Butterfly Online


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 six books and over 1300 articles on table tennis. Here is his bio

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

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

January 27, 2015

Tables for Kids

One of the problems table tennis coaches face is that kids aren't really big enough to play table tennis on a regular table until they are about 6 or 7 years old. Before that the table is simply too high, often about shoulder height. Tennis had a similar problem in that their courts were too big for kids, who were expected to cover the same amount of ground as Roger Federer. They solved it with QuickStart Tennis (5:35). As a long-time tennis player on the side, I've actually helped with these tennis programs, where they often have a court full of kids in the 3-5 year old range. There's no reason why table tennis can't also start in that age range - except for the size of the table. In fact, with smaller rackets and courts, table tennis should be easier than tennis for these kids!

Sean O'Neill has been a strong advocate for shorter tables for younger kids. He argues that shorter tables is both good for very younger players (such as the 3-5 age group) as well as for slightly older ones (such as under 10), where the height of the normal table might lead to bad habits while a shorter one would lead to better technique. Here's his article (with pictures) on the subject, Helping Young Kids Learn to Play with Correct Technique, Balance, and Power.

Here are two videos he has on this, where the DHS Rising Star Table is featured. It adjusts to four inches lower than a normal table (from 30 inches down to 26).

I've got several students with younger brothers or sisters whose parents are asking when they'll be old enough to learn. With our current tables, not until they are at least five and probably six. With a shorter table, like tennis, they can start in the 3-5 age range. (I'm told that overseas many clubs do have such tables for their younger players.) I'm now debating whether to try to get one of these tables for my club, or get a cheap table somewhere and shortening it by chopping off part of the legs!

Meanwhile, schools are closed here in Maryland due to snow - three inches!!! Call out the National Guard! So no afterschool program or coaching for me today. I'll get a lot of other stuff done.

15 Ways to Identify Bad Leaders

Here's the article. I found this especially informative now that I'm on the USATT Board of Directors. I actually emailed them the link in the midst of a discussion. Hopefully we'll avoid these 15 bad habits! (I could write volumes on each one of these and how it pertains to past USATT problems.) I believe the very first item, on vision, is the most important for board members:

  1. Leaders who can’t see it, probably won’t find it: Leaders without vision will fail. Leaders who lack vision cannot inspire teams, motivate performance, or create sustainable value. Poor vision, tunnel vision, vision that is fickle, or a non-existent vision will cause leaders to fail. A leader’s job is to align the organization around a clear and achievable vision. This cannot occur when the blind lead the blind.

And so I'm especially interested in what other board members have as their vision for the future of our sport, so we can work together on programs to achieve it. Those without a vision for the future of our sport shouldn't be driving the car - you have to know where you are going to get there. As I posted yesterday, here's my vision: "I see a USATT with huge membership, where our top players and juniors are competitive with the best players and juniors in the world, and where our U.S. Open and Nationals are premier money and TV events."

Learning Good Mechanics: Weight Transfer and Using Your Legs

Here's the new coaching article from Han Xiao. Includes links to great videos of Timo Boll and Ma Long looping. I'm showing this to my students.

Serve Tutorial - Confuse Your Opponent with This Serve!

Here's the video (2:45), about getting different spins with the same motion. Here's another video (2:38) by the same coach on "How to Produce More Spin."

Top Tournament Tactics - Top Tactics Against Defensive Players

Here's the new video (2:59) by Brian Pace.

Exhibition at Smash Table Tennis

Here's the video (25:08), with a great opening, of the demo and exhibition I did January 19 with Stefano Ratti at Smash TT in Sterling, VA - with a great opening!!! Lots of trick shots and humorous exchanges. (I posted this in my blog one day late before going on my writing sabbatical, so many may have missed it.)

Westchester Table Tennis Center to Host 2014 North American Tour Grand Finals

Here's the USATT press release, and here's the info flyer. I'll be there - can't wait for the handicap contest at the Friday night party!

Butterfly North American Tour

Here's their schedule.

A Revisionist's Cultural History of Ping-Pong aka Table Tennis by William Shakehand

Here's the online booklet (in verse) by Hermann Lueuchinger - it's great!

USATT News Items

Here are eight more since yesterday!

World's Fastest Archer Shoots a Ping-Pong Ball

Here's the article and video from Table Tennis Nation. (Full video is 5:52, but they show a very short recurring image of the ping-pong ball shooting.) On a side note, the video of the archer has gone viral, but there's huge backlash from the archery community, who say much of what is said on the video isn't true. But I'm not expert on the topic, though a resident archer at the Olympic Training Center (where I lived for four years) once let me take a picture of him as he aimed an arrow at me (circa late 1980s), and got in all sorts of trouble for it. The picture, alas, has been lost to the mists of history.

Tennis Pong for Mini-Men

Here's the cartoon.

Send us your own coaching news!

January 26, 2015

Tip of the Week

Play the Ball.

Writing Sabbatical

A week ago I wrote that I was taking the week off to work on my new book, "Parents Guide to Table Tennis." But a funny thing happened along the way - I got caught up in a number of USATT issues. The net result was I got a lot of stuff done, but only a little on the book, which I'm putting on hold for now. I've come to realize that I probably won't get much writing done over the next four years (my term on the board), other than this blog and the Tips of the Week, and some fiction writing.

There's a lot of USATT stuff going on, but my focus right now is regional associations, which include setting up state championships, regional team leagues, and training centers (which include coaching and junior programs).

However, I did get some writing done - in a fit of energy and inspiration, I did a lot of work on my new table tennis fantasy novel, now tentatively titled "The Spirit of Pong." It's about a mid-level U.S. player who goes to China to learn the secrets of table tennis. He learns the three secrets of table tennis (The Body of Pong, the Mind of Pong, and the Paddle of Pong), and has to overcome great adversity and treachery while meeting the spirits of a number of table tennis greats. I just finished a chapter where he visits the statue and gravesite and meets the spirit of Rong Guotuan, China's first world champion (Men's Singles in 1959) and coach of their first women's world team title (Women's Teams in 1965), who was then framed during the Cultural Revolution as a spy, condemned and tortured, until he finally committed suicide by hanging himself in 1968 at age 30. He has since been "rehabilitated," but I got a stomachache while writing this chapter, just thinking about this terrible wrong. My protagonist learns "The Mind of Pong" from Rong.

Here's a short rundown of my week:

  • Monday: Spent most of the day working on USATT issues and taking care of a number of other items on my todo list. Did one hour of coaching. Then did a demo and exhibition with Stefano Ratti at SmashTT (see segment below). Then met with the Capital Area Super League Organizing Committee for two hours. (Me, Michael Levene, Stefano Ratti, and John Olsen.) Couldn't sleep, so stayed up half the night on USATT issues.
  • Tuesday: I planned to start on the "Parents Guide" that morning, but after staying up until 4AM I was exhausted, and didn't get much done. I did another two hours of coaching, and then, late that night, wrote a chapter of "The Spirit of Pong."
  • Wednesday: Worked more on "The Spirit of Pong," then studied a bunch of USATT issues for the meeting that night. Had a lot of email discussions with board members on various issues. Coached two hours, then came back for the USATT Teleconference (see segment below). After the meeting I was too energized to go to bed, so worked on USATT issues half the night. I did some work on "Parents Guide," then put it aside.
  • Thursday: Did three hours of coaching, including running one of our junior group sessions for an hour. Also had to spend much of the day on non-table tennis issues - running errands, etc., plus one biggie. A while back the overhang over the front door to my house broke and fell - it was a massive thing, weighing hundreds of pounds. I had a new one installed, which cost a LOT of money, alas. They also fixed once again my perennially breaking front gate.
  • Friday: I spent most of the day on USATT issues, then did three hours of coaching. Then saw the movie "The Theory of Everything."
  • Saturday: Spent much of the day working on "The Spirit of Pong," including a lot of research and reading about Rong Guotuan. Then went to the club from 5-10PM for a fundraiser for Cystic Fibrosis, where I did a demo and exhibition with Sameer, and then helped run a recreational tournament. They raised over $4000! (More on this later, when I get pictures and video.)
  • Sunday: Did 2.5 hours of coaching, including 1.5 hours running one of our junior group sessions. Spent much of the night (and this morning) in email discussions with board members, including a discussion I started on "Vision." While I can't share what others wrote, I can share mine: "I see a USATT with huge membership, where our top players and juniors are competitive with the best players and juniors in the world, and where our U.S. Open and Nationals are premier money and TV events." And yes, achieving this vision is what most of my USATT work over the next four years (and over the past week) has been about.

USATT Board Teleconference

I had my first USATT board meeting since getting elected to the board. It was a teleconference on Wednesday night. I'll discuss it more when the minutes for the meeting come out. A few items: we voted on the new board chair (as required by USATT bylaws), but I'll let USATT do the press release before I write about that. We redefined what an "Associate Membership" is (more on that after the minutes come out); heard reports on RailStation (who now do our ratings, membership, and other software), sponsorships, and the US Open/Nationals (more on that hopefully over the next week); discussed committees and had a vote on a new structure and committee definitions that I disagreed with (more on this after the minutes come out - yes, that's getting repetitive); and had an executive session where we discussed some confidential personnel/disciplinary issues. The meeting started at 8PM and ended at 10:07PM. As noted, once the minutes come out I can comment more on this. Hopefully they'll be out within a month or so.

Smash TT Exhibition

Here's the video (25:08) of a demo and exhibition I did at Smash Table Tennis in Sterling, VA, last Monday (Jan. 19) with Stefano Ratti. Lots of trick shots and fun! Here's Stefano and I afterwards posing with the club's balloon mascot. Then we had a meeting of the Capital Area Super League Organizing Committee for two hours. (Me, Michael Levene, Stefano Ratti, and John Olsen.)

USATT Ratings Page and Webpage

Here's the new USATT Ratings Page. There are still some bumps in the page, but they are working to fix them. There's a "New USATT Ratings Site" discussion of this at the Mytabletennis.net forum, where even USATT CEO Gordy Kaye is involved. There's also "USATT Website - Great or Sux?" discussion of the new USATT website.

USATT News Items

During my sabbatical USATT put up 17 news items - here's their News Page!

$100,000 World Championships of Ping Pong

The tournament, where players only use sandpaper rackets (you heard that right) were held this past weekend in London for the third consecutive year. Here's the home page with results, articles, pictures, etc. Here's the prize money listing. In the final Andrew Baggaley (ENG) defeated Alexander Flemming (GER), 3-2, winning $20,000. In the semifinals Baggaley upset 2-1 Maxim Shmyrev (RUS) who had won the previous two years. Three USA players took part - Jim Butler, Ilija Lupulesku, and Johnard Baldonado, with Lupulesku making the final 16 before losing 2-1 to Flemming. (He made the semifinals last year.)

New Coaching Articles from Samson Dubina

Here they are - and you can also buy his International Skills DVD!

  • Mood Swings - Learn about making or breaking your next tournament!!!
  • The Perfect Plan - Learn About Feeling Pressure from Outside Sources Learn about feeling pressure from outside sources.

New Videos from Dynamic Table Tennis

Here are two new ones from Coach Brian Pace at Dynamic Table Tennis (lots of videos and books for sale there!):

Ask the Coach (PingSkills Version)

Here are the latest four episodes:

Ask the Coach (Werner Schlager Academy Version)

Here's Episode #2 - Service Tactics (1:42), with English subtitles (it's in German), from WSA head coach Richard Prause. Here's Episode #1 (2:24) - What is Talent in Table Tennis (no English subtitles).

Master Table Tennis in 12 Months

Here's the page that tries to answer the question, "Is it possible to master table tennis in just 12 months?" It goes over the year-long "Expert in a Year" challenge.

This is How You Rip a Forehand

Here's video (68 sec) of Chinese phenom Fan Zhendong ripping forehand power loops against backspin in multiball.

Benefits of Practicing With Both Right-Handed & Left-Handed Players

Here's the article from the I Play Table Tennis page.

2015 To Be the Biggest Year in ITTF History

Here's the ITTF Press Release.

USATT Minutes

Here's the page where you can see the minutes of past USATT meetings. The Nov. 12 Teleconference Minutes just went up recently. (The December meeting ones were up previously.)

China is Beatable at Table Tennis

Here's a short article where Sweden's Jorgen Persson (1991 Men's Singles World Champion) talks about this and other issues.

Rainn Wilson/Dwight from "The Office" and Table Tennis

Here's video (68 sec) of Rainn Wilson playing table tennis on the show, and saying the headline above - as well as naming his heroes: "All of my heroes are table tennis players. Zoran Primorac, Jan-Ove Waldner, Wang Tao, Jorg Rosskopf, and of course Ashraf Helmy. I have a life-size poster of Hugo Hoyama on my wall. And the first time I left Pennsylvania was to go to the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony of Andzej Grubba." Here's a 60-sec video of him doing a Soul Pancake commercial while playing table tennis, "Rainn Wilson is a Master Ping Pong Jedi."

Rubber Band Pong

Here's the cartoon.

Send us your own coaching news!

January 19, 2015

Writing Sabbatical This Week

As I wrote on Friday week, I'm taking a writing sabbatical this week, so this will be my last blog until Monday, January 26. I plan to write "Parents Guide to Table Tennis," and if I have time after that, work on my table tennis fantasy novel "The Paddle of Pong." It's going to be a busy week. Besides all the writing and the usual coaching, there's a bunch of USATT stuff going on, including a USATT board teleconference on Wednesday night. Tonight (Monday night) I'm doing an exhibition at SmashTT at 8:30PM (come join us!), after which we're having a meeting of the Capital Area Super League Organizing Committee. On Saturday night I'm helping with a fund-raiser for Cystic Fibrosis at MDTTC, where I'll be doing an exhibition and clinic with Sameer Shaikh, and helping run a recreational tournament. (The tournament is NOT for USATT members or advanced players.)

Tip of the Week

The Lost Art of Messing People Up.

Breaking News Added One Day Late - Exhibition!

Here's the video (25:08), with a great opening, of the demo and exhibition I did Monday night with Stefano Ratti at Smash TT in Sterling, VA - with a great opening!!! Lots of trick shots and humorous exchanges. 

Things I Was Told Would Never Happen

  • I started playing early in 1976 when I was 16. By that Fall I had reached about 1500. A local coach began coaching one of my main practice partners for $5/hour (about $20 in 2015 dollars), who had started at the same time I did and was about the same level - but was four years younger. I asked the coach if he'd coach me as well, and he agreed, but said he'd charge me $15/hour ($60/hour in 2015 dollars), since I was older and had less potential. I couldn't afford it. A year later another higher-level coach began coaching this younger player for free. I asked him if he'd coach me as well, but he said no, said he only had time to coach one player and had to go with the younger one who had more potential. I ended up not taking coaching from either, and in fact relied on coaching camps (including a series of Seemiller camps). In the end, the younger player got good, but I got better - and only one of us made the USATT Hall of Fame!
  • Deng Yaping, who was 4'10", was kicked off the Chinese National Team three times because they thought she was too small to ever be any good. She went on to win Women's Singles at the Worlds three time and the Olympics twice. (Okay, I wasn't "told" this, but it was too good to leave out.)
  • When I started playing in 1976, the idea of table tennis - "ping-pong" - being an Olympic sport was a joke. There simply was no way. But a few people didn't believe that, and primarily through their efforts (and especially Fred Danner's), we became an Olympic Sport.
  • I started out as a forehand hitter, with a big smash, but a weak, awkward loop. I worked with a number of coaches on this, but over and over they concluded that my hitting was so much better I should just focus on that. One even said, "Forget looping, just hit." I was determined to learn to loop effectively, and kept at it, even stagnating at the 1850 level for three years while I did this. Then it all came together! It still doesn't look as sharp as my hitting, but it gets the job done.
  • In 1992 I teamed with Cheng Yinghua and Jack Huang to open the Maryland Table Tennis Center. (We were originally called the National Table Tennis Center.) There had been several attempts to open full-time table tennis training centers, and all had failed. (There had been some successful ones that relied primarily on leagues.) Over and over I was told that there simply weren't enough serious players in the U.S. for a full-time table tennis training center to survive. And here we are, 23 years later! (They didn't get the idea that you don't rely just on current players, you bring in and develop new ones.)
  • In December, 2006, at a USATT Board Meeting I gave a presentation where I tried to get them to get involved in recruiting and training coaches to open full-time training centers. At the time there were only about 8-10 in the entire country. The idea was met with complete skepticism. Two board members openly argued that the ones that existed were "special cases" or ones that simply hadn't closed down yet, and that there simply weren't enough serious players in the country for there to be more than a few full-time training centers. Others were silent. I resigned my positions as USATT Editor and Programs Director primarily because of this. And here we are, eight years later, and there are now almost 80 full-time centers in the country, with new ones popping up every month or so.
  • If I got started on how many people have argued that table tennis team leagues won't work in the U.S., I'd have to devote the rest of blogs this year to the topic. Suffice to say it's met with the same skepticism as much of the above, despite the great success of such team leagues overseas. Once again they argue there aren't enough players, again not getting the basic idea that you develop new players. Over and over I've asked why they believe people in the U.S. are so different than people overseas, and over and over I'm told the situation is different, usually involving more distractions, other sports, video games, etc., as if they don't have these things overseas. It's rather bizarre, and sort of reflects the mindset of the status quo. This is the great opening USATT has coming up to develop the sport in this country. I'll have a proposal to USATT on this probably by the end of this year. (I'm currently working with a local group - in particular two players who played in the European leagues - who are developing the Capital Area Super League. My experiences here will help in developing a regional prototype that can spread to other regions.)

Navin Kumar - the Bionic Parkinson's Man

For now on I'm just going to introduce myself as "Navin's coach." Here are three new segments on him, plus a recent one in the Washington Post and three from USATT:

  • Here's a new interview with Navin Kumar, "The Bionic Man, Ping Pong's Ultimate inspiration." I'm mentioned in the article as Navin is a student of mine. Here's how it starts: "I was born with a congenital heart condition that has required 5 open-heart surgeries throughout my life to correct. My heart is now mechanical and made of the same carbon fiber material that you see in some table tennis paddles and I also have a pacemaker implanted inside me which is cool because occasionally I get to have software downloaded inside me so I feel like my old childhood bionic hero, The Six Million Dollar Man. A year and half ago I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease which affects me 2 ways – muscle stiffness and right hand tremors."
  • Here's a new video (2:35) from yesterday where we had a breakthrough in his forehand technique. Watch the subtle turn of his foot and knee that turns his body into the shot.
  • On Saturday from 10AM to 1:30PM I helped Peter Scudner do a videotaping of Navin Kumar, "The Bionic Man." The video will be out in a week or so - I'll post it here.
  • Here he is in the Washington Post on Dec. 2, 2014, "Table Tennis: It Might Be Time to Take It Up Again."
  • Here are three USATT articles that feature him:

USATT Board Seeks Nominations for Committee Appointments

Here's the notice from USATT, which you probably also received via email last week. (I also linked to this on Friday.) See if there's anything that matches your interest an expertise. I hope we get some great volunteers!

The Importance of a Loose Elbow

Here's the new coaching article by Matt Hetherington.

Two New Coaching Articles from Samson Dubina

Ask the Coach

Episode #60 (12:50) - Serving Slow or Fast?

  • Previous #PQOTD  - 0:47: What is your favourite activity apart from Table Tennis?
  • #PQOTD  - 1:57: What are the most important muscles in Table Tennis?
  • Question 1 - 2:22: Hi Alois, on my attacking forehand topspin strokes, is it ok that when i get to my finish position to open the angle of my bat while getting to it or it should stay the same angle? Pasquale
  • Question 2 - 4:19: I am an attack player. What serve should I use? Nick
  • Question 3 - 7:00: I have been training for a long time on a pendulum serve. The results are converging to a 80% success rate, about 15% into the net and 5% single bounce. How to improve the numbers and restore confidence so that I can use the same serve in matches? Dieter
  • Question 4 - 10:50: I'm an attacking player and rely a lot on speedy topspin shots. I was playing with a spare old bat. I've recently got a new bat which is much lighter and while it's easier to control the spin shots when I try to generate any speed it flies off. Shinjini

New USATT Ratings Page

Here it is. I haven't had a chance to test it, and don't have time right now. So why don't you test it, and report on it? (I did notice one thing - it's confusing trying to find your rating history. Turns out that clicking on your name doesn't work. You have to click on your rating to find it. There should be a note there explaining this. I'll explore this later.)

Butterfly Aurora Open

Ruichao "Alex" Chen (a coach/practice partner from my club, rated 2667) won Open singles ($1500), 11-8 in the fifth over USA National Men's Champion Jimmy Butler ($750). I watched the match - what a battle! Both have great serves, but use them somewhat differently. The lefty Alex has perhaps the most vicious third-ball attack in the country - he relentlessly follows each serve with a forehand loop, and it's nearly unstoppable. Jim uses his serves for outright winners and to control points, though of course he'll rip a forehand or backhand smash if the return is weak. Alex serves short over and over, while Jimmy serves long much of the time - which is risky unless you have very good serves. (Here is the online video of the Saturday afternoon session, which included the Open Final near the end, just before the Open Doubles Final - but for some reason the video blanks out starting at 1:37:16. Anyone know where we can see the video?)

Top Fifteen Ways My Life Will Change Now That I'm on the USATT Board of Directors

This was in my blog on Jan. 8, but a lot of people have asked about it, so I'm posting it again.

  1. I get to move into theUSATT Mansion. (Look closely at this!)
  2. I get to cut the salary of every USATT volunteer who has ever snubbed me. Oh wait…
  3. Hobbies like eating, sleeping, and breathing will go on hold.
  4. Robert F. Kennedy's quote now scares me: "Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly."
  5. I get a free USATT tie!
  6. All those people who call me a crazy fool now have to call me a crazy foolsir!
  7. To make time for my USATT volunteer work all that pesky paid stuff like coaching and writing will go on hold.
  8. I get to scientifically test the theory that "absolute power corrupts absolutely." I believe it does, and I'm never wrong.
  9. I can schedule the U.S. Open and Nationals at my club.
  10. If I'm thinking about USATT stuff when I order a pizza, I can send the bill to USATT, right?
  11. Next time at I jump on the table at a USATT board meeting and start ranting about coaching and leagues they'll wait a little longer before calling security.
  12. Now that 8000 USATT members have access to my email I'll get peace and quiet.
  13. Soon USATT members will know why my last name is just an anagram for "He's God." After a few months they'll realize that "USATT Board" is an anagram for "Oust bad rat." Squeak squeak!
  14. To those who voted against me - you'll get the 100 rating points back after you apologize and practice your serves 15 minutes.
  15. Strange how the day after I'm elected my new USATT rating is 2811.

International Table Tennis

Here's my periodic note 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).

Service Rules

Here's the video (5:31) from PingSkills. Just a basic intro to the serving rules.

NCTTA January Newsletter

Here's the January Newsletter of the National Collegiate Table Tennis Association.

Teddy Tran - Gab Talk

Here's the video (11:46) with the USA star. "Without ping-pong, my life would be like a broken pencil - pointless." It's about following your dreams, and having perspective.

The Marty Reisman Racket

Here's the article and pictures

The Difference Between a Master and a Beginner

Here it is!

One of the Best Points Ever - Yep, by Jan-Ove Waldner

Here's the video (33 sec). Not sure who the other player is, on near side with back to us - can anyone tell?
BREAKING NEWS! Bernard Lemal and Stefan Fangmeier both emailed to inform me that the other player (near side) is German star Georg Boehm. 

Craziest Table Tennis Rally of All Time?

Here's the video (42 sec) as Ma Long and Xu Xin (the lefty penholder) put on an impromptu exhibition where they do just about everything.

SPiN New York "Schools" Students on the Joys of Table Tennis

Here's the article.

Susan Sarandon Talks SPiN at Brooklyn Tech

Here's the video (2:34).

Ping Pong the Animation Tribute

Here's the video (3:09) - this is great!!!

Armin van Buuren - Ping Pong

Here's a 41-sec table tennis video from the music producer Armin van Buuren. It's rather interesting, but only because of the music and graphics. (Watch it a second time where you ignore the music and graphics, and you'll see what I mean.)  

Jimmy Fallen Faces Off Against Beer Pong Robot

Here's the video (1:48) - "Yes! Finally! We've Done it! USA! USA!"

Unicorn Pong

Here's the cartoon.


Send us your own coaching news!

January 16, 2015

Writing Sabbatical Next Week

[NOTE - I'll have one more blog and tip on Monday (Jan. 19), and then start my writing sabbatical.]
As I wrote earlier this week, I'm taking a writing sabbatical next week, so this will likely be my last blog until Monday, January 26. (However, I'm thinking of doing one more on Monday, which I'd put together Sunday night - including the Tip of the Week - so check back Monday morning just in case.) I plan to write "Parents Guide to Table Tennis," and if I have time after that, work on my table tennis fantasy novel "The Paddle of Pong." It's going to be a busy week. Besides all the writing and the usual coaching, there's a bunch of USATT stuff going on, including a USATT board teleconference on Wednesday night. The current focus is the upcoming committee appointments - see below.

USATT Board Seeks Nominations for Committee Appointments

Here's the notice from USATT - you likely also received it via email, if USATT has an email address for you. (If not, contact them!)

One of the things I argued during the recent election campaign was that we need to take the word "Advisory" off these committee listings. Historically USATT is a group that does far too much advising and far too little implementing. That needs to change. We've already moved one step in that direction. Here's the current USATT Committees; note that all the non-standing committees (most of them) have "Advisory" in their names. After some discussion, the word was removed from the committee names in the call for applicants. However, they are still listed as "Advisory" committees, which implies that they are just there to advise, when we really need them to actually do stuff.

Besides USATT, I'm a member of several other organizations, such as Science Fiction Writers of American and (previously) the U.S. Tennis Association. Both groups are great at making use of volunteers via committees. SFWA is a master at this - I'm always amazed at how much they get done despite the constant politics. They've learned to separate the two. The committees get things done, and we can learn from them.

Here's my take on each of the 17 USATT Committees. (We also need a Ratings Committee; I'll make that motion later.) In many of these cases the current chair is eligible to return, and might do so. Some are doing excellent jobs.

Advisory Committees

=>Umpire and Referee Committee

This is an important post, with many responsibilities. However, I'm primarily looking for a chair who will push for umpires to enforce the rules, in particular the hidden serve rule. I've blogged about this repeatedly, such as here. The problem is the rules are rather clear, and yet there's little enforcement. The current 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. 

This is difficult for an umpire to tell. And since players know they can get away with it, they often hide the serve (a huge advantage), and the umpire isn't sure. So what is the umpire to do? Oh, there's a rule on that - in fact, two of them!!!

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 either may decide that a service is incorrect. 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 if an umpire isn't sure if the serve is hidden, then he has to call it, usually with a warning the first time, and a fault thereafter. How much more explicit can you get than the second one above, where it says explicitly that if the umpire is not sure about the legality of a serve (i.e. if it was visible or not), then it's not legal? But the rule is rarely enforced. I want a chair who will push for umpires to enforce the rules. I still don't understand why this is even an issue - of course they should enforce the rules! But because of the laxness in enforcing them, we've created a culture among the top players (both in the U.S. and worldwide) where they know they can get away with illegal serves, and so many do so. This has to change. (Of course, the service rule would be a lot easier to enforce if we changed the service rule - see next item.)

=>Rules Committee

I'm tired of rules changes, so unless there's a huge reason, I don't want any more - except for fixing the hidden serve rule. Since we have so much difficulty getting umpires to enforce the hidden serve rule (see above), the simple solution is to change the rule to something like the following: "Throughout the serve, the ball must be visible to the opponent and to both umpires, or where the umpires would sit." I'm going to keep pushing for this rule, probably looking for a USATT tournament to test it, and then to the ITTF. I want a Rules Chair who will support this.

=>Seniors Committee

This could be a hugely important committee. Golf, for example, got very popular primarily through seniors. However, I haven't seen any real plans on promoting table tennis to seniors. This is not really my area of expertise, but I will be looking for a chair who will actively look to promote the sport to seniors.

=>Tournament Committee

This committee is perhaps more advisory, as they help out tournament directors. They work out the standards for the various star level tournaments. This is one of those committees that, if they do their job well, you don't notice them; if they do it poorly, they are noticeable. (The same is true of some others, such as the Umpire and Referee Committee.)

One big issue that keeps coming up is the idea of sanction protection. It used to be that if someone sanctioned a tournament on a certain date, if you wanted to run one on that same weekend you pretty much had to run it on Mars (or at least in a different region or far, far away). Now they've gone the other extreme, with zero protection, where if you run a million dollar tournament, someone else can run a rival one the same weekend across the street. I'd like to see a little moderation here rather than having to choose between these two extremes, but I'm not planning to get too involved in this issue - if I do, I'll be bogged down in it for the next four years. I'll be looking for a chair who is experienced in running successful tournaments who has good common sense.

=>Editorial Committee

I'll be looking for the obvious - someone with good editorial sense who'll help make our national publications high quality. Nothing special here.

=>Clubs Committee

I'd like an activist here, someone who will focus on developing clubs in this country. However, much of the Club Committee activities would coincide with the League, Coaching, and Juniors Committees (and perhaps the Senior Committee), so these people need together. I'm worried that we'll end up with each committee coming up with their own rival plans rather than working together. Since clubs are the place where all of these intersect, I'll be looking for someone here who can work with the others.

=>Hardbat Committee

As a long-time hardbatter myself (though I usually use sponge), I want a chair who looks to (duh!) promote hardbat table tennis. Nothing special here.

=>Leagues Committee

This should be one of the most important committees we have. I've blogged about this a zillion times, such as here; USATT needs to develop a regional system of team leagues. I'm working this now, and will likely work with this committee. I'm looking for a chair who is ready to get active.

=>Juniors Committee

Another one where we need an activist chair. This person needs to work closely with the Coaching Committee. The key is to recruit and train coaches who wish to be professional coaches or run junior programs.

=>Coaching Committee

Along with the League Committee, perhaps one of the two most important committees. We currently use the ITTF coaching program for certification. We need to go to the next level. I've blogged about this a number of times, such as here. I want an activist chair who's hungry to recruit and train professional coaches and those who want to run junior programs - i.e. set up a USATT Coaching Academy or equivalent.

=>Marketing and Fundraising Committee

We've never done this well, so of course I'm looking for a chair who will actually do these things. However, the new USATT CEO is focusing on these, and we recently hired a National Media and Marketing Consultant, so much of this might be happening with those two. So I'll be looking for someone with experience who can help with this.  

Standing Committees

=>High Performance Committee

This is a hugely important one, as they govern what USATT does for our elite and up-and-coming junior players. Much of this comes down to funding, and we're currently in a funding crisis here since USOC has, for now, cut our funding. Overall I'm happy with what they've been doing. The chair needs to be an open-minded person with experience, who can work in what might be the most difficult committee chair position - lots of people with strong but conflicting opinions here.

=>Nominating and Governance Committee

As I've blogged about, I believe we need to allow people to get on the ballot by petition, as before. I'm looking for a chair who will support this, as well as the usual fair-mindedness needed here. See #11 on my Election Page.

=>Compensation Committee

This committee is primarily responsible for staff salaries and related issues. Not really my area of expertise.

=>Audit Committee

Not my area of expertise, but we need someone we can trust to regularly audit our books.

=>Athlete Advisory Council

They advise our current and former top players. Need a fair-minded chair (duh!).

=>Ethics & Grievance Committee

Here we need a very fair-minded judicial type - so that's what I'll be looking for!

Exhibition at Smash Table Tennis

I'm doing an exhibition with Stefano Ratti at Smash Table Tennis in Sterling, Virginia, Monday at 8:30PM. Come join us! (Afterwards, at 9PM, we have an organizational meeting of the Capital Area Super League - I'm on the committee.)

Capital Area Super League

Here's a USATT news item on the new league. If you're in the DC region (Maryland & Virginia area), come join the Capital Area Super League!

New York Table Tennis League

If you are in the NY area, there's the NYTTL, which is now inviting players for the new season. (I'm mentioned in regard to my focus on leagues.)

Pro Table Tennis with Rowden Fullen

Here's an interesting table tennis site that has a HUGE number of coaching articles.

Returning Heavy Backspin

Here's the coaching video (4:48) from Tao Li.

Ask the Coach

Episode #59 (18:20) - World Ranking Predictions

  • Yesterdays #PQOTD  - 1:57: Who will be number in the World in Mens and Womens at the end of 2015?
  • #PQOTD  - 3:45: What is your favourite activity apart from Table Tennis?
  • Question 1 - 4:34: Hey Pingskills,, What is the best sort of bat and rubber you can buy? Brock
  • Question 2 - 6:02: Which Training camp did you guys join first before you started make Pingskills videos? Brock
  • Question 3 - 7:08: I put a second coat of sealer on the blade and then when i used free chack the glue was drying as fast as I spread it. It clumped up. I scraped the glue and tried putting more this time. When I put the rubber on the blade, the rubber is peeling off. John
  • Question 4 - 9:28: I am a righthander, I do a backhand serve from the left side of the table with my left foot further away from the table. If I dont know the ball is coming short I stand parallel to the table and kind of fall over. I cant figure out the problem. Manuel
  • Question 5 - 12:10: After they blocked my loop it touched the top of the net. When I touched it, because it has lots of topspin it went out. What should I do when the ball has topspin or underspin or sidespin and touches the net and bounces on my table. Long
  • Question 6 - 14:48: I noticed while playing against someone, their drive would sometimes 'sink'. Is this behavior dependent on the intensity of spin or power? I usually see this done with topspin but can this be done with other spins? Waley
  • Question 7 - 17:20: If I want to block a spin, should I do it slow or fast? Brock

Lily Yip Repeats as Coach of the Year

Here's the article by Matt Hetherington. Here's the USATT notice on this from yesterday on the four big winners, which I blogged about Wednesday

Will We See a Top Defensive Play at the Top?

Here's the article by Matt Hetherington. 

Navin Kumar Plays Table Tennis for Life

Here's another article on my student at MDTTC - the "Bionic Man"!

Interview with Panagiotis Gionis

Here's the interview at the OOAK TT forum with the Greek chopping star and world #21.

One on One with NCTTA President Willy Leparulo

Here's the article and interview.

USOC Players and Teams of the Month

Here's the list for December - Jim Butler came in second in Men's, and the USA Junior Girls Team came in third for Teams. Phooey on luge, bobsled, and swimming!

Have Paddle, Will Travel

Here's the article as puzzle master Will Shortz plays table tennis in Casper as part of quest to be the first recorded person to play table tennis in all 50 states. I've been to all 50 states and have played table tennis in 47 (all but Alaska, Hawaii, and Connecticut), so he's about to one-up me. (Strangely, I can't get the text of the article to appear on my screen, just the headline, photo, and a bunch of gray lines where there should be text.)

Local Chicago Players Aim for Titles at 2015 Butterfly Aurora Cup

Here's the article by Barbara Wei.

Funny Point

Here's video (45 sec) of two kids going at it, with an unfortunate "What am I supposed to do about that?" ending!

Jan-Ove Waldner Drop Shot

Here's video (44 sec, including slow-motion replay) of the shot in an exhibition with Jorgen Persson. (That's Dan Seemiller doing most of the commentating, the one who says, "That's table tennis at its best.")

Rock-Paper-Scissors for Serve?

Here's video of Fukuhara Ai and Ichikawa Azusa doing rock-paper-scissors to see who serves at the start of a match - I've never seen this! (The link should take you directly to where they do this, 39 seconds in, but you could watch the whole video.)

Table for Two?

Here's the latest TT artwork from Mike Mezyan.

Business Pong

Here's the cartoon - and perhaps a reason little gets done at many USATT board meetings!


Send us your own coaching news!

January 15, 2015

Multiball Training

Have you done any multiball training recently? No? Well, why not? Don't you want to get better?

There are some myths about multiball training. Some believe it's only for beginners - and yet the Chinese team spends about 1/3 of their training time with multiball. Some think it's only for advanced players - but multiball is the best way to teach the basics. It's for all levels. Ironically, often beginners do multiball when they first learn, and advanced players do it for more intensive training, while intermediates don't do it - and it's one reason they stay intermediate players rather than advanced. It takes intensive training to become an advanced player, and multiball is one of the central ways of doing that.

Before we go further, here's my Tip of the Week on Multiball Training.

So how do you go about doing this if you don't have a coach, or can't afford one? Simple - find a practice partner - like anyone who wants to improve in table tennis - and take turns feeding multiball to each other. Yes, you'll need a box of training balls, but it's a one-time expense (other than getting new ones as they break). You'll also probably want ball nets to pick up balls, such as the Ball Amigo from Butterfly, and perhaps a head replacement. (I'd get two nets since there will be two of you.)

But first spend some time practicing. When I first began coaching I wasn't that good at feeding multiball either. So what did I do? I took a box of balls and practiced feeding multiball. (We had a robot with a net to catch the balls, so I didn't have to keep picking them up from the floor, but that's not really needed.) Learn to feed all types of balls - topspin and backspin, side to side, random, etc. It's easier to feed if you bounce the ball backwards on the table first, but for speed multiball you might want to practice feeding right out of your hand.

Here's a thread at the OOAK forum where the second message links to a number of videos of multiball being done.

One big question - and a reason some might want to hold off on buying lots of training balls for now - is because of the transition from celluloid to the plastic 40+ balls. Right now we're still using celluloid for multiball training at MDTTC because there aren't any good plastic training balls available yet - we're waiting for them from Butterfly, since they sponsor our club. As soon as they become available we'll be getting lots of them and switching over.

MDTTC Happenings

It seems we've had a lot going on recently at MDTTC.

It Counts as Three Points!

Here's the new coaching article by Samson Dubina.

Ask the Coach

Episode # 58 (18:44) - Zhang Jike's Footwork.

  • Yesterdays #PQOTD  - 1:04: Should Table Tennis copy other sports and go to a reduced format like 20/20 cricket and Fast 4 Tennis?
  • #PQOTD - 2:53: Who do you think will be Number 1 in the World at the end of 2015 in Mens and Womens?
  • Question 1 - 3:26: If you must choose an opponent that you would want to meet, who would it be? Brock
  • Question 2 - 4:26: Who is your best Table Tennis Player of all time? Brock
  • Question 3 - 4:49: How often did you guys play table tennis when you were rookies? Brock Lesnar
  • Question 4 - 6:17: About the pendulum service when i practice this service i usually hit it in the net. I want to know how exactly to not hit it in the net or the judge calls a let. Am I supposed to draw back when I'm serving or there is a better way. Caylan
  • Question 5 - 8:35: Does height affect gameplay in table tennis? Jaydon
  • Question 6 - 9:42: In an old match from 2011, between Ma Long and Zhang Jike, if we leave everything else and just focus on Zhang Jike's feet I am mesmerized as to what level he has taken his footwork to. China excel in it. Are we missing some technical information? Arnab
  • Question 7 - 11:25: Some coaches don't like their players fooling around and do a lot of experimenting while they are playing or practicing. So is it necessary to always practice hard with seriousness, determination or hard work, or, it wouldn't hurt to have some fun? Arnab
  • Question 8 - 13:20: My friend says that if you angle your bat 45 degrees when you smash, the ball will land on more often. This tactic has worked for me, is it true? Or is it false?
  • Question 9 - 14:52: I use "yasaka phantom 009" on my backhand.I learned many serves from your helpful videos, thank you. Can you show and teach me some serves with this kind of rubbers. Siddharth
  • Question 10 - 16:32: What angle is the chop to generate spin? Brock

Newly Crowned Men’s National Champion Jimmy Butler to Compete at 2015 Butterfly Aurora Cup

Here's the article by Barbara Wei.

Kai Zhang

Here's an article and interview with the Westchester, NY star.

Father, Daughter Train at Greeley Senior Activity Center

Here's the article from the Greely Tribune in Colorado.

The Brothers Alamiyan Living Table Tennis

Here's the article

Boston Red Sox Ping Pong Tournament

Here's info - they are holding this near their park on Jan. 17 for fans, with winners getting Red Sox tickets. "Think you've got what it takes to run the tables in Ping Pong? Sign up now for our Red Sox Ping Pong Tournament!" … "At Winter Weekend, the best of the best will face off against 8 Red Sox personalities, vying for the Baseball Winter Weekend Cup!"

Table Tennis Twittering

Here's a table tennis twitter page. Everything you wanted to know about table tennis in nice easy 140-character chunks.

Man vs. Robot

Here's the video (2:30). (I like the start!)

Chinese Team Playing in the Dubai Desert Sands

Here's the picture! Click on picture to see two more.

How to Dive and Smack Your Head on the Floor

Here's the video (38 sec) of Adam Bobrow doing this, and why he has stiches on his head. (I searched Youtube for the infamous tape of USA team member Brian Masters smacking his head against the ground after losing a point at the World Championships but couldn't find it. Anyone have a link to it?)

Playing Kids in China . . . or at a USA Training Center!

Here's the cartoon.


Send us your own coaching news!

January 14, 2015

USATT Coaches of the Year

Here's the USATT Announcement. Congratulations to:

  • Coach of the Year: Lily Yip
  • Developmental Coach of the Year: Jack Huang
  • Paralympic Coach of the Year: Ladislav Sranko
  • Doc Counsilman Coach of the Year: Yang Yu

Jack Huang (from my club, MDTTC) won for Developmental Coach of the Year. (He won it primarily as Crystal Wang's coach, but also for others, such as Tiffany Ke and other MDTTC players.) It's his second USATT coaching award - he was Coach of the Year in 1998. (And now you know the answer to the burning question from my January 2 blog - see the Friday "Todo" list, item #15, where I wrote, "Write up Coach of the Year nomination for someone (who shall remain nameless for now)."

These awards are often the only time the top USA coaches get recognized. However, if you really want to see many of the best USA coaches, there's an easy method - just watch the top players and juniors in tournaments and see who coaches them in their matches. You can especially see a "who's who" group of coaches at the U.S. Open and Nationals if you watch the junior matches - especially at the Nationals during the Junior and Cadet Team Trials. Most spectators watch the players; I often find it more interesting to watch the coaches. There's a wide range of them - some are pretty much emotionless during matches, others you can almost tell the score by their faces. Some are calm and collected when coaching, others are animated.

Here's a listing of all the USATT Coaches of the Year since the program began in 1996. Here are multiple winners:

Four Times

  • Teodor "Doru" Gheorge (4-time Coach of the Year)
  • Daniel Rutenberg (3-time Paralympic Coach of the Year, one Volunteer Coach of the Year)
  • Lily Yip (4-time Coach of the Year)

Three Times

  • Stefan Feth (3-time Developmental Coach of the Year)
  • Sean O'Neill (Coach of the Year, Developmental Coach of the Year, and Doc Counsilman Coach of the Year)
  • Dan Seemiller (2-time Coach of the Year, Developmental Coach of the Year)

Two Times

  • Dennis Davis (2-time Developmental Coach of the Year)
  • Larry Hodges (Developmental Coach of the Year, Doc Counsilman Coach of the Year)
  • Jack Huang (Coach of the Year and Developmental Coach of the Year)
  • Christian Lillieroos (2-time Coach of the Year)
  • Richard McAfee (Developmental Coach of the Year, Doc Counsilman Coach of the Year)
  • Rajul Sheth (2-time Developmental Coach of the Year)

This Morning's Blog Was a Little Late Because…

…I was on the phone on USATT business from 10:30PM-1:15AM, and then working on USATT stuff until 4AM. By noon today all of USATT problems will be fixed, membership will hit a million, and all the major network TV stations will be pre-empted later today for a special briefing from the President on why table tennis now tops his domestic agenda. (Am I still in bed dreaming?) Actually, I did get a lot done last night, and the phone discussions were invaluable. But it did add a few things to my todo list, which along with the Great Wall of China are apparently the only manmade objects visible from space.

Team Leagues!

If you live near Washington DC (Maryland and Virginia), New York City, or Los Angeles, why not sign up now for their team leagues? I've blogged a lot recently about the Capital Area Super League, but there's also the New York League and the Los Angeles League. Are there other major team leagues in the U.S.? Let me know so I can blog about them.

Athletes of the Month - December

Here's the article and pictures from USATT. I linked to this before, but I don't think it was highlighted as well at the time. Congratulations to Lily Zhang, Jimmy Butler, Tara Profitt, Daryl Sterling, Jr., and the USA Junior Girls' Team for their outstanding play!

Butterfly Aurora Cup

Here are two articles by Barbara Wei on the 4-star tournament to be held this weekend in Aurora, Illinois. Both Barbara and top-seeded Ruichao Chen ("Alex") are from my club, MDTTC.

Japanese National Team Training

Here's the new video (2:58) of their national team in training in Tokyo.

Expert in a Year

Here's the video (5:00) from Coach Ben Larcombe, and here's the Expert in a Year web page. "The Expert in a Year Challenge follows the progress of novice table tennis player Sam Priestley, as he attempts to go from beginner to expert in just one year and break into the top 250 players in England."

Ask the Coach

Episode #56 - ITTF Star Awards (14:49)

  • Yesterdays #PQOTD  - 0:45: What did you think of the results of the ITTF Star Awards?
  • #PQOTD  - 3:46: Have you noticed any differences in play of the Worlds top with the Plastic Ball?
  • Question 1 - 4:15: Hi guys, lately I have hit a wall against a player 6'3 with long arms who I can't back off the table. I've tried long and short strategies and he just pounds me ..... any advice ? Thanks George
  • Question 2 - 6:43: I confused how to control the direction of my smash. in game I usually smash the ball just to the right of the opponent's table side. I want to ask how to control the direction of the ball while I do a smash. Fairuzi Zafrano
  • Question 3 - 9:01: I qualified for the regional games last october and I have been practicing with myself since then through matchplay only. What can I do to help myself be in my best condition in 1 month for the regionals? What are some exercises I can perform? Wayne
  • Question 4 - 11:15: When I try to do a high toss serve I get two results. The ball bounces high during the contact landing near the net on my side and the other side. Sometimes I manage to keep the serve low but it moves across the table very slowly. What can I do? Sachintha

Episode #57 - The Best Bat to Buy (17:45)

  • Yesterdays  #PQOTD  - 0:48: Have you noticed any differences in play of the Worlds top players with the Plastic Ball?
  • #PQOTD  - 2:40: Should Table Tennis copy other sports and go to a reduced format like 20/20 cricket and Fast 4 Tennis?
  • Question 1 - 3:05: Hey Pingskills, Your videos are very helpful and I have been good with blocking smashes but how do I block a smash with spin on it? - Brock
  • Question 2 - 5:31: I am 15 years old. I began playing around 10 months ago. My rating is 682. Although, I have been showing immense improvement I am still only able to compete against players who are 2-4 years younger than me. Did I begin playing too late? Abdullah
  • Question 3 - 7:03: Hi guys I'm asking you what is the difference between speed glue and water based glue and how does this effect our rubber or how does it damage the wood of the racket. Thanks Barbatel
  • Question 4 - 8:18: I'm a beginner player and enjoy table tennis. I play with friends and they play 21 pts and 4 players. We do 5 serves and serve from the right and left corners. According to the lessons, serves should be only from the right. What are your thoughts? Rita
  • Question 5 - 10:08: what is the best paddles and balls to buy?
  • Question 6 - 12:37: I've got a question about my anti spin rubber. What is the best way to block the ball? (on the backhand) Huub from Holland
  • Question 7 - 14:25: How do I improve myself more easily? Brock

Best Points of Simon Gauzy

Here's the new Highlights video (3:59) showing the best points by world #37 player from France.

Former U.S. Table Tennis Champion Paddles Numbers

Here's the article about 11-time U.S. Women's Singles Champion and 2-time Olympian Insook Bhushan, who now works as an accountant in the Colorado Department of Military and Veterans Affairs Budget Office.

Ping Pong a Game for Everyone

Here's the article from the Hattiesburg American. "But in this week's column, I want to talk about a real sport — one of deft skill, requiring a sharp eye and lightning quick reflexes. It's an unforgiving sport, punishing the smallest mistake but rewarding precision and control. It's a game that's simple to learn, but truly takes a lifetime of commitment to master. I'm talking, of course, about table tennis, more commonly known as ping pong."

Female Table Tennis Player, Male Coach Suspended Over Late-Night CCTV Footage

Here's the article and video (8:15) - shocking!!!

Chinese Players in Local Attire

Here's Ma Long and Fan Zhendong (?) in local Arab attire after the recent World Team Cup in Dubai, United Arab Republic. Here are more pictures.

12 Horrible Messages in Forrest Gump

Here's the video (8:22) - or go directly to 3:07 where there's 9 seconds on table tennis!

Are You Not Table Tennis Entertained?

Here are pictures you'll wish you'd never seen.

Goldfish Pong

Here's the cartoon!


Send us your own coaching news!

January 13, 2015

Capital Area Super League

Interest in the Capital Area Super League seems pretty high, with lots of players discussing it at MDTTC and (I'm told) other clubs. Of course the main obstacle for something like this is that it's "new," i.e. something that hasn't been done much in the U.S., though it's the backbone of European table tennis, where they often count memberships in the hundreds of thousands. I envision team leagues like this all over the country. The people who don't see this are the same ones who eight years ago didn't think there were enough players in the U.S. to support full-time training centers. Just as full-time centers created their own base of players, team leagues will do the same, once organized and given the chance. It'll take time - but it has to start somewhere. As I've blogged repeatedly, we need a prototype regional team league that can be copied all over the country, and that's one of the things I hope to do here - in addition to just having a highly successful league. If you live in the Washington DC area, I hope you will sign up!

A few items regarding the league:

  • The old web address was long and cumbersome. Yesterday I bought www.CapitalTT.com, and it's now the official web address for the league. Later it'll likely become the web address for a Capital Area Table Tennis Association.
  • The league now has a "Looking for a Team" link (go to the bottom).
  • The league organizing committee is Mike Levene, Stefano Ratti (these two are the prime movers), John Olsen, and Larry Hodges (me).

Adult Beginning/Intermediate Class

I'm teaching a new Adult Beginning/Intermediate Class (beginner to roughly 1500 USATT rating), Sundays from 6:30-8:00PM, starting Feb. 15. Here's the flyer. I've taught this course about thirty times before. It's a great way to introduce new players to the sport, plus the students in the class become their own peer group, and often start coming to the club on the same nights. This is one of the best ways for clubs to pick up new members. The main alternative with new players is to tell them to call winners one some table where they'll get eaten alive by a more experienced player, and you never see them again. Maybe that's not such a good idea!

If you want to teach such a class, the first step is to put together a flyer. Then post the flyer everywhere. Also send info to local newspapers - most will publish the info in their community calendars. You probably want an assistant, both for demos, but also to help with the coaching, either walking around, hitting with someone if there's an odd number, or feeding multiball.

Segun Toriola Incredible Lobbing Point

Here's video (66 sec) of "The best point in the history of table tennis." It's not far from the truth! But you can learn from video. If you watch Segun Toriola (world #159, formerly #56, from Nigeria), you'll notice that he never really needs to move fast - he's returning rip after rip, and yet there's no lunging, no diving, just smooth stepping into position to return each shot. How does he do this? Here are things to watch for:

  1. His wide stance gives him great balance and a quick start in either direction.
  2. He watches his opponent closely, and begins to react almost the instant the ball is being struck, or even before.
  3. He keeps his lobs deep, which cuts down on the angles and gives him more time to react.
  4. His lobs have good topspin, making the ball jump, which keeps the opponent from taking the ball too quickly.

I think his opponent is Singapore's Gao Ning, but I'm not sure - couldn't get a good look from the video since his back is to us, and I can't make out the name on the back. Can anyone tell?
(NOTE: someone anonymously emailed to verify it was Gao Ning, and said he was also able to freeze the video and see the name on the back.)

Agility Training with a Robot

Here video (60 sec) of Samson Dubina doing footwork training with a robot.

2015 USATT Direct Athlete Support Program

Here's info on this new USATT program for elite athletes.

ITTF Course in Singapore

Here's video (3:48) from a course taught in Singapore in 2012 by USA Coach Richard McAfee.

2014 - The Year in Review

Here's the new video (5:52) from the ITTF.

Butterfly News

Here's the Butterfly USA news page - some interesting stuff there.

Zhang Jike Signing Autographs

Just an interesting picture.

Where's the Ball?

Guess right in this contest, and you'll have a chance to win a 190 Stiga blade signed by Xu Xin, Fan Zhendong, Yan An, and Zhu Yuling!

Mornington Table Tennis Player Jim Healy Marks 90th Birthday

Here's the article from the Melbourne Herald Sun.

Secretin-Purkart Show

Here's video (3:40) of the greatest table tennis exhibition team ever. This video was posted in 2007 (and is probably from years before that), but many of us remember this great exhibition team from France. Secretin was a top ten player in the world for many years (and 17-time French Men's Singles Champion), but it was for his exhibitions with Purkart that he is best known. Secretin, the lefty, was the "straight man," who brought sheer genius play to the team, while Purkart, a top chopper (two-time French Men's Singles Champion and seven-time finalist, probably many more if not for Secretin), would clown around.

Table Tennis Warnings

Every club needs these warnings (from Mike Mezyan) about falling tables and no walking on them!

Table Tennis Cartoon

I have no idea what's going on here, but there's some great table tennis action apparently going on in this picture! (Some explanation is given here - page toward the end.)

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January 12, 2015

Tip of the Week

Develop Your Primary and Secondary Skills.

Two Books, Two Sabbaticals?

I think, with eight books out and an insatiable reading habit, I can be considered the "bookish" type. (Here are my books. Buy them!!!) Here are my upcoming table tennis book plans.

Short-term: I've got two books I want to do soon. The first is "Parents Guide to Table Tennis." Alas, with this blog, my USATT work, my MDTTC work, and a zillion other things on my todo list, I'm not finding the time to do this. Also, by the time I finish writing this blog each morning I'm pretty much writed out (no, that's not a word, but you get the meaning). So when can I write this book?

I think the solution is I'm going to have to take a one-week sabbatical from the blog next week. Monday (Jan. 19) is already MLK Day, and I was planning to take that off anyway. Tuesday is a "Professional Day" for teachers with no school, and so we have no afterschool program that day, so I can easily take that day off as well. So no blogs next week as I work on the book (Jan. 19-23, Mon-Fri).

"Parents Guide to Table Tennis" would include general info on table tennis and USATT; advantages of table tennis (healthy; few injuries; size not important; develops hand-eye coordination, tactical and strategic thinking skills, and self-discipline; and it's an Olympic sport); equipment; what you want in a coach; what to expect of your child (goals, attitude, fun vs. improvement, self-discipline, hard work = improvement, what to do with especially "talented" kids); parental and child etiquette; private and group coaching; tournaments and leagues; and juniors and ratings.

Any suggestions on other topics it should include? Comment below!!!

The other book would be a novel, "The Paddle of Pong," which I blogged about briefly last Tuesday. I write a lot about table tennis and I also write science fiction & fantasy, so I decided it's time to really combine the two and write a real table tennis fantasy. My published novel, "Sorcerers in Space," does feature a kid who has to give up his dreams of ping-pong stardom to save the world, but it doesn't really feature table tennis. (I have another SF novel making the rounds, "Campaign 2100," which does feature table tennis quite a bit, but it's not really central to the novel.)

"The Paddle of Pong" would be a table tennis fantasy dramedy. Our hero is a mid-level American player who aspires to be a champion. So he goes to China to learn the secrets of table tennis - and finds a mentor, treachery, and a fantasy world where he must achieve the Body of Pong, the Spirit of Pong, and most importantly, the Paddle of Pong - all while being haunted by the spirits of table tennis champions past.

So when could I write this? If the sabbatical next week works out, I might take another Feb. 16-20. Feb. 16 is President's Day, so I was planning to take that day off anyway. (I wouldn't be able to write the whole thing that week, but I'd get a good start on it. I've already written the first chapter, which gets our hero to the door of the National Training Center in China.)

Long-term: Here are other books I plan to do at some point:

  • Rewrite of Table Tennis: Steps to Success (probably retitled as simply Table Tennis Fundamentals). I don't have time for this right now as it would require a lot of writing and a huge quantity of new pictures. But I expect to get to this eventually.
  • Rewrite of Instructor's Guide to Table Tennis. The teaches how to coach table tennis at the lower levels, and is primarily for beginning coaches and non-table tennis coaches, such as PE instructors. I wrote the original version in the late 1980s. It was USATT's official coaching manual for about 20 years.
  • More Table Tennis Tips. Last year I came out with Table Tennis Tips, which compiled in logical fashion all 150 Tips of the Week published from 2011-2013. Early in 2017 I'll compile the tips from 2014-2016, and another book will be born!
  • More Pings and Pongs. The anthology "Pings and Pongs" has 30 of my best short story sales. However, since that time I've sold a lot more, and I now have enough for the sequel. After each story is published I have to wait from 3-6 months before the rights come back to me, and then I can compile them in this sequel.

USATT Board issues

I'm currently in an email discussion with a number of others regarding the various issues I focused on when I ran for the Board. (Anyone who thinks those were just "political" issues is missing the point - I ran to get these things done, and that's going to be my primary focus.) Alas, these types of discussions must remain confidential. I'll report on them when they become "official," such as things discussed at USATT Board Meetings (except during closed sessions where they mostly discuss personnel issues). I'm already facing the expected "This is how we always do it" responses from some people. It really is hard to bring change to an organization that's been doing the same old things for so many years, no matter how unsuccessful these "same old things" have been. At the same time, there are other USATT people who are eager to see USATT succeed and embrace the changes needed.  

World Team Cup

Here's the ITTF page for the event (results, articles, video, pictures), which finished yesterday. China swept both Men's and Women's Teams, the sun rose this morning, and we still have gravity. Note the links under "Media," which includes the Daily Reviews, Shots of the Day, and Quotes. Here's the ITTF Press Release, and the article from Tabletennista. Here are World Team Cup Highlights (2:59).

Table Tennis Training with Kong Linghui

Here's the new video (23:42) of 1995 World and 2000 Olympic Men's Singles Gold Medalist Kong Linghui teaching table tennis. He's now coach of the Chinese Women's Team that dominates the world.

Coaching Articles by Samson Dubina

Here are two new ones:

Reverse Penhold Racket Angle

Here's the video (3:24) from Tao Li Table Tennis.

Ask the Coach

Episode #55 (17:49) - Tactics Against a Good Flicker

  • Last #PQOTD  - 0:55
  • What is your Table Tennis Goal for 2015?
  • #PQOTD  - 1:36: What did you think of the results of the ITTF Star Awards?
  • Discussion - 1:49: World Cup results
  • Question 1 - 4:50: During a match my opponent started to read the spin of my serves very well. And then he started to flick aggressively every short serve or even my short receive of his serve. As the result, I lost many points to it. What would a good player do? Ilia
  • Question 2 - 7:49: I am not confident if I play a backhand smash or a forehand smash. So I rarely play them, is there a way to improve my confidence? Jukemc
  • Question 3 - 10:50: I am getting good with my forehand counterhit but do I wait till it becomes very consistent then learn a loop or switch between them? When to use counterhit and loop while playing? Am I right that professional use loops only and never counterhits? Mohammad
  • Question 4 - 13:07: Should I join a table tennis club? Jukemc
  • Question 5 - 14:09: Hi guys, during a point I hit a shot that tipped the net, bounced on top of the plastic side piece holding the net and spun back onto the table on the other side. I doubt I'll ever see that again but in case I do, how would you rule that? George
  • Question 6 - 15:28: When moving to the left should I start the move with my left or right foot, or does it make a difference? In the videos it seems that a move to the left is started with the right foot, and a move to the right is started with the left foot. Bill

Navin Kumar Eligible to Participate in Para Table Tennis

Here's the USATT article. I'm mentioned in it as Navin's coach!

2014 North American Tour Grand Final

Here's the flyer for the event to take place at the Westchester TTC in NY, Feb. 6-8.

Marty Reisman's Tribute Feature from SPiN NY 2014

Here's the video (16:15).

Ping Pong Ruler

Here's a page that does lots of equipment reviews.

Custom Barrier Rackets

Here's the picture - a two-tiered stacking approach!

Ma Long vs. Zhang Jike at the 2014 China Team Trials

Here's the video (14:48, with time between points taken out).

Ten Things China Does Better than Everyone Else

Here's the CNN article. See the second item, "Indoor Sports."
"Its state system of athletic training has perfected a foolproof method for producing top gymnasts, ping pong champs, badminton aces and diving divas."
"Chinese competitors are practically unbeatable at badminton and table tennis, winning more gold medals in these events than any other country at the Olympics."

U.S. Aerobic Ping Pong

Here's the page. Make sure to watch the "Health Works" video (2:21).

Incredible Around-the-Net Backhand

Here's the video (28 sec).

Women's Soccer Pong

Here's the video (14 sec) of two women really going at it! Here's a video (3:45) I linked to previously of men going at it in a "top ten" rallies listing.

Framework - Making a Ping-Pong Table?

Here's the video (3:04) of an episode of "Framework" where a group each tries to design a better table. (Starts with two rather long commercials, alas.) "You must bring style into something mundane." "The ever-so-cocky Freddy thinks he has as masterpiece of a ping pong table design, but Common reminds him of something he missed."

Top 10 Table Tennis Tricks

Here's the video (2:31).

Trick Shots

Here's video (47 sec) of Adam Bobrow and Josep Anton Velazquez doing trick shots as they circle the table at center court at the World Team Cup.

Big Eyes Adam Bobrow

Here's the picture.


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January 9, 2015

Leagues, Leagues, Leagues!!!

I blogged about the Capital Area Super League a few days ago - here's the flyer. If you live in the Maryland/Virginia region, sign up now!!! It looks like it's catching on, with more and more players talking about signing up on a team. Soon to be added will be a "Players Looking for Teams" page. (Note that they had another organizational meeting last night, and have updated the web page and flyer. For example, the format has been decided - it's going to be straight three on three team matches.)

Of course the long-term purpose of such a league isn't just for current players, but to bring in new ones. But that'll start happening when the league is established. And then it can grow and grow. And USATT, the national organizational body for table tennis in this country, can and should be a part of this.

Now I'll be honest - my true interest in table tennis, and especially USATT matters, is coaching. (Also writing!) But unless we want to spend the rest of our lives in a small sport, constantly scrambling to get more players and never succeeding, leagues have to be one of the two or three top priorities for USATT, and probably #1 if we want to have membership numbers like they do overseas. (Have I mentioned Germany has 600,000 paid members and 11,000 clubs, and how countries all over Europe have similarly large memberships? Oh yeah, about once a week….)

Assuming we're successful, the next step is to package it as a prototype league that can be spread to other regions. I hope to have something like that by the end of the year.

Here's an interesting incentive. I'm offering a free signed copy of my book Table Tennis Tales and Techniques to anyone who signs up for the Capital Area Super League this year. (Due to a large print overrun when it first came out, I have hundreds of extra copies.)

USATT Election Results

When USATT published the results, they didn't give out the voting figures. But they have since decided it is public information, so I can give out the results. I received 561 votes (83.6%) to Jim McQueen's 110 (16.4%).

Now these numbers tell us several things. First, the turnout wasn't great - only 671 USATT members voted. I'm guessing there are something like 5000 active adult USATT members, a little less than 13.5%. That's pretty low. Part of this is because the online voting procedure was a bit trickier than the way we used to it, with paper ballots where you just checked the candidate, stuck it in an envelope, and mailed it back. But 13.5% is low no matter how you look at it.

I think it means that much of the membership has simply given up on USATT. We've been a stagnant organization since its beginning in 1933, with embarrassingly low membership figures - basically a round-off number, as I call it. (We are listed as having 9000 members, but many of those are inactive life members, honorary members, institutional members, clubs, etc., plus something like 1500 junior members. At some point I plan to look into the actual breakdown of these numbers and how they have changed in recent years.) So the membership simply isn't excited about USATT, and the turnout reflects this. This needs to change.

The high percentage I received shows that those who voted really are looking for a USATT that actively develops the sport, in particular in the ways I campaigned on - developing regional team leagues, creating regional associations, recruiting and training coaches, turning the U.S. Open and Nationals into major events, and professionalizing our sport. Too often our boards have acted more like judges, judging the issues before them - but rarely taking initiative themselves or implementing anything substantive. This needs to change.

I really don't think the vote totals reflect on Jim at all. (In fact, a good part of the reason I received such a high percentage is I simply campaigned more.) Jim's a good guy, a USATT Hall of Famer who's done a lot for our sport, and who chairs the USATT Editorial Board. (As I've blogged before, I hope to work with him on magazine and possibly other issues.) It was more a vote to change the focus of USATT from just the day-to-day running of it to actively developing our sport. It's not something we've ever really focused on. This needs to change.

Oh My God!!!

Yep, that's me on the USATT Board of Directors page.

1985 US Open Photo

As part of USATT's continuing effort to embarrass and humiliate me*, they published this picture of me on the USATT Facebook page. Yep, that's me on the right! On the left is Jeff Harris, a local Maryland junior at the time. We won the event, I think Under 3800 Doubles. I'm 25 in the picture, one semester away from graduating college and going to the Resident Training Program (RTP) at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs as (at various times) player/assistant manager/manager/director/assistant coach/Special Assistant to the Executive Director, and who knows what other titles. (See Jim Butler's comments on this - they are all out to get me!)
  *To the humor-challenged, yes, I'm kidding!!!

If you desperately want to see an action shot of me from long ago, just go to the home page here, and there's a picture of me looping a forehand at the 1983 Pan Am Team Trials, when I was 23. Note the high follow-through? You wouldn't do that with modern tensor sponges like Tenergy!!! (I was using unglued Sriver back then. Now I use Tenergy 05 on the forehand, Tenergy 25 on the backhand.)

Thursday Night Junior Class

Montgomery County runs junior table tennis classes at MDTTC on Thursdays from 6-7 PM. We started a new session yesterday, with 12 players ranging in age from 9 to 14. I ran the session, with Chen Ruichao ("Alex," the recent Westchester Open champion, rated 2654) and John Hsu assisting. The first session for such classes is always the easiest, surprisingly. They're all a bit quiet and not sure yet what's going to happen. As the sessions continue they become bolder and things get louder. In yesterday's session we covered the grip, stance, ball-bouncing, and the forehand. (I also introduced them to our robot.) The last seven minutes of the session they took turns trying to hit my Gatorade bottle - if they did, I had to drink the "worm juice" inside.

Online Training for Table Tennis Program

Here's the promo video (3:25) for the new DVD from Dynamic Table Tennis (Brian Pace). Here's the description:

Online Training for Table Tennis is the first training program that consist of 4 different training programs that cover every way that you can improve in the sport of table tennis. 

The Technique Plan - The Technique Plan consist of receiving a professionally edited video of your tournament or training footage that will highlight exactly where the error is being made with regards to technique. 

The Tournament Stats Plan - The Tournament Stats Plan consist of your tournament or practice match video footage being put through the Tournament Table Tennis Software that will show you exactly what skillsets are responsible for your tournament result. 

Tournament & Video - The Tournament & Video Plan takes your video footage and creates a training program to improve your performance based on your tournament results. 

Training Plan - The training plan is a comprehensive training program that consist of 8 Training Videos per month that every skill set in the sport of Table Tennis. This is the type of training program that will teach you how to become a Tournament Player. This program will start on Feb 15th, 2015. 

International Table Tennis

Here's my periodic note 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).

2015 World Team Cup

Here's the ITTF home page for the event, Jan. 8-11 in Dubai, United Arab Republic. Here's the team seeding list - nope, no USA teams. Here's the Shot of the Day (34 sec) for the first day (really rally of the day), between Zhang Jike and Robert Gardos.

Is Zhang Jike a Sure Bet in 2015?

Here's the article by Matt Hetherington.

Croatia's Champ Aiming for Top 10 and Olympic Medal

Here's the interview with Croatia's Andrej Gacina (world #26, formerly #18) by Matt Hetherington.

Roger Federer Warns Against the Perils of Pushy Parents

Here's the article.

Polar Pong

Here's the picture of two diehard players - and considering the temperature here in Maryland dropped to 6 degrees yesterday, it's oddly appropriate - but you'd never catch me out there!

2014 Mousetraps and 2015 Ping-Pong Balls

Here's the new video (2:05) - what happens when we put these together? You have to see it to believe it - and in slow motion!!! "Ahead of the 2014 New Year's Eve celebrations, Pepsi Max helps its fans get in the party mood with a vibrant video that brings to life the sentiment of the social season. Instead of the traditional fireworks, Pepsi Max created its own explosion of color using 2,014 mousetraps and 2,015 Ping-Pong balls to set off a spectacular and mesmerizing chain reaction."

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January 8, 2015

USATT Election

Well, I won. For some reason the vote totals are not given. Anyway, now the real work begins. We've got a big job ahead of us!

I promised to do a lot, but in my mind, these weren't just promises; these were things we simply need to do, and either I do it or someone else does it. I'll be looking for talented people to do as much of it as possible, and taking charge of other items. Some of the issues involve simply making a motion at a board meeting, but it's never as simple as that. Most votes are decided before the motion is made, so I can't just show up and make the motion; I have to bring it up with board members in advance, argue the case, and try to convince them of the importance of the motion. The five "Big Issues" will take a lot of organizational work - but I'm ready to get started! I won't be alone; there are plenty of others in USATT ready to jump in.

I do have a pretty clear roadmap on how we should address each of these issues. I plan to get started on all of them this first year, though some will take years to resolve. Some will be easy fixes; some will take a lot of time and work. Sometimes things will work out perfectly in the way that I foresaw; other times a better solution will emerge, and I'll adopt that instead. The final result is what counts, so we have to be flexible in finding the means to the result.

I think it's important that I and others at USATT remember this quote from Robert F. Kennedy: "Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly." I want to achieve greatly, and so do others from USATT, and that means taking risks on new ventures. The very idea of growing USATT from its current "round-off error" membership numbers is itself a risky venture. But we're going to do it.

I will be looking to see how others respond to problems and solutions to growing the sport, whether board members, volunteers, or staff. Do they look to fix the problem and find solutions, or just throw up roadblocks? Some do only the latter. Many do not even see the problems (such as low membership totals, small-scale U.S. Opens and Nationals, losing juniors as they approach 18, problems with the rating system, problems with the service rule, etc.), but once pointed out, these are obvious problems that need fixing. Who will actively look to fix the problems and find ways to grow and develop our sport? There's nothing wrong with pointing out the problems while looking for possible solutions, but it should be done in a brainstorming way, with the goal to find a solution.

I don't want to start off by stepping on others toes by proclaiming things I'll be doing that require others to also want to do them, i.e. the committee/staff/volunteers involved. So I won't be able to give blow-by-blow accounts of the issues as we deal with them - but I will keep readers informed as much as possible. I'm going to be doing a balancing act these next four years, where I have to judge what I can blog about and what I can't or shouldn't.

With a new forward-looking CEO who also wants to develop and grow the sport, a new Media and Marketing Consultant (see segment below), and with new committees appointments coming up, USATT potentially has the perfect mix of new and old - the energy and ideas of the new (and sometimes the old!), and the experience of the old.

Top Fifteen Ways My Life Will Change Now That I'm on the USATT Board of Directors

  1. I get to move into the USATT Mansion.
  2. I get to cut the salary of every USATT volunteer who has ever snubbed me. Oh wait…
  3. Hobbies like eating, sleeping, and breathing will go on hold.
  4. Robert F. Kennedy's quote now scares me: "Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly."
  5. I get a free USATT tie!
  6. All those people who call me a crazy fool now have to call me a crazy fool sir!
  7. To make time for my USATT volunteer work all that pesky paid stuff like coaching and writing will go on hold.
  8. I get to scientifically test the theory that "absolute power corrupts absolutely." I believe it does, and I'm never wrong.
  9. I can schedule the U.S. Open and Nationals at my club.
  10. If I'm thinking about USATT stuff when I order a pizza, I can send the bill to USATT, right?
  11. Next time at I jump on the table at a USATT board meeting and start ranting about coaching and leagues they'll wait a little longer before calling security.
  12. Now that 8000 USATT members have access to my email I'll get peace and quiet.
  13. Soon USATT members will know why my last name is just an anagram for "He's God." After a few months they'll realize that "USATT Board" is an anagram for "Oust bad rat." Squeak squeak!
  14. To those who voted against me - you'll get the 100 rating points back after you apologize and practice your serves 15 minutes.
  15. Strange how the day after I'm elected my new USATT rating is 2811.

USATT Hires Richard Finn as National Media and Marketing Consultant

Here's the USATT article. Richard gave a presentation at the meeting at the Nationals in December, and seems pretty competent.

Post Christmas & New Year Coaching

It seems like everyone's out of practice and out of shape! Didn't they get the memo about practicing hard during the break? Or at least shadow practicing? So now we have lots of basics work and footwork drills to get back in shape.

An interesting question comes up regarding this - what's the best way to get back into practice quickly? The conventional wisdom would be to drill and drill and drill, then play matches, and soon you'll be back where you left off. But my experience has always been that the quickest way to get back into practice - along with doing the drills - is to play matches right from the start. You may not do so well at first, but like being thrown into the deep end, you sink or swim - but unlike swimming where you drown if you don't swim, you get a second and third and fourth chance, and eventually it'll start to click. In fact, I've always found that after a break, my game comes back most often when my back is against the wall, i.e. I'm struggling and about to lose against a weaker player, and then something clicks, and bang! The magic returns.

Zhang Jike Serve, Flip, and Loop

Here's the video (24 sec, mostly slow motion) as he serves (alas, we can't see contact), does a forehand flip (note the placement to the opponent's middle, assuming he's a righty), and a follow-up forehand loop (note how he doesn't bother to bring his right foot back, sacrificing that for the sake of quickness).

ITTF Star Awards Night

Winners were Quadri Aruna and Ding Ning. Here's the ITTF article. Here's the ITTF press release (different from the article). Here's the highlights video (6:57). Here's the Tabletennista article, with lots of pictures of the stars as you've never seen them - in suits instead of warmup suits! Here's a video (2:32) of some of the musical and dancing festivities.

Child Contemplates Table Tennis

I can't read the Italian, but I like the picture! (Actually, I had Google Translate convert to English, but the translation wasn't very good.)

Action Shot of the Year

Here it is - it's the first time I've ever seen a barefooted woman fly through a hotel wall in a jungle-print party dress to lob.

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