Baltimore Sun

January 20, 2014

Tip of the Week

Playing the Seemiller or American Grip. (This is an excerpt from "Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers.")

MDTTC Mini-Camp

Local schools are closed today and tomorrow for Martin Luther King birthday and a teacher's meeting. And so we're running a two-day mini-camp at MDTTC, 10AM-6PM. Normally I'd be there all day both days, but because I'm working on Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis (Vol. 14), with Tim at my side ("No, stupid, that photo there!"), I'm only doing the morning sessions. What does this really mean for me? It means I'm up all last night working on this blog, the Tip of the Week, and all the other stuff I have to take care of each day; it means I'm at my desk with Tim at 5AM to get two chapters done before I leave at 9:30AM; it means I'm coaching at the club from 10AM-1PM (and likely taking a large group of kids to the 7-11 down the street afterwards); it means I rush home to an impatient Tim and do several more chapters that afternoon and night; and it means starting all over again that night with the following day's blog so I can get started early with Tim the following morning. Somewhere in there I sleep.

Tim's Book, and Tim's Trials and Tribulations

Due to our various illnesses and my coaching, we're behind schedule on History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 14. However, we're catching up fast. Yesterday we got three more chapters done, so we've done eleven chapters, plus the covers and early intro pages. We just went through the 1985 U.S. Open, and once again Cheng Yinghua wins over Taiwan's Wen Chia-Wu, who had upset world #1 Jiang Jialiang in the semifinals! Cheng also won Men's Doubles with Jiang. And now he's my fellow coach at MDTTC.

Sports Psychology

One of my students (age 12) gets way too nervous in matches. So our top focus now is sports psychology. (This really should be everyone's top priority, since you get more for your time put into it than just about anything else.) I started today's session by having him simply tie his shoes. No problem. Then I had him do the same thing where he had to consciously tell himself what to do each step of the way. He laboriously went through the process, but the contrast with trying to consciously do it and letting your subconscious do what it's been trained to do (i.e. muscle memory) made the point about how you want to play table tennis. (For the record, I made up this exercise myself.)

Then we moved on to ping-pong ball shooting. I set up a box on the table, and we stood about fifteen feet away and simply shot baskets. The catch - you couldn't think about aiming. You just looked at the target, visualized the trajectory of the ball from hand to box, and then let it happen. At first the student had some problems - he kept trying to consciously aim the ball, or reacted to misses and swishes, when the conscious mind needs to get out of the way and let the subconscious do the job. After a few minutes of this, he was able to let go, and his shooting increased tremendously. (I had a streak where I made over 50 in a row without a conscious thought.

Then I held up a ping-pong ball, and said, "This is your conscious mind." Then I waved my hand about and said, "Your house is your subconscious. That's their relative sizes." Then I compared the conscious mind to some bad boss who flits about an office of well-trained employees and interferes with their work. For the well-trained employees (the subconscious) to get their work done they need the boss (the conscious mind) to get out of the way. Nervousness comes from the conscious mind; the subconscious is as cool as ice. Get out of the way and let it do its job. (Of course, there's the separate issue of training the subconscious - but that's what you are doing every time you practice, as you develop muscle memory. Most players have far better muscle memory than they realize, if they'd only stop being a bad boss and get out of the way.)

We didn't get to the table for the first half hour. (It was a 90-minute session.) Then he had a very good session. Much of the session we focused on reaction drills, where the key was to just let go and react, with muscle memory doing the natural reaction. He has a tendency to anticipate forehands and so loses a lot of points when the ball goes to his wide backhand, so we did drills where he had to just react to the ball, forehand or backhand.

We also went over routines. For example, anyone who's played me knows that when I serve, I start by loosening my right sleeve with my left arm; then I let my playing arm drop back and forth once like a pendulum; and then I serve. When I receive, I hold up my left hand as I approach the table; shuffle my feet a few times; and then lower my arm. Little routines like these become habit to the point that by doing them, they put you in the proper frame of mind for the point. Everyone should develop these little routines, with at least one thing you always do just before each point.  (This could become a Tip of the Week at some point.)

Aurora Cup

Now here's how you do publicity for a major tournament - with daily articles all week in advance! Below are the daily articles by Barbara Wei for the Butterfly Aurora Cup. (I believe there might be at least one more coming, covering Sunday's results, which I'll put up tomorrow.) And here are the results.

U.S. National Team Programs

Here's a listing of upcoming programs for the U.S. National Team.

Crystal Wang in Baltimore Sun

Here's an article and video (1:32) in the Baltimore Sun on 11-year-old Crystal Wang, who recently became the youngest player ever to win Under 22 Women at the USA Nationals. (She's from my club!) Here are more photos.

Disguise Topspin as Backspin with the Maharu Yoshimura Serve (Photo and Video Analysis)

Here's an article and video (3:49) from Table Tennis Master on how the Japanese star disguises his serves.

Gossip Pong

A few days ago I watched as two girls at my club played table tennis - or sort of played. They were chatting non-stop, with the table tennis just along for the ride. I realized we don't have a name for this, and so I have christened this new sport: "Gossip Pong." I'm copyrighting it. For now on, every time you use this name, you owe me $1. If you talk to your opponent when you play table tennis, you owe me $1. If you so much as call out the score, you owe me $1.

Ping-Pong with the Fishes

Here's the picture!

Schwarzenegger Super Bowl Commercial

Here's a video preview (17 sec) of an upcoming Super Bowl ad that shows Arnold trying to make it as a table tennis player. (Look at those strokes! Look at that hair!)  

***
Send us your own coaching news!

January 6, 2014

Tip of the Week

Three Parts to a Swing.

New Seamless Plastic Poly Balls

I blogged about these on Dec. 26 (see second segment). There's been a lot of discussion online of these non-celluloid balls and how they'd change our sport. Here's my take.

First, a caveat. When I tested the newest poly ball at the Nationals, I was having arm problems at the time and so couldn't loop at full power, so perhaps my judgment on that is suspect. On the other hand, the top juniors who tried the ball out (four of them, all around 2300) thought it played pretty much the same as a regular ball. I wish I had a copy of the ball now so I could try it out again (with my arm mostly okay), along with others at my club. 

At least one other person has tested the ball and posted he believes the ball (even the newest version) has less spin and speed. I'm suspicious that it's substantially different. I know the ball was the same size as a Nittaku, and had the same speed when I bounced them side by side, and seemed substantially the same when I hit with it, including the same weight, grippiness, etc. Serious question: what physical property would cause it to have less spin, and in particular, substantially less spin? Comments are welcome below.  

But let's assume that the new ball does have less speed and spin, as some think. This might be true if, for example, the ball were bigger. (Though the slightly bigger ball I tested previously was actually faster than the current ball, though less spinny.)

If there is less spin with the new ball, I'm pretty sure that'll hurt choppers, even if the ball were slower. Choppers need spin to work with to mess up attackers, so even if they are more consistent with a slower ball, they would be less effective overall. (It'd sort of be like sandpaper matches, where it's easy to chop over and over, but hard to win points that way against the best sandpaper attackers.) However, if the ball were slower, that should help topspin defenders (fishers and lobbers). 

As to hitters, going from 38mm to 40mm balls hurt hitters, and going to a ball with even less speed would do the same - less ball speed gives loopers more time to loop, and hitters (and aggressive blockers) rely on rushing loopers into missing, making weak loops, or backing too much off the table. The same is true of blockers. Inverted and pips-out blockers need to rush loopers, and a slower ball makes that more difficult. Long pips blockers need spin to work with (like choppers), and a less spinny ball gives them less to work with - thereby putting them more at the mercy of smart but powerful loopers. Without those heavy backspin returns of loops, they'll have great difficulty messing loopers up.

The hard-to-call case is the modern defender, who chops and loops. A slower, less spinny ball would make their chops more consistent but less deceptive (and overall chopping alone would be less effective), but the slower ball would allow them to get into position to rip forehand winners. Most likely the change wouldn't affect their level, but it would tilt them toward more aggressive play. 

The surprising truth is that a ball with less spin and speed would likely favor powerful loopers who can still produce great spin and speed. I think it'd move the sport even more in the direction of pure looping, just as the increase from 38mm to 40mm did. It might favor all-out forehand loopers to a degree, since they will have more time to get into position for their powerful forehand loops. If you want to bring back choppers, blockers, and hitters, go back to a smaller, faster, spinnier ball. 

Addendum added later: with less spin and speed, these pure topspin rallies would likely be better than current ones as players relentlessly counterloop back and forth with fewer errors. Some will love this; some will find it repetitively boring. I'm on the fence here. I really miss the greater diversity of styles in the past. If you want to see the future, look at the juniors of today; overwhelmingly they are two-winged loopers, which is what I mostly coach and coach against. There are subtle differences, but in general they play much more similar to each other than players in the past. And yet, with a slower, less spinny ball the given topsin rallies would be better, and there'll fewer errors in returning serves, with the lower amount of spin. But I sure would like to see a bit more variation. 

Baltimore Sun

Yesterday the Baltimore Sun sent a reporter to Maryland Table Tennis Center to do a feature on Crystal Wang, 11, who recently became the youngest player ever to win Under 22 Women's Singles at the USA Nationals. (I'd sent out press releases everywhere afterwards. Here's a short article on this that was already in the Baltimore Sun - with two errors from the original press release, which were my fault: Crystal's actually a 6th grader now in the magnet program at Roberto Clemente Middle School.) The reporter spoke to Crystal and a number of players and coaches, and interviewed me for half an hour. I was able to give her lots of background, explain how she developed, and give details on her modern playing style (close to table looping from both wings).

$100,000 World Championships of Ping Pong

They just completed the third annual World Championships of Ping Pong, which is a sandpaper event - with $100,000 in prize money! Yes, you read that right. For the third year in a row it was won by Russia's Maxim Shmyrev, this time defeating USA's Ilija Lupulesku in the final at 8, 7, 12. (Strangely, games are to 15 in the sandpaper format.) Here's video of the final (24:04). Alas, both players are attacking all out - little chopping in this match.

2014 USA Team Trials

Here's info on the upcoming USA National Team Trials (Men's and Women's), to be held at Texas Wesleyan University in Fort Worth Texas, March 7-9.

Message from ITTF President

Here's the end-of-the-year message from ITTF President Adham Sharara.

Ariel Hsing's Website

Here's the new website for our 18-year-old three-time USA Women's Singles Champion!

Ping-Pong Diplomacy

Here's a review in the New York Times on the book "Ping-Pong Diplomacy" by Nicholas Griffin.

Search for Professional Players, Clubs, and Coaches Around the World

Here's a new website that does this. I haven't really tested it out yet, but it looks interesting.

ITTF Monthly Pongcast

Here's the December 2013 issue (11:44).

Chinese National Team in Training

Here's a video (3:31) of the Chinese National Team doing physical training and then table training. With Chinese narration.

Bernoulli's Ping Pong Ball Launcher

Here's the video (60 sec) - it's both table tennis and science!

Jean-Michel Saive vs. Chuang Chih-Yuan

Here are two videos of these two stars doing exhibitions. Tape one (1:35) and tape two (4:10).

Real or Fake?

If this is real (15 sec), then it might be the greatest table tennis trick shot ever.

***
Send us your own coaching news!

August 03, 2012

Southern Open and Junior Olympics

I'm back!!! I've been away for a week coaching at the Southern Open and Junior Olympics in Houston. Both were held in the same huge hall at George R. Brown Convention Center, with the Southern Open on Saturday and Sunday, the Junior Olympics Mon-Wed. While I coached a number of Maryland players, I was there mostly to coach John and Nathan Hsu.

Here are complete results for the Southern Open (release on "Southern Open" in the drop box). I coached Nathan Hsu and Yahao Zhang as they pulled off several upsets to win Open Doubles, defeating the U.S. Open Over 40 Doubles Champions Viktor Subonj and Niraj Oak in the final. The standout tactic was how effective they were serving simple no-spin serves disguised as backspin. (This is a standard tactics in singles and especially doubles.) Tactically, Nathan played mostly control while Yahao put the ball away, though Nathan ripped a lot of backhand loops as well. Topping that off Nathan's brother John and father Hans won Under 3600 Doubles over a rather large field. 

Jim Butler dominated to win Open Singles as he continues his comeback from nearly a decade off. Now 41 and a member of the U.S. Table Tennis Hall of Fame, he's in the mix as a contender to win Men's Singles at this year's USA Nationals, with his dominant serves and backhand.

In the Junior Olympics, the best match of the tournament might have been Nathan Hsu versus Andrew Chen in the final of Division A. (On the first day players are put in divisions based on rating, so it's essentially rating events, with Division A essentially Open Singles for all players. On the second day they get into age specific events.) Both played looping forehands, but on the backhand it was a contrast in styles, with Nathan all-out looping everything against Andrew's blocking and hitting pips-out backhand. Nathan won the first two. Down 2-10 in the third, he scored five in a row, forcing Andrew to take his timeout. In the fourth, Nathan was up match point, and he led 9-8 in the fifth before Andrew finally won.

We weren't the only events held in the huge hall. We also shared it with sports stacking, wrestling, weight lifting, and Tae Kwon Do. The sports stacking, where they rapid-fire stack and unstuck cups, was especially fun to watch. Here's a video.

I managed to convince at least two kids that they used to have younger events at the Junior Olympics, and that I was once the U.S. Boys' Under 2 Gold Medalist. I also explained to a set of parents after their son won a game that without my coaching the opponent would have scored twice as many points. Their son had just won 11-1. (And on the way home I introduced our players to "Airport Ping-Pong" - see segment blow.)

The players in the Junior Olympics were probably 90% Chinese, a huge increase from the last time I went. I started coaching there in the 1980s and went nearly every year until around 2005 or so. It used to be something like 60% Chinese. It's also become more regionalized, as the large majority of players were local Texas juniors. MDTTC used to send 30 or so players every year, but this year we only had nine (including two Virginia players who train at MDTTC). California only had two. Here is the state-by-state breakdown of entries, from an Excel file from a few days before the tournament:

TX: 49
GA: 13
NJ: 8
MD: 7
NY: 6
VA: 2
CA: 2
AL: 1
FL: 1
MA: 1
MO: 1
PA: 1
WA: 1
TOTAL: 93

I was quite happy with the running and officiating at the tournament. They even did something that often doesn't happen - they enforced the hidden serve rule. Twice I asked referee Scott Ryan to watch the serve of a player, and each time he agreed the serve was hidden, and sent out an umpire (I believe Ken Potts in both cases) who called the serve. In both cases the player didn't complain, and simply began to serve legally.

On Monday night someone broke into Director John Miller's car and stole his computer, printouts, his glasses, and lots of other stuff. This could have created havoc, but John stayed up all night with a borrowed computer and recreated the entire tournament from scratch. Though he had to squint all day at the computer screen (often staring from a few inches away), he managed to keep the tournament running successfully the rest of the way. No results were lost, though he said he'd have a lot of tedious re-entering to do.

Here are complete Results of the 2012 Junior Olympics. (Ignore the links for Saturday and Sunday, which are mistaken repeats of other results and should be taken down soon.) MDTTC won a bunch of medals, even though we only had a small contingent this year. MDTTC winners were:

  • Amy Lu (Gold in Under 12 Girls' Singles and Under 16 Girls' Doubles and Teams)
  • Lilly Lin (Bronze in Under 16 Girls' Singles, Gold in Under 16 Girls' Doubles and Teams)
  • Lisa Lin (Bronze in Under 10 Girls' Singles, Silver in Under 10 Girls' Doubles, and Gold in Under 16 Girls' Teams)
  • John Hsu (Silver in Under 22 Men's Singles, Doubles, and Teams)
  • Nathan Hsu (Bronze in Under 18 Boys' Singles, Silver in Under 22 Men's Doubles and Teams, and runner-up in Division A)
  • Jackson Liang (Silver in Under 18 Boys' Doubles and Under 22 Men's Teams)
  • George Nie (Silver in Under 18 Boys' Doubles and Under 22 Men's Teams)
  • Wesley Duan (Bronze in Under 14 Boys' Teams)
  • Kyle Wang (Bronze in Under 14 Boys' Teams)

Now the down side.

  • After watching his son miss a shot, a father yelled out to him, "You suck, [son's name]!" I wanted to punch him. It amazes me at how many parents see nothing wrong with berating their kids, even publicly.
  • In the third point of a game an opponent got a clear edge ball to go up 3-0. His father jumped to his feet cheering and clapping non-stop, and went on so long the players had to delay the next point until he stopped.
  • A player entered as an unrated player, using his Chinese name rather than his Americanized one. He had a 2227 rating, but didn't tell anyone. So he was placed in the lowest divisions on the first day of competition, which are essentially rating events. The result? This 2200+ player won the equivalent of Under 800 and Under 1200, and messed up the Under 18 draws, where he should have been seeded. Disciplinary action will likely be taken against him, and he will probably be asked to return the division medals.
  • I've never seen so much "strategic dumping" by junior players. A number of them were told to dump matches so as to get better draw positions or to avoid playing teammates. One 2500 player dumped to a 1900 player, a student of his, to give him a better draw, but was ordered to play the match by the referee or drop out of the event. (They played and he won.) Another player was up 2-1 in games when, after a consultation with his father, he suddenly defaulted, thereby apparently avoiding playing a teammate. (He later claimed he was sick, but then played his other matches. He ended up playing the teammate after all when the 2500 player was forced to play the 1900 player.)
  • And now we get to the biggest problem, one that will leave a bad taste in my mouth for a long time to come. In the small print in the entry form it said that "Non-citizens are welcome to play in the AAU events" (i.e. the Junior Olympics age events), and so, I believe for the first time ever, non-citizens played in the U.S. Junior Olympics. (Yes, this means the Chinese junior champion can take a quick vacation to the U.S. and win the U.S. Junior Olympics.) The result? The older events of the tournament were dominated by Chinese Province players who had been hired to train U.S. players. Worse, there was no way to check the ages. I've been assured for years by just about everyone from China that it is standard to subtract 2-4 years from ages of junior players to better their chances of making teams. And strangely enough, all these Chinese Province players looked much older than their listed ages. (You'd think there'd be at least one that looked young for his "age.")

    And so we had at least two Chinese Province Players, now professional coaches in the U.S., who looked in their mid-twenties, playing in and dominating the U.S. Junior Olympics. Several Chinese told me they knew of the Under 18 Singles, Doubles, and Team winner as a Chinese Province Player they said was 24 years old, but of course there's no way to prove it. (In China I'm told all you do is pay a fee and fill out a form and you can get a birth certificate with whatever age you put down. This is very different from the U.S., where we expect birth certificates to be accurate.) Finally, someone pulled me aside and assured me the player wasn't 24, he was "only 21." And that's who beat Nathan Hsu in the semifinals of Under 18 Singles.

    The tournament referee said he had already contacted the people running the tournament next year to warn them of the problem. I think the only solution is to go back to citizens only in the U.S. Junior Olympics. Who knows, maybe these older-looking Chinese Province Players/Professional Coaches playing in the U.S. Junior Olympics really are the age they say they are, but there's no way of knowing.

Airport Ping-Pong

On the flight back from the Junior Olympics on Wednesday night our flight at Houston International Airport was delayed four hours. So how did we pass the time? Airport Ping-Pong! Here's the video (1:42) of Nathan Hsu, Lilly Lin (righty) and Amy Lu (lefty) hitting on the airport lounge tables, which we positioned about four feet apart. (I'm the ballboy on the left.) We played for over an hour. I hit with Nathan for fifteen minutes at the end (lot of vicious countering, looping, and lobbing), and I might be able to get some footage of that up later.

Olympics

I've been away. Did an Olympics happen? I'm guessing there's been coverage somewhere else.

Baltimore Sun and Gazette Articles

While I was away coaching at the Southern Open and Junior Olympics, the Baltimore Sun and local Gazette Newspapers both ran recent articles on the Maryland Table Tennis Center. Here is the Baltimore Sun article that features U.S. Open Boys' 11 & Under Champion Derek Nie, and here is the Gazette article (where it quotes me as saying San Francisco is a hotbed for table tennis, when I said the Bay Area near San Francisco). The print editions also have pictures. The Washington Post also has a feature on us, most likely coming out next week.

Google Table Tennis Logos

Yesterday, for the third time, Google had a table tennis Google Doodle (that's what they call it) as their logo. They did the same thing for the 2004 and 2008 Olympic Games, doing one for each sport. Here are the three table tennis logos:

Forehand Smash

Here's a short video (0:48) from 2011 U.S. Men's Singles Champion Peter Li giving a tip on the forehand smash.

Panda Ping-Pong

Here's a hilarious video (5:03) of the folks at PingSkills training a Panda (someone in a Panda suit) to be an Olympic Table Tennis player.

Non-Table Tennis - Leashing the Muse and The Haunts of Albert Einstein

I just sold another story, this time the fantasy story "Leashing the Muse" to Space and Time Magazine. It's the story of an English professor (modeled on Tim Boggan) who is disgusted with the poor work his students are turning in. And then, due to global warming, the muse Polyhymnia (the muse of sacred song, oratory, lyric, singing and rhetoric, and the daughter of Zeus and Mnemosyn) is released from where she had been imprisoned in arctic ice for thousands of years by Zeus for criticizing his poetry. She decides her mission is to turn all written work into masterpieces, whether it be Milton, a newspaper articles, or a how-to manuals. When any three-year-old with a crayon can write masterpieces, nothing stands out anymore, and so there are no more masterpieces. It's up to our English professor to capture the muse and convince her to stop - and it'll take a powerful story-generating computer (fifty billion stories per second) to do so.

World Weaver Press has also announced the table of contents for its new anthology, "Specter Spectacular: 13 Ghostly Tales," which includes my humorous ghost story "The Haunts of Albert Einstein," which deals with Einstein's problems with bickering physicists and the paparazzi in the afterlife.

***

Send us your own coaching news!

July 26, 2012

Last Blog for a Week

I leave early tomorrow morning to coach at the Southern Open (Sat & Sun) and the Junior Olympics (Mon-Wed), both in Houston. As I've learned in the past, blogging while coaching and keeping track of numerous hordes of table tennis juniors is not an easy mix, so no more blogs until I return. (Next blog will be Friday, Aug. 3.)

Long Night

After coaching much of yesterday, I went to work on finalizing both the "MDTTC Junior Medals Listing, 1992-2012" file and the Coach Jack Huang for the U.S. Hall of Fame Application. I finished both a little after 5AM. It's now 5:20 AM as I write this, and in a few hours I'm off to the MDTTC camp to coach. And then I have to do laundry, go to the bank, get a haircut, pack, finalize and send off the application, and then watch videos to prepare for matches I'll be coaching in Houston the next five days. (See above item.) Yes, I study videos of prospective opponents and take extensive notes. Why don't you?

Yesterday was a wild day. Both the Washington Post and Baltimore Sun came in. The Post sent a writer, a photographer, and a videographer - besides a regular article with pictures they are doing a video feature on the club, which I believe will feature Derek Nie, Wang Qing Liang, Nathan Hsu, Amy Lu, and Timmy La. The Sun is featuring Derek Nie. I spoke with them about Derek for about half an hour. Derek, you're my buddy, but I'm getting sick and tired of talking about you!

The videographer filmed me as I fed multiball to beginning kids as they tried to 1) knock down pyramids made of paper cups; 2) smack a large rubber frog I placed on the table in a team competition; and 3) hit my "Gatorade bottle," which I'd convinced them was actually full of squeezed worm juice - I had to drink it whenever they hit it. He also videoed us using the robot. (But he spent most of his time videoing our top juniors in action, especially doing multiball.) I'll post a link to the video and the articles when the are up. (The Sun article is supposed to be in this Sunday's paper.)

Today will be even more fun - I'm bringing loads of candy, and at the end of the morning's sessions I'll put it all on the table, near the end, and the kids take turns trying to hit it. Whatever they knock off they get. Meanwhile, I have to figure out a way to stay awake. It's now past 5:30 AM, and I still haven't gone to bed. Yikes. (But I'd rather get the blog done before I go to bed for a few hours.)

Olympic Draws

They are posted on the ITTF home page. Table tennis starts Saturday. 

Chinese Domination in Table Tennis

PingSkills brings you this video (7:12) where they are mostly goofing off in London before the Olympics. They play ping-pong with a Panda. About three minutes in they start to talk about why China is so good.

Ben Stiller Talks Ping Pong with Jimmy Kimmel

Brought to you by Table Tennis Nation! Includes links to two videos (4:15 and 3:10).

Nathan's Guide to Table Tennis

This long awaited Guide is finally out! Brought to you by Maryland junior star Nathan Hsu, and assisted by visiting New Jersey junior star Allen Wang (12:33). And here's a hilarious 60-second video by Nathan that shows that if you don't play ping-pong, you might get bitten by a rabid rabbit.

***

Send us your own coaching news!

July 25, 2012

MDTTC Camp

I won't bother giving you the week and day number (okay, yesterday was week six, day two), since they start to blend together when you are doing eleven straight weeks of camps.

This week we have about 30 players, mostly advanced, with only 4-5 "beginners." Since it's a more advanced group (and since I could work with the beginners separately), I decided not to bother my usual stroke lectures. So yesterday I gave a talk on ball placement - playing the corners and middle, when to go for the extreme wide angles (outside the corners), opening up the wide angles by playing the middle, taking away the forehand by playing to the forehand first (often short) and then going to the backhand, moving players in and out, etc. After the break I gave short talk on doubles strategy - what types of serves to use (mostly short and low backspin and no-spin) and where to place them (mostly toward the center of the table), how to receive (forehand or backhand, as long as you can loop the deep ball), where to place the ball, etc.

Last week a reporter from the Washington Post came in to do a feature on Derek Nie, the U.S. Open Boys' 11 and Under Champion. (It looks like they are featuring Nathan Hsu as well, and other MDTTC players.) He's coming back this morning, along with a photographer. Not sure yet when the story will run.

On top of that the Baltimore Sun is doing an interview with Derek this morning for a feature in this Sunday's paper. I don't think Derek even knows about this one yet. We also have a local TV station that arranged yesterday to come in and do a special on us on Aug. 16. Plus the local Gazette is doing a special on us, not sure when they are coming in. Plus there was that CCTV American special on us last week. So it's been a busy media week. Meanwhile, I'll be coaching at the Junior Olympics next week (Mon-Wed), and will send out a whole new slew of press releases afterwards.

On break I saw Derek, Allen Wang, John Hsu, and Leon Bi playing a winner-stay-on game where they started each game at deuce, and you didn't have to win by two. (In other words, first to win two points. Leon, who's about a thousand points lower, only had to win one point.) I joined in, and did surprisingly well, winning at least the first game all five times I went on the table, and winning three in a row one time. I had a nice counterlooping point with Derek, and won a point chopping against John.

Larry's Law

This has come up several times recently, so I'll give it again. "Larry's Law" is a law I came up with years ago. Often as a player trains and improves they start challenging stronger players, but still lose most of these matches close, though they'll occasionally win one. The reason is that while they may now be playing at the same level as the other player, the other player has more experience at that level, and so is tactically and mentally more prepared to win the close games. In other words, if you are challenging stronger players and keep training and playing matches against players at that level, it means that in six months or so you'll have the experience to consistently win at that level

Interview with Jerome Charyn

Here's an interview with Jerome Charyn, table tennis player and author of the table tennis book "Sizzling Chops and Devilish Spins: Ping Pong and the Art of Staying Alive" (2001). The book is "part memoir and part history," and "...bounces from Manhattan in the 1940s (where unheralded lions of the game, like Marty Reisman and Dick Miles, hustled their way through the ping-pong underworld) to China in the 1960s (when Nixon used ping pong as a tool of diplomacy) to present-day France (where Charyn, our faithful guide, battles his way through the lower-division tournaments)."

Table Tennis Center Sprouts Up in South Carolina Mall

Here's an article about a table tennis center that opened up Richland Mall in Columbia, South Carolina.

Jan-Ove Waldner Tribute

I don't think I've posted this Waldner Tribute Video (4:21), with lots of great points from the Master.

Table Tennis as It Should Be

On a makeshift wooden table balanced on barrels.

Uberpong: Table Tennis Paddles Artwork

Here's an article and video (3:52) on Uberpong's numerous table tennis paddle artworks.

***

Send us your own coaching news!

January 16, 2012

Tip of the Week

Larry's Law.

Back problems

It's Baaaaaaaack!  Some of you may remember I spent much of last year suffering from serious back problems which were muscular related. I finally had to take a month off (getting locals to do my hitting for me when I coached), underwent major physical therapy with a physical therapist, and began a strict regimen of weight training and stretching. The back got better, and all was well. Then, after the Nationals in December, I figured my back problems were cured, and I stopped the weight training and relaxed the stretching routine to just basic stretches before and after playing. BIG MISTAKE. The back has been tightening up over the last couple weeks, and now I'm struggling with my play again. After an hour or so of coaching, the back is back to agony again. So starting today, I'm back on the weight training and stretching regimen. Alas.

Serves and Strategy and nothing else

Here's a lesson for all of us - how to win when you are not playing well, and how to win ever more when you are playing well.

On Friday and Saturday, besides coaching, I played in a pair of two-hour match sessions. Until my last match on Saturday (where I lost a close one) I had a dubious distinction of playing perhaps the worst I've ever played at the club and gone undefeated. My back was titanium stiff, my forehand was like a hummingbird with a broken wing, I moved like a crippled snail, and I had the reflexes of a napping sloth. And yet I kept pulling out matches against players at or near my level, almost exclusively on serves and placement. I beat a 2200 player with two basic strategies: short sidespin serves to forehand (both types of sidespins) which he missed or popped up over and over, and quick pushes to the middle off the serve, where he kept making mistakes as he'd hesitate on whether to use his forehand or backhand. Then I beat a 2150 player by cycling serves and quick hitting his serves off the bounce. ("Cycling serves" is my term for throwing every imaginable serve you have at the opponent, essentially cycling through them all and then starting over.)

Now if I can only do this when my back gets better! The lesson here is that players often forget how to win when they are "playing well," and instead rely on (drum roll please) playing well. Instead, when you are playing well, imagine that you have to do whatever it takes to win, and at the same time actually play well, and watch how much better you play.

The Tong Tong Gong of Ping-Pong in the Baltimore Sun

Here's a feature article on USA Cadet Team Member Tong Tong Gong in the Sunday Baltimore Sun. The print version has a much larger version of this picture. I'm quoted in the story several times - I'm one of Tong Tong's coaches.

Timo Boll serve

Here are slow motions of Germany's Timo Boll's serve (1:30), both forehand pendulum and forehand reverse pendulum. They are shown from two angles. If you are a righty, you can mimic the version on the left of the lefty Boll's serve by being a mirror image. (Boll, currently #4 in the world, was #1 for three months last year.) 

Sport & Art Educational Foundation

The Sport & Education Foundation features table tennis to help senior citizens, in particular to help offset Alzheimer's and dementia. See their intro (where they say, "Current research by renowned psychiatrists has confirmed that ping-pong is the world's best brain sport") as well their "Why Table Tennis" page, and then explore the rest of their web pages.

Senior citizens,

World Heavyweight Boxing Champion Vitali Klitschko

Here's an article about boxing champ Vitali Klitschko and how playing table tennis daily prepares him for fights.

Top Ten Shots of 2011?

And here they are (3:47)!

Table tennis commercial

Here's a humorous table tennis commercial, though you don't find out what the commercial is for until 1:24 into this 1:40 commercial - it's for some sort of 24-hour Energy Drink. Actually, I don't think it's advertising any real drink, just a satire of one. Make sure to see the deadly warning at the end.

***

Send us your own coaching news!

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.)

***

Send us your own coaching news!

Syndicate content