February 20, 2014

Warming Up

One of my junior students had a sort of bad experience yesterday. He came in a bit early while I was coaching another junior player, who was a friend of his. They wanted to play some, so at the end of the session with the first player I let them play some games - but I was bit worried since the second player had no warm-up. I was right to be worried.

The first player was all warmed up and playing really well, but the second player wasn't. He was rated a bit higher, but while the first player mostly kept the ball in play, the second was an attacker who couldn't attack because he hadn't warmed up. (Both were around 1500 level or so.) With just five minutes warm up he might have played okay. Instead, the second player played horribly, and after a while was reduced to swatting backhands from his forehand side since he had no confidence in his forehand anymore, which was normally his strength. He lost a series of games, and was pretty depressed.

When we started our session (15 minutes late, but I had told him I could go 15 minutes extra at the end), he couldn't play, mentally or physically. He couldn't get himself to care after the drubbing he'd just taken, and his shots were all messed up. It took about 15 minutes before he could play serious. But gradually he got back into it, and by the end of the one-hour session he was back in full form. The other kid was long gone, so no rematch.

I told him a story about my "best" tournament ever, from way back in the late 1980s or early 1990s. There's a reason "best" is in quotes. At the U.S. Team Championships in Detroit many years ago (it's now the North American Teams in Washington DC), after two days I had only one loss (to a 2600 player), and I had hordes of wins against 2250 players, a bunch of wins against 2350 players, and several 2400+ wins. I'd gone in rated 2272, and if I'd stopped after two days, I might have been adjusted to 2500. On the third and final day, my teammates didn't show up until the last minute. Back in those days I always needed a good warm-up, but didn't have anyone. Finally, about ten minutes before we had to play I found a 1700 player, a lefty with long pips who swatted shots all over the table, and left more messed up than I would have been if I'd simply played without a warm-up. So what happened? On that day I went 0-6, with all six matches upsets, including three against players rated over 100 points lower. Instead of that adjusted 2500 rating I came out . . . 2273, one point higher than I'd gone in.

So the lesson is to always warm up properly. It's important to practice against all styles, but warming up for a serious match is different. For that, you want someone who plays somewhat orthodox (or can in a warm-up), preferably someone you are used to playing. I encourage all my players to arrange in advance who they will warm up with at tournaments, and arrange when and where they will meet.


A lob is a high, defensive shot with topspin and sometimes sidespin. Fishing is a somewhat high defensive topspin. What about defensive topspin shots that aren't high enough to be lobs, but are too high to really be fishing? I hereby trademark the term "fobbing." I "invented" the shot yesterday while letting a student practice against lobs and fishes (he'd been having trouble in matches), and that's when I discovered and unleashed the power of the fob.

USATT Magazine

I'm wondering how I'm going to read it from now on, now that it's only going to be online. I do not like to read extensively at a computer; reading is something that should be done in a comfortable lounge chair or even in bed. More importantly, extensive reading on a computer screen hurts my eyes. So there's no way I'm going to read the magazine on a computer, other than perhaps selected articles. So I guess I'm going to have to either skip most of it, or print it out to read. (Addendum - I'm all for the online magazine; it's just not for me. As I've blogged, they should have added the online version - leading to increased advertising - but kept the print version.)

No Table Tennis at Junior Olympics

I just saw this. I immediately sent out queries. I just got this response from the Junior Olympics people (AAU):

"Unfortunately Table Tennis will not be a part of the 2014 AAU Junior Olympic Games in Des Moines, Iowa. Due to facility and staffing we are unable to hold the event this year. We hope to have it return in 2015 in Hampton Roads, VA. Stay tuned for more information regarding next year. Once again we apologize for any inconvenience this has caused."

Physical Training for Table Tennis

Here's a video (11 sec) of what 13-year-old Adriana Diaz of Puerto Rico doing some physical training. She's ranked #9 in the world in Under 15 Girls. (All but one of the eight ahead of her are from Asia - three from China, three from Japan, one from Korea, and one from Romania. Of course, these rankings only include those who play in ITTF events.)

Western Open

Here's a video (1:35) of highlights from the Western Open this past weekend. And here's a photo gallery. (I linked to the results on Tuesday.)

Anagrams of the Stars!


Ma Long: Man Log, Am Long
Wang Hao: Ha Wagon, A Hag Now, A Hag Won, Own a Hag
Dimitrij Ovtcharov: Vivid Major Rich Tot, Vivid Major Rot Itch
Timo Boll: Mi Lob Lot
Chuang Chih-Yuan: China Guy Can Huh?
Vladimir Samsonov: Invalid Savors Mom
Waldner: Law Nerd


Liu Shiwen: Uh - Lie Wins
Feng Tianwei: Wee Fainting, We Fine Giant, Negate If Win, A Fine Twinge, Win Eaten Fig, Win Fine Gate, We Gain Feint
Guo Yan: Nag You


Timothy Wang: I Won That Gym, I Own That gym, Win at Hot Gym, Hit a Town Gym, A Mighty Wont, Goat Myth Win, Into What Gym?, Not With A Gym, Got a Win Myth, Win Toga Myth, Why Man Got It
Corey Eider: I Eye Record
Dan Seemiller: Reels in Medal, Learned Smile
Michael Landers: Me Learn as Child, Handles Miracle, Lame Child Nears, Me Child Arsenal
Ariel Hsing: Irish Angel, Shinier Gal, A Shine Girl, A Relishing
Constantini: Instant Icon
Larry Hodges: Holy Regards, Godly Sharer, He's Gray Lord, Shy Lord Rage, Oh Sly Grader,
Hodges: He's God!
USA Table Tennis: Satan but Senile

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September 28, 2012

2009 Strategic Meeting

I just realized that Wednesday, Sept. 26 (two days ago) was the three-year anniversary of the 2009 USATT Strategic Meeting. I still consider that one of the greatest disappointments in USATT history. We had a new board of directors looking to really do things but not sure what, and they and table tennis people from all over the country gathered for two days to decide what to do. Unfortunately, the same old arguments that look good but lead to nothing won them over, and we ended up with lots of slogans and a series of vague priorities that predictably never led to anything. I wrote much more about this one year ago, on Sept. 26, 2011. I don't know when we'll ever have such an opportunity again to get USATT to really start developing the sport the way it's done successfully in other countries and other sports. I was going to write more about this, but you know what? It's too depressing. So instead we'll go to anagrams and smile. Yes, smile.

Table Tennis Anagrams

Don't blame me - I'm just the messenger!!! On February 22, 2012, I did anagrams of the U.S. Men's Team (Michael Landers: "Me Learn as Child," "Lame Child Nears," many more; Timothy Wang: "I Own That Gym"), and the next day, February 23, 2012, I did them on the U.S. Women's Team (Ariel Hsing: "Irish Angel," "Shinier Gal," several more). Here are others; Tim and Mike are going to kill me! (Remember, I'm just the messenger!!! If they can find "positive" ones with their name, I'll post them.)

  • USA Table Tennis: Uneatable Snits, Attain Blueness, Baseline Taunts, Nastiest Nebula, Instant Useable, A Baseline Stunt, A Subtle Inanest, A Sensible Taunt, Unsatiable Nets, Abase Silent Nut, Abates Nuts Line
  • USATT Hall of Fame: Fat Lush Meatloaf, A Shameful Fat Lot, A Flame That Fouls, Slam Fateful Oath, Hamlet Faults Oaf, Them's A Fatal Foul, Fateful Lot A Hams, Am A Slothful Feat.
  • Maryland Table Tennis Center: A Barnacle-Styled Internment, A Sternly Nerd Tent Imbalance, Rents A Cleanable Trendy Mint.
  • Dan Seemiller (USATT Hall of Famer): Learned Miles, Learned Smile, Learned Slime, Slender Email, Smellier Dean, A Smellier Den, Ills Neared Me, Erased Ill Men.
  • Tim Boggan (USATT Hall of Famer): Aging Tomb, Maggot Bin (Sorry Tim!!!)
  • Mike Cavanaugh (USATT Executive Director): Again Have Muck, I Vague Hack Man (Sorry Mike!!!)
  • Larry Hodges: Dasher Glory, Holy Regards, Shared Glory, Gory Heralds, Godly Sharer,
  • Hodges: He's God!

2012 Men's World Cup

It started today at Liverpool, England. Here's the home page, with results, articles, and photos. And here's a great lobbing point played just this morning from Adrien Mattenet of France.

Chicago International Table Tennis Festival

It's going on right now (Thur-Sat, Sept. 27-29), and here's the home page. Players include Wang Liqin, Wang Hao, Ma Lin, Chen Qi, Ding Ning, Kalinikos Kreanga, Ryu Seung Min, Biba, Jorgen Persson, Zoran Primorac, Aleksandar Karakasevic, Ilija Lupulesku, Chen Weixing, and Ariel Hsing.

Table tennis at the heart of Team USA bonding at Ryder Cup

That's the headline of this article in the Chicago Business. Unfortunately you have to register to see the rest of the article. But here's a quote - "The Ryder Cup is all about pingpong, everybody." -2012 Masters champion Bubba Watson

Table Tennis Jewelry

Here are a few places to buy it:

Baby Doing Multiball - Really!

I think I posted this once before, but it should be posted again. Yes, it's a baby doing multiball (1:35), and he's actually doing it well! (And there's no rule I know of against sitting on the table, though that wooden bat is illegal - needs a legal surface.) Here are more photos of this prodigy and his dad.

National Chinese Honor Society Speech - with Table Tennis!

Here's another hilarious video (0:55) from junior table tennis star Nathan Hsu - his 55-second pitch for the presidency of the National Chinese Honor Society, which includes table tennis.


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February 23, 2012

Topspin on the backhand

One of the junior players I coach has been struggling to put topspin on his backhand. They all come out either totally flat (i.e. spinless) or even with slight backspin. This greatly hampers the pace at which he can rally consistently.

I'd tried for weeks to get him to put a little topspin on the shot, but nothing seemed to work. I had him exaggerate the rolling motion, almost like a mini-loop. I had him watch top players as they hit their backhands. I guided him through the stroke. But as soon as we went to rallying, he'd be back to his super-flat stroke.

Yesterday I tried something new and yet simple. I told him to just take the ball right off the bounce, with the racket at table level, and perpendicular to the table. At contact, I told him to lift the ball up over the net. It seemed so simple, and was nearly the same as the way I'd guided him through the stroke, and yet it worked - the rest of the session his backhand had that light topspin needed to control the ball. (Occasionally he'd fall into his old habits, but I'd remind him, and he'd go back to doing it properly.) He said it was the different sound of the contact that he was trying to match each time. Hopefully he'll still have this better backhand when he comes in to play this weekend, and at our next private session next week.


Recently I've been way too busy on way too many projects. Simultaneously, there's been some really irritating people doing irritating things, making it hard to focus on the way too many projects when other activities beckoned, such as watching TV or reading a good novel. So I printed out a big sign saying "Determination" and put it on my bulletin board just over my computer, where I can't help but see it constantly. It seems to help. (I keep hearing in my head the song "Tradition" from the movie Fiddler on the Roof, except I hear "Determination" instead of "Tradition." I'm not religious, but it's still a great movie.)

Ping-Pong Hero

Here's a news broadcast about Daryl Sterling, Jr., U.S. Paralympic Table Tennis star (5:36). I've actually coached against Daryl in several tournament matches - never successfully, alas. He lost a leg at age five in a car accident, and plays while leaning on a crutch.

Top Ten Rallies

Here's a Top Ten Rallies video (3:30). I don't think I've posted this one before.

Anagrams of U.S. Team Members

As promised yesterday where I did anagrams of the U.S. Men's Team, here are anagrams of the U.S. Women's Team - but as you'll see, they weren't nearly as many good ones, other than the ones for Ariel. Don't criticize or I will run you down and smite you, for not only is "Hodges" just an anagram for "He's God," but "Larry Hodges" is just an anagram for "Dasher Glory."

Gao Jun

  • On A Jug

Ariel Hsing

  • Irish Angel
  • Shinier Gal
  • A Shine Girl
  • Her Ailings
  • Sir Healing
  • English Air
  • I Signal Her
  • Rein His Gal
  • Nag I Relish
  • Has Lie Grin

Lily Zhang

  • Hall Zingy

Erica Wu

  • I Cue War


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February 22, 2012

Why good serves and steadiness go together

Many players believe that good serves and an attacking game go together. It makes sense - the good serves set up the attacking game. But I'd argue that good serves work even better if you have a control game. Why is this?

Suppose your good serves set you up to attack effectively against your peers two-thirds of the time. Then one-third of the time when you serve you are stuck not opening with a strong attack. On the other guy's serve you are also forced to start the rally playing more control as you look for a ball to attack. This means that you are starting out about one-third of the time using your strong attack, and stuck on the rest of the points. (Yes, you could attack the serve, but if the opponent is a peer, you shouldn't be able to attack his serve that strongly.)

Now let's suppose you have a control game. Even if you are a control player, those good serves are going to set you up for some easy putaways. Let's suppose you can do this one-third of the time when you serve. Plus you are able to play control on the other guy's serve 100% of the time. Result? You get to serve and attack easy balls one-sixth of the time, and play your control game the rest of the way. With the free spot from the good serves that set you up for some easy points, you should be able to win with control the rest of the way, if that's your game. (Plus the good serves will set the control player up to attack more and more, and so he'll develop his attack.) 

This doesn't mean everyone should become a control player. It means everyone should develop both control and attack. When people watch top players, they see the obvious attacking ability, but not as many notice how much ball control they have.

MDTTC webpage

See the MDTTC new and updated web page! We are doubling in size over the next month, plus starting up a series of new programs.

Timo Boll vs. Jorgen Persson

Here's a 70-shot rally between these two, with Persson back lobbing.

Aerobic Table Tennis

Here's a video on "Aerobic Table Tennis Beginners Session" (6:18), and here's the Aerobic Table Tennis home page, with lots of links. It's mostly for women, and is based in England, but there's no reason why others can't join in. (And I just had an article similar to this on "Cardiopong" published in USA Table Tennis Magazine!)

Anagrams of U.S. Team Members

Before we start, let me point out that "Hodges" is just an anagram for "He's God." Be nice to me or I might smite you. Tomorrow - the women! (Gao Jun, Ariel Hsing, Lily Zhang, Erica Wu)

Michael Landers

  • Me Learn As Child
  • Handles Miracle
  • He Lands Miracle
  • Lame Child Nears
  • Mean Laser Child
  • Sane Child Realm
  • Me Child Arsenal
  • Nice Llama Herds
  • All Merchandise
  • Malice Handlers
  • His Elm Calendar
  • Calms Headliner

Barney Reed

  • Been Dreary
  • Ye Bear Nerd
  • Be Nerdy Era
  • A Nerdy Beer
  • Ye Darn Beer
  • Any Red Beer
  • Year Bender

Adam Hugh

  • Hug Ham Ad
  • Had Gum - Ha!
  • Had Ma Hug

Timothy Wang

  • I Own That Gym
  • I Won That Gym
  • Not With A Gym
  • Into What Gym?
  • Who Gym Titan
  • Hit A Gym Town
  • A Mighty Town
  • A Towing Myth
  • Hang Mitt - Yow!
  • Giant Ow Myth
  • Among Thy Wit
  • Goat Win Myth
  • Might Not Way
  • My Own Hit Tag
  • Hit My Tag Now
  • Go Thy Man Wit
  • Why Man Got It


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