Paddle Palace

Brian Pace

April 3, 2014

Table Tennis Niches and Groups

Have you noticed that there are a number of people in table tennis who have their own "niches"? I'm a prime example; while there are plenty of other table tennis coaches around, none write anywhere near as much as I do, so my table tennis niche is writing. (Six books and over 1300 published articles on table tennis, plus this blog.) Who are the others? (This doesn't imply that this is all they do in table tennis; it's what they do that stands out, that few others do.) Anyone and any niches that I missed?

  • Tim Boggan's table tennis niche is history. (He had others before, but this is what he mostly does now.) Mike Babuin and Scott Gordon are following in his footsteps. (Scott earlier found his niche as the main leader for many years in hardbat table tennis, so does he qualify for two niches?)
  • Mike Mezyan's table tennis niche is artwork.
  • Brian Pace's table tennis niche is videos. Jim Butler has recently been joining him in this niche. So has Gerry Chua and a number of others.
  • There are a number who have found their niche as table tennis photographers. They include Mal Anderson, Gerry Chua, Diego Schaaf, Bruce Liu, Tom Nguyen, and the others I accidentally left off who will be angrily emailing me shortly. Then there's Ayoade Ademakinwa, with tabletennisphotos.com.
  • Richard Lee's niche is running nationwide tournaments. Plenty of others run tournaments, but few others run big ones all over the country. Craig Krum also runs a lot of tournaments around the country with his Omnipong software.
  • Scott Preiss, Adam Bobrow and Judah Friedlander are the table tennis entertainers.

There are other niches as well, but most have larger numbers - I'd call them groups instead. To how many of the following 50 table tennis groups do you belong?

  1. Player
  2. Top Player
  3. Olympian
  4. Paralympic player
  5. Paralympian
  6. USATT Member
  7. USATT Officer, Committee Member, or Staff
  8. Coach
  9. Practice Partner
  10. Umpire
  11. Referee
  12. Club Owner
  13. Club President
  14. Club Officer
  15. Tournament Director
  16. 4- or 5-star Tournament Director
  17. League Director
  18. Promoter
  19. Volunteer
  20. Writer
  21. Historian
  22. Artist
  23. Videographer
  24. Photographer
  25. Entertainer (includes those doing exhibitions)
  26. Forum Member
  27. Forum Troll
  28. Mini-Cadet (Under 13)
  29. Cadet (under 15)
  30. Junior (under 18)
  31. Top Junior (any age group)
  32. Senior (over 40)
  33. Esquire (over 50)
  34. Senior Esquire (over 60)
  35. Veteran (over 70)
  36. Top Senior (any age group)
  37. Hardbat player
  38. Sandpaper player
  39. Long Pips player
  40. Antispin player
  41. Short pips player
  42. Inverted both sides player
  43. Lefty player
  44. Penhold player
  45. Seemiller grip player
  46. Player who trains regularly
  47. Player who takes coaching regularly
  48. Player who only plays matches
  49. Has played U.S. Open or Nationals
  50. Other

Larry Hodges Books

I finally put together a simple page where I can list and sell all of my books: larryhodgesbooks.com. It actually takes you to a page I created here at TableTennisCoaching.com. I'm not sure why I didn't do this long ago - I bought the larryhodgesbooks.com domain name a while back.

National College Championships

The USA National Collegiate Championships are this weekend, April 4-6, Fri-Sun, in Monroeville, PA. Here's their home page, and here's where they will have results. They will also have live-streaming, starting 9:30AM on Friday, which is why I'm letting you know now so you can schedule it for tomorrow! (I'll repost this note again tomorrow as a reminder.)

Werner Schlager Meets Wang Liqin in Shanghai

Here's the article. No, it's not a rematch of their famous quarterfinal match at the 2003 Worlds!

"…you make it that much easier for me to beat you."

Here's a nice table tennis meme. The title above is only the ending of the meme's statement.

ITTF Legends Tour Teaser

Here's the video (38 sec).

Ovtcharov vs. Mizutani

Here's video (1:07:29) of the final of the German Open this past weekend, won by Dimitrij Ovtcharov over Jun Mizutani, 11-9 in the fifth. Jump to 1:04:20 to see the start of the last point of the match - a great one! Or watch the entire thing.

Ten Cool and Unusual Ping Pong Table Designs From Around the World

Here's the page from Uberpong. I think I posted this once before, but I was browsing it yesterday and thought I'd put it up again. I don't think the first one was there before, the one with the brick wall and barbed wire! It'll take a lot of topspin to pull the ball down over that - or would you tactically play through the barbed wire? I don't think I covered this in my tactics book.

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March 31, 2014

Tip of the Week

Get the Right Feel.

Friday Camp

It was a busy weekend of coaching, though strangely not as busy as usual as I had Sunday morning off for a change, due to a pair of out-of-town students. However, that was offset by our one-day camp on Friday, where I coached from 10AM to 6PM. Schools were closed that day for "Professional Day."

We had another snowstorm on Sunday afternoon, with about 2-3 inches here in Germantown - enough is enough!!! It's been "Spring" for eleven days now. (Hmmm . . . "days now" is one space away from "day snow," which is what happened yesterday.) I'm personally contacting the beings responsible and putting a stop to this. There will be no more snow here in Maryland until December.  

Here's a funny incident that took place during the Friday camp. I called a bunch of the beginning kids together to teach them how to serve. My first question to the seven in the group (ages 6-9) was, "How many of you know how to serve?" Nearly all of them raised their hands. So I asked for volunteers to show how to serve. I wish I had a video of what followed as we got sort of a who's who for every stereotypical illegal basement serve possible!!! One kid did the typical basement serve where he bounced the ball on the table and then hit it directly over the net. One kid reached way over the table to get as close to the net as he could to serve. One simply tossed the ball up and hit it directly to the other side of the table. All but one of them grabbed the ball with their fingertips.

Only one of the kids knew how to actually serve somewhat legal - he'd come to a few of my group sessions - but even he didn't come to a complete stop, cupped his hand severely, and hit the ball in front of the end-line. I'm not picky about the serving rules with beginning kids, so the main focus after this was to get them to serve just roughly legal. I didn't enforce the ball in the palm of the hand, as younger kids have trouble with that, and if contact was sometimes made an inch over the table, so be it. They'll learn better as they play more. For now, I just wanted them to be able to get the ball in play, which is surprisingly difficult for younger kids when they first start out.

However, even if they were struggling just to get the serve in play, one of the things I always like to do is show beginners advanced serves, so they realize there's a lot more to learn than just getting the ball in play. I show them a few spin serves, and they are hooked - they want to learn to do that. So after they had practiced basic serves for a while I called them together and gave them a demo of spin serves - backspin serves that came back into the net (to a chorus of "Woh!"), sidespin serves that broke sharply, and topspin serves that jumped. Then I let them take turns trying to return the serves, giving them mostly spin serves, an occasional speed serve, and (when I was feeling diabolical) a high backspin serve that bounced directly back to my side of the table. (I then showed them how to hit this serve for a winner by standing to the side of the table.)

I brought out the colored soccer balls so they could see the spin I was putting on the balls, and had them try to spin the balls off their rackets for practice. At this point they all wanted to learn to put spin on their serves, and even the ones who had never served before were soon trying to serve with backspin - and all of them got at least a semblance of spin on their serves. A few also spent time trying to serve fast serves.

Table Tennis Tips

My new book, "Table Tennis Tips," will be out by the end of April. It's a compilation of all 150 Tips of the Week I wrote every Monday from January 2011 to December 2013, organized in logical progression. It's basically done, both the text and covers, but it's being proofed by a few people before I finalize it.

Tournament Table Tennis

Here's a new video (2:04) that previews Brian Pace's new upcoming video, Tournament Table Tennis. The preview, which has some nice comparisons to martial arts, starts off with a compilation of some scary forehand loops by Brian, and then highlights the techniques used with spoken quotes from Bruce Lee.

Highlights of the U.S. Team Qualifiers

Jim Butler, who has gone from table tennis star to muscle expert to video expert (and still a table tennis star - he made the U.S. team again!) put together highlight videos for all eight players who qualified for the USA Team at the USA Team Trials. They are all linked (along with lots of other videos) at the USA Table Tennis Video page. Included are videos featuring Lily Zhang, Prachi Jha, Crystal Wang, Erica Wu, Timothy Wang, Adam Hugh, Yahao Zhang, and Jim Butler. There's also a 2014 US World's Men's Team Highlights video (14:25).

Amazing Point at Para South American Games

Here's the video (1:07) of this great point.

Spring Break Training

Here's video (1:41) of Sean O'Neill's daughter Kaitlyn in training, set to the Oscar-winning song "Let it Go." Most impressive thing to me as a coach: she keeps her free hand up, allowing balance, which leads to easier moving as well as shoulder turn on the forehand. This is one of those little things that younger kids have trouble doing unless you keep reminding them. Oh, and the thumbs up at the end of each segment was nice!

Youngest ITTF World Tour Winners

Here's the article on a pair of 13-year-olds from Japan that won Women's Doubles at the German Open (Mima Ito and Miu Hirano). The picture of their faces was taken when they were told they had won $5000.

New Yorker Cartoon Editor Bob Mankoff and Table Tennis

Here's an article in the Washington Post on Mankoff that features his love for table tennis. Here's the opening paragraph: "Bob Mankoff does more than like ping-pong. He is a man in efficient and focused motion as his paddle smacks each reply with the precision of a punch line. Bap. A forehand sharp as a verbal half-volley. Boop. A backhanded ball cut as thin as a slice-of-life joke. Bam. The clean put-away that requires an almost silly degree of exertion on what he says is a laughably small field of play. But then, this is what Mankoff has been doing most of his comedic career, too: Creating inventive angles and sly spins and rhythmic tricks with relentless attention to detail, as if necessity were the Jewish mother of invention."

Concrete Outdoor Ping Pong Tables Soon to Adorn NYC Parks

Here's the article.

Double-Bladed Paddle

Remember the double-bladed light saber used by Darth Maul in Star Wars 1? (Hey, forget about Jar Binks already!) Well, here's a double-bladed ping-pong paddle! I want one….

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February 4, 2014

Not Going Against or With the Spin

When counterlooping, you'll notice how top players tend to counterloop with lots of sidespin. They rarely counterloop with straight topspin. To do so would mean contacting the ball directly on top of the ball, and going directly against the incoming topspin. The ball would then jump off the paddle, and it would be tricky keeping it on the table. Instead, they mostly contact the ball on the far side, which avoids taking on the incoming topspin directly while putting a sidespin that curves to the left (for a righty). Some do the opposite, and contact the ball on the near side, and the ball curves to the right, again avoiding taking on the incoming topspin directly. (This is a bit more difficult.)

Of course once they are into a counterlooping duel, the incoming counterloop usually has sidespin, and if you counterloop it back with sidespin (assuming both are contacting the ball on the far side), you are taking on the incoming sidespin directly. But that's not much of a problem because by doing so it becomes trickier controlling the sideways movement of the ball, just as taking on the topspin directly makes controlling the up-down movement of the ball more difficult. But you have a much wider margin for error with sideways movement; few players miss because they go too wide, while many miss by going off the end.

You actually get a bit more topspin when going directly against the incoming topspin, where the ball rebounds back with topspin, if you can control it. The same is true against an incoming loop with sidespin and topspin - if you go directly against the incoming spin and loop back with your own sidespin and topspin, you get a bit more spin overall. (And that is one reason why in counterlooping rallies both players continue to sidespin loop.) However, the difference here is minimal as players are often throwing themselves into each shot, thereby getting tremendous spins regardless of the incoming spin.

When the backhand banana flip, you face the opposite. (Side note - I call it a backhand banana flip for clarity, even though there is no corresponding forehand banana flip.) Against a heavy backspin ball, it's difficult to lift the ball with heavy topspin and keep it on the table. The table is in the way, and so you can't really backswing down as you would when doing a normal loop against a deeper backspin. The banana flip solves this problem by having the player spin the ball with both sidespin and topspin. Contact is more sideways, which makes lifting much easier as you are no longer going directly against the backspin. Intuitively this doesn't seem to make sense to a lot of people until they try it out, and discover how much easier it is to flip the ball, often with good pace as well as good spin (both topspin and sidespin).

Some players face the same thing when looping against deeper backspins - they have trouble lifting the ball. This is mostly a technique problem. However, some top players do sidespin loop against heavy backspin, which makes it easier to lift. Jan-Ove Waldner was notorious for this, often sidespin looping over and over against choppers until they gave him one to loop kill. But the difference here is that you have room to backswing, and so you can actually use the backspin to create your own topspin.

Sometimes you want to go against the spin. For example, when pushing it's easier to load up the backspin against an incoming heavy backspin as you can use that backspin to catapult the reverse spin back, giving you an extra heavy backspin. You get a lot more backspin when pushing against incoming backspin than you do against an incoming no-spin ball. And with a banana flip, against a topspin serve it's easy to go against the spin by contacting the ball nearly on top, using the incoming topspin to rebound off your racket to give you an extra heavy topspin.

Teaching How to Tell Time

Yesterday I made the mistake of teaching a 7-year-old how to tell time. He was used to digital, and had no idea what the various hands on the clock meant. So I taught him. He not only was fascinated by this, but the rest of the session he became a clock-watcher. He didn't completely get the idea, and kept running over to the clock and trying to figure out the time (usually getting it wrong). I tried to convince him that time slows down if you keep watching the clock, but to no avail. This was the second time I've made this mistake - I taught another kid the same age how to tell time sometime last year, with the same result. Never again!!!

New Coaching Articles by Samson Dubina

There are a number of new coaching articles up on the news section of his web page.

Juicing for Athletes

Here's a video (5:28) about table tennis coach and cyclist Brian Pace's new book, Juicing for Athletes.

ITTF Monthly Pongcast - January 2014

Here's the video (12:33).

ITTF Approves First Poly Ball

They also now mark all approved balls as either celluloid or plastic. Here's the listing: see item #49 (you'll have to go to page 2). The approved Xushaofa ball is the same one I tested and blogged about on Dec. 26. (See second segment.)

Ma Long Endorses New Plastic Ball

Here's the article.

Prince Plays Table Tennis on New Girl

Here's the video (45 sec) of Prince on the TV show New Girl, which includes a segment where he plays table tennis.

Sony Commercial

Here's an ad (32 sec) for Sony TV that features Justin Timberlake (on right) and Peyton Manning playing table tennis.

A (Ping-Pong) Table for Two?

Here's the cartoon!

Non-Table Tennis: My Thoughts and Ranking of the Academy Award Nominated Movies

I've now seen all nine movies nominated for Best Picture for the Academy Awards. Here's my personal ranking and short analysis of each. Note that all nine were good, so finishing last here merely makes the picture one of the best of the year. I'm pretty sure my #1 will win best picture.

  1. 12 Years a Slave: Will and should win Best Picture. Brought something new to the screen: slavery as seen by someone who, like us, learns about it as he experiences it. Pretty brutal movie.
  2. Gravity: Also brought something new to the screen: the experience of being in space. One of the few movies you really should see in 3-D. It reminded me of Jurassic Park. Both are examples of "special effects movies" that also have good stories and good acting. Along with "American Hustle," has a chance to challenge "12 Years a Slave" for best picture.
  3. Captain Phillips: Great performance by Tom Hanks, great drama. Rather than demonize the bad guys, shows it from their point of view as well so you see why they did what they did.
  4. Philomena: Surprisingly good. I went in thinking this would be a somewhat boring movie, but it got better and better as it went along. When I see old pictures of people I almost immediately wonder what happened to them, and so this movie was almost an extension of that as the main character tries to find out what happened to her long-lost son. It got even more interesting when we find out what happened to him, and she tries to learn more about him.
  5. Nebraska: Interesting movie, but pretty grim, despite the intermittent humor. I kept hoping I don't end up like that when I'm old. I kept wondering how in heck could they end this movie effectively, and they found a way. (Though I found it a bit convenient that the bullying character just happened to walk out of the bar at just the right time.)
  6. The Wolf of Wall Street: Fun movie. We all know about the extravagances of Wall Street, so it didn't really add to that. A little long for the story.
  7. Dallas Buyers Club: This was a tough one to rank. Ultimately it came out toward the bottom because I could never like the main character. He started out as a ridiculous redneck character because he was surrounded by ridiculous redneck characters. Then he changes because he's now around new types of people, and begins to take on their traits. So he's basically just becoming whoever is around him. Not much of a thinker.
  8. Her: A bit long and slow at times. Nice concept.
  9. American Hustle: Entertaining, but didn't have the substance of some of the others. Surprisingly, this is the main challenger to "12 Years a Slave" for best picture, and it has a chance. 

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January 31, 2014

TT Arena

Here's a new page that's devoted to connecting coaches, players, and clubs. For example, here's a club in the U.S. looking for a coach. (The club appears to be in Coffeyville, Kansas, from the accompanying map.)

A number of years ago when I was a USATT webmaster, I tried something similar, creating a USATT page devoted to connecting coaches and clubs, with two main pages: Clubs Looking for Coaches, and Coaches Looking for Clubs. Alas, it didn't take off - there just weren't enough full-time clubs at the time, less than ten in the U.S., while there are now about 70 and more popping up seemingly every week. So now might be the perfect time, as more and more full-time clubs open up, each needing minimally 3-4 full-time professional coaches. Plus, the availability of coaches would encourage more entrepreneurs to open up such clubs.

Along with leagues, I've long held that setting up table tennis centers with junior programs is the key to developing table tennis in the U.S. and any country. I even wrote Professional Table Tennis Coaches Handbook for that reason. (Believe me, I didn't write it for the money! I'm practically selling it for cost.)

One of my long-term plans is to develop a program to solicit and train professional coaches. But that's on the backburner along with dozens of other major projects on my long-term todo list.

Side note - above I mentioned that each of these full-time centers would need minimally 3-4 full-time coaches. Yes, that's minimal. The key to all the successful centers opening up around the country are the professional coaches that bring in players. The basic recipe is simple, as pioneered by my club, Maryland Table Tennis Center, which opened in 1992. You bring in a number of full-time coaches, with the basic deal being they help solicit and bring in students, and work long hours, and in return they keep most of the money they earn - i.e. they work hard, but they get wealthy. The coaches bring in lots of students who in turn pay for memberships, clinics, leagues, tournaments, equipment, refreshments, etc. The result is an active and financially healthy full-time club.

13th ITTF Sports Science Congress

It was held in Paris last year during the World Championships. A total of 37 table tennis related papers were presented. They are all online in the International Journal of Table Tennis Sciences, Volume 8. (It's mistakenly listed at the top as Volume 7, the previous volume. You can find links to past volumes here.)  Included in the papers are two by U.S. writers/coaches:

Wang Liqin's Backswing

Yesterday I blogged about how most top players, especially the Chinese, brought their arms in during their backswing on the forehand, which allows a quicker backswing, and then extended their arms on the forward swing, which increases the power. Someone posted the following video of Wang Liqin (3-time World Men's Singles Champion) at the mytabletennis.com forum, which illustrates this very well. Here's the video; go 42 seconds in, and see Wang as he loops over and over.

The Athlete Kitchen

Table tennis player and coach Brian Pace has a web page, The Athlete Kitchen, devoted to athletes eating, including a number of eBooks such as Juicing for Athletes and related topics. Brian's not only a former 2600 player and professional coach, he's also a championships cyclist. Brian, who's quite the entrepreneur, also creates table tennis instructional videos at Dynamic Table Tennis.

Princeton Freshman Ariel Hsing

Here's an article in the Princeton Alumni Weekly that features Ariel Hsing.

Interview with World Sandpaper Champion Maxim Shmyrev

Here's the interview.

Amazing Maze on a Robot

Here's video (25 sec) of Michael Maze training with a robot at the Werner Schlager Academy.

World Ping-Pong Federation

Here's the cartoon!

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October 22, 2013

My Upcoming Novel and Ping-Pong

Yes, the two are connected. Table tennis or ping-pong is mentioned 19 times in 11 different scenes in the novel. Why? Because the 13-year-old protagonist (Neil, alias Armstrong though his last name is never mentioned in the novel) is a sorcerer's apprentice and wannabe ping-pong star who has to leave behind this childhood ambition to save the world in this humorous parody of the 1960s space race. Included in the scenes are mentions of several real players, the Florida State Finals between Brian "Speed Race" Pace and "Tricky Dicky" Fleisher, and two flying carpets that Neil names after Marty Reisman and Tim Boggan.

I'm going to list all the table tennis mentions below, but first, two news items. First, it's been retitled "Sorcerers in Space." (Previous title was the boring "The Giant Face in the Sky.") And second, the really horrible cover that I linked to a week ago has been replaced by a very nice cover. (I really like this one!!!) The novel comes out Nov. 15.

Here's the blurb on the back of the book - no table tennis mention, sorry. The novel is described as Hitchhiker's Guide meets the Space Race.

It is 1969, at the height of tensions between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. Neil, 13, badly wants to be someone. Instead he's stuck as a sorcerer's apprentice for Gus, the "meanest sorcerer in the world." Gus creates a magical talisman to spy on the Soviets, but instead it spies on them and sends text into space. A Giant Face in the Sky shows up, reading the text.

Since whoever gets to the Face will have the world at their mercy, the Race to the Face begins. The Soviets invade the U.S. in their attempts to kill Neil, who is prophesied to defeat them. A floating, talking meteor assassin named Buzz becomes Neil's companion--but in one week, Buzz must kill Neil.

President Kennedy puts together a motley crew that includes Neil, Gus, Buzz, a dragon, the god Apollo, a 2-D sorcerer, and the sorceress Jackie Kennedy. Can they make it to the Face before the Soviets, and before Buzz kills Neil?

And now we get to the table tennis!!! Here are the eleven ping-pong scenes with 19 mentions.

Ping-Pong Scene 1:

I still dreamed of being a rock star or ping-pong champion, but those dreams had taken a bad turn after I'd been sold into slavery, I mean, become a sorcerer's apprentice. Somehow my parents had thought it was a good idea.

Ping-Pong Scene 2:

"Not Russia," Gus said. "The Soviet Union. Russia's just the main part of it. Don't you pay attention in school? Or do you just play ping-pong and listen to Beetles music?"

"It's not ping-pong, it's table tennis! And it's better than practicing magic I'm not allowed to do."

"Maybe, but according to Chef Wang, someday you're going to have to battle the Soviets, so I suggest more studying and less ponging.

Ping-Pong Scene 3:

"Can I go home now?" I asked. "I want to practice my serves." There was a school tournament coming up next week, and my reverse pendulum serve needed work. Maybe ping-pong was where I'd someday be someone, do something.

"Will you forget your ping-pong!" Gus cried. "A Russian agent just tried to kill you, you're supposed to defeat the Soviets, there's a Giant Face in the Sky that that compels us to say its name as if capitalized, and a murderous meteor is following you around, and that's what you're worried about?"

"I'm not murderous!" Buzz exclaimed. "I'm a pacifist." More quietly he added, "Except when someone makes me apprehensive."

"How am I supposed to defeat the Soviets?" I asked. "I'm just an apprentice. Maybe I can beat them at ping-pong."

Ping-Pong Scene 4:

I decided to change channels and said, "Mirror, mirror, on the wall, find a station with a ping-pong ball."

The mirror showed me the latest lottery, with numbered ping-pong balls in a container. With gritted teeth, I tried again.

"Mirror, mirror, about to get whacked, find me some table tennis unless you want to get cracked." The mirror found the Final of the recent Florida Table Tennis Championships while the Beetles played "Strawberry Feasts Forever." I pulled up a chair to watch the final between Brian "Speed Race" Pace and "Tricky Dicky" Fleisher.

"Aren't you packed yet?" Gus said. "Tonight, we're going to Washington D.C. to see the president, and you're watching ping-pong on the mirror?" He aimed his staff at the mirror, and the table tennis and Beetles action was replaced by my reflection.

Ping-Pong Scene 5:

I named it the Red Reisman, after a famous table tennis player.

Ping-Pong Scene 6:

So, Gus and I left that afternoon to buy supplies at the Black Market, using the new flying carpet Gus had bought to replace the recently-destroyed Red Reisman. It was identical to the Red Reisman, except this one was blue and even more worn out. I'd named it the Blue Boggan, after another famous table tennis player.

Ping-Pong Scene 7:

Why was I here? What was my purpose, and why was I put on this world? It couldn't have been just to serve Gus his mid-day tea. I'd always wanted to be a ping-pong champ or a rock star, but there had to be more. Was I here to defeat the Soviets, as prophesied by Chef Wang? Or did I have a higher purpose, one which I would only discover in time? I just knew that someday I was going to be somebody, do something. I just didn't know what.

Ping-Pong Scene 8:

Gus looked disgusted. "Don't remember the formula for force, my apprentice with ping-pong balls for brains?"

"Isn't that F equals MA?" I said.

"Correct, Force equals Magic times Acceleration," Gus said.

Ping-Pong Scene 9:

Kennedy was watching the two go back and forth like a ping-pong match.

Ping-Pong Scene 10:

Ten more evils occurred before I finally pronounced it to the booming voice's satisfaction, leading to traffic tickets, an edge ball in a ping-pong game, dandruff, and other calamities.

Ping-Pong Scene 11:

She'd also brought a number of baby hooting owls, parahoots, that, in an emergency, could carry us safely back to Earth. They were cute little creatures, with big, almond-shaped eyes—like all cute creatures—and soft, wavy, brown feathers. Their eyes were the size of quarters, far too large for their ping-pong-ball-sized heads.

Epic Retrieving! Turning Defense into Attack!

Here's a great point (42 sec) showing some great lobbing and counterattacking. Not sure who the players are, though I'm sure I'll recognize them once someone comments below telling us who they are.

How Ping-Pong Saved My Life

No, it's not about me, it's someone else at Uberpong (Eric Jensen).

Kramer (from Seinfeld), Tommy Lee Jones, and Steve McQueen Playing Ping Pong

Here are gifs showing this from Uberpong.

Pizza Hut Table Tennis Commercial

Here's a video of a recent Pizza Hut commercial (31 sec) that includes about one second of table tennis 23 seconds in. Why does it include table tennis? I have no idea. The rest of the commercial they show pizza and people eating pizza, then out of the blue there's table tennis for no apparent reason other than perhaps to show that if you eat pizza, you'll win at ping-pong. Of course, the greatest pizza place on the planet, Comet Ping-Pong, learned this long ago.

Tumba Ping-Pong Show

Here's a video (65 sec, on a page in Chinese but the video doesn't need language) that was first shown to me by Chinese players at my club. I've posted videos by the Tumba Ping-Pong Show before, but this is a compilation of their best ping-pong tricks that's apparently going viral in China. 

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January 18, 2013

Target Practice

One of the true tests of your stroking precision is simple target practice. It's also a way to develop that precision. How do you do it? Simply set up a target on the far side of the table, and after bouncing the ball on your side of the table (or jus tossing it in the air), hit the target.

I do this regularly both as a demo and with students, usually using either a 16.9 oz Deerpark water bottle or a 20 oz Gatorade bottle. Usually I can hit it five out of five times. If you can't hit it at least three out of five times, you need to work on your precision and possibly your stroking technique. This exercise allows you to focus on the stroke mechanics and precision without having to worry about an incoming ball that isn't in the same spot every time.

To do this, just set the target on the far side of the table. I usually put it on the far left side (a righty's forehand court). Then I stand by my backhand side, bounce the ball on the table, and whack! I do it both hitting and looping, though the latter has a bit less control. As an added exercise, take a step off the table, toss the ball up a bit, and loop it, contacting the ball perhaps just above table height, and hit the target.

Here's a hint: don't consciously aim the shot. Just line yourself up, look at the target, and then the ball, and just let your natural muscle memory take over. Your subconscious controls these shots; your conscious mind just gets in the way.

Here's a video (1:14) of the late great Marty Reisman doing this . . . with cigarettes! He could hit them well over half the time - at age 80! I've never tried cigarettes, but in honor of Marty, I'm thinking of trying. (I don't think I can bring myself to actually buy cigarettes at a store - I'm a non-smoker, and I'd feel like everyone was staring at me! I'd have to order them on the Internet, or borrow from a smoker.) Marty does "cheat" on some of these, hitting the ball from practically right over the net, but then he's aiming at a target about half the width of your little finger!!!

I had an interesting "bad" experience a few days ago. I demoed this for a student, with a Gatorade bottle as the target, but my shots kept missing, often clipping the top of the net. Then I realized we were using new balls, which come with a coating of dust (apparently from the manufacturing system). The dust was on my racket, and so the ball was sliding, which was why they were going out lower than usual and so hitting the net. I wiped the racket, and then was able to hit the target with ease again.

I sometimes end junior sessions (especially with beginners) by putting a Gatorade bottle on the table, and claim that the liquid inside is "squeezed worm juice," or "squeezed jellyfish" or (if it's a bottle of water) "dog saliva" or something similar. I tell them if they hit it, I have to drink it. I feed multiball as they line up trying to hit the target (two shots each), taking great joy in making me drink the disgusting fluids. I usually end the session by grabbing five balls and going to the other side, and smacking the target five times in a row. It's very impressive, both for the kids and the parents. (If I'm feeling really confident, I'll spread five paper cups on the table, and smack all five off with five shots. But for this I'd bring a few extra balls in case one misses.)

Backhand Loop Training

Here's Backhand Loop Training for Table Tennis, Part 2 (9:20), by Brian Pace of Dynamic Table Tennis. This is actually a promo video for the full video, which is 1hr 43 min. Lots of action video of backhand loops. "Brian Pace gets more strategic and tactical about how to use the Backhand Loop in competition. In Part 1, the focus was on building stroke mechanic and stroke production. In part 2 all of the Exercises focus on every possible case scenario that you will every face in competition that requires you to use the Backhand Loop." In case you missed it, here's Part 1 (6:41).

Jun Mizutani Ghost Serve

Here's video and a forum discussion of Jun Mizutani's serves, in particular his heavy backspin serve that comes back into the net. (The video commentary is in Chinese, but you can follow what's going on.) This serve is one of the most attention-grabbing serves you can do for new players and media people, yet it's not that hard to do for an experienced player. I do it all the time - though I can't "slam" it back into the net as hard as Mizutani.

Chinese Footwork Videos

Here are some nice videos of table tennis footwork. The explanations are in Chinese, but you can follow it easily just by watching. There's also some forum discussion in English that explains some of what's being said.

Google's Ping-Pong Hangout

Table Tennis Nation brings us info on Google's new ping-pong hangout, where they are having their first online tournament. "Go head-to-head with Ad Land's finest in the world's first Ping-Pong Hangout Tournament." Good luck!

Mind-Controlled Pong

Here's video (3:17) of someone playing the online game of Pong using only their mind.

Ping-Pong Warrior Carry Big Stick

What Happens When You Mix Silent Hill Movie, Street Fighter Video Game And Table Tennis? You Get This Guy!!!

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November 19, 2012

Tip of the Week

Backhand and Forehand Playing Distance.

Malware and Spammers and Hall of Fame Program, Oh My!
(And update on "Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers")

I was really hoping to finish the page layouts before Thanksgiving for my new book, "Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers" (previously titled "Table Tennis Tactics: A Thinker's Guide.") However, I'm in an ongoing battle with false malware warnings and spammers, plus I'm doing the USATT Hall of Fame Program booklet for the upcoming inductions at the USA Nationals. Plus, of course, the usual coaching duties, this blog, and little things like eating and sleeping and seeing the dentist this afternoon. (Pause for dramatic cringing.) So it's probably not going to happen. There's still a small chance it'll be done in time so I'll have copies for the Nationals, but probably not. (It's looking like it'll be about 240 pages and right about 100,000 words.)

Regarding the malware problem, the site has been scanned over and Over and OVER, and no spam has been found. You can scan it yourself in seconds at Sucuri Securities, and it comes up clean. (It's the removal that takes time, not the scanning.) The problem, as noted previously, is that there seems to be ongoing vestigial remnants of past malware warnings from a malware problem from over a month ago. The problem comes from Google, and it mostly affects the 40% of viewers who use Google Chrome as their browser. Some Chrome users have said they aren't having problems, and there have been some reports of warnings from Firefox, but none from those using Explorer. You should be able to just ignore the warnings.

I've emailed with Sucuri, and they've assured me they can stop the malware warnings, but it's going to cost $189.99/year for their coverage, on top of a couple hundred I've already spent trying to solve this problem on this mostly volunteer site.

Regarding spammers, the problem there is the malware warnings have somehow effected email notifications to me of spam postings, and so recently I've had to hunt them down manually. Normally, with the email notifications, I can delete them, and block and report the spammers within seconds. If you happen to see a spam posting either as a comment to a blog entry or on the forum, let me know so I can send a nuclear device at whoever created it.

Brian Pace's Serve & Return Videos

Brian Pace of Dynamic Table Tennis has produced two videos on serve and serve return. They are Serve and Server Return Training for Table Tennis, Part 1 (2hr 21min) and Part 2 (1hr 58min). Here's the promo video (1:19).

USATT Coaching Newsletter

The latest USATT Coaching Newsletter, Issue Number 6, just came out. (You can see the previous five here.) Here's the Table of Contents:

  • Last Call for "Coach of the Year Nominations"
  • USATT Holds First Ever ITTF Level 2 Course
  • First USATT Coaches Certified as ITTF Level 2 and Level 3 Course Conductors
  • USATT Coaching Reaches an Historic Milestone – 100 ITTF Coaches
  • USATT Coaching is Looking for Clubs to Host Regional ITTF Courses
  • Towards the Future!

Merit Badges for Table Tennis

Here's a proposal from Diego Schaaf and Wei Wang on Merit Badges for Achieving Playing Class (i.e. reaching specific ratings). I'll probably blog about this later on, but for now, what are your thoughts? It seems like a good idea. Similar suggestions have come up in the past, but three things always stopped it: 1) What should be awarded for these achievements - belts, like in martial arts? Pins? Badges? Certificates? etc.; 2) Few ever put together an actual proposal such as this eon, and 3) No one ever follows up on it.

Ray Chen

I am sad to report that Ray Chen, 79, a longtime Maryland player and lifetime member of USATT, passed away last Wednesday, on Nov. 14.

Athlete Isn't "Extraordinary" in Visa Bid

Here's an article in the New York Times about the U.S. turning down the visa bid for Afshin Noroozi, Iran's first table tennis Olympian and world #284.

TopSpin's Fourth Annual Ping-Pong tournament

Here's an article about this annual New York City event, which included guest appearances by present and former NBA players Gerald Wallace, Jerry Stackhouse, and Allan Houston, as well as radio host Angie Martinez, the "Voice of New York." The tournament raises money for three charities, A Better Chance, Change For Kids, and Horizons.

For People Who Don't Really Know Table Tennis

Here's a great new highlights video that just went up yesterday (7:31), and one of the best I've ever seen. I'm nominating for point of the year the one between Germany's Timo Boll and Croatia's Andrej Gacina that starts at 1:25 and continues all the way to 1:51. Amazingly, as so often it seems to happen, the point was at 10-8 match point in the fifth, and this was no exhibition point.

Crazy Rabbit

If I ever find the creator of the malware that caused so many problems on this site, I will do to them what this bunny rabbit does to this ping-pong paddle (1:43).

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October 5, 2012

Value of the Backhand Loop

If I could go back 36 years and tell myself one thing as I was developing my game, I'd tell myself to develop my backhand loop.

Sponges weren't nearly as good back then as modern ones, and so it was much harder to backhand loop with great power without backing well off the table to give yourself time for a bigger swing. The thinking for many was that if you develop your footwork and forehand, you don't need as much of a backhand attack - i.e., "one gun is as good as two." And backhand loop? It was a nice shot, but not really necessary.

And so I didn't really develop a backhand loop until I'd played many years. The result is it's not natural or particularly strong, can be erratic, and is not a particularly instinctive part of my game.

With modern sponges you can loop just about anything, even balls that land short over the table (especially with the backhand, where you can wrist-loop it), and so players pick up the backhand loop early as a dangerous weapon. A good backhand loop gets you out of those pushing rallies (including pushing back deep serves to the backhand) that put you at the mercy of the opponent's loop. Meanwhile, I still struggle to get myself to backhand loop against deep serves (I can't step around and loop forehand every time), and against quick, angled pushes to my backhand, especially after a short serve to my forehand. You don't have to rip these backhand loops; consistency, depth, and spin are key. (You can often get away with a weak loop if it consistently goes deep.)

Just as difficult is backhand looping in a rally. These days many of our up-and-coming juniors backhand loop (often off the bounce) just about everything - or at least topspin their backhands to the point where, compared to backhands of yesteryear, they are backhand loops. This turns players like me into blockers, and not in a good way. 

Not everyone has the athleticism to backhand loop over and over, though most people can if they spend enough time both practicing and (just as important) doing physical training. But just about anyone trained properly can turn their backhand loop into a dangerous weapon against pushes, deep serves to the backhand, and against low but soft blocks. Yes, I mean you, the person reading these words.

So develop that shot, and don't make the mistake I made so many years ago.

More on Backhand Looping

And since we're on the topic of the backhand loop, here's a new video out, "Backhand Loop Training" (6:41) from Dynamic Table Tennis (that's Brian Pace). It shows Brian demonstrating and explaining the backhand loop. Note near the start how he's backhand looping against block almost off the bounce, something few players did when I was starting out (except perhaps for Hungarian great Tibor Klampar).

Here's a tutorial (4:02) on the backhand loop against topspin by ttEdge.

Here's a tutorial (4:12) on the backhand loop against backspin by PingSkills.

Here's a video (1:08) from a year ago of Chinese Coach Liu Guoliang feeding multiball to Ma Long, who is backhand looping against backspin. I don't recommend most of you try to loop with as much speed as Ma, but note that his loops aren't just speed - they have great topspin as well pulling that ball down.

Zhang Jike vs. Timo Boll

Here's a match from the 2012 World Team Championships between world #1 Zhang Jike of China versus the European #1 (and world #1 for three months last year) Timo Boll of Germany, with the time between points removed so it's nine minutes of non-stop action.

Behind the Back Save Against Saive

Here's a video (55 sec) of Marc Closset making a behind-the-back return to win a point at the 2012 Belgian Championships against Jean-Michel Saive. Make sure to watch the slow motion.

How to Win a Key Point

This player has taken his high-toss serve to a new level (0:20).

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June 1, 2012

Easterns

I'm off for the Eastern Open this afternoon, where I'll primarily be coaching Derek Nie, one of the top 11 and under players in the U.S. with a rating of 2136. If you are there, stop by and say hello! 

Adventures of the Ping-Pong Diplomats by Fred Danner

Review by Larry Hodges

If you're a history buff, and enjoy reading the behind-the-scenes happenings in Ping-Pong Diplomacy; war (Chinese Civil War, Korean War, Vietnam War); China, the Soviet Union, and the U.S.; table tennis in the U.S., and even the aerospace industry during the Apollo era, then you'll find this book fascinating. The book is really four short books in one.

Chapters 1-3 (pages 1-86) covers the history that led up to, and the actual events of, the 1971 Ping-Pong Diplomacy trip to China. The three chapters are titled "Setting the Stage for Ping-Pong Diplomacy," "The 1971 World Team's China Trip," and "Who Won the Nobel Peace Prize for Ping-Pong Diplomacy?" These chapters include fascinating background on the Chinese Civil War, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War, and all the political infighting taking place in these countries, the Soviet Union, and the U.S.  The three wars were related in numerous ways, and all led to the eventual Ping-Pong Diplomacy of 1971-72. We also learn how it could have happened in 1961, but the U.S. blew it. The answer to the question posed in the last chapter is nobody won the Novel Peace Prize for any of this, but it goes over the possible recipients and explains why nobody ever did win for it. And here's a hilarious quote from Chairman Mao: "Regard a ping-pong ball as the head of your capitalist enemy. Hit it with your socialist bat, and you have won the point for the fatherland."

Chapters 4 and 6 (pages 89-125 and 162-170, "The Growth of Long Island Table Tennis" and "Table Tennis Becomes a Family Affair") cover the growth of Long Island Table Tennis, as well as how it became a family affair for the Danners. Slowly but inexorably Fred found himself running more and bigger events in Long Island (clubs, leagues, and tournaments) and for USTTA (now USATT), until it led to the U.S. Open (he was Operations Director) and the Long Island stop for Ping-Pong Diplomacy in 1972. He also begins to travel to tournaments with his son Carl, now a prominent player and coach in the bay area in California. Did you know that the 1972 U.S. Open in Long Island, forty years ago, had 725 entries? (A few years later these numbers would break a thousand in Houston and Oklahoma City.) For perspective, last year's U.S. Open in Milwaukee had 607. Fred also shows how the world has changed since those days, explaining how USTTA kept records in those non-computer days: "Each membership application required writing or typing the player's name and address nine times."

Chapter 5 (pages 126-161, "Life in the Long Island Aerospace Industry") is about life in the Long Island Aerospace Industry in the '60s, where Fred worked during the many years he was also working with Long Island Table Tennis. In some ways this seemed a bit off-topic, but it was related in various ways to Fred's continuing table tennis endeavors, in particular since all the corporate infighting both interfered with and somewhat mirrored what was going on in the world of table tennis, both in Long Island and the political intrigues in the background of Ping-Pong Diplomacy in the various wars and countries involved. Much of the chapter was about infighting and politics at Grumman Aviation, including their fights with GE and other companies as they bid for various aspects of the Apollo 11 trip to the moon. We also learn about the theft of atom bomb designs by the Soviets, how we could have avoided the Korean War, and how we outwitted the Soviets by helping to bring table tennis and China into the Olympics.

Chapter 7 (pages 171-204, "LITTA's Big Year: The U.S.-China Matches") is about the Chinese National Team's U.S. trip, covering primarily their stop in Long Island, and how that came to be, rather than it being in the New York City's Madison Square Garden, as New York City Mayor John Lindsey wanted. (He doesn't come off very well in the book.)

Now who is Fred Danner? He's not only one of the 134 members of the U.S. Table Tennis Hall of Fame (inducted as a contributor in 1993), but he's also one of the 14 recipients of the Mark Matthews Lifetime Achievement Award (2010). Fred has a long career promoting table tennis both in Long Island and with USATT. He was instrumental in getting table tennis in the Olympics. He was president of the Long Island Table Tennis Association, founded the National Junior Table Tennis Foundation, wrote the National School Table Tennis Guide, and was at various times USTTA's Junior Development Chair, Membership Chair, Treasurer, Corresponding Secretary, and Vice President. He also got USTTA its tax exempt status.

You'll note this is Volume 1. Volume 2 will cover what Fred calls "$7,000,000 worth of favorable publicity" as a result of Ping-Pong Diplomacy, and the various contrasting ideas on how USTTA should proceed, and the resulting successes and failures. (A third volume is also planned.)

The book has a catchy cover, with USA's D-J Lee (6-time U.S. Men's Champion) serving to a Chinese opponent against a background made up of the U.S. and Chinese flags and the earth as seen from space. It is available at amazon.com for $29.59 (hardcover), $13.22 (soft cover), and $3.99 (ebook). 

This is the third book I know of in English that covers Ping-Pong Diplomacy, at least from the table tennis angle. The other two are "History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 5," by Tim Boggan, $40, which covers the Ping-Pong Diplomacy Years, 1971-72, available at timboggantabletennis.com (along with his other eleven books on U.S. Table Tennis History); and "The Origin of Ping-Pong Diplomacy: The Forgotten Architect of Sino-U.S. Rapprochement" by Shigeo Itoh (1969 World Men's Champion from Japan), available at amazon.com for $90 or $65 used.

Backhand Loop

Here's a new video from Coach Brian Pace from Dynamic Table Tennis on Setting up the Backhand Loop in Competition (8:38).

New Coaching Video from PingSkills

Returning a Drop Shot (1:41)

Celebrating 40 Years of U.S.-China Exchanges

Here's a video that highlights 40 years of "Ping-Pong Diplomacy" (2:36).

Erica Wu in LA Times

Here's an article in yesterday's LA Times on U.S. Table Tennis Olympian Erica Wu.

Spelling Bee Ping-Pong Champion

Table Tennis Nation explains why Nicholas Rushlow, ping-pong player, will win the National Spelling Bee. (He didn't.)

Non-Table Tennis - How to Kill a Dragon

My fantasy story "In the Belly of the Beast" (6600 words) went up on Electric Spec yesterday. A sorcerer with a unique method for slaying dragons is swallowed by his dragon prey. While in the dragon's stomach, he uses a force field to protect himself, his daughter, and others, all of whom have also been swallowed. He abandoned his daughter when she was a child to go to sorcery school, and she doesn't recognize him. To her, there is the inept sorcerer in the dragon's stomach; the father who abandoned her; and the famous dragonslayer on the way to rescue them. She doesn't know that all three are the same. Most of the story takes place in the stomach of the dragon, which features the only battle between a wizard and a warrior in the belly of a dragon in history.

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April 23, 2012

Tip of the Week

Reverse Forehand Pendulum Serve.

Congrats to the USA Olympians!

Making the Olympic Team for the U.S. were (L-R) Erica Wu, Lily Zhang, Ariel Hsing, and Timothy Wang. And here is the ITTF coverage, which has lots of article, pictures, and complete results. Special thanks to USATT as well for providing live online coverage. (Unfortunately, I was coaching nearly all day Fri-Sun, and so only saw a few minutes of one match.)  (Side note - I'm told Gao Jun dropped out because of a knee injury.)

Grassroots table tennis

There was a discussion at a USATT board meeting about eight years ago on the subject of grassroots development. While some wanted to focus almost exclusively on elite development, most were for grassroots development. And then the discussion began.

Several board members insisted that grassroots development meant developing national team members. When I pointed out that that was what elite development meant, I got some serious eye-rolling. They really and truly had the two confused. When I argued that grassroots development, to me, meant increasing USATT membership (primarily through leagues and junior development), they didn't think that was USATT's job - but thought it might be useful to bring in revenue for their own version of "elite" grassroots development.

We move forward a few years. The board is still split between elite development and grassroots development. Publicly, all are for both, but privately some are more for one than the other. But again, there's this disagreement over what it really means. The consensus now seems more toward recreational development. Technically, that is grassroots development, but it is not particularly relevant to what is needed to develop table tennis in the U.S.

After a board member explained his plan to create recreational players through leagues, and how he didn't care if they became USATT members or not, I asked him this. "If you got 1000 new players this way, would it be a success?" He said that would be a good start. Then I asked, "How about 10,000 new players?" That, he said, would be pretty successful. Then I pointed out that, according to surveys, there are already 15 million recreational players in the U.S., and if he brought in 10,000 new players that number would increase to 15.01 million. If he brought in 100,000 new players, that'd be 15.1 million. Not particularly helpful.

What USATT needs to focus on is the same thing successful table tennis countries all over the world focus on - increasing membership. And when I say membership, I mean paying membership. USATT has 8000. Germany has 700,000. England 500,000. France, Italy, Belgium, and others all have memberships in the multiple hundred thousands as well. (We won't even talk about Asia, where the numbers are even larger.) They did this through grassroots development. (Much of this is recreational development through leagues, but with a direct pipeline to membership by requiring membership to play in the leagues, and by setting up a national network of such leagues.) So did nearly every successful sport in the U.S. and around the world.

And yet several outspoken board members (with zero disagreement from others - do they agree or they just don't speak up?) have argued that the situation in the U.S. is unique, and that we cannot learn from what other countries and other sports have done successfully. It makes me sick when I hear this. While every country has a "unique" situation, people in the U.S. are not aliens, and are not so different than people in other countries. People in the U.S. pretty much respond to the same things people in other countries do. There's a lot we can learn from others, and apply to our own situation, but it seems we don't want to.

USATT will become a success when it learns these lessons. That means setting specific goals, and creating programs to reach those goals. (For example, the goal of 100 successful junior programs within five years, or a nationwide network of leagues with 100,000 players within ten years.) What it doesn't mean is creating task forces with vague goals, putting the first board member who raises his hand as the task force leader (rather than doing a serious search for the best qualified person, and then recruiting that person), and then terminating the task force two or three years later after it predictably hasn't accomplished anything, as we seem to do over and over. (See my blog entry on this from Sept. 26, 2011, exactly two years after USATT's 2009 Strategic Meeting. The Junior and "Grow Membership Through Added Value" task forces have since both been disbanded, with no programs implemented to accomplish their vague goals.)

Warren Buffett challenges Ariel Hsing to Rematch

Yes, the grudge match is on, and will take place on May 6. Ariel will also take on other challengers at the Berkshire Hathaway shareholders meeting. Perhaps Mr. Buffett will bring his big paddle again?

MDTTC Open House

Here's Alan Lang's article on the MDTTC Grand Re-Opening & Open House. That's me on the microphone. On the table is Derek Nie (unseen on left) and Crystal Wang, with Nathan Hsu and Tong Tong Gong watching with their backs to us. The four did demonstrations as part of the Open House.

2012 Broward March Open Highlights

Here's a highlights video of Brian Pace winning the Broward March Open (5:06).

Six table tennis pictures

Here are six table tennis pictures: What society thinks you do, what my friends think you do, what Asians think you do, what Americans think you do, what you think you do, and what you really do.

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