Deliberate Practice

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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July 21, 2011

Deliberate Practice to deliberately become good or great

So you want to be good at table tennis? Then learn about Deliberate Practice. Not everyone can put in 10,000 hours and be great, but if you apply the other seven principles in whatever practice time you have (make time), you can really improve. And the hours do add up. Below are the eight main principles; the article elaborates on them. Why not print out the article's eight main points with short explanations (they'll fit on one page), and put it on your wall where you can see them regularly?

  1. Deliberate practice is highly demanding mentally, requiring high levels of focus and concentration.
  2. It is designed specifically to improve performance—to strengthen it beyond its current levels.
  3. It must continue for long of periods of time.
  4. It must be repeated.
  5. It requires continuous feedback on results.
  6. Pre-performance preparation is essential.
  7. It involves self-observation and self-reflection.
  8. It involves careful reflection on performance after practice sessions are completed.

The back doctor

Yesterday I saw an orthopedist sports medicine doctor about my recurring upper back problems. They did x-rays and some other tests. It turns out it's probably not a disc problem; he thinks it's a muscle problem, where the muscle attaches to the backbone. I'm supposed to meet with a physical therapist twice a week, probably starting next week, plus a series of exercises on my own that they'll assign. They are also hoping I can take one month off from table tennis. So tentatively, after our last August training camp at MDTTC (which ends Aug. 19), I might hire locals to act as a hitting partner for when I'm coaching so I can rest the back for that month. Even feeding multiball is painful, especially when feeding backspin.

Different Types of Table Tennis

This is from the Fun and Games section. Bet you didn't know there were this many types of table tennis! (And yes, that's me playing clipboard table tennis at the end.)

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