Blogs

Larry Hodges' daily blog will go up Mon-Fri by noon USA Eastern time (usually by 10 AM, more like noon on Mondays when he does a Tip of the Week and has three days to cover). 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 eight books and over 1500 articles on table tennis. Here is his bio.
NOTE - Larry is on the USATT Board of Directors and chairs 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 Tips and More Table Tennis Tips, which cover, in logical progression, his Tips of the Week from 2011-2013 and 2014-2016, 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!

November 21, 2017

Off Day
Alas, I was up late last night on a project, and woke up exhausted and with a headache that feels like a 40+ steel ping-pong ball bouncing around inside my head. So I’m taking the day off from blogging. (No coaching scheduled today.) I’ll be back tomorrow with a double-sized blog. Meanwhile, here’s the best picture I’ve ever seen of a buck playing table tennis with a ram. (At least I think that’s a ram on the near side based on its rounded horns. But does a ram have a tail like that?) 

November 20, 2017

Tip of the Week
Three Simple Side-to-Side Drills. You might also want to revisit the article I linked to recently from Expert Table Tennis, 3 Basic Footwork Drills for Intermediate Table Tennis Players, which includes video.

Another Busy Weekend
Here’s a rundown.

  • In the Beginning Junior Class, we had our final session for the year. (We start up again in January.) The 90-minute session was divided into three segments. Segment 1: Player’s choice, where the player chose what he wanted to work with, with the 17 players rotating with the four coaches (plus robot). Segment 2: Smashing against lob. After we gave a demo and explanation of smashing lobs, they went out to the table, and took turns smashing lobs against the coaches, where they stay until they lose five points. Segment 3: The Candy Game! I put a HUGE pile of Jolly Rancher candies at the end of the table, and the kids lined up as I fed multiball, three shots each. Whatever they knocked off the table they got to keep!!! (They were allowed to trade if they preferred another flavor.) At the end I gave each of them two pieces each, so nobody left candyless.
  • In the Advanced “Talent” Junior Training, the kids went through stations. (There are 29 in the program, but divided into groups by level – there were eight in my group, with almost as many coaches/practice partners as kids.) The first time around my station was forehand loop/backhand push. (This was with the younger kids.) I fed backspin side to side as they looped the forehand, and pushed the backhand, with the player not doing the drill standing behind mimicking the shots with shadow-practice. (Don’t worry, they’ll be backhand looping soon.) In the second time around we did backhands – I fed the first ball, then the two would go at it, backhand to backhand. We also kept track of who did the most in a row at each station. I’ve been taking lots of notes on the kids for the last month – this week I write up my evaluations for each player in my group of eight. I hope to get them done today.
  • In the Adult Training Session I was a bit disappointed – due to holidays and other issues, the turnout was the smallest this year – just two! So they got a very intense session. After a series of drills, we did a lot of multiball. Since I’m going to be away many Sundays the rest of the year – North American Teams, U.S. Open, and Christmas in Eugene with family – I’m going to cancel the Sunday sessions until January. I'll email the class and put a note on our web page. 
  • In private coaching, since many local players are preparing for the North American Teams, with those students I’ve cut down on multiball (with plastic training balls) and many rote drills, and instead we’re playing more regular points – serve and attack, receive drills, and regular games (where I sometimes mimic styles, level, or just keep the ball in play).
  • In the ongoing debate about whether nets and edges even out – they don’t, some styles get far more – I add the latest data. During my one-hour session with Joanna (private coaching on Sunday), we kept score on how many nets and edges we each got, and she stomped me, “winning” 11-3, 11-4, 11-2, and led 5-0 when the session ended. I’ve blogged about this a few times, such as Feb. 6, 2012, Feb. 21, 2013 (3rd segment, where opponent got 17 to my zero!), and Dec. 8, 2014.

Seamaster Swedish Open
Here’s the home page for the ITTF event in held in Stockholm, Sweden, Nov. 13-19, with complete results, articles, pictures, and video. Here are some videos:

Wonderkid Tomokazu Harimoto Training at the Swedish Open 2017
Here’s the video (3:25).

Flipping like Fan Zhendong -- Powerful Backhand Banana Flip
Here’s the video (9:21) from Tomorrow Table Tennis.

New Articles and Video from EmRatThich

Table Tennis Timing - Why I Keep Missing the Ball
Here’s the article by Harrie Austin-Jones.

China Remain Number One in Table Tennis - German Coach Rosskopf
Here’s the article from Xinhua News.

Race to the Top
Here’s the ITTF article. “Only two men can enter 2018 as the world number one. Will it be Fan Zhendong or Dimitrij Ovtcharov?”

Sri Lanka Continues March Forward
Here’s the ITTF article by Richard McAfee, course conductor.

History of USATT - Volume XX - Chapter 3
Here’s chapter three of Tim Boggan’s latest volume, which covers 1991-1992. Or you can buy it and previous volumes at www.timboggantabletennis.com.

National Youth Table Tennis Association
Here are the results of their first school tournament of the season, with 22 schools.

Paralyzed Seminole High Senior Jenson Van Emburgh Wants to Win Paralympics Gold Medal
Here’s the article and video (1:44) from ABC Action news.

Ask a Pro Anything: Omar Assar
Here’s the video (6:15), with Adam Bobrow.

“Serious” Training for the JOOLA North American Team Championships
Here’s the mini-table video (79 sec) by Tony Murnahan – best part is the Dimitrij “Dima” Ovtcharov impersonation in the middle!

Table Tennis Manga
Here’s the new cartoon. (Click on the pictures to see the next one.) According to Nathan Hsu, who pointed the manga out to me, the protagonist loops like Timo Boll!

Jan-Ove Waldner vs. Timo Boll Exhibition 2017
Here’s the video (10:11). I was going to link to the best points, but there were just too many – Waldner twice does his patented no-look forehand block winner, there’s the Waldner chop lob followed by Boll’s backspin drop shot, there are the opposite hand shots, lots of great lobbing, and an incredible point where Boll is smashing to Waldner’s lob – with two balls at once!

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November 17, 2017

Three Examples of Why Table Tennis is So Mental
I did three hours of private coaching last night, and all three featured the mental side of table tennis.

  • My first session was with a Lucy, age 9, a beginner. Last week we spent much of the session trying to get that elusive 20 forehands in a row (live, not multiball), but she wasn’t able to do it. Last night she again struggled for a time. The part that jumps out is that over and over she’d get close, and then miss. At one point she had hit 17 in a row three times, and ten or more in a row about 20 times, but each time as she approached 20, she’d get nervous and miss. This was similar to an experience I had with another student, Sameer, about age 12, that I once blogged about. In three consecutive rallies, Sameer, who was trying to hit 100 in a row for the first time, hit 99 in a row and missed (!), then 97, then 93. At this point he was almost in tears. The very next rally? Once he hit 100 he relaxed and we just went on and on until I finally caught the ball when he hit 1000 in a row! So, back to Lucy – we spent some time focusing on clearing the mind, not trying to guide the shot, and finally she got 24 in a row. The very next rally we did backhands, and in the first rally she got 38 in a row, also a new record for her. It’s all mental.
  • In the next session, with Matt (age 16), who loops very hard from both sides (about 1800 level), while warming up my blocking seemed a bit erratic. So I used a standard mental trick, and imagined it was back in the 1990s and I was practicing with Han Xiao, a star junior I probably hit with for 1000 hours as he won every junior event, made the U.S. Men’s Team, made the final of Men’s Singles at the Nationals, and won Men’s Doubles there four times. Back in those days I could block his loops in drills like a wall, and as soon as I imagined Matt as being Han, the muscle memory of those days came back, and I became a wall again. It’s all mental.
  • My final session was with Ron, and older relative beginner. We’re working hard on his basic shots, and his forehand and backhands are really coming around now. However, he has a few bad habits he’s overcoming. So I stressed the idea that you have to remember the feel of good technique, so that when you don’t do it properly, it won’t feel right, but if you do it right, it feels right. I explained how once you do this, the shot pretty much does itself, and all you have to do is watch the ball and let the subconscious (i.e. muscle memory) take over. I demoed by putting a water bottle on the far side and from my side of the table tossed up ball after ball and smacked it mostly dead center about ten times in a row. The key? I kept up a steady dialogue with him as I was doing this, making absolutely certain not to think about the shots or even to aim them – that’s the job of the subconscious. It’s all mental.

U.S. Open Deadline is TODAY
Here’s the new promo video (36 seconds), and here’s the home page for the event, Dec. 17-22 in Las Vegas. Yes, TODAY is the DEADLINE to enter. There are currently 737 entries (set dropdown menu to “2017 US Open”), and if YOU do not enter, YOU will pay for the wall. Or at least a net set.

Seamaster Swedish Open
Here’s the home page for the ITTF event in Stockholm, Sweden, Nov. 13-19, finishing this Sunday. They are currently to the Final Sixteen in Men’s and Women’s Singles. Follow the action this weekend! Here’s a great game match from the round of 16 - Harimoto Tomokazu (JPN) vs Jens Lundqvist (SWE) (14:08). SPOILER – Harimoto comes back from down 1-3 to win, 11-8 in the seventh, and will now face Xu Xin.

Top Ranked Players Compete at the 20th Anniversary JOOLA North American Team Championships
Here’s the article. I'll be there. Will you? (I'm coaching two junior teams from MDTTC.) 

Pong Road: Episodes 1-4
Here are the episodes. On August 8 I linked to and blogged about Episodes 1-3; #4 (about ten minutes) just went up.  Like them at their Facebook page for future updates. Here’s the description from their About page:

“After years of living in New York and scraping by on tournament winnings, coaching and event gigs, professional ping pong player Rocky Wang decides to leave the big city and weave his way through the United States. With little money and his trusty van (Myrtle the Turtle), he's exploring what American ping pong is really like and the colorful characters that play across the country.” “This is a completely self-funded indie series made by two friends and shot entirely with an iPhone. It's a labor of love made with a lot late nights, sweat and ping pong balls, so please SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube channel and help support our project!” 

ITTF Job Opportunities
Here’s the info page. “Seeking passionate individuals who are interested to join the ITTF in promoting Table Tennis to the World.” Current openings are:

2017 Star Awards Male & Female Table Tennis Star Nominees Announced
Here’s the article. Finalists for men are Ma Long, Dimitrij Ovtcharov, Tomokazu Harimoto, and Timo Boll. Finalists for women are Ding Ning, Zhu Yuling, Miu Hirano, and Cheng I-Ching. (Their credentials are listed.)

No Matter How Good You Get, There’s Always Someone Better…
Here’s the article by Tom Lodziak.

China’s Table Tennis Coach
Here’s the article by Eli Baraty.

USATT Insider
Here’s the new issue that came out Wednesday.

Zhang Jike Forehand Training WTTC 2017
Here’s the video (65 sec).

Contenders for ITTF Point of the Year
Here's the video (1:51). 

Joo Se Hyuk: A Tribute
Here’s the video (7:02).

NFL’s Cardinals RB David Johnson Loves Table Tennis & PGA Players Play for Bragging Rights
Here’s the article and videos.

Some Robot Play?
Here’s the video (56 sec) – watch out, Ma Long!!! “The Chinese have introduced the new ping-pong robot to the world.” (But I’d recommend throwing some spins at it.)

Sidespin Backhand Loop Around Net Through Duct Tape
Here’s the video (54 sec) of Matt Hetherington having “another fun morning.” There are two other variations (reverse hand and sidespin backhand chop, both around net and through the duct tape), all shown in regular and slow motion.

Paw Patrol Cartoons Chase Plays Table Tennis
Here’s the video (10:33, but the crazy table tennis scene starts 16 seconds in and ends at 2:11). There’s also this somewhat gory table tennis picture with these characters, but it doesn’t seem to be in the video.

Well, Kid, Ya Beat Me
Here’s the all-time classic table tennis cartoon from The Far Side, never gets old. I don’t think I’ve ever linked to it – it’s just too iconic. (Here’s the non-Facebook version.)

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November 16, 2017

To Dream the Impossible Dream
I’ve always thought that this should be the national anthem of table tennis. After all, aren’t we all dreaming of beating that unbeatable foe, and achieving that impossible dream of being a champion? And of course, along the way there are those bad losses, leading to unbearable sorrow? But if you want to be a champion, you have to face that and go where the brave dare not go.

Here’s the version (8:50), perhaps the most classic (or at least the most views on Youtube at over 3.2 million), from the 1972 movie “Man of La Mancha,” sung by Peter O’Toole. (Yes, the same O’Toole who, ten years before, was Lawrence of Arabia.)

NOTE - I've been advised by John Olsen that the truly iconic version is actually by Richard Kiley in the Broadway musical. Here is Kiley singing it at the 1972 Tony Awards (2:39). Listening to it, I think he's right. 

But my favorite version is the one from the old comedy TV show “Gomer Pyle: USMC,” which ran from 1964 to 1969. Here’s the video of the scene (8:08), which starts at the Lincoln Memorial, and ends with Gomer Pyle’s rendition of To Dream the Impossible Dream. It’s from the 1967 episode “The Show Must Go On,” where Gomer (played by Jim Nabors, a comic actor and professional singer), has a loss of confidence when he’s supposed to sing in front of a crowd – i.e. he gets nervous, just as we all do before a big match. He’s so nervous he loses his voice. Depressed, he visits the Lincoln Memorial, where he is given good advice by a stranger, as well as seemingly from Lincoln himself. He overcomes his nerves, gets his voice back, and gives a brilliant rendition of the song.

Here are other renditions of the song, including versions by Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Hank Williams, Susan Boyle, Diana Ross, Jennifer Hudson, Plácido Domingo, and Luther Vandross. The music is by Mitch Leigh and the lyrics by Joe Darion. I actually spent part of this morning creating a table tennis version of the lyrics – but you know what? While they might be considered “clever,” I think they just cheapened the song, and so I deleted them and will stick with the original.

Maximum Spin
Here’s the video (2:34) from Samson Dubina. “Check out this $0.01 tool that you can use today!”

Tomorrow Table Tennis - How to backhand loop against a deep fast push
Here’s the video (6:28) from Andy Zou.

Ping-Pong for Puerto Rico
Here’s info on the fundraiser at Philadelphia Spin this Saturday, Nov. 18.  

Seamaster Swedish Open
Here’s the home page for the ITTF event in Stockholm, Sweden, Nov. 13-19. 

Old Man Table Tennis
Here’s the article by Coach Jon.

Table Tennis New Generation
Here’s the article from Sports Flu.

Set and Match: Table Tennis as Performance Art
Here’s the article and pictures. “Simon Grenier-Poirier and Dorian Nuskind-Oder’s ‘Speed Glue’ turns table tennis into performance art.” I’m not sure why it is called “Speed Glue” as it doesn’t seem to have any connection with the old speed glues used in table tennis (now illegal), so it’s probably just some poetic name.

Japanese Instructional Video from 1950s
Here’s the video (14:58), which I believe is the one created by Ichiro Ogimura for Japan and later studied by the Chinese. The Chinese and Swedes attribute much of their success from learning from Ogimura, the 1954 and 1956 world men’s singles champion and future ITTF president. Here’s another video (3:42) of Ogimura playing against Toshiaki Tanaka, the 1955 and 1957 world men’s singles champion. These two Japanese players dominated table tennis in the late 1950s before the rise of China. (Here’s my blog on the book, “The Life of Ichiro Ogimura.”)

Martina Navratilova Thrashed Piers Morgan at Table Tennis and He Wasn’t Very Happy About It
Here’s the article and hilarious video (1:38)!

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November 15, 2017

Tidbits

  • Revelations of a Ping-Pong Champion. It’s now on sale at $17.95 at Amazon. (It was $24.95 before.) Here’s the back cover blurb:
    “If you are in the sport of table tennis, then you know Danny Seemiller, USA’s greatest modern champion. In ‘Revelations of a Table Tennis Champion,’ the five-time U.S. Men’s Singles Champion takes you through his 50 years in the sport, from the early days of training, the breakthroughs, the agonizing defeats and the great triumphs. You’ll learn why the three-sport star – baseball, basketball, and football – changed his focus to table tennis. You’ll experience his trips around the world, from being marched at gunpoint to achieving his boyhood dream of defeating the Chinese. But playing is only half his story. Danny, a long-time coach first in Pittsburgh and then in South Bend, Indiana, was the U.S. Olympic and World Team Coach for ten years, and was named the USOC Coach of the Year for Table Tennis three times. He served five years as president of USA Table Tennis, ran dozens of major tournaments through the years, and was instrumental in bringing the 2018 World Veterans Games to the United States. He is a member of the USA Table Tennis Hall of Fame, and in 2012 became the youngest recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award. This is his story.”
  • Weekend Coaching. I never got around to blogging about it, but it was a busy coaching weekend. In the beginning junior class the focus was backhand attack, especially against backhand. In the advanced junior session (“Talent Program”), we had stations with the players rotating through each, and I had the station in charge of pushing. In the adult training session we did a lot of down-the-line practice, backhand attack, and serve and attack drills. In private coaching, I seem to be working on everyone’s forehand loop these days, plus a lot of service practice.  
  • Injury Update. I had a breakthrough last week. For the first time since July, when I injured my right knee at the USA Nationals, I walked up stairs normally. Since July I’ve been taking them only with my left leg, i.e. step up with left leg, follow with right leg, one step at a time. But I can now put normal weight on the right knee. I still wear a knee brace, but it’s more preventive now. In other good news, my right shoulder is about 80% healed, but it’s still a problem. Currently no arm or back problems, though I still wear an arm brace to protect against re-injury.
  • 2018 MDTTC Tournaments. We’ll have 3-star $2700 tournaments on Feb. 10-11, Apr. 14-15, Aug. 18-19, and Oct. 13-14, plus the 3-star Maryland State Championships on June 2-3. All five were sanctioned long ago. The complication is I keep playing around with the event schedule, since we ran into some scheduling problems in our last tournament with a high turnout in some events. I’ve been puttering around with it for the last month, and think I finally have it figured out.
  • USATT Coaching Committee Report. One of the new USATT policies is all committee chairs are supposed to submit a short report for each in-person USATT board meetings. (I chair the coaching committee.) We had a meeting in September, but with another one at the U.S. Open in December, I have to put together another one. (I may bring up with the board that this is too much, three times a year, and suggest we go back to annual reports.) Since September our main activity was setting up the annual USATT Coach of the Year process. There’s also a lot of discussion on the USATT coaching certification process, and I’ll be meeting with USATT High Performance Director Jorg Bitzigeio at the U.S. Open to go over this, and eventually submitting a plan for discussion to the USATT coaching committee. I've already got a printout of the current process marked up with lots and lots of notes and proposed changes. 

800 Players, $50,000 in Prize Money and 97 Events Highlights 2017 US Open
Here’s the USATT article by Richard Finn. I’ll be there; will you? Entry deadline is this Friday.

Seamaster Swedish Open
Here’s the home page for the ITTF event in Stockholm, Sweden, Nov. 13-19. In Men’s Singles, China has Fan Zhendong, Xu Xin, Lin Gaoyuan, Fang Bo, and Yang An. Japan has Noki Niwa, Kenta Matsudaira, and 14-year-old whiz kid, Tomokazu Harimoto (world #16), heading for a showdown with Xu Xin (world #3 last month, now off the list for non-activity) in the round of 16. Alas, Germany’s Dimitrij Ovtcharov and Timo Boll are not entered, nor is Simon Gauzy or Vladimir Samsonov – the top European is world #17 Marcos Freitas of Portugal. In Women’s Singles, China has the top three seeds in Ding Ning, Zhu Yuling, and Chen Meng, and Japan the next three, with Kasumi Ishikawa, Miu Hirano, and Mima Ito. (Since I mentioned Ishikawa, here’s a funny picture of her with ITTF Commentator/Voice of Table Tennis Adam Bobrow. Here’s the non-Facebook version.)

America's Ping Pong Prodigy: The 16 Project
Here’s the video (6:55) from Vice Sports, featuring Kanak Jha. “When Kanak Jha was 16, he became the youngest American Olympian participate in the Rio Games. Only a year later, he now is considered the top-ranked US Men’s Ping Pong Player. Looking to take that next step in his development and training, the California native recently moved to Grenzau, Germany. Far away from home and with few distractions from table tennis, Kanak looks to perfect his craft and join the company of the game's elite with his sites set on Tokyo 2020.”

TeamUSA's Final Preparations Begin for World Junior Championships
Here’s the USATT article.

2017 German Open: All Chinese Out with an All-German Final!
Here’s the article and video (5:30, highlights of Fan vs. Ovtcharov) from Shashin Shodhan. “The End of Chinese Dominance?”

Tahl Leibovitz Honored with Queens Ambassador Award
Here’s the article from the Queens Times Ledger.

Coaches Respond, Intense Schedule in Pristina
Here’s the ITTF article by USA Coach Christian Lillieroos.

This Ping Pong Tournament Aims to Raise $175k for Chicago Tech Academy
Here’s the article from Chicago Inno.

Kenta Matsudaira - Mr. Tomahawk (Blocking Magic)
Here’s the video (5:26).

Old-Style Ping-Pong Circa 1900
Here’s the video (40 sec) as two players go at it with old vellum rackets, as used around 1900 but in a modern recreation.

Chat with Adam Bobrow
Here’s the video (9:49) - The Timo point, German Open, Swedish Open... life... whatever.

2017 Kansas City Table Tennis Open Final Highlights
Here’s the video (14:19).

Cartoon Network Ping-Pong
Here’s the picture! I’m not sure who the characters are or where this comes from.

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November 14, 2017

Tip of the Week
How to Play Doubles with a Much Stronger Player.

USATT Board of Directors Teleconference
The teleconference took place at 7PM last night, going until about 8:45PM. Attending were all nine members of the USATT Board of Directors, plus USATT CEO Gordon Kaye, USATT Chief Operating Officer Marc Thompson, High Performance Director Jorg Bitzigeio, USATT lawyer Dennis Taylor, John McFadden (representing the USATT Foundation), and USATT member Lee Kondo.

Meetings always start with a few formalities – roll call, welcome remarks from board chair Anne Cribbs, and a call for conflict of interest statements. There were none. Then we got to the approval of the minutes for the Sept. 10 in-person board meeting, and teleconferences on Oct. 9 and 19. I asked for a minor typo correction for the Oct. 9 minutes, and the addition of a clarifying sentence for the Oct. 19 minutes. There were no other calls for changes. Then we voted for each – I was rather active this call, and made all three motions for approval. They were each approved unanimously, and should go online soon.

Next came a long session on SafeSport. The USOC did an audit of our SafeSport policies and procedures, and asked that we add a part about requiring USATT staff to pass SafeSport. (Apparently this was included in one part, but not another.) Once again I made the motion to add the needed language to our policies. We’re in overall compliance, with Jan. 1, 2018 the target date for “full compliance.” Of course, there’s no such thing as true full compliance as any club or tournament could sneak in a coach, umpire, or other person who is not SafeSport compliant and we might not know about it. But there will be penalties for this.

Next came updates on the USOC General Assembly (from Anne Cribbs and Tara Profitt), and an update on the USATT Board Manual. (I found two little mistakes – it made my day! But nothing important.)

Then came the CEO reports on the U.S. Open, the upcoming USATT Super Camp (Dec. 26 – Jan. 2 at the Triangle TTC in NC), and USOC funding. No surprises on any of this. (Did you know you can see the list of entries online? Here’s the listing by players, and by event.) We also discussed the upcoming in-person meeting at the U.S. Open. The meeting will take place on Fri, Dec. 15, from 1PM to roughly 6PM, and on Sat, Dec. 16, from 8AM to roughly 6PM. The meeting is open to all USATT members who wish to attend, except for occasional closed sessions for legal and personnel matters. There will also be the annual USATT Assembly, tentatively at 8PM on Tues, Dec. 19, at the convention center.

There was also a closed session where for about ten minutes we discussed super-secret stuff (legal and personnel), and here I’d like to joke about Russian connections except someone out there would probably take it seriously. Then we adjourned.

Seamaster German Open
Here’s the home page for the event, held in Magdeburg, GER, Nov. 7-12. The page includes complete results, and lots of great articles and video. The mind-boggling part was that Men’s Singles was another all-German final, Timo Boll vs. Dimitrij Ovtcharov, just like at the recent Men’s World Cup. Chinese stars Fan Zhendong, Zhang Jike, Xu Xin, Lin Gaoyuan, and Yan An all lost. (Ma Long and Fang Bo were not there.) Is China starting to miss Liu Guoliang? Here are a few other links.

New from Samson Dubina

New from EmRatThich

Training With Wang Hao and Lin Gaoyuan at 2017 World Cup
Here’s the video (9:10) from Arnaud Scheen. 

Tomorrow Table Tennis - How to Forehand Loop around the Net
Here’s the video (2:51) by Andy Zou.

San Jose Finalist for World Championships in a Growing Sport
Here’s the article from The Mercury News.

A Massive New Ping-Pong Bar is Coming to Downtown Seattle
Here’s the article from Seattle Magazine.

Has China Dropped the Ball?
Here’s the ITTF article. I think it way under-emphasizes the impact the “promotion” of Liu Guoliang from men’s coach into a pointless bureaucratic position.

ITTF Leadership Update
Here’s the ITTF article.

History of USATT - Volume XX - Chapter 2
Here’s chapter two of Tim Boggan’s latest volume, which covers 1991-1992. Or you can buy it and previous volumes at www.timboggantabletennis.com.

Robopong 2017 November BTTC Open Tournament
Here’s the article on the Florida tournament.

Nittaku ITTF Monthly Pongcast - October 2017
Here’s the video (13:02).

Timo Boll: Table Tennis Legend
Here’s the video (7:46).

Table Tennis, 1930s to Present
Here’s the video (2:47).

Table Tennis Stamps from Sierra Leone
Here’s the picture. Clockwise from top left: Kasumi Ishikawa, Ma Long, Koki Niwa, Zhang Jike.

Giant Ping-Pong
Here’s the video (13:13) with oversized paddles and what appears to be a beachball.

Bear vs. Monkey Pong
Here’s the video (7:30, but link should take you directly to 3:50, where they have a crazy game for about a minute, with a spider onlooker.

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November 13, 2017

 

Day Off
Oh boy, do I need a day off. Friday was Veteran’s Day, a federal holiday, and my normal policy is to take those as holidays as well – but I simply forgot, and ended up doing the blog and working all day Friday. Then came the even busier weekend where I coached all day and night. And now, after staying up late to watch the season finale of Star Trek: Discovery, plus The Walking Dead, The Simpsons, and Family Guy – yeah, late Sunday night is my weekly “TV” night – I have all the energy of a broken ping-pong ball. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m normally blogging Mon-Fri, while coaching long hours on Sat & Sun (as well as during the week), so I normally don’t have any days off. So I’m taking today off. (It’s not a total day off – I have a few things on my “todo” list I need to get done today, plus we have our monthly USATT Board of Directors teleconference at 7PM – I’ll blog about that and other things tomorrow.)

Meanwhile, here’s video of “The Diving Point” at the German Open, Timo Boll vs. Lin Gaoyuan at 7-6 in the first game. Who do you think wins the point? Here’s commentator Adam Bobrow’s explanation (60 sec) afterwards on why the umpires got it right and gave the point to Lin, despite Timo’s heroics. Here’s the home page for the event that finished this weekend in Magdeburg, GER, Nov. 7-12, with complete results, articles, and lots of video – and surprise, just like the Men’s World Cup, and with all of the top Chinese competing except for #1 Ma Long, the men's final was another all-German final!

November 10, 2017

Call for Nominations - Annual USATT Coach of the Year Awards
Here’s the info page. There are five categories:

Coaches can’t nominate themselves – so why not nominate some deserving coach from your club? See info on each category, linked above. Deadline is Jan. 1, 2018.

Here’s the listing of past winners. Last year’s winners in the five categories were Stefan Feth (pictured on the news item), Tao Wenzhang, Samson Dubina, Joe Ciarrochi, and Gary Fraiman. The Coach of the Year program started in 1996 with just two categories. We’re considering adding more next year – for example, we might separate those who train athletes directly (i.e. act as practice partners as well as coaches) from those who run the training sessions or coach matches in big tournaments. It’s a tricky distinction.

I’m on the Selection Committee as the USATT Coaching Chair. That’s bad – really bad – it means I can’t win this year! (Just kidding.) I’ve won twice before, and had a stretch in the 1990s where I was runner-up for Coach of the Year three years in a row. Others on the Selection Committee are Joerg Bitzigeio, USATT High Performance Director; Carl Danner, Chair, USATT High Performance Committee; and Tara Profitt, Chair, Athletes Advisory Council.

My Secret Life as a Ping-Pong Wizard
Here’s the book, with perhaps the best cover of any table tennis book. It’s book #9 in the “Hank Zipzer: The World's Greatest Underachiever” series, published in 2005, and written by Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver. (Yes, the Henry Winkler who starred as Fonzie in “Happy Days and other movies and TV shows.”) It’s a kid’s book for roughly ages 8-12, but I think I’m going to read it. I thought I had a copy but can’t find it, so I just ordered a copy. Here’s the book description:

Hank thought that getting through summer school to get to the fifth grade would be hard enough, but little did he know that it would get worse! Everyone in the fifth grade is starting to focus on a sport—and they’re really good. Everyone, that is, except Hank. When Papa Pete suggests that Hank take up Ping-Pong, he decides to give it a try but keeps it top secret, as he thinks the other kids will tease him about it not being a "real" sport. Hank is so good that he manages to Ping-Pong his way to the championship! But when he finds out the contest is being held at "Nick the Tick" McKelty’s family bowling alley, will he risk being the laughingstock of the fifth grade?

Seamaster German Open
Here’s the home page for the event. It’s in Magdeburg, GER, Nov. 7-12. Here’s a feature article: Once again lightning strikes, once again Japanese teenagers beat World champions.

New Articles from Samson Dubina

One Year In – Lessons for the Beginning Table Tennis Player
Here’s the article from Epic Table Tennis.

The Birth of Modern Table Tennis?
Here’s the posting and discussion of this at the mytabletennis.net forum. The argument is made, with video, that Stellan Bengtsson was the player “who did the most to revolutionize table tennis and create the modern game.”

Ionescu Excited for Bundesliga's American Debut
Here’s the USATT article on the German professional league match to take place at the North American Teams. 

Five New ITTF Posts Offered for Forward Thinking Initiatives
Here’s the ITTF news item. Deadline to apply is Nov. 30. The positions are:

  • ITTF Development Manager
  • ITTF High Performance and Development Administrative Specialist
  • ITTF Africa Development Manager
  • ITTF Para Table Tennis Manager
  • ITTF Equipment Manager

The New ITTF Ranking System Explained
Here’s the podcast (30:42) from PingSkills.

Successful Start for Second Part of Sri Lanka Initiative
Here’s the ITTF article featuring Richard McAfee.

Guangdong Steps Up on Home Ground in Shenzhen
Here’s the article from MH Table Tennis (Matt Hetherington). “The Guangdong Team prepared for an epic showdown on November the 4th as they stood before their home crowd against a difficult opposition. Led by Coach and Chinese legend Guo Yuehua along with Chinese National Team member Hao Shuai, the Guangdong team would face off with Shandong Luneng, a team of formidable opposition.”

Reviewing My First USATT Tournament
Here’s the article with link to video (3:16) by José Miguel Montoro.

Chinese Superstar Zhang Jike is Back!
Here’s the video (35 sec) from the German Open.

Two-Table Multiball Training
Here’s the video (28 sec).

Simon GAUZY vs Masataka MORIZONO (Bundesliga 2017/2018)
Here’s the video (4:41).

Krish Avvari in Training
Here’s the video (21 sec) of USA Junior Team Member Krish Avvari training with Coach Dan Liu at ICC. They are working on opening attacks against half-long backspin (i.e. barely off the end). Krish has just returned from an ankle injury that kept him out for nearly a month.

Classic Table Tennis, 1930s-1950s
Here’s the video (6:30), featuring classic hardbat play, set to old-time music.

Alien Table Tennis

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November 9, 2017

The Non-Playing Arm
I’ve been harping on the left arm a lot with my students recently. (I really should say “non-playing arm,” but at the moment all my private students are righties.) I do almost all of my coaching on the same back table at the club, next to the table tennis robot, surrounded by posters on the wall of world-class players. Right behind me are three pictures of players (also righties) in various playing positions, but all of them with their left arm up for balance. So I’m regularly pointing to them in succession and saying, “Left arm. Left arm. Left arm.”

The problem is that you can sort of get away with not using the left arm in many drills – either static ones, where you aren’t moving (i.e. working on basics with beginners), and often in moving drills where you know where the ball is going and so don’t have to make sudden unexpected changes in direction. And so players will sometimes get lazy and let their left arm just hang there like a dead snake. (That’s what I regularly call it – “dead snake syndrome.”) Often the consequences of a limp non-playing arm aren’t apparent as they affect your ability to recover from a shot – meaning it doesn’t so much affect the shot you are doing as much as it does the next shot. And then, rather than blaming the slow recovery on the lack of balance and fixing the problem, they call out, “I’m too slow!”

There are really three things about the non-playing arm you should focus on. First, keep the arm and hand up in your ready position for balance, making it easier to make quick starts, using the arm as a counter-balance. Second, it should be used as a counter-balance to your playing arm while rallying. This is especially true when making big forehand shots, but also true on big backhand shots if you turn sideways. And third, when making big forehand shots, where the body is rotating in roughly a circle, not only is your playing arm side moving forward, but the non-playing arm side should be moving backwards – so you should essentially be pulling back with that arm, adding to your power. (A version of this will likely become a Tip of the Week later on.)

Amazon Email Received Yesterday
The email said, “Larry Hodges, Based on your recent views, we thought you might be interested in these items.” The email had four suggested books for me: Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers, Table Tennis Tips, More Table Tennis Tips, and The Spirit of Pong. These are all books I wrote!

A Rising USA Bids for the Worlds
Here’s the USATT news item, which was adapted from my blog on Monday.

Seamaster German Open
Here’s the home page for the event. It’s in Magdeburg, GER, Nov. 7-12. 

Pushing Tactics to Mess Up Your Opponent
Here’s the video (7:19) from Tom Lodziak.

Trading Places With Your Coach
Here’s the article from Coach Jon.

Driven by Same Values, Toyota and Adriana Diaz Now Steer the Same Route
Here’s the ITTF article on the Puerto Rican star.

Sid and Nandan Naresh Display Table Tennis Skills
Here’s the article and video (2:59) from WGN9 News.

DHS ITTF Top 10 - 2017 Women's World Cup
Here’s the video (5:42) of the top ten shots from the Women’s World Cup.

U.S. Hopes Team Member Ved Sheth Plays “grudge match” with ICC Coach Zheng Pu
Here’s the video (66 sec).

Fegerl-Karlsson Exhibition Point
Here’s the video (56 sec) – what a point! That’s Stefan Fegerl of Austria on the far side (world #36, #31 last month) vs. Kristian Karlsson of Sweden (world #27). Here’s the entire exhibition (10:03).

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November 8, 2017

Visualizing the Serve
I think one of my most widely applicable Tips is A Journey of Nine Feet Begins at Contact. This has come up a lot recently in my coaching, both private and group. After a serving practice session with our Talent Junior Program (our best juniors, ages 7-13, about 24 of them), I gave a short lecture on this.

Let’s face it – most players really aren’t aware of what they are doing when they serve. Sure, they know the more obvious parts, like contact, and perhaps how it bounces on the far side. But they aren’t really aware of how high or low they contact the ball, where it bounces on their side of the table, the curve of the ball, not even how high it is when it crosses the net. They tend to notice only what’s happening on the far side, while ignoring what led to what happens on the far side. Without knowing and controlling what happens throughout the serve, including on your side of the table, you can’t really control the serve.

Seriously, if you want to have good serves, you need to be aware of every part of the ball’s journey, as noted in the Tip above. You should see it all in your head before you serve. If the serve doesn’t match what you saw in your head, then practice until it does. When you do this enough, it becomes second nature. Only when you can do that can you truly control your serves and make them do what you want them to do.

ITTF to Implement New World Ranking System in 2018
Here’s the ITTF news item.

Seamaster German Open
Here’s the home page for the event. It’s in Magdeburg, GER, Nov. 7-12. Here’s the promotional video (63 sec).

Zhang Jike Returns, Alongside Colleagues, Ready to Prove Himself
Here’s the ITTF article on the German Open.

Table Tennis Serve and Forehand Flick
Here’s the video (11:36). It’s in Chinese, but you can learn by watching the demos.

History of USATT - Volume XX - Chapter 1
Here’s the first chapter of Tim Boggan’s latest volume, which covers 1991-1992. Or you can buy it and previous volumes at www.timboggantabletennis.com.

Hollywood Actor, Ping-Pong Champion Maropis Serves Notice
Here’s the article on Adoni Maropis.

The 25th Cape Fear Open
Here’s the article by Earl Moniz.

Sportfist Table Tennis Tournament Software User Guide
Here’s the USATT news item, with a link to the user guide. I use Omnipong to run my tournaments, but I guess competition is good.

USATT Tournaments 2017 – USATT Youtube Playlist
Here’s the page – lots of championships videos from major USA tournaments.  

Tributo a Martin Pinto – Chile
Here’s the video (1:55).

Zombie Table Tennis Tournament
Here’s the video (36 sec) – things get interesting about halfway in!

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