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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Looping or Handling the Loop?
Is your game centered around looping or handling the loop? At the intermediate and advanced levels, the game is dominated by looping. Most players center their games around looping. But some take the reverse approach, and center their game around handling the loop. This includes both defensive players (choppers, fisher/lobbers, and blockers) as well as hitters.
Often players who center their games around handling the opponent's loop (or simply not letting him loop, at least not effectively) make the mistake of going too far, and never developing their own loop. Even if looping will never be their strength, it's a great variation at minimum, forcing the opponent to deal with one more thing. It's almost always the best way to deal with a deep backspin ball. Even players with short pips and hardbat can loop against backspin, and if the opponent has to adjust to both your drive and loop against backspin, he's got a lot to deal with.
Players who do loop often make the mistake of also going too far, centering their game around looping but not learning to deal with the opponent's loop very well, both in terms of keeping him from doing it (or doing it effectively) and from dealing with it when the opponent does loop. It always amazes me how many players with strong loops will serve or push long over and over, letting the opponent loop rather than serve or push short to set up their own loop.
Some are so loop happy that they try to counterloop any incoming loop. This can lead to problems as it's not easy trying to counterloop an opponent's opening loop against backspin (often very spinny) if the opponent is mixing up the speed, spin, direction, and depth. That's way too many variables for any but the very best players. If you are one of the very best players (or if you aspire to be, and are training at least 4-5 days a week), then perhaps you can learn to do this. Otherwise, consider blocking against more aggressive loops, and perhaps jab-blocking (i.e. aggressively blocking) or even smashing against loops that land short. A loop that lands short is easy to jab-block or smash (if you don't hesitate), but it really rushes a looper, and unless you are able to jump all over that ball with a full swing in a split second, counterlooping it is not easy. (Remember that you also have to wait and see if the ball is going to your forehand or backhand, and then judge the depth, speed, and spin before you can properly react.)
On the other hand, some players learn to shorten their counterloop stroke against shorter balls and sort of soft-spin off the bounce. This can be effective but takes lots of practice to get the timing down. This is especially effective if you use some of the modern high-end looping sponges (i.e. expensive ones). If you use more of a hitter's sponge, then it's better to jab-block or smash.
The main advantage of counterlooping anything that goes long, including an opponent's loop? You don't have to hesitate since you know what you are going to do. You just have to decide forehand and backhand, and then let the shot go. (You do have to decide how hard and what direction you are looping, but that's relatively easy.) This works for many world-class players, but remember - it takes lots of practice and perhaps some physical training as well.
TopSpin's Charity Benefit
Here's an article in Forbes Magazine on the TopSpin Charity Benefit being held tonight, and here's the opening paragraph: "Over 1,000 members of the sports, entertainment and media communities will be hoisting ping-pong paddles in New York City tomorrow at TopSpin’s fourth annual Ping-Pong Tournament. And they will be doing so in an effort to benefit three city programs for under-served students. Among the confirmed guests are Hakeem Nicks, Prince Amukamara and Terrell Thomas of the New York Giants, and Gerald Wallace and Jerry Stackhouse of the Brooklyn Nets."
ITTF Video World Cup
Here are the twelve entries received so far for the ITTF Video World Cup. You can view them and vote for the winner! Of course, the best one is "TTism (in slow motion)," by Richard Heo. Why? Because I'm in it!!! (I show up for about three seconds at 1:29, cheering silently and motionlessly for Raghu Nadmichettu, who is celebrating a win silently and motionlessly. That segment was filmed at the Maryland Table Tennis Center.) Here's the info page for the contest. First and second places are $5000 and $2500. Deadline to enter is Nov. 30.
Sampson Dubina's Favorite Serving Videos
Former USA Men's Singles Finalist Samson Dubina posted links to his favorite videos of top players serving. (And here's his article "Perfecting Your Serve.") I've added names/descriptions. Here are the serving videos:
John Ping Pong
Here's a ping-pong song (2:44) I hadn't heard before. It's set to some old-time music.
Non-Table Tennis - "The Devil's Backbone"
The new anthology "After Death," which features fantasy stories about what happens after you die, includes my story "The Devil's Backbone." (Anthology comes out in March, but they just announced the table of contents.) It's the story of an ice cream man who is killed and pulled into the ground by an incredibly gigantic hand, which turns out to be the Devil's, who literally jams him down his throat and (from the inside) onto his equally gigantic backbone, where there is an entire city of lost souls. How can he escape?
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MDTTC Camp, Week Five, Day One
Here's a quick rundown of the day's activities. There were 35 players in the camp. Coaches are myself, Cheng Yinghua, Jack Huang, and visiting Coach Liu (not sure of his full name) from New York. Wang Qing Liang (2641), Chen Bo Wen (2431) and Raghu Nadmichettu (2389) are practice partners. Players include Allen Wang (15, 2370), Nathan Hsu (16, 2349, 2011 Junior Olympic Under 16 Boy's Singles Champion); John Hsu (18, 2226 but usually higher, 2011 Junior Olympic Under 18 Boys' Singles Champion); Barbara Wei (2199, former U.S. Junior Team member), Derek Nie (11, 2170, U.S. Open 11 & Under Boys Champion), the Alguetti brothers (Adar 12, Gal 11, Sharron 11, rated 2081, 2089, and 2098), Lilly Lin (15, 1885); Amy Lu (11, 1838, U.S. #3 Under 12 girl), and many more. (Regulars Tong Tong Gong, Crystal Wang, and Roy & Princess Ke are in China training.)
ITTF Level 2 Coaching Seminar
The first ITTF Level 2 Coaching Seminar will be held at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Oct. 30 - Nov. 6. I expect to participate. Here's the info page. To be eligible, you must fulfill the following:
Cast Your Vote for Ariel Hsing USOC June Female Athlete of the Month!
Returning a Heavy Backspin Serve
Pingskills brings you this new video on the Returning a Heavy Backspin Serve (2:54).
The U.S. Open Sandpaper Final
Here's Ty Hoff and Adoni Maropis in the Sandpaper final (23:21). Lots of long rallies, with a mix of attack and defense. Check out the point at 15-18 in game one (at 8:54)! And yes, Adoni Maropis, in real life, is the guy (okay, the actor playing Abu Fayed in season six) who nuked Valencia, CA (and tried to nuke others) in the TV series "24." He was also in Troy, Hidalgo, and many other movies.
Samson Dubina on My Valley Sports TV
Here's a news video that features table tennis and Samson Dubina (1:44).
Another Full-time Club in the Bay Area
Here's the article about the upcoming Rossmoor Table Tennis Club.
Ma Long's Under the Net Return
Here it is, in regular and slow motion (0.38).
Practice Safe Pong
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Tip of the Week
I had an interesting practice match this weekend - a best four out of seven. My opponent was an extremely steady blocker without a strong attack, rated about 2100. When I say "extremely steady blocker," I mean she hasn't missed a backhand since the Reagan Administration. So how to play her?
I started out well, winning the first game easily on third ball loops, attacking her forehand, and steady countering, taking advantage of the fact that in any rally I could suddenly attack hard, while she mostly just blocked side to side. She often served deep, and I was often able to loop those.
However, three things began to happen. First, she began wear me down to the point that I felt like I'd just run a marathon - and we were only into the second game. Second, her forehand, which has only missed twice since the Reagan Administration, wasn't missing. Third, she was pinning me down to my backhand, and while I can hit a hundred backhands in a row when needed, she hasn't missed a backhand since the Reagan Administration. Like Romney, what I was hoping would be a quick run to victory instead turned into a war of attrition. And she wasn't attritioning.
And so I found myself down 2-3 in games. At this point I simply was too tired to continuously attack forehands when needed or to run around and loop her serves (I don't have a strong backhand loop, alas), and my 1% backhand miss rate was way too high against a backhand with a 0% miss rate. So I began to look for chances to chop to get out of these backhand rallies. I chopped her deep topspin serves back (so I didn't have to run around to forehand loop them, and because I get more spin when looping backspin), and if we got into a fast rally, after a few shots I'd find a ball to chop on the backhand. She'd push, and I'd get to loop, usually to her forehand or middle, about 2/3 of the time going for slow, spinny and deep loops, about 1/3 of the time going for rips, usually to the forehand side.
And lo and behold, it through off her rhythm, and I started getting balls to smash or loop kill when she blocked my loops! I won game six. I started game seven with a barrage of attacks that put me in a 1-4 hole. So I went back to mixing in chopping and looping, and finally won, 11-8 in the seventh. If I'd stuck with my normal steady backhand countering game in rallies, and continued to attack the deep serve (as I'm always coaching players to do, since 90% of the time it's the right strategy), I'd have lost.
This strategy was reminiscent of how Dan Seemiller won the men's singles at the USA Nationals one year over Eric Boggan.
Beginners learning forehand and backhand
Recently I've coached a lot of beginners, especially new kids. I've noticed an interesting dynamic. In nearly every case, by the end of the first session they had picked up either the forehand or backhand pretty well, but struggled on the other side. None had trouble on both; none were good on both. In each case, they so mastered the proper technique on one side that by the end of the session I was able to challenge them to see how many they could hit in a row - something I never do until I'm confident they'll do so with good technique. But on the other side we never got to that stage. In most cases they got it down in the second or third session, but even then it was obvious they were more comfortable on the other side. I wonder if this is something that'll be true the rest of their table tennis playing days?
Twelve Tips to Table Tennis Perfection
Here's the latest coaching article by Samson Dubina. They are all great items; I find #1 (goals) and #10 (visualizing) the two that players most overlook. Until you set specific goals (and then work out what you need to do to achieve those goals), it's hard to improve. It's like going on a journey without a destination. As to visualizing, it's the most underused way to improve.
Returning the forehand pendulum serve
Here's a video from PingSkills (1:53) that shows how to return a forehand pendulum serve into the backhand.
2012 Hungarian Men's Singles Final
This was a great match from this past weekend, where shakehand attacker Ma Long of China (#1 in the world) barely defeats South Korea's chopper/looper Joo Se Hyuk (2003 World Men's Singles Finalist), -7,4,-4,4,-7,7,8, in the final of the Hungarian Open. Time between points is taken out so you can see the entire match in about ten minutes. Joo upset current World Men's Singles Champion Zhang Jike (also of China) in the quarterfinals by the unlikely scores of 5,7,7,4. (Here's that match on youtube, but it's shown continuously, so takes about 30 minutes.) Here are articles, pictures, and results.
Liu Guoliang teaching his one-year-old daughter table tennis!
Yes, former World and Olympic Champion and current Chinese Men's Coach Liu Guoliang is already teaching the next generation the family business (1:09).
The bearded Liv Tyler paddle
Here's actress Liv Tyler with her bearded paddle! And the sixth picture down shows her playing with the paddle. She's promoting her upcoming movie "Robot and Frank," but is probably best known for her roles in Lord of the Rings (she's Arwen!), Armageddon, and The Incredible Hulk.
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I think I'm the top reverse psychologist in the world of table tennis. When I'm working with a new kid who's trying to hit twenty forehands for the first time, do I what most coaches do and say, "You can do it!"? No. I have more success saying, "Twenty in a row? You can't do twenty, that's way too many. No chance!" And of course the kid is then determined to prove me wrong, even though they know I'm joking. I've been using the trick for so many years that I've got dozens of variations.
It's also a great way to get in shape - all I have to do is say, "I'll bet you twenty pushups you can't do twenty in a row," and I'll be doing twenty before the session is done, often after the next rally. Getting to make a coach drop and do twenty has a way of focusing one's mind. (Confession: I used to bet twenty pushups, but that was getting to be too much, so now I only bet ten.)
Increasing coaching hours
I'm increasing my coaching hours starting this month. So if you are anywhere near the Maryland Table Tennis Center in Gaithersburg, MD, and are looking to become the greatest player in the history of the world, or at least to work on that bad habit of yours that keeps you from beating the Chinese, contact me. (If interested in group sessions, contact me so I can put you on the info lit. I plan to start up some new programs around March, when the club doubles in size and we have lots of free tables.)
Developing your game
And while we're on the subject of your becoming the greatest player in the history of the world and beating the Chinese, what have you been working on right now? If you aren't working on something in your game, then how can something in your game get better? Either find a weakness you want to improve, or a strength (or potential strength) that you want to turn into an overpowering strength, and focus on it for a while.
Preparation for the US Olympic Trials: The Final Week - Stage 5
Interview with Susan Sarandon
Table tennis sports psychologist and professional player & coach (TTSPPPC?) Dora Kurimay interviews actress Susan Sarandon, co-owner of Spin Table Tennis in New York City. You can also follow Dora's blog, which focuses on sports psychology and table tennis.
They just held the World Series of Beer Pong, Jan. 1-5 in Las Vegas. $65,000 in prize money. Here's the promo video of these elite athletes in action (1:11) - but don't worry, no underage ping-pong balls were inebriated in the making of this video.
I'm gonna to be sick. (Actually, I am sick with a cold, but $65,000 beer pong just made this non-drinker sicker.)
Moonpig in action!
Who says you can't play the net in table tennis? Here's 41 seconds of feline fury.
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