Darren O'Day

November 19, 2013

Weekend Coaching

I had a long weekend of coaching. Here's a rundown.

FRIDAY: I had "only" three students that day. First up was Orioles pitcher Darren O'Day. I've blogged about coaching him; normally he comes in on Wednesday afternoons, but he asked for an extra session and came in on Friday afternoon as well. One irritating thing: In the 21 years since we opened the Maryland Table Tennis Center I'd only been late for a session twice. Yes, you read that right; I always come in early to make sure I'm not late. Well, on Friday I had my times with Darren mixed up and so ended up coming in 15 minutes late, making it the third time I've been late in those 21 years, or once every seven years. (I'm sort of like a cicada.) The other two I was late for were both in the last three years - I wasn't late for a single session the first 18 years! (The other two - once with a joint session with John Olsen & Kevin Walton when I also had my times mixed up, and once with Sameer when there was an accident that kept me in traffic for an hour for the ten-minute drive to the club. Coincidentally I coached all three of the people or pairs that I had been late for this weekend.)

After Darren came Tim (30 min, a new student) and Sameer (90 min). With Tim we're working hard on the foundation of his game, especially on the forehand side. With Sameer we're mostly getting him ready for the North American Teams in ten days. (Key factor - he's still adjusting to a lower, wider stance, and often forgets that and stands up too straight.)

Then I spent some time watching Nathan Hsu and Derek Nie practice and play points as prep to coaching them at the Nationals. (I'm also coaching Derek at the Teams.)

SATURDAY: I taught classes from 9:30-10:30AM, and from 10:30AM-Noon, both for groups of kids. The 9:30 session was the last of the season; that group starts up again in January. Highlight of the sessions: the kids love to set the robot at full speed and frequency, but usually just end up having the balls shoot off the end. As a special treat I set the robot up at full speed and frequency at the end of both sessions, and let them try to keep the ball in play. I showed them how to just hold the racket out and block the balls back, and even though they were relative beginners in the 7-11 age range, they picked up on it. I also demoed smashing those balls with my forehand, which stretched my own game to its limit - those balls are coming fast and quick!

From 1:30-3:30 I coached and fed multiball for John & Kevin. They too are getting ready for the Teams, so we've upped the amount of random drills.  Afterwards I normally am a practice partner for a 4:30-6:30 session, but because of my recent knee problems I skipped that session; I'll be back next Saturday.

SUNDAY: This is the one day per week I coach outside MDTTC, driving to the homes of two students (Anton and Sameer) for private sessions. (Yes, they pay extra.) Then from 2-4PM we had a table tennis birthday party for a local player (with 17 kids roughly age 10), where I ran the table tennis portion from 2-3PM, with 30 minutes of instruction, 30 minutes of organized games (hitting targets on table as I fed multiball, such as stacked paper cups and a large rubber frog), and 30 minutes of free play.

Then I taught another class, from 4:30-6:00PM, with 12 kids. Once again we ended the session by setting the robot at full speed and frequency.

Monday: This is my "rest" day, but in reality it's my catch-up-with-everything day, as well as doing the Tip of the Week before I do the blog. So it's probably the busiest day of the week even though I don't do any coaching normally. I spent the entire day going through my todo list (mostly table tennis items), and got to most of them. (There were some serious time-consuming problems involving my recent novel, Sorcerers in Space. I had proofed the interiors, but they hadn't sent me the back cover to proof. I'd assumed they would just cut & paste the text I'd written for the back cover, but it turned out the designer had retyped the last paragraph - and inserted four typos!!! So we have to do a new version of that. This was only one of about a dozen problems involving the novel that I've been dealing with.)

I also managed to do laundry, get a haircut, change the oil and windshield wipers on my car, proof a letter of invitation to top Chinese players for a top-secret table tennis event coming up next year (more on that when it's time to go public!), and updated the junior table tennis program accounting. And while taking a break, I put together this "Top Twelve Ways the Orioles Can Improve" list which is now featured at Orioles Hangout!

TODAY I'm coaching Darren O'Day again, since he can't come in for his usual Wednesday time. He's my only coaching today - Wed through Sun are my busy days. I'm also working on the USATT Hall of Fame program booklet, and a bunch of other minor things on my todo list. One important item on today's list if I get to it - readers have found a few typos in my Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers book, so I hope to find time to make those corrections and upload a new version, both print and Kindle versions. I also have a new computer which I plan to put up soon - I got it in trade with John Olsen, and while not brand new, it's eons younger than the relatively ancient one (in computer years) I'm working on right now. I've already backed up everything on my current one.

Contact the Ball Sooner When Looping Backspin

Here's the article: One Myth About Attacking Backspin That You Probably Believe

ITTF Monthly Pongcast

Here's the video (12:03) which covers ITTF events and news for the month of October.

NBA Stars VS NFL Stars in Ping Pong

Here's the video (1:31) as part of the TopSpin Charity. And here's a synopsis of the event:

"The National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) was proud to help support the efforts of TopSpin Charity's recent event in New York City. This year's event featured celebrity, corporate and individual table tennis tournaments. Numerous NBA players were in attendance including New York Knick Kenyon Martin and Brooklyn Nets Deron Williams. New York Giants Jason Pierre Paul and Shaun Rogers also made an appearance. TopSpin, a national philanthropic group dedicated to empowering America's youth through education, is donating all proceeds to nonprofit organizations as part of their efforts to better the educational opportunities for underserved youth."

Ping-Pong Paddle Reading in Bed

Here it is!

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November 14, 2013

Darren O'Day and Other Coaching

Yesterday I had my second coaching session (90 min) with Orioles pitcher Darren O'Day. He's really picking things up fast! As noted in my Nov. 4 blog on coaching him, he tends to hold his racket tip up on strokes, which he copied from Orioles shortstop JJ Hardy, the best Orioles player. However, in today's session, we really straightened that out, and he had great fun as we went forehand to forehand pretty fast. (The two keys there were dropping the racket tip, and thinking of yourself as just a spectator so the subconscious can take control on the strokes.) We also worked on his backhand, pushing, serves, and footwork. But I also introduced him to looping against backspin via multiball. He had sort of a soft roll he used against backspin. It wasn't bad as he was at least spinning the ball, but there was little power - it was just a roll. We worked on this for a while, but he tended to stay too close to the ball (and a few other problems), and so swung mostly with his arm. I finally began feeding the ball farther away, forcing him to stretch out more - and lo and behold, suddenly he was looping with great power, both spin and speed! We did this for a while, and he can't wait to start using this in games - though I warned him it'll take some practice to incorporate into match situations consistently. He's taking another session this Friday afternoon, and then we'll settle into weekly sessions on Wednesday afternoons.

In another session that night I did some saturation training with Doug. He's had some trouble with players serving to his forehand, so I spent about 15 minutes serving to his forehand. At first I went easy, even letting him know the spin that was coming, but as we went along I stopped telling him and I started going to my best serves. Each step of the way he improved until he was looping all the deep ones somewhat consistently, even when I varied from disguised heavy backspin to side-topspins. When I went for the heavy side-topspin serves he tended to lift off the end. I pointed out that he was using the same racket angle he would against a topspin in a rally, but that in a rally he'd probably take the ball 1-3 feet further back - meaning he'd have 1-3 feet more table to aim for. Since you usually loop a serve closer to the table, and so are 1-3 feet closer to the far side of the table, you have to bring the ball down sooner, and so you have to close your racket more. (This might become a Tip of the Week.)

Another player I coached was Matt, a 12-year-old who's gearing up to play in the North American Teams in two weeks. With a tournament approaching it's time to focus on game play, so we did a lot of game-simulation drills. A lot of them involved him serving backspin, me pushing it back, and him looping. At the start I'd push to the same spot over and over, but later on I'd push them to varied spots. I also served a bunch of balls to him so he could work on receive as well as handling my first loop.

2014 USA Men's and Women's Team Trials

Here's a news item from USA Table Tennis on the 2014 Team Trials.

Jackson Chance Foundation Exhibition

Here's a news video (2:05) from Fox News in Chicago promoting a table tennis exhibition by Killerspin they will be doing tonight for the Jackson Chance Foundation. At the start you can hear the sound of ping-pong in the background, and after a bit the camera then pans over to see the players. "The Jackson Chance Foundation is an Illinois non-for-profit, tax exempt 501(c) (3) organization dedicated to providing resources to families with babies in neonatal intensive care units (NICU)."

Chopper vs. Attacker at Westchester Open

Here's video (10:43) of game five in the semifinals of the Westchester October Open between Jishan Liang (2661) and chopper/looper Kewei Li (2686). Another nice example of attack vs. defense, though of course Li also attacks.

Multiball Around-the-Net Rolling Receives

Here's a video (43 sec) of 1988 Olympic Gold Medalist in Doubles Seiko Iseki (then known as Wei Qingguang, the lefty, with Chen Longcan his doubles partner) feeding angled serves to (if I read the comments correctly) Wei Gucci, who returns them around the net so they roll on the table. We have to try this new drill at my club!

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November 6, 2013

Do Something Different

These days it seems like everyone's trying to be like everyone else. That's a pretty successful way of getting good, if you copy the top players. But many are missing the benefits of doing something different. Give your opponent a different look, at least on some shots, and guess what? He might begin to struggle. This doesn't mean changing your whole game to some unorthodox mess; it means developing certain "pet shots" that are different than the norm. They give you more variation on certain shots than if you only have "orthodox" shots. Some, of course, naturally do something different, by having a non-inverted surface, a different grip (Seemiller grip, or even penhold grip for some), an unorthodox stroke (not usually good unless it's just as a variation), or even something as simple as being left-handed. But for most players, you'll want to do something "different" while sticking to your normal righty shakehands inverted on both sides game. And there are lots of ways. Below are ten examples - and I do all of these on occasion, though less now than when I was an active tournament player and honed these variations by actually using them regularly. Pick out one or two, and give them a try! (An expanded version of this might become a Tip of the Week.)

  1. Serve from forehand side. Nearly everyone serves from the backhand corner these days, with a few tomahawk serves from the forehand. Throw in a few forehand pendulum or backhand serves from the forehand side. The surprise factor will often make up for your starting a bit out of position. (I do this all the time.)
  2. Serve short sidespin to the forehand. So many players serve over and Over and OVER to the middle and backhand it's almost silly, and when they do serve short to the forehand, it's a simple backspin ball. Instead, learn to do this with sidespin that pulls the ball toward your forehand, making it awkward for the opponent to return the ball down the line. You can do this with a backhand serve, a reverse pendulum serve, or a forehand tomahawk serve.
  3. Slow, spinny loop. Most people these days loop either hard or harder. Try letting the ball drop a bit more, and go for a slow, super-spinny one. If it goes deep, it'll drive blockers crazy. If it lands short, it'll drive counter-loopers crazy.
  4. Dead loop. Fake spin, and instead give a dead loop. You sell this by using an exaggerated follow-through right after contact, making it seem spinny.
  5. Dead push. Push without spin, but with an exaggerated follow through to fake spin.
  6. Sidespin push. Come across the ball as you push. This is especially easy on the backhand, with a right-to-left motion (for righties), with the ball breaking to the right. It's especially effective wide to the right, breaking into a righty's opponent's backhand.
  7. Ginzo push. Most players push to keep the ball in play. Thrown in a few super-ginzo (i.e. extremely heavy) pushes, and watch opponents struggle. It's easier if you take the ball a little later for this.  
  8. Dead block. Block it dead, chop block, sidespin block - these will frustrate many opponents and set you up for a conventional attack. They are especially effective and easy on the backhand side.
  9. Countering change-of-pace. Rather than bang every ball in a fast counter-hitting rally, sometimes hit one soft. Either keep it low and short to the net, or deep on the table.
  10. Flatter flip. Most players flip short balls with topspin. (It's called a flick in Europe.) Try a flatter one. Hit it a bit softer since you don't have topspin to pull it down, but not too soft. (Recently I've seen a number of top players at my club experimenting with this variation, with help from our coaches.)

ITTF Trick Shot Competition

Here's the ITTF press release on the competition, won by Josep Antón Velázquez. It's a somewhat controversial choice. The winner was to be decided by four criteria: Youtube views, Youtube likes, Facebook votes, and Expert Opinion. USA's Adam Hugh led in the first three criteria, but the "Expert Opinion" chose Velázquez. Here's Adam's announcement of the result on Facebook and ensuing discussion.

India's Level 2 Coaching Course

Here's an article from the ITTF on the first ITTF Level 2 Coaching Course in India, run by USA's Richard McAfee.

Darren O'Day at MDTTC

Here's the picture of Baltimore Orioles pitcher Darren O'Day at MDTTC recently - it's now USATT's Image of the Day. Note the video below it showing O'Day's unique submarine pitching style. Photo by Chris Zhang.

Samson Dubina's Website

Here it is - it has several coaching articles.

Backhand Footwork

Here's a good example of a backhand footwork drill (15 sec), demonstrated with multiball by Daniel Sabatino, current #15 in Italy, former #7.

Table Tennis - the Hardest Sport

Here's a new highlights video (8:36) that features both matches and training.

Great Point with Boll on Floor

Here's video (32 sec) of a great doubles point that includes Timo Boll falling to the floor, then getting up in time to continue the point. He's playing doubles with China's Ma Lin.

Fantasy Table Tennis Receipt with Harry Potter, Gandalf, Captain Kirk, and Oompa Loompa!

Here's Michael Mezyan's recent shopping receipt. It's legit, right? You decide. But I sure hope that Captain Kirk glue is legal! 

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November 4, 2013

Tip of the Week

Tournament Toughness. (Also covered is the question that's been raised a lot over the years: Should a player play a rating event if he's eligible but who has improved beyond the rating event cutoff?

Coaching Darren O'Day

On Friday last week I had a 90-minute coaching session with Baltimore Orioles pitcher Darren O'Day at the Maryland Table Tennis Center. He's a 6'4" submarining reliever who had a 2.18 ERA in 68 games last year (the best record of any Oriole pitcher), a 2.28 ERA the year before in 69 games, and a lifetime record of 20-9 with a 2.62 ERA. These are great stats! (That is why he makes $3.2 million/year.)

Readers of this blog know that on May 13 I coached Orioles shortstop JJ Hardy and former centerfielder and current Vice President of Baseball Operations Brady Anderson, and that on August 21 I took four of our players to the Orioles clubhouse (they have a table) where we did a demo and played them for three hours. Here's a video (1:19) made of the visit at Orioles.com, and here's another video (5:28) played on Orioles Extra TV. Here's a group picture.

While at their clubhouse, several players asked for my business card for future lessons. (Even Chris Davis asked for one.) And so, out of the blue, I got an email from Darren last week asking for lessons. The session was from 1:00-2:30 PM on Friday. Local schools were closed that day for some teacher meeting, and so we were running a mini-camp - and so a number of our junior players were around to watch.

Darren, JJ, Brady, and over half the Orioles have been playing table tennis in their clubhouse almost non-stop the last few years, and it shows. As I blogged before, over half of them play at the 1200 level or better, led by JJ (pushing 1900 level) and Brady (pushing 1800 level). Steve Pearce is probably the next best (1500?), with Darren probably next at around 1400, just ahead of a number of others. JJ and Brady have pretty good technique, with one major exception - JJ tends to hit his shots with the racket tip pointed up a bit, which is good for blocking - and JJ blocks aggressively at a pretty high level. But it's not so good for hitting and looping.

Darren had copied this tip-up technique from JJ, so the first thing we worked on was keeping the racket tip down a bit. He also had a tendency to roll his racket over at contact (i.e. close it), by raising his elbow. So we also worked on that. On the backhand he tended to reach for the ball rather than move - in contrast to his forehand, where he was more mobile. So we did some side-to-side backhand drills where he had to step with his left to move left, step with the right to move right. We also worked on a slightly wider stance so he'd be lower to the table, with more stability when moving and stroking.

He had learned to put some spin on his forehand serve, probably by watching JJ, who has pretty good serves. But he was using the same grip to serve as he played, and so wasn't getting much wrist into the serve. So I showed him how to change the grip to maximize the spin on his forehand pendulum serve.

So the focus of the first session was forehands (including a lot of smashing drills), backhands, footwork, and serves. Like most professional athletes, he was great at focusing on one topic to perfect it, and picked things up quickly. He, JJ, and Brady all that the same "Get it right!" attitude, and were willing to do any technique over and over until it was perfect. He was surprised at how physical table tennis was.

He's signed up for regular lessons now, once a week. (I can't disclose the times publicly, but I might do so for some locals who want autographs or photos.) He also said that Tommy Hunter is interested in lessons, so we might work him into my schedule next. (When he paid for the lesson, he even left a nice tip!) 

After the session he hit for about half an hour with Crystal Wang (11, the top girl of her age in the country), and Raghu Nadmichettu (one of our other coaches and a former USA Men's Singles Quarterfinalist at the Nationals) - they went easy on him. He posed for pictures at the end. Here's a picture, L-R: Nathan Hsu, Derek Nie, Darren O'Day, Crystal Wang, and me (Larry Hodges). Photo by Chris Zhang.

I have a new nickname. I'm "The Oriole Ping-Pong Whisperer."

ITTF Trick Shot Competition - Who/Hugh Should Win?

They are down to five finalists. USA's Adam Hugh's in the lead, but he's in a close two-way race. (Ironically he's actually in third place as well with his second video, but all that counts is first, so he'd rather you focus on that one - the one where he's bouncing the ball on the end of his racket and then making a long-distance serve into a bowl - this one.

It's been a while since USA has won a "world title," so let's bring this one home! Voting ends at 6:59PM USA eastern time (EST), which is 11:59 GMT. Here is a message from Adam on what you need to do:

Hi everyone, 

Thanks to all of your support, I have made it into the final round of the ITTF trick shot contest! This stage is a Facebook vote and takes only a few seconds to do. If you enjoyed my videos and want to help me win,  please vote before the poll closes on Monday. All you have to do is:

1) Click on this link: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=721598834536789
2) Click "like" for the photo

And that's it :) If you want to help more, you can always "share" it too so your FB friends can help but that's completely up to you. Anyway, I truly do appreciate everybody's support through this entire process and, regardless of the outcome, I just want to say thank you. I wouldn't have even made it this far. 


In fairness to the others, here's the home page for the ITTF Trick Shot Competition. Late last night the ITTF put out on their Facebook page the following note:

Due to a really close view count between 5th & 6th position, we have shortlisted 6 instead of 5! They are: Adam Hugh 1 (377k), Josep Anton: (330k), Adam Hugh 2 (322k), Matt Hetherington (275k), Bruchle (256k), Daniel Ives (254k). Have you voted for them in the Poll yet? Stay tuned, we will be announcing the winner tomorrow, 5th Nov!

Ping-Pong Fitness

Here's the article from Table Tennis Master.

You Call It Ping Pong We Call It Table Tennis!

Here's a new highlights video (9:22) set to music with lots of slow-motion play.

Mary Had a Little Lamb - Ping-Pong Style

Here's the video (15 sec) - by Rich Heo, and I'm jealous because I used to do this, but never got it on video!!!

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November 1, 2013

Another Oriole Takes Lessons

Okay, cat's out of the bag (or Oriole is out of the nest?), since most of the local table tennis juniors now know. The Baltimore Oriole baseball player I blogged about yesterday that I'm coaching is Darren O'Day, the 6'4" submarining $3.2 million/year relief pitcher with a lifetime 20-9 record and 2.62 ERA. Last year in 68 games he had a 2.18 ERA, the best of the O's relief pitchers. I hit with him some in August. I'm coaching him later today; afterwards he's hitting with our local kids, who are out of school today (some teachers meeting) and so doing a one-day training session (10AM-6PM).

I did find it interesting how fast these Oriole players pick up the sport. As noted yesterday, of the 25 Orioles, about half are at least 1200, the result of non-stop competitive play in their clubhouse. Surprisingly, most have decent technique - they copied much of it from JJ Hardy and Brady Anderson, who play 1800+ level. The lefty Brady actually has the best technique, running around attacking with his forehand, and not a bad backhand either. JJ has a nice counter-hitting game, but tends to point his racket up when he strokes - but it gives him an excellent blocking game, and he can smash as well, along with a surprisingly spinny forehand pendulum serve, made even more effective because he does it from his forehand side, which almost nobody does in "real" table tennis - except me, who does it in close matches as a variation. (Why don't you?)

Scream Halloween

In a class I taught yesterday just before the kids left to go trick-or-treating I did a nasty trick. I hid my Scream mask in the restroom before the class began. About ten minutes before class ended I asked my assistant coach, John Hsu, to talk to the kids about how to create spin on serves, and arranged that he'd be facing the restrooms as he did so, so the kids would have their backs that way. Then I went to the restroom, put on the mask, and quietly sneaked up on them. Then, staying silent, I leaped in front of them. There was quite a bit of screaming! Then I went after Coach John, "choking him to death" right in front of the kids. (John knew - it was pre-arranged.) Then I chased several of the kids around the table, still silent. Finally I put a Gatorade bottle on the table and motioned for them to go to the far side. We spent the last five minutes with me feeding multiball in the mask while they tried to hit the bottle of "worm juice." When they did, I had to jam the bottle up under the mask to drink it, always looking back and forth sharply between the bottle and the kid who hit it. Then I'd go right up to the kid and stare at him from one inch away. At the end, I went back to the restroom, removed the mask, and returned and said, "Did I miss anything?"

Table Tennis the Brain Sport

Here's an essay by Daniel G. Amen, MD, on the greatness of table tennis as a brain sport.

Four-Table Tennis

Cape Fear Table Tennis Club in Fayetteville, NC, is running the first four-table tennis tournament in the U.S. What's "four table"? It's table tennis played with four tables! Here's video (7:06). And here's their home page with info on the tournament.

Around the Net Shot

Here's video (38 sec) of Puerto Rican cadet star Adriana Diaz doing an around-the-net roll-on-the-table shot at the 2013 World Cadet Challenge.

16 Table Tennis World Records

Here they are!

Table Tennis Animation Project

Here is Sneak Peak of a Demo/Test raw footage (1:44) of a table tennis animation work in progress by Mike Mezyan. Can't wait to see the final version!

Queen Latifah vs. Granny Franny

Here's the story and video (51 sec).

Superhero Bee Pong

Look! Up at the Table! It's a Bird! It's a Plane! No - it's . . . a large bumblebee playing table tennis? I think that's what it is, not sure. Someone correct me if I'm wrong.

Non-Table Tennis - "The Best Things About Halloween"

Last year I had a story, "The Haunts of Albert Einstein," published in the anthology Specter Spectacular: 13 Ghostly Tales. ("Poor Albert Einstein is destined to haunt his old offices in Princeton for eternity, surrounded by the ghosts of bickering physicists who simply will not shut up, and the relentless paparazzi. What can he do to save himself from this fate?") The editors asked the authors to recount their favorite memories of past Halloweens. They just put up three of them, including mine - here they are! Mine's about getting caught up in a Halloween prank, and hiding late at night behind a bush in a Tyrannosaurus Rex costume as a drunk, angry man stood on the other side trying to find me.

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April 1, 2013

Tip of the Week

The Many Ways to Receive a Short Backspin Serve.

12-Year-Old Derek Nie Defeats Three 2600+ Players to Win Coconut Cup

All you have to do is train the players really well, and they will get really good.
Perhaps that's a little simplistic, but it's what a top coach once told me, and he was
right. This past weekend 12-year-old Derek Nie, all of 70 pounds, won Open Singles
in the MDTTC Coconut Cup tournament. In the quarterfinals he upset Mang Bang
Liang, a chopper/looper rated 2600 - Derek's best win ever. "Before the match, I
found a whole chapter in Larry Hodges' book "Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers"
on playing choppers," Derek said. "I read it over in the back room. Everything worked!"
Only it was just the beginning of his banner tournament. In the semifinals he defeated
Lee Zhang Wook, a 2650 pips-out penholder visiting from China. "There's a section
about playing them in the Tactics book," Derek said, "and before the match I read it. I
played to the wide forehand, then came back to the backhand, like the book said, and it
really worked!" In the final, Derek played 2700+ Sammy Callaghan. "He's a bratty kid from
Ireland. But the Tactics book has an entire section on playing bratty kids!" Derek was able to
loop Sammy's serves, which had created havoc against other players. Most players had
found the serves almost unreturnable, but Derek had few problems. "There's a whole chapter
on returning serves in the Tactics book," Derek said, "and I read it over before going
out to play him." Derek won the match in a seven-game battle, ending the match by
loop-killing Sammy's serve at 11-10 in the last game. Congrats to Champion Derek!

World Team Cup

China sweeps Men's and Women's Teams, though it wasn't always so easy this time. Here are articles from Table Tennista on China winning Men's Teams and Women's Teams. Here's an article from them on the huge upset of Germany by Egypt in the quarterfinals - and here's a video (1:47) of the end of the match when Egypt wins. (There are several more articles on the tournament at Table Tennista.) Here's the ITTF home page for the event, with results, articles, pictures, and video.

Spring Break Camp

Spring Break Camp ended on Friday. In the morning we had "Player's Choice," where players chose what they wanted to work on during multiball sessions. Usually we do regular multiball drills, but most of the players in my group wanted to work on serves, so we did that.

Right after lunch, when I was about to take 16 of them to 7-11, a group of about 16 kids and parents came in unexpectedly and asked if someone could run a clinic for them. So I got Coach Raghu to take the kids to 7-11, and I ran a 45-minute clinic where covered grip, stance, forehand, backhand, and basic serves. They stayed and played another hour. Hopefully some will return.

In the afternoon most of the players had a practice tournament. I worked with the beginners, doing a lot of one-on-one play (instead of multiball). And then we were done!

Over 60 players attended the camp, though not all at once. One session had 47 players, most were in the 35-40 range. We used 18 tables, with both one-on-one drills, multiball, and robot play.

Ball Bouncing

We often have ball-bouncing contests in our junior classes on weekends. This Sunday Matvey Stepanov (11) had done about 100 at the start of class. He was supposed to be on ball pickup, but I told him he could keep bouncing until he missed, and then go on ball pickup. Mistake!!! We had to work around him on ball pickup as he went on and On and ON!!! He shattered the previous record of 1360 (I believe set by Kai MaClong, also 11) with 2216 bounces before missing.

Jim Butler on Receiving Serve

Here's a great quote from Jim Butler (Olympian and 4-time U.S. Men's Singles Champion) on how he approaches serve return, from the about.com forum.

When I'm receiving serves in a tournament, I usually have a mental plan each serve.  I will look at the server, look at his racket angle and service motion, and anticipate what serve I feel he's about to do.  The serve I'm anticipating is the one I'm looking to attack, or receive with aggression.  If the server does a different serve I'm not expecting, I have a plan to react to the serve, and play it safe on the table.... not too much speed.  If a server does a serve you are not expecting, it's usually best to play that receive conservative.  

For example:  If I'm receiving I may decide to step around with my forehand and attack any long serve or half long serve that comes to my bh corner..  As I go around on the receive to attack with my forehand, I'm looking to pounce on any serve to my backhand that's long or half long.  If any other serve comes though, I will cancel on a hard attack, and react accordingly with a safe receive.  I'm in position to only aggressively attack a long or half long serve to my bh.  Any other serve that comes, I will not  be in a good position to do much but receive it back safely, and hopefully with good placement.  

Tribute to Ding Ning

Here's a video tribute (4:17) to China's Ding Ning, world #1 since November, 2011.

Oriole Pingpong

"I've stayed here until 4 o'clock playing pingpong before." -Orioles pitcher Darren O'Day, in this article in the Baltimore Sun yesterday.

Happy Easter!

Here are two Easter Bunnies playing table tennis.

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