Maxim Shmyrev

January 31, 2014

TT Arena

Here's a new page that's devoted to connecting coaches, players, and clubs. For example, here's a club in the U.S. looking for a coach. (The club appears to be in Coffeyville, Kansas, from the accompanying map.)

A number of years ago when I was a USATT webmaster, I tried something similar, creating a USATT page devoted to connecting coaches and clubs, with two main pages: Clubs Looking for Coaches, and Coaches Looking for Clubs. Alas, it didn't take off - there just weren't enough full-time clubs at the time, less than ten in the U.S., while there are now about 70 and more popping up seemingly every week. So now might be the perfect time, as more and more full-time clubs open up, each needing minimally 3-4 full-time professional coaches. Plus, the availability of coaches would encourage more entrepreneurs to open up such clubs.

Along with leagues, I've long held that setting up table tennis centers with junior programs is the key to developing table tennis in the U.S. and any country. I even wrote Professional Table Tennis Coaches Handbook for that reason. (Believe me, I didn't write it for the money! I'm practically selling it for cost.)

One of my long-term plans is to develop a program to solicit and train professional coaches. But that's on the backburner along with dozens of other major projects on my long-term todo list.

Side note - above I mentioned that each of these full-time centers would need minimally 3-4 full-time coaches. Yes, that's minimal. The key to all the successful centers opening up around the country are the professional coaches that bring in players. The basic recipe is simple, as pioneered by my club, Maryland Table Tennis Center, which opened in 1992. You bring in a number of full-time coaches, with the basic deal being they help solicit and bring in students, and work long hours, and in return they keep most of the money they earn - i.e. they work hard, but they get wealthy. The coaches bring in lots of students who in turn pay for memberships, clinics, leagues, tournaments, equipment, refreshments, etc. The result is an active and financially healthy full-time club.

13th ITTF Sports Science Congress

It was held in Paris last year during the World Championships. A total of 37 table tennis related papers were presented. They are all online in the International Journal of Table Tennis Sciences, Volume 8. (It's mistakenly listed at the top as Volume 7, the previous volume. You can find links to past volumes here.)  Included in the papers are two by U.S. writers/coaches:

Wang Liqin's Backswing

Yesterday I blogged about how most top players, especially the Chinese, brought their arms in during their backswing on the forehand, which allows a quicker backswing, and then extended their arms on the forward swing, which increases the power. Someone posted the following video of Wang Liqin (3-time World Men's Singles Champion) at the mytabletennis.com forum, which illustrates this very well. Here's the video; go 42 seconds in, and see Wang as he loops over and over.

The Athlete Kitchen

Table tennis player and coach Brian Pace has a web page, The Athlete Kitchen, devoted to athletes eating, including a number of eBooks such as Juicing for Athletes and related topics. Brian's not only a former 2600 player and professional coach, he's also a championships cyclist. Brian, who's quite the entrepreneur, also creates table tennis instructional videos at Dynamic Table Tennis.

Princeton Freshman Ariel Hsing

Here's an article in the Princeton Alumni Weekly that features Ariel Hsing.

Interview with World Sandpaper Champion Maxim Shmyrev

Here's the interview.

Amazing Maze on a Robot

Here's video (25 sec) of Michael Maze training with a robot at the Werner Schlager Academy.

World Ping-Pong Federation

Here's the cartoon!

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January 6, 2014

Tip of the Week

Three Parts to a Swing.

New Seamless Plastic Poly Balls

I blogged about these on Dec. 26 (see second segment). There's been a lot of discussion online of these non-celluloid balls and how they'd change our sport. Here's my take.

First, a caveat. When I tested the newest poly ball at the Nationals, I was having arm problems at the time and so couldn't loop at full power, so perhaps my judgment on that is suspect. On the other hand, the top juniors who tried the ball out (four of them, all around 2300) thought it played pretty much the same as a regular ball. I wish I had a copy of the ball now so I could try it out again (with my arm mostly okay), along with others at my club. 

At least one other person has tested the ball and posted he believes the ball (even the newest version) has less spin and speed. I'm suspicious that it's substantially different. I know the ball was the same size as a Nittaku, and had the same speed when I bounced them side by side, and seemed substantially the same when I hit with it, including the same weight, grippiness, etc. Serious question: what physical property would cause it to have less spin, and in particular, substantially less spin? Comments are welcome below.  

But let's assume that the new ball does have less speed and spin, as some think. This might be true if, for example, the ball were bigger. (Though the slightly bigger ball I tested previously was actually faster than the current ball, though less spinny.)

If there is less spin with the new ball, I'm pretty sure that'll hurt choppers, even if the ball were slower. Choppers need spin to work with to mess up attackers, so even if they are more consistent with a slower ball, they would be less effective overall. (It'd sort of be like sandpaper matches, where it's easy to chop over and over, but hard to win points that way against the best sandpaper attackers.) However, if the ball were slower, that should help topspin defenders (fishers and lobbers). 

As to hitters, going from 38mm to 40mm balls hurt hitters, and going to a ball with even less speed would do the same - less ball speed gives loopers more time to loop, and hitters (and aggressive blockers) rely on rushing loopers into missing, making weak loops, or backing too much off the table. The same is true of blockers. Inverted and pips-out blockers need to rush loopers, and a slower ball makes that more difficult. Long pips blockers need spin to work with (like choppers), and a less spinny ball gives them less to work with - thereby putting them more at the mercy of smart but powerful loopers. Without those heavy backspin returns of loops, they'll have great difficulty messing loopers up.

The hard-to-call case is the modern defender, who chops and loops. A slower, less spinny ball would make their chops more consistent but less deceptive (and overall chopping alone would be less effective), but the slower ball would allow them to get into position to rip forehand winners. Most likely the change wouldn't affect their level, but it would tilt them toward more aggressive play. 

The surprising truth is that a ball with less spin and speed would likely favor powerful loopers who can still produce great spin and speed. I think it'd move the sport even more in the direction of pure looping, just as the increase from 38mm to 40mm did. It might favor all-out forehand loopers to a degree, since they will have more time to get into position for their powerful forehand loops. If you want to bring back choppers, blockers, and hitters, go back to a smaller, faster, spinnier ball. 

Addendum added later: with less spin and speed, these pure topspin rallies would likely be better than current ones as players relentlessly counterloop back and forth with fewer errors. Some will love this; some will find it repetitively boring. I'm on the fence here. I really miss the greater diversity of styles in the past. If you want to see the future, look at the juniors of today; overwhelmingly they are two-winged loopers, which is what I mostly coach and coach against. There are subtle differences, but in general they play much more similar to each other than players in the past. And yet, with a slower, less spinny ball the given topsin rallies would be better, and there'll fewer errors in returning serves, with the lower amount of spin. But I sure would like to see a bit more variation. 

Baltimore Sun

Yesterday the Baltimore Sun sent a reporter to Maryland Table Tennis Center to do a feature on Crystal Wang, 11, who recently became the youngest player ever to win Under 22 Women's Singles at the USA Nationals. (I'd sent out press releases everywhere afterwards. Here's a short article on this that was already in the Baltimore Sun - with two errors from the original press release, which were my fault: Crystal's actually a 6th grader now in the magnet program at Roberto Clemente Middle School.) The reporter spoke to Crystal and a number of players and coaches, and interviewed me for half an hour. I was able to give her lots of background, explain how she developed, and give details on her modern playing style (close to table looping from both wings).

$100,000 World Championships of Ping Pong

They just completed the third annual World Championships of Ping Pong, which is a sandpaper event - with $100,000 in prize money! Yes, you read that right. For the third year in a row it was won by Russia's Maxim Shmyrev, this time defeating USA's Ilija Lupulesku in the final at 8, 7, 12. (Strangely, games are to 15 in the sandpaper format.) Here's video of the final (24:04). Alas, both players are attacking all out - little chopping in this match.

2014 USA Team Trials

Here's info on the upcoming USA National Team Trials (Men's and Women's), to be held at Texas Wesleyan University in Fort Worth Texas, March 7-9.

Message from ITTF President

Here's the end-of-the-year message from ITTF President Adham Sharara.

Ariel Hsing's Website

Here's the new website for our 18-year-old three-time USA Women's Singles Champion!

Ping-Pong Diplomacy

Here's a review in the New York Times on the book "Ping-Pong Diplomacy" by Nicholas Griffin.

Search for Professional Players, Clubs, and Coaches Around the World

Here's a new website that does this. I haven't really tested it out yet, but it looks interesting.

ITTF Monthly Pongcast

Here's the December 2013 issue (11:44).

Chinese National Team in Training

Here's a video (3:31) of the Chinese National Team doing physical training and then table training. With Chinese narration.

Bernoulli's Ping Pong Ball Launcher

Here's the video (60 sec) - it's both table tennis and science!

Jean-Michel Saive vs. Chuang Chih-Yuan

Here are two videos of these two stars doing exhibitions. Tape one (1:35) and tape two (4:10).

Real or Fake?

If this is real (15 sec), then it might be the greatest table tennis trick shot ever.

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January 28, 2013

Tip of the Week

Holding Back on Serves.

Why You Should Play in Events Where You Are a Top Seed

It all depends on whether your goal is to be a Champion or a Spoiler. Champions have a burning desire to win, and enter tournaments with the intent of winning events. Spoilers have a burning desire to pull off a major upset now and then and so gain temporary rating points, and so they avoid the events where they would be seeded.

If your goal is to be a Champion, then you must think like one, and learn to execute like one. Consider:

  • You’ll never learn to play under pressure unless you put yourself in that position regularly, by trying to win the events you can win. There’s little pressure in playing higher-rated players.
  • You’ll never learn to defeat lower-rated players regularly unless you play them regularly, and learn to mow them down. Every time you lose to a lower-rated player is a lesson on something you need to work on; every time you avoid playing a lower-rated player to avoid losing is a lesson lost.
  • When you learn to mow down lower-rated players, you can apply these same techniques to higher-rated players.

So you have to ask yourself: are you playing to be a Champion, or to be a Spoiler looking to pick up a few temporary rating points?

Here's a longer article I wrote on the topic, "Juniors and Ratings."

Sheeba problems

Recently I've been feeling rather tired, and it's affected my work. But there's a simple reason for it. My dog, Sheeba, a corgi mix, will be 15 next month. She often cannot go the entire night without being let out. So recently, about every other night, she's been waking me up at 3-4AM so I can let her out to do her business. I sure hope this is a temporary thing!

U.S. Open in Las Vegas

It's official, according to the USATT Tournament Schedule: the U.S. Open will be held in Las Vegas, July 2-6, 2013.

Physical Training for Table Tennis

Here's a new article from Table Tennis Master that focuses on Building Cardio and Stamina; Building Explosive Leg Power; and Core Strength

Lily Zhang on Mental Toughness

Here's a video (3:18) of 2013 USA Women's Singles Champion Lily Zhang on Mental Toughness.

Timothy Wang on His Matches at the Nationals

Here's a video (7:09) where 2013 USA Men's Singles Champion Timothy Wang talks about his matches at the Nationals.

Houshang on Table Tennis

Here's a video (1:27) where USA Table Tennis Hall of Famer Houshang Bozorgzadeh talks about table tennis during the recent Iowa Games.

World Championships of Ping Pong (Sandpaper)

Here are videos of the Final between Maxim Shmyrev and Sule Olaleye. Here's Part 1 (29:41, includes introduction) and Part 2 (21:47, includes awards ceremony). This took place at the World Championships of Ping Pong, which was for sandpaper only, in London, Jan. 5-6, 2013. Winner received $20,000, runner-up $10,000, out of a total prize fund of $100,000.

Polkaroo Plays Table Tennis

Here's a picture Polkaroo (one of the stars of the long-running children's show Polka Dot Door) playing table tennis, along with an article, as part of a promotion for the film Ping Pong. Yes, the white spot is the ping-pong ball! (See also the animated picture of Polkaroo playing at the bottom.)

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