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Timo Boll Serve

July 23, 2014

Doc Counsilman Science Coach of the Year and Ruminations on Coaching

Look what I got in the mail recently! Here's the plaque for my winning the USATT Doc Counsilman Science Coach of the Year. And here's the plaque/box from the U.S. Olympic Committee for being a finalist for the award - one of three out of all the Olympic sports. (Here's their news item.) The latter is actually a box - it opens up. I can store ping-pong balls inside! ("The Doc Counsilman Science Award recognizes a coach who utilizes scientific techniques and equipment as an integral part of his/her coaching methods or has created innovative ways to use sport science.")

This was my second USATT Coach of the Year award - I was Developmental Coach of the Year in 2002, and finished second in the voting for Coach of the Year three times. I've had a few other plaques from USATT - the 2007 President's Award and my 2003 Hall of Fame Induction Award, plus various certificates showing my coaching certification as a USATT National Coach, ITTF Level 1 Coach, and ITTF Level 2 Coach. (I'll put the latter two online some other time.)

This got me thinking about my strengths and weaknesses as a coach. I think I’m at my best at the following:

  • Tactics
  • Strategic development (i.e. developing a player's game)
  • Fixing bad habits
  • Teaching serve & receive
  • Teaching beginners, both kids and adults

My weaknesses? I’d like to say I have none, but alas, everyone does. I’m not enough of a slave-driver, not like some other coaches who can simultaneously work a player to death and stardom. I’m probably too lenient at fine-tuning advanced strokes - again, I can be too lenient once a player reaches a high level. I'm not as experienced as I'd like in teaching the intricacies of penhold play. And I’m not an equipment junkie. Another problem is sheer level of play - at 54, with numerous nagging injuries, I'm not as fast as I used to be, and so in private sessions can't push top players like I used to.

Of course that's one reason why we have practice partners at MDTTC. These practice partners are also coaches, but it is their playing level that distinguishes them, and allows them to push up-and-coming players to their limit.

Speaking of practice partners and coaches, there's a huge overlap between them. Not all "coaches" are good, while some "practice partners" are very insightful. The primary thing that distinguishes good coaches from bad ones, in my opinion, isn't just their experience and coaching skills - it's their learning skills. Even a relatively inexperienced coach can do a pretty good job if he knows he is inexperienced, and so studies top players and coaches to learn, and more importantly, when he’s not sure what to do with a student, he finds out, either by asking questions of experienced coaches and players, by watching video, or sometimes by just thinking extensively about the problem. The beginning of the end for a coach is when he starts just saying stuff that he thinks might be right, but isn’t sure (or worse, is confident of things that he really doesn't know about), rather than making sure he gets it right. It’s not hard to learn in this day and age – there are these wonderful things called “Google” and “Youtube." Use them!

Wang Hao Takes Pride From His Olympic Silver Medals

Here's the article. Wang won the silver medal at the last three Olympics (2004, 2008, 2012), and was also second in Men's Singles at the last two World Championships (2011, 2013), but did win gold in Men's Teams in 2008 and 2012, as well as World Men's Singles Champion in 2009. (Here's a listing of Olympic Table Tennis Medalists, and a listing of World Champion Table Tennis Medalists.)

Preview of the $36,000 Los Angeles Open

Here's the article by Barbara Wei on the $36,000 LA Open to be held Aug. 16-17.

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. Sixty-one down, 39 to go!

  • Day 40: Motivated by Seeing Others Achieve, Leandro Olvech

Timo Boll's Serve in Slow Motion

Here's the video (4:01) of the German star, world #10, formerly #1.

Jean-Michel Saive's Lobbing Point Against Wang Liqin

Here's the video (49 sec, including slow-motion) of the great Belgium player (former world #1) lobbing at the 2003 World Championships.

Michael Maze - Off the Table

Here's the video (3:15) of the Denmark star, world #28, formerly #8.

Serving Trick Shot

Here's the video (42, including slow motion replay) of one of the best and most creative trick shots I've seen, by Josep Antón Velázquez. I think I could do the same pair of serves, but how many tries would it take?

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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.

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