Tip of the Week
Two Weeks in a Desk
I'm still fighting off the cold I've had the last two days. However, I was already out of shape before I caught it.
The two weeks working on Tim's History of U.S. Table Tennis, Vol. XIII, left me way, way out of shape. Sitting at a desk 12-16 hours/day for two weeks can do that to you. On Saturday, after coaching all day (arriving at the club at 10AM), I was a practice partner for a 4:30-6:30 match session. By this point I was exhausted as well as out of shape and stiff as neutronium. I was also probably tired from the early stages of the cold I would not realize I had until the next day.
Yet, by playing sound tactics, I was able to beat a 2300 player, and mow down a whole bunch of 1800-2000 players all 3-0. Here's a summary of tactics I used to make up for slow feet, an erratic forehand, and general exhaustion.
USA Team to the Worlds
Here's USATT's official announcement of the USA Team to the World Championships coming up in Paris, May 13-20. (Peter Li qualified for the fourth unfunded spot on the Men's Team, but turned it down. The fifth spots were coach's picks - Chodri and Lin.)
ITTF Education Platform
Here's the page - "the new learning platform for the International Table Tennis Federation."
Ping-Pong: Head Game
Here's an article in the New York Times on table tennis this past weekend. The author writes, "This is not the kids’ game I grew up playing in my dorm at school."
Here's the home page for the Qatar Open that was played this weekend, with results, articles, and pictures. Here's a video (8:24, with time between points removed) of the all-Chinese Men's Final between Ma Long and An Yan. Here's a video (6:23, also with time between points removed) of the all-Chinese Women's Final between Ding Ning and Liu Shiwen.
Zhang Jike: Fully Recovered?
Here's an article on Zhang Jike's recovery from a series of poor performances.
Interview with Joo Saehyuk
Here's an interview with the South Korean defensive star.
New York City Table Tennis Academy
Here's a video (4:26) featuring the NYCTTA and Coach Ernesto Ebuen.
Wang Liqin Tricks
Here's an article on Wang Liqin, which includes a 21-second video of him doing table tennis tricks, including showing how tacky his rubber is. (It holds the ball upside-down.)
World's Perfect Vacation?
Here's beach table tennis.
Send us your own coaching news!
Tip of the Week
Here are two examples of tactics used in matches this past weekend.
Last Thursday I wrote about a chopper who had spent much of the last year learning to forehand loop, going from an almost exclusively defensive chopper to having a very aggressive forehand. This weekend it paid dividends for him - well, almost. I usually eat choppers alive, but he wasn't really a "chopper" this match, as he kept attacking. The score went to 9-all in the fifth before I won the last two points. The key to what made him so difficult to play wasn't just his attacking; it was the threat of attacking. Besides his usually defensive play, he won points with his attack three ways:
The problem I had with his forehand counterloop is that it would catch me close to the table, and so I'd almost always block it. (I tried looping into his middle and wide forehand, but he ran them all down to counterloop over and over.) Then he'd swoop in and keep looping, and I'd usually end up fishing and lobbing. At 9-all in the fifth, he suddenly counterlooped - and I counterlooped off the bounce for a winner, a shot I used to be good at, but that I don't do nearly as often anymore. I may have to go for that shot more against him. Or I might work on dead-blocking the ball. I also probably need to go after his middle more in my first loop, where he's not as ready to counterloop. As it was, I was somewhat lucky to pull off that shot at 9-all, and could easily have lost this match.
In another match I played a really good two-winged hitter who, until now, simply couldn't return my serves. However, we've played a lot recently, and for the first time ever he did a decent job of returning my serves, and once in a rally, could hit really well. At this point I'd been at the club coaching and playing for eight hours, and I found myself unable to go through him with my attack, nor could I outlast him in rallies since I was too soft against his strong hitting due to exhaustion. (I had just finished playing the extremely tiring 11-9 in the fifth match against the chopper - see above.) After losing the first game - the first game I'd ever lost to him - I went to a simple strategy of pushing or chopping his serves back as heavy as I could. He had a nice hitting game, and could loop against normal backspins, but against these ginzo backspins, he fell apart. When he did manage to lift one up, it was too soft and usually short, so even exhausted I could smash them or block them hard to his middle. I won the next three games. The key was to commit to the heavy backspins so I knew in advance I would be doing them, and so could really load them up and control them.
More tactical examples coming tomorrow.
Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers - Kindle Situation
I should have the proof version of the print version tomorrow. I'm already planning a few changes, so after I check to make sure everything's coming out (I already wrote that I'm worried about the photo resolution), I'll upload the "final" version. It should be available a few days after that.
USA Team Trials
They start in three days, Thur-Sun, Feb. 7-10, at the Top Spin Club in San Jose, CA. They had a press conference on Saturday. Here are pictures and other info on the Trials. And here is the USATT's info page on the Trials.
Bojan Tokic Interview
Here's an interview with Bojan Tokic of Slovenia, world #25. Includes video.
The Awesomeness in Table Tennis
Here's a new highlights video (8:40).
Wang Liqin vs. Xu Xin
Here's video (3:59) of for world #1 Wang Liqin's incredible comeback from down 0-8 and 3-10 against world #1 Xu Xin at the 2013 Chinese team trials.
Table Tennis in Lagos
Here's two kids in Lagos playing table tennis using an old door balanced on stools as their table. Remember this next time you complain about your playing conditions!
The Table Tennis Collector
Here's issue #67 of The Table Tennis Collector. Here's what Editor and ITTF Museum Curator Chuck Hoey says about it:
I am pleased to announce the publication of issue number 67 in the Table Tennis Collector series. This is the 20th year of publication, beginning with 16 pages in black & white, and evolving to a 50-page issue in full color, free to all.
Many interesting articles in this issue, and a special report on missing World Championship scores that are needed to complete the historical record - please help!
Special thanks to our many contributors for sharing their research, including Alan Duke, Steve Grant, Fabio Marcotulli, Jorge Arango and John Ruderham, and our dedicated phiatelic collectors, Hans-Peter Trautmann, Winfried Engelbrecht, Tang Ganxian and Marc Templereau.
The pdf download is 10MB in size, so please allow extra time for the download to complete. This is a direct link: http://www.ittf.com/museum/TTC67.pdf
This issue, along with the entire series, can be accessed via my website: www.ittf.com/museum
Click the TT Collector icon and then select an issue to view.
Hope you enjoy the new issue. As always, constructive feedback is welcome.
Best wishes from Switzerland.
Curator, ITTF Museum
Xu Xin Multiball
Here's video (37 sec) of world #1 Xu Xin doing multiball. See if you can match him!
Xu Xin and Ma Long Fooling Around
Here video (41 sec) of the current #1 and #3 players in the world goofing off. See if you can match their tricks! (Xu is the penholder, who starts out on the near side.)
Send us your own coaching news!
The Schools Petition
Hopefully by now you're one of the 951 people who have signed the petition to "Include and recognize the sport of Table Tennis Aka 'Ping Pong' as part of a school's athletic curriculum of choice." I first blogged about this back on Dec. 13 the day after it was created by the enterprising Joel Mitchell (and I was the fifth person to sign), and I blogged about it again on Jan. 4 (Friday). It's now featured on the USATT home page. I think it's great that we're working together on this.
Unfortunately, to get a response from the White House we need at least 25,000 signatures by Jan. 11, which is this Friday. We're only 24,049 away!!! (And in the time it took me to write this blog, we got two more signatures - we're up to 953!)
So let's be honest; unless someone famous (hi Susan Sarandon) gets this on some extremely watched TV show, we're not going to get those 24,000+ signatures in the next three days. But suppose we did? Are schools really the answer?
Schools are Not the Answer (Not Yet)
I would argue that schools may be Step Two in developing our sport, but not Step One. And we're a long way from even getting started on Step One, which is to develop the sport ourselves so the schools will be interested in taking us to the next level. Sure, someone might put together a school league or club, but the key is that one of us - a table tennis person - has to do it, not the school itself. They are quite willing to make use of the few people we have who can do this. But until we show them table tennis is a growing sport that everyone else is doing, they won't jump on the bandwagon. In other words, schools are not the way to go until we are a larger sport. The way to grow junior table tennis in the country is through club programs, as is done all over Europe. Here are the problems with going through the schools, in no particular order:
1. School systems are not interested in adopting a small sport and making it big. That's our job. When we are a bigger sport, then they will be interested.
2. School systems are not interested in adopting a relatively expensive sport like table tennis (tables, nets, rackets, balls, constantly breaking and needing replacement, lots of storage space needed for tables) unless the sport is already popular. They can toss the kids a soccer ball, basketball, etc., and it's easier and cheaper, and they already have facilities for these and other large sports.
3. No sport in the U.S. has ever gotten big through schools, although a number of big sports got bigger because of schools. (Lacrosse got big through colleges, but they are the exception, and we're talking about high school, middle school, and elementary school here.)
4. Table tennis has not gotten big through schools in any country in the world, except for communist countries like China where the leaders (like Chairman Mao in China) ordained it the national sport. (And Obama doesn't have that authority.) Worldwide, and especially in Europe, players start out in junior programs at local clubs, according to Stellan Bengtsson, Jorgen Persson, and dozens of others I've spoken with over the years. Every player and coach from Europe I've spoken to says the same thing. In the countries in Europe where table tennis has gotten big, there are school teams, but they are relatively unimportant there, since most of the players train at local clubs, where there's a professional coach and players from local schools, instead of just one school. Stellan said he didn't think a single member of the Swedish team started out at a school or ever trained seriously at one, unless it was part of a table tennis club separate from the school.
5. The best we can do with schools is set up some ping-pong clubs, but few are going to fund a real coach. So while the kids play ping-pong, it's just a game like Parcheesi to them. They don't take it seriously and they rarely if ever join USATT.
USATT has a long history of sending coaches to train teachers at large Physical Education Symposiums, but little ever comes of it. The teachers simply don't go back to their schools determined to set up serious junior programs. They go back and sometimes set up tables for a few sessions in PE, where the kids just play games.
At first thought, schools seem like a great way to grow the sport, and it looks good to the membership (so those who are big on going to the schools get elected), and so generation after generation of USATT board members have made schools a priority. The return on investment is incredibly small. (The old argument is often made, "It's better than nothing." If we are thinking small and want to stay small, then this is the way to go.)
This is one of those frustrating things through the years as we so often try to get someone else to fix our problems, i.e. hoping the schools will make us big, or Bill Gates or some other big sponsor will fund us, etc. We have to build our sport from inside before schools and large sponsors will be interested.
The key to junior development - both elite and grassroots (i.e. large numbers) - is to recruit and train coaches to set up and run junior programs, something that is done in successful table tennis countries all over the world.
Keep in mind that the goal is junior development. Schools and club programs are merely a means to this end. Too often people get attached to the means to the end rather than the end itself, and so we never reach the goal. Developing junior programs at clubs will raise us to the next level, and then we can approach school systems, and they will take us seriously. Then they can take us to an even higher level. But we have to do the groundwork first, like every other sport that got successful.
USATT Board Election Status & Update
Here's a notice from USATT on changes on the USATT Board.
The USATT Athletes Advisory Council recently held an election and as a result Han Xiao was elected to serve on the U.S. Olympic Committee’s Athlete Advisory Council replacing Ashu Jain and Para athlete Edward Levy was elected to serve as the second Athlete Rep on the USATT Board of Directors. The National Collegiate Table Tennis Association recently informed USATT that Kagin Lee will serve as their representative on the USATT Board of Directors. Kagin replaces David Del Vecchio in this capacity. The Nominating and Governance Committee met in late 2012 and as a result voted that Anne Cribbs and Peter Scudner should continue to serve as Independent Directors on the USATT Board of Directors. The one remaining Board seat to be filled is currently in a membership wide election that will conclude on Jan 21, 2013. The announcement of that election result and the posting of the complete composition of the Board of Directors for the next two year term will be made on February 4, 2013.
At this time we would like to extend our heartfelt gratitude to Ashu Jain and David Del Vecchio for their outstanding contributions to the governance process of USATT through their service as Board Members for the last two terms. Thank you, Ashu and thank you, David!
Xu Xin New #1
Here are the new ITTF world rankings. Zhang Jike and Ma Long have been trading back and forth for a while as the #1 man in the world, but now there's a new gun in town. Yes, they are all Chinese, as is #4 Wang Hao, #6 Ma Lin, #7 "sort of Chinese" Chuang Chih-Yuan of Taiwan, and #9 Wang Liqin. But Germany's up there, with #5 Timo Boll and #8 Dimitrij Ovtcharov. On the women's side, the top four are also Chinese, with Ding Ning #1 for the 15th consecutive month.
USA doesn't have anyone in the top 100 in Men's rankings, but has three players in the top 100 in the women's - #76 Gao Jun, #88 Arial Hsing, and #96 Lily Zhang. USA is ranked #47 and #16 in Men's and Women's Team World Rankings.
USA is pretty strong in girls' top 100 rankings. In Under 21 Women, USA has #19 Ariel Hsing and #23 Lily Zhang. In Under 18 Girls, USA has a strong showing: #5 Ariel Hsing, #6 Lily Zhang, and #61 Prachi Jha. In Under 15 Girls, USA has #48 Diane Jiang, #54 Tina Lin, #69 Angela Guan, #75 Joy Lin, and #77 Crystal Wang. (Crystal is only 10, and is from my club, MDTTC.) In the Under 18 Girls' Team Rankings, USA is #4 after China, Japan, and Romania. (CORRECTION: As pointed out by Aaron Avery, USA is actually in a three-way tie for 2nd with Japan and Romania, but with the head-to-head tie-breaking system used by ITTF, they are #2. See the 2 in the left column - not sure why they have them listed fourth.)
We're not quite as strong on the boys' side. In Under 21 Men, USA has one ranked player - Wang Qing Liang, the chopper/looper from my club who made the semifinals of Men's Singles at last year's U.S. Open. In Under 18 Boys, he is also our only ranked player, at #37. We're a lot better in Under 15 Boys, with eight players: #33 Li Hangyu, #39 Kunal Chodri, #41 Kanak Jha, #55 Chen Bo Wen (from my club!), #63 Allen Wang, #68 Jonathan Ou, #75 Li Fengguang, and #99 Krishnateja ("Krish") Avvari. In Under 18 Boys' Team Rankings, USA is #35.
I recently discovered I now have over 1400 published articles! Total is 1405 in 138 different publications, including 1263 on table tennis. This does not include blog entries. (If I did, it would put me over 1900!) It does include the weekly Tip of the Week, which is published not only here but also as a news item in the Paddle Palace Blog.
Yesterday's Todo List
Remember all that stuff I had on my todo list yesterday? (See second item.) I got it all done except for finalizing the entry form for our upcoming MDTTC tournaments. (I'm redoing the scheduling.) I expect to do that this morning.
USA Paralympic Team
Here's info on the 2013 USA Paralympic Team Procedures.
First USA ITTF Level 2 Coach
Congrats to Jef Savage of The Table Tennis Centre of Mercersburg, PA, who this past week became the first USA coach to be certified as an ITTF Level 2 coach. (Here's a news item on it.) I've worked with him a bit, and did his five hours of "supervised" coaching. The irony is that although I'm a USATT Certified National Coach, I'm only an ITTF Level 1 Coach. I may go for Level 2 certification later this year. (I was one of the first two ITTF coaches in the U.S., along with Donn Olsen.)
Woman of the Year
Ariel Hsing was named Table Tennis Woman of the Year by Table Tennis Nation. Read about her great year!
From Hardball to Hardbat
Here's an article on Adoni Maropis and his rise from TV villain (the evil Abu Fayed from season six of "24") to table tennis prominence in the hardbat and sandpaper world.
Zhang Jike vs Wang Liqin
Here's a nice match (7:07) between the current world champion Zhang and the past 3-time champ (and still #9) Wang in the Chinese Super League. (Wang is on the near side at the start.) Time between points has been taken out, so it's non-stop action! What can you learn from this match?
2012 Through Our Paddles
Here's a look at the past year - through ping-pong paddle images!
Send us your own coaching news!
How to Deal with Beginners at a Club
This is a semi-regular topic at table tennis forums, so I thought I'd address it.
Believe it or not, I actually did a skit on this for the USA Table Tennis Board of Directors about 10-12 years ago. It was probably the only skit ever done during one of their live meetings - and you wonder why I can never convince them to do anything!!!
They were discussing how to increase membership, a perennial topic for discussion, but rarely one for action. The problem was that none of the people in the discussion had any serious experience at the club level, which of course is where you get new players. (I've been doing this for decades.) The question of increasing USATT membership and how to deal with beginners at a club really are the same thing. In both cases we are trying to convert non-serious players into serious players - which mostly means converting one of the 15 million or so recreational players into one of 9000 USATT members. (That's roughly a 1700-1 ratio; we aren't converting very well.)
There are three types of beginners. (I'll get to them in a minute.) I'd explained this to the board numerous times, but generally to deaf ears, often to people with strong opinions that are not based on hands-on experience. I needed to find a way to get their attention and show them what really happens at the club level, and how we can convert these three types of new players into USATT members. It was while sitting in that board meeting, listening to discussions on how to increase membership by people who didn't know how to, that I hit on the idea of a skit to get their attention.
So I raised my hand and asked if I could give a short presentation on the subject. Since, for once, they weren't in a rushed schedule - they'd put aside something like an hour for the discussion - they agreed. So I told them I was going to act out the three most common types of interactions with new players - and note that this was exactly the same in table tennis and tennis, except that in tennis (and other successful sports) they had learned to address the needs of these three types of new players.
The skit was in three parts. For each part I actually walked out the door, and then came in. I played the part of both the new player and the club officer.
Part 1: I came in and said, "Hi, I'm a new player and I'd like play somebody." Playing the part of the club officer, and knowing that new player usually means beginner, and knowing that if I put a beginner up against an advanced player he'd get killed and we'd likely never see him again, I told him about our leagues, where he'd play players his own level. He played in the league against players his level, met new players, made friends, and became a regular at the club and a USATT member.
Part 2: I came in and said, "Hi, I'm a beginner, and I'd like to learn how to play better." Playing the part of the club officer, I told him about our coaching programs for beginners, both group sessions and private coaching. He signed up, learned about the sport, met new players, made friends, and became a regular at the club and a USATT member.
Part 3: I came in, and using a woman's voice, said, "Hi, my two kids would like to play table tennis." Playing the part of the club officer, I told them about our junior program. They signed up, made friends, and became regulars at the club and USATT members. And one of them went on to become National Champion.
I then explained that if a club doesn't have programs for these three types, then we lose them. (I also explained there's also a fourth type - a very small minority - which is the crazy guy who comes in, loses badly to everyone, but sticks around and becomes a serious player. They are rare, and are the ones we currently rely on for our membership (along with players from overseas).Hence the 1700-1 ratio.
How do we address these needs? For the player looking to play (Part 1), the answer is leagues. Until we have a nationwide network of leagues for players of all levels, we will keep losing these players. For the player who wants to learn more and for kids, we need more coaches. In both cases, either USATT or someone else has to take the lead in setting up these leagues, and in recruiting and training coaches.
Table tennis has done this in countries all over the world, and other sports have done so in the U.S. and all over the world. As I've blogged in the past, in Europe, nearly every country has more members in their table tennis association than their tennis association - because they address the needs of the new player. In the U.S., USTA has over 700,000 members to our 9000 - about an 80-1 ratio. If table tennis addressed the needs of new players as tennis does, and as table tennis does elsewhere, then we'd also have 700,000 members or more. But it's not going to happen by talking about it. It'll happen when someone does something about it.
I may actually take the lead in the coaching aspect, i.e. recruiting and training coaches. I've been toying with it for a while, but I'm too busy right now. USATT doesn't seem to have interest in acting on these issues, at least right now.
Petition for Table Tennis in School Curriculums
Last month I posted about this petition. Here it is again! (I'm the fifth signee; they need 25,000 by Jan. 11, 2013.) The petition is to do the following:
Include and recognize the sport of Table Tennis Aka "Ping Pong" as part of a school's athletic curriculum of choice.
Table Tennis should be included as part of a school's athletic curriculum of choice to participate and play. The sport isn't only a recreational past time but also an Olympic sport. The sport is considered and recognized relevant by other cultures. The sport is cost effective, fights the obesity problem among young Americans, and is non discriminatory. The sport can be easily incorporated in a schools current athletic curriculum, and easily be taught. Tables should be put on all middle schools to encourage start up programs. There are plenty of qualified coaches in the United States that would love the opportunity to teach and coach this fast growing sport. Starting in middle schools will also identify talented kids and Olympic hopefuls. This is the way It's done in China and Europe.
Review of the New Plastic Ball
Part 2 (14:35) just went up of the Plastic Ball Review from OOAK Reviews, "High speed filming of tests to compare relative rebound speed, bounce and spin." (On Wednesday I linked to Part 1, "Why the change and a comparison of their physical appearance.") Here's their home page, which links to both videos. I'll post here when Part 3 goes up, "Players from our Premier Division who have different styles of play and use different types of equipment try out the three balls and give their opinions on them."
World Championship of Ping Pong
It's being held this weekend, in London - but this isn't the World Table Tennis Championships; this is a sandpaper event, with $100,000 in prize money!!! (That includes $20,000 to the winner.) Here's the home page. Good luck to USA players Ty Hoff, Adoni Maropis, and Ilija Lupulesku!
Corkscrew Spin and Google
So you want to know what corkscrew spin is? This is where the ball spins so that the axis of rotation points away from you. Here's an example of clockwise corkscrew spin: just cut & paste "Do a barrel roll" into a Google engine - for most of us, it's the default search engine so you can just put this in your regular search box, or you can go to Google directly - and there it is!
Wang Liqin vs. Ma Long
Here's a great match (12:05, with time between points removed) between these two in a 2012 China Super League match
Best Table Tennis Clips of the Year
Table Tennis Nation chose the three best table tennis clips of the year, and the grand champion from those three. Two of them are paralympic players!
Amazing Shots While Rolling Around on Ground
Here's the video (1:12).
Modern Age Meets the Stone Age
Here's an iPong robot on a cement table. There's something really wrong about this. It's like a caveman with a machine gun.
Table Tennis Fun with Kids and a Panda
Kids and a Panda show how fun table tennis is in this video from PingSkills (2:23).
Send us your own coaching news!
One of my beginning/intermediate students in a session yesterday kept pushing my topspin and sidespin serves, and of course they popped up or went off the end. This same junior is all over the ball in "normal" topspin rallies - he's primarily a hitter, though he loops against backspin. You'd think that he'd want these topspin and sidespin serves since he can use his regular forehand and backhand drives both to start and continue the rally, not to mention ending the point with his big forehand. Many players, especially juniors, are almost robotic (in a good way) once they get into a topspin rally, hitting and countering with ease as this is exactly what they do in most practice drills.
And yet, given the chance to immediately go into these comfortable topspin rallies, this student and many others choose to push the serve back. Why is this?
I believe it's the mindset when returning serves. They do get a lot of backspin serves, and so they find pushing the safest return. And so their mindset is to push the serve to get into the rally. Except, of course, when you push a topspin or sidespin serve, there is no rally. (At higher levels, of course, players can chop down on these balls as a variation, more of a chop-block than a push, but that's a separate issue.)
At most levels, when returning serves, you have to make a quick decision: Does the serve have backspin? If yes, then you can push it. If no, then you stroke it.
You don't have to push the backspin, of course. If it's short, you can flip it. If it's long, you can loop it. You can also drive it, whether it's short or long. And you use the same strokes if the ball doesn't have backspin, except you stroke mostly forward.
There is, of course, more to returning serves than judging whether the ball has backspin or not, but judging that, and actually looking for those topspin/sidespin serves to attack rather than relying on pushing, is a giant leap forward.
$100,000 World Championship of Ping-Pong
After a long, arduous search, and after finally sending an email to the organizers (Matchroom Sport), I have finally located the home page (still under construction) for the $100,000 World Championship of Ping Pong, to be held in London on Jan. 5-6, 2013. It's the same address as the one for the one held in 2011 in Las Vegas except it ends in .net instead of .com.) This is a sandpaper tournament, so no counterlooping. (Well, you can do sort of a counterloop with sandpaper, but it's really just a fake loop with little topspin). Get ready for lots of hitting and chopping! I'm tempted to go - I'm pretty handy with sandpaper, though I'm not a serious contender with the best sandpaperers - but it's a bit too expensive for me to fly to London, not to mention taking time off from my coaching practice.
Smashing Poverty in the Philippines with Ping-Pong
Here's a 25-minute documentary "Smashing Poverty" on Ernesto Ebuen (former Philippines star, now a top coach in New York - he's Michael Landers' coach) and his efforts to use table tennis to "smash" poverty in his home country.
Wang Liqin vs. Ma Long
Here's a great match to watch (7:02), with the time between points taken out. It took place in the Team category of the Chinese Nationals, which are going on right now (Oct. 6-14). Three-time World Men's Singles Champion Wang (2001, 2005, 2007) is down to #9 in the world, but since the world rankings went online in Jan. 2001 was ranked #1 52 months. Ma Long, currently ranked #2 in the world, was ranked #1 for twenty months (Jan. 2010 to Dec. 2010 and Oct. 2011 to May 2012).
The Biltmore Ping-Pong Table
Want to see the ping-pong table in the largest privately owned home in the United States at 175,000 square feet, with 250 rooms? Yes, it's the Biltmore House in Asheville, NC, built by George Vanderbilt II between 1889 and 1895. Here's a picture of the Biltmore House (and the Wikipedia page about it), and here's the Biltmore ping-pong table.
Hermann and It's Kind of a Funny Story
Hermann Luechinger has a really funny story to tell about his inadvertent table tennis meeting with a music superstar. I don't want to ruin your surprise by telling you who the superstar was, but if you really want to know, it's this guy.
Send us your own coaching news!
Blog on Hold Until Friday. "It's a pain in the neck" says blogger Larry Hodges
(Hey, that's me!)
This morning I was going to write about how I think top players of the past would do in today's game, how modern sponge players and hardbatters would do in the past, and address certain subtleties in such a comparison that some might not have considered. However, I've discovered that sitting at my computer aggravates the neck injury, even with the neck brace on. (Here's my Aug. 22 blog about the neck injury.) I've already cancelled all coaching this week, but hope to be able to coach again this weekend, but now I'm not so sure. (I should be able to do multiball training, but probably not live play yet.) Just typing this and the below is killing my neck and making it feel like a ping-pong ball in a match between a pair of all-out hitters.
So I'm putting my blog on hold until Friday so I can give the neck time to heal without constant aggravation. I'll get a lot of reading done, but no writing, alas. See you on Friday!
2012 USATT Hall of Fame Inductions
Here are the 2012 U.S. Table Tennis Hall of Fame Inductees - three players (Jennifer Johnson, Errol Resek, and Lan Vuong) and one contributor (Gus Kennedy). Dick Evans gets this year's Mark Matthews Lifetime Achievement Award. Here is the U.S. Table Tennis Hall of Fame Page (click on "Profiles" to see listing of players with links to their profiles). I'll probably be putting together the program booklet for the Hall of Fame Banquet held at the USA Nationals in December, as I have for the past few years.
Playing Against Defense
Here's an article from PingSkills on how to play choppers. I think the bullet points under "Placement in Rally" are the ones most tournament players often forget.
2012 China Harmony Open
Here are two videos of the Men's Singles Final at the China Harmony Open between Wang Liqin and Hao Shuai (the lefty). Here's the full version (18:29), and here's a shortened version (6:53) that skips over some points and time between rallies. Wang Liqin defeated Ma Lin in the semifinals, while Hao defeated Timo Boll, Vladimir Samsonov, and Xu Xin.
Racquetball Style Table Tennis
It's an off-the-wall idea, but why not allow off-the-wall shots?
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Forehand Looping from Backhand Corner
There's a discussion at the about.com forum about a point showing Larry Bavly (Heavyspin) winning a point with a "relatively low speed block to show that all points do not have to be won by hitting the ball hard." He does this against an opponent who had forehand looped from the wide backhand corner. There was some debate as to how this happened. The basic problem was that the woman looping against Bavly was rushed, and so was left off balance at the end of the stroke, and unable to recover back into position for the next shot. Here's the video. (This will download the video as a wmv file, which you should be able to play.) See how she is off-balanced at the end of the stroke, leaning to her left (our right)?
Now watch this example (in the point starting at 2:41) on youtube of a player doing the same shot and having no trouble covering the wide forehand for the next shot. This is a match between Wang Liqin (near side, in yellow shirt) versus Ma Long (far side, purple shirt). Wang is serving. Ma pushes the serve back, blocks the next ball, then steps way around his backhand to forehand loop. Wang blocks the ball to Ma's wide forehand, and Ma has no trouble covering it. Throughout the match watch how both players take turns ripping forehand loops, and see how fast they recover - because they are balanced throughout the shot, and so are able to recover almost instantly for the next shot. (Watch the slow motion replay.) There's another example of Ma doing this at 4:35, though this time he barely is able to cover the wide forehand Note how the players sometimes even use their momentum from the previous shot to get back into position.
A similar point happens in the second point shown, starting 22 seconds in. This time it's Wang Liqin who steps around to forehand loop, and is ready to cover the wide forehand. Ma actually blocks more to the middle of the table, but you can see Wang was ready to cover the wide forehand - and since the ball wasn't so wide, he is able to take this ball right off the bounce. (Watch the slow motion replay of this point.) There's another point like this starting at 2:24, where Wang again steps around to forehand loop, and is immediately able to cover the wide forehand - but this time, while he's there, he misses. There's another one at 3:43 where Wang against steps around, and this time Ma has an extremely wide angle to block to. Watch how easily Wang recovers and moves to cover the wide forehand, though Ma misses the block.
Regardless of where you are looping from, or even what stroke you are doing, balance throughout the stroke and rally is one of the key differences between elite and non-elite players. Players who can do repeated attacks in the same rally can do so because they are balanced and in control of their positioning and momentum; players who can only do one or at most two good shots in a row are usually off-balanced and not really in control. This doesn't mean you should always be perfectly centered between your feet, but that your weight should almost always be centered somewhere between your feet, with you in control of your body positioning, regardless of the momentum from the previous shot.
We won't talk about the rather awkward (but effective this time) "Seemiller" style block Bavly uses this point. Some things better remain unspoken.
Serving Short and Low
Are you playing in the Easterns this weekend, or any other upcoming tournaments? Have you been practicing your spinny serves so you can keep them short and low? No? Good. Then if you play anyone I'm coaching (and I'm coaching at the Easterns), we're going to loop or flip your serve in, and like the piggy with no roast beef, you'll cry all the way home. Oh, you've changed your mind, and decided to practice your serves? (Monday's Tip of the Week will be on how to do this. And no, you don't have to serve short all the time, just most of the time, or at least when facing an opponent who can effectively loop your serve.)
New Coaching Video from PingSkills
Overcoming Fear of Defending (1:32)
Joint Table Tennis and Golf Scholarship
Austin Preiss is going to Lindenwood College on a joint table tennis and golf scholarship, which must be a first. Here's the article. Some of you may know Austin both as a top junior player the last few years and for doing exhibitions around the country with his father Scott.
Stop-Motion Video Ping-Pong
This was a school project by someone, but it's hilarious, and gets better and better as it goes on (2:26).
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Planning Day - new programs
Today I'm planning out new programs for MDTTC. It used to be complicated doing this, with limited table space, but with the MDTTC expansion (10,000 square feet, 18 tables, more if we squeeze) we can run multiple programs at the same time. New programs include:
Once the programs are set, I'll put together an MDTTC Newsletter to send to all those on our email list, as well as sending releases to local newspapers. (While we hope they'll do coverage, the primary purpose of sending to newspapers is to get in their calendar sections.)
One idea I'm considering is to invite parents of beginning younger kids to come in for a session where we teach them to feed multiball to their kids. They can't really rally with their kids both because the kids are unable to really rally very well yet, and the parents mostly aren't players. But it doesn't take long for even a non-player to learn to feed simple multiball fairly accurately, and then they can do this with their kids.
Or may be I shouldn't be planning programs on Friday the 13th?
Celebrities Playing Table Tennis
Yesterday I updated the Celebrities Playing Table Tennis page, with 54 new pictures and 21 new celebrities. There are now 1388 pictures of 810 celebrities. (You may notice a bunch of pictures of baseball star Nick Swisher of the Yankees against comedian and Youtube celebrity KevJumba. Here's the hilarious 4:43 video of their challenge match!) New this month:
Wang Liqin to leave Chinese National Team?
Best points from the 2012 World Team Championships
Here's another highlights video of the best points from the 2012 World Team Championships (4:42).
MDTTC Open House
Here's an article by local junior Alan Lang on the recent MDTTC Open House.
On April 7, 2012, the Maryland Table Tennis Center (mdttc.com) hosted an Open house to commemorate its recent renovation and expansion. Over two hundred players and table tennis enthusiasts attended. They were given free merchandise, along with more valuable prizes that were raffled off. They were also given free entry into a three-point tournament (single elimination, all games to three points). Table tennis demonstrations featured several top players, including nationally decorated player Han Xiao (men's singles finalist and men's doubles champion at the 2011 Nationals), MDTTC Coach Jeffrey Zeng Xun (last year's Eastern Open and Cary Cup Open champion), and USATT certified national coach and Hall of Famer Larry Hodges. The demos also included the club’s rising juniors, including Derek Nie, already participating at an international level at age 11 (and a finalist at the USA Nationals last year in 10 and under); U.S. Junior Olympic Under 16 Boys' Champion Nathan Hsu; USA Cadet (under 15) National Team Member Tong Tong Gong; and Crystal Wang, who last year achieved the highest rating of any under 10 player in U.S. history, boys or girls. Larry also gave a 30-minute seminar on serving with spin and deception, and he and John Hsu ran a 90-minute junior program for beginning juniors.
The Open House took place in the newly refurbished complex, which boasts several notable improvements. Most visibly, the club’s size has doubled to accommodate its rising activity. This has allowed for more and larger playing courts and larger spectator areas. Despite these augmentations, occupancy still seems be a problem due to the center’s rising popularity. “Even though we expanded, it’s still crowded,” notes long-time member George Nie, who won the three-point tournament. Other improvements include the relocation and expansion of the club store, higher quality restrooms and shower facilities, and the implementation of Wi-Fi Internet. Furthermore, a special red flooring, the “red carpet,” which offers improved traction and cushioning for players, has been expanded to cover the entire playing area.
With these enhancements, co-proprietor and USATT certified national coach Jack Huang hopes to create an environment that is both welcoming and conducive to serious play, intended especially for the club’s burgeoning junior population. As evidenced by those present at the festivities, the club still caters to a diverse population, including members from a wide array of ethnicities, age groups, and skill levels. Player Mohamed Youns describes this diversity as contributing to a “very enjoyable environment,” citing the pleasure that can be derived from competing against a variety of other players in a low stress setting. All said, the renovations come as a welcome rejuvenation of a table tennis center that furnishes precocious children and world-class table tennis players alike.
No collection of table tennis pictures is complete without The Flintstones. (This just went up in the Celebrities Playing Table Tennis page - see segment above.) You probably recognize Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble playing (with Dino and Bamm-Bamm watching), but who is the other kid? That's Arnold the paperboy, the one who always outwits Fred. The pictures are from the episode Gloom Groom in season 4 in 1963. Here's the IMDB description: "Fred spends a fine afternoon in the backyard with little Pebbles. Arrive Arnold the News Boy who challenges Fred for a ping-ping game. Afterwards, Arnold offers to take care of Pebbles while Fred takes a nap on his hammock. He dreams that future years won't be good for old Fred, especially when an older Arnold begins to take his place in everything. And to make matters worse, Arnold gets engaged with Pebbles!"
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Wang Liqin didn't show up
Alas, Wang Liqin didn't show up at the airport yesterday. (See my blog yesterday about this.) Neither did I, since it was of course an April Fool's Joke. I couldn't actually do it on April 1, since that was a Sunday and I blog Mon-Fri, so I started the blog off by writing, "As reported yesterday..." The story spread through the Internet like wildfire. Several players at our Spring Break camp heard about it and thought it might be true. I received dozens of emails. This despite my talking about his nine-year-old superstar son Tongtong (Tong Tong Gong is the top rated cadet in Maryland), about his science fiction writing career (including "a story he wrote of a boy growing up playing table tennis in a futuristic world where players were more technicians than athletes with futuristic paddles covered with dials and buttons" - I'm a SF writer, not him!), and so on.
Strangest and weirdest shots in table tennis
I would rarely, if ever, do these shots in a serious match - but in practice? Why not. I do all of these sometimes, especially near the end of practice matches against lower players, especially kids, who often enjoy the variation from the norm.
150th five-day camp
I believe the Spring Break Camp I'm running this week at the MDTTC (along with my co-coaches, with 30+ players) is the 150th five-day camp I've run. It's possible I forgot a few from the 1990s, in which case I've done more than 150. That's 750 days of running training camps, or over two years of my life. Not to mention yesterday, today, and the next three days, with six hours of coaching in the camp per day, plus private coaching.
This summer we'll be running camps all summer long, Mon-Fri, starting June 18 and ending Aug. 24 - that's eleven straight camps. Co-coaches are Cheng Yinghua, Jack Huang, and Jeffrey Zeng Xun. See you there!
A faster forehand topspin
Here's a video from PingSkills on developing a faster forehand topspin (2:15).
Keith Pech to College Nationals
Martina Navratilova playing table tennis
Here's a 32-second video of the tennis great playing table tennis - and check out her smash five seconds in!
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Tip of the Week
Wang Liqin is coming to Maryland
As reported yesterday in numerous online forums and news agencies, Wang Liqin, the 2001, 2005 and 2007 World Men's Singles Champion (but now down to #9 at age 33), wasn't happy about not being chosen to play in the World Men's Team Final against Germany this past weekend. We'd been negotiating with him, but this slap in the face was the final straw for the unhappy superstar. I pick him up tonight at Dulles Airport, on United 933 from Frankfurt, GER. "I think I've done all I can for China," the disgruntled star said through a translator. "China don't need me, they don't want me, so they can't have me. Maybe I can help United States instead."
Wang also noted that he'd like to explore his other interest outside table tennis, science fiction writing. Under a pseudonym of "Wan Ling Qi" (which is an anagram of his real name), he's had several stories published in Science Fiction World, the largest SF magazine in China with a circulation of 300,000. His favorite was "Ping Pong Scientist," a story he wrote of a boy growing up playing table tennis in a futuristic world where players were more technicians than athletes with futuristic paddles covered with dials and buttons.
Wang's son, nine-year-old Tongtong, is also coming with him, and I've been told he's a level better than any USA kids his age. Both of them will be staying at my house for the first month or so while he looks for a permanent place to stay. Meanwhile, he'll both be playing for and coaching at the Maryland Table Tennis Center.
World Team Championships
The Worlds ended on Sunday with another easy victory for China in both Men's and Women's Teams, beating Germany and Singapore 3-0 in the two finals. (How many remember that Singapore actually upset China in the Women's Final two years ago? From 1975 to 2012 China has lost in Women's Teams only twice - the loss to Singapore in 2010, and in 1991 to Korea, the latter the subject of the upcoming movie "As One," previously titled "Korea.") USA Men and Women came in 53 and 23, respectively. Complete results and articles are on the ITTF home page. Here are photos by the ITTF, and photos by USATT Photographer Diego Schaaf.
There were a number of questions about why USA #1 woman Gao Jun only played in one of the five preliminary matches. Presumably we'll find out why in Coach Doru Gheorghe's team report. Here's an article on the question.
There was some great play in the Men's Team Final. (Sorry, haven't watched the Women's Final yet, but you can easily find them on youtube.) Here are those three matches, with the time between points removed so you can watch the entire thing in about 20 minutes.
Faults at the Worlds!
Here's a video of the now infamous Robert Gardos (Austria) vs. Bartosz Such (Poland) match at the Worlds (6:14), where both players were faulted over and over. At one point Such was faulted on five consecutive serves.
MDTTC expansion and Spring Break Camp
The MDTTC expansion finished last week, and we're almost getting used to playing in a full-time playing hall (10,000 sq ft) that seems the size of a soccer stadium. (I think some people spend hours wandering about the place lost - it's that big.) Right now we have 16 courts set up, and we have two others we can put up. If we want, we can buy more tables and probably fit in 25 or so.
On Saturday we had a small local tournament, the Coconut Teams, an annual event. While they ran their tournament on twelve tables, the four coaches (including me) coached on the other four. I counted 93 players that morning, and we probably had over 100.
This morning we start our Spring Break Camp, which coincides with spring break in the local schools. I can't wait to see the expression on some of the kids when they come in and see the new place for the first time.
Backspin on Reverse Pendulum Serve
Here's a video from PingSkills on the creating backspin with the Reverse Pendulum Serve (1:06).
Table Tennis Cards
Mike Mezyan has created two table tennis cards, and plans to create sixty of them. Here are his first two cards:
April Fools Prank
Here's a hilarious 16-second April Fool's ping-pong balls in a car joke. That's a lot of balls in that car! Of course, we here at TableTennisCoaching.com never do April Fool's postings.
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