Coaching the Backhand

October 11, 2013

Blog Featured on USATT Page

My blog on Thursday morning (on my day on set with "Veep") is featured on the USA Table Tennis home page. Page down and the picture (as of this writing) is on the left. (Last night it was on the right.) I'm sitting next to Derek Nie, the 2012 U.S. Open Under 12 Boys' Champion (currently rated a monstrous 2297). As noted in past blogs, they also are featuring pictures of Derek and I in the numerous Tips of the Week I did for USATT a decade ago in their Tip of the Day feature.

Coaching the Backhand

One of the things I've improved in my coaching is how I coach the backhand. As I've blogged about a number of times, the average backhand these days has more topspin than backhands from the past. It's evolved this way as an interaction between better sponge surfaces, which leads to better topspin technique, and  better technique, which leads to players going to more advanced sponges. These days at the higher levels nearly every backhand is essentially a backhand loop, usually done right up at the table.

But what really stands out is how this has trickled down to the intermediate level. During the speed gluing era (roughly 1980s to early 2000s) most players didn't glue except at the relatively higher levels. It was a lot of hassle, and the conventional wisdom at the time was that you had to reach a pretty high level before you could control a glued-up sponge. These days, with ease of buying a sheet of super sponge, players are using it at lower and lower levels, despite the high prices. With these super sponges it's easy to topspin the backhand (as well as the forehand), and so players do it sooner in their development. This shows that players can do it earlier in their development than was thought before, and so more and more often they are taught to do so. 

When I coach beginners I always mention to them that my backhand tends toward the flat side. (Sometimes when coaching I go for a bit more topspin for the student's sake, but it's not natural for me.) Some students have copied this, and so began to develop too-flat backhands in an age of topspin. So now I really stress putting topspin on these backhands. 

It's showing up in my students. I have several junior players who topspin away with their backhands even though they are still in the 1200 range in level. When I started out not many 1200 players could do this! A few days ago I was silently amazed as one of my students, who was much stronger on the forehand, was topspinning away on the backhand in backhand-to-backhand rallies, and he had no idea how impressive I found this. He (Matt) still needs a lot of work to control this consistently in a match situation, but he's well on his way to developing better backhand technique than I ever had. 

There's still debate on when to start to really topspin the backhand. Should you teach a "regular" backhand until the player is something like 1800 level, or have them topspin earlier? I have an 8-year-old student, about 1400 level already, who likes to back up and topspin everything, often from down at his level, contacting the ball below table level. He basically soft loops or fishes all his backhands AND forehands, except when he's lobbing, which is often.

Returning Serves

Here are two articles on this from Table Tennis Master.

Table Tennis Coaching Gifs

Here are some great gifs of top table tennis players you should study. I especially thought the third one was great in demonstrating how to do the reverse pendulum serve.  

Milwaukee Table Tennis Fundraiser

Here's the article. They will pit amateurs against pros (with creative handicaps) to raise money for Pathfinders Milwaukee, which provides shelter, counseling, education and other support to homeless and at-risk youth. Event takes place Oct. 17 at The Tent at Pier Wisconsin.

Table Tennis: The Sport That Makes You Use Your Brain the Most

Here's the article from Uberpong. I especially like the Albert Einstein Table Tennis graphic. Someone should turn that into a shirt. (Hello, Uberpong?)

Mouth Juggling Anyone?

Here it is, on the David Letterman Show under "Stupid Human Tricks."

Table Tennis Fail

Here's a video (3:27) of top players messing up. Study this one really hard, copy what you see, and play my students!

Non-Table Tennis - the Capclave Science Fiction Convention

This weekend I'll be commuting back and forth between coaching at MDTTC and the Capclave SF Convention, held about five minutes away in Gaithersburg, MD. (As some of you know, besides table tennis coaching and writing I'm also a science fiction & fantasy writer.) I'm on three panels, two of which I'm moderating. I'm also doing a reading. Below is my schedule. Here's my Capclave Bio. If you are in the area, come join us!

Friday 4:00-4:55 pm, Salons CDE
God Emperor of Capclave - The Politics and Religion Panel
Panelists: Brenda W. Clough, John G. Hemry, Larry Hodges (M), James Morrow, Brian Shaw
Verboten at the dinner table, but not here. How do authors' political perspectives and religion influence their writing? And what happens when an author's politics/religion starts influencing the real world (cue Ayn Rand)

Friday 9:00-9:55 pm, Rockville/Potomac Room
Amazon, Hero or Villain?
Panelists: Marilyn "Mattie" Brahen, Larry Hodges (M), John Edward Lawson, Kathryn Morrow
Debate: Amazon is good for its low prices, Kindle, and ease of shopping. Amazon is evil for killing off bookstores, taking more and more profit/control from writers/publishers, and for being so big

Saturday 12:00-12:55 pm, Rockville/Potomac Room
1001 Uses for an Unpublished Story
Panelists: Laura Anne Gilman, Larry Hodges, Victoria Janssen (M), Craig Alan Loewen, Alan Smale
Sometimes they sell,sometimes they don't, what do you do with your unsold stories? Do you ever write anything you know can't be sold? Do you mine the novel in your trunk?

Sunday 3:00-3:25 pm, Frederick Room
Reading:
I'll be reading an excerpt from my upcoming novel, "The Giant Face in the Sky," a humorous fantasy that parodies the U.S.-Soviet Space race of the 1960s, but with sorcerers instead of astronauts. If there's time, I'll also read my "cult classic" short-short story, "The Bat Nerd," about a bat that thinks it's a superhero called Manbat.

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