Ma Long's Coaching

March 28, 2013

Spring Break Camp

This week I'm mostly blogging about the Spring Break Camp since that's what I'm doing for eight hours each day this week, Mon-Fri. I almost put up a note saying no blog today as I was so tired last night that I wanted to collapse into bed, knowing full well that I'd be unlikely to have the energy to do it in the morning before leaving for camp. Then I sat down at my computer at around 9:30 PM and it just came together, as it always does.

Yesterday we focused on forehand looping. As I often do I brought out 12-year-old Derek Nie to demonstrate, as he has nice technique to go with his 2234 rating. He demoed against my block, then I demoed it against backspin, where I served backspin, Derek pushed, I looped, he blocked, I chopped, he pushed, and we started over again. Then I gave a short lecture on it, and then it was off to the tables to practice.

Most memorable moment for me yesterday was dealing with a kid who was trying to serve backhand sidespin, but kept throwing the ball into his racket rather than tossing it up six inches or more and contacting it on the drop. I kept trying to show him how to do it legally, but he kept saying over and over (without letting me show him how), "I can't. I can't. I can't." Finally, in disgust (but trying to be nice about it), I told him I didn't want to hear it any more unless he changed it to "I can't yet," or better still, "I will." Several others around seemed to take this to heart, but the kid didn't get it, and actually sort of threw a tantrum and began smacking balls all over the place on purpose. I finally had to give him a "time out," the first one I'd given for the camp. Afterwards, when he'd calmed down, I told him I'd work with him on the serve tomorrow. I really, really hope it works out better today.

The beginning kids I'm working with are now progressing rather well, including the ones who had trouble at the start. Today I introduced them to pushing, and all of them picked up on this far more quickly than I expected. I wish I had a video of their expressions the first few times they pushed with enough backspin so the ball came to a stop and bounced or rolled backwards! The best news is the kid who's been resisting fixing his grip is finally holding the racket properly. I hope I never again see that awkward claw grip he was using.

At lunch I played a practical joke on everyone. We have Chinese food delivered for lunch each day - I had Chicken Lo Mein. I'd been jokingly grumbling about how my fortune cookies always predict disasters for me - that I'd be hit by a car, by lightning, or mauled by a bear or something. On Tuesday I brought home my fortune cookie to eat that night. While eating it I had a brainstorm. It took me about five minutes to create my own fortune, with the same size and type of font, the same blue color, and the same blue design along the sides, with the message, "A meteor will kill you in five minutes." I printed it out, carefully cut it out to match the exact size of the sample fortune, and brought it to the club. At lunch yesterday, I once again complained about my fortunes I get, and then, while several watched, I opened the cookie, and let the fortune drop down out. I did this so that it fell behind the plastic food box holding my food, where I'd hidden the fake fortune. I picked the fake one up, and read it aloud, while carefully tossing the real one under the table. When no one believed me, I let them read it. They went crazy in disbelief! Most of the camp gathered around trying to figure it out. (I'm also a part-time SF & fantasy writer, and one of the stories published in my anthology "Pings and Pongs: the Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of Larry Hodges" is a story titled "A Meteor Will Kill You In Five Minutes." About ten of the kids in the camp have read that story, adding to the consternation.) Finally, when five minutes were up, I stood up, looked up at the ceiling, and tossed a ping-pong ball up, which hit me in the head. I then told them what had happened. I'll save the fortune for future camps with new players.

It would be a crime not to mention that I'm spending our breaks taking on challenges with my clipboard as a racket. So far I'm about 30-0 in games to 11, including several wins over 1900+ players. The higher-rated ones are shying away in stark terror.

Ma Long's Coaching

Here are five coaching videos from Ma Long of China, who recently regained his crown as #1 in the world. It's all in Chinese, but even if you don't understand Chinese you can learn from just watching.

World Team Classic

The event is being held right now in Guangzhou, China, March 28-31. Here's the ITTF home page for the event, with results, articles, pictures, and video.

Interview with Bastien Steger

Here's a video interview (2:17) with Germany's Bastian Steger, who speaks to itTV after securing victory against Thiago Monteiro to give Germany a 3-2 win over Brazil at the Times Property 2013 World Team Classic.

Ryan Giggs Plays Table Tennis

Here's an article from Table Tennis Nation on how Manchester United player Ryan Giggs used table tennis to improve his soccer game. (That's football outside of USA.)

Zhang Jike and Xu Xin

Here's 21 seconds of these two practicing before the World Team Classic in Guangzhou, China. It starts out as regular counterlooping before they get creative.

Smart Table Tennis

Here's a new highlights video (8:28) from PerfectionisTT

Table Tennis Cartoon

Here's an interesting table tennis cartoon - but it has no caption. Why not come up with your own? Here are three of mine:

  • "Never stare in open-mouthed admiration of your opponent's shot."
  • "The secret to Mr. Specs' game was ball placement."
  • "It was an inadvertent ping-pong accident that led to his revolutionary discovery of the ping-pong diet- filling yet few calories."

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