Marty Reisman

October 31, 2014

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!!

Table Tennis Plans and Other Work

It's been an incredibly busy week, and yet I'm more energized now than in years. Why is that? Ever since I decided to run for the USATT Board (assuming I get on the ballot) I've been busy planning out the stuff I've been arguing for (and planning for) for years. Much of it is stuff I've already done or others have done, and only need to introduce to this country, so it's not like we're re-inventing the wheel (or the ping-pong ball) again. Since I do the blog (and Tip of the Week) in the morning, this leaves much of the day for other activities, such as promoting MDTTC and (hopefully) working with USATT.

Yesterday I spent a good portion of the day working out plans and discussing with others the idea of recruiting an entrepreneurial leader to help create a USA Professional Table Tennis Players Association (hopefully with a better name), whose job it would be to go to cities in the NA Tour (assuming we go that route) and bring in sponsorships for each stop (hopefully to dramatically increase prize money), as well as organize activities, find ways to make and save money for the top players (free places to stay, etc.), and other ways of professionalizing the sport in this country. This is only one of the five main issues I plan to work on - I blogged about this on October 23. I've already worked out plans for all five. (I've had them for a long time, but had to write them out and fine-tune them.) I've told people the plan is to have enough prize money so at least eight USA players can make a full-time living as players by the time Kanak Jha (age 14) is ready to go to college, and has to make that college-or-table-tennis decision. Of course, that's sort of just a slogan (a long one), but the idea is that we want up-and-coming juniors to have this option, as well as being able to show other students that there indeed are professional players in this country.

Regarding item #1 from the Oct. 23 blog, "Create a USATT Coaching Academy to Recruit and Train Professional Coaches to Set Up Training Centers and Junior Programs," I've been arguing versions of this for years. At the December, 2006 USATT Board Meeting I made a formal proposal that USATT get involved in this, with the goal of 100 serious training centers with junior programs in five years. At the time there were only about eight in the country. The proposal was pretty much laughed at, even though total financial commitment from USATT was exactly $0. (The plan was to change the focus of currently run USATT coaching clinics, and to use the web page and magazine to recruit potential coaches/directors/promoters.) Two board members openly argued that there simply isn't enough players in this country for full-time training centers, missing the whole point that you develop the demand.

And so the item was checked off the agenda list and they went on to more important stuff that would quickly be forgotten. I had a similar experience at the 2009 USATT Strategic Meeting and other USATT meetings. But if I'm on the board, I'll be in a position to get these things done - all it takes is one person to take action. While others might not take initiative, it's not so easy to openly block someone else taking initiative when it costs almost nothing. I've discussed these ideas with enough board members to know they should get enough support to make them happen. (Not all of them were at the meetings I mention above.)

There are now 76 full-time table tennis centers in the U.S. that I know of. As I've blogged before, I believe this is the best thing happening in table tennis right now. It's why we now have so many top juniors now, as well as more in general. It's why we've gone from a few dozen full-time coaches to many hundreds of them. And yet this is a fraction of the potential if we simply organize this by recruiting and training such coaches/directors/promoters, rather than make each one of them re-invent the wheel or informally learn how to do it from others doing it. (I've spent a lot of time advising people on this. I spent some of my trip to Indiana this past weekend advising two people who are planning two new full-time centers.)

Meanwhile, I've been doing my usual table tennis work. There's the usual private and group coaching, which is mostly nights and weekends. This week I seem to be emphasizing backhand work with my students, just as last week. Lots of backhand drills! More of my students (and others at MDTTC) are really topspinning their backhands, and those balls are really hopping - it's getting scary! I've had several of our top juniors demonstrate their backhand loops for other up-and-coming ones, and have begun making sort of a study on how they each do it differently. (For example, some never change the racket angle during the backswing, while others close it slightly in the backswing and then open it again as a way to get more "snap" into the shot. World-class players also vary in this way, with the key being that the racket angle should be constant during the time just before, during, and after contact or you can't really control it.) 

Yesterday a new beginning junior class started with 11 players. I'm also doing the afterschool program, which involves picking up kids at school, coaching, and tutoring. I spent some time working out the upcoming training program for one of our top players, and met with him for half an hour to go over it. As blogged about on Tuesday, I spent Fri-Mon traveling to and from and coaching at the 4-star South Shore Open in Indiana. I've since updated my notes on several of the players I watched there - I keep running notes. I also researched some info from an old USATT Magazine for someone - I have nearly every magazine going back to 1976, though some are crumbling.

One of the regular activities of table tennis coaches is writing letters of recommendation for students when they reach college age. I wrote a bunch this week for Tong Tong Gong. We have seven full-time coaches at MDTTC, but I'm the writer-coach, and most of the others are Chinese and don't write English well, so it falls on me to do this.

Back Problems

This is exciting - I have a new back injury! New and different!!! The injury is in my upper right back, I think a small muscle tear. I've never injured this spot before, so let's all give a great welcome to this brand new injury!

I think I hurt it on the 11-hour ride back from Indiana, or at least it stiffened up there. When I returned my air bed was a bit low on air, but it's very noisy to fill up, and so I waited until the next day - and I think sleeping on a soft air bed may have aggravated it further. I was mostly okay when I coached on Tuesday and Wednesday, but it was bothering me a bit. Then, during a session yesterday, my whole upper right back pretty much became a solid mass of injured rock, and I could barely rotate to hit shots. Halfway through a one-hour session I had to stop, and I had to cancel a one-hour session later that night. (In between I did new junior class, but I only had to do simple demos and multiball for that.) Anyway, I'll rest it today and tomorrow (no coaching planned for once), and see how it is on Sunday. I don't think it's too bad; I should be fine soon.

Halloween Table Tennis

World Cadet Challenge

Crystal Wang, Kanak Jha, and Jack Wang all went 3-0 in their preliminary RRs, and are now in the Final 16 in Singles. They will play two rounds today, and the final two rounds (SF and Final) tomorrow. Here's the girls' draw, and here's the boys' draw. Here's a feature ITTF article on Crystal's latest performance. Here's the ITTF home page for the event, which is taking place in Bridgetown, Barbados, Oct. 23 - Nov. 1. In the round of 16 Crystal will play Nanapat Kola of Thailand; Kanak will play Martin Friis of Sweden; and Jack will play Wong Ho Hin of Hong Kong. You can watch the matches live here.

Breaking News added at 1PM on Fri: Crystal, Kanak, and Jack all won their first match in the main draw, and are into the quarterfinals.

Breaking News added at 6:30PM on Fri: Kanak won in the quarterfinals, 4-1 over Vitor Santos of Brazil. Alas, Crystal lost in the quarterfinals, 2-4 to Adina Diaconu of Romania, and Jack lost in the quarterfinals, 1-4 to Cristian Pletea of Romania. (Semifinals and hopefully the final for Kanak are tomorrow - Saturday.) 

Liu Guoliang Misinterpreted by Media?

Here's the article where China's Coach Liu Guoliang apparently denies he ordered Wang Hao to dump the Olympic Men's Singles Final to Zhang Jike in 2012. (See this article, which I linked to yesterday, with the note that a commenter there said Coach Liu had been misquoted.) I'm starting to get more suspicious as he and the players never actually deny it. Here are what Coach Liu, Zhang Jike, and Wang Hao said on this:

Coach Liu Guoliang said, "Zhang Jike deserved the Grand Slam. Wang Hao has no complains being an Olympic runner-up for the third time. Both are my pride. There is no distinction as to my feelings to them. They are like my children. I will never allow them to concede, and I will never allow anyone or anything to hurt them."

Zhang Jike said, "Coach Liu, everything that you've done are all fair and open. We must resolutely put an end to doubts that violate the morals and spirit of sports."

Wang Hao said, "After reaching the finals, I certainly wanted to win the title."

When someone falsely accuses you of ordering someone to dump, isn't the normal response to be a denial that you ordered someone to dump? As noted, this only makes it seem more suspicious. Perhaps Coach Liu said more in Chinese that didn't get translated; I don't know. China does have a long history of ordering players to dump, but that supposedly ended years ago. Or did it? (The dumping was done for various reasons ranging from strategic to political.)

Breaking News: Here's a new article "Fixing the Olympic Finals is Impossible," where Zhang Jike says more on the topic, and seems to insist there was no fixing, though again he doesn't seem to say so explicitly. Technically, only Coach Liu and Wang Hao know if the latter was ordered to dump, so I wish Wang would just say, "I wasn't ordered to dump the 2012 Olympic Men's Singles Final." 

Ask the Coach

Here's Episode 20.

  • Question 1 - 0:49: I’ve got a problem, I don’t twist properly and the speed of my topspin drives are slow. I got the start and end positions right but i don’t twist much with the hip and the only thing that twists from me is my shoulder. How can i fix it? AmekunRaiane
  • Photo Bombing by Jeff's Mum - 2:30
  • Question 2 - 2:40: Hi, I was wondering whether, in doubles, you and your partner are able to switch bats between points. I know that you can't get a new bat, but i couldn't find an answer to this anywhere. Thanks. Bob James
  • Question 3 - 4:15: What should be the minimum height for the toss? And what if the server fails to achieve that minimum height? Can he be penalised in form of a point or is there something like a warning? Rutvik
  • Question 4 - 6:19: Recently I noticed that Ma Lin twiddled his bat right before he serves. I was wondering if you could give me some tips on how to twiddle. Yu

Mezyan Table Tennis Imaginarium

It's now open, where you can buy table tennis art, clothing, tech stuff, or accessories, featuring the artwork of Mike Mezyan.

Boxer Lennox Lewis Visits Werner Schlager Academy

Here's the article and picture of the visit to the Werner Schlager Academy in Austria by Lennox Lewis, the last undisputed heavyweight boxing champion of the world as well as the Olympic Gold Medalist.

GoPro Here 3+ Test

Here's the video (1:28) by PingSkills of table tennis as videoed by a camera attached to a player's forehead! (They look like miners to me.)

The Needle and Table Tennis Nation

Here's an article on the late great Marty Reisman and his founding of Table Tennis Nation.

The Official Table Tennis Nation Halloween Costume Guide

Here's the article and pictures from Table Tennis Nation!

Keep Your Eye on the Ball

Here's the cartoon! (Wouldn't this be a nice Halloween costume?)

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Send us your own coaching news!

August 11, 2014

Tip of the Week

Ten Steps to a Great Service Game.

Virginia Camp

On Friday we had the final day of the camp in Fairfax, Virginia. In the morning we split the players into two groups. One group did various physical training and agility exercises with Wen Hsu (as they had been doing all week). The other group did multiball with me and hit with the robot. We did a lot of smashing and pushing, and a few worked on looping. We also did "player's choice," where the players got to choose what to work on. 

Then we had a practice tournament. There were 14 players, so we divided them into two groups of seven, with the top two from each side playing crossovers. All matches were best of three to 11. For prizes we had a series of "large" prizes - a playing bag and copies of all of my books (signed). We also had table tennis key chains. The first place winner got his choice of two large prizes plus a key chain. Second was one large prize and a key chain. Third through six got their choice of one large prize or key chain. (All took books.) I donated the books - in all, the books chosen were three copies of "Table Tennis: Steps to Success," and one copy each of "Table Tennis Tips," "Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers," and my humorous fantasy novel (which stars a table tennis wannabe), "Sorcerers in Space." I also gave a signed copy of Table Tennis Tales and Techniques to all 14 players. (I have a lot of extra copies.) Camp tournament results: 1. Harrison Tun; 2. Brandon Choi; 3-4: Leo Diperna and Ian Ramanata; 5. Vincent Diperna; 6. Chris Kutscher.

Here's a camp picture, with two players missing - they had to leave early, alas, and we forgot to get a picture when they were there. (Coach John Hsu is in background, that's me on the right.) Immediately after the picture they took turns smacking balls at the cup fort, with me feeding multiball. Many cups dies in the onslaught, but Froggy survived.

Koki Niwa and His Techniques and Tactics

Here's an article on Japan's Koki Niwa, world #15, where he talks about his techniques and tactics. Includes instructional pictures and a link to a Koki Niwa tribute video (3:36). (Note that the "chiquita" her refers to is the banana flip - Chiquita is a major producer and distributors of bananas and other produce, so I'm guessing that's where it comes from.)

Seven Things You Need to Know to Master the New Plastic Ball

Here's the posting and some discussion at the OOAK TT Forum.

Sports Psychology - Recognize Your Feelings

Here's the video (5:27) from PingSkills.

Top 10 Servers in Table Tennis

Here's the video (12:40).

Marty Reisman: The Greatest Sportsman You've Never Heard Of

Here's the article from Esquire Magazine. 

USA's Shivansh Kuma Finds Success at Guatemala Junior and Cadet Open

He made the final of Cadet Boys Singles, and teamed with India's Mudit Dani to win Cadet Boys teams. The two also made the semifinals of Cadet Boys Teams and the quarterfinals of Junior Boys Doubles. Here's the home page for the Aug. 6-9 event, with results, articles, pictures, and video. Here's the ITTF article on the Cadet Boys Teams.  

Hong Kong Junior and Cadet Open

Here's the home page for the Aug. 6-10 event, with results, articles, pictures, and video. Fifteen USA juniors took part in the event - here's a participants listing. Here's a listing USA major results.

  • Krish Avvari: semifinals of Cadet Boys (here's a picture of him on the podium, second from right)
  • Kanak Jha: quarterfinals of Cadet Boys
  • Krish Avvari and Kanak Jha: Semifinals of Cadet Boys Doubles and Teams
  • Adar Alguetti and Victor Liu: Quarterfinals of Cadet Boys Doubles
  • Lily Zhang and Prachi Jha: Semifinals of Junior Girls Doubles, Quarterfinals of Junior Girls Teams
  • Joy Li and Puerto Rico's Adriana Diaz: Quarterfinals of Cadet Girls Doubles

Bockoven Brothers Netting Success in Table Tennis

Here's the article from the Boston Globe. I remember going to a Seemiller camp in 1977 when I was 17 and father Ralph was one of the big stars of the camp! Connor and Chase are the heirs of that tradition.

Top Ten Places to Play Table Tennis

Here's the article by Matt Hetherington.

Final of the China Super League - Zhang Jike vs. Dimitrij Ovtcharov

Here's the video (39 min). To save time and add drama they only play to seven in the fifth game in this league. (Spoiler alert!) Dimitrij leads 4-0 in that decisive fifth game - but Zhang scores seven in a row.

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. Seventy-nine down, 21 to go!

  • Day 22: The Gift of Braking and Changing Focus
  • Day 23: ITTF’s Museum Curator Chuck Hoey Preserves Our Heritage
  • Day 24: Shahrokh Shahnazi Promotes ITTF’s P5 Plan, Even to the IOC

Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge Play Table Tennis

Here they are playing at a homeless shelter.

Ruini Li the Cover for the Milpitas Post

Here's the picture. (If you have trouble seeing the Facebook version, try this one.)

Funny Dog Watching Table Tennis

Here's the video (48 sec) - it's hilarious! (I might have posted this a couple years ago, but it's worth repeat viewing.)

***
Send us your own coaching news!

July 8, 2014

Tip of the Week

Playing Bad - It's All Mental (Usually).

2014 U.S. Open

I was at the U.S. Open in Grand Rapids from June 30 to July 6. As usual, it was an exhausting and exhilarating time. Once again Grand Rapids and USATT put on a great show - they are getting good at running Opens and Nationals. It was mostly on time (falling behind only when specific matches held things up), organized, and they even did the little things. For example, every morning we'd find all the trash had been picked up, and the barriers and chairs around all the courts all lined up nice and neatly. When you consider the size of the playing hall, that's a big job! Results were regularly updated on the results walls. So a great thanks goes out to the organizers and workers at this event.

Here's the USATT home page for the U.S. Open, which includes links to results, articles, pictures, and video.

The showcase events started at 3:45PM on Saturday with the women's semifinals. The schedule was for a new match to start every 45 minutes, with the two women's semifinals, the two men's semifinals, the women's final, and then the men's final, which would presumably start at 7:30 PM. But they ran into a problem right from the start - the first women's semifinal was between two very defensive choppers, Riyo Nemoto of Japan, and Li Xue of France (but presumably from China). The two pushed and Pushed and PUSHED all through the first game, with Nemoto essentially never attacking and Xue only occasionally attacking. I think it was 8-4 in the first when ten minutes had passed and expedite was called. From there on they alternated serves, with the receiver winning the point if she returned 13 shots in a row. Xue had a decidedly better attack, and after losing the first, won the next four games easily under expedite.

But the match took forever, and put things well behind. Could they catch up in the next match, between two attackers? The points were faster, but it took another eon before Yuko Fujii won, 11-9 in the seventh. She would go on to win the final, 4-1 over the chopper Xue, who had no answer to her relentless light topspins to the backhand long pips and sudden loop kills and smashes to the middle or wide angles. Fujii used the Asian style of playing choppers to perfection. (Here's my Tip of the Week on Playing Choppers, which explains this.)

Going into the tournament, most players were picking Japan's Jin Ueda to win. After all, he defeated world #7 Chuan Chih-Yuan in last week's Japan Open. But it was another Japanese player who took out top seed and defending champion Eugene Wang of Canada, as Hidetoshi Oya took him out 4-1 in the quarterfinals. The two Japanese met in the semifinals, but this time Oya had no magic as Ueda won 4-1. Meanwhile, China's Tao Wenzhang - the player considered by most as the least likely of the four semifinalists to win - took out two-time U.S. Open Men's Champion Thomas Keinath, also 4-1. Most picked Ueda to win the final, but it was not to be as the under-estimated Tao won the final with another 4-1 win.

Here's an interesting tactical thing about that match. For years I've encouraged players to serve not just to the short forehand, but to the middle forehand. Some players do have trouble if you serve short to the forehand, but others take advantage of the extreme angle you give them to your forehand (assuming two righties), the extra table means they can flip more aggressively. If the server tries to cover this wide angle, the receiver can just take it down the line. But if you instead serve short to the middle forehand, the following happens. 1) the extreme angle to the forehand is mostly cut off; 2) the extra table when flipping to the wide forehand his shortened, so aggressive flips are more difficult; 3) the receiver, who usually favors backhand against short serves to the middle, has to decide whether to use forehand or backhand; and 4) the receiver is either drawn well over the table if he receives backhand (leaving his backhand side open and taking his forehand mostly out of play on the next shot if the server goes to the backhand), or has a somewhat awkward forehand shot to play over the table. So what did Tao do in both the semifinals and final? He serve short to the middle forehand probably half the time, a primary reason he dominated the points.

The USATT Coach of the Year Awards were given out between games in the Women's Semifinals. The four winners were Lily Yip (Coach of the Year); Stefan Feth (Developmental Coach of the Year); Angie Bengtsson (Paralympic Coach of the Year) and me (Doc Counsilman Science Award, for my coaching blog, tips, and books.) However, when they started to give them out I was on the other side of the arena, with my back turned as I was explaining the expedite rule to some spectators. When they called my name I was caught off guard, and couldn't get to the award stand in time. They gave it to me after the next game. The actual plaques are nice, but were left behind at USATT Headquarters, and will be mailed to us. So they improvised with certificates. I'll post a picture of the actual plaque when it comes in.

There are always problems with any large tournament, and this was no exception. There were many top Chinese players at the tournament without ratings or world rankings, and so they were mostly stuck in randomly, causing havoc in some parts of the draws. Perhaps more effort should go into contacting these players or their associations to better get an idea of their level. After all, if a player travels all the way from China to play Men's Singles, he's likely at least 2400 or better! For example, two cadet players came to my club for about ten days of training before the U.S. Open. They were both 2450-2500 players. But at the Open they were unrated and unseeded. One result was that second-seeded Kunal Chodri, rated 2480, had to play one of them in his first match in Cadet Boys' Singles, and lost 3-0. Those two shouldn't have been playing until the later rounds.

There's also the problem of old ratings. For example, I coached a 12-year-old in Under 1500. In the round robin stage he had to play a girl from Canada rated 1427. The problem was that the rating was a year old, from last year's U.S. Open, and she was now at least 1800. The kid I was coaching was a "ringer," under-rated by a couple hundred points, but not nearly as under-rated as this girl, who would not only win the RR group, but would go on to win Under 1500 and Under 1650 (which at the Open is like winning Under 1800 and Under 1950), while beating players in other events over 1800. It wasn't a one-time thing with her; she got an initial rating of 892 at a U.S. tournament in June of 2012. Her next tournament was the 2013 U.S. Open, where she was way under-rated, and shot up to 1427. Now she'll likely jump to 1800+. Next year she'll likely show up with that rating, but perhaps 2000 level. Perhaps junior players with ratings over six months old should have 100 points added to their ratings for eligibility purposes?

Here are the two best shots of the tournament that I saw. First, a Chinese player at least three times pulled off a "push flip." What is that? He reached in for a short ball to the forehand as if pushing off the bounce, but intentionally missed the ball - then pulled his racket back quickly and flipped the ball at the top of the bounce! I've seen this shot before, but not in years. The other best shot? I was warming up one of my players and accidentally mishit the ball off the racket edge so it shot very hard at my face, ricocheting extremely fast off my glasses and back to the other side! My player didn't hesitate to counter-hit it, and the rally continued. Oh, and I'm sure the top players made a few good loops as well.

It's never over until it's over, as one of my players learned. Down 0-2 in games and 1-6 in the third, I called a time-out. I gave him my vintage speech for players down 0-2. ("How bad do you want this?...") Since he was New York Giants football fan, I asked him, "What would Eli Manning do?" He was all psyched up, went back to the table - and the other player got a net winner, then smacked in a winner, and now my player is down 1-8. But with me yelling, "C'mon, Eli, you can do it!", he scored eight in a row, and won that game in deuce - and went on to win the match, deuce in the fifth.

It doesn't always end that way. A nine-year-old kid I coached made the quarterfinals of Under 1500. There he faced an older kid who, in up-to-date ratings, was actually 1576. My player won the first two games, but lost the next two. In the fifth it was 10-all, 11-all, 12-all, 13-all, 14-all, 15-all. Both players had multiple match points. At 15-all the other player mis-hit his serve off to the side, and it was another match point for my player - or was it? The other kid thought his serve hit the edge, and while I was certain it wasn't close, we had to play a let. My player won the next point (and seemingly might have won the match at that point, since he'd won two in a row from 15-all), but wasn't able to convert that match point, and ended up losing 18-16 in the fifth.

Because of ringers, the draws were often rather haphazard. I mentioned the 12-year-old I coached above who had to play the ringer girl from Canada. Actually, all three players in his preliminary group were ringers, way under-rated, as was he himself. On the other hand, the nine-year-old above (yes, another ringer, since he was rated under 1200 but about 1500 level) went up against "normal" players. I'm fairly sure the three players he played in his round robin and in the first two rounds of single elimination wouldn't have won a match in the other player's preliminary RR.

I started to write about some of my favorite coaching moments, especially the tactics used by Nathan Hsu, 18 and about 2350 (though he's been over 2400) in upsetting a 2648 player. But alas, I can't write about them publicly - they are trade secrets we need for the next time the two play. Suffice to say he executed them perfectly - in particular his serve and receive tactics - and mostly shut down the opponent's big forehand. (You can ask me about them privately.)

Players from my club, MDTTC, did very well. Here's a short listing of their best results:

  • Crystal Wang, 12, won Cadet Girls Singles (15 & Under), made the semifinals of 18 & Under Girls, and the quarterfinals of Under 21 Women.
  • Derek Nie, 13, won 13 & Under Boys' Singles.
  • Charlene Liu, 61, pulled off a triple sweep - or was it a quadruple sweep? She won Over 40, Over 50, and Over 60 Women's Singles, made the final of Over 30 Women's Singles, and won Over 60 Women's Doubles with Barbara Kaminsky.
  • Dave Sakai, 67, won Over 65 Men's Singles, and won four doubles events - Over 50 and Over 60 Doubles with Dan Seemiller, Over 65 Men's Doubles with Dell Sweeris, and Over 60 Mixed Doubles with Donna Sakai. (Am I the only one who noticed that all four of these players have initials DS?)
  • Donna Sakai, 67, won Over 65 Women's Singles, Over 60 Mixed Doubles with Dave Sakai, and made the final of Over 60 Women's Doubles with Connie Sweeris.
  • Ruichao Alex Chen, 16, made the final of 18 & Under Boys' Singles, upsetting U.S. #1 Under 18 player Kai Zhang, rated 2704, in the round of 16. He made the semifinals of Under 2600. He made the semifinals of 18 & Under Boys' Teams.
  • Chen Bo Wen, 16, made the quarterfinals of 18 & Under Boys' Singles and the semifinals of 18 & Under Boys' Teams.
  • Nathan Hsu, 18, made the semifinals of 18 & Under Boys' Teams, and in 18 & Under Boys' Singles upset Chen Keda, rated 2648 and the U.S. #1 Under 17 player.
  • Wang Qing "Leon" Liang, 19, made the semifinals of Under 2600.
  • Ryan Dabbs, 11, made the quarterfinals of 11 & Under Boys' Singles.
  • Tiffany Ke, 10, made the quarterfinals of 11 & Under Girls' Singles.
  • Daniel Sofer, 9, made the quarterfinals of Under 1500.
  • Larry Hodges, way too old, won Over 50 Hardbat Doubles with Jeff Johnston. 

1970s Table Tennis Revisited

In my blog on June 23 I likened the equipment used in 1971 by Stellan Bengtsson (and by extension, other sponge rackets of that era) as "toy" rackets. Stellan wasn't happy with my assessment. He was using Mark V sponge, which isn't exactly a "toy" sponge though essentially no top players use these types of sponges anymore in this age of tensor and high-tension sponges. (But they are still an appropriate surface for beginning/intermediate players.) I'd actually thought the Mark V used then was slower than the Mark V now, but I've been told that it's about the same now as it was then. (I'm talking about the original version, not all the new types.) The point I was making (and overstated by likening it to "toy" sponge) was that much of the reason the game was slower back then, as seen in the tape, was that the inverted sponges were slower than what are used these days by top players, especially when looping, where modern sponges practically slingshot the ball out. (I've added an edit to the original statement.)

Plastic Ball Implementation at ITTF Events

Here's the article.

USATT Athletes of the Month

Here's the article on Lily Zhang and Kanak Jha.

Ariel Hsing Aims to Learn & Win in the Super League

Here's the article on the USA Women's Champion in China.

Road to Nanjing

Here's the article, on Lily Zhang and Krish Avvari, who will be representing the United States in the 2nd Summer Youth Olympics Games in Nanjing, China on August 16-28.  

Ovtcharov Confident to Win an Olympic Gold Medal

Here's the article. Oh, and he just got married!

About.com is Back - Sort of

I checked on it, and there are no plans to bring back the table tennis forum. But they are putting up table tennis articles. Here's a listing of new ones.

"Ping-Pong Diplomacy" by Nicholas Griffin 

Here's the review of the book. "The real history of table tennis is a bizarre tale of espionage, aggravation, and reconciliation, of murder, revenge, and exquisite diplomacy, says a new book. It's the story of how Ivor Montagu molded the game, and how the Chinese came to embrace it and then shaped it into a subtle instrument of foreign policy."

My Way to Olympia

Here's an article and video (1:38) on this PBS documentary on the Paralympics, which covers four athletes, including a table tennis player with one hand.

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. (Since I've been away for a week at the U.S. Open we have an accumulation of them today.) Forty-five down, 55 to go!

  • Day 56: Glenn Tepper Explains the ITTF’s Continental Affiliation Option
  • Day 57: Countdown Hijacked! (by Adham Sharara)
  • Day 58: Peter Karlsson Is a True “Champion for Peace”
  • Day 59: Patrick Gillmann: A Passionate Advocate for Juniors
  • Day 60: Richard Scruton Reflects on the 2012 Olympics
  • Day 61: Catching up with Raul Calin, who’s on the Road Again
  • Day 62: ITTF’s Matt Pound Promotes Table Tennis 24/7
  • Day 63: The President’s Views on the Ban of Speed Glue, Part II (here's Part 1)

Fact or Fiction: The Life and Times of a Ping Pong Hustler

Here's the article and trailer (2:10) for the upcoming documentary.

Angel Table Tennis

Here's the latest table tennis artwork by Mike Mezyan.

One Energy Commercial

Here's the video (30 sec) of this neon Tron-like commercial featuring Chinese superstars Ma Long, Zhang Jike, Li Xiaoxia and Liu Shiwen!

No One Knew Kanak Jha Was That Fast!

Here's the picture! Poor Adam Hugh is up against eight Kanaks. (Adam defeated Kanak in the preliminaries at the North American Cup, but lost to him in the final. Or to one of them.)

Top Players in Cartoons

Here are cartoon images of the world's top players.

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October 22, 2013

My Upcoming Novel and Ping-Pong

Yes, the two are connected. Table tennis or ping-pong is mentioned 19 times in 11 different scenes in the novel. Why? Because the 13-year-old protagonist (Neil, alias Armstrong though his last name is never mentioned in the novel) is a sorcerer's apprentice and wannabe ping-pong star who has to leave behind this childhood ambition to save the world in this humorous parody of the 1960s space race. Included in the scenes are mentions of several real players, the Florida State Finals between Brian "Speed Race" Pace and "Tricky Dicky" Fleisher, and two flying carpets that Neil names after Marty Reisman and Tim Boggan.

I'm going to list all the table tennis mentions below, but first, two news items. First, it's been retitled "Sorcerers in Space." (Previous title was the boring "The Giant Face in the Sky.") And second, the really horrible cover that I linked to a week ago has been replaced by a very nice cover. (I really like this one!!!) The novel comes out Nov. 15.

Here's the blurb on the back of the book - no table tennis mention, sorry. The novel is described as Hitchhiker's Guide meets the Space Race.

It is 1969, at the height of tensions between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. Neil, 13, badly wants to be someone. Instead he's stuck as a sorcerer's apprentice for Gus, the "meanest sorcerer in the world." Gus creates a magical talisman to spy on the Soviets, but instead it spies on them and sends text into space. A Giant Face in the Sky shows up, reading the text.

Since whoever gets to the Face will have the world at their mercy, the Race to the Face begins. The Soviets invade the U.S. in their attempts to kill Neil, who is prophesied to defeat them. A floating, talking meteor assassin named Buzz becomes Neil's companion--but in one week, Buzz must kill Neil.

President Kennedy puts together a motley crew that includes Neil, Gus, Buzz, a dragon, the god Apollo, a 2-D sorcerer, and the sorceress Jackie Kennedy. Can they make it to the Face before the Soviets, and before Buzz kills Neil?

And now we get to the table tennis!!! Here are the eleven ping-pong scenes with 19 mentions.

Ping-Pong Scene 1:

I still dreamed of being a rock star or ping-pong champion, but those dreams had taken a bad turn after I'd been sold into slavery, I mean, become a sorcerer's apprentice. Somehow my parents had thought it was a good idea.

Ping-Pong Scene 2:

"Not Russia," Gus said. "The Soviet Union. Russia's just the main part of it. Don't you pay attention in school? Or do you just play ping-pong and listen to Beetles music?"

"It's not ping-pong, it's table tennis! And it's better than practicing magic I'm not allowed to do."

"Maybe, but according to Chef Wang, someday you're going to have to battle the Soviets, so I suggest more studying and less ponging.

Ping-Pong Scene 3:

"Can I go home now?" I asked. "I want to practice my serves." There was a school tournament coming up next week, and my reverse pendulum serve needed work. Maybe ping-pong was where I'd someday be someone, do something.

"Will you forget your ping-pong!" Gus cried. "A Russian agent just tried to kill you, you're supposed to defeat the Soviets, there's a Giant Face in the Sky that that compels us to say its name as if capitalized, and a murderous meteor is following you around, and that's what you're worried about?"

"I'm not murderous!" Buzz exclaimed. "I'm a pacifist." More quietly he added, "Except when someone makes me apprehensive."

"How am I supposed to defeat the Soviets?" I asked. "I'm just an apprentice. Maybe I can beat them at ping-pong."

Ping-Pong Scene 4:

I decided to change channels and said, "Mirror, mirror, on the wall, find a station with a ping-pong ball."

The mirror showed me the latest lottery, with numbered ping-pong balls in a container. With gritted teeth, I tried again.

"Mirror, mirror, about to get whacked, find me some table tennis unless you want to get cracked." The mirror found the Final of the recent Florida Table Tennis Championships while the Beetles played "Strawberry Feasts Forever." I pulled up a chair to watch the final between Brian "Speed Race" Pace and "Tricky Dicky" Fleisher.

"Aren't you packed yet?" Gus said. "Tonight, we're going to Washington D.C. to see the president, and you're watching ping-pong on the mirror?" He aimed his staff at the mirror, and the table tennis and Beetles action was replaced by my reflection.

Ping-Pong Scene 5:

I named it the Red Reisman, after a famous table tennis player.

Ping-Pong Scene 6:

So, Gus and I left that afternoon to buy supplies at the Black Market, using the new flying carpet Gus had bought to replace the recently-destroyed Red Reisman. It was identical to the Red Reisman, except this one was blue and even more worn out. I'd named it the Blue Boggan, after another famous table tennis player.

Ping-Pong Scene 7:

Why was I here? What was my purpose, and why was I put on this world? It couldn't have been just to serve Gus his mid-day tea. I'd always wanted to be a ping-pong champ or a rock star, but there had to be more. Was I here to defeat the Soviets, as prophesied by Chef Wang? Or did I have a higher purpose, one which I would only discover in time? I just knew that someday I was going to be somebody, do something. I just didn't know what.

Ping-Pong Scene 8:

Gus looked disgusted. "Don't remember the formula for force, my apprentice with ping-pong balls for brains?"

"Isn't that F equals MA?" I said.

"Correct, Force equals Magic times Acceleration," Gus said.

Ping-Pong Scene 9:

Kennedy was watching the two go back and forth like a ping-pong match.

Ping-Pong Scene 10:

Ten more evils occurred before I finally pronounced it to the booming voice's satisfaction, leading to traffic tickets, an edge ball in a ping-pong game, dandruff, and other calamities.

Ping-Pong Scene 11:

She'd also brought a number of baby hooting owls, parahoots, that, in an emergency, could carry us safely back to Earth. They were cute little creatures, with big, almond-shaped eyes—like all cute creatures—and soft, wavy, brown feathers. Their eyes were the size of quarters, far too large for their ping-pong-ball-sized heads.

Epic Retrieving! Turning Defense into Attack!

Here's a great point (42 sec) showing some great lobbing and counterattacking. Not sure who the players are, though I'm sure I'll recognize them once someone comments below telling us who they are.

How Ping-Pong Saved My Life

No, it's not about me, it's someone else at Uberpong (Eric Jensen).

Kramer (from Seinfeld), Tommy Lee Jones, and Steve McQueen Playing Ping Pong

Here are gifs showing this from Uberpong.

Pizza Hut Table Tennis Commercial

Here's a video of a recent Pizza Hut commercial (31 sec) that includes about one second of table tennis 23 seconds in. Why does it include table tennis? I have no idea. The rest of the commercial they show pizza and people eating pizza, then out of the blue there's table tennis for no apparent reason other than perhaps to show that if you eat pizza, you'll win at ping-pong. Of course, the greatest pizza place on the planet, Comet Ping-Pong, learned this long ago.

Tumba Ping-Pong Show

Here's a video (65 sec, on a page in Chinese but the video doesn't need language) that was first shown to me by Chinese players at my club. I've posted videos by the Tumba Ping-Pong Show before, but this is a compilation of their best ping-pong tricks that's apparently going viral in China. 

***
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May 31, 2013

Good Misses, Bad Misses

In a session with an advanced beginner yesterday, while hitting forehand to forehand (we're both righties), I pointed out to him the difference between a "good miss" and a "bad miss." Ideally, there would be no misses, but some are better than others.

When his shot went long, that was a "good miss" since at least he was driving into the ball, usually with some topspin, and he only needed to adjust his racket angle and perhaps not lift so much. When his shot went into the net, it was a "bad miss" because it usually meant he was taking the ball too quick and hitting it straight on into the net, rather than with any type of topspin. The same was true later on when I had him loop against backspin (multiball) - spinny loops off the end - good. Loops into the net - bad.

When his shot went wide (to my right), it was a "good miss" because, again, he was driving into the ball, and only needed to adjust his timing. If his shot went toward the middle of the table but actually hit the table, that was still a "bad miss" because it meant he was probably turning his wrist in and letting his racket tip fall back, i.e. it was a technique problem, not just a timing issue.

Another "good miss" is a missed serve that has lots of spin. When I play practice matches with juniors, I often claim "I wasn't ready!" if they miss a serve. I want them to push the envelope and go for great, spinny serves rather than wimp out and go for safe ones. If they serve high I'll return it passively, but mention they need to practice keeping it lower. (Key to that is a low contact point with a fine grazing motion.) A "bad miss" is any serve that misses - or hits! - that's not otherwise a good serve, i.e. spinny. (Not all serves have to be spinny, but I'm talking about players learning to serve with spin, not advanced players learning to serve no-spin that looks spinny, i.e. "heavy no-spin.")

Best Shots of My Life

Here are the best shots I've ever made in my life in a tournament, in rough order:

  1. The dive under the table.
    This was against Marty Reisman in a hardbat challenge match in the late 1990s (so not really a tournament match), but it was at a tournament, so I count it. I was out of position and he hit wide to my backhand. I lunged over and chopped it back short to his wide backhand. He did a short drop shot to my forehand that went off the side. We were playing on a table where the table legs were near the end, and there was no obstruction underneath. So I dived under the table, in front of the table leg on my forehand side, and managed to scoop the ball back up onto the table. Marty pushed it back for a winner, though I didn't see it - was I was sprawled on the ground.
  2. Forehand Counter-Smash From Two Tables Away While Knocking Over Eric Boggan.
    I was on table three playing Dave Sakai in 1983. U.S. Men's Champion Eric Boggan was on table one. I was back lobbing against Dave, and lobbed one high and wide to his backhand. I knew that Dave had this inside-out forehand smash he'd do on such shots, so as he was about to smash I ran way around my backhand to forehand counter-smash. Dave smashed it inside out with sidespin so it broke way over, all the way into court one. I ran after it, and ran right into Eric Boggan, knocking him off his feet - but I made the forehand counter-smash! Dave blocked it back for a winner, alas. Eric was not happy with me.
  3. The counterloop against Allen Barth.
    He's a lefty, and he looped to my backhand in a tournament match in the early 1980s. I started to block, but the ball hit the net. I readjusted, but the ball hit the side edge and jumped to my left. I dived after it, and did a mid-air backhand counterloop around the net that just rolled on his side of the table for a winner. I landed on the floor on my stomach.
  4. The underhanded counter-smash.
    This was against a much weaker player in the late 1980s. I was back lobbing, and the guy just creamed one to my forehand. I backed way, way back, and lobbed it back. He smashed again to my forehand, but not as hard. For some reason, spur of the moment, I did an under-handed counter-smash, bowling style. (I think I'd seen Jan-Ove Waldner do this shot, so perhaps I was subconsciously copying it.) It went in for a clean winner.
  5. Backspin Chop Lob Ace.
    This was against Sunny Li, the U.S. Under 10 and 12 Champion in the early 1990s, and already rated something like 1900 or so. (He would go on to win just about every junior event up to Under 18 before going off to Iraq as a sharpshooter.) I was up match point, something like 20-15. Sunny served short backspin to my backhand. I chop lobbed it into the air so it landed very short on his forehand side and bounced back to my side for a match-winning ace. (I've also done backspin serves that bounce back to my side of the table, usually against in less serious matches, but those aren't great shots - I can do that serve 2/3 of the time.)

Kagin Lee Blog on the College Championships

Here's the blog that went up this morning, "The Making of the College Table Tennis Championships, 2013 Edition." (Kagin is on the USATT Board of Directors.)

ITTF Development and Education Programs

Here's a report on the ITTF's plans on this for the next four years.

Table Tennista

Here are this morning's headlines at Table Tennista.

Ping Pong Hustler

Here's a short film (15:03) made in 2006 featuring the late great Marty Reisman.

Table Tennis Movie Posters

I did a Google search for "Table Tennis Movie Posters," and this is what I found. Lots of great pictures!

Scripps National Spelling Bee

Table Tennis Nation did this preview of the spelling bee - turns out a number of the contestants are table tennis players! Alas, the final winner wasn't one of the table tennis players, even though three of the four finalists were.

River Table Tennis

Here's a video (39 sec) of table tennis played on a floating mini-table in a river! Added bonus - you get to see player fall into river.

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April 30, 2013

U.S. Open

The U.S. Open this year is in Las Vegas, NV, July 2-6. The entry deadline is in eleven days - May 11. (There's a late deadline of May 18, which requires a $75 late fee.) Have you entered yet? Here's the U.S. Open webpage. I'll be there as a coach. I'm toying with entering some of the hardbat events as well, but not sure if I have time. (I normally play sponge, but have won a bunch of hardbat titles on the side.)

One of my annual pet peeves is that there is rarely any advertising or advance notice about the top players coming. This year the U.S. Open is part of the ITTF World Tour, and we know a bunch of top players are coming - but there's no publicity about who is coming. Year after year the entry deadline comes, and it is only after the deadline that prospective players (i.e. potential cash-paying entries) find out who the top players are. For all we know the Chinese National Team is coming, or the top European players - but we just don't know. Rather than wait and see who enters, and announcing it after the deadline, it would be a lot better if USATT pro-actively found out at least some of the top players who are coming before the deadline, and the publicized it. They did this in the early 1990s, and it seemed to lead to increased entries, as well as happy participants who came both to play and watch (as well as to buy stuff, with all the table tennis venders at the Open).

I hope to see many of you at the Open. There are so many reasons to attend - you get to play, see the top players, see friends, see a huge convention center filled up with a hundred tables and 800 players (and hundreds of family members, coaches, officials, staff, volunteers, etc.), explore the many equipment booths, and oh yeah, it's in Las Vegas!

Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers

For two months in a row I've made more writing about table tennis than actually coaching. So please jump on the bandwagon and buy your copy of Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers! Or any of the other fine books sold on my Amazon page. I also made a sizeable chunk last year writing science fiction & fantasy - about $2000 total. I'm not sure if it's a profitable hobby or a low-paying job. Here's my Science Fiction & Fantasy page.

Me and Marty

Here's a picture posted on Facebook by Bruce Liu of me with the late great Marty Reisman, taken at my U.S. Table Tennis Hall of Fame induction in 2003. Marty was given the Lifetime Achievement Award at the banquet, while Eric Boggan and David Zhuang were my fellow inductees. (If you can't see it on Facebook, try this.)

Ping Pong Candy

Alabama's Michael Wetzel (that's International Umpire and Certified Referee to you) sent me a pair of Ping Pong Candies, made in Venezuela. Here's the picture! They seem to be chocolate covered nuts or something like that. I haven't decided whether to eat them or keep them as a souvenir.

Table Tennista

Here are the international headline stories right now at Table Tennista

The Inspiring Chinese National Team

Here's a video (2:39) from a year ago on the Chinese National Team in training that I don't think I've ever linked to. It has inspirational narration (rapping?) by "Hiphoppreacher." I think I may have linked to something by him once before, but I'm not sure.

Table Tennis Can Be Really Awesome

Here's a new video (1:20) of shot-making and trick shots, from the "Piing of Power." (Not sure why there are two i's.)

A Boy and his Cat

Here's a continuous gif image of a boy playing table tennis with his cat (really!), with a seven-shot sequence repeated over and over.

USATT Minutes

[NOTE - I usually save the fun stuff for the end - like the boy and cat video above - but I decided to stick the USATT stuff here at the end so as not to scare people away.]

Here are the motions from the USATT Board of Director's April 20, 2013 meeting at Westchester, NY (during the North American Cup). You can see the minutes and motions from meetings going back to 1999 at the USATT Minutes page.

  • MOVED to appoint Rajul Sheth as Chair of the Juniors Advisory Committee.
  • MOVED to appoint David DelVecchio as Chair, and to appoint Adam Bobrow, Alex Figueroa, Willy Leparulo, and Han Xiao (athlete) as members, of the Leagues Advisory Committee.
  • MOVED for USATT to review Diego Schaaf’s Merit Pin Proposal, to incorporate Board comments into a revised draft, and to submit the revised draft to Diego Schaaf.
  • MOVED to deny North American Table Tennis’s request to vacate the Board’s December 19, 2012 Motion regarding the sanctioning of a Butterfly Teams Championship in 2013.
  • MOVED to direct the Clubs Advisory Committee to design a strategy for implementation of the club equipment package proposed by Attila Malek.
  • MOVED to affirm the February 17, 2013 Final Decision of the Board’s Special Committee in the disciplinary matter In re Chui, Case No. 2012-003.
  • MOVED that any service of Roman Tinyszin on the Officials and Rules Advisory Committee prior to December 31st, 2008, was ultra vires; therefore, the waiver approved on March 25, 2013, is inapplicable.
  • Respectfully submitted, Dennis Taylor, Secretary

USATT High Performance Committee

Here are the Actions of the USATT High Performance Committee (HPC) for March by Chair Carl Danner.

During March, the HPC did not hold any formal meetings or conference calls. However, the following summary of its actions and discussions is offered to inform USATT members about the HPC’s activities conducted by email, and through participation in the USATT Board’s March conference call meeting.  

  1. The selection process for the Youth Olympic Games was approved by the Athlete Advisory Council (AAC) and forwarded to the USOC for its approval – which was still pending as of the date this summary was prepared. The HPC reviewed the YOG code of conduct, and approved it subject to one wording change regarding possible serious criminal acts by athletes.  
  2. The HPC continued its discussion about the selection and review of National Team Coaches (NT Coaches). During the Board meeting, Board members advised that the responsibility for selecting, retaining, and opening positions for NT Coaches is the responsibility of the CEO. The HPC and other relevant committees would provide support for that process. The Board also asked the HPC to prepare a memo with its recommendations for the hiring process for able-bodied NT Coaches. As of this writing, it has not yet been determined by the CEO which able-bodied NT Coach positions will be open for applications, or on what schedule. A number of HPC members did emphasize the importance of having defined criteria for the evaluation of the performance of NT Coaches.  
  3. The HPC had some initial discussion of the concept of using multiple trials or tournaments to select national team members, starting first perhaps with the junior and cadet teams. This item will require further research and development prior to being implemented, including identifying specific events that will be counted. No decisions were made in this regard during March.  
  4. Another point of discussion was the potential of requiring some tournament participation during the year in order to validate a player’s rating as current for purposes of seedings in the Nationals Men’s and Women’s Singles events. Lacking that, the tournament committee might be authorized to seed a player based on estimated playing strength instead. Mr. Danner will identify the appropriate USATT committee to forward this proposal.  
  5. HPC members consulted with the CEO and the head of the Coaching Advisory Committee, Federico Bassetti, to help draft position announcements for Para Head NT Coach, NT Coach, and Junior NT Coach positions. USATT Para Program Manager Jasna Rather prepared the announcements, which were posted on the website with an application deadline of May 1.  
  6. The selection discussion for the April ITTF North America Cup in Westchester, NY raised some questions for future consideration about how to select teams for such events. These included understanding the relationship between the members of a U.S. adult team who represented us at a given event (such as the World Championships), the National Team Trial finishing order, and also how the coach’s pick for the World Championship team might fit in. Future selection policies will be more explicit about how priorities will be established among these criteria. 

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January 25, 2013

Table Tennis and Animals

Yesterday morning the comic strip Pearls Before Swine featured table tennis, with Pig winning a ping-pong trophy. That is the inspiration for this morning's blog. We'll start with dogs.

Dogs and table tennis just go together. I've known this since "Junior" became the club mascot for the Northern Virginia Table Tennis Club in the early 1980s, even garnering a "Junior of the Month" write-up in USATT Magazine. (I wasn't editor at the time.) Junior came to the club with owner/father John Tebbe, and entertained us while we weren't playing. He was well behaved. Tim Boggan even featured Junior in one of his History of U.S. Table Tennis volumes.

Also well behaved was the dog that a woman from New Jersey had when she came to several of our training camps at MDTTC in the 1990s. This dog would quietly lie down next to her table while she trained, and would never move until she gave the okay. One day several kids tested this by stacking ping-pong balls on the poor dog, balancing dozens of them in its fur as the dog looked on patiently.

Here's my cartoon about why dogs don't play table tennis. Yes, dogs are nearly color blind. I have no idea if they can tell red from black. And here's the hottest chick in table tennis.

In the Fun and Games section here at TableTennisCoaching.com you'll find a Humorous Videos section. Page down a bit and you'll find segments on "Ping-Pong Dogs" (17 videos) and "Ping-Pong Cats" (76 videos!). From this, perhaps table tennis is going to cats more than dogs.

There's also an Animals Playing Table Tennis pictures section. My favorite there is a picture of Mister Ed playing table tennis. He's the talking horse from the TV show from the hit show from 1958-1966. In the episode Mister Ed plays table tennis. There's no digital manipulation; they apparently got the horse to hold the paddle and probably filmed a lot to get what they needed. I remember seeing the footage, but alas, I can't find it on youtube. (Here's the 42-second opening sequence of the show if you want to see a talking horse. Many episodes are online at youtube. Here's a 54-sec video of Mr. Ed hitting an inside-the-park home run against the Dodger's Sandy Koufax!) There's also a nice picture of a chimpanzee playing table tennis, and a bunch of others.

Here's a video (3:48) of the famous bird visit to the Maryland Table Tennis Center. Nathan Hsu narrates. The four in the video are Nathan Hsu, Raghu Nadmichettu, Tong Tong Gong, and Derek Nie.

If you put "Table Tennis Mascots" into Google, you get a lot of table tennis animal mascot pictures.

A few of you might remember the saga of Don Iguana. Here's the true story. In 1993, a three-year-old entered the junior event at an MDTTC Open. He not only lost every game, he didn't win a point, losing all six straight games 21-0. (Games were to 21 back in those days.) He got a rating of 25, the lowest in history. He entered several more tournaments, and continued to lose every game 21-0. Along the way he lost a rating point to some player rated in the 200's, dropping to 24. And then, one tournament, this all changed when this three-year-old, who literally couldn't see over the table, scored his first point, against Michael Squires, losing the match 21-0, 21-1!!! He was so happy - or at least I think he was, but I couldn't quite tell.

For Don Iguana was an actual iguana! Yes, he was my pet, and he was three years old. I bought him a USATT membership and paid rating fees (though not entry fees - I was the tournament director and waived that). The truth was he never actually was at the tournaments, we just entered him, and the kids would take the match clipboard and return it a few minutes late with the results. Only Mike had the decency to allow poor Don to "score" a point. Don't believe this? Go to the USATT ratings database, put in "Iguana," and Don Iguana will show up with his 24 rating! Alas, the ratings database didn't keep track of individual tournaments until 1994, and so his actual tournament record is lost to posterity - but not his name and rating in the database. (When all this came out, one USATT official was very angry at me, saying I had made a mockery of the rating system, and cited the one rating point Don had given to someone to show that I was messing up the rating system.)

For years afterwards Alan Williams (sorry, I'm breaking your cover) wrote numerous stories about the saga of Don Iguana, often involving him sailing the seas in search of table tennis adventure.

In the early 1980s I introduced to the world Gerbil Table Tennis. When I was in college I raised gerbils. We had a ping-pong table in our dormitory. So one day I had the bright idea of putting a gerbil on each side of the table as we rallied. It was great fun as we hit the ball back and forth while the gerbils ran about. Don't worry, no gerbils were hit or injured while we played - we made sure not to hit them, and they seemed oblivious to the ball anyway.

For many years I had a sort of personal trademark, a quick drawing of a tyrannosaurus rex playing ping-pong with a bird. I used to be able to draw the picture in about 30 seconds or so. Perhaps I'll try again, and scan the results here. If you are at MDTTC, I drew one on the whiteboard in the back room several months ago, and it's still there. Maybe someday I'll draw another, and scan it and put it online. I'm no artist, but it's a fun picture.

MDTTC New Programs

We're starting up a series of new programs at Maryland Table Tennis Center. (These are in addition to our ongoing programs.) New ones include:

  • Beginning/Intermediate Table Tennis Class, 10 weeks long, Thursdays 7:30-9:00 PM (starting Feb. 21), taught by me.
  • Senior (over age 55) training on Monday mornings 11AM, taught by Rocky Wang.
  • Physical Training for Serious Table Tennis Players, Mondays at 6PM by Rocky Wang.
  • Spring Break Camp, March 25-29.
  • Next Tournament: March 2-3. (Note that Charlene Liu is taking over as tournament director - I'm just too busy coaching on weekends to keep taking time off to run them. I ran the last two MDTTC tournaments.)

The Myth of Practice Makes Perfect

Here's an article that talks about the importance of "deliberate practice," as opposed to just practicing - i.e. effective vs. ineffective practice.

USATT Election Results

Mike Babuin wins reelection.

Marty Reisman Appreciation

Here's an article by David Hartman about Marty Reisman.

Big Brothers Big Sisters at Grand Central

Big Brothers Big Sisters ran a "Tournament of Champions" at Grand Central Station in NYC. Here are two pictures of it - picture one, picture two.

Table Tennis Motivation

Here's a table tennis highlights video (12:00) that somehow I missed when it first came out last July.

Got an iPhone?

Your long wait is over. You can now buy a table tennis iPhone case.

Scary Robots

Which of these three master robots do you want to practice with? It's like taking on The Terminator!

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January 18, 2013

Target Practice

One of the true tests of your stroking precision is simple target practice. It's also a way to develop that precision. How do you do it? Simply set up a target on the far side of the table, and after bouncing the ball on your side of the table (or jus tossing it in the air), hit the target.

I do this regularly both as a demo and with students, usually using either a 16.9 oz Deerpark water bottle or a 20 oz Gatorade bottle. Usually I can hit it five out of five times. If you can't hit it at least three out of five times, you need to work on your precision and possibly your stroking technique. This exercise allows you to focus on the stroke mechanics and precision without having to worry about an incoming ball that isn't in the same spot every time.

To do this, just set the target on the far side of the table. I usually put it on the far left side (a righty's forehand court). Then I stand by my backhand side, bounce the ball on the table, and whack! I do it both hitting and looping, though the latter has a bit less control. As an added exercise, take a step off the table, toss the ball up a bit, and loop it, contacting the ball perhaps just above table height, and hit the target.

Here's a hint: don't consciously aim the shot. Just line yourself up, look at the target, and then the ball, and just let your natural muscle memory take over. Your subconscious controls these shots; your conscious mind just gets in the way.

Here's a video (1:14) of the late great Marty Reisman doing this . . . with cigarettes! He could hit them well over half the time - at age 80! I've never tried cigarettes, but in honor of Marty, I'm thinking of trying. (I don't think I can bring myself to actually buy cigarettes at a store - I'm a non-smoker, and I'd feel like everyone was staring at me! I'd have to order them on the Internet, or borrow from a smoker.) Marty does "cheat" on some of these, hitting the ball from practically right over the net, but then he's aiming at a target about half the width of your little finger!!!

I had an interesting "bad" experience a few days ago. I demoed this for a student, with a Gatorade bottle as the target, but my shots kept missing, often clipping the top of the net. Then I realized we were using new balls, which come with a coating of dust (apparently from the manufacturing system). The dust was on my racket, and so the ball was sliding, which was why they were going out lower than usual and so hitting the net. I wiped the racket, and then was able to hit the target with ease again.

I sometimes end junior sessions (especially with beginners) by putting a Gatorade bottle on the table, and claim that the liquid inside is "squeezed worm juice," or "squeezed jellyfish" or (if it's a bottle of water) "dog saliva" or something similar. I tell them if they hit it, I have to drink it. I feed multiball as they line up trying to hit the target (two shots each), taking great joy in making me drink the disgusting fluids. I usually end the session by grabbing five balls and going to the other side, and smacking the target five times in a row. It's very impressive, both for the kids and the parents. (If I'm feeling really confident, I'll spread five paper cups on the table, and smack all five off with five shots. But for this I'd bring a few extra balls in case one misses.)

Backhand Loop Training

Here's Backhand Loop Training for Table Tennis, Part 2 (9:20), by Brian Pace of Dynamic Table Tennis. This is actually a promo video for the full video, which is 1hr 43 min. Lots of action video of backhand loops. "Brian Pace gets more strategic and tactical about how to use the Backhand Loop in competition. In Part 1, the focus was on building stroke mechanic and stroke production. In part 2 all of the Exercises focus on every possible case scenario that you will every face in competition that requires you to use the Backhand Loop." In case you missed it, here's Part 1 (6:41).

Jun Mizutani Ghost Serve

Here's video and a forum discussion of Jun Mizutani's serves, in particular his heavy backspin serve that comes back into the net. (The video commentary is in Chinese, but you can follow what's going on.) This serve is one of the most attention-grabbing serves you can do for new players and media people, yet it's not that hard to do for an experienced player. I do it all the time - though I can't "slam" it back into the net as hard as Mizutani.

Chinese Footwork Videos

Here are some nice videos of table tennis footwork. The explanations are in Chinese, but you can follow it easily just by watching. There's also some forum discussion in English that explains some of what's being said.

Google's Ping-Pong Hangout

Table Tennis Nation brings us info on Google's new ping-pong hangout, where they are having their first online tournament. "Go head-to-head with Ad Land's finest in the world's first Ping-Pong Hangout Tournament." Good luck!

Mind-Controlled Pong

Here's video (3:17) of someone playing the online game of Pong using only their mind.

Ping-Pong Warrior Carry Big Stick

What Happens When You Mix Silent Hill Movie, Street Fighter Video Game And Table Tennis? You Get This Guy!!!

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January 14, 2013

Tip of the Week

Learning to Counterloop.

USA Nationals and Open Entries

The return to Las Vegas for last year's Nationals in December led to a 48% increase in entries, from a modern low of 502 in 2011 in Virginia Beach to 743 in 2012, the most since 2006's 837. (The data used here only includes those who played in USATT rated events, and does not include players who only competed in doubles, hardbat, or sandpaper events.) The online ratings database gives the number of entries for every year back to 1994, with the event held in Las Vegas every year except 2011.

Here's a graph of the Entries at the USA Nationals, 1994-2012. Here's one for the U.S. Open. And here's a chart showing the location of every USA Nationals and U.S. Open ever. (While others watch Honey Boo Boo in their free time, I coach and compile lists.) 

From 1994 to 2002, USA Nationals entries were somewhat stagnant, ranging from 592 to 686. Then began a slow increase from 2002-2006, with 678, 707, 755, 829, and 837. Then it dropped to 730, then 604 and 597. After a jump back to 686 in 2010, there was the huge decline in Virginia Beach to 502, followed by the 743 in Las Vegas in December.

What do these numbers tell us? The obvious answer is that you get more entries at the Nationals if you run it in an obvious "vacation" place, such as Las Vegas. USATT had similar experiences with the U.S. Open, getting relatively large numbers when it's run in Ft. Lauderdale (785 in 1997, the most since 1994) or Las Vegas (769 in 2007, second most), with considerable drops when it was run in Charlotte in 2006 (only 455, a modern low) and somewhat surprisingly, only 524 in 1998 when they ran it in Houston. Of course, how they promote the tournaments make a big difference. There were over 1000 entries at the 1974 and 1975 U.S. Opens in Oklahoma City and Houston, with master promoter Ron Shirley in charge. Similarly, they did a pretty good job of promoting the Open in 2010 in Grand Rapids, leading to a decent 645 entries, probably a hundred more than would be expected in a city not known as a vacation destination.

I had mixed feelings about the Nationals in Virginia Beach. It was nicely run, and it's only three hours from my club. With the reduced traveling time and playing in the same time zone, our players did much better than they often do in Las Vegas, 3000 miles away, where they usually fly in the night before. However, it's hard to argue with 743 entries to 502.

We're still waiting to see where the 2013 U.S. Open will be, but I've been told it's either Las Vegas or Ft. Lauderdale - announcement coming soon - and so either way it'll be a vacationland. (If it's in Ft. Lauderdale, I'm going to arrange a mass trip to Disneyworld - anyone can join us. I've been there once, way back in 1987.)

Marty Reisman Burial and Memorial

Marty Reisman was buried yesterday (Sunday) at Mount Richmond Cemetery on Staten Island. There will be a memorial tribute to him this Friday (Jan. 18) at SPIN New York at 7:30 PM. Info is here.

FASTT Table Tennis

Here's a release from FASTT (Federal Association of Sandpaper Table Tennis) on the sandpaper events at the recent USA Nationals.

How to Handle Drop Shots

Here's a video from PingSkills (1:49) on how to handle drop shots off lobs from under the table by giving a "wobbly" return.

The Beauty of Table Tennis

Here's a new highlights video (8:04) that just came out from ThePerfectionisTT.

Venus & Serena Williams

Table Tennis Nation brings us pictures of the Williams sisters playing table tennis at the Australian Open. As noted in last Thursday's blog, the two were also recently featured playing table tennis in an iPhone 5 commercial.

Table Tennis for the Masses

Is this Quadruples or Octuples?

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December 10, 2012

Tip of the Week

Body Movement During the Forehand Loop.

Marty Reisman, Feb. 1, 1930 - Dec. 7, 2012

The great showman of the hardbat age, as well as in the sponge age (but always with hardbat or sandpaper), died on Friday at age 82. The sport will never be the same.

Marty had a huge influence on my life. In fact, he ruined it! How did he do that? Here's my write-up from Table Tennis Tales & Techniques on how I got started on table tennis, my first meeting with Marty, and his response.

How Marty Reisman Ruined My Life
By Larry Hodges
Back in 1976 (age 16), I was on my high school track team as a miler. I went to the library to get a book on "Track & Field." I happened to look to my left ... and there was a book on table tennis, "The Money Player," by Marty Reisman! I had been playing "basement" ping-pong at a neighbor's house, and spur-of-the-moment checked the book out. From it, I found out about USATT (then called USTTA). I contacted them, found a local club, and went there. I got killed, but I stuck with it, and a few years later became the best at the club. I later became a professional table tennis coach and writer, and from 1985 on, I've been full-time table tennis almost continuously in various capacities. In 1991, I was hired as editor of USATT's national magazine. About a year later, at a tournament in New York, I met Marty for the first time (although I had probably seen him before), and told him this story. His response? "Great ... another life I've ruined!"

Volkswagen 2012 World Junior Table Tennis Championship

They started yesterday, and are in Hyderabad, India, Dec. 9-16. Here is the ITTF home page for the event, which has the schedule and results, articles, and pictures. Team USA has a Boys' Team (Grant Li, Teddy Tran, Kunal Chodri, Kanak Jha) and Girls' Team (Lily Zhang, Prachi Jha, Isabel Chu, and Crystal Wang). In doubles, the boy's teams are Li/Chodri and Tran/Jha, and the girls' teams are Zhang/Jha and Chu/Wang.

Faking a Shot

Here's a video from PingSkills on faking a shot. One key thing they say early on: "It's really important first that you get the basic shots right." But once you have the fundamentals, this is one of the most under-used tactics in table tennis from the intermediate level up. For example, even against advanced players when I serve backspin, I can see where they are going to push or flip well before they contact the ball - rarely do player change directions at the last second. This makes it much easier to attack. Instead, at the last second just change directions and watch the havoc it creates!

ITTF Coaching Seminar in Singapore

Here's the ITTF story on the recent ITTF Coaching Seminar in Singapore that was taught by USATT Coaching Chair Richard McAfee.

Want to Bring World-Class Table Tennis to U.S. Television?

Here's where you can learn about this. Excerpt: "Reflex Sports and Alpha Productions, two well known names in US table tennis, are planning  a series of action-packed, fast-paced 1-hour shows of World-Class Table Tennis for broadcast on U.S. Network TV! These will include action from the WTTC, World Junior Championships, World Cup, Pro Tour, European Championships & more!"

ITTF Video World Cup

Here are the five finalists at the ITTF Video World Cup. They average from around two to four minutes, so you can watch them all in about fifteen minutes.

Table Tennis Dream

I had another of those weird table tennis dreams last night. It started as I landed with a group of others at Los Angeles Airport for some huge international tournament. (I have no idea why it was Los Angeles.) After getting off my flight - carrying four huge bags - I stopped at a restaurant. The others with me disappeared, and I found myself at a table with Matt Damon, who was explaining health care to me, but using table tennis terms like "2-1 drill" and "Falkenberg drill." I finally got away from him, and was suddenly at the playing hall, still lugging around four huge bags.

People kept asking me to hit with them, and I kept saying I can't, I have to do my blog. So I'm sitting there at a table in the middle of the hall, surrounded by my four huge bags and lots of tables as players competed, furiously trying to think of something to write about in my blog.

Then I was told the tournament was over, and I realized I had to catch a bus to the airport. I randomly got on a bus, which drove for a while, then let me off at a hotel. I checked in. Almost immediately after getting to my room I realized it was the following morning, 7AM, and I had a 6AM flight back home! Somehow I thought I could still catch the flight. Then I realized I'd left two of my huge bags at the playing all, and two at the previous hotel. (I have no idea how that happened since I'd been lugging all four about with me until now.) I ran to the lobby, and while eating breakfast with a bunch of table tennis players, Dan Seemiller was suddenly sitting across from me, and he said, "Larry, you can catch a taxi to the playing hall, pick up your bags there, then take the taxi to the hotel, pick up your other bags, and still catch your flight."

Right about now I realized that since it was 7AM (it still was 7AM), and that it was too late to catch the 6AM flight. But Dan started calling me a chicken, so I grabbed my four huge bags (which had reappeared), and rushed out to catch a taxi to go pick up the four huge bags (which were apparently both with me, and at the playing hall and previous hotel, at the same time). After tossing all four huge bags into the trunk of a taxi, I closed the trunk - and the taxi took off without me! I ran after it, yelling for it to stop, and then I woke up in a sweat. It took me a few minutes to realize I wasn't in Los Angeles anymore.

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