MDTTC Christmas Camp

December 30, 2011

MDTTC Christmas Camp

Yesterday at the MDTTC Christmas Camp the focus was on backhand attack. That meant lots of backhand smashes, backhand drives and flips against backspin, and backhand loops. I was amazed at how fast some of the "beginner" kids picked up the backhand loop. The old paradigm that you have to be relatively advanced before you can backhand loop has been wrong for many years, and yet it still plagues many junior players whose old-fashioned coaches hold back on teaching this shot, thereby handicapping their games. My general rule of thumb is as soon as the kid can hit 100 forehands and 100 backhands with a good stroke he's ready to learn to loop.

This reminds me of a Junior Olympics many years ago where a full-time professional coach from another region was admiring the level of play of the Maryland juniors. She was amazed at how well some of our kids in the 10-year-old range could loop, and commented, "None of my students that age are good enough to learn to loop yet." As she explained, she thought it was assumed a kid needed to be at least 1500 before he should be taught to loop. Yikes!!!

Once again I gave out lots and lots of chocolates in a game where the players had to hit a bottle to win one. My chocolate supply is making me very popular.

Entries at USA Nationals

We now have the entry totals for the USA Nationals - and it ain't particularly pretty. (The ratings for both the North American Teams and the USA Nationals were processed last night.)

Using the USATT ratings database, there were 502 players at the 2011 USA Nationals in Virginia Beach who played in rated events. (Players who only entered doubles, hardbat, or sandpaper are not included in these totals.) This is by far the lowest total in the ratings histories, which start in 1994, with the next lowest the 592 in 1998, and 27% down from last year's 686, and way down from the 829 and 837 in 2005-2006. Other than the 1986 Nationals in Pittsburgh (where I believe there were less than 400 entries), I believe this is the lowest turnout ever for a USA Nationals since the first one in 1976. (I'm not including U.S. Opens, which were sometimes referred to as the USA Nationals before the first "official" one in 1976.) It also pales by comparison to the totals for the North American Teams, which had 767 players. Of course, the reality is that neither of these are large totals. There were two U.S. Opens in the mid-1970s that had over 1000 entries, in Houston and Oklahoma City.

I've put together a graph showing the annual totals for the USA Nationals starting in 1994. (Other than 1986 in Pittsburgh and one year in Anaheim in the last 1980s, I believe it's been held in Las Vegas every year.) I also put together one for the U.S. Open.

Some will immediately conclude that the problem was the location - Virginia Beach. This is basically correct. Putting the Nationals at a "vacation" area like Las Vegas automatically attracts players. But as proven by the U.S. Open in Grand Rapids in 2010 (645 entries, versus 610 the year before in Las Vegas), you can attract players to non-vacation lands. I had an email exchange with the Grand Rapids organizers about a year before the U.S. Open in Grand Rapids where I gave numerous recommendations on how to get entries, and they did use many of those methods, whether on their own or because of my email. (Maybe sometime later I'll publish the entire list.)

I have some experience in this, which is why I was contacted by the Grand Rapids people. While I've run about 150 tournaments, I've run only one 4-star tournament, the 1998 Eastern Open in Baltimore. It received 411 entries - 359 in rated events, the rest in doubles events or paid no-shows - which I believe is still the record for most entries in a 4-star event (other than the North American Teams, which for some silly reason, is still listed as a 4-star). I promoted the heck out of that tournament, as did Richard Lee and others who put it together. 

How did we get so many entries at the 1998 Easterns? By promoting the tournament to potential players. I'm sure the tournament committee for the 2011 Nationals also worked like crazy to get entries, but they didn't seem to have any experience in doing this, and didn't seem to consult with those who did. For example, there are a huge number of players in neighboring Maryland, including the Maryland Table Tennis Center, my home club, with a 200+ membership. I don't recall a single mailing or any other serious contact made with MDTTC to attract players. There also was no personal invitation to enter the tournament by "names," as Grand Rapids did with Dell and Connie Sweeris. Get a Sweeris, Seemiller, or similar "name," send out a personal invitation to enter the tournament from them (focusing on regions within driving distance, and flooding the local regional clubs with flyers), and use other successful methods  to promote the tournament (I won't elaborate here, maybe later), and you'll be surprised at how many entries you can get.

I really believe they can get 700+ entries in Virginia Beach if they promote the heck out of the tournament using the successful methods others have used. On the other hand, if they did the same in Las Vegas, they might get 1000. Heck, if Houston and Oklahoma City can get over 1000, why can't Virginia Beach or just about any other location that promotes the tournament properly?

Here are the entry totals for the Nationals, 1994-2011.

USA Nationals

  • 2011: 502        Virginia Beach
  • 2010: 686        Las Vegas
  • 2009: 597        Las Vegas
  • 2008: 604        Las Vegas
  • 2007: 730        Las Vegas
  • 2006: 837        Las Vegas
  • 2005: 829        Las Vegas
  • 2004: 755        Las Vegas
  • 2003: 707        Las Vegas
  • 2002: 678        Las Vegas
  • 2001: 672        Las Vegas
  • 2000: 686        Las Vegas
  • 1999: 658        Las Vegas
  • 1998: 592        Las Vegas
  • 1997: 650        Las Vegas
  • 1996: 613        Las Vegas
  • 1995: 660        Las Vegas
  • 1994: 598        Las Vegas

USA Nationals Videos

You can now watch just about every major match from the 2011 USA Nationals!

Mission Impossible: Ariel Hsing and Lily Zhang

Here's a photo montage to Ariel Hsing and Lily Zhang (4:46), set to the theme music of Mission Impossible, who just played each other in the Women's Singles Final at the USA Nationals for the second year in a row, and now have their eyes set on the 2012 Olympics.

One-Year-Olds Forehand

Here's actual footage (1:21) of the 2028 U.S. Women's Singles Champion, currently one year old. (I believe its Samson Dubina's daughter - that's him "coaching" her.)

Topspin Charity Ping-Pong and Baron Davis

Here's a humorous video (3:14) of Baron Davis of the Cleveland Cavaliers promoting the Topspin Ping-Pong Charity Tournament. Here's more info on the event.

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December 28, 2011

MDTTC Christmas Camp

We're in the middle of the Christmas Camp at the Maryland Table Tennis Center. It's our 21st consecutive year we've had a Christmas Camp, along with about 150 other camps, mostly during the summer. (All camps are five days/30 hours long.) I basically run the morning sessions, where I give short lectures and then go into groups where the players rotate, doing multiball with the coaches. Coaches Cheng Yinghua, Jack Huang, and Jeffrey Zeng Xun are the other coaches. Cheng and Jack run the afternoon sessions. Coach Jack Hsu is also coming in during the morning sessions to assist and put in the hours needed toward his ITTF coaching certification.

We have about 30 players this year, including a number of "luminaries," such as 2011 and 2012 National Cadet Team member Tong Tong Gong, 10 & Under Boys' Finalist at the Open and Nationals Derek Nie, U.S. Under 10 and Under 12 #1 Girl Crystal Huang (she's 9 and rated 2150!), 15-year-old Nathan Hsu (2277), and a bunch of others that range from beginner to 2200, including players from California, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Washington DC., and of course Maryland.

Yesterday I brought in a box of chocolates - 48 in all - and during break I put them on the table near the edge. (They were individually wrapped.) Nearly the entire camp joined in as I fed multiball - two shots each, a forehand from the backhand side, and one from the forehand side - where if they knocked one off, they got the chocolate. It took about 20 minutes for them to knock off all 48, thereby saving me the trouble of having to eat them all and gain 20 pounds.

After two weeks at the Nationals and Christmas, I hadn't fed multiball in a while. After two days of feeding multiball, my out-of-shape arm is sore. Soon I'll be off for another day, with today's focus on forehand looping. Plus I have another box of chocolates.

Coaching Seminar at the USA Nationals

As I noted in my blog yesterday, Stefan Feth and Richard McAfee held a coaching seminar at the USA Nationals last week. I attended as did about twenty others. USA Men's Coach Stefan Feth went first, with a presentation on "Modern Trends in the Serve and Serve Return Game," which I also wrote about yesterday.  

Richard McAfee's presentation was on Half-Pattern Drills. Many players use rote pattern drills, where you know where the next ball is going, and so do repetitive footwork and stroke practice. However, in a game, the balls do not come out in a set pattern. At the other extreme from rote drills are pure random drills where the ball can go anywhere, such as anywhere on the forehand side and you have to move and play forehand, or randomly to the backhand or forehand, and you have to react accordingly.

With Half-Pattern drills, it's in the middle, with perhaps half the shots in the drill a pattern, and half random. This bridges the gap between rote and random drills. Including in his presentation was a printout, with nine examples of half-pattern drills, which were demonstrated in the presentation.

For example, instead of a rote drill where balls alternately to the forehand or backhand, or a random drill where the ball goes randomly to either side, a half-pattern version would be one or two balls to the forehand, one or two balls to the backhand, and repeat. In this case, you know where every other ball is going, and every other ball is random. Or do a drill where you go backhand-to-backhand until after 2-3 shots, one player goes to the forehand (either one player always does this, or either can), and then it's free play.

Come up with your own half-pattern drills - find something you need to work on, and work out a drill where about half the shots are a pattern, the rest random.

Timo Boll versus Chen Weixing

Here's a nice 44-second exhibition point between Timo Boll and Chen Weixing. And here's a more serious match between the two (9:57) from the 2009 German Open. (Germany's Boll is the #1 European player, currently #4 in the world but #1 for three months this year. Chen, formerly of China but now Austria for Germany, is currently #38 in the world but was formerly in the top ten.)

Table Tennis Nation Paddles

Table Tennis Nation now has a selection of nine fancy paddles for your selection! These are sandpaper rackets, but even if you don't plan to use them serious matches, they look pretty nice, perhaps as wall ornaments. The selections are Liberty, Zebra, Crazy Leopard, Leopard, Tiger, Patriot (sold out), Manga Mascot, Sunset, and Starry Starry. (Yes, it's "Starry Starry.")

Passionate Ping-Pong

Here's a humorous table tennis video from comic table tennis player Adam Bobrow (4:09), also starring cadet star Ethan Chua - enjoy!

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