Yesterday we started Week #9 of our ten weeks of summer camps. (I missed last week because I was running a camp in Virginia.) Turnout for some of our camps this summer was lower than normal, but no more - we have 41 players in the camp (40 under age 16), with perhaps our largest contingent ever in the 6-9 age group, about half. (This despite the fact that our top four juniors are all currently training in China - Nathan Hsu, Derek Nie, Roy Ke, and Crystal Wang.) It's also one of our most Asian groups, with only four non-Asian players in the camp. Since we put up 18 tables for training, that means two players on 16 tables and nine others doing multiball on two tables. I spent the whole day feeding multiball, and will be doing that all week, Mon-Fri, 10AM-6PM (with a two-hour lunch break). Raghu Nadmichettu was feeding balls on the other multiball table.
Here's the camp photo we took yesterday morning. Amazingly, we had two more players join us that afternoon. That's me on the far right. Other coaches in the camp are Cheng Yinghua, Jack Huang, Raghu Nadmichettu, Wang Qing Liang ("Leon") and Chen Bo Wen ("Bowen"). We're actually short-handed, as two of our coaches are currently in China - Chen Ruichao ("Alex") and Zeng Xun ("Jeffrey"). Both are coaching at the club where two of our juniors are training, Nathan and Derek, and should be back soon.
Most of the emphasis was on forehand play on Day One. Today the emphasis will be on the backhand. (We adjust for advanced players, of course, who do more advanced drills, including many forehand-backhand drills.) As usual, it's amazing the different learning curves for different players. Some pick things up almost as fast as you teach it, others you almost have to hit them over the head to get things through to them. (That's an expression - no kids are hit over the head in the course of our camps!)
As always, we finished the sessions with games. The more advanced ones played regular games. Others played "King of the Table," while others played the usual target practice games where I feed multiball and they knock over pyramids of cups or hit other objects. As usual, the biggest his is when I put my Gatorade bottle on the table and tell them it's really worm juice - and if they hit it, I have to drink it. They make me drink it. At the end of the day, from 5:30 to 6:00 PM, we did physical training.
Narrow Defeats but Valuable Experience for North Americans
Here's the ITTF article on the USA and Canadian players preparing for the upcoming Youth Olympic Games.
Interview with Jan-Ove Waldner
Here's the interview this past weekend from Table Tennis Daily.
Ovtcharov's backhand in the China Super League Final
Here's the video (24 sec, including slo-mo replay).
Junior Training Video
Here's the video (1:42) set to music, apparently from the "Power Table Tennis Academy." Not sure where that is.
100-Day Countdown to Change in the ITTF's Presidency
Former USATT President Sheri Pittman Cioroslan is doing an article every day during the last 100 days of Adham Sharara's ITTF presidency, counting downwards from 100. Previous ones are linked from the USATT News page, as well as in my past blogs. Eighty-one down, 19 to go!
Hyperkinetic Table Tennis Cartoon
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USA Cadet Depth
The depth of play at the cadet level (which roughly means under age 15) has dramatically increased over the lasts five years in the USA. How did this happen and how much stronger is it? First I'm going to digress to five years ago.
In December, 2006, at the USA Table Tennis Board meeting at the USA Nationals, I gave a Junior Training presentation. USATT had struggled for years to find ways to increase the number and level of our juniors, and at the same time was focused on developing elite players. I argued that the solution to both these problems was for USATT to recruit and train coaches to set up full-time training centers and junior programs. USATT was already running coaching clinics; why not just change the emphasis?
The response was, at best, weird. Most of the board loved the idea, crossed it off the agenda, and went on to the next item. It was as if they had no way of actually implementing things they wanted to do. Two board members did speak up strongly against the idea, arguing that we had no idea if there was a demand for such training centers, and if we got coaches to set them up, what if nobody came?
I'm not making this up. (To those of you who aren't sure why this is so silly, it's because the most basic part of setting up a full-time training center or junior program is that you learn how to recruit new players. You don't wait until a hundred players magically appear, waiting in a parking lot for you to open a training center; you open the training center and recruit new players.) In September, 2009, I made the same argument at the USATT Strategic Meeting, but again to no avail.
The reaction to my proposal in 2006 was a primary reason why I resigned one month later as USATT editor and club programs director. But the funny thing is I'm no longer so sure USATT should get involved in these matters, since it's not a high-priority issue for them. I may open my own table tennis coaches academy to recruit and train coaches.
As I noted in my 2006 presentation, there were only about ten serious junior programs and about the same number of full-time training centers in the country. The Maryland Table Tennis Center (my home club, which I co-founded in 1991) had been dominating junior table tennis in the country for 15 years. There wasn't a whole lot of competition during those years as there were so few places in the U.S. actually devoted to training juniors. Boy has that changed!
There are now about fifty full-time training centers, and nearly that many serious junior programs. (Not all full-time training centers have serious junior programs, though most do, and there are some serious junior programs that do not have a full-time training center.) These training centers have been popping up all over the U.S. in the last five years, especially in the Bay area and other regions in California, and in various places in the northeast. (There are now five full-time table tennis centers within 45 minutes of me here in Maryland.) Imagine if USATT had helped out in recruiting and training these coaches - they wouldn't have had to keep reinventing the wheel. We'd probably have over a hundred by now. (And what was the goal of my presentation? "One hundred serious junior training programs in five years.") Even now, if someone wants to open a full-time training center, there is no manual, no guidance; one either has to re-invent the wheel or go to one of the current ones and ask them how they did it. (I did write on my own the Professional Table Tennis Coaches Handbook, which covers how to set up and run a junior program, but not how to set up and run a full-time training center.)
What is the result of all these new training centers over the past five years? The results are overwhelming. Here's a rundown of the past five years:
But it's the depth at the higher levels that really stands out. I have copies of the Nov/Dec 2006 and Nov/Dec 2011 USATT Magazines in front of me, both opened to the age rankings which list the top 15 for each category. I also used the "Customizable Member Lists" in our online ratings to check rankings. Here's a comparison.
Under 18 Boys:
- In 2006, the top 15 ranged from 2418 to 2159.
- In 2011, it ranged from 2593 to 2337.
- The 2159 rating that was #15 in 2006 would now be #54.
Under 16 Boys:
- In 2006, the top 15 ranged from 2418 to 2087.
- In 2011, it ranged from 2540 to 2281.
- The 2087 rating that was #15 in 2006 would now be #49.
Under 14 Boys:
- In 2006, the top 15 ranged from 2323 to 1870.
- In 2011, it ranged from 2417 to 2173.
- The 1870 rating that was #15 in 2006 would now be #55.
Under 12 Boys:
- In 2006, the top 15 ranged from 2044 to 1440.
- In 2011, it ranged from 2417 to 1889.
- The 1440 rating that was #15 in 2006 would now be #48.
Under 10 Boys:
- In 2006, the top 15 ranged from 2044 to 620.
- In 2011, it ranged from 1900 to 1133.
- The 620 rating that was #15 in 2006 would now be #33.
(Note - while the #1 under 10 in 2006 was Feng Yijun at 2044, the #2 was only 1495, which would have been #6 in 2011.)
Under 18 Girls:
- In 2006, the top 15 ranged from 2330 to 1811.
- In 2011, it ranged from 2544 to 2090.
- The 1811 rating that was #15 in 2006 would now be #47.
Under 16 Girls:
- In 2006, the top 15 ranged from 2113 to 1620.
- In 2011, it ranged from 2544 to 1973.
- The 1620 rating that was #15 in 2006 would now be #48.
Under 14 Girls:
- In 2006, the top 15 ranged from 2029 to 1432.
- In 2011, it ranged from 2218 to 1717.
- The 1432 rating that was #15 in 2006 would now be #31.
Under 12 Girls:
- In 2006, the top 15 ranged from 2029 to 553.
- In 2011, it ranged from 2150 to 1007.
- The 553 rating that was #15 in 2006 would now be #38.
Under 10 Girls:
- In 2006, the top 15 ranged from 894 to 80.
- In 2011, it ranged from 2150 to 332.
- The 80 rating that was #15 in 2006 would now be #23.
* * * * *
Finals of Men's Singles at the 2011 World Championships
For those of you who missed it, here's Zhang Jike and Wang Hao playing the final of Men's Singles at the 2011 World Championships, with the whole thing in just 12:11 (the time between points has been removed).
Three interesting articles from ITTF
Matt Lauer's Epic Match
Here's the article's title: "Matt Lauer Has Epic Ping Pong Match With The Elderly Couple Who Couldn’t Figure Out A Webcam."
"Loopers" - the movie
You know when they make a movie about loopers - with Bruce Willis! - that the sport is taking off. I think. The irony is the movie is really about killing, and looping pretty much ended the hitting style at the higher levels.
28,818 ping-pong balls in a Toyota Prius
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