Tom Nguyen

April 3, 2014

Table Tennis Niches and Groups

Have you noticed that there are a number of people in table tennis who have their own "niches"? I'm a prime example; while there are plenty of other table tennis coaches around, none write anywhere near as much as I do, so my table tennis niche is writing. (Six books and over 1300 published articles on table tennis, plus this blog.) Who are the others? (This doesn't imply that this is all they do in table tennis; it's what they do that stands out, that few others do.) Anyone and any niches that I missed?

  • Tim Boggan's table tennis niche is history. (He had others before, but this is what he mostly does now.) Mike Babuin and Scott Gordon are following in his footsteps. (Scott earlier found his niche as the main leader for many years in hardbat table tennis, so does he qualify for two niches?)
  • Mike Mezyan's table tennis niche is artwork.
  • Brian Pace's table tennis niche is videos. Jim Butler has recently been joining him in this niche. So has Gerry Chua and a number of others.
  • There are a number who have found their niche as table tennis photographers. They include Mal Anderson, Gerry Chua, Diego Schaaf, Bruce Liu, Tom Nguyen, and the others I accidentally left off who will be angrily emailing me shortly. Then there's Ayoade Ademakinwa, with tabletennisphotos.com.
  • Richard Lee's niche is running nationwide tournaments. Plenty of others run tournaments, but few others run big ones all over the country. Craig Krum also runs a lot of tournaments around the country with his Omnipong software.
  • Scott Preiss, Adam Bobrow and Judah Friedlander are the table tennis entertainers.

There are other niches as well, but most have larger numbers - I'd call them groups instead. To how many of the following 50 table tennis groups do you belong?

  1. Player
  2. Top Player
  3. Olympian
  4. Paralympic player
  5. Paralympian
  6. USATT Member
  7. USATT Officer, Committee Member, or Staff
  8. Coach
  9. Practice Partner
  10. Umpire
  11. Referee
  12. Club Owner
  13. Club President
  14. Club Officer
  15. Tournament Director
  16. 4- or 5-star Tournament Director
  17. League Director
  18. Promoter
  19. Volunteer
  20. Writer
  21. Historian
  22. Artist
  23. Videographer
  24. Photographer
  25. Entertainer (includes those doing exhibitions)
  26. Forum Member
  27. Forum Troll
  28. Mini-Cadet (Under 13)
  29. Cadet (under 15)
  30. Junior (under 18)
  31. Top Junior (any age group)
  32. Senior (over 40)
  33. Esquire (over 50)
  34. Senior Esquire (over 60)
  35. Veteran (over 70)
  36. Top Senior (any age group)
  37. Hardbat player
  38. Sandpaper player
  39. Long Pips player
  40. Antispin player
  41. Short pips player
  42. Inverted both sides player
  43. Lefty player
  44. Penhold player
  45. Seemiller grip player
  46. Player who trains regularly
  47. Player who takes coaching regularly
  48. Player who only plays matches
  49. Has played U.S. Open or Nationals
  50. Other

Larry Hodges Books

I finally put together a simple page where I can list and sell all of my books: larryhodgesbooks.com. It actually takes you to a page I created here at TableTennisCoaching.com. I'm not sure why I didn't do this long ago - I bought the larryhodgesbooks.com domain name a while back.

National College Championships

The USA National Collegiate Championships are this weekend, April 4-6, Fri-Sun, in Monroeville, PA. Here's their home page, and here's where they will have results. They will also have live-streaming, starting 9:30AM on Friday, which is why I'm letting you know now so you can schedule it for tomorrow! (I'll repost this note again tomorrow as a reminder.)

Werner Schlager Meets Wang Liqin in Shanghai

Here's the article. No, it's not a rematch of their famous quarterfinal match at the 2003 Worlds!

"…you make it that much easier for me to beat you."

Here's a nice table tennis meme. The title above is only the ending of the meme's statement.

ITTF Legends Tour Teaser

Here's the video (38 sec).

Ovtcharov vs. Mizutani

Here's video (1:07:29) of the final of the German Open this past weekend, won by Dimitrij Ovtcharov over Jun Mizutani, 11-9 in the fifth. Jump to 1:04:20 to see the start of the last point of the match - a great one! Or watch the entire thing.

Ten Cool and Unusual Ping Pong Table Designs From Around the World

Here's the page from Uberpong. I think I posted this once before, but I was browsing it yesterday and thought I'd put it up again. I don't think the first one was there before, the one with the brick wall and barbed wire! It'll take a lot of topspin to pull the ball down over that - or would you tactically play through the barbed wire? I don't think I covered this in my tactics book.

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November 1, 2012

Decisive Defense

I'm going to use an example from tennis (what I call "court table tennis"), which I played for years as a hobby. I have a very good forehand in tennis, but a weak backhand. Opponents would often try to bang it out with me, going after my backhand, but I was quick to step around and pound a forehand, usually attacking their wide backhand. Unless they were very good (4.0 or better level in tennis ratings, which is my level when I'm in practice), few could respond with a strong down-the-line backhand winner, and so I'd get a weak return, which I'd pound again, and so I dominated these rallies. Often opponents, faced with my strong forehand attack to their wide backhand, would in desperation throw up a high-bouncing topspin - but because they were usually in an awkward position as they tried to run my shot down, it was often weak and land short, and I'd smack it in for a winner.

One day I played someone who did something different. From the very start of the rally he'd throw up these high, topspin shots. Because he did this on the first shot of the rally, even off my serve, he wasn't attempting an awkward on-the-run shot, and so his shots, though defensive, were decisive, landing deep on my court and bouncing out past the end-line. This forced me off the court, where my forehand isn't so dangerous (since he'd have lots of time to react to it). He moved me side to side, wide to my forehand, then wide to my backhand, over and over, and there was no way I could run these balls down with my forehand all day. Result? My forehand became ineffective and he found my even less effective backhand. Then he'd start pounding shots into my backhand. He won.

The lesson here is that many players play defense only in desperation, and so it's not very effective. At the higher levels, defense doesn't work very well, but when you do it, it must be decisive, not just a "throw the ball up and hope" desperation return that rarely works.

Suppose your opponent is attacking, and you are looking to counter-attack. However, the opponent makes a strong shot wide to your backhand, and you are unable to counter-attack. And so you probably make a weak return, and lose the point. Instead, once you realize your opponent is going to attack, don't look to counter-attack (unless, of course, your whole game is based on attack and counter-attack, which might be a weakness in your game); look to make a decisive and strong defensive return, whether it be a block, a chop, or off-table topspin defense. If you are generally an attacker and get a ball to counter-attack, most likely your reflexes will take over anyway and you'll counter-attack.

Watch the best defenders (blockers, choppers, and topspin defenders), and you'll see that they rarely make desperation shots; their defense is as decisive as an attackers, and because of that, often just as effective.

Halloween Candy

I have four bags of Snickers and three bags of Milky Way left over from Halloween. What the heck should I do with it? I guess I'll do what I always do, and bring it to the club to either give out, or put it on tables when I'm feeding multiball to kids, who get to have whatever they knock off the table.

There is an irritating reason why I have so much candy left over. I own a townhouse and live on the third floor, renting out the first two floors to someone. I was giving out candy (I'd paid for it) when the renter came home, said he'd take over. I go upstairs at 7PM, watch TV for an hour. I come down, discover he's left, and the door was locked the entire hour, no candy given out. I'd heard the doorbell ringing over and over, but assumed he was answering. I actually went outside and yelled, "I've got lots of candy left over! Come and get it!" A few came over, but it was now after 8PM and the "rush" was mostly over.

A Ping Pong High

Here's an article in The Hindu about USATT Coaching Chair Richard McAfee's three recent ITTF Coaching Seminars held in India. The Hindu is the third largest English-language newspaper in India with a readership of 2.2 million.

Kevin Garnett versus Wang Hao

Here's basketball star Kevin Garnett in China playing Wang Hao (2:05). Note that the right-handed Wang Hao (2009 World Men's Singles Champion, 2008 & 2012 Olympic Men's Singles Silver Medalist, Chinese National Team Member) plays him left-handed! The table tennis ends with them shaking hands 45 seconds into the video.

The Battle: The Art of Pong

Here's a hilarious video (1:53) put out by the staff at JOOLA USA. "An ode to 70's Kung Fu Film Flicks. Watch Steven's journey to become the best table tennis player and defeat his Arch Rival Michael." That's Steven Chan (rated 2426) getting trained by Master Tom Nguyen (JOOLA's equipment guru and martial arts enthusiast), with Michael Squires (rated 2083) playing the "Arch Rival."

Gangnam Style Ping Pong

Here's Adam Bobrow in a video (47 seconds) from an exhibition match at the Chancellor Cup in Manila, The Philippines. He pulls off a great shot, and then goes into a dance routine. (Remember his "Excessive Celebration" video (71 seconds)?

Non-Table Tennis: My "Favorite" Halloween Memory

World Weaver Press published the favorite Halloween memories from three of its authors, including mine.  They recently published Specter Spectacular: 13 Ghostly Tales, which included my story "The Haunts of Albert Einstein."

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January 27, 2012

Weight training for table tennis

As noted in previous blogs, I started weight training (along with stretching) last fall because of back problems, and it not only fixed the back problems, but raised my level of play. At almost 52, the muscles simply do not move the body around fast enough, and they were breaking down trying to do so. As also noted, I stopped weight training after Christmas, and paid for it.

Now, after two weeks of weight training again, the back is fine again, and once again my level of play has escalated. Now I'm able to run around the court forehand looping better than I had in years. I've even increased the weight on most of the 16 exercises I've been doing.

There are others who also do this. Many are amazed at the exploits of George Braithwaite, a two-winged looper still about 2100 level at age 77. He regularly weight trains as well, and is in better shape than many in their 20s. Take away the weights, and watch how fast he'd fall to earth.

The simple reality is that to play a physical game, your muscles have to move your body around quickly and easily, with fast body rotations in both directions, and you have to practically throw yourself into many shots. If the muscles struggle to do this, then your shots lose power and consistency, or you simply can't do them at all in a fast rally. The measure for me is simple - if I can't react to a fast block to my forehand with a relaxed but strong forehand loop without backing up too much, then I'm too slow. And I can only do this these days if I train physically.

In the words of Mr. TT, "I pity the fool who doesn't weight train for table tennis."

Here are the 16 exercises I do, and the weights I'm currently doing. I do them Mon, Wed, and Fri, three sets of ten each. I increased the weights for several on Wednesday. (I could do more weight on some of the shoulder and leg exercises, but I'm being cautious - I've had shoulder and knee problems.) The whole routine takes about 35 minutes, and then I do about ten minutes of stretching.

  1. Arm Extension (40)
  2. Arm Curl (40)
  3. Chest Press (40)
  4. Pull Down (80)
  5. Row (90)
  6. Overhead Press (40)
  7. Leg Curl (60)
  8. Leg Extensions (60)
  9. Leg Press (140)
  10. Calf Extension (190)
  11. Fly Delts (60)
  12. Rear Delts (40)
  13. Back Extension (150)
  14. Abdominal Machine (90)
  15. Torso Rotation left (60)
  16. Torso Rotation right (60)

Shadow Practice

While we're on the subject of physical training, there's another exercise you can do away from the table that will greatly improve your play - shadow practicing. This means practicing your strokes and footwork without a ball. Here are two articles I wrote on this:

He Zhi Wen's serve

Here's a video from PingSkills that teaches the serve of He Zhi Wen (2:25).

Help Wanted: 2012 Olympic Games Team Leader for USA Table Tennis

Here's your chance to be a part of the Olympic Games!

Wall Street's Ping-Pong Wizards

Here's an article from the Wall Street Journal on a ping-pong tournament for Wall Streeters!

100-year-old table tennis player

Here's an article from the ITTF on 100-year-old Alexander Kaptarenko.

Waldner and Persson warming up

With chop kills versus chop lobs (0:37). Yes, that's how Jan-Ove Waldner and Jorgen Persson warm up, at least sometimes - they do things like this to loosen up before playing serious matches. I once saw them spend half an hour goofing off at the table with things like this at the World Championships a short time before they had to play matches. 

Just one happy family

Here's Tom Nguyen's companions. L-R: Grumpy, Doc, Bashful (hiding behind electrician's tape), Sneezy, Dopey (stuck in his kite string again), Happy, Sleepy, and of course Snow White. She's white, isn't she?

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