Beginner's Forehand & Backhand Loop
One week ago, on Jan. 3, I wrote about a "Beginner's Topspinny Backhand and Forehand Looping." This was about an 11-year-old who was learning to forehand loop, and was developing a rather topspinny backhand. I worked with him again yesterday. Jackpot!!!
When I say "Jackpot," I'm referring to how fast he picked up the forehand loop against topspin, which I taught him for the first time yesterday using multiball. We worked on it for 30 minutes, and he was able to do it pretty nicely. He still has a tendency to jam the table and rush the shot (leading to too much arm, not enough body rotation), so I kept reminding him to step off the table to give himself time to use a full body shot - but when I remind him, he has no trouble backing off and doing the shot properly without rushing. (Backing off against an incoming topspin and giving yourself time is key to learning the loop properly, since it's a longer stroke than a regular drive, and the timing is different. When you are proficient at the shot you can start taking it closer to the table.)
He also has a tendency to use too much arm in general, but we're working on that, and when he backs off to give himself time he's better at that. Overall, a very nice first day on looping against topspin. Next session I may let him try it "live" against my block - but only if he's doing it very nicely in multiball.
He's also got a nice backhand loop now against backspin in drills (though he doesn't use it effectively in game situations yet), and really does topspin the ball quite a bit in regular rallies. Yesterday I figured out why, and it's sort of funny. I coach him every week at the same time, and at that same time every week, on the table next to us, Nathan Hsu (16), currently the top-rated junior in Maryland at 2351, has a training session. Nathan always plays on the same side of the table I'm on, so my 11-year-old student has a clear view of Nathan while he's practicing. Nathan's known for his ferocious backhand loop, which he often does close to the table. Guess what? The two have matching strokes!!! The kid I've been coaching, whether consciously or not, has been copying Nathan's backhand.
USATT Coaches of the Year
The results are out! (The page includes shot bios of the winners.) The winners are:
Ma Long's Forehand Loop
Here's 23 seconds of 2012 World Cup Winner and former #1 Ma Long's forehand loop.
Schlager's Backhand Block
Here's 53 seconds of 2003 World Champion Werner Schlager backhand blocking against teammate Karl Jindrak.
Ruth Aarons' and Sandor Glancz's Exhibition
Here's 58 seconds of 1936 & 1937 World Women's Singles Champion Ruth Aarons (USA's only world singles champion) and 1933 World Men's Doubles Champion and 3-time World Team Champion Sandor Glancz doing an exhibition, circa late 1930s.
Justin Bieber's Ping-Pong
Here's 41 seconds of Pencils of Promise star Justin Bieber's ping-pong. I think he's famous for other stuff too.
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Preparing for Tournament This Weekend
When I say this, I mean both for my students and for myself.
Students: Yesterday I had one-hour coaching sessions with two junior players who are about to play in their first USATT tournament. (I had a third session with another who might play in our October tournament.) How does one prepare someone for their first tournament? First off, I direct them to this article I wrote a while back, "Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Your First Table Tennis Tournament … But Didn’t Know Where to Ask!"
But you are probably more interested in how to prepare a player to play well? Here's my article "Ten-Point Plan to Tournament Success." In the case of these two students, we did about 30 minutes of regular drills (footwork, steady stroking drills, multiball), and then went to game-type situations. For example, I'd rally steady into the student's backhand, and he'd pick a shot to either step around and smash, or hit his backhand down the line. As soon as he did one of these it was free play. Then we got to even more game-type drills, such as straight serve and attack (he serves backspin, I push it back, he loops, then free play). We did a lot of pushing and loop against push drills. I also had them do a lot of serve practice, always the most under-practiced aspect of a game, especially just before a tournament.
We also talked a bit about tactics, stressing keep it simple - use serve and receive to get their strengths into play and avoid the opponent's strengths while going after their weaknesses. You'll note I didn't emphasize guarding their own weaknesses. That's something more experienced players should do, but at this stage I don't want to enforce in their minds that they have weaknesses they should be guarding since we want those weaknesses to become strengths. The other three aspects are enough for now, and if you get your strengths into play, then you are not using your weaknesses so much.
Me: I'm getting ready to run the tournament with a new software, Omnipong. So far I've set up the tournament (setting all the events, how they should be run, etc.), inputted entries received (47 so far, expecting a bunch more today), and got the new printer to work with it (don't ask, but thanks to John Olsen who figured out that I was trying to print using a printer driver for a 32-bit computer but I had a 64-bit computer . . . or something like that). Today I'm going to test other aspects of the software, such as setting up draws, printing them out, and printing match slips. I've already done some of this, but want to make sure everything's set.
Two Days Till the MDTTC September Open!
Have you entered yet? Or are you part of the 47% who are dependent on USATT to protect their ratings, who believe that they would be victims if they entered the tournament, who believe that they are entitled to their high rating without defending it . . . people who do not compete? (Now if I could only charge all of you $50,000 each for reading this.)
Note that official deadline is 5PM today. But I'll take entries until I do the draws sometime on Friday. Send your entry in NOW!!!
Zhuang Zedong Battling Cancer
Here's an article about Zhuang Zedong (often called Chuang Tsetung, the three-time World Men's Singles Champion from 1961-65, often called the greatest player ever, who initiated the events that led to Ping-Pong Diplomacy) and his battle with cancer and his other passion, calligraphy.
Ping-Pong Balls in Space!
Here's the article. That's one small roll for a ball, one giant spin for ballkind.
Now That's a Forehand!!!
My Big Forehand
I have a big forehand too, just like little Nick above. Really, it's true. Here's the picture to prove it.
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Tip of the Week
Stiffest Player in the World
It's official. I'm the stiffest player in the world. Even Jim Butler (2-time USA Table Tennis Olympian) says so. Recently I've been doing lots and Lots and LOTS of multiball coaching, and standing to the side of a table and feeding balls all day long is a great way to make stiff muscles even stiffer. (We have a new MDTTC camp starting this morning - week #5 of our eleven consecutive weeks of training camps - and I'll be spending my morning feeding multiball again. Afterwards I'll carve my initials in a diamond with my muscles.)
Ironically, it doesn't really affect me in static drills. If someone needs to work on their block, I can loop over and over with ease, and I can even more to loop. But if the ball starts scattering around the table, the stiffness seems to slow down my reactions, and so I'm slow in reacting to forehand and backhand shots. Subconsciously my mind knows this, and so it's overanticipating where the next ball goes, and so I'm often moving to do a forehand while the ball goes to my backhand, and vice versa.
Yes, I'm stretching regularly. But that's like asking a diamond to stretch so as to lose some of its stiffness. Doesn't do a lot. What I need to do is simply play very active table tennis (or other sports, such as tennis), and stretch after I play, when the muscles are loose. After a coaching session, the muscles are the opposite of loose; they are catatonic.
I regularly remind players I coach not to copy my stiffness. I'm sure there are juniors who look at my stiffness and think, "Gee, I'm too loose, I better tighten my muscles if I want to be a top player like Coach Larry!"
Review of New Plastic Balls
A while back I posted a video of Australian National Team Member William Henzell's review of the new plastic balls that we're supposed to switch to worldwide in 2014. Here is his review again, this time with both text and a link to the video (5:45).
U.S. Open Ratings
The ratings from the U.S. Open have been processed. Unfortunately, for some reason the ratings from the ITTF Junior Pro Tour have not yet been processed. (I assume they will be.) So the ratings aren't quite up to date for most of our juniors.
MDTTC has some nice junior rankings after the Open.
Complete the Sentence
From the ITTF: "Table Tennis makes me feel __________"?
USA's Worst Olympic Sports
There are only three Olympic Sports that USA has never medalled in: Badminton, Handball, and (you guessed it) Table Tennis. Here's an article on the subject.
Mizutani High Toss Serve
Pingskills brings you this new video on the Mizutani High Toss Serve (2:23).
Here's a video (3:17) on a project to allow one to play the computer game Pong with your mind via brain waves. Really!
Werner Schlager versus the Three-Year-Old
That's 2003 World Men's Singles Champion Werner Schlager on the right, and that's his three-year-old son Nick on the table, showing great tennis volleying form. Quick, anyone, is it illegal to stand on the table? Show me a rule that forbids it!
Non-Table Tennis: Agent Says No
Here's a letdown. An agent from one of the largest agencies has been interested in my humorous fantasy novel "The Giant Face in the Sky." Unfortunately, after contemplating it for just over a year, he decided to turn it down. The moderately good news is that a small press that owns a science fiction magazine that's published a few of my stories is interested in publishing it - but they've agreed to let me shop it around first to large publishers and agents. I'm debating whether to take their offer or keep shopping it around. (Another agent liked the first two chapters and asked for the rest; hopefully they won't take a year.) Below is the agent's rejection note - kind of a nice one, but still a rejection. So it's back to table tennis coaching, right? (I do both.)
I'm cartoonishly embarrassed that it's been so many months since you first sent along The Giant Face of the Sky, and I apologize for the egregiously extended radio silence! Every time I picked up your novel, I was torn between how fluid and likeable your idiosyncratic imagination was, and how right-from-the-get-go-off-the-wall the story was, and the "what could possibly happen next?" kept me moving forward even as I was wishing for more context, more of an explanation for at least some of the world the story found itself occurring in, etc. Ultimately, despite my sincere admiration for the inventiveness on display here, I just wasn't able to figure out exactly how (or to whom) I'd pitch your book, and that's my failing, and my failing alone, but it does mean that I'm not the right agent for you. I'm very sorry to disappoint you, and sorrier still to have taken so long to respond, but I'm extremely grateful for the opportunity to have seen your work, and I wish you nothing but the best of luck, inside and outside of fortune cookies!
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Drop the arm and loop
Players are often too slow in responding to pushes that should be looped. (This assumes you know how to loop; if you don't, learn. Get a coach or watch top players, perhaps in the video section here.) When you see that an opponent is about to push, you should be preparing to drop down to loop, either forehand or backhand. (One-winged speedsters have a simplified world view; they are going to loop with their forehand, so they don't have to decide forehand or backhand, just which way to move. But that's a difficult way to play.) Players often miss their loops because they are slow to respond, and so end up rushed, which is the most common reason players miss loops.
This is something you can practice anywhere, without a table or racket. Go into a ready stance and imagine your opponent about to push. Visualize the push sometimes going to your forehand side, sometimes the backhand side. The instant you see where the opponent is going, lower your arm and playing shoulder (your whole body goes down some to loop backspin), and shadow practice looping it. Then repeat. Keep doing this until you feel like you are reacting almost instantly, or until the people in the office where you work have you committed.
"Is there a ping-pong coach around?"
I just watched a short CNN news video about a boy whose heart stopped after he was hit in the chest with a baseball during a game. The coaches started CPR, and then a nurse came out of the stands and took over, saving his life. This reminded me of a Nationals where a player had a heart attack in the middle of a match. Within thirty seconds he was surrounded by about ten doctors from among the 700 or so players. He survived.
I keep wondering when I'll be walking along, and suddenly there'll be cries of, "Is there a ping-pong coach around?" Then I'll leap into action. There'll be some poor fellow getting killed at table tennis, and only I can save him. I'll give him a few shrewd tips, he comes back to win, and then there'll be a CNN news video, "Table tennis coach saves life of player getting killed." (Note how my self-esteem went up at the end, as I switched from "ping-pong coach" to "table tennis coach"?)
New USATT web page
USA Table Tennis recently unveiled their new web page, created by Sean O'Neill. Here's the article, and here's the new web page. If you go to the old web page, there's a big sign saying, "We've Moved," and it shortly redirects you to the new page. Soon those going to the old site will be instantly redirected to the new one, so you don't have to unlearn www.usatt.org and memorize the more difficult "http://www.teamusa.org/USA-Table-Tennis.aspx".
Ariel Hsing in the news. . . . again
Here's another article, this time from the Associated Press, on U.S. Women's Champion and Olympian Ariel Hsing. Maybe it's time to put a moratorium on Ariel new articles? There are too many!!! (Just kidding - keep 'em coming, U.S. news media!)
U.S. Soldiers in Iraq
Here's a picture of two U.S. soldiers in Iraq playing table tennis. They both seem to use the Hasegawa finger-down-the-middle grip. Obviously both have had extensive training in Japan. (1967 World Men's Singles Champion Nobuhiko Hasegawa was notorious for this unique grip, but nobody I know of has really used it successfully since.)
Werner Schlager versus dominating rival
Here's 2003 World Men's Singles Champion Werner Schlager taking on a future rival, who uses his futuristic tennis-style net play to dominate the rallies. And he's standing on the table. And about 30 inches tall. But he seems to have a proper grip.
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Get your feet moving by lobbing
The large majority of players rarely lob. It's not that they don't like to lob - just about everyone finds lobbing fun - but most simply do not have the mobility to effectively lob, and so they don't. (Many of these players stand like a tree when they should be moving like a squirrel.) But isn't this backwards?
If you don't have the mobility to lob, why not practice lobbing to develop that mobility? It's not a hard concept; if you practice moving, you learn to move better. And the nice thing is that if you develop mobility off the table lobbing, you will also improve your general mobility, both close to the table and away. Not only that, but if you learn to lob, you add a new tool to your table tennis toolbox. Plus lobbing is just one step away from counterlooping, a more offensive and valuable off-table weapon.
Here's an article on lobbing, an article on smashing lobs, a more general article on topspin defense, and an article on counterlooping. Study these articles; you will be tested! (If not by me, then by your opponents in matches.)
North American Olympic Trials
They start today in Cary, NC, Fri-Sun, and here's the page where you'll find Draws, Live Streaming, Participants, Prospectus & Schedule. Here's an article about it. Here are 14 pictures from Thursday's practice and meeting day.
Werner Schlager Special
Here's a 53-minute video on 2003 World Champion Werner Schlager, still a member of the Austrian National Team. Schlager is speaking German, and the commentators Japanese, but there's a lot of nice table tennis footage.
Table Tennis Artwork
Here's Mike Mezyan's latest table tennis artwork. Of this one he wrote, "My Latest Artwork 'Prehistoric Paddle' (Paddle Sounds Like Battle) Inspired By Larry Hodges, I Read This Line in His Blog 'Our Ancestors Carried Around Ping-Pong Paddles To Fend Off Arial Attacks From Large Man-Eating Eagles' the rest was history..or was it?" (The line was from my blog on April 17, in the "Close the Racket!" segment.) If you click on the picture and subsequent ones you'll see about twenty other works of table tennis art he's done.
Funny table tennis pictures
Let's finish today with some funny table tennis pictures. Have a good weekend!
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It's not fair! Another reason why top players dominate.
I once complained to U.S. Olympian Todd Sweeris during a match, "It's not fair. You're not winning by playing 2600; you're winning by being 2600." I said the same thing last night to former Pan Am Team Member Scott Butler (who was in town for a couple days), who was seemingly winning "cheap" points in a practice match with local Raghu Nadmichettu. I told Raghu, "You never miss those shots against me."
The point was that it is often the very threat of high-level play that freezes opponents into immobility against shots they would have no trouble with against lower-level players.
There are two ways you can take advantage of this. First, you can become a very good player, and then your potential for high-level play will freeze many opponents into immobility. That's the hard way.
The easy way is to simply diversify your game by developing versatility and unpredictability. If you threaten opponents with lots of options on any given shot, many will also be frozen into immobility as they wait to see which of your many options you choose. For example, against a short serve, many players predictably push over and over, usually to the backhand. What if you instead moved the push around (changing directions at the last second), sometimes flipped, and perhaps even dropped the ball short sometimes? Or against a loop to the forehand most players can only block crosscourt. Learn to block your forehand down the line, and watch the havoc it causes. Or simply learn to vary the pace of your blocks and watch your opponents' timing all apart. Or vary the placement, pace, spin, and depth on your loops (or drives), with last-second changes of direction. There are so many options, and so few are developed by most players.
Another way of doing this is to simply vary your serves. This doesn't mean just varying a limited number of serves; it means developing more varied serves that you can throw at an opponent. And then, once you've established that threat, and your opponent is gibbering in fear of all the possibilities, you can then focus on using your most basic and dependable serves.
Most players spend years honing "their game," and stick to that game whenever possible, often leading to a relatively strong but one- or perhaps two-dimensional game. Why not go for a few extra dimensions?
How I spend my days
World Team Championships
Dortmund, Germany, March 25 - April 1, 2012
Robert Floras vs. Werner Schlager at the Worlds
Here's Poland's Robert Floras 3-1 upset win over Austria's 2003 World Men's Champion Werner Schlager, with the time between points removed so the whole match takes less than four minutes. Lots of great points. However, Austria defeated Poland to reach the quarterfinals of the World Team Championships. Here's the ITTF article.
Three photos from the Worlds
Here are three interesting photos of Chinese players at the World Championships:
Futurama table tennis
There are two table tennis segments here from Futurama (1:28). (In this episode, "Put Your Head on my Shoulder," Fry's head has been surgically implanted on Amy Wong's body.)
JC Penny commercial with ping-pong
There's about two seconds of "ping-pong" in this 31-second JC Penny commercial, starting at the 11-second mark.
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Tip of the Week
Revamping the forehand
This weekend I was coaching an older player who had a nice backhand but awkward forehand. He stood mostly in a backhand stance, with a low grip (so that his shots were very wristy), and stroked his forehand with his elbow extended out, stroking mostly from the shoulder, with little shoulder rotation. He backswing varied from shot to shot. To fix these problems, we first adjusted the grip. He tried a conventional shakehand grip where his hand was closer to the blade, but it didn't feel right to him. Then we hit on the idea of simply using more pressure with his index finger to secure the blade more firmly on the forehand so that it wouldn't be wristy.
Then we worked on the stance, focusing on putting the right foot slightly back on the forehand. With some practice, this'll become a habit.
Finally we had to fix the elbow and shoulder problem, which really went together. To address this, I went back to a trick I'd seen coaches use long ago when the game was dominated by hitters. We put a rubber cleaning sponge under his arm, forcing him to keep the elbow in. This shortened his stroke, making it easier to rotate the shoulders and stroke more with the elbow. Then we worked on having the same backswing over and over. At this point the stroke really began to come together. Soon he was able to remove the sponge under his arm and he continued to hit with his elbow more in. (You don't want to stroke with the elbow so in that it'll hold a sponge there, but by exaggerating this, it made it easier to adjust to keeping the elbow more in.)
He has a lot of practice ahead of him to undo these bad habits, but he's on his way. The key thing in all this is that when hitting, precision comes mostly from good technique, not just timing. Good technique minimizes the things that can go wrong and make awkward hitting almost difficult.
"The service is the most important stroke in table tennis."
This is what 2003 World Men's Singles Champion Werner Schlager says in his book, "Table Tennis: Tips from a World Champion," by Schlager and Bernd-Ulrich Grob. I concur. Why do so few understand this? (Technically, I'd say receive overall may be even more important, but receive is a series of different techniques, no one of which is as important as developing your serve.)
United States National Table Tennis League
I'll probably have more to write about this later, but take the time now to learn about this new upcoming $100,000 nationwide league, and get your club involved!
Playing Ping-Pong for a Passion
Marty Reisman and the Year of the Dragon Paddle
Yes, here's Marty celebrating the Chinese New Year ("Year of the Dragon") with the new Dragon paddle (0:56)!
Forehand loop in multiball
Here's a nice demonstration of the forehand loop (1:22). That's Coach Richard Bowling looping, and Coach Amy Feng (four-time U.S. Women's Singles Champion, 1992-95) feeding multiball. Shown at regular speed, slow motion, and at Forrest Gump speed.
UPDATE - the video above, which was public, is now listed as private, and so we can't watch. Alas.
Table Tennis and Tennis and Badminton, Oh My!
This is one of the strangest music videos I've ever seen (4:55), to the tune of "The Danger Zone." It features table tennis, tennis, and badminton. Table tennis comes and goes, with the best segment coming at 2:45.
Non-Table Tennis: My entry for "Worst Opening"
This was my entry for a "Worst Opening" contest, where you try to write the most absurd and overdone opening to a science fiction story.
I woke and saw the blue eyes gazing into mine. Lush, blue alien eyes, eyes that cried out "I'm blue!" over and over and over . . . and would not stop. I could only gape back as the reptilian eyes locked into mine, I could not look away, could not blink, could not die in those few seconds that lasted a lifetime of pain and ecstasy. If I'd known then what I would then have never known I would have torn my own eyes out and stuffed them into hers, knowing the holes in my face could never match the growing hole in my heart, nor could the blueness of my rapidly unoxygenating blood pouring down my face onto the floor be anything but a melting blueberry to those pounding blue eyes of tomorrow. That was how my day began.
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Werner Schlager on Talent
2003 World Men's Singles Champion Werner Schlager of Austria recently made a surprise appearance on the about.com table tennis forum. While explaining how Germany's Timo Boll (European #1, world #2) did something so well, he wrote, "I can assure you, there is only one 'magic' behind it: a little talent and many of years of practice." When asked to elaborate on the subject of talent, this is what he wrote:
"Imagine you are born with a double resolution of your eyes retina. You can see with more detail than others. Any exercise regarding reading, searching, etc. is somehow easy for you. But: Probably you wouldn't even realize that you have that gift. Because for you it is NORMAL.
"And this is why i see my gift (far more unspectacular than double resolution retinas, lol) also as "not so special". Probably it is very special to others, but i couldn't even describe you my talent. Is it logical thinking? Is it body movement sensitivity? Is it vision? Is it creativity? Is it my low muscle tension? Hmmm- most likely a little bit of all the things i just mentioned...that is why i stated: 'a little bit of talent' ;)
"But i somehow still believe everybody can play as good as i do- or better. And every time somebody fails, i scratch my head and almost can't believe it.
"Because for me it is easy and normal."
Jun Mizutani's backspin serve
They call it his "ghost serve," but it's just heavy backspin. The video shows how he does it in just 55 seconds. (One thing you can't see very well in the video is that he contacts the ball near the tip, where the racket is moving fastest, thereby creating the most spin.) Here are two tips.
First, while it's good practice to create a backspin serve that's so spinny and short that it bounces back into the net, you generally have to serve slightly high to do so, as Mizutani does here. It's more effective to serve it lower, and so that the second bounce (given the chance) is near the end-line, with more forward motion so that it doesn't bounce backward despite the extreme backspin. The serve Mizutani is doing is more for show, and is easier to return than one that goes deeper, faster, and lower.
Second, learn to do this serve where you also contact the ball near the handle, but with the same vigorous motion you use to produce heavy backspin by contacting the ball toward the tip. Then you'll be able to create heavy backspin and "heavy no-spin" with the same motion, which will confuse your opponent and lead to many missed or popped-up returns. ("Heavy no-spin," where you use a big serving motion but serve with no spin, is my favorite table tennis term.)
Zhang Jike loop
High rating ambitions
Every year at about this time I'm always struck by the number of players using the "Team Finder" page for the North American Teams Championships to try to get on a much higher-rated team than their own rating. Personally, I'd feel rather awkward about trying to team up with players rated much higher. I'm sure every one of these players would argue that they are under-rated. (If they were over-rated, would they be looking for lower-rated teammates?) I've cut & pasted some of the ratings and messages there.
Jackie Chan table tennis commercial
Here's a 30-second 2007 Visa commercial starring Jackie Chan as he tries to get it to the Beijing Olympics in 2008 by making the Olympic Team. He ends up using his Visa card instead.
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Ratings - Love 'em or Love 'em
Way too many players are obsessed with ratings. Ratings are fun when they go up, but players (and coaches and parents) shouldn't worry too much about them. They are a good measure of level and improvement, and while you shouldn't worry too much about what your current ratings is, they are a good shorthand for various levels of play. Since goals are generally about winning a specific event (which includes making a team), or about reaching a specific level of play, ratings can be useful for the latter. They are also useful as a stepping stone toward winning a specific event - you aren't going to win a state title, for example, if the best players are 2100, and you are only 1500. Just to be a contender you need to approach that 2100 level, and rating level is useful in keeping track of that.
Here's my article about Juniors and Ratings. (It was published in the USATT Coaching Newsletter.) But most of it applies to all ages.
Peter Li and Michael Landers in China
Both are training and competing in China. (At age 18 and 17, they are the best in the U.S. for their age.) I'm kind of proud of them - Peter was from my club from when he started until about age 14 or so and I used to practice with him and coach him in camps, and Michael came to a number of our summer camps when he was about 11 to 13, where I did a lot of multiball coaching with him.
Weight Training Update
During my second session of my new weight training regimen I added four new exercises to the list: fly & rear delts, calf extension, and back extension. The calf extension was especially obvious - guess which muscle is used when short-stepping around the table? And the fly delts seem to build up muscles used when forehand looping. I'm basically an amateur when it comes to weight training, and yet I'm gradually beginning to remember that I was somewhat knowledgeable about table tennis weight training routines back in the late 1980s and early 1990s. I've forgotten a lot, but it's starting to come back. Here is my updated regimen, three times a week, doing three sets of ten for each, usually after a table tennis session:
Also, I made the interesting discussion that one of the people I rent the downstairs of my townhouse to works at Fitness First. (I live on the third floor, and rent out the first two floors to a father and 23-year-old son; the latter is the one who works at Fitness First.) We discussed my routine, and he thought (as did a commenter here) that I should eventually go to free weights, so as to build up the stabilizing muscles. But he thought my plan of using the machines until I'm a bit stronger and more experienced seemed reasonable. I did discover they have free weights at the back of the Planet Fitness I'm working out at.
Werner Schlager exhibition shots
Here's 2003 World Men's Singles Champion Werner Schlager of Austria playing an exhibition point (0:51) against Oh Sang Eun of Korea.
Ping-Pong Diplomacy Book
Yes, "The Origin of Ping-Pong Diplomacy: The Forgotten Architect of Sino-U.S. Rapprochement," by Mayumi Itoh, 266 pages, is out! But $72???
Another option for those interested is to read Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis, Vol. 5, which covers Ping-Pong Diplomacy. (Presumably the Itoh book covers things a big differently; Tim covers it in a very personal way, since he was on the trip to China, and part of the U.S. tour.) You can buy the eleven volumes in this series (individually or all of them) at TimBogganTableTennis.com, or you can read it online:
Inspirational Music for Table Tennis
I may have posted this once before, but the subject of inspirational music for table tennis came up recently, so here's a good listing. I don't actually train with music, but many do, and many find listening to such music before playing revs them up. (These are mostly from movies.) What are yours?
A Cat and Beverly Hills Cop
And since we're on the subject of table tennis music, here's a cat, table tennis, and the theme music to Beverly Hills Cop (starring Eddie Murphy at his peak). (3:42)
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USA Table Tennis Infrastructure
No sport can get big without infrastructure. In countries like Germany and England (700,000 and 500,000 members of their respective table tennis associations), the focus is on their leagues, with a secondary focus on junior development. The U.S. Tennis Association (700,000 members) also focuses on its leagues and junior development, as well as the U.S. Open. Little League Baseball, pretty much by definition, focuses on leagues and junior development, and has millions of players. The United States Bowling Congress, with over 2.5 million members, has over 70,000 leagues administered by 35,000 volunteers in 2900 local and state associations. I could go on and on and on, with country after country, sport after sport, but it's always the same message. What can USA Table Tennis (8000 members) learn from this?
A number of times in our past we've had huge media coverage, and a large influx of players. Each time it was temporary because, predictably, without the infrastructure to absorb the players - leagues for all levels, junior programs for kids - the players came, didn't find what they wanted, and they left. And so the media coverage from Ping-Pong Diplomacy in 1971 and 1972, the Olympic debut in 1988, the Olympics in the U.S. in 1996, even Forest Gump in 1994, didn't help; we simply weren't ready. We've been on national TV numerous times, from the ESPN coverage circa 1980, Prime Network in the early 1990s, various times during the Olympics, and more recently Killerspin ESPN broadcasts. Again, it didn't help without the infrastructure. USATT is like a shoe store with bad shoes; until they fix the shoes, TV and other promotions aren't going to develop a membership base. If we were a shoe store, we'd be out of business. Since we're a non-profit, we stay open, a monument to how not to grow a sport.
USA Table Tennis, don't just say leagues and junior programs are priorities, and create task forces to look into these issues, and then do nothing, as we've done over and Over and OVER. If you can't make these your top priority (or make a strong argument for something else), and act like they ARE your top priority by actually making it your, *cough* *cough* TOP PRIORTY, by actually implementing something - then you are just caretakers for a sport waiting for true leadership.
I've blogged about this numerous times, so here it is in a nutshell. Create the prototypical USA League, make it available to potential league directors, recruit volunteers, and promote the heck out of it. Recruit and train coaches who wish to run junior programs. See sport grow. Grow sport grow.
This is not a sport where talking the talk will get anything done; we need to walk the walk. There is a well-trod path to success; to quote the great Yoda, "Do or do not." Which will it be?
Returning short serves to the forehand
Having trouble with those short serves to the forehand? Often find yourself barely getting them in time, since you also have to be ready to cover deep serves? Try practicing in and out movement. Go into your regular receive stance. Then step in, with the right foot well under the table (for righties), and shadow-practice flipping or pushing that serve. Do this a few dozen times, in and out, in and out, in and out. It can be tiring, but it'll pay off if you do this regularly, perhaps a few times a week.
How to Be a Champion
Required reading for all players and coaches. (I posted this once before, but I should post this a few times a year.) These are from the May/June 2005 USA Table Tennis Magazine "How to Be a Champion" issue.
iPhone table tennis app
This seems to be table tennis, but since I use a phone designed to make, you know, phone calls, I'm not really sure.
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