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. I spent most of the day 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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I'm going to use an example from tennis (what I call "court table tennis"), which I played for years as a hobby. I have a very good forehand in tennis, but a weak backhand. Opponents would often try to bang it out with me, going after my backhand, but I was quick to step around and pound a forehand, usually attacking their wide backhand. Unless they were very good (4.0 or better level in tennis ratings, which is my level when I'm in practice), few could respond with a strong down-the-line backhand winner, and so I'd get a weak return, which I'd pound again, and so I dominated these rallies. Often opponents, faced with my strong forehand attack to their wide backhand, would in desperation throw up a high-bouncing topspin - but because they were usually in an awkward position as they tried to run my shot down, it was often weak and land short, and I'd smack it in for a winner.
One day I played someone who did something different. From the very start of the rally he'd throw up these high, topspin shots. Because he did this on the first shot of the rally, even off my serve, he wasn't attempting an awkward on-the-run shot, and so his shots, though defensive, were decisive, landing deep on my court and bouncing out past the end-line. This forced me off the court, where my forehand isn't so dangerous (since he'd have lots of time to react to it). He moved me side to side, wide to my forehand, then wide to my backhand, over and over, and there was no way I could run these balls down with my forehand all day. Result? My forehand became ineffective and he found my even less effective backhand. Then he'd start pounding shots into my backhand. He won.
The lesson here is that many players play defense only in desperation, and so it's not very effective. At the higher levels, defense doesn't work very well, but when you do it, it must be decisive, not just a "throw the ball up and hope" desperation return that rarely works.
Suppose your opponent is attacking, and you are looking to counter-attack. However, the opponent makes a strong shot wide to your backhand, and you are unable to counter-attack. And so you probably make a weak return, and lose the point. Instead, once you realize your opponent is going to attack, don't look to counter-attack (unless, of course, your whole game is based on attack and counter-attack, which might be a weakness in your game); look to make a decisive and strong defensive return, whether it be a block, a chop, or off-table topspin defense. If you are generally an attacker and get a ball to counter-attack, most likely your reflexes will take over anyway and you'll counter-attack.
Watch the best defenders (blockers, choppers, and topspin defenders), and you'll see that they rarely make desperation shots; their defense is as decisive as an attackers, and because of that, often just as effective.
I have four bags of Snickers and three bags of Milky Way left over from Halloween. What the heck should I do with it? I guess I'll do what I always do, and bring it to the club to either give out, or put it on tables when I'm feeding multiball to kids, who get to have whatever they knock off the table.
There is an irritating reason why I have so much candy left over. I own a townhouse and live on the third floor, renting out the first two floors to someone. I was giving out candy (I'd paid for it) when the renter came home, said he'd take over. I go upstairs at 7PM, watch TV for an hour. I come down, discover he's left, and the door was locked the entire hour, no candy given out. I'd heard the doorbell ringing over and over, but assumed he was answering. I actually went outside and yelled, "I've got lots of candy left over! Come and get it!" A few came over, but it was now after 8PM and the "rush" was mostly over.
A Ping Pong High
Here's an article in The Hindu about USATT Coaching Chair Richard McAfee's three recent ITTF Coaching Seminars held in India. The Hindu is the third largest English-language newspaper in India with a readership of 2.2 million.
Kevin Garnett versus Wang Hao
Here's basketball star Kevin Garnett in China playing Wang Hao (2:05). Note that the right-handed Wang Hao (2009 World Men's Singles Champion, 2008 & 2012 Olympic Men's Singles Silver Medalist, Chinese National Team Member) plays him left-handed! The table tennis ends with them shaking hands 45 seconds into the video.
The Battle: The Art of Pong
Here's a hilarious video (1:53) put out by the staff at JOOLA USA. "An ode to 70's Kung Fu Film Flicks. Watch Steven's journey to become the best table tennis player and defeat his Arch Rival Michael." That's Steven Chan (rated 2426) getting trained by Master Tom Nguyen (JOOLA's equipment guru and martial arts enthusiast), with Michael Squires (rated 2083) playing the "Arch Rival."
Gangnam Style Ping Pong
Here's Adam Bobrow in a video (47 seconds) from an exhibition match at the Chancellor Cup in Manila, The Philippines. He pulls off a great shot, and then goes into a dance routine. (Remember his "Excessive Celebration" video (71 seconds)?
Non-Table Tennis: My "Favorite" Halloween Memory
World Weaver Press published the favorite Halloween memories from three of its authors, including mine. They recently published Specter Spectacular: 13 Ghostly Tales, which included my story "The Haunts of Albert Einstein."
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Tip of the Week
MDTTC October Open
I ran the MDTTC Open this weekend, a rather exhausting ordeal since I also did four hours of coaching. Here is my write-up and results of the event, followed by the usual blog stuff.
$2600 Butterfly MDTTC October Open
MarylandTable Tennis Center
Gaithersburg, MD • Oct. 20-21, 2012
By Larry Hodges
This month there were extra large trophies waiting for winners of most of the Sunday events, in addition to $2600 in prize money mostly given out in Saturday events at the October Open at the Maryland Table Tennis Center. The larger trophies went over very well, and hopefully will attract more players in our next tournament, sometime early in 2013.
Wang Qing Liang, rated 2621, defended his title from last month, once again defeating fellow MDTTC coach Chen Bo Wen, rated 2516, in another 4-2 battle, this time at -9,10,-9,7,8,5. There's an old adage that choppers tend to get better as the match goes on as they adjust to the opponent's attack, and that's exactly what happened. By the end of the match there seemed no way to get through Wang's chopping defense, and his forehand loop was as spectacular as ever when he'd swoop in against a push or counterloop from off the table. Chen had actually spit matches with Wang at the recent Badger Open, knocking Wang's rating down from the 2642 he'd achieved mostly from making the semifinals of Men's Singles at the U.S. Open. Wang won $1000 to Chen's $400.
Both had semifinal battles. Former MDTTC junior star Richard Lee (rated 2424 and the long-time owner of North American Table Tennis) led 10-9 and 11-10 in the first (going for the possibly the most powerful forehand rip in the history of the universe at 11-10 that just missed) and 10-8 in the second before losing at 11,10,7,8. In the other semifinals, Larry Abass (rated 2320) came from way behind to win the first against Chen, and then made it to deuce in the fifth game, but in between it was all two-winged looping penholder Chen, winning at -9,4,5,4,10. Abass, who also used to be a big two-winged looper (but shakehand style), is now using one millimeter sponge on his backhand, which he uses to backhand loop against backspin but mostly chop against topspin. He caught both Chen and many spectators by surprise with his excellent chopping game, including Raghu Nadmichettu in the quarterfinals. Between him and Wang, the chopping game is alive and well in Maryland. Lee and Abass each pocketed $200 for the semifinals.
Hung Duy Vo, who'd lost the final of Under 2350 last month (to Raghu Nadmichettu), mostly dominated Under 2300 this month for $200, defeating Nasruddin Asgarali (who won $100) in the final, -8,11,6,8, and Roy Ke (age 13, rated 2188) in the semifinals, 7,7,-7,5. Asgarali took out Lixin Lang in the semifinals, 8,-10,6,4, allowing him to return to his greatly appreciated help at the desk.
Chen Qiming won Under 2150 ($150), 7,7,-10,-9,4 over Arsha Kuds ($75), whose comeback from down 0-2 in games fell short. But Kuds then surprised everyone by making the quarterfinals of the Open with wins over Hung Duy Vo and Lixin Lang. Both finalists did Houdini comebacks in the semifinals, with Chen coming back against Lilly Lin, -5,-8,7,11,6, and Kuds against Richard Bowling, -9,-7,6,9,6.
The semifinals of Under 2000 was a battle of experienced veterans against aspiring juniors, with the veterans prevailing in five as Mahesh Balagangadhar defeated Jason Wei (14), 5,-7,5,-6,8, and Gordon Gregg defeated Amy Lu (U.S. #3 Under 12 girl at 1852), 4,-8,7,-7,9. In the final, it was Balagangadhar ($100) over Gregg ($50) with his Seemiller grip variation that seems to give junior players so much trouble.
Mohamed Kamara won $80 by defeating Princess Ke ($40 for the U.S. #4 Under 12 girl at 1821 until she turned 12 in August) in the final of Under 1850, -9,6,11,-9,6.
Timothy La, with his two-winged smashing game, seems to like to go five games. This month he changed the trend from last month (where he kept losing five-gamers), to prevailing deuce in the fifth, defeating David Goldstein in the Under 1600 final, -8,7,4,-8,11, and stopping Alexander Beaulieu's comeback in the semifinals, 8,9,-9,-12,12. In the other semifinal, Goldstein defeated Kyle Wang, 3,-8,4,9, to the great relief of the control desk, since Kyle was holding up many matches by making the semifinals here, and also...
...winning Under 1350 over Michael Zangwill, 7,7,11. Kyle, 13, had a semifinal battle with Daniel Yang (12), -9,4,9,-4,6, while Zangwill defeated an exhausted Ken Chia in the other semifinals, 4,4,2. Why was Ken Chia exhausted?
Leon Bi won Under 1100, exhausting the inexhaustible Ken Chia in the final, 5,8,6. Leon, however, could only lament how he'd been in a three-way tie to advance out of both his Under 1350 and Under 1600 round robins, only to finish in third each time by a single game as two advanced. Not bad for a 12-year-old with a rating of 637 before a full summer of training!
Special thanks goes to tournament sponsors Butterfly and Llewellyn Realtor James Wu.
(NOTE - Click on the names below for a photo of the finalists, or all four semifinalists in the Open.)
Open - Final: Wang Qing Liang d. Chen Bo Wen, -9,10,-9,7,8,5; SF: Wang d. Richard Lee, 11,10,7,8; Chen d. Larry Bass, -9,4,5,4,10; QF: Wang d. Richard Doverman, 4,10,9; Lee d. Nathan Hsu, 6,6,6; Abass d. Raghu Nadmichettu, 6,6,8; Chen d. Arsha Kuds, 8,17.
Under 2300 - Final: Hung Duy Vo d. Nasruddin Asgarali, -8,11,6,8; SF: Vo d. Roy Ke, 7,7,-7,5; Asgarali d. Lixin Lang, 8,-10,6,4.
Under 2150 - Final: Chen Qiming d. Arsha Kuds, 7,7,-10,-9,4; SF: Chen d. Lilly Lin, -5,-8,7,11,6; Kuds d. Richard Bowling, -9,-7,6,9,6.
Under 2000 - Final: Mahesh Balagangadhar d. Gordon Gregg, 10,8,-10,8; SF: Balagangadhar d. Jason Wei, 5,-7,5,-6,8; Gregg d. Amy Lu, 4,-8,7,-7,9.
Under 1850 - Final: Mohamed Kamara d. Princess Ke, -9,6,11,-9,6; SF: Kamara d. Mort Greenberg, 9,4,11; Ke d. Tony Li, 8,4,3.
Under 1600 - Final: Timothy La d. David Goldstein, -8,7,4,-8,11; SF: La d. Alexander Beaulieu, 8,9,-9,-12,12; Goldstein d. Kyle Wang, 3,-8,4,9.
Under 1350 - Final: Kyle Wang d. Michael Zangwill, 7,7,11; SF: Wang d. Daniel Yang, -9,4,9,-4,6; Zangwill d. Ken Chia, 4,4,2.
Under 1100 - Final: Leon Bi d. Ken Chia, 5,8,6; SF: Bi d. Douglas Harley, 2,7,7; Chia d. Michael Borek, -4,8,-7,7,4.
The European Championships, though of course somewhat upstaged by the MDTTC Open, were held this weekend in Herning, Denmark. Timo Boll of Germany won Men's Singles for the sixth time, this time over surprise finalist Ruiwu Tan of Croatia, while Viktoria Pavlovich of Belarus won Women's Singles for the second time, over Yi Fang Xian of France. Here are ITTF articles on it, and here's the home page for the event, with complete results.
Simple Tactical Advice
"Tactics isn't about finding complex strategies to defeat an opponent. Tactics is about sifting through all the zillions of possible tactics and finding a few simple ones that work." This is the advice I regularly give. I've expanded on this in my upcoming book, "Table Tennis Tactics: A Thinker's Guide," which will be out in December.
Rajul Sheth for Silicon Valley Entrepreneurship of the Year Award
He's one of the nine nominees - go here to vote!!! The awards will be presented on Nov. 18. Here's a description of the award: "Silicon Valley Awards 2012 'Making a Difference' is all about the people who live in Silicon Valley and who make a difference in one way or another to help the Valley grow and become a better and richer place, culturally and professionally. The objective of the SVA 2012 'Making a Difference,' is to recognize these individuals in Silicon Valley who epitomize the Silicon Valley culture, its philosophy; these people work in a way which creates successful endeavors.
ITTF Coaching Seminars in India
Here's another ITTF article about the last of the three ITTF Coaching Seminars run in India by USATT Coaching Chair Richard McAfee.
Pongcast Episode 17
Here's their latest video (12:07), this time showcasing the 2012 China National Championships and the 2012-2013 Chinese Super League. (Did you know the Chinese Super League was originally put together by Xu Huazhang, the former Chinese National Team Member who lived in the U.S. for much of the 1990s, at one point achieving a rating of 2777? He lived and trained at MDTTC, and shared a house with me for two years.)
The Lord of the Ping?
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Tip of the Week
A Commuting Weekend - Table Tennis and SF
I spent the weekend shuttling back and forth between coaching at the Maryland Table Tennis Center and being a panelist at the annual Capclave Science Fiction Convention. By great luck (or was it?), Capclave was held at the Hilton in Gaithersburg, about five minutes from MDTTC. I managed to cancel or postpone some coaching that conflicted with panels at Capclave. By simple good luck, my morning coaching on Saturday and Sunday were with beginners, meaning I didn't get all sweaty and so was able to just change into normal clothes and rush over to Capclave. So here's how my weekend went. (Panels are usually one-hour affairs where 3-5 writers or others talk about a topic in front of an audience.) Here's my online Capclave Bio - note the table tennis ice cube mention!
Panelists are allowed to display their books, and so I displayed on a mini-bookstand in front of me my collection of SF & Fantasy stories, "Pings and Pongs," and explained the title pertained to my table tennis background - which usually brought a few questions.
I'm normally in a 5-7 PM Elite Junior session, but I was able to get out of it. I was in one Capclave panel, on "Comic Relief" (in science fiction), from 4-5PM. Here's a picture of the panel - L-R: Me, Lawrence Schoen, Doug Fratz, and James Maxey. We talked a lot about the comic relief in "The Big Four" (Star Wars, Star Trek, Harry Potter, and The Hobbit/Lord of the Rings), and other humorous characters. The rest of the night I attended other panels and toured the Dealer's Room, with its extensive number of booths selling books and other SF & fantasy items.
I coached a junior class from 10:30AM - Noon, then changed, ate a quick lunch, and rushed over to Capclave for my 1-2 PM panel, "21st Classics," which was on what books since 2000 will become classics, and why. (Lots of nominations!) Then I rushed back to MDTTC, changed back to my TT clothes, and coached from 2:30-4:30. (In that session we did a lot of the improvised multiball drill I describe in this week's Tip of the Week - see above.) Then I went home, let my dog out and fed her, showered, and was back that night for a few panels, including my own late-night one from 11-12PM, "Shortest Fiction," which was on flash stories (under 1000 words) and twitter stories (under 140 characters or less). Here's a twitter story I wrote and sold: "Droid for sale. Minor space damage, memory wiped. Pesky hologram feature disabled."
Sunday morning I coached a beginning 7-year-old from 10-11AM, and watched him make a big breakthrough when he hit 45 backhands in a row (live, not multiball). Then I changed, ate, and rushed over to Capclave for my 12-1PM panel, "My First Time," about the first SF and fantasy books we read and how they brought us into the world of SF and fantasy reading and writing. (For me, it was three very specific books. For SF, it was "The Forgotten Door." For fantasy, it was "The Ghost of Dibble Hollow." For horror, it was "The House on the Square," a short story in "Chilling Stories from the Twilight Zone.") Then I went back to MDTTC to coach from 3-7PM. I finished off the day eating a late dinner while watching the third season premier of "The Walking Dead" on TV.
Ginny's...Where East Meets West
The television program "Ginny's...Where East Meets West" did a 30-minute feature on Maryland table tennis recently, where they interviewed Wen Hsu (MDTTC officer and Nathan Hsu's mom), Barbara Wei (former member of U.S. Junior Girl's Team), and Nathan Hsu (2011 U.S. Junior Olympic Under 16 Boys' Gold Medalist). The show is about the intersection of the East (i.e. table tennis) and the West (i.e. table tennis in the U.S.). Yes, it's in English!
ITTF Coaching Seminar #2 in India
2012 Chinese National Championships
So who was in the final of the Chinese Men's Singles Championships that finished yesterday? World #1 Zhang Jike? World #2 Ma Long? World #3 Xu Xin? World #4 Wang Hao? World #5 Timo Boll? (No wait, he's from Germany!) World #6 Ma Lin? World #9 Wang Liqin? World 14 Hao Shuai? World #16 Chen Qi?
None of the above. After they were all eliminated, the two left standing, and showing the depth of Chinese table tennis, were Fang Bo (world #69) and Zhou Yu (world #85). Here's the shortened video of the final (12:14), with Zhou winning 4-1.
Here's a picture of Czech star Dana Hadacova (world #97, #86 in July) playing ping-pong on a mini table at her wedding with her new husband. Anyone know who the husband is? (My quick googling didn't find anything.) She seems to go by two last names, Hadacova and Cechova (which is how the ITTF lists her) so presumably one was her previous name, and the latter is the name she took on after marrying. (Here's her official home page.)
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