Xu Xin

October 6, 2014

Tip of the Week

Should You Play Tournaments When Working on Something New?

Coaching and a Ball Shortage - a Good Thing?

Yesterday was somewhat hectic for an unusual reason - a ball shortage. But perhaps that was a good thing?

I spent the morning working with Tim Boggan on Volume 15 of his History of U.S. Table Tennis (1986-88). We started around 6AM and stopped at noon. (Over the weekend Tim and I watched the Marty Reisman documentary "Fact or Fiction: The Life & Times of a Ping-Pong Hustler, which I'll blog about later this week, probably tomorrow - I took lots of notes. 84-year-old Tim found it depressing.) After lunch I went to MDTTC for three hours of private coaching and a 90 minute junior group session.

The private coaching went pretty well - two juniors and one adult. The first of the two kids was a relative beginner, age 11. He did pretty well - his basic forehand and backhand strokes are sound - so we spent much of the session working on his forehand loop, and then on serves. His loop gets surprising spin for someone who hasn't been doing it very long - he has very good contact with the ball, though he tends to stop his upper body rotation before contact, costing him power. The second kid was a 7-year old who already topspins all his backhands, essential an off-the-bounce backhand loop that's going to be scary good someday. We spent much of the session also working on his forehand loop. The final session was with Navin, the full-time hardbat and sandpaper player with the artificial heart and Parkinson's. We spent much of the session working on his forehand hitting and backhand chop blocking, and then on hardbat serves.

Then came the hectic part. From 4:30-6:00 I teach a junior class with 12 players. Assisting was Coach Jeffrey. We needed three boxes of balls - two for Jeffrey and I (for multiball) and another for the robot. The problem was that coaches Cheng, Jack, Leon, Bowen, Raghu, and John were all doing private coaching sessions, and several of our top juniors were using boxes of balls to train or practice serves, and suddenly we had a severe ball shortage. (Fortunately, Coach Alex is in China right now or it might have been worse!) We'd opened the last box of training balls a few days later, and for now there were no more. So Jeffrey and I scrounged around the club, grabbing every ball we could. We managed to get enough - barely - though we had to really focus on ball pickup so we wouldn't run out of balls.

We do nearly 300 hours of coaching at MDTTC each week. I'm constantly amazed when I hear from some players and club leaders about how impossible it is to get players, that there just isn't enough demand out there. But there's a simple formula we discovered when we opened MDTTC 22 years ago - if you bring in high-level coaches with great work ethics, and let them keep the bulk of their private coaching income, they will have great incentive to bring in students, and those students will become the backbone of the club, paying for memberships, tournaments, leagues, equipment, and group coaching sessions. That's how you fill a club up. It's not easy at the start, but if you do it, the players will come. That's the formula that works for us, and for the large majority of the roughly 75 full-time clubs in the U.S. (I wrote more about this in the Professional Table Tennis Coaches Handbook, in particular on how to find students to develop a full-time coaching practice.)

More Larry & Tim Quotes

On Friday I blogged about working with Tim Boggan on Volume 15 of his History of U.S. Table Tennis, and gave a number of quotes. Here are more.

Larry: "Should we use the good one or the blur?"
Tim: "It goes against my grain, but we'll use the better picture."
Larry: "I knew you'd weaken."

~

Tim: "Let's use them even though they're good." (About two photos that were so good they made the others look bad.)

~

Tim: "Bring the curtain over." (Wanted me to move something in a photo.)

~

Larry: "Posterity will come and go, and no one will ever know." (Musing to himself about the various manipulations he does on the page.

~

Larry: "I want to check something." (Every five minutes.)
Larry: "Have to check on the Orioles game." (Every five minutes.)
Larry: "I have an email coming." (Every 30 seconds.)

Snake Serve Table Tennis

Here's a video (5:19) of a hilarious coaching video. Learn the Snake Serve (a forehand pendulum serve), the Reverse Serve, and the Lizard Serve! Warning - if you suffer from Ophidiophobia (fear of snakes), do not watch this.

Top Ten Creative Servers of Table Tennis

Here's the article and video (12:41).

Learn How to Make Your Loops More Deceptive - Just Add Variation!

Here's the article by Samson Dubina.

Nathan Hsu in China

Here's Nathan's latest vlog (4:12). He's actually back now, and editing and putting the videos online when he's not training. 

USATT Athletes of the Month

Here's the USATT article. This month they are Crystal Wang (women), Timothy Wang (men), and Tahl Leibovitz (Paralympic). Crystal, of course, is from my club.

Charity Tournament and Celebrity SLAMFest Huge Success

Here's the USATT article.

Asian Games Men's Final

Here's the video (7:12, with time between points taken out) between the top two players in the world, Xu Xin and Fan Zhendong.

China on Top of Asia after Claiming Men's & Women's Singles Gold

Here's the ITTF Press Release.

Ping-Pong Business Hopes to Restart Table Tennis Craze

Here's the article (with pictures and video) about King Pong Table Tennis in Staten Island.

Happy Birthday Jan-Ove Waldner

Here's the graphic and comments - he turned 49 on Friday.

Arguing About Benghazi Talking Points

Here's the TT cartoon.

***
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September 23, 2014

Five-Part Plan for USATT

Below is a five-part Plan for USATT. I've blogged about these issues in the past, but now that USATT is under new leadership, here's a good time to consolidate them together again. I could write a small book about each of these issues, but I'll keep them short here. 

  1. Recruit and train coaches and directors to set up and run full-time centers and junior programs.
    The goal is to have a huge number of such training centers with junior programs, leading to both large numbers of junior players and the development of elite juniors, which leads to elite players. When I made a presentation on this to the USATT Board in December, 2006, two board members openly scoffed at the idea, arguing that there wasn't enough interest in the U.S. to support full-time training centers. The rest sat about silently, waiting for the next item on the agenda. In response I resigned my position as USATT Editor and Programs Director. At the time there were about eight full-time centers in the U.S.; now there are about 75. Once a successful model was created, others copied it. USATT could greatly accelerate this process by recruiting and training coaches and directors as other successful sports do. Since USATT already runs clinics for coaches, and since the coaches would be paying for it (as they do in other sports), the system pays for itself.
  2. Create a nationwide system of regional leagues.
    The goal is to dramatically increase USATT membership from its current 9000 or so. The first step is to create a prototype that can spread. Right now anyone wanting to create such a league has to begin from scratch each time. The focus should be on team leagues. Start by studying how the German league system and others were created and grew (and led to 11,000 clubs and 700,000 members), and how other sports in the U.S. developed in this way, such as tennis (700,000 members) and bowling (over two million). Then create a U.S. system for table tennis.
  3. Instigate an independent Professional League System or Professional Circuit.
    The goal is to develop a central group of professional players in the U.S., leading to both more elite players and publicity that will develop the sport. Need to hire a commissioner to set this up and recruit sponsors, with the goal that his salary come from commissions. It could also be a professional circuit, perhaps growing out of the current North American Tour. A possible model is tennis, where there is a partnership between USTA (the equivalent of USATT) and the ATP (the professional group).
  4. Turn U.S. Open and/or Nationals into premier events.
    The goal is to attract players, spectators, and sponsors to our sport. The model for this is, again, probably tennis. We need to choose either the Open or the Nationals to start with, find a permanent place for it, bring in a group to run it, and develop it into a big property, like tennis and other sports did with their major events.
  5. Instigate regional organizations.
    The goal is to dramatically increase membership by organizing on the local level. The country is too big to have everything run by one centralized group. Model this on tennis in the U.S. or on the regional table tennis league systems all over Europe.

A key issue that affects all of these: Separate progressive and fairness issues. Both are important, but fairness issues take up all the time and energy and so we never get to progressive issues like the five issues above. Leaders need to focus on progressive issues, and send fairness issues to the appropriate committee. I'm guessing that the new USATT CEO, Gordon Kaye, is going to get dragged into fairness issues, and if he's not careful he'll spend his time acting as a judge and negotiator rather than progressively developing the sport, which is a recipe for more status quo.

I previously blogged about Fairness Versus Progressive Issues. The short version:

Fairness issues are those that involve the ongoing governance of the sport. They include setting up procedures for selecting teams; most membership issues; the running of the U.S. Open and Nationals and other similar events (including site selection, dates, choosing personnel, etc.); disciplinary actions; the magazine and website (which can be used to promote progressive issues, but are not progressive issues themselves); and many more. These issues take up the great majority of the time for USATT leaders. Look over the agenda or minutes for any USATT board meeting, and it's dominated by such issues.

Progressive issues are those that grow the sport. There are many different opinions on how this should be done, such as junior development programs (both elite and grass roots), leagues, schools, TV, growing the U.S. Open and Nationals, professional circuits, etc. It also includes raising money for the sport, if the money is used in progressive ways.

Another important issue is use of volunteers. One of the most promising things USATT has done recently is create the USATT National Volunteer Coordinator position. I blogged about this and the use of volunteers on August 22, 2014. (It also discusses Fairness Versus Progressive Issues again, and the use of committees.)

I am toying with running for the at-large position in the upcoming USATT election, and perhaps trying to convince the leadership of the importance of taking action on these issues rather than the usual wait and see attitude that permeates our sport. However, I have no interest in running if it's going to be the same old thing. The current situation is that if you suggest a "new" idea (and I put that in quotes because they are only new to those who haven't been paying attention), you get one of three responses:

  1. It is ignored.
  2. It is ridiculed by people who know nothing about the issue.
  3. It is met with verbal support, but nothing happens unless you do it completely on your own.

Successful organizations do not operate in this fashion. They make goals, create plans to reach those goals, and the organization's leadership gets behind those plans and goals. But that's not how USATT currently or historically works. Right now if someone were to go to USATT with the five ideas above, it would likely get one of the responses listed above. I've been down that cycle multiple times - especially #3 - and do not plan to fall into that trap again. These issues have to be organizational issues, where the CEO and Board of Directors get behind these plans and make it their goal for these plans to succeed.

And tomorrow I plan to go back to blogging about coaching issues! But directly or indirectly, the above dramatically affects all of us in the table tennis community. 

Pushing Short

Here's the coaching video (4:50) by Pierre-Luc Hinse, North American table tennis champion and Canadian Olympian.

Techniques of Long Pimples

Here's the coaching video (6:56) by Tao Li

Xu Xin in Table Tennis World

Here's the feature article in Chinese, and here's an English translation at the Mytabletennis.com forum.

Michael Maze on the Operating Table Again

Here's the article and picture.

$10,000 Butterfly Badger Open

Here's are two more articles by Barbara Wei on the tournament this past weekend.

Newgy Akron Open

Here's the USATT article about the tournament this upcoming weekend.

Table Tennis is Art at its Best Level

Here's the highlights video (8:48).

Former Bloomingdale Mayor is Tops in Table Tennis

Here's the article.

Ryu Seung Min and the Cup of Water

Here's some sort of game show video (2:26) where the Korean star attempts to bounce a ball across the table and into a cup of water.

***
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September 19, 2014

USATT Board of Directors August 2014 Teleconference and Stuff They Should Do

Here are the minutes. Here's the same question I ask after every such meeting: Was anything done that might lead to the serious growth of our sport?

I sometimes look at USATT as being perpetually like the U.S. in 1932, in the depths of a depression and with leadership who believed in doing things the same old ways. We need an FDR or TR type to come along and shake things up by actually doing things. But no one wants to be The Man in the Arena. Back on Nov. 13, 2013 I blogged about ten relatively easy things USATT could do to grow the sport (and I've referred to them a number of times since), but there just doesn't seem to be interest in doing such things - though as the new minutes show, they are interested in things like new formatting for the minutes. That's nice, but perhaps we should focus more on doing things rather than on how we format them?

Below is that same list from a year ago of things USATT could do to develop the sport. It's not rocket science. Note that the first three are just different ways of developing leagues, since that's where there is great membership potential. I'm personally most interested in #4 and #5, though #7 (along with any of #1-3) could lead to serious growth potential. And #8, by getting USATT leaders to focus on developing the sport, could be most important of all. Let's make things happen. Or we could continue in our Hooverish ways.

  1. Advertise to hire someone to set up Professional Leagues. Offer him 33% of revenues brought in, and the USATT's support with its web page, emails, magazine, and any other way feasible. It would be an historic position, similar to the first commissioner of sports such as baseball, basketball, and football.
  2. Redirect the purpose of the current "League" committee so that its primary purpose would be to actively increase the number and quality of leagues in the U.S.  First job would be to bring in people to put together a manual for setting up such leagues. The authors would then publish on Amazon and get profits from sales. It's not large money, but they might get a few hundred dollars and the prestige of being a published author.
  3. Bring together the directors of the largest and most successful leagues in the U.S., figuratively lock them in a room, and don't let them out until they've put together a model for such leagues that can be done regionally all over the U.S.
  4. Create a "Training Center" committee whose primary purpose would be increase the number and quality of full-time clubs in the U.S.  First job would be to bring in people to put together a manual for setting up and running such centers. The authors would then publish on Amazon and get profits from sales. It's not large money, but they might get a few hundred dollars and the prestige of being a published author. I already did a version of this with my Professional Table Tennis Coaches Handbook, and have sold over one hundred copies and made over $100. This manual covers half the stuff a manual on setting up and running a full-time center would cover.
  5. Change the focus of USATT coaching seminars from just teaching technique to the recruitment and training of professional coaches and directors of junior programs. I've argued this one for years.
  6. Advertise for someone to bring in sponsorships for U.S. Open and Nationals, where the person gets 33% or more in commission.
  7. Recruit State and Regional Directors all over the U.S. to set up regional associations, which would include election of officers, and appointment of Coaching, League, Tournament, and Club Directors for each state or region. (Some regions or states already have such associations.) USATT would supply the basic bylaws for these associations, using bylaws that have been created for this very purpose multiple times in the past, or modeled on current successful ones.
  8. Direct that the USATT Board of Directors main focus will be the development of the sport, and that "fairness" issues will go to the appropriate committee, freeing up board time for actually developing the sport. (I blogged about this on March 19, 2013.)
  9. Require that all prospective USATT board members must give at least one major area where they will take initiative in developing the sport, and give their plan for doing so. Along with this they should allow people on the ballot if they get 150 signatures from USATT members, with a deadline set after the North American Teams, which is where they could get the signatures. (This is how it was done in the past.)
  10. Do a mass mailing to the 50,000 or so past USATT members on the USATT database, and invite them to rejoin. The letter should come from a top, well-known U.S. table tennis star. There's one catch - there has to be something new to invite these players back. See previous items on this list. Any such mailing, done properly, would pay for itself. There's a reason why I and others get inundated with mailings from organizations I once belonged to. I still get regular mail from the U.S. Tennis Association since I played in their leagues about ten years ago. (Eventually we can move to emailing past members, but we don't have the email address of most of these past members.) I blogged about this on Feb. 19, 2014 and May 13, 2014.

2014 USA Junior and Cadet Team Trials

Here's the info sheet. Minor nitpick: Can't anyone learn to proof and format these things so they don't look like they were thrown together by a third grader? I found 14 typos or formatting problems on the first page. Let's try to look professional! I've volunteered to proof USATT documents for them before they go public, completely in confidence, and they used to take me up on this, but not in recent years. The offer still stands. And I'm sorry if I'm embarrassing whoever put this together, but c'mon - we can do better. (Am I picking on USATT here, in the segment above, and in previous blogs? You bet I am - they need to get their act together and change the thinking and organizational funk they've been in for so many years.)

USA Nationals Entry Form

It's linked at the USA Nationals Home Pagehis came out two hours after I posted this blog, but I'm adding it late. I'll link to it again on Monday.

Practice Your Serves

Have you practiced your serves this week? Why not??? Few things are more under-practiced than serves, and time for time you probably get more from serve practice than just about anything else. Here are a few articles that might help out.

Covering Long Distances

Here's the coaching video (3:27) by Pierre-Luc Hinse, North American table tennis champion and Canadian Olympian.

Emad Barsoum Leading Player at 2014 Butterfly Badger Open

Here's the article by Barbara Wei.

International News

As usual, you can find lots of international news at TableTennista (which covers the big names more) and at the ITTF news page (more regional news). 

Chinese National Team in Training

Here's the new video (4:01) of them as they trained for the 2014 World Team Championships.

Xu Xin - Pure Brilliance!

Here's a great point (22 sec). Xu is on near side, playing Germany's Dimitrij Ovcharov.

Ping-Pong as It Should Be Played

Here I am with playing with a vintage clipboard. (I'm about 2100 with it. Really! Challenge me at the Nationals - I'll have the clipboard ready!)

Getting Balled Out?

Here's the picture.

***
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September 10, 2014

From Pathetic to Perfect in Seconds!

I've been working recently with a new nine-year-old kid in our afterschool program. Right now we're only doing multiball. He has been struggling with the forehand. He starts off the stroke fine - I made sure of that, with his right foot slightly back (he's a righty), racket moves backward, and so on. But as soon as he starts his forward swing, he sort of lunges at the ball, driving his right shoulder forward, and then falls backward, with his left leg going back. Contact is basically a backspin slap. I've never seen such an awkward stroke! At first I thought he was too far from the ball, hence the lunging, with the falling back a compensation to keep his balance. We tried different distances from the table, but even if he jammed the table he'd lunge at the ball, as if he couldn't help himself. I also kept reminding him to imagine a vertical rod going through his head, and to rotate around it, but he couldn't as he was always lunging forward and then falling backward. (Falling backward after a forehand usually does mean the player was too far from the ball, with the left side falling back to compensate.)

Then I had a brainstorm. I told him to focus on dropping his racket on his backswing. This forced him to put more weight on his back foot. This led to a more natural weight shift from the back foot to his front foot, and a more natural rotation around the imagined rod in the brain. It also led to a topspin contact rather than the lunging backspin one from before. In the course of seconds, his forehand went from pathetic to perfect!!!

We worked on it for another fifteen minutes, and then I had him do more shadow practice. I'm working with him again today, and if all goes well, we might even try some live forehand-to-forehand - but only if I'm pretty sure he can maintain the newly "perfect" forehand.

His backhand is coming along pretty well, though he also has a tendency to slap at the ball, plus he tends to stand up too straight. We'll keep working on it. Today I also plan to introduce him to serving.

Physical Fitness and Headaches

Around the start of July my weight hit 195, tying the most ever for me. I was starting to feel slow on the court. I started dieting, and in six weeks got down to 181. My dieting secret? I'm a snacker, so rather than fight the snacking urge, when I diet I snack on cherry tomatoes, carrots, bananas, and plums. The key is to snack on them before I get hungry, since by that time I'll want something with more calories. For regular meals, my staples are a banana nut muffin for breakfast; and usually a peanut butter & jelly sandwich for lunch, with a slice of Swiss cheese and several carrots on the side. I eat a bit more for dinner, but when dieting keep that in the 500 or less calorie range.

But over the last month a strange thing has happened - even though my diet has stayed the same, I can't seem to break the 180lb barrier. I've basically been bouncing between 181 and 182 for four weeks. It's getting a bit irritating. My plan was to reach 170 by the end of September, but that's not looking likely now. I may have to get a bit more drastic on the calorie cutting. Maybe I'm eating too many cherry tomatoes? (I really do eat a lot!)

Meanwhile, I spent the last few days doing way too much reading. (Remember, I'm both a reader and writer of both table tennis and science fiction.) I read Dora Kurimay's "Get Your Game Face On Like the Pros!" (and will do a review here soon); I read and critiqued two short stories for fellow writers; I did about fifty "final" readings of a new short story I'm finalizing ("Tooth Apocalypse"); plus I've started reading The Dresden Files this past week, and am now well into book three. (Next up for table tennis reading: "The Next Step" by Alex Polyakov.) I sometimes use reading glasses to read as my right eye isn't that good close up, while my left eye is fine. Alas, I chose not to use the reading glasses for all this reading, and it led to several headaches, including one when I woke up this morning after a late-night reading session. When I read without them it seems to affect me more afterwards (i.e. headaches) than while I'm actually reading, where my right eye gets tired but doesn't actually hurt. I still don't like the bother of the reading glasses, but I might have to use them more often.

USA Nationals

They will be held Dec. 16-20 in Las Vegas. Alas, the entry form isn't out yet, which is surprising considering the tournament is in a little over three months - they lose people every year when they wait this long. Here is the 2014 USA Nationals home page, but there isn't much on it yet other than the hotel, which is the Westgate Resort. When I saw that I immediately Googled it since it's a new hotel for us, right? Actually, when I went over the hotel's home page, it looked sort of familiar - and then I discovered it was formerly the Las Vegas Hotel and Casino, which was formerly the Las Vegas Hilton, which is the hotel we've been using for years - so no real change there. 

Xu Xin Saddens Former Coach

Here's the article on the world #1 changing coaches.

Nice 54-shot Rally

Here's the video.

The Ultimate Guide to Ping Pong Nutrition: Maximize Your Table Tennis Potential

Here's the book. I just happened to find this while browsing.

Cow Pong

Here's the picture.

***
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September 9, 2014

Teaching a Beginning Kid to Block

Recently I've had a lot of fun teaching two kids, ages six and seven, how to block. For some reason they find great joy in this. I'm teaching them all aspects of the game, even looping, but they keep begging to block against my loop - and so that's how we end each session.

Few kids at that age have the reflexes or coordination to really block against a ball with varying spin that moves around the table. It's worse if you serve topspin and then start looping, as they have to adjust to two different shots. So what I do to start the rally is to toss the ball up and loop the very first shot at them, right out of the air. Then I keep looping softly, trying to keep it to one spot with the same depth, while they block. (I'm focusing on backhand blocks, but also having them do forehand blocks.) To them it's like a video game, trying to keep the ball on the table against my heavy topspin. They're getting pretty good at it, and I'm getting some exercise.

2014 USATT Election Notice and Process

Here's the notice. And once again I'm pretty disappointed.

On Nov. 25, 2013, I blogged about how unfair it was that the USATT Bylaws were changed so that candidates can no longer get on the ballot by petition. The only way to get on is to have the USATT-appointed Nominating and Governance Committee (NGC) put you on. If they chose not to, potential candidates have no recourse. It used to be you could get on by petition, but no more. I blogged about this more extensively on Jan. 24, 2014.

On May 12, 2014, I wrote, "As I blogged about Jan. 24, 2014, the ICC Director, Rajul Sheth, wanted to run for the USATT Board, but the USATT Nominating and Governance Committee refused to put him on the ballot, with no reason ever given. I still find this unbelievable, both that they wouldn't put him on the ballot and that they have the power to do so, with no recourse such as getting on by petition - and no one from USATT has shown any interest in changing these silly dictatorial rules. It's an easy fix, as I pointed out in the blog. Which USATT board member will become a hero and make the motion to change this rule?"

This time I got a response that very day, as a USATT Board member (who shall remain nameless for now) emailed me that I was "mistaken," that the problem is being addressed, that there was a task force revising the election rules, and that they would be changed before the next election cycle. Well, the next election cycle is upon us, and there have been no changes, based on the election notice. As I pointed out in an ongoing email discussion I'm having this morning, "Only a bylaw change can change the election rules, and that has to come from the USATT Board. If the USATT Board has not approved a bylaw change, then the election rules haven’t changed. So unless there was a bylaw change at a board meeting whose minutes are not yet up, AND the NGB in defiance or ignorance of this put up this notice without USATT Board approval, nothing has changed."

In one of my emails this morning it took me about 60 seconds to write the following motion that any USATT board member could make, and would lead to changing the bylaws:

"I move that starting with the election cycle starting in Fall, 2014, that the Nominating and Governance Committee create wording for the USATT bylaws that allow potential candidates for USATT office to get on the ballot by petition with the signatures of 150 USATT members, and that they be allowed to get these signatures at the North American Teams and/or USA Nationals."

Sixty seconds. That's all it took. (Okay, I type fast, and I did make a minor wording change afterwards.) If no one on the USATT board can do something this simple, how can they do anything that's more difficult - you know, like develop the sport? (ADDENDUM: There was a motion by the board at the 2014 U.S. Open meeting - Motion 1 - to "recommend" that the NGC change the rules, but since it only recommended rather than directed, didn't specify that it was needed for the election cycle, didn't ask to allow candidates to be included by petition, and because the motion wasn't made until June - seven months after the issue was raised in November - it likely won't happen this election cycle.) 

Regarding the election, once again I'm toying with running. But I'd probably be a hypocrite if I did so. Why? Because I simply don't have time any more to do the things I've argued the Board needs to do. (See one such listing in my Nov. 25, 2013 blog, which I already cited above.) Anyone who's been around USATT for a while knows I've been a very active USATT volunteer (and sometimes staff person) for many years. But I have consistently failed to convince others there of the need to change our ways if we want to really develop the sport in this country. Every time we have one of these discussions at USATT Board Meetings and Strategic Meetings, there are convincing people who "look good in a suit" who argue the opposite, and nothing changes.

But if I did run, what would happen? Since other Board members aren't taking initiative to do what's necessary - if they did, they'd be getting done - I'd have to do so myself. But one of the prime requisites for running for the Board (IMHO) is to have the time to do the job. There was a time I could have done so, but these days I'm inundated, trying to do group and private coaching, promote my club, writing about table tennis, and my outside science fiction writing career. I have no interest in running for the Board and becoming another "judge" who sits back and simply judges things brought before them, as opposed to what's really needed - active legislative types who work to grow the sport. As I wrote in my Jan. 24, 2014 blog, "I want candidates who will pro-actively try to develop our sport, i.e. think of themselves as executives and legislators, not just as judges who sit in judgment of whatever comes before them. We need ones who will bring things before the board and make things happen."

And this whole election fiasco is a classic example of board members not making things happen. And it's so simple - all someone has to do is make the motion to allow candidates to get on the board by petition, perhaps using the past 150 signatures from USATT members as a requirement, and allowing them to get the signatures at the Teams in November or the Nationals in December. (They can even consult with the NGC first.) But it won't happen unless someone on the board stops being a passive judge and takes legislative action.

New World Rankings

In the September world rankings, on the men's side, China's 17-year-old phenom Fan Zhendong has moved up to #2 in the world, after Xu Xin. China now has the #1-4 and #6 players, with Germany's Dimitrij Ovtcharov breaking up the monopoly at #5 (down one spot from #4 last time as Zhang Jike passed him again). Timo Boll, the #2 German, remains at #9, while their #3, Patrick Baum, moved up from #17 to #14. Germany also has Bastian Steger at #18. China also has players at #10, 13, and 25. On the women's side, the top twelve remained unchanged except for a flip of the #6 and #7 positions. China still has #1-3 and #5-7, with Singapore's Feng Tianwei breaking up the monopoly at #4. One big jump - Romania's Elizabeta Samara jumped from #22 to #13, and is the top-ranked non-Asian woman.

Para World Championships

They are taking place right now in Beijing, China, Sept. 6-15. Here's the USATT page and the ITTF page for the event. Representing USA are Tahl Leibovitz and Sherri Umscheid, with Angie Bengtsson the USA Coach.

Jim Butler Wins 2014 Southern Open

Here's the article, results, and picture.

Xu Xin and Ma Long Training

Here's a video (7:25) from a year ago showing Chinese stars Xu Xin (#1 in the world, lefty penholder) and Ma Long (currently #3, former #1, righty shakehander) training at the Werner Schlager Academy in Austria. You can learn a lot by watching both their form and the drills they do.

Table Tennis Unbelievable

Here's a highlights video (9:39) with some of the greatest shots and rallies of the past four years.

Clayton Kershaw and the LA Dodgers

Kershaw, the LA Dodgers pitching star, ran a table tennis charity event last Thursday. Here are pictures. The charity is Ping Pong 4 Purpose.

Two-Year-Old on Mini-Table

Here's the picture.

Elephant vs. Penguin

Here's the picture! Some nice artwork. (A search shows that I actually linked to this two years ago, but thought I'd show it again.)

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June 30, 2014

Last Blog Until Tuesday, July 8, and the U.S. Open

This morning I'm flying out to the U.S. Open in Grand Rapids, along with a large group of other Maryland players. So no more blogs until after I return next week. I'm mostly coaching, though I'm entered in two hardbat doubles events (Open and Over 50 Hardbat Doubles, but I normally play with sponge). When I'm free I'll probably be watching matches or hanging out at the Butterfly booth - stop by and say hello! Better still, buy one of my books (likely on sale at the Butterfly and Paddle Palace booths), and I'll sign it. Prove to me that you read my blog by saying the secret password: "I'm a pushy pushover for power pushing pushers." (Better write that down!) 

Here's the U.S. Open press release, which went out on June 18. Here's the U.S. Open Program Booklet. And here's the U.S. Open Home page. Here's the player listing of the 705 players entered (click on their name and you can see what events they are entered in), the event listing (which shows who is entered in each event), and the results (which won't show results for this Open until events start coming in on Tuesday, though can see results of past Opens and Nationals there).

Tip of the Week

Forehand or Backhand Serve & Attack.

Tactics Coaching

I had my final tactics coaching session with Kaelin and Billy on Friday. We revisited the tactics of playing choppers to go over how to play chopper/loopers, which are a bit different than playing more passive choppers. (For one thing, you can't just topspin soft over and over or they'll attack.) Then we went over playing long pips blockers, and I pulled out one of my long pips rackets, the one with no sponge, and demonstrated what good long pips players can do if you don't play them smart - not just blocking back loops with heavy backspin, but also how they can push-block aggressively against backspin, essentially doing a drive with a pushing motion.

Next we covered the tactics of pushing. The thing I stressed most is that it's not enough to be very good at a few aspects of pushing; you have to be pretty good at all aspects. This means being able to push pretty quick off the bounce, with pretty good speed, pretty good backspin, pretty low to the net, pretty deep, pretty well angled, and be pretty good at last second changes of direction. If you do all of these things pretty well, you'll give even advanced players major fits. If you do four or five these things well, and perhaps even very well, but are weak at one or two of them, a top player will make you pay for it. We also went over pushing short, and how you can also change directions with them at the last second.

Then we covered the tactics of playing different styles - loopers (both one-winged and two-winged loopers); the "flat" styles (blockers, counter-hitters, and hitters); and playing fishers & lobbers. When you play a fisher or lobber, mostly smash at the wide backhand and middle. The goal isn't to win the point outright, though that'll often happen with a good smash. The goal is to get a lob that lands shorter on the table, which you can smash for a wide-angle winner, either inside-out with sidespin to the wide backhand, or a clean winner to the forehand. You don't want to challenge the forehand of most lobbers as they usually have more range and spin on that side, and can counter-attack much better there.

I'd given them an assignment the day before to come with an example of one player that they had trouble playing against so we could go over the tactics that might work there. By an amazing coincidence, they independently chose the same player, a top lefty from their club. So we went over how to play that player. Poor guy doesn't know what's about to hit him!

And so ended our five hours of tactics coaching. But it's all written down in Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers!

Coach Chen Jian

The last few days before the U.S. Open we had some guests from China, who came to MDTTC to train before the U.S. Open. Heading the group was Coach Chen Jian. He's the former National Junior Coach for China, who coached Zhang Jike and Ma Long as juniors in international events. Now he's the head coach of the full-time Ni Rui club in Hang Zhou, China. Since I was busy coaching in our camp, I only barely noticed him the first few days. But on Friday, after the camp finished, I got to watch him do a session with one of our top players, Nathan Hsu. Nathan just turned 18, and is about to spend three months training in China, including at least a month under Coach Chen. The session was great to watch as he made some changes in Nathan's footwork and strokes. It was all in Chinese, but Ryan Dabbs gave a running translation for me, and Nathan told me about it afterwards.

MDTTC Camp

On Friday we finished Week Two of our ten weeks of summer camps. Because of the U.S. Open I'll be missing Week Three, but coaches Cheng Yinghua and Jack Huang are staying home to run that, along with Raghu Nadmichettu and others.

During a short lecture and demo on forehand looping against heavy backspin, I demoed the stroke, and as I often do, held a ball in my playing hand as I did this, releasing it at the end of the stroke to show how the power is going both forward and up. Except this time the ball went up and got stuck in an air conditioning fixture! The kids found that very funny, and we're out another ball.

I also verified something I've always known: given a choice, younger kids seem to like scorekeeping with a scoreboard more than actually playing matches. We did an informal tournament on Friday, and I brought out a scoreboard, which some of them had never seen before. At least two kids were near tears when told they had to play matches, and so couldn't scorekeep. ("But I want to keep score!!!") They battled over control of the scoreboard, and most matches ended up with two or three kids simultaneously and together flipping the score each time.

As I've noted in past blogs, I spend most of these camps working with the beginners and younger players. It wasn't like this for most of our 22 years, but three years ago coaches Cheng and Jack asked if I'd do that during our summer camps. But on Friday I finally did a session with some of the advanced players, and had a great time. We focused on multiball training where I fed backspin followed by topspin, and the player had to loop the first, and either loop or smash the second (depending on their style and level of development).

Table Tennis Lawsuit

Here's a strange one. I received an email this weekend from a lawyer representing a woman who was injured while playing table tennis on a cruise, and was suing the cruise ship! They asked if I could be their table tennis advisor. I don't think that knowing about table tennis is going to help deciding whether the ship was liable for the woman's injuries. She apparently received her injury when she went to retrieve the ball and "struck her face on an unmarked stairwell railing immediately adjacent to the table where she was playing." I told them I didn't have much experience in the safety aspects of table tennis pertaining to this and didn't have time anyway, and gave them contact info for USATT. (Sorry, USATT!)

Dimitrij Ovtcharov's Physical Training

Here's the page with links to numerous videos - his trainer is creative!

Kanak Jha and Mo Zhang win North American Titles

Here's the ITTF article.

Photos from the North America Cup

Here they are

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. Thirty-six down, 65 to go!

  • Day 64: The President’s Views on the Ban of Speed Glue, Part I
  • Day 65: Dr. Amen Questions: "Table tennis is the perfect brain exercise"
  • Day 66: Junior Commission Chair Dennis Davis

Zhang Jike Used Ma Long to Prove Something

Here's the article.

Thomas Weikert on Chinese Domination

Here's the interview with the incoming ITTF President. 

Table Tennis: Like a Fish and Water

Here's the article on junior star Michael Tran. 

Xu Xin Shows the Power of Lob

Here's the video (50 sec) as he lobs and counter-attacks against Ma Long.

Ariel Hsing - Photos from Princeton

Here are seven photos of our three-time National Women's Singles Champion in various poses, including some table tennis ones.

Justin Timberlake Plays Table Tennis!

Here's the picture

Miller Light Commercial

Here's video (31 sec) of a new Miller Light Commercial, with "water" table tennis four seconds in (but only for a second). 

Net-hugging Cat Playing Ping-Pong

It's been a while since I've posted a new video of a cat playing table tennis, so here's 27 seconds of a cat playing while hugging the net.

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June 10, 2014

Incentives

There's nothing better for a coach than a player who's so self-motivated that the coach's main job is to just keep up with him. You don't need to push a player like that; they are already pushing themselves. But this is rare, and even the most motivated players sometimes need some incentive. Of course success in tournaments and leagues is a primary incentive, but that's long-term. Often players need a more immediate incentive. Here are some I use when I coach.

A primary motivator for all ages is to see how many they can do in a row. At the beginning stages this means things like how many forehands or backhands they can hit in a row, or pushes, or loops against backspin in multiball. Keep it simple, and let them challenge themselves to more and more in a row until it's ingrained.

As they advance, move on to more advanced drills. For example, I've always been a firm believer that one of the key stages to rallying success in matches is to be able to do the following two drills so well you can essentially do them forever. One is the 2-1 drill, where the player does a three-shot sequence: A backhand from the backhand corner, a forehand from the backhand corner, a forehand from the forehand corner, and then repeat. This covers three of the most common moves in table tennis: covering the wide forehand, covering the wide backhand, and the step-around forehand. The other drill is a simple random drill, done either live or with multiball, where the coach or practice partner puts the ball anywhere on the table, and the player has to return each shot consistently, using forehands or backhands. The first is a mobility drill, the second a reaction drill. If you can do both consistently at a good pace, you are ready to rally in matches. The more advanced you are, the faster you do the drills. You can do them live or with multiball.

I often challenge students to see how many of these they can do in a row. In my May 21 blog I quoted myself saying to a student, "The rumors are true. I never miss. But your goal is to reach the point where eventually, you can look me in the eye during this drill and say it right back to me, and I won't be able to deny it." I'd told the student, 12-year-old Sameer, that when he could do 100 shots in a row in the 2-1 drill (looping both forehands and backhands), he could say this to me. So he made it a goal – and a few days ago, it happened. After many tries, he suddenly did 100 – and continued, all the way to 217 in a row!!! Technically, if he'd waited until after he'd missed, he couldn't really say he never missed, could he? Fortunately, I missed one somewhere around 150 or so (his shot went wider than usual!), and that's when he said, "The rumors are true. I never miss." Next on his list: 100 random shots in a row, also all looping.

I remember many years ago when I was learning to do fast, deep serves that I'd put a racket on both far corners of the table, and do my fast forehand pendulum serve from the backhand side and try to hit them. For months I would end each serving session by serving and hitting the targets ten times in a row, first ten crosscourt, then ten down the line, and the serving session wouldn't stop until I could do this. When this became too easy, I alternating serving fast and deep to the corners (crosscourt and then down the line), and I had to keep doing this until I hit the paddles ten times in a row. It wasn't enough to just practice the fast serve; it had to be so proficient that I could hit the target nearly every time, and aiming at targets and sticking with it until I got the ten in a row (even when alternating crosscourt and down the line) gave me incentive to do this. Later I would do the same thing with my spin serves, where I'd draw a chalk line a few inches from the far side of the table, and I'd have to do ten serves in a row where the second bounce would be between the line and the end-line.

Another incentive is to tell the student that when they achieve a certain goal, they should celebrate by getting themselves a gift, such as a nice table tennis shirt. Or it can be non-table tennis. I often award myself for reaching a goal or getting something done by seeing a movie. (I see a lot of movies, so I must be reaching a lot of goals and getting a lot done!)

For younger kids, I have other incentives. To work on their accuracy, I'll put a Gatorade bottle on the table and challenge them to hit it – except the bottle supposedly contains worm juice or some other disgusting liquid, which I have to drink if they hit it. I also give out "million dollar bills" to kids who reach certain goals. (I bought them from some novelty place.) For others I keep charts showing their progress, such as how many forehands they did in a row, and regularly update it. One kid had 14 categories we kept track of for nearly a year!

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. Previous ones are linked from the USATT News page, as well as in my past blogs. Nineteen down, 81 to go!

  • Day 82: Growing Pains in the ITTF
  • Day 83: 59 Editions of the World Table Tennis Championships

ITTF Pongcast

Here's the video (11:02) for the month of May.

Table Tennis Does Not Get Any Better

Here's video (35 sec) of a great rally between Xu Xin and Gao Ning in the quarterfinals of Men's Singles at the China Open. Xu went on to win, 11-6 in the seventh. Here's video (54 sec) of another great rally at the China Open, in the final between Ma Long and Xu Xin.

Lily Zhang and Krish Avvari

Here are videos of then training in China.

Porpoise Pong

Here's a dolphin playing table tennis. See, it's not so hard to play without arms!

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May 8, 2014

The Point's Not Over Until It's Over!

Last night, one of my students, 12-year-old Matt, told me about an interesting point he had in our Tuesday night league. The opponent was attacking, and Matt had been forced off the table fishing. The opponent's smash hit the net and dropped down in front of Matt, seemingly unreturnable. Matt scooped the ball up almost off the floor and made a sidespin return - but the opponent was off to the side of the table, thinking the point was over, and so couldn't react. So Matt won the point, and went on to win his division in the league that night. (After just 14 months of play, his league rating is now almost 1700.)

This type of thing happens all the time. Over the years I've played many dozens of points where my opponent thought the point was over, and so wasn't ready when I'd make a last-minute lunging return. (Alas, it's happened to me a few times as well.) Players often way under-estimate how fast a player can cover the wide corners. (This is one reason why choppers often do well - opponents keep going to the "open" corners instead of attacking the vulnerable middle.) And in our practice games after our session was over, I had at least one point where I blocked a "winner" to Matt's wide forehand and stood up straight, only to be caught when he somehow ran it down and fished it back, forcing me into an awkward block.

When I coach, it also happens all the time - primarily because of my tendency to volley balls that are off the end to keep the rally going, or even to play balls after they hit the floor. My students are often caught off guard by this, though they soon learn to be ready no matter what. As I often say, "Just because the point is over doesn't mean the point is over."

So it's extremely important to expect every ball to come back until the point is actually over. This means no standing up straight in the middle of a point - stay down in your ready position. Desperation returns happen all the time, and they are usually weak returns that are easily put away - but they are often missed by the unready.

I think the most famous (infamous?) case of a player not realizing the ball was still in play was in the final of the New Jersey Open (or was it the Eastern Open?), circa 1978, between Mike Bush and Rutledge Barry (about age 15, battling with Eric Boggan for the #1 rank among USA juniors), with the score (predictably!) deuce in the fifth. (Games were to 21 back then, so it had been a marathon match.) I was on the sidelines watching when the following happened. Bush was lobbing, and after the lefty Rutledge creamed one, Bush did a lunging, desperation lob, extremely high but way off the end - in fact, I think it was still rising when it crossed Rutledge's side of the table. Rutledge turned his back on the table and yelled in celebration - he thought he had match point. What he didn't see, but what we saw from the stands, was the ball change directions as it neared a fan in the ceiling. The fan blew the ball straight backwards, so the ball landed on Rutledge's side of the table, and bounced back to Mike's, hitting his side before going off the end. So whose point was it?

The rules say that the rally shall be a let "…because the conditions of play are disturbed in a way which could affect the outcome of the rally." But the fan had been there at the start of the rally, and so wasn't a "disturbance." And so the umpire (after consulting with the referee) ruled that the ball was still in play, and so Mike's lob, despite its essentially 90 degree turn in mid-air, was a point-winning "ace"! Rutledge was not happy, especially as Mike won the next point and the championship.

U.S. Open Deadline is Saturday

This year's U.S. Open is in Grand Rapids, Michigan, June 30 - July 4. The deadline to enter without a $75 late fee is Saturday. "Postmarked after May 10, 2014 will be accepted with a $75 late fee. Entries postmarked after May 17, 2014 WILL NOT BE ACCEPTED." Here's more info:

I'll be there, as usual, mostly coaching, though I'm also playing in a few hardbat events. (I normally use sponge.) When I'm not coaching or playing I'll probably be hanging out by the Butterfly booth, so come by and say hello, and perhaps buy a few of my books!!! (I can sign them.)

ITTF Legends Tour

The first event of the ITTF Legends Tour was held last night, with Jan-Ove Waldner defeating Jean-Michel Saive in the final, 3-2. Here's video of the entire night (about three hours), showing all five matches. Here are pictures from the event. Here's the home page for the event (strangely, no results are given other than the final), and here's the Facebook page. Here are the results.

Final: Jan-Ove Waldner (SWE) d. Jean-Michel Saive (BEL), 3-2; SF: Waldner d. Jorgen Persson (SWE), 3-1; Saive d. Jiang Jialiang (CHN), 3-0; QF: Saive d. Jean-Philippe Gatien (FRA), 3-0; Persson d. Mikael Appelgren (SWE), 3-0; Waldner & Jiang byes.

Here's one interesting picture, showing Saive receiving serve. Note how far he is around his backhand corner? This is sort of a dying art, the all-out forehand receive of serve. These days players mostly favor backhand receive against short serves. Players like Saive (and often me many years ago) focused on returning essentially all serves with their forehand, even short ones, which they'd flip with the forehand, even if the serve was short to the backhand.

"I Wanted to Remind the World That I'm Number One"

Here's the article about why Xu Xin pointed to his player number (where his player number was #1) after winning against Germany's Patrick Franziska, with the two playing in the #3 spot (and so only playing one match, while the top two players would play two each if the team match went five).

Forlorn Superstar

Here's a picture of the Chinese Team reacting during the Men's Team Final at the Worlds. Note Zhang Jike (reigning World and Olympic Men's Singles Champion) on the far left - he's just lost to Germany's Dimitrij Ovtcharov. Here's an interview with Zhang (2:10) after the team match (through an interpreter).

ITTF Facts from the World Championships

A total of 178,527 points were played. Just thought you should know.

Why Restricting China is Bad for the Sport

Here's the article by Matt Hetherington. This is in regard to changes made by the ITTF discussed in this article and this ITTF Press Release, which I linked to on Monday.

$16,000 Butterfly St. Louis Open

Here are two more follow-up articles by Barbara Wei on the St. Louis Open held this past weekend. Other articles were linked to in my May 5 blog (Monday).

A Tribute to Lily Zhang

Here's the video (3:44), created by Jim Butler.

Michael Mezyan's Latest TT Artwork

Here it is. This could inspire a table tennis fantasy story I may write, involving black magic to create the perfect paddle, etc.

Table Tennis on Veep

I blogged about this on April 28, but didn't have pictures or video. Here's the video (15 sec), care of Table Tennis Nation. And one correction to my blog on this, where I said I didn't see any of the three top table tennis players who were brought in. That's Toby Kutler on the far right, a 2200 player from my club, though of course his table tennis skills weren't actually needed in the scene. But he does have a good look of distress as the VP's aide yells at them for hitting the VP with the ball! (Here's my blog from Oct. 10, 2013, where I wrote about our experiences on the set of Veep.)

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April 29, 2014

Shoulder Rotation

One of the most common problems with beginners is they don't rotate their shoulders on the forehand. Several players have this problem in beginning/intermediate class I teach on Monday nights. Even when they learn to rotate the shoulders when hitting forehand to forehand or in multiball they tend to fall back on arm only (i.e. no shoulder rotation) when doing footwork.

The solution I've found is to emphasize the rod-through-the-head coaching technique. When you hit or loop a forehand, imagine a vertical rod going through the top of your head, and rotate around the rod. In reality, the head normally moves a little forward doing the stroke from the back-to-front leg weight transfer, but often very little is needed since most of power comes from torque, as the body rotates in a circle. So for beginners especially it's important for them to focus on this idea of rotating their shoulders around this rod through their head. This gives them the right feel of the shot, and something to focus on to fix the shoulder rotation problem - and when they do footwork drills, it tends to stick with them and they continue to rotate the shoulders properly.

If you watch most world-class players, you'll find that much of the secret to their ability to produce great power and recover almost instantly for the next shot is this idea of rotating in a circle, so they end up balanced and ready for the next shot. The head does move forward or sideways some (and often up), and does so even more when rushed after stepping around the backhand corner to play forehand, but in general most of the movement is circular, creating torque while staying balanced. (Two keys to balance: keep weight between your feet, and use your non-playing arm as a counter-balance to your playing arm.)

Here's Men's Single's World Champion Zhang Jike playing a chopper. Note the circular rotation? His primary head movement is up as he lifts the heavy backspin. Here's Zhang Jike looping in multiball, against both backspin and topspin. (In the latter you'll note that the more rushed he is when moving to the backhand the more his head moves forward or sideways.) Here's Ma Long (world #2, former #1) demonstrating (and explaining in Chinese) his forehand (and then backhand) drives. Here's Timo Boll (former world #1) demonstrating his forehand loop. Here's a lesson on forehand counter-hitting by ttEdge. Even when smashing a lob most of the motion is circular - here's a demo on smashing lobs by PingSkills. (The link should take you to 1:47, where they demo the shot.)

Knee Update

After hobbling about on Friday after hurting my knee on Thursday night while demonstrating forehand looping for a class, it got better over the weekend. So I probably only wrenched it. I can still feel a slight strain there, and will go easy for a time, but it's mostly okay.

History of U.S. Table Tennis at Amazon

Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis (now 14 volumes, from the sport's beginning in this country to 1986) are now on sale at Amazon. You can order direct from Tim Boggan (and he'll sign them) or from Amazon. (See links below each volume.) How can any serious player not buy these books??? (Disclaimer: I did the page layouts and much of the photo work for all but volume 1.)

World Championships

I was debating whether to do Worlds coverage here in my blog, but they are already doing an excellent job elsewhere, so I'll just link to the following two places, where you'll find results, articles, and lots of video. (I'll probably run this segment daily throughout the Worlds.)

Shot of the Day from the Worlds

Here's the video (36 sec, including slow motion replay), where Xu Xin (#1 in the world) pulls off this around-the-net counterloop against Tsuboi Gustavo of Brazil (world #69). (In my initial posting, I inadvertently said Gustavo pulled off the shot. Special thanks to Douglas Harley who caught this. Hey, they're both lefties!!!)

Stroke Mechanics

Here's a preview (2:35) of Brian Pace's new video.

Giving Advice During a Match

Here's the video (7:26) from PingSkills.

Reverse Pendulum Serve

Here's a nice video (1:12) that demonstrates the serve, using slow motion and a colored ball so you can see the spin.

St. Louis Open Hopes to Set Example with U.S. Citizens Only "Elite Event"

Here's the article.

Triples Ping-Pong

Here's the article. It's "…taken Australia by storm"!

The King of Table Tennis

Don't you love Xu Xin's shirt?

Ping-Pong the Animation

Here's the video (3:55) of this anime cartoon. It's in Chinese, with English subtitles.

Jan-Ove Waldner in TV

Here's a video (3 min) from five years ago where Waldner beats a TV host with various implements as a racket before finally losing with a banana! I believe it's in Swedish, but you can follow what's going on.

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February 6, 2014

Backhand Games and Random Drills

It seems that recently half my students are challenging me in backhand-to-backhand games. These are games where we put boxes on each side of the table to block off the forehand side of the table, and play a strictly backhand-to-backhand game. If a shot doesn't go to the backhand, or if a player hits a forehand, he loses the point. You'd think I'd dominate this type of game since I can hit a million backhands in a row, but not really. The players quickly learn to match my consistency, while throwing speed, quickness, placement, and variation at me. I've struggled to win games (and sometimes lost) to 12-year-olds with ratings about 700 points lower than mine, as well as to adult players.

What does this mean? It means that, when isolated, they are developing very good backhands. They are learning to do all of the things mentioned above - consistency, speed, quickness, placement, and variation. (Yes, even with only half a table you can move the ball around.) There are times where I'm just pounding the ball with my backhand, and can't get through their steadiness. There are other times where I'm just keeping the ball going, and struggling to find ways to win a point since they aren't missing either, and they are pressing me with all of the attributes mentioned here. (As I regularly remind them, if they find they are pressing because I'm not missing, remember it works both ways - keep coming at me with the same consistency, and I'm the one who'll be pressing because they aren't missing.)

As good as this is, it also exposes one of the "secrets" of table tennis: In a real game, you don't know where the ball is going. In a real game, we wouldn't be going backhand-to-backhand. If we're smart players, we'd both be looking for chance to move the ball around, attacking the middle and wide corners. Without the certainty that the ball's coming back to our backhand side the backhand isn't nearly as strong. It's the ability to react to these random balls all over the table that make up much of the difference in rallying skills between 1500 and 2200.

But the foundation is there. Now I'm doing lots of random drills with them (as they know!), and that will soon pay off just as all the stroking work is now paying off. The most basic one is they keep the ball to my backhand while I put the ball randomly to their forehand and backhand. When they are comfortable against that, I up the stakes and put the ball randomly anywhere on the table, including their middle and wide angles. We also do a lot of random multiball drills. (Did I mention that they are also developing terrorizing forehands?)

New Plastic Balls Approved by the ITTF

Here's the ITTF article.

USATT Reports

Here's a listing of USATT Committee reports, with links to each. I just browsed through most of them. Let me know if you find anything interesting.

Piing of Power - Michael Maze

Here's the video (1:35) that features the lefty Danish star. (I'm not sure why there are two i's.) While currently ranked #28 in the world after injuries to his knees in 2010 (losing nearly a year) and then undergoing hip surgery in December 2012, he was as high as #8 in 2010, and made the semifinals of Men's Singles at the World Championships in 2005, and the quarterfinals in 2009. He was the 2009 European Men's Singles Champion, and the 2004 European Top-12 Champion. He has strong serves and a strong forehand, but is mostly known as probably the best lobber in the world. Maze recently had an "amazing" training session with USA's top cadet and junior, Kanak Jha - here's the short article from USATT, and here's the feature article on Maze, his comeback, and his session with Kanak.

Xu Xin Received Advice from Wang Liqin

Here's the article, with links to several videos. Said Wang, "In the Chinese Team, your brilliant moments are not usually in the good times but in the most difficult times. As long as you can rebound from those difficult moments, then is already indicates that your potential is very big."

Ma Long vs. Yan An

Here's a nice match (3:03, with time between points taken out) between these two Chinese stars at the recent Chinese Trials. (Ma Long in the red shirt.) You can learn a lot by watching how they attack from both wings, but even more by watching their receive. Here's where you can find similar videos of many (or all?) of the matches at the Chinese Trials.

Cerebral Palsy Can't Smash Table Tennis Talent

Here's the feature article on Paralympic star Mike Brown.

Congress is Playing Professional Tournament-Level Ping-Pong With This Nation's Future

Here's the article - and if it's from The Onion, you know it's true!

Ping-Pong Masters

Here's a hilarious video (2:26) that features two (or more?) players in an intense table tennis battle! Lots of special effects, including player cloning.

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