Want to Improve? Compete with a Junior!
Here's a little tip for those who want to improve. Every club has some up-and-coming junior who practices regularly and keeps getting better. Well, why not grab his coattails (even if you are currently better), and try to stay with him? It gives incentive and can lead to great improvement. Make a friendly rivalry out of it, perhaps practice with and play the kid regularly. As he improves, he'll push you to improve.
It may be counter-intuitive, but even if you are better, and practicing with the kid seems to help him more than you (and thereby make it "harder" to stay with him), it works both ways. His improvement will push you to higher levels, either to stay ahead or to stay with him. He probably plays faster than you; his speed will push you to rally and react at a faster pace. As he gets better, he'll push you to find new ways to win points, and suddenly you'll be thinking more about the aspects where you should have an advantage due to experience: serve, receive, heavy spins (topspin and backspin), placement, or just plain consistency. You'll have incentive to develop these aspects in ways you might not do against other players who are not improving so much. The more he adjusts to you and improves, the more you'll adjust to him and improve. And you can ride his improvement as long as you can, right up to a pretty high level. And if he does finally pull away, with you metaphorically kicking and screaming all the way as you try to stay with him, you'll both have improved dramatically, and will be able to point at this star in the future and say, "I was his practice partner." He may even remember you someday during his USATT Hall of Fame induction speech!
We had the second meeting of the new class yesterday. (Ten Mondays, 6:30-8:00 PM.) There are eleven in the class, ranging in age from their twenties to their sixties. We started with a forehand review and warm-up. I had most hit among themselves. Two players were complete beginners, so I put them with my assistant coach, John Hsu, who did mostly multiball with them.
Then I called everyone together and John and I did a backhand demo, and I lectured on the intricacies of the shot - foot stance, racket tip (sideways or 45 degrees), contact (flat or topspin), etc. Then they paired off for practice again (with the new players with John again). Later I called everyone together again to demo and explain down-the-line shots (on forehand, line up shoulders properly and take the ball later), and then they practiced down the line. Then I called them together again and did a review of serving with spin, which I taught last week. Then we went over service deception. (One key concept I explained is that even if you can't come close to doing it now, it's important to know what's possible so you can work toward it.) I went over the three main types of service deception - sheer spin, semi-circular motion, and spin/no-spin combos.
After serve practice we played a little game the last 5-7 minutes where we stacked ten paper cups in a pyramid, and everyone had ten shots (fed multiball) to see how many they could knock over. (We used two tables, so John and I both fed shots.)
Two players had missed last week session so I stayed 30 minutes afterwards to recap for them what had been covered the previous week - grip, ready stance, forehand, and serving with spin.
USATT Minutes and Reports
Lots of breaking news from USATT. Below are the minutes from the USATT's two-day board meeting at the USA Nationals and from their January teleconference, the news item on the new tournament sanctioning procedures (no more tournament protection, i.e. pure free market), and the 2014 budget. My last two blogs were mostly about an interview with the ITTF president and about the chair of the USATT board's report, so today I'm going to go back to blogging about the emphasis for this blog - coaching - and save my thoughts on the below for later.
Top Ten Shots at the 2014 Qatar Open
Here's the video (4:40).
Here it is! Anyone know who Kosto and Zik are?
Exhibition Tricks from Scott Preiss
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Not Going Against or With the Spin
When counterlooping, you'll notice how top players tend to counterloop with lots of sidespin. They rarely counterloop with straight topspin. To do so would mean contacting the ball directly on top of the ball, and going directly against the incoming topspin. The ball would then jump off the paddle, and it would be tricky keeping it on the table. Instead, they mostly contact the ball on the far side, which avoids taking on the incoming topspin directly while putting a sidespin that curves to the left (for a righty). Some do the opposite, and contact the ball on the near side, and the ball curves to the right, again avoiding taking on the incoming topspin directly. (This is a bit more difficult.)
Of course once they are into a counterlooping duel, the incoming counterloop usually has sidespin, and if you counterloop it back with sidespin (assuming both are contacting the ball on the far side), you are taking on the incoming sidespin directly. But that's not much of a problem because by doing so it becomes trickier controlling the sideways movement of the ball, just as taking on the topspin directly makes controlling the up-down movement of the ball more difficult. But you have a much wider margin for error with sideways movement; few players miss because they go too wide, while many miss by going off the end.
You actually get a bit more topspin when going directly against the incoming topspin, where the ball rebounds back with topspin, if you can control it. The same is true against an incoming loop with sidespin and topspin - if you go directly against the incoming spin and loop back with your own sidespin and topspin, you get a bit more spin overall. (And that is one reason why in counterlooping rallies both players continue to sidespin loop.) However, the difference here is minimal as players are often throwing themselves into each shot, thereby getting tremendous spins regardless of the incoming spin.
When the backhand banana flip, you face the opposite. (Side note - I call it a backhand banana flip for clarity, even though there is no corresponding forehand banana flip.) Against a heavy backspin ball, it's difficult to lift the ball with heavy topspin and keep it on the table. The table is in the way, and so you can't really backswing down as you would when doing a normal loop against a deeper backspin. The banana flip solves this problem by having the player spin the ball with both sidespin and topspin. Contact is more sideways, which makes lifting much easier as you are no longer going directly against the backspin. Intuitively this doesn't seem to make sense to a lot of people until they try it out, and discover how much easier it is to flip the ball, often with good pace as well as good spin (both topspin and sidespin).
Some players face the same thing when looping against deeper backspins - they have trouble lifting the ball. This is mostly a technique problem. However, some top players do sidespin loop against heavy backspin, which makes it easier to lift. Jan-Ove Waldner was notorious for this, often sidespin looping over and over against choppers until they gave him one to loop kill. But the difference here is that you have room to backswing, and so you can actually use the backspin to create your own topspin.
Sometimes you want to go against the spin. For example, when pushing it's easier to load up the backspin against an incoming heavy backspin as you can use that backspin to catapult the reverse spin back, giving you an extra heavy backspin. You get a lot more backspin when pushing against incoming backspin than you do against an incoming no-spin ball. And with a banana flip, against a topspin serve it's easy to go against the spin by contacting the ball nearly on top, using the incoming topspin to rebound off your racket to give you an extra heavy topspin.
Teaching How to Tell Time
Yesterday I made the mistake of teaching a 7-year-old how to tell time. He was used to digital, and had no idea what the various hands on the clock meant. So I taught him. He not only was fascinated by this, but the rest of the session he became a clock-watcher. He didn't completely get the idea, and kept running over to the clock and trying to figure out the time (usually getting it wrong). I tried to convince him that time slows down if you keep watching the clock, but to no avail. This was the second time I've made this mistake - I taught another kid the same age how to tell time sometime last year, with the same result. Never again!!!
New Coaching Articles by Samson Dubina
There are a number of new coaching articles up on the news section of his web page.
Juicing for Athletes
Here's a video (5:28) about table tennis coach and cyclist Brian Pace's new book, Juicing for Athletes.
ITTF Monthly Pongcast - January 2014
Here's the video (12:33).
ITTF Approves First Poly Ball
They also now mark all approved balls as either celluloid or plastic. Here's the listing: see item #49 (you'll have to go to page 2). The approved Xushaofa ball is the same one I tested and blogged about on Dec. 26. (See second segment.)
Ma Long Endorses New Plastic Ball
Prince Plays Table Tennis on New Girl
Here's the video (45 sec) of Prince on the TV show New Girl, which includes a segment where he plays table tennis.
Here's an ad (32 sec) for Sony TV that features Justin Timberlake (on right) and Peyton Manning playing table tennis.
A (Ping-Pong) Table for Two?
Non-Table Tennis: My Thoughts and Ranking of the Academy Award Nominated Movies
I've now seen all nine movies nominated for Best Picture for the Academy Awards. Here's my personal ranking and short analysis of each. Note that all nine were good, so finishing last here merely makes the picture one of the best of the year. I'm pretty sure my #1 will win best picture.
- 12 Years a Slave: Will and should win Best Picture. Brought something new to the screen: slavery as seen by someone who, like us, learns about it as he experiences it. Pretty brutal movie.
- Gravity: Also brought something new to the screen: the experience of being in space. One of the few movies you really should see in 3-D. It reminded me of Jurassic Park. Both are examples of "special effects movies" that also have good stories and good acting. Along with "American Hustle," has a chance to challenge "12 Years a Slave" for best picture.
- Captain Phillips: Great performance by Tom Hanks, great drama. Rather than demonize the bad guys, shows it from their point of view as well so you see why they did what they did.
- Philomena: Surprisingly good. I went in thinking this would be a somewhat boring movie, but it got better and better as it went along. When I see old pictures of people I almost immediately wonder what happened to them, and so this movie was almost an extension of that as the main character tries to find out what happened to her long-lost son. It got even more interesting when we find out what happened to him, and she tries to learn more about him.
- Nebraska: Interesting movie, but pretty grim, despite the intermittent humor. I kept hoping I don't end up like that when I'm old. I kept wondering how in heck could they end this movie effectively, and they found a way. (Though I found it a bit convenient that the bullying character just happened to walk out of the bar at just the right time.)
- The Wolf of Wall Street: Fun movie. We all know about the extravagances of Wall Street, so it didn't really add to that. A little long for the story.
- Dallas Buyers Club: This was a tough one to rank. Ultimately it came out toward the bottom because I could never like the main character. He started out as a ridiculous redneck character because he was surrounded by ridiculous redneck characters. Then he changes because he's now around new types of people, and begins to take on their traits. So he's basically just becoming whoever is around him. Not much of a thinker.
- Her: A bit long and slow at times. Nice concept.
- American Hustle: Entertaining, but didn't have the substance of some of the others. Surprisingly, this is the main challenger to "12 Years a Slave" for best picture, and it has a chance.
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I'm going to take today and tomorrow off - after all, today's Christmas Eve! More importantly, I'm still on west coast time (from the Nationals in Vegas), and when I tried to get up early this morning to do the blog, I was rewarded with a morning headache. So I'll return on a daily Mon-Fri basis on Thursday, Dec. 26 (day one of our Christmas Camp), where I'll blog about the hidden serve problems we had at the Nationals, including a mind-boggling argument over the definition of "satisfied," since the serving rules state, "It is the responsibility of the player to serve so that the umpire or the assistant umpire can be satisfied that s/he complies with the requirements of the law." (When two referees tried to redefine what it meant, I Princess Brideian told them, "I don't think that word means what you think it means." I finally wrote out the definition for them from the online Merriam-Webster dictionary.) To tide you over until then, here's Samson Dubina's new website, which has a number of coaching articles, so why not go explore that? (Samson, a full-time coach in Ohio, won Over 30 at the USA Nationals and is a former Men's Singles Finalist at the Nationals.) Now I'm going to take a few Bayer Aspirins and go back to bed.
Developing Training Centers
The best thing that's happened to table tennis in recent years is the rise of full-time training centers. I predicted this for years, but most thought there simply weren't enough table tennis players to support more than a few of these. In December 2006, when there were no more than ten full-time TT centers in the U.S. (including my club, the Maryland Table Tennis Center), I even gave a presentation to the USATT Board, urging them to get involved by using their resources to recruit and training coaches to set up these full-time centers and junior programs. I wanted them to set a goal of 100 full-time training centers in five years. The response was a room full of eyes staring back at me as if I were crazy, with two board members bluntly telling me that there simply aren't enough players in this country to support more than a few full-time centers. Others nodded in agreement.
In the seven years since, we've gone from ten to 64 full-time professional table tennis clubs in the U.S., with more popping up every month. (There's a new one opening up in Houston that'll soon join the list, and another here in Maryland that's opening soon, and others I probably don't know about.) The ones who thought there weren't enough players to support full-time centers simply did not have the vision, experience, or knowledge to understand why this is happening - that when you open these centers, you develop the players needed to support them. They were stuck in the old-fashioned thinking that you opened a club if there are already enough players to support it, which is backwards. Professional clubs develop their own player base.
The result has been mind-boggling to those who have been paying attention. The number and depth of junior players who are now training regularly is so far beyond where it was just seven years ago as to be incomparable. The players who lose in the semifinals of major junior events would have dominated the events back then, especially up to the cadet level (under 15). There used to be one or two kids who'd dominate their age group for a decade; now there are a dozen of them in each age group, all battling for supremacy and at levels that approach or match the best in the world outside China. It bodes well for the future of U.S. table tennis.
The huge weakness in the growth of these centers is there is no manual on putting together a full-time table tennis center. Every time someone wants to do it they have to reinvent the wheel, or go to current centers to learn how to do it. What's needed is such a manual to grease the wheels, not just to make it easier, but to encourage those considering setting up one to do so.
I already did half the job, with my Professional Table Tennis Coaches Handbook, which covers the professional side of coaching - recruiting and retaining students, setting up and running a junior program, etc. But more is needed on the specifics of opening an actual center, from the finances to the specifics of what's needed to open one. It's a rather long todo list.
So here's my offer to USATT: If they bring in someone or put together a committee to create such a manual (and I'm not volunteering, don't have time, though I might help out), they can incorporate my Handbook, and create a manual, which can tentatively be called "Professional Table Tennis Center Handbook." (Can you think of a better title?) We can then put it on sale at Amazon.com (created via createspace.com, which is how I now create my books), where it can be published "print on demand" at a cheap rate. And that will greatly encourage coaches and promoters to create even more of full-time table tennis centers.
The nice thing about this is that USATT doesn't really have to do much work. They just recruit the person or persons to create the manual, either from volunteers, with a small payment, or (my recommendation), whoever creates it gets the profits from sales, as well as the fame and prestige of being a published author.
My first physical therapy session for my arm was scheduled on Tuesday. Someone also scheduled a snowstorm on that day. So the session was cancelled. Since I'm leaving for the Nationals this Sunday, I won't be able to get another session scheduled until afterwards. So I'll probably just rest it, and if all goes well, I'll be fine by January.
The Hobbit and Friday's Blog
I may see the midnight showing of "The Hobbit" tonight. If so, I won't get home until around 3AM, and probably not to bed until 4AM - which means tomorrow's blog will probably go up late, probably noonish or so. Brace yourselves!
Table Tennis Funding and the Lottery
For so many years people have wondered how to fund table tennis, when it was so obvious. The Meg-Millions lottery is now up to $400 million, with the drawing tomorrow, which is Friday the 13th. So I'm going to buy a few tickets, and use the winnings to fund table tennis. It's so obvious, why hasn't anyone thought of this before? What can possibly go wrong?
Nervousness and "Winning Ugly"
There's a great piece of advice for dealing with nervousness in the book "Winning Ugly" by Brad Gilbert and Steve Jamison. (I'm referring to the 1994 edition, which I have; there are newer editions.) Chapter 5 is titled, "Four "Nervebusters": Overcoming Pre-Match Nervousness." While he is talking about tennis specifically, all four relate to table tennis as well. The four items are:
In my blog yesterday I wrote, "Unlike past years, there doesn't seem to be time set aside for those who wish to address the assembly." Some seemed to think I was accusing USATT of breaking Article 15.1 of the Bylaws, which includes the statement, "Individual and organization members and other constituencies may be permitted to pose questions to the Board and Chief Executive Officer for response." Technically speaking, this is fulfilled by the 30 minutes set aside in the Assembly this year from 8:15-8:45PM for "Interaction with the Board and Staff." There's just one problem - I never accused USATT of breaking their bylaws. I said exactly what I meant, so I'll repeat it again: "Unlike past years, there doesn't seem to be time set aside for those who wish to address the assembly." I didn't say they didn't get to pose questions to the Board and CEO for response; I said they no longer seem to have time set aside to address the assembly, as had been done in past years.
Aerobic Table Tennis Official Launch
Here's the ITTF article. "After two years of detailed preparation, Aerobic Table Tennis will be launched in January 2014. Aerobic TT is an alternative way to keep ﬁt. Music is played throughout the session to create a high energy zone. The session includes, warm up and stretching, table tennis movement to music, speed agility and quickness exercises plus of course table tennis."
Fan Zhendong Tribute
Here's video (6:16) of a tribute to the 16-year-old Chinese player, who's already winning ITTF Pro Tour events.
2036 U.S. Olympic Table Tennis Team
Here's video (1:23) of Fiona (3) and Kenzie (1) demonstrating the beginnings of the forehands that will totally dominate the world in 23 years, care of Coach Samson Dubina.
Non-Table Tennis - "Satan's Soul"
On Tuesday I sold my humorous fantasy story "Satan's Soul" to Stupefying Stories. A depressed Satan knows he's going to lose at Armageddon - until a superbeing appears and offers to have him win, in return for his soul! Satan negotiates seemingly favorable terms regarding his soul, and even gets to keep possession of it though he loses ownership. Jesus and the anti-Christ will soon go at it in a UN parking lot, with the Anti-Christ throwing modern military hardware at Jesus in a somewhat over-the-top scene, while Jesus fights back while listening on an iPod to Beatles music. Oh, and a penguin is central to the story! Sorry, no table tennis in this one.
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What to Focus on in Training
At the MyTableTennis.net forum someone asked about how one should practice if they have limited time. Below is an expanded version of my answer.
Every case is different, but the short, simple answer I usually give is this: Practice everything you might do in a game, but focus on your strengths and weaknesses. Make the strengths overpowering and get rid of the weaknesses.
If you have limited time, then focus intensely on one aspect until it's greatly improved (Saturation Training), then focus on the other until it is greatly improved. You'll improve faster this way then if you do just a little of each in limited time. If you practice everything for just a few minutes each, you'll keep those shots tuned up, but won't really improve them very much. Instead, spend lots of time on something until you can do it in your sleep, and then you can focus on something else.
You should probably start by improving the weakness if you only have time for one. But with limited time, it's going to be a long process. Once the weakness is up to par, focus on making the strengths overpowering. You can't dominate if you don't have something to dominate with.
Some would argue that it's better to focus on your strengths, since those are the shots you will be using mostly in a match. But it works two ways - if you have a weakness, the opponent is going to go after that weakness.
Regarding making the strengths overpowering, this includes both developing overpowering shots and setting them up. If you have a great forehand loop, then you also need ways to get it into play. So develop the serves, receives, and other shots that set up these overpowering strengths, or (if the serve and/or receive are the overpowering strengths) the shots to follow them up. At the same time develop these serves, receives, and other shots to cover up your weaknesses so the opponent can't get at them.
USATT Tips of the Day
USATT has been putting up as "Tips of the Day" the 171 Tips of the Week I wrote for them a few years ago as "Dr. Ping-Pong." Here are the Tips they put up this past week. (Click on link for complete tip.)
Nov. 11 Tip of the Day - Be Quicker or More Powerful
If you look at top players, you might notice a slight skewing in sizes there tend to be more tall or short players then the average population. Why is this? Here’s a theory, and a suggestion that might help your game.
Nov. 10 Tip of the Day - How To Play Wildly-Attacking Junior Players
No matter what your level is, at some point you’ve had to go up against some up-and-coming junior player.
Nov. 9, 2013 Tip of the Day - Pushing Short: When to Learn?
At the higher levels, short pushing becomes more and more important as a way to stop an opponent from looping.
Nov. 8, 2013 Tip of the Day - Forehand Counter-Smashing When Lobbing
There is nothing more spectacular and more thrilling than counter-smashing a winner from 15-20 feet back!
Guess or Not to Guess?
Here's an article by Samson Dubina on anticipation. Opening paragraph: "In table tennis, there are 2 aspects of anticipation. The first is to have a reasonable guess as to where your opponent will hit the next ball. The next aspect is watching his body position and racket angle and adjusting based on the direction of his swing."
Backhand Banana Flip
Here's a video (2:47) on the shot (a backhand topspin and/or sidespin return of a short ball, especially a short serve), demonstrated and explained by North American Champion Pierre-Luc Hinse.
Zhang Jike Singing
Here's the video (1:52)!
Chimpanzee Playing Table Tennis
Here's the video (2:25). Seriously, a real chimp playing on a robot, and then live with another player. This might be my favorite table tennis video ever!!!
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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.)
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.
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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Nostalgia - The Top Players of Today and Yesterday
Mondays is usually my day off. However, since I'm going to be away at the Veep taping on Wed and Thur (see yesterday's blog), I asked my five students on those days if we could reschedule, and all five obliged. So yesterday I did two hours coaching, the first time I've done so on a Monday in a long time. I've also got two extra hours today, so I'll be coaching almost non-stop from 2:45-8PM. (Fortunately I'm over my arm problems.)
I was coaching on one of the front six tables. (We have 16 tables, sometimes 18 for training camps, but the front six are extra-large.) During the first hour I looked around at the other five tables, and couldn't help but reminisce. I remember back when I was starting out at the old New Carrollton Table Tennis Club (in Maryland) in the late 1970s. Between matches I'd watch as the club's star players played on the tables on the far right - we had something like 9-10 "great" players, all in the 1800-2000 range! Wow! This was back when I was about 1100, and to me they were the greats of table tennis - Herb Horton, Bob Kaminsky, Jim Verta, Carl Kronlage, Jim Mossberg, Ron Snyder, Gary Akinsette, Tim Ang, Barbara Kaminsky, Donna Sakai, Yvonne Kronlage - wow, were they good! Not to mention up-and-coming juniors Brian Masters, Mike Shapiro, Curt Kronlage, and Phil Shaw. Oh, and me, though I didn't start until I was 16.
But the world has changed, and I'm now a coach at the Maryland Table Tennis Center. I still have that same sense of "Wow!" when I look about. And now back to the present, and those five other tables.
On tables 1-5 was Nathan Hsu and Chen Jie ("James"); Wang Qing Liang ("Leon") and Derek Nie; Raghu Nadmichettu and Harold Baring; Dong Yiming ("Steve") and Roy Ke; and Chen Bo Wen ("Bowen") and Crystal Wang. I'm not going to give all their ratings, but they range from 2250 to 2600, and six of the eight are under age 18, including such phenoms as Crystal (11, 2267, formerly 2355) and Derek (12, 2297). And hovering over tables one and two was Coach and former Chinese team member Cheng Yinghua, former 2850 player, not playing this time, just coaching. (Coach Jack Huang, former 2800 player and Chinese team member, would normally be there but was in China on a three-week vacation.)
There are other clubs in the U.S. with such high levels of play; I'm just lucky to be in one of them.
ITTF Monthly Pongcast - September 2013
Here's the video (11:34).
Five Peculiarities to Become a Great TT Player
Here's the video (5:11). This is not technical advice, but a list of five attributes most of the top players have. The short list? Shakehands, lefty, attack, Butterfly, Asian.
Table Tennis Score Keeper
Here's a new scorekeeper app. "Table Tennis Score Keeper app is a simple application which helps players, their parents or friends in scoring matches. It can be used in local tournaments, leagues, college, or practice games. Scorekeeper app can score Best of 7, 5, 3 or 1 games. It records which player will serve next. You can add the player names and also extend by adding club or country name. Once a game in a match is completed it can be added and the next game can be scored. The app works on Portrait mode and also is tested on landscape for Nexus 7 and Nexus 4. It is best suited for parents, coaches or friends who are scoring for their player during a match."
Internet Calls Bluff on Incredible Ping-Pong Video
Yesterday I posted a link to the video "Amazing Ping-Pong Tricks with a Knife." I also asked if you thought it was real. (In the comments below Doug explained why he was sure it was not.) Well, the Internet has called its bluff and says it is not real - here's the article. So who are these people? They are the Tumba Ping Pong Show, and they need a segment of their own....
Tumba Ping-Pong Show
Here's their home page. I've linked to some of their staged videos before. They have lots and lots of these spectacularly staged table tennis videos - take a look!
This Is How You Hang Out with Friends
The title of this video is longer than the video (5 sec) but it's pretty funny. Someone called it shaolin ping-pong.
Are We Twins?
Here's a hilarious video (2:23) starring Samson Dubina and Xavier Therien. I know them both so well (mostly from coaching against them) that it never occurred to me that they were twins - until now!
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How Can You Practice By Yourself?
"Seeknshare" asked me this question on the forum, "How can one practice alone (all by himself). I do not have a partner...but would like to better my skills. I remember seeing Tom Hank's 'Forrest Gump' movie where he practices on his own..not sure if it was real or meant as parody. Any help/suggestions?"
There are a number of ways you can practice by yourself. Here are a few:
Want To Win a FREE Signed Copy of Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers?
They are running a contest at Expert Table Tennis. All you have to do by this Sunday is answer the question: Why do you deserve to win a free copy of Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers? I will personally sign and mail out a copy of the book to the winner.
To elaborate, it says, "Feel free to tell me a story of your latest and greatest table tennis tactical nightmare, or describe your complete lack of ability to engage your brain at the table. You can be funny, you can be serious. It’s up to you. I’ll be choosing the person that I believe most deserves (desperately needs) their own copy of the book."
MDTTC April Open
Here's a write-up of the MDTTC Open held this past weekend. Congrats to Open Champion Chen Bo Wen, U2400 Champion Raghu Nadmichettu, U2250 Champion Roy Ke, U2050 Champion Josiah Chow, U1900 Champion Robert Gabay, U1650 Champion Deapesh Misra, U1400 Champion Tony Wang, U1150 Champion Darwin Ma, and Under 12 Champion Frank Xie! (And while we're covering MDTTC, here's the April Newsletter that went out a week ago.)
College Championships Coming to Rockford
Here's an article and video (3:16) on the National College Table Tennis Championships to be held in Rockford, Illinois, April 12-14. Also featured is a Celebrity Doubles Tournament to be held on Thursday, April 11.
Samson Dubina and Robopong
Here's a video (3:12) of a news feature on WKBW ("Exercise While Playing With Toys") where Samson demonstrates the Robopong.
Judah Friedlander Wins Celebrity Madness
Judah wins! He defeated former basketball star Christian Laettner in the final, based on online voting at Table Tennis Nation. Take a look at the draw and results of other celebrity match-ups, and see if you agree with the voting.
Includes a link to a hilarious new video (3:41) where comedian Judah "takes us on a grand tour of table tennis, with special guest Tahl Leibovitz."
Tiger Table Tennis
Here's a picture of a tiger playing table tennis, set against a green paddle in a green forest, by Mike Mezyan.
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Tip of the Week
The Flu, Late Players, and James Bond - Oh My!
As readers know, I battled with the flu most of last week, and was pretty much out of commission from Sunday afternoon through Thursday. I was tempted to coach on Wednesday - my 53rd birthday - but I got a call from my dad, and when I answered it, my voice was a croak. (I didn't know since I hadn't talked to anyone that day.) And then it got worse, so I got Raghu Nadmichettu to substitute for me.
It wasn't all bad - I spent part of the time watching James Bond movies which I'd borrowed from ITTF coach and student John Olsen. There are 23 James Bond movies, and I thought I had seen all but two or three. I discovered I had not seen five of them, and only had vague memories of three others. So I spent much of Tuesday through Thursday watching eight of them:
I got back into action on Saturday, running a junior session that morning and two hours of private coaching that afternoon. On Sunday I did two more hours of private coaching and ran another junior session. I also discussed with Wen Hsu plans for starting a junior team league this fall, tentatively on Saturday nights.
The junior session on Sunday was one of the more hectic ones I've run. It's a beginning junior class, so we need a higher ratio of coaches to players, with lots of multiball training. Normally we get 12-15 in this session, and I have two assistant coaches - for this session, Rocky Wang and John Hsu. The session began at 4:30PM, and there were only five players. I figured it was because we were running a tournament this weekend, and so many assumed there would be no session. I'd decided to start the session off with a short talk about the club's other programs - it seemed a good time, since the club was jammed with players for the tournament. (That's the advantage of a 16-table facility - you can run a tournament, a junior program, and have private coaching going on all at the same time!) I spoke for about five minutes to the five players and their parents. A sixth kid showed up in the middle.
I normally break the group into four smaller groups that rotate among the three coaches and the table tennis robot. However, with only five, I could pretty much run it alone, along with the robot. But since Rocky and John were already there, I decided we'd use two coaches and use two tables. So we took the robot down. Rocky volunteered to drop out, so he left. Then a strange thing happened - as we started, two more kids showed up. Then another. And then three came in - and it was now 15 minutes into the 90 minute session! I managed to grab Rocky before he left, and we hurriedly put the robot back up, but it wasted a lot of time for the others. With twelve players (beginners), I put them into four groups of three, and rotated as we always do. Since we had the late start, we only had three rotations, so not all the players worked with all the coaches or the robot. It also meant, due to lost time, we didn't get to work on all that I wanted, so we skipped pushing. After an hour of training, we played 11-point games (where they move up or down the table, depending on whether they win or lose, with 11-10 ending a game - no deuce).
Later today I'm sending out an email to the junior parents reminding them again of the importance of being on time.
I didn't get to see much of it as I was busy coaching. Wang Qing Liang (age 17, rated 2598) came from behind to defeat Chen Bo Wen (age 14, rated 2494) in the final. Wang won the first, Chen won the next three, then Wang won the last three to win 4-3. Crystal Wang, who turned 11 the week before, won Under 2250 and was up 2-0 on Raghu Nadmichettu (2366) in the Open before losing in five.
Just got the first Amazon review of Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers - and it's a 5-star one! Below is the review, titled "It Made Me Think!" He is correct that there are times when the book is necessarily repetitive. For example, in the chapter about choppers, some of the material covered in the chapter on non-inverted surfaces (especially long pips) is covered again, so readers don't have to page back and forth.
Very enjoyable read. The whole time I was reading this book, my mind would kind of drift off as I was picturing the aspects of my game in whatever part of the book I was reading.
The topics are laid out in a very logical order and explained in great detail.
The verbiage makes the book very conversational, so it doesn't drag on or feel like a sermon.
Many examples are used making it easy to visualize each subject.
Styles are broken down into various subsets - each containing their own goals and strategies
Excellent tactics are provided against a wide variety of styles - I highly recommend the section on non-inverted surfaces!
A little repetitive at times, but this kind of comes with the territory
This Friday at 7PM I will be doing a book signing at the Maryland Table Tennis Center. I will be selling and signing four of my books (see below) - hope to see you there! All books will cost $15, with a special - buy the Tactics book, get a copy of the Tales & Techniques book for only $5! Here's the info flyer.
Put the Ball on the Table!
Here's an article by Samson Dubina, along with a video used as an example (Ma Long vs. Ryu Seung Min, 8:02) on the importance of keeping the ball on the table, which features the importance of positioning.
Table Tennista is a great site for articles and videos on international table tennis. They do especially good coverage of China. I've linked to their articles many times. Their current features includes lots of coverage of the Chinese World Team Trials, as well as coverage of the German Nationals (Timo Boll was upset in the final) and Swedish Nationals (Waldner and Persson lost early).
German Nationals Highlights
Here's a video (2:45) with highlights from the German Nationals that finished this weekend. Big upset - Stefan Mengel upset Timo Boll in the Men's Singles Final!
Believe in Yourself
Here's a table tennis highlights motivational video (8:11) on the importance of believing in yourself.
Friendship Trophy for Women
Here's info from the ITTF's Women's Development Program on the Friendship Trophy, an event organized to help promote the participation of women and girls in Table Tennis. Each organizer can create a unique format to best celebrate the contribution of women and girls in Table Tennis.
Tribute to Women Players
Here's a video (59 sec) from ITTF that highlights the best women players in the world.
Hottest Chick in Table Tennis
Since we have two segments above on women, here's the hottest chick in table tennis! (Yes, I made this; blame me.)
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Tip of the Week
Can a "2200 Player" Have the Experience to Coach at a High Level?
The question of whether a lower-rated player has the experience to be a top-level coach often comes up. The answer is yes, but rarely. I've seen numerous lower-rated players - some as low as 1100 - who were excellent coaches, even for high-level players. (I've also seen many former world-class players who couldn't coach at all.)
Some believe they can gain the needed experience to coach at the higher levels simply by watching the top players, usually on video. You can learn a lot that way, but if you think you can gain the experience to be a high-level coach just by watching the top players, you are kidding yourself. You not only have to watch them now, but you have to watch them on a regular basis as they develop. The key is not only knowing what they do now, but how they go there.
It also takes a certain type of mindset. If you watch top players play and gain strong opinions on how to coach players to reach that level, you are on the wrong course. You absolutely have to see what they do as they develop, in the playing hall while training and working with their coaches, and learn from this observing. There is no substitute for this. If you want to be a good coach, then find excuses to come watch these practice sessions. Do this for a few dozen sessions and you'll become knowledgeable. Do this for a few years and you have a chance to become a really good coach.
Some think you don't need to see top players developing if they are only going to coach lower-rated players. There's some truth to this - but often coaches who consider themselves good "beginner coaches" are only good for the first few months. For example, more and more players at the higher levels really topspin their backhands, and so if you want to develop a player with a bright future, you have to work toward that goal. Simply teaching them a basic backhand isn't enough. Other "beginner coaches" keep focusing on the basic counter-driving strokes so long that the player never learns higher-level techniques, such as looping over and over from both wings, counterlooping (the basic rallying shot at the higher levels), or advanced serve & receive. The biggest difference between a good "beginner's coach" and a truly great one takes place after the player can hit 100 forehands and 100 backhands. Does the coach keep working only on better and better forehands and backhand drives, or does he move on to more advanced stuff? You still need to focus on the fundamentals - here's my article Develop the Fundamentals - but the fundamentals of high-level play are a bit different than the fundamentals at the lower levels.
So to gain the experience needed to be a high-level coach, you either have to have been a high-level player, or to have spent extensive time with high-level players and coaches, both in training and tournament situations. I'm one of the lucky "2200 players" in that I have spent many years with top players and coaches. Here's my personal background:
So yes, it is possible for a "lower-level player" to gain the experience needed to coach at the higher levels - but it is rare that a player at that level gets the opportunity. You can't do it by just watching players at tournaments or on video; you have to watch their training on a regular basis, and learn from it. I've been lucky to have spent decades doing so.
Today's Todo List
The never-ending list never ceases with its efforts to cease my work on finalizing my new book, Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers. All I have left are the covers and a final proofing, which I hoped to do this week, but the todo list grabbed me by the collar and shook me until it got my attention. I have no coaching scheduled today, so this is my "day off," right? Here's my list for today.
World Championship of Ping Pong
USA's Ilija Lupulesku made the semifinals of the $100,000 World Championship of Ping Pong - a sandpaper events - held this past weekend in London. "Lupi" pocketed $5000 for his efforts. Winning the event for the second year in a row was Maxim Shmyrev of Russia ($20,000), who defeated Sule Olaleye of Nigeria ($10,000) in the final, apparently 11-9 in the fifth, though the scores seem to show him winning 11-9 in the fourth. (Anyone know the real scores?) Also playing from USA was Ty Hoff and Adoni Maropis.
USATT Player Bio Questionnaire
Why not take a couple minutes to fill out the USATT Player Bio Questionnaire? It's so USATT's "...web streaming commentators will have additional information in case you are featured on center court!" You never know. And it's fun listing your best titles, ratings, etc.!
How Kids Benefit from Table Tennis
Here's an article by Samson Dubina on the benefits of table tennis for kids.
Ambassador Wally Green
Former "bad boy" now table tennis ambassador Wally Green's been getting a lot of press coverage recently. Here he is on the Steve Harvey Show (3:25), using a blackberry as a racket. His partner is Kazuyuki Yokoyama. When asked how he got into ping-pong, Wally said, "It started, I was in a lot of trouble, a guy saw I was in trouble, I was either going to be in jail or just have a terrible life, and this guy said 'Look, I'm going to help you learn ping-pong, so he paid for me to go to Germany for four months to learn ping-pong.'"
Here he is again at the 4th Annual Ping Pong for Poverty Celebrity Event in Virginia Beach (4:20). Here he says, "I used to be in a gang, doing some bad stuff. The worst thing that happened to me is I got shot twice, got stabbed a couple of times, not to the point of death. There were a lot of fights. I was a bad kid, let's say."
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