RGIII Response Video

October 21, 2013

Tip of the Week

Should you Choose Serve, Receive, or Side at the Start of a Match?

Knee Problems

Yes, just a couple weeks after getting over about ten days of arm problems (where I had to cancel or get substitutes for a lot of coaching sessions), now it's my right knee that's acting up. I hurt it on Saturday at the very end of my last session, with John Olsen and Kevin Walton. We normally do nearly 90 minutes of multiball each session (they take turns), then do live drills or games the last 30 minutes or so. I was playing John a game, and he returned my serve to my wide backhand. I stepped around to loop a forehand, and as I put weight on my back (right) leg, I felt something go in the knee. I made the shot, and the rally continued, with me hobbling about fishing to keep the ball in play. Then he went to my wide forehand, and I tottered over for the shot, again putting weight on the knee and aggravating it. We stopped play after the shot.

I did a lot of group session on Sunday, where I limped about. I did one private coaching session where I staggered around in live drills, but fortunately did a lot of multiball so I wouldn't have to shamble around the court running down balls. (Okay, I think I've finally run out of acronyms for "hobble.")

I'm resting it today (my day off), and have only one session tomorrow (Tuesday). But then things get busy again on Wed and Thur. I'll sort of get Fri-Sun off, as I'll be coaching at the South Shore Open in Indiana where hopefully I won't leap to my feet to celebrate some victory and hurt the knee again. Because then I'd be forced to stumble about next week.

How I Taught Serves in Class Yesterday

On Sundays at 4:30 I have a 90-minute session with about 12 beginning kids, ages 7-11. I'd already taught them how to serve legally. Yesterday I introduced them to serving with spin. This is always a tricky subject to teach since they don't have the fine coordination yet needed to really graze the ball and make it spin. Worse, they get little feedback from their shot since they can't really see how much it's spinning. So as I always do, I brought out the ping-pong soccer balls.

First I showed them how to change their grip so as to get extra wrist on a forehand serve. Then I demoed a few serves, showing them backspin serves that bounced back into the net and sidespin serves that curved dramatically. This always gets their attention. Then I showed them a simple exercise to learn to create spin. Hold the racket in front, forehand side up. Then tilt the left side up a bit. (Lefties reverse.) Then toss a ball up, and spin the left bottom of the ball so it goes straight up with spin. Catch the ball, and repeat. After demoing this with a soccer ball, I gave one out to each of them. This way they could see how much spin they were creating as they hit the ball up, and they really like spinning the ball. After a few minutes practicing this, I showed them how to do this with a serve (forehand backspin and sidespin serves), and then sent them out on the tables to practice.

RGIII Response Video Postings

The RGIII Video Response went semi-viral, with over 10,000 views. I'm told it was shown on the NFL Network, but I haven't actually got an eye-witness to that. Anyone see that or have a video of it? Or know of any showings not listed below? Definite online showing are at:

2013 USA Nationals

The deadline for the USA Nationals was extended to Oct. 25, this Friday. Hope to see you there!

Interview with Xiao Zhan

Here's a video interview (4:51) of one of the Chinese National Team Coaches, about how he got started, coaching young players, and talent identification. In Chinese with English captions.

The Kenta Matsudaira Sidespin Block

Here's an article and video analysis of the Japanese star's sidespin block, a rare shot among the world's elite that mostly consists of looping or counterlooping everything.

Physics of Table Tennis

Here's an article explaining the Magnus Effect (how spin makes the ball curve), using Adam Hugh's ITTF Trick Shot Competition entry as an example.

Kreanga vs. Tokic

Here's a great point between these two (54 sec).

The Eight Stages of Every Player

Here's the funny but accurate appraisal! So where are you on this?

Fun with Ping-Pong Ball Eyes

Here are some pictures.

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October 18, 2013

Jim's Forehand

About two months ago I started coaching Jim. He's a lefty in his early 60s, perhaps 1000-1200 level, and very tall. He had a pretty good backhand but very awkward forehand. When he'd hit forehands he'd lean over and down, tilting his head sideways, and sort of lunge at the ball. During his forward swing his head would move about three feet sideways as his whole body went off to the side, throwing him off balance and killing his timing. I wasn't sure whether we should fix the stroke, rush it to the nearest hospital, or just bury it in the local cemetery.

We decided to fix the stroke. And lo and behold, it worked! We made this the focus of over half of our sessions, using Saturation Training. Now he stays balanced throughout the stroke, and his head stays straight and only moves perhaps six inches sideways. He now has precision, and we now have vicious rallies, his forehand to my backhand. He has a very nice smash now, in practice.

However, he's not out of the woods yet. For example, when he smashes to my backhand and I block it back, he still has trouble with the second shot, and usually hits it soft. He doesn't yet have the deep-down confidence to just let the shot go over and over. It also means it's not quite ready for matches yet.

I explained to him Larry's Six-Month Law and its corollary, Larry's Six-Month Law for Strokes. The latter means that when you develop a shot until it's proficient in practice, it'll take about six months of practice before you can use it consistently and effectively in matches. He's now on that path.

One thing that really helps when coaching basics is being surrounded by top players. Whenever I needed to give Jim a visual image of a good forehand, we'd just look around and there'd be about ten players over 2200 hitting on the other tables. It gives me and other coaches at our club an unfair advantage over others when we coach. (I can demo my forehand, of course, but it's better seeing two top players doing it back and forth. It's also inspirational for a student: "If all those players can do it, then gosh darn it, so can I!")

RGIII Response Video

The RGIII Response Video made the Washington Post! It was already in the Dallas Morning News, Table Tennis Nation, the USATT web page, and the USOC web page. Let me know if you see it anywhere else. Keep reposting - let's make this go viral!!!

Jim's Table Tennis Page

Here's an interesting page that's basically a primer on table tennis, including lots of coaching tips. (No relation to the "Jim" mentioned above!)

Chuang Chih-Yuan Training Center Sponsorship

Here's the article (in Chinese) on this training center in Taiwan's new sponsorship. (Chuang Chih-Yuan is a long-time Taiwan star, currently ranked #7 in the world, previously ranked as high as #3 in 2003.) Here's the short version, care of Bruce Liu/ICC: "Chuang Chih-Yuan's training center in southern Taiwan got a major boost from the wealthiest person in Taiwan. Terry Guo is a Taiwanese tycoon and the founder and chairman of Foxconn, a company that manufactures electronics on contract for other companies - such as Apple Inc. According to the report, it will be a 10-year sponsorship worth about US $2 million in total. Mr. Guo also donated US $5 billion to the Medical Center of the Taiwan National University for cancer research in 2007."

Kenta Matsudaira Documentary

Here's the video (44:05). The Japanese star is ranked #18 in the world. Together with Koki Niwa and Jun Mizutani (# 12 and #14), they make up a suddenly powerful team that could challenge the Chinese men. (Japan also has players ranked #33, 43, 47, 52, 54, 75, 79, and 100.)

The Practice of Practicing

Here's an article on this that features piano - but we could probably get a few insights from this.

Cartoon Cats

Here they are, a whole bunch of them playing or watching table tennis!

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October 17, 2013

Random Drills

One of the best ways to improve is through multiball training, and one of the best drills you can do there (besides an intense stroke workout) are random drills. When you play a match, you don't know where your opponent is going to put the ball, so you have to be ready to cover the whole table. When you do simple rote drills like forehand to forehand or backhand to backhand, or side-to-side footwork, you get practice, but you are not getting the practice needed to prepare you for the randomness of actual match play. For that you need to do random drills.

The problem with random drills is that you can't really do them very well live (i.e. with a practice partner) until both players are relatively advanced. And so players avoid doing them until they are somewhat proficient - and then they practically have to start from scratch doing random drills that they should have been doing early on. Once you can hit a decent forehand or backhand you should be doing some sort of random drills as well. Few do so.

So get a coach, or a practice partner you can take turns with, and do random multiball drills. At first have them feed the ball randomly to two spots - middle forehand and middle backhand. Make sure your first move is the right one; you have more time than you think, so don't rush. When you are comfortable at doing this at rally speeds, then go random the whole table. Learn to cover all five spots - wide forehand, middle forehand, middle, middle backhand, and wide backhand.

Let me emphasize - the key is that the first move must be the right move. No moving to the forehand and then changing when you see the ball going to the backhand, or vice versa.

Here's a short video (26 seconds) of Soo Yeon Lee doing random multiball. She's hitting; depending on your level and playing style, you can do this hitting or looping.

RGIII Response Video

The RGIII Response Video has gone semi-viral, with over 1000 views in two days. Last night I sent a press release out to all the local media, hoping they will pick up on the story. I also posted it on three Redskins football forums. Last night it was featured in the Dallas Morning News, and it's also featured at Table Tennis Nation, on the USATT web page, and the USOC web page. Let me know if there are other places featuring it. Keep reposting - let's make this go viral!!!

RGIII vs. the MDTTC Kids

Here's Berndt Mann's version of what would happen if RGIII were to actually take on the MDTTC juniors in table tennis, as posted in the about.com forum:

I can just imagine the matches between RGIII and your talented juniors.

First up is Crystal vs. RGIII.  RGIII lines up in the shotgun formation, some five yards behind the table.  She serves a hard long side-top to RGIII, who snatches the ball in his right hand, then rifles it 75 yards down the MDTTC to a friend, who makes a spectacular one-handed catch and slams the ball down on the Gerflex, breaking it.

"You can't do that", says the ref.  RGIII doesn't seem to notice.  On Crystal's second serve, RGIII deftly catches the ball, holds it snug against his chest, doesn't see anybody open, and does an end around the table, Nathan, Derek, and Roy trying vainly to catch up to him.  Touchdown, or it would be if this weren't table tennis.

This time the ref is miffed.  He issues RGIII a yellow card.  RGIII sneers a true jock sneer and proceeds to tear up the card.  His buddies cheer.  But he's down 2-0 and playing football when he should be trying to play table tennis and he loses every match and ends up with a rating of -256.  So much for Olympic aspirations.  

But RGIII is a good sport about it all.  He offers to take Crystal, Nathan, Derek, and Roy out to a nearby pizza parlor in his limousine.  Gracious in victory, they accept his offer in the spirit in which it was made.

Never Doubt a Man and His Paddle

Here's a video (2:02) that profiles (mostly without words) a player at Spin Standard.

Ten Cool and Unusual Table Tennis Table Designs

Here's the article and pictures.

25 Best Points of 2012

Here they are (13:14).

Chen Weixing Secret Training

Here's the video (1:27) - it's Karate Kid meets the Food Network meets Table Tennis!

Non-Table Tennis - Publisher's Author's Page

I'm now listed in the author's page at Class Act Books, which is publishing my novel on Nov. 15 ("The Giant Face in the Sky").

Non-Table Tennis - My Science Fiction & Fantasy Page

I've recently redone my SF & Fantasy page to include Wordpress, so I could blog there a couple times a week. However, I've run into some problems with this. For one thing, I can't find a way to put in pictures other than the thin one in the header. I'd like to have a permanent picture of the cover of my upcoming book somewhere near the top. Anyone experienced with this have any idea what I'm supposed to do? I've tried about a zillion "themes" but none seem to allow this.

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October 16, 2013

RGIII Response Video

We're up to 689 views (as of 10AM EST) on the RGIII Response Video (1:15). Let's make it go viral!!! (I blogged about this yesterday.)

Last night I posted it two Washington Redskins forums, The Hogs forum and Extreme Redskins forum. I also posted it several times on Facebook, on my page and on the pages of the four players, with requests for others to repost, and it's been reposted by a number of people. (So should you.) It's also on the USATT web page and on the USOC web page. Today I plan to send it to some local media.

Video Review Before Tournaments

On Oct. 26-27 I'll be coaching at the 4-star South Shore Butterfly Open in Indiana. This means lots of practice for the players going there over the next ten days. For me, it means video review. I'll be coaching three top players, so I'm spending more and more time watching them in practice so I'm ready to coach them. More importantly, I'm about to hit the video screen soon to study video of their recent tournament matches. This is where you really learn a lot about a player. You can learn a lot by watching them play locals, but they are used to playing those locals, and so it's not the same thing. To properly prepare to coach someone in a tournament you need to see what they do against players they are not used to playing.

For example, one of our local top players tends to do a lot of very short serves. Players get used to this and expect it, and so are comfortable against it. Another likes to serve long a lot, and again, players are used to it and are ready for it. But against a player they are not used to, they have no clue what's coming next, at least at the start, and so their comfort zone is lower. Often they fall back on something simple like flipping all the serves, or pushing all the backspin serves back long. (When coaching top juniors, the first thing that goes when they play a new player is their short game - they may do it well against players whose serves they are used to, but they aren't so comfortable doing it against a new player. So I usually have to remind them to bring that receive into play.)

There are also rallying tendencies. A player may not hesitate to counterloop against players they are used to playing, where they probably react very quickly to shots since they are so used to the opponent. But there's often some hesitation when playing a new player. Often you have to remind the player to play "free," and just let himself go and do what he does in practice. There are also the never-ending reminders to attack an opponent's middle. (I think players forget this in matches because so many practice drills involve going into the practice partner's backhand or forehand corner, and so they naturally do that in matches as well. They all do drills to the middle as well, but the majority of practice shots generally go to a corner.)

I also watch videos of likely opponents, but for a tournament like this, there are just too many possible opponents, and so I instead will mostly rely there on memory of past matches, watching them at the tournament, and my rather lengthy file of notes from past matches.

Great Rally at Japan Open

Here's a video (35 sec) showing a great rally at the Japan Open between Japan's Jun Mizutani and Taiwan's Chen Chien-An.

Ping-Pong Ball Fire Pit

Here's a video (2:09) of what happens when you fill a fire pit with ping-pong balls and light it. Wait'll you see how high the flames go!

Hold On to Your Racket

Here's a video (56 sec) of USA's Erica Wu and Lily Zhang at the worlds against Ai Fukuhara and Kasumi Ishikawa of Japan. As Erica goes for a shot, her racket hits Lily in the leg and goes flying! She gets great distance. (I may have posted this once before, but let's watch it again.) 

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