Ding Ning

May 12, 2014

Tip of the Week

Anyone Can Become Very Good at Something.

Youth Olympic Games Controversy

There's a controversy involving the training and coaching of the USA Youth Olympic Games athletes (Lily Zhang and Krish Avvari). Basically, USATT set up a training program for the two, then chose a coach. Since Massimo Costantini (from the ICC Table Tennis Center) is the coach for both players, it seemed logical to choose him, but since he wasn't available to go overseas for the entire training program planned (nearly two months), another coach was selected. Officials from ICC were not happy.

I too thought they should have hired the coach first, then have him develop the training program for the players, in particular since he was the coach of both players. From USATT's point of view, they were just incorporating the ITTF's YOG training program, which involves a lot of overseas training and in general is a good idea. It might have been better if they had not locked themselves into requiring the coach to be there the entire time, allowing some flexibility so someone else could substitute for the few weeks when the coach can't make it. Regardless, hopefully they will work something out where Massimo oversees most of their training while missing some of it because of his other commitments. There is lots of discussion of this at the USATT Facebook and ICC Facebook pages.

The coach who was hired (though the official announcement is not yet up) is the highly qualified Lily Yip. (I've known her for decades, and we even attended the same ITTF Level 2 Seminar, held at the Lily Yip TTC last year.) It's unfortunate there's any controversy on this as she's an excellent coach. The problem is that the two players in question just happened to both be students of Massimo, and this was known at the time Lily was hired. Massimo was USATT's first choice because of this, but because he couldn't commit to the entire overseas training program they went with Lily. If they hadn't apparently locked themselves into requiring the coach there the entire time, perhaps they could have hired Massimo, and hired Lily for the times when Massimo could not make it.

Ironically, I also considered applying for the YOG coach position, but since I haven't worked directly with these players (other than a week about four years ago when I practiced daily with Krish during a Stellan Bengtsson camp, plus coaching against him in tournaments a few times), and since I figured Massimo or someone else who worked more regularly with these players was applying, I decided not to. (Plus it's a big commitment for a full-time coach with lots of students.) Perhaps another time, when an MDTTC player is on the team in question. MDTTC's Crystal Wang is already on the USA Women's Team and Cadet Girls' team, and we have a number of other up-and-coming players. But what happens if I or some other coach also can't commit to the entire "required" time? The irony is that coaches who are in demand are usually the ones who will often have the most trouble taking time off - and they are often the ones we'd want to hire.

This isn't the first time ICC has felt burned by USATT. As I blogged about Jan. 24, 2014, the ICC Director, Rajul Sheth, wanted to run for the USATT Board, but the USATT Nominating and Governance Committee refused to put him on the ballot, with no reason ever given. I still find this unbelievable, both that they wouldn't put him on the ballot and that they have the power to do so, with no recourse such as getting on by petition - and no one from USATT has shown any interest in changing these silly dictatorial rules. It's an easy fix, as I pointed out in the blog. Which USATT board member will become a hero and make the motion to change this rule? 

USATT Launches New Membership System - RailStation

Here's the announcement. Could be helpful. It definitely gets our membership system into the modern age! A key phrase from the announcement: "USATT members with a current email on file will be sent instructions on how to log in and activate their account.  If you have not provided an email address to USATT or need to update it, please contact Andy Horn at admin@usatt.org."

U.S. Open Entry Deadline Extended to May 18

This year's U.S. Open is in Grand Rapids, Michigan, June 30-July 4. The deadline to enter without a $75 late fee was Saturday (two days ago), but they've extended it to May 18 (next Sunday). Here's a listing of players currently entered, and of entries by event. (There are 381 players listed as entered as I write this, but I'm sure there are still a lot of paper entries not uploaded yet, plus the extended deadline should bring in some more.) Here's more info:

MDTTC - the Laughingstock of Table Tennis

Yes, it's true. On Friday and Saturday, famous stand-up comedian Frank Caliendo spent several hours at MDTTC playing. (He was in town for some local shows.) He has a rating of 1658, but that was from three years ago - he appears about 1800 now. Between coaching sessions I even got to play doubles with him on my team. (Alas, I coach too much and play too little, and so my receive was way off, and we lost to Julian Waters and Steve Hochman. But then Julian and I took down Steve and Frank!) Then on Sunday another famous stand-up comedian came in to play for a few hours, Judah Friedlander, who is rated 1565 (and who've I've coached before), though as his home page says, he's the World Champion. (Judah grew up locally, and while he spends most of his time in New York City doing stand-up, he comes to Maryland often to visit his family.)

ITTF Athletes Commission

Vladimir Samsonov was re-elected as Chair. Others elected or appointed were Jean-Michel Saive (BEL), Zoran Primorac (CRO), Krisztina Toth (HUN), David Powell (AUS), Angela Mori (PER), Elsayed Lashin (EGY), Yu Kwok See April (HKG), Wang Liqin (CHN), and USA's own Ashu Jain.

ITTF Legends Tour

I wrote about the Legends Tour last Thursday. Here are more pictures.

International News

As usual, there are lots and lots of international news items up at Tabletennista.

Matthew Syed Launches New Table Tennis Academy in England

Here's the story. (Syed is a former English table tennis champion, one of the best defensive players in the world.)

Shot of the Day

Here's video (46 sec) of a very strange rally at the recent World Championships between China's Ding Ning and Japan's Yuka Ishigaki in the Women's Team Final.

Ibrahim Hamato - Nothing is Impossible

Here's more video (2:43) of the famous armless Egyptian player from the ITTF. Includes interviews (with English translation) and showing him hitting with the best players in the world. I've actually put a racket in my mouth like he does to rally in exhibitions, but not at this level!

Happy Mother's Day (one day late)

Here's the Table Tennis Mother's Day Graphic by Mike Mezyan.

Non-Table Tennis - Bram Stoker Award

"After Death" just won Best Horror Anthology at the Bram Stoker Awards, which is sort of the Academy Awards for written horror. It includes a story of mine, "The Devil's Backbone." You can buy the anthology at Amazon. And here's a review of the book, which says, "… and “The Devil’s Backbone” by Larry Hodges, which I found to be well-conceived, well-executed, and well-written, my favorite in the anthology."

***
Send us your own coaching news!

February 3, 2014

Tip of the Week

Winning with Ball Control.

Topspinny Backhands: When to Learn?

Yesterday was a pivotal moment in one young player's table tennis career. One of the tougher decisions for some coaches is when to have their up-and-coming junior players begin to topspin more on the backhand in rallies. At the start, you teach basic backhand drives. But at the higher levels, most players these days topspin the ball, basically a backhand loop with a shorter swing, often right off the bounce. It's not easy to learn to do this in a rally, where it's tricky enough playing a regular backhand, but to topspin the ball off the bounce, practically a backhand loop, against an often fast incoming ball?

Some coaches advocate teaching this starting at around the 1800 level; others do so much earlier. But everyone's different. If a player seems to have a knack for it, and is training regularly, then perhaps he can start earlier. The problem is that in a fast rally, you have little time to topspin the ball, and players who try to do so before they're ready will make lots of mistakes.

I've got several students who are reaching the stage where they're ready to really topspin on the backhand in faster rallies. Yesterday's breakthrough was for Sameer, 12, rated 1378 after the Teams in November. He's developed a pretty nasty backhand drive, especially in drills, though he sometimes still has trouble getting the drilling backhand into games. Sameer already has a pretty decent backhand loop against backspin, but was he ready to do this over and over in rallies?

We tried it out yesterday, and he surprised me on how quickly he picked it up. We did it first in multiball, and then live, and in both cases he seemed comfortable doing so. He's also ready for the rigors of reality - that he'll probably have some bad losses over the next few months as he incorporates this into his game, especially against players who rush him on the backhand. (If you are an opponent of his, please use go ahead and rush him on the backhand - it gives him the practice he needs!) But we have a longer-term goal - the U.S. Open in July. He's going to focus on just training until then, with the plan to show up with a devastating backhand topspin, as well as (hopefully) a few other devastating shots. Maybe he'll be a true basher by then. (See Tip of the Week article above.)

Banana Flip

This video (3:22) may be the best tutorial I've seen on the backhand banana flip. Lots of slow motion and clear explanations.

Pushing

Here are two videos from PingSkills on the Backhand Push (3:14) and the Forehand Push (3:19).

Table Tennis Strategy Page

Here's a new page, Table Tennis Strategy. It includes pages on Strategy, Fun Facts, Jokes, and others.

Superbowl Ad with Arnold Schwarzenegger

Here's the complete ad (3:44), which ran in several parts. The table tennis starts exactly two minutes in. "Prepare to be crushed in tiny tennis," says the long-haired wigged Arnold.

CNN Features Table Tennis

Here's the video (1:57), which ran on Friday, and is on the growing trend to play table tennis. Features Arnold Schwarzenegger, Susan Sarandon, and Soo Yeon Lee, and with clips of Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron.

Biba Featured

Here's a feature article on Biba Golic in Women's Fitness Magazine.

Bounce Back Shots

Here's a video (57 sec) that compares a desperation backspin shot by Ding Ning that unreturnably bounces back over the net to win the point to a similar shot by Roger Federer in tennis.

Table Tennis on a Boat

Here's video (12 sec) of two men playing table tennis on a boat that's not much bigger than a canoe.

Hit the Card Trick Shot

Here's video (24 sec) of a trick shot where the player smacks a card out from under a ball without knocking the ball off.

When Table Tennis Gets Angry!

Here's the video (1:41) of some very angry players.

***
Send us your own coaching news!

April 25, 2013

Defaults and Rating

There's been an email exchange among some USATT officials, of which I was CCed, on the subject of players defaulting tournament matches to protect their rating, It was instigated by a gentleman who was the victim of this - a player didn't want to play him, perhaps because he had long pips, and so defaulted, apparently to protect his rating. The question raised is why don't players who default matches lose rating points? It's a good question - and below is my response.

I'll jump in and give the reasons for why they do not give away rating points for a default, and then (at the end), I'll offer a possible solution.

It would be somewhat unfair to take away rating points for certain defaults. So the only way I see for a rules change that would allow a rating loss for defaults is if the referee were given the responsibility of determining if the default was "legitimate" or not. That would not be easy to determine, as someone who wanted to avoid playing a match for rating purposes could easily fake one of the below reasons. Here are some legitimate reasons why players default that have nothing to do with avoiding rating point losses - and over the course of 37 years of play, I've defaulted matches at least once for each of these reasons (except for #3 and #8), as have many others. (I'm sure there are other reasons I haven't thought of.)

  1. Tournament runs late, and player has to leave.
  2. Player is injured or sick.
  3. Player is too tired. This happens all the time - sometimes someone older or out of shape advances in multiple events, and simply can't play all of the matches, and has to default some. This especially happens to elderly players.
  4. Player is unhappy with the playing conditions and decides to drop out. If a tournament has poor lighting, a background where you have trouble seeing the ball, slippery floors, or some other such problem, a player might decide to default rather than play in such poor conditions.
  5. Player's equipment is broken, defective, or stolen.
  6. Player is unable to attend a tournament he entered, or is called away from the tournament unexpectedly. Some people are on call, such as doctors. Players have defaulted out of less important matches at big tournaments to do table tennis TV interviews, or to do commentating, or some other function. Or a player may be called away due to a family or work emergency.
  7. Player is also a tournament official or volunteer, and he is unexpectedly needed, and so he drops out (i.e. defaults) to help run the tournament.
  8. Player unexpectedly advances in a major event, and so defaults a less important event. This happens at the U.S. Open and Nationals quite a bit. When I have a top junior who is pulling off upsets and has a chance to win a major age event, I'm almost always going to advise him to drop any rating events so he can focus on the age event and a national title. The problem is the player might not know in advance he'd do so well in the age event, and so enters the rating events as well. This also happens in Men's and Women's Singles, where a player might find himself advancing deep into the draw, and so not want to tire himself out in another event, such as a rating event, some age events, hardbat, sandpaper, etc. When Dan Seemiller, in his late 50s, pulled off some upsets and advanced deep into the Men's Singles event at the 2011 USA Nationals, he defaulted his senior events to save energy for that event.

Some would argue that if a player chooses to default, he should always lose the rating points. But besides being unfair in some cases (such as reason #1 above), that would just make the rating system less accurate. We have enough trouble with under-rated players showing up and sweeping the rating events and messing up the seedings; do we really want to take away 50 points in a default from a player - and possibly multiple times if the player defaults several matches - knowing what this will mean when he shows up at his next tournament? Suppose a player is rated 1830, but defaults out of two round robin events for one of the reasons above. That could be six matches, and perhaps 200-250 rating points. His next tournament he shows up way under-rated and playing in events he should not be eligible for.

What I would suggest as a solution is to have a player who defaults lose rating points unless the referee approves the default, i.e. the defaulting player must give the referee a reason for the default, and the referee must accept it, based on guidelines from the bullet points above. I'd also limit it to a maximum of 50 points lost in one tournament from defaults. I don't think players should gain rating points from a default. There's no perfect solution, and a liar would still get away with defaulting matches to protect his rating, but it would happen less often as many players might have some difficulty flat-out lying to the referee, and sometimes the player's actions would convince the referee he is lying. Also, if a player defaults regularly, then the referee could turn him down.

I'd rather not get into a long discussion of this - I have a busy day coaching and writing tomorrow. But hopefully the above will offer some grounds for thought, discussion, and possible action by those in a position to make changes.

The Plastic Poly Ball

Here's the ITTF's report on the ball. It's 32 pages and seems pretty comprehensive with lots of scientific-looking studies - but no, I haven't read it yet. I'm hoping some of our readers will read it and report your thoughts on it. This could be a scary situation, as one thing that comes out is that the new poly ball plays differently than the current one. Do we really want that? Does the report give a strong reason for doing so?

Stance for Returning Serve

Here's the video from PingSkills (1:16), plus an article on the topic of proper stance and how far to stand from the table when receiving serve.

Table Tennis Master

Here are four new articles from Table Tennis Master.

Crystal Wang on TV

Here's the video (4:34) of Crystal and her dad getting interviewed on NBC 4 yesterday. Crystal (just turned 11 and rated 2292) just won the Hopes Trials at the North American Cup.

Texas Wesleyan University Team on TV

Here's the video (5:03) of the team after winning their tenth straight national collegiate championship, on CBS Local.

Central Florida Table Tennis Club

It's not full-time, but it's 27,000 square feet!!! Here's their web page. They have 18 tables, but with rather large courts.

Great Chopping Point

Here's a great attack versus defense point from the 2012 China Open, featuring world #1 Ding Ning versus world #11 Wu Yang, perhaps the best chopper in the women's game. When it all ends, guess how Wu wins the point?

Roman Table Tennis

I think that's Julius Caesar playing TT!

***
Send us your own coaching news!

April 5, 2013

Equipment Reviews

Long ago I decided not to do equipment reviews here at TableTennisCoaching.com, because 1) it involves too many conflicts of interest, since I'm a sponsored coach; and 2) I'm more interested in technique and tactics than equipment. But I'm aware that I'm somewhat in the minority on this, as most table tennis players are divided into two camps: those obsessed with equipment, and those REALLY obsessed with equipment. For those EJ's ("Equipment Junkies"), visit Table Tennis DB, which specializes in equipment reviews - about 8000 of them!

When I meet a player who's obsessed with equipment and rated under 2000, I have a simple cure. I play them with a clipboard. I rarely lose. Technique and tactics beat equipment every time. (I've been playing with a clipboard during breaks in our junior sessions and camps for over 20 years, and am about 2100 now, mostly chopping and pick-hitting.)

It is important to get good sponge, especially for loopers. As I've blogged before, some of the modern looping sponges practically loop by themselves, and are well worth whatever you pay to get them, at least for serious players of the looping species. I often wish I could take a stack of these sponges and bring them back to the 1980s and early 1990s for myself.

And it is important for players to experiment with equipment to know what's out there. If you go to a club, there's a whole club full of players with rackets and sponge you can ask to try out. Once you find something that works for you, stick with it unless and until they come out with something truly better for you.

Professional Table Tennis Coaches Handbook

I just finished updating and formatting this for Amazon. A proof copy is in the mail. If all goes well, it'll be on sale in a week, and I'll announce it here. The manual, which I wrote several years ago, is 44 pages long, and will sell for $10. (I'll probably do a Kindle version later.) It is intended for top players and coaches, and is about the professional side of coaching. Here's the Amazon description: "Long-time professional table tennis coach and USA Table Tennis Hall of Famer Larry Hodges shows how you can become a professional table tennis coach. This is not a manual on how to coach; it's a manual on how to make a living as a coach - how to maximize income, getting a facility and equipment, recruiting and retaining students, teaching classes, how to set up and run a junior program, private coaching, a drills library, sample flyers to promote your coaching, and more."

New World Rankings

Here are the new April rankings. There are few major changes at the top. On the Men's side, the top nine rankings were unchanged, with Ma Long at #1 for the second month in a row. On the women's side there were no changes in the top ten, and Ding Ning remains #1 for the 18th month in a row, since November 2011.

Crystal Wang

When the Cary Cup Championships was processed last week, there were a few mistakes, which primarily affected Crystal Wang, who is from my club. (I coach her in some of her tournament matches, including the key match at Cary Cup where she upset the top seed in her group to move into the "A" Division.) In the corrected ratings, Crystal, who just turned 11, is rated 2292. This makes her #1 in Under 12 (boys and girls), #1 in Under 14 Girls, #2 in Under 16 girls (6 points behind Tina Lin), #7 in Under 18 Girls, and #12 in Under 22 Girls. She's not quite back to the 2355 she achieved at age 10 (before that "blip" at the Nationals - she wasn't there mentally), but she's close. She's been causing havoc among 2300 players in our Elite League on Sundays for quite some time. 

Table Tennis Master

Here are three new coaching articles at Table Tennis Master.

Using Your Legs When Playing Forehand

Here's a video (2:14) from PingSkills on this. The key point - balance.

Chinese Table Tennis Team - Military Training

Here's a video from Dec., 2011, showing the Chinese National Team undergoing military training. It's in Chinese, but the video is rather interesting. Most of the "soldiers" shown training are Chinese team members, including the ones interviewed. How many can you recognize?

Artistic Picture of Ding Ning

Here's an artistic picture of World #1 woman Ding Ning, with an urban skyline background. I think that's New York City, but can anyone verify? Or perhaps it's Beijing or Shanghai? (EDIT - the artist, Mike Mezyan, has informed me it's the Chicago skyline! Shows how well I recognize our major cities.) 

Prince William and Kate Play Table Tennis

Here's a video (3:29) of Prince William and Kate of England playing table tennis. Someone needs to explain to Kate that high heels and table tennis don't mix well.

Improvised Table Tennis

Here's a video (1:30) with one of the more improvised nets I've seen - two boys grabbing hands across a table for the net.

Pigeons Playing Ping-Pong

You have to see this video (39 sec) - yes, actual pigeons playing "ping-pong," taught by behavior psychologist BF Skinner. As the narration explains, the pigeons were taught that they could eat whenever they won a point!

***
Send us your own coaching news!

April 2, 2013

Reprint - Derek Nie Wins Coconut Cup Article

There was so much interest yesterday in 12-year-old Derek Nie's upset wins at the Coconut Cup that I thought I'd run the article again. After all, he keeps quoting sections in my Tactics book, even the section on Playing Bratty Kids! Here's the segment from yesterday (April 1):

12-Year-Old Derek Nie Defeats Three 2600+ Players to Win Coconut Cup

All you have to do is train the players really well, and they will get really good.
Perhaps that's a little simplistic, but it's what a top coach once told me, and he was
right. This past weekend 12-year-old Derek Nie, all of 70 pounds, won Open Singles
in the MDTTC Coconut Cup tournament. In the quarterfinals he upset Mang Bang
Liang, a chopper/looper rated 2600 - Derek's best win ever. "Before the match, I
found a whole chapter in Larry Hodges' book "Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers"
on playing choppers," Derek said. "I read it over in the back room. Everything worked!"
Only it was just the beginning of his banner tournament. In the semifinals he defeated
Lee Zhang Wook, a 2650 pips-out penholder visiting from China. "There's a section
about playing them in the Tactics book," Derek said, "and before the match I read it. I
played to the wide forehand, then came back to the backhand, like the book said, and it
really worked!" In the final, Derek played 2700+ Sammy Callaghan. "He's a bratty kid from
Ireland. But the Tactics book has an entire section on playing bratty kids!" Derek was able to
loop Sammy's serves, which had created havoc against other players. Most players had
found the serves almost unreturnable, but Derek had few problems. "There's a whole chapter
on returning serves in the Tactics book," Derek said, "and I read it over before going
out to play him." Derek won the match in a seven-game battle, ending the match by
loop-killing Sammy's serve at 11-10 in the last game. Congrats to Champion Derek!

Fun, Focus, Forget

I've come up with Triple F as a mantra for players who are too nervous to play their best. Even in a serious match, you'll play your best if you are enjoying yourself rather than obsessing over winning or not losing. Staying focused is always key - and one of the best ways of doing that is to think tactically between points (so you have something to think about rather worrying about winning or losing), then blank the mind out when you are about to play the next point. And forgetting the situation will allow you to play better than if you are obsessing over how important the match is. So have Fun, stay Focused, and Forget the importance of the situation. (And now I'm off to a rare weekday morning coaching session out in Virginia, scheduled at the last minute.)

Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers

I finally figured out what was causing all the formatting problems with the Kindle version of Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers. I'd thought I'd fixed the problem over a week ago, but it turns out some of the photos were still moving about, obscuring the captions and other text. The new version is now up with all 90 photos formatted properly. Amazon sent out an email to those who had downloaded it already with instructions on downloading the new version (for free, since they'd already paid for it).

There are now ten reviews on Amazon - all 5-star! I'm keeping my fingers crossed. The March/April USATT Magazine should be out soon, with a full-page ad, so there should be a bunch of sales coming up. It's already selling pretty well all over the world, with lots of sales in England, and a few in Germany and France.

MDTTC Open

It's this weekend, April 6-7, at the Maryland Table Tennis Center in Gaithersburg, MD, with about $1800 in prize money. 

Interview with USA Men's Coach Stefan Feth

Here's the video interview (2:36) at the World Team Cup in China.

Best Point at World Team Cup?

Here's a video (1:07) showing the 53-shot rally between Ding Ning (world #1 from China, the lefty) and Feng Tianwei (world #4 from Singapore) in the Women's Team Final.

The Lighter Side of Table Tennis

Here's a video (5:38) of players having fun. 

Door Table Tennis

Here it is! I featured a version of this once before, but I think that one was different.

Non-Table Tennis - Orioles Top Ten

My "Top Ten Reasons Buck Will Lead the Orioles to the World Series" is the feature article right now at Orioles Hangout.

***
Send us your own coaching news!

April 1, 2013

Tip of the Week

The Many Ways to Receive a Short Backspin Serve.

12-Year-Old Derek Nie Defeats Three 2600+ Players to Win Coconut Cup

All you have to do is train the players really well, and they will get really good.
Perhaps that's a little simplistic, but it's what a top coach once told me, and he was
right. This past weekend 12-year-old Derek Nie, all of 70 pounds, won Open Singles
in the MDTTC Coconut Cup tournament. In the quarterfinals he upset Mang Bang
Liang, a chopper/looper rated 2600 - Derek's best win ever. "Before the match, I
found a whole chapter in Larry Hodges' book "Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers"
on playing choppers," Derek said. "I read it over in the back room. Everything worked!"
Only it was just the beginning of his banner tournament. In the semifinals he defeated
Lee Zhang Wook, a 2650 pips-out penholder visiting from China. "There's a section
about playing them in the Tactics book," Derek said, "and before the match I read it. I
played to the wide forehand, then came back to the backhand, like the book said, and it
really worked!" In the final, Derek played 2700+ Sammy Callaghan. "He's a bratty kid from
Ireland. But the Tactics book has an entire section on playing bratty kids!" Derek was able to
loop Sammy's serves, which had created havoc against other players. Most players had
found the serves almost unreturnable, but Derek had few problems. "There's a whole chapter
on returning serves in the Tactics book," Derek said, "and I read it over before going
out to play him." Derek won the match in a seven-game battle, ending the match by
loop-killing Sammy's serve at 11-10 in the last game. Congrats to Champion Derek!

World Team Cup

China sweeps Men's and Women's Teams, though it wasn't always so easy this time. Here are articles from Table Tennista on China winning Men's Teams and Women's Teams. Here's an article from them on the huge upset of Germany by Egypt in the quarterfinals - and here's a video (1:47) of the end of the match when Egypt wins. (There are several more articles on the tournament at Table Tennista.) Here's the ITTF home page for the event, with results, articles, pictures, and video.

Spring Break Camp

Spring Break Camp ended on Friday. In the morning we had "Player's Choice," where players chose what they wanted to work on during multiball sessions. Usually we do regular multiball drills, but most of the players in my group wanted to work on serves, so we did that.

Right after lunch, when I was about to take 16 of them to 7-11, a group of about 16 kids and parents came in unexpectedly and asked if someone could run a clinic for them. So I got Coach Raghu to take the kids to 7-11, and I ran a 45-minute clinic where covered grip, stance, forehand, backhand, and basic serves. They stayed and played another hour. Hopefully some will return.

In the afternoon most of the players had a practice tournament. I worked with the beginners, doing a lot of one-on-one play (instead of multiball). And then we were done!

Over 60 players attended the camp, though not all at once. One session had 47 players, most were in the 35-40 range. We used 18 tables, with both one-on-one drills, multiball, and robot play.

Ball Bouncing

We often have ball-bouncing contests in our junior classes on weekends. This Sunday Matvey Stepanov (11) had done about 100 at the start of class. He was supposed to be on ball pickup, but I told him he could keep bouncing until he missed, and then go on ball pickup. Mistake!!! We had to work around him on ball pickup as he went on and On and ON!!! He shattered the previous record of 1360 (I believe set by Kai MaClong, also 11) with 2216 bounces before missing.

Jim Butler on Receiving Serve

Here's a great quote from Jim Butler (Olympian and 4-time U.S. Men's Singles Champion) on how he approaches serve return, from the about.com forum.

When I'm receiving serves in a tournament, I usually have a mental plan each serve.  I will look at the server, look at his racket angle and service motion, and anticipate what serve I feel he's about to do.  The serve I'm anticipating is the one I'm looking to attack, or receive with aggression.  If the server does a different serve I'm not expecting, I have a plan to react to the serve, and play it safe on the table.... not too much speed.  If a server does a serve you are not expecting, it's usually best to play that receive conservative.  

For example:  If I'm receiving I may decide to step around with my forehand and attack any long serve or half long serve that comes to my bh corner..  As I go around on the receive to attack with my forehand, I'm looking to pounce on any serve to my backhand that's long or half long.  If any other serve comes though, I will cancel on a hard attack, and react accordingly with a safe receive.  I'm in position to only aggressively attack a long or half long serve to my bh.  Any other serve that comes, I will not  be in a good position to do much but receive it back safely, and hopefully with good placement.  

Tribute to Ding Ning

Here's a video tribute (4:17) to China's Ding Ning, world #1 since November, 2011.

Oriole Pingpong

"I've stayed here until 4 o'clock playing pingpong before." -Orioles pitcher Darren O'Day, in this article in the Baltimore Sun yesterday.

Happy Easter!

Here are two Easter Bunnies playing table tennis.

***
Send us your own coaching news!

February 13, 2013

Tactical Matches

Over the past year I've sort of been the nemesis of one of our top juniors. Since I also sometimes coach this player, I know his game well. Until recently I had a simple way to take his game apart - relentlessly going short to his forehand. I'd serve short to the forehand with varied spins. If he served short, I dropped the ball short to the forehand (usually faking to the backhand first). The only way to stop my going short there was to serve long, and then I'd loop. Plus, because I knew the player so well, I was able to read his serves and tell early in his motion if he was serving long.

Alas, it is no more. Or should that Thank God it is no more? He's finally figured things out. When I serve short to the forehand, he's finally developed a competent flip. He can also drop it short. Or he reaches over and flips with his backhand, often using a banana flip. The more I go wide to his short forehand to get away from his backhand, the wider the angle he gets to my wide forehand. When he flips there, I have to go so wide that I'm open on the backhand on the next shot.

When he serves, he's giving more variations, so it's not as easy to drop the ball short. And just as with my short serves, he's gotten better when I do drop it short, flipping both forehand and backhand. He's also disguising his long serves better so I can't see them coming so easily.

So after at one point beating him 14 times in a row, I am sad - I mean glad! - to say he's won our last two. In fact, I've had to completely revamp my tactics against him, since the relentlessly-go-after-the-short-forehand tactics doesn't work so well anymore. However, this has led to some good news - for me. It's forced me to get more aggressive against his serves, bringing out my own inner backhand banana flip. So I'm now mixing in short receives and flips, and my flips are getting better and better. Unlike many of our past matches, which (because of my tactics) were often sloppy-seeming ones with few good rallies, now we're having really good rallies, and I'm battling with him, shot for shot. He may have won, but he may have awoken a sleeping giant. Or so I hope!

Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers

***Get your copy of Table Tennis for Thinkers Now! ***

The price right now is $17.95, but it likely will go up to $19.95 sometime soon, when dealers start to distribute it. Dealers would prefer the higher price, and they probably know the business better than I do. Most likely I'll also raise the Kindle price (currently at $9.99 for the text-only version) to about $11.95 when I have time to create and upload the version with pictures (hopefully within a few weeks). As noted previously, if I make "substantial changes" to the original version (and going from text only to adding 90 photos certainly qualifies), then they'll give a free download of the new version to those who downloaded the earlier version.

Update - Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis, Vol. 13

So far we've done 20 chapters, 319 pages, 662 graphics. Projections: 29 chapters, 461 pages, 947 graphics. We expect to finish first draft Friday, and finish making corrections on Monday. Then it goes to the printer, and I sleep for a week. Or at least for an hour. (Note - besides the regular chapters, there are seven pages of covers, inside covers, acknowledgements, etc., which also include graphics, which is why the projections don't match up exactly to the ratio of the current 20 chapters to the planned 29.)

Ding Ning - Slow Motion Studies

Here's a video (1:57) that shows world #1 woman Ding Ning's technique in slow motion.

Samsonov over Ovtcharov in Swiss Open

Here's the article.

Ping Pong and Songs

It's for charity! "Lady Antebellum's charity initiative LadyAID™ Fund of the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee was created to bring awareness to and generate support for children in need locally, nationally, and globally through partners Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanerbilt, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Children's Miracle Network, myLIFEspeaks, and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR)."

Adam Bobrow's Valentine's Birthday Party

It's this Friday in LA. It's 3000 miles from me, so I better start driving!!! Here's what he wrote about it: "I haven't thrown a birthday party in AGES! I figure it will be a great way to get to see lots of my friends... old and new and bring some great people together for a fun night. There will be a DJ, a menu will delicious food and drinks and of course... many ping pong tables and awesome people to hit on. 8>) Come hang out, say hi, have a conversation with me, my friends or introduce me to your friends or just hang come play. It's FREE and it will be a blast! Parking is up to you... and dress however you want! (21 and over... dress that way)"

Table Tennis Street Art

An outdoor Christmas decoration?

Awesome Table Tennis Tricks

Here's a video (2:29) showing lots of incredible (though staged) table tennis shots, including replays in slow motion. Some great stuff!

***
Send us your own coaching news!

November 30, 2012

1400 Articles!!!

I just realized that the Tip of the Week I published this past Monday was the 1400th article I've had published. (Cue the confetti.) There's a bit of ambiguity in there, as what constitutes a published article? I don't count blog entries (over 500 here since I started two years ago), but I do count the Tips of the Week. (For one thing, they are also published at Paddle Palace.) Included among these 1400 in 138 different publications are 1258 on table tennis. Here's a complete listing.

Pages I Maintain

I maintain a number of webpages. This seems like a good time to post them. (For one thing, I'm battling a cold, and this will be an easy blog to write so I can get back to bed.) Here are the main pages. Each of them includes many sub-pages.

TableTennisCoaching.com. If you are reading this, you are there. Here's your chance to explore some of the pages here. For example, have you gone over to the "Fun and Games" section? Lots of hilarious table tennis stuff - videos, pictures, and games.

CelebritiesPlayingTableTennis.com. This is where you can find 1440 pictures of 870 celebrities playing table tennis. This is the most important page on the Internet. (I used to update this monthly, but it's rather time-consuming so these days I do it sporadically.

TimBogganTableTennis.com. This is where you can buy copies of Tim Boggan's history books, History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volumes 1-12. You can also learn about the famous Tim himself! (I do the page layouts for Tim's books.) He's almost done with Volume 13! (Each time he finishes a volume, he drives down from New York to Maryland to stay with me for two weeks, where he'll sit next to me as we do the page layouts together. I do the actual layouts while he waves a finger at the screen saying things like, "No, you fool, the photo goes there!!! And I don't like that font - invent a new one!" 

Larrytt.com. This started out as my table tennis coaching page, where I listed my credentials and recent adventures. It's since become basically my everything table tennis page, where I just keep adding stuff.

Larryhodges.org. This is my science fiction and fantasy writing page. As readers of this blog know, outside table tennis I write SF&F - I've sold 65 short stories (also 30 resales and 15 paid "twitter" stories), and have two novels making the rounds. I also maintain a page on writing science fiction & fantasy.

LarryHodgesBooks.com. This is under construction - nothing much there yet except a listing of my six books. Sometime next year this will be where you'll be able to buy copies of your favorite Larry Hodges books!!! I'm currently putting them in proper format for POD (Print on Demand) and ebooks. The following books would be sold there (though I might later start selling other table tennis books):

  • Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers (coming in December, 2012, though this might soon become January 2013)
  • Table Tennis Success (formerly titled Table Tennis: Steps to Success)
  • Table Tennis Tales & Techniques
  • Professional Table Tennis Coaches Handbook
  • Instructor's Guide to Table Tennis
  • Pings and Pongs: The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of Larry Hodges

Table Tennis on CNN Home Page

Here's a screen shot of CNN.com last night, with the picture of Ding Ning of China featured. The caption is, "Ning Ding of China plays a forehand during the women's singles table tennis quarter-final match against Ai Fukuhara of Japan on Day 4 of the London 2012 Olympic Games on July 31." (I think the Ding is supposed to come before the Ning.) It was part of a gallery of "75 Amazing Sports Moments" from 2012." See photo #20.

Stellan Bengtsson Article

Here's an article from the ITTF on Stellan Bengtsson, former World Men's Singles Champion and now a coach in San Diego.

Zhang Jike's Condition

Here's an article from TableTennista, "Zhang Jike Not Satisfied With His Condition."

Ping Pong Talkin Blues

Since I'm fighting a cold, this seems a good time to link to these guitar strumming songs by Dan Cole.

***
Send us your own coaching news!

September 7, 2012

Tournament Season

Tournament season is upon us! After a long summer of practice (right?), you are now ready to take on all those pampered players who didn't train as you did, and make their ratings points yours while gathering a collection of hardware. (And if you are in the Maryland area, don't miss our Sept. 22-23 MDTTC tournament, which I'm running - we've got hardware AND checks just sitting around, waiting for someone to take. Won't you please?)

It's time to focus more on game-type play. All summer you've been doing stroking and footwork drills (right?), physical training (right?), and practicing your both your regular and new serves (right?). Those stroking and footwork drills will take you far, but in matches, most opponents will object if you ask them to hit the ball back and forth between two spots so you can move back and forth and attack with your forehand. So now's the time to introduce game-type drills.

Focus on serve & attack drills and random drills. When possible, start off drills with a serve and attack, and then either play out the points or combine both rote and random footwork. For example, you might serve backspin, partner pushes deep to your backhand, you loop (forehand or backhand, depending on your style), partner blocks to your wide forehand, you forehand loop, and then you play out the point. Or partner pushes your serve back randomly anywhere, and you loop and play out the point. Or partner flips your short serve anywhere (or perhaps the first flip goes to the wide forehand, or perhaps wide backhand), and then play out the point. Be creative in designing drills that match what you face in matches.

This doesn't mean you should stop doing regular stroking and footwork drills - they are important at all times. But the focus needs to switch to more game-like drills.

You should also be honing your serving skills. Can you pull off in tournament conditions the serves you can do in practice? Can you serve with all spins to all parts of the table, both short and long, with deceptive motions? If not, better start practicing. In particular practice your fast and deep serves out of proportion to how often you use them. You may only serve them a couple of times a game, but they need more precision and therefore more practice if you are going to use them at all.

And don't forget your sports psychology! Playing in a tournament is quite different than playing a regular club match, and if you aren't ready for that, you are sunk. Here are some good links on sports psychology.

Below are two articles I wrote on playing in tournaments (which I also linked to a few days ago):

Coaching Articles

While I'm linking to articles, here are many of my online coaching articles. I've also got over 80 Tips of the Week. And here's a complete listing of my 1382 published articles, many linked online.

Ding Ning to Miss World Cup

Here's an article where defending champion and world #1 Ding Ning explains why she'll miss the World Cup. Article includes a link to the video of last year's final between Ding and Li Xiaoxia.

Interview with Allen Wang

Here's an interview with Allen Wang, who just won the North American Cadet Championships. (And he trained for two weeks this summer at MDTTC, my club!)

Marty Reisman Featured in American Way

The article isn't online, so you'll have to fly American Airlines to read the entire thing. But this article from Table Tennis Nation features a number of excerpts from the article, such as: "Even at 82, I'm itching for a good money game…What I really want to do is play a money match against someone who's young enough to be my grandson — ­someone of note, not some Mickey Mouse player. That’s never been done in professional sports before. Sure, I’ve lost some speed, but I still play a very clever, witty game. I’m pretty athletic for someone who's 82. I’ve still got plenty of vinegar left in me." There are also some nice pictures.

iTable Tennis!

Watch this video of this ordinary room becoming a feature table tennis club in just 20 seconds!

***

Send us your own coaching news!

Syndicate content