Long Pips

June 5, 2014

Yesterday's Coaching

I had a number of coaching sessions yesterday. (This was after running around picking some of them up at two schools for our afterschool program.) The last two were rather interesting in that I introduced them to playing against long pips. I keep a huge racket case with five different rackets inside. (I've had this racket case since 1988 – Cheng Yinghua gave it to me the year he came to the U.S. as a practice partner/coach for our resident training program in Colorado Springs, where I was at various times manager/director/assistant coach.)

The rackets are: A long pips with 1mm sponge chopping racket; a long pips no-sponge pushblocking racket; a racket with antispin and inverted; one with short pips and inverted; a pips-out penholder racket; and a defensive hardbat. (I also have an offensive hardbat that I myself use in hardbat competitions, which I keep in a separate racket case in my playing bag.) I pull these rackets out as necessary for students to practice against or with.

I pulled the rackets out at the end of the first player's session, and invited the other player who was about to begin to join in. Then I went over the rackets, explaining each one. (The players were Daniel, age nine, about 1450, and Matt, about to turn 13, about 1650.) Neither had ever seen antispin before. They had played against long pips a few times, but didn't really know how to play it. They had seen hardbat and short pips, but hadn't played against them much, if at all. (I found it amazing they hadn't played against short pips, which used to be so common, but that surface has nearly died out. Just about everyone at my club uses inverted. I know of only one player at the club using short pips, the 2200+ pips-out penholder Heather Wang, who practices and plays against our top juniors regularly, so they are ready if they ever play pips-out players.)

I pulled out the long pips racket with no sponge, and let them play against it. They quickly figured out that when they looped, my blocks came back very heavy and often short. They also discovered that if they gave me backspin, my pushes had topspin. After I suggested trying no-spin, Daniel quickly became proficient at giving me a deep dead ball to the deep, wide backhand, and then stepping around and loop killing my dead return.

Since Matt was my last session and I could go late, I let them hit together for a while. They took turns with the rackets, with Daniel especially trying out all the rackets. He likes playing defense, and ended up using the chopping blade with long pips for about ten minutes against Matt's looping. When learning to play these surfaces, it's important not only to practice against them, but also to try using them so you can see first-hand what the strengths and weaknesses are.

One results of all this - Daniel's dad bought him a copy of my book Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers. Soon they will know all the intracacies of playing long pips and all other tactics as well!

On Monday in the segment about the WETA filming I blogged about how I'd hurt my right knee and shoulder. I was toying with getting someone to do my hitting in my private sessions yesterday, but decided the injuries weren't too bad. I managed to get through the sessions without aggravating them. The knee and shoulder are still bothering me, but I think if I'm careful I'll manage to get by. Just don't let any of my students know or they'll start lobbing (exit shoulder) or going to my wide forehand (exit knee). Shhh!

Tactics for Playing Backhand Dominant Players

Here's the article.

2014 Stiga Trick Shot Showdown

It's back! Here's the info page, and here's info video (1:16). The Grand prize is $4000, a trip to the World Tour Grand Final, and a one-year Stiga sponsorship. Second is $2000, third is $500 in Stiga gear. Deadline is Sept. 5. But let's be clear – the rest of you are all playing for second because nobody, Nobody, NOBODY is going to beat the incredible trick shot I will do this year . . .once I come up with one.

Liu Guoliang Criticizes Reform on World Championships.

Here's the article. I've always had mixed feelings on Chinese domination of our sport. It's true that it takes much of the interest away. However, China has done about all it can to help the rest of the world. It's opened up and allowed its top players to go to other countries as coaches – pretty much anyone who makes a Regional team in China (and they have over 30, with most of them stronger than the USA National Team) can become a lifelong professional coach in some other country. A major reason for the increase in level and depth in U.S. junior play in recent years is the influx of Chinese coaches, who have been opening up full-time training centers all over the country. It sort of reminds me of martial arts back in the 1960s and '70s, when Korean and Chinese coaches opened up studios all over the U.S.

ITTF China World Tour Interview with Ariel Hsing

Here's the video (1:04).

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

Former USATT President Sheri Pittman Cioroslan is doing an article every day during the last 100 days of Adham Sharara's ITTF presidency. Previous ones are linked from the USATT News page, as well as in my past blogs. Thirteen down, 87 to go!

  • Day 88: Interview with Vladimir Samsonov, Chair of the Athletes Commission

Zhang Jike Multiball

Here's the video (1:55) of him training just before the 2013 Worlds. I don't think I've posted this, but if I have, it's worth watching again.

Table Tennis Physical Training

Here's the video (21 sec). Why aren't you doing this?

News from New York

Here's the article.

Incredible Rally

Here's video (27 sec) of one of the more incredible rallies you'll ever see. It doesn't say who the players are, though the player on the near side might be Samsonov – I can't tell, though it looks like his strokes. (You see his face right at the end of the video, and I'm not sure but I don't think that's him.) (EDIT: several people have verified that the player on the near side is Samsonov, and the one on the far side is Kreanga. [Alberto Prieto was the first to do so.] Kreanga's a bit blurry in the video, but I should have recognized his strokes!)

Ping Pong Summer in Maryland

Tomorrow I'm seeing the 7:30 PM showing of Ping Pong Summer at the AFI Silver Theater in Silver Spring, Maryland. Anyone want to join me? (Email me or comment below.)

Ping Pong Summer Challenge

Here's video (2:58) where members of the cast of the movie are challenged to drink a soda while bouncing a ping pong ball on a paddle. Those challenged were actors Marcello Conte, Myles Massey, Emmi, Shockley, and writer/director Michael Tully.

Octopus Playing Table Tennis

Here's the video (34 sec) – and this might be the funniest table tennis video I've ever seen! It's an extremely well animated giant octopus playing table tennis simultaneously on four tables. You have to see this.

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April 26, 2013

Audrey and Long Pips

A while back I blogged about how I was now coaching Audrey Weisiger, the former U.S. Olympic Figure Skating Coach. I gave her another lesson on Wednesday. She's getting steadier in rallies, can push, and can now create spin with her serves. At the start she was an all-backhand player, where she sort of slashed at the ball. Hitting forehands for her was like me trying to ice skate - i.e., not natural, and pretty much against the natural order of things. However, she now has a pretty good stroke, and has hit 50 or more in a row live.

But on the backhand she still tends to stroke down on the ball, often putting backspin on the ball with her downward-stroking backhand drive (more like a push). She also has trouble returning spin serves (as do all beginners), which is problematic as her primary goal at the moment is to beat a fellow figure skating coach who beats her over and over with his backhand sidespin serve.

So on Wednesday I tried an experiment. I pulled out one of my demo long pips rackets that I keep for students to practice against, the one without sponge on a Dr. Neubauer blade (designed for long pips blocking). She tried it out, and it was like me getting off a hated and not-designed-for-human-usage ice rink! She loved it, and was able to keep the ball in play much better and more effectively. Even better, she was able to return nearly all my spin serves with the long pips.

She'll keep the inverted on the forehand, and focus on steady drives and, when the ball's up, smashing. It also gives her an inverted side to serve with. I showed her how to use the inverted to serve backhand and then flip the inverted back to the forehand. I'm letting her borrow my long-pips racket for now, but soon she'll get one for herself.

Someday perhaps I'll blog about my bad experiences with ice skating.

Serving With Spin

I used to have a bunch of striped balls that I had beginning players use when they were learning to serve with spin. They gave much better feedback than a normal ball, where beginners can't really see how much spin they are getting. At some point I lost those balls. Well, I just ordered four six-packs of "sports" ping-pong balls ($3/pack), where they are colored to look like soccer balls, basketballs, and baseballs. This'll make it a lot easier to see what type of spin they are creating. They are also good for learning to read spin, especially off a serve. They are only one-star balls, but they are 40mm. I'll blog about this after they arrive and I start using them again.

Sharara Fights Back

On Wednesday I linked to the article at Table Tennista about the allegations of corruption against ITTF President Adham Sharara by European Union President Stefano Bosi, "Adham Sharara Accused Of Long-Term Corruption In The ITTF." Here is Sharara's response, "Sharara Fights Back Against Bosi's Allegations." Sharara says, "All the allegations concerning me modifying accounts or hiding the true income are all false," and "Anyone within the ITTF has the right to run for presidency. In addition, anyone also has the right to complain or clarify any issues. Unfortunately, some one is attacking me and at the same time campaigning."

Dimitrij Ovtcharov Vs Robert Gardos

Here's a great video (7:07) that just came out of these two playing in the Champions League in Europe, with the time between points taken out. Ovtcharov of Germany is world #7, Gardos of Austria is world #32. Watch some of the backhand serves of Ovtcharov. (But guess who wins this time?)

Stiga Videos

Stiga Table Tennis has a lot of videos on their webpage - the "Stiga Movie Channel." They are divided into:

A Touch of Magic

Here's a table tennis highlights music video (5:13) that came out last month.

The Misdirected Surprise Serve

Here it is (20 sec)! I've done this in exhibitions. ("Look, up in the sky! It's a bird! It's a plane! No . . . it's my serve." And then you quick serve.)

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May 9, 2011

Eugene, Oregon (Non-Table Tennis)

This afternoon I'm off for Eugene, Oregon for eight days, May 9-18, to visit my dad, who's 76. He recently had a stroke. It's not life threatening, but he's paralyzed on his left side. (And he's left-handed.) I still plan on doing the daily blog. Edit - Change of plans - it's going to be a bit hectic here, and I have other things on my mind, so I'm going to take the week off. I'll go back to daily blogs after I return to Maryland, on Wednesday, May 18.

Pushblocking with Long Pips (no sponge)

Because of a muscle tear, I'm trying to rest my back. And so yesterday in practice matches with our junior players I decided to play with long pips, no sponge (Tibhar GrassD.Tec5), and covered the entire table with my backhand. As expected, it caused complete havoc. I didn't play our top juniors, mostly ones under 1800, but let's just say it wasn't pretty. As a coach, I need to play more orthodox for my students, i.e. regular inverted. But if my goal was to just win, I'm pretty sure I'd shoot up a bunch with this stuff. My level these days is at most 2200, but who knows what it'll be when my back gets better so I can use my normal forehand (along with my serve & follow), etc.

World Championships in Rotterdam, Netherlands, May 8-15

Dying to follow the World Championships? Then visit the ITTF World Championships page. Dying to follow every move made by Team USA? Then visit the USA Team Page. Still not enough for you? Then train for 10,000 hours over the next ten years with the best coaches and trainers, make the USA Team, and go to the Worlds in person.

Here's some more coverage of Team USA - eight "Behind the Scenes" videos! If you are a USA Table Tennis fan, how can you not watch these? Brought to you by BayAreaTT, USA Table Tennis, and USA Men's Team Coach Stefan Feth.

  • Video1 Welcome from Men's Coach Stefan Feth (0:51)
  • Video2 Behind the scenes training (4:15)
  • Video3 Training Germany before Worlds, meet Timothy Wang & Michael Landers, others (14:56)
  • Video4 More behind the scenes training in Germany, and meet some of the players (7:30)
  • Video5 Behind the scenes when not training, with Mark Hazinski, Timothy Wang, and Michael Landers (4:39)
  • Video6 History of Grenzau Table Tennis (where Team USA is training), with long-time German team member Lucjan Blascyck (3:01)
  • Video7 Arriving in Rotterdam (5:30)
  • Video8 Final training before Worlds, both USA and top World Players, plus the Butterfly party, interviews with Ariel Hsing and Prachi Jha (6:58)

Zhang Yining learning English in Wisconsin

Yes, Chinese table tennis legend Zhang Yining (2004 & 2008 Olympic Women's Singles Gold Medalist, 2005 & 2009 World Women's Singles Champion) is learning English at the University of Wisconsin. Here's a good article on her new life in America.


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May 2, 2011


Any big news from overseas last night? Perhaps a major killing?

Yes - the USA Junior Girls Team won the gold medal at the French Junior & Cadet Open! A lot of killing went on. More specifically:

  • Gold medal:
    • Junior Girls' Team (Ariel Hsing, Lily Zhang, and Erica Wu)
  • Silver medals:
    • Junior Girls' Doubles (Ariel Hsing/Lily Zhang)
    • Cadet Girls' Singles (Lily Zhang)
  • Bronze medals:
    • Cadet Girls' Team (Prachi Jha with Michelle Liaw from Canada) 
    • Cadet Girls' Doubles (Lily Zhang with Charlotte Carey from Wales)
  • Quarterfinals:
    • Junior Girls' Singles - Ariel Hsing/Lily Zhang
    • Cadet Girls' Singles - Prachi Jha
    • Cadet Girls' Doubles - Prachi Jha/Erica Wu

Speaking of killing....

I've hurt my upper back, and won't be doing any hard forehand looping or hitting for a while. It's a muscle strain or tear; we'll see how long it takes to heal. Meanwhile, yesterday I fooled around playing with long pips on the backhand, no sponge, and covering nearly the whole table blocking with the long pips backhand. From my initial rallying with a 1900 player, I have a feeling I'll cause havoc among many players if I show up at a tournament this way, especially since I also have a pretty good forehand, and can flip quickly and use inverted on the backhand when I want. Hmmmm....

Celebrities Playing Table Tennis

I just updated the Celebrities Playing Table Tennis page. Updates include Jack Nicholson, Jennifer Connolly, Vince Vaughn, Howard Jacobson, Henry Kissinger, and Nicolas Sarkozy. And in case you missed last update, that included Justin Bieber, Kevin Spacey, Barbara Eden, Ginger Rogers, Susan Sarandon, Walter Mondale, Benjamin Netanyahu, and Rafael Nadal! The page now contains 1178 pictures of 699 celebrities, with sections on Politicians/Leaders, Athletes, Talk Show Hosts, Writers, Actors, Actresses, Musicians, Cartoon Characters, and Other. Send me your own!

Richard McAfee on Ping Pong Planet

Here are two videos of Richard McAfee on Ping Pong Planet, a weekly variety show in Thailand. The director and star is Don Mudtangam, who is the "Director of Coaches" for the Thailand TTA. Richard shows up at 4:17 into the first video (14:22 long), and begins speaking at 4:57. He's in from the start in the second video (13:43 long). The others are speaking Thai. In the videos, Richard uses a Newgy robot to demonstrate serve return drills.

Newgy Robo-Pong Seminar

Newgy's doing a free three-day Newgy Robo-Pong Training Seminar, for Newgy robot owners (2050, 2040, 1050, 1040 or 540). You can sign up for one, two, or all three days. They will be held:

  • Friday, May 20, 2011: 6-9 pm
  • Saturday, May 21, 2011: 9 am-5 pm
  • Sunday, May 22, 2011: 9 am-12 Noon

It will be held at the Newgy Table Tennis Center at 805 Teal Drive, Gallatin, Tennessee 37066 USA. Instructors will be USATT Certified Coaches Carl Hardin and Roger Dickson. First come, first serve basis; Men, women, all ages and all skill levels.

The seminar will cover:

  • Spin and shot selection, head angle adjustments
  • Oscillation, ball speed and ball frequency
  • Randomization controls
  • Pre-programmed drills
  • Programming your own customized drills
  • Plus, much more!

Also from their announcement, "See how the Robo-Pong can improve your table tennis skills while having fun and getting a workout all at the same time! This seminar will consist of both demonstrations and hands-on activity with the Robo-Pong and other attendees."

If interested, fill out form and email to Newgy Table Tennis. For more information, call 1-800-556-3949 or email.


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