Slow Motion TT

September 1, 2014

Tip of the Week

How to Execute a Fast Serve.

Disabled Veterans Camp

Friday was the final day of our four-day Disabled Veterans Camp. It was an honor working with these servicemen. I'd like to thank them for all the hard work they put in, both in uniform and at the camp! I'd also like to thank the USOC and USATT, the Department of Veteran Affairs, MDTTC officer Wen Hsu, and especially Jasna Reed, USATT's Director of Para Programs. 

The focus for the day was backhand attack - smashing, and backhand drive and loop against backspin. We started off by putting the players in six stations, and rotated them every 7.5 minutes. I fed multiball so players could work on their backhand attack against backspin. Steve Hochman had them serve backspin, he'd push it back, they'd backhand attack, and the rally would continue backhand to backhand. Sameer Shaikh had them do backhand-forehand footwork, side to side. Ram Nadmichettu worked on their pushes. Plus I set up the serving bar on the robot table so players could practice serving low. (This is an adjustable bar that goes over the net. Here's a picture of it set high, and here's a picture of it set low. John Olsen made this for our club. It has about ten height settings.) 

Next up was equipment and playing styles. I brought out my "show and tell" super-large racket case, which contains six rackets: an all-around hardbat racket; a pips-out penhold racket; a shakehands racket with inverted and short pips; a shakehands racket with inverted and antispin; and two shakehands rackets with inverted on one side and long pips on the other, one with thin sponge (chopping racket), the other no sponge (pushblocking racket). I went over each of the surfaces and now to play against them, as well as various playing styles that commonly use them. I was planning on some doubles play, but we ran into time problems, and so I only gave a short lecture on doubles tactics. We finished with up-down tables, where they played 11-point games, with the winning moving up, the "runner-up" moving down, with the goal to reach the first table. Steve and Sameer joined in, spotting points to most of them to equalize things. 

It was one of the more fun camps to coach. We used to run senior camps at MDTTC for players over age 50 (and over 40 if they were "old of heart"!). But in recent years the camps we've run were mostly for juniors, where we go easy on the lectures, and there are few questions. This camp was more like the senior camps, with lots of questions and discussion. 

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Table Tennis

I went to see the movie on Saturday, and despite the mostly negative reviews, I kind of liked it. Out of the blue there was a table tennis scene! The four turtles were being punished for refusing to tell their sensei, Splinter (a giant rat) why they had sneaked out. Each had to spend many hours in some uncomfortable position doing something. Donatello, the smartest of the turtles (the one with the purple mask) was punished by being forced to hold ping-pong paddles in both hands and bounce a ping-pong ball back and forth for hours, while standing on a block of wood that's balanced precariously on a basketball. I've searched but was unable to find a video or picture of this.

North American Championships

They were held this past weekend in Mississauga, Canada. Here's the ITTF home page for the event, with results, articles, pictures, and video. Here's the USATT page with lots of video. Note how Canada dominated all the Men's and Women's events, while USA dominated all the junior events. Also, see the final of Junior Boys' Teams, where USA won 3-0 - but in all three matches the USA player was down 0-2 before winning in five, with each pulling out at least one deuce game. One thing I didn't like about the format was that players could only enter one singles event, which hurt USA, since essentially all the players on the USA Boys' and Girls' team would have been competitive in Men's and Women's Singles but were not allowed to compete. Congrats to all the Champions - see below!

  • Men's Singles: Eugene Wang (CAN)
  • Women's Singles: Mo Zhang (CAN)
  • Junior Boys: Jack Wang (USA)
  • Junior Girls: Crystal Wang (USA)
  • Men's Teams: CAN (Pierre-Luc Theriault, Filip Ilijevski, Xavier Therien)
  • Women's Teams: CAN (Mo Zhang, Anqi Luo, Sara Yuen)
  • Junior Boys' Teams: USA (Kanak Jha, Kunal Chodri, Krish Avvari)
  • Junior Girls' Teams: USA (Angela Guan, Prachi Jha, Crystal Wang)

New ITTF President Thomas Weikert

Here's the ITTF press release. He took office on Sept. 1 and becomes only the seventh ITTF president since its founding in 1926. He succeeds Adham Sharara, who was president for 15 years. Here's the TableTennista story, which mostly features Sharara. 

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

Former USATT President Sheri Pittman Cioroslan just finished doing an article every day during the last 100 days of Adham Sharara's ITTF presidency, counting downwards from 100. And today she finishes - one hundred down, zero to go!

Zhang Jike's Serve

Here's the video (3:25).

Slow Motion TT

Here's the video (25 sec) - some nice shots, and you get to see footwork in slow motion. That's Ernesto Ebuen on the left.

Trend: Playing Table Tennis to Enhance Brain Fitness and Mental Health

Here's the article. Well, yeah!

Scientists Teach Ping-Pong Robots to Master Spin

Here's the article. Prepare to meet our future Masters. 

Ice Bucket Challenge

Milwaukee Brewers and Green Bay Packers Play TT for Charity

Here's the article and video (2:43).

Six Seconds of Very Strange Rallying!

Here's the video.

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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 3, 2013

MDTTC Newsletter

I'm the editor of the monthly Maryland Table Tennis Center Newsletter, cleverly titled the MDTTC News. Yesterday the October issue was emailed to MDTTC members and those on our mailing list. (If you want to be on the list, email me.) Here's the archive of past issues.

Each issue covers a number of topics. The key is to make it interesting, informative, and link it to the club's programs. The last item is key - there's little point in a newsletter that features interesting stuff but doesn't link to programs that the club is trying to create interest in. Below is the table of contents for this issue. (I'm especially looking forward to the new afterschool program where I get to switch from my table tennis hat to my tutoring hat. I can tutor in just about any school subject outside foreign language.) Each issue also has a feature picture at the top. This issue has a group picture from one of our summer camps.  

Does your club have a newsletter? Why or why not? It's a great way to promote the club and its programs!

  • NEW! Afterschool Program
  • Upcoming Butterfly MDTTC October Open (Oct. 26-27)
  • Fall Sales - Passo Butterfly track suits
  • North American Teams - Discount available till October 23rd ONLY
  • Adult Beginning Class
  • Ongoing Programs
    • Junior Classes
    • Group Sessions
    • Private Coaching
    • Leagues
  • Ernie Byles - Saved by Table Tennis
  • Rental Space for Corporate and Private Events
  • MDTTC Web and Facebook Pages
  • Tip of the Month: Real Tactics vs. Parroting Tactics

Arm Problems and Novel Sequel

Arm is hopefully getting better. As noted yesterday, I've had to cancel or get substitutes for all my private coaching sessions since Saturday, including three hours yesterday. I'm still doing group sessions (including one from 6-7PM tonight), and I did do one private session that was all multiball. I'll test out the arm tonight and see how it is. Either way I'm still resting it one more day on Friday, and I'm pretty sure I'll be fine by the weekend.

Meanwhile, having a few days off gave me a lot of time to plan out the sequel to my upcoming novel, "The Giant Face in the Sky," coming Nov. 15. I've now got a rough outline for the sequel, and pages of notes. The first novel was a humorous fantasy that satirized the U.S.-Soviet space race in the 1960s, with sorcerers instead of astronauts, and with main character Neil (Armstrong, though last name is never mentioned) a 13-year-old sorcerer's apprentice, with his sidekick Buzz (Aldrin), essentially a talking, floating meteor. The sequel (also starring Neil, who is now president of the United States and magically disguised as an adult) will satirize the civil rights movement and Vietnam. (It's not easy combining the professions of table tennis coach & writer and science fiction & fantasy writer!)

Table Tennis Training in Korea

Here's video (7:55) of a table tennis camp in Korea. There's no actual table tennis in the video - just physical training to develop the legs. Take a look and remember this is how you should start your day for now on!

Slow Motion Table Tennis

Here's a video (48 sec) showing some great TT play in slow motion. Can you name all four players? (Comment below!)

Ma Long's Slow Spinny Sidespins and Topspins

Here's a video (4:02) showcasing world #1 Ma Long's spinny loops.

KIPP Ping Pong Smackdown Fundraiser

Here's the article and photos. "We raised $625K to provide quality education to students from the Bay Area’s low-income communities." Was this the largest fundraiser in table tennis history?

Spam Applications

I've had an ongoing battle with spam since I opened this site. As time went on it got worse and worse. Originally I let people register automatically. A growing number of spam accounts were created that posted spam in the forum and as comments in the blog, and I spent a lot of time deleting them until it got way out of hand. Starting April 23 this year I had to approve all registrations. When people register they get a note asking that they use a real-sounding name (since most spam uses various types of randomly created jumbles of letters and numbers) and to put something in the bio section that mentions table tennis. This allows me to rapidly go through them and approve only those that sound human and mention table tennis. This morning I broke 5000 spam account applications in the 133 days since April 23 - 5011 as of this moment. That's about 38 per day I've had to handle, one at a time. (Oops, make that 5012, got another one!) Thanks spammers. They should be lined up and smacked with cement-filled ping-pong balls.

Government Shutdown Ping Pong

The talking heads of TV news have christened the government shutdown as ping pong. Don't believe it? Here are the results when you put "Shutdown" and "Ping Pong" into the Google search engine! I think CNN's Wolf Blitzer calls it this about once every five minutes.

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January 3, 2013

Beginner's Topspinny Backhand and Forehand Looping

I'm coaching an 11-year-old who is developing well on the forehand, but has sort of a topspinny backhand. Instead of snapping the shot off in fast rallies he mostly rolls it softly, and so can't rally too fast yet. I've been working on this with him, but now I'm thinking perhaps I should just forget backhand counter-hitting and teach him to backhand loop almost from the start. We might have a close-to-table backhand looper in the making.

I've already taught him to loop against backspin, both forehand and backhand. Now he really wants to get into looping in rallies, though mostly on the forehand. (Despite his rolling backhand, I don't think he realizes yet that you can backhand loop over and over just as on the forehand.) He's already experimenting with looping against blocks when he hits around with others, so it's better if I start him off properly.

In our next session I'm going to explain Chinese versus European philosophy on this. (This is a generalization, of course.) In Chinese philosophy, you teach the basic forehand and backhand until they are so strong the player can do them in their sleep - and only then do you teach them to loop, which they consider an extension of the regular forehand and backhand. In European philosophy, you get to looping as early as possible, since that's eventually going to be their primary shot, so why not focus on it from the start? I'm sort of in between these philosophies, as I want the player to get the basics down first, but also want to get to looping as soon as possible. In this case, I think the kid is pretty much setting the course with his rolling backhand and determination to loop in rallies with the forehand.

New Year's Resolutions

  1. Weight down to 170 lbs by April 1 (no April Fools joke!), and stay under 175 all year. (Current weight is 184.)
  2. Rating over 2200, and overall level to 2250.
  3. Write a new novel or other book, and at least 12 new short stories.
  4. Read five classic novels - tentatively Hamlet, Dante's Inferno, Don Quixote, Paradise Lost, and Catch 22. If I find one of these boring, I may replace it with The Count of Monte Cristo.
  5. Get all six of my books ready for sale in both ebook and print on demand formats by June 1 at larryhodgesbooks.com.

A few notes on these resolutions. Regarding #2, I'm basically retired from tournaments, but have decided to get in shape ONE MORE TIME and then play some tournaments. For one thing, I long for the days when I dominated against the local cadet players; now I feel like a punching bag half the time when I play them. (Thank god for serve and receive, where I still dominate, but that can only take you so far.)

However, I also feel somewhat cheated by my current rating, as it came about from two fluky events. First, at the 2012 U.S. Open, when I was rated 2193 (which is about right for me, since I'm almost 53, out of shape, and don't practice anymore - coaching isn't the same practicing), I played the sandpaper event. After playing with sandpaper all day, I finished my last match only to find my opponent and an umpire waiting for me for a long-delayed sponge match. I had two minutes to warm up, and that wasn't nearly enough, and there went 40 points. Then, last year, I did get into shape, was playing really well - close to 2300 level - so I decided to play a tournament. Unfortunately, I'm used to great playing conditions at the Maryland Table Tennis Center, and the tournament I went to had slippery orange-ish floors, and so I couldn't move or see the orange ball. I dropped out of the tournament halfway through, but not before dropping another 16 points, to 2137. At the recent Teams, the only other tournament I've played since 2007, I gained a few to get to 2145, but even there I felt cheated, as I lost a pair of close five-gamers to players rated 2314 and 2178, and to a 2266 player 0-3 at 9,9,10. (The online ratings have me losing to the 2178 player at 7,7,7, but it was actually 11-9 in the fifth. How'd that happen?) I felt that if I were in better shape I could have won all three of these. So . . . I need to get in better shape. So I'll be losing weight, doing weight training (again), and practicing. And then I'll be looking for tournaments with good playing conditions - especially the floors. (I did 40 minutes of weight training last night, as well as a 10-minute run.)

Regarding reading classics, I've read a few over the years. (I mostly read SF & Fantasy, plus some history and science.) The final list was made with help from Tim Boggan, who taught the classics for years as an English professor. Here are "classics" I've already read: Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, Siddhartha, Moby Dick, The Old Man and the Sea, The Catcher in the Rye, King Lear, Robinson Crusoe, Frankenstein, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The Metamorphosis, The Stranger, Nineteen Eighty-Four, Charlotte's Web, To Kill a Mockingbird, Lord of the Flies, Of Mice and Men, and A Christmas Carol.

The six books of mine I hope to have online by June 1 are Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers; Table Tennis Success (former Table Tennis Steps to Success); Table Tennis Tales & Techniques; Instructor's Guide to Table Tennis; Professional Table Tennis Coaches Handbook; and Pings & Pongs: The Best SF & Fantasy of Larry Hodges.

You'll note there is nothing in my resolutions about my students - that's because that's for THEIR resolutions. Of course, I'll do whatever I can to help them reach those!

Coaching Insects Dream

I do have the strangest table tennis dreams - perhaps it's because I not only coach and write table tennis full-time, but I'm also a SF writer. This is just a snippet - I'm sure there was more, but I don't remember it. I dreamed I was coaching insects (!) on little tables on the floor that instead of the normal 9'x5' were 9"x5" (still a bit large for an insect). I was coaching a tiny beetle against this much larger one when the larger one suddenly grabbed my protégé in its jaws and ran through a crack in the wall, where it presumably ate my student. I called out in horror and slammed my fists on the wall, but there was nothing I could do. I woke up feeling very sad.

Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers

Other than the covers and proofing, the page layouts are done. (Final version is 242 pages.) I hope to have them ready for sale online by February.

USA Nationals Video Recap

Here it is (1:57), care of JOOLA USA!

Mike Dempsey Memorial Championships

Here's an article My Experience at the Mike Dempsey Memorial Championships by Igor Botkin.

Forehand Counterhit Accuracy

Here's a coaching video on forehand counterhitting accuracy from PingSkills (2:30). Two methods are given for increasing accuracy.

Slow Motion Table Tennis

Here's some slow motion TT set to piano music (1:37) by PingSkills.

Best Table Tennis Shots of 2012

Care of  Table Tennis Daily (3:14).

The Best Table Tennis Commercials of 2012

Table Tennis Nation chose the top seven commercials that featured table tennis from 2012, ranking them in order, as well as six other finalists. The top seven, in order: McDonalds, Miller64, DirecTV, Maybelline, Snapples, JC Penney, and Bounty. (The Williams sisters commercial - see below - came out after they did their listing.)

Venus & Serena Williams Table Tennis Commercial

Here's an ad for the Apple iPhone 5 (31 sec) featuring the Williams sisters.

Table Tennis Action Shot of the Year

Look . . . up in the sky . . . it's a bird! It's a plane! No, it's just Super Cat leaping for the ball.

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