Halloween

November 3, 2014

Another Full-Time Club - Table Tennis Exploding Nationally and in Maryland Area

Another full-time club is opening in my area, the Smash Table Tennis Center in Sterling, Virginia, which will open in about one month. (Not to be confused with the Smash Table Tennis Club which recently opened in Fall River, Massachusetts.) This makes 77 full-time clubs in the U.S. (in 23 states and DC), and seven full-time table tennis clubs within 45 minutes of me (probably all within 30 minutes if no traffic). Table Tennis in the Maryland region is exploding!!!

So why is table tennis taking off in the Maryland/Virginia region, as well as other regions such as the SF and LA areas in California, NY and NJ, and other regions? It only takes one successful club in an area (which develops the demand) to grow enough interest that there's a demand for more, plus the locals see how successful a full-time center can be and so copy it. MDTTC spent years as the only full-time club in the region (and often the whole country), but now they are popping up everywhere, to the chagrin of all the doubters of the past. (I've been arguing for something like twenty years for USATT to get involved in the recruiting and training of coaches and promoters to spread these centers, whose rise I've been predicting for many years, including a presentation to the board on this in December, 2006, at the 2009 USATT Strategic Meeting, and many others, always falling on deaf ears, alas.)

It is a scary thing for a full-time club when another one opens up locally. In the short run, it does hurt business. But new clubs bring in new business, and some of that business goes to the other clubs, and in the end, everyone benefits - it is not a zero-sum game. When a new full-time club brings in new players, many of those players end up playing in the other clubs' tournaments, leagues, and coaching programs, become members, and the local table tennis community increases, to the benefit of all. (And word-of-mouth from the new players brings in still more players.) So yes, "A rising tide lifts all boats." I wrote about this in my March 19, 2014 blog.

A key thing, however, is you don't open a club with the thought that there is already a demand for the club - though that helps, and is a reality in some regions due to the hard work of those who created the demand. No, when you open a full-time club (or any club), the point is to create the demand. This means creating programs that players are interested in, and so becoming members. Getting players into a club isn't that hard if you know how to go about doing it, but keeping them is.

And for those of you who are thinking of making the jump to full-time table tennis, here's the manual I wrote on this, Professional Table Tennis Coaches Handbook. (It also goes over how to get players into a club and keep them)

World Cadet Challenge

It finished over the weekend. Here's the ITTF page for the event, with results, articles and pictures. Kanak Jha got the bronze medal for Cadet Boys' Singles, while he and Jack Wang got the bronze for Cadet Boys' Doubles and Teams. Crystal Wang and Amy Wang got the bronze for Cadet Girls' Teams, and made the quarterfinals of Cadet Girls' Doubles. Crystal made the quarterfinals of Cadet Girls' Singles. Overall in the singles Kanak came in 3rd, Jack 8th, Crystal 7th, and Amy 17th (after winning the "Losers Bracket"). Here's an ITTF article that features. Kanak.

China's History of Match Fixing

Here's the article. With the recent issue about whether the 2012 Olympic Men's Final was fixed, this is of extra interest. The fixed matches featured here are only a fraction of them; fixing matches was considered standard in the past, where coaches and officials would decide who should win to tactically and politically most benefit China. (And there is no denying there is a logic to this, but at the expense of the players who trained for so many years only to be treated like pawns.) I've had some serious discussions with people from China who strongly believe in this type of fixing - I've concluded it's a cultural thing. It happens in America as well; I know of at least four times where players dumped matches to affect who made the U.S. team or equivalent. There's no getting around this type of thing.  

Forehand Looping with Variation

Here's the video (2:26) by Samson Dubina.

Two-Table Training

Here's the video (6:51). I've done this before, but not recently. I think I'll do it in our next junior sessions. It's not only good training (by forcing players to cover extra ground, the actually ground they do need to cover becomes easy), but it's fun and the kids like doing something different.

Learn How to Deliver Aerobic Table Tennis

Here's the article.

Northwest Indiana Welcomes Second Butterfly Thanksgiving Event

Here's the USATT article on the upcoming Butterfly Teams.

Ping-Pong Craze Comes to Fall River

Here's the article on the new full-time Smash Table Tennis Club in Fall River, Massachusetts.

Best Points

Here's the video (4:59) - the first one is a doozy!

Table Tennis - Our Story

Here's the motivational music video (5:12)

Edge-Edge-Edge-Edge Point

Here's the video (28 sec, including slow-motion replay). I believe the server serves on the edge, followed by three consecutive edges, two by each player.

Happy and Horrible Halloween From:

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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?)

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October 31, 2012

Morning, Afternoon, or Night?

I have a student I used to coach in the afternoon after school. He'd always be tired, with little interest. His mom and I decided to try something, and we tried coaching him in the morning one time. Instant energy! He was suddenly enthused and interested. Now we're rearranging his practice to take this into account. We may also try him out later at night, when he's apparently energetic again. (I also suggested a nap after school - perhaps that'll bring his energy back faster.)

I've also faced this. For years I struggled to play in the afternoons - like the kid above, I was always tired during that time. At night, however, I'd come alive. But I've done so much coaching and playing in the afternoons now that my biorhythms have changed. Now I'm energetic in the afternoon, a bit less so at night, and tired if I have to coach in the morning. (Mornings are for writing, not table tennis, in Larryworld.)

Most players play at night, and probably are at their most energetic at that time. But when a tournament comes around, most play is in the morning or afternoon. I know this affects some players; how about you?

When we know the time of important events at big tournaments we sometimes have our local juniors train at that time to get used to it. (If it's in a different time zone, we take that into account.) It really helps. I remember a kid who had to play an 8PM match in Las Vegas, and he was still on Eastern time - so it was 11PM for him, and he was half asleep and yawning before he played. I sent him into the bathroom to splash cold water on his face (this helps), but he literally yawned throughout the match, played poorly, and lost.

So if you are training for a specific event, perhaps take this into account. For example, if you are playing in the Team Championships this Thanksgiving (whether in Baltimore or Ohio), and have to play at 9AM, perhaps do a little shadow-practicing every morning at 9AM to get your body used to playing at that time.

Halloween

It's a day off for most coaches. I normally have three hours of coaching on Wednesday nights, 5-8 PM, but the three I coach are ages 7, 11, and 11. Guess where they'll be from 5-8PM? (The 11-year-olds are going as a zombie and as Dr. Who, but the 7-year-old still hadn't decided what to be as of Sunday.) I'll be giving out Snickers and Milky Ways. Afterwards I'll bring all the leftovers to the club, put them on a table, and feed multiball to the kids, who get to keep any candy they knock off. (If I don't give it away, I'll eat all the Snickers bars.)

USATT Athlete's Advisory Council

If you are interested in running for the USATT Athlete's Advisory Council, info is now online. Seven candidates will be elected. To be eligible, you must have represented USA in Olympic, Paralympic, Pan American, Para Pan Ams, World Championships, or Para World Championships in the past ten years.

Returning a Lefty's Wide Serve

Here's a video from PingSkills on returning a lefty's deep, breaking sidespin serve into a righty's forehand (1:30). This applies equally to a lefty returning the same serve from a righty.

Quips

I told one of our top juniors that "I'm so good I sometimes go an entire match without losing." He thought that was funny. Then I pointed out that I was so good that "Even when I lose, it always comes down to the last point." He disagreed, and argued that our last match (which he'd won, dang) hadn't come down to the last point. I asked him if he had won when he got to match point, and he started to answer, and then he got it.

Ping-Pong Halloween Costumes

The Washington Post did a feature in the Kids Post section on Oct. 21 on unique homemade costumes. Included was a Table Tennis Court costume! Here's a close-up, which includes the caption. While we're at it, here's someone in a ping-pong ball costume, here's another ping-pong ball costume, here's a beer pong costume, and here's a kid dressed as a ping-pong paddle. And I won't even talk about what comes up when you Google ping-pong ball eyes, it's just too scary.

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October 31, 2011

Tip of the Week

When to React.

Serve Cycling

Many or most players use just a few simple serves, on the theory that if you have too many serve motions, you'll have trouble perfecting any of them, plus you'll have trouble learning and reacting to all the possible returns. (Surprisingly, two serves done with the same spin and placement but a different motion are often returned differently by opponents.) There's nothing wrong with doing it this way. I do urge players like this to have alternate "trick" serves to throw at their opponents as a variation, which both gives them "free" points as well as making their other serves more effective as the receiver has more serves to worry about.

However, there's another way to serve, which I call "cycling." What this means is that you constantly throw different serves at your opponent, essentially cycling through your entire repertoire, often almost in sequence. The goal is never to use the same serve twice in a row, and usually not even the same service motion twice in a row.  Challenge the opponent with every variation you have, with as many service motions, spins, speeds, depths, and placements as possible. Your goal is to make them miss or pop up your serve. Try to fry their brain. Keep track of which serves give the opponent the most trouble, and recycle those serves more often than others. Use the most effective serves not just at the end of a close game, but throughout a game to make sure it isn't a close game. (Or to make a game you would have lost into a close game.)

I've always used this type of serving against some opponents, and recently I've taken to doing it more and more, with surprising effectiveness. Often I play entire games without using the same serve twice. While it's more effective at lower levels, it's surprisingly effective against many advanced players as well, as long as you don't overdo the long serves. One key - you will have to practice your serves a lot to effective cycle your serves in this way. In particular, you need to serve low, and for short serves and serves where the second bounce should be near the end-line, the depth.

The Magic of Table Tennis

Here's a great video of table tennis clips, set to music (7:39). One of the best I've seen.

Fierce ping-pong competition erupts outside Red Wings locker room

Sometimes, in the middle of a fight, a hockey game breaks out. In this case, in the middle of a hockey game (or at least after practice) a bunch of ping-pong games broke out. Here's a video (1:05) and article about the Detroit Red Wings playing table tennis. Players included Ty Conklin, Danny Cleary, Jiri Hudler, Brad Stuart, Patrick Eaves, and Nicklas Lidstrom. 

Happy Halloween!

In honor of Halloween, here are three table tennis Halloween videos!

The Official Table Tennis Nation Halloween Costume Guide 2011

Who do you want to be for Halloween? Marty Reisman? Forrest Gump? Christopher Walken? Susan Sarandon? These are all great possibilities, and the site gives step-by-step instructions for each of these costumes.

Susan Sarandon Trick Shot Video

Since some of you might be dressing up as Susan Sarandon for Halloween (see segment above), this is the perfect time to bring you the Susan Sarandon Trick Shot Video (1:08). Yes, it features Susan Sarandon and her ping-pong bag of tricks.

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