June 12, 2013

Fingerprinting and Afterschool Programs

Yesterday I was fingerprinted. Oh no!!! As I blogged about yesterday, it was for an afterschool table tennis program we'll be running at MDTTC this fall. Also fingerprinted were coaches Cheng Yinghua, Jack Huang, and John Hsu.

I went in expecting to have my fingertips inked. But that's a thing of the past. Instead, they had me put my fingertips on the surface of a scanner, one by one, with the fingerprint image appearing simultaneously on a large screen. It took about 90 seconds in all.

Afterschool programs are a great way to bring in new junior players, as well as a way to make use of a facility in the late afternoon, before the (hopefully) big player rush after 7PM or so. This would be especially important to full-time centers, but part-time clubs already have the tables (and storage area for them), and playing space, so perhaps they too can take advantage of this. (And we get paid! The kids pay a nominal fee for the program.)

How do you do it? Contact the local county school's recreation department. You'll need a coach or organizer. You can handle a lot of players with two coaches - one to coach a few at a time, one to watch over the rest as they play. Ideally, you'd have them doing drills for at least half the session, with the players rotated a few minutes at a time to work one-on one with one of the coaches, probably with multiball. Realistically, if you have a large number of kids and only two coaches, it'll be mostly free play except when they rotate in to work with the coach. The coach can actually work with two at a time, with one kid on the forehand side, the other on the backhand side, with the coach feeding side to side. Or he can work with even more, with the kids lining up and taking turns, perhaps four shots each, then back to the end of the line. (I prefer two at a time if there's a large turnout.)

I blogged a bit more about this on June 4, including the importance of starting with one session a week to concentrate the players in that session so as to get a good turnout. Once you have a good turnout, then you can expand to two days, and so on.

Crystal Wang Impressive at Hopes Week, Wins Tournament

USA's Crystal Wang is featured and pictured in the ITTF story about Hopes Week, where she won the afternoon tournament. Here's an excerpt:

The afternoon session featured the now traditional training tournament with the players starting from the score 8-8 and playing best of five games . . . among the girls Crystal Wang from Maryland in the United States proved most of the coaches who watched her play during the opening day right. Certainly she impressed Mikael Andersson.

"She not only won the training tournament, she basically cruised her way through the first real test in Schwechat," he said. "Great style, wonderful timing and technique was too much for the other young Hopes girls to handle this afternoon." Earlier this year, in April, Crystal Wang won the Hopes Girls’ Singles event at the ITTF-North America Cup in Westchester.

Video Interview with Zhang Jike and Timeouts

Yesterday I blogged about timeouts. As posted by Doug Harley in the comments section, here's a video interview (3:08) of Zhang Jike after winning his semifinal match in Men's Singles at the Worlds, 4-0 over Xu Xin. (He'd go on to win the final.) One minute in he's asked why he called a timeout leading 10-9 in the third. The translator spoke broken English, but corrected into somewhat proper English, he said, "This is a key set for me so if I can win 3-0 it'll be easier for me to play the next set, and secondly, I did not do well the last point when I was leading 10-8 so I called a timeout to reset myself."

How Useful is Shadow Play?

Here's a short article from Table Tennis Master: How Useful is Shadow Play?

The Speed of Table Tennis

Here's a video (3:04) featuring USA's Erica Wu that breaks down the speed of table tennis. (I think I remember seeing and posting perhaps an earlier version of this, but this one was only posted on Monday.)  

China Open

Here's the home page for the China Open, June 12-16, 2013, in Changchun, China. USA players Ariel Hsing, Lily Zhang, and Wu Yue are all entered in it. Hsing and Zhang are in Women's Singles, Doubles (teamed together), and Under 21 Women. Wu Yue is in Women's Singles and Doubles (with Shao Jien from Portugal).

2013 USATT Para National Team Training Camp

Here's Richard Xue's photo album - the first ten albums are all from the camp, which is going on right now in San Diego.

Lady Antebellum Ping Pong & Songs Finale

I blogged about this yesterday; here's a video (1:33). The two players on the right at the start are Homer and son Adam Brown; that's Michael Wetzel umpiring.

Four Year Old on TT Robot

Here's a video (2:34) of four and a half year old Jordan Fowler (grandson of Brian) smacking balls on his KingPong Robot.

California Governor Jerry Brown Brings Ping Pong to State Government

Table Tennis Nation brings you the story, with lots of links on this and related items.

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June 11, 2013


I've found it interesting how different coaches and players use timeouts. Far too many use it as a desperation measure, usually late in a match when a player has fallen way behind, and where it's unlikely to make a difference. Almost always it's done when a player is behind.

I'd argue that it should be used most often when a player is losing focus at a key time, where the timeout has the best chance of helping to win a game, whether it's in the first game, last game, or any in between. I think most would agree with this. Putting that aside, when should one call a timeout?

Let's suppose your player is serving up 9-7 in the fifth. I was once criticized for calling a timeout in that situation, with the argument that it lets the opponent talk to his coach and focus, and so maximize his chances of coming back. But I find that reasoning backwards. With my player is leading 9-7 in the fifth, if both players are focused and play smart, then my player is probably going to win. The most likely way my player loses is if he loses his focus and/or doesn't play smart - so by calling a timeout, I maximize the chances that my player will be focused and play smart, and therefore likely win. In other words, if you are leading, you are in control, and so worry less about the opponent and more about making sure you are prepared.

In other words, if you are behind by a score such as 7-9, and if you are focused and know what to do, the last thing you want is to give the opponent time to focus and think tactically. It's very easy for a player to lose focus when he is leading and about to win, and a timeout allows him to recover. (However, if you are behind 7-9 because you are losing focus or not sure what to do tactically, then you should call the timeout.)

Ironically, I sometimes hesitate to call a time-out near the end of a match when my player is leading because I know there's a good chance the other side will call one, so I get to save our timeout for later if needed.

Another mistake I think some make is waiting too long. It's better to call a timeout early in a match where it might lead to winning a game than to wait until later where it might not. At the Easterns I was coaching 11-year-old Sameer in his first major tournament. In one of his first matches he was serving and leading 10-8 in the first game, and lost the next point. On his own he called a timeout - he wanted to make absolutely sure he won that game, and wanted to ask what serve I thought he should use. (I said short backspin to the forehand, and the opponent put it in the net! Sameer won the match 3-1; if he'd lost that first game, it might have been 2-2. A very smart timeout that few would have done because it was still "too early" in the match.)

Here's the chart from my book Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers on when to call timeouts. Number two is the one that's way underused when players are leading in a close game - see the second part of that one.

When to Call a Time-out

  1. When losing focus before a key point. This is the most important time to call a time-out. A time-out is a good way to get your concentration back.
  2. To think about or discuss tactics at a key point. Generally do this when you are about to serve, since you have complete control over choosing your two serves. If you have a coach, he might be able to help choose two serves to use. Call it when you are receiving mostly if you have a good idea what the opponent will serve, and are debating how you should return that serve. Or call it to think or discuss any other tactical plans. It’s also valuable to call a time-out when you are winning a relatively close game (especially late in a match), such as at 10-8 or 9-7, so as to clear your mind, think tactically, and close out that game. This is often when the Chinese team calls time-outs.
  3. When falling behind in a key game. It’s useful to call a time-out if you lose the first game and are falling behind in the second (since you absolutely do not want to fall behind 0-2), or if you have already lost two games and will lose the match if you lose another. The key is not to wait until you are way behind; instead, call the time-out when you are still relatively close and can still find a way to come back. The time-out allows you to make sure you are focused and to rethink your tactics. It’s also a good way to give your opponent a chance to cool off if he’s playing well—there’s nothing wrong with calling a time-out in hopes of disturbing his concentration or throwing off his rhythm.
  4. Desperation tactic. Far too many players call time-outs as a desperation tactic near the end of a match when they are way behind and are pretty much out of it, but this rarely leads to a win. If you are losing badly, why wait until you are way down in the last game? It’s far better to call the time-out earlier in the hope of not being in this situation, where the time-out will rarely help.


We're starting up an afterschool table tennis program this fall with Montgomery County Schools. As noted in my blog last week, one of their requirements is anyone working with students gets a background check - and that means we have to get fingerprinted! So this morning I'm leaving about 8:30 AM to meet at a county office to be fingerprinted, along with fellow coaches Cheng Yinghua, Jack Huang, and John Hsu. I'm hoping to get pictures. If they look into my background they'll find I kill dozens of times every day. More on this tomorrow, though it might be simply a repeat of this note, saying "We've been fingerprinted."

Game Strategy

Here's an article from Table Tennis Master: Game Strategy

Non-Celluloid Balls

Here's a thread at the table tennis forum where Jay Turberville reviews one of the new plastic balls (i.e. not celluloid).

The Fight to Save Table Tennis

Here's an article in yesterday's Wall Street Journal that features Marty Reisman and hardbat & sandpaper table tennis. There were quite a few errors in the article, however - here's a thread at the table tennis forum where Jay Turberville lists nine mistakes, and Scott Gordon adds a few others.

Lady Antebellum’s Ping Pong Tournament Serves Up the Fun

Here's an article and pictures of the charity tournament. Here are more pictures.

Dog Spectator

Here's 49 seconds of a very jumpy dog spectator at table tennis.

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