Saive

October 23, 2014

Next Blog on Tuesday, and the South Shore Open

This will be my last blog until next Tuesday. I'm leaving very early (6AM) Friday to coach at the 4-star South Shore Open and Nate Wasserman Junior Championships in Indiana, and returning Monday afternoon. Here's the Omnipong listing, where you can see the listing of players by event, rating, or alphabetically, and where results will be posted.

I'm Running for the USATT Board

Or at least I'm applying to be on the ballot. Here is the USATT Notice on the election, which gives the rules and deadlines. (I'd be running for the At-Large position.) In a nutshell, by Nov. 14 I have to send to the USATT Nominating and Governance Committee (NGC) the following:  

  1. at least twenty-five (25) Signature of Support from adult USATT general members (membership must be current and in good-standing);
  2. a signed copy of the USATT_Code_of_EthicsEthical Behavior and Conflict of Interest; and
  3. a written statement of not more than one page, single-spaced, 12-point font, that explains why the nominee wants the position and what knowledge and skills the nominee would bring to the Board of Directors (which will be published on the USATT Web Page and sent in the November monthly E-Newsletter prior to the opening of the election voting period);

This past weekend, at the MDTTC Open, I got 38 signatures of support from USATT members (13 extras, just in case some are ruled invalid). I printed out and signed the USATT Code of Ethics and Ethical Behavior and Conflict of Interest statements. (I have two potential conflicts of interest - I'm sponsored by Butterfly, and I coach at MDTTC, a USATT National Center of Excellence. I would abstain in votes directly involving Butterfly or MDTTC.) I've written the one-page statement, though I'll probably do some rewriting of it.

The NGC will announce on Nov. 21 who is on the ballot. Voting begins on Nov. 27 and ends on Dec. 27. The results will be announced on Jan. 6, 2015.

Why am I running? Either because I really want to see table tennis succeed in this country and am tired of waiting for others to do it, or because I'm insane. (It's an unpaid volunteer position.) Below are the five main items I'd focus on. I'll write more about each of these if and when I'm on the ballot. (I blogged about roughly these five items on Sept. 23, but I've made a few changes since then.)

  1. Create a USATT Coaching Academy to Recruit and Train Professional Coaches to Set Up Training Centers and Junior Programs
  2. Create a Nationwide System of Regional Leagues
  3. Instigate Regional Associations
  4. Instigate a Professional Players Association, and Professionalize the Sport
  5. Turn U.S. Open and Nationals into Premier Events

Will these things be hard to do? Of course. Is that a reason to avoid them? No, but it's been a reason for 80 years now, since USATT's founding in 1933. I do have plans on how to instigate each of these. I can't promise that everything I try will succeed, but I can promise I'll work hard on each one, and believe I will succeed on most, and hopefully all - if I get on the ballot and am elected. I'm not one to avoid trying something for fear of failure, but I'll be faced with some board members who do have this mindset (I'd be one of nine), and will have to find ways to overcome it. If I'm on the ballot, I'll devote an entire blog to each of the items above, as well as another on a series of other issues, many of which I've blogged about already.

A key thing is that while money is needed to instigate programs, we have to face the fact that USATT has limited funding. And so each of my plans focuses on ways to develop these items without huge funding. Doing things right and thinking long-term is usually more successful than just throwing money at a problem.

A few things that I'd do that are different than how we've done things. I would focus on progressive issues. Here's my blog entry from March 19, 2013 where I blogged about the difference between progressive and fairness issues. I also want to focus on things that really make a difference. Too often we do "nice things that don't accomplish much." I want to focus on dramatically increasing USATT membership (less than 9000), developing our junior and elite athletes, and turning table tennis into a major sport in this country. I believe the five items above are big steps in this process.

I wish I were the back-slapping, compliment-throwing, buddy-buddy type who looks great in a suit. It would make things a lot easier when it comes to campaigning and getting elected. Instead, I'll have to focus on accomplishing stuff - and hope a few people notice!

I did run for the USATT Board once before, back in 1991 when I was 31. There were seven of us running for two spots on the board, including the two incumbents. I received over 70% of the vote and came in first, and so became a USATT Vice President. However, at my first meeting it was announced that USATT had (if I remember correctly) a $70,000 budget deficit (that's $122,000 in 2014 dollars), and so we spent pretty much all of the meeting going over budget items one by one and cutting everything. It was an incredibly frustrating time - I had things I wanted to do, but no money for anything serious. Sometime I'll blog about my time on the board. One thing I've learned since then is how to get things done with limited resources.

Coaching Position Open

The Austin TTC is looking for a full-time coach, and you could be that coach. Here's the help wanted notice.

Modern Table Tennis

Here's video (29 sec) showing a player doing side-to-side footwork in multiball, looping everything from close to the table. This really shows the difference between table tennis now and how it was before, where most players backed up to do these shots, and with the backhands usually softer.

Ask the Coach

Episode #14 (15:44):

  • Question 1: Do you know the specific hand signals for doubles? It might not be the same for everyone. But what have you used? Andrew Yuen
  • Question 2: In the office we usually play doubles, and many rallies end soon due to low-quality stroke or just missing the ball. That often happens because a player does not get into a good position in time. Any ideas? Roman Sukhanov
  • Question 3: What is the right finish position for the backhand sidespin serve? Kaustubh
  • Question 4: Hi, can you please explain what they mean when they say he is a 1500 or a 2000 player. Ron Thomson

Table Tennis Tips and Other Books

Mark Dekeyser did some editing of Table Tennis Tips, and so I've updated the book. Nothing hugely substantive, but there were a few doozies in there! Here's where you can find all of my books. I also have an Amazon Page.)

Interview with Georgina (Gina) Pota

Here's the interview by Dora Kurimay. 

So You're a Fan of Jan-Ove Waldner?

Here's his website! And - breaking news - now he has a fashion website!

Incredible Exhibition Rally by Timo Boll and Jean-Michel Saive

Here's the video (70 sec).

Great Shot from 2013 European Championships

Here's the video (44 sec, including several replays) of the rally by Gionis Panagiotis.

Chinese Team at Triangle TTC Revisited

Here's a video (1:37) of the recent visit, and here's a news video from China (in Chinese).

Zhang Jike/Li Xiaoxia vs. Ma Long/Ding Ning - Playing Doubles?

Here's video (4:11) of the Chinese stars playing doubles in front of a huge crowd . . . on a mini-table!

German Table Tennis TV Comedy

Here's video (33 sec) of a ping-pong game and an over-celebratory player. Alas, it's in German (anyone want to translate?), but you can get the gist of it by watching.
UPDATE: The clip is actually from the TV show "The Kings of Queens," which ran on CBS from 1998-2007. The original was in English, which was dubbed in German in the version linked above. Here's the original in English - the table tennis starts at 1:11. Special thanks to Grant Vogl for pointing this out!

Why Pong-Ping Never Caught On

Here's the cartoon!

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July 16, 2014

Celebrities I've Met

Because of table tennis I've met an inordinate number of celebrities. Here's a listing.

TABLE TENNIS PLAYERS. I've met most of the top players in the U.S. and the world since the 1980s, and many from before that. If I were to list all those players it'd be an endless list. It'd be easier to list the ones I haven't met. I've had lunch and dinner with the Swedish team when they were at their heyday (Waldner, Persson, Appelgren, Lindh, Carlsson, etc.); met the top Chinese at the Worlds, U.S. Opens, at MDTTC when they came in early to train, and during my twelve years as editor of USATT Magazine I interviewed nearly every top 20 player in the world. I've known essentially every top U.S. player for many years, either by actually meeting them, coaching them, or (more often) coaching against them when they play MDTTC players. I've met nearly every living USATT Hall of Famer, and every Men's and Women's Singles National Champion since the Nationals began in 1976. 

Men's Singles World Champions I've met: Wang Liqin, Werner Schlager, Liu Guoliang, Jan-Ove Waldner, Jean-Philippe Gatien, Jorgen Persson, Seiji Ono, Stellan Bengtsson, Ichiro Ogimura.

Women's Singles World Champions I've met: Zhang Yining, Wang Nan, Deng Yaping, Qiao Hong, Tong Ling, Angelica Rozeanu.

But the list of celebrities I've met through table tennis gets more interesting when I look at the non-TT celebrities I've met. Here's a listing.

ATHLETES

  • David Robinson, basketball star - played poker with him at Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, circa 1988, when I was (at various times) the manager, assistant coach, and director of the Resident Table Tennis Program.
  • Errict Rhett, football star (running back for Baltimore Ravens, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Cleveland Browns) - met and hit with him at an outdoor table tennis exhibition at Baltimore's Inner Harbor in 1999.
  • Jeanette "Black Widow" Lee, world #1 women's billiards player in 1990s - met her at a table tennis exhibition at a sporting good show.
  • Ted St. Martin, world record holder for most consecutive free throws (5221) - met him at a table tennis exhibition at a sporting good show.
  • Audrey Weisiger, USA Olympic Figure Skating Coach - coached her summer of 2013.
  • JJ Hardy, Darren O'Day, Brady Anderson - coached these three Baltimore Orioles players at MDTTC in 2013.
  • Met most of the rest of the Baltimore Orioles at a demo in their clubhouse on Aug. 21, 2013, including: Manager Buck Showalter, Coach Terry Crowly, position players Chris Davis (talked to him for 20 minutes about athlete and skill development), Brian Roberts, JJ Hardy, Manny Machado, Nick Markakis, Adam Jones, Nate McLouth, Chris Wieters, Steve Pearce, and pitchers Chris Tillman, Darren O'Day, Jim Johnson, Tommy Hunter, Brian Matusz, and Troy Patton.
  • Met numerous members of the USA Tae Kwon Do and Archery teams in the late 1980s at the Olympic Training Center during the four years I was resident there, including several national champions, but don't remember any of their names. I shared the dining hall with Olympic athletes from essentially every other sport, and probably met a few that I don't remember.

ACTORS

  • Susan Sarandon - met her at the North American Teams circa 2008 or so.
  • Julia Dreyfus, star of Seinfeld and VEEP. Met her at the VEEP filming on Oct. 9, 2013, as well as others on the set. (I was brought in as a table tennis advisor for a TT scene.) Other than saying "hi" as I walked by, didn't actually talk to her, but stood next to her numerous times while she talked to others - and made eye contact!!!
  • Adoni Maropis, actor (best known as villain Abu Fayed in "24") - met and played tournament matches with him three times. Have since practiced with and played him many times.
  • Judah Friedlander, actor and comedian, best known for his role in TV show "30 Rock" - coached him in the 1990s/early 2000s, and several times at MDTTC.  
  • Frank Caliendo, comedian/impersonator. Met him at 2009 USA Nationals, and played doubles with and against him in practice matches at MDTTC in 2014.

LEADERS/POLITICIANS

  • Henry Kissinger, former Secretary of State - met him at 25th Anniversary Ping Pong Diplomacy Festivities in 1996.
  • Jack Markell, governor of Delaware (took office Jan. 2009) - coached him at five-day table tennis camp in 1990s before he was famous, and again at our Christmas camp in December 2009, along with his son. His son came to several more of our camps.  
  • Anthony Williams, mayor of Washington DC (1999-2007) - met him at a table tennis exhibition.
  • Oscar Goodman, mayor of Las Vegas (1999-2011) - met him at the USA Nationals in Las Vegas.
  • James McClure, senator from Illinois (1973-1991) - met him in the early 1980s while helping Chinese coach Liguo Ai get his visa.

OTHERS

  • Will Shortz, world-famous crossword puzzle editor for the New York Times - met him at several table tennis tournaments, including at the Westchester, NY club that he owns.
  • Tom McEvoy, 1983 world poker champion - met him at a table tennis tournament.
  • Julian Waters, world-famous calligrapher - coached and played matches with him for many years at MDTTC.

I've also met a lot of celebrities through my non-TT sideline - science fiction writing, mostly at SF conventions and writers workshops. Here's a short listing for that. When I say "met," at minimum it means I actually spoke with them and shook hands.

SCIENCE FICTION & FANTASY CELEBRITIES

WRITERS: Ray Bradbury, Harlan Ellison, George R.R. Martin, Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett, John Scalzi, Orson Scott Card, Alan Dean Foster, Larry Niven, Piers Anthony, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Joe Haldeman, Connie Willis, Robert J. Sawyer, Frederick Pohl, Ray Silverberg, Walter Jon Williams, George R.R. Martin, Terry Brooks, Stephen Donaldson, Harry Turtledove, Lawrence Watt-Evans, Allen Steele, Jack McDevitt, James Morrow, Gregory Benford, Robert Asprin, Jerry Pournelle, Michael Swanwick, Charles Stross, Carry Vaughn, Nancy Kress, David Louis Edelman, Cory Doctorow, Karl Schroeder.

EDITORS: Stanley Schmidt, Sheila Williams, George Scithers, Gardner Dozois, Gordon Van Gelder, Ellen Datlow, Shawna McCarthy, Eric Flint, Scott Andrews, Jeanne Cavelos.

ACTORS: Walter Koenig. (Also Leonard Nimoy - see below.)

OTHERS: Craig Newmark, founder and owner of Craigslist.com - met and talked to him for 30 min at the SFWA suite at the World Science Fiction Convention in 2006.

I've also met a few outside TT and SF:

  • Solomon Snyder, world-famous neurologist from Johns Hopkins - he's my uncle!
  • Jim Palmer, Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher for Baltimore Orioles - met him at Camera Day at a Baltimore Orioles game in 1972, when I was 12. He patted me on the back. I never washed that t-shirt again, and ended up hanging it on my wall.
  • Leonard Nimoy, actor best known as Mr. Spock from Star Trek. According to my mom, when I was three years old I ran between his legs at a bank while both were standing in line!

ICC Coaches/Players Resign

Here's the note received last night about the two ICC coaches/players. Zhou, rated 2718, has spent much of the last few years as the #1 rated player in the U.S., with Tian Meng ("Maggie"), rated 2527, near the top of the women's rankings. I'm told they are looking to start their own table tennis center. (Here's the press release on this.)

I regret to announce that Zhou Xin and Tian Meng have resigned from ICC to pursue other opportunities effective tomorrow July 15th. We really appreciate their service for the past three years. We wish them do well pursuing their dream. In the mean time we will continue with our current team Massimo Costantini, Liang Yong Hui, Dan Liu, Huang ZiHoang, Anal Kashyap, Indeebar Chaterjee and Opendro Singh to train ICC students. Furthermore, we are also actively seeking another high level player/coach to strengthen our team. You will hear from us on that soon. Bon Voyage, Zhou and Maggie. We'll miss you.

Here's the noted from the two coaches/players:

Appreciate the blessing from ICC. Also appreciate many people who have taken care of and guided us - too many to list. All good things must come to an end. The past few years is an important journal for both Maggie and myself. The next step will be a challenge. However, we are preparing for the challenge. Hope very soon we will be able to contribute to the sport of table tennis as ICC has been.
Zhou Xin and Maggie Tian

Forehand Flips

Here's video (72 sec) of some world-class flips off short balls, mostly forehands, with a few backhand flips as well.

Dimitrij Ovtcharov - Off the Table

Here's a video (3:27) that shows the off-the-table Ovtcharov. His English is excellent. He even mentions Lebron James (along with Novak Djokovic) as his favorite non-table tennis athletes that he looks up to.

Xavier Therien vs. China at the 2014 Canada Open

Here's the video (1:08) - lots of action!

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, counting downwards from 100. Previous ones are linked from the USATT News page, as well as in my past blogs. Fifty-four down, 46 to go!

  • Day 47: Melecio Eduardo Rivera Brings a Wealth of Experience to the ITTF’s EC

Table Tennis Exhibition Between Saive and Grubba

Here's the video (7:35).

Kiernan Shipka Plays Table Tennis

Here's the article and pictures of the 14-year-old actress playing table tennis in high heels. She's best known for her role as Sally Draper in "Mad Men."

Reacting to Pingpong Mishap at Blackfoot Pride Days

Here's the article from the Idaho State Journal. Here's a picture. "Ping-pong balls rained down on Interstate 15 north of Blackfoot last Saturday when an annual giveaway event for Blackfoot Pride Days went terribly wrong."

New Dance Move: The Ping Pong

Here's the article and video (24 sec)!

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June 26, 2014

North American Cup

Kind of a big upset last night - 12-year-old Crystal Wang upset top seeded Lily Zhang in the semifinals of Women's Singles in a nail-biting seven-gamer (8,5,5,-3,-9,-6,7)  where Lily almost came back from down 0-3. Lots of incredible rallies. I was up late watching it - it started at 8PM western time, which is 11PM eastern time here in Maryland. Worse, I was up much later discussing the match and other issues with others via Facebook and messaging with Han Xiao, one of Crystal's regular practice partners. We're pretty proud of Crystal, who is from my club. She's too fast for me now, but for years I was one of her regular training partners and I coached her in many tournaments. She was training here at MDTTC (as she does essentially every day) just the day before, and then flew out to Vancouver, Canada. (Tournament was held in nearby Burnaby.) To get to the final Crystal had 4-1 wins over Liu Jiabao of Canada and USA's Erica Wu. In the final Crystal will play Mo Zhang of Canada.

In the Men's side, it's an all-USA final between Adam Hugh and Kanak Jha. That match starts at 8PM (i.e. 11 pm my time). Here are the results for Women's Singles and Men's Singles. Here's the ITTF home page for the event, where you can find results, articles, photos, and video. Men's and Women's finals are tonight at 8PM and 9:20PM (that's 11PM and 12:20 AM eastern time, alas). Here's where you can watch the live streaming.

MDTTC Camp

Yesterday was Day Three of Week Two of our Ten Weeks of Summer Camps. I could write about the camp - kids are making breakthroughs right and left, everyone's getting better (except us coaches, alas), and every day's highlight is the daily trip to 7-11. But for me, the dominating feature is physical and mental exhaustion. Ever spend an entire day coaching kids in the 6-8 age range? With a five-second attention span? And do this day after day? We have almost the same kids as the previous week, so they're into their eighth day of this. So I'm not just a coach, I'm their entertainer. However, the key thing to remember here is the rule of five - you have to say everything at least five times to get their attention. And getting them to pick up balls? It wasn't so hard on day one and two, but by day eight it's like pulling teeth. But somehow, inadvertently, and often against their will, they are rapidly improving. Now if I can only keep my sanity and not collapse physically, I'll be just fine! (My legs are pretty much dying right now.) 

Tactics Coaching

I had another tactics coaching session yesterday with Kaelin and Billy during the lunch break. The focus was on deceptive serving and serve variations, the tactics of long serves, receive, and rallying tactics. 

We went over the tactics of serving short. These including varying the placement, even of simple backspin serves; serving to the middle; serving very, very low; heavy no-spin serves; varying the backspin in side-backspin serves; serving with extra-heavy backspin; mixing in sidespin and side-top serves; serving with both sidespins with good placement; deceptive follow-throughs on serves; and serving half-long (so second bounce would be near the end-line); 

We went over the advantages of the various service depths, noting that the emphasis of short serves should be half-long serves, where the second bounce would be near the end-line. But we also went over the advantages of shorter serves - forcing a player to reach more for short serves to the forehand, and bringing a player in over the table so they aren't ready for the next shot. This latter is especially effective if you serve very short to the forehand, bringing the receiver in over the table, and then going after the deep backhand. But it's also somewhat risky as it gives the receiver a chance to flip aggressively into the very wide forehand, or down the line if you move to cover the forehand.

I also went over my Ten-Point Plan to Serving Success - and we spent some time going over each of these. (I wrote quite a bit about these and everything else I'm covering in Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers.

  1. Serve legally
  2. Serve with a plan
  3. Maximize spin
  4. Vary your spin
  5. Disguise your spin
  6. Speed
  7. Low bounce
  8. Direction
  9. Depth
  10. Follow-up

We talked about serve deception, and the four main ways of doing this: sheer spin, semi-circular motion, exaggerating the opposite motion, and spin/no-spin serves by varying the contact point on the racket. We also went over the advantages of specific serves. For example, a primary advantage of the pendulum serve is that you can do either type of sidespin with the same motion until just before contact. A primary advantage of the backhand serve is that you see your opponent throughout the serve, and so see if he reacts to the serve too soon, allowing the server to change serves, such as a sudden fast serve if the opponent is reaching in or stepping around the backhand. We also talked about where to serve from, and why too many players repetitively serve from the backhand corner, ignoring the advantages of sometimes varying this. If you sometimes serve from the middle or forehand side, you mess up the opponent who's not used to this - try it and you'll be surprised how much trouble players have with this. Plus it gives you an angle into the forehand, especially the short forehand against players who like to receive short serves with their backhand. 

We went over what are commonly the most effective long serves. Every opponent is different, but I'd say the most essential serves - the ones that all players should develop, and yes, I mean you - are (for this I'm assuming righty vs. righty - others adjust): 

  • To the Backhand: Big breaking sidespin serves to the wide backhand that break to the right into the wide backhand, ranging from side-topspin, pure sidespin, and side-backspin, as well as a fast no-spin. The reverse sidespin serve can be almost as effective as a variation as it often catches the receiver off guard, and the returns tend to go to the server's forehand. 
  • To the Middle: Fast no-spin serves, and at least one side-top variation. Often a reverse pendulum serve is effective here. 
  • To the Forehand: Fast topspin serves where the direction is well disguised, along with at least one other sidespin or no-spin variation. 

We went over the tactics of receive. Against deep serves, you have to be aggressive unless you are a very defensive player. Against short serves, you can be either passive, disarming, or aggressive. Passive returns are common at lower levels, but unless the opponent is a weak attacker, they aren't too effective at higher levels if used too often. The most common passive receives are long pushes, though soft topspins may also be passive returns, depending on the opponent and how he handles them. Long pushes can be a bit more aggressive (or disarming) if done quick off the bounce and pretty fast. A disarming receive is one designed to stop the server's attack and get into a neutral rally. The classic disarming receive is a short push. Another is a quick flip to the server's weaker side. An aggressive push can also be disarming if the server isn't able to make a strong attack off it. An aggressive receive against a short serve is usually an aggressive flip. Ambitious players should learn all three types of these receives against short serves, but focus roughly equally on disarming and aggressive receives. 

We spent the rest of the session going over rallying tactics. This included when to respond. Usually you respond when you see what and where the opponent's shot is. But sometimes you can anticipate a shot, and move for the shot in the split second between when the opponent has committed to a shot and when you can see what the shot will be. 

We talked about the tools needed when rallying: at least one scary rallying shot (a big loop, a fast, aggressive backhand, etc.); quickness; speed; spin; depth (mostly deep on the table, other times short); placement (wide angles, elbow); variety; misdirection; and finally consistency, which is king. Then we went over the tactics of playing the weaker side (often by playing the stronger side first to draw the player out of position); down the line play; going to the same spot twice; placement of backhand attacks; forehand deception with shoulder rotation; changing the pace; rallying down faster, quicker players; where to place your put-aways; and developing an overpowering strength. (We ran out of time, so have one last item to cover here - playing lefties, which we'll talk about tomorrow.) 

Tomorrow we'll start going over the tactics against various styles, grips, and surfaces. 

Xu Xin: No Regrets in Choosing Penhold

Here's the interview.

Stiga ITTF Approved Plastic/Poly Ball Review

Here's the detailed video review (11:15) by Table Tennis Daily. It seems to play a bit different than the Nittaku poly ball I reviewed on June 16. Much of this was probably because the Nittaku ball was noticeably bigger and heavier while the Stiga ball was the same weight as a celluloid ball. With the bounce test, the Nittaku poly ball bounced higher than the celluloid, while Stiga poly ball they reviewed bounced lower. Both poly balls were harder to spin when looping. You can go straight to their conclusion at 9:10, where they sum things up in about 90 sec.

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, counting downwards from 100. Previous ones are linked from the USATT News page, as well as in my past blogs. Thirty-four down, 66 to go!

  • Day 67: Mikael Andersson Details Creation of the ITTF’s Junior Program
  • Day 68: Jean-Michel Saive Recounts His Past and Present Successes

Lion Table Tennis

You can come up with your own caption for this table tennis cartoon. How about, "No, we don't want to play winners. We want to eat winners."

***
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January 6, 2014

Tip of the Week

Three Parts to a Swing.

New Seamless Plastic Poly Balls

I blogged about these on Dec. 26 (see second segment). There's been a lot of discussion online of these non-celluloid balls and how they'd change our sport. Here's my take.

First, a caveat. When I tested the newest poly ball at the Nationals, I was having arm problems at the time and so couldn't loop at full power, so perhaps my judgment on that is suspect. On the other hand, the top juniors who tried the ball out (four of them, all around 2300) thought it played pretty much the same as a regular ball. I wish I had a copy of the ball now so I could try it out again (with my arm mostly okay), along with others at my club. 

At least one other person has tested the ball and posted he believes the ball (even the newest version) has less spin and speed. I'm suspicious that it's substantially different. I know the ball was the same size as a Nittaku, and had the same speed when I bounced them side by side, and seemed substantially the same when I hit with it, including the same weight, grippiness, etc. Serious question: what physical property would cause it to have less spin, and in particular, substantially less spin? Comments are welcome below.  

But let's assume that the new ball does have less speed and spin, as some think. This might be true if, for example, the ball were bigger. (Though the slightly bigger ball I tested previously was actually faster than the current ball, though less spinny.)

If there is less spin with the new ball, I'm pretty sure that'll hurt choppers, even if the ball were slower. Choppers need spin to work with to mess up attackers, so even if they are more consistent with a slower ball, they would be less effective overall. (It'd sort of be like sandpaper matches, where it's easy to chop over and over, but hard to win points that way against the best sandpaper attackers.) However, if the ball were slower, that should help topspin defenders (fishers and lobbers). 

As to hitters, going from 38mm to 40mm balls hurt hitters, and going to a ball with even less speed would do the same - less ball speed gives loopers more time to loop, and hitters (and aggressive blockers) rely on rushing loopers into missing, making weak loops, or backing too much off the table. The same is true of blockers. Inverted and pips-out blockers need to rush loopers, and a slower ball makes that more difficult. Long pips blockers need spin to work with (like choppers), and a less spinny ball gives them less to work with - thereby putting them more at the mercy of smart but powerful loopers. Without those heavy backspin returns of loops, they'll have great difficulty messing loopers up.

The hard-to-call case is the modern defender, who chops and loops. A slower, less spinny ball would make their chops more consistent but less deceptive (and overall chopping alone would be less effective), but the slower ball would allow them to get into position to rip forehand winners. Most likely the change wouldn't affect their level, but it would tilt them toward more aggressive play. 

The surprising truth is that a ball with less spin and speed would likely favor powerful loopers who can still produce great spin and speed. I think it'd move the sport even more in the direction of pure looping, just as the increase from 38mm to 40mm did. It might favor all-out forehand loopers to a degree, since they will have more time to get into position for their powerful forehand loops. If you want to bring back choppers, blockers, and hitters, go back to a smaller, faster, spinnier ball. 

Addendum added later: with less spin and speed, these pure topspin rallies would likely be better than current ones as players relentlessly counterloop back and forth with fewer errors. Some will love this; some will find it repetitively boring. I'm on the fence here. I really miss the greater diversity of styles in the past. If you want to see the future, look at the juniors of today; overwhelmingly they are two-winged loopers, which is what I mostly coach and coach against. There are subtle differences, but in general they play much more similar to each other than players in the past. And yet, with a slower, less spinny ball the given topsin rallies would be better, and there'll fewer errors in returning serves, with the lower amount of spin. But I sure would like to see a bit more variation. 

Baltimore Sun

Yesterday the Baltimore Sun sent a reporter to Maryland Table Tennis Center to do a feature on Crystal Wang, 11, who recently became the youngest player ever to win Under 22 Women's Singles at the USA Nationals. (I'd sent out press releases everywhere afterwards. Here's a short article on this that was already in the Baltimore Sun - with two errors from the original press release, which were my fault: Crystal's actually a 6th grader now in the magnet program at Roberto Clemente Middle School.) The reporter spoke to Crystal and a number of players and coaches, and interviewed me for half an hour. I was able to give her lots of background, explain how she developed, and give details on her modern playing style (close to table looping from both wings).

$100,000 World Championships of Ping Pong

They just completed the third annual World Championships of Ping Pong, which is a sandpaper event - with $100,000 in prize money! Yes, you read that right. For the third year in a row it was won by Russia's Maxim Shmyrev, this time defeating USA's Ilija Lupulesku in the final at 8, 7, 12. (Strangely, games are to 15 in the sandpaper format.) Here's video of the final (24:04). Alas, both players are attacking all out - little chopping in this match.

2014 USA Team Trials

Here's info on the upcoming USA National Team Trials (Men's and Women's), to be held at Texas Wesleyan University in Fort Worth Texas, March 7-9.

Message from ITTF President

Here's the end-of-the-year message from ITTF President Adham Sharara.

Ariel Hsing's Website

Here's the new website for our 18-year-old three-time USA Women's Singles Champion!

Ping-Pong Diplomacy

Here's a review in the New York Times on the book "Ping-Pong Diplomacy" by Nicholas Griffin.

Search for Professional Players, Clubs, and Coaches Around the World

Here's a new website that does this. I haven't really tested it out yet, but it looks interesting.

ITTF Monthly Pongcast

Here's the December 2013 issue (11:44).

Chinese National Team in Training

Here's a video (3:31) of the Chinese National Team doing physical training and then table training. With Chinese narration.

Bernoulli's Ping Pong Ball Launcher

Here's the video (60 sec) - it's both table tennis and science!

Jean-Michel Saive vs. Chuang Chih-Yuan

Here are two videos of these two stars doing exhibitions. Tape one (1:35) and tape two (4:10).

Real or Fake?

If this is real (15 sec), then it might be the greatest table tennis trick shot ever.

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August 29, 2013

Junior Lobbers

I have an 8-year-old student, about 1200 level, who simply loves to lob (as well as chop). Yesterday I finally made a deal with him that if he'd stopped lobbing every few rallies, I promised to let him lob at the end of the session. He sort of kept his side of the bargain (not always), and at the end he lobbed away. He's actually very good at this! Some rallies went on for 6-7 shots as I'd smash a near full-speed, but to one spot.

I had a 12-year-old for the next session, and he saw this, and he wanted to lob as well. Before we could start our session, he was hitting with the 8-year-old where they took turns lobbing and smashing. I let them do this for ten minutes (and agreed to go ten minutes over for the upcoming session). At the end of the session with the 12-year-old, he also wanted to lob. So I let him lob. Then we played a few games, and next thing we know we were about 25 minutes over on time. (No, I didn't charge extra.) Normally kids want the coaches to lob so they can smash, but now we have a turnaround, and I'm teaching two of them to lob. I have another 12-year-old student who last week practiced lobbing against me. So it looks like an infection that's spreading!!! (They are also learning about fishing, which is basically a low lob.)

There's nothing wrong with lobbing. In fact, it's a great way to learn to react to a smash and to practice covering lots of ground. When the kids learn how to react and move this way, and do so properly so the lob is essentially a high loop with lots of topspin, then they are that much closer to counterlooping at warp speeds. The key is not to make it a habit. Too often players start lobbing whenever they are in trouble when, if they want to be higher-level players, they should focus on counter-attacking whenever possible, and only lobbing as a last resort.

Baltimore Orioles Pre-Game Show

I blogged last Thursday about the MDTTC visit to the Baltimore Orioles clubhouse locker room for three hours of table tennis. The Mid-Atlantic Sports Network filmed some of it, and we were on the pre-game show before the game that night. However, I didn't get to see the pre-game show itself since I was at the game. The Orioles kindly sent me the video.

Here's the video (5:28)! The table tennis is only in the first 1:53. (That's Nathan Hsu playing in the background during the interviews with shortstop JJ Hardy and third baseman Manny Machado.) After that comes 90 seconds where Buck Showalter explains why he likes that the players have fun in the clubhouse, and then the rest is about the Orioles. Here's the video from Orioles.com (1:19), which I linked to last Thursday, where Buck talks about table tennis - great stuff, though not all completely accurate!

Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers

It's been a while since I blogged about Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers except in passing. It's come to my attention that there are still a few people in this world that haven't bought a copy. I figured this out by taking the world's population (7,175,410,847 as I write this, according to the World Population Clock) and the number of book sales (about 2000), subtracting the difference, and we reach the inescapable conclusion that there are 7,175,408,847 people out there who have not bought this book. Inconceivable!!!

The book has gotten nice reviews. At Amazon there are an even 20 reviews, 17 of them 5-star (highest level), and the other three 4-star. Here are all 20 of them.

Perhaps there are a few billion people out there who haven't heard of the book? Then our mission is to get them to hear about it.

So, do you, or anyone you know, do table tennis reviews for a table tennis magazine or blog? Let me know and I'll send you free copy of the book for review.

I'm also interested in translations to sell elsewhere, especially Chinese. If you have connections for that, let me know. I'd need both a translator and a publisher for that.

Charity Table Tennis Event at Dodger Stadium

Los Angeles Dodgers pitching star Clayton Kershaw is holding a charity ping pong event tonight at Dodger Stadium Here's the story from Table Tennis Nation. Includes a link to a video (2:33) of him on Jimmy Kimmel talking about his table tennis.

Interview with TSP

Here's an interview with TSP that focuses on their various types of pips-out surfaces (both long and short), as well as questions about their blades.

Table Tennis Historical Pictures

Here's a collection of 292 historical table tennis pictures.

Shot of the Tournament at the Harmony Open

Here's a video (29 sec) of Singapore #1 player Gao Ning (world #16, formerly #9) making the shot of the tournament at the Harmony China Open.

Saive the Fighter

Here's a video (49 sec) of former great and world #1 (20 years ago) Jean-Michel Saive of Belgium looping, fishing, lobbing, and even chopping as he battles to win a game (leading 10-8), and showing that perhaps he's still pretty great.

No One Beats Me at Table Tennis!

So says Loki from The Avengers in this short table tennis gif image!

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