Ask the Coach

November 12, 2014

Tournaments and Omnipong

I've run over 120 USATT tournaments, ranging from monthly tournaments at MDTTC all through the 1990s to the 1998 Eastern Open which received 411 entries, still the record for a four-star tournament. (Richard Lee was tournament president for that one, his first big tournament, and he's been running them all over the country ever since with North American Table Tennis.) Running a large one is a massive undertaking, and even the smaller ones take far more time and work than most realize.

I sometimes think all tournament players should be required to run a USATT tournament just one time, to see what really goes on. Observant players have a good idea of what tournament directors do during a tournament; really observant ones who think it through have a good idea of all the work that went on before the tournament. Before the tournament, directors (sometimes working with a referee) receive the entries, enter them onto the computer (unless, heaven forbid in this day and age, they are running it by hand, on paper!), check all the memberships, create draws (including checking for geographical separation and other complexities), finalize the scheduling, and print everything out so it's ready. They get all the tables, nets, and barriers in place, put up the table numbers, and make sure everything is clean. And then there are those thousand small details that, if I listed them all, it'd take up about a year's worth of blogs.

There's also the more advance work - scheduling the tournaments, creating the entry forms, circulating them, publicizing the tournament, and so on. I change my mind; even running a small one is a massive undertaking!!! There's a reason why "tournament" is just an anagram for "one tantrum."

There are various types of software out there you can use to run tournaments. One that I can strongly recommend, and that's spreading all over the country, is Omnipong. I ran two tournaments with it last year, and it worked really well. (Because of conflicts with my weekend coaching, Charlene Liu took over as MDTTC tournament director - and she also uses Omnipong.) It's easy to learn, easy to use, and perhaps best of all, it puts all the results online, so anyone can see all of the results immediately afterwards - even the preliminary round robins.

Go to Omnipong, click on "Tournaments," and note just how widespread the software has become. Then pick out a tournament, any tournament, and click on "Results." Have fun exploring!

I emailed Craig Krum, the creator of the software, and asked if he could tell us about it. Below is his response. (Tournament directors should read and study every word, but the eyes of players will likely glaze over, and they should probably skip ahead to the next segment. Or perhaps read "Top Ten Ways to Play Your Best in a Tournament," or "Should You Play Tournaments When Working on Something New?," or perhaps "Tournament Toughness.")

The Short Version:

  • Started development in the mid-90s as a personal tool to help run tournaments, which I had been doing by hand with Harold Kopper for the Rialto Table Tennis Club. Being a programmer I was able to keep adding the features that I needed to make my job easier.
  • I developed the internet version of OmniPong in 2011, so players would be able to sign up online, and to make the system available to other TDs. To date this version of OmniPong has been used by over 25 Directors to run over 200 tournaments. The tournaments range from unsanctioned events with 20 players, to the National Senior Games, with over 400 players. This total also includes 23 four-star events.
  • Nearly 2500 players have registered with OmniPong, so they can enter tournaments online.

Online Registration System Highlights:

  • Online entry.
  • Online payment using credit cards or PayPal. Connects directly to Tournament Director's account.
  • Payment tracking and verification.
  • Weekly updates from USATT, to keep ratings and membership information current.
  • Automatically verifies which events a player can enter, based on their rating, age, gender, time conflict, etc.
  • Electronic submission of results file to NATT for processing.
  • Electronic submission of the reports that need to be sent to USATT for processing (Tournament Report, Player Listing, Membership Applications).
  • Ability to send custom emails to all players for various reasons (welcome message, entry verification, balance due, link to results, etc.)
  • Immediate publication of results online.
  • Family members can link OmniPong accounts together, for easy entry and payment for tournaments.
  • Many reports available.

Control Desk Highlights:

  • Easy to use visual interface.
  • Tracks table usage, including who is on the table, and how long a match has been playing.
  • Handles Round Robin groups up to 12 players.
  • Automatically breaks ties based on USATT/ITTF rules.
  • Draws automatically try to avoid conflicts when players are from the same club,  have played each other before, or live close to each other.
  • Time scheduling of all matches, which shows potential player conflicts.
  • No internet connection is necessary during the tournament.

Future Plans:

  • Finish Team format.
  • Add League system.
  • Add Club management system.
  • A million other things!

2015 Pan Am, National Men and Women’s Team, and Men and Women’s World Team Selection Procedure

Here they are.

Forehand Loop of Tao Wenzhang

Here's video (39 sec) of the 2014 U.S. Open Men's Singles Champion that shows perfect looping form. You can learn a lot by watching this. I had a student watch it to see the contact point in relation to the body, since the student was contacting the ball too much in front (thereby losing power) instead of more to the side, as Tao and other world-class players do.

Reverse Pendulum Backspin Serve Swing and Contact Point

Here's the video (3:04). This is part 3 - you can find parts 1 & 2 here.

Interview with Tamara Boros

Here's the interview by Dora Kurimay with the former world #2 woman, on "The Key to Success: Positive Mental Attitude."

Training for a Purpose

Here's the new video (1:24) from the Zhou Xin TT Academy.

Ask the Coach

Here's episode #25. (12:10).

  • Question 1 - 2:22: How and when to move to ready position after you've made a pendulum serve from the backhand corner with your left leg in front of you. Should you move into position when you know where your opponent will place the return or as soon as you’ve served? Robin
  • Question 2 - 4:41: Why Can't We Start With a Fast Bat? Why do we need different blades and rubber? Why we can't start with a higher topspin or power? Can I buy Pingskills Touch Vega Pro Bat for my second Bat? Kritpol
  • Question 3 - 8:00: I recently purchased a small table tennis table and I was wondering what kind of training will I be able to do with a small table? Enoch Oppong
  • Question 4 - 9:53: Is it a good move to chop smash and why none of the professional players use it? Petar

Now This is a Great Point!

Here's the video (39 sec) - and it's at match point!

Tribute to the Troops

Here's Mike Mezyan's table tennis tribute artwork to the Troops yesterday on Veteran's Day.

JOOLA Fun Games Finalists

Here's the video (48 sec) of the four finalists!

Recent Movies with Table Tennis

Here are some recent movies that were not about table tennis, but had table tennis scenes.

  • Big Hero 6 - As I blogged yesterday, when the hero Hiro (pun intended!) visits the university where they are making robots there are two robots rallying in the background. A few minutes later they are seen again. Alas, I can't find video or pictures.
  • Minions - the trailer features table tennis 80 seconds in. (Movie doesn't come out until July of next year.)
  • Despicable Me 2 - There's a brief shot in the film in which Edith is playing ping pong with a minion, but uses a pair of nunchaku instead of a ping pong paddle. There's also a party scene where the minions are sitting about on the ping-pong table. Here's an online video (11 sec) of the minions playing table tennis that's not in the movie.
  • X-Men: Days of Future Past - Here's an animated gif of the character Quicksilver playing table tennis, as Hank/Beast, a young Charles Xavier (in background), and Wolverine look on.
  • About Time - here's a clip (53 sec) where father and son play.
  • Gravity - When they get to the Chinese ship, about ten minutes from the end, twice you see a ping-pong paddle floating about. I wasn't able to find video or a picture.
  • 22 Jump Street (okay, it was only beer pong, but close enough.)
  • Monster University - Here's a gif image of the table tennis scene.

***

Send us your own coaching news!

November 11, 2014

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":

  1. to cause (someone) to be happy or pleased
  2. to provide, do, or have what is required by (someone or something)
  3. to cause (someone) to believe that something is true

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

Here's the article.

Ask the Coach

Here's Episode #23 (10:39)

  • Question 1 - 0:41: When I watched a video of me playing I noticed that all of my loops were going to the middle of the table, Ma Long is able to control his and I was wondering how do you do it? Luke Styles
  • Question 2 - 2:26: Sir, how do I improve my topspin against a chop player? Sahil Garg
  • Question 3 - 5:57: After serve I usually do the slow spinny loop against the backspin. Sometimes they can block my slow spinny loop but after that I don't know what to do, should I do the counter loop or should I do the slow spinny loop again. Long Regain
  • Question 4 - 8:19: Why do lots of players use the pendulum serve always or often? Maverick Abrenica

Here's Episode #24 (12:35)

  • Question 1 - 1:38: Can I play 2 sports at a same time. In my school I play table tennis and basketball. So is it ok if I play both at the same time? Or will basketball ruin my table tennis stroke because of the heavy ball? What is your opinion? Jethro
  • Question 2 - 4:14: What is the right leg position while playing a punch? Which leg should be in front while playing a forehand punch and which when playing a backhand punch? Kaustubh
  • Question 3 - 6:21: I can already do a backhand flick on a short backspin serve but not really on the forehand side. I can do it from the middle of the table but I'm not quick enough to move to the forehand side. Is there a trick to know where it is coming? Rob J
  • Question 4 - 8:33: I used to play hard bat and was able to beat some better opponents using it. Since I have moved to a sponge bat my better opponents are beating me. Can I change to my old hard bat playing a better player and change back to my sponge bat for the others? Stan

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

Here's the USATT interview with this Paralympic player.

Top Ten Shots from the Russian Open

Here's the video (4:12), which was held this past weekend in Ekaterinburg, Russia. Here's the ITTF Russian Open home page, with results, articles, photos, and video.

Hand Table Tennis

Here's the cartoon!

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.

***

Send us your own coaching news!

November 10, 2014

Tip of the Week

Keep the Ball Deep.

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

Here's episode #22.

  • Question 1 - 1:11: I try to make a forehand topspin but I hit the edge of the paddle or miss the hit. I saw your forehand topspin clip and i try to hit well but the same result. I thought that the paddle angle is too low and I opened up but the shot goes out. Paul Chitic
  • Question 2 - 3:08: I noticed on your pendulum serves that you hit the ball quite close to your body. Is this a personal thing or do you gain more control and spin by doing this? Bevan Henderson
  • Question 3 - 4:38: The rubber has started peeling away from the blade at the top of the bat. Since the rubber is only a few months old and is pricey, I'd prefer not to rip the rubber off and replace it with new rubber. Can I do a local re-glue? Ken Cominsky
  • Question 4 - 7:01: While playing backhand topspin against both chop and topspin which part of my hand should be locked? Is it the elbow or shoulder? I am getting lot of pain in my shoulder while playing the backhand topspin against chop continuously. Singaraju

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.

  1. Random Sample Testing: Plastic Ball vs Celluloid Ball - Introduction (6:41)
  2. Plastic Ball Tested: ITTF Technical Leaflet T3, Quality, Packaging and Appearance (20:38)
  3. Plastic Ball Tested: Seam / Surface of the Ball / Hardness (10:56)
  4. Plastic Ball Tested: Luminance and Colour (12:37)
  5. Plastic Ball Tested: Bounce and Conformity (11:12)
  6. Plastic Ball Tested: Veer (Roundness) (7:53)

Keep Existing Celluloid Balls Petition

Don't like the switch to Plastic? Here's the petition! (See comments below it.)

Ping Magazine

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!"

$140 Sponge?

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!

Switching Hands

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!

***

Send us your own coaching news!

November 7, 2014

USA Table Tennis Hall of Fame

For the sixth year in a row I'm putting together the program booklet for the USATT Hall of Fame Banquet to be held at the Nationals. This year's inductees are players Tawny Banh and Lisa Gee, player/official Sheila O'Dougherty, and official Dick Butler. The Mark Matthews Lifetime Achievement Award goes to Donna Sakai - she joins previous winners (in order since 1999) Bobby Gusikoff, Sol Schiff, Jimmy McClure, Dick Miles, Mary Reisman, J. Rufford Harrison, Leah Thall Neuberger, Thelma "Tybie" Thall Somner, Tim Boggan, George Brathwaite, Dan Seemiller, Houshang Bozorgzadeh, Fred Danner, Mal Anderson, Dick Evans, and Yvonne Kronlage. That's a heck of a list! A great mix of players and officials who have greatly contributed to our sport.

Here is ticket information for the Hall of Fame Banquet at the Nationals (Thursday night), where they will be inducted. Dick Evans is the Master of Ceremonies, with Tim Boggan and Sean O'Neill doing the induction talks this year for each inductee. If you are at the Nationals and miss this, you are making a big mistake. This is your chance to hobnob with the stars, both past and present, where you can meet and talk with them, have an excellent meal, and browse the Hall of Fame exhibits. Going to the Nationals and missing the Hall of Fame Banquet is like going to an ice cream social and skipping the ice cream!!! (I'll be there - see you there!)

The USATT Hall of Fame was created in 1966 by Steve Isaacson, and after sort of disappearing for a time, was revived in 1979. Here's the history. I'm proud to be a member, inducted in 2003 as a contributor, for my coaching, writing, editing, and promoting. (But I was a pretty good player too!!!) I was inducted along with David Zhuang and Eric Boggan, with Marty Reisman getting the Lifetime Achievement Award that year - what a group to be associated with! At age 43, I was youngest person ever inducted as an official/contributor. Here's my profile. (I've done a lot of stuff since then, so I may lobby to have it updated!) After this year's inductions there will be 142 of us, including an even 50 officials/contributors, dating back to USATT creation in 1933.  

The Hall of Fame Committee is chaired by Dick Evans. Others on the committee are Tim Boggan, Dean Johnson, Sean O'Neill, Scott Gordon, Mal Anderson, Dick Hicks, Donna Sakai, and Yvonne Kronlage. Tim Boggan is in charge of preparing the exhibits for each year's inductees - come to the Banquet and see what he's put together this year! (He also annually raids my photo files, along with Mal Anderson's, for pictures to use.) The minimum age to get into the Hall is 40. Induction requires a 2/3 vote by the Hall of Fame Committee. Many top players are first-ballot inductees, getting in the year they turn 40. Officials/Contributors usually have to wait until they are older. Lifetime Achievement Award Winners have to wait even longer!

Here's an interesting thought: Among current players, who are the future Hall of Famers? Suppose everyone retired right now; who already has the credentials? (Sorry, Kanak Jha and Crystal Wang, you've both done a lot, but you've got a bit more to do if you want to get into the Hall in 2040 and 2042, respectively!)

In general, if you win Men's or Women's Singles at the USA Nationals, you someday make the Hall of Fame. On the women's side, Ariel Hsing (2010, 2011, and 2013) is a lock. So probably is Wang Chen (2006 and 2007). Crystal Huang (2008) and Lily Zhang (2012) are also likely ones. 

On the men's side, Timothy Wang (2010, 2012, 2013) is a lock. Eric Owens (2001) is pretty much a lock to be inducted next year when he turns 40. Other future possibles are Peter Li (2011) and Michael Landers (2009). Others include Mark Hazinski (Olympian, 4-time Men's Doubles Champion, I think 3-time Men's Singles Finalist, and National Collegiate Men's Champion multiple times) and Han Xiao (4-time Men's Doubles Champion, National Collegiate Men's Champion, Men's Singles Finalist). There are, of course, arguments for and against each of these players. For example, Wang Chen, Peter Li, and Michael Landers had rather short USA playing careers (though of course Peter and Michael are still young enough that, when they finish college, they may change that).

As to the Lifetime Achievement Award, there are a number of possibles coming. I'm guessing Dell Sweeris will win it next year or very soon afterwards. Sean O'Neill is in the running, when they decide he's old enough. (He'll be 48 next year. The youngest winner by far has been Dan Seemiller, who won it in 2008 at age 54. All other winners were well into their 60s or beyond.) I can make arguments for several others - but I'll leave that to readers.

And my apologies to others I might have missed. Feel free to comment below.

Another Full-time Club

Here's the website for the e4Hats Table Tennis Club of Fullerton, CA, the newest full-time club in the USA. (Here's the complete listing of all 78.) Here's a press release from their Butterfly sponsor. "The facility features a play area that is over 6,000 square feet, professional Butterfly tables and is open seven days a week. e4Hats offers a world class coaching staff, which includes Head Coach Scott Malek and Head Coach Bong Geun Kim, private and group lessons, and a table tennis robot for independent practice." The one question not answered - where did they get this interesting name?

"World Champions Camp" in Duluth, Georgia

Here's info on the Nov. 22-26 camp with coaches Wang Hao (the top-ten-in-the world chopper/looper from the 1990s, not the penholder), Zhang Chao, Xu Rui Feng, and Lin Cheng. (Duluth is about 25 miles from Atlanta.)

Killerspin Skill

Here's their coaching page that covers pretty much everything.

Ask the Coach - Training with a Robot

Here's Episode 21 (12:50):

  • Question 1 - 1:36: What exercises should I do so that my legs move effectively while playing? Anushka Chavan
  • Question 2 - 3:52: How should i play forehand loop from off the table should I stand lower or when contact give the ball more lift. Overall how should i play attacking forehand and backhand shots from off the table? Nick Persad
  • Question 3 - 6:24: I had two tables in my garage, one for my son and I to play and the other table had a robot for when one of us was not around. What are your ideas about using a robot as a training device and what do you see as its greatest good? Larry Winn
  • Question 4 - 9:36: Being a beginner I bought a new tt racket. When I play with my racket, the tt ball slows down and it seems like the ball sticks a bit on the tt racket. What could be wrong? Amit Shah

World Rankings, and Nigeria's Aruna Quadri Highest Ranked African in History?

The Nigerian star moved up to #30 in the world - here's the ITTF press release. However, according to this article, Atanda Musa, also of Nigeria, reached #20 in the world, which is roughly what I remember as well. (Here's more on Musa.) I believe Musa now lives (and I think coaches) in New York City. Here are the complete men's and women's world ranking lists.

Top five in the women's ranking are unchanged. On the men's side, former #2 Fan Zhendong and #3 Ma Long switched places; former #5 Dimitrij Ovcharov of Germany dropped to #6 while Jun Mizutani moved up to #5. Former #6 Wang Hao dropped out of rankings due to inactivity. Marcos Freitas of Portugal moved from #12 to #9.

USATT Athlete of the Month - Kanak Jha

Congratulations to Kanak Jha as USATT's October Athlete of the Month. And here's where you can vote for him as USOC Athlete of the Month.

International Articles

As usual, you can read lots of international articles at Tabletennista (which features the elite players) and the ITTF page (which does more regional coverage).

Uberpong Custom Paddle Editor App

Here's the custom app from Uberpong. Here's the app at itunes from Apple. This allows you to create a paddle with your own pictures on it.

Ping Pong Fitness Psychologically Speaking

Here's the article.

Omron Table Tennis Rallying Robot

I linked to this video (41 sec) once before, but now it seems to be trending online, so I thought I'd link again. Is this the future of table tennis? The main problem with current robots is that you aren't playing against a ball hit at you with a racket, and so don't develop reactions against a ball coming off a racket. If a robot can be developed that can really rally at higher levels, that would be something. I'd like to hit with this robot and test just how high a level it can play at. I'm guessing it couldn't react well to loops yet, but I've read they are working on the software for reading and reacting to spin.

Kellam High School Kicks Off Ping Pong Club
Setting Stage for First Annual 'Battle of the Paddles' & Scholarships
Teaching Brain Fitness, Leadership & Offering
 Scholarship Opportunities
Setting TableTennisCoaching.com Record for Most and Longest Headlines for a Single Story

Here's the story!

Colorado College Hockey Players Play Pong

Here's the news video (1:45).

Lob Winner!

Here's the video (18 sec) as one player hits an "unreturnable" backspin lob off the edge of her racket. I do this type of lob all the time with beginning students, but it's rare that a world-class player gets caught this way. (The player needed to go around to the side of the table to reach the ball, but didn't realize this in time.)

Mini-Pong

Here's the picture - I have no idea what the situation is or who the players are, but it certainly is getting a lot of press coverage!

Angled Table Pong

Here's the picture!

Non-Table Tennis - "The Roads to Hell"

Here's my dark fantasy story about what happens to political ideologues after they die. (This was my 71st short story sale.) Feel free to leave comments on the story in the comments section underneath it!

***
Send us your own coaching news!

October 31, 2014

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!!

Table Tennis Plans and Other Work

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Back Problems

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

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

Halloween Table Tennis

World Cadet Challenge

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

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

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

Liu Guoliang Misinterpreted by Media?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ask the Coach

Here's Episode 20.

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

Mezyan Table Tennis Imaginarium

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

Boxer Lennox Lewis Visits Werner Schlager Academy

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

GoPro Here 3+ Test

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

The Needle and Table Tennis Nation

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

The Official Table Tennis Nation Halloween Costume Guide

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

Keep Your Eye on the Ball

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

***

Send us your own coaching news!

October 30, 2014

George Brathwaite Statement to The View

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

Hello,

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

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

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

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

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

Disabled Veterans Camp in South Bend, Indiana

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

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

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

World Cadet Challenge

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

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

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

Table Tennis Needs a Big Name like Zhang Jike

Here's the article.

Twenty Tips by Tahl

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

Ask the Coach

Here's Episode 19 (10:50):

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

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

Here's the article, with links to videos.

Interview with Georgina Pota

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

Top Ten Shots from the Men's World Cup

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

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

Here's the video (6:02).

Aerobic Table Tennis

Here's the ITTF article.

Ariel Hsing's Home Page

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

Top Spin the Movie

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

How Bugs Bunny Cheats

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

***

Send us your own coaching news!

October 28, 2014

Tip of the Week

Defensive or Offensive Returns of Short Serves.

South Shore Open

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

Men's World Cup

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

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

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

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

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

World Cadet Challenge

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

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

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

How to Become Your Own Table Tennis Coach

Here's the article from Expert Table Tennis.

Breaking Sidespin Serves - Serving Into a Shoe

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

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

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

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

Nathan Hsu in China

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

Sandwich Racket

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

Waldner-Appelgren Exhibition

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

Table Tennis TV Comedy - "The Kings of Queens"

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

Viking Pong

Here's the cartoon!

***
Send us your own coaching news!

October 23, 2014

Next Blog on Tuesday, and the South Shore Open

This will be my last blog until next Tuesday. I'm leaving very early (6AM) Friday to coach at the 4-star South Shore Open and Nate Wasserman Junior Championships in Indiana, and returning Monday afternoon. Here's the Omnipong listing, where you can see the listing of players by event, rating, or alphabetically, and where results will be posted.

I'm Running for the USATT Board

Or at least I'm applying to be on the ballot. Here is the USATT Notice on the election, which gives the rules and deadlines. (I'd be running for the At-Large position.) In a nutshell, by Nov. 14 I have to send to the USATT Nominating and Governance Committee (NGC) the following:  

  1. at least twenty-five (25) Signature of Support from adult USATT general members (membership must be current and in good-standing);
  2. a signed copy of the USATT_Code_of_EthicsEthical Behavior and Conflict of Interest; and
  3. a written statement of not more than one page, single-spaced, 12-point font, that explains why the nominee wants the position and what knowledge and skills the nominee would bring to the Board of Directors (which will be published on the USATT Web Page and sent in the November monthly E-Newsletter prior to the opening of the election voting period);

This past weekend, at the MDTTC Open, I got 38 signatures of support from USATT members (13 extras, just in case some are ruled invalid). I printed out and signed the USATT Code of Ethics and Ethical Behavior and Conflict of Interest statements. (I have two potential conflicts of interest - I'm sponsored by Butterfly, and I coach at MDTTC, a USATT National Center of Excellence. I would abstain in votes directly involving Butterfly or MDTTC.) I've written the one-page statement, though I'll probably do some rewriting of it.

The NGC will announce on Nov. 21 who is on the ballot. Voting begins on Nov. 27 and ends on Dec. 27. The results will be announced on Jan. 6, 2015.

Why am I running? Either because I really want to see table tennis succeed in this country and am tired of waiting for others to do it, or because I'm insane. (It's an unpaid volunteer position.) Below are the five main items I'd focus on. I'll write more about each of these if and when I'm on the ballot. (I blogged about roughly these five items on Sept. 23, but I've made a few changes since then.)

  1. Create a USATT Coaching Academy to Recruit and Train Professional Coaches to Set Up Training Centers and Junior Programs
  2. Create a Nationwide System of Regional Leagues
  3. Instigate Regional Associations
  4. Instigate a Professional Players Association, and Professionalize the Sport
  5. Turn U.S. Open and Nationals into Premier Events

Will these things be hard to do? Of course. Is that a reason to avoid them? No, but it's been a reason for 80 years now, since USATT's founding in 1933. I do have plans on how to instigate each of these. I can't promise that everything I try will succeed, but I can promise I'll work hard on each one, and believe I will succeed on most, and hopefully all - if I get on the ballot and am elected. I'm not one to avoid trying something for fear of failure, but I'll be faced with some board members who do have this mindset (I'd be one of nine), and will have to find ways to overcome it. If I'm on the ballot, I'll devote an entire blog to each of the items above, as well as another on a series of other issues, many of which I've blogged about already.

A key thing is that while money is needed to instigate programs, we have to face the fact that USATT has limited funding. And so each of my plans focuses on ways to develop these items without huge funding. Doing things right and thinking long-term is usually more successful than just throwing money at a problem.

A few things that I'd do that are different than how we've done things. I would focus on progressive issues. Here's my blog entry from March 19, 2013 where I blogged about the difference between progressive and fairness issues. I also want to focus on things that really make a difference. Too often we do "nice things that don't accomplish much." I want to focus on dramatically increasing USATT membership (less than 9000), developing our junior and elite athletes, and turning table tennis into a major sport in this country. I believe the five items above are big steps in this process.

I wish I were the back-slapping, compliment-throwing, buddy-buddy type who looks great in a suit. It would make things a lot easier when it comes to campaigning and getting elected. Instead, I'll have to focus on accomplishing stuff - and hope a few people notice!

I did run for the USATT Board once before, back in 1991 when I was 31. There were seven of us running for two spots on the board, including the two incumbents. I received over 70% of the vote and came in first, and so became a USATT Vice President. However, at my first meeting it was announced that USATT had (if I remember correctly) a $70,000 budget deficit (that's $122,000 in 2014 dollars), and so we spent pretty much all of the meeting going over budget items one by one and cutting everything. It was an incredibly frustrating time - I had things I wanted to do, but no money for anything serious. Sometime I'll blog about my time on the board. One thing I've learned since then is how to get things done with limited resources.

Coaching Position Open

The Austin TTC is looking for a full-time coach, and you could be that coach. Here's the help wanted notice.

Modern Table Tennis

Here's video (29 sec) showing a player doing side-to-side footwork in multiball, looping everything from close to the table. This really shows the difference between table tennis now and how it was before, where most players backed up to do these shots, and with the backhands usually softer.

Ask the Coach

Episode #14 (15:44):

  • Question 1: Do you know the specific hand signals for doubles? It might not be the same for everyone. But what have you used? Andrew Yuen
  • Question 2: In the office we usually play doubles, and many rallies end soon due to low-quality stroke or just missing the ball. That often happens because a player does not get into a good position in time. Any ideas? Roman Sukhanov
  • Question 3: What is the right finish position for the backhand sidespin serve? Kaustubh
  • Question 4: Hi, can you please explain what they mean when they say he is a 1500 or a 2000 player. Ron Thomson

Table Tennis Tips and Other Books

Mark Dekeyser did some editing of Table Tennis Tips, and so I've updated the book. Nothing hugely substantive, but there were a few doozies in there! Here's where you can find all of my books. I also have an Amazon Page.)

Interview with Georgina (Gina) Pota

Here's the interview by Dora Kurimay. 

So You're a Fan of Jan-Ove Waldner?

Here's his website! And - breaking news - now he has a fashion website!

Incredible Exhibition Rally by Timo Boll and Jean-Michel Saive

Here's the video (70 sec).

Great Shot from 2013 European Championships

Here's the video (44 sec, including several replays) of the rally by Gionis Panagiotis.

Chinese Team at Triangle TTC Revisited

Here's a video (1:37) of the recent visit, and here's a news video from China (in Chinese).

Zhang Jike/Li Xiaoxia vs. Ma Long/Ding Ning - Playing Doubles?

Here's video (4:11) of the Chinese stars playing doubles in front of a huge crowd . . . on a mini-table!

German Table Tennis TV Comedy

Here's video (33 sec) of a ping-pong game and an over-celebratory player. Alas, it's in German (anyone want to translate?), but you can get the gist of it by watching.
UPDATE: The clip is actually from the TV show "The Kings of Queens," which ran on CBS from 1998-2007. The original was in English, which was dubbed in German in the version linked above. Here's the original in English - the table tennis starts at 1:11. Special thanks to Grant Vogl for pointing this out!

Why Pong-Ping Never Caught On

Here's the cartoon!

***

Send us your own coaching news!

October 22, 2014

Studying Table Tennis Videos

Yesterday I spent an hour and a half with one of our top up-and-coming players studying videos of himself and potential opponents. This is one of those things that should be basic to any player who wants to improve. Video cameras and Youtube are your friends!

First we watched two of the player's matches. While you can learn from any video of yourself, you probably get the most out of watching yourself when you are playing your best against a somewhat orthodox player. Whatever is your best is what you want to emulate, so those are the ones to study. (Watching yourself play poorly is a good way to emulate poor play. So only do that to 1. figure out why you played poorly, if you think it was a technical thing, and 2. for tactical reasons to study an opponent so you can learn how to beat him.) In this case, the thing that jumped out from the videos was that our up-and-coming player (whose identity I'm hiding!) has been working so hard on a particular weakness that he/she was overplaying it, at the expense of actual strengths, and so didn't play as well as he/she could.

We also saw a video where our up-and-coming player had a serve that an opponent struggled against every time. But the up-and-coming player used the serve only about once a game rather than perhaps 3-4 times, and probably lost a completely winnable match as a result. 

We next watched videos of two players he/she might have to play, both among the best players in the country. One of them had one huge numbingly obvious weakness, and it was almost entertaining watching some opponents go after it over and over (and win), and others go there only as a "variation," and so lose. When someone has a weakness the size of Mount Everest (or even one much smaller), you should go after it relentlessly, with other tactics the "variation." But too often players fall back into the same old habits and thereby find a way to lose despite a huge sign practically saying "Do this and win!" It was also educational watching the player with the huge weakness using various tactics to cover for the weakness - sometimes successfully, other times not. One player who had been playing him for years ate him alive, going after the weakness essentially every single rally.

One thing that also showed up here and in all the videos we watched - partly coincidentally, but a real trend and tactical problem for most players - was that too many attacks were to the backhand. That's the side where most players block better. In general, players should attack more to the middle and forehand. Here's my Tip of the Week on this - the 3-2-1 rule, i.e. in general, against most players, for every attack to the backhand you should attack twice to the forehand and three times to the middle. Few follow this rule except at the elite level - and in some of those matches they don't follow it because at that level the forehand counterloop is so strong that they have to go more to the backhand. We watched a video of our up-and-coming player where he lost to a player who had trouble when his forehand was attacked, but too often the first attack went to the backhand instead. 

We also studied the receive of some players. Far too many players mindlessly return serves, either with blindingly obvious attacks or blindly obvious control shots. If they aim one way, that's the way they go. Then you watch the better receivers, up until the last second you never know what they are going to do, and often they appear to be doing one thing or placing the ball to a certain spot, and then they do something else. One video that was interesting was watching Eric Boggan - former top 20 in the world, now a way-out-of practice player in his early 50s - completely dominate players with his receive. While he did have the advantage of antispin on one side of his racket (with his Seemiller grip and flipping), what jumped out was how he kept changing his placements at the last second, tying his opponent in knots as he constantly reacted to where he thought Eric was going. Eric not only varied the direction, but also the depth and speed of the shots - if the opponent was too close to the table, he'd get an aggressive receive; if he was farther off the table expecting a deep ball, he wouldn't get it.

More on PBS MDTTC Video

One thing I might have mentioned about the PBS video on MDTTC (featuring Crystal Wang, Derek Nie, and myself, which I linked to in my last two blogs) was that I tried to get coaches Cheng Yinghua and Jack Huang into them. I think PBS did video them coaching, but both coaches were busy, and since my English is better, they both asked me to do all the talking for the club. I don't want it to appear that I'm "The" MDTTC coach - we have seven full-time coaches. Cheng, Jack, and I co-founded MDTTC 22 years ago in 1992, but these days they do more of the running of it (along with long hours of coaching), while I just coach and help with some organizing and promoting. (I also do our monthly newsletter.) I was pleasantly surprised that they opened the video by featuring my books!!! The video was featured yesterday on the USATT home page.

Nittaku Premium 40+ Balls

These are the new plastic non-celluloid balls that will be used at the USA Nationals. They are not yet available in the U.S., but (from the Paddle Palace web page, which has other info as well on the ball), "A limited supply [will be] available in November, 2014 only for players entered in the US Nationals. The balls will be more readily available starting in January."

First ITTF Level 3 Coaching Course in U.S.

Here's the ITTF article. Wish I could have been there - hopefully next time.

Ask the Coach

Episode #13 (12:10):

  • Question 1: I was just on a training camp and learned to play early, mid and late forehand topspins against under and topspins. I did quite well there but I guess I still need more training for perfection. I forgot to ask when to play which kind of topspin. Michael W
  • Question 2: I saw a point in the match between Timo Boll v Chun Ting Wong, where Chun Ting was serving and after two or three exchanges Timo pointed out it was a let. Do the rules allow players to do this so late in the point if the umpire has not seen it? Abhinav U
  • Question 3: I am able to do some video analysis of myself playing and was wondering what are the criteria I should be looking for when trying to find weaknesses, also are there tests we can do on strokes to see how consistent we are at them? C Cc
  • Question 4: Hi Alois and Jeff! I have been playing TT for the last 2 years and know the basics (topspin, block, backspin push, etc.), but I struggle against opponents with similar skill but more expensive bats with better grip. Should I change my Tibhar Chila Balsa DHT?
  • Question 5: The rules say that serves must be from behind the baseline, and the baseline should be considered as extending out beyond the edges of the table. On another website video it is said that you must serve from within the edge line. Can you clarify? David M

Ping-Pong Diplomacy Movie

Here's the article about the planned movie, coming from Village Roadshow Pictures, and based on the Nicholas Griffin book, "Ping-Pong Diplomacy: The Secret History Behind the Game That Changed the World."

Adham Sharara on the New Balls

Here's an article from Tabletennista where past ITTF president and now ITTF Chairman Adham Sharara comments on the new plastic 40+ balls and the Chinese team.

Dog Pong

Here's the video (24 sec) of a dog trying to play!

***
Send us your own coaching news!

October 21, 2014

Coaching Happenings

I hope you enjoyed the PBS video I showed yesterday that featured Crystal Wang and Derek Nie. (I said it was a WETA video, but it was actually produced by PBS.) I showed it at MDTTC on my laptop yesterday to a number of players. The video is currently featured on the USATT home page.

Lots of coaching happenings yesterday. The biggest news was Sameer's breakthrough on the backhand loop. Sameer (13, about 1600) has been topspinning his backhand pretty well this past year. But yesterday something clicked, and suddenly he was just ripping backhand loops off the bounce with ease - at least in practice. He was doing it both in rallies against my backhand block, in side-to-side footwork drills (including the 2-1 drill), and in multiball against backspin.

Technique-wise, he's now hitting pretty much the same as Ma Long in this video (1:55, far side). Note the nice, relaxed power with this stroke, with the small body rocking motion that creates power. (Here's a Tip on "Easy Power," demonstrated in the video by Ma Long, which Sameer is now learning.) Sameer still goes through stages where they all hit and then they all miss (often when he tries to muscle the ball), and it'll take time to incorporate this into a match, but now he's on a really scary path (for opponents). Since I wanted him to really ingrain this, we spent about 45 minutes of our two-hour session on this, and we'll continue to focus on this for a time - yes, a little Saturation Training.

Near the end I played Sameer a few games where I chopped, using my regular inverted rubber (Tenergy both sides). He's much better against me when I play regular, and since I'm almost as good chopping as attacking, let's just say things didn't work as well here as it did for his backhand loop. He did throw a lot of backhand loops at me, but he kept putting the balls into my forehand or backhand corners - easy returns for a 2100 chopper. I finally hinted that he needed to go after my middle. He served and looped there several times, and I missed four chops. He said, "Are you messing up on purpose?" He was wondering if I was missing to show him the importance of playing the middle, as opposed to my missing because he was going to my middle. It was the latter!

I've been playing for 38 years, and coaching for 34. And yet, yesterday was the first time I ever had to tell a student (age 7) to stop chewing on his shirt during points.

Plastic Ball Problems

We're facing serious problems at the club because of the changeover to plastic balls. The ITTF really jumped the gun on this - they should have waited until the new plastic balls ("40+") were standardized and there were training balls available. Right now we have different players training with different balls, and players have to check on what the other players are using before they can play or practice. Since Butterfly doesn't have plastic training balls yet, we're still mostly using regular Butterfly celluloid balls for most coaching. Players used to have to contend with going from Butterfly balls to the slightly harder Nittaku balls, but the difference there is only a fraction of the difference between the various plastic balls.

All of the plastic balls are white, as are most of our training balls, which seems to be the preference of most players. At the moment, though, I wish all our training balls were orange so we could tell them quickly from the white plastic ones. A training center is not like a typical club, where players use just one ball on each table. Players train at our club with buckets of balls, and so balls are scattered everywhere. (For an example of this, see the Multiball Footwork segment below.)

Yesterday, at the same time, we had players training with Butterfly celluloid (used in last weekend's 4-star North Carolina Open and MDTTC Open, in next weekend's 4-star South Shore Open and Wasserman Junior Championships, and along with other celluloid balls, still used in most USATT tournaments), JOOLA plastic (for the upcoming North American Teams), Nittaku Premium plastic (for the Nationals) and Nittaku SHA plastic (for the Nationals for players who didn't have the Premium yet). Meanwhile, Crystal Wang is training with various plastic balls to prepare for the World Cadet Challenge which starts next weekend, which will be using Butterfly plastic balls, but we don't have any since they aren't available in the U.S. yet. Players were running about trying to keep the same balls in each court and sifting through balls in boxes and on the floor to find the ones they were training with. And yesterday someone was practicing with DHS plastic balls for some other tournament. This is crazy!!!

One that'll help a little - USATT is requiring all tournament entry forms must list the ball material used in the tournament. Here's the news item.

Is Search Engine Showing Up?

I need help on something. Tell me if you see the search engine on the top left - it should read "Search this site:" with a field underneath it. It shows up for me on both my desktop and laptop computers on all the major search engines, but it's not showing up on someone else's laptop computer for some reason. (Right now it should only show up if you are logged in. I've asked my web page expert to fix that so that the search engine shows up no matter what.)

Multiball Footwork

Here's 34 seconds of some serious multiball footwork. Can you do this? (Note the wide stance - without it, you can't.)

Drill Your Skills with the Chinese National Team

Here's a video library that's a MUST for all players. It has 14 videos of the Chinese National Team or coaches demonstrating and explaining techniques. (This includes seven videos in the "Drill Your Skills with the Chinese National Team" series. There's a Part 8 that just came out but isn't yet listed, "Forehand Serves and First Attack by Yan An" (7:43).

Contact Point for Maximum Backspin

Here's the new video from PingSkills (3:13).

Ask the Coach

Episode #12 (9:55):

  • Question 1: I play inverted and will play against a hardbat penhold player. He has no problem hitting through chops, and various spins. What I find most difficult is returning his general shots. I hit many balls into the net. Any suggestions? Bob Van Deusen
  • Question 2: There is an attacking shot in badminton called dropshot from the rear court. I haven’t seen it in table tennis where one player is away from the table, slows down shortly before contact so the ball drops short. Is it possible in table tennis? Peter Habich
  • Question 3: Being not a terribly strong guy, I've always preferred blades on the lighter side. Recently I switched to one which weighs only 5 grams less, and the difference is remarkable. I can't be sure yet which to prefer, so what's your view on this? Andrej K
  • Question 4: My issue is that I'm practicing drills mostly at the club with ITTF standard sized tables and the one at my office is one that lays on top of a billiards table, which is about 9cm higher. How I can adjust my strokes so that I can perform better? Gregory S

Photos from the First ITTF Level 3 Course in the U.S.

Here's the photo album from Shashin Shodhan. Photo #17 shows that they stayed in the same dormitory (Building 87) that I stayed in from 1986-1990 during my years as manager/director/assistant coach for the Resident Training Program for Table Tennis at the Olympic Training Center. Others that lived there included Sean O'Neill, Jim Butler, Eric Owens, Todd Sweeris, Dhiren Narotam, Diana & Lisa Gee, and many more.

Butterfly Teams

Here's an article by Barbara Wei on the upcoming Butterfly Teams in Hobart, Indiana, to be held on Thanksgiving weekend. (Not to be confused with the 4-star South Shore Open to be held this weekend in Highland, Indiana - I'll be there coaching - or with the North American Teams, also to be held on Thanksgiving weekend in Washington D.C.)

World Women's Cup

Here are two more videos on the Women's World Cup held this past weekend in Austria.

Who Will Win the Men's World Cup Contest

Here's the blog entry on this from Matt Hetherington. The Men's World Cup is this upcoming weekend in Dusseldorf, Germany, Oct. 24-26. The basic challenge is to guess the two finalists and the total number of points the losing player will score in the final. Winning prize is two sheets of Butterfly Tenergy.

ITTF Timo Boll Puzzle Contest

Put poor Timo Boll back together again, and win a signed blade from him.

Top Five Reasons Why Ping Pong Rocks by Susan Sarandon

Here's the video (1:04). #1: "I like ping-pong because Richard Nixon had to leave the country for at least two weeks during Ping-Pong Diplomacy."

Olympic Power Table Tennis

Here's the cartoon!

***
Send us your own coaching news!

Syndicate content