Hungary

April 23, 2013

Tip of the Week

Proper Practice Progression Prevents Poor Play.

Hopes Trials

The Hopes Trials were held in conjunction with the North American Cup this past weekend in Westchester, NY, at the Westchester Table Tennis Club. And here's an article (lots of photos) on the players at the North American Cup.

I saw very little of the North American Cup since I was alternating coaching matches in the Hopes Boys and Girls Trials. (There was also an all-day USATT Board Meeting on Saturday, but I missed all of that as well.) I did see some spectacular play by 2406-rated 15-year-old Allen Wang - he's moved up to where he's challenging the best players in the country, despite being roughly six feet twenty inches tall. He beat Canada's Xavier Therien (rated 2517), went seven games with Peter Li (2557), and had a spectacular match with eventual North American Cup winner Andre Ho (2522), including an incredible game which Ho finally won, 25-23 (!). I saw some of the women's final - as usual, Ariel Hsing and Lily Zhang put on a show, with Zhang winning.

I wrote a lot about the tournament in my blog last Thursday, so I won't repeat all of that. I coached Crystal Wang and Derek Nie in all of their matches, which roughly alternated every hour all day long. Most of the time they practiced together to prepare for their matches, but I also joined in a lot, especially with Derek, where we had a lot of nice counterlooping duels as well as lots of serve & receive and serve & loop practice.

Crystal, rated 2292, won Girls' Singles without losing a game. She beat Ivy Liao of Canada (rated 1939) in the semifinals at 7,3,7. In the finals, she faced Amy Wang of New Jersey (rated 2168, but recently over 2200, and with a winning record against Crystal). However, this time Crystal won at 8,7,8 in a battle of Crystal's two-winged looping (often off the bounce) against Amy's more traditional hitting. Amy is looping more than before, but is forced to block when Crystal starts looping, and Crystal's loops into the forehand and middle were effective.

There were two umpires - the main umpire, and the assistant umpire, who was the scorekeeper. Throughout this match, for some reason, the scorekeeper seemed to stare at me almost continuously between points. Every time I'd glance at the scoreboard he'd be staring - almost glaring. I have no idea why; I'm not even sure if I've met him before. Perhaps he thought I was signaling or something. Several others noted this as well. Neither he nor the main umpire were staring or glaring at the other coach. 

I've never used signals when coaching; they are illegal. (Here's proof: I've been coaching matches for over 30 years, and I've many hundreds of players in tournament matches. ATTENTION, all players I've ever coached - if I've ever used signaling when I coached, please step forward now and let everyone know. But nobody's going to step forward because it never has happened.) Some umpires are overzealous in guarding against signaling, but it's somewhat silly. Any coach could get away with signaling if he wants. For example, no umpire is going to tell a coach he can't clap after a point. So a dishonest coach can, for example, work out with his player that one clap means serve short to the forehand; two claps mean short to the middle; three claps short to the backhand, and so on. Elbows up for topspin, down for backspin, and perhaps clap with the tips for no-spin. (I'm making this up as I go along. Really.) Or use innocuous words of encouragement that mean something. However, all this is rather counter-productive as signaling a player over and over is a really good way to mess up their concentration as well as training them to not be able to think for themselves.

Derek (rate 2215, was 2234 before a bad Cary Cup) made it to the semifinals of Boys' Singles. There he faced Victor Liu (rated 2226). It was a seesaw battle, where one player seemed to dominate every game. Derek led 9-7 in the fifth. The last time these two had played (at the 2011 Nationals) Derek had led 9-6 in the fifth and lost five in a row. Two of the best times to call a time-out are when the player is losing focus, and when the player is serving and on the verge of winning an important game. In the latter case, you do so to make sure the player is completely focused and knows what serves to use to lock up the game. So I called a timeout - but Derek, feeling he was okay, shook it off. He lost the next four points, including an easy loop, a push, and an easy block. Sheer agony as he lost, 8,-5,7,-7,9. We'll never know if the timeout might have helped. Victor went on to win the final over Gal Alguetti at 13,7,9.

With Victor, Derek, and the Alguetti twins (Gal & Sharon, rated 2283 and 2271), I don't think we've ever had such a strong group of players at that age group, all 11 or 12. Add in Kanak Jha (2457) and Jack Wang (2329), who were one year too old for the Hopes Trials, and several others in the 2150-2200 range, and we have a powerhouse group coming up. Not to mention the twin towers on the girls' side of Crystal & Amy Wang! (No relation, though Amy is the younger sister of Allen, mentioned at the start.)

Brain Teasers at the Hopes Trials

It wasn't all table tennis, however. During the five-hour ride to and from the tournament, and also at meals, Derek and Crystal became addicted to brain teasers. I know hundreds of them, but I'd used many in past trips, and so began to make ones up. I think Derek may major in college in brain teasers.

Here are some brain teasers involving table tennis that I made up. Email me your answers, and tomorrow I'll publish whoever gets them right! (I made up many more, but can't remember them, alas.)

  1. A player liked to play table tennis with various animals. He played a lion, a giraffe, a raccoon, and an elephant. Then he played another animal, but over and over the animal served wet balls. Why?
  2. A player liked to play table tennis with various animals. He played a chimpanzee, a dog, an ostrich, and a snake. Then he played another animal, but over and over, rather than playing, the player would drop his paddle, fall to the ground, and lay still. Why?
  3. A group of miners had dug tunnels to extract diamonds from the ground. They decided to set up a ping-pong table in their tunnel. The tunnel was exactly six feet wide, so just wide enough for the table and net (which extends six inches on both sides). It was very long, so there was plenty of room on each side. It was exactly thirty inches tall, and so just enough room for the table and net. However, once it was set up, they were unable to play. Why?
  4. Here's a non-table tennis one I made up. Remember, this is being said out loud, so ignore the actual spelling. An old man with one hair went to a barber and asked him to cut the hair. The barber was outraged, and called the police. Why?

Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers Featured by Australia TTA

Here's the article. Copies of Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers are going fast!

Largest Club in the Country

The Westchester Table Tennis Club has been the largest full-time club in the country for several years, at 13,000 square feet with 18 tables. (My club, Maryland Table Tennis Center, is "only" 10,000, with 16 tables, alas. Though we sometimes jam in 18 tables for training.) However, a new club has just opened in Portland, Pure Pong, with 16,500 square feet and 20+ tables. Here's the article.

Table Tennista

Here are the headline international stories at Table Tennista.

Stiga Tisza Table Tennis Camp in Hungary

Here are three short videos from the camp.

Training in China

Here's a training video (3:38) in China from Tony Table Tennis.

The Lord of the Ping

I think he's cupping his hand - but he doesn't have to follow no rules.

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March 27, 2013

Spring Break Camp

We had 47 players in camp yesterday, all at the same time. How did we accommodate them all with 18 tables? In the morning session, we had 7 coaches feeding multiball, leaving 11 free tables. With 22 players on those 11 tables, that meant we had 25 players at any given time on the 7 multiball tables, rotating around between doing multiball, picking up balls, or practicing on the free tables. In the afternoon session the advanced players did more live play (two to a table), while younger beginners were grouped on a few tables for multiball and various games - such as hitting a bottle supposedly filled with my dog's saliva, where I had to drink it if they hit it. (I'm working with the beginners mostly this camp.)

The coaches are myself, Cheng Yinghua, Jack Huang, Wang Qing Liang ("Leon"), Chen Bo Wen ("Bowen"); Chen Jie ("James"); and Raghu Nadmichettu. Jack Huang used to be Huang Tong Sheng ("Jack"), but he's been Jack so long we no longer use his Chinese name.

While most of the players are local from Maryland or Virginia (since Spring Break Camp coincides with spring break in local schools), we have a bunch from out of town. There's a nine-year-old from Japan who's about 1900; four members of the University of Missouri team; and several from New Jersey and New York.

One of the beginners who was having so much trouble yesterday did a bit better today. However, he's still got a ways to go - every now and then he'll do a series of proper strokes, and then he'll fall back into bad habits. The other also showed some signs of learning, but doesn't seem too motivated to learn. Surprisingly, the latter one picked up serving pretty well, while the first one is struggling with that.

I gave lectures on the backhand, on serving, and on doubles tactics. However, since most of the players are local juniors, I kept the lectures short. I had a problem with a few overly excited kids who kept talking among themselves during the doubles lecture, which took place right after we got off break.

I got to talk some with the University of Missouri team for a bit. Their best player is about 2100, the other three somewhere in the 1700-1800 range or so. One (I think the 2100 player) was having trouble covering the table after stepping around his backhand to do a forehand penhold loop. Many players have this trouble because they don't position themselves properly so that they'll follow through in a balanced position, which is what allows a player to recover quickly. Players often follow through with their weight going off to the side, which means they waste precious time recovering. Instead, players should position themselves so their weight is moving more toward the table as they loop, putting themselves right back into position to cover even a block to the wide forehand. I can still do this at age 53 (well, against most blocks!), not because of foot speed, but because of proper footwork technique.

I'm getting a bit banged up. (This is me.) Here's a roll call:

  • Sore throat and hoarse voice from lecturing and coaching.
  • Slight limp from an injured right toe. I can't really put any weight on it. It feels like I've fractured it at the base (though it's probably something less serious), but I have no idea when or how. If it persists, I'll have it x-rayed after the camp.
  • Slight limp from pulled upper front left thigh muscle, which I originally injured at Cary Cup on March 15, and keep aggravating. (See my blog from March 22.)
  • Major infection from that cut on left index finger I got during the exhibitions last Thursday. (See my blog from March 22.)
  • Jammed middle finger on my right (playing) hand. This has been bothering me for months, and I don't know how I hurt it originally, though I know I aggravated it recently giving someone a high-five, where we missed and I rejammed it against his hand. I can't make a fist with my right hand - the middle finger won't bend all the way. (Insert appropriate middle-finger joke here.) If it were any of the other four fingers (including the thumb), this would affect my playing, but this one doesn't.
  • Growing upper back problems from being too busy to do my regular back stretching. This one's my own fault.
  • Exhaustion from my dog getting me up at 4AM to go out (see yesterday's blog), while trying to coach all day at our camp, do various paperwork and other stuff at night, and still do the daily blog.

Returning Serve: Part One

Here's the article from Table Tennis Master. I'll post part two and others as they come up.

ITTF Level 2 Course in New Jersey

Richard McAfee will be running an ITTF Level 2 Coaching Course at the Lily Yip TTC in Dunellen, NJ, Aug. 26-31. Here's a listing of all upcoming ITTF coaching seminars in the U.S.

Ariel Hsing Article

Here's a feature article on her from the ITTF.

Table Tennista

Here are four new articles on China Table Tennis.

Multiball Training in Hungary

Here's a new video (3:18) featuring multiball training with members of the Hungarian Woman National Team and with some young players in the Hungarian Table Tennis Centre in Budapest. This is roughly what I do all day long at our MDTTC training camps.

Multiball Training in China

Here's a video (7:09) showing multiball training in China. There are many styles of multiball feeding; I was fascinated to see that the man in red feeding multiball uses almost the exact technique I do, i.e. first bounce on the table. Even the drills he does are about the same as the ones I do.

The Correct Way to Finish a Point

Here's a six-second video where Richard Lee demonstrates your basic serve and zillion mile per hour loop kill. Do not try this in your basement; he's a professional.

Best of Xu Xin vs. Ma Long

Here's a video (8:29) of the best rallies between these two Chinese superstars. Many of these points are truly impressive - are we reaching the pinnacle of human performance in table tennis? (I'm sure someone will quote this back to me someday when someone makes these two look like amateurs.)

Artistic Table Tennis Pictures

Here's an interesting and artistic table tennis picture. And here's an artistic table - it's like playing bumper ping-pong.

Staged Shot-Making

Here are 13 spectacularly staged trick shots.

One
Two
Three
Four
Five
Six
Seven
Eight
Nine
Ten
Eleven
Twelve
Thirteen

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