping, and the ball I fed him hit a ball rolling on his side of the table, and bounced up almost normal. Without hesitation, the kid looped it away. That alone was strange, but about two shots later one of his shots hit my paddle as I was feeding him another shot, and both balls shot toward him. He looped both balls (on the table) with one stroke. One came at me, and hit my paddle again, and again both balls shot at him. Again he hit both balls, and although one went off, this was when we both practically fell to the ground laughing. Later, when someone accidentally (I hope) hit a ball at me, I ducked. A girl asked why I ducked, and I said because I was afraid of the ball hitting me. She called me a "ducking chicken."

And we also taught some table tennis.

ITTF Coaches in the U.S.

There are now 29 ITTF certified coaches in the U.S., including myself. Eleven of them are from the ITTF Coaching seminar in Maryland I ran in April. (To qualify, coaches not only had to take the 24-hour course, but also complete 30 hours of coaching, including five "supervised" by an ITTF coach or other approved high-level coach.) The eleven are Carmencita "Camy" Alexandrescu (NV), Benjamin D. Arnold (PA), Changping Duan (MD), Jeff Fuchs (PA), Charlene Liu (MD), Juan Ly (FL), Vahid Mosafari (MD), Dan Notestein (VA), John Olsen (VA), Jef Savage (PA), Jeff Smart (MD). To see all 29 ITTF coaches from the U.S., see the ITTF coaches listing (set country to USA).

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