June 27, 2013

MDTTC Camp, My Back, Looping, Stroking, Pushing, Boys versus Girls, and Untying Knots With My Toes

Yesterday's focus was forehand looping. Because of my back injury (see yesterday's blog), I couldn't demonstrate, so I just gave the lecture and then fed multiball to Nathan Hsu, who demoed it against both backspin and topspin. For some reason for many years I've used the top players in the camp for demoes rather than the coaches themselves. We do have a lot of coaches/practice partners in our camps - Cheng Yinghua, Jack Huang, Wang Qing Liang ("Leon"), Chen Bo Wen ("Bowen"), Chen Jie ("James"), Raghu Nadmichettu, and myself.

Teaching the loop to a beginner with just one ball is very difficult, and is one of the reasons why conventionally it isn't taught until the player has played for many months and has solid forehand and backhand strokes. While the emphasis early on still should be solid forehand and backhand strokes in most cases, multiball allows players to learn to loop much earlier than before, since they can do it over and over, rapid-fire, rather than the old-fashioned one at a time. My theories on when a junior player should learn to loop are constantly evolving, but more and more I'm sort of letting the player decide - over and over they see others doing it and want to learn, and rather than have them try to learn it on their own and develop bad habits, I teach it to them when they feel they are ready. However, I still focus on developing sound forehand and backhand strokes, which later are essentially extended into loop strokes, as per Chinese theory. I also teach more topspin-oriented strokes than I used to, which makes it easier to learn to loop later on. I still remember when I was learning to play and the emphasis on forehand and backhand strokes was to hit the ball deep into the sponge and into the wood, with a loud wood sound. That's no longer the way it is usually taught anymore, where topspin is more important than that satisfying smack from hitting into the wood.

I also introduced the beginner's group to pushing. I used soccer-ball colored ping-pong balls to do this, as well as when teaching serves, since this allows them to see the backspin on the ball, and see if they are returning it with their own backspin. The kids love the balls, and we are in 100% agreement they should be the official ball of table tennis, rather than the bland white or orange ones we use, where you can't really see the spin. (Here's where I get them at Amazon - you have to buy a six-pack which only contains two of the soccer-style balls. You can't really see the spin on the baseball and basketball style balls.)

Because of my back, Coach Raghu substituted for me in the one-hour coaching session I had scheduled during the 1-3PM break. I also had three more hours of private coaching scheduled today, in addition to the six hours of the camp. Because of the back, two of them cancelled, and will start up again after I return from the U.S. Open (hopefully with the back better). I'm going to do 30 min of the other one, with just backhands and multiball, and then Raghu will do the second 30 min. Since I'm free tonight from my coaching, I'm taking a group of kids to see the movie "White House Down," which opens tonight with a 7PM showing. So the kids are happy I hurt my back, right?

Here's a simple observation, make of it what you want. Over and over, in the beginner's group here and in previous camps, the girls just want to rally, while the boys want to compete. I usually try to do a mixture, but the last two days I've sort of thrown up my hands toward the end of each session and divided them into two groups, letting the girls rally while the boys played games. (The games were sometimes regular games, other times Brazilian Teams, other times "King of the Hill.")

Interesting non-table tennis tidbit: one kid was having trouble moving because his shoe kept coming halfway off. When I asked why he didn't tie it tighter, he showed me that the laces had become tightly knotted, and he couldn't untie them so he could retie them properly. Instant nostalgia! Not because I used to have tightly knotted shoelaces, but sort of the opposite. Back when I was about 12 years old (circa 1972, Nixon was president), I became a fan of Harry Houdini, the escape artist. One of the things he was famous for was his ability to tie and untie knots with his toes! This helped facilitate some of his escapes. I became determined to learn to do that, and I spent many weeks sitting on the side of my bed, with shoes and socks off, practicing this. I became very good at it, and would challenge friends and classmates at school to tie my shoelaces into knots as tight as they could, and then I'd untie them with my toes. (I'd use both feet for this.) Anyway, because of that background I consider myself an "expert" on untying knotted shoelaces, and it took me only seconds to untie this kid's tightly knotted shoelaces, though I did use my fingers for this. Now I'm tempted to take my shoes off and see if I can still tie and untie knots as I did over 40 years ago.

Timo Boll Defeats Xu Xin

Last week, in round two of the China Super League, Germany's Timo Boll defeated world #2 and reigning Men's World Champion Zhang Jike. This week, in round three, he defeated world #1 Xu Xin. Here's the article and video of the match (36:22). These are not huge upsets, as Boll is #5 in the world, but it's not often that non-Chinese have these wins against the top Chinese.

Ping Pong Ball Stop Motion Animation

Here's the video (4:03).

Maria Sharapova Playing Table Tennis

Here's the video (1:59) which just went up yesterday. She's playing British TV host Jonathan Ross. The pink table they are using is too small, only about three feet wide instead of the legal five feet wide.

Tube Ping-Pong

Here's the picture. I want to play!

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