Butterfly Online

Adam Bobrow

June 17, 2014

Arm Wrestling and Table Tennis

During a break today during our MDTTC camp yesterday, several of the kids began arm wrestling. Alarms began blaring in my head.

Long ago I was a competitive arm wrestler. How competitive? Here's a picture in the newspaper of me winning the 1983 University of Maryland arm wrestling championships. (Little known fact: arm wrestling is more technique than strength, though of course at the higher levels you absolutely need both. In a few minutes I can teach an average person how to beat a much stronger person.) What's not mentioned in the picture caption was that during this match I hurt my arm so badly that I was out of table tennis for six months. And it was far worse than that - I've had ongoing arm problems ever since.

After I'd mostly recovered from this injury, someone heard about my arm wrestling background in the late 1980s, and challenged me to a match. I smiled, and pretty much slammed his arm down so fast it was over in one second. Result? I was out another five months or so as it healed again. (I actually played some during this time, but only blocking or chopping.) 

It not only knocked me out of table tennis for months at a time, it ruined my game on and off for years. When I hurt the arm I was a 2200 player. Here's chapter 11 of volume 14 of Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis, which just went online. In it you'll find me losing in the final of Under 2000 to Stephen Yeh at the 1985 U.S. Open. Under 2000??? Me??? But that's what happens when your arm is constantly hurting, and you can barely loop or hit backhands. I probably took off 1-2 months to rest it at least 7-8 times, and it rarely helped. (I finally mostly got over it with a combination of ultrasound treatments, strength exercises involving stretching a thick rubber band in various ways, and lots of irritating rest.

I'm not the only one this has happened to. I'm hitting a blank, but I remember others who have injured their arm from arm wrestling and had to take time off from table tennis. It's just so easy to spend a few seconds with an impromptu and informal arm wrestling match, without realizing the possible consequences. Here's a page showing common injuries from arm wrestling. The list is rather long. 

So when I saw the kids arm wrestling, after a moment of reminiscing and reliving painful memories, I warned them against it. I also pulled aside some of our top juniors and sort of gave them the riot act - basically, do not risk all your years of training for this. No arm wrestling!

I wonder what other activities up-and-coming table tennis players should avoid. Skiing? (Several of our kids ski regularly, and as far as I know there's been no broken legs or other injuries.) Sky diving? Bungee jumping? Bear wrestling? Some coaches advise against tennis since it can mess with your table tennis strokes, and that's probably true for developing players, but I don't think it seriously affects a table tennis player whose strokes are ingrained.

If you want to see hyper-muscled arm wrestlers showing off their strength and then playing table tennis, here's the page.

MDTTC Camp

Yesterday was the first day of our MDTTC summer camps. They are Mon-Fri every week for ten straight weeks. They are for all ages and levels, but are dominated by our junior players. (This week's camp has only one player over age 18, and he's 22 or so.) Turnout was a little smaller than usual, with fewer out of towners than usual. Coach Cheng Yinghua said he thinks this is because there are so many other training centers now running camps. We used to get contingents from New York, New Jersey, North Carolina, and other states, but they all have their own training camps. 

One side result is that since it was mostly locals, we decided to skip my normal lectures and get the players out to the tables as quickly as possible. So there will be fewer of my brilliant, world-renowned lectures (that's how I remember them) but more sweating time at the table. (Though we do have air conditioning!) 

Today's most difficult task in my group? Convincing the younger kids when we do multiball that it doesn't matter who goes first, you are all going to get the same number of turns!!! One kid had a meltdown over this, all because he lost a rock-paper-scissors thing with another kid over who got to go first. (Okay, they were about seven years old, the youngest in the camp.) Meanwhile, as we usually do, on day one we focused on the forehand.

Upcoming ITTF Coaching Courses in the U.S.

Here's a listing:

Nittaku Poly Ball

I blogged about this extensively yesterday. Here's a long discussion about it at the Mytabletennis.com forum. (The discussion began before I blogged about it.) 

ITTF Reforms Dangerous Says Liu Guoliang

Here's the article

Susan Sarandon, Ping Pong, and Testicular Cancer

Here's the article on her ping-pong related charity work.

Frank Caliendo and the Baltimore Orioles

Here's an article about Frank's visit to the Orioles clubhouse on Saturday, where he played table tennis with the players. (I blogged about this yesterday.)

100-Day Countdown to Change in the ITTF's Presidency

Former USATT President Sheri Pittman Cioroslan is doing an article every day during the last 100 days of Adham Sharara's ITTF presidency. Previous ones are linked from the USATT News page, as well as in my past blogs. Twenty-five down, 75 to go!

  • Day 76: The Wonderful World of Disney's
  • Day 77: Paying Tribute to Our “Founder-President” Patriarch: Hon. Ivor Montagu

Table Tennis in a Mall in Orlando

Here's an article in the Orlando Sentinel about an exhibition at a mall. Taking part were Michael McFarland, Gary Fraiman, Mark Hazell, and Timothy & Aydin Lee. 

Incredible Point at World Hopes Challenge

Here's the video (40 sec) where USA's Michael Tran (far side) goes up against Mexico's Dario Arce in the quarterfinals in Austria. Besides the incredible blocking, see Dario's spin move near the end! Dario had beaten Michael in the team competition, and went up 2-0 in games here, but Michael came back to win in five.

Marco Freita and Soccer

Here's the video (~15 sec) of the Portugal #1 (and world #13) showing off his soccer skills.

Adam Bobrow Playing Outdoors in China

Here's video (1:57) of Adam playing outdoor table tennis in a park in China.

"Think Different" Apple Ad

Here it is - with table tennis!

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June 11, 2014

Tricks of the Trade for Coaches

Most top players are at least competent coaches, in that they mostly know the basics. They can show you what you need to do, and even guide you through it. However, the difference between an experienced coach and a top player is often experience. The top player knows how a shot should be done properly; the top coach knows how to get a player to do it properly. Here are five common examples that might be considered "tricks of the trade" for experienced coaches. 

  • Grip and Stance: Probably the most common mistake top players and less experienced coaches make when coaching is fixing the symptoms instead of the root cause. More problems come from grip and stance problems than everything else combined; if you fix these two, everything in between tends to fall into place. If there is a grip or stance problem, it twists everything in between. Inexperienced coaches try to directly fix the problems they see (i.e. untwist the twisted areas between the grip and stance) rather than fix the root of the problem, the grip and stance themselves. (Here's a Tip on Grip and Stance.) 
  • Exaggeration to Fix Shots: If a player has an ingrained bad habit, and tries to fix it by imitating the way it should be done, he'll almost always end up with something in between. That's an improvement, but why settle for halfway? Instead, an experienced coach might have the player exaggerate the correction. Result? The player will likely end up with something in between what he was doing and the exaggeration - which will be the way it should be done! For example, early in my career when I stepped around my backhand corner to attack with my forehand I wouldn't rotate around enough or bring my back foot back far enough. Because of this I could only effectively attack down the line; if I went crosscourt I had little power. To fix the problem I spent two weeks at a camp doing drills where I'd forehand hit or loop from the backhand side crosscourt with my back foot way back, and my body rotated around to the right way too much. This put me in a perfect position to attack my own side of the table (!), but not to hit to the other side. I had to practically peek over my shoulder to hit these shots. But after doing this every day for two weeks, I began to rotate about properly when I stepped around to use my forehand from the backhand side, and the problem was cured. (Here is a Tip on Saturation Training to fix bad habits, and here's one on Changing Bad Technique.)
  • Eye Level When Looping with Should Down: Many beginners have trouble learning to loop because they aren't used to lowering themselves into a looping position – they stand up too straight. Inexperienced coaches might spend a huge amount of time trying to get them to get lower, with a wider stance, bending the knees, leaning forward at the waist, dropping the playing shoulder, etc. Can a player remember all this and still stroke the ball? But if you just tell them to get to eye level with the ball when looping, with the shoulder down, it'll do wonders as they naturally do all the things necessary to get that low. (You don't need to literally be at eye level when looping, as you should explain to your student, but if a student who gets close to it will tend to develop a far better stroke. It's similar to the exaggeration technique above.) 
  • Tell a Player What to Do: Inexperienced coaches often tell players what not to do. You rarely should do this. Telling someone what not to do is a quick way to re-enforce the bad habit with the subconscious, which is what actually controls the shot. Experienced coaches know that the key is to tell the player what to do. For example, if a player follows through off to the side when hitting backhands, don't tell him to stop following through to the side; tell him to follow through forward. (But check the backswing, as a good backswing usually leads to a good contact and follow through.)
  • Assuming Grandiose Ambitions: The first thing a coach should do with a new student is find out what exactly he wants. (The exception is kids, who should mostly be taught the fundamentals.) Older players especially might have established games, and there's no reason to destroy their game just so they can learn to play the game "properly," not unless that's what they want to do. Instead, it's often best to take what they have and build on it. There will be some techniques that you'll want to fix, but there will likely be some unorthodox techniques the player does well, and will probably better off sticking with. If so, that's when the coach needs to be creative and think outside the box - something that comes with coaching experience. Inexperienced coaches are often at a loss what to do when faced with techniques that are outside their experience. A classic example would be a player with the Seemiller grip. Many top players and coaches have no experience with the grip, and yet two players have reached the top 20 in the world using it. It's unlikely a top player with this grip, or just about anyone else who's played this way for many years, is ever going to be better by switching to shakehands or penhold. One top "coach" once forced a 2600+ member of the U.S. National Team who used the Seemiller grip to switch to shakehands during a training camp for the National Team. It didn't go over well. The player, Brian Masters, went on to win the gold medal for Men's Singles at the Pan Am Games.

These are just a few examples. Every player is different, and when a coach first sees a player, he has to make an assessment of what bad habits need to be fixed, what good habits need to be developed, find the root cause of any problems, and then reach into his bag of coaching tricks and go to work. 

Table Tennis Tips on the Internet

Here's a listing of online sites with Tips from Table Tennista. (I'm listed. But the links to my blog and tips both go to my blog.)

All About Table Tennis

Here's a site that's all about table tennis, called . . . All About Table Tennis. A lot of coaching and other information there.

Interview with Adam Bobrow

Here's the interview with the Voice of Table Tennis and Stand-up Comedian.

Top Ten Shots From the China Open

Here's the video (5:59).

Ping-Pong Redux

Here's a table tennis math puzzle from the New York Times. Warning – only for math nerds (like me)! Make sure to check out the comments. One of them ran a simulation and pointed out that in the scenario described, it would take an average of 1.3 million points to win a game! Table Tennis Nation also did a commentary on this.

Unique Racket at World Hopes Week

Here it is. I've always wondered why we use such simple rackets, and adjust our grip to the racket, rather than the reverse.

Alex Karpovsky Plays Table Tennis

Here's a picture of the star of the TV show "Girls" playing table tennis. Do you like his paddle?

Funny Table Tennis Pictures and Cartoons

Here are seven from the New Hampshire Table Tennis Club.

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May 2, 2014

Coaches, Heal Thyself! - and Covering the Wide Forehand

I made an interesting discovery while coaching on Wednesday. Over the last few years I've been having more and more problems covering my wide forehand. In drills or free play, when players go to my wide forehand I simply can't get to them very well. Even when blocking forehands if the ball goes a bit outside the corner - an easy block for me in the past - these days I often don't get to it. At age 54 and with on-and-off again knee problems, this is to be expected. Or is it?

Okay, I'll never move as well as I did in the '80s and '90s, but have I really gotten this slow? Apparently not, as I'll explain. During my peak years one of my big strengths was covering my wide forehand, whether blocking, hitting, or looping. My forehand block has always been better than my backhand block, which is somewhat rare - but I've spent so much time blocking with it with practice partners looping forehands that it became a wall, both in drills and games. But now it's like a big hole over there.

I was doing a drill where my student (about a 1600 player) would serve and loop anywhere. I was getting irritated at myself that he kept getting me with loops to my wide forehand. So I asked him to serve and loop a few to my wide forehand so I could practice my forehand block. The first two times he did this I just waved at the ball as it went by - and that's when I realized I was leaning toward the ball instead of stepping. So I forced myself to step to the next one, and lo and behold, suddenly I was able to cover the shot much more easily. I shadow practiced this basic move a few times, then we went back to the serve and loop anywhere drill. And now I was able to (mostly) cover the wide forehand!

What had happened? It seems that as my feet have slowed down in recent years I've felt rushed covering the forehand, and so had started leaning when rushed, which is a bad habit. To cover the wide forehand (whether blocking or any other shot) you have to step to the ball, which is what I teach, what I've done for most of my 38 years of playing, and what I normally do when I have time. But when rushed is exactly when you most need to focus on stepping to the ball, and that's where I'd fallen into a bad habit without really noticing it. If I were still playing tournaments, where I used to regularly analyze my game, I probably would have caught this a lot sooner, or more likely stopped it from ever happening. So if you see me doing quick steps to my right at the club, or in my office, or at the grocery store, you know what I'm practicing.

How about you, dear reader? Have you fallen into any bad habits without noticing it? It's important to regularly analyze your game. One of the ironies of the sport is that many players are constantly learning new things, but unknowingly are almost as rapidly unlearning other things, which is why some players have difficulty improving.

Extremely Busy - TT and SF

I'm in an extremely busy time right now. In the world of table tennis, I'm about to start the final editing phase of my new book, Table Tennis Tips (with special thanks to proofers Kyle Angeles, Scott Gordon, Stephanie, Hughes, John Olsen, Dennis Taylor, and Kevin Walton). I've got my daily blog and weekly tip. I've got about 25 hours total of private and group coaching. I pick up kids after school five days a week to take to our afterschool program. I've got the new MDTTC Newsletter to finalize. Plus a zillion minor things on my todo list, from U.S. Open arrangements to organizing our new Monday night training sessions to doing the accounting for the junior classes I teach. Meanwhile, I'm gearing up for ten consecutive weeks of Mon-Fri training camps this summer, where I do all the talking and much of the organizing. (I do get two of those weeks off - July 1-5 for the U.S. Open, and July 22-26 for the writing workshop I mention below, so I'll only be doing eight of them.)

But it's the world of science fiction & fantasy that's taking up much of my time at the moment. I've got three big projects I'm working on right now. As some of you know, I'm also a novelist. My first novel, Sorcerers in Space came out in November. (It's cheaper if you buy directly from the publisher, Class Act Books. It's a humorous fantasy retelling of the 1960s U.S.-Soviet space race, but with sorcerers instead of astronauts and cosmonauts.) This is in addition to the anthology of my 30 best published short stories, Pings and Pongs: The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of Larry Hodges. ("More Pings and Pongs" will be coming out early next year.)

A publisher is interested in another novel I wrote, "Campaign 2100: Rise of the Moderates," a SF novel that covers the election for president of Earth in the year 2100 (where the whole world has adopted the American two-party electoral system - heaven forbid!). But they want rewrites on several parts. So I just began work on that yesterday - some of you may have seen me yesterday disappearing for several hours in the back room at MDTTC to work on it between coaching sessions. I'm also going to a nine-day writer's workshop this summer, which involves reading and critiquing roughly 300 pages of material. (That's my version of an annual vacation.) Finally, I'm in the middle of a new short story. So I'm currently bouncing back and forth between the worlds of TT and SF like a ping-pong ball. (Or like the souls of famous American generals Washington, Grant, Lee, Pershing, Eisenhower, which I pictured bouncing about on a battlefield - like ping-pong balls - in my fantasy horror story War of the Night.)

But rest assured, it's table tennis that mostly pays the bills, and so table tennis gets top priority.

World Championships

I was debating whether to do Worlds coverage here in my blog, but they are already doing an excellent job elsewhere, so I'll just link to the following two places, where you'll find results, articles, and lots of video. (I'll run this segment daily throughout the Worlds.)

Interview at the Worlds with Stefan Feth and Kanak Jha

Here's the interview (3:47) with the USA Men's Coach Stefan and 13-year-old USA Team Member Kanak.

Adam Bobrow and Ma Long Messing Around

Here's the video (1:39) where Adam tries to sidespin chop-lob down the Chinese superstar. Wait'll you see at the end who the cameraman is! (Hint - youngest member of Chinese men's team.) Adam won the ITTF "Voice of Table Tennis" contest and is at the Worlds as their primary broadcaster.

St. Louis Open

Here are the daily press releases by Barbara Wei about the upcoming $16,000 Butterfly St. Louis Open this weekend. (I linked to the previous ones already.)

Ma Long Playing with No-Arms Player

(I ran this yesterday, but had a bad link, so I'm running it again.) Here's the article and video (65 sec) of Ma Long rallying with Ibrahim Elhoseny, who holds the racket in his mouth.

Ten Table Tennis Champs Staring at Ping Pong Balls

Here's the article and pictures.

Butterfly Ad

Here's a video (45 sec) of a rather interesting Butterfly ad. (Disclaimer: I'm sponsored by Butterfly.) It's mostly animated, with an appearance at the end by Timo Boll.

Jimmy Fallon and Diane Keaton Play Beer Pong

Here's the video (3:23). I don't usually post too much about beer pong, but this one was pretty funny as they competed, and then it devolved into a ball fight, and then they just upended the whole baskets of balls on each other. Here's an article about it, with pictures.

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April 17, 2014

Spring Break Camp

Yesterday was an incredibly busy day (and night). I'm trying to remember how I was able to do my daily blog during our camps the past three summers - there are just so many hours in a day, and just so much energy in the human body. I'm at my limit. But the camp ends Friday. I'll survive.

The camp was 10AM-6PM, with a two-hour lunch break from 1-3PM. However, we had a group of 16 kids who came in for a ping-pong party during our lunch break, and I gave a one-hour clinic for them. We started with some ball-bouncing - first on the forehand side, then the backhand, then alternating. It's always interesting to watch as some pick up on this very quickly, while others struggle. It's also an age thing as 6-year-olds simply can't do it, while 8-year-olds usually can. Then I taught them the forehand (taking them two at a time for very quick lessons). I covered the backhand and the serve very briefly, and then we went to games. First came the bottle game, where they had to hit a bottle to make me drink the "worm juice" inside. (Since they were beginners, I brought out froggy and balanced a bottle on him, and to make me drink it all they had to do was hit froggy or the bottle.) Then I brought out the paper cups and they built huge pyramids with them, which they then knocked down as I fed multiball and they smacked forehands.

The beginning group that I was working with did a lot of service practice yesterday. Two of the younger kids are still having difficulty with this, but they'll pick it up. Others are moving on to putting spin on the ball. (I used the soccer-colored balls so they could see their spin.) Today I will introduce them to serving bar, where they have to serve under the bar. (Here are pictures in the high and low settings.)

Several of our top juniors are working hard to improve their backhand banana flips. In match play, they tend to either spin them too softly, with the ball dropping short (giving advanced players an easy attack, usually a put-away), or chicken out altogether and mostly push. The problem is that many are still trying to lift short, heavy backspin serves head-on. One of huge advantages of the banana flip is that you don't have to lift the heavy backspin; you instead sidespin the ball, perhaps half sidespin and half topspin. This makes it much easier to lift over the net. In practice the top juniors are getting better at it, but need to develop that confidence that they can do this against any short serve.

After the camp was done I did a one-hour private lesson. Then I went to Best Buy to have them look at my laptop computer. For some reason the modem had been failing on and off all day, and the kids weren't happy. (I let them use it for games during breaks. Sometimes they let me use it to check email.) Alas, when I got to Best Buy, the modem worked perfectly, so there was nothing to fix. We'll see how it goes today. Then I was off to Planet Fitness to continue my secret physical training that'll allow me to soon challenge our best juniors again. (Shhh!) I go there Mon, Wed, and Fri, and have been doing this regularly ever since this past Monday.

I didn't get home until 9:30 PM. After going through email and browsing forums it was pretty late, so I once again put off the 246 things on my todo list, including 42 that have earth-shattering consequences if I don't get them done immediately.

MDTTC Coaching Staff

Here's a group picture of the entire MDTTC coaching staff, all ten of us, taken by Wen Hsu yesterday during our Spring Break Camp. L-R: Chen Jie ("James"); Zeng Xun ("Jeffrey"); John Hsu; Larry Hodges; Chen Bo Wen ("Bowen"); Chen Ruichao ("Alex"); Cheng Yinghua; Wang Qing Liang ("Leon"); Jack Huang; and Raghu Nadmichettu.

Charlie Disney, RIP

Here's an email I just received. Charlie was one of the huge names in table tennis when I was coming up in the late 1970s. He will be missed.

Dear table tennis friends,

I am deeply saddened to report that Charlie Disney passed away at his home in Rio Verde , AZ yesterday.  I was called this evening by a friend in Rio Verde.   I have never met that acquaintance.

Charlie was one of my dearest friends in my life.  We knew each other for 52 years. We were tirelessly business partners in the Magoo’s (later Disney’s) Table Tennis Centers for 21 of the 26 years I was involved and we were real estate partners for 6 years with several properties.  Charlie and I remained the closest of friends for five-plus decades without a gap.  We discussed endlessly and regularly about how to get table tennis recognized as a major sport, and never gave up on that issue.  I am in deep sorrow.

More information will follow but I have no other as of now.  I had just talked with Charlie on Monday and purchased a plane ticket for him to return for the summer to his home in Roseville, on May 6.  Charlie had returned recently from a trip to FL to visit the entire Soderberg family.   I will never see him again.  He grew up in Edina, MN but he has no family alive except one distant sister, so I have no information as of yet regarding funerals or memorials.

I thought you all should know.

Regards,
Don Larson

ITTF Level 3 Course in Colorado Springs, USA

Here's the info page. I'm hoping to go to this, but am not sure I can afford it. It would mean missing two consecutive weekends of coaching plus the five days in between - that's a lot of hours missed.

World Championships Daily Newsletter

Here's the info page. Sign up now to have these daily updates sent directly to you.

Adam Bobrow the Voice of Table Tennis

As I blogged about yesterday, Adam won the ITTF Voice of Table Tennis Contest. Here's the ITTF article.

China Prepares for the Japanese Team

Here's the article. Here's the main excerpt: "Germany, with Timo Boll and Dimitrij Ovtcharov, is considered a big threat for the Chinese Team. According to Liu Guoliang, Germany, Japan and South Korea are their main opponents. However, he has placed emphasis on Japan who will be the hosting team in the 2014 World Championships. In order to cope with the challenges from the Japanese Team, China has prepared several players who can imitate the Japanese players and had them fight against their delegates in the Closed Training. This is to help their players adapt to the hosts."

Incredible Rally

Here's the video (33 sec, including slow-motion replay). If you are distracted by the player on the left making that body-spinning forehand rip at the end you may miss that the player on the right made the counter-smash.

Drinkhalls on TV

Here's video (6:53) of the English power table tennis couple of Joanna and Paul Drinkhall on BT Sport. 

Sold his PlayStation for Table Tennis

Here's the Facebook posting and picture of this 13-year-old Namibian player.

Ping-Pong Pepsi Max Challenge Video

Here's a hilarious video (3:52) by Parkour that I can't begin to describe. It's part of the Pepsi Max Challenges.

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April 16, 2014

Spring Break Camp - TV, Backhands, and Shoot the Moon

Yesterday was day two of our Spring Break Camp. The highlight was Channel 5 News coming in to do a feature on Crystal Wang and the MDTTC. They filmed lots of Crystal and other players, and did interviews with Crystal, Coach Jack Huang, and me. I think the feature of my interview was when he asked about Crystal's goals for making the Olympics. I explained how making the 2016 Olympic Team was first priority, but that she'd be only 18 for the 2020 Olympics - and that was where the goal would be to medal, perhaps gold medal. Then I pointed out that we'll know she's made it when the Chinese coaches start studying her on video, and develop a practice partner who mimics her game so they can practice against her! Yes, that's what the Chinese do, and you haven't really made it in table tennis until you have a Chinese doppelganger who studies you on video and copies for other players to train against.

After some time reviewing the forehand, spent a lot of time yesterday on the backhand. The beginning players mostly seemed to pick this up quicker than the forehand - perhaps they're getting used to learning new TT stuff. However, several are having trouble with their serves. That's going to be a focus today. I'm also going to introduce pushing.

Our Monopoly set was discovered during our two-hour lunch break, and that'll be in continuous use the rest of the camp. However, the real obsession this camp is the Shoot the Moon game I brought in. It's in continuous use during breaks, with the kids taking turns, usually getting three turns each before the next one gets it. One kid, about ten, has been at it continuously since he got here, including non-stop practice while many of us went to 7-11, and has become the champion, several times getting "Pluto" ten times in a row. (You can't see it from the picture, but Pluto is the highest score possible. The goal is to pull the two rods apart so the heavy metal ball rolls toward the player, who drops it in one of the holes, the higher the better.)

However, none can challenge the true champion - me! When I was also about ten I had this game, and I also became obsessed with it. I practiced it day after day, and kept careful track of my results. This went on for weeks. I finally stopped when it became just too easy - I had several stretches where I'd get Pluto hundreds of times in a row. I finally put it aside and didn't play for about 44 years - then I picked up a set a few weeks ago, and discovered I could still do it. I mostly let the kids use it non-stop, but now and then I stop by and get Pluto a bunch of times in a row, which only makes them more determined.

Adam Bobrow - the Voice of Table Tennis!

The ITTF has made the final decision - and USA's Adam Bobrow is the Next Voice of Table Tennis! Here's their Facebook announcement. Here's video of Adam's contest entry (9:40), where he does commentary on a match at the Qatar Open between China's Xu Xin (then world #4, but now #1) and South Korea's Cho Eonrae (then ranked #44, but now #20). I blogged about the ITTF contest last Wednesday. (There's no article on this yet on the ITTF News page, though I expect one later today.) Here's the ITTF's original announcement of the contest, the announcement of the Finalists, and USATT's reposting of that with pictures of Barbara and Adam. (They are both from the U.S., with David Wetherill of Great Britain the third finalist.)

Actions of the USATT High Performance Committee

Here is the High Performance Report for March, 2014, by Chair Carl Danner. You can read previous ones and reports from other USATT Committees at the USATT Reports page.

Table Tennis a Varsity Sport in NYC Schools

Here's the article! (I blogged about this briefly yesterday, but now we get the details.)

Expert in a Year

Coach Ben Larcombe from England has been on a one-year project to see if he can turn a beginning adult player (Sam Priestley, age 24) into an "expert" in one year. He even has a web page where he explains and chronicles the adventure, and where you can sign up for regular updates. Here's an article on the project.

Krish Avvari Gets Last Youth Olympics Spot

Here's the story, and here's the ITTF video interview with him (1:40).

Interview with Lily Yip

Here's the ITTF video interview (3:40) with USA coach Lily Yip during the recent Canadian Junior Open.

Amazing Around-the-Net Backhand in the Russian League

Here's the video (46 sec, including slow-motion replay).

Tina Lin - Age Nine

Here's the video (3:43) of junior star Tina Lin, which introduces her at age nine and other ages.

Lily Zhang and her Prom Date

Here's the picture. "Not everyone can say they've gone to the prom with an Olympian! Thanks for a great night!" Lily was on the 2012 Olympic Team and was the 2012 USA Women's Singles Champion.

Ping Pong Animation Episode One

Here's the video (23 min). I haven't had a chance to watch it yet - too busy with spring break camp and other coaching - but if someone wants to do a short review, please comment below. I did browse through it and there's lots of table tennis action, all animated, apparently in a training environment.

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April 3, 2014

Table Tennis Niches and Groups

Have you noticed that there are a number of people in table tennis who have their own "niches"? I'm a prime example; while there are plenty of other table tennis coaches around, none write anywhere near as much as I do, so my table tennis niche is writing. (Six books and over 1300 published articles on table tennis, plus this blog.) Who are the others? (This doesn't imply that this is all they do in table tennis; it's what they do that stands out, that few others do.) Anyone and any niches that I missed?

  • Tim Boggan's table tennis niche is history. (He had others before, but this is what he mostly does now.) Mike Babuin and Scott Gordon are following in his footsteps. (Scott earlier found his niche as the main leader for many years in hardbat table tennis, so does he qualify for two niches?)
  • Mike Mezyan's table tennis niche is artwork.
  • Brian Pace's table tennis niche is videos. Jim Butler has recently been joining him in this niche. So has Gerry Chua and a number of others.
  • There are a number who have found their niche as table tennis photographers. They include Mal Anderson, Gerry Chua, Diego Schaaf, Bruce Liu, Tom Nguyen, and the others I accidentally left off who will be angrily emailing me shortly. Then there's Ayoade Ademakinwa, with tabletennisphotos.com.
  • Richard Lee's niche is running nationwide tournaments. Plenty of others run tournaments, but few others run big ones all over the country. Craig Krum also runs a lot of tournaments around the country with his Omnipong software.
  • Scott Preiss, Adam Bobrow and Judah Friedlander are the table tennis entertainers.

There are other niches as well, but most have larger numbers - I'd call them groups instead. To how many of the following 50 table tennis groups do you belong?

  1. Player
  2. Top Player
  3. Olympian
  4. Paralympic player
  5. Paralympian
  6. USATT Member
  7. USATT Officer, Committee Member, or Staff
  8. Coach
  9. Practice Partner
  10. Umpire
  11. Referee
  12. Club Owner
  13. Club President
  14. Club Officer
  15. Tournament Director
  16. 4- or 5-star Tournament Director
  17. League Director
  18. Promoter
  19. Volunteer
  20. Writer
  21. Historian
  22. Artist
  23. Videographer
  24. Photographer
  25. Entertainer (includes those doing exhibitions)
  26. Forum Member
  27. Forum Troll
  28. Mini-Cadet (Under 13)
  29. Cadet (under 15)
  30. Junior (under 18)
  31. Top Junior (any age group)
  32. Senior (over 40)
  33. Esquire (over 50)
  34. Senior Esquire (over 60)
  35. Veteran (over 70)
  36. Top Senior (any age group)
  37. Hardbat player
  38. Sandpaper player
  39. Long Pips player
  40. Antispin player
  41. Short pips player
  42. Inverted both sides player
  43. Lefty player
  44. Penhold player
  45. Seemiller grip player
  46. Player who trains regularly
  47. Player who takes coaching regularly
  48. Player who only plays matches
  49. Has played U.S. Open or Nationals
  50. Other

Larry Hodges Books

I finally put together a simple page where I can list and sell all of my books: larryhodgesbooks.com. It actually takes you to a page I created here at TableTennisCoaching.com. I'm not sure why I didn't do this long ago - I bought the larryhodgesbooks.com domain name a while back.

National College Championships

The USA National Collegiate Championships are this weekend, April 4-6, Fri-Sun, in Monroeville, PA. Here's their home page, and here's where they will have results. They will also have live-streaming, starting 9:30AM on Friday, which is why I'm letting you know now so you can schedule it for tomorrow! (I'll repost this note again tomorrow as a reminder.)

Werner Schlager Meets Wang Liqin in Shanghai

Here's the article. No, it's not a rematch of their famous quarterfinal match at the 2003 Worlds!

"…you make it that much easier for me to beat you."

Here's a nice table tennis meme. The title above is only the ending of the meme's statement.

ITTF Legends Tour Teaser

Here's the video (38 sec).

Ovtcharov vs. Mizutani

Here's video (1:07:29) of the final of the German Open this past weekend, won by Dimitrij Ovtcharov over Jun Mizutani, 11-9 in the fifth. Jump to 1:04:20 to see the start of the last point of the match - a great one! Or watch the entire thing.

Ten Cool and Unusual Ping Pong Table Designs From Around the World

Here's the page from Uberpong. I think I posted this once before, but I was browsing it yesterday and thought I'd put it up again. I don't think the first one was there before, the one with the brick wall and barbed wire! It'll take a lot of topspin to pull the ball down over that - or would you tactically play through the barbed wire? I don't think I covered this in my tactics book.

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March 6, 2014

Top Ten New Table Tennis Rules I'd Like to See

Some serious, some not so serious. You judge which.

  1. No-Hidden Serve Rule Adjustment. When serving, players should be required to serve so that the ball is visible to both umpires, or where the umpires would sit if there were umpires. When there are no umpires, it would be assumed the umpires would be sitting five feet out on each side, lined up with the net. The point of the rule isn't to make sure the umpires can see the ball. The point is that if a server hides the ball from an opponent but it isn't obvious he is doing so, it'll be obvious he's hiding it from at least one of the umpires. No more hidden serve problems.
  2. Execution of Servers Who Hide Contact. For now on, on the first instance of a player hiding his serve, his opponent shall have the opportunity to slap him in the face. On the second instance, the player shall have splinters shoved under his fingernails. On the third instance, the player shall be dragged outside and executed by firing squad.
  3. More Single Elimination Events. Most tournaments feature a few round robin events, perhaps one every 200 points. In my mind, when I play an event and lose a match, I should be out of the event, but with RR events you keep on going. Why not have twice as many rating events, perhaps every 100 points, but make them single elimination? Fewer matches per event on average, but more events. (I remember playing a tournament in 1977 when I was rated 1480, and I was in Under 1500, 1600, 1700, 1800, 1900, 2000, and 2100 - all in one day! I was in the final of the three lowest events, winning U1600.)
  4. 38mm Ball, 21-point Games. I confess, I miss the way it was played the first 25 years I played. I especially miss 21-point games. I'm not a hardliner on this, but I am nostalgic.
  5. Soccer-colored Balls. We're a game of spin, but you can barely see the spin. Spectators who aren't experts have no clue what's going on. Plus many people say we need longer rallies - well, make it easier to see the spin and there'll be fewer misses off serves. Plus think how fun it would be to play with these balls! We'd gets lot of kids playing. Only downside - it's almost psychedelic playing with them. (I have a supply of these balls which I bring out when I teach spin on serves and pushes.)
  6. Additional One-Minute Timeout. Right now players get a single one-minute timeout where they usually consult with a coach. But that's not fair to coaching authors. Why not a second one-minute timeout where players can consult with a table tennis tactics book?
  7. 50% Rule. All members of USATT shall donate 50% of their salaries to USATT, where it will either be used to develop the sport in this country or it will be squandered in some highly unimaginative way.
  8. The Late No-Learn Rule. When a player shows up late for a class, the coach shall mark down what the player missed and pass this on to all other coaches in the world, with the understanding that no coach shall ever teach that player what he missed for coming in late, and that player will always have a hole in his game because of this. Additionally, all future opponents of this player shall be informed of the hole in this player's game before they play so they may play into it. Additionally, the late player shall get ten lashes.
  9. Athleticism Rule. Before a player can achieve a 2000+ rating in this Olympic sport, he must first pass the Presidential Challenge Fitness Test. (Just kidding, people - there's at least one online forum devoted mostly to combination rackets - mostly long pips and other off-surfaces - that takes these types of things a bit too seriously.)
  10. Scream Rule. Players may only scream at the top of their lungs ten times in a match. On the eleventh such scream they shall be defaulted, their rackets broken, and their tongues pulled out.

Wang Liqin: Ma Lin was a Headache

Here's the article - and no, he's not insulting him, he's talking about what it was like playing him.

Why B2B Marketers Need a Ping-Pong Plan

Here's the article, which includes a nice cats-playing-TT picture.

Drilling with a Robot

Here's a video (29 sec) showing one of the zillions of possible drills with a robot. Most of the major table tennis dealers now sell these advanced robots, but they are more expensive than the less expensive ones, which primarily hit either to one spot or randomly all over the table.

Bay Areas Trying Out for USA National Team

Here's a video (75 sec) that features the players from the SF bay area that are trying out for team at the Trials at Texas Wesleyan University, Fri-Sun, March 7-9.

A Little School Table Tennis

Here's a video (54 sec) of Adam Bobrow hitting with kids at a school. At 34 sec in he can't resist throwing in a high, sidespinning-backspinning lob.

Playing Table Tennis on Drugs!

Here's a hilarious new video (102 sec) where Australians take on Americans in "the most epic table tennis duel in history!!" (It gets really good about 17 seconds in.)

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February 21, 2014

USATT President's Blog

Here's USATT Board Chair Mike Babuin's new blog on "Changes for 2014."  It's mostly good stuff. Many of the items he writes about we can't really judge until we know more about the programs, and see if they will actually be implemented. USATT historically doesn't have a high batting average in that regard. Here are my short comments on each.

  • On Change. Mike quotes Einstein: "Madness is best described as doing the same things over and over again while expecting different results." He also talks about how some are resistant to change. I've been arguing the same type of thing for decades as I've watched one administration after another do the same type of stuff while expecting different results. However, not all change is good. Change for the sake of change isn't going to help things; there has to be a specific reason for each change. Some changes are obvious; others are experimental as you don't always know if something will work until you try it. Often leaders are afraid of the latter type because they'll get blamed if their program doesn't work. Solution - try a number of programs, and if you think them through and plan them out, some will work. The alternative is to do nothing, which is most of USATT's history.
  • On the Polyethylene Ball: He says USATT is still evaluating the change. Personally, I'm ambivalent about it. I'd prefer celluloid, but the new poly ball I tried at the Nationals (see second item in this blog entry) is pretty similar. But even the subtle differences will take time to get used to. Some say that the new ball gets less spin, but it's not clear if they were using the same ball I tried, or another type, since they're not all the same. Also, as I noted in the blog entry, when I tried out the ball I was having serious arm problems and couldn't loop very hard, and partially relied on others to tell me how the ball played.
  • On RailStation Roll-out: We'll have to wait and see on this one. USATT has periodically gotten infatuated with various softwares, such as one I think used by the Brazilian TTA that we talked about adopting for years but never did so. I have no idea if this will useful.
  • On Creation of a Recreational Division and Website: I'm all for both. However, it's not clear what the program constitutes. If it's just informational, then it's somewhat helpful but not much. What's needed is something that a new player can immediately get into on a regular basis - i.e., a league. I've blogged about this so many times it's repetitive, but it's one of those obvious things that many don't get. When a new player comes into a club, you can't toss him in with the experienced players and expect him to have a positive experience as he's getting killed. You need leagues for all levels, as well as available coaching (classes or private coaching). Without that, we're just waving our hands. Recreational players are recreational players until we give them a reason to become serious players and join USATT. I once joined the U.S. Tennis Association for one reason only, as did the vast majority of their 700,000 members - to play in their tennis leagues.
  • On the Digital Magazine: I've blogged about this several times, such as here and here. I'm all for it. Some still don't get it that you can be for the online magazine, as I am, while still against canceling the print one. I'm also a bit peeved that members who paid expecting the magazine, and especially life members, will have to pay a fee to get a printed version. As to the magazine eventually being members-only again (the online version), that might be a good idea as it at least returns some added value to memberships.
  • On Tournament Sanction Process Roll-Out: I haven't studied the new sanctioning procedures - they changed right at the time I stopped running tournaments at MDTTC (Charlene Liu took over). However, it is a good idea to go to the quality of the tournament, not just the prize money. However, I'm a little reticent about their removing any regional protection for tournaments. That's one of the primary reasons to sanction a tournament. It means higher risk for tournament directors and clubs. Some clubs rely on revenue from tournaments to finance their club; if someone suddenly decides to run a competing tournament locally on the same date, they have a serious problem.
  • On the $5-million Quad Roll-out: We'll need a lot more info on this to figure out what it is. Announcing a plan to raise $5 million is about five million times easier than actually raising $5 million. It's been a long time since USATT has raised any serious money, as they used to do in the 1980s with a series of large sponsors.

Upcoming ITTF Coaching Courses in USA

There are two coming up, a Level 1 Course in Akron, OH (July 28-Aug. 1) and a Level 2 Course in Austin, TX (Aug. 25-30). For more info, see the USATT Coaching Courses Page

2016 Olympic Rio Qualification System

Here are the rules for qualifying.

2014 Friendship Trophy

This is part of the ITTF's Women's Development Program, where they encourage you to "… find a way to celebrate women and girls in Table Tennis."

Chinese Retirement Ceremony

Here's an article with a link to a video trailer (4:49) where retiring Chinese team members give messages to their teammates (in Chinese, alas).

Mike Meier to Umpire at Worlds

Here's the article.

Amazing Table Tennis Serves

Here's a video (4:03) where a player demonstrates his tricky spinny serves. I think the commentary is in Chinese. Note that the serve where the ball bounces back into the net is more for show, and is easy to return; in a real match, it's better to serve the ball so second bounce is near the end-line.

Orioles' David Lough and Table Tennis

Here's an interview with new Baltimore Orioles left fielder David Lough. See third item:

Hidden talent: I thought I was good at ping-pong until I saw some of these other guys playing in here. [Laughs]. I don't have anything else cool, I'm boring.

Adam Bobrow on Table Tennis, Comedy, Excessive Celebrations

Here's the video (20:49). Here's more about Actor, Comedian, and Table Tennis Player Adam Bobrow.

Qatar Open's 20th Birthday

Here's their 20th Birthday Cake. (Here's the home page for the Qatar Open in Doha, held Feb. 18-23 - yes, right now!)

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January 30, 2014

Yesterday's Coaching Events

Had a lot of interesting things happen yesterday - here's a rundown!

  • For the second time, those months when I was about twelve where I learned how to pick locks paid off, making me a hero. On Tuesday night someone accidentally closed the bathroom door while it was locked. We have two bathrooms at MDTTC, but this was the one where we stored paper towels and toilet paper - and the other bathroom was running low. When I came in Wednesday afternoon they hadn't been able to open it, and were about to call a locksmith. So I grabbed a credit card and a paper clip, and picked the lock. I was a hero!!! For future cases, I taught Coach Jack how to pick that particular lock. The previous time my lock-picking made me a hero was about 15 years ago at a U.S. Open or Nationals, where nobody came to unlock the playing hall at 8AM, and about 100 of us were stuck outside, with events to start at 9AM. I picked the lock, to thunderous applause.
  • During a practice session a student mentioned that some of my blocks against his loop came out flatter than others. There's a simple reason for that - when the ball lands at normal depth or deep, a player blocks normally. But when the ball lands shorter and you have to reach forward, there is sometimes a tendency to block flatter. This is also why players who block right off the bounce tend to block flatter. 
  • One student tended to block from about five feet off the table. So we spent some time working on blocking within an arm's length. There are generally two types of blockers: those who take it right off the bounce (and go for quickness, consistency, angles, and change-of-pace - penholders with conventional backhands are notorious for this) and those who take it a bit later, but still on the rise, and focus on blocking more aggressively.
  • I did drills with one player where he had to loop to my middle. This is easier when backhand looping then with forehand looping. Why? For the simple reason that when backhand looping the opponent is in front of you, clearly in sight, while for forehand looping you are looking to the side, and so can't see the opponent. I know several top players who are great at finding my middle with their backhands, but aren't so good at doing this with their forehands.
  • One of the sessions was a lot of fun. Why? The student had had recent problems against players who lobbed and fished. And so I spent a good 20 minutes lobbing and fishing to him! This happens to be a strength of mine, and so we had some vicious rallies. I can lob down pretty much anyone under 1800 level, and (at my peak, when I was faster) most 2000 players.
  • Had one of the most interesting conversations ever while driving kids to the club - see next segment!

Blue Whales at the MDTTC

Recently we've started an afterschool program where I pick up some of our students from their schools and take them to the club. Yesterday I picked up a 7-year-old boy and a 10-year-old girl. What follows is a rough synopsis of the conversation, mostly with the 7-year-old. Be forewarned - it gets silly, and if you're not in a silly mood, skip ahead or it'll ruin your non-silliness by making you laugh. (And there's plenty of other table tennis stuff afterwards.)

Me: "I'm going to drive the car up the Washington Monument, which is 555 feet tall, and drive off the top."
7-year-old: "No, don't do it! We'll all die! And the police will arrest you!"
Me: "I'll drive off the top so fast we'll land in the Atlantic Ocean and get swallowed by a blue whale."
7-year-old: "You won't make it to the Washington Monument because the police will stop you with their bazookas!"
Me: "They'd arrest me for driving off the top of the Washington Monument?"
7-year-old: "Yes!"
Me: "But then they'd have to wait until I'd actually driven off the Washington Monument before they could arrest me for driving off the Washington Monument. Then they'd only have three seconds to do so. Besides, the hungry blue whale will stop them from arresting us."
7-year-old: "Blue whales don't eat people, they eat plankton!"
Me: "Ah, I see you know your whales. But this is a special man-eating whale that's realized that in one bite, it can save hours of scouring the ocean for plankton."
7-year-old: "The police will kill the blue whale with their bazookas!"
Me: "No way. In a fight between a 100-foot blue whale weighing 200 tons, and a few puny humans with bazookas, the blue whale would win."
7-year-old: "Not if I bring in the army!"
Me: "If you bring in the army, I'll bring in a gang of octopuses with machine guns. And I think the plural of octopus is octopi."
7-year-old: "Then I'll bring in all the rest of the animals in the world!"
Me: "Then I'll bring in blood-sucking vampire cheetahs, since you missed them since they are dead."
7-year-old: "I'll bring in tanks!"
Me: "I'll bring in super-plankton, this little plankton that's been lifting weights and beating up blue whales everywhere! He's small but deadly."
7-year-old: "I'll eat your plankton!"
Me: "I'll bring in the planet Mars, and smash your policemen, armies, animals, and tanks."
7-year-old: "I'll smash your Mars with Jupiter!"
10-year-old, joining in for first time: "I'll smash Mars and Jupiter with my Jupiter-sized fists, which are made of rock."
Me: "Okay, now I'm scared."
[We arrive at club.]
Me: "But this raises the age-old question: How many blue whales could we fit in the Maryland Table Tennis Center?"
7-year-old: "None, they're too big."
Me: "I think we could fit four across the floor, and stack four more on top, so we could fit eight of them."
7-year-old: "How are you going to get them into the club? You can't carry eight blue whales!"
Me: "I'll toss them over my shoulder, one by one, of course."
10-year-old: "I'll smash your blue whales with my giant fists."
7-year-old: "But blue whales won't fit in the club!"
Me: "Let's find out." 

And so I paced off the club, and got its dimensions: 77' wide and 126' long. By measuring the size of the panels on one wall that went up to the ceiling, I calculated the height at 18 feet. (Technically, we have two bathrooms sticking out of one wall, which reduce the volume, but we also have a back room of about the same size.)

Now according to my Internet research, an adult blue whale is roughly 100 feet long, and (when lying out of water on dry land) about 10 feet tall and 25 feet wide at its widest. The 10 feet tall thing is problematic since that would make it difficult to stack them since the ceilings are 18 feet high, but I'm going to assume we can squeeze them down a bit more and stack them two high - but this would make them wider, perhaps 30 feet wide. Since the club is 77 feet wide, we would be able to fit two side by side, and two on top of that. Then we'd have 17 feet left on the side. We should be able to squeeze one more in there. But the club is 126 feet long, so we have an area 26 feet by 77 feet left over. Taking into account that the whales don't take up as much space with their flukes, and being careful to load them into the club fluke first, we should be able to jam in one more blue whale, left to right, if we fold its flukes back over. So that makes us a six blue whale club.

Here's another way of looking at this. A blue whale's density is pretty close to water. A blue whale can weigh up to 200 tons, let's assume we have a very large one at 200 tons. Now if MDTTC's dimensions are 77x126x18, then it has a volume of 174,636 square feet. A square foot of water weighs about 62.4 pounds. So MDTTC could hold up to 10,897,286 pounds of water, or about 5448 tons, which equates to 27.24 blue whales at 200 tons each. Suddenly I'm realizing that my blue whale packaging above wasn't very efficient. So now we're a 27 blue whale club, assuming we can fold and perhaps cut up the whales to make them fit. The key question - will they pay membership?

Balancing Training of Strengths and Weaknesses

Here's the article from Table Tennis Master.

The Laughmaster of Ping-Pong - Adam Bobrow

Here's an article on this entertaining player, "The Laughmaster Of Ping-Pong, Adam Bobrow Combines Comedy And Table Tennis And Tours The World In Leopard Print," which includes a link to a video (4:08) that compiles some of his adventures.

Liu Shiwen Criticized by Liu Guoliang

Here's the article, which includes a link to a video (18:06).

Top Ten Table Tennis Points of 2013

Here's the video (3:37).

Top Ten Shots of the ITTF World Tour Grand Finals

Here's the video (4:24) from the ITTF.

Eager Thief Tries to Gift Wrap Table Tennis Table

Here's the article! (Alas, it links to a video that is no longer available, which I saw last night, with video footage of the hapless criminal actually trying to wrap the table.)

Cat Smacking in Forehands

Here's the latest cat-playing-table-tennis video (27 sec) starring an acrobatic cat with a world-class forehand, I mean forepaw.

Will Ferrell Playing Table Tennis

Here's the picture, where he demonstrates his unique penhold grip - while wearing white with a white ball, the cheater.

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January 7, 2014

Away Wed-Sun

I'll be away the next five days, Wednesday to late Sunday night (Jan. 8-12), going to my nephew's wedding and family gathering in New Orleans. So no blog until next Tuesday. (I'll also put the Tip of the Week up on Tuesday.) At that point things get exciting - USATT Historian Tim Boggan moves in with me on Monday, and we begin the grueling two-week task of doing the photo work and layouts for Volume 14 of his History of U.S. Table Tennis, as I've done with the previous volumes. 

USATT Election Results

USATT just completed a special election for the open seat vacated by Christian Lillieroos. Here's the announcement - Jim McQueen wins over Ross Brown. Here's the USATT Board of Directors listing.

Ratings Records

I don't like to harp on ratings, but a record's a record. Here are two new ratings records, by Crystal Wang and Klaus Wood, both from my club, MDTTC. (However, as noted below, Klaus has spent most of the last four years in Taiwan.) 

Just as she did as a 9-year-old (with a 2150 ratings) and a 10-year-old (with a 2355 rating), Crystal Wang just set the all-time record for highest rating for an 11-year-old, boys or girls, with a 2402 rating after the North American Teams. Alas, it didn't last - at the USA Nationals, where she became the youngest ever to win Under 22 Women (beating in the semifinals soon-to-be three-time USA Women's Singles Champion Ariel Hsing), she sort of imploded in Under 18 Girls' Singles with several huge rating losses, and so came out at 2304. Suffice to say that few who play her think of her as "only" 2304.

Did she deserve the 2402 rating? You decide. (And remember that she beat the 2511 Ariel Hsing three weeks later at the Nationals!)
Wins: 2359, 2356, 2348, 2345, 2315, 2305, 2304, 2289, 2277, 2276, 2262, 2247, 2134, 2059, 2012.
Losses: 2781, 2542, 2394, 2325, 2305.

Crystal has been chasing after Kanak Jha's records for the last few years. Kanak, 13, set the record for highest rated 9-, 10-, 11-, 12-, and now 13-year-old in history, with Crystal breaking the first three. (Kanak's highest ratings at age 9, 10, 11, 12, and 13 were 2017, 2265, 2366, 2468, and 2635. This last one especially is going to be tough for anyone to top! Note - I'm not absolutely certain Kanak's 2017 rating at age 9 was the record, but I think it was.) The two are leading a huge surge in elite cadet players in the U.S., which is stronger than it's ever been. Just for the record, both Crystal and Kanak are U.S.-born citizens. I had a listing of Kanak's highest ratings at each age, and now I can't find it, alas - but I know his highest as an 11-year-old was somewhere in the 2350 range, which is still incredible.

At the USA Nationals, Klaus Wood, 12, went from 637 to 1747, a gain of 1110 points, which I believe might be a record. If anyone's gained that many in a tournament, let me know. At worse, it's probably a record for the Nationals. The amazing thing is that's way, way too low for him. Just look at his results - he beat players rated 2261, 2068, 1906, and 1892, and his worst loss was to a 2132 player in five games! He's really 2100+. But his 637 rating was from 2009. Here's his story: he started out as a 9-year-old at the Maryland Table Tennis Center in 2009 (my club), and played five tournaments that year, getting that 637 rating. I coached him a number of times that year in group sessions. Then his father got a job in Taiwan, and so he moved there and spent the last four years there training. (He's half Chinese.) He came back to Maryland for a time this summer and attended two of our camps. Then he attended the USA Nationals. He's back in Taiwan again, but he's supposed to return to Maryland permanently later this year. We look forward to having him back.

Full-Time Table Tennis Centers

I've added two new clubs to the list I maintain of full-time table tennis centers in the U.S.; there are now 67 on my list.  The new ones are the Zaman TTC in Westminster, CA, and the Washington TTC in Gaithersburg, MD. Let me know if there are any I've missed. I'm sure there are a few out there that I don't know about. One rule - the club needs a web page in order to be listed.

There are full-time centers in 23 states. The leaders are California with 20 and New York with 12. After that it drops down to four in Maryland and Texas, and three in Georgia and Oregon, and two in Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. States without a full-time center (in order of population) are MI, TN, MO, WI, CO, AL, SC, LA, KY, OK, CT, IA, MS, AR, KS, NE, WV, ID, HI, ME, NH, MT, DE, SD, AK, ND, VT, AND WY.

I was curious as to how they match up if you divide the state's population by the number of centers, and here's what I found, with number of full-time centers in parenthesis.

Population Per Full-Time Center in Millions

  1. RI (01): 1.1
  2. OR (03): 1.3
  3. MD (04): 1.5
  4. NY (12): 1.6
  5. CA (20): 1.9
  6. NM (01): 2.1
  7. NV (01): 2.8
  8. UT (01): 2.9
  9. GA (03): 3.3
  10. MA (02): 3.4
  11. NJ (02): 4.9
  12. MN (01): 5.4
  13. WI (01): 5.7
  14. PA (02): 6.4
  15. IL (02): 6.5
  16. IN (01): 6.57
  17. TX (04): 6.61
  18. AZ (01): 6.63
  19. WA (01): 7.0
  20. VA (01): 8.3
  21. NC (01): 9.8
  22. OH (01): 11.6
  23. FL (01): 19.5

Expert Table Tennis

Here's a growing step-by-step guide to playing table tennis. Not all the segments are complete, but it's halfway - nine articles done, nine to go!

Around the Net Winner

Here's video (41 sec) of Adam Bobrow winning a match in Vietnam with a spectacular around-the-net backhand counter-smash winner.

Imitating the Stars

Here's a funny video (1:56) of someone imitating four top Chinese players. See if you can identify which is which!  If you're stumped, the comments below it identify them. (Anyone who doesn't recognize the first hasn't been paying attention!)

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