Tip of the Week
Spring Break Camp
In Friday's blog I mentioned that we have so many coaches/practice partners that we can't always use them all. Actually, it looks like that was incorrect - they will all be used in our camps, either coaching, feeding multiball, or as practice partners.
Day One starts this morning. As usual, I do all the talking, introducing the camp and giving short lectures. However, unlike our summer camps, where we have a lot of out-of-towners, the Spring Break Camp is mostly locals (since it coincides with the local spring break), and so the lectures will be extra short, with the goal to get them out on the tables. I'll probably be feeding multiball in the morning, working with beginners in the afternoon.
Mornings are mostly multiball. I'll be feeding multiball, along with coaches Cheng Yinghua, Jack Huang, and Wang Qing Liang ("Leon"), and perhaps one other. If not feeding multiball, then Chen Bo Wen ("Bowen") and Chen Jie ("James") will be practice partners for players waiting their turn at multiball. (We have other part-time coaches - not sure yet of their hours.) In the afternoon, it's mostly table play, with the first half drills, then games. I'll be taking the beginners to the back tables to work on basics (and then games near the end), while Cheng and Jack run the session for the rest, with the others as practice partners.
The big question each day, of course, is what to order for lunch. We order Chinese food delivered each day. I'm thinking Orange Chicken, though Mongolian Beef also sounds good. Right after lunch it's sort of set that most of the kids will all want to go to the 7-11 down the street, and so we walk there as a group. The 7-11 manager always sneaks me a free mini-Slurpee for bringing them. Not sure if I'll want a cold Slurpee today - we had four inches of snow last night. Maybe we'll build snowmen during lunch break.
Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers - Kindle Version
After a long battle with the formatting, I've finalized the new version for Kindle with the 90 pictures used in the print version, and it is ready for downloading. I've also contacted Amazon about giving free downloads of the new version to anyone who bought the previous text-only version. Here's their response:
We've now entered your request to provide updated content to customers who purchased your book. Thanks for providing specific details about the changes made. We’ll perform the review of the changes to determine the most appropriate way to describe the updates to your customers. As we previously told you, this review will be complete within four weeks, and the possible results of our review listed below.
1. If the changes made to your content are considered critical, we’ll send an email to all customers who own the book to notify them of the update and improvements made. These customers will be able to choose to opt in to receive the update through the Manage Your Kindle page on Amazon.com. www.amazon.com/gp/digital/fiona/manage
2. If the changes made to your content are considered minor, we won’t be able to notify all customers by email, but we will activate their ability to update the content through the Manage Your Kindle page on Amazon.com.
Chinese Publisher for Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers
I started googling for Chinese publishers that might be interested in translating and publishing the book in China. And then it hit me - it's already been done! Well, sort of. My previous book, Table Tennis: Steps to Success was translated into five other languages (Chinese, Korean, Indonesian, Malaysian, and Hebrew - plus of course the English version). So all I have to do is contact the Chinese publisher of that book and see if they'd be interested in this one. It was published in China by China University of Mining and Technology Press. (Someone also contacted me about possibly doing a Swedish translation. I'll get back to him soon.)
Combating Nerves - Playing Against a Big Reputation
Here's the article from Table Tennis Master.
International Articles from Table Tennista
Here are four more.
Do You Try at 10-0?
Here's an interesting discussion at the OOAK Table Tennis Forum on whether to give away a point if you are leading 10-0. Personally, in non-competitive matches, I always give it away, or at least put up a high ball for them to smash (though then I might try to win the point lobbing). Against players near my level in practice I might also put a ball up like that, but not in a tournament.
Forehand Loop Against Block
Here's a nice video (3:11) from PingSkills that demonstrates and explains this.
Assembling a Racket
Here's a video (1:57) showing how to put sponge on your racket - plus a little behind-the-back play by Steven Chan.
Bruce Jenner Plays TT
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Last-Minute Looping: Learning to Loop
Yesterday I taught an 11-year-old girl to forehand loop. She'd attended ten junior group sessions I'd taught, and this was I think her fourth private session. Her forehand and backhand drives are getting pretty steady, and of course we'll continue to work on them to make them "perfect."
Sometimes it's good to wait longer to really ingrain the forehand and backhand drives before starting them on looping, but I'm a believer in getting to looping (at least against backspin) as soon as possible. Otherwise, they tend to become pusher/blockers (since they can't attack backspin), their loops aren't as natural (since they ingrain drive strokes early on rather than topspin strokes), and they don't take advantage of a characteristic that gives them the advantage at that age - they are shorter, and so looping is a bit more natural since they can let the ball drop down to their level. Plus, it gives them something to get excited about when they begin doing shots that match what the best players in the club are doing, and that excitement leads to more focus and determination, which leads to faster improvement.
I started her on looping in the last ten minutes of the session, feeding backspin with multiball. At first she had difficulty. Sometimes she wouldn't bring her racket down enough, or she wouldn't sweep up enough and would instead start up, then switch to a more forward-driving stroke. The result was flat strokes with little topspin. The scary part here is that since I'm giving her the same spin over and over, it's pretty easy to drive the ball with light topspin, and to believe that it's a good shot. (And it would have - in the hardbat era.) So I have to explain how a drive against backspin without great topspin isn't that good and will rarely be as consistent or effective in a match situation as looping. She understood, and kept trying.
When the time for the session came to an end, she was so close, and had managed to make two shots that I would charitably describe as loops, but most of the others were still just topspin drives. I went to her side and said let's just shadow practice the shot for two minutes so she can get the feel for the stroke, so she could shadow practice on her own all week and be ready next time. (We'd been doing shadow stroking, but usually for 10-20 seconds at a time at most.) We did so, and her stroke looked better and better. So I asked the dad if we could stay a little late, and he said sure. I fed her more multiball - and from the first ball, after that two minutes of shadow-practice, she was looping!!! She was grazing the ball and getting good topspin. She did seven in a row, missed a few, and then made a bunch more. I wanted to ingrain the stroke, so we did it for another five minutes. We were both very excited over this.
Now I'll be working on both her drives and loops. (As much as I like to get to looping, it's equally important to get those drive shots down - the fundamentals are key.) When I feel she's ready, I'll have her try them in combination - loop a backspin and then smash a topspin. Eventually, we'll have her looping against topspin as well. And yes, the backhand loop will be coming up as well in a few weeks.
Henzel's World Cup Blog
William Henzel of Australia is keeping a blog of his trip to the Men's World Cup in Liverpool, England, where he arrived yesterday - the tournament is Fri-Sun, Sept. 28-30. Here's Day One, where he arrives and ponders the expense of hiring a coach for his matches.
Documentary on the Rise of Sweden
Here's a documentary of how Sweden rose to challenge and defeat the Chinese at the 1989 World's. They would continue to dominate the world for about six more years, and would battle with the Chinese for nearly 15 more years. The only problem is the video, about an hour long, is in Swedish, without English subtitles. I watched much of it, and though I didn't know what was being said, you could figure much of it out from the context. Plus it was nostalgic for those of us who were around back then! The video features Jan-Ove Waldner, Jorgen Persson, Mikael Appelgren, Erik Lindh, Stellan Bengsston, Kjell Johansson, and other Swedish players and coaches, as well as Chinese players such as Jiang Jialiang and Chen Longcan.
ITTF Coaching Seminar - in India
Stopping by India anytime soon? Or already live there? USATT Coaching Chair Richard McAfee will be teaching three ITTF coaching seminars in India, in Ajmer (Oct. 3-7), in Bangalore (Oct. 10-14), and in Bangalore (Oct. 17-21). Here's the ITTF announcement.
Howard Tong Video
Here's a video (2:58) featuring 12-year-old Howard Tong of the World Champions Table Tennis Club in the San Francisco Bay area.
Orioles J.J. Hardy - "No one can beat me."
Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy is the best pingpong player on the team, according to an article in ESPN on Tuesday. The article says Hardy is the best athlete on the team, and says "He also is the best pingpong player on the Orioles." It then quotes Hardy:
"The next-best is Brady [Anderson, a special instructor]," Hardy said, half joking. "I've played him 100 times. I've beaten him 100 times. He'll never beat me. No one can beat me."
Some may remember that earlier this season the Orioles contacted me about doing a table tennis special with the Orioles for their TV network (featuring Hardy, Anderson, and pitcher Jake Arrieta, another table tennis enthusiast. However, it was put off when Hardy began having wrist problems, and now they are in a pennant race. So I don't know when or if this will happen. I've been in email contact with them, and my best guess is it'll be put off until next year. We'll see.
Inmates at the Teams
That's me scratching my head as I'm literally surrounded by "inmates" playing in the 2006 North American Teams in Baltimore. Yes, that was their team uniform - and there are at least eight of them, so it might have been two teams. The ones in "uniform," L-R, are: Unknown (you can just see his hat and leg); Ray Mack; I think Fong Hsu; Unknown; Connie Sweeris (short one with back to us); Unknown; I think Jim McQueen (or was the one I thought was Fong Hsu actually McQueen? Hard to tell); and Alan Fendrick.
MDTTC Goes to the Birds
Earlier this month a bird visited the Maryland Table Tennis Center. No, not the Baltimore Orioles mascot or Larry Bird; an actual bird! Here's the video (3:47), starring Nathan Hsu, Derek Nie, Raghu Nadmichettu, Tong Tong Gong, and a seemingly very tame (but probably just traumatized) bird. I can't believe I missed all of this, but I wasn't there for the big event.
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It happened yesterday morning at 9:35 AM, while I was driving to the club to coach in our training camp. I was just driving along, minding my own business, and about to go through an intersection (Middlebrook Rd. and Century Blvd.) when a Metro Access mini-bus suddenly pulled right in front of me from the left. I swerved to the left, trying to go behind it, and would have made it except the driver, compounding her error in pulling into my lane, panicked and rather then rushing to get out of my way, put on the breaks, stopping right in the middle of the road and blocking two lanes. I had nowhere to go and so plowed right into it, near the back on the side.
I had the right of way, with a green light. The bus driver had been coming from the other direction and was making a u-turn. There was some construction going on in the road on her side, and she claimed a worker had waved her through.
No one was hurt (the bus had I believe three passengers), but the front of my car was smashed in. The bus had little damage, comparatively, other than a surprisingly small dent. (The advantage of having a higher mass.) Though it looked like something from The Living Dead, my car seemed to drive okay, and I was able to pull into an Exxon station next to us, where we exchanged contact and insurance info. Then I drove to a local auto body place. From there I spent about an hour on the phone with my insurance company (Geico), which will deal with getting the Metro insurance company to pay for the damages to my car.
Someone from the auto body place gave me a ride to the club, and I showed up at 11:20AM. (Camp started at 10AM. I'd called right after the crash to let the other coaches know I'd be late.) The rest of the camp went pretty much normal, other than Channel 9 News filming us (see below), and the camp ended at 1PM. I stayed late to do one private coaching session, and then went home to deal with the paperwork involving the car crash. Around 4PM I got a rental car (insurance will pay), and at 6PM I was back at the club coaching.
MDTTC Training Camp Week Nine Day Three
Yesterday's highlight was Channel 9 News/WUSA coming in to do a feature story on Timmy La, a local who is training for the 2016 Paralympics in Standing Disabled. They took lots of pictures, and Timmy and I were interviewed. Afterwards, the reporter got a kick out of watching (and videoing) one of the games at the end, where I put a giant rubber frog on a table, divided the beginners into two teams, and they took turns trying to hit it, with the first to hit it 20 times winning.
One of the kids I was working with made a big breakthrough on the forehand loop. After struggling with technique for quite some time - always rushing, off balance, flat contact, etc. - things suddenly came together. The key seemed to be a focus on "rocking" into the shot, which took out some of the more spastic elements of his stroke which led to the problems. We did a bunch of extra multiball on this to make sure it was ingrained. We'll work on it more tomorrow.
As noted in previous blogs, you can get full Olympic Table Tennis coverage at the ITTF page.
China Falling Out of Love for Table Tennis?
Here's an article in The Atlantic on whether China is losing interest in their "National Sport."
Table Tennis in the Times
While it has a few inaccuracies (Ariel Tsing?) and hints that table tennis isn't much of a physical sport, here's an otherwise interesting article on table tennis from the Washington Times, "A sport for nerds maybe, but Ping-Pong makes Olympians of us all."
Journalists Take Up Olympic Sports
NBC15 assigned 15 of its reporters to take up an Olympic sport and do coverage of it. (Guess that's why they are NBC 15.) See the link to the table tennis video.
Here's a hilarious and spectacular exhibition (7:36) by Andrzej Grubba and Jean-Michel Saive. You know it's going to be good when 18 seconds in Saive's sitting in a chair and lobbing.
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MDTTC Camp, Week Five, Day Three
Yesterday's focus was on the forehand loop. I gave my usual lecture and demo on the subject, with Nathan Hsu as my demo partner. To demonstrate the loop against backspin I alternately forehand looped and forehand chopped while Nathan blocked and pushed.
There were two new players in my multiball group who had just started out on Monday, so this was only their third day of playing. When the first one's turn came for multiball, a 9-year-old boy, right up until the last second I was thinking we should just focus on the basic forehand and backhand drives. Then, for some reason, I changed my mind and asked if he'd like to try looping. He said "Yes!" About two minutes later he'd picked it up and was doing it pretty consistently, still more of a roll, but with pretty good topspin! I was rather surprised.
So I did the same with the next beginner, a 12-year-old girl. Same result! (Many other beginners are not able to pick looping up this quickly.) As I told the two of them, either they are very talented or I'm a really good coach! (We jokingly argued over which it was all morning, with me taking the "very good coach" side.)
Looping and I have a long-term love-hate relationship. I was a late starter to table tennis, starting when I was 16, and right from the start I was a natural hitter. I found looping much more difficult, probably due to tight muscles (even then). However, I was determined to be a looper (just as many natural loopers were determined to be hitters before that style sort of died out at the higher levels), and practiced constantly. Eventually I developed a pretty efficient, if somewhat stiff forehand loop. When I play matches I loop and smash equally, but my hitting is definitely more natural - but I still focus on looping, because, gosh darn it, I wanna be a looper!!!
In the afternoon I introduced the Adjustable Height Device. I blogged about this back on July 20, 2011, when I first used it in camps last summer. It was created by a player I coach, John Olsen, and the kids love it. Here it is in its high and low settings. The challenge is to serve under the bar. The key is to ignore the bar and simply serve low. We also use it sometimes in regular rallies to see if the players can rally under the bar, which in rallies would be set a bit higher than for serves.
I also introduced Froggy (no pictures available, sorry), a large rubber frog, about the size of a soccer ball (but wider, not as tall). I put it on the table, divide players into two teams, and they take turns trying to hit it, two shots each. First team to hit it 20 times wins. I'll try to get a picture today.
Slurpee fever has stuck the camp. During lunch break each day I'm now taking two car trips to the local 7-11 where the kids load up on slurpees. (The kids were shocked to learn that both 7-11 and slurpees were around when I was their age 40 years ago, when I too used to get 7-11 slurpees, back when 7-11 opened at 7AM and closed at 11PM - hence the name. I just looked it up - 7-11 slurpees came out in 1967, when I was seven.) It's not like I'm not compensated for the taxi service; Allen Wang treats me to a Planters Peanut Bar each time. They are my favorite candy bar; if you want to be my friend, you will bring them to me.
Washington Post to MDTTC
The Washington Post will be at the Maryland Table Tennis Center on Friday at 11AM for a story on Derek Nie (U.S. Open 11 & Under Boys' Champion) and other MDTTC players. Locals, feel free to come in! Ironically, the player Derek defeated in the final, Gal Alguetti of New Jersey, is here this week for our training camp.
Wang Hao and a Short History of the Penhold Grip
Here's an interesting story on the ITTF web page about the modernization of the penhold grip, which at one point was dying out at the higher levels until the development of the reverse penhold backhand brought it back.
Kalinikos Kreanga vs. Michael Maze
Here are some great points from a video (2:53) of a match between these two from five years ago. Still great play - and notice how tactically they keep attacking the other's middle both to score points and to open up the wide angles?
The Way Table Tennis Should Be Played
Olympian Trick Shots
Lily Zhang and Erica Wu demonstrate their trick shots (1:19) - hilarious!
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Last Blog Until After U.S. Open
This will be my last blog until I return from the U.S. Open in Grand Rapids. I should start blogging again on Friday, July 6. I know it will be difficult, but there must be other stuff on the Internet to read. I've heard rumors.
I'm mostly coaching at the Open (primarily Derek and George Nie), though I am entered in one event, Hardbat Doubles with Ty Hoff. (I've won it twelve times at the Open or Nationals, eight times with Ty, four times with Steve Berger.) There's just too many time conflicts in trying to play multiple events while coaching multiple players, and I had to make a choice on whether I'm primarily a player or a coach. (Duh!) Normally I'd also coach Tong Tong Gong, but he's on the National Cadet Team, and so will be mostly coached by the U.S. National Cadet Coach, Keith Evans.
I'm driving up with the Nie family on Friday morning, leaving around 7AM, and should arrive by 5PM or so. I should arrive in time to attend both the ITTF Jury Meeting at 6PM (where they make the draws and go over rules, etc.) and the USATT Coaching Committee Meeting at 8PM (I'm on the committee). The Nie's are staying in Michigan after the Open for a few days of vacation, so I'm flying back on the fourth of July.
MDTTC Camp - Week Two, Day Three
The focus yesterday was on the forehand loop, though as usual we varied this depending on each player's level and playing style. I also gave a lecture and demo of various racket surfaces (pips-out sponge, hardbat, antispin, long pips with and without sponge), grips (penhold, both conventional and with reverse penhold backhand, as well as the Seemiller grip) and how to play choppers.
One 12-year-old beginner really liked the antispin, and asked to borrow it for the day. He's now using it on his backhand in all his drills and matches, dead-blocking with the backhand, attacking with the forehand. I've converted him to the dark side!!! If he stays with this style, most likely he'll eventually "graduate" to long pips (no sponge) on the backhand and become a pushblocker.
There is also a kid, about ten years old, who is developing a chopper/looper style. He spent a lot of time yesterday with Wang Qing Liang, our 17-year-old 2567-rated chopper/looper.
Today's focus will be the backhand attack, especially the backhand loop. Then we'll have the ever-popular "How many paper cups can I knock down in ten shots?" challenge, where we stack the cups in a pyramid and I feed them the balls multiball style.
China and the Timo Boll-Zhang Jike Rivalry
Here's an article that discusses these two players, with insight from Chinese Coach Liu Guoliang.
Top Table Tennis Points
Here's a video (14:12) of top table tennis points. Included in the video are players Adrien Mattenet, Chuang Chih Yuan, Kaii Yoshida, Ryu Seung Min, Jun Mizutani, Chen Chien-An, Fengtian Bai, Christian Suss, Zhang Jike, Ma Long, Alexey Smirnov, Michael Maze, Timo Boll, Jean Michel Saive, Robert Gardos, Christophe Legout, Chen Weixing, Tiago Apolonia, Taku Takakiwa, Patrick Baum, Seiya Kishikawa, Andrej Gacina, Vladimir Samsonov, Gao Ning, Feng Tianwei, Ding Ning, Zoran Primorac, Jan-Ove Waldner, Ding Song, Chen Qi, Lee Jung Woo, Roko Tosic, and Romain Lorentz.
Wanna see a ping-pong ball spin at 10,000 rpm?
Here it is (0:40), care of liquid nitrogen!
Adam Bobrow Reviews the New Plastic Ball
In this new video (0:31), Adam breaks through the window of silence and discovers the shattering truth about the new plastic ball.
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Day Three of MDTTC Camp - the Forehand Loop
Yesterday's focus was forehand looping. In my lecture I used 11-year-old Derek Nie (rated 2146) as my demo partner, and we had some nice rallies, including looping against backspin, against block, and counterlooping. It was new to a few players, and I took these players off to the side to teach the fundamentals while the other coaches fed multiball to the others.
Halfway through the morning session I gave a 20-minute lecture on return of serve, and then we went out on the table to practice serve and receive. (I gave a 30-minute lecture on serving yesterday.) It's great watching their serves improve. Earlier that morning before the camp started I'd done an impromptu challenge where I served and campers tried to return my serve. About fifteen formed a line, and if they missed my serve, they went to the end of the line. (The stronger players in the camp watched with amusement.) I think a couple managed to get two back, but the great majority missed the first one. I think this raised the interest level in the receive lecture, and even more in learning these serves. Some are still trying to figure out how I get topspin on my serve when I stroke downward with an open racket and hit the bottom of the ball. (The racket tip is moving down, but just before contact I flip the bottom of the racket sideways and up, and then continue down after contact. But it's probably something you have to see in person.)
Yesterday's "Big Game" at the end of the morning session was Around the World. I feed multiball while the kids hit one shot, and then circle the table. When they miss five, they are out. When they are down to two players, I put a target on the table (usually a box, but today I used my towel) and they take turns trying to hit it. When one hits it and the other misses, the one who hit it is the champion, and we start over. Later I fed more multiball and they had to knock cups off the table (28 of them in a pyramid), with the warning that the galaxy would explode if they didn't knock them all off in five minutes. They knocked the last one off with three seconds to spare, just barely saving the galaxy!
Later that day Coach Jeffrey Zeng Xun (a 2600 player) was drilling with a 2200 pips-out penholder. One of the players in the camp, Minh Nguyen, is an aspiring two-winged looper like Jeffrey, so I called him over and we watched Jeffrey as he completely dominated rallies with his backhand loop, which he could put anywhere on the table with power, control, and consistency, with textbook technique. Players can improve quite a bit just by watching the way he rotates his body and shoulders and then snaps his arm and wrist into the shot. (It's like throwing a Frisbee toward the ceiling.)
That night I did a one-hour private session with a father and son. The son had learned to forehand loop and was working on backhand looping some, though he prefers hitting on both sides. Looping was new to the father, so we spent much of the session on his forehand loop. It's always striking watching the difference in how people of different ages learn. Younger players learn the technique quickly, but can't control it. Older players have trouble with the technique, but have ball control.
Reminder - Sports Psychology Night at MDTTC
Tomorrow, on Friday, June 22, Table Tennis Sports Psychologist Dora Kurimay will run a 40-minute sports psychology workshop at the Maryland Table Tennis Center. She runs the table tennis sports psychology page dorakurimay.com, and is the co-author of the book "Get Your Game Face On!" (Here's my review of the book on the USATT website.) The schedule for the night will be: 6:30-7:00PM - book signing; 7:00-7:40PM: Sports Psychology Seminar ($20, which includes a free copy of the book); after 7:40PM: Personalized Sport Psychology Consultation. Here is the flyer for the event. Come join us!
100th ITTF Certified Coach in the U.S.
Here's the story from the ITTF. I ran one of the ITTF coaching seminars in the U.S. last April, and certified fourteen of them. I'm running another in August at the Maryland Table Tennis Center. Here's the flyer. If interested, email me. Come join us!
Historical Mistake on the Origins of Table Tennis
Yesterday I linked to a web page that supposedly gave a historical account about the origins of table tennis. Unfortunately I found out that afternoon that the info there was dated. (I've since deleted the link.) I should have known better since I'd read the book "Ping Pong Fever" by Steve Grant, which gave the newest info on the sports origin. (I plead training camp madness - we just started eleven weeks of training camps at MDTTC, so I was a little rushed in putting together the blog.) Here is the account from the ITTF Museum, which was updated to reflect Grant's discoveries, and Grant's own press release on the subject.
New USA International Umpires
Who are they? Here's the story!
Seniors Embrace Table Tennis
Proper Table Tennis Training with Scott Gordon
In honor of the many summer training camps now being run around the country, here is the greatest table tennis training video ever made (2:31).
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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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Tip of the Week
Returning the Tomahawk Serve. (This is an expanded version of my blog about this on May 10.)
At the club last night one of our up-and-coming kids, about ten years old, came up to me and said, "Larry, can I borrow your cell phone? I want to check my rating." For about five seconds I was stumped, wondering who he was going to call to get his rating before I realized that to this generation, "cell phone" is just shorthand for "small hand-held computer connected to the Internet." When I explained my cell phone only made phone calls (and, it is rumored, takes pictures), he was flabbergasted, and left shaking his head, probably muttering about old fuddy-duddies.
This got me to thinking about how the world has changed, in particularly the world of table tennis. Here's a brief rundown of changes since I started in 1976.
1976: Sriver or Mark V?
2012: About ten thousand choices of sponge
1976: Top-of-the-line sponge: $7
2012: Top-of-the-line sponge: $80
1976: Sponge that trampolines the ball out.
2012: Sponge that grabs the ball and explodes it out like a slingshot on steroids.
1976: Sponge came in red, black, green, blue, yellow, orange, purple,...
2012: Red or black
1976: Japan, Hungary, and Sweden battle with the Chinese
2012: Nobody battles with the Chinese (except perhaps the Singapore women)
1976: Teach the forehand loop to kids after they are around 1500, and the backhand loop when they are around 1800, if ever.
2012: Teach the forehand and backhand loop to kids after they've played about a month.
1976: Loop sets up smash
2012: Loop sets up loop
1976: Why would you need to learn a backhand loop?
2012: Why aren't you working on your backhand loop?
1976: Back off the table and loop
2012: Stay at the table and loop
1976: Reverse penhold backhand? Don't be ridiculous.
2012: Conventional penhold backhand? Don't be ridiculous.
1976: Use the backhand to receive serves short to the forehand? Don't be ridiculous.
2012: Banana backhand flips from the forehand side.
1976: Shakehand, Penhold, or Seemiller grip?
2012: What's a Seemiller grip?
1976: Inverted on one side, long pips or anti on the other, and they are the same color, so you have no idea what side was used. Players learned to stomp their foot at contact to cover up the different sound.
2012: Two-color rule since 1983.
1976: Olympic wannabe
2012: Olympic sport
1976: USATT membership: 5000 out of 218 million people in the U.S. (1 out of 43,600)
2012: USATT membership: 8000 out of 312 million people in the U.S. (1 out of 39,000)
1976: Full-time table tennis centers: 1 or 2
2012: Full-time table tennis centers: 50+
Forehand Loop Foot Position
Here's a video from Brian Pace of Dynamic Table Tennis on the foot positioning for forehand looping (9:43). And here's a triplicate picture of Brian working on his next instructional DVD!
Golfer Brian Harmon's Ping-Pong Problem
PGA Rookie Brian Harmon almost lost his chance to play because of ping-pong - and here's the story from Table Tennis Nation.
Japanese Junior Phenom Told to Eat His Vegetables
Japan's Koki Niwa may have upset world #1 Ma Long of China at the Asian Olympic Qualifier last month, but it wasn't because of his diet. "Looking after my diet is not something I'm all that interested in," said the 17-year-old Koki Niwa, who particularly dislikes tomatoes and carrots. His coaches are on him to eat better to prepare for the Olympics. Here's the rest of the story.
Non-Table Tennis: my new SF story
My latest science fiction story just went online at Quantum Muse, "The Sanctimonious Time Traveler Trap." It's a very short humorous story about two not-so-nice guys who go about capturing a very nice time traveler - and the entire story takes place as the three are falling from the sky.
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Too far from the table on your forehand loop?
A lot of players lose power when forehand looping against backspin because they are too far from the table, taking the ball too much in front of them instead of rotating their body and taking it from the side. This forces them to reach forward for the ball, and to compensate and keep their balance, their left side (for righties) falls back as they hit the shot. It also means they cannot get much body rotation into the shot. They may get decent spin with this shot, but little forward speed. Instead, stand closer to the table, and rotate the body back sideways, and then rotate the entire body into the shot. The contact point is actually in the same spot relative to the table, but now you are in a position to really put power on the ball. Watch the top players and see how close they stand to the table when looping against backspin.
Here's a video (1:42) by USA Men's Coach and former German star Stefan Feth showing and explaining the forehand loop against backspin. Note how he stays relatively close to the table as he rotates into each shot with great power.
Maryland Table Tennis Center Tuesday Night League
Starts tonight! So be there. (Alas, I'll be coaching from 5-9, and the league starts at 7:30. But I'll be watching some between coaching points!)
Four recent table tennis books
I may write more about these books later. So far I've only browsed them, except for "Breaking 2000." (Here's a complete listing of the 206 books I have on table tennis.)
Werner Schlager Academy photos
Here are 14 pictures recently taken by Coach Donn Olsen at the Werner Schlager Academy in Austria. Can you identify the players?
Table Tennis the Serious Sport
Here's an article in the Anniston Star featuring table tennis player, promoter, and umpire/referee Mike Wetzel and his "love affair with table tennis."
Bubba Watson and Ping-Pong
It turns out Masters Champion Bubba Watson also plays table tennis, as shown by Table Tennis Nation.
The House of Rackets
Here's a 36-second preview of a new TV show, "The House of Rackets," which features tennis, badminton, squash, and yes, table tennis. "SMASH is Asia's first ever all-inclusive racquet sports magazine show featuring the best weekly coverage from the worlds of badminton, table tennis, squash and tennis. SMASH will air every Wednesday at 10:30 pm on STAR Sports."
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Muscling the ball when forehand looping
Several players I coach use too much arm when they loop. Looping is a full-body shot, where you use your legs, waist, shoulders, arm, forearm, and wrist for power. However, the sequence is important - always from bottom to top, large muscles to small muscles. Players who use too much arm and forearm try to muscle the ball with those muscles instead of using the legs, waist, and shoulder rotation to power the ball with their body weight and large muscles.
One cure is to essentially make your playing arm and upper body rigid early in the stroke, forcing you to use your lower-body muscles. Those larger muscles will throw your upper body and arm into the shot like a whip, and then you can relax the upper body and let it go naturally.
Another way to fix this problem is to focus on taking the ball in the back of the forehand hitting zone, in front of your back leg. This forces you to keep the arm back rather than use it early in the stroke. If you stroke with the arm muscles too early, you'll contact the ball more in front of you.
Probably the best cure for this, and most other stroke problems, is to 1) watch videos of top players doing it so you can get a visual image of proper technique; 2) work with a coach; and 3) practice, Practice, PRACTICE!
Jim Butler vs. Ariel Hsing
Yes, THAT Jim Butler, the three-time U.S. Men's Singles Champion and Hall of Famer, who stopped playing tournaments in 2003, but is playing again at age 41. And THAT Ariel Hsing, the 16-year-old U.S. Women's Singles Champion. The two played in the quarterfinals of the Northridge Open in a classic match-up. Jim still has great serves and a great backhand, while Ariel is unbelievably quick. Winning 13-11 in the seventh was . . . Ariel. Here's the video (20:20).
Get Your Game Face On
Sol Schiff Retrospective
Here's a two-part retrospective on Schiff by Dean Johnson and Tim Boggan.
Here's a quote from Timmy's North American Table Tennis Magazine, Nov/Dec, 1983, and reprinted in Tim Boggan's upcoming History of U.S. Table Tennis, Vol. 12. It's about a two-week training camp held in Baltimore. Here's the last paragraph, with the most important parts in bold!
At the end of each week a tournament was held and Awards given. First Week winners and recipients: “A” Group: 1. Larry Hodges. 2. Kit Jeerapaet. “B” Group: 1. Dennis Hwang. 2. Steve Kong. Doubles: Manfred Wilke/Kong. Best Footwork: Hwang. Sportsman Award: Ben Ebert. Most Improved: Wilke. Most Congenial: (tie) Steven Olsen, Becky Martin, and Ebert. Second Week winners and recipients: “A” Group: 1. Hodges. 2. Dave Babcock. “B” Group: 1. Ebert. 2. Hwang. Best Footwork: Stephanie Fox. Sportsman Award: Robert Natale. Most Improved: Martin. Most Congenial: Hodges.
The Yankee versus the Comedian
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