Table Tennis Online
As ITTF Coach John Olsen recently pointed out to me, we live in the golden age of online table tennis. You can watch just about any major table tennis match online these days, both live and afterwards. Over the last few days (and below) I've given links for many of the major matches taking place at the Chinese World Team Trials. During major USA Table Tennis events (Nationals, Open, Team Trials), you can watch the matches live as well. And you can go to youtube and find just about anything - just put in "Table Tennis" and anything else you are looking for. Over the weekend John watched the live streaming of the Swedish Nationals, the English Championships, and the Norwegian Championships. (Note that some of the links here that gave the live streaming still have the videos online.)
The availability of videos of the top players is one of the biggest advantages this generation of players has over past ones - along with more coaches and better sponge. On the other hand, there's also a disadvantage to the easy availability of these videos - players tend to watch a video and then move on to the next, and so don't really learn all that's going on. In the old days, there were fewer videos around, and so players would watch the same ones over and Over and OVER - and would pretty much memorize every point, not to mention really learning what the players did from sheer viewing repetition. I remember back in the late 1970s (when I was learning to play) having trouble with pips-out penholders. Then I got a copy of the famous Stellan Bengtsson vs. Mitsuro Kohno tape from the quarterfinals of the 1977 Worlds, and watched it endlessly, and my level against that style went up dramatically. (Pips-out penholder Kohno won, 19 in the fifth, in what many considered the "real" Men's Singles final as it was likely the best match of the tournament. Kohno went on to win the title.)
Jim Butler on Serves
Here are some nice quotes from four-time U.S. Men's Champion Jim Butler on serving, which he posted yesterday on the about.com table tennis forum. He used to have the best serves in the country, and now, at age 42, he's made a comeback - and he may once again have the best serves in the country.
"I've decided to put a lot of time into practicing my serves. Improvement there takes the least physical energy. I have the motion and understanding already down. To have great serves, they must be practiced daily in order to make them a weapon."
"I'm working on the forehand pendulum right now. I want to have a good chop and topspin mix like that young Chinese kid in Westchester. His serves destroyed me, and I'd like to have those. Easiest way to be competitive in Table Tennis is to have dominating serves."
The Amazing Tomahawk Serve of Kenta Matsudaira
Here's the video (1:09). Note how he can break it both ways - and see the side-by-side slow motion of the two versions. The real question for all you serious table tennis players: Why haven't you developed equally good serves? It's just a matter of technique and practice! If you don't have the technique, see a coach or watch videos and learn. (You don't need to match Kenta's serves - there are many other good serving techniques.) If you don't practice . . . well, then you'll never have the serve of Kenta Matsudaira, and you'll never be as good as you could have been. (This type of serve has been around for a long time. Dean Doyle specialized in this serve when he made the U.S. Pan Am Team over 30 years ago.)
Remembering Zhuang Zedong and Ping-Pong Diplomacy
ITTF President Election
ITTF President Adham Sharara is running for re-election - but he's unopposed so far. The election will take place during the upcoming World Championships in Paris, May 13-20, 2013.
Hunter Pence and Ping-Pong
Here's an article about how the Hunter Pence, an outfielder with the LA Dodgers, builds confidence with ping-pong.
The Terminator vs. Scottie
Here's a picture of Arnold Schwarzenegger and table tennis exhibition star Scott Preiss just after their game ended in a "3-3 tie" at the Arnold Sports Classic in Columbus, OH this past week.
Chinese World Team Trials
Here are some nice matches, with time between points removed so it's non-stop action.
Swedish Men's Singles Final
Here's the video (6:53, with time between points removed) as Fabian Akerström upsets Jens Lundquist in the final. Akerström plays with long pips on the backhand - but he's so forehand aggressive it's sometimes difficult to notice.
More TT Videotapes
Here's a Facebook page devoted to collecting table tennis videos.
The Dirty Dozen Throwdown
It's on, this Friday at 9PM: Gideon "The Pigeon" Teitel (17-year-old 150-lb lobber) vs. Sam "the Rock" Rockwell (13-year-old 81-lb attacker). Between them they've had three and a half years of intense training, all leading to this moment.
Monsters University, the upcoming sequel to Monsters Inc. from 2001, will be the greatest movie of all time. How do we know? Here's an animated scene from the movie showing the characters playing table tennis!
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Tip of the Week
Week One Day Five and Week Two Begins
Last week was Week One of the MDTTC camp season, with 34 players. We've got eleven weeks of camps, so one down, ten to go!
On Friday morning I gave a lecture on pushing. Topics included the basic push; pushing quick and long, pushing heavy and long, short pushing, and pushing with a purpose. The rest of the morning was multiball. As is our norm, Friday mornings is "player's choice," where the player tells the coach what he wants to work on. If he isn't sure the coach makes suggestions or chooses the drill. Other "highlights" included box battles. (Apparently one kid really, Really, REALLY wanted a particular box to catch balls in, and when another kid wouldn't let him have it, well, things got ugly for a few minutes. Yes, this is a table tennis camp.)
During break I watched the kids play a fascinating game of "24." No, it didn't involve Jack Bauer torturing terrorists who are trying to nuke U.S. cities; it involved dealing out four cards, and trying to find a way to get to 24, using all four cards and using simple arithmetic functions. (Aces are worth 1, face cards 10.) For example, if the cards dealt are K, 7, 3, 2, then (Kx2)+(7-3)=24. I doubt if they thought of it this way, but I couldn't help think how similar this was to table tennis tactics in a match, where you have only a few seconds between points to puzzle out what to do the next point, just as here they had only a few seconds to solve the puzzle.
This morning we start Week Two. (I'll be missing this Friday, and the first three days of Week Three, since I'll be at the U.S. Open in Grand Rapids. But Cheng Yinghua and Jack Huang are staying home to run the camp.)
Dora and the Sports Psychology Workshop
On Friday night Table Tennis Sports Psychologist Dora Kurimay traveled down from New York to give a sports psychology workshop at the Maryland Table Tennis Center. About fifteen players attended. The workshop went over the main points of her book, "Get Your Game Face On!" (Here's my review of the book on the USATT web page.) Topics included the Four R's (Reaction, Recovery, Ready, and Ritual), the inseparable relationship between emotional, mental, and physical (the "Game Face Performance Triangle"), and other sports psychology topics. If you are interested in a sports psychology workshop at your club, see her webpage.
Scott Preiss and Dr. Eric Owens
Here's a nice exhibition (2:42) by Scott Preiss and, yes, DR. Eric Owens. (Our 2001 U.S. Men's Singles Champion now is a medical doctor.) The Ping Pong Man (that's Scott) and the Doctor are performing at the Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles for the US Olympic Committee and Olympic sponsors.
Dumb Anti-Obama Posting
For the last few days USATT has featured on their home page a picture of President Obama holding up an ICC Table Tennis shirt. (Here's a direct link to the article and picture - scroll down to see the picture, or go directly to it.) Someone posted a bunch of anti-Obama nonsense on a table tennis forum, writing "SHAME on USATT" for "posting pro obama nonsense," and linking to an anti-Obama video that insults the intelligence of anyone with a brain, Democrat, Republican, or Independent. (Thankfully, the moderators deleted it soon afterwards.) First, this was no "pro obama nonsense," simply a neutral picture of the President of the United States holding up a table tennis shirt, a great promotional item for table tennis. Second, it's a TABLE TENNIS forum, not a political forum. Third, can't these types of people see the difference between the president, who happens to be Obama, and Obama, the person who happens to be a president they don't like?
Milwaukee's Airport and Table Tennis
CNN did a special on "14 airport amenities that will make you long for a layover." The picture nine of them; see #8!!! Yes, it's a ping-pong table at Milwaukee's Mitchell Airport! I actually walked by it at last year's U.S. Open in Milwaukee, and considered joining in with the ones playing, but ended up just watching it.
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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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