Stefan Fegerl

August 29, 2014

Disabled Veterans Camp

Yesterday was Day Three of the four-day camp. As they have every hour of the camp, 13-year-old Sameer Shaikh (who was humorously insulted that I mistakenly listed him as 12 yesterday) and Wendy Brame-Bogie assisted, with Sameer a practice partner and Wendy on ball pickup. Also joining us yesterday (as well as for an hour or so the day before) was Ram Nadmichettu (father of Raghu), who sometimes helps out with coaching at MDTTC. 

Most of the players came early, so I joined in with an impromptu 25-minute practice session before officially starting at 10AM. The day's focus was pushing, forehand looping, and return of serve. We started off with pushing, where I did a short lecture and demo with Sameer. (I even brought out the soccer-colored balls so they could see the amount of backspin.) Then the players rotated about, taking turns hitting with me, Sameer, Ram, and the robot. We did it a second time with the forehand push. 

Next up was forehand loop. Since the players were older and not young athletes, I started by demonstrating and explaining a regular forehand drive against backspin. Then I did the same with looping. Surprisingly, all but one player wanted to focus on looping - and the one who wanted to work on driving experimented with looping, and quickly changed his mind. So all of them worked on looping, even 79-year-old Bernard, and all of them figured out and did some nice ones. (Modern sponges helped! Most of the players were using the brand new rackets they'd been given as part of this USATT program - Donic Waldner Exclusive AR+ rackets and Stiga Magna TC11 max sponges.) Once again I had them rotate among me, Sameer, Ram, and the robot (which was set on backspin so they could loop against backspin). I did multiball, while the other two did live play, with the players serve and looping against backspin. 

We finished with my receive lecture. This took a while as it seemed of great interest to all. As I pointed out, returning serve is almost everyone's weakness! We also had fun as the players attempted to return serves - but unlike last time, this time I actively helped out, so they were able to return my best serves - as long as I let them know what spin was coming. 

It's been a tiring week, since besides the camp I'm also averaging two hours of private coaching each day/night, the blog, and all sorts of other stuff, such as picking up kids after school for our after-school program. 

Stefan Fegerl's Footwork

Here's a nice video (29 sec) showing the side-to-side footwork and two-winged looping of Austria's Stefan Fegerl (world #53).

China Completes Sweep of Youth Olympic Games

Here's the article on their winning Mixed Doubles Teams to complete the sweep. Here's the ITTF page for the tournament, with results, articles, pictures, and video.

Table Tennis Second Most Views Sport at Youth Olympic Games

Here's the article.

ITTF Competition Managers Seminar in October

Here's the article. The ITTF Competition Managers Seminar (i.e. for tournament directors for ITTF events) will be held at the Werner Schlager Academy in Schwechat, Austria, Oct. 6-8, 2014.

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

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

  • Day 3: Reasons for Optimism, Walter Rönmark Positive for Future of Table Tennis

Table Tennis: The Best Sport Ever

Here's the video (3:11). 

Ice Bucket Challenge

  • Mikael Andersson, ITTF Senior Consultant - Development, Education & Training (he challenged Kanak Jha and Rajul Sheth).

The Fiery Racket

Here's another table tennis artwork from Mike Mezyan.

A Little Ping-Pong Soccer?

Here's the video (22 sec).

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February 19, 2014

USATT Membership and Mass Mailing

USATT has about 8000 members. That's pretty weak in a country of 314 million.

A few days ago I received another brochure in the mail (regular mail, not email) from USTA (U.S. Tennis Association). For many years I played tennis on the side (and had a heck of a forehand!), and used to go to group training sessions twice a week for many years. I also played in their doubles leagues, and joined USTA to do so. Being a smart organization with 700,000 members, which are overwhelmingly league members, they have been trying to get me back ever since. Which is why I regularly receive both mail and email from them.

Is it cost effective? Of course it is; they are not idiots. I still get mail from many other organizations I used to belong to (and I bet you do as well), always encouraging me to rejoin or re-subscribe. Former members are probably the single best group of people to target when trying to increase membership. USATT should target this group.

USATT has a membership of around 8000 or so. (If you include life members who are no longer active or even alive, organizational memberships which were mostly given out for free, and club memberships, the number may shoot to something like 9000, but I don't have up-to-date figures, and USATT doesn't seem to publish them as they used to do.)

How many is 8000? Let's see:

  • It's one out of every 40,000 people in the U.S.
  • It's about one out of every 1900 recreational players in the U.S., according to surveys.
  • It's 1/90th the membership of USTA (tennis), even though throughout Europe and Asia the number of table tennis members is almost always higher than the number for tennis.
  • It's 1/250th the number of members of U.S. bowling leagues.
  • When you go to a baseball game, the average person pays nearly the same amount as the USATT annual fee of $49. Teams play 162 games per year, plus playoff, and yet average about 30,000 spectators per game. 8000 of them can fit in just one large section of the park.
  • It's a round-off error.

So how do we fix this problem? For years I've argued the obvious, that we should do what nearly every successful table tennis country does and what other successful sports in the U.S. do - focus on leagues and training centers. Setting up a nationwide system of regional leagues is about as obvious as you can get, if you any knowledge of how table tennis and other sports develop, but we haven't even begun to do such things. I've blogged about setting up these nationwide regional leagues many times; I just did a search of my blog entries, and here's one example. Bowling in the U.S. has about two million annual paid members in their bowling leagues; can you imagine how fast that would drop if they did what USATT does, and only had tournaments? The same is true of tennis, which focuses on leagues. Take away those tennis leagues, and their membership wouldn't be much higher than table tennis - it too would become a "round-off" error.

As to setting up training centers, the key there is to promote, recruit, and train coaches to be professional coaches who will set up such training centers. That's why I wrote the Professional Table Tennis Coaches Handbook. We've gone from 10 to 70 of these in eight years, but it's happened because coaches saw it as a way to make a living. Many of them copied the success of my club, MDTTC, which pioneered such a training center when it opened in 1992, with me, Cheng Yinghua, and Jack Huang as the coaches. (We now have seven full-time coaches and a number of part-time ones, and other centers have similar success.) While the focus of training centers tends to be junior programs, it's for all ages and levels. Guess what happens? Coaching turns recreational players who come and go into serious players who stay.

But USATT is a bureaucracy, where doing the obvious things is often difficult. No one seems to have the vision or will to do these things. I think many are scared of trying because if they failed, they'd be blamed. (Perhaps they should read the "Man in the Arena" quote by Teddy Roosevelt. Many leaders think they are in the arena because they deal with the day-to-day issues, mostly putting out fires, doing reports, answering email, and doing the daily running of a status quo sport, instead of actually going into the arena and striving to build the sport.)

I'll continue to argue for these obvious things. But perhaps it's also time for a one-time fix to increase membership. Here's a suggestion to any board members or staff who want to take initiative.

USATT has something like 50,000+ former members of USATT on the computer. That's a lot of mailing addresses just sitting there gathering computer dust. Why not do a one-time mass mailing to them all? Sure, it'd cost money, but takes money to make money, and you'd come out way ahead overall. Have it written by someone who knows how to write - for the love of God, do not have it written by a staffer without a strong writing background! Then have the letter come from a prominent U.S. table tennis star - a Dan Seemiller, Sean O'Neill, Jim Butler, or a Sweeris, for example, and include a picture. Have them personally invite these former members to rejoin USATT. Give specific reasons to rejoin. It's unfortunate we can't really offer them leagues as tennis can, and that we no longer offer the print magazine (!!!), but we can offer them tournaments, including the U.S. Open and Nationals. We can point out all the new full-time centers that have popped up.

As a side benefit, maybe, just maybe, as they create or think about this invitational letter, USATT leaders will realize that maybe, just maybe, we do need to think about what USATT really has to offer, and realize that we do, in fact, need that nationwide network of leagues and to start recruiting coaches to be full-time professional running junior and other training programs. These are the incentives you can use to attract members, and that's what we're aiming for, right? If you are aiming for Olympic medals and top players, then we have the same goals. Guess where they come from? Junior training centers. Guess where the money comes for USATT to develop them? Large members that come from leagues.

Multiball Training

Here's 25 sec of Stefan Fegerl doing multiball at the Werner Schlager Academy in Austria.

Slow Motion Table Tennis

Here's a video (4 min) of slow motion play of the top players. Great to watch and you can learn a lot from watching it this way.

Chinese National Team Show Up at Park

What would you do if you were playing ‎Table Tennis at your local park and the Chinese National Team turned up to play? Here's the video (1:32)!

Wide Stance

I've written about using a wider stance, but this is ridiculous!

Energizer Battery Table Tennis Commercial

Here's the video (31 sec) - this is hilarious! It just came out this past weekend.

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October 19, 2012

Developing Your Smash

So many players have this strange idea that the best way to develop a forehand or backhand smash is to, well, smash a lot. It seems to make sense, but isn't always the best way. I've seen this in student after student - they work on smashing by smashing a lot, and the balls spray all over the place as they ingrain the habit of spraying the ball all over the place. Smashing is, first and foremost, a precision shot, and if you practice smashing by spraying the ball all over the place, you are being counterproductive.

Instead, focus on driving the ball only at the pace that you can control, and develop the precision at that speed. As you get better, increase the speed. If you find yourself spraying the ball all over the place, take it down a notch. Precision comes from good technique and timing, and these are things you should work on at a pace you can control. Spraying the ball over the place is a great way to develop bad technique and poor timing. (I may expand this into a Tip of the Week.)

MDTTC Open - Last Chance

If you live within 100 miles of Gaithersburg, Maryland, then enter the MDTTC October Open this weekend or we will go online and steal rating points from you. Yes, we can do that. I'll take entries at least until 7PM tonight. 

Here are the top seeds as of now:

  1. Wang Qing Liang (2621)
  2. Chen Bo Wen (2516)
  3. Richard Lee (2424)
  4. Raghu Nadmichettu (2328)
  5. Larry Abass (2320)
  6. Nathan Hsu (2312)

Senior and Hardbat/Sandpaper Camps

The training camps at the Maryland Table Tennis Center are open to all ages and levels, but because we have so many junior players, they tend to be dominated by junior players. Most camps have a few non-juniors, but not many. So essentially we run junior camps.

I've been thinking about doing specialized camps for other groups, such as senior camps. Back in the 1990s for a few years we had senior camps, where you had to be over age 40 (though we let some "youngsters" in if we believed they were "old at heart"). Most of the attendees were in their 60s. For some reason, after filling the camp several years in a row, one year we had a small turnout, and we stopped running them. Perhaps we should bring them back? There are some differences in running a camp for seniors, besides the obvious fact that people tend to prefer training with their own age group. With juniors, you run them to death with footwork drills, and with faster and faster rallying drills as you work to increase their speed to beyond human recognition. That's not going to work with most 60-year-olds. Instead, they'd do more steady drills, focusing on control and ball placement, as well as variation. There's also more combination rackets, with lots of long pips, so we focus more on both playing with and against such rackets. There are also more choppers and blockers, so we coach a lot on playing with those styles and against them. We don't teach too many 60-year-olds to race around the court looping everything.

Another camp I'm toying with running would be one for hardbat and sandpaper. There's been a strong hardbat movement in the U.S. since the late 1990s, and now sandpaper play is on the rise, to the great consternation of many, including the upcoming $100,000 World Championship of Ping Pong. I'm a many-time national hardbat champion and pretty handy with sandpaper as well, and more importantly, I understand how you play with these rackets from a coaching point of view, so perhaps it's time to run a camp and teach these techniques? At the very least, it'll give a chance for hardbat and sandpaper aficionados to train together.

European Championships - Michael Maze vs. Stefan Fegerl

The European Championships are in Herning, Denmark this year, Oct. 17-21. Here's the home page (in English). Here's the Men's Singles Draw and the Women's Singles draw. And here's a video (8:19, with the time between points removed) of a nice first round match (in the main draw, after the preliminaries), where Stefan Fegerl of Austria (world #131, European #53) upsets Michael Maze of Denmark (the lefty, world #15, European #4), 5,7,7,-10,-10,8.

Table Tennis Nation Uncovers the Canadian Scandal

Eugene Zhen Wang, the top-ranked player in North America, had his Canadian citizenship rushed through for the Olympics, according to this article at Table Tennis Nation. Perhaps the U.S. should invite the Chinese team over, and hold them hostage while we rush through their U.S. citizenship. 

Angry Ball

Don't mess with this 3-star ball.

Circular Table Tennis Triples

I'm not going to describe it. Just see the picture.

Non-Table Tennis - Buzzy Story

Today my story "Running with the Dead" went online at Buzzy Magazine, one of the highest paying science fiction & fantasy markets in the U.S. This is the story of a dead kid who wants to attend high school and run as a miler on the track team. He faces not only public pressure to quit - the country is mostly against letting dead people attend school - but also the captain of the track team and leader of the "Mile Mafia," the very person who murdered him one year before. Here's the first paragraph:

Ben closed his eyes as he jogged on the bike path through the forest, enjoying the cool misty early-morning breeze on his dead flesh. He could feel his dried-up heart loosely bouncing up and down inside his chest cavity in rhythm to his long strides. Toby, his pet mouse, squeaked in protest as he anchored himself deep inside his hole in Ben’s stomach, his claws dug firmly into the lining. It tickled.

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