Tip of the Week
Shorter Blog Today
At 11:15 AM I learned that local schools are letting out early today, at noon, and that I'm supposed to pick kids up at that time rather than the usual 3PM time. So I have to rush off now to pick them up and do about 90 minutes of coaching and tutoring. So no main blog today - just the Tip of the Week and the segments below. Back tomorrow!
Reverse Pendulum Backspin Serve - Like a Boss!
Here's the new video (5:37) where the serve is taught. The coach (Brett Clarke from TTEdge) has a very animated and unique approach to teaching the serve! I may have to dig out my old Frisbee from my closet….
Returning the Reverse Pendulum Serve
Here's the new video (12:28) from Coach Brian Pace.
Ask the Coach
Plastic Ball Testing
I linked last week to parts 1 & 2 of the Preston videos where they test the new plastic balls. They've now down six of the eleven videos planned. They are linked below. Here's a thread where all six videos are linked and discussed.
Keep Existing Celluloid Balls Petition
Don't like the switch to Plastic? Here's the petition! (See comments below it.)
Here's the new table tennis magazine - English version! (This is actually the third issue of this international magazine.)
Ping-Pong Diplomacy Inspires American-Chinese Co-Production
Here's the article on the upcoming movie planned, based on Ping-Pong Diplomacy. "Forty-three years ago, a Ping-Pong match between American and Chinese players in Japan led to a diplomatic breakthrough between the U.S. and China. It resulted in a historic 1972 meeting between then-President Richard Nixon and Chinese leader Mao Zedong that changed world history.
What came to be called “Ping-Pong Diplomacy” led to the normalization of U.S.–China relations for the first time since World War II, and is at the heart of a planned $40 million movie called Let It Be."
Atanda Musa's World Ranking
On Friday I had a segment in my blog about the ITTF's press release saying that Nigerian star Aruna Quadri was now the highest ranked African player in history, at #30 - but linked to an article that said former Nigerian star Atanda Musa had reached #20 in the word. I still don't have a definitive answer for this, but Volker Schroder wrote me that Zdenko Uzorinac wrote in his book "Table Tennis Legends" (page 270) that "Musa was ranked 40th in 1981, 48th in 1982, 54th in 1986, 49th in 1989, 60th in 1990, and 74th in 1992." This implies that Musa's highest ranking was #40 - but it's not completely clear, as it doesn't give his rankings for every year, and it does contradict the other article. If anyone has a definitive answer to this, comment below! (I'm also curious if anyone knows if Musa is still coaching in New York City. I haven't seen or heard about him in years.)
What Kind Of A Table Tennis Player Are You?
Here's the quiz from Mezyantt. (About ten questions.) I wonder what the possible answers are? I got, "You Are a Table Tennis Lover Most Indeed, You Are Passionate about The Game, Truly Loves it and want to play at any chance you get! People Like Yourself Inspire Others To Start Playing Table Tennis!"
Okay, this is getting ridiculous. Here's where you can buy a sheet of DHS Hurricane 3 Neo National for $140. Back in 1976 when I started I remember buying Sriver for $5/sheet. Now both the price and the number of words in a sponge's name have increased dramatically!
Here's a video (27 sec) where Japan's Koki Niwa (world #14) makes some great returns, including one where he switches hands!
Sitting in Stands Lobbing
Here's the video (10 sec) as a lazy Adam Bobrow sits down on the job.
Balloon Man Table Tennis
Here they are, care of SmashTT - click on pictures to see all four pictures!
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Butterfly South Shore Open
I spent the weekend coaching Nathan Hsu at the 4-star South Shore Open in Highland, Indiana (here are results) - and he played great!!! And I, of course, take full credit, right? Actually, he's been training extremely hard, including three months in China and 6-7 days/week at MDTTC before and after with our other coaches/practice partners/top players. The payoff was his strong backhand is even stronger, his strong receive is even stronger, and every other aspect of his game is stronger. (He's even been doing weight training, so he's stronger!) He won 18 & Under and Under 2450, made the quarterfinals of the Open (losing to top-seeded Li Cheng, rated 2603), and the semifinals of Open Doubles.
I'd like to write pages and pages on the tactics used, analysis of his opponents, what Nathan's working on, his strengths and weaknesses, etc., but other players are reading this, and so I have to keep my mouth shut. Dang.
Here's Nathan on the victory podium for winning the Nate Wasserman 18 & Under Junior Championships ($1000) along with finalist Victor Liu ($500, and another $500 for winning 15 & Under) and semifinalist Chase Bockoven ($100). (Missing - the other semifinalist Brian Gao.) Here's a picture of Nathan and me. In that picture he's holding up a piece of paper with "$1000" on it - he got the real check later, along with prize money from his three other events. Also, he got the wrong medal initially, the silver one in the picture - shortly afterwards we noticed that, and he traded it in for a gold one. (In the background on the left you can see Dan Jr. and Sr. - more about them below.)
I keep most of what Nathan says confidential, but I'm sorry Nathan, I'm quoting you here with your biggest complaint between matches: "My knees are itchy." Yes, that was his ongoing problem. My recommendation was to scratch them.
To save money we drove to Indiana. According to Google Directions, it was a 9.5 hour drive, but we ran into traffic both ways, and so it took about 12 hours to get there on Friday (leaving at 6AM), and about 11 hours to return on Monday. Nathan's dad, Hans, did the driving. We discussed table tennis nearly the entire time both ways. (Coach Jeffrey Zheng Xun substituted for much of my coaching while I was gone.)
The best umpires are often those who aren't noticed, and yet who enforce the rules. I want to commend umpire Jorge Vanegas for doing a great job umpiring all day long both days, from around 9AM to 8PM or so both days, pretty much non-stop, and getting it right match after match. When players didn't serve legally, he immediately warned or faulted, and there was never even a controversy about it, probably because he's so soft-spoken and fair-minded. Several times I started to react to an opponent's illegal serve - and nearly every time he was already signaling a warning or fault. I'm guessing most players and spectators barely noticed him out there, despite the fact that he was working such long hours in one of the most difficult positions at a tournament - a sign of a great job. My hat also goes off to referee Kagin Lee, who once again was highly professional throughout the tournament, even when I was bugging him with hypothetical rules questions.
Samson Dubina, rated 2474 and seeded fifth, won Open Singles. In the quarters he upset second-seeded Zhang Yi Chi (2563) at 6,-13,-9,9,9,0. (Did he really win the last game 11-0, or is that a typo? I don't know.) In the semifinals he upset second-seeded Emad Barsoum (2490) at 10,7,10,-7,1. (Emad injured his leg near the end of the last game and retired down I think 1-8.) In the final he was down match point to Dan Seemiller, 9-10 in the seventh, before winning, -7,-6,5,6,4,-5,10.
How did 60-year-old tournament director Dan Seemiller, seeded fourth at 2479, reach the final? In the semifinals he upset top-seeded Li Cheng (2603) at 8,8,5,-4,-6,14. The last game was a doozy as they took turns going up game point (or match point in Dan's case), including one point where Dan had match point and they played the point of the tournament, where they took turns ripping winners, only to see the other block it back and then take over the attack. Dan had two great tactics that worked against Li and others - he'd either loop anything he could get his forehand on (but not with as much power as he did back when he was around #20 in the world and winning five USA Men's Singles Championships), or he'd serve or block deep to the opponent's backhand and then dead block to the backhand, and follow with either aggressive blocking or forehand loops. Many players can move opponents side to side, but few can move them in and out the way Dan does, and few are less afraid of challenging an opponent's forehand than he is. These tactics worked against both Li Cheng and Samson - and Dan was just one point away from winning that match.
Samson plays a very athletic two-winged looping game, with very aggressive receives, especially his backhand. Of course, the real key to his victory was that he warmed up with Nathan! (As a full-time coach, he also warmed up his students - so he was doing double-duty.)
It was a pretty good day to be a Seemiller. Dan Sr. made the final of Open Singles and ran a great tournament. Dan Jr. teamed with Dan Sr. to win Open Doubles - including somehow beating Nathan and Micaiah Skolnick in the semifinals. Randy Seemiller won both Over 40 and Under 2300, and made the semifinals of Open Doubles with Chip Coulter.
This has been a pretty busy weekend for table tennis, with the 4-star South Shore Open, 4-star Westchester Open, the Men's World Cup, and the ongoing World Cadet Challenge. (Go Kanak, Jack, Crystal, and Amy! That's Jha, Wang, Wang, and Wang - the latter three non-related.)
2014 USA Table Tennis Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony
Here's the article about the Induction Ceremony in Las Vegas, on Thursday, Dec. 18, with ticket information. Inductees are players Tawny Banh and Lisa Gee, player/official Sheila O'Dougherty, contributor Dick Butler, and Mark Matthews Lifetime Achievement Award Winner Donna Sakai.
Washington DC Table Tennis Center
The Washington DC Table Tennis Center just opened - #76 in my list of full-time table tennis centers - and is the first in that city. It's not far from my club in Maryland (MDTTC), and gives us six in the area (including one nearby in Virginia), all within 30 minutes of me. When new full-time clubs open, at first they draw some players away from other clubs, which is a temporary problem. However, it evens out as they bring in their own players and add them to the local table tennis community, with some of them ending up playing at the other clubs, whether as members, in leagues, or tournaments. The more full-time clubs, the larger the pool of players, and the more success for any well-run club - i.e. "A rising tide lifts all boats."
Here are results and pictures from the 4-star Westchester Open in New York this past weekend. (We need to give smiling lessons to some of the top Chinese players, don't you think?)
Incredible Shots of 2013
Here's video (5:11) of the best shots of 2013. (I don't think I've linked to this one.)
PGA Tour Players Challenge USA Table Tennis Players
Here's the article, pictures, and videos as Timothy Wang, Lily Zhang, Cory Eider, and Judy Hugh took on golf stars such as Freddie Jacobson, Matt Kuchar, and Ian Poulter.
Was it Zhang Jike's Idea to Give Up His Prize Money?
Here's the article on his forfeiting his $45,000 prize money.
Good Morning America (ABC News)
Here's video (2:01) of coverage of Zhang Jike's barrier-breaking celebration after winning the Men's World Cup on Sunday.
50 Shades of Pong
Here's video (1:16) of Adam Bobrow coaching a lawyer at a law firm not to be afraid of the ball - and it involves smacking her with the ball! (I've actually done this a few times with students - if someone's afraid of the ball, the only way to overcome it is to face that fear!)
Inclusion TT - Table Tennis with Walls
Here's the video (3:22) of the newest version of the sport (demonstrated at the Westchester TTC), with glass walls on each side so you can rebound shots like racquetball. "This is like Table Tennis 2.0. This game is one of the best twists on table tennis."
Here's video (31 sec) of Hermann Muhlbach demonstrating his lobbing while doing forward and backward rolls.
Halloween Special Tumba Ping Pong Show
Here's video (57 sec) of their latest show. (Not for the weak of heart!)
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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.
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
ITTF Reforms Dangerous Says Liu Guoliang
Susan Sarandon, Ping Pong, and Testicular Cancer
Here's the article on her ping-pong related charity work.
Frank Caliendo and the Baltimore Orioles
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!
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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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.
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).
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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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.
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 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.
Send us your own coaching news!
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.
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."
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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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
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
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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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?
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?
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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Top Ten New Table Tennis Rules I'd Like to See
Some serious, some not so serious. You judge which.
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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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.
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
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
Qatar Open's 20th Birthday
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