Pings and Pongs

February 15, 2013


[NOTE - See comments below by physicist Dave Bernstein. Since some of my physics wasn't quite right - though my conclusions were correct - I've deleted much of this blog, including the references to F=MA, which don't really apply here.] I'm not a physicist, although I do have a bachelor's in math from way back (Univ. of Maryland, 1986). But the physics of creating a powerful shot in table tennis, especially a loop, are seemingly right out of basic physics. (Any physicists reading this, feel free to elaborate, correct, or explain any of this. I know this more from a coaching point of view.)

When players loop, they often try to muscle the ball, resulting in using only a few muscles instead of timing them all together. To get mass behind your shot, you have to put your body weight into the shot. You can't do this with the upper body alone. It comes by rotating the body into the shot, almost with a rocking motion, starting with the legs and moving upward as each part of your body uncoils into the shot. You need the legs to get the hips to rotate, and you need the hips to get the rest of the body to rotate into the shot. Many players do not get this lower body rotation - especially the hip rotation - and so most of their body weight does not rotate into the shot. 

To get maximum velocity, you have to smoothly accelerate your body's mass into the shot. Watch the best players, and you'll see how they effortlessly generate power. They do this because they accelerate their body into the shot. This goes together with getting the mass behind the shot - it's the smooth acceleration of the body's mass into the shot, starting with the legs and then the hips, that gives such effortless power. 

It's not quite this simple. With sponge rubber, even without acceleration the ball sinks into the sponge and is catapulted out. This is true even with a plain wood bat, which also bends and then catapults a ball out. Around here is where I would love to have a physicist chime in.

If you want natural power in table tennis (especially when looping), focus on smoothly accelerating your body weight into the ball, focusing on the hip rotation, to maximize velocity at contact. Watch top players as they loop and see how they do this. When done properly you get great power with ease, and so, as I like to demonstrate for students and in clinics, you should be able to loop at seemingly full power while carrying on a conversation.

The above should also apply to smashing. However, since the contact with the ball is quicker on a smash - as opposed to a loop, where the ball sinks into the sponge at an angle and stays in contact much longer - I think the power transfer is much quicker, and so you can get great power without using the full body weight, though that helps. I know I can smash extremely fast with minimal body rotation and a powerful arm snap (from the forearm), but this doesn't work for looping.

Pings and Pongs

I've written so much recently about Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers (Buy it! Now!) that it's been a while since I've mentioned that "Pings and Pongs: The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of Larry Hodges" is also sold on Amazon. These are the 30 best short stories I've sold (out of 65), compiled in one volume. One of the stories is a table tennis fantasy, and table tennis shows up in passing in other stories. $15.95 or $9.99 for Kindle. (Buy it! Now!)

Here's a short description of "Ping-Pong Ambition," the table tennis story: "A table tennis player gets stuck in a ping-pong ball for 10,000 years, where he studies to be a genie - only to discover a surprising truth. Originally published in Sporty Spec: Games of the Fantastic Anthology, 2007."

What, you didn't know that outside table tennis I write science fiction & fantasy? Here's my SF&F page. C'mon people, sales of the Tactics book is way outpacing sales of Pings and Pongs, leading to some hard feelings between the two. Here's your chance to get in a little F&SF between your TT reading!

Update - Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis, Vol. 13

We did three more chapters yesterday, bringing totals to 26 chapters and 409 pages. I've now cleaned up, placed, and captioned 826 graphics. The book is now projected to be 29 chapters and 456 pages, with 918 graphics. Chapter 26 ended with narratives of Americans in Europe, including Eric & Scott Boggan, Mike Bush, Brian Masters, Charles Butler, and Kasia Dawidowicz, as well as tributes to first ITTF president Ivor Montagu, who had just died. (This is 1985.) We should finish all 29 chapters tomorrow. Then, over the weekend while I'm off coaching all day, Tim will proof all the pages. On Monday we input the corrections. It's going to be a looong Monday.

I've also updated his web page and created the ad and flyer for the book. However, neither will go public until the book is complete. It should go to the printer on Monday or Tuesday, and copies should be available a couple weeks later.

Update - Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers

Now it's on sale at Barnes and Noble, as well as Amazon. Complicating factor - both are selling it for $11.45 instead of the retail price of $17.95. I don't think table tennis dealers can match that price. I'll look into this next week.

USA Team Trials

Here's the ITTF article on the USA Team Trials held last weekend, focusing on the top finishers, Timothy Wang and Lily Zhang.

Women in Table Tennis

Here's a gallery of table tennis women.

Corrugated Table Tennis

This'll have some weird bounces!

What's on Your Mind?

One is on love, the other on ping-pong. And guess what is in the heart of this person?

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June 27, 2012

MDTTC Camp - Week Two, Day Two

Yesterday was Day Two of the second week of our summer camps. The focus was on the backhand. After the break I gave a talk on return of serve, and then the players practiced serve and receive.

There was a lot of interest in the fast serves I demonstrated. This has always been a strength of mine, but for some reason my fast serves yesterday seemed amped up a bit, and were going out like guided missiles. During break I told the story of the time I opened a match against 1986 U.S. National Champion Hank Teekaveerakit with three aces down the line, one of my proudest moments. He was a penhold forehand looper who tried to loop all deep serves with his forehand. My fast down-the-line serve always looks like it's going crosscourt, and so he got caught going the wrong way three times in a row. After the third, he looked at me, and said (and this was how he always pronounced my name), "Lally, Lally, nobody serves down the line three times in a row!" The rest of the game he received with his backhand, and he came back to win the game. In game two, he went back to trying to loop all my serves, and we had a great time playing sort of cat and mouse as I threw fast serves both down the line and crosscourt, and he tried (and mostly succeeded) in forehand looping them all. He won, and said it was a great practice session. 

Three Days until the U.S. Open in Grand Rapids

Are you shadow practicing your strokes?

PingSkills Videos

Here are three more PingSkills coaching videos:

Jim Butler on Scorekeepers

Here's an article by three-time U.S. Men's National Champion and two-time Olympian Jim Butler on scorekeepers.

Jeffrey Wins JOOLA Open in Newport News

Fellow MDTTC coach Jeffrey Zeng Xun won the JOOLA Open in Newport News this past weekend. Here's the article!

Topspin, the Documentary

Here's the latest on this video project, including a video (3:33).

Pings and Pongs

I'm putting all my books in ebook and POD (print on demand) formats so I can sell them directly on line. For "practice," I started with "Pings and Pongs," an anthology of my 30 best science fiction & fantasy stories, all previously sold stories to various markets. (It includes "Ping-Pong Ambition," a fantasy table tennis story, and a few other stories have table tennis references.) Since it has few pictures, it was relatively easy to do as a test. Here's the page - make sure to buy a few dozen copies! Later on all my other books will be sold in these formats: Table Tennis: Steps to Success; Table Tennis Tales & Techniques; Instructor's Guide to Table Tennis; Professional Table Tennis Coaches Handbook; and the upcoming Table Tennis Tactics: A Thinker's Guide. (I'm creating the pages myself in both formats, but it's a slow process since we're also in the middle of the summer camps season at MDTTC.)

Exhibition Picture from 1990s

Here's a picture from an exhibition at the USA Nationals, I believe in the late 1990s, between Chen Xinhua (standing on table) and Cheng Yinghua (sitting on table), with USATT President Sheri Pittman also joining in. As Jim Butler points out above, with no scorekeeper we have no idea what's going on here . . . right?


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July 29, 2011

Sometimes play into an opponent's strength

Something that needs re-emphasis - if something your opponent does give you trouble (other than serves), play into it until you are comfortable with it. Then, just when the opponent has gotten comfortable doing this thing, avoid it like the plague. He'll still probably get to use it, but now you'll be comfortable against it, and he'll have to adjust his whole game in mid-match to find ways to use it. How many times have you come off a table with a loss still feeling uncomfortable against whatever it was your opponent was doing and feeling like you have no answer for it? That should never happen in any match that is remotely competitive.

A classic example is playing someone with short pips on the backhand. If you have trouble with the short pips, play into it until you are comfortable.

Why you choke

Here's an interesting and informative video by former English Table Tennis Champion Matthew Syed on Why Players Choke (5:03). If you are interested in sports psychology, I recommend Dora Kurimay's Table Tennis Sports Psychology page, as well as other articles on sports psychology and my own article on Confidence - then Consistency. I also recommend three books: With Winning in Mind by Lanny Bassham, The Inner Game of Tennis by W. Timothy Gallwey, and Winning Ugly by Brad Gilbert. (They use other sports as examples, but all apply to table tennis as well.)

Sponge hardness

Here's an informative article - or rather, series of short tidbits - on sponge hardness, by top coaches and players Stellan Bengtsson, Samson Dubina, Massimo Constantini, Tahl Leibovitz, Sara Fu, and Scott Lurty.

Paul Drinkhall versus the World (or rather China)

Here's an interesting article on England's #1 Paul Drinkhall hoping to break the Chinese domination of table tennis. My first thought is, "Good luck with that!" My second thought is, "Good luck with that," but without the italics on "that." After all, I'm sure people thought the same thing of the Swedes, Hungarians, and Koreans when they attempted to overtake the Chinese, and at various times they all did so.

Back rehab update

As I've blogged previously, I've been having upper back problems which have affected my coaching and playing. I saw an orthopedist sports medicine doctor last Wednesday, nine days ago. He referred me to the Center for Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation (which he was affiliated with) for rehab. I called them over and over last Thursday, but no answer, the phone just rang and rang. I tried again on Friday, still no answer, and again on Saturday. I tried again on Monday morning, still no answer. So I called the doctor's office that morning, and they apologized, and said they'd set things up for me and get back to me that day. Nobody called back. On Tuesday I called one more time, no answer. So yesterday I did a web search for "upper back rehabilitation exercises" and found some excellent websites - in particular this and this. I'm now doing my own routine, about 10-15 minutes a day.

Pings and Pongs

What - you mean you haven't yet bought a copy of Pings and Pongs, an anthology of my thirty best published short science fiction & fantasy stories??? Well, what are you waiting for!!! It's only $14.95! It even includes a fantasy table tennis story ("Ping-Pong Ambition")! (Outside table tennis, I'm a science fiction and fantasy writer.) And while you're at it, get a copy of my books Table Tennis Tales & Techniques and Table Tennis: Steps to Success!


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