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December 31, 2013

Happy New Year!

No blog tomorrow, see you on Thursday, Jan. 2.

MDTTC Christmas Camp

The highlight of the camp yesterday was, without a doubt, the candy game, which we did the last half hour of the camp, 5:30-6:00 PM. It's an annual tradition in our Christmas Camp - and sometimes other camps, though I can't afford to buy candy for all 12 of our summer camps. (Yes, I'm paying for the candy out of my pocket, not the club.) Here's how the candy game works. I bought several bags of Hershey's chocolate kisses and of Jolly Ranchers (a hard candy the kids like). I pour them all onto the table, and jam them all against the end of the table so they'll fall off easily. Then I feed multiball as the kids take turns trying to knock the candy off, three shots per turn. Anything they knock off they get to keep. (I allow switches, so if they knock off one type of candy, they can trade it for another on the table.) It's great fun, and since the kids know at least two days in advance that we're going to do it, the younger ones especially have incentive to practice their forehands. Essentially all the kids in the camp join in, but I strongly encourage the older, more advanced ones to share with the younger beginners if they win too many, and they go along with that. At the end, there was (as usual) a lot of candy still on the table, and so I let the kids split that up, keeping a handful of Hershey Kisses for myself.

As to actual table tennis, I gave lectures on pushing and an impromptu one for some of the better kids on serving. But for most of the day the focus was on footwork. I introduced the 2-1 drill to most of the younger kids, where they play three shots over and over: a backhand from the backhand corner, a forehand from the backhand corner, and then a forehand from the forehand corner. (This is the "perfect" drill, as you do three of the four most common moves in table tennis: cover the wide forehand, cover the wide backhand, and step around forehand. What's the fourth common move? Walk to the barriers to pick up the ball.)

The group of 6- to 8-year olds keeps growing, with ten in the camp yesterday, too many for me alone. So Wang Qing Liang ("Leon") assisted me much of the day, with each of us taking five and switching back and forth. There are about 30 in all in the camp.

Regarding the pushing lecture, where I used Crystal Wang as my hitting partner, I went over the basics first. Beginners should start out by letting the ball fall on their racket. As they advance, they learn to take it quicker off the bounce. The pushes should generally be quick off the bounce, with pretty good pace, have good backspin, be low to the net, go deep on the table, go wide to the corners, and players should be able to change directions at the last second. I also cited the importance of doing something with each push, such as rushing the opponent with an extra-quick push, or loading up the backspin against a player who has trouble with that. We also covered and demoed short pushes. I finished by showing them how to sidespin push, especially deep sidespin pushes that break into the opponent's backhand.

Now the bad news. First, the days of standing on my feet feeding multiball have begun to wear down my legs, especially since I had to take much of December off with arm problems, and so wasn't in as good physical shape as usual. Result?

First, I have a blister on my right foot, something I hadn't had in decades.

Second, at around 1AM Sunday morning I woke up in the middle of the night with an excruciating leg cramp in my right hamstring. It was pretty painful, and it's still very sore.

Third, and perhaps worse of all, came at the end of yesterday's morning session. I ended the session as I often do, gathering the younger kids and having them spread out on one side of the tables while I'm on the other. Then I side step side to side very quickly, with the kids trying to stay with me. It's great footwork practice and the kids love it. I only do this for about 30 seconds, and then let the kids take turns leading - all of them want a turn. Unfortunately, during the 30 seconds I led I managed to both wrench my right knee and strain something in the right calf. I was limping the rest of the day.

So my right leg currently has the following, from the bottom up:

  1. Blister in foot
  2. Strained calf
  3. Wrenched knee
  4. Strained hamstring

I don't think any of these things are going to be long-lasting, and since I've got the next few days off, hopefully all will be well by the time I get back to coaching on Fri or Sat.

The good news is the arm problems I battled all December seem to be over (key word: seem), though I won't know for sure until I start private coaching again.

2013 North American Tour Grand Final

It will take place Jan. 11-12, at the ICC club in Milpitas, California. Here is the current lineup of players, and here is the tentative schedule.

ITTF Star Awards

Here's where you can vote for the ITTF Star Awards, in the following categories: Male Star, Female Star, Para Male Star, Para Female Star, Fan's Male Star, Fan's Female Star, and Star Rally. There's also a 62 sec video. You can also reserve your seat for the awards dinner.

Top Spin Documentary

Here's a trailer (4:34) for the upcoming documentary, a "2014 feature-length documentary about American teenagers coming of age in the world of competitive ping pong." Players featured include Ariel Hsing, Lily Zhang, and Michael Landers.

Best Ping-Pong Commercials of the Year

Here's a compilation by Table Tennis Nation.

Ma Long & Zhang Jike Table Tennis Football

Here's 24 seconds of the two of them playing table tennis football. Sort of.

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