Rules Changes and One Last Change
I am tired of rule changes. The game as it is played now is substantially different than the game when I started out. Some of the rules changes were good, such as the two-color rule, the six-inch toss rule, and the idea of making hidden serves illegal. Others were more ambiguous for me - the larger ball, games to 11, and various rules restricting long pips. Some I'm not happy with, in particular the switch to non-celluloid balls, though that's mostly because they jumped the gun and made the switch before the balls were standardized or training balls were available. (I blogged about this on October 21 - see second segment.)
At this point it would take a rather strong argument for me to agree with any more changes. However, there is one last rule change I'd like to see before declaring our sport "perfect" - and that is fixing the hidden serve rule.
I've blogged numerous times about the problems with the hidden serve rule, where umpires rarely call them and so many top players (and juniors) use them to win titles, while those who play fair learn that cheating often pays off in our sport. The problem is that umpires sitting off to the side cannot tell for certain whether a serve is hidden from the opponent, and for some reason I've never fully understood, do not understand the meaning of these two rules:
Rule 2.06.06: It is the responsibility of the player to serve so that the umpire or the assistant umpire can be satisfied that he or she complies with the requirements of the Laws, and either may decide that a service is incorrect.
Rule 2.06.06.01 If either the umpire or the assistant umpire is not sure about the legality of a service he or she may, on the first occasion in a match, interrupt play and warn the server; but any subsequent service by that player or his or her doubles partner which is not clearly legal shall be considered incorrect.
The second one is pretty explicit. If the umpire isn't sure, then it's not a legal serve. How much clearer can we get?
The first one also makes it very clear that if the umpire can't tell if the serve is visible to the receiver, then the serve is illegal, and they have to either warn (the first time) or fault the serve. If they aren't sure if the serve was hidden or not, then they can't be "satisfied" that the serve complies with the requirements of the Laws. Here (for example) is the Merriam-Webster Definition of "satisfied":
Definition #3 is the one that applies here, though you can use #2 as well. If an umpire can't tell if the serve is hidden or not, he cannot "believe that something is true" (definition #3). Nor can he know if the rule that is required is being followed (#2). (If you do try to use #1, well, I don't think an umpire can be "happy or pleased" that he can't tell if a serve is hidden or not! But the third definition is clearly the one used in the context.)
As I've blogged before, there's an obvious solution, one that was proposed to the ITTF at the meetings at the last World Championships, but was voted down. When serving, players should be required to serve so that "throughout the serve, the ball must be visible to both umpires, or where the umpires would sit if there were umpires." When there are no umpires, it would be assumed the umpires would be sitting about five feet out on each side, lined up with the net. The point of the rule isn't to make sure the umpires can see the ball. The point is that if a server hides the ball from an opponent but it isn't obvious he is doing so, it'll be obvious he's hiding it from at least one of the umpires, and so it would be an easy call for an umpire to declare it illegal. No more hidden serve problems!
Note that the two-color rule was also voted down the first few times it was proposed before it finally passed, and the same is true of other rule changes. I think this rule is so obvious and so easily fixes the problem that we should keep proposing it until it passes.
And then, NO MORE RULE CHANGES*!!!
*Unless there's a really, Really, REALLY compelling argument for one - not likely.
TT Scene from Big Hero 6
I saw the Big Hero 6 last night (it was great!) - and there was a short table tennis scene. When the hero Hiro (pun intended!) visits the university where they are making robots there are two robots rallying in the background. (Or was it a person playing a robot? I should have taken notes!) A few minutes later they are seen again. Alas, I was unable to find any video or pictures of the scene.
Brian Pace and Orlando Muniz Training Session
Here's the video (10:27). This gives an idea of what type of drills advanced players do in their training sessions.
When Serving Short Becomes Important
Ask the Coach
Here's Episode #23 (10:39)
Here's Episode #24 (12:35)
Fan Zhendong is the 2014 Chinese National Men's Singles Champion
Here's the article. The 17-year-old defeated Ma Long in the final, 4-2. Fan also won Men's Doubles, teaming with Xu Xin to defeat Zhang Jike and Ma Long in the final. Zhu Yuling won Women's Singles, 4-2 over World Champion Ding Ning.
Lindenwood College Friends Seek Redemption at 2014 Butterfly Thanksgiving Teams Tournament
Here's the article by Barbara Wei.
Daniel Rosenfeld Interview
Top Ten Shots from the Russian Open
Hand Table Tennis
Non-Table Tennis - World Fantasy Convention
I spent Saturday at the World Fantasy Convention in Arlington, Virginia. This is where science fiction and fantasy fans from around the world gather annually for panels, exhibits, movies, readings, etc. Outside my table tennis world I'm also a science fiction & fantasy writer (one novel and 71 short story sales). I gave a 30-minute reading Saturday at 1:30 PM where I read the first two chapters of my novel "Sorcerers in Space." (Due to table tennis commitments, I only went over on Saturday, though the convention was Thur-Sun.)
I've always admired how well-run these conventions are. For example, the annual World Science Fiction Convention generally gets 5000 or more paid attendees, and it's all volunteer run. The World Fantasy Convention is smaller, but probably had over a thousand.
When I mention science fiction or fantasy conventions, some of you probably have visions of people running around in funny costumes. That's true of some conventions, primarily fan-based conventions. But the more "serious" (like this one) are more literary. While there are always some who dress up, most dress like normal people and act almost like normal people.
I got lost on the way there (I don't have GPS, alas) - and then, by sheer chance, saw a van with the wording "Hyatt Regency Crystal City," which happened to be the hotel the convention was at. I followed it, knowing it was 50-50 it was going to (and not from) the hotel - and I won as it soon pulled into the hotel. After a huge hassle finding parking (and another hassle later trying to find my car), I arrived just in time for the Science Fiction Writers of America 90-minute meeting, which started 8:30 AM on Saturday.
At registration I received book bags with about 15 new novels and other goodies. Then I spent the day attending panels, watching some short movies, viewing the fantasy art show, and meeting and talking with other writers. Some of the writers I talked with included Joe Haldeman, James Morrow, James Maxey, and Cat Rambo. (Haldeman is the equivalent of a top-ten-in-the-world table tennis player, while the other three are the equivalent of U.S. team members.) I had a good time at my reading as well. To promote my novel I gave out about 20 copies.
We shared the hotel with a Rolling Thunder convention. They are basically a nationwide motorcycle gang with the following mission: "…to publicize the POW-MIA issue: To educate the public that many American Prisoners of War were left behind after all previous wars and to help correct the past and to protect future Veterans from being left behind should they become Prisoners of War-Missing In Action. We are also committed to helping American Veterans from all wars." Nearly all wore motorcycle garb, either leather or jean vests with "Rolling Thunder" in large lettering, most of them jammed with patches and buttons. Anti-Jane Fonda buttons seemed popular. I think they outnumbered us - all these bearded motorcycle gang-type people was pretty scary at times!
Here's a thought: there are something like 400 billion galaxies, with about 100 billion stars on average in each. That's about 40,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars. How many aliens are out there? How many of them have developed games like table tennis? Are they shakehanders, penholders, or do they manipulate the paddle telepathically? These are the burning questions that need answers.
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Tip of the Week
Shorter Blog Today
At 11:15 AM I learned that local schools are letting out early today, at noon, and that I'm supposed to pick kids up at that time rather than the usual 3PM time. So I have to rush off now to pick them up and do about 90 minutes of coaching and tutoring. So no main blog today - just the Tip of the Week and the segments below. Back tomorrow!
Reverse Pendulum Backspin Serve - Like a Boss!
Here's the new video (5:37) where the serve is taught. The coach (Brett Clarke from TTEdge) has a very animated and unique approach to teaching the serve! I may have to dig out my old Frisbee from my closet….
Returning the Reverse Pendulum Serve
Here's the new video (12:28) from Coach Brian Pace.
Ask the Coach
Plastic Ball Testing
I linked last week to parts 1 & 2 of the Preston videos where they test the new plastic balls. They've now down six of the eleven videos planned. They are linked below. Here's a thread where all six videos are linked and discussed.
Keep Existing Celluloid Balls Petition
Don't like the switch to Plastic? Here's the petition! (See comments below it.)
Here's the new table tennis magazine - English version! (This is actually the third issue of this international magazine.)
Ping-Pong Diplomacy Inspires American-Chinese Co-Production
Here's the article on the upcoming movie planned, based on Ping-Pong Diplomacy. "Forty-three years ago, a Ping-Pong match between American and Chinese players in Japan led to a diplomatic breakthrough between the U.S. and China. It resulted in a historic 1972 meeting between then-President Richard Nixon and Chinese leader Mao Zedong that changed world history.
What came to be called “Ping-Pong Diplomacy” led to the normalization of U.S.–China relations for the first time since World War II, and is at the heart of a planned $40 million movie called Let It Be."
Atanda Musa's World Ranking
On Friday I had a segment in my blog about the ITTF's press release saying that Nigerian star Aruna Quadri was now the highest ranked African player in history, at #30 - but linked to an article that said former Nigerian star Atanda Musa had reached #20 in the word. I still don't have a definitive answer for this, but Volker Schroder wrote me that Zdenko Uzorinac wrote in his book "Table Tennis Legends" (page 270) that "Musa was ranked 40th in 1981, 48th in 1982, 54th in 1986, 49th in 1989, 60th in 1990, and 74th in 1992." This implies that Musa's highest ranking was #40 - but it's not completely clear, as it doesn't give his rankings for every year, and it does contradict the other article. If anyone has a definitive answer to this, comment below! (I'm also curious if anyone knows if Musa is still coaching in New York City. I haven't seen or heard about him in years.)
What Kind Of A Table Tennis Player Are You?
Here's the quiz from Mezyantt. (About ten questions.) I wonder what the possible answers are? I got, "You Are a Table Tennis Lover Most Indeed, You Are Passionate about The Game, Truly Loves it and want to play at any chance you get! People Like Yourself Inspire Others To Start Playing Table Tennis!"
Okay, this is getting ridiculous. Here's where you can buy a sheet of DHS Hurricane 3 Neo National for $140. Back in 1976 when I started I remember buying Sriver for $5/sheet. Now both the price and the number of words in a sponge's name have increased dramatically!
Here's a video (27 sec) where Japan's Koki Niwa (world #14) makes some great returns, including one where he switches hands!
Sitting in Stands Lobbing
Here's the video (10 sec) as a lazy Adam Bobrow sits down on the job.
Balloon Man Table Tennis
Here they are, care of SmashTT - click on pictures to see all four pictures!
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Big Upcoming USA Tournaments
This is sort of the main "tournament season" for many players, with the Teams and Nationals both coming up, along with other big 4-star tournaments. If you are relatively new to big tournaments, perhaps the first thing to do is to read my USATT article (with the longest table tennis article name ever), "Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Your First Table Tennis Tournament…But Didn’t Know Where To Ask!" (It includes sections on General Info, Ratings, Etiquette, and How to Play Your Best.)
If you play in any of these tournaments, you might want to enter some smaller events first to develop "tournament toughness," which will help you in the big ones. Here's my Tip of the Week on this, which begins, "Playing in tournaments is quite different from playing practice matches. Here are three reasons for this. First, the playing conditions are generally different than you are used to - different tables, balls, floors, backgrounds, and lighting. Second, you are usually playing different players, while in practice you often play the same players over and over. And third, there's far more pressure in a tournament match than in a practice match. (There are other, lesser reasons - traveling, time zone changes, eating different foods, etc.)"
Here's a rundown of some of the big ones coming along. (To find tournaments, see the USATT Tournament Schedule.) We'll start with three of the BIGGEST ones.
Nov. 28-30 - The Teamses. We normally call it the "Teams," but there are now two big 4-star Team events over the Thanksgiving holidays, so we have to pluralize that to "Teamses." (Now I sound like Gollum.) The format for the two Team tournaments is 3-person teams, with each team match a best of nine. (In some of the "feature" matches in the final or just before that they play an adjusted best of five.)
I've got a huge conflict here. I'm sponsored by Butterfly, but the JOOLA North American Teams are both local and run by a former junior star from my club, Richard Lee. (Richard won nearly every age event at the Junior Nationals and Junior Olympics during his heydays in the 1990s - and though I wasn't his primary coach, I spent hundreds of hours practicing and playing with him.) Richard still comes to MDTTC, and his son, 7-year-old Ryan, is now one of our up-and-coming juniors. Here are the two tournaments.
The $3000 Butterfly Teams are held in Hobart, IN. Here's their promotional video (2:07). Tournament director is Dan Seemiller. They are the "new kid on the block," running their own 4-star team tournament on the same weekend as the traditional North American Teams. If they are successful, I'm guessing they will increase the prize money in the future.
The $20,000 JOOLA North American Teams are held in Washington DC, about 20 miles or so from my club (MDTTC). Here's their promotional video (54 sec). This is the bigger of the two by far, with 140 tables and 830 players last year, the most of any USA tournament. I've been going to this one since 1976. (It was in Detroit back then, moving to Baltimore in 1998, and to Washington DC last year. I was the original instigator in bringing it to Baltimore, along with Richard Lee, Jim McQueen, and others.) They'll be using the new JOOLA 40+ plastic balls at the tournament. I'll be coaching my students at this tournament.
Dec. 16-20 - the 5-star $31,000 USA Nationals in Las Vegas. This is one of USATT's two showcase events. (The other is the U.S. Open in July.) I'll be there mostly coaching and attending some meetings, though I'm also playing in a few hardbat events. (I normally use sponge.) The deadline to enter the tournament without a late fee was originally today, with a $75 late fee until Oct. 27, and then no more entries accepted. But they just extended the deadline - they do this every year - and now the first deadline is Oct. 31, with entries accepted with the $75 late fee until Nov. 10. You can actually watch as the entries come in, either by name or by event. They currently have 388, but will have about double that before entries close. (For some reason they don't advertise the total prize money, so I painstakingly added it all up, and it came to $30,650, which I rounded up to $31,000 above.) They'll be using the new Nittaku 40+ Premium ball at the tournament.
Oct. 25-26 - $8900 Butterfly South Shore Open in Highland, IN. I'll be at this one, coaching Nathan Hsu, who is in the Open, Under 2450, and 18 & Under Boys. We're driving up - a 9.5 hour ride. (If you're there, come by and say hello.) Here's the list of entries so far. The highlight of this tournament might be the Nate Wasserman Junior Championships. These include six events:
Oct 25-26 - $7000 Westchester October Open at the Westchester TTC in Westchester, NY. (It's actually in Pleasantville, NY, which is in Westchester County, but I like saying "Westchester.") They run a monthly 4-star tournament at Westchester, so I hope lots of players will support this. I wish I could bring players and attend more of their tournaments (as a coach), but I'm too buy on weekends to get away too often.
Nov. 22-23 - $7000 Westchester November Open - another big one at the Westchester TTC. The entry form for this one doesn't seem to be up, but info is at the club's web page.
Dec. 27-28 - $7000 Westchester December Open - still another big one at the Westchester TTC.
Knock the Ball Off the Table Contest
Here's the video (1:53) between USA's Kanak Jha and Sweden's Kristian Karlsson.
Interview with Brian Pace
Here's the interview, which covers his table tennis (player and coach), cycling, and other subjects.
2014 ITTF Women's World Cup About to Take Off in Linz
Aging Player Keep On the Ball with Pingpong
Here's the feature article in the LA Times.
TableTennis11 Blog and the Ten Best Backhand Players of Modern Table Tennis
Here's their blog page, with the link the "Best Backhands" item (which includes video) and two previous blog items on "7 Things You Need To Know to Master The New Plastic Ball" and "Top 5 Blades You Want Right Now!"
Training Through Seo Hyowen's Eyes
Here's video (15 sec) of what training looks like from the world #10 and #1 Korean woman.
Table Tennis USB Flash Drives
Here they are! Up to 16GB size.
Lefty Cat Smacking Forehand
Real Table Tennis
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Tip of the Week
The Last Two Weeks
I'm back!!! The past two weeks have been among the busiest I have ever had. As noted in my blog from a week ago (before I took a sort of forced sabbatical), USATT Historian Tim Boggan moved in with me on Tuesday, Sept. 30, so I could once again do the photo work and page layouts for Volume 15 of his History of U.S. Table Tennis. Here's a rundown on that, on my coaching, on a science fiction convention, health - and on a theft at the supermarket!
Because Tim goes to bed every night around 7:30 PM and gets up by 3AM, I tried to sort of match his schedule. For eleven days I mostly got up around 5:30 AM (sometimes earlier!), and we'd go to work by 6:30AM. (Several times we started by 5:30 AM.) We'd work until about 2:30 PM, with a 30-minute lunch break. At 2:30PM I'd normally leave to coach, since that's when I have to leave to pick up kids for our afterschool program. On weekends I was even busier with coaching, and Tim and I had to work around that.
We "sort of" finished everything on Friday night. I saw "sort of" because, even though Tim left on Saturday morning, I still had a bunch of work on it. It got worse when Tim emailed me on Sunday night with a long list of changes and corrections needed, which I did on Monday. I finally sent the finished version to the printer on Monday afternoon. It should be available in ten days or so.
The final version is 401 pages long, with 978 photos, and covers the years 1986-88. The 401 is actually a bit shorter than his norm, but the 978 photos is a record. Think about this - for each photo I had to pull it up, fix it up in Photoshop (taking anywhere from ten seconds to ten minutes), place it on the page where Tim indicated (he had copious notes), put in the caption (which Tim read to me), and then (when the photos for the page were up), lay out the page so everything lined up to Tim's satisfaction. It would have been a lot harder if not for Mal Anderson, who not only took the majority of the photos used, but scanned them all in advance. (In the early volumes, I did all the scanning, which added about two days to the project each time.)
I don't think any of my students noticed how exhausted I was each day during Tim's stay. My busiest days are Wed, Thur, Fri, and Sun. On those days I'd go straight from long hours with Tim to long hours at the table. On other days I did the same, but typically only had perhaps two hours of coaching. Often I'd be working essentially non-stop from 6:30AM to 9PM, then coming home and trying to do this blog and other work. (This is why I finally had to take a sabbatical.)
One of my students, Matt, has been working hard on his backhand loop. (He recently turned 13, is about 1700 level now.) During his session on Wednesday we did an improvised game where he served backspin, I pushed to his backhand, and he backhand looped anywhere, then we played out the point. At first I won every game easily. Near the end of the session he had a game where he led until the very end, and then I came back to win. I won the next few games easily, and he grew increasingly frustrated. The session ended - my last of the day - but he was determined to do better, and so I stayed late. We played more games, and some were close, but I kept winning. And then it all came together, and he played a brilliant game, making nearly every shot (forehands and backhands), and he won. As I've blogged before, anything you can do in practice you are perhaps six months away from being able to do in a serious match, so perhaps he'll be able to play like this all the time in six months - in which case he'll be pretty scary!!!
In the group sessions on Thursday and Sunday we did a lot of smashing and serving practice. With Navin on Sunday we worked more on his forehand smash and on his backhand chop block (he uses hardbat). He's had a problem in that he often has me use hardbat to practice with him, so his chop block became used to that - but when he played sponge players, he'd pop the ball up against their greater topspin. So this session I used sponge, and hopefully that'll pay off. With Doug, we focused on forehand looping and backhand banana flip - and it paid off as he did very well in the league afterwards. On the downside, Daniel, one of the top 10-year-olds in the country, is having arm problems and had to cancel lessons both weeks. He'll likely rest it another week or so.
After Tim left on Saturday morning I spent much of the weekend jumping between the Capclave Science Fiction Convention here in Gaithersburg and coaching. I was a panelist (yes, people paid to hear me speak!); here's my Capclave bio. Here are the three panels I was on. (I moderated the one on Flash Fiction.)
Healthwise, I was exhausted all week, but it's been a while since I've had any real injuries. (I'm crossing my fingers.) I've had some minor twinges in my right knee, but nothing serious yet. As noted in previous blogs, I had dropped my weight from 196 in July to 178.4 when Tim arrived. Alas, with the long hours and Tim's treating me to fancy meals, this morning I'm at 181.8. So back to dieting. (I plan to get to 170.)
Now the theft. I went to Giant for some shopping on Sunday. Included on my shopping were two bottles of Ruby Red Grapefruit Juice, which is my morning staple. At the checkout counter, as the items were being rung up, someone walked by. I noticed them lean over my stuff for a moment, but didn't pay close attention. Then I saw the person carrying a bottle of Ruby Red Grapefruit Juice as he walked away. I remember thinking, "I'm not the only one who likes the stuff." Then, as my items were being bagged, I noticed I only had one bottle of the juice. That's when I realized the person had stolen one of them when he'd leaned over my stuff! I showed the receipt to the person at the cash register, who verified I'd been charged for two but only had one. They allowed me to get a new one. So somewhere out there is a bottle of stolen Ruby Red Grapefruit Juice. To paraphrase another "juice" person, "I will not rest until I find my juice's stealer." (Bonus points to whoever correctly comments below who I'm paraphrasing.)
ITTF Trickshot Competition
Josep Anton Velazquez won it for the second year in a row. Here's the ITTF press release, and here's the winning video (42 sec). I can do the same serve that breaks sideways and parallel to the end-line (at least with my forehand pendulum serve, where tried this out after seeing the video), and can do the same fast down-the-line serve, but I wonder how many tries it would take to get them both together so they collide (not to mention the carpentry work to create the props)? That's some awesome precision. Here's the runner-up video (1:09) and here's the ITTF Trickshot Competition Page.
A Lesson in "Work Ethic" from 5-time U.S. Champion Sean O'Neill
Here's the video (4:05) by Brian Pace.
Learn How to Develop Your "A" Game
Here's the article by Samson Dubina.
Ask the Coach
PingSkills has a new "Ask the Coach" video series. I previously posted links to their first two episodes. Here are four more.
Episode 3 (11:10).
Episode 4 (9:40).
Episode 5 (12:56).
Episode 6 (13:36).
Table Tennis Can Help Those with Parkinson's
Maccabi USA Seeking Jewish Athletes for European and Pan American Maccabi Games
USATT Joins AmazonSmile Program
The Immigrant Sport: What Ping-Pong Means in America
Table Tennis Included in 2020 Paralympic Games
Nittaku ITTF Monthly Pongcast - September 2014
Here's the video (13:58).
Nathan Hsu in China
Here are his latest videos.
Secret of Olympic Medals
Here's the video (2:28) featuring physical training and other aspects at the ICC table tennis center.
The Top Spin League's Challenge
Here's the video (2:33) from the Top Spin Club in San Jose, CA.
The King of Backhands - Kreanga
Here's the highlights video (2:56).
Omron Table Tennis Rallying Robot
Here's the video (41 sec) - these robots are getting better and better. Soon they will master the deadly secret of reading spin and Chinese domination of our sport will be at an end as we bow to our new robot masters.
Big Bang Theory and Ping Pong
Last night on The Big Bang Theory there was a sequence where the actors watched a video of pigeons playing ping pong. I was curious and looked it up, and sure enough, here it is - a 38-sec video of pigeons trained to play a version of table tennis!
Cat Playing Table Tennis
Here's the video (34 sec) - and in this one, the cat really is rallying!
Table Tennis's Ten Funniest Moments
Here's the video (7:25) from the ITTF. These are great!!! If you haven't seen the highlights of the famous Saive-Chuang shown at the end, then you haven't seen table tennis.
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Here are the minutes to the USATT May 19, 2014 Teleconference, which just went up. Below are some items I found interesting, in order, on usage of USATT's logo by distributors of USATT approved equipment; on the digital magazine's ad revenue; and on usage of the poly ball or celluloid ball in future Nationals and Opens. There's also an interesting item in the minutes you might want to read about, "The Chinese Table Tennis Association wants to have a North American Friendship Tour." (I started to write about RailStation, which is talked about in the minutes, and in particular the line, "To ensure smooth transition, RailStation and NATT software will be run concurrently for a specified period of time." As I blogged previously, USATT jumped the gun on that, but has since remedied the problem for now by going back to the old software until the new software is ready.)
As usual, my main frustration with USATT is not what's in the minutes, but what's not in them. There's nothing in there about increasing the USATT membership base of 8-9,000 (basically a round-off error for most sports memberships, and for table tennis in most other countries), which is the source of most of our problems, i.e. lack of revenue. Besides the increase in revenue, large membership should be a goal itself, but few from USATT seem interested in this, for reasons I still don't understand. Membership growth comes primarily from leagues, and from junior training programs and coaching development. I'm sure the other issues are important, but they are dwarfed by the need to focus on growth, but it's not even on USATT's radar, alas. Anyway, here are some items I found and my commentary.
"While USATT places equipment and product suppliers on USATT’s approved list, use of USATT’s logo on this equipment has not been approved. Suppliers should be contacted informing them that USATT approval is restricted to usage of their equipment and/or products in USATT events."
This seemed strange and unfair. Companies pay a lot of money to have their products USATT approved. Note that USATT doesn't even test them - ITTF does that at no cost to USATT. So these companies are paying money directly to USATT just to have them approve their equipment for USATT tournaments. And now they are going to be told that, even after getting USATT approval, they can't advertise these USATT-approved products with the USATT logo? I don't think that's fair. A USATT-approved product should be allowed to advertise this status with the USATT logo.
"The digital magazine generated $9000 in ad revenue for the Spring 2014 issue, constituting a $6,000 shortfall to budgeted revenue."
In my blog on February 11, 2014 on the cancellation of the print magazine and going digital, "But they'll lose money on advertising and membership." I also wrote, "I'm told they are budgeting advertising to stay the same, which of course won't happen." As verified here, they really did budget $15,000 in advertising for the issue (which is what was budgeted for print), expecting to get the same ad revenue with an online magazine as a print magazine. There was no chance of that happening, and yet they convinced themselves of this. And so they lost $6000 ad revenue in the issue, and presumably $36,000 over the course of a year. I'm guessing that some advertisers stuck with it for now, but will cancel or decrease their advertising later - we'll see. Eventually we'll reach a new rough status quo on advertising at a level considerably lower than before. As noted in my blog, they do save money now on printing and postage. The amount they save in that way would be roughly offset if they simply had kept the print magazine while also going digital, thereby increasing the value of their advertising, and thereby increasing it.
As I also wrote in that blog: "This reminds me of the group-think that took place a number of years ago when USATT increased the membership fee from $25 to $40 in one year. I was in the room as the 13 board members voted unanimously to do this, and unanimously budgeted membership to stay the same. That was crazy, and I told them so. Membership had just reached 9000, the most ever. I predicted they'd lose 2000 members; I was told by all 13 that I was wrong. One year later they were down to 7200 members. I was in the room one year later, alternating between anger and laughter, as the USATT board had to painstakingly cut about $60,000 from the budget."
Just for the record, they lost me as an advertiser as well. I was planning to advertise my in USATT Magazine my new book, Table Tennis Tips, as well as my other table tennis books, just as I had advertised in the magazine my previous book, Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers. But I changed my mind on that when they cancelled the print version. (Note how I instead cleverly inserted ads for the books here?)
However, it was recommended that the celluloid ball continue to be used at the upcoming U.S. Open and Nationals.
This might be a good thing as I don't think many people have the new balls yet. It's even more problematic for the many full-time clubs and junior programs that use large quantities of training balls (for private and group coaching, and lots of multiball), since they are all currently celluloid. Do we have to toss them out and buy new poly training balls? Will they be available anytime soon at the same inexpensive price of training balls? I only know of 3-star balls so far. I hope we aren't ever going to be stuck with using 3-star poly balls in major tournaments but only celluloid training balls. You don't want to train with one if the other is what is used in tournaments - they play somewhat differently.
Please, USATT, do not make the change until poly balls are widely available and affordable both in 3-star and training-ball formats.
Here's the new coaching article from Brian Pace, with lots of pictures and links to videos.
Dimitrij Ovtcharov's Serve
Here's video (3:12) of the world #4 German star serves in slow motion.
Talent or Practice?
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-three down, 47 to go!
This Was Tokyo
Here's a new highlights video (1:39) on the recent World Team Championships in Tokyo, set to music.
Chinese Article on Lily Zhang
Here's the article and video (2:28) for our Chinese readers. It's apparently about her hopes for a medal at the upcoming Youth Olympics.
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I've always wanted to put a camera on spectators that shows exactly what they see as they watch a table tennis match. But I'm afraid that most of what we'd see is their eyes focused on the ball as it goes back and forth, with the players themselves slightly blurry images on the side. That's because that's exactly what most spectators are watching when they watch a match. It's almost like self-hypnosis as their eyes go back and forth, Back and Forth, BACK AND FORTH, over and over and over. You might as well just stare at a stationary ball.
Instead, try focusing on one of the players, and see what he does. That's how you can learn what the players are really doing, and learn their techniques, something you can't do by staring at the ball as it goes back and forth. Some of the things you'll learn might surprise you. For example, to the ball-watchers, some players are fast, some are slow. But when you watch the "slow" players, often it turns out they seem slow simply because they got to the ball before the ball got there, and are seemingly just there without really moving. The "fast" players are often the ones who got slower starts, and are just getting to the ball as it arrives, and so you see them move, and so they seem fast. (A famous example of this was Jan-Ove Waldner, who always seemed to be where the ball was, and never seemed to move much - but that's because most of his movement was while spectators' eyes were on the ball that hadn't yet reached his side.)
Another aspect that ball-watching spectators miss is the initial movements on receive. They see the receive, but they don't see the step-ins for short balls, or when the player started to move to receive, and so on. Often receivers start to do one thing, then change as the serve approaches - but you don't see this unless you are focused on the receiver from the start of the point.
So if you really want to learn, don't watch the ball. Pick a player and watch him exclusively for a game or so. Then watch the other. You'll learn a lot more this way than by watching the little ball. Let the players do that.
Improving the Backhand Loop by Brian Pace
Here's the blog entry, with both text and video on the backhand loop.
How to Win Consistently Against Lower Players by Matt Hetherington
Three New Coaching Articles by Samson Dubina
Kasumi Ishikawa Voted Japan's Most Pleasant Athlete
One Energy Commercial - Behind the Scenes
On Monday I linked to the One Energy Commercial (30 sec) that featured Chinese superstars Ma Long, Zhang Jike, Li Xiaoxia and Liu Shiwen playing in neon outfits. Here's the behind the scenes video (2:19) that shows it being put together.
Jordi Alba Plays "Soccer" Table Tennis
Here's the video (36 sec) of the Spanish soccer star and others. (That's football for non-Americans.)
Judah Friedlander Plays Table Tennis in "Teacher's Lounge"
Here's the video (3:09) where Judah - a real-life 1600 player - prepares for the student/faculty ping pong championship. It's in episode 3 of this TV show. Judah and the table tennis starts 1:25 into the video. (Warning - foul language!)
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One of the most common problems with beginners is they don't rotate their shoulders on the forehand. Several players have this problem in beginning/intermediate class I teach on Monday nights. Even when they learn to rotate the shoulders when hitting forehand to forehand or in multiball they tend to fall back on arm only (i.e. no shoulder rotation) when doing footwork.
The solution I've found is to emphasize the rod-through-the-head coaching technique. When you hit or loop a forehand, imagine a vertical rod going through the top of your head, and rotate around the rod. In reality, the head normally moves a little forward doing the stroke from the back-to-front leg weight transfer, but often very little is needed since most of power comes from torque, as the body rotates in a circle. So for beginners especially it's important for them to focus on this idea of rotating their shoulders around this rod through their head. This gives them the right feel of the shot, and something to focus on to fix the shoulder rotation problem - and when they do footwork drills, it tends to stick with them and they continue to rotate the shoulders properly.
If you watch most world-class players, you'll find that much of the secret to their ability to produce great power and recover almost instantly for the next shot is this idea of rotating in a circle, so they end up balanced and ready for the next shot. The head does move forward or sideways some (and often up), and does so even more when rushed after stepping around the backhand corner to play forehand, but in general most of the movement is circular, creating torque while staying balanced. (Two keys to balance: keep weight between your feet, and use your non-playing arm as a counter-balance to your playing arm.)
Here's Men's Single's World Champion Zhang Jike playing a chopper. Note the circular rotation? His primary head movement is up as he lifts the heavy backspin. Here's Zhang Jike looping in multiball, against both backspin and topspin. (In the latter you'll note that the more rushed he is when moving to the backhand the more his head moves forward or sideways.) Here's Ma Long (world #2, former #1) demonstrating (and explaining in Chinese) his forehand (and then backhand) drives. Here's Timo Boll (former world #1) demonstrating his forehand loop. Here's a lesson on forehand counter-hitting by ttEdge. Even when smashing a lob most of the motion is circular - here's a demo on smashing lobs by PingSkills. (The link should take you to 1:47, where they demo the shot.)
After hobbling about on Friday after hurting my knee on Thursday night while demonstrating forehand looping for a class, it got better over the weekend. So I probably only wrenched it. I can still feel a slight strain there, and will go easy for a time, but it's mostly okay.
History of U.S. Table Tennis at Amazon
Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis (now 14 volumes, from the sport's beginning in this country to 1986) are now on sale at Amazon. You can order direct from Tim Boggan (and he'll sign them) or from Amazon. (See links below each volume.) How can any serious player not buy these books??? (Disclaimer: I did the page layouts and much of the photo work for all but volume 1.)
I was debating whether to do Worlds coverage here in my blog, but they are already doing an excellent job elsewhere, so I'll just link to the following two places, where you'll find results, articles, and lots of video. (I'll probably run this segment daily throughout the Worlds.)
Shot of the Day from the Worlds
Here's the video (36 sec, including slow motion replay), where Xu Xin (#1 in the world) pulls off this around-the-net counterloop against Tsuboi Gustavo of Brazil (world #69). (In my initial posting, I inadvertently said Gustavo pulled off the shot. Special thanks to Douglas Harley who caught this. Hey, they're both lefties!!!)
Here's a preview (2:35) of Brian Pace's new video.
Giving Advice During a Match
Here's the video (7:26) from PingSkills.
Reverse Pendulum Serve
Here's a nice video (1:12) that demonstrates the serve, using slow motion and a colored ball so you can see the spin.
St. Louis Open Hopes to Set Example with U.S. Citizens Only "Elite Event"
Here's the article. It's "…taken Australia by storm"!
The King of Table Tennis
Don't you love Xu Xin's shirt?
Ping-Pong the Animation
Here's the video (3:55) of this anime cartoon. It's in Chinese, with English subtitles.
Jan-Ove Waldner in TV
Here's a video (3 min) from five years ago where Waldner beats a TV host with various implements as a racket before finally losing with a banana! I believe it's in Swedish, but you can follow what's going on.
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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?
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?
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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Tip of the Week
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
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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
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.
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?
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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.
- Her: A bit long and slow at times. Nice concept.
- 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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