Omron Robot

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!

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October 14, 2014

Tip of the Week

Working With Your Subconscious.

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.)

  • Flash Fiction - Writing for the Short Attention Span Generation. Markets are opening up everywhere for stories of 500 to 1,000 words or less and with the advent of Twitter and Facebook, there are markets for stories just a few sentences in length. In this panel we will discuss the markets, the writing techniques, the agony and the ecstasy and the future of writing the super-short story.
  • The Greatest Animated Films. A debate over a list of the greatest animated films. Can we agree on a top ten list for the best or will the panel erupt into fisticuffs?
  • I Hate His/Her Politics But I Love His/Her Books. Should a personal evaluation of an author be separated from how you view his/her politics? Many people refused to see the movie Ender's Game because of Orson Scott Card's statements on homosexuality and other writers charge that political views influence award nominations and who is picked for con programming. Is this true and if so, is it a good thing or a bad thing?

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).

  • Question 1: Sir, as i play table tennis, while playing too fast the ball sometimes hits my fingers and the whole game goes wrong. So how to prevent it? Rishabh
  • Question 2: I was having problems with countering services with combined spin like the topspin with sidespin services. How to counter them? Pat
  • Question 3: My coach told me to hold the bat differently when i am serving, but in my last competition i felt that i didn’t manage to change the grip on the bat fast enough after i am serving, so when my opponent returns my serve. David
  • Question 4: I am facing difficulty while countering the high returns bouncing just on the end of the table. I often play close to the table and I have an attacking style of play. I know this is an unusual weakness but can you guide me how counter these. Mukul

Episode 4 (9:40).

  • Question 1: Can you give me tips on the traditional pen-hold backhand topspin? I tried gripping the handle a little further from the face, curling my three fingers, and twisting the paddle so the forehand side is facing down, but to no avail. Table Tennis Guy
  • Question 2: I sometimes tend to lean back when I loop or drive. I'm guessing it's a problem with me shifting weight from right to left and instead keeping the weight on my right leg forcing me to lean back to take the shot. I'm not sure though. Justin
  • Question 3: Can you say that drills are essential or are plenty of matches required to become a good table tennis player? Meet Master
  • Question 4: If both sides of the blade has same rubber glued to it e.g. Xiom Vega Pro is on both sides of a blade then can they be both of same color or they should be black and red? Please guide me according to ITTF rules. Muhammad

Episode 5 (12:56).

  • Question 1: Hi Jeff and Alois, I often practice to attack backspins with a topspin using a Donic robot, but because of these exercises I tear my rubbers against the table at least twice a month. What I am doing wrong? Stanislav.
  • Question 2: Against beginners when I play my full loop I miss more because it feels like their ball has nothing on it and my ball just flies into space. It's got to the point where unless the player puts a lot of pace or spin I'm afraid to do a full forehand. Peter C.
  • Question 3: I was bored waiting, so I did some wall practice, it got faster, after a few minutes I noticed my eyes were adjusting to the speed then, we played table tennis I got a winning streak of 6 matches. What other warmups are effective. Jigo.
  • Question 4: Hello, I want to ask: How can I return a fast topspin stroke without blocking it? What are the options? Thanks, Tibor.

Episode 6 (13:36).

  • Question 1: Hello, I'm trying to develop a serve that just nicks the table, is this legal? Thanks. George.
  • Question 2: As I play short pimples on backhand I have recently begun to wonder if it would be good to turn my bat during a rally and hit the ball with my short pips but on my forehand side. What do you think, is it a good idea to train on that? Fredrik.
  • Question 3: I saw when professional players get serves to their forehand they often move over and return it with their backhand. Should I start practicing returning serves that come to my forehand with my backhand or should I practice my forehand more? David.
  • Question 4: I have an 11 year old son I am trying to teach table tennis. We practice about once a month and we have been doing that for a while but not making much progress. I feel I should teach him how to consistently bounce the ball. Can you tell me how? Fatih.
  • Question 5: Hi guys, just to ask what serves did you both use in your careers? Also can you tell me what serves encourage a forehand return? Sasha.

Table Tennis Can Help Those with Parkinson's

Here's the article.

Maccabi USA Seeking Jewish Athletes for European and Pan American Maccabi Games

Here's the USATT article.

USATT Joins AmazonSmile Program

Here's the USATT article.

The Immigrant Sport: What Ping-Pong Means in America

Here's the article.

Table Tennis Included in 2020 Paralympic Games

Here's the ITTF Press Release.

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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