Zhang Jike

November 5, 2014

Ready Stance

What is a proper ready stance? Any decent coach could go over this in great detail. I've written about it before, such as in Grip and Stance and Use a Wider Stance. But there's a simpler way. (This might be expanded later into a Tip of the Week.)

Next time you are trying to show someone the proper ready stance in table tennis (or trying to work out your own), imagine playing basketball. Pretend to dribble a ball, and tell the person to cover you. Invariably he'll go into a perfect crouch that allows him to move quickly side to side - he'll widen his stance, with his feet aimed slightly outward, knees slightly bent, and bend slightly forward at the waist. (You can also tell someone to imagine being a shortstop in baseball or a goalie in soccer - same thing.) Other than not holding the arms up (as one does when covering in basketball), the player is now in a proper table tennis stance, and you didn't have to go into all the specifics.

Have the player do some side-to-side movements, and he'll quickly realize the benefits of playing in such a stance.

Table Tennis Authors Unite!

I've self-published my last few table tennis books on Createspace.com, a subsidiary of Amazon.com. Along the way I've become something of an expert on it. I've been advising a few other writers on it, and at the upcoming USA Nationals I'm doing an informal demo for three prospective table tennis authors who are writing table tennis books. If you also are interested in this (i.e. are writing a book on table tennis - or perhaps some other topic - that you'd like to self-publish), email me and I'll see if we can find a time at the Nationals where we can all get together.

Mostly Non-TT - World Fantasy Convention and Stupefying Stories

I'll be spending much of the next four days jumping back and forth between table tennis and the World Fantasy Convention, which is happening nearby in Arlington, Virginia, at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City, Thur-Sun. I have a reading scheduled Saturday at 1:30 PM. I have a lot of coaching on Thursday and Friday nights, and Sunday all day, but I'll likely spend my free time over there, plus I've got Saturday completely off. If anyone wants to join me, email me.

On a related note, at 5PM today (Eastern time) my dark fantasy story "The Roads to Hell" will go live at Stupefying Stories. It's a political story about what happens to political ideologues after they die.

The Powerful Backhand Loop of Werner Schlager

Here's video (42 sec, including slow motion replay) of Schlager ripping five backhand loops in a row against chopper Joo Se Hyuk. Many top players use backhand loops as variations against choppers, but five in a row, like this? Wow! (Ironically some of our top up-and-coming stars at MDTTC are also experimenting with backhand loops when playing local chopping star and coach Wang Qing Liang.)

Cast Your Vote for USOC Athlete of the Month - Kanak Jha!

Here's where you can vote.

Plastic Ball Testing

The Preston Table Tennis Association has put together a pair of videos that test the new plastic balls. Here they are:

Zhang Jike's Prize Money Goes to a Fund for Annual Fair Play Award

Here's the ITTF press release.

Table Tennis Rock & Roll

Here's the inspirational music video from the ITTF (1:32). However, there's a problem with this. Go to 1:09, and you'll see they are using highlights of the infamous Zhang Jike scene where he's destroying the barriers after his World Cup win. How can they fine him his entire $45,000 prize money for this, and then use it for promotional purposes? I'm guessing this is a case of the right hand not knowing what the left hand was doing.

Table Tennis Daily & Editingsports Trick Shots

Here's the video (1:28) that shows some great trick shots. One of my great sorrows of life is that my shoulder is too stiff to do any of the behind-the-back shots they show here!

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November 4, 2014

Coaching Seven-Year-Olds

Yesterday I coached two seven-year-olds, feeding them multiball for half an hour as they took turns practicing and doing ball pickup. Coaching seven-year-olds is like trying to catch smoke in your hands. If you haven't tried coaching this age group, then you have no idea what it's like. I've worked regularly with these two, who aren't exactly beginners. Both will likely become very good players. I should be taking videos of them now to blackmail them to show them someday.  

I teach a class of beginning kids twice a week. Our last one on Sunday had 15 kids, including one 6-year-old, three 7-year-olds, and four 8-year-olds. So I'm quite experienced at threatening to throttle them if they don't pay attention teaching them the finer points of the game. It's always a matter of finding the balance between strictness (i.e. getting them to learn by actually practicing) and fun. 

At this age they have an attention span of about three seconds. Okay, they can focus longer than that, but it's not easy for them. It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a 7-year-old to play serious for more than 30 seconds. Pretty much anything brings on a gigglefest. And yet you have to find a way to get them to do things properly, and to practice it, or as you explain to them they'll grow up flipping burgers at McDonalds they won't reach their potential as table tennis players.

Sometimes you feel like you are tricking them into learning things so that they'll have good techniques ingrained by the time they are more serious. And since no seven year old can focus for more than three seconds while there are seven-year-olds who can focus (for a time, at least), most simply aren't ready to take it seriously for another year or so. But there are ways of getting their attention and getting them to try. For example, if you challenge them to do a number of shots in a row (say, 50 forehands), they'll usually rise to the challenge. Or you can play improvised games, such as feeding multiball where they have to make three smashes in a row to score a point, but if they miss any of them I score a point. Or, as I did with the two yesterday (who were a bit advanced for seven-year-olds), feed them a backspin ball and a topspin ball, and they have to loop the first and smash the second to score a point - but if they miss either shot I score the point. They can get into these types of games.

The same is true of ball pickup. If you are coaching a group, then while one is doing multiball, the other(s) are doing ball pickup. At age seven, one doing ball pickup is a chore; two doing it is a contest. (This is true of boys, but girls often cooperate. Anyone who thinks they are the same at this age hasn't coached them.) And so it's often best to have two of them competing to see who can pick up the most. They'll go at it, with constant cries of "I'm winning!" - often when they obviously are not winning. Between feeding balls I sometimes help with ball pickup, and there's nothing in the world you can do to make one of them happier than to suddenly pour the balls from your pickup net into theirs, to the even louder cries of "I'm winning!" Of course this brings cries of protest from the other - "No fair!" So be an equal opportunity ball sharer and give each half.

You have to be careful what you do around them. If they see something, they want to copy it. In the middle of a demo a few weeks ago I suddenly chopped a ball. OOPS!!! The rest of the session several of the kids wanted to chop. It's easier to get an elephant to fit into a racket case than getting a seven-year-old to focus on hitting and looping when he has chopping on his mind. (I think we've just discovered the origin of choppers - it's not genetic, it's environment.) So be very careful what you do around seven-year-olds because what you do is what they'll be doing for the rest of the session and perhaps the rest of their lives. It's a heavy responsibility.

At this age they have one natural addiction and one learned addiction. They all like speed. Adults think of running around as work, but kids want to run around. It is easier to fit a blue whale into a ping-pong ball then for a seven-year-old to stop moving. And so footwork drills aren't work, they are play. (Well, at least until they get bored with it, so you keep changing the drill to something new rather than have them do 1-1 forehand footwork for more than a few minutes.) The other type of speed they like is smashing. Oh yes, they love smashing. It's like dessert. And so you usually save it for the last drill. Then let them swing away. Only catch is often they don't care if the ball hits the table, they just want to hit the ball hard. So you might have to remind them to aim for the table.

The learned addiction is spin. They are fascinated by how the ball curves with sidespin, and floats and stops on the table with backspin. So guess what becomes their favorite shot, other than smashing? Pushing. In nearly every session the seven-year-olds (and older ones) ask if they can push. When the ball hits the table or floor and dies, they have big grins. I often bring out soccer-colored balls for pushing so they can see the ball spin, which adds to the fun.

Another drill they like is blocking my loops. You'd be amazed at how fast a seven-year-old can learn to block a loop as long as I keep the ball on one spot on the table, say inside a one-foot area. After a few sessions, you can almost let loose at regular power, and they block them back like it was a video game. The only problem is they get addicted to this as well, and always want to block - which can be tiring for a coach. One other problem is that while they quickly learn to block them back, they aren't very accurate, so their blocks spray all over the table. It also becomes apparent that they have very slow reactions - if you move the loop one foot to the side, they barely react to it.

And what is the favorite game in table tennis for seven-year-olds? No, not table tennis; it's either stacking cups on one side of the table so they can knock them down while I feed multiball, or hitting a bottle filled with "worm juice," which I have to drink if they hit it. As I often point out to them, "Friends do not make friends drink worm juice." They are not my friends work hard to hit the bottles so as to improve their stroking accuracy.

USA Nationals

They are now up to 739 players in this year's upcoming USA Nationals (Las Vegas, Dec. 16-20), and the final deadline for entering isn't until Nov. 9, this Sunday, with several more days probably needed to enter them all. Here's the listing. (Set drop-down menu near top to "USA Nationals.") This already tops the 716 players in last year's USA Nationals (also in Las Vegas), so the switch to the plastic ball apparently hasn't had an effect on attendance. I'll put up an updated list sometime next week when all the entries are listed.

Are You Doing What You Think You're Doing?

Here's the coaching article from Expert Table Tennis. "In a nutshell, I’m using today’s post as another opportunity to convince you of the power of filming yourself playing table tennis. But I’ll also go a bit more into the reason why you need to start filming and analysing your own game."

Was the New Ball More Entertaining?

Here's the new blog entry on the new plastic ball by Matt Hetherington.

Wang Hao: The Rumour Was an Insult to Us

Here's another article on the 2012 Olympic Men's Singles Final apparent fixing story, where Wang Hao sort of denies it. Judge for yourself.

Zhang Jike Fiasco a Benefit to Sponsors

Here's the article. "It is very interesting to note that the Japanese thinks that by his rather destructive merrymaking, Zhang Jike has actually increased the visibility of the sponsor's name and it is a form of advertisement and publicity. For the sponsors, it should be a good thing and they are the biggest beneficiary from this fiasco."

Second Annual Playing It Forward Ping Pong Ball

Here's event info. The charity event takes place 6-10PM on Thursday, Nov. 6, at the Hard Rock Hotel in Chicago. All proceeds support families with critically ill babies at Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago. Event will include "…a Jocks versus Rocks tournament with pro athletes like Chicago Bears’ players Jordan Mills, Cornelius Washington and David Bass, refereed by TV Personality and CEO/Founder of Rockit Ranch Productions, Billy Dec. Talent from Killerspin Table Tennis will be conducting tips and tricks demonstrations. There will also be over 50 silent auction items, including a full wedding package complete with a venue, dress and veil, planner, flowers and more, as well as vacations from all over the world."

Milwaukee Bucks Add Ping Pong Table to Arena

Here's the article from Table Tennis Nation.

Election Day

Here are two cartoons I created long ago. The first is pretty simple. The second is jammed with gags - see if you can find them all. Special bonus if you can figure out who all the talking people are in the second one - especially the three on the left, and explain why they are in the picture.  

Minions Playing Table Tennis!

80 seconds into the trailer for the upcoming movie Minions a pair of bored Minions are playing table tennis for about three seconds!

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October 31, 2014

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!!

Table Tennis Plans and Other Work

It's been an incredibly busy week, and yet I'm more energized now than in years. Why is that? Ever since I decided to run for the USATT Board (assuming I get on the ballot) I've been busy planning out the stuff I've been arguing for (and planning for) for years. Much of it is stuff I've already done or others have done, and only need to introduce to this country, so it's not like we're re-inventing the wheel (or the ping-pong ball) again. Since I do the blog (and Tip of the Week) in the morning, this leaves much of the day for other activities, such as promoting MDTTC and (hopefully) working with USATT.

Yesterday I spent a good portion of the day working out plans and discussing with others the idea of recruiting an entrepreneurial leader to help create a USA Professional Table Tennis Players Association (hopefully with a better name), whose job it would be to go to cities in the NA Tour (assuming we go that route) and bring in sponsorships for each stop (hopefully to dramatically increase prize money), as well as organize activities, find ways to make and save money for the top players (free places to stay, etc.), and other ways of professionalizing the sport in this country. This is only one of the five main issues I plan to work on - I blogged about this on October 23. I've already worked out plans for all five. (I've had them for a long time, but had to write them out and fine-tune them.) I've told people the plan is to have enough prize money so at least eight USA players can make a full-time living as players by the time Kanak Jha (age 14) is ready to go to college, and has to make that college-or-table-tennis decision. Of course, that's sort of just a slogan (a long one), but the idea is that we want up-and-coming juniors to have this option, as well as being able to show other students that there indeed are professional players in this country.

Regarding item #1 from the Oct. 23 blog, "Create a USATT Coaching Academy to Recruit and Train Professional Coaches to Set Up Training Centers and Junior Programs," I've been arguing versions of this for years. At the December, 2006 USATT Board Meeting I made a formal proposal that USATT get involved in this, with the goal of 100 serious training centers with junior programs in five years. At the time there were only about eight in the country. The proposal was pretty much laughed at, even though total financial commitment from USATT was exactly $0. (The plan was to change the focus of currently run USATT coaching clinics, and to use the web page and magazine to recruit potential coaches/directors/promoters.) Two board members openly argued that there simply isn't enough players in this country for full-time training centers, missing the whole point that you develop the demand.

And so the item was checked off the agenda list and they went on to more important stuff that would quickly be forgotten. I had a similar experience at the 2009 USATT Strategic Meeting and other USATT meetings. But if I'm on the board, I'll be in a position to get these things done - all it takes is one person to take action. While others might not take initiative, it's not so easy to openly block someone else taking initiative when it costs almost nothing. I've discussed these ideas with enough board members to know they should get enough support to make them happen. (Not all of them were at the meetings I mention above.)

There are now 76 full-time table tennis centers in the U.S. that I know of. As I've blogged before, I believe this is the best thing happening in table tennis right now. It's why we now have so many top juniors now, as well as more in general. It's why we've gone from a few dozen full-time coaches to many hundreds of them. And yet this is a fraction of the potential if we simply organize this by recruiting and training such coaches/directors/promoters, rather than make each one of them re-invent the wheel or informally learn how to do it from others doing it. (I've spent a lot of time advising people on this. I spent some of my trip to Indiana this past weekend advising two people who are planning two new full-time centers.)

Meanwhile, I've been doing my usual table tennis work. There's the usual private and group coaching, which is mostly nights and weekends. This week I seem to be emphasizing backhand work with my students, just as last week. Lots of backhand drills! More of my students (and others at MDTTC) are really topspinning their backhands, and those balls are really hopping - it's getting scary! I've had several of our top juniors demonstrate their backhand loops for other up-and-coming ones, and have begun making sort of a study on how they each do it differently. (For example, some never change the racket angle during the backswing, while others close it slightly in the backswing and then open it again as a way to get more "snap" into the shot. World-class players also vary in this way, with the key being that the racket angle should be constant during the time just before, during, and after contact or you can't really control it.) 

Yesterday a new beginning junior class started with 11 players. I'm also doing the afterschool program, which involves picking up kids at school, coaching, and tutoring. I spent some time working out the upcoming training program for one of our top players, and met with him for half an hour to go over it. As blogged about on Tuesday, I spent Fri-Mon traveling to and from and coaching at the 4-star South Shore Open in Indiana. I've since updated my notes on several of the players I watched there - I keep running notes. I also researched some info from an old USATT Magazine for someone - I have nearly every magazine going back to 1976, though some are crumbling.

One of the regular activities of table tennis coaches is writing letters of recommendation for students when they reach college age. I wrote a bunch this week for Tong Tong Gong. We have seven full-time coaches at MDTTC, but I'm the writer-coach, and most of the others are Chinese and don't write English well, so it falls on me to do this.

Back Problems

This is exciting - I have a new back injury! New and different!!! The injury is in my upper right back, I think a small muscle tear. I've never injured this spot before, so let's all give a great welcome to this brand new injury!

I think I hurt it on the 11-hour ride back from Indiana, or at least it stiffened up there. When I returned my air bed was a bit low on air, but it's very noisy to fill up, and so I waited until the next day - and I think sleeping on a soft air bed may have aggravated it further. I was mostly okay when I coached on Tuesday and Wednesday, but it was bothering me a bit. Then, during a session yesterday, my whole upper right back pretty much became a solid mass of injured rock, and I could barely rotate to hit shots. Halfway through a one-hour session I had to stop, and I had to cancel a one-hour session later that night. (In between I did new junior class, but I only had to do simple demos and multiball for that.) Anyway, I'll rest it today and tomorrow (no coaching planned for once), and see how it is on Sunday. I don't think it's too bad; I should be fine soon.

Halloween Table Tennis

World Cadet Challenge

Crystal Wang, Kanak Jha, and Jack Wang all went 3-0 in their preliminary RRs, and are now in the Final 16 in Singles. They will play two rounds today, and the final two rounds (SF and Final) tomorrow. Here's the girls' draw, and here's the boys' draw. Here's a feature ITTF article on Crystal's latest performance. Here's the ITTF home page for the event, which is taking place in Bridgetown, Barbados, Oct. 23 - Nov. 1. In the round of 16 Crystal will play Nanapat Kola of Thailand; Kanak will play Martin Friis of Sweden; and Jack will play Wong Ho Hin of Hong Kong. You can watch the matches live here.

Breaking News added at 1PM on Fri: Crystal, Kanak, and Jack all won their first match in the main draw, and are into the quarterfinals.

Breaking News added at 6:30PM on Fri: Kanak won in the quarterfinals, 4-1 over Vitor Santos of Brazil. Alas, Crystal lost in the quarterfinals, 2-4 to Adina Diaconu of Romania, and Jack lost in the quarterfinals, 1-4 to Cristian Pletea of Romania. (Semifinals and hopefully the final for Kanak are tomorrow - Saturday.) 

Liu Guoliang Misinterpreted by Media?

Here's the article where China's Coach Liu Guoliang apparently denies he ordered Wang Hao to dump the Olympic Men's Singles Final to Zhang Jike in 2012. (See this article, which I linked to yesterday, with the note that a commenter there said Coach Liu had been misquoted.) I'm starting to get more suspicious as he and the players never actually deny it. Here are what Coach Liu, Zhang Jike, and Wang Hao said on this:

Coach Liu Guoliang said, "Zhang Jike deserved the Grand Slam. Wang Hao has no complains being an Olympic runner-up for the third time. Both are my pride. There is no distinction as to my feelings to them. They are like my children. I will never allow them to concede, and I will never allow anyone or anything to hurt them."

Zhang Jike said, "Coach Liu, everything that you've done are all fair and open. We must resolutely put an end to doubts that violate the morals and spirit of sports."

Wang Hao said, "After reaching the finals, I certainly wanted to win the title."

When someone falsely accuses you of ordering someone to dump, isn't the normal response to be a denial that you ordered someone to dump? As noted, this only makes it seem more suspicious. Perhaps Coach Liu said more in Chinese that didn't get translated; I don't know. China does have a long history of ordering players to dump, but that supposedly ended years ago. Or did it? (The dumping was done for various reasons ranging from strategic to political.)

Breaking News: Here's a new article "Fixing the Olympic Finals is Impossible," where Zhang Jike says more on the topic, and seems to insist there was no fixing, though again he doesn't seem to say so explicitly. Technically, only Coach Liu and Wang Hao know if the latter was ordered to dump, so I wish Wang would just say, "I wasn't ordered to dump the 2012 Olympic Men's Singles Final." 

Ask the Coach

Here's Episode 20.

  • Question 1 - 0:49: I’ve got a problem, I don’t twist properly and the speed of my topspin drives are slow. I got the start and end positions right but i don’t twist much with the hip and the only thing that twists from me is my shoulder. How can i fix it? AmekunRaiane
  • Photo Bombing by Jeff's Mum - 2:30
  • Question 2 - 2:40: Hi, I was wondering whether, in doubles, you and your partner are able to switch bats between points. I know that you can't get a new bat, but i couldn't find an answer to this anywhere. Thanks. Bob James
  • Question 3 - 4:15: What should be the minimum height for the toss? And what if the server fails to achieve that minimum height? Can he be penalised in form of a point or is there something like a warning? Rutvik
  • Question 4 - 6:19: Recently I noticed that Ma Lin twiddled his bat right before he serves. I was wondering if you could give me some tips on how to twiddle. Yu

Mezyan Table Tennis Imaginarium

It's now open, where you can buy table tennis art, clothing, tech stuff, or accessories, featuring the artwork of Mike Mezyan.

Boxer Lennox Lewis Visits Werner Schlager Academy

Here's the article and picture of the visit to the Werner Schlager Academy in Austria by Lennox Lewis, the last undisputed heavyweight boxing champion of the world as well as the Olympic Gold Medalist.

GoPro Here 3+ Test

Here's the video (1:28) by PingSkills of table tennis as videoed by a camera attached to a player's forehead! (They look like miners to me.)

The Needle and Table Tennis Nation

Here's an article on the late great Marty Reisman and his founding of Table Tennis Nation.

The Official Table Tennis Nation Halloween Costume Guide

Here's the article and pictures from Table Tennis Nation!

Keep Your Eye on the Ball

Here's the cartoon! (Wouldn't this be a nice Halloween costume?)

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October 30, 2014

George Brathwaite Statement to The View

On Tuesday morning table tennis was disparaged on the TV show The View. First they showed footage of the Zhang Jike barrier-kicking celebration after he won the Men's World Cup. Afterwards, co-host Nicolle Wallace said, "table tennis can be boring without stuff like that." (Wallace was communications chief during the George W. Bush presidency and a senior advisor for the McCain-Palin campaign in 2008.) Here's a link to 11:40 into the show, where the table tennis starts. At 12:49 is when Wallace makes her statement. The table tennis ends at 13:20. USATT Hall of Famer George Brathwaite sent the following statement to The View. (I may send something as well, but I only saw the video for the first time this morning.)

Hello,

My name is George Braithwaite and I am an original member of the United States Table Tennis Team that participated in the Historic PING PONG DIPLOMACY tour of the People's Republic of China in 1971. I was watching THE VIEW TV episode this morning and was appalled at the ludicrous remark made by Nicole Wallace in reference to table tennis being a boring sport and needed a demonstration like what occurred at the recently concluded World Tour for Table Tennis which was won by Zhang Jike of the People's Republic of China.

After winning the championships, Zhang displayed an unnecessary degree of anger by kicking and breaking down the barriers surrounding the arena, which triggered the reaction of the promoters to forfeit his prize money of $45,000 and which was in absolute contrast and in violation to the principles of the Chinese Table Tennis Association which also holds their athletes to a strict code of conduct.

However, in reference to Ms. Wallace's preposterous remark about the sport of Table Tennis, let me point out and bring to her attention as well as to the knowledge of those who may not be aware, that "TABLE TENNIS IS THE MOST POPULAR RACKET SPORT IN THE WORLD AND IS RANKED SECOND OVERALL IN TERMS OF PARTICIPATION”

Table Tennis is and has been an Olympic Sport since 1988 and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) never accepts a sport unless it has a great degree of Athleticism for spectators to VIEW. 

For further information you may access my website at the following: www.GeorgeBraithwaite.com

Disabled Veterans Camp in South Bend, Indiana

Dan Seemiller ran a Disabled Veterans Camp at his club in South Bend, Aug. 23-24 - and got 31 players!!! These camps were made possible by a grant to USATT by USOC, and organized by USATT Director of Para Programs Jasna Reed. Here's the Disabled Veterans Camp listing and other info on Para events. I also ran a Disabled Veterans Camp at MDTTC in August, but mine had only six players. How did Dan get 31?

Dan had earlier contacted me about how to get players in the camp, but frankly, I wasn't much help. We had a player who worked at a local VA hospital, and he distributed flyers for us, but there wasn't exactly a huge surge of players for the camp I ran. Dan decided that he needed to set up an info table in front of a local VA hospital. But first he had to get permission - and that's when he ran into bureaucracy and red tape. He was hassled every step of the way, but wouldn't take no, and kept moving up the ladder until he found someone who gave it the okay. (Dan admitted that it got so bad that he almost gave up.) And so he set up a card table, brought rackets and balls to attract attention, and talked to an estimated 500 people. A total of 51 people signed up for the camp, though "only" 31 were able to make it - but he has all their emails to send future info.

Coaching at the camp were Dan, his son Dan Jr., Barry Chan, and Zach Steele.

World Cadet Challenge

Here's the ITTF home page for the event. It's taking place right now in Barbados, with singles and doubles events starting today. (Team competition already finished - Asia won Cadet Boys while Europe won Cadet Girls.) Follow the action, including USA stars Kanak Jha, Jack Wang, Crystal Wang, and Amy Wang - or, as I put it, Jaws and the Triple Wangs! Yes, I'm officially suggesting we nickname Kanak Jha as "Jaws," a play on his name, what he does to opponents, and named after this and this.

Wang Hao Ordered to Dump to Zhang Jike in 2012 Olympic Men's Singles Final?

Here's the article. Unbelievable! I thought they had stopped doing this. I think there's a cultural thing with this - I've had discussions with people from China who believe dumping like this is the right thing to do, and that players should dump if asked to do so as the coaches and other leaders have the best interests of the team and country in mind rather than individual achievement. (See the comments under the article where one person says that Coach Liu Guoliang was misquoted.)

Table Tennis Needs a Big Name like Zhang Jike

Here's the article.

Twenty Tips by Tahl

Here are 20 tips by Tahl Leibovitz. You can learn from all of them, but I especially like #1, 2, 3, 5, 9, 16, and 18.

Ask the Coach

Here's Episode 19 (10:50):

  • Question 1 (0:35): Many people just turn around and drive my service. Where do I do the service and what should I do? Srikanth Pyaraka
  • Question 2 (1:55): When looping it seems easier to wait for the ball to reach the top of the arc and start dropping before you brush it up. I hit well when the ball is rising but swing and miss a lot when I try to brush the ball after it starts dropping. Can I improve? Ken
  • Question 3 (5:17): I normally stand on the left side of the table. I face difficulty if short backspin service comes to my forehand. I try to push the service & the opponent attacks with topspin. How to place the ball in such a manner so that I can attack the return? Anushka
  • Question 4 (7:35): Most of my serves have sidespin but when the opponent finds an answer to return it, I'm in trouble because all the sidespin is coming back at me especially if it is pushed back. Should I stop serving with sidespin as it can make life more difficult? Thijs

Zhang Jike, Ma Long, and Timo Boll Review the Plastic Balls

Here's the article, with links to videos.

Interview with Georgina Pota

Here's part 2 of the interview by Dora Kurimay, which went up this morning. (I linked to part 1 last week.) "How Did Georgina Póta Multiple Times European Champion Professional Table Tennis Player Change From Shy To Self-Expressive?"

Top Ten Shots from the Men's World Cup

Here's the video (6:36). If you want to see one of the best "get" returns ever, see #1 at 5:42. The point was over, as even Zhang Jike believed, right? Nigeria's Quadri Aruna - a breakout star at the World Cup as he made the quarterfinals - didn't get the memo.

PingPod #41: Zhang Jike's Fine and the Plastic Ball

Here's the video (6:02).

Aerobic Table Tennis

Here's the ITTF article.

Ariel Hsing's Home Page

Here it is - bet you didn't know the three-time USA Women's Singles Champion had one!

Top Spin the Movie

Here's the home page, and here's info on the premiere at the SVA Theatre in New York City on Saturday, Nov. 15, at 4:30 PM. "In Sara Newens and Mina T. Son’s spirited sports film, three driven teenage athletes attempt to go for Olympic gold. Their sport? The perpetually popular but underappreciated game of table tennis. Northern California’s Ariel Hsing and Lily Zhang balance friendship and professional rivalry to see who’ll come out on top, while Long Island’s Michael Landers sacrifices his senior year of high school to devote more time to training at NYC’s SPiN."

How Bugs Bunny Cheats

Here's the cartoon! (Actually, wouldn't this mean every ball comes back, and so Elmer Fudd would win?)

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October 29, 2014

Butterfly South Shore Open

I spent the weekend coaching Nathan Hsu at the 4-star South Shore Open in Highland, Indiana (here are results) - and he played great!!! And I, of course, take full credit, right? Actually, he's been training extremely hard, including three months in China and 6-7 days/week at MDTTC before and after with our other coaches/practice partners/top players. The payoff was his strong backhand is even stronger, his strong receive is even stronger, and every other aspect of his game is stronger. (He's even been doing weight training, so he's stronger!) He won 18 & Under and Under 2450, made the quarterfinals of the Open (losing to top-seeded Li Cheng, rated 2603), and the semifinals of Open Doubles.

I'd like to write pages and pages on the tactics used, analysis of his opponents, what Nathan's working on, his strengths and weaknesses, etc., but other players are reading this, and so I have to keep my mouth shut. Dang.

Here's Nathan on the victory podium for winning the Nate Wasserman 18 & Under Junior Championships ($1000) along with finalist Victor Liu ($500, and another $500 for winning 15 & Under) and semifinalist Chase Bockoven ($100). (Missing - the other semifinalist Brian Gao.) Here's a picture of Nathan and me. In that picture he's holding up a piece of paper with "$1000" on it - he got the real check later, along with prize money from his three other events. Also, he got the wrong medal initially, the silver one in the picture - shortly afterwards we noticed that, and he traded it in for a gold one. (In the background on the left you can see Dan Jr. and Sr. - more about them below.)

I keep most of what Nathan says confidential, but I'm sorry Nathan, I'm quoting you here with your biggest complaint between matches: "My knees are itchy." Yes, that was his ongoing problem. My recommendation was to scratch them.

To save money we drove to Indiana. According to Google Directions, it was a 9.5 hour drive, but we ran into traffic both ways, and so it took about 12 hours to get there on Friday (leaving at 6AM), and about 11 hours to return on Monday. Nathan's dad, Hans, did the driving. We discussed table tennis nearly the entire time both ways. (Coach Jeffrey Zheng Xun substituted for much of my coaching while I was gone.)

The best umpires are often those who aren't noticed, and yet who enforce the rules. I want to commend umpire Jorge Vanegas for doing a great job umpiring all day long both days, from around 9AM to 8PM or so both days, pretty much non-stop, and getting it right match after match. When players didn't serve legally, he immediately warned or faulted, and there was never even a controversy about it, probably because he's so soft-spoken and fair-minded. Several times I started to react to an opponent's illegal serve - and nearly every time he was already signaling a warning or fault. I'm guessing most players and spectators barely noticed him out there, despite the fact that he was working such long hours in one of the most difficult positions at a tournament - a sign of a great job. My hat also goes off to referee Kagin Lee, who once again was highly professional throughout the tournament, even when I was bugging him with hypothetical rules questions.

Samson Dubina, rated 2474 and seeded fifth, won Open Singles. In the quarters he upset second-seeded Zhang Yi Chi (2563) at 6,-13,-9,9,9,0. (Did he really win the last game 11-0, or is that a typo? I don't know.) In the semifinals he upset second-seeded Emad Barsoum (2490) at 10,7,10,-7,1. (Emad injured his leg near the end of the last game and retired down I think 1-8.) In the final he was down match point to Dan Seemiller, 9-10 in the seventh, before winning, -7,-6,5,6,4,-5,10.

How did 60-year-old tournament director Dan Seemiller, seeded fourth at 2479, reach the final? In the semifinals he upset top-seeded Li Cheng (2603) at 8,8,5,-4,-6,14. The last game was a doozy as they took turns going up game point (or match point in Dan's case), including one point where Dan had match point and they played the point of the tournament, where they took turns ripping winners, only to see the other block it back and then take over the attack. Dan had two great tactics that worked against Li and others - he'd either loop anything he could get his forehand on (but not with as much power as he did back when he was around #20 in the world and winning five USA Men's Singles Championships), or he'd serve or block deep to the opponent's backhand and then dead block to the backhand, and follow with either aggressive blocking or forehand loops. Many players can move opponents side to side, but few can move them in and out the way Dan does, and few are less afraid of challenging an opponent's forehand than he is. These tactics worked against both Li Cheng and Samson - and Dan was just one point away from winning that match.

Samson plays a very athletic two-winged looping game, with very aggressive receives, especially his backhand. Of course, the real key to his victory was that he warmed up with Nathan! (As a full-time coach, he also warmed up his students - so he was doing double-duty.)

It was a pretty good day to be a Seemiller. Dan Sr. made the final of Open Singles and ran a great tournament. Dan Jr. teamed with Dan Sr. to win Open Doubles - including somehow beating Nathan and Micaiah Skolnick in the semifinals. Randy Seemiller won both Over 40 and Under 2300, and made the semifinals of Open Doubles with Chip Coulter.

This has been a pretty busy weekend for table tennis, with the 4-star South Shore Open, 4-star Westchester Open, the Men's World Cup, and the ongoing World Cadet Challenge. (Go Kanak, Jack, Crystal, and Amy! That's Jha, Wang, Wang, and Wang - the latter three non-related.)

2014 USA Table Tennis Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony

Here's the article about the Induction Ceremony in Las Vegas, on Thursday, Dec. 18, with ticket information. Inductees are players Tawny Banh and Lisa Gee, player/official Sheila O'Dougherty, contributor Dick Butler, and Mark Matthews Lifetime Achievement Award Winner Donna Sakai.

Washington DC Table Tennis Center

The Washington DC Table Tennis Center just opened - #76 in my list of full-time table tennis centers - and is the first in that city. It's not far from my club in Maryland (MDTTC), and gives us six in the area (including one nearby in Virginia), all within 30 minutes of me. When new full-time clubs open, at first they draw some players away from other clubs, which is a temporary problem. However, it evens out as they bring in their own players and add them to the local table tennis community, with some of them ending up playing at the other clubs, whether as members, in leagues, or tournaments. The more full-time clubs, the larger the pool of players, and the more success for any well-run club - i.e. "A rising tide lifts all boats."

Westchester Open

Here are results and pictures from the 4-star Westchester Open in New York this past weekend. (We need to give smiling lessons to some of the top Chinese players, don't you think?)

Incredible Shots of 2013

Here's video (5:11) of the best shots of 2013. (I don't think I've linked to this one.)

PGA Tour Players Challenge USA Table Tennis Players

Here's the article, pictures, and videos as Timothy Wang, Lily Zhang, Cory Eider, and Judy Hugh took on golf stars such as Freddie Jacobson, Matt Kuchar, and Ian Poulter.

Was it Zhang Jike's Idea to Give Up His Prize Money?

Here's the article on his forfeiting his $45,000 prize money. 

Good Morning America (ABC News)

Here's video (2:01) of coverage of Zhang Jike's barrier-breaking celebration after winning the Men's World Cup on Sunday.

50 Shades of Pong

Here's video (1:16) of Adam Bobrow coaching a lawyer at a law firm not to be afraid of the ball - and it involves smacking her with the ball! (I've actually done this a few times with students - if someone's afraid of the ball, the only way to overcome it is to face that fear!)

Inclusion TT - Table Tennis with Walls

Here's the video (3:22) of the newest version of the sport (demonstrated at the Westchester TTC), with glass walls on each side so you can rebound shots like racquetball. "This is like Table Tennis 2.0. This game is one of the best twists on table tennis."

Tumbling Lobs

Here's video (31 sec) of Hermann Muhlbach demonstrating his lobbing while doing forward and backward rolls.

Halloween Special Tumba Ping Pong Show

Here's video (57 sec) of their latest show. (Not for the weak of heart!)

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October 28, 2014

Tip of the Week

Defensive or Offensive Returns of Short Serves.

South Shore Open

I returned late last night from the South Shore Open in Indiana - an 11-hour drive. I have a lot to write about it, but I've also got a todo list that goes from here to Pluto. So I'm going to write about some other stuff today (the Tip of the Week and Men's World Cup - mostly linking to articles about it), catch up on other things, and write about the South Shore Open tomorrow. Here are the results of the tournament, care of Omnipong. Great performances by Samson Dubina, the Seemillers (Dan Sr., Dan Jr., and Randy), Nathan Hsu, and others!

Men's World Cup

It finished on Sunday, with Zhang Jike defeating Ma Long in the all-Chinese final. In the semifinals Germany's Timo Boll went seven games with Zhang, while Ma defeated Japan's Jun Mizutani 4-0. So Boll came close to breaking the near-Chinese lock on many of these events. Here's the ITTF Men's World Cup page, with results, articles, and pictures. Here's the ITTF article on USA's Kanak Jha, the youngest player ever to qualify for the World Cup.

However, the news of the event was Zhang's reaction to winning, where he celebrating by kicking and destroying barriers! As a result, the ITTF penalized him the entire $45,000 in prize money he'd just won. Here's the video (27 sec). Here's another video of it (45 sec), from a different angle. Here's a picture from a newspaper. Here's the ITTF's press release, "Zhang Jike Wins ITTF Men's World Cup Amid controversy." Here's Matt Hetherington's blog on this, "ITTF Fine on Zhang Jike No Less Than Absurd." (I haven't had time to really investigate this, but I pretty much agree with Matt and most others on this that the penalty was excessive - as Matt writes, a $5000 fine might be about right.) Here's extensive discussion on this at the Mytabletennis forum.

Zhang issued a statement, saying, "No matter what kind of honour I won today, I didn't handle my celebration with calmness and rationality. For a long time, I have been withstanding a lot of pressure but I shouldn't bring such mood into the arena. I didn't consider the impact on the team and the event itself. I apologise to everyone."

There are a whole series of articles on this at TableTennista:

And here's Mike Mezyan's cartoon artwork on Zhang Jike's barrier breaking!

World Cadet Challenge

It started yesterday in Barbados, after three days of training. Here's the ITTF page with results, articles, and pictures. USA players competing (on the North American team, combined with Canada) are Kanak Jha (who flew in from the World Cup), Jack Wang, Crystal Wang, and Amy Wang. Crystal was featured in an ITTF article.

Super-Fast Down-the-Line Serves and a Serving Device

Here's the video (48 sec) - I want one of these! And you should want a serve like this.

How to Become Your Own Table Tennis Coach

Here's the article from Expert Table Tennis.

Breaking Sidespin Serves - Serving Into a Shoe

Here's the video (2:41). It's both an exhibition trick and something you should learn to do to help develop your serves. If you can't do tricks with your serves, they can't be very tricky, can they? I do this same trick in clinics, though I usually have someone put their racket on the side of the table and spin the ball one way so that it curves back and bounces on the paddle.

Ask the Coach and Should Zhang Jike Keep His Prize Money?

Here's the latest Ask the Coach feature from PingSkills, Episode 16 (12:10). Below are the questions. At the end they ask the question on whether Zhang Jike should keep his $45,000 prize money from the Men's World Cup after his barrier-destroying episode. You can see the responses underneath.

  • Question 1: I have a friend that can do a serve, almost as fast as a drive and low just about above the net hitting near the edge of the table, chances of countering it are slim, most of the time the my shot goes high. How do you do and counter this serve? Jigo
  • Question 2: I'm interested in a stroke that I'm probably inventing as I've never seen it used. You know the backhand block executed with the wrist movement when the bat curves the ball, I'm wondering if the same stroke can be executed on the forehand side. Eugene S
  • Question 3: What is the most important aspect in table tennis? Is the service, or the return, or the footwork, or the third ball attack, or the speed, or the spin or any other? Kaustubh
  • Question 4: I've noticed that in table tennis, a lot of the professional players wipe the top corner of the table every now and then. I wouldn't have thought that they would use that bit of table very often. Do you know why this is? Kai Ball
  • Question 5: What is the best penhold rubber mark?
  • PingSkillers Question of the Day: Should Zhang Jike receive his prize money for winning the World Cup?

Nathan Hsu in China

As some readers might have figured out, Nathan is back in the U.S. (he just won 18 & Under and Under 2450 and made the QF of the Open at the South Shore Open), but he's editing these videos from his three months training there starting in July. Here's the latest episode - Quadricycle!? - China Day 48 Part 2 (10:00).

Sandwich Racket

I have no idea if this "sandwich" racket is legal, but I sure want one!

Waldner-Appelgren Exhibition

Here's 32 seconds of Jan-Ove Waldner and Mikael Appelgren doing an exhibition for a law firm.

Table Tennis TV Comedy - "The Kings of Queens"

In my last blog I linked to a "German" TV comedy that featured table tennis. However, as emailed to me by Grant Vogl, it turns out the clip was actually from the TV show "The Kings of Queens," which ran on CBS from 1998-2007. The original was in English, which was dubbed in German in the version linked before. Here's the original in English - the table tennis starts at 1:11. Grant also explained that the clip was from Season 6, Episode 3, titled "King Pong (20:39). Earlier in the show (as Grant emailed), Arthur (Doug's father-in-law) surprises Doug with his ping-pong prowess (1:36). Later on, Carrie (Doug's wife) defeats Doug and Doug then asks Arthur to train him. This leads to Arthur training Doug to use a wooden spoon (1:49) so that "the paddle will seem like the size of Texas." Ultimately, Doug defeats Carrie in glorious fashion. However, as shown in the episode, Carrie later proves to Doug that she was just letting him win. Doug has a hard time dealing with this, declares that the ping-pong issue is "gonna ruin everything," and in the humor of the show, considers the possibility that it will lead to divorce unless Doug defeats Carrie "for real."

Viking Pong

Here's the cartoon!

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September 1, 2014

Tip of the Week

How to Execute a Fast Serve.

Disabled Veterans Camp

Friday was the final day of our four-day Disabled Veterans Camp. It was an honor working with these servicemen. I'd like to thank them for all the hard work they put in, both in uniform and at the camp! I'd also like to thank the USOC and USATT, the Department of Veteran Affairs, MDTTC officer Wen Hsu, and especially Jasna Reed, USATT's Director of Para Programs. 

The focus for the day was backhand attack - smashing, and backhand drive and loop against backspin. We started off by putting the players in six stations, and rotated them every 7.5 minutes. I fed multiball so players could work on their backhand attack against backspin. Steve Hochman had them serve backspin, he'd push it back, they'd backhand attack, and the rally would continue backhand to backhand. Sameer Shaikh had them do backhand-forehand footwork, side to side. Ram Nadmichettu worked on their pushes. Plus I set up the serving bar on the robot table so players 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.) 

Next up was equipment and playing styles. I brought out my "show and tell" super-large racket case, which contains six rackets: an all-around hardbat racket; a pips-out penhold racket; a shakehands racket with inverted and short pips; a shakehands racket with inverted and antispin; and two shakehands rackets with inverted on one side and long pips on the other, one with thin sponge (chopping racket), the other no sponge (pushblocking racket). I went over each of the surfaces and now to play against them, as well as various playing styles that commonly use them. I was planning on some doubles play, but we ran into time problems, and so I only gave a short lecture on doubles tactics. We finished with up-down tables, where they played 11-point games, with the winning moving up, the "runner-up" moving down, with the goal to reach the first table. Steve and Sameer joined in, spotting points to most of them to equalize things. 

It was one of the more fun camps to coach. We used to run senior camps at MDTTC for players over age 50 (and over 40 if they were "old of heart"!). But in recent years the camps we've run were mostly for juniors, where we go easy on the lectures, and there are few questions. This camp was more like the senior camps, with lots of questions and discussion. 

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Table Tennis

I went to see the movie on Saturday, and despite the mostly negative reviews, I kind of liked it. Out of the blue there was a table tennis scene! The four turtles were being punished for refusing to tell their sensei, Splinter (a giant rat) why they had sneaked out. Each had to spend many hours in some uncomfortable position doing something. Donatello, the smartest of the turtles (the one with the purple mask) was punished by being forced to hold ping-pong paddles in both hands and bounce a ping-pong ball back and forth for hours, while standing on a block of wood that's balanced precariously on a basketball. I've searched but was unable to find a video or picture of this.

North American Championships

They were held this past weekend in Mississauga, Canada. Here's the ITTF home page for the event, with results, articles, pictures, and video. Here's the USATT page with lots of video. Note how Canada dominated all the Men's and Women's events, while USA dominated all the junior events. Also, see the final of Junior Boys' Teams, where USA won 3-0 - but in all three matches the USA player was down 0-2 before winning in five, with each pulling out at least one deuce game. One thing I didn't like about the format was that players could only enter one singles event, which hurt USA, since essentially all the players on the USA Boys' and Girls' team would have been competitive in Men's and Women's Singles but were not allowed to compete. Congrats to all the Champions - see below!

  • Men's Singles: Eugene Wang (CAN)
  • Women's Singles: Mo Zhang (CAN)
  • Junior Boys: Jack Wang (USA)
  • Junior Girls: Crystal Wang (USA)
  • Men's Teams: CAN (Pierre-Luc Theriault, Filip Ilijevski, Xavier Therien)
  • Women's Teams: CAN (Mo Zhang, Anqi Luo, Sara Yuen)
  • Junior Boys' Teams: USA (Kanak Jha, Kunal Chodri, Krish Avvari)
  • Junior Girls' Teams: USA (Angela Guan, Prachi Jha, Crystal Wang)

New ITTF President Thomas Weikert

Here's the ITTF press release. He took office on Sept. 1 and becomes only the seventh ITTF president since its founding in 1926. He succeeds Adham Sharara, who was president for 15 years. Here's the TableTennista story, which mostly features Sharara. 

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

Former USATT President Sheri Pittman Cioroslan just finished doing an article every day during the last 100 days of Adham Sharara's ITTF presidency, counting downwards from 100. And today she finishes - one hundred down, zero to go!

Zhang Jike's Serve

Here's the video (3:25).

Slow Motion TT

Here's the video (25 sec) - some nice shots, and you get to see footwork in slow motion. That's Ernesto Ebuen on the left.

Trend: Playing Table Tennis to Enhance Brain Fitness and Mental Health

Here's the article. Well, yeah!

Scientists Teach Ping-Pong Robots to Master Spin

Here's the article. Prepare to meet our future Masters. 

Ice Bucket Challenge

Milwaukee Brewers and Green Bay Packers Play TT for Charity

Here's the article and video (2:43).

Six Seconds of Very Strange Rallying!

Here's the video.

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August 11, 2014

Tip of the Week

Ten Steps to a Great Service Game.

Virginia Camp

On Friday we had the final day of the camp in Fairfax, Virginia. In the morning we split the players into two groups. One group did various physical training and agility exercises with Wen Hsu (as they had been doing all week). The other group did multiball with me and hit with the robot. We did a lot of smashing and pushing, and a few worked on looping. We also did "player's choice," where the players got to choose what to work on. 

Then we had a practice tournament. There were 14 players, so we divided them into two groups of seven, with the top two from each side playing crossovers. All matches were best of three to 11. For prizes we had a series of "large" prizes - a playing bag and copies of all of my books (signed). We also had table tennis key chains. The first place winner got his choice of two large prizes plus a key chain. Second was one large prize and a key chain. Third through six got their choice of one large prize or key chain. (All took books.) I donated the books - in all, the books chosen were three copies of "Table Tennis: Steps to Success," and one copy each of "Table Tennis Tips," "Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers," and my humorous fantasy novel (which stars a table tennis wannabe), "Sorcerers in Space." I also gave a signed copy of Table Tennis Tales and Techniques to all 14 players. (I have a lot of extra copies.) Camp tournament results: 1. Harrison Tun; 2. Brandon Choi; 3-4: Leo Diperna and Ian Ramanata; 5. Vincent Diperna; 6. Chris Kutscher.

Here's a camp picture, with two players missing - they had to leave early, alas, and we forgot to get a picture when they were there. (Coach John Hsu is in background, that's me on the right.) Immediately after the picture they took turns smacking balls at the cup fort, with me feeding multiball. Many cups dies in the onslaught, but Froggy survived.

Koki Niwa and His Techniques and Tactics

Here's an article on Japan's Koki Niwa, world #15, where he talks about his techniques and tactics. Includes instructional pictures and a link to a Koki Niwa tribute video (3:36). (Note that the "chiquita" her refers to is the banana flip - Chiquita is a major producer and distributors of bananas and other produce, so I'm guessing that's where it comes from.)

Seven Things You Need to Know to Master the New Plastic Ball

Here's the posting and some discussion at the OOAK TT Forum.

Sports Psychology - Recognize Your Feelings

Here's the video (5:27) from PingSkills.

Top 10 Servers in Table Tennis

Here's the video (12:40).

Marty Reisman: The Greatest Sportsman You've Never Heard Of

Here's the article from Esquire Magazine. 

USA's Shivansh Kuma Finds Success at Guatemala Junior and Cadet Open

He made the final of Cadet Boys Singles, and teamed with India's Mudit Dani to win Cadet Boys teams. The two also made the semifinals of Cadet Boys Teams and the quarterfinals of Junior Boys Doubles. Here's the home page for the Aug. 6-9 event, with results, articles, pictures, and video. Here's the ITTF article on the Cadet Boys Teams.  

Hong Kong Junior and Cadet Open

Here's the home page for the Aug. 6-10 event, with results, articles, pictures, and video. Fifteen USA juniors took part in the event - here's a participants listing. Here's a listing USA major results.

  • Krish Avvari: semifinals of Cadet Boys (here's a picture of him on the podium, second from right)
  • Kanak Jha: quarterfinals of Cadet Boys
  • Krish Avvari and Kanak Jha: Semifinals of Cadet Boys Doubles and Teams
  • Adar Alguetti and Victor Liu: Quarterfinals of Cadet Boys Doubles
  • Lily Zhang and Prachi Jha: Semifinals of Junior Girls Doubles, Quarterfinals of Junior Girls Teams
  • Joy Li and Puerto Rico's Adriana Diaz: Quarterfinals of Cadet Girls Doubles

Bockoven Brothers Netting Success in Table Tennis

Here's the article from the Boston Globe. I remember going to a Seemiller camp in 1977 when I was 17 and father Ralph was one of the big stars of the camp! Connor and Chase are the heirs of that tradition.

Top Ten Places to Play Table Tennis

Here's the article by Matt Hetherington.

Final of the China Super League - Zhang Jike vs. Dimitrij Ovtcharov

Here's the video (39 min). To save time and add drama they only play to seven in the fifth game in this league. (Spoiler alert!) Dimitrij leads 4-0 in that decisive fifth game - but Zhang scores seven in a row.

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-nine down, 21 to go!

  • Day 22: The Gift of Braking and Changing Focus
  • Day 23: ITTF’s Museum Curator Chuck Hoey Preserves Our Heritage
  • Day 24: Shahrokh Shahnazi Promotes ITTF’s P5 Plan, Even to the IOC

Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge Play Table Tennis

Here they are playing at a homeless shelter.

Ruini Li the Cover for the Milpitas Post

Here's the picture. (If you have trouble seeing the Facebook version, try this one.)

Funny Dog Watching Table Tennis

Here's the video (48 sec) - it's hilarious! (I might have posted this a couple years ago, but it's worth repeat viewing.)

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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 18, 2014

Skills Versus Ratings

Yao Siu-Long emailed me an interesting question recently. He wrote:

As we discussed I am interested in kind of a chart that relates skills to ratings. For example, what does a 2300 player do that a 2200 player does not?  Of course there can be great variability within a category, especially at a lower level. I could imagine someone having an awesome forehand and progressing because of that while others at the same level might be more rounded. I would imagine that at higher levels, however, you would have to be a more rounded player.

I wrote back:

This is tricky to answer because it has to take into account the differences between players with good technique but without good control, and those without good technique but with good control. Everyone fits on this spectrum somewhere, with the top players having both technique and control, while beginners have neither. By the intermediate player you have players with good control but awkward technique, and others with the reverse.

After thinking it over, I realized there really are four types of players at any given level. Roughly speaking, they are:

  • Properly Trained Players (PTP). These are adults who have been trained with "proper" technique. (I'm assuming inverted both sides players with standard attacking games.)
  • Properly Trained Juniors (PTJ). They are somewhat different than PTPs in that they are generally faster and quicker, but have less consistency and ball control, except (relatively speaking) at the high speeds that they are used to playing.
  • Consistent Control Players (CCP). These are players who don't always have the best strokes, and often have major holes in their games, but they are extremely consistent and have great ball control.
  • Weird Players (WP). There's a wide variety of these types of players, from those with strange strokes that are hard to adjust to (lots of inside-out stuff, sidespin, weird lefty stuff, crazy serves, and for many, non-inverted surfaces). They too often have holes in their games, but make up for it by forcing mistakes from opponents by doing "weird" shots.

Trying to write a comprehensive listing of what players can do at each level without taking the four types of players into account would be difficult. Instead, I'm going to write what PTPs should be able to do at each level. For the others, they might not be able to do all these things, but they'll have something else to make up for it, either in faster play (PTJs), consistency/ball control (CCPs), or "weird" shots (WPs) that bring down the opponent's level.

So here is a rough listing of what a "Properly Trained Player" (PTP) should be able to do at each level. I may fine-tune this later - it took a long time to put together, and I'd be on this all day if I spent more time on it - and I have coaching activities to do. I did it for every 200 ratings points from 800-2800, plus an extra one at 2700. (This is a LONG posting, so just a reminder that there is a bunch of short segments afterwards!)

800: Many basement playing adults can play at this level because of ball control.

  • Rallies dominated by just trying to keep the ball in play.
  • The level is dominated by beginning PTJs (good techniques, but no ball control or consistency), CCPs (good consistency at the basement level of keeping the ball in play, but no technique yet), and WPs (weird shots, but no consistency or control).
  • There are no PTPs yet, as a properly trained adult will skip this stage.
  • 1000: At this level a PTP has the beginnings of good technique.
  • They are beginning to learn to put spin on serves, mostly backspin.
  • They have no consistency in returning any type of spinny serves, though they can push against backspin and counter-drive against an obvious topspin serve.
  • Most rallies are dominated by pushing, but the pushes aren't very consistent.
  • They can probably hit forehand to forehand and backhand to backhand with some consistency, perhaps hitting 100 in a row with a coach, but they have difficulty executing these techniques yet in a match.
  • They can smash, but have little consistency, especially if the ball has spin or is deep on the table.
  • Some can loop, but it's pretty rare and extremely erratic. Few can block a loop yet with any consistency.

1200: They now have more basics down.

  • They have some variation on serves, usually a backspin serve and perhaps a sidespin serve or a fast serve.
  • They can return basic spin serves, if the spin isn't disguised.
  • They can push relatively consistently. Rallies are still dominated by pushing, but there are more countering rallies now. The pushing is mostly just to keep the ball in play.
  • They now can rally some with basic forehand and backhand shots, though not too consistently.
  • Many points are now ended by smashing, though they still lack consistency if the ball has spin or is deep.
  • Many players are learning to forehand loop at this level, but they are not yet consistent. Some have started to backhand loop.
  • They are learning to block loops, though not very consistent yet.

1400: They now have mostly proper technique, though there's going to be a lot of fine-tuning, especially with advanced shots such as looping.

  • They now have at least one serve that's pretty good and gives opponent's trouble. It might be a spinny serve or it might be a fast serve. They win a lot of points by serving deep, since opponents at their level can't yet loop.
  • They can return spin serves with some control, if the serve isn't too well disguised, often returning the ball to the wide corners (usually backhand) to stop opponents from attacking.
  • There is still a lot of pushing, but now the pushes are a little more effective, not just for keeping the ball in play.
  • They can rally with forehands and backhands with some consistency. For the first time they can rally with strong players if the strong player just keeps the ball in play.
  • They are getting better and better at smashing, and now make most smashes, though they still have trouble with balls with spin and deep balls.
  • At this point they should be looping against backspin regularly, at least with the forehand, and probably the backhand. They can block loops in practice somewhat consistently, but are still erratic in game situations.

1600: They now can execute proper technique in game situations.

  • They now have multiple types of serves. Some can serve short, though most serves are long.
  • They can return even spinny serves, though not with great consistency or control yet.
  • They can push, but rarely push more than one ball in a row. They rarely push on the forehand except against a short ball.
  • They have relatively solid strokes in rallies, and can counter-drive pretty consistently if not pressed too hard.
  • They can smash and loop kill to end points.
  • Looping is now common. They should be looping forehands whenever possible, as well as backhands. At this point players are forehand looping in rallies, though few do this on the backhand.
  • They are becoming more tactically aware, especially on basic tactics on serve, receive, and placement.

1800: At this point they have pretty good technique, consistency, and ball control.

  • They now have at least the beginning of advanced serves, serving with varied spins. They can control the direction of the serve well, but not yet the depth. Most serves still go long, though most can serve short backspin if needed.
  • They are somewhat consistent in receives, even against pretty good serves, but most receives are somewhat passive and predictable to top players.
  • They look to loop any deep ball, so most pushing is done just to return serves or when they are caught off guard.
  • They have solid rallying strokes, and mostly loop on the forehand side. Many are now topspinning their backhands as well. Unless caught off guard, their loops are pretty consistent. Some players are starting to counterloop in games on the forehand side.
  • They are looking to end the point any chance they can, with both smashes and loop kills. At this level there are now more loop kills than smashes for the first.
  • While weaker players can think tactically, it's about this level that players can reflexively execute good tactics in game situations.

2000: They now have mostly mastered all basic techniques, and make few unforced errors.

  • Many have relatively advanced serves, able to serve varied serves. While most can serve short, most serves still go long as opponents still have trouble with long, spinny serves. But they can serve short when necessary.
  • They are consistent in receive except against very good serves, but don't yet do a lot with most receives other than get it back, unless they can loop it. They are getting better at looping deep serves on the forehand side, but backhand loops against deep serves are still erratic, and so there are a lot of deep serves to the backhand.
  • They are constantly aggressive, always looking to attack and to end the point. They loop most balls on the forehand, and are developing pretty good backhand loops, especially against pushes. In rallies some players are now topspinning on both sides, though most still tend to counter-hit the backhand.
  • Players now have consistent blocks, as most rallies now revolve around looping and returning loops. Many players are now counterlooping regularly.
  • This is where some players become good game tacticians, as they have the shots to execute the tactics and the experience to reflexively do so.

2200: They have strong technique, and make few unforced errors.

  • Serves are now getting advanced. Many have developed tricky spin serves, usually long. However, many are now using more basic short serves that set up their attacks, as long serves are getting attack more. There's sort of a branching at this level between these two types.
  • Long serves are often attack now, with good consistency except against tricky serves. Most can now return serves with consistency, with most short serves pushed long or flipped, especially with backhand banana flips. Many players are now getting more and more aggressive against short serves, especially with backhand flips. Players are beginning to push short.
  • Players are now fighting for the attack as whoever attacks first tends to win. Many rallies are turning into short counterlooping rallies, though there is still plenty of blocking.
  • Most players are topspinning their backhands, though some still hit flatter.
  • At this level opponents have to do something to score the point rather than wait for the opponent to miss.
  • There is now a lot of fishing and lobbing.  
  • Players are now very good at tactics, and have strong techniques to execute them.
  • The game is pretty physical at this level, though there are still a few players who are not real physical athletes at this level, relying on consistency and other aspects to make up for lack of athleticism. 

2400: At this level players are basically mini-world class players, as they do the same shots as world-class players, but at an obviously lower level.

  • Serves are similar to world-class serves, except they have less depth control, less spin, and less deception. Most serves are now short as opponents will loop deep serves, but long serves are still used quite a bit for surprise.
  • Nearly any long serve is now looped. Short serves are flipped much more often now, especially with the backhand banana flip. Short pushes are common, but some of them still go slightly long or slightly high by mistake. However, there's still plenty of long pushes, but few use this as their central receive technique.
  • Rallies are pretty much all looping now, both forehand and backhand. Lots of counterlooping. One big change is that weaker opening loops are now being punished with powerful counterloops.
  • Most points end with someone going for a winner. When mistakes are otherwise made it's usually when a player is trying too hard to return the ball so the opponent can't attack.
  • There's a lot of fishing, with players returning balls from off the table rather than staying at the table and blocking.
  • Tactics are usually advanced.
  • The game is very physical at this level - everyone's a physical athlete. 

2600: At this point players are approaching world-class.

  • Serves are very high level. There's pretty good depth control, with players serving so as to accurately place the second bounce on serves (if given the chance) right on the end-line, but under pressure they sometimes lose control.
  • Receives are almost indistinguishable from world-class. Flips are not yet as consistent or well-placed as world-class players. But many players are now attacking most short serves, especially with the backhand. When they don't attack the short serve, they often push them short with good control.
  • It's pretty much all-out looping now, with most rallies ending quickly. Some players are beginning to pin down opponents with backhand topspins, forcing backhand exchanges that take the opponent's forehand out of play. Very few unforced errors at this level, except when going for winners.
  • Players defend equally well with blocking and fishing, though they look to counter-attack whenever possible.
  • Players not only have strong tactics, but have strong knowledge of their opponents, both from experience and from scouting them. Players rarely go into a match without knowing what they need to do against the opponent.

2700: This is borderline world-class. It's often difficult to tell the difference between these players are world-class players.

  • Serve and receive are world-class, but with just a touch less consistency and control.
  • Rallies are all looping, with only occasional blocking. What often appears as blocks are really off-the-bounce counterloops.
  • Players are pretty much errorless machines at this level, never making unforced errors. When they make "mistakes," it's almost always because the opponent did something, often subtle.
  • Players can defend and counter-attack from all parts of the table. When they fish, they usually do so only as a way to keep the ball in play so they can counterloop the next ball.
  • Tactics is now world-class, and everyone knows everyone else and what they need to do.

2800+: This is true world-class play, roughly top 50 or so in the world. They are almost flawless athletic machines. 

  • Players have essentially perfect control of their serves, including the depth. There's often a steady deluge of serves where, given the chance, the second bounce would be right on the end-line.
  • Receive is so good that by the end of matches, receivers are winning more points than servers. Receivers can attack any serve almost at will, especially as they get used to opponent's serve. Short push is still common, but flipping is the norm, especially backhand banana flips, which are even done from the short forehand. Any long serve is looped hard.
  • It's pretty much all-out attack in rallies, where even the most powerful loops are looped right back. Anything less than powerful loops are looped back with great power. However, because they are so good at counterlooping even the best loops, many players can get away with some control shots when in trouble.
  • Defense, when done, is split between blocking and fishing, as well as lobbing. The consistency is extreme, as only a pure rip can win a point through defense at this level.
  • Tactics is a group effort, as coaches and players regularly study their opponents on video.

Yesterday's Blog on Serve and Attack Patterns

For much of yesterday there was a bad typo in my blog. In the main segment on Serve and Attack Patterns, in the part on serving "Short backspin or no-spin to backhand," I wrote, "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 backhand." That should have read "forehand"! Of course, I was blogging about my own serve and attack patterns (back in my "heyday"), and only players with good footwork will regularly follow attack such a push to the very wide backhand with their forehands. (These days in practice matches I still try to do this, but with far less success, both in getting in position for the shot, and in following it up, especially if they block the ball to my wide forehand, which used to be no more than five feet away, but has moved an further every year for the past couple of decades - and is now about ten feet away.)

What Helps Table Tennis Skills Off the Table?

Here's the new coaching article by Matt Hetherington

ITTF Coaching Course in Thailand

Here's the ITTF article on the class, which was run by USATT Coach Richard McAfee.

Table Tennis Popularity Bouncing Up

Here's the article from the San Jose Mercury, which features the Pleasanton TTC.

UN, IOC, and ITTF Contribute to Opening of IOC Sport for Hope Centre in Haiti

Here's the article, which features a picture of United Nationals Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach playing table tennis.

Is Zhang Jike Ready for Expectations and Responsibilities?

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. Fifty-six down, 44 to go!

  • Day 45: Steve Dainton Summarizes the ITTF’s Marketing Strategies

Dennis Schröder Plays Table Tennis

Here's the article and picture of the German basketball star who plays for the Atlanta Hawks.

Masterchef Battle Moves to the Ping Pong Table

Here's the story on these ponging chefs.

Table Tennis Clock

Here's the picture! As the clock ticks, the ball at the bottom goes back and forth, and the players move up and down, apparently "hitting" the ball back and forth. I have this same one, but mine broke.

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