Mike Meier

February 21, 2014

USATT President's Blog

Here's USATT Board Chair Mike Babuin's new blog on "Changes for 2014."  It's mostly good stuff. Many of the items he writes about we can't really judge until we know more about the programs, and see if they will actually be implemented. USATT historically doesn't have a high batting average in that regard. Here are my short comments on each.

  • On Change. Mike quotes Einstein: "Madness is best described as doing the same things over and over again while expecting different results." He also talks about how some are resistant to change. I've been arguing the same type of thing for decades as I've watched one administration after another do the same type of stuff while expecting different results. However, not all change is good. Change for the sake of change isn't going to help things; there has to be a specific reason for each change. Some changes are obvious; others are experimental as you don't always know if something will work until you try it. Often leaders are afraid of the latter type because they'll get blamed if their program doesn't work. Solution - try a number of programs, and if you think them through and plan them out, some will work. The alternative is to do nothing, which is most of USATT's history.
  • On the Polyethylene Ball: He says USATT is still evaluating the change. Personally, I'm ambivalent about it. I'd prefer celluloid, but the new poly ball I tried at the Nationals (see second item in this blog entry) is pretty similar. But even the subtle differences will take time to get used to. Some say that the new ball gets less spin, but it's not clear if they were using the same ball I tried, or another type, since they're not all the same. Also, as I noted in the blog entry, when I tried out the ball I was having serious arm problems and couldn't loop very hard, and partially relied on others to tell me how the ball played.
  • On RailStation Roll-out: We'll have to wait and see on this one. USATT has periodically gotten infatuated with various softwares, such as one I think used by the Brazilian TTA that we talked about adopting for years but never did so. I have no idea if this will useful.
  • On Creation of a Recreational Division and Website: I'm all for both. However, it's not clear what the program constitutes. If it's just informational, then it's somewhat helpful but not much. What's needed is something that a new player can immediately get into on a regular basis - i.e., a league. I've blogged about this so many times it's repetitive, but it's one of those obvious things that many don't get. When a new player comes into a club, you can't toss him in with the experienced players and expect him to have a positive experience as he's getting killed. You need leagues for all levels, as well as available coaching (classes or private coaching). Without that, we're just waving our hands. Recreational players are recreational players until we give them a reason to become serious players and join USATT. I once joined the U.S. Tennis Association for one reason only, as did the vast majority of their 700,000 members - to play in their tennis leagues.
  • On the Digital Magazine: I've blogged about this several times, such as here and here. I'm all for it. Some still don't get it that you can be for the online magazine, as I am, while still against canceling the print one. I'm also a bit peeved that members who paid expecting the magazine, and especially life members, will have to pay a fee to get a printed version. As to the magazine eventually being members-only again (the online version), that might be a good idea as it at least returns some added value to memberships.
  • On Tournament Sanction Process Roll-Out: I haven't studied the new sanctioning procedures - they changed right at the time I stopped running tournaments at MDTTC (Charlene Liu took over). However, it is a good idea to go to the quality of the tournament, not just the prize money. However, I'm a little reticent about their removing any regional protection for tournaments. That's one of the primary reasons to sanction a tournament. It means higher risk for tournament directors and clubs. Some clubs rely on revenue from tournaments to finance their club; if someone suddenly decides to run a competing tournament locally on the same date, they have a serious problem.
  • On the $5-million Quad Roll-out: We'll need a lot more info on this to figure out what it is. Announcing a plan to raise $5 million is about five million times easier than actually raising $5 million. It's been a long time since USATT has raised any serious money, as they used to do in the 1980s with a series of large sponsors.

Upcoming ITTF Coaching Courses in USA

There are two coming up, a Level 1 Course in Akron, OH (July 28-Aug. 1) and a Level 2 Course in Austin, TX (Aug. 25-30). For more info, see the USATT Coaching Courses Page

2016 Olympic Rio Qualification System

Here are the rules for qualifying.

2014 Friendship Trophy

This is part of the ITTF's Women's Development Program, where they encourage you to "… find a way to celebrate women and girls in Table Tennis."

Chinese Retirement Ceremony

Here's an article with a link to a video trailer (4:49) where retiring Chinese team members give messages to their teammates (in Chinese, alas).

Mike Meier to Umpire at Worlds

Here's the article.

Amazing Table Tennis Serves

Here's a video (4:03) where a player demonstrates his tricky spinny serves. I think the commentary is in Chinese. Note that the serve where the ball bounces back into the net is more for show, and is easy to return; in a real match, it's better to serve the ball so second bounce is near the end-line.

Orioles' David Lough and Table Tennis

Here's an interview with new Baltimore Orioles left fielder David Lough. See third item:

Hidden talent: I thought I was good at ping-pong until I saw some of these other guys playing in here. [Laughs]. I don't have anything else cool, I'm boring.

Adam Bobrow on Table Tennis, Comedy, Excessive Celebrations

Here's the video (20:49). Here's more about Actor, Comedian, and Table Tennis Player Adam Bobrow.

Qatar Open's 20th Birthday

Here's their 20th Birthday Cake. (Here's the home page for the Qatar Open in Doha, held Feb. 18-23 - yes, right now!)

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October 25, 2013

Back Foot on Forehands

I began to write a blog entry about how the back foot positioning on forehands has evolved at the higher levels from being back to mostly being parallel to the table in the modern game, where it's not just power, but speed of power that's paramount - and so there's no time to bring that foot back. Then I realized it should be a Tip of the Week for Monday.

South Shore Open

I'm off to the 4-star South Shore Open in Indiana right after lunch today, where I'll be coaching MDTTC juniors Nathan Hsu, Derek Nie, and Crystal Wang. (Also going from MDTTC: Roy Ke, along with coach/practice partner Dong "Steve" Yiming.) There are 214 players entered. I've got my coaching notes printed out, a list of things to bring (I pack right after I finish the blog), and I think the kids are ready. There's a lot of prize money in the Wasserman junior events! But as far as we're concerned, it's just another day of matches at the club. Right?

USATT Tips of the Day

USATT is still going through the 171 Tips of the Week I wrote for them from 1999-2003, putting one up each day. Here are the Tips they've put up. Below are the Tips from the past seven days.

USATT Email Vote

Here's the minutes of the USATT Oct. 23 email vote, where they voted on a number of rule changes. I believe they are just matching new ITTF rules, as the very first item changes the USATT rules to match the current (new?) ITTF rules.

I'm a bit surprised by the first rule change - I don't think they saw the implication. Below is the new rule. The four words crossed out ("as close as possible") were part of the old rule; the words in bold italics ("attached" and "from top to bottom") are new wording:

2.2.4 The bottom of the net, along its whole length, shall be as close as possible to the playing surface and the ends of the net shall be as close as possible attached to the supporting posts from top to bottom.

Here's the problem. With the new wording, there's no requirement that the net actually goes out to the net posts, which go six inches (15.25 cm) outside the table. (Rule 2.2.2: "The net shall be suspended by a cord attached at each end to an upright post 15.25cm high, the outside limits of the post being 15.25cm outside the side line.") This is to keep players from regularly making unreturnable shots around the net, as players like Istvan Jonyer did regularly in the 1970s before they made the rule that the net (or at least the posts, with the net "as close as possible," or similar wording at the time) go six inches outside the table.

So you can have a net that only goes to the edge of the table, attached to the outside posts by, say, a piece of string. And so players can easily hit shots between the net and the net post. It wouldn't be a legal shot, but do we really want to allow that huge gap there? Besides making it trickier to call some shots ("Did that go inside or outside the net post?"), it would look bad. Why not keep the "as close as possible" wording from before?

Men's World Cup

Here are some nice action shots from the Men's World Cup, which started today in Belgium.

Ma Long Multiball

Here's a video of world #1 Ma Long (40 sec) doing multiball. It's a two-shot drill: a random backspin followed by a random topspin. (Note the other player picking up balls by hand - what is this, 1980? We have nets and other ball pickup devices for that now!)

Table Tennis in Enchanted Forest on Floating Table by Woman in Wedding Dress Weighed Down by a Paddle

Okay, that's my name for Mike Mezyan's latest artwork, which he calls "Once Upon a Table," and describes: "She Had TT Dreams...She Had TT Hopes...A Table in an Enchanted Forest Understands Her...It Knows What She Wants..It Floats Gently Carrying Her Fueled By Her Aspiration And Determination...Her Table Was Her Palace...Her Racket Was Her Prince Charming...Her Story Has Just Begun..."

About Time

Here are some table tennis pictures from the upcoming feature movie About Time, which comes out Nov. 8. Apparently there are a lot of table tennis scenes in this SF movie, which looks like my kind of movie - TT & SF! Here's the description from IMBD: "At the age of 21, Tim discovers he can travel in time and change what happens and has happened in his own life. His decision to make his world a better place by getting a girlfriend turns out not to be as easy as you might think."

Basketpong

Here's the video (2:13)! And here's another (2:54)!

The 2014 Nationals Are Booked by Mark - Be Very Afraid

Here's a hilarious posting by Mark ("mjamja") at the about.com forum that refers to my Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers book. I wanted to post it in its entirety here, but wasn't able to reach the author. So here's the first paragraph (the best one!); follow the link above for the rest.

Any of you who plan to play in the 2014 US Nationals in any rating event between U1600 and U2100 should be very afraid. I have ordered Larry Hodge's "Table Tennis Tactics," Richard McAfee's "Table Tennis Steps to Success," and Alex Polyakov's "Breaking 2000."   I plan on a total table tennis immersion approach using these wells of knowledge as my guide and devoting myself to real training for the next year.

Non-Table Tennis - "Rationalized"

Here's the cover of Star Quake 1, a compilation of the best stories they published in 2012. I'm on the cover with my featured dystopian SF story, "Rationalized" (yep, it's free online), which won the 2011 Story Quest Short Story Competition. (It's the 14th time I've been on the cover of a SF magazine.) It's about a future society where everyone has an operation on their brain at age 13 to remove all emotions, and the underground society that secretly avoids this operation, but must pretend to always be unemotional - and the lengths they must go to hide their secret when a terrible accident occurs. "The writing is solid and for a story about lack of emotion, it packs an emotional punch" wrote blogger Mark Webb.

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October 23, 2013

Knee Update

I gave a 1.5 hour coaching session yesterday, but could only hobble around, and ended up doing multiball or serve practice for over half the session. As I blogged on Monday, I injured the right knee on Saturday. So I've had to cancel all my coaching tonight - three hours. (Every other week I have four hours on Wednesday nights, but this was an "off" Wednesday.) Coach Raghu is subbing for one of the hours, while the other two are taking the week off. (One is having arm problems and could use the rest.)

Coaching is one of those professions where you HAVE to stay healthy or you run into serious problems. Some remember all the back problems I had in 2011; I overcame that with a lot of stretching and specialized weight training. Then, other than a cold or two, I was healthy for two years. A few weeks ago I had to take most of a week off with arm problems. And now this.

For most of our 21 years, MDTTC had cement floors. This has no give, and so led to knee problems for me (and others) during the late 90s and early 2000s. Then, about 6-7 years ago, we went to the soft red flooring that's so popular at professional clubs and major tournaments. Since then I've had no knee problems until now. This injury wasn't because of the floor, however; I just put weight on it wrong.

Lefties at the 2013 LIEBHERR Men's World Cup

The Men's World Cup starts in three days, Oct. 25-27 in Verviers, Belgium. Here's an interesting tidbit: of the 20 players participating, 40% are lefties. (That's eight of them for the math challenged.) According to Wikipedia, about 12% of men and 10% of women are lefties. So here's my challenge to readers: Who can first name the eight lefties among the 20 players? (And no, I can't; I don't know all these players.)

Fantasy Table Tennis

Yesterday I listed the numerous table tennis excerpts from my upcoming novel, "Sorcerers in Space." Here's an article I wrote in 2009 that was published in Fantasy Magazine, "The Table Tennis Fantasy Tour." It gave a rundown of some of the fantasy table tennis in movies, TV, and books, such as movies "Forrest Gump," "Balls of Fury," "A Matter of Life and Death," and "You Can't Cheat an Honest Man"; TV shows "Gary Shandling's Show," "Ping-Pong Club," and "Get Smart," and the fantasy novel "Robot Adept" - as well as my own short story "Ping-Pong Ambition."

ITTF Trick Shot Competition

Because of recent arm problems, and now a knee injury, plus the inconvenience of not having a video camera (I was going to borrow one), and simply being too busy on other issues, I haven't been able to put together a video for the ITTF Trick Shot Competition, alas. The deadline is Friday, Oct. 25. I had two tentatively planned. But doing one now is mostly pointless as the online voting has gone on for weeks, and there's no way I can catch up.

For the first trick, I was going to stand 60 feet directly to the side of the table. I'd then do a high, sidespin serve that hits the table and jumps sideways so it hits both sides of the table, a legal serve (other than the fact that I would be standing in front of the extension of the end-line). I can do this either tomahawk style or pendulum style, but I get more distance with the tomahawk, with the ball curving to the left. I can do this serve pretty well over half the time. But it doesn't end there - I was going to prop up a ping-pong paddle on some books on the left side of the table, and try to hit it so the ball would bounce back to the right-hand-side of the table. But it doesn't end there either - I was going to try to make it land in a cup. (I'd put water at the bottom of the cup so it wouldn't bounce out.) I wonder how many tries it would have taken to get this done? One thing that would make it easier is that the big-breaking serve I do would always hit on the far left side of the table on the second bounce, so that's where I'd prop up the ping-pong paddle, angled just right.

For the second trick, I was going to push a table up against a wall, with the net parallel to it. I'd stand to the side of the table on the far side, with two balls in my hand. I'd then look up and blow one of the balls up in the air so it balances in the air - a trick I've done for years. Then, without being able to look down, I'd drop the other ball on the table and smack it against the far side of the table so it bounces up against the wall and back, and smacking the ball I'm balancing in the air.

Pretty good tricks if I could do them!!!

Table Tennis Charity Foundation

You can donate to this charity. "Our MISSION is to Raise Awareness of the THERAPEUTIC Value that Playing Table Tennis has for MENTAL HEALTH and BRAIN FITNESS! Our VISION is to Integrate Ping Pong Programs (as an educational & structured activity) for Senior Living Communities, Rehabilitation/Medical Facilities, AND our School Systems! And, as a 501(c)3 Non-Profit Organization, We Utilize the Brain-Stimulating Sport of Table Tennis to Raise Money for Charity Partners Who Directly Benefit Those Facing Alzheimer’s, Dementia, Depression and Mild to Moderate Intellectual Challenges."

Interesting Table and Exhibition

Here's a picture of Mike Meier doing a behind-the-back shot in an exhibition.

Krazy Table Tennis

Here's a 1920s table tennis set - and yes, it's called "Krazy Table Tennis."

Fiery Table Tennis

That's a lot of fire.

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