Because of my arm problems (see below), I only gave one lesson yesterday, and it was an all-multiball session. The 12-year-old player (hi Sameer!) has a tendency to stand up too straight when he plays. This leads to some awkward strokes. At first glance some would say he needs to loop more forward, or use less arm, or something similar, but that would be treating the symptoms. The problem was how straight he tends to stay, with his feet too close together. So much of the session was focused on not just staying down, but on keeping the feet wider. This gives extra stability and power. The results were good - his looping form was perhaps the best ever. It also helped when he took the ball a little later so he wouldn't be rushed. As he gets used to the wider stance he'll get quicker with it, along with the increase in stability and power. (Stability increases both the consistency as well as the recovery from the previous shot.)
This is true for most players. Watch videos of the top players and see how wide their stance is when they play. It does take some leg muscle, but not as much as you'd think; it's more a habit you have to develop. Once you get in the habit, I think it's actually less tiring as the extra stability means you aren't tiring yourself recovering from shots over and over.
Here's a video (5:37) of the Chinese team training earlier this year before the Worlds. Watch the very first drill sequence, and see how wide the players keep their feet - both the player moving and the one blocking. A few key things about a wider stance: feet should point slightly outward. Knees should be bent. Body should be bent slightly forward at the waist.
I spent some time this past weekend watching some of our top juniors train, especially Nathan Hsu and Derek Nie, whom I'll be coaching at the Nationals. Their stances were plenty wide, but the interesting thing they and our other top juniors all pretty much do is keep their feet mostly parallel to the end-line even on forehands, as they've been trained to do. In the past it was standard to have the right foot back some when playing forehands (for righties), and that's still how beginners are taught. But as players advance, more and more they keep the feet parallel, and rely on the wide stance (for stability and power) and flexible hips and waist to rotate around for most forehand shots. This has several advantages: it means they are equally ready to play forehand or backhand; it makes it easier to loop forehands close to the table; and it makes it easier to rotate the hips and body into the shot. They do bring the right foot back for some shots, but mostly when they have extra time. They also bring it back of course when stepping around the backhand corner, but not as much as players in the past.
As expected, I had to cancel my three hours of private coaching scheduled today (Wednesday). The arm is still very sore, though I hope it'll be okay by the weekend. Other than a one-hour class I teach on Thursday (where I'll only feed multiball) I've cancelled everything until Saturday. The good news is two of the kids I normally coach today have made arrangements to meet to practice and play matches.
60 Full-time Table Tennis Clubs in the U.S.
I just added the King Pong TTC from NYC to the list of full-time table tennis clubs in the U.S. Let me know if there are any I missed! How did I find out about them? From this article in the Tribeca Citizen, "Our Friendly Neighborhood Ping Pong Parlor."
The Most Common Mistakes Made by Beginners
Here's the article from Table Tennis Master.
ITTF on Waldner and Waldner Stamp
Here's the ITTF article on Waldner and the new Waldner Chinese stamp.
Synagogue Welcomes Government Workers to Ping-Pong
With the government closed, this Synagogue is attracting "government refuges" for ping-pong and West Wing reruns. Here's the article.
Adam Bobrow Takes on San Francisco Mayor
Here's a video (17 sec) of Adam Bobrow and a partner (jumpy guy in striped shirt) he apparently chose at random from the crowd taking on San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and 11-year-old William Bai (rated 1970) in a doubles match.
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Walter Wintermute Visit
Coach and player Walter Wintermute from North Carolina visited MDTTC last night. He'd emailed in advance, saying he would be in town for a business trip, and wanted to observe our coaching. So he watched while I ran a one-hour session with five beginning junior players. Then he watched some of our top juniors in training (Crystal Wang, Derek Nie, Nathan Hsu, others), and played a practice match with another local top junior (Josh Tran). Then we talked table tennis coaching for half an hour. He's been coaching more and more and wanted to see how we did it. So I went over the various techniques used for coaching juniors, as well as how we ran the sessions, the games we played at the end, etc.
Walter and I go way back. In early 1977, when I was 17 and had been playing about a year, I was rated 1480; he was rated just a few points lower and was two years younger. We played in three finals in a tournament in Virginia - I believe it was Under 1500, Under 1600, and Under 1700. He won two of them, alas. Later that year we would both shoot up in ratings to 1900. Two years later, in 1979, I would move to North Carolina for two years, where I would play Walter regularly on weekends and at the monthly tournaments.
The last two years his son, David, 15, has been coming to our camps. He has an unearthly resemblance to his dad from 35 or so years ago, so it's sort of nostalgic when I work with him.
Sometimes a student surprises you. Yesterday I was coaching an older player, one of the few non-juniors I'm coaching . He had some major technique problems with his forehand, and we'd been working for a few weeks on fixing them. His backhand, however, was pretty good. His overall level was about 1200 or so. I decided it was time to start him on looping. I figured we'd start with the backhand loop against backspin and spend a few weeks on that before moving on to the forehand loop, where I figured we'd have some problems.
So I went over the backhand loop stroke with him, making sure he had the technique down before actually hitting anything. Then I began feeding him multiball to his backhand with backspin. And he picked it up immediately! I was pleasantly surprised, but not shocked as he did have a pretty good backhand. We worked on it for perhaps 8-10 minutes, and I told him he should make that a strength.
Then, with about 15 minutes left in the session, I asked if he wanted to focus on serves the rest of the way or start work on the forehand loop. He wanted to try looping. So, weeks ahead of schedule, I went over the forehand loop with him, again making sure he had the technique down before hitting anything. Then I began fed him multiball. The very first shot - wham, a perfect loop! Okay, not perfect; he tended to stroke from the shoulder, and hit inside-out. But it looked like one of Timo Boll's patented inside-out forehand loops! We worked on it for ten minutes, and he did the shot over and over, no problem. I was severely impressed. We're going to continue working on these shots so that he can serve and loop from both wings against any push return. And then - dare I say it? - looping out of the rally? Or even counterlooping???
Message from Saive
Here's a video interview (7:19) from Belgium superstar Jean-Michel Saive, former world #1. He talks about his beginning, coaches, the importance of talent, and family.
Ellen Degeneres Surprises Tour Group with Private Ping Pong Tour
Here's the story and video (4:59) from Table Tennis Nation.
Adam Hugh's Second Entry
Yesterday I linked to Adam Hugh's entry to the ITTF Trick Shot Competition. He has a second entry (1:17). He wrote of this one, "This is my 2nd submission. Actually it was the first one I recorded and was originally intended to be a test for the camera but I figured what the heck." Here's the page showing videos entered so far.
Adam Bobrow's 40-Shot Dialog Rally
Here's the video (60 sec) as he lobs away. (Spoilers ahead!) The smasher (Sherwin Afshar) yells something like "Foo-aw!" over and over, and Adam does it right back. Then the dialog begins: "Die!" "No." "Die!" "Not yet." "Die!" "Why?" It all ends with - you guessed it - an edge ball.
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Due to massive spamming attacks, I've been forced to switch to requiring administrator approval for new accounts. Yesterday I had to block over 50 new accounts, each of which was posting spamming notes all over the comments section on my blog and the forum, which I also had to delete. (Fortunately I can generally delete all postings by a spammer with a few clicks - but it does take time.) So starting last night, new visitors can create accounts but administrator approval is required. It seems to be working - since last night 18 more accounts were created, but only two legit. (On a related note, anyone who has to constantly waste time battling these spammers believes in the death penalty.)
Table Tennis Leagues in the U.S.
Last night I had a debate on the MyTableTennis forum on the future of leagues in the U.S., and whether a nationwide network of local leagues is possible. Here's where I join the discussion. I ended up posting thirteen notes. (You can also read the previous postings of course.) I was thinking of copying and pasting the entire discussion here, but I'll just post my first note, and link to the rest. There's some lively discussion, so if you have any interest in leagues or the growth of table tennis in the U.S., I hope you read the rest of it.
The goal of a nationwide network of local leagues isn't to set up leagues for currently existing clubs. The purpose is to use the leagues spur the creation of new clubs and players. This is how it was done in places all over the world, including Europe. Germany didn't start with 11,000 clubs and 700,000 and then decide to set up leagues; the leagues are what spurred the development of these 11,000 clubs and 700,000 players. The whole point is to set up local leagues, so nobody needs to drive hundreds of miles. [Note: I'm responding to a note that said leagues wouldn't work in the U.S. because players might have to drive hundreds of miles to get to the next local club.]
I remember when we opened the Maryland Table Tennis Center many years ago. Over and over we were told there weren't enough players to support a full-time table tennis center devoted to coaching, and that there was no way players would pay enough hours for coaching to make it pay for itself. They missed the point - we weren't going after current players, we were going after NEW players. Now we have seven full-time coaches and over 300 hours of private coaching per week (plus group sessions), and full-time clubs with full-time coaches are popping up all over the country (about 60 of them now, compared to about 10 just seven years ago). Similarly, the purpose of a nationwide network of local leagues would be to bring in new players and new clubs, not just for existing ones.
It will not an easy task, and it probably does need to start in populated regions. If there are local organizers, as tennis does in the U.S. and other countries do in table tennis, than any city can develop table tennis leagues, and from the players signing up for those leagues more clubs can pop up, just as they do overseas. Tennis has such local leagues all over the U.S. and huge numbers of players, and they started out just where we are now. There's no reason why table tennis can't do the same; in Europe, nearly every country sports associations have more table tennis members than tennis members.
Striped Balls and Backhand Flip
Yesterday I blogged about using colorful soccer-style ping-pong balls for table tennis, since it makes it easier to see the spin on the ball. Here's a video (3:25) of Ma Long's backhand flip (also called a flick) where he's using a striped ball so you can see the spin. The video quality isn't good enough to really see the ball spin with the stripes - you can see it much better in person. I wonder how it would show up on normal TV?
USOC Athletes of the Month
USATT has two nominees for USOC Athlete of the Month for April - Lily Zhang and Timothy Wang. Please vote for them! You can vote for both a male athlete and a female athlete. Here are short bios on both, provided by USATT Webmaster Sean O'Neill.
Timothy Wang, Table Tennis
Olympian Timothy Wang (Houston, Texas) battled to a silver medal at the 2013 ITTF-North American Cup, held April 21 in Westchester, N.Y. Rising to the occasion, Wang registered an impressive 3-0 win over top-seeded Pierre-Luc Theriault of Canada. He followed with a 4-1 semifinal victory over 2011 U.S. champion Peter Li (Laurel, M.D.). Wang, the current U.S. men’s singles No. 1, will lead the U.S. men at the 2013 World Championships taking place in Paris in May.
Lily Zhang, Table Tennis
Olympian Lily Zhang (Palo Alto, Calif.) captured first place at the 2013 ITTF North American Cup, held April 21 in Westchester, N.Y. With the tournament featuring some of the best players from the U.S., Canada and Bermuda, Zhang defeated Olympic teammate Ariel Hsing (San Jose, Calif.), 4-1, in the women’s singles final. The victory qualified Zhang to compete in the STARTS Women’s World Cup, while ending Hsing’s attempt to three-peat as the North American Cup winner. Zhang advanced to the final upon beating fellow world team member Tina Lin (Edison, N.J.), 4-0, in the semifinal. Zhang will be representing the U.S. at the 2013 World Championships in May in Paris.
Table Tennis Master
Here's another interesting coaching article from Table Tennis Master, "Mastering the Counterloop."
Chinese Ping-Pong Song for the Worlds
Here's a music video (4:37) of the Chinese National Team singing their Ping-Pong Song for the 2013 World Championships and thanking their fans. How many of the players can you name?
Here's a short article from Table Tennis Nation where actor Jesse Metcalfe (best known for his work on Desperate Housewives and the remake of Dallas) says he sees ping-pong as the future of nightlife.
Six Pictures Preparing for the Worlds
Here are six Facebook pictures from the ITTF showing players preparing for the Worlds at the Werner Schlager Academy in Austria. How many of the players can you name?
Ariel Hsing with Uncles Warren and Bill
Here's an article and photos from Table Tennista on Ariel Hsing, Warren Buffett, and Bill Gates playing table tennis at the annual Berkshire Hathaway Shareholder Meeting this past Sunday. They've been bringing her in annually for this since she was a little kid. And here are three more photos.
Ariel with Bill and Warren
Warren Holding Ariel
Warren and Bill Play Doubles
(If you can't see these on Facebook, try this, this, and this.)
Learn from a Pro
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Forehand or Backhand Receive in Doubles?
More and more these days top players receive short balls with their backhand whenever possible. In doubles, where players only have to cover half the court on the receive, most players used to return everything with their forehands, so that they'd be ready to forehand loop anything that went long. But that paradigm has changed.
Here's a video (4:21, with time between points removed, not all points shown) of the all-Chinese Men's Doubles Final at the Kuwait Open this past weekend, where Xu Xin and Yan An defeated Zhang Jike and Ma Long, -6,9,10,4. The video showed 44 points; below is the breakdown on receives. Overall, players received forehand 24 times and backhand 20 times. However, these results were skewed by Yan An, who received forehand 12 times, backhand once. Take him out, and the other three had 12 forehand receives to 19 backhand ones.
Make sure to see the nifty ducking move by Ma Long in the point starting around 46 seconds in. Also, see where Zhang Jike and Ma Long accidentally bump into each other, about 65 seconds in. (Xu is the lefty penholder; Yan An his righty shakehands partner. I sometimes had trouble telling Zhang Jike and Ma Long apart in the video, especially on the far side where you couldn't see their names on their backs - they are dressed identically right down to their shoes, both have black on their forehands, have nearly the same haircuts, are about the same height, and from a distance look similar (at least to me on the video). I did so by keeping track of who was serving to who. In game one, Ma Long served to Xu Xin, and you can work out the rest from that.)
I did a similar analysis of an early-round match at the Qatar Open, which started yesterday. Here's a video (3:14, with time between points removed, not all points shown) from the Qatar Open just yesterday showing most of the points in a match in Men's Doubles in the round of 32 where Xu Xin (the same lefty penholder from the match above) and Fan Zhendong (righty shakehander) of China defeated Hungary's Janos Jakab (all-blue shirt) and Czech Republic's Michal Obeslo (blue shirt with orange sleeves), -10,4,8,6. The video showed 39 points; below is the breakdown on receives. Overall there were 27 forehand receives and 12 backhand, but the stats are again skewed, this time by Jakab's 11-1 stats. Take him out, and the other three had 16 forehand receives to 11 backhand ones.
You could say that Yan An and Janos Jakab are "old school," in that they received nearly everything forehand, just as players in the past (including myself) were taught to do, so as to be ready to loop anything deep. However, newer players like to receive short serves with the backhand whenever possible, using banana flips with heavy topspin and often sidespin. (As I've blogged about before, this is also true in singles.)
In most cases, the players set up in advance to receive forehand or backhand. However, often you'd see them switch, based on the incoming serve. Ma Long and Zhang Jike in particular would sometimes set up forehand and switch to backhand as the serve was coming in. It looks like they were trying to receive long serves with their forehands, and would switch to backhand as soon as they saw the serve was short. Late in the match in the Kuwait Final, there are two points where Zhang Jike looped two serves in with his forehand against Yan An's serve - they were the only forehand receives he used that match, and probably the only long serves he saw.
Xu Xin, the lefty penholder, was tricky to watch. Sometimes it was hard telling if he was receiving forehand or backhand when he pushed (almost always short).
Qingdao Great Personality Award for the year 2012
Zhang Jike has been named the Qingdao Personality of the Year for 2012. Here's the article.
Who is Liu Guoliang's Favorite Player?
Answer: Chen Qi. Here's an article on what the Chinese Men's Coach and former star said. (Actually, despite the article's headline, what he really said was "Chen Qi is one of my favorite players on the National Team." He also said that fans call him a "cute murderer.")
Mario vs. Maria
Here's a video (1:23) of a three-point challenge match between Mario Lopez and Maria Menounos from Extra TV, with "pro" table tennis players Elie Mehl and Adam Bobrow first giving a demo.
Ryder Cup Table Tennis
Here's a video (1:30) of Ryder Cup Golf players discussing table tennis. Players interviewed include Webb Simpson, Bubba Watson, and the reigning table tennis champion, Matt Kuchar. They make fun of Phil Mickelson, who was the best until Kuchar came along. Some quotes:
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Preparing for Tournaments
Yesterday I coached two junior players who were getting ready for their first USATT tournament. (The MDTTC Open on March 2-3.) Neither have actual USATT ratings, but both have league ratings under 1000 - I'm not sure if they will use those or treat them as unrated. I coached a third this past weekend who is also getting ready for his first tournament, and who also has a league rating under 1000. What did I tell these players to do to prepare?
Sam, 11, a lefty, has a good forehand smash, and can forehand loop against backspin, though he's not too confident in the shot. He pushes and blocks well, and has decent serves, though he tends to have a short toss (under six inches) on his backhand serve, his best serve - we're working on that. Recently he's been learning to backhand loop. I told him to focus on practicing his serves, on steadiness with his backhand (pushing and blocking), and on steady hitting on the forehand side. Since he doesn't have great confidence in his forehand loop, I told him to focus on looping only on pushes to his forehand side. We also agreed to drop the backhand loop from his game for now. After the tournament, we'll get back to backhand looping, and work to increase his confidence in his forehand loop.
TJ, 12, a righty, likes to loop, and does so pretty well from both sides. I was at first unsure if he was ready to unleash his backhand loop in matches, but he has confidence in it, so he's going to be looping from both sides against most deep pushes in the tournament. He still has trouble controlling his serve when he puts spin on it, so we're going to focus on that more than anything else until the tournament. Because he's only recently learned to loop - though he has great confidence in the shot - he has trouble going from looping to hitting on both sides, so between now and the tournament we're going to focus on backhand hitting and forehand smashing. After the tournament we're going to focus more and more on mostly looping on the forehand side, while working his backhand loop into his game more and more. He already likes to spin the backhand even against fast incoming topspins, so he's undoubtedly going to become a two-winged looper.
Sameer, 11, a righty, most practices at home, where there's only about five feet behind each side of the table. Because of this he's mostly a hitter, though he has a decent loop against backspin. (He uses inverted on both sides, though I've considered having him try pips-out.) He's developing pretty good serves and a good follow-up loop or smash. Recently his backhand has gotten a lot better. In drills, his backhand loop is pretty good against backspin, but because he's so forehand oriented, he rarely uses it in games yet. For the tournament, I told him to focus on serves and following up his serve with his forehand (looping or smashing), which he has great confidence in. Once in rallies he needs to play a steady backhand until he gets a weak one to smash from either side. He's probably not going to be backhand looping at the tournament, but we'll work on that later. We worked a lot on his backhand push, since he can't step around to loop every ball with his forehand. We're also working on his balance - he tends to go off balance a bit when forehand looping from the backhand side, and so leaves the wide forehand open. (If he stays balanced, he'd be able to recover quickly to cover that shot with his forehand smash.)
What should YOU do to prepare for tournaments? Here's my Ten-Point Plan to Tournament Success.
I'm still waiting for the first Amazon review of my new book, Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers. If you really liked the book, what are you waiting for??? I will not eat or sleep until I get a great review there, at least until I get hungry or sleepy.
Extraordinary Nets & Edges Match
I once blogged about how nets and edges don't really even out - some styles simply get more than others. Unfortunately, I have the type of style that rarely gets either. My shots are very clean - a mostly steady and arcing forehand (until I get the right shot), and a steady backhand. This past weekend I had a rather crazy match with one of our juniors. When she began getting net after net in the first game, we (or at least I!) began keeping track. For the match (four games), she got 17 net balls and zero edges, winning 15 of those points. I got zero nets or edges. Now I normally get a few, so my getting zero was rare, but 17-0? In one game she got eight nets, winning all eight of them.
How to Hold the Racket
Here's a video from PingSkills (4:03) on how to hold the racket, both shakehands and penhold.
The Power of Sweden
Here's a highlights video (10:48) that features the great Swedish players of the past.
Susan Sarandon: Ping-Pong Queen
Here's a feature article from England's The Guardian on Susan Sarandon and table tennis.
The Dodgers Playing Table Tennis
Here's an article in the LA Times on the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team having a table tennis doubles tournament.
NBA All-Star Week
Here are ten pictures at NBA All-Star Weekend, where they invited members of the Houston TTC to play table tennis. Included are pictures of Houston player Jim Butler and NBA star Jeremy Lin.
Mario Lopez Plays Ping-Pong
Here's a picture of actor and TV host Mario Lopez (middle) posing with his paddle and table tennis player/actor/stand-up comedian Adam Bobrow (left) and no-doubt a famous woman (or top table tennis player?) on the right who I don't recognize.
Here's a video (33 sec.) of . . . um . . . if I could figure out what is going on here, I will die happy. A bunch of people dancing around and on ping-pong tables.
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Over the past year I've sort of been the nemesis of one of our top juniors. Since I also sometimes coach this player, I know his game well. Until recently I had a simple way to take his game apart - relentlessly going short to his forehand. I'd serve short to the forehand with varied spins. If he served short, I dropped the ball short to the forehand (usually faking to the backhand first). The only way to stop my going short there was to serve long, and then I'd loop. Plus, because I knew the player so well, I was able to read his serves and tell early in his motion if he was serving long.
Alas, it is no more. Or should that Thank God it is no more? He's finally figured things out. When I serve short to the forehand, he's finally developed a competent flip. He can also drop it short. Or he reaches over and flips with his backhand, often using a banana flip. The more I go wide to his short forehand to get away from his backhand, the wider the angle he gets to my wide forehand. When he flips there, I have to go so wide that I'm open on the backhand on the next shot.
When he serves, he's giving more variations, so it's not as easy to drop the ball short. And just as with my short serves, he's gotten better when I do drop it short, flipping both forehand and backhand. He's also disguising his long serves better so I can't see them coming so easily.
So after at one point beating him 14 times in a row, I am sad - I mean glad! - to say he's won our last two. In fact, I've had to completely revamp my tactics against him, since the relentlessly-go-after-the-short-forehand tactics doesn't work so well anymore. However, this has led to some good news - for me. It's forced me to get more aggressive against his serves, bringing out my own inner backhand banana flip. So I'm now mixing in short receives and flips, and my flips are getting better and better. Unlike many of our past matches, which (because of my tactics) were often sloppy-seeming ones with few good rallies, now we're having really good rallies, and I'm battling with him, shot for shot. He may have won, but he may have awoken a sleeping giant. Or so I hope!
Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers
***Get your copy of Table Tennis for Thinkers Now! ***
The price right now is $17.95, but it likely will go up to $19.95 sometime soon, when dealers start to distribute it. Dealers would prefer the higher price, and they probably know the business better than I do. Most likely I'll also raise the Kindle price (currently at $9.99 for the text-only version) to about $11.95 when I have time to create and upload the version with pictures (hopefully within a few weeks). As noted previously, if I make "substantial changes" to the original version (and going from text only to adding 90 photos certainly qualifies), then they'll give a free download of the new version to those who downloaded the earlier version.
Update - Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis, Vol. 13
So far we've done 20 chapters, 319 pages, 662 graphics. Projections: 29 chapters, 461 pages, 947 graphics. We expect to finish first draft Friday, and finish making corrections on Monday. Then it goes to the printer, and I sleep for a week. Or at least for an hour. (Note - besides the regular chapters, there are seven pages of covers, inside covers, acknowledgements, etc., which also include graphics, which is why the projections don't match up exactly to the ratio of the current 20 chapters to the planned 29.)
Ding Ning - Slow Motion Studies
Here's a video (1:57) that shows world #1 woman Ding Ning's technique in slow motion.
Samsonov over Ovtcharov in Swiss Open
Ping Pong and Songs
It's for charity! "Lady Antebellum's charity initiative LadyAID™ Fund of the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee was created to bring awareness to and generate support for children in need locally, nationally, and globally through partners Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanerbilt, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Children's Miracle Network, myLIFEspeaks, and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR)."
Adam Bobrow's Valentine's Birthday Party
It's this Friday in LA. It's 3000 miles from me, so I better start driving!!! Here's what he wrote about it: "I haven't thrown a birthday party in AGES! I figure it will be a great way to get to see lots of my friends... old and new and bring some great people together for a fun night. There will be a DJ, a menu will delicious food and drinks and of course... many ping pong tables and awesome people to hit on. 8>) Come hang out, say hi, have a conversation with me, my friends or introduce me to your friends or just hang come play. It's FREE and it will be a blast! Parking is up to you... and dress however you want! (21 and over... dress that way)"
Table Tennis Street Art
Awesome Table Tennis Tricks
Here's a video (2:29) showing lots of incredible (though staged) table tennis shots, including replays in slow motion. Some great stuff!
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Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers Update
I thought it was all done, finished, completo . . . but then I had to deal with the publisher (CreateSpace.com, which is a subsidiary of Amazon.com). They have online conversion processes for converting from Microsoft Word to two formats, one for Print on Demand (POD), the other for Kindle ebooks. Unfortunately, neither worked properly.
I'd tested this previously in converting "Pings and Pongs: The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of Larry Hodges" into both formats, and it had worked beautifully. However, that was mostly text, while the Tactics book has lots of pictures and (more problematically) captions and various formatting tricks. Over and over in both conversions the captions would move to some seemingly random spot on the page rather than stay under the photo where I put them. And when I did little formatting tricks, such as setting text at 99% (so as to pull up a line to line up the text on a page properly) it didn't always come out right. And let's not even talk about what it did with bulleting and tabs!!! One side result was that often text was now outside the margins due to the conversion.
Yesterday afternoon I emailed their tech support, explaining very specifically what the problems were. In response this morning I got a generic email explaining that text cannot go outside the margins, which was 100% unhelpful and didn't address the problem - that their conversion process was off, and that one of the side effects was it was putting text outside the margins. I am not happy with them.
One potential reason for the problem was that I was still using Word 2003. I've never needed to upgrade. However, I did have a lot of problems doing the layouts, in particular photo captions, which (just as with their conversion process) would often move away from where I put them over and over, causing all sorts of irritation as I kept redoing the same caption. At one point I spent three hours on one caption, not just to get it in place, but trying to figure out the pattern of what caused this to happen, but I never did figure it out. (I couldn't find anything helpful online either.)
So yesterday I bought Word 2010 ($115). I opened the file, and did some tests. Unfortunately, there was no change - captions still moved about on their own. However, I'd managed to get the captions where I wanted them, and hoping the base of the conversion process was my using Word 2003, I used the conversion process again. No change - the pages came out exactly as before. About here is when I started contemplating a universe without Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers, a scary thought indeed.
Then, late last night, I had an epiphany. I was renaming a file, and realized that even though I had opened it in Word 2010, it was still saving it in Word 2003 format!!! I checked on the file for the Tactics book, and sure enough, it was still in Word 2003 format. So I converted it to Word 2010, and tested the captions - and they now seem to stay in place!!! However, I noted that in converting to Word 2010, some of the page layouts changed, so I'm going to need to go through it page by page fixing things up. I then went to bed, not wanting to stay up all night again, as I had the night before in "finalizing" the book.
So this morning, after I finish this blog, and have a stiff drink (Ruby Red Grapefruit Juice), I'm going to fix the pages, and then test the conversion process with the new Word 2010 format. I need every one of you to cross your fingers for me.
Message to Yourself as a Beginner
If you could go back in time to when you first started playing, what would you tell yourself? Comment below! Here's what I would tell myself if I could go back to when I started in 1976, when I was 16:
USATT Board of Directors Minutes
French Junior Program
Here’s a video (5:19) of a top junior program in France.
The Chinese Serve
Here's a highlights video (3:30) from 2010 that I've never posted. Even though it's titled "The Chinese Serve," and does show slow motion of Chinese team members serving, a lot of it is great rallying.
Last week, in an email discussion with USATT CEO Mike Cavanaugh, the subject of the minimum 1000 lux requirement needed for ITTF tournament play came up. Often-times potential playing sites for big tournaments do not have that minimum lighting. Then I had a brilliant idea. Here's what I wrote: "Wait a minute, 1000 lux (the ITTF standard) is about 93 foot-candles, the American equivalent of lux. Can't we just require all entrants to bring 46.5 candles to each match? And since they are playing a match, their opponent - the match - can light the candles. It's better to light 93 candles than to curse the bad luck in not having 1000 lux. (The plural of luck is lux, right?)"
Timo versus Adam Danceoff
Here is the first (60 sec) and second (37 sec) points of the confrontation last Friday at Spin LA between an unstoppable force (Timo Boll of Germany, current world #5 but #1 in the world several times – the only non-Chinese player to do so in nine years) and an undanceable object (Adam Bobrow, who does, in fact dance). Watch the first point to see Timo do his own short imitation of the Bobrow dance and Adam's own dancing response, and the second point where Adam does another over-exuberant shirt-tearing-off celebration.
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USNTTL and Leagues
Alas, it seems the U.S. Nationwide Table Tennis League is no more. When you go to www.usnttl.com, you get a note saying, "This account is expired due to non renewal of services."
I was already a little irritated at them for another reason. Late last summer, after the entire thing was set up, I was invited to be a member of their Advisory Board. I agreed, and I took part in a one-hour phone conference with other newly appointed Advisory Board Members and the ones setting it up, and where I was told about the league. I gave a few recommendations (not sure if any were followed, since it was a bit too late for major changes since the league was already set up), and that was my entire involvement with it. Later, when the league was "postponed," I only found out about it by emailing them after the planned start-up date, after it had already been postponed. When nothing was happening, I asked to be taken off the Advisory Board. But I was told the person who did the web page was now in India and out of contact. So a number of months went by where there was no league going on, and the only names people saw there were the Advisory Board, none of whom had anything to do with the actual creation or running of the league. The names of the ones who set everything up never had their names on the web page.
So at least I'm no longer listed as an Advisory Board for a league that I never really was involved with.
Putting aside their apparent disappearance, and rumors that they kept the entry fees despite never running a league (anyone know if that's true?), it was a good try, but it was likely doomed from the start. The problem with trying to set up a nationwide league the way they did it is that there was little existing infrastructure to support it. To set up a nationwide league, several things have to happen.
First, someone, whether it's USATT or some other group, has to study successful leagues (both table tennis overseas and in the U.S., and other sports in the U.S.) and come up with a prototype of a league that can be run in the U.S.
Second, the country needs to have regional organizations. This is the big one. This means, at minimum, a State Association in every state, with some larger states, like California, having more than one. We started doing this in the early 1990s, but a new administration came in and went in a different direction, and all that work was lost. I blogged about this on Jan. 9.
Third, the leagues have to be organized and promoted at the regional or state level. This likely means starting in one region (perhaps with the existing leagues in the SF and Bay areas in California and the NYC area), and expanding both in their region and surrounding ones.
Fourth, with the leagues beginning to spread, the regional organizers need to focus on bringing in sponsors so the league can continue to grow. Sponsors bring in revenue that can be used to hire organizers and (at some point) as prize money for the Championship division.
When something like the above happens, a growing nationwide league will be possible, and serious table tennis participation - as well as USATT membership - will explode.
I led an attempt to set up a nationwide league about ten years ago with the USATT League, but USATT wouldn't get behind it. (Robert Mayer did the software development and now runs it, though it's pretty much self-run.) It's the most active series of leagues in the U.S., but it's only a singles league - we never got to the all-important team leagues, which would have been the next step. To set up the team leagues, the plan was to appoint state league directors, but we never got to that step.
How active is the USATT League? In the past ten years, 16,703 players have competed in 364 different leagues in a total of 359,592 rated matches. In December, 2012, 5023 rated matches took place in 49 different leagues. In October, 2012, we had the all-time record for USATT League matches in a month with an even 6700 in 56 different leagues. So far this month there have been 4451 rated matches in 51 different leagues. (For perspective, other than the Nationals, there were only 4158 processed USATT tournament matches in December. In months where there are no U.S. Open, Nationals, or North American Teams, the USATT League sometimes has more rated matches than USATT tournament matches.) It's a good start if USATT ever wants to build on it - especially since they can email all of the league directors with the press of a button.
Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers Update
Yesterday I finished the tedious line-by-line proofing of the book. Starting today I get to input the numerous edits, including some new paragraphs and sections I'm adding. Hopefully I'll finish this by Friday. Current version is 99,534 words long, but I expect it'll go over 100,000 before it's done. In the 9"x6" book format, it'll run a little over 240 pages. In 12-point Time-Roman, double spaced, regular 8.5x11 paper, it runs 482 pages.
Here's a picture of LPGA golfers Michelle Wie and Belen Mozo battling it out in ping-pong. No word on who won.
Waldner Scores in Soccer
Here's a video (14 sec) of Jan-Ove Waldner in his younger days scoring a goal in soccer (football for you overseas fans) with some fancy footwork.
Adam Bobrow vs. Timo Boll
Here's the point Adam won (37 seconds), and his reaction. The two played exhibitions points at the Spin LA event this past weekend.
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I'm going to use an example from tennis (what I call "court table tennis"), which I played for years as a hobby. I have a very good forehand in tennis, but a weak backhand. Opponents would often try to bang it out with me, going after my backhand, but I was quick to step around and pound a forehand, usually attacking their wide backhand. Unless they were very good (4.0 or better level in tennis ratings, which is my level when I'm in practice), few could respond with a strong down-the-line backhand winner, and so I'd get a weak return, which I'd pound again, and so I dominated these rallies. Often opponents, faced with my strong forehand attack to their wide backhand, would in desperation throw up a high-bouncing topspin - but because they were usually in an awkward position as they tried to run my shot down, it was often weak and land short, and I'd smack it in for a winner.
One day I played someone who did something different. From the very start of the rally he'd throw up these high, topspin shots. Because he did this on the first shot of the rally, even off my serve, he wasn't attempting an awkward on-the-run shot, and so his shots, though defensive, were decisive, landing deep on my court and bouncing out past the end-line. This forced me off the court, where my forehand isn't so dangerous (since he'd have lots of time to react to it). He moved me side to side, wide to my forehand, then wide to my backhand, over and over, and there was no way I could run these balls down with my forehand all day. Result? My forehand became ineffective and he found my even less effective backhand. Then he'd start pounding shots into my backhand. He won.
The lesson here is that many players play defense only in desperation, and so it's not very effective. At the higher levels, defense doesn't work very well, but when you do it, it must be decisive, not just a "throw the ball up and hope" desperation return that rarely works.
Suppose your opponent is attacking, and you are looking to counter-attack. However, the opponent makes a strong shot wide to your backhand, and you are unable to counter-attack. And so you probably make a weak return, and lose the point. Instead, once you realize your opponent is going to attack, don't look to counter-attack (unless, of course, your whole game is based on attack and counter-attack, which might be a weakness in your game); look to make a decisive and strong defensive return, whether it be a block, a chop, or off-table topspin defense. If you are generally an attacker and get a ball to counter-attack, most likely your reflexes will take over anyway and you'll counter-attack.
Watch the best defenders (blockers, choppers, and topspin defenders), and you'll see that they rarely make desperation shots; their defense is as decisive as an attackers, and because of that, often just as effective.
I have four bags of Snickers and three bags of Milky Way left over from Halloween. What the heck should I do with it? I guess I'll do what I always do, and bring it to the club to either give out, or put it on tables when I'm feeding multiball to kids, who get to have whatever they knock off the table.
There is an irritating reason why I have so much candy left over. I own a townhouse and live on the third floor, renting out the first two floors to someone. I was giving out candy (I'd paid for it) when the renter came home, said he'd take over. I go upstairs at 7PM, watch TV for an hour. I come down, discover he's left, and the door was locked the entire hour, no candy given out. I'd heard the doorbell ringing over and over, but assumed he was answering. I actually went outside and yelled, "I've got lots of candy left over! Come and get it!" A few came over, but it was now after 8PM and the "rush" was mostly over.
A Ping Pong High
Here's an article in The Hindu about USATT Coaching Chair Richard McAfee's three recent ITTF Coaching Seminars held in India. The Hindu is the third largest English-language newspaper in India with a readership of 2.2 million.
Kevin Garnett versus Wang Hao
Here's basketball star Kevin Garnett in China playing Wang Hao (2:05). Note that the right-handed Wang Hao (2009 World Men's Singles Champion, 2008 & 2012 Olympic Men's Singles Silver Medalist, Chinese National Team Member) plays him left-handed! The table tennis ends with them shaking hands 45 seconds into the video.
The Battle: The Art of Pong
Here's a hilarious video (1:53) put out by the staff at JOOLA USA. "An ode to 70's Kung Fu Film Flicks. Watch Steven's journey to become the best table tennis player and defeat his Arch Rival Michael." That's Steven Chan (rated 2426) getting trained by Master Tom Nguyen (JOOLA's equipment guru and martial arts enthusiast), with Michael Squires (rated 2083) playing the "Arch Rival."
Gangnam Style Ping Pong
Here's Adam Bobrow in a video (47 seconds) from an exhibition match at the Chancellor Cup in Manila, The Philippines. He pulls off a great shot, and then goes into a dance routine. (Remember his "Excessive Celebration" video (71 seconds)?
Non-Table Tennis: My "Favorite" Halloween Memory
World Weaver Press published the favorite Halloween memories from three of its authors, including mine. They recently published Specter Spectacular: 13 Ghostly Tales, which included my story "The Haunts of Albert Einstein."
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Last Blog Until After U.S. Open
This will be my last blog until I return from the U.S. Open in Grand Rapids. I should start blogging again on Friday, July 6. I know it will be difficult, but there must be other stuff on the Internet to read. I've heard rumors.
I'm mostly coaching at the Open (primarily Derek and George Nie), though I am entered in one event, Hardbat Doubles with Ty Hoff. (I've won it twelve times at the Open or Nationals, eight times with Ty, four times with Steve Berger.) There's just too many time conflicts in trying to play multiple events while coaching multiple players, and I had to make a choice on whether I'm primarily a player or a coach. (Duh!) Normally I'd also coach Tong Tong Gong, but he's on the National Cadet Team, and so will be mostly coached by the U.S. National Cadet Coach, Keith Evans.
I'm driving up with the Nie family on Friday morning, leaving around 7AM, and should arrive by 5PM or so. I should arrive in time to attend both the ITTF Jury Meeting at 6PM (where they make the draws and go over rules, etc.) and the USATT Coaching Committee Meeting at 8PM (I'm on the committee). The Nie's are staying in Michigan after the Open for a few days of vacation, so I'm flying back on the fourth of July.
MDTTC Camp - Week Two, Day Three
The focus yesterday was on the forehand loop, though as usual we varied this depending on each player's level and playing style. I also gave a lecture and demo of various racket surfaces (pips-out sponge, hardbat, antispin, long pips with and without sponge), grips (penhold, both conventional and with reverse penhold backhand, as well as the Seemiller grip) and how to play choppers.
One 12-year-old beginner really liked the antispin, and asked to borrow it for the day. He's now using it on his backhand in all his drills and matches, dead-blocking with the backhand, attacking with the forehand. I've converted him to the dark side!!! If he stays with this style, most likely he'll eventually "graduate" to long pips (no sponge) on the backhand and become a pushblocker.
There is also a kid, about ten years old, who is developing a chopper/looper style. He spent a lot of time yesterday with Wang Qing Liang, our 17-year-old 2567-rated chopper/looper.
Today's focus will be the backhand attack, especially the backhand loop. Then we'll have the ever-popular "How many paper cups can I knock down in ten shots?" challenge, where we stack the cups in a pyramid and I feed them the balls multiball style.
China and the Timo Boll-Zhang Jike Rivalry
Here's an article that discusses these two players, with insight from Chinese Coach Liu Guoliang.
Top Table Tennis Points
Here's a video (14:12) of top table tennis points. Included in the video are players Adrien Mattenet, Chuang Chih Yuan, Kaii Yoshida, Ryu Seung Min, Jun Mizutani, Chen Chien-An, Fengtian Bai, Christian Suss, Zhang Jike, Ma Long, Alexey Smirnov, Michael Maze, Timo Boll, Jean Michel Saive, Robert Gardos, Christophe Legout, Chen Weixing, Tiago Apolonia, Taku Takakiwa, Patrick Baum, Seiya Kishikawa, Andrej Gacina, Vladimir Samsonov, Gao Ning, Feng Tianwei, Ding Ning, Zoran Primorac, Jan-Ove Waldner, Ding Song, Chen Qi, Lee Jung Woo, Roko Tosic, and Romain Lorentz.
Wanna see a ping-pong ball spin at 10,000 rpm?
Here it is (0:40), care of liquid nitrogen!
Adam Bobrow Reviews the New Plastic Ball
In this new video (0:31), Adam breaks through the window of silence and discovers the shattering truth about the new plastic ball.
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