Tournaments

November 12, 2014

Tournaments and Omnipong

I've run over 120 USATT tournaments, ranging from monthly tournaments at MDTTC all through the 1990s to the 1998 Eastern Open which received 411 entries, still the record for a four-star tournament. (Richard Lee was tournament president for that one, his first big tournament, and he's been running them all over the country ever since with North American Table Tennis.) Running a large one is a massive undertaking, and even the smaller ones take far more time and work than most realize.

I sometimes think all tournament players should be required to run a USATT tournament just one time, to see what really goes on. Observant players have a good idea of what tournament directors do during a tournament; really observant ones who think it through have a good idea of all the work that went on before the tournament. Before the tournament, directors (sometimes working with a referee) receive the entries, enter them onto the computer (unless, heaven forbid in this day and age, they are running it by hand, on paper!), check all the memberships, create draws (including checking for geographical separation and other complexities), finalize the scheduling, and print everything out so it's ready. They get all the tables, nets, and barriers in place, put up the table numbers, and make sure everything is clean. And then there are those thousand small details that, if I listed them all, it'd take up about a year's worth of blogs.

There's also the more advance work - scheduling the tournaments, creating the entry forms, circulating them, publicizing the tournament, and so on. I change my mind; even running a small one is a massive undertaking!!! There's a reason why "tournament" is just an anagram for "one tantrum."

There are various types of software out there you can use to run tournaments. One that I can strongly recommend, and that's spreading all over the country, is Omnipong. I ran two tournaments with it last year, and it worked really well. (Because of conflicts with my weekend coaching, Charlene Liu took over as MDTTC tournament director - and she also uses Omnipong.) It's easy to learn, easy to use, and perhaps best of all, it puts all the results online, so anyone can see all of the results immediately afterwards - even the preliminary round robins.

Go to Omnipong, click on "Tournaments," and note just how widespread the software has become. Then pick out a tournament, any tournament, and click on "Results." Have fun exploring!

I emailed Craig Krum, the creator of the software, and asked if he could tell us about it. Below is his response. (Tournament directors should read and study every word, but the eyes of players will likely glaze over, and they should probably skip ahead to the next segment. Or perhaps read "Top Ten Ways to Play Your Best in a Tournament," or "Should You Play Tournaments When Working on Something New?," or perhaps "Tournament Toughness.")

The Short Version:

  • Started development in the mid-90s as a personal tool to help run tournaments, which I had been doing by hand with Harold Kopper for the Rialto Table Tennis Club. Being a programmer I was able to keep adding the features that I needed to make my job easier.
  • I developed the internet version of OmniPong in 2011, so players would be able to sign up online, and to make the system available to other TDs. To date this version of OmniPong has been used by over 25 Directors to run over 200 tournaments. The tournaments range from unsanctioned events with 20 players, to the National Senior Games, with over 400 players. This total also includes 23 four-star events.
  • Nearly 2500 players have registered with OmniPong, so they can enter tournaments online.

Online Registration System Highlights:

  • Online entry.
  • Online payment using credit cards or PayPal. Connects directly to Tournament Director's account.
  • Payment tracking and verification.
  • Weekly updates from USATT, to keep ratings and membership information current.
  • Automatically verifies which events a player can enter, based on their rating, age, gender, time conflict, etc.
  • Electronic submission of results file to NATT for processing.
  • Electronic submission of the reports that need to be sent to USATT for processing (Tournament Report, Player Listing, Membership Applications).
  • Ability to send custom emails to all players for various reasons (welcome message, entry verification, balance due, link to results, etc.)
  • Immediate publication of results online.
  • Family members can link OmniPong accounts together, for easy entry and payment for tournaments.
  • Many reports available.

Control Desk Highlights:

  • Easy to use visual interface.
  • Tracks table usage, including who is on the table, and how long a match has been playing.
  • Handles Round Robin groups up to 12 players.
  • Automatically breaks ties based on USATT/ITTF rules.
  • Draws automatically try to avoid conflicts when players are from the same club,  have played each other before, or live close to each other.
  • Time scheduling of all matches, which shows potential player conflicts.
  • No internet connection is necessary during the tournament.

Future Plans:

  • Finish Team format.
  • Add League system.
  • Add Club management system.
  • A million other things!

2015 Pan Am, National Men and Women’s Team, and Men and Women’s World Team Selection Procedure

Here they are.

Forehand Loop of Tao Wenzhang

Here's video (39 sec) of the 2014 U.S. Open Men's Singles Champion that shows perfect looping form. You can learn a lot by watching this. I had a student watch it to see the contact point in relation to the body, since the student was contacting the ball too much in front (thereby losing power) instead of more to the side, as Tao and other world-class players do.

Reverse Pendulum Backspin Serve Swing and Contact Point

Here's the video (3:04). This is part 3 - you can find parts 1 & 2 here.

Interview with Tamara Boros

Here's the interview by Dora Kurimay with the former world #2 woman, on "The Key to Success: Positive Mental Attitude."

Training for a Purpose

Here's the new video (1:24) from the Zhou Xin TT Academy.

Ask the Coach

Here's episode #25. (12:10).

  • Question 1 - 2:22: How and when to move to ready position after you've made a pendulum serve from the backhand corner with your left leg in front of you. Should you move into position when you know where your opponent will place the return or as soon as you’ve served? Robin
  • Question 2 - 4:41: Why Can't We Start With a Fast Bat? Why do we need different blades and rubber? Why we can't start with a higher topspin or power? Can I buy Pingskills Touch Vega Pro Bat for my second Bat? Kritpol
  • Question 3 - 8:00: I recently purchased a small table tennis table and I was wondering what kind of training will I be able to do with a small table? Enoch Oppong
  • Question 4 - 9:53: Is it a good move to chop smash and why none of the professional players use it? Petar

Now This is a Great Point!

Here's the video (39 sec) - and it's at match point!

Tribute to the Troops

Here's Mike Mezyan's table tennis tribute artwork to the Troops yesterday on Veteran's Day.

JOOLA Fun Games Finalists

Here's the video (48 sec) of the four finalists!

Recent Movies with Table Tennis

Here are some recent movies that were not about table tennis, but had table tennis scenes.

  • Big Hero 6 - As I blogged yesterday, when the hero Hiro (pun intended!) visits the university where they are making robots there are two robots rallying in the background. A few minutes later they are seen again. Alas, I can't find video or pictures.
  • Minions - the trailer features table tennis 80 seconds in. (Movie doesn't come out until July of next year.)
  • Despicable Me 2 - There's a brief shot in the film in which Edith is playing ping pong with a minion, but uses a pair of nunchaku instead of a ping pong paddle. There's also a party scene where the minions are sitting about on the ping-pong table. Here's an online video (11 sec) of the minions playing table tennis that's not in the movie.
  • X-Men: Days of Future Past - Here's an animated gif of the character Quicksilver playing table tennis, as Hank/Beast, a young Charles Xavier (in background), and Wolverine look on.
  • About Time - here's a clip (53 sec) where father and son play.
  • Gravity - When they get to the Chinese ship, about ten minutes from the end, twice you see a ping-pong paddle floating about. I wasn't able to find video or a picture.
  • 22 Jump Street (okay, it was only beer pong, but close enough.)
  • Monster University - Here's a gif image of the table tennis scene.

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October 6, 2014

Tip of the Week

Should You Play Tournaments When Working on Something New?

Coaching and a Ball Shortage - a Good Thing?

Yesterday was somewhat hectic for an unusual reason - a ball shortage. But perhaps that was a good thing?

I spent the morning working with Tim Boggan on Volume 15 of his History of U.S. Table Tennis (1986-88). We started around 6AM and stopped at noon. (Over the weekend Tim and I watched the Marty Reisman documentary "Fact or Fiction: The Life & Times of a Ping-Pong Hustler, which I'll blog about later this week, probably tomorrow - I took lots of notes. 84-year-old Tim found it depressing.) After lunch I went to MDTTC for three hours of private coaching and a 90 minute junior group session.

The private coaching went pretty well - two juniors and one adult. The first of the two kids was a relative beginner, age 11. He did pretty well - his basic forehand and backhand strokes are sound - so we spent much of the session working on his forehand loop, and then on serves. His loop gets surprising spin for someone who hasn't been doing it very long - he has very good contact with the ball, though he tends to stop his upper body rotation before contact, costing him power. The second kid was a 7-year old who already topspins all his backhands, essential an off-the-bounce backhand loop that's going to be scary good someday. We spent much of the session also working on his forehand loop. The final session was with Navin, the full-time hardbat and sandpaper player with the artificial heart and Parkinson's. We spent much of the session working on his forehand hitting and backhand chop blocking, and then on hardbat serves.

Then came the hectic part. From 4:30-6:00 I teach a junior class with 12 players. Assisting was Coach Jeffrey. We needed three boxes of balls - two for Jeffrey and I (for multiball) and another for the robot. The problem was that coaches Cheng, Jack, Leon, Bowen, Raghu, and John were all doing private coaching sessions, and several of our top juniors were using boxes of balls to train or practice serves, and suddenly we had a severe ball shortage. (Fortunately, Coach Alex is in China right now or it might have been worse!) We'd opened the last box of training balls a few days later, and for now there were no more. So Jeffrey and I scrounged around the club, grabbing every ball we could. We managed to get enough - barely - though we had to really focus on ball pickup so we wouldn't run out of balls.

We do nearly 300 hours of coaching at MDTTC each week. I'm constantly amazed when I hear from some players and club leaders about how impossible it is to get players, that there just isn't enough demand out there. But there's a simple formula we discovered when we opened MDTTC 22 years ago - if you bring in high-level coaches with great work ethics, and let them keep the bulk of their private coaching income, they will have great incentive to bring in students, and those students will become the backbone of the club, paying for memberships, tournaments, leagues, equipment, and group coaching sessions. That's how you fill a club up. It's not easy at the start, but if you do it, the players will come. That's the formula that works for us, and for the large majority of the roughly 75 full-time clubs in the U.S. (I wrote more about this in the Professional Table Tennis Coaches Handbook, in particular on how to find students to develop a full-time coaching practice.)

More Larry & Tim Quotes

On Friday I blogged about working with Tim Boggan on Volume 15 of his History of U.S. Table Tennis, and gave a number of quotes. Here are more.

Larry: "Should we use the good one or the blur?"
Tim: "It goes against my grain, but we'll use the better picture."
Larry: "I knew you'd weaken."

~

Tim: "Let's use them even though they're good." (About two photos that were so good they made the others look bad.)

~

Tim: "Bring the curtain over." (Wanted me to move something in a photo.)

~

Larry: "Posterity will come and go, and no one will ever know." (Musing to himself about the various manipulations he does on the page.

~

Larry: "I want to check something." (Every five minutes.)
Larry: "Have to check on the Orioles game." (Every five minutes.)
Larry: "I have an email coming." (Every 30 seconds.)

Snake Serve Table Tennis

Here's a video (5:19) of a hilarious coaching video. Learn the Snake Serve (a forehand pendulum serve), the Reverse Serve, and the Lizard Serve! Warning - if you suffer from Ophidiophobia (fear of snakes), do not watch this.

Top Ten Creative Servers of Table Tennis

Here's the article and video (12:41).

Learn How to Make Your Loops More Deceptive - Just Add Variation!

Here's the article by Samson Dubina.

Nathan Hsu in China

Here's Nathan's latest vlog (4:12). He's actually back now, and editing and putting the videos online when he's not training. 

USATT Athletes of the Month

Here's the USATT article. This month they are Crystal Wang (women), Timothy Wang (men), and Tahl Leibovitz (Paralympic). Crystal, of course, is from my club.

Charity Tournament and Celebrity SLAMFest Huge Success

Here's the USATT article.

Asian Games Men's Final

Here's the video (7:12, with time between points taken out) between the top two players in the world, Xu Xin and Fan Zhendong.

China on Top of Asia after Claiming Men's & Women's Singles Gold

Here's the ITTF Press Release.

Ping-Pong Business Hopes to Restart Table Tennis Craze

Here's the article (with pictures and video) about King Pong Table Tennis in Staten Island.

Happy Birthday Jan-Ove Waldner

Here's the graphic and comments - he turned 49 on Friday.

Arguing About Benghazi Talking Points

Here's the TT cartoon.

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October 18, 2012

MDTTC October Open and Tournament Scheduling

This weekend I'm running the MDTTC October Open in Gaithersburg, Maryland (that's USA). Come join us for a weekend of competitions! Top entries so far include Wang Qing Liang (2621), Chen Bo Wen (2516), Raghu Nadmichettu (2328), and Nathan Hsu (2310), and I expect a few more. We're giving away $2600 in prize money, and much larger trophies than before. If you are playing in the tournament, here's my Ten-Point Plan to Tournament Success.

For those of you scared of facing under-rated juniors who spent all summer training in our camps, relax - most gained a zillion points in our last tournament. Besides, if you do lose to a 60-pound kid with a rating 500 points lower than his level, it'll be something to talk about years from now when that player becomes a superstar. It's sometimes fun to watch these up-and-coming kids and guess which ones are going to become the superstars. Also, remember that if one of these kids has a really good tournament - including a win over you - he'll get an adjusted rating, and you'll only lose rating points to the adjusted rating, not his starting one. In fact, by losing to him in an upset, you greatly increase the chances of his getting adjusted!

There's a downside to my running these tournaments - it conflicts with my coaching schedule, where I'm busiest on weekends. Each time I run one I have to do a series of cancellations, postponements, reschedulings, and substitutions. For some players with less flexible schedules, it means they miss their weekly session, which isn't always fair to them. I may have to recruit someone to take over to run our tournaments next year. (Any volunteers? You do get paid! Not a huge amount, but at least $200 per tournament, more if there's a good turnout.)

We could also use a few more umpires. We have a referee, of course, but for umpires we often have to hen-peck someone into going out there. There are only a few certified umpires locally. I'm a certified umpire, but I'm running the tournament. (For those not clear on this, referees make sure the rules are followed - legal draws, clothing, rules interpretations, etc. - but do not umpire unless they can assign someone else to take their place as referee. Umpires are the ones who go out to the table to keep score and make sure rules are followed in individual matches. Directors do the actual running of the tournament.)

I ran all the MDTTC tournaments in the 1990s and early 2000s. (I've run over 200 USATT sanctioned tournaments lifetime, mostly at MDTTC and at the Northern Virginia Club in the 1980s, plus a few at nearby Club JOOLA, and in Colorado and North Carolina, as well as the 4-star Eastern Open in 1998.) Last month was the first one I ran in nearly a decade, and this will be my second.

There are a few minor problems with the scheduling that I hope to work out for next year, but for now we'll have to go with the event schedule. The main problem is that the events are scheduled each day so the lowest event starts first, then the next lowest, and so on. This means that the players who advance to the playoffs in each event are usually the highest rated players in the event, and they are also the ones most likely to be playing in the next highest event - and so there's a lot of conflict as the same players are in the playoffs and the new event.

If, instead, the highest events were to go first, then the ones advancing to the playoffs, usually the highest rated in the event, usually aren't not eligible for the next lowest event, which would be the next one starting. The downside to this is that it would mean the first event starting would be the highest event, which on one day would be the Open - and for some reason, the "top" players often don't like playing early in the morning. Alas. So instead it might be best to start with the highest rating events and work down, and schedule the Open a little later in the day.

The other option is to alternate events, i.e. a high one, then a low one, etc.  The downside to that is that players have to wait longer between events if they are playing in two consecutive rating events.

Pictures from ITTF Coaching Seminar in India

Here are more pictures from the ITTF coaching seminars that USATT Coaching Chair Richard McAfee is running in India.

Backspin/No-Spin Serves

Here's a video from PingSkills (1:56) on varying your serve between heavy backspin and no-spin.

Incredible Shots

Here's a highlights video of great shots that I hadn't seen or put up before (6:05).

Ping/Pong the Palindromic Book?

Here's the book, and below is the description they give. That's all I know, folks!

PING/PONG is the first palindromic book. It may be read the same way in either direction. The book stages a thrilling game of table-tennis in which the front and back covers face off in an never-ending rally. A unique and interactive reading experience! This 200 pages book was my contribution to the project Babel on demand: a monumental manifesto initiated by Étienne Hervy and Émilie Lamy for the International Graphic Design Festival of Chaumont.

"Life with Elizabeth" Ping-Pong, Part 2

Yesterday I linked to a video of a humorous ping-pong routine from the 1952-1956 TV show "Life with Elizabeth," starring Betty White. (It starts about 30 seconds in and lasts about four minutes.) It turns out they had another one, in the episode entitled "Remorse Code." Here's the video, with the link taking you directly to where the table tennis starts (at 16:19). There's a short break from the table tennis, but watch to the end (at 25:38). You'll meet the dumbest and most literal-mined ping-pong player ever. (Special thanks to Scott Gordon for finding the "Life with Elizabeth" video from yesterday, and to Jay Turberville for finding the one today.)

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September 7, 2012

Tournament Season

Tournament season is upon us! After a long summer of practice (right?), you are now ready to take on all those pampered players who didn't train as you did, and make their ratings points yours while gathering a collection of hardware. (And if you are in the Maryland area, don't miss our Sept. 22-23 MDTTC tournament, which I'm running - we've got hardware AND checks just sitting around, waiting for someone to take. Won't you please?)

It's time to focus more on game-type play. All summer you've been doing stroking and footwork drills (right?), physical training (right?), and practicing your both your regular and new serves (right?). Those stroking and footwork drills will take you far, but in matches, most opponents will object if you ask them to hit the ball back and forth between two spots so you can move back and forth and attack with your forehand. So now's the time to introduce game-type drills.

Focus on serve & attack drills and random drills. When possible, start off drills with a serve and attack, and then either play out the points or combine both rote and random footwork. For example, you might serve backspin, partner pushes deep to your backhand, you loop (forehand or backhand, depending on your style), partner blocks to your wide forehand, you forehand loop, and then you play out the point. Or partner pushes your serve back randomly anywhere, and you loop and play out the point. Or partner flips your short serve anywhere (or perhaps the first flip goes to the wide forehand, or perhaps wide backhand), and then play out the point. Be creative in designing drills that match what you face in matches.

This doesn't mean you should stop doing regular stroking and footwork drills - they are important at all times. But the focus needs to switch to more game-like drills.

You should also be honing your serving skills. Can you pull off in tournament conditions the serves you can do in practice? Can you serve with all spins to all parts of the table, both short and long, with deceptive motions? If not, better start practicing. In particular practice your fast and deep serves out of proportion to how often you use them. You may only serve them a couple of times a game, but they need more precision and therefore more practice if you are going to use them at all.

And don't forget your sports psychology! Playing in a tournament is quite different than playing a regular club match, and if you aren't ready for that, you are sunk. Here are some good links on sports psychology.

Below are two articles I wrote on playing in tournaments (which I also linked to a few days ago):

Coaching Articles

While I'm linking to articles, here are many of my online coaching articles. I've also got over 80 Tips of the Week. And here's a complete listing of my 1382 published articles, many linked online.

Ding Ning to Miss World Cup

Here's an article where defending champion and world #1 Ding Ning explains why she'll miss the World Cup. Article includes a link to the video of last year's final between Ding and Li Xiaoxia.

Interview with Allen Wang

Here's an interview with Allen Wang, who just won the North American Cadet Championships. (And he trained for two weeks this summer at MDTTC, my club!)

Marty Reisman Featured in American Way

The article isn't online, so you'll have to fly American Airlines to read the entire thing. But this article from Table Tennis Nation features a number of excerpts from the article, such as: "Even at 82, I'm itching for a good money game…What I really want to do is play a money match against someone who's young enough to be my grandson — ­someone of note, not some Mickey Mouse player. That’s never been done in professional sports before. Sure, I’ve lost some speed, but I still play a very clever, witty game. I’m pretty athletic for someone who's 82. I’ve still got plenty of vinegar left in me." There are also some nice pictures.

iTable Tennis!

Watch this video of this ordinary room becoming a feature table tennis club in just 20 seconds!

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August 30, 2011

What are your table tennis goals?

And before you say them, remember this. There are two voices that will constantly ridicule your goals if they are too high. One is from some other players, who may not have the same lofty goals for you that you may have for yourself. Ignore them, and go for your goals. (Though it is helpful to have reasonable goals - just don't limit yourself.) The other is that little voice inside your head that says, "You can't!" Ignore that voice. In the words of Albert Einstein, "Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds." So drop the mediocre voice from your mind and let the great spirit soar.

Illegal hidden serves one more time (until next time)

<Begin Rant>

Dear umpires, coaches, and players, let's go over this one more time.

Rule 2.6.6: "It is the responsibility of the player to serve so that the umpire or the assistant umpire can be satisfied that he or she complies with the requirements of the Laws."

Read that over once or ten times, and it'll still say the same thing. If you aren't sure if the server is hiding contact with his serve, then you aren't sure he isn't, and the server is not serving "...so that the umpire or the assistant umpire can be satisfied that he or she complies with the requirements of the Laws." You can give a warning the first time, but thereafter you must call a fault. If you do not, you are not umpiring; you are allowing one player to cheat, and making sure more players will do so since they see umpires are not enforcing the rules. You know, the rules, the ones umpires are supposed to enforce?

Do we really want a sport where cheaters prosper and those who do not cheat are chumps who can't compete because of the umpires? As a coach, I often feel like a chump at tournaments since I haven't taught illegal hidden serves to my players, while more and more opponents are using them. It's pretty much rampant at the higher levels.

To those who say it's okay to go to the limit of hidden serves as long as you don't actually hide them - if you do that, then sometimes you will inadvertently go over the line and actually hide them. That's the nature of going to the limit on something. More importantly, if you go to the limit, the umpire from his vantage point can't tell for sure if the serve is hidden or not, and therefore he is legally obligated to call the serve illegal. See the rule quoted above. So you cannot go "to the limit" on hidden serves. If you can't serve so the umpire can see that contact was clearly visible, it's an illegal serve.

Yes, this is a picky subject for me because I don't teach illegal hidden serves at my club, and neither do the other coaches there. But other coaches from other clubs do, and we have to face these players and their illegal serves in tournaments. Since we don't teach illegal hidden serves, our players do not have illegal hidden serves, and since we also haven't taught their practice partners to do illegal hidden serves, they are not experienced at returning illegal hidden serves, and so often lose to those who use illegal hidden serves because the umpires are allowing opponents to use illegal hidden serves.

Didn't Major League Baseball have a little problem when they wouldn't enforce the rules on steroids, thereby creating an entire generation of cheaters? Hmmmm....

</End Rant>

Another table tennis blog

You'll find a number of interviews of top players and coaches and other table tennis items at Matt Hetherington's blog. (He's based in New Zealand, but seems to know everyone.) For those of you who just can't get enough table tennis. That means you. And you. And yes, you too.

The Bryan Brothers

Yes, they play table tennis too - see article and picture. (In their free time, they're the world's best tennis doubles team.)

All about table tennis tournaments

So you're about to play your first table tennis tournament, or one of your first. You're probably scared to death. You should be - some of the initiation rites they do to new players is absolutely . . . oh, never mind, you'll find out. But first, why not read my article Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Your First Tournament - But Didn't Know Where to Ask! (Much of this would be useful even if you've played in a few.) Here's a list of questions answered in the article:

GENERAL TOURNAMENT INFORMATION

  • I’m thinking of entering my first tournament. What do I need to know?
  • How can I find out when and where tournaments are being held?
  • What are the fees and requirements to play in a tournament?
  • What types of events are held at tournaments? Are there events where I would be competitive?
  • What is the format for the various events?
  • What is a “Round Robin”?
  • What are rating doubles events?
  • Are there prizes for winning an event?
  • Is there a dress code?
  • Are there rules on what equipment I may use?
  • What’s the difference between the tournament director, the referee, and an umpire?
  • When I arrive at the tournament, what do I do?

TOURNAMENT RATINGS

  • How does the Tournament rating system work?
  • Will I be able to play in rating events in my first tournament, since I’m unrated?
  • After I play in my first tournament, when will I be rated?
  • Who runs the USATT ratings?

TOURNAMENT ETIQUETTE

  • Warming up
  • Before the match
  • During the match
  • After the match
  • Spectating
  • Photography & Videos
  • Videotaping

HOW TO PLAY YOUR BEST

And since we're on the subject of tournaments...

...here's my article Ten-Point Plan to Tournament Success! And here's a link to the USA Table Tennis Tournament Schedule.

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July 6, 2011

U.S. Open results and defaults

For those who missed it, you can see all of the U.S. Open results, either in summary form or all of the results of a specific event, from preliminary round robins to the single elimination stage.

As many have noticed, there seemed a lot of defaults at this year's Open, and nobody really knows why. Was it because of the new schedule, with the Open ending on Monday, July 4? Regardless of the reason, I think Larry Bavly explained many of the defaults when he wrote the following:

I think there are some players who default due to an injury, but the injury is brought about psychosomatically through the traumatic discovery of a low rated opponent in their draw. Therapy session for these players:
"My shoulder hurts, I can't play." 
"What's your opponent's rating?" 
"1400." 
"Do you realize he will be adjusted to 1900?"
"Hey, my shoulder feels a lot better now."

My best coaching lines at the U.S. Open

Here are some of my more interesting spontaneous coaching lines at the U.S. Open last week.

  • "Make no attempt to stay near the table."
    (Against a kid who played quick but without power.)
  • "She's dropping your short serves short, and looping your long serves. So serve in between."
    (So serve half-long, i.e. with second bounce near endline.)
  • "You have nothing to lose, so just serve and loop everything."
    (So play aggressive and if you play well, you'll do well.)
  • "He's twice your size and looks like a football player, but you're the better athlete."
    (Opponent was slow.)
  • "Lob higher."
    (Against a kid who had trouble with high-bouncing balls.)
  • "Stop ripping winners and spin the ball."
    (Because the rips were missing and so were winners for the opponent.)
  • "Turn off your brain and just attack."
    (If you consciously try to think about your shots, they'll fall apart.)
  • "I'm not throwing in the towel."
    (After making a player who forgot his towel come all the way to the barriers so I could hand it to him.)
  • "Are you sure you want to counterloop that?"
    (Against an opponent who was ripping forehand after forehand.)
  • "He has a great forehand counterloop, but only fishes on this backhand. I'd go to his backhand."
    (The opponent kept backing off the table.)

Upcoming tournaments to aim for

If you're a tournament player, when's your next major tournament? It always helps to have a specific tournament to train and prepare for. Some major upcoming ones:

Yes, cats can play table tennis

Here's proof.

50th Sale (Non-table tennis)

Outside table tennis I write science fiction & fantasy. I just sold my 50th short story, "Running with the Dead" to the Through the Eyes of the Dead II anthology. The story: Ben just wants to try out for the high school track team as a miler. The problem is he's dead, and the captain of the track team, the leader of the Mile Mafia, is the one who murdered him. (I write about 50-50 between science fiction and fantasy.) Here's my complete listing of published articles - 1274 in 120 different publications, including 1173 on table tennis.

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May 25, 2011

Eastern Open

If you are playing in the Eastern Open this weekend in New Jersey, hopefully you are in final preparations for creating utter devastation for your opponents. (I'll be coaching some of the MDTTC juniors there.) If you are not, then you should be planning out your final preparations for creating utter devastation for your opponents in future tournaments, leagues, club matches, or (sigh) beer pong. This should include:

  • Lots of rest. Sleep is actually more important the last few days before the tournament than during the tournament, not that you should skimp on sleep during the tournament.
  • Lots of carbohydrates. They'll load your muscles with glycogen, and give you energy in those long deuce-in-the-fifth matches.
  • Practicing serves. It's how you start half the points, and yet it's the most under-practiced aspect of table tennis. It's also the part you can get the most out of practicing just before a tournament. In my serious playing days I always did lots of serve practice the day before and the morning of a tournament.
  • Match practice. At this point, it's too late to fix up your basic techniques. It's time to get match ready. That means playing practice matches as if they were tournament matches.
  • Mental training. Yes, now's the time to visualize yourself playing tournament matches. Then, when you actually play them, there won't be many jitters since you'll have already played them over and over in your mind. I could go on and on about this, but it's best you just get a book on sports psychology (such as "The Inner Game of Tennis," the classic sports psychology book which uses tennis as an example), or these online articles and resources.
  • Morning warm-up. Have you arranged who you are going to warm up with before your first event? Or do you want to get stuck with your worst nightmare of a practice partner, the guy with bad breath and five surfaces who swats the ball randomly all over the place with 77 different strokes?
  • Look professional. Hey, it's a fashion show out there! Wear your best [your favorite table tennis brand name], and your opponents will quake at the sight of your professional-lookingness.

Presidential Ping-Pong Pictures Proliferate!

The Washington Post this morning ran a large picture at the top of the front page of President Obama and British Prime David Cameron playing table tennis. Really! The headline over it (at the top of the page) reads, "A new take on 'ping-pong diplomacy'?" The caption under it reads, "U.S. President Barack Obama (L) and Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron play table tennis at Globe Academy, in south London May 24, 2011. Obama on Tuesday begins a visit to Britain where he and Prime Minister David Cameron will review NATO action to help end conflict in Libya and Western policy towards uprisings in the Arab world. REUTERS/Paul Hackett."

In case you have been living under a large ping-pong ball the last 24 hours, numerous pictures of the two playing have been released, as well as this 3:46 video of them playing, with Obama giving nonstop commentary. Here are nine photos, which on June 1 will make their way into my Celebrities Playing Table Tennis page. I won't comment on the illegal white shirts with the white ball.

Barack Obama/David Cameron Table Tennis Photos (click to see larger versions)

Republicans released a press release, saying, "It's just another pair of lefties who, just like the economy, foreign affairs, and every other topic we can pin on Obama, can't keep their eye on the ball." (Okay, I made this up. Heck, Cameron is a conservative.)

This is just the latest in a long line of presidents playing table tennis. In the Celebrities Playing Table Tennis page, we already had two photos of Obama playing table tennis - specifically, a photo of a large framed photo on the wall at the White House of him playing, this and this, as well as this one of him sitting down with paddles and ball. (And Obama also bought a ping-pong table for the White House.) Here are other presidents playing ping-pong:

If you explore the Celebrities Playing Table Tennis page, you'll find, well, everyone! There are 1178 pictures of 699 celebrities. (Send me your own!)

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