MDTTC CAMP HAPPENINGS
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-Larry Hodges, Director, TableTennisCoaching.com
Recent TableTennisCoaching.com blog posts
Why do beginners aim up?
Is there a logical reason why beginners not only open their rackets and hit off the end (with inverted sponge), but after seeing ball after ball go off the end, they continue to keep their rackets too open? I invariably have to point out they've hit 20 off the end, 0 in the net, so perhaps they should aim lower? Is there some primordial fear of closing one's racket or hitting into the net? I'm asking this after 35 years of watching beginners all do the same thing, over and over. C'mon, beginners of the world, all 6.7 billion of you, aim lower!!! (You can probably guess I'm in the middle of a training camp, Mon-Fri this week and next, with lots of beginners who . . . oh never mind.)
Playing pips-out sponge
(I posted a version of this on the forum yesterday.) The only way you'll learn to play against pips-out sponge is by playing against it. The ball from pips-out sponge is deader than you are used to, so you have to either open your racket slightly or lift slightly. (Many players overdo this, and hit many balls off the end.) The only way to learn to do this comfortably is to practice against it. At first, it might be difficult, but soon playing pips will be no big deal - you simply aren't used to them yet.
Tip of the Week
Where to Put Your Putaways answers the age-old question of (drum roll please) where to put your putaways. It doesn't answer the even older question of whether putaways should be hyphenated. (This was ready to go up Monday morning, and then I forgot to put it up before leaving to coach. So it went up Monday night.)
Whitewashing your opponent
Suppose you and your opponent are roughly equal, so that either will tend to score about half the points. Then your chances of winning 11-0 are 1 in 2 raised to the 11th power, or 1 in 2048. (Call it 1 in 2000 for you math phobes.) That means there's about 1 in 1000 chance that any given game will end 11-0 (including times you lose 0-11), though in reality it's more likely since a player could get hot or cold.
What are the chances of a 3-0 whitewashing, i.e. 11-0, 11-0, 11-0? That would be 2 raised to the 33rd power, or about 1 in 8.6 billion. (1 in 8,589,934,592 to be exact.)
Now let's suppose you are better than your opponent, and win 60% of the points. (I won't bore you with the math, but it involves 0.6 or 0.4 raised to the 11th or 33rd power, then inverted.) Now your chances of winning 11-0 are about 1 in 276, and your chances of winning 11-0, 11-0, 11-0 are about 1 in 21 million. More scary is that roughly 1 in 24,000 chance of losing 0-11, and (shudder) 1 in 13.6 trillion of losing 0-11, 0-11, 0-11!
With Winning in Mind
MDTTC Training Camp
We have two back-to-back training camps at the Maryland Table Tennis Center starting today, Mon-Fri this week and next. So I'll be getting up early to write the blog, then off to coaching. Expect lots of interesting camp tidbits!
Equipment - yours and mine
I am not an EJ, i.e. equipment junkie. Here's my recommendation to new and intermediate players. Everyone needs to go through a stage where they essentially try everything out. This allows you to really learn and understand what's out there, and to find the best equipment for yourself. The cheapest way to do this is to ask to try out the rackets of players at your club. Eventually, you'll find the right combo, and then I recommend they stick with that, unless and until their game changes or there's a major equipment breakthrough. The latter happens about once a decade, though of course you'll read about "new breakthroughs" every year.
Here's what surfaces I use. (I'll write about rackets some other time, but I'm currently using a JOOLA Fever blade ST.)
Forehand: Butterfly Tenergy 05 FX 2.1 black. This is a soft looping sponge. It allows easy looping without a long, powerful swing. When you loop, the ball just jumps off this rubber with what some call a high throw angle. If you have a more vigorous stroke, you might want a harder sponge. I both loop and hit, but my hitting is more natural, so I go for a sponge that props up the loop since I can hit with anything. This sponge allows me to run down hard shots off the table and loop them back with good spin. The softness does mean less speed, but the consistency and spin offset that for me. Another sponge that does this (which I used before) was JOOLA's Energy X-tra.
USA Nationals entry form
The long national wait is over; the USA Nationals entry form is online! (Just kidding; the U.S. Open just finished a few days ago.) Here's the USA Nationals page. (Strangely, you have search around to find the dates, and even the location is in small print. Shouldn't that be in a large headline?) For once I get to drive to the tournament, about three hours away; there's going to be a massive Maryland caravan going there. See you in Virginia Beach, VA, Dec. 13-17!
Top Ten Reasons Why Coaches Fail
Here's an interesting Top Ten List of why coaches fail. I don't necessarily agree with all of them. For example, #1 says not to compromise. But sometimes you must listen to your athletes and learn, i.e. compromise. For example, I told a player recently to use his backhand serve short to the forehand, since I knew the opponent had trouble with that serve. The player looked unhappy so I asked why. He said he hadn't used his backhand serve in a while, and didn't have confidence in using it. So we compromised - I had the player use the backhand serve sparingly, so the opponent would have to think about it, which made the other serves more effective. (I also told the player to start using the backhand serve again so it'd be ready when needed.)
In my July 5 blog entry, I linked to several pictures of actor and table tennis player Adoni Maropis. In one, he was wearing rather prominent kneepads, so I jokingly wrote, "Yes, he has knee problems." Adoni responded via email, saying that he wears kneepads to dive for balls - and as someone who has battled with him on the table a number of times, I can verify that he is constantly diving for balls. He's sort of like the mountain goat of table tennis. (Oh boy, am I going to hear from him now!) He also wrote how he hates the photo I linked to about him "terrorizing the hardbat community," saying "I hate that pic...it looks like I have bad everything and either a huge beer gut or pregnant... or a woman... and oh so old." I'd comment on this, but when dealing with a guy who's blown up half the west coast and (when he's not diving on elephant-sized kneepads) kills every chance he can (at the table), I'll shut my mouth.
40th Anniversary Ping-Pong Diplomacy Celebration - SF Edition
Here's an article on the San Francisco ceremony, with lots of pictures. Pictured are former Chinese stars Cai Zhenhua and Liang Geliang, San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee, former Secretary of State George Schultz, and former USA star Judy Hoarfrost.
Tutoring and Table Tennis
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?"
"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.
U.S. Open Ratings Champions - No Fear!
When I looked over the rating champions at the U.S. Open, what jumped out to me was that, for once, most of the champions were actually players that were seeded very high in the event. Often players like that avoid playing in such events in order to protect their ratings (sigh...), leaving the event to lower-rated "ringers." Not so much this time! Here's a rundown of these champions - congrats to all these fearless champions! (Note that in three cases, a player is actually rated over the cutoff, but that's because the ratings used for eligibility purposes is well in advance of the U.S. Open; otherwise, players wouldn't know until the last minute what events they were eligible for.)
I flew back to Maryland last night from the U.S. Open in Milwaukee - didn't have any coaching duties today. At the airport in Milwaukee there was a Killerspin table set up with sponge paddles and barriers! I watched for a while as parents played with kids, often "coaching" them in ways that made me squirm a bit. I debated whether to help out, but decided they were having fun, so who was I to tell them what to do?
Because I had a bunch of stuff to take back to Maryland, I had two bags to check in at Airtran, which would cost $45. The attendant told me that since first-class passengers get two free bags, I could upgrade to first class for $49, and get the two bags free. So for $4 I traveled first class. The only other time I did that was nearly 20 years ago when I traveled with Andre Scott - we had regular tickets, but when they saw he was in a wheelchair, they put him in first class (for free), and since they had an open seat next to him, they gave that to me.
Funniest part of the U.S. Open for me was watching opponents struggle with Sun Ting's ("The Sun King") serve. Whenever he serves, it's showtime as opponents miss shots all over the place. The problem isn't so much that they misread the type of spin as they misread the amount of spin. How he puts so much spin on the ball without seemingly doing so is a mystery that only Albert Einstein might have solved. Alas, Sun Ting lost 11-9 in the seventh (from up 3-1), 4,-2,-4,-11,9,8,9, in the quarters to Canada's Pradeeban Peter-Paul. Sun Ting has been at my club, MDTTC, for the past month, and will be here for another month. He defeated Ma Lin in a tournament a few years ago, and had a 2730 rating from the 1999 North American Teams, when he was 15.