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Larry Hodges' daily blog will go up Mon-Fri by noon USA Eastern time (usually by 10 AM, a little later on Mondays when he does a Tip of the Week).
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 seven books and over 1400 articles on table tennis. Here is his bio

Make sure to order your copy of Larry's best-selling book, Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers!
21 chapters, 240 pages, 102,000 words. Finally, a tactics book on this most tactical of sports!!!

His book, Table Tennis Tips, is also out - All 150 Tips of the Week from 2011-2013, in one volume, in logical progression!!!

His newest book, The Spirit of Pong, is also out - a fantasy story about an American who goes to China to learn the secrets of table tennis and ends up training with the spirits of past champions.

July 23, 2015

Last Blog Until Tuesday, August 4, and the Capital Area Team League

I'm going on vacation! When most people go on vacation, that means the beach, camping, an amusement park, or something like that. Me? I go to an annual science fiction & fantasy writing workshop in Manchester, NH – The Never-Ending Odyssey (TNEO). It's for graduates of the six-week Odyssey Writing Workshop – I went in 2006. This will be my sixth TNEO. I leave very early on Friday morning. (On a side note, I hurt my shoulder in a coaching session yesterday and had to have Coach Raghu substitute the rest of that session, and I'm taking today off as well, so maybe I need the rest.)

And if you live in the Capital area (Washington DC, Maryland, Virginia), don't miss the Capital Area Team League segment below – deadline to enter the Fall season is July 31.

Status Report

This seems like a good time to give a status report on all the things I promised to do when I was elected six months ago in January to a four-year term on the USATT Board of Directors – so I'm 1/8th of the way through my term. (I'm one of nine members.) I ran on five big issues, and 12 smaller ones – see my Election Page, where I talk about each, including the goals of each, and a link to where I blogged extensively about each one. (Much of the below refers to what I wrote on the Election page.) Let's go through them, one by one, and check the status. (Note that this is all volunteer – I don't get paid a cent.) One complication is that I'm very busy in the summer as a coach, since kids are out of school, so I can't do as much from June-August. I'll be a lot busier starting in September.

FIVE BIG ISSUES

  1. Create a Nationwide System of Regional Team Leagues. I was recently appointed the new chair of the USATT League Committee. Earlier this year I helped start up the Capital Area Team League, using other successful leagues such as the LA League as models. I'm still in the learning phase, but plan to put together a prototype of a league that can spread to other regions. I hope to have such a prototype ready by the end of this year. This is closely linked to the next item, Regional Associations. In fact, the first three items here are all part of a new plan I'm putting together titled "Grow the Sport," which I'll go public with this fall. (See note on that in "Other USATT Stuff I'm Working On" segment below.)
  2. Create State and Regional Associations. I was recently appointed the volunteer USATT Regional Associations Coordinator. I've put together a rough map of what the regions might be, and a prototype set of bylaws an association could adapt for themselves, with any needed changes. I'll be working on this more this fall. Soon we'll be putting out a call for those who wish to get involved in their Regional Association. There are still things to be worked out – for example, do we go with the conventional setup of president, vice president, treasurer, secretary, etc., with them appointing club directors, coaching directors, tournament directors, and league directors? Or should these directors be the ones on the regional board of directors? I'll be studying how other associations do this, both in table tennis and other sports.
  3. Create a USATT Coaching Academy to Recruit and Train Professional Coaches. The first step was to create materials needed for such training. A big part of this is one on how to set up and run a full-time training center, which is where most professional coaches work. Yang Yu created the new USATT Club Development Handbook, which I blogged about on June 22. Between that and the Professional Table Tennis Coaches Handbook I wrote (and will donate to the program at cost), I think we have most of the materials needed. I plan to work with the USATT Coaching Committee on this. I may end up recruiting and teaching much of this myself, but I sure hope others can get involved.
  4. Turn U.S. Open and Nationals into Premier Events. The USATT CEO, Gordon Kaye, has taken charge of this. Some of you saw his initial results at the recent US Open, where there were an incredible 1064 players, new events, and the finals at Caesars Palace.
  5. Create a Professional Players Association and Professionalize the Sport. I've had extensive discussions on this with CEO Gordon, and he's taking charge of this one – but it's likely a 2016 initiative.

OTHER USATT ISSUES

  1. Mailings to past members. I'll make this proposal once we have something to "sell" – such as regional team leagues.
  2. Hidden Serve Rule. I blogged about this on July 17. As noted there, I've made a proposal to change the rules so that the ball cannot be hidden from the receiver (as is currently the rule) or the entire net (which includes the net posts) and its upward extension. I'm working with someone from the ITTF on this.
  3. Rules changes and the plastic ball. As noted in my election page, other than fixing the service rule I have no interest in other changes to the rules. That doesn't mean I'll blindly be against anything, but new changes have a high threshold to reach to get my support.
  4. USATT Advisory Committees. I have a bylaw proposal to remove "Advisory" from all committee names. We need active committees doing things, not just advising. This will be voted on in the August meeting, along with four other bylaw proposals I've made. (I'll blog about them later on, before the meeting. Note that bylaws proposals need 30 days' notice and 2/3 vote of the entire board, even if some are absent.)
  5. Committee Chairs. Another of my bylaw proposals for August is to extend committee chair term limits from three to four terms, and remove term limits for committee members. We are constantly losing great volunteers because of these term limits – it greatly handicaps us. More on this later.
  6. NCAA Recognition. After some internal discussion, I've concluded this is really an issue for NCTTA, but I will assist them if needed.
  7. Fix rating system. USATT CEO Gordon has already initiated some changes, including a fix to a bug I'd pointed out that allowed situations where players gained rating points by losing, and other problems with the online ratings platform. We appointed a ratings committee at our teleconference this past Monday, with the intent that they will take care of the various problems. (We haven't had a ratings committee in many years.)
  8. Publish USA citizens ranking lists. I'm told this is on the todo list. I'll look into this again this fall.
  9. U.S. Open and U.S. Nationals Info. Again, a work in progress. Hopefully by next year we'll have dates for these events over a year in advance instead of last-minute scrambles.
  10. Bring back print magazine if financially feasible. Well, it wasn't financially feasible, but we found a good compromise – Table Tennis Insider, delivered right to your email.
  11. Let members get on the USATT ballot by petition. I made the bylaw motion at the March 28 board meeting, and it passed (see Item I) – so now any USATT member can run. Remember when ICC's Rajul Seth, Jim Butler, and others were blocked from running? No longer.
  12. Change USATT's Mission Statement. Another of my five bylaw proposals for the August meeting. More on this later.

OTHER USATT STUFF I'M WORKING ON

  1. "Grow the Sport" Initiative. This is a combination of four major issues that go together: Regional Associations, and three things they would oversee in their region: Team Leagues, Training Centers & Professional Coaches, and State Championships. This will be central to all my USATT work this fall.
  2. State Championships. I blogged about this on April 17. Here's the listing of State Championships I put together, with a goal of having them in all 50 states in 2016. Even if we don't get all 50, if we get close, it's a dramatic improvement. CEO Gordon convinced me of the importance of this issue and asked me to take charge. This is part of the "Grow the Sport" initiative (see above).
  3. Junior Olympics. I'm working with someone to try to bring table tennis back to this. More on this later.
  4. Classic Table Tennis Brochure. At our major tournaments we have all these hardbat and sandpaper events. Whether you are interested in them or not I think we need a brochure on hand so people know what the heck is going on, and give info if they are interested in these events. I'm working with the Hardbat Committee to put this together – I already created a draft.
  5. Seeding at Open. We currently seed first by world ranking, and then by rating. The result is we often get highly distorted seeding. If a 2300 player plays in an ITTF junior event, he'll likely get an ITTF rating, which means he has a "world ranking." Most 2600 players do not have world rankings, and so often 2300 players are seeded ahead of 2600 players. Some of the groups at the recent Open were almost silly, where the best player in one group wouldn't be in the top three in another. I'm looking into a limit of how far down the world ranking list we should go before ratings take precedence.

OTHER NON-USATT STUFF I'M WORKING ON

  1. MDTTC work: private and group coaching, afterschool program (starts up again in September), sports psychology work with certain players, sending out regular press releases (leading to lots of recent media coverage). This is my "full-time" job, i.e. the one that pays the bills, along with my books and other stuff I write.  
  2. Blogging Mon-Fri
  3. Tip of the Week on Mondays
  4. Parent's Guide to Table Tennis – I plan to write this book sometime this fall.
  5. ITTF Level 1 Course. I'll likely teach another one here in Maryland. I'll look into it in mid-August. There seems a demand locally. I taught one a few years ago.
  6. Page layouts and photo work for Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis books – now 16 volumes. (I also edited Samson Dubina's recent book, "100 Days of Table Tennis.")
  7. TableTennisBooks.com – a new project I'm working on where I'd sell table tennis books by anyone, not just me, and perhaps videos. Let's face it, I'm a bibliophile. I even collect table tennis books – 233 of them.
  8. Writing science fiction & fantasy! (I may do a sequel to "The Spirit of Pong," titled "Pongman.")

CAPITAL AREA TEAM LEAGUE

Deadline to enter the Fall season is July 31, so sign up now! The new season of the Capital Area Team League begins in late September. Last season we had 74 players on 13 teams; let's keep growing! (This is for players in the Washington DC/Maryland/Virginia area. The headline is in CAPs so locals don't miss it.)

Pan Am Games

Serve Practice

While I'm away, don't you even think about not practicing your serves! Here's the productive way to do it

Beat the Pick-Hitter

Here's the new coaching article by Samson Dubina.

Wang Jinxin vs. Adrian Crisan: Analysis of the 2015 US Open Men's Singles Final

Here's the video (8:40) from Expert Table Tennis.

Serve Practice Targets

Here's the video (33 sec).

Shanghai and Stuff – China 2015 (Episode 4)

Here's the new video (5:23) from Nathan Hsu in China. (Previous episodes are linked to the right of the video.)

Table Tennis for You Vol. 1

Here's the video (1:19) from Butterfly, where top players from around the world say, "Table tennis for you!" in English. (Disclosure: I'm sponsored by Butterfly.)

2015 Chinese Super League

Here are some interesting matches, with time between points removed.

2015 Asia-Europe All Stars Challenge Draw

Here's the article and match schedule on the event that'll take place Aug. 1-2 in China.

International Table Tennis

Here's my periodic note (usually every Friday) that you can great international coverage at TableTennista (which especially covers the elite players well) and at the ITTF home page (which does great regional coverage). Butterfly also has a great news page.

How to Weaponize a Ping-Pong Ball

Here's the article from Table Tennis Nation.

Spin, a Susan Sarandon-owned ping pong bar/restaurant, coming to San Francisco

Here's the article.

Puzzle Great in Town for Ping-Pong

Here's the article on Will Shortz, the New York Times puzzle editor, owner of the Westchester TTC, and who's played over 1000 days in a row.

Ping-Pong Ball Monster

Here's the picture! (Here's the non-Facebook version.) I linked to this previously, but I think it got lost in all the other items there, so I'm posting it again since it's such a great picture.

13 Seconds of Water Pong

Here's the video.

Medieval Ping

Here's the video (3:32)!

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July 22, 2015

Ogi: The Life of Ichiro Ogimura by Mitsuru Jojima, translated to English by John Senior

I recently read the English translation of this book, which covers the life of perhaps the most influential person in table tennis history. Suffice to say it was a fascinating read. (It was also a great resource for my own table tennis fantasy novel, The Spirit of Pong, which features two chapters where the wannabe American trains with the spirit of Ogimura.)

Ichiro Ogimura of Japan was perhaps the most driven table tennis player in history, and then he became perhaps the most driven coach and then most driven ITTF official in history. He started late, at age 16, but was so single-minded in his training that by age 22 he won the first of his two Men's Singles titles at the Worlds (1954 and 1956). He also won Men's Doubles twice, Mixed Doubles three times, and led Japan to five straight World Men's Team titles. The book chronicles this and everything else about him in great detail, giving both the facts and the spice of his life.

He didn't just train and win titles; he revolutionized the game in numerous ways. When he was developing as a player, the world was dominated by European defenders, such as Richard Bergmann and Johnny Leach; Ogimura developed the penhold attack game and figured out how to defeat these choppers, often going against the advice of coaches – and often getting into trouble for his strong-minded views, which over and over were proven to be correct. For example, against the advice of his coaches, he developed the "51% strategy," whereby if he thought he had a 51% chance of hitting a winner, he took the shot, while his coaches wanted him to play more cautiously. He revolutionized how to train for the sport with a single-minded approach to training – both at the table and physical training away - that led to greatness.

The book covers this all in great detail, showing step-by-step how he went from essentially a novice to world champion. It starts with Ogimura's campaign to get a table tennis club at his high school, despite the sport being thought of at the time as a "girls' sport," and continues as he develops his game and takes on challenge after challenge. It covers his obsession with training, even his constant shadow-practicing away from the table. It covers his other training techniques, such as knocking over a pen with his serve 100 times in a row, and then trying to do it blindfolded; frog jumping 4 kilometers with 40 kilogram weights on his shoulders (that's 2.5 miles and 88 pounds); and his infamous "7 strokes in 5 seconds" drill, covered on pages 210-211.

The book also covers his huge success in training of other players. It also goes over why he is often considered the father not only of Japanese table tennis, but of Chinese and Swedish table tennis. China's first champions developed by studying of his techniques and training, much of it from a table tennis film he created titled "Japanese Table Tennis." He often toured China, training their top players. He also made numerous trips to Sweden, where he trained their best players. Sweden's Stellan Bengtsson went to Japan to train under him as a junior and then went on to win the 1971 Worlds as part of a 30-year reign where Sweden often battled with China for world supremacy.

"Swedish table tennis owes him everything," said Swedish head coach Anders Thunström on page 348.

"Japanese Table Tennis was the perfect textbook for us," said Zhuang Zedong on page 205, who would win three men's singles world titles after seeing the film at age 16. "Watching you and Mr. Tanaka practice made us realize that you do not swing a table tennis racket with your arms; you hit the ball with your feet."

It also covers Ogimura's personal life, including growing up in post-World War II Japan. (He was born in 1932, and was 13 when Japan surrendered.) Much of the book features Hisae, the woman who took Ogimura under her wing during the years he trained at her club. It was a strange relationship, where a club owner fed and did laundry for the high school student, but the partnership paid off in the end. You also learn about Ogimura the person, who liked Louis Armstrong music and Van Gogh paintings, sang "Johnny Boy" at parties, always slept with his socks on, and couldn't straighten out his left arm due to a childhood injury where he fell from a tree. The arm injury caused him to give up gymnastics, and indirectly led to him taking up table tennis.

After his playing career, Ogimura had a long career as an ITTF official starting in 1973, including ITTF president from 1987 until his death at age 62 in 1994 from lung cancer. The book covers his single-minded approach to the problems the sport faced. Included were some of his ideas that would later be taken up by others after his death – including the idea of a larger ball, games to 11, and making speed glue illegal. He was the hidden driving force between the joint North and South Korean team at the 1991 Worlds, and relentlessly tried to use table tennis to get the two countries together again – who knows what would have happened if he had lived longer. He spoke perfect English, which helped in his international travels.

Here are a few of my favorite Ogimura quotes from the book:

  • "What's needed isn't extraordinary ability, but extraordinary effort."
  • "Set a personal best each day."
  • "You mustn't dilly-dally."
  • "Did you know that a ping-pong ball spins faster than an airplane propeller?"
  • "If you don't have the guts to sing a song in front of other people, you'll never win a match."

The bad news: the book is not yet on sale in the US, though it'll likely be on sale at Amazon at some point. The good news: if you don't want to wait, you can order a copy now for $25 (which includes shipping) via Etsuko Enami from the ITTF at ete@yj9.so-net.ne.jp, with payment via paypal to that email address. It is on sale in England from Tee's Sport; here's the page where they sell it, where you can also see the cover.

Pan Am Games – USA Women Win Gold!!!

Next up – Men's and Women's Singles.

Thank You - US Open Staff, Partners, Sponsors, Officials, Volunteers and Participants!

Here's the letter from USATT CEO Gordon Key.

The "No Training Partner" Fix

Here's the article from Pong Universe.

Ask the Coach Show

Episode #158 (17:05) – Try the High Toss Serve and other segments.

Fan Zhendong – How to Play the Right Backhand Flick

Here's the video (8:41) on backhand flipping (overseas they usually call it flicking). It's in Chinese but you can learn by watching.

Faulty Serves in Junior Boys' Singles Final at 2015 European Youth Championships

Here's the video (3:37) showing one player getting away with blatantly illegal serves – and then, suddenly, his opponent, with far less illegal serves, is the one who gets faulted. The video harps on the fact that the first player is throwing the ball backwards (i.e. not "near vertical"), but misses something more important – the reason the player is tossing the ball backwards. He's doing it so he can illegally hide contact. Watch closely and you'll see that by tossing the ball sideways he's able to hide the split second of contact behind his chin – that's all that's needed.

National Collegiate Table Tennis Newsletter

Here's the July edition.

Chris Paul Puts on Charity Ping Pong Tournament

Here's the article, with a link to a 30-minute video. NBA players in attendance included Chris Paul, Eric Gordon, Willie Green, Paul Pierce, Nerlens Noel, Al-Farouq Aminu, and CJ Watson, as well as Clippers assistant coach Mike Woodson, and former NBA players Sam Cassell, Jerry Stackhouse, Steve Smith, and Hall of Famer Julius “Dr. J.” Erving.

Former World Champion Liu Wei Conferred with Doctorate

Here's the article on Liu Wei, who teamed with Wang Tao to win three straight world mixed doubles titles (1991-95) as well as a silver medal at the 1996 Olympics, plus she won world titles in women's doubles and teams. She also made the semifinals of the 1995 worlds in singles.

The Long Journey Iowa Ping-Pong Champions Literal Figurative Journey

Here's the article from the Iowa State Daily on Noi Sackpraseuth and his escape from the Laotian Civil War to the U.S.

Designer Challenges Creative Agency to a Ping Pong Match, Lands Dream Internship

Here's the article and pictures.

Absolute Brilliance by Jean-Michel Saive and Jean-Philippe Gatien

Here's the video (51 sec) of these two superstars, the Men's Singles Finalists at the 1993 Worlds (Gatien won) – and they're still looking pretty good!

Dimitrij Ovtcharov vs. Fan Shengpeng: Highlights of the China Super League 2015

Here's the video (3:41).

Dimitrij Ovtcharov – Playing Penhold!

Here's the video (61 sec).

Defense at Its Best

Here's the video (27 sec).

Unbelievable Backhands

Here's the video (14 sec).

Incredible Behind-the-Back Shot

Here's the video (35 sec).

Improvised Beach Table Tennis

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

Bad Doggy!

Here's the picture.

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July 21, 2015

USATT Board Teleconference

The USATT Board of Directors had a teleconference last night, starting at 7PM Eastern Time and lasting about 70 minutes. As one of the at-large members, I was on the call. Alas, only five of the nine board members were able to make the call – me, Peter Scudner, Anne Cribbs, Ed Hogshead, and Kagin Lee. But five of nine is a quorum, and so the meeting went as scheduled.

I spent perhaps an hour preparing for the meeting – going over the draft of the minutes of the previous meeting and suggested changes, and going over the budget figures from the Audit Committee Report. All looked fine. However, the real time-taker were a pair of two-hour phone calls, one before and one after the teleconference. One was with another USATT official where went over everything about USATT; the other was a more local call about everything about MDTTC, the club I coach at. So basically everything that could possibly be of importance to anyone was discussed on those phone calls. And I still managed to finalize the new MDTTC Newsletter, spend an hour organizing my notes on upcoming USATT plans, and cross off nine other things on my todo list.

Technically, except for a short closed session (to discuss a certain disciplinary matter regarding a member who had apparently done naughty things), the meeting was "open," and I could write all I want about it. But I don't feel comfortable doing that, where as soon as I get off the call I start writing about it, in competition with USATT itself, which also gives out such news. So as in the past, I'll wait until they publish the actions/votes, which should go online in a few days. The actual minutes, which are far more detailed, don't go up until they are approved, which will likely happen on August 22, at the in-person meeting in Chicago. But the gist of the meeting:

  1. We approved the minutes of the previous meeting;
  2. We appointed a new ratings committee – I'll let USATT announce the names first, but the plan is to both to fix up problems with the rating system and perhaps work with Canada so that we can have a joint North American rating system;
  3. Had an Audit Committee Report from Anne Cribbs;
  4. Had an extensive CEO report on the US Open, the Open & Nationals in 2016, Pan Am Games update, Membership, Sponsorship, Fundraising, ITTF Pro Tour, and the World Veterans Championships;
  5. Closed session (shhh!);
  6. Discussed the agenda and plans for the Aug. 22 meeting in Chicago (and we will now likely meet Friday night as well, Aug. 21). I have four bylaw proposals for that meeting, which I'll blog about later;
  7. We voted to liquidate all USATT properties and turn over all assets to the Donald Trump Election Campaign (no wait, I think we voted that one down – my memory is hazy on this one);
  8. Adjourn!!!

Pan Am Games Update

They are in Toronto, with the table tennis July 19-21 (Sun-Tue).

  • Men's Team: Timothy Wang, Kanak Jha, Jimmy Butler, Coach Stefan Feth
  • Women's Team: Jiaqi Zheng, Lily Zhang, Yue Wu, Coach Doru Gheorghe
  • Live Scoring for USA matches
  • USATT home page for the event
  • Day One Results (Sunday)
  • Day Two Results (Monday) – Women reach semifinals, men lose in quarterfinals to Puerto Rico, with Jim Butler hobbling about with a leg injury
  • Article on USA Women reaching the semifinals

Playing as the Underdog

Here's the coaching article by Han Xiao. (This actually went up after I'd left for the US Open on July 4, but somehow I missed seeing it.)

Ask the Coach Show

Episode #157 (32:03) – Correcting Errors and other topics.

Rolling Ball Loop Exercise

Here's the video (42 sec) of a player who has to loop a ball rolled off the edge. It's a good exercise to develop timing and spin contact.

Actions of a Stroke in Modern Table Tennis

Here's the coaching video (20:44) by ITTF Level 2 Coach Phong Pham. (It's listed as "Clinic 2," but I couldn't find "Clinic 1.")

11 Questions with Carl Danner

Here's the USATT interview with the chair of the High Performance Committee.

2015 Hyson Chicago International Open Stirs Excitement for Table Tennis in the Midwest

Here's the article by Barbara Wei.

Table Tennis Coach Lends Renowned Services to Rocky Mountain State Games

Here's the article featuring Richard McAfee in the Colorado Spring Gazette.

Robo Ping-Pong; Stanford Students Design, "Teach" Robots to Play

Here's the article and link to two-minute video. Our robot overlords are almost ready to take over USATT.

World Record for Most Player in Action in an Outdoor Space

Here's the ITTF article on the record set in Ocaña, Spain.

"You don't know how to DANCE but TABLE TENNIS makes you a professional dancer."

Here's the picture (actually, six of them together).

Box of Balls Dropped on Ariel Hsing and Michael Landers

Here's the video (48 sec, mostly in slo-mo) and Ariel's short report on her week in China, where she and Michael did the Ping-Pong Concerto. (See segment on this in yesterday's blog, toward the end.)

The Wristiest Serve Around?

Here's the video (24 sec).

British Open Winner Zach Johnson is a Table Tennis Shark

Here's the article from Table Tennis Nation.

More Minion Pong

Here's a new picture. (Here's the non-Facebook version. For more minions playing table tennis pictures and videos, see the last item in my July 3 blog.)

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July 20, 2015

Tip of the Week

The Tricky Side of Table Tennis.

Get to the Root of the Problem

One of the things that always exasperates me is coaches or players who try to fix problems by fixing the symptoms. In many ways, this is what separates a good, experienced coach from, say, a top player who knows proper technique but isn't that experienced in coaching it. When you've coached over 35 years (yikes, that's me!), and pay attention, you learn all sorts of things.

Here's an example. Recently I've coached several players who tend to fall back as they loop forehands. The "simple" solution, of course, is to tell them to focus on rotating around and forward into the ball, i.e. "don't fall back." And I've seen coaches try this many times, and it doesn't work – because they are treating a symptom of a problem rather than the root of the problem. The real question is why is the player falling backwards – and the answer almost every time is that he's too far from the ball, with his left leg too far from the table. And so he's forced to reach a bit forward. The falling back is to keep his balance. Solution: Have the player stand closer to the ball, with the left leg closer to the table. Then he'll have a natural rotation into and through the ball, with no falling backwards and off balance afterwards.

Here's another. Some players struggle to rotate their body backwards (to the right for righties) on the forehand. The more they try, the more awkward they look. I've seen coaches struggle with this, not being able to figure out why the player has so much trouble with something that's so easy for others. And so they'll keep telling the player to rotate more on the forehand. But the player simply can't do the rotation comfortably – the symptom of a problem – because they haven't fixed the root of the problem – which usually is their knees are facing forward. If you watch top players, the knees points somewhat outward in their ready stance, which allows easy rotation in either direction. Here's an example – see how the knees point somewhat sideways, not forward?

And here's another. Often players struggle to get great spin on their serves. Rather than converting most of their energy into spin, and getting slow but super-spinny serves, their serves go long, with only moderate spin. Often they are told to graze the ball more, but when they try, they are unable to do so – because the inability to graze the ball is a symptom of a problem, not the root of the problem. The root of the problem usually is they are contacting the back of the ball, often toward the top. If they want to graze the ball more, they need to contact more under the ball and more on the side. If the player doesn't change his contact point, he'll continue to struggle to graze the ball as his racket will be approaching the ball too directly to graze the ball, resulting in a flatter contact. You can still get moderate spin this way, and many players (and coaches) settle for that, never realizing how they are limiting themselves.

Senior Maryland Couples Star at US Open

Here's the article from the Baltimore Sun featuring Dave & Donna Sakai and Charlene Liu & Changping Duan. The Sun has been very good about featuring table tennis over the years – you just need to send them press releases.

Pan Am Games

They are in Toronto, with the table tennis July 19-21 (Sun-Tue). Here's the USATT Pan Am home page, with lots of info. Here's a USOC article on the USA table tennis team. Here's an ITTF press release. Here are photos taken during Pan Am Processing by USA Men's coach Stefan Feth. Here are USA Day One results.

Control Versus Leverage

Here's the new coaching article by Han Xiao.

Serve Return: Learn it to return it!

Here's the new coaching article by Samson Dubina.

Matt Hetherington Training in China

Here are three blog entries and two videos he's put online of his training at the Zhengding National Table Tennis Center in China.

Ask the Coach Show

Episode 156 (16:05) – "Our Worst Show to Date" and other topics

Using Various Implements to Develop Deep Serves

Here's the video (74 sec) as players use different items on the table as targets.

Dimitrij Ovtcharov Training

Here's video (3:03).

Surprising Applications of the Magnus Effect

Here's a video (3 min) that shows how spin effects a ball, using a spinning basketball dropped off the Gordon Dam in Tasmania as an example. This is the same effect that causes a ping-pong ball to curve when spun, such as topspin pulling the ball down.

US Open Marriage Proposal

After the Men's Final at the US Open, the winner, Wang Jinxin, proposed to his girlfriend – right there at the table, in front of the crowd! His girlfriend was overcome with emotion at his upset victory, and so he carried her onto the court, and then announced that he didn't have a ring but could use the trophy instead! She said yes. Here's video of the entire match (49:23). At 42:12 Wang steps over the barriers and carries her onto the court. At 47:22 he says he forgot the ring, and then asks if he can use the trophy in its place, and asks her to marry him.

Voters are Turning to Table Tennis to Decide the Next President

Here's the article from MSNBC. Leading the poll is Hillary Clinton at 32%. (Here's a picture of her and Bill playing table tennis.) In second place at "almost a quarter"? Donald Trump. (Sorry, no ping-pong pictures, but I'm guessing he'll get great spin if he uses that thing on his head as a racket covering.) So there you have it – it'll be Hillary vs. the Donald in the general election. The (ping-pong) polls have spoken.

Wang Hao Tutorial: The Penhold Hook Serve

Here's the video (4:44).

Zhang Jike Kicked Out of Chinese Super League?

Here's the article from Tabletennista.

Ping Pong Concerto

Here's video (2:07) and some really great photos from the world premiere of this concert on July 18 (Saturday) by Andy Akiho, which combines music and table tennis on the Shanghai stage, and stars American table tennis players Ariel Hsing and Michael Landers.

Soccer Players Take on the Chinese

Here's video (3:45) of Thomas Müller and Philipp Lahm (members of the Bayern Munich Football team – that's soccer to Americans) take on Chinese stars Ding Ning, Wang Hao, and coach Liu Guoliang.

Great Under-the-Leg Counterhit

Here's the video (35 sec).

Ping-Pong Canoeing

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

Ping-Pong Ball Monster

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

More Mike Mezyan Pictures

NOTE - If you are unable to see these pictures, all you have to do is join the Table Tennis Group - it's easy! Here are all the past, present, and (soon) future pictures he's collected. (I pick out his best ones for here - he has more.)

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July 17, 2015

Hidden Serves, and a Contest

As I've blogged a number of times, cheating is rampant in our sport when it comes to serving. At the higher levels, over half of matches involve a player hiding his serve, i.e. cheating. Here's what I wrote about this two days ago, after the U.S. Open:

"Once again I came away from a major tournament disgusted at all the cheating – in particular, players hiding serves. Why do they do it? Because it helps them win and they get away with it. They may fool the umpires, who aren't sure if the serve is hidden (which is synonymous with saying the serve is illegal, but that's the least enforced rule in table tennis), but they don't fool coaches and experienced players, who know who the cheaters are. It's common at the world-class level, of course, but that was also true of, say, steroids. Does that mean we should copy those who cheat? I have no objection to someone hiding their serve if their opponent does it first and the umpire doesn't call it. It's the ones who do it first, with the sole intent of winning by cheating, that disgusts me. A player I coached lost two matches because of this cheating – learning to return them is going to become a major part of his training. (Note that few players hide the serve every time. The norm is to use border-line serves early on, to numb the umpire to such serves, and pull out the hidden ones several times a game and at key points at the end. I have video and still pictures showing many of these players hiding their serve.)"

As I've blogged many times, the rules, while very clear, are not easy for umpire to enforce. From their angle, it's hard to see when a player is serving if the ball is hidden or not as players will often serve borderline serves over and over to establish the "legality" of the serve, and then hide the serve at key points. And so they don't call the hidden serves, when in reality, they should not only be calling them, but the borderline ones they aren't sure about as well.

The serving rules state:

2.06.04: "From the start of service until it is struck, the ball … shall not be hidden from the receiver by the server or his or her doubles partner or by anything they wear or carry."

2.06.06: "It is the responsibility of the player to serve so that the umpire or the assistant umpire can be satisfied that he or she complies with the requirements of the Laws…"

And even more importantly:

2.06.06.01: "If either the umpire or the assistant umpire is not sure about the legality of a service he or she may, on the first occasion in a match, interrupt play and warn the server; but any subsequent service by that player or his or her doubles partner which is not clearly legal shall be considered incorrect."

So it's really simple: If an umpire isn't sure if a serve is legal, that's exactly the same as saying the serve is illegal. And so it's either a warning (allowed one time) or a fault.

But the problem here is human nature, where umpires don't want to call the serve unless they are certain the ball is actually hidden. So how do we fix this problem? By changing the serving rule so it becomes obvious if the server is trying to hide the ball from the receiver.

There's a simple way of doing it – require that the ball cannot be hidden from the receiver (as currently required), and from the entire net assembly and its upward extension. (The net assembly is defined to include the net, the net posts, and the clamps attaching them to the table.) Suddenly serves that are hidden from a receiver are obviously hidden from one of the net posts.

For example, if a righty tries to hide his serve from a receiver standing across the table from him, it's obvious he's hiding it from the net post way over on his left. The lines from the ball to a typical righty receiver and the ball to the left net post is about 90 degrees. If he's serving to a lefty in a typical ready position, it's about 45 degrees.  I've tested this rule at my club, and other almost universally agree it solves the problem.

Here's the proposal:

Current Rule:
02.06.04: From the start of service until it is struck, the ball shall be above the level of the playing surface and behind the server's end line, and it shall not be hidden from the receiver by the server or his or her doubles partner or by anything they wear or carry.  

Proposed Rule (additions bracketed in bold):
02.06.04: From the start of service until it is struck, the ball shall be above the level of the playing surface and behind the server's end line, and it shall not be hidden from the receiver[, or any part of the net assembly and its upward extension,] by the server or his or her doubles partner or by anything they wear or carry. 

As I've blogged before, I already made this proposal to an ITTF official, who said he will propose it to a new group or task force that is looking to fix the rule. Hopefully something will come of it, and they'll either adopt this rule or some other one that fixes this problem. I also plan to create a page dedicated to the proposal.

And now, the Contest. I need a catchy name for the new rule. So far my best one is the "Serve Always VisiblE" rule – SAVE. I've also tried finding one using SANE, with the S and N perhaps standing for Serve and Net, but nothing really works. So here's my challenge to you: Come up with a catchy acronym name for this new serving rule! Submit yours in the comments below.

If I choose your submission, you'll both get credited for it here in the blog, and I'll send you a signed FREE copy of any of my books. Let the Contest Begin!!!

Navin Kumar: Paralympics Hopeful Credits Table Tennis for Helping with Parkinson's

Here's the video (2:59) of Navin, the "Bionic Man," from NBC News. He also has a partially mechanical heart. He's a student of mine. That's me hitting with him throughout the video, and I'm interviewed briefly.

Ant-Man Pong

I saw the movie "Ant-Man" last night, and like seemingly every recent movie (including Minions, which came out last week), it had a table tennis scene. [Minor spoiler alert.] It started when Ant-Man (full-sized) arrives at an outdoor party, where they are playing ping-pong by a pool. Later he uses the paddle to smack his rival, the shrunken Yellowjacket.

Top Ten "We Are Butterfly" Clubs

My club, MDTTC, was #1 in the country in the "We Are Butterfly" rankings for June, meaning our pro shop sold more Butterfly equipment than any other club that month. For the year we are #2 in the country – here are those rankings, where we only trail the WAB Shop in the Canadian Chinese TTA (not USA, so doesn't count), and the Lily Yip TTC in NJ. Curse you, LYTTC!!! We were only #6 last year and #8 the year before, so we're movin' on up. (Disclosure: both MDTTC and I are sponsored by Butterfly.) 

Ask the Coach Show

Episode #155 (23:50) – Rubber Suited for Plastic Balls

Podcast Interview with Paul Drinkhall: England's #1

Brazilian Team Physical Training

Here's the video (1:26) as they prepare for the Pan Am Games, which start next week.

Getting Help: Learn 5 Necessary Steps to Receiving FREE Equipment

Here's the article by Samson Dubina.

Table Tennis Rule Changes – the Ball

Here's the article.

USATT, Reshaping Tournaments in the United States

Here's the article from Pong Universe.

Fan Zhendong Multiball

Here's the video (32 sec) of the Chinese star doing random multiball.

Ma Long – How to Play the Right Backhand Topspin

Here's the video (9:12). It's in Chinese, but you can learn just by watching.

USATT Board of Directors Teleconference Minutes

Here are the votes from the June 15, 2015 teleconference.

Ping-Pong Champs are Intuitive Masters of Fluid Dynamics

Here's the article from Science Daily. (It's from 2012, but I don't think I ever linked to it.)

95-Year-Old Ping-Pong Champion

Here's the video (1:37) of this World War II veteran from Wyoming. (It's from January, but I don't think I ever linked to it.)

International Table Tennis

Here's my periodic note (usually every Friday) that you can great international coverage at TableTennista (which especially covers the elite players well) and at the ITTF home page (which does great regional coverage). Butterfly also has a great news page.

Arnold Schwarzenegger Playing Table Tennis

Here's the new video (46 sec).

Adoni Maropis on His Knees

Here's video (57 sec) of hardbat & sandpaper champion and actor Adoni Maropis at the U.S. Open, as he falls to the ground but continues playing a spectacular point on his knees. I'm just off camera, watching on the right. Yeah, he's the guy that nuked Valencia, CA, in season 6 of "24."

Table Tennis Postcard from 1909

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

More Mike Mezyan Pictures

NOTE - If you are unable to see these pictures, all you have to do is join the Table Tennis Group - it's easy! Here are all the past, present, and (soon) future pictures he's collected. (I pick out his best ones for here - he has more.)

***
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July 16, 2015

Forehand Pendulum Serves

There are four primary reasons the forehand pendulum serve is by far the most popular serve among top players.

First, it's easy to hide contact (illegally) – I've blogged about this a number of times, and won't go into that here. (The solution? As I've proposed, require that the ball be visible throughout the serve to the opponent – as is currently required – and the entire net and its upward extension. The net posts are considered part of the net.)

Second, it's very easy to produce great spin and variation with the serve.

Third, every generation of up-and-coming players copies the previous generation of top players, and since the forehand pendulum serve was the most popular serve among the previous generation, the new generation copies it.

Fourth, it allows players the option of doing a reverse pendulum serve, which gives the opposite sidespin. You can also do this sidespin with other serving motions, such as backhand or tomahawk serves, but when you do that you are pretty much announcing to your opponent which type of sidespin you will be using. (You can, of course, develop reverse backhand and reverse tomahawk serves, but they are trickier and few do this.) It's probably easier to set up for a forehand pendulum serve and be ready to serve with either type of sidespin than with any other serving motion.

And yet, so many up-and-coming players use the forehand pendulum serve but don't learn the reverse version. Not learning this variation is a really good way of limiting your serving effectiveness, and if that is your goal, then by all means avoid reverse pendulum serves. But if you want to increase your serving effectiveness, and have a forehand pendulum serve, then what are you waiting for? Learn the reverse pendulum serve. (Hint – it's most effective when you can do it short to the forehand and long to the backhand. To go short, graze the ball very finely more under the ball.)

Here's a video from PingSkills (3:25) that illustrates this with Zhang Jike's serve, where he can contact the ball going either way. (When he contacts the ball with the racket moving away from the body, that's a reverse pendulum serve.) Here's video (21:03, but you don't have to watch all of it) of Zhang Jike's serve in slow motion.

Side note – it's not all just about the sidespin. Make sure to learn to serve both of these variations with backspin or no-spin. The poor receiver not only has to read what type of sidespin might be on the ball (or not), but also whether there's backspin or not. A no-spin serve with a big motion that looks like spin is just as effective as a spin serve that's misread. A no-spin serve that looks like backspin is popped up, while a backspin serve that looks like no-spin is put into the net. Here's an article on how to do a no-spin serve.

I can't believe I wasted the above on a blog entry – this should be a Tip of the Week!!! I'll like expand on it and turn it into one later on.

US Open Men's and Women's Singles Final

Yesterday I linked to videos of each of the games of the Men's Singles Final at the US Open. Here are complete videos of that and the Women's Singles Final.

Around-the-Net Shot by Wang Jinxin at the 2015 US Open Men's Singles Final

Here's the video (27 sec).

US Open Ratings Processed – That Was Fast!!!

Here they are. The tournament finished on Saturday, and the ratings were up on Wednesday for over 1000 players. 

Thoughts on Table Tennis

Here's a huge listing of table tennis articles, many of them coaching articles.

Ask the Coach Show

While I was away at the US Open there were six more of these shows from PingSkills. Here they are!

Training in China

Here's the second blog entry from Matt Hetherington.

Zhang Jike – How to Play the Right Forehand Topspin

Here's the new video (5:09). It's in Chinese, but you don't need to listen, just watch.

Wang Hao – Grip for Forehand-Backhand Transition

Here's the video (1:52) showing how penholders switch back and for between forehand and reverse penhold backhand (which these days is really the conventional backhand).

USATT Insider

Here's the new issue which came out yesterday.

Mankato Woman, 91, Is Never Too Old for Table Tennis

Here's the article from the Minnesota Star-Tribune.

Hardbat: The Physics of Ping-Pong

Here's the trailer (50 sec) of this Indy movie that's listed as "coming soon." Here's the IMDB listing, which shows it came out in 2014. It's 13 minutes long, and described as, "An obsession with ping-pong disrupts an otherwise pleasant evening."

Exploding Ping-Pong Balls on the Jimmy Fallen Show

Here's the video (5:56). The actual explosion takes place at 5:11.

Actor John Malkovich's Funny Story about Michael Jordan and Table Tennis

Here's the article.

Table Tennis Funny Show

Here's the video (20:33).

USATT Member Frank Caliendo Does Donald Trump Impression

Here's the video (1:49) from ESPN. Frank, USATT member # 85108, has a rating of 1665. He and Sean O'Neill (Frank on right) made the semifinals of Under 4200 Doubles at the US Open. (Here's the non-Facebook version.) Frank's been to my club a few times (MDTTC) when he's in town for his stand-up shows, and last year I got to play doubles with him there.

Cyber Table Tennis in China

Here's the video (2:14).

***
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July 15, 2015

Tip of the Week

Change, and the Definition of Insanity. (Originally I was going to skip this week, but this Tip just jumped into my head, and so I wrote it.)

US Open

As usual, it was a busy week at the US Open, July 6-11 in Las Vegas. I spent my time coaching MDTTC players, but can't go into details on that – opponents might be reading this! Here's a rundown.

  • Let's start by thanking all the volunteers who helped run the US Open. They include both the volunteers who did the work of running it, and the officials who officiated. Here's a group picture of the US Open Officials (Referees and Umpires). Let's also thank the USATT staff for their hard work on this.
  • In nearly every way, this was one of the best-run US Opens ever. (I may blog more later on some of the things they got right, as well as on how they got 1064 entries.) I could list all the things they did well, but instead, I'll list the one thing that wasn't so great – the lighting. I already discussed this with CEO Gordon, and they think they have a solution.
  • Here's the US Open page, and here are the results.
  • Here's a feature front-page article from the Las Vegas Sun. Great article, though of course Jimmy Butler isn't "6-foot-8" – he's "only" 6'4".
  • I had lots of meetings and discussions. As noted previously, my USATT work is mostly on hold until the end of summer, due to our summer camps, but I'm still in the "gathering info" mode, and I did manage to gather lots of info for my plans.
  • Because I was busy coaching or having meetings/discussions, I didn't get to see many major matches, alas, though I had a courtside seat for the Finals.
  • There was an extravagant pool party on Friday night at the Linq Hotel, which is owned by Caesars Palace. I'm not a party person, so I was sort of in unfamiliar territory. I arrived at 8PM, right after they opened. By 8:15PM I was lying down on one of the reclining chairs/beds by the pool with a notebook, and for the next two and a half hours brainstormed on USATT issues, in particular on the topics I'll be working on this fall – regional associations, regional team leagues, training centers, recruiting and training professional coaches, and state championships. One of the items now on my rather long todo list is to type up all these notes on my computer and integrate them with my other plans.
  • I met with Hardbat Chair Scott Gordon. While I'm mostly a sponge player and coach, I've taken it upon myself to create some sort of hardbat & sandpaper info flyer or booklet. I put together a quick draft yesterday. I might do two things – a short brochure for major tournaments, and then perhaps a longer edited book of writings on the topic, where I'd just be the editor.
  • Once again I came away from a major tournament disgusted at all the cheating – in particular, players hiding serves. Why do they do it? Because it helps them win and they get away with it. They may fool the umpires, who aren't sure if the serve is hidden (which is synonymous with saying the serve is illegal, but that's the least enforced rule in table tennis), but they don't fool coaches and experienced players, who know who the cheaters are. It's common at the world-class level, of course, but that was also true of, say, steroids. Does that mean we should copy those who cheat? I have no objection to someone hiding their serve if their opponent does it first and the umpire doesn't call it. It's the ones who do it first, with the sole intent of winning by cheating, that disgusts me. A player I coached lost two matches because of this cheating – learning to return them is going to become a major part of his training. (Note that few players hide the serve every time. The norm is to use border-line serves early on, to numb the umpire to such serves, and pull out the hidden ones several times a game and at key points at the end. I have video and still pictures showing many of these players hiding their serve.)
  • Speaking of serves, probably the most important thing that the US Open constantly re-enforces is the importance of moving the serve around. So many players serve to the same spots over and Over and OVER, and never realize how much they are handicapping themselves with this lack of variation. Trust me - your opponents know, and are very thankful. 
  • Common prevailed in another arena. Many years ago players were required to either have a player number or their name on their back. Then, at some silly period in time, it was decided that all players must wear player numbers, even if their name was on their back. Why were they required to wear player numbers? So spectators could identify who they were. And yet, when asked why they were forced to wear player numbers when their name was on their back, for a number of years the answer was, "It's policy." I always railed against this silliness. But now they are back to a common-sense policy where they don't require the player numbers if your name is on your back. I think they may have changed this policy sometime last year – I'm not sure when. I remember I used to point out players wearing player numbers over the name on their back!!!
  • If you watched the Men's or Women's final, and saw the scores being updated on the screen, guess who was doing it? Yep, it was Tong Tong Gong, who I used to coach at these tournaments, and who twice made the USA National Cadet Team. (He stopped playing two years ago.) He's starting college this fall at University of Maryland, and plans to start playing again. He flew out to the US Open as a volunteer, as he's done the last two years. On the video of the two Finals, look at the raised area where the announcers are sitting. Then look to the far left, the person in a black shirt. That's Tong Tong updating the scores each point, both for online scores and for a large screen above that you can't see in the video. (Here's video of game 1; about eight seconds in it pans up, and you can see him on the dais, far left, behind the white laptop.) I pointed him out to several top juniors in the crowd, Tong Tong's former rivals, who didn't realize he was there. (Here's a picture of a bored-looking Tong Tong volunteering last year as a videotaper.)
  • The Finals were not particularly well played. I think the conditions at the Omnia Nightclub at Caesars Palace might have caught them somewhat off guard, though all four finalists were able to practice there in advance. While having the final in this type of environment might be a good idea for spectators, the players may not have been used to it. (While others were watching the players, I was often watching the spectators, and they seemed pretty happy with the environment – much more into it than with a "normal" final in a regular arena.) Technically, the conditions seemed good – it was well lit, and the loud music they played before and after each game was off during play. The first two games of the Women's Final were sloppy, though they seemed to adjust after that. Adrian Crisan in the Men's Final never looked comfortable, while his opponent, Wang Jinxin seemed to adjust more quickly, perhaps leading to his upset win. But adjusting is a huge part of table tennis.

US Open Men's Final Video

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to find a continuous one, or one of the Women's Singles. Here's the Men's Singles Final, between Wang Jinxin and Adrian Crisan.

Sports Psychology

Here are some great sports psychology articles from the USOC. Most are by Sean McCann, who along with Shane Murphy, has spent a huge amount of time working with table tennis athletes. I met with them semi-regularly during my four years as (at different times) manager/director/assistant coach for the resident training program at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, 1985-1989.

Ask the Coach Show

While I was away at the US Open there were six more of these shows from PingSkills. Here they are!

Training in China

Here's the first blog entry from Matt Hetherington.

Minion Pong

Here's the short table tennis scene from The Minion Movie that just came out. (It repeats as a gif image.) Here's my technical analysis, repeated from my blog on Feb. 2, 2015, when I first saw it in the trailer.

  • Player on left: An excellent example of proper weight transfer. Note how he puts his full weight into each shot, and yet maintains his balance for the next shot? An excellent example for you and your students. Note the excellent use of the free arm as a counterbalance to his playing arm. The shots are especially impressive given the lack of depth perception since he only has one eye - but note how hard he concentrates, and how he keeps his eye on the ball. As a coach, the main thing that needs work is the foot positioning for the forehand - you'll note that he strokes it with the left foot in front (he's a lefty). Instead, he needs to move that ball back for better weight transfer. Also, I'd recommend a better playing outfit as the heavy playing clothes he wears likely slows him down. He probably needs to replace the mittens with gloves so that he can extend his finger onto the blade for a better shakehands grip. Finally, based on his strokes, I believe he's using a hardbat. I'd recommend he get inverted and work on his looping, such as another energetic student of mine who successfully made the transfer to inverted. (He also needs to get a legal black surface for his forehand.)
  • Player on right: This is an excellent example of winning with sheer brick-wall blocking - I'm fairly certain he read my Tip of the Week on this. I watched the video for over eight hours last night, and he did not miss a single block. As a coach, I'd recommend that he try watching the ball, as well as use the racket he has in his hand, though of course I always recommend to my students that they learn to use their head. (He's using a green racket, so he needs to switch to a legal black and red one.) You'll note how he is watching at a particular spot in the snow, which undoubtedly is done as an aide to concentration and to withstand the pressures of match play.

11 Questions with Bill Hadden

Here's the USATT interview.

National Senior Games Table Tennis Results

Here are results of the Games that were held in Minneapolis-St. Paul. Here are more detailed results.

Table Tennis – the Game of Spin

Here's the article.

Conquering the World and Championing Humanity Through Ping-Pong

Here's the article from the Waco Tribune. "I have an answer for all the dysfunctional local and global angst. Play ping pong."

Blowing the Ball?

Here's video (14 sec) as a player makes a desperation attempt to return a ball – and succeeds by blowing the ball onto the table! So . . . is this legal?

New Jan-Ove Waldner Documentary

Here's the video (58:57). Alas, it's in Swedish, but still some interesting viewing.

Xu Xin – The "Cloud Walking" Penholder

Four-Table Trick Shots

Here's the video (4:27).

Ma Long – Zhang Jike Show

Here's video (6:06) of the two putting on a demonstration/exhibition.

Hotel Pong

Here's the video (17 sec) from Adam Bobrow.

Shocking Images from Pluto

Here's the photo NASA doesn't want you to see – yes, it's a 40+!!!

***
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July 14, 2015

US Open

I just got back on Sunday from the US Open, and my todo list is now roughly one googol long. I was up nearly all night working on various table tennis projects, and this morning things keep coming up. (Plus I have to leave to coach shortly.) So this'll be a short blog, except for the links below, which are the best of the best from the last twelve days since my last blog before the US Open. (I'll start up with Tips of the Week again next Monday. I changed my mind - I'll have a new one tomorrow morning.) I'll blog about the US Open a bit tomorrow. Here are results, and here's a US Open Review, and here's USATT coverage:

100 Days of Table Tennis

Here's the new book by Samson Dubina. (Disclosure: I edited the book for him and did the forward.) Here's where you can buy it on Amazon. I'll likely blog about this more extensively later when I have time. 

New Coaching Articles from Samson Dubina

New Coaching Articles from Expert Table Tennis

Adjusting to Unfamiliar Playing Conditions

Here's the new coaching article by Han Xiao.

Develop Speed and Agility by Working Out Like a Table Tennis Player

Here's the video (2:28) from The Globe and Mail, featuring Canadian Team Member Xavier Therien.

Ma Long Forehand Flip

Here's the video (2:05).

Paul Drinkhall: England's #1

Here's the podcast (22:24) from Expert Table Tennis.

ITTF Monthly Pongcast – June

Here's the video (13:12).

Top Prize for USA

Here's the ITTF article on USA's Nikhil Kumar winning the World Hopes Tournament. It was held in Shanghai, with players ages 11-12 from all over the world. (But why aren't the Chinese playing in it, in their own country? Also no Koreans. Are they all afraid of Nikhil?)

World Police and Fire Games

Here's the highlights video of the event, which took place in Fairfax, Virginia, June 26-28. Here's the home page, results, and an article.

11 Questions with Lewis Bragg

Here's the USATT interview.

Taiwan and Stuff – China 2015 (Episode 3)

Here's the latest video (5:17) featuring Nathan Hsu in China.

Playing From the (Mechanical) Heart

Here's the article from the University of Maryland TERP Magazine, featuring my student Navin Kumar, who has both a mechanical heart and Parkinson's.

Tribute to Dima Ovtcharov

Here's the video (7:31).

The Path of a New World Champion – Ma Long

Here's the video (12:07).

The Power of Lob

Here's the spectacular video (18:25).

Chinese Stars Tell Us Their Dreams

Here's the video (57 sec).

Team China Plays in the Desert

Here's the video (17 sec).

Backhand Behind-the-Back Smash

Here's the video (12 sec) of Scott Preiss schooling his son.

USA Pan Am Team Attempts Pull-ups

Here's the video (3:12) – apparently table tennis players have more need for lower- than upper-body strength!

The Prisoner: It's What You Do – GEICO TV Commercial

Here's the video (38 sec).

More Mike Mezyan Pictures

NOTE - If you are unable to see these pictures, all you have to do is join the Table Tennis Group - it's easy! Here are all the past, present, and (soon) future pictures he's collected. (I pick out his best ones for here - he has more.)

***
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July 3, 2015

Last Blog Until Tuesday, July 14 (after U.S. Open)

I'm off to the U.S. Open this Sunday, where I'll be coaching and maybe vacationing when I have time. As usual, I don't blog when I'm at major tournaments, so this'll be my last blog until afterwards.

I urge you to browse over the links in yesterday's blog (Thursday, July 2), if you haven't already. Why? I was sick all last week, and so didn't blog from Friday until Thursday – meaning yesterday's blog was packed with links to coaching articles and other items. But it is today's blog that'll be the front page for the next eleven days, and so it'll be seen and read by far more people. (My Friday blogs, which are read Fri-Sun, typically get twice as many reads as my other blogs.) Yesterday's blog had four coaching articles (by Han Xiao, Richard McAfee, Ben Larcombe, and Samson Dubina), plus seven coaching videos (including four "Ask the Coach" from PingSkills), so you don't want to miss those.

2015 US Open – Links

Here are a few – you can follow the action from afar! The Open is in Las Vegas, July 6-11.

2015 U.S. Open – Number of Players

It looks like a record number of entries for this year's U.S. Open, though as usual it's not quite that simple. There are 1065 players entered this year, the most ever, excluding 1990 (where it was held in conjunction with the World Veterans Championships and an International Junior Championship, and had over 2000 total entries), and 2013 (which technically had "only" 914 entries, but was run in conjunction with an ITTF Pro Tour event, where those entries were separate – I was told they had 1085 total).

There's another complication. The only data we have on past U.S. Opens are from the USATT ratings database, and they only run from 1994 to the present, and they only include players who entered in rated events – so players who entered only hardbat, sandpaper, or doubles events are not included. There were no sandpaper events until just a few years ago, and the number of players who entered hardbat but no rated events has always been relatively small, probably less than a dozen. I doubt if the number of doubles-only players is very large either, but I'm not sure. This year there are a lot more of these events, so there might be a larger disparity than usual in the number of players entered and the number of players that are in rated events and so will show up in the USATT ratings database.

So how many entries have we received in the past? Here's a chart I created showing U.S. Open Entries, 1994-2015. The figure for 2015 will have to be adjusted as it currently is listed as 1065, but as noted, that includes those not in rated events, while the figures for all previous ones include only those in rated events. My guess is that it'll end up well over 1000, and way ahead of the previous record of 914 listed for 2013. I've been told that the 1974 and 1975 U.S. Opens also had around 1000 entries, but when I mentioned this recently to USATT historian Tim Boggan, he was skeptical.

2015 U.S. Open – Top Seeds

One thing we do need to work on is attracting more top players. Eventually it's be helpful if we could once again be part of the ITTF World Tour, but that's expensive, meaning we really need a sponsor to do it. Otherwise . . . well, like I said, it's expensive, and without a sponsor means we'd have to cut other items an equal amount, which isn't easy. I'll likely blog about this sometime later, at which time I'll get actual numbers needed, etc.

But we did get lots of players – there are 292 entered in Men's Singles! That's likely a record.

Originally Aruna Quadri was entered and was the top seed in Men's Singles at #45 in the world. But two things happened. First, he dropped to #60 in the world (after being #30 as recently as January). And then, he apparently withdrew. (He's no longer listed as entered – I'll check into why when I get to the Open.)

This leaves us with two men in the top 100 in the world: top-seeded Adrian Crisan of Romania, world #54, followed closely by Bojan Tokic of Slovenia at #60 (tied with Quadri). Interestingly, Crisan would be seeded only #4 by ratings, at 2713, but that rating is from the 2009 U.S. Open and so is six years old. By rating, Tokic is #1 at 2836, followed by Bob Chen (2744), Tao Wenzhang (2714 and the defending champion), and then Crisan.

But also entered are an incredible depth of players in the 2600-2720 range. By rating, the top seeds in Men's Singles have ratings of: 2836, 2744, 2715, 2713, 2709, 2708, 2702, 2700, 2698, 2692, 2689, 2682, 2679, 2677, 2672, 2671, 2670, 2667, 2665, 2661, 2659, 2657, 2642, 2642, 2634, 2631, 2617, 2608, 2606, and 2601. That's exactly 30 over 2600, and then there's another 14 between 2550 and 2600.

In Women's Singles there are also two players in the top 100: Elizabeta Samara of Romania (world #17), and USA's Lily Zhang (#94). The depth there isn't so great, with only two players over 2600 (Yuko Fujii of Japan at 2651, but apparently no world ranking) and Samara (2617), along with six players over 2500, and twelve over 2400. Lily at 2530 is #5 in ratings.

2015 U.S. Open – Biggest/Smallest Events

The events with over 100 entries are, in order of numbers, Men's Singles (292), Under 2100 (276), Under 2250 (275), Under 1950 (210), Under 2000 Tiered Super RR (200), Under 2400 (191), Under 1800 (187), Under 1650 (184), Under 1500 (161), Under 1350 (154), Men's Doubles (139), Junior Boys (134), Under 1200 (118), Under 1850/O18 (118), and Under 21 Men's Singles (111).

Events with small turnouts included all the Paralympic events (four had zero, others ranged from 2-5 entries); Over 80 Women (0), Over 70 Women's Doubles (0), Over 80 Women's Doubles (0); Women's Hardbat (1); Women's Sandpaper (1); Women's Hardbat Doubles (1); and Over 85 (1).

Korean Open

Meanwhile, while we're running the U.S. Open here, there's some little thing called the ITTF World Tour going on, with the Korean Open going on right now. Here's the home page with results, articles, pictures, and video.

All About Tenergy

Part 1 and Part 2 (which is new). (Disclosure: I’m sponsored by Butterfly, and both I and most of my intermediate and advanced students use Tenergy. I use Tenergy 05 black 2.1 on forehand, Tenergy25 red 2.1 on backhand.)

Peak Performance: Learn About the Four Stages of a Training Cycle

Here's the new coaching article by Samson Dubina

When Do You Use Your Best Serve?

Here's the new coaching article by Tom Lodziak.

How to Play Table Tennis in Ten Days

Here's the guide from Expert Table Tennis. Could be a classic beginner's guide!

Navin Kumar – Bionic Man of Table Tennis

Here's the article from Uberpong about Navin – he's one of my students!!! "He is the first Parkinson’s athlete in history to represent the USA in international table tennis competitions as part of the Paralympic Program." He also has a partially mechanical heart.

USATT Insider

Here's the newest issue. It comes out every Wednesday morning.

Six New ITTF Blue Badge Umpires Includes Two from USA

Here's the article. The USA ones are Michael Meier and Kagin Lee.

Even the Greats Miss

Here's video (should go to 71 seconds in) from the Japan Open this past weekend as China's Yan An (world #11, #7 last year) misses against a short lob. Admittedly, the ball had a crazy sidespin that jumped away from him, but it's still funny watching someone that good miss a ball like that.

Around Net Backhand Receive

Here's the weird return at 4:33 of this match between Tristan Flore and Elias Ranefur at the Korean Open.

International Table Tennis

Here's my periodic note (usually every Friday) that you can great international coverage at TableTennista (which especially covers the elite players well) and at the ITTF home page (which does great regional coverage). Butterfly also has a great news page.

More Mike Mezyan Pictures

NOTE - If you are unable to see these pictures, all you have to do is join the Table Tennis Group - it's easy! Here are all the past, present, and (soon) future pictures he's collected. (I pick out his best ones for here - he has more.)

Minion Table Tennis

The Minion Movie is coming July 10. All the younger kids at the club are incredibly excited about this movie – so am I. Why? Because the minions play table tennis!!!

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July 2, 2015

Our (okay, My) Long National Nightmare is Over

I jumped the gun yesterday in trying to coach all day at the MDTTC camp. When I went in I was still tired, and my voice still slightly hoarse. When I came out I was tired ^100th power, and my voice was back to a croaking whisper. Note to self: After spending four days lying in bed feverishly sick, it's not good to go straight to six hours of coaching. (As noted previously, I had a suspiciously simple-sounding sinus infection, but that came off as bad or worse than the flu.) 

I've been on the following medications. They are:

  • Antibiotics: Amoxicillan and Clavulanate Potassium Tablets
  • Guaifenesin AC Syrup (for cough)
  • Eye drops: Gentamicin Opth Solution
  • NightQuil. I was taking DayQuil as well but the doctor said it wouldn't really help, but thought the NightQuil would.
  • Lots and lots of liquids, on doctor's orders.

Today I'm only doing the afternoon session, 3-6PM. This works out well as it gave me plenty of time to do the blog and other things. (Next on list of things I've put off that need to get done: MDTTC July Newsletter. Also a few zillion unread emails.) Overall, the kids in my group are more advanced than normal – all of them are able to play points, and so we were able to play a lot of Brazilian Teams yesterday. (Many kids simply aren't ready for that, and so we do more target practice games.) Only one is actually new; I've worked with the rest before.

I think the kids were happy to see me back. Actually, I think poor Coach Jeffrey was even happier to see me back, since he'd been the one assigned to take my place with the younger kids. Working with a pack of kids might be fulfilling, but mentally it's a million times harder than working with a 2500 player. Here's a comparison.

Working with a 2500 player:

Coach: "Let's do the 2-1 drill."
2500 player: "Okay."

Working with a group of 7-year-olds – and the following is a highly sanitized version. In reality, every other sentence is to remind the ones on ball pick-up to pick up balls, advice the two on the robot to take turns, tell another not to smack balls at another, run over to stop two from chasing each other, and perhaps run to the office for a band-aid for the latest scraped knee. Okay, it's not always that bad – it depends on the group. But the sequence where Arnold Schwarzenegger meets his students in Kindergarten Cop is highly accurate – it really is. But good coaches learn to turn chaos into organized chaos. Here's a typical exchange:

Coach: "Let's do forehands."
7-year-old: "I wanna do backhands!"
Coach: "But you have a good backhand, we need to work on your forehand."
7-year-old, stamping feet: "I wanna do backhands!"
Coach: "We worked on your backhand already. Don't you want to have a forehand too?"
7-year-old: "I like backhands! I don't like forehands!"
Coach: "That's because you don’t practice forehands and so don't have a good one."
7-year-old, suddenly grinning: "Can we do backhands?"
Coach, sighing: "Okay, we'll do backhands. Hey, where'd you go?"
[Several minutes go by as 7-year-old is now crawling under table, quickly joined by the 7-year-old who was supposed to be doing ball pickup. Finally, after getting them back into position, they begin again.]
Coach: Okay, are you ready for backhands?"
7-year-old: "Can we play the cup game?"
Coach: "I thought you wanted to practice your backhand?"
Chorus of 7-year-olds: "Cup Game! Cup Game! Cup Game!"
Coach: "How about if we do two minutes of backhands first?"
7-year-old: "One minute?"
Coach: "Fine"
[30 seconds of backhand practice interrupted by three other 7-year-olds who have dragged huge stack of paper cups to the table, where they proceed to build a pyramid. After raising eyes to the sky, coach shrugs, and picks up balls as they make their creation. Then they line up and the coachfeed them balls as they knock the cups over – never realizing they are now practicing forehands!!! Coach wins!]

Using Your Fingers Effectively

Here's the new coaching article by Han Xiao.

McAfee's Mechanics – Ask Questions with Your Serve Placements

Here's the new coaching article.

Improve Your Forehand Loop by Relaxing Your Wrist

Here's the new coaching article from Expert Table Tennis.

Back Injuries: 7 Ways to Keep Your Back in Top Shape

Here's the new article from Samson Dubina.

Ask the Coach with PingSkills

Drill Your Skills with China National Team – Part 11

Here's the video (5:59).

Lloyd Gregory: Coaching Theory and Practice

Here's the podcast (27:19) from Expert Table Tennis.

Ma Long Reverse Serve Training

Here's the video (68 sec).

ITTF Level 2 Course in Austin

Here's the write-up of the course held recently at the Austin TTC by Richard McAfee.

2015 World Police and Fire Games

Here's the article. They were held locally, with table tennis at the SmashTT club in Virginia.

Puzzler Will Shortz Plays Ping-Pong 1000 Days Straight

Here's the article and video (73 sec) from USA Today on the famed NY Times Crossword editor and owner of the Westchester TTC.

10 Questions with Paralympic Medalist Tahl Leibovitz

Here's the USATT interview.

11 Questions with Angela Guan

Here's the USATT interview.

USATT Athletes of the Month for June

Here's the article – Tahl Leibovitz, Angela Guan, and Paralympic doubles champions Jenson Van Emburgh & Jesse Cejudo.

Ito & Hirano's Record Recognized by Guinness World Records

Here's the ITTF press release on the two youngest winners ever of an ITTF World Tour event.

USA at the Para Romanian Open

Here's the USA page.

Some Crazy Points at the Japan Open

  • Here's the video (30 sec) of the point between Xu Xin (lefty on far side) at Yoshimura.
  • Here's the video (38 sec) between Hiroshi Sato and Zeng Jian, where Sato thinks she's lost the point and turns her back, and so doesn't return or even see Zeng's push.  
  • Here's the video (55 sec) where Xu Xin is lobbing against Fan Zhendong, and Fan creams one – but accidentally lets go of the racket, and it goes flying. Xu makes the lob return to win the point.
  • Here's the video (34 sec) as Shang of China misses an easy shot that any hacker could make, showing that even pros are human.

Ask a Pro Anything: Xu Xin

Here's the video (1:40) with Adam Bobrow and Japan Open Xu Xin. You'll learn about his hobby, who's the best singer on Chinese team, and most of all, his surprising girlfriend!

The Men of Menil Table Tennis Show

Here's the video (1:42) featuring professional table tennis showman Scott Preiss, Jimmy Butler, David Zhuang, Eric Owens, and Mark Hazinski.

Newlyweds Mickey Rooney & Ava Gardner Play Ping Pong in 1942

Here's the video (3:41).

The Secret Life of a Racket

Here's the video (64 sec) by the cell phone used by Tiago Apolonia as he rallies with it!

The Coke Opening Ping Pong Trick Shot

Here's the video (50 sec).

More Mike Mezyan Pictures

NOTE - If you are unable to see these pictures, all you have to do is join the Table Tennis Group - it's easy! Here are all the past, present, and (soon) future pictures he's collected. (I pick out his best ones for here - he has more.)

Peek-a-Boo Pong

Here's the picture!

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