Last Blog Until Tuesday, August 5
This will be my last blog until Tuesday, August 5. 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.
I did 4.5 hours of private coaching yesterday. Here's a rundown.
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
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!
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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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:
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.
1200: They now have more basics down.
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.
1600: They now can execute proper technique in game situations.
1800: At this point they have pretty good technique, consistency, and ball control.
2000: They now have mostly mastered all basic techniques, and make few unforced errors.
2200: They have strong technique, and make few unforced errors.
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.
2600: At this point players are approaching world-class.
2700: This is borderline world-class. It's often difficult to tell the difference between these players are world-class players.
2800+: This is true world-class play, roughly top 50 or so in the world. They are almost flawless athletic machines.
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?
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!
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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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?
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
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?
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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
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
How to Make a Ping-Pong Ball Turkey
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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.)
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.
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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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
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May 28, 2013
Tip of the Week
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.
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
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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
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
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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!
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
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
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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Tip of the Week
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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