Serve Practice

March 21, 2014

The Ping-Pong Apartments

Below is an essay I wrote that was published in USA Table Tennis Magazine in 1991. (Back then the USATT board of directors was called the Executive Committee, hence the "Mr. Ec.") Has our situation changed in the 23 years since? Before we get to the essay, let's look at the current situation.

The rise of full-time training centers all over the U.S. is a dramatic improvement, and growing leagues in NYC and the SF and LA areas in California are promising. But we still have a long way to go. We're not going to really fix our sport until the leaders of our sport actually focus on fixing our sport, i.e. developing the infrastructure as it is done overseas, and in other sports in the U.S. There's no systematic development of these full-time centers or professional coaches, i.e. recruitment and training on how to set up a full-time center or be a professional coach; entrepreneurs have to come forward on their own each time and either learn from others or make it up as they go along. There's no model of a regional league to streamline the process needed to set up a nationwide network of such leagues, as is done all over the world but not here.

When a new player walks into most clubs, he's usually thrown to the wolves, i.e. told to call winners against an established player who will kill him, and we rarely see that player again. What's needed are professional coaches we can send these new players to (adults and juniors) for instruction, and leagues for all levels so the new players can find other players their own level. This is how it's done overseas, and how it's done in successful sports all over the U.S., whether it's tennis, bowling, soccer, basketball, baseball/softball, and so on.

These problems can be fixed by calling on the membership for qualified volunteers to develop these aspects. Get our top league directors in a room and tell them they can't come out until they develop a prototype of a regional league that can grow throughout the country. Ask the coaching committee to focus on the recruitment and development of professional coaches. I already wrote the Professional Table Tennis Coaches Handbook; as I've told them already, I'll donate them at cost (about $2/each) if they'll actually use them in a serious way.

No, I'm not volunteering at this time to do these things for USATT anymore because I've been through this before, and it won't work without their strong support, which won't happen if they aren't equally motivated to do these things - but they have other priorities, and so the issues I bring up are barely afterthoughts. All you have to do is read the USATT minutes (see segment below) to see if developing the infrastructure is a serious priority. Over the years I've given a number of presentations to the USATT board on plans to develop our sport, to deaf ears. Maybe I just don't look good in a suit.

Beware of those who promise to focus on clubs, schools, leagues, coaching, etc., but don't have any specific plans to do so, or have anyone to actually implement any plans. Generic promises aren't promises at all. Beware of those who come up with small things instead of the big things needed. Small things are nice, but we've had over 80 years of small things in our sport, and it's why we're small.

Until we fix these problems, we'll continue to have around 8000 members while overseas countries measure their paid memberships in the hundreds of thousands or even millions. There's a well-traveled road to success if we'd only follow it.

The Ping Pong Apartments

Mr. Ec bought the Ping Pong apartments in 1933.

The first thing he did was to take a tour of the facilities. He found the rooms were unheated, the plumbing broken, and there was no air conditioning. The building was drab and unkept, and rats and cockroaches infested the building. Paint was chipping.

Mr. Ec did not have the money for renovations, and so he couldn't fix up the building. He spent 52 years lamenting what he would do if he only had more money.

In 1985, Mr. Ec. received a grant from the Olympic Committee to fix up the Ping Pong Apartments. Suddenly he had the money so desperately needed.

It was a great time for ping pong. According to a Gallup Poll, over 21 million Americans had expressed an interest in the Ping Pong Apartments. Ping Pong was now an Olympic Sport. Yet, for some reason, few wanted to stay at the Ping Pong Apartments, once they saw the condition of the building.

For some reason, the other Apartments always did better. The Football Apartments, the Basketball Apartments, the Baseball Apartments, the Tennis Apartments, even the Bowling Apartments - all of these buildings were full of happy tenants. And the Ping Pong Apartments in Asia and Europe were full. Mr. Ec was determined to do something about this.

He bought ads in newspapers and TV, advertising the Ping Pong Apartments. He sent agents to the other Apartments to do exhibitions, trying to get them to come to the Ping Pong Apartments. He went to the schools, urging kids to come to the Ping Pong Apartments. He sent literature out to everyone, telling them all the advantages of the Ping Pong Apartments. And all of these ideas were good.

But nobody would come to the Ping Pong Apartments.

The rooms are still unheated. The plumbing is still broken. There is no air conditioning. The building is drab and unkept, and cockroaches and rats still infest the building. The paint is still chipping.

Why won't people come to the Ping Pong Apartments?

Back to Coaching - Serve Practice!

Have you practiced your serves lately? Why not? There's nothing harder to coach against than a player with good serves, so please, Please, PLEASE, if you are going to play against anyone I coach, don't practice your serves. Here's a Tip from a few weeks ago: Practicing Serves the Productive Way.

Game Strategies

Here's an interesting article on tactics by Samson Dubina.

Four New Full-Time Table Tennis Clubs

I've added the follow four new ones to the growing list I maintain of full-time table tennis clubs, bringing the number to 71. Three of them are in California, making 23 for that state. This includes twelve in the San Francisco Bay area - here's a map of clubs in the San Francisco Bay area, including twelve full-time ones, courtesy of Bruce Liu. There are also twelve full-time ones in the New York City region. Maryland has four, plus a fifth just over the border in Virginia.

Seemiller Camp in Newport News, Virginia

Dan Seemiller Sr. and Jr. surprised us at MDTTC yesterday afternoon when they showed up unexpectedly. Turns out the two were driving in from Indiana (ten-hour drive) to join Rick Seemiller (Dan Sr.'s brother) to run a three-day camp in Newport News, VA, March 21-23, Fri-Sun. (Here's info on the clinic.) The two hit for a time as they waited for rush hour to end. 

New York Table Tennis League

The deadline to join the NYTTL is March 31, so sign your team up now! From their invitational email: "Some people said it was not possible have a club league. And we did it. Some people said nobody will play without awards. And we played for many years only for trophies. Other people said it was not possible to have a national final. Well, you know."

USATT Teleconference Minutes

Here are the minutes for the USATT Feb. 17 teleconference. Here are minutes of all USATT board meetings.

ITTF Legends Tour to Debut in May

Want to see Waldner, Persson, Appelgren, Gatien, Saive, and Jiang Jialiang compete again? Here's the ITTF Legends Tour page!

Table Tennis on 60 Minutes

A feature on Westchester TTC member Bob Mankoff, the cartoon editor of The New Yorker, will be aired on Sunday, March 23, 2014. Morley Safer and a film crew from "60 Minutes" were at the club on February 19 to film Bob Mankoff and Will Shortz playing table tennis. Check your local listing for details.

Table Tennis on Rachel Ray Show

"Killerspin Kid," Estee Ackerman, the 2013 US Nationals Under 1800 Champion, will be on the Rachel Ray Show this Monday, March 24. The program airs on the ABC network.

Suge Knight Plays Ping Pong

Here's the story and video (12 min) from Table Tennis Nation of the "infamous" hip hop executive playing.

Attempt on World's Longest Rally

Here's the article. On March 23 (this Sunday), Peter and Dan Ives (father and son) will attempt to break the record for world's longest table tennis rally, currently held by Max Fergus and Luke Logan at 8 hours, 30 minutes, and 6 seconds. The Ives are doing so to raise money for Prostate Cancer UK Charity. The event will be live streamed if you want to watch two players pat the ball and forth for ten hours.

2014 PaddleYou Celebrity Ping Pong Madness

Who is the best celebrity table tennis player? The brackets are all set up; let the voting begin!

Chewbacca Plays, Yoda Umpires

Here's the picture - better let the Wookiee win! (Who is that supposed to be on the right?)

Great Ping Pong Balls of Fire

Watch Ethan Chua's fiery serve (26 sec)!

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January 24, 2014

USATT Election and the Petition Rule

Recently USATT had a special election to fill a vacant At-Large seat on the USATT Board of Directors. USATT has a Nominating and Governance Committee (NGC). One of their duties is to evaluate candidates for office and nominate them for the election ballot. If you wish to run for the USATT board, and they don't choose you, you have no recourse. Right away alarm bells should be going off in your head. (The only exception is if you run for an Athlete Director position, but only elite athletes are eligible for that.)

For the At Large positions, here is the pertinent bylaw (from Section 7.6. Election/Selection, b-3 in the USATT bylaws.): "The Nominating and Governance Committee shall evaluate all candidates for At Large Director and nominate at least two (2) individuals per seat to the USATT General Membership for election."

In the special election, I was told six people applied to run. The NGC had to select two or more for the ballot, and could in fact have put all six on the ballot. Now I agree that, given the flawed rules to start with, the NGC had to make a decision, and not all six candidates were greatly qualified. But they could have put more than two on the ballot, and let the voters decide. Instead, they kept four of the six off the ballot, and allowed voters to choose only among the final two.

The NGC chose USATT Hall of Famer Jim McQueen (who went on to win the election, and who I voted for) and Ross Brown. (Here's the announcement.) Nothing wrong with this, though I might have chosen different candidates. For example, Jim Butler applied, but was turned down. His main qualification is as an elite athlete (3-time U.S. Men's Champion, Olympian), but he also has a lot of energy and ideas. Mauricio Vergara, who runs the New York Table Tennis League, also applied and was turned down. (Leagues and junior programs are how table tennis all over the world has grown, as well as most other sports all over the U.S. - but USATT has never recognized these obvious facts, and so puts little value in this sort of thing, which is why membership has stagnated so long. I find this mind-boggling - if we can't figure out the easy stuff, how can we do the hard stuff?)

I could write long arguments for these candidates, but one other candidate was amazingly left off the ballot, the candidate that should have been the first one put on the ballot. Who was that? Rajul Sheth, who set up and runs the ICC Table Tennis Club in the Bay Area, applied, and even he was turned down! I find this mind-boggling. Let's look at some of his credentials, which he sent to the NGC (and which I cut & pasted):

  • Rajul established one of the biggest full time table tennis centers in the country-ICC Table Tennis Center with over 300 members and 150 kids in junior training program.
  • Qualifying athletes in national teams. The most relevant, qualifying 3 athletes Ariel Hsing, Timothy Wang & Lily Zhang at the Olympics, all three forged and prepared in the same club, no other worldwide clubs did the same.
  • Recognition by USATT as Centre of Excellence, and by ITTF as one of the 22 ITTF Hot Spot in the World for talent development.
  • Succeeded in raising funds to sponsor most of the top juniors in bay area for their training and equipment cost including current US National Men’s and Women’s singles champion Timothy Wang and Lily Zhang.
  • Employed the largest professional coaching staff (8 full time and 10 part times) in the country to take our juniors to next level.
  • Rajul won 2008 and 2009 USATT/USOC development Coach of the Year Award. ICC coaches Massimo Costantini and Zhou Xin also won 2011 & 2012 National coach of the year award by USATT/USOC.
  • Hosting three of the top ten USATT sanctioned tournament each year in terms of number of players.
  • Largest USATT singles league in the country with over 120 players compete each week.
  • Introduces our sport to at least 1000-1200 new kids each year in 14 weeks of summer and winter camps. To run these camps he invites at least 15 coaches from India, China and Europe each year.

So the guy is successful in starting up a large-scale full-time table tennis center; in developing elite athletes; in creating large-scale leagues; in creating large-scale junior programs; and in raising hordes of money (many hundreds of thousands of dollars to date). All of these are things that USATT badly needs to be able to do. And yet, voters were blocked from even having the opportunity of voting for him.

The rule used to be that anyone left off the ballot by the NGC could get on the ballot by petition of 150 signatures from USATT members. It used to be an annual rite at the U.S./North American Teams for candidates to get the signatures needed. (I did this when I was left off the ballot in 1991, and I subsequently got on by petition, and won in a landslide over the candidates chosen by the committee. Someday I'll blog about my experiences on the USATT board, though they are not much different than my experience in torturing myself by attending well over fifty USATT board meetings over the years.)

Some might argue that we don't want people like Rajul because of the conflict of interest. Putting aside that the conflict here is that he may favor his home club over others, and that I'm from a rival club (MDTTC) and don't consider it a major conflict, let's look at the logic.

We want USATT to succeed. For it to do so, we need people who are successful in table tennis - people who have set up and run clubs, leagues, junior programs, coaching programs, tournaments, done fundraising, etc. If we immediately exclude anyone who has been successful in these areas that grow the sport, what are we left with? Just the unsuccessful ones to run our sport? No, it is exactly the people who have set up and run such successful programs that we need on the USATT board.

To use a simple example, Jim McQueen has been successful in running table tennis programs in the Raleigh, NC region for decades, and that's a reason for putting him on the ballot. Does anyone consider that a conflict of interest? The irony is that a primary reason some might say Rajul has a conflict of interest is because he has been TOO successful! And so, because his club and organizing efforts are too successful, he has a conflict of interest, and can't run. So we have to find others who weren't as successful.  

One explanation for the above: there are only four members of the NGC, and amazingly, only two of them are table tennis people. So lacking table tennis experience, two of the four have no real way of really evaluating the candidates, and so we're down to two people choosing who will be on the ballot, and who will not. They are welcome to explain the reasoning for the decision to leave Rajul (or others) off the ballot, and assuming it's polite, it'll run without comment that day in my blog. (Here's the listing of USATT committees, including the NGC.)

There's a simple solution to this problem: CHANGE THE BYLAWS.  Bring back the 150 signature rule, i.e. let candidates who are not chosen by the NGC get on by petition. (Actually, 150 always seemed too many; 100 should suffice.) It didn't cause a problem before, and there's no reason to not have it again, unless the goal is to focus all power in a small group, and exclude voters from voting for certain candidates who have been hugely successful. Changing the USATT bylaws isn't that big a deal. Here are the simple rules:

ARTICLE XXII AMENDMENTS OF BYLAWS
Section 22.1. Amendments
Upon at least thirty (30) days advance notice of the proposed changes, the Bylaws may be amended, repealed, altered in whole or in part, and the new Bylaws may be adopted by a two-third (2/3) affirmative vote of the Full Board at any meeting duly

I'd love to see which USATT board member will step up and make the proposal - and which board members would actually oppose this. (There are nine board members, so it would take six to pass this, or four to block it at a meeting of all nine members.) Alas, USATT has a long history of status quo, and I suspect it will continue its status quo of status quo.

I'd also like to see the NGC committee, which is responsible for choosing which table tennis people can run for these table tennis positions, be made up of all table tennis people. That seems a no-brainer.

My personal "agenda" is simple - I want candidates who will pro-actively try to develop our sport, i.e. think of themselves as executives and legislators, not just as judges who sit in judgment of whatever comes before them. We need ones who will bring things before the board and make things happen. I didn't read that from the campaign statements of the two candidates chosen. I hope to be pleasantly surprised in this.

Perhaps I sound like someone who should have run for the board. Guess what? I strongly considered running, but when I heard Rajul was running for the one open spot, I decided not to run. If I'd known he would be excluded (the idea of which never entered my mind, though I knew the bylaws), I might have applied to run - but under the current rules, would I have been allowed to?

Serve Practice

Have you practiced your serves this week? No??? Okay . . . let me know when you are serious about your game again, and we'll talk! To the rest of you, good job.

Infinite Looper

Infinite Looper is a great resource for studying the game. It allows you to choose a table tennis video, and play back one segment over and over. For example, here's a 3-second segment showing Germany's Dimitrij Ovtcharov's backhand loop kill, which you can watch over and Over and OVER! (The word "looper" in the title has to do with being able to loop the same segment over and over, not a heavy topspin shot!) 

Kreanga vs. Angles

Here's video (58 sec) of an incredible rally between Greece's Kalinikos Kreanga and France's Enzo Angles.

Ping-Pong with Nunchucks

Here's a video (2:10) where "Twins battle in a Ping Pong match using Nunchucks and Martial Arts Skills." This is reminiscent of the infamous Bruce Lee Nunchuck video (2:37) that seemed to show Lee playing table tennis with nunchucks. (It was actually from a Nokia cell phone ad, and the actor was a Bruce Lee look-alike.)

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September 11, 2013

Practicing with Weaker Players

Reader Allen Lin asks me how best to practice with lower-rated players. This comes up regularly at clubs. In a practice match, a lower-rated player cannot consistently push a stronger player. However, just because a player is lower rated doesn't mean everything they do is weaker. There are two ways to get the most out of playing or practicing with weaker players.

First, do practice drills where you play into the weaker player's strengths. Perhaps he can't loop, but can he block? Or perhaps he can't block, but he can loop? Or maybe he has a very good push to practice against. Or good serves. Examine his game and find the best of it, and that's what you can practice against. It's not all one-way, however - he wants practice as well, so take turns. In fact, if you look long turn, you can turn that "weaker" player into a peer that'll give you even more practice and competition. Even if he doesn't reach your level he'll get used to your shots, and at least when he plays you he'll be a good practice partner.

Second, play practice matches where you intentionally play into the weaker player's strengths. If he can't handle your best serves, hold back on them. (Unless, of course, he objects.) Find ways to play what you need to practice against his strengths.  You may risk losing this way, but this is practice. When I play weaker players I often just serve short backspin over and over, and when they push it, I go for a forehand loop on the next shot over and over. It's great footwork and looping practice for me, especially as the opponent realizes what I'm doing and begins to push quicker, wider, lower, heavier, and with last-second changes of direction. He doesn't have to be very good to learn to do this, and it makes me play my very best to get to all these pushes with my forehand. Or if your partner can't block or attack well but has a nice counter-hitting game, serve lots of topspin and go at it with him.

ITTF Level 2 Course

Here's the ITTF article on the ITTF Level 2 I took last week and blogged about yesterday. It includes the following: "Special congratulations to Larry Hodges who scored a rare perfect score of 20." (The article is also linked from the USATT web page.) In the classroom picture I'm on the very far side. The names in the group picture are, L-R, Richard McAfee, Simplice Sourou, Jeff Smart, Larry Hodges, Lily Yip, Nelson Gore, Barry Dattel, Sydney Christophe, Doon Wong, Roger Yuen, and Mieczyslaw "Matt" Suchy.

USA Sandpaper Team

Want to go to the $100,000 World Championships of Ping Pong in London in January, 2014? Here's the info page. "Dr. Mike Babuin, World Championship of Ping Pong USA Qualifier Director, announced today the format for USA players to qualify for the 2014 World Championship of Ping Pong to be played in London, England in January 2014. There are spots for two USA players."

Effective Service Practice

Here's a short article on Serving Practice from Table Tennis Master.

ITTF Trick Shot Showdown

Think you can do trick shots? Then enter the Stiga ITTF Trick Shot Competition! I'm toying with entering something...

Ola from New Zealand

A Piotr "Peter" Ratka from New Zealand is trying to raise money for his 15-year-old daughter Ola Ratka's training. (She is a member of the New Zealand National Women's Squad.) To do so he's created and is selling the Kiwi Ball Picker for picking up balls, with all profits going to her training.

She's also entered in the AMP "Do Your Thing" People's Choice Scholarship. Piotr is asking for your vote - so if you like table tennis and want to support her, go to Ola's Page and vote!

Ma Long is Chinese Men's Singles Champion

He defeats Fan Zhendong in the final, 7,-9,7,-9,-7,9,6. Here's the article, which includes a link to video of the final.

Three Futuristic Ping-Pong Tables

Here they are, from UBERPONG.

Insane Backhand

Here's video (32 sec) of an insane backhand!

History of U.S. Table Tennis

USATT has been running weekly excerpts from Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis. Up right now is Chapter 15 of Volume 13, the most recent one, from 1984. (About 2/3 through there's a long excerpt from an article I wrote back then on serving short and returning short serves. Yep, I was writing coaching articles way back then!)

Manga Ping Pong Comic Books

Here they are!

Non-Table Tennis on the 12th Anniversary of 9-11:
TUMBLING TOWERS IN THE DARKEST NIGHT

The jets soared down from high and bright,
Tumbling towers in the darkest night,
3000 died in this crazy blight,
Who brought forth this unspeakable sight?

Towers toppled from a monster’s spite,
Bodies crushed with no chance of flight,
What was, to a madman, the highest height,
For the rest brought forth just rage and fright.

The world exploded in a bigger fight.
We bombed and killed in a show of might.
We avenged the act because we were right.
But when will humanity see the light?
-Larry Hodges

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June 6, 2013

ICC and Fundraising for Table Tennis

ICC (India Community Center) has set the modern bar for raising money for table tennis in the U.S., raising $100,000 at a fund-raiser on June 2 in Milpitas, CA. Here's the article! "This annual event, which showcases the program’s homegrown talent to raise funds to nurture tomorrow’s champions, was attended by over 200 diehard table tennis players and fans. ICC’s junior players riveted the audience with their technique and passion during the talent exhibition. There were also celebrity challenge matches featuring former California State Controller and ICC Trustee Steve Westly, ICC Co-Founder and Trustee Anil Godhwani and 2012 Men’s & Women’s National Champions and 2012 Olympians Timothy Wang and Lily Zhang."

I'm no expert on fund-raising, but I have dabbled in it. I did get a $7000 sponsor for the 1993 Junior Nationals, which I ran in Maryland- that's $11,264 in 2013 dollars. The sponsor was Janlibo, a Chinese soft drink that was trying to expand into the U.S. market, starting in Maryland. Ironically, they wanted to increase their sponsorship the following year, but without checking with me or Janlibo, the USATT board of directors decided to recombine the Junior Nationals with the Junior Olympics, as it had been in previous years. They assumed Janlibo would go along with it, with the Junior Olympics moving to a different city each year. Janlibo had no interest in that - they were focusing on the Maryland/DC region at the time - and so the Junior National went from $7000 ($11,264!) in 1993 to $0 prize money thereafter. Alas.

There have been some titanic battles on the board over USATT fundraising. There was a period in the early/late 2000's where two board members had diametrically opposed ideas on how to do it. (I attended nearly every board meeting back in those days, and was a witness to all this.) One believed that we should hire a full-time fundraiser. The other believed we should hire a big-time fund-raising company. They had extremely sharp debates. The board was unanimous that we needed to do one or the other, but since they couldn't decide which to go with, they ended up doing . . . neither. Alas.

The last two times USATT had major sponsors that I know of were the late 1980s and early 1990s. The first was with Brother Corporation. USA Olympic table tennis players Diana and Lisa Gee helped bring that sponsor in with a Comdex exhibition, with USATT Program Director Bob Tretheway negotiating and closing the deal. (There was also a Ground Round Restaurant sponsorship that Bob brought in. And thanks to Sean O'Neill for aiding my fuzzy memory on some of this.) In the early 1990s, Dan Seemiller (and others - not sure who) brought in Dow Chemical as a big sponsor for the 1991-1992 U.S. Opens in Midland, MI. I believe both of these deals were over $100,000, and considerably more in modern dollars. I don't think USATT has had anything comparable since. I know recently-elected USATT board chair Mike Babuin is very interested in the fund-raising aspect - hopefully he'll break through on that. As to table tennis clubs, in addition to ICC I'm told that Lily Yip has also done well in local sponsorship for her club (and especially her tournaments) in New Jersey. 

At some point we probably should do one at MDTTC, my club. But as I noted above, I'm not an expert on fundraising. Alas.

Serve Practice

Here's my periodic note on this - have you practice your serves recently? Just get a bunch of balls, and practice! It's one of the most under-practiced aspect of the game, with more return on investment than just about any other aspect. How many times have you lost a match "because of his serves"? Well, become that guy "with the serves"! Don't have good serves; have great ones!!! You don't need to be a superstar player for this. Here's my article "Practicing Serves the Productive Way." In the Articles section here I have an even 20 articles on serving. But don't just read about it - study the top players, perhaps get a coach, and practice!

Kenta Matsudaira - Japan's Next Number One?

Here's the article from Table Tennis Master.

2013 National Junior Disability Championships

Here's their web page. They are July 6-13, 2013, in Rochester, MN. Sports include: Swimming, Track & Field, Table Tennis, Powerlifting, Archery & Pentathlon.

Incredible Pingpong Skills

Here's a trick-shot video that's pretty good (2:39). Anyone know who the player is? (I'm bad with faces, but it's not Jun Mizutani of Japan, as one commenter asked - he's a lefty.) The comments are almost as funny as the video.  

Waiting to Play

Here's what happens when there's a long line to play at your club. (If you can't see the Facebook picture, try this.)

Non-Table Tennis - Tenant Termination and Credit Ratings

On June 3 I had that short blog where I explained the problem I was having with my tenant downstairs. Last night we had it out. He has only paid $400 of the $1080 owed, and insists he explained in a "detailed note" two months ago why he hasn't been able to pay the rest. I don't think he thought I'd kept the note. As I showed him, the note actually says 1) he was having trouble getting an advance on money owed and so was having trouble paying the $500 he still owed on that month's rent, and 2) that while he had lost his full-time job, he wrote "My part-time job will now be full time." We argued for a long time over this - he claimed those words do not imply his part-time job ever became full-time, and kept quoting himself as saying, "My part-time job might be full time." I had to keep referring to where he wrote "now," but then he claimed that didn't change the meaning of the note, which of course is completely wrong. "My part-time job will now be full time" "My part time job might be full time."

He said the part-time job never became full-time, though he did get another full-time job shortly thereafter. As I pointed out, he not only never told me any of this, he told me last month (when the rent was also late) that he had extra income now and wouldn't be late on the rent again. Then I pointed out that none of this explains why he hadn't paid this month's rent (due May 28), or more importantly, why he had refused, despite multiple requests, to say when or if he'd pay. He insisted that the part where he wrote he hadn't been able to get the advance two months ago explained that. Again, it didn't make sense - that part of note explained why he hadn't been able to get an advance to pay the rest of the rent two months ago, but says nothing about this month's rent. He kept insisting this like it had just happened, when it was two months ago, and (as he admitted) he'd long ago received the money owed from back then. If this doesn’t make sense to you, it doesn't. I kept wondering if he was drunk or something since his arguments made no sense, but I don't think so.

I finally had to do something I've never done - I gave him one month's notice. I should have done this long ago as we've been having these spats over the rent over and over, with him rarely paying on time and refusing to ever let me know when or if it would be paid when it was late, and acting insulted when I asked. Ultimately he had to go because of his struggles to pay and his credit rating (which predicted he'd eventually burn me), but the reason I did it now was because of his insistence that it wasn't his responsibility to let me know when or if he'd be able to pay rent, and because of his incredible temper - he was screaming at me about how I was reading his note wrong, how I wasn't being fair, etc.

A year ago someone checked his credit rating for me, and it turned out to be incredibly low, something like the bottom 1%. (I forget the actual number.) Not checking his credit rating (and judiciary record for domestic violence and a few other things) before renting to him was a huge mistake that'll never happen again. (He was from the same high school I went to, three years ahead, though we'd never met.) I checked my credit rating yesterday - mine is 822 (from Equifax). I've never missed a payment, whether on my house, car, credit card, etc.

Anybody looking for a room or two floors to rent in Germantown, Maryland, about ten minutes from MDTTC? If so, contact me.

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September 19, 2012

Serve Practice - It Pays Off!

Last week I played a practice match with a local top player. He had trouble with my side-top forehand pendulum and reverse pendulum serves to his forehand, which kept going slightly long, but he kept looping them off. Near the end he finally adjusted and started looping them in. I had to mostly switch to other serves to win - barely.

So this weekend I practiced serves for 15 minutes. The main adjustment for both versions (pendulum and reverse pendulum) was to focus on contacting the ball a bit more to the side, and making sure contact was very low to the table. Then I played the top player again, and this time I was able to keep them short when I wanted. I varied short and slightly long (i.e. "half-long" or "tweeny" serves where second bounce would be barely off the end), and he never adjusted, and I won again, using these serves right to the end. (I also threw in no-spin and backspin serves, but the side-top serves were the mainstay here.)

Willy Mays and Other Table Tennis Dreams

This was a strange one. I dreamed I was an elderly Willy Mays at the plate in a baseball game. (Not sure why it was Willy Mays - I'm an Orioles fan! See segment at end.) They walked me on four pitches, including a brush-back pitch that I had to dive to avoid. So next time up I brought a ping-pong paddle, and began spraying topspin shots over the infielder's heads for hits! (The ball seemed to be a baseball-sized ping-pong ball.) No idea why they kept pitching to me and why I didn't run to first base; I was having a blast smacking shots just over the infielder's reach, and letting the topspin pull the ball down before outfielders could get to it!

Then I suddenly dropped one short - a bunt! I took off for first. The throw was wild, and I ran for second. Right about here is when I noticed that all the infielders were waving ping-pong paddles at me. I continued around the bases, rounding second, third, and slid into home as the catcher slapped a ping-pong paddle down on my foot - but he didn't have the ball, so I was safe. I threw the paddle up in the air, and a bird flew by and grabbed it, and flew off with my paddle in its beak. I yelled at it, and that's when I woke up.

Here are four other blogs where I've described weird table tennis dreams:

  • U.S. Open Table Tennis Dream - involving Tong Tong Gong, Arnold Schwarzenegger, murderous black-clad men with black umbrellas, and playing with an illegal book as a racket.
  • U.S. Olympic Trials Dream - where I'm coaching both sides in a Dan Seemiller-Han Xiao match, involving Citizens United, Diana Gee McGonnell, Randy Seemiller, and lots of people demanding I coach them.
  • Table Tennis Foot Dream - where I'm playing table tennis on a street in the middle of a battle, with bullets and explosions all around, and my foot gets shot off, and I keep trying to jam it back on while still playing.
  • Dan Seemiller Ping-Pong Waiter Dream - where I'm trying to convince our local juniors of the riches they can make at table tennis, then Dan Seemiller shows up as the waiter, and I argue how much money he makes as a waiter because of his table tennis skills. 

Three Days Till the MDTTC September Open!

Have you entered yet? Admit it; don't you dream about how you one day show up at a tournament and beat the best players and win the Open? Well, this could be the one! But if you don't compete, by default you get beat! (Does that make sense? How about, "If you don't show, you can't beat a foe"? Or "If you don't compete, it won't be sweet"?)

Erica Wu and Other White House photos

The link to the Erica Wu picture yesterday with President Obama was inadvertently linked to the picture of Lily Zhang with Obama. Here is the correct picture! And here's a picture of the USA Olympic Table Tennis Team with Malia Obama, and here's Women's Coach Doru Gheorghe with Michelle Obama. (The pictures were taken at the Olympic reception held at the White House on Sept. 14.)

Zhang Jike: Wealthy Bachelor

And here's the article about it!

No-Armed Man Plays Table Tennis

This 24-second video is unbelievable - he holds the paddle in his mouth, and serves by tossing the ball up with his bare foot!

Traffic Light Pong in Germany!

Here's the video (1:22) - yes, you can now play Pong with strangers while waiting for the light to turn green!

Exhibition Trick Serves

Here's a short video from PingSkills (1:19) demonstrating exhibition trick serves. I do these same trick serves when I do exhibitions - they are great fun.

Behind the Back Table Tennis

Try rallying like this - and you have to wear all red!

Non-Table Tennis - Orioles Baseball

I'm an Orioles fan, the only sports team I follow. This year they are in a pennant race, with an 84-64 record and tied for first in the American League East with the Yankees, with 14 games left to play. They also hold a three-game lead over the Los Angeles Angels in the Wild Card Race, so they have two ways to make the playoffs. (They just won an incredible 18-inning game last night - down 0-2 in the ninth, they scored two, and finally scored two more in the 18th inning to win! It's their near-record 14th consecutive extra-inning win this season - after losing the first two times, they are now 14-2 in extra innings.)

I'm sort of infamous as Larrytt on the Orioles Hangout forum for my Top Ten Lists (and other humorous listings or stories). When I do one they really like, the Orioles Hangout staff publish it as a feature on their front page. This morning they published my latest, "Top Twelve Things Happening the Last Time the Orioles Had a Winning Season." (The Orioles just had 14 straight losing seasons.) Here are the seven they have published. Note that some might not make sense if you aren't familiar with Orioles baseball. (My personal favorite is the story "The Wonderful World of Os," though many will miss the inside jokes.)

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January 9, 2012

Tip of the Week

Proper Care of Your Racket.

Serve practice

A few days ago a practiced my serves for 15 minutes, something I hadn't done in a few months. (Remember, I'm 99% coach, 1% player these days.) Last night at the club everyone had absolute fits with them. One player even asked me when I'd developed the new serves - and all I was doing was using my normal serves, but with a bit more spin, lower to the net, and with a quicker, and so more deceptive motion. This has actually happened many times in the past. Serves are one of the most under-practiced techniques in table tennis. I've never understood why more players don't understand this - but it might be because you have to develop your serves to a certain level before the huge advantage from service practice starts to really pay off. Suffice to say that players who usually challenge me struggled to get five points against me last night.

Baltimore Sun and other press coverage

How do you get press coverage for table tennis? By sending out press releases. I've sent out three since the U.S. Nationals in late December. Yesterday the Baltimore Sun sent a reporter out to do a feature story on Tong Tong Gong, who made the U.S. National Cadet Team for the second straight year. He interviewed most of "Team Tong Tong" - me (tactical coach), Cheng Yinghua (who along with Jack Huang and Jeffrey Zeng Xu, are his main drilling coaches), his dad (manager), and we also talked about Tong Tong's physical trainer (he meets with him once week, does other physical training on his own as assigned). The only downside - the players I was coaching during this time (hi John, Kevin) had their sessions interrupted several times as I spoke with the reporter. (I now owe them big time, or as I told them, time and a half.)

Later this week a reporter from the Howard Country Time is also sending a reporter out to do a story on Tong Tong. As I told the Sun reporter, I will not rest until I see a major newspaper headline that says, "The Tong Tong Gong of Ping-Pong." (The Sun already did a short article on the results from the Nationals, featuring Maryland players, including the all-Maryland men's final between Peter Li and Han Xiao.)

Dan Seemiller Ping-Pong Waiter Dream

I had the weirdest dream last night. I was at a restaurant with some of our top junior players. They were asking about how much money they could make at table tennis, and in the dream I was trying to convince them of all the wonderful riches they'd make if they became champions. Then five-time U.S. Men's Singles Champion Dan Seemiller came over as our waiter! Now dreams can be weird, and I spent the rest of the meal trying to convince the kids of how much money Dan made as a waiter because of his table tennis skills. (Sorry, Dan! Just for the record, Dan's a professional coach in South Bend, Indiana, and other than his wife and kids, I don't think he waits on anyone.)

Pongcast TV Episode 07 - 2011 Year in Review Part 2

Here is part 2 (23:18), which reviews the world of table tennis for the second half of 2011. "A certain Chinese player goes on a stunning winning streak, just before the end of the year a certain European player makes a comeback, and my pick for the best finals of the year!" Part 1 (22:47) went up last Thursday, covering the first half of 2011.

Justin Bieber to Unveil New Ping-Pong Playing Robot at CES

I've blogged about Topio, the ping-pong playing robot that looks like the Terminator. Now Justin Bieber will introduce us to his new brother, Tosy! (And here are Justin Bieber's ping-pong playing credentials.)

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December 2, 2011

Great "multiball" serve, receive, attack drill.

Here's a great "multiball" drill, where neither player actually feeds multiball. Start with a box of balls near the server's side of the table. The server (using his best serves) only serves and attacks one ball, then lets the next ball go by as he grabs the next ball. Receiver returns serve and plays one shot only. Then they repeat, in rapid-fire fashion. The goal of the server is to set up a strong third-ball attack. The goal of receiver is to stop server's attack. Take turns on the drill, with each doing perhaps 5-10 minutes.

You can do variations of this, where the server uses a specific serve over and over, the receiver a specific receive, etc. I posted variations of this drill in the past. The drill is especially valuable for learning to receive effectively. Most rallies at the intermediate and advanced levels don't go much beyond these four shots, so this drill lets you rapidly practice the most important shots of the game - the first two shots by each player.

Celebrities Playing Table Tennis

I updated the Celebrities Playing Table Tennis page yesterday with 14 new photos of six celebrities. New celebrities are basketball players Chris Mullin and Carmelo Anthony, and German soccer player Gunther Netzer (or as they more correctly call it, football). There are also six new pictures of basketball star Yao Ming, and new pictures of actresses Fay Wray and Joan Davis. There are now 1299 pictures of 751 celebrities.

USA Nationals in Ten Days

I leave for the USA Nationals in ten days, on Monday, Dec. 12; events start the next day. I'll be mostly coaching at the Nationals, as well as playing hardbat. Regarding my coaching, it would be very helpful for me if any readers who are not students of mine would refrain from practicing their serves, receives, and other table tennis techniques until after the Nationals. I mean, practice is so passé; if you know the game, just show up and play, right? And practice is such work. So just have fun, don't practice, and me and my students will have lots of fun at the Nationals. Seriously, do not practice your serves - good serves are such a pain to coach against. I don't want to have to remind you again. Thank you for your attention.

Table Tennis Tactics: A Thinker's Guide

Here is the (current) opening to the chapter on Receiving Tactics (5300 words):

"What is your goal when you receive? That is the primary question you must ask yourself when considering receive tactics. This is no different than thinking about serve tactics, except when you serve, you get to spend time between points deciding which serve to use.

"Receive is the most under-practiced aspect of the game, with serves a close second. Every rally starts with a serve and a receive, and yet players rarely take the time to practice and develop these techniques. Receive is probably the most difficult part of the game to master, and it's doubly hard when players only practice it in actual games. Instead, find a practice partner and take turns practicing your serve and receive.

"Most players are either overly aggressive or too passive when they receive. It's important to find the middle range. However, it is even more important to understand that it is consistency, placement, and variation that are most important."

German soccer players playing table tennis

Here's a video of German soccer players playing table tennis, including Emmanuel Frimpong - yes, "frompong." (1:38). I'll add to Celebrities Playing Table Tennis page next month. 

A History of Table Tennis

All told in 4:51 in this hilarious video by Pierre Knows, from why the name of the game changed from Whiff Whaff to Ping Pong to Table Tennis and why the Chinese still call it Ping Pang. (I think I linked to this video once a long time ago, but I searched my archives and couldn't find it - so if I did, enjoy it again!)

Rallying with a grenade

You read that right - here's a video of two top women rallying with a live grenade (3:34), in slo-mo, in front of a high-class, wine-sipping audience. Warning - has a gory finish.

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November 1, 2011

Celebrities Playing Table Tennis

I've updated the Celebrities Playing Table Tennis page, with 11 new celebrities and 14 new pictures, bringing the totals up to 1285 pictures of 1285 celebrities. (Some pictures have multiple celebrities, so numbers below may appear not to add up.) New this month (and "new" means I already had pictures of that celebrity, but have put up new ones):

  • Eva Braun, Adolf Hitler's wife
  • Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys quarterback
  • Tim Tebow, Denver Broncos quarterback
  • Tiger Woods, golfer (new picture)
  • Payne Stewart, golfer
  • Sebastian Coe, English Olympic 1500 meter Olympic gold medalist
  • Andy Murray, tennis player (2 new pictures)
  • Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, tennis player (2 new pictures)
  • Boris Becker, tennis player
  • Bill Tilden, tennis player (2 new pictures)
  • Francis Hunter, tennis player (3 pictures)
  • Justin Gimelstob, tennis player
  • Wladimir Klitschko, Ukrainian heavyweight boxer (new picture)
  • Magnus Carlsen, chess player (2 pictures)
  • Boris Johnson, mayor of London (new picture)
  • Beatrice Lillie, actress
  • Junior Durkin, actor
  • Howard Jacobson, author (new picture)

Serve practice

I think the best way to do it, and way I do it (including a lot recently) is to practice one serve motion and one spin, depth, and placement variation at a time. After you've done a bunch of that one, do another variation with that motion. When you've practiced all the spin, depth, and placement variations for that motion, then practice doing them randomly. If you have trouble controlling one of them, go back and practice it until you have control of it, then go back to serving them randomly. When all this is done, move to the next service motion, and repeat. At the very end, randomly practice all the variations with all the motions.

A few important points. First, don't get in the habit of rapid-fire serving. Visualize each serve in your head before you do it, and make sure your execution matches what you visualize, including where it bounces on your side of the table, how it breaks, etc. Second, you should also practice subtle differences in the serves. For example, vary your follow-through on each serve to throw opponents off. On a forehand pendulum serve, sometimes follow through down, sometimes sideways, sometimes up. If you don't practice it, you won't be able to do it effectively in a match. Third, don't forget fast & deep serves. They take a disproportionate amount of time to develop the timing, and so put in extra practice with them.

Crazy inside-out sidespin by Wang Liqin

It's only nine seconds long, but if you want to learn how to loop inside-out with crazy inside-out sidespin, this is the video to watch. Shown at full speed and in slow motion, from two angles.

Pongcast Videos

  • 2011 European Championships (26:53), with play-by-play commentary, and time between points removed.
  • 2011 Swedish Open (30:30), starts off with "Classic Moments in Table Tennis History," then goes to the Swedish Open, with play-by-play commentary, and time between points removed.

Iran pulls out of "Ping-Pong Diplomacy"

North and South Korea, and India and Pakistan are all competing in Monaco in this modern version of Ping-Pong Diplomacy run by the Monaco-based Peace and Sport, but Iran has pulled out, with no reason given. Other teams competing are USA, China, Japan, Russia, France, and Qatar. Here's the ESPN article.

Big Ping-Pong

When I say Big Ping-Pong, I mean BIG PING-PONG. Watch this video (0:43), and see if you agree.

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