Blogs

Larry Hodges' Blog and Tip of the Week will normally go up on Mondays by 2:00 PM USA Eastern time. Larry is a member of the U.S. Table Tennis Hall of Fame, a USATT Certified National Coach, a professional coach at the Maryland Table Tennis Center (USA), and author of  nine books and over 2000 articles on table tennis. Here is his bio. (Larry was awarded the USATT Lifetime Achievement Award in July, 2018.)
NOTE - Larry is on the USATT Coaching Committee, but the views he shares in his blog are his own, and do not necessarily represent the views of USA Table Tennis.

Make sure to order your copy of Larry's best-selling book, Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers!
Finally, a tactics book on this most tactical of sports!!!
Also out - Table Tennis TipsMore Table Tennis Tips, and Still More Table Tennis Tips, which cover, in logical progression, his Tips of the Week from 2011-2013, 2014-2016, and 2017-2020, with 150 Tips in each!

Or, for a combination of Tales of our sport and Technique articles, try Table Tennis Tales & Techniques
If you are in the mood for inspirational fiction, The Spirit of Pong is also out - a fantasy story about an American who goes to China to learn the secrets of table tennis, trains with the spirits of past champions, and faces betrayal and great peril as he battles for glory but faces utter defeat. Read the First Two Chapters for free!

Tip of the Week
Never Decide If You Have to Move.

Table Tennis Timeliness and Weekend Coaching
I was three minutes late for a group session yesterday. Yes, three minutes - and it's only the third time I've been late in the thirty years since we opened MDTTC in 1992. I estimate I've done about 25,000 sessions in that time. So, what happened?

I was sitting in my lounge chair at home reading and about to have lunch, when I suddenly realized the clock on my wall that claimed it was about noon wasn't moving. I glanced at my watch . . . and it was 12:48 PM! And I had a session at 1PM, and I was about a 12-minute drive away! I leaped to my feet, threw things together, and raced for my car. I didn't have time for lunch. At a stop light I texted that I'd be a few minutes late. I walked ran sprinted into the club at 1:03 PM. Since Coach Wang was already leading them in stretching, hardly anybody noticed I was late. But it felt funny rushing into the club and right into a session. I normally arrive 15 minutes early, both so I'm not rushed, so I'm never late, and to set up things as needed (balls, ball nets, changing shoes, etc.).

The two other times I was late? Once I simply had my times off by an hour, and arrived an hour late. The other time there was a car accident, and I was stuck in one spot, with cars ahead, behind, and on both sides, for almost an hour before I was able to get out.

Timeliness is important for coaches. I know of two table tennis coaches who lost their coaching positions because they were late so often.

As to the coaching itself, I had six group sessions this weekend, all junior players, ranging from the weekly novice group to two sessions with the advanced group. I did two sessions primarily as a practice partner/coach, one mostly multiball, and three mostly as a walk-around coach. Some of the things emphasized this weekend were serving lower; keeping the ball to corners in drills (unless the drill is to go to the middle); and focusing on consistency, not ripping the ball.

WTT Feeder Westchester 2022
Here's the World TT Page for the event held at the Westchester TTC in New York, USA, May 11-15, with complete results. I was only there the first day, but it looked like it was run well. It is hopeful that we can attract stronger players to these ITTF Feeder events in the US - the top seed in Men's Singles (and eventual winner) was Chuang Chih-Yuan (TPE, world #25), and the top seed in Women's Singles was Shin Yubin (KOR, also world #25).

For something like this, you'd think there would be all sorts of news items on the USATT news page, but there aren't any, at least on the front page of the news page, going back to April 4. Shouldn't there be news articles promoting this event, as well as reporting the results? (There hasn't been a new news item there since May 6, and before that you have to go back to April. Remember when they used to have daily news there from around the US and the world?)
ADDENDUM: On Thursday night, May 19, three days after I wrote the above, five WTT news items on the WTTs finally went up on the USATT news page - all dated so they appear to have gone up on May 8, 9, 10, 15, and 16. I think they each went up on the ITTF/WTT news page on those dates. Why didn't USATT put them on our news page at the time they originally went up, before they became old news? 

Here are two articles from Steve Hopkins on the Butterfly news page:

I went up on the first day with Ryan Lin and his dad. Ryan, 12 and about 2200, was there just for experience. He lost his only match (why is it SE instead of RR?), and we spent the rest of the day watching and doing homework. (I pointed out some of Chuang's techniques in his doubles matches, and others.)

One big nit - when a rule leads to a bad result, change the rule. They have a one-size-fits-all rule where a coach has to pay $300 for coaching accreditation to coach any matches. It doesn't matter if you are there to coach one match on one day, or coach lots of matches all five days! So, if I wanted to coach the US #1 12-year-old in his one match, we'd have had to pay $300 in addition to his $300+ entry fee. It wasn't worth it - $300 will get you 6-7 hours training with a 2600 player - so he played the match without a coach. I had to sit in the stands and watch. His opponent, a Canadian, had a Canadian national coach coaching him - it's cost effective for him to pay $300 since he'll be coaching a number of matches all five days. Seriously, there should be a daily coaching fee. Otherwise, it's like going to a nice restaurant and being told if you want one meal, you have to buy five days' worth of meals. (Plus, couldn't we negotiate some sort of break so USATT certified coaches don't have to pay so much? We already have to pay $75 annual "Pro" membership, an annual $50 coaching fee, pass SafeSport, and a background check. Now I have to play $300 to coach a top junior in his one match, right here in the US?) On the trip up and back, we took a break halfway each time and tossed a frisbee around for 15 minutes. That was fun! It's also becoming a tradition during our long drives to tournaments in NY, NJ, OH, and NC.

USATT Visits the White House
Here's the photo gallery.

Butterfly Training Tips

How to Train a Good Serve
Here's the article by Jeffrey Zeng (one of my fellow coaches at MDTTC).

New from Samson Dubina

Power is the Least Useful Skill at Lower Levels
Here's the article by Tom Lodziak.

New from the Performance Biomechanics Academy Table Tennis

New from Ti Long

Ask the Coach
Here are the latest questions from PingSkills.

New from Taco Backhand

ITTF News

Quadri Aruna

German League Rematch: Dusseldorf and Saarbrucken Advance to Final
Here's the article by Steve Hopkins.

Daniel González Ascends into the Top 100 World Ranking
Here's the article. The Puerto Rican player currently resides in NYC.

Sportageous Talks to Ecuadorian Pro Table Tennis Player Alberto Mino
Here's the article. "Ecuadorian table tennis player, Alberto Mino, talks about the Tokyo Olympics, being Ecuador #1, and the psychology of table tennis."

Ma Long Plays Insane Table Tennis
Here's the video (2:56).

The TT Point of the Century?
Here's the video (48 sec) of the point between Ma Long and Dimitrij Ovtcharov.

Best Women's Rallies of All Time
Here's the video (12:22)!

Useful Backhands from the Best Matches in the World
Here's the video (4:16).

Unstoppable Shots from the Best Matches in the World
Here's the video (3:00).

Taking Table Tennis to the Next Level
Here's the video (55 sec) from World Table Tennis.

Samuel Walker vs Tom Jarvis | FINAL | 2022 England National Championships
Here's the video (12:16). (Pitchford and Drinkhall did not play.)

Real Tennis Player VS Ping Pong Player
Here's the video (5:25). "Today I [Illya Marchenko] accepted a challenge from Slovakian table tennis player Lubomir Pistej."

Gov't to the Rescue of Table Tennis Team Stranded in Dom Rep
Here's the story from the Jamaica Observer.

Singapore Loses 0-3 to Thailand Ending Streak
Here's the story from Channel News Asia. "Singapore loses 0-3 to Thailand in 31st SEA Games table tennis women's team, ending 9 consecutive gold streak."

Saturday Evening Post Ping-Pong Cartoons
Here they are!

New from Pongfinity!

***
Send us your own coaching news!

Tips of the Week
While I was in Austria, two Tips went up, plus this week's Tip. Here they are!

<BEGIN AUSTRIA TRIP>
WTT Youth Contender and ITTF Hopes Camp in Linz, Austria
I've divided this into four parts:

=>PART 1: Travel
Wow, what a great twelve days in Austria! On Monday, April 25, I flew to Linz with Ryan Lin (USA #1 in 12 and Under). The nine-hour flight arrived in Vienna on Tuesday morning. It was delayed 90 minutes after we boarded, so we were on the plane for nearly eleven hours. We then took an hour and 45-minute train to Linz. Below are a couple of pictures. (For all Facebook pictures, I'm also linking to the non-Facebook versions, since those not on Facebook often can't see Facebook photos.)

On the flight to Vienna, a man across the aisle, one seat up, wouldn't put on his mask. Flight attendants kept asking and telling him to do so. At times he'd say none fit him or they are uncomfortable. For much of the flight, he simply put a drink on his tray table and said he was drinking. Other times he'd put it on until they left, then immediately take it off. The Stewardesses finally got tired of asking and seemed to give up on him. Ryan and I mostly slept on the flight, though he also did some of his homework.

=>PART 2: WTT Youth Contender
The first part of our trip was the WTT Youth Contender (boys' events), April 27-29. The local organizers picked us up at the train station and took us straight to the playing venue, the Tips Arena. It was divided into two areas, the Match Area and the Practice Area. (Here's the non-Facebook versions: Match Area and Practice Area.) Ryan and I were both Covid vaccinated, and as required, we'd both had a PCR Covid test just before leaving the US. They gave us another test at the venue. The Ryan and I had a 90-minute practice session to get used to the playing conditions. (After the long flight and train, I was tottering about this first session, and Ryan wasn't playing well either, but we both got better.) Then we checked into our hotel for the stay, the Hotel Park Inn. (I spent twelve days wondering if I should point out that "Inn" and "Hotel" seemed redundant.) We had another practice session the following morning, then Ryan practiced with Emmanuel Otalvaro of Columbia - who would not only be his ongoing practice partner for much of the trip, but would move in with Ryan on the second day and be roommates and video game partners. Here's Ryan and Emmanuel. (Here's the non-Facebook version.) Emmanuel and Ryan came in 1-2 at the America's Hopes Tournament in Ecuador last year. Emmanuel is about 2250, Ryan about 2200.

Here's the ITTF page for the WTT Youth Contender; click on EVENT INFO to get to the WTT page with results. Ryan was in two events, Under 13 Boys and Under 15 Boys. Here are some pictures of Ryan:

In Under 13, Ryan didn't play well at the start. Part of the problem was the time difference. He'd arrived the previous morning, and so only had one day to adjust to a six-hour time difference. His first match was against a Croatian player at 10:30 AM Wednesday, which was 4:30 AM Maryland time. In a match I'm certain he could have won, he instead lost at 9,7,7. After that, he played better, defeating a player from Ukraine, 6,-8,7,2. Yes, he was able to attend despite what's going on in his country - don't get me started on that. I spoke some with his mom on the issue - and it turned out she was from the US (spoke perfect English) before emigrating to Ukraine. Her son had actually been born in the US before moving to Ukraine, and had joint citizenship. In his final match in the RR, Ryan played a player from Qatar, and started out well, and ended up having to struggle before pulling it out, 9,11,-6,-9,9, and advancing into the main draw.

In the first round (round of 32), played Wednesday night, Ryan played a player from Spain, and won, 11,8,-10,9. In the second round (round of 16), he played the top seed, Benjamin Girlinger of Austria. This would be Ryan's worst match of the tournament by several magnitudes - he'd lose at 4,5,4 - but he'd get redemption.

In Under 15 the next day, Ryan was in a group of three. As luck would have it, he had Girlinger again - and in his first match Thursday morning! The match was at 9:30 AM, which is 3:30 AM Maryland time, and since Ryan had just gotten killed by him in his last match the night before, I was worried about this match. But Ryan and I discussed tactics (shh!), and this time he played much, much better in a spectacular match by both players - but oh, how the Lords of Fate conspired against Ryan!!! In game one, at 9-10, Girlinger gets an edge to win. In game two, at 10-all, he gets another edge, and wins 12-10. At this point Ryan is beyond frustration, but he's playing well - and with nothing to lose, he lets loose in the third, winning 11-4. Game four is close all the way, but Girlinger pulls away at the end and wins, 9,10,-4,8. But now Ryan is playing well - only thing is, the tournament is almost over for him. But not only did he get some redemption from that poorly played match on Wednesday night, he also, as I pointed out to him, played dead even with Girlinger this time, as the two ended up tied in points, 38-38. Oh, those edges! (The online listing has Ryan losing the fourth 11-7, but it was 11-8.)

In his second match, he played Mihai Nagy of Romania, and player he knew well from the previous Hopes Camp and Tournament in Jordan, and who would also be in the upcoming Hopes Camp. They played a great dead-even match, but alas, the Romanian pulled it out, -9,10,-12,8,9. So Ryan was done with the tournament. 

=>PART 3: Time Off
We now had two days off before the ITTF Hopes Camp would start on Sunday. We spent Friday mostly at the venue where Ryan practiced much of the day with Emmanuel and did serve and receive practice with me. He also did a lot of homework. We also discovered the four local pizza places - we'd eat at all of them. (We ordered a pepperoni pizza at the first place - and due to some miscommunication, we got a pizza covered with hot peppers! But we picked them out and it was very good.) Throughout our stay meals were served at the playing venues for free, but sometimes we wanted something different. On our off days, we would have to take a 15-minute bus ride each way to get the meals, so we had pizzas. 

On Saturday, Ryan and I walked one mile and toured the Linz Castle and Museum. (The Wikipedia article is rather sparse, and doesn't mention that it's mostly a museum now.) Then we went to the Zoo Linz! Lots to see there. The he and Emmanuel played video games the rest of the day while I read and did some writing. 

=>PART 4: ITTF Hopes Camp
[Here is the ITTF article on the camp, which went up on Tuesday: Hopes Squad Assembles in Linz.]
What a great job by Massimo "Max" Costantini (ITTF High Performance Elite Coach, ITA) and Dominique Plattner (AUT)! This was my third ITTF Hopes Camp with them, following ones in Ecuador and Jordan last year. Everything was well organized, they kept discipline (not easy with a pack of 12-year-olds), and of course the training was once again excellent. They were not only great in the training, but very helpful outside of training - they helped arrange our Covid tests, make changes in our train schedule, and other issues.

The physical training sessions were run by Dominique and Didi, the latter a top physical trainer and former boxer who had highly entertaining exercises for the kids - including some boxing practice!!! (No real punching except at targets.) Here's video (13 sec) of the physical training in the morning (13 sec), with Dominque running it.

The camp was held at the Linz AG Froschbert Sportpark Lissfeld, which has a full-time table tennis training center. There were 14 "official" players in the camp (most with their coaches present), with others brought in on a day-to-day basis, so we usually had 16 players. The players, mostly age 12 (a few 11 or 13) were from USA, Puerto Rico, Columbia, England, Austria, Romania, Hungary, Belgium, Czech Republic, South Africa, Tunisia, Iran, and Australia. There wasn't a weak link in the group, basically the best 12-year-olds in the world from Europe, Africa, Australia, and the Americas. They ranged from about 2100 to 2350 in level, with most of them (including Ryan) in the 2200 range.

With some daily variations, here was the basic training schedule:

  • 7:40 AM: Meet in lobby for 15 minutes of outside physical training, then breakfast.
  • 9:30 AM-12:30 PM: Training, including about 15 minutes of physical training at the start and finish.
  • 4:00-7:30 PM: Training, including about 15 minutes of physical training at the start and finish.

The drills were varied and intense, and included lots of footwork and stroking drills, lots of serve and receive drills, and an hour of multiball training each afternoon, fed by the players' coaches. (So I fed to Ryan.) There were also several practice tournaments, so the kids got lots of match play as well. Ryan didn't play particularly well in the practice tournaments at first, but on the last day he exploded and played really well.

The kids had a welcome surprise one afternoon when 2003 World Champion Werner Schlager showed up and spent the afternoon with us. He gave a talk on how to become a champion and answered lots of questions from the players and the coaches. He watched Ryan play for ten minutes and had a few suggestions for him. Here's a picture of Ryan and I with Werner, from Ryan's Facebook Table Tennis Page. (Here's the non-Facebook version.) Here's a group picture of the whole camp with Werner. (Here's the non-Facebook version.) I'm second from the left in the back; Werner's right in the middle in the back; Ryan's in the front in the blue and black shirt; Emmanuel is the slightly shorter kid two spots to the right of Ryan in front. (Enrique Rios from Puerto Rico is in the second row, toward the left, in the dark blue shirt with "Churry" in green on it - that's one of his sponsors. He has a sandwich named after him! He has a USATT rating of 2319, and was one of the two or three strongest in the camp. Here's his Athlete Facebook page.)

For meals, most days we had an "Americas Table," where the two from USA, two from Columbia (Emmanuel and his coach), and two from Puerto Rico (Enrico Rios and his mom) sat together. It was an interesting mix: I only speak English; Ryan speaks English and Chinese (though he's learning Spanish); Emmanuel, his coach, and Enrique's mom only speak Spanish. Enrique speaks Spanish and his rapidly improving English, so he ended up being a translator for much of the time, though Ryan and Emmanuel often used the English-Spanish translator app on their phones. Every night the three of us helped ourselves to the free hot chocolate offered in the lobby. (The machine also had various types of coffee for others.)

We had the morning of Wednesday, May 4 off - yes, Star Wars Day. So the six from the Americas went for a long walk about Linz. It's also when the kids discovered the ice cream place nearby - or rather, gelato, which is the European version of ice cream, which the kids absolutely loved. In the last three days of the camp we had three trips to the gelato place. We had another walk that night. Here are two pictures:

I kept notes on Ryan's matches and training throughout the trip, and compiled a list of things he should focus on as he continues his training at home in Maryland. Other coaches did the same, of course - I saw one coach's notebook that was absolutely jammed with about 50 pages of notes and sketches of various drills.

Before leaving, we were required to have another Covid PCR test, which we did two days before leaving. Because the medical facility at the playing venue had closed the day before, they arranged for our tests at a local facility - but it cost $69 each. (In all, we both had four tests for the trip.) the PCR test was required - but for some reason, nobody ever asked for it on our return flights, at either end!

On Friday, May 6, it was time to go home. Once again we took the hour and 45-minute train to Vienna, and the nine-hour flight back to Maryland, full of jokes, brain teasers, and homework. I even got some writing done!
<END AUSTRIA TRIP>

Countries I've Been To
With the addition of Austria, I've now been to 23 countries. (I've also been to all 50 US states.) Here they are in the order that I've visited them: USA, Canada, Mexico, Taiwan*, Japan, China, Bahamas, Portugal, Ireland, England, France, Switzerland, Italy, Vatican City, Germany, Poland, Hungary, Greece, Egypt, Panama, Ecuador, Jordan, Austria. (*For this listing, I have the self-governing Taiwan as a country, for lack of better word ("self-governing entity" is too ponderous), but that's not a political statement or a claim that Taiwan is a country, so please leave the politics out of this.) Here's my book on my seven-week tour of Europe and Egypt in 2019: Larry's Adventures in Europe and Egypt: Seven Weeks Following Tour Guides with Little Flags and Funny Hats, and the Quest for the Elusive Dr Pepper, one of my 17 books (with two more coming out later this year - "Yet Still More Table Tennis Tips" and "Yet Still More Pings and Pongs"). In October this year I'll be in Pula, Croatia, coaching Navin Kumar at the World Parkinson's Table Tennis Championships, and I likely will do a one-week or so tour of some neighboring countries afterwards. There's also a chance I might be going to Argentina in a few weeks to coach at another ITTF Hopes Camp and two junior tournaments.

WTT Feeder Fremont
Here's the WTT page for the event, just held May 5-8 in Fremont, CA. Following that is . . .

WTT Feeder Westchester
I'll be going up on Tuesday to coach and spectate for 1-2 days at the WTT Feeder in Westchester, NY, May 11-15. I'm going up with Ryan Lin (US #1 in 12 and Under, just back from Austria) and his dad. He's playing in Men's Singles, but likely won't last long there. The primary purpose is for Ryan to watch some of the matches in person . . . and maybe get an autograph and picture with top-seeded Chuang Chih-Yuan!!! (Ryan was born in the US, but his parents are from Taiwan, as is Chuang.) Poor Ryan will be stuck in the stands as I commentate on tactics and technique in the matches!

Weekend Coaching
I returned from Austria on Friday night, exhausted and used to Austrian time, six hours ahead of us. Alas, I had six group sessions to coach at on Saturday and Sunday, each 90 minutes. Our junior program is divided into four groups - Group 1 ("Select"); Group 2 ("Progress"); Group 3 ("Intermediate"); and Group 4 ("Novice"). On Saturday, I did Group 4 (mostly feeding multiball), Group 1 (where I was a wandering coach), and a combined Group 2-3 session, where I was a practice partner. On Sunday I did Group 3 (mostly feeding multiball), Group 2 (practice partner); and Group 1 (wandering coach). I also did a one-hour session with Navin Kumar on Sunday. Here's video (27 sec).

It was one of the most tiring weekends ever, as I came in tired, and the sessions were almost all back-to-back-to-back. On Saturday I was on my feet for five hours straight, and on Sunday it was 2.5 hours, off an hour, and then three more hours on my feet.

A lot of the focus was (as usual) making sure we have active feet. I also harped a lot on keeping the ball to wide corners in drills rather than just to the middle forehand or backhand. What you do in practice you will do in a match.

News from All Over
Since I haven't blogged since April 18 (due to my 12-day trip to Austria), rather than try to list every interesting article, for this blog I'll just link to some of the main news and coaching pages, and you can pick and choose.

D Vishwa: The Future of Indian Table Tennis, Destined for Great Things, Until Tragedy Struck
Here's the article on the 18-year-old Indian star. Here's another article on it. He was entered at the WTT Youth Contender (Under 19 events) in Linz, Austria, which I just returned from. They held a moment of silence for him there.

Who Did It Best? Around The Net
Here's the video (2:36), from World Table Tennis.

'Futuristic' Ping Pong Venue Opens In Astoria, Promising 24/7 Gameplay
Here's the article on the new PongPod in Queens, NYC.

Inside the NBA got Chuck again with Ping Pong Balls
Here's the video (4:40) from House of Highlights. Table tennis section starts at 1:51. See Charles "Chuck" Barkley dowsed in ping-pong balls!

Boxing Pong Shirts
Here's where you can get them at Amazon!

Ice Table
Here's the picture! (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

Anything Can Be a Table Tennis Table
Here's the video (22 sec)!

New from Pongfinity!

And The Winner is ...
Here's the video (15:38) from Adam Bobrow!

Mostly Non-Table Tennis - Eight Sales in Eight Weeks!
It's been a crazy two months in my science fiction writing world - eight sales!!! As noted below, a ping-pong ball has a major impact in "Christmas Interrupted." (Here's my science fiction bibliography, with links to many of my stories. I've sold 131 short stories and 4 novels.)  

  1. "Small Step" (6600 words) to Abyss & Apex. What really happened on the moon when Neil Armstrong left out the "a" in "That's one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind." Buzz must negotiate with time-altering aliens to save mankind!
  2. "Christmas Interrupted" (3600 words) to the Flame Tree Christmas Gothic anthology. What happens thousands or millions of years from now, when humankind is extinct but Santa, suffering from Alzheimer's, still tries to deliver presents to children every year, to the extreme annoyance of his aging elves? A darkly comic story, with a surprise ending that many will find touching. A ping-pong ball has a major impact on the story!
  3. "Rationalized" (2400 words) to the Flame Tree Compelling Science Fiction anthology. A dystopian society requires everyone to have an operation when they turn 13 to remove the parts of the brain responsible for emotion. An underground that avoided the operation fights back - and their leader faces an impossible decision. Probably the best tear-jerker I've ever written.
  4. "The Vampire on the Tesseract Wall" (3900 words) to Dark Matter Magazine, my third sale to them. A 4-D being collects 3-D beings to display on its wall. It gets more than it bargained for when it collects a powerful vampire. 
  5. "Packing List for the Invasion" (1000 words) to Daily Science Fiction, my third sale to them since December. The story is told in the form of a literal packing list.
  6. "Ten Songs of Halloween" (1700 words) to the B Cubed Alternative Holidays anthology. A nasty spirit explains what happens each hour, a countdown toward its killing you, with a new song every hour. Can you escape?
  7. "A Grand Canyon of Lions" (100 words) to Martian Magazine. Yeah, that happened. Anything that's possible happens somewhere in the multiverse, right?
  8. "Death Message" (100 words) to Martian Magazine. A deadly way to send a ship-to-ship message.

***
Send us your own coaching news!

Next Blog Will Be Monday, May 9
However, the Tips of the Week will still go up each Monday. I'm going out of town for two weeks, coaching at the ITTF Youth Contender and Hopes Camp in Linz, Austria - see segment below.

Tip of the Week
Keep the Ball to the Extreme Angles in Practice.

ITTF Youth Contender and Hopes Camp in Linz, Austria
I'm off next Monday to Linz, Austria to coach at the ITTF Youth Contender (April 27-29) and Hopes Camp (May 1-5). I'll be coaching Ryan Lin (12, 2155 (was recently over 2200), #1 in US for 12 and Under), who will be playing in Under 13 and Under 15 Boys. Also attending and competing will be three US girls: Mandy Yu (coached by Wei Qi), Tashiya Piyadasa (coached by her dad, Thilina), and Genelia William (traveling with family, might have a local coach her). Also attending will be the top two boys from Puerto Rico, Enrique Rios and Steven Moreno. It'll be a lot of work, but it'll also be a fun reunion of the players (Ryan, Mandy, Tashiya) and their coaches (Me, Wei Qi, Thilina) - we were together at previous Hopes events last year in Cuenca, Ecuador and Amman, Jordon.

HOWEVER . . . there is one serious problem we will face, one that dwarfs all others, an absolute calamity in the making that could lead to international instability, pestilence, famine, and war . . . there is no Dr Pepper in Austria. How Will I Survive???

Weekend Coaching
I coached in four group junior sessions over the weekend. In the Novice group, we focused on fundamentals, as usual, but for the last 15 minutes, I introduced them to a new game we haven't done recently. I put a bottle of water on the table. I told them I have a pet Saint Bernard that slobbers all the time, and that I'd put a pan under his mouth the night before and caught all the slobber, and put it in the bottle. And so the bottle was dog saliva! I explained that they'd rotate in a line, rapid-fire, each getting three shots (wide backhand, middle, wide forehand), and if anyone hit the bottle, I had to drink the dog saliva. I assured them that none of them were good enough to do it, and so I was completely safe. I wasn't; they had delirious fun, I drank lots of it. Yuck!!! (When I have green Gatorade, we play the same game, except it's "squeezed worm juice.")

I was a practice partner for the second strongest group, which ranged from 1200 to 1800. One of the drills started with them serving backspin, I push to their forehand, they loop to my backhand, I block to their backhand, and the rally continues with the usual 2-1 Falkenberg drill: backhand from backhand side; forehand from backhand side; forehand from forehand side; and repeat. But a strange thing happened - over and over, even though they knew I was going to push to the forehand, they started to move to cover their backhand. Why? Because, from years of practice, if I'm going to push to the forehand, I aim my paddle at the backhand side, and only change directions at the last second. It's one of those simple things that maybe 1% of players under 2200 regularly do. At least our kids will grow up getting used to it!

In the other two groups, I mostly fed multiball, though I also did some walking around coaching. (On a side note, I usually coach Navin Kumar on Sundays, but he had to take the day off. See his segment below - he's featured on Parkinson's TV.) 

Larry Hodges Books
It's time for one of my shameless sales plugs for my table tennis books! They are all on both my Larry Hodges Books page here and on my Amazon page. (You might also try out one of my science fiction books, or even my travel book to Europe and Egypt!)

2022 US Nationals Update
Here's the report from Nationals Director Mike Babuin on the 2022 US Nationals, July 2-7 in Fort Worth, TX. Here's the ongoing list of entries, which you can sort by rating, alphabetically, or by event. There are 124 so far as I write this. At the moment, we have 17 of our junior players from MDTTC planning to go, with ten of them also playing in the Junior Team Trials held there the week before. So I'll be coaching there for two weeks.

Navin P. Kumar - ParkinsonTV
Here's the video (8:17) on Facebook, here's the Youtube version. I'm Navin's coach, but during the filming of this I was out of town coaching at the World Hopes in Jordan, so didn't get to make an appearance.

Butterfly Training Tips

New from Samson Dubina

New from PingSunday/EmRatThich

New from Table Tennis Philosophy/Coach Jon

New from Taco Backhand
(Just discovered this site - lots more videos.)

New from Drupe Pong
(Just discovered this site.)

Developing Kids in Table Tennis
Here's the video (12:08) from PingSkills.

Ask the Coach
Here are the latest questions from PingSkills.

New from Steve Hopkins

ITTF News

War in Ukraine – Stranded in Russia, Table Tennis Player Polina Mikhailova Was Able to Find Her Saint-Quentin Club: "what is happening affects her a lot"
Here's the article from 5aial.com. And speaking of Ukraine, did you know that German superstar table tennis player Dimitrij Ovtcharov (world #7, I think #2 at one time) was actually born in Ukraine? His family moved to Germany shortly after he was born.

Global Table Tennis Balls Market SWOT Analysis, Key Indicators, Forecast 2029 : STIGA, Butterfly, Franklin Sports, KEVENZ, EastPoint Sports
Here's the report from Blooming Prairie Online.

PingPod Coach Tahl Leibovitz
Here's the interview (1:23).

Xianyao He – Tournament Highlights
Here's the video (2:31) of the USA Cadet Team Member.

New from the Malong Fanmade Channel
Lots of new videos here.

Happy Birthday to the Legendary Vladimir Samsonov!
Here's the video (5:10) of former world #1 Samsonov, who turned 46 yesterday (Apr. 17), who retired just last year.

Monday Motivation with Jean-Philippe Gatien!
Here's the video (33 sec)! Lefty Gatien was the 1993 World Men's Singles Champion.

Dreamer21 Table Tennis Museum
Here's the page with six videos (most 10-15 min) showing his extensive TT collection.

Bryson DeChambeau Returns to PGA Tour, Said He Hurt His Wrist Playing Table Tennis
Here's the article from Yahoo Sports. There were a number of reports on this, but this seemed the best one.

Table Tennis Clocks
Here are some at Amazon.

The Legend of Ping Pong
Here's the throw pillow from Amazon!

Happy Thai New Year with a SPLASH!
Here's the video (29 sec) from Punny Boy. How come my students never do this to me???

Sharath Kamal Achanta Rates YOUR Crazy Table Tennis Shots!
Here's the video (3:22) from the Indian star. And the winner? Kevin Table Tennis (22 sec)!

Ping Pong Game Show, Winner Gets The Sponsorship
Here's the video (13:44) from Adam Bobrow!

Coaching Stereotypes
Here's the video (8:37) from Pongfinity! This is great - I recognize a lot of coaches here!

***
Send us your own coaching news!

Tip of the Week
Do You Receive to Set Up Your Game?

Table Tennis . . . Blackspins?
There have been various attempts to create the equivalent of "belts" in table tennis. A decade or more ago Diego Schaaf created table tennis pins, with different types signifying various levels reached in rating. It was a great idea, but it never took off. Perhaps it was too complicated - at a glance, it was tricky to really know what each one signified. (I just spent fifteen minutes trying to find mine - I thought it was in my playing bag, but I can't find it there.)

Here's a thought. The belts in martial arts are very simple - just a belt, with the color signifying level. What if we created simple ball-shaped pins, where the colors signify highest level reached, using the same colors from martial arts? For example:

  • White: Beginner
  • Yellow: 1000
  • Orange: 1200
  • Green: 1400
  • Blue: 1600
  • Purple: 1800
  • Brown: 2000
  • Black: 2200

My first thought was that you had to be 2400 or 2500 for black. But in martial arts, a person can start as an adult, and if he sticks with it, can eventually reach black belt. I Googled it, and found this: "An adult student who train Karate and who attends class at minimum two times per week on a regular basis can expect to earn a black belt in about five years. Some very dedicated karate students who train more intensely have been known to earn a black belt in as little as two or three years."

My guess is that an adult who does this in table tennis might reach 1800, 2000 at most. And it's almost impossible for an adult beginner to reach 2400. So I decided to make it 2200, a more reachable goal for a hard-working adult, and a pretty high level - a 2200 player can make a living as a coach. (Perhaps even lower it to 2000.) There would also be different degrees of black belt, as in martial arts, where are nine degrees of black belt. So a 2200 player would be first degree; 2300 would be second degree; and so on, every 100 points. The best players in the world would probably be rated about 3000 in USATT ratings - they'd be ninth degree.

But what do we call these levels? A beginner starts out as a "whitespin." When he reaches 1000, he's a "yellowspin." And so on up to "blackspin." (I don't like the more obvious "whiteball," "blackball," etc. - it has rather humorous connotations.) So a 2200 player would be first degree blackspin; a 3000 player would be ninth degree blackspin. We could also adjust the ratings for women or disabled, and for players from the past both from before ratings came out in 1974 and because they've since inflated, but we can do that if this idea takes off. (We might also want to bring in a martial arts expert to see how they would set this up for table tennis.)

US National Collegiate Table Tennis Championships
Here is the home page for the event held this past weekend in Rock Round, TX, with complete results, news, and video. There's lots of news coverage of this on the NCTTA site. Here's an article featuring Sharon and Gal Alguetti from Indiana University, Twin brothers lead IU table tennis to 1st national championship appearance.

Butterfly Puerto Rico Open Teams
Here's the results page for the event held this past weekend, April 8-10.

World Table Tennis Day
It was on April 6, this past Wednesday. Here are some related links!

Butterfly Training Tips

New from Samson Dubina

Can't Smash, Won't Smash
Here's the article and video (5:40) by Tom Lodziak.

3 Effects of the Free Hand
Here's the video (8:32) from Ti Long.

New from Table Tennis Philosophy/Coach Jon

19 Advantages and Disadvantages of Table Tennis
Here's the article from Racket Rampage.

Playing Table Tennis to Lose Weight

Ask the Coach
Here are the latest questions from PingSkills.

New from PingSunday/EmRatThich

Danny Seemiller - "World's Greatest Table Tennis Coach"
Here's the picture of Dan with this new award, "A Dominique Clark creation for a well-deserved man!" Dan wrote, "One of my talented and gifted students made this for me. Thanks Dominique and Crystal." (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

'The Sport of Love': Ping-Pong, the Great Equalizer
Here's the article in the New York Times. "Wally Green has played everywhere from Brooklyn to Pyongyang, becoming a beloved American ambassador for table tennis — and international understanding — in the process."

USATT News
There was only one news item from USATT this past week, 2022 Washington State Qualifier Shaping Into a Massive Northwest Table Tennis Event. It was held this past weekend, and I'm sure it was successful. However, I wish USATT would drop the hyperbole - 122 players is not "massive." (Also, only 25 played in the Qualifier events that are referred to in the heading.) But 122 is a good turnout!

Quadri Aruna
The Nigerian star is all over the news this week.

Table Tennis Lover Vera Celebrates 100th Birthday
Here's the article from the Express & Star in Wolverhampton in Britain.

Would You Rather Play Table Tennis with Obama or Donald Trump?
Here's the discussion thread on Reddit. I usually keep politics out of this blog, but this was too funny.

Emotional Ping-Pong Paddle Images
Here they are!

Custom Caricature Portrait From Your Photo / Table Tennis Player
Here's where you can have them made for $32.

Funny Table Tennis
Here's the video (14 sec) from Spartans TTC.

Longest Rallies

Non-Table Tennis - Science Fiction Stories
I had a good month selling short stories, selling six this past month, including that great three-day span from March 6-8! I can't announce two of the sales yet - they want to make a public announcement of their next table of contents, and so we're asked to keep quiet until then. Here's a listing of my sales, many with links to the stories. Here are the six sales this past month:

  • March 6: "Small Step" to Abyss & Apex. What really happened when we first landed on the moon, from Buzz Aldrin's point of view - and why Neil Armstrong seemingly left out the "a" in "That's one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind. Hint - there are time-freezing aliens, and Buzz must negotiate to save Earth!
  • March 7: "Death Message" to Martian Magazine. A deadly way to communicate an important message.
  • March 8: "Packing List for the Invasion" to Daily Science Fiction. The story is literally told by what the aliens pack before invading Earth.
  • March 28: "Christmas Interrupted" to . . . can't announce it until after April 22! It's way, way in the future, possibly a million years or more, and Santa is very, very old and is fighting Alzheimer's, humanity is extinct . . . and yet he still tries to deliver his toys to children each Christmas, to the ongoing irritation of his also-aging elves and reindeer. It's a darkly comic story, with a surprise ending that many will find touching. (The ending features a ping-pong ball!)
  • March 31: "Rationalized" to . . . can't announce it until after April 29! In a dystopian future, everyone has an operation at age 13 to remove all emotions - but there's an underground that fights this, who have avoided the operation but must pretend to be unemotional, no matter what happens.
  • April 4: "A Grand Canyon of Lions" to Martian Magazine. If anything possible must be happening somewhere in the multiverse, then, well . . . see the title.

***
Send us your own coaching news!

Tip of the Week
If You Get Caught Out of Position, Either You Made a Mistake or Your Opponent Did Something Great.

World Table Tennis Day
It's this Wednesday, April 6! Here's the ITTF Info Page and the ITTF video (64 sec)

MDTTC Open and Weekend Coaching
I spent Saturday coaching at the MDTTC Open. Here are complete results care of Omnipong. As usual, it was a wild ride - sometimes the kids play great, sometimes they don't. Lots of tactical decisions.

On interesting one - several of our juniors had to play this 2100 player with a very strong forehand loop. He varied his tricky serves, sometimes long, sometime short, and look to follow with a forehand. If you pushed the serve, he was all over it; if you topspinned it back and it was anywhere over 80-90% of the table he was all over it with his forehand. So the answer? Decide in advance to topspin every serve back to the wide, wide backhand. Since there was no decision to make, it's a lot easier. If the serve was long, soft-loop to wide backhand; if the serve is short, soft-flip to wide backhand. If the player tried to step way around to play forehand from way over on the backhand, then sometimes topspin the serve to the wide forehand. (The player is from our club, and asked me about this. He is going to work hard on developing his backhand attack off those soft topspins.)

There seemed to be a number of opponents with strong forehands, weaker backhands, so a lot of the coaching was about pinning opponents down on the backhand and going after their backhands and middle. A few opponents had seemingly good receives against most serves - until we threw every serve at them, and then they crumbled. (That was me long ago - good against any serve, but weak against lots of variation.)

Most of our group sessions were cancelled due to the tournament, but we had the Novice group (mostly ages 7-8 or so) on Sunday afternoon. Lots of shadow practice and multiball! As usual, halfway through I brought out the two "froggies" as targets. At the end, in what's become a new thing, we did five minutes of "Simon Says"! (The kids keep asking every session, "Can we play Simon Says at the end?")

USATT Coaches List
As of tomorrow (April 5), it'll be two months since I've been off the USATT Certified Coaches Listing. Why? My SafeSport certification ran out on Feb. 5. I retook it in January, and did all the other things required to stay certified - background check, USATT "Pro" membership (I'm a life member), and the $50 annual fee. The problem, I'm told, is because of the USATT software. When I received an email from SafeSport saying it was time to renew, it gave a link to where I could do so at SafeSport.com. I aced the test - but I kept getting emails afterwards saying my SafeSport certification had expired. I emailed with USATT on this, but they said they are unable to make the change in my file, and can't do so until their software is updated. And so, for two months now, I've been off their list.

I know a number of others are in the same situation - as of now, there are only 63 coaches on the USATT certification list. There were 318 when I stepped down from my second tenure as coaching chair a few years ago. I know the numbers have dropped dramatically since then, due to the SafeSport requirement and the hated $50 annual fee, and when I last checked before the software problem, there were about 90 USATT certified coaches. I've been told for weeks that the problem would be fixed in days, but other things apparently keep putting it off. Once they get around to fixing this issue, I hope they'll have the sense to postpone the annual $50 fee by however long they took to get coaches back on the list.

New School Club in Virginia with Improvised Tables, Looking to Fund New Ones
Rachel Ku, who trained as part of the MDTTC junior program for the last three years (I'm one of the coaches), discovered that her high school in Virginia (Langley High School) didn't have a table tennis club. So she and her non-identical twin sister, Katherine, decided to start one. (They are both Freshmen.) They prepared all the necessary forms, begged a school teacher to be the sponsor, and recruited several of their classmates as officers. But they didn't have table tennis tables - so they improvised! Here's a picture of how they put together classroom tables to create one. They are now raising money to buy tables. The HW Global Foundation will match any donations raised by the students for their club. (If you'd like to donate, email HW Global, Attn. Rachel Ku.) The club has now met several times, and membership has grown to 20. (Rachel Ku just won Under 15 and Under 17 girls, and made the finals of Women's Singles at the Nationals Qualification Tournament for Virginia. Her brother, Jeremy Ku, who also trains at MDTTC, won Under 13 and Under 15 Boys and got third for Under 17. Here's all three - Rachel, Katherine, and Jeremy Ku.)

Butterfly Training Tips

New from Samson Dubina

Review: FastPong Training System
Here's the review by Tom Lodziak.

New from Table Tennis Philosophy/Coach Jon

New from PingSunday/EmRatThich

How to Serve Half-Long and Its Tactics
Here's the video (10:29) from Ti Long.

Ask the Coach
Here are the latest questions from PingSkills.

New from Steve Hopkins

New from USA Table Tennis

New from the National Collegiate Table Tennis Association

ITTF News

Olympian Table Tennis Player Lily Zhang Is Hopeful About WTT World Tour 2022 Thanks to Coach Zheng Pu’s Support and Training
Here's the article from Business Wire.

When Nixon Met Mao: Ping-Pong Tables Charted a Path to the Negotiating Tables
Here's the new article from the South China Morning Post.

Free Us From Sport England's Dead Hand
Here's the article by former English star Matthew Syed. You have to subscribe to read it there, but here's a scan of the article on Facebook, and the non-Facebook version.

Olufunke Oshonaike: Why Women Need Each Other
Here's the article from Olympics.com. "Olufunke Oshonaike, Nigeria's and Africa's table tennis pioneer, waved goodbye to the Olympic Games last summer in Tokyo after seven appearances." (Here's an interview with her from February, My parents supported my table tennis career.)

2022 ITTF Para Spanish Open: Van Emburgh Wins Gold, Sarand Upsets the Odds to Win Silver
Here's the article by Vlad Farcas

Northshore Spring Open - Jimmy Butler vs. Ojo Onaolapo
Here's the video (5:13 - first 1:25 is bio info on Jimmy Butler, main video starts around 1:40) from Jimmy Butler.

New from the Malong Fanmade Channel
Lots of new videos here.

Insane Rally
Here's the video (25 sec)!

Table Tennis Posters
Here's the page at art.com.

Saatchia Table Tennis Art
Here's the page.

Cloud Services: Take the World by Cloud
Here's the commercial (30 sec) about Accenture's cloud services, which features table tennis from 0:05 to 0:10.

My Lucky Ping Pong Shirt
Here's where you can buy yours at Amazon!

New Service Rules Explained
Here's the video (4:44) from Tom Lodziak that came out on April 1, 2022. Yes, we need to prepare for all these crazy changes to the serve rules! I still can't believe the ITTF now requires the serve to start with the ball resting freely on the flat, dry tongue. But at least they allow the server to towel off his tongue before each serve.

World's Spinniest Table
Here's the video (8:04) from Pongfinity! They covered the table with grippy table tennis sponge, plus other escapades.

***
Send us your own coaching news!

Tip of the Week
Pavlovian Response and Table Tennis.

Weekend Coaching
Another busy weekend, with lots of multiball and blocking. I coached in four junior group sessions. In one of them I was a practice partner where I mostly blocked, but did one (exhausting) footwork drill where I served backspin, partner pushes to my backhand, I step around and forehand loop, partner blocks to my wide forehand, I move over and forehand loop, and then we continue, with partner blocking side to side as I alternate forehand and backhand. The problem is, once I get into a rhythm, I'm pretty consistent, and so we had a lot of LONG rallies. I also did a lot of serve coaching, especially on how to serve low and short, with serve still driving out so there's a low, quick bounce on the far side, with second bounce near the endline. I also had a one-hour session with Navin Kumar, who I'm preparing for the Parkinson's events at the US Nationals in July and the World Parkinson's in Pula, Croatia, Sept. 30-Oct. 3. Focus was on loop & smash, serving, and the usual stroking drills.

US Team Trials and Nationals
Entry forms for both are out. They will be at Forth Worth, Texas, June 25-July 1 and July 2-7, respectively. Below are info pages. I'll be coaching at both, as well as at the World Hopes Camp and Tournament in Linz, Austria (Apr. 25-May 5), so that'll be a pair of two-week working "vacations"!

Family Guy Table Tennis
Table tennis was featured on Family Guy yesterday (Sunday, March 27, S20.E16, "Prescription Heroine"). Here's the description from IMDB: "Lois becomes addicted to painkillers prescribed for Brian after he gets hurt. Peter's ping pong table becomes the hot spot in the neighborhood." I watched the episode. Peter and Cleveland are very good, smacking the ball back and forth, lots of smashes and chasing down smashes. There's a takeoff from the movie "The Shining" where Lois sees that Peter has typed, over and over, "All ping pong and no silence makes Peter hungry for cheetos." SPOILER ALERT - there's a logical problem at the end. Cleveland leads 10-9 game point, but decides to throw the game. He serves a high ball to let Peter smash. Peter jumps in the air but misses, and falls on the table, breaking it. So Cleveland should win, 11-9. But umpire Joe says it's a draw. (Also in the episode, Lois gets addicted to painkillers and Brian the dog does an intervention.) First mention of TT is at around 3:50, with the real TT action starting around 4:55, with the climactic Peter vs. Cleveland near the end.

$30,000 Classic Hardbat 2022 World Invitational Championships
Here's the entry form for the event to be held Aug. 5-7 in Houston. Events include Open Singles, Reisman Cup Teams, Women's Singles, Senior Singles (over 60) and Junior Singles (under 18). You can enter through Omnipong. Here is the current list of players - 46 have already entered, including Jimmy Butler (2021 World Hardbat Champion), Alexander "The Flash" Flemming (GER, 2021 World Sandpaper Champion), Yinka Olasoji, A.J. Carney (2021 US National Hardbat Champion), Richard "The Chopper" Gonzales (from the Philippines), Oriol Monzo, Ojo Onaolapo, and Jones Balonado (2021 US Open Hardbat Champion). I'll be there, doing coverage and playing one event, Over 60 Hardbat, which I won at the Nationals last year (along with Over 40!).

Top Player from India Looks to Coach in US
Here's what he wrote me, with an email link at the end:

Hello, I am Jayanta Chandra from India, I was professional table tennis player. Three times State Champion in under 12, under 14 and under 17 categories, also National Champion in Under 12 and Under 14 categories, also got bronze medal in National Games in Senior category. Since last 3 years I am professional coach in India. Actually I am looking for a job in USA as a Table Tennis Coach. So I am requesting you to if you kindly look into the matter then I will be very thankful to you. Thanking you. Yours Sincerely, JAYANTA CHANDRA email.

WTT Contender Doha 2022
Here's the ITTF page for the event, taking place March 25-31 in Doha, Qatar. Meanwhile, here are links for both the WTT Contender and WTT Star Contender, running consecutively in Doha.

Unstoppable Forehand Loop HOW TO!
Here's the video (28:36) from Seth Pech. "Learn Chinese Smash Touch Loop, How to Drive the ball, Misdirection Shots and more!"

Butterfly Training Tips

  • The Deep Push (81 sec) with Rachid El Bou Bou, commentary by Brian Pace.
  • Falkenburg (69 sec) with Zelin Ye, commentary by Brian Pace.

New from Samson Dubina

New from Table Tennis Philosophy/Coach Jon

New from the Performance Biomechanics Academy Table Tennis

How to Make a Short Serve Unpredictable, Part 2
Here's the video (12:09) from Ti Long. I linked to Part 1 last week, How to Serve Short with Purpose in Competition (7:18).

Basic Rules for an ITTF Legal Table Tennis Serve
Here's the video (1:52) from Matt Hetherington.

The 15 Powerful Lessons Teens Learn From Sports
Here's the article.

Ask the Coach
Here are the latest questions from PingSkills.

How to Maintain Chinese Table Tennis Rubber Stickiness
Here's the video (3:57) from PingSunday/EmRatThich.

Table Tennis United
Here's the page, a "Fundraising campaign for supporting the table tennis communities affected by crisis." They currently fund those "Severely affected by Covid-19" and those "Affected by the Russo - Ukrainian conflict."

New from USA Table Tennis

New from Steve Hopkins

US Tournament Results

New from National Collegiate Table Tennis Association

New from the ITTF

Top 10 Points from Singapore Smash
Here's the video (5:13).

57th Robo-Pong St. Joseph Valley Highlights with Nandan Naresh
Here's the video (2:44).

New from the Malong Fanmade Channel
Lots of new videos here.

Why Playing Ping Pong is Great for the Brain and Could Help Prevent Dementia
Here's the article.

Table Tennis Turnout on the Rise in the Metro
Here's the video (3:20) from FOX9, featuring the Twin Cities.

Centenary Stories: A Pioneer of Para Table Tennis
Here's the article from Table Tennis England. "Philip Lewis MBE, a true pioneer of para table tennis and a tireless campaigner for the sport, is the subject of the latest in our series of Centenary Stories."

Atari's 'Home Pong' Prototype Sells at Auction for More Than $270K
Here's the article. This is "The original 1975, hand-carved wood mock-up of the Pong system."

Table Tennis / Song on Games
Here's the video (2:22) which is a child's video showing the rules of the sport.

Never Underestimate an Old Man Who Plays Ping Pong
Here's where you can buy the shirt from Amazon!

Dropping 2,000 Ping Pong Balls
Here's the video (30 sec).

Top 10 Ping Pong Commercials
Here's the video (6:16. (This is from a couple of years ago.)

***
Send us your own coaching news!

Tip of the Week
A Table Tennis Player's Guide to Toweling.

Cary Cup
I spent the weekend coaching at the Cary Cup Open in North Carolina. We had eleven kids from MDTTC there and three coaches (myself, Wang Qingliang, and Jeffrey Zeng Xun). I ended up coaching eight of them in over 30 matches. Our players were Stanley Hsu (13, 2402), Mu Du (13, 2283), Ryan Lin (12, 2216), William Wu (16, 2140), Christian Funderberg (16, 2112), Winston Wu (12, 2079), Lance Wei, Todd Klinger, Kurtus Hsu, Aaron Zhang, and Liam Draper. AJ Carney did a great job running the tournament (as always). Here are complete results, care of Omnipong.

As usual, the results were all over the place. The down side was that some of our players kept playing players with "weird" styles, and that gave them difficulties. But that's all part of the learning process. While tactics are huge, another aspect is sports psychology - between games a coach not only has to tactically prepare the player for the next game, but also make sure they are ready mentally. It's a tricky balancing act. But most of the players I coach have been through this a lot and so are now pretty strong mentally, so we can focus on tactics - and that in itself does half the job of keeping them from worrying about winning or losing. You can't think about two things at once, so if you are thinking about what serve to use or where to attack, you aren't thinking about the rating points you'll lose if you lose and so aren't so nervous, and so play better.

One of my favorite moments was when I called a timeout. My player was down 1-2 in games, and 4-8 in the fourth. I told him two simple things (alas, I can't post it publicly, since they may play again), and he went back . . . and scored seven in a row! He went on to win the match. In two matches, I told my player to "throw every serve you have at them." Some players (myself included) can return any given serve effectively, but have great difficulty with sheer variety. Others have difficult with specific serves, or can't stop an opponent from attacking off certain serves. You simply adjust your serving game against your opponent.

One of our juniors was in the quarterfinals of Class D. He had to play a no-sponge long pips blocker, a style he'd never played. (He'd only played long pips choppers.) So I borrowed a racket with long pips no sponge and practiced with him for 45 minutes. After that, he had no trouble with the pips, and won 3-0, and went on to win the event. In the final, he played a player he'd played earlier. In that match, I had missed the first game, and arrived only in time to see game two. He was already down 0-2 before I talked to him. With a few simple tactical changes, he won the next two games, and was up 7-3 in the fifth - but alas, lost when the opponent got red-hot. But in the final, applying those same tactics, he won 3-0, at 2,7,3.

Two matches were won by a simple tactic. Both players were having trouble with deep, spinny serves. The answer? I told them to take the ball as late as possible so they'd have more time to see the serve, and to just topspin them back soft and easy. Such a simple thing, and it worked both times.

I've often said that "Tactics isn't about finding complex tactics to defeat an opponent. Tactics is about sifting through all the zillions of possible tactics and finding a few simple ones that work." The mark of a good tactician is the ability to find a few simple ones that work. Some freeze up, either because there are so many possibilities and they can't decide which one is "best," or because it's not easy thinking at the table, and so can't think of any possibilities. You don't need to always find the "perfect" tactic, you only need a few that work enough to win that match. If you can't think of any possibilities, then you need to clear your mind because it's like looking at a field of corn and not being able to see a single cornstalk. There are so many!!! (Of course, it's helpful to spend time thinking about these things as they pertain to your game, so you will more quickly recognize the possibilities.)

At its most basic, at the higher levels, probably more matches have been won by two simple tactics than anything else: "attack the middle" and "serve short no-spin to the middle." I probably said one of those two things in about half the matches I coached. (There is more to it than that. For example, it's not just "attack the middle" - it might be "attack the middle and wide backhand"; "attack the middle and wide forehand"; or "attack all three spots" (wide forehand and backhand, middle). Keep in mind that "middle" means the mid-point between forehand and backhand, usually where the playing elbow is.

Why is short no-spin to the middle so effective? By going to the middle, it cuts off the extreme angles. A no-spin serve is harder to push short, harder to push heavy, and for some players, harder to flip since they can't use the incoming spin to help create their own topspin. But it's always more effective if varied with spin serves and sudden deep serves.

USATT News and the 2022 US Nationals
The main news is that the entry form and online registration for the 2022 US Nationals is now open. It will be held July 2-7 at the Forth Worth Convention Center. Immediately before that, from June 25-July 1, are the US Team Trials for Men, Women, and for Under 11, 13, 15, and 19. (No U17 - there should be an explanation for that in the info page.)

In July, 1999, I was hired for my second tenure (into 2007) as editor of USATT Magazine, the print magazine that used to go to all 8000 or so members. (It stopped print in 2014 and is now USATT Insider.) They asked me to proof the entry form for the 1999 US Open, and I found numerous corrections for them. Since then I've proofed for USATT the entry form for every US Open and Nationals entry form before it went public - 44 in a row. This year it wasn't sent to me for proofing in advance, but I proofed it for them a few hours after it went up and sent them a number of edits which they incorporated within a day. I also did some proofing of the prospectus for the Team Trials, which is supposed to go public this Wednesday (March 23). We've had three poorly run US Opens and Nationals in a row; hopefully, fourth is the charm!!!

I will be attending the Nationals, mostly as a coach (while likely playing some hardbat events on the side, though I'm normally a sponge player). I will also be coaching at the Team Trials, so I'll be there for two weeks. (Then I plan on doing a little sightseeing in Texas and Mexico.) I've been to every US Nationals and US Open from 1984 to present, and several before that, starting in 1976 (my first year), including the 1976 US Open in Philadelphia.

Butterfly Training Tips

New from Samson Dubina

New from the Performance Biomechanics Academy Table Tennis

New from Coach Jon

How to Serve Short with Purpose in Competition
Here's the video (7:18) from Ti Long.

Why you Should Have a Table Tennis Coach
Here's the video (15:12) from PingSunday/EmRatThich. (There's a lot of other new stuff on their regular home page, but it's no longer dated and so it's not easy figure out what is new.)

Shadow Practice
Here's the video (1:57) from Table Tennis America. This is similar to some of the training we do at our club in our junior program.

Ask the Coach
Here are the latest questions from PingSkills.

New from the Malong Fanmade Channel
Lots of new videos here.

Singapore Smash … Hit or miss?
Here's the article from Tom Lodziak.

New from Steve Hopkins

ITTF News

PingPod Closes $10 Million Series A Funding for Expansion
Here's the article from the Business Wire.

Russia, Belarus Banned From Multi-Sport Euro Championships
Here's the article from WTOP.

Atanda Musa Eyes National Table Tennis Team Job
Here's the article from The Guardian on former Nigerian star Musa.

Raising Awareness for Parkinson's at Singapore Smash
Here's the article from Sport and Development.

Table Tennis' New Spin: Coloured and Hexagonal bats
Here's the article from the Straits Times.

There Is No Ping Without a Pong
Here's the article from the Christian Science Monitor.

Teen Table Tennis Star Helps Plant First Trees for Amazing Commonwealth Forest Project in the Midlands
Here's the article from the Birmingham Mail.

Jill’s Part in Historic China Trip
Here's the article from Table Tennis England featuring Jill Parker.

"BACKSP!N" Features Over 60 Table Tennis Paddles Designed by Artists
Here's the article. It seems to showcase a book of these art designs, which is on sale for £15, but I can't find a link to where to buy it. There's a link where it says, "this exhibit will inspire even amateurs to master a Loop shot" - which links to one of my old articles! (It's dated July 19, 2021, but I think I wrote this article over 20 years ago. But still seems to apply.)

You're the Ping to My Pong
Here's where you can get the shirt at Amazon!

Kid Goes Airborne During this Backhand
Here's the video (26 sec) - and note the score!

I Challenged the INTERNET
Here's the video (18:46) from Adam Bobrow!

Zelensky Smashes Putin!
Here's the cartoon I put together! (I did a similar one a while ago, but this is simpler and better.) That's Judge Hofmański from the International Criminal Court in the Hague, who would preside over a Putin trial for crimes against humanity.

Ping-Pong on Family Guy?
From the description for Episode 20.16, "Prescription Heroin," coming up this Sunday, March 27, 9:30 PM Eastern Time on FOX: "Peter's ping pong table becomes the hot spot in the neighborhood."

Non-Table Tennis - "Madam Hitler"
My science fiction story "Madam Hitler" just went up at New Myths Magazine. (It's my seventh sale to them, and 127th overall.) Here's the situation: It's April 30, 1945, in Berlin, and the Russians are closing in on Hitler's underground bunker. He's about to commit suicide. Then an awestruck time-traveling tourist shows up. He has a device that allows him to trade bodies with Hitler, just so he can experience being Hitler. (He also gets a snippet of Hitler's mustache.) But Hitler takes the device and switches bodies with his real-life secretary, Traudl Junge, who's the story's main character. Hitler escapes in her body and becomes a rising star in West Germany politics. Junge is captured by the Soviets, in Hitler's body, and has to face a revengeful Stalin, who thinks she's the real Hitler. What can she do to convince Stalin of the truth, and will the real Hitler ever be caught? It features multiple appearances by the time traveler (who also visits Stalin and Mao, and gets a snippet of Stalin's mustache). The story has a wild culmination when all of the main characters are brought together in a room at the end. There's also a graphic at the very end that helps explain the various timelines. The story gets rather dark at time, but with the time traveler as comic relief. I researched the story by reading "Hitler's Last Secretary," the biography of Traudl Junge. 

***
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Tip of the Week
How to Learn by Watching the Top Players.

Exhaustedly Tired and Weekend Coaching
It's been an exhausting week. I had all sorts of things I was going to get done this week. But on Wednesday, I came down with what was likely 24-hour stomach flu. But the "24-hour" part isn't that accurate. It's true that I was only really sick on Wednesday - REALLY sick, 102.2 fever - but I spent the next two days (Thu & Fri) mostly in bed exhausted. I did my usual coaching on the weekend, mostly group sessions where I did a lot of multiball training. But one session on Sunday we had an odd number of players, so I was recruited to be a practice partner. It started off fine, but toward the end I was getting pretty tired. But it didn't affect my play much. Then we played up-down tables for an hour, where we'd have improvised games starting at 5-5. For example, in one set of games, the receiver had to push long to the wide forehand, the server had to loop the first ball consistently to the backhand, the then play out point. Or the same, except the receiver had to push long to the wide backhand. Again, I started out fine, and despite 20 players ranging up to about 1950 level, I quickly reached the first table.

And then . . . the combination of tired muscles  from still recovering from the flu and from the earlier drilling, and playing kids who don't understand the concept of "not so fast!") kicked in. Suddenly easy shots became like trying to lift a heavy weight while tap dancing, and I kept missing, even off high balls. The table conspicuously doubled in width, though no one else seemed to notice. The balls developed their own jet engines. Result? Right at the end I lost three of the last five games. I think the kids went from looking at me in awe (well, I can dream) to how they look at a hot fudge sundae.

I made the usual mistake of staying up too late reading on Sunday night. Adding that to the previous exhaustion, I woke up this morning with a headache and stomachache. I almost postponed today's blog until next week, but after some lunch, I finally buckled down.

As to the coaching, I think the focus this week was on speed, at least for the more advanced players. I fed faster and faster, while using shorter sessions - 70 seconds each as the players rotated - and ran them through a lot of speed drills. (Most sessions would have one player doing multiball, one player behind shadow-practicing as a mirror, and one on ball pickup.)

I also had a private session with Navin Kumar - here's a video (24 sec). We're getting him ready for the World Parkinson's Championships in Pula, Croatia, Sept. 30 - Oct. 3. At the World's Parkinson's in 2020 Navin got silver in doubles, bronze in singles. I'll also likely be coaching him in the Parkinson's events at this year's US Nationals in July.

Happy Pi Day
Yes, it's Pi Day! And here's some Pi Ping-Pong stuff! (I'm pretty sure I'm going to have some apple pie later today. Yum.)

Upcoming Schedule
I've got a really busy upcoming schedule. Here's the major items, including a few non-TT ones. (For the table tennis ones, you can enter most of them via Omnipong.) I'm sure more events will fill up my Fall schedule. 

  • Mar. 18-20, coaching at the Cary Cup Championships in North Carolina.
  • Apr. 2-3, coaching at the MDTTC Open.
  • Apr. 8-10, possibly coaching at the Puerto Rican Teams.
  • Apr. 27-29, coaching at the WTT Youth Contender (Linz, Austria)
  • May 1-5, coaching at the ITTF Hopes Camp (Linz, Austria)
  • May 27-30, panelist at the Balticon Science Fiction Convention.
  • June 11-12, coaching at MDTTC Open.
  • June 25-July 1, coaching at USA Team Trials (Fort Worth). Still no info page on this, alas. 
  • July 2-7, coaching at US Nationals (Fort Worth) - combined with the Team Trials, it'll be two weeks of consecutive coaching in Fort Worth. But still no info page or entry form for the US Nationals. 
  • July 22-30, attending "The Never-Ending Odyssey" Science Fiction Writing Workshop, as I do every year.
  • Aug. 5-7, playing and doing coverage of the World Hardbat Championships in Houston. Following that I plan a roughly five-day tour of Houston (starting with the NASA Spaceflight Center) and San Antonio (starting with The Alamo), and then a ten-day tour of the historic sites of Mexico. It'll be my second time in Mexico - the last one was circa 1990 when I coached the US junior team in a tournament there.
  • Sept. 1-4, coaching at the Global Championships in Orlando, then a day or two at Disneyworld. (I went there once, circa 1987, after the US Open in Miami or Fort Lauderdale.) Alas, this means missing the World Science Fiction Convention in Chicago, Sept. 1-5.
  • Sept. 30-Oct. 3, coaching Navin Kumar at the World Parkinson's Championships in Pula, Croatia. I plan to follow this with some sort of European tour. I was thinking of visiting the historic sites of Russia, but this might not be a good time for that...
  • Oct. 8-9, coaching at the MDTTC Open.
  • Nov. 3-6, panelist at the World Fantasy Convention in New Orleans.
  • Nov. 25-27, coaching at the North American Teams in Washington DC.

Singapore Smash
Here's the ITTF home page for the event, March 7-20, with results, news, and lots of video. There are some great matches (browse over them), but the one we all want to see is USA's world #30 Kanak Jha's upset of world #4 Tomokazu Harimoto of Japan, -7,9,9,3 in the round of 64. Here's the video (8:24). (Alas, Kanak lost next round to world #31 Anton Kallberg of Sweden, -10,8,6,9.) See also Steve Hopkin's coverage of the event below, in particular Kanak Jha Upsets No.4 Harimoto. Here are two articles from World Table Tennis that cover Kanak's upset, Singapore Smash Delivers Drama on Day 2 of Action and Timeout: Jha's Butterfly Tactic.

NCTTA Announces Call for World University Games Coach
Here's the info page. The event takes place in Chengdu, China, June 25 - July 7. I was asked if I could do it, but since this coincides with the US Team Trials and US Nationals (literally the exact same dates), I had to turn it down. (I was also asked if I could coach some paralympic events overseas, but again, I was too busy, plus these days I focus more on local TT.)

Butterfly Training Tips

New from Samson Dubina

New from Dora Kurimay

New from Matt Hetherington

New from Table Tennis Philosophy/Coach Jon

New from PingSunday/EmRatThich

New from Ti Long

New from the Performance Biomechanics Academy Table Tennis

Average to Pro Backhand in 7 Days
Here's the video (11:20) from Table Tennis Daily.

Ask the Coach
Here are the latest questions from PingSkills.

New from Steve Hopkins

2022 WTT Youth Contender Vila Real: A Memorable Experience
Here's the article by Isabella Xu.

New from USATT

New from ITTF

"This Is Not Ping Pong" says Zelensky
Here's the quote from Ukrainian President Zelensky. The full quote is, "Listen, we have a war! We do not have time for all these signals. This is not ping pong! It's about human lives! We ask once again: Solve it faster. Do not shift the responsibility, send us planes." [Here's the video from last week's blog of Zelensky playing table tennis (43 sec).]

Colorado Suspends Betting On Russian & Belarusian Sports In Response To Invasion Of Ukraine
Here's the article and video (2:18) from CBS Denver. "Two years later, table tennis’ popularity still stumps St. Clair, who said it consistently ranks in the top ten sports bet on in Coloradans. 'Colorado has wagered $181.7 million on table tennis,' St. Clair said. 'It’s been one of those interesting scenarios where people can’t explain it.'"

New from Jimmy Butler

Janova Paddle Brings Performance-Tracking Smarts to Table Tennis
Here's the article and video (1:57), along with Kickstarter.

New from the Malong Fanmade Channel
Lots of new videos here.

Calories Burned Playing Table Tennis Calculator
Here's the article from Fitness Volt. But I don't think this can possibly be accurate. It gives the only variable as your weight. But players will burn vastly different amounts of calories in a given time based on their playing level, style, and whether you are playing games or doing footwork drills.

Four-Player Ping-Pong Table
Here it is! You can get it at Amazon for $268.

The Man, The Myth, The Ping Pong Legend
Here's where you can buy the shirt at Amazon! And here's Hermann Luechinger, The Man, The Myth, the Ping Pong Modeling Legend!

Three Consecutive Crazy Shots
Here's the video (7 sec)!

Extreme Ping Pong Set-Ups
Here's the video (5:01) from Pongfinity!

***
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Tip of the Week
Be Both a Machine and an Artist.

Princeton Pong Tournament
I went up to Princeton, NJ on Friday (three-hour drive from Maryland) with five of our kids and their parents, and coached at the Princeton Pong tournament on Saturday. Here are complete results, care of Omnipong. A great thanks goes out to tournament staff Ben Rosenberg (director), Claudia Dunlevy, and referee Chris Lehman, and to the other volunteers who helped out with the tournament.

This time around it was a group of our younger kids, all rated under 1300, ages 10 to 13, most of them playing in three round robin rating events. Four of the five had never played a tournament outside Maryland. They had a great time - I wonder if I was that excited to play in tournaments back when I first traveled to tournaments back in 1976? (Answer: yes.)

I coached an even 20 matches, plus part of two others. It's really half tactics, half psychology as I tried to find creative ways to get them to play as well as they do in practice. Tactically, they usually are faster than their opponents, so we did a lot of quick attacks to the "three spots" - wide corners and middle (roughly opponent's elbow). They were mostly used to playing players from the club who'd they'd played many times, so playing new players and styles is a challenge. They played a LOT of players with long pips! One kid struggled against his first long pips blocker, a style he's never played, and got killed. Then he played another one later on and played one of the best matches he's ever played. Amazing how fast kids pick things up.

More importantly, the tournament dramatically showed their strengths and weaknesses, as tournament always do. I took careful notes, and later today, after I finish the blog, I'll likely go off to Panera's for lunch or dinner and write up an analysis and recommendations for all five. It'll include bullet lists of things they do well, things that could or should become strengths, and things that need work on. A couple of them simply could not serve anything effectively but backspin serves - we'll be working on that. I worked with one of them on that on Sunday. Some of them loop against pushes fine in practice, but in tournaments against a player they've never played? That needs work - and much of that comes with experience and the decision that you have to do the shots you practice or you'll never do them effectively.

We came back Sunday morning, and I got back just in time for a noon group session with a number of kids, including two of the ones from the tournament. I had two group sessions and fed multiball for nearly three hours, with a big focus on looping against backspin, both forehand and backhand. For those sessions, most of the players were paired up, with Coaches Wang Qingliang and/or Lidney Castro running the drills and coaching, while 2-3 at a time were sent to me for 15-30 minutes of intense multiball.

USATT Coaches Certification
I haven't been on the USATT Coaches Certification listing since January, even though I'm certified at the highest level as a National Coach. I've jumped through all the hoops - I'm a full USATT member ($75/year for most, but I have a lifetime membership via Hall of Fame induction), $50/year certified coach fee, I've passed SafeSport (again), did the background check, and (new rules!) promised to turn over my firstborn table tennis racket and 100 rating points. :) But according to headquarters, there's a software problem, and they have been unable to mark me as passing SafeSport even though I passed that in January. (I keep getting these automatic emails saying I'm not SafeSport compliant.) I wonder if others are affected by this? (I emailed to find out.) Presumably, next year they will extend my certification for the amount of time I'm left off the list before I have to pay the annual $50 again. You can't charge someone for certification if you aren't putting them on the certification list!
UPDATE - I'm told they will have an update (i.e. fixed the problem) "within the next few days."

Ukraine President Zelenksy Playing Table Tennis
Here's the video (43 sec)! Here's a related cartoon I created where Zelensky smashes Putin, "Putin's Dream Becomes a Nightmare." (Here's the non-Facebook version. I used graphics I found online to create it.)

New from Samson Dubina
This first one may be the single hardest thing to get across to students. Those who overcome this improve rapidly. All of this week's Samson tips are really good.

Butterfly Training Tips

New from Matt Hetherington

New from the Performance Biomechanics Academy Table Tennis

New from Coach Jon/Table Tennis Philosophy

New from PingSunday/EmRatThich

3 Drills That Will Level Up Your Game
Here's the video (7:24) from Seth Pech.

The Myth of Sport Specific Training
Here's the video (5:45) from Kevin Finn/Peak Performance Table Tennis.

Joining the Dark Side - When Is the Right Time to Switch to Pimples?
Here's the article by Tom Lodziak.

How to Do Mima Ito's One-Inch Backhand Punch with Short Pips
Here's the video (10:39) from Ti Long.

Ask the Coach
Here are the latest questions from PingSkills.

Impact of Ball Material Change from Celluloid to Plastic on Game Statistics in Elite Women Table-Tennis
Here's the rather technical article from the International Journal of Performance Analysis in Sport. This is just the abstract - you have to pay $47 for the whole article. "This study compared the statistics of 24 matches played by elite women table-tennis players using the old celluloid versus new plastic balls to provide insight into the on-court adaptations made. Matches played by five, top-10 world ranked female players, using the celluloid (n = 12) versus plastic balls (n = 12) in international competitions from 2011 to 2017 were analysed. The results showed that the average strokes per point and point duration were approximately 15% and 13% shorter when playing with the plastic (4.79 ± 0.59; 3.91 ± 0.54s) compared with celluloid balls (5.52 ± 0.62; 4.49 ± 0.53s)."

New from the Malong Fanmade Channel
Lots of new videos here.

Support Lily Zhang in Attending 2022 WTT Events
Here's her GoFundMe page. "Lily's home club Table Tennis America supports this initiative of sending Lily to participate at the WTT Events. All funds raised will 100% go towards covering her expenses at the WTT events. Table Tennis America Foundation is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization. Your generous donation is tax deductible." (So far they have raised $8163 out of the $40,000 goal.)

Navin Kumar Documentary Preview
Here's the video (61 sec).

ITTF PingPongParkinson World Championship
Here's the promo video (50 sec) for the event to be held in Pula, Croatia, Sept. 30 - Oct. 3, 2022. I will likely be coaching Navin Kumar there.

New Zealand Protesters Use Table Tennis Table as Shield
Here's the article and video (67 sec).

2022 NCTTA College Table Tennis Championships--COMING SOON
Here's the info page.

New from Steve Hopkins

USATT News

ITTF News

Dinosaur Pong Prints and Shirts
Here's the page to buy them!

Dragon Ping Pong Paddles
Here's the page to buy them! (Beginner paddles but fun souvenirs.)

The Point is Never Over
Here's the video (12 sec)!

Skinny Pong
Here's the video (10 sec)! That table looks about three inches wide. I want one!

David vs. Goliath Pong?
Here's the cartoon! (Or is this Ukraine vs. Russia - and note the worried look on "Russia's" face!

Non-Table Tennis - "Small Step" Sold to Abyss & Apex
It's my 126th science fiction short story sale (along with four novels), and my fourth to Abyss & Apex. When Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon, he said, "That's one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind." But he left out the "a," and so the quote didn't really make sense. It turns out he didn't leave it out, and this is the story of what really happened when mankind first landed on the moon. Two retired aliens lived there, living life at 1/10,000 our speed, but with technical capabilities far beyond ours, including time manipulation. When the landing accidentally kills one of the aliens, it's up to Buzz Aldrin to save humanity by convincing the surviving alien - using perhaps the most unique communication technique ever invented - not to burn humanity to a crisp. The story idea came about from reading "The Eagle Has Landed: The Story of Apollo 11," by Jeffrey K. Smith. The publishing industry often has a slow process, and this was no exception. I submitted the story last Aug. 1, and it took seven months before they accepted it. It's already scheduled for publication - on July 1, 2024!!! (We also went through a two-week rewrite process where they asked for certain changes.) It's a somewhat long story, 6,600 words, about 27 pages double-spaced.

***
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Tip of the Week
Be a Machine But Not Mechanical.

Weekend Coaching, an Exhausting Session, . . . and USATT or Local TT
It was another busy week at the Maryland Table Tennis Center. I had four group sessions, plus a private session with Navin Kumar. (As noted previously, I'm retired from private coaching, but made an exception for Navin, a Paralympic player. I'll likely be coaching him at the World Parkinson's Championships at the 2022 ITTF Parkinson's World Table Tennis Championships, Sept. 30 - Oct. 3, 2022, in Pula, Croatia.) Head junior coach Wang Qingliang ran most of these sessions, with Coach Lidney Castro running one of them. (I used to run many or most of these sessions, but now that I'm "semi-retired," I've taken a back seat and let others be in charge while I assist.)

With the Novice group, the focus is always on fundamentals. We do a lot of shadow-stroking at the start. One interesting thing - the local middle schools require all students to do a certain number of hours of volunteer work. MDTTC had applied as an option, and so for the last few years we've had many of our junior stars helping out in such classes. This time around we had six of them (ages 12 to 15), along with Wang and I - so eight coaches/practice partners with 13 players!!! So we were able to do a lot of one-on-one hitting and multiball. In other sessions I was split between feeding lots and Lots and LOTS of multiball, and being a "walking around" coach.

In the last session on Sunday afternoon, they played practice matches to help some of them prepare for upcoming tournaments. There were 15 in the group and needed a 16th, so I became a player once again. The level in this group ranged up to about 1850. At the start, I was winning most of my games by scores ranging from 11-0 (sorry!) to 11-3. (All best of three to 11.) Then I started getting tired. Why was I tired? Well . . . perhaps it was age. No one there knew it, but I turned 62 (!!!) on Sunday. As I got tired, I made mistakes and struggled to cover the table against these way-too-fast kids, who more and more seemed like Tasmanian devils on steroids. No, I didn't lose any games, but the second half I had a number of close ones, even down 7-10 one game to a kid around 1600 (but swinging for the fences and hitting!) - but I came back. I probably need to start practicing and do some physical training if I want to stay ahead of them!

I'm going up to Princeton Pong in New Jersey to coach at a tournament this weekend. Normally, when I travel to tournaments, it's to coach our top juniors. This time, a number of younger, lower-rated kids are doing their first out-of-town tournament. I've met with some of the parents to go over various aspects of the trip. We leave sometime on Friday afternoon. These kids are enthused and can't wait!!!

With all of this local TT, and my growing disillusionment with the current leadership of USA Table Tennis, I'm leaning more and more towards just focusing on local table tennis until things get better at USATT. (One board member told me that members have always complained about USATT. My response was the key thing was whether the complaints are justified.) We have over 50 kids in our junior program, generally divided into four training groups. There are some really hard-working kids. They may not all become "champions" in table tennis, but they will all have fun, learn discipline and sportsmanship, and have a sport for a lifetime - i.e. they will all be champions.

However, it's also fun to work with the top ones. In the current rankings, in 13 and Under, we have players like Stanley Hsu (13, 2402), Mu Du (13, 2286), Ryan Lin (12, 2216), Winston Wu (2079) - the four are ranked #1, 3, 6, and 8 in the country. In 12 and Under, Ryan and Winston are #1 and #2. In 11 and Under, Riley Yang (11, 1920) is #5; in 9 and Under Girls, Audrey Yang (9, 1242) is #4. And there are many others. (It's tempting to list them all . . . lots of kids from 1800 to 2200, we have some great coaches at MDTTC!) Anyway, I'd rather work with these kids, most of whom I've worked with since they were beginners, then spend a huge amount of time tilting at windmills, i.e. dealing with USATT. I'm on the USATT coaching committee, and will continue that - though we haven't met since June of 2020. 
=>ADDENDUM - Another reason for my disinterest in USATT is that, with all their problems, they are insignificant compared to what's happening in Ukraine as well as what's happened to American politics. There's a good chance our next president will be one who regularly tells us how much he likes and admires Putin and how much Putin likes him, and about a thousand other problems. I usually stay out of US politics in this blog, but jeez...

US Team Trials and Nationals
The US Team Trials (for men, women, and juniors, June 25 - July 1) and the US Nationals (July 2-7) will be held back-to-back this year in Fort Worth. So it looks like I'll be very busy coaching for two weeks! Then I'm going on vacation. Tentatively, immediately afterwards I'm taking a bus or flight to San Antonio (270 miles south) to visit the Alamo. (I'm told I was there when I was two years old, but strangely I don't remember it.) Then I'm doing something I've held off for a couple of years for some pandemical reason - I'm hoping to do a one-to-two week tour of Mexico - probably one of these. (I especially like visiting historical sites.) Some of you may remember my 7-week tour of Europe and Egypt in late 2019, just before the pandemic - here's my book in that trip, Larry's Adventures in Europe and Egypt: Seven Weeks Following Tour Guides with Little Flags and Funny Hats, and the Quest for the Elusive Dr Pepper. (Flights from San Antonio to Mexico are inexpensive, about $200 round trip.)

Number of Events at the US Open and Nationals
I'm hearing rumors that they are thinking of once again lowering the number of events a player can enter at the US Open and Nationals. I hope this is wrong - they should go the other way and increase it. I checked some of my old entry forms, and as recently as 2015 players could enter up to ten events, with just as many or more events held as current Opens and Nationals. They lowered it to nine for the next two years, then to seven, then last year they lowered it to six. For a six-day event such as these, players want to play more, especially juniors, seniors, para players, and hardbat/sandpaper players who can play a lot of singles and doubles events. Since they had no problems with the scheduling in past years with players entering nine or ten events, why can't they do that now? The entry form will be out soon, so we'll know then.
=>ADDENDUM - Jasna from USATT posted, "From what I understood at the task force meeting, it seems it will be allowed for up to 10 events for athletes to enter." Another person from USATT had told me they were "considering" going to only five events, but presumably that was vetoed. (Another person also mentioned this to me, though not sure if it was a prediction or they'd also heard it, possibly from same source. It's quite possible the idea of going to five events was privately discussed but not brought up in official meetings and subsequently dropped. It would be an easy - and bad - partial solution to the recent scheduling problems.) If so, that's a good decision. Now, let's just run it on time and deal with the other problems raised from the last three US Opens and Nationals. 

Ping-Pong on Space Force
I've been watching Space Force, the satirical show on Netflix, which recently released season 2. In Season 2, Episode 4, at 10:40, one of the scientists, Dr. Chan, is described, "Did you know that at age ten, Chan was actually a table tennis champion." There's a picture of him as a child holding a paddle. (The series stars Steve Carell and John Malkovich.)
=>ADDENDUM - Matt Hetherington informs me of the following:

"That picture of Dr Chan in SpaceForce is actually a real picture of Jimmy O Yang, the actor who plays him. Jimmy played table tennis in Hong Kong at a young age and his father took him to competitions in Guangzhou sometimes. He's mentioned it in his standup shows a couple of times, I sent him a new racket last year so here's hoping we can get him on a table a little in 2022!" 

USA Table Tennis News

Butterfly Training Tips

New from PingSunday/EmRatThich

Seth Pech vs Sharon Alguetti 2022 Presper Financial Architects Open
Here's the video (9:48) with Seth's expert tactical analysis.

New from Samson Dubina

How to Serve Ghost 4 Easy Levels
Here's the video (9:29) from Ti Long.

New from Table Tennis Philosophy/Coach Jon

New from the Performance Biomechanics Academy Table Tennis

New from Matt Hetherington

Ask the Coach
Here are the latest questions from PingSkills.

New from Steve Hopkins

ITTF News

New from the Malong Fanmade Channel
Lots of new videos here.

Fix Un Foxi
Here's the 1995 German comic book!

Pong Eyes
Here's the picture!

World's Biggest Ping-Pong Paddle
Here it is! (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

Table Pong
Here's the video (18 sec) - and look what they use as a net!

Pole Pong with Persson
Here's the video (17 sec) as 1991 Men's World Champion Jorgen Persson battles the ball, a pole, and a punching bag!

Full-House Pong
Here's the video (48 sec) - this is hilarious!

***
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