April 30, 2014

Butterfly and My Personal Equipment

Here's some news on the equipment front. First, I'm sponsored by Butterfly again. (They haven't put me up yet in their sponsored list - that'll come later.) I was sponsored by them for something like two decades, but was a casualty of the 2008 financial crisis. I had two great years sponsored by Paddle Palace, but they are moving in a different direction, which freed me to reapply with Butterfly. My club, MDTTC, has been sponsored by Butterfly for many years.

I've used a Butterfly Timo Boll ALC flared blade the last few years. I believe it's the most popular high-end racket right now. I discovered it almost by accident. I was coaching Tong Tong Gong about 3-4 years ago while he was on the USA National Cadet Team (and about to try out to make it again) and sponsored by Butterfly. I needed to warm him up, but my racket was in my bag a distance away, so I borrowed his spare blade. After I hit one ball my eyes shot up - it just felt right. Tong Tong later made the National Cadet team for a second straight year, and as a reward for my coaching him at the Trials they gave me his spare racket, which I'd come to really like. (Butterfly had given him a new backup.) I've been using that blade ever since. You can still see where Tong Tong had etched his name into it!

For the last few years I've been using Tenergy 05 FX 2.1 black on my forehand and Roundell 2.1 red on my backhand. Tenergy is the most popular high-end sponge, but it comes in so many types it's hard to keep track - 05, 25, 64, 80, and all in regular and FX, which means a softer version. You can read about each at the Butterfly site.

I use the FX on the forehand for embarrassing reasons - at 54 and very tight muscles, I don't swing as hard as I used to in a fast rally, and FX is more forgiving, but with less power. It means when someone hits the ball aggressively to my forehand it's easier to loop - the sponge practically does it for me as I just stick my arm out and swing a bit. (It's not quite that simple - you still have to have decent technique and timing, but it sure makes it easier.) With harder sponge you have to swing harder to sink the ball into the sponge, and I don't do that in a fast rally as well as I used to. Against a slower ball, I can still swing hard, but a harder sponge would give even more power. FX is also good for players developing their loop. Having said all this, I'm planning on trying out the regular 05 for a time and see how it works.

On the backhand I mostly counter-drive and block, though I do loop sometimes. Roundell is more of an all-around sponge that allows you to do anything. It's a good looping sponge (though not quite like Tenergy), and very easy to rally with. However, I'm toying with going to one of the Tenergy sponges on my backhand. Tenergy 25 is supposed to be better for close-to-table play, so I'm going to give that a try.

Here's the problem. I had a sheet of Tenergy 25 sent 2-day priority mail last Thursday, nearly a week ago. (It's actually coming from Paddle Palace, the last sheet of sponge they owe me.) According to the tracking number, it was sent out for delivery at 1:35AM on Saturday morning (i.e. late Friday night). It was never delivered. Then it was apparently sent out for delivery again at 1:21AM Tuesday morning (i.e. late Monday night), but again it was never delivered. And here it is Wednesday morning, and still nothing. Apparently there's some drunken delivery guy who's been zigzagging about the last four days with my Tenergy in his truck. If anyone sees him, please flag him down, tackle him, taze him, or whatever it takes.

World Championships

I was debating whether to do Worlds coverage here in my blog, but they are already doing an excellent job elsewhere, so I'll just link to the following two places, where you'll find results, articles, and lots of video. (I'll probably run this segment daily throughout the Worlds.)

MDTTC Coaching Staff

Here's a group picture of the MDTTC coaching staff (including names), taken during our Spring Break Camp two weeks ago.

When to Call Timeouts

Here's the article from PingSkills. One of the things they stress is you should call a timeout whenever it would best help you win a game - even if it's in the first game. I've argued the same thing, but some players are resistant to a timeout in the first game. I'd rather do it when it could make a difference than as a desperation tactic near the end when you are already out of the match. Here's my Tip of the Week on this, and here's a blog entry where I talk about timeouts.

Internet Lag Demonstrated with Table Tennis

Here's the article and video (2:58).

Ping-Pong Tapestry

I have no idea what's going on here, but the guy in the middle appears to be holding a ping-pong paddle. It appears to be some sort of historical Chinese thing, but the guy's a shakehander. Should that be penhold? Can anyone translate?

4er Table Tennis

Here it is! I'd call it Giganta Pong. With four tables and a barrier (with something to prop it up higher), anyone can play this. The sport for the masses.

Player Catches Ball in Mouth

Here's the video (24 sec, including slow motion). After catching it in his mouth in this exhibition the player spits it out on the other player's side for the point. I can't quite tell who the ball-catching lefty player is, but I think that's Jorgen Persson on the other side. (Edit: I didn't recognize him from the video at first, but Bernard Lemal emailed that the one on the right catching the ball in his mouth is '93 World Men's Champion Jean-Philippe Gatien! Now that he's pointed it out, it's kind of obvious. Even his strokes are a giveaway.)

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July 11, 2011

MDTTC Training Camp

We have two back-to-back training camps at the Maryland Table Tennis Center starting today, Mon-Fri this week and next. So I'll be getting up early to write the blog, then off to coaching. Expect lots of interesting camp tidbits!

Equipment - yours and mine

I am not an EJ, i.e. equipment junkie. Here's my recommendation to new and intermediate players. Everyone needs to go through a stage where they essentially try everything out. This allows you to really learn and understand what's out there, and to find the best equipment for yourself. The cheapest way to do this is to ask to try out the rackets of players at your club. Eventually, you'll find the right combo, and then I recommend they stick with that, unless and until their game changes or there's a major equipment breakthrough. The latter happens about once a decade, though of course you'll read about "new breakthroughs" every year. 

Here's what surfaces I use. (I'll write about rackets some other time, but I'm currently using a JOOLA Fever blade ST.) 

Forehand: Butterfly Tenergy 05 FX 2.1 black. This is a soft looping sponge. It allows easy looping without a long, powerful swing. When you loop, the ball just jumps off this rubber with what some call a high throw angle. If you have a more vigorous stroke, you might want a harder sponge. I both loop and hit, but my hitting is more natural, so I go for a sponge that props up the loop since I can hit with anything. This sponge allows me to run down hard shots off the table and loop them back with good spin. The softness does mean less speed, but the consistency and spin offset that for me. Another sponge that does this (which I used before) was JOOLA's Energy X-tra.

Backhand: Roundell 2.1 red on the backhand. This is perfect for my basic hitting and countering backhand, and you can also loop with it pretty well. (I generally only loop against backspin on the backhand.)  It plays like glued-up Sriver, which is what I used on my backhand for many years. Another sponge that does this (which I used before) was JOOLA's Express One.

Hardbat: I use an old TSP blade that I bought at a tournament back in 1990. It's a one-play pure wood, and I don't think it's made anywhere, so there's no point in trying to match it. I use Butterfly Orthodox on both sides.

Backhand leverage test

Shakehand players, hold your racket in front of your stomach as if you were about to hit a backhand. Put your free hand against it in front. Now push out. Now raise the racket (or squat down), so the racket is somewhere between your chest and chin. Again put your free hand against it in front and push out. Which way gives you more leverage? If you noticed how much more leverage you had the second time, you'll realize why it's important to stay low when hitting backhands. (Remember, we're talking backhand drives, not loops, where you do start lower.)

Will Shortz and table tennis

Here's a nice article on Will Shortz (NY Times puzzlist), Robert Roberts, and their new full-time table tennis center. 

ITTF photo caption challenge

Here's a rather interesting table tennis photo. Why not come up with your own caption for it?

Thoughts on the Budget and Debt Ceiling Crisis (non-table tennis)

To the talk show hosts on both extremes who have split our country, and the idiots who listen to them and vote, and all those who forget that the Founding Fathers compromised . . . great job. The Apocalypse won't be biblical, but economic.

(I could write much more on this, but I don't want to turn this into a political blog, so I'll leave my own partisan thoughts out of this. Sufficient to say that I'm a moderate Democrat, with the emphasis on moderate.)


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