Ma Long

November 22, 2013

What I Did Yesterday

Normally I coach from 6-8PM on Thursdays, but the ten-week 6-7PM class I teach ended last week and doesn't restart until January, and my 7-8PM person was out of town. So what did I do on my "day off"?

  • I mostly finalized the USATT Hall of Fame Banquet Program Booklet, which I sent to the HoF Committee to proof. It'll go online at the USATT web page at some point, as well as the printed version for those at the banquet. This year's inductees are Todd Sweeris and Terese Terranova, with Yvonne Kronlage getting the Lifetime Achievement Award.
  • I updated my book Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers. I'd found a few typos, as had Jeff Smart, and Mark Dekeyser found a zillion or so, so I inputted all the corrections to both the print and kindle versions and uploaded both. The new versions are online now. Other than the typos (and adding a few words in the Choppers chapter to emphasize even more the importance of attacking the middle) there were no other changes. (If you have a copy of the book, look at the title page and a couple lines under my name, just after the copyright 2013 notice, it has a "v" followed by a date. That's the version number. So the new version is v11-21-13. If you don't have a copy of the book . . . buy one!!!
  • I prepared for the testing aspect for our Junior Progress Reports in our Beginning/Intermediate Junior Classes, which I teach. This weekend we'll be testing the kids on various TT skills, from ball-bouncing and rules questions (for the younger kids) to looping and counter-looping for the older and more advanced ones. This is the first time we've done this.
  • I set up the new computer I got from John Olsen and copied over all my files. Today I'm going to make the big transition from my current one to that one.
  • I responded to about a dozen emails asking table tennis questions, mostly coaching related.
  • I had a battle with, where they sell Dragon Speaking Naturally software. I decided to give it a try and ordered it last Friday morning. I paid extra to have it one-day UPS expressed, but it still hadn't arrived six days later. So I gave them a call. They explained that even though I'd paid extra for express shipping that didn't mean they'd ship it any sooner - just that it would ship faster once they got around to actually shipping it. They also admitted it still hadn't been shipped yet. They said it should go out "soon," and promised to send me a tracking number "within three business days." I wonder if Dragon Speaking Naturally software could translate what my thoughts were at this point?
  • I sent out 29 review copies of my novel Sorcerers in Space to possible reviewers. 15 were hard copies mailed at the post office, 14 were PDFs emailed.
  • The cover of Sorcerers in Space features a sorcerer's apprentice, but his lips are rather bright red and some thought it looked like he was wearing lipstick. So yesterday I opened the cover in Photoshop and slightly desaturated and lightened the lips, and sent the new version to the publisher. The new version should be up soon.
  • Got news that I'm now one of the 15 novels and 14 authors featured on the Science Fiction Writers of America website. (See box on lower right.) It's a rotating thing so you might have to hit reload a few times before I come up, both with my picture as an author on top, and the cover of "Sorcerers in Space" on the bottom. Or just click on the "More Member Authors" or "More Titles by Members" links and I come up with the others.
  • Since I had no coaching last night, I watched "Big Bang Theory" on TV, and then saw the new Hunger Games movie.
  • Oh, and I wrote my morning blog!

USATT Tips of the Day

USATT has been putting up as "Tips of the Day" the 171 Tips of the Week I wrote for them from 1999-2003 as "Dr. Ping-Pong." Here are the Tips they put up this past week. (Click on link for complete tip.) There are actually ten this time - I think the ones from Nov. 12-14 weren't up yet last Friday (Nov. 15) when I last put these up.

Nov 21, 2013 Tip of the Day - Improving a Level
What does it mean to move up a level in table tennis? I’d define two players to be on different levels if it would be a major upset if one defeated the other.
Nov 20, 2013 Tip of the Day - The Backhand Sidespin Push
You’re out of position, and your about to do a backhand chop to stay in the point.
Nov 19, 2013 Tip of the Day - The No-Spin Backhand Chop
You’re out of position, and your about to do a backhand chop to stay in the point.
Nov 18, 2013 Tip of the Day - The Quick Backhand Topspin Receive
One of the more effective ways to receive backspin serves to the backhand is with a right-off-the-bounce backhand topspin flip.

Nov 17, 2013 Tip of the Day - Playing With Everyday Objects
What could be more impressive than beating your non-table tennis friends and relatives very badly in table tennis? Beating them with ordinary household objects?

Nov 16, 2013 Tip of the Day - The Pre-Match Calm-Down
To play table tennis effectively, you need to have a calm, clear mind. How often have you actually played a tournament where you entered every match with a calm, clear mind?

Nov 15, 2013 Tip of the Day - Play the Middle Against Tall Players; Wide Angles Against Short Players
A tall player’s forehand and backhand shots are farther apart than a short player’s. So he is weaker in the middle area, where he has to decide whether to hit a forehand or backhand.

Nov 14, 2013 Tip of the Day - Play Against Conventional Wisdom
Conventional wisdom is usually correct that’s why it’s conventional. The problem is that if everyone follows conventional wisdom, opponents get used to it, and so become strong against what should give them trouble.

Nov 13, 2013 Tip of the Day - Playing Choppers
There is nothing more infuriating than losing to a patient chopper who lets you beat yourself with your own errors.
Nov 12, 2013 Tip of the Day - How to Play Against Hardbat
Let’s start out by realizing that if your opponent is using hardbat, and you are using sponge, you have an advantage. If it weren’t so, most players would be using hardbat!  

Positioning to Return a Smash

Here's the video from PingSkills (2:52).

22 Awesome Table Tennis Stamps

Here they are!

World Cadet Challenge

Here's a video (3:40) from the ITTF on " Table Tennis Future Stars - World Cadet Challenge | Faster Higher Stronger."

Top Ten Points

Here's a Top Ten Points video (6:11) from last year that I don't think I posted.

Outdoor Table Tennis

Here's a video documentary "Ralliers" (2:10) about outdoor table tennis in London.

Ma Long and Ball Collision

Here's a video (18 sec) showing Ma Long about to get smacked by a ball. Did it hit him in the face or did he manage to block it in time?

Ping-Pong Topiary Sculpture

Here it is, from China (of course)!

Send us your own coaching news!

September 30, 2013

Tip of the Week

Mid-Match Technique Adjustments.

Arm problems

Old, tight muscles strike again. Alas.

On Friday night I was a practice partner in our Elite Training Session. I played a practice match with a 2000 chopper. Going into the match I felt a bit stiff, but what else is new? But I was even stiffer than usual. I lost the first game. Bearing down, I won the next three games pretty easily. Many of the points I'd serve no-spin or light-spin to his long pips, or roll his serves back soft to the pips, and in both cases I'd usually get no-spin or light backspin returns, and then I'd win the point with an explosive, off-the-bounce loop to the middle or extreme angles. The tactic worked, but it apparently took a toll on my arm, which afterwards felt extra tight. I played one more match, where I struggled a bit as the arm felt like it had a broken arm cast on it. Then I stopped for the night.

On Saturday I spent the morning wearing the arm down feeding multiball as I ran 2.5 hours of junior programs. That afternoon I had a two-hour private coaching session - and literally minutes into the session I was grabbing my arm. I had to stop playing 15 minutes into the session, and we switched to multiball. However, at this point the arm was so inflamed I had to stop feeding multiball after maybe 15 more minutes. We spent the next hour working on serves, and then I got Raghu Nadmichettu to do the last 30 minutes. I went home and iced it several times that night.

On Sunday I had four hours of private coaching scheduled, but I had to cancel them. I did a 90-minute junior session, feeding multiball, and it probably aggravated the arm a little bit. I did more icing.

Today (Monday) is my day off. I have two hours scheduled tomorrow, but I'm probably going to get Raghu or someone to substitute. I'm wondering if I'll be able to coach on Wednesday, when I have a full night of private coaching scheduled. Thursday I have another junior session (mostly multiball, which I should be able to handle by then), and fortunately my private session scheduled after that just got cancelled - the player can't make it. I'll probably opt out of the Friday elite session as well, and hopefully will be ready for the long hours of coaching I do on weekends.

I believe the injury is a strain to the Brachioradialis muscle. (Here's a diagram.) This is in the lower arm (between elbow and wrist), just below the elbow. If you touch your hand to your shoulder, it's the muscle in the lower arm that touches the bicep in the upper arm.

I had this same arm problem during much of the early 1980s, and on and off since then. It's mostly been okay in recent years, but I've had a few reoccurrences of it, including one just a few months ago. Fortunately I've learned to stop aggravating it when it begins to hurt, something I didn't do well in the 1980s, leading literally to years of lost play as I regularly rested the arm and then tried to come back too soon. However, it's not nearly as bad as it was in the 1980s, and I should be okay in a few days.

On Saturday night I was planning to borrow a video camera and create my entries to the ITTF Trick Shot Competition. I have several ideas, though I have to try them out first. However, I had to cancel those plans, and won't be able to do this until the arm gets better. Adam Hugh and the rest of the entries - you have a temporary reprieve!

Writing Plans

Sometime this week I plan to start work on my next major writing project - but I haven't yet decided between doing Table Tennis Fundamentals (essentially a rewrite and update of my previous book Table Tennis: Steps to Success) or the sequel to my upcoming humorous fantasy novel "The Giant Face in the Sky" (coming Nov. 15). It's not easy having two writing careers while also trying to coach full time!

Double Bounce Serve

Here's an article from Table Tennis Master on why this is the "best" serve. (I'm not sure about #3.)

Learn and Improve - Table Tennis with Gary Fraiman

Here's Gary's new coaching page - pretty nice looking! He used to coach in Maryland, but now he's down in Clearwater, FL. Here's his matching Facebook page.

Three Reasons Ma Long is the Worlds Most Overrated Player

Here's the article from Table Tennis Master.

Waldner on China Stamp

Here's the article and picture.

Troy Polamalu Plays Pong

Here's a video (24 sec) showing footage of Pittsburgh Steelers rookie Troy "Mane Man" Polamalu playing table tennis apparently for a commercial for Head and Shoulders. The first person who thinks the rallies are real, may your head explode and your ping-pong paddle break. (The rallies look like the ones from Forrest Gump!)

Quadruples Table Tennis

Here's a different version of table tennis, with up to four players and four "mini-tables," as shown by Table Tennis Nation a while back.

Send us your own coaching news!

September 12, 2013

I'm fighting a cold, so no blog today. I think I started coming down with it yesterday, but managed to do the blog and some coaching. But it's a bit worse this morning, so I'm going back to bed, hoping to be in shape to coach tonight (two hours starting 6PM). Meanwhile, here are two matches to watch: Ma Long versus Wang Hao (6:24, with time between points removed) at the 2013 Chinese Nationals (I think Men's Singles QF - can anyone verify?), and here are two of the early great Swedes Kjell "The Hammer" Johansson versus Hans Alser (44:23) in 1970. (Johansson would make the final of Men's Singles at the Worlds in 1973.) Boy has the game changed! Part of this is equipment - try playing modern world-class shots with a sheet of cheap beginner's sponge, which is essentially what they played with back then.

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:

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

Send us your own coaching news!

August 19, 2013

Tip of the Week

Height of Service Toss.

How to Promote Major Tournaments

Over the years there have been numerous discussions on how to promote the U.S. Open and Nationals so as to bring in more players, more spectators, more press, and make it a better experience for all. There are many good ideas out there, and I read some excellent ones in a threat at over the last few days.

But all of these excellent posters are missing the point - ideas don't get the job done. If you want to improve on these things, don't start by pushing ideas, no matter how good they are. Start by pushing to have someone officially in charge of implementing improvements. For example, if you think we need to present matches at the Open and National better, perhaps with more scorekeepers or better communication, don't press for more scorekeepers or better communication; press for someone to be in charge of presentation. Then there is an official person in charge of this, and he can officially push for these things, and they are far more likely to happen.

Want to increase the number of entries at the Open or Nationals? Have someone officially in charge of increasing entries. Want to have more spectators? Have someone officially in charge of bringing in spectators. Want more press coverage? Have someone officially in charge of media coverage.

You won't find success this way every time since not everyone officially in charge of something will do the job well. If they don't, then thank them for their services and put someone else in charge.

How do you find these people with a limited budget? You ask for volunteers. This is one of the most untapped areas for USATT. For example, I'm a member of Science Fiction Writers of America. They have about 1500 members, less than 1/5 the USATT membership. And yet they have an elaborate web page, run huge conventions (far larger than anything in table tennis - we're talking 5000 people in the biggest ones), have a fancy magazine, and do all sorts of membership services, far more than USATT - and they have exactly one part-time employee. It's essentially all volunteer run. (Why do they only have 1500 members? Because they have very exclusive and difficult membership requirements - to join, you have to sell a SF or fantasy novel to a select group of "professional" publishers - i.e. the highest-paying ones - or sell three short stories to a select group of "professional" magazines - i.e. the highest-paying ones.)

Coaching and Playing Idiosyncrasies

Every player and coach has his major idiosyncrasies. What are yours? Here are some of mine.

  1. I rarely have a coaching session where I don't blow the ball back at least one time. (I do this less with long-established players - it gets old after a while - but new students beware!)
  2. I rarely have a coaching session where I don't throw up at least one backspin lob that comes back to my side of the table.
  3. I entertain the kids by blowing a ball in the air so it floats in the air over my head and to the side. (By using spin I can make it balance sideways.)
  4. When telling a student how to hit the ball, I regularly say "bang" at the point where they contact the ball.
  5. With beginners I often hum in rhythm to the ball going back and forth. It helps their timing.
  6. I end many group sessions with the kids trying to smack a bottle as I feed multiball. If they hit it, I have to drink what's in the bottle - and it's never just Gatorade or water; it's always worm juice, beetle juice, dog saliva, etc.
  7. I end most multiball segments with a high ball for players to smash.
  8. As a player, when I'm serving I always start by rolling up my right sleeve slightly with my left arm, then swing my right arm underneath me one time (to loosen it up), then I come to a stop for a moment as I visualize my serve, and then I serve.

Learning the Side-Swipe Serve Return

Here's a video (10:24) of Chen Weixing showing his infamous side-swipe serve return with long pips.

New USATT Feature - Video of the Day

USATT's webpage has a new feature: Video of the Day. Today's Video is Getting Down to Basics (Tips from U.S. Olympic Coach Doru Gheorghe). Yesterday's was Top 10 Hand Switch Shots.

Video Review of Table Tennis: Steps to Success

Here's a video review (49 sec) of one my first book, Table Tennis: Steps to Success. The book first came out in 1993, with a new version in 2006. This video came on July 2, 2012, but this is the first time I'd heard of it. I'm working on a new version, which hopefully will be out by early next year. For now, if you are looking for a table tennis book, try Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers!

Great Lobbing Point

Here's a video (25 sec) of Xu Xin and Ma Long lobbing in doubles at the Harmony China Open. Did Ma Long make that sudden counter-smash at the end? I can't tell.

The Perfect Swimming Pool

Here it is.

Send us your own coaching news!

March 27, 2013

Spring Break Camp

We had 47 players in camp yesterday, all at the same time. How did we accommodate them all with 18 tables? In the morning session, we had 7 coaches feeding multiball, leaving 11 free tables. With 22 players on those 11 tables, that meant we had 25 players at any given time on the 7 multiball tables, rotating around between doing multiball, picking up balls, or practicing on the free tables. In the afternoon session the advanced players did more live play (two to a table), while younger beginners were grouped on a few tables for multiball and various games - such as hitting a bottle supposedly filled with my dog's saliva, where I had to drink it if they hit it. (I'm working with the beginners mostly this camp.)

The coaches are myself, Cheng Yinghua, Jack Huang, Wang Qing Liang ("Leon"), Chen Bo Wen ("Bowen"); Chen Jie ("James"); and Raghu Nadmichettu. Jack Huang used to be Huang Tong Sheng ("Jack"), but he's been Jack so long we no longer use his Chinese name.

While most of the players are local from Maryland or Virginia (since Spring Break Camp coincides with spring break in local schools), we have a bunch from out of town. There's a nine-year-old from Japan who's about 1900; four members of the University of Missouri team; and several from New Jersey and New York.

One of the beginners who was having so much trouble yesterday did a bit better today. However, he's still got a ways to go - every now and then he'll do a series of proper strokes, and then he'll fall back into bad habits. The other also showed some signs of learning, but doesn't seem too motivated to learn. Surprisingly, the latter one picked up serving pretty well, while the first one is struggling with that.

I gave lectures on the backhand, on serving, and on doubles tactics. However, since most of the players are local juniors, I kept the lectures short. I had a problem with a few overly excited kids who kept talking among themselves during the doubles lecture, which took place right after we got off break.

I got to talk some with the University of Missouri team for a bit. Their best player is about 2100, the other three somewhere in the 1700-1800 range or so. One (I think the 2100 player) was having trouble covering the table after stepping around his backhand to do a forehand penhold loop. Many players have this trouble because they don't position themselves properly so that they'll follow through in a balanced position, which is what allows a player to recover quickly. Players often follow through with their weight going off to the side, which means they waste precious time recovering. Instead, players should position themselves so their weight is moving more toward the table as they loop, putting themselves right back into position to cover even a block to the wide forehand. I can still do this at age 53 (well, against most blocks!), not because of foot speed, but because of proper footwork technique.

I'm getting a bit banged up. (This is me.) Here's a roll call:

  • Sore throat and hoarse voice from lecturing and coaching.
  • Slight limp from an injured right toe. I can't really put any weight on it. It feels like I've fractured it at the base (though it's probably something less serious), but I have no idea when or how. If it persists, I'll have it x-rayed after the camp.
  • Slight limp from pulled upper front left thigh muscle, which I originally injured at Cary Cup on March 15, and keep aggravating. (See my blog from March 22.)
  • Major infection from that cut on left index finger I got during the exhibitions last Thursday. (See my blog from March 22.)
  • Jammed middle finger on my right (playing) hand. This has been bothering me for months, and I don't know how I hurt it originally, though I know I aggravated it recently giving someone a high-five, where we missed and I rejammed it against his hand. I can't make a fist with my right hand - the middle finger won't bend all the way. (Insert appropriate middle-finger joke here.) If it were any of the other four fingers (including the thumb), this would affect my playing, but this one doesn't.
  • Growing upper back problems from being too busy to do my regular back stretching. This one's my own fault.
  • Exhaustion from my dog getting me up at 4AM to go out (see yesterday's blog), while trying to coach all day at our camp, do various paperwork and other stuff at night, and still do the daily blog.

Returning Serve: Part One

Here's the article from Table Tennis Master. I'll post part two and others as they come up.

ITTF Level 2 Course in New Jersey

Richard McAfee will be running an ITTF Level 2 Coaching Course at the Lily Yip TTC in Dunellen, NJ, Aug. 26-31. Here's a listing of all upcoming ITTF coaching seminars in the U.S.

Ariel Hsing Article

Here's a feature article on her from the ITTF.

Table Tennista

Here are four new articles on China Table Tennis.

Multiball Training in Hungary

Here's a new video (3:18) featuring multiball training with members of the Hungarian Woman National Team and with some young players in the Hungarian Table Tennis Centre in Budapest. This is roughly what I do all day long at our MDTTC training camps.

Multiball Training in China

Here's a video (7:09) showing multiball training in China. There are many styles of multiball feeding; I was fascinated to see that the man in red feeding multiball uses almost the exact technique I do, i.e. first bounce on the table. Even the drills he does are about the same as the ones I do.

The Correct Way to Finish a Point

Here's a six-second video where Richard Lee demonstrates your basic serve and zillion mile per hour loop kill. Do not try this in your basement; he's a professional.

Best of Xu Xin vs. Ma Long

Here's a video (8:29) of the best rallies between these two Chinese superstars. Many of these points are truly impressive - are we reaching the pinnacle of human performance in table tennis? (I'm sure someone will quote this back to me someday when someone makes these two look like amateurs.)

Artistic Table Tennis Pictures

Here's an interesting and artistic table tennis picture. And here's an artistic table - it's like playing bumper ping-pong.

Staged Shot-Making

Here are 13 spectacularly staged trick shots.


Send us your own coaching news!

March 12, 2013

Tennis and Table Tennis

I used to play tennis regularly, going to the Quince Orchard Swim and Tennis Club for group training sessions. But it took up a lot of time and money, and I finally stopped about three years ago. Last night I had an urge to play, and so signed up for the 7-8 group session. It's a full-time center, with five tennis courts and a huge swimming pool. Each is contained in a huge "bubble," which comes down during the summer. (I hate when the bubble comes down, and we're stuck playing outside, in the sun, heat, and wind. If tennis were meant to be played outside, there'd have been tennis courts in the Garden of Eden, right?)

While I was paying for the session in the front lobby area, a kid walked up to me and said, "Hi Coach Larry!" I didn't recognize him at first, but I finally figured out he was Kevin, one of the kids in my Sunday junior session. Outside of a table tennis environment I hadn't recognized him at first. Then a man came up to me and asked if I also taught tennis. Again, I didn't recognize him outside the table tennis club, but he was the father of another player in one of my group sessions; his son or daughter was presumably out playing tennis or swimming. We chatted for a few minutes, where I explained I was just a player at the tennis center. When I went out on the tennis courts at 7PM, guess who was sitting next to the next court, watching his son take a tennis lesson? Stephen Yen, a local 2300 player! That's three separate table tennis people I ran into there in the course of a few minutes.

The session went great. I was a bit rusty, but my forehand was pretty much as good as before. All the coaches there agree I have the most lopsided tennis game they've ever seen, with a really good forehand, and a pretty good backhand slice, lob, and drop shot, and placement and positioning well beyond my tennis level. But the rest - backhand, volleys, overhead, etc. - is pretty ordinary, other than lots of hustle.

There's an interesting neurological phenomenon I learned a while back about my tennis and table tennis. From table tennis I instinctively place shots to the right spot without thinking about it - after years of play, it's completely subconscious, as reflexive as, say, getting the angle right when blocking a loop. I do the same thing with my ground strokes in tennis; if an opponent gives me an opening on one side, I don't have to think about it, I'll automatically go to that spot. But here's the interesting phenomenon: when I'm at the net volleying in tennis, I have great difficulty placing the shot. There might be an open court to volley into, and I'll unthinkingly volley right back at my opponent, like a beginner. Then I made a discovery - when I do swinging volleys, then that part of my brain that instinctively places the ball lights up, and I'm back to reflexively putting the ball to the right spot like a pro. I finally figured it out. From years of table tennis my brain has become conditioned to placing my shot during my backswing. If I take a backswing - as I do in table tennis (even when blocking), tennis ground strokes, and swinging volleys - I'm a "pro," always hitting the right spot. But when I don't backswing, such as when I'm volleying at the net, that part of the brain doesn't light up, and so I'm back to being an amateur with no ball placement skills. (Technically, I think I do backswing some when volleying, but it's a different type of backswing then I'm used to, and my brain apparently doesn't register it as a backswing.) My solution has been to do lots of swinging volleys, which are considered less consistent than normal volleys, and so all the tennis coaches always discourage me from doing them. But they are better for me, because otherwise I fell like a beginner at the net, probably with a deer-in-the-headlights look since my brain simply won't operate properly in racket sports if I don't backswing. There must be a budding neurologist out there who can use this phenomenon for their Ph.D dissertation!

I've been thinking for a while about writing an article on Tennis for Table Tennis Players, and Table Tennis for Tennis players. But I'm not sure of the demand for such an article. 

Tim Boggan and Cary Cup

Tomorrow morning at around 9:30 AM, USATT Historian and Hall of Famer Tim Boggan will arrive at my house after driving downing from New York. He'll spend the day and night here, and then on Thursday morning we drive down to the Cary Cup Championships in Cary, NC. On Friday morning I'll play in the hardbat event there - I won it in 2010 and 2011. Then I'll be coaching the rest of the way, mostly with Derek Nie, as well as Tong Tong Gong and perhaps others. Then I come back with Derek and his family, playing auto bingo the whole way.

Ma Long Continues Battles with Zhang Jike

Here's the article, entitled "Ma Long Declares to Continue Competing Against Zhang Jike"

Mikael Appelgren in a Reality Show

Here's the article! "Yes, the legendary Mikael Appelgren will participate in a Swedish TV program called "Mästarnas mästar" (the master of masters). This is a contest program that gathers Swedish athletes from different disciplines. During the competition, they have to face physical and mental challenges, where their teamwork, perseverance and strategy are tested. On this occasion, the program will take place in the Peloponnese peninsula in southwestern Greece."

Michael Bolton Plays Table Tennis in Commercial

Here's a commercial (1:02) for Optimum Insurance that features American singer and songwriter Michael Bolton.

Ping-Pong Art Table for Kids

Here's the article and pictures from Table Tennis Nation.  

Carolina Pong and Überpong Paddles

Here's a video (2:56) of Carolina Pong auditioning the new überpong paddles.

Table Tennis Clocks

I own two table tennis clocks, the first two listed below. The first one sits on my shelf behind my desk, and the second one I put up at the Maryland Table Tennis Center (in the back where I often teach junior classes). In honor of Daylight Savings Time (I'm only two days late), here are other pictures of table tennis clocks. (Here's where you can buy some of these.)


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March 11, 2013

Tip of the Week

Practicing for the Big Matches.

Daylight Savings Time

Daylight Savings Time took a bite out of a Sunday morning practice session. I coach a six-year-old on Sundays from 10-11AM. Because of DST, that was like 9-10AM. Still not too early, right? After all, kids get up much earlier than that for school, right? Well, not in this case. I think the kid was used to staying up a little later on Saturday night, and his sleep clock was way off. When he came out to play, he was half asleep - literally. A few minutes into the session he put his head on the table and either went to sleep, or at least closed his eyes for a minute. I got him up, but a few minutes later he did it again. I had him splash water on his face to wake up - it did the trick for a few minutes. Then he sort of stood up, closed his eyes, and seemed to fall asleep standing up. Anyway, the first thirty minutes of the session were more or less alternate practice and sleep, practice and sleep. Then he woke up.

He actually had a pretty good second half. For his age, he's developed a pretty good backhand, can even smash pretty hard. (I have to get him to slow down.) On the forehand he tends to face the table without rotating his shoulders, and this also leads to an awkward grip. So we spent much of the second half shadow practicing this properly, and though he at one point put his head on the table again for a short nap, he got the forehand right. Near the end he was smacking forehands pretty well, including 22 in a row at one point - and he's hitting them pretty hard. Not bad for a six-year-old who is very small for his age - he looks about four. We also did some serve practice.

We finished the session as he likes to, by stacking pyramids of cups on the table, which he knocks down with forehands and backhands as I feed multiball, including the never-ending quest to knock down "Scar," the nastiest paper cup in the world, distinguished by a blemish that was no doubt received in one of his many fights.  

U.S. Open Entry Form

It's ready! See you in Las Vegas, July 2-6.

MVP Ma Long

Here's an article on Ma Long being the MVP of the 2012 Chinese Super League.

Table Tennis and Flags

They just go together, don't they? That's a Romanian flag.

Play Table Tennis with Timo Boll

Here's a video (1:04) showing what it's like to be Timo Boll in practice. I think they put a mini-video camera on his head so you see things as he sees them.

Girls and Women in Table Tennis

Here's a great video (3:22), Let's Do More for Girls and Women in Table Tennis.

Exhibition in Hawaii

Here's an exhibition in Hawaii (59:07) that was done back in 2007, with Matt & Len Winkler and Leo Lucas.


Here's a great and hilarious new table tennis video (3:33), featuring a "grudge match" on a mini-table, with great special effects.

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March 1, 2013

Flu Update

It's much better than before, but I'm still sick. I won't bore (or sicken) you with the details, so let's just say I'm singlehandedly propping up the economy with my support of NyQuil, Campbell Soup, and Kleenex Industries and. If all goes well, I expect to be coaching at the club tomorrow morning. It'll be a short blog this morning, then (after a few other items on my todo list), it's back to bed.

Off-Table Serve Practice

Here's a way to develop your serves away from the table - and it may greatly improve them. Start with a simple exercise: toss a ball in the air as if serving, and spin it with your racket. Try to do this so the ball goes straight up so you can easily catch it. After you've mastered this, try varying the spin. Try spinning it with the racket moving side-to-side, in-and-out, and in both directions. Learn to do all sorts of spins this way, where you focus on sheer spin and control. When you can do this, you are only one step away from doing this with an actual serve.

Ma Long - Superman?

Here's an article on Ma Long, the "Superman of the Chinese Team." Includes links to several videos.

Liu Guoliang and Kong Linghui

Here's an article on these two titans of China, formerly superstar players and now coaches of the Chinese Men's and Women's National Teams.

LA Dodgers Ping-Pong

Here's an article from Table Tennis Nation on the LA Dodgers baseball team quickly becoming baseball's official ping-pong team.

Ping-Pong Making a Comeback

Here's an article and video (1:42) on how table tennis is "trending." Table tennis coach and player Matt Winkler is featured.

Cape Fear Table Tennis

Here's a documentary (11:26) on the Cape Fear Table Tennis Club in Fayetteville, NC.

Olympian Magazine

Here's a link to the online Olympian Magazine, both the new issue and past ones. Nothing directly table tennis related, but it might be of interest to some. One article might in particular jumped out at me (haven't read it yet) - "The Role of Deliberate Practice in Becoming an Expert Coach: Part 2 - Reflection." (Presumably there's a Part 1 in the previous issue.)

Behind the Back Training

Here's a video (19 sec) showing behind the back training on an iPong robot! That's Steven Chan doing the demo. (I'm jealous; because of stiff shoulders, behind-the-back shots are about the only "trick" shot in table tennis I've never mastered.)

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February 8, 2013

Recent and Future Technical Changes in High-Level Table Tennis

Here are what I consider the five biggest technical changes in table tennis over the last ten years, in no particular order. The last four were all being done ten years ago, but they've gone from a few players doing it to being commonplace at the higher levels.

  • The rise of super-looping sponges that practically loop by themselves.
  • Backhand banana flip, even against short serves to the forehand, turning the receive against short serves into a dangerous weapon.
  • Off-bounce backhand loops as regular backhands.
  • Reverse penhold backhand, making the conventional penhold backhand almost obsolete.
  • Shovel serve, which is a forehand pendulum serve where at the last second before contact you can serve either serve regular or reverse pendulum serve, i.e. sidespin either way, or backspin or no-spin.

Here are three possible ones to come.

  • Super-fast "hyperbolic serves" as a regular serve. These are serves where you hit the ball as hard as you possibly can, with the power going into both topspin and speed, just like a loop, allowing one to serve faster than was previously believed possible.
  • Strawberry flips. This is the opposite of a banana flip, where your racket goes from left to right instead of right to left as with a banana flip (for righties). Many players have learned to sidespin this way, but more as a change-of-pace sidespin. A few players, such as Stefan Feth, can do a serious drive this way, so that the ball literally jumps away from you if he backhand flips it to your forehand (assuming both are righties).
  • More off-the-bounce sidespin counterloops. Sidespin loops from off the table are about as good as they'll ever get, unless we get even better sponges. Players are already looping off the bounce with heavy topspin as a matter of routine. So the logical next step is to do this with sidespin, hooking and fading the ball at extreme angles. Lots of players do this occasionally, but imagine the player who perfects this as a routine shot.

Status: Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 13

This volume covers 1984, and brother (or should I say Big Brother), it covers it all! We've been working on the page layouts for three days now. Besides the covers (4 pages, including inside covers), we're through page 162 and chapter 9 out of 29. I've now fixed up and placed on the page (including captions and attributions) 343 graphics - just over two per page. I'm sort of featured in chapter 9, where he talks about the many coaching articles I wrote that year and the year before, and so I got a head shot. Then he treated me to dinner at the Outback.

USA Team Trials

Chinese Team Trials

China is also having their National Team Trials. Here's where you can see articles, results, and video.

The Serve and Backhand Attack of Seiya Kishikawa

Here's a video (4:00) where Seiya Kishikawa (world #28, recently as high as #16) demonstrates his serve and backhand attack. With English subtitles and lots of slow motion.

The Proper Way to Finish a Match

Here's video (16 seconds, including slow motion) the last point in the Chinese Team Trials between Ma Long and Fan Zhendong. Ma shows how to end a match.

You Can't Take the China Out of Coaching

Don't see it? Look at the word "coaching." After the "coa" you get "ching." Drop the tail off the "g" and what do you have left? (Of course we all know what "COA" stands for.) No, I didn't hear this somewhere - I just noticed it.

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