October 15, 2012

Tip of the Week

How to Handle the First Loop Off Backspin.

A Commuting Weekend - Table Tennis and SF

I spent the weekend shuttling back and forth between coaching at the Maryland Table Tennis Center and being a panelist at the annual Capclave Science Fiction Convention. By great luck (or was it?), Capclave was held at the Hilton in Gaithersburg, about five minutes from MDTTC. I managed to cancel or postpone some coaching that conflicted with panels at Capclave. By simple good luck, my morning coaching on Saturday and Sunday were with beginners, meaning I didn't get all sweaty and so was able to just change into normal clothes and rush over to Capclave. So here's how my weekend went. (Panels are usually one-hour affairs where 3-5 writers or others talk about a topic in front of an audience.) Here's my online Capclave Bio - note the table tennis ice cube mention!

Panelists are allowed to display their books, and so I displayed on a mini-bookstand in front of me my collection of SF & Fantasy stories, "Pings and Pongs," and explained the title pertained to my table tennis background - which usually brought a few questions.


I'm normally in a 5-7 PM Elite Junior session, but I was able to get out of it. I was in one Capclave panel, on "Comic Relief" (in science fiction), from 4-5PM. Here's a picture of the panel - L-R: Me, Lawrence Schoen, Doug Fratz, and James Maxey. We talked a lot about the comic relief in "The Big Four" (Star Wars, Star Trek, Harry Potter, and The Hobbit/Lord of the Rings), and other humorous characters. The rest of the night I attended other panels and toured the Dealer's Room, with its extensive number of booths selling books and other SF & fantasy items.


I coached a junior class from 10:30AM - Noon, then changed, ate a quick lunch, and rushed over to Capclave for my 1-2 PM panel, "21st Classics," which was on what books since 2000 will become classics, and why. (Lots of nominations!) Then I rushed back to MDTTC, changed back to my TT clothes, and coached from 2:30-4:30. (In that session we did a lot of the improvised multiball drill I describe in this week's Tip of the Week - see above.) Then I went home, let my dog out and fed her, showered, and was back that night for a few panels, including my own late-night one from 11-12PM, "Shortest Fiction," which was on flash stories (under 1000 words) and twitter stories (under 140 characters or less). Here's a twitter story I wrote and sold: "Droid for sale. Minor space damage, memory wiped. Pesky hologram feature disabled."


Sunday morning I coached a beginning 7-year-old from 10-11AM, and watched him make a big breakthrough when he hit 45 backhands in a row (live, not multiball). Then I changed, ate, and rushed over to Capclave for my 12-1PM panel, "My First Time," about the first SF and fantasy books we read and how they brought us into the world of SF and fantasy reading and writing. (For me, it was three very specific books. For SF, it was "The Forgotten Door." For fantasy, it was "The Ghost of Dibble Hollow." For horror, it was "The House on the Square," a short story in "Chilling Stories from the Twilight Zone.") Then I went back to MDTTC to coach from 3-7PM. I finished off the day eating a late dinner while watching the third season premier of "The Walking Dead" on TV.

Ginny's...Where East Meets West

The television program "Ginny's...Where East Meets West" did a 30-minute feature on Maryland table tennis recently, where they interviewed Wen Hsu (MDTTC officer and Nathan Hsu's mom), Barbara Wei (former member of U.S. Junior Girl's Team), and Nathan Hsu (2011 U.S. Junior Olympic Under 16 Boys' Gold Medalist). The show is about the intersection of the East (i.e. table tennis) and the West (i.e. table tennis in the U.S.). Yes, it's in English!

ITTF Coaching Seminar #2 in India

USATT Coaching Chair Richard McAfee just finished the second of three ITTF coaching seminars in India. Here's the ITTF article on it. (Here's the article on the first one, which I posted last week.)

2012 Chinese National Championships

So who was in the final of the Chinese Men's Singles Championships that finished yesterday? World #1 Zhang Jike? World #2 Ma Long? World #3 Xu Xin? World #4 Wang Hao? World #5 Timo Boll? (No wait, he's from Germany!) World #6 Ma Lin? World #9 Wang Liqin? World 14 Hao Shuai? World #16 Chen Qi?

None of the above. After they were all eliminated, the two left standing, and showing the depth of Chinese table tennis, were Fang Bo (world #69) and Zhou Yu (world #85). Here's the shortened video of the final (12:14), with Zhou winning 4-1.

Ping-Pong Wedding

Here's a picture of Czech star Dana Hadacova (world #97, #86 in July) playing ping-pong on a mini table at her wedding with her new husband. Anyone know who the husband is? (My quick googling didn't find anything.) She seems to go by two last names, Hadacova and Cechova (which is how the ITTF lists her) so presumably one was her previous name, and the latter is the name she took on after marrying. (Here's her official home page.)


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October 11, 2012

Placement of Loops

I coached a lefty junior yesterday, and was working on his backhand loop when he said, "I don't like backhand looping. Every time I do it, my opponents smash." I asked him to show me the backhand loop that kept getting smashed, and sure enough, it was a soft, spinny one that went crosscourt from his lefty backhand to a righty opponent's forehand. No wonder it was getting smashed!!!

Slow, spinny loops are effective if they go deep to the backhand, but only to the forehand side of a player with a relatively weak forehand. Soft loops to the forehand are easy to smash for many players since the body isn't in the way - you just hit through it. On the backhand side, however, if the slow loop goes deep, the body is in the way and so the player is jammed, and smashing them can be difficult. So slow loops that go deep to the backhand are usually just blocked back, and usually not that well. (Slow loops that go short to the backhand, however, are dead meat to any player with a decent backhand. They should be smacked away.) 

In general, soft loops should go deep to the wide backhand, aggressive loops to the wide forehand (since the forehand block is usually slower) and to the middle (i.e. the playing elbow, midway between forehand and backhand, so the opponent has to make a quick decision on which to use, and then move into position).

There are many exceptions to this rule. Some players, including myself, are looking to step around to use the forehand from the backhand side, and so even a soft loop to the wide forehand can often catch us going the wrong way if we over-anticipate or stand too far toward our backhand side. And others try to counterloop everything on the forehand, and are often too slow to react to a slow loop, especially if it lands short. It all depends on the opponent. 

I had the student spend the next five minutes working on backhand loops down the line (to a righty's backhand), and I expect he'll have more success now, and gain confidence in using the backhand loop. An added benefit is that this junior has a much stronger forehand than backhand, and backhand loops that go to an opponent's righty backhand will tend to come out toward his forehand.

Coaching Seminars in India

Here are more pictures from the ITTF Coaching Seminars that USATT Coaching Chair Richard McAfee is running in India.

Video Profile of Brooklyn Club

Here's a video profile (7:16) of the Brooklyn Table Tennis Club, with lots of action shots and interviews with Coach Nison Aronov and others.

Beer Pong with the Stars

Here's TMZ's gallery of celebrities playing beer pong, featuring Holly Madison, Kate Bosworth, Sofia Vergara, Jay Chandrasekhar, Michelle Pfeiffer, Kevin Heffernan, Maria Sharapova, Angie Harmon, Candice Bergen, John McEnroe, and Jennifer Garner. And here's Stephen Colbert on Beer Pong (4:18). And since we're on the topic, here are some amazing beer pong videos. (And I'm a non-drinker!!!)

Non-Table Tennis - Capclave SF Convention

This weekend (Fri-Sun) I'll be attending the Capclave Science Fiction Convention. (It's really SF, fantasy, and horror, but we often shorten that to just science fiction.) Since the convention is only five minutes away from the Maryland Table Tennis Center, I'm going to be running back and forth attending the convention and coaching table tennis. (I have 8.5 hours of coaching this weekend, minus three hours that I cancelled or postponed.) If any readers are local to Gaithersburg, Maryland (that's USA), and are into SF, come join us, and make sure to hunt me down! I'm on four panels, so I have an online bio. And here's my schedule (it's also online):

Friday 4PM, Rockville/Potomac Room
Comic relief

Panelists: James Maxey (M), Doug Fratz, Larry Hodges, Lawrence M. Schoen
How much comic relief can you put in a book before it gets shifted into the humor category? Does humor hurt or enhance a serious novel? Does it throw you out of the story if you expect Song of Ice and Fire and get a line right out of Xanth? What are examples of writers who get it right/wrong?

Saturday 1PM, Bethesda Room
21st Century Classics
 Michael D. Pederson (M), Laura Anne Gilman, Larry Hodges, Walter H. Hunt
What makes a book a classic? What modern works, published since 2000 do you think should be added to the list of classic SF and Fantasy works. What do you think people will still be reading in 50 years? Will Harry Potter be an eternal children’s must-read like Narnia?

Saturday 11PM, Bethesda Room
Shortest fiction
 Jamie Todd Rubin (M), Larry Hodges, Dina Leacock, Craig Alan Loewen, Jennifer Pelland
There is Flash Fiction, Tweets, and Drabbles. How to write for an instant gratification society.

Sunday Noon, Bethesda Room
My First Time
 Diana Peterfreund (M), Chris Dolley, Larry Hodges, Alan Smale
Authors discuss their first science fiction and fantasy novels. Have those novels stood the test of time. Did they spur you to become a writer.


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October 14, 2011

The Falkenberg, 2-1, and Backhand-Forehand-Forehand drills

Okay, these are all names for the same drill. It was made popular at the Falkenberg club in Sweden by 1971 World Men's Singles Champion Stellan Bengsston. It's almost for certain the most popular footwork drill in the world among top players because it covers the three most common footwork moves in table tennis - cover the wide forehand, cover the wide backhand, and step around forehand from the backhand corner. How do you do the drill?

Your partner hits two balls to your backhand, then one to your forehand. You take the first with your backhand. You step around and take the second with your forehand. Then you move to the wide forehand and take that with your forehand. Then repeat.

There are many variations. You can start the drill off backspin with a loop, then continue. You can either hit or loop the forehands or backhands. You can do the drill to your partner's backhand or forehand. You can have free play after a certain number of repetitions, such as after three (nine shots). Or use your own imagination and make something up. Or just use the basic standby, as described above, as most do.

Here are four new articles/videos from PingSkills

Table tennis tips

Here's a listing of 60 table tennis tips  ("Lenisms" from Len Winkler) that will propel you to international stardom, or at least to beating that hated rival of yours at the club.

Jorgen Persson vs. Werner Schlager

Great footage from the ongoing European Championships in Gdansk-Sopot, Poland, with the breaks between points taken out so it's non-stop action (3:28). There is lots of coverage at the ITTF European Championships page.

Zhang Xielin, "The Magic Chopper"

Here's vintage footage of the famed Chinese penhold chopper from the 1960s (3:18). He was infamous for beating the Europeans (often with weird sidespin chops) while losing to his teammates.

Robots playing table tennis

In my blog on Tuesday I linked to articles and pictures of robots that actually play table tennis, invented by a Japanese company. Here's the video (1:40)!  Its footwork and shoulder rotation on the forehand need a lot of work - and that is not a legal serve.

What the heck is this?

I don't know what this is, but it seems to be something to do with table tennis, and it's on sale at Ebay. All real table tennis players should own one of these whatever they ares.

Non-Table Tennis - Capclave SF Convention

This weekend I'll be at the Capclave Science Fiction Convention in Gaithersburg, Maryland - which this year is held about 1.5 miles from my club, the Maryland Table Tennis Center! Because I'm coaching much of Friday and Sunday, I can't attend much those days, but I'll be there all day on Saturday.

I'm moderating a literary panel Saturday at 1PM on "When Characters Threaten to Take Over," which is about what writers should do when writing and a character "refuses" to do what you want it to do and seems to take on a life of its own. (It's happened to me many times.) I'm also doing a 30-minute reading at 3PM - I'll be doing my annual "Larry Hodges Over-the-Top Humorous Flash Story Reading," where I'll be reading three of my published flash stories. (Flash stories are under 1000 words long, about four pages double spaced.)

Here's a link to my Capclave bio and schedule. I'm also bringing John Hsu, a local 17-year-old table tennis player (2255 rating) who I've been working with on creative writing - we're working on a zombie story together. He's attending the 10AM writer's workshop with Allen Wold. This will be his first SF convention - heaven help him. If we can find a ping-pong table at the hotel, we'll be hustling people for spare change.


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