Lily Yip

August 20, 2014

Lily Zhang Wins Bronze at Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, China

In the battle for the bronze, USA's Lily defeated Japan's Kato Miyu in a close battle, -10,9,10,-9,9,8. Every game but the last was decided by two points. Lily seemed more calm and won most of the key points, while Kato seemed very nervous. Lily dominated the rallies throughout the match. Kato, looking tight, often was blocking on the forehand rather than counter-attacking, while Lily came at her from both wings with non-stop topspins. Kato had a slight edge on serve and receive, and often challenged Lily with deep serves that Lily had some trouble with. If not for Kato's serves, Lily probably would have won comfortably 4-0. In the first game, Kato led 10-8, but Lily won two nice rallying points before Kato won in deuce. And while Kato seemed the nervous one, it was Lily who led 2-1 in games and 9-4 in the fourth, and "calmly" lost seven in a row. But Lily's superior rallying made her win seem almost inevitable, even though the games were close. At 8-all in the sixth, Lily won the last three points with three great rallies.

Here are two screen shots taken right after Lily's win, with match coach Lily Yip in the background. Here's the ITTF article on the match. Here's Matt Hetherington's blog about the match. Here is the ITTF home page for the event, with articles, results, video, and pictures. (China swept the singles, with Fan Zhendong winning Junior Boys' Singles, and Liu Gaoyang Junior Girls' Singles.) Here's the USATT page for the event. Here's Lily Zhang's "selfie interview" (2:02) after winning in the quarterfinals. Here's her "selfie interview" (21 sec) after winning the bronze medal. Here's the entire match (1:11:58, with the match actually beginning at 8:18). Or you can watch just the last point (1:41) and the aftermath. Here she is with the medal.

Hong Kong Junior and Cadet Open Revisited

I blogged yesterday about the problem with the USATT rules for choosing which players could represent them in singles in international play. In it I wrote, "This is not about the two players who played, their club, or their coach; it's about very bad rules set up by USATT that led to a very unfair outcome." I just want to be clear about this. The coach, Lily Yip, actually helped Nathan get entered in the Hong Kong Open, which turned out to be a rather long and difficult task. Her help was appreciated. I'm also glad USATT will apparently change the rules.

Top Ten Craziest Things I've Done in Table Tennis

  1. In 1977, when I was 17, I saw a bunch of cheap sandpaper rackets on sale for $1 each. I bought ten, and brought them to a tournament. I broke them all ten of them, one by one, whenever I lost a match that day.
  2. After losing a match in 1977 I locked myself in a closet for an hour.
  3. In 1978, when I was 18, I played in 33 tournaments, including 12 consecutive weekends
  4. For lunch at a training camp when I was 19 I pulled out an entire loaf of Wonder Bread, made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches out of the whole thing, and ate it all in one sitting. (I was showing off.)
  5. After winning the 1980 North Carolina Open a bunch of players took me to dinner, and challenged me to see how much I could eat. (They were treating.) I ate two spaghetti dinners, a small pizza, an Italian submarine, three bread rolls, and washed it all down with three Cokes. (I was showing off.)
  6. On a dare from other table tennis players around 1980 I ate a quarter cup of hot sauce.
  7. At a training camp around 1980 I let U.S. Team Member Rick Seemiller jump off a chair onto my stomach twice. I also let others jump up and down on my stomach. (I used to do sit-ups regularly, and once set a school record with 87 bent-knee sit-ups in a minute.)
  8. A few years ago I gave detailed instructions from my notes to a player on how to beat a certain player. After he went out to play I realized I'd read him the notes from the wrong player! However, the player was so confident in knowing how to play this player that he executed the strategy flawlessly, and won easily. Afterwards he thanked me for the great tactics. (Who were the players? I'll go to my grave before I tell anyone.)
  9. At the U.S. Open Teams in Detroit in the early 1990s, in the match to decide whether our team would move up a division, we played a team made up of three 2350 players and an elderly 1950 player who was there as coach/backup player. For some reason one of the 2350 players didn't show, so at the last minute they put in the 1950 player. I beat both 2350 players, and celebrated by eating a hot dog, and generally relaxing. Then I had to play the "easy" 1950 player in the ninth match, who both of my teammates had beaten easily. I'd been standing around for something like an hour at the time, and hadn't bothered to reglue (this was back in those days). When I went out I was cold, stiff, unwarmed up, and my racket was dead from not regluing. You can guess what happened. It's still my worst loss since the early 1980s.
  10. I started a daily blog in 2011 that meant getting up early every morning, Mon-Fri, and write all sorts of stuff. What a silly thing to do!!!

Pictures from the $36,000 Butterfly LA Open

Here they are, care of Bruce Liu. (They were available yesterday, but I missed putting them in my blog.)

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. Eighty-nine down, 11 to go!

  • Day 12: Neil Harwood Reminds Us that We Are on the Big Stage with Other Sports

Ping Pong in the Park

Here's the article and video (3:02). "'Ping Pong in the Park,' a creative innovation by The Urban Conga in Tampa, is the latest winner of a small grant from Awesome Tampa Bay."

Kanak Jha's First Day at High School

Here's the picture, with sister Prachi Jha in her last year. How time flies!

Ice Bucket Challenge

Here are some prominent TT people doing the ice bucket challenge:

Nathan, who will rue this day for the rest of his life, challenged me - so I'll be doing it later today. Check back tomorrow for the video. 

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June 19, 2014

Is the USATT Rating System Inflationary, Deflationary, or Stable?

I don't have exact numbers on this, but it's fairly obvious that, over the years, the ratings have inflated. When I started out in 1976 there were only three players rated over 2400 (Danny Seemiller, D-J Lee, and Gil Joon Park, with the latter two from South Korea); now there are 116, and this is only among USA players. There are more foreign players now listed as USA players than before, so this is part of the reason, but the bulk of these 2400+ players are just as much USA players as those back in the late 1970s. Dan Seemiller had just reached top 30 in the world with a rating just over 2500. Insook Bhushan (then Insook Na) had just come to the U.S. from South Korea, and was top ten in the world among women, but was rated only about 2250. These days top ten in the world among women would be about 2650. At one point I was 18th in the country among U.S. citizens with a 2292 rating; these days it wouldn't make the top 100. So yes, the ratings have inflated. (My impression, however, is that any inflation has decreased or stopped in recent years. For one thing, the highest rated USA players now are actually a bit lower than some from the previous generations, but that's offset by the fact that the previous generations had players with higher world rankings and deserved the higher ratings.)

But wait, some of you are thinking, hasn't the level of play improved, and that's why there are so many more higher-rated players these days? That modern players have improved is absolutely true - but that has no bearing on the ratings. As players on average improve, so do their opponents. Think of it this way. If everyone were to suddenly improve 100 rating points in level, there would be no effect on the ratings themselves since opponents would also be 100 points better. And so even though everyone's about 100 points better, the ratings themselves would stay the same. 

The level of play has improved because of more training centers, more coaches, better equipment, and more advanced techniques. For example, backhand play these days is far stronger than it was when I started out. Players attack from closer to the table, making it harder to keep a rally going. And if I could have had some modern sponges back in the early 1980s, I (and most top players) would have caused some serious havoc.

The interesting question here is what has inflated faster, the rating system or the level of play? It's a tough call. I would say a 2000 player from the 1970s is more skilled than a 2000 player of today, but that doesn't mean he'd beat the 2000 player of today, who makes up for his lesser skill with more modern techniques and better equipment. (For this, I'm not going to worry about details like the larger ball, different serving rules, etc.) To use a simple example, I'm fairly certain that any modern 2300 player could go back in time to the 1940s with a sponge racket and be World Champion. The very best players from the 1940s were more skilled than a modern 2300 player, but the 2300 player would have modern sponge, looping, serves, etc. (To put it another way, at my peak, and with my sponge racket, I could have beaten the best players in the 1940s, but I don't think I was a more skilled player than the best hardbatters of that era. An interesting question is how long it would take the best players of that era to adjust?)

So why has the system inflated? Actually, the system would be a deflationary system except the adjustment factor is too high. The inflation comes from all the points pumped into the system from the adjustment factor, where any player who gains 51 or more points in a tournament is adjusted upwards. (There are no downward adjustments.)

If there were no adjustment factor, the system would be deflationary, and the average rating would be dropping. Why? Because the average player improves after his initial rating. Assuming no adjustment factor, let's say that the average first rating is 1200, and that the average player then improves to 1500. That means the player takes 300 rating points from others in the system. Result? Assuming the same number of players in the system, there are now 300 less points distributed among them, and so the average rating goes down - even though the average level of those players has stayed the same. This should be true of any rating system where there's a direct or indirect exchange of rating points.

Let's assume that the average player instead got worse on average. Then they'd be giving the system points, and so the system would be inflationary

One distinction to make here is the difference between the ratings going down on average while the average level stays the same (a deflationary system), and one that goes down because there is a large influx of new players with lower levels. The addition of all these lower-rated players would lower the average rating, but deservedly so since the average level will have gone down. But among the established players, where the level has stayed the same, the ratings wouldn't change, and so the system isn't really deflationary, though the average rating has dropped. 

"Can You Predict the Odds in a Match from their Ratings?" Revisited

Yesterday I blogged about the above. In it I showed why a rating system will always have more upsets at the lower levels than at the higher levels, even if statistically it appears that the odds should be the same at all levels. Here's an easy way of explaining this, using 100-point upsets as an example.

The most accurate rating system in the world is still going to have more 100-point upsets at the lower levels (and upsets in general) for the simple reason that no matter how accurate the rating is at the time the player last played, players at lower levels are more likely to have major improvements than players at higher levels. In other words, the ratings might be accurate at the time the players played, but they become inaccurate at lower levels more quickly than at higher levels. 

Here's a simple example. Suppose you have a highly accurate rating system that accurately rates 20 players. Ten are accurately rated at 1000, and ten are accurately rated at 2500. The next time these 20 players play, the ten who were rated 1000 are more likely to have improved to 1100 than the ten players rated 2500 are to have improved to 2600, and so it's more likely the 1000-rated players are going to be beating 1100 players than the 2500-rated players beating 2600 players. Therefore, it is more likely that these 1000 rated players are going to pull off 100-point upsets than the 2500 players. 

Here's still another way of looking at it. The odds of a 1000-level player beating an 1100-level player may be the same as the odds of a 2500-level player beating a 2600-level player, i.e. 1 in 6. The problem is that it's more likely that a player listed as 1000 is actually 1100 in level than a player listed as 2500 is actually 2600 in level. 

Playing the Middle

Here's a new coaching article from Samson Dubina, "Are You in a Jam?"

Help Wanted - USATT CEO

Here's the job description and application info for CEO of USA Table Tennis. I read over the listing - that's a LOT of requirements!!! I'll probably blog about this tomorrow.

Review of the Nittaku Poly Ball

My review of the ball in my blog on Monday is now an ITTF featured article. (I did a few minor updates to the blog yesterday when they asked if they could use it.)

Follow Your Favorite Players on Facebook

Here's the article, with links to these player pages.

Lily Yip's China Trip Photo Album

Here's the photo album of Coach Lily Yip in China with Lily Zhang and Krish Avvari.

2014 U.S. Open Foreign Players

Here's a chart of the number of players attending from each country. Here's the U.S. Open Home Page. Here's the where you can see who is entered and who is entered in each event. There are 713 total entries.

Ping Pong Summer Openings

Here's a list of scheduled openings for the movie around the country, including Ocean City; Omaha; San Francisco; Phoenix; Miami; Louisville; Grand Rapids; Athens, GA; Goshen, IN; and Winston-Salem.

Table Tennis Camps for Veterans & Members of the Armed Forces with Disabilities

Here's the listing.

Table Tennis Nemesis

Here's the article about author Geoff Dyer and table tennis.

Promotional Video for Waldner & Appelgren's Club Sparvagen in Sweden

Here's the video (1:57).

Table Table Tennis

Here's the video (11 sec) - they are playing with two tables set a distance apart.

Earthly Table Tennis

This is what I call an out-of-this-world ping-pong table. I want one!!!

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May 19, 2014

Tip of the Week

Why to Systematically Practice Receive.

Return to Ready After Forehand Attack

During the Potomac Open this past weekend there was an interesting match that illustrated this. One was a lefty rated over 2400, the other about 2300. The lefty kept serving breaking serves to the righty's wide forehand. The righty would move to his wide forehand and loop these crosscourt to the lefty's backhand. Over and over the lefty would quick-block these to the righty's backhand, and the righty was caught out of position over and over. At first glance it would seem the righty just wasn't fast enough, that the lefty was just too quick. And so the lefty won the first two games.

But then a strange thing happened. I was commenting to some players sitting next to me how the righty was looping off his back foot when he looped these serves, and so finishing off balance. This kept him from getting a quick start to cover his backhand. But sometime in the third game, completely on his own, the player figured this out. The key was to get his right foot wider on the receive so he could push off it, and then he could use the momentum of his own forehand follow-through to help move himself back into position. Two things happened because of this. First, by getting his right foot farther out he was able to push into the shot harder, thereby getting more speed and spin on his loop, which gave the lefty problems. Second, and more importantly, he was now following through into position, and was set for those quick blocks to his wide backhand.

There's a video (which I just spent ten minutes unsuccessfully searching for) of Werner Schlager making this exact same adjustment to a player at the World Hopes Week in Austria a year or two ago. I remember it as several people commented that he was messing up the kid's technique. Actually, what Werner had done was show the kid, one of the top 12-year-olds in the world, how to follow-through back into position so he'd be ready for the next shot. It's one of those little things that many players don't understand, thinking only about the current shot, and not worrying about the next one. (EDIT - here's the 50-sec video I referred to above, care of Daniel Ring in the comments below. Notice how the kid forehand loops very well, but tends to stay in one position when he's moved wide? Werner shows him how to follow through back into position.) 

How often have you attacked with your forehand from the backhand side, only to get caught when your opponent quick-blocked to your wide forehand? (Or the reverse, attacked from the wide forehand, and got caught on the wide backhand, as discussed above?) Most often the problem isn't being too slow; it's finishing the forehand shot off balance, which dramatically slows down how fast you can recover back into position. The most common situation is a player steps around the backhand corner to use the forehand, but is rushed, and so ends up following through too much to his left (for a righty), leaving him wide open for the next shot. Instead, when attacking from a wide corner, whenever possible try to follow-through right back into position, and you'll be surprised at how much easier it is to recover for the next shot, even if it's quick-blocked to the far corner.  

World Veterans Championships

They were held May 14-17 in Auckland, New Zealand, for players over age 40. Here's the home page for the event, with lots of news items, pictures, video, and results. Here's the ITTF Page with lots of articles. There were 1665 players entered, including 29 from the U.S. (see player listing, which lists them by country).

Here are the results. Do a search for if you want to see how players from a specific country did (for example, "USA"). Charlene Xiaoying Liu, who is from my club, finished third in Over 60 women, losing deuce in the fifth to the eventual winner (who would win the final easily 3-0). Charlene was actually up 10-8 match point in the fifth, alas, but struggled her opponent's serve at the end.

Alameda Table Tennis Club Offering Elementary School Kids $20,000 in Ping Pong Scholarships

Here's the article - wow!

Lily Yip Selected as USA Youth Olympic Games Coach

Here's the article.

Kagin Lee's Blog

Tokyo Recap, Part One. (Kagin is a member of the board of directors for USATT and National College Table Tennis Association.)

Cary, NC to Open 25,000 Square Foot Table Tennis Facility

Here's the article (on their home page). Here are some pictures of the new Triangle Table Tennis Center.

ITTF Has as Many National Associations as Any Sport

Here's the article. They now have 220 members, which equals the International Volleyball Federation.

ICC Table Tennis Fund-Raiser

Here's the article.

How to Choose a Table Tennis Bat

Here's the new video from PingSkills (14:45).

Best of Ma Lin

Here's the Video (3:13).

Circular Table Tennis

Here's the picture! I think I once ran a similar picture, but this one really shows how the "sport" is played!

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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."

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April 16, 2014

Spring Break Camp - TV, Backhands, and Shoot the Moon

Yesterday was day two of our Spring Break Camp. The highlight was Channel 5 News coming in to do a feature on Crystal Wang and the MDTTC. They filmed lots of Crystal and other players, and did interviews with Crystal, Coach Jack Huang, and me. I think the feature of my interview was when he asked about Crystal's goals for making the Olympics. I explained how making the 2016 Olympic Team was first priority, but that she'd be only 18 for the 2020 Olympics - and that was where the goal would be to medal, perhaps gold medal. Then I pointed out that we'll know she's made it when the Chinese coaches start studying her on video, and develop a practice partner who mimics her game so they can practice against her! Yes, that's what the Chinese do, and you haven't really made it in table tennis until you have a Chinese doppelganger who studies you on video and copies for other players to train against.

After some time reviewing the forehand, spent a lot of time yesterday on the backhand. The beginning players mostly seemed to pick this up quicker than the forehand - perhaps they're getting used to learning new TT stuff. However, several are having trouble with their serves. That's going to be a focus today. I'm also going to introduce pushing.

Our Monopoly set was discovered during our two-hour lunch break, and that'll be in continuous use the rest of the camp. However, the real obsession this camp is the Shoot the Moon game I brought in. It's in continuous use during breaks, with the kids taking turns, usually getting three turns each before the next one gets it. One kid, about ten, has been at it continuously since he got here, including non-stop practice while many of us went to 7-11, and has become the champion, several times getting "Pluto" ten times in a row. (You can't see it from the picture, but Pluto is the highest score possible. The goal is to pull the two rods apart so the heavy metal ball rolls toward the player, who drops it in one of the holes, the higher the better.)

However, none can challenge the true champion - me! When I was also about ten I had this game, and I also became obsessed with it. I practiced it day after day, and kept careful track of my results. This went on for weeks. I finally stopped when it became just too easy - I had several stretches where I'd get Pluto hundreds of times in a row. I finally put it aside and didn't play for about 44 years - then I picked up a set a few weeks ago, and discovered I could still do it. I mostly let the kids use it non-stop, but now and then I stop by and get Pluto a bunch of times in a row, which only makes them more determined.

Adam Bobrow - the Voice of Table Tennis!

The ITTF has made the final decision - and USA's Adam Bobrow is the Next Voice of Table Tennis! Here's their Facebook announcement. Here's video of Adam's contest entry (9:40), where he does commentary on a match at the Qatar Open between China's Xu Xin (then world #4, but now #1) and South Korea's Cho Eonrae (then ranked #44, but now #20). I blogged about the ITTF contest last Wednesday. (There's no article on this yet on the ITTF News page, though I expect one later today.) Here's the ITTF's original announcement of the contest, the announcement of the Finalists, and USATT's reposting of that with pictures of Barbara and Adam. (They are both from the U.S., with David Wetherill of Great Britain the third finalist.)

Actions of the USATT High Performance Committee

Here is the High Performance Report for March, 2014, by Chair Carl Danner. You can read previous ones and reports from other USATT Committees at the USATT Reports page.

Table Tennis a Varsity Sport in NYC Schools

Here's the article! (I blogged about this briefly yesterday, but now we get the details.)

Expert in a Year

Coach Ben Larcombe from England has been on a one-year project to see if he can turn a beginning adult player (Sam Priestley, age 24) into an "expert" in one year. He even has a web page where he explains and chronicles the adventure, and where you can sign up for regular updates. Here's an article on the project.

Krish Avvari Gets Last Youth Olympics Spot

Here's the story, and here's the ITTF video interview with him (1:40).

Interview with Lily Yip

Here's the ITTF video interview (3:40) with USA coach Lily Yip during the recent Canadian Junior Open.

Amazing Around-the-Net Backhand in the Russian League

Here's the video (46 sec, including slow-motion replay).

Tina Lin - Age Nine

Here's the video (3:43) of junior star Tina Lin, which introduces her at age nine and other ages.

Lily Zhang and her Prom Date

Here's the picture. "Not everyone can say they've gone to the prom with an Olympian! Thanks for a great night!" Lily was on the 2012 Olympic Team and was the 2012 USA Women's Singles Champion.

Ping Pong Animation Episode One

Here's the video (23 min). I haven't had a chance to watch it yet - too busy with spring break camp and other coaching - but if someone wants to do a short review, please comment below. I did browse through it and there's lots of table tennis action, all animated, apparently in a training environment.

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December 13, 2012

USA Nationals Entrants

This year's Nationals (Las Vegas, Dec. 18-22) has 782 entries, a nice increase over last year's near-record low of 502 in Virginia Beach. In actuality, the numbers last year were a bit higher than 502 since that number, taken from the online ratings database, doesn't include players who entered only doubles, hardbat, or sandpaper events. So they probably had closer to 550 last year - but that's still the lowest number ever for a USA Nationals since the 1980s.

What do these numbers say about location, location, location? But the numbers are also a bit higher than the Nationals in Las Vegas two years ago, which had 686 (again, players in rated events only). We still have a ways to go to return to the heydays of 2005 and 2006, which had 829 and 837 players in rated events.

Here's a chart showing the number of entries in rated events at the Nationals every year from 1994-2011. I have not included the 2012 figures yet because they include all entries. When the tournament is processed and the number of players in rated events is known, it'll be a bit lower than 782, almost for certain under 750. We'll see. (While we're at it, here's a chart showing the number of entries in the U.S. Open, 1994-2012.)

How many players only enter in doubles, hardbat, or sandpaper? This year's U.S. Open had 611 total entries, but only 564 in rated events. So 47 played only doubles, hardbat, or sandpaper, about 7.7% of the total. Based on that, of the 782 entries in this year's Nationals, about 60 will only play doubles, hardbat, or sandpaper, leaving about 722 in rated events.

The number of entries listed on the charts for earlier years is closer to the actual number. After I won the Hardbat Open at the 1991 Nationals and 1992 U.S. Open, the event was discontinued. (They must not have liked me.) The event was restored in 1997. Now there are six hardbat events - Hardbat Open, Over 40, Over 60, Doubles, Under 2000, Under 1800, and Under 1500. And over the last couple of years they've added the sandpaper event. (At the Open, they had two sandpaper events - the Open, and Liha Sandpaper, which has somewhat different rules.) So there are more and more players entered these days in non-rated events. I wish there were a way of getting actual entry numbers for all these U.S. Opens and Nationals, but all I have to go on are the online ratings lists.

Crystal Wang and Lily Yip

Yesterday I linked to the ITTF article that featured Crystal Wang. Now they've done a video interview of Crystal (2:26, she's a bit nervous) and USA Junior Coach Lily Yip (2:43). Poor Crystal and the others on the USA Junior Team (eight of them) just spent a week in India at the World Junior Championships, and will have exactly two days to travel halfway around the world to play in Las Vegas at the USA Nationals. When they play a match in Las Vegas at, say, 4PM, which is middle of the night for them this past week. (And the same for their matches in India, where their daytime matches were like middle of the night matches in U.S. time.)

Petition for Table Tennis in School Curriculums

Here's a petition to do the following:

Include and recognize the sport of Table Tennis Aka "Ping Pong" as part of a school's athletic curriculum of choice.

Table Tennis should be included as part of a school's athletic curriculum of choice to participate and play. The sport isn't only a recreational past time but also an Olympic sport. The sport is considered and recognized relevant by other cultures. The sport is cost effective, fights the obesity problem among young Americans, and is non discriminatory. The sport can be easily incorporated in a schools current athletic curriculum, and easily be taught. Tables should be put on all middle schools to encourage start up programs. There are plenty of qualified coaches in the United States that would love the opportunity to teach and coach this fast growing sport. Starting in middle schools will also identify talented kids and Olympic hopefuls. This is the way It's done in China and Europe.

It just got started, and I went ahead and signed it. (I'm the fifth signee; they need 25,000 by Jan. 11, 2013.) Let's see if it takes off.

Return Boards

Here's a video (2:03) highlighting their use. (The first two players shown are USA Junior Team Members (and sister and brother) Prachi Jha and Kanak Jha.) I have to get one!!!

1998 Olympics Gold Medal Match

Here's a highlights video (2:04) of the Men's Singles Final at the 1988 Olympics, the debut of table tennis as an Olympic Sport. It was held in Seoul, Korea, and (coincidentally?), it was an all-Korean final, with Yoo Nam Kyu defeating Kim Ki Taek in the final, 3-1. Players back in those days had great forehands and footwork, and lobbed more, but backhands were generally weaker, though most Europeans were looping their backhands. (Both of these penholders were backhand blockers, using conventional penhold backhands, which has mostly died out at the world-class level.)

Humans are Awesome

Here's a video (4:29) that shows humans doing various spectacular stunts. It includes a great table tennis rally from 0:21 to 0:33. (The player on the near side is Dimitri Ovtcharov. Anyone recognize the Asian lefty shakehander on the far side?)
Addendum: Julian Waters, and a few minutes later Bruce Liu, both informed me that the player on the far side is Mizutani Jun of Japan. Julian also corrected my original belief that the player on the near side was Primorac - oops!

Another Four-Person Table

Here it is!

Table Tennis Birthday Cake

Here it is!

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December 4, 2012

Full-Time Clubs

The biggest change in the game over the past six years or so is the rise of the full-time table tennis club. There were about ten in December 2006 when I did a presentation to USA Table Tennis, trying to convince them to get into the business of recruiting and training of coaches and directors to set up such centers and junior training programs. (Nothing came of that - two board members literally laughed at the idea. I blogged about this on January 4, 2012 while writing about "USA Cadet Depth.") Anyway, since then the number of full-time clubs has skyrocketed as coaches see how others doing them so successfully. Here's my current list of 56 full-time table tennis clubs in the USA.

The biggest stumbling block for those who are setting up these centers is that there is no manual on how to do it. Each time they have to re-invent the wheel. It's not quite that bad - they can see others doing it successfully, and so know it can be done, and they have others to ask advice on how to do it. I don't have time to put one together. (I do way too many volunteer activities already.)

Nearly all of these full-time clubs have copied the rough formula made successful at my club, the Maryland Table Tennis Center, which opened in 1992. We were the first full-time club in the U.S. centered on coaching and training. (There have been others that were league-centered, with part-time coaching, but our emphasis was toward coaching, especially junior training programs.) Many didn't think it would work, arguing that there weren't enough players for a full-time center, similar to the arguments made at the 2006 Board meeting. What they don't understand is the primary point of a full-time center is to attract new players. It is coaching and training that turn recreational players (there are millions of them) into serious players. I'd say "duh," but I've come to learn that this isn't as obvious to many as it is to those who are actively doing it.

I've advised many of those starting these centers, and those I've advised have advised others, and the "how to" of setting up a full-time training center has literally spread word of mouth. Here are a few guidelines.

  1. Center it around the coaches. From a financial point of view, the purpose of the coaches is to bring players in, not to make lots of money off of. You want coaches who want lots of students, and will go out and find these students. When they bring in a new student, the club usually gets a new player who buys membership, equipment, refreshments, pays to play in tournaments and leagues, to attend training sessions and/or junior programs, and to attend clinics and camps. That's where the money comes from.
  2. Have multiple coaches. I find you want about one full-time coach for every four tables in the club. So if you have eight tables, you need at least two. If you open a large center with, say, 20 tables, you'll want about five. (Don't bring them all in at once; start with two, then bring more in.) It helps to have at least one "name" coach or player, but that's not that necessary. You can usually build up any good coach as a "name" coach.
  3. Let the coaches make good money. If you want a coach who will work long hours, let him keep the bulk of his money. For example, if the coach charges $50/hour, he keeps $40, the club gets $10. (That's the MDTTC standard.) You want a coach with lots of incentive to bring in lots of students and work those long hours. You don't get that if you do what some clubs have tried, where they keep a high percentage of the coaching fees.
  4. Have multiple revenue sources. The club should get money from membership, coaching fees, training sessions, junior programs, clinics & camps, tournaments, leagues, and equipment and refreshment sales. Make sure the coach understands that he needs to guide interested students towards these programs and sales.
  5. Keep the place clean and neat, with good playing conditions. You don't need a Taj Mahal as long as the place looks neat and clean, with good floors and lighting, and enough room. Put up a few table tennis posters and you're set.

The Rise of Dimitrij Ovtcharov

Here's an interesting article from ITTF on Germany's Dimitrij Ovtcharov, who is now ranked #7 in the world. Along with Timo Boll (#5) and Bastian Steger (#25), is Germany a legitimate threat to the Chinese? More important, how the heck do you pronounce Dimitrij Ovtcharov?

Lily Yip Featured

Here's an article on two-time USA Olympian Lily Yip.

Gal Alguetti's Serve

Here's his last serve in a match at the Teams in Baltimore - not to mention the nice return and Gal's follow! Gal was leading 10-0 at this point against what he described as a 2000 player.

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