Tip of the Week
It was a pretty grueling weekend, with lots of driving and coaching. Here's a short synopsis of the Cary Cup, from the perspective of someone who was too busy coaching to see any of the big matches. (I was there primarily to coach Derek Nie.) Here are the results. And here is the final write-up (which features Kewei Li and his upset of Eugene Wang in the final), which didn't come out in time for yesterday's blog (though I just added it).
WEDNESDAY: USATT Hall of Famer Tim Boggan drove down from New York, arriving that morning. We had a nice pizza lunch. Then he spent the day reading and puttering about my townhouse as I coached at MDTTC much of the afternoon and night.
THURSDAY: We left very early that morning for the five-hour drive to Cary, NC. Other than a wrong turn that somehow had us going north on I-95 for ten minutes, all went well. Anyone who accuses Tim of intentionally driving with me in the front passenger seat hanging out over in the next lane, well, it's a figment of your imagination. I hope. But he likes to drive and I don't, so I let him do the driving while I navigated, even if my life did flash before my eyes a few times.
From 4-5PM I ran a Beginner's Clinic at the playing site with about 20 players. Mike Babuin, the tournament director and chair of the USATT Board of Directors, assisted. We covered the basics - grip and stance, forehand, backhand, and serve. The players ranged from about 6 to 60. Then Tim and I went to an Italian restaurant where I had a giant salad and he had some sort of fish.
FRIDAY: I was entered in the Hardbat Open, which started at 10AM. (It was the only event I entered, though I normally use sponge.) We used the old 38mm balls, with matches two out of three to 21, with two groups of eight, top two advancing. I play an all-out forehand attack with hardbat (with some backhand chopping), but at 54 and with various knee, back, and arm problems, I don't move as fast or play as well as I used to. In my group of eight players I went 5-2. Against Xin Peng, a former top Chinese player (2600+ at his peak, and seeded second here), a pips-out penholder, I won the first 23-21, and led the second 7-2. Then it was 10-all, and then 15-all, my serve. I lost four straight points and yelled out, "What just happened?" I ended up losing the last six points in a row, and fell way behind early in the third.
Against A.J. Carney, who has a 2372 hardbat rating and was seeded third, I also battled, but lost the first 21-17. I led much of the second, but he caught up, and led 19-20 match point. We had a nice point where I smashed three balls in a row as he countered from off the table. Then he chopped one, a bit high, the type of ball I'd smashed a million times before and almost never missed. Yep, I missed it, smashed it right into the net. I'd been rushing A.J. by hitting many balls on the rise, and I think I may have hit the ball before it even reached net height, alas. So I didn't advance to the Final Four. Jim Butler won easily, with Xin Peng second, Bin Hai Chui third, and A.J. fourth (after losing a close 21-18 in the third match to Chui).
I'd seen the draw for Saturday and saw who Derek Nie would be playing. So I surreptitiously strolled over and watched one of them, rated 2126, as he played a couple of matches. He had a somewhat unique serve, a good backhand block, and a pretty good forehand.
I coached Joshua Tran in several of his matches that afternoon. (He's another MDTTC junior, rated about 2100.) At 6:30 PM Derek arrived. He's 13 and rated 2301, so I can barely keep up with him at the table these days. We practiced for fifteen minutes, and then Jim Butler came by looking for someone to hit with, so I turned him over to Derek, and the two practice for half an hour. It was quite a contrast, as Derek is about 4'8", while Jim's 6'4". After Jim left I hit with Derek for another half hour, mostly having him serve and attack against push, and then serving to him and catching the returns so he could work on receive.
SATURDAY: Derek had eleven matches. First he had to play a round robin of four players to make it to the "A" Division. Two of the players were about 1550 and 1750, and he had no problem there. The other player was 2126. While Derek was almost 200 points higher, it was a rather important match since if he lost, he'd be in a division of players rated a lot lower, and Derek needed the experience of playing with players his level and higher. As noted above, I'd scouted out the 2126 player, and Derek easily won 3-0, playing very smart so the opponent couldn't get his game going. Derek did have a problem with the serve a few times early on, but quickly adjusted.
Things didn't go as well after that. I'm not going to go over it match by match, but suffice to say Derek lost a few close ones. (Why am I not writing more? That's between Derek and I, and I don't want him to worry about my blogging about his matches.) He did have one nice win over a player who'll be adjusted to 2300+. From the tournament I jotted down three things Derek needs to really work on. We then left for the five-hour drive home, where we spent much of the time on brain teasers I read to him. He's gotten pretty good at them.
SUNDAY: I arrived home about midnight, so technically it was about Sunday. I unpacked, checked email, and basically puttered about half the night, unable to sleep. I went to bed with a headache, and woke up with one, as noted in my short blog yesterday.
Famous Table Tennis Writer
Yesterday I challenged readers on who was this famous writer, six letters, with the "O" and "G" filled in:
Only one person correctly guessed the answer - Abolaji Ogunshola - and he emailed it to me. I'm a little surprised that even though we had several hundred readers, no one ventured to comment the answer. Some of you must have noticed that my name, "HODGES," fits in there - but I also wrote, "It's not who you think - I think!" It was while driving down to the Cary Cup with USATT Hall of Famer Tim Boggan that I realized that both our names fit the above - and so the answer is BOGGAN! He is the only person who edited USATT Magazine longer than me, 19 years to my 12, and the only one with more than my 1300+ published articles on table tennis - but then he's had more time at age 83! (But if you want to put my name in there, that's okay too.)
2014 North American Tour
Here's the current North American Tour listing, with 21 tournaments now a part of it.
USA World Team
Here's the final roster and pictures. The top four men and women made the team at the recent USA Trials. The "coaches picks" were Kanak Jha and Angela Guan. The World Championships are in Tokyo, April 28 - May 5.
Stellan Bengtsson Documentary
Here's the video (5:14). He's both the 1971 World Men's Singles Champion and one of the most respected coaches in the world - and he lives in San Diego.
Can Ma Long Claim a Grand Slam?
Here's an article about USATT Hall of Famer John Tannehill doing an exhibition in Syracuse, Ohio, with his son Soren.
The Kuka Robot vs. Timo Boll
Here's an article on it, Two Terrible Messages The KUKA vs Timo Boll Video Sends To The World About Table Tennis. (I blogged about this on March 11.)
Double Turtle-Neck Table Tennis Doubles and Jimmy Fallon
Here's the video (2:40) of Jimmy Fallon and others playing this new sport, where two players share a single over-sized sweater and try to play table tennis.
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Tip of the Week
Who/what is "Stellangie"? That's the combination of Stellan and Angie Bengtsson's first names. Who are they? Stellan is the 1971 World Men's Singles Champion and hugely famous coach from Sweden. (I went to one of his camps for two weeks, and can verify it's well deserved.) Angie's a U.S. Hall of Fame player (formerly known as Angelita Rosal) who married Stellan and moved to Sweden for many years. Now both are coaching in San Diego. ITTF Coach John Olsen went to their camp last week, and here's his report, which he wrote for this blog.
I want to give people some idea of what a great table tennis camp is like. I recently attended the Stellan/Angie Bengtsson Training Camp at the Willamette Table Tennis Club, Salem Oregon from March 27-31, 2013. If you ever get the chance to attend one of these camps I highly recommend it.
There were 14 player slots for the camp. The camp had 2 sessions a day, 3 hours each session with a 2 hour break for lunch. A 3 hour session contained 5-6 drills. Most drills had multiple components, such as initially hitting cross court and then down the line. Each player did the drill, Stellan and Angie would tell you when to switch.
At certain times one or two people (depending on whether the camp had an odd or even number) would be taken over to do multiball drills. Angie did multiball in the morning and Stellan did the afternoon sessions. During these multiball sessions you worked on specific things you had asked to improve (in my case return of serve).
Each day followed a similar pattern:
- 10 minutes of warm-up stretching
- Find a hitting partner, warm up forehand (FH) for 5 minutes, then backhand (BH) for 5 minutes. Stellan stressed that you should be using the shots you use in a match during warm-ups and drills. It’s OK to hit FH drives for a bit to find your rhythm, but don’t continue to use a drive if you are a looper, go ahead and loop. Players alternated looping and blocking during warm-ups so both partners got practice. At the end of warm-up the players would gather together as Stellan and Angie talk and give us the next drill and explain where it fits into the overall parts of the game.
- Do 2-3 drills
- Halfway through a 3 hour session take a 5 minute break and switch hitting partners
- Do 2-3 drills
- Do 10 minutes of cool-down stretching at the end of the 3 hour session (different from the warm-up stretches)
- 2 hour break for lunch
- 10 minutes of stretching
- Find a new hitting partner, warm up FH 5 minutes, BH 5 minutes
- Do 2-3 drills
- 5 minute break, switch hitting partners
- Do 2-3 drills
- 10 minutes of cool-down stretching
So on any day you would hit with 4 different players. On most drills the level of your partner was not that important. I never had an issue with doing these drills correctly, whether the player was above or below my level. Certain drills, like serve/receive Stellan and Angie would make sure that you were paired with someone close to your own level. Stellan or Angie would circulate during the drills correcting technique, answering questions and make suggestions. Angie would also record you with an iPad and be able to instantly show you what she was talking about regarding your technique.
Every drill related to some aspect of match play. Stellan would explain not only how to do the drill, but what specific skill that drill was designed to help you improve. He would also tell us what bad habits to watch out for so that we were doing the drills correctly and getting the most benefit from them. I have to say that I have never experienced this kind of detailed information about training drills before.
At times Stellan would substitute competition for a drill. We played Brazilian Teams twice and King of the Table once during the camp.
Also note that you do 4 stretches a day. Normally when I play I do a few minutes of warm-up stretching. What we did at the camp was much more extensive. The point of the cool-down stretches is to not just prevent injury but to relax your muscles and reduce soreness. I am 56 years old and not in the best of shape, but I had fewer sore muscles the entire camp than I normally have from a single casual 3 hour playing session.
What I Told a Student Before a Tournament
I coached a junior player on Sunday morning before he played in the MDTTC tournament. He seemed a bit nervous, so this is what I told him. "If you lose, there will be earthquakes and tornadoes, the polar ice caps will melt and kill off the polar bears, there will be pestilence and hunger, the earth will spin out of orbit and into the sun, and the sun will go supernova, spewing radiation throughout the galaxy and killing off all intelligent life. So the galaxy is depending on you."
I often say things like this to help relax players. Before big matches we often talk about TV shows or sports teams, anything but tactics until maybe five or ten minutes before the match. (We do, of course, discuss tactics well in advance; what we do just before the match is a review.) People often see me in animated discussion with players before a match and assume we're talking high-level tactics when we're really discussing the Baltimore Ravens or Orioles, the TV show NCIS, the latest movies, or who knows what else.
Stefan Feth a Finalist for USOC Developmental Coach of the Year
Who is the Greatest Celebrity Table Tennis Player?
Table Tennis Nation has been running this online voting contest recently, and they are down to two finalists: Standup Comedian/Actor (of 30 Rock Fame) Judah Friedlander vs. former basketball star Christian Laettner. Who will win? Who should win? You get to vote! (Since I've coached Judah a number of times - he lives near MDTTC when he's not in NYC acting - I voted for him.)
Olympian Iulia Necula Helps Take Aerobic TT to Another Level
Wang Liqin Demonstrates His Rubber's Tackiness
Here's the video (22 sec).
Here's a video (8:24) of the all-Chinese Men's Final, where Xu Xin defeats Ma Long. Here's an article on it from Table Tennista. Here are the Men's Semifinals, Xu Xin vs. Yan An (4:03), and Ma Long vs. Wang Hao (7:15). Here's the Women's Final (13:22), Seo Hyowon vs. Kasumi Ishikawa - and see the serve Seo pulled out at the end to win! (Time between points has been removed in the videos, so non-stop action.) Here's a video (5:40) of the Korean Open's Top Ten Shots.
There are more international articles at Table Tennista, covering the Korean Open, the German Bundesliga (Timo Boll injured!), and others.
Albert Einstein Table Tennis Picture
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I just realized that the Tip of the Week I published this past Monday was the 1400th article I've had published. (Cue the confetti.) There's a bit of ambiguity in there, as what constitutes a published article? I don't count blog entries (over 500 here since I started two years ago), but I do count the Tips of the Week. (For one thing, they are also published at Paddle Palace.) Included among these 1400 in 138 different publications are 1258 on table tennis. Here's a complete listing.
Pages I Maintain
I maintain a number of webpages. This seems like a good time to post them. (For one thing, I'm battling a cold, and this will be an easy blog to write so I can get back to bed.) Here are the main pages. Each of them includes many sub-pages.
TableTennisCoaching.com. If you are reading this, you are there. Here's your chance to explore some of the pages here. For example, have you gone over to the "Fun and Games" section? Lots of hilarious table tennis stuff - videos, pictures, and games.
CelebritiesPlayingTableTennis.com. This is where you can find 1440 pictures of 870 celebrities playing table tennis. This is the most important page on the Internet. (I used to update this monthly, but it's rather time-consuming so these days I do it sporadically.
TimBogganTableTennis.com. This is where you can buy copies of Tim Boggan's history books, History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volumes 1-12. You can also learn about the famous Tim himself! (I do the page layouts for Tim's books.) He's almost done with Volume 13! (Each time he finishes a volume, he drives down from New York to Maryland to stay with me for two weeks, where he'll sit next to me as we do the page layouts together. I do the actual layouts while he waves a finger at the screen saying things like, "No, you fool, the photo goes there!!! And I don't like that font - invent a new one!"
Larrytt.com. This started out as my table tennis coaching page, where I listed my credentials and recent adventures. It's since become basically my everything table tennis page, where I just keep adding stuff.
Larryhodges.org. This is my science fiction and fantasy writing page. As readers of this blog know, outside table tennis I write SF&F - I've sold 65 short stories (also 30 resales and 15 paid "twitter" stories), and have two novels making the rounds. I also maintain a page on writing science fiction & fantasy.
LarryHodgesBooks.com. This is under construction - nothing much there yet except a listing of my six books. Sometime next year this will be where you'll be able to buy copies of your favorite Larry Hodges books!!! I'm currently putting them in proper format for POD (Print on Demand) and ebooks. The following books would be sold there (though I might later start selling other table tennis books):
- Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers (coming in December, 2012, though this might soon become January 2013)
- Table Tennis Success (formerly titled Table Tennis: Steps to Success)
- Table Tennis Tales & Techniques
- Professional Table Tennis Coaches Handbook
- Instructor's Guide to Table Tennis
- Pings and Pongs: The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of Larry Hodges
Table Tennis on CNN Home Page
Here's a screen shot of CNN.com last night, with the picture of Ding Ning of China featured. The caption is, "Ning Ding of China plays a forehand during the women's singles table tennis quarter-final match against Ai Fukuhara of Japan on Day 4 of the London 2012 Olympic Games on July 31." (I think the Ding is supposed to come before the Ning.) It was part of a gallery of "75 Amazing Sports Moments" from 2012." See photo #20.
Stellan Bengtsson Article
Here's an article from the ITTF on Stellan Bengtsson, former World Men's Singles Champion and now a coach in San Diego.
Zhang Jike's Condition
Here's an article from TableTennista, "Zhang Jike Not Satisfied With His Condition."
Ping Pong Talkin Blues
Since I'm fighting a cold, this seems a good time to link to these guitar strumming songs by Dan Cole.
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Tip of the Week
Since this week's Tip of the Week is on Cheaters and Poor Sportsmanship, let's continue the trend and look at the dark side of coaching. There are lots of great coaches out there. And I've often blogged about good coaching habits. However, let's talk about the other side of the coin: bad coaches. Here is a list of seven types of bad coaches. (I'm sure I missed some.) There is a lot of overlap between these categories, and the differences between some of them are subtle. There are probably bad coaches who combine the worst of multiple categories!
Interview with Stellan Bengtsson on Sports Psychology
Table tennis sports psychologist Dora Kurimay interviews Coach Stellan Bengtsson (1971 World Men's Singles Champion) on the most important aspects of sports psychology.
Spin City Sports Table Tennis
Here's an article from the Tampa Bay Times on the Spin City Sports full-time table tennis club in Largo, Florida.
Great Point, Great Shot
Here's a video of a great 34-shot rally in the final of the Japan Open this past weekend, with Japan's Jun Mizutani (the lefty on the far side) fishing or lobbing back 13 shots in a row against Korea's Oh Sang Eun, ending with one of the best point-winning lobs you'll ever see. (Mizutani wins the final, 9,9,.-11,-4,12,5.)
Ping-Pong Death Match
Since we have an interview with Bengtsson on sports psychology, it's only appropriate that we end with a video of a Ping-Pong Death Match (5:28). Ever play ping-pong with a guy who takes the game way too seriously?
Non-Table Tennis - New SF Story Published
My science fiction story "The Oysters of Pinctada" went up today in the new issue of Flagship Magazine. My name's on the cover! Alas, you'll have to buy the issue to read the story. (Here's my Science Fiction & Fantasy page.)
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Tip of the Week
Brad Pitt To Star In Film Adaptation Of "Table Tennis Tales and Techniques"
Now it can be told!!! Here's the opening line of the article: "In a casting coup, Paramount confirmed that Brad Pitt, star of 'Thelma and Louise' and 'True Romance,' will star in next year’s film adaptation of 'Table Tennis Tales and Techniques.'" Here's the promotional poster they already created. (I had nothing to do with creating this.)
I've been dying to post about this for weeks, ever since negotiations began for the rights to my book, and yes, Brad Pitt will star in this adaptation as, ahem, me. (And as the article mentions, I made quite a bit of money from this deal.) This breaking news should be all over the Internet within a day or so.
This will probably give U.S. table tennis the largest exposure in its history. Oh, and tonight I'm having dinner with Brad Pitt!!! (I think he wants to study how I talk and my mannerisms.) One other bit of hopefully soon-to-be-breaking news - Ron Howard has unofficially agreed to direct. (And here's where you go if you'd like to buy a copy of Table Tennis Tales and Techniques.)
Visual tools are the best tools
Often the best way to coach a player is to show, don't tell. A new student of mine (an eight-year-old girl) was struggling to hit a proper forehand this weekend, and kept doing all sorts of extra motions that messed up her stroke. The wrist would lag back, she'd lift the racket tip up, she'd forget to backswing or turn her shoulders, she'd change her grip, she'd put her back foot in front, and so on - practically a "who's who" of classic forehand problems all rolled into one. These didn't seem to be any one overlying problem that led to all of these other problems; she just didn't seem to have control of how she swing the paddle, or any idea of what to do.
Then I noticed one of our top junior girls, a few years older than the one I was coaching, training with another coach. So I had my student watch the top junior, and mimic her shot. Now I'd already demonstrated a proper forehand over and Over and OVER for my student, even calling over another player so we could demonstrate it properly, but to no avail. But seeing another girl a few years older doing it seemed to click with her, and soon she was mimicking the shot almost perfectly. Bingo!!!
Physical Training for the Table Tennis Player
Here's a nice recent article by Stellan Bengtsson on, well, see title above.
Backhand Tomahawk Serve
Here's a nice example of the backhand tomahawk serve (0.38), as done by Kenta Matsudaira of Japan, world #39 (and formerly #29), the 2006 world junior boys' champion, who is known as having among the best serves in the world.
European Champion Timo Boll
Timo Boll of Germany just won the European Men's Singles Championships over teammate George Baum in an all-lefty final. Here's the video (11:40), with all the time between points edited out. Here's an article on the event, which Boll won at 7,-6,3,7,8.
Thirty minutes of non-stop looping
There should be a rule that 51-year-old coaches should never have to forehand loop continuously for thirty minutes straight during a lesson so a student can practice blocking. I did, and I paid for it with my back, neck, and shoulder. I'm almost recovered now. (Note to John, Kevin, and Deapesh: this was probably why my neck stiffened up during our sessions on Sunday. The actual looping marathon was during a Friday lesson.)
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MDTTC Coaching Camp - Day One - and the Forehand
Day one of our two-week camp at MDTTC went pretty well, just like the other 150 or so I've run. Yes, that's not a typo - I've run approximately 150 five-day training camps now, the equivalent of over two years, seven days a week! Yikes.
Originally I was only going to do the morning sessions (10AM-1PM), both because I'm not usually needed in the afternoon sessions (3-6PM) and because of my ongoing back problems. But there's a large turnout, and more beginners than normal, so I'm doing the afternoon sessions as well. I agreed to take charge of the beginners all week. (After the two weeks end on Aug. 19, I plan to take about six weeks off where I have one of our top local juniors do my hitting for me when I coach, to allow my back to finally heal up.) This week I'll be living on Ibuprofen.
Most interesting experience on day one was with a new eight-year-old kid who had never played before. He stood up straight, jammed up to the table, didn't rotate his shoulders, and was trying to hit forehands while facing the table, i.e. without turning sideways. His forehand hitting zone was about two inches wide. For about two minutes, he looked like what he was - a complete beginner, just sticking his racket out to hit the ball, racket tip straight up, with a rigid body. Then I finally got him stand arm's length from the table (so he'd have time and room to stroke) and to get down some by telling him to stand like a goalie in soccer. (I always tell new players to stand like a goalie in soccer, a shortstop in baseball or softball, or a basketball player - one usually clicks.) Then I got him to bring his right leg back and rotate sideways. This gave him a big forehand hitting zone. It also made dropping the racket tip more natural. Suddenly, without warning, he began hitting really nice forehands! It happened so suddenly that my first thought was, "Where did that come from?" So let me elaborate....
The forehand hitting zone
Many beginners and even intermediate players face the table too much when hitting forehands. It's important to bring the right foot back some (for righties) and to rotate back with the waist and shoulders, which turns the body sideways to the table. This gives you a large hitting zone. The key is to learn to hit through this zone. Normally you'd contact the ball in the middle of the zone, but sometimes you can take it early or late in the zone - but the key is you always stroke through the zone. Develop that habit, and most of your stroking and timing problems will go away.
Another key is not to jam the table - you need to be about arm's length away. New juniors especially tend to jam the table, which makes it nearly impossible to do anything other than stick the racket out on forehand shots, not to mention the problem with handling deep shots.
Paddle Palace Coaching Articles
Paddle Palace has a coaching page, including pages devoted to coaching articles by Samson Dubina and Stellan Bengtsson. The latest article is Four Stages of Peaking for a Tournament by Samson Dubina, which went up last Thursday.
Brian Pace video update
Coach Brian "Table Tennis Video Man" Pace gives a two-part update on his life, including parting ways with Pong Nation, upcoming DVDs for Dynamic Table Tennis, a DTT line of equipment, his own equipment changes, the table tennis app from the Apple store, and updates on his European training trip. The videos start out with a nice 30-second table tennis action intro.
Tribute to Waldner (4:36)
Here's a nice Waldner tribute video (4:36). Enjoy!
Backhand Shot of the Year
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