Backspin serve

September 29, 2014

Tip of the Week

Improvised Games.

Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis Books

As long-time readers here know, about once a year USATT Historian/Hall of Famer/Legend Tim Boggan moves in with me for 10-12 days, where I do the page layouts and photo work for his U.S. Table Tennis history books. (Most of the photos come from Mal Anderson, who fixes them up before sending them to me.)

We did Volume 14 back in February, and I wasn't expecting him back until next year. But dang it, Tim, he went and got Volume 15 done in record time. And so he's moving in with me tomorrow. As usual, he'll live in my office/lounge, sleeping on my sofa. Also as usual, he'll be going to bed every night about 8PM and getting up around 3AM, and then impatiently waiting for me while he does more editing and planning on the day's pages. I'll be getting up extra early during his stay since I have to get this blog done first, though I'll be doing most of it the night before during his stay. We'll probably start around 7AM and work until 2:30 PM, which is when I have to leave Mon-Fri to pick up kids and coach/tutor in the MDTTC afterschool program. Weekends are tricky due to my coaching hours, but I'm mostly free now on Saturdays, but have a very busy Sunday schedule. If all goes well, we'll finish by Friday, Oct. 10. (I plan to spend much of Oct. 10-11 at the Capclave Science Fiction Convention that's held locally. I'm a panelist - here's the bio they have for me. )

The complicating factor is that I'll be getting up extra early, working all day with Tim, then doing the afterschool program and (on most days) staying on afterwards for private and group coaching, then returning home to do the blog - and then it'll be time to go to bed and start over in the night. These are going to be some long days.

Meanwhile, here's your chance to support Tim by buying one or more of his books. How can you call yourself a table tennis player if you don't have some of these? You could, of course, buy all 14. Currently there's no discount listed, but if interested in this email me and I'm sure Tim will give you a discount. Or pick and choose the years you are most interested in - see listing below. (The quotes are from the covers of each volume.) Volume 5: 1971-1972, the Ping-Pong Diplomacy Years, is especially popular. Or pick the years that cover when you started out or had events of interest to you.

You can buy the books or find more info on the Tim Boggan Table Tennis Page. (I created and maintain this for Tim. The link to the 1996 interview is no longer valid - I'm working to have that fixed.) At that page you can also see the covers, find reviews of the books, and see the number of pages and photos in each. I also maintain the Amazon pages where you can buy the books online, linked from his page and below (or you can buy them directly from Tim) - so if you buy them on Amazon, I can actually see the sales as they happen! (No, I don't see names, just the fact that someone bought them.) I'm hoping to show a bunch of sales for Tim tomorrow - so Buy Now!!!

  1. Volume 1: 1928-1939. "The Formative Years: If Only the Public Can See."
  2. Volume 2: 1940- 1952. "The War Years: Some USTTA Victories, But the 'Wounded Soldier Needs a Blood Transfusion.'"
  3. Volume 3: 1953-1962. "The Early Sponge Years: 'Standardization Through Evolution': 'The Only Natural And Healthy Way For The Sport To Be Regulated.'"
  4. Volume 4: 1963-1970. "The Stagnant Years: Unless our USTTA E.C. 'can clearly see the desires of the players they represent,' there will be no progress."
  5. Volume 5: 1971-1972. "The 'Ping-Pong Diplomacy' Years: "…please, write the truth as best you can. Or at least the little lies that are true.'"
  6. Volume 6: 1970-1973. "The Resurgent Years: 'going to the World's for the first time is…like a first romance, seeing 'Space Odyssey,' [or having]…a religious revelation.'"
  7. Volume 7: 1973-1975. "Hear [at the U.S. Open] the audience participation is genuinely enthusiastic, unmotivated by anything else but the Sport itself. Here people breathe with the ball."
  8. Volume 8: 1975-1977. "Many an average player just doesn't get it. The gulf between amateur and professional, the conceptual difference between them, is too new, too great."
  9. Volume 9: 1977-1979. "Thanks to the major table tennis manufacturers…enough funds have been raised to make the USTTA dream of having an executive director, staff, and permanent home come true."
  10. Volume 10: 1979-1981. "Just bringing these young hopefuls together to compete against one another here at the Olympic Training Center makes them want to excel even more."
  11. Volume 11: 1981-1982. "Everyone expects service from USATT, but the Sport won't make any progress in 20 years if we don't get good results from the National Team."
  12. Volume 12: 1983. "The USTTA must send their young promising player, with coaches, to international events. Let them see and play others so they know what to expect."
  13. Volume 13: 1984. "Young or old, novice or expert, the USATT/OTC camps can help you improve your game, physical fitness, and mental attitude."
  14. Volume 14: 1985-1986. "1985 saw Insook sharing some of her long-time tenacity with Diana; and Sean and Jimmy emerging as new history-making champions."
  15. Coming Soon: Volume 15: 1987-1988

European Team Championships

The event finished yesterday. Portugal upsets Germany in Men's Final, ending Germany's run of six men's titles in a row. But Germany won the Women's for the second year in a row, defeating Austria in the final. Here's the ITTF page for the event, with articles, video, pictures, and of course complete results. Here's the Men's Team article from TableTennista with video of the Men's final matches. Here's Women's Team article from TableTennista. Here's a video (2:54) showing the Top Ten Rallies of the Championships.

Asian Games

Here's the ITTF Page for the event, which takes place in Incheon, KOR, Sept. 27 - Oct. 10. There are already a number of articles on the event at TableTennista.

Article on Me I Didn't Know About

Here's a nice article about me from four years ago - but I don't think I even knew about it! I discovered it while browsing a few days ago. Wow, that Larry guy sure knows his stuff! It focuses more on my writing than on my coaching. A few updates - I'm now up to over 1500 published articles in over 140 different publications, and I recently sold my 71st science fiction or fantasy story. I also got another USATT/USOC Coach of the Year Award, the 2013 Doc Counsilman Science Coaching Award.

Effective Training

Here's the new coaching video (6:43) from Pingskills.

Backspin Serve - Like a Boss

Here's a video (9:35) that uses a number of creative ways to learn and practice the backspin serve.

Footwork Training in China

Here's a video (3:37) showing some kids doing footwork drills in China. Not much different than what's done at training centers in the U.S.

Nathan Hsu in China

Here's his latest video blog (2:33). It's short and no table tennis in this one, but you meet his grandparents and see a lot of Hong Kong. Links to previous ones are on right.

Muppet Show - Swedish Chef and Ping Pong Ball Eggs

Here's the video (2:57). The ping-pong balls first show up 49 sec in, though you don't really know this until the chef bounces it 55 sec in.

"Stop War" - Play More Table Tennis

Here's the picture - Go Pedro!

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October 28, 2011

Werner Schlager on Talent

2003 World Men's Singles Champion Werner Schlager of Austria recently made a surprise appearance on the about.com table tennis forum. While explaining how Germany's Timo Boll (European #1, world #2) did something so well, he wrote, "I can assure you, there is only one 'magic' behind it: a little talent and many of years of practice." When asked to elaborate on the subject of talent, this is what he wrote:

"Imagine you are born with a double resolution of your eyes retina. You can see with more detail than others. Any exercise regarding reading, searching, etc. is somehow easy for you. But: Probably you wouldn't even realize that you have that gift. Because for you it is NORMAL.

"And this is why i see my gift (far more unspectacular than double resolution retinas, lol) also as "not so special". Probably it is very special to others, but i couldn't even describe you my talent. Is it logical thinking? Is it body movement sensitivity? Is it vision? Is it creativity? Is it my low muscle tension? Hmmm- most likely a little bit of all the things i just mentioned...that is why i stated: 'a little bit of talent' ;)

"But i somehow still believe everybody can play as good as i do- or better. And every time somebody fails, i scratch my head and almost can't believe it.

"Because for me it is easy and normal."

Jun Mizutani's backspin serve

They call it his "ghost serve," but it's just heavy backspin. The video shows how he does it in just 55 seconds. (One thing you can't see very well in the video is that he contacts the ball near the tip, where the racket is moving fastest, thereby creating the most spin.) Here are two tips.

First, while it's good practice to create a backspin serve that's so spinny and short that it bounces back into the net, you generally have to serve slightly high to do so, as Mizutani does here. It's more effective to serve it lower, and so that the second bounce (given the chance) is near the end-line, with more forward motion so that it doesn't bounce backward despite the extreme backspin. The serve Mizutani is doing is more for show, and is easier to return than one that goes deeper, faster, and lower.

Second, learn to do this serve where you also contact the ball near the handle, but with the same vigorous motion you use to produce heavy backspin by contacting the ball toward the tip. Then you'll be able to create heavy backspin and "heavy no-spin" with the same motion, which will confuse your opponent and lead to many missed or popped-up returns. ("Heavy no-spin," where you use a big serving motion but serve with no spin, is my favorite table tennis term.)

Zhang Jike loop

Here's world champion Zhang Jike's loop against a chopper (2:20).

High rating ambitions

Every year at about this time I'm always struck by the number of players using the "Team Finder" page for the North American Teams Championships to try to get on a much higher-rated team than their own rating. Personally, I'd feel rather awkward about trying to team up with players rated much higher. I'm sure every one of these players would argue that they are under-rated. (If they were over-rated, would they be looking for lower-rated teammates?) I've cut & pasted some of the ratings and messages there.

  • 500: I'm looking for a team rated in the 500-1300 range.
  • 1287: I am underrated and play as if I'm rated 2100.
  • 1635: We are looking for three players 1700 to 1850. Call me or email.
  • 1650: looking to join a team around 1700-1850 rating
  • 1700: Looking for a team with players ranging from 1750-1900.
  • 1884: Im looking for a syrong team who hace a rating between 1900- 2100
  • 1948: I'm looking to join a team with 2 players over 2000.
  • 2145: LOOKING FOR A TEAM 2300 LEVEL
  • 2236: Want a team with ratings above 2400 as that was my rating before.

Jackie Chan table tennis commercial

Here's a 30-second 2007 Visa commercial starring Jackie Chan as he tries to get it to the Beijing Olympics in 2008 by making the Olympic Team. He ends up using his Visa card instead.

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September 6, 2011

Better shots = Win More?

Not always right away. Every year about this time lots of junior players have just finished a summer of training, either locally or often overseas, most often in China. (We had eight juniors from Maryland Table Tennis Center training in China this summer.) They all now have better shots, some devastatingly so. I watched a couple of them after they returned, and got this deep-down tingling of fear - I have to face that on the table soon!

And yet, when they go out to play, while they dominate the rallies, and do one "woh!" shot after another, their results often are no better than before, or even worse. The problem is that while they have better shots, they are not yet experienced in how to use those better shots. For example, if they now have a much more powerful forehand loop, they may use it more - and end up missing off serves that they would have returned more passively (and consistently) before. In rallies the may be able to pull off shots that they couldn't do before - but they are also missing shots that they may not have tried before. And then uncertainty sets in - they aren't sure when to use what shots, and so they spiral downward. (As an experienced player and coach, I know exactly how tactically to play into this uncertainty. Do you? Hint - lots of variation. Actually, that's pretty much the whole answer.)

It can be pretty disappointing for a player to do all that training, develop these better shots, and seem to have nothing to show for it!

But the good news is that this is temporary. They just need match experience, and soon they will become the terrors that their shots already are.

This applies not just to juniors but to all players who train and improve. It's like an archer who is handed a high-powered rifle for the first time. He has a much better weapon, but he probably needs to learn how to use the thing first. When he does, watch out!

USATT Coaching Chair Richard McAfee teaches heavy backspin

Here's a video (9:44) of Richard McAfee teaching what I call the scooping method of serving heavy backspin. Most players try to serve backspin by stroking down, when they should be stroking up. Don't believe it? See the video. And note that the contact point is toward the front of the ball as the racket goes under the ball. Here's a general rule: beginning players mostly contact the ball above the ball's equator. Intermediate players mostly contact the ball around the ball's equator. Advanced players mostly contact the ball well below the ball's equator, near the south pole. Are you a south pole server?

USATT Coaching Chair Richard McAfee teaches an ITTF Coaching Seminar

Yes, here's Richard again, teaching an ITTF Coaching Seminar at the Lily Yip Table Tennis Center in New Jersey (31:14).

USATT Coaching Chair Richard McAfee in another headline

Because I like to do things in threes. Because I like to do things in threes. Because I like to do things in threes.

USA Nationals and North American Teams

Yep, it's time to start thinking about attending the USA Nationals, Dec. 13-17 in Virginia Beach, VA. Will you be there? The other huge upcoming USA tournament is the North American Teams, Nov. 25-27 in Baltimore, MD. Both of these tournaments will have in the range of 700-800 players. It so happens that for the first time probably ever, both tournaments are on the east coast, and in fact just a three-hour drive apart. So this is a rare "two-for" opportunity for many on the east coast - we can all become road warriors and drive to these tournaments, along with the many others held on the east coast. Of course, there are plenty of tournaments in other regions as well, including some big ones.

My tentative fall tournament schedule

I expect to be at the following tournaments. I'll only be coaching at them, except for the Millcreek Open and the USA Nationals, where I'll also probably play in the hardbat events. (I normally use sponge.)

  • Sept. 10-11, MDTTC Open, MD
  • Sept. 24-25, Lily Yip Open, NJ
  • Oct. 8-9, Westchester Open, NY
  • Oct. 15-16, MDTTC Open, MD
  • Oct. 22, Millcreek Open, PA
  • Nov. 5, Two-Tier Giant RR in Lancaster, PA
  • Nov. 25-27, North American Teams, MD
  • Dec. 3-4, Potomac Open, MD
  • Dec. 13-17, USA Nationals, VA

New table tennis tables

I have no idea how to play on these tables. After 35 years of playing and over 30 years of coaching, I'm stumped.

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