George Hendry

July 9, 2012

Tip of the Week:

Telegraphing Serves.

My Favorite Statements at the U.S. Open

After one of my players lost a close match I told him, "Except for a few careless points, you played really well. But that's like telling a tightrope walker he did really well except for the part where he fell off and got killed."

Another Maryland junior was tied 2-2 in games. I had been coaching another match, and came over just as she lost game #4, and so didn't see any of the match, and I didn't know the opponent. Her mom asked if I'd coach before the fifth game. I told her, "Keep doing the things that are working, and stop doing the things that are not working." She won the fifth game and the match. (Actually, I also had her tell me what was working and what wasn't working so she it would be clear in her mind what she should do.)

One of our top juniors didn't have to play until late that afternoon, so for breakfast I told him he could have whatever he wanted. He had a chocolate donut, a chocolate pastry, and hot chocolate. I asked him, "You are what you eat. Your opponents are going to eat you up." (That was the last time I let him have final say on his food.)

Table Tennis Players on Cereal Boxes

Name: Michael Landers

Rank: Rated 2634 and 2009 U.S. Men's Singles Champion

Serial Number, I mean Cereal: Here he is on the lower left on the back of this Kelloggs cereal box. And here he is again on the front of a Wheaties box. So tell us Michael - what's your favorite? Kelloggs Vanilla Flavored Multigrain Cereal, or Wheaties?

Michael now has a 2-1 lead over Hall of Famer George Hendry, who appeared on the back of a Wheaties box in 1936.

Tennis and Table Tennis

Roger Federer just won Wimbledon for the seventh time. Here are three pictures of Federer playing table tennis: photo1photo2, and photo3 (as a child), and . But guess who else won Wimbledon, and in fact won eight tennis grand slams, tied for eighth place all time (with Andre Agassi, Jimmy Connors, Ivan Lendl, and Ken Rosewall)? Yes, it's Fred Perry. After winning the 1929 World Table Tennis Championships, he went on to win the Australian Open (1934), French Open (1935), Wimbledon (1934, '35, '36), and US Open (1933, '34, '36).

World Veterans Championships

In case you missed it, here are the results of the World Veterans Table Tennis Championships, held in Stockholm, Sweden, June 25-30. I haven't gone through the results to see if there are any USA medallists, but if someone puts together a list, I'll post it in my blog.

How to Play Ping Pong with Soon Yeon Lee

Here's a basics coaching video (3:57) from the famous table tennis player and model.

Ping-Pong 3-D Game Revisited

On Friday I linked to this online ping-pong game and wrote, "I don't think it's possible to win, but you can spend endless time trying." Well, Aaron Avery won, and sent me a screen shot to prove it. He wrote, "Hang back in a defensive location to give yourself some time to mouse.  Swinging left or right does allow you to go for angles, unlike many online TT games."

Ping-Pong Balls of Fire

Table Tennis Nation brings us ping-pong balls on fire. (But I like the "of Fire" in my title.)

Non-Table Tennis: "The Dragon of the Apocalypse"

Despite the fantasy-sounding title (with the word "dragon") it's actually a science fiction story, and it's now published in Penumbra Magazine as their #1 story in their table of contents. They are one of the higher-paying "pro" magazines, so I was pretty happy when they bought it. The story is about the decisions the president of the U.S. faces when an apparent dragon lands on the U.S. Capitol. My name is on the cover. (Here's my science fiction & fantasy page.)

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April 16, 2012

Tip of the Week

Where to Place Your Spin Serves.

Modern juniors

I blogged on last Wednesday (April 11) about how modern sponges make looping so much easier. Even younger kids in the U.S. are playing looping games that would have been almost unimaginable 5-10 years ago. While the sponge makes much of this possible, much of this is because there are far more full-time training centers now than before, and so far more full-time junior programs, and so far more juniors training regularly at a high level. The level and depth of cadets and junior players is now stronger than ever in our history. (I blogged about this on Jan. 4, 2012).

The down side is that, at any given level, while the looping is spectacular, the table game is probably a bit weaker, especially return of serve. For example, I think previous generations of juniors were more sophisticated in their receive, since they couldn't rely on all-out attack and counterlooping as much, plus their sponge wasn't as bouncy, so they had more touch. This is especially true on short serves to the forehand, where many modern junior players in the U.S. seem weak. I think previous generations could push short better, while the modern generation can attack short serves better.

I'm tempted to say blocking is not as good among modern juniors, but that's not quite true - there's so much looping going on that this generation of juniors is probably as good blocking as previous ones, at least on the backhand. However, on the forehand, where everyone's mostly counterlooping, the somewhat infrequent blocks aren't as good.

College Championships results

The National Collegiate Championships were held this past weekend - and here are the results!

Michael Landers Wheaties box

Following the footsteps of George Hendry (who appeared on the back of a Wheaties box in 1936 at age 15, before they started putting athletes on the cover), 17-year-old Michael Landers will be on the cover of an upcoming Wheaties box - and here's the picture!

Ma Long Multiball

Here's a video (1:08) of China's world #1 Ma Long doing backhand loop multiball with China's men's head coach Liu Guoliang. Look at the power of those shots!

Primorac vs. Maze

Here's a TV news report (1:06) from 2008 of a great point played at match point between Zoran Primorac of Croatia and Michael Maze of Denmark.

AAAA

At our recent Spring Break Camp, we had three inseparable girls, all about age 9, and all named Emily. (I blogged about this.) Now I'm teaching a small group of four beginners, and their names are Ava, Anton, Ambo, Anmo. Forget Triple A; we've got Quadruple A!

Top Ten Signs Your Table Tennis Club is Too Big

The following was inspired by watching a bunch of kids actually playing hide and seek at the newly expanded Maryland Table Tennis Center. The place is huge, and full of prime hiding spots.

  1. The kids play hide and seek on break. The hiders usually win.
  2. Opponents can't hear you call the score because of the echo.
  3. If they raise the Titanic, they plan to store it at your club.
  4. Lewis and Clark are exploring the club.
  5. The club has its own zip code, its own area code, its own flag, and in the morning kids at school put their hands over their hearts and say the Pledge of Allegiance to the Club.
  6. From the front you can't see the tables in the back because of the Earth's curvature.
  7. Lobbers James Therriault and Nison Aronov have enough room to play.
  8. White balls aren't allowed because when you play a lobber you can't see them against the cumulus clouds in the rafters.
  9. There's a football stadium in the lobby.
  10.  You can fit about 90 million ping-pong balls in the club, according to Kepler's Conjecture. (Assuming 10,000 square feet, 15' ceiling, 74% packing efficiency, and the volume of a ball at 2.14 square inches.)

Ultrabook Table Tennis Tournament

Here's a hilarious video (4:59) of the Toshiba Intel Ultrabook Challenge - a tournament where players used these super-thin laptop computers are rackets!

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August 23, 2011

Hidden Serves

At the higher levels (i.e. 2600 and up), most players hide their serve because most umpires simply are not enforcing the rules. The main rule in question is, "It is the responsibility of the player to serve so that the umpire or the assistant umpire can be satisfied that he complies with the requirements of the Laws."  Many players have learned to just barely hide contact from their opponent, but they do it so quickly and subtly that umpires, sitting off to the side, aren't sure if they have hidden the serve - and instead of warning and then faulting the player for not fulfilling the rule quoted here, they let it go. And so those who cheat are rewarded.

There are always exceptions, such as world #6 Vladimir Samsonov, who never hides his serve. How good would he be if he did so? But he plays against hidden serves regularly, and developed his game before hidden serves were illegal, and so can return them effectively.

Before, illegal hidden serves was mostly a problem at the highest levels. Now it's spreading to the cadet levels. It's survival of the fittest, and the "fittest" are those who win, and more and more these are the ones who hide their serves.

The problem is you cannot learn to return hidden serves unless you practice against them on a regular basis for a long time. (It's not easy learning to read spin from the way the ball travels through the air and bounces on the table, and to do so quickly enough to react properly.) And you can't do this unless your practice partners use them. So the only real way to teach players to return hidden serves is to teach them to all to hide their serves. Plus, even if you learn to return hidden serves, you have to use them yourself if you want to compete evenly.

The problem is that this is cheating. But unless they illegally hide their serves, players cannot compete with their peers who hide their serves. I've watched far too many matches where two players seemed evenly matched, but one player gets clobbered because his serve returns go all over the place - in the net, off the side, straight up or off the end - because they simply can't return hidden serves since they haven't practiced regularly against these illegal serves.

It's frustrating to coaches who train up-and-coming juniors. What do we tell them? To cheat? Or to accept that all their training is wasted as far as competing with their peers who are willing to use these illegal serves?

The ITTF is aware of the problem, and is looking into solutions. I wish they'd hurry. (One proposal talked about is to require the serve to be visible to both umpires, or to where the umpire would sit if there was an umpire. This would make it almost impossible to hide the serve from the opponent.)

Suggested rubber and blade combinations for beginning and intermediate players

At the request from the forum, this morning I wrote an extensive article on this for my blog. Then I realized it really should be a Tip of the Week. So look to see it next Monday morning. Instead, I wrote above about hidden serves. (I had Tips written for the next two weeks, but I'll bump each a week. So you can also look forward to "Five Steps to a Great Spin Serve," and "The Myth of Thinking Too Much.")

History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 11

You can now begin reading Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis, Vol. 11, which covers 1981-82. Chapter One went up yesterday; a new chapter will go up each week for the next 35 weeks - yes, there's 35 chapters. Better still, visit TimBogganTableTennis.com and buy a volume or eleven! Here's the dedication page and acknowledgement page, where Tim thanks those who helped out. (I'm in both, in particular the dedication page, for doing the page layouts and photo work.)

George Hendry, RIP, one more time

Here's Tim Boggan's obit of Hendry. (Tim quoted a stanza of my Ode to Hendry from 1992, which I reprinted on Friday.)

U.S. Teams Dominate in Canadian Junior and Cadet Open

Here's the story.

U.S. Paralympic Team Shines in Rio

Here's the story.

Ping Pong Albums

Here's a 1997 album called Momus Ping Pong, which features a table tennis oriented cover, including a large gorilla with a ping-pong paddle. Here's a video of the album (4:33). Here's a 1979 Pablo Cruise album called Part of the Game, with turtles playing ping-pong on the front cover. Here's a larger picture of the cover. Here's a video of the album (3:47). Anybody want to review these "table tennis" albums?

In China, no more Ping-Pong Diplomacy

At least that was the headline of a story in Sunday's Washington Post Outlook section!

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August 22, 2011

Tip of the Week

Strategic Versus Tactical Thinking.

MDTTC Coaching Camp - Day Ten

  • Friday was Day Ten and the last day of our second MDTTC two-week camp of the summer.
  • While working with the beginners (mostly age 8-10), I brought out "Froggy," a large and very realistic rubber frog, which I put on the table for target practice. We divided the group into two teams of four, and while I fed balls with multiball, they took turns trying to hit it. Team A won over Team B, 21-17. I brought it out several more times as the kids seemed to take great pleasure in hitting the poor frog.
  • We ran a tournament for most of the players, but I again took the beginners separately, as they weren't really ready for a tournament. Instead, I brought out two bags of candy - hard candy and Hershey's chocolate kisses - and spread them on the table. I spent much of the afternoon feeding multiball as the kids tried to knock them off. When they did, they got the candy!
  • This was MDTTC's last camp of the summer. Our next camp is our Christmas Camp, Dec. 26-31.

Oh my aching back!

Yes, the two weeks of camp has turned my back into a battlefield tourist attraction on a par with Gettysburg. If anyone can pull the twisted sword out of my back, I will make you king of England.

On Tuesday at 2PM I'll finally see the physical therapist for the first of many sessions. I won't be playing any table tennis for six weeks - I have others coming in to do my hitting when I coach. (I've already started this - John Olsen did my hitting for me during two sessions, and John Hsu will be helping out soon.) I'll give periodic updates here. (For those who haven't been following this blog religiously - what's wrong with you?!!! - my back's been killing me for months to the point where I can barely play anymore.)

Looking forward to practice sessions

Do you (or your students) look forward to practice sessions? Why or why not? Those who do usually improve; those who don't, don't. (Well, usually.) Players who can't wait to get to the practice session are where future champions come from. If you or a player you coach doesn't seem to look forward to practice sessions, perhaps it's time to add some variety. Push their limits - have them try more advanced shots, even if you don't think they are ready for them yet.

Canadian Junior and Cadet Open

It was held this weekend in Vancouver. Here is the web page with results.

Holy Heart-Pumping Ping-Pong!

This 15-minute video is about the best action-packed table tennis video I've ever seen, compiling many of the best points ever played. After watching this, you'll either be ready to beat the best Chinese or you'll be spraying (attempted) world-class shots all over the court.

George Hendry, RIP

Here's Tim Boggan's article on George Hendry (table tennis legend who died last week), from the May/June 1996 issue of Table Tennis World. You'll have to zoom in to read the text. It includes some very nice pictures.
Page 1
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Here are other articles on Hendry:

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August 19, 2011

MDTTC Coaching Camp - Day Nine

  • Today's focus was on footwork. When I announced that, the groans could be heard in China, where the sonic vibrations caused massive nationwide lets. Of course, all table tennis drills are footwork drills - we just don't spend much time reminding players.
  • One player said he wanted to know how he could "move up a level." Talk about coincidence - one of my favorite articles I've written is "How to Move Up a Level"! I pointed out the article in his copy of Table Tennis Tales & Techniques. I also introduced him to With Winning in Mind: The Mental Management System, by Lanny Bassham, one of the best sports psychology books around.
  • During break, the kids played "napkin poker." If the coaches won't let you play for real money, why not?
  • Camp ends tomorrow - final report will be on Monday. 

Serving and Gripping and Wrist, Oh My!

Do you change your grip when you serve? You should for nearly all serves. Most spin comes from the wrist. Few service motions get maximum wrist action with a normal shakehands grip, which is designed more for stable strokes than wristy spin serves. If you aren't sure how to change your trip to maximize the wrist action and spin, ask a top player or coach to show you. Or just experiment, rotating the racket in your hand and adjusting the finger positioning until you find ways to maximize your wrist snap. (This came up several times in the camp.)

Table Tennis Primer

Here's The Daily Lesson/Ping-Pong (1:46), a nice table tennis primer by table tennis coach and sports psychologist Dora Kurimay. Here's the text under the video: "Chances are, you either grew up with a ping-pong table in your basement or played a few less-than-friendly games somewhere else. In addition, it's likely you've never had a lesson from a pro (and sorry, watching "Balls of Fury" doesn't count). That is, until now, courtesy of former Hungarian champ Dora Kurimay. Tap on the video above to learn proper footwork as well as the perfect grip. That should be more than enough to lift your game out of the cellar."

What do Barack Obama, Susan Sarandon, Lil Jon and Lindsey Vonn have in common?

Yes, table tennis - here's the article!

1971 Ping-Pong Diplomacy

Here's a new first-hand account.

George Hendry, RIP

USATT Hall of Famer George Hendry, one of the last of the great hardbat players, died Wednesday, Aug. 17, a few days short of age 91. Here's his Hall of Fame bio, and a picture (he's on far side). I've known him for 30+ years, so it was a shock to hear the news. After he won Over 60 and Over 70 at the USA Nationals one year, and George Brathwaite had won Over 40 and over 50, I staged a picture of the two of them jumping into the air and giving each other high-fives. After he'd won the 1990 World Over 70 Singles Championships, I wrote the following Ode to him.

You Are Old, Father Hendry
Ode to 1990 World Over 70 Champion George Hendry
From March/April 1992 Table Tennis Topics
By Larry Hodges
(With apologies to You Are Old, Father William by Lewis Carroll from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland)

"You are old, George Hendry," the young man spoke,
"And your hair has become very white;
And yet you incessantly hit a hard stroke,
Do you think at your age that is right?"

"In my youth," George Hendry replied as he rocked,
I feared hitting myself in the head;
My follow-throughs got my skull dented and pocked;
A few more dents shouldn't hurt it, I've said."

"You are old," said the youth in another resort,
"And have grown most uncommonly fat;
Yet you smash winners from all parts of the court –
Pray, what is the reason for that?"

"In my youth," said the sage, as he combed his long pips,
"I kept all my limbs very loose;
'Course, it's this fast sponge that lets me go for those rips,
While the other side's good for a ruse."

"You are old," said the youth, "and your legs are too weak
To get to the shots that you hit;
Yet I can see that your movements are still very sleek,
Pray, how do you manage to do it?"

"In my youth," said George Hendry, "I was a retriever,
And had to run down many balls;
Chase after each shot, that was my endeavor,
Which often meant running through walls!"

"You are old," said the youth, "one would hardly suppose
That your eye was as steady as ever;
Yet you balanced a ping pong ball on the end of your nose –
What made you so awfully clever?"

"I have answered three questions, and that is enough,"
Said George Hendry, "no more am I able;
Do you think I can listen all day to such stuff?
Be off, or get kicked through the table!"

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