USA Team Trials

February 15, 2013


[NOTE - See comments below by physicist Dave Bernstein. Since some of my physics wasn't quite right - though my conclusions were correct - I've deleted much of this blog, including the references to F=MA, which don't really apply here.] I'm not a physicist, although I do have a bachelor's in math from way back (Univ. of Maryland, 1986). But the physics of creating a powerful shot in table tennis, especially a loop, are seemingly right out of basic physics. (Any physicists reading this, feel free to elaborate, correct, or explain any of this. I know this more from a coaching point of view.)

When players loop, they often try to muscle the ball, resulting in using only a few muscles instead of timing them all together. To get mass behind your shot, you have to put your body weight into the shot. You can't do this with the upper body alone. It comes by rotating the body into the shot, almost with a rocking motion, starting with the legs and moving upward as each part of your body uncoils into the shot. You need the legs to get the hips to rotate, and you need the hips to get the rest of the body to rotate into the shot. Many players do not get this lower body rotation - especially the hip rotation - and so most of their body weight does not rotate into the shot. 

To get maximum velocity, you have to smoothly accelerate your body's mass into the shot. Watch the best players, and you'll see how they effortlessly generate power. They do this because they accelerate their body into the shot. This goes together with getting the mass behind the shot - it's the smooth acceleration of the body's mass into the shot, starting with the legs and then the hips, that gives such effortless power. 

It's not quite this simple. With sponge rubber, even without acceleration the ball sinks into the sponge and is catapulted out. This is true even with a plain wood bat, which also bends and then catapults a ball out. Around here is where I would love to have a physicist chime in.

If you want natural power in table tennis (especially when looping), focus on smoothly accelerating your body weight into the ball, focusing on the hip rotation, to maximize velocity at contact. Watch top players as they loop and see how they do this. When done properly you get great power with ease, and so, as I like to demonstrate for students and in clinics, you should be able to loop at seemingly full power while carrying on a conversation.

The above should also apply to smashing. However, since the contact with the ball is quicker on a smash - as opposed to a loop, where the ball sinks into the sponge at an angle and stays in contact much longer - I think the power transfer is much quicker, and so you can get great power without using the full body weight, though that helps. I know I can smash extremely fast with minimal body rotation and a powerful arm snap (from the forearm), but this doesn't work for looping.

Pings and Pongs

I've written so much recently about Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers (Buy it! Now!) that it's been a while since I've mentioned that "Pings and Pongs: The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of Larry Hodges" is also sold on Amazon. These are the 30 best short stories I've sold (out of 65), compiled in one volume. One of the stories is a table tennis fantasy, and table tennis shows up in passing in other stories. $15.95 or $9.99 for Kindle. (Buy it! Now!)

Here's a short description of "Ping-Pong Ambition," the table tennis story: "A table tennis player gets stuck in a ping-pong ball for 10,000 years, where he studies to be a genie - only to discover a surprising truth. Originally published in Sporty Spec: Games of the Fantastic Anthology, 2007."

What, you didn't know that outside table tennis I write science fiction & fantasy? Here's my SF&F page. C'mon people, sales of the Tactics book is way outpacing sales of Pings and Pongs, leading to some hard feelings between the two. Here's your chance to get in a little F&SF between your TT reading!

Update - Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis, Vol. 13

We did three more chapters yesterday, bringing totals to 26 chapters and 409 pages. I've now cleaned up, placed, and captioned 826 graphics. The book is now projected to be 29 chapters and 456 pages, with 918 graphics. Chapter 26 ended with narratives of Americans in Europe, including Eric & Scott Boggan, Mike Bush, Brian Masters, Charles Butler, and Kasia Dawidowicz, as well as tributes to first ITTF president Ivor Montagu, who had just died. (This is 1985.) We should finish all 29 chapters tomorrow. Then, over the weekend while I'm off coaching all day, Tim will proof all the pages. On Monday we input the corrections. It's going to be a looong Monday.

I've also updated his web page and created the ad and flyer for the book. However, neither will go public until the book is complete. It should go to the printer on Monday or Tuesday, and copies should be available a couple weeks later.

Update - Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers

Now it's on sale at Barnes and Noble, as well as Amazon. Complicating factor - both are selling it for $11.45 instead of the retail price of $17.95. I don't think table tennis dealers can match that price. I'll look into this next week.

USA Team Trials

Here's the ITTF article on the USA Team Trials held last weekend, focusing on the top finishers, Timothy Wang and Lily Zhang.

Women in Table Tennis

Here's a gallery of table tennis women.

Corrugated Table Tennis

This'll have some weird bounces!

What's on Your Mind?

One is on love, the other on ping-pong. And guess what is in the heart of this person?

Send us your own coaching news!

February 4, 2013

Tip of the Week

Super Spinny Slow Loops.

Tactical Matches

Here are two examples of tactics used in matches this past weekend.

Last Thursday I wrote about a chopper who had spent much of the last year learning to forehand loop, going from an almost exclusively defensive chopper to having a very aggressive forehand. This weekend it paid dividends for him - well, almost. I usually eat choppers alive, but he wasn't really a "chopper" this match, as he kept attacking. The score went to 9-all in the fifth before I won the last two points. The key to what made him so difficult to play wasn't just his attacking; it was the threat of attacking. Besides his usually defensive play, he won points with his attack three ways:

  1. Directly by attacking;
  2. By my playing overly aggressive to avoid his attack;
  3. By my overplaying into his backhand chop to avoid his forehand counterloop, thereby letting him almost camp out on the backhand side and chop everything back with ease.

The problem I had with his forehand counterloop is that it would catch me close to the table, and so I'd almost always block it. (I tried looping into his middle and wide forehand, but he ran them all down to counterloop over and over.) Then he'd swoop in and keep looping, and I'd usually end up fishing and lobbing. At 9-all in the fifth, he suddenly counterlooped - and I counterlooped off the bounce for a winner, a shot I used to be good at, but that I don't do nearly as often anymore. I may have to go for that shot more against him. Or I might work on dead-blocking the ball. I also probably need to go after his middle more in my first loop, where he's not as ready to counterloop. As it was, I was somewhat lucky to pull off that shot at 9-all, and could easily have lost this match.

In another match I played a really good two-winged hitter who, until now, simply couldn't return my serves. However, we've played a lot recently, and for the first time ever he did a decent job of returning my serves, and once in a rally, could hit really well. At this point I'd been at the club coaching and playing for eight hours, and I found myself unable to go through him with my attack, nor could I outlast him in rallies since I was too soft against his strong hitting due to exhaustion. (I had just finished playing the extremely tiring 11-9 in the fifth match against the chopper - see above.) After losing the first game - the first game I'd ever lost to him - I went to a simple strategy of pushing or chopping his serves back as heavy as I could. He had a nice hitting game, and could loop against normal backspins, but against these ginzo backspins, he fell apart. When he did manage to lift one up, it was too soft and usually short, so even exhausted I could smash them or block them hard to his middle. I won the next three games. The key was to commit to the heavy backspins so I knew in advance I would be doing them, and so could really load them up and control them.

More tactical examples coming tomorrow.

Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers - Kindle Situation

Two notes:

  1. As noted previously, and in the Kindle description of the book, the current version is text only. In a month or so I plan to put together a Kindle version with all 90 photos that'll be in the print version. (Unlike the print version, these photos will be in full color.) I checked with Amazon on whether those who had already bought and downloaded the text-only version could get the new version, and they wrote back: "If the changes made to your content are considered critical, we’ll send an email to all customers who own the book to notify them of the update and improvements made. These customers will be able to choose to opt in to receive the update through the Manage Your Kindle page on" I'm fairly certain going from a text-only version to adding 90 color pictures would be considered "critical," though of course I can't guarantee that.
  2. I wrote that the Kindle edition cost $9.99. However, I've since learned that that is only in the U.S. For "International wireless delivery" the cost is higher - I'm told in one location outside the U.S. the cost was $14.39.

I should have the proof version of the print version tomorrow. I'm already planning a few changes, so after I check to make sure everything's coming out (I already wrote that I'm worried about the photo resolution), I'll upload the "final" version. It should be available a few days after that.

USA Team Trials

They start in three days, Thur-Sun, Feb. 7-10, at the Top Spin Club in San Jose, CA. They had a press conference on Saturday. Here are pictures and other info on the Trials. And here is the USATT's info page on the Trials.

Bojan Tokic Interview

Here's an interview with Bojan Tokic of Slovenia, world #25. Includes video.

The Awesomeness in Table Tennis

Here's a new highlights video (8:40).

Wang Liqin vs. Xu Xin

Here's video (3:59) of for world #1 Wang Liqin's incredible comeback from down 0-8 and 3-10 against world #1 Xu Xin at the 2013 Chinese team trials.

Table Tennis in Lagos

Here's two kids in Lagos playing table tennis using an old door balanced on stools as their table. Remember this next time you complain about your playing conditions!

The Table Tennis Collector

Here's issue #67 of The Table Tennis Collector. Here's what Editor and ITTF Museum Curator Chuck Hoey says about it:

Dear Friends,

I am pleased to announce the publication of issue number 67 in the Table Tennis Collector series. This is the 20th year of publication, beginning with 16 pages in black & white, and evolving to a 50-page issue in full color, free to all.

Many interesting articles in this issue, and a special report on missing World Championship scores that are needed to complete the historical record - please help!

Special thanks to our many contributors for sharing their research, including Alan Duke, Steve Grant, Fabio Marcotulli, Jorge Arango and John Ruderham, and our dedicated phiatelic collectors, Hans-Peter Trautmann, Winfried Engelbrecht, Tang Ganxian and Marc Templereau.

The pdf download is 10MB in size, so please allow extra time for the download to complete. This is a direct link:

This issue, along with the entire series, can be accessed via my website:
Click the TT Collector icon and then select an issue to view.

Hope you enjoy the new issue. As always, constructive feedback is welcome.
Best wishes from Switzerland.

Chuck Hoey
Curator, ITTF Museum

Xu Xin Multiball

Here's video (37 sec) of world #1 Xu Xin doing multiball. See if you can match him!

Xu Xin and Ma Long Fooling Around

Here video (41 sec) of the current #1 and #3 players in the world goofing off. See if you can match their tricks! (Xu is the penholder, who starts out on the near side.)

Send us your own coaching news!

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