Butterfly Online

Richard McAfee

July 24, 2014

Last Blog Until Monday, August 4

This will be my last blog until Monday, August 4. Most people take vacations at beaches, or camping, or Disneyworld, or Las Vegas, etc. Me? I go to an annual science fiction & fantasy writing workshop for nine days of continuous writing, critiquing, classes, etc. I leave early tomorrow morning for "The Never-Ending Odyssey" (TNEO) in Manchester, New Hampshire for nine days, returning late on Saturday, Aug. 2. This will be the fifth time I've attended this, which is for graduates of the Odyssey Writing Workshop, a six-week workshop for writers of science fiction & fantasy, which I attended in 2006. At the workshop I'm having the first seven chapters of my SF novel critiqued.

Getting TT on TV
(This is from a response I gave to a question on the forum.)

One of the major reasons table tennis isn't on TV much in the U.S. is there's nobody actively pushing for this to happen, or trying to create an attractive package for the TV people. USATT is an amateur organization, and doesn't have anyone devoted to this. So it's unlikely table tennis will get much TV exposure in the U.S. until the same thing that happened in other TV sports happens to table tennis - the top players get together and form a professional organization. Their top priority would be to bring money to the sport via sponsors, and to do that they need to get on TV - and so getting on TV becomes their top priority. They'd hire an executive director who would work to get the sport on TV so that he can bring in sponsors. But until this happens, table tennis is unlikely to be on TV much in this country. 

Wednesday's Coaching

I did 4.5 hours of private coaching yesterday. Here's a rundown.

  • Sameer, 13, about 1600 player (two-hour session): We pretty much covered everything, as you can do in a two-hour session. The highlight of the session, however, was when I introduced him to the banana flip. It only took a few minutes before he was able to do this in drills, and then we practiced it for about ten minutes. Since he just came off playing three tournaments in a row - see my blog about his progress in my blog on Monday - we're focusing on fundamentals as we prepare him long-term for his next "big" tournament - the North American Teams in November. We did a lot of counterlooping. As a special bonus that he begged and pleaded for, I let him lob for five minutes.
  • Tiffany, 9, about 1750 (70-min session as part of the MDTTC camp): Tiffany is the top-rated under 10 girl in the U.S., and the stuff she did in the session shows why. During those 70 minutes she did 55 minutes of footwork drills. The only interruption to her footwork drills was ten minutes when I looped to her block, and five minutes where we pushed. The rest of the time it was non-stop footwork drills for her. When she seemed to slow down between rallies at one point, one of the Chinese coaches playfully called her "lazy," and she immediately picked up the pace again. Today she'll be right back at it, while I'm still sore from the ten minutes of looping. Tiffany's in an interesting point in her game as she's gradually making the transition to all-out looping.  
  • Matt, 13, about 1600 (one-hour session, plus 30 minutes of games): He has an excellent forehand and good footwork, but is in the process of transitioning to a more topspinny backhand. We spent most of the session doing backhand-oriented drills. These included side-to-side backhand footwork; alternate forehand-backhand footwork (forehand from forehand corner, backhand from backhand corner); and the 2-1 drill (backhand from backhand corner, forehand from backhand corner, and forehand from forehand corner). I was planning to work on his receive after all this, but Matt wasn't happy with his 2-1 drill play, and wanted to do more of that. How many players volunteer to do extra footwork? (Perhaps he was inspired when I told him how much footwork Tiffany had done.) So we did another ten minutes or so of the 2-1 drill, about twenty minutes total. Then we did a bunch of multiball, focusing on backhand loop. It won't be long before he hits 1800 level.

    At the end of the session with Matt we played games - I stayed an extra 30 minutes for this, so it was really a 90-minute session. (I often do this when I'm through coaching for the day.) An astonishing thing happened here. After I won the first game, he came back in the second game on fire, and went up - I kid you not - 10-2!!! So on to the third game, right? Wrong. On his serve I switched to chopping (mixing in heavy chop and no-spin), and on my serve I pulled out an old Seemiller windshield-wiper serve (racket going right to left), which he'd never seen before. He got tentative both against the chops and serve, and suddenly it was 10-all. We had a rally there, where I chopped four in a row, and then I threw a no-spin chop at him, and he looped it softly. I tried smashing, but missed, and he had another game point. But he missed the serve again, and I finally won 14-12. He was very disgusted with blowing the game, and was now playing tentative where he'd been on fire just a few minutes before, and the result was he fell apart the next two games, even though I went back to playing regular. I finally had him do a few forehand drills to get his game back, and he ended it with a relatively close game. I'm feeling kind of bad about this because I completely messed up his game when I switched to weird play, when my job as a coach is to help him play well. But he's going to have to face "weird" players in tournaments, so he might as well get used to playing them now.

    The thing Matt needs to take away from this is that if he can play so well that he's up 10-2 on the coach (and I still play pretty well!), then it won't be long before he can do that all the time. The thing I need to take away from this is I better start practicing or Matt, Tiffany, and Sameer are all going to start beating me. (Age, injuries, and lack of real practice have dropped my level down to about 2100 or so, but that should be enough to beat these three, right? Maybe not…)

Liu Shiwen: Hard Work Always Produces Good Results

Here's the article. Liu is the world #1 ranked woman.

Twelve Curious Facts about Table Tennis

Here's the article.

U.S. Open Blog

Here's the final blog on the U.S. Open by Dell & Connie Sweeris.

ITTF Coaching Course in Thailand

Here's the ITTF article on the latest overseas coaching course taught by USATT coach Richard McAfee.

100-Day Countdown to Change in the ITTF's Presidency

Former USATT President Sheri Pittman Cioroslan is doing an article every day during the last 100 days of Adham Sharara's ITTF presidency, counting downwards from 100. Previous ones are linked from the USATT News page, as well as in my past blogs. Sixty-two down, 38 to go!

  • Day 39: Ian Marshall Feels Privileged to Do What He Loves

Lily Zhang at the ITTF YOG Camp

Here's the video (34 sec).

Another Great Trick Shot

Here's the video (36 sec) of Shi Wei.

Craigslist Ping Pong Table Negotiation

Here's the text of this rather crazy discussion. (Side note - I once met Craig Newmark, the founder of Craigslist.com. At the 2006 World Science Fiction Convention I was in the Science Fiction Writers of American suite - I'm a member - and after grabbing some snacks at the buffet table I joined two others sitting around a table discussing the future of the Internet. One of them began asking lots of questions about my science fiction writing. At some point the discussion turned to how we used online tools, and I mentioned I was in the process of renting out the first two floors of my townhouse, and that I was advertising it on Craigslist.com. The third person said, "Larry, do you know who you are talking to?" I said no, and that's when he pointed out that the guy I'd been talking with for half an hour was THAT Craig. He was at the convention as a member of several panels that involved the Internet.)

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July 18, 2014

Skills Versus Ratings

Yao Siu-Long emailed me an interesting question recently. He wrote:

As we discussed I am interested in kind of a chart that relates skills to ratings. For example, what does a 2300 player do that a 2200 player does not?  Of course there can be great variability within a category, especially at a lower level. I could imagine someone having an awesome forehand and progressing because of that while others at the same level might be more rounded. I would imagine that at higher levels, however, you would have to be a more rounded player.

I wrote back:

This is tricky to answer because it has to take into account the differences between players with good technique but without good control, and those without good technique but with good control. Everyone fits on this spectrum somewhere, with the top players having both technique and control, while beginners have neither. By the intermediate player you have players with good control but awkward technique, and others with the reverse.

After thinking it over, I realized there really are four types of players at any given level. Roughly speaking, they are:

  • Properly Trained Players (PTP). These are adults who have been trained with "proper" technique. (I'm assuming inverted both sides players with standard attacking games.)
  • Properly Trained Juniors (PTJ). They are somewhat different than PTPs in that they are generally faster and quicker, but have less consistency and ball control, except (relatively speaking) at the high speeds that they are used to playing.
  • Consistent Control Players (CCP). These are players who don't always have the best strokes, and often have major holes in their games, but they are extremely consistent and have great ball control.
  • Weird Players (WP). There's a wide variety of these types of players, from those with strange strokes that are hard to adjust to (lots of inside-out stuff, sidespin, weird lefty stuff, crazy serves, and for many, non-inverted surfaces). They too often have holes in their games, but make up for it by forcing mistakes from opponents by doing "weird" shots.

Trying to write a comprehensive listing of what players can do at each level without taking the four types of players into account would be difficult. Instead, I'm going to write what PTPs should be able to do at each level. For the others, they might not be able to do all these things, but they'll have something else to make up for it, either in faster play (PTJs), consistency/ball control (CCPs), or "weird" shots (WPs) that bring down the opponent's level.

So here is a rough listing of what a "Properly Trained Player" (PTP) should be able to do at each level. I may fine-tune this later - it took a long time to put together, and I'd be on this all day if I spent more time on it - and I have coaching activities to do. I did it for every 200 ratings points from 800-2800, plus an extra one at 2700. (This is a LONG posting, so just a reminder that there is a bunch of short segments afterwards!)

800: Many basement playing adults can play at this level because of ball control.

  • Rallies dominated by just trying to keep the ball in play.
  • The level is dominated by beginning PTJs (good techniques, but no ball control or consistency), CCPs (good consistency at the basement level of keeping the ball in play, but no technique yet), and WPs (weird shots, but no consistency or control).
  • There are no PTPs yet, as a properly trained adult will skip this stage.
  • 1000: At this level a PTP has the beginnings of good technique.
  • They are beginning to learn to put spin on serves, mostly backspin.
  • They have no consistency in returning any type of spinny serves, though they can push against backspin and counter-drive against an obvious topspin serve.
  • Most rallies are dominated by pushing, but the pushes aren't very consistent.
  • They can probably hit forehand to forehand and backhand to backhand with some consistency, perhaps hitting 100 in a row with a coach, but they have difficulty executing these techniques yet in a match.
  • They can smash, but have little consistency, especially if the ball has spin or is deep on the table.
  • Some can loop, but it's pretty rare and extremely erratic. Few can block a loop yet with any consistency.

1200: They now have more basics down.

  • They have some variation on serves, usually a backspin serve and perhaps a sidespin serve or a fast serve.
  • They can return basic spin serves, if the spin isn't disguised.
  • They can push relatively consistently. Rallies are still dominated by pushing, but there are more countering rallies now. The pushing is mostly just to keep the ball in play.
  • They now can rally some with basic forehand and backhand shots, though not too consistently.
  • Many points are now ended by smashing, though they still lack consistency if the ball has spin or is deep.
  • Many players are learning to forehand loop at this level, but they are not yet consistent. Some have started to backhand loop.
  • They are learning to block loops, though not very consistent yet.

1400: They now have mostly proper technique, though there's going to be a lot of fine-tuning, especially with advanced shots such as looping.

  • They now have at least one serve that's pretty good and gives opponent's trouble. It might be a spinny serve or it might be a fast serve. They win a lot of points by serving deep, since opponents at their level can't yet loop.
  • They can return spin serves with some control, if the serve isn't too well disguised, often returning the ball to the wide corners (usually backhand) to stop opponents from attacking.
  • There is still a lot of pushing, but now the pushes are a little more effective, not just for keeping the ball in play.
  • They can rally with forehands and backhands with some consistency. For the first time they can rally with strong players if the strong player just keeps the ball in play.
  • They are getting better and better at smashing, and now make most smashes, though they still have trouble with balls with spin and deep balls.
  • At this point they should be looping against backspin regularly, at least with the forehand, and probably the backhand. They can block loops in practice somewhat consistently, but are still erratic in game situations.

1600: They now can execute proper technique in game situations.

  • They now have multiple types of serves. Some can serve short, though most serves are long.
  • They can return even spinny serves, though not with great consistency or control yet.
  • They can push, but rarely push more than one ball in a row. They rarely push on the forehand except against a short ball.
  • They have relatively solid strokes in rallies, and can counter-drive pretty consistently if not pressed too hard.
  • They can smash and loop kill to end points.
  • Looping is now common. They should be looping forehands whenever possible, as well as backhands. At this point players are forehand looping in rallies, though few do this on the backhand.
  • They are becoming more tactically aware, especially on basic tactics on serve, receive, and placement.

1800: At this point they have pretty good technique, consistency, and ball control.

  • They now have at least the beginning of advanced serves, serving with varied spins. They can control the direction of the serve well, but not yet the depth. Most serves still go long, though most can serve short backspin if needed.
  • They are somewhat consistent in receives, even against pretty good serves, but most receives are somewhat passive and predictable to top players.
  • They look to loop any deep ball, so most pushing is done just to return serves or when they are caught off guard.
  • They have solid rallying strokes, and mostly loop on the forehand side. Many are now topspinning their backhands as well. Unless caught off guard, their loops are pretty consistent. Some players are starting to counterloop in games on the forehand side.
  • They are looking to end the point any chance they can, with both smashes and loop kills. At this level there are now more loop kills than smashes for the first.
  • While weaker players can think tactically, it's about this level that players can reflexively execute good tactics in game situations.

2000: They now have mostly mastered all basic techniques, and make few unforced errors.

  • Many have relatively advanced serves, able to serve varied serves. While most can serve short, most serves still go long as opponents still have trouble with long, spinny serves. But they can serve short when necessary.
  • They are consistent in receive except against very good serves, but don't yet do a lot with most receives other than get it back, unless they can loop it. They are getting better at looping deep serves on the forehand side, but backhand loops against deep serves are still erratic, and so there are a lot of deep serves to the backhand.
  • They are constantly aggressive, always looking to attack and to end the point. They loop most balls on the forehand, and are developing pretty good backhand loops, especially against pushes. In rallies some players are now topspinning on both sides, though most still tend to counter-hit the backhand.
  • Players now have consistent blocks, as most rallies now revolve around looping and returning loops. Many players are now counterlooping regularly.
  • This is where some players become good game tacticians, as they have the shots to execute the tactics and the experience to reflexively do so.

2200: They have strong technique, and make few unforced errors.

  • Serves are now getting advanced. Many have developed tricky spin serves, usually long. However, many are now using more basic short serves that set up their attacks, as long serves are getting attack more. There's sort of a branching at this level between these two types.
  • Long serves are often attack now, with good consistency except against tricky serves. Most can now return serves with consistency, with most short serves pushed long or flipped, especially with backhand banana flips. Many players are now getting more and more aggressive against short serves, especially with backhand flips. Players are beginning to push short.
  • Players are now fighting for the attack as whoever attacks first tends to win. Many rallies are turning into short counterlooping rallies, though there is still plenty of blocking.
  • Most players are topspinning their backhands, though some still hit flatter.
  • At this level opponents have to do something to score the point rather than wait for the opponent to miss.
  • There is now a lot of fishing and lobbing.  
  • Players are now very good at tactics, and have strong techniques to execute them.
  • The game is pretty physical at this level, though there are still a few players who are not real physical athletes at this level, relying on consistency and other aspects to make up for lack of athleticism. 

2400: At this level players are basically mini-world class players, as they do the same shots as world-class players, but at an obviously lower level.

  • Serves are similar to world-class serves, except they have less depth control, less spin, and less deception. Most serves are now short as opponents will loop deep serves, but long serves are still used quite a bit for surprise.
  • Nearly any long serve is now looped. Short serves are flipped much more often now, especially with the backhand banana flip. Short pushes are common, but some of them still go slightly long or slightly high by mistake. However, there's still plenty of long pushes, but few use this as their central receive technique.
  • Rallies are pretty much all looping now, both forehand and backhand. Lots of counterlooping. One big change is that weaker opening loops are now being punished with powerful counterloops.
  • Most points end with someone going for a winner. When mistakes are otherwise made it's usually when a player is trying too hard to return the ball so the opponent can't attack.
  • There's a lot of fishing, with players returning balls from off the table rather than staying at the table and blocking.
  • Tactics are usually advanced.
  • The game is very physical at this level - everyone's a physical athlete. 

2600: At this point players are approaching world-class.

  • Serves are very high level. There's pretty good depth control, with players serving so as to accurately place the second bounce on serves (if given the chance) right on the end-line, but under pressure they sometimes lose control.
  • Receives are almost indistinguishable from world-class. Flips are not yet as consistent or well-placed as world-class players. But many players are now attacking most short serves, especially with the backhand. When they don't attack the short serve, they often push them short with good control.
  • It's pretty much all-out looping now, with most rallies ending quickly. Some players are beginning to pin down opponents with backhand topspins, forcing backhand exchanges that take the opponent's forehand out of play. Very few unforced errors at this level, except when going for winners.
  • Players defend equally well with blocking and fishing, though they look to counter-attack whenever possible.
  • Players not only have strong tactics, but have strong knowledge of their opponents, both from experience and from scouting them. Players rarely go into a match without knowing what they need to do against the opponent.

2700: This is borderline world-class. It's often difficult to tell the difference between these players are world-class players.

  • Serve and receive are world-class, but with just a touch less consistency and control.
  • Rallies are all looping, with only occasional blocking. What often appears as blocks are really off-the-bounce counterloops.
  • Players are pretty much errorless machines at this level, never making unforced errors. When they make "mistakes," it's almost always because the opponent did something, often subtle.
  • Players can defend and counter-attack from all parts of the table. When they fish, they usually do so only as a way to keep the ball in play so they can counterloop the next ball.
  • Tactics is now world-class, and everyone knows everyone else and what they need to do.

2800+: This is true world-class play, roughly top 50 or so in the world. They are almost flawless athletic machines. 

  • Players have essentially perfect control of their serves, including the depth. There's often a steady deluge of serves where, given the chance, the second bounce would be right on the end-line.
  • Receive is so good that by the end of matches, receivers are winning more points than servers. Receivers can attack any serve almost at will, especially as they get used to opponent's serve. Short push is still common, but flipping is the norm, especially backhand banana flips, which are even done from the short forehand. Any long serve is looped hard.
  • It's pretty much all-out attack in rallies, where even the most powerful loops are looped right back. Anything less than powerful loops are looped back with great power. However, because they are so good at counterlooping even the best loops, many players can get away with some control shots when in trouble.
  • Defense, when done, is split between blocking and fishing, as well as lobbing. The consistency is extreme, as only a pure rip can win a point through defense at this level.
  • Tactics is a group effort, as coaches and players regularly study their opponents on video.

Yesterday's Blog on Serve and Attack Patterns

For much of yesterday there was a bad typo in my blog. In the main segment on Serve and Attack Patterns, in the part on serving "Short backspin or no-spin to backhand," I wrote, "After the serve I'd stand as far to my left as I could, ready to loop any push to my wide backhand with my backhand." That should have read "forehand"! Of course, I was blogging about my own serve and attack patterns (back in my "heyday"), and only players with good footwork will regularly follow attack such a push to the very wide backhand with their forehands. (These days in practice matches I still try to do this, but with far less success, both in getting in position for the shot, and in following it up, especially if they block the ball to my wide forehand, which used to be no more than five feet away, but has moved an further every year for the past couple of decades - and is now about ten feet away.)

What Helps Table Tennis Skills Off the Table?

Here's the new coaching article by Matt Hetherington

ITTF Coaching Course in Thailand

Here's the ITTF article on the class, which was run by USATT Coach Richard McAfee.

Table Tennis Popularity Bouncing Up

Here's the article from the San Jose Mercury, which features the Pleasanton TTC.

UN, IOC, and ITTF Contribute to Opening of IOC Sport for Hope Centre in Haiti

Here's the article, which features a picture of United Nationals Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach playing table tennis.

Is Zhang Jike Ready for Expectations and Responsibilities?

Here's the article.

100-Day Countdown to Change in the ITTF's Presidency

Former USATT President Sheri Pittman Cioroslan is doing an article every day during the last 100 days of Adham Sharara's ITTF presidency, counting downwards from 100. Previous ones are linked from the USATT News page, as well as in my past blogs. Fifty-six down, 44 to go!

  • Day 45: Steve Dainton Summarizes the ITTF’s Marketing Strategies

Dennis Schröder Plays Table Tennis

Here's the article and picture of the German basketball star who plays for the Atlanta Hawks.

Masterchef Battle Moves to the Ping Pong Table

Here's the story on these ponging chefs.

Table Tennis Clock

Here's the picture! As the clock ticks, the ball at the bottom goes back and forth, and the players move up and down, apparently "hitting" the ball back and forth. I have this same one, but mine broke.

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December 10, 2013

Physical Therapy

I'm supposed to start physical therapy on my arm at 11:30 this morning. However, it's snowing outside (again), and schools and most businesses closed for the second day in a row. I'm guessing it'll be postponed. Since I'm off for the USA Nationals this Sunday, and then will be coaching at our Christmas Camp, I might not be able to schedule anything else until January. We'll see. Meanwhile, the cortisone shot finally stopped hurting. Can't tell how my arm is without playing, and don't want to risk that. So I'll just keep resting it with the idea that I'll be healthy and ready to go by January. (I also have a dental appointment at 2PM, but I'm guessing that'll be cancelled too.)

Table Tennis Tips

Since I'll be stuck at home most of this week without any coaching (thanks to arm problems), I may start work getting my next table tennis book ready for print, tentatively titled "Table Tennis Tips." It'll be a compilation of all my Tips of the Week that have been going up each week the past three years. Sure, you can read them all online, but this puts them all together in one nice convenient package, organized by subject (strokes, footwork, tactics, sports psychology, etc.). It turns out that when I finish the year, I'll have exactly 150 Tips published since I started in January 2011. There are 148 already online, with two more to go, for Dec. 23 and 30. (No Tip on Dec. 16 while I'm at the Nationals.)

First task is the cover. Tentatively I'll go over all my coaching pictures and pick out something. Then I'll do fancy it up with the title and who knows what else.

Second is organizing them by subject, which shouldn't be a huge job. I've already got all of them in one long file. Each week, after putting the new Tip up, I've been cut and pasting it into the file, which (in 12-point Time Roman font) is about 85,000 words and 154 pages with 8.5x11 pages. It'll take a few hours to arrange them into the right order. With formatting, and perhaps adding a few pictures, the final book will be about 270 pages on 6x9 pages. (That's the dimensions of my previous TT book, Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers.)

Third is the title. Should I go with the simple and to-the-point "Table Tennis Tips"? I've toyed with calling it "Table Tennis Tipalooza." Any suggestions?

Scorekeepers

At the North American Teams last weekend I saw that they were playing the final of Division 12 (average rating 1300) on one table without a scorekeeper, between two all-junior teams (ages 11-13), with dozens of parents and kids watching. I went to the officials table and they lent me a scoreboard. One of the kids, about 10, became the scorekeeper for all nine matches. (Disclosure: I had been coaching a team called "Jawbreakers," and had a bag of jawbreakers I'd been giving out. I paid the kid one jawbreaker per match, so nine in all. He was quite happy with the arrangement.)

One of the best things tournament directors can do to make their tournaments presentable to the public is to have plenty of scoreboards available, and try to have scorekeepers for the "big" matches. It's not hard to get people to scorekeep; just ask and you'll get volunteers. Kids love to do it. The key is that they are scorekeepers, not umpires. Their purpose is to keep score so that spectators can see the score. An exciting point at deuce isn't nearly so exciting if the players don't know it's deuce. In fact, an exciting point at 1-1 isn't so exciting when the spectators have no idea what's going on. They want to see what the situation is; otherwise, it's just two players playing points.

Every major distributor sells scoreboards. Why not buy a few for your next tournament? I own one which I used to bring to tournaments just for my matches, in case I could find a scorekeeper. It's a lot more fun playing with a scorekeeper! It's also easier to focus on your own game when you don't have to worry about keeping score.

Hao Shuai at the North American Teams

Here's the article.

Where There is A Will, There is a Way, Bangladesh Overcomes Political Obstacles

Here's the article from the ITTF on USATT Coach Richard McAfee's latest coaching seminar, this time in Bangladesh.

World Class American Table Tennis Players - New Books!

Volumes 2 and 3 are now out of these table tennis history books by Dean Johnson and Tim Boggan. They are on sale at amazon.com. Here are the three volumes to date:

My Note at the 2001 World Table Tennis Championships

I did coverage for USA Table Tennis of the 2001 Worlds in Osaka, Japan. This often meant long days taking notes and long nights of writing. I just got an email from Diego Schaaf (who was there as a USATT photographers), where he wrote:

I just ran across some notes from the World Championships in Osaka you might remember with amusement. One of them was the sign on your door: "If anyone disturbs me while this sign is up, I will hunt you down and pour speed glue down your throat." (Signed "Larry Hodges, Sleepless in Osaka.") And the other was you, responding to the question, how many hours you had worked between the beginning of the tournament and the final: "All of them. Except 6am to 8am on a couple of days."

Cat Sushi Ping Pong?

Here's the picture!

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November 27, 2013

Last Blog Until After the Teams

This will be my last blog until Monday. Tomorrow’s Thanksgiving, so I’m taking the day off, and Fri-Sun I’ll be coaching at the North American Teams in Washington DC. I’ll have lots to write about when I return! Here’s a picture of the facility as they are about to set up the tables.

Preparing for the Teams

This week I’m preparing players for the Teams. Compared to normal, that means fewer rote drills, and more random drills. I do a lot of multiball training, but the focus now is on random shots and simulating match play.  We’re also doing a lot of game-type drills, such as where the student serves backspin, I push back anywhere, he loops, and we play out the point. I’m also making sure they are ready to do the “little” things, such as pushing, blocking, and serving. And we play more games at the end of each session. There’s also the psychological aspect. I keep reminding the players that they need to go into the tournament with their minds clear and ready to play. I also want to keep the sessions fun – I don’t want the players too stressed out over getting ready for three days of almost non-stop competition. I want to see determination, but not grim determination.

USATT Magazine and Membership Rates

I blogged yesterday about the problem with USATT likely moving USATT Magazine in-house. A separate question that comes up periodically is whether it should continue as a print magazine or just go online. There’s an easy solution: go online, with a print option. The editor simply does the magazine as if it’s going to print, which means a PDF version. Then he puts the PDF version online, perhaps with a password required so only members can access it. Those who want a print version, such as myself, would pay extra – and with “print on demand” publishing, it’s easy to send the PDF to the printer and print out only as many copies as needed. This is an obvious solution I’ve pointed out over the years.

The real question is whether current members who are already paying $49/year (too much) should pay still more for the print version, or whether those choosing not to receive the print version should get a discount. I’m for the latter. We keep raising our membership rates and keep wondering why membership stays stagnant; gee, I wonder why? I remember a while back when USATT raised the annual rate in one year from $25 to $40 – and they budgeted as if membership would stay constant! At the time membership had reached 8800. I got into a heated debate with the entire room – all 13 board members – both on the silliness of constantly raising the rates while simultaneously trying to find ways to increase membership, and on the even further silliness of expecting membership to stay constant. All 13 believed raising the rate would have little effect on membership numbers, with one of them explaining to me, “If they’re willing to pay $25, they’re willing to pay $40.” I pointed out that based on that logic, every item in a store that costs $25 should cost $40 (and the logic really applies to all items), but I was told I was wrong. I’m just a coach and a writer, so what do I know about business?

One year later membership had dropped to 7000, and the USATT board spent a marathon session cutting everything since they had budgeted for 8800 members. I was in the room snickering as they did this. And you wonder why I can never convince USATT to do the obvious stuff, not to mention the more difficult things? Maybe if I’d worn a tie at that meeting instead of a warm-up suit I could have been more convincing. (I’m told that, after a decade of slowly recovering, membership is again now close to 9000 or so, though I haven’t seen any membership reports anywhere. I’m guessing at any time the rates will go up again, and we’ll see another big drop. Alas.)

USATT Tips of the Day

Below are the USATT Tips of the Day since last Friday. These are from the 171 Tips of the Week I did for them from 1999-2003 as “Dr. Ping-Pong.” (Click on link for complete tip.)

Nov 26, 2013 Tip of the Day - Inside-Out Forehand Floppy Wrist Flip
When an opponent serves short to the forehand, many players reach in and return it with a nearly stiff wrist, and invariably go crosscourt with a forehand flip.

Nov 25, 2013 Tip of the Day - Back Up Slightly When Opponent Backs Up
Suppose you’ve hit a quick, hard shot, and your opponent has moved five feet back to return the ball with a counterdrive or soft topspin. 

Nov 24, 2013 Tip of the Day - Aim One Way, Go the Other
Many players develop strong rally shots. However, they are often very, very predictable. An opponent can anticipate where each ball is going early in your stroke, and so always has lots of time to get to the ball.

Nov 23, 2013 Tip of the Day - Go Down the Line From Wide Forehand
When an opponent goes to your wide forehand, they give you an extreme angle into their wide forehand.

ITTF Coaching Course in Singapore

Here’s the ITTF article on the ITTF Level 1 Course that was just taught in Singapore by USA’s Richard McAfee. (I linked to the photos yesterday.)

Best of the Chinese Super League

Here's the video (7:31).

Xu Xin on the Mini-Table (and an Interview)

Here’s the video (4:18) of world #1 Xu Xin of China versus TableTennisDaily’s Dan, on a mini-table with over-sized rackets! (And yes, Xu the penholder is playing shakehands here.) And for the more serious-minded, here’s Dan’s interview with Xu.

Little Girl Phenom

Here’s video (21 sec) of a girl, maybe five years old, drilling at a rather high level – watch out China! I believe she’s from the Mideast; can anyone translate what the comments say?

Ma Long’s Amazing Shots

Here’s the video (42 sec), with four Chinese players all counterlooping crosscourt, including Ma Long (near right) with Wang Liqin. Watch what happens right after 30 sec. First, Ma Long does a rather interesting forehand sidespin chop-block. Then he switches hands and counterloops the other two player’s ball.

Ping-Pong Trick Shots

Here’s the video (1:57) of someone with a series of great trick shots! I especially like the very last one, where he’s rallying with a girl with two balls, but catching each of her returns and quickly feeding it to continue. I may try that out in my coaching sessions today.

Happy First Birthday to Uberpong

Here’s their birthday cake!

How to Make a Ping-Pong Ball Turkey

Here’s the article!

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November 6, 2013

Do Something Different

These days it seems like everyone's trying to be like everyone else. That's a pretty successful way of getting good, if you copy the top players. But many are missing the benefits of doing something different. Give your opponent a different look, at least on some shots, and guess what? He might begin to struggle. This doesn't mean changing your whole game to some unorthodox mess; it means developing certain "pet shots" that are different than the norm. They give you more variation on certain shots than if you only have "orthodox" shots. Some, of course, naturally do something different, by having a non-inverted surface, a different grip (Seemiller grip, or even penhold grip for some), an unorthodox stroke (not usually good unless it's just as a variation), or even something as simple as being left-handed. But for most players, you'll want to do something "different" while sticking to your normal righty shakehands inverted on both sides game. And there are lots of ways. Below are ten examples - and I do all of these on occasion, though less now than when I was an active tournament player and honed these variations by actually using them regularly. Pick out one or two, and give them a try! (An expanded version of this might become a Tip of the Week.)

  1. Serve from forehand side. Nearly everyone serves from the backhand corner these days, with a few tomahawk serves from the forehand. Throw in a few forehand pendulum or backhand serves from the forehand side. The surprise factor will often make up for your starting a bit out of position. (I do this all the time.)
  2. Serve short sidespin to the forehand. So many players serve over and Over and OVER to the middle and backhand it's almost silly, and when they do serve short to the forehand, it's a simple backspin ball. Instead, learn to do this with sidespin that pulls the ball toward your forehand, making it awkward for the opponent to return the ball down the line. You can do this with a backhand serve, a reverse pendulum serve, or a forehand tomahawk serve.
  3. Slow, spinny loop. Most people these days loop either hard or harder. Try letting the ball drop a bit more, and go for a slow, super-spinny one. If it goes deep, it'll drive blockers crazy. If it lands short, it'll drive counter-loopers crazy.
  4. Dead loop. Fake spin, and instead give a dead loop. You sell this by using an exaggerated follow-through right after contact, making it seem spinny.
  5. Dead push. Push without spin, but with an exaggerated follow through to fake spin.
  6. Sidespin push. Come across the ball as you push. This is especially easy on the backhand, with a right-to-left motion (for righties), with the ball breaking to the right. It's especially effective wide to the right, breaking into a righty's opponent's backhand.
  7. Ginzo push. Most players push to keep the ball in play. Thrown in a few super-ginzo (i.e. extremely heavy) pushes, and watch opponents struggle. It's easier if you take the ball a little later for this.  
  8. Dead block. Block it dead, chop block, sidespin block - these will frustrate many opponents and set you up for a conventional attack. They are especially effective and easy on the backhand side.
  9. Countering change-of-pace. Rather than bang every ball in a fast counter-hitting rally, sometimes hit one soft. Either keep it low and short to the net, or deep on the table.
  10. Flatter flip. Most players flip short balls with topspin. (It's called a flick in Europe.) Try a flatter one. Hit it a bit softer since you don't have topspin to pull it down, but not too soft. (Recently I've seen a number of top players at my club experimenting with this variation, with help from our coaches.)

ITTF Trick Shot Competition

Here's the ITTF press release on the competition, won by Josep Antón Velázquez. It's a somewhat controversial choice. The winner was to be decided by four criteria: Youtube views, Youtube likes, Facebook votes, and Expert Opinion. USA's Adam Hugh led in the first three criteria, but the "Expert Opinion" chose Velázquez. Here's Adam's announcement of the result on Facebook and ensuing discussion.

India's Level 2 Coaching Course

Here's an article from the ITTF on the first ITTF Level 2 Coaching Course in India, run by USA's Richard McAfee.

Darren O'Day at MDTTC

Here's the picture of Baltimore Orioles pitcher Darren O'Day at MDTTC recently - it's now USATT's Image of the Day. Note the video below it showing O'Day's unique submarine pitching style. Photo by Chris Zhang.

Samson Dubina's Website

Here it is - it has several coaching articles.

Backhand Footwork

Here's a good example of a backhand footwork drill (15 sec), demonstrated with multiball by Daniel Sabatino, current #15 in Italy, former #7.

Table Tennis - the Hardest Sport

Here's a new highlights video (8:36) that features both matches and training.

Great Point with Boll on Floor

Here's video (32 sec) of a great doubles point that includes Timo Boll falling to the floor, then getting up in time to continue the point. He's playing doubles with China's Ma Lin.

Fantasy Table Tennis Receipt with Harry Potter, Gandalf, Captain Kirk, and Oompa Loompa!

Here's Michael Mezyan's recent shopping receipt. It's legit, right? You decide. But I sure hope that Captain Kirk glue is legal! 

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September 19, 2013

Yesterday's Coaching Activities

I had three hours of private coaching, then a meeting with others to go over our new junior progress reports.

The first session was with an 8-year-old, about 1200 level, who's struggling to decide whether to be an attacker or defender. He may well be the best 8-year-old lobber I've ever seen; he can lob back my hardest smashes dozens of times in a row as long as I don't smother kill at wide angles. (There's something humorous about a little kid lobbing from way back at the barriers!) He also chops well. He's also got a nice loop from both wings, but has one serious problem on both: he's too impatient to do the same shot over and over, and so it's hard to get him to develop a repeating stroke. Unless I keep a firm hand on the drills, most rallies end up with him looping a couple balls, taking a step back after each, and then he's off lobbing and fishing, and looking for chances to suddenly counter-smash. He's recently faced the realization that if he's going to chop, he'll probably need long pips, which will take away his backhand lob - and he doesn't like that. So we're in a state of flux on whether to train him as an attacker or defender. Ultimately, I'm letting him make the final decision. I've advised him that, unless he very much wants to be a chopper/looper, he should focus on attacking, and he can always switch to more chopping later on. It's a big decision that'll affect the rest of his life!!!

The second session was with an 11-year-old, about 1200 level, who's about to finally start playing tournaments. He's playing in the MDTTC October Open and the North American Teams in November, and perhaps others. He's a big forehand attacker who likes to run around the table ripping forehand loops and smashes. Most interesting part of the session was when I urged him to really develop the backhand (while still focusing on the forehand) - and his reaction was he wanted to practice backhands for nearly half the session. We had some great rallies, and near the end it started to really click in. He wants to really focus on serves as well, and I promised we'd start off next session with that.

The third session was with a 12-year-old who was having only his second session since being away all summer. He's about 1000, but rusty. So we're focusing on fundamentals. He's doing really well in multiball drills, where we did a lot of looping against backspin (both wings) and combinations (loop a backspin, smash a topspin). In live drills he's still a bit too erratic, but it's getting better.

Then I met about what I've been calling the Junior Progressions. These are a series of criteria a beginning/intermediate player needs to fulfill to move from Level 1 to Level 5. At the lowest level, players need to bounce the ball on the racket a certain number of times, demonstrate proper grip and ready position, know the basic rules, hit a small number of strokes, etc. As they move up, it gets harder; at Level 5 they have to hit 100 forehands and backhands and demonstrate a few counterloops. We're still finalizing and testing them. We'll be using them for the first time later this fall. Once I'm more confident we have the right criteria, perhaps I'll publish them. (We'd been shown examples of how some other programs did this, such as AYTTO.

The Importance of Lobbing

Here's the latest USATT Tip of the Week, another of the ones I wrote.

ITTF Level 2 Coaching Course in Austin

Here's the ITTF article on the coaching course Richard McAfee ran in Austin, TX last week.

Adam Hugh's Juggling No-Look Target Serve

Here's the entry of former USA team member Adam Hugh to the ITTF Trick Shot Showdown Contest. "Your move." Here's the page showing videos entered so far.

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May 28, 2013

May 28, 2013

Tip of the Week

What to Do at the End of a Close Game.

Here Was My Weekend

SATURDAY. I was coaching pretty much all day. I gave a private lesson from 9:15-10:15AM, then a group beginning/intermediate junior session from 10:30AM-Noon. From 2-4 PM I gave private lessons, and then from 4:30-6:30 was a practice partner for a group session.

Probably the most interesting session was the 9:15-10:15AM session with Sameer, 11, rated 1181. I've been coaching him at his house where there's only about four feet going back. Today was the first time I gave him a private lesson at the club where there was room to go back - so much of the lesson was on looping against block, which he can't do at his house. He's going to start taking more lessons at the club for this reason. He has a tendency to stand up straight, and then his strokes fall apart. When he stays low and doesn't rush, he's a lot better.

In the afternoon one of my sessions was with John Olsen, 56, rated 1999. I've been working with him for a few years now, and now he's playing me dead even in our practice matches. Against juniors, I'm still pretty good, but more experienced tactical players are starting to see the holes in my game now that I've slowed down to sloth speed. It's not easy being a mostly one-winged attacker when your feet move like a sloth. Add that John's used to my serves, and that my blocking in matches has also deteriorated due to slower footwork (yes, good blocking takes footwork), and he's not easy to play anymore.

That night I saw the movie Epic, which I thought was pretty good. If you go to see it, early on there is a scene where the main character, M.K., takes a taxi to visit her father out in the wilderness. She has a short discussion with the taxi driver. The taxi driver is voiced by none other than Judah Friedlander, one of the stars from 30 Rock, stand-up comedian, and well-known table tennis player! (I've given him several private lessons. That's why he's the World Champion.)

I looked around that afternoon and realized how spoiled players at MDTTC are, along with a few other clubs around the country. Regular club players were playing side-by-side with some of the best players and juniors in the country. Here's a listing of some of the players or coaches at the club that afternoon, with their rating (and age if a junior - lots of good juniors!), with apologies to those left out.

  • Cheng Yinghua, 2614
  • Wang Qing Liang ("Leon"), 17, 2587
  • Jack Huang, 2526
  • Chen Bo Wen ("Bowen"), 14, 2498
  • Harold Baring, former #2 in Philippines, 2400+
  • Raghu Nadmichettu, 2331
  • Richard Doverman, 2310
  • Crystal Wang, 11, 2292
  • Zhang Liang Bojun ("Brian"), 16, 2251
  • Chen Jie ("James"), 16, 2249
  • Tong Tong Gong, 15, 2246
  • Stephen Yeh, 2233
  • Derek Nie, 12, 2215
  • Roy Ke, 13, 2191
  • Lixin Lang, 2187
  • Heather Wang, 2181
  • Barbara Wei, 2178
  • Larry Hodges, 2145 (I'm getting old!)
  • Greg Mascialino, 2099
  • Changli Duan, 2080
  • Changping Duan, 2065
  • Amy Lu, 12, 2022
  • Princess Ke, 12, 1953
  • Adam Yao, 11, 1908
  • Tony Li, 11, 1799
  • Wesley Duan, 12, 1761
  • Tiffany Ke, 8, 1430
  • Lisa Lin, 9, 1385
  • Missing on Saturday, but back on Sunday: Nathan Hsu (17, 2397) and John Hsu (2248)

SUNDAY. I coached a 6-year-old from 10AM-11AM. He's up to 86 forehands and 35 backhands in a row against multiball. But at his age hand-eye coordination is a problem, so we spent some time on ball bouncing. He was able to bounce the ball up and down on his racket seven times, a new record for him. It isn't easy as his reactions at this age aren't fast enough to really react to the ball in the time it takes to bounce up and down on his paddle. He could just bounce the ball higher, but then he loses control.

I was off until that afternoon. I had another private session from 3:15-4:15, then a group junior session from 4:30-6:00. While I was coaching there was an elderly woman hitting with an older teenager for about an hour, and I realized they had been there the day before as well. I'm guessing it was a grandmother and grandson. What made it interesting is both had these identical windmill-style forehands, sort of like an exaggerated Dick Miles forehand (if you've ever seen that!). They'd bring their rackets way over their heads like a windmill, then bring it down and hit the ball. They weren't much beyond the beginning stage, but it was somewhat obvious he had learned his strokes from her.

The group session was smaller than usual because of Memorial Day weekend. With three coaches (myself, Raghu Nadmichettu, and John Hsu), and a practice partner (11-year-old Tony Li, rated 1799, who helps out in these sessions), the kids got a lot of one-on-one practice.

MONDAY. I believe yesterday was the first morning since Christmas where I didn't have either a blog or coaching in the morning. I actually could sleep late! (Except my 15-year-old dog, Sheeba, can no longer last the night, and as usual got me up at 4AM to go out.) I got a lot of work done on various writing projects.

Plastic Ball Conflict of Interest?

To quote from the OOAK forum, "It comes to light that Dr. Joachim Kuhn, the ITTF Equipment Committee member in charge of ball testing and approval, the man behind the report about how great the new plastic balls are (that was recently suppressed by the ITTF without explanation) has a MAJOR conflict of interest. Turns out that Dr. Kuhn's wife, In Sook Yoo, is one of the two patent holders, so Mr. and Mrs. Kuhn stand to make money on every new ball sold." There are discussions on this on the OOAK forum and About.com.

Kanak Jha Wins Two Silver Medals at Polish Cadet Open

Here's the pictures and caption. The events were Cadet Boys' Doubles and Teams.

What Table Tennis Is All About

Here's a new tribute video (4:50) from Genius Table Tennis.

Worlds Pre-Match Light Show

Here it is (2:13)!

Meet Coach Richard McAfee

JOOLA put together this video (2:00) welcoming him as a sponsored coach. I think all sponsors should do this with all their sponsored coaches and players.

Will Shortz on TV

Here's a video (16:16) of world-renowned puzzlist and Westchester TTC owner Will Shortz last Wednesday on the Artie Lange Show, with guest host Colin Quinn. As described by Will, "The conversation started with puzzles, then segued to table tennis, and ended with me playing Colin in a TT match." The discussion turns to table tennis at 8:46 (here). For the record, Will won 11-1.

Real Table Tennis

Outside, where the buffalo roam. (Or cattle anyway.) Or perhaps indoors, on the floor, with shoes for a net.

Cartoon Fox/Kitten

I'm not sure if this Facebook picture is a baby fox or a kitten. (If you can't see it in Facebook, try this.)

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May 1, 2013

Richard McAfee Visits Maryland

Yesterday USATT Hall of Famer, ITTF Trainer, and former USATT Coaching Chair (2009-2013, until USATT term limits forced him out) Richard McAfee, from Denver, CO, visited the Maryland Table Tennis Center. He was in town to do a coaching video with JOOLA USA.

So yesterday afternoon I stopped by JOOLA USA in Rockville, Maryland, which is also headquarters for North American Table Tennis. I hadn't been to their new offices, and so Googled the directions. I followed them exactly - and found myself in a construction site. The paved road had ended and I was driving on a muddy road, worried my tires would sink in and get stuck. I kept driving for 50 yards or so, then stopping and wondering if this right, then driving another bit, and stopping again. I kept wondering, is owner Richard Lee trying to save money by housing everything in half-constructed buildings, with muddy quagmires for streets and parking? Finally I called Richard Lee (president of JOOLA USA and NATT), and discovered the Google directions were off - they had me make a left-hand turn near the end rather than turn right. So I turned back and quickly found the place. I apologized to Richard for even thinking they might have set up offices in the muddy wonderland I'd visited. Unfortunately, my tires and the sides of my car were now all muddy.

The actual place is impressive, with lots of office space, a meeting room, large kitchen area, and a big video room. About a dozen people worked there full-time, each with their own office, some of whom I already knew - Richard and Wendy Lee, Michael Squires, Steven Chan, Rich Heo, and Katherine Wu. Out of the office at the time were Tom Nguyen, Greg Cox, and Mary Palmar. Richard McAfee was working with Rich Heo on the video.

Then I took Richard over to see my club, the Maryland Table Tennis Center. (Richard Lee and Katherine Wu, both of whom developed as players there, joined us shortly afterwards.) We watched as a number of our top juniors trained with coaches/practice partners, and discussed their technique. Then I took Richard M. to dinner at a local Japanese & Korean restaurant. (Teriyaki chicken for me, some sort of shrimp and vegetable dish for Richard.)

When to Call Time-Outs

In my book Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers, there's a section on when to call time-outs. It was a rewritten version of a Tip of the Week I'd written in 2011. Here's the updated version.

2013 U.S. Open Challenge Series

USATT will organize the ITTF Challenge Series/World Tour to be held during the US Open and will include the following events: Women's singles, Men's singles, and U-21 Men's and Women's singles. Players in these events must be entered by USATT. Here's further info.

Why Chinese Players Are #1 in the World

Here's a short article and video (2:28) exploring this topic, which mostly showcases their training techniques, especially physical training. If you want a more extensive look on some of the reasons China dominates, here's an article I wrote with Cheng Yinghua on the subject for the July/August 2005 USA Table Tennis Magazine, "The Secrets of Chinese Table Tennis…and What the Rest of the World Needs to Do to Catch Up.

Exceptional Table Tennis Skills Around A Table!

Here's a Facebook video (36 sec) with two players doing a pretty good exhibition - on a mini-table! I think anyone can see this, even if you are not on Facebook or "friends" with the players, but if you can't, let me know and I'll try to find another version.

Vancouver Canucks Play Pong

Here's a video (2:04) of hockey players Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider playing table tennis in what appears to be the team's clubhouse as they prepare for the NHL playoffs. They're pretty good!

Goofy and Mickey

That's some goofy ping-pong.

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February 12, 2013

Tactical Match

This weekend I played a practice match with a fast up-and-coming junior who had never challenged me before. In the past he'd had trouble with my serves, usually too passive, so I was able to attack at will. This time he came at me very aggressively, attacking most of my short serves with his newly developing backhand banana flip. When I served side-top, he jumped all over them aggressively. When I served backspin, he spun them off the bounce aggressively, a bit softer but spinnier. When I served short to his forehand, he reached over and flipped with his backhand. What to do?

This is actually a textbook case, and the answers were obvious. Here are three ways I dealt with this.

First, I went for more extremes. Instead of side-top serves, I went with pure topspin, and instead of side-backspin serves, I went with pure heavy backspin. Having to deal with the extremes meant that he began to put the topspins off the end and the backspins into the net.

Second, I began throwing low no-spin serves at him. He'd often read them usually as backspin and lift off the end. Or because they were dead, he sometimes put them into the net. It's amazing how players put no-spin serves both off the end and into the net, but that's what happens.

Third, I drilled him with short serves to the forehand, deep serves to the backhand. The key is to use the same motion. If he's going to reach over and use his backhand to return my short serves to his forehand, then he's going to have great difficulty covering a deep spinny breaking serve to the backhand. When he guards against that, then I go back short to the forehand. This combo was especially effective when I gave him short reverse pendulum serves to the forehand, which break away from him, making him reach even more.

The kid played a great match, and I'll have to keep my eye on him as he gets better and better. As it was, I came from behind 4-8 to win the first 11-9, and then won the next two more comfortably. As I explained to him afterwards, he's now at that stage where because he's challenging me, he'll lose worse at first because now I'm playing him a lot more seriously. We'll see where he is a year from now.

Update - Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers

I only publicly announced Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers was available yesterday, and already 26 copies have sold. Of course, the real sales surge (hopefully) will come after I advertise in USATT Magazine (1-page color ad) and possibly their web page, and possibly other places. I'll look into that next week after I'm done doing the page layouts for Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis, Vol. 13.

I'd like to post about the book in online forums as well, but not right now. If I post on an online forum, people will have questions, and if I try to answer those questions, Tim (who's sitting right next to me impatiently waiting to get to work) will no-look forehand smack me back to work. Sometime next week I'll post on the various forums and look into other areas to advertise, such as England and Australia, and other online websites.

I'm also getting a few blurbs from prominent TT people I can use. Here are some others I've come up with that I probably won't use.

Blurbs for My Book I've Decided NOT to Use
Feel free to comment with your own!

  1. "One of the best table tennis books I've read today."
  2. "I loved the book and will give a copy to all of my opponents."
  3. "Best book I've ever tasted." -Rover
  4. "After reading this book, my level of play only dropped a little."
  5. "But what if I don't like to think?"
  6. "Some of the words in this book are really good."
  7. "My parakeet is set for the next 240 days as he goes through this cover to cover."
  8. "Hey Larry, there's a typo at the start!"

Dealing with PTSD Through Ping-Pong

Here's an article and video (2:29) on how one Vietnam Vet dealt with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder with table tennis, specifically featuring a clinic run at the Zing Table Tennis Club in Denver by Richard McAfee, assisted by Duane Gall, Peter Christofolo, and Mike Mui. (Here's an ITTF article on the clinic.)

Zhuang Zedong Obit

Here's the CNN Zhuang obit, including five pictures. Here's the ITTF obit.

The Ping-Pong Queen

Here's an article about Susan Sarandon and ping-pong.

Waldner - Persson Exhibition

Here's a video (1:29) of some points from an exhibition by Jan-Ove Waldner and Jorgen Persson.

Anime Women Playing Table Tennis

The next action figure?

SPECIAL TIM BOGGAN SECTION!

Here's his Hall of Fame bio.

Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis, Vol. 13

We've now finished 16 chapters, 267 pages, with 540 graphics placed. We're on pace for 29 chapters, 482 pages, and 956 graphics. This would be the most graphics by far - the last volume had the most at 837. (But he's actually been pretty consistent as the last seven volumes all ranged from 800 to 837.) We will probably finish the "first draft" on Friday. I'll be busy coaching all weekend while Tim proofs everything. On Monday (Feb. 18) we'll input changes, and by Tuesday it'll be ready to go to the printer. Copies should be available soon afterwards. We hope. (Here's where you can find more info on Tim's books - Volumes 1-12 of his History of U.S. Table Tennis. And no, I don't get any commission from his sales!)

Tim Boggan and the BBC

On Sunday and Monday Tim was interviewed live on the BBC and will be again on Wednesday, via phone, about Zhuang Zedong's death and Ping-Pong Diplomacy. Each time he most wanted to include how Zhuang had asked, when he heard that Glenn Cowan had died, if Glenn had been well remembered at his funeral. He was told, well, not as you might think a historic celebrity should be remembered. Zhuang was sorry to hear this, and said, "When I die, everyone in China will know." According to Tim, the relationship between Glenn and Zhuang was largely historic and symbolic rather than any close show of friendship itself. (Note - Ping-Pong Diplomacy was seminally started when Cowen was invited onto the private Chinese bus, and then later he and Zhuang exchanged gifts. You can read more about it in Tim's History of U.S. Table Tennis, Vol. V.)

Tim Boggan Resigns

After many years of service, Tim Boggan has resigned from the ITTF Media Committee. Here is his resignation letter.

After much thought, and more regret, I've decided, as of now, to resign from the ITTF Media Committee.

I'm not going to the World Championships in Paris, or any other. Perhaps my age is showing (I’ll be 83 this year), but traveling abroad and playing conscientious reporter for a week is just becoming WORK—and I’ve already got enough of that.

I want to focus the more on my History of U.S. Table Tennis –intend to keep writing, as I have since 2000, a new book a year (my Vol. XIII will be in hand by April Fools' Day). I'll also keep researching and making Banquet presentations on behalf of our U.S. Hall of Fame candidates—that's generally a month’s effort. (The new inductees make it a total of 138 Profiles I've done on those enshrined.) And also I'll continue writing (though not as much as before) obits and articles for our USTTA magazine—as in my "Reisman Rembrance" for the current issue, and my coverage of Mike Babuin's Cary Open in an upcoming one.

It's been more than 40 years since I became affiliated with the ITTF (as a U.S. Delegate to the 1971 Nagoya World's). And in those four decades I must have been to, and reported on, 25 or more World or International Championships. I've had the unusual opportunity to meet many interesting people and to see many interesting sights/sites that I certainly wouldn’t have otherwise. For this I'm very grateful.

I thank all those who've helped me to have this rich experience, and will fondly remember my long involvement with the ITTF for the rest of my life.

***
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December 10, 2012

Tip of the Week

Body Movement During the Forehand Loop.

Marty Reisman, Feb. 1, 1930 - Dec. 7, 2012

The great showman of the hardbat age, as well as in the sponge age (but always with hardbat or sandpaper), died on Friday at age 82. The sport will never be the same.

Marty had a huge influence on my life. In fact, he ruined it! How did he do that? Here's my write-up from Table Tennis Tales & Techniques on how I got started on table tennis, my first meeting with Marty, and his response.

How Marty Reisman Ruined My Life
By Larry Hodges
Back in 1976 (age 16), I was on my high school track team as a miler. I went to the library to get a book on "Track & Field." I happened to look to my left ... and there was a book on table tennis, "The Money Player," by Marty Reisman! I had been playing "basement" ping-pong at a neighbor's house, and spur-of-the-moment checked the book out. From it, I found out about USATT (then called USTTA). I contacted them, found a local club, and went there. I got killed, but I stuck with it, and a few years later became the best at the club. I later became a professional table tennis coach and writer, and from 1985 on, I've been full-time table tennis almost continuously in various capacities. In 1991, I was hired as editor of USATT's national magazine. About a year later, at a tournament in New York, I met Marty for the first time (although I had probably seen him before), and told him this story. His response? "Great ... another life I've ruined!"

Volkswagen 2012 World Junior Table Tennis Championship

They started yesterday, and are in Hyderabad, India, Dec. 9-16. Here is the ITTF home page for the event, which has the schedule and results, articles, and pictures. Team USA has a Boys' Team (Grant Li, Teddy Tran, Kunal Chodri, Kanak Jha) and Girls' Team (Lily Zhang, Prachi Jha, Isabel Chu, and Crystal Wang). In doubles, the boy's teams are Li/Chodri and Tran/Jha, and the girls' teams are Zhang/Jha and Chu/Wang.

Faking a Shot

Here's a video from PingSkills on faking a shot. One key thing they say early on: "It's really important first that you get the basic shots right." But once you have the fundamentals, this is one of the most under-used tactics in table tennis from the intermediate level up. For example, even against advanced players when I serve backspin, I can see where they are going to push or flip well before they contact the ball - rarely do player change directions at the last second. This makes it much easier to attack. Instead, at the last second just change directions and watch the havoc it creates!

ITTF Coaching Seminar in Singapore

Here's the ITTF story on the recent ITTF Coaching Seminar in Singapore that was taught by USATT Coaching Chair Richard McAfee.

Want to Bring World-Class Table Tennis to U.S. Television?

Here's where you can learn about this. Excerpt: "Reflex Sports and Alpha Productions, two well known names in US table tennis, are planning  a series of action-packed, fast-paced 1-hour shows of World-Class Table Tennis for broadcast on U.S. Network TV! These will include action from the WTTC, World Junior Championships, World Cup, Pro Tour, European Championships & more!"

ITTF Video World Cup

Here are the five finalists at the ITTF Video World Cup. They average from around two to four minutes, so you can watch them all in about fifteen minutes.

Table Tennis Dream

I had another of those weird table tennis dreams last night. It started as I landed with a group of others at Los Angeles Airport for some huge international tournament. (I have no idea why it was Los Angeles.) After getting off my flight - carrying four huge bags - I stopped at a restaurant. The others with me disappeared, and I found myself at a table with Matt Damon, who was explaining health care to me, but using table tennis terms like "2-1 drill" and "Falkenberg drill." I finally got away from him, and was suddenly at the playing hall, still lugging around four huge bags.

People kept asking me to hit with them, and I kept saying I can't, I have to do my blog. So I'm sitting there at a table in the middle of the hall, surrounded by my four huge bags and lots of tables as players competed, furiously trying to think of something to write about in my blog.

Then I was told the tournament was over, and I realized I had to catch a bus to the airport. I randomly got on a bus, which drove for a while, then let me off at a hotel. I checked in. Almost immediately after getting to my room I realized it was the following morning, 7AM, and I had a 6AM flight back home! Somehow I thought I could still catch the flight. Then I realized I'd left two of my huge bags at the playing all, and two at the previous hotel. (I have no idea how that happened since I'd been lugging all four about with me until now.) I ran to the lobby, and while eating breakfast with a bunch of table tennis players, Dan Seemiller was suddenly sitting across from me, and he said, "Larry, you can catch a taxi to the playing hall, pick up your bags there, then take the taxi to the hotel, pick up your other bags, and still catch your flight."

Right about now I realized that since it was 7AM (it still was 7AM), and that it was too late to catch the 6AM flight. But Dan started calling me a chicken, so I grabbed my four huge bags (which had reappeared), and rushed out to catch a taxi to go pick up the four huge bags (which were apparently both with me, and at the playing hall and previous hotel, at the same time). After tossing all four huge bags into the trunk of a taxi, I closed the trunk - and the taxi took off without me! I ran after it, yelling for it to stop, and then I woke up in a sweat. It took me a few minutes to realize I wasn't in Los Angeles anymore.

***
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