Two-Toned Ball

August 28, 2014

Disabled Veterans Camp

Yesterday was Day Two of the four-day camp at MDTTC. We started with a contest - the players paired up to see who could get 100 forehands in a row. As I explained to them, we often say that a player doesn't have a forehand or backhand until he's hit 100 in a row, and so everyone was determined to do so. 

For inspiration I told them the story of 13-year-old practice partner Sameer Shaikh. About a year before he was struggling to get 100 forehands in a row in a session with me. He got 99 in a row, and missed! Then he got 97, then I think it was 94, and each time, just as he approached 100, he'd miss. It was torture for him! But we decided we'd devote the entire session to this, and he finally got 100 in a row. But once he did that, he relaxed and stopped trying to guide the shot. Result? The rally continued, and he actually hit 1000 in a row!!! I caught the ball and told him he'd done enough, and we'd continue later. (We never did get back to it. I'm not sure if my arm could take another 1000.) The purpose of the drill/contest was both to develop the stroking technique, timing, and consistency, but also to develop concentration and confidence. 

We rotated the players regularly so everyone hit with everyone else, including practice partner Sameer. Then we did the same thing with backhands. Everyone hit at least 100 in a row on one side, and several managed to do it on both sides. We finished with a smashing drill, where players would hit two forehands in a row, then smash and continue smashing, while the other tried to return them. 

Then we went to the main focus of the day - serving. I brought out the colored soccer balls so they could see the spin, and showed them how much spin could be created on a serve, as well as showing them various "tricks," such as backspin serves that bounced back into (or over) the net, and sidespin serves that broke almost directly sideways. Then I had them practice spinning the soccer balls in the air - spin and catch, spin and catch. It's one of the best ways to learn to spin the ball. Then I gave several lectures/demos on the rules, creating spin, deception, the main service motions, and fast serves. Between the lecture/demos they practiced serves, with each getting a table and box of balls to themselves.  

Next on the agenda was more smashing. After a lecture and demo with Sameer, the players formed a line, and in rapid-fire fashion took turns smashing forehands as I fed multiball, three shots each, one to the backhand, one to the middle, one to the forehand, and then the next was up. 

We finished with a receive "game." They took turns trying to return my serves, and stayed up until they'd missed two. The catch was that I got to make fun of them when they missed, while they got to make fun of me if they got them back. I'd mostly serve and quickly put my racket on the table and step to the side of the table my sidespin would force their return to - so if they did return the serve, I'd be stuck rallying with my hand. Or I'd say, "Don't put this in the net!" as I served backspin. Or I'd serve fast aces at the corners. Tomorrow we'll be covering return of serve, along with pushing and looping. 

It was a long day. After the camp I had another 2.5 hours of private coaching. Had some nice breakthroughs - Willie is learning to loop, Daniel's loop is getting powerful, and Matt's is even more ferocious! 

Here's the group picture, which I also linked to yesterday. Using a high-quality version, I printed out copies for everyone on photo paper, which I'll give out today. 

New Two-Toned Ball Undermines Chopper's Advantage

Here's the article and video (2 hours!). 

Interview with German National Coach Jörg Rosskopf

Here's the article

100-Day Countdown to Change in the ITTF's Presidency

Former USATT President Sheri Pittman Cioroslan is doing an article every day during the last 100 days of Adham Sharara's ITTF presidency, counting downwards from 100. Previous ones are linked from the USATT News page, as well as in my past blogs. Ninety-seven down, three to go!

  • Day 4: Latin American Ascending to New Found Heights

Ping-Pong Balls for Children's Therapy

Here's the article

Ping-Pong Table Sound System

Here's the article - yes, a sound system that doubles as a ping-pong table!

Xavier Therien - STIGA 2014 ITTF TrickShot Showdown

Here's the Canadian National Team Member's juggling and table tennis with a crazy contraption trick shot (1:22)! And here are more - there are so many that I haven't really gone through them. Here's the home page for the competition.

Backhand of the Year?

Here's video of Nelson's Backhand (52 sec) - see the shot 7 seconds in!

Around-Net Rolling Return

Here's the video (22 sec) of some rather incredible staged shots. 

Incredible Rally

Here's the video (32 sec).

Ice Bucket Challenge

Ping-Pong Cupcakes Anyone?

Here's the picture

Tricky Serve!

Here's the video (6 sec).

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August 8, 2014

Virginia Camp

Yesterday was Day Four of the five-day camp I'm running at Fairhill Elementary School in Fairfax, Virginia, with 14 players, ages 6 to 12. (John and Wen Hsu are assistant coaches, with Wen the administrator.) The focus yesterday was footwork (as usual), serving, and lots and lots of smashing. We also did a lot of relay races. 

After four days of camp, all 14 of the kids can hit forehands and backhands pretty well, at least in multiball. All can smash, push, and move side to side. Most can put spin on their serves. I think I've put more emphasis in this camp on smashing and serves, and the players are well ahead on those two aspects. All were beginners when we started on Monday, though some had been playing on their own. 

When I do multiball forehand smash training, I like to do two players at a time. One stands on the forehand side, the other on the backhand side. The one on the forehand side starts, smashing three forehands in a row, one from the forehand side, one from the backhand side, and one from the forehand side. After the third shot he steps back, and the other player gets three smashes, one from the backhand side, one from the forehand side, and one from the backhand side. Then he steps back, and we repeat with the other player. The drill is continuous, so the players get lots of smashing and footwork practice. If I have a lot of players, I'll do three or more players at a time, with the players smashing forehands from the backhand and then forehand side, and then circling back to the end of the line as the next player gets two smashes. There are many variations, such as smashing on the forehand side and then backhand side, or mixing in backhand smashes, or even doing the "2-1" drill, with the players hitting a backhand from the backhand side, then a forehand from the backhand side, then a forehand from the forehand side, and then rotating to the end of the line. 

Sometimes a simple suggestion cures a problem. One kid was having difficulty timing his forehand - over and over he'd start too soon or too late, and end up with wild swats and lunges. I suggested he start his forward swing right as the ball hit the table, and presto! Instant success. Another couldn't get spin on his serve because he kept patting at the ball. I reminded him that serving with spin is a violent motion, and that if you want the ball to spin 100 mph, you have to get the racket to move 100 mph. Within minutes he was serving serious backspins that often stopped over the table, with a couple even coming back into the net.

I brought out the serving bar so they could practice serving low. (This is an adjustable bar that goes over the net. Here's a picture of it set high, and here's a picture of it set low. John Olsen made this for our club. It has about ten height settings.) The kids had a great time trying to serve under the lowest setting - they insisted on that one. Even I hit the bar about 1/3 of the time with that setting. I also brought out the soccer-colored balls for more spin feedback on serves. Besides spin serves we also practice fast serves. 

I spent the last 20 minutes of the day serving to the kids, who lined up to try to return them. I'd call out where their returns would go in advance, even having kids take turns standing to the side and catching the returns off my sidespin serves. Then I started telling them what they had to do to return them, and some of them were able to make some returns. I also threw in a lot of "trick" serves - backspin serves that bounced back and over the net, under-the-leg serves, fast serves, "blowing serves" (where I'd serve high but then run to the side of the table and blow the ball sideways or back into the net on the opponent's side), and about a dozen others. I also threw in a few 50-foot serves from the side. 

Zhang Jike: The Two-Toned Ball is Okay

Here's the article.

Plastic Ball Reviews from Professionals

Here's the article, with reviews from five world-class players.

Hong Kong Cadet and Junior Open

Here's the info page for the Aug. 6-10 tournament. Fifteen USA juniors are playing in the tournament - here's the player listing by country.

100-Day Countdown to Change in the ITTF's Presidency

Former USATT President Sheri Pittman Cioroslan is doing an article every day during the last 100 days of Adham Sharara's ITTF presidency, counting downwards from 100. Previous ones are linked from the USATT News page, as well as in my past blogs. Seventy-six down, 24 to go!

  • Day 25: Alison Burchell Hopes to See the ITTF Become the Best Integrated IF

Athletes in Excellence

Here's the info page. "The Athletes in Excellence Award from The Foundation for Global Sports Development recognizes exceptional athletes who uphold the values of good sportsmanship and fair play on the field as well as off the field. Do you know of an athlete who spends countless hours volunteering their skills and time to better the lives of others? Submit your nomination to The Foundation for Global Sports Development, and share the athlete’s good deeds around the world. A total of ten athletes (five international and five domestic) will be awarded unrestricted grants each in the amount of $10,000. Award winners will be announced in fall of 2014."

Three Amazing Points

Here's the video (1:54). Ding Ning vs. Seo Hyowon, Ma Long vs. Jun Mazutani, and Ma Long vs. Fan Zhendong.

Casts of Hot in Cleveland and Glee Play Ping Pong

Here's the article and picture

Doug McDermott vs. Nick Johnson - NBA Basketball Players Play TT

Here's the article, with a link to a 16-sec video.

World Series of Beer Pong

Here's the info page. Oh Jeez!!!

Ulf Carlsson Playing with Racket in Pants

Here's the video (20 sec) of the 1985 World Men's Doubles Champion (with Mikael Appelgren).

Cat Playing Table Tennis

It's been a while since I've shown a video of a cat playing table tennis, so here's one (26 sec) that's probably the best pong-playing cat I've seen on video. We'll ignore that he's standing on the table, touching the net, has no racket, and isn't wearing legal attire. 

Non-TT: Top Ten Ways for Orioles Fans to Cope with a Winning Team

After 14 consecutive losing seasons (1998-2011), the fans of the Baltimore Orioles pretty much got used to losing. They have begun winning the last three years, but many fans are still not used to this weird thing called "winning." So here is my Top Ten List for how they can cope - published at Orioles Hangout. (Here's the thread on their forum where a few are discussing the list.)

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July 17, 2014

Serve and Attack Patterns

There are all sorts of ways to serve and attack. For the uninitiated, let me remind you what the purpose of the serve is - it is to set up your attack! You may have serves that are designed to win a point outright - "trick serves" - but there's no point in serving and hoping for a winner. You should always expect a return, and so from that point of view, the point is to follow your serve with an attack. The exception, of course, is when the opponent returns your serve in such a way as to stop your attack. But until he does that, you should be looking to serve and attack in some way.

This is true for defending players as well. Otherwise you lose your entire serve advantage. If you say you don't have a strong enough attack to serve and attack, then you've answered your own question - you need to develop that attack. Nobody reaches their potential on just attack or just defense - you need both. Defenders should look to follow their serves with attacks if the return is weak. If it is not weak, then they can stick to defense.

Below are some of my personal favorite serve and attack tactics. I'm writing these as if I were still at my peak, when I had good footwork and tried to follow most serves with a forehand loop or smash. Everyone's different, so pick out the ones that you like, and ignore others. I can follow my serves equally well with a forehand loop against backspin or topspin, or a forehand smash, but almost always with a forehand. Others may only loop or smash, or may have better backhand attacks.

  1. Short backspin or no-spin to middle. If I served backspin and they pushed it back, I tended to look to follow with a spinny forehand loop deep on the table, but if the push is weak I go for a winner. If I serve no-spin, I almost always looked to serve and rip, as no-spin serves tend to come back with less backspin and a little higher. By serving to the middle I cut off the extreme angles, and there's less ground to cover.
  2. Short backspin or no-spin to backhand. This is the same as serving to the middle (regarding backspin or no-spin), but now the opponent has an angle into my backhand, but can only go down the line to my forehand. After the serve I'd stand as far to my left as I could, ready to loop any push to my wide backhand with my forehand. Since most players guard the crosscourt angle more than down the line, I often looked to loop a winner down the line - but the danger here is that they have an open angle to my wide forehand, so if you go down the line, you either have to loop a winner, or loop it slow and spinny, so the slowness gives you time to get back into position.

    The second option is to loop to the middle - though for many this should be the first option. It's the hardest place for an opponent to defend, and since they have no extreme angles, you can often follow with another forehand.

    The third option is to loop to the wide backhand. This is usually an easier block for the opponent, but since they have no angle into the wide forehand, you can stand toward your backhand side and often follow with another forehand. You can rip a winner to the very wide backhand, if it's open, or just loop slow and spinny and deep on the table. Deep, spinny loops are often hard to block on the backhand.

  3. Short backspin or no-spin to forehand. This is the same as serving to the middle (regarding backspin or no-spin), but now the opponent has an angle into my forehand, but can only go down the line to my backhand. It's especially effective for me with a reverse pendulum or a tomahawk serve (or for others, a backhand serve). Many players are awkward against short serves to the forehand and give weak returns. It also brings them over the table, so they are awkward on the next shot. Most players return these crosscourt, so you can almost camp out there. However, better players learn to take these down the line. Since you have to guard that wide forehand angle, these serves are mostly effective only against those who are awkward against short serves to the forehand, or who predictably go crosscourt.

    However, an alternate version is to serve short to the middle forehand. This cuts off the extreme forehand angle, and makes the short awkward to flip for many players.

  4. Short side-top serves. Most players return these with soft drives or flips. Since there's no backspin on the ball, you can drive into the ball with a point-ending loop. It's just a matter of getting into position. Most players return these serves crosscourt, so be ready for that. Make sure to fake backspin on these serves by following through down after contact!
  5. Long serves to the backhand. Most of these serves are returned crosscourt, so you can hang out to your backhand side and follow with a forehand (or backhand if you are stronger with that side). The key is variation. Be able to serve big breaking serves that curve to the right (receiver's left); fast ones that catch them off guard; heavy topspin that gets popped up or goes off; and fast no-spin that they tend to put in the net or return weakly. If the opponent can consistently loop this serve (backhand or forehand), then you probably want to use other serves.
  6. Fast to the middle. This makes them choose between forehand and backhand, and often results in weak returns. It's especially effective with fast no-spin. If they can loop this serve consistently, then switch to other serves.
  7. Fast down the line. Many players leave this spot open, and are vulnerable to this. You can't always follow with a forehand, so be ready to attack or counter-attack from both wings.
  8. Serves from the forehand side. This gives a different angle, and often results in weak returns. I do this either with a tomahawk serve or with a regular pendulum serve. The serve usually comes back toward the forehand side, and so is easy to attack. But the key is giving the opponent a different "look" to adjust to, with the result you get many weak returns.

    One of my favorite tactics is to serve this down the line from the forehand side. The opponent is looking for a crosscourt serve, and is often caught off guard, and so makes a weak return. He almost always will return this crosscourt to the backhand. So if you have reasonable foot speed, you can move all the way over to your backhand and follow with a forehand! But this does leave your forehand side wide open, and usually only works once - then the opponent will take it down the line. So for most, it might be better to follow with a backhand attack.

Chinese Super League Introduces Two-Toned Ball

Here's the story. This is a great idea - I've blogged in the past how silly it is that in such a spin-oriented sport, we have a ball where you can't see the spin, and suggested we use a soccer-colored one or something like that.

100-Day Countdown to Change in the ITTF's Presidency

Former USATT President Sheri Pittman Cioroslan is doing an article every day during the last 100 days of Adham Sharara's ITTF presidency, counting downwards from 100. Previous ones are linked from the USATT News page, as well as in my past blogs. Fifty-five down, 45 to go!

  • Day 46: Steve Dainton’s Journey to Becoming the ITTF’s Director of Marketing

Kreanga Backhand

Here's video (28 sec, including slow motion replay), of a great point, ending with an incredible Kreanga backhand Loop kill. Actually two of them, but opponent Liu Guoliang smashes the first! This is from the 2001 World Championships. Liu, the last of the great pips-out penholders, is now coach of the Chinese Men's Team.

Epic Point

Here's an epic point (28 sec, all rally!). That's Wang Liqin on the far side, Werner Schlager on the near side. From the comments I think it's from the 2003 World Cup, but I'm not sure.

Nathan Hsu in China

Here's a 13-sec video of Nathan Hsu training in China, created by Coach Jeffrey Xen Xun.

Teqball Anyone?

Here's the video (2:15) of rules for the new version of table tennis/soccer that's taking the world  by storm.

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